Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politi…[ad_1]
Good Thursday morning.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has hired Meghan Myhill as a communications and marketing coordinator.
Myhill joins the team led by Communications Director Ashley Chambers in the Tallahassee office. In her new role, Myhill will work within FRLA and with its members, external partners and stakeholders to amplify messaging and digital efforts to protect, educate, and promote Florida’s hospitality industry.
“We are thrilled to welcome Meghan to the FRLA family,” said FRLA President and CEO Carol Dover. “In her short time here, she has already demonstrated incredible value to the FRLA team and our members. Her strong skills with digital communications and marketing are a true asset as we work to promote Florida’s restaurants, hotels, attractions and suppliers.”
Before joining FRLA, Myhill spent six years working in the Tallahassee and D.C. offices of U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, where she started as a staff assistant and climbed up to regional director and scheduler for the Panama City Republican.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@CharlesCWCooke: It’s flat-out insanity for (Gov. Ron) DeSantis to mention RFK Jr. within the same sentence as the FDA or CDC, let alone as a potential appointee to do anything related to medicine. RFK Jr.’s a kook who’d improve nothing. (The full answer’s even worse than this clip.)
—@WiltonSimpson: We will not tolerate anyone who targets Florida’s children. Our team inspected more than 470 food establishments in 37 Florida counties. The operation uncovered 68,689 packages of hemp extract products we believe target children.
—@RepDonalsPress: The new African American standards in FL are good, robust, & accurate. That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted. That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that FLDOE will correct this.
—@SenMannyDiaz: Florida will not silence important parts of this nation’s history for political convenience due to false attacks from the @WhiteHouse and @VP. We are pushing forward with our robust curriculum on African American History.
— DAYS UNTIL —
DeSantis to speak in Iowa at Rep. Ashley Hinson’s annual BBQ Bash — 10; ‘Billions’ final season premieres — 15; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 20; Port Orange, Lake Helen, Ponce Inlet to hold elections — 26; The first GOP Presidential Primary debate — 27; ‘Ahsoka’ premieres on Disney+ — 27; The U.S. Open begins — 32; 2023 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 35; Florida House Fall 2023 Interim Committee Meetings begin — 53; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres — 71; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 88; Britney Spears memoir ‘The Woman in Me’ drops — 89; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 99; Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosts ‘Evening with the Tigers’ — 103; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 106; Formula 1 will take over the Las Vegas Strip — 112; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 118; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 125; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 139; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: (Donald) Trump vs. DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 166; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 166; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 174; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 191; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 194; Georgia Democratic Primary — 200; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 211; Michigan Democratic Primary — 217; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 227; 2024 Oscars — 229; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 246; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 281; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 301; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 365; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 365; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 386; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 394; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 512; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 568; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 645; ‘Moana’ premieres — 701; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 876; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 1,009; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,031; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,244; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,383; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,339; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,702.
— TOP STORY —
“Florida Democrats launch voter registration program to reverse party’s precipitous decline” via Dan Merica of The Messenger — Democrats in Florida lost their long-held voter registration advantage in 2021, a bruising reminder of how far the party has fallen in the Sunshine State.
Nikki Fried, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, is looking to reverse that trend.
On Wednesday, Fried will launch a 17-county tour to tout the party’s new $1 million investment in voter registration for the remainder of 2023, looking to bolster the party’s electoral rolls and call out Republicans in the state. Fried and other Florida Democrats hope the focus will serve as a “call to action” for people in the state who are angry with DeSantis and Florida resident and former President Trump, both of whom are running for President in 2024.
“We have seen consistently for the last few election cycles that the Florida Democrats have farmed out our voter registration to third parties. And what we have seen as a result of that is an increase of nonparty affiliateds and, quite honestly, a decrease in Democrats,” Fried told The Messenger. “So, in order for us to see a new day for Democrats … we’ve got to organize differently. And voter registration is the pivotal moment of this reorg.”
Her goal by the end of 2024 is to cut the Republican advantage by 35% — around 190,000 voters given Republicans currently hold a roughly 541,000 voter advantage.
The program will focus on a mix of counties that voted for Trump and Biden in 2020, including Broward, Miami-Dade and Lee, among others. It will also include smaller counties like Gilchrist, a rural county where Trump won over 80% of the vote.
— THE TRAIL —
“A rebooted Ron DeSantis campaign sticks to familiar themes” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — Just days after his campaign promised a redirection in his stalled bid for the Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis delivered a keynote address Wednesday to a conservative conference where he showed no signs of straying from his familiar script. DeSantis touted his Florida record of expanding parents’ rights, cutting taxes and erasing such “woke” policies as diversity training and socially conscious investing. His presidential messaging centered on a promise to reverse what he called the country’s “state of decline.” “The decline of our country, though, is not inevitable,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis tries to frame staff firings as ‘shifting resources’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an Outkick interview, DeSantis defended his recent staff cuts as a move away from a “nationwide election” vision of the campaign to a more “state-by-state” approach. The DeSantis campaign let go of 38 of its 92 employees this month amid a budget crunch, but the Governor says it’s not a big deal. “We had a campaign for a nationwide election which will happen eventually, but that’s not how the Primaries are. So, we’re shifting resources to the early states,” DeSantis told Clay Travis.
“Poll: Just 13% of GOP women back DeSantis for President” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — With less than a month to go until the first GOP Primary debate, another poll is showing DeSantis struggling to rally support from Republican women. A survey of 262 Republican women reveals a dismal 13% of that sample back the Florida Governor in the Republican Primary. That’s the same share as those who are “not sure” who they support. Trump has 55% support among both women in this survey, with Vivek Ramaswamy’s 5% good for third place.
“DeSantis’ Hamptons fundraiser flops — while RFK Jr., Donald Trump rake it in” via Lydia Moynihan of the New York Post — The tale of the three fundraisers shows DeSantis’ hopes for snaring the Republican nomination are quickly fading as Trump dominates the GOP field and RFK Jr. gains momentum. “This weekend broke DeSantis’ campaign,” one political fundraiser said. “I don’t know anyone who went,” added longtime GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren. “George Santos could’ve pulled off a better fundraising swing in the Hamptons than Ron DeSantis did this past weekend.” As On the Money previously reported, DeSantis had cut in half — from $6,600 per person to $3,300 — the price to attend the July 20 fundraiser in Southampton. But despite being discounted and heavily promoted — and with New York Republican groups sending email blasts the day before the event — attendance was underwhelming.
“DeSantis suggests he could pick RFK Jr. to lead the FDA or CDC” via Andrew Zhang of POLITICO — DeSantis mused in an interview that he generally aligns with Kennedy’s conservative views on COVID-19 policies and vaccines. Those views, DeSantis indicated, could make him a pick to lead a federal agency with medical jurisdiction. “If you’re President, sic him on the FDA if he’d be willing to serve. Or sic him on CDC,” DeSantis said, in response to a question about whether he would pick Kennedy as a running mate. “In terms of being Veep, if there’s 70% of the issues that he may be averse to our base on, that just creates an issue.” DeSantis’ comments fit into the Governor’s ongoing criticism of the federal bureaucracy, which he has described over recent years as becoming too “woke” and corrupted.
“Anti-vaxxer in chief? DeSantis elevates vaccine skepticism to marquee campaign issue” via Zac Anderson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Sarah Galloway supports Trump but questions his approach to COVID-19 vaccines. “I didn’t take it, I don’t want my family to take it,” Galloway, who is married with three children, said of the COVID-19 shot. Galloway wants Trump to emulate DeSantis, who initially promoted the vaccines before voicing increasing skepticism toward what he calls “the jab.” “DeSantis, he originally said everybody should go get vaccinated … then he did a full circle switch and I’m like ‘Sweet, I’m glad he’s understanding this. Why isn’t Trump understanding this?” Galloway said recently after attending a GOP meeting where she lives in Southwest Florida.
“DeSantis is losing his electability advantage over Trump” via Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine — As DeSantis tries to catch up to Trump, the Florida governor’s campaign has been making aggressive assertions that he has an advantage in terms of his “electability” against Biden. The case for DeSantis being the better general-election candidate has had less to do with any direct evidence than with the fading memories of his strong re-election performance in 2022, compared to the mixed results of Trump-endorsed Midterm candidates and, of course, his loss to Biden in 2020. But truth be told, a lot of DeSantis’s electability claims are more about Republican voters’ presumed lack of trust in Trump, which isn’t all that well established. In fact, a new Monmouth survey of Republicans shows Trump has an electability advantage over DeSantis.
“DeSantis on being Trump’s VP: ‘Would you take it?’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an Outkick interview, DeSantis again rejected the prospect of being Trump’s running mate. “Would you take it if it were offered to you?” he responded. “I don’t think I would be good at it and I think I’m probably, you know, more valuable doing other things.” The Governor went on to tell host Clay Travis that “doing No. 2” just “doesn’t appeal” to him. “Some people run for President because they want a Cabinet position or Veep or a TV contributorship. I’m not that,” DeSantis added.
“What if the problem with DeSantis’ campaign is that it exists?” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — New reporting from POLITICO, echoing past analyses, does suggest that the presidential campaign of DeSantis is challenged not only by the limitations of its candidate but also by strains between the campaign and Never Back Down, the PAC that’s trying to get DeSantis to the nomination. What might also be frustrating to Never Back Down, though, is that DeSantis is stumbling at the most basic part of their shared effort: being an effective candidate. Numerous news reports and viral incidents have suggested that the candidate’s charisma might not be particularly noteworthy. His being a good candidate is a central part of what he’s supposed to bring to the table here and it’s not clear, at this point, that he will.
“DeSantis speaks at conservative group’s meeting in Orlando” via Michelle Meredith of WESH — DeSantis delivered a speech at the American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Meeting in Orlando, held at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes. ALEC is a group that works to have conservative laws written and passed into law across the nation. DeSantis played to a packed and very receptive house, taking on the President, his son, the Vice President, and critics of what some call his “anti-woke” education laws. When it comes to books that have been banned by the state, DeSantis said, in essence, that if the plot in many banned books were put in a movie, it would be considered pornography.
“Why DeSantis should launch a normie insurgency” via Fred Bauer of UnHerd — DeSantis has had a torrid few months and, just yesterday, it was announced that he had cut a third of his campaign staff. With Trump riding high in the national polls, DeSantis has, in those same surveys, dropped from around 30% earlier this year to 20% (or even less) today. DeSantis might instead find more of a political opportunity in a “normie” insurgency — presenting himself as an alternative to Trump who can help restore some sense of sanity (maybe even normalcy) to contemporary life. It’s often ignored in the national press, but DeSantis’ 2022 landslide victory in Florida had little to do with wokeness or other cultural issues.
“DeSantis backs Joe Biden impeachment, wants feds to back off Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis unsurprisingly is siding with House Republicans who are weighing whether to impeach Biden. Biden may be impeached by the Republican-controlled House over alleged financial improprieties. For DeSantis, that’s appropriate given what he sees as a flimsy pretext for previous impeachments. “They impeached Donald Trump for a phone call. Are you trying to tell me Biden’s conduct isn’t as significant as that? It’s way more significant. So, they are absolutely within their rights to do that,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis says ‘good chance’ Biden dies before finishing second term” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview, the Governor said he didn’t expect Biden to live much longer. “You have to look at what’s the average mortality rate in the United States. Biden will be 82. I mean, he’s already passed normal life expectancy,” DeSantis said. “So, it’s not like that would be an unforeseen thing.” The Governor then suggested Biden’s candidacy was just a Trojan horse for Vice President Kamala Harris to take over. “I think the American people should know if you’re voting for Biden, you know, you are effectively voting for Harris to likely be the President of the United States over the next four years,” DeSantis said.
— MORE 2024 —
“Let Ron be Ron? Nikki Fried says that’s the problem” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview on MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber,” Fried offered commentary on the new DeSantis campaign theme to “Let Ron Be Ron.” “Ron is being Ron,” said Fried, a former Agriculture Commissioner who served four tense years in the Cabinet with DeSantis. “This is who he is.” From there, Fried suggested his campaign strategy was myopic. Fried was asked if DeSantis would return to Tallahassee and take even harsher positions if he lost the presidential race. She said he would and called on Republicans in Tallahassee (many of whom endorsed DeSantis preemptively) to stand with Democrats in opposition to the Governor. “He’s going to want his pounds of flesh, but it’s going to be on the Republicans of Florida to fight back with us and to stand united for the people of our state,” Fried said.
“Getting cozy with the too online ‘new right’ hasn’t worked out for DeSantis” via Eric Boehm of Reason — When DeSantis hired 25-year-old Nate Hochman to be a campaign speechwriter in March, it sent an unambiguous message about the direction of the Governor’s presidential bid. Among the cadre of young culture warriors within the so-called “New Right,” Hochman had already distinguished himself as someone to watch and not always in the right ways. By bringing Hochman onto his campaign, then, DeSantis was sending a bi-directional message. It was yet another nod to the New Right that DeSantis was taking seriously their views about the role of government as a force to be deployed in the culture war. And it was an indication that DeSantis believed embracing that faction, warts and all, was part of the path to winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency.
“Trump says he’ll revive stolen-vote claim if he’s charged over Jan. 6” via Erik Larson, and Gregory Korte of Bloomberg — Trump signaled his false claims about the 2020 Presidential Election being rigged against him will feature prominently in any criminal trial over his attempts to overturn the outcome of the vote. “We’ll have fun on the stand with all of these people that say the Presidential Election wasn’t Rigged and Stollen. THE TRIAL OF THE CENTURY!!!,” the former President said Wednesday in a post on his Truth Social platform. Trump followed that post with a number of other all-capital-letter exclamations: “2024 ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!” “PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT!!!” “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”
— DOWN BALLOT —
“As numbers for GOP keep adding up, Democrats declare ‘turf war’ by investing $1M in voter registration” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats are declaring a “turf war” and preparing to sink $1 million into signing up blue voters as voter registration numbers show Republicans gaining an increasing advantage in the state. The announcement of the Democrats’ seven-figure investment, along with an 18-county bus tour that starts next week, comes on the heels of state GOP hype that its voter registration advantage over the Democrats surpassed more than 500,000 voters last month. Fried will be offering a counternarrative as she crisscrosses the state with local elected leaders in her first statewide tour since her election to Democratic Party leadership, according to a news release from the Florida Democratic Party.
Kim Kendall first 2024 state candidate to qualify by petition — House District 18 candidate Kendall has collected enough petition signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot — a first among next year’s crop of state legislative candidates. “Since announcing my candidacy in March, my campaign has exceeded all expectations,” the St. Augustine Republican said in a news release. “This qualifying milestone wouldn’t be possible without the district’s unwavering support and commitment to my leadership. The tremendous amount of encouragement I’ve received from the St. Johns community has been an incredible blessing, and I’m confident that we will cross the finish line with a victory on Election Day.” Kendall is running for the seat held by term-limited Rep. Cyndi Stevenson. She faces Nick Primrose in the Primary. Currently, no Democrat has entered the race for the safe GOP seat.
“Small town Mayor Jamie Watts jumps into HD 20 race” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Watts, a conservative businessman and Mayor of Welaka, has launched a campaign for the House District 20 seat, running to succeed Rep. Bobby Payne, who is not seeking re-election due to term limits. HD 20 spans from the northeast portion of Ocala north past Starke and encompasses parts of St. Augustine, Palatka and Pomona Park. Watts has served as Welaka’s Mayor since 2021. He was first elected to the Town Council in 2008. “As Mayor, I’ve had the privilege of keeping local government accountable and responsive to the people, and I’ve struggled with the decision to run for state representative because I love serving our community,” Watts said.
— DESANTISY LAND —
“DeSantis spox attacks Byron Donalds’ ‘swing for the liberal media’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Donalds, a Black Republican Congressman who backs Trump for President, is taking fire from DeSantis’ representative. “Supposed conservatives in the federal government are pushing the same false narrative that originated from the White House,” Redfern tweeted on Wednesday. “Florida isn’t going to hide the truth for political convenience. Maybe the congressman shouldn’t swing for the liberal media fences like Vice President Kamala Harris.” Redfern quote tweeted Donalds objecting to a controversial passage in the 216-page set of guidelines. “The new African American standards in FL are good, robust, & accurate. That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted. That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that the Florida Department of Education will correct this,” Donalds said.
“DeSantis changes his story about watching the Jaguars come back versus the Chargers” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview with Clay Travis of Outkick, DeSantis claimed he and his son stayed for the whole game. “That was a great comeback,” DeSantis said. “So, he had a good time.” That is a different story than he told recently on the campaign trail, however, when he noted that he left the game when the home team was down 27-7 at halftime, with his son not having a good time. “I took him to the Jags-Chargers game. It was a great game,” the Governor said in Iowa in May. “He fell asleep at halftime and the Jags were getting killed … By the time we got home, we saw the comeback and he was so excited when he saw that.”
“Oldest Black fraternity pulls 2025 convention out of Florida citing ‘hostile’ policies” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — The oldest intercollegiate Black fraternity in the country is moving its 2025 conference from Florida, calling the state “hostile” to the Black community. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. will relocate the fraternity’s 99th General Convention and 119th Anniversary Convention from Orlando “due to DeSantis’ harmful, racist, and insensitive policies against the Black community,” according to a news release from the organization. The event was expected to generate $4.6 million, according to Alpha Phi Alpha.
— STATEWIDE —
“General revenue growth expected to peak at $46.3B” via Andrew Powell of The Center Square — The Economic Estimating Conference met on Saturday to discuss Florida’s booming economy, and some of the shortfalls that could happen in the future. Florida has had a huge amount of growth, and its general revenue is expected to peak at $46.3 billion in fiscal year 2023, then flatten in 2024 to $45.3 billion. The drop in revenue for 2024 is credited to a slowdown in the housing market and automotive sales. Car and light truck sales are projected to be slightly lower than in previous years, thanks to the increase in fuel costs. Net migration is predicted to increase by an average of 814 people per day over the next five years, with FY23 projected to have a net in-migration of 350,000 people.
“Education Commissioner Manny Diaz affirms Florida will implement new African American history standards amid criticisms” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — Diaz sent a letter to Florida superintendents to “reaffirm” the implementation of African American history standards following recent criticism. Vice President Harris, among other Democrats, have been criticizing a part of the standards that stated instruction would include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
“Town hall to discuss Florida’s new Black history standards coming to Miami Gardens” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — Pastor Arthur Jackson was hesitant. The thought of hosting a town hall that could possibly turn into a platform to peddle the same problematic rhetoric about African American history was very concerning. Florida Education Commissioner Diaz will potentially be in attendance, something that might upset his congregation. Then the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church pastor realized the opportunity before him. “There are some who don’t want him there,” Jackson said, “but you can’t fix what you can’t face.” Democratic Sens. Shevrin Jones and Rosalind Osgood, as well as Miami-Dade School Board Vice Chair Dr. Steve Gallon III, intend to co-host a forum at 7 p.m. on Aug. 10.
“In blistering order, judge tells Florida to stop blocking effort to aid medically frail kids” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — The battle of wills between Florida health administrators and a federal court judge intensified Tuesday as U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks accused the state of obstructing his efforts to free medically fragile children from segregated institutions, where many have spent their entire lives. Late last week, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration asked Middlebrooks to stay an injunction he signed a week earlier requiring the state to reform its system of care for 2,750 children with medical complexities. The linchpin of Middlebrooks’ plan is a requirement that the state ensures such children receive at least 90% of the at-home nursing care prescribed by their doctors.
“Florida proposes lowering eligibility standards for charter school funding” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — The proposed change originates from a law (HB 1537) approved this year by the Legislature and DeSantis. At present, the Department of Education restricts charter schools that receive an “F” grade, or two consecutive grades lower than “C” under the state’s accountability system, from accessing capital outlay money. Under the proposed change, this bar would be lowered, meaning charter schools under the previous standard of a single “F” grade or two consecutive “C” grades would remain eligible, but schools that receive two consecutive “F” grades or three consecutive grades below “C” would be ineligible for the funding. The rule change comes on the heels of a separate measure (HB 1259), which requires school districts to share local property-tax revenues with charter schools.
“‘Permanent’ alimony no longer exists in Florida. Understanding the state’s new law on divorce payments” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A 77-year-old South Florida woman has been worried lately. Married for more than 30 years, she was divorced in 2006 and has been collecting alimony ever since. Now she is concerned that a new state law will strip her of the monthly payment she’s been counting on for 17 years. The law, which went into effect July 1, restricts the ability of women (and sometimes men) to collect alimony for the rest of their lives for marriages that ended after July 1. The new law sets clearly defined limits on how long anyone can expect to make or receive alimony payments after a marriage goes south. For marriages lasting less than a decade, alimony payments can no longer last more than half the term of the marriage. Those who were married a decade, for example, can expect their payments to end after five years.
— D. C. MATTERS —
“Lawmakers demand end to secrecy around evidence of UFOs” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Has the U.S. government been hiding evidence of extraterrestrial life? It may have been found at Eglin Air Force Base. While this may sound like a plot for a science fiction film, a congressional hearing probed the prospect of alien aircraft sighting with seriousness. Lawmakers from Florida played an outsized role both in having the hearing held and in discussing unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPs) with whistleblowers from the Defense Department. “From Roswell, New Mexico, to the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, the sightings of UAPs have rarely been explained by the people who have firsthand accounts of these situations,” said U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna.
“Matt Gaetz says photo of UFO ‘orb’ not of ‘human capability’ taken by Eglin Air Force Base” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Gaetz asked a House Oversight Subcommittee to subpoena radar data and images from a UFO encounter with U.S. Air Force pilots off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. Gaetz said from the images he saw of the object, he was “not able to attach to any human capability, either from the United States or from any of our adversaries.” The comments came during a House Oversight Subcommittee Wednesday as it heard testimony on UAPs or “unidentified aerial phenomena,” the U.S. government’s preferred term for what is more popularly known as unidentified flying objects or UFOs. Three former military members with firsthand knowledge testified about their experience of how the federal government handled encounters with UAPs.
“Gaetz, Rick Scott fear Air Force may move Special Ops command off Hurlburt Field” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — Scott and Gaetz promised Tuesday to work aggressively to thwart action by the Department of the Air Force they believe could drastically impact the Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field. In a conference call, Scott said that he, Gaetz and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Republicans all, had been contacted three days ago by Frank Kendall, the Secretary of the Air Force, to schedule a Friday phone call to discuss “programmatic basing actions” involving Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. Scott said the legislators have not been able to confirm anything since receiving the cryptic message and the Air Force has been tight-lipped about revealing anything else before Friday.
“Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z member in Congress, introduces pro-renter legislation” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Saying that “housing is a human right,” U.S. Rep. Frost announced legislation in Congress Wednesday to help struggling renters. He is co-sponsoring the End Junk Fees for Renters Act, which would crack down on added fees imposed on tenants by landlords, which makes housing less affordable and more difficult to comparison shop. “I believe that housing is a human right that should be affordable and accessible to everybody and that nobody should be profiteering off working people,” Frost said at a news conference in Washington D.C.
“Biden picks Martin O’Malley to lead Social Security Administration” via Jeff Stein, Lisa Rein and Erin Cox of The Washington Post — Biden announced Wednesday that he will nominate O’Malley to lead the Social Security Administration, as the agency faces enhanced scrutiny over new management failures. O’Malley, who ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, would oversee an embattled agency whose customer service plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic and has not recovered amid a staff exodus, aging technology and management weaknesses. As part of a series on dysfunction at the agency, The Washington Post has revealed that an anti-fraud program led by the agency’s inspector general levied unprecedented fines on the poor and disabled. O’Malley’s nomination could hit roadblocks in a divided Senate, where Republicans are likely to oppose him.
“Biden taps Gen. David Allvin to be next Air Force top officer” via Connor O’Brien, Lee Hudson and Paul Mcleary — Biden is set to announce that he has picked Allvin to lead the Air Force after the White House notified the Senate of the impending nomination on Tuesday. If confirmed, Allvin will replace Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown, who was tapped in May to serve as the next Joint Chiefs Chair. Allvin, a career cargo, refueler aircraft and test pilot, currently serves as the Air Force’s vice chief of staff. With the nod, Allvin will join a group of top generals and admirals, along with some top civilian DOD officials, whose nominations are being caught up in Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of senior Pentagon nominees over DOD’s abortion travel policy.
“Florida’s local and state officials call on Biden to prevent new offshore drilling leases” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — More than 100 elected officials from across the country — including 28 from Florida — signed a letter this week urging Biden to prevent new offshore drilling leases in the upcoming Northern Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2023-2028. “Dirty and dangerous offshore oil drilling threatens our communities and our environment while exacerbating the climate crisis,” the July 25 letter stated. “Climate change is threatening our oceans, our coasts and our planet, and new leasing for offshore drilling would lock in decades of climate-harming carbon emissions.”
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Public warned away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for Aug. 4 re-enactment of state’s worst school shooting” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Shots will ring out next week at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building that’s been largely silent for more than five years since 17 people were killed there — prompting advance notice from school officials. A planned Aug. 4 re-enactment of the state’s worst school shooting prompted Broward County Public Schools Wednesday to warn the public and the media away from the buildings and provide information about mental health resources. It’s a court-ordered event, a Wednesday news release from the district explains. A re-enactment was sought as part of a lawsuit against Scot Peterson, the former Sheriff’s deputy who was recently acquitted of all criminal charges for failing to attempt to stop the shooter on the deadly rampage that also injured 17 people. The building, left virtually untouched since the shooting, will be demolished once the legal action is completed.
“Before he shot himself, Miami-Dade’s Police Director offered to resign, source says” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Before he shot himself with his own gun on Sunday night, Miami-Dade County’s police director offered to resign in a call with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, where he described a reported altercation with his wife, according to a source briefed on the phone conversation. The specifics of the conversation — including Alfredo (Freddy) Ramirez’s version of the events at a Tampa hotel where he and his wife, Jody, were attending a law enforcement convention — aren’t yet known. But the source said Levine Cava did not decide on the resignation but instead told Ramirez the two should talk the next day.
“Failed Miami-Dade Commission candidate faces long list of campaign-finance charges” via Grethel Aguila of the Miami Herald — A failed Miami-Dade Commission candidate spent more than a million dollars challenging one of the county’s longest-serving politicians last year. Now, prosecutors allege some of that money was mishandled. Sophia Lacayo, who ran against then-Doral Mayor Juan Carlos “JC” Bermudez for the District 12 County Commission seat in 2022, was charged with a slew of campaign finance law violations, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced at a news conference. “The numbers provided in the sworn campaign documents, they didn’t add up,” Fernandez Rundle said. Lacayo, 45, was arrested while getting off a flight at Miami International Airport.
“Divided Broward School Board delays $100K teacher proposal in Broward” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Schools won’t be known as the home of the $100,000 teacher just yet. The School Board voted down 4-5 a proposal from Board member Allen Zeman to make changes to the district’s budget that would allow the average teacher to receive a salary of $80,000, or a salary and benefits package of about $100,000, by 2025. But the Board later agreed at the end of an 11½-hour meeting to ask Superintendent Peter Licata to bring back a similar proposal by January. And teachers should still be getting larger pay increases than in recent years, officials said, due to an increase in state funding, increased property values, and a tax increase approved by voters last year.
“Fort Lauderdale Commissioners will pay after all, after attending Lionel Messi’s unveiling” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Fort Lauderdale Commissioners who joined VIPs to welcome Inter Miami superstar Messi are reimbursing the soccer team. Commissioners Pamela Beasley-Pittman and Warren Sturman said they would write checks to cover the value of the July 16 event as soon as they get a bill. Commissioner Steve Glassman said via text he’s already sent a check for $100, an amount “way more than the value of what I consumed.” The Fort Lauderdale leaders, along with elected officials from Miami-Dade County, were hosted by the team in a VIP area at DRV PNK Stadium for the Messi unveiling. Some were able to chat with and get pictures with the new player and team co-owner David Beckham.
“Wayne Jones ‘couldn’t go to Miami Beach’ as a young Black man. Now he’ll be Police Chief” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Deputy Chief Jones says that as a young Black man he “couldn’t go to Miami Beach” because of the racism in the city. On Wednesday, the Miami Beach City Commission confirmed Jones as the first Black Police Chief in the city’s 108-year history. “When I became a Miami Beach police officer, my dad cried,” Jones said. “He cried because of the history of the way Black people were treated in this city.” Jones will begin the role Sept. 1. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber acknowledged the city’s history of requiring Black workers to carry identification cards under a 1936 ordinance.
“‘100% coral mortality’ found at Florida Keys reef due to rising temperatures, restoration group says” via Emily DeLetter of USA Today — A coral reef restoration group is warning that rising ocean temperatures are putting Florida’s coral reef in danger of catastrophic loss. The Coral Restoration Foundation, a group centered around restoring and protecting Florida’s coral reefs, said it visited the Sombrero Reef off the Florida Keys on July 20 and found “100% coral mortality.” The discovery means all corals on the Sombrero Reef have died and the reef will not recover on its own without active restoration, the foundation said.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Joel Greenberg dumpster fire: Proof we don’t need elected tax collectors” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — The Greenberg saga is the dumpster fire that won’t stop burning. In the latest court proceedings, we’re hearing accusations about everything from bribery and kickbacks to child pornography and sex with minors. Greenberg is in prison. Six others have been charged with crimes. All this, mind you, swirling around what should be the most mundane of public offices — the tax collector. This bolsters an argument I’ve made for more than a decade: This position shouldn’t be a political one. Collecting taxes doesn’t require an elected official. It requires a competent office administrator. When you have political posts, you attract politicians — and you end up with political problems. Keep in mind: Greenberg is just the latest elected tax collector to cause controversy.
“Greenberg friend stays silent on sex with a minor during bribery trial” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Defense attorneys on Wednesday painted Joe Ellicott, a close friend of Greenberg, as an untrustworthy opportunist who would significantly benefit if Michael Shirley were convicted of a bribery and kickback scheme with the disgraced Seminole County tax collector. This came as federal prosecutors and defense attorneys wrapped up their cases after two days of testimony. The 12-member jury is scheduled to begin deliberations on Thursday morning. If convicted, Shirley faces more than 20 years in prison. A former sports radio host known as “Big Joe,” Ellicott is a key witness for federal prosecutors in their case against Shirley, a former Republican campaign consultant whose company was hired by the tax collector’s office under Greenberg.
“Disney oversight board OKs union contract, boosts firefighter pay” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis’ tourism oversight district approved a union contract with firefighters on Wednesday, ending about five years of negotiations and answering the Governor’s calls to boost the pay of Disney World’s emergency workers. The three-year agreement will help address staffing shortages by increasing starting pay for firefighters and paramedics, said Aaron Colburn, first vice president of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Association. “Bringing up the base pay for all our positions is going to help with recruitment,” he said. “There’s a statewide recruitment and retention problem right now.” Starting pay for a firefighter/paramedic will increase from $55,000 to $66,000, according to the contract.
“Florida couple pleads guilty to participating in the U.S. Capitol attack” via The Associated Press — Jamie Buteau, 50, and Jennifer Buteau, 46, both of Ocala, entered guilty pleas in District of Columbia federal court. Jamie Buteau pleaded guilty to a felony offense of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers. Jennifer Buteau pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. They’re scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 20. According to court documents, the Buteaus joined with others in objecting to Biden’s victory over Trump. A mob stormed the Capitol to try to stop Congress from certifying election results for Biden over Trump, authorities have said, and five people died in the violence.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Deadly Tampa police raid results in settlement, SWAT policy changes” via Justin Garcia of the Tampa Bay Times — Nothing can fully heal the pain of losing her son, but Patti Silliman has finally found what she calls “something closer to justice.” This month, the Tampa Police Department reached a court settlement with Silliman for the wrongful death of her son, Jason Westcott. The decision comes more than nine years after Westcott was killed during a police raid that became mired in controversy. As the death sparked criticism across the country, Tampa police implemented new standards for the use of its SWAT team. Now, Silliman will receive $75,000 from the city, along with taxable legal costs. But the money was never the highest priority for Silliman.
“Tampa Electric, Hillsborough Community College launch new electrical line workers training program” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Tampa Electric (TECO) and Hillsborough Community College (HCC) have teamed up to train future electrical line workers. The duo hosted a ribbon cutting earlier today at HCC’s Brandon Campus to celebrate the launch of the new Electrical Line Workers Training Program. The program is designed to provide students with the fundamental knowledge and basic skills needed to pursue career opportunities in the electric utility industry as a line worker trainee. “After months of preparation, the Brandon Campus is delighted to partner with TECO to launch our Electrical Line Worker Program this fall,” said Dr. Deborah Kish, HCC Brandon Campus president.
“Tampa airport’s flamingo sculpture is up for an award, and you can vote for it” via Maggie Duffy of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa International Airport’s beloved flamingo sculpture is up for an international award in the CODA Awards for the Top 100 public artworks. And you can vote for it to win. Voting is open to the public and runs through July 31 at codaworx.com. You must enter an email address to vote. As of now, the 21-foot resin and fiberglass sculpture titled “Home” has the second-most votes in the contest, with 1,443. The “Aquarius Art Tunnel” at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas is leading with 12,033 votes.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Jacksonville City Council agrees with Mayor Donna Deegan on no change in property tax rate” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville City Council unanimously agreed with Deegan that the city’s property tax rate should stay the same for this year’s tax bills, meaning property-owners will generally see a bump in what they owe the city because their homes and businesses are worth more for tax purposes. The City Council slightly lowered the property tax rate by 1% last year at the request of Lenny Curry in the final budget he proposed as Mayor. Then as now, the city was benefiting from sizzling growth in the city’s tax base because of the hot real estate market and new construction. But this year, no Council member sought to lower the tax rate.
Appointed — Mark McQueen as Bay County’s Superintendent of Schools.
“Electric bus fleet, $35 million investment in sustainable energy coming to Tallahassee” via Alicia Devine of the Tallahassee Democrat — U.S. Transportation Assistant Secretary for Policy Christopher Coes is putting a spotlight on two big investments being made in the city of Tallahassee by the Biden administration. More than $20 million will be used to purchase battery-electric buses, which will lead to the creation of a workforce training program for operators and mechanics to maintain the fleet of public transportation. “It is essentially important that this work is done in underserved communities,” said Coes at a gathering with city leaders at C.K. Steele Plaza on Tuesday. “It helps people get around cheaply and the transportation cost burden is real here in Tallahassee.” A second grant of $15 million will be put toward the addition of a new transit center located on Orange Avenue and Meridian Street.
“Would a new Duval County jail have the same old problems?” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Before City Hall hands Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters the goody bag of hundreds of millions of dollars for a new jail he’s been pining for, it’s probably a good idea to first make sure he knows how to keep inmates … well, alive. Deaths at the Duval County jail have tripled since the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office ended its in-house medical care program and hired Armor, a private firm, in 2017, according to an analysis from The Tributary, a Jacksonville news nonprofit. Waters announced on Tuesday he had canceled JSO’s contract with Armor for “a bunch of different reasons,” never once directly mentioning the poor treatment of inmates or acknowledging the public scrutiny around medical care at the jail.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Vanessa Baugh bids farewell during her final Manatee County Commission meeting” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — District 5 Commissioner Baugh returned to the dais one final time, punctuating a decade of service as County Commissioner with a call for unity from the board. Baugh said Tuesday’s meeting will be her last. She announced her retirement in mid-June and officially steps down from the seat on July 31. An appointee of DeSantis will fill her office. Baugh used her final remarks at the end of a meeting fraught with friction to advise Commissioners to learn to work as a team — and suggested organizing a retreat to hash out their differences about the future direction of Manatee County.
Appointed — Raymond Turner to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners.
“New College of Florida wants $2M for ‘cancel culture’ center, struggles to fill vacancies” via Kathryn Varn of Axios Tampa Bay — A center to combat “cancel culture” in higher education is in the works for New College of Florida. A majority of the board of trustees voted in July to advance a $2 million budget request to the Legislature to fund the New College Freedom Institute. The center would combat what Interim President Richard Corcoran called “a tremendous cancel culture” in higher education. It would add to a long list of changes at the Sarasota liberal arts college about six months into DeSantis’ takeover of the school. In January, DeSantis appointed six conservative board members who characterized the school as being captured by liberal ideology and in need of saving.
“Environmentalists argue Pioneer Trail interchange at I-95 will harm Spruce Creek watershed” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — As a boy, Bryon White’s playground was the woods of the Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve, where on horseback or on foot he would regularly hear chuck-will’s widows and whippoorwills. Florida scrub-jays would sometimes land on his head. The self-described “plant nerd” also recalled seeing a lot more Rugel’s pawpaw ― an endangered relative to the custard apple, with edible fruit and lightly scented flowers. At a glance, the preserve looks today much as it did then, but it’s a changed place. Some animals and plants are either going away or are gone.
“FPL pays $30 million for 3,400 acres in Manatee County” via Louis Llovio of Business Observer — Florida Power & Light has bought 3,397 acres of agricultural land in Myakka City. According to a copy of the deed posted on Manatee County’s court records website, the power company paid $30 million for a total of eight parcels. According to the report, FPL is building three solar facilities in Manatee County: The Long Creek Solar Energy Center on 1,236 acres; the Three Creeks Solar Energy Center on 700 acres; and the Sambucus Solar Energy Center on 482 acres. Three Creeks and Sambucus have field construction start dates set for this year, the report states. Long Creek has a construction start date of 2024. There could be a fourth Manatee project as well. FPL lists the Flatford Solar Energy Center in the county on a list of potential sites, though it does not provide any specifics.
— TOP OPINION —
“On slavery and race, DeSantis shows his true colors” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Black history standards are extensive and objective in most other respects, unlike Southern propaganda of the 1900s. But one rotten apple can spoil a barrel, and this one has two. There was nothing beneficial about slavery, except to the masters. When slaves learned a trade, such as blacksmithing, carpentry or caulking wooden ships, as Frederick Douglass did, it was not for their benefit but for the convenience and profit of their masters. After DeSantis first said he “wasn’t involved” in writing the standards, he is now defending them. This would be a good time for him to begin admitting he was wrong. His critics are feasting on this one. DeSantis owns this horrific mistake, even if he didn’t personally write the standards. It is his education department, run by his appointees.
— OPINIONS —
“The real DeSantis COVID record” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — DeSantis’ strategy of focused protection was articulated in the Great Barrington Declaration, which progressives still revile despite its vindication. In 2020 Florida had the 10th lowest age-adjusted COVID death rate in the country, which was nearly 20% lower than California’s despite the Golden State’s prolonged lockdown. Florida experienced a lower COVID death rate than most states in late 2021 and early 2022. The press likes to cherry-pick data and focus on discrete periods to present DeSantis as a grim reaper. But Florida’s overall age-adjusted COVID death rate during the pandemic is 13% lower than the U.S. average and about the same as California’s.
“Nobody is saying slavery was good? History teaches some said exactly that.” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — Here’s what else is factual and well-documented: Long before they were enslaved, many had their own languages and skills, passed down while living on their native lands. The Gullah Geechee, for instance, had a wide range of skills involving irrigation techniques, metallurgy and herding. In some cases, those existing skills are precisely why slave traders coveted them. So go ahead and teach Florida students that some slaves learned skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit. But also teach Florida students how this particular fact has been used to distort and affect history.
“Florida public schools need a fair process for book challenges” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — School districts across the state are scrambling to inoculate themselves as a small band of parents and conservative activists seek to remove instructional materials they deem objectionable. The net effect is that school districts are self-censoring books without cause, due process or public recourse. Districts are taking widely varying approaches to book bans. Confused over how to interpret Florida’s crackdown on certain topics, and fearful of political controversy, many elected school boards are targeting books in piecemeal fashion, or opting to pass the responsibility on to staff and parents. This preemptive rush to appease serves the purpose of removing books from circulation while allowing the Governor and his allies to wipe their hands of culpability. And it promises to only get worse.
“In Florida and Texas, we’re seeing the costs of the right-wing’s war on higher ed” via Nicholas Mitchell of NBC News — In January DeSantis appointed six new conservative members to the board of trustees at New College of Florida, including noted anti-critical race theory advocate Christopher Rufo, who’d claimed the public university had been corrupted by “woke nihilism.” The board then ousted the college’s president and made a former Republican Florida House Speaker (and DeSantis ally) the interim president. But since those changes at New College, more than a third of the faculty, 36 people total, have departed.
“Orange County leaders balk at tourist-tax allocation. That’s good” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The future uses of the county’s tourism development tax aren’t as locked-in as anyone thought — or feared. Most significant of all, however, was the willingness of most Commissioners to consider alternative uses for this large pot of money. Last year, the county’s 6% tax on lodgings raised a record-high $336 million and is on track to soar even higher this year. The fund has a $300-million-plus reserve. It’s perfectly possible to redirect some funding toward other community priorities without depriving the county’s golden goose of a single morsel of the largesse it’s fed on for years. It will take leadership and vision. But this could be a transformative moment for Orange County — if the county’s leaders maintain the determination to seize it.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Brightline passenger train company revenue up 129% so far this year” via Erik Bojnansky of the Orlando Business Journal — Miami-based passenger train company Brightline reported a 129% increase in revenue for the first six months of 2023 as it continues South Florida service before its Orlando launch. According to Brightline’s ridership and revenue report for the month of June, the train company collected $30.2 million between January and June of this year compared to $13.2 million in the first six months of 2022. In the month of June, Brightline’s revenue went up 99% from the previous year to $4.2 million, even though ticket prices dipped 2% year-over-year to an average of $18.10. Also in June, Brightline’s ridership went up 62% from the year before to 149,536 passengers.
“Disney: Epcot food fest kicks off with pickle projects, cheese choices” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — It’s time to eat, drink and be cheesy at Walt Disney World. The 2023 edition of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is upon us. The event has familiar elements this year — ranging from the perennially popular cheese soup at the Canada pavilion to the Eat to the Beat concerts — plus some fresh menu items and ways to celebrate Disney100, which marks the first century of The Walt Disney Co. Food & Wine will run through Nov. 18, making the festival 115 days. The official Disney World website helpfully posts the marketplace menus and points out what’s new to the fest. Some of the kiosks — Italy, for example — have all-new offerings. (We’re eyeballing the lemon ricotta cheesecake.)
“Brevard Zoo releases endangered green sea turtle treated with novel ‘electrochemotherapy’” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — “Roadhouse” was once riddled with tumors but now no longer likely has the blues. After 11 months of rehab at Brevard Zoo, the so-named sea turtle continues on its road to recovery, tumor-free after an innovative new treatment for a potentially deadly viral disease called fibropapillomatosis. Brevard Zoo staff released the endangered green sea turtle at James H. Nance Park in Indialantic. University of Central Florida researchers captured Roadhouse during routine research netting in the Indian River Lagoon on Aug. 18, 2022, just south of the Sebastian Inlet State Park. Roadhouse’s fiborpapilomatosis tumors were so severe that researchers decided to have the turtle transported to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center by the nonprofit Sea Turtle Preservation Society.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Jose Ceballos and Ryan Reiter.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
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