Hello and welcome to Friday.
What I did on my vacation— There’s a potential power struggle and constitutional conundrum brewing in the state Capitol during the normally dog days of summer. If it boils over it could mark one of the few times where legislators have pushed back against the growing power of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Back of the bill— It centers around a rather innocuous sounding budget item called local support grants that was apparently championed by House Republicans. This program — which will direct money to local governments, education program or even privately-run programs — was created with the help of language tucked in the back of the recently enacted roughly $110 billion budget.
Take it or leave it— What lawmakers did to get this program past DeSantis initially was roll $80 million for the grants into the same budget line item that included $125 million in $1,000 bonus checks for first responders, something championed by the governor. Got it? That meant DeSantis would have had to veto one of his priorities in order to take out the grant programs.
Follow the money— But legislators also gave the power to dole out these grants to themselves. The budget language gives the job of approving the money to the Legislative Budget Commission, the constitutionally authorized panel that is allowed to approve budget amendments when legislators aren’t in session. The panel must act by mid-September… ie. right before the election.
Here’s the conflict— As noted by the News Service of Florida, legislators are already asking the panel to approve grants for projects that were just nixed by DeSantis in early June as part of his record $3 billion-plus in vetoes.
Separation of powers— Can legislators do that? The constitution itself makes it clear that it takes a supermajority vote of the Legislature to override a budget veto. But the counterargument is that Florida law (Chapter 216.179 to be precise) is basically silent on what’s happening here. That section says the governor, chief justice and state agencies cannot authorize any spending on a vetoed budget item. The legal reasoning is that this money is an appropriated sum for a stated purpose and isn’t an administrative action.
Reminder — But OK, let’s just say this, as of right now, is an untested legal theory.
Actions and reactions— Let’s also note it’s unclear at this point if the DeSantis administration agrees with it. And there are ways this could be blocked by the executive branch. One way is that the governor — raising his own constitutional questions — could direct his agencies to refuse to enter into any agreements with the local governments or groups chosen to get the money. Another potential path is that Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis could refuse to release the money as well, although such an action would disrupt Patronis’ normal pattern of deferential behavior toward both the governor and the Legislature.
Coming soon— So let’s just say there could be drama in Tallahassee over the next few weeks.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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RAMIFICATIONS— “Who will enforce Florida’s 15-week abortion ban? And what if they refuse?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Dan Sullivan, Natalie Weber and Caroline Petrow-Cohen: “The new law, which went into effect last week, carries with it a promise of a third-degree felony if broken. Doctors could also face the revocation of their medical licenses, among other sanctions, if they conduct abortions beyond the 15-week threshold. But who will enforce such a law? And what if they don’t? Those are among the many questions that loom as a high-stakes legal and political battle takes shape. Speculation is rampant, but answers are murky. While some see a future of lax or inconsistent enforcement, some things might not change much at all.”
WESTBOUND— “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to make a fundraising stop in Utah this month,” by Salt Lake City Tribune’s Bryan Schott: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rumored to be mulling a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, is coming to Utah later this month for a high-dollar fundraiser. DeSantis is scheduled to appear at a pair of private fundraising events on July 20, according to an invitation obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune — a breakfast in Salt Lake City followed by a reception in Park City that afternoon. A breakfast ticket along with a photo opportunity is $2,500 per person. Breakfast alone is $500 per person. Tickets to the reception are $12,500 each. Event organizers declined to comment, hoping to keep the event quiet.”
MAGIC 8 BALL SAYS REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN— “Florida Democrats pick their battles, but can they pull out of election tailspin?” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello: “Matt Isbell, a Democratic consultant and elections expert, compared being a Democrat in Florida to ‘when somebody is stuck in the cold and they’re going into hypothermia. The body will instinctively restrict blood flow into the body, and then basically sacrifice limbs. … Yeah, you want to get out of the cold, but first things first, you need to survive. And it’s a very self-fulfilling cycle.’ The question now is whether Democrats can finally turn things around with one or two big wins, or whether Florida is fully becoming a red Republican state in the wake of the shelling the party took in the 2020 vote. GOP leaders say that’s already happened.”
LOOKING FOR CLUES — “Why a wave of social media ads may signal a potential DeSantis White House run,” by Reuters’ Jason Lange and Alexandra Ulmer: “But there are signs that [Gov. Ron] DeSantis could be preparing for a White House run even as he campaigns for another term as governor in November’s midterm elections. A Reuters analysis of DeSantis’ social media ads shows he has dramatically expanded his out-of-state ads in recent months, an indicator, say some political analysts, that he may be laying the groundwork for a national campaign.”
MEANWHILE — “Anti-Trump group uses cable ads to tweak ex-president staying at his N.J. golf club,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jonathan D. Salant: “Residents living in and around Bedminster will begin seeing an ad proclaiming how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has stolen Donald Trump’s thunder. The ad is aimed at one person: the former president. ‘We’ve got this thing we call the audience of one, basically getting into Trump’s head,’ said Rick Wilson, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump Republican group. The ads will run on Fox News and the Golf Channel while Trump is spending the warmer months at his Bedminster golf club, just as he did when he was president.”
CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP— Kevin Hayslett, a Republican candidate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, released his first television ad. The ad highlights Hayslett’s record as a prosecutor and that he’s a supporter of former President Donald Trump. Trump has already endorsed Anna Paulina Luna in the race for the Pinellas County district. An AdImpact analysis shows that Hayslett has purchased more than $164,000 in ad time in July…. Rep. Vern Buchanan will report that he raised $900,000 for his reelection in the second quarter of 2022, his campaign said on Thursday. That will bring the total raised for the southwest Florida Republican to $3.7 million.
BLAME GAME — “Charlie Crist announces affordable housing plan in campaign for governor,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Chris Hippensteel: “U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist lays the blame for Florida’s lack of affordable housing on two things: Wall Street investors and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Crist, a Democrat running for governor, on Thursday released his proposal to address Florida’s housing crisis that focuses on curbing the influence of large real estate investment firms he says are buying up housing stock in Florida neighborhoods and driving up rent prices. ‘We’re in an affordability crisis like I’ve never seen,’ Crist said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. He called large investment firms ‘vultures’ that prey on tenants, homebuyers and the housing market.”
— “Mark Lombardo vows to reform Washington in challenge to Matt Gaetz,” by Florida Politics’ Aimee Sachs
CLOSELY WATCHED IN FLORIDA — Biden in facing another major immigration decision. The White House is still weighing what to do, by POLITICO’s Sabrina Rodriguez: The Biden administration is facing a major deadline to decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan exiles living in the United States. But with days to go for a decision, officials are still torn, juggling the benefits it could have on their political standing in Florida and the potential it brings to worsen the migrant buildup on the U.S. southern border. At issue is whether to extend Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan immigrants already in the U.S. The administration has until Monday to make its decision. It also is considering whether to expand the protections to an estimated 250,000 Venezuelans who have arrived in the U.S. after TPS was granted last year in March and therefore not eligible for the temporary legal status.
HAPPENING TODAY— Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with state legislative leaders from several states, including Florida who are “fighting on the frontlines to protect reproductive rights.” Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, and the incoming House Democratic leader is expected to attend the event.
COMING SOON — Jan. 6 panel’s next target: Proud Boys and Oath Keepers by POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney: Until now, the select committee has focused its public hearings on the high-level plotting by Trump to seize a second term by deploying an army of loyalist lawyers to promote fringe constitutional theories. On Tuesday, the committee will instead plunge into conspiracy-driven fever swamp, where groups like the Proud Boys flourished and strategized openly ahead of Jan. 6. The hearing is unlikely to produce explicit evidence of Trump’s approval of the groups’ tactics or plans, but the more important concept, according to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), is “convergence.”
— “Exclusive: Trump left Sarasota media company weeks before federal subpoenas were issued,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Chris Anderson
RULES — “Judge limits access to gruesome Marjory Stoneman Douglas murder photos and video,” by South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Rafael Olmeda: “As the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting case inches closer to trial, the judge overseeing it is setting down strict rules to protect sensitive crime scene photos and videos from leaking to the general public. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, expressing concern for the victims and their families, said she will not display the graphic material on television monitors in the courtroom, nor will she allow them to be transmitted to a nearby room where dozens of local and national media outlets will monitor the proceedings.”
IT’S HERE — “COVID in Florida: As BA.5 variant spreads, a look at what’s ahead this summer,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Cindy Krischer Goodman: “A new omicron subvariant known as BA.5 is quickly gaining ground in Florida, and now represents a majority of COVID-19 cases in the state. Epidemiologists say BA.5 may be the worst strain yet, mostly because is better at evading prior immunity than previous strains and increasing rapidly. That could explain why so many Floridians are becoming infected with the coronavirus, even after being caught up in an earlier wave.”
FOR YOUR RADAR— “Orlando bar closure case goes to Florida Supreme Court,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders: The owner of three Orlando bars has gone to the Florida Supreme Court in a dispute about whether the bars should receive compensation because of government-ordered shutdowns early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Orlando Bar Group, LLC filed a notice this week that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to take up the case against the state and Orange County. The move came after a panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal rejected arguments that the shutdowns amounted to what is known as ‘inverse condemnation’ and should lead to payments for damages.
— “Disney World sued by 3 workers fired after refusing COVID vaccinations, masks,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Katie Rice
ALARM SOUNDED— “Casey DeSantis joins state in ramping up efforts to curb fentanyl deaths,” by News Service of Florida’s Ryan Dailey: “First Lady Casey DeSantis joined Young and other state and local officials at Thursday’s meeting to address the issue. DeSantis announced that the state is ramping up messaging as part of efforts to prevent future mass overdoses. Florida will launch a statewide public advisory campaign about the dangers of fentanyl, which has become the leading cause of death for people ages 18 to 45 in the U.S., according to a news release from the governor’s office. ‘Education is so important to get, especially to our youth. A call to action, if they themselves are using drugs or if they know of somebody in their family that’s using,’ DeSantis said Thursday.”
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS— “Who killed Haitian President Jovenel Moïse? Two key suspects speak out from jail,” by Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles and Jay Weaver: “A year after Moïse was assassinated and his wife wounded, the public is no closer to knowing who masterminded the attack or fired the fatal shots. Was it an inside job carried out by people close to the president, including bodyguards, political operatives and possible criminals? Or was it a hit job executed by Colombian commandos who had been recruited by a Miami-area security company? All are questions Haitians have asked themselves in trying to understand how someone could have killed their president, a polarizing figure who was nearing the end of his presidential term and had selected a neurosurgeon to run the country as his No. 2 in the midst of a raging political crisis.”
MAGIC CITY — “In Miami, a pandemic-fueled boom,” by The New York Times’ Amy Tara Koch: “Unlike many cities, Miami has boomed over the course of the pandemic. Thousands relocated to South Florida where restaurants, attractions and retail shops remained open, with Miami’s tropical sparkle seemingly a panacea for life in lockdown. ‘The pandemic caused Miami’s stock value to go up,’ said Craig Robins, a real estate developer who has helped reinvigorate South Beach and other parts of the city in recent years. ‘In the Design District alone, there are eight new restaurants and two hotels under construction. This growth is happening throughout the city.’”
— “Man charged with torching Pan-African flag flying on pole,” by The Associated Press
— “Supreme Court gun ruling cited in bid to dismiss machine-gun indictment in Clay County case,” by Florida Times-Union’s Steve Patterson
— “Judge Renatha Francis drops thorny family court case, giving Supremes an easy way to ignore it,” by Florida Bulldog’s Noreen Marcus
— “UCF department briefly scraps anti-racism policy amid concerns about new state law,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Annie Martin
— “Pinellas grapples with monkeypox outbreak; fifth case reported,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher O’Donnell
— “More than 1,000 giant African land snails captured in Pasco invasion,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Zachary T. Sampson: “Florida is digging in for a long siege in Pasco County. Giant African land snails — ‘one of the most damaging snails in the world’ — have infiltrated the county’s second-largest city, New Port Richey, and its immediate surroundings. State agriculture officials say they have already captured more than 1,000 of the fist-sized invaders since identifying the first intruder on June 23. ‘Let me assure you: We will eradicate these snails,’ Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told reporters Thursday.”
BIRTHDAYS: Former Miami Herald reporter Marty Merzer … former Department of Lottery spokeswoman Connie Barnes … Douglas Mannheimer … (Saturday) Former state Rep. Matt Hudson … April Salter, CEO and founder of Salter Mitchell … Bob Sparks , former spokesman for Republican Party of Florida … Danny Diaz, a founding and managing partner at FP1 Strategies … (Sunday) Rep. Brian Mast … former Rep. Ron Klein