Some exclusives by Mary Ellen Klas in the Miami Herald

Forced to fire undocumented workers, owner of landmark Florida restaurant seeks change

Richard Gonzmart, the fourth-generation owner of the iconic Columbia Restaurant chain based in Tampa, says it’s time for politicians to start listening on immigration. When federal immigration authorities arrived at his Sand Key restaurant in Clearwater in 2021 to find outdated and noncompliant work documents for 19 of his employees, he was forced to fire them all — including seven people who had worked with his family for decades.

What could America expect from Ron DeSantis? How he has changed Florida provides clues

Elected as a Trump-embracing conservative who promised to expand school choice and protect clean air and water, DeSantis morphed into an advocate of the aggressive use of state power to usher in a radical shift in education and healthcare policy, a bigger role for state government in business and personal life, new limits on local government control, and, in the process, less government transparency.

Beyond fighting ‘wokeism.’ Understanding Ron DeSantis’ conservative policy agenda

Ron DeSantis has now formally announced he is running for president — but the Florida governor has been preparing a campaign for months, rolling out his vision for America on a book tour and through legislative actions that detail his views on policies expected to define the upcoming race. On some issues, that record puts DeSantis far to the right of any past Republican presidential nominee, including his chief rival, former President Donald Trump, who maintained relatively moderate positions on social issues throughout his first two campaigns.

Disney outmaneuvered DeSantis’ new governing board, but a legal fight is brewing

The entertainment company quietly put a plan in motion that, for now, has muted the governor’s attempt to exert leverage over it. Days before Florida legislators voted to advance the governor’s proposal to take control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Disney-aligned board voted to undercut the authority of its successor. It also made sure the plan remains in effect until 21 years after the death of the last descendant of King Charles III - a very long time. Read more at:

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

Documents released 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.
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