Good Thursday morning.

Medicaid continuous coverage requirements expire at the end of March and Florida will begin the process of deciphering who will remain eligible for the $36 billion safety net program on April 1. The federal government is also going to phase out increased matching rates through the end of 2023.

That means states can begin to disenroll people from Medicaid in April, but state Medicaid officials must follow certain rules to remain eligible for the increased federal funding that is being phased out.

Health care advocates have pressed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration for details as to how it plans to tackle the massive job of deciding who is eligible for the program and who is not.

But as part of the transition — which has been called the “unwinding” of the continuous enrollment provision — federal authorities are requesting that states provide information as they begin this process.

Medicaid Director Tom Wallace said the state will spend 12 months reviewing the eligibility of the 5.6 million people currently enrolled in the program.

The redeterminations come after a spending bill passed by Congress ended a requirement that states keep people enrolled in Medicaid if there was a COVID-19 public health emergency.

___

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube was hospitalized after a fall from his home.

His congressional office confirmed the incident.

“Congressman Steube was involved in an accident on his property late this afternoon and has sustained several injuries,” reads a statement from his congressional office. “We will provide additional updates when possible. Please pray for the Congressman and his family.”

Godspeed to Greg Steube as he recovers from a bad fall. Image via AP.

The Sarasota Republican was reportedly doing routine home maintenance and apparently fell from a ladder about 25 feet to the ground.

Steube was found at his home by a staffer to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican. Buchanan and Steube represent adjacent congressional districts and serve together on the House Ways and Means Committee. Buchanan’s staffer was in the neighborhood doing part-time delivery work.

Steube first won election to Congress in 2018, defeating two other Republicans in a high-profile primary, then easily winning the General Election in the deep red district.

He comes from a political and law enforcement family in Southwest Florida, where his father Brad Steube served for years as Manatee County Sheriff.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@LtGovNunez: In Florida, we care more about what the people in cities like Dunedin and Destin think, not Davos. Under the leadership of @GovRonDeSantis, the ideas from the Woke Elite Forum are dead on arrival in our state.

@loriberman: I strongly disagree with the FHSAA’s sports medicine committee on their vote to mandate disclosure of menstrual history for high school aged-girls. These questions are invasive and antiquated. They moved in the entirely wrong direction.

@ErinInTheMorn: Florida is moving ever so closer to registries of transgender people. Right now, it’s all bulk top-line data being requested of universities but remember, just a few months ago Florida’s board of medicine was considering enrolling all trans youth in registries. Terrible.

@Yahel: For all of DeSantis’s gas stove culture war posturing, Florida actually has the lowest adoption of gas stoves of any state in the union, and the highest adoption of electric stoves of any state in the union.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@DangerBrooks: Maybe the question is not “why does ChatGPT sound so much like a person” but rather “why do so many people sound like algorithmic idea-repeating machines?”

@JoshMalina: Got back on Twitter just in time to talk about The West Wing reboot. Details soon!

@NatlParkService: You know it’s cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Ashley Children’s Gasparilla Parade — 2; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 3; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 6; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 7; state Senators have a 5 p.m. deadline for submitting requests for drafts of general bills and joint resolutions, including requests for companion bills — 7; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 9; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 13; 2023 State of the Union speech — 19; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 29; 2023 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In — 33; ‘Snowfall’ final season premieres on FX — 34; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 39; DeSantis ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 40; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 41; ‘Creed III’ premieres — 43; The Oscars — 44; Tampa Municipal Election — 47; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 47; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 48; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 59; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 64; Tron Lightcycle / Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 75; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 86; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 87; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 89; 2023 Session Sine Die — 106; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 106; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 111; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 119; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 120; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 127; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 134; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 159; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 162; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 176; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 180; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 183; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 190; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 277; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 289; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 436; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 491; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 554; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 554; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 596; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 659; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 737; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 834. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,023.

— TOP STORY —

Ron DeSantis squares off with new ‘woke’ foe: The NHL?” via Jake Lahut of the Daily Beast — In the latest battle of the culture wars, the NHL — where gloves-off fighting still brings just a five-minute penalty, where the player base is 93% white, and until the hiring of Mike Grier by the San Jose Sharks last year there had yet to be a Black general manager in the history of the sport — has somehow become the new epitome of woke culture gone awry.

Over the weekend, the DeSantis administration got the NHL to fold on a local hiring event aimed at diversifying the league’s workforce ahead of its annual All-Star Game.

Ron DeSantis attacks the NHL for being ‘woke.’ Did he go too far this time?

How DeSantis ended up dropping the gloves with America’s fourth most popular sport ahead of an event ostensibly designed to draw tourists to the state and Floridians into the NHL’s front office jobs is the result of a wash, rinse and repeat approach to corporate efforts to brand themselves as inclusive.

As one GOP strategist put it, DeSantis has found another way to “raise his profile as a fighter as well as raise money.” But as another Republican campaign veteran told the Daily Beast, this isn’t a risk-free strategy for the Florida Governor and rumored 2024 contender; it could mark the beginning of a “strategy that works until it doesn’t.”

Yet unlike DeSantis’ spats with the likes of Disney, Democratic Governors, or even a wild card such as New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the Florida Governor has potentially awoken a foe capable of holding petty grudges for longer and with greater fervor than few others can: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

— DESANTISY LAND —

Donald Trump trounces DeSantis in potential GOP Primary matchup, new poll finds” via Jared Gans of The Hill — A Morning Consult poll released Wednesday showed Trump with 48% support among potential Republican Primary voters, followed by DeSantis with 31%. Trump’s front-runner position differs from some polls since the Midterm Elections, which have shown DeSantis closing the gap with Trump or taking a lead in some cases. Former Vice President Mike Pence came in third with 8%, followed by former Rep. Liz Cheney with 3%. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Sen. Ted Cruz both received 2%. Trump’s support in Morning Consult polls over the past month has stayed between 45% and 50%, while DeSantis has hovered around 30%.

A faceoff will be lopsided, new polling says.

The growing Trump-DeSantis electability gap” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Polls of the 2024 race since then have been piecemeal and mostly focused on the GOP Primary, showing DeSantis eroding and perhaps erasing Trump’s status as the presumptive favorite. But the few that have compared Trump’s and DeSantis in General Election matchups appear to confirm the difference in viability. It is, of course, very early days. DeSantis is an unknown quantity to many Americans and isn’t even in the race, as Trump is — at least nominally. Much can change as national voters get to know the alternative, and there’s no guarantee that they will embrace DeSantis as much as Florida has. Florida is certainly its own political state, as the results of the 2022 election showed. But if you’re on DeSantis’s team and you’re looking at the race ahead, you can see the case for his candidacy come into focus in these surveys.

DeSantis targets trans health care in Florida universities” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — In a blanket request to 12 state universities, top officials with DeSantis are seeking data on the number of individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or received treatment in campus clinics across Florida. It’s unclear what exactly DeSantis intends to do with the information, but his administration says it involves “governing institutional resources and protecting the public interest.” “Our office has learned that several state universities provide services to persons suffering from gender dysphoria. On behalf of the Governor, I hereby request that you respond to the enclosed inquiries related to such services,” wrote Chris Spencer, director of the Office of Policy and Budget for DeSantis, in a Jan. 11 memo to schools.

Florida says AP African American studies program ‘lacks educational value’” via Nikki McCann Ramirez of Rolling Stone — Florida has blocked the College Board from testing a pilot Advanced Placement African American Studies (APAAS) curriculum in the state under DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” Act. According to a letter obtained by National Review, Florida’s Department of Education’s Office of Articulation said the curriculum “is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The pilot course, which has been tested at 60 schools across the United States, aims to expand the advanced coursework offered by the College Board into the study of the African diaspora in the U.S.

DeSantis worries Hunter Biden could have had access to classified documents” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is speaking out about Biden’s current scandal related to classified document retention from his time as Vice President. DeSantis, addressing media and supporters in Daytona Beach Shores, contended that the issue was especially serious given that one of the President’s children could have accessed the materials stored in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware. “Look, he said it was incredibly reckless to have classified. He said all this stuff, you know, on “60 Minutes,” and now you find out he had them stashed behind his Corvette at his house that Hunter had access to, which is definitely a security risk in my book.”

DeSantis inauguration sponsored by companies he loves to bash” via Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post — Two major fundraisers are lobbyists for Disney, the entertainment giant that DeSantis moved to punish for speaking out against his bill restricting classroom discussions of sexuality. Another inauguration co-Chair lobbies for BlackRock, the investment powerhouse that DeSantis’s administration divested of state funds in retaliation for the firm’s social impact standards. Additional listed sponsors included CVS Health and Walgreens, chain pharmacies that DeSantis criticized at a recent news conference on drug prices. The donations underscore how DeSantis maintains corporate ties even while he works to burnish his image as taking on “woke” corporations. At the federal level, candidates from Barack Obama to Trump have imposed (and evaded) measures to curb the role of lobbyists in inaugural fundraising and festivities. DeSantis’s team opted not to impose such restrictions.

Top Michigan Republicans move to draft DeSantis for 2024” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Last month, Bryan Posthumus, the Republican floor leader in the Michigan state House, flew to Florida and hand-delivered DeSantis a letter encouraging him to run for President. The letter — which was signed by 18 Republican members of the state House, one-quarter of the party’s caucus — called DeSantis “uniquely and exceptionally qualified to provide the leadership and competence that is, unfortunately, missing” in the White House under Biden, according to excerpts provided by a Posthumus spokesperson. The signers also say they “stand ready and willing to help [DeSantis] win Michigan in 2024.”


— LEGISLATIVE —

Assignment editors — House Speaker Paul Renner will hold a news conference: 11 a.m., Room 333 of The Capitol.

After months of mystery over migrant flights, legislators with oversight ask no questions” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue has some questions to answer about his agency’s handling of the covert operation Florida taxpayers financed to relocate migrants from the southern border in Texas, but the Senate committee charged with overseeing his budget ran out of time Wednesday. “We wanted a broad overview of everything about FDOT because they get all our money, almost all of it,” said Sen. Ed Hooper, who Chairs the 12-member Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development which oversees the state transportation budget.

Lawmakers press Jared Perdue for answers on the migrant crisis.

What John Lux is reading — “Dana Trabulsy proposes film partnership program to lure productions” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Could a film program finally go into production in Florida? Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Fort Pierce Republican, is filing legislation Wednesday that would set up a Florida First Production Partnership Program. Operated within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the program would facilitate tax credit awards for entertainment industry projects. “We applaud Rep. Trabulsy for filing this bold partnership legislation that puts Florida First in attracting and creating high-wage, high-tech jobs for Floridians,” said John Lux, executive director of Film Florida.

State park reservation bill likely expanding, covering more amenities” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A bill that would open up state park reservations to Florida residents one month before anyone else could receive some amendments in the coming weeks expanding on the concept. Republican Sen. Hooper brought the bill (SB 76) before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources this week as the first bill it hears this year. “Today, when that slot opens for reservations, third-party vendors take up all the spots and resell those, usually at a profit. If you’re a Floridian and you want to reserve a spot, good luck to you,” he said. “All this bill does is creates a one-month window that only Florida residents might reserve a spot in one of our state parks, that all of these residents pay for.”

— STATEWIDE —

Florida Democrats, Republicans need new leaders but for opposite reasons” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Both the Florida Republican and Democratic parties will be choosing new state Chairs next month, but the reasons each is seeking new leadership could not be further apart. GOP Chair Joe Gruters is stepping aside after four years to run for a national party position as treasurer, having overseen two successful election cycles that saw Trump, DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Rubio all winning decisively in Florida. Former Democratic Chair Manny Diaz resigned on Jan. 9 after DeSantis’ and Rubio’s double-digit wins in an election that also swept in Republican supermajorities in the Legislature.

Wilton Simpson taps West Gregory as Department of Agriculture’s Water Policy Director” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Simpson is turning to former Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lawyer West Gregory to oversee the water policy in his Department. Gregory, who most recently served as DEP Deputy General Counsel, was named as director of the Office of Agriculture Water Policy by Simpson on Wednesday. “West Gregory has the unique experience and skill set — having worked in the Florida Legislature and at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — to set a new, cooperative tone with our colleagues at the Department of Environmental Protection and other key stakeholders,” Simpson said.

Wilton Simpson is turning to West Gregory to oversee the department’s water policy.

Executive Clemency Board hearings back on schedule after Nikki Fried era” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — One of the recurrent points of frustration of former Agriculture Commissioner Fried was a lack of state Clemency Board meetings over the course of her four years in office. Time and again, Fried condemned DeSantis for canceling meetings of the board made up of Cabinet members, which decides whether to honor requests from ex-felons for civil rights restoration, sentence commutations or full pardons. She framed those canceled meetings as a “dereliction of duty.” Fried, of course, is out of office after her unsuccessful bid for Governor last year. And perhaps coincidentally, the Executive Clemency Board is back on schedule, with Republican Wilton Simpson now in place as Agriculture Commissioner, removing the political component represented by Fried’s run for DeSantis’ Office.

ICYMI: Florida investment board approves anti-ESG investment guidelines” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Florida’s top investment advisory board approved changes no longer allowing key state investment arms to consider things like “social, political or ideological interests” when making investment decisions. The vote by the State Board of Administration, which includes DeSantis, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody is one of the first material steps taken in what is expected to be a pushback this year against so-called ESG, which stands for environmental, social and governance issues. It’s the general terminology used to describe companies using societal — not just fiduciary — factors like the impacts of climate change when making investment decisions. DeSantis has been a critic of the practice, and legislation on the issue is expected to be filed ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session.

Agriculture leaders seek stability after Hurricane Ian, citrus greening” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — More than a million acres of agricultural land in Florida suffered damage from Hurricane Ian. Citrus greening continues to wallop yields on juice. More growers are simply calling it quits. But agriculture leaders say demand for Florida orange juice remains high and the industry remains one of the largest in the state. “We still have a lot of growers throughout Florida that are engaging in this industry,” said Matt Joyner, executive vice president and CEO of the Florida Citrus Mutual.

Problems with short-term vacation rentals in Florida persist; Will there ever be a statewide solution?” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — At a City Commission meeting last fall in Pinellas County’s Indian Rocks Beach, local resident Jerry Newton’s frustration was evident. The problem? Short-term vacation rentals in his community. “Yet another month has passed,” Newton said. “In the meantime, there are more hotel rooms and more unfamiliar faces every day next door to our homes.” Now Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Cookie Kennedy and City Commissioners are preparing to unveil new proposed regulations, which in turn is now prompting concerns from vacation rental owners. Those owners fear that the new measures will go too far and drive down the economic stimulus that such rentals bring to local communities.

Cookie Kennedy is ready for a closer look at regulations on short-term vacation rentals.

The paradox of diversity trainings” via Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic — Do diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts actually exacerbate intolerance? Perhaps 15% of humans are psychologically ill-suited to dealing with difference — and when DEI-industry programming deliberately raises the salience of race in a given organization with the intention of urging anti-racism, the effect is to exacerbate differentism. The Harvard Business Review has been publishing articles that cast doubt on the efficacy of mainstream DEI approaches for years. Matthew Yglesias once explained why he believes that raising the salience of race in public-policy debates is frequently bad for anti-racism: “A deep body of scholarship across history, political science, and economics all broadly point toward the conclusion that increasing the salience of race can have harmful results.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

White House strategy to manage documents fallout takes shape” via Phil Mattingly and Jeremy Diamond of CNN — The White House strategy to manage the special counsel investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents has taken shape. Pledge full cooperation. Attack House Republicans. Don’t engage in the details of an ongoing matter. Most of all, maintain the meticulously planned strategic road map on which Biden planned to act this month, long before all but a small handful of White House officials were even aware the handling of classified documents was a problem for anyone other than his predecessor.

Joe Biden just outmaneuvered MAGA Republicans — and they barely noticed” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — If President Biden rolls out a major new pro-immigrant policy, and MAGA Republicans don’t make any noise about it, did the announcement happen at all? Why, yes, it did. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas unveiled an initiative on Friday that would extend more protection against deportation to undocumented immigrants who report labor rights violations by employers. This is a big move by the administration, one long sought by immigration advocates. Biden’s immigration record is decidedly mixed, but this would address a serious problem: Undocumented migrant workers often fear reporting workplace violations because it could lead to their deportation.

Joe Biden pulled an end run around the MAGA Republicans.

How ‘extraordinary measures’ can postpone a debt limit disaster” via Alan Rappeport of The New York Times — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress that the administration would try to keep the country under that debt cap and able to finance its operations as long as possible by using “extraordinary measures.” What are extraordinary measures? When the country comes close to — or hits — the statutory debt limit, the Treasury secretary can find ways to shift money around government accounts to remain under the borrowing cap, essentially buying time for Congress to raise the cap. That includes seeking out ways to reduce what counts against the debt limit, such as suspending certain types of investments in savings plans for government workers and health plans for retired postal workers. After the debt limit impasse ends, programs whose investments were suspended are supposed to be “made whole.”

Rick Scott uses ‘alcoholism’ as metaphor for current Social Security, Medicare spending levels” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview on WDUN radio, U.S. Sen. Scott compared current spending levels on the entitlement programs to “alcoholism,” suggesting a “12-step program” was necessary to corral the fiscal liability while responding to a question from host Martha Zoller about Social Security and Medicare spending specifically. “First, let’s acknowledge we have a problem. It’s like alcoholism. The first step of the 12 steps is, ‘You have a problem!’ OK? We have a spending problem in this country.” Scott’s spokesperson McKinley Lewis called soon after this piece was first published to contend that despite the framing of the question by the host, the Senator was really talking about federal spending writ large in his use of the “alcoholism” and “12 Steps” tropes.

Republicans turn on one of their own over immigration remark” via Katherine Fung of Newsweek — Republicans attacked one of their own, Rep. Maria Salazar, after the Florida congresswoman urged the nation to treat undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. with “dignity.” Speaking as part of a bipartisan panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Salazar said after closing off America’s borders, the U.S. should then offer “dignity” to the tens of millions of people living in the country without citizenship. “It’s time to seal the border … Put order. Let’s see who comes in and who doesn’t. And then turn around and give dignity — that doesn’t mean a path to citizenship — that means to include them and make them dignified members of our community,” Salazar said.

Cory Mills named to Armed Services, Foreign Affairs committees” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Mills will bring his military background to House committees forming national defense policy. The Winter Park Republican was named to the House Armed Services Committee and to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “As a combat veteran and Bronze Star recipient who has deployed multiple times overseas, fighting for those in uniform and abroad will be my honor,” Mills said. “Let’s disavow woke ideologies plaguing our military and get back to our armed meritocracy.” The first-term Congressman won his seat in November, flipping Florida’s 7th Congressional District red after defeating Democrat Karen Green. The veteran earned national attention when he led civilian rescue missions to Afghanistan following a withdrawal of U.S. troops with a widely criticized execution.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Trump now claiming he only kept classified folders as ‘cool keepsakes’” via Nikki McCann Ramirez of Rolling Stone — Trump suggested that federal investigators planted documents in empty classification folders he just so happened to be hoarding at Mar-a-Lago. Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that he legally retained and declassified more than 300 documents found in his home, is trying to recast the controversy in the wake of the recovery of a significantly smaller cache of documents from Biden’s home and office. Trump claimed in a series of Truth Social posts that he kept “hundreds” of empty classification folders from meetings and briefings as a “cool keepsake.”

Donald Trump is now saying he kept classified documents because it was ‘cool.’

Trump criticizes evangelical leaders for not backing his 2024 presidential bid” via Kristen Holmes, Gabby Orr and Kaitlan Collins of CNN — Just days before Trump hosts his first 2024 event in South Carolina, a state whose evangelical population has long played a critical role in its Presidential Primary, he is lashing out at religious conservatives who have declined to endorse his third presidential campaign. “Nobody has ever done more for Right to Life than Donald Trump. I put three Supreme Court justices, who all voted, and they got something that they’ve been fighting for 64 years, for many, many years,” Trump said in an interview for a conservative podcast, referring to the Supreme Court’s overturning of federal abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last summer.

Trump campaign seeks his prompt return to Facebook” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO at Meta, and other company officials, the lawyer for Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign noted that Facebook instituted a ban on the former President that was scheduled to come up for review after Jan. 7 of this year. The lawyer, Scott Gast, requested a meeting “to discuss President Trump’s prompt reinstatement to the platform.” “Donald Trump is a declared candidate for President of the United States,” the letter, dated Tuesday, said. “He is the leading contender for the Republican nomination in numerous public opinion polls. … [W]e believe that the ban on President Trump’s account on Facebook has dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

DeSantis appointee, superintendent foe, sworn into Broward School Board ahead of key vote” via Jimena Davel and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — A fierce critic of Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright rejoined the Broward County School Board on Wednesday, roughly a week before the board is set to decide whether to keep Cartwright or fire her as the first woman superintendent to lead the nation’s sixth-largest school district. During the 15-minute swearing-in ceremony, Daniel Foganholi thanked God and DeSantis, who put him on the board for the second time.

Daniel Foganholi thanks ‘God and Ron DeSantis’ for his new role on the Broward School Board.

City Hall melts down as North Miami Beach Mayor denies he moved out of the city” via Raisa Habersham of the Miami Herald — North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo strenuously denies that he has moved into a newly purchased home in the Broward County suburbs, but accusations that he no longer lives in the city he was elected to represent are leading to gridlock and uncertainty at City Hall. On Tuesday, for instance, the first City Commission meeting of the year ended before it began after DeFillipo tried to run the gathering despite an outside law firm’s finding this month that he has been quietly living in a home he bought last July in the town of Davie. Several Commissioners protested the Mayor’s presence by skipping the gathering.

Miami Shores Council appoints Wesley Castellanos to vacant seat” via Raisa Habersham of the Miami Herald — The Miami Shores Village Council on Tuesday appointed and swore in a former Chair of the city’s Historic Preservation Board to the Council seat vacated by Crystal Wagar. It was the Council’s second appointment in a matter of weeks. Castellanos, a registered architect and general contractor who founded the Miami-based Castellanos Design Studio, immediately began serving in office upon his appointment. “My goal will be, I promise you, to make Miami Shores more beautiful than what it is now,” Castellanos said after beating out four other applicants. “I can promise that I will do my absolute best to listen closely to the residents and choose what is right for us,” Castellanos wrote in a statement to the Miami Herald.

Vince Lago, Kevin Marino Cabrera back Ivette Arango O’Doski for Coral Gables Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Lawyer and consultant O’Doski’s bid for the Coral Gables Commission now has the emphatic support of two of the city’s most prominent elected officials. On Wednesday, O’Doski’s campaign announced the endorsements of Coral Gables Mayor Lago and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Cabrera. Lago, who has known O’Doski for years, said residents want a Commissioner who will pay attention to them, something she will do. “I know Ivette will listen to our community and not to the special interests,” he said in a statement.

Ivette O’Doski gets some influential local support.

Michael Grieco should have law license temporarily suspended, report says” via Aaron Leibowitz and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — A judge tasked with investigating a campaign finance scandal involving former state Representative and Miami Beach Commissioner Grieco is recommending a 90-day suspension of Grieco’s law license, according to a report released Tuesday. The report, issued by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge George Sarduy as part of a Florida Bar case, calls on the Florida Supreme Court to find Grieco guilty of violating the state’s rules for lawyers related to conduct involving dishonesty or a “criminal act that reflects adversely” on the lawyer. The state Supreme Court will now make the ultimate decision on whether and how Grieco should be disciplined.

Sunrise Police Chief Anthony Rosa to retire in June” via Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After five years of leading the Sunrise Police Department, Chief Rosa will retire in June. Rosa, 50, said he called City Commissioners and told them he’d be leaving the job, with a tentative effective date of June 2. Rosa took over the post in January 2018 when former Chief John Brooks retired after 10 years of leading the Department. “It’s a great city to work for,” Rosa said Tuesday night. “We made some good inroads with community engagement, and personally I’m very grateful to the city, residents, the employees. Right now, I don’t have any hard or concrete plans, just focus on my family and see what comes next.”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Robert Jordan announces District 1 County Commission candidacy for North Brevard” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Well in advance of the next election, a second candidate has announced his run for the District 1 County Commission seat in North Brevard. Robert Jordan, a business owner and president of logistics and procurement company Genesis VII in Titusville, has served both on the Brevard County School Board and the Titusville City Council. He now is running as a Republican to represent the north end of the county ― including Port St. John, Titusville, Mims and Scottsmoor, as well as part of Cocoa — in county government. That seat currently is held by Rita Pritchett, the current County Commission Chair, herself a former member of Titusville City Council and a fellow Republican.

Robert Jordan throws his hat in the ring — again.

Warden-turned-Council member wants new inmate labor programs in Volusia County” via Sheldon Gardner of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — New District 2 Volusia County Council member and former county corrections warden Matt Reinhart, who was elected in November, said he plans to bring forward new proposals soon for inmate labor in Volusia County. Reinhart, who took office this month, said he spoke with County Manager George Recktenwald, but didn’t specify when he plans to bring forward his proposals. He spoke about Manatee County, where inmate labor is used in fish farming, road work, maintenance, housekeeping, meat processing, sewing, horticulture and other labor, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Newly elected Port Orange Council member resigns citing medical reasons” via Brenno Carillo of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Port Orange City Council member Kat Atwood, who was elected in November, announced her resignation Tuesday citing medical reasons. Atwood ran unopposed for the District 2 seat vacated by former Council member Chase Tramont, who ran for the House. “This has not been an easy decision. If I’m not able to give it my all, I need to step down and allow someone else to have the opportunity,” Atwood said in a news release. “Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I will continue to seek out ways to serve the City of Port Orange as I am able, but for now I need to focus on my health.”

Universal settles lawsuit after 11-year-old’s foot crushed on E.T. Adventure” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando has settled a lawsuit with a Brazilian tourist who said her 11-year-old son’s foot was crushed on the theme park’s E.T. Adventure ride in 2019. The legal battle began in February 2019 after Roberta Perez claimed unsafe ride conditions led her son Tiago’s foot to get stuck between the ride vehicle and an offloading area at the ride’s end during a visit on Jan. 31, 2019. Tiago broke several bones in his toes, foot and leg in a bloody scene, lawyer Ed Normand said following the accident. His mother and lawyers say it left Tiago with permanent injuries that required orthopedic surgery and caused him to be held back a grade in school.

— LOCAL: TB —

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor vetoes charter changes. Will City Council override her veto?” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Castor did something Wednesday that no Tampa Mayor has done for a long time: She used her veto power, sending five proposed changes to the City Charter back to City Council. Council members had approved all five by veto-proof majorities earlier this month. Castor announced her vetoes in an unusual way. Several Council members read about the mayor’s action in the opinion pages of the Tampa Bay Times. Her staff hand-delivered a memo outlining her reasoning to Council members’ offices later in the morning.

Mike Suarez seeks return to Tampa City Council” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Just three days before the qualifying deadline, former Tampa City Council member Suarez filed to run for his old job. Suarez filed for Tampa City Council District 2, where he will face current District 6 City Council member Guido Maniscalco and, potentially, three other candidates. Suarez has not yet filed qualifying documents for the race, but Maniscalco has. Other candidates include former candidate for Hillsborough County Sheriff Gary Pruitt, Michael Derewenko and Robin Lockett.

The return of Mike Suarez?

New appellate court up and running, but faces hiring, facility issues” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s new 6th District Court of Appeal is up and running, but the new bench doesn’t have a suitable courthouse to hold oral arguments and neighboring districts are struggling to recruit staff attorneys. Sixth DCA Chief Judge Meredith Sasso, who moved to the newly created district from the old 5th DCA, which had included her native Orange County, gave an update to House and Senate panels Tuesday. The 6th DCA is using an office building in Lakeland, its headquarters, and is renting out space in the Orlando area as well. It also has a per diem agreement with Florida Southern College to use a room as needed, Sasso said. But the lack of a dedicated room for face-to-face oral arguments is the biggest deficiency right now. “There’s something that’s lost on Zoom when we don’t get to look the practitioners directly in the eye,” Sasso told the House Judiciary Committee.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Sarasota ground zero as conservatives seek to replicate Florida School Board success” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Conservatives across the state won local School Board elections last fall, with much of the focus on DeSantis’ education agenda. Twenty-six of the 30 candidates he endorsed in the local, technically nonpartisan elections won. Now, conservatives want to replicate the success of Florida’s political strategy on education policy in districts across the country — with Sarasota as ground zero. The Leadership Institute, a national nonprofit founded in 1979 aimed at training conservatives, hired Sarasota County School Board Chair Bridget Ziegler as its director of School Board programs last September, shortly after she won re-election to a third full term.

Bridget Ziegler is the point person for conservative strategies for winning School Board races.

School Board kicks off Superintendent search, holds interim appointment until next meeting” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — In its first meeting of the new year, the Sarasota County School Board began the process of finding a new Superintendent Tuesday evening. The Board voted unanimously to begin the process of finding firms to aid in searching for a replacement for the recently departed Superintendent Brennan Asplen, who was forced out after two new members joined the School Board in November. Ziegler also said that Allison Foster, the school district’s executive director of human resources, and Ron DiPillo, the executive director of career and technical education at Suncoast Technical College, had put their names forward to be considered for interim Superintendent.

North Port government plans conflict-resolution session to ease rift” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — North Port city government officials will engage in a conflict-resolution workshop designed partly to mend fences between City Manager Jerome Fletcher and City Commissioner Debbie McDowell. Events that prompted the need for the session were set in motion several months ago. McDowell brought up the matter at the Nov. 22 meeting, when Fletcher was not present. Fletcher responded on Dec. 13 and said it should be a team-based solution. McDowell had been pushing for a one-on-one session with a conflict resolution specialist more than five months earlier, but none of the other four board members were inclined to force Fletcher into that type of session.

Punta Gorda City Council repeals concealed carry ordinance” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of the Punta Gorda Sun — Punta Gorda City Council members repealed an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to carry a concealed weapon Wednesday. After someone raised concern about the law possibly being illegal, City Council members ordered a review, learning the ordinance dated back to the 1970s and was later amended in the late 1980s. However, it didn’t reflect current Florida statutes regarding the regulation of weapons. The Punta Gorda ordinance stated: “Whoever in the city carries a concealed weapon or electric weapon on or about their person is guilty of a misdemeanor.” The ordinance further stated that someone could be charged if they “exhibit the (weapon) in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense.”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Lawsuit challenges Jax mayoral candidate Daniel Davis’ continued Jax Chamber employment” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has filed suit in the 4th Judicial Circuit to compel the organization not to pay its CEO while he runs for Mayor. Billie Tucker Volpe, a Republican of long standing who was instrumental in the Tea Party movement and a Chamber member of more recent vintage, is suing the Chamber and CEO Davis to stop Davis from continuing to get paid while standing as an active candidate. Her membership with the Chamber grants her standing, the plaintiff’s argument contends. Controversy over Davis running for Mayor while not stepping away from his day job predated his official campaign, as his eventual entry into the race was expected by insiders years ago.

Will Daniel Davis continue pulling a Chamber paycheck?

Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves named to Harvard fellowship on creating just, equitable cities” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Reeves was one of eight U.S. mayors named to the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and Just City Lab’s 2023 fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design last week. The MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship will help mayors develop and strengthen approaches to embedding justice and equity goals within government policy and practices, according to a city news release. The program will also help mayors design strategies for achieving more just and equitable outcomes within their communities. “As I’ve said since my first day, Pensacola will be at its best when it’s a city not just for some of us, or most of us, but for all of us,” Reeves said in the announcement.

Pensacola City Council approves additional police officers dedicated to downtown” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — The Pensacola City Council, meeting as the board of the Community Redevelopment Agency, unanimously approved a $191,700 request to expand the number of police officers dedicated to the downtown core from two officers to four. For several years, the CRA has funded two full-time positions at PPD for patrolling the CRA district of the city at $100,000. The Downtown Improvement Board also helps fund those two positions with an added $60,000. The funds pay for the salary, benefits and equipment of the two officers. The two new positions will be hired from existing members of the PPD, and then the openings created by that transfer will be backfilled with new recruits, Pensacola Police Chief Eric Randall said.

Nassau County looks to Legislature for hand on infrastructure projects” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Nassau County went to its legislative delegation with its list of needs and wants that county leaders hope will receive funding from the state government. Most involve infrastructure, either making it easier to get from here to there, or buttressing what already exists against future flooding. “You have local projects, the state makes annual appropriations — a lot of your local projects are of state interest and state concern to facilitate state goals and objectives,” County Manager Taco Pope said. “This year, working with your staff, communication with you all as Board members, we did our best to aggregate a list of nine projects, with a total request of just over $9 million.”

Fernandina Beach moving city elections to common Primary and General Election dates” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — There was a victory this week for everyone upset at the odd timing of Municipal Elections. A proposal passed the first reading with the Fernandina Beach City Commission that moves its elections to the common days. Currently, city election Primaries happen on the day of the General Election in November, with runoffs in December, as happened in the last cycle. The new system pegs city elections on the same days as existing Primaries and General Elections, ending the need for future December runoffs. In this manner, most city elections will happen on the statewide Primary Day, with any runoffs occurring on Election Day in November.

UF Honors Program seeks new director for college” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — The University of Florida’s Honors Program is on the hunt for a new director after terminating the previous one last fall. The program will have a 19-member search committee to find a permanent director by mid-May and all meetings will be open for public input where students can take part in on-campus interviews. In an email, UF’s associate provost for undergraduate affairs, Angela Lindner, said the search committee has a very strong student representation and they represent “various aspects of the honors program.” It’s unclear when the on-campus interviews will take place, but Lindner said it should be announced through UF soon. Kevin Knudson, Chair and professor in the department of mathematics, will lead the search committee.

— TOP OPINION —

A secrecy shield attacks Floridians’ right to know” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — More than 1,000 legal exemptions have made a mockery of Florida’s open records law. None allows a Governor “executive privilege” to flout it. Before DeSantis, no Governor was so arrogant as to claim that he could.

But a circuit judge in Tallahassee has given the Governor what no Legislature or court ever should.

The outrageous ruling by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey that DeSantis has such a privilege is a staggering kick in the gut to the people of Florida. Dempsey has eviscerated the public records law and the Florida Constitution.

There is “absolutely nothing” in that constitutional amendment, they said, “that requires this Governor or any other to answer questions about the identity of individuals the Governor consulted in the appointment process.”

By the same brazen illogic, he could refuse to reveal just about anything else that relates to why he does what he does. It is simply too much unchecked discretion to give any Governor, particularly one as authoritarian as DeSantis.

DeSantis has no good reason for refusing to reveal who has secretly helped him pack Florida’s highest courts with right-wing ideologues. It’s not a matter of national security. It doesn’t pry open an active criminal investigation.

But it strikes at the heart of the people’s right to know who’s helping DeSantis rig the courts to rule for private interests instead of the public’s.

— OPINIONS —

Florida’s teacher shortage — the problem state leaders won’t solve” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Five months ago, Florida’s public schools started the year with thousands of teaching vacancies. This wasn’t really a surprise. Florida has generally treated teachers like dirt. But DeSantis said he had an idea: Let military veterans teach. Why would anyone think military veterans want to be underpaid and disrespected any more than existing teachers? Flash forward to today. Florida now has a whopping 5,294 posted vacancies — more than triple the number the state had five years ago, according to the Florida Education Association. Military.com reported last month that the Governor’s plan to “grow Florida’s teaching workforce” had added a total of seven teachers.

Lawmakers must remember the pain of Hurricane Ian, as two more bodies are found” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The two additional deaths come just as lawmakers in Tallahassee begin preparing for another Legislative Session that includes two committees focused on hurricanes and resiliency. The committees are focusing on issues such as more prompt removal of derelict vessels after a storm and making sure local government contracts spell out the specific kind of debris removal needed. Both ideas may have merit but there has also been talk about trying to shield the names of storm victims from the public. We understand the impulse to prevent unscrupulous people from exploiting victims, but after a storm, relatives need to be able to locate their loved ones. Crowdsourcing can be critical after a major disaster. Keeping the names of the missing out of the public eye is simply a non-starter.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

‘Ted Lasso’ unveils first look at Season 3” via Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter — Might this be all that we get? Apple TV+ has announced a Spring premiere for season three of its Emmy-winning comedy Ted Lasso and released the first image from the coming run. The streamer did not, however, say whether the coming season will be the show’s last, as has been widely speculated. Creators Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly sold the series, based on a character Sudeikis played in a series of NBC Sports promos, with a pitch for a three-season arc. “This story is going to be over [in season three], regardless, even if the show finds another story to tell and goes on,” Lawrence said on The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast after season two ended in October 2021.

Apple+ teases fans with the return of Ted Lasso.

Flo Rida wins lawsuit against Celsius energy drink maker. Jury awards $82.6 million in damages over endorsements” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Celsius energy drinks would be nothing without the backing of recording artist Flo Rida, and the Boca Raton-based company owes him more than $82.6 million in damages for trying to hide it, a Broward jury decided Wednesday. The verdict came on the second day of deliberation after jurors were treated to a crash course in contract law, endorsement deals, revenue sharing and who gets credit when a company’s fortunes soar. In this case, the company was Celsius Holdings, which was a minor player in the market when it inked a deal with Tramar Dillard, professionally known as Flo Rida, and his company Strong Arm productions in 2014.

Record number of manatees spotted at Blue Spring State Park” via Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — Hundreds of manatees congregated in Blue Spring run for warmth on a particularly chilly morning this week, breaking the record for the number of sea cows tallied in one day within the Volusia County waterway. A total of 729 manatees were counted by park officials on Jan. 17, breaking the state park’s earlier record of 721 tallied on Jan. 29, 2022. Despite their large appearance and weight averaging 800 to 1,200 pounds, Florida’s sea cows are susceptible to cold stress. This past weekend, temperatures around Central Florida dipped into the 30s, causing some parts of the St. Johns River to drop in temperature into the 50s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s water data website.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are former Rep. Jayer Williamson, Dan Holler, and Rick Porter.

___

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

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