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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.15.20

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

Challenge accepted:


Americans for Prosperity Action issued endorsements to nearly two-dozen candidates for state House and Senate Wednesday, marking the first time the political committee has weighed in on state legislative races.

The free-market group is backing a half-dozen Senate candidates and 17 House candidates, many of them incumbents. AFP Action said its endorsements won’t expire after the Aug. 18 primary election — they’re good through the general.

Many of AFP Action’s picks are the odds-on favorites in their respective races, such as Jennifer Bradley in SD 5, Danny Burgess in SD 20, and House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls in HD 65.

However, the group did pick a side in some of the competitive contests slated for the August and November ballots.

In SD 39, AFP is backing Republican Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez over her likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Javier Fernandez; in SD 27, Rep. Ray Rodrigues got the nod over Republican primary opponent Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen; and in SD 9, former Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur was picked was selected over Democrat Patricia Sigman.

Lawmakers’ votes to lower taxes or to expand the scope of practice and school choice carried a lot of weight with AFP Action.

“Each of these individuals has demonstrated a commitment to tackle the greatest challenges Floridians face through supporting principled policy solutions, if elected,” AFP Action senior adviser Skylar Zander said.

“Through their dedication to increasing access to quality, affordable health care for every Floridian, ensuring educational freedom and opportunities for all students, lowering the tax burden on families, and creating an environment where businesses can thrive, they will help make Florida the best state in the union to live, work, and raise a family. We’re proud to endorse these candidates that will help increase opportunity for every Floridian.”


@AaronBlake: Asked about whether he’s losing, [Donald] Trump says he’s not, and he quickly cites that well-known campaign metric: boats and bikers displaying support for a candidate.

Tweet, tweet:

@MarcoRubio: As bad as things look right now, don’t cancel October just yet. The next few weeks/months could bring several innovations that will dramatically improve options on #COVID19: — “group” or “pool” testing” — At-Home tests — Monoclonal Antibody treatments — Vaccine by early Nov

@GrayRohrer: PSA: “Roundtable” discussions/meetings that don’t actually have a table that is round should not be called “roundtables.” Thanks.

@GwenGraham: Now he says (if old enough) that he would send his kids to school in this climate. No way. There will be preschools open in Tallahassee that I am sure would welcome the Governor’s preschool-age kids. Send them to one or stop lying, Ron [DeSantis].

@Clay_Yarborough: Yesterday, I was informed an individual at an event I attended last week subsequently tested positive for COVID. This morning, I was tested and am thankful to announce my results are negative. Jordan and our family continue to pray for the positive individual and other attendees.

@ShevrinJones: Just found out that a few of my colleagues was possibly exposed to COVID at a recent event. I pray good health and

@JonCooperTweets: My mother-in-law lives in Miami, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida. She’s terrified to leave her apartment. Her granddaughter just tested positive & chose to move out to protect her. Her neighbors are all scared. THIS IS AMERICA — IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS WAY!

@SamanthaJGross: On @WLRNSundial, @doug_hanks calls current Florida COVID conditions a “New York-style spread” which my dumb brain envisioned as a lox and bagels buffet except it also includes a deadly virus

Tweet, tweet:


MLB starts — 8; WNBA starts — 10; PLL starts — 10; TED conference rescheduled — 11; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 13; NBA season restart in Orlando — 16; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 16; NHL resumes — 17; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 34; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 35; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 37; Indy 500 rescheduled — 39; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 40; NBA draft lottery — 41; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 44; U.S. Open begins — 47; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 51; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 52; Rescheduled date for French Open — 67; First presidential debate in Indiana — 76; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 79; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 80; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 83; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 89; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 92; NBA draft — 93; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 93; NBA free agency — 96; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 99; 2020 General Election — 111; “Black Widow” premieres — 116; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 120; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 128; “No Time to Die” premieres — 128; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 139; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 161; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 207; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 373; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 381; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 478; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 576; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 618; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 660; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 814.


Florida sets new one-day state virus death record with 132” via Terry Spencer, Brendan Farrington and Adriana Gomez Licon of The Associated Press — Florida broke its one-day record for coronavirus deaths and while there is a possible caveat, the state is experiencing a skyrocketing fatality rate that’s near the highest in the nation and a rapidly growing number of cases. The 132 deaths is a 10% jump over the previous record of 120 set just Thursday. However, Tuesday’s total likely includes deaths from three days, Monday plus some from Saturday and Sunday that were not reported by hospitals until Monday. Still, Florida’s rolling seven-day average is now 81 deaths a day, the second-highest in the country behind Texas. It’s double the 39 Florida averaged two weeks ago and nearly triple the 30 a day averaged a month ago. Almost all people infected with coronavirus survive, but those who do succumb usually die two or more weeks after they are diagnosed.

Miami-Dade Mayors met with Gov. Ron DeSantis about COVID. They didn’t want a pep talk” via Douglas Hanks and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — DeSantis came to Miami on Tuesday for a meeting with local mayors on COVID-19, and they didn’t want to hear a pep talk. The bipartisan group of municipal leaders told the Republican Governor he needed to better convey the urgency of the health crisis facing the Miami area. After DeSantis touted the promise of high school football in the fall and minimized the COVID risk for children, mayors told him Miami-Dade families were scared about putting their kids back in the classroom. The mayors also told DeSantis they needed better information from the state contact tracers on the sources of Miami-Dade’s runaway viral spread as cities and the county ponder another wave of business closures or restrictions on public spaces.

Ron DeSantis visit visits Miami-Dade to talk COVID-19, but they were not looking for a pep talk. Image via Getty.

Nikki Fried takes to national media, says Floridians believe DeSantis ‘never cared about them’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Hours after state health officials confirmed 133 new COVID-19 deaths, Fried appeared on national media to criticize DeSantis‘ leadership. Fried told a national audience DeSantis has no plan and does not care about Floridians. “The problem is the Governor has lost the faith and the trust from the people of our state,” Fried said. “They no longer count on the data coming out. They no longer believe that he has a plan for our future and they believe he’s never cared about them. There’s been no empathy shown whatsoever from this Governor and no humility that when we did flatten the curve, he went on the national circus and went across the entire state claiming mission accomplished.”

As Florida farmworkers fell ill, Fried failed to requisition supplies” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — While Florida’s spring harvest was in full swing, the Farmworker Association of Florida beggedFried for medical supplies, health care, and temporary housing as Covid-19 began to hit farms across South Florida. Fried never formally asked for the supplies. Fried, a Democrat, has spent months attacking Gov. DeSantis and his administration since the coronavirus first hit the state in March. In mid-June, she demanded an apology, saying he ignored her request to help farmworkers who ended up testing positive for Covid-19. But a review of documents obtained by POLITICO from the Division of Emergency Management shows that the commissioner never actually asked for the much-needed supplies. And she delivered her criticism of DeSantis about a month after most of the workers had left the state.

Behind the Florida spike: What testing tells us about recent coronavirus cases” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida captured the world’s attention Sunday after reporting 15,300 coronavirus cases, shattering the record any state had reported on a single day since the pandemic began. However, data shows that half the new cases are linked to tests performed by a single company. More than 7,000 of the 15,300 positive cases reported Sunday came from GENETWORx, a testing lab based in Richmond, Virginia GENETWORx accounted for 52,000 of the new results reported by the Florida Department of Health, over half the total results reported Sunday.

Florida Department of Health says some labs have not reported negative COVID-19 results” via Robert Guaderrama of FOX 35 News Orlando — After FOX 35 News noticed errors in the state’s report on positivity rates, the Florida Department of Health said that some laboratories have not been reporting negative test result data to the state. Countless labs have reported a 100% positivity rate, which means every single person tested was positive. Other labs had very high positivity rates. FOX 35 News found that testing sites like one local Centra Care reported that 83 people were tested and all tested positive. Then, NCF Diagnostics in Alachua reported 88% of tests were positive. The report showed that Orlando Health had a 98% positivity rate. Orlando Health’s positivity rate is only 9.4%, not 98% as in the report.

Medicaid enrollment continues to climb” via the News Service of Florida — As the state saw a surge in COVID-19 cases last month, enrollment in the Florida Medicaid program continued to increase. Medicaid enrollment in June grew by nearly 2% over the prior month, with the program providing health coverage to more than 4.1 million poor, elderly and disabled people. June’s 1.99 percent growth came after increases in previous months as Floridians lost jobs because of the pandemic. More than 3.2 million Medicaid beneficiaries receive coverage through managed-care plans. Another 914,000 people are in what’s considered a “fee for service” part of the program.

Prisons grapple with COVID-19 hitting workers” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — The number of Florida corrections workers known to be infected with COVID-19 has more than doubled during the past month, prompting state officials to launch emergency plans at two prisons where there are significant staffing shortages. The emergency plans said workers at Dade Correctional Institution and Jefferson Correctional Institution will need to work 12-hour shifts up to six days a week to ensure “adequate staffing levels.” “Usually, this was done during some of the darkest hours of prisons — during riots, a natural disaster or a hurricane,” Jim Baiardi, who leads the state corrections chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said. “Now, it’s getting to the point where it’s getting so bad that they’re doing this during the pandemic.”

CDR Maguire urges recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — CDR Maguire this week called on Floridians who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma to help treat others struggling with the condition. Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients contains antibodies that in some cases have helped currently infected patients recover from the disease. The use of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 is currently being investigated, though blood plasma antibodies are effective in treating other maladies and early evidence suggests it may be similarly effective in treating COVID-19. CDR Maguire president Carlos Duart has some firsthand knowledge of convalescent plasma’s potential.

DeSantis offers no end to bar shutdown” via Ana Ceballos of The News Service of Florida — Buying alcohol will remain a to-go-only option at Florida bars for the foreseeable future as coronavirus cases continue to spike. DeSantis said Saturday the state isn’t changing a decision last month to reimpose a ban on bars selling alcohol for on-site consumption because of widespread noncompliance with coronavirus safety measures. During the appearance at the hospital and in other appearances during the past week, DeSantis defended the state’s health response and his efforts to reopen businesses amid the surge in cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. In reimposing the prohibition on on-site consumption June 26, state officials said noncompliance with the guidelines was too widespread to enforce.

Ron DeSantis gives no hint as to when the bar shutdown will end. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat.

DBPR order closing bars covers American Legion, VFW locations” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Among the bars and social clubs shuttered during the pandemic, Florida closed down American Legion and VFW locations statewide. In what’s still the most significant step back from a phased reopening, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation on June 26 suspended on-premises alcohol consumption at Florida bars. An amended order issued on July 1 makes clear that it doesn’t just shut down late-night bars popular with college kids. It also impacts veteran-friendly drinking holes around the state, the kind where officials often visit to issue awards for active and retired soldiers living in the state. Officials at the agency stress the order only applies to the special licenses for VFW and American Legion locations to sell alcohol on-premises. If an organization has a separate license for selling food, that’s still good so long as no one is pairing dishes with drinks.

Developmental disabilities advocate dies of COVID-19” via the News Service of Florida — Bobbie Lake, who served on the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council board and as president of The Arc of Florida, died after a two-week battle with COVID-19. Lake, 75, was hospitalized when he died, said Florida Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Director Valerie Breen. Lake, a former executive director of The ARC of North Florida, was appointed to the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. “He was an extraordinary advocate, loved and respected by all,” Breen said.

Union questions if NFL should practice in ‘hot spots’ as Florida sets COVID-19 record” via Adam H. Beasley and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — On the day Florida set a new one-day record for COVID-19 deaths (132) in the state, the list of those questioning the wisdom of holding training camp in the pandemic’s epicenter added an influential name. Count the NFL Players Association among the skeptics. “We have one question that encapsulates it all: Does it make sense for the NFL to open up training camps in ‘hot spot’ cities right now?” Dolphins rookies are scheduled to report to training camp next week. But there’s real doubt in prominent league circles whether that will happen on time, particularly since statewide cases could surpass 300,000 cases Wednesday.


Voters reject Donald Trump insistence that schools reopen” via Nicole Gaudiano of Politico — A majority of voters oppose the Trump administration’s demand that K-12 schools and day care centers be fully opened for in-person instruction during the coming academic year, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. In addition, a decisive 65% of voters rejected President Trump’s threat to cut federal funding for schools that don’t reopen, agreeing instead that schools need resources for continued virtual learning or other types of instruction. Only 22% said schools should have their federal money reduced if they don’t fully reopen.

We can reopen schools — if we’re willing to rethink how they operate” via Brian P. Gill and Jennifer S. Lerner of The Washington Post — The prospect of reopening schools this fall is both urgent and terrifying. Fortunately, there are ways to reopen schools while reducing the odds of major covid-19 outbreaks, if we are willing to be creative about how to reopen them. The challenge lies in making decisions under extreme uncertainty, uncertainty about the transmission of the virus in children, about how far apart students’ desks need to be, and about whether kids can successfully wear face masks for six hours a day. Infections compound, magnifying the risk of any large-scale, synchronized activity. This means that bringing all the students back, in all the schools, on the same day, risks throwing fuel on the fire.

Des Moines Public Schools custodian Cynthia Adams cleans a desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School last week in Des Moines, Iowa. Image via AP.

State education leaders say reopening schools has paved the way for innovation” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — In a webinar hosted by the James Madison Institute, state education experts described the return as an opportunity for growth for students, teachers and learning at all levels. Erika Donalds, president and CEO of The Optima Foundation, said: “We in Florida, the school choice state, have an opportunity here to innovate quickly and provide options to families.” “This is a tremendous opportunity to meet students’ needs exactly where they are and listen to parents about what is going to be best for their children.” Florida Public Schools Chancellor Jacob Oliva said public schools are making efforts to stay connected with students through summer learning programs and other initiatives. “Our school campuses almost really never closed,” said Oliva.

Broward superintendent likely to recommend online learning only at first when school year starts” via Lobby Tools — Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie said Tuesday he will recommend schools open Aug. 19 with virtual classes only, unless conditions improve dramatically before then. Once conditions improve, the district would plan to introduce an option of full-time or part-time on-campus learning, as well as a hybrid that combines in-class and virtual learning, Runcie said Tuesday on a video on the district’s website and in a school board meeting. Broward County has the second-largest school district in the state and the sixth-largest in the nation, with nearly 270,000 students. Runcie said in the video released Tuesday that more than a quarter of families told the district they want to continue e-learning, about a third want in-person classes and a little more want a hybrid. But safety has to be the deciding factor, he said.

Broward schools likely to start year with online learning only, Robert Runcie says” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward schools plan to open Aug. 19 with virtual classes only, barring a dramatic decline in COVID-19 infections, Superintendent Runcie said. The announcement, which School Board members supported Tuesday, follows a similar decision last week by the Palm Beach County School Board. Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also has said his district won’t reopen until his county reaches Phase 2 of reopening. The three South Florida counties are still in Phase 1 and won’t move to Phase 2 until after two weeks of declining cases.

Parents protest at school district HQ, demand return to classrooms” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — Dozens of people gathered in front of the Palm Beach County School District’s headquarters Monday evening to protest a pending decision to bar roughly 174,000 students from public campuses and deliver classes online instead when school begins next month because of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the protesters were parents whose children are disabled, or simply struggling to grasp lessons via computer, or are in emotional anguish under prolonged isolation. Also in the mix were parents who face impossible choices between working to pay bills and staying home to care for youngsters not in school. Wearing face masks and holding signs that demanded “Give us a choice,” “We want options” and “Prevent child abuse and poverty OPEN schools,” roughly 50 children and adults took to the sidewalk.

Board member wants school year delayed to reduce online-learning ‘nightmare’” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — With students forced to learn from home for the foreseeable future, one Palm Beach County School Board member thinks it’s time to push back the start of classes. Board member Barbara McQuinn said she plans to ask her colleagues Wednesday to postpone the county public schools’ Aug. 10 start date as they review the school district’s proposed reopening plan. Even if just for a few weeks, she said, a delay would reduce the amount of time that students have to spend learning from home, easing the burden on families and teachers. “It is my experience in talking to many people that virtual learning has been a nightmare,” McQuinn said. “There’s not a better way to explain it.”

Pinellas’ school reopening plan could change, officials say” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — With Florida reporting tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases every week, Pinellas County School Board members spent much of Tuesday discussing a reopening plan that they might not even fully implement. Superintendent Mike Grego made it clear that, if the coronavirus continues to spread unchecked, the district might not be able to open its schools on Aug. 12, as planned. And four out of seven board members expressed regrets at having to oversee reopening at such a precarious time. “I know what the governor is saying, and now even he is wearing a mask,” board member Rene Flowers said. “We just can’t guarantee the safety of anyone through this.”

Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Mike Grego says they may not open in August if COVID-19 continues to spread unchecked. Image via Facebook.

Pasco schools plan to require masks” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Inundated by calls and emails demanding a mask mandate, the Pasco County school district announced that it intends to impose one on anyone inside its buildings or participating in its activities. COVID-19 infection are on the rise, superintendent Kurt Browning explained in a YouTube video, and research indicates that such a move is in the best interest of students, staff and parents. School Board members asked the administration to look into the idea at the end of June, calling for a detailed explanation of how to implement the rule. Since then, staff have drafted the proposal and had it reviewed by lawyers. The recommended rule would apply to students, staff and visitors to any school district property or school activity. Athletes will be encouraged but not required to wear masks during practice and competition.

Sarasota School Board wants to push back school year” via Ryan McKinnon of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County School Board is pushing the state for permission to delay the start of the 2020-21 school year, hoping to move the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31. The board’s workshop ended Tuesday before the board could give official authorization for the district to request the delay, but a majority of the board was firmly in favor of the move. The delay would give the district more planning time for dealing with COVID-19 as administrators roll out an array of new policies and procedures, and board members said the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Sarasota made it too dangerous for a full return to the classroom in less than a month.


First Coast home to more than 18,000 coronavirus cases” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The five-county First Coast region now has more than 18,000 cases of coronavirus, according to Florida Department of Health data. Northeast Florida recorded 542 new COVID-19 cases Monday to Tuesday morning, reaching 18,095. Three counties on the First Coast also recorded six new combined deaths for a total of 145 attributed to the illness in the region. Some Northeast Florida counties showed dipping positivity rates in recent days. However, Monday’s data shows the positive test rate rebounded. Duval County had a 16.5% positive result out of the 1,797 tests administered, up from 11.2% Sunday. Jacksonville recorded 354 new cases in the latest report for a total of 12,724. Jacksonville also added three new deaths, bring the total to 87. Across Florida, there are now 291,629 cases, 4,409 deaths and 18,881 hospitalizations.

As COVID-19 surges in Miami-Dade, county and city leaders struggle to see eye to eye” via Aaron Liebowitz and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — As COVID-19 has spread through South Florida, the largest cities in Miami-Dade County have often taken a more hard-line approach to businesses closures than the county. It was Miami Mayor Francis Suarez who made the first move to close restaurant dining rooms and bars in mid-March. And as reopening plans were devised in May, Suarez, along with the mayors of Miami Beach, Hialeah and Miami Gardens, took things more slowly than Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez. Today, as COVID-19 daily case numbers soar and hospitals approach 100% of normal capacity, county and city leaders still aren’t on the same page. But the roles have been reversed. Gimenez announced plans to once again close restaurant dining rooms, gyms, ballrooms and short-term vacation rentals.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez made the first move to close restaurant dining rooms and bars, which was prescient. Image via the Miami New Times.

Miami-Dade Mayors lament insufficient contact tracing” via Renz Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis faces criticisms over the state’s contact tracing program, Miami-Dade mayors emphasized the need for more contact tracers. The White House and the CDC consider contact tracing to be one of the core state responsibilities during the COVID-19 response. But mayors warned during a roundtable with the Governor that there is not enough contact tracing in the community. “That’s the one thing that the CDC says you actually can do things with, and I don’t know that our contact tracing is up to snuff right now,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, estimating a need for 800 contact tracers. Gelber, a Democrat and former state lawmaker, noted that the Department of Health doesn’t give much information on its contact tracing program.

South Florida COVID-19 positivity rate nears weekslong high” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida’s tri-county area saw its daily positivity rate tick up significantly after previous days had shown signs the virus’s spread may be slowing in the region. Testing reported as part of Tuesday’s Department of Health report showed 18.8% of testing coming back positive across Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. That’s the highest number for South Florida since last Thursday’s report, which showed a whopping 22.8% of tests throughout the tri-county area coming back positive. Exclude that eye-popping number from last week, and Tuesday’s report shows the highest positivity rate for South Florida since the recent resurgence of the virus began.

‘There isn’t a metric right now’: State’s largest hot spot still developing lockdown trigger” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — While the state’s largest COVID-19 hot spot records a thousand new cases per day, Miami-Dade County Mayor Giménez says there is yet no metric that would trigger a safer-at-home order. The county, which is also one of the nation’s leading hot spots, shut down in-person dining and a mask mandate has been in place since April. But the county is facing mounting pressure to issue a complete rollback. “There isn’t a metric right now,” Giménez said. “We’re going to be looking at, can we establish a metric that we can publish to the community to say, look, if we don’t get to this point by this time, we’re going to have to take additional measures.”

‘Social responsibility is critical for all of us.‘ Broward Mayor calls spread of COVID in county ‘grave’” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said he and 25 mayors of Broward cities participated in a briefing with hospitals and the local health department Tuesday morning and learned the situation with the spread of COVID-19 in Broward is “grave.” About 80% of positive cases in Broward are now being transmitted within households, within families, Holness said he learned from the Broward Department of Health on the briefing. “So the spread is there. It is now happening in our households. We must recognize that and take precautions even within our own households,” Holness said.

Florida Mayor says DeSantis left him out of meeting” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Tampa Bay Times — The Mayor of Hialeah, the second-largest city in Miami-Dade County, said he was denied entry to a roundtable that DeSantis held with several city mayors to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. DeSantis announced plans Tuesday morning for the 1 p.m. in-person roundtable at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami, and members of his staff contacted the mayors of several cities in Miami-Dade County to invite them to the meeting. Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said he didn’t receive an invitation, but Miami Mayor Suarez informed him the roundtable was taking place. When Hernandez tried to walk-in, he said, a member of the governor’s staff told him he wasn’t invited and couldn’t enter.

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez insists he was locked out of a roundtable with Ron DeSantis. Image via the Miami Herald

Nearly one-third of children tested for COVID-19 in Florida are positive. Palm Beach County’s health director warns of risk of long-term damage” via Skylar Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Nearly one-in-three children tested for the new coronavirus in Florida has been positive, and a South Florida health official is concerned the disease could cause lifelong damage even for children without symptoms. Dr. Alina Alonso, Palm Beach County’s health department director, warned county commissioners Tuesday that much is unknown about the long-term health consequences for children who catch COVID-19. X-rays have revealed the virus can cause lung damage even in people who never show symptoms, she said.

Top local doctor is seeing young people with symptoms” via John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post — Gov. DeSantis has waved away concerns, saying these new cases are mainly among young adults and they don’t even have symptoms. A top infectious disease specialist in Palm Beach County says the Republican is only half right. Yes, younger people are getting COVID-19, but they are not asymptomatic. They don’t need ventilators — except for the sad exceptions — and often get over their illness in a few days, said Dr. Larry Bush of Wellington Regional Medical Center.

Palm Beach County to close restaurants at 11 p.m.” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — As COVID-19 deaths skyrocketed and confirmed cases continued to grow, Palm Beach County officials on Tuesday said they will order restaurants and other businesses to close at 11 p.m. daily to stop the deadly march of the coronavirus. Late-night gatherings at restaurants, bars that aren’t even supposed to be open and private parties are fueling the spread of the virus, said Dr. Alonso, director of the county’s health department. As a result, County Administrator Verdenia Baker said she will issue orders today prohibiting restaurants and bars from selling alcohol and food from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Thursday. Other businesses, including amusement parks, banquet halls and kava bars, will be forced to close during those hours, she said.

A maskless man pulled a gun on a masked shopper at a Walmart in Palm Beach County in a possible dispute over COVID-19 masks” via Wayne K. Roustan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A dispute between two Walmart shoppers escalated to the point where one unmasked man pulled a gun on a masked shopper and threatened to kill him before leaving the store, and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies are looking for the gunman. Security camera video shows the suspect pushing an older man in a wheelchair through the store in Royal Palm Beach on Saturday afternoon. The suspect is not wearing a medical mask but the man in the wheelchair is seen pulling a red neckerchief up over his mouth. They are approached by another man wearing a mask and they exchange words.

‘That scenario is nonsense.’ No proof behind rumors about positive COVID-19 results with no actual tests” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As Florida reported the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases anywhere in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, social media began buzzing with people who claim they left a coronavirus test site because of a long line, but they still received a positive test result. While this scenario sounds scary, there is no proof to back it up. The Florida Department of Health, which is responsible for releasing information about testing said contact information for individuals at drive-thru testing sites is collected once they are about to be tested.


COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths rise in Central Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A two-day reprieve from reports of increasing hospitalizations and deaths associated with the new coronavirus in Central Florida ended with Tuesday’s state report showing another grim day across greater Orlando. The latest reports from the Florida Department of Health recorded 14 new COVID-19 deaths across the six-county region, including six confirmed in Osceola County since the previous report Monday. The report also showed 62 people across Central Florida newly hospitalized from COVID-19, including 17 in Brevard County and 14 in Orange County. That’s the highest number of new hospital admissions seen since 63 reported on Saturday. The two reports in between listed 15 and 30 new hospitalizations. In the previous two days, only two and four deaths were reported.

Tampa Mayor: ‘If we have to take steps backward, this will be the week we make that difficult decision’” via Brendan Ward of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said this may be the week the city of Tampa has to decide whether to reinstate some reopening restrictions. “I don’t think we should go to the stay-at-home order again right now,” Castor said in response to a question about reinstating a statewide order. Castor did not mention specific measures she was considering, though she did mention some local restaurants have voluntarily returned to takeout and delivery only. The mayor also said Tampa is not ready to reopen schools today, but she is in ongoing discussions with the superintendent of schools about reopening plans. Castor did say if schools do reopen, it will not be the usual system.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was light on specifics, but she talked about some local restaurants returning to takeout only. Image via the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Pinellas Co. posts 26 new deaths as positivity rate climbs back up” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Pinellas County confirmed a staggering 26 new COVID-19 deaths Monday, bringing the county’s total to 262 since the pandemic arrived in Florida. It’s the fourth-highest death toll in the state despite Pinellas County being further behind in total cases. The troubling trend comes the same day the state set a record number for new deaths Monday with 133 confirmed. The previous record mortality in a single report was 120, reached Thursday. The jump comes after two days of weekend data that interrupted a rash of more than 90 deaths per day. Before last week, the record for daily deaths among Floridians was 72, reached on May 5. Pinellas also saw a daily increase in positivity rates, the share of tests coming back positive for the first time.

St. Petersburg Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman tests positive for coronavirus” via Margo Snipe of the Tampa Bay Times — Wheeler-Bowman tested positive for COVID-19, making her the first public official from St. Pete to reveal a positive test. Wheeler-Bowman says she began showing symptoms on June 25. Ten days later she woke up at 2 a.m. unable to breathe. She says she stood up and tried to stretch, placing her hands over her head and pacing around her bedroom, but nothing eased the congested breathing. “I couldn’t even do three jumping jacks,” said Wheeler-Bowman. That night, which she says she’ll never forget, she prayed for her life. Wheeler-Bowman said that during the course of the virus she experienced headaches, fevers of up to 102 degrees, sweats, chills and a sore throat.

St. Pete’s Bananas Records says they didn’t know they violated city’s mask mandate” via Josh Bradley and Ray Roya of Creative Loafing — St. Pete’s Bananas Records is a part of the City of St. Petersburg’s list of small and major businesses that needed to be inspected twice by local code enforcement. Michele Allen recently wrote that her record store was never fined, never warned verbally or in writing and never told it was in violation of any mask ordinance. Allen also said code enforcers said nothing to anyone in the establishment about a violation. She also said that inspectors were told that they were not obligated to say anything to owners or employees, which probably means that there most likely wasn’t even a violation to begin with.

Ascension Florida opens mobile COVID-19 testing sites — In Pensacola, Ascension Sacred Heart opened their drive-thru facility on March 16 and tested anyone who had prescreened via phone and met the CDC criteria for symptoms. First responders and health care workers were prioritized for testing; Ascension Sacred Heart was the only hospital testing with its in-house lab. “We knew hospitals were burning through PPE quickly while they waited for those persons under investigation test results to come back and if we could provide those results more quickly, it could save us the valuable PPE we all needed,” said Dawn Rudolph, Ascension Sacred Heart president. Since then, Ascension Sacred Heart has tested over 13,000 individuals. Ascension now set up drive-thru testing sites in Destin, Panama City and Jacksonville.

Ascension Florida is opening up additional mobile COVID-19 testing sites in Destin, Panama City, and Jacksonville.

West Florida Hospital postpones scheduling elective surgeries, Baptist limits visitors” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — West Florida Hospital has announced it will postpone scheduling elective surgeries starting Thursday in an effort to increase hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases continue to increase. “As positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Florida and here in our area, West Florida Hospital is taking proactive action in order to position our hospital to better serve the immediate health care needs of our community,” reads a written statement from West Florida Hospital released Tuesday. “Beginning Thursday, July 16, West Florida Hospital will temporarily defer the scheduling of elective surgeries as a measure to increase hospital bed capacity.”

Young people behind record numbers at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, officials say” via Timothy Fanning of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — More young people are being infected with the coronavirus, and even though they’re less likely to die from it, the increasing younger demographic is partly responsible for Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations. Sarasota Memorial is running out of lifesaving treatments for those patients because of nationwide shortages. There are so many COVID-19 patients that Sarasota Memorial has expanded its capacity for critical care beds from 62 to more than 70. At last count, there are 106 patients at Sarasota Memorial infected with the coronavirus and 26 in the intensive care unit, 14 of which are on ventilators.

Southwest Florida hospitals hiring to handle uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations” via Liz Freeman of the Fort Myers News-Press — Southwest Florida hospitals are beefing up staffing to handle the dramatic uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations and avoid operating at full capacity. The preparations come as Lee County faced a record 15 new deaths reported Tuesday by the Department of Health. The 1,812-bed Lee Health system, which has four campuses, normally operates with 1,000 beds in the summer. But the pandemic has meant keeping 1,300 beds operational, said Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of the publicly-operated system. Lee Health is bringing back some of its seasonal workforce earlier than normal to increase staffing for up to 1,400 beds by the end of the month, he said Tuesday. If need be, the workforce can be beefed up to staff 1,500 beds.

— “Winter Haven City Commission adopts face mask policy” via Kevin Bouffard of The Lakeland Ledger

Pensacola federal courthouse closed to public indefinitely due to COVID-19” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — The federal courthouse in Pensacola has again been closed to the public amid COVID-19 concerns. On Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker issued an administrative order stating that the U.S. Courthouse and the Winston E. Arnow Federal Building must be temporarily closed to the public and will remain closed to the public until further notice. “This action is necessary to avoid a miscarriage of justice and also to avoid unnecessary risk to grand jurors, the Defendant, witnesses, counsel, Court staff and the public.” Walker wrote in his order. Walker’s most recent order does not cite any specific data or incidents that guided the decision to reclose local court facilities.

The Pensacola federal courthouse is closed until further notice.

Florida State football moves date of 2021 season opener vs Notre Dame” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — Though Florida State’s 2020 football season isn’t yet underway, there’s already updated news on the Seminoles’ 2021 schedule. FSU announced Tuesday that the Seminoles’ 2021 season opener vs Notre Dame in Tallahassee has been moved to Sunday, Sept. 5. The game was originally scheduled for Labor Day night Monday, Sept. 6. The game between the two teams will mark the second time in four seasons and the third time since 2014 that the Seminoles and Fighting Irish met.


CDC director: U.S. could get coronavirus ‘under control’ in 4—8 weeks if all wear masks” via Marisa Fernandez of Axios — If everyone in the U.S. wore a mask, the coronavirus pandemic could be “under control” within four to eight weeks, Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said in a discussion led by medical journal JAMA on Tuesday. The editorial, co-authored by Redfield, points to research papers showing that the positivity rate of confirmed cases can decrease in populations with masking. “The time is now. We really need to embrace masking,” he said. He added, “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control.”

CDC director Robert Redfield says the U.S. could get a handle on coronavirus in about four to eight weeks. We will see.

Trump administration to recommend National Guard as option to help hospitals report coronavirus data” via Lena H. Sun and Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — The Trump administration is poised to ask governors to consider sending in the National Guard to hospitals to help improve data collection about novel coronavirus patients, supplies and capacity, according to draft letters, internal emails and hospital industry officials familiar with the plans. A letter, to be sent to governors imminently, backs away from earlier drafts as recently as Friday that had directed state leaders to deploy the National Guard to help hospitals with daily data submissions. It now includes the National Guard among states’ options for improving the data flow.

Decades of research on an HIV vaccine boosts the bid for one against coronavirus” via Carolyn Y. Johnson and Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post — Those decades of research into HIV have taught scientists an enormous amount about the immune system, honed vaccine technologies now being repurposed against the coronavirus and created a worldwide infrastructure of clinical trial networks that can be pivoted from HIV to the pathogen that causes the disease COVID-19. Laboratories, testing sites and recruitment networks that were rushed into action against the coronavirus exist because of the enormous amount of money spent on HIV. Equipment and expertise is in place. Infection control has been upgraded. Regulators are engaged.


Faulty data collection raises questions about Donald Trump’s claims on PPP program” via Jonathan O’Connell, Emma Brown, Steven Rich and Aaron Gregg of The Washington Post — A trove of data on $517 billion in emergency small-business loans contains numerous errors that cast doubt on the Trump administration’s jobs claims and obscure the real economic impact of the program. An analysis of data on 4.9 million loans released last week by the Small Business Administration shows that many companies are reported to have “retained” far more workers than they employ. In some cases, the agency’s jobs claim for entire industries surpasses the total number of workers in those sectors. And for more than 875,000 borrowers, the data shows that zero jobs were supported or no information is listed at all.

White House signals openness to unemployment compromise as crucial deadline looms for 30 million Americans” via Jeff Stein, Andrew Van Dam and Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post — Senior Trump administration officials have begun signaling their willingness to approve a narrow extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits helping tens of millions of jobless Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Many economists warn the disappearance of this enormous federal stimulus, created in March, could hinder the economic recovery and deprive millions of Americans of a vital financial lifeline. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CNBC last week that the administration’s priority was ensuring that future benefits amount to “no more” than 100 percent of a worker’s prior wages.

Larry Kudlow, left, director of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in early July. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jonathan Newton

DEO launches online tool geared to help claimants locked out of accounts” via Sasha Jones of NBC Miami — The Department of Economic Opportunity has released a new online tool to help people locked out of their accounts due to suspected fraud. Last week, the DEO has launched a partnership with the technology company According to the DEO, “This site is for claimants who are currently locked out of their CONNECT account due to suspected fraud. Individuals who received an email from DEO are invited to click the link provided to submit additional documentation.” The latest roadblock for unemployed people is a message in his CONNECT portal that states the DEO “is unable to authenticate his identity at this time.” This is not the first time the DEO has released a tool related to identity verification.

Amazon, Kroger and other big U.S. retailers have ended some pandemic pay raises for essential workers.” via The New York Times — Many retailers across the United States have quietly stopped paying their employees “hero pay,” despite surging virus numbers across the country. Their rationale is that the panic buying that flooded stores during the early days of the pandemic has waned. Stop & Shop is the latest retailer to end the 10% pay raise it previously gave its 56,000 employees, as an acknowledgment that their work was essential and appreciated. Amazon, Kroger and Albertsons have also ended pandemic hourly pay raises, though some of them continue to give out bonuses. ShopRite said it planned to end its $2-an-hour raise early next month. While health threats and other challenges for workers remain, the economics for their employers have changed. The surging sales of March, which allowed some retailers to pay for raises, have slumped at some stores.

‘I can’t keep doing this:’ Small-business owners are giving up” via Emily Flitter of The New York Times — The resurgence of the virus, especially in states such as Texas, Florida and California that had begun to reopen, has introduced a far darker reality for many small businesses: Their temporary closures might become permanent. Nearly 66,000 businesses have folded since March 1, according to data from Yelp, which provides a platform for local businesses to advertise their services and has been tracking announcements of closings posted on its site. Christopher Stanton, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, said it was difficult to accurately gauge how many small businesses were closing because, once they shut their doors for good, the owners were hard to reach. 

Slight gains in optimism for small businesses amid coronavirus resurgence” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Small business owners are starting to show some signs of optimism in the era of coronavirus, according to survey results from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The national “Small Business Optimism Index” increased to 100.6 in June, the NFIB reported. That’s up 6.2 points over May. Small business owners generally expect sales to rebound up to 13% this month over the lowest points during of the pandemic in April when sales were nearly annihilated for many retailers. Record cases continue to be recorded in Florida in particular. While optimism remains on the upswing for many small business owners, June data shows economic realities were lagging.

A record 5.4 million Americans have lost health insurance, study finds” via The New York Times — The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million Americans of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year. The study found that the estimated increase in uninsured laid-off workers over the three-month period was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009. In that period, 3.9 million adults lost insurance.

Delta sees travel rebound stalling on surge in U.S. virus” via Mary Schlangenstein of Bloomberg — Delta Air Lines slashed plans to restore some service after a resurgence in U.S. coronavirus cases squelched a fledgling recovery in travel demand. The airline will add back no more than 500 flights in August instead of the 1,000 it had planned. It doesn’t see adding much more through year-end. “Demand growth has largely stalled,” CEO Ed Bastian said. “The pace of improvement from this point is going to depend on consumers’ confidence in flying.” The CEO’s caution underscored the risk for airlines that surging Covid-19 cases will upend their efforts to coax customers back onto planes after an unprecedented collapse in demand earlier this year. United Airlines warned last week that it was seeing a sharp drop in bookings.


Global vaccine plan may allow rich countries to buy more” via Maria Cheng of The Associated Press — Politicians and public health leaders have publicly committed to equitably sharing any coronavirus vaccine that works, but the top global initiative to make that happen may allow rich countries to reinforce their own stockpiles while making fewer doses available for poor ones. Activists warn that without stronger attempts to hold political, pharmaceutical and health leaders accountable, vaccines will be hoarded by rich countries in an unseemly race to inoculate their populations first. While no country can afford to buy doses of every potential vaccine candidate, many poor ones can’t afford to place such speculative bets at all.

A volunteer receives a COVID-19 test vaccine injection developed at the University of Oxford in Britain, at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. Image via AP.

First COVID-19 vaccine tested in U.S. poised for final testing” via Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press — The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday as the shots are poised to begin key final testing. “No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert. Researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost. There’s no guarantee but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year, record-setting speed for developing a vaccine.

Duke Energy preparing for normal billing for Florida customers post-COVID-19” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Florida customers of Duke Energy who might be undergoing financial strain due to the coronavirus outbreak will still get some leniency from the company at least until September. The energy company said residents in the Sunshine State who are Duke customers will not face any disconnection actions for unpaid bills at least until Sept. 1. The company said it’s still assisting its Florida customers who are facing hardship due to the COVID-19 resurgence. the company said in a statement on its website that it’s likely to return to standard billing practices and payments in mid-August. “Our customers remain our top priority. Many of them are facing unprecedented adversity during this pandemic. We want to be thoughtful and provide extended payment options to avoid power interruptions during the pandemic,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president.

Sex in a pandemic: For liberals, more Netflix and less chill” via Justin Lehmiller of POLITICO — Simply put, there’s a sizable partisan gap in how the coronavirus is affecting Americans’ sex lives. Liberals were significantly more likely than conservatives to report a decline in their sex lives since the start of the pandemic. They reported less desire for sex in general, a lower frequency of sex with a partner and a lower likelihood of experimenting with new sexual activities at the time when most of the country was locked down. In general, liberals were more likely than conservatives to report higher levels of stress, more loneliness and more preoccupation with death during this time. All of these factors have a tendency to put a damper on sexual desire and interest.


Partially blinded by police” via Meg Kelly, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Jon Swaine of The Washington Post — An analysis found that eight people lost vision in one eye after being struck by police projectiles, including lead pellets packed in cloth pouches that were fired from shotguns. They were among 12 people who were partially blinded by police during a week of national unrest. Of the eight who lost sight that day, six were protesters, one was a photojournalist, and another was a passerby. Drawing on cellphone and surveillance videos, along with other records, The Washington Post reconstructed the circumstances of three of those incidents in detail.

Several people lost vision in one eye after being struck by police projectiles. Image via The Washington Post.

Miami police say officer caught on video pressing forearm into suspect’s neck acted properly” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Miami police said they would take no action against an officer who appeared to use a neck restraint technique on a suspected watch thief during an arrest in downtown Miami on Monday that was recorded on a cellphone camera. A statement released by the agency Tuesday afternoon, after reviewing the arrest report, the video and the response to resistance report, said that the officer used the proper amount of force when he appeared to press his forearm into the side of the man’s neck three times to subdue him outside of Miami’s Seybold Jewelry Building.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala releases list of Central Florida cops with questionable credibility as witnesses” via Tess Sheets and Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — More than three dozen current and former Central Florida law enforcement employees are included in Ayala’s Brady list, which alerts prosecutors to “proceed with caution” when using them as witnesses in criminal cases. The list, which was released publicly for the first time by the State Attorney’s Office Tuesday, includes law enforcement personnel from eight agencies across Orange and Osceola counties whose credibility Ayala’s team determined had been called into question. Those named on the list include Orlando police officer Jonathan Mills and Robert Schellhorn, another OPD officer whose expletive-laden Facebook tirade prompted the agency to amend its social media policy.

Pensacola protester carried across bridge invokes ‘stand your ground’ law” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — The local demonstrator who was arrested after being carried across the Pensacola Bay Bridge on the hood of an SUV has invoked the “stand your ground” defense. Jason Uphaus was part of a line of protesters who blocked access the bridge June 7 to raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. Cellphone videos show that a motorist, later identified as Nathan Matusz, drove up to the protesters and forced his way through the picket line, carrying Uphaus off on the hood of the vehicle. Uphaus damaged a side mirror of the SUV and was ultimately charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. Matusz was not charged in the incident.

Petitions, protests and … prosecutorial discretion: Leon County residents push for justice, equity on 6th anniversary of Dan Markel murder” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Six years after FSU law professor Markel was murdered in his home by hitmen hired by family members of his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, his friends initiated a petition urging State Attorney Jack Campbell to bring charges. The three accomplices that were hired to carry out the killing have already been arrested, but the family members who hired them remain free. Is it a coincidence that the three arrested parties are all poor people of color, while the Adelsons are wealthy, white, and politically connected? How can the state use a common set of facts to make a case against two hitmen — and win! — without even trying to make a case against the people who hired them?

The murder-for-hire of FSU professor Dan Markel exposes a possible class bias between those connected with money and those without.

We must define anti-Semitism in order to fight it effectively” via Brian Siegal and Andreas Siegal of the Miami Herald — Since March, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have proliferated online, and some people objecting to government stay-at-home orders have invoked Nazi symbols in public as well. Protesters in Michigan, for example, displayed swastikas, a blowup doll of the governor adorned with a Hitler mustache and Nazi armband; those in Illinois held signs comparing the governor, who is Jewish, to Hitler. Tackling global problems requires international cooperation. As part of this effort, American Jewish Committee and Germany have worked closely together for 75 years to promote democratic values and fight anti-Semitism.

Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, UNF staffers’ anti-Semitic salute photos resurface” via Christen Kelly of The Florida Times-Union — Alumni of a deaf college fraternity are coming under fire after resurfaced photos from the 1980s showed members doing what looks like an anti-Semitic salute. Gallaudet University, a college serving the deaf community in Washington, D.C., announced last month that it was suspending the Kappa Gamma fraternity that has become “the face of racism” on campus. Kappa Gamma is the school’s oldest fraternity and has a long history of controversy on campus, according to Deaf Vee, a news organization covering the deaf community. Over the years, students complained that fraternity members used the Nazi salute and wore ceremonial robes that resembled Ku Klux Klan robes. The fraternity was suspended multiple times in the ’90s due to racism as well as hazing.


U.S. plans to restrict Mexico, Canada border crossings until late August” via Sabrina Rodriguez and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — The Trump administration is planning to extend restrictions barring nonessential travel across the Mexican and Canadian borders until at least late August as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to spike in the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S., in separate agreements with Mexico and Canada, will make a formal announcement before July 21 that nonessential travel will be restricted for at least another 30 days. It will be the fourth time border restrictions have been extended since the partial closure was first announced in March as a measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Donald Trump administration is planning to extend restrictions barring nonessential travel across the Mexican and Canadian borders until at least late August. Image via AP.

Trump administration drops plan to deport international students in online-only classes” via Juan Perez, Jr. of POLITICO — Two of the country’s top universities won a major victory over the Trump administration on Tuesday after the government agreed to halt its plan to deport international college students who only use online courses to study this fall. U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs announced the government’s reversal during a teleconferenced hearing. The decision marks a stunning retreat for the Trump administration, which left schools and students reeling following a July 6 announcement that spurred additional lawsuits and condemnation from a growing list of states, schools, politicians, labor unions and tech sector giants. Now that the policy and related guidance to schools are withdrawn, foreign students can continue to follow relaxed government standards on the use of online classes.

Nancy Pelosi ‘absolutely’ would skip August recess to reach coronavirus stimulus deal” via Fadel Allassan of Axios — Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Tuesday she would “absolutely” be willing to forgo the House’s August recess to reach a deal for another relief package to help the country battle the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus. Pelosi indicated the package would earmark money for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, as well as assistance for state and local governments whose budgets are in dire financial straits due to revenue shortfalls caused by the recession. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that Senate Republicans will open negotiations with Democrats once they finish their own proposal for the next round of stimulus next week.

Congress seeks relief for Florida’s struggling agriculture industry” via Hannah Farrow of the Tampa Bay Times — The initial pandemic outbreak caused many farmers in Florida to plow under their crops for an estimated loss of more than $500 million. “U.S. specialty crop producers continue to be undercut by high volumes of low-priced Mexican produce due to the prevailing trade environment, which has persisted over the past several decades,” said John Walt Boatright, Director of National Affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. Boatright said the pandemic losses emphasized the importance of having a strong trade policy. “It’s absolutely critical for southeastern agriculture, and Florida agriculture in particular, to remain vibrant, to remain stable.”

Actual email via Citizens for the Republican — “Florida statewide polling reveals vast majority of Donald Trump voters unhappy with logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to benefit China.”


Florida urges U.S. Supreme Court to keep stay on felon voting” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — The state of Florida is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a bid by voting rights advocates to lift a stay on a lower court’s ruling that allowed Florida felons to regain the right to vote, regardless of unpaid fines and other financial obligations. Earlier this month, the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to review a ruling in May by a Tallahassee U.S. District Court judge that ordered the state to give hundreds of thousands of felons access to the ballot box under a voter-approved initiative known as Amendment 4. The appellate court has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Aug. 18, the same day as Florida’s primary. The deadline to register for that election is July 20.

Happening today — The State Board of Education meets to discuss legislative and budget issues, 9 a.m., Strawberry Crest High School, 4691 Gallagher Road, Dover.

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to discuss the state’s financial outlook after the 2020 Session, 2 p.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.

Court weighs penalties for local gun regulations” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Imposing stiff penalties on city and county officials who approve gun regulations that go beyond state firearms laws came under scrutiny, as an appeals court considers a lower-court ruling in lawsuits filed after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. Dozens of city and county officials filed the lawsuits challenging a 2011 state law that threatens the penalties. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson last July ruled that, while the Legislature has the authority to prevent local governments from passing gun regulations that are stricter than state laws, local officials cannot be punished for enacting such measures.

An appeals court is considering a Florida state law that would enact penalties and municipalities that pass stringent gun restrictions.

Ex-official pleads guilty in $5M hurricane fraud scheme” via The Associated Press — A Florida city official pleaded guilty Tuesday to his role in a scheme to bilk the federal government out of $5 million in Hurricane Michael cleanup money, the U.S. attorney’s office announced. Former Lynn Haven community services director David Wayne Horton pleaded guilty to wire fraud, which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe said in a news release. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29. Horton admitted to signing and certifying fraudulent timesheets that claimed workers had performed hurricane cleanup work for the city, Keefe’s office said. Four other charged in the scheme, including former Lynn Haven City Manager Michael White, had previously pleaded guilty.

Lawmaker denies using anti-gay slur during radio call” via Ryan Nichol of Florida PoliticsRep. Al Jacquet is denying using an anti-gay slur directed at Commissioner Omari Hardy after Hardy accused him of using the language last week. Hardy made the allegations last Thursday. “A Haitian-American supporter called me this morning and informed me that he heard my ad on Haitian radio yesterday and that Rep. Jacquet called the radio station after my ad was played and told listeners to disregard my radio spot because it was a ‘gay’ spot,” Hardy said. Jacquet did not respond to comment when reached by Florida Politics. Now, he is citing a letter from Sak Pase FM denying making the remarks.

New Lauren’s Kids PSA warns of ‘real dangers’ for children being targeted by predators on TikTok” via Florida Politics — Lauren’s Kids is releasing a new Public Service Announcement warning parents of the danger that their children could be targeted by predators on the popular TikTok app. The fictionalized ad features a young girl filming a dance video on the app. She then receives a message from an adult man telling her, “send me another video … just for me.” The PSA then shows the young girl walking into her room, locking her door, and dropping her dress as she begins to film. “With 1 in 5 children being sexually solicited online it’s more important than ever we bring awareness to these very real dangers,” said Sen. Lauren Book, founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids. TikTok has been under scrutiny in recent weeks due to security concerns. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has pushed for a ban on the app, which is owned by a China-based company.

Florida Phoenix labeled ‘hyperpartisan’ in Harvard’s NiemanLab journalism analysis” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Florida Phoenix, a relatively new online news platform based in Tallahassee, landed on a list of publications labeled “hyperpartisan sites” that are “masquerading as local news.” NiemanLab, an arm of Harvard aimed at promoting and elevating the standards of journalism, listed more than 400 partisan media outlets nationwide. Florida Phoenix was the only one in Florida listed with a liberal bent, the rest were conservative. But none are as forward-facing as Florida Phoenix, which has attracted veteran reporters like Mitch Perry and Craig Pittman. The Nieman Lab analysis found most of the identified sites were “often funded and operated by government officials, political candidates, PACs, and political party operatives,” though they didn’t break out individual outlets to list which publications were culprits.

State alleges Miami developer ‘cheated’ to get federal housing funds” via Florida Politics staff reports — Staff at Florida’s state housing agency has accused one of the largest affordable-housing developers in the state, Housing Trust Group, of cheating in a recent procurement of tens of millions of dollars in federal housing resources in Miami-Dade County. The allegations stem from a cap set by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation on the number of applications that a single developer could submit for a share of the funding. HTG is accused of bypassing the three-application cap by submitting applications through various “shell” companies owned by individuals that are related to HTG by blood, marriage, or ongoing business relationships. The agency discussed the matter during a June board meeting, where board member Sandra Einhorn called for “clear consequences” for “bad actors.”

— 2020 —

Joe Biden campaign turns to COVID-19: ‘I will not abandon you’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Biden is turning the focus of his campaign advertising to the coronavirus crisis in Florida and three other hard-hit states, including in an ad where promises Floridians, “I will not abandon you.” The campaign announced Tuesday morning that beginning with its latest ad, the former Vice President will be presenting the COVID-19 outbreak this summer as a genuine crisis, with the implication that Trump is ignoring it, even for simple things like declarations that people should wear masks. The 1-minute spot “Tough” begins running Tuesday in Florida. Similar ads, tailored to other states, will run in Arizona, North Carolina, and Texas. The Texas ads will be the campaign’s first general election commercials there.

Joe Biden vows not to abandon people in states hard-hit by coronavirus. Image via AP.

Biden unveils $2 trillion climate plan with energy revamp” via The Associated Press — Biden released a $2 trillion plan Tuesday aimed at combating climate change and spurring economic growth in part by overhauling America’s energy industry, with a proposal to achieve entirely carbon pollution-free power by 2035. “These are the most critical investments we can make for the long-term health and vitality of both the American economy and the physical health and safety of the American people,” Biden said during remarks to reporters near his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden acknowledged that the economy is in “crisis” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but said it offers “an incredible opportunity, not just to build back to where we were before, but better, stronger, more resilient and more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Biden makes sharp pivot toward Latino vote” via Marc Caputo of Politico — Biden is conducting a massive turnaround campaign, hiring a rash of Hispanic operatives, spending $1 million in Spanish-language outreach and signing one of the nation’s top pollsters in the field, Latino Decisions. He’s already leading among Hispanic voters. But if Biden can get the same level of support and turnout as Hillary Clinton did in 2016 — while continuing to do better than she did among Black and White voters — he’s all but guaranteed to win the crucial battlegrounds of Florida and Arizona.

Trump pivots to self-pity with polls sinking, pandemic worsening” via Josh Wingrove and Mario Parker of Bloomberg — Trump swept to power by championing the hardships of forgotten men and women, but his reelection bid has so far centered on the plight of just one person: himself. Trump is struggling to respond to a resurgent pandemic, an economic downturn and nationwide protests for racial justice. The coronavirus has weakened the central plank of his campaign — the economy — while mostly scuttling the rallies that he thrives on. While those crises raged, Trump’s tweeted “POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” and complained about “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” All the current crises could make any President seeking reelection feel unlucky. But most of his predecessors, when faced with hardship, kept those feelings to themselves and focused their public statements on the misfortunes of the electorate. Not Trump.

Florida GOP doctors Trump tweet to solve mail-in voting problem” via Marc Caputo of Politico — President Trump’s harsh rhetoric against mail-in voting is causing a big problem for Florida Republicans, who once dominated the practice here. So the state GOP came up with a solution: They doctored one of Trump’s tweets on the issue to remove the stigma. “Absentee Ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them,” Trump said in the tweet. The rest of the quote was blurred out: “Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins.

The QAnon candidates are here. Trump has paved their way.” via Matthew Rosenberg and Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times — Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who is perhaps the most unabashedly pro-QAnon candidate for Congress, has drawn a positive tweet from Trump. She recently declared that QAnon was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.” More than two years after QAnon, which the F.B.I. has labeled a potential domestic terrorism threat, emerged from the troll-infested corners of the internet, the movement’s supporters are morphing from keyboard warriors into political candidates. And even as party leaders publicly distance themselves from the movement, they are quietly supporting some QAnon-linked candidates.

Kanye West’s short-lived attempt to get on the 2020 ballot” via Ben Jacobs of New York Magazine — July 4, West tweeted that he was running for president. It was treated as one of his typical grandiloquent pronouncements. The tweet sparked a lot of opinion pieces, cable news segments, and even a question in an Oval Office interview with Trump. On the morning of July 9, TMZ reported that West’s family was concerned that the billionaire rapper was suffering a bipolar episode based on his presidential aspirations. It may not happen this year, but certainly West could run for president in the future.

Democrats set sights on expanding House majority amid GOP troubles” via Rachael Bade of The Washington Post — Two months ago, Republicans were upbeat about their 2020 prospects following the surprise victory of GOP Rep. Mike Garcia in a California special election to replace Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, who had resigned. But Trump’s bungled coronavirus response and his embrace of Confederate statues and other divisive messages are now causing heartburn for down-ballot Republicans, allowing Democrats to go on offense in hopes of expanding their majority in the House. In recent days, nonpartisan political handicappers have moved several races in Texas as well as GOP seats in suburban across the country in Democrats’ favor. At the DCCC, political aides are eyeing races in Alaska and Montana, two GOP-held states the party never dreamed would be potentially in play.

Florida Democrats consider ditching Terrie Rizzo over PPP fiasco — Florida Democratic Party Chair Rizzo could get the boot over the party’s acceptance of Paycheck Protection Program funds aimed at keeping small businesses afloat during the pandemic. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, during a July 8 meeting, members of FDP’s Budget and Finance Committee wanted answers on why the party took the funds and why the committee wasn’t in the loop on the decision. “It was a very tense and blunt meeting and, yes, it was implied that they could all be removed when our party reorganizes later this year,” said a party official who attended the meeting.

Florida Democrats are considering giving Terri Rizzo the boot over the PPP loan debacle.

Spotted — Dean Mead’s Jennifer Ungru among panelists on the University of Southern California Election Cybersecurity Initiative. The USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative is a new nonpartisan independent project, supported by Google, to help protect campaigns and elections and is conducting cybersecurity workshops in all 50 states.

Facebook should ditch political ads altogether. No one will miss them” via Jon Healey of the Miami Herald — Facebook may finally stop lending its enormously powerful microphone and amplifier to deceitful politicians and manipulative campaigns. And in doing so, it would also block truthful candidates who are just trying to correct the record, outline their policies or encourage people to get out and vote. It’s a fair trade as far as I’m concerned. Officials at the social-networking giant were discussing a temporary ban on political advertising to reduce the spread of misleading, questionable or false material on the site in the run-up to the November election.


Headed to the Convention? Not I, more Republicans are saying” via The New York Times — Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Pat Roberts of Kansas are planning to skip the Republican National Convention next month as the host state of Florida deals with the biggest outbreak of coronavirus cases in the nation. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney of Florida are sticking with their plans not to attend, even though the convention is now in their home state. Marco Rubio, Florida’s senior senator, has not committed to attending. Neither has John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Senate Republican, or Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican.

— “‘We are the next epicenter’: Jacksonville City Councilman decries city’s Republican National Convention push” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Republicans said to be planning to move some convention events outdoors” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — With coronavirus cases surging in Florida, Republicans are planning to move the three nights of their national convention from an indoor arena to an outdoor venue in Jacksonville, but it’s still unclear how many people will be allowed to attend the events. The two outdoor options they’ve been examining are near the arena. Trump often shifts positions, and officials emphasized that the plans could change. Officials remain uncertain about whether a capacity crowd would be allowed to attend outdoor events, or if there would be restrictions to prevent people from being too close to one another.

A coronavirus testing site in Jacksonville. The increase in COVID-19 could force the RNC outdoors. Image via The New York Times.

‘Tens of millions’ raised for Trump’s Republican convention in Jacksonville, Mayor says” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville has gone well, the city’s Mayor said Tuesday — despite the logistical handicaps that have come with planning a rushed convention during a pandemic. “Fundraising is strong,” said Mayor Lenny Curry, the co-chairman of the 2020 Jacksonville Host Committee. “I don’t know the exact dollars that have been raised. I mean, it’s definitely in the tens of millions to put the event on.” Questions about the ability to raise the money needed to host RNC in late August have persisted since it was announced most of the convention would be moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville after a dispute over how many pandemic precautions would be needed to keep crowds safe.

Jacksonville Mayor on COVID-19: `Unrealistic to postpone everything’” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Curry said Tuesday he supported Duval County Public Schools’ efforts to reopen in August, saying his children and everyone else’s are ready to return to the classroom. “I trust they are going to do that safely and responsibly. I believe kids need to be back. I know my kids need to be back,” he said. “We must get kids and teens back to a normal life. … It is unrealistic to postpone everything.” Also, Curry said he was monitoring the spread of COVID-19, including hospitalizations, but had no particular benchmark that would prompt him to halt the Republican National Convention planned in Jacksonville next month.


Judson Sapp campaign sorting out assets behind $250K loan” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Where did Sapp’s money come from? Sapp’s campaign officials insist that the $250,000 he presented to his campaign was his own and did not originate from any outside loans from individuals or banks. The money, they said, came from his inheritance from his late mother’s estate and the sale of a house. But that opens questions about why the money has never shown up in any of Sapp’s federal candidate financial disclosures, which he filed as recently as May 15, and previously last December, and in May of 2018. On March 31, Sapp’s campaign deposited a $250,000 personal check from Sapp, effectively a loan from the candidate to his campaign. Sapp’s campaign treasurer Nancy Watkins said the loan came from Sapp’s personal assets and did not originate from anyone else’s loans or donations to him.

Amy Pope Wells has $150K banked ahead of CD 3 primary” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Wells finished the second quarter with more than $150,000 in the bank as the packed Republican primary for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District approaches. Wells raised more than $160,000 in the final 10 days of the April through June reporting period. The flurry of contributions is nearly triple the $57,000 Wells had raised through March 31. “I am excited that my pro-Trump, Conservative message is resonating with voters and donors. We have built a formidable grassroots campaign that will have the resources to win,” Wells said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing our strong fundraising, spreading our Conservative message and finishing strong next month.” Wells’ campaign credits conservative spending for the six-figure war chest five weeks out from the primary election.

Leo Valentin hits CD 7 airwaves with ad pledging to drain the swamp” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Valentin is striking first on the Central Florida TV battlefield with his first commercial blaming American chaos on “extreme liberals” and vowing to stand with Trump if elected in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Valentin, an Orlando radiologist, is seeking to establish himself in the Make America Great Again lane, in a three-way battle for the August 18 Republican primary for a shot at Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. On Tuesday he is launching a TV commercial, a 30-second spot called “New Generation,” which seeks to raise dire warnings about career politicians and extreme liberals and pledges to be part of a new generation of conservative Republicans ready to come to Trump’s aid in draining the swamp.

To watch, click on the image below:

Charlie Crist raises $300K in Q2, has $3.1M on hand” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Crist raised more than $300,000 in the second quarter of 2020, his campaign announced Monday. The latest earnings, brought in April 1 through June 30, bring his overall cash on hand to $3.1 million. “Our nation is facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19, so my focus remains on the constituent service and leadership that Pinellas County voters deserve,” Crist said in a statement. “I’m very grateful for the continued outpouring of support to our campaign because it allows us to focus on the people’s work and leave politics until the fall.” Crist is unopposed in the Democratic primary but faces an onslaught of potential challenges from a crowded Republican field.

Congressional candidate Casey Askar suing man who filed criminal complaint against him” via Devan Patel of the Naples Daily News — Askar has filed suit against a man who accused him of misrepresenting his educational background. Askar’s legal representatives have filed a two-count defamation lawsuit in Collier County against Andrew Duskin, who, two weeks ago, filed a criminal complaint against Askar, alleging that he mischaracterized his postgraduate education at Harvard Business School. Duskin’s complaint alleged that Askar was not a Harvard Business School graduate and attended a nondegree conferring executive program, Owner/President Management.

Florida Family Action endorses Byron Donalds in CD 19” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida Family Action is endorsing Donalds, the group announced Tuesday. The support could prove critical as Donalds aims to energize social conservatives in a high-profile Republican primary in Southwest Florida. “I would tell the people watching that it’s time that we send true conservative leadership to Washington,” Donalds said. “I am that candidate.” Founder John Stemberger traveled to Fort Myers to deliver the group’s support in front of the Old Lee County Courthouse. “Byron Donalds is a husband, is a father, and is a model citizen,” Stemberger said. “He’s a man of integrity. He’s a man of honesty and a man of principle. “And in my opinion, Byron Donald’s is the future of the Republican Party in America.”

Former Collier County School Board member files ethical complaint against Donalds” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Kelly Lichter in the complaint says Donalds, now a candidate for Congress, lied about his arrest record when he applied for multiple appointments and licenses. “Mr. Donalds has falsely and criminally completed regulatory applications by not disclosing either the sealed charge for receiving bribes or the dismissed charge for distributing marijuana,” Lichter writes in a complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics. The complaint makes note of past charges that have been highlighted in a recent attack ad by a super PAC. Those include a 1997 misdemeanor charge for distributing marijuana dismissed as part of a diversion agreement, and a 2000 arrest for receiving bribes.

Dane Eagle’s first TV ad draws contrast to untested self-funders” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Eagle suggests Southwest Florida avoid electing someone based solely on slick television ads. He makes the point in a new video reaching Fox News viewers. The TV spot stresses the Congressional candidate’s current role as House Majority Leader in the Florida Legislature. And he does so with footage of Trump dropping the title at the Israeli American Council National Summit. The ad also closes with Trump saying “Thank you, Dane.” The bulk of the ad stresses the need for an experienced policymaker representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District. “I’m running for Congress because experience matters,” Eagle says in the ad.

To watch, click on the image below:

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell outraises Gimenez in latest fundraising quarter” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Mucarsel-Powell raised over $835,000 in the last three months while her most likely Republican challenger, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, raised over $617,000. Both campaigns announced the totals in news releases. Campaigns must file complete reports detailing the names of donors and size of donations to the Federal Elections Commission on Wednesday. Mucarsel-Powell has a sizable lead over Gimenez in cash-on-hand. Her campaign said she has over $2.8 million to spend while the Gimenez campaign said he has $860,000 to spend. The bulk of that money will likely be spent on advertising in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

Daphne Campbell falsely says she’s ‘never’ been a party to a civil lawsuit” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Campbell recently told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel she had “never” been a party to a civil lawsuit. A simple search of the Miami-Dade County Courts website shows that’s not true. The Miami-Dade County Courts website lists 10 different cases where Campbell was a named party. In nine of those 10 cases, Campbell was listed as the defendant, meaning she was the one being sued. At least seven of those cases involve foreclosure actions where both Campbell and her husband Hubert were named as defendants. Only one of the 10 cases remains open.

— “Miami Gardens Mayor endorses Shevrin Jones in SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Ana Maria Rodriguez nabs Chamber of Commerce endorsement” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — The Florida Chamber of Commerce is putting its weight behind Republican candidate Rodriguez in the race for Senate District 39. Rodriguez has already been endorsed by DeSantis and Sen. Anitere Flores, and she’s earned a 97% “A” on the Florida Chamber’s 2020 Legislative Report Card. The Chamber of Commerce cited the candidate’s track record of supporting lawsuit abuse reform and fighting against job-killing regulations as rationale for its support. Rodriguez, who represents Florida’s HD 105, is one of four candidates vying for the seat Flores currently holds. Celso Alfonso has also qualified for the race as a nonparty affiliated candidate.

Endorsement in House race sparks controversy over LGBTQ issues” via Margo Snipe of the Tampa Bay Times — As soon as the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County endorsed Mark Oliver for House District 70, the backlash began. In June, the organization, whose mission is to advocate for LGBTQ equality within the Democratic Party, announced its support for Oliver over attorney and civil rights activist Michele Rayner, who, if elected, would be one of the first openly LGBTQ women of color elected to Florida’s Legislature. Allegations that Oliver made derogatory remarks regarding Rayner’s appearance and sexuality have surfaced among LGBTQ advocates and those involved in local Democratic organizations.

Adam Botana’s traffic history subject of tough new ad in HD 76” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Bonita Springs Republican Botana’s own history became the subject of a campaign ad from primary opponent Jason Maughan. The two Lee County pols face each other in a primary for House District 76. “Who is Adam Botana? He’s a liberal, another RINO,” a narrator says in the video. The 30-second spot portrays Botana as a wild party animal, not a serious business owner. With hazy photos of Botana on a waterslide in the background, the ad then goes into Botana’s sordid driving history. “He’s reckless,” the ad explains. ”Arrested for DUI. Cited seven times in seven years.”

To watch, click on the image below:

Candidate Michael Weinstein embroiled in controversy, scandals” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar and New York Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker were accused of armed robbery. Weinstein joined their defense two weeks ago as co-counsel with state Rep. Michael Grieco. But then the four witnesses recanted their sworn statements in exchange for a $55,000 payout they say was organized by Grieco. No matter how you cut it, the choice to join this case reflects some poor judgment on Weinstein’s part. Either: (1) Weinstein knew he was joining a case where his co-counsel, had bribed witnesses to assure their silence; or, (2) Weinstein should have known; after all, he chose to align with someone who had been publicly named in multiple Bar complaints, ethics investigations, and scandals.

Cuba hard-liners on opposite sides of likely future House Speaker’s primary” via David Smiley and Bianca Padro Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Gabriel Garcia, a little-known construction contractor whose House District 116 campaign against Rep. Daniel Perez appears to be almost entirely funded by political committees, received a bump last week when he won the endorsement of Marcell Felipe, the president of the Miami-based Inspire America Foundation. Felipe said in an interview that he decided to support Garcia after learning that Perez snapped engagement photos with his now-wife in Cuba in 2017. Perez, has fended off similar attacks in the past, easily winning a 2017 special election to claim the Westchester-to-Kendall seat and win an extra year in the Florida House that helped him triumph in a leadership race to become House speaker in 2024 if the party still controls the chamber.

Why lie? Gabriel Garcia claims to be a ‘lifelong Republican’ He’s not” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Garcia is challenging Rep. Daniel Perez in the HD 116 Republican primary. His campaign page pitches him as an avid supporter of Trump, anti-abortion, pro-2nd Amendment, and a hard-liner on U.S.-Cuba relations. Garcia’s zeal got ahead of him this week when he told the Miami Herald that he’s “a lifelong, loyal Republican.” Voter registration records show Garcia switched his party affiliation from NPA to Republican on Nov. 30, 2017. So, a candidate who touts himself as the Trumpiest in the race wasn’t even eligible to vote for Trump in the 2016 primary and — assuming he voted GOP down the ticket in 2018 — his track record as a “loyal Republican” encompasses a single election cycle.


Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony clashes with Scott Israel, his ousted predecessor, in candidate forum” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tony traded blows with his predecessor over-powerful unions Black Lives Matter protesters say have blocked much-needed reforms and protected bad cops. The two Democratic front-runners faced off in a candidate forum held by the League of Women Voters of Broward County and the American Civil Liberties Union ahead of the Aug. 18 primary election. Six other candidates in the crowded field jostled to break through the pack.

New Tony ad targets Israel” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Tony is out with a new campaign ad attacking Israel. Both Tony and Israel are competing for the job in 2020. “Fighting police brutality is my top priority,” Tony says as he narrates the 30-second ad. “My predecessor, Scott Israel, did nothing to stop police brutality: no discipline, no accountability for officers using excessive force. Now we learn Israel himself was accused of unnecessary force six times. After all that’s happened, why would we go back to the failures of the past?” Tony then reuses a line from his initial TV ad, which also focused on pushing back against police brutality. “Ending it starts with who’s in charge,” Tony says. “It starts with me.”

To watch, click on the image below:

Candidate maneuver moves Orange County commission race to primary, when fewer people vote” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Tens of thousands of voters in West Orange County are likely to miss out on an important local election, after a last-minute move orchestrated by a close friend and supporter of the incumbent and his 20-year-old stepdaughter. The race involves Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey, who is up for reelection this year in District 1, which covers the western and southwestern parts of the county, from Winter Garden to Walt Disney World. The 20-year-old stepdaughter of VanderLey’s good friend, former county commissioner Scott Boyd, filed the paperwork to be a write-in candidate in the race. The college student’s name will never appear on the ballot. But because she signed up, VanderLey and Wilson will now square off during the Aug. 18 primary.


Checkpoints without checks? Secret price tags? Florida needs COVID-crisis plan, not security theater.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Maybe you know Florida has a COVID-19 checkpoint set up on Interstate 95, theoretically to stop outsiders from bringing the coronavirus to our state. By now, the checkpoint seems backward. With Florida posting record numbers of infections, most of America wants to stop us from leaving. Still, traffic often backs up into Georgia as cars are funneled into one or two lanes so that troopers can quiz drivers about where they’re coming from, collect data and then give it to health officials to track suspected virus carriers. But I was told the checks were still running “24 hours a day with more than a dozen troopers in 12-hour shifts.” Except I saw zero troopers working zero shifts.


We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has.” via Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher and Richard Besser of The Washington Post — As of this date, the CDC guidelines, which were designed to protect children, teachers, school staffers and their families have not been altered. It is not unusual for CDC guidelines to be changed or amended during a clearance process that moves through multiple agencies and the White House. But it is extraordinary for guidelines to be undermined after their release. Unfortunately, their sound science is being challenged with partisan potshots, sowing confusion and mistrust at a time when the American people need leadership, expertise and clarity.

What’s the plan, Gov. DeSantis?” via Lori Berman for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis continues to present the country with a lesson plan on how not to govern. Since the coronavirus began its deadly march through Florida, Floridians have been mostly without leadership from our Governor. Local governments were left to come up with their own strategies to safeguard their communities and protect the public’s health. Now, with cases surging and more than 75,000 Floridians diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last week, and over 15,000 cases diagnosed in just one day, all eyes are once again turned to Tallahassee, and once again, Floridians are cut adrift. DeSantis spent the last week taking a victory tour promoting and signing bills, while doing little to protect Floridians from this virus.

The case for reopening schools” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — The evidence, scientific, health and economic, argues overwhelmingly for schools to open in the fall. Start with the relative immunity of young children to the disease, which should reassure parents. Risks can be managed as the Trump Administration has suggested in its guidance to schools: Space desks six feet apart, stagger class periods, make kids wear face coverings when possible, keep them in the same cohort, and have them eat, play and learn outdoors as much as possible. Teachers can also wear face shields, and schools can use plastic barriers in higher-grade level classrooms to separate them from kids. Teachers who are older or have underlying health conditions deserve special accommodations. But employers and employees in most industries are making adjustments to manage through the pandemic, and there’s no reason schools and teachers can’t too.


Florida has set another record for COVID-19 fatalities reported in a single day. The state Department of Health reports another 132 fatalities, the most in Florida since the pandemic began. The total number of fatalities so far is 4,514.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The state also reported almost 92,000 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus Tuesday. That drives the total to almost 292,000 and we’re likely to break the 300,000 mark today.

— Florida is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in America and Miami-Dade is the epicenter for Florida. Maybe that’s why Gov. DeSantis never removed his mask during a two-hour roundtable with South Florida Mayors.

— As local school boards try to figure out how to reopen classrooms in the middle of a pandemic, the Chancellor of Florida’s public-school system says most parents want their kids back in school.

— A Tallahassee appeals court hears arguments over a state law that says local officials who vote to impose new restrictions on guns can be fined thousands of dollars and removed from office by the Governor.

— The Florida Supreme Court wants another hit of medical marijuana. They’ve scheduled a new hearing on a challenge to the state’s law implementing the medical marijuana amendment approved which voters four years ago — even though they just held one in May. Sounds like something a stoner would do.

Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics offers a preview of the fight for the Senate District 27 seat.

— And the interesting tale of a Florida Woman who found a special hiding place for her crack pipe. Hopefully, it wasn’t too hot when she hid it.

To listen, click on the image below:



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Golf Story 7/14/2020: Quiet is vastly underrated. As wonderful as it is to be surrounded with friends and loved ones in a jovial golf environment, it is equally pleasing and perhaps more rewarding to be alone and silent in nature. To hear nothing but the sounds of the evening on a golf course is a considerable treat. Sensory overload has become such a common reality in our world that it’s easy to forget what quiet truly sounds like. A golf course is still a good place to find that. Beneath the last light of day, when the birds have settled down and the crickets have yet to come out, there is a window of time in which all noise seems to cease. No voices, phones, cars or other stressful reminders of life’s challenges can be heard. It’s amazing how much can fade away during a few minutes like that. Regardless of the distractions in their day, wise golfers have sought to enjoy such moments for centuries. Yet, because of its increasing rareness, the quiet offered us by golf has never been worth more. It makes me wonder why the twilight rate is such a steal. I’d pay any price to find more of that bliss. ————————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #whyilovethisgame #playorperish #nolayingup

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— ALOE —

‘Star Wars’ keeps sending in the clones with ‘The Bad Batch’ series for Disney+” via Brian Lowry of CNN Entertainment — Disney+ continues to send in the clones, announcing a new animated series, “Star Wars: The Bad Batch,” spun out from the successful “Clone Wars” franchise that recently concluded its run. Scheduled for 2021, the latest show focuses on the experimental clones known as the Bad Batch, which were introduced in “The Clone Wars.” The story will be set during “the immediate aftermath of the Clone War,” with members of the group using their unique skills as mercenaries. The series will again be overseen by Dave Filoni, who has guided Lucasfilm’s animation efforts, including “Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels,” in addition to branching out into live-action as one of the executive producers of “The Mandalorian.”

Send in the clones: The next Star Wars series will be a spinoff of ‘Clone Wars.’ Image via CNN.

Disney freeing up more reservations for annual passholders at theme parks” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World will make more theme park reservations available to its annual passholders starting Thursday, according to the resort’s website. There will be a bump-up for select dates in July and August for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Absent from that list: Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “Please note that this additional Disney Park Pass reservation availability does not reflect an increase in park attendance, which remains limited during this reopening period,” the site says on a page devoted to pandemic-related updates on Disney World experiences.


Best wishes to our dear friends Tom Piccolo and Ron Sachs, as well as former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Michael Grant and Brigette Bello.


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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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