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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.18.20

Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Employee and customer safety is the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s top priority, and it’s leading by example.

For the past two months, the Chamber has served as a model business by working remotely — nearly 24/7 — to bring the latest news and resources to help keep companies from going under during this unprecedented time.

The Chamber has worked on multiple fronts, keeping in contact with local Chambers; conducting webinars featuring Gov. Ron DeSantis; Surgeon General Scott Rivkees; U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and others involved in reopening policy, and collecting and publishing valuable data.

Ron DeSantis and Scott Rivkees are working with the Florida Chamber to ensure safety from COVID-19.

Its COVID-19 website is tops among state chambers, and its Campaign for Free Enterprise has been sharing how businesses are giving back to help those in need.

The Chamber Foundation’s research team, led by chief economist Dr. Jerry Parrish, has been providing cutting edge analysis of county-level virus impacts and launched the nation’s only COVID-19 County Level Tracker which provides daily county-level data — including the percent of weekly positive cases by county, the 14-day average number of cases by county and more.

The coronavirus has taken a massive toll on Florida’s economy. Still, the Chamber’s efforts have provided a road map for businesses of all kinds to reboot and succeed in the post-pandemic era, maintaining — and hopefully improving — Florida’s status as the 17th largest economy in the world.

Now that the coronavirus’ spread has slowed, the Florida Chamber will once again serve as a model by bringing workers back into the office Monday while adhering to guidelines outlined by the White House, EPA, CDC and the Governor’s Office.

— TOP STORIES —

House approves $3 trillion coronavirus relief package via Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris and John Bresnahan of POLITICO — The House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi working late into the day to shepherd the behemoth bill to passage, overcoming opposition from almost all Republicans and some Democrats. More than a dozen Democrats opposed the package — mostly moderates who complained of partisan gamesmanship and the bill’s hefty price tag. Pelosi and her leadership team were forced into a last-minute whipping operation to prevent moderate Democrats from defecting on a GOP procedural vote, which would have jeopardized passage of the $3 trillion bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi smiles during a news conference on Capitol Hill. Image via AP.

Ron DeSantis says unemployed are to blame for Florida application problems via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said some Floridians waiting on unemployment checks have themselves to blame for not filling out their applications properly. During an exchange with a reporter, DeSantis expressed frustration with news stories that quote Floridians who have been unable to receive either state or federal benefits. DeSantis said some people hadn’t entered their Social Security number or their wages. Many applicants have been waiting for up to two months for unemployment benefits. Some have told reporters and lawmakers that the process has left them desperate.

Gyms, museums and libraries set to reopen in Florida via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — DeSantis said healthier people are less likely to die from the coronavirus, which is part of his rationale to include gyms as the state expands the first phase of its reopening. The state will also increase restrictions on restaurant and retail store capacity from 25% to 50%, as well as allowing the reopening of museums, libraries and gyms at 50% capacity. Bars and movie theaters will remain closed. DeSantis said he thinks gyms can operate without extreme risk of spreading the virus by properly spacing equipment and sanitizing them after each use.

— DAYS UNTIL —

English Premier League soccer to restart — 14; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 21; PGA Tour resumes — 24; Father’s Day — 34; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 35; Federal taxes due — 58; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 60; “Mulan” premieres — 67; TED conference rescheduled — 69; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 91; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 95; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 98; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 109; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 110; Rescheduled date for French Open — 125; First presidential debate in Indiana — 134; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 144; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 150; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 151; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 157; 2020 General Election — 169; “Black Widow” premieres — 172; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 183; “No Time to Die” premieres — 190; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 219; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 431; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 440; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 536; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 634; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 676; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 719; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 872.

— CORONA NATION —

Barack Obama says U.S. lacks leadership on virus in commencement speeches via Audra D.S. Burch and John Eligon of The New York Times — Obama delivered two virtual commencement addresses, urging millions of high school and college graduates to fearlessly carve a path and “to seize the initiative” at a time when he says the nation’s leaders have fumbled the response to the coronavirus pandemic. “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Obama said in his first address. Although Obama did not mention President Donald Trump by name, some saw his comments as criticism of his successor. Obama said the pandemic was a wake-up call for young adults, showing them the importance of good leadership and that “the old ways of doing things just don’t work.”

In a pair of virtual commencement speeches, Barack Obama urged young people to ‘seize the initiative’ in a time when the nation’s leaders have failed. Image via AP.

Social distancing worked to limit the spread of coronavirus, new study confirms via Arman Azad of CNN — A new study found that social distancing worked to limit the spread of coronavirus in the United States and may have prevented tens of millions of infections. Without any social distancing measures at all, the number of coronavirus cases in the US could have been 35 times higher. The study estimated the effects of social distancing by comparing coronavirus cases in counties with and without several social distancing measures. Shelter-in-place orders and the closure of restaurants and bars seemed particularly effective at slowing the spread of the virus. Bans on large events and the closure of public schools alone didn’t seem to affect the growth rate.

Crisis exposes how America has hollowed out its government via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — The government’s halting response to the coronavirus pandemic represents the culmination of chronic structural weaknesses, years of underinvestment and political rhetoric that has undermined the public trust, conditions compounded by Trump’s open hostility to a federal bureaucracy that has been called upon to manage the crisis. Federal government leaders appeared caught unaware by the swiftness with which the coronavirus was spreading throughout the country. The nation is reaping the effects of decades of denigration of government and also from a steady squeeze on the resources needed to shore up the domestic parts of the executive branch.

Donald Trump vows vaccine by end of year, and mobilizes military to help via David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman and Noah Weiland of The New York Times — Trump doubled down on his promise to have a coronavirus vaccine available by the end of this year, betting that he can rally the pharmaceutical industry and the government to have one available to nearly all Americans at speeds never before accomplished. Trump said the government was already moving to ensure sufficient manufacturing capacity to produce any vaccine that is developed and to produce the hundreds of millions of glass vials and syringes needed to hold and inject it. And he said the government would call on the military’s logistics skills to distribute any eventual vaccine as quickly as possible.

In next phase of pandemic, Trump appears poised to let others take the lead via Ashley Parker and Philip Parker of The Washington Post — Trump has proclaimed the latest phase of pandemic response the “transition to greatness.” But Trump appears poised to preside over the eventual transition more as a salesperson and marketer than a decider. The nation’s Governors are overseeing their states’ plans to reopen their economies. Business leaders are making their own choices about how their employees can safely and responsibly return to work. The United States under Trump has also retreated from its historic position of global leadership, declining, for instance, to participate in a coronavirus summit with other nations earlier this month.

Donald Trump is looking to pass the dirty work of coronavirus response to the nation’s Governors. Image via AP.

Amid reports of White House clashes with CDC, experts raise alarms about lack of coronavirus screening at airports via Hunter Walker of Yahoo News — While air travel has fallen sharply due to the virus, the airports are open and planes are flying both domestically and internationally. The CDC has issued travel guidelines encouraging air passengers to wear face coverings, “keep 6 feet of physical distance from others,” and only board planes for essential travel. However, these guidelines are merely suggestions. There is no requirement for masks, and there have been multiple reports of crowded conditions in airports and on planes, which have left passengers alarmed. There are currently no coronavirus screening procedures for domestic air travelers, and a congressional investigation has also raised questions about the level of screening being conducted for international passengers.

Democratic Governors hit with flurry of legal challenges to coronavirus lockdowns via Caitlin Oprysko of POLITICO — The decision by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court to toss Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide shelter-in-place order set off a scramble in cities across the state to impose their own local restrictions. And legal challenges are continuing to pile up across the country — even as Governors who extend their state’s shelter-in-place orders begin peeling back some restrictions. The plaintiffs are business owners, aggrieved private citizens, pastors and, in some cases, state legislators and legislatures. The targets? Almost always Democratic Governors or their top health appointees. Already, more than a dozen states across the country have faced lawsuits over their lockdown mandates — although it’s not clear any will be as successful as the litigation filed by Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature.

TSA preparing to check passenger temperatures at airports amid coronavirus concerns via Michelle Hackman and Alison Sider of The Wall Street Journal — U.S. officials are preparing to begin checking passengers’ temperatures at roughly a dozen airports as soon as next week. Details of the plan are under review by the White House and are subject to change. It couldn’t be determined which airports will initially have new scanning procedures. People familiar with the matter said the TSA had raised concerns about taking on responsibility for temperature scanning, believing it doesn’t fall within the scope of its security mission. The scanners used to take passenger temperatures would likely be a mix of tripods that can scan multiple people at once and hand-held thermal devices.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida’s coronavirus death toll nears 2,000; 45,588 cases reported via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As of Sunday, 1,973 people have died from COVID-19 across Florida, the state Health Department reported. That’s an increase of nine over the previous 24 hours. Florida reported 45,888 infections, which is 777 more than on Saturday. Also, 8,230 people have been treated at hospitals since the outbreak began. At least 26,425 people in South Florida have tested positive for the new coronavirus. That’s 418 more than the day before. The Department of Health data also shows that 1,115 people in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have died from COVID-19, up three from Saturday. The three South Florida counties, home to 29.9% of Florida’s population, have had 56.6% of the state’s coronavirus deaths and 58% of the cases.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a major transportation announcement, 10 a.m., Downtown Orlando, 523 N. Garland Avenue Orlando. Media arrival time to shuttle location: 8:45 a.m.

In Florida, 83% of coronavirus deaths are people 65 and older via Rebecca Woolington and Connie Humburg of the Tampa Bay Time — The virus’ grip on the state’s elderly is tragically clear. In Florida, 83% of those who’ve died of the virus were over 65 years old. One in four people over 85 with a confirmed infection has died. Outbreaks have devastated nursing homes in nearly every corner of the state, from the Panhandle down to the Atlantic coast. The percentage of deaths tied to care centers has been steadily increasing over the past several weeks. Now, at least 43% of fatalities statewide can be attributed to long-term care facilities. Since the end of April, the death rate in Florida’s long-term care facilities has doubled.

Most COVID-19 deaths have been among people 65 or older. Image via AP.

Antibody tests bolster suggestion COVID-19 spread early in Florida via Lulu Ramadan of The Palm Beach Post — At least 11 people living within two blocks of one another in the city’s Tropic Isle neighborhood all said the same thing: They had been sick with COVID-19-like symptoms, and when they got better they took the antibody test and got results indicating they had successfully fought off the coronavirus. Throughout the nation, similar reports have suggested the virus spread quietly and quickly through communities far earlier than state and national data suggests. The Florida Department of Health hasn’t explained those potential fault lines in the state’s assertion that the first cases didn’t appear in Florida until March.

Florida’s next unemployment crisis: Jobless benefits could run dry before economy revives” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Frustrated Floridians seeking unemployment compensation could face a new crisis in the coming months: exhausting their benefits before the state’s tourism-dependent economy bounces back from the coronavirus pandemic. ‘We need a revamping of the technology, but we also need to look at the payments because I don’t believe it’s adequate,’ said state Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando. ‘We’re feeling the pain and the pressure of people that reach out to us and $275 [per week] is not enough.’”

DeSantis opens door to return of vacation rentals via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Counties wishing to reopen vacation rentals can submit their plan to do so to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for approval. Although DeSantis has expressed his desire to reopen vacation rentals, he extended the ban indefinitely under the initial first phase of the state’s reopening process. Counties can now submit their strategies to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The report must include the county’s approach and safety precautions to maintain public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vacation rental owners and advocates and Northwest Florida officials have pointed out that hotels, motels, inns, resorts and timeshares remained open throughout the epidemic.

‘Con artist’ landed major no-bid COVID contract with DeSantis administration” via Daniel Ducassi of the Florida Bulldog — The founder and head of a health-coaching company that inked an $11.3-million deal with the state of Florida to provide COVID-19 testing and supplies pleaded guilty to two felonies last year related to insurance-fraud schemes.

Juveniles, facility workers test positive via the News Service of Florida — The number of youths in the state juvenile-justice system who have tested positive for COVID-19 has jumped to 12, with half the cases at the Okeechobee Youth Development Center, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice said. The number of infected youths was up from seven during a count Tuesday. Also, the number of infected workers increased from 25 on Tuesday to 29 on Friday. The Okeechobee facility has the most youths who have tested positive, with six. Meanwhile, the Miami Youth Academy has six staff members and four youths who have tested positive, while the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center has had nine infected workers.

Laid off worker walks 417 miles to capital to talk unemployment via James Call of USA Today — Beau Guyott’s four-week walk across the state of Florida to highlight a broken unemployment compensation system ended Saturday at a Tallahassee barbershop. He had promised DEO he would volunteer to help with an application process overwhelmed with millions of claims filed since the coronavirus triggered a meltdown that threw people out of work in every sector of the economy. So, at 8 a.m. on April 18, Guyott began his walk from his South Florida home to the state capital, specifically DEO’s Tallahassee headquarters. Guyott explained that officials had politely declined his offer to help, but a promise is a promise. Although it took twice as long as he expected, the 46-year-old completed the 417-mile hike.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Florida Keys will reopen to visitors June 1 amid pandemic” via the Associated Press — The Keys will reopen to tourists more than two months after the island chain closed to visitors to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Checkpoints that barred visitors from coming into the Florida Keys will be removed next month and hotels and other lodging establishments, including campgrounds and vacation rentals, will also be allowed to reopen at 50% occupancy, Monroe County Emergency Management said in a statement on Sunday. These businesses must implement sanitation stations and follow the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s cleaning guidelines for COVID-19, the statement said. Airport screenings and bus restrictions will also be lifted in June.

Thousands in Miami-Dade have gotten these antibody tests. They may not be accurate. via Daniel Chang, Ben Conarck and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Thousands of Miami-Dade County residents have poured into drive-thru testing sites in Aventura and Bal Harbour to be tested for antibodies for COVID-19. The test used at these sites by Banyan Medical Systems, the company conducting the tests, to determine whether a person has had the coronavirus has not been validated by federal regulators just like dozens of others that flooded the market after the FDA relaxed rules normally governing medical tests. Antibody tests like the one provided by Banyan are quick and easy to use. They draw blood through a finger prick instead of inserting long swabs into the nose and throat to obtain samples, and they do not require specialized lab equipment to process.

Thousands of COVID-19 anybody tests in Miami-Dade County may not be accurate. Image via Getty.

Panhandling within 50 feet of a store now a crime in Miami Beach, COVID-19 order says via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Citing concerns about the coronavirus, the City of Miami Beach will make it illegal for anyone experiencing homelessness to ask for money or food anywhere near the entrance of a business. The panhandling ban would likely be struck down on free-speech grounds in the absence of a pandemic, the city’s legal staff said. The panhandling restrictions will be in effect for five days and end on Friday, the order states. The emergency powers the city manager was granted to run the city’s pandemic efforts expire Friday, unless extended by the City Commission. The elected board has repeatedly voted to extend the orders, which include a citywide curfew.

As Broward County reopens, the good and bad via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — With restrictions in place, what the Governor calls the “parade of horribles” has not borne out. Florida has not been hit as hard as other big states. That’s partly because we’re not as compact as the Northeast, partly because schools closed March 16 and partly because a lot of us began staying home long before anyone told us to. On the day the Governor agreed to let South Florida revive its economy, 807 Floridians were diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. From a public health perspective, most leaders would probably agree that we should shelter in place longer. While public health is foremost, it is not our only measure of well-being. Our economy is in free fall, meaning a lot is at stake.

Gym wars: Fort Lauderdale challenging county’s order to keep gyms closed via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis said gyms and fitness centers across the state can operate at 50 percent capacity starting Monday. The move is part of the state’s Phase One reopening that eases lockdown rules put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gyms in Fort Lauderdale are free to reopen, according to an executive order signed Saturday by Mayor Dean Trantalis. He says other cities plan to do the same, including Coral Springs and Margate. But that could lead to a legal showdown, Broward Vice Mayor Steve Geller warned. Broward County has already issued an emergency order that excluded gyms from Monday’s Phase One reopening.

Palm Beach County reopened without meeting federal guidelines, investigation shows via Mario Ariza, Alonso Alcocer and Angie Dimichele via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In the two weeks preceding the decision, coronavirus infections and the percentage of people testing positive in the county had not declined, and now some numbers are trending upward. Most other large Florida counties, including Broward and Miami-Dade, have shown the declining general trends in new cases and infection rates that federal guidelines recommend. Palm Beach County has not — yet it was the first in South Florida to push to reopen. The county commission voted 5-1 on May 5 to ask DeSantis to lift restrictions designed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus anyway, and he approved.

Miccosukee casino is reopening. Miami-Dade, Broward still want casinos closed via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Miccosukee Resort & Gaming he will be reopening. After Sunday, the casino will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The resort temporarily closed in mid-March after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez said he reached out to the casino about closing its doors. The Miccosukee Tribe is a sovereign nation deep in the Everglades in West Miami-Dade. Those wishing to enter the casino must be over 21, wear a mask at all times and have their temperature taken before entering. Only 500 people will be allowed in the resort, and there will be only one entrance and exit. Guests must also wipe down each machine after each use. Disinfecting wipe dispensers have been installed throughout the resort.

The Miccosukee Tribe casino is beginning to reopen, with several changes in store.

No information. No way off. 100,000 crew members remain in cruise ship limbo for months. via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Crew members on board — many no longer receiving paychecks — wait for news about when they will return home and see their families again. Two months after the cruise industry shut down amid repeated COVID-19 outbreaks on ships, more than 100,000 crew members remain trapped at sea with little reliable information about what will happen to them. While most passengers were able to get off cruise ships by early April, crew members have largely remained stuck. During the prolonged isolation, the virus continued to spread through the ships. At least 578 crew contracted COVID-19 at sea, and seven have died. At least two crew members have leapt overboard in apparent suicides.

What cellphone data says about how people are moving in Duval County via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union — In the first full week of May, Duval County had fewer people staying home than nearly any other major county in the country, even as the county has continued to avoid the sorts of major coronavirus outbreaks. As Florida and Duval County begin reopening parts of society, The Florida Times-Union took a look back at how effective state and local orders were at keeping people home using cellphone data from SafeGraph, a geospatial data company that tracks the movements of 16 million anonymous cellphone users. The data is not an indicator of social distancing, nor is it an indicator of following public health experts’ advice. You can safely social distance and leave your home.

Reopening Jacksonville: Area virus-testing volume better than federal benchmark via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — As Northeast Florida moves one step at a time toward easing the clampdown, testing on a regional basis will play a key role because people will be venturing more across county lines for work, entertainment and shopping. Based on testing data since May 1, the five-county metropolitan area is on track to do about 41,000 tests for May, which is roughly 2.6% of the area’s population and better than a 2% benchmark outlined by the federal government. Whether that testing pace grows or diminishes will hinge on the willingness of residents to take the time to take the tests, mainly if they do not show symptoms of an infection.

— MORE LOCAL —

Tampa Bay gym owners invest thousands to get ready to reopen this week” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Geoff Dyer and his business partners have been plotting out the post-Covid-19 reopening of their Florida gyms since they opened their gyms in the Atlanta metro area on May 1. Dyer is the president of Brandon-based CR Fitness Holdings, which operates Crunch Fitness. CR Fitness has spent $2,000 on signage at 21 locations in Florida and Georgia to remind members of social distancing and sanitizing protocols. For the last week, they’ve been role-playing with their staff, stressing things like contactless check-ins and elbow bumps instead of high fives.

Some Space Coast congregations assemble for praise at a distance via J.D. Gallop of Florida Today — For weeks, the ministers at Eastwind Pentecostal Church held online services. But on Sunday, for the first time since the coronavirus prompted sweeping social restrictions and lockdown, members were able to assemble in the sanctuary to offer praise. “The presence of God is the cure for what our society needs,” Pastor David Myers said to applause. It was one of two services at the church that drew nearly 460 people. “It went really well. We have a lot of precautionary things in place. From taking the temperature of the people when they come in to have our staff wearing masks and gloves. We also had our auditorium laid out where we have social distancing,” Myers said.

Homeless people flocked to Pensacola’s downtown during epidemic, city seeks solutions via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — The estimated number of homeless people living in and around downtown Pensacola has tripled or perhaps even quadrupled over the past six weeks, in large part because of COVID-19. Law enforcement officers don’t believe they are newly homeless because of COVID-19, but rather that they’ve simply moved to the downtown area in the wake of the pandemic. Homeless people initially went downtown because that is where foot and vehicle traffic was and remains robust. As people started to notice more homeless people downtown, more charitable organizations began focusing on downtown as a place to distribute free meals. In turn, that drew even more homeless people to the downtown area.

Coronavirus is because the homeless population in downtown Pensacola to grow threefold. Image via Pensacola News Journal.

Escambia County submits plan to state for reopening short-term vacation rentals via the Pensacola News Journal — The plan, sent to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, proposes short-term vacation rentals in the county be allowed to take reservations from guests in states with COVID-19 case rates less than 700 per 100,000 residents as of May 15. That would include all states except for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana and Michigan, as well as Washington, D.C. Reservations from COVID-19 hot spots identified by the Governor would be avoided for the next 30- 45 days, and bookings from international travelers would not be accepted.

Big Bend coronavirus: Three Gadsden children test positive; North Florida prison cases swell via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — In a report that breaks down coronavirus cases by county, the Florida Department of Health said Leon County added 4 cases overnight, bringing its total to 280. Of Leon’s cases, 144 are women, 120 are men. The health department reports 33 people have been hospitalized in Leon County due to the coronavirus. Despite the new cases, the majority of tests have come back negative so far. Of the 8,820 tests administered, 280 have come up positive, 8,537 negative, and three inconclusive tests. Separately, 13 tests are pending. Gadsden County, meanwhile, gained 11 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, one belongs to a nine-year-old girl, one to a five-year-old, and one to a baby, who is listed as “zero” years old.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Coronavirus could push Social Security to insolvency before 2030 via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — Social Security could be insolvent by the end of this decade because of the coronavirus pandemic, creating new pressure for Congress to fix the troubled program after decades of inaction. The last official government projection had the program running out of money by 2035. Tens of millions of workers are suddenly unemployed and not paying into the government account that funds benefits for retired workers. At the same time, a flood of older Americans who’ve lost jobs is expected to start drawing benefits as soon as they’re eligible. At least 36.5 million people aren’t paying payroll taxes into the program right now, and the second surge in early retirements is expected.

Hospitals knew how to make money. Then coronavirus happened. via Sarah Kliff of The New York Times — The American health care system for years has provided many hospitals with a clear playbook for turning a profit: Provide surgeries, scans and other well-reimbursed services to privately insured patients, whose plans pay higher prices than public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The disruption to hospital operations may ultimately leave Americans with less access to medical care, according to financial analysts, health economists, and policy experts. Struggling hospitals may close or shut down unprofitable departments. Some may decide to merge with nearby competitors or sell to larger hospital chains.

Hospitals were getting pretty good at making money; before coronavirus hit, that is.

More complexity, fewer customers: Auto industry tries to reopen via Ben Foldy and Mike Colias of The Wall Street Journal — Automakers and their vast network of parts suppliers are determined to get back to work. But like businesses across the country, they are facing both complications and costs around worker safety and depressed customer demand. Many manufacturers have spent the past several weeks putting new procedures in place to keep workers safe upon return and plan to increase production this month gradually. With paltry revenues for weeks, auto-parts suppliers are stretched financially, and many still lack enough orders to recall the bulk of their staff. Even if the reopening goes as planned, there is always the potential for outbreaks to occur and shut down manufacturing lines again, resetting the whole process.

Disney takes on $11B in new debt, fast-tracking ‘Hamilton’ movie for streaming via I-Chun Chen — Walt Disney Co. has raised $11 billion in new debt to ease financial pressures amid the shutdowns of its theme parks and film and TV productions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Disney said the proceeds would be used for “general corporate purposes,” including the repayment of other debt. Separately, Disney said it is fast-tracking its filmed version of the Broadway blockbuster “Hamilton” to stream on Disney+ starting July 3, about 15 months earlier than planned. Disney bought the worldwide distribution rights to “Hamilton” for $75 million earlier this year and planned to release it in theaters in October 2021.

— MORE CORONA —

U.S. believers see message of change from God in virus via Elana Schor and Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press — The coronavirus has prompted almost two-thirds of American believers of all faiths to feel that God is telling humanity to change how it lives. A poll indicated that people might also be searching for deeper meaning in the devastating outbreak. 31% of Americans who believe in God feel strongly that the virus is a sign of God telling humanity to change, with the same number feeling that somewhat. Evangelical Protestants are more likely than others to believe that strongly, at 43%, compared with 28% of Catholics and mainline Protestants. The virus has prompted a negligible change in Americans’ overall belief in God, with 2% saying they believe in God today, but did not before. Fewer than 1% say they do not believe in God today but did before.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence speak to attendees after a White House National Day of Prayer Service in the Rose Garden of the White House. Image via AP.

McDonald’s to end public soda fountains due to coronavirus pandemic via Ethan Wolff-Mann of Yahoo Finance — McDonald’s is reevaluating a mainstay of its locations, the customer-operated soda fountain, because of the challenges involved in ensuring its hygiene. For McDonald’s, the game plan for reopening during the coronavirus pandemic is a 59-page booklet replete with copious cleaning and social distancing guidelines as well as the change to the soda fountain. The guide asks its restaurants to either close the soda fountains or have a staff member monitor them. The guide had a particular concern for the machines because they’re difficult to clean.

Coronavirus reheats Europe’s food nationalism via Zosia Wanat and Eddy Wax of POLITICO Europe — Governments are seizing on the pandemic to push a protectionist agenda that equates eating local products with patriotism and some are warning that this kind of culinary jingoism threatens the EU’s single market. The Polish government named and shamed 15 domestic processors for importing milk from other EU countries, instead of buying it from Polish farmers. In Austria, Agriculture Minister Elisabeth Köstinger announced that the government is working on a “regional bonus” for food. The French government has been in talks with the country’s supermarkets over buying local fresh food. Belgians have been told to eat more fries, the French urged to eat more fancy cheese, and Brits will be told to drink more tea (as long as it contains milk) to combat the combination of oversupply and falling demand. This inward turn has made some powerful figures worried about the consequences of fair competition in the EU’s single market.

Grandparents are dancing with their grandkids on TikTok. People can’t get enough. via Sydney Page of The Washington Post — Downloads of TikTok have skyrocketed in recent weeks, now with more than a billion video views per day. But the app is proving to be more than just endless entertainment for young people: TikTok has unexpectedly emerged as a tool around the world for older adults to stay active and connected to their children and grandchildren while in isolation. Despite regularly using the app, most of these grandparents said they have no idea how TikTok actually works. Still, it’s a welcome respite from an otherwise lonely and troubled world.

— ONE GOOD THING —

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Shalinder Singh spent Sundays at his gurdwara, helping serve a community meal for 300 people or more at the Sikh place of worship in suburban Detroit.

According to The Associated Press, he’s now all about pizza.

Since the gurdwara suspended in-person services, Singh and his family paid for and delivered hundreds of pies to hospitals, police stations and fire departments.

Japneet Singh, right, delivers pizza to health care workers at Kings County Hospital in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Singh estimates 1,000 pizzas were delivered to essential workers since the end of March. Image via AP.

They wanted to carry on a tenet of their faith: helping others through langar, the communal meal shared by all who come.

“It just popped up in my mind, this is the time to take care of the heroes in the front,” said Singh, 40, who owns a pet products company. “I spoke to a couple of doctors, and they said pizza is the best because they’re working 12 to 16 hours, and they don’t have time to sit and eat.”

In New York, 25-year-old Japneet Singh, a fellow Sikh, also supplies pizza to under-resourced hospitals and overworked, minimum wage employees dealing with the virus.

When the virus struck the South Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens, Singh’s heart went out to the desperate staff at Elmhurst Hospital Center and other hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19.

“I figured you know what, I’m sitting home,” he said. “Food always makes things better, so I asked one of my friends who works at Elmhurst Hospital, what can we do? He was like, pizza would be great. Ever since then, we haven’t looked back.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

House changes its rules during pandemic, allowing remote voting for the first time in its 231-year history via Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post — The House approved the most radical change to its rules in generations, allowing its members to cast committee and floor votes from afar. Despite bipartisan frustrations with the virus’s effect on the legislative process, the changes, which include temporarily authorizing remote committee work and proxy voting on the House floor, were adopted along party lines. The vote was 217 to 189. House Speaker Pelosi and top Democrats said the changes were temporary and tailored to the current crisis but necessary to ensure that the House fulfills its constitutional obligations.

Congress nowhere close to a coronavirus deal as unemployment spikes via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Though House Democrats on Friday passed a sweeping, $3 trillion stimulus bill built around aid for local governments and a fresh batch of direct payments to the public, the Republican Senate majority has no immediate plans to produce an alternative. There’s basically zero bipartisan talk among congressional leaders right now in Washington about what to do next. Senate Republicans see the next exhaustion of the Paycheck Protection Program, perhaps in late May or June, as a potential impetus for putting forward their own vision. Many on Capitol Hill say that a fifth coronavirus response measure is inevitable given an unemployment rate of nearly 15 percent and no sign of an economic recovery. But at the moment, it’s hard to see how one would come together.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell does not feel an “urgency” to spend more money after Congress just delivered nearly $3 trillion. Image via Getty.

Matt Gaetz warns cops about using China-made ‘spy’ drones via Steven Nelson of the New York Post — Republican lawmakers say police need to stop using Chinese-made surveillance drones, including to enforce coronavirus social-distancing rules. Jim Jordan and Gaetz hinted there are evidence drones made by DJI could send footage to China, where the company is based. The NYPD uses at least 14 drones made by DJI. DJI is loaning drones to US police departments to help them surveil and punish citizens who aren’t complying with COVID-19 restrictions on freedom of association. Concerns about Chinese authorities intercepting sensitive information also underpin a US campaign to discourage allies from using the telecom services of Chinese firm Huawei.

Vern Buchanan introduces bill to boost US drug manufacturing via Carlos R. Munoz of the Gainesville Sun — Regulatory hurdles and the dangers of pollution led drug manufacturers to abandon U.S. drug manufacturing decades ago for countries outside the U.S. Now, amid a shortage of drugs and the coronavirus pandemic, Buchanan is making a pitch to rebuild U.S. pharmaceutical companies that could produce lifesaving medicines. 80% of the raw ingredients used to manufacture many medications and antibiotics are produced overseas, primarily in China. Chinese pharmaceutical companies supply between 80% and 90% of U.S. antibiotics, 70% of acetaminophen and about 40% of blood clot medication. “As we confront the coronavirus, it has become clear how dangerously reliant we are on China and the global supply chain for pharmaceutical products,” Buchanan said.

Miami Democrats demand congressional investigation into David Rivera’s Venezuela work via Alex Daugherty and Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — Miami Democrats called for a congressional investigation into Rivera’s consulting work with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, that came to light this week when the company’s U.S. subsidiary sued him for breach of contract. Rivera said the State Department and National Security Council were aware of his work and claimed the deal was actually a ruse to help opponents of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro. Rivera was paid $15 million as a down payment on a three-month, $50 million contract through his consulting company, Interamerican Consulting Inc.

Miami Democrats are calling for a federal investigation into David Rivera’s ties to Nicolás Maduro. Image via AP.

GAO rejects Airbus’ frivolous challenge of Navy helicopter contract, securing Florida jobs via Florida Politics — The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a comprehensive decision criticizing and rejecting Airbus’s frivolous protest of the U.S. Navy’s purchase of training helicopters from AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Leonardo). Airbus’s decision to challenge the Navy, a move that threatened hundreds of American jobs, forced a temporary pause on the construction and delivery of Leonardo’s helicopters, thereby delaying vital military training exercises. Following the GAO’s denial of Airbus’s challenge, Leonardo restarted production of the Navy’s aircraft at its facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The company will also employ up to 100 Floridians at a comprehensive maintenance facility near Milton, Florida.

— STATEWIDE —

After pleas, Florida requests federal coronavirus money for election via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Secretary of State has requested more than $20 million in federal money to prepare for the 2020 elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Florida Supervisors of Elections, a bipartisan association of the state’s county elections officials, had urged the state for about a month to request the money and make it available as soon as possible as the Sunshine State gears up for the Aug. 18 primary and November general election. Every state is required to make a 20 percent match; in Florida’s case, that’s roughly $4 million. Counties had listed a litany of items they could use the money for, including paying for return postage on mail ballots, deep cleaning of polling places before and after the election, added equipment to handle the increase in mail ballots and plastic glass barriers to protect workers.

Florida is losing revenue, spending more. Get ready for painful budget cuts. via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Like other states, Florida is facing billions in lost tax revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike other states, DeSantis and legislative leaders are not ringing alarm bells or revealing how they intend to respond. DeSantis has been stalling, playing like a basketball team holding the ball and running down the clock. He acknowledges he has not formally accepted the $93.2 billion state budget for 2020-21. DeSantis wants to see how much money Congress sends the states in another aid package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has ridiculously suggested some states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy, and other Republicans in Washington are blathering about bailouts even though it is the federal government that left the states to largely fend for themselves in this unprecedented pandemic.

Beloved Loxahatchee River dying for freshwater, asks for emergency assistance” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — South Florida’s only nationally-recognized wild and scenic river is being poisoned by a lack of fresh water as dry conditions allow the ocean to sour the unique ecosystem once dominated by towering cypress trees. The Loxahatchee River, which traditionally receives a stipend from Grassy Waters Preserve to fight saltwater intrusion during the dry season, has been cut off from that tap for weeks with preserve waters themselves running low. Albrey Arrington, executive director of the Loxahatchee river District, is asking for an emergency infusion of fresh water to stave off further damage.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, State Forester and Florida Forest Service Director Erin Albury, and local officials will hold a press conference to discuss the 36th Ave. SE Fire, noon Eastern time, Collier County Emergency Operations Center, 8075 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples. The event will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/FLForestService. Press should RSVP to Franco.Ripple@FDACS.gov.

Florida puts defendants in need of mental health treatment in limbo via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Department of Children and Families has refused to accept defendants in need of specialized mental health treatment into state-run facilities since late March, leaving some inmates with severe mental illnesses languishing in county jails long beyond the legal limit. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, DCF Secretary Chad Poppell issued an emergency order March 22 that aimed to suspend a legal requirement that defendants found not competent to stand trial get transferred to state-run facilities within 15 days. That temporary suspension has apparently not been lifted, and now, in mid-May, some defendants remain stuck in limbo.

Chad Poppell issued an emergency order in March suspending a requirement to move inmates in county jails to a state-run facility within 15 days. He has not yet lifted the order, leaving many in limbo. Image via Colin Hackley.

Justices end decades-old evidence standard via the News Service of Florida — As it upheld the conviction of a Northeast Florida man in the grisly murder of his estranged wife, the state Supreme Court tossed out a decades-old legal standard about circumstantial evidence in criminal appeals. The court’s four-member majority said the change would lead to Florida joining federal courts and most other states in how judges weigh cases that only involve circumstantial evidence. Justice Jorge Labarga dissented on changing the legal standard, writing that the Supreme Court for more than a century has “applied a more stringent standard of review in reviewing convictions supported only by circumstantial evidence.”

As coronavirus spread, Moffitt Cancer Center’s China scandal faded via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — As the Florida Legislature’s 2020 session wound down in early March, a special committee led by State Rep. Chris Sprowls was starting to investigate a scandal that had spread across the nation and now enveloped Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center, the University of Florida and other state institutions. Sprowls’ committee was to investigate an internal report revealing they failed to disclose ties to so-called “talent” programs aimed at recruiting U.S. scientists to work on research in China. The document, released in January, revealed that List and others accepted money from China, opened Chinese bank accounts, and pledged to work on biomedical research there. The committee has not met since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Somebody’s going to emergency; somebody’s going to jail — Lenny Curry’s former chief administrator, political strategist worked for JEA bidder via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — NextEra Energy hired Sam Mousa and Tim Baker, two local lobbyists with close ties to Curry, in connection to their attempt to purchase JEA. The revelation that Baker and Mousa worked for NextEra raises several questions, including whether Baker was offering policy advice to JEA while working for the company considered to be the front-runner to win the competition to buy the city-owned utility. A consulting firm co-founded by Baker and Mousa paid for a secret trip to Atlanta to watch a playoff baseball game they attended with Aaron Zahn, Mayor Curry, and City Council President Scott Wilson. Zahn has said he reimbursed the consulting firm $750, which is likely less than his portion of the trip’s actual cost.

Two girls, mother sue over alleged sexual abuse via Michael Braga of the Herald-Tribune — Foster parent Gilberto Rios, who was accused of molesting at least three little girls, hung himself from a rafter of a shed at his North Port pool home during his sexual abuse trial in April 2019. Now, two of those girls and their mother have filed a lawsuit in Sarasota against Gilberto’s widow, Nereida Rios, for physically abusing them, and against two child welfare organizations, Sarasota-based Safe Children Coalition (SCC) and New Port Richey-based Youth and Family Alternatives Inc. (YFA), for failing to ensure their “health, welfare and safety.” The lawsuit goes on to say that a staff meeting was held on Nov. 8 to discuss the AP and JP’s situation, and the Guardian Ad Litem representing the children expressed concerns about “the controlling nature of the foster home” where the children “were made to sit on a small rug or were locked in their bedroom.”

— 2020 —

Supreme Court’s Electoral College case might matter this year via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — About six weeks after the Presidential election, designated electors from the prevailing party in each state gather for a mostly ceremonial recording of the official ballots. It’s all spelled out in any high school civics book and, so far, the Electoral College has never produced any big surprises. What if some electors decide to defy the will of the voters who support their party’s presidential nominee next Nov. 3? Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have varying penalties for electors who break their party loyalty pledge, and that’s what the Supreme Court was pondering last week. It will be fun to see if the Supreme Court lets the states enforce political fidelity on participants in the archaic process.

Joe Biden leads Trump by 6 points in Florida via Anthony Man of the Orlando Sentinel — Biden has a 6-point lead over Trump in Florida. Biden polled 53% to Trump’s 47%. Besides putting the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee above the 50% threshold, it also represents a move up for him and a slight step down for Trump. Biden had a 2-point advantage in January, and Trump had a 2-point lead in March. The Florida contest is critical to both sides. It’s the largest of the half-dozen swing states that could go either way in November and determine which candidate wins. The economy was chosen as the top issue by 28% of voters. Another 18% said health care and 12% said immigration.

New polling gives Joe Biden a six-point lead over Donald Trump among Florida voters. Image via AP.

What 74 former Biden staffers think about Tara Reade’s allegations via Lisa Desjardins of PBS NewsHour — As a Senator, Biden was known as a demanding but fair and family-oriented boss, devoted to his home life in Delaware and committed to gender equality in his office. Biden was also a toucher, seemingly oblivious to whether physical contact made some women uncomfortable. None of the 74 people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All told, they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct. Many noted that Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation was at odds with their knowledge of Biden’s behavior toward women.

Val Demings’ stock rises on VP shortlist via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden’s shortlist for vice president is deep in Democratic talent, filled with Governors, senators and former rivals for the presidential nomination. Demings is attracting an increasing amount of attention from Biden advisers, donors and Democrats. Demings is half of a political power couple that hails from the heart of the swing state’s swing region, the Interstate 4 Corridor, where her husband is Orange County Mayor. Demings is African American, strong on television, and speaks in biblical cadences that can bring a black church to its feet and add a potential dose of energy to a campaign that lacks it.

Biden to go after Trump in November in Republican states such as Arizona, Texas and Georgia, campaign says via Annie Linskey of The Washington Post — “We believe that there will be battleground states that have never been battleground states before,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager. “We feel like the map is really favoring us if you look to recent polling.” Biden’s campaign said it would also compete in other states such as Iowa and Ohio that Hillary Clinton lost by large margins in 2016. The campaign’s public announcement of targets — which some Democrats feel are overly ambitious — is driven by what it sees as weaknesses for Trump that have been magnified by his response to the virus. It comes after weeks of criticism from Democrats, who worry Biden isn’t aggressive enough.

Faced with a Trumpian barrage of attacks, Biden chooses to look the other way via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — In a return to his old fighting form last week, Trump suggested that his electoral rival, Biden, should go to prison for an unspecified offense he labeled the “greatest political crime in the history of our country.” In response, Biden did nothing, holding back in silence for hours after Trump’s interview aired on Fox Business Network, until the presumptive Democratic nominee’s campaign finally sent out a tweet. “There’s nothing that the American people cannot accomplish when we stand together — one nation, united in purpose,” it read. Biden’s advisers, aware of what Trump is preparing to fire at him, describe themselves as dead set against being triggered by his provocations or engaging with him on his terms.

Trump eyes older voters in Florida for any sign of faltering via Tamara Lush and Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press — Trump’s path to reelection runs through Florida’s retirement communities. He has virtually no path to victory without winning Florida, and older voters are vital to that effort. Older voters make up an outsize share of the voting population in the state. Nationally, Trump carried voters 65 and older in the state by nine percentage points in 2016. Some Republicans warn that could be tough for Trump to repeat as the public health and economic fallout of the pandemic deepens. Any erosion of support among seniors could doom Trump if this November’s election is as close as four years ago. A trio of Midwestern battlegrounds, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, feature sizable aging populations. Arizona is home to a growing number of retirees.

Trump Jr. smears Biden with baseless Instagram post via Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Trump’s eldest son on Saturday posted a social media message suggesting Biden was a pedophile. This incendiary and baseless charge he uses to erase Biden’s early advantage in crucial state polls. Trump Jr., who is one of his father’s most prominent campaign surrogates, put on Instagram a picture of Biden saying: “See you later, alligator” alongside an image of an alligator saying: “In a while, pedophile.” When a reporter shared the Instagram post online, the younger Trump, echoing one of his father’s tactics, wrote on Twitter that he was only “joking around” and noted that he had included emojis of a laughing face.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

🤣🤣🤣 that said, there’s definitely way too many Creepy Joe videos out there!

A post shared by Donald Trump Jr. (@donaldjtrumpjr) on

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

Political ads expected to explode, even as economy tanks via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — The U.S. economy is in free fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, but political advertising is expected to reach new heights because of it. A new report projects that the total ad spending on the 2020 election cycle will reach $6.7 billion, up 12% over their initial $6 billion projection for the cycle. The bump is due partially to a record level of primary spending, but the coronavirus is also expected to help boost that total. The projection is a result, in part, of “the lack of face-to-face campaigning driving higher shares of budgets to paid media,” the report read. Spending this cycle has been massive, thanks in part to an expensive Democratic presidential primary.

Justin Day hosting virtual fundraiser for Steve Bullock — Capital City Consulting lobbyist Day will join Montana Gov. Bullock for a virtual fundraiser benefiting Bullock’s 2020 U.S. Senate campaign. Day is listed as a host for the event alongside Sharon Kegerreis and Mitchell Berger. The event is slated for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Bullock was one of about two dozen candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, but dropped out earlier this year and launched a campaign to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines. The Montana Senate race is seen as pivotal to Democrats’ chances of retaking the Chamber.

Elite fundraiser Justin Day is helping virtually raise funds for Steve Bullock.

Yukong Zhao wins court ruling to get on ballot in CD 7 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Zhao, disqualified from the ballot when the Florida Division of Elections said he missed the filing deadline last month, has won a court injunction to put his name on the ballot in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Zhao’s suit contended that the Division of Elections had failed to follow its own emergency actions, in the coronavirus crisis, to ease ballot access rules so that candidates would not have to risk their own health. The court has preliminarily agreed with his complaint, granting Zhao a temporary injunction to restore his name to the ballot for the August 18, 2020, primary election. Zhao will resume his campaign immediately, his campaign announced.

First in Sunburn —  Fried endorses Christine Hunschofsky for HD 96 — Agriculture Commissioner Fried is supporting Parkland Mayor Hunschofsky in her bid for House District 96. Fried called Mayor Hunschofsky the right choice. Fried’s backing comes right after Hunschofsky’s first round of twenty-six local, county and legislative endorsements, as well as that of former Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg.Tallahassee needs more strong leaders like Mayor Hunschofsky …,” said Fried. “As Mayor of Parkland, she has guided her city through difficult times and shown a real commitment to making her community a better place to live. In the State House, I know that she will continue to be a tenacious advocate on issues including protecting our environment, making health care more affordable, and expanding access to mental health care.”

Nikki Fried gives thumbs up to Christine Hunschofsky in her bid for Florida House.

Rhonda Rebman Lopez says she will keep donation from David Rivera consulting firm linked to Venezuela deal via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lopez says she will keep a donation from a Rivera-linked firm which signed a lucrative contract with the Venezuelan government. That firm, Interamerican Consulting, signed a $50M consulting contract with Venezuela’s state-run oil company while Nicolás Maduro still controlled it. Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Esteban Bovo says he rejected the contribution because of the firm’s involvement with the socialist Venezuelan government. Rivera implied he had taken the money to aid the Venezuelan opposition to Maduro. Lopez is the top fundraiser in the HD 120 contest.

“‘The gloves are off.’ Why deputies went to war with sheriff appointed after Parkland via David Smiley and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The relationship between Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony and the union representing 1,400 of his deputies soured quickly last year, shortly after his appointment amid the fallout of the Parkland school shooting. A series of investigations, firings and suspensions of deputies in the first few months of his tenure eroded a tenuous alliance between the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association and Tony. But the union’s fight with Tony, coming during the first sheriff’s election since the Broward County shooting that killed 17 people, has grown ugly, with the sheriff’s campaign consultants blaming some of his own subordinates for the leaking of damaging personal information this month, including a sealed report documenting a 1993 shooting in which Tony killed a man in front of his family’s home.

— TOP OPINION —

What Joe Clements is reading —Experts have jobs. They need to understand those who don’t. via Fareed Zakaria of The Washington Post — It turns out that Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to believe that the pandemic is serious and to follow CDC guidelines. This has led many to wonder why partisanship has become so strong in the United States that people will not listen to experts, even at the risk of their own health. The COVID-19 divide is a class divide. Of the top 25% of income earners, more than 60% can stay home and still do their jobs. Of the bottom 25%, fewer than 10% can do the same. That means the economic hardship is felt disproportionately by the bottom 25%.

— OPINIONS —

Joe Gruters: The countdown to RNC 2020 begins via Florida Politics — We are officially 100 days away from the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This event will be a world-class gathering, culminating in the nomination of Trump to seek and win his reelection. On August 24, thousands will descend on the Queen City to celebrate the legacy of Trump’s administration. The nation will watch as we showcase our principles, our ideas, and above all, the results Trump’s leadership has delivered. In light of COVID-19’s unanticipated threat, RNC CEO Marcia Lee Kelly and her dedicated team have been working day-in and day-out to provide an experience that’s not only thrilling for every attendee, but also equipped with the proper health provisions to ensure a safe event.

“’ We won’t rest until every last tattoo parlor in Texas is open again!’” via Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald — Men carrying shotguns and assault rifles showed up to defend an East Texas tattoo parlor when it reopened in defiance of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. Well done, armed patriots! While the media ramble on adoringly about the so-called heroism of front-line doctors, nurses, police officers and paramedics, you bold warriors put your lives on the line to preserve our inalienable right to ink our biceps with a topless succubus riding a flame-breathing Harley — anytime we want, anywhere we want. But, honestly, the optics of the event could have been better. I’ve got a few notes — minor suggestions, really — so that we’ll be taken more seriously next time.

When Miami-Dade reopens, demand to know who’s keeping you safe — and who’s not via the Miami Herald editorial board — As long-homebound residents of Miami-Dade County stand ready to be unleashed as of 12:01 a.m. Monday, we can only caution everyone to trust absolutely no one and verify that the businesses, offices, restaurants and stores they plan to enter are following the meticulous rules that County Mayor Giménez released. How is your workplace going to keep you protected? If they haven’t said, demand that they do. How are your doctor’s office, your dry cleaners, your corner diner, your you-name-it enforcing safety measures? Any failure to follow and enforce the county’s well-vetted guidelines means an increase in coronavirus cases, exactly the wrong direction in which to go.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida has entered a new stage of reopening. It’s not Phase Two yet … more like Phase 1.1.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Big changes are ahead for restaurants, retail shops, gyms and sports facilities. But theaters and movies are still closed (unless they are the drive-in type). Gov. DeSantis offers details.

— The latest count from the state health department shows 45,588 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida and 2,049; 883 of those who died were residents or staffers at nursing homes or adult living facilities.

— DeSantis continues to face questions about the failure of the state’s unemployment compensation system; it appears to be getting on his nerves. After announcing plans for the next stage of the reopening, the Governor seemed annoyed at reporters who wanted to ask about unemployment. 

— DeSantis also tried to take some of the heat off his administration for the failure of the unemployment system — by blaming the people who applied and had their claims rejected.

— Now that Floridians are getting back to work, Senate Democrats say the legislature should join them. Sen. Gary Farmer is calling on the Governor to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol for a Special Session to fix the unemployment system, expand health care coverage during the pandemic and make it easier for people to vote by mail later this year.

— Sunrise hears from Farmer, the Governor, Sens. Perry Thurston and Jason Pizzo to take another deep dive into Florida’s unemployment fiasco.

— Florida faces the first tropical storm of the new hurricane season … before the official June 1 start. Tropical Storm Arthur started off the coast of Cape Canaveral and is heading away from us.

— New polling from Florida Atlantic University shows Biden has a 6-point lead over Trump in the Sunshine State.

— And the latest from Florida Man: the aquatic version.

To listen: click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Rory McIlroy criticizes Trump, wouldn’t play golf with him again via Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press — McIlroy says he wouldn’t play golf again with Trump and doubts he would even be invited after questioning his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world, said three years ago he played with Trump out of respect for the office. He said he enjoyed his day at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Florida. He says Trump was charismatic, personable and treated everyone well, from the players in the group to the workers in the cart barn. McIlroy continued saying Trump has tried to politicize the pandemic.

Rory McIlroy criticizes Donald Trump and vows never to play golf with him again.

New MLB rules: Shower at home, don’t spit, Mr. Met stay away via Ronald Blum of The Associated Press — Major League Baseball will look somewhat like high school ball this year under protocols to deal with the new coronavirus, with showers at ballparks discouraged and players possibly arriving in uniform, like they did when they were teenagers. Team personnel will be banned from eating at restaurants on road trips. The traditional exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps, and bat boys and girls, according to a 67-page draft of Major League Baseball’s proposed 2020 Operations Manual. Teams will be allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still be negotiated. Spitting is prohibited along with water jugs and the use of saunas, steam rooms, pools and cryotherapy chambers. Hitting in indoor cages is discouraged, batting gloves encouraged.

The fate of the summer movie season rests on one Christopher Nolan film via Steven Zeitchik of The Washington Post — Most studios have taken their films out of theaters. Instead of taking that approach, Warner Bros. is pressing ahead with release plans for “Tenet.” They’re going through all the paces of a big summer release, despite many reasons a successful rollout may not be remotely possible. At stake, say entertainment players and analysts, is nothing short of the nation’s preeminent form of public entertainment. Audiences eager to leave the house after months of isolation could pour in (social distantly) to see the Nolan film. Or continued COVID-19 fears either prompt Warner Bros. to delay “Tenet” or consumers staying away, resulting in a flop.

— HAPPY ANNIVERSARY —

Celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary (the official date was Sunday) is one of our favorite couples, James and Erin Ballas.

Congratulations to Erin and James Ballas on their sixth anniversary.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to a slew of Florida politicos, including U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, state Sen. Tom Wright, state Rep. Bobby Payne, former Rep. Mike Miller, St. Pete City Councilmember Robert BlackmonBrooke BustleAna Ceballos of News Service of Florida, Trevor Mask, Matthew Ubben, and Michael Wickersheim. Belated wishes from last Wednesday to OFR Chief of Staff Abby Vail.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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