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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.22.20

Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Prosperity Initiative has pored over the data.

It knows how many Florida children live in poverty, and it knows what parts of the state they live in down to the ZIP code level.

But just because half of Florida’s poorest children live in 150 of the state’s 983 ZIP codes doesn’t mean life is peachy in the other 833: Inequality of opportunity exists in every corner of the state.

Opportunity inequity and child poverty exist in every corner of Florida. Image via AP.

On Wednesday, the Florida Prosperity Initiative is holding a discussion on what businesses can do to provide those children with a pathway out of poverty.

The 10 a.m. virtual event, titled “Ending Inequality of Opportunity,” will see Greater Gainesville Chamber President Eric Godet, Broward College President Gregory Haile Rep. Rene Plasencia join Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson to discuss what those pathways might look like and how businesses can become part of the solution.

The discussion kicks off with a primer on Florida’s equity gaps and ways to ensure all voices are heard, from the poorest ZIP code to the most prosperous.

The panel will then discuss how to create safer communities and explain how the justice system could work smarter instead of harder.

Wednesday’s event is part of a series that continues with a July 29 panel on child care and families; an Aug. 7 overview of health care and food security; an Aug. 12 talk on education and jobs; and an Aug. 19 discussion on the cost of living in Florida.

More information and registration details are available on the Florida Chamber website.

Not what Matt Gaetz wants to wake up to — Matt Gaetz appears to run afoul of House ethics rules” via Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan of POLITICO — Gaetz has privately engaged in several spending practices in his nearly four years in office that appear to be in conflict with the House’s ethics rules, a POLITICO investigation has found.

Gaetz, a close ally of President Donald Trump from the Florida Panhandle, improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant who was ousted from the Trump administration, in direct conflict with House rules.

In another possible violation, a private company installed a television studio in his father’s home in Niceville, which Gaetz uses when he appears on television.

Taxpayers foot the bill to rent the television camera, and the private company that built the studio — which Gaetz refuses to identify — takes a fee each time he appears on air, his office said. It’s unclear how much it cost the private company to construct the studio.

This may run afoul of the House gift rule, which prohibits any lawmaker, aide, and their family members from accepting gifts worth more than $50. The official definition of a gift is very broad and covers virtually any good or service with monetary value.

Gaetz’s office denies wrongdoing in both cases. Gaetz’s aides said the House Ethics Committee approved both arrangements but declined to produce any evidence that that was the case. His latest actions suggest a broader pattern by the second-term lawmaker of pushing the bounds of — if not outright defying — restrictions intended to guard against corruption and conflicts of interest.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@RealDonaldTrump: Mail-In Voting, unless changed by the courts, will lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History!

@RealDonaldTrump: Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!

@MLB: It has never been about the military or the flag. The players and coaches are using their platforms to peacefully protest.

@MattGaetzLiz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonaldTrump and his agenda. House Republicans deserve better as our Conference Chair. Liz Cheney should step down or be removed.

@BernieSanders: Rep. Ted Yoho should spend his time fighting for the thousands of Floridians who are about to lose unemployment benefits and face evictions, not denigrate and insult a champion of working families like @AOC. We need more AOC and less Yoho in Congress.

@RepJoseOliva: Congratulations to @FredPiccoloJr, a talented and principled professional. I was very fortunate to work with him in the Speaker’s Office and more so to call him a friend. Gov. [Ron] DeSantis will be well served.

@MDixon55: Best part of not starting until next week is @FredPiccoloJr gets to write all the member tweets congratulating him on his new gig

@Ylichterman: my new favorite thing is when meetings are phone calls instead of zooms

— DAYS UNTIL —

MLB starts — 1; WNBA starts — 3; PLL starts — 3; TED conference rescheduled — 4; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 6; NBA season restart in Orlando — 9; NHL resumes — 10; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 27; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 28; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 30; Indy 500 rescheduled — 32; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 33; NBA draft lottery — 34; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 37; U.S. Open begins — 40; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 44; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 45; Rescheduled date for French Open — 60; First presidential debate in Indiana — 69; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 72; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 73; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 76; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 82; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 85; NBA draft — 86; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 86; NBA free agency — 89; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 92; 2020 General Election — 104; “Black Widow” premieres — 111; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 113; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 121; “No Time to Die” premieres — 121; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 132; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 154; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 200; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 366; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 374; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 471; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 569; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 611; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 653; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 807.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida adds more than 10,000 coronavirus cases as state total climbs past 360,300“ via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida’s Department of Health on Monday confirmed 10,347 additional new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 360,394 known cases. There were also 90 new Florida resident deaths announced, bringing the statewide resident death toll to 5,072. As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, there were 9,489 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals throughout the state, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration dashboard. Of those, 2,052 were in Miami-Dade, 1,266 in Broward, 624 in Palm Beach, and 15 in Monroe County, according to the agency.

Ron DeSantis believes Florida will soon contain virus outbreak” via Terry Spencer, Bobby Caina Calvan and Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — DeSantis expressed confidence that Florida will soon contain its coronavirus outbreak and that hospitals can handle the current influx of patients, putting forward a positive case even as the state’s average daily death toll is now the nation’s worst. DeSantis told reporters at a state Capitol news conference that hospital admissions and the percentage of tests coming back positive seem to be plateauing or declining in much of the state and that hospitals have sufficient capacity in their intensive care units and overall. “The trend is much better today than it was two weeks ago,” DeSantis said. “I am confident that we will get through this. I am confident that the folks … in our hospital systems will continue to do a great job and meet the demand. There is a lot of anxiety and fear out there and I think we are going to be able to get through it. We are not there yet.”

Volunteers load groceries into cars during a food distribution event at St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Miami Gardens. Image via AP.

ICU capacity not a concern for DeSantis, hospital experts” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — As more than 9,500 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 and more than 50 hospitals’ ICUs are at capacity, DeSantis wants to assure Floridians that hospitals aren’t overloaded. Data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration doesn’t convey hospitals’ abilities to add beds or transfer patients to other facilities within their medical system, the Governor sought to clarify with a Tuesday roundtable with medical leaders. “Just understand, we have a lot of rural communities and hospitals that have zero ICU capacity under any circumstances,” DeSantis said. “They just don’t have them, and if there is a need for that level of care, then patients are sent to areas that are a little bit more populated that have it.” As of Tuesday afternoon, 9,508 patients are hospitalized for COVID-19.

Should federal unemployment benefits be extended? DeSantis won’t weigh in.” via Lawrence Mower and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — For hundreds of thousands of Floridians, federal unemployment payments have been a lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic. Those payments are set to expire Saturday. Yet when asked whether Congress should extend them, DeSantis avoided answering the question during a Tuesday news conference. “I haven’t been following what they’re doing,” he told a reporter. A spokeswoman for the governor did not respond when asked the same question on Monday. Whether to extend the federal $600-per-week benefits is one of the most pressing issues facing Congress, which reconvened this week with a focus on debating another coronavirus relief package.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

School reopening ‘strings’ bedevil stimulus talks” via Nicole Gaudiano, Michael Stratford and Juan Perez of POLITICO Florida — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans will include $105 billion as part of the economic stimulus bill they plan to roll out this week to ensure “educators have the resources they need to safely reopen.” Claiming to one-up House Democrats, the majority leader said the impending bill includes even more education funding than the competing plan the House passed in May, H.R. 6800 (116). Democratic leaders say the Republican offer is dead, however, if those dollars are tied to Trump‘s demands that schools reopen for in-person instruction this fall. “The devil is in the details,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says ‘the devil is in the details’ when it comes to negotiations for stimulus.

Virus concerns nudge some teachers toward classroom exits” via Kantele Franko of The Associated Press — As pressure mounts for teachers to return to their classrooms this fall, concerns about health risks from the coronavirus are pushing many toward alternatives, including career changes, as others mobilize to delay school reopenings in hard-hit areas. Teachers’ unions have begun pushing back on what they see as unnecessarily aggressive timetables for reopening. The largest unions say the timing should be guided by whether districts have the ability, and funding, to implement protocols and precautions to protect students and teachers, even if that means balking at calls from Trump to resume in-person instruction. On Monday, a teachers union filed a lawsuit to block the reopening of schools in Florida, where state officials have ordered school districts to reopen campuses as an option unless local health officials deem that to be unsafe.

‘Not the same kids’: Preparing for social, emotional challenges when students return to school” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — On the first day of school, students will not hug friends after months away from the classroom. They will not share smiles with teachers who never got a formal goodbye. Rather, with half their faces covered while filing off school buses, children in Leon County Schools will receive temperature checks and medical screenings from staff. Then, they’ll sit in socially-distanced classrooms. Returning to school during the coronavirus pandemic will be a different experience for every student, but for some it may be jarring. As School Board Chair Dee Dee Rasmussen said during a recent board meeting: “The kids that left us at Spring Break are not the same kids that will be coming back.”

Leon County School Board Chair Dee Dee Rasmussen says the kids that left for Spring Break are not the same ones who will be coming back. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat.

Aug. 31 is proposed new start date for Palm Beach County schools” via Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Palm Beach County students will likely have to wait three more weeks for the start of their virtual classes. The proposed new opening date is Aug. 31. The School Board will vote on Wednesday whether to select that Monday instead of Aug. 10, the previously planned start date. The board is planning to train teachers in the coming weeks in how best to teach classes online in new formats that they say will provide an improved learning experience over the spring semester. The later start also allows time for the delivery of 82,000 laptop computers to be used at home by needy students. Those deliveries are expected to begin Aug. 17, School Board member Karen Brill said.

First day of school in Escambia County will likely be delayed two weeks” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal

— “Okaloosa superintendent recommends pushing back start date to Aug. 31” via Wendy Victora of the NWF Daily News

Santa Rosa County schools look to push back first day, offer remote learning option” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal

— “School board approves Aug. 24 student start date but will discuss halting openings if COVID-19 gets worse” via Erica Rogers of Florida Today

School nurses furloughed as classes go online” via John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post — Some 233 school health employees, woven into the educational experience, on Monday became collateral damage to the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. Palm Beach County’s Health Care District, which employs the nurses, health care technicians and their supervisors, confirmed on Monday that it made the “difficult decision” to furlough them. The furlough follows one that came in March. “How can a nurse be out of a job during a pandemic? That just blows my mind,” said one school nurse who declined to be identified. The reason cited for the furloughs is simple: The county’s school district announced it would start the school year with remote learning with no end in sight. Some of these nurses will not be coming back even when in-person classes resume.

Meanwhile Rick Scott’s grandchildren will be ‘distance learning’ when school starts” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott wants schools open, but he said his grandchildren won’t be in them. On Tuesday’s edition of Varney and Co. on the Fox Business Network, the first-term Senator from Naples said that while parents should have “choice,” that choice should include distance learning in addition to five days in brick and mortar buildings. “My daughters are going to be more focused on distance learning right now to make sure their children are safe,” Scott told Varney. “Other parents are going to want to make sure their kids are in the classroom.” Scott said that parents have their own reasons for sending their kids to school, such as free lunches. “Some [parents] are going to do it because it’s a way for students to get a subsidized meal, things like that,” Scott said.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami-Dade changes COVID reporting calculations to align with state” via Daniel Chang and Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — After months of posting a higher rate of positive test results for COVID-19 than the state, Miami-Dade County officials have changed the way they calculate and report the metric. The county changed the way it calculates the rate in order to more closely align with the Florida Department of Health’s method of arriving at the local positive test rate for new cases. The county’s rate has been higher than the state’s for months, a discrepancy that caused difficulty for local leaders trying to determine whether to impose closures and other safety measures. On Tuesday, the New Normal dashboard also was changed to add a page showing the state’s positivity rate chart for Miami-Dade.

South Florida hospitals scramble to reinforce nurses, treatments as COVID surge continues” via Ben Conarck and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Nearly six weeks into South Florida’s COVID resurgence, the region’s largest nonprofit hospital system has been pushed deep into surge mode, with Baptist Health of South Florida treating 831 COVID patients. That’s over a third of the roughly 2,300 hospitalized with the disease throughout Miami-Dade, and nearly double the number of COVID patients being treated at the county’s public hospital, Jackson Health System, which had 453 patients on Tuesday morning. Baptist Health, Jackson Health and Memorial Healthcare System in Broward have all shouldered high patient loads for weeks, and all reported operating near capacity despite having recently received new shipments of remdesivir, one of the few treatments proven to reduce hospital stays.

With the spread of COVID-19 increasing, many hospitals in South Florida are working overtime to reinforce nurses and treatments.

Miami puts cops on alert for crackdown on wearing masks” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Miami is cracking down on wearing masks this week, assembling a team of 39 police officers dedicated solely to enforcing mask violations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Francis Suarez announced the stepped-up enforcement effort Tuesday — one of the many ways that local governments across South Florida are trying to curb the virus’ spread while holding off on issuing stay-at-home orders. The decision comes five days after Miami-Dade commissioners passed an ordinance giving all of the county’s code and fire inspectors the power to issue tickets of up to $100 for individuals and $500 for businesses, bringing an increase to the number of officials — in addition to police — who can enforce the rules.

University of Miami will turn a dorm into COVID-19 quarantine space” via Alexis Masciarella of the Miami New Times — The state’s public universities have said they’ll offer in-person classes with strict guidelines. The University of Miami, meanwhile, is already making plans for what will happen when one the inevitable occurs and one or more of its 17,000 students gets sick. UM will quarantine sick students at Mahoney-Pearson Residential College, a dorm typically reserved for upperclassmen. Mahoney-Pearson meets CDC guidelines with its availability of single dorm rooms and private bathrooms that will be set aside and utilized for quarantine purposes if needed. Nearby hotels will be used if space at Mahoney-Pearson is unavailable.

UM will quarantine sick students at Mahoney-Pearson Residential College, a dorm typically reserved for upperclassmen.

Assignment editors — Rep. Shevrin Jones, Broward Mayor Dale Holness, Broward County Commissioner Dr. Barbara Sharief, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, West Park Vice Mayor Brian Johnson and West Park Commissioner Felicia Brunson will hold a news conference to discuss the ongoing health crisis in the importance of COVID-19 community testing, 9 a.m., Koinonia Worship Center and Village, 4900 W Hallandale Beach Blvd., Hollywood. RSVP by email at jessica.garafola@myfloridahouse.gov with subject line “Press Conference RSVP.”

Palm Beach County picked as COVID-19 vaccine trial site” via John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County will be the site of a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine in early August, involving about 1,500 volunteers. JEM Research Institute, near the campus of JFK Medical Center near West Palm Beach, will provide logistical support. The primary principal investigator will be Dr. Larry Bush, an epidemiologist known for marshaling fights against numerous highly infectious diseases, including the Anthrax scare two decades ago. The institute is one of the sites for California-based Headlands Research, which announced Palm Beach County had been selected to participate in the vaccine trials for either Moderna or Pfizer pharmaceutical companies. Which company’s vaccine will be tested in Palm Beach County has not been revealed as details are still in the works but that information should be known within days.

Maskless block party in western PBC fuels talk of Glades curfew” via Eliot Kleinberg of The Palm Beach Post — Frustrated by reports of a 600-person weekend block party in Pahokee that saw neither face masks nor social distancing, Palm Beach County’s chief administrator says she’s considering a curfew for the Glades during the coronavirus pandemic if there’s no better way to stop large crowds from gathering and potentially spreading the illness. “I don’t foresee having to implement a curfew,” Verdenia Baker said on Monday, “but I will if I have to.” Public health officials have warned throughout the pandemic that large, informal gatherings such as block parties are prime spots for spreading the virus, which people pass to each other through droplets of saliva. Many have called for limits of 10 people in any group setting. The crowd gathered Saturday night about three blocks from the center of the town along Lake Okeechobee, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office reported.

— MORE LOCAL —

‘It is not improving.’ Pinellas hospitals give a grim coronavirus update.” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — As the coronavirus continues to spread across Florida, leaders of Pinellas County’s top hospitals urged the County Commission to keep the local emergency order in place and to continue the requirement to make people wear masks in public. Hospital executives from AdventHealth, BayCare and HCA told commissioners about nursing shortages, slow test results, rising virus cases, intensive care units filling up with patients and a drop in the average age of people getting sick from COVID-19. Those younger patients are now requiring advanced medical care to fight the virus, doctors said. “We have not made a huge dent in flattening the curve,” said Dr. Larry Feinman, chief medical officer for 18 HCA hospitals in West Florida. “It is not improving and you need to know that.”

Pinellas County Commissioners keep social distance in their first in-person meeting in months. After medical professionals told them ‘it is not improving’ the Commission voted 7-0 to extend the county’s emergency order. Image via Pinellas County Commission.

Tampa General doctor: ‘our slope actually is a little above’ NYC at its coronavirus peak” via Seán Kinane of WMNF — Florida now has more average daily deaths than any other state. Dr. Jason Wilson, the Medical Director of the Clinical Decision Unit at Tampa General Hospital, says Hillsborough County’s coronavirus infection numbers are very close to New York City’s at the height of the pandemic there. Dr. Wilson said despite the immense infection numbers, Florida may be reaching a plateau. A month ago, Florida was averaging 33 coronavirus deaths a day. Overall, 5,317 people have died in Florida from COVID-19 since March 1 and nearly 370,000 have tested positive for the disease. About 19% of tests have returned positive in Florida over the last week, compared to 10% a month ago and 2.3% in late May.

Hillsborough commission to kill emergency group” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County is now poised to kill its Emergency Policy Group. Commission Chairman Les Miller Jr. proposed last week to keep the group in place to address weather emergencies, but to strip it of its authority to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to advance a planned ordinance change abolishing the group entirely. The vote came after Fire Chief Dennis Jones said the county should have a unified response to all hazards and should not have a separate body to respond to hurricanes. “I think it will save lives,” said Commissioner Pat Kemp. “… It’s not working well for us at this time.”

— CORONA NATION —

Coronavirus infections much higher than reported cases in parts of U.S., study shows” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — The number of people infected with the coronavirus in different parts of the United States was anywhere from two to 13 times higher than the reported rates for those regions, according to data released Tuesday by the CDC. The findings suggest that large numbers of people who did not have symptoms or did not seek medical care may have kept the virus circulating in their communities. The study indicates that even the hardest-hit area in the study is nowhere near achieving herd immunity, the level of exposure at which the virus would stop spreading in a particular city or region. The analysis, based on antibody tests, is the largest of its kind to date; a study of a subset of cities and states was released last month.

Donald Trump backtracks on masks, calling them ‘patriotic’ after allies split” via David R. Baker and Margaret Newkirk of Bloomberg — Trump’s administration on Monday pushed to encourage mask-wearing, explicitly endorsing a measure widely seen as crucial to stemming the coronavirus pandemic, and potentially quelling a bitter debate that experts say costs lives. The president, who for months resisted covering his face in public, tweeted that “it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.” The reversal followed polls that showed Trump’s refusal to champion masks was out of step with citizens worried by rising case counts nationwide. It also comes as Republican governors, facing outbreaks spiraling beyond control, begin to break with Trump on the issue.

Donald Trump backtracks on wearing masks, now calling it ‘patriotic.’

Former CDC chief: Most states fail to report data key to controlling the coronavirus pandemic” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — Six months after the first coronavirus case appeared in the United States, most states are failing to report critical information needed to track and control the resurgence of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to an analysis released Tuesday by a former top Obama administration health official. The analysis is the first comprehensive review of covid-19 data that all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are using to make decisions about policies on mask-wearing and opening schools and businesses. Some essential information that would show response effectiveness is not being reported at all. Only two states report data on how quickly contact tracers were able to interview people who test positive to learn about potential contacts.

U.S. lab giant warns of new COVID-19 testing crunch in autumn” via David Crow of The Financial Times — The largest laboratory company in the U.S. warned it will be impossible to increase coronavirus testing capacity to cope with demand during the autumn flu season, in a sign that crippling delays will continue to hamper the US response to the pandemic. James Davis, executive vice president of general diagnostics at Quest Diagnostics, said “other solutions need to be found” to detect positive patients in addition to the nasal swab tests currently in use. The comments come as testing companies including Quest and its main rival LabCorp are already struggling to keep up with demand.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Republicans back stimulus checks but payroll tax cut in question” via Laura Litvan and Erik Wasson of Bloomberg — Republicans crafting their own plan for a new U.S. virus-relief bill broadly endorsed a fresh round of stimulus checks to individuals, extended supplemental jobless benefits and more money for testing while voicing doubts over Trump’s desired payroll tax cut. The details remained in flux Tuesday as GOP senators hashed out their opening bid in negotiations with Democrats on legislation to prop up the hobbled U.S. economy. The differences between the GOP and White House threatens to push any action on the stimulus into August. A linchpin for Republicans is Trump’s insistence on cutting or suspending the payroll tax paid by employers and employees, which funds Social Security and Medicare. Trump has suggested he might not sign a bill without the payroll tax cut.

Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are crafting their own virus relief bill, which will include another round of stimulus checks. Image via Bloomberg.

Florida adds 120,000 new unemployment claims in one week” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Floridians filed more than 120,000 new unemployment claims in the past week as the depths of the coronavirus outbreak linger well into the summer, according to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity data released this week. Total unemployment claims increased to 3.18 million since the pandemic began to sweep through Florida in March, up from 3.06 million the week prior. There was a slight slowdown in jobless claims last week, more at the pace of late June and early July. And new claims are far from the 500,000 claims filed weekly in the early months of the economic slowdown.

DeSantis stays quiet on liability issues” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Twenty-one Republican governors sent a letter this week to congressional leaders arguing that businesses, health care workers and schools need lawsuit protections because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but DeSantis did not sign-on. Congress is considering another COVID-19 relief package, and many Republicans contend that liability protections need to be part of any legislation that is ultimately passed and sent to Trump. DeSantis was one of five Republican governors who did not sign on to the request, along with the governors of Georgia, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Vermont. It wasn’t the first time that DeSantis, who is an attorney, has been mum on the issue of lawsuit protections.

Banks eye ditching real estate with workers wanting to stay home” via Jennifer Surane of Bloomberg — Roughly 61% of bank executives surveyed by Accenture Plc said they don’t expect all of their employees to be called back to the office, and more than 40% said they plan to reduce their real estate footprint as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and their new workforce strategies. Many financial-services firms are considering a hybrid model in which employees come to the office three days a week and work from home the other two, according to Laurie McGraw, head of Accenture’s capital markets practice in North America. The country’s biggest banks have slowly begun returning some workers to offices in recent weeks after sending them home in March to slow the spread of the virus. Still, some have had to pull back on their efforts as states around the U.S. see a spike in cases.

— MORE CORONA — 

Double-shot COVID-19 vaccines multiply immunization challenges” via James Paton, Robert Langreth and Stephanie Baker of Bloomberg — When it comes to protecting the world from the coronavirus, two doses of a vaccine may be better than one. But doubling the number of jabs each person needs could complicate efforts to immunize billions of people. The latest results from front-runners in the sprint to come up with a vaccine, including the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca Plc partnership and Moderna Inc., highlight that prospect. Both efforts are conducting final-stage testing with two doses. Producing vaccines and deploying them to the world’s population in the midst of a pandemic would be a massive feat even if researchers are able to deliver single-dose inoculations. A need for two would make manufacturing and logistics even more complex. Those challenges would get even tougher if a vaccine’s efficacy wanes over time and repeat doses are needed, potentially every year.

Two doses of a vaccine make vaccinating billions of people considerably more challenging.

What Evan Power is readingWearing a mask ‘reduces deadly power of virus’” via The TimesMasks do help to protect the wearer, as well as people they meet, according to research by infectious disease experts. A team at the University of California, San Francisco, says masks can reduce the amount of virus that gets into someone’s system, meaning they do not get as badly sick. In England, face coverings are mandatory on public transport and will become so in shops and supermarkets from July 24. The requirement appears to have strong public support, with only 19% of Britons opposing compulsory wearing of masks in shops, according to a survey last week by the research company ORB International.

— SMOLDERING —

Trump’s show of federal force sparking alarm in cities” via Colleen Long, Ben Fox and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — Trump is using the Department of Homeland Security in unprecedented ways as he tries to bolster his law and order credentials by making a heavy-handed show of force in cities around the nation in the lead-up to the November elections. Trump has already deployed Homeland Security agents to Portland on the grounds of protecting federal buildings from protesters, drawing intense criticism from local leaders who say the federal presence has only exacerbated tensions rather than promoting public safety. Under Trump’s latest plan, yet to be publicly announced, about 150 Homeland Security Investigations agents would go to Chicago to help local law enforcement deal with a spike in crime.

Chicago police and activists crowd around a vehicle that tried to drive through the protesters’ circle in Chicago. Image via AP.

Majority of voters say U.S. society is racist as support grows for Black Lives Matter” via Sabrina Saddiqui of The Wall Street Journal — Voters in growing numbers believe that Black and Hispanic Americans are discriminated against, and a majority of 56% holds the view that American society is racist, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. The poll finds that Americans of all races and age groups share significant concerns about discrimination nearly two months after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 71%, believe that race relations are either very or fairly bad.

Hate speech has soared online since George Floyd’s death” via Sara Fischer of Axios — Since the day after Floyd‘s death on May 26, the rate of hate speech online in the U.S., as tracked by one digital measurement firm, has been nearly three times higher than typical. On June 3, at the height of nationwide protests, DoubleVerify, which uses its own technology to scan pages online so advertisers can avoid objectionable content, says instances of hate speech were more than 4.5 times higher than usual, the highest-ever rate it has measured to date. States with heavy protests experienced the highest levels of hate speech online.

How a one-man Black Lives Matter protest has tested Miami town’s police force” via Aaron Leibowitz and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — When 20-year-old Sebastian De La Hoz embarked on a one-man Black Lives Matter protest from the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami last month, he walked for hours, finding himself 10 miles away in the sleepy coastal town of Bay Harbor Islands, north of Miami Beach, as the sun went down. His June 4 protest, 10 days after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, was seemingly the only BLM action to reach the small, mostly white community. And his subsequent arrest for blocking traffic became not only an ordeal for him, but also a test for the police department when one officer-involved questioned the decision.

BLM organizer grabbed flags from a Cubans for Trump caravan. Now he faces robbery charge” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — One of the chief organizers of Black Lives Matters protests in Miami is facing felony charges after he was accused of stealing a flag from a car during a recent Cubans for Trump caravan in downtown Miami. Jonathan Gartrelle, has been one of the most visible protest figures over weeks of protests in Miami over police brutality. He was jailed Monday night and released early Tuesday after posting bond. The arrest comes as the Miami police department has stepped up arrests on Black Lives Matter protesters in recent days, charging those they say are obstructing traffic. Gartrelle himself was struck by an SUV during the Cubans for Trump caravan on Saturday after stepping in front of the vehicle on the roadway, although police claimed he did not want to pursue charges.

South Beach resident Jonathan Gartrelle participates in a BLM protest in Wynwood. Gartrelle is now facing felony theft charges for stealing a flag from a car. Image via the Miami Herald.

Pensacola attorneys say there are no legal grounds to stop Confederate monument removal” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Save Southern Heritage and other groups obtained an emergency temporary restraining order to prevent the city from removing the controversial monument. They argued taking down the monument would violate Pensacola’s own historic preservation and archaeological review ordinances, as well Florida statutes against disturbing tombs with “possible historical human remains.” Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said city attorney Susan Woolf thoroughly reviewed applicable laws before the City Council voted to remove the monument last week. “We don’t have any remains of any soldiers that were buried there,” Robinson said.


— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump aims to bar those in U.S. illegally from reapportionment” via Kevin Freking and Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Trump signed a memorandum Tuesday that seeks to bar people in the U.S. illegally from being counted in congressional reapportionment, a move that drew immediate criticism and promises of court challenges on constitutional grounds. Trump said that including people who are in the country illegally in the apportionment process “would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government.” Reapportionment is the process for redistributing seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on changes in population found in each decennial census. The Supreme Court blocked the administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census form, with a majority saying the administration’s rationale for the citizenship question appeared to be contrived.

Donald Trump signed a memorandum barring those in the country illegally from counting toward congressional reapportionment. Image via AP.

Florida could lose power in Washington if Donald Trump’s new immigration order is enacted” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — President Trump’s desire to keep immigrants residing in the U.S. illegally from being included in the U.S. Census count used to determine House seats could hurt Florida, a growing state with a large immigrant population. Trump issued a memorandum Tuesday that directs the commerce secretary to exclude people who are in the U.S. illegally from being counted as part of the process, known as reapportionment, to determine how many seats in the House of Representatives each state receives. Florida, which is likely to gain one or two additional seats in the House of Representatives based on population figures prior to the 2022 election, could see that increase drop to one or zero if the president’s memo goes into effect.

Matt Gaetz demands Liz Cheney be removed from House GOP leadership” via Axios — U.S. Rep. Gaetz called on House Republican Conference chair Liz Cheney to “step down or be removed” after a heated conference meeting on Tuesday. His call came after U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan and other members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus attacked Cheney, the most senior female Republican in the House, for breaking with Trump on several occasions and supporting a primary opponent against Rep. Thomas Massie. Behind the scenes, about five or six members of the House GOP conference are upset at Cheney, but the majority support how she has carried herself, a source familiar with the meeting told Axios’ Alayna Treene.

Democrats defend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after tense exchange with Ted Yoho” via Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — Democrats are rallying to the defense of Ocasio-Cortez after she was reportedly verbally harassed by a Republican lawmaker outside of the Capitol on Monday. The progressive New York Democrat was confronted by Yoho over her views that joblessness and poverty have caused a surge of crime in New York City in recent weeks, a confrontation that was witnessed and recounted by a reporter of The Hill newspaper. “I never spoke to Rep. Yoho before he decided to accost me on the steps of the nation’s Capitol yesterday,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday in response to the story. Yoho called Ocasio-Cortez “disgusting” when he walked past her on the steps of the Capitol on Monday, referring to her comments on crime. “You are out of your freaking mind,” he said.

— STATEWIDE —

Fred Piccolo is named DeSantis spokesperson” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Piccolo, the communications director for the Florida Speaker of the House, will move to a new role as the chief spokesperson for DeSantis. Piccolo replaces Helen Aguirre Ferré, who was named Thursday the new executive director of the Florida Republican Party. Piccolo is a native of Buffalo, New York, who moved to Florida in 1984 and attended high school in St. Petersburg. He attended the University of Central Florida, graduating with a degree in history and economics, and earned a law degree from Stetson University. Piccolo has been the primary spokesperson for the last two speakers of the Florida House of Representatives, José Oliva of Miami Lakes and former state Representative and current Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Congratulations to Fred Piccolo, who has been named Ron DeSantis’ new communications director. Image via Twitter.

University system fights fee refunds case” via the News Service of Florida — The state university system is asking a Leon County circuit judge to toss out a potential class-action lawsuit in which students are seeking partial refunds of fees they paid for the spring semester. The lawsuit stems from universities shutting down their campuses because of the coronavirus pandemic and moving to online classes. The plaintiffs argue they should receive partial refunds of such expenses as activities fees, athletics fees and transportation fees. But in a motion to dismiss the case, attorneys for the university system’s Board of Governors argued, in part, that the system’s fee structure is established in state law.

Challenge to dog racing ban goes to appeals court” via the News Service of Florida — A legal challenge to a 2018 constitutional amendment that will end greyhound racing in Florida has gone to a federal appeals court. The industry group Support Working Animals, Inc., and individual plaintiffs filed a notice they Are appealing a June 12 decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who granted a request by Attorney General Ashley Moody to dismiss the case. As is common, the notice does not detail arguments the plaintiffs will make at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit argues that the voter-approved ballot measure violates a series of rights under the U.S. Constitution, including equal-protection rights because horse racing will be allowed to continue at pari-mutuel facilities while dog racing will be blocked.

John Couriel disqualification sought in Renatha Francis appointment case” via the News Service of Florida — Attorneys for state Rep. Geraldine Thompson are seeking the disqualification of Justice Couriel from a case challenging the appointment of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Francis to the Florida Supreme Court. DeSantis announced the appointments of Couriel and Francis to the Supreme Court. While Couriel has started serving as a justice, Francis is ineligible to serve on the high court until Sept. 24, when she will mark her 10th year as a member of The Florida Bar. Thompson filed a lawsuit contending that the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission “exceeded the limits of its authority” by including Francis’ name on a list of nine nominees sent to DeSantis.

Utility regulators to eye COVID-19 customer impacts” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Public Service Commission has scheduled a meeting to get briefed on the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on utility customers. During the July 29 meeting, utilities will discuss issues such as the numbers of customers who are late in making payments or who have stopped making payments and the resulting amount of “bad debt,” according to a notice for the meeting. Early in the pandemic, utilities took steps such as suspending service disconnections for nonpayment of bills. But as the pandemic has continued, at least some utilities are moving toward resuming more-normal business operations.

FEMA stands firm on Oct. 11 for tenants at Bay County camps to find permanent housing” via Jacqueline Bostick of The Panama City News-Herald — For Cathy Coy, Oct. 11 is coming too soon. The date is the deadline for the 49-year-old and her fellow FEMA tenants in temporary housing units to find permanent housing. “Hopefully, it all comes together and they do something (else). Otherwise, good luck getting me out of here,” Coy said, reaching down to pet her rescue dog Angel. She is one of 224 tenants participating in the program, which was offered to Panhandle residents who lost their homes to Hurricane Michael. She has lived at the FEMA group site at the fairgrounds on 15th Street and Sherman Avenue in Panama City since it opened March last year.

Happening today The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission begins a two-day virtual meeting to consider a draft rule that would suspend wild oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay through the end of 2025 as well as a proposal to move the end of the commercial stone crab season from May 15 to April 15, 9 a.m. meeting will be livestreamed on The Florida Channel.

Broward clerk of courts to admit fault in ethics probe over finances” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Clerk of Courts Brenda Forman is set to resolve a state ethics probe this week by admitting she misstated her financial status for four straight years, starting when she first became a candidate for public office. Forman, 62, and the Florida Commission on Ethics reached a proposed agreement in which she will pay a $5,000 fine for apparently blurring her financial assets and debts while omitting bank account information — Forman admitted the errors and said she overlooked some instructions and didn’t understand others. She denied deliberately misleading the commission.

Broward Clerk of Courts Brenda Forman is resolving a state ethics probe by admitting she misstated her financial status for four years. Image via Law.com.

Ex-Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg was stealing customer IDs ‘until his last day in office,’ feds say” via Jeff Weiner and Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — When federal agents raided the Lake Mary home of then-Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg in late June, they said they found in his wallet a pair of fake driver’s licenses he’d manufactured using the personal information of customers who’d surrendered old IDs to his office. But evidence that Greenberg was habitually exploiting his public office to create bogus identification cards didn’t stop there, prosecutors say. Inside Greenberg’s work vehicle, agents found his backpack, which held three more licenses from Canada, Virginia and Florida, belonging to Seminole County residents who’d recently obtained new Florida licenses.

‘Your ass is the devil’ — Miami Beach locked in racy sex harassment suit” via Francisco Alvarado of Florida Bulldog — What started out as a close workplace friendship between two Miami Beach female finance department employees has devolved into a lurid sexual harassment lawsuit against the city. Ginette Luxama, a former city financial analyst, recently sued Miami Beach in Miami federal court alleging her ex-boss, deputy finance director Allison Williams, regularly demeaned her by making lewd and inappropriate comments about her body in the months before she was fired on May 1, 2019. Luxama claims that on three occasions last year Williams also inappropriately touched her buttocks and her breasts, as well as instructing her not to bend over because her body was sexually arousing to other employees. After she was fired, Luxama filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Florida Commission on Human Relations, the lawsuit states.

UF students, get used to this topic: artificial intelligence” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — The University of Florida announced a $70 million partnership that will bring artificial intelligence to the forefront of the school’s technology programs and introduce the topic more broadly to the student body. The joint effort with the California-based company NVIDIA will result in the hiring of 100 new faculty and touch every UF graduate with at least one class exposing them to artificial intelligence concepts, the university said. It also will give UF the fastest artificial intelligence supercomputer in higher education, officials said. The discipline is a branch of computer science that has brought the world products like self-driving cars, food delivery robots and computers that engage humans in a game of chess.

— LOBBY REGS —

Erin Ballas, Jack Cory, Keyna Cory, Public Affairs Consultants: Florida Nurses Association

Richard Heffley, Kelly Horton, Heffley & Associates: Accountable Care Transactions, Coastal Diagnostics Group

Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: AMN Healthcare, Integrated Home Care Services

Chris Moya, Dean Mead: Transformations Treatment Center

— 2020 —

Trump’s reelection effort has spent more than $983 million, a record sum at this point in the campaign” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy of The Washington Post — Trump’s campaign, the Republican Party and two affiliated committees have spent more than $983 million since 2017, a record-breaking sum toward a reelection effort at this point in the presidential campaign, new filings show. The Trump campaign alone has spent $240 million, and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign has spent $165 million, as the two sides ramped up their general-election efforts, according to Federal Election Commission filings made public Monday. Trump has raised and spent money on his reelection bid since 2017, earlier in his term than previous presidents. At this point in 2012, the Barack Obama campaign, the Democratic Party and a joint fundraising committee had spent roughly half that amount, at about $552 million, federal records show. Trump’s 2016 campaign, run on a shoestring budget, cost $878 million.

Donald Trump’s spending on his reelection effort is already approaching a whopping $1 billion. Image via Getty.

Joe Biden’s campaign ready to turn up effort in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Having spent about $15 million on its swing-state advertising in the past five weeks, Biden‘s presidential campaign intends to spend $15 million more this week across Florida and five other states. The campaign announced Tuesday it is ramping up its general election paid media efforts across TV, radio, digital, and print while releasing another COVID-19-related commercial, “Truth,” one on Biden’s record, “Tested,” and a new Spanish-language ad, “Soñar es lograr.” The Florida advertising, which last week expanded into Fort Myers, will now move into Panama City and Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama, as the Biden campaign stakes a claim in the Panhandle. In “Truth,” a one-minute ad, Biden makes a case for a unified, national approach, personal responsibility, and lead-by-example leadership from the White House to battle the coronavirus outbreak.

Anti-Trump Lincoln Project founders set sights on Marco Rubio, DeSantis” via Florida Politics — “We burned our boats and our bridges when we did this,” said John Weaver, a founder of the Lincoln Project, speaking with Craig Melvin on MSNBC. “There’s no going back here. We have announced what we are doing, we said we wanted to be part of a grand coalition that dispatched Trump and Trumpism. People forgot about the Trumpism part.” To accomplish that, Weaver said Trump supporters in the U.S. Senate and statehouses should expect to be targeted. “(That includes) these MAGA governors in Florida, and Texas, and Georgia, and Arizona. They were so afraid of offending the President that they were literally willing to sacrifice their citizens as opposed to doing the right thing with the COVID pandemic.”

State presses case on felons’ voting rights via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Accusing voting-rights groups of “a grievous bait-and-switch,” lawyers for DeSantis asked a federal appeals court to keep hundreds of thousands of felons from voting unless they pay court-ordered financial obligations associated with their convictions. The DeSantis administration is asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a ruling by a Tallahassee federal judge in a legal fight that could have a significant impact on the outcome of the November presidential election in Florida. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in May cemented an October preliminary injunction in which he decided the state cannot deny voting rights to felons who cannot afford to pay court-ordered financial obligations.

— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —

Republican Mayor backs Sheriff’s Jacksonville convention security concerns” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said that he agrees with the Duval County sheriff that the existing security plan and resources for the Republican National Convention are inadequate, and said he would not be comfortable hosting the event next month unless that changes. “Any event, anything we put on in the city of Jacksonville, I have to have my sheriff telling me it can be done,” said Curry, the Republican co-chairman of the 2020 Jacksonville Host Committee, “that he has the resources he needs and that it can be done in a safe and responsible way.” But he said those efforts must address concerns raised Monday by Republican Sheriff Mike Williams that planning for event security is “past the point of no return.”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams share the same concerns over security for the RNC.

RNC to hawk Donald Trump Jr.’s new book” via Alex Isenstadt of Politico — Trump has a new book coming out next month, and he’ll have a powerful ally helping him sell it: the Republican National Committee. The RNC is buying copies of the first son’s forthcoming “Liberal Privilege,” which it will offer to donors who contribute at least $75. The committee orchestrated a similar fundraising campaign last year around Trump’s previous book, “Triggered” — a move that led to accusations that the RNC was boosting sales to land him in the coveted top slot of The New York Times bestseller list.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL — 

Federal reports show Florida Democrats raised $1.2M, Republicans $720K in June” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats outraised Republicans last month, but trail by millions in cash on hand, new reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show. The Democratic Executive Committee of Florida brought in $1.21 million across 500 contributions last month. The party raised half again more than it did in May, when it reported $829,000 in receipts, though it finished June with less money in the bank. The declining balance stems from nearly $1.35 million in spending, including $215,000 in transfers to the Florida Democratic Party’s nonfederal account; $112,000 to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida for health insurance premiums; $65,500 for mailers from Mission Control, Inc.; and $55,000 to 76 Words for digital media services. Heading into July, the account had about $495,000 in the bank, down from $893,000 heading into June. The committee also had $913,000 in debts, putting it in the red overall. Also of note, the federal account doesn’t list any loan repayments for the Paycheck Protection Program funds it received last month.

NRA puts support, firepower behind Byron Donalds in critical CD 19 primary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The National Rifle Association endorsed Donalds for Congress Tuesday. “I’m honored to receive an endorsement from the NRA,” Donalds said. “I have always fought to protect law-abiding citizens’ right to defend themselves and the ones they love, even when it was not popular. “ The support could prove critical for Donalds, a top contender in the heated Republican primary in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. One of two lawmakers still in the running, Donalds is the only candidate who voted against a school safety and gun control package following the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018. That legislation drew a lawsuit from the NRA, which argued against raising the gun purchasing age in Florida from 18 to 21. The bill also put a three-day waiting period on gun purchases.

Byron Donalds’ big get — an NRA endorsement.

Carlos Gimenez produces bank records disputing GOP primary rival Omar Blanco’s lawsuit” via Erin Doherty and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — An attorney for Gimenez filed bank records and an affidavit last week in Leon County state court in an effort to put to rest a nearly three-month-long legal dispute over the check, with a misspelled name, that Gimenez submitted to qualify for the ballot in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The dispute began when firefighter and GOP primary rival Omar Blanco sued Gimenez over a typo on the check Gimenez used to pay his filing fee. The name on the check was “Carlos Giminez for Congress,” a misspelling of Gimenez’s last name. An attorney for Blanco said that the $10,400 check filed in April was paid for with funds from a political action committee instead of Gimenez’s campaign account.

Shadowy group weighing in on SD 9 Democratic primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A political committee sent two mailers in the Senate District 9 Democratic primary race in the past few days attacking candidate Patricia Sigman and endorsing candidate Rick Ashby. Fine for Ashby, if the mailers are legitimate. However, Floridians for Equality & Justice is not registered as a political committee with the state. Sigman’s allies believe it’s a fraud, that it’s using illegal “dark money” to try to influence an election. And they’re raising suspicions that it might be perpetrated by Republicans trying to stop Sigman from winning the August 18 Democratic primary. As one mailer charges, Sigman indeed is the preference for the Democratic establishment in Tallahassee.

Direct mail roundup: Irv Slosberg’s credibility on COVID-19 called into question” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Mailers dinging Slosberg’s health care credentials amid the coronavirus pandemic are showing up in Florida Senate District 29. “What is Irv Slosberg hiding behind his mask?” the mailer asks, before answering with a trove of headlines related to the Boca Raton Democrat’s time on the Palm Beach County Health District and his response to past emergencies. One jab dates back 15 years when the former lawmaker rolled out “Slosberg Emergency Management Aid” amid hurricane season. Slosberg was running for state Senate then, too, and his opponent, now-U. S. Rep. Ted Deutch labeled it a “crass political ploy.” The mailer cites another article from the aughts, detailing Slosberg’s removal from the health district “for abusing his position for political purposes.” The mailer also smacks him for at one time being a registered Republican.

— “Florida Chamber of Commerce backing Danny Burgess’ bid for Florida Senate” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

House candidate Jeff Hinkle accused of copyright infringement” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — Crestview Community Television owner Ken Nielsen has threatened to sue Hinkle for copyright infringement. A letter sent to Hinkle from Nielson’s attorney accuses him of hijacking images of himself and some of his opponents and using them in his political advertisements. “My client has informed me that several unauthorized and unlicensed social media posts containing his copyrighted works were published on both your personal Facebook page and your campaign’s Facebook page,” the letter from attorney Jimmie Bailey said. Hinkle and fellow Republican House candidate Jonathan Tallman have also been contacted by the National Rifle Association about improperly using the agency’s trademark logo on campaign materials. Both have received cease and desist letters this campaign season from an attorney for the organization.

Aggressive fundraisers emerge in Democrats’ battle royal for HD 48” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A business-oriented Democrat and another with Central Florida’s progressive and labor union community support are emerging as election forces in a five-way primary battle royal for the House District 48 seat that suddenly became available in May. Democratic former Rep. Amy Mercado announced she would not seek a third term but would instead run for Orange County Property Appraiser. Her exodus led to a scramble between real estate manager Nelson Pena, who’s got a long history of serving on civic boards, Hilton hotel industry strategic planner Tony Tsonis, with close ties to Orlando’s dominant tourism community, and former Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Daisy Morales.

— “For a Republican, Ned Hancock cuts a lot of checks to Democrats” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

— “Florida doctors back Fiona McFarland over Donna Barcomb” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Michael Weinstein’s pandering loses him support from police — and those who oppose police — alike” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In the latest example of questionable ethics, HD 81 candidate Weinstein wanted it both ways. He wanted the endorsement of the Palm Beach police union — and he wanted the support of voters who may disagree with the police union. So, he said one thing in his interview with the union and the very opposite thing in his interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and in talks at Black churches in the district. It didn’t take long for folks to find out. The union immediately recanted their endorsement of him, and individual voters expressed feeling lied to and used.

— “Omari Hardy records second-best fundraising period this cycle” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Firefighter orgs back Chip LaMarca as he expands cash lead in HD 93” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Two organizations representing Florida’s firefighters and paramedics are endorsing LaMarca as he seeks to fend off a Democratic challenger in House District 93. The Florida Professional Firefighters and the Broward County Council of Professional Fire Fighters endorsed LaMarca Tuesday. The Tuesday announcement comes days after new financial reports showed LaMarca expanding his cash lead over Democratic challenger Linda Thompson Gonzalez. “Rep. Chip LaMarca has been a strong advocate for firefighters, both in local government and now in Tallahassee,” said Wayne “Bernie” Bernoska, president of the FPF, which represents 27,000 firefighters and paramedics across the state. J. Scott Bayne, chairman of the Broward County Council of Professional Firefighters, said LaMarca’s opposition to a bill making it harder to collect union dues played a role in his group’s endorsement.

Chip LaMarca

Chip LaMarca snags a key endorsement from Florida firefighters and paramedics, as well as expanding a cash lead in his reelection bid.

— “Meet Christopher Benjamin, a Democrat running for House District 107” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

‘”A resource desert.’ Democrats running for Florida House tackle overlooked District 117” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — An entrepreneur, an educator, and a former political aide are vying to replace House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee in the majority-Black district that includes parts of Naranja, Goulds, Richmond Heights, Homestead and Florida City. McGhee ran unopposed in 2016 and 2018. He’s now running for Miami-Dade County Commissioner in District 9, which overlaps with parts of House District 117. All three candidates — Kevin Chambliss, Harold Ford and Jessica Laguerre Hylton — agreed in interviews that the district has been overlooked by county and state officials when it comes to infrastructure and economic development.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Melba Pearson internal poll shows statistical tie in Miami-Dade County State Attorney race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new poll commissioned by the Pearson campaign shows a statistical tie in the race for Miami-Dade County State Attorney a month out from the election. Pearson is seeking to unseat Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has served as State Attorney for the 11th Judicial Circuit for 27 years. The survey, conducted by Independence Campaigns, shows Fernandez Rundle earning 39% of the vote to Pearson’s 38%. That’s well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.04 percentage points. Independence Campaigns contacted 581 likely voters via text message from July 8-9. Another 23% of voters remain undecided, which is more than enough to swing the race in either direction. Publicly-released internal campaign polls should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. Though their findings may be accurate, campaigns have an incentive to withhold internal polls with poor results and only release favorable polls to the public.

Internal polling puts Melba Pearson at a statistical tie in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney race.

Tourism, development donors help finance 2 Orange County commissioners’ races, but steer clear of 3rd” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Many of Orlando’s traditional power brokers, from real estate developers to tourism businesses to lobbyists, are spending thousands of dollars to help two Orange County commissioners win reelection this year; but staying out of a third commissioner’s race. The list is lengthy. Campaign-finance records show that billboard giant Clear Channel, concrete manufacturer Cemex, liquor retailer ABC and amusement park operator SeaWorld, as well as lobbying groups representing hotels, apartment landlords and the construction industry, have all given money to Commissioner Betsy VanderLey, who is running for reelection in Orange County’s District 1, and Commissioner Mayra Uribe, who is running for a second term in District 3.

Rick Singh maintains he did ‘nothing wrong’ after prosecutors say documents from his office were altered” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — Singh, the Orange County Property Appraiser, on Monday dismissed criticism over a state attorney’s findings that his office altered documents for an audit, though he conceded he should not have posed for a photo that was staged to justify his travel to a Curry Festival in Tampa. The photo of Singh next to a festival banner was actually taken at a park near his Windermere home years after the event, prosecutors said. At a news conference, Singh called to address the findings released last week by State Attorney R.J. Larizza, who opted against charging him with official misconduct, Singh was asked why he agreed to participate in the photo. Singh denied that his office altered documents about his fuel purchases on an office credit card and some other expenses despite Larizza’s 10-page memorandum.

As Singh moves on from probe, Orange County property appraiser race simmers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — When the State Attorney’s Office for Florida’s 7th Judicial Circuit announced Friday it had insufficient evidence to prosecute Singh on charges of falsifying records, he declared himself to be cleared and vindicated of what he called a political smear. With about a month before the August 18 Democratic primary that should decide the victor, recent fundraising had all but dried up for Singh’s reelection. Yet his opponents, Rep. Amy Mercado and business owner Khalid Muneer have not seen their campaigns catch fire, at least through the July 10 campaign finance reports filed with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

Months before election, Largo Commission candidate has raised $50,000” via Rebecca Torrence of the Tampa Bay Times — As election season nears, some Largo residents may still be thinking of the 2018 city election, or the lack thereof. When no one stepped up to run against any of the four incumbents in the race, the election was canceled altogether. The 2020 Largo election won’t suffer the same fate. Three spots on the Commission are open, and four candidates have announced their campaigns. The race for mayor remains uncontested, with Mayor Woody Brown running for reelection. The same is true for Seat 4′s incumbent Commissioner Jamie Robinson. But in Seat 3, incumbent Curtis Holmes will face Largo resident Eric Gerard in November. As of June 30, Gerard had raised $50,000. Holmes had raised $20,935.

Being a School Board member isn’t a hobby, but David Graham treats it like one” via Florida Politics — Graham wants a seat on the Sarasota County School Board, but it’s not clear why. Though he works for Sarasota County Schools as an analyst, his own campaign only gives it a passing mention. Instead, the bullet points are reserved for jobs that are, at best, tangentially relevant to the position he’s seeking. Fidelity, Lloyd’s of London, Goldman Sachs. Big names, yes, but not particularly germane to his school board pitch. That’s on-brand for Graham. He wants to be on the School Board but can’t be bothered to make a compelling case for voters to entrust him with the responsibility.

David Graham seems to want to be on the Sarasota County School Board, but his campaign hardly mentions it.

Danny Leeper doesn’t live in his district, investigation finds” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The Florida Constitution requires elected officials to live in the districts they represent. The rule has some vagaries. For one, candidates can run in districts they don’t live in, and many do. But once they are elected, there’s no gray area. They must live in their district for the duration of their term. If they move into another, they must resign. A couple of years ago, Leeper moved out of his home in Nassau County District 1 and into another within District 2. Leeper claims a homestead exemption on the District 2 home. His wife lives at the home — the address is printed on her driver’s license, voter registration, real estate license and vehicle registrations.

— TOP OPINION —

The pandemic may very well last another year or more” via Peter R. Orszag, David Gluckman, and Stephen H. Sands of Bloomberg — Anthony Fauci has recently taken some heat in Washington for supposedly being too pessimistic about how long it will take to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control. In fact, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is probably being too optimistic, a new survey of leading health care company leaders and investors suggests. In congressional testimony and news interviews, Fauci has said an effective and safe vaccine may be available by the end of 2020 or early 2021. Yet almost three in four health care executives and investors believe an effective and safe vaccine will not be widely available until the second half of 2021 or even later.

— OPINIONS —

Darkened cars, battle fatigues, military hardware — what happened to Officer Friendly?” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Abundant federal funds for tactical gear, water cannons, and other battleground vehicles have contributed to the militarization of civilian police forces and to what has been described as a “warrior mentality” better suited for combat patrols, than for cultivating trust in American cities. Trump has now sent militarized agents from several federal departments to snatch citizens off the streets of Portland, Oregon. Unlike local police, the agents wear combat fatigues and military helmets and not one stitch or badge of identification. They refuse to identify themselves or tell their victims why they’re being kidnapped. Those are the tactics of storm troopers serving an administration whose disrespect for the Constitution, indeed for all human rights, is total.

What Pinellas schools must do to reopen safely” via Nancy Velardi of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County Schools still plan to open on the original start date of Aug. 12. Many parents and teachers have called and written to me, worried about returning to schools under the current plan, which offers three options. One is in-person with safety protocols, and two are virtual options, one connected to the student’s school of record while the other would involve separating the child from their chosen school. The schools are the centers of the communities, and the spread of the virus will not stay isolated in the schools, which is horrific enough, but will be brought home to the teachers’ and students’ families and thus spread throughout the surrounding communities. When dealing with the lives of children, an abundance of caution must be taken. An all-virtual start of school until the numbers decline in all categories would provide that caution for all involved.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

 Florida’s Department of Health reports almost 9.500 new cases of coronavirus and 136 new fatalities from COVID-19. But our optimist-in-chief doesn’t seem to be worried by those numbers.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. DeSantis holds a roundtable discussion with doctors in hopes of reassuring the public that hospitals are not overrun by COVID-19 patients and there are plenty of beds available. 

— When holding coronavirus updates, DeSantis likes to surround himself with doctors … Except for one notable exception. In the early days of the pandemic, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees was a regular, but we haven’t seen much of him since Rivkees went off message and said we might need to maintain social distancing until next year. Did the Governor disappear him?

— The Governor was also asked if he supported the extension of the $600-dollar weekly unemployment benefits from the feds. He offered an answer, without actually answering the question.

Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch talks about a new report critical of the legislative plan to build a toll road that will stretch 150 miles from Citrus County to the Georgia border.

— Checking-in with a Florida Man accused of taking the kids out for a Sunday drive while he was drunk. Also, a Florida Woman was busted for trying to steal a sex toy from Walmart.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

‘Saturday Night Live’ plots return to studio production” via Brian Steinberg of Variety — If NBC and Lorne Michaels have their way, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” this fall could move from being produced from cast members’ homes to being made the old-fashioned way, “from New York.” Michaels and his team are making plans to bring the show back to NBC’s Manhattan studios for the venerable late-night program’s 46th season, according to two people familiar with the matter, the latest of TV’s wee-hours programs to try and navigate a new normal in the midst of a pandemic that makes the process of putting on a TV show anything but. To be certain, any concepts for the fall would hinge on how the nation is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and the safety of the “SNL” cast and crew. NBC has yet to announce a premiere date for “Saturday Night Live.”

What Erin Ballas is reading — “The Hallmark Channel just launched a line of wines inspired by their Christmas movies” via Nicholas Rice of People — The Hallmark Channel is set to make the classic pairing of drinking wine and watching movies even more delightful, as the network teams up with Wines That Rock to launch Hallmark Channel Wines, a set of holiday-themed wines inspired by the networks many Christmas films. With a goal to make your days more merry and bright, the soon-to-be-released wines come in two delicious flavors: “Jingle,” a rich, full-bodied premium cabernet sauvignon with aromas of cherry, dark chocolate, and a hint of holiday spice; and “Joy,” a special crisp sauvignon blanc featuring notes of tropical fruits, white peach, and ripe pineapple. The wines can be purchased as a 2-pack, 4-pack, 6-pack or a case of 12, but only a limited number of the wines will be bottled in time for the holiday season.

Mysterious 450-foot ‘blue hole’ off Florida has researchers looking for signs of life” via Mark Price of the Miami Herald — Tales of the ocean swallowing places are as ancient as the myth of Atlantis, but there is an element of truth in the science, according to an NOAA-backed expedition set for Florida’s Gulf Coast. The ocean does open and consume areas of seafloor. However, these are basically sinkholes, similar to those that gobble suburban homes in Florida, NOAA says. When it happens in the ocean, it’s called a “blue hole” and what’s inside them is largely a mystery, NOAA reports. Scientists have no idea how many “blue holes” exist or where they are most likely to be found, NOAA says.

Scientists have embarked on a journey to the “deep” to explore blue holes, which are underwater sinkholes, like sinkholes on land. Image via NOAA/Facebook.

There’s a new drive-in movie theater on Biscayne Bay: Be sure to bring your boat” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — We get it. After months of quarantine, you want to be entertained. While options are a little slim amid this relentless pandemic, there are still a few things to do in South Florida. Believe us when we say we are looking hard to find them, folks. For movie buffs, a new drive-in theater opened in Fort Lauderdale through July. And for seafarer types, may we suggest checking into Ballyhoo Media’s “boat in” theater. The folks behind that massive Super Bowl party in Before Times will host a screening of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday on Biscayne Bay in front of the old Miami Marine Stadium in Virginia Key.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Sen. Vic Torres, Rep. Alex Andrade, Eric Draper of Audubon Florida, the great Vic DiMaio, Missy Timmins, and David Warner. Belated wishes to Kelly Reichelderfer.

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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