Gary Fineout's must-read briefing on what's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State
Gary Fineout's must-read briefing on what's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State
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By GARY FINEOUT
12/13/2022 07:01 AM EST
Presented by AARP
Hello and welcome to Tuesday.
Counting the dollars — As he continues to weigh a final decision on whether to run for president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis keeps bringing in the money.
Big money— Over a nearly four-year period, DeSantis raised a jaw-dropping sum of nearly $200 million for his political committee and his official reelection account. He used it to help pay for his 20-point win over Democratic rival Charlie Crist.
Left in the bank— After the victory, the DeSantis campaign team had roughly $60 million unspent. But the contributions are still coming in since the Republican won a second term. The latest campaign filings showed that DeSantis pulled in more than $2.4 million in November, including $500,000 from entrepreneur and philanthropist Patricia Duggan.
Still more— And the website for Friends of Ron DeSantis shows even more donations in the first part of December, including a $100,000 check last week from former Illinois governor and now Florida resident Bruce Rauner. (Rauner has now given close to $1 million over the past two years.)
Downstream— There are limitations on shifting money (which includes large corporate donations) from state accounts to ones used to help federal candidates — but the anticipation is that at some point the money in the governor’s state political committee will flow to a federal super PAC not supervised by DeSantis.
Standing by— In the meantime, many of those who played key roles in the governor’s reelection campaign remain linked to the DeSantis operation as they — and Floridians — wait on the governor’s next move. The incoming surge of donations means that DeSantis can keep parts of his operation intact before he makes his next move.
HAPPENING TODAY — President Joe Biden is scheduled to sign the “Respect for Marriage Act” on Tuesday afternoon at the White House. The measure, which provides federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage, was passed last week by Congress. Among those who will attend the bill signing is South Florida Democratic political consultant Christian Ulvert and his husband Carlos Andrade. Ulvert and Andrade were among several couples that challenged Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby was also invited, but she said on social media she had to decline the invitation because of the special session in Tallahassee.
“Now we will witness history at the White House tomorrow. This is especially heartfelt because Carlos, a Venezuelan American immigrant who fled political oppression from his home country found a voice here in the US. He will be sitting in the White House bearing witness to what freedom means, and a right we fought for and won,” Ulvert wrote on Facebook.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official for Gov. DeSantis.
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A message from AARP:
Chronic problems—like understaffing and low-performing nursing homes continue to run rampant throughout Florida, leaving our most vulnerable seniors at risk. That’s why AARP is fighting to make sure residents receive safe, high-quality care. Florida lawmakers can make a positive difference in the lives of nursing home residents during the 2023 legislative session. Nursing home residents deserve better. Learn more.
Day 1— Florida lawmakers set to pass sweeping insurance overhaul amid market turmoil, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: A remade Florida Legislature is on the verge of passing a sweeping overhaul to the state’s ailing multibillion dollar property insurance market, a proposal that includes many of the changes long-sought by the insurance industry but have historically gotten bogged down over fierce political fights.
Warnings — The bill’s first hearing in front of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee did come with impassioned testimony from a Mexico Beach, Fla., family still trying to recover after Hurricane Michael decimated the Panhandle in 2018. “We now find ourselves paying a mortgage on a home we can’t live in, on a property we can’t park an RV on while we wait for the legal process to play out because our city passed an ordinance eliminating RV use for those still trying to recover from Michael,” Natalie Albaugh told the committee. “I don’t know see how this bill protects homeowners from incompetent at best and more likely predatory insurance companies,” she added.
WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?— “Lower insurance rates not coming soon, Florida lawmakers say,” by Tampa Bay Times Lawrence Mower: “Could Floridians see lower property insurance rates? Probably. Eventually. That was the testimony by Florida’s insurance regulator, who gave a tepid endorsement on Monday to Republican lawmakers’ latest plan to address Florida’s insurance crisis, the fourth in as many years. ‘I think that this will go a long way into mitigating the rate increases,’ Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told a Senate committee. He said he was ‘optimistic,’ but cautioned: ‘This will take some time.’ How much time — and how much homeowners could save — were among the key questions that lawmakers were unable to answer Monday as they met in Tallahassee for a special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis.”
BOTTOM LINE — “Special session goal: Prop up failing property insurers, not strapped homeowners,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jeffrey Schweers: “On the same day the Florida Legislature opened its special session to fix the property insurance industry, FedNat Holding Co. announced it had filed for bankruptcy. The company said in May it was leaving Florida and planned to dump 56,000 policyholders. … Yet none of the measures offered by the Republicans who hold a supermajority in the Legislature help those abandoned homeowners or any others immediately, even after lawmakers were roundly criticized for ignoring homeowners during a special session in May when it provided $2 billion to prop up insurers.”
AFTERMATH — Senate committees approve $751M hurricane relief package for Ian, Nicole, by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Two Senate committees unanimously advanced a bill Monday that would provide more than $750 million in state taxpayer dollars for localities and residents impacted by two hurricanes that hit Florida this year. The bill, SB 4-A, is sponsored by state Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) who told the Senate Committee on Community Affairs meeting that the bill is similar to hurricane-spending packages that state lawmakers have approved after storms from previous years. The measure would offer a property tax reimbursement for people whose homes were left uninhabitable after they were hit by hurricanes Ian or Nicole.
A destroyed building sits among debris after Hurricane Ian passed through the area on Oct. 8, 2022, in Sanibel, Fla. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
DUELING AG’S — “Red, blue states take sides over so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders: “The legal battle over a Florida law that restricts classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation — the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law — is pitting red states against blue states. Republican attorneys general of 14 states last week sought approval to file a brief supporting Florida in a fight about the new law. That came after Democratic attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia this summer filed a brief supporting the bill’s challengers.”
— “‘Floridians are hurting’: House Democratic Leader asks for expanded legislation but GOP rejects it,” by Florida Phoenix’s Isaac Morgan
— “Florida residents hope special session can alleviate rising home insurance costs,” by WPTV’s Todd Wilson
— “Eric Hall returning to Juvenile Justice for Gov. DeSantis’ second term,” by Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey
MILLER JOINS BALLARD— Former Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican who spent 16 years representing northwest Florida in Congress, is joining the Washington, D.C., office of Ballard Partners as a partner just as the GOP is resuming control of the House. “As the 118th Congress prepares to convene with new House leadership in a few weeks, we are delighted to have such a respected former member of the House Republican Leadership join our Washington office,” said Brian Ballard, president and founder of the firm. “Our firm’s clients will be uniquely served by Jeff’s special insights, experience and relationships in Congress.” During his time in office, Miller led the Veterans Affairs Committee for three terms and also served on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees.
AS THE PAGES TURN— “Florida judge officially dumps Trump lawsuit over Mar-a-Lago document seizure,” by Miami Herald’s Jay Weaver: “Former president Donald Trump’s legal effort to thwart a Justice Department investigation into classified documents seized from his palatial Palm Beach estate was officially tossed out Monday. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, after being rebuked by a federal appellate court for allowing Trump’s lawsuit to move forward, brought his controversial lawsuit to a halt after the court had ordered her to end it. “This case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction,” Cannon wrote in a one-page order released Monday. “The Clerk of Court shall close this case.”
— “Tampa jury finds ex-Special Forces soldier with Jan. 6 ties guilty on 6 charges,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Dan Sullivan
A message from AARP:
BY THE NUMBERS— One of Florida’s largest medical marijuana companies, Trulieve, has put another $5 million into an effort to ask voters to legalize recreational marijuana. Trulieve has contributed a total of $15 million so far in 2022 as part of the effort being organized by Smart & Safe Florida. That money is already being used to hire firms to gather signatures from voters. Organizers must get nearly 900,000 signatures by February 2024 in order to make the ballot. So far, nearly 54,000 have been verified.
Due to restrictions placed on citizen initiatives by the Florida Legislature, the path to the ballot has gotten harder in recent years. This year marked the first time in a decade that the ballot did not contain an amendment proposed by an outside group rather than state legislators. “We’re hopeful we can make it. It’s very difficult,” said Steve Vancore, a spokesman for Trulieve.
— “County Commissioner Tobia running for Brevard supervisor of elections in 2024,” by Florida Today’s Dave Berman
POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT— “Once a concern, refurbished Herbert Hoover Dike fared well during hurricanes Ian, Nicole,” by Fort Myers News-Press Chad Gillis: “There was a time when the federal agency that manages Lake Okeechobee levels was concerned that a major hurricane or even a large tropical storm could cause lake waters to rise to the point that the dike surrounding the big lake would fail. But the rehabilitated Herbert Hoover Dike stood up well to the impacts of Hurricane Ian and Nicole this year, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
TO COURT— “Nonprofit founder says she was fired for being conservative Republican,” by Washington Post’s Justin Wm. Moyer: “A Republican who twice campaigned for former president Donald Trump and founded a D.C. nonprofit that offers financial support to congressional interns sued the organization last month, alleging she was fired because of her conservative political beliefs. Audrey Lynn Henson is the founder of College to Congress (C2C), a nonprofit that provides financial assistance for Capitol Hill interns. … Last year, after Henson said she would run as a Republican for a Florida congressional seat, C2C’s board ordered her to step down as CEO ‘because of her political affiliations,’ according to the suit.”
A JOURNEY— “50 years of Haitian migration to South Florida: A story of protests, detention and triumph,” by Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles: “They arrived 50 years ago, fleeing dictatorship and death. Along the treacherous, three-week ocean journey, the seafaring Haitian asylum seekers traded their shoes for food and water in Cuba, and were briefly jailed in the Bahamas before being asked their final destination. ‘Miami,’ they all said. When their leaking, 56-foot wooden sailboat finally made landfall 40 miles north of Miami in Pompano Beach on Dec. 12, 1972, there was no family or Haitian community to welcome them, or protesters lining the shorelines demanding their freedom.”
ACQUITTED — “Jury clears Fort Lauderdale cop of battery in encounter with kneeling protester,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Rafael Olmeda: “The defendant decided not to testify. The woman he was accused of shoving out of his way didn’t take the stand either. But a Broward jury was tasked Monday with trying to ferret out the truth of what happened during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in downtown Fort Lauderdale more than two years ago, and a police officer’s professional career was on the line. They sided with Officer Steven Pohorence, 31, acquitting him of battery.”
IN MUSK WE TRUST — “NASA chief: SpaceX leader says Elon Musk’s Twitter drama is ‘nothing to worry about,’” by NBC News’ Marc Caputo: “NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he saw the head of SpaceX last weekend and wanted to hear just one thing from her in light of company owner Elon Musk’s tumultuous Twitter takeover. ‘Tell me that the distraction that Elon might have on Twitter is not going to affect SpaceX,’ Nelson, recalling the conversation, said he asked Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO. ‘I assure you, it is not,’ Shotwell responded, according to Nelson. ‘You have nothing to worry about.’
NASA administrator Bill Nelson, speaks during a media briefing about the agency’s recently completed Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), at NASA headquarters Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Washington. The DART mission saw the spacecraft collide with the asteroid Dimorphos in an attempt to test whether the resulting kinetic force could redirect an asteroid’s course to protect Earth against potential impacts. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) | AP
MOUNT TALLAHASSEE — “Florida schools’ LGBTQ support guides face scrutiny from state,” by News Service of Florida’s Ryan Dailey: “The State Board of Education is slated this week to scrutinize LGBTQ support guides and bathroom policies for transgender students in 10 school districts, as state officials question whether they are violating a law known as the ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ and other measures. The Parents’ Bill of Rights relates to what families are entitled to know about their children’s education and health care.”
— “Florida DOE may ‘force us to out’ students to parents, Leon County superintendent says,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Ana Goñi-Lessan
— “Police: Major GOP donor Kent Stermon was reported missing when heart monitor stopped,” by First Coast News’ Anne Schindler
— “Giant undeveloped swath of land billed as last bastion of ‘Old Florida’ on sale for $23.7M,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s TaMaryn Waters
— “1,500 pounds of dead fish cleared from St. Pete Beach over weekend as Red Tide looms,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Max Chesnes
— “Pembroke Pines teacher fired after video shows praying Muslim students interrupted,” by NBC 6’s Amanda Plasencia
— “Steve Feren, former Sunrise mayor, dies at 72,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Lisa J. Huriash
A message from AARP:
Chronic problems—like understaffing and low-performing nursing homes continue to run rampant throughout Florida, leaving our most vulnerable seniors at risk. As our lawmakers get ready for the 2023 legislative session, improving conditions for nursing home residents must be a top priority. AARP is urging lawmakers to protect seniors in nursing homes by enhancing oversight, addressing workforce shortages, and holding facilities accountable for providing quality care. Florida lawmakers can make a positive difference in the lives of nursing home residents during the 2023 legislative session. Learn more.
— “Mexican actor convicted of manslaughter in Miami road-rage case denied new trial,” by Miami Herald’s David Ovalle: “A judge on Monday declined to grant a new trial to Pablo Lyle, the Mexican actor convicted of manslaughter for fatally punching a motorist during a confrontation on a Miami roadway. That means Lyle, 36, will now be sentenced on Feb. 3. Under Florida’s sentencing guidelines, Lyle faces between nine and 15 years in prison, although a judge can opt to give a lower sentence. A jury in October convicted Lyle, rejecting his claim that he acted in self-defense when he ran toward and punched 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez.”
ENGAGED — Avi Berkowitz, former assistant to the president in the Trump White House and special representative for international negotiations who is now a partner at the Miami-based PE firm Affinity Partners, on Dec. 6 proposed to Gabrielle Posner, who studied finance at Yeshiva University and is from New York City. The couple were introduced in the beginning of 2022 by a mutual family friend and got engaged in NYC. Pic
BIRTHDAYS: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried … Hayden Dempsey, shareholder with GreenbergTraurig … Mike Stone with WFSU-TV/The Florida Channel
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