Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.
Good Tuesday morning.
There’s no doubt I enjoy sharing a scoop as much as the next guy, but today’s first-in-Sunburn announcement brings me absolutely no pleasure.
After hearing a rumor, I was able to verify — and was given permission to share — that Ron Book was diagnosed with throat cancer (Book was previously diagnosed with prostate cancer). Recovery would be tough for anyone, but if you know Ron, you share my — and his doctors’ — certainty that he will come out the other side.
Ron is a friend to me — and more than half of the people you see walking through the halls of the Capitol.
We should also note that he has had more influence on Florida politics than almost any other lobbyist. Ron — or “the Ronfather,” as he’s known in some corners of the state — has been an influential fixture in government affairs for over 50 years and has an astonishing work ethic that has allowed him to build a behemoth boutique lobbying practice that goes toe-to-toe with the largest firms in the state.
Though few wish to find themselves opposite Ron on any given issue (just ask retired and former Uber lobbyist Guy Spearman!), he is a true friend and a real gentleman to everyone in this process and always willing to mentor and help others newer to the world of advocacy.
His tenacity and intensity in work and life are out shadowed only by his heart for helping others and he fights just as hard for those he represents pro bono — including those often considered “the least, last, lost, and the forgotten” — as he does his paying clients.
We know that the same work ethic and intensity of purpose will help him emerge from this battle as strong as ever and still stronger than we mere mortals. And Ron has four young grandkids who will undoubtedly keep their “Bapa” in good spirits.
TBD whether we’ll see Ron in Tallahassee this Special Session, but I know you will join me in sending him well wishes for a safe, speedy, and effective treatment and smooth recovery. And with one final note, I know each of us will also be sending love and prayers to another hardworking, fierce competitor and friend, Senator-daughter-mom-Leader, Lauren Book.
One final thought: F*CK C*NCER!
Florida Influencers say voters won’t be thinking about property insurance when they head to the polls, but they will be thinking about abortion rights.
Ahead of the May 23 Special Session, Florida Politics asked a sample of political experts and insiders whether they thought addressing the property insurance crisis would drag Republicans in the November election.
Just 17% said it would, while 14% said legislative action to slow down rate increases and the number of companies heading into receivership would help GOP candidates. Still, nearly seven in 10 said it wouldn’t even register.
The same isn’t true for abortion rights, which are front and center following the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn a pair of prior SCOTUS rulings — Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — that provide constitutional protections for abortion.
Almost half of Florida Influencers said the decision would boost Democrats, including 34% who said it would slightly improve Democrats’ chances and 13% who said it would give them a major edge. However, some aren’t convinced, with 38% believing the decision would have little if any impact and 15% saying the GOP stands to benefit either a tad or a ton.
Still, even some Influencers who see the decision as a winning issue for Dems don’t think the party will be reaping electoral rewards.
“Democrats were headed for such a brutal election cycle that — any — change in terrain is welcome news for them,” one Influencer said. “The Roe opinion could move the needle slightly in their direction, but I’m doubtful of the long-term impact. But you can’t fall out of a basement window.”
While Influencers split on those issues, they were near-unanimous on one thing: Charlie Crist will win the Democratic Primary for Governor.
A whopping 95% of respondents said the Congressman and former Governor would make the November ballot compared to just 5% who believe the nominee will be Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Sen. Annette Taddeo is also running, but no Influencers are lining up behind her.
A new report shows Florida and other states that prioritized getting K-12 students back to school in person experienced less “learning loss” during the pandemic.
The study, produced by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, found that the switch to remote learning during the pandemic disproportionately harmed academic achievement for poor and minority students — and the longer they were stuck in virtual classes, the more it hurt.
On average, high-poverty schools experienced 50% more achievement loss than low-poverty schools during the 2020-21 school year, leading to widening achievement gaps based on race and household income.
Gaps didn’t widen in areas where schools largely remained in person, leading to Florida — where virtual school only lasted one to three weeks for most districts — faring better than other states where school doors were closed for most of the school year.
The Florida Center for Government Accountability announced Monday that Craig Waters joined its Board of Trustees.
Waters was the longtime spokesperson for the Florida Supreme Court, retiring in February after 35 years on the job.
Numerous organizations have praised him for his open government contributions, including his work to bring the court into the 21st century by developing its online and video streaming capabilities in an era where sharing information about the court’s business with media was discouraged.
“That didn’t hold Craig back,” FLGCA said in a news release. “He’s bringing his devotion to government accountability and communications technology to FLCGA.”
Waters is also an attorney and former journalist. He is a two-time winner of the First Amendment Foundation’s Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award and recently appointed chair of the Florida Bar’s Media & Communications Law Committee for the 2022-23 term.
Sunshine Summit set for July — The Republican Party of Florida will hold its Sunshine Summit, a two-day GOP gathering, in Hollywood. An e-vite from Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state party announced the 2022 Sunshine Summit and Victory Dinner have been scheduled for July 22-23 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The storied event in 2018 marked the first head-to-head debate between DeSantis and then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam before DeSantis won the GOP nomination and Governor’s race. Republicans this year hope the conclave builds toward a strong midterm performance with DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio facing re-election and all Cabinet positions also on the ballot.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@POTUS: High-speed internet is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. But today, too many families simply can’t afford it. That’s why in November, when we passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we created something called the Affordable Connectivity Program. Here’s how it works.
—@AMoneyResists: The same people calling for civility would have already burned down the homes of every justice if they were about to ban guns instead of abortions.
—@The_Law_Boy: Sorry, but protesting outside of justices’ homes is not the right way to voice your disapproval of the court. The proper course is to pour billions of dollars of dark money into building institutions that steadily subsume the judiciary over the course of several decades
—@Cernovich: This will be the first market correction (maybe it’ll be a recession) for many of you. I saw a lot of people panic sell during the last one and they all regretted it. Fundamentally, there’s no better place for people to put money than in the U.S. That hasn’t changed.
—@Fineout: During bill signing ceremony this a.m. @GovRonDeSantis notes one bill will name part of a road after those who helped start La Teresita restaurant in Tampa. (He does not note that their food is great, including awesome sandwiches. Yeah, I said it.)
—@Conarck: On the heels of covering the worst months of the pandemic, our newsroom was called on to cover something horrific. This recognition reinforces our role in our Miami-Dade community. It’s a heavy feeling, knowing well the pain and grief of 98 lives lost and so many others upended.
—@Joey_Cranney: It is simply remarkable; the standard of excellence America’s depleted local newsrooms continue to meet. Local reporters’ showing in today’s major print Pulitzer categories, competing with industry behemoths: Four wins and 13 of 27 (applicable) finalists.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 1; property insurance Special Session begins — 13; 2022 Florida Chamber Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 15; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 15; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 17; Hyundai Air and Sea Show National Salute to America’s Heroes, sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — 18; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 23; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 28; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 31; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 38; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 49; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 59; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 70; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 72; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 91; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 99; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 103; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 113; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 115; 2022 Emmys — 125; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 149; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 167; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 168; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 168; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 185; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 191; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 195; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 195; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 196; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 220; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 282; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 300; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 318; 2023 Session Sine Die — 360; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 360; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 388; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 444; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 528; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 689; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 808.
“Florida’s child support ‘carousel’ exhausts parents, costs kids” via Leonora LaPeter Anton of the Tampa Bay Times — At least 392,000 children in Florida in 2020 for whom support went unpaid. Parents were owed more than $6.7 billion. Many must fight for themselves. The Department of Revenue struggled to get child support initiated for families, performing worse than 44 other states. The system can be just as problematic for parents who owe, leaving some who already are struggling on the hook for more than 50% of their incomes. State lawmakers have not heeded calls to fix inequities.
The state’s task is rife with complexities, from tracking parents on the move to sorting the poor from the stubborn. The agency described its system as “performing at the highest levels in the program’s history.” And for a majority of parents, the system works.
But for thousands of others, it’s a slog. Some shell out for private investigators, process servers or attorneys. The rest go it alone — taking time away from kids to write legal memos and race to hearings, even becoming bounty hunters of a sort. Meanwhile, their children accrue negative school lunch balances, delay doctor visits, and end up on public assistance.
“Ron DeSantis wants Joe Biden’s ‘Ministry of Truth’ killed off like the buffalo” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis wants President Biden’s Disinformation Governance Board to be hunted nearly, or entirely, into extinction. DeSantis has likened the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advisory board, set up to educate the public about disinformation, to an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.” Before signing legislation honoring the victims and opponents of communism during a news conference in Miami Monday, DeSantis told the crowd to criticize things that go against American values. “That disinformation bureau needs to go the way of the buffalo,” DeSantis said. “We need to eliminate that. That is a big danger to free expression in this country.”
—“Q&A with Nikki Fried: On DeSantis, ‘There’s a better way to lead than throwing bombs’” via James Call of The Tallahassee Democrat
Assignment editors — Fried visits residents of the troubled Silver Oak Apartments. Last month, Fried called on HUD to find solutions to the hazardous living conditions at the complex, 2 p.m., Silver Oak Apartments, 4200 Kenneth Ct., Tampa. Enter off N. 43rd Street.
“Party line call leads to ethics gripe against Val Demings” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Demings, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, reportedly faces an ethics complaint about mixing political business and policy work. Fox News Digital reports that the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust dinged Demings for doubling up deliberations in the House Judiciary Committee with a less-than-urgent Zoom call with Democrats in Duval County. “Not only was this incident an embarrassing moment for [Demings], and for the House, but a serious rules violation appears to be present as well,” tut-tutted the right-of-center whistleblowers.
“Florida’s counsel argues nixing DeSantis’ map would be racist and partisan” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A lawsuit claims a congressional map signed by DeSantis was “infected by racial discrimination.” But Attorneys for Secretary of State Laurel Lee argue preserving a North Florida district as it was configured the last three election cycles would be a true racist decision and one that unfairly benefits Democrats. In a court brief responding to allegations by Black Voters Matter and other groups, counsel defending the state’s new map say cartography implemented by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 drew districts illegally with race as a motivating factor. The brief opens by quoting a Washington state ruling that declared “the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
“Ryan Zinke, former Interior Secretary, endorses Erick Aguilar in CD 4” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A lightning-rod target for environmentalists in former President Donald Trump’s administration announced he and his political action committee are backing businessman and Navy veteran Aguilar as Aguilar seeks the Republican nomination in the 4th Congressional District. “The Democrats’ extreme agenda is out of control, and it is up to candidates like Erick to take our country back, flip the House, and save America,” said former Interior Secretary Zinke in a statement for SEAL PAC. “Erick and I share the same belief that America’s best days are still ahead — we just need proven veteran leaders to lead that charge, which is why SEAL PAC, and I are endorsing Erick for Congress.”
“Maxwell Frost’s CD 10 candidacy draws nod from two congressional caucuses” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Frost has nabbed endorsements from two major Democratic congressional caucuses, representing Hispanic members and progressives in the House. Frost’s campaign announced Monday that the political action committees representing the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus both have voted to back his candidacy in Florida’s 10th Congressional District in Orange County. “I’m so grateful to receive an endorsement from two of the largest caucuses in Congress that combined have 117 Representatives from across the country, including several in Florida,” Frost said in a news release issued by his campaign.
— MORE 2022 —
“Black lawmakers to launch ‘Stay Woke Go Vote’ campaign” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Black Florida legislators and statewide partners plan to launch a “Stay Woke Go Vote” campaign to draw attention to recent actions by DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature. The campaign will launch May 21. Organizers say it is in response to a push to “try and make it harder for people of color to vote,” including a law supported by DeSantis that created a new election police unit as well as a redistricting plan for Congress that dismantled and reshaped two districts now held by Black Democrats. Organizers, including state Sen. Shevrin Jones, say the launch will include numerous Black elected officials and community activists.
Assignment editors — Jones joins Rep. Anna Eskamani, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates Executive Director Laura Goodhue, and Ruth’s List FL CEO Lucy Sedgwick for a virtual news conference to call out Republican attacks on reproductive freedom in Florida, 11 a.m. Registration and Zoom link here.
“Jimmy Patronis endorses Kevin Marino Cabrera for Miami-Dade County Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Cabrera, a government relations specialist, picked up another high-profile Republican endorsement Monday, when Patronis endorsed his campaign for the Miami-Dade County Commission. Cabrera is running to represent District 6, which encompasses Miami Springs, West Miami, parts of Miami, Coral Gables and Hialeah, and a portion of the county’s unincorporated area, including Miami International Airport. He’ll perform deftly as a Commissioner, argued Patronis, who stressed Cabrera’s commitment to supporting police and other uniformed public servants. “Kevin will fight for our families while standing with firefighters and first responders across the community to ensure safer streets and neighborhoods,” he said.
“DeSantis worried Wilton Simpson’s prized bill would protect puppy mills. Will he veto it?” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — One of Senate President Simpson’s top priorities this past Session was a piece of legislation dubbed the “Local Business Protection Act” — a bill that would allow businesses to sue cities or counties that pass local laws that cut into their profits. Among those most alarmed by Simpson’s far-reaching legislation are animal welfare activists, who fear it will torpedo efforts to shut down puppy mills by getting local governments to pass laws prohibiting the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. Most major pet retailers have long since stopped selling puppies for profit. But one still does: Petland, the nation’s No. 9 pet-store chain. Someone else apparently shares this concern: Gov. DeSantis.
“DeSantis signs legislation mandating ‘Victims of Communism Day’ and required education” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Signing legislation that requires students to learn about the suffering communism has caused, DeSantis says he’s acting to stamp out the ignorance that’s made Che Guevara T-shirts fashionable on college campuses. The Governor was in Miami Monday morning to sign the measure (HB 395) requiring him and subsequent Governors to declare Nov. 7 “Victims of Communism Day.” In addition to the observance, the legislation requires all Florida students in government classes to get at least 45 minutes of instruction on the “discredited ideology” DeSantis said is enjoying a rebirth in popularity.
—”DeSantis signs bill mandating communism lessons in class, as GOP leans on education” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald
“DeSantis announces $25M to restore Freedom Tower” via Sam Sachs of WFLA — DeSantis spoke at Freedom Tower in Miami to provide a status update on funding for restoring the building and sign legislation about multiple bills to honor Cuban freedom fighters and Floridians who fought against Castro before leaving Cuba to come to Florida. DeSantis said $25 million would be budgeted to restore the Tower. “We have been here before; most recently, we announced that in the upcoming Legislative Session, which of course we finished in March, that we wanted to put our money where our mouth is and make sure we’re doing all we can to restore this building. So today is a status report on that. Also going to sign some great legislation here today,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis approves bill changing Santa Rosa County Civil Service Board” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed a bill Friday that removes the Santa Rosa County School District and the West Florida Regional Library from the county’s Civil Service Board. HB 1135, which Rep. Jayer Williamson sponsored, makes several changes to the Civil Service Board, founded in 1979 to act as an appeal entity for county employees. Employees have the right to appeal if they face demotion, suspension, termination, or other actions that economically harm them. Williamson said the two entities are being removed because they have internal processes serving a similar function, so their presence on the Board is redundant.
Thanks, DeSantis — “Disney World guests may have to wait for help under new Reedy Creek fire department rule, union says” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — The Reedy Creek Improvement District is hiring more first responders after the firefighters who serve Walt Disney World property complained of a staffing shortage, but the union’s President says a policy enacted last month could make Disney visitors and staff in need wait longer for help. According to an April 11 internal email provided by union chief Jon Shirey, the fire chief ordered the department to no longer request assistance from neighboring fire departments for non-emergency transports, medical calls, or supplement responses to calls such as structure fires. In emergency cases, the Reedy Creek Fire Department can still request assistance from the Orange and Osceola County Fire Rescues, but communications staff who take the calls must notify their commanders of the request, the message showed.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis has appointed Lorelie Brannan to fill a vacancy on the Baker County Court.” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Brannan, of Macclenny, has served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 8th Judicial Circuit since 2008. Her husband is Rep. Chuck Brannan, a retired law enforcement officer who has served in the House since 2018. Before joining the State Attorney’s Office for the 8th Judicial Circuit, she held the same role in the 4th Circuit. The 8th Circuit covers Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties, while the 4th Circuit covers Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. Brannan was born in Italy into a military family but grew up in Jacksonville.
“Politics is putting Florida’s higher education institutions in a tough spot” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Legislature this year has put some of the state’s higher education institutions in a tough spot. While funding at universities and state colleges is at historic levels, political interference in curricula and the cost of living in the state are driving students and faculty elsewhere. That’s according to Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor for the University of South Florida (USF) St. Petersburg, and St. Petersburg College (SPC) President Tonjua Williams. On Monday, Tadlock told the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club that USF is losing out on “world-class” talent. “For this coming fall, there’s been failed searches on this campus that I’m aware of,” he said.
“The IRS dropped its demand to upload selfies, so why is Florida still requiring them?” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Taxpayers, lawmakers and digital privacy advocates rebelled earlier this year when the IRS announced plans to require taxpayers to upload selfies if they wanted online access to their tax records. The IRS said that the selfies were needed by an identity verification service, ID.me, to compare with applicants’ government-issued ID photos. Following an outcry from both sides of the political spectrum, the IRS responded by making the selfie uploads optional. Yet dozens of states, including Florida, that contracted with ID.me to conduct identify verification of applicants for unemployment benefits, have not followed the IRS’ lead.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Biden targets GOP on inflation as prices skyrocket” via Hans Nichols of Axios — Biden is preparing a major speech Tuesday to address inflation and will contrast his plans to lower costs for American families with those offered by congressional Republicans. For a president who once insisted inflation was “transitory,” Biden is now talking about rising prices at nearly every opportunity. The focus comes as Americans buckle under gas exceeding $6 per gallon in some states, and grocery price increases each visit to the store. At the White House on Tuesday, Biden will focus on GOP plans, like those from Sen. Rick Scott, which Democrats say will raise taxes on some 75 million Americans and could sunset entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
“Senate Democrats tee up a doomed vote to write abortion protections into law” via John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro of The Washington Post — Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to take a key step to tee up a vote this week on writing abortion protections into federal law as the Supreme Court appears to poised to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The effort by Democrats seems destined to fail but will ensure the issue remains front and center again following the leak of a draft court decision that has scrambled the politics of the upcoming midterm elections. Meanwhile, Biden is scheduled to hold an event promoting efforts to expand internet access before signing legislation to speed up the deployment of military equipment to Ukraine.
“U.S. will limit next-generation COVID-19 vaccines to high-risk people this fall if Congress doesn’t approve more funding” via Spencer Kimball of CNBC — The U.S. will have to limit the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines this fall to individuals at the highest risk of getting seriously sick from the virus if Congress fails to approve funding to purchase the new shots. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned the U.S. faces a substantial surge of COVID-19 infections this fall as immunity from the current vaccines wanes and the omicron variant mutates into more transmissible sub-variants. The U.S. needs more money for next-generation vaccines, therapeutics, and tests to prevent infections from turning into hospitalizations and deaths, the official said.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Investigation of Jan. 6 Capitol attack enters new phase” via Scott Patterson of The Wall Street Journal — Congressional investigators are preparing to open a new, public phase of their probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, as they attempt to make a case that Trump and people involved with his campaign motivated some rioters who took part in the violence. The House select committee investigating the attack has focused on two separate but overlapping chains of events: the planning and execution of the rally by Trump supporters in their attempt to overturn the result of the presidential election and the subsequent storming of the building itself. Drawing connections between the two could determine whether the investigation implicates White House figures, including Trump.
“How the Jan. 6 panel broke through Donald Trump allies’ stonewalling” via Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — Trump’s top election-subversion wingmen have stonewalled the Jan. 6 select committee for months, but investigators have found a reliable workaround: their deputies and assistants. Some of the select panel’s most crucial information has come from Trumpworld staffers, who were often in the room or briefed on sensitive meetings, even if they weren’t central players themselves. It’s a classic investigative strategy that’s paid dividends for select committee investigators, many of whom are seasoned former federal prosecutors.
“Inside Mark Meadows’s final push to keep Trump in power” via Michael Kranish of The Washington Post — Behind closed doors in a civic center outside Atlanta, state officials were scouring thousands of mail-in ballots on Dec. 22, 2020, when an unexpected visitor showed up: Meadows, Trump’s Chief of Staff. Biden had won the Electoral College one week earlier, but Meadows’ boss was still baselessly claiming he’d been robbed — pointing specifically at Georgia. After Georgia’s Deputy Secretary of State blocked Meadows from entering the room where officials were matching voter signatures, Meadows struck up a conversation with her office’s chief investigator, Frances Watson, and got her phone number. To Watson’s shock, the next day, Trump called. “Mark asked me to do it; he thinks you’re great,” Trump said while falsely claiming he had won Georgia.
Spotted — Pam Bondi at the Kentucky Derby fundraiser this weekend benefiting Trump’s primary super PAC, Make America Great Again, Again! hosted by former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. (and possible Kentucky gubernatorial candidate in 2023) Kelly Craft and her husband, coal mogul Joe Craft, which raised $1.5 million. Others in attendance included the PAC’s finance chair, Kimberly Guilfoyle, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
— LOCAL NOTES: NE. FL —
“Brevard School Board to vote on library books, student restraints and public speaking” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — At its next meeting on Tuesday, the Brevard County School Board will vote on policies regarding the removal of contested books from school libraries, the restraint of children with disabilities, and changes to the board’s controversial public speaking policy. With debates over mask policies and other COVID-19 restrictions having largely faded to the background, the board will tackle two issues that have begun to dominate meetings allegations that the district is providing inappropriate materials on sex and race to minors, and conflict between the school board and its audience.
“Health First hospital could be biggest transformation project in central Brevard in decades” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — The Brevard County Planning and Zoning Board will consider those zoning and variance proposals on Monday afternoon, followed by action by the Brevard County Commission on May 26, which will consider the Planning and Zoning Board’s recommendations in its deliberations. Health First wants to change the site’s zoning to be a planned unit development. The property now has a combination of general retail commercial zoning and retail/warehousing/wholesale commercial zoning. The planned unit development designation allows for greater flexibility in developing a large project like this.
“Once a college rite, underage students caught with fake IDs face thousands in legal fees” via Fresh Take Florida — University of Florida police have forwarded nearly four dozen felony complaints to state prosecutors against students caught with fake IDs over the past four years, according to an analysis of court records conducted by reporting students at UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. Outcomes varied, but out of 45 cases, all charges were dropped or reduced to misdemeanors. Most students entered deferred prosecution deals, three students had their charges dismissed, and three cases have yet to be adjudicated.
“Eric Smith named Orlando’s new police chief after Orlando Rolón retirement” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Deputy Chief Smith was named Orlando’s new police chief Monday after current Chief Rolón announced his November retirement last week. Smith said it was an “honor” to be selected during a formal ceremony at OPD headquarters where Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced his appointment. “I’ll continue to remain committed to our neighborhoods and work closely with the community,” he said. Smith, a 27-year-veteran of the agency, is currently in charge of more than 500 sworn officers as the head of OPD’s Patrol Services Bureau. He will be the agency’s 40th chief.
“Neo-Nazis demonstrate outside Disney World entrance” via Brooke Leigh Howard of The Daily Beast — Nazis were outside of Disney World’s main entrance on Saturday. In a post, four protesters are seen standing in front of the Walt Disney World Resort sign in Orlando with Nazi flags. As one person appearing to hold flyers paced back and forth, two others waved bright red Nazi flags. The protesters also displayed an American flag and a banner supporting DeSantis, who successfully rallied state Republicans to strip the theme park of its nearly autonomous special tax status after Disney publicly condemned the Florida Parental Rights in Education or “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Florida Holocaust Museum Chair Michael Igel said in a statement that also mentioned a fourth person shouting antisemitic rhetoric.
“Seminole County high school to cover yearbook photos of ‘don’t say gay’ student protests” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Lyman High School’s yearbook features photos of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign during a walkout protest in March. But school officials delayed distributing the yearbooks Monday and determined that certain pictures and descriptions “did not meet school board policy,” Michael Hunter, the school’s principal, said in a recorded message. “Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover the material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” he said. Danielle Pomeranz, the yearbook’s faculty adviser, said she was told to check into placing stickers over photos and captions of the walkout protest. Students who worked on the yearbook have launched a social media campaign called #stopthestickers.
“Women denied entry at Rachel’s strip club will take case to state Supreme Court — again” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — The attorney for two women denied entry into an Orlando strip club in 2018 because they weren’t with a man said he plans to take their case to the Florida Supreme Court again because the issue is more than who can have fun at a gentlemen’s club. It’s whether local governments can enact anti-discrimination ordinances that offer more protections than the Florida Civil Rights Act, said Matthew Dietz, a Miami attorney representing Brittney Smith and Anita Yanes.
What Michelle Schorsch is reading — “Conference realignment: How UCF is preparing for Big 12 move” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — When UCF coach Gus Malzahn and athletic director Terry Mohajir talk with Knights fans about their impending move from the AAC to the Big 12, the excitement is obvious. “This is what they’ve been hoping for, for many years now,” Mohajir said. “Hope is not a plan, though.” As that move approaches, Mohajir, Malzahn, and the rest of the Knights are implementing an actual plan to have UCF competitive as soon as it rises into that Power Five league. For Malzahn, the job has changed little. The first objective is to have a strong season this fall — which Malzahn believes is possible.
“Curriculum concern: Parents upset over content of 7th grade lesson” via Angie Angers of Spectrum News — Parents of some Hillsborough County 7th grade students are expressing concern over an upcoming lesson on sexual health. The lesson is intended to be taught as part of a science class. Jacalyn Muir said she was alerted to the lesson after receiving an email from her daughter’s principal. She says the lesson was what she would expect in a sexual education class with information about the reproductive system and preventing pregnancy. It was only when she looked further and clicked through rounds of PowerPoint slides and handouts, she found content that concerned her. In one handout, a scenario plays out between Leah and Malik, two fictional characters. The scenario references Malik watching porn, drinking, and the teen receiving pressure from his friends to have sex with his girlfriend.
“State officials aren’t doing enough to protect Weeki Wachee River, advocates say” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Any day now, a dredging company is expected to begin a multimillion-dollar restoration of the Weeki Wachee River after intensifying public use in recent years has eroded the riverbanks, denuded sandbars and made the river shallower and broader. Last month, the river’s most vocal advocate filed a formal complaint with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, arguing that the agency is not doing enough to protect the waterway. Shannon Turbeville’s complaint states that he does not believe the agency followed its legal requirements to get input from a citizens advisory committee before updating the state park’s management plan. But his primary concern is that the plan doesn’t have adequate enforcement measures to back up rules designed to keep the river healthy.
“Angeline, the Moffitt-anchored district in Pasco County, takes shape” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Angeline, the Moffitt Cancer Center-anchored district in Pasco County, has started taking shape, with infrastructure construction and the community’s entrance hinting at the mega-development to come. Metro Development Group, the Tampa-based developer of Angeline, said road and utility construction for the 6,200-acre district is underway. Angeline spans 6 miles along the east side of the Suncoast Parkway from State Road 52 South; the community entrance is now visible from SR 52.
“Tampa Bay Times wins 14th Pulitzer Prize for ‘Poisoned’ series” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Tampa Bay Times won its 14th Pulitzer Prize Monday for a series exposing hazardous conditions at Florida’s only lead smelting plant. Times reporters Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington and Eli Murray received the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for their “Poisoned” series. The series, released in 2021, explored the impact of Gopher Resource, a company that removes lead from old car batteries, melts it, and forges new blocks of the metal. The investigation found the company endangered its employees and polluted the surrounding community.
— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —
“‘We need to do something as fast as we can.’ Key affordable housing vote planned Tuesday” via Phil Fernandez of the Naples Daily News — Seeing what’s happening to tenants getting hit with monster hikes as their leases expire in what’s become an affordable housing crisis, advocates had a simple but urgent request at a Collier County Commission meeting late last month. Ask landlords to give 60 days’ notice if there’s more than a 5% increase. “Fixed incomes — you’re 70 years old, 75 years old, 80 years old, and suddenly a landlord comes to you and says, ‘Hey, another $500 a month.’ You can’t afford it,” said John Harney, who serves on several community panels, including the county Affordable Housing Committee with Commissioner Rick LoCastro. “This isn’t an age where people can just roll with it. This is a major life crisis for them.”
—MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“Miami-Dade Mayor tops onrush of leaders backing Danielle Cohen Higgins for County Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and 17 other current and former local leaders are throwing their support behind Cohen Higgins’ bid to keep her County Commission seat this year. Cohen Higgins was appointed in December 2020 to replace Levine Cava in Miami-Dade Commission District 8. Less than two years later, several of her elected constituents are joining Levine Cava, including County Commission Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Vice Chair Oliver Gilbert III, and Commissioners Sally Heyman, Eileen Higgins, Jean Monestime and Rebeca Sosa. Former Commissioner Dennis Moss, who served District 9 on the County Commission from 1993 to 2020, also endorsed her.
“What to do about Broward Sheriff, his lies and scalding FDLE report? Three months on, Gov. DeSantis can’t, or won’t, make a decision” via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — Three months into pondering what to do about Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, who public-corruption agents found repeatedly lied over the years on official records, DeSantis continues to ponder as an anxious sheriff’s office wonders what’s going on. Many of Tony’s alleged lies could not be criminally prosecuted because they fall outside the state’s Statute of Limitations. But another allegation that Tony committed perjury when he lied while seeking a new driver’s license just three weeks after he was sworn in was considered “potentially viable” after FDLE recommended Tony be charged with felony perjury.
“Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner can’t escape neighbor drama” via Margaret Hartmann of New York Magazine — Ivanka and Kushner may have spent years cultivating their image as the “more polished, more presentable” face of the Trump clan, but by the end of Trump’s presidency, they’d gained a reputation for being terrible neighbors. While working in the administration, Javanka took up residence in Washington, D.C.’s, Kalorama neighborhood, where they annoyed locals by taking up an excessive number of parking spots, erecting a porta-potty on the sidewalk because they wouldn’t let Secret Service members use their bathroom, and drawing hundreds of LGBTQ protesters to their block. They rented a condo in Surfside and reportedly renovated a waterfront mansion in nearby Indian Creek.
“‘It transcends religion:’ Church and synagogue in Broward team up to help Ukrainian refugees” via Syra Ortiz-Blanes of the Miami Herald — The Ukrainian Refugee Resettlement Project, a South-Florida-based, volunteer-run group that matches refugees from the Eastern European nation with local host families and helps them kick-start their lives in the United States. Churches like St. Nicholas in Cooper City are at the front lines of assisting war refugees, said Juliet Bedard, a 35-year-old Ukrainian immigrant coordinating the refugee resettlement program from the Broward County sanctuary. Almost eight in 10 Ukrainians identify as Orthodox Christian, while one in 10 identifies as Catholic.
“Scooter rider dies when she hits Brightline train in Pompano Beach” via The Associated Press — A scooter driver died when she went around lowered crossing gates and struck a passing Brightline train, the latest in a long string of deaths involving the higher-speed passenger service, officials said Monday. The Broward Sheriff’s Office said the woman was riding a scooter at about 11:20 a.m. Saturday in Pompano Beach when she made a left turn, went around the crossing gates, and hit the side of the train. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her name and age were not released. The woman was the 63rd person known to have died in a collision with a Brightline train since it began operations in mid-2017, giving it the worst per-mile fatality rate in the nation.
—TOP OPINION —
“Are millennial leftists aging into right-wingers?” via J.J. McCullough for The Washington Post — Many millennials (of which I am one) are now entering their 40s. It’s a firmly adult phase of life that tends to correlate with a recalibration of priorities, expectations and resentments. A substantial migration of millennial voters from left to right — including a significant chunk of those who might appear the unlikeliest of converts — will surely be one consequence.
Spend any time listening to left-wing millennials on their vast archipelago of blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels and Twitch streams and you’ll hear hints of the terms on which this generation’s shift will unfold; their growing distaste for their own political tribe seems as much a product of cultural alienation as anything.
Many millennial leftists say it openly: They’re apathetic about “social issues.” It’s the economic stuff that really concerns them — and certainly, there are plenty of metrics that can be cited to argue millennials face generationally unique economic hardships. Unless that is apathy toward social issues is seen as a form of economic justice unto itself.
— OPINIONS —
“‘Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent’” via A.G. Gancarski of Jacksonville Today — Not too many years ago, it was possible to eke out a living on the fringes of society and maintain a residence in Riverside, San Marco, or even Jax Beach if you weren’t picky. A no-frills, no-gentrification, no-renovation sort of thing, to be sure. But you could sell a few articles, paintings, chapbooks, zines, or whatever your hustle was, and just kind of ride out, day to day, week to week, getting by. Now? You’d probably better be prepared to have a few roommates and bunk beds to enjoy that 20th century-style slacker artist lifestyle. Consider the numbers: The average rental price for the entire city is north of $1,700. By historical standards, ours is one of the most overvalued metros in the country, according to a study released last week by Florida Atlantic University.
“Thank you, Gov. DeSantis, for helping to protect Florida homes from water” via Katie Carpenter for the Tampa Bay Times — Given the harrowing experience with high water in my West Palm Beach neighborhood last month, I would like to thank DeSantis for signing the Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience bill this week. The timing couldn’t be better, with hurricane season starting next month. Few people in my part of South Florida feel ready. I hear people ominously say, “The water is coming.” Where I live, it’s already here. The bill the Governor signed will help families stay in their homes for generations by making Florida more resilient. It’s a thoughtful piece of legislation, one that will serve Floridians whether they live near the coast or inland, in a house or multifamily building.
“Why do Democrats let Republicans demonize words like ‘woke’?” via Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald — So let’s talk about That Word. Meaning the word the political left used to define itself until the political right got hold of it and made it an object of ridicule. The word quickly became unusable, even faintly embarrassing. No, the word is not “woke.” It is, rather, “liberal.” Understanding how That Word was taken out of service is invaluable in understanding what is transpiring now with That Other Word. And here, yes, we are talking about “woke.” Because we’ve seen this movie before. Once again, the right mocks a word with undisguised glee — it is slapped on a Florida education censorship bill, and Rep. Matt Gaetz claims it will “destroy” the military. And once again, the left responds with a crouch.
“Latest exoneration shows need for conviction integrity units” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The criminal justice system often fails to distinguish the innocent from the guilty because it cares more about the process than the result. If all the rules are followed, and a trial judge does nothing for an appeals court to overturn, the wrong person could rot in prison. In a Miami-Dade courtroom two weeks ago, Thomas Raynard James became the 80th Floridian to be formally exonerated for a crime he had been convicted but did not commit. James had spent 32 years in prison because police confused his name with another suspect and showed his picture to an eyewitness who identified him as her stepfather’s killer.
“Criminalizing abortion: Cue the enforcement nightmare” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — One reason free people do not give the government the power to interfere and control intimate decisions is that the decisions and conduct are, by definition, closely guarded information not widely available and not subject to usual enforcement measures. The effort to investigate and enforce a law criminalizing a woman’s reproductive decisions necessarily becomes an exercise in authoritarian excess. It’s not clear whether states would respect doctor-patient confidentiality. Given the impossibility of policing all pregnancies and running down every accusation, the discretion put in the hands of individual prosecutors will be enormous; it is an invitation for selective prosecution.
“Florida Republicans aren’t done targeting trans youth. Denying them care might be next” via the Miami Herald editorial board — They should not be seen, heard, or discussed in classrooms. Florida is returning to a time when only the voices of a few mattered. Especially irrelevant, or, worse, threatening, to Republican state leaders are transgender youth. The plan appears to be to shove them back into the closet where they won’t cause discomfort to conservative policymakers. As DeSantis scapegoats the LGBTQ community on his possible path to the White House, the infamous Florida parental rights law known as “Don’t say gay” and a transgender athlete ban was likely just the beginning.
“U.S., U.K. vie to outdo each other in misogyny” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — LONDON — Which country hates women more, the U.S. or the U.K.? In America, a woman will apparently soon be forced to carry a child to term, even if she was raped, even if she was trafficked, even if she can’t care for the kid, doesn’t want it, and having it means ruining her life. Women in Britain don’t face that prospect, not yet, anyway. Abortion is legal in this country up until fetal viability. No fewer than 56 M.P.s (members of Parliament) have been referred to a government misconduct watchdog for various forms of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and general bad behavior mostly toward both female colleagues and female staff. Three of the accused are ministers in Boris Johnson’s government.
— ALOE —
“‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ teaser trailer debuts online” via Carolyn Giardina of The Hollywood Reporter — The teaser trailer for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water has arrived online. The first look was playing exclusively in theaters over the weekend, ahead of Disney-Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But on Monday, it went live for all to see on YouTube and social media. Each of the four Avatar sequels will center on returning Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, and Na’vi Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, and their family, and the lengths they go to keep each other safe.
To watch the trailer, click on the image below:
“Naples chef Asif Syed meets Biden, First Lady at White House” via Diana Biederman of the Naples Daily News — Arguably, Naples’ most famous chef, Syed of 21 Spices, is known beyond the confines of Collier County. Food Network appearances televised nationally? He’s got several under his toque, most notably a win on “Beat Bobby Flay” in 2018. Cooking dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City. Every chef’s dream? Yep. He checked that off in 2019. But Syed’s latest recognition is one he never expected: a rare invitation to an official White House reception hosted by Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. Syed was invited for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday commemorating the end of Ramadan and celebrated among the world’s approximately 2 billion Muslims.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to our friend Ryan Wiggins, Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, reporter Bobby Caina Calvan, Ambassador Mel Sembler, and Tom DiGiacomo.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
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Cotton: Disinfo. Board Was Only Paused Because People Found out, Congress Needs to Ensure Nothing Like It Can Ever Exist
On Wednesday’s broadcast of the Fox News Channel’s “America Reports,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) celebrated the pausing of plans for the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board but noted that the pause isn’t permanent and argued that the board “only paused because the American people found out” and Congress should pass legislation “to ensure that it and nothing like it can ever be created again in the future.”
Cotton stated, “I’m glad to know that this Orwellian Ministry of Truth is at least paused for the moment, but I think it’s important to realize that it’s only paused because the American people found out about it. The government has no business refereeing disputes engaged in political campaigns or public debates. If you don’t like someone else’s speech, the solution is more speech. It’s not to use the Department of Homeland Security, for goodness sakes, to try to censor or label someone’s arguments in the public sphere. I think the Democrats often believe that disinformation and misinformation are simply facts that reflect poorly on Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. So, again, it’s good that they finally came to their senses and paused this board, but Congress needs to act in the weeks ahead to ensure that it and nothing like it can ever be created again in the future.”
Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett
Republicans Cast 150K More Votes than Democrats in North Carolina Primaries: ‘GOP Enthusiasm Way Up’
Republican voters turned out in droves to participate in the North Carolina primaries and surpassed Democrat participation — even though there are more registered Democrat voters in the state.
Analysis of voter data by the Republican National Committee (RNC) after Tuesday’s elections revealed Republican voters cast roughly 150,000 more votes than Democrats 758,637 to 612,645. GOP turnout was “86 percent higher than 2018 and nearing 2020 levels,” RNC Deputy National Press Secretary William O’Grady told Breitbart News.
🐘📈⚡️GOP enthusiasm is way up
With 98% of Pennslyvania primary votes counted, Republicans have HIGHER turnout than Democrats – the first time this has happened in a decade.
With 100% of North Carolina counted, there were nearly 150k more GOP votes cast than Dem votes.
— Nathan Brand (@NathanBrandWA) May 18, 2022
“GOP enthusiasm is way up,” RNC Communications Director Nathan Brand tweeted Wednesday, referring to the results in both the Pennsylvania and North Carolina primary elections.
Election analysis from the New York Times rendered similar findings, with 759,554 GOP voters participating in the North Carolina U.S. Senate primary and 613,170 Democrats participating in the state’s Democrat U.S. Senate primary. Both Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) and former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley (D) made clean sweeps in the primaries and will face off in the November general election.
O’Grady noted that “in counties Biden won in 2020, GOP primary votes were 169,210 or 182 percent higher than in 2018.” Former President Donald Trump won the state in 2020 against now-President Joe Biden, though only by a narrow margin of 1.3 percent.
North Carolina Democrat voters were clearly not as revved for this year’s primaries as they were in 2020, when they cast a total of 1,251,389 votes securing the Democrat nomination for Cal Cunningham in the U.S. Senate primary. GOP voters cast 776,291 ballots, slightly more than in 2022, and nominated now-Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) who ended up beating Cunningham in the general election.
While North Carolina still has more registered Democrat voters than Republican voters, registered unaffiliated voters have been growing exponentially over the past few years. In 2016, there were 2,736,124 Democrat voters, 2,099,551 GOP voters, and 2,076,361 unaffiliated voters, according to data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections. By 2022, registered Democrats fell to 2,493,492, GOP voters grew slightly to 2,198,612, and unaffiliated voters leaped more than 450,000 to 2,532,944, surpassing Democrats.
As expected, Unaffiliated voter registrants passed Democrats this week to make them the largest group of registrants in NC politics (~7600 more Unaffiliated than Dems). A #ncpol (1/11)
This was a slow build that picked up momentum recently, as the graph below indicates. pic.twitter.com/vXuEsJUarT
— Chris Cooper (@chriscooperwcu) March 19, 2022
The increase in unaffiliated voters is significant and indicative of a larger national trend — independent voters more and more are leaning and voting Republican as the Democrat Party loses itself catering the whims of the far-left. A Gallup poll in January 2022 found that by the end of 2021, the percentage of Democrat-leaning independent voters decreased by five points, and Republican leaners increased by four points.
Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on Twitter.
Jankowicz: ‘Ironic’ Disinformation Board Killed by Disinformation
Nina Jankowicz said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “All In” that the Department of Homeland Security’s new Disinformation Governance Board was disbanded because of disinformation.
Jankowicz was supposed to lead the now-dissolved board.
Jankowicz said, “All these sensationalized narratives about what people thought the board was going to do was completely wrong. It was a coordinating mechanism. It was meant to make sure that the very large agency that is the Department of Homeland Security, that people were talking to each other within it. Let me give you an example, FEMA, the agency that handles disasters and environmental issues, would often encounter misinformation about natural disasters. Let’s say an adversary like Iran or China would put out a false narrative like this is how you get out of the city, or this is where you can find disaster aid. That could put people really into danger, their lives into danger. That’s the sort of disinformation and misinformation that we were looking to support the department in addressing, to make sure they had best practices, and most importantly, to protect Americans’ freedom of speech, civil liberties, and privacy while we are doing all that work. So, every characterization of the board that you heard up until now has been incorrect, and frankly, it’s kind of ironic that the board itself was taken over by disinformation when it was meant to fight it.”
She continued, “I’ve been a really nuanced, reasonable person, again, as I said, I briefed and advised both Republicans and Democrats. I admired some of steps even the Trump administration took to combat disinformation.”
She added, “To say that I am just a partisan actor wildly out of context.”
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN
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