Good Sunday morning.
So can we all agree that going forward, one legislative leader per Session needs to schedule a major family event for the last weekend before Sine Die?
The picturesque wedding yesterday of the other Mr. and Mrs. Wilton Simpson in Trilby was not only a beautiful occasion for the bride and groom, but it also provided a much-needed pause in the legislative deliberations for all of those involved in The Process. I cant remember the last Saturday of a Session NOT being consumed by budget negotiations. So what a treat it must have been for everyone who has worked nonstop the last eight weeks to be able to enjoy a wonderful April weekend away from the business of government.
Now, President Simpsons son will only be married once, so we need Speaker Chris Sprowls to step up and plan a communion or a recital or something for one of his kids for next March. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Rep. Paul Renner have more than enough time to plan something significant of their own for 2023 and 2024.
Spotted in Trilby: Former Attorney General Pam Bondi, Sens. Aaron Bean, Danny Burgess (who was the wedding officiant), Joe Gruters, Travis Hutson, Kathleen Passidomo, Kelli Stargel, Reps. Randy Maggard and Josie Tomkow; David Browning; CoryGuzzo; JohnHolley; FredKarlinsky, Lori and Lee Killinger;and Jon Rees.
We hope you have enjoyed this series of Brunch newsletters. This is our last edition for the 2021 Session, although maybe Brunch up again during the Special Session. Thank you to our title sponsors, Jeff Johnston and Amanda Stewart. Their support goes directly to the compensation of reporters and editors who work the weekend to put together this newsletter.
Happy belated birthday to Amanda, who celebrated her birthday this week at the best (or maybe worst) possible time as lawmakers were hashing out a historic budget amid a pandemic. We hope she had a great day, even if it was hectic, and made time for a refreshing and much-needed adult beverage.
A couple of other notes:
Get ready for the Oscars: Live coverage of this years Oscars begins on ABC at 1 p.m. with the Countdown LIVE!, with the preshow starting at 6:30 (you know you want to watch that red carpet) and the big show kicking off at 8. Watch for this years awards to feature more diversity after last years much-critiqued #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale fiasco. Nearly half the nominees in acting categories are of color, and 70 more than any previous year are women.
Winners and losers with a Sabatini twist: What does Gov. Ron DeSantis have in common this week with Rep. Anthony Sabatini? Find out in Florida Politics columnist Joe Hendersons latest edition of winners and losers, in which he pontificates DeSantis Trump-like musings.
Budget taking shape
Legislators are finalizing major sticking points in the 2021-22 budget, as they hope to seal a deal in the coming days.
Whats changed: Lead negotiators in the House and Senate appear to have reached agreements on education and health care spending items that had been major sticking points in the negotiation process.
Teacher and prison bonuses: More than $22 billion will be slotted away for education expenditures, including funding for a $1,000 teacher and principal bonus proposal. That money will be paid as a thank you to educators who pushed through during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prison workers will also earn a similar bonus, thanks to savings gathered from shutting down a prison.
Medicaid cuts are axed: Leaders backed off on cuts to Medicaid that could have tallied hundreds of millions of dollars. Hospitals and nursing homes would have borne the brunt of those cuts, but negotiators have backed off the funding slash.
Whats left: Lawmakers must still agree on distributing $10 billion in federal cash being shipped to Florida as part of the American Rescue Plan. And they are working to agree on a plan to bump pay for low-wage state employees to $13 per hour. Senate President Simpson has voiced support for that increase.
Tick tock: Lawmakers have until Tuesday to meet Fridays scheduled Session end date and avoid going into overtime.
Cate Sine Die
Are you among the anxious wondering when the 2021 Legislative Session will end? Sure, theres the scheduled end date of Friday, April 30, but will it hold? And what time will the hankie drop?
A charitable cause: Kevin Cate of CATECOMM fame has opened his annual #CateSineDie challenge, where he offers cash to the charity of choice for whoever gets closest to the actual closing time. Thats Price is Right rules, however, so no going over.
Whos in? Cate says 50 people have placed their bets on when this years Session will officially wrap. With the gambling compact moving forward, maybe Cate can court a casino to help take these wagers next year.
Whats the consensus? Among those dozens of entries, Cate says the median prediction for the end of the 2021 Legislative Session is Friday, April 30 at 18:45:30. Thats 6:45 p.m. (plus 30 seconds).
Entries are closed, but plenty will be watching to see whether their predictions and weekend plans will hold.
Thumbs-up to freedom
Republican Rep. Danny Perez, whos in line for the 2024-26 House Speaker role, is releasing a new video aiming to support several anti-communism measures in the Legislature this Session. And that production is also taking shots at several high-profile Democrats as well.
The aim: Perez tells Florida Politics the more than 2-minute long video funded by his PC, Miami United looks to add support to a measure aiming to set up a Victims of Communism Day for public schools. Legislators are also pushing a measure blocking universities from entering into an agreement with a communist regime, or an entity that is organized and exists under the laws of a foreign country governed by a communist regime, concerning research, development, courses, or student or cultural exchange or to establish a campus.
Year-round message: We wanted to make sure that the anti-communist message isnt only a message of campaigns season, Perez said. Its got to be a year-round message, and that was something that we thought we would be able to portray through this video.
On the attack: But the video has plenty of campaign fodder as well. It argues the policies of some more left-leaning American Democrats are a slippery slope or equivalent to those of oppressive Latin American regimes. Pairing images of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with ominous background music and quotes about the perils of socialism make that point clear.
Fair game? I do not think that every Democrat is a socialist or a democratic socialist for that matter, Perez clarified, arguing the videos main focus is on giving a hand to those legislative proposals. Republicans have beat the drum of socialism for years, even as many Democrats have rebutted those claims. Thats particularly true in South Florida, where Democratic candidates have not been shy in calling out socialist countries and even comments from their own party members playing nice with those regimes.
South Florida focus: Joining Perez in the video are fellow Miami-Dade County-based Reps. David Borrero, Tom Fabricio, Juan Fernandez-Barquin and Anthony Rodriguez. I will never give up on freedom, the lawmakers say.
To watch Freedom is Our Business, click on the image below:
Division of Elections leaders had reason to balk this week when the House and Senate in budget conference zeroed out improvements to agency hardware. But hey, whos trying to hack into and screw around with voter databases and election results these days?
Line item loss: The House had appropriated $500,000 for election legacy hardware replacement, but the Senate had left that out of its State Department Budget. When the chambers agreed on Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations funding, the spending didnt make the cut.
Already a fraction: The budget request already represented a quarter of what Ron DeSantis proposed budget included. The administration budget called for $2 million and presented the technology spending as an important need. Upgrading the applications and hardware will address security concerns and replace the unsupported hardware that range in age from three to 10 years old, the administrations proposed budget explained.
Hacker habit: The budget cut also seemed especially alarming amid talks of election integrity and the risks faced from foreign influence campaigns. Earlier this year, Secretary of State Laurel Lee testified to lawmakers that a malicious attack on Floridas voter registration website might have been behind a crash at the registration deadline for the general election. She noted the site saw an inordinate boost to 1.1 million hits on the site in an hour.
Hoop there it is
The third annual Hoop Day, co-hosted by a group of Democratic female Representatives in the House, celebrates the dangly circle earrings by asking women to wear their favorite pair of hoops.
Hoop story: The day is based on an incident from the 2019 Session when a female intern was told during intern orientation that hoop earrings were not professional. The unofficial Hoop Caucus disagrees.
Hoops on the House floor: So often we are told that hoop earrings, though they are sacred in many of our cultures, are not professional, said co-host Rep. Anna Eskamani, while wearing her hoop earrings on the House floor Wednesday. This was an opportunity to highlight that hoop earrings can be professional, just like all the other cultural characteristics that make our lives and experiences so unique.
Hoop history: Hoop earrings have been around since 2500 BC and are associated with female empowerment, particularly among minority groups.
From Korea to The Capitol
The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) welcomed the Consul General of the Republic of Korea Young-Jun Kim on Thursday.
Secret Service Man: The 30-year career diplomat joked he was a secret service man, but really, Kim has served as Korean Consul General in Atlanta, promoting favorable business environments for Korean companies in 6 southeastern states, including Florida.
Bearing gifts: The Consulate gifted Florida 10,000 Korean-made face masks to protect Korean War veterans against the COVID-19 virus. On hand to accept the gifts were Laurel Lee, Floridas Secretary of State, and Jim Hartsell, Deputy Executive Director of the FDVA.
Continued Friendship: Lee called the masks a symbol of Floridas continued friendship with the Republic of Korea. Cultural and diplomatic exchanges, such as that which we have here today with our international partners, lead us to a deeper understanding of our shared values and can help keep Florida an incredible and diverse place to live and do business.
Veterans remembered: There are more than 118,000 veterans of the Korean War living in Florida. Last year was the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, but Kim said associated events were canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Id like to express my deepest respect and appreciation to all the Korean War veterans, Kim added.
Water, water everywhere
Floridas [ahem] historic Emergency Operations Center launched an untimely water feature this week, the latest sign of its deterioration, and a well-timed one too, given where the Legislature is in the Session.
Setting the scene: The visual said it all, with standing water on the bottom of the stairwell standing as the latest evidence a fix is needed.
Jareds take: The exiting head of the Department of Emergency Management, Jared Moskowitz, quipped on Twitter Friday: Whats this? Whats this? There is water everywhere. Whats this? I cant believe my eyes there is a three-story leak from a pipe during budget negotiations on a new EOC. Whats this?
Biden bucks: It looks like serious money may be coming to resolve the issue for the next head of the EOC, with the House and the Senate agreeing as of now to slot $100 million for a new facility.
Baby showers and budget seasons
The end-of-Session appropriations drama took a back (rear-facing) seat for a moment this week as some House Republicans worked on a different sprinkle list. A baby shower was held for Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican expecting her second child in July.
A caucus occasion: Colleagues in the GOP caucus organized the event, giving McFarland a heads-up to provide a gift registry. The freshman lawmaker was happy to step away from the data privacy bill, that other thing shes been carrying this session.
Technically a sprinkle: For the event-planning ignorant, this baby shower actually counted as a sprinkle because it was held for a second child. But the timing seemed appropriate, McFarland said, as everyone clamors for line items.
Guest list: The whole GOP freshman class stopped by, McFarland said, as did some (mostly female) veteran members. One notable male guest was Speaker-designate Paul Renner, who felt compelled to swing by after changing dirty diapers at home and share the glory of the experience with the expectant mom.
Pork barreling: McFarland stressed she didnt need much in terms of gifts, especially as McFarland expects a second child who can slip in hand-me-down clothes, but some cute outfits will return to House District 72 with McFarland. I think I might have a stroller waiting for me at home, she said.
Stop and smell the roses
As it has for the past century, everything was coming up roses in Thomasville, Georgias historic downtown district this weekend.
Taking over a small town: The first Rose Show was held in 1922 in this small (population: 18,500) town just a 30-minute drive north of Tallahassee. While attracting the rose culture crowd in its early years, its popularity exploded midcentury, when it expanded into a more populist three-day festival that now includes an antique car show, golf tourney, 5K run, outdoor market, and Shop & Sip, as well as displays dedicated to orchids and more pedestrian blooms.
Rose royalty: The highlight, a parade that at one time could attract 70,000 people, was canceled this year because of COVID-19 concerns. But attendees were invited to a Friday night interactive Historic Parade Experience to enjoy photographs from the past and meet the current Rose Queen and her court.
Why Thomasville? It became a popular retreat in the late 1800s for wealthy industrialists who wanted to escape the cold northern winters. Thomasville did some very clever marketing, taking out ads in like The New York Times and the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Philadelphia Inquirer and promoted Thomasville as a winter resort, said Ephraim Rotter, curator of the Thomasville History Center. Thomasville considers itself and fairly, I would say the cultural capital of southwest Georgia.
Notable residents: Many of the areas estates are still in the hands of those families, while others are of more recent vintage. One of its most notable landowners is Ted Turner, who built his 29,000-acre Avalon estate in the area. His next-door neighbor was the late T.K. Wetherell, former House Speaker and Florida State University President, who owned Oak Hill Plantation along with his wife, former DEP Secretary, and State Rep. Virginia Ginger Wetherell.
A species known as the Cherokee rose occurs naturally in the habitat, which would have caught the eye of snowbirds. And those rich visitors hired landscape designers who went very heavy on roses, Rotter said. Rose pride caught on with the natives, and the rest is 100 years of floral history.
The Hideaway at Waterworks is a cozy, mid-century-inspired oasis tucked behind Tallahassees iconic tiki bar and restaurant. Both The Hideaway and Waterworks which has been open nearly 30 years are owned by Don Quarello, and each has its own fun and quirky atmosphere.
Setting: For now, there is outdoor seating or takeout only, but patrons can sit under the colorful umbrellas on the patio of The Hideaway cafe or Waterworks. Inside dining is expected to start again by early summer.
Menu: The cafe features breakfast and lunch all day. The new Fellini dish brings two fried eggs, prosciutto, tomato, arugula, provolone and French bread. Other classics include a lox and bagel sandwich, classic breakfast plate with eggs, toast, breakfast potatoes and choice of sausage, bacon or ham and the Tennessee Williams, with fried egg, pimento cheese, tomato and bacon on an English muffin. Brunch specials on Saturday and Sunday add items like pancakes and eggs Benedict, with lox and Florentine versions. The lunch menu offers sandwiches, salads, burgers, hot dogs and platters. Look for specials like housemade corned beef, pastrami and fried chicken.
Spirits/Coffee: Customers can order a range of coffee specialties and traditional breakfast beverages like mimosas, bellinis and Bloody Marys, as well as drinks served at Waterworks: coffee cocktails, Tiki and blended drinks (including pia colada).
Details: The cafe is located at 1133 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-1887.
Hours: The Hideaway is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Via Rochelle Koff of Tallahassee Table.
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