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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.31.20

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

Tropical Storm Isaias heads toward the East Coast; Hurricane warnings in the Bahamas” via John Bernier of WRIC — Tropical Storm Isaias is crossing the Dominican Republic this afternoon headed toward the North shore this evening. As of this afternoon around 8 p.m., it was located 14 miles WNW of Puerto Plataana in the Dominican Republic. Top winds are 60 miles an hour. It’s still moving very rapidly to the northwest at 20 miles an hour. Currently, we’re looking at a track for the storm that will take it from a strong tropical storm to a minimal hurricane along the eastern coast of the United States just offshore through the weekend. As we head into Saturday, it will be over the Bahamas and approaching the southeastern portions of Florida. Then it will move up parallel to the coastline start to curve to the northeast.

Heads up, Tropical Storm Isaias is barreling toward Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis warns of impacts from Isaias” via News Service of Florida — With Tropical Storm Isaias expected to reach hurricane strength, DeSantis warned of impacts to Florida this weekend even if the growing system remains offshore. A tropical storm watch was issued along Florida’s East Coast between Ocean Reef and the Sebastian Inlet. The system was bringing heavy rains and maximum sustained winds near 60 mph to Hispaniola Thursday. Isaias is the earliest storm to begin with an “I” on record, besting Hurricane Irene, which formed August 7, 2005. The 2005 season was the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.

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There’s a new way to get your Florida Politics fix: The Spectrum News App.

Spectrum Networks’ new app allows viewers to check weather forecasts, browse local news and tune into livestreams of its networks across the country. It also puts the best of the best in print news — from entertainment to business — at users’ fingertips.

“Internet and mobile customers are the fastest-growing segments of Spectrum’s customer base, and our viewers are consuming news online more now than ever before,” said Spectrum Networks Executive Vice President Mike Bair. “The Spectrum News App is the first content product available to all 28 million residential Spectrum customers, adding significant value to our existing local services, but particularly our internet-only customers who could not previously access our news reporting.”

Spectrum Networks has partnered with news outlets small and large, mainstream and niche to ensure users get comprehensive coverage from a diverse mix of voices.

For statewide political news, Spectrum is turning to Florida Politics.

When Spectrum Networks needed Florida state political and policy reporting for their newly launched news app, they turned to Florida Politics.

“We know that local journalism is vital to the communities we serve. From political coverage of press briefings, local debates and elections, to public affairs programming and community news that is relevant to local residents, our networks serve as a valuable resource, especially during times of crisis,” Bair continued.

The Spectrum News App is available on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

Access is free for everyone for the first 30 days, and after the trial period, will be available to all authenticated Spectrum residential video, internet and mobile customers at no additional charge.

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Another poll, another sign of flagging support for DeSantis.

According to a Mason-Dixon Polling survey released Friday, the Governor’s overall job approval rating has slipped into the negative.

The poll, conducted July 20-23, found Florida voters disapprove of the job DeSantis is doing by a 49-44% margin.

The minus-5 approval rating represents a monumental shift since March, when three-fifths of voters approved of his job performance and less than a quarter were unsatisfied.

The poll shows an across the board drop for DeSantis.

Over the past four months, he’s lost the support of about 11% of Republicans, 17% of independents and 24% of Democrats. Men, women, Black and Hispanic voters also fled by double digits.

In no corner of the state did his numbers avoid a slashing — he’s down 18 points in Central Florida, 19 points in Tampa Bay and a whopping 23 points in South Florida.

There are no bright spots in the crosstabs, just some slightly less gloomy ones.

A majority of voters in North and Southwest Florida — both Republican strongholds — are still keen on him, though he’s lost 9 points in the former and 12 in the latter.

DeSantis is still in positive territory among White voters though he is now supported by a slim plurality rather than a firm majority.

The over 50 crowd are the only demographic bloc where he still enjoys majority support, 51-45%. He’s at minus-17 among younger voters, however.

The Mason-Dixon Poll surveyed 625 Florida voters by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

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A new poll conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs found Floridians are souring on DeSantis, with 53% of voters disapproving of how he’s handled the pandemic-induced unemployment crisis while just 41% approve.

His stature was lowest among Democrats, four-fifths of whom say DeSantis has fallen short. A majority of independents (53%) agree. Only Republicans are in the GOP Governor’s corner, though by a lower-than-usual 69-24% margin.

“The coronavirus crisis has crippled Florida’s tourism and service-based economy, forcing a staggering number of people to file for unemployment. Floridians are finding out firsthand that when it matters most Florida’s leaders are failing them,” Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo said in a release highlighting the poll.

The poll also found Floridians support extending supplementary federal unemployment benefits by a 53-41% margin. Additionally, three-fifths of respondents believe containing the virus is more important than reopening the economy. About a third say the inverse.

Clarity Campaign Labs polled 2,039 likely voters online from July 6-13. Results were weighted to reflect a demographically and geographically representative statewide 2020 electorate.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???

@NoahPransky: The real goal of this tweet? To get national media talking about this nonsensical debate instead of the new report of a 33% crash in our nation’s GDP in the 2Q.

@BarackObama: John believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity for great courage and a longing to do what’s right. We are so lucky to have had him show us the way. I offered some thoughts today on his life and how, like him, we can give it all we have.

Tweet, tweet:

 

@Kriseman: The most densely populated county in Florida, Pinellas, has one of the lowest COVID-19 positive rates over the past week (6.8%). Only Alachua, Brevard, Calhoun & Franklin are lower. This isn’t a time to celebrate or relax. It means what we’re doing, what you’re doing, is working

@GGreenwald: I’ve been hearing this for 15 years ever since bloggers built a large enough audience to force journalists, for the first time, to hear public critiques. Professions are strengthened, not weakened, when they hear public criticisms. You just have to see the public as not-trash.

@Sache: Saw that Tim Allen was trending this morning. Clicked on topic to find out why only to discover a bunch of tweets asking why Tim Allen was trending. So, Twitter is finally eating itself, apparently.

— DAYS UNTIL —

NHL resumes — 1; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 18; Florida Bar exams begin online (rescheduled) — 19; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 19; Regal Cinemas reopen in U.S. — 21; Indy 500 rescheduled — 23; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 24; NBA draft lottery — 25; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 28; U.S. Open begins — 31; Christopher Nolan‘s “Temet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 34; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 36; Rescheduled date for French Open — 51; First presidential debate in Indiana — 60; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 63; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 64; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 67; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 67; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 73; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 76; NBA draft — 77; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 77; NBA free agency — 80; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 83; 2020 General Election — 95; “Black Widow” premieres — 99; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 101; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 112; “No Time to Die” premieres — 112; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 123; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 191; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 203; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 336; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 357; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 365; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 462; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 560; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 602; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 644; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 798.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida breaks single-day record for coronavirus deaths for 3rd straight day with more than 250” via Tony Pipitone of NBC Miami — Florida’s coronavirus-related deaths increased by a record of 253 residents Thursday, the third day in a row the state set a single-day record for virus-related deaths. The 253 deaths come a day after the state confirmed 216 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday. Florida reported 186 deaths on Tuesday. Only 18 of the 253 newly confirmed deaths occurred Wednesday. Just over half occurred a week ago or earlier, as reporting is delayed while the state confirms the deaths are COVID-19-related. As those deaths are confirmed by date it is clear just how deadly July has become, with 42% of the resident deaths occurring during the month so far.

Florida breaks another record for the most COVID-19 deaths in a single day — more than 250. Image via Getty.

At least 54 hospitals have reached ICU capacity in Florida” via CNN — At least 54 hospitals have reached capacity in their intensive care units and show zero ICU beds available, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Ten of the hospitals at capacity are in Miami-Dade County, and eight of them are in Broward County, AHCA data shows. Another 44 hospitals have 10% or less ICU capacity available, according to AHCA. AHCA reports about 16% ICU beds are available across the State of Florida.

Virus testing turnaround times reveal wide disparity” via Tamara Lush of the Associated Press — Cameron Settles was swabbed for COVID-19 in mid-June at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando and it took him eight days to get the results. He was positive, and so his wife went to the convention center for her own test. It took four days to receive her results, and they were negative. The entire process, the couple said, was frustrating. As coronavirus cases surge in hard-hit Florida, so do the turnaround times for test results. But there is one place in Central Florida where a group of people are being tested and getting results within a day: the NBA.

COVID-19 cases, deaths continue to climb in prisons” via News Service of Florida — Three more Florida inmates have died from complications of COVID-19, bringing the total number of prisoner deaths to 49, according to data released by the state Department of Corrections. The inmate death toll has doubled since June 30, when 24 inmate deaths were recorded. July has proved to be the deadliest month in Florida’s prison system since the start of the pandemic, with 25 inmates dying since July 1. By comparison, nine inmates died in June. As of mid-Thursday, 9,501 inmates and corrections workers had tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. As of Thursday, corrections and health officials have conducted 45,781 tests on inmates, including 7,875 prisoners who have tested positive.

Youth infections in juvenile system top 300” via News Service of Florida — More than 300 youths in juvenile-justice facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, as the number of cases in the state system continues to steadily increase. As of Thursday afternoon, 306 youths had tested positive, up from 290 on Tuesday, according to information from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Also, 235 workers at juvenile-justice facilities had tested positive, up from 221 on Tuesday. Overall, 101 of the 235 workers who had tested positive have been medically cleared to return to their jobs. The department has taken a series of steps, including suspending visitation at the facilities, to try to prevent the spread of the disease.

Record-high numbers of COVID-19 deaths won’t end soon, experts say” via Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — For the third straight day, a record number of COVID-19 deaths were reported Thursday in Florida, and public health officials say they don’t expect that to change any time soon. The seven-day average number of deaths continues its upward trend and will continue to do so in the coming weeks, say experts who have long cautioned that deaths would lag behind the spike in cases. “The new deaths today would not trigger me to say that there’s an emergency today that wasn’t there before. I do think this is a snapshot of what happened a month ago,” said Dr. Robert Cook, professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida.

FEMA: Florida veterans hospitals can admit nonveterans during pandemic” via Ileana Najarro of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida veterans hospitals are able to admit non-veteran patients if requested by the Florida Department of Health to assist community hospitals in treating patients with or without the coronavirus, according to Mary Kay Rutan, a spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs network that oversees medical facilities in Florida. As of Thursday, there have been no requests for this assistance, Rutan added. It’s the second mission assignment for Florida veterans hospitals from the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the pandemic.

Florida pair arrested for breaking COVID-19 quarantine order” via Bobby Caina Calvan of the Associated PressJose Freire Interian was walking his dog near his Key West home when a neighbor began recording him on her cellphone. Hours later, police came knocking on his door with an arrest warrant and whisked Freire and his wife to the county jail. The charge: violating quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. As a national debate swirls over masks and self-quarantines, communities are grappling over how aggressively they should enforce myriad rules meant to control the spread of the novel strain of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 460,000 in Florida and killed nearly 6,600 of its residents.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

Children may carry coronavirus at high levels, study finds” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — Infected children have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults, according to the research. Indeed, children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults, the authors found. That measurement does not necessarily prove children are passing the virus to others. Still, the findings should influence the debate over reopening schools, several experts said. “The school situation is so complicated — there are many nuances beyond just the scientific one,” said Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who led the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Open schools are the exception, not the rule, around the world” via Ryan Heath of POLITICO — President Donald Trump often cites examples from Europe as evidence American schools can reopen in-person this fall despite COVID-19, but he fails to mention one thing: They are the exception, not the rule. Only a few countries have opened schools nationwide in the manner the Trump administration is pushing. They include Norway, France and New Zealand, as well as Nicaragua, Taiwan and Vietnam. On the other hand, 143 countries have instituted country-wide closures. Countries with open schools tend to fall into two categories. Some took swift action against the pandemic in January to minimize disruption. Others were less proactive in the fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but they prioritized education in their recovery plan, coordinated by the top levels of government. The United States did neither.

Students wearing masks attend a class in Dinh Cong secondary school in Hanoi, Vietnam. In Vietnam, schools closed in late January and remained closed until May. Image via AP.

How to stop magical thinking in school reopening plans” via Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post — The 2020-2021 school year is almost upon us, yet many districts around the country still don’t know when or how they plan to do it. And even some of those that do know when they are opening haven’t completed plans to improve remote learning (some have barely started) so that students will have a better experience than they did in the spring, when schools everywhere shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the author of this post writes, there are magical things in some of the plans being offered, recommendations by “experts” for measures that he says aren’t really possible. Can classes really be held outdoors or in empty spaces repurposed for school? Can students really stay six feet away from one another? Are teachers being asked to do and risk too much?

As pandemic continues, Richard Corcoran will send his kids to brick-and-mortar schools” via Danielle Brown of the Florida Phoenix — Corcoran revealed that his six children would be going back to school in the upcoming academic year, opting for traditional classroom experience and in-person instruction rather than an online learning program. Corcoran’s words are significant as hundreds of thousands of families make one of the most important decisions of their lives as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the new school year looms. “Every parent wrestles with ‘what are the risk of not sending my kids to school?’ versus ‘what are the risk of sending my kids?’” Corcoran said in a roundtable discussion on education.

Broward County Schools planning to start classes fully online” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Even with half the number of cases as Miami-Dade, Broward County Public Schools has already called it. The second-largest school district in the state will start the school year Aug. 19 fully online. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done at a community level for us to safely return,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie, who said data showed how unlikely infection rates would drop below 5% by the start of school. “Our teachers need to prepare and our parents need to plan. The sooner we can do that the better.” Runcie said the school district spent the entire summer getting ready for this worst-case scenario.

Orange County School Board can decide when to reopen local campuses, state says” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orange County School Board can decide when to reopen public schools and does not need a waiver from the state to do that, an attorney for the Florida Department of Education said in a letter Thursday that seemed to contradict the state’s school reopening order. “The decision to open or close a traditional public school in Orange County rests with the School Board of Orange County. As a result, the waiver you have requested is unnecessary,” read the letter from attorney David Wells. The Orange School Board and Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, like their counterparts across the state, had interpreted Florida’s order as one that left them little room to make local decisions.

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins: A court ruled that the district can determine whether schools will reopen. Image via I4 Business Magazine.

Orange County teachers sue over school reopening plan” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida — The lawsuit was filed by the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, which represents 14,000 educators in Florida’s fourth-largest school district. It asks for a delay in opening and demands that school officials turn over critical information about summer COVID-19 outbreaks. The legal action comes as national union leaders warn of possible teacher strikes and on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Florida’s largest teachers union against the state. And it was filed as the coronavirus death toll mounts. “Since the district leadership has shown they will not stand up for the health and safety of our community, we have no choice but to challenge their illegal actions in court,” Orange County union President Wendy Doromal told reporters.

Heading back to Catholic school? Sign a waiver, St. Petersburg diocese says.” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As students prepare to return to classes, the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg stands ready to greet them at its schoolhouse doors. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep the children safe when they come to school,” said Chris Pastura, superintendent of schools for the diocese. But the system cannot make blanket guarantees that everyone will be protected from the effects of COVID-19, Pastura acknowledged. So on Monday, it sent a letter to the parents of its nearly 13,000 students asking, among other things, that they sign a waiver of liability for the diocese if their children become ill because of the virus. At least one mom was outraged by what she called the “death release.” 

— CORONA LOCAL —

South Florida prison tallies most inmate COVID-19 deaths among Florida facilities” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — A South Florida prison Thursday emerged as the deadliest COVID-19 facility in the state’s prison system. The state reported nine COVID-19 deaths among inmates at the South Florida Reception Center, a mixed youth and adult men’s facility in Doral, near Miami. The total number of inmates who have died of the highly contagious respiratory disease rose from 46 to 49 overnight, according to the Department of Corrections data. Two of the new deaths announced were inmates at the South Florida Reception Center. The South Florida prison, which holds 1,100 inmates, has 132 infected inmates. By that count, 7% of those infected with COVID-19 have died. The facility’s death toll has surpassed Blackwater Correctional Facility near Pensacola, which has reported seven COVID-19 related deaths.

Coronavirus did not kill Wellington-area nurse who worked on pandemic’s front lines, autopsy report says” via Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post — When Wellington-area nurse Danielle DiCenso passed away in April after working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, her grieving family was convinced she was another casualty of COVID-19. But DiCenso, who at the time appeared to be the youngest early coronavirus victim in Palm Beach County, did not die from the deadly respiratory disease, an autopsy released Tuesday by the Palm Beach County medical examiner said. The 33-year-old mother died April 9 from “complications of acute pyelonephritis,” a bacterial infection in the kidney, according to autopsy records. The findings came as a surprise to her ex-husband, David DiCenso, who said Danielle was convinced that she’d contracted COVID-19 while working in the intensive care unit at Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah.

— MORE LOCAL —

Three more Florida State Hospital patients with COVID-19 dead” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — Four Florida State Hospital patients have died after having COVID-19, according to the District 2 Medical Examiner’s office. The coroner’s report names three of those patients: Arthur Hayes and Robert Coles, both of whom died Wednesday and Fabian Pettiford, who died Sunday. The Department of Children and Families, which runs the Chattahoochee-based mental-health facility, released a statement from Secretary Chad Poppell. Poppell ordered mandatory testing for both staff and residents at the hospital, adding that the mandatory testing began Sunday, the day Pettiford died. His death was the first known death related to the facility.

More Florida State Hospital patients are dying of COVID-19. Image via Tallahassee Daily Photo.

Escambia County records 18 COVID-19 deaths in last five days” via the Pensacola News Journal — The deaths of four more Escambia County residents were reported Thursday, pushing the total since the pandemic began to 98. The county has recorded a staggering 18 deaths in the last five days, which correlates with the rising number of deaths in the state of Florida. Florida has set a record each of the last three days for the number of COVID-19-related deaths, recording 259 deaths Thursday. The Escambia County deaths included a 60-year-old man, an 81-year-old man, a 61-year-old woman and an 84-year-old woman. Santa Rosa County recorded three deaths this week and no new deaths Thursday. To date, 22 people have died in Santa Rosa County.

—”6 Niceville firefighters test positive for COVID-19” via Erin Franczak of the NWF Daily News

Sarasota Memorial Hospital expands COVID-19 antibody trial” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota Memorial Hospital is expanding community access to a multinational clinical trial that is testing a new dual-action antibody cocktail to treat COVID-19. Two weeks ago, SMH became the first hospital in Florida to enroll hospitalized patients in Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ experimental treatment (REGN-COV2) for COVID-19. This week, SMH opened the trial to people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus but aren’t sick enough to be hospitalized, the hospital said in a news release. In the past two weeks, SMH has enrolled 19 hospitalized patients, and enrolled its first outpatient on Monday.

Tropical Storm Isaias is shifting east. COVID-19 testing may remain open in Manatee” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — Florida officials are reconsidering their decision to close local COVID-19 testing sites in Manatee County after a favorable shift to the east for Tropical Storm Isaias’ forecast track. After strengthening overnight, forecasts show the storm traveling through the Hispaniola region before heading to Florida’s East Coast, instead of the Gulf of Mexico as originally expected. The state expects to decide on coronavirus testing around 5 p.m. Thursday. In a presentation to the Manatee Board of County Commissioners Thursday afternoon, Public Safety Director Jake Saur said his department is also declining to request a local state of emergency because of the storm.

FSU sends letter preparing boosters for reduced stadium capacity for 2020 football season” via Wayne McGahee III of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State sent a letter to boosters and season ticket holders with details pertaining to the 2020 college football season. FSU stated that attendance for the home games this season will likely be limited and could be as low as 25% of the stadium’s overall capacity. Season ticket holders may also not have their normal seats due to social distancing practices that will be implemented in the stadium. Doak Campbell Stadium’s capacity is listed at 79,560. A reduced capacity to 25% would be 19,890. FSU has currently sold just over 20,000 season tickets. FSU also stated that ticket and parking assignments for 2020 will roll over to 2021 regardless of how the ticketing changes this year.

Florida-FSU series shelved as SEC football adopts conference-only, 10-game schedule” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — When the ACC announced its updated football schedule, it included one nonconference game to preserve in-state, nonconference rivalries like Florida-Florida State. That protection lasted all of 24 hours. The SEC shelved the series when it announced it was abandoning its entire nonconference schedule, instead opting for 10 league-only games because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most importantly for now in the Sunshine State, it ices the fierce rivalry between the Seminoles and Gators — a series that needed help from the state government to launch but has been played annually since 1958.

UCF football may get schedule boost following SEC decision” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — UCF’s football scheduling challenges may ease a bit after the SEC announced it is moving forward with a conference-only schedule this fall. The decision wipes away a handful of rivalry games between SEC and ACC teams, including Florida versus Florida State, Georgia versus Georgia Tech, Clemson versus South Carolina and Louisville versus Kentucky. The SEC decision opens the door for UCF as an attractive option for both North Carolina and Georgia Tech. The American Athletic Conference isn’t expected to make a decision on the fall until next week.

Volusia residents masking up, avoiding fines” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Whatever the motivation for wearing face masks, the majority of people in at least a few Volusia County cities are complying with indoor face-covering mandates, area officials say. Not a single face mask fine has been imposed yet in Daytona Beach, DeLand or Orange City, the only local municipalities that have adopted measures empowering police and code enforcement officers to impose financial penalties for mask violators. “We’re getting total compliance. It’s amazing,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri. “I think people are really taking this serious.” In Ponce Inlet last week, there was a mask-related uproar over a fundraiser for the town’s community center that centered on T-shirt sales. The T-shirts said “Your Choice Mask It or Casket,” and the point was reinforced with the images of a black mask and a black casket.

Hillsborough could consider tougher mask rule” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough Commissioner Kimberly Overman wants the county to consider toughening its face mask rules to include wearing the coverings outdoors. Overman made her suggestion at the conclusion of the Emergency Policy Group meeting Thursday afternoon, saying the county’s emergency order should align with the recommendation from Dr. Scott Rivkees, Florida’s Surgeon General. Rivkees issued an updated recommendation July 20, calling for masks to be worn both indoors and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible and to limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people. The previous recommendation called for limiting group gatherings to 50 people and for masks to be worn “in any setting,” but did not specify outdoors specifically.

Hillsborough Commissioner Kimberly Overman is urging the county to consider stricter mask rules.

Tampa Bay power companies among first to resume shut-offs” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — The clock is ticking for Tampa Bay utility customers who haven’t paid their power bills during the pandemic. Beginning in September, both of Tampa Bay’s major power companies will resume shut-offs for those who haven’t paid their bills or made payment arrangements. Their Florida peers haven’t put a date on when they will resume disconnections. And other areas of the country are putting even wider moratoriums on power shut-offs. “Like many businesses, we must now take steps toward resuming our standard billing practices,” Tampa Electric said in a letter to customers. Tampa Electric Co. and Duke Energy Florida are the area’s two primary power companies. Each will resume shut-offs as early as Sept. 1.

BayCare to close drive-thru coronavirus test sites at the Trop, Gulf High School” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times — Friday is the last day to get tested for COVID-19 at Tropicana Field and Gulf High School in Port Richey. BayCare Health Systems, which has operated different drive-thru sites for COVID-19 testing since March, announced it would close the two sites “to align resources with community need and further collaborate with government partners,” according to a statement. BayCare officials said neither the Mahaffey nor the Trop site have experienced full capacity since both have been operating the past three weeks. They plan to open an additional drive-thru site with closer access for central and north Pinellas residents, but did not share additional details in Thursday’s statement.

— CORONA NATION —

2nd US virus surge hits plateau, but few experts celebrate” via Mike Stobbe and Nicky Forster of The Associated Press — While deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are mounting rapidly, public health experts are seeing a flicker of good news: The second surge of confirmed cases appears to be leveling off. Scientists aren’t celebrating by any means, warning that the trend is driven by four big, hard-hit places, Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, and that cases are rising in close to 30 states in all, with the outbreak’s center of gravity seemingly shifting from the Sun Belt toward the Midwest. Some experts wonder whether the apparent caseload improvements will endure. It’s also not clear when deaths will start coming down. COVID-19 deaths do not move in perfect lockstep with the infection curve, for the simple reason that it can take weeks to get sick and die from the virus. The future? “I think it’s very difficult to predict,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious-disease expert.

Healthcare worker Dante Hills passes paperwork to a woman in a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing site outside of Marlins Park in Miami. Image via AP.

At the heart of dismal U.S. coronavirus response, a fraught relationship with masks” via Griff Witte, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The country hit a tipping point on widespread mask use only this month, with a majority of states and the nation’s largest retailers all mandating them. But the science has long been pointing toward the efficacy of masks even if the guidance from health authorities wasn’t. Health officials had made their recommendations based on the flawed assumption that the bulk of transmission was taking place from people with obvious signs of illness. The thinking was that if people with fevers, coughs and other symptoms were to isolate, case counts would remain under control. But it wasn’t long before CDC contact tracers began to find evidence of “silent” spreaders. Many experts backed the anti-mask guidance, arguing they weren’t sure face coverings would make a significant difference. They were worried masks could make people less disciplined about social distancing.

Young people are infecting older family members in shared homes” via Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post — As the death toll escalates in coronavirus hot spots, the evidence is growing that young people who work outside the home, or who surged into bars and restaurants when states relaxed shutdowns, are infecting their more vulnerable elders, especially family members. Front-line caregivers, elected officials, and experts in Houston, South Florida and elsewhere say they are seeing patterns of hospitalization and death that confirm fears this would happen, which were first raised in May and June. That was when Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and other states reopened in efforts to revive their flagging economies. The emerging trend highlights the difficulty of relying on the Trump administration’s strategy of sheltering the most vulnerable while the young and healthy return to work and school.

Anthony Fauci to tell House panel ‘unclear’ how long pandemic lasts” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Matthew Perrone of the Associated Press — There’s no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic, Dr.  Fauci and other top government health experts will tell Congress. While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” Fauci. At a time when early progress seems to have been lost and uncertainty clouds the nation’s path forward, Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, is calling on lawmakers — and all other Americans — to go back to public health basics such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine protects monkeys, study finds” via Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson protected monkeys from infection in a new study. It is the second vaccine candidate to show promising results in monkeys this week. The company recently began a clinical trial in Europe and the United States to test its vaccine in people. It is one of more than 30 human trials for coronavirus vaccines underway across the world. But until these trials are complete, which will probably take several months, the monkey data offers the best clues to whether the vaccines will work. “This week has been good — now we have two vaccines that work in monkeys,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University who was not involved in the studies. “It’s nice to be upbeat for a change.”

Drugmakers race to build COVID-19 vaccine supply chains” via Elaine Chen of The Wall Street Journal — Pharmaceutical companies that are racing to develop vaccines for the coronavirus are already working behind the scenes to build the supply chains needed to deliver their drugs to billions of people as rapidly as possible. To serve global demand once a vaccine is approved, a complicated and high-stakes supply chain would kick into gear on a scale that the drug industry has rarely seen. The preparations involve lining up raw materials and factory capacity to manufacture a vaccine in large volumes, and the equipment needed to transport many millions of doses at once through distribution channels that will be subject to tight security and temperature controls.

Most voters say they’d rather wait for an effective coronavirus vaccine” via Zachary Brennan of POLITICO — More than 60% of voters think the U.S. should fully test any coronavirus vaccine — even if that delays rolling it out and allows the virus to keep spreading in the meantime. Just 22% of respondents said the government should make a vaccine available as soon as possible, even if it had not been fully tested. Republicans (26%) were slightly more likely than Democrats (21%) to favor getting a vaccine out as quickly as possible. Trump has repeatedly promised that a vaccine will be available by year’s end, raising fears among researchers and public health experts that his administration will rush to approve a shot without clear evidence that it is safe and effective.

A patient receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Image via AP.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

U.S. suffered worst quarterly contraction on record as virus ravages economy” via Ben White of POLITICO — The U.S. economy crashed in historic fashion this year, shrinking at a nearly 33% annualized pace in the second quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged businesses and sent joblessness soaring. The question now for Trump, trailing in the polls and facing a daunting reelection effort, is just how much conditions can snap back in the months leading up to Election Day. At least for the moment, the spike in COVID-19 cases, the potential for fresh trouble this fall and a bitter fight over how to pump more federal money into the ailing economy suggest the sharp bounce-back Trump is counting on may not show up in a way he envisions.

As coronavirus ravages the United States, the nation suffers its worst quarterly contraction on record. Image via AP.

1.43 million filed new state unemployment claims last week.” via Nelson D. Schwartz of The Tampa Bay Times — The number of Americans filing new claims for state unemployment benefits totaled 1.43 million last week, the Labor Department reported. It was the 19th straight week that the tally exceeded 1 million, an unheard-of figure before the coronavirus pandemic. And it was the second weekly increase in a row after nearly four months of declines, a sign of how the rebound in cases has undercut the economy’s nascent recovery. Claims for the previous week totaled 1.42 million. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the government’s program aimed at covering freelancers, the self-employed and other workers not covered by traditional unemployment benefits, totaled 830,000, down from 975,000 the week before.

New filings for unemployment fall in Florida again — but continue to climb in the rest of the U.S.” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — The number of Floridians filing for unemployment benefits for the first time fell for the second-straight week. But the figure climbed in the rest of the U.S., suggesting the national economic picture remains grim. For the week ending July 25, Florida workers filed 87,062 new claims for unemployment, down from 108,976 the week prior. Nationally, new claims climbed by 12,000 to 1,434,000. And the insured unemployment rate, or the percentage of workers on unemployment for two-consecutive weeks, hit 11.6%, an increase of 0.5 percentage points the previous week’s rate.

Almost 30 million in U.S. didn’t have enough to eat last week” via Maeve Sheehey of Bloomberg — Food insecurity for U.S. households last week reached its highest reported level since the Census Bureau started tracking the data in May, with almost 30 million Americans reporting that they’d not had enough to eat at some point in the seven days through July 21. In the bureau’s weekly Household Pulse Survey, roughly 23.9 million of 249 million respondents indicated they had “sometimes not enough to eat” for the week ended July 21, while about 5.42 million indicated they had “often not enough to eat.” The survey, which began with the week ended May 5, was published Wednesday. The number of respondents who sometimes had insufficient food was at its highest point in the survey’s 12 weeks. The number who often experienced food insufficiency was at its highest since the week ended May 26.

Universal theme park revenue plummets 94% during height of coronavirus shutdowns” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Plummeting faster than a roller coaster, revenue at Universal theme parks fell 94% to $87 million during the second quarter when most of its parks were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the parent company of the attractions said Thursday. With Orlando’s and Japan’s theme parks reopening in June in the final weeks of the quarter, executives acknowledged it is a better option financially to operate with drastically reduced crowds than to be closed completely. NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said for theme parks, the pandemic’s “financial impact has been most significant and immediate and the operational challenge the most daunting” for the company.

Universal’s theme park revenue takes a huge dive, thanks to coronavirus.

— MORE CORONA — 

Leaders were slow to bring COVID-19 testing to Latino communities. Now people are sick.” via Jayme Fraser, Erin Mansfield, Matt Wynn and Scott Linesburgh of USA Today — It was mid-June in California’s Central Valley, and Dr. Patricia Iris was alarmed. Every COVID-19 patient at Lodi Memorial that day was Latino, even though Latinos make up only 39% of the city’s population. Testing surveillance in San Joaquin County should have warned Iris that this was coming. But testing in Latino communities was so limited, it missed the oncoming wave. Hospital beds swelled with Latino patients. On June 1, the county had just 23 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. By the end of the month, there were 140. Most, according to Iris, were Latino. The numbers continue to rise. As of July 20, hospitals in the county were operating their ICUs at 132% capacity.

People line up for free COVID-19 testing in a parking lot in central California. Image via USA Today.

Norwegian Cruise Line cancels cruises until November, one month past CDC ban” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The Miami-based company announced it is canceling cruises worldwide through Oct. 31, a full month after the ban on cruises put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the world’s third-largest cruise company and owner of three cruise lines: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The announcement comes as Florida is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths. The company and its largest competitors, Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group and MSC Cruises, continued to sell cruises for the summer.

— SMOLDERING —

From the start, federal agents demanded a role in suppressing anti-racism protests” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sergio Olmos, Mike Baker and Adam Goldman of The New York Times — A memo from the deputy director of the FBI, dated June 2, demanded an immediate mobilization as protests gathered after George Floyd’s death while he was in police custody a week earlier. David Bowdich, the FBI’s No. 2, declared the situation “a national crisis,” and wrote that in addition to investigating “violent protesters, instigators” and “inciters,” bureau leaders should collect information with “robust social media exploitation teams” and examine what appeared to be “highly organized behavior.” Attorney General William Barr took the same tone, saying strife in Portland, Oregon, was not a protest at all, but “an assault on the government of the United States.”

AG William Barr testifies that the Portland, Oregon protests were an ‘assault on the government.’

Politics at the point of a gun” via Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post — America’s summer of anxiety and rage has energized some conservatives who are deploying to the front lines of the culture war. Across the country, conservative armed civilians have surged into public view, marching on statehouses, challenging Black Lives Matter protests, chasing internet rumors, and bringing the threat of lethal force to local politics. Their emergence has prompted congressional hearings on the surge in anti-government militias and domestic extremism and has alarmed researchers who track hate groups. Unlike the old image of militiamen as fringe elements motivated by a desire to overthrow the federal government, these groups often rally in defense of the President and see themselves as pro-government allies of local law enforcement.

Heat releases Black Lives Matter Collection of shirts. Erik Spoelstra wore one and spoke about it” via Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald — As Miami Heat coach Spoelstra sat down for his post-practice media session, he stuck out his chest to emphasize the message on his shirt. “Silence is Compliance,” it read. Spoelstra’s shirt is part of the new Black Lives Matter Collection of Court Culture Apparel that the Heat released Thursday, with all of the profits from the sales of the collection going to three organizations — Black Girls CODE, Health in the Hood and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “We want to be, as an organization, part of the solution,” Spoelstra said. “Right now, it’s important to really weigh in on this discussion.”

Pinellas sheriff to Rays: Breonna Taylor tweet was ‘just wrong’ and ‘reckless’” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County’s top cop condemned the Tampa Bay Rays for posting a tweet calling for the arrests of the Louisville, Kentucky, police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. The official team Twitter account, @RaysBaseball, sent the tweet the morning of opening day, July 24: “Today is Opening Day,” it read, “which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.” Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri confirmed he called Rays President Matt Silverman on Sunday to express his displeasure. “To turn a baseball event into a political event is uncalled for,” Gualtieri said. “It’s just wrong, and it’s improper. It’s just reckless. It’s throwing gasoline on the fire, and it didn’t need to happen.”

St. Augustine Mayor: Confederate monument on track to be moved; mask mandate working” via Bill Bortzfield of WJCT News — Although the Confederate monument in the heart of St. Augustine still stands, the city’s mayor stressed on Wednesday that plans to move it are proceeding. “It’s not something you just bring in a flatbed truck and a crane and cart it off, and so the city is dedicated to removing it carefully and to finding an appropriate spot where it will then have a new site,” Mayor Tracy Upchurch said. City commissioners voted last month 3 to 2 to move the monument in the Plaza de la Constitution that was erected around 1872.


— D.C. MATTERS —

‘It’s just nukes.’ Donald Trump brushed off N. Korean missile to show off singer at Mar-a-Lago” via Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas, Caitlin Ostroff and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Mar-a-Lago was bustling on the second night of Trump’s Southern White House summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Feb. 11, 2017. A high-society wedding reception was in full swing in the club’s grand ballroom, and both the terrace and din­ing room were packed with members and their guests eager to catch a glimpse of such a historic moment or, better yet, have a chance to brush shoulders with some of the most powerful people in America. At dinner, Trump’s team took the terrace with a newfound swagger. They posed for pictures with club members. Businessman Richard DeAgazio, who had recently joined the club, posted several photographs to Face­book, including one with a man he identified as “Rick,” saying he was the aide-de-camp who carries the nuclear football, the briefcase that serves as a mobile command center from which the President can launch a nu­clear attack.

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was virtually in public, as was the staffer who carries the nuclear football.

Kathy Castor seeks help to process tests” via the News Service of Florida — U.S. Rep. Castor has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking the government to work with manufacturers to increase the production of substances known as “reagents” needed to process COVID-19 test results. “With the sustained high numbers of Floridians testing positive for COVID-19, we need to ensure timely test results to allow contact tracers to do their jobs and help stop the spread of this virus,” Castor wrote in a letter to Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir. “Unfortunately, I am hearing from health providers across the state that they are in dire need of reagents to process tests.”

Dollar remittances to Cuba are in limbo after French bank drops Cuban accounts” via Nora Gamez Torres and Mario J. Penton of the Miami Herald — The Cuban government’s plan to cash in on the reopening of dollar stores seems to have overlooked one detail: the Trump administration’s express goal to prevent money sent by Cuban exiles from going to companies controlled by the military. Three sources in the remittance business told el Nuevo Herald that due to pressure from the administration and fear of U.S. sanctions, the French bank Crédit Mutuel halted services to Fincimex, a Cuban company that controls remittances and is linked to the military. As a result, money transfers in dollars from the United States, which had recently started through the agencies Cubamax and VaCuba, are suspended.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida Prosperity Initiative: Fighting childhood poverty is good business” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Fighting childhood poverty isn’t just a good cause; it’s good business. Business leaders participating in a Wednesday webinar hosted by the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida Prosperity Initiative, corporations that commit to charitable causes, can expect gains in employee morale and retention and, in turn, a better bottom line. Debbie LaPinska, the senior vice president of human relations at PGT Innovations, said the company has seen staff turnover drop by nearly 10% since PGT upped its corporate responsibility efforts. In 2019, the manufacturing company launched the Sunshine Education Academy, which offers quality affordable child care to PGT employees.

Court deals blow to R.J. Reynolds in tobacco payments fight” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A state appeals court said R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is responsible for paying more than $100 million in a dispute rooted in a landmark legal settlement between Florida and cigarette makers more than two decades ago. The unanimous ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal came after arguments by R.J. Reynolds that it should not have to make payments to the state related to four brands of cigarettes — Salem, Winston, Kool and Maverick — that it sold to another company. But the appeals court upheld a decision by a Palm Beach County circuit judge, who said R.J. Reynolds remained on the hook for the payments under a 1997 settlement.

Judge agrees to keep police officers’ identities on hold” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A Leon County circuit judge agreed to at least temporarily keep secret the identities of two Tallahassee police officers involved in use-of-force incidents. Judge Charles Dodson decided that the amendment known as “Marsy’s Law,” approved by Florida voters in 2018, doesn’t apply to law enforcement officers and that their names should be released. The Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents the officers, immediately appealed Dodson’s ruling and asked that it be put on hold while an appeal moves forward. Dodson agreed during a brief hearing, saying the officers should be granted an automatic stay because they were acting in their official capacities during the use-of-force incidents.

Anthony Sabatini faces ethics complaint in connection to mask lawsuits” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Sabatini is facing an ethics complaint in connection to a Broward County lawsuit he filed challenging the county’s mask mandate, one of several he’s filed statewide. The complaint alleges Sabatini is inappropriately using his official House email to respond to press inquiries regarding the lawsuit, filed in his capacity as a private attorney, not an elected official. The complainant? Me. I just overnighted the complaint to the Commission on Ethics. As an attorney, I’d have thought Sabatini, who I’m not usually inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, would have known better. Apparently not.

One would think Anthony Sabatini would know better than using his official House email in the course of business as a private attorney. One would be wrong.

St. Petersburg leaders tee up August debate on development in areas at risk to storm surge” via Zachary T. Sampson and Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite lingering uncertainties, City Council members have given new life to a plan that could bring more housing to parts of the city most at risk of flooding from storm surge, saying they want to hear from the public. In a meeting that stretched for almost two hours, they rehashed three years of debate, grappling with whether to loosen a prohibition on adding development in vulnerable areas. If passed by the City Council this fall, the proposal would allow developers to request a change in zoning for higher density in what’s known as the Coastal High Hazard Area. Members voted 7 to 1 to advance the proposal to a full City Council meeting next month.

Deputies identify suspect in shooting spree that injures several, including Tampa police officer” via The Tampa Bay Times — A gunman drove around, shooting and wounding several people including a Tampa police officer, during a 40-minute shooting spree, authorities said. The gunman was later captured and now three different law enforcement agencies are trying to piece together what happened. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office identified the suspect as Antonio Cruz Ortiz, 31 of Tampa. As of Friday morning, he is charged with four counts of attempted second degree murder, seven counts of aggravated assault with a firearm and three counts of shooting at an occupied vehicle. More charges were expected.

Former city administrator Sam Mousa will voluntarily speak to City Council investigative committee on JEA” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Former City of Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa will voluntarily appear for an interview with the Jacksonville City Council investigative committee that is examining last year’s attempt to sell JEA, his attorney told the committee Thursday. The investigative committee voted Monday to seek depositions from Mousa, who was a consultant for NextEra Energy when the company bid for JEA, and four other people as the committee wraps up its probe of what happened during the sales process. The City Council’s Rules Committee could vote on issuing subpoenas as early as next Tuesday to compel testimony from any of the five people who does not agree to voluntarily answer questions.

‘It wasn’t fair’: Tallahassee bar owner throws in the towel after state-mandated shutdowns” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A Tallahassee bar owner handed his keys off to new ownership Thursday after the weight of the state-mandated shutdowns became too much to bear. Dave Ericks poured 34 years of his life into Clyde’s and Costello’s and intended to do so for the foreseeable future. But as state leaders scrambled to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Ericks soon realized his businesses would likely become a victim of the state’s crossfire. Located steps away from the Florida Capitol and Florida State University, the local watering hole thrived as a favorite among the young and old alike.

Mandatory shutdowns were just too much for the owner of Clyde’s and Costello’s in Tallahassee.

Natural gas smell across Tallahassee linked to removal of old tank; no leaks detected” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The cause behind what seemed like a Tallahassee-wide reek of natural gas could be measured in ounces. It only takes a few drops of the chemical mercaptan to set off noses, but when ounces of it escaped in an old tank being removed from the Arvah B. Hopkins Power Generating Station on Geddie Road, it sent city officials into a scramble to find its source. Natural gas is odorless; utilities add mercaptan to give it that familiar rotten egg smell. The chemical, which is federally required so people can smell leaks, drifted on the wind, effectively blanketing the city and prompting an overwhelming number of calls from concerned residents.

Pasco-Hernando college faculty at impasse in first-ever contract talks” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — After unionizing in 2018, Pasco-Hernando State College faculty members hoped to complete their first contract ever this year. Talks‚ which began in February 2019 — went “really well,” union President Caitlin Gille said, “except for these two issues of discipline and evaluations.” This week, the bargaining team declared negotiations at an impasse. The sticking point has been over what types of rules will be incorporated into the contract for when a faculty member is accused of misconduct. The union wants “basic” language similar to what other colleges includes, Gille said. The administration disagreed. “PHSC’s proposals reflected its firm belief that the evaluation and discipline of faculty members is properly vested in the college itself,” said Brian Koji, PHSC’s labor lawyer.

Poll: Floridians appreciate truckers more than ever” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — According to a new Mason-Dixon poll, conducted July 20-23, found widespread approval for both truck drivers and the rigs they pilot. Truckers fared particularly well, with 58% holding a “very positive” attitude toward truckers and 26% saying they saw them in a “somewhat positive” light. Only 6% said harbored a negative sentiment while 10% had no opinion. The approval numbers are a marked jump from pre-pandemic levels, especially in South and Central Florida, where opinions have shifted upward by 30 percentage points. Trucks were also above water, with 57% saying they were die-hard or moderate fans. Negatives combined to 16% while a little over a quarter of those polled fell in the “no opinion” column.

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Lisa Ard, Cornerstone Procurement Strategies: Polymorphous Sales Solutions

Gregory Black, Waypoint Strategies: M-3 Information

Jim Boxold, Megan Fay, Capital City Consulting: Florida Transportation Builders Association, Integrated Home Care Services

Ronald Brise, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Mattamy Homes, SROA Capital

Wallace McGee, GMA: Citrus County Board of County Commissioners

— 2020 —

DeSantis says Florida is ‘ready to go’ with election after Trump tweet suggests delay” via Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — Trump’s suggestion Thursday morning that the presidential election should be delayed drew surprise from top Florida Republicans who said they expect voting to take place in November as guaranteed by federal law. “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump tweeted. “ … Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” The President’s suggestion is essentially impossible both logistically and legally. Some states begin voting in just a few short weeks, and only Congress has the power to change the election’s date.

Despite Donald Trump’s concerns, Ron DeSantis insists Florida is ready for the November election. Image via AP. 

Trump cuts Florida fundraising trip in half due to Tropical Storm Isaias” via David Smiley and Francesca Chambers of the Tampa Bay Times — Trump has postponed a weekend fundraiser at his own golf resort in Doral as a tropical storm bears down on Florida. Trump, who is still expected to land in Tampa Friday night for a fundraiser, had planned to travel to South Florida for a Saturday event at his Trump National Doral Miami golf resort. But according to a Republican National Committee spokesman, the event was canceled this weekend because Tropical Storm Isaias is approaching Southeast Florida and the GOP did not want to take resources away from the area.

DeSantis raises funds for Trump in advance of Florida events” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — The money effort is a show of loyalty by the Governor, who has clashed with Trump over a campaign hire and is coping with a surge of coronavirus infections that have made Florida the worst-hit state in the country. DeSantis shut down his own fundraising efforts, in one case even returning a $25,000 check his political committee received. Donors who have asked about giving financial support to the Governor have been told to wait. But the Governor has been calling to ask them to donate to the President’s reelection campaign, Trump is scheduled to hold fundraisers at a Tampa golf club on Friday and at his own Trump National Doral Miami golf resort on Saturday.

Trump campaign temporarily pauses ad spending to review its messaging” via Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — President Trump’s campaign has temporarily paused its television advertising with less than 100 days to go before the election, a move that comes amid a broader shake-up in his faltering bid for a second term. Two weeks after Trump demoted former campaign manager Brad Parscale and replaced him with Bill Stepien, the reelection effort is reviewing its spending, messaging and strategy in an attempt to boost the president’s fortunes. Polls have shown Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, as voters give the president low marks for his handling of the coronavirus.

Barack Obama unleashes on Trump privately as he raises $24 million for Joe Biden” via Shane Goldmacher and Glenn Thrush of The New York Times — At fundraising events where he has pulled in more than $24 million for Biden’s campaign in the past two months, Obama has privately unleashed on Trump to party donors, bringing up past accusations of Trump’s “assaulting women” and warning of his efforts to push “nativist, racist, sexist” fears and resentments. With less than 100 days until the presidential election, Obama has laid out the stakes of 2020 in forceful fashion.

During several fundraisers for Joe Biden, Barack Obama unleashes on Donald Trump to top donors.

Mike Pence to campaign in Clearwater” via the News Service of Florida — Pence will return to Florida next week to campaign in the Tampa Bay area as part of Trump’s reelection bid. Pence will appear Wednesday at a “Faith in America” campaign event at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa. “The Vice President will highlight the Trump administration’s strong actions to protect the sanctity of life, religious freedom and the American family,” the announcement said. Pence has made frequent trips to the state, including appearing Monday with DeSantis at the University of Miami.

Michigan threatens to slip from Trump as he goes quiet on airwaves” via Shane Goldmacher and Kathleen Gray of The New York Times — Trump’s campaign has quietly receded from the television airwaves in Michigan in recent weeks, shifting money elsewhere as one of the key Midwestern states that powered his surprise victory in 2016 threatens to move more firmly back into the Democratic column in 2020. Michigan began the year with expectations that it would be one of the most intense battlegrounds in the country, but its share of Trump television advertising dollars dwindled this summer as Biden built a steady advantage in the polls. Since the end of June, Trump has spent more money on ads in 10 other states and in recent days, Trump’s campaign stopped buying ads in Michigan entirely.

Local League of Women Voters launches ’100 Days to The Vote’ campaign” via Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — The League of Women Voters of Orange County has launched a “100 Days to The Vote” campaign with a message for Floridians: register to vote online, vote by mail and vote early. The nonpartisan organization aims to provide Central Florida voters with the resources they need to participate safely in this election amid a pandemic. They’ll do this through social media posts and public actions while also highlighting women’s suffrage history during the centennial of women’s voting rights across the United States. This campaign will also remember the centennial of the Ocoee Massacre, the largest incident of voting-day violence in U.S. history, when a white mob on Election Day lynched a Black man dedicated to expanding voting access.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL — 

Help wanted: Florida poll workers to brave the coronavirus” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — Even before the coronavirus, many parts of the country faced a scarcity of willing poll workers. Now, concerns about contagion have sidelined some longtime workers and discouraged others from signing up. Poll workers help voters navigate the polls, including the use of voting equipment. That means they help determine whether in-person voting goes smoothly or whether there are lines and confusion. During Florida’s presidential preference primary, which came just days after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic — some counties saw large numbers of poll workers cancel at the last minute. At least one county saw polling locations that opened hours late when poll workers didn’t show up.

—“Audrey Moran backs Donna Deegan for Congress” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Personhood Florida endorses Dane Eagle” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Happening Saturday — U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast are scheduled to speak at the Republican Party of Palm Beach County’s annual “Lobsterfeast” fundraiser, 6:30 p.m., Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, 115 Eagle Terrace, Jupiter.

Happening Saturday — Sen. Randolph Bracy kicks off his campaign with a voter-registration event, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Experience Christian Center, 5230 Indian Hill Road, Orlando.

Latest poll: Ray Rodrigues crushing Heather Fitzenhagen in SD 27 GOP primary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The poll, from St. Pete Polls and commissioned by Florida Politics, shows 59% of likely Republican voters in SD 27 would vote for Rodrigues if the primary were held today. Less than 18% would choose Fitzenhagen. With just 23% of voters still undecided, the results show no real path to victory for the Fort Myers Republican without clawing away a substantial amount of his support. Rodrigues holds massive edges across all demographics. More than 62% of male voters favor him, as do nearly 57% of women; just over 17% of male or female voters pick Fitzenhagen. He wins 40% of the Hispanic vote to her 20%. Nearly 60% of white voters plan to vote for Rodrigues, but only 17% would vote Fitzenhagen.

In new polling, Heather Fitzenhagen falls far behind Ray Rodrigues.

New ads paint Rodrigues as sugar stooge, Fitzenhagen as conservative champion” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Guns. Sugar. Corruption. A political committee bought a half-million-dollars’ worth of ad time to promote Fitzenhagen and bash Rodrigues. The ad buy is a major attempt to shift the narrative in Senate District 27. “If you see Ray Rodrigues, tell him to stop lying about me and my record,” Fitzenhagen says to viewers in one spot. “I’m pro-life, pro-gun and pro-Trump.” In Florida We Trust reported a media buy of $498,471 to put the three commercials in broadcast and cable in Southwest Florida. The ads strike a strident tone in a race where Fitzenhagen has found herself on the defensive. The aggressive posture comes after polling showing her significantly behind Rodrigues weeks from the primary.

’Dark money’ casts shadow in primaries” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Direct-mail pieces thrashing state Sen. Perry Thurston are linked to a web of political organizations with ties to a prominent Republican consultant. The mail accuses Thurston, a likely future Senate Democratic leader, of being a closeted Republican and not a progressive — two claims Thurston said are insulting. But such attacks could prove damaging in the heavily Democratic Senate District 33 in Broward County, particularly when the knock is peddled by a political committee named Progressives, a title that is generally associated with Democrats.

—“Cris Dosev self-funds past Alex Andrade in latest finance report for HD 2” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

Happening Saturday — Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff hosts an open house at her campaign headquarters in her bid for House District 26, noon to 4 p.m., 220 North Woodland Blvd., DeLand.

—“Meet Ryan Morales, a Democrat running for House District 32” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Democratic primary for House District 81 testy with claim of tactics ‘out of Trump’s playbook’” via Wendy Rhodes — In an already contentious Democratic primary, Kelly Skidmore and Michael Weinstein will face off Aug. 18 for the chance to represent Florida House District 81. The coveted seat is being vacated by Democratic state Rep. Tina Polsky, who has served the area since 2019 and is now running for State Senate in District 29. Because Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, there is a good chance the Democratic nominee will become the next legislator, making the primary all the more high-stakes. Still, two Republicans, Silmo Moura and Saulis Banionis, are competing for the GOP nomination. In an early and hard-hitting direct mail campaign, Skidmore called out Weinstein, a criminal defense attorney, for representing men accused of domestic violence, insinuating Weinstein would not be the best advocate for women.

Michael Weinstein and Kelly Skidmore face-off in a contentious Democratic primary Aug. 18.

—“Meet Scott Hottenstein, a Democrat running for House District 57” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

—“Meet Andrew Learned, a Democrat running for House District 59” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

—“Florida Doctors say Lauren Melo checks out” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Florida Chamber and other pro-business groups back Chip LaMarca in HD 93” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

— DOWN BALLOT —

‘Election engineering’: Write-in candidates tip scales in incumbents’ favor, activists say” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Since 2002, three incumbent politicians in Orange County have been able to win reelection during low-turnout primary elections thanks to the presence of write-in candidates in their races. Most of the politicians who have benefited from the maneuver say they had nothing to do with it. But some activists think incumbents, or their political allies, use write-ins to tip the campaign scales even further in their favor. Write-ins “are being used as a pawn in the elections,” said Emmett O’Dell, the chairman of CountyWatch, a local government watchdog group. “It’s just election engineering.” Political parties and campaign operatives have been using write-in candidates to manipulate partisan races for many years.

In CARES Act fight, candidates for Miami-Dade Mayor side with cities over Carlos Giménez” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Candidates running to succeed Miami-Dade Mayor Giménez are united in criticizing him for ongoing friction with city Mayors during the coronavirus crisis, including the latest flare-up over municipal help from federal CARES Act money. Gimenez this week cut about $100 million from a planned $135 million allocation to cities out of the $474 million that Miami-Dade received in federal COVID relief, prompting municipal mayors to threaten legal action in pursuit of more money. Candidates running to succeed Gimenez insist they could manage the crisis with cities by their side if they take charge in November, and say they want the county to turn over more CARES money to city governments.

Candidates for Miami-Dade Mayor are piling on Carlos Giménez for ongoing friction among area Mayors during the coronavirus crisis.

—“Emgage Action PAC backs Daniella Levine Cava in Miami-Dade mayoral race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Alex Penelas nets wave of endorsements in Miami-Dade mayoral race” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics

Three Republicans vie for Duval County Clerk nomination” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — A former City Council president, civil-rights activist, a longtime clerk’s office employee and the current clerk’s right-hand man are all vying for the normally sleepy role as county clerk of the court. Three of the four candidates, Councilman Scott Wilson, clerk’s employee Leon Jackson and Clerk’s Office Chief Operating Officer Jody Phillips, will first face off in an Aug. 18 Republican primary. Early voting begins Aug. 8. The race will determine who faces off against Democratic nominee Jimmy Midyette, a civil-rights attorney looking to become Duval’s only countywide Democratic executive. Other constitutional offices like the county tax collector, elections supervisor, the property appraiser or sheriff run with the city elections a year and a half before presidential elections each cycle.

Disciplinary record haunts Justin Koren in Miami-Dade School Board race” via Florida Politics staff reports — Koren is under fire for his checkered disciplinary history as a classroom teacher. Koren, an assistant principal at Miami Killian High School, was removed from the classroom as a teacher after administrators discovered that he had shared his username and password with other staffers, allowing them to alter the grades of his students. Court documents also show that Koren was charged separately with job abandonment and was physically removed from the classroom. Koren fought these charges and sued the School Board for unfair labor practices, while Koren lost his challenge in the lower courts he did prevail on appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. Now, as Koren seeks to replace Dr. Larry Feldman on the Miami-Dade County School Board, these charges are reemerging.

Polk Commission candidate accused of falsifying voter documents via Suzie Schottelkotte of the Tampa Bay Times —County Commission candidate Martin Grenfell, who was arrested on allegations he falsified sworn information on his voting documents by stating he was eligible to hold office , is withdrawing from the election, his lawyer said. Lakeland lawyer Tony Dodds said Grenfell, a convicted felon, decided to withdraw before Polk County sheriff’s deputies took him into custody at the post office in Highland City. “He was there to buy stamps so he could mail in his resignation, saying he was withdrawing from the race, ” Dodds said Thursday.


— TOP OPINION —

Together, you can redeem the soul of our nation” via John Lewis for The New York Times — Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it. When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.

— OPINIONS —

Why Trump might quit” via John F. Harris of POLITICO — Here is a way Trump could demonstrate that an old master still knows how to tear up the script and leave the audience gasping. It is late but not too late to pull an LBJ. The Trump-drops-out scenario hinges on the assumption that Trump is less concerned with wielding the levers of government than he is preserving his role as disrupter at large in American politics over the next decade. Long term, forgoing the race with a measure of self-awareness conceivably could elevate Trump’s historical reputation higher than it would be if he loses reelection after a remorseless and demagogic campaign.

Trump might try to postpone the election. That’s unconstitutional.” via Steven G. Calabresi of The New York Times — I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Trump in 2016. I am frankly appalled by the President’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the President’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office

Biden’s election will end national nightmare 2.0” via George F. Will of The Washington Post — Moments after becoming President on Aug. 9, 1974, Gerald Ford said, “Our long national nightmare is over.” Biden’s election will end national nightmare 2.0, the nation’s second domestic debacle in two generations. One of Biden’s closest confidants, who has an agreeable preference for anonymity, says that Biden was initially ambivalent about seeking the 2020 nomination but “Charlottesville put him over the edge. The confidant calls Biden “a relief pitcher — he’s warming up in the bullpen right now,” preparing an administration with “a broad array of people.” Trump apologists say that before COVID-19, all was well. “All” means only economic metrics. Such apologists insist that Democratic administrations jeopardize prosperity.

If Biden wants to double down on a ‘third Barack Obama term,’ he should pick Susan Rice” via David Byler of The Washington Post — When Biden won enough delegates for the presidential nomination, many expected him to pick a running mate with a traditional résumé: maybe California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar or New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. While some of those candidates are reportedly still in the mix, a highly unconventional choice has entered the top tier. Rice, who served as Obama’s national security adviser and his ambassador to the United Nations, has confirmed that Biden is considering her for the vice-presidential slot. Rice’s biggest advantage in the veepstakes is her long relationship with Biden. Biden has emphasized that he needs to have a good working relationship with his Vice President. He wants to delegate major policy problems to her, trusting that she’ll run with the ball and craft her own initiatives.

Information contagion” via David Leonhardt of The New York Times — Sinclair Broadcast Group recently published an online interview with a conspiracy theorist who claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci created the coronavirus using monkey cells. Fox News has repeatedly run segments promoting ideas that scientists consider false or that question the seriousness of the virus. Fox is particularly important because it has also influenced Trump’s response to the virus, which has been slower and less consistent than that of many other world leaders. Another factor creating confusion: The lack of an aggressive response to virus misinformation from Facebook and YouTube. Twitter took a slightly more aggressive step yesterday, putting temporary limits on the account of Donald Trump Jr. after he shared a false Breitbart video.

Help us out, DeSantis. We’re dying here” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis wore a face mask as he greeted Pence with a fist-bump at Miami’s airport Monday. He should back up the photo-op with a sensible and long-overdue statewide mask requirement. With each passing day, COVID-19 continues to careen out of control in Florida. A record of 216 deaths were reported Wednesday. That broke the previous record of 191 deaths, reported just Tuesday. “The numbers are not stabilizing,” Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry said. “I am getting so much pressure to shut everything down. … I’m trying so hard not to do that because so many people say if we do it again, their business will never reopen.”

’Make no mistake’ — Michael Weinstein is a Democrat ‘Trump’ in persona, privilege” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — House District 81 candidate Weinstein began this election cycle as an unknown. Instead of the filing himself as Palm Beach’s champion against a Republican Party increasingly at odds with facts, he’s emulated the precise tactics Trump uses — justifying, gaslighting and admitting no wrong, even when repentance is due. Weinstein uses his experience as a former prosecutor to promise clients their best chance at beating charges of domestic violence. Here’s how it could matter in this case: If presented with a bill on domestic violence, would Weinstein vote in favor of stronger penalties for offenders (thus compromising his reputation in the eyes of prospective clients) or in favor of weaker penalties (thus compromising the ability for victims to protect themselves)?

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

For the third day in a row, Florida sets a record for COVID-19 fatalities with 191 deaths reported Tuesday, 217 on Wednesday and 253 fatalities Thursday. This time DeSantis actually acknowledged those deaths.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The Florida Department of Health reported almost 10,000 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus Thursday, bringing the number to 461,379. Over the past week, we’ve averaged 10,216 new cases, 518 hospitalizations and 154 deaths every day. But the Governor says that’s no reason to close down again.

— But don’t be surprised if football fans go fetal when they hear the news the annual game between Florida and Florida State will not be happening this fall, thanks to COVID-19.

— Let’s not forget about Tropical Storm Isaias. It’s on the way.

— Can 2020 get any weirder? A Trump tweet suggested the November election should be delayed. It caught DeSantis by surprise.

— Trump asked whether the election should be delayed until people can properly, securely and safely vote. DeSantis says they already can — at least in Florida — and there’s no need for delay.

— Trump says he’s worried about massive fraud from mail-in ballots, but he didn’t offer any proof that it’s happening or explain how delaying the election would solve a problem that doesn’t appear to exist.

— And the story of an epic confrontation between Florida Man and Florida Woman. There are no winners; only a couple of losers.

To listen, click on the image below:

WEEKEND TV —

Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Former Florida House candidate Kelly Smith, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Florida Politics publisher/editor-in-chief Peter Schorsch.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Peñalosa, Florida Federation of Republican Women President Deborah Tamargo, Pinellas County high school science teacher Christy Foust Ph.D. and Tampa Bay Times reporter Emily Mahoney.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Remains on hiatus due to coronavirus.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A closer look at the running mate for Biden, and a conversation with Mercedes Schlapp, senior adviser for Trump’s reelection campaign.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with FEA President Fedrick Ingram and former Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: St. Johns County Sheriff candidates Rob Hardwick and Chris Strickland; The Collective Voice partner Pat Gillum Sams and Terri Stepter, of the Jacksonville chapter of the Lynx Incorporated.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Frederica Wilson and Broward County Sheriff candidate Al Pollock.

— LISTEN UP — 

Dishonorable Mention: Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Why are so many people posting invalid conspiracy theories in today’s society? Baseball is back! But for how long? Is an outbreak in the Marlins clubhouse going to jeopardize the MLB season? The hosts discuss the latest campaign ads from Trump, discuss the upcoming election, and talk about Kanye West.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: August traditionally marks the start of school in Florida and DeSantis has been out promoting the need for classroom instruction despite concerns that it is too risky with the coronavirus raging. Reporters Zac Anderson and Antonio Fins discuss the growing debate over reopening Florida schools, a new Mason Dixon poll that has Biden leading in Florida, Trump’s call to the delay the November election and the possibility of a big financial crisis for many Floridians in August when federal unemployment assistance runs out.

podcastED: Stand Up for Students President Doug Tuthill speaks with the Rev. Hawthorne Konrad (H.K.) Matthews, who was active during the civil rights movement in the Pensacola area and was arrested 35 times for his political activities. Leader of both the local NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Matthews was savagely beaten along with Congressman John Lewis, who died last week at the age of 80, and hundreds of others on March 7, 1965, on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma.

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Julie Brown, the Miami Herald reporter who helped expose Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes, talks about what’s next now that Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s right hand, is behind bars. “There’s a lot of women right now that are coming forward a lot and they’re talking to prosecutors,” she says. “There’s pretty close to a hundred, from what I hear.” A year ago, she notes, when just some of those documents were unsealed, and a few big names were found to be in those papers, “Epstein was dead the next day.” Also, why Biden needs to be up 15 points in Florida before you can rest easy; how “Jared [Kushner] is slipperier than an eel in a barrel of KY”; why we’re now in the “most dangerous hundred days in American history”; what is “douchebag entropy”; and how, in Jong-Fast’s words, “hell hath no fury like a mediocre man trying to get his hands on my uterus.”

The Rotunda with Trimmel Gomes: U.S. Rep. Al Lawson reflects on his time in Congress. As he seeks reelection, he fights off accusations from opponents that he’s a special interest candidate. One of Lawson’s challengers, Democrat Albert Chester, tells Gomes that constituents in Florida’s 5th Congressional District need new energy and claims his experience as a pharmacist will help solve the country’s health care problems. Also, Florida House candidate Elijah Manley says he’s running to wake up Rep. Bobby DuBose, who won his last two terms unopposed.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

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‪Introducing Lawmaker Barbie 🔨🤓‬

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— ALOE —

‘On our way to Mars’: NASA rover will look for signs of life” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — The biggest, most sophisticated Mars rover ever built, a car-size vehicle bristling with cameras, microphones, drills, and lasers, blasted off for the red planet Thursday as part of an ambitious, long-range project to bring the first Martian rock samples back to Earth to be analyzed for evidence of ancient life. NASA’s Perseverance rode a mighty Atlas V rocket into a clear morning sky in the world’s third and final Mars launch of the summer. China and the United Arab Emirates got a head start last week, but all three missions should reach their destination in February after a journey of seven months and 300 million miles (480 million kilometers). The plutonium-powered, six-wheeled rover will drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be brought home in about 2031 in a sort of interplanetary relay race involving multiple spacecraft and countries. The overall cost: more than $8 billion.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mission will send a Mars rover to the Red Planet to search for signs of life, explore the planet’s geology and much more. Image via AP.

In an upside-down summer, ‘Jaws,’ ‘E.T.’ are hits again” via Jake Coyle of The Associated Press — When historians look back on the top films at the box office in the summer of 2020, they may feel like they’ve slipped into a time warp, or maybe “Back to the Future.” Over the second weekend in July, “Empire Strikes Back” was again No. 1. “Ghostbusters” claimed the July Fourth weekend, 36 years after opening. Over the June 19-21 weekend and 27 years after it last led the box office, “Jurassic Park” again ruled theaters. In a pandemic that has resurrected all kinds of vintage pastimes, from puzzles to drive-ins, even the blockbusters are retro. That is much out of necessity. About 1,000 theaters in the U.S. are currently open, just about a sixth of the nation’s cinemas. That includes the approximately 300 drive-ins that have, since the multiplexes shuttered in March, hosted the majority of moviegoing.

Reopened parks keep characters close — in new, socially distant ways” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Meeting Orlando’s theme-park characters isn’t like it used to be. In pre-pandemic times, kids lined up to give a high-five to Buzz Lightyear at the Magic Kingdom, pose for photos beside Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure or come eye-to-googly-eye with Cookie Monster at SeaWorld. But coronavirus and social distancing have forced attractions to rethink how visitors interact with characters. That meant shelving the standard meet-and-greet format where folks queue up for quality time and a quick pic. Also suspended were the parks’ parades featuring dozens of performers.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to former Agriculture Commissioner Adam PutnamDavid Cardenas, the FHCA’s Kristen Knapp, Dan McFaul of Ballard Partners, and Nick Sortal. Celebrating on Saturday are state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, former lawmaker Garrett Richter, Ashley KalifehKartik KrishnaiyerDan NordbyBrian Shuford and Karen Unger.

___

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
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Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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