Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.24 (2024)

It's not morning without your first look at stories driving today's agenda in Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Former state Sen. Jeff Brandes is hosting a housing summit that begins today, hoping to shine a spotlight on affordable housing challenges in Florida while workshopping innovative solutions.

Topics in play will include housing vouchers, zoning, permitting and accessory dwelling units, among others, and speakers are expected to emphasize the need for multifaceted solutions to fully increase affordable access to homes.

The summit, presented by the Tampa Bay Builders Association at USF St. Petersburg, will promote goal-oriented policy discussions while also providing a networking opportunity among professionals in the housing industry and related areas to help pave the way for innovative new ideas to address housing affordability.

Other topics on the table include zoning changes, incentives for cities and counties, accessory dwelling units, upzoning and more.

The sold-out summit, which runs from 7:30 a.m. through 4 p.m. at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, will feature more than a dozen speakers, including:

Rebecca Liebson, The event’s emcee: real estate reporter for the Tampa Bay Times.

M. Nolan Gray: Research director for California YIMBY and urban land use regulation expert.

Lesley Deutch: Managing principal of John Burns Research and Consulting who focuses on for-sale housing, apartments, build-to-rent, urban projects, single-family rental, affordable housing and building products.

Sam Staely: Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center in the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University and internationally recognized expert on housing, urban development, transportation and growth management.

Charles Gardner: Research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University focusing on planning law and housing affordability.

Edward J. Pinto: Senior fellow and co-director of the AEI Housing Center at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on light touch density to increase housing supply.

Rosemarie Hepner: Vice president of the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing leading various housing programs.

Ashon Nesbitt: CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition.

Mike Sutton: President and CEO of the two top-producing Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the country.

Neil Brickfield: Former Pinellas County Commissioner, former Safety Harbor City Commissioner.

Bruce Bussey: Community Development Manager for Pinellas County with more than 20 years of experience administering affordable housing programs.

Tom Almonte: Pinellas County Government Assistant County Administrator.

Jack Mariano: Pasco County Commissioner.

Jeremy Susac: Vice president of Government Affairs for Lennar Homes.

Tiffany Esposito: State Representative.

Alexandra Vondeling: Architect and urban designer with more than 25 years of experience designing resilient buildings and neighborhoods.

Scott MacDonald: Partner at Blue Sky Communities responsible for project underwriting, managing debt and equity relationships, closing company transactions and overseeing post-closing project management.

The summit comes after The Florida Policy Project, which Brandes launched to tackle pressing challenges in the state, published a study in collaboration with the DeVoe L. Moore Center highlighting the use of housing vouchers to address the affordable housing crisis.

The report includes five best practices to address the issue, including voucher transparency; centralized and continuously monitored voucher waiting lists; Small Area Fair Market Rents (the tool used for Section 8 Vouchers to determine maximum rent); efficient landlord/renter matching; and tenant video inspections.


The Florida Democratic Party announced the keynote speaker for its Leadership Blue Weekend 2024 lineup: Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Sen. John Fetterman.

“Sen. Fetterman’s grassroots victory to defend the Senate majority in 2022 is a blueprint for battleground states like Florida to combat extremism and win one of the most important Senate races in the nation on the ballot in 2024,” FDP said in an email.

Two years ago, Fetterman defeated Donald Trump-backed candidate and TV personality Mehmet Oz by about five percentage points despite polling indicating a much tighter race ahead — the FiveThirtyEight average even put Oz ahead by a half-percent on Election Day.

Florida Democrats are hoping for a similar overperformance this November, when Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is up for re-election, likely against former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. While Scott only narrowly won his first Senate term, the GOP has since taken a sizable lead in voter registrations and, outside of FDP Chair Nikki Fried’s win in the 2018 Agriculture Commissioner race, has been undefeated in statewide campaigns for more than a decade.

Leadership Blue 2024 runs from Friday through Sunday. The schedule includes several town hall-style events and panel discussions focused on topics such as engaging Black and Hispanic voters, messaging for abortion rights amendments and more.

The weekend also includes a gala that serves as one of FDP’s primary fundraising events. FDP previously announced that Rick Wilson, co-founder of the anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project, will speak during the ticketed Leadership Reception ahead of the Leadership Blue gala dinner Saturday evening.

The full Leadership Blue schedule is available online.


Gretchen Schoenhaar is taking over as CEO at Step Up For Students, the nation’s largest school voucher administration organization.

Step Up For Students said it selected Schoenhaar after “a monthslong search for a next-generation leader with extensive experience in payments, products and technology who can fulfill the public’s growing demand for education choice options.”

Schoenhaar previously held executive roles at Verizon, Broadridge Financial Solutions and UBS. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Thomas Edison State College and a master’s certification in Innovation from Stanford University.

“I’m thrilled by this opportunity with Step Up For Students,” Schoenhaar said. “My parents were deeply supportive and involved in their children’s education, and I have always supported families having more options to choose from. Investing in our children is critical to their future success.

“I look forward to serving our families, schools and other providers in deeper and meaningful ways, helping parents choose the best options for their children and unleashing the power of technology and learning to set the foundation for the next level of growth.”

Schoenhaar will guide Step Up during a time of historic growth in the education choice landscape, in Florida and nationwide. In the 2023-24 academic year, Step Up For Students delivered the largest-ever expansion of education choice scholarships in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, Step Up’s longtime President, Doug Tuthill, is moving into the position of Chief Vision Officer.

“Gretchen’s skill set will ensure Step Up continues to be at the forefront of the ever-expanding and evolving education choice revolution, and that our families and providers have the tools and support they need to keep up with the changes,” Step Up founder and Chair John Kirtley said.

He added that Tuthill “has been instrumental in growing Step Up and education choice” and that “he will remain a highly visible driving force inspiring us to serve our families in new and innovative ways.”


Tweet, tweet:

How it started and how it’s going.

— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) April 30, 2024

Tweet, tweet:

me checking twitter to make sure marijuana is okay

— Pizza Dad (@Pizza__Dad) April 30, 2024

@What46HasDone: I had lots of very smart people on Twitter tell me that the DEA was going to block this move. Oops. Guess you’ll have to finally give (Joe) Biden credit now.

Tweet, tweet:

States: We’re gonna legalize weed and tax it


— Milford Brimlee, The Iconic, Moronic Marvelous One (@MilfordBrimlee) April 30, 2024

@AltHistCody: Weed isn’t cool anymore. Time to switch to fentanyl.

@fineout: During Tampa stop @GovRonDeSantis snickered and laughed at the idea that Florida is “back in play” in November due to the two amendments on the ballot inc. one on abortion. “I welcome Biden-Harris to spend a lot of money in Florida. Light up the airwaves, do it, light it on fire.”

Tweet, tweet:

USF grads taking photos feet from law enforcement in riot gear. @bn9

— Cait McVey (@CaitMcVey) April 30, 2024


Kentucky Derby — 3; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 9; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 9; ‘The Blue Angels,’ a feature documentary from J.J. Abrams opens in IMAX theaters — 16; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 17; French Open begins — 19; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 20; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 21; Monaco Grand Prix — 25; the 2024 World Cup begins — 41; DreamWorks Land officially opens at Universal Orlando — 44; Universal Mega Movie Parade debuts — 63; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 46; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 58; Republican National Convention begins — 74; the 2024 World Cup ends — 78; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 83; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peaco*ck — 85; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 86; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 107; Florida Primary Election — 111; Democratic National Convention begins — 111; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 115; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 128; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 128; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 170; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 173; 2024 Presidential Election — 188; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 201; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 215; MLS Cup 2024 — 216; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 286; the 2025 Oscars — 305; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 307; 2025 Session ends — 367; ‘Moana’ premieres — 417; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 448; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 448; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 554; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 596; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 733; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 750; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 961; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,101; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,060; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,782.

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Poll: Donald Trump up 3 points over Joe Biden among Miami-Dade voters” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A survey this month by Miami-based polling company Inquire found the former President holds a 3-percentage-point lead over incumbent Biden.

That’s despite there being a larger share of respondents who said they voted for Biden (+7) in 2020 and more registered Democrats (+4) than Republicans who answered the survey.

Inquire questioned 500 likely November voters April 9-13 in Miami-Dade. Pollsters stratified the results by precinct, demographics, party registration and educational attainment.

The survey, commissioned by Coral Gables-based consulting firm Miranda Advocacy, had a 4.5% margin of error.

Among respondents, Trump led Biden 48% to 45%, with 8% still undecided. The former President also held greater support within his party, with 94% of GOP respondents saying they’d vote for him compared to 5% who picked Biden.

Meanwhile, Biden held 84% support within his party compared to 8% who said they’d vote for Trump.

Accordingly, while both candidates had net negative image ratings, Trump enjoyed slightly more approval (46%) than Biden (44%). This remained true among no-party voters, with 43% viewing Trump favorably compared to 38% who felt the same about Biden.

“Donald Trump’s strength in Miami-Dade County reflects the widespread adoption of conservative values away from the failed woke policies of the left,” Miranda Advocacy principal Alex Miranda said in a statement.

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U.S. poised to ease restrictions on marijuana in historic shift, but it’ll remain controlled substance” via Zeke Miller, Joshua Goodman, Jim Mustian and Lindsay Whitehurst of The Associated Press — The DEA will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift to generations of American drug policy that could have wide ripple effects across the country. The proposal, which still must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would recognize the medical uses of cannabis and acknowledge it has less potential for abuse than some of the nation’s most dangerous drugs. However, it would not legalize marijuana outright for recreational use. The agency’s move, clears the last significant regulatory hurdle before the agency’s biggest policy change in more than 50 years can take effect.

Smart and Safe Florida praises pot reclassification — The political committee backing the proposed constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana is praising the proposed federal rule bumping cannabis to a lower substance schedule. “We are pleased that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is following the recommendation of the Department of Health and Human Services in moving forward with a long-awaited policy change to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III,” the committee said in a statement. “This movement toward reclassification is not only long overdue, but it aligns with what dozens of states have already realized, grounding our nation’s policies in well-established science. This move will help destigmatize cannabis use and help usher in a future in which cannabis products can be safely and properly regulated with further federal reform.”

DeSantis in lather over Title IX bathroom rule changes” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis again is ripping changes to Title IX imposed by Biden’s administration. At issue for Florida’s Governor is new, allegedly unconstitutional language that protects people on the grounds of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” the latter of which the state of Florida argues is immutably established at birth. “The bottom line is this: injecting men into women’s bathrooms and locker rooms is not good for women. Injecting boys into girls’ sports is not good for girls. And so, this is bad policy, but it’s also not constitutional,” DeSantis said Tuesday in Tampa, as he backed the Attorney General’s suit challenging the federal language for which he has already vowed the state will not “comply.”

DeSantis: Free passes to state parks Memorial Day weekend” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis wants to kick off Summer with some freebies. Over Memorial Day weekend, entrance fees to Florida state parks will be waived, he said Tuesday. Fees for state parks will be waived May 25-28. The move will help Floridians and visitors ring in the summer season and boost tourism, he said. “Part of the reason I think people have come to Florida is we have the best beaches, we have the best fishing, and we have the best state parks,” DeSantis said. DeSantis also said he’ll approve the $15 million in additional funding for state parks included in the budget passed by the Legislature, bringing the total funding to $187.2 million. The budget (HB 5001) for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and related bills haven’t been formally sent to his desk, however.

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— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Trump called Florida ‘in play,’ says he’d rather be campaigning here” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Trump asserted the trial was intentionally keeping him off the campaign trail. “I’m going to go into the icebox now and sit for about eight hours or nine hours,” Trump told reporters. “I would much rather be in Georgia. I’d much rather be in Florida. I much rather be in states that are in play, states that I’d like to be able to campaign in.” Trump was maintaining an assertion the current New York trial, where he was just held in contempt for violating a gag order and fined, that his prosecution is effectively election interference. But Florida Democratic Party Chair Fried pounced on the comments as confirmation that Florida remains a battleground state. “Wow, for the first time and I am sure the last, Trump said something I agree with,” she posted on X, specifically endorsing that Florida is in play in 2024.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris blame Florida abortion ‘nightmare’ on Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The President and Vice President are respectively responding and preparing a response later today to Florida’s Heartbeat Protection Act, which bans abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy in most cases. In a statement Wednesday morning and a speech to follow, the re-election campaign is associating Florida’s strict law with the most recent former President. “Today, an extreme abortion ban takes effect in Florida, banning reproductive health care before many women even know they are pregnant. There is one person responsible for this nightmare: Donald Trump,” said Biden.

Matt Gaetz snaps up Aaron Dimmock web domains, uses them to attack his challenger’s DEI record” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Republican Primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Gaetz failed to register several internet domains with his name. Now, Gaetz’s campaign has snapped them up, and will use them to publicize Dimmock’s record of supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The website now directs web users to a website with the headline “Meet DEI Dimmock” that outlines past positions espoused by Dimmock in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and promoting DEI practices. The campaign also owns and Gaetz intends to publish the same content at both addresses. The website includes a link to an article on The Daily Caller detailing comments made by Dimmock on social media. It also spotlights a number of archived social media posts Dimmock published in 2020 while he led the Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute, some using the #BlackLivesMatter or #DiversityandInclusion hashtags.

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Trump says ‘it depends’ if there will be violence if he loses 2024 Election to Biden” via Lalee Ibssa and Soo Rin Kim of ABC News — Trump is playing down but not ruling out the possibility of political violence if he loses the November election. “I don’t think we’re going to have that. I think we’re going to win,” Trump said. He had been asked about an earlier comment to Time that “I think we’re gonna have a big victory and I think there will be no violence” — but “what if you don’t win, sir?” the reporter said. “If we don’t win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election,” Trump went on to say. He has previously warned of problems if things go wrong for him, writing on social media last year, before he faced any of his four criminal indictments, that “false” charges against him would bring “potential death & destruction.”

‘This is reprehensible’: Biden rips Trump’s abortion comments from TIME interview” via Joey Garrison of USA Today — Biden and his reelection campaign pounced on comments made by Trump about abortion in a wide-ranging interview published by Time magazine, arguing the remarks show he wouldn’t stop a national abortion ban in a second presidency. Trump would not commit to vetoing federal restrictions on abortion if legislation is brought to his desk. He would not say whether women should have access to abortion pills. And Trump said he would not stop states with abortion bans from punishing women who access the procedure. “I don’t have to be comfortable or uncomfortable. The states are going to make that decision,” Trump said.

Trump and Biden are ‘darn near even’ in the 2024 Election. Here’s where the race could go.” via David Jackson of USA Today — The Republican candidate for president is on trial for hush money payments and alleged election interference, and he could be facing a prison sentence. He’s been assessed more than $500 million in damages in lawsuits for bank fraud, defamation and sexual abuse. He also faces sweeping opposition from former aides who served in his White House, and he’ll move into more trials over allegations he mishandled classified information and tried to steal the 2020 election from Biden. Despite problems that would have destroyed other candidates, Trump is basically tied with Biden little more than six months before Election Day.

Biden and Trump supporters sharply divided by the media they consume” via Ben Kamisar of NBC News — Supporters of Biden and Trump are sharply divided across all sorts of lines, including the sources they rely on to get their news. Biden is the clear choice of voters who consume newspapers and national network news, while Trump does best among voters who don’t follow political news at all. The stark differences help highlight the strategies both candidates are using as they seek another term in the White House — and shed some light on why the presidential race appears relatively stable.

Voters’ views of Trump and Biden differ sharply by religion” via Gregory A. Smith of Pew Research — The U.S. electorate continues to be sharply divided along religious lines. The latest Pew Research Center survey finds that most registered voters who are White Christians would vote for Trump over Biden if the 2024 Presidential election were held today. More than half of White Christians think Trump was a “great” or “good” president and don’t think he broke the law in an effort to change the outcome of the 2020 election. In stark contrast, most registered voters who are Black Protestants or religious “nones” — those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” — would vote for Biden over Trump. Large numbers in these groups also say Trump was a “terrible” president and that he broke the law trying to overturn the 2020 election results.

Biden enters his spring of (potential) unrest” via Myah Ward and Jennifer Haberkorn of POLITICO — The White House is staring down a spring of unrest, with Democrats growing ever fearful that the tensions flaring on college campuses could spiral into political poison for the President. Pro-Palestinian protests have spread at universities across the country, leading to increasingly sharp confrontations between local law enforcement, students and fellow demonstrators. Inside the White House, aides are preparing for the likelihood that Biden will be on the receiving end of the demonstrations himself when he delivers two commencement addresses in the weeks ahead. There’s also fear that the situation could worsen if the White House fails to secure a cease-fire deal in Gaza, where more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Voters don’t like Biden’s economy — but why?” via Monica Potts of ABC News — Americans have been sour on the economy since Biden was sworn into office. As we head into an election season that is likely to be a 2020 rematch between Biden and Trump, voters give Republicans and Trump an edge on economic issues. An April 12-14 poll from Echelon Insights found that 57% of all voters somewhat or strongly disapproved of the way Biden is handling the economy and favored Trump on making the economy work better by 48% to 40%. That’s only a recent example of what surveys have routinely shown: Voters aren’t happy with Biden’s handling of the economy.

Trump’s contempt knows no bounds” via David A. Graham of The Atlantic — Trump has made his contempt for the court clear throughout his criminal trial in Manhattan, and now a judge has made it official. Juan Merchan ruled today that the former president had violated a gag order designed to protect the integrity of the trial and fined him $9,000. The order is a window into Merchan’s approach to controlling the unruly defendant, who is on trial in his courtroom for falsifying business records. Merchan found that nine violations alleged by prosecutors were clear violations, but deemed a tenth too ambiguous to warrant punishment. He declined to levy the most serious punishment available to him — namely, tossing Trump in jail — but also had scathing words for Trump’s excuses for violating the order. Merchan used his ruling to defend his gag order as narrow and careful, but also warned that potential witnesses (looking at you, Michael Cohen) should not use the order “as a sword instead of a shield.”

Hush money trial judge raises threat of jail as he finds Trump violated gag order, fines him $9K” via Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Jake Offenhartz and Colleen Long of The Associated Press — Trump was held in contempt of court Tuesday and fined $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order that barred him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and some others connected to his New York hush-money case. If he does it again, the judge warned, he could be jailed. Prosecutors had alleged 10 violations, but Merchan found there were nine. Trump stared down at the table in front of him as the judge read the ruling, frowning slightly.

Trump quickly fundraises off judge’s contempt ruling in hush money case” via Jessica Piper and Lisa Kashinsky of POLITICO — Trump’s campaign immediately sought to capitalize after the judge in his New York criminal trial ruled him in contempt of court — the latest example of how Trump’s campaign has flipped negative legal developments into a financial boost for his reelection bid. “A Democrat judge JUST HELD ME IN CONTEMPT OF COURT!” read a Tuesday morning email soliciting donations for the Trump National Committee, a joint fundraising committee that includes Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee.

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Coalition ramps up to create constitutional right to fish and hunt” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The effort to get Florida voters to affirm fishing and hunting rights is ramping up now that it will officially be Amendment 2 in November after just one member of the Florida Senate opposed putting it on the ballot last Session. On Tuesday, “YES ON 2” rolled out a coalition of hunters, anglers and conservationists. The goal is to make the case that these rights are elemental. “Fishing and hunting are a way of life in Florida, and we need to protect it for future generations,” said Yes on 2 Campaign Chair Joshua Kellam, a former Commissioner at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and President/CEO of The Garcia Companies.

The only Democrat not to qualify in CD 13 is now backing Sabrina Bousbar” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The qualifying period for congressional and other races ended last week in Florida, and six Democrats qualified for the ballot in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. One qualified as a write-in candidate, so his name won’t appear on the ballot. A seventh Democrat, Peter Owen, did not qualify. Now, Owen is backing Bousbar for the party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. “Sabrina Bousbar’s unwavering dedication to public service and unmatched experience make her exactly the kind of leader we need in Congress. I am proud to endorse Sabrina because she understands the urgent issues facing our community and will deliver results for us,” Owen said.

Firefighters, EMT union endorses Eileen Higgins for re-election to Miami-Dade Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Higgins is once more running for office with support from a union representing firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers working in the county. Higgins’ campaign announced IAFF Metro-Dade Firefighters Local 1403 is backing her re-election campaign for the County Commission’s District 5 seat. William McAllister IV, the group’s President, said in a statement that local first responders “proudly stand by” her. “Since being elected, her genuine nature, unwavering support for fire safety, and the humility with which (she) has embraced our membership’s advocacy for adequate south-end response and community paramedicine — combined with her apparent love for the communities she aspires to represent and that we service — make us proud to support her once again,” he said.

In Orlando’s District 5, four candidates rake in substantial campaign cash” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Four candidates have substantial war chests in the first two weeks of fundraising in Orlando’s District 5 special election. Community activist Lawanna Gelzer reported $21,000 in the bank, powered by a $20,000 loan she wrote to her campaign. Nonprofit executive Shan Rose has $15,840 — with about $6,000 of that through in-kind contributions. Miss America winner Ericka Dunlap brought in $10,740, including a $2,100 personal loan, while former State Rep. Travaris McCurdy raised $10,500. Those four have opened up a substantial gap on the other three candidates in the crowded field, who essentially raised only about enough to pay the filing fee to enter the contest. Tiakeysha Ellison self-funded the $2,100 in her account, Miles Mulrain raised $1,725, including an $830 loan, and Cameron Hope lent his campaign $1,650.

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— LOCAL: S. FL —

‘Now the real work begins’: Bryan Morera elected to Miami Lakes Council” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Lawyer Morera is heading to the Miami Lakes Town Council after winning a runoff race Tuesday night. With all seven of the town’s precincts reporting at 7:33 p.m., Morera had 56.5% of the vote to defeat former Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Town Manager Esther Colon in a technically nonpartisan contest for Seat 6 on the Council. About 10% of the town’s 20,045 voters — 2,077 people — cast ballots in the runoff. Morera told Florida Politics the win felt “very rewarding.” “I’m incredibly proud of the whole team, my family, my friends, everyone who contributed, whether it was money, time, support or whatever,” he said. “Now the real work begins.”

New law signed by DeSantis could dismantle Fort Lauderdale’s police oversight board” via Raisa Habersham of the Miami Herald — Florida cities were left scrambling earlier this month when DeSantis signed HB 601, limiting how government-affiliated civilian boards can investigate the behavior of local law enforcement officers. Fort Lauderdale Commissioners will discuss the fate of the city’s Citizens’ Police Review Board at a May 21 Commission conference, City Attorney Thomas J. Ansbro wrote in a memorandum to the Board that was shared with the Miami Herald. Ansbro wrote that the city would have to revise its legislation for the review board, which has been in existence for three decades. The new Florida law, Ansbro noted, does allow a Police Chief to establish a civilian oversight board to review the department’s policies and procedures.

Poll: Miami-Dade voters disapprove of county direction, $2.5B bond plan” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A supermajority of Miami-Dade voters aren’t happy with conditions in the county and most oppose Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s proposed $2.5 billion bond plan, new polling shows. Miami-based public research company Inquire spoke with 500 likely November voters in Miami-Dade this month and found just 23% said things in the county are going in the right direction. Nearly half said things were off-track, while 30% were unsure. The survey, commissioned by Coral Gables consulting firm Miranda Advocacy, had a 4.3% margin of error and was stratified by precinct, demographics, party registration and educational attainment. It also included a 4% overshare of Democratic respondents. But majorities or pluralities of every key voter group expressed disapproval about the state of the county.

The Trump factor looms over Miami-Dade races — and Democrats are on defense” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Six months into her campaign for Miami-Dade County Sheriff, police administrator Rosanna “Rosie” Cordero-Stutz had challenges: a crowded Republican Primary race and mediocre fundraising totals. Then came last week’s stunner: Trump’s endorsem*nt. “Our phones blew up,” said Tania Cruz-Gimenez, whose family has ties to Trump and is helping run Cordero-Stutz’s campaign. “All of a sudden people just started calling, offering donations, offering to hold a fundraiser.” The former President’s April 24 endorsem*nt of the assistant director of the Miami-Dade Police Department was his first in a county race this year.

Vero Beach City Manager, Police Chief under fire, but residents step up to show support” via Nick Slater of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Since early September, City Manager Monte Falls has been under pressure to fire Police Chief David Currey. Local residents Lanse Padgett and Tom Corr have gone so far as to threaten Falls’ job if he did not sack the Chief and replace him with Sheriff’s Capt. Milo Thornton. More than 100 residents and supporters, 30 Vero Beach police officers and at least five officers from other local departments packed the Council Chambers in a show of support for Falls and Currey. The City Council expressed its support of Falls and Currey, as well, commending them in the face of relentless criticism. Falls had called the meeting to inform residents of what’s been transpiring behind the scenes.

Will Broward’s proposed school closures and changes affect your neighborhood? Check the map” via Jimena Tavel and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — For the first time ever, top officials at Broward County Public Schools shared a detailed plan to fix the main crisis affecting the sixth largest school district in the nation: the loss of nearly 54,000 students over two decades, a trend that’s expected to continue. In order to slow the hemorrhage of funds and students, administrators proposed moves that would impact a total of 30 schools. Three schools would close, and the other 27 would be impacted through boundary, program, grade and other changes. Superintendent Howard Hepburn and Alan Strauss, the school district’s task-assigned chief strategy and innovation officer, presented the ideas during the first of seven town hall meetings scheduled to take place this week and next week.

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— LOCAL: C. FL —

Kim Downing wins open seat on Haines City Commission” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Voters in Haines City elected Downing to an open City Commission seat. Unofficial final election results from the Polk County Supervisor of Elections showed Downing leadingClarence Danielswith 824 votes, 52.8% of the vote, to his 736 votes, of 47.2%. That settles the last political decision expected in Haines City this year. City Commissioner Morris West earned re-election earlier this month when he won 52% of the vote against two challengers on April 2, avoiding a runoff.

Voters will decide on larger Orange County Governing Board” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County voters will decide in November whether to expand the county’s elected Governing Board by two members. A citizens panel studying possible changes to the Orange County charter decided 11-3 to put the expansion question to voters despite criticism that the money required to accommodate two more County Commissioners should be spent on more pressing needs. Angel de la Portilla, who led the Subcommittee that recommended a larger Commission, said the issue had been studied by four previous Charter Review boards, but Orange County had remained at six Commission districts since 1988 when the county population was 621,000. It’s now about 1.5 million people and could grow to nearly 2 million people by 2030.

Officials reveal strategy used to seek grants to build Brightline train station in Cocoa” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Supporters of a proposed Brightline train station in north Cocoa have crafted two tactics to get Brevard County Commission approval for a $5 million tourism grant to help pay for the station — which could cost up to $75 million. One option would use a provision of state legislation sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine that expanded the permitted uses of the tourist development tax on hotel and motel rooms, vacation rentals and other short-term rentals. The other would be somewhat similar to an approach successfully used in 2022 by a hotel developer to get County Commissioners to OK a grant of up to $30 million for marketing a planned hotel and conference center in Cocoa Beach.

Cash offered for Split Oak Forest road deal is tripled to $43M” via Kevin Spear and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — The Central Florida Expressway Authority has dramatically upped its stake in one of the region’s most controversial environmental issues ever by tripling to more than $43 million the cash it is offering to encourage state approval of a toll road crossing Split Oak Forest. The new proposal comes on the eve of a long-awaited showdown between road supporters and opponents before the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which takes care of Split Oak. The agency, meeting Wednesday in Daytona Beach, appears to have the final say for the fate of the cherished conservation area of 1,700 acres just miles southeast of Orlando International Airport in Orange and Osceola counties.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.24 (19)


See what happened at USF Tampa as police end student protest” via Douglas R. Clifford and Jeffree Woo of the Tampa Bay Times — Pro-Palestinian protesters began their second day of demonstrations Tuesday at the University of South Florida, joining peers from other parts of the state and around the nation. What started as a peaceful day of chanting and other activities developed into a standoff, followed by a confrontation involving tear gas and what appeared to be multiple arrests. Law enforcement officers from at least three agencies could be seen handcuffing some protesters and chasing after others. A day earlier, three members of the group, organized by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, were arrested after they started to erect tents in an area near MLK Plaza on the Tampa campus. Both incidents took place amid a national wave of student protests that aimed to establish campus encampments in solidarity with students at Columbia University in New York City.

Whitney Fox, Lindsay Cross condemn six-week abortion ban ahead of Wednesday implementation” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Fox is condemning the six-week abortion ban that will take effect in Florida Wednesday, noting “dire consequences” to women across the state. “This law is already pushing doctors out of our state for fear of legal repercussions,” Fox said. “Let me be clear. When this law goes into effect in Florida, women will die.” Fox, who is one of five Democrats vying for the party’s nomination in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, is using the law’s implementation to remind voters of the Republican incumbent’s track record on the abortion issue and advocate for an amendment on the November ballot in Florida that would enshrine abortion protections into the state constitution.

—“Tampa’s new water station nears completion” via Fox 13

Walmart to close down all health centers, including 9 across Tampa Bay area” via Nathaniel Rodriguez of WFLA — Walmart decided Tuesday to close down all 51 of its health centers across six states, including all 23 health centers in the state of Florida. A statement released by Walmart Corporate said that it would be ending its Walmart Health program, which it launched in 2019. The corporation said it was closing all its centers after determining that it was not a profitable business model. “The decision to close all 51 health centers across five states and shut down the virtual care offering was not easy,” the statement said. “We understand this change affects lives — the patients who receive care, the associates and providers who deliver care and the communities who supported us along the way. This is a difficult decision, and like others, the challenging reimbursem*nt environment and escalating operating costs create a lack of profitability that make the care business unsustainable for us at this time.”

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.24 (21)

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Nine protesters arrested at pro-Palestinian demonstration on UF campus” via Alan Festo of The Gainesville Sun — Nine protesters were arrested by law enforcement as a pro-Palestinian demonstration continued on the Plaza of the Americas at the University of Florida. The detained protesters were walked over to nearby Peabody Hall. Access to that building was blocked off by police. At least 20 officers were in that area. The officers were from the Gainesville Police Department, the University of Florida Police Department, and the Florida Highway Patrol. Protesters were yelling at police during the detainment process. The road between the Plaza of the Americas and the University Auditorium was blocked off by police. The center of the plaza, as of 8 p.m., still held about 75 protesters. Messages written in chalk on the sidewalk say: “It’s not a war, it’s genocide” and “UF divest now.”

Judge releases 8 of 9 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at UF; 1 held on bond over felony charge” via Fresh Take Florida — A Judge released eight of nine pro-Palestinian protesters from jail early Tuesday after their arrest on the University of Florida (UF) campus Monday. A ninth protester, identified as a UF student, remained jailed facing a felony battery charge related to his arrest. Allan Hektor Frasheri, a philosophy major from Dunedin, was accused of spitting on a campus police officer during the arrests Monday night. He was being held in lieu of a $5,000 bond. Police and state troopers arrested the nine in a move coordinated with the university administration. The university had previously threatened to banish anyone who was arrested from campus for three years and suspend any students. Employees or professors who were arrested would be fired, the school said. The university has already issued trespass orders against all nine arrested protesters, prohibiting them from entering campus until April 2027.

Forbes names University of Florida to ‘New Ivies’ list” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The University of Florida campus is a long way from the legacy Ivy League campuses located in the Northeast United States. But Forbes magazine says Gator Country could easily fit in with those elite schools. In a new analytical report by Forbes this month, the money management magazine listed 10 public “New Ivies” colleges and universities. That list includes public schools Forbes says could fit neatly into a classification of an Ivy League school, which includes institutions such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, among others. UF officials said they are grateful for the Forbes ranking. But they’re not overly surprised at the honor of recognizing the school’s academic excellence in Gainesville.

As Tallahassee residents’ cry for help, Mayor John Dailey wants answers on sewage spill impacts” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Mayor Dailey wants to know how the city is helping residents recently affected by sewage backups — and what city workers are doing to make sure it doesn’t keep happening. “I think there’s been … maybe a half dozen claims regarding sewage backup in houses and I would like to know specifically what the city of Tallahassee intends to do with engaging with these residents,” Dailey said at the last city commission meeting. The capital was faced with what weather officials have called “a bicentennial storm” on April 11 for its rarity and sheer volume of rain. The deluge led to severe flooding, which overworked several pump station basins and resulted in sewer overflows.

Escambia plans hearing to decide if Children’s Trust is exempt from $445K in annual taxes” via Mollye Barrows of The Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County staff is recommending a public hearing at the next Board of County Commissioners meeting to consider Escambia Children’s Trust’s (ECT) request for an exemption from paying taxes into a trust fund that benefits the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Escambia Children’s Trust requested the exemption in March after the board voted to request ECT pay into its nine CRA districts. County leaders are also seeking back payment of more than $1.1 million the county says ECT should have paid into the CRA since the organization launched three years ago. Future collections would be at least $445,000 a year, depending on taxable land values. The trust was approved by voters in 2020 and is responsible for allocating more than $10 million in property taxes to fund initiatives and services to help children and their families, especially those with the greatest need.

Committee to consider potential changes of Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority” via David Bauerlein and Hanna Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union — The future of the Downtown Investment Authority and Jacksonville’s strategy for bringing more residents and private investment into the city’s core will come under the microscope of a new special committee. City Council President Ron Salem announced the Committee and charged it with examining the effectiveness of the authority in relation to other cities with downtown success. The committee should also explore whether any potential “amendment, elimination, addition or modification should be considered for the benefit and governance” of downtown, Salem wrote. Salem said City Council members have been discussing the future of the DIA as the authority’s board considers a two-year extension for CEO Lori Boyer.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.24 (23)


Need help during an emergency? This new Manatee County drone could come to the rescue” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee County will be one of the first in the nation to dispatch a drone that responds to 911 calls. On Wednesday, the county is set to launch a new pilot program that uses a drone to deliver a defibrillator, a tourniquet, or naloxone — an opioid overdose antidote — to emergency scenes. The program is meant to reduce response times for life-threatening situations. The government program, which has been cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration, is a partnership with Tampa General Hospital and Archer First Response Systems. “This is an amazing opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology in emergency response,” Commissioner Mike Rahn said. “We are excited that this first-of-its-kind program is taking flight first here in Manatee County.”

An island in Manatee County once planned to be a state park now for sale for $75M” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A proposal by the state of Florida to purchase Rattlesnake Key for a new state park has fallen through, and the lush Manatee County island is now up for sale to private enterprise. The state appropriated $23 million to purchase Rattlesnake Key in 2022 for conservation purposes, with $2.3 million in additional funding pledged by Manatee County, but those plans fell apart after a $7.6 million appraisal of the island attained by the Department of Environmental Protection led to a lowball offer that was quickly rejected. The $23 million in funding will revert to the state on June 30, records show.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.24 (25)


Natalie Kelly: Mental Health Awareness Month — the first step may be the step that saves your life” via Florida Politics — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to assess our own mental health and the mental health of those we love.

The first step someone takes to get mental health support can be the step that saves their life.

In Florida, we have a robust behavioral health safety net system, consisting of seven Managing Entities, that not only oversee behavioral health care for our underinsured and uninsured population but also support Floridians through various programs and community partnerships.

Examples of these innovative programs throughout Florida range from faith-based partnerships to peer support for first responders and from Care Coordination to support children and families navigating the transition from intensive care settings to community-based support systems to supportive housing to address homelessness, affordability and supportive housing. And these are only a few examples of the programs overseen by Managing Entities.

This Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s time to take stock of your mental health and, if necessary, connect with the behavioral health community resources that are available. By calling 2-1-1, you can be connected with the community resources that are best for you.

Anyone contemplating suicide should call 9-8-8.

Let’s make Mental Health Month every month.


Liz Dahan: Standing strong against Florida’s six-week abortion ban” via Florida Politics — The enforcement of this abortion ban marks a dark day for reproductive freedom in our state. It strips women of their ability to make personal medical decisions and forces them into potentially dangerous life-threatening situations. By severely limiting access to abortion after just six weeks, this law effectively denies women the right to control their own bodies and futures. This restrictive law not only threatens the autonomy and health of women but also exacerbates existing inequalities in our society. The unspoken truth is that the impact of this legislation will be felt most acutely by marginalized communities, including low-income women and women of color. Florida doesn’t have guaranteed parental leave and has a higher maternal mortality and infant mortality rate than the national average. It is more important than ever that we come together to oppose this assault on women’s rights.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.24 (26)


— ALOE —

Peaco*ck plans to hike subscription prices (again) ahead of the Summer Olympics” via Kourtnee Jackson of CNET — Peaco*ck’s streaming subscription plans are about to cost a little more. The NBCUniversal brand is increasing the prices on its monthly and annual plans, with changes going into effect this summer. The news comes after parent company Comcast announced that the streaming platform added 3 million new paid subscribers in the first quarter of 2024. Beginning July 18, new customers will pay more for subscriptions: $8 per month for Peaco*ck Premium and $14 a month for Peaco*ck Premium Plus — both are $2 increases. Annual plans will see a significant bump from $60 per year to $80 for Premium, while Premium Plus will go up from $120 to $140 a year. The price hike will be implemented for existing subscribers starting on Aug. 17.

Lions get busy on top of safari truck” via TMZ — A couple of lions felt the love so much that they started banging on top of a tourist safari truck … and the people inside certainly got an eyeful and then some. A group of tourists partaking in a South African safari were recently left stunned as 2 randy big cats made themselves at home atop their vehicle. The male lion is seen mounting a resting female lion … confirming their boinking session with a couple of growls. The jeep noticeably shakes from side to side as they do it … sparking laughter and gasps from the tourists seated below. The lions’ intimacy didn’t last too long … with the lioness lying tired to the side as the king of the jungle eventually disconnected. While the encounter may have given some tourists the ick on the spot … it’s significantly less scary than the African elephant attack from earlier this month — which ended in a death.

North Carolina child’s ‘monster in the closet’ was, in fact, 50,000 bees in the wall” via Jessica Glenza of The Guardian — A toddler told her mom that “monsters” were in her closet. But in fact, there were more than 50,000 bees there. A mother of three children under 4 years old was met with a “terrifying” surprise after she and her husband investigated why a handful of bees had flown into the attic of the couple’s North Carolina home. After a visit by a pest control company and multiple beekeepers, a thermal camera finally revealed where the bees had gone — to a massive hive they had built inside the wall of her daughter’s room, where the girl was convinced she had heard a monster of some kind lurking. “At first, I thought it was a body,” Ashley Massis Class said. “I was like, ‘What is that?’ And he says he thinks it’s a hive.”


Happy May Day birthday to Stephen Lawson, Julia Mazzone, and Sarah Rumpf.


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

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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.24 (2024)


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