First Read for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

The must-read morning roundup of Florida politics and government.

Good morning. It’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Florida Holocaust Museum’s online resource library includes a host of virtual exhibits and Holocaust survivor testimonial videos.


As a result of the beefing up of security at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, death penalty opponents say they’ve been shut out of the area they’ve used since the 1970s to quietly protest. 

Members of Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty have long held candlelight prayer vigils outside the mansion before a scheduled execution. Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed a death warrant for Donald David Dillbeck, convicted of fatally stabbing a woman in 1990. His Feb. 23 execution will be the first in Florida since Gary Ray Bowles was put to death in June 2019, the Associated Press reported

The mansion’s security perimeter has grown in the last couple of years to encompass the green in front where a bronze sculpture by artist Sandy Proctor depicts kids and their pooch “in a friendly game of ‘Follow the Leader,’ ” the mansion’s website explains. An FDLE spokeswoman previously told City & State the agency bought and erected new “barricades on the property in 2020 after demonstrators vandalized the area during a protest.” 

That included “spraypaint(ing) the lenses of security cameras,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported. (See local coverage here, here and here.) Then the barricades were “pushed outward following a vulnerability study.” But, the agency added, the “new placement … allows for a dedicated freedom of speech area.”

– Jim Rosica


* WHO’S UP? WHO’S DOWN? Find out in this week’s Winners & Losers.

* VOUCHER BILL: A proposal that would massively expand eligibility for school vouchers began moving forward in the Florida House, with the Republican sponsor touting it as a way to provide “customized” education and Democrats questioning its lack of income requirements.


* DeSantis unveiled a tough-on-crime agenda for the upcoming legislative session, including proposals to expand the death penalty to certain types of sex crimes and mandating life sentences for selling fentanyl that looks like candy to children, the Miami Herald reports

* In a top priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a new legislative proposal seeks to address housing affordability and make it possible for workers to live near where they are employed, the News Service of Florida reports

* State officials want to “curb” activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion at public colleges and universities, but the top official overseeing Florida's university system says some of the programs called into question do have value, WLRN reports

* The College Board defended its African American Studies Advanced Placement course by rebuking claims that Florida or other states have influenced its new framework that has yet to be unveiled, Politico reports.

* Republican leadership of the Florida House has posted flyers throughout the Capitol showing staffers what to wear and what not to wear, including a ban on shoes with no socks, Florida Politics reports

More news below …


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* Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Florida Public Defender Association asked the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee to do more to help them fill vacancies in state prosecutors and public defenders offices, the Florida Bar News reports.

* The American Association of University Professors said it plans to formally investigate “an apparent pattern of politically and racially motivated attacks on higher education” in Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

* The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s longtime Inspector General Michael Troelstrup resigned before an investigation found he had an improper relationship with a FWC officer’s wife, the Orlando Sentinel reports

* U.S. Reps. Jared Moskowitz and Maxwell Frost are asking congressional leaders to quickly organize a closed-door briefing for members of Congress on mass shootings, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports

* Top officials from Manatee County Schools said they never told teachers to cover the books they typically made available to students in their classrooms, but a document shows they did, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports


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The governor held a press conference in Miami, the only item on his official schedule for Thursday. 


* DeSantis is backing a change at the top of the Republican National Committee ahead of Friday’s election, saying he likes what he's hearing from challenger Harmeet Dhillon, Axios reports

* Donald Trump has announced that he is endorsing Joe Gruters, a longtime ally of the former president and sometime foe of DeSantis, in his bid to become treasurer of the Republican National Committee, Newsweek reports

* With DeSantis hogging the 2024 spotlight, national reporters are looking to Florida – and sometimes getting it all wrong, Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch writes

* The pandemic is central to DeSantis’ brand, but will voters still care in 2024? Polls show other issues have long replaced the coronavirus pandemic as the public’s top concern, the Tampa Bay Times’ Emily Mahoney writes.

* U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said he would run for reelection in 2024, forgoing a presidential campaign in favor of seeking his second term in the U.S. Senate, the Miami Herald reports


* The major complaints against DeSantis are B.S., and neither he nor the Union League of Philadelphia – which awarded him its highest honor this week – got a fair shake from protesters or most of the Philadelphia news media, the Bykofsky Blog’s Stu Bykofsky writes

* The irony of DeSantis’ war on critical race theory is that it happens to be an excellent intellectual framework for understanding DeSantis himself, Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine

* Florida is right in its recent ban of an Advanced Placement course in African American Studies, which Kathleen Brush calls a “Trojan horse,” she writes for The Florida Standard

* DeSantis is only the most prominent example of Republican lawmakers claiming to fight “woke ideology,” “wokeness,” or the “woke left,” and though occasionally pressed to provide definitions, politicians are strategically vague, Samuel L. Perry and Eric L. McDaniel write in Time magazine

* Judging from Trump-to-Biden swing voters across Florida that were focus-grouped on Jan. 10, DeSantis’ messaging against ‘wokeness’ may not be getting through, Rich Thau writes for The Bulwark


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To Doug Bell of Metz, Husband & Daughton  … to Laura Boehmer of The Southern Group …  to former U.S. Rep. John Mica … to Gainesville City Commissioner Bryan Eastman … to Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners. 

On SATURDAY, to Reginald Darby, president and CEO of Rosewood Strategies … to Helen Kalla, former deputy communications director with the DCCC and now senior director at Lot Sixteen … to Jason Lyons, chairman of Lyons Capital. 

On SUNDAY, to State Rep. Christopher Benjamin … to John Bozzo, former staff writer for Daytona Beach News-Journal … to Natalie Kelly, CEO of the Florida Association of Managing Entities. 

ON THE MOVE: The Tucker/Hall public affairs firm announced that its vice president Theresa Collington joined the Florida Aviation Business Association Board.

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, D-Fla., announced his appointment to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee. 

HCA Healthcare North Florida Division announced the appointment of Chris Mosley as CEO of HCA Florida Capital Hospital, starting in early March.

Gov. DeSantis has rounded out senior management in his administration, Florida Politics reports, with the appointments of Jason Weida as the new head of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Taylor Hatch as head of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and Laura DiBella to lead Enterprise Florida (EFI). Also, Freddie Figgers was tapped to serve as Vice Chair of the EFI Board.

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“I’m going to continue to push it. I tell people these are my ideas. Let’s start fighting over ideas.”

– U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, via the Orlando Sentinel, on how he will still advance his “Rescue America” plan, which has been criticized by members of both political parties.