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
Hello and welcome to Wednesday.
Viewpoint — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, appearing in one of his familiar and comfortable slots on Fox News, suggested last night that he was opposed to the signing of new congressional legislation enshrining federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.
On message— The main topic for DeSantis’ appearance on Laura Ingraham’s program to was to discuss “Covid accountability” and his request to have a statewide grand jury look at “criminal or wrongful activity” related to the “development, promotion and distribution of vaccines.”
Pivot— But at the end of the segment, Ingraham switched over to matters in Washington, D.C., including the measure signed into law with great fanfare on Tuesday by President Joe Biden. That law was passed on a bipartisan vote, including from three Florida Republicans.
He said— DeSantis didn’t come out with sharp-edged opposition but contended that the new law could cause problems for religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage. “They are using the power, I think, of the federal government in ways that will absolutely put religious institutions in difficult spots if you have people that are so inclined to be very aggressive against that,” he told Ingraham. “There was certainly no need to do this and I do think that those concerns were valid.”
For the record— While DeSantis has immersed himself on many cultural issues in what appears to be a steady march to a presidential campaign, he’s not really weighed in directly on the issue of same-sex marriage. Florida has a ban on same-sex marriage that is included in the state constitution, but that ban was knocked down by a federal court ruling in 2014 and ultimately the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official for Gov. DeSantis.
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COVID-19 PLAYBOOK — The big story of the day for Florida’s governor (special session? What special session?) was his request to the state Supreme Court — done in concert with Attorney General Ashley Moody — to convene a grand jury to look at the development, promotion and distribution of vaccines. DeSantis’ Covid-19 anti-lockdown, anti-mandate stances are well-known and gotten him plenty of attention. But this marks a new chapter.
What’s interesting is that DeSantis himself went to the White House when Donald Trump was still in office to tout the push to develop vaccines. And DeSantis pushed early on to promote distribution of the vaccine, especially to senior citizens in the state and he even got into dust-ups with the media over the rollout.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the coverage:
THE PUSH— “DeSantis calls for grand jury to investigate Covid-19 vaccines,” by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to empanel a grand jury to investigate “wrongdoing” linked to the Covid-19 vaccines, including spreading false and misleading claims about the efficacy of the doses. Most of the medical community, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA and Johns Hopkins, have emphasized that the Covid vaccine is safe and effective in preventing the virus and protecting against serious symptoms. But DeSantis said during a live-streamed round table discussion with Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo that it’s against Florida law to mislead the public, especially when it comes to drug safety.
Response— In response to DeSantis, Sharon J. Castillo, a Pfizer spokesperson, wrote in an email that Pfizer’s vaccine has been approved by regulatory agencies across the world. “These authorizations are based on robust and independent evaluation of the scientific data on quality, safety and efficacy, including our landmark phase 3 clinical trial,” Castillo wrote.
Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign rally, Nov. 7, 2022, in Hialeah, Fla. The long-rumored memoir by Gov. DeSantis is coming out next year. The HarperCollins imprint Broadside will release “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival” on Feb. 28. The announcement, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 comes in the wake of DeSantis’ decisive reelection victory and will likely add to speculation that he plans a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) | AP
THE POLITICAL ANGLE— “Ron DeSantis outflanks Trump on the right with his call for COVID vaccine probe,” by NBC News’ Marc Caputo: For about a year, Donald Trump’s confidants, advisers and boosters have worried that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was positioning himself to get to the right of the former president over the issue of Covid vaccines. DeSantis, who is mulling whether to challenge Trump in the 2024 Republican primary for president, deepened those suspicions Tuesday.
Trump world view— “‘This is a shot across the bow. We know exactly what Ron is up to,” said another Trump adviser who spoke more bluntly, but on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak freely. ‘The fact is, we’ve seen this coming for a year, ever since Ron started to get anti-vax,’ the Republican said, explaining the governor’s opposition to the vaccine. ‘Yes, there’s a portion of our base that is anti-vax and some people could walk away from Trump over it. That’s why Ron is doing it. It’s so transparent.’”
— “DeSantis again threatens legal action with eye on 2024,” by Washington Post’s Philip Bump
— “DeSantis targets Covid vaccine manufacturers and CDC in latest anti-vaccine moves,” by CNN’s Eric Brander and Kit Maher
— “DeSantis requests statewide grand jury to investigate COVID-19 vaccine ‘wrongdoing,’” by USA Today Network-Florida’s Zac Anderson
— “DeSantis requests grand jury probe on COVID-19 vaccines,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Romy Ellenbogen
— “DeSantis forms panel to counter CDC, a move decried by health professionals,” by Washington Post’s Lori Rozsa
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DESANTIS > TRUMP— “Trump in trouble: Republican support for his 2024 bid falls amid political, legal setbacks,” by USA Today’s Susan Page: “Republican support for Donald Trump’s presidential bid in 2024 has cratered, an exclusive USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, as the former president is beleaguered by midterm losses and courtroom setbacks. By 2-1, GOP and GOP-leaning voters now say they want Trump’s policies but a different standard-bearer to carry them. While 31% want the former president to run, 61% prefer some other Republican nominee who would continue the policies Trump has pursued. They have a name in mind: Two-thirds of Republicans and those inclined to vote Republican want Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president. By double digits, 56% to 33%, they prefer DeSantis over Trump.”
— “Ryan Ray, aide to City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, elected Democratic Executive Committee chair,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew
WORDS MATTER — “You say progressive, yo digo progresista: Losses divide Florida’s Latino Democrats,” by WLRN’s Tim Padgett: “To the ears of many Cubans, Venezuelans or Colombians here — people whose families often fled leftist dictatorships or guerrillas in Latin America — progresista can (and often does) mean socialist or communist. ‘The Democratic Party needs to understand that in Florida, calling themselves progresista shows a lack of cultural sensitivity,’ insists Evelyn Perez-Verdia, a Democrat who heads the communications consulting firm We Are Más in Fort Lauderdale. Perez-Verdia, one of the most vocal critics of progresistas, says her own family was harassed by Marxist guerrillas in Colombia when she was a girl.”
DAY 2— GOP-backed insurance reform bill teed-up for final passage, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: An all-day slug fest over property insurance engulfed the Florida Capitol Tuesday as reform legislation Republicans say will stabilize the state’s imploding marketplace is almost set to be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis over the opposition of Democrats, who say it’s an insurance industry giveaway. The two visions for reform could not be more different.
Add it up— The Senate passed his bill on a 27-13 vote, with Democrat Linda Stewart of Orlando the only Democrat voting for the bill, and Republican Sens. Erin Grall of Vero Beach and Ileana Garcia of Miami siding with Democrats. But what Boyd and Republican majorities see as making things easier for insurance companies as a way to lower double and triple digit rate increases, Democrats view as a giveaway to insurance companies at the expense of policyholders who will now likely see near-term rate increases and will have fewer options to sue their insurance companies.
— “Florida Senate approves insurance overhaul that hits homeowners hard,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy and Douglas Soule
— “Florida insurance fees, company payouts a ‘problem,’ GOP lawmaker says,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Lawrence Mower
— “Florida Senate oks insurance bail-out with no promises for policyholders,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jeffrey Schweers
MEANWHILE — “Is Florida’s top insurance regulator leaving his job?” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton: “During discussion on SB 2A, Sen. Lori Berman said it had come to her attention that [Florida Insurance Commissioner David] Altmaier was ‘leaving the office very shortly’ and asked him about his departure date. But committee Chairman Travis Hutson told Berman to stick to questions about SB 2A. She told Hutson that the information is relevant because the [Office of Insurance Regulation] is slated to be sharing data from an industry data call with the Legislature this spring as part of SB 76, which was passed by the Legislature in 2021. Altmaier did not deny he was leaving and told Berman the OIR will share the data with the Legislature no matter who is in charge.”
FALLOUT — “High costs force some homeowners to choose: Drop insurance, sell or leave Florida,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas: “Florida’s property insurance market continues to buckle, thousands of homeowners across the state are increasingly choosing to forgo insurance, sell their homes or even leave Florida. That is the conclusion of Tasha Carter, Florida’s insurance consumer advocate, who said Tuesday that she is in “in communication with consumers daily who are absolutely worried about losing their homes because they cannot afford their homeowners insurance premiums.”
‘THEY’RE A DANGER’ — Lawmakers seek to ban TikTok from U.S., by POLITICO’s Rebecca Kern and Gavin Bade: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and a bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would ban the Chinese-owned viral video-sharing app TikTok from the United States. But, crucially, the measure still lacks a Democratic sponsor in the Senate.
Striking back — It marks the latest political attack on TikTok, which is owned by parent company Beijing-based ByteDance, and is another sign of growing skepticism among U.S. policymakers toward Chinese social media and technology firms. “They’re collecting massive amounts of data on individual Americans, that lends itself to all sorts of things in the short and long term,” Rubio said on Capitol Hill last week. “They’re a danger to the country, and I just think that’s a company that shouldn’t be allowed to operate in the U.S.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks with reporters on his way to a vote at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 28, 2022. | Francis Chung/POLITICO
— “Pulse survivor to speak before Congress amid rising anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric, violence,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Amanda Rabines
— “Florida Democratic leaders react to Joe Biden signing bill protecting same-sex, interracial marriage,” by Florida Politics’ Jesse Scheckner
AS THE PAGES TURN — “House committee asks National Archives to review Trump storage unit,” by Washington Post’s Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey: “The House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the National Archives on Tuesday requesting a review to determine whether former president Donald Trump has retained any additional presidential records at his storage facility in Florida. The request from the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), follows a report from The Washington Post that at least two items marked classified were found by an outside team hired by Trump to search a storage unit, along with at least two of his properties, after his legal team was pressed by a federal judge to attest that it had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings.”
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FINGER POINTING— EPA asks court to reject lawsuit over manatee deaths and water quality, by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking a federal court to reject requests by environmental groups to order that new water quality standards be set in response to manatee deaths in 2021. In a legal memorandum filed Monday, the EPA said evidence provided by the Save the Manatee Club and other groups pointed blame at the state rather than the federal agency.
ROUND AND ROUND— Broward reinstates school chief ousted by DeSantis appointees, by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: Broward County’s school board on Tuesday reinstated Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, reversing a decision from the previous administration in November to fire the embattled schools chief. Cartwright, however, is still in jeopardy of ultimately losing her job and will face scrutiny from the board next month when her contract is once again up for discussion. The school district, Florida’s second largest with more than 256,000 students, in the meantime will continue to lead a national search for a possible new superintendent, the board decided by a 5-3 vote.
FLAGGED— “Which flags can be flown in a Miami-Dade classroom? School Board to address controversy,” by Miami Herald’s Sommer Brugal: “The Miami-Dade County School Board on Wednesday will consider a measure that wld allow only the American flag and the official motto of the State of Florida be displayed in classrooms and on school district grounds — one month after a nearly identical item was withdrawn from the board’s agenda after pushback from the community and a canceled board workshop.
Solo acts— “The policy, proffered by newly sworn-in board member Roberto Alonso, seeks to ensure the district is complying with board policy that requires the American flag be visible in classrooms and to prohibit any flags unrelated to the curriculum — flags from another country in a world history class, a Black Lives Matter flag or a rainbow flag to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month, for example — from being displayed throughout the year.
— “Hillsborough School Board struggles to keep up with state laws on gender, race,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Marlene Sokol
FOR YOUR RADAR — “‘Multiple migrant landings’: Feds report big jump in people coming to Florida from Cuba,” by FLKeysNews.com’s David Goodhue: “On Sunday, almost 80 people from Cuba arrived aboard homemade vessels in four separate landings, the Border Patrol said in a statement. There were also several landings Monday, and several interceptions at sea offshore of the Keys by U.S. Coast Guard crews. Since Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, the Border Patrol took custody of about 2,350 migrants, mostly from Cuba, who made landfall in South Florida, mostly in the Keys. During the same time frame last year, that number was just under 500 people.”
— “With success of Artemis I, when will NASA fly Artemis II?” by Orlando Sentinel’s Richard Tribou
— “Florida company picked as engine designer for supersonic jet,” by The Associated Press’ David Koenig
— “Jury finds Hugo Chavez’s ex-nurse guilty of money laundering,” by The Associated Press’ Joshua Goodman
— “Rent hikes cooling in South Florida after pandemic free-for-all,” by Palm Beach Post’s Kimberly Miller
— “GOP-leaning Pinellas commission picks Democratic chair, has first spat,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jack Evans
— “State ethics commission finds ‘probable cause’ Naples mayor misused her power,” by Naples Daily News’ Laura Layden
BIRTHDAYS: State Rep. David Borrero … former Rep. Sandy Adams … Dinah Voyles Pulver, investigative and environmental reporter USA Today
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