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Sunburn — The Morning Read Of What’s Hot In Florida Politics — 5.19.22

Joe Biden as an honorary Mexican cartel member? If Ron DeSantis had his way. Image via AP.

By Peter Schorsch

Good Thursday morning.

I’m back from the annual meeting of the American Association of Political Consultants, and, well, I had time on the plane to write.

It seems like a decade ago that House Speaker Chris Sprowls first sounded the alarm on how genetic testing results.

Chris Sprowls was ahead of the curve on genetic testing concerns. Image via Colin Hackley

In his first Legislative Session as House Speaker, the Palm Harbor Republican pushed a bill to prevent life insurance companies from using consumer genetic testing kit results to make actuarial decisions.

It was a bit of a head-scratcher at the time. It’s not that it was a bad idea — it was just one of those priority bills that seemed to be crossing a bridge we weren’t at yet.

Federal law already prevents health insurers from using genetic information when setting premiums. Sure, the law doesn’t apply to life insurance policies, but it’s not like 23andMe and Northwestern Mutual are part of some secret cabal.

Still, Sprowls said that was a “massive loophole” and put his full weight behind the proposal.

The bill passed, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it, and Florida became the first state to guarantee DNA privacy for life, disability, and long-term care insurance.

There’s a reason Insurers were opposed to the bill. They claimed that genetic testing results could lead to some customers being charged less.

There’s some truth to that, just like it’s technically accurate that the little box auto insurers install to measure how often you slam your brakes could land you a discount on car insurance. Emphasis on “could” — also lead to a rate increase.

But insurance is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sure, genetic testing can tell you whether you’re predisposed to diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or dystonia. The Food and Drug Administration has even approved direct-to-consumer services to screen for those diseases and others.

But what about conditions that aren’t diseases?

A while back, I sent my DNA to 23andMe, and the results were … interesting. Apparently, I’m afraid of heights.

I knew whether I was afraid of heights long before I swabbed my cheek, so I really didn’t need 23andMe to tell me. And that’s the problem — if genetic testing companies can collect data on our fears and phobias, consumers will need protection from a lot more than life insurance companies.

Imagine if marketers got ahold of that data. You can bet there’d be a banner ad for Canadian diazepam the next time I booked a flight. Imagine if I were denied entry to the Washington Monument or Empire State Building. Imagine if the Cosmo wouldn’t give me a room above the 10th floor.

There’s really no reason for anyone to know about our fears unless we tell them.

It’s starting to look like Sprowls was ahead of his time.

___

Is the Tampa Bay Times admitting defeat on covering the scandals engulfing the Tampa City Council?

As much as we enjoy scoops at Florida Politics, it’s a bit jarring — and depressing — to see the Times’ apathetic, nearly invisible coverage of these significant local stories.

Is the Tampa Bay Times giving up on covering Tampa City Hall?

Today, at least 24 hours after Florida Politics and other outlets informed the community that a former employee and her daughter are suing Council member Orlando Gudes over monstrously abusive behavior, the Times finally posted something on its website.

Dan Sullivan wrote the piece, not Tampa reporter Charlie Frago, as one would expect for this type of story.

One explanation could be that the lawsuit depicts Frago as more focused on carrying Gudes’ water and casting the investigation into his behavior as a political witch hunt instead of exposing an elected official for abusing a single parent and employee.

So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

In any case, by the time the TBT managed to get around to reporting news of the Gudes lawsuit, Florida Politics, The Tampa Bay Business Journal, and other outlets were telling readers that the city of Tampa agreed to pay $300K stemming from the investigation, including a $100K independent investigation and a $200K settlement to Gudes’ former employee as part of a mediation agreement.

The harassment at the heart of the dispute included sexualized (referred to as “pedophiliac”) remarks directed toward the aide’s then-13-year-old daughter and the then-minor daughter of former President Barack Obama, as well as homophobic and misogynistic comments about Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and her partner, Ana Cruz.

Things got so bad that the parents of a young woman interning in Tampa from Duke University recommended she not be alone with Gudes.

The aide who brought the suit — a single Black woman raising two children — will donate part of her share of the settlement to The Spring of Tampa Bay, an organization that supports survivors of domestic abuse, and the United Negro College Fund.

For his part, Gudes is resisting calls from fellow Council members to step down.

The bottom line? Awards are lovely, and we are lucky to have a Pulitzer-caliber newspaper in our community. But I suspect many of us would prefer a reliable, consistent outlet to keep us updated on what’s happening at City Hall.

Keeping readers informed — that’s really what it’s all about.

___

The University of Florida climbed to the Top-10 of Money magazine’s 2022 ranking of best colleges in terms of value.

Welcome to the Top 10, Gators!

UF jumped eight spots from 2021 and landed at No. 8 in “The Best Colleges in America, Ranked by Value.” It was the only Florida institution named among the Top 10 in a list that includes over 600 colleges and universities nationwide. Florida State University, by comparison, landed at No. 89.

Other schools in the top 10 included the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“UF is committed to providing an excellent education that is affordable,” said Chris Hass, UF’s associate provost for academic and faculty affairs. “We are honored that the exceptional quality of our teaching combined with the talents of our students and the success of the graduates are being recognized.”

Money noted that 90% of first-time students graduate from UF within six years, and 64% do so without debt.

___

Markel Trial Day 3 — It is common for opening statements by prosecutors and defense attorneys to directly contradict one another, offering competing theories or interpretations of the evidence.

But during Wednesday morning’s opening arguments in Katherine Magbanua’s retrial, there was a lot more alignment between the two teams than before — at least on a few key things.

There is agreement over the facts in the murder of Dan Markel. It’s a start. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors expressed agreement on the following facts: Charlie Adelson paid for it, Garcia did it, and Wendi Adelson is protecting her family and herself. They also shared the sentiment that Markel’s murder created a sea of loss for so many, particularly his children.

Assistant State Attorney Sarah Kathryn Dugan began the morning acknowledging the “loving father” that Dan Markel was. So did defense attorney Tara Kawass, saying, “One thing everyone in this courtroom agrees on, Dan Markel lived his life for those two boys.”

More specifically, the two legal teams align on motive. Both sides told the jury how Markel’s ex-wife Wendi was “desperate” to relocate to Miami with the couple’s young boys following their divorce, and that she and her mother Donna Adelson were upset by a court motion Markel filed that would have removed Donna’s ability to have unsupervised visits with the children due to disparaging remarks she had made about him to them. While neither lawyer mentioned that Markel had also written motions alleging financial wrongdoing by Wendi in their divorce — a serious allegation that could have had consequences for her law license — acrimony such as that may have also contributed to the family’s motive to “take care of the problem.”

Get the day’s full coverage here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@AGAshleyMoody@JoeBiden, in honor of #NationalPoliceWeek, why don’t you actually go to the southwest border and ask CBP agents how the federal government can support them. I BET they will tell you not to end #Title42 next week.

@BaseballCrank: Today marks the 126th anniversary of Plessy v Ferguson. Yesterday marked the 68th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. We commemorate the courage required of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 58-year-old precedent that was unfaithful to the Constitution.

@DaveWeigel: If people don’t like the way @TaylorLorenz frames a story, they could scoop her. Easier said than done.

@KyLamb8Tom Homan, former ICE director, just stated on @FoxNews that 95% of fentanyl in the U.S. right now is coming across the southwest border. Both @ChristinaPushaw and I are old enough to remember when some attempted to ‘fact check’ @GovRonDeSantis for stating this.

@DataByler: — (DonaldTrump’s endorsement is helpful in GOP primaries — His endorsement isn’t all-powerful. Never has been — Trump is still the dominant figure in the GOP

@NickPrimrose: As Pennsylvania is still counting vote-by-mail ballots in the Senate race, in addition to other irregularities, it is a good reminder that Florida allows counting of VBM ballots prior to Election Day for efficient reporting of results. Leading the way on election administration.

@GElliottMorris: The real takeaway from (JohnFetterman’s win last night is that we should all be allowed to wear shorts whenever we want

@JosephHardingI drink cheap beer and shoot it to you straight …. In the ⁦@JoeBiden world, $8.00 beers and $5.00 gas is the norm. How has Sleepy Joe not been impeached yet?

@SalNuzzoOverheard in a meeting today … in #Tallahassee, when you die, you have to go through Atlanta to get to heaven …

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.comMay 19, 2022

Republished with permission 

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