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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.17.20

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

Good Tuesday morning.

Edie Ousley spent the past 20-plus years using communications strategies to help “job creators” succeed in public affairs positions with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Home Builders Association.

Ousley is now starting the “second half” of her career with her own firm, Yellow Finch Strategies.

“I’ve had the pleasure of influencing audiences with communication strategies that have helped entrepreneurs — job creators — to succeed,” she said. “And now I am literally jumping into the ring and have become my own entrepreneur.”

After inspiring others, Edie Ousley is embracing entrepreneurship. Image via Colin Hackley.

While launching a new business during a time of economic disruption brought on by the coronavirus might sound risky, Ousley believes when the upheaval is over, it will provide opportunities for businesses and nonprofits.

“2020 has been a year like no other,” she said. “I believe Florida needs an army of professional communicators that have talent, instinct and original ideas doing their part to influence public policy so that we can rebound and re-imagine our economy.”

Her new website includes glowing testimonials from insiders like John Sowinski, founder of Consensus Communications and an expert on Florida ballot initiatives: “Edie Ousley is a consummate professional, brilliant communicator, and a valued member of any team.”

For the 53-year-old Ousley, studying “Halftime,” a self-help book by Bob Buford, was the inspiration to make a change: “It helps to put perspective on what you did for the first half of your career and where you want to be for the second half of your career.”

“Opening my own business has been speaking to me for a very, very long time,” she said. “I want to take all of that skill set and break through the clutter so that we can ensure Florida’s economy rebounds and businesses are stronger for it.”

In other notes:

📲Sign up!: Florida Politics is now offering a mobile alert service to provide updates on breaking news and information about the 2021 Legislative Session and state government. Get the most important news you use sent directly to your celly by signing up here.

👨‍⚖️ — Organization Session begins … a bit different: As lawmakers new and returning begin this year’s Organization Session, things look a little different in Tallahassee. No former members will be allowed on the House floor to limit COVID-19 risks, and guests will only be permitted to enter the Capitol complex through the main door to the House Office Building facing West Jefferson Street. Office, parking spaces, and committee assignments to members are temporary and will be permanently assigned at a later date. No members requested special seating in the historic House and Senate chambers in the Florida Historic Capitol Museum and will not be used.

👉Dems name Senate No. 2: Senate Democratic Leader-designate Gary Farmer is naming Sen. Bobby Powell Jr. as Pro Temper for the 2020-2022 Legislative terms. The Pro Tempore temporarily presides over the Senate Democratic Caucus in the minority leader’s absence.

😷No mask, no service: Medical excuses will no longer be tolerated at Costco for customers who claim they cannot wear a face covering. The big-box giant now requires all customers, regardless of medical disability, to wear a face-covering or shield in its stores. The new policy went into effect Monday.

🥳 — Congrats to Fatima Perez: Perez, regional manager for state government affairs for Koch Industries, was selected as a 2021 Marshall Memorial Fellow. The program allows candidates from all business sectors to enhance their value through insights and professional contacts to boost trans-Atlantic partnerships.

🏈FSU isn’t liking these odds: When the Florida State Seminoles face Clemson Saturday at noon, they will do so as the biggest underdog in the football program’s history. The Tigers are favored by 34.5 points to clobber the ‘Noles, odds that had gotten worse since Sunday when Clemson was favored by 29 points.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@OliviaNuzzi: I have heard a lot of predictions about Donald Trump refusing to leave office, but my prediction is he will leave suddenly. The scenario I can picture most easily is this: sometime soon, he travels to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend as he always has, but this time he just stays there.

@BenjySarlin: Vaccines arriving feels like the adults showing up at the end of Lord Of The Flies.

@Stanford: The university has been asked to comment on recent statements made by @ScottWAtlas, a senior fellow at the @HooverInst who is on leave of absence from that position. Stanford’s position on managing the pandemic in our community is clear. We support using masks, social distancing, and conducting surveillance and diagnostic testing. We also believe in the importance of strictly following the guidance of local and state health authorities. Dr. Atlas has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic. Dr. Atlas’s statements reflect his personal views, not those of the Hoover Institution or the university.

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@MDixon55: First time back in Capitol complex for a long time, and what do I see? @VoteRandyFine doing a TV interview. There is comfort in some things not changing

— DAYS UNTIL —

NBA draft — 1; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 3; College basketball season slated to begin — 8; Atlantic hurricane season ends — 13; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 15; the Electoral College votes — 27; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 30; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 35; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 38; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 44; Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections — 49; the 2021 Inauguration — 64; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 82; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 93; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 107; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 136; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 227; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 234; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 248; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 256; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 290; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 350; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 353; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 356; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 388; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 452; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 505; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 686.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee, set tone for upcoming Legislative Session” via Ana Ceballos, Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — On the first day that Florida lawmakers returned to Tallahassee, without crowds and with masks, legislators immediately confronted the two approaches to dealing with the nation’s divided and polarized electorate. In the Florida Senate, losing Democrats welcomed their rival Republicans in a courtly ceremony in the old Capitol, where they elected Lighthouse Point Sen. Farmer as the next leader of their caucus. And in the Florida House of Representatives, a triumphant Republican caucus cheered their election-year wins with a chest-thumping victory speech and a gift of team jerseys from newly elected Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Gary Farmer takes his place as Democratic Caucus Leader. Image via Renzo Downey.

⏳Here’s the sked:

10 a.m.: Organization Session convenes in the Senate

10:30 a.m.: Temperature screening for House members at the entrance of the Chamber and guests at the entrance of the galleries

10:30 a.m.: House Guests can collect gallery passes on the 5th floor of the Capitol

11 a.m.: Organization Session convenes in the House

12:45: p.m.: Member photos in chamber

There are also three news conferences scheduled:

12:30 p.m.: House Minority Co-Leaders-designate, Reps. Bobby DuBose and Evan Jenne

1 p.m.: Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson

1:30 p.m.: House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls

‘Knife to a gunfight’: GOP lawmakers take victory lap at House Republican Conference” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — House Republicans took a victory lap on Monday to celebrate their Election Day success ahead of the 2021 Organization Session. The House Republican Conference was the first GOP gathering in Tallahassee since Nov. 3, when Republicans jumped out to a 78 — 42 House chamber lead. House Speaker Sprowls flaunted the gains and loosely quoted legendary actor Sean Connery to illustrate the Florida GOP’s success. “When Forward Majority showed up in Florida with their giant piles of cash, well, to paraphrase the late great Sean Connery, they quickly realized they had brought a knife to a gunfight.”

Gary Farmer: No mandate against Joe Biden in Florida” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Despite Democrats’ losses across the state on Election Day, newly-selected Senate Minority Leader Farmer insists there is no mandate against President-elect Biden in the Sunshine State. Florida has benefited from Ron DeSantis‘ relationship with Trump, who has made federal aid quickly available to the state and elevated some of the Governor’s policy priorities to the federal level. Minutes after Senate Democrats chose Farmer as their caucus leader for the 2020-2022 term, the new Minority Leader told reporters that Biden’s victory in the presidential election shouldn’t change the Legislature’s relationship with the federal government.

Dems dust off election wounds at House Democratic Caucus” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — House Democrats on Monday opened their caucus with a strikingly different tone than their Republican counterparts. While Republicans enjoyed a post-election victory lap earlier in the day, Sen. Janet Cruz worked to reinvigorate the party. She encouraged them to press forward. “It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback and talk about shoulda woulda coulda but it does absolutely nothing for us right now,” the Tampa Democrat said. The post-election hangover felt among Florida House Democrats remains days after a disappointing Election Day.

Michael Grant latest House Majority Leader to hail from Southwest Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — There’s a joke in some parts of Southwest Florida that the region’s chief exports are seashells and Majority Leaders. Rep. Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican, likes to think the latter means more. “At least we keep returning to the community,” the incoming House Majority Leader said. “The seashell someone just puts on their shelf somewhere.” When the Florida House comes together for its organizational session, Grant will be part of Speaker Sprowls’ leadership team after serving two years as Majority Whip and two as a Deputy Whip. He follows in the footsteps of Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican recently tapped for the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Michael Grant is the latest House Majority Leader from Southwest Florida.

Chris Latvala is state House’s new leader on education” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As Florida lawmakers convene in Tallahassee this week to organize for the spring session, some direction has begun to take shape in the annually contentious area of education policy. House Speaker Sprowls recast the committee structure for the subject, establishing a single panel to oversee everything from early education through workforce training, with three subcommittees reporting to that overarching one. To run the show, he picked Rep. Latvala, the Pinellas County Republican who led the chamber’s PreK-12 appropriations committee the past two cycles. In many ways, Latvala intends to continue down the path that his party leadership has headed in recent times.

Florida League of Cities unveils priorities for 2021 Legislative Session” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida League of Cities on Monday unveiled its priority list for the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session. The League publishes a Legislative Action Agenda each year before the Legislative Session. This year, some of their priorities include online sales tax, land annexation, short-term rentals, affordable housing and more. “Florida’s local officials are actively engaged and hard at work as we prepare for the 2021 Legislative Session,” said Florida League of Cities President Tony Ortiz, who is also a City of Orlando commissioner. According to the League’s 2021 agenda, the more than 90-year-old group will push for a sales tax to be added to online sales from out-of-state retailers.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Republicans start to relent: ‘It looks like it will be President Biden’” via Burgess Everett, Melanie Zanona and Andrew Desiderio of POLITICO — The Republican Party is in an increasingly untenable position, how much longer can it really refuse to recognize Biden as the President-elect? Nearly two weeks after the election, there are signs that Republicans are starting to accept reality. Trump’s legal campaign to reverse his election loss is crumbling all around him and there’s no mathematical possibility that he can reverse margins of 10,000 or more votes in the five states he won in 2016 but lost to Biden. Meanwhile, the Biden transition is stuck in molasses, and Trump is barely addressing the coronavirus spikes across the country.

It’s starting to sink in … President Joe Biden. Image via AP.

Lawsuits that tried to disrupt Biden’s wins in four states are withdrawn” via Katelyn Polantz of CNN Politics — Voters in four states who had brought long shot lawsuits to disrupt Biden‘s win and went nowhere in court dropped their cases Monday morning. The cases were short-lived in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania federal courts, and fed into a pro-Trump legal strategy to block Biden’s presidential win before the Electoral College formalizes it. That effort is almost certain to fail, even more so now. Cases seeking to block battleground states’ popular vote wins for Biden are getting fewer by the day, with two from the Trump campaign before federal judges in Michigan and Pennsylvania, one each from an elector in Georgia, and poll watchers in Michigan.

Biden urges Donald Trump to assist in the transition of power: ‘More people may die if we don’t coordinate’” via Steve Peoples of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — President-elect Biden warned of dire consequences if Trump and his administration continue to refuse to coordinate with his transition team on the coronavirus pandemic and block briefings on national security, policy issues and vaccine plans. The remarks marked Biden’s toughest comments to date on Trump’s failure to acknowledge his election loss and cooperate with the incoming administration for a peaceful transfer of power. Biden and his aides have emphasized the importance of being briefed on White House efforts to control the pandemic and distribute prospective vaccines.

Georgia recount uncovers 2,600 new votes in presidential race” via Mark Niesse of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — A recount in Georgia’s presidential race found more than 2,600 ballots in Floyd County that hadn’t originally been tallied, likely helping Trump reduce his 14,000-vote deficit to Biden. Trump could gain nearly 800 net votes from the discovered ballots. There were 1,643 new votes for Trump and 865 for Biden. The problem occurred because county election officials didn’t upload votes from a memory card in a ballot-scanning machine, said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager. He called it “an amazing blunder” and said the county’s elections director should resign.

The Georgia recount found nearly 3,000 uncounted ballots. Image via AP.

— TRANSITION —

Anthony Fauci warns that White House transition delays could slow vaccine rollout” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — Fauci suggested that the Trump administration’s refusal to begin a transition of presidential power could not only harm the federal coronavirus response at the pandemic’s most dire moment but might also stall the rollout of potential vaccines amid positive medical developments. “The virus is not going to stop and call a time out while things change. The virus is just going to keep going. The process is just going to keep going,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview. His remarks came shortly after the biotech company Moderna announced morning that preliminary results from a late-stage trial showed its vaccine candidate to be more than 94% effective.

Donald Trump blocks Joe Biden’s incoming staff in unprecedented ways” via Anita Kumar of Politico — For the first time in more than half a century, an outgoing administration is stonewalling an incoming one at every level. President Trump hasn’t called President-elect Biden. The Trump campaign hasn’t reached out to the Biden campaign. The White House and federal agencies haven’t briefed the Biden transition team. First lady Melania Trump hasn’t invited Jill Biden to the White House for tea. There are no briefings being given about coronavirus, troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, or aggression by China and Iran. No background checks being done for job applicants. No security clearances being conducted for potential Biden staffers.

Head of government agency under pressure to let transition proceed” via Aamer Madhani of the Associated Press — The head of an obscure federal agency that is holding up the presidential transition knew well before Election Day that she might soon have a messy situation on her hands. Prior to Nov. 3, Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration, held a Zoom call with, the man who was in her shoes 20 years earlier. The conversation, set up by mutual friends, was a chance for Barram, 77, to tell Murphy a little about his torturous experience with “ascertainment” — the task of determining the expected winner of the presidential election, which launches the official transition process.

Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien says it looks like Biden has won” via Ken Dilanian of NBC News — Trump‘s National Security Council is preparing for “a very professional transition,” because it looks like Biden has won the election, national security adviser O’Brien said in comments that aired Monday. O’Brien went on to say that the Biden team is “going to have very professional folks who are coming in to take these positions, many of whom have been here before and spent a lot of time in the White House in prior administrations.” O’Brien also sprinkled his remarks with references to the President departing Washington.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien promises a ‘very professional transition.’

Biden says containing pandemic is vital to economic recovery” via Jordan Fabian and Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg — President-elect Biden promised that his administration would fight the coronavirus pandemic and spur economic recovery in 2021 but also urged Congress to pass a stimulus bill this year to deliver immediate relief to struggling Americans. Biden said lawmakers should approve a bill like the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act that the House of Representatives passed, as his team begins to work with business and labor to make plans for combating the pandemic-related downturn once he takes office. Biden met with the chief executives of General Motors Co. and Microsoft Corp. and key labor leaders on Monday before speaking in detail about the economy for the first time since winning the presidential election.

The crisis that forged Biden’s Chief of Staff” via Michael Grunwald of POLITICO — Washington had just done a huge Wall Street bailout; a huge Main Street bailout sounded like a much easier lift. Ron Klain, at the time the chief of staff to Vice President-elect Biden, was less confident. He was a worrier, and he started worrying as soon as Barack Obama was elected in November 2008 about a record-large spending bill’s politics. Klain ended up overseeing the stimulus, and while it was an economic success, it was even more politically damaging than he feared. Now Biden is President-elect, and last week he appointed Klain to be his White House chief of staff, elevating a veteran of Washington’s political wars to a job in which he’ll have to navigate even more hostile waters than the Obama administration did in 2009.

Ron Klain is, by nature, a worrier. Image via Bloomberg.

Biden begins to fill top White House positions” via Natasha Korecki and Alex Thompson Politico — Campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon is coming aboard as White House deputy chief of staff, according to two people familiar with the decision. She’ll be joined in the West Wing by Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is planning to leave his Louisiana congressional seat for a senior adviser role focused on public engagement, according two sources familiar with the decision. Longtime Biden adviser Steve Ricchetti is also expected to take a key administration role. The Biden team is expected to make a formal announcement on these positions and other senior hires on Tuesday.

Biden is bringing back the daily briefing. Here’s who is likely to be at the podium.” via Christopher Cadelago, Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden’s return to “normalcy” will include restoring the daily press briefing, and at least two women are under consideration to lead the new post-Trump show, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Kate Bedingfield is seen as having the inside track to become either the White House communications director or press secretary. Symone Sanders could be offered the role of incoming press secretary or slot into another position before winding up “at the podium” down the line, Biden aides and other people in and around the transition said. Both have expressed interest in the senior White House posts.

People of color make up nearly half of Biden transition team” via Arlette Saenz of CNN — As President-elect Biden prepares to take office in January, nearly half of the transition team laying the groundwork for his administration is made up of people of color, and women are in the majority. Forty-six% of the transition staff are people of color, according to new diversity data of the transition team provided to CNN, and 41% of the senior staff are people of color. The majority of transition staff — 52% — are women, and 53% of the senior staff are women. The new diversity figures come as Biden is set to announce his Cabinet picks and senior staff for the White House in the coming weeks.

— 2020 — 

4 more years: Trump freezes 2024 presidential field” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — While Trump’s loss was supposed to trigger a Republican Party reset, his flirtation with a 2024 bid ensures he’ll remain the dominant force in the party and cast a shadow over anyone looking to succeed him. Even the possibility of Trump running again will impede other Republicans from laying the groundwork for their own bids, lest they upset Trump and his tens of millions of supporters, many of whom are convinced the election was stolen. Those who’ve worked for Trump are in perhaps the toughest spot of all. Each would have to maneuver around the soon-to-be-former President after spending the last four years aligning themselves with him.

Donald Trump’s suggestion of a 2024 run has frozen out other candidates.

All the reasons Democrats say they did poorly down-ballot” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — Democrats won the White House, but they had an undeniably disappointing election everywhere else on the ballot. Nowhere is that more acute than in the House, where Democrats kept their majority but may wind up with the slimmest in decades, just four seats. The blame game is in full swing within the party, with myriad reasons being thrown out by Congress members and top Democratic strategists underscore that, much like in 2016, no one in the party really understands why Trump and those candidates aligned with him did so well.

Florida voters sour on state of nation” via The Associated Press — Voters in Florida made their pick for President while holding negative views about the country’s direction, according to an expansive survey of the American electorate. The race between Trump and Democratic rival Biden concluded Tuesday as the nation remains in the throes of a global public health crisis and mired in the economic downturn it brought on. AP VoteCast found that 42% of Florida voters said the U.S. is on the right track, and 57% of voters said it is headed in the wrong direction.

Assignment editors — The Florida Elections Canvassing Commission — DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — meets to certify the 2020 General Election and the Special Election for Senate District 20, 9 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room, LL03, The Capitol.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida adds 4,663 coronavirus cases and 41 deaths Monday” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida reported 4,663 coronavirus infections and 41 deaths Monday, bringing the overall death toll to 17,775 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Florida Department of Health. Monday’s late report comes after a weekend where the state’s virus caseload soared to more than 10,000 in a single day, and the national caseload ballooned to 11 million infections. Since March 1, a total of 889,864 people in the state have tested positive for the virus. The coronavirus has now infected roughly one in every 23 Floridians. Florida’s coronavirus caseload remains the third-highest in the nation behind Texas, with 1.05 million infections and California with 1.02 million.

COVID-19 is still burning through Florida. Image via AP.

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to mount” via The News Service of Florida — As of early Monday evening, 3,243 people in Florida were hospitalized with “primary” diagnoses of COVID-19, up from 3,118 on Sunday afternoon. The increase came as Florida reported an additional 4,663 cases on Monday, bringing the overall total to 889,864 since the pandemic started, the state Department of Health reported on its website. Also, 17,559 Florida residents and 216 nonresidents had died of COVID-19. Miami-Dade County had the most COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday, with 465. It was followed by Broward County, with 284; Palm Beach County, with 235; Hillsborough County, with 224; Duval County, with 180; Orange County, with 163; Pinellas County, with 156; and Sarasota County, with 102.

Fact check: There’s no evidence Florida is ‘protecting the vulnerable’ from COVID-19” via Ben Conarck and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — DeSantis’ office responded to Florida’s rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations with a tweet on Sunday by the governor’s spokesperson saying that Floridians should “keep calm and carry on” even as many public health experts raise concerns over the looming Thanksgiving holiday. The governor’s spokesman, Fred Piccolo Jr., wrote on Twitter: “Almost 150,000 COVID tests yesterday. 7.5% positivity rate. Still under 10%. Washing hands. Social distancing. Protect the elderly. Don’t lockdown. Keep calm and carry on. ICU capacity is at 30% available statewide. Hospitals are NOT overrun.”

Online CARES portal closes after 30 minutes; 15,000 residents apply for $1,000 stimulus check” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — The portal for the Orange County online CARES Act stimulus check portal closed within 30 minutes after its launch Monday morning. The county once again reopened its stimulus check portal to aid residents facing economic struggles in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed residents to apply for a one-time payment of $1,000. However, after opening at 8 a.m., the portal reached its 15,000 applicant capacity after 30 minutes of service, according to the County website. The website reportedly had 10,000 applicants within the first 10 minutes of the portal’s operation, Orange County said in a tweet.

Hillsborough calls for coronavirus tests for adult home staffers” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Until Monday, Hillsborough County commissioners hadn’t met to talk about the coronavirus pandemic in 27 days. That was more than 7,200 cases ago. The number of COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County stood at more than 53,000 Monday. Trying to stem the surge, commissioners asked nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes and facilities for people with disabilities to test their staffs for coronavirus on a routine basis. The resolution, approved unanimously, is a recommendation, not a mandate, and comes because current federal rules apply only to testing nursing home staffs. The recommendation covers 462 facilities in the county.

Pensacola Mayor says with COVID-19 cases increasing it’s time to ‘get serious’ on masks” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — COVID-19 hospitalizations at Pensacola’s three major hospitals are at their highest levels in the last two months. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson is urging the public to take the rise in cases seriously. “This is one of those times where we’ve got to become serious about masks,” Robinson said at his weekly news conference on Monday. “When our hospitalizations have gone up, we need to get serious about it and trying to push the numbers down.” Robinson declared a state of emergency in the city last week when the daily hospitalization rates crossed over 75 patients.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson says it’s time to get serious about masks.

Clay County teacher dies from COVID-19” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Tim Clyatt, a computer teacher at Bannerman Learning Center, died Friday, Nov. 13, after a week in the hospital. He was an educator for nearly 20 years. The Fleming Island resident was 59. “Clay County District Schools is deeply saddened by the passing of Tim Clyatt, a veteran teacher at Bannerman Learning Center,” a statement from the school district said. “The District extends its sincerest condolences to Tim Clyatt’s family, friends, and co-workers … He made a difference in the lives of many students during his teaching career.” On Facebook, tributes began pouring in from friends and colleagues. “Tim was a great teacher, mentor, and God-fearing man that everybody loved,” one comment said. “He was a great listener and a wise soul.”

Miami Hurricanes’ games rescheduled amid COVID-19 outbreak on team” via David Furones of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The recent COVID-19 outbreak on the Miami Hurricanes football team has now forced the rescheduling of UM’s final three regular-season games. Miami’s home game against Georgia Tech scheduled for Saturday night will now be the regular-season finale, on Dec. 19. The game will only be played if Miami is not in the ACC Championship Game and if the result wouldn’t determine which two teams play in the conference title game. What was the following game, at Wake Forest, originally scheduled for Nov. 28, will now be on Dec. 5. That was the original date for UM’s regular-season finale, at home against North Carolina. That game against the Tar Heels will now be on Dec. 12.

Coronavirus: 62 football players quarantined at Palm Beach Central” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — The first outbreak of COVID-19 in the county’s schools may trace its origins to Halloween day when dozens of Palm Beach Central High football players and coaches were confined to buses for a two-hour rain delay. But contact tracers also discovered a social scene where students sometimes neglected masks and ignored rules of distancing before and after games, the county’s top health authority said. The investigation that began with one sick coach and one sick kid on Nov. 1 triggered the quarantine of 62 players and eventually grew to include 16 students and four coaches who tested positive, said Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Health Department in Palm Beach County.

— CORONA NATION —

With 11 million cases in the U.S., the coronavirus has gotten personal for most people” via Amy Harmon, Lucy Tompkins, Audra D.S. Burch and Serge F. Kovaleski of The New York Times — As COVID-19 cases surge in almost every part of the country, researchers say the United States is fast approaching what could be a significant tipping point, a pandemic so widespread that every American knows someone who has been infected. But, as reflected in the polarized response to the virus, the public remains deeply divided about how and whether to fight it, and it is unclear whether seeing friends and relatives sick or dead will change that. Many who have seen people close to them seriously affected say they are taking increased precautions.

Coronavirus has touched more Americans than ever. Image via AP.

Trump coronavirus adviser tells Michigan to ‘rise up’ against new shutdown orders” via Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post — On Sunday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a three-week “pause to save lives,” closing colleges, high schools, workplaces, and in-person dining as new coronavirus cases have spiked. After she appealed to the Trump administration to intervene in the pandemic, White House coronavirus adviser Atlas responded with a call to action. But instead of supporting Whitmer’s efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Michigan, he urged residents to reject the state’s public health guidelines.

Governors ratchet up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving” via David Eggert and Rachel La Corte of The Associated Press — From California to Pennsylvania, Governors and Mayors across the U.S. are ratcheting up COVID-19 restrictions amid the record-shattering resurgence of the virus that is all but certain to get worse because of holiday travel and family gatherings over Thanksgiving. Leaders are closing businesses or curtailing hours and other operations. They are ordering or imploring people to stay home and keep their distance from others to help stem a rising tide of infections that threatens to overwhelm the health care system.

Doctors are calling it quits under stress of the pandemic” via Reed Abelson of The New York Times — Thousands of medical practices have closed during the pandemic, according to a July survey of 3,500 doctors by the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit group. About 8% of the doctors reported closing their offices in recent months, which the foundation estimated could equal some 16,000 practices. Another 4% said they planned to shutter within the next year. Other doctors and nurses are retiring early or leaving their jobs. Some worry about their own health because of age or a medical condition that puts them at high risk.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

How the pandemic is shifting workplace benefits: Prepaid legal plans, IT help desks for kids” via Jena McGregor of The Washington Post — Like many things in 2020, employee benefits and perks are being reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic. This open enrollment season, the period in late fall when workers choose benefits for the following year, employers offer more voluntary medical benefits like “hospital indemnity” plans, paying for couples therapy and providing access to prepaid legal plans for workers concerned about getting their end-of-life affairs in order. In addition to providing more time off or flexibility for child care, perks that have received much attention as the pandemic has dragged on; employers are also offering workers far more access to telehealth platforms and mental health benefits.

The pandemic has changed the way employers treat workers. Image via Bloomberg.

With news of COVID vaccine, Florida gas prices stall near $2 a gallon” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gas prices in Florida leveled off in the past week, partially due to strides in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, marking the end of a month of decline linked to falling crude oil markets. Oil prices increased with hopeful news that coronavirus vaccines were effective and a path to making them available to the public is being explored, according to the AAA-Auto Club South. Crude oil prices increased by $3 last week as Florida’s average gas price bottomed out below $2 a gallon. For the past 43 days, prices in the Sunshine State fell 20 cents.

Tampa Bay Lightning to cut 30 jobs citing ‘challenging circumstances’ due to COVID-19 pandemic” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Lightning are cutting just under 10% of their workforce, citing “challenging circumstances” related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Bolts on Monday said the team would eliminate 30 full-time positions, effective immediately. Every position will receive a severance package, including access to their health insurance through COBRA. Sports teams and entertainment facilities have been devastated by the pandemic, which delayed seasons across multiple professional leagues and brought the concert industry to a standstill. While the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, parent company Vinik Sports Group has been without ticket revenues since March 11.

— MORE CORONA —

Colleges weigh student travel for Thanksgiving as pandemic worsens” via Marisa Fernandez of Axios — Thanksgiving will be a big test for colleges with students on campus. Some schools, including the University of South Carolina, Syracuse University and Emory University, plan to end in-person instruction ahead of the holiday. In contrast, others ask students not to go home. Health officials fear indoor gatherings and traveling will worsen the spread of COVID-19 nationwide. If students do go home, experts recommend self-isolation, coronavirus tests and flu shots. Thousands of students were responsible for community outbreaks of COVID-19 returning from Spring Break travel, a researcher from Ball State University found.

The University of South Carolina is being proactive about COVID-19 and the Thanksgiving break.

The hottest ticket in town this year is your family’s COVID-19-constrained Thanksgiving” via Charles Passy of The Wall Street Journal — Cities and states around the country have capped gatherings at 10, prompting some difficult soul-searching and angst among holiday hosts. Suddenly, getting into the family Thanksgiving dinner is becoming a hot ticket. This Thanksgiving may turn into the holiday of the rescinded invitation. As families pay heed to edicts, they try to determine who can still come and who must get the boot. Some are abandoning gatherings all together to avoid any strife or hard feelings.

Zoom lifts meeting time limit on Thanksgiving to avoid cutting off your family’s call” via Drew Taylor of WFLA — Leading up to Thanksgiving, Zoom has announced it will lift its 40-minute meeting limit for families who choose not to spend the holiday together because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The video conference service announced its decision to extend its meeting time Monday morning. The announcement comes when scientists recommend that families drastically limit the number of people gathered together to celebrate the holiday or scrap plans altogether for in-person gatherings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its holiday guidance last Monday, noting the virus crisis is worsening and that small household gatherings are “an important contributor.”

Costco face mask policy update requires all shoppers to wear a mask or shield amid coronavirus surges” via Kelly Tyko of USA Today — Costco will no longer make an exemption for people who say they can’t wear a face-covering because of a medical condition. The wholesale club’s updated face mask policy goes into effect Monday and requires all members, guests and employees to wear a face mask or a face shield to shop in its nearly 560 clubs nationwide. “If a member has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, they must wear a face shield at Costco,” the retailer’s President and CEO Craig Jelinek wrote in a letter to members, noting entry to Costco “will only be granted to those wearing a face mask or face shield.”

— STATEWIDE —

Woman threatened to shoot Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott for ‘looting’ Florida, deputies say” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Palm Beach County deputies have arrested a 55-year-old woman who they say made an online threat to shoot DeSantis and U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott for “looting” Florida. Karen Jones was arrested at her home in Lantana on Saturday over a Twitter post a few days earlier stating: “DeSantis, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio are looting my state. Imma shoot them,” according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. After having her rights read, Jones admitted to a detective that the Twitter account was hers and that she made the post, according to the sheriff’s office. Jones, who is registered as a Democrat, told the detective it was a “joke,” according to her arrest affidavit.

Lantana woman Karen Jones threatened Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis.

Nikki Fried’s fiance just transferred a Leon County home to her name” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A document showing a property transfer to Fried from fiance Jake Bergmann drew attention in Leon County. In Leon County, a quitclaim deed filed shows a property transfer from Bergmann to Fried for a home the two share. But the shift in the title simply allows Fried to interact more cleanly with a bank, since Bergmann, a medical marijuana executive, purchased the home in cash. Bergmann founded Surterra and now runs boutique cannabis company Iconoclast Ventures. “Commissioner Fried’s fiance purchased their home without a mortgage, as banks would not write a mortgage with assets her fiance earned in the medical marijuana industry,” reads a statement from a Fried spokesperson.

DeSantis, Florida Cabinet to meet in December” via The News Service of Florida — After rarely meeting in 2020, DeSantis and the Cabinet are slated to hold an end-of-the-year meeting in December. DeSantis and the Cabinet are scheduled to meet on Dec. 15. It would be only the fourth meeting of the year. An agenda has not been posted, but among the issues facing DeSantis and the Cabinet are choosing a new chief judge of the state Division of Administrative Hearings and a new executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Personnel note: Lobbyist Beth Vecchioli rejoins Holland & Knight” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Holland & Knight is bringing on Vecchioli as a senior policy adviser for its Florida Government Advocacy team in Tallahassee, the firm announced Monday. Vecchioli is a former regulator at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, which focuses on insurance regulation, lobbying and financial services. She previously worked for the firm from 2012 until 2017. “Beth is one of the most knowledgeable and respected professionals in Florida’s insurance industry,” said Karen Walker, leader of Holland & Knight’s government section.

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Lisa Aaron, Lisa Aaron Consulting: Insight Public Sector

Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Erica Chanti, Chris Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco: Rubin, Turnbull & Associates: University of South Florida Foundation

Michael Grant Atchley, Andrew King, Jessica Wiginton: Executive Office of the Governor

Ron Pierce, Kaitlyn Bailey, Ed Briggs: RSA Consulting Group LLC: Kids Community College

Travis Blanton, Johnson & Blanton: Gainwell Technologies LLC

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers Inc: Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund

David Clark, Allegiant Strategies Group: WinCraft

Jack Cory, Public Affairs Consultants: EZ Event Ride INC

Marc Dunbar, Jennifer Ungru, Dean Mead: HHS Technology Group, LLC 

Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting LLC: Rubrik, Inc.

Mike Haridopolos: Affinity Health Management

Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Chris Schoonover, Capital City Consulting LLC: Cicero Action

Brian Jogerst, Waypoint Strategies, LLC: Parallel

Katie Webb, Nicole Graganella Kelly, Colodny Fass: Easter Seals Florida

Kevin Alan Schwartz, Schwartz Media Solutions: Valet Living

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump to order troop cuts in Afghanistan, Iraq” via Lolita C. Baldor of The Associated Press — Trump is expected to cut a significant number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and a smaller number in Iraq by the final days of his presidency, U.S. officials said. The plan would run counter to military commanders’ advice over the past year, while still falling short of Trump’s much-touted goal to end America’s long wars. The decision comes just days after Trump installed a new slate of loyalists in top Pentagon positions who share his frustration with the war zones’ continued troop presence. But the expected plans would leave 2,500 troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, meaning that President-elect Biden would be the fourth President to grapple with the still-smoldering conflicts launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Despite concerns of military leaders, Donald Trump is considering troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ross Spano’s ethics inquiry continues to be deferred, a sign Justice Department is still investigating” via Chris Marquette of Roll Call — The House Ethics Committee will continue to defer an inquiry into Rep. Spano, a sign that the Justice Department is likely still investigating the Florida Republican’s alleged acceptance of improper loans to support his 2018 congressional campaign. In August 2019, the Office of Congressional Ethics transferred a report to the House Ethics Committee, saying there was a substantial reason to believe Spano received loans that exceeded federal campaign contribution limits. Spano lost his primary race to Scott Franklin and will not be a part of the 117th Congress. When Spano exits, the House Ethics Committee will no longer have jurisdiction over Spano.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Assignment editors — Mayor-elect Daniella Levine Cava will be installed as Miami-Dade’s first female Mayor in a ceremony, 3 p.m., Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami. Afterward, there will be a celebration event, 5 p.m., Bayfront Park Amphitheater, 301 Biscayne Blvd, Miami.

Daniella Levine Cava will be installed as Miami-Dade’s first female Mayor.

Voters sank Miami Beach Marina referendum. Developer changes plan, seeks new vote.” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Much like supporters of Biden, voters who defeated a proposal to redevelop the Miami Beach Marina are ready to move on from the Nov. 3 election. They won. The developer lost. At the request of developer David Martin, the City Commission will consider calling for a new election following a split vote on the Marina Park referendum package. It’s a move some residents find unfair, even Trumpian. A majority of voters rejected the ballot question related to the sale of air rights and public land at the Miami Beach Marina to construct a condo tower.

One of these four candidates may be named president of Miami Dade College on Tuesday” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Four finalists toured campuses, sipped cafe and pitched the community this week in hopes of being named the next president of Miami Dade College next week. Spread out over four days, the candidates, Morgan Phillips of Pima Community College, Lenore Rodicio of Miami Dade College, Gregory Fowler of Southern New Hampshire University and Madeline Pumariega of Tallahassee Community College, each had daylong itineraries to acquaint themselves. Their days centered on giving 90-minute presentations and taking questions from the audience of faculty and Board of Trustee members.

— TOP OPINION —

Scott Atlas’s rabble-rousing will lead to illness and death. He should be fired.” via The Washington Post editorial board — Dr. Atlas is a neuroradiologist, not an infectious disease expert, nor an epidemiologist. As Trump’s leading adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, he continues to make statements that will cause more illness and death. He ought to be fired immediately. Dr. Atlas has frequently belittled lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, saying they have deleterious knock-on effects and are unnecessary, and that only the “vulnerable” need protection. Telling people to disobey the governor of Michigan and “rise up” is appallingly ignorant and foolish.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida lawmakers are gathering for a one-day postelection Organization Session.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Trump may have lost the presidential race, but Republicans in the Florida House are celebrating because they padded their lead over the Democrats.

— One of the issues facing the new Legislature will be how to deal with COVID-19. Department of Health officials reported almost 4,700 new cases Monday. Oddly enough, it’s almost a relief after Sunday’s surge of more than 10,000 cases. There have also been 41 more fatalities.

— And finally, a couple of Florida Men: One rammed a Highway Patrol cruiser, while the other bought an 8-year-old boy along with him during a crime spree to “toughen the kid up.”

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Alexa can now guess what you want before you even ask for it” via Daphne Leprince-Ringuet of ZD Net — Amazon’s engineers are tweaking Alexa’s algorithm to help the virtual assistant guess users’ requests and offer to resolve them before the demand is even uttered. For example, after being asked how long a cup of tea should brew for, Alexa will suggest setting a timer for the number of minutes recommended. Alexa engineers Anjishnu Kumar and Anand Rathi explained in a blog post that the improvement is continuing efforts to make interactions with the virtual assistant as natural as possible. Chatting with Alexa should be as natural as talking to another human being, said the engineers, and enabling the technology to anticipate what’s coming next in conversation is key to enable a smooth flow of dialogue.

Disney theme parks want to bring back some entertainment after cuts, executive says” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro acknowledged the company hears from the message from fans who miss the theme parks’ live entertainment and vowed to bring some of it back. “We’ve heard from many of our guests that they’re looking forward to us bringing back some of the entertainment that we recently had to discontinue. And we plan to do that,” D’Amaro said, without providing further details, as he gave a keynote speech at IAAPA Virtual Education Conference Monday. The Walt Disney Co. has laid off 28,000 people in the theme park division, including about 18,000 from Central Florida.

Baby Yoda hitches ride on SpaceX Crew-1 to ISS” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience is on its way to the International Space Station with four astronauts and one Force-wielding plush doll. Baby Yoda is floating around amid the Crew-1 cabin, as seen on the livestream from NASA and SpaceX one day after its successful launch from Kennedy Space Center and ahead of tonight’s planned docking with the ISS. Flights to the ISS often bring a toy allowed to float in the cabin as a sign of the spacecraft experiencing weightlessness. The zero-g indicator has been used on space flights since the 1960s.

The SpaceX manned flight has one extra passenger.

Here comes Santa Claus — with face masks and plexiglass” via Joseph Pisani of The Associated Press — Santa Claus is coming to the mall, just don’t try to sit on his lap. Despite the pandemic and the fact that Santa’s age and weight put him at high risk for severe illness from the coronavirus, mall owners are going ahead with plans to bring him back this year. But they are doing all they can to keep the jolly old man safe, including banning kids from sitting on his knee, no matter if they’ve been naughty or nice. Instead, kids will tell Santa what they want for Christmas from six feet away, sometimes from behind a plexiglass sheet. Santa and his visitors may need to wear a face mask, even while posing for photos.

Santa Claus will be taking Christmas wishes from behind a plexiglass shield this year. Image via AP.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to AG Pam Bondi, Max Flugarth, Amy MercadoBill Nelson, Jr., and journalist Alan Snel.

___

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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