Breaking overnight (the advisory from DOH was sent at 1:03 a.m.) — The Florida Department of Health has announced a new positive case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Florida. A 69-year old female in Broward County has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is isolated and will remain isolated until cleared by public health officials.
The third round of TallyMadness is over.
With more than 120,000 votes cast, just eight contenders remain in Florida Politics’ annual March Madness-inspired competition to determine the “best” lobbyist in the state.
The signature match of Round 3 was the battle between Justin Thames and Josh Aubuchon. Thames, who represents the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, eked out a narrow win over the Holland & Knight lobbyist, earning himself a spot in the Elite Eight.
The round also continued the trend of women faring well against the male competition — Rubin Turnbull’s Amy Bisceglia, Florida School Boards Association lobbyist BillieAnn Gay, Pittman Law Group’s Jasmyne Henderson and Lewis Longman & Walker’s Natalie Kato all advanced.
GrayRobinson lobbyist Jessica Love was the exception to the rule, falling short in her match against Nick Matthews of Becker & Poliakoff.
In all, nine women made the Sweet Sixteen, and six are advancing to the next round. Also among them are Rutledge Ecenia’s Corinne Mixon and Metz Husband & Daughton’s Alli Liby-Schoonover.
Rounds are getting shorter from here on — fourth-round voting ends at midnight.
New poll gives Joe Biden huge lead over Bernie Sanders in Florida — According to a new survey from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI), Biden now leads with 61%, to 25% for Sanders; 10% of voters are still undecided. The margin of error in the Democratic primary polling was 4.9%. Nearly four out of five voters in the Democratic primary (79%) said they will definitely vote for their top choice. There is also a generational divide among the Democratic candidates’ supporters, with Sanders leading 35% to 15% among voters 18-29 years old but trailing with older voters. Biden leads 58% to 34% percent among voters 30-49 years old, 71% to 19% among those 50-64 years old and 82% to 13% among voters over 65.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Coronavirus fears are overshadowing the closing days of the 2020 Legislative Session. Gov. DeSantis meets with reporters to share the latest stats and talk about the state’s efforts to contain the virus, and the House Speaker says they need to prepare the state budget with a COVID-19 recession in mind.
Also, on today’s Sunrise.
— Five House members are in self-quarantine after learning that a person at the conference they all attended tested positive for the virus. Strap in, this story will be with us for a while.
— Two Tampa lawmakers are calling for a complete overhaul of the medical care provided in state prisons, and they’re wondering what happens when coronavirus is found behind bars.
— The Senate votes to create a task force to track down abandoned African American cemeteries covered by development.
— Florida Democrats are targeting Trump with a new PAC called Organizing Together 2020. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is chairing the group.
— POLITICO Florida reporter Arek Sarkissian talks about the inside story on the demise of the Airbnb bill.
— The latest on Florida Man, who can now get a free surgical mask from a Tampa strip club.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @MKraju: Asked [Nancy] Pelosi if she thinks Trump should be tested after his interactions with Doug Collins and Matt Gaetz. Pelosi: “Tested for what?” me: coronavirus Pelosi: “Oh, I thought he should be tested for a long time now.” And she walked off
Rome without tourists. This is surreal. pic.twitter.com/IhKODhKsGv
— Courtney Mares (@catholicourtney) March 7, 2020
If you ever wanted an example of why not to vote early in a multi-way primary, here’s the national co-chair of Mike Bloomberg’s campaign saying she waited to vote until after he was out of the race. Early in-person voting in Florida began day before Super Tuesday. https://t.co/i0vhWE7EaR
— David Smiley (@NewsbySmiley) March 10, 2020
— @RepJoseOliva: A special thanks to Dr @and all the medical professionals who place themselves at risk to protect us. As well as @ @ @ @ And @ for professionalism and selfless sacrifice for their colleagues
— @AnthonySabatini: Currently quarantined just off the House floor, awaiting COVID-19 test — can someone please send me a bottle of Bordeaux in the meantime?
— @RaheemKassam: I have now spoken to a number of people who were in/around the green room at CPAC when the attendee with coronavirus was there. People are apoplectic about how they have not been better informed of what happened. The attendee was there for much of Thursday at LEAST … The reason I am tweeting this: I have been flu-sick unwell for the past week, and now I am finding out there are people I was in direct contact with who were in direct contact with the infected.
So excited for Alyssa’s Law to be heard in the Florida House tonight. I have been waiting since 10:30AM…..@ChrisLatvala @ChipLaMarca @DanDaley @BrowardCrimeLaw @voteforjennifer @RepJoseOliva @chrissprowls @DaneEagle pic.twitter.com/riBnNqyNaL
— Lori Alhadeff (@lorialhadeff) March 10, 2020
— @MDixon55: The Florida Legislature, where a chair getting through 50 bill agendas is considered “art.”
— @Shawn_R_Frost: It makes my heart so full to see legislators from the far left to the far right standing in debate for children today. When we go from Al Jacquet to Susan Valdes, to @RepThadAltman to @ByronDonalds we know that we are standing for the moral imperative of the day.
What if I told you…
Jameis Winston currently has the most amount of bets to win next year's MVP award. pic.twitter.com/CaElfY55Av
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) March 9, 2020
— DAYS UNTIL —
Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 3; 11th Democratic debate in Phoenix — 5; Florida’s presidential primary — 7; Super Tuesday III — 7; “After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News” premieres on HBO — 9; MLB Opening Day — 16; Quibi launches — 27; Easter — 33; First quarter campaign reports due — 36; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 36; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 37; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 41; NFL Draft — 44; Mother’s Day — 61; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 66; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 90; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 108; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 124; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 128; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start (maybe) — 136; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 161; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 167; First presidential debate in Indiana — 203; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 211; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 219; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 226; 2020 General Election — 238; “No Time to Die” premieres (now) — 260.
— TOP STORIES —
“Governor declares state of emergency” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Facing a growing public health crisis, Desantis declared a state of emergency to better marshal resources and get outside help against a new strain of coronavirus that has killed two people in his state. In announcing the move, the governor again appealed for calm. At a news conference Monday afternoon at the state Capitol, the governor urged Floridians to take common-sense precautions and stressed that normally healthy individuals remain at low risk of contracting the virus. He specifically cautioned the elderly and those with underlying health conditions not to go on cruise ships and long-haul flights, and to avoid large gatherings.
“Another Princess cruise ship kept at sea pending virus tests” via Kelli Kennedy and Freida Frisaro of The Associated Press — Thousands of passengers on an additional Princess Cruises ship are being kept on board while crew members get tested for COVID-19. The Caribbean Princess, on a 10-day trip to the Panama Canal, was scheduled to dock in Grand Cayman on Monday. But the Çalifornia-based cruise line said it would keep passengers and crew from disembarking, and instead will pick up test kits after notifying the CDC that two crew members had transferred from a Princess ship in California where a guest had tested positive for COVID-19. These crew members being tested are currently “asymptomatic” and are remaining alone in their rooms “out of an abundance of caution” as the ship returns to Fort Lauderdale, the company statement said.
“White House considers cruise ship shutdown amid coronavirus concerns” via Dan Diamond of POLITICO — The White House is awaiting a cruise-ship industry proposal on preventing coronavirus before deciding whether to actively discourage Americans from boarding the vessels to prevent the further spread of the disease. “We are expecting a proposal tomorrow,” Vice President Mike Pence said at a press conference on Monday night, listing policies discussed with the industry, like adding screening, formalizing evacuation protocols and taking other steps to protect elderly Americans who are perceived to be at highest risk in the outbreak. “We made it very clear that we need cruise lines to be safer.” Earlier on Monday, POLITICO reported that HHS Secretary Alex Azar and other health officials had urged a broader crackdown on Americans’ use of cruise ships, three people with knowledge of the conversations said.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“State prepares to boost online education” via the News Service of Florida — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the state is boosting its online school capabilities to prepare for the potential impact of the novel coronavirus. In coordination with the Florida Virtual School, Corcoran said the state is prepared to train an additional 10,000 teachers in the next 15 to 20 days to conduct online classes. The virtual school could be able to handle a total of 400,000 full-time students, a significant uptick from the current 40,000-student capacity, he said. “We don’t think that is going to be necessary, and I think we are doing a great job with our superintendents and creating that containment if a child is sick,” Corcoran told reporters.
“DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein adds Chief Resilience Office duties to his portfolio” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Valenstein will take on the responsibilities of Chief Resilience Officer, while continue to hold his current position within the administration. “Secretary Valenstein will continue to prioritize coastal resilience in Florida and prepare for the effects of sea-level rise,” said DEP press secretary Weesam Khoury. The move to put Valenstein in the dual roles comes weeks after Julia Nesheiwat, the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer, was tapped to serve as Trump’s homeland security adviser.
“Lawmakers briefly self-isolated after possible coronavirus exposure” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Coronavirus fears officially shut down business in the House as five members self-isolated and agreed to be tested for COVID-19. None met federal guidelines that would prompt such testing. Concerns initially rose because three members of the House — Reps. Sabatini, Byrd and Altman — attended the Conservative Political Action Conference. None had direct contact with an attendee later diagnosed with the coronavirus. But after initially saying they would not self-quarantine, the lawmakers agreed to isolate themselves and await test results. House leaders also realized two other lawmakers, Rep. Donalds and House Democratic Leader McGhee, attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, where three attendees later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Neither I, nor anyone in my office, had anything to do with this sign, nor it being photographed or shared. I wasn't in my office when it was hung, as I was downstairs waiting for testing. My aide removed the sign as soon as she returned. Not funny! https://t.co/PxSXjTg8fH
— Byron Donalds (@ByronDonalds) March 9, 2020
— BUDGET NOTES —
“Bill Galvano calls for at least $200M more in budget to address COVID-19” via Florida Politics — Galvano says lawmakers will have to rethink the Legislature’s budget, possibly including at least an additional $200 million to address concerns from the new coronavirus. … “Right now, the cruise industry’s in really bad condition. Things are dubious nationally, you saw what happened with the market this morning, so I think we really have to think about what dollars we’re spending and on a recurring basis,” the Bradenton Republican said.
The Speaker gaggled with the press late Monday night — “Coronavirus, ‘difficult economy’ worry Jose Oliva as budget talks enter final stages” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“In-state tourism marketing campaign money not yet settled” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida tourism advocates are battling again for promotional money, only this time it has nothing to do with VISIT FLORIDA. And in this case, the House is supporting money to promote Florida’s tourism and leisure sector — hoping the Senate budget leaders will come around. The fate of a proposed $1 million appropriation to support in-state marketing of restaurant and lodging industry, used since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 to shore up distressed regions, is in the hands of budget conference chairs. The appropriation, initially sponsored by Rep. Holly Raschein, is funded in the House budget proposal, but not in the Senate proposal.
“House, Senate at odds over Super Bowl LV security funding for Tampa” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Senate wants $1 million to fund security infrastructure and transportation for Super Bowl LV in Tampa next year. The House is not ready to kickoff that fundraising request. The Senate included in its budget offer in the Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations committee a $1 million offer, which the House has not matched. The funding would be appropriated to the Department of Economic Opportunity to “contract with any county hosting a signature event.” In this case, it would be Hillsborough County for next year’s Super Bowl.
“TBARTA to receive full funding at $1.5M” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority is poised to receive full-funding in the upcoming budget. The Senate budget offer includes a $1.5 million appropriation to the agency, the full amount requested. Rep. Jackie Toledo filed HB 2483 along with an appropriations request for the funding. It will pay nearly $300,000 salary and benefits package for TBARTA Executive Director David Green and more than $987,000 for additional staff salaries and benefits including technical support, financial administration and oversight, grants management and administration, marketing and public relations, project management, and human resources administration. Another $213,214 would go to expenses for rent and utilities, phone and internet and more.
— LEGISLATION —
“Senate approves scaled-back version of Governor’s E-Verify proposal” via John Kennedy of the Gannett Capital Bureau — DeSantis wanted all Florida employers to have to use the federal E-Verify database to check an applicant’s legal status. But the Senate proposal includes a lesser option that had been demanded by the House. The measure was approved 22-18 in a party-line vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. “What we’re asking employers to do in this bill is simply follow federal law,” said Sen. Tom Lee, sponsor of the measure (SB 664). “I don’t perceive this to be over-burdensome.” But DeSantis and lawmakers have drawn heavy pushback from the agriculture, tourism and construction industries worried about the new requirement’s impact on a workforce that often relies on undocumented workers. The House has been cool to the idea all along.
What a scene this was — “Legislative effort to raise teacher pay breaks down over collection bargaining differences” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — House Republicans attempted to solidify their position on distribution by amending HB 7103 to say raises should be distributed to mainly classroom staff, not to other school personnel that the Senate included in their approach. But House Democrats objected to language that said school districts must submit their distribution plans to the Department of Education for approval and that while school districts are “not precluded” from bargaining over wages, DOE had to approve of the allocations. This new language, Democrats argue, allows Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to have more power in collective bargaining with teacher unions. … Republicans made a strategic error by trying to pass the amendment on third reading, which required a two-thirds vote. That allowed Democrats to tank the amendment. House Speaker Jose Oliva says there was a misunderstanding about the power it would give the Commissioner. He argues it was relatively the same language that had broad support previously. Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones disputes that assertion. He says the previous language was from HB 5101, which does not include any mention of getting approval from DOE.
House Democrats and Republicans negotiated during a recess for about two hours Monday night, but say they couldn’t reach a deal. That’s when the House Speaker started temporarily postponed bills sponsored by Democrats after the stalemate. They could be brought back up if Oliva allows them to. He says it was to send a message. “We still believe that the language is neither offensive nor in any material way changes the bill for teacher pay,” he said. “Then all of teacher pay was put at risk because of that. So yes, actions have consequences.”
“House OKs $200 million voucher expansion, says schools can still ban LGBTQ students” via Annie Martin and Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida House voted to expand the state’s voucher programs Monday, making students from some middle-income families eligible for scholarships to pay private school tuition. The bill expanding the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program million passed 81 to 39, with eight Democrats joining the Republican majority in voting for it. If signed into law, more than 46,600 students could receive the scholarships next year up from about 18,000 this year. The additional 28,000 vouchers would cost the state about $200 million. Though touted as a way to help youngsters from low-income families, some of the Family Empowerment scholarships could be open to students from families of four earning up to $81,000 a year.
“Senate OKs college athlete compensation bill, sends to House” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A bill to allow college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness passed the Florida Senate and is on its way to the House for final approval. “This is long overdue,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, noting that Florida’s bill follows in the steps of the California Assembly. “Florida has now stepped up and made a bold statement as well,” he added. “I think we send a clear message to the NCAA, the Big 10 and other conferences that we’re serious when it comes to doing the right thing for our student-athletes.” With little discussion, the Senate approved the bill (SB 646) by Sen. Debbie Mayfield by a vote of 37-2.
— MORE LEGISLATION —
What Kathy Mears is reading — “Foster care bill increases accountability but still leaves Tampa Bay area short” via Chris O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Foster care agencies could face financial penalties for performing badly and lose state contracts for repeated failures under a new law championed by Gov. DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis. The measure directs the Florida Department of Children and Families to develop benchmarks for foster care agencies while setting standards for child protective investigators and attorneys who work for the state. But the bill is vague on what those targets are, and some provisions — like awarding agencies a letter grade — have been removed from the latest version. That may signal that lawmakers are unwilling to tackle funding formulas that allocate less money to agencies serving more children, including those in the Tampa Bay area. The agencies complain that the playing field should be level before they are measured against other regions. “Oversight and accountability are welcome if you give us enough resources to do the job well,” said Chris Card, chief of community care for Eckerd Connects, which runs foster care in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. “You can’t compare us unless you fund us the same way.”
“Statewide water quality bill poised to pass, amid mixed feelings” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — Florida lawmakers are poised to adopt water-pollution cleanup legislation described as a historic advance or a weak measure. The sponsor, Sen. Debbie Mayfield, aimed to put in place recommendations of the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, calling for reductions in pollution sources such as poorly maintained sewer systems, septic tanks, stormwater runoff, and agricultural runoff. The task force was created to determine why toxic algae blooms are choking lagoons, canals and other waterways in Florida. Critics said Mayfield’s effort, which began last year, was stripped of its strongest provisions, such as cutting the flow of agricultural pollution into south Florida waterways.
“House passes shark fin ban — renamed after Kristin Jacobs — with carveout for domestic fishermen” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House passed the Senate version of a bill (SB 680), which outlaws the import and export of fins to or from Florida. However, one amendment was added, meaning the Senate will have to vote anew on the reconfigured bill. Rep. Jacobs, in what may be some of her final remarks on the House floor, noted that a lot of traffic has moved through Miami due to that and other illicit trades. “There’s no end to finding a black market for all kinds of things,” Jacobs noted, adding that shark carcasses have been used to traffic cocaine. Rep. Toby Overdorf offered an amendment with a significant carveout on the bill, banning imported shark fins while protecting those with domestic shipping licenses.
I want to take a moment to thank all the incredible lobbyists & activists who helped push this bill forward. I could not have done this w/o them & their passion for Florida. @DrGuyHarvey @NickIarossi @lorikillinger @SharkAllies Frank Bernardino
& the Anfield Team, & more 💙🦈 https://t.co/aZWLwTKHai
— Rep Kristin Jacobs (@KristinJacobsFL) March 9, 2020
“Jet fuel contamination and engine failure prevention bill looks for final Senate push” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bill (HB 569) by Rep. Overdorf calls on public airports to implement potentially lifesaving measures to keep ground vehicle emission-reducing fluid away from jet fuel additives and under lock and key. Incidents, mostly in Opa-locka and Punta Gorda, at three airports across the country have grounded thirty planes since November 2017. “We’re keeping (the fluid) outside of the areas of operation for aircraft,” said Overdorf. “It sounds simple, but usually the simple stuff are the things that save lives.” At Opa-locka in August 2018, more than a dozen planes were affected when airport servicers mistakenly loaded diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) into jets’ anti-icing systems instead of fuel system icing inhibitor.
“Senate bill creates task force on abandoned African American cemeteries” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Spurred by reporting in the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida Senate unanimously passed a bill that would create a task force to investigate abandoned African American cemeteries. Senate Bill 220 would still have to pass the Florida House, which did not give a similar bill a hearing this legislative session. If it passes the House, the bill would require a task force to investigate abandoned African American cemeteries around the state and submit a report by March 1, 2021, with recommendations for placing markers and memorials at the sites. “A good community does not run from its history,” Sen. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat, said. “Our state should not run from its history, either.”
Senate OKs housing discrimination bill — The Senate voted unanimously for a bill that would allow people to file housing discrimination lawsuits sooner, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. SB 374 would let suits to go forward even if a complainant has not filed a case with the Florida Commission on Ethics, or if their complaint to the commission is pending. The bill would block lawsuits in cases where both parties signed on to a conciliation agreement put forward by the commission.
“’Never again’: House passes Holocaust education legislation” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Brevard Republican Rep. Randy Fine‘s bill (HB 1213) would require the Florida Department of Education to give schools curriculum standards for teaching the subject in K-12 schools. It also mandates that every school district and charter school also teach students about the state’s policy against anti-Semitism. The department would have to create a process for schools to annually certify and provide evidence of compliance with the Holocaust instructional requirements. They may contract with the Florida Holocaust Museum and other state or nationally recognized organizations to develop the curriculum and instructional material.
“Tallahassee delegation rejoices as lawmakers agree to raise for state workers” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — “If you had told me a year ago today that we would be talking about a substantial pay raise for state employees and teachers, I would not have believed it,” said Sen. Bill Montford. “I would not have thought that possible.” The Republican-majority Legislature will include a pay raise for state workers in the budget proposal it sends to DeSantis. Lawmakers, however, still need to close a $1.5 billion gap in their proposed spending plans this week to close out the 2020 legislative session. But one bargaining chip that has been removed from the table is a 3% salary increase for the 90,000 people employed by the state.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
Critics say eye transplant company CorneaGen is just looking to make a buck off donated organs. According to a video presentation, that’s true.
The presentation outlines the symbiotic relationship between CorneaGen, a for-profit company, and not-for-profit eye bank SightLife.
“Sightlife’s primary customer is CorneaGen, so … we want to equip CorneaGen to be successful,” one slide reads.
The motivation? Pumping the company’s valuation ahead of a potential initial public offering.
“Sightlife is a major equity holder of CorneaGen. CorneaGen serves SightLife by growing business and profitability to increase the value of SightLife’s equity, achieving an initial public offering (IPO) so SightLife can liquidate its equity and be provided cash to achieve its mission,” the presentation continues.
As outlined in the video, the plan — using a nonprofit front to pump the value of a for-profit company — is essentially a workaround to federal laws against companies buying or selling organs.
CorneaGen said it’s an inaccurate portrayal of the business model.
“This video was neither authorized nor is endorsed by CorneaGen or SightLife and does not accurately depict the relationship between the companies,” said Monty M. Montoya, President and CEO of CorneaGen.
CorneaGen and SightLife share a common Mission, as do many in eye banking and corneal tissue processing: to eliminate corneal blindness worldwide by 2040. This is a goal that is within our reach thanks to our dedicated partners and employees, and which drives our work every day.
While it is unfortunate that an ex-employee created this unauthorized video inaccurately depicting the relationship between the companies, neither CorneaGen nor SightLife had any previous knowledge of the video and singularly reject the contents, tone, or messaging therein.”
Critics say the business model could cause a dip in organ donors, who aren’t keen on providing a for-profit company with free inventory.
Rep. Dan Daley has a bill (HB 563) ready for a floor vote that would end the practice. Companion legislation in the Senate, SB 798 by Sen. Darryl Rouson, is also prepped for a vote.
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet to analyze the financial impact of legislation, 8:30 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.
The Senate will hold a floor session, 10 a.m., Senate Chambers.
The House will hold a floor session, 10:30 a.m., House Chambers.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet 15 minutes after the floor session adjourns, Room 401, Senate Office Building.
— GOVS. CLUB BUFFET MENU —
Hot and sour soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; Oriental Asian cabbage salad; chilled soba noodle salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; cashew chicken; beef and broccoli; Chinese BBQ pork butt; house fried rice; stir fry vegetables; braised Napa cabbage; Almond Joy tartlets for dessert.
— NEWS BY THE NUMBERS —
— CORONAVIRUS —
“Trump says he will seek payroll tax cut, relief for hourly workers as part of coronavirus economic package” via Jeff Stein and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — He said he would ask Congress to cut payroll taxes and provide relief to hourly workers suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus. His comments came after senior aides presented him with a list of options they thought could help deal with the economic problems caused by the outbreak. Trump also said he was seeking to assist the airline industry, hotels, and the cruise industry, which are all suffering as Americans rapidly cancel travel plans. It was unclear, based on Trump’s comments, whether he would ask Congress to help these industries or if he thought he could do it on his own.
“Trump administration clashes with airline officials over coronavirus” via Kylie Atwood, Gregory Wallace, Manu Raju and Nicole Gaouette of CNN — In a series of contentious conversations, agency officials and aviation executives have clashed over the administration’s demand that airlines collect new kinds of data from passengers to help officials track potential virus carriers. Airlines say they can’t meet that demand right away — a claim some administration officials say they don’t believe, the calls have deteriorated so badly that agency officials have issued threats, spat expletives and accused airline executives of lying. It is an “epic battle,” said one source familiar with the talks. On one call, an administration official pointed to potential fines if the airlines didn’t comply, according to two sources.
“Florida reverses self-isolation advice for global travelers” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — Hours after the Florida Department of Health issued a statement advising anyone returning from a trip abroad to self-isolate for 14-days to curb the spread of the latest and deadly strain of coronavirus, officials issued a correction. In an updated statement Monday afternoon, department officials directed all travelers to follow the more discerning advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC mandates a 14-day self-isolation period for anyone coming into the United States from the four countries where the disease is widespread and sustained — China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. And those fresh from cruises or elsewhere with sustained virus transmission should monitor health and limit interactions with others for 14 days.
“Florida’s massive cruise industry battens down the hatches as coronavirus buffets business” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In Florida, at least 14 cruise lines operate at least 63 ships out of five ports. Five of the cruise lines, Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises (USA), and Disney Cruise Line, are headquartered in Florida. Last year they carried more than 7.5 million people on cruise vacations. That made Florida the embarkation origin of 59% of all passengers who cruised from American ports. In the past weeks, the world watched as first Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess in Japan, and then the Grand Princess in California became symbols of the new coronavirus outbreak. Another cruise ship was briefly denied permission to come into port at Fort Lauderdale over the weekend.
“Matt Gaetz made fun of coronavirus. Now he’s in self-isolation.” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — U.S. Rep. Gaetz wore a gas mask on the House floor last week as Congress passed an $8 billion coronavirus relief package, in a stunt widely interpreted as the Panhandle Republicans latest attempt at trolling liberals and the media. Gaetz may get more use out of that mask. On Monday, he was put into self-isolation after discovering he came into contact 11 days ago with someone who tested positive for the virus. Gaetz met the patient just outside Washington, D.C. in Maryland at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual right-wing confab, his office confirmed in a tweet. He is not experiencing symptoms, and will remain quarantined for several more days.
“Seattle’s Patient Zero spread coronavirus despite Ebola-style lockdown” via Peter Robison, Dina Bass and Robert Langreth — Patient Zero in the U.S. appeared to do everything right. He arrived Jan. 19 at an urgent-care clinic north of Seattle after returning four days earlier from a visit with family in Wuhan, China. The 35-year-old had seen a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alert about the virus. The clinic drew blood and called state and county health officials, who hustled the sample onto an overnight flight to the CDC lab in Atlanta. The test came back positive that afternoon, the first confirmed case in the U.S. County health officials located more than 60 people who’d come in contact with him, and none developed the virus. By Feb. 21, he was deemed fully recovered. Somehow, someone was missed.
— MORE CORONA —
“’I think we’ll be OK’: Cruise passengers undeterred by U.S. warnings about coronavirus” via Alex Harris and Taylor Dolvin of the Miami Herald — Crowds of passengers — one wearing a tank top declaring “this week I don’t give a ship” — flocked to the Carnival Sensation. The form they had to fill out declaring recent travel to coronavirus-infected countries was a speed bump between them and a five-day cruise through the Caribbean. Anna Smith, an 83-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina, said nothing was going to stop her from attending her godson’s wedding with 70 other friends and family members in the Cayman Islands this week, not even a warning issued Sunday by the U.S. State Department to stay away from cruises. “It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I trust in God that I’ll be safe.”
“Passengers board cruise ships at Port Canaveral despite coronavirus warning by State Department” via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — The 4,000-passenger Dream, as well as the 2,974-passenger Carnival Liberty and Royal Caribbean International’s 4,000-passenger Mariner of the Seas, are scheduled to leave the port on short itineraries to the Bahamas, where there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus. The Bahamas is enacting stricter border protections, however, and denying entry to travelers who have visited China, South Korea, Iran or Italy within 20 days of arrival, including those visiting via cruise ship. “Right now, everything is status quo,” said Steve Linden, a spokesman for the port, who added that Port Canaveral is not expecting any cruise lines to start canceling sailings yet.
“Florida theme parks keep eye on virus as spring break nears” Mike Schneider and Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — As Florida’s busy spring break season kicked off this month, coronavirus czar Pence addressed something that’s been on the mind of tens of thousands of families preparing to travel to theme parks: Is it safe? Over the weekend, Pence stressed it is safe for healthy Americans to travel, noting “one of our favorite places to go when my children were young and even before my children came was in Orlando.” “Whether it be Disney World, whether it be other destination, whether it be cruise ships … those most at risk are seniors with serious or chronic underlying health conditions.” “Otherwise Americans can confidently travel in this country,” Pence said at a meeting with cruise industry officials in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.
“DOH ‘investigating and isolating’ people who came in contact with Santa Rosa coronavirus case” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County has been “investigating and isolating” people who came into contact with the county’s first coronavirus case, a 71-year-old man who passed away late last week, Administrator Sandra Park-O’Hara told Santa Rosa County Commissioners. Those being self-quarantined are located across the Panhandle, not just in Santa Rosa County, O’Hara said. “We have been still investigating and isolating people that have been into contact with our case, and we get new information every day,” O’Hara said at the commission meeting. “Someone new says, ‘I’ve been around this person,’ so it’s ongoing.”
“Coronavirus buying frenzy prompts Publix to limit purchases of soaps and other goods” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Publix limited the purchase of certain health and cleaning related items amid a coronavirus-induced buying frenzy. The limits apply to all Publix locations and will continue until further notice, Brous said. The buying frenzy, which began around when Florida’s first positive coronavirus cases were announced, also pushed the State Attorney’s Office to monitor price gouging. The office was reaching out to retailers to make sure Floridians could afford needed health products and said they would pursue important complaints they received.
“A coronavirus quarantine in America could be a giant legal mess” via Polly Price of The Atlantic — As a legal matter, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a seemingly unlimited local power to quarantine as early as 1824. It reaffirmed this power in 1900, noting that “from an early day the power of the States to enact and enforce quarantine laws for the safety and the protection of the health of their inhabitants … is beyond question.” But the average American may be surprised to learn who holds the authority to order such public-health measures. Except at the nation’s borders, the federal government, with the expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is not in charge. America’s defense against epidemics is divided among 2,684 state, local, and tribal public health departments.
“When everyone stays home: Empty public spaces during coronavirus” via Alan Taylor of The Atlantic — In cities and regions hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, quarantine measures and self-isolation efforts have left many public spaces deserted. Classrooms, plazas, malls, sports venues, cafes, houses of worship, and tourist destinations appear eerily empty as people stay home, cancel plans, and await further news. Photo editor Taylor put together a photo essay of large parts of the world on pause.
— SUNSHINE STATE PRIMARY —
Voters are voting — According to the Florida Division of Elections, as of Monday evening, Supervisors of Elections have 1,104,077 Republican vote-by-mail ballots; 589,199 have returned, 438,112 are outstanding, and 3,222 are unsent. There have been 73,544 early in-person votes cast. As for Democrats, Supervisors have a total of 1,272,375 vote-by-mail ballots; 122,801 have returned 682,825 are outstanding, and 5,248 are unsent. There have been 122,801 early in-person votes cast. Those classified as “other,” 247,745 vote-by-mail ballots, 14,599 have returned, 34,215 are outstanding, and 198,065 are unsent. There have been 866 early in-person votes cast.
“Joe Biden announces Tampa rally this week as campaign shifts to Florida” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The get-out-the-vote event is Biden’s first event in the Sunshine State since last fall and his first public appearance in the Tampa Bay area as a presidential candidate. Biden, though, is very familiar with the area. He came to Tampa in 2018 to campaign for Florida’s Democratic nominee for governor, Andrew Gillum, in the days leading up to the midterm election.
“Andrew Gillum mum on Democratic presidential endorsement as he focuses on early voting” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gillum on Monday implored a crowd of about 70 cheering young Democrats at Florida State to vote early in the presidential primary and to urge others to do so. Gillum, who lost by 30,000 votes in 2018 to DeSantis, said he isn’t prepared to make an endorsement for a Democratic presidential candidate, as he focuses on his Florida Forward initiative to increase voter registration in Florida. “From the very beginning, we talked about making Florida ready for whomever the Democratic nominee is,” Gillum said, following a noon rally at FSU’s Westcott Plaza.
“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell latest Florida backer of Biden’s presidential bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — That means all but one of Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation has now endorsed Biden. U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala has not yet endorsed a candidate in the contest. “Joe Biden will deliver on the priorities that South Florida cares deeply about,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “I know Joe Biden will deliver the results we need, not only on gun violence, but on health care, the environment and foreign policy, because that’s what he’s been doing his whole life.”
— ALL EYES ON MICHIGAN TONIGHT —
“Bernie Sanders won Michigan in 2016. Tuesday’s primary looks much tougher.” via Jonathan Martin and Astead Herndon of The New York Times — AsBiden now attempts to leverage his Super Tuesday success and build momentum, Sanders may face even longer odds in Michigan. The state that Sanders last week called “very, very important” suddenly looks forbidding for him. Biden, despite having a thin operation in Michigan, appears likely to do well with black Democrats and college-educated white voters, two groups that handed him decisive margins in Virginia, North Carolina and several other states on Super Tuesday. And the exit polling and voting trends in some of those states indicate that Sanders has declined in strength with working-class white voters, who, uneasy with Hillary Clinton in 2016, delivered him landslide wins across much of central and northern Michigan that year.
“Michigan was once Sanders’ resurrection. Now it could be his burial.” via Tim Alberta of POLITICO Magazine — Sanders’ team has long trumpeted his Michigan triumph as evidence of his ability to assemble a unique coalition. But a closer look at that contest, taken in the context of this year’s primary results, suggests that Sanders’ own weaknesses are about to be exposed. And that, in turn, means winning Michigan will be far more difficult. Not only do party insiders expect turnout will spike among groups unfavorable to him — blacks and suburbanites — but he now faces an opponent in Biden who comes into the state with a head of steam, who benefits from Democrats’ desire to coalesce behind an alternative to Trump, and who will compete for independents and working-class whites in a way Hillary Clinton never did.
“Bad news for Sanders in a pair of Michigan polls” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Both an EPIC-MRA poll and a Monmouth University poll showed former Vice President Biden building a double-digit lead on Sanders. Biden led 51 to 27 percent in the previous survey and 51 to 36 percent in the latter. The problem for Sanders lies in the cross tabs. In 2016, the biggest reason for the polling miss was that pollsters badly underestimated a surge in the youth vote. In 2020, pollsters have that recent primary to model the electorate and adjust accordingly. Even if they still get the electorate somewhat wrong, it’s hard to see how Sanders could pull off another massive upset. Sanders is underperforming his 2016 numbers pretty much across the board.
“Sanders sharpens his pitch to women, as moms in Michigan vacillate between him and Biden” via James Hohmann of The Washington Post — The independent Senator from Vermont unveiled a “reproductive health care and justice for all” plan. He’s attacking the former vice president for supporting the Hyde Amendment, which banned Medicaid funds from being used to cover abortions, until reversing himself under pressure last year. He’s reading aloud a quote from the 1970s in which Biden said that Roe v. Wade “went too far.” “Women have a right to control their own bodies, not the government,” Sanders said during an outdoor rally here on a sunny Sunday afternoon. “Here is my promise to you: I will never nominate anyone to the Supreme Court or the federal bench who is not 100 percent pro-Roe v. Wade. … We’re in this together.”
— MORE 2020 —
“Trump swoops into Seminole County for private fundraiser” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump went to a private fundraiser and roundtable outside Longwood on Monday, his only event of the day in Central Florida after a health conference he planned to attend was canceled because of coronavirus fears. But he flew back from Sanford with U.S. Rep. Gaetz, who announced later in the day he was “self-isolating” due to his exposure to a coronavirus patient. The $100,000-per-couple fundraiser for Trump’s re-election campaign, held at a private home near the Alaqua Country Club, was listed as being hosted by Diane and Bob Dello Russo. Air Force One touched down at Orlando Sanford International Airport just after 10:30 a.m., according to the White House pool.
“Cory Booker endorses Biden” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — “The answer to hatred & division is to reignite our spirit of common purpose,” Booker wrote on Twitter. “@JoeBiden won’t only win — he’ll show there’s more that unites us than divides us. He’ll restore honor to the Oval Office and tackle our most pressing challenges. That’s why I’m proud to endorse Joe.” Elaborating on his endorsement in an interview, Booker said that “it became very clear to me that Joe Biden is the right person” to defeat Trump in November.
“Major gun safety groups endorse Biden’s presidential bid” via Alexandra Jaffe of The Associated Press — Everytown for Gun Safety and Brady announced they are backing the former Vice President. Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund plans to spend $60 million on electoral activities this cycle, some of which will go toward trying to elect Biden. An Everytown spokesman said the group typically airs advertisements and engages in grassroots organizing for the candidates it endorses, though it’s unclear when the group will begin to spend on Biden’s behalf. The group, which was co-founded by billionaire former New York Mayor Bloomberg, also boasts 6 million supporters and more than 375,000 grassroots donors, numbers that could help boost attention and support for Biden’s presidential bid nationwide.
“Democrats’ Arizona debate will have ‘more Purell than you’ve ever seen,’ Tom Perez says” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — At first, Perez shook hands. But with novel coronavirus cases surfacing in Broward County, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee quickly switched to elbow bumps in Oakland Park Monday as he greeted field workers preparing to fan out and register voters in Florida’s bluest county for the general election. In Doral a few hours later, former Secretary of State John Kerry, campaigning for former Vice President Biden ahead of Florida’s March 17 primary, avoided contact as much as possible in a cramped restaurant space. “I’d shake everybody’s hand …” he said, instead thrusting his elbows side to side in the air and swiveling his hips. “It’s a new dance.”
“Democrats eye a vice-presidential consolation prize for women” via Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein of The New York Times — The selection of a female vice president, particularly one of color, would offer a fitting coda to a presidential primary where racial and gender representation has taken second place to concerns about defeating Trump. Even when the female candidates were still in the race, people at town hall meetings and campaign rallies often suggested Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris as possible No. 2s on a ticket, as a way of providing a dose of history-making enthusiasm without what many voters viewed as the risk of having a woman lead the ticket. They’re unlikely to face much opposition from the candidates: Both Biden and Sanders say they are considering multiple women for the position.
“Democrats launch major Florida organizing effort” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Organizing Together 2020, a battleground-state initiative, announced its leadership team and plans to put more than 100 paid staff on the ground in 30 of the state’s 67 counties. Chaired by the only statewide elected Democrat — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — Organizing Together 2020 is one of four groups independently operating in Florida, including the Democratic Party, the For Our Future super PAC and billionaire Bloomberg’s political committee which is being converted from the remnants of his just-ended presidential campaign. “It’s all hands on deck to beat Donald Trump,” said Ashley Walker, Organizing Together’s lead consultant in the state, who helped lead President Barack Obama’s successful elections in Florida.
— STATEWIDE —
Ashley Moody warns against spring break scams — Attorney General Moody issued a Consumer Alert with tips for Floridians to avoid common scams during spring break travel. One common spring break scam involves placing fake vacation home rental listings. If the deal seems too good to be true, it usually is, Moody said. Rental car companies also advertise low prices but add hidden fees. To avoid being the victim of such scams, visitors should only book accommodations through legitimate, recognize rental agencies or hotels and consider making purchases with a credit card or via PayPal, which are easier to dispute fraudulent charges.
To view the consumer alert, click on the image below:
“Florida lobster got a break on China tariffs. Then came coronavirus” via Patricia Cohen of The New York Times — Ethan Wallace had been waiting 18 months for China — the world’s largest importer of live lobster — to lift its crushing retaliatory tariffs on American seafood that had whittled down his profits. This week, that moment came: Beijing started allowing Chinese businesses to apply for tariff exemptions. But for Wallace, it no longer mattered. No one in China is buying. The coronavirus outbreak meant the Lunar New Year banquets and wedding parties that feature a fresh lobster on every plate, a symbol of good fortune, were canceled. “Boom! Coronavirus,” said Wallace. Although the season continues through the end of March, he and his crew that day took home more lobster traps than pounds of lobster from the Gulf of Mexico.
“In crisis, Trump team sees a chance to achieve long-sought goals” via Nancy Cook of POLITICO — Trump and his team are talking up the opportunity to finally achieve stricter border security, wider tax cuts and reduced reliance on Chinese manufacturing amid the spread of the coronavirus throughout the U.S. Some officials see it as a narrow opening to offset the political damage from the coronavirus outbreak and deliver — or at least, talk about — some of the president’s long-standing promises. “Whether it is the virus that we’re talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans,” Trump said at a recent rally in South Carolina.
“Vern Buchanan urges state health officials to improve communication efforts” via Zac Anderson of USA TODAY — “I want to start with the state health department, their top person; I’m going to express my concern because I think the way they’re doing it now, there’s got to be a better way,” Buchanan said during a news conference in Bradenton when he was asked whether DeSantis is properly communicating coronavirus information. “People want answers, and … you know right now they have most of the answers.” U.S. Sen Rick Scott also is pressing for additional information from state health officials, sending a letter to the DOH offices in Lee County and Santa Rosa County — and three federal agencies — with questions about two individuals who died in Florida after contracting the virus.
“Amid Florida fight, Debbie Wasserman Schultz proposes a tax on bottled spring water” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Schultz announced Tuesday morning that she’s filing a bill that would levy a five cents per gallon tax on water that is extracted from springs or groundwater sources. Wasserman Schultz’s bill, called the Save Our Springs Act, was introduced amid a fight between environmentalists and the family that owns Ginnie Springs, a popular recreational facility with crystal-clear spring water near Gainesville.
“Alcee Hastings endorses Shevrin Jones in SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hastings backed Jones over his four Democratic opponents. Jones, who currently represents House District 101, is competing in a packed field to replace term-limited Sen. Oscar Braynon II. “I’m proud to support Shevrin Jones because he has a proven track record of taking on the tough fights in the Florida House and will continue that work as the next Senator for District 35,” Hastings said. “From creating economic opportunity and championing public education, to his commitment to justice and working to make quality, affordable health care for all a reality, Shevrin walks the walk on the issues important to Florida.”
“Cris Dosev lays another egg in HD 2 fundraising” via Florida Politics — Dosev signed up to challenge Republican Rep. Alex Andrade in House District 2 a couple of months ago. He’s done little since. New campaign finance reports show Dosev, a Pensacola Republican, has reported $0 in fundraising since entering the race. Andrade had nearly $100,000 in the bank heading into the 2020 Legislative Session. The freshman lawmaker has another $15,000 or so stashed in an affiliated political committee, Constituent Priorities. Dosev’s lack of hustle comes as his opportunity to eat into Andrade’s lead wanes — sitting lawmakers are barred from raising money during Session.
— LOCAL —
“Darden Restaurants rolls out paid sick leave and increases sanitation as coronavirus concerns grow” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Darden Restaurants spokesman Rich Jeffers said the company has been working on the sick leave policy for some time, but the current environment accelerated the plan. “The development of paid sick time is not in response to COVID-19,” he said. Hourly employees who were not covered by a policy before will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, Jeffers said. Current employees will have a starting balance of sick time based on their most recent 26 weeks of work and can use it immediately. New hires will begin accruing sick time upon starting and can use it after 90 days of employment. The pay rate will be based on the employee’s 13-week average.
“McDonald’s, Grainger cancel Orlando conferences over coronavirus” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — Two more events have pulled out of the Orange County Convention Center over fears of coronavirus, including the franchisee convention for the fast-food giant McDonald’s, which was expected to draw 15,000. The industrial supply company Grainger had canceled its conference. The cancellations strike another blow to the tourism industry and city officials, who have been trying to calm fears of the coronavirus’ economic impact on Orlando. McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski released a video saying he had requested input from managing directors and franchisees: “The magic of our worldwide convention always happens when we come together from more than 100 countries for four days in Orlando. But this year, we know that our customers and our communities need us.”
“UF will start moving classes online because of coronavirus” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — The University of Florida wants to move classes online and reduce the time students and professors spend in classrooms due to the coronavirus outbreak. The university sent a letter to its professors, asking them to start making the switch immediately, if possible. Professors are not yet required to switch classes to online-only. A UF spokesman said in an email, however, said that there is a ‘strong probability’ that will become required before the spring semester ends on May 1. Their professors will tell students whether their classes are moving online. In an email, the university said it would hold in-person courses during the coming summer session.
“2 Sarasota students removed from school and being monitored” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Two students in Sarasota County schools have had contact with a patient who tested positive for coronavirus and have been excluded from school activities, according to a message that went out to parents and community members. “Out of an abundance of caution, and for the safety of our thousands of families and students in Sarasota County, we wanted to share that two students in our district have been excluded from school by the Department of Health (DOH),” the notice from the district stated. “The DOH has excluded these students due to their contact with an individual who has since tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus).”
“Tampa strip club offers face masks to customers to fight spread of coronavirus” via Daniel Figueroa of the Tampa Bay Times — Déjà Vu Showgirls Tampa announced it would be giving away 10,000 face masks to its customers throughout March. Déjà Vu Services, Inc., announced a similar giveaway at Little Darlings, a sister location in Las Vegas. There, the company said it would give away 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, which health officials have said is more effective in fighting the spread of a virus. “An opportunity to help with the coronavirus scare strikes a special emotional chord with us,” Mark Figueroa, Déjà Vu’s general manager, said. “One of my close friends recently tested positive. While she’s likely to be just fine, I know many others will have a different fate, so we wanted to do something helpful.”
— MORE LOCAL —
“City Council investigative committee to hear testimony from retired, current JEA executives” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — A special Jacksonville City Council committee that is investigating JEA’s failed and controversial attempt to sell itself to a private owner will hear testimony Monday evening from a retired JEA executive, as well as a sitting member of the utility’s senior leadership team. The committee will meet at 5 p.m., taking up a light agenda that includes testimony from Mike Brost, a former vice president who retired in Dec. 2018, and Steve McInall, JEA’s vice president of energy and water. The committee will also receive an update from JEA on its enormous records request, which will serve as a foundation for the committee’s investigation into how JEA’s failed sales effort began and ultimately ended up costing ratepayers more than $10 million.
What Buddy Dyer is reading — “Orlando’s I-4 traffic mess is ‘poster child’ for nation’s overwhelmed highways, says top U.S. rep” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — The overwhelmed stretch of Interstate 4 through the Orlando region is “a poster child for what’s wrong” with the nation’s highways, the chair of the U.S. House transportation committee told Central Florida officials at a meeting Monday. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, is crafting a giant infrastructure bill that local authorities hope will provide substantial funding for revamping 20 miles of I-4 east of Orlando and 20 miles west of the city through the theme-park area. That work is being done in phases, and there is no overall completion deadline.
“School officials criticized after 7-year-old handcuffed” via The Associated Press — A school security officer handcuffed a 7-year-old Florida boy with special needs who acted out in class and had him taken to a mental health facility, a decision the boy’s mother is criticizing and school officials are defending. It’s the second time in weeks that Florida school officials have been criticized for restraining a young child for having an emotional meltdown at school. Tyeisha Harmon of Clearwater told reporters her son acted out in class last Wednesday at Belcher Elementary School, but he has emotional issues and is supposed to have a structured environment. She said he recently changed classrooms, and that triggered him. What exactly happened in the classroom isn’t known.
“Commissioners OK measure that could allow tourism tax money to be used for road projects” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY — A proposal to steer money from Brevard County’s tax on hotel rooms so it can be used for road and bridge repairs and environmental projects have gained traction. County commissioners voted 4-1 to back such a measure, introduced by Chair Bryan Lober, which is the first step in a long process that could redirect the use of the Tourist Development Tax. The measure commissioners approved directs county staff and the advisory Brevard County Tourist Development Council to consider using any Tourist Development Tax revenue above the $16.6 million budgeted for the current fiscal year for one of two purposes.
Mark Puente on the hunt — “Pinellas board member appointed son-in-law to top HR job, didn’t disclose conflict” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — A member of the Pinellas County Personnel Board voted in a public meeting to appoint his son-in-law to be the interim director of the county’s Human Resources Department. A transcript of the public meeting shows that Paul Rogers never told the board about his relationship with HR administrator Jack Loring. Senior Assistant County Attorney Carl Brody told Rogers that Florida law prohibits public officials from voting in matters involving relatives. “A public official may not appoint, employ, promote Or advance … a relative …” Brody told Rogers. Rogers said he planned to resign from the board immediately. He blamed Brody for the issue with his “step son-in-law.”
What Jason Fischer is reading — “Google tracked his bike ride past a burglarized home. That made him a suspect” via Jon Schuppe of NBC News — The email arrived in January, startling Zachary McCoy. It was from Google’s legal investigations support team, writing to let him know that local police had demanded information related to his Google account. In the notice from Google was a case number. McCoy searched for it on the Gainesville Police Department’s website and found an investigation report on the burglary of an elderly woman’s home 10 months earlier. An avid biker, McCoy used an exercise-tracking app, RunKeeper, to record his rides, which fed his movements to Google. He looked up his route on the day of the burglary and saw that he had passed the victim’s house three times within an hour, part of his frequent loops through his neighborhood.
— TOP OPINION —
“As the coronavirus burns, Trump scores a perfect Nero” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — As global markets plunged on Monday and the virus continued its inexorable spread, Trump continued comparing the virus to the “common Flu,” during which “nothing is shut down.” He praised the “great job” the administration is doing against the virus. This came a day after Trump invited comparisons to Roman Emperor Nero when he retweeted a fanciful image of him playing a violin with the words “nothing can stop what’s coming.” While Trump fiddled, a former Trump-appointee was on TV telling the truth about the coronavirus crisis. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” called for urgent, “broad mitigation strategies” that over the next two weeks would “change the complexion in this country.”
— OPINIONS —
“Anne Rawley: Legislators are trying to quash the will of the people. Don’t let them” via Florida Politics — Senate Bill 1794 (and its companion bill HB 7037) would make the ability of Florida citizens to unite to propose changes to our constitution significantly harder and much more expensive. If the bill passes, only those with large amounts of money will likely be able to successfully place proposed changes to our state constitution on the ballot. This is exactly what we don’t need — more government by megacorporations and billionaires. It could cost anyone advancing a petition project as much as $3 million more just in signature verification alone. All the successful petition campaigns mentioned above were necessary because lawmakers were out of touch with most Floridians — and they still are.
“High school student-athletes have the right to pray” via Bobby and Tommy Bowden in the Tallahassee Democrat — Prayer and football have always gone together, at least in our coaching careers. And it’s time our lawmakers recognized that freedom for high school student-athletes as well. In our coaching days, it was typical for us to join in family prayers on recruiting trips. Those same parents who were leading those prayers expected us, as coaches, to see to it that their boys behaved themselves at college. “Behaving” meant they were to continue to go to church, make good decisions and pray. We always made room for that because we knew it was not only important for the families who trusted us with their sons, but because it is always right to respect religious speech.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Baby Yoda toys likely delayed due to coronavirus” via Ryan Parker of The Hollywood Reporter — Fans clamoring for toys of The Child, aka Baby Yoda from the popular Disney+ series The Mandalorian, will likely have to wait even longer now. Hasbro admitted in an SEC filing it was experiencing coronavirus-related production difficulties in China. “The occurrence of these types of events can result, and in the case of the coronavirus has resulted in, disruptions and damage to our business, caused by both the negative impact to our ability to design, develop, manufacture and ship product (the supply side impact) and the negative impact on consumer purchasing behavior (the demand side impact),” the filing states. Baby Yoda toys were set to arrive in stores this spring; some preorders were setting records.
“Shanghai Disney starts phased reopening after closing for coronavirus; masks required” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Safety procedures have been instituted, including that masks will be required throughout guests’ visits. The first step includes the relaunch of operations for select shopping, dining and recreational experiences in the resort’s Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel areas. “Every guest entering Shanghai Disney Resort will be required to undergo temperature screening procedures upon their arrival, will need to present their Health QR Code when entering dining venues, and will be required to wear a mask during their entire visit,” the Shanghai Disney site says. “Guests will also be reminded to maintain respectful social distances at all times while in stores, queues and restaurants.” The theme-park section of the resort remains off-limits.
What Wayne Bertsch is reading — “A first: Leonard Hamilton, Florida State ACC tourney’s top seed” via Aaron Beard of The Associated Press — Florida State has accomplished several milestones in Hamilton’s nearly two decades with the Seminoles, from winning an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament to getting within a game of the Final Four two seasons ago. Yet his fourth-ranked Seminoles have never been in the position they are this week: entering the league tournament as the No. 1 seed after winning their first ACC regular-season championship. The five-day tournament opens Tuesday in Greensboro, North Carolina, with two first-round games. The Seminoles, No. 10 Duke, No. 15 Louisville and No. 17 Virginia have byes into Thursday’s quarterfinals, with FSU trying to add a second title to its lone championship in 2012.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Sen. Doug Broxson, friend and lobbyist Shawn Foster, and POLITICO Florida’s Arek Sarkissian.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.