Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.30.20

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Commentary and links on Florida politics as crisp as your morning bacon.

After a successful career spanning three decades, Bob Asztalos will be retiring as chief lobbyist/emergency response coordinator for the Florida Health Care Association. Asztalos, a retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief who also served as chair of the Florida Veterans Foundation last year, will officially step down on September 30.

Asztalos has been active in legislative circles advocating for Florida’s veterans and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

After 30 years, Bob Asztalos (shown here with Lisa Giacobbe) is stepping down as head lobbyist for the FHCA.

“It is hard to believe that I have had the privilege of representing long term care providers for thirty years,” Asztalos wrote in a letter to FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed. “It has been an honor to represent the good people who take care of our greatest generation. I have learned much from your leadership of the Association over the last twelve years and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with the outstanding staff at FHCA.”

Asztalos will certainly be leaving with one more major win, as the 2020-2021 budget — signed Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis — includes a $105 million Medicaid funding increase for nursing center care. This leaves most of the reimbursement intact, despite the push for significant cuts due to economic constraints from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“FHCA commends Gov. DeSantis for his forward-thinking decision to leave intact the Medicaid reimbursement increase for Florida’s nursing homes, the FHCA said in a statement. “The Governor clearly recognizes that nursing homes are on the front line of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the state must continue to support them, which includes having sufficient resources to properly protect Florida’s most vulnerable residents.”

In his retirement letter, Asztalos also offered to assist with the transition to a new chief lobbyist through Dec. 31, 2020.


@MEPFuller: Just trying to imagine what the pandemic and the economy would have looked like if Congress and the White House hadn’t agreed to an extra $600 for unemployment.

Tweet, tweet:

@NikkiFried: @GovRonDeSantis’ office has just informed us he is not rescheduling June’s clemency hearing & cabinet meeting “out of the interest of public health.” 0 clemency hearings in 2020. I wish @GovRonDeSantis would fight #COVID19 as hard as he fights to deny voting rights.

@ChrisSprowls: [email protected]GovRonDeSantis played his constitutional role and did what was necessary to stabilize Florida’s budget. Everyone will be disappointed by something, but as we approach July 4th, let us remember that shared sacrifice in the face of an ongoing crisis is a heroic American value.

@Rob_Bradley: The Governor is a fiscal hawk with a heart. This People First budget includes teacher raises, correctional officer raises, 3% state employee raises, nursing home Medicaid rate increases, affordable housing SAIL dollars and 100m for Florida Forever. Great work, @GovRonDeSantis!

@JeffreyBrandes: I’m disappointed but undeterred, @GovRonDeSantis had some tough choices to make, “The harder the rain, honey, the sweeter the sun” -Hozier.

@SenPizzo: Of the $7,415,250 in local funding we secured for our senate district, $6,265,250 was vetoed today.

@Nature_Florida: It is great news that the Pensacola/Perdido Estuary Project is funded in the 2021 Florida Budget. Thanks to @GovRonDeSantis, @RAlexAndradeFL, and @DougBroxson. It is a great day for @PPBEP_FLAL and this valuable program to protect our Gulf.

@JeffSchweers: Why would anyone NOT need one of these? Cut from the #Florida budget, somebody’s crying. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Near-Infrared Python Detection Camera. And it’s only $400,000!



Vice President Mike Pence to visit Florida (tour canceled/meeting with Gov. DeSantis) — 2; “The Outpost” with Orlando Bloom and Scott Eastwood premieres — 3; NBA teams travel to Orlando — 7; Major League Soccer will return to action — 8; Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 11; Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 15; Federal taxes due — 15; MLB 60-game season begins — 23; TED conference rescheduled — 27; NBA season restart in Orlando — 33; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 43; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 50; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 51; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 52; NBA draft lottery — 56; Indy 500 rescheduled — 56; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 58; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 61; U.S. Open begins — 64; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 68; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 70; Rescheduled date for French Open — 92; First presidential debate in Indiana — 96; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 96; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 97; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 104; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 106; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 109; NBA draft — 109; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 110; NBA free agency — 112; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 118; 2020 General Election — 128; “Black Widow” premieres — 132; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 135; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 143; “No Time to Die” premieres — 150; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 157; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 199; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 225; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 390; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 399; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 495; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 593; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 635; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 677; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 831.


Ron DeSantis slashes $1 billion in spending from state budget due to coronavirus” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis vetoed $1 billion in spending from the $93.2 billion state budget crafted by his fellow Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature before the coronavirus pandemic began shattering the economy. DeSantis said he had “threaded the needle,” in preserving some top big-ticket proposals, including pay raises for teachers and state workers and more than $625 million in water projects. The now-$92.2 billion budget is set to take effect Wednesday. Among the cuts is $225 million in state funding for affordable housing, which DeSantis said will be offset by $250 million in federal money for rental and mortgage assistance directed to Florida under CARES act funding.

With a single day to spare, Ron DeSantis signs the Florida budget, after line-item vetoes of $1B. Image via Colin Hackley.

DeSantis vetoes of ‘big hit’ to health care budget” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis vetoed more than $140.5 million in health care spending as he brought the spending plan in line with reduced revenues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. DeSantis vetoed scores of health care-related projects but also cut into what is known as the “base budget,” which includes programs funded with recurring dollars. “We took a big hit,” Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Aaron Bean said. “But I get it because we are the largest silo (part of the budget).” Spending on health and human services accounted for about 40% of the $93.2 billion budget that lawmakers passed in March. DeSantis issued $1 billion in vetoes Monday and signed a $92.2 billion budget.

— “Florida Developmental Disabilities Council commends DeSantis for preserved funding” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Infectious disease funding for prisons vetoed as COVID-19 cases in Florida soar” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As Florida faces a rapidly spreading pandemic, DeSantis vetoed $28 million for infectious disease drug treatment. The move cut a sizable chunk of funding set aside by the Florida Legislature for the infectious diseases treatment, a veto from a $112.9 million appropriation for inmate treatment. Lawmakers earmarked the $28 million in nonrecurring funding for F0-F1 hepatitis C treatment, according to appropriations documents. Notably, the funding was contingent upon an adverse outcome in a lawsuit against the state, after the conclusion of all appeals in a class-action suit, which required the facilities to treat inmates who tested positive for hepatitis C as of December 2017. But the Department of Corrections was also specifically authorized to submit a budget amendment to release funds if needed to respond to a pandemic in the prison system. It’s a bit of a shock to see funding for an infectious disease drug treatment program cut as COVID-19 rages.

Child welfare projects, priorities for José Oliva, nixed from budget” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis vetoed $5 million from the state budget intended for Florida State University’s Florida Institute for Child Welfare. That veto is part of more than $1 billion axed from lawmakers’ budget proposal. Child welfare was one of Oliva’s priorities. In 2014, the Legislature created the program under the FSU College of Social Work. This year, the program will carry on without the extra financial boost from the state. Despite losing this project, Oliva praised the “appropriate and decisive action” to make the billion-dollar “savings.” DeSantis retained $117.6 million for children and families who receive services through the child welfare system, including $53 million to enhance accountability and quality of care in DCF.

DeSantis cuts $2 million prison improvement master plan” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — One of the many fatalities of this year’s historic budget vetoes is $2 million intended to develop a master plan to modernize the state’s correctional infrastructure. The project was a priority for Sen. Jeff Brandes, who says deteriorating correctional facilities across Florida are “barely habitable” for the state’s 90,000 inmates. Brandes earned a win out in this Session’s budget conferences after House members acceded to the Senate’s proposal. Lawmakers sought a formal vision to upgrade the state’s aging facilities with practical improvements like air conditioning and even going as far as to relocate prisons to more populated areas to draw from a broader talent pool of officers and staff. Brandes called the current maintenance allocations “fingers in the dike” of issues. The oldest of the state’s correctional facilities is more than 100 years old.

Millions vetoed from Florida’s school guardian program” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida’s Guardian program suffered a $41.5 million slash on Monday as part of DeSantis‘ effort to rebalance the state budget as a coronavirus-fueled economic collapse obliterated state revenue. The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was created to help further protect schools by adding armed personnel who are trained by police to respond to an active shooter. In total, $41,579,863 was taken from the program. According to the Florida Department of Education, there are 42 counties currently participating in the Guardian Program.

Central Florida budget vetoes: BRIDG money axed again” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The BRIDG high-tech center being developed in Osceola County got hit by another DeSantis‘ veto, as the Governor axed the $5 billion the University of Central Florida had requested to support an advanced manufacturing sensors facility. That $5 million was the biggest cut DeSantis made in projects the Legislature had included in its 2021 budget for Central Florida. It’s the second year in a row DeSantis nixed a big grant intended for BRIDG, following the $6 million vetoed last year. Overall, DeSantis took his knife to at least 18 Central Florida projects totaling more than $10 million, a relatively minor skim as he vetoed more than $1 billion worth of spending statewide to respond to revenue losses incurred because of the coronavirus crisis.

The BRIDG high-tech center under development in Osceola County suffered another state budget veto this year.

Tampa Bay education takes big hit in ‘Red Wedding’ budget; SPC biggest loser” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ veto pen hit various education programs in the Tampa Bay area as he slashed more than $1 billion from the proposed budget. Those cuts amounted to more than $7.2 million to programs ranging from community outreach to STEM education. St. Petersburg College suffered the biggest blow, losing out on $2 million that had been approved for new Collegiate High Schools at the college’s downtown St. Pete and Seminole campuses. SPC also saw $725,000 axed to increase capacity in its two-year nursing program that would have gone toward new patient simulators and minor facility upgrades.

—“DeSantis vetoed millions in Tampa Bay area programs. Here’s what got cut.” via Kirby Wilson, Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times

Amid budget slashes, Governor approves $8 million for ‘Alyssa’s Alert’ school alarm system” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Monday’s final budget keeps alive $8 million to implement a new panic alarm system throughout Florida’s public and charter schools. The legislation setting up the system (SB 70) was presented to DeSantis and awaits his signature. The system is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of 17 people murdered during the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The measure tasks the Department of Education to set up a model alert system to ensure school officials can contact nearby law enforcement quickly in the event of an emergency. DOE officials will consult with counterparts at the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Law Enforcement and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission to create the system.

Broward Sheriff’s Office loses out on $500K for Real-Time Crime Center expansion thanks to coronavirus budget cuts” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Broward Sheriff’s Office will lose out on $500,000 to expand its Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) created following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The original funding request sought $5 million to expand the RTCC into a “Fusion Center.” “The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has multiple data sources that it uses for both simple record-keeping as well as crime analysis and prevention,” the funding bill read. The original request would have put $4 million toward software designed to integrate information, as well as another $1 million for hardware and renovations such as display screen and architectural upgrades for the center. Ultimately, the Legislature approved just $500,000 for the project.

Randolph Bracy celebrates budgeting win for HBCUs” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — Bracy approached the microphone exultantly Monday to announce a victory he helped usher to a conclusion, funding for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs.) Three Florida schools, Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University, will receive $30 million in the upcoming budget. Funding for Bethune-Cookman will include more than $16 million in recurring support. Edward Waters and Florida Memorial will split an additional $14 million. Bracy, who served as the Senate Appropriations sponsor for HBCU funding, lauded DeSantis for making the funding official.

Randolph Bracy gets a win in this year’s budget for HBCUs.

— “UF math program subtracted by DeSantis” via John Kennedy of The Gainesville Sun

Where’s the beef? DeSantis slaughters funding for cattle research” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The promised $750,000 for Florida’s Cattle Enhancement Board couldn’t be corralled. DeSantis slaughtered the recurring appropriation as part of a record $1.66 billion budget veto. The funding was earmarked for programs and research into expanded uses for beef and beef products. The idea was to strengthen Florida ranchers’ market position in the state and nationwide. The House pushed this year to include the spending. While lacking the profile of citrus, cattle ranching delivers a $100-billion economic impact to Florida each year, making Florida one of the leading states for raising American cows. The Cattle Enhancement Board, founded in 2016, includes 20 members. Since its inception, it has been focused on education and research.

DeSantis strikes sturgeon farm funding from budget” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A $1.8 million appropriation for Sturgeon Aquafarms is now fish food, alongside another $1 billion worth of items excised from the budget by DeSantis. The funding would have helped the Jackson County-based sturgeon farm get back on its feet after Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on operations nearly two years ago. Based in Bascom, Sturgeon Aquafarms is the only operation licensed and authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to grow, harvest, and export beluga sturgeon. For the uninitiated, beluga sturgeon are native to the Caspian and Black seas and are the source of beluga caviar, the most prized variety of fish roe.


Hundreds line up for tests as Florida cities close beaches” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — Hundreds lined up at coronavirus testing sites around Florida on Monday, as the state remained in the virus’s grip. St. Petersburg Police said on Twitter that a testing site located at Tropicana Field closed early because it was at capacity, shortly after 8 a.m. The site ran out of tests, officials said. In Jacksonville, more than 300 cars lined up for testing at the TIAA Bank Field. In South Florida, beaches and bars in are closing, just days before the normally busy Fourth of July weekend. Monroe County, which comprises the Florida Keys, said Monday it would close beaches. Fireworks shows have also been canceled in several cities, and some attractions are closing their doors as well.

COVID-19 testing sites around Florida were maxed out, as cities close beaches across the state.

Will schools mandate masks? The answer will not please everyone.” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Officials said they will have masks for anyone who needs one, but they will not mandate masks as a way to stem the coronavirus spread. Citing costs and control as two factors, superintendent Addison Davis instead focused on encouraging masks. If families don’t like that, he said, their children can take online classes at home. Officials say they want to ensure student and employee health for the coming academic year. They’re tackling issues such as how to keep the airflow clean, sanitize high-touch areas and maintain adequate distances in tight spaces, such as buses. State law requires children ages 6 to 16 to attend school, and the state constitution calls for a system of free public education. As a result, parents from each side of the debate contend that they have the upper hand in the mask debate.

Prison visitation ban extended to mid-July” via the News Service of Florida — With the number of inmate cases of COVID-19 nearing 2,000, the Florida Department of Corrections extended a ban on prison visitors through July 15. The department first imposed the visitation ban in March to try to prevent the spread of the virus. It had been extended through June 28. The department said the “decision to reinstate the normal visitation schedule will be evaluated in consultation with public health experts. Inmates will continue to have access to their loved ones through mail, phone calls and video visitation.”


Sheriff: Doctor who exposed inmates, staff to COVID-19 failed to follow proper protocol” via Kelly Wiley of News4Jax — Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said he faults one jailhouse doctor, who failed to follow protocol, with spreading the novel coronavirus inside the largest detention facility in Jacksonville. In a matter of days, the number of inmates testing positive for the virus has jumped from two to 20 to 178 at its peak over the weekend. “We had done a great job up until, you know, we had one employee or contract employee not follow, you know, basic protocol and really started this whole chain,” said Williams. “ … It was one of the health care workers in the jail. They, obviously, have since been removed and are no longer an employee of the health care provider.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams breaks some bad news about his jail.

Miami to impose minimum 10-day shutdown for businesses violating COVID-19 regulations” via Joey Flechas and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — Businesses within Miami city limits will face mandatory multiday closures for violating emergency measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Under a new emergency order expected to be issued Monday, businesses flouting rules that limit crowding and mandate the wearing of face masks could be shut down for 10 days for an initial violation, 15 days for a second offense and 30 days for a third. Mayor Francis Suarez told the Miami Herald that the city will impose stiffer penalties on individual establishments instead of reinstituting citywide closures, a step administrators are not taking yet.

COVID-19 didn’t slow us down: Miami Beach is America’s most active city, study says” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — You may think you have turned into a couch potato due to the coronavirus, and that may be true. Netflix and eat has become the safest entertainment option these days. But if you live in Miami Beach, you are apparently are not living that slacking life because Miami Beach has been named the most active city in the United States. A new study from Rave Reviews is making this assertion. How did Rave come to this conclusion? As part of its Most Active Cities and States in America study, the website examined more than 2.3 million Instagram posts tagged with fitness, diet and body positivity-related hashtags. Then it created maps to see where each hashtag was most popular.

Miami Seaquarium says it’s closing again because of coronavirus increase” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — The Miami Seaquarium reopened at limited capacity on June 20 after being closed for more than three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. New social distancing requirements similar to those of theme parks were put in place, including face coverings and temperature checks to reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus spread. But its reopening was short-lived. “In response to the recent and continued increase in positive COVID-19 tests locally and statewide, Miami Seaquarium has decided to temporarily close beginning Monday, June 29,” according to a statement on its website. “The health and safety of our Guests, Team Members and the animals in our care is our top priority.”

A South Florida company didn’t pay required sick leave pay when a worker got COVID-19” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — An Opa-locka company that deals with environmental waste and cleanup ponied up $1,600 sick leave pay to a COVID-19 positive employee after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, the agency announced. Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found Raider Environmental Services hadn’t paid a worker for sick leave time after that worker tested positive for the novel coronavirus. That’s a violation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Labor said in a release, “Once the employer received clarification from (Wage and Hour) of (FFCRA) requirements, the employer immediately came into compliance and paid the back wages.”

Beaches in the Keys will close this week in advance of July 4 due to COVID-19 spread” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Florida Keys leaders Monday said they would uniformly close county and Key West beaches for the long July 4 holiday, starting at 5 p.m. Thursday. The news came as the Keys Monday reported a daily record high of positive cases of the novel coronavirus, 17, to make a new total of 236. That’s more than double what the Keys had before it officially reopened to tourists on June 1 by taking down two checkpoints at the entrances to the island chain meant to keep out visitors. The beaches, including Higgs, Smathers and Rest beaches, are set to reopen the morning of Tuesday, July 7.

More than 50 test positive for COVID-19 at Apollo Health nursing home in St. Pete” via Rose Wong of the Tampa Bay Times — More than 50 people have tested positive for coronavirus at the Apollo Health and Rehabilitation Center. Ten employees and 41 residents of the center have contracted COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, according to Greystone Healthcare Management, the St. Pete nursing home’s parent company. Last week, the eldercare center located on 24th Street N. reported zero cases among residents and only four employees who tested positive. At least five residents have been transported to area hospitals, health department records show.

This guy —Anthony Sabatini explains suing Hillsborough Co. over masks mandate” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — Sabatini has rattled a few cages during his first term in the Florida House of Representatives. In the past week, he’s been a one-man legal band in attempting to overturn face mask ordinances recently approved in the Sunshine State. Sabatini’s latest lawsuit targets Hillsborough County, following the ordinance passed last week by the Emergency Policy Group that says that all business operators of indoor locations shall require all persons coming inside their establishment to wear a face covering. Sabatini says he doesn’t have a problem with people wearing masks, especially the most vulnerable.

As 4th of July nears and coronavirus cases surge, Orange officials warn ‘We don’t want a repeat of Memorial Day’” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County officials urged residents to keep the coronavirus pandemic top of mind as they plan celebrations for the 4th of July after cases surged in the weeks after Memorial Day weekend. Nearly 80% of Orange County’s total cases have come since the long holiday weekend that ended May 25, when health officials believe many people in Central Florida and across the country began to relax their own virus precautions and began to see friends and family again. In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, Orange County saw weeks of single-digit cases each day and an overall positivity rate of less than 3%. Since then, cases have skyrocketed, even reaching more than 1,000 cases in a single day.

Seminole County issues face mask mandate” via WESH 2 — Seminole County officials have enacted a mask mandate that requires people to wear masks while in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order says people working, living, visiting or doing business in Seminole County will be required to wear a face-covering consistent with CDC guidelines while at all businesses, places of assembly and other places open to the public. It goes into effect Wednesday. Seminole County joins Orange and Osceola counties and the city of Daytona Beach as the areas in Central Florida requiring the usage of a face covering.

Seminole County is joining the growing list of areas in Florida hat are requiring face masks indoors.

City of Sarasota makes masks mandatory” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The city of Sarasota became the latest local government in Southwest Florida to require face coverings when people conduct business indoors in public spaces. Starting at midnight on Wednesday, anyone over 18 will be required to wear face coverings in any indoor establishment in Sarasota. People are also required to wear face masks outdoors when they’re not able to social distance. The citywide ordinance will be active for two months and can be extended. “This is a bold decision,” Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, said regarding the response to a rise in COVID-19 cases locally and statewide. “This is our only tool at this point and we need to act and we need to act swiftly.”

Florida State University to delay increasing the number of employees allowed on campus” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — FSU is currently in the first phase of employee returns, meaning that no more than 25% of employees are allowed on campus at any time. That%age was expected to increase to a minimum of 25% and no more than 50% on July 6. “After reviewing recent increases in COVID-19 data, including a record-setting increase in Leon County over the weekend, the University will not be moving forward as anticipated to the next phase on July 6,” Associate Vice President for Human Resources Renisha Gibbs said in a campus update. Gibbs said a new date will be determined, as information becomes available, adding that the delay has no effect on the university’s reopening plan.


COVID-19 surge begins reaching older, more vulnerable Floridians” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — Florida is reporting an unprecedented number of COVID-19 cases, but DeSantis has pointed to the relatively low median age of the sick, 36, to suggest that the outbreak isn’t having serious clinical consequences. But now, record numbers of Floridians 75 and older are testing positive for COVID-19, according to the latest report from Sunday, which reflects data through Saturday. Older Floridians largely avoided the statewide uptick in cases earlier in the month. However, that has been changing in the past week. Florida hasn’t seen a departure from its relatively low rate of COVID-19 deaths, but it can take weeks from onset of symptoms to death, and the surge in infections is recent.

Gilead sets price of coronavirus drug remdesivir at $3,120 as Trump administration secures supply for 500,000 patients” via Hannah Denham, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Christopher Rowland of The Washington Post — Gilead Sciences, the maker of the first COVID-19 treatment found to have worked in clinical trials, remdesivir, said Monday it will charge U.S. hospitals $3,120 for the typical patient with private insurance. Soon after the announcement, the Trump administration said it had secured nearly all of the company’s supply of the drug for use in U.S. hospitals through September, with a contract for 500,000 treatment courses, which it will make available to hospitals at Gilead’s price.

Gilead Sciences is selling its COVID-19 treatment for more than $3K per patient. Image via Reuters.

Pandemic unleashes a spike in overdose deaths” via Brianna Ehley of POLITICO — Top Trump administration officials say drug overdose deaths are surging amid the coronavirus pandemic, driven by increased substance use due to anxiety, social isolation and depression. A White House drug policy office analysis shows an 11.4% year-over-year increase in fatalities for the first four months of 2020, confirming experts’ early fears that precautions like quarantines and lockdowns combined with economic uncertainty would exacerbate the addiction crisis. “The pandemic has caused my level of concern to go up,” White House drug czar Jim Carroll said, acknowledging that overdose deaths were already starting to rise in the past year, after posting the first decline in three decades in 2018.


Broadway suspends performances through 2020 amid coronavirus, extends ticket refunds to 2021” via Sara M. Moniuszko of USA Today — Broadway performances are being further suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Broadway League announced Monday in a news release that Broadway performances in New York City will be suspended through the remainder of 2020 due to COVID-19. Broadway theaters are also now offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for all performances through January 3, 2021. Customers with tickets for performances through January 3, 2021, will receive an email with information regarding refund and exchange options. For customers who have not received an email by July 13, The Broadway League advises them to contact their point of purchase for assistance.


The virus that shut down the world” via Anthony Faiola of The Washington Post — In April, global flights dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s. By May, every country in the world had imposed entry restrictions, ushering in a new era of global distancing. The pandemic is interrupting the flow of workers, money and goods that increasingly bound the postwar world, helped to lift more than a billion people out of poverty since the fall of the Berlin Wall and delivered unprecedented stability and prosperity to much of the planet. The last decade saw a resurgence of protectionism; global trade patterns and foreign direct investment never really got their groove back.

A woman wearing a protective face mask talks on her phone at the Central Business District in Beijing. China’s manufacturing plunged in February as antivirus controls shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy. Image via AP.

This coronavirus mutation has taken over the world. Scientists are trying to understand why.” via Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — When the first coronavirus cases in Chicago appeared in January, they bore the same genetic signatures as a germ that emerged in China weeks before. But as Egon Ozer, an infectious-disease specialist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examined the genetic structure of virus samples from local patients, he noticed something different. A change in the virus was appearing again and again. This mutation, associated with outbreaks in Europe and New York, eventually took over the city. By May, it was found in 95% of all the genomes Ozer sequenced. At least four laboratory experiments suggest that the mutation makes the virus more infectious.

Meanwhile … Flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China” via Michelle Roberts of the BBC — A new strain of flu that has the potential to become a pandemic has been identified in China by scientists. It emerged recently and is carried by pigs, but can infect humans, they say. The researchers are concerned that it could mutate further so that it can spread easily from person to person, and trigger a global outbreak. While it is not an immediate problem, they say, it has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infect humans and needs close monitoring. As it’s new, people could have little or no immunity to the virus.


Senate defense bill may challenge Donald Trump on renaming military bases with Confederate names” via Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post — The Senate is poised to challenge Trump this week with legislation requiring the military to rename bases bearing the names of Confederate generals, a proposal that is shaping up to be one of the most contentious items in this year’s annual defense bill. In the Senate, the main issue appears to be timing. A Republican bill calls for name changes within 3 years while a Democratic version calls for name changes within one year. Although there is still vocal opposition to removing the Confederate names at all Republican support for the change suggests that it will survive any challenges during this week’s floor debate.

Proposals in the Senate would require the military to rename bases, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, that are named after Confederate officers. Image via AP.

In court, Derek Chauvin’s lawyers say officials have biased the case” via Tim Arango of The New York Times — The judge overseeing the case against four former Minneapolis police officers in the death of George Floyd told lawyers and local officials to be careful about what they say, warning that too much publicity could make it difficult to choose an impartial jury. While stopping short of issuing a formal gag order, Judge Peter A. Cahill of Hennepin County District Court warned that he would consider moving the trial if the parties involved leak information or offer opinions to the news media about the guilt or innocence of the defendants. “From this day forward, everyone has had their warning,” Cahill said. Lawyers for the officers cited “multiple inappropriate public comments” from local officials that they said had already prejudiced potential jurors.

Leon County residents say — overwhelmingly — they see inequality in the community” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Nine in 10 Leon County residents believe inequality exists in their community. The overwhelming majority indicated that they believed some form of inequality exists, with 86% highlighting inequality in the justice system. And 88% see a need for reform in the justice system. Residents also overwhelmingly believe law enforcement officers use more force against people of color than against White suspects, with 85% affirming that belief. Poor people are charged with crimes that wealthier people aren’t arrested for, say 88%, and 89% believe people of color or poorer people receive longer prison sentences for the same crimes as White or wealthy people.

Man yelling ‘white power’ in video retweeted by Trump is ex-Miami-Dade firefighter” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — A Florida man caught yelling “white power” during a pro-Trump golf cart parade in a video retweeted on Sunday by the president, then deleted hours later, has been outed online as a former Miami-Dade County firefighter. One day later, his former department also took to Twitter to distance itself from Roger Stokes, a resident of The Villages, a massive retirement community an hour’s drive northeast of Orlando. What a White House spokesman later claimed the President didn’t hear comes eight seconds into the edited version Trump retweeted.

After offering ‘Bubba Rope’ for sale, track owner receives death threats, loses sponsors” via Cindy Boren of The Washington Post — A North Carolina racetrack lost two Carolina Sprint Tour races and all but two sponsors after its owner offered “Bubba Rope” for sale last week, days after a noose was found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black driver in its elite Cup Series. Mike Fulp, owner of half-mile 311 Speedway in Pine Hall, had written Wednesday on Facebook Marketplace: “Buy your Bubba Rope today for only $9.99 each, they come with a lifetime warranty and work great.” Fulp removed posts after criticism last week, but Saturday’s races and promotion at the track that calls itself “The Daytona of Dirt” were canceled.


House Democrats to unveil climate plan calling for emissions cuts and New Deal-style jobs program” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — The United States should cut carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero by 2050, reform its flood mapping program and restart the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps to prepare for climate change, a group of congressional Democrats wrote in a broad report expected to be released Tuesday. “While local communities and states and businesses take climate action, what’s been missing is the federal government,” Kathy Castor said. Castor, a land-use lawyer who worked for the agency that oversaw growth management in Florida, said she thinks Congress can find unity on climate change now more than a decade ago.

Kathy Castor believes there is more appetite for unity on climate change than a decade ago. Image via CQ/Roll Call.


Ben Diamond slams GOP leadership for failing to call Special Session on budget” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “Under our state constitution, it is our responsibility as a Legislature to write our state budget. Because of the unprecedented challenges we currently face with the pandemic, it was my opinion that the Legislature should have reconvened in Special Session to rewrite HB 5001, the 2020-2021 General Appropriations Act,” Diamond wrote to Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva. “The revenue reports from April and May already demonstrate that the budget we passed, HB 5001, is obsolete, and should have been rewritten,” the St. Petersburg Democrat continued. Instead, he said, Galvano and Oliva’s failure to convene the Legislature for a Special Session left Gov. Ron DeSantis to “appropriate this money himself, without legislative authorization.”

DeSantis applies Rob Bradley’s sunscreen preemption” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis has blocked local governments from issuing their own ban on certain sunscreen products. That measure was a priority for Bradley, who detailed his own battle with skin cancer during the 2020 Session. But not all lawmakers, mostly Democrats, backed the measure, with some from both parties siding with local governments. After Key West banned the sale of certain sunblocks over fears some chemicals could degrade coral reefs, lawmakers filed legislation that would overrule that and future bans. The city had qualms with the effects of component ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate on the largest coral reef on the continent. Stuart and Miami Beach have mulled similar bans. Bradley’s role as a senior lawmaker and Senate budget chief may have helped get the measure past the Governor’s desk.

For his last Session, Rob Bradley gets a big win after Ron DeSantis signed his ban on sunscreen bans.

DeSantis signs bill allowing drones to target invasive wildlife species” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis added another tool to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s tool-belt, signing a bill that would expand the use of drones by state agencies. The bill (HB 659,) sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer, would allow state agencies, such as FWC, to use the aircraft over swamps and other people-free places where invasive species like pythons and other nuisances have proved problematic. The bill would also allow wildlife and forestry officials to use drones to track pythons, lygodium, and other invasive species inhabiting Florida’s forests, wetlands, and wilderness spaces, often to the detriment of native wildlife. Law enforcement agencies, however, cannot utilize drones under this bill.

Automated pill kiosks now permitted at pharmacies after Governor’s signature” via Ryan Nichol at Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis has signed legislation (HB 59) allowing pharmacies to dispense medication through ATM-like kiosks. Those kiosks are already permitted at facilities such as long-term care homes and prisons. The machines will not dole out controlled substances, which can be addicting and are subject to more strict oversight. Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite sponsored the House version of the bill, which ultimately passed“I am grateful for everyone that worked so hard to get this legislation all the way through the process,” Willhite said.

Jimmy Patronis’ committee threatens to sue Ronald Rubin for ‘campaign of character assassination’” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The lawyer for CFO Patronis’ political committee sent a letter to fired Office of Financial Regulation head Rubin warning him that if he and his attorney continue their “character assassination” campaign, they’ll wind up in court. The letter specifically cites an accusation made by Rubin and Tein that the former’s firing was “retaliation for Rubin’s complaints about Patronis’ illegal conduct.” In the letter, Treasure Florida attorney William Spicola wrote that Rubin’s allegations were unfounded and designed to distract from the controversy surrounding Rubin. The letter says the accusations were “knowingly false.” If he doesn’t recant them, Spicola wrote, “Patronis will take all available measures to protect his legal rights, including suing you for perjury and seeking damages.”

Pension contribution hikes locked in” via Florida Politics staff reports — DeSantis signed the state budget Monday, ensuring substantial pension contribution increases for state government agencies, universities and school districts. The budget increases overall pension contributions by $404.6 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year, an order of magnitude higher than the increase approved for the fiscal year ending June 30. School districts account for the majority of the increase, about $233 million. Those increases are outlined in HB 5007, which the Governor is expected to sign. The increased financial burden comes alongside DeSantis’ signature on the teacher pay raise bill, which will funnel $500 million in state money to local school districts, mostly to raise starting teacher pay, though $100 million will be used to increase salaries for veteran teachers.

Justice — A Florida appeals court has dealt a devastating blow to Sarasota’s controversial “To Catch a Predator”-style sex stings, ruling unanimously that deputies crossed the line and entrapped a man who wasn’t looking to break the law, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Sheriff’s stings, which were exposed as deceptive and over-aggressive over the years by investigative reporter Noah Pransky, have put dozens of men behind bars for preying on children — even though they were never looking for children in the first place. The defendant who won his appeal reportedly spent four days talking to an undercover deputy, whom he thought was an adult, before she told him he was actually talking to a minor; even though he tried to disengage from the chat, deputies kept trying to convince him to “overcome his trepidation.”

Justices decline to take up conservation fight” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — In a blow to environmentalists, the Florida Supreme Court refused to take up a dispute about how money can be spent under a 2014 constitutional amendment aimed at land and water conservation. The dispute centered on allegations by backers of the constitutional amendment that the Legislature improperly used money that was targeted for conservation purposes. But the 1st District Court of Appeal last year sided with lawmakers. The Supreme Court, as is common, did not explain its reasons for declining to hear the case. But the decision effectively let stand the ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Ricky Polston, Alan Lawson and Carlos Muniz were in the majority in Monday’s decision, while Justice Jorge Labarga supported taking up the case.

Scooter case scuttled at Supreme Court” via the News Service Of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court declined to wade into a legal battle about a Panama City Beach decision to ban the rental of motorized scooters. Classy Cycles, Inc., went to the Supreme Court after the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the ban. The decision effectively left standing the 1st District Court of Appeal ruling. The case stems from two ordinances passed in 2017 to prohibit the overnight rental of scooters and to completely prohibit scooter rentals effective Sept. 8, 2020. Classy Cycles, Inc., took the case to the appeals court after a Bay County circuit judge upheld the ordinances.

Panama City’s ban on motorized scooters stands after the Supreme Court refused to take up the issue. 

Poll: Public trusts farmers” via Morning Ag Clips — A new national opinion poll commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation indicates that the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens place trust in farmers and ranchers. The test of public attitudes found that 84% of respondents hold this opinion and almost 60% agree that the federal government should classify agriculture as a matter of national security to ensure stable food supplies. Such results should encourage Congress to maintain support for farm families suffering from substantial losses due to the COVID-19 crisis. Agricultural producers in Florida and across the country continue to grow food for everyone, despite the turmoil in the general economy.

— 2020 —

Trump’s self-inflicted wound: Losing swing voters as he plays to his base” via Adam Nagourney of The New York Times — Trump has pursued policies and practiced politics with a single-minded focus on bedrock Republicans, showing little interest in appealing to independent voters. Trump’s focus on his base at the expense of swing voters, who have historically been a key target for presidential campaigns, is almost certainly not enough to win him a second term in the White House, as even some Republicans concede. A poll showed Trump drawing 36% of the vote, a far cry from the 46% he won in 2016. Perhaps even more troubling for Trump is that he has not assembled a broad coalition of voters, which is critical to winning battleground states.

Donald Trump plays to his base, at the expense of swing voters. Image via Getty.

A Sun Belt time bomb threatens Trump’s reelection” via Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — The explosion of COVID-19 cases in Sun Belt states is becoming another albatross for Trump’s reelection hopes and creating a new opening for Joe Biden and Democrats in November. Republican governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas followed Trump’s lead by quickly reopening their states while taking a lax approach to social distancing and mask-wearing. Now, each of them is seeing skyrocketing coronavirus caseloads and rising hospitalizations, and Republican leaders are in retreat. It’s hard to overstate the gravity of the situation for Trump: Lose any one of the three states, and his reelection is all but doomed.

Some Trump allies push for campaign shake-up to revive president’s imperiled reelection bid” via Ashley Parker, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Some Trump advisers and allies are privately pushing for sweeping changes to the campaign, including the idea of a major staff shake-up and trying to convince the president to be more disciplined in his message and behavior. But so far, the campaign has settled only on incremental changes, such as hiring and elevating a handful of operatives who worked on Trump’s upset victory in 2016 and has yet to settle on a clear message for his reelection. Campaign officials and other advisers are also still struggling with how to best focus their attacks on Biden, which so far has been scattershot and failed to curb his rise among voters.

Trump’s July Fourth celebration: No tanks, lots of planes” via Lara Seligman of POLITICO — Trump‘s second annual Independence Day celebration will feature one major change from last year: It will have no tanks or other military equipment on static display in the nation’s capital, according to two defense officials. Defense Secretary Mark Esper last week approved an Interior Department request for the 2020 “Salute to America,” providing aerial, musical and ceremonial support to the day’s events, said Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesperson. This year, the festivities will also include a flyover of Mount Rushmore as well as an “aerial salute” to several cities that played roles in the American Revolution.

Donald Trump’s July 4 celebrations will be heavy on planes, light on tanks. Image via AP.

More than 18,000 mail ballots not counted in Florida’s March presidential primary” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — More than 18,000 Floridians who voted by mail in March’s presidential primary did not have their votes counted, according to an analysis done by a group of national elections experts and academics. The numbers of uncounted mail ballots, while relatively small, could prove crucial come November. The youngest voters were most likely during the March presidential preference primary to have their ballots not counted, the analysis found, with 3.56% of mail ballots submitted by people aged 18 to 29 being rejected, nearly three times the overall rejection rate.


Florida’s coronavirus outbreak complicates Republican convention, Trump’s reelection bid” via David Smiley and Francesca Chambers of the Miami Herald — When Vice President Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, returns to Florida Thursday, he’ll find a much different situation than when he last visited in late May. Florida at the time was reopening restaurants and gyms. Politicians were paving the way for the Republican National Convention to relocate from Charlotte. And the state — a must-win this November for Trump — was hailed by Fox News anchors as a conservative success story. But as Pence prepares to return to Florida to reassess the situation, the state’s coronavirus outbreak is escalating to new levels, complicating Trump’s reelection campaign and clouding the outlook for the convention.

When VP Mike Pence visits Florida, it will be entirely different from his last visit.

Jacksonville to order mask-wearing ahead of GOP convention” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Jacksonville, where the Republican National Convention is slated to be held in August, is planning to institute a citywide mask order to stem the spread of coronavirus. The announcement, scheduled for noon, requires indoor-mask wearing only, not an outside mandate that other local governments in Florida have passed. Jacksonville is unlike any other municipality in the state because the sprawling city essentially encompasses all of Duval County in northeast Florida. “Healthcare experts say it mitigates risk and city hall learned military installations in Jacksonville are mandating it as well,” a source said of Lenny Curry’s thinking.


3 Marion County electeds back Ryan Chamberlin for CD 3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Chamberlin picked up a trio of endorsements in his bid for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. The new backers: Marion County Tax Collector George Albright, Sen. Dennis Baxley and former Marion County Commissioner Mike Amsden. “Ryan Chamberlain is a businessman and family man with the real-world experience so desperately needed today in Washington. We need someone who clearly understands what Congressional action means for working families back home, and Ryan fits the bill,” Albright said. The nods bolster Chamberlin’s support within Marion, which is home to about a fifth of the district’s 209,000 Republicans.

Ryan Chamberlin nabbed a trio of key Marion County endorsements.

Scott Franklin’s congressional bid scrambles Polk Republicans’ support for Ross Spano” via Gary White of The Ledger — The Harrell family’s financial support helped U.S. Rep. Spano gain office in 2018, and when Spano launched his reelection campaign the Harrells again opened their checkbooks. Jack Harrell, a prominent backer of local Republicans, contributed $2,700 to Spano’s campaign last August, and three months later his son, Will Harrell, gave $250. Now, though, the Harrells are putting their money behind a candidate seeking to deny Spano a bid for a second term in Congress — Franklin, a Lakeland City Commissioner who surprised many by entering the Republican primary for District 15 in March.

— “Franklin works quickly to balance money disadvantage” via Gary White of The Ledger

— “Interview: Democratic primary candidates for state Senate, District 9” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board

Endorsement: For Florida Senate, Tina Polsky better suited than Irv Slosberg for issues we face” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Florida Senate District 29 seat came open late. Incumbent Kevin Rader, a Democrat, announced three weeks before the June 12 qualifying deadline that he would not seek a new term. Rader wants state Rep. Polsky to succeed him. One day after Rader’s announcement, Polsky abandoned her reelection campaign for the House District 81 seat and switched to the Senate race. Then Slosberg filed on the same day to run in the Aug. 18 primary. This moment in Florida, however, demands new thinking to deal with COVID-19 and racial injustice. Polsky is more prepared to supply it. Slosberg’s history is one of self-promotion. Given the challenges ahead, the Legislature needs someone with solutions for these times.

Happening tonight:

Anna Eskamani endorses Omari Hardy as he seeks to oust Al Jacquet in HD 88” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Eskamani is backing a challenger to one of her House colleagues, as she is endorsing Hardy in House District 88. Hardy currently serves as a Lake Worth Beach Commissioner and is competing against incumbent Rep. Jacquet in the HD 88 Democratic primary. On Monday, Eskamani called Hardy “a passionate advocate for his community and a true fighter” who leads with “integrity, thoughtfulness, [and] carries with him a deep commitment to service and a focus on delivering results.” Hardy and Jacquet have been combative throughout the primary season. In February, Jacquet was forced to apologize after directing an anti-gay slur at Hardy.

Broward Teachers Union endorses Brian C. Johnson in HD 101” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Broward Teachers Union is endorsing Democratic candidate Johnson in the race for House District 101. “As your State Representative, I won’t stop fighting until all teachers and school personnel across the state are paid like the heroes they are and are given adequate tools to educate our children,” Johnson said. “The Broward Teachers Union can be confident that they’ll have an experienced and fearless representative with them in Tallahassee.” Johnson also touted his own experience helping turn around Sunland Park Academy in Fort Lauderdale. Just five years ago, that facility was an F-rated school.

Future Florida Republican House leader attacked by PAC funded by current House Speaker” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — A political committee that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by outgoing Republican Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva is attacking future House Republican leader Daniel Anthony Perez over a trip he took several years ago to Cuba. Mailers and social media ads calling Perez “a Disgrace to Republicans and Our Exile Community” hit mailboxes in Miami and Facebook news feeds in recent days. The ads were produced by Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership, which has $400,000 since May from Conservative Principles for Florida, a political committee chaired by Oliva. Perez and Oliva declined to comment.

Ad seeks to link former Sheriff Scott Israel with Trump and hammers him for ties to Roger Stone” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A campaign ad for Sheriff Gregory Tony is reminding Broward Democratic primary voters of former Sheriff Israel’s ties to Stone, the notorious political dirty trickster and decadeslong associate of Trump. Driving home the point, the ad hints at a connection between Israel and Trump. It shows a picture of a smiling Trump and Israel. The president is giving his familiar thumbs-up sign and so is Israel. The hard-hitting mailer is among a half-dozen mailers so far produced by a Tony political committee, Broward First.

Epilogue — Andrew Gillum fundraising panel spends $52K on crisis management after Miami Beach incident” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gillum‘s fundraising panel has spent just over $52,000 on a high-powered New Jersey PR firm that specializes in crisis management since he was found in a Miami Beach hotel room with drugs and an alleged male escort. Forward Florida, the political committee that helped fund Gillum’s unsuccessful 2018 run paid the amount in three installments to MWW Group LLC between March 31 and June 15. That’s on top of more than $1 million in legal fees he’s spent dealing with an ongoing federal investigation of his gubernatorial campaign and a Massachusetts nonprofit.


DeSantis makes good on his promise” via the Sun Port Charlotte — Give DeSantis credit for keeping his word and pushing through a significant raise for our teachers. With the coronavirus pandemic taking a huge bite of Florida’s revenues, there were some anxious moments the past couple of months whether or not the highly anticipated pay raise for teachers would actually happen. Losses in sales tax revenues could siphon as much as $4 billion from the state’s projected income by fall. Since state businesses, including the theme park money machines, began shutting down, the state has lost around $500 million a month in revenue. It had lawmakers scratching their heads how the losses would be made up. The one-time $900 million budget request for teachers shrunk to $500 million and some questioned if even that would be a pandemic victim.

Joe Henderson: If COVID-19 taught anything, it’s not to hold graduation ceremonies” via Florida Politics — The question is whether Florida high school students in the class of 2020 should proceed with in-person graduations in the face of COVID-19. The answer is simple, and it’s not multiple choice. No, they should not. Yeah, that stinks. It also stunk for advocates of $1 billion worth of programs eliminated Monday by DeSantis. This year, almost everyone loses. Hillsborough County has a tentative graduation schedule for 37 schools beginning July 8. The vast majority are scheduled for the Florida State Fairgrounds. And even with social distancing and other restrictions, it’s not a stretch to see how COVID-19 can spread there. “I would probably say it’s not a good idea to do this,” Hillsborough School Board member Steve Cona said.


Florida’s Department of Health reported more than 5,200 cases of coronavirus Monday — which was good news (in a perverse sort of way). We’ve averaged more than 9,000 new cases for each of the past three days, so 5,000 seems kind of tame, given the circumstances.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The state reported 28 additional fatalities Monday, bringing the state’s total number of COVID-19 deaths to at least 3,546.

— Gov. DeSantis finally issued his line-item vetoes for the new state budget, which takes effect tomorrow — slicing more than a billion dollars from the bottom line.

— Those vetoes intend to beef up state reserves that have taken a hit during the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. But Democrats in the legislature are fuming, upset they had no say in the process.

— Sunrise takes a deep dive into the Governor’s budget cuts — and the cuts he did not make — as well as the reaction from Democrats who were cut out of the process.

— And the latest with Florida Man, who removed his pants when asked to cover his face with a mask. And the guy yelling “white power” in that video retweeted by the President? Guess which state he’s from.

To listen, click on the image below:


— ALOE —

Cirque Du Soleil could open this fall in Disney Springs, even as company files bankruptcy” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — The new Cirque Du Soleil show at Disney Springs could potentially open this fall while the Montreal-based circus arts show company seeks to reorganize financially under U.S. Chapter 15 bankruptcy laws. Cirque du Soleil filed for creditor protection in Canada on Monday while it develops a plan to restart its business amid the pandemic. The company said it has terminated 3,480 employees who had been furloughed since March but expects to resume its resident shows in Orlando and Las Vegas before the company shows start up.

Historic steam engine rides again in Clewiston” via Stephanie Byrne of WINK — A 100-year-old steam engine has been given new life with an eco-friendly twist in Southwest Florida. From the bell to the whistle, engine number 148 attracts attention. “People across the country, rail fans, followed the progress. They posted pictures, video, she has her own Facebook page,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs at U.S. Sugar. The Clewiston-based company repurchased and restored the 100-year-old steam locomotive in 2016, calling it the “Sugar Express.” “We start up the locomotive with diesel and then we switch it over to recycled vegetable oil as soon as it comes up to temperature,” said Bob Lawson, general manager of harvesting and railroad operations at U.S. Sugar and South Central Florida Express.

A century-old steam engine gets a new, eco-friendly life in Clewiston. Image via Fox4Now.

Jack Kerouac’s St. Petersburg home has been sold” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — or the first time in more than five decades, the St. Petersburg home at 5169 10th Ave. N is not directly linked to Kerouac or his family. Kerouac’s family sold the late beatnik writer’s retirement home on Friday for $220,000 to a company that specializes in flipping houses. There had been yearslong negotiations between the family and a local nonprofit that wanted to turn the 1,760-square-foot house into a writer’s retreat dedicated to the On The Road author. But the group could not come up with the money in time. At their request, a local nonprofit, Friends of the Jack Kerouac House, became the home’s caretakers in 2013 and held fundraisers to pay for the upkeep. Two years later, the owner offered to sell it to the nonprofit for $500,000.


Celebrating today are Reps. Travis Cummings and Erin Grall. Best wishes to Adam’s better half, Beth Babington, Kelly Mallette, and Carrie DiMuzio Madden.


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

Peter Schorsch

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.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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