Florida takes a redistricting detour- POLITICO

Good Wednesday morning.

Limbo — We’re just 23 days into this year’s legislative session and — thanks to a new skirmish over congressional maps — there’s no sense of when and how it will end.

First try — Gov. Ron DeSantis tried to jump into the redistricting process last month when he rolled out his own proposed map, one that gave Republicans a better advantage than the one being considered in the state Senate. The state Senate responded by ignoring the governor and passing their own map, which will likely increase the GOP margin by one if it becomes law.

Second try — Well, the governor decided to get some backup. On Tuesday, he asked the Florida Supreme Court — which automatically reviews legislative redistricting maps, not congressional — whether the 200-mile-long district now held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat from Tallahassee, needed to be kept intact to meet the voter-approved Fair Districts standards designed to prevent the “diminishment” of districts with large concentrations of minority voters.

Do not go — The Florida House responded to the governor’s actions by essentially shutting down any consideration of a congressional map until the court rules. Well now… how long will that be? Let’s understand: The justices on the court could tell the governor that it has no reason to dive into redistricting right now. The governor requested an advisory opinion, and he even he acknowledged in his filing the court could refuse to consider it. But the court could also order up legal briefs and hold a hearing, which just delays final resolution.

Taking a chance — It’s still an interesting play of course. DeSantis knows he’s changed the composition of the court, and that some of the conservative justices there — such as Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston — did not agree with the map approved by the court back in 2015 that included the current configuration of Lawson’s district. If the court agrees with the governor, it gives the Legislature a green light to tamper with it.

In the air tonight — Lawson called the governor’s action “an assault on the rights of Black and minority voters” and vowed to fight. Yes, it can be argued redistricting was always destined to wind up in court. But the bottom line is that Senate President Wilton Simpson and Senate Republicans wanted redistricting to go as smoothly as possible so legislators could end session on time and start campaigning. Well, so much for that.

— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.

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NEW DRAMA — “Florida halts redistricting effort after DeSantis asks Florida Supreme Court to weigh in,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in another sign that he may veto a new congressional map being drawn by the state Legislature, asked the state’s highest court on Tuesday to tell him whether or not a 200-mile congressional district linking Black neighborhoods must be kept intact. The governor’s move brought ongoing redistricting efforts in Florida to a screeching halt as the Republican-controlled state House said it would not move forward on a new draft congressional map while it waits until the Florida Supreme Court “issues any guidance.”

PUSHING AHEAD ON LEGISLATIVE MAP — “House sets up maps for final vote over Democrats’ race concerns,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: The Florida House on Tuesday set up for a final vote the redrawn version of its political lines, a vote likely to come with overwhelming opposition from Democrats, who are vastly outnumbered in the chamber. The proposal would enshrine another 10 years of GOP dominance in the Florida House, which was an expected outcome in a chamber that has seen Republican control for more than three decades. The final draft map recommended by the House redistricting committee, however, includes 71 seats that would have been won by former President Donald Trump in 2020, a decrease from the current 78 Trump won that year

— “House moves ahead with legislative map amid accusations of a secret process,” by Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles

ALL TOGETHER NOT — “GOP to Tucker Carlson: We’re the decision makers on Ukraine, not you,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio: Tucker Carlson has even defended Moscow’s buildup of troops along the border with Ukraine — and President Vladimir Putin’s rationale for it — in a stark departure from the tough-on-Russia posture that has defined the Republican Party since the start of the Cold War. Meanwhile, Ukraine remains under active threat from an invasion that some are warning could be just the first domino to fall in Eastern Europe.

Rubio’s response — “I don’t agree with those views,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said when asked about Carlson’s monologues. “[It’s] the U.S. interest not just in Europe but around the world in not having countries decide, ‘That belongs to us, we’re going to go ahead and take it.’”

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS — “Media barred from Justice Gorsuch talk to Federalist Society,” by The Associated Press’ Mark Sherman: “Justice Neil Gorsuch is speaking this weekend to the conservative legal group that boosted his Supreme Court candidacy, in a session at a Florida resort that is closed to news coverage. Gorsuch is billed as the banquet speaker Friday at the Florida chapter of the Federalist Society’s annual meeting, which is being held at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista.”

Also attending — “The two-day meeting also will feature former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as well as a session billed ‘The End of Roe v. Wade?’ that will be moderated by a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump.”

PICKING UP SPEED — “Florida Senate Republicans push ahead with election security critics say will blunt voting,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy: “Senate Republicans are pushing ahead with tough new election security measures despite withering attacks from voter rights advocates and county election supervisors who say the changes will confuse Floridians and keep many from casting ballots. Among the measures: A scaled-back version of an Election Crimes and Security office sought by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had envisioned a powerful, 52-person, almost $6 million agency ready to investigate possible voter fraud and other wrongdoing.”

Big issue — “Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a new election security force at an event in West Palm Beach last fall. ‘I don’t know why we need this, unless it’s to make a political statement,’ Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, told the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee Tuesday.”

SECOND EFFORT — “Lawmakers advance juvenile record expungement bill through its final committee stop,” by POLITICO’s Stephany Matat: Christian Minor, the executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, said that his group is “heartened” to see HB 195 and its companion bill, SB 342, moving quickly through the legislative process with unanimous bipartisan support. “This great piece of workforce development legislation strikes a perfect balance between protecting public safety and affording our youthful offenders a second chance to lead a life of success,” Minor told POLITICO. Gov. Ron DeSantis last year vetoed SB 274 since it did not explicitly exclude juveniles with forcible offenses such as sexual assault or robbery from receiving the benefits from this bill.

— “Bill would scrap 2021 deal as public notices battle anew in Florida Legislature,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s Jim Rosica

— “Ron DeSantis risked selling out his Republican base to help Disney,” by Seeking Rents’ Jason Garcia

— “DeSantis and the media: (Not) a love story,” by The New York Times’ Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam

— “Randolph Bracy tests positive for COVID-19,” by Florida Politics’ Scott Powers

— “‘We’re taking right away’: Measure to restrict citizen ballot initiatives advances to House floor,” by Florida Politics’ Kelly Hayes

 WATCH THIS — “Las Vegas Sands-backed group sues to extend petition gathering deadline,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Supporters of a Las Vegas Sands-backed proposed 2022 ballot measure on Tuesday filed a last-minute lawsuit against Secretary of State Laurel Lee to try and extend time for local elections officials to continue processing signatures needed to get their measure on the ballot. Details: The casino giant has spent nearly $50 million in support of a change to the state Constitution that would allow existing card rooms to offer Las Vegas-style gaming as long as they are not within 130 miles of a Seminole-owned facility to offer casino gaming.

TREND LINES — “Felon voting rights failed in Washington — but not in the states,” by POLITICO’s Zach Montellaro: Some activists attribute the dramatic increase in states restoring voting rights to a victory in 2018 in Florida, where a measure to automatically restore voting rights to those convicted of a felony was overwhelmingly passed by voters, although a successful push from Republicans to make it contingent upon paying court debts and other fines tempered that victory there. “The 2018 ballot measure really created a groundswell of attention not just in Florida, but nationally,” said Nicole D. Porter, who manages state and local advocacy drives at The Sentencing Project.

‘HE’S A LOT LIKE TRUMP’— “Trump’s heir? Some supporters see DeSantis as an alternative,” by The Associated Press’ Jill Colvin: “Nikki Rye, who lives in Florida and has been selling Trump gear at his events since 2015, said the merchandise hyping her state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, ‘is a very, very sought-after item.’ Beyond the stickers, a life-size cutout of DeSantis stood at one side of her shop, with Trump flanking the other. As Trump aims for a political comeback, the DeSantis memorabilia signaled a shift emerging among the MAGA faithful. While the vast majority of the more than two dozen people interviewed at his rally at a Texas fairground cheered the prospect of another Trump White House bid, some began to concede that there might be better options.”

THE PATH — “The GOP’s midterm playbook: Flip the script on COVID,” by NBC News’ Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki: “One Republican model for running on Covid was established early in the pandemic by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is looking to ride the strategy to a second term. Calling it “the Free State of Florida,” DeSantis reopened his state early, was among the first to reopen the doors of public schools in 2020, banned mask mandates and outlawed vaccination passports. He became a darling of conservatives after months of doom-and-gloom predictions about the state failed to materialize, and then, when the situation became grim last summer during the surge of the delta variant, his standing held among them because he refused to change course.”

RED STATE — “Who will win Florida in 2024? A new poll has Biden losing to these two prominent Republicans,” by USA Today’s David Jackson: “A new poll says President Joe Biden is struggling in the politically pivotal state of Florida, where more than half of potential voters disapprove of his handling of the economy and of his job overall. The Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network poll of likely Florida voters suggests only 39% of respondents approve of the job Biden is doing, while 53% disapprove. By a 30-point margin – 58%-28% – the poll says voters in Florida believe the nation as a whole is on the wrong track, and a full 57% disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy. The new survey also reports that two prominent Florida Republicans – Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio – are leading in their re-election bids, but not without potential danger signals.”

— “Gaetz’s fundraising dips as sex trafficking investigation intensifies,” by ABC News’ Will Steakin and Soo Rin Kim

— “Anna Paulina Luna leads fundraising for Florida’s 13th congressional district,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Romy Ellenbogen

— “With $400k haul, Maxwell Frost continues to set cash pace in CD 10,” by Florida Politics’ Scott Powers

The daily rundown — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 20,071 Covid-19 infections reported on Monday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 8,798 hospital beds were being used in the state for Covid-19 patients.

SIGH — “‘Stealth’ omicron is more contagious. Now Florida has two cases,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher O’Donnell and Ian Hodgson: “The highly contagious omicron variant set pandemic infection records in Florida and the U.S. and is still spreading across many states and the rest of the world. But coming up fast behind it is a subvariant that early studies suggest is even more infectious, may cause more breakthrough infections in the vaccinated — and now it’s in Florida. The COVID-19 subvariant is designated as BA.2 but is better known by its nickname ‘stealth’ omicron.”

HMM — “Gov. DeSantis on Sheriff Gregory Tony: ‘We’re going to review everything’ now that state found he concealed his past on forms,” by Sun Sentinel’s Lisa J. Huriash: “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that it will send the results of an investigation to the Florida Commission on Ethics at the suggestion of the State Attorney’s Office in Fort Myers. The ethics commission could take no action — or it could recommend that Gov. Ron DeSantis remove the sheriff from office, among other potential penalties. DeSantis told reporters Tuesday at a news conference in Miami that he has seen the outcome of a state investigation into Tony’s falsehoods on official applications. When asked about Tony, DeSantis replied, ‘We’re going to review everything … in the coming days.’ DeSantis didn’t elaborate.”

GENTLE GIANTS — “Manatee deaths lead to lawsuit from conservation groups,” by Sun Sentinel’s David Fleshler: “Conservation groups sued the federal government Tuesday over last year’s record manatee deaths, saying the government failed to follow the law by designating protected habitat for the marine mammals. Manatees starved to death by the hundreds on Florida’s east coast last year, largely due to the loss of seagrass in the polluted Indian River Lagoon. The famine led to a record number of deaths, with more than 1,100 dying from starvation, boat strikes, cold stress and other causes.”

BIG PRICE TAG — “Florida gets another $404 million for climate change prep. It needs billions more,” by Miami Herald’s Alex Harris: “The most vulnerable state in the nation is finally getting a billion-dollar boost to its plans to protect itself against the rising sea, the tip of the trillion-dollar iceberg of climate change expenses the state faces.”

Washington on your side — “On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced funding for another 113 projects that will install new stormwater pumps and drains in flood-prone cities, convert leaky septic tanks to sewer lines, elevate and flood-proof critical buildings and restore wetlands over the next three years. It’s the largest amount of money for climate change preparation ever seen in Florida — and the $404 million is all from the federal American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief act championed by the Biden administration.”

— “Sheriff: Charges ‘forthcoming’ against 3 in Neo-Nazi rally near UCF,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Monivette Cordeiro, Natalia Jaramillo and Jeff Weiner

— “Brian Flores files lawsuit against Dolphins and NFL, alleging racial discrimination,” by Miami Herald’s Daniel Oyefusi and David Wilson: Brian Flores filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against the Miami Dolphins and the NFL, alleging racial discrimination in its hiring and firing process, including a ‘sham interview’ with the New York Giants after the Dolphins fired him last month. The 58-page lawsuit — which was filed jointly by Wigdor LLP and Elefterakis, Elefterakis & Panek in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York — claims Flores, who was fired Jan. 10 after three seasons in Miami, was dismissed because of his reluctance to ‘tank’ during the 2019 NFL season and his unwillingness ‘to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of League tampering rules.’”






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