Some exclusives by Mary Ellen Klas in the Miami Herald

Before DeSantis could say he kicked migrants out of Florida, he had to pay to fly them in

Documents released this week by the aviation company that helped manage Florida’s $12 million migrant relocation program shed new light on behind-the-scenes dealings as the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis, working with the politically connected vendor, wriggled around a requirement that Florida use the money to export Florida migrants — not those living in some other state.

‘Nightmare scenario’: How FPL secretly manipulated a Florida state Senate election

Florida Power & Light had a problem. A strong Democratic challenger was threatening to unseat a friendly Republican incumbent in a Gainesville-area state Senate race in 2018. FPL, one of the country’s largest utilities, needed to make sure the GOP held onto the seat. So FPL used a shadowy nonprofit group to secretly bankroll a spoiler candidate, a longtime Democrat named Charles Goston, according to new documents obtained by the Miami Herald. Running as a no-party candidate in the general election, Goston helped split the liberal vote, siphoning off enough votes from the Democratic challenger to swing the race to the GOP incumbent.

Panhandle backlash on FPL rate hike helped spark DeSantis veto of rooftop solar bill

Gov. Ron DeSantis surprised many in Florida’s environmental community when he vetoed Florida Power & Light’s priority bill that was intended to reduce rooftop solar expansion in Florida. Solar advocates said it was a signal the governor had put “energy freedom ahead of monopoly utility profit margins.” But in conservative Northwest Florida, residents say they deserve some of the credit, as their outrage at FPL and it’s handling of winter price hikes became a catalyst in the bill’s demise.

Senate president steers $331 million to agriculture. He might get to spend it, too.

Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson wants to be the next Florida agriculture commissioner, and he is using his power over the $105 billion state budget to give the agency a gift: $331 million in new spending. But it also comes with a catch: It can’t be spent until after the election. The money — $300 million for land acquisition, plus aerial drones, agriculture promotion and new jobs — must be held in reserve and not used by Nikki Fried, the current agriculture commissioner who is a Democratic candidate for governor.

Consultants named in ghost candidate probe ran gambling petition

The political consultants who created the funding structure for the 2020 ghost candidate scandal are now in the midst of another election controversy over possibly thousands of faked signatures submitted by the campaign that is trying to bring a casino to Jacksonville. Tallahassee-based political consultants Abigail MacIver, Dan Newman and Jeff Pitts, who run Canopy Partners, formed a subsidiary called Game Day Strategies with the goal of getting enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the 2022 November ballot.

‘ ’22 is right around the corner.’ DeSantis’ optics were focus of Lakewood Ranch vaccine organizers

Organizers of the three-day vaccine distribution event last month in Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County were focused on more than shots, text messages between them and the governor’s office show. They were also keenly aware of the political optics of bringing Gov. Ron DeSantis into town to promote vaccines in their Republican-rich neighborhood. Rather than rely on a random selection of vaccine-eligible residents, the governor’s staff wanted them to create a list of who would get a vaccine.

Legislating in the time of COVID-19 means putting protections over public access

Located on the tallest hill in the highest part of the state, halfway between Pensacola and Jacksonville, Florida’s Capitol is hard to reach for most Floridians during the annual legislative session.But this year, as legislators opened their 60-day session Tuesday trying to navigate a global pandemic and stay healthy enough to avoid disrupting their activities, access to elected government is even more distant.

Timeline: Florida’s dark year for its Sunshine Law

A year ago on March 1, 2020, Florida announced its first two cases of the novel coronavirus, and declared a public health emergency recognizing the emergence of the novel coronavirus. Only later did we learn that the spread of COVID-19 in Florida likely began in January, if not earlier, but as late as March 11, as the White House downplayed the virus, Gov. Ron DeSantis denied that community spread was taking place in Florida. Here is a summary of the state of transparency in Florida over the last year:
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