First Read for Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023

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

Good morning. It’s Groundhog Day. Regardless of whether the animal sees its shadow, the Sunshine State doesn’t experience its spring till March.

FIRST UP

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is hitting the road again for politics – and books. He’ll be the featured guest at the Dallas County (Texas) Republican Party’s Reagan Day Dinner on Saturday, March 4. Journalist Mark Halperin surfaced an invitation to the event on Twitter, which is promoted on the county party’s website

Halperin says the appearance is “part of a national book tour that is going to be a key look at some metrics & color of a potential presidential campaign.” DeSantis’ upcoming book, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival,” is expected to be released Feb. 28. 

“Since becoming governor of the Sunshine State, he has fought – and won – battle after battle, defeating not just opposition from the political left, but a barrage of hostile media coverage proclaiming the end of the world,” the book’s website says. The invitation adds, “You will not want to miss hearing Governor DeSantis discuss the ‘Freedom Blueprint,’ the bold policy agenda he delivered for the people of Florida.”

Tickets for the Reagan Day Dinner start at $500 each, all the way up to the $50,000 Platinum Sponsorship, which includes a “VIP photo reception” for up to 10 people and “10 complimentary signed copies” of the governor’s new book. “The dinner is expected to sell out,” the website says. 

– Jim Rosica

FROM CITY & STATE 

* ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: University of Florida Provost Joe Glover said the school is aiming to build the “nation’s first AI university,” using the technology in the curriculum and to help campus operations.

* COURSE CONTROVERSY: After state education officials rejected an Advanced Placement African American studies course, The College Board released a new framework that appears to have dropped content that drew objections from the state.

* ICYMI FROM YESTERDAY: In this City & State analysis, the governor's proposed state spending plan for next year – dubbed ‘Framework for Freedom’ – also looks like a framework for a 2024 run for the White House

NEW THIS MORNING

* Dubbing it the “framework for freedom,” Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed a nearly $114.8 billion budget for next year that includes a variety of tax cuts and more money for such things as teacher pay, the News Service of Florida reports.

* The governor said a bill to give the state of Florida control of Disney’s Reedy Creek special district is in the works but he gave few new details about how it would work, the Orlando Sentinel reports

* DeSantis has been eyeing a run for president, but he’s not waiting until 2024 to assert one of the most contested legal rights associated with that office – executive privilege, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

* Richard Corcoran, the incoming interim president of New College of Florida, has been a long-time power player in conservative Florida politics, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

* Florida’s eight Democratic members of Congress called on DeSantis and state legislative leaders to reform state laws to protect children from sex trafficking, citing a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation published late last year, the newspaper reports.

More news below …

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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: advertising@cityandstatefl.com

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* Florida fentanyl deaths surged 10% from 2020 to 2021, and state leaders and harm reduction advocates continue to disagree on how to fight overdoses, the Tallahassee Democrat reports

* Michael Grieco, former Miami Beach commissioner and Democratic state representative, now is running for Miami Beach Mayor, Florida Politics reports.  

* A spike in interest rates and construction costs didn’t slow development much in South Florida, as construction starts shot up 35% in the tri-county region in 2022, the South Florida Business Journal reports

* Mike Suarez, a former Tampa City Council member now running to rejoin the board, owed over $60K in federal income taxes but said he sent a check to the federal government pay off all of it, the Tampa Bay Times reports

* Manatee County commissioners have expressed an appetite to push back against a "woke agenda" in the county library system as they prepare to open a new $18 million library, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports

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DESANTIS WATCH 

The governor began his day with a meeting with Policy & Budget Director Chris Spencer before a morning press conference announcing his proposed budget plan. Later, he had a call with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, then had meetings with Communications Director Taryn Fenske and External Affairs Director Savannah Kelly Jefferson, according to his official schedule. 

2024 ROUNDUP

* Republican former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, an FSU grad, said he is giving “very serious consideration” to running for president in 2024, adding he does not expect former President Trump to become the Republican nominee, the Hill reports

* Trump might win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but it is a mistake to think this primary contest will be the same as in 2016, the National Review’s Dan McLaughlin writes

* Republicans won’t be fooled by Trump’s effort to rewrite the history of the pandemic in his brazen attacks on DeSantis, Rich Lowry writes in Politico.

* Trump's Save America leadership PAC paid at least $132,000 to Melania Trump's former hairdresser in 2022, dubbing the expenditure as payment for "strategy consulting," Fox News reports

ANALYSIS & OPINION 

* For all of the high passion on display during the New College of Florida Board of Trustees' meeting, the first formal steps of the insurgence were a study in dispassionate choreography, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board writes

* A proposed Republican “border security” plan, now stalled in the U.S. House, is so extreme that even some members of the party – namely Miami-Dade’s Maria Elvira Salazar – have denounced it, the Miami Herald editorial board writes

* Although DeSantis and his allies have insisted that they are not against teaching “the history of African Americans,” their rhetoric suggests they’re hostile to the idea of treating Black studies as a field of study, author Mark Whitaker writes in the Washington Post

* State legislators may be running out of everyday Floridians to mess with, so they’ve decided to go after each other for their dress code, the Palm Beach Post’s Frank Cerabino writes.

ANNOUNCEMENTS 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To Matthew Bogdanoff, Florida regional director at the Republican Jewish Coalition … to former state lawmaker Evelyn Lynn … to Katie Webb, shareholder and head of Colodny Fass’ Lobbying and Governmental Consulting Division in Tallahassee. 

ON THE MOVE: After a brief stint in radio at Delaware Public Media, Rebecca Baer rejoined The Florida Channel as a reporter and anchor. Her first day back was last Friday; she first started at The Florida Channel 10 years ago. 

Team 180 Consulting announced the hiring of Anna Higgins J.D., who has more than a decade of state and federal experience, as senior advisor. Her specialty areas include legislative lobbying and analysis, as well as general budget appropriations.

The Florida Center for Government Accountability announced a merger with Citizens for Government Accountability/SW Florida (formerly Women for Better Lee).  It will be bringing on former Women for Better Lee board member Jan Sommer to its board of trustees.

HAPPENING NOW: Florida Prepaid College Plans has kicked off its annual open enrollment, allowing families to purchase a prepaid plan that locks in future tuition at today’s prices (starting at $45/month). Families that purchase a tuition plan in February will get a $50 gift card.

Have a birthday, career change, birth, death or life event to announce? Email us: editor@cityandstatefl.com

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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: advertising@cityandstatefl.com

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KICKER

“We are not going to have a corporation controlling its own government. Disney will not have self-governing status anymore.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis, via City & State Florida, committing to back a bill to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. 

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