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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.9.20

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

First, let me be clear: COVID-19 is nothing to trifle with.

For many, a quarantine (voluntary or not) can be a royal pain — little or no contact with friends, family, or the outside world. Yes, there are things like Netflix (with or without chill) video games and Zoom. But while teleconferencing is cool tech, it cannot quite replace the personal interaction that has, until now, fueled the business and political worlds.

Webinars are a poor substitute for an old-fashioned face-to-face with a firm handshake (or even a socially distant fist bump). It’s how things got done.

Nevertheless, for a handful of people, being under quarantine presents a golden opportunity — buckle down and crank out some serious blogging.

You can only guess which one I have been doing:

Fuzzy math: How did the Black Republican Caucus of Florida snag a PPP loan?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — On the list was a group called the Black Republican Caucus of Florida, which has no connection to the Republican Party of Florida. The caucus filed as an IRC 527 — an IRS designation for political organizations. That alone makes the caucus ineligible for any SBA loan, including PPP. As stated in the IRS form, the Black Republican Caucus of Florida is required to report financial data to the state, which they’ve done sporadically at best. What little they reported should not have qualified the group for the $150,000-to-$350,000 loan through the PPP. If it was paying out even a fraction they claimed on their PPP application, they would have been forced to report it to the IRS long ago.

Ross Spano doubles down on rule-breaking Facebook ads” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Spano’s campaign defended its use of more than $117,000 in public money to buy ads featuring Spano’s face and political messages, not by denying they were political, but by pointing to their technical legality. “Had anyone bothered to do the least bit of research, they would have known that we are currently under a House Administration exception which allows for COVID-19 communications with our constituents,” Spano’s communications director, Daniel Bucheli, told the Lakeland Ledger. That’s rich, considering that if anyone involved with Spano’s 2018 congressional campaign did “the least bit of research” on campaign finance law, the Congressman wouldn’t be under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Florida Bar for accepting illegal campaign loans.

Ross Spano with more shady campaign shenanigans. This time, it’s Facebook ads.

Who’s funding Frank Blanco’s HD 44 campaign?” via Florida Politics — Blanco, one of two Republicans vying to unseat Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson, last filed a campaign finance report for the reporting period ending May 31. Blanco is no fundraising all-star. Between his entry into the race in January 2019 and his most recent report, covering May, he had raised just $915 and spent nothing. His campaign also made the ballot by paying the $1,781 qualifying fee, meaning his campaign had either raised or been lent nearly double what it’s reporting. But there’s more evidence of undisclosed spending and, by extension, undisclosed contributions. According to the Facebook Ad Library, an archive of ad data for the platform, Blanco’s campaign has made $2,033 in ad buys since he entered the race.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@realDonaldTrump: I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!

@CarlosGSmith: Great. He’s lowered the health and safety standards for our kids and teachers. I guess #MAGA.

@GovRonDeSantis: @FLCaseyDeSantis & I mourn the loss of Wayne Mixson, a WWII veteran who served as Lt. Governor and Governor of Florida & was appointed U.S. Ambassador under President Jimmy Carter. We extend our condolences to his family as our state and country celebrate his leg

@nikkifried: After nearly 4 months of this pandemic, what is clear is that @GovRonDeSantis is not going to be the leader Florida needs at this time. We are the epicenter of the virus now. Cases continue to rise, ICU beds are nearly at capacity, we are doing no contact tracing.

@JamesGrantFL: She does realize she’s in the Florida Cabinet and not in the cheap seats or on the sidelines, right? I mean, does she ever get tired of doing nothing but complaining about every single thing the Governor does? Or does she think that’s what the Ag Commissioner’s responsibility is?

@senpizzo: A political org. has avenues to fundraise that a small biz doesn’t. While legal &/or ethical concerns should give pause to seek/accept PPP, they should promptly return the $$, and refrain from partisan slights which only serve to impugn the integrity of one’s party. #afewFLDems

@Alan4Florida: Congratulations to the Family of Charles Evans as the @CityofTLH City Commission has officially renamed Chapman Pond to Dr. Charles Evans Pond. The late Dr. Charles Evans was a past president of @NAACPTLH & a mentor & professor of mine at @FAMUSBI — Gr8 Job City of Tallahassee

@CheesyBread9: Bradenton trending for a church selling a bleach cure is the most Manatee County thing ever

— DAYS UNTIL —

Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 2; Disney World Epcot &Hollywood Studios to reopen — 6; Federal taxes due — 6; MLB starts — 14; WNBA starts — 15; PLL starts — 16; TED conference rescheduled — 17; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 19; NBA season restart in Orlando — 22; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 22; NHL resumes — 23; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 40; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 41; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 43; Indy 500 rescheduled — 45; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 46; NBA draft lottery — 47; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 50; U.S. Open begins — 53; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 57; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 58; Rescheduled date for French Open — 73; First presidential debate in Indiana — 82; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 85; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 86; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 90; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 96; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 98; NBA draft — 99; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 99; NBA free agency — 102; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 105; 2020 General Election — 117; “Black Widow” premieres — 122; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 126; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 134; “No Time to Die” premieres — 134; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 145; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 167; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 213; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 379; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 387; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 484; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 582; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 624; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 666; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 820.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

COVID-19 spreading faster in Florida than almost anywhere in U.S.” via Andrew Boryga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — COVID-19 is spreading across Florida faster than anywhere except Arizona, and deaths in the state will likely surpass 4,000 by Thursday. On a per capita basis, Florida has logged 314 cases per 100,000 residents over the last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only Arizona fares worse, with 426 cases per 100,000 residents. States across the South and Southwest have seen the most growth per capita. Florida, the third most populous state, leads the nation with the most new cases overall over the past seven days, according to the CDC data, and is trailed closely by California, Texas and Arizona.

Coronavirus is now spreading faster in Florida than just about anywhere else.

Florida adds nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases as total deaths approach 4,000” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — With 48 coronavirus deaths recorded, Florida inched closer to 4,000 dead from the virus statewide. Since the state’s first recorded coronavirus case in March, there have been 3,991 deaths. The state also added 9,989 new infections. The single-day record is more than 11,000. Statewide, 223,782 people have been infected with the virus. About 11% of Florida’s population has been tested for the virus, with the average percentage of positive tests rising. Of the 48 deaths recorded Wednesday, one was a 24-year-old man in Escambia County, the ninth death statewide of anyone 24 or younger.

Ron DeSantis finds safe space on ‘Hannity’ — Facing a rise in case numbers and increased criticism in the media, DeSantis went to his safe space on Fox News’ “The Sean Hannity Show.” As reported by Matt Dixon and Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, Tuesday marked DeSantis’ 10th appearance on the network since the pandemic hit the state. Hannity used DeSantis’ Tuesday appearance to criticize Democrats, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for his early decision to send elderly coronavirus-positive patients back to nursing homes. Hannity also remarked on Florida’s low coronavirus death rate, though his statistics were only partially correct.

Truce? New York to help Florida in COVID-19 fight” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — After months of viral squabbling between Albany and Tallahassee, it appears that there will be a truce between the Governors of Florida and New York. New York Gov. Cuomo said his state was going to send resources to hard-hit Florida to help fight coronavirus in a press briefing Wednesday. “You’re seeing a tremendous spike. Some hospitals are running out of ICUS, which is a really frightening situation to be in,” Cuomo said. “Whatever they need, Florida has said they might need assistance from us, whatever they need, we’ll provide.” The gubernatorial disclosure came less than 24 hours after DeSantis appeared on Hannity’s show, which (ironically) explored the theme of “How Florida Succeeded where New York Failed” in the coronavirus fight.

Ron DeSantis may have called a truce with New York, for mutual cooperation. Image via Fox News Channel

Top Senate Democrat presses for more COVID-19 data and transparency” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson is calling for the state to release more COVID-19 data in a letter to DeSantis Wednesday. Florida has seen a skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases since the start of June, including nearly 10,000 more reported Wednesday morning. And along with the rising cases has come rising complaints that the state hasn’t been as transparent as it could be. The letter is just the latest punch Democrats have thrown at the Governor throughout the pandemic or even this week. Gibson, the outgoing Democratic Leader, said there is now a spotlight on “the adequacy and quality of public health information forthcoming from (the DeSantis) administration.”

Coronavirus lawsuits in Florida” via Amy Martinez of Florida Trend — International law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth says nearly 2,400 lawsuits related to the coronavirus were filed in federal and state courts nationwide in March, April and May. Miami-based cruise lines face a slew of lawsuits claiming they didn’t do enough to protect passengers and workers from exposure to the coronavirus. Students at the University of Miami are demanding tuition refunds in the wake of school closures, saying remote learning doesn’t measure up to the classroom experience. Insurers are being sued for allegedly reneging on their coverage obligations, and there’s been a spike in breach-of-contract disputes stemming from business disruption and social lockdowns. Meanwhile, hotels, restaurants and retailers are keeping their lawyers handy should customers and employees catch the virus and sue.

Will Florida cancel school tests again in 2021?” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — With concerns growing over COVID-19, Florida canceled its annual student exams in March, in part so teachers could focus on lessons rather than test preparation as they moved to remote classes. The quick action gave hope to critics of the state’s test-based accountability system that perhaps the model was on its last legs. Several participants in a webinar with the Department of Education’s chief of staff wanted to know, is Florida planning to seek another waiver of federal annual testing requirements? “No, we are not,” department chief of staff Alex Kelly told the group. “We’re not planning on submitting that.”

A computer simulation shows how different strategies could stem coronavirus” via Tapas Das, Hanisha Tatapudi, Rachita Das and Peter Fabri of the Tampa Bay Times — A team at the University of South Florida’s Department of Industrial Engineering used a detailed computer simulation model to obtain trajectories of actual and reported number of infected cases and deaths for the biggest urban epicenter of cases in Florida. The simulation model replicated hour by hour social interaction behavior at home, school, work and community places for each of 2.8 million people. The model considers a large number of parameters to account for census reported demographics, virus characteristics and the social interventions. The model showed that the pandemic would have ended by Aug. 1 under a continued lockdown with stay-at-home order.

— CORONA LOCAL —

South Florida adds record 4,695 new COVID-19 cases, nearing the 100K mark overall” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida’s tri-county area added a daily record of 4,695 new COVID-19 cases, according to the latest report. More than 2,900 of those cases came from Miami-Dade County alone. The report covers data from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning. Nearly 96,000 individuals throughout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have now tested positive since the outbreak began, positioning the region to cross 100,000 total cases in either Thursday’s or Friday’s report. The record for daily coronavirus cases is in part due to testing capacity in the region being near its all-time daily peak. The share of positive tests remains near its levels in previous days, though those levels are still dangerously high.

Despite state order, Miami-Dade will not reopen schools until county enters Phase 2” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County Public Schools won’t be able to reopen schools, as a new state order calls for, if the county is still in its Phase 1 reopening stage, which county leaders are tightening due to a surge of COVID-19 cases, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. If conditions continue on the same upward trajectory, Florida’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have doubled in the past two weeks to more than 213,000, Carvalho said in an interview with the Herald that he did not foresee MDCPS “being able to resume schooling in a traditional way.” If the county is still in Phase 1 by the start of school Aug. 24, as it is now, schooling would be held entirely online.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will not open schools until the county enters Phase Two of reopening.

Miami Mayor calls for national mask mandate ahead of Donald Trump trip” via Denise Pellegrini of Bloomberg — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said a national or state-level mask mandate would have obvious benefits, making the declaration on a week when Trump is expected to visit South Florida. “To me, it’s no different from requiring somebody to wear a seat belt when they drive their car,” Suarez said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s not guaranteed to save your life, but it dramatically increases your chances.” There are already mask mandates in Miami and Miami-Dade, the surrounding county. Trump has mostly declined to wear a mask in public. Suarez said he expected deaths to rise as COVID-19 cases spread in Florida.

Hospitals prep as coronavirus caseload continued to climb” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — Bethesda Hospital East and West, both in Boynton Beach, and Boca Raton Regional Hospital are “temporarily rescheduling elective procedures,” spokesman Michael Maucker said. The three hospitals, owned by Baptist Health South Florida, are rescheduling surgeries that require overnight stays, he said. St. Mary’s Medical Center is again pre-screening patients at a tent outside its campus on 45th Street in West Palm Beach. A spokesman for Tenet Healthcare, which operates it and four other medical centers in the county, said there are no plans to cancel elective surgeries. On Wednesday, as the number of cases nationally surpassed 3 million, cases statewide continued to climb.

The COVID-19 ‘cure’ sold by a Florida father and his three sons is toxic bleach, federal prosecutors in Miami say” via Wayne K. Roustan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A 62-year-old Bradenton man and his three sons are facing federal charges in Miami for allegedly peddling a toxic bleach as a cure for COVID-19. Mark Grenon and sons Jonathan Grenon, 34, Jordan Grenon, 26, and Joseph Grenon, 32, are accused of manufacturing, promoting, and selling their Miracle Mineral Solution as a coronavirus treatment even though the ingredients are typically used for industrial water treatment or bleaching textiles, pulp, and paper, according to court documents. They are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to violate the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and criminal contempt.

Restaurants will remain open in Broward County, but with tighter restrictions” via Angie Dimichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The kitchen is still open in Broward County. Rather than close restaurants to cope with surging cases of COVID-19, the county decided Wednesday to just tighten restrictions. Restaurants will be required to limit tables to six people for indoor dining, which must close by 10 p.m., under an order Wednesday from County Administrator Bertha Henry. The new rules will take effect Friday, Mayor Dale Holness announced. Establishments that violate the order will be closed for 24 hours. Each additional violation will require the restaurant to close for an added 72 hours for each violation. Vacation rentals also will have stricter rules, Holness said, because they are being used to host parties.

Broward County restaurants will reopen, but with more restrictions. Image via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Health experts urge PBC schools to keep classrooms closed as reopening debate intensifies” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — A key panel of health experts has advised Palm Beach County public schools not to reopen campuses until the coronavirus pandemic improves, raising the likelihood that most students will learn from home when the academic year begins in August. Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy announced the committee’s recommendation at a school board meeting as district leaders briefed board members on their ongoing reopening plans. The health advisory committee, Fennoy said, “stated emphatically on Monday that, based on the current number of COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County, members could not recommend in-person instruction at this time.” Board members are not expected to make a final decision on reopening plans for the district’s roughly 180 campuses until next week.

PBC school campuses will remain closed to students, board members decide” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Students in Palm Beach County public schools will continue learning from home when classes resume next month after school board members concluded Wednesday the risks of reopening classrooms were too great. Under increasing pressure from teachers and local health experts, the seven board members unanimously agreed to keep classes online-only for the district’s 174,000 students until the coronavirus pandemic improves. “We’re truly not ready,” board member Marcia Andrews said. “We’re not ready from a health standpoint. And we’re not ready from a planning standpoint.”

Bradenton tourism marketing under review after ‘make a break’ ad appeared in Miami” via James A. Jones Jr. of the Miami Herald — A full-page color ad that was purchased in early June appeared Sunday in the Miami Herald, with the theme “Make a Break for It,” pitching Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key as destinations for those weary of staying inside their houses. It was a bit of bad timing with the ad appearing the same weekend that beaches were closed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and the Florida Keys to discourage large crowds from gathering. Local tourism marketing efforts have been focused on the drive market, pulling from Florida and other nearby states. Travel by air is slowly recovering but is nowhere close to its pre-pandemic volume at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport and major airports around the United States.

— MORE LOCAL —

Orange County, Central Florida may be plateauing on COVID-19 cases” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The numbers of Orlando-area people testing positive for the COVID-19 disease may have plateaued and shown signs of declining in recent days, according to COVID-19 reports from the Florida Department of Health. The most recent state report, issued Wednesday morning, shows 426 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Orange County and 983 throughout the six-county Central Florida region in the 24 hours since Tuesday’s report. That continues a tentative trend that began in the first days of July for Central Florida, Orange and several other counties, of slightly downward slopes in the seven-day averages of new cases confirmed.

AdventHealth sees surge in COVID-19 admissions, shifts staff for ‘Phase 2 emergency’” via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — The number of COVID-19 patients at AdventHealth hospitals has “grown significantly over the last week,” so the system is activating an emergency plan for more doctors to deal with the surge, it said in an email. “As we predicted in May, the Central Florida area is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 admissions,” said the email sent Tuesday night. “ … We are identifying additional needs and potential sources for additional clinicians in the coming weeks.” The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has been steadily growing across Florida in the past several weeks, following the phased reopening of the state, and more hospitals are filling up their regular and ICU beds, although they say that’s partly because of their return to normal operations.

OUC urged not to disconnect utility customers under pandemic’s financial stress” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — An alliance of 52 civic, social justice and other groups are calling on Orlando’s Mayor and utility to take stock of the region’s financial distress from the pandemic and to delay a planned restart Tuesday of disconnecting customers for nonpayment. The alliance noted that Orlando Utilities Commission is offering payment-assistance plans but that disconnecting residents can “leave already financially burdened families facing late fees, reconnection fees, and other hidden costs that intensify financial hardships.”

Orange-Osceola public defender didn’t take coronavirus safety seriously, some employees say” via Monivette Cordiero of the Orlando Sentinel — Several attorneys who work for the 9th Circuit Public Defender’s Office say they’ve been treated as “expendable” by the agency during the coronavirus pandemic and put at risk by lax safety protocols and in-person visits with inmates, some not wearing masks. Five lawyers, who asked not to be named because of fear of retaliation, told the Orlando Sentinel they decided to speak out after Public Defender Bob Wesley in a June 25 interview blamed infections at his office on employees who “let their guard down” during their personal time and claimed jail visits were being conducted over video, though his office’s video system had been down for weeks.

According to some employees, 9th Circuit Public Defender Robert Wesley did not take coronavirus as seriously as he should. Now he is blaming infections on employees.

Cocoa Beach requires masks at indoor public locations to slow coronavirus spread” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — Cocoa Beach has joined Satellite Beach as the Space Coast’s first communities adopting mask mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During a Tuesday night special meeting, the Cocoa Beach City Commission voted 3-2 to approve an emergency order requiring people to wear face coverings at indoor public locations. “People need to take responsibility for not infecting other people, and they may not even know they have it,” Vice-Mayor Mike Miller said. Copies of the emergency order shall be posted on the entry doors of all Cocoa Beach indoor businesses. Mask exceptions include children younger than age 2, people with health conditions who would be impaired by masks, and people eating and drinking at restaurants.

Collier tourism advisory board asks commissioners to take another look at masks requirement” via Patrick Riley of the Naples Daily News — A majority of Collier County commissioners last week showed little interest in requiring masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus even as cases continue to rise rapidly. But now the polarizing topic is expected to come back before commissioners Tuesday. The county’s Tourism Development Council during an emergency meeting voted 4-3 to recommend that the commission take up the issue again but stopped short of recommending that commissioners enact a mask requirement. The TDC requested that the benefit of requiring masks be further vetted and considered as part of a solution to the increasing spread of the virus and the decreasing tourism industry’s revenues as a result.

What will Escambia County schools look like in the fall? Families have 3 choices.” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — The Escambia County School District is providing three options for families this school year: “traditional” in-person classes, “remote” classes that follow a standard school schedule and “virtual” classes that allow students to work largely independently. The district is urging parents to review the three options and select the one that makes them most comfortable by July 20. Students will be unable to change their instructional model for an entire nine-week grading period, and families who don’t submit a choice will default to the traditional model. Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said in a news conference that for families who choose to attend classes on campus, masks would be recommended but not required, and social distancing would be impossible in many situations.

Florida teen COVID-19 victim received unproven treatment at home before dying at hospital, report says” via Frank Gluck of the News-Press — The family of a 17-year-old Lee County girl who died last month from COVID-19 treated her symptoms at home for nearly a week before taking her to a hospital, a medical examiner’s report concludes. The home care included giving the girl unproven drugs and putting her on an oxygen tank used by her grandfather. Carsyn Leigh Davis died June 23 as Lee County’s youngest victim of the novel coronavirus. Nearly two weeks before her death she had attended a 100-person church function and, according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office, “She did not wear a mask. Social distancing was not followed.”

Carsyn Leigh Davis died of COVID-19 after her family tried unproven treatments for nearly a week before taking her to a hospital.

Pensacola hospitals see 10% spike in COVID-19 patients over last 24 hours” via the Pensacola News Journal — The number of people with COVID-19 admitted into Escambia County’s three hospitals increased Wednesday by more than 10% over the previous day. A total of 137 people with COVID-19 are currently being treated at Ascension Sacred Heart, Baptist Hospital and West Florida Hospital, according to data from the hospitals reported on the city of Pensacola’s COVID-19 dashboard. That’s an increase of 13 people from the daily hospitalization numbers reported Tuesday (124). The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pensacola hospitals has increased steadily since the first of the month — surging nearly 78% from July 1 to July 8.

Pinellas teachers’ union leader: Don’t rush to open schools” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite the state order to open brick-and-mortar schools five days a week, teachers in Pinellas County are urging the school district to hold back as long as the coronavirus causing COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly through the community. The letter, by Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Nancy Velardi, calls for an all-virtual school model, followed by a hybrid model serving smaller numbers of students at a time, as long as the virus is a threat. In making this request, Velardi focused on one word in Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s order: Flexibility.

New school, 634 houses, 96 townhomes: Santa Rosa to tackle 3 controversial zoning requests” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — The Santa Rosa County Zoning Board is set to take up three controversial rezoning requests Thursday night, including a new school near an already congested residential area in Midway, a 634-lot housing development in Milton and the addition of townhomes to an already hotly contested single-family housing development in Gulf Breeze. The issues are roiling county residents in both the south and central parts of Santa Rosa County, many of whom are echoing claims they’ve made for the past two years about overdevelopment, lack of infrastructure and traffic nightmares.

Order to fully reopen schools throws St. Johns County School leaders for a loop” via Christen Kelley of The Florida Times-Union — The St. Johns County School District is still figuring out how the order to fully reopen schools could impact their plans for the fall. The order does allow for schools to close if the local health department deems it necessary. School board members expressed their frustration during a workshop Tuesday. “I’m disappointed in the Commissioner and Governor for waiting until July 6 to send this down after schools have been struggling all summer long to figure out what to do and which direction to go,” School Board member Beverly Slough said. Superintendent Tim Forson was supposed to present an update on reopening schools during a school board workshop Tuesday but said the district needs clarification on the order before presenting any new details.

St. Lucie receives $13.8M from CARES Act to help residents affected by COVID-19” via Keona Gardner of the TC Palm — Money from the federal CARES Act is available to residents for car payments, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and car, homeowners and flood insurance of those financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, county officials said. Overall, the county is eligible to receive about $55.5 million. The state is giving St. Lucie County 25% initially, or about $13.8 million, with the remaining 75%, or about $41.6 million, held for future use, said Ron Parrish, county public-safety director. Under a Phase 1 plan announced Wednesday, residents could receive up to $4,000 to pay for bills but would have to show proof of past-due bills.

Seminole officials warn hospitals may become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Faced with a record number of hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19, Seminole County health officials expressed concerns that hospitals in the county may soon reach capacity and become overwhelmed in the coming weeks following the Fourth of July weekend, a time when many people gathered to celebrate. On Tuesday, Seminole reported 203 patients being treated for COVID in the county’s four hospitals, including Advent Health Altamonte Springs, Central Florida Regional in Sanford, Oviedo Medical Center and Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital in Longwood. That’s 40 more patients than the previous record set July 4, when 163 patients were hospitalized in the county.

Target employees at Tallahassee North store test positive for COVID-19 virus” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Multiple employees have tested positive for coronavirus at a Target in northeast Tallahassee. A company spokesman didn’t say how many employees were affected at the Bannerman area-store. “We’re working in close partnership with local health departments and can share that we’ve been notified that our Tallahassee North store has experienced multiple team member positive cases of the coronavirus,” Target spokesman Jake Anderson said. The Tallahassee North Target joins a growing number of retailers who’ve had employees test positive for the novel coronavirus. Other essential retailers and businesses, including grocery stores, have reported positive cases among its workforce.

Employees at a North Tallahassee Target store have tested positive for COVID-19.

Grand jury may not be seated until August due to coronavirus” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A grand jury — which is expected to take up three shootings by the Tallahassee Police Department and a high-profile double-murder case — may not be impaneled until late August due to the coronavirus pandemic. 2nd Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom issued a memo noting that due to the increase in coronavirus cases locally, a grand jury would not be convened this month. “The intent is to convene the Leon County grand jury on Aug. 31,” he wrote. The 21-member group was scheduled to convene July 20, after which it was likely to determine whether officers acted lawfully in three shootings since March and to weigh first-degree murder charges against Aaron Glee.

FAMU College of Law courses will remain online for the fall semester” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — All courses this fall at the FAMU College of Law in Orlando will be taught online, Dean Deidré Keller announced. Keller said the decision follows a recommendation by the College of Law Reopening Task Force. “While we recognize that this is a shift in direction, we have made this decision because we believe it is in the best interest of our students, faculty and staff,” Keller said in a news release. At the Florida State University College of Law, the current plan is to offer a hybrid approach, with some classes taught in person and others online. That could change, depending on the latest health indications.

Walton County high school graduation plans in flux with COVID-19” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Freeport High School seniors are balking at a proposal to make the school’s graduation ceremony a drive-in affair, a proposal recently made by school officials. The drive-in plan was advanced in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated public health guidance to maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing and not to gather in crowds of more than 50 people. But according to Donna Simmons, principal of Freeport High School, that’s not the only plan under consideration. Other possibilities include a virtual ceremony or even a face-to-face option with very limited attendance. “There has been nothing set in stone yet,” Simmons said, adding the school plans to have a specific plan in place next week.

— CORONA NATION —

Mike Pence says CDC changing school reopening guidelines after Trump called them ‘tough and expensive’” via Maureen Groppe of USA Today — The CDC is revising its guidance on reopening schools after Trump tweeted his disagreement with them, Pence said Wednesday. “The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence said at a news conference at the U.S. Department of Education. “That’s the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.” Trump also threatened to withhold funding from schools that don’t populate their classrooms this fall. Asked about that threat, Pence said the administration wants to include “incentives for states to go forward” in the next federal stimulus package.

After Donald Trump called reopening plans ‘tough and expensive,’ Mike Pence says the CDC will be changing guidelines.

Rookie RV drivers jam America’s roads — watch out” via Joe Barrett of The Wall Street Journal — The summer of COVID-19 has unleashed a wave of RV newbies, and American roads will never be the same. RV sales and rentals are surging as the first-timers get out and see the country or just visit family while avoiding airplanes, hotels, restaurants and even public bathrooms. Those new drivers of the big rigs can get into big trouble. Many RV drivers are making unforced errors, like trying to drive their RV through a drive-thru or cutting corners too tightly.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

United to warn 36,000 workers they could be laid off. Few are in South Florida” via David Koenig of the Miami Herald — United Airlines is warning 36,000 employees — nearly half its U.S. staff — they could be furloughed in October, the clearest signal yet of how deeply the virus pandemic is hurting the airline industry. The outlook for a recovery in air travel has dimmed in just the past two weeks, as infection rates rise in much of the U.S. and some states impose new quarantine requirements on travelers. United officials said Wednesday that they still hope to limit the number of layoffs by offering early retirement benefits. The notices going to employees this month are meant to comply with a 60-day warning ahead of mass job cuts. The airline said it doesn’t yet know how many South Florida employees would be affected.

United Airlines warns that they will lay off as many as 36,000 people, but few in South Florida.

From small eateries to giant firms: Businesses that received federal PPP loans revealed” via Annie Martin and Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — The Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration released for the first time this week a list of the businesses that received between $150,000 and $10 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans. That list, which the Trump administration initially refused to disclose, includes more than 40,000 loans to Florida businesses like mom-and-pop eateries, doctor’s offices, salons, private schools and churches, as well as large law firms and restaurant chains. Three Florida offices affiliated with prominent law firm Morgan & Morgan received at least $9 million from the program. GrayRobinson, the legal and lobbying firm now led by former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, received between $5 million and $10 million.

Town-owned businesses receive between $31.9 and $57.5 million in PPP loans” via Adriana Delgado of The Palm Beach Post — Data released Monday by the Small Business Administration shows that at least 60 businesses in Palm Beach are among a large list of recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program loans first approved by the federal government in April to provide incentives for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The Four Seasons Resort and Bruce Gendelman Company are among the ones that received the highest amount in loans at $2 to 5 million, while others such as Palm Beach Day Academy received $1 to $2 million. Florida has received approximately $25 billion in loans, while Palm Beach County allocated between $2.4 to $4.4 billion.

Pitbull school nabs at least $1 million in COVID-19 funds” via the News Service of Florida — Sports Leadership and Management, a sports-centered charter school in Miami whose founders include rap star Pitbull, received at least $1 million in interest-free federal loans to prevent layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to records released by the federal government. The charter school, known as SLAM, received a loan ranging between $1 and $2 million in April, data released by the federal Small Business Administration said. The school used the loan, which is part of the Paycheck Protection Program passed by Congress in April, to retain 220 jobs, according to the records. The federal program was designed to bolster businesses during the economic downturn caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pitbull’s company netted more than $1 million in PPP funds.

Tom Brady’s personal brand approved for PPP loan” via Mari Faiello of the Tampa Bay Times — Brady’s TB12 lifestyle brand received between $350,000 to $1 million, according to documents released by the Small Business Administration this week. A real estate business (Glazer Management) owned by the Glazer family, who in turn owns the Bucs, also received a loan in the same range. The company was classified as a sports industry on the loan application, but in a statement, the Bucs said the money was not used for the team. Brady, who signed a two-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $50 million this season, uses TB12 to promote health and wellness through various products and personal coaching sessions.

Florida lawmaker calls for political organizations to return PPP dollars” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Sen. Jason Pizzo called upon political organizations to return the federal money they received from the Paycheck Protection Program. “A political org. has avenues to fundraise that a small business doesn’t,” said the Democratic Senator from Miami-Dade County. “While legal &/or ethical concerns should give pause to seek/accept PPP, they should promptly return the $$, and refrain from partisan slights which only serve to impugn the integrity of one’s party.” Pizzo’s tweet was met with support by Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran of Miami-Dade and Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando. The rising chorus of Democrats comes after the federal PPP database revealed the Florida Democratic Party Building Fund applied for and received a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million to secure the jobs of 100 employees.

Looming trouble: Tallahassee may face coronavirus-caused city budget deficit for 2021” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — As they develop next year’s budget, Tallahassee city officials must defuse a time bomb — an estimated $23.4 million in lost revenue this year and a possible $7 million general fund deficit for 2021 caused by the coronavirus. City staff is recommending keeping the property tax rate at $4.1000 for every $1,000 in the upcoming fiscal year. Commissioners will discuss the proposed budget at a workshop 10 a.m. Wednesday. The pandemic brought revenue drops in numerous areas, including sales and gas taxes, utilities, parking, recreation and other services, public transit and flights. To combat the declines, city officials are likely to adjust their budgeted revenue, apply for relief funding and reduce internal spending. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Orlando hotelier Harris Rosen announces ‘substantial’ layoffs” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Rosen, one of the biggest hoteliers in Central Florida, is laying off a “substantial” number of workers effective July 31, another economic hit to the tourism industry struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. The company made the announcement in an emotionally worded news release Wednesday. Rosen spokeswoman Mary Deatrick could not immediately say how many people will be laid off but the release acknowledged it will be “a substantial reduction in workforce” across all its properties and departments. On Wednesday, a federally required notice of mass layoffs had not been filed yet.

Hotelier Harris Rosen announced ‘substantial’ layoffs at his massive Central Florida resort.

Brooks Brothers goes bust with business clothes losing favor” via Rick Clough and Jeremy Hill of Bloomberg — Brooks Brothers Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy, felled by the pandemic’s impact on clothing sales and its own heavy debt load. The two-century-old apparel company is the latest to succumb as lockdowns during the coronavirus outbreak add to the woes of old-line retailers. Neiman Marcus Group Inc., J. Crew Group Inc. and John Varvatos Enterprises Inc. each filed for bankruptcy since the virus took hold. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in Delaware allows Brooks Brothers to keep operating while it works out a plan to turn the business around and pay its debts. The company listed assets and liabilities of at least $500 million each in court papers and lined up a $75 million bankruptcy loan from WHP Global, owner of the Joseph Abboud and Anne Klein brands, according to a statement.

— MORE CORONA — 

Texas has record deaths; Ivy League cancels sports” via Bloomberg — Texas posted its second record day of virus deaths, at 98, bringing total fatalities in the state to 2,813. Virus cases rose 4.7% to 220,564, exceeding the seven-day average of 4%. The 9,979 new cases were second only to yesterday’s record of 10,028. The Ivy League is canceling sports competition for the upcoming semester because of health concerns about the pandemic, becoming the first Division I conference in the U.S. to scrap football. The decision will affect not only fall sports, including soccer, but winter sports also played in the semester, such as basketball.

The Ivy League won’t play football this fall. Will other schools, leagues follow their lead again?” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — When the Ivy League called off its conference basketball tournaments in March, it became a tipping point for college sports in the emerging coronavirus outbreak. Two days later, March Madness was canceled. So when the Ivy League announced Wednesday that it won’t play football or any other sports during the fall semester because of the pandemic, it led to this obvious question surrounding college athletics: Will major programs follow the Ivys lead again? Probably not. At least not yet. Football at schools like Clemson and LSU is not like football at Princeton, despite their shared Tigers nickname.

Why Israel is seeing a coronavirus spike after initially crushing the outbreak” via Steve Hendrix of The Washington Post — Israel’s deft handling of its coronavirus outbreak this spring won praise at home and abroad, but the virus has returned, with cases now increasing faster than ever and health officials warning that hospitals could be overwhelmed by the end of the month. Israelis across the political spectrum are asking what’s gone wrong and demanding to know how their government could have fumbled so badly after getting it so right. An Israeli official with knowledge of the pandemic response said government researchers have traced the bulk of new infections to a single category of activity: public gatherings, particularly weddings. Israel has begun to alert other governments about its findings on the peril of weddings, the official said.

Israeli health care workers speak with a man at a coronavirus testing center for migrants in Tel Aviv. Image via AP.

France can’t afford another lockdown if COVID-19 returns, PM says” via Ania Nussbaum of Bloomberg — France’s new government would seek to preserve the economy should a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic force it to bring back lockdown measures, Prime Minister Jean Castex said. “We won’t survive, economically and socially, an absolute and generalized lockdown,” Castex said, adding that he advocated more targeted restrictions. With the World Health Organization advising countries to prepare for the second wave of pandemic spread, it’s a balancing act that officials around the world are also contemplating. But with public finances already battered by the first wave, the trade-offs look increasingly bleak.

Rishi Sunak gambles 30 billion pounds on plan to save U.K. economy” via Alex Morales and David Goodman of Bloomberg — Sunak set out a 30 billion-pound ($37.6 billion) blueprint to save jobs and inject confidence into the U.K.’s coronavirus-battered economy. In a statement to Parliament, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced tax cuts on homebuying and dining out, and a new bonus program for employers who don’t fire their staff. “We face profound economic challenges,” the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House of Commons. “In just two months our economy contracted by 25%, the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.” With a budget due in the fall, Sunak signaled he will take further steps as he promised to do everything he can to save jobs and give families “hope” in the months ahead.

— SMOLDERING —

Police review panel clears final vote in Miami-Dade, but Carlos Giménez hints at veto” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Commissioners voted Wednesday to revive a civilian panel to investigate police misconduct, but not by the kind of wide margin needed to overcome a possible veto by Mayor Giménez. Thrust onto the agenda in response to the death of George Floyd, the legislation by Commissioner Barbara Jordan finds itself in the same place a similar bill landed two years ago. Commissioners approved activating the panel in 2018, but Giménez vetoed it. That scenario may be playing out again, with Gimenez expressing strong concerns about giving the panel subpoena power. On Wednesday, Giménez told Jordan he would have signed an earlier version of the panel bill but sees serious flaws in what Commissioners were about to pass.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez could stop plans to revive a civilian panel for investigating police misconduct. Image via the Miami Herald.

Lake Worth Beach commission sidesteps issue of renaming Dixie Highway” via Jorge Milan of The Palm Beach Post — An increasingly dysfunctional Lake Worth Beach city commission narrowly voted to put off a decision Tuesday on a resolution aimed at renaming Dixie Highway throughout Palm Beach County. The meeting, as has become customary in recent months for the five-person board, turned nasty and devolved into personal attacks, shouting, accusations and included a vague threat directed at Commissioner Omari Hardy by Mayor Pam Triolo. A proposal by Hardy on Tuesday’s agenda sought approval of a resolution “urging” county commissioners to rename Dixie Highway, which some say glorifies the nation’s racist history. Commissioner Herman Robinson agreed with Hardy, but Triolo, Vice Mayor Andy Amoroso and Commissioner Scott Maxwell rejected the idea, voting instead to approve Maxwell’s motion to solicit community feedback before proceeding.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump is heading to the coronavirus capital of Florida. Will he have to wear a mask?” via David Smiley, Nora Gamez Torres and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — With his polling numbers slipping to new depths and South Florida COVID-19 cases spiking to record heights, Trump plans to return to Miami-Dade County this week on a visit that will mix Latin America policy and campaign politics in the coronavirus epicenter of the nation’s biggest swing state. Trump is headed to the U.S. Southern Command in Doral Friday for an advance look at a planned counternarcotics operation in the Caribbean, according to the White House. Trump’s Doral trip, according to the White House, aims to highlight “his administration’s relentless, whole-of-government approach to curb the trafficking of drugs into our country.”

Will Donald Trump wear a face mask when he visits South Florida? Doubtful. Image via Getty.

More than 30,000 Cuban Americans ask Trump to reverse order to suspend immigration” via Mario J. Penton of the Miami Herald — More than 30,000 Cuban Americans have signed a petition requesting that Trump reverse a decree issued in June to suspend immigration from the island — including family reunifications — until the end of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic. “This proclamation is separating families, a lot of children, parents, spouses and brothers/sisters have been waiting long years to be reunited with their families,” said the petition posted on the White House’s “WE the PEOPLE” site. WE the PEOPLE is a section of the White House site for citizens to express their views. For a petition to be considered for review, at least 100,000 signatures must be collected within 30 days.

’I’m not welcome here’: Students, colleges shocked by Trump’s new visa rule” via Juan Perez and Max: of POLITICO — A pending order by the Trump administration to deport international students who take online-only courses at their colleges is part of a new level of political pressure to reopen schools in a few weeks. International students expressed shock at the news. “It gave me a feeling that I’m not welcome here, and that people don’t want us to be here,” said João Cardoso, a Yale University senior from Portugal. Prominent higher education groups said the impending rule to bar all international students taking online-only courses would have a chilling effect on American research and foreign policy, as well as a financial hit on colleges. An official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations described the prohibition as “cruel, dangerous and xenophobic.”

Harvard and MIT sue to stop Trump visa rules for foreign students” via Anemona Hartocollis and Miriam Jordan of The New York Times — Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration in federal court, seeking to block a directive that would strip foreign college students of their visas if the courses they take this fall are entirely online. The Massachusetts attorney general vowed to support Harvard and M.I.T.’s efforts to block the rules, which were announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who should not fear deportation or be forced to put their health and safety at risk in order to advance their education,” Maura Healey, the attorney general, said in a statement. “This decision from ICE is cruel, it’s illegal, and we will sue to stop it.”

Supreme Court backs religious rights in contraceptive, school cases” via Greg Stohr of Bloomberg — The U.S. Supreme Court struck two blows for religious rights, including a decision that upholds Trump administration rules giving employers a broad right to refuse to offer birth control through their health plans. The justices also gave religious organizations a bigger exemption from discrimination suits, throwing out bias claims filed by two teachers who were fired by Roman Catholic grade schools in California. Both decisions Wednesday were 7-2 as Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined the court’s five conservatives in the majority. The decisions came as the court said it will issue the last opinions of its term Thursday. Those will include rulings on subpoenas for Trump’s financial records from Congress and a New York grand jury.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell joins local leaders in call for coordinated action on COVID-19” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell, a member of the Congressional Coronavirus Task Force, responded to another record-breaking weekend in Florida by drafting a host of local leaders to sign on to a joint statement urging coordinated action against the COVID-19 pandemic by Florida’s government. Mucarsel-Powell was joined by state Sens. Annette Taddeo and José Javier Rodriguez, state Reps. Kionne McGhee and Javier Fernandez, county commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Dennis Moss, and the Mayors of several Florida cities.

In Roger Stone account sweep, Facebook dumps Jacob Engels” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Central Florida political blogger Engels and his Central Florida Post are among the dozens of people and organizations that have been removed from Facebook in the social medium’s effort to remove what it calls “disinformation accounts” associated with Stone. Stone, a longtime ally and adviser to Trump, was convicted in Nov. on seven counts of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness, and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election. He also has long been associated with organizations and individuals who profess a mixture of libertarian and conservative political and social views, which have produced and promoted what Facebook and others have characterized as false right-wing conspiracy theories and political disinformation.

For his relationship with Roger Stone, Facebook boots Central Florida blogger Jacob Engels.

Epilogue — “Judge sets bail for woman accused of charging Mar-a-Lago checkpoint” via Eliot Kleinberg of The Palm Beach Post — The Connecticut woman accused of charging a barrier at Mar-a-Lago in January, prompting the Secret Service and Palm Beach County sheriff’s officers to fire at her, is finally expected to leave jail after five months. A judge this week agreed to set bail for Hannah Roemhild, the now-31-year old opera singer charged in the Jan. 31 incident outside Trump’s Palm Beach “Winter White House.” The Palm Beach County Circuit Court’s online docket was down Wednesday and the amount of bond was not available. Roemhild still was jailed as of Wednesday afternoon. Circuit Judge Joseph Marx’s ruling followed the submission by Roemhild’s lawyers of letters of character reference from people in her hometown of Deep River, Connecticut.

— STATEWIDE —

Felons voting arguments slated in August” via the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court has scheduled oral arguments in a Florida voting-rights case that could open the door for hundreds of thousands of felons to cast ballots in this year’s elections. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is slated to hear the case on Aug. 18. The full court will hear arguments after DeSantis made the rare move of asking for what is known as an “en banc,” or full court, initial review of the state’s appeal of a decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. The legal battle focuses on the constitutionality of a 2019 law aimed at carrying out a 2018 constitutional amendment that restored the voting rights of felons “who have completed all terms of their sentences, including parole and probation.”

Nursing home takes Irma battle to federal courts” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the nursing home challenges a decision that excludes it from federal health care programs. That case came less than three weeks after the nursing home filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a challenge to a decision by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to revoke the facility’s license. Both cases argue that the nursing home’s due-process rights were violated by government agencies. The nursing home contends that former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration rushed to take disciplinary action for political reasons.

Wayne Mixson, who served 3 days as Florida governor, dies at 98” via the News Service of Florida — Mixson, a North Florida farmer who served two terms as lieutenant governor and a brief stint as governor, died at his home in Tallahassee. He was 98. Mixson was elected lieutenant governor in 1978 and 1982 as the running mate of Democrat Bob Graham but is probably best remembered for serving three days as governor in early 1987. That came after Graham was elected to the U.S. Senate and stepped down as governor before his term ended to go to Washington. Mixson was born in 1922 in New Brockton, Alabama, and served in the Navy during World War II before graduating from the University of Florida. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Margie Grace.

Former Florida Gov. Wayne Mixson (right) seated with Carrol Dadisman. Mixon died Wednesday at age 98. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: Guard911, Validas Corporation

Heather Turnbull, Christopher Finkbeiner, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Learning A-Z

Michael Kesti, Government Relations Group: National Bio+Green Sciences

— 2020 —

New July 2020 Electoral College ratings look more like Democratic tsunami” via Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report — This election is looking more like a Democratic tsunami than simply a Blue wave. Trump, mired in some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency, is trailing Biden by significant margins in key battleground states. He’s even running behind Joe Biden in firewall states of Florida and North Carolina. Georgia has joined Arizona, North Carolina and Florida in the Toss Up column, although, at this point, Biden would be slightly favored to win at least Arizona and Florida. Maine’s 2nd district has moved from Likely Republican to a more competitive Lean Republican. These moves alone push Biden over the 270 electoral vote threshold (to 279).

Kanye West says he’s done with Trump — opens up about White House bid, damaging Joe Biden and everything in between” via Randall Lane of Forbes — West’s Fourth of July declaration, via Tweet, that he was running for president lit the internet on fire, even as pundits were trying to discern how serious he was. Over the course of four rambling hours of interviews on Tuesday, the billionaire rapper turned sneaker mogul revealed that he’s running for president in 2020 under a new banner, the Birthday Party, with guidance from Elon Musk and an obscure vice-presidential candidate he’s already chosen. “Like anything I’ve ever done in my life,” says West, “I’m doing to win.” West says that he’s OK with siphoning off Black votes from Biden, thus helping Trump. “I’m not denying it, I just told you. To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy.”

Kanye West says he is done with Donald Trump. Image via AP.

Trump’s attacks on mail voting are turning Republicans off absentee ballots” via Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots, a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries this spring, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. The growing Republican antagonism toward voting by mail comes even as the Trump campaign is launching a major absentee-ballot program in every competitive state, according to multiple campaign advisers.

Key battleground states most vulnerable to cutoff in jobless aid” via Rebecca Rainey of POLITICO — Laid-off workers in key 2020 battleground states may be hurt the most when the $600-a-week boost in unemployment benefits expires at the end of this month. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida have some of the highest numbers of unemployed workers in the country, and they’ll see a reduction of more than $3 billion per week in income once the enhanced aid runs out, according to one estimate. The special vulnerability of these states to the coronavirus-induced recession is likely to influence the election-year debate in Washington over whether to extend the unprecedented benefits as part of the next pandemic-relief package, a move that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have so far strongly resisted.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a new book set for fall, ‘Trust’” via The Associated Press — Buttigieg’s next book has a unifying message. Liveright Publishing announced that the former Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor had written “Trust: America’s Best Chance,” scheduled for release Oct. 6. According to Liveright, the book combines history and personal reflections in an “urgent and soul-searching” exploration into creating a stronger democracy. “In order for our country to move forward in the years ahead, it will be more important than ever to build trust, trust in our institutions and leaders, trust in each other, and trust around the world in America itself,” Buttigieg said in a statement. Buttigieg’s previous book, the memoir “Shortest Way Home” was a bestseller that sold more than 100,000 copies as he became a national figure during his presidential run.

Pete Buttigieg has a new book extolling unification by trust in politicians and politics.

MeanwhileLibertarians bring a socially distanced convention to Orlando, with color-coded ‘risk bracelets’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month won’t be the first national party gathering in Florida this summer. The Libertarian National Convention kicks off Wednesday in Orlando, bringing hundreds of delegates to the five-day event at the Rosen Centre on International Drive. The convention will hold most of its larger sessions at the Orange County Convention Center across the street, becoming one of the first events to be partially held at the convention center since the pandemic began. Libertarian national chair Nicholas Sarwark said the party is opposed to government-mandated mask orders such as the one imposed by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —

Suit filed to label Jacksonville RNC health ‘nuisance,’ shrink event” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A Jacksonville attorney asked a judge Wednesday to declare next month’s Republican National Convention a nuisance “injurious to the health” of residents and require it to be a smaller event with masks and social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The convention planned Aug. 24-27 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena “may cause COVID-19 to spread beyond anything experienced in the world to date,” attorney W.C. Gentry argues in a suit he filed on behalf of a string of residents and business operators he said would be harmed by the event. The suit was filed in circuit court against the city, the Republican National Committee, Trump’s reelection campaign and ASM Global Parent Inc., the company that manages the arena.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL — 

Police endorsement becomes flashpoint in Congressional District 5 race” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Jacksonville pharmacist seeking to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson launched a preemptive strike this week against a likely endorsement of the Congressman by the Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP represents and lobbies for sworn law enforcement officers. Its chapters in the eight-county district that stretches from Quincy, west of Tallahassee, to Jacksonville endorsed Lawson in both 2016 and 2018. Over the Independence Day holiday, Democrat Albert Chester took to social media to lambaste Lawson’s record on police reform. He said the veteran lawmaker has failed to use his influence to build a bridge between law enforcement and minority communities. The 71-year-old Lawson quickly shot back that the allegation was false.

Texas’ Ted Cruz wants Leo Valentin in Congress” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Cruz is endorsing Valentin in his bid to win a three-way Republican primary for Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Valentin, who operates a diagnostic radiology practice in Orlando, is seeking a shot to take on U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the November election. First, though, he has to defeat financier Richard Goble of Longwood and business owner Yukong Zhao of Orlando in the August 18 Republican primary. “We need Dr. Leo Valentin in Congress! I’m proud to endorse Leo today, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting him for #FL07,” Cruz said in a statement Wednesday. CD 7 covers Seminole County and parts of northern, eastern, and central Orange County. Murphy has represented it for two terms.

Ted Cruz is all-in for Leo Valentin’s bid for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Amanda Makki nabs two mayoral endorsements in CD 13 GOP battle” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Two Pinellas County mayors are endorsing Makki for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Treasure Island Mayor Larry Lunn and Belleair Bluffs Mayor Chris Arbutine, are backing the Republican candidate in the crowded primary. The winner of the GOP primary will take on incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist in November. “Amanda Makki is the conservative leader Pinellas County can count on to stand up for us in Congress and the only candidate who can beat liberal Charlie Crist. Amanda understands the pressures facing small businesses, and she has worked her whole life serving others and our nation. Her community knowledge coupled with her passion to serve are just what we need,” Arbutine said. Both mayors are Republicans.

Matt Gaetz picks Ray Rodrigues for SD 27 primary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — One of Florida’s most visible Congressmen waded into the contentious Senate District 27 Republican primary. Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican and cable news fixture, endorsed Rodrigues for the open seat. “Rep. Ray Rodrigues is one of Florida’s best public servants,” Gaetz tweeted to his 583,000 followers. “He’s running for the state Senate in Southwest FL and has my total endorsement.” Gaetz served with Rodrigues in the Florida House, and he headed up DeSantis’ transition team. In Washington, he’s been one of Trump‘s most high-profile defenders. He leaned into that resume as he threw his support behind the Estero Republican.

House candidate Angie Nixon tests positive for COVID-19” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A Democratic candidate for the Florida House from Jacksonville has tested positive for COVID-19. Angie Nixon, primarying incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels in House District 14, revealed Wednesday that she had tested positive for the disease. “I will be self-quarantining for the foreseeable future and working with my doctors for the right course of treatment over the next few weeks,” Nixon tweeted. For Nixon, a candidate who has had real momentum in terms of fundraising and endorsements, the positive diagnosis comes at an inopportune time, just weeks from a primary against a second-term incumbent.

—“Meet Ben Marcus, a Democrat running for House District 16” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Michele Rayner picks up 3 high-profile endorsements in HD 70 race” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rayner picked up three major endorsements this week, her campaign announced. Ruth’s List Florida, SEIU Florida and Sen. Darryl Rouson are all throwing their weight behind Rayner in her race for House District 70. Rayner is one of four Democrats running to replace Rep. Wengay Newton in the district. Newton is not seeking reelection and is instead running for Pinellas County Commission. Ruth’s List is a huge get and comes with potential substantial funding support. The group, formed in 2008, works to elect Democratic women to public office. Since its founding, the statewide organization has raised more than $5 million, elected 125 women to state and local offices and trained more than 2,100 others. The group helped flip 21 seats blue in the 2018 election, with 40% of those victories belonging to women of color.

Michele Rayner picks up a trio of high-profile endorsements in her bid to replace Wengay Newton.

— “Meet Jim Carroll, a Democrat running for House District 85” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Miami-Dade Democratic Party says 27-year incumbent should leave Miami-Dade State Attorney race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade Democratic Party Executive Committee has approved a resolution calling for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to drop her reelection bid. The group cites Fernandez Rundle’s record showing she has never prosecuted a cop for an on-duty killing. Fernandez Rundle has served in the role for 27 years. That criticism has been amplified in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s death while being pinned by Minneapolis police officers. Fernandez Rundle has defended her record, arguing Florida’s laws set a high barrier for those prosecutions and that her cohorts throughout the state have also been slow to file similar charges.

— TOP OPINION —

Joe Henderson: Same old story for Hillsborough School Board” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — About 3 ½ hours into a marathon Hillsborough County School Board meeting Tuesday, there was this bombshell: The District’s reserve fund shrank by about $50 million. And upon learning this news, and, more importantly, how they got here, well, let’s just say there appeared to be plenty of fireworks left from the Fourth of July. “This Board has been betrayed,” outgoing Board member Cindy Stuart said. “I’m literally shaking about this,” Board member Stacy Hahn said, her voice rising as she processed what she had heard. “This Board knew nothing about this until right now. This is un-ac-cept-able,” Board member Steve Cona II said, emphasizing each syllable.

— OPINIONS —

Larry Bourdeau: Florida’s chiefs support the need for reliable statewide radio communications” via Florida Politics — A significant number of Florida’s public safety agencies rely on the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) to provide a critical radio communications lifeline to first responders. The state needs a system with consistent coverage that utilizes the industry-standard Project 25 (P25) radio infrastructure, alongside new and emerging technologies. It is imperative that the state have the opportunity to select technology from vendors that best serve Floridians. On behalf of the State Law Enforcement Chiefs’ Association, I ask that thoughtful consideration be given to accelerating this process, so Florida can have the right vendor in place quickly.

In Florida, colleges go virtual while kindergartners meet face to face?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — The state-ordered mandate to open up classrooms seemed based more on politics than science, issued the same day the president tweeted: “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” I don’t know about you, but all-cap sentences with extra exclamation points don’t usually strike me as the byproduct of a contemplatively thought-out, scientifically researched plan. I actually think I support restarting face-to-face classes at most education levels — in places where science and health data suggest it makes sense. But very little about Florida’s NEWLY RELEASED PLAN!!! seems to reflect a thoughtful, data-driven approach.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Illuminating another dark chapter in Florida history — the Ocoee Election Day Massacre. Sunrise will discuss some of the disturbing details in depth.

Also, in today’s Sunrise:

— The Florida Department of Health reports almost 10,000 new cases of coronavirus and 48 additional fatalities Wednesday. We’re closing in on 4,000 deaths and a quarter-million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida.

— Miami-Dade continues to be the epicenter of Florida’s outbreak and Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell blames that on the President, Gov. DeSantis and the Mayor of Miami-Dade.

— Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is also trying to figure out how to deal with that surge in COVID-19 cases. For starters, Suarez says masks should be mandatory.

— And checking in with the Florida Church — raided by the feds.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Trulieve donates $50K to Florida LGBTQ nonprofits” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — One of the biggest medical marijuana retailers in Florida gave a lift to the LGBTQ community following a donation drive in June, which was Pride Month. Trulieve Cannabis Corp. is donating about $50,000 to eight Florida-based nonprofit organizations the company partnered with during Pride Month. Most of that money was raised through special brands of medical marijuana — “Rainbow Sherbet” and “TruSwag” — the company was selling last month at about 50 stores in Florida in honor of the Pride movement. “Trulieve is a company that stands for the rights and dignity of all people, and we strive to create spaces that are safe, comfortable, and welcoming to all,” said Valda Corvat, chief marketing officer for Trulieve.

Disney World passholders file lawsuit over billing error” via Ashley Carter of Bay News 9 — Two Disney World annual passholders have filed a lawsuit after Disney incorrectly charged passholders for the months the parks have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The billing error happened Friday, with passholders being charged as much as four months-worth of payments all at once. Disney, in April, said that monthly payments for annual passes would be waived until the parks reopened. “[The] defendant breached those contracts by charging amounts that were unauthorized,” the lawsuit said. The lawsuit is seeking class-action status.

Splash Mountain has a long history of racial insensitivity. But re-branding isn’t an easy fix.” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Disneyland had a problem. The “America Sings” show filled with singing audio-animatronic animals often played to empty seats. Meanwhile, Disney’s Southern California competitors built new log rides that became instant fan favorites. So Disneyland hatched a plan to save the animatronics while building its own version of a water ride, calling it Splash Mountain. Orlando’s version opened three years later in 1992. “The biggest thing to understand, nobody ever intended to create a ride that was offensive. They were literally just looking for a theme for a flume,” said Jim Hill, a historian who often blogs and podcasts about Disney.

Walt Disney World is ditching the theme for Splash Mountain, after a growing outcry over its ‘racist’ background.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our own Bob Sparks, who does an incredible job assembling our “Delegation” email newsletter. Also celebrating today are Patrick Berman of Cushman & Wakefield, Ken CashinTrip FarmerFarhood HoodiApril Salter, the name partner of Salter Mitchell, Jon Shebel, and Heather Turnbull of Rubin Turnbull.

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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, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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