Hello and welcome to Monday.
Handed down — The administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis late last week won an expected victory in the legal tussle over election law changes pushed through by the Republican governor and the Legislature a year ago.
Halted — A panel of three judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals — including former Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa — on Friday temporarily blocked Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s “blockbuster” ruling that contended Florida legislators had placed restrictions on drop boxes, third-party voter registration groups and “line warming” activities with discriminatory intent.
Unusual remedy — The scathing initial ruling from Walker, an Obama appointee, sought to force Florida to get prior approval for the next ten years if it changed those laws again. Many outside observers did not expect Walker’s far-reaching pre-clearance requirement to pass muster, especially from an appeals court where a majority of judges were appointed by Republican presidents.
Rationale — There were a handful of reasons the court listed for why it decided to stay Walker’s ruling while it considers the state’s underlying appeal. The appeals court judges concluded that Walker’s analysis of intentional discrimination was flawed and “problematic” and that he did not give enough “good faith” to legislators.
Additional reason — But the panel of judges also concluded that the ruling came too close to this year’s elections and the court needed to step in to prevent voter confusion. (Let’s point out: The changes contained in SB 90 — particularly the drop box restrictions — have yet to be used in any major election. So most voters will be dealing with changes from 2020 to 2022.)
More to come — It’s improbable that the full appeal will be decided ahead of the fall elections, so this court clash will fade from the headlines for the near future. But there’s just no end in sight in the slew of legal battles that now swirl around the governor and the state. DeSantis, who maintains he will not “back down,” keeps pushing for new laws and policies that trigger legal challenges. He and the GOP-controlled Legislature have won several fights (ex. cruise ship restrictions) but they have also had their fair share of setbacks.
You get a lawsuit and you get a lawsuit — There are more than a dozen active lawsuits — including some filed by Attorney General Ashley Moody with the urging of DeSantis — covering everything from immigration, vaccine passports, redistricting, a crackdown on social media companies, and education, including the state’s contentious “parental rights in education” law dubbed “don’t say gay” by opponents.
Coming to a neighborhood courtroom — And there may be more waiting in the wings, all but guaranteeing another summer of litigation that has become a mainstay with the DeSantis administration. Federal and state courts have already begun to schedule hearings on injunction requests and other elements of these cases so Floridians — and voters — can expect a steady drumbeat of coverage from now until well into next year and beyond (can you say 2024?).
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
— Thanks to Matt Dixon and David Kihara for helping out with Florida Playbook last week.
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EXCHANGE — “Dem senator spars with Fox News host over Florida law,” by POLITICO’s David Cohen: Sen. Chris Murphy sparred with “Fox News Sunday” host Bret Baier over the broader implications of a recently enacted Florida law that has become a focal point of America’s cultural battles. Murphy (D-Conn.), addressing the current mindset of the Republican Party nationally, said he looked at the Florida law referred to in some quarters as the “Don’t Say Gay” law as a sign the GOP has gone off the rails.
INTACT — “Appellate court confirms DeSantis-backed voting law in Florida,” by Washington Post’s Lori Rozsa: “An elections law championed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that critics say will make it harder to vote was upheld by a federal appellate court Friday. The ruling supporting the law, which DeSantis (R) signed during a Fox News appearance last year, means it is likely to be in effect for the midterm elections in November, when DeSantis will be up for reelection.”
TAX TIME — “DeSantis signs $1B-plus tax cut package,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Gov. Ron DeSantis has used the gas tax proposal as a way to highlight rising gas prices under President Joe Biden. During an Ocala press conference he held to sign the tax package, DeSantis said that Biden tapping into the strategic fuel reserve to help with rising fuel costs is a “political stunt.” “I have not seen it under $4-a-gallon for a long time,” DeSantis said. “You have not seen any relief.” Democrats have charged DeSantis and Republican leaders with their own political stunt because it will not take effect until October, which is three months after it could be implemented and one month ahead of the 2022 midterms.
HMM — “The IRS dropped its demand to upload selfies, so why is Florida still requiring them?” by Sun Sentinel’s Ron Hurtibise: “Yet dozens of states, including Florida, that contracted with ID.me to conduct identify verification of applicants for unemployment benefits, have not followed the IRS’ lead and continue to require applicants to upload selfies that remain on ID.me’s servers for years unless users specifically ask for them to be deleted. That doesn’t sit well with privacy advocates and several members of the U.S. House of Representatives who announced an investigation into ID.me’s retention policies and accuracy of its verification process.”
TO COURT — “Women denied entry at Rachel’s strip club will take case to state Supreme Court — again,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Martin E. Comas: “The attorney for two women who were denied entry into an Orlando strip club in 2018 because they weren’t with a man said Friday he plans to take their case to the Florida Supreme Court again because the issue is more than who can have fun at a gentlemen’s club. It’s whether local governments can enact anti-discrimination ordinances that offer more protections than the Florida Civil Rights Act, said Matthew Dietz, a Miami attorney who represents Brittney Smith and Anita Yanes.”
TRANSITIONS — Jimmy Card is the new managing partner of the Tallahassee office of Continental Strategy, the consulting firm with Washington, D.C., and Florida offices that has been staffing up in the last few weeks. The firm — led by former U.S. ambassador and state legislator Carlos Trujillo — announced earlier this month that former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran was joining as an equity partner. Card was previously an associate with Larry J. Overton and Associates and prior to that was director of government relations for HMO Preferred Medical Plan. He also served as legislative staff in both the Florida House and Senate.
— “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs Visit Florida extension,” by News Service of Florida
— “What to do about Broward sheriff, his lies and scalding FDLE report? Three months on, Gov. DeSantis can’t, or won’t, make a decision,” by Florida Bulldog’s Dan Christensen
CRIST RAISES ANOTHER $1M — Rep. Charlie Crist’s campaign for governor raised more than $1 million in the month of April from more than 12,400 donations. the campaign announced on Monday. This is the second month in a row where Crist has raised more than $1 million between his election campaign and his political committee and he has raised more than $9 million total. Fundraising reports for April are due on Tuesday. Crist and other Democrats, however, continue to trail way behind Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
FALLOUT — “Could Supreme Court ruling on abortion endanger state Rep. Chip LaMarca’s re-election?” by Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man: “If a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade sends a wave of outraged abortion-rights supporters to vote this year, there is one political race in Broward County where it could make a difference: The coastal district where Republican state Rep. Chip LaMarca is running for re-election. Democrats, including LaMarca’s opponent, Linda Thompson Gonzalez, think the sudden prominence of abortion rights as an issue could galvanize voters in an area that isn’t dominated by either political party and can swing either way in elections depending on the mood of the voters.”
— “Republican Jay Collins to switch congressional races,” by Tampa Bay Times’ William March
— “Florida Dem’s ‘embarrassing’ Zoom call during House committee meeting may violate ethics rules, watchdog says,” by Fox News’ Thomas Phippen
BREAKING IT DOWN — “Sarasota congressman Greg Steube now represents whitest congressional district in Florida,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson: “The redrawn congressional districts covering Sarasota and Manatee counties remain strongly Republican, according to a new analysis by a Democratic data expert that also shows Sarasota County is now part of the whitest congressional district in Florida. District 17, represented by U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has a 79.4% white voting-age-population under the redistricting map pushed and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. That’s whiter than any other district in Florida, according to the analysis by Matthew Isbell.”
WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET? — “Curious about Trump’s $75K per person Derby fundraiser? We caught up with an attendee,” by Lexington Herald-Leader’s Aaron Mudd: “Retired personal injury attorney Eric Deters, who’s running as a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said the event at Churchill Downs drew about 12 to 15 attendees. None of them were from Kentucky, barring Deters himself, he told the Lexington Herald-Leader over the phone Saturday evening. Deters claimed he was the only Kentucky political candidate to attend the event, which drew notable names like Pam Bondi, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Kari Lake and Matthew Whitaker.”
TRENDLINE — “Florida’s COVID cases jump to highest level in 2 months, but hospitalizations remain low,” by Palm Beach Post’s Chris Persaud: “The latest wave of coronavirus infections is worsening in some parts of Florida, but for the most part remains milder than the omicron surge. State health officials logged the biggest increase in new cases since late February, but hospitalizations remain lower than before the omicron variant engulfed Florida. Florida has logged an average of 29,715 new infections each week since April 22, data released Friday by the state Health Department shows, the biggest jump since Feb. 25.”
JOURNEY — “For Parkland survivor, a long road to recovery from trauma,” by The Associated Press’ Adriana Gomez Licon: “Now, nearly 20 months after the Valentine’s Day massacre where 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a therapist had arrived to send Eden [Hebron] to a mental health facility on the other side of the country. The intervention was her family’s latest and most drastic attempt to help their daughter. Eden, then 16, screamed and tried to reason with her parents. Her life was in Parkland — her school, her friends. She learned she’d be leaving in a couple of hours; she’d have little contact with anyone outside the California facility.”
NEW JOB — “Former Parkland sheriff will head much smaller police force,” by The Associated Press: “The Florida sheriff ostracized for his agency’s response to the high school massacre in Parkland that left 17 people dead will again be heading a law enforcement agency as the police chief of a small South Florida municipality. Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was appointed police chief of Opa-locka in an announcement made by city manager Darvin Williams at a ceremony Friday. Opa-locka is part of Miami-Dade County.”
NATIONAL ATTENTION — “As community veers right, political division tears apart Sarasota, Fla.,” by Washington Post’s Tim Craig: “During the three-hour meeting, a conservative school board member insulted the board’s attorney for second-guessing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). A teacher made an emotional plea for help, saying that false accusations of wrongdoing were crippling her and other educators’ ability to teach. At one point, four police officers had to usher a parent from the meeting after being accused of derogatory behavior.”
New normal? — “Residents here say this level of rancor in local government is no longer uncommon. From county commission meetings to neighborhood association gatherings, Sarasota County has become an example of just how deeply the nation’s partisan divisions are bleeding into local government, curdling the relationship between residents and their civic leaders.”
‘THIS IS JUST HORRIFIC’ — “Investigation: Recruits walk off job within months of joining Broward’s troubled 911 call centers,” by Sun Sentinel’s Eileen Kelley, Brittany Wallman, Lisa J. Huriash and Spencer Norris: “Broward County’s 911 system is in crisis. It’s struggling under the weight of an extraordinary volume of calls, more than 2.2 million a year, with nowhere near the number of employees needed to answer them. Without enough workers, the phones just ring. It’s easy to see why: Records show that 911 call center staffers in Broward are eyeing the exits almost as soon as they start on the job.”
‘WOKEWASHING’ — “Nicolás Maduro tries a new PR campaign: Going woke,” by POLITICO’s Tony Frangie Mawad: But the group of Americans sitting across from Maduro weren’t diplomats. The U.S. cut ties with the Maduro government three years ago. Rather, they were representatives of the Democratic Socialists of America — the rising American political organization that includes four House Democrats among its members. The delegates sat deferentially during the appearance and, afterward, expressed admiration for Maduro. “Who I met is not a dictator,” tweeted Austin González, one of the delegates. “I met a humble man who cares deeply about his people.”
— “Dolphins CEO: ‘We’re not going to make money on first Miami GP. ‘Ask me after Year 2,” by Miami Herald’s Dave Wilson
— “Hamilton visited by Michelle Obama, speaks on Roe v. Wade,” by The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer
— “Before Miami Grand Prix, Formula 1 driver leads climate change roundtable,” by Palm Beach Post’s Antonio Fins
— “Federal court: Sarasota man found guilty of running $80 million Ponzi scheme,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Melissa Pérez-Carrillo
— “4 East Tampa homes may sit atop a Black cemetery with 430 graves,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Paul Guzzo
— “Former UF student accused in terror case attempts to convert trial judge to Islam,” by Fresh Take Florida’s Meleah Lyden
— “‘Dark times’: Fire destroys Tallahassee Jewish center; cause of overnight blaze unclear,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s William L. Hatfield
— “Lifetime will make TV movie about death of North Port’s Gabby Petito,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Jay Handelman: “Less than a year since the disappearance and murder of 22-year-old Gabby Petito of North Port, Lifetime has announced it is making a TV movie about the case that triggered a national search and widespread interest last fall. Lifetime said Emmy-nominated actress Thora Birch, who has been seen in ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Ghost World,’ will make her directorial debut with the film, tentatively titled ‘The Gabby Petito Story,’ and will play the Nicole Schmidt, the mother of the social media influencer.”
BIRTHDAYS: Bill Herrle, NFIB’s executive director in Florida … Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey … (Was Sunday) Rep. Vern Buchanan … The Ledger’s Kimberly Moore … (Was Saturday) Rep. Ted Deutch … Rep. Matt Gaetz … Former state Sen. Lisa Carlton