DeSantis’ big gamble- POLITICO

Hello and welcome to Thursday.

Roll back the tapeFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a noteworthy promise earlier this week during a press conference in Miami.

Changes aheadWhile talking about next week’s special session on property insurance, the governor said he was hopeful that legislators would pass “the most significant reforms that we’ve seen with Florida’s property insurance in decades.” He added that, “we’re not going to accept anything less than a very significant package for the people of Florida.”

DilemmasBut here’s the problem: The property insurance special session is due to start just days from now. And, as of right now, word is that neither the governor nor legislative leaders have reached a final deal on what exactly they plan to pass to stabilize a market where companies are collapsing and premiums are skyrocketing.

Work in progressYes, negotiations are fervently ongoing and the contours are starting to emerge. DeSantis himself said there is “broad agreement” on “most of it.” So it would not be surprising if some details surfaced in the next two days.

Nothing easyThis is a reminder, however, that this isn’t an issue that is easily fixed. The governor has many times charged ahead on issues that resonate with his conservative base but in reality aren’t a big problem — take banning sanctuary cities when there aren’t any as just one example.

Paradise lost?Property insurance — in a hurricane prone state where millions of people live near the coast — has proven to be a recurring seemingly intractable issue in this state ever since Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida three decades ago.

Balancing actThe nagging question is how much the government should get involved in what is already a highly regulated market. The danger of doing nothing and letting the market dictate the outcome is that it could damage the state’s economy and make Florida even more expensive than it already is.

Forging aheadDeSantis is taking a calculated risk by using his power to tackle the issue. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — who has insurance as part of his responsibilities — has taken a much more limited approach, focusing on “fraud” initiatives. This week, he wrote a letter to the Florida Bar asking that something be done about “unethical attorneys” driving litigation against insurers.

Torts to be servedPart of the final package will no doubt be aimed at dealing with lawsuits that insurers say is driving up costs. But that doesn’t bring about rate relief right away, nor does it deal with another big expense for insurers — the cost of reinsurance. And the reinsurance industry has been very good over the years at having sway over the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Drawing the lineAnother conundrum for DeSantis: Do you endorse legislation that transfers part of the expense from insurers to consumers, by say placing more of the burden on homeowners to fix their roofs? Do you put pressure on insurers to roll back rates if you go along with some of their suggestions, including their long sought-after mission to eliminate “bad faith” lawsuits against those insurers who do not settle claims promptly.

Checklist — One clear reason for DeSantis to act now is that he can potentially thwart this as a campaign issue and prove that he can deal with problems head-on instead of taking a safer path. But first he’s got to get something passed.

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

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‘THIS IS A PATIENT THAT’S BLEEDING’— “Floridians won’t get home insurance relief soon, experts say,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jeffrey Schweers: “Florida homeowners shouldn’t get their hopes up that the Legislature will enact meaningful reforms that will immediately reduce their rates or stop policies from being canceled, industry experts said Wednesday. Instead, they predict lawmakers will fall back on industry-friendly fixes such as making it harder to sue insurance companies and cutting back on rooftop coverage during the one-week special session that begins Monday.”

YOU GET A MILLION AND YOU GET A MILLION— “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis giving green light to budget items,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner: “[Gov. Ron] DeSantis has not formally received the proposed $112.1 billion budget from the Legislature for the fiscal year that will start July 1. But in election-year appearances across the state, he has dribbled out news on about $2 billion worth of projects and programs that he will approve. That makes up less than 2 percent of the spending plan, but the announcements have touched on what likely will be popular spending.”

— “Citizens Property Insurance looks to buy reinsurance amid ‘collapsing’ market,” by Florida Politics Gray Rohrer

FLORIDA? WHERE’S THAT? — “Biden’s Cuba and Venezuela policy shifts leave Florida Democrats dismayed,” by POLITICO’s Sabrina Rodriguez and Matt Dixon: President Joe Biden hemorrhaged South Florida Hispanic voters in 2020 — one reason he lost the state to Donald Trump during the last election. Two moves by his administration this week — easing sanctions on Venezuela and loosening restrictions on Cuba — signal he’s likely not interested in improving his standing with the key demographic. And Florida Democrats, already reeling from a tough electoral environment for the party, are disheartened. “It’s frustrating, no question. And I’m sure it will be used [against Democrats],” said state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami), who is running for governor. “It’s very clear they still don’t have a political side in the Biden White House.”

RICK WHO?A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that came out on Wednesday asked about Sen. Rick Scott, whose “Rescue America” plan has become a favorite target of the White House. The poll found that just 16 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of the Florida senator — and 27 percent had an unfavorable view. But probably just as noteworthy, the poll found that 36 percent had never heard of the former Florida governor while 21 percent had heard of him and had no opinion. The poll of more than 2,000 registered voters from across the nation has an error margin of plus/minus 2 percent.

COURTHOUSE RENAMING REVIVED — The U.S. House on Wednesday voted to rename the federal courthouse and federal building located in downtown Tallahassee after Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett. Hatchett, who died in 2021, was the first Black person appointed to the Florida Supreme Court and eventually became a federal appeals court judge.

Déjà vu — If you think you have seen this movie before… you have. The House back in March blocked consideration of the bill being pushed by Sen. Marco Rubio because it was moving under a procedure that required a two-thirds vote and fell short. Those voting against the measure included 10 of the 16 Republicans from Florida who sided with other GOP lawmakers concerned about a school prayer decision rendered by Hatchett.

By the numbers — The vote on Wednesday was 230 to 190 with ten House Republicans voting yes including three from Florida: Reps. Neal Dunn, Maria Elvira Salazar and Bill Posey. Dunn, who represents part of Tallahassee but could soon have the entire city in his district, switched his vote this time from no to yes.

ResponseIn a statement, Dunn said “when we initially voted on this dedication, I felt the process with this bill was rushed and deserved more study. After reviewing the information for this designation, I wish we could have had an honest discussion and celebrated Judge Hatchett’s many achievements. He is a great Floridian and American and should be recognized as such. I take issue with his decision regarding student-approved prayers at high school graduations; however, that one decision must not overshadow all his achievements.”

SPONSORED BY WASSERMAN SCHULTZ — “Rep. Thomas Massie is only ‘no’ vote on bill condemning antisemitism,” by Newsweek’s Jake Thomas: “The resolution notes that conspiracy theories maligning Jewish people have led to mass killings, particularly 6 million that died at the hands of the Nazis. However, the resolution cites a 2020 survey finding that younger generations did not know key facts about the Holocaust. ‘Our story is woven into America’s history through generations of leaders,’ [Rep. Debbie] Wasserman Schultz said on the House floor. ‘Yet as we honor the profound impact American Jews made on our national and culture, I must sadly acknowledge that the recognition and understanding that [Jewish American Heritage Month] seeks to foster is critically needed now more than ever.’”

THE HEIR?— “Trumpism is moving beyond Trump and that’s good news for Ron DeSantis,” by Newsweek’s Katherine Fung: “[Gov. Ron] DeSantis, whose political success [former President Donald] Trump has taken credit for, has become critical of the former president in recent months over things like Trump’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And while the Republican has been careful to not completely abandon Trump, [Kathy’s] Barnette’s strong showing during the campaign suggests that candidates courting MAGA voters no longer have to secure a Trump endorsement in order to win—a shift Florida’s governor is likely to embrace. ‘DeSantis is not refuting Trump, Trumpism or the America First policies. DeSantis is positioning himself as the next step, the iteration,’ GOP strategist Alex Patton told Newsweek.”

MAKKI MAKES MOVES AFTER FEC INQUIRY— Amanda Makki, one of the Republican candidates in the primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, replaced her treasurer after the Federal Elections Commission asked questions about expenses on a recent campaign report. The FEC last week sent a letter that noted payments to a utility company and to an insurance company could be “personal use of campaign funds,” a potential violation of campaign finance law.

Succinct statement— Eric Robinson, a Venice-based accountant who is in a firm with Republican Party of Florida chair Joe Gruters, filed a notice with the FEC on Wednesday that stated “I have been removed as treasurer.” Hours later, another notice was posted that listed a new treasurer for Makki’s campaign.

Campaign response — The campaign issued this statement from Eric Wang, an attorney for the campaign, when asked about the change: “Since the FEC letter was issued last Thursday, Amanda’s campaign has taken prompt measures to enhance its FEC recordkeeping and reporting operations, including retaining a new compliance team.” Wang told Insider earlier this week that Makki has used her home office as campaign headquarters and that the campaign believed it was allowed to the funds based on a “good faith” understanding of “highly confusing rules.” He also told Insider that Makki has refunded money to the campaign.

— “Florida rents are high, but Crist exaggerates with New York market comparison,” by PolitiFact’s Yacob Reyes

CAMPAIGN ROUNDUPRep. Charlie Crist picked up the endorsement of Barbara Zdravecky, the former CEO of Planned Parenthood for Southwest and Central Florida. “Crist has been a long-standing fighter for women’s reproductive freedoms across Florida,” Zdravecky said in a statement. “His record is clear: As Congressman, he has stood with Planned Parenthood and the rights of Florida’s women 100 percent, and as governor he will continue to do the same.” The endorsement comes as Crist has been criticized by Democratic rival Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried over Crist’s record and his insistence that he is both for abortion rights and “pro life.”

— “Bill Olson switching from congressional run to HD 51,” by Florida Politics Scott Powers

CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS?— “Property insurance market in ‘very precarious position’ as hurricane season approaches,” by Palm Beach Post’s Hannah Morse: “This hurricane season, homeowners are dealing with an added layer of unpredictability — the ability to insure their properties, let alone volatility in premiums and deductibles. Plus, monthly electric bills could bump up next year to pay for storm hardening projects. Some insurers are dropping clients, others are no longer writing policies in the state, while those keeping customers may in some cases double policy renewal rates. In the worst case, they’ve gone belly-up altogether.”

MEANWHILE — “Biden warns of ‘another tough hurricane season’ this year,” by The Associated Press’ Zeke Miller and Chris Megerian: “President Joe Biden warned Wednesday that the country will likely see “another tough hurricane season” this year, and he pledged that his administration was prepared to respond to the storms and help Americans recover from them. ‘We know hurricanes are coming our way. They grow more extreme every season,’ Biden said before a briefing from top federal officials, including Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge. Biden urged Americans to ‘pay attention to hurricane warnings and follow the guidance of your local authorities.’”

THE END— “Plea deal by ex-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown settles indictment that ended career in Congress,” by Florida Times-Union’s Steve Patterson: “Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single charge of repeatedly lying to avoid paying taxes, ending a six-year legal fight about a charity scam that helped sink her 24-year career in Congress. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan sentenced the Jacksonville Democrat to time served in an earlier prison stint and payment of substantially less restitution than he ordered after her first trial five years ago.”

BLOCKED— “Gay student says school stopping run for student leadership,” by The Associated Press: “A 17-year-old gay student who was suspended for leading protests at his high school against Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay legislation says school administrators are now stopping him from running for senior class president. Because of the disciplinary infractions he received for leading the protests at Flagler Palm Coast High School in March, school administrators are preventing him for running for the elected student body office, Jack Petocz said in a letter posted on Twitter on Tuesday.”

WHAT THEY SAID— “Matt Gaetz, other Florida Republicans offer comments akin to ‘replacement theory,’” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello: “Some Florida Republican politicians, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, state Sen. Dennis Baxley and two congressional candidates, have espoused rhetoric similar to the racist ‘great replacement theory’ cited by the suspect in the Buffalo mass shooting on Saturday. Supporters of the theory allege Black and brown immigrants are being brought into this country by Democrats and a secretive, Jewish cabal to ‘replace’ white voters.”

— “Mayor Suarez’s office is mum on prime courtside seats at the Heat’s playoff game,” by Miami Herald’s Ben Conarck

— “Tampa settled its portion of Orlando Gudes lawsuit for $200K as main suit against Gudes continues,” by Florida Politics’ Daniel Figueroa IV

 — “Florida seeks ‘bear response’ workers in several counties,” by News Service of Florida: “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking people to help with efforts to reduce interactions between humans and bears. Applicants are expected to have flexible work schedules and vehicles that can tow small trailers because disposing of bear carcasses is among the job requirements. ‘Bear response contractors will be trained to assist with various bear conservation efforts, including but not limited to helping residents and businesses avoid conflicts with bears, collecting information from and disposing of dead bears and setting and monitoring bear traps,’ the agency said in a news release.”

BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Greg Steube … state Sen. Kathleen PassidomoCynthia Barnett, journalist and author … Dana Kelly, public information officer for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement … John Laufer of Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s (D-Fla.) office … Sarah Mueller

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