First Read for Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023

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

Good morning. It’s National Gourmet Coffee Day. Florida consumes the 9th most coffee per capita, with the state’s favorite drink being the iced latte macchiato. The state also is home to almost 800 Starbucks locations.


The state Cabinet approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’ requests to appoint Mark Glass as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and former Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner as executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, also approved Brian Newman as chief judge of the state Division of Administrative Hearings. 

All three appointments were approved without comment by Cabinet members. Glass began serving as interim FDLE commissioner in May and was tapped by DeSantis in August for the permanent post. Previously, Glass served as director of the Capitol Police. Kerner, a Democrat, crossed party lines to support DeSantis in last year’s election. He was a member of the state House before serving on the Palm Beach County Commission. 

Terry Rhodes, who served as executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles during DeSantis' first term, announced last month that she was stepping down. Newman became acting chief judge of the Division of Administrative hearings last summer and has been an administrative law judge since 2019. 

Former Chief Judge Pete Antonacci was appointed in July by DeSantis as director of the state’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security. Antonacci died after taking over the elections post. While DeSantis has authority to appoint most department heads, some appointments require Cabinet approval.

– The News Service of Florida


* FIRED UP: Moved by environmental and health concerns, action by state officials to ban natural gas in buildings is heating up. But not in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is defending gas stoves.

* IMMIGRATION ON TRIAL: A four-day trial in Florida’s challenge to federal immigration policies ended last week in Pensacola, setting the stage for a U.S. district judge to issue a ruling.


The Florida Women Power 100

* Who are the most influential women in Florida politics and government? City & State Florida's Women Power 100 identifies the most important government officials, high-powered lobbyists, leaders of the worlds of business, nonprofits, strategic messaging and social justice in the arena of Sunshine State politics and policy.

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* DeSantis announced legislation that would make permanent a ban on companies requiring employees to wear masks or be vaccinated for COVID-19 and added a new ban on medical boards reprimanding doctors for spreading COVID misinformation, the Miami Herald reports.

* A proposal began moving in the Florida House that would allow colleges and universities to steer endorsement deals and compensation opportunities toward student-athletes, the News Service of Florida reports

* A top corrections official told lawmakers that despite record pay increases for state corrections officers, Florida’s prisons continue to have significant vacancies, the Florida Phoenix reports.

* A new House panel is delving into issues affecting Florida’s military veterans, and lawmakers are learning that the relevant state agencies still need resources to deal with the state’s growing population, Florida Politics reports

* A judge tasked with investigating a campaign finance scandal involving former state representative and Miami Beach commissioner Michael Grieco is recommending a 90-day suspension of Grieco’s law license, the Tampa Bay Times reports

More news below …


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* The Palm Beach County School District is taking a closer look at a plan that could allow for staff members to carry guns on campus, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports

* Seminole County’s teachers union, upset by what its members view as a paltry raise proposal, ended negotiations with the school district in the fall and last week pleaded its case before an arbitrator, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

* Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright could be fired next week for a second time under a proposal by new School Board member Allen Zeman, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports

* Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse will be on trial next month to dispute a driving under the influence charge from the 12th Judicial District State Attorney's Office, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

* A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Leon County Schools about speaking to a teen about gender identity without parental permission – a requirement under Florida's Parental Rights in Education law, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.


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The governor on Tuesday met with Communications Director Taryn Fenske, Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Smith and Cabinet Affairs Director Cody Farrill, attended the Florida Cabinet meeting, later met with Director of Policy & Budget Chris Spencer, Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, then held a press conference in Panama City Beach, according to his official schedule. 


* Former President Donald Trump phoned into the conservative podcast “The Water Cooler” and issued a warning to prospective presidential rival from Florida, saying he’ll “handle” him if DeSantis runs for president in 2024, Business Insider reports.

* Speaking of which, here are all the ways that Trump could “handle” DeSantis in a potential 2024 primary matchup, Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin writes.

* Trump will be joined by two of his highest-profile South Carolina supporters, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Henry McMaster, at the first public campaign event of his 2024 White House bid later this month, the Associated Press reports.

* Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to Trump, met with the Manhattan district attorney’s office – the clearest sign that prosecutors are zeroing in on the Trump Organization’s involvement in hush-money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, CNN reports.


* The New College of Florida, the latest battle in DeSantis’ ongoing crusade against “wokeness,” is getting a lot of attention as the plan to transform the liberal school turns it into a political kickball, The Bulwark’s Cathy Young writes

* Additional deaths from Hurricane Ian highlight how lawmakers must get it right as they prepare for a legislative session that includes two committees focused on hurricanes and resiliency, the Miami Herald editorial board writes.

* Florida now has a whopping 5,294 posted teacher vacancies – more than triple the number the state had five years ago – and the attack on teachers and low salaries is to blame, the Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell writes.

* Nearly a century later, not everyone remembers the lessons of Rosewood and some try hard to forget the tragedy and what it represents in Florida’s history, the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board writes.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To former Florida House Speaker Larry Cretul … to former U.S.  Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell … to Stacey Rubenfeld, former chief advancement officer at Jewish Federation of Broward County.

ON THE MOVE: Ben Gibson is taking over as managing partner of the Shutts & Bowen law firm’s Tallahassee office, Florida Politics reports. Gibson, a senior member of the firm’s Governmental Law Practice group, succeeds Jason Gonzalez. In a Facebook post, Gonzalez said he would have “a major announcement in the coming days.” 

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) announced the installation of its 2023 Board of Directors Executive Committee: Chair, John Horne, Owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bars, Bradenton region, and Café L’Europe, Sarasota; Vice Chair, Roger Amidon, General Manager for Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa; Secretary/Treasurer and Restaurant Director: Nick Sarra, Chief Operating Officer, Saltwater Restaurants, Inc.; Destin Lodging Director: Barbara Bowden, Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando; Restaurant Director: Henry Delgado, Managing Partner, Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group; Miami Beach Lodging Director: Lisa Lombardo, Chief Culture and Strategy Officer, HDG Hotels, Ocala. 

India Steinbaugh, formerly with the Florida Senate, has joined the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as cabinet affairs director. 

Florida State University President Richard McCullough announced the selection of Susannah Wesley-Ahlschwede as the university’s first-ever Chief Marketing Officer.

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YOUR MESSAGE HERE: City & State First Read is the must-read morning roundup of Florida politics and government. Reaching thousands of subscribers each morning, it's the most effective and targeted digital ad venue to get your message in front of city and state elected officials, agency and industry leaders, and the staff, advocates, media and operatives who drive the issues of the day – all by 7 a.m. each weekday. For advertising information, please email:



"I hear he might want to run against me. So we'll handle that the way I handle things.”

– Former President Donald Trump, via Business Insider, on what he will do if Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis runs against him for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.