Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.6.20

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All the news that fits, and more: Your first look at Sunshine State politics and policy news.

For weeks, Congressional Democrats and the White House have been at odds over what form the next stimulus package will take. On Tuesday, however, both sides said they were optimistic a deal would be hammered out by the end of this week.

Whether Florida voters get their wish could be consequential for President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a new poll says.

Public Policy Polling found just two in five Florida voters approve of Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, giving him a minus-15 score in a state that’s pivotal to his reelection hopes.

Among Florida voters, Donald Trump is underwater regarding his coronavirus response. Image via AP.

The negative outlook on POTUS comes as the $600-a-week federal unemployment checks have stopped being delivered to Americans who lost their jobs or a substantial portion of their incomes due to the coronavirus.

The poll found a majority of Floridians (55%) believe those benefits should be re-upped in the next stimulus package passed by Congress. Just 15% say otherwise.

Those in favor of an extension also say the weekly check should be fatter — the current pitch from congressional Republicans calls for dropping the weekly checks to $200. They also say that their opinion on Rubio will hinge on his support for unemployment benefits — 70% will view him less favorably, while 18% say it wouldn’t move the needle.

Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig, whose organization sponsored the poll, said: “Throughout the public health crisis, the President and his Senate allies have put the interests of the wealthy and well-connect ahead of the safety and economic security of workers and small businesses — and it’s clear the public is troubled by this misguided approach.”


@RichardCorcoran: .@GovRonDeSantis is doing a great job. Best Governor in the nation. Time will prove it.

Tweet, tweet:

@BrianKrebs: Predictably, the Zoom hearing for the 17-year-old alleged Twitter hacker in Fla. was bombed multiple times, with the final bombing of a pornhub clip ending the zoom portion of the proceedings.

@CaseyChapter: Today, @HealthyFla reports 5 more Leon County deaths caused by #COVID19. Among them, we now see a 105-year-old woman listed, who likely is Katherine Hoffman, FSU alumna and professor emerita. If this is her, it took 16 days for the state health dept. to publicly note her death

Tweet, tweet:

@CarlHiassen: The great Pete Hamill died today. He was the heart and conscience of New York journalism, and the kind of writer that all of us wished we could be. Pete was a cherished friend and mentor to me, and to so many others. A giant, generous talent. Irreplaceable.

Tweet, tweet:


Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 12; Florida Bar exams begin online (rescheduled) — 13; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 13; Regal Cinemas reopen in U.S. — 15; Indy 500 rescheduled — 17; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 18; NBA draft lottery — 19; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 22; U.S. Open begins — 25; Christopher Nolan‘s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 28; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 30; Rescheduled date for French Open — 45; First presidential debate in Indiana — 54; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 57; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 58; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 61; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 62; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 67; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 70; NBA draft — 71; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 71; NBA free agency — 74; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 77; 2020 General Election — 89; “Black Widow” premieres — 93; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 95; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 106; “No Time to Die” premieres — 106; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 119; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 185; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 197; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 330; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 351; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 359; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 456; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 554; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 596; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 638; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 791.


Florida becomes second state to top 500,000 COVID-19 cases” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More than a half-million people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19, as the state remains second only to California, according to official infection numbers. Florida, the third most populous state in the U.S., now has 502,739 cases after reporting another 5,409 COVID-19 cases Wednesday. California health officials on Tuesday listed almost 520,000 cases. The number of reported test results in Florida was under 61,000 for the third straight day, likely a result of numerous test sites closed due to Tropical Storm Isaias. A total of 57,272 results were recorded on Tuesday, compared to 88,244 a week earlier on July 28.

A health care worker performs an antigen test at a COVID-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Florida has now surpassed 500,000 coronavirus cases. Image via AP.

Florida hospital data shows good news. But here’s why the pandemic is far from over.” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Here’s good news for Florida: fewer people are in the hospital for COVID-19 than a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of the most important signs in the fight against the coronavirus. If current hospitalizations continue to decline, as they have for the past two weeks, that’s a clue fewer people are infected right now and fewer people will die in the future. As nice as it is to know that hospitalizations are down, remember that trends can change. In late spring, the data indicated fewer and fewer people were contracting the coronavirus in Florida every day. That flipped after the state re-opened.

Ron DeSantis’ changes to moratorium mean fewer families protected from eviction, foreclosure” via Emily L. Mahoney and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis’ decision last week to extend the state’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium until Sept. 1 appeared to be a welcome cushion for tenants who have fallen behind on their rent. But for some, sighs of relief may have been premature. The extension also included changes that lawyers who represent tenants say put more people at risk of losing their homes, exposing some who have been protected since April under the order’s previous version. Under the new order, only renters and single-family homeowners who have been “adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency” are protected. When that no longer applies, their unpaid bills become due, the order says, though it’s unclear if that means immediately upon a person getting re-hired.


State, union battle as school openings near” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other defendants, alleging that a July 6 order issued by Corcoran violates the state Constitution, which guarantees Floridians the right to “safe” and “secure” public education. But the Governor and Corcoran asked a Miami-Dade County circuit judge to toss out the lawsuit, calling it a “misguided effort to obtain a judicial mandate that forbids any school in the state from providing in-person instruction to any student.” Corcoran’s order requires all school districts to reopen brick-and-mortar schools at least five days a week sometime in August unless state and local health officials direct otherwise.

State officials and Florida’s largest teachers’ union are locked in a legal battle over an order requiring schools to reopen this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Image via Getty.

Even if COVID-19 eases, kids won’t return to the classroom soon” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As South Florida sees encouraging signs that COVID-19 cases may be starting to decline, many parents wonder when schools will finally open for in-person classes. The answer: Not for a while. School districts say the first step is to see at least two weeks when cases and hospitalizations trend downward. Other factors may include a daily rate of positive cases below 10% and possibly closer to 5%. The seven-day average of new daily cases has been declining since July 17. Hospitalizations have also been falling in the past two weeks. However, the rate of positive cases has remained high. On Tuesday, the rate was 10.6% for Broward, 13.7% for Miami-Dade and 9.8% for Palm Beach County. District officials say those numbers need to be lower.

Many teachers are fearful as they contemplate a return to school” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Throughout the Tampa Bay area and the nation, teachers are weighing a lifelong investment into a profession some consider a calling against the weighty unknown of returning to work in the coronavirus pandemic. Florida Education Secretary Corcoran’s July 6 directive to reopen physical schools before the end of August has left some feeling vulnerable and expendable. Nor do all teachers believe administrators are being realistic when they describe safety measures, such as masking, intensive cleaning and attempts at social distancing. Despite the concern, which is widespread, teacher reaction has been varied. While some are holding protest rallies and joining lawsuits, others are taking the situation in stride, reasoning that, in a pandemic, everybody is challenged.

Bradford County parents confused over district’s back-to-school options” via News4Jax — Bradford County parents are frustrated and confused over the school district’s reopening plan. An announcement posted Monday on the Bradford County School District’s Facebook page notified parents that the deadline to choose from three different back-to-school options was 5 p.m. Tuesday. But many parents said they weren’t aware of the third option. The district is allowing parents to choose from traditional school and Bradford Virtual Select, which is provided by MyDistrict Virtual School. The district previously had an option called Bradford Innovations, which was an online option with a classroom teacher, but it was recently voted down because of privacy concerns.

Superintendent warns of discipline if teachers, staff, students don’t follow virus rules” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — In an extraordinary email sent out to teachers and staff before the School Board meeting, Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna issued an urgent plea to follow COVID-19 social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines or face possible disciplinary consequences. “We hear you. We care about you. We know that change is hard, but it will also be hard to isolate from your family and be off work for 14 days if there is a positive test and you are within 6 feet of each other,” Hanna’s email read. “I am pleading with each of you reading this email to implement these changes now both professionally and in your personal life.” As roughly 50 teachers protested the reopening of schools while outside the building at the start of Tuesday’s School Board meeting, Hanna again referenced the email when discussing details of the district’s plans for an Aug. 31 start date. 

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna issued an urgent plea for teachers, students, and staff to follow virus guidelines — or risk disciplinary consequences.

Manatee school has COVID-19 shutdown on day one” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Samoset Elementary School in Manatee County had a positive COVID-19 case on Monday, the first day of staff training for the 2020-21 school year. Teachers in Manatee reported to schools for two weeks of preparations on Monday, with students set to return on Aug. 17. A district press release said after discovering the positive case at Samoset, administrators sent staff home so that workers could clean portions of the building. While most staff returned to work Tuesday, anyone who came into direct contact with the COVID-19 positive person must remain home for the next 14 days. Schools in Manatee are set to open for students on Aug. 17, with an array of new safety measures and instructional techniques in place. As a result of the exposure, the affected teachers will spend their entire two weeks of preparation for the school year at home.

College football is becoming impossible to justify in the pandemic” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — The mental gymnastics needed to justify major college football became even harder to execute Wednesday after the latest rush of concerning coronavirus updates. Start at UConn, which became the first Division I-A program to cancel its football season. The independent Huskies could have blamed their decision on scheduling difficulties as conferences opt for league-only seasons. Instead, they repeatedly cited health concerns. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk,” athletic director David Benedict said. One division believes it’s too unsafe for participants in what the NCAA considers a medium-contact sport (cross-country) to compete for championships this fall. Yet it’s safe enough for athletes in a high-contact sport (football) to suit up?

NCAA cancels fall championships for Division II due to COVID-19” via Eric J. Wallace of the Pensacola News Journal — The University of West Florida may be football national champions for a bit longer than anyone expected. The NCAA announced the cancellation of its fall championships for Division II and III schools on. The organization deemed it was not feasible to hold the events as scheduled or postpone them until the spring semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a move that will leave UWF as the reigning NCAA champion into 2021 at the earliest.

FHSAA athletic directors committee urges postponing football season until Nov. 30; will that happen?” via Adam Lichtenstein of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A majority of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Athletic Directors Advisory Committee recommended pushing the start of the fall sports season back to November due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to North Broward Prep athletic director and committee member Mike Ostrowski. The committee, which met Wednesday morning, recommended a policy that would delay fall sports practices until the end of November to the FHSAA Board of Directors, which will meet later this month to decide when fall sports will start. The FHSAA’s Football Advisory Committee met last week and recommended a different proposal, which would allow high school sports to begin practices on Aug. 24.


Miami-Dade tries to end CARES fight with cities with $100 million in COVID help” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade is nearly tripling a planned allocation of federal CARES Act money for local cities in an effort to defuse a public, bitter fight over the dollars that went to the county but not municipalities. County commissioners voted to reserve $100 million for city expenses and relief programs from the $474 million Miami-Dade received from Florida through the federal legislation passed in March. The administration of Mayor Carlos Giménez had previously proposed giving $30 million to cities. “I want to see if we can put this county-and-city issue to bed as soon as possible,” Commissioner Dennis Moss said after introducing the package, which passed unanimously.

Miami-Dade County received nearly $475 million in CARES Act money, of which Carlos Giménez was going to give only $30 million to cities. The County Commission bumped the number up to $100 million.

Sick ICE detainees are scared to die of COVID. Some beg federal judge to release them” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — The list of immigration detainees personally asking a Miami federal judge to release them from COVID-19-riddled detention centers in South Florida continues to grow. The new requests for release — each about 200 pages long — began to trickle in about two weeks ago after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that a detainee had died of the virus at a Palm Beach County hospital. It was, and remains, the state’s first reported COVID death of an immigration detainee. In their statements to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, 13 detainees urged her to let them continue their deportation proceedings from home because “death and/or permanent harm is imminent” due to serious underlying medical conditions. More detainees are expected to file requests this month.

Rick Ross is stepping up in the pandemic like the Miami Boss that he is. Here’s how.” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — As the coronavirus pandemic shows little sign of slowing down in Miami, Ross is stepping up to help the community. At 2 p.m. Saturday the rapper will be distributing groceries and PPE in the parking lot of the Calder Casino. The Boss is participating in The Feed Your City Challenge tour, co-founded by retired NBA star Ricky Davis, which travels to various cities helping those affected most by COVID-19. “So many issues are going on in the world right now. Not being able to feed your family shouldn’t be one of them,” says the organization on Instagram.

Some Jacksonville hospitals down to 4% ICU beds amid coronavirus” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The number of available adult intensive care units is decreasing in Jacksonville as the number of coronavirus cases continues to tick up. There are now about 29% of 340 ICU beds available in Jacksonville hospitals according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 101 of those beds are still available, but that’s down from Friday when 32% of ICU beds were available. Two UF Health hospitals in Jacksonville are under stress with one having only 4% ICU capacity and another with 16%. The greatest ICU availability in Jacksonville is at the Mayo Clinic which still has 38% of its 33 units open. Jacksonville added 181 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday morning. Those figures are down a bit because several COVID-19 testing sites were shut down for several days due to the threat of Hurricane Isaias. Most of those reopened Wednesday.

Jacksonville distributing $3 million in additional COVID-19 aid” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said city officials are working to distribute additional financial relief for small businesses, senior citizens and residents with disabilities. The City Council recently added $2 million into its small business relief fund and $1 million into its relief program for senior residents and people with disabilities. The money comes from the federal CARES Act grant the city received earlier this summer. Curry said city officials are contacting businesses eligible to receive money and will open an application for senior residents or people with disabilities to apply. The city’s relief program for small businesses offers $2,000 grants to eligible businesses, which must be located in Duval County and employ no more than 100 people. They are also required to have been in business for longer than a year.

St. Mary’s nurses say cheap masks ‘snapping off’ as they care for COVID-19 patients” via John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post — Nurses at St. Mary’s Medical Center complain they have been forced to wear masks that are not hospital-grade and snap off while they tend to the needs of patients with COVID-19. “They are the masks that can be found at Home Depot or Lowe’s,” said one nurse. Some say they have purchased their own personal protective equipment but the owner of St. Mary’s, Tenet Hospitals, prohibits the use of masks purchased on the open market. A few weeks ago, the hospital provided nurses with Chinese-made masks that were ill-fitting and also broke easily, they say. Those have been replaced by 3M masks that are not N-95 hospital-grade and snap off if the nurse dares to adjust her face shield, they say.

‘Good’ virus news in Florida? No, more like an admission of defeat” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On Sunday, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner became the latest politician to issue misplaced COVID-19 optimism. The county had recorded no deaths that day. The positive test rate was below 10% for the fifth day in a row. “This is a big deal,” Kerner said. “What we’re doing is working.” Kerner made those cheery comments as the case rate remained roughly six times higher than when the county began reopening in May. Any decline in COVID-19 metrics is welcome. But Kerner basically welcomed the potential upgrade of the county’s COVID-19 condition from critical to serious. If what the county had been doing was “working,” the recent surge would not have happened, at least not to the same level.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner is the latest case of misplaced COVID-19 optimism.

Seniors at Episcopal residence could lose meals, homes in 9 days” via John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Herald — Low-income seniors displaced from their mold-ridden, fire-prone downtown West Palm Beach high-rise may soon be homeless if the building cannot be repaired and pass inspection in less than two weeks. The 182-unit St. Andrews Residence was evacuated in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic after an electrical fire on June 14. Some seniors found refuge with family and friends, but many others were scattered among hotels far from the downtown. The building is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, which has been providing meals for the residents and paying for the hotel rooms. The management company for St. Andrews, however, dropped a bombshell with a memo in the meals it delivers to the seniors. SPM Management said in the Sunday memo that it has secured meals for hotel rooms and meals only through the end of next week. “We cannot assure the additional money will be available after that date or that the building will be available for occupancy,” the memo read.


Collier now 10th Florida county with more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Collier County became the 10th county in the state to surpass 10,000 known cases of COVID-19. The county passed the milestone the same day the total number of Florida cases passed 500,000. The Florida Department of Health reported an additional 153 positive COVID-19 tests Wednesday in Collier. After seeing five additional deaths reported on Tuesday compared to Monday, the county did not report any new fatalities on Wednesday. But the five-digit caseload puts the county in notorious company, which includes neighboring counties. Most notably, Miami-Dade County remains the community with the most infections statewide by far, representing 125,949 total positive tests. Also to the east, Broward County has reported 59,354 infections. Looking specifically at Collier, a thin silver lining may be the community hasn’t ravaged older populations the same as other Southwest Florida communities.

Woman asked for compassionate release. The prison refused. She just died of COVID-19” via Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Tressa Clements pressed her hand to the ICU window and spoke through her tears. “Baby girl, I pray to God you would wake up,” she said to her child, lashed to a ventilator. “I want you to wake up.” That was Sunday evening — the penultimate day of Saferia Johnson’s life. Johnson, an inmate at the women’s work camp at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County, died the next morning, just after 10. The cause: COVID-19. She was 36. Johnson, a nonviolent inmate with two young sons, had petitioned the prison for compassionate release on home confinement. The prison had rejected the request, which is at the discretion of the warden, subject to certain conditions.

Saferia Johnson, an inmate at the women’s work camp at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, was denied compassionate release before dying of COVID-19. Image via Miami Herald/Tressa Clements.

What Evan Power is reading — Leon County mask ordinance leads to tantrums, complaints in first few weeks” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A fight broken up outside of a Trulieve medical marijuana dispensary. Trespass warnings issued at a CVS Pharmacy and a gym. Complaints about restaurant workers, grocery store shoppers and U.S. Post Office patrons. That’s just a slice of the tension that surrounded the first few weeks of local police enforcement of a Leon County mask ordinance requiring that a face-covering be worn indoors to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. In the three weeks after June 24 when the ordinance was passed by county commissioners, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and Tallahassee Police Department responded to at least 80 complaints, according to public records. The records give a window into the tough position law enforcement officials find themselves in, caught somewhere between education, enforcement and the agitation that accompanies several of the complaints.

Fight over Leon County face mask mandate heads to Florida appeals court” via Jim Saunders of the Tallahassee Democrat — A battle about the constitutionality of a Leon County ordinance that requires people to wear face masks to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 is headed to a state appeals court. Plaintiff Evan Power, the county Republican Party chairman who is teaming with state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, to challenge the ordinance, has filed a notice that he is taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal. That notice came after Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper last week issued a 27-page final judgment rejecting arguments that the ordinance violates a series of constitutional rights, including rights to privacy and due process. The Leon County case is one of several playing out across the state after local governments passed face-mask requirements to try to address the pandemic.

Liberty County Commissioner Dexter Barber dies of complications from COVID-19” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Liberty County Commissioner who died from complications with COVID-19 is being remembered as a generous man and a champion of his rural corner of Florida. Barber died early Wednesday morning, the first county commissioner in the state to pass during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. His death was announced by Florida Association of Counties President Melissa McKinlay. McKinlay, herself a Palm Beach County Commissioner, announced the death on Twitter. “Florida has lost her first county commissioner to COVID,” McKinlay wrote. “Commissioner Dexter Barber from Liberty County passed away early this morning. We are currently gathering details & ask you to keep the Barber family in your prayers.”

Ocala ordinance relies on businesses to encourage mask-wearing indoors” via Joe Byrnes of WMFE — The Ocala City Council approved a mask ordinance requiring face coverings indoors. The vote came on a day when Marion County reported a record 12 deaths from the coronavirus. The mandate applies, not to individuals, but to businesses, churches and government offices. They must require workers to wear masks. They also must post signs, make announcements, and make reasonable requests to visitors who aren’t wearing one. There are exceptions for small children, certain health conditions and religious objections. As an emergency ordinance, it required approval from four of five councilmen. A three-to-two split sank a similar ordinance two weeks ago. The swing vote, Councilman Brent Malever, said they needed to do something to help.

Steep uptick in COVID-19 cases being seen in Okaloosa County children” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — COVID-19 cases began rising steeply among children in Okaloosa County around Memorial Day, about the same time their “traditional summer” vacation would have begun, according to Okaloosa County Department of Health Director Dr. Karen Chapman. “This coincides with children participating in summer recovery programs, summer camps, and other group activities, such as dance and sports,” Chapman wrote Monday in her weekly report to county officials. The 224 cases thus far diagnosed among children 17 or younger may seem small in the context of Okaloosa’s 3,106 overall cases, but Chapman noted that the number of sick kids totaled just six prior to May 23. “Since that time 219 children have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” she said in the report.

COVID-19 devastated Panama City Beach bed tax collections” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Despite a recent uptick in visitors, COVID-19 has still been “devastating” to Panama City Beach’s tourism industry, a local official said. According to Lacee Rudd, spokeswoman for the Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council, local lodging revenues are down by roughly $58 million and visitor spending has fallen to about $166 million this spring season. Despite this, Rudd said that bed tax collections for June were up by more than 5% over the same period in 2018. The group is using that period as a comparison to “eliminate anomalies from the false economy” created by Hurricane Michael, she said. In total, more than $4.4 million in bed taxes were collected in June, information from the TDC showed.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson positive for COVID-19 after attending conference” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19 after recently attending a Florida Sheriffs Association conference. Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Rich Aloy said in a news release that Johnson is “doing extremely well and is currently quarantined at his residence.” Johnson attended the Florida Sheriffs Association conference in Bonita Springs last week, Aloy confirmed in a press release. “During the conference, Sheriff Johnson followed CDC Guidelines of practicing social distancing and the utilization of PPE (mask),” Aloy wrote in the release. “Just after the Sheriff’s return from the conference, he felt a bit under the weather and decided to proactively test for COVID. The test returned positive.” Other people who attended the conference have also tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from the event, including the sheriff of Volusia County, the sheriff of Levy County and the sheriff of Gilchrist County, as well as the top two officials of the Florida Department of Corrections.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a conference.

Walton County to buy rapid-test equipment to address COVID-19” via Jim Thompson of the NWD Daily News — Walton County will be getting its own rapid testing equipment for COVID-19, using part of its latest allocation of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, part of a $2.2 trillion nationwide economic relief package. The latest CARES Act funding for the county, $3.2 million, is one-quarter of the total amount of CARES Act funding coming to the county. On Wednesday, in a continuance of their regular meeting on July 28, commissioners approved an outlay of $338,864 to cover the cost of three rapid-testing machines, the staff required to operate the machines, and the test strips analyzed by the machines. 


With bad coronavirus news at home, Donald Trump points misleadingly to rising cases abroad” via Anne Gearan of The Washington Post — With coronavirus cases nearing 5 million in the United States and average daily deaths topping 1,000, the United States is the hottest hot spot in the ongoing pandemic, a ranking that wasn’t exactly what Trump had in mind with his “America First” doctrine. You wouldn’t know it, however, to hear the president describe the U.S. performance in handling the virus; he called it “an amazing job, a great job” on Monday, and recited a list of other countries experiencing a rebound in infections. In recent days, Trump has increasingly pointed to the experiences of other countries in an attempt to dilute the bad news at home and justify the largely hands-off federal response, which has included no national mandates or lockdowns.

Donald Trump is using misdirection to turn attention away from increasing coronavirus troubles. Image via The Washington Post.

NYC imposes traveler checkpoints to enforce COVID-19 quarantine” via Henry Goldman of Bloomberg — New York City will stop travelers from 35 states and territories with high COVID-19 transmission rates at train stations, airports, and bridge and tunnel crossings to enforce quarantine rules, requiring people to sign forms that will enable officials to keep tabs on their whereabouts. The city will deliver food, medication and provide hotel rooms for travelers who need them, said Ted Long, who is in charge of the test-and-trace program. Officials increased the restrictions after noticing several instances of infected people arriving from states with high transmission rates, Long said. The quarantine will be applied to both visitors from out of state and New Yorkers returning from a place on the restriction list. Although the crackdown is intended to educate and motivate people to obey the rules, violators may be fined as much as $10,000 under the state quarantine order.


U.S. hiring slowed dramatically in July as coronavirus cases surged, ADP report says” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — U.S. businesses appeared to slow their hiring dramatically in July, adding only 167,000 workers to their private payrolls, a steep drop from analysts’ expectations that could add new urgency to stalled congressional talks over another round of federal coronavirus aid. The numbers reported Wednesday by ADP mark a significant departure from the more than 1 million jobs that some economists had predicted and a sharp falloff from hiring gains reported just a month prior, suggesting almost no sector of the U.S. economy has been untouched by the apparent new slowdown. “The labor market recovery slowed in the month of July,” Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, said in a statement. “We have seen the slowdown impact businesses across all sizes and sectors.”

Remote work really does mean longer days — and more meetings” via Jena McGregor of The Washington Post — The massive global shift to remote work since the pandemic began has led to some upsides: More flexibility, no commute, more comfortable pants. But those who sense this grand experiment in working from home also comes with plenty of downsides, longer days, more meetings and more email to answer, are now backed up by data from 3.1 million workers. The average workday lengthened by 48.5 minutes in the weeks following stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, and the number of meetings increased by 13%. The study, which examined the anonymous email and calendar data of more than three million users from an unnamed tech provider, also found significant increases in internal email and in meeting sizes. Anyone who has been working from home amid the unyielding health crisis, especially those also juggling the education or care of children, will not be surprised.

Longer days, more meetings: There are pitfalls in working from home. Image via AP.

For the unemployed, rising grocery prices stretch budgets even more” via Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — The cost of groceries has been rising at the fastest pace in decades since the coronavirus pandemic seized the U.S. economy, leading to sticker shock for basic staples such as beef and eggs and forcing struggling households to rethink how to put enough food on the table. Long-standing supply chains for everyday grocery items have been upended as the pandemic sickened scores of workers, forced factory closures and punctured the carefully calibrated networks that brought food from farms to store shelves. Even while some of the sharpest price hikes have eased somewhat, the overall effects are being felt most acutely by the nearly 30 million Americans who saw their $600 enhanced unemployment benefit expire last Friday.


Most cruise lines opt to extend sailing halt through at least October” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Coronavirus continues to keep the cruise industry at bay, and now most major cruise lines have agreed to extend their voluntary halt to sailing from the U.S. until at least November, although some have already put off sailing until December. Cruise Lines International Association announced its ocean-faring lines will keep their ships without passengers until at least Oct. 31, pushing a previous no-sail agreement past Sept. 15. This applies to member lines including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Celebrity, Princess and Disney Cruise Line among others. All cruise lines continue to fall under a no-sail order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that applies to U.S. ports that runs through Sept. 30. Princess Cruises had already canceled sailings through Dec. 15.

COVID-19 result cuts short 1st Alaska cruise of stunted season” via Mark Thiessen of The Associated Press — The first cruise in an already decimated southeast Alaska cruise season came to a devastating end Wednesday when a small ship carrying 36 passengers returned to Juneau because one of the guests had tested positive for COVID-19. All 36 guests on the Wilderness Adventurer will quarantine at a hotel and the 30 crew members will quarantine on the ship in Gastineau Channel, just off Juneau’s downtown. The loss of cruise ships capable of carrying thousands of people has been devastating to Alaska’s tourism economy this summer, particularly for communities in southeast Alaska that would have seen their populations swell with the influx of tourists. The state tourism industry had anticipated 2.2 million visitors, many of them on cruises. Larger cruise ships, those carrying more than 250 passengers and crew members, have been under no-sail orders, but smaller companies were allowed to continue operating.

The Wilderness Adventurer following its return to Juneau, Alaska, after one of its 36 passengers tested positive for COVID-19. Image via AP.

Day trips instead of destinations: Tourist hot spots brace for lean years” via Danielle Moran, Andre Tartar, Amanda Albright and Christopher Cannon of Bloomberg — From California’s wine country to Colorado’s ski towns and Florida’s beaches, American cities that built their economies around tourists are being upended by COVID-19. For many towns, day-trippers are replacing free-spending vacationers. Social-distancing guidelines are crimping restaurant sales, and hotel stays have fallen dramatically. That’s eating into the tax revenue that funds schools and police, prompting local officials to slash budgets and furlough workers. Data, as well as interviews with mayors, budget directors and other government officials, offer another view of what’s at stake as lawmakers in Washington debate whether to provide more aid to coronavirus-battered states and cities.

Clorox won’t have enough disinfecting wipes until 2021, says CEO” via Reuters — Grocery shelves won’t be fully stocked with Clorox’s disinfecting wipes until next year, CEO Benno Dorer said, as the world’s biggest cleaning products maker struggles with overwhelming pandemic-led demand for its top product. Since the start of global lockdowns, makers of hygiene goods have seen a sustained boom in sales. While California-based Clorox typically holds aside excess supply for flu seasons, it says it has been unable to keep up with a six-fold increase in demand for many of its disinfectants. The company is currently understocked across much of its portfolio, which includes Glad trash bags and Burt’s Bees lip balm. Supply for most products, like liquid bleach, will improve dramatically over the next four to six months, but not wipes, Dorer said.


New charge for man accused of Nokomis white supremacist attack” via Alan Shaw of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A Wachula man tattooed with swastikas and other racist symbols faces a new charge of indecent exposure after he went on a tirade at a Nokomis restaurant last week, proclaiming to be a white supremacist and striking a female staff member, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office reported Wednesday. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Nicholas Arnold Schock, exposed himself during the incident at Pop’s Sunset Grill, on July 31. He is charged with battery, disturbing the peace and indecent exposure. He is being held at the Sarasota County Jail on $105,000 bail. Schock appeared to tell deputies before he was taken into custody, in a video posted by a bystander on Facebook, that he has psychological issues.


Trump says no drilling in eastern Gulf of Mexico” via Jim Thompson of the Panama City News-Herald — In what may turn out to be good news for efforts to keep oil and gas exploration out of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to protect both the environment and a military test range that spans the area, Trump is on record saying that there won’t be any drilling in the area. Speaking exclusively with Spectrum News, a Charter Communications cable news product, after stepping off Air Force One in Tampa on Saturday, Trump alluded to an order he said he had put out some time ago on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Trump was responding to this question from Holly Gregory of Spectrum News, who asked: “And you know how important our coast is and tourism. Would you be willing to commit to no drilling in the eastern Gulf? You know the situation with that.”

NBA players kneel for the national anthem. Trump says ‘it’s disgraceful.’” via Jason Dill of the Miami Herald — Trump made an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” on Wednesday via a phone interview. During his appearance lasting more than 50 minutes, Trump was asked about NBA players kneeling for the national anthem after their season resumed in Orlando. Only two players, the Heat’s Meyers Leonard and the Magic’s Jonathan Isaac, have stood for the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which plays before each game. “I think it’s disgraceful,” Trump said on the show. “I think it’s disgraceful. We work with [the NBA]. We work very hard trying to get them open. … It’s not acceptable to me.” Trump also said nobody has done more for the Black community than him.

Donald Trump is none too pleased with NBA players kneeling for the national anthem. Image via AP.


August Cabinet meeting called off” via the News Service of Florida — A scheduled Florida Cabinet meeting has been canceled, to the displeasure of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat on the panel. DeSantis’ office did not immediately give a reason why DeSantis, Fried, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody won’t meet. The statewide elected officials have met only once since Feb. 4, with a May 28 meeting held by phone. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, the Governor’s office has pointed to the Capitol remaining closed to visitors and a need to keep a safe and healthy workplace. Fried’s office released a statement criticizing the cancellation.

Nikki Fried jabs at Ron DeSantis for Cabinet meeting cancellation” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Criticism of DeSantis does not signal a 2022 campaign run yet, Fried says” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Florida’s top elected Democrat isn’t running for Governor in 2022. At least not for now. Agriculture Commissioner Fried told the Miami Herald Wednesday that for the moment, she is “fully focused” on her current job. And while she has made her criticism of the current administration widely known, she says she remains focused on issues around COVID-19. She did, however, allude to an “electoral reckoning” she thinks DeSantis will face as a result of his response to the pandemic. “I do think we deserve more from our Governor,” she wrote in a statement to the Herald Wednesday. “There will be an electoral reckoning for his choices.”

Criticizing Ron DeSantis does not necessarily mean Nikki Fried is looking to run for Florida Governor.

Florida Supreme Court rejects appeals in FSU hazing death case” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — The state Supreme Court declined to take up appeals by a former Florida State University fraternity president and two other fraternity members, clearing the way for them to face felony hazing charges in the 2017 death of a pledge who drank heavily at an off-campus party. Former Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity chapter President Anthony Petagine and fraternity members Luke Kluttz and Anthony Oppenheimer went to the Supreme Court in April after the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned a Leon County circuit judge’s ruling that dismissed felony charges against them.

Farmers seek to dismiss refiled lawsuit alleging harm from controlled sugar-cane burns” via Florida Politics — U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and other South Florida agribusinesses are seeking to dismiss a refiled lawsuit alleging controlled sugar-cane burns are causing health problems for nearby residents in the Glades. Plaintiff residents argued the smoke from burns contains pollutants that spread outside of farmland into communities, causing harm for those living nearby. The burns are done to remove leafy material from the stalks before they are harvested and moved to a mill. In May, a judge dismissed several of the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing they were not sufficiently supported. He did, however, allow the plaintiffs to refile their suit. The newly amended complaint now attempts to address the judge’s concerns.

County commissioners support open carry of guns, lowering minimum gun purchase age from 21 to 18” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Brevard County commissioners have come out in support of a change in Florida Statute to allowing gun owners in the state to openly carry their weapons, as long as they have a concealed weapons permit. Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday night in favor of a resolution introduced by Chair Bryan Lober, urging the six-member Brevard delegation to the Florida Legislature to push for such a change in the 2021 legislative session. The resolution also included an amendment, introduced by Commissioner John Tobia, to reverse portions of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

Police: 3 teens inadvertently jump wall into Mar-a-Lago” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Three teenagers fleeing police while carrying a semi-automatic gun in a backpack jumped a wall at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, but probably didn’t know that’s where they were, authorities said. Palm Beach Police spokesman Michael Ogrodnick said the 15-year-old boys were arrested shortly after they entered the grounds of the resort Friday and dumped the backpack, which contained a mini AK-47 with a loaded 14-round magazine. He said the three are lucky that neither the president nor any family members were there because Secret Service agents might have shot them. The club is closed for the summer. “They had no idea where they were,” Ogrodnick said.

Driving, highway fees take a hit” via the News Service of Florida — The state ended the fiscal year with $127.1 million less in what are known as highway safety fees than had been earlier projected and is estimated to receive about $153.1 million less than expected during the fiscal year that started July 1, according to the Revenue Estimating Conference. “The revised estimates were primarily colored by persistent effects associated with the coronavirus outbreak,” the report said. “Actual revenue collections for the 2019-20 fiscal year came in well short of anticipated levels due to a series of agency actions to suspend, waive and extend certain registration and enforcement activities through most of the last quarter of FY 2019-20, as well as temporary office closures.”

Outside review found pattern of misconduct at Osceola clerk’s office” via Critóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — A report produced in May by an outside firm found a litany of inappropriate practices in the Osceola Clerk of Court’s office, including questionable hirings of friends and relatives of high-ranking officials as well as abuse of work hours and time off. The 48-page report was commissioned by Clerk of Courts Armando Ramirez after several members of his staff wrote letters that “suggested a pervasive pattern of inappropriate activity.” Many of the allegations involve relatives of Ramirez, a Democrat who has been the clerk since 2013. He is currently running for reelection. Asked what changes had been made in the months since the report was produced, the clerk’s office in an unsigned statement said “various actions were taken in response to the findings,” but did not specify any.

Orlando landscapers praised for reaction to woman’s viral racist tirade” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Brandon Cordova and his landscaping crewmates were finishing up their second-to-last job of the day in the backyard of a house in Delaney Park — having battled temperatures in the 90s and humidity for hours — when he heard a commotion. A woman was cursing and yelling at his co-workers in front of the home. Cordova, wanting to document the encounter in case it escalated, pulled out his phone and started filming from a distance. Soon, the woman began shouting racial slurs. The landscaping crew has drawn widespread praise for their calm reaction to the woman’s rant and attempts to diffuse the tense confrontation.

Disney, sheriff sued over 2019 CBD oil arrest: ‘Why would Mickey Mouse arrest grandma?’” via Monivette Cordeiro —A North Carolina great-grandmother who was arrested last year at the Magic Kingdom for carrying CBD oil alleges she was falsely imprisoned and terrorized during the ordeal in a lawsuit filed against The Walt Disney Co. and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Hester Burkhalter, 70, said deputies assaulted and humiliated her in front of her family and other tourists in April 2019 when they detained her for carrying cannabidiol oil, made from the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, according to the complaint filed in Orange County circuit court.

Twitter teen’s Bitcoin millions debated in bail hearing — that got Zoom bombed by porn” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Before Graham Ivan Clark was arrested in last month’s high-profile hack of Twitter, the 17-year-old was under investigation for a less conspicuous digital crime: “Sim swapping” is a scam where the cellphone provider is tricked into switching one person’s phone number to a phone owned by the scammer. Using that information, one could siphon personal information and money. Those revelations were the subject of a bail reduction hearing Wednesday requested by the defense to convince the court to reduce the 17-year-old’s $725,000 bail. He has been in the Hillsborough County jail since Friday, when he was arrested on charges that he reaped about $117,000 by accessing the Twitter accounts of prominent celebrities and companies and to solicit payments of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

High-profile Twitter hacker Graham Ivan Clark’s Zoom hearing went about the way you would expect. Image via AP.

Amazon launches first fulfillment center in Tampa Bay area” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — Online mega-retailer Amazon announced plans Wednesday to open a new warehouse in Temple Terrace and a delivery station in Lutz in 2021. The more than 600,000-square-foot “fulfillment center” will result in 750 new jobs. In Florida, there are currently Amazon fulfillment and sorting centers in Lakeland, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Davenport and Ruskin. “The City of Temple Terrace is very excited to welcome Amazon as our newest corporate citizen,” Temple Terrace acting Mayor Andrew Ross said in a news release. “Amazon’s presence in our amazing city will bring more jobs and opportunities for residents and those throughout the region.” The company emphasized its benefits package for workers and minimum starting wage of $15 an hour. 

No powerboat races in Key West this year. But the holiday parade could still happen” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Race World Offshore said that the Key West races, which draw crowds on land and sea, are scratched for 2020. “Race World made the decision to cancel the event as a precaution to protect our teams, fans and the city of Key West,” the organization said. “This is not a decision we made lightly, but the health and safety of our fans are our primary concern.” Fantasy Fest, the city’s largest annual party that draws some 70,000 people over 10 days, was canceled in July. But city leaders aren’t ready to give up on one special event: the island’s holiday parade, which as of Tuesday could still take place in December.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Taylor Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Alternative Claims Management

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: The Florida NightClub & Bar Association

Fred Karlinsky, Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: Neo Insurance Solutions

Ryan Mahoney: Apple

Matt Spritz, The Spritz Group: Cigar Bar Management

— 2020 —

Trump campaign seeks early September presidential debate” via Alayna Treene and Stef W. Kight of Axios — The Trump campaign is asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to move up the last presidential debate to the first week in September to get ahead of an expected surge in early voting. Trump‘s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, made the request in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by Axios. Giuliani has been leading the campaign’s discussions with the debate commission, which also includes asking the commission to add a fourth debate. If the commission declines to add a fourth debate, the letter asks that the debate currently scheduled for Oct. 22 be moved up to the first week in September, before the first ballots are sent on Sept. 4 in North Carolina.

Donald Trump is asking to debate Joe Biden in early September.

Trump’s campaign knocks on a million doors a week. Joe Biden’s knocks on 0.” via Alex Thompson of Politico — The Republican and Democratic parties — from the presidential candidates on down — are taking polar opposite approaches to door-to-door canvassing this fall. The competing bets on the value of face-to-face campaigning during a pandemic has no modern precedent, making it a potential wild card in November, especially in close races. The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee think they can compensate for the lack of in-person canvassing with phone calls, texts, new forms of digital organizing, and virtual meetups with voters. Trump and the Republican National Committee, in contrast, started deploying mask-wearing field staffers and volunteers to the streets in June.

Republicans consider South Lawn of the White House for Trump’s convention speech” via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The decision to stage the most high-profile political event of Trump’s reelection campaign at the national seat of presidential power would be just the latest break by Trump in presidential norms, which have historically drawn clear lines between official business of the president and campaign events. People involved in the planning said that no final decision had been made on the location of the Republican convention’s celebratory events. Trump abandoned plans to hold the full convention in Charlotte, and later Jacksonville over concerns that large crowds could spread the novel coronavirus.

Mike Pence emphasizes anti-abortion message in Tampa Bay visit” via Kirby Wilson and Margo Snipe of the Tampa Bay Times — Pence spent Wednesday afternoon in Tampa Bay shoring up a passionate evangelical base that will be critical to Trump’s reelection efforts. During a noon speech, Pence reminded a crowd at a Baptist church in Seminole that Trump is, has been, and will be an anti-abortion president. His opponent, Biden, would not be, he said. “Make no mistake about it, Joe Biden would appoint activist judges to our courts who would legislate from the bench and trample on our most cherished liberties,” Pence said before a crowd of about one hundred at the Starkey Road Baptist Church.

Mike Pence takes his anti-abortion message to Clearwater. Image via AP.

Democrats’ Milwaukee convention will be entirely virtual, and Joe Biden and others will stay away.” via The New York Times — Democrats are once again dialing back plans for their party convention, announcing on Wednesday that the event will effectively be entirely virtual. On the advice of health officials working for the party, no national Democratic officials, not even former Vice President Biden, will travel from out of state to participate in events, which will begin on Aug. 17. Biden will accept the party’s presidential nomination from his home state, Delaware. Democrats argue that the decision reinforces a sharp contrast that Biden has drawn throughout the public health crisis: He takes the coronavirus crisis seriously, and Trump does not. “I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Biden said at a fundraiser. “Science matters.”

Biden announces $280 million fall ad buy across 15 states” via Shane Goldmacher and Katie Glueck of The New York Times — Biden’s campaign announced a $280 million fall advertising blitz on Wednesday, outlining plans for $220 million in television and $60 million in digital ads across 15 states in the lead-up to the November election. The ad reservation, which will begin on Sept. 1, is by far the biggest of the 2020 race by either campaign and is a sign of the swift turnabout in Biden’s finances, as both small and large donors have rallied behind him since he became the presumptive Democratic nominee against Trump. Trump has reserved more than $145 million in television ads in 11 states starting after Labor Day; he has not announced the size of his digital reservations.

Biden says he’ll reverse Trump immigration policy in push to reach Florida Hispanics” via David Smiley and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Biden would grant permanent legal status to Venezuelan exiles in the U.S. if he becomes president, end the federal government’s deputizing of local law enforcement on immigration matters, and, on his first day in office, file an immigration bill creating a “legal road map” for roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status, advisers to the presumptive Democratic nominee said Tuesday. Biden’s presidential campaign released staples of his plan for Latinos during a call with reporters, laying out the former vice president’s intent to reverse much of Trump’s immigration policies and take steps to provide improved health care and education to Hispanic communities. His advisers, who spoke to reporters on the condition that they not be named, said the campaign is pushing out its message for Biden and against Trump in battleground states including Florida.


Mail voting surges across South Florida — with more than 300,000 ballots cast so far” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida voters are making their intentions clear about casting their ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. They’re voting by mail — in droves. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have each passed the 100,000 mark in mail ballots cast for the Aug. 18 Democratic and Republican primaries and nonpartisan elections for various offices including School Board and judgeships. What’s remarkable about this year’s numbers is Broward and Palm Beach counties have already well exceeded the total number of vote-by-mail ballots cast in the August elections in both 2016 and 2018 and Miami-Dade County is about to pass its 2016 and 2018 totals.

Republicans closing voter registration gap with Democrats” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republicans have made statewide gains on Democrats in registering voters in Florida since the last presidential election, as the official voter registration book closing for the August 18 primaries show. The latest book closing report for the August 18 election shows Democrats’ voter registration advantage over Republicans has been trimmed to 1.7% statewide. That is down from the gaps seen in the last several statewide elections, including the 2016 general election. Democrats had a voter registration advantage then of 2.5% but Republicans won the big contests anyway. Between the November 2016 election and now, the Florida GOP has increased its voter base by 377,196. Florida Democrats meanwhile, have grown their party by just 290,181 registered voters.

Group calls for ‘universal’ mail-in voting” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The nonprofit group Integrity Florida released an analysis of changes made after the troubled 2018 elections and suggested the coronavirus pandemic will require going to a universal process in which ballots would be mailed to all voters, with some in-person voting statewide or at the county level. Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida, said he anticipates Republican legislative leaders might be more open to the proposals after the 2020 elections, as some Western states are using universal voting and others are using it on local levels. “I think people are going to be more open to going to universal mail balloting once this election is over and we see how successful it has been,” Wilcox said.

Scott Franklin’s big get: A Matt Gaetz endorsement” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Franklin, a Republican candidate to replace incumbent Ross Spano in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, is raking up some prominent conservative endorsements. Gaetz declared his endorsement of Franklin in the Republican primary over Spano. “I am honored to be here supporting Scott Franklin for Congress. Scott is a business leader, he has worked in local government in Central Florida, and he answered the call to serve our country in uniform,” Gaetz said. “Scott, thank you for your willingness to step up and run for Congress. I need some backup up there and I hope you can help us.”

Scott Franklin’s big get — an endorsement from fellow conservative Matt Gaetz.

Sheldon Adelson wades into CD 27 contest with maxed-out donation to Maria Elvira Salazar” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are pitching in to help Republican candidate Maria Elvira Salazar as she seeks to oust incumbent Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson each donated $5,600, for a total of $11,200, to the Salazar campaign according to newly-filed reports with the Federal Election Commission. 

Javier Fernandez is raising big, but latest poll suggests making it to November is no sure thing” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats’ best — and possibly only — chance for a flip is Senate District 39, and Rep. Javier Fernandez is the best equipped to make it happen. If he makes the November ballot, it could come down to a coin flip. And that is definitely an if, not a when. A new St. Pete Poll’s survey shows that Fernandez has an edge over Democratic primary rival Dan Horton-Diaz, but not a big one. Just 24% of voters are behind Fernandez, while 16% say they’re voting for Horton-Diaz. Three-fifths are undecided. There are some caveats: This was an English only IVR poll, the sample size was 203, and the margin of error is plus or minus 6.9 percentage points.

Daniel Perez committee rakes in $477,000” via the News Service of Florida — A political committee led by Perez, in line to become a future House Speaker, piled up contributions in July. The Conservatives for a Better Florida PAC collected $477,000 during the month, with much of the money coming from major players in the Capitol. The contributions included $145,000 from four PACs linked to Associated Industries of Florida. Other contributions included $25,000 from Dosal Tobacco Corp.; $25,000 from Publix Super Markets; $25,000 from The Big Easy Casino; and $25,000 from Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc. Perez is in line to become Speaker in 2024 if he continues getting elected in his Miami-Dade County district.

José Oliva committee sends another $180K to group attacking Perez” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — New reports show Oliva’s committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, cut the six-figure check to Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership on July 20. Oliva sent $580,000 to the committee to date. Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership has been releasing attack ads hammering Perez in his reelection campaign, sending mailers and posting ads on social media calling him soft on Cuba — a serious infraction among the district’s conservative electorate. The committee’s homepage currently features an ad asking voters to “reject lying representative Danny Perez in August 2020” and photos of mailers describing his primary challenger as a “true Republican.” Citizens for Ethical & Effective Leadership’s finance report lists Oliva’s contribution as its only income for the week of July 18-24.

José Oliva doubles down to continue attacks against future House Speaker Daniel Perez.

Webster Barnaby leading ahead of HD 27 primary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Barnaby hopes decades of advocacy on the part of businesses and voters bring success in House District 27. A new St. Pete Polls survey shows he has reason for optimism. The poll of likely Republican voters shows if the primary were held today, nearly 36% would vote for Barnaby. Another 16% would pick Erika Benfield and just over 9% would choose Zenaida Denizac. That jives with what Barnaby sees in the district as well. “Based on my knocking on doors and talking to constituents consistently every day, there’s an overwhelming groundswell of support for my candidacy,” he told Florida Politics. Votes remain in play with less than two weeks before the primary. More than 39% of voters remain undecided, and half of voters don’t plan to vote until they can do so in person.

—“Danny Kushmer backed by FMA PAC in bid for HD 59” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—“Jim Boyd backs Fiona McFarland in HD 72 race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Bryan Blackwell pushes back on cocaine mailer, calls old arrest a false charge” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new attack on Cape Coral Republican Blackwell raises a drug arrest from college. But the House candidate said he never faced charges because they were bogus. A mailer from the Just The Facts PAC raises a 1995 arrest from when Blackwell was driving home from Florida State University. He was stopped in Jefferson County and arrested for driving on a suspended license. But records also show he was arrested on a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to sell. But Blackwell said the piece dredges up false charges. By his telling, an officer pulled him over and claimed to find drugs. But when sent to the lab, the substance was not cocaine.

Bryan Blackwell pushes back against a ‘false charge’ of cocaine possession.

—“Meet Silmo Moura, a Republican running for House District 81” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

HD 120 candidate Alexandria Suarez ready to ‘roar’ in new ad” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Suarez is releasing a new ad attempting to play up her conservative bona fides as she competes for the Republican nomination in House District 120. Suarez is one of three candidates seeking the GOP mantle in the district. Wednesday, her team unveiled the 30-second TV ad as she seeks to separate herself from her well-funded rivals. “You know, liberals just don’t take us seriously,” Suarez begins in the ad. “They say just because we’re a woman we can’t be conservative, we can’t be tough on illegal immigration, that we should hate Trump. Well, I’m a woman. I’m a pro-gun, pro-life, pro-Trump conservative woman. I’ll help secure the border and I am A-rated by the NRA.” Suarez is fighting an uphill battle in the primary. She’s third among Republican candidates in cash on hand with around $15,000 available.


Josh Rydell drops another $52K in bid for Broward State Attorney” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rydell spent another $52,000 as he seeks to secure the Democratic nomination in the Broward County State Attorney’s race. The vast majority of that money, $50,000, went to Impact Politics for a TV ad campaign. Another $1,500 went to Advantage First Consulting Services for a radio ad. Rydell has been the best fundraiser in the contest, adding nearly $289,000 in outside money during his campaign. He also pitched in more than $17,000 of his own money in the form of self-loans. Agriculture Commissioner Fried endorsed Rydell for the position in May. In the latest financial reports, spanning July 25-31, Rydell added more than $10,000 to his bid. Rydell has spent all but $13,000 of his cash as the race nears the Aug. 18 primary.

Josh Rydell sinks another $50K into his bid for Broward State Attorney.

Chad Klitzman drops $40K on campaign mail for Broward SOE contest” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Broward County Supervisor of Elections candidate Klitzman put nearly $40,000 toward a mailer campaign as the Aug. 18 primary draws closer. Klitzman is part of a six-person field seeking the Democratic nomination. The winner of that contest will be favored in the November general election, as Broward leans Democratic. Klitzman paid $39,728 to Victory Political Mail on July 21. Add up a few other minor expenses, and his campaign burned through more than $40,000 from July 18-24. Klitzman has secured some major endorsements, earning support from former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Broward County School Board Member Lori Alhadeff, who lost her daughter in the 2018 Parkland shooting.


How do we handle 5 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S.? Talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails!” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — One-hundred fifty-seven thousand dead. Thirty-two million out of work. Tens of millions facing eviction, foreclosure and hunger. What do we do now? Simple: We talk about Hillary’s emails! “During the investigation of Clinton over her email server, James Comey, the FBI director, had a news conference, on July 5 where he … said ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would prosecute that case,” Sen. John Cornyn said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Did you know before July 5, 2016, that he was going to do that?” Cornyn asked. The witness, Sally Yates, told Cornyn she had not known. “When he reopened the case after Anthony Weiner’s computer was looked at, did you know he was going to reopen the case beforehand?” It “That was more than four years ago now,” Yates replied, “and I didn’t go back and try to review any of that.”


FDA commissioner: No matter what, only a safe, effective vaccine will get our approval” via Stephen M. Hahn for The Washington Post — Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing a safe and effective vaccine has been an urgent worldwide priority: to save lives, and to bolster the public’s confidence in returning to a semblance of normal life. But let’s be clear: The development effort must adhere to standards that will ensure any COVID-19 vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. To prepare for the completion of tests and data submission, our agency has announced that any authorized or approved covid-19 vaccine would need to show that it prevents the disease or decreases its severity in at least 50% of people who are vaccinated. This is a reasonable standard given the nature and impact of the pandemic.

We must change how we manage unemployment in Florida” via Chip LaMarca for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — There is no proven playbook for a worldwide pandemic of this magnitude, and Florida’s unemployment system was not built for an overnight increase of millions of Floridians. Our system should be rebuilt using modern-day solutions, like a scalable, functional and secure website that provides Floridians with the system they deserve. For one, people should be able to use any device to access their unemployment claim, not only a certain web browser or cell phone. It is 2020 and this is not an unreasonable expectation for a software program of this magnitude. For far too long, both political parties have been pushing agendas and virtue signaling along the way.

An incomplete Census hurts everyone. Even Trump.” via The New York Times — The Census Bureau hasn’t offered a clear explanation for its decision this week to bring an early end to the decennial enumeration of the nation’s population. This is not a secret plot. Trump has been trying to whitewash the census since the moment he took office. First, his administration tried to add a question about citizenship in an effort to depress the response rate of noncitizens. The latest gambit is broader: Ending the crucial in-person canvass one month early will ensure a significant undercount of minorities, as well as rural populations and other groups. Why does an accurate and complete census matter? Because it is the anchor of representative democracy. The Constitution’s framers made a national head count the first job of the federal government for a reason. 


Florida passed another milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic. The state reported 5,400 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, driving the today past half a million — 502,739, to be exact. The state’s Department of Health also reports 225 new fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the statewide death toll to 7,751.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A circuit judge in Dade County will hear legal arguments in a lawsuit challenging Education Commissioner Corcoran’s order to reopen schools before the end of the month. The teachers’ union claims it’s unconstitutional and forces people into early retirement.

— Floridians who lost their jobs during the pandemic also lost the $600 per week unemployment payments provided by the federal government. The House has passed a bill to extend those jobless benefits until the end of the year, but Miami Congresswoman Donna Shalala says the Senate is playing games.

— The COVID-19 crisis has devastated the tourism industry — and it will be years before it recovers. Chris Thompson with Brand USA, a group whose sole purpose is to attract more visitors from other countries, said they stopped advertising for now.

— A group called Integrity Florida issues a new report on mail-in voting. They say it’s been working well for almost 20 years in the Sunshine State and should not be a problem this year — but remember where we are.

— And a drunken Florida Man is accused of grabbing a child wearing a mask at a restaurant, getting right up in his face and saying: “You now have coronavirus.”

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What an honor and a privilege to greet Vice President Pence on the tarmac today in Tampa. #maga

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— ALOE —

Universal Orlando trying to lure Florida guests with a deal for unlimited visits” via Caroline Ghisolfi of the Miami Herald — After shutting down for nearly three months, Universal Orlando is eager to get customers back, screaming and crying from adrenaline, the company says on its website. And this new discount package might help. “We miss you. Like real bad,” the theme park and resort’s website says. That’s why Universal announced this week that Florida residents can get five months of unlimited visits to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the price of a one-day ticket this summer and fall. Visitors who purchase tickets from now until Sept. 30 will get to go to the park as many times as they want until Dec. 24 for $164.

Universal is offering an amazing deal to lure visitors back to its theme park.

A coral sex milestone: Lab-grown and replanted corals to spawn in the Florida Keys” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — Not long after the August full moon, Florida’s reefs are the scene of an annual show of sexual reproduction called the coral spawn, with coral colonies releasing masses of tiny white, pink and orange spheres into the ocean. This year, for the first time, corals raised by scientists in a lab and transplanted to the natural reefs are primed to join the spawn — a promising milestone for ongoing efforts to restore the ravaged reef systems off South Florida. “This is really amazing because we had no idea what to expect when we planted these corals five years ago,” said Hanna Koch, a coral reproduction scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory.

FAMU denies rumors of football matchup vs FSU” via Rory Sharrock of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M Vice President/Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha has confirmed there is no truth to the rumor of a potential football game versus Florida State this fall. A report surfaced stating FAMU asked the NCAA for a waiver to play a four-game non-conference schedule in 2020. One of the opponents was the Seminoles. “This is misinformation. We’ve had conversations with a lot of people. But they’re conversations. We haven’t filed any type of waiver with the NCAA. We inquired about an interpretation,” Gosha said.


Best wishes to Rep. Tom Leek, Arlene DiBenigno of Conversa, and Mercer Fearington of The Southern Group.


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

Peter Schorsch

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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