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Gov. DeSantis Announces 2022 Tax Holidays, Doubles Down Against Disney



FILE - Governor Ron DeSantis delivers his speech on opening day of CPAC 2022 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando Thursday, February 24, 2022. (J. Willie David III/Florida National News, file)

OCALA, Fla. (FNN) – Florida governor Ron DeSantis announced the 2022 tax relief package, which waives sales tax on certain items across the year, while emphasizing his criticism against the Walt Disney Company.

“We’re going to end the fiscal year with our largest surplus in the history of Florida, close to $20 billion,” the governor said during a press conference at a Sam’s Club in Ocala alongside his wife Casey and two of their children, as well as Florida Department of Children and Families secretary Shevaun Harris and Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson.

“We have supported Florida jobs from day one, while others are yet to recover,” he added. “We did not want to descend into some Faucian dystopia. America is going through the worst inflation the country has seen in forty years, over 8.5 percent… Most of the stuff that they [the federal government] count as not significant is significant in your daily lives, much higher than 8.5 percent increases, like fuel, groceries.”

The bill, called HB-7071, offers $1.24 billion in tax relief. “You’re going to see breaks for things like fuel, diapers, recreational activities,” the governor said.

Diapers, clothes, and baby shoes will be tax-free starting July 1st. Children’s books will be tax-free for three months starting May 14. July 25 through August 7th will be the “Back To School” tax holiday, where certain school supplies will be tax-free.

Other calendar announcements include “Freedom Week,” where recreational equipment will also be tax-free, and “Disaster Preparedness,” which will waive taxes on emergency kits and window and door barriers.

The full calendar can be seen and downloaded at the Florida Department of Revenue website.

DeSantis also reiterated that the Walt Disney Company “will not hold their own government,” in the latest round of the Florida governor’s stance against the entertainment giant, due to the latter’s criticism of recent legislation in the state.

“It’s not the responsibility of Florida residents to fund your corporate speech,” DeSantis said. “Disney is not going to have its own government in Florida. Disney is going to have to live under the same laws as everyone in Florida, Disney will have to pay their taxes.”

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After missteps with some Hispanic voters in 2020, Biden faces pressure to get 2024 outreach right



KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Joe Biden vowed in 2020 to work “like the devil” to energize Hispanic voters, and flew to Florida seven weeks before Election Day to do just that. But as he stepped to the podium at a Hispanic Heritage Month event near Disney World, Biden declared, “I just have one thing to say” and used his phone to play part of “Despacito.”

It was meant as a salute to the singer of the reggaeton hit, Luis Fonsi, who had introduced Biden and cried, “Dance a little bit, Joe.” Still, the gesture triggered swift online backlash from some Hispanics, who saw it as playing to belittling stereotypes — proof that while outreach is important, failing to strike the right cultural tone can undermine such efforts.

“The details actually matter for people because it’s respecting their background, respecting their history, respecting their culture,” said Grecia Lima, national political director of Community Change Action. “It’s not an insignificant portion of what campaigns are going to have to wrestle with in the ’24 cycle.”

Biden is hardly the first politician to strike a sour note trying to connect across cultural lines, but the blowback he encountered illustrates a bigger challenge facing the president and his party as he seeks a second term next year.

Hispanic voters, long a core constituency for Democrats, have reliably supported them based on substantive matters of policy, from health care to managing the economy, according to Pew Research Center surveys. But recent signs that Republicans have made inroads with those voters are adding to the sense that Democrats have work to do to maintain their advantage.

Democratic candidates won 57% of Hispanic voters during last year’s midterms, a smaller percentage than the 63% of Hispanic voters Biden won in 2020 and the 66% of Hispanic voters supporting the party in 2018, when Democrats took control of the House, according to AP VoteCast, a sweeping survey of the national electorate.

Meanwhile, 39% of Hispanic voters backed Republicans last year, a tick up from the 35% who supported former President Donald Trump’s reelection bid.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican considering a White House run, said Democrats have failed to connect with Hispanic voters and hurt themselves by adopting terms like Latinx, a gender-neutral alternative to “Latino” and “Latina.”

“They’ve created a tremendous opportunity for Republicans,” Suarez said. “A lot of the issues that Hispanics care about are issues that are being touted by the Republican Party.”

Democrats say they maintain the upper hand on policy, but party leaders had expected another boost in electoral support from recent demographic shifts in the Hispanic population. A growing share were English-speaking and U.S. born, and they came from a wider array of backgrounds.

Many Democrats also believed harsh rhetoric from Republicans before, during and after the presidency of Trump — who famously used his campaign launch in 2015 to declare immigrants from Mexico to be rapists and criminals — would work in their favor.

Yet even modest swings toward Republicans could mean millions more 2024 GOP votes since Hispanics made up 62% of total growth in the nation’s eligible voters between 2018 and last year’s election, according to Pew. And that makes engaging in effective Hispanic outreach critical, activists say.

“Are they behind?” asked Javier Palomarez CEO of the United States Hispanic Business Council. “Yes.”

Hispanic support for Republicans has risen in places like New Mexico and New York, said Palomarez, who noted that such trends could continue — especially since word-of-mouth is crucial to influencing Hispanic voting — unless Democrats change the way they work to mobilize Hispanic voters.

“What they need to do immediately is really start talking to the Hispanic community in a genuine fashion,” said Palomarez, a fierce Trump critic who once joined the Trump administration’s council on diversity in hopes of finding consensus. “We’re no less important than any other community, but we’ve been left behind.”

Democratic strategist Maria Cardona countered that nearly every cycle features “activists with their hair on fire: ‘The campaign’s not doing enough, we’re not hearing from enough people.’”

She said Biden’s campaign is neutralizing those perceptions with “historic strides and investments” in Hispanic voter mobilization, especially important since a new Hispanic American turns 18 years old nationwide about every 30 seconds. That helps account for around 4 million more eligible Hispanic voters ahead of 2024 than there were in 2020.

Biden supporters also say incidents like playing “Despacito” don’t resonate with Hispanic voters who are more interested in concrete policy achievements, especially when leading Republican candidates feed racially charged fear-mongering about immigrants and the U.S.-Mexico border.

“President Biden has spent his first two years in office focusing on the issues facing many Latino families — lowering health care costs, creating good-paying jobs, getting our small businesses and schools reopened, and fighting gun violence in our communities,” Kevin Munoz, a spokesperson for Biden’s reelection campaign, said in a statement.

Of course, cultural gaffes are bipartisan, going back to 1976, when President Gerald Ford bit into a Texas tamale without removing the corn husk. And Trump and other top Republicans have long used language such as “illegal alien,” regarded by many Latinos as dehumanizing.

In the long run, the anti-immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration, including separating children from their parents at the border with no plans to reunite them, could matter more than Hispanic voter outreach efforts. Still, Hispanic voter support for Republican candidates held steady between 2018 and 2020 at 35% nationally, according to Vote Cast.

And “Despacito” wasn’t the Biden camp’s only misstep since then.

During a visit to Puerto Rico last fall, the president sought help pronouncing Caño Martín Peña while promoting federal funding to improve that canal. First lady Jill Biden flubbed the pronunciation of “Si Se Puede,” the old farmworkers union slogan that later became an Obama-era rallying cry, during a speech in California last spring. Then, in Texas last summer, she said the Hispanic community was as “unique as breakfast tacos here in San Antonio.” “We are not tacos,” the National Association of Hispanic Journalists tweeted in response, prompting an apology from the first lady’s office.

Matt Barreto, who does polling for the White House and the Democratic National Committee, said some of the shift toward Republicans occurred among those who cited the economy as their chief concern.

Barreto said the Democratic Party and its allies have intensified Hispanic outreach programs for the past two-plus years and found ways to make sure their message resonates.

“We’ve been learning our lessons, and constantly improving, and not taking the community for granted,” Barreto said. “That doesn’t mean some of the people who want us to do more are wrong.”

Democrats were also hindered in 2020 by the pandemic, which severely limited on-the-ground organizing and door-knocking. But when those efforts resumed in 2022, Democrats nonetheless lost House races in heavily Hispanic parts of Southern California and Florida, even as they exceeded expectations nationally.

Indeed, the shift toward Republicans was particularly pronounced in Florida, where over half of Hispanic voters backed Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is now running for president. He champions hard-line immigration stances that included using state funds to send asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard because, he said, Democrats in northern cities were ignoring problems on the U.S.-Mexico border.

GOP messages portraying Democrats as too far left and anti-capitalist also resonated with Hispanic voters in South Florida, particularly recent immigrants from struggling socialist countries like Venezuela and Cuba.

In Florida’s Broward County, one of the state’s few remaining Democratic strongholds, Richard Ramunno, a 31-year-old business owner of Argentine and Chilean background, remembered Biden’s “Despacito” episode but laughed it off. He said he worries more about policy decisions Republicans are making at the state level, including the Parental Rights in Education law signed by DeSantis, which makes it easier to challenge a book over its content.

“The laws they are passing are very conservative right now,” he said. “Books are being removed from schools.”

But Ramunno also said Democrats should be doing more to reach out to voters ahead of the 2024 election.

A brighter spot for Democrats last year was Nevada, where the first Latina elected to the Senate, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, won reelection despite Republicans flipping the governorship. Melissa Morales, founder of Somos PAC, which supported Cortez Masto, said the midterms showed the importance of focusing on economic policies like affordable housing and health care — not GOP-led culture war issues.

“The thing that really emerged for us in 2022 was that Latinos were so solutions-oriented,” Morales said.

Lima, whose progressive group mobilizes voters for races up and down the ballot, said that the economy is a top motivator for Hispanics and that Biden and top Democratic candidates can point to legislative accomplishments, including a major public works package and increased federal spending on health care, social services and green energy.

But Lima also called those “down payments” and said Hispanic voters will expect Biden and Democrats “to make good” on policies that help the economy work better for them — even with Republicans controlling the House.

“We can’t come back to them without progress in 2024,” she said.

Many of the same activists who have criticized Biden and Democrats, however, praised the president for selecting Julie Chavez Rodriguez, granddaughter of civil rights icon Cesar Chavez, to manage his reelection campaign. Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar is a campaign co-chair.

Morales said choosing Rodriguez was not only symbolically important but also encouraging given her organizing background.

“It’s so clear that she is the right person for the job,” Morales said.

In a memo detailing 2024 strategy, which the Biden campaign produced in English and Spanish, Rodriguez promised that the campaign would “engage early and often” with Hispanic and other voters the campaign is counting on. The DNC also plans to build on Adelante, or “Forward,” a seven-figure outreach plan that last year featured bilingual radio and print ads in Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The ads began last May, earlier before a midterm election than the DNC says it has ever started Spanish-language media. The committee is also helping fund Hispanic coalition and organizing staff in battleground states and planning to resume “boot camps” it used during the midterms. They train bilingual campaign staff in key states.

“I believe that now the Democratic Party is in a position where, when I go and tell people, ‘I want you to do more,’ I have willing partners,” said Barreto, who worked closely with Rodriguez on Hispanic outreach during Biden’s 2020 campaign. “That gives me more optimism that I’m not going to be spending the next 12 months trying to hit people over the head and saying, ‘Don’t forget, Latinos are important.’”

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NASA and SpaceX Resupply Launch to the Space Station moved to June 4, 12:12 pm



ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – SpaceX is targeting Sunday, June 4 for Falcon 9’s launch of Dragon’s 28th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-28) mission to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The instantaneous launch window is at 12:12 p.m. ET (16:12 UTC) and a backup launch opportunity is available on Monday, June 5 at 11:47 a.m. ET (15:47 UTC) pending range approval.

This is the fifth flight of the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched Crew-5, GPS III Space Vehicle 06, Inmarsat I-6 F2, and one Starlink mission. Following stage separation, Falcon 9 will land on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

CRS-28 is the fourth flight for this Dragon spacecraft, which previously flew CRS-21, CRS-23, and CRS-25 to the space station. After an approximate 42-hour flight, Dragon will autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory on Tuesday, June 6 at approximately 6:15 a.m. ET (10:15 UTC).

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DeSantis plans to announce 2024 bid Wednesday on Twitter Spaces with Elon Musk, sources tell AP



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, long seen as Donald Trump’s leading rival for the Republican nomination, plans to launch his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday in an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

DeSantis, an outspoken cultural conservative, will outline his plans in an evening audio event streamed on Twitter Spaces, according to the two people. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the announcement publicly.

The 44-year-old two-term governor would be joining a crowded Republican contest to decide whether the party will move on from Trump in 2024. DeSantis has embraced Trump’s combative style and many of his policies, but casts himself as a younger and more electable version of the former president.

In choosing Twitter, DeSantis is taking a page out of the playbook that helped turn businessman-TV celebrity Trump into a political star.

The timing of DeSantis’ long-expected announcement has been shrouded, with various iterations of plans being leaked over the past few days. Some close to him suspected that he was providing conflicting information about the timing and location to root out leakers. Others believe he changed his initial preparations after news reports came out about them.

Musk, speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit event in London on Tuesday, seemed to confirm the Wednesday event, saying DeSantis would be making “quite an announcement” on Twitter. “The first time something like this is happening on social media,” he said, with live questions and answers.

The news of DeSantis’ impending announcement came as Trump was making a video appearance in a New York courtroom as part of his criminal case. A judge tentatively scheduled Trump’s trial to begin March 25, which falls in the heart of the presidential primary season. Trump pleaded not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records at his family company, the Trump Organization.

DeSantis was expected to meet with donors Wednesday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami before the Twitter Spaces event, which was scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT.

While it is common for campaigns to publicize their announcements in videos shared on social media, it is far more unusual — and perhaps unprecedented — to hold a campaign announcement in a live social media forum.

“Big if true …,” DeSantis’ wife, Casey, posted Tuesday on Twitter, linking to a Fox News story on the announcement and adding a smiley face.

Earlier Tuesday, the Florida governor gave no hints of his 2024 plans during a short Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee where he discussed state business with agency heads. The media was barred from covering a subsequent bill signing ceremony.

DeSantis has emerged as a national star in Republican politics as an unapologetic leader on controversial issues.

The governor sent dozens of immigrants from Texas — by way of Florida —to a small island off the Massachusetts coast to draw attention to the influx of Latin American immigrants trying to cross the Southern border. He signed and then expanded a Parental Rights in Education bill — known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which bans instruction or classroom discussion of LGBTQ issues in Florida public schools for all grades.

More recently, he signed a law banning abortions at six weeks, which is before most women realize they’re pregnant. And he removed an elected prosecutor who vowed not to charge people under Florida’s new abortion restrictions or doctors who provide gender-affirming care.

Trump’s allies lashed out Tuesday at DeSantis’ plan.

“This is one of the most out-of-touch campaign launches in modern history. The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis’ after party at the uber elite Four Seasons resort in Miami,” said Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for Trump’s super PAC.

Trump himself frequently dismisses his rival as Ron “DeSanctimonious.”

In choosing to announce with Musk, DeSantis is linking his presidential announcement to one of the world’s richest men, who has emerged as a conservative cult hero of sorts.

Since buying Twitter last October, Musk has reinstated the accounts of prominent Republicans, including Trump and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had been removed. Popular conservative broadcasters have flocked to Twitter, with ousted Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the podcast hosts of The Daily Wire announcing they will start streaming on the platform.

Musk himself has promoted far-right conspiracy theories on Twitter, including misleading claims questioning a Texas mall shooter’s background and a debunked rumor that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband had a relationship with an assailant who attacked him.

Earlier this month, Musk’s tweets likening billionaire philanthropist George Soros to a Jewish supervillain were met with criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, which said they would embolden antisemitic extremists. Musk said he would “be more thoughtful in the future.”

Twitter was once Trump’s most important megaphone — one he used to dominate his rivals in the 2016 primary and to command the news cycle for years. Trump was barred from the platform after a mob of his supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with Twitter citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” Although his access was reinstated shortly after Musk took over, he has yet to tweet.

About 1 in 5 U.S. adults say they use Twitter, the Pew Research Center found last year.

Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to say they have Twitter accounts, according to a Fox News poll from December. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say Musk buying Twitter was a good thing and to have a favorable view of him.

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