If you channel surf, travel out of state or peruse headlines, chances are you’ve heard some wildly inaccurate — ignorant, even — views on Florida.
This mythical version of the Sunshine State is an amalgamation of Florida Man stories, memories of the 2000 recount and, of course, theme parks.
The outsider view on Florida Republicans is just as fallacious.
People and the national media tend to think of Florida Republicanism as an adjunct of Trumpism. Indeed, Donald Trump is popular here. In what other state was a hundreds-strong flotilla organized to celebrate the President’s birthday?
As the coronavirus pandemic puts the spotlight on Florida’s government, GOP politicians are being lambasted for their handling of the crisis. Admittedly, Gov. Ron DeSantis deserves a little heat — and I’ve criticized him when he’s crossed the line.
But Florida’s take on Republicanism is not synonymous with Trumpism. Not in the slightest.
Take Sen. Wilton Simpson, for example, he’s just months away from becoming Senate President. His power is nearing its peak and he could push just about any bill through the Legislature with brute force.
But he didn’t use it to pass a Trumpian priority. Instead, he expended his political capital on a bill reforming the Department of Children and Families — something members of both parties could get behind and a policy that will make a direct positive impact on Floridians’ lives.
For his environmental priorities, the Governor didn’t have to look far to find an advocate. Sen. Debbie Mayfield and Rep. Bobby Payne delivered the ambitious and comprehensive Clean Waterways Act to his desk, with unanimous support from both chambers.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, meanwhile, has been one of the most outspoken advocates — from either party — on criminal justice reform. He’s sponsored legislation to reduce prison sentences for some young adult offenders; early release for certain ill or elderly inmates; and allow more diversion from state prison altogether.
Current Senate President Bill Galvano was a proponent of Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver, which will help the state better manage the costs of caring for disabled Floridians without making cuts to their health care.
Why? He summed it up best when the bill was signed: “In my view, one of the core functions and responsibilities of government is to ensure that our laws protect the most vulnerable among us.”
These lawmakers are not aberrations, they’re simply a continuation in a long line of Florida Republicans who have put the needs of their constituents first. Think Will Weatherford’s quest to end poverty, or Andy Gardiner’s scholarship program for special needs students, or Jeb Bush’s work to expand school choice.
Their critics might not believe it, but care for others is seemingly a prerequisite for climbing the ranks of the Republican Party of Florida.
If we could bottle up the formula for the Florida Republicanism and make others drink it, Trump’s GOP would be a better place.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@JoeBiden: With COVID-19 surging across the nation, Donald Trump should be doing everything in his power to increase access to testing. Instead, he’s doing the opposite. It’s despicable.
—@FakeThemePark: Despite increased cases in our state, we are not concerned about COVID-19! Also, despite increased snake eggs in the park, we are not concerned about snakes! And despite increased tornado warnings, we are not concerned about tornadoes!
—@OConnellPostbiz: I think it’s OK to both a) applaud PPP for moving quickly rather than dithering over who got what and b) point out people who are clearly taking unfair advantage of it
—@Fineout: As this as unfolded we have seen the elastic nature of emergency power wielded by @— It’s OK to sidestep constitution on spending $ & ordering schools to open. It’s not OK to change laws reelections & unemployment …
—@ShevrinJones: Unfortunately, the @rep called me and attempted to do contact tracing for my COVID-19, but she: 1) Was unprofessional, 2) Her phone disconnected and I have not heard from them since last Thursday. If this is our tracking system, throw all of it in the
—@SenMannyDiaz: Forcing these small businesses to shut down again after they have followed all of the guidelines put forth by the county is not only unfair but will cause irrevocable harm to these families, where is the data showing that restaurants operating at 50% caused this?
—@TraceyRyniec: Big impacts of Miami’s decision to close indoor dining on the economy. No way for tourism to come back. Biggest business. And the extra $600 a week in unemployment ends in just 19 days.
—@ChrisLHayes: I’m curious if other people have had something in them break the last few weeks, where you realize “normal,” or even a rough approximation of it is gone for a good long while. We’ve always known that at some level but I feel it intensely and viscerally right now.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Major League Soccer resumes — 1; Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 4; Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 8; Federal taxes due — 8; MLB starts — 16; WNBA starts — 17; PLL starts — 18; TED conference rescheduled — 19; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 21; NBA season restart in Orlando — 24; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 24; NHL resumes — 25; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 42; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 43; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 45; Indy 500 rescheduled — 47; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 48; NBA draft lottery — 49; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 52; U.S. Open begins — 55; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 59; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 60; Rescheduled date for French Open — 75; First presidential debate in Indiana — 84; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 87; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 88; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 92; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 98; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 100; NBA draft — 101; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 101; NBA free agency — 104; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 107; 2020 General Election — 119; “Black Widow” premieres — 124; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 128; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 134; “No Time to Die” premieres — 136; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 147; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 169; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 215; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 381; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 389; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 486; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 584; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 626; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 668; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 822.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
Shot — “Ron DeSantis, on the coronavirus: ‘I think we’ve stabilized at where we’re at’” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said the growing coronavirus case numbers in Florida are not necessarily a reflection of the outbreak, which he said has “stabilized.” … “I want us to be in May. I want us to be in early June,” DeSantis said, referring to the state’s low rate of positive test results from earlier in the pandemic. “We want to get back to that for sure. I think we’ve stabilized at where we’re at.” The state reported more than 6,300 new positive cases Monday out of about 44,600 total tests, for a positive test rate of about 14%. That’s where the positive rate has remained for about a week as Florida’s new reported case numbers continue to climb.
Chaser — “Florida ‘heading a million miles an hour in the wrong direction’” via Brooke Seipel of The Hill — An infectious disease specialist is warning that Florida is “heading a million miles an hour in the wrong direction” in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “Right now, we are heading a million miles an hour in the wrong direction,” Aileen Marty, an expert who helped write Miami-Dade’s reopening rules. She added, however, that people are not following the rules, which is playing a role in the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area. The state has seen back-to-back record-breaking days of coronavirus cases, and DeSantis has said the state will not reverse course on its reopening. The climbing cases have prompted fears of further outbreaks over the July Fourth weekend. In response to those concerns, Miami-Dade County in announced it was imposing a curfew this weekend.
“DeSantis says Floridians should not be quarantined” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis continues to face questions about other regions quarantining travelers from Florida and other virus hotspots over COVID-19 concerns. The latest 14-day quarantine will be imposed by Chicago. DeSantis’ take is that while they have the right to restrict arrivals from Florida, he personally would not do that himself, and that Florida has “stabilized” at its current rates of infection. “They can do what they want. I would not do that if I were them,” the Governor told reporters in The Villages.
“DeSantis says Disney, Universal are ‘doing a great job’ with coronavirus precautions” via Tiffini Theisen and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis praised the precautions being taken by Orlando’s theme parks amid the coronavirus pandemic during a news briefing in The Villages, despite the surge in cases in Central Florida and throughout the state. Walt Disney World’s theme parks are set to reopen on July 11 with Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, followed by the July 15 reopening of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Disney Springs shopping and dining complex has been reopening gradually since May 20. DeSantis, in response to a reporter’s question, said he doesn’t consider theme park reopenings to be a problem because Universal Orlando “is doing a great job” with safety restrictions and Disney’s plans also are sound.
“DeSantis calls for statewide COVID-19 antibody study” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis says he wants the state to expand its COVID-19 antibody testing capabilities and to commission a study on how widespread undocumented infections are. Antibody testing, which indicates whether someone already fought off the virus, are available on-demand for medical professionals and first responders at several drive-thru facilities. But with a limited number of serological tests, members of the general public have only been tested through scientific studies. The CDC conducted one study in South Florida and the University of Miami conducted a test in Miami-Dade County, both suggesting the virus was an order of magnitude more prevalent than diagnostic testing alone indicates.
Assignment editors — Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Darren Soto and Donna Shalala among others will hold an online meeting to discuss their concerns with DeSantis’ response in the spread of COVID-19, 11 a.m., zoom.us. RSVP with [email protected].
“As Florida sets records for COVID-19 cases, health authorities often fail to do contact tracing” via Elizabeth Cohen of CNN Health — Despite claims that Florida traces every case of COVID-19, an investigation found that health authorities in Florida, now the nation’s No. 1 hotspot for the virus, often fail to do contact tracing, long considered a key tool in containing an outbreak. Florida’s contact tracing challenges are indicative of how hard it is for states hard hit by COVID-19 to do proper contact tracing, which is a challenge even under the best of circumstances. The virus is so far along in states like Florida that it’s a seemingly herculean task to track down every infected person and follow up with all their close contacts.
“As the virus surged, Florida partied. Tracking the revelers has been tough.” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — Just how many parties have been linked to COVID-19 is unclear because Florida does not make public information about confirmed disease clusters. But the quest to end parties and other social gatherings has gained new urgency because of the exploding coronavirus in Florida, which reported more than 10,000 new cases on Sunday. The state’s contact tracers, already overwhelmed by the surging number of new cases, have found it especially difficult to track how the virus jumped from one party guest to the next because some infected people refused to divulge whom they went out with or had over to their house.
“Florida schools ordered to reopen in August” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered public schools to reopen in August and offer “the full panoply of services” to students and families. As COVID-19 outbreaks spike in Florida, Corcoran’s mandate said that extending school closures can impede students’ educational success and prevent parents and guardians from returning to work. “There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families, and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride,” the order states. Under the emergency order, all public schools will be required to reopen in August for at least five days a week and to provide the full array of services required by law, including in-person instruction and services for students with special needs.
“Plastic barriers and ‘mask breaks’ — Florida school districts get creative with plans to reopen schools” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — When Jacksonville schools reopen in the fall, students will see their friends again for the first time in months, through the glossy sheen of a plastic divider sitting on their desks. The Duval County School District recently approved the use of these barriers between seats in computer labs and at desks where social distancing is not practical. Duval County’s plan also will reduce the number of in-person class days for older students, using distance learning platforms the rest of the time. Seventh and eighth grade students will attend classes three days a week. High school students will have two days of in-classroom instruction. Meanwhile, the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise across Florida, with positive tests for the new coronavirus surpassing 200,000 over the weekend.
“Florida schools get funding assurances amid reopening uncertainties” via Jeffrey S. Solocheck of the Tampa Bay Times — On the same day that Trump tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!,” Florida education department officials made clear that parents must have that option available to them if health conditions allow. But that choice won’t be best for every family, chancellor Jacob Oliva said, noting that only about one-third of parents responding to a survey indicated a strong desire to return to in-person classes five days a week. Many want other models of education available, such as live online lessons. Education Commissioner Corcoran issued an emergency order aimed at ensuring that districts and charter schools get funding for those approaches that aren’t generally contemplated in law.
“Prisons see hundreds of additional coronavirus cases” via News Service of Florida — Florida’s prison system recorded 443 new coronavirus cases and an inmate death over the holiday weekend, according to figures released Monday by the state Department of Corrections. An additional 354 inmates and 89 correctional workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. In total, the state has logged 2,443 inmate cases and 622 employee cases, officials confirmed Monday. Twenty-five inmates have died of complications related to COVID-19, including one inmate who died over the weekend.
“The dying man was sent back to his cell. A look at how COVID-19 kills Florida prisoners” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — On April 5, when Florida’s positive coronavirus cases were one-sixteenth the number they are today, Jeffrey Sand went to the infirmary at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, a privately managed state prison near Pensacola. He complained of shortness of breath and of a cough and diarrhea. Four days later, he was put back in his cell. He died there that same day, found sprawled on the floor of his cell, next to the door. No one in the public knew that he was sent back to his cell by the infirmary while apparently on the verge of death. Sand was one of 2,443 inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 and one of 25 who died. Department of Corrections officials divulge precious little information about the circumstances under which inmates die, making it nearly impossible to determine whether inmates received adequate care.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“3 new free COVID-19 test sites open Wednesday in Jacksonville” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — As the number of COVID-19 cases in Duval County continues to climb, options to get tested for the coronavirus are expanding as well. Monday the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced three new federal testing sites would open in Jacksonville. The new sites, located in the Northside, Westside and Arlington, are all drive-thru options and are available for ages 5-and-up. No symptoms are required to get tested. They are each appointment-only, while existing options run by the city, like Lot J drive-thru testing and Legends Center walk-up testing, do not require an appointment.
“Miami-Dade restaurants, gyms closing again under new order targeting COVID surge” via Douglas Hanks, Samantha Gross and Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County restaurants must close dining rooms and gyms must shut down again this week under a planned emergency order by Mayor Carlos Giménez as he continues to retreat from a May reopening plan that has proved unable to prevent a surge in new coronavirus cases. “We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” Gimenez said in a statement. The restaurant closure order will allow takeout and delivery to continue, Gimenez said. Last week, Gimenez ordered the closures of casinos, movie theaters, and strip clubs while mandating masks in most public spaces.
“‘I feel beaten down.’ Miami-Dade restaurants face second coronavirus shut down” via Carlos Frias of the Miami Herald — Just as Michael Beltran was planning to reopen one of his restaurants, the county ordered it again to close. At the exact time chef Beltran’s public relations firm sent out a news release announcing the rebranding of his Coconut Grove restaurant The Taurus, the County Mayor’s office sent out an email announcing Giménez’s decision to close dining rooms again at all restaurants starting Wednesday. “I’m a fiery, feisty fighter, but right now I feel beaten down,” Beltran said. “I feel like my soul has been sucked out of my body.” The County Mayor intends to sign an emergency order to again close restaurant dining rooms, as well as gyms, ballrooms and short-term vacation rentals.
“‘The needle he has to thread is very tricky.’ COVID-19 puts Miami-Dade mayor in a bind” via Alex Daugherty and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Giménez wanted to campaign on opposing socialism and his nine years as Miami-Dade County Mayor. But a force larger than politics, the coronavirus pandemic, is defining his race for Congress against Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and complicating his path to victory. As the strong mayor of the hardest-hit county in Florida, Gimenez is responsible for protecting the public health of millions of residents and balancing the multibillion-dollar local economy. And yet, as a Republican running in a left-leaning congressional district, he also has to consider the president’s hard-core voters, some of whom shun masks and resist government lockdowns
“Miami Beach man charged after pushing 86-year-old man off elevator to practice social distancing” via Alex de Armas and Jessica Holly of News 7 Miami — Nachum Gross, has been charged after allegedly injuring a man in his 80s at the Portofino Towers. In recently released video footage, Gross appears to have pushed the man out of an elevator in an attempt to practice social distancing. At one point, the elevator door opens and Gross is seen holding up two fingers, hinting at the two-person limit, but the man, Gerald Steiglitz, tries to enter anyway. Gross was accused of pushing the man backward with his forearm, with a level of force that injured the man. “There was no unlawful touching,” Michael Grieco, Gross’ attorney, said. “He was completely within his rights to defend himself and defend his wife.”
— MORE LOCAL —
“On lighter testing, Central Florida logs 802 new COVID-19 cases” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With the usual Sunday drop-off in test results being returned, Central Florida logged 802 new COVID-19 cases in new data reported Monday morning by the Florida Department of Health, a significantly lower total than previous days. The latest report shows that since Sunday morning’s information release, Orange County recorded just 375 new cases, a steep drop from the county’s worst day ever, which was revealed in Saturday’s report that showed 1,184 new cases, and from Sunday’s report of 770 new cases. Statewide, after a Fourth of July weekend that saw more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases each day, state health officials reported 6,366 new cases.
“Hillsborough changes its face-mask rule” via C.T. Bowen and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County emergency leaders agreed Monday to rewrite its two-week-old face mask requirement to ease concerns from business owners. But the changed order now includes a substantial loophole: It excludes people who hold concealed weapons permits. The changes also remove criminal sanctions, which drew objections from the business community, and instead says civil citations could be issued to business owners who don’t make a reasonable effort to enforce the rules. The order defines reasonable effort as businesses that place signs at entrances, make public address announcements and ask customers to comply. The rule asks people to cover their faces inside buildings if they are unable to maintain social distancing. Individuals who fail to comply with the businesses’ request could be subject to a civil citation with a fine of up to $150.
“Lakeland Regional Health using overflow ICU beds as COVID-19 hospitalizations climb” via Staci DaSilva of WFLA — With COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise, Polk County’s largest hospital is accessing additional intensive care unit beds it has available to treat patients. “Right now, we’re in a good spot. We feel comfortable with our bed capacity at the moment,” said Caroline Gay, Senior Vice President at Lakeland Regional Health. Gay said community spread has caused COVID-19 hospitalizations to rise at Lakeland Regional Health. The Agency for Health Care Administration, which is tracking intensive care unit capacity in the state, shows Polk County with less than 10% adult ICU availability. It shows Lakeland Regional Health at 0% availability. Hospital officials say the numbers don’t account for the 50 additional ICU beds the hospital has available.
“COVID-19 outbreak at Kathleen High School” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — Kathleen Senior High School is now also home to a reported COVID-19 outbreak, with at least eight staff and family members infected with the virus at the school’s graduation ceremony on June 9, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. “I’m more concerned with keeping the students and staff safe,” said one man, who confirmed he tested positive in the weeks following the graduation event. He said at least seven other people that he knows of have COVID-19. “It seems crazy that we’re still full speed ahead with full-time reopening, four weeks away.” School district spokeswoman Rachel Pleasant would not confirm the outbreak.
“Polk to purchase 1 million masks; mandate unlikely” via Kevin Bouffard of The Ledger — The Polk County Commission on Monday instructed staff to purchase 1 million masks for free distribution to the public, but a commission majority indicated it does not favor making mask wearing mandatory in the county. All five commissioners gave County Manager Bill Beasley authority to purchase the masks after he told them the price would be about 20 cents each for a multi-layered cloth mask that can be re-used a number of times. They could not take an official vote during the Monday morning work session.”
“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. The pandemic brought revenue drops in numerous areas, including sales and gas taxes, utilities, parking, recreation and other services, public transit and flights, where the floor fell out in a 95% drop.
“Florida teen dies after conspiracy theorist mom takes her to church ‘COVID party’ and tries to treat her with Donald Trump-approved drug: report” via Travis Gettys of RawStory — Carsyn Davis died June 23, two days after her 17th birthday, after she contracted the coronavirus. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the teen’s last two weeks in the medical examiner’s report, which Jones said shows her mother, Carole Brunton Davis, had taken her on June 10 to a church-sponsored event to intentionally expose her immunocompromised daughter, who had survived cancer at 2, to the potentially deadly coronavirus. More than 100 mask-free children attended the event, and Davis allegedly gave her daughter azithromycin, an anti-bacterial drug with no known benefits for fighting COVID-19, after she developed headaches, sinus pressure and a cough.
— CORONA NATION —
“‘We need to live with it’: White House readies new message for the nation on coronavirus” via Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker and Monica Alba of NBC News — After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it. Administration officials are planning to intensify what they hope is a sharper, and less conflicting, message of the pandemic next week, according to senior administration officials, after struggling to offer clear directives amid a crippling surge in cases across the country. At the crux of the message, officials said, is a recognition by the White House that the virus is not going away any time soon and will be around through the November election.
“Anthony Fauci says vaccines likely to offer only ‘finite’ protection” via Riley Griffin of Bloomberg — Any vaccine developed to ward off the novel coronavirus would likely be limited in how long it would shield against infection, top U.S. infectious disease expert Fauci said. “You can assume that we’ll get protection at least to take us through this cycle,” Fauci said. “We’re still knee-deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, Fauci said. Health officials are assuming a shot would offer a degree of protection, though it’s likely “going to be finite.” A shot to protect against COVID-19 won’t work like the measles vaccine, which lasts throughout a person’s lifetime, Fauci said. “We may need a boost to continue the protection, but right now we don’t know how long it lasts.”
“As COVID-19 cases soar, new study links infection spikes to in-person restaurant dining” via Matthew Moyer of Creative Loafing — A study conducted by J.P. Morgan, where in-house analysts cross-referenced the spending of 30 million Chase credit card users with Johns Hopkins University data on coronavirus cases around the country and saw an apparent connection between an uptick in spending in restaurants and rising COVID-19 cases. “Looking across categories of card spending, we find that the level of spending in restaurants three weeks ago was the strongest predictor of the rise in new virus cases over the subsequent three weeks,” wrote JP Morgan analyst Jesse Edgerton. The authors of the study were quick to point out that there were myriad factors contributing to the exponential rise of coronavirus cases all over the country the last three weeks.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Small business aid went beyond hard-hit companies, data show” via Christopher Rugaber and Joyce M. Rosenberg of The Associated Press — The government identified roughly 650,000 mostly small businesses and nonprofits that received taxpayer money through a federal program that was designed to soften job losses from the coronavirus but also benefited wealthy, well-connected companies and some celebrity-owned firms. The Treasury Department’s Payroll Protection Program approved applicants from a broad swath of industries. Some that were less directly impacted by the pandemic, such as manufacturing and construction, received a greater proportion of the loans than the hard-hit restaurant and hotel industries. Many law firms and private equity companies also obtained loans.
“Auto dealers, restaurants with ties to lawmakers were among the firms that got PPP loans: Treasury report” via Ledyard King and Nicholas Wu of USA TODAY — Businesses owned by several members of Congress or their families received federal PPP loans designed to help small firms weather the economic fallout of the coronavirus, according to information the Trump administration released Monday. The list of lawmaker-connected businesses includes car dealerships, casinos, construction companies and restaurants. All were deemed eligible by the Small Business Administration for the PPP loans. Before the release of the data, three members of Congress said they or their spouses had received PPP loans: Rep. Roger Williams of Texas; Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri; and Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell has a husband who is a vice president of Fiesta Restaurant Group, which received two loans totaling $15 million. Both the loans have been returned.
“Kanye West? The Girl Scouts? Hedge funds? All got PPP loans” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The government’s small business lending program has benefited millions of companies, with the goal of minimizing the number of layoffs Americans have suffered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the recipients include many you probably wouldn’t have expected. Kanye West’s clothing line. The sculptor Jeff Koons. Law firms and high-dollar hedge funds. The Girl Scouts. Political groups on both the left and right. Economists generally credit the program with preventing the job market meltdown this spring from becoming even worse.
“Florida Democratic Party among those receiving paycheck protection program money” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — According to the PPP database, the Florida Democratic Party Building Fund received somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million to protect 100 jobs. The Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation received between $150,000-$350,000. The Florida Association of Community Health Centers in Tallahassee received between $150,000 and $350,000 to save 13 jobs; the Florida High School Athletic Association in Gainesville received between $350,000 and $1 million to save 25 jobs; the Florida Immigrant Coalition of Miami received between $350,000 and $1 million to save 121 jobs; two chapters of the International Longshoremen’s Association.
—“Florida politicians and Democratic Party got loans through PPP” via Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida
“Here are the Tampa Bay companies that applied for PPP loans of $5M or more” via Luke Torrance of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Close to 40 companies in the Tampa Bay region applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans between $5 million to $10 million. In total, 39 Tampa Bay companies applied for loans between $5 and $10 million. Notable names in the top tier include Agile Thought, Bisk Education, Times Publishing Co., McNichols Co., Bisk Education, Morgan & Morgan Tampa, Physicians Partners of America LLC and Florida Medical Clinic. Of those 39 companies, 18 are based in Tampa; four are in St. Petersburg, and three are located in Clearwater and Lakeland each.
“Sarasota and Manatee businesses got hundreds of millions in coronavirus aid” via Zac Anderson of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — More than 1,700 businesses and nonprofits in Sarasota and Manatee counties collected federal assistance totaling in the hundreds of millions through a program aimed at keeping workers employed during the coronavirus crisis. The SBA database of nearly 700,000 loans of $150,000 or more includes some of the region’s most prominent nonprofits and businesses, including one owned by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, another where his Democratic opponent Margaret Good works and the accounting firm of Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson and state Sen. Joe Gruters, who chairs the Florida GOP.
“From Braman to Flanigan’s, here are the Miami-Dade and Broward companies that got PPP loans” via Bob Wile of the Miami Herald — Sixty Miami-Dade and Broward firms were named in the highest range, $5-$10 million or more. This group includes Braman Motors, Coastal Construction Group, Flanigan’s Enterprises, Hotwire Communications, Koning Restaurants International, Lexus of Pembroke Pines, accounting firm Morrison Brown Argiz Farra, Silver Airways, Spanish Broadcasting System Inc., Turnberry Hotels Management Group, United Stevedoring of America, Versailles owner Valls Group Holdings, Warren Henry Auto Group and the YMCA of South Florida. Also, on the list were law firms Becker & Poliakoff, Cole Scott & Kissane, Kubicki Draper, Stearns Weaver Miller and Wicker Smith.
Tweet, tweet — @PatFizgerald23: The Ayn Rand Institute received a PPP loan of between $350K and $1 million
“Some Florida businesses go public over coronavirus cases, but for others, it’s mum’s the word” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — When an employee at New Smyrna Beach’s Third Wave Cafe & Wine Bar tested positive for coronavirus, the business not only temporarily shut its doors but took to social media to report the news to its customers. The restaurant then disclosed the last day the person was at work and that the staffer had worked morning and evening shifts in the week leading up to that date. The cafe has since opened back up with more safety measures in place. But not every business has been as forthcoming when an employee tests positive for the highly contagious virus. Some will reveal cases if asked, but others stay silent. And there is no state requirement that they make it public.
“A double whammy for Florida’s unemployed: Limited jobs and dwindling help” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Among the millions of unemployed, many face a similar future: nothing more to lose. Their job prospects remain bleak, and their lifeline of government assistance may be coming to an end. Many are desperately redefining their working selves to survive until COVID-19 is either eradicated or brought under control. For many, Florida’s short-term 12-week run of $275 payments may be close to ending if it hasn’t already. Without government aid or a job to help pay household expenses, evictions may not be far behind as tenants and homeowners run out of money to pay rent or monthly mortgage obligations.
“Sleeping outside in a pandemic: Vulnerable renters face evictions” via Caitlin Dickerson of The New York Times — When the nation’s economy ground to a halt this spring, economists warned that an avalanche of evictions was looming. The federal government and many states rushed to ban them temporarily. They placed moratoriums on mortgage foreclosures to relieve financial pressure on landlords. Immigrant and renter advocates in cities across the country say they are being inundated with complaints about landlords pressuring tenants to pay rent money. They say landlords use harassment, illegal fees for late-payments and repairs or simply change the locks as a way to force out vulnerable renters.
“The big factor holding back the U.S. economic recovery: Child care” via Heather Long of The Washington Post — The child care crunch triggered by the pandemic has rapidly become a crisis for many workers and companies that is hindering the economic recovery, disproportionately harming women and threatening to leave deep scars for years to come. A consensus is emerging among top economists and business leaders that getting kids back into day cares and schools is critical to getting the economy back to normal. Yet many school systems are discussing only a partial reopening in the fall or remaining virtual, and up to half the country’s child care centers may shut permanently because they can’t survive financially, industry leaders warn, leaving families with even fewer options.
“The impending retail apocalypse” via Jennifer A. Kingson of Axios — Because of the coronavirus and people’s buying habits moving online, retail stores are closing everywhere, often for good. Malls are going belly up, too. Familiar names like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew have filed for bankruptcy. Increasingly, Americans’ shopping choices will boil down to a handful of internet Everything Stores and survival-of-the-fittest national chains. A research report from UBS predicts that 100,000 brick-and-mortar U.S. retail stores will close by 2025, in a trend that started before the pandemic and has accelerated amid coronavirus-related shutdowns.
“Bank of America temporarily closes 50 Central Florida branches amid coronavirus pandemic” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Bank of America has temporarily closed about 50 Central Florida branches as part of a shuttering of locations in cities across the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bank plans to reopen the branches “as soon as possible,” but there is not a set date for that, spokesman Matthew Daily said Monday. Each will come back online on a case-by-case basis, he added. Daily pointed to staffing issues as a reason for the move, saying employees might not necessarily be sick but could be taking care of an ailing parent or child. Daily could not comment when asked if any employees had tested positive for the virus.
— MORE CORONA —
“Scientists urge WHO to address airborne spread of coronavirus” via James McAuley and Emily Rauhala of The Washington Post — More than 200 scientists from over 30 countries are urging the World Health Organization to take more seriously the possibility of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus as case numbers rise around the world and surge in the United States. Until recently, most public health guidelines have focused on social distancing measures, regular hand-washing and precautions to avoid droplets. But the signatories to the paper say the potential of the virus to spread via airborne transmission has not been fully appreciated even by public health institutions such as the WHO.
“Spain’s coronavirus antibodies study adds evidence against herd immunity” via Al Goodman of CNN Health — Spain’s large-scale study on the coronavirus indicates just 5% of its population has developed antibodies, strengthening evidence that so-called herd immunity to COVID-19 is “unachievable,” The findings show that 95% of Spain’s population remains susceptible to the virus. Herd immunity is achieved when enough of a population has become infected with a virus or bacteria or vaccinated against it, to stop its circulation. There have been similar studies in China and the United States and “the key finding from these representative cohorts is that most of the population appears to have remained unexposed” to COVID-19.
“Israel tightens restrictions and is ‘a step away from a full lockdown.’” via The New York Times — With the virus roaring back and positive test results reaching new heights, the Israeli government ratcheted up its restrictions, closing bars, gyms and public swimming pools, curtailing gatherings in restaurants, synagogues and buses and canceling summer camps for all but the youngest children. Israel had fared relatively well in the early days of the pandemic after closing its borders. But lax compliance and erratic action by a government rushing to revive the battered economy sent numbers spiking last week. The number of daily positive tests reached 781 on June 30, a new high, and 1,138 on Thursday. No more than 20 people will be allowed on public buses and in indoor restaurants. Outdoor restaurants may seat up to 30. Some of the measures require Parliament’s approval, but others can be imposed by fiat.
“How the billionaire behind the movie ‘Contagion’ is working to stop this pandemic — and the next one” via Kerry A. Dolan of Forbes — Jeff Skoll has been funding pandemic preparedness for more than a decade, even longer than Bill Gates. In recent months, he’s increased his philanthropic giving to help combat COVID-19. While his impassioned filmmaking pretty much ground to a halt temporarily with California’s shelter-in-place orders, his 2011 movie Contagion has become the must watch-at-home hit of the pandemic, it’s the number one selling title to date this year, according to Warner Brothers. Since the start of this year, Skoll has contributed an additional $200 million to his charitable foundation, $100 million of which was announced in late April and will go toward fighting COVID-19.
“How Disney could be facing a lot more than a lost summer” via Steven Zeitchik of The Wall Street Journal — The debut of “Hamilton” on Disney Plus this weekend is bringing Disney a much-needed win, as many existing and new subscribers are tuning in for the Broadway musical about the roiling early days of the republic, then jumping on social media to talk about it. With every passing day of coronavirus uncertainty and social upheaval, Disney finds itself scrambling not only for revenue but also for relevance. A growing number of voices are starting to ask whether a more fundamental change is brewing, a change that will affect Disney beyond one bad quarter. They’re wondering whether a company built heavily on a foundation of in-person gatherings, and on the peddling of an inoffensive utopia that largely exists outside racial identity, can be effective in a prolonged period of isolation and fulmination.
“Royal Caribbean, Norwegian team up for coronavirus cruise safety” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings are teaming up to form a best practices group with the hopes of the cruise industry getting back to sailing in a world with COVID-19. The “Healthy Sail Panel” aims to get cruise industry standards in line for a safe return to sailing despite the threat of coronavirus. The panel has already been working for nearly a month and will have initial recommendations by the end of August. Any return to sailing will require cruise lines to submit plans to the CDC for approval.
“No doorman? No problem. COVID-19 changes NYC’s real estate rules” via Britton O’Daly and Tom Maloney of Bloomberg — Doormen have long been a treasured perk in New York City — apartment building gatekeepers who greet guests, take deliveries and hail cabs. But the pandemic is upending the rules of real estate in the city. As residents avoid elevators and face-to-face lobby encounters to socially distance, some potential homebuyers now see doormen as a liability. Ground-floor apartments, meanwhile, typically shunned for their proximity to the noise and chaos of the street, are suddenly having their moment because they offer an escape from elevators and lobbies, where germs can spread. Outdoor space is at an even higher premium now, and people are increasingly searching for apartments with laundry in the unit.
“Someday, we’ll hit the dance floor again. And it will be glorious.” via Sarah L. Kaufman of The Washington Post — Of all the once-harmless human behaviors that are now potentially deadly, social dancing is surely near the top of the list. It’s easily one of the most dangerous activities we can do for the very reasons that it’s also one of the most glorious. The coronavirus preys on our humanity, and dancing brings that out in crazy plumes of joy. We don’t have to be dancing cheek to cheek to be imperiled. There’s always going to be touching, unless we’re talking perfect formations of line dancing.
— SMOLDERING —
“Black Lives Matter may be the largest movement in U.S. history” via Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui and Jugal K. Patel of The New York Times — Four recent polls suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks. These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history. While it’s possible that more people said they protested than actually did, even if only half told the truth, the surveys suggest more than seven million people participated in recent demonstrations. The Women’s March of 2017 had a turnout of about three million to five million people on a single day, but that was a highly organized event.
“Despite removals, Florida still in Top 10 with 62 Confederate memorials” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — A data analysis by a research firm has listed Florida as third-fastest in the removal of monuments to its Confederate past. But the state still ranks tenth in the number of remaining memorials with 62. The findings come as Florida’s most vocal resident, Trump, continues to fire up the rhetoric in defense of monuments and landmarks honoring Confederate leaders who betrayed the United States to fight a war to perpetuate slavery. The tally by BeenVerified.com was based on 2019 data from the Southern Poverty Law Center plus 2020 media coverage of efforts to remove the statues and markers. BeenVerified’s count shows Florida has removed 23% of its Confederate memorials, just behind Maryland’s 70% and California’s 50%.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz pushes to deny money for military bases named after Confederates” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald —Like many Democrats and some Republicans, Wasserman Schultz wants to rename military bases that currently bear the names of Confederate generals. But Wasserman Schultz has more leverage on that issue than the average lawmaker: Her position overseeing billions of dollars in military construction funds allows her to force the issue in Congress. Wasserman Schultz plans to include language in the upcoming military construction and Veterans Affairs’ funding bill that would prohibit funds from being spent at any military base named for a Confederate soldier unless a process to rename the installation is complete or under way.
“Jacksonville cop cleared in fatal shooting of 22-year-old FAMU student” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — A Jacksonville Sheriff’s police officer involved in a fatal shooting of a Florida A&M college student in December was cleared of any wrongdoing by the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office Monday. Jamee Johnson was fatally shot by JSO Officer Josue Garriga Dec. 14 during a traffic stop. State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s office ruled Garriga took appropriate steps in the incident with Johnson. Nelson’s office also released 10 minutes of body camera footage of the incident. Garriga’s JSO partner Kristopher Graham had his body camera rolling as well and captured images of Johnson peacefully putting his hands on the roof of his car with Garriga approaching. But a struggle ensued and both men went into the car which accelerated a short distance.
“‘Go look at my Purple Heart!’ Miami man who went on racist tirade posed as Navy SEAL” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — During a racist tirade caught on video, Joseph Fucheck waved a pistol around while yelling at a Black homeowner in North Miami-Dade. “Damn right, I carry a gun because I’m a 35-year former Navy SEAL!” he yelled. “Go look at my Purple Heart!” Detectives found that supposed Purple Heart when they raided Fucheck’s Miami apartment, along with Navy certificates, dress uniforms and even portrait photos of Fucheck decked out like an admiral in front of an American flag. None of it was real. A real retired Navy SEAL, who tried confronting Fucheck, called the man’s bogus dress uniform a “total and complete mess.” Even Fucheck’s own daughter says he never served in the military.
“Lake Worth Beach could be making serious push for county to rename Dixie Highway” via Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post — The City Commission will consider a resolution “urging” the Palm Beach County Commission to rename Dixie Highway from the south county line in to in the north. The one exception would be Riviera Beach, which changed the roadway’s name to President Barack Obama Highway in 2015. “The word “Dixie” is freighted with racist associations ranging from Southern slave owners and the Confederacy to the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy more broadly,” according to the agenda item sponsored by Commissioner Omari Hardy. “Though it is of obscure origin, the word has served as a term of endearment for the “South” by the Confederacy and its supporters from at least 1861 to today.”
“Pensacola, and this paper, have histories of failing to deliver moral justice. Time to do better.” via the Pensacola News Journal editorial board — Last Sunday’s front-page story about the Confederate monument on Palafox Street was a dose of tough, yet crucial medicine for citizens’ grasp of the truth about a grotesque history of white supremacy in Pensacola and the rotting specters of the old brutality that continue to haunt our modern city. That story was a candid look at some of the people in Pensacola’s past who were morally and legally wrong. And yes, this newspaper was among them. To be clear, this community, and this paper, share documented histories of failing to deliver moral justice for all the people of Pensacola. In the clear-eyed view of our own shortcomings and failures of the past, there is an opportunity for us all to do better, and to become a better place than we have been in the past.
“Protesters mourn the killing of a Black transgender woman in Pompano Beach” via Bianca Padro Ocasio and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Following the shooting death of a Black transgender woman in South Florida on Friday, about 25 people gathered Sunday afternoon in Pompano Beach to mourn her death. Bree Black, 27, was found dead with a gunshot wound Friday night, according to Broward Sheriff’s Office. No other information about the case has been released. “We want some immediate answers to what’s going on and we want this investigation to be done with full integrity,” said Tifanny Burks, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward. Burks stood in front of the group with a small makeshift altar on the ground behind her.
“St. Petersburg protest leader Terron Gland tests positive for COVID-19” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Protest leader Terron Gland, who has been leading marches through St. Petersburg for more than five weeks, announced Monday morning that he tested positive for COVID-19. Gland, 32, posted the news to a Facebook group for protesters. He said he will stay home for 14 days. The marches have been a daily occurrence in St. Petersburg since May 31, the first day that protests broke out locally over the death of George Floyd. Gland said he began feeling sick on Sunday and went to an emergency room, where he got tested immediately. In a text message, he said he is in “good spirits and looking forward to a speedy recovery.”
“Training key element to WHPD use of force policy” via Kevin Bouffard of The Lakeland Ledger — The Winter Haven Police Department is looking at creating citizens’ review panels to examine incidents of the use of deadly use in the city. Public Safety Director Charlie Bird, who also serves as the police chief, said he typically reviews the department’s use of force policy after a major public controversy involving policing. While neck restraints are not specifically prohibited in the 21-page policy, Bird insisted Winter Haven Police officers are trained not to employ them. “When someone puts a knee on someone’s neck, that’s not an approved tactic,” he said. “We have never trained use of the knee or other restraint on the neck.” Bird discussed his department’s use of force policy in light of the recent controversies in that area. But he declined to discuss specifics of the citizens’ review panels because it is still under consideration.
“FSU take steps to address racial issues” via the News Service of Florida — Florida State University President John Thrasher said the university is taking additional steps to address racism and racial inequality on campus, including the creation of a task force that will scrutinize racial issues. Thrasher said the university is forming the Special Presidential Task Force on Anti-Racism and Racial Equality for the upcoming academic year. The task force will focus on identifying racial and ethnic disparities on campus and exploring the university’s historical connections to race. FSU will also create a new educational program about the university’s history and relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and will launch the Student Equity and Inclusion Office, which is aimed at “fostering a more inclusive student experience.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“State, feds probe jobless benefits system — but who will fix it?” via Wendy Rhodes of the Palm Beach Post — Citing inaction by Florida’s top leaders to fix the state’s crippled unemployment benefits system, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Ron Wyden called for U.S. Inspector General Ronald Dahl to investigate state’s tattered jobless safety net, calling it “uniquely poor.” That followed an announcement by DeSantis that he had ordered the state’s chief inspector general to also investigate a jobless benefits system he himself has derided as a “jalopy.” DeSantis asked for the probe after Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat in the Florida Cabinet, sent a letter to the state’s chief inspector general asking for an “investigation into potential mismanagement of the CONNECT unemployment system.”
“States can punish ‘faithless’ electors, Supreme Court rules” via Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that states are free to remove and punish presidential electors who break with their pledges to support designated candidates. Advocates for so-called faithless electors argued that the Constitution’s silence on the issue should prevent states from being able to fine or swap out electors who stray from the winner of the statewide popular vote, but the justices ruled that states can use such measures to coerce electors to remain true to their commitments. In 2016, seven of the 535 electors cast votes at odds with the popular-vote winners, and three attempted to do so. Most of the faithless electors were part of an unsuccessful attempt to deny Trump the presidency.
“Roger Stone again seeks to delay reporting to prison” via Ann E. Marimow of The Washington Post — Stone, a confidant to Trump, made an emergency appeal Monday to postpone the date on which he must report to prison next week, citing health risks because of the deadly coronavirus. Stone, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to extend by 51 days an order requiring him to surrender to a federal prison in Georgia on July 14. Stone is appealing his November conviction and 40-month prison sentence on charges of lying and witness tampering in a congressional investigation.
— STATEWIDE —
Good — “Budget had to be cut to deal with COVID, but Gov. DeSantis kept money for new toll roads” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — Florida will spend at least $738 million over the next five years on three controversial new toll roads projects under a plan approved by DeSantis last week. While slashing more than $1 billion from the state budget because of the state’s sudden economic downturn, he left untouched state plans to move ahead on more than 300 miles of new toll roads. Those plans include spending $382 million for engineering and planning consultants and $40 million acquiring land along the roads’ paths in the next three years. It does not include the cost of building the roads, which is supposed to start in 2022 with a price tag in the tens of billions of dollars.
“DeSantis vetoes create budget holes at Tallahassee higher ed institutions” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee’s two state universities and its community college lost more than $26 million in construction and academic dollars when DeSantis cut local projects from the state budget he signed this week. It’s unclear whether the veto will delay the completion of an $88 million project to build a new home for FSU’s College of Business. It would have been the only Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, project in this year’s budget that had private matching dollars.
“Florida sent 100,000 letters to businesses asking about China. It cost $56,000” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — “Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in late May sent a stern letter to 100,000 business owners licensed to do business with the state. He wanted to know: Were they owned or controlled by the Communist Party of China? If so, they were ‘requested’ to respond within 30 days in order to ‘avoid necessary follow up by the Department.’ Even if they weren’t, they were ‘requested’ to respond, too. More than a month later, just 17,000 businesses had responded, even though the letter bore the state seal. And Patronis’ office can’t yet say how many, if any, of the responses were from companies that were majority-owned or controlled by the Communist Party of China.
“‘Bed tax’ by goes to Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon is asking justices to take up the issue after a divided appeals court ruled in March that the online companies are not required to handle the so-called “bed taxes,” according to documents on the Supreme Court website. Gannon is seeking to have the Supreme Court overturn a ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal in favor of Airbnb, Tripadvisor and HomeAway. The dispute centers on bed taxes that counties may impose on short-term rentals, with the money going to tourism-related purposes. Hotels, for example, collect the taxes on customer bills and remit the money.
“Florida bar exam rescheduled again because of conflict with primary election” via USA Today staff reports — The state’s rescheduled summer bar exam will be postponed one more day because the new date is the same day as the state’s primary election. The examination, which will take place online only, is now on Wednesday, Aug. 19 instead of Tuesday, Aug. 18. “It is important that every citizen in Florida be assured that they are able to vote in the upcoming primary election, whether by mail, early voting, or in person,” said David Reeves, chair of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, in a news release. The board, with the approval of the state’s Supreme Court, previously canceled the state’s traditional in-person two-day bar exam at the end of July, replacing it with an online test.
“State considers permanent telehealth medical marijuana options” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Medical marijuana patients using telehealth procedures to obtain the medicinal herb during the coronavirus outbreak are having such success, state officials are considering making the option permanent. DeSantis extended telehealth services for obtaining medical cannabis during the state of emergency initially in March. Patients have found telehealth to be so helpful members of the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services want to make it permanent. An initial in-person physical examination is still required between a patient and physician before a recommendation can be given.
“Duke seeks approval of major solar expansion” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Four months after Florida Power & Light received approval for a similar program, Duke Energy Florida is asking regulators to sign off on a $1 billion plan that would add 10 solar-power plants in the state. Duke filed a proposal last week at the state Public Service Commission for what it has dubbed the “Clean Energy Connection” program, which would start operating two of the proposed plants in January 2022, four in January 2023 and four in January 2024. The plan comes amid a broader push by major utilities in Florida to expand the use of solar energy, as solar has become more cost-efficient and as utilities look to reduce carbon emissions.
“Jerry Demings delays convention center plan, recommends more money for sheriff’s office” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County will postpone construction of a controversial convention center expansion amid collapsing hotel tax collections and uncertainty about the future of big trade shows during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Demings said. Demings made the announcement while introducing a new county budget that includes more than $100 million in construction funding for the expansion. But Demings and county staffers said they would not spend that money until after hotel taxes have begun a sustained recovery and county commissioners sign off on a revised plan. The construction delay is one of a host of concessions being forced by the coronavirus pandemic and the recession it has caused.
“Veterans push for change after South Florida treatment centers lose VA provider status” via Florida Politics — The change came after the VA swapped to OptumServe to serve as the third-party administrator (TPA) for Florida. As the TPA, OptumServe oversees the network of approved health care providers in the state. Before switching to OptumServe in June, both Summit Detox and Transformations Treatment Center had been approved as VA providers, allowing veterans to use the center to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or drug use. OptumServe revoked the other centers’ status in favor of its own preferred providers, leading to pushback from several veterans who have used those services.
Rest In Peace — “Alan Becker, trailblazing condo association lawyer and state legislator, dies at age 74” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Becker, co-founder of the Becker & Poliakoff law firm that blazed the trail in the 1970s and 1980s on a revolutionary area of Florida law governing condominium ownership, died Saturday at his home in Southwest Ranches after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 74. Becker counted thousands of condo associations throughout Florida as clients. A passionate writer, teacher and painter, Becker began his career as an assistant public defender before becoming, at age 26, the youngest person elected to the Florida House of Representatives. Before he retired, Becker continued to play an active role in his firm, working with the government law and lobbying, litigation, construction and international practice areas.
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Charles Dudley, Melissa Ramba, Floridian Partners: Naples Botanical Garden
Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Anita Berry, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Charter Communications Operating
Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Hillsborough County Aviation Authority
— 2020 —
“Trump’s shrinking electoral map” via Gabby Orr and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — States that top campaign officials had said they had the luxury of pursuing are no longer considered add-ons to the president’s electoral vote tally but backstops to keep him afloat, according to multiple people close to or involved with his reelection operation. The most telling sign of Trump’s defensive posture is his recent mammoth TV ad buys. The campaign is spending big to retain states he won in 2016 and to shore up support in places a Republican should already dominate in, like Georgia or Florida’s Panhandle. They say Joe Biden faces an enthusiasm deficit among his party’s likeliest voters and that public polling does not jibe with their own internal numbers.
“Trump lashes out at NASCAR, Bubba Wallace over flag and noose” via Jill Colvin and Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press — NASCAR’s layered relationship with Trump took a sharp turn when Trump blasted the racing organization for banning the Confederate flag and wrongly accused the sport’s only full-time Black driver of perpetrating “a hoax” when a crew member found a noose in the team garage stall. Trump suggested Wallace should apologize after the sport rallied around him after the noose was found in his assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Federal authorities ruled last month the noose had been hanging since October and was not a hate crime. NASCAR President Steve Phelps has bristled at suggestions the noose was a hoax. Wallace was shown a photograph of the noose, never personally saw it, and was told by NASCAR officials he was the victim of a hate crime.
“Trump jumps on preserving monuments as winning campaign issue” via Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal — Trump has seized on saving statues and preserving monuments to American history as a winning issue for his reelection, attacking protesters and Democrats in remarks over the Independence Day weekend. The president’s effort to exploit cultural divides is a familiar tactic, recalling the “American carnage” he described in his inaugural address. The message is complicated this year by a pandemic and a national debate over race relations. The emphasis on protecting the U.S.’s iconography from critics comes after Trump has urged crackdowns on protesters and defended police against some liberals who call for defunding departments.
Spotted — Brian Ballard in The New York Times article as among the major lobbyists credited with raising nearly $8 million since the beginning of 2019 for Trump’s reelection committees and the RNC. This assistance comes despite Trump’s 2016 campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” by taking on the special interests, lobbyists and donors who had “rigged the system against everyday Americans.”
“Joe Biden unveils Florida leadership team” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Biden announced the members of his senior leadership team in Florida, a must-win state where he holds a commanding lead over Trump. Biden named Jackie Lee, veteran Orlando-based consultant who has been working for the campaign since October 2019, as his state director. Lee, who helped the campaign regain its balance after huge a primary loss in Iowa, is credited with fending off a $30 million Florida ad blitz from billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s short-lived presidential campaign. Brandon Thompson will work as the Biden campaigns coordinated director. He is coming from Organizing Together 2020, a key player in the Democrat’s 2020 Florida ground game effort.
— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —
“FDA head says too early to tell if RNC Florida events are safe” via Yueqi Yang and Steven T. Dennis of Bloomberg — FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it’s too early tell if it’s safe to host part of the Republican National Convention next month in Florida, where coronavirus cases have been surging. “I think it’s too early to tell,” Hahn said. “And we’ll have to see how this unfolds in Florida and elsewhere around the country.” Hahn, who’s has been a cheerleader for the administration’s efforts on the virus, declined to endorse Trump’s optimistic view of progress toward a vaccine, saying he wouldn’t speculate on when one might become available. The administration has struggled to explain why Trump has been holding rallies with thousands of people who are neither socially distancing nor wearing masks in defiance of CDC guidance.
“How the Republican Convention created money woes in two cities” via Annie Karni, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Kenneth P. Vogel of The New York Times — Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. Jacksonville organizers have expressed more modest fundraising goals, aspiring to raise a fraction of the $70 million Charlotte officials aimed for. For Republican officials, untangling the financial knot from the Charlotte convention remains a work in progress. Given the contracts that had been signed and the many parties around the table, concerns about potential legal action have figured into managing the fallout, several people connected to the process said.
“Why the Paul McCartney shoutout in Jacksonville’s RNC video raised some eyebrows” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — “We’ve hosted the Super Bowl, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Tim McGraw,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said. Just six days earlier, the former Beatles front man shared some thoughts about the band’s 1960s trip to Jacksonville — in support of Black Lives Matter. “In 1964, The Beatles were due to play Jacksonville in the U.S. and we found out that it was going to be a segregated audience,” McCartney wrote in an Instagram post. “It felt wrong. We said ‘We’re not doing that!’”
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Richard Goble tells voters to ‘bring back representation’ in campaign for Florida’s 7th Congressional District” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Goble released a series of four short video advertisements exploring his positions on infrastructure, rights, veterans and recalling his background, for his campaign in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Goble’s four video ads all circle back to one theme, bringing representation back to CD 7. Goble expresses his desire to improve SunRail, bring infrastructure money to Central Florida, eliminate tolls, fight for the First and Second Amendments, support anti-abortion policies, support veterans, and encourage capital investment. “Let’s make Central Florida great again,” he closes.
To view one of the videos, click on the image below:
“James Grant latest backer of Amanda Makki’s CD 13 campaign” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Grant is endorsing Makki for Congress, Makki’s campaign announced Monday. Makki is running for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 13th Congressional District to take on Charlie Crist. “The hardworking people of Pinellas County cannot count on Charlie Crist. For nearly three decades he’s been a political windsock, being blown whichever way the wind goes. Our families and this community need real leadership to emerge from this crisis and we simply cannot trust Charlie,” Grant said. Makki has already raised more than $1 million, according to her campaign. Her closest competition, Luna, has raised $800,000.
“Marva Preston launches TV ad boasting DeSantis endorsement” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Preston, a Republican candidate for Florida State Senate District 3, took her campaign onto the airwaves with a new TV ad sponsored by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. The 30-second TV advertisement boasts the former homicide detective’s June endorsement from DeSantis and highlights her platform of conservative values. “Marva Preston is the conservative we can count on,” the ad says. “Endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Preston is pro-life, pro-second amendment and raised right here in North Florida. A 25-year law enforcement veteran, Preston fought crime and public corruption. In the Florida Senate, she’ll stand with Gov. DeSantis, defend our conservative values, and fight for North Florida’s families. We can count on it.”
“Danny Burgess quickly tops $100K in Senate race” via the News Service of Florida — Quickly gearing up for a November election to replace outgoing Sen. Tom Lee, Republican Burgess raised nearly $107,000 in less than a month. Lee announced in late May that he would leave the Senate in November instead of finishing the last two years of his term. That created a special election in which Burgess, a former House member from Zephyrhills, and Wesley Chapel Democrat Kathy Lewis qualified to run. Burgess, who most recently served as executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, raised $106,905 between June 1 and June 26 the new report shows.
“Heather Fitzenhagen’s first contributions to her state Senate campaign are in and she still has some catching up to do” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fitzenhagen outraised Ray Rodrigues in the first fundraising period of a suddenly high-profile Senate primary. That includes a chunk from a political committee connected to Sen. Anitere Flores. Fitzenhagen reported $24,021 in donations to her Senate District 27 campaign. She also chipped in another $13,500 candidate loan in the June 13-26 period. Rodrigues, meanwhile, raised $7,630 in his campaign account. That’s only part of the story as Rodrigues’ committee Friends of Ray Rodrigues also tallied $15,000 in new donations for the period. Fitzenhagen’s For A Better Florida committee reported no activity in June. But overall, Fitzenhagen pulled in more outside donations while putting some skin in the game as she gets her last-minute campaign up and running.
“Shevrin Jones collects another $43K in SD 35 bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones is closing the latest fundraising period with nearly $44,000 for his bid in Senate District 35. That report covers money raised from June 13-26. Jones collected nearly $33,000 through his campaign while his political committee, Florida Strong Finish, pulled in another $11,000. With the Aug. 18 primary approaching, candidates are now required to file financial reports every two weeks, as opposed to monthly. Eventually, those reports will come in each week. The latest reports show Jones has extended his money lead in the race. Jones’ campaign has now added more than $270,000. Florida Strong Finish has netted more than $208,000. The Representative from House District 101 has a health hurdle to clear, recently announcing he tested positive for COVID-19.
Assignment editors — Rep. Randy Fine is holding a news conference to discuss alleged rape and sexual assault accusations within the campaign of his opponent, Marcie Adkins, 10 a.m., Holiday Inn Express & Suites Palm Bay, 1206 Malabar Rd. SE., Palm Bay.
“Fiona McFarland makes first big airtime spend for HD 72” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — McFarland dropped the first big spend in a competitive primary for House District 72. The Sarasota Republican spent $24,990 for television production costs with Multi-Media Services, a political marketing firm in the Washington, D.C. area, along with the purchase of airtime. The spend represents more than half the $47,454 McFarland spent on the race to date. It’s the first big-ticket investment by any campaign so far in what promises to be one of the most competitive House races in Florida. The expenditure comes as a Republican primary draws near where McFarland has long held a fundraising advantage but where she faces an opponent who has won countywide office in the region already.
Too early for this oppo dump? — “House candidate Roger Lolly gave $84,000 from special-needs student payments to friend who started a restaurant in Tennessee” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist — Reuben Sliva is listed as the Vice President of Operations for the Fort Myers-based If I Can Dream Foundation, a charity whose sole source of income is a government grant to provide vocational training to special needs students. Sliva was paid $84,000 by the foundation. But while Sliva collected the lucrative charity paychecks, he spent most of his time planning, setting up, and opening a restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee. Sliva’s role at the foundation is now under scrutiny because his paychecks are signed by Lolly, the founder and president of the If I Can Dream Foundation, who is facing criticism for lending his own political campaign at least $100,000 while collecting an unusually high salary from his charity.
“Mayors from Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay back Kelly Skidmore in HD 81” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Skidmore is adding to her list of backers in the House District 81 race, as three Mayors in that region add their endorsements late Monday. Mayors Steve Wilson of Belle Glade, Keith Babb of Pahokee and Joe Kyles of South Bay all say they’ll support Skidmore as she competes for the Democratic nomination against attorney Michael Weinstein. “Kelly Skidmore understands the needs of our community and I’m pleased to endorse her campaign for State House,” Wilson said. “As our next Representative in Tallahassee, I trust Kelly to fight for Belle Glade by pushing for increased funding for Lakeside Medical Center as well as more money for public schools.”
— “Michael Weinstein narrowly tops Skidmore in latest HD 81 fundraising report” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
If you read one endorsement — “Christine Hunschofsky will honor Kristin Jacobs’ legacy in Florida House” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Florida lost a true public servant when Jacobs died of cancer in April. The Coconut Creek Democrat personified what a legislator should be: accessible, dedicated, honest and optimistic. A passionate environmentalist, she worked tirelessly to protect our water and land. Jacobs’ death means Democratic voters in northwest Broward’s House District 96 must choose her successor in the Aug. 18 primary. Between two good Democrats, the obvious choice is Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, an experienced hand with well-defined priorities who can seamlessly make the transition from City Hall to the state Capitol.
“Thanks to self-loan, Jim Bonfiglio tops Mike Caruso in HD 89 fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bonfiglio is coming out a winner in the latest House District 89 fundraising report, thanks to a $15,000 loan to his campaign. Republican Rep. Mike Caruso still topped Bonfiglio is outside contributions. Caruso collected $12,000 during the most recent report covering June 13-26. Bonfiglio brought in less than $400 in outside money, but pitched in a $15,000 loan, edging Caruso’s overall haul for the month. Caruso still leads both in overall money added and cash on hand, however. Caruso has raised more than $200,000 for his reelection bid and has more than $122,000 still remaining.
— “Meet Susan Kufdakis Rivera, a Republican running for House District 86” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics
— “Bibiana Potestad earns endorsement from mentor Anitere Flores” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics
— DOWN BALLOT —
“Alex Penelas tops $310K in June as Daniella Levine Cava campaign touts $175K raised” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Penelas, a Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate, raised at least $310,000 in June, holding onto his money lead in the contest. Officials from the Levine Cava campaign, which has been second to Penelas in money raised, say she added another $175,000 in June. Her campaign collected just over $600,000 in May, though that was largely thanks to a $500,000 contribution from megadonor Donald Sussman to Levine Cava’s political committee, Our Democracy. Absent that outlier, June is Levine Cava’s best fundraising month since Aug. 2019, when she crossed $200,000 raised. The hefty sums continue to pour in as candidates seek to replace term-limited Mayor Giménez.
“Candidate for Broward elections chief wants to automatically send mail ballot to every voter. Problem is, it’s not legal.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — One of the candidates running for the job of overseeing Broward County elections says she wants to make it easier for people to vote by mail by doing something that’s never before been done before in Florida elections, automatically mail ballots to every registered voter in the county. There’s a big problem: It’s not legal under Florida law. Jennifer Gottlieb is undeterred. She has advocated for the idea during candidate forums, including one last week conducted by the League of Women Voters of Broward County. When a reporter pressed her about the legality, Gottlieb said it is permitted. “Yes, it is,” she said. “Supervisors can send out ballots vote by mail.”
— TOP OPINION —
“Trump at Mount Rushmore” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — Trump delivered one of the best speeches of his presidency at Mount Rushmore, and for evidence consider the echo-chamber headlines above. The chorus of independent media voices understands that Trump is trying to rally the country in defense of traditional American principles that are now under radical and unprecedented assault. Contrary to media reporting, the America Trump described is one of genuine racial equality and diversity. He highlighted the central ideal of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” As he rightly put it, “these immortal words set in motion the unstoppable march of freedom” that included the abolition of slavery more than a half-century later.
— OPINIONS —
“Trump’s leaving the COVID-19 stage. Florida’s DeSantis should assert his independence” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The astounding increase in the number of new coronavirus cases is proof that Florida is getting outsmarted by COVID-19. So are some of our state leaders — and, as usual, so is Trump. On the Fourth of July, the White House announced the President will no longer be the daily voice of the coronavirus response. Instead, he’s headed to the sidelines in an effort to depoliticize the national fight against the virus and get reelected. Trump’s exit will be good news only if he turns the administration’s response to the long-suffering Drs. Fauci, Deborah Birx and other public-health experts — and only if he stops pulling the strings of compliant state leaders such as DeSantis.
“The NBA’s reopening is a warning sign for the U.S. economy” via Tyler Cowen of Bloomberg Opinion — I fear that the NBA, in particular, may be reflecting a still-hidden trend in the broader economy: People may not actually be so keen to return to work. The NBA is planning to resume a fragment of its regular season, and then the playoffs, in a custom-tailored “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, on July 30. The games will be played only among the top teams in a single complex, with regular testing and tight regulations governing the entry of outsiders. The league is going to the maximum lengths possible to ensure a safe reopening. An increasing number of players do not seem very interested in being guinea pigs in this experiment.
“Florida’s talented workforce is key to economic recovery during COVID-19” via Michelle Dennard for the Pensacola News Journal — As the leaders of CareerSource Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we are using emerging data on a collaborative quest to identify how we can help Florida’s economy, and its people, restart, recover and re-imagine our future. While we understand the challenges, we also see opportunities for Florida to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in a stronger relative position, and Florida’s workforce will play a primary role. It cannot be overstated: Talent development IS economic development. Communities used to rely on tax incentives to attract businesses, but for some time, we have recognized that a talented workforce is paramount.
“Disney should rethink removing Brer Rabbit from Splash Mountain” via Arthur Diamond of the Orlando Sentinel — The theme of Splash Mountain is based only on the animated part of Song of the South — only on the Brer Rabbit Black slave folk tale. Brer Rabbit can be admired, and Splash Mountain enjoyed, without endorsing antebellum plantation life. Walt Disney retold beloved meaningful folk tales, sometimes giving them a more hopeful ending. He often adapted European folk tales, but also wanted to include Black slave folk tales. The Brer Rabbit stories have been criticized for their dialect. But that misses the point. Just as with Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” the soul of the stories is in what is said and done, not in the dialect of the dialogue and narration.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida keeps setting records for COVID-19, and Gov. DeSantis keeps urging people to stop focusing on all those new cases.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— There have now been more than 206,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus exposure in Florida. an increase of 60,000 in the past week. Fatalities are now at least 3,880, also an increase of more than 300 over the past week.
— DeSantis is determined to continue reopening the state for business and tourism and insists that theme parks in Central Florida are taking so many precautions that they’ll be some of the safest places in the state. But in South Florida, officials head in the opposite direction. The Mayor of Miami Dade is issuing an emergency order shutting down dining rooms and gyms to try to halt the spread of coronavirus.
— One of the best things to come out of the COVID-19 crisis — parody songs. Remember Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover?”
— Checking — in with a couple of Florida Men. One robbed a pizza guy and pooped his pants when he saw the cops. The other pushed an 86-year-old man out of an elevator — in the name of social distancing.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
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TODAY is the day! Who is ready to exPIERience the new St. Pete Pier?! Visitors will be allowed to explore the new St. Pete Pier starting at 5 p.m. tonight. If you will be joining us, here are some things you need to know: 👉 In order for us to keep our community as safe as possible, we are requiring reservations for the Grand Opening Week. To secure your reservation, visit the link in our bio. 👉 Please note, guests are required to wear cloth face coverings/masks where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. For all other areas of the St. Pete Pier, we strongly encourage visitors to wear cloth face coverings/masks. See you soon! ✨
— ALOE —
“‘Mona Lisa’ back at work, visitors limited as Louvre reopens” via John Leicester and Catherine Gaschka of The Associated Press — Paris’ Louvre Museum, which houses the world’s most famous portrait, reopened Monday after a four-month coronavirus lockdown and without its usual huge throngs. The reopening of the world’s most-visited museum was a bright spot in what is otherwise shaping up as a grimly quiet start to the summer tourist season in France, with far fewer visitors than was normal before the pandemic closed borders. Paris tour guide Katia Besnard Rousseau said she has had no groups to show around since France gradually started coming out of its strict two-month lockdown in May. As the Louvre reopened, she and dozens of other guides demonstrated outside, forming a long line and holding up images of the “Mona Lisa” to highlight the hardship afflicting their industry.
“NHL, players’ union announce plan to resume play on Aug. 1” via John Wawrow and Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press — The National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association announced a tentative agreement Monday to return to play this season and extend their collective bargaining agreement by four years. The CBA deal, coupled with both sides’ agreement on protocols for training camps and games, paves the way for hockey to resume in less than a month. Training camps would open next Monday, July 13, and games would resume Aug. 1 if the league’s board of governors, players’ executive committee and full membership sign off. The NHL is going straight to the playoffs with 24 teams resuming play. Those teams will travel to one of two “hub” cities July 26 for exhibition games. The qualifying round would begin Aug. 1.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Sen. Janet Cruz and Reps. MaryLynn Magar and Stan McClain, as well as Amy Bisceglia, the Florida Medical Association’s Tim Stapleton, Brad Herold, and the NFIB’s Tim Nungesser.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.