Remembering Parkland- POLITICO

Hello and welcome to Monday.

A moment of triumph — Let’s start with history made by a Florida native: Erin Jackson became the first Black woman to win a speedskating medal at the Winter Olympics when she won a gold medal on Sunday. Jackson is from Ocala.

— “GOLD! Ocala’s Erin Jackson wins 500-meter speedskate in Beijing Olympics,” by Ocala Star-Banner’s Jim Ross

GRIM ANNIVERSARY — Today also marks the fourth anniversary of a horrific moment. Seventeen people were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

REMEMBERING THEIR NAMES — Luke Hoyer, Martin Duque Anquiano, Gina Montalto, Alex Schachter, Alaina Petty, Alyssa Alhadeff, Nicholas Dworet, Helena Ramsay, Chris Hixon, Carmen Schentrup, Aaron Feis, Scott Biegel, Meadow Pollack, Cara Loughran, Joaquin Oliver, Jaime Guttenberg and Peter Wang.

Aftermath — As we remember those who died that day, the fallout continues. The ultimate fate of Nikolas Cruz has not yet been decided. Cruz pleaded guilty to murder charges in October but his sentencing proceedings have continued to get delayed and are now scheduled to start in April. The penalty phase will determine whether Cruz receives the death penalty or life in prison.

NRA fights on — Also in the past year, the National Rifle Association lost the first round in its legal bid to overturn the law passed in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland tragedy. The measure passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Scott raised the minimum age to purchase a rifle. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled against the NRA last June, but the case has been appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Judges are scheduled to hold oral arguments in the case in Miami on March 24.

— “Four years ago in Parkland, my world came apart. Now I’m putting it back together,” by Isabella Benjumea for the Orlando Sentinel

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

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RAMBA TIME — A federal trial over Florida’s recent voting law will stretch into its third week as lawyers representing the state and national Republican groups plan to have local and state elections officials testify. But Friday’s proceedings featured a bit of a departure as the defense put David Ramba, a well-known Capitol lobbyist, on the stand.

Our man in Tallahassee — Ramba was selected because he handled lobbying on behalf of the state association that represents Florida’s local election supervisors, many of whom had sharp criticism of the law that passed last year. Civil rights and voting rights groups challenging the law — which put in place restrictions on mail-in ballots and drop boxes as well as voter registration groups — contend it discriminates against voters in marginalized communities, as well older residents and those with disabilities.

Mitigation time — The testimony by Ramba, who is also a state committeeman for the Republican Party, was designed to show that the GOP-controlled Legislature did make some changes at the urging of supervisors. He noted that the supervisors ultimately did not ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill. What was not stated, however, is that supervisors continued to have deep reservations about the law, culminating in a tense meeting between local election officials and Secretary of State Laurel Lee in June 2021.

Behind the curtain — But Ramba also had some quips about how the legislative process works, such as pointing out that testifying in a committee hearing was “the show you put on for a client.” He also said that he probably got to spend more time talking to legislators during the 2021 session because Covid-19 protocols meant that outside groups weren’t showing up for their annual treks to the Capitol. Oh, and because of the protocols, Sen. Dennis Baxley — the main bill sponsor — came to his office since the Senate had restricted access.

FRIED 2.0? — “Nikki Fried’s campaign manager leaving ahead of expected ‘restructuring,’” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried’s campaign manager is leaving ahead of an expected “restructuring” next week. The departure of Farah Melendez comes as Fried’s campaign continues to post lackluster fundraising numbers and fights increasing murmurs that the state’s Agriculture Commissioner and only statewide elected Democrat is losing ground to primary foe Charlie Crist, a Democratic congressman and former Republican Florida governor.

TADDEO SLAMS FRIED — State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who is running in the Democratic primary for governor, blasted Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried over comments she made about Hispanic voters. In an interview with a Miami Spanish-language television station, Fried was asked how she is reaching out to Latinos. At the onset she’s says — with a laugh — “talk slow.” Taddeo, who is Hispanic, responded on Twitter: “Let’s get something straight, U don’t need to ‘talk slow’ to share your message with Hispanic voters. Here’s the truth: We’ve let R’s get away with lies about who we are w/ Hispanics. A Spanish-speaking Hispanic businesswoman who can push back on their lies, that’s #somethingnew.” (Fried frequently puts #SomethingNew in her own campaign tweets.)

Fried campaign responds — Evelyn Pérez-Verdia, an adviser for the Fried campaign, said Fried was talking about her speaking in Spanish. On Twitter, she said “Nikki’s commitment to our community shines through in showing up, listening, and delivering results. Distortions and selective video clips don’t change that. Slowing down when not speaking her native language is a sign of respect.”

THE PAST IS NEVER DEAD — “Amateur fraud hunters bury election officials in public records requests,” by NBC News’ Jane C. Timm: “The officials say the number of asks, which include requests for voter rolls, images of ballots and technical information about voting machines, has surged in the last year despite overwhelming evidence that U.S. elections are fair and free. Of those states, Biden won all but Florida in his path to victory over Trump. ‘Every other day there’s a new public records request on something from 2020 or some process,’ said Wesley Wilcox, the supervisor of elections in Marion County, Florida. ‘I spend the vast majority of my day either just providing accurate information, fighting myths and rumors, responding to public records requests.’”

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP — “‘Highly suspect’: Unusual clusters of Miami voters switched to Republican, data show,” by Miami Herald’s Bianca Padró Ocasio and Ana Claudin Chacin: “More than 100 people who live in the twin Haley Sofge Towers — a public housing complex near the Miami River with about 475 units — changed their political party affiliations during a recent four-month period, adding to questions about whether some residents’ party affiliation was changed without their consent. Every single one of those voters, 103 of them, switched to the Republican Party, according to a Miami Herald analysis of Miami-Dade voter registration data. The Haley Sofge Towers has become the focus of county investigators and media in recent weeks, as longtime voters say their political affiliation was changed without their consent after interacting with canvassers.”

‘NOT CHANGING MY POSITION’— “Hinting veto, DeSantis pressures lawmakers to reduce Black-held congressional districts,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy: “Gov. Ron DeSantis is heightening tension over Florida’s congressional redistricting, indicating he still wants fellow Republican leaders in the Legislature to craft new boundaries that would eliminate half of the state’s districts now held by Black members of Congress. DeSantis challenged lawmakers Friday, a day after the Florida Supreme Court refused to provide him with a requested advisory opinion on the constitutionality of erasing a Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee district represented by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.”

CLASH COMING— “DeSantis pushes to finalize unaccompanied minor rule amid backlash, lawsuit threats,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is pushing forward with rules that would crack down on organizations that house unaccompanied minors sent to Florida largely from the southern border, a move that comes amid lawsuit threats from the federal government and condemnation from religious leaders.

Response — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the federal government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, said they are aware of the rule and are considering legal action if needed. “It is our legal responsibility to safely care for unaccompanied children,” said an HHS spokesperson in a statement to POLITICO. “HHS is currently examining all the legal options available at its disposal to ensure that our shelters continue to provide services to the unaccompanied minors in our care.”

— “Top Florida lawmakers aren’t keen on DeSantis’s $1 billion tax cut idea,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner

— “FPL says rooftop solar customers aren’t paying their fair share. Solar advocates say FPL wants to kill their industry,” by Sun Sentinel’s Ron Hurtibise

— “Craig Waters honored for groundbreaking changes that opened the FL Supreme Court to the world,” by Lucy Morgan for the Florida Phoenix

— “U.S. appeal of sports betting case asks if judge went too far,” by Florida Politics’ Scott Powers

DEEP DIVE — “Florida’s militia movement grew for years before emerging at heart of Jan. 6 probe,” by McClatchy D.C.’s Michael Wilner, OCCRP’s Kevin G. Hall and Miami Herald’s Nicholas Nehamas: “The arrest of the Floridian, who told a TV station he ‘can’t wait for our day in court,’ and 10 other individuals on charges of conspiracy to commit sedition has cast a spotlight on the state’s outsized role in providing recruits for far-right and militia-type groups. The groups run the gamut from the Proud Boys, to the Oath Keepers to the Three Percenters, to name just three. On the most extreme end of the scale are neo-Nazis who demonstrated in Orlando recently while waving swastika flags.

Florida men — “Of the 10 men and one woman charged in a Jan 8, 2022, indictment with seditious conspiracy, the most serious counts yet lodged in the wake of the Capitol assault, four are Floridians, either Oath Keepers or affiliates. They are Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, and David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda.”

— “Far-right groups find that Florida provides fertile ground — and a national stage,” by McClatchy D.C.’s Michael Wilner and Miami Herald’s Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey

— “Arrests in the Capitol riot: where Florida leads the nation,” by McClatchy D.C.’s Michael Wilner and Miami Herald’s Rosmery Izaguirre

BRANDING — “Selling Trump: A profitable presidency like no other,” by The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher and Eric Lipton: “His wife, Melania [Trump], has gotten into the act, too, auctioning off online collectibles and scheduling her own big-ticket event in Naples this April, a ‘tulips and topiaries high tea,’ with V.I.P. packages reaching $50,000 and an undisclosed portion going to charity. Mrs. Trump is now selling tickets to the April ‘high tea,’ with organizers saying that some of the profits will benefit an initiative of her ‘Be Best’ endeavor called ‘Fostering the Future,’ meant to provide computer-science scholarships to young people who have been in foster care.

Inquiry started — “There was no indication of how much of the proceeds Mrs. Trump herself intended to pocket. Florida requires any organization that raises charitable contributions in the state to register. No charity with the name ‘Fostering the Future’ or ‘Be Best’ is registered in Florida. Asked about the solicitation, officials at the Florida agency that oversees charitable fund-raising said they also could not find evidence of the required state registration and had opened an inquiry as a result.

— “A new version of the Mueller report reveals that Mueller declined to charge Donald Trump Jr. and Roger Stone with computer crimes,” by BuzzFeed News’ Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier

The daily rundown The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 8,915 Covid-19 infections reported on Friday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 5,761 hospital beds were being used in the state for Covid-19 patients.

The toll — The Florida Department of Health reported on Friday that there have been 67,572 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

A DIFFERENT DIRECTION— “DeSantis pours cold water on proposed $200M punishment for mask mandate schools,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Florida lawmakers on Friday to drop a proposed plan for stripping $200 million from school districts that passed local mask mandates in the fall and instead is asking the Legislature to give parents the power to sue their local schools over the Covid-19 restrictions. “Rather than take money that may penalize a teacher or student because of the actions of some union-controlled school board member, my view would be — let’s not do that,” DeSantis said Friday at an event in Marianna.

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS — “Florida hides data showing how many tourists and snowbirds contract COVID-19 in the state,” by Palm Beach Post’s Chris Persaud and Fort Myers News-Press’s Frank Gluck: “Florida’s latest surge of COVID-19 did little to scare away tourists and snowbirds, state data show, but the influx of visitors and the state’s lack of public case tracking may exaggerate case counts reported elsewhere and undercount them here. When an out-of-stater catches the potentially deadly respiratory disease in Florida, state health officials don’t report it to the public. Instead, they follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by sending that data to the person’s home state.”

— “Florida’s COVID-19 death toll climbs by 1,000 for third week straight as omicron lingers,” by Palm Beach Post’s Chris Persaud

MOVED — “U.S. moves Florida National Guard troops out of Ukraine, Pentagon says,” by Miami Herald’s David J. Neal: “As U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia President Vladimir Putin held a high-stakes telephone call Saturday amid rising tensions around a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, 160 Florida National Guard troops have been ‘repositioned,’ from Ukraine to elsewhere in Europe. That’s according to a statement from Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby. ‘This repositioning does not signify a change in our determination to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility in assuring allies and deterring aggression,’ Kirby’s statement said.”

‘PROMISING NEWS’— “Emerging deal would split $83M for condo collapse losses,” by The Associated Press’ Curt Anderson: “A tentative deal announced Friday would pay $83 million to people who suffered economic losses such as condominium units and personal property in the collapse of a Florida building that killed 98 people. The emerging agreement, yet to be formally reduced to writing, would set aside whatever amount above the property settlement figure for those who lost loved ones in the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida. … ‘That is promising news. We’ll see how it plays out,’ said [Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael] Hanzman, who must approve a deal and said he would hear any objections before deciding. ‘There’s a strong possibility we’re going to avoid any drawn-out legal battle.’”

MIAMI DISPATCH — “How a tawdry steakhouse melee transfixed Miami politics,” by The New York Times’ Patricia Mazzei: “The Morton’s affair — tawdry, overblown and involving a cast of characters who are largely unknown outside of Florida — offers a window into Miami’s dynastic and often impenetrable politics, run by generations of Cuban American families that have been in power for decades. Understanding them requires detailed family trees and the patience to track long-unfolding feuds.”

— “Florida deputy charged in drug planting conspiracy,” by The Associated Press: “A Florida sheriff’s deputy is facing charges that he conspired to arrest an innocent person on drug charges in exchange for sexual favors and a trip to Paris. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said Friday that Deputy Niko Irizarry, 25, had been fired and charged with falsifying an official document. ‘Nobody is above the law, and that includes our deputies,’ Marceno said.

BIRTHDAYS: Former Rep. Donna ShalalaCari Roth, vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs for Lykes Bros ..






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