Even as the Florida Democratic Party promised late Wednesday night to return at least $780,000 in federal coronavirus crisis bailout money, more questions emerged Thursday.
Which party officials signed off on the loan? Did the Democratic National Committee know about it? How much was the loan for in the first place?
Records obtained by Florida Politics give some clues to the answers to the latter two questions.
Filings with the Federal Election Commission show that in April, the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida, the federal entity for the Florida Democratic Party, received transfers of $815,641 in loan money obtained through the CARES Act. That is more than the at least $780,000 the Florida Democratic Party vowed late Wednesday night it would return to the PPP program.
But that only raises more questions, including whether the party’s building fund used as a pass-through company to provide money to the Florida Democratic Party, and whether the building fund’s PPP application had referenced the party’s staff as its own in the loan application. Neither would be permissible under federal law.
As for whether the DNC knew about it, a Wednesday afternoon email exchange obtained by Florida Politics points to yes.
The exchange, purportedly between FDP Executive Director Juan Peñalosa and Vice-Chair Judy Mount, shows Peñalosa stating, “We applied for the funding after consulting our lawyers and informing folks at the DNC.”
The party has not confirmed the authenticity of the email exchange provided Florida Politics, however, the national party said it was clear, telling state and local parties to not apply for PPP.
“The DNC did not authorize this, and we agree with the decision to return the money,” said David Bergstein, the DNC’s director of battleground state communications.
“Personnel note: Allison Kinney named VP of Government Relations at HCA Healthcare” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Longtime lobbyist Kinney is joining HCA Healthcare — Florida. Effective July 13, Kinney will take over as Vice President of Government Relations at the state’s largest health care provider. Kinney succeeds Bryan Anderson, who served in that role from 2004-2019 before his promotion to Corporate Vice President. “We are thrilled to have someone with Allison’s background and experience join the HCA Healthcare team,” Anderson said in a news release announcing the hire. “Not only is she a fierce advocate with rare political skills, she is also a trusted adviser to numerous elected officials across the state.”
— FACEBOOK POST OF THE DAY —
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@marcorubio: I supported first “shutdown” to flatten the curve. But we are in a very different place now. Must weigh cost versus benefit. Social, economic & enforcement costs are significant. Benefits are questionable, govt can’t shutdown private gatherings & most businesses already restricted.
—@scontorno: [Ron] DeSantis: “If you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, you can definitely do the schools.”
— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) July 9, 2020
—@JoseJavierJJR: With views like this, we are thankful that we have locally run school districts making difficult decisions/plans for our children’s safety and education and not Gov. @GovRonDeSantis who seems incapable of taking this pandemic and its challenges seriously.
—@nikkifried: 120 Floridians have died in the last 24 hours from #COVID19. Up from 48 deaths the day before. Instead of asking for congratulations on a low death toll and blaming the media, @GovRonDeSantis should be offering extra resources to our overwhelmed hospitals.
Welcome to Florida. 🌴😷🌞 pic.twitter.com/hCvNCjdMb0
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) July 9, 2020
—@ShevrinJones: If I’m the only legislator in Florida who have #Covid, I’m going to damn sure use this platform to sound the alarm for the over 200,000 people that’s fighting this virus with me. COVID won’t win!
—@Passantino: LA Mayor [Eric] Garcetti is holding a news conference on the surge of coronavirus infections and a Breitbart reporter has called in to ask his opinion on “cancel culture”
—@Rodgers: Allowing a 60-minute full-contact football game but saying you’re taking precautions because you ban handshakes and jersey swaps is like eating 34 wings and then eating 2 pieces of celery and saying it was a healthy meal because you ate vegetables
A look inside the Splash Mountain gift shop and what’s left. pic.twitter.com/TOTMDobHHA
— AJ Wolfe (@DisneyFoodBlog) July 9, 2020
— DAYS UNTIL —
Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 1; Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 5; Federal taxes due — 5; MLB starts — 13; WNBA starts — 14; PLL starts — 15; TED conference rescheduled — 16; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 18; NBA season restart in Orlando — 21; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 21; NHL resumes — 22; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 39; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 40; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 42; Indy 500 rescheduled — 44; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 45; NBA draft lottery — 46; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 49; U.S. Open begins — 52; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 56; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 57; Rescheduled date for French Open — 72; First presidential debate in Indiana — 81; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 84; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 85; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 88; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 94; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 97; NBA draft — 98; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 98; NBA free agency — 101; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 104; 2020 General Election — 116; “Black Widow” premieres — 121; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 125; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 133; “No Time to Die” premieres — 133; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 144; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 166; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 212; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 378; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 386; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 483; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 581; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 623; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 665; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 819.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Ron DeSantis says he would have ‘zero concern’ sending his own kids back to school” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis defended his controversial decision to send students back to school this August by telling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that he would have “zero concern” sending his own kids back into a classroom. “My kids aren’t school-age yet,” DeSantis said. “I got a 3-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son and a newborn daughter. And I can tell you if they were school-age, I would have zero concern sending them.” The remark came Wednesday during an interview on the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show. There, DeSantis detailed his rationale for reopening schools despite the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Florida. “With respect to the schools,” DeSantis said. “Walmart, essential service. Home Depot, essential service. Fast food, essential service. “How is it that the schools for our kids would not be considered an essential service? And I think it’s vital. I think that they’ve fallen way behind.”
“Gov. DeSantis touts economic recovery as state’s unemployment claims drop” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis urged Floridians to capitalize on what he called a modest economic recovery, even as the state recorded its highest number of COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours. “At the end of the day, we need our society to function,” DeSantis said Thursday at a news conference with U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia in Jacksonville. “We need our society to move forward.” Florida’s first-time unemployment claims trended downward for the second straight week as the private sector continued to add back jobs, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The state had 67,070 claims for the week ended July 4, a decline of 17,300 for the previous week. No claims were processed on the Fourth of July holiday.
“Amid bad COVID-19 news, DeSantis, U.S. labor chief talk about economic rebound in Jacksonville” of Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — U.S. Secretary of Labor Scalia and DeSantis stumped to restore Florida’s economic vitality during a visit to Jacksonville overshadowed by a continued surge in the state’s toll of coronavirus cases. “We are reopening. We’re rebounding. And we’re going to restore that momentum” America’s economy felt before the pandemic, Scalia said Thursday before a roundtable talk with business executives at the Jacksonville Port Authority’s Talleyrand offices. Scalia said he had never seen businesses as focused on employee health and safety as he has in the weeks that many states have launched efforts to resume routine business life.
“Coronavirus infects more than one in 100 Floridians as nearly 9,000 cases reported Thursday” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The coronavirus in Florida has set new single-day highs in fatalities, hospitalization of new patients, and the return of positive test results. State officials reported another 8,935 cases Thursday and 120 more deaths. The latest report counts 232,718 cases and 4,111 fatalities, with 102 of the deaths being non-Florida residents. Overnight Wednesday another 409 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 bringing the total to 17,167. And test results returned Thursday showed a positivity rate of 18.3%, more than triple the rate recorded in May. Since the first infection was confirmed March 1, the virus has spread to about 1.8% of the state population of 21.4 million. After the number of infections appeared to hit a plateau in May, the rate of infections has spiked and created clusters in all of the state’s major cities.
“Florida’s coronavirus death rate is trending up again after rising hospitalizations” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — The rate of daily coronavirus deaths reported by the state of Florida has begun to tick up again, a trend that was apparent even before Thursday’s announcement of a record 120 deaths. Public health experts and coronavirus data researchers say it’s still too early to tell just how bad it will get. But the increase was predictable, said Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego. “Florida is running away with new cases, so you’d expect this to happen,” Topol said. “There are the denialists who say these people are younger … and all these theories, but if [the rise in deaths] didn’t happen, you’d start to wonder what’s going on regarding how the deaths are being tallied.”
“COVID-19 cases in juvenile system escalate” via News Service of Florida — The number of COVID-19 cases in Florida’s juvenile justice system continued to increase Thursday, with the state reporting that 136 youths and 134 workers have tested positive. That was up from 119 youths and 120 workers in a Tuesday count. Also, it was an increase from 97 youths and 106 workers on July 2. Three facilities have accounted for the largest numbers of youth cases — Palm Beach Youth Academy with 21 cases and Okeechobee Youth Development Center and Redwood Youth Academy, each with 16 cases, according to the state Department of Juvenile Justice. The Department of Juvenile Justice has taken a series of steps to try to prevent the spread of the disease, including suspending visitation.
“State sending $138 million to health departments” via News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Health announced Thursday that it is sending $138 million in federal pandemic funds to county health departments to hire epidemiologists, nurses and contact tracers. Nearly 70% of the funding will be directed to 12 counties — including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach — with high COVID-19 caseloads, based on a June survey of county officials. Department of Health spokesman Alberto Moscoso said distribution of the funds is based on the results of a June county-health department survey that was designed to assess additional staffing needs amid the coronavirus pandemic. But Moscoso said the amount of money the counties receive could change, based on community spread of COVID-19.
“State mulls more COVID-19 testing at homes for disabled” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ administration appears poised to address rising criticism over its handling of COVID-19 in group homes that take care of residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The deadly respiratory disease has shown itself to be efficient at moving rapidly through prisons, jails, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But it also can be a problem for group homes. One of the ongoing complaints is a lack of testing in group homes. In response, the DeSantis administration said this week it is “evaluating options” to expand testing for staff members and residents at the facilities. The administration also announced that the state will start providing the names of group homes where residents and staff members have tested positive.
“Parents, teachers question plan to reopen schools” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Local education officials and parents are grappling with a statewide mandate to reopen schools in August. “The requirement has thrown a wrench into the plans that districts were making,” Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Andrea Messina said. “I think people were surprised. I think there was somewhat of an expectation that more flexibility would be acknowledged. Make no mistake, schools would love to be able to open back up with their full, normal schedule,” Messina said. “But with community concerns and parent concerns and staff concerns, we needed to recognize it was going to be a real challenge to meet that goal.”
“Department of Health to medical schools: No COVID-19 data sharing, apply individually” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of the Pensacola News Journal — After months of negotiation, the Department of Health has told researchers at Florida’s medical schools trying to access the state’s raw COVID-19 data: You can’t have it as a group. Instead, research teams at medical schools must individually apply for access. The data, collected by hospitals, state and private labs as well as clinics across the Sunshine State on COVID-19 cases and patients, are essential in informing the response to the pandemic and provide researchers the ability to independently verify official numbers. The DOH refused broad access to the data Monday, sending instead the Council of Florida Medical School Deans a template that only allows individual research teams to apply for access to the data.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“DeSantis sends more hospital staff to South Florida; HHS refutes claim DeSantis submitted formal request” via Ryan Dailey of WFSU — DeSantis says he’s requested additional health care personnel to help Florida hospitals deal with a growing number of COVID-19 patients, but the federal agency DeSantis says he petitioned denies it received a formal request. DeSantis earlier in the week told media he’s called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to send nurses to Florida hospitals, particularly Jackson Health System in Miami. DeSantis’ communications director, Helen Ferre, tweeted the request DeSantis referenced Tuesday was actually filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Per Ferre, it asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, to send 1,500 nurses to Florida.
“DeSantis wants to speed up COVID testing in Broward, Miami-Dade, and says schools need to open” via Richard Tribou and Steven Lemongello of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis said Thursday he is asking the federal government for more medicine and will create designated drive-thru lanes at testing sites in Broward and Miami-Dade counties for people with coronavirus symptoms to speed up results. DeSantis also said Florida schools need to reopen as soon as possible. DeSantis said designated testing lanes for Broward, Miami-Dade and Orange, three of the counties with the highest volume of testing, are needed because the turnaround on results has been slower than he expected. The Governor said the state will try to get contracts with labs that can turn around results in 48 to 72 hours.
“11-year-old Broward girl dies from COVID-19” via Andrew Boryga and Karina Elwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An 11-year-old girl from Broward has died from coronavirus-related complications, becoming one of the state’s youngest victims, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Health. Yansi Ayala died Wednesday at Broward Health Medical Center, according to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office. The child had existing health conditions, including trisomy 13, a genetic condition, with cardiomyopathy, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and asthma, the medical examiner’s office said. Thursday’s news comes on the heels of a pandemic-high day for new coronavirus deaths in Florida: 120. The child is the second 11-year-old to die from the virus. Last week it was confirmed that an 11-year-old boy from Miami-Dade County died from COVID-19, becoming the state’s youngest known fatality from the disease.
“State to add 250 contact tracers in Miami-Dade, but Mayors say it is not enough” via Martin Vassolo, Daniel Chang and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Tension among local, county and state officials over the spread of COVID-19 in Florida’s biggest hot spot reached a peak Thursday when the Mayors from some of Miami-Dade County’s most prominent cities called attention to the state’s shortage of contact tracing investigators. Not even a “happy” announcement from the county Mayor— the hiring of 250 additional contact tracers, state health department employees who contact coronavirus patients to contain the spread of the virus — could blunt the sharpness of the attacks from local Mayors, who took aim at Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez and DeSantis. The current team of 300 contact tracers in Miami-Dade is still insufficient to stem the spread of the virus in, the Mayors said. They requested an additional 500 tracers.
“Miami-Dade Mayor claims without evidence that protests caused COVID-19 spike” via Alex Deluca of Miami New Times — During a July 3 appearance on PBS NewsHour, Miami-Dade Mayor Giménez blamed the county’s recent flare-up in COVID-19 cases on the Black Lives Matter protesters who took to the streets in the weeks prior. The Republican Mayor and congressional candidate, who allowed many Miami-Dade businesses to reopen in May, said that despite the fact that the county had imposed a mask order, many young people had gathered without face masks at a number of protests. “It wasn’t a coincidence that, about two weeks after these demonstrations started, we started seeing these spikes,” Giménez told reporter Judy Woodruff. “That probably was the main cause of why this virus went up.” So far, experts say, Giménez’s claim isn’t backed up by the data.
“Miami-Dade gets its first affordable housing plan that includes COVID-19 recovery” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — An ambitious new plan to address Miami-Dade’s growing housing affordability crisis is the first of its kind to incorporate the COVID-19 pandemic in its projections and solutions. The Miami-Dade Affordable Housing Framework, which was unveiled July 2, lays out a detailed plan of action to stave off the ballooning shortage of rentals and homes priced within reach of the 300,000 households — 35% of the county’s total households — that earn $35,000 or less per year. Prepared by the nonprofit Miami Homes For All advocacy group and funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co., the plan uses data gathered by the UF’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies and input from community outreach efforts and meetings with stakeholders conducted over the last two years.
“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.”
“Wellington village manager tests positive for coronavirus” via Kristina Webb of The Palm Beach Post — A key Wellington official tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the village confirmed Thursday. Village Manager Paul Schofield received his test results Thursday after being tested June 29 for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Wellington said. Schofield, 65, has discussed at council meetings his concerns about the virus’ spread while encouraging residents to practice social distancing — staying 6 feet apart, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control — and wear masks. Those are themes Schofield repeated in a statement released Thursday by Wellington, where he said he began feeling “flu-like symptoms” on June 29, and he was tested that same day. Schofield has not been to Village Hall since June 25.
“Companies were planning on moving to South Florida. Then COVID hit” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — For a moment, South Florida was sitting pretty: Out-of-town real estate deal hunters were coming to the region seeking refuge from the coronavirus pandemic. As the MIAMI Association of Realtors put it in its May release, “The COVID-19 situation has accelerated the trend of homebuyers from New York and cold weather and tax-burdened Northeastern states searching and purchasing homes in South Florida. Now, real estate experts say, Florida’s surging coronavirus outbreak has halted the trend in its tracks. “[It] seems like much has frozen in the process since the numbers started spiking a week or two ago,” said Philippe Houdard, founder and CEO of Pipeline, a Miami-based coworking space provider.
“Will COVID-19 force cancellation of Art Basel Miami Beach? A lot is riding on it” via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — For 19 years, Art Basel Miami Beach has injected a jet-fueled blast into the local cultural and tourism calendar. The fair doesn’t just put a massive trove of world-class art on public display, but also draws mobs of some of the world’s richest people, fills hotels and restaurants and, not incidentally, helps sustain Miami’s ongoing maturation as a global center for culture and commerce. The contemporary-art fair has been canceled only once. What would have been the inaugural show was called off following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. But, with five months to go, a big question hangs over the 2020 editions of Art Basel Miami Beach and its companion Design Miami fair: Will the show go on?
“Key West’s Fantasy Fest is canceled due to COVID-19” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Fantasy Fest, Key West’s annual 10-day celebration of the scantily clad and the silly, won’t happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the first time a Fantasy Fest has been canceled. In 2005, after Hurricane Wilma, the event was postponed. The theme for 2020 was going to be “Roaring 2020s and Future Fictions,” and it had been scheduled for Oct. 16-25. Organizers confirmed the cancellation on Facebook, ending speculation that the city would possibly host the huge event that pours cash into workers’ hands and company wallets at a time when South Florida is suffering through the COVID-19 crisis.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Disney World will reopen Saturday, despite worsening Florida outbreak” via Antonia Farzan of The Washington Post — Florida may be in the throes of a coronavirus outbreak that is crowding hospitals and overtaxing health care workers, but that won’t stop some Disney World enthusiasts from “Returning to a World of Magic,” as the theme park’s website puts it. Despite worsening indicators statewide, including a sustained increase in deaths, the Orlando park still plans to reopen Saturday. Disney says that instituting an aggressive cleaning schedule and a slew of new health protocols while dramatically cutting down on the number of visitors allowed in per day means that it can do so safely and responsibly. Guests will have to pre-book tickets online, wear masks and have their temperatures taken before entering. Social distancing will be enforced while waiting in line for rides or interacting with characters, and fireworks displays and other events that draw large crowds are off the table.
“COVID testing priority a potential issue for NBA” via Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports — With teams making their way into the Orlando bubble this week, the NBA is surely crossing its fingers, or perhaps even looking for some divine assistance. “There are no atheists in the league office right now,” one team executive told NBC Sports. Months of planning have led to this moment. All 22 teams have successfully arrived in Orlando. The early arrivers have started practicing and the others hope to follow shortly. Inter-squad scrimmages are set to begin in less than two weeks. The season officially resumes by the end of the month. It may be one of the most critical times in NBA history.
“No, that Clay County schools coronavirus waiver isn’t for students” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — The Clay County School Board published a liability waiver in case a soccer club or church wanted to rent out its facilities and someone caught COVID-19. The document, which does waive the school district’s liability if someone contracts the coronavirus on campus, is part of a temporary Facilities and Grounds Manual the School Board voted on at its June 25 meeting. The manual includes rental fees for different groups including booster clubs, youth organizations, church groups and more. Without additional context or the rest of the eight-page manual, the post has been shared at least 20 times within five hours on Facebook and additionally on Twitter. The inconsistency was originally noted by Duval County Public Schools teacher and education blogger Chris Guerrieri, who said he’s been trying to correct people on Facebook who are saying it’s for the entire student population.
“St. Johns County commissioner in ‘most critical’ condition because of COVID-19” via Sheldon Gardner of The Florida Times-Union — St. Johns County Commissioner Paul Waldron has been hospitalized and is in critical condition because of the coronavirus, according to his daughter. Ashley Waldron Zapata shared the information on Facebook, which appeared on Waldron’s Facebook page on Thursday. “My daddy, Paul Waldron, was diagnosed with the COVID virus,” she wrote. “Due to complications from the virus, he went into septic shock and has many organs struggling. He is currently in the most critical of conditions. … Please keep your family safe and pray for mine.” Commissioner Henry Dean said he has been praying for Waldron. “I’m terribly worried about … the condition he’s in and I’m praying for him. I consider him a close personal friend as well as a fellow commissioner,” Dean said. Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker said he’s also become close to Waldron and is praying for his recovery.
“Mask mandates spark political debate in St. Johns County” via Sheldon Gardner of The Florida Times-Union — Coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in St. Johns County over the past month, and local officials have turned to mask mandates as a way to help stop the spread. But the public health crisis has also spawned a political debate about forcing people to wear masks. The county had 260 cases on June 1. This week, the total number of St. Johns County cases had risen to 1,632 with nine deaths. Public health officials, including the county’s director of the Florida Department of Health, urge mask-wearing as a way to help curb the spread of the virus. But urging didn’t seem to be enough in St. Augustine. It was clear that few people were wearing masks downtown months into the pandemic.
“38 inmates test positive for coronavirus at Walton County Jail” via Wendy Victoria of NWF Daily News — Results have returned for inmates tested for COVID-19 at the Walton County Jail. Jail administrators have received the first round of test results for 58 inmates. Those results revealed 38 positive cases and 20 negative results. Of those 38 positive cases, 19 are Walton County inmates, 18 are Escambia County housed inmates, and one is a Holmes County inmate. At this time, 38 test results are still pending results from the Florida Department of Health. This morning, based on previous health conditions and symptoms exhibited at the jail, the Chief Health Officer made the decision to have one inmate transported to a local hospital.
“Randy Henderson helps shoot down Fort Myers mask mandate” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Henderson cast a vote against a mask mandate because individuals must take personal responsibility, he said. The Fort Myers City Council shot down a mandate at a special meeting. Instead, city officials encouraged private businesses to encourage the use of face coverings indoors. The CDC strongly recommends the use of masks in public spaces when social distancing is not possible in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. Henderson quickly took to social media to explain his vote. A candidate for Congress, he tied his justification to Donald Trump. He shared a meme with the words “No mandatory masks” and the logo for his Congressional campaign.
“Oakes Farms sues Lee school district over canceled contract after CEO’s comments about COVID-19, Black Lives Matter” via Phil Fernandez of the Naples Daily News — Oakes Farms filed a federal suit Thursday against the Lee County school district, which had dumped its multimillion-dollar deal with the firm after the CEO called George Floyd a “disgraceful career criminal.” Alfie Oakes also had declared that COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement are “hoaxes.” After that, the school district “severed ties” with Oakes and his company, which had been providing products for students, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. The district was in a three-year contract with the Naples-based supplier and had an annual renewal option to continue services through 2024. Services during the first year of the contract, from July 2018 to June 2019, were estimated to cost $4.9 million, according to school board documents.
“Sebastian City Council to huddle behind closed doors to decide next move in annexation issue” via Janet Begley of the TCPalm — The City Council is to meet in a closed-door session at 5 p.m. Monday to decide whether to appeal a court decision nullifying the city’s annexation of 1,100-acres of citrus land. A court quashed the annexation, finding the city did not publish a complete map of the annexation area in its public notice. The city must decide its next move before Wednesday. If the city files for a rehearing within 15 days of the June 30 decision, the case can be reheard by the same 19th Circuit Appellate Court panel. The city has up to 30-days to file an appeal with the 4th District Court of Appeal.
— CORONA NATION —
“States that raced to reopen let businesses write their own rules, documents show” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — Five days after Georgia’s stay-at-home order expired, setting gyms, restaurants, hair and nail salons and other businesses on a quick course to reopen, a lobbyist for the state’s Chamber of Commerce emailed top aides to Brian Kemp, the Republican Governor. The email correspondence, released through a public records request, shows how business networks and industry organizations helped write the rules of the pandemic response in some of the places that were the last to impose restrictions and the first to ease them. Moves to throw open the doors with the virus still raging help explain recent surges in these states, epidemiologists say.
“HHS launches ‘surge’ COVID-19 testing in hotspot jurisdictions in Florida, Louisiana and Texas” via the Department of Health and Human Services — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is announcing free COVID-19 testing in Jacksonville, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Edinburg, Texas. Surge testing efforts will temporarily increase federal support to communities where there has been a recent and intense level of new cases and hospitalizations related to the ongoing outbreak. The three jurisdictions identified are seeing significant increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and could potentially benefit from additional opportunities to identify new cases, especially for people who are asymptomatic. HHS, in partnership with eTrueNorth and each of the local communities, will perform surge testing by offering 5,000 tests per-city per-day, at no charge to those tested.
“Grim projection: 200,000 dead by Election Day” via Dan Goldberg and Adam Cancryn of POLITICO — As the United States surpasses 3 million coronavirus infections, forecasters are updating their models to account for the recent resurgence and reaching a grim consensus: the next few months are going to be bad. The national death toll is now expected to eclipse 200,000 by Election Day. It took just four weeks for the U.S. to jump from 2 million coronavirus infections to the 3 million mark. Most forecasters now say that, as case counts accelerate at a record pace, it will likely take even less time to surpass 4 million. Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the severe spikes across the South and West but nevertheless offered an optimistic view of the weeks to come.
“Who gets a vaccine first? U.S. considers race in coronavirus plans” via Megan Twohey of The New York Times — Federal health officials are already trying to decide who will get the first doses of any effective coronavirus vaccines, which could be on the market this winter but could require many additional months to become widely available to Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an advisory committee of outside health experts in April began working on a ranking system for what may be an extended rollout in the United States. According to a preliminary plan, any approved vaccines would be offered to vital medical and national security officials first, and then to other essential workers and those considered at high risk, the elderly instead of children, people with existing health conditions instead of the relatively healthy. Agency officials and the advisers are also considering what has become a contentious option: putting Black and Latino people, who have disproportionately fallen victim to COVID-19, ahead of others in the population.
“Telemedicine is booming during the pandemic. But it’s leaving people behind.” via Daniel Horn of The Washington Post — Recent headlines have touted the expansion of telehealth as an unexpected “benefit” of the coronavirus pandemic, and policymakers are examining ways to keep it in play after the virus retreats. However, the widely hailed telehealth revolution is leaving our most vulnerable patients behind. Unless health care systems commit to deploying video technology that is explicitly designed to provide care for our most vulnerable patients, telehealth will further entrench health disparities. Early data show that adoption of telehealth in our community health centers has paled in comparison to practices caring for more affluent patients. The two dominant modes of telehealth delivery are telephone visits and video visits, and early data on video versus telephone care also points to a digital divide.
“As sports leagues prepare to resume, ‘I can’t wait’ has turned to ‘We sure about this?’” via Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post — Anticipation fuels sports. You are constantly expecting something to stir your emotions: a superb matchup, a playoff run, the chase of a record, the dawn of a new season, the debut of a potential superstar. Unless you prefer to pretend the virus is losing strength and will vanish on its own, you have a basic comprehension of the inherent conflict. It makes the usual “I can’t wait” expectation of sports’ arrival collide with, “Wait, what if this is a disaster?” consternation. Seldom does the craving of this joy come with so much legitimate fear. We aren’t built to persist with collectivism, not even when the opponent causes great suffering.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Layoffs stuck at high level as 1.3 million seek jobless aid” via The Associated Press — More than 1.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a historically high pace that shows that many employers are still laying people off in the face of a resurgent coronavirus. The persistently elevated level of layoffs are occurring as a spike in virus cases has forced six states to reverse their move to reopen businesses. Those six, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Texas, make up one-third of the U.S. economy. Fifteen other states have suspended their reopenings. Collectively, the pullback has stalled a tentative recovery in the job market and is likely triggering additional layoffs. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that the number of applications for unemployment aid fell from 1.4 million in the previous week.
“U.S. initial unemployment claims edged lower in latest week” via Eric Morath of The Wall Street Journal — New applications for unemployment benefits edged down last week and the number receiving payments fell to the lowest level since mid-April, signs the labor market is healing and so far not significantly affected by a rising number of COVID-19 cases in several states. Initial unemployment claims fell by a seasonally adjusted 99,000 to 1.3 million for the week ended July 4, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That extends a trend of gradual declines from a peak of 6.9 million in mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic and mandated business closures shut down swathes of the U.S. economy.
“Jobless claims hit 50 million nationwide as Florida layoffs decline” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Fifty million claims. That’s the latest unemployment milestone surpassed by the American workforce during the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday. Another 1.31 million workers filed new unemployment claims for the week ending on Independence Day. That’s a decrease of 7% from the previous week that nevertheless brings the national total to 50.2 million, out of a workforce of 164.5 million, since mid-March. In Florida, workers filed 67,070 new jobless claims — a 20.5% decrease from the week before, and the state’s lowest overall number since the pandemic began. But Florida this week hit another round number of its own, as state and federal unemployment payouts passed the $9 billion mark.
“Are the million-dollar PPP loans some Palm Beach County golf communities collected justified?” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — Six golf course communities are among the more than 3,000 businesses in Palm Beach County that received Payroll Protection Program loans through the Small Business Administration. An analysis of the loans released this week by the SBA shows that the six clubs may have received as much as $18 million. The SBA had been sued by a number of newspaper organizations over the identity of the loan recipients. When the applicants applied, they were told the loans would be public record. The program was designed to keep employees on the payroll. If employers do that and comply with the loan conditions, the loans become grants and do not have to be repaid. The SBA agreed to identify all recipients of loans in excess of $150,000 but only provided ranges of funds received, refusing to reveal the exact amount.
— MORE CORONA —
“Two COVID-19 ravaged churches take different recovery paths” via David Crary and Luis Andres Henao of The Associated Press — The paths of two New York City churches diverged this week, one reopened and one stayed closed. But they have shared a tragic fate, together losing at least 134 members of their mostly Hispanic congregations to the coronavirus. Saint Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Queens, where at least 74 parishioners have died from COVID-19, on Monday hosted its first large-scale in-person services since mid-March: an English-language midday Mass and a Spanish one in the evening. At Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan, with a death toll nearly as high, the pastors say it’s too risky to open any time soon.
“Retail workers are being pulled into the latest culture war: Getting customers to wear masks” via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — Millions of retail and service workers have been pulled into the front lines of a growing culture war between those who are willing to wear masks and those who aren’t. Mixed messaging and politicization have turned a public health safeguard into a lightning-rod issue. As a result, workers have been berated, even assaulted, by aggressive anti-maskers. As the pandemic intensifies, more states and cities are mandating face coverings in public to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The CDC, which originally downplayed the importance of masks, now calls them “a critical preventive measure” and says they should be worn in public.
“On some planes, empty rows while passengers crowd together” via Elaine Glusac of The New York Times — After the coronavirus pandemic hit, airlines vowed to bring social distancing to the air, even if it wasn’t the full 6 feet recommended by the CDC, by reducing capacity and blocking many middle seats. Now as air travel builds, freeing up that kind of space is plainly at odds with the airlines’ profit motive, and passengers are finding they may be confined to a cramped seat if they don’t pay for a premium one, though American denies this is their policy. Since April, American Airlines has capped capacity at 85%. As of July 1, according to new guidelines, it began filling its planes. Capacity flights now have the green light from American and United. Both have announced they will inform travelers when their flights are reaching capacity and allow passengers to rebook on less crowded flights if available without penalty.
“Farm to parking lot to table: The pandemic is inspiring creative efforts to get locally sourced food” via Heather Kelly of The Washington Post — The pandemic has brought more attention to where food comes from and the role of local providers. Farms are scrambling to connect directly with customers, after a loss of business from restaurants and with some even being pushed out of farmers markets for social distancing reasons. Dairy farmers are delivering milk to individual doorsteps again. Vegetable growers are distributing produce from homes, and farmers market mainstays are doing preorders. A seafood company is giving discounts to volunteers who handle fish pickups.
— SMOLDERING —
“Facebook’s own civil rights auditors say its policy decisions are a ‘tremendous setback’” via Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski of The Washington Post — The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its record delivered a long-awaited and scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which they called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave several posts by Trump untouched, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech and incitement of violence. The report also found that Facebook provides a forum for white supremacy and white nationalism.
“Mayor helps paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ outside Trump Tower” via Karen Matthews of The Associated Press — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio grabbed a roller to paint “Black Lives Matter” in front of the namesake Manhattan tower of Trump, who tweeted last week that the street mural would be “a symbol of hate.” De Blasio was flanked by his wife, Chirlane McCray and the Rev. Sharpton as he helped paint the racial justice rallying cry in giant yellow letters on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower. Activists watching chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” The Mayor announced the plan to paint “Black Lives Matter” in front of Trump Tower last month after earlier saying the slogan would be painted on streets at several locations around the city.
“Fort Lauderdale chief ousted after criticizing victim and defending officer misconduct” via Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione has been removed from his position, nearly six weeks after a member of his SWAT team shot a peaceful Black Lives Matter protester in the face with a foam rubber bullet as other officers laughed and joked about firing potentially lethal weapons at civilians. “The city manager made a decision this morning to make a change in leadership,” Major Frank Sousa said. “The chief is not relieved of duty. He will remain a member of our organization in a position to be determined.” LaToya Ratlieff, the protester who was shot in the face, spoke at a congressional subcommittee briefing on police brutality late last month, bringing national attention to her ordeal.
“Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office calls for rejection of Jacksonville protesters’ lawsuit” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said a federal judge should not put restrictions on its ability to use force or arrest peaceful protesters in the future, a response to a request made last month by arrested protesters. District Judge Brian Davis, himself a former state prosecutor, has yet to decide whether or not to enjoin the Sheriff’s Office. A hearing is scheduled for next week. Individual officers sued for allegedly making illegal arrests also filed a motion to dismiss against the lawsuit, arguing that they had no reason to question orders given to them by their superiors to make arrests and that there was probable cause for those arrests, even if charges were later dropped. The protesters’ suit called their arrests illegal and violent, pointing to a mountain of video footage that showed police using aggressive tactics.
“St. Pete to repurpose new police officer funding for social services response team” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The St. Petersburg Police Department is abandoning plans to hire 25 new officers and using the funding instead to establish a dedicated response team for noncriminal calls for service. The new team will cost $3.8 million. Most of that will be funded with a $3.1 million federal grant that had been earmarked for new officers. The city will cover the rest of the tab. The CAL team will consist of 18-20 mental health and social service professionals to respond to calls related to mental health crises or nonviolent family disputes, calls that under the city’s current law enforcement structure, often lead to unnecessary Baker Acts or arrests. “These are nonviolent calls,” Police Chief Anthony Holloway said. “These are calls that people are asking for help.”
“Police in St. Petersburg to step back from nonviolent emergency calls” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Amid national and local calls for police reform, city and police leaders announced on Thursday that some nonviolent calls to police will soon be handled by social workers rather than uniformed officers. Social workers will respond to calls in St. Petersburg about people who are intoxicated or have overdosed, people who are in mental health crises or are suicidal, homelessness, neighbor disputes and disorderly kids or truants. The social workers will be in regular clothes and will not armed. The change, which could go into effect by Oct. 1, comes after protesters have assembled daily since May 31.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Supreme Court says Manhattan prosecutor may pursue Donald Trump’s financial records, denies Congress access for now” via Robert Barnes of The Washington Post — The Supreme Court rejected Trump’s assertion that he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate case, the court sent a fight over congressional subpoenas for the material back to lower courts because of “significant separation of powers concerns.” Since both cases involve more work at the lower level, it seems unlikely the records would be available to the public before the election. Both decisions saw a 7-2 vote. The court seemed to avoid some tough questions in an attempt to achieve greater agreement.
“Trump reaches crunchtime to decide Roger Stone’s fate” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Stone is headed to prison next week unless Trump intervenes. And a chorus of outside allies is pressing the President to do just that — over the wishes of White House and campaign aides who don’t like Stone and think Trump has nothing to gain by helping him. Both camps expect Trump will at least split the difference by commuting Stone’s sentence, according to interviews with nine sources familiar with the discussions. A commutation would keep Stone from behind bars without wiping his record clean. But Trump being Trump, no one knows where he’ll land ahead of Stone’s Tuesday commitment date.
“Why conservative justices are more likely to defect” via Adrian Vermeule of The Washington Post — The end of a Supreme Court term almost always sees one or more conservative justices vote to hand the liberal justices a narrow but important victory. In case after case, conservative swing justices appear irresistibly drawn to join the liberals. Chief Justice John Roberts defected to strike down admitting-privileges regulations for abortion providers and keep in place protection for immigrants brought to this country as children. The chief justice and Justice Neil Gorsuch joined their liberal colleagues to create new anti-discrimination prohibitions for sexual orientation and gender identity. One view is that conservative defections occur because swing justices are not following the written law but their own personal preferences or individual self-interest.
“Cuba broadcaster confronts budget calamity amid fight with lawmakers” via Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — The U.S. government’s Cuba broadcasting office is quickly running out of money and could be forced to furlough some of its employees and fire contractors, according to three people familiar with the matter. The office, which is responsible for beaming radio and television broadcasts into communist-run Cuba, falls under the umbrella of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. That agency is in turmoil over the recent arrival of Michael Pack, a Steve Bannon ally. Pack, a veteran documentary filmmaker whose films have appeared on PBS, said that it was necessary to fire some of his new colleagues because it would better help him reform the organization to align more clearly with its original mission. Pack’s problems with the Hill compounded on July 1, when a bipartisan group of seven U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, wrote a letter informing him they were planning on doing a “thorough review” of the agency’s funding.
“Joy Reid takes nightly anchor slot at MSNBC” via Michael M. Grynbaum of The New York Times — Reid, who rose to television fame as a sharp critic of Trump and commentator on liberal politics and race, will become the host of a new nightly show on MSNBC, the network announced, placing her among a handful of Black women to anchor an American evening news program. Reid, who has hosted the MSNBC weekend talk show “AM Joy” since 2016, will move to the 7 p.m. hour on July 20. Her show, “The ReidOut,” succeeds “Hardball” and its host, Chris Matthews, who was forced to resign in March after a series of on-air gaffes and accusations of sexist behavior in the workplace.
— STATEWIDE —
“‘A $5 billion Band-Aid’: Community groups push back on Army Corps plan for Miami-Dade” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — In the past decade or so, the Miami-Dade area has come up with plenty of ideas to address sea-level rise and storm surge flooding. None of them involved a wall down the coast of the county until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled its draft plan to protect the region. The $4.6 billion plan calls for 6 miles of walls along the coast, barriers at the mouths of three waterways, planting mangroves in Cutler Bay and elevating thousands of properties across the county. The potential for billions of dollars of investment in Miami-Dade is welcome. But residents and community groups are pushing back on parts of the plan they see doing more harm than help.
“Deputy arrested and accused of claiming to work when he was at home” via Eileen Kelley and Brooke Battinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy is accused of taking more than $15,000 from taxpayers during the final four months of last year, when he claimed to be working, but was really at home. Luis Silberberg, who worked in the robbery unit, was suspended without pay and arrested at the Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, charged with a count each of grand theft, official misconduct and obtaining property under $20,000 by fraud. Silberberg was hired in 2006. In 2019, his base pay was $97,940. Last year, Silberberg also earned $47,342 in overtime according to his personnel file. Silberberg had previously been in trouble for abusing the Sheriff’s Office sick-pay policy.
“Who is Karen Dietrich, Fort Lauderdale’s new interim police chief?” via Mario Ariza of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Dietrich, 50, was chosen by Fort Lauderdale City Manager Carl Lagerbloom to lead the department as interim chief after Lagerbloom asked former chief Rick Maglione to step aside. Dietrich comes from a law enforcement family. She is the daughter of a Miami police captain. She’s married to a Fort Lauderdale police captain, Robert Dietrich. Her sister-in-law, Maggie Dietrich, is a sergeant on the force. Her biography says that she’s long been in charge of training both junior and veteran officers on police tactics and procedures, and was the first woman to become a motorcycle officer in the department’s history.
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: Guard911, Validas Corporation
Douglas Darling, DDarling Consulting: Microbemauraders
Jonathan Menendez, Kaleo Partners: Informatica, New Relic, UiPath
Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Element Fleet Leasing
Douglas Russell, D. Russell & Associates: Advanced Biomedical Incorporated
Jonathan Setzer, Florida Alliance Consulting: alternative claims management
“Trump’s Tulsa rally, protests ‘more than likely’ linked to coronavirus surge, health official says” via Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post — The sight that greeted Trump when he took the stage last month in Tulsa for his first political rally since the novel coronavirus outbreak halted American life was one that health officials and critics had worried about in the days leading up to the June 20 event. While the crowd of supporters inside the 19,000-seat indoor arena was significantly smaller than expected, a majority of attendees didn’t wear masks. Now, just over two weeks later, Tulsa County is experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases, and a top local health official has suggested Trump’s rally and other large events, including protests, “more than likely” contributed to the recent spike.
“What will Trump’s rally in New Hampshire be like? It’s anyone’s guess” via Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni of The New York Times — Three days before Trump’s latest rally, in a state that Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016, the only thing that seems clear is that the president’s team has no idea what to expect. Trump’s campaign is planning an event at an airport hangar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But the state’s Governor, Chris Sununu, a Republican, has said he will not be attending. It isn’t clear how many other Republican elected officials will come. The number of attendees could be low or it could be expansive. Sununu, in particular, is threading a needle in a year when he is up for reelection in a swing state, and has gotten praise for how he has handled the coronavirus crisis.
“Trump will be in South Florida Friday. On the agenda: a $580,600-per-couple Broward fundraiser” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Trump will be in South Florida on Friday to preview a counternarcotics operation in Doral and attend a high-dollar fundraiser in Hillsboro Beach. Air Force One is due in the early afternoon in Miami-Dade County and late in the afternoon in Broward County, and traffic delays can be expected as the President travels via motorcade. Trump will visit U.S. Southern Command, where he will get a preview of an operation targeting drug trafficking in the Caribbean, White House officials say. In the tiny Broward County enclave of Hillsboro Beach, Trump will mingle with donors at a pricey and private fundraiser. The Washington Post, which obtained an invitation to the event, reported it costs $580,600 per couple.
“Joe Biden releases U.S.-centered economic plan, challenging Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda” via Sean Sullivan and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — Biden unveiled a proposal Thursday to spend $700 billion on American products and research, challenging Trump’s “America First” agenda with a competing brand of economic nationalism and setting the stage for an election-year showdown over the country’s financial future. The Biden campaign plan for manufacturing and innovation aims to bring back jobs lost this year and create at least 5 million more with sweeping investments in domestic technology; reduce dependence on foreign countries to supply critical goods; and implement trade and tax policies that empower U.S. workers.
“Biden hires new aides to boost outreach to people of color” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Biden has hired a trio of communications aides who will work to boost outreach to people of color and add more diversity to his team, two areas where his campaign has drawn criticism from allies. Pili Tobar has joined the campaign as communications director for coalitions, Ramzey Smith is serving as African American media director, and Jennifer Molina is Latino media director. The new aides, all people of color, are part of a broader strategy of engaging core constituencies not just “through one lens but through every aspect of the campaign,” said Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon. The new aides will be part of the communications team and will also work with the campaign’s coalitions department, which is an initiative modeled on a unit in the Barack Obama 2012 campaign.
“Ex-Bernie Sanders aides launch pro-Joe Biden ad targeting Latino voters” via Holly Otterbein of POLITICO — A pair of super PACs launched by top aides to Sanders’ 2020 campaign is rolling out its first presidential campaign ad. The spot targets Latino voters and attacks Trump over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is part of a seven-figure buy that will appear on TV and digitally in Arizona, Michigan and North Carolina, in Spanish as well as English. Operatives are looking to persuade Sanders supporters, particularly Latino voters, young people and progressives, to back Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Surveys have found that Biden is polling behind Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 performance with Latino voters, even as Trump has been in free-fall among many other voting blocs.
“Timothy Mellon Leads 2020 GOP donors, defends use of racial stereotypes” via Bill Allison of Bloomberg Businessweek — Mellon, the great-grandson of Mellon Bank founder Thomas Mellon and grandson of Andrew Mellon, the U.S. Treasury secretary during the initial years of the Great Depression, has given $30 million in this cycle to super PACs backing Republican candidates. That includes $10 million, one of the year’s single biggest donations, to America First Action, the group backing Trump’s reelection. Unlike better-known donors, Mellon has largely avoided public prominence, spending much of his time on his Wyoming ranch. He might have stayed out of view if it weren’t for his use of racial stereotypes about Black Americans in his 2015 self-published autobiography.
“Elections offices start sending ballots amid rise in vote-by-mail for Florida primary” via Erin Doherty of the Miami Herald — Elections offices across Florida mailed out hundreds of thousands of ballots Thursday, kicking off a five-week run to an Aug. 18 primary that is expected to be dominated by mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. With the first votes of the election already trickling in from overseas, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections sent close to a quarter-million ballots to domestic addresses through the U.S. Postal Service. In Hillsborough County, another 290,000 ballots were sent in the mail. Miami-Dade’s elections office plans to send approximately 334,000 mail ballots on July 16, the last day for supervisors to send out their initial batches. The numbers all reflect increases from the primary election in 2018.
“Elections supervisor confident despite early loss of 13 polling places” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Wendy Sartory Link has seen electoral horror shows play out in Wisconsin, Atlanta and South Carolina, where voters waited in long lines for hours to cast primary election ballots. Link, who is on the ballot herself in August, is determined the problems that plagued those places will not happen here. Already, officials in charge of 13 polling places, including churches and condo clubhouses, have said they no longer want their facilities to serve as polling places in the August primary. Link is trying to find new polling places, determining whether to add more precincts to existing locations and hoping officials who control some of the 13 polling stations change their minds.
— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —
“Republicans look into holding their convention outdoors” via Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The Republican convention in Jacksonville, next month could be moved to an outdoor stadium as cases of the novel coronavirus in the state increase, according to several officials with knowledge of the plans. While no decision has been made, Republican officials are studying two outdoor professional sports stadiums near the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena where the convention is currently slated to be held. They are also looking more broadly into the logistics of pulling off an outdoor convention. Trump was recently briefed on the options of moving the convention away from the indoor arena, officials said, and is expected to make a final decision in upcoming days.
“Jacksonville’s urban neighborhoods seek financial bump from RNC” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — While the Republican National Convention remains trained on Jacksonville for Aug. 24-27, some urban neighborhoods immediately surrounding downtown near the convention venue are gearing up for a financial windfall when thousands of GOP faithful arrive in town. “I do know some people who had their properties listed [for tourist rentals who] already rented their rooms beforehand,” said Kelly Rich, executive director for the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization community development organization in Jacksonville. Springfield is a historic neighborhood with some 5,000 residents about 1 mile north of the VyStar Credit Union Veterans Memorial Arena where the convention will take place as Trump is formally nominated for another term as President.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Judson Sapp releases new ad in packed CD 3 primary” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Sapp is out with a new commercial in the race to succeed Ted Yoho in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. Versions of the ad, titled “stand” will air on TV and radio. The video ad opens by touting Sapp as a conservative, pro-choice business owner who supports Trump. It then transitions from scenes of Sapp with his family to clips of social unrest. “Like you, Judson Sapp is tired of liberal political correctness and he’s had enough of rioters destroying small businesses, defacing property and assaulting our law enforcement,” the ad narrator says. “Judson Sapp will stand up to liberals, stop the lawlessness and support our President.” The ad drops less than six weeks ahead of the Aug. 18 primary election, where Sapp will be one of 10 Republicans on the CD 3 ballot.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
“Should Margaret Good really be trashing companies for taking PPP loans?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Good is predictably attacking Vern Buchanan for the fact companies to which he’s tied to applied for and received money through the Paycheck Protection Program. Heaven forbid anyone working in a Buchanan car dealership keep their jobs with the help of a federal program. But now it turns out Good’s household benefited directly through the program as well. Both Good and her husband, Richard, work for companies that received big payouts from the coronavirus bailout. We already knew Good was among several Southwest Florida lawmakers who work at law firms that applied for and got big loans through PPP. She’s an attorney at Matthews Eastmore, a Sarasota firm that banked between $150,000-$300,000.
“Fred Hawkins picks up Florida Medical Association endorsement in HD 42” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The political arm of the Florida Medical Association on Tuesday endorsed Republican Fred Hawkins in the race to succeed Rep. Mike La Rosa in House District 42. “The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins in his campaign to represent House District 42 in the Florida Legislature. His longtime civic and community service allows for a seamless transition to address statewide issues and challenges in our state Capitol,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Doug Murphy. Hawkins is one of four Republicans running for the seat, which covers much of Osceola County and a piece of northeastern Polk County.
—“Meet Julie Jenkins, a Democrat running for House District 60” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics
—“Meet Elijah Manley, a Democrat running for House District 94” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics
“Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich endorses Maureen Porras in 105” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rich, who also served 12 years in the Florida Legislature, is backing Porras in the House District 105 Democratic primary. “It takes a strong and thoughtful leader to make a real difference and Maureen has the necessary skills, experience, and background to represent us all in Tallahassee,” Rich said. “She has shown a commitment to helping families and understands the issues so many Floridians are facing. I am proud to stand with Maureen Porras for District 105.” Rich’s tenure in the Florida House ran from 2000-2004. She then moved over to the Senate, serving eight years until being term-limited out of that body in 2012.
“State attorney candidate Monique Worrell gets boost from Kamala Harris, John Legend — and Aramis Ayala” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Worrell scored high-profile endorsements this week from Harris and Legend in the race to replace the region’s top prosecutor, and drew a statement of support from Ayala, who had earlier endorsed one of Worrell’s opponents. Ayala backed her second-in-command, Chief Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra when Barra launched her campaign more than a year ago. But in a Facebook post on Wednesday, Ayala celebrated Legend endorsing Worrell, saying she was “glad” the singer agreed with her. Worrell, the former director of Ayala’s Conviction Integrity Unit, left the office in 2019 to work as chief legal officer for Reform Alliance, a national criminal justice reform organization.
“Former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink endorses Daniella Levine Cava for Miami-Dade County Mayor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sink, the 2010 Democratic candidate for Governor, is endorsing Levine Cava in the Miami-Dade County mayoral race. “My first home in Florida was in Coconut Grove and I’ve never lost my love for the community that is rich in cultural diversity,” Sink said. “I also saw the complexity of managing a large county government like Miami-Dade, which is why I know there is no one better equipped to lead it into the future than Daniella Levine Cava.” Sink also served as the state’s Chief Financial Officer after first winning election in 2006. She turned that victory into a 2010 gubernatorial bid but narrowly lost to Republican candidate Rick Scott.
— TOP OPINION —
“A President who makes us puke: Just like he was hired to do” via John F. Harris of POLITICO — It is not intended as an insult to Trump to observe that he is the political equivalent of ipecac syrup. Looked at in a certain light, it is closer to a compliment. His supporters gave him power in 2016 because they believed the body politic was beset with toxins, an overdose of fecklessness and hypocrisy, and in need of a purge. Trump vowed to channel the contempt his supporters felt toward the established order and pledged plausibly to send the old order into a state of convulsive disarray. If the promise of disruption, carried out in language and gestures of pervasive contempt, was why he won the job, then Trump is as entitled as any recent president to stand beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner.
— OPINIONS —
“If we want to beat COVID-19, we need to get a lot better at vaccinating people” via Anupam B. Jena and Christopher M. Worsham of The Washington Post — While many of the challenges of this pandemic are unique to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, one of them is not: rapidly administering a vaccine, should one become available, to the entire population. We have some experience with a challenge of this magnitude, given that the CDC recommends every person older than six months receive the latest influenza vaccine. But we have never come close to that recommended vaccination rate. The CDC’s most recent estimates of vaccination rates in the 2018-2019 season are the highest on record, yet only 45.3% of adults and 62.6% of children received vaccines. Fear of vaccination, fueled by inadequate education, faulty research, and deliberate misinformation, is part of the problem.
“Staycation” via Sergio Peçanha of The Washington Post — I miss going somewhere, anywhere, far away. The packing and carrying stuff to the airport and the long lines at the check-in, the frustration with the check-in machine, the impatience of the airline helper guy, the slowness of it all. And then the rush to the security line, the long, boring, slow-moving security line and the big families with double strollers. How is it possible that some people have so many kids and travel with them? And the stupid taking off my shoes, and my belt, and the emptying of my pockets, and the trashing of a perfectly fine water bottle, and the X-ray puff followed by a security officer who looks bored by it all, too.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida Democrats are returning the interest-free loan they obtained from the federal government under the Paycheck Protection Plan. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says it wasn’t supposed to go to political organizations like the Florida Democratic Party.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— On the other hand, several Republicans had no qualms about applying for the federal loans, including the incoming president of the Florida Senate, Wilton Simpson.
— As COVID-19 spiked over the past two weeks, Gov. DeSantis responded by saying don’t look at new cases … look at the small number of fatalities compared to other states. Well, the Sunshine State just set a record Thursday — 120 fatalities reported in a single day. It puts Florida’s COVID-19 death toll is at least 4,111.
— Dr. Anthony Fauci says states with a serious COVID-19 problem should consider shutting down again. Fauci insists he’s not picking on Florida.
— U.S. Labor Secretary Scalia says the economy is coming back … but not until kids are back in the classroom.
— An in-depth look at a new program to help feed Floridians in rural areas who face all manner of financial hardships during the pandemic.
— And the latest with a Florida Woman — who is in jail for cooking a snack … in the wrong kitchen.
To listen, click on the image below:
— LISTEN UP —
Dishonorable Mention: Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Longtime friend UCFKent (Kent Mullens) talks politics, Disney challenges and his friendship with Latvala. Is a messy car a deal-breaker for a prospective date, and other inquiries about early dating. They play their favorite game — we tell Mullens the #1 song on his 14th birthday and he discusses his experiences at the parks upon reopening.
Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Even as Florida’s coronavirus outbreak has reached alarming new levels, state leaders are ordering every school in the state to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year. Reporters John Kennedy, Antonio Fins and Zac Anderson discuss the reopening push, the ongoing debate about what measures to take to contain the coronavirus in Florida as cases spike and a shake-up within Trump’s Florida campaign team.
podcastED: Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill talks with Tom Arnett, a senior research fellow in education for the Christensen Institute whose work focuses on studying innovations that amplify educator capacity, documenting barriers to K-12 innovation, and identifying disruptive innovations in education. Tuthill and Arnett discuss the future of public education and the various “blended learning” models available for students today that leverage technology to customize education based individual needs.
The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Mary Trump legal battles against her uncle might seem like a fun little political soap opera. It’s way more than that, Mary’s lawyer Ted Boutrous explains. The attempt to stop her tell-all book before publication — “I think it’s really an effort to intimidate people from speaking, to intimidate the press. But also, it’s a political tool. It’s a fundraising tool. It seems to excite people who support Trump,” he tells Jong-Fast and Wilson. The Beast’s Kate Briquelet — who has broken some of the biggest stories about Jeffrey Epstein’s cabal — talks about the arrest of Epstein ‘madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell. “There are power players in New York,” she explains “who are very nervous that Ghislaine is going to spill the secrets.” Does Trump know how to listen to a podcast? Could Kanye West’s “run for President” could really, really backfire? How is Ye like Vermin Supreme? And what the hell is “the McKinsey of grift?”
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Sen. Joe Gruters; Rep. Fentrice Driskell; Dr. Jay Wolfson, Senior Associate Dean at Morsani College of Medicine and Associate VP of USF Health and Tampa Bay Times columnist-reporter John Romano.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Remains on hiatus due to coronavirus.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Trump makes a stop in Florida as coronavirus cases rise; an interview with presidential candidate Biden’s National press secretary TJ Ducklo on policy and campaign plans; and U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz will discuss the benefits of having the RNC in Florida.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with attorney Sean Pittman and Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Waltz, St. Johns County School Board Chair Beverly Slough and Michelle Cook, a former Atlantic Beach Police Chief and candidate for Clay County Sheriff.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
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New York City began painting “Black Lives Matter” in large yellow letters on the street outside Trump Tower on Thursday. The public art project was the latest battle in a feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Trump, who rose to fame as a Manhattan real estate developer. “Black lives matter in our city, and Black lives matter in the United States of America,” @nycMayorsaid before joining city workers and activists in spreading school-bus yellow paint on Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets, in Manhattan. “Let’s show Donald Trump what he does not understand. Let’s paint it right in front of his building for him.” The project comes after Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington had workers paint “Black Lives Matter” in giant yellow letters outside the White House after the president deployed federal officers during protests there. When New York’s plan was announced last month, city officials presented its location as a direct rebuke of Trump, who has repeatedly denigrated those protesting against systemic racism and police brutality in recent weeks. Shortly after 10 a.m., workers began filling in the first letters of the phrase. As the work got underway, activists, reporters and onlookers milled around, with some occasionally shouting criticisms of Trump. Tap the link in our bio to read more. Photos by @demetrius.freeman.
— ALOE —
“Disney firing up ticket sales, hotel booking for 2020 again” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World will resume selling theme-park tickets and making hotel reservations for dates in 2020 as of Thursday, the resort announced Wednesday evening. Disney had suspended these sales as it reset in preparation for a phased reopening. Its first parks to reopen will be the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Saturday. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot will open Wednesday, July 15. The new ticket sales also will be tied to Disney’s new park pass system. Visitors must have made a reservation to go to a specific park on a specific date, along with a ticket or annual pass, to get into the attraction.
“ACC expected to limit football schedule to only conference games in 2020” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — If the 2020 college football season happens, it’s reportedly going to look a lot different. This stems from a report by Brett McMurphy of Stadium that the ACC is expected to follow suit with a few other major conferences and play only conference games over its teams’ 2020 football schedules due to concern that remains surrounding the coronavirus. The Big 10 became the first Power-Five conference to announce it would be going to only conference games for the 2020 season in a news release. A report followed shortly after the Big 10 news that the Pac-12 is expected to follow suit and play only conference games.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, former Sen. Rene Garcia, former Rep. Gary Aubuchon, and Beth Gosnell.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.