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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.3.20

Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Isaias: Saved by Saharan dust and a Bahamas drag; ‘it just pooped out’” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — A nagging Isaias sputtered up the Florida coast, never living up to its potential but teasing just enough drama to keep the Sunshine State on high alert. While Isaias managed to claw back to 70 mph late in the day, dry Saharan air, which is seasonable for this time of year, added to its unhealthy diet. “It just pooped out,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossio about Isaias’ decline into Sunday. As of 5 p.m., Isaias was 65 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral and 410 miles south of Myrtle Beach with 70 mph winds. It was moving north-northwest at 9 mph.

Isaias blew over the Bahamas, then seemed to lose steam (somewhat) on its way to the Atlantic Coast. Image via AP.

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Good things happening to good people — “Insurance pro BG Murphy joins Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Kyle Ulrich named CEO” via Florida Politics —  Insurance lobbyist and policy pro Murphy is joining the Florida Association of Insurance Agents (FAIA) as director of Government Affairs. He begins his new role starting Monday. Murphy is replacing Kyle Ulrich, who is moving up to become FAIA president and CEO as of September 1. Before coming to FAIA, where he will lead the association’s in-house lobbying efforts, Murphy served two years as Government Affairs regional director for Sentry Insurance, overseeing advocacy efforts throughout 15 Eastern states, including Florida. Before his time at Sentry, Murphy worked at the Florida Department of Financial Services, serving under Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and his predecessor Jeff Atwater, as legislative affairs director and deputy legislative affairs director, respectively.

Congratulations to BG Murphy, newly named director of Government Affairs for the Florida Association of Insurance Agents.

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Breaking overnight — “Randy Fine hospitalized for COVID-19” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — “So I got the X-ray back, and it wasn’t what I expected. Doctor said I have some pretty serious damage in my lungs and is ordering me admitted to the hospital,” Fine wrote on his Facebook page. In a text message, he confirmed he was at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne. “I’m not going to lie — I’m pretty scared. I didn’t even see the boys before I left because I figured I’d be back in a couple of hours,” he said. Fine’s coronavirus infection was confirmed on July 22, along with that of his two sons, David, 8, and Jacob, 12, just days after his wife Wendy tested positive.

Our best to Randy Fine, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases. How did Italy, France & Spain do? Now Europe sadly has flare-ups. Most of our Governors worked hard & smart. We will come back STRONG!

@JoyAnnReid: As @EricHolder also affirmed this morning, at 12:01 p.m. on January 20, if he loses the election and if he refuses to leave the White House, Donald Trump will be merely an intruder in that house and will be removed physically, like any other intruder would. He will have no power.

@StevenTDennis: The *entire* European Union — population 446 million — is still averaging fewer cases per day than Florida alone.

@NHL: Together, we must be part of the movement to end racism. Together, #WeSkateForBlackLives.

@AnthonySabatini: The only thing that needs to be cancelled [sic] is the media

Tweet, tweet:

 

— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 15; Florida Bar exams begin online (rescheduled) — 16; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 16; Regal Cinemas reopen in U.S. — 18; Indy 500 rescheduled — 20; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 21; NBA draft lottery — 22; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 25; U.S. Open begins — 28; Christopher Nolan‘s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 31; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 33; Rescheduled date for French Open — 48; First presidential debate in Indiana — 57; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 60; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 61; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 64; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 65; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 70; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 73; NBA draft — 74; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 74; NBA free agency — 77; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 80; 2020 General Election — 92; “Black Widow” premieres — 96; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 98; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 109; “No Time to Die” premieres — 109; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 120; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 188; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 200; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 333; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 354; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 362; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 459; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 557; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 599; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 641; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 795.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Positive cases:

— 481,668 FL residents (+16,638 since Friday)

— 5,464 Non-FL residents (+108 since Friday)

Origin:

— 3,713 Travel related

— 131,768 Contact with a confirmed case

— 3,725 Both

— 320,696 Under investigation

Hospitalizations:

— 27,150 in FL

Deaths:

— 7,084 in FL

Florida’s summer of dread” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — A public health crisis. An economic calamity, with more than a million Floridians out of work and an unemployment payment system that was one of the slowest in the country. And now an early debut of hurricane season to remind the state that the inevitable convergence of the pandemic and the weather is likely to play out again, and perhaps much more seriously than this relatively mild storm before this nightmare season ends. “It’s just kind of been the way 2020s gone so far,” said Howard Tipton, the administrator for St. Lucie County, on Florida’s Treasure Coast. “But we roll with it, right? We don’t get to determine the cards that we’re dealt.”

COVID-19, masks, unemployment, and now its hurricane season. Florida is having one stressful summer.

Virus hits Florida state prisons chief and top deputy” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — As COVID-19 spreads throughout the state’s prison system, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch and one of his top lieutenants have tested positive for the virus, the state agency announced late Friday night. Inch began experiencing mild symptoms shortly after visiting Columbia Correctional Institution. In this North Florida prison, 1,300 inmates and 72 corrections workers have tested positive for the virus, according to a news release issued by corrections officials Friday. Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon has also tested positive for COVID-19, but is currently asymptomatic, the release said. “Just like the numerous correctional and probation officers and staff who we’ve asked to stay home and recuperate after a positive test, Deputy Secretary Dixon and I are self-isolating as a result of our recent COVID-19 test results,” Inch said in a statement Friday night.

Young people in Florida are also dying from coronavirus” via Romy Ellenbogen and Connie Humburg of the Tampa Bay Times — Across Florida, 84 percent of people under the age of 65 who died from the coronavirus had an underlying medical issue, according to an analysis. Reporters reviewed thousands of death reports compiled by medical examiners from across the state. Some of the common ailments were diabetes, heart issues and obesity. Many patients had more than one condition. Deaths among younger people like Hergenreder have been notably rare during the pandemic. In Florida, 18 percent of people who have died from the coronavirus were under the age of 65. Public health officials have said for months that seniors, who tend to be most at risk for preexisting medical conditions, are the most vulnerable in the pandemic.

Once thought to mostly affect the elderly, now younger people are dying of COVID-19.

NYC’s wealthiest flocking to Florida even while COVID-19 rages” via Oshrat Carmiel of Bloomberg — Lavish Florida retreats were a popular escape for rich New Yorkers riding out the COVID-19 lockdown. Now, many are rushing to make things more permanent even while the virus surges in the Sunshine State. Sellers in places like Miami and Palm Beach are getting flooded with offers, and the supply of available properties is plunging. Florida’s favorable tax laws have long been a draw for high-net-worth individuals. Still, the pandemic’s disruptions to work, school, public safety and northern states’ budgets have increased the allure, pushing many of the wealthiest to finally make good on aspirations to relocate. Purchase contracts in South Florida soared across all price ranges last month compared with a year earlier when there was no contagion to worry about. At $1 million and above, deals more than doubled in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

Many private schools — and some charters — will return to buildings in the fall.” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Parents hoping to send their children to an actual school campus this fall may have to shell out money for a private school. Despite pressure from the state and federal governments to open their campuses for the new year, most South Florida public schools plan to start off online only due to the continued surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in South Florida. A few charter schools plan to offer in-person instruction, but most say they will begin online until conditions improve. For private schools, it’s a different story. “Most of the private schools we’ve heard from or about in recent weeks said they were planning to open for in-person learning at the beginning of the school year,” said Ron Matus, director of policy and public affairs for Step Up For Students.

—“Santa Rosa schools will require masks when social distancing isn’t possible” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal 

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami Dolphins give plasma in fight against COVID-19” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — The Miami Dolphins are doing the opposite of isolating themselves from the community. They’re donating their plasma to help people stricken with COVID-19. Several members of the Dolphins team and support staff spent part of their day Thursday aboard OneBlood’s Big Red Bus donating their antibodies to the treatment of other people with the virus. Rookie Malcolm Perry, a graduate of the Naval Academy, was among the players who tested positive and recovered from COVID-19, and there he was Thursday donating his plasma. Perry is the only Dolphins player that has been publicly identified as having recovered from COVID-19, but a news release from the team indicated that several players participated Thursday in donating plasma.

Tweet, tweet:

 

Gadsden and Jackson counties among nation’s Top 10 coronavirus hotspots” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Rural Gadsden and Jackson counties in North Florida are among the country’s Top 10 coronavirus hot spots with cases growing rapidly. The warning was issued in an internal daily CDC report that detailed “areas of concern” because cases are “high and still growing.” Nine of the 10 counties were in Florida and Texas. The grim outlook comes as both counties reported spikes and deaths in recent weeks and continued public events, such as the “End of Summer Concert in the Park ” event on Thursday at Citizens Lodge Park in Marianna. As of Friday, Gadsden County had a total of 1,347 cases, 109 hospitalizations and 18 deaths as a local State of Emergency has been in effect for months. In Jackson County, there have been 1,566 positive cases, 84 hospitalizations and 31 deaths.

‘It didn’t have to happen this way’: Daughter recalls Marianna man’s trepidatious COVID-19 decline” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — Even in his late 80s, Willie Stevens would change his grandchildren’s car oil. The senior member of his small Marianna community at Jerusalem A.M.E. Church, Stevens was the local carpenter who’d teach budding woodworkers who then went off to start their own businesses. But on July 27, Stevens died after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was 94. The diabetic man was transferred between four different medical facilities before his death, according to his family.

Walton commissioners get sobering COVID-19 report from Sacred Heart official” via Jim Thompson of the NWF Daily News — Walton County, and much of the rest of Northwest Florida, is in a “dramatically different” position concerning COVID-19 than even just a couple of weeks ago, and certainly since March, when the first cases in the pandemic began showing up in this part of the Panhandle, according to a high-ranking official with the Ascension Sacred Heart health care facilities from Pensacola to Port St. Joe. Roger Hall, soon to be “semiretired” from his position as regional president of Ascension Sacred Heart facilities, painted Walton County commissioners a sobering picture of the status of COVID-19 in the area at their meeting last week before a commission decision to take no action on any ordinance requiring face masks to be worn in public as a means of helping to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

—“Panama City Beach issues warnings to mask violators” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald

Financial fallout from a canceled football season would be significant for Florida State” via Wayne McGahee IIII of the Tallahassee Democrat — The coronavirus has already caused significant issues for the Florida State athletic department. FSU announced earlier this month that it was reducing its budget by 20% with coaches taking pay cuts and the elimination of 25 full-time positions. Football coach Mike Norvell took a 25% pay cut, athletic director David Coburn a 20% pay cut, and basketball coaches Leonard Hamilton and Sue Semrau each took 15% pay cuts. But these budget cuts came before any clarification on whether or not the 2020 football season will be played. Coburn said budget cuts would look “insignificant” to the cuts FSU will have to make if football isn’t played this year.

— CORONA NATION —

Coronavirus threat rises across U.S.: ‘We just have to assume the monster is everywhere’” via Joel Achenbach, Rachel Weiner and Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — The coronavirus is spreading at dangerous levels across much of the United States, and public health experts are demanding a dramatic reset in the national response, one that recognizes that the crisis is intensifying and that current piecemeal strategies aren’t working. This is a new phase of the pandemic, one no longer built around local or regional clusters and hot spots. It comes at an unnerving moment in which the economy suffered its worst collapse since the Great Depression, schools are rapidly canceling plans for in-person instruction and Congress has failed to pass a new emergency relief package. President Donald Trump continues to promote fringe science, the daily death toll keeps climbing and the human cost of the virus in America has just passed 150,000 lives.

As cases of COVID-19 crop up nationwide, some experts say we should assume the coronavirus ‘monster’ is everywhere. Image via AP.

Sun Belt hospitals are feeling the strain from virus’ surge — and bracing for worse” via Griff Witte and Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post — In a nation gripped by a record number of coronavirus cases — with severe outbreaks across multiple states and regions — medical systems are increasingly showing the strain, with short­ages of critically-needed personnel, equipment and testing. And officials are concerned that hospitals will soon hit a breaking point if the trajectory of ever-growing caseloads doesn’t change. “We can withstand a surge. We can withstand a disaster. But we can’t withstand a disaster every single day,” said Jason Wilson, associate medical director of the emergency department at Tampa General Hospital. “How many jumbo jet crashes can you handle before you run out of capacity? That’s what we’re facing.”

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

With $600 checks disappearing, unemployed Floridians are facing a ‘perfect storm’ of problems” via Lawrence Mower and Alex Daugherty of the Tampa Bay Times — For the last four months, unemployed Floridians were handed a lifeline through the $600 weekly benefits doled out by the federal CARES Act. The payments were a critical supplement to Florida’s standard benefits, which are among the stingiest in the nation. And the $9 billion in payments sent to Floridians was a major boost to the state’s fraying economy, which has been decimated by the pandemic. Because Congress failed to reach a deal before the $600 checks expired Friday, unemployed Floridians are going to have to live on payments of no more than $275 per week. Nearly 900,000 Floridians applied for or received unemployment benefits during the most recent period. Nearly 600,000 Floridians are behind on their power bills. The only thing keeping many from being evicted from their homes is an executive order by Ron DeSantis.

U.S. small business bailout money flowed to Chinese-owned companies” via Alan Rappeport of The New York Times — Trump blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis, but as the White House looks to stabilize small businesses in the United States, the rescue effort has had an unintended beneficiary: Chinese companies. Millions of dollars of American taxpayer money have flowed to China from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program that was a lifeline for struggling small businesses in the United States. But because the economic relief legislation allowed American subsidiaries of foreign firms to receive the loans, a substantial chunk of the money went to America’s biggest economic rival. According to a review of publicly available loan data, $192 million to $419 million has gone to more than 125 companies that Chinese entities own or invest in. 

Millions of dollars of American taxpayer money went to Chinese-owned companies from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program Donald Trump signed in April. Image via AP.

A new Chuck E. Cheese children’s ride but no one to ride it” via Eva Dou of The Washington Post — Fallout from the bankruptcies of dozens of American companies is rippling across the globe, as suppliers find themselves with orders abruptly canceled and customers saying they can’t pay their debts. One major problem for suppliers: they are at a lower priority level for debt repayment under Chapter 11 bankruptcy rules, compared with secured creditors like banks. That means for many factories, their new orders have not only stopped, but they face grim chances of recouping payment for products already shipped. The hit to industries like textiles, in particular, threatens livelihoods in the developing world. Countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia rely heavily on making shirts, socks and other apparel to provide jobs and support their economies.

With loan money gone, restaurants are at mercy of coronavirus” via Joyce M. Rosenberg of The Associated Press — The check has arrived and beleaguered restaurant owners across America are looking down on their empty wallets. Government coronavirus loans in the spring helped eating establishments rehire laid-off employees and ride out the pandemic’s initial surge and the wave of shutdown orders. But that Paycheck Protection Program money has now been spent at many restaurants, leaving them in the same precarious position they were in during outbreak’s early days: Thousands of restaurants are being forced to close down again on mandates from state and local officials combating the virus’s resurgence, particularly in the South and West.

— MORE CORONA — 

Is the subway risky? It may be safer than you think” via Christina Goldbaum of The New York Times — Five months after the coronavirus outbreak engulfed New York City, riders are still staying away from public transportation in enormous numbers, often because they are concerned that sharing enclosed places with strangers is simply too dangerous. But the picture emerging in major cities across the world suggests that public transportation may not be as risky as nervous New Yorkers believe. In countries where the pandemic has ebbed, ridership has rebounded in far greater numbers than in New York City, yet there have been no notable superspreader events linked to mass transit.

Experts found that the subways are safer than originally thought, coronavirus-wise. Image via AP.

— SMOLDERING —

DHS official whose office compiled ‘intelligence reports’ on journalists and protesters has been removed from his job” via Shane Harris and Nick Miroff of The Washington Post — A senior Department of Homeland Security official whose office compiled “intelligence reports” about journalists and protesters in Portland, Oregon, has been removed from his job, according to people familiar with the matter. Brian Murphy, the acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, was reassigned to a new position in the department’s management directorate, an administrative support office, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf decided Friday. 

A senior Department of Homeland Security official who compiled ‘intelligence reports’ on Portland protesters and journalists has been relieved of duty.

Calm returns to Portland as federal agents withdraw” via Adam Taylor, Nick Miroff and David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post — This city’s battle-scarred downtown was calm much of Friday after federal agents withdrew from the streets where they had faced off with protesters for days, though dozens remained stationed downtown to respond to any further violence. The agents, who had been posted at a federal courthouse that protesters had targeted with graffiti and fire, moved to other downtown locations, held in reserve under a deal between Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the Trump administration. Amid criticism of the federal officers’ tactics, local and state police who took their place at the courthouse were far less aggressive, largely staying out of sight Thursday night, making no arrests and firing no tear gas.

Video caught guard pummeling handcuffed man in Miami-Dade jail. The inmate got charged” via Haley Lerner and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — In April of last year, a handcuffed jail inmate was punched repeatedly by a Miami-Dade County corrections officer, a confrontation caught on a jail security video obtained by the Miami Herald. The pummeling at the Metro West Detention Center only ended when a second officer stepped in, pushing his colleague off and wrapping his arms around the inmate, Mike Neal. The video, key evidence in a state criminal case and a federal civil rights lawsuit, shows a third corrections officer then also stepping in to separate his fellow guard, Delman Lumpkin, from Neal. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges in the case, but against the inmate, not the guard. Prosecutors initially charged Neal with aggravated assault, a felony. But after viewing the video, prosecutors reduced the initial charge to a misdemeanor assault. Still, they added a new felony charge accusing Neal of “stalking” the corrections officer in the months leading up to the violent jail confrontation. The basis of that charge is unclear.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

 



— D.C. MATTERS —

The moment impeachment managers realized how corrupt Donald Trump’s defense was” via Norman Eisen of The Washington Post — As soon as Pat Philbin, the deputy White House counsel, uttered the lie, my head shot-up from my note-taking. “In the Judiciary Committee,” he said to every member of the U.S. Senate assembled for his boss’s impeachment trial, “ … there were no rights for the President.” It was just past 10 p.m. on Jan. 21 — the first day of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. I was sitting near the head of the narrow, curved House managers table across from committee Chairmen Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff. They, too, looked astonished. The President’s lawyers could have defended him capably without stooping to this. Lawyers are not in place to repeat the excesses of their clients. And yet Trump had managed to finagle his team into an alarming display of mimicry.

A lie by deputy White House Counsel Pat Philbin revealed how corrupt Donald Trump’s impeachment defense would be.

Congress deeply unpopular again as gridlock on coronavirus relief has real-life consequences” via Paul Kane of The Washington Post — After a springtime boomlet of bipartisan legislation, Congress has slid back into its familiar posture of hitting gridlock on everything from combating police violence to determining which statues should remain in the Capitol. And, over the past two weeks, the heated negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package have stalled as Trump’s advisers and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have openly feuded after each of their private huddles. The public took notice. Over the past two months, congressional approval ratings have crashed downward, after a sudden previous bump in approval. Fewer than 1 in 5 voters say they like what lawmakers are doing on Capitol Hill.

The CFPB once defended consumers. Thanks to Trump, it now helps companies prey on them instead.” via Helaine Olen of The Washington Post — For two days this week, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger testified to Congress about protecting consumers during the coronavirus pandemic, first in the Senate and then in the House. It went about as well as could be expected, which is not particularly well at all. Kraninger, a thoroughly unqualified Trump appointee, has shown little interest in doing her purported job, which is protecting Americans from the financial services industry. Rep. Nydia Velázquez said she lacked empathy, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren demanded she resign. Kraninger’s main accomplishment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the loosening of regulations on payday loans. Previously, regulations stopped people who couldn’t afford to repay the loans from taking them on.

Rick Scott has one eye on 2022 — and another on 2024” via Gabriel T. Rubin of The Wall Street Journal — Scott is lining up support to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2022 midterms, a plum post that would put him in close contact with top Republican donors and finance chairs around the country as he mulls a potential presidential run in 2024. Scott has discussed the post with his Republican colleagues, who will vote on the next chair following the November election. Indiana’s Todd Young currently chairs the NRSC. Floridians could crowd the 2024 Republican primaries, with speculation growing that not only Scott but also Marco Rubio and DeSantis could throw their hats in the ring.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida faces budget cuts due to COVID-19. One agency wants to drop $915K on PR campaign.” via Samantha J. Gross and Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — In Florida’s mental health system, it’s almost impossible to find areas to cut spending. As a pandemic ravages the state’s economy, the already underfunded system has become an even more critical lifeline for some of Florida’s most vulnerable populations. But cut is exactly what the state must do, as Florida came up almost $1.9 billion short of its projected revenue during the 2019-20 fiscal year. Starting in March, COVID-19 decimated tourism and left 10.4% of Floridians jobless by May. State agencies are being asked to hold back on planned spending so the state can report a balanced budget, as is constitutionally required, for the fiscal year that began July 1. To the state’s “managing entities,” which contract with the Department of Children and Families to oversee local mental health and addiction treatment programs, the cuts would mean reducing essential services for those who need them most.

Florida faces massive budget cuts due to COVID-19, which means even further cuts to essential services. Image via AP.

License to live’: Florida quietly changed driver’s license requirements for immigrants” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have been able to drive legally in Florida may be unable to get driver’s licenses again after the state quietly changed its identification requirements for obtaining licenses. In mid-May, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles tightened its document requirements that outline what some immigrants must provide to get their driver’s licenses. It’s the most striking change of at least six that have been made in the past six months, making it almost impossible for people who are in the deportation process to drive legally, something they had been able to do before. Before May 11, people with pending deportation hearings were able to get a driver’s license as long as they had a court document proving they had a future hearing date.

How the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has used a shadowy charity fund in criminal cases” via Daniel Rivero of WLRN — Manuel Marin, former owner of the Presidente Supermarket chain, was accused of hiring a group of mixed martial arts fighters to kill Camilo Salazar. Police said Salazar was sleeping with Marin’s wife. When Salazar was found on a dirt road in west Miami-Dade County in 2011, his body was severely beaten, his throat slit, and there was evidence that his genitals had been set on fire. Years passed, and Marin had disappeared. Then in 2018, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle made an announcement: arrests had been made in the murder case. Among them, Marin’s son Yaddiel was charged with being an accessory to the murder after the fact.

Bo Rivard rebuts shady contract claims” via Florida Politics — Northwest Florida business owner Rivard is pushing back against claims he flexed his political connections to land state contracts for his company, Consolidated Disaster Services. A Florida Bulldog article alleged that the company landed contracts to provide personal protective equipment to the state without going through the normal bidding process. Jay Trumbull Sr., the father of Rep. Jay Trumbull, holds a stake in Consolidated Disaster Services. Rivard said that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to Rivard, the state approached the company about procuring PPE because it was already an approved vendor for emergency supplies such as ice and bottled water that the state needs during emergencies.

FWC Chair Bo Rivard insists he did not use political influence to steer government money to his companies.

Hurricane Maria survivor struggles at rundown Kissimmee motel with intermittent power, water” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — In the Kissimmee motel room she calls home, Kathia Badillo Feliu keeps a machete wedged in the wall above her bed. Another is tucked under a sofa cushion, and two more are hidden among her family’s belongings — protection against whatever may come in the darkness when the power is shut off. The power is often off. At least, for now, there is running water. For most of the past year, Feliu has lived in this 12-by-24-foot space at the Star Motel along U.S. Highway 192, a property largely abandoned by its owner. Forced from her home in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria in 2017, she lived in North Carolina before winding up here, her last option after her family was swindled out of $6,800 deposit on a local rental house by a man pretending to be the landlord. Osceola County began foreclosure proceedings on the property, which includes the Star Motel and its neighbor, the Lake Cecile Inn & Suites, the latter boarded up after a fire.

— 2020 —

Trump’s top strategist reboots campaign with focus on early-voting states” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO Florida — Trump’s campaign is reorienting its summer TV advertising strategy to focus on states that will begin voting sooner than others, after the reelection went dark on TV in an unusual move this week, leaving the airwaves to Joe Biden. Trump’s campaign will begin running ads Monday in a cluster of states ahead of the early voting period. The move represents a shift for the campaign, which for months has been spending heavily in a wide array of battlegrounds. Bill Stepien, Trump’s newly appointed campaign manager, has spent recent days reevaluating the advertising strategy as the President gears up for the final three months of the election. Trump advisers declined to specify which states the ads would be focused on, but there are several key battlegrounds at the front of the early voting calendar.

Donald Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien is reexamining TV advertising.

—“Trump’s campaign in crisis as aides attempt August reset before time runs out” via Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Annie Linskey of The Washington Post 

Renomination of Trump to be held in private” via The Associated Press — The vote to renominate Trump is set to be conducted in private later this month, without members of the press present, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Convention said, citing the coronavirus. While Trump called off the public components of the convention in Florida last month, citing spiking cases of the virus across the country, 336 delegates are scheduled to gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Aug. 24 to vote to make Trump formally the GOP standard-bearer once more. Nominating conventions are traditionally meant to be media bonanzas, as political parties seek to leverage the attention the events draw to spread their message to as many voters as possible. If the GOP decision stands, it will be the first party nominating convention in modern history to be closed to reporters.

How the Trump campaign came to court QAnon, the online conspiracy movement identified by the FBI as a violent threat” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — The online viral movement, which took root on Internet message boards in the fall of 2017 with posts from a self-proclaimed government insider identified as “Q,” has triggered violent acts and occasional criminal cases. As the worldview took shape online, its followers flocked to Trump rallies with QAnon apparel and placards. Recently, as the election has drawn closer, actions by the president and his associates have brought them more directly into the fold. The Trump campaign’s director of press communications, for example, went on a QAnon program and urged listeners to “sign up and attend a Trump Victory Leadership Initiative training.”

A group of FL sheriffs without face masks stand by as Trump spews insults on people and groups” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — Standing without face masks behind Trump in Tampa on Friday, several Florida sheriffs endorsing the President stood by as Trump streamed numerous insults on people and groups. Trump called U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — second in succession to the presidency — “Crazy Nancy Pelosi.” Trump referenced the news media as “those people” — “a couple of good ones, mostly bad ones.” At least twice, Trump used the term “China virus” to describe COVID-19. Some people consider the term used by Trump as racist. While the president has insulted various people and groups before, Trump is gearing up to take on Biden in the big swing state of Florida. The president on Friday mentioned that polls in Florida “are going up up up,” in the president’s favor.

’Our band is getting back together.’ How Trump plans to win Florida” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Amid sagging polling, and with mail voting beginning in eight weeks, Trump is trying to turn his campaign around in the must-win battleground. He is returning his attention to the state and bringing back former advisers to help him recreate his 2016 victory. “He’s going to win Florida,” Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters said. On Friday, he even found a way to bring back his rallies with a gathering on the tarmac at Tampa International Airport. To help guide him through a campaign he can’t run his way, Trump has called back Susie Wiles, a veteran GOP operative. Wiles steered Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign and helped DeSantis eke out a win two years ago in the Florida Governor’s race.

Sen. Joe Gruters is adamant that Donald Trump is going to win Florida big.

Florida’s summer to forget: How July derailed the presidential campaign in the biggest swing state” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — In the middle of a pandemic, Republicans chased a doomed party convention in Jacksonville that Trump ultimately canceled mid-month because of the coronavirus. Democrats stepped into a scandal by taking federal loans intended to help businesses hurt by the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the effort to elect former Vice President Biden in Florida is beset with criticism from rank-and-file Democrats who fear the party is on the same failed trajectory as four years ago. Missteps, shake-ups, internal strife — none of this is uncommon in the sometimes messy world of presidential campaigns. But this is Florida, the king of all swing states, where elections are won and lost by razor-thin margins.

‘Castro sympathizer’: Florida GOP moves to sink Bass over Cuba” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Fidel Castro is once again casting a long shadow over U.S. presidential politics. The former Cuban president is a topic of derision for both political parties in Florida and Republicans here used him on Saturday to bash Karen Bass, a California Democrat who is rising on Biden’s vice-presidential shortlist. “She will be the highest-ranking Castro sympathizer in the history of the United States government,” Sen. Marco Rubio said on a conference call organized by the Trump campaign to trash Bass. Bass made numerous trips to Cuba dating back to the 1970s and professed her sympathies when Castro died in 2016, a position that is politically poisonous in Miami, a key block of voters in a state central to Trump’s reelection bid.

Ransomware feared as possible saboteur for November election” via Eric Tucker, Christina A. Cassidy and Frank Bajak of The Associated Press — Federal authorities say one of the gravest threats to the November election is a well-timed ransomware attack that could paralyze voting operations. The threat isn’t just from foreign governments, but any fortune-seeking criminal. Ransomware attacks targeting state and local governments have been on the rise, with cybercriminals seeking quick money by seizing data and holding it hostage until they get paid. The fear is that such attacks could affect voting systems directly or even indirectly, by infecting broader government networks that include electoral databases. Even if a ransomware attack fails to disrupt elections, it could nonetheless rattle confidence in the vote.

How the media could get the election story wrong” via Ben Smith of The New York Times — The media specializes in fighting the last war and has done a decent job this cycle of avoiding the mistakes of 2016. Reporters are calling out Trump’s falsehoods, showing skepticism about polls and avoiding turning politics into a sport. But the American media plays a bizarrely outsize role in American elections, occupying the place of most countries’ national election commissions. the media establishes the narrative to explain what happened. But at the highest levels of most news organizations and the big social media platforms, executives and insiders told me that it simply hasn’t sunk in how different this year is going to be — and how to prepare audiences for it.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL — 

Homeowner falsely accuses candidate Mark Oliver of stealing mail while delivering campaign literature” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A Pinellas County homeowner accused Oliver of stealing mail when he was captured on a Ring camera delivering campaign flyers recently. Oliver’s campaign believes the young Black candidate was the subject of racial profiling. The candidate runs miles every day to deliver campaign literature to constituents in the district, which includes southern Pinellas County as well as parts of Hillsborough and Manatee counties. As part of his campaign, he has been posting videos with the caption: “I’m running for office, literally.” “My efforts to connect with voters safely during COVID-19 by running masked, door to door, unfortunately, have been subject to scrutiny,” Oliver said. “However, this gives our community a platform to discuss some important racial disparities still happening today.”

Mark Oliver was falsely accused of stealing mail during canvassing. 

Anne Gannon: Michael Weinstein’s sexist double standard should outrage female voters on” via Florida Politics — HD 81 candidate Weinstein sent a mailer attacking his primary opponent, Kelly Skidmore, for being a “career politician.” Weinstein claims Skidmore ran for office seven times, but he arrived at this number by double-counting primary and general elections. In truth, she served in the Florida House for four years. Weinstein holds a double standard when it comes to female candidates. When someone criticizes a male candidate for being a “career politician” — sue them; but when you’re the candidate yourself, running against a female, bring that accusation out in full force. Weinstein’s attack calling Skidmore a “career politician” is an assault on female candidates everywhere. We know that women holding office are worth fighting for.

—“Florida doctors back Robin Bartleman in HD 104” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Publix founder’s relatives dole out large political sums” via Gary White of the Ledger of Lakeland — Separately from Publix’s political action committee, some Polk County residents whose wealth derives from the company have been active in supporting candidates and political committees. Julie Fancelli, a part-time Lakeland resident and the daughter of Publix founder George W. Jenkins, has contributed $171,300 to a committee supporting Trump and another $170,900 to the Republican National Committee. Her son, Gregory Fancelli, also a part-time Lakeland resident, has given $11,200 to a committee supporting Trump. He has contributed $5,600 to the campaign of U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, the local representative who has not received money from the Publix PAC. Carol Jenkins Barnett, also a daughter of the Publix founder, and her husband, Barney Barnett, have contributed $41,800 to candidates and committees in the current cycle. That amount includes a gift of $20,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Voters and candidates to return to the polls as early voting begins Monday in Miami” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — As Florida struggles with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country, elections supervisors will welcome voters back to the polls Monday, kicking off a two-week run-up to the Aug. 18 Florida primary. Nearly two dozen early voting centers will open at 7 a.m. in Miami-Dade County, and dozens more in Monroe and Palm Beach counties. Early voting doesn’t begin in Broward County until Aug. 8. The election is Florida’s second since the coronavirus pandemic began to spread. Close to 3 million people voted statewide in the March 17 Florida presidential preference primary, 650,000 of whom voted during Florida’s two-week early voting period. At that time, the scope of the pandemic was only beginning to become clear. Now, more than 7,000 Floridians have died of COVID-19, many public venues remain closed and masks are required in public, including the polls.

Mail-in fail: Vendor snafu leads to FEA members receiving faulty instructions to request mail-in ballots” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In late July, the Florida Education Association (FEA) sent out instructions to approximately 70,000 of its members, providing them easy-access forms to request mail-in ballots from their local Supervisor of Elections (SOE). Thanks to a vendor’s technical glitch, the return envelopes sent to many of those members listed an incorrect SOE address, resulting in those forms being sent to a different county’s SOE office. The episode led to the FEA terminating its nearly two-decade relationship with Deliver Strategies. A representative from Deliver says the firm took full responsibility for the mistake and called it a result of “human error.” Upon reviewing information with their members, the FEA did find some return envelopes did contain correct addresses.

Former members of Aramis Ayala’s inner circle say Deborah Barra was ‘de facto state attorney’” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Ayala’s decision to un-endorse second-in-command Barra’s bid to replace her as Orlando’s top prosecutor has drawn backlash from former members of Ayala’s inner circle, who called her explanation for the decision “misleading and disingenuous” Friday and said Barra is already the “de facto state attorney.” The onetime members of Ayala’s executive team, who support Barra’s campaign, include the state attorney’s ex-spokeswoman Eryka Washington and two former deputy chief assistant state attorneys, Josephine Colón and Harold V. Bennett III.

Aramis Ayala’s decision to ‘un-endorse’ Deborah Barra is under scrutiny.

— TOP OPINION —

Coming forward ended my career. I still believe doing what’s right matters.” via Alexander S. Vindman of The Washington Post — After 21 years, six months and 10 days of active military service, I am now a civilian. I made the difficult decision to retire because a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by Trump and his allies forever limited the progression of my military career. This experience has been painful, but I am not alone in this ignominious fate. The circumstances of my departure might have been more public. Yet, they are little different from those of dozens of other lifelong public servants who have left this administration with their integrity intact, but their careers irreparably harmed. Our citizens are being subjected to the same kinds of attacks tyrants launch against their critics and political opponents.

— OPINIONS —

Will Trump defy the voters? Let him try.” via Matt Bai of The Washington Post — In 2017, Trump became the first American president in history to complain about the fairness of an election he had just won. So it should surprise no one that Trump has already declined to accept the results of an election he is likely to lose. It’s no longer really a question of whether Trump will try to defy the will of the electorate, should he lose, but rather how. For months now, he’s been assailing the credibility of mail-in voting and refusing to say whether he’d honor the election results. In the most likely scenario, Trump would launch a legal challenge to the results in several states with Republican-led legislatures, banking on supportive state lawmakers to intervene and choose their own electors. Ultimately, any legal or political challenge would end up with the Supreme Court, which ruled for Republicans in the most recent disputed election 20 years ago.

The next Lost Cause?” via Caroline E. Janney of The Washington Post — The Lost Cause offered former Confederates and their descendants a salve for the past. According to this mythology about the Civil War, the South was the victim, even in defeat. Even as Confederate monuments tumble this summer, we may be witnessing an attempt to form a new lost cause. Today, Trump describes his opponents as “unfair,” the pandemic sapping his popularity as a “hoax,” the polls that show him losing to Biden as “fake,” and the election in which he’ll face ultimate judgment in November as “rigged” or potentially “stolen.”

I’m sorry, but it’s a fantasy” via Eli Saslow of The Washington Post — I dream about going back to normal. I’d love to be open. These kids are hurting right now. I don’t need a politician to tell me that. We only have 300 students in this district, and they’re like family. I get phone calls from families dealing with poverty issues, depression, loneliness, boredom. Some of these kids are out in the wilderness right now, and school is the best place for them. Every time I start to play out what that looks like on August 17, I get sick to my stomach. More than a quarter of our students live with grandparents. These kids could very easily catch this virus, spread it, and bring it back home. It’s not safe. There’s no way it can be safe. If you think anything else, I’m sorry, but it’s a fantasy. Kids will get sick or worse. Family members will die. Teachers will die.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Over the past week, Florida set another record for COVID-19, as the Department of Health reported 1,230 deaths, smashing the old record of 872 fatalities in the previous week.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— At times like this, we could all use a bit of a distraction. How about the SpaceX crew returning to earth off the coast of Pensacola?

— And if that’s not distracting enough, what about that tropical system brushing the Atlantic Coast? COVID-19 complication meant not many evacuations.

— But in the end, all roads lead back to #coronavirus. State prisons were hard-hit during the pandemic and now — after visiting a prison in Lake City — the secretary of the Department of Corrections has tested positive for the virus.

— We look at the Blue Gala hosted by Miami-Dade Democrats, as they prepare for the August primary and the November election.

— Since Miami-Dade is also the epicenter of the virus in Florida, the Democrat’s gala was virtual. That includes the appearance of Biden.

— Checking-in with a Florida Man who crashed his golf cart. He blamed Trump.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

The buildup to the NBA’s return was a slow burn, but games in the bubble have started with a bang” via Ben Golliver of The Washington Post — The NBA took great pains to ease into its return to play after a monthslong pause amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, instituting a phased program that began more than a month before the regular season was set to resume July 30. Week by week, players were cleared to return to practice facilities and go through individual workouts before they traveled to Disney World, entered the league’s bubble, began team workouts and finally played dress rehearsal scrimmages against opposing teams. While those deliberate steps were primarily designed to help the NBA establish its coronavirus protocols, they also provided an extended ramp-up for players who had been away from the court since March. For all the justified anxiety about the living conditions at Disney World, the sport’s biggest names wasted no time making the most of their new situation and brushing off concerns about the quality of play after the long layoff.

The Lakers’ LeBron James faced the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard during the opening night of the NBA’s bubble. Image via AP. 

Cutting-edge technology could help Miami Dolphins beat COVID-19 — and their opponents” via Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald — The Miami Dolphins’ No. 1 advantage over their competition in 2020 might not be their star rookie quarterback or their new-look coaching staff. Rather, it might be the air they breathe. The Dolphins recently became the first franchise in football to install a series of new air purification devices throughout their team headquarters designed to wipe out the coronavirus before it lands on a surface or ends up in their players’ lungs. And they are using one of the safest, and most natural, disinfectants on the planet: ultraviolet rays. Over the coming weeks and months, a company called Healthe Lighting, which includes Dolphins owner Stephen Ross among its investors, will retrofit the team’s facility with a series of UV-C lights and filters that the business says can eliminate virtually all of the coronavirus in the environment.

Jaguars place QB Gardner Minshew on reserve/COVID-19 list” via John Reid of The Florida Times-Union — Jaguars starting Minshew was placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list Sunday, becoming the 12th player on the team to make the list since the rookies reported July 21. Earlier Sunday, the Jaguars announced starting left tackle Jawaan Taylor, third-round defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton and reserve tight end Charles Jones had been removed from the list. However, Jones returned to the COVID-19 list by Sunday afternoon and was joined by running back Ryquell Armstead, WR Michael Walker, and safety Andrew Wingard and Minshew. Before Sunday’s new additions, the Jaguars had only three remaining on the list —  cornerback Parry Nickerson, offensive lineman Ryan Pope, undrafted rookie Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms. Rookie cornerbacks Josiah Scott and Luq Barcoo were activated from the list last week and both are now on the active roster.

‘Last shot:’ Florida is trying to save the Apalachicola oyster fishery by shutting it down” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — The tourism video opens with a scene of boats, birds and blue water, lit by a postcard dawn. “If you’re looking to do the real Florida, look no further,” a deep-voiced narrator says. “We’re in Apalachicola Bay, where the birds are four-feet tall, the water’s six-feet deep, and the world-famous oysters are just laying on the bottom, ripe for the picking.” VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s marketing corporation, uploaded the clip to YouTube eight years ago. Since then, 130,000 people have watched a veteran fishing guide pluck piles of oysters from the bay, raking the floor with a long set of wooden and metal tongs.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated birthday wishes to two great Floridians, former House Speaker Dean Cannon and Democrat strategist and media guy Kevin Cate. Celebrating today are Jay Caruso and Nancy Smith.

___

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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