Breaking overnight: “16 new positive cases of coronavirus in Florida; 3 in the Tampa Bay area” via the News Service of Florida — Five of the new cases were in Broward County, while two were in Palm Beach County and two were in Sarasota County. Alachua, Volusia, Duval, Clay, Hillsborough and Lee counties each had one new case. The virus can particularly affect seniors and people with other medical conditions. Seven of the new cases involved people at least 68 years old, but other cases involved a 20-year-old, a 24-year-old and a 25-year old. Three of the cases involved people from other states — New York, Massachusetts and Texas — who were in Florida. In all, the Department of Health said the state has had 42 cases of Floridians who tested positive for COVID-19 in the state.
Public health agencies to use Facebook Local Alerts for coronavirus — Facebook is expanding the Local Alerts tool to state and local health departments, including in Florida, to get COVID-19 information to citizens when they need it most. Facebook Local Alerts is a tool that state and local governments, law enforcement, and now public health agencies can utilize to communicate important information quickly to their communities. The tool has been used to communicate weather advisories, road closures, missing persons, community safety threats and now information relating to COVID-19. When these agencies mark posts as “Local Alerts,” people living within that geographical area will receive push notifications alerting them to the post. Facebook will also provide training and resources to these agencies to get started.
It’s just about a sucker bet that Florida will reach next Tuesday’s presidential primary without attracting even one major campaign rally featuring a Democratic candidate this year.
Sure, the contest’s not competitive. Joe Biden will win in a landslide. There’s that. So a priority, Florida isn’t. Not for him nor Bernie Sanders, just as it wasn’t for any of the other Democrats, except Mike Bloomberg.
But the dearth of events now is due to the same wild-card factor that’s canceled just about everything in America in the last 36 hours: the new coronavirus outbreak and concerns about big gatherings.
That’s why Biden canceled the Tampa rally that was set for Thursday, and the Miami one set for next Monday. It’s as good an excuse as any for Sanders not buying any Florida-bound plane tickets. Biden also made it clear in his coronavirus speech Thursday that he and his campaign have real concerns about big rallies going forward.
So when Wednesday comes, and Florida’s delegates all are spoken for, the same factor may continue to change political campaigning radically. There’s still a general election, and not even a fool would ignore Florida for that.
But how should that work now?
It’s not just the big crowds; it’s the travel. That’s why DNC officials decided to move Sunday’s Biden-Sanders debate from Phoenix to Washington D.C. — so they and staff and everyone else wouldn’t have to fly.
It’s not just the big crowds and the travel, it’s the intimate contact. Kissing babies, shaking hands, high-fives, and hugs are so 2019 now. Gwen Graham would be completely lost in a 2020 campaign.
So, too, might be door-to-door canvassing and other intimate retail campaigning. Maybe no one expects Republican congressional candidate Laura Loomer to run an ordinary campaign, but when she gave up canvassing this week, it was a clear message for all: Given coronavirus concerns, it’s not such a good idea to talk face-to-face with as many people as possible.
Other candidates such as Democrat Debra Kaplan in House District 31 and H. Alexander Duncan in Senate District 9 concede that’s a real worry. Organize Florida Executive Director Stephanie Porta said it’s a major dilemma right now.
For this year’s election, this ain’t your father’s campaign. Or Gwen Graham’s.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s Legislature is hoping to wrap things up by Wednesday. The tentative plan is to sign off on the budget by Sunday and then return for a vote Wednesday — after the mandatory 72-hour cooling-off period for the budget bill.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking groups hosting events like festivals, concerts and golf tournaments to postpone or cancel any sort of mass gathering because of the coronavirus. And his predecessor, Sen. Rick Scott, is quarantining himself after coming into contact with a Brazilian official who tested positive for the virus.
— After ignoring subpoenas from the legislature, Tiffany Carr, the former director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, is now facing the possibility of being held in contempt of the House.
— A bill prohibiting insurance companies from using your genetic information to set rates heads for the Governor’s desk.
— Also heading to the Governor is a bill that abolishes state regulations over telegraph companies; the Senate sponsor had to explain the concept of “a telegram” to the young-uns.
— Steve Vancore explains how the coronavirus could have a substantial impact on next week’s Florida presidential preference primary.
— The latest on Florida Man, including 73-year-old University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley, an expert on money laundering, who faces three counts — of money laundering.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@NYTDavid: I get the sense that this is not only the low point of the [Donald] Trump presidency but the low point of the American presidency ever. Has any president ever been this overmatched by a crisis?
—@GerardAraud: Trump needed a narrative to exonerate his administration from any responsibility in the crisis. The foreigner is always a good scapegoat. The Chinese has already been used. So, let’s take the European, not any European, the EU-one. Doesn’t make sense but ideologically healthy.
—@Vermontgmg: There are very few times in modern life where we can honestly say: No one alive has ever experienced what the next two months will be like around the world, but here we are. No one alive has any idea what the next two months will be like.
—@TheStalwart: The crash is happening with unprecedented speed for a simple reason, which is that we’ve just never seen anything like a complete simultaneous shutdown of so many parts of the economy like this before.
—@ShaneGanam: The media didn’t shut down China, or Italy. The media didn’t cancel tens of thousands of flights. The media didn’t infect more than a hundred thousand people in dozens of countries in a month. The media didn’t tell you to buy toilet paper. The media said wash your damn hands.
—@WesleyLowery: When the story of this is written, the NBA postponement and Tom Hanks diagnosis could very well be the moment the average American began taking coronavirus seriously. The question, of course, is how much worse this will end up being because that took so long
I know these event cancellations are disruptive,inconvenient & even annoying but it can literally save lives
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 13, 2020
—@MattDPearce: I imagine all the closures and cancellations give people a sense of ominousness. But it’s really an amazing act of social solidarity: We’re sacrificing so we can give nurses, doctors and hospitals a fighting chance. Start from there and hopefully we can figure out the rest.
—@GillianHTurner: BREAKING: The World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out.
—@HarrisonKey: In lieu of freaking out I will be freaking in
—@nntaleb: Can someone explain to me why it is “irrational” to stock up on nonperishables (such as toilet paper) when interest rates are nearly zero?
Jaime Caldwell, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, not mincing words:
"If I hear one more time, 'It's just the flu and I don't see what the big deal is,' I'm going to vomit." pic.twitter.com/5U2Zo23eAH
— Ben Conarck (@conarck) March 12, 2020
—@Sarklor: “Self-isolation”: – Boring, clinical – Following the orders of a government – Nobody will notice your effort “Exiled for the good of the realm” – Mysterious – Sexy – Everyone will wonder what you did
—@MDixon55: It doesn’t feel like death and impending doom outside. It’s actually quite nice
— DAYS UNTIL —
11th Democratic debate in Washington D.C. — 2; Florida’s presidential primary — 4; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 5; Super Tuesday III — 4; “After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News” premieres on HBO — 6; Quibi launches — 24; Easter — 30; First quarter campaign reports due — 33; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 33; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 34; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 38; NFL Draft — 41; Mother’s Day — 58; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 63; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 87; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 105; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 121; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 125; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start (maybe) — 133; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 158; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 164; First presidential debate in Indiana — 200; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 208; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 216; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 223; 2020 General Election — 235; “No Time to Die” premieres (now) — 257.
— TOP STORY —
“Mass gatherings in Florida should be postponed to stop coronavirus spread, Ron DeSantis says” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — If a mass gathering is not canceled, event organizers should have screening measures in place to prevent people who have been exposed to the virus from entering, he said. DeSantis did not define what accounts for a “mass gathering,” although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as groups of more than 1,000 people. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said the guidance he received was for any gathering of more than 250 people. The announcement was the most sweeping recommendation yet from DeSantis in response to the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. He issued an executive order prohibiting a wide array of people from visiting nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places where older residents live.
“After delays, test kits on way to Florida to increase testing ability, DeSantis says” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis isn’t waiting for the CDC to deliver those test kits to increase the state’s capability. He announced in Miami that he authorized state Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz to buy 2,500 commercial test kits, which should arrive this weekend. The kits will be distributed to 50 qualified labs around the state to be closer to the communities that need them, instead of sending all samples to one of the state’s three labs in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa. The kits will be able to test 625,000 people, he said. “We have to increase our testing capability in Florida,” DeSantis said at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, which will be one of the first hospitals to get test kits.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Outside, coronavirus looms. Inside, legislators hug it out in the Capitol” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Inside the chambers of the Florida House and Senate where hundreds of lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists and members of the public gather daily, the sense of urgency is hard to find. Lawmakers have spent hours giving long farewell speeches, sharing hugs and handshakes, posing for photos and exchanging gifts. The Senate did the annual unveiling of the Senate president’s portrait. Meanwhile, people watching in the galleries saw their phones and Twitter feeds light up with the never-ending barrage of breaking news: sports tournaments canceled, the U.S. Capitol closed to visitors, cruise industry idle. When Senate President Bill Galvano gave his goodbye address, lawmakers presented him with a trip to Hawaii, complete with a ukulele and a koa wood necklace.
“As the economic threat of the coronavirus grows, the Legislature is backing away from some business tax breaks” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — With the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic rapidly escalating, lawmakers on Thursday abandoned plans to hand out an assortment of tax breaks to businesses. Instead, the Senate tentatively approved a smaller package of tax cuts — highlighted by a reduction in the state tax charged on cellphones, cable television and video streaming services, a seven-day sales-tax holiday on hurricane supplies to be held in May and a three-day sales-tax holiday on clothing and school supplies to be held in August. The broad package (HB 7097) would also make a number of other changes, but a number of more controversial tax breaks were pulled out of the bill.
“Judge delivers final blow to troubled domestic violence coalition, orders dissolution” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — A Leon County circuit court judge took little time to order the dissolution of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, dismantling the final piece of the organization that is under fire for misusing millions in state and federal money. Circuit Court Judge Ron Flury agreed to the request by Attorney General Ashley Moody to put the accounts, property and assets of the nonprofit coalition under the control of Mark Healy, a bankruptcy expert in the Jacksonville-based firm of Michael Moecker and Associates. Moody’s office sued former CEO Carr and the coalition board members after evidence mounted that the coalition spent more than $7.5 million over three years to compensate Carr.
“A step toward improving foster care in Florida” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It takes special legislation in these partisan times for a bill to unanimously pass both chambers of the Florida Legislature. But this legislation, SB 1326, is a strong step toward improving the state’s child welfare system. It strengthens the child protection safety net, holds service providers more accountable and sets the stage for better pairing resources with the children who need them. DeSantis should follow through with his support by signing the bill into law, and lawmakers should provide enough money to make these goals achievable. The legislation is aimed at filling critical gaps in the foster care system that all too often result in tragedy.
“League of Women Voters urges veto of ballot initiative bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The LWVF is urging DeSantis to immediately veto a bill that would make it more difficult for some citizen initiatives to reach the ballot. The House approved the bill, sending it to DeSantis’ desk. It passed both chambers along party lines, 23-17 in the Senate Monday and 73-45 in the House. “The League is extremely disappointed in the Florida legislators who voted up on this bill. Time after time, citizens utilized this process when our elected officials refused to act,” League President Patricia Brigham said in a written statement. “We call on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto SB 1794 immediately.”
— BUDGET NOTES —
Legislature puts $300M toward coronavirus — Lawmakers will put another $300 million into reserves to fund the state response to the coronavirus and its impact on the economy, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. The announcement comes in the closing days of the Legislative Session, which was originally scheduled to end Friday before the threat of coronavirus swept the state. “We are going to make sure we have enough resources for the coming months,” House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings said at a Thursday night budget meeting. Where the $300 million will come from hasn’t been fully decided, and will likely get hammered out in negotiations between Senate President Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva. What’s clear: lawmakers won’t dip into funds set aside for teacher and state employee pay raises.
“Rob Bradley: Chambers ‘very, very close’ on health care spending” via the News Service of Florida — Senate Appropriations Chairman Bradley said it’s not uncommon for legislators to reach accord on smaller areas of the budget before finalizing funding for state health care agencies. “Health care is usually the last silo to wrap up, but we are very, very close on health care,” Bradley told reporters. Bradley refused to disclose the details of the compromise the chambers have been discussing about the health care budget, which includes funds for the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Department of Health and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. One area of contention has been spending on hospitals.
“Legislature approves $354 million in PECO spending” via Florida Politics — The Legislature will spend about $354 million on public education capital outlay projects in the 2020-21 state budget. The biggest winners are charter schools, which will receive nearly half the funding — about $170 million. The allocation is a 7% uptick from last year when lawmakers set aside $158 million for charters. Projects at state universities account for another $106 million in PECO spending, while state colleges are set to receive nearly $13 million. The University of Florida gets the largest slice of the pie, with $35 million to fund the university’s Data Science Research (DSR) Lab. Of the remaining cash, $41 million will pay for projects in Gilchrist, Baker, Levy and Bradford counties.
“Agreement reached on funding of state hemp program” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The House and Senate have agreed to a $4.36 million funding agreement for a state industrial hemp program. That’s movement on the part of the House, which a few days ago was not yet ready to accept the Senate budget for the program. But considering Senate Appropriations Chair Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, served as the chief architect of the program, it remained a high priority for the upper chamber in negotiations. Bradley serves on the industrial hemp advisory council. Bradley said in a statement there is “a great deal of opportunity, both for Florida’s agricultural community and our economy, that comes with the production of industrial hemp in our state.”
“House, Senate still apart on money for Straz Center” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The latest committee chair budget offer from the Senate includes $1 million while the House offer includes just $250,000. Both offers are far less than the Straz Center had hoped. The downtown Tampa performing arts center requested $4 million as a complement to a $4.6 million match from private and local contributions. The nonprofit is planning a $70 million major renovation. The proposed funding would help cover project design and engineering for architectural design, planning and engineering and construction for renovations, new community space, and other additions to the entire Straz campus. The proposed project would add three floors to the facility, new dance studios, classrooms, expanded student theater, family spaces, restrooms, faculty and administrative offices.
— “House, Senate $3M apart on emergency preparedness budget” via Florida Politics
—”Dunedin scores in budget with funding for an EOC and fire training facility” via Florida Politics
— LEGISLATION —
“Legislature votes to send weakened E-Verify bill to DeSantis” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — A bill that would require employers to verify new hires’ immigration status passed the Senate Thursday night, sending DeSantis a fairly dialed-back version of a legislative priority and key 2018 campaign promise. The Senate passed SB 664 23-17, along party lines. In typical end-of-session fashion, the bill has bounced back and forth between the Senate and House, which stripped Sen. Tom Lee’s bill language of much of its enforcement “teeth.” The Senate bill also would have required employers with 50 employees or more to register and use the I-9 system. The bill no longer cuts business off at 50 employees. SB 664 has been one of the most politically contentious issues this Legislative Session.
“No sunset for VISIT FLORIDA as agency is reauthorized for three more years” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — VISIT FLORIDA got three more years out of the House. And the Senate moved from the position of wanting eight years. SB 362, filed by Sen. Ed Hooper, was modified in the House to extend VISIT FLORIDA’s mission until October 2023. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Associated Industries of Florida, American Advertising Federation Florida TaxWatch, Florida Association of Counties and Florida Chamber have all gone on record supporting reauthorization. The Senate budgeted $52.5 million to VISIT FLORIDA. House leaders wanted to let it expire last year, but DeSantis’ support for the agency bought it an extension through June. DeSantis proposed spending $76 million on VISIT FLORIDA during the current year but accepted a Senate compromise of $50 million.
“Senators decline to bring more transparency to voucher programs” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Republican Sen. Lee introduced an amendment to outgoing House Education Committee Chair Jennifer Sullivan‘s HB 7067 that would require private schools to provide more information about voucher programs. Defeated by a 16-21 vote, it would have required private schools to report to the Department of Education how many students are enrolled, how many are participating in the voucher programs, how many are also participating in dual enrollment or virtual school programs, and the number of students who withdrew from the school by grade level or transferred to another school and the reason why.
“Bill reforming troubled guardianship program heads to Governor” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — The proposal by Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo would require guardians to get a judge’s approval before signing “do not resuscitate” orders on behalf of incapacitated clients, prohibit them from seeking their own appointment to specific cases and revise provisions related to conflicts of interest. “The bad actors — the bad apples — are making a bad name for all of the guardians,” Passidomo said. “But when I learned there were a number of professional guardians who had been charged with caring for others in need but used their responsibility to prey on these innocent people, I knew the Legislature needed to step in and protect them.” If signed, it would go into effect July 1.
“Holocaust, Ocoee Riots education bill awaits Ron DeSantis’ pen” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — That bill (HB 1213), by Rep. Randy Fine, originally just addressed the Holocaust education. But Fine implored the House to accept Sen. Randolph Bracy‘s amendment, folded in from one of his bills (SB 1262), after learning about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots. That adopted amendment would call on the Education Commissioner’s African American History Task Force to recommend ways the history of the Ocoee Massacre can be taught in schools. The bill also mandates that every school district and charter school teach students about the state’s policy against anti-Semitism. The Department of Education would have to create a process for schools to annually certify and provide evidence of compliance with Holocaust instructional requirements.
“Legislation to raise smoking, vaping ages await DeSantis’ signature” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — House members approved a version punting the start date of the age hike three months to the start of next year. Republicans and Democrats dissented as it passed 27-9 in the Senate and 99-17 in the House. The House language also ensures permitted store employees below 21 years old can sell tobacco and vape products and clarifies that vape product permits don’t carry a $50 fee, an original intent of the bill. Foods like tomatoes and potatoes, which contain trace nicotine, were carved out of the bill. Reps. Jackie Toledo and Nicholas Duran carried the bill (SB 810) through the House. They and Simmons believe youth vaping has become an epidemic and a crisis in middle and high schools.
—“Chris Sprowls’ DNA protection bill heads to DeSantis” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics
“Bear poaching ban passes Senate and House, ready for Governor’s signoff” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. David Smith‘s legislation cracking down on bear poaching cleared the Legislature. It’s now ready for DeSantis after a unanimous vote and the House’s approval to a Senate tweak. The legislation (HB 327) would increase the severity of criminal charges associated with bear poaching to a first-degree misdemeanor. The minimum fine would increase from $500 to $750 and increase hunting license suspensions for violators from one year to three years. That suspension would extend to 47 other states. The law “will put bears on an equal footing, equal hoof,” Wright previously said of the bill, noting that other poaching laws have been more stringent than bear poaching.
“End of telegraph era brings question: What’s a telegraph?” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — The Senate sent DeSantis a bill that removes an entire chapter of state law regulating the telegraph industry, including $50 penalties for not promptly delivering messages. In the days before hashtags, texts and FaceTime chats, telegraphs were a big deal. Western Union completed the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861, dealing a death blow to the struggling Pony Express, which began operations the year before. Florida laws regarding telegraphs haven’t had any substantial changes since 1913, and there haven’t been any court opinions involving the statutes since 1945, according to a legislative staff analysis.
“Florida set to require consent for pelvic exams” via The Associated Press — Doctors and medical students won’t be able to perform pelvic exams on unconscious patients without their informed consent under a bill the Florida Senate sent to DeSantis on Thursday. Sen. Lauren Book filed the bill after learning that some university hospitals use patients under anesthesia as a teaching tool for medical students while undergoing other procedures, unbeknownst to the patient. The bill also would require fertility clinics inform women of who donated reproductive material before implanting an embryo.
— FAREWELLS —
The Senate send-off to outgoing President Galvano — a man many see as both a statesman and leader — began with a video kicked off with a snippet of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” before fading into a photo montage set to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
Galvano, term-limited after this Session, kept his remarks brief, recognizing family, staff, and fellow Senators, with tributes to virtually everyone who has helped him, becoming audibly emotional more than once.
“Relationships matter,” Galvano told the assembled chamber. “The more you build on, the more you bank, it’s like deposits of goodwill.”
It’s not just politicians that matter, he said. “The Lobby Corps matters. The press corps matters.”
While Galvano measured his words, his sentiment was real. As was self-effacement. He credited everyone before calling himself a “traffic cop.”
Senate President Pro Tempore David Simmons extolled the “wonderful, wonderful President,” noting that he fulfilled every promise he made.
Namechecking Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, Simmons called Galvano a “statesman.”
Senate budget chief Bradley seconded the Reagan reference, introducing his photo.
“The great ones, the best of the best … their names aren’t listed on a plaque in this building,” Bradley said, “their names are repeated as a standard by which others are measured.”
House members bid an early farewell House Speaker Oliva, a man his colleagues frequently describe as principled.
Speaker Pro Tempore MaryLynn Magar offered the House’s thanks to the Speaker, who led the body through the 2019 and 2020 Sessions. Complimenting his principled nature, she said there is no question that the Bible guides him.
“In this chamber, we also believe you are guided by another good book, a book from the economic prophet Milton Friedman,” Magar said.
She noted that Friedman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, was among the first to write about the elimination of medical licensure and the creation of school choice in his 1962 book “Capitalism and Freedom.” The House gifted him with a first edition of the book.
This week, DeSantis fast-tracked his signature on two of the Speaker’s scope of practice priorities for pharmacists (HB 389) and advanced practice registered nurses (HB 607).
Speaking not from his usual post on the rostrum but from the podium on the floor, Oliva thanked his constituents, his staff, House staff, friends in the process and his predecessor, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Corcoran’s changes in policy and House culture “made an indelible mark” that influenced his tenure, too, Oliva said.
His gift back to each House member was gavels of their own, calling them pieces of his larger gavel back on the rostrum.
“I’ve never seen that as my gavel,” Oliva said. “I’ve always seen it as an extension of all of yours. And I’ve tried to make sure that this House is run in a way that is dignified, and that is representative of that.”
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
The Revenue Estimating Conference meets for an “impact” conference, to examine the potential cost of legislation, 9 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.
The House Will hold a floor session, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.
The Senate will hold a floor session, 11 a.m., Senate Chamber.
— TALLYMADNESS —
TallyMadness 2020 kicked off with 64 bracketed contenders three weeks ago and after six rounds and 135,000 votes, the final match came down to Corinne Mixon and Justin Thames
The championship was a matchup for the ages: SEC versus ACC, male versus female, in-house counsel versus law firm. The prize: The right to call themselves the best young (under 40) lobbyist in The Process.
Like an all-time classic, the bout went down to the wire. On Thursday afternoon, just 16 votes separated Mixon, a government consultant for Rutledge Ecenia, and Thames, director of governmental affairs for FICPA.
Thames came out of the gate strong and continued to flood his Twitter feed with pictures of a cute puppy and an adorable toddler, who turned out to be his two-year-old daughter, Eliza Mae.
Mixon was more reserved in her calls for support, but backers showed up in full force throughout her run. On the last day of voting, she almost posted a photo of herself and Thames to show this was a competition between friends — almost. “I was worried all my Facebook friends would vote for him based on his cute looks and his adorable bow tie,” she said.
Thames said he was nervous going one-on-one against the popular Mixon, but felt the contest wasn’t nearly as cutthroat as the advocacy biz. “Everybody that was in the competition, the majority, we’re all friends,” he said.
— GOVS. CLUB BUFFET MENU —
She crab bisque; mixed garden salad with dressings; seafood pasta salad; spicy watermelon and tomato salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and bread; crispy fried oysters, shoestring french fries, tartar, Cajun rémoulade and cocktail sauces; smoked beef brisket with BBQ sauces; chicken Oscar; hoppin’ john; kickin’ collard greens; roasted Brussels sprouts; Krispy Kreme bread pudding for dessert.
— CORONAVIRUS —
“Coronavirus in Florida: One more case confirmed, bringing total to 35” via Mario Ariza, Cindy Krischer Goodman, Juan Ortega, Brooke Baitinger and Victoria Ballard of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Florida Department of Health on Thursday afternoon confirmed an additional case of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 35 cases. The patient is a 68-year-old man from Seminole County with a travel-related infection associated with a cruise taken on the Nile River, the health department said. Broward County leads the state, having at least seven confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. The state’s total number of cases has more than doubled in recent days, increasing from 14 on Tuesday night to the 35 on Thursday.
“CDC will notify passengers who may have interacted with Port Everglades coronavirus patients” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Health officials say they will work to contact cruise ship passengers who may have been in contact with any of the four individuals connected to Port Everglades who have tested positive for the new coronavirus. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says his agency will work with the Florida Department of Health to ensure those passengers are notified. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, who represents parts of Broward County, including Port Everglades, questioned Redfield. She said officials have not confirmed that passengers who had offloaded at the port in recent days had been notified of potential contact.
“Coronavirus pandemic tests clout of cruise industry and its long-standing ties to Donald Trump” via Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, Ashley Parker and Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post — The administration’s whipsawing posture has led to an intensive behind-the-scenes lobbying effort by cruise executives to mitigate the financial fallout from the virus, which has infected passengers and crew members on at least two Carnival-owned Princess Cruise ships. The coming days will test the clout of the industry, which has long-standing connections to Trump, including through Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison, a friend whose company helped sponsor Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice” over the years. But stock value of cruise companies has plummeted as the industry struggled to deal with the infections on the two ships and warnings from health experts about the risks of such travel. Trump appears sympathetic and has said he wants to help the cruise lines.
“Even before coronavirus, Princess Cruises had a spotted record on outbreaks” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As it shuts down its global operations for 60 days, officials of Princess Cruises will no doubt have to examine why it has so far been the only major cruise line to contend with coronavirus outbreaks on board. The cruise line’s history of gastrointestinal illness, as tracked by the CDC, might hold some clues. Since 2011, Princess Cruises has reported more outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness — 26 — than any other cruise line that docks in the United States. The recent coronavirus outbreaks came just weeks after significant flare-ups of norovirus on Princess Cruises ships. Two of the first three in 2020 occurred aboard the Caribbean Princess ship, based in Fort Lauderdale.
“U.S. stocks sink in worst day since Black Monday” via Claire Ballentine, Vildana Hajric, and Sarah Ponczek of Bloomberg — In a week that brought the wildest market swings since the financial crisis, Thursday hammered investors with something crazier — a 10% drop in the Dow, the end of the longest bull market on record and the most significant sell-off since 1987’s Black Monday. At the end of the day, the S&P 500 smoldered 27% below records set barely three weeks ago and wiped out all its gains since the end of 2018. The news was even worse overseas: Europe’s benchmark index suffered its worst day in history. Brazil’s Ibovespa tumbled as much as 20%, extending this year’s loss to almost 50% in dollar terms. Canada’s main gauge was off more than 12%, its worst day since 1940.
“‘Don’t Panic’: Fear and Loathing Grip Congress as Coronavirus Spreads” via Catie Edmondson of The New York Times — As fears mounted this week about the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi swatted away the suggestion of shuttering Congress with a stoic declaration: “We are the captains of the ship. We are the last to leave.” But by Thursday, as the captains of the ship and their crew saw warning signs blinking from the lighthouse — constituents sickened, colleagues quarantining themselves, grim reports about the virulence of the disease — they began to worry that they were in a different kind of vessel. “Members of Congress,” Rep. Matt Gaetz said on the House floor, wearing a gas mask for emphasis, “are human petri dishes.”
— MORE CORONA —
“Disney World closes theme parks for rest of March as coronavirus concerns swell” via Dewayne Bevil and Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Throughout its nearly 50-year history, Walt Disney World has closed a handful of times briefly from looming hurricanes and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but the company announced it would shut down for nearly two weeks starting Sunday because of the coronavirus pandemic — an unprecedented move, which happened four hours after Disney said it would also shut down Disneyland. At Disney World, the four theme parks will shut down, although the hotels and the Disney Springs shopping center will remain open. “In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks,” Disney said in a statement.
“Disney delays Mulan due to coronavirus” via Aja Romano of Vox — Disney delayed not only Mulan, which would have been released March 27, but also two other upcoming films: the teen X-Men movie New Mutants (previously scheduled for April 3), and the horror film Antlers, which Disney acquired when it acquired Fox Searchlight (previously scheduled for April 17). New release dates for the films have not yet been announced. “As you know, this has been a rapidly evolving situation,” a Disney spokesperson stated in a press email. Press screenings of Mulan have been delayed until further notice, and some premieres for the film were also unscheduled in Europe and China, where theaters have already been closed for over a month.
“The Strange weight of Tom Hanks’s coronavirus diagnosis” via David Sims of The Atlantic — Hanks is currently more than 7,000 miles away from Hollywood, preparing to film Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis Presley biopic in Australia. But last night’s news that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive for the coronavirus feels, in some ways, like the most seismic news the U.S. has received since the pandemic reached our shores. In an Instagram post, Hanks explained that he and Wilson had been diagnosed after exhibiting symptoms such as slight fevers and chills.
“NCAA cancels March Madness tournament due to coronavirus” via Axios — The NCAA announced it would cancel its annual men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments, set to begin with Selection Sunday on March 15, due to the coronavirus outbreak. March Madness is a cultural phenomenon, and one of the most significant sporting events in America. The NCAA was initially planning to play games without fans but faced pressure to cancel after top-ranked teams Duke and the University of Kansas suspended all athletic activities. A string of major sports cancellations began with the NBA, which announced it would suspend its season indefinitely after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. The NHL and MLS suspended their seasons, and the MLB postponed spring training games.
“MLB delays opening day at least 2 weeks because of virus” via Ronald Blum of The Associated Press — Opening day had been scheduled for March 26. The decision announced by Commissioner Rob Manfred left open whether each team would still play 162 games. “It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s the proper measure we need to take now given the situation the country’s in and the world’s in,” New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said. “It’s important to know that some things are bigger than baseball, bigger than sports at the moment.” The announcement came while some spring training games in Florida were still in progress. The minor league baseball season, which was to start April 9, also will be delayed.
“NFL teams curtail or stop scouting; main owners meeting off” via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press — The Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets are among those that have ordered their scouts and assistant coaches to return home in what typically is a busy time for evaluating college players. The NFL draft is scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas. Many teams have told employees to work remotely. “Due to health and travel concerns surrounding COVID-19, we have informed all of our scouts and coaches that they must return to their home bases and travel will be suspended until further notice,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement.
“PGA Tour to carry on without spectators for the next month” via Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press — Commissioner Jay Monahan said fans would not be allowed at the final three days of The Players Championship or three other tournaments — one in Florida, two in Texas — leading up to the Masters. Monahan leaned on golf not being a contact sport and being played outdoors across sprawling acreage as a reason not to shut down entirely. “Our players are making their way over 400 acres,” Monahan said. “Because of the nature of that … and over the course of a round our players generally do socially distance themselves, we felt like by taking this step to address the problem with our fans, we’re in a position where we can continue to operate the events as of right now.
“Coronavirus: Players Championship canceled after one round” via Gary Smits of the Florida Times-Union — The PGA Tour announced late Thursday that it was canceling the remaining three rounds of The Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course due to coronavirus concerns. The Tour played the first round on Thursday with fans present, with an announcement at noon that it would play the next three rounds without fans. Hideki Matsuyama of Japan was the leader, tying the course record with a 63. Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will address the issue during a news conference at 8 a.m. on Friday at The Players media center.
“IndyCar, NASCAR closed to fans amid COVID-19 pandemic” via Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press — IndyCar pushed forward with Sunday’s season-opening race after the Mayor of St. Petersburg said fans would not be permitted to attend. Only essential personnel can enter the fenced area surrounding the temporary street course through downtown St. Petersburg. Competitors will have to answer a questionnaire for health screening before entry. Practice sessions, the driver’s autograph session, and other events were canceled. NASCAR said it will run its next two races without fans, starting this weekend in Atlanta and continuing at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said the county was under a state of emergency and NASCAR racing would be postponed unless officials chose to run the race without fans.
“ATP, ITF tennis tours halted 6 weeks because of coronavirus” via Howard Fendrich and Steven Wine of The Associated Press — The ATP called off all men’s professional tennis tournaments for six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a WTA spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the women’s tour was not immediately prepared to do the same. Amy Binder wrote in an email that the WTA would announce information about upcoming events “shortly.” “At this point in time,” Binder wrote, “we are not looking to put in a 6-week suspension.” Hours earlier, the men’s tour announced it was doing just that for the ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour, while the International Tennis Federation halted its lower-tier events.
“Far from the coronavirus epicenter, Caribbean tourism starts to get sick” via Kate Chappell, Anthony Faiola and Jasper Ward via The Washington Post — The cruise-heavy and visitor-dependent Caribbean is faring significantly better than other tourism hot spots. Cruise passenger traffic on some islands is down by the tens of thousands. But guest numbers at hotels and resorts, far larger generators of local revenue, are dipping less or holding steady — albeit with serious signs of trouble ahead. The islands are in the final weeks of high season and counting their blessings that the virus did not strike earlier. Yet even on these coconut-laden shores, tourism in a sudden era of social distancing is facing an escalating challenge — with the impact of a global outbreak threatening to derail the recovery of a region hammered in recent years by a run of earthquakes and killer storms.
“After encouraging staff to mislead cruise customers about COVID-19, Norwegian reverses” via Jimena Tavel and Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — After encouraging sales employees to mislead concerned customers about the risks of taking cruises during the COVID-19 outbreak, Norwegian Cruise Line has backpedaled. As first reported by the Miami New Times, company managers downplayed the threat of the virus internally and directed salespeople to do the same with customers. After the New Times story published the canned sales responses Wednesday morning, Executive Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Farkas told sales staff to abandon the phrases about coronavirus in an email Wednesday afternoon.
“Royal Caribbean passengers who tried to cancel trip decide to board anyway” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — Ana Trevino’s family trip for 13 shrank to six people by the time she arrived at Port Tampa Bay Thursday to board a cruise to Cozumel. With coronavirus on their minds, some of the remaining travelers had tried to cancel their tickets in exchange for a credit. After hours on hold, they said they couldn’t get to through to Royal Caribbean within the required 48-hour notice period. The options became: Go on the cruise now or spend hundreds of dollars on nothing. “I’m excited, but also terrified,” said 30-year-old Claudy Berrios, before boarding Brilliance of the Seas at the Port of Tampa Bay on Thursday. “I really tried canceling.”
“The Fair has been shut down. What happens to the food, the rides and the farm animals?” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Fifth-grader Marcos Andujar was looking forward to showing off his lambs at the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair on Friday. Then his family received a phone call. The fair was canceled. Miami-Dade County Mayor Giménez announced the decision early Thursday, only hours before the fair was set to open at 3 p.m. Concern over the novel coronavirus led to the cancellation, like other big events. Fair President and CEO Eddie Cora says he’s “shocked” by the carnival’s shutdown but that he understands why the decision was made. Cora says the fair will take the next few weeks to review options. Vendors are discussing the possibility of donating their 21-day supply of food to community organizations. The CEO hopes the fair could come back later this year.
— LOCAL RESPONSE TO CORONA —
“2 Florida schools closed as coronavirus spreads” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida — Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville is closed after a 61-year-old woman who attends church with many of the school’s students and faculty members was diagnosed with COVID-19. And a person regularly on the Farnell Middle School campus in Hillsborough County had recent contact with someone positive for coronavirus. Officials decided to close the school for a cleaning. The College of the Florida Keys is closing for 21 days after spring break. Miami Dade College closed its medical campus and canceled school events after a visitor who attended a recent event there tested positive for COVID-19.
“Miami-Dade, Broward public schools to remain open amid coronavirus pandemic” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade and Broward school districts plan to remain open with normal operations despite a growing number of positive coronavirus cases in South Florida. The respective fourth- and sixth-largest school districts in the nation held back-to-back news conferences Thursday. It was the first scheduled presser for Broward, where seven people have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, more than any other county in Florida. Broward’s announcements lacked much detail. Superintendent Robert Runcie announced that all after-school activities are canceled. He also put a moratorium on all travel — academic, athletic, extracurricular — within the state, effective Monday. In its third news conference on the issue, Miami-Dade County Public Schools broke from Broward in its approach to after-school activities.
“Miami-Dade police suspend evictions amid coronavirus spread” via Jessica Lipscomb of the Miami New Times — Miami-Dade Mayor Giménez declared a state of emergency for the county. Following that announcement, the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) said it had suspended eviction enforcement. “Due to @MayorGimenez declaring a state of emergency in #OurCounty, the #MDPD has temporarily suspended all eviction activities until further notice,” the police department tweeted. MDPD has not always been so considerate. Last year, as Hurricane Dorian threatened to hit South Florida, Miami-Dade police helped evict an elderly woman from her longtime apartment in South Beach. Giménez later said it had been a mistake to evict the 75-year-old resident.
“Large events canceled across South Florida amid coronavirus concerns” via Andrew Boryga and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Officials on Thursday canceled many of the fun South Florida events that draw thousands of people each year, trying to stop the march of the coronavirus. Miami-Dade County postponed the Miami Open tennis tournament, Youth Fair, the MIA 5K run, as well as events at American Airlines Arena. Broward urged all cities to cancel events while it postponed Saturday’s Water Matters Day, which would’ve featured a plant and tree giveaway. Although Palm Beach County is not yet canceling gatherings, it could eventually. “These large events right now are not a good idea,” Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry said.
“’We are all getting slaughtered.’ Coronavirus fallout forces Orlando layoffs” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando stage production company has laid off half its local workforce and more than 150 people nationwide after several shows canceled events because of fears over coronavirus. It is the first documented case of job losses in Central Florida directly related to the virus and could be a harbinger of things to come as more conferences pull out of Central Florida over the illness. Already, Orlando has seen more than 15 conferences cancel or reschedule, with those expecting to attract 100,000 visitors and $200 million in economic impact. “It’s brutal,” said Christie Lites, CEO Huntly Christie, whose company has let go of 30 of its 60 Orlando employees. “We (the industry) are all getting slaughtered.”
“The cost of closing: Leon County schools actively monitoring coronavirus, weighs next steps” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — As universities move to online classes, Leon County Schools officials are actively weighing the district’s next steps and deciding whether to take the “nuclear option” of closing schools, which immediately will send parents scrambling. Here are some sobering facts facing district officials: Roughly 14,300 students in Leon County public schools qualify for free or reduced-rate lunches; four schools with a high concentration of kids with Type 1 Diabetes have a pilot Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare telemedicine program; the roughly 34,000 students in Leon County public schools spend seven hours a day in a regular, supervised school program; most high school seniors are waiting on their final grades before securing their collegiate spots.
“Springtime Tallahassee, Word of South officially canceled —” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The 52nd Annual Springtime Tallahassee and Word of South festivals have canceled due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Organizers made the call after DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey urged the cancellation or postponement of mass-crowd events throughout the state for the next 30 days. Coordinators for both events said earlier this week they had planned to move forward with events unless they were shut down by authorities. Both events attract tens of thousands of residents and visitors to the capital city. Springtime Tallahassee was slated to take place on March 27 and March 28. Word of South, a music and literature festival, was scheduled for April 3 through April 5.
“‘Very fluid’ situation: How Pensacola, Escambia County are bracing for pandemic” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Officials with the city of Pensacola and Escambia County are bracing for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as they await further guidance from state health officials. The county has stepped up the cleaning of public facilities and has been in communication with the Florida Department of Health to decide if further steps are needed, officials said at a news conference Thursday. So far, no cases of COVID-19 have been found in Escambia County. Last week, one case was identified in Santa Rosa County, a 71-year-old man who was treated in Escambia County at Baptist Hospital. The man later died and is one of two deaths recorded in Florida from the coronavirus.
“Sarasota-Manatee anticipates tourism losses” via Laura Finaldi of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Trump Administration’s restrictions on travel from Europe because of the coronavirus could potentially cause a slowdown in Sarasota-Manatee tourism. Still, that slowdown could come from more than just international travel, local officials say. About 2-3% of visitors in Sarasota County at this time of year are from Germany and central Europe, Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, said. That percentage is usually a lot higher in the summer and fall, she said. But Haley said she thinks the travel ban will still affect travel in international and domestic markets. That might end up changing how Visit Sarasota spends its advertising money this summer, Haley said. She said it might end up spending for an advertising push in European markets this summer.
“Not washing your hands? Seminole County wants public to report you” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — If you see someone use the bathroom and leave without washing their hands, say something to them. That’s what Seminole County officials are urging the public to do with heightened fears about the coronavirus, which on Wednesday was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. A Facebook video titled “See something, say something” posted late Wednesday by Seminole County officials shows a man leave a bathroom stall and walk by a sink without washing his hands … “A reminder from Seminole County Office of Emergency Management: Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap,” the post reads. “If you know of someone who is not practicing personal hygiene, offer a gentle reminder to prevent the spread of viruses.”
—“Pasco declares coronavirus emergency” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times
—“Palm Beach International Boat Show cancels” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post
— SUNSHINE STATE PRIMARY —
Voters are voting — According to the Florida Division of Elections, as of Thursday morning, Supervisors of Elections have 1,175,780 and Republican vote-by-mail ballots; 628,039 have returned, 399,872 are outstanding, and 4,081 are unsent. There have been 143,851 early in-person votes cast. As for Democrats, Supervisors have 1,398,104 vote-by-mail ballots; 555,417 have returned 590,248 are outstanding, and 5,787 are unsent. There have been 246,652 early in-person votes cast. Those classified as “other,” 248,878 vote-by-mail ballots, 16,165 have returned, 32,635 are outstanding, and 198,106 are unsent. There have been 1,972 early in-person votes cast.
“‘Weird times.’ A global COVID-19 pandemic muddles the Florida primary. Will it matter?” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Presidential campaigns canceling events in Miami. Poll workers are packing extra rubber gloves. A debate without an audience. The Florida primary has entered the pandemic phase. After weeks of early voting, with only days to go until Florida’s March 17 presidential preference election, a global outbreak of novel coronavirus and a continuing surge by former Vice President Biden have dramatically changed the landscape of the presidential campaign both nationally and in the state. Now, at a time the campaign should be bustling, it’s unclear what the Florida campaign will look like — or if it will even matter. “These are weird times,” said Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Peñalosa.
“Florida poised to stamp out Bernie Sanders campaign” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — No state accentuates Sanders’ weaknesses and Biden’s strengths quite like Florida, which votes Tuesday with a payload of 219 delegates, more than any other state left on the primary calendar besides New York. More than a quarter of the Democratic primary electorate is traditionally African American, Biden’s base. Two-thirds are typically 50 or older, also Biden’s stronghold. And about 60 percent in the polls consider themselves moderates or even conservatives — ditto, advantage Biden. But it gets worse for Sanders. Hispanic voters have been a bright spot for the Vermont Senator. But the opposite is true in Florida. A poll showed Florida Hispanics, by a 34-point margin, look unfavorably upon a candidate who describes himself as a “socialist.”
“Elections office taking steps to prevent coronavirus spread” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Leon County Supervisor of Elections has implemented safeguards to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during early and Election Day voting in the Florida presidential primary. The office is also moving some voters from two precincts located at assisted living facilities to minimize possible exposure to vulnerable older people. Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said his office is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including cleaning voting equipment, providing hand sanitizer at voting locations and giving additional training to poll workers. “I encourage voters with concerns to consider voting early or voting during off-peak hours (1-4 p.m.) as a way of minimizing contract with crowds on Election Day,” Earley said.
— MORE 2020 —
“Trump leaves open the possibility of a March 25 rally in Tampa amid coronavirus” via David Smiley and Francesca Chambers of the Miami Herald — Trump said in the White House that he had plans for a rally in Tampa later this month. Still, he’ll probably cancel the event due to concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus. “We had four or five [political rallies] that we were thinking about. We had a big one in Tampa all sold out. We had over 100,000 requests for tickets, but I think we’ll probably not do it because people will say it’s better not to do,” Trump said. “We’ll need a little separation until such time that this goes away.” He left open the possibility that the event will be held as planned.
“Dem debate moved to D.C. over coronavirus concerns” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — “Out of an abundance of caution and in order to reduce cross-country travel, all parties have decided that the best path forward is to hold Sunday’s debate at CNN’s studio in Washington, D.C., with no live audience,” DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement. The debate, the first one-on-one clash between Biden and Sanders, was initially scheduled to be held in Phoenix. The DNC and CNN, which is hosting the debate alongside Univision, announced earlier in the week that there would be no live audience, spin room, or media filing center as campaigns, media organizations and other groups take steps to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“Biden, Sanders offer contrasts to Trump during outbreak” via The Associated Press — “This administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face,” Biden said in a speech delivered from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and tailored to draw sharp contrasts between the former vice president and the Republican incumbent. A short time later, Sanders said the outbreak might isolate Americans working from home and in quarantine, and he suggested the country needed to band together, not divide. “If there ever was a time in the modern history of our country when we were all in this together, this is the moment,” Sanders said. “We have an administration that is largely incompetent and whose incompetence and recklessness have threatened the lives of many, many people in this country.”
“Tuesday’s primaries reveal it’s not just black voters whom Sanders is struggling with” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — The losses of Sanders this week with demographic groups and in states he won in 2016 are prompting questions about whether there ever was as much support for his revolutionary politics as some previously believed. Following the South Carolina primary, which former Vice President Biden won, much attention has been paid to how poorly Sanders is doing with black voters — particularly those older than 45. But as the 2020 election plays out in states outside those with large black Democratic electorates, like in the Midwest and West, it looks like Sanders is not as strong with white voters as his supporters thought.
“Biden turns his focus from Sanders to Trump — and rebooting his own campaign” via Matt Viser and Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — A day after another string of dominant victories that moved him closer to the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden’s campaign was working to reboot amid broad concerns within the party that his current operation is ill-equipped to match Trump’s behemoth reelection effort. Biden pulled off the most stunningly swift turnaround in modern political history with a relatively small staff, underwhelming fundraising, and a campaign occasionally marked by dysfunction and turmoil. After he finished fifth in New Hampshire just four weeks ago, there were questions about how his campaign could gracefully end. But Biden now has won at least 15 of the last 21 voting states, making him the candidate likeliest to face Trump.
“Biden appoints Jen O’Malley Dillon as new campaign manager” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — The move is intended to quell concerns raised in recent weeks by senior Democratic strategists about the leadership structure of the Biden campaign, which has been beset by underwhelming fundraising, scant staffing resources and organizational miscues during the early nominating contests. “She will be a tremendous asset to a campaign that is only growing and getting stronger as we prepare to take the fight to Donald Trump this fall,” Biden said in a statement. The campaign shuffle is an acknowledgment that while Biden has had a remarkable recent run of victories — at least 15 of the past 21 contests — his operation was not up to the challenge posed by Trump if Biden wins the nomination.
“Trump’s reelection chances suddenly look shakier” via Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Trump faces the most significant challenge yet to his prospects of being reelected, with his advisers’ two major assumptions for the campaign — a booming economy and an opponent easily vilified as too far left — quickly evaporating. After a year in which Mr. Trump has told voters that they must support his reelection or risk watching the economic decline, the stock market is reeling, and economists are warning that a recession could be on the horizon because of the worsening spread of the coronavirus. And instead of elevating Sanders as Trump made clear was his hope, Democrats have suddenly and decisively swung from a flirtation with socialism to Biden.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“White House tours suspended and Capitol to close to public” via The Associated Press — Congress decided to shut the Capitol to the public until April. Congressional office buildings and the Congressional Visitor Center, through which tourists enter the Capitol, are also closing. Only lawmakers, staff, journalists, and visitors with official business will be permitted to enter. White House tours have been temporarily suspended. The closures come after Trump sharply restricted passenger travel from 26 European nations to the United States and trying to ease the economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic that’s upending financial markets and disrupting Americans’ lives.
“For Trump, the coronavirus crisis is all about the numbers — and they don’t look good” via Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — Trump’s obsession with numbers — both publicly and privately — has dominated and shaped the administration’s response to the coronavirus, as advisers and public health experts try to placate a leader who largely views the global pandemic through the political lens of how the statistics reflect on his presidency and hopes for reelection. He wants market numbers up, and he wants case numbers down. Trump is a man who has measured much of his life in numbers — first wealth, then crowd size and votes, and now unemployment and economic numbers — while saying relatively little about the human suffering caused by the coronavirus crisis.
“How a Mar-a-Lago member helped set up the Brazil summit that exposed Trump to coronavirus” via Adriana Brasileiro, Sarah Blaskey, and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — A hastily announced international summit that brought Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro — and an apparent case of the coronavirus — to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort was set in motion thanks to a letter written by a Brazilian financier and hand-delivered to the president by a longtime Mar-a-Lago member and Trump business associate. Mário Garnero, an 82-year old Brazilian entrepreneur, wrote an undated letter addressed to Trump. Thanks to a mutual friend, Garnero was able to pass the letter on to Richard Bernstein, a Mar-a-Lago member who runs a West Palm Beach insurance agency, Richard S. Bernstein & Associates, that has sold coverage to the Trump Organization. Bernstein then hand-delivered the letter to Trump at Mar-a-Lago over Presidents’ Day weekend.
“Rick Scott to self-quarantine after Jair Bolsonaro aide tests positive for coronavirus” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Scott will self-quarantine after having possible contact with Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, during a meeting in Florida. “My office was alerted today by the Brazilian Embassy that a member of President Bolsonaro’s delegation tested positive for coronavirus,” Scott said in a statement. “On Monday, I met with the president in Miami, and while I do not believe I interacted with the infected person, that individual was in the same room as me. The embassy said the person had no symptoms leading up to or the day of the conference.” Scott said he is showing no symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
“Charlie Crist calls for drive-thru coronavirus testing” via Mark Bergin of Florida Politics — Crist has called for drive-thru coronavirus testing in a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Redfield. It also asks for the agency to provide direction on who needs testing and to make use of every qualified lab available. “Floridians are seeing efficient, effective coronavirus tests around the world, while Americans experiencing symptoms cannot get tested here at home,” Crist wrote in a news release. “Tom Hanks was diagnosed with coronavirus in Australia where testing is free and widely available. He would not have met CDC criteria for a test in America. It’s outrageous. Every day we get this wrong is a day that Americans are less safe. Let’s get it right. Let people get tested.”
“Rubio wants to increase scrutiny of foreign homebuyers in Miami with new legislation” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Rubio is introducing a bill that would reduce foreign speculation of residential real estate in urban centers like Miami by increasing the tax rates of real estate sales by foreign investors. And Rubio would combat real estate transactions funded by illicit activity or money laundering by prompting the Treasury Department to report the natural identities of foreign buyers and the source of funds received by the seller. The bill authorizes the Treasury Department to require a report on behalf of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) for each transaction of residential real estate to a foreign buyer within the top 15 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the country.
“State suspends prison visitation” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Corrections has suspended visits at all state prisons, as the state attempts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. In-person visits with prisoners at all facilities have been stopped until April 5, corrections officials announced. “This decision has been made in close consultation with our partners at the Florida Department of Health and with correctional best practices being reviewed nationwide. We look forward to resuming normal visitation as soon as possible,” agency officials said in a prepared statement. Inmates will have “access to their loved ones through mail, phone calls and video visitations,” officials said.
“He smuggled fentanyl into a Florida jail, cops say. Five inmates overdosed within a week” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — A Pasco County man will spend more than two decades behind bars for selling fentanyl inside a jail, which caused numerous inmates to overdose, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Timothy CathCart, 33, was sentenced Wednesday to 27 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. According to the DEA, CathCart was originally booked into a Pasco jail for a traffic violation on Jan. 24, 2019. Minutes before his arrest, however, he hid about 14 grams of fentanyl mixed with two other substances. This allowed him to smuggle the narcotics inside the jail. CathCart later confessed to intentionally sneaking the narcotics inside the jail.
“Keep Hollywood’s Hurricane Irma nursing home video from jury, defendants plead” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in September 2017, but 15 surveillance cameras kept working, recording what workers did and did not do for days as temperatures inside climbed to unbearable levels. Now, lawyers for the officials accused of letting the residents of the home die from heat exhaustion want a Broward judge to keep a jury from hearing expert testimony based on more than 1,000 hours of video evidence. The images they captured — and the inaction they allegedly revealed — led prosecutors to file charges against four employees. As of Thursday afternoon, there was no deadline for prosecutors to respond to the defense move to keep the information from the jury. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for April 17.
“SpaceX moving ahead with sixth launch of Starlink internet satellites on Saturday” via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — Coronavirus is canceling most things on Earth except rocket launches (for now, anyway). SpaceX is moving forward with a launch on Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 39A carrying a set of the company’s own Starlink internet satellites to orbit. The satellites are designed to deliver high-speed broadband internet to even the most remote corners of the globe. Saturday’s launch, scheduled for 9:42 a.m., will be the sixth for Starlink and will carry 60 of the 570-pound satellites. That’ll take SpaceX’s total to about 360. The weather is 90% favorable for the launch, according to the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron.
— FRESH FROM FLORIDA TURNS 30 —
In 2020, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Fresh From Florida program celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Established by the Legislature in 1990, “Fresh from Florida” — formally known as the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign (FAPC) — supports Florida’s farmers, ranchers, fishermen, aquaculturists, and horticulturists by helping market Florida-grown products around the world.
Through partnerships with retail grocery stores, trade shows, retailers like Subway, and more, Fresh From Florida reaches over 50 million consumers every year. Food producers meeting certain standards can use the “Fresh From Florida” logo on product packaging and signage to highlight locally-grown commodities.
“Fresh From Florida has built a worldwide brand that’s become a household name, known for farm-fresh, high-quality products,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Fresh From Florida has created $7 billion in revenue for Florida’s hardworking farmers and ranchers, and keeps our state’s more than 300 commodities front-of-mind for consumers. For Florida’s taxpayers, it’s a return on investment like no other.”
Fried also touted the Fresh From Florida return on investment — $22 for every $1 invested — which helps fuel the state’s second-largest industry, generating an additional $137 million in cash receipts for Florida’s more than 47,000 farmers and ranchers. The program created $840 million in sales from trade shows since 2013.
Annually, the brand contributes 2,300 new jobs and $12.8 million in tax revenue to the state.
Fresh From Florida is also partnering with up to 70 national retailers in 25 different countries, making Florida one of the top states in agricultural exports. The Department’s 2020-21 budget asks state lawmakers for $10.8 million to fund this vital program.
For more information about Fresh From Florida with videos, tips, and email recipes direct from Fresh From Florida’s Chef Justin Timineri, visit the Fresh From Florida page.
Happening today — Fried and FDACS Chief Science Officer Dr. Lisa Conti will host a Facebook Live town hall to discuss what consumers, businesses, and agriculture should know about coronavirus, 1 p.m. at Facebook.com/FDACS.
— LOCAL —
“Caught on bodycam: FBI agent chasing Florida corruption complaint ends up locked in patrol car” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — An FBI agent checking out a complaint about police corruption in rural northwest Florida ended up handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car after running into deputies who doubted his true identity. The ordeal unfolded after Special Agent Alexis Hatten traveled from Panama City to the small town of Carrabelle to ask about a citation the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office gave to a prominent businesswoman but later pulled back from the courthouse. It escalated into a roadside confrontation — all caught on bodycam video — between Hatten and the deputies. During the six minutes Hatten spent locked in the cruiser, he cried out for cool air and demanded to be released.
“Nate Monroe: JEA CEO is gone, but a key lieutenant remains” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. is probably best known as the bureaucratic enforcer of a bizarre, unwritten Rick Scott-era prohibition on the use of the terms “climate change” and “global warming” by employees of the state’s top environmental protection agency. A foot soldier in Scott’s war against science and Florida’s environment — which Gov. Ron DeSantis has, to a degree, sought to reverse — Vinyard’s legacy as the head of the DEP was one of reduced morale, reduced headcount, reduced focus on protecting the state’s natural grace and reduced transparency.
“Woman pleads guilty to hurricane disaster assistance fraud” via The Associated Press — Bernita Willette Carswell, 36, pleaded guilty in Jacksonville federal court to one count of disaster assistance fraud, according to court records. She faces up to 30 years in prison, as well as paying restitution. Carswell made an application for disaster assistance benefits to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in September 2017, according to court documents. She claimed that her primary residence in Jacksonville was damaged during Hurricane Irma, forcing her to stay in a nearby rental property. FEMA paid Carswell rental assistance totaling $15,024.80. Department of Homeland Security investigators determined that Carswell’s statements to FEMA were false, and her Jacksonville home was not damaged.
“Kayser Enneking takes narrow lead in HD 21 money race” via Florida Politics — The HD 21 race is showing Republican incumbent Clemons out in front in overall fundraising. However, Democratic challenger Enneking now leads in cash on hand. Clemons reported about $165,100 in campaign contributions at the start of the 2020 Legislative Session when lawmakers are barred from raising money. Clemons also has substantial cash on hand in his reelection bid as his campaign has only spent about $26,000. That leaves about $139,200 in reserve in his bid for another term in the North Central Florida seat. As Clemons efforts paused, Enneking’s continued. She has now mustered about $153,000 in campaign contributions. The Gainesville Democrat has also been careful about spending so far, racking up only about $43,000 in expenditures.
“FSU basketball disappointed but understanding after ACC, NCAA Tournament cancellation” via Wayne McGahee III of the Tallahassee Democrat — It’s not the way Florida State wanted to take home another ACC trophy this week. The No. 4 Seminoles (26-5, 16-4 ACC) were crowned the ACC Champions after the ACC Tournament was canceled Thursday morning. The NCAA tournament was scrapped hours later. “Florida State University has had an absolutely tremendous basketball season to this point,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said after announcing the tournament was canceled. The Seminoles didn’t play a game in the tournament but won the regular-season ACC title, which now carries over due to the cancellation. FSU basketball coach Leonard Hamilton wanted to play this week but made it clear he thought the ACC made the right decision.
— TOP OPINION —
“Trump’s Oval Office speech did the opposite of what it was supposed to do” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — In times of national crisis, people look to the president for direction, reassurance and confidence. Trump’s Oval Office speech on Wednesday night provided precisely the opposite. From the misstatements to the omissions to his labored demeanor, the president sent a message that shook financial markets, disrupted relations with European allies, confused his many viewers and undermined the most precious commodity of any president, his credibility. With the stock markets plunging into bear territory, the health care system struggling to keep pace with the spreading novel coronavirus and Americans wondering what’s next, Trump is dealing unsteadily with the greatest crisis of his presidency. The pandemic is a physical and economic threat to the well-being of millions of Americans.
— OPINIONS —
“The case for a coronavirus supply-side stimulus” via Marco Rubio for The National Review — America’s economy is at risk of seizing up. The reason is a collapse in demand stemming from fears of the coronavirus. Washington sees this collapse in demand and responds only with proposals to put more money in the pockets of consumers. But there is one side of the equation that we must also tackle aggressively: our productive capacity. After all, the coronavirus outbreak is not entirely a demand shock. It is creating significant demand for domestic medical services and manufacturing. The spread of the coronavirus abroad has also created a demand for domestic alternatives to key medical supplies now produced in China, including surgical masks, medical gowns, respirators, and pharmaceutical drugs.
“Our state and nation were left at risk” via the Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board — Science matters. History matters. No one claiming competence to govern other people should have been surprised at the emergence and worldwide spread of a new and especially dangerous disease. There have been pandemics throughout recorded history: Bubonic plague, cholera, the Spanish Flu, and HIV/AIDS to cite just a few. Scientists have warned for years there would inevitably be another. The only question was when. That has been answered. And yet, the coronavirus named COVID-19 has caught many of the world’s leaders, as well as the governors of Florida and some other American states, utterly unprepared to recognize it as a pandemic, much less to cope with it. There is a shocking lack of candor.
“Will coronavirus jolt us into a new reality?” via Llewellyn King of the Tampa Bay Times — Now, in the time of COVID-19, we are enduring another great national jolt that will have consequences in the decades ahead. After this pandemic, we will be more inclined to believe the experts and to value medical science the same way we have worshipped computer technology. In addition, stock markets might come to be eclipsed by a more representative measure of the national well-being. Particularly, the indifference we have felt to predictions of existential calamity may be taken way more seriously than before COVID-19. Now we are struggling with an assault that will be seminal in its impact, personally frightening and economically devastating. We cannot buy or fight our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Chaos, confusion of sports shutdown shows how ill-prepared we are for coronavirus” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — If ever you wanted proof that we desperately need a national strategic preparedness and response plan for when a deadly virus spreads throughout our planet, then all you need to do is chronicle the chaotic, confusing, helter-skelter reaction of the sports world to the coronavirus. In a matter of two days, the NBA went from simply keeping the media out of its locker rooms to shutting down the league altogether. In one day, the NCAA went from playing conference tournament games in fan-filled arenas to playing games in empty arenas to pulling teams off the court at halftime, to canceling March Madness altogether. Question: Why were fans allowed in on Thursday and not Friday?
“Amid coronavirus, play all MLB baseball in Florida” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Coronavirus has forced several sports to take unprecedented measures. The NBA, for example, has suspended its season. Major League Baseball — arguably our national pastime and essentially a constant in this country since 1876 — has yet to decide how to proceed. Here’s an idea: Start the regular season in Florida. The teams are already here for spring training, so just keep them here. Every team playing in the Grapefruit League stays until further developments warrant the next move. It would be just like spring, only the game would actually count. It’s important not everyone panic and let baseball, as it always has, lead the way.
“Shark fin bill: A significant step in the right direction” via Rep. Kristin Jacobs for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Today, it would be hard to find anyone who doesn’t think the Clean Water Act ranks among the most transformative pieces of environmental legislation in our nation’s history. But back in 1972, when this historic bill was being put to a vote, there were plenty of naysayers who urged a veto because they said the Act did not go far enough. Unfortunately, long-term institutional change does not happen in one fell swoop. It happens incrementally. Which brings us to SB 680, banning shark fin imports in Florida, among other notable gains. Amazingly, this bipartisan bill passed the combined membership of the Florida Senate and House with only a single dissenting vote. Why? Because it’s a good bill. SB 680 is not only good for the future of sharks; it’s good for divers, fishers, the environment, and our economy. It’s precisely why this environmentalist stands solidly in support and why I urge Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign it into law.
— LISTEN UP —
Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper, and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. State Sen. Lee of SD 20 joins the pod to discuss the 2020 Session and the relationship between the House and Senate. Lee also talks about the E-Verify bill he sponsored and any pushback on the proposal. He tells the hosts what it’s like being married to the Secretary of State.
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Tampa Bay Times reporter Caitlin Johnson, Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch, Manatee County Democratic Party Past Chair Sheryl Wilson, and businesswoman and consultant Yvonne Fry.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion with women who are in prominent leadership positions throughout Florida and their message of empowerment. Joining the conversation are Secretary of State Laurel Lee; Dana Young, president and CEO, VISIT FLORIDA; and Jillian Hasner, president and CEO, Take Stock in Children.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A preview the Florida primary; a look at where the candidates stand; what local Supervisors of Elections are doing to ease concerns about voting and the coronavirus; and a one-on-one interview with Christina Diamond, senior adviser for the Florida Democratic Party on insight into how they prepare for a primary.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with United Way of the Big Bend CEO Berneice Cox.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guests include Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney and Daniel Henry of the Duval County Democrats. City Council member Randy DeFoor talks about the special committee investigating JEA.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will speak with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Christina White and Peter Antonacci, Broward County Supervisor of Elections.
— ALOE —
“Rare right whale and her baby spotted in the Gulf near Pensacola Pass” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — If you happened to peer into the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola Pass on Wednesday, you were treated to the extremely rare sight of a right whale mom and her right whale calf swimming together side by side. Biologists with NOAA Fisheries obtained a photo of the right whale mom, tagged by the organization as No. 3560, and her baby on Wednesday. NOAA tracks right whales through its Interactive North Atlantic Right Whale Sightings Map, as part of the organization’s marine telemetry efforts. NOAA Fisheries Communications Specialist Allison Garrett said Thursday that right whales — a North Atlantic-based, New England area species — tend to migrate to the eastern side of Florida in the winter months.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Rep. Scott Plakon, Bob Asztalos of the FHCA, wunderkind Ryan Cohn of Sachs Media Group, Scott Maddox, Chris Mitchell of Statecraft Digital, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, Megan Sirjane-Samples and Jennifer Wilson of Schumaker Advisors. Celebrating on Saturday are Drew Heffley and Jeremy Susac.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.