Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.12.21

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

Good Tuesday morning.

As Adam Parkhomenko explained on Twitter, if you had told us last week after The Capitol riots that our anger would only grow by the day, we would’ve thought that impossible.

But here we are.

And when I am angry, I write.

Below are takes on Rick Scott and Ashley Moody, but first, please read my analysis of why an impeachment vote is a win-win for Democrats lusting after Marco Rubio’s Senate seat.


Some of the country’s largest corporations have put political donations on hold in the wake of last week’s violent riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Facebook, Google and Microsoft joined the chorus on Monday, vowing to stop contributions for the time being.

“Following last week’s awful violence in D.C., we are pausing all of our PAC contributions for at least the current quarter, while we review our policies,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement.

Rioting at The Capitol has led several companies to end political contributions. Image via AP.

Other companies have taken a more surgical approach. For instance, Marriott said it will only withhold donations to Republicans who voted not to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory last week.

But what good does that do?

The election was more than two months ago, and the Georgia runoff ended last week. Now it’s January in an off-year for elections, and candidates won’t be really clamoring for money for a while. As it stands, it’s an empty gesture.

It doesn’t have to be, however.

If these corporations want to make a difference, they could start by pledging not to make any contributions to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

With Democrats set to retake control of the Senate, the NRSC will be fighting tooth and nail to regain the GOP majority in the upper chamber next year.

U.S. Sen. Scott will be the Republicans’ field general in that effort. He fought hard for a position, winning the support of his fellow Republicans in the Senate.

But Scott was also one of just a handful of Senators who voted against certifying Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania. His vote came after the violent pro-Trump mob forced Congress to evacuate The Capitol.

Scott’s vote showed a wanton disregard for our democratic republic. While he has tried to play the fence-sitter in the days since by condemning the violence, his vote furthered baseless conspiracies about election fraud and tacitly validated the lawlessness on display Wednesday.

He should not be rewarded for it with millions in campaign cash, which he will most certainly use to try and elect Republicans who would have voted the same way if given the opportunity.


Last week, before a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol, robocalls went out urging “patriots” to come to Washington and “fight” the certification of Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

The call furthered the same lies that are abundant on conspiratorial Facebook pages and far-right message boards — that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. Even without the benefit of hindsight, it is clear the message was meant to incite the crowd. The tone and verbiage make that much clear.

But it didn’t come from a cell of alt-right insurrectionists. Worse, it was sponsored by a political committee affiliated with the Republican Attorneys General Association.

To be clear, a group that represents the Republicans tasked with being the top law enforcement officers in 26 states is affiliated with a message encouraging lawlessness in our nation’s capital.

Florida’s Attorney General, Moody, is a Republican. She is not only a member of RAGA but a member of the Association’s Executive Committee.

She may claim that she had no knowledge of the calls. She may follow the lead of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, the chair of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, and say the calls resulted from “unauthorized decisions” by committee staff.

Moody has shown she is comfortable defending Trump. She even signed onto a frivolous lawsuit to subvert a manifestly open and fair election — an effort that had zero chance of success and only served to keep her name out of Trump’s post-coup Sonderfahndungsbuch.

This call runs counter to everything Moody — and every Attorney General — should stand for.

As Moody so often reminds us, she is the wife of a law enforcement officer. This call may not have been the spark, but it was one of a thousand pieces of kindling that led to the death of a Capitol Police officer.

For Moody’s sake, it’s good that our justice system doesn’t recognize guilt by association. But it seems a fitting system for our court of public opinion in the post-Trump era.

— “Ashley Moody worked with group linked to Capitol insurrection” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Tweet, tweet:

A couple of other notes:

🛑 — Cold shoulder for Trump-affiliated lobbyists: A senior Democratic aide on the Hill said he would not meet with anyone from any firm which has hired former Trump officials. The aide, speaking to Punchbowl News, said that he and other staffers “all agree that anyone that doesn’t, at a minimum, stand up and speak out publicly, will be blackballed if they try to lobby us.” The assertion comes as Democrats grow increasingly angry over Republicans’ response to last week’s insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.

📰Must read on how a health care reporter transformed her coverage; Alexandra Glorioso was already disenchanted with her POLITICO beat covering health care, mostly through the lens of providers, not patients. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself, she grew even more frustrated with a broken system that she said cares too little for patients. Speaking to the Tallahassee Democrat, Glorioso describes how she left a cozy gig with a major publication to use her writing to give patients a voice.


The top of Sunburn can’t be all fire and brimstone, so here is a note with good news about a good guy — Mercury has brought on Kevin Cabrera as a senior vice president in its Florida office, the bipartisan public strategy firm announced Tuesday.

Cabrera brings a wealth of government relations, campaign and public affairs experience to Mercury’s Sunshine State operation. 

“Kevin is an exciting addition to the Florida team,” Mercury CEO Kieran Mahoney said. “Mercury’s Florida operation is made up of the state’s top strategists across party lines, and Kevin will be an asset to our clients in the nation’s largest swing state.” 

Kevin Cabrera, a key staffer who helped deliver Florida for Donald Trump, is making the jump to Mercury. Image via Twitter. 

Most recently, Cabrera served as the Florida state director for Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, which delivered the battleground state for Trump and showed substantial gains with minority voters across the state.

Previously, the Florida native represented local governments and corporate clients before the Legislative, executive, and local branches of government.

“Mercury is top-tier, and I am thrilled to join such a dynamic and talented team. I look forward to utilizing my expertise to provide successful outcomes for our clients,” Cabrera said.


Sunburn is pretty sure Juan Penalosa has left his position as Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party. Emails to Penalosa’s account bounced back on Monday and a source close to Penalosa tells ‘burn “He is leaving. His plan was to get through the election then leave.”

Update — POLITICO Florida confirms that Penalosa has stepped down. Penalosa tells Florida Playbook: “After three years I am leaving the party for a new chapter which will be announced very soon.”


The final game of a college football season in a pandemic — a season that was uncertain to be played in the summer, then filled with disruptions — ended in the most predictable fashion: Alabama (13-0), under coach Nick Saban, is national champion for the sixth time in the past 12 years, AP’s Ralph Russo writes. The Crimson Tide routed No. 3 The Ohio State University 52-24, before a pandemic-thin crowd at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Alabama coach Nick Saban is soaked with a Gatorade tide.


@AdamParkhomenko: If you had told me last week that my anger would only grow by the day, I would’ve thought that impossible. But here we are.

@NateSilver538: Echoing what others are saying, but people should not minimize Kevin McCarthy‘s role in all of this. Arguably he bears at least as much responsibility as [Josh] Hawley and [Ted] Cruz. And he’s more likely to be in a position of power going forward (e.g., as Speaker of the House in 2024).

@SykesCharlie: The President incited an attack on the legislative branch in an attempt to stop the count of electoral votes. The Capitol was breached. Five people were killed. Censure doesn’t come close to cutting it.

@SamStein: So … who is overseeing a coordinating the security response in and around The Capitol from now until inauguration day? can wet get an actual briefing? this seems untenable

—@mkaplantv: The U.S. Capitol Police has had to respond to ‘a couple of incidents’ of officers threatening to harm themselves in the wake of the attack on Capitol Hill. This includes a female officer who turned in her own weapon for fear of what might happen.

@MaggieNYT: Very real concern among Rs working on senate races that Rick Scott, who backed the objections to the PA results, won’t now be able to raise money as NRSC chair as companies balk at giving to Rs who took that move.

@Attackerman: In the end, it was Chad Wolf who was the Illegal.

@AdamSchefter: Patriots’ HC Bill Belichick will not be traveling to Washington nor accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he announced today.

Tweet, tweet:


NHL season begins — 1; WandaVision premieres on Disney+ — 3; the 2021 Inauguration — 8; Florida Chamber Economic Outlook and Job Solution Summit begins — 16; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 26; Daytona 500 — 33; “Nomadland” with Frances McDormand — 39; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 49; “Coming 2 America” premieres on Amazon Prime — 53; “The Many Saints of Newark” premieres — 59; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 80; Children’s Gasparilla — 88; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 95; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 100; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 115; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 171; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 179; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 192; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 199; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 224; “Dune” premieres — 262; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 294; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 297; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 339; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 332; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 437; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 479; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 633.


An impeachment charge against Donald Trump is introduced as Republicans block a measure demanding Mike Pence act.” via Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — House Democrats on Monday introduced an article of impeachment against Trump for inciting a mob that attacked The Capitol last week, vowing to press the charge as Republicans blocked a separate move to formally call on Pence to strip him of power under the 25th Amendment. The dual actions came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus sought to ratchet up pressure on Pence to intervene and push Trump to resign. If they did not, the Democrats promised immediate consequences for Trump’s role in an attack that put the lives of the Vice President, members of Congress and thousands of staff working on Capitol Hill at risk as officials met to formalize Biden’s victory.

House Republicans blocked an attempt to force Mike Pence to confront Donald Trump. Image via AP.

Inside the remarkable rift between Trump and Pence” via Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — Vice President Pence was in hiding from a violent mob of Trump supporters in the Capitol last Wednesday when the presidential tweet attacking him posted. The remarkable break between the two men is a startling capstone to a relationship long defined by Pence’s loyalty and subservience. The Vice President who once spent hours a day with Trump, defended some of his most incendiary comments and was careful to not speak ill of him, even to his own closest advisers, now may be largely estranged from him. Pence has committed to attending Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris’ inauguration, even though Trump is not going. 

Chuck Schumer explores rarely used, post-Sept. 11 authority to reconvene the Senate for potential Trump impeachment trial” via Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — Senate Minority Leader Schumer is exploring using an obscure, post-Sept. 11-era authority to reconvene the Senate as the House barrels toward a likely impeachment vote of Trump this week, according to a senior Democratic aide. In 2004, the Senate majority and minority leaders were given the power to bring the Senate back into session in times of emergency, and the senior Democratic aide said Schumer is exploring this option to allow for a potential impeachment trial for Trump to begin immediately after the House transmits the articles to the Senate. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the evolving party strategy. Both Mitch McConnell and Schumer would have to agree to reconvene the Senate.

—“How a second impeachment of Trump would work” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post

Joe Manchin calls second Trump impeachment bid ‘ill-advised’: ‘Let the judicial system do its job’” via Charles Creitz of Fox News — House Democrats’ attempt to impeach President Trump for a second time in connection with last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol is “so ill-advised,” Sen. Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said. Manchin said party leaders “know the votes aren’t there” to remove Trump from office with the Senate not scheduled to return to work until the day before Joe Biden‘s inauguration.  “I think this is so ill-advised [while] Joe Biden [is] coming in, trying to heal the country, trying to be the President of all the people when we are so divided and fighting again,” the Senator said.

Trump blames antifa for riot” via Jonathan Swan of Axios — Trump today privately — and falsely — blamed “antifa people” for storming the Capitol, even though clear video and documentary evidence exists showing the rioters were overwhelmingly Trump supporters. Despite facing an impeachment vote for an assault he helped incite, the outgoing President is still sticking with his tried-and-true playbook of deflecting and reaching for conspiracies. In a tense, 30-minute-plus phone call this morning with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Trump trotted out the Antifa line. McCarthy would have none of it, telling the president: “It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there,” according to a White House official and another source familiar with the call.

The fraught bet Republicans are placing on Trump’s final days” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — In the days since Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, Republicans have shrugged off the idea of removing Trump from office in the final days of his presidency. Few of them are outright defending Trump’s conduct, mind you. But many of them have suggested it would only add fuel to the fire and further divide America. The other main argument is that it’s unnecessary, that Trump will have learned his lesson from what happened and quietly go away. The former argument conveniently ignores the very real issue of Trump’s culpability for a historic and ugly scene in American history. But the latter ignores plenty of history and the realities of modern-day presidential power. Whatever one thinks of the merits of impeachment at this stage, the fact remains that Trump has enough time and power to do plenty in the final week-plus of his presidency.

Trump sparks a crisis for his business empire just before returning to it” via Max Abelson of Bloomberg — After egging on a mob that rioted inside the U.S. Capitol last week, the brand that’s at the heart of Trump’s career and fortune is in crisis. He is being shunned by some of the political donors who fuel him, the tech companies that amplify his voice, the American golf industry that brings business to his clubs, and even the Canadian company behind his online stores. Trump’s business future isn’t bright, according to Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who ran against Trump in 2016. “His brand is toxic,” Fiorina said. “That will have real consequences for his businesses, even as perhaps he continues to have support from some in the Republican party and some in the nation.”

An urgent reckoning for the Trump brand” via The New York Times — In the span of four days, President Donald Trump’s family business has lost its online store, the buzz from Trump’s promotional tweets about its luxury resorts and bragging rights as host to one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments. The mob attack on Congress last week by Trump’s supporters has spurred a reckoning for the Trump Organization by businesses and institutions, at a scale far greater than his previous polarizing actions. And the Trump brand, premised on gold-plated luxury and a super-affluent clientele, may not fully recover from the fallout of his supporters violently storming and vandalizing the U.S. Capitol.

FBI warns of plans for nationwide armed protests next week” via The Associated Press — The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. According to two law enforcement officials, an internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests might start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Investigators believe some of the people are members of some extremist groups, the officials said.

House Democrats briefed on three terrifying plots to overthrow government” via Matt Fuller of HuffPost — Capitol Police briefed Democrats on Monday night about three more potentially gruesome demonstrations planned in the coming days, with one plot to encircle the U.S. Capitol and assassinate Democrats and some Republicans. On a private call Monday night, new leaders of the Capitol Police told House Democrats they were closely monitoring three separate plans that could pose serious threats to members of Congress as Washington prepares for Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. The first is a demonstration billed as the “largest armed protest ever to take place on American soil.”

Tweet, tweet:

Law enforcement: We’ll be ready for Joe Biden’s inauguration” via Colleen Long and Alexandra Jaffe of The Associated Press — The inauguration is designated as a “national special security event,” which clears the way for communication, funding and preparation between multiple agencies in Washington, like the Capitol Police, Pentagon, Homeland Security and District-area police. Other such events are the State of the Union, the Super Bowl and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. And the inauguration will look different from other presidential inaugurations because of last week’s riot, with extremely tight security around the entire capital region. At least 10,000 National Guard troops will be in place by Saturday.

2 Capitol Police officers suspended after deadly riot, lawmaker says” via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — At least two Capitol Police officers have been suspended after a pro-Trump mob overtook the Capitol last week, the top House lawmaker overseeing funding for the law enforcement agency said Monday night. Of the two officers suspended, one took a now-infamous selfie with one of the rioters, and the other wore a “Make America Great Again” hat while “directing“ members of the mob, said Rep. Tim Ryan, chair of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Ryan also said he believes a third officer has been arrested for conduct during the riot, although he did not have details and said the individual might instead be a member of the National Guard.

‘War for the soul’: Capitol riot elevates GOP power struggle between pro-Trump conspiracy theorists and party establishment” via Michael Sherer of The Washington Post — The essay reads like the manifesto of a delusional conspiracy theorist. It predicted a 12-day period of national crisis that would likely involve an Internet blackout, the use of the Federal Communications Commission’s emergency broadcast system and “high profile arrests.” “It’s 1776 all over again!” the tract declared. But these were not the ramblings of an anonymous Internet troll or some random troublemaker. This was an official letter from the chairman of the Nye County Republican Party in Nevada, posted Friday on its official website. The jeremiad drew a rebuke from Michael Ahrens, the communications director for the Republican National Committee, who called it “deranged and wildly irresponsible.”

— Must-see visualization — “‘They got a officer!’: How a mob dragged and beat police at the Capitol” via the New York Times

Army investigating officer who led group to Washington rally” via Jake Bleiberg, Sarah Blake Morgan and James LaPorta of The Associated Press — The Army is investigating a psychological operations officer who led a group of people from North Carolina to the rally in Washington that led up to the deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Trump. Commanders at Fort Bragg are reviewing Capt. Emily Rainey’s involvement in last week’s events in the nation’s capital, but she said she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law. Rainey said she led 100 members of Moore County Citizens for Freedom, which describes itself online as a nonpartisan network promoting conservative values, to the Washington rally to “stand against election fraud” and support Trump.

The Army is investigating Emily Rainey, an officer who led a group to the Washington rally that led to a riot in The Capitol.

The military has a hate group problem. But it doesn’t know how bad it’s gotten” via Bryan Bender of POLITICO — The Pentagon is confronting a resurgence of White supremacy and other right-wing ideologies in the ranks and is scrambling to track how acute the problem has become in the Trump era. It’s an issue that has simmered in the military for years but is now front and center following signs that former military personnel played a role in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last week. Tackling the influence of hate groups, racist propaganda and anti-government sentiment in the officer corps and enlisted ranks must be an immediate task for Biden’s pick for secretary of Defense, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, according to lawmakers, retired military leaders, and experts on extremism. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black defense secretary.

The gun-rights movement fed America’s insurrectionist fever dreams” via Firmin DeBrabander in The Atlantic — Much of the blame for last week’s horrific assault on The Capitol lies with the President and his allies; that much is clear. But another force in society has done more than its part, inculcating insurrectionist fantasies in the American mind for decades: the gun-rights movement. Since the 1990s, the idea that Americans would need to band together and violently overthrow the government has been the key to establishing and expanding the market for guns. It has also been used to justify citizens’ right to march around in public with assault rifles slung casually over a shoulder or hoisted high at angry protests. The self-defense argument only goes so far, you see.

Chad Wolf steps down from DHS” via Daniel Lippman and Matthew Choi of POLITICO — Wolf, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, is stepping down from his post, two DHS officials confirmed to POLITICO Monday. “Effective 11:59 p.m. today, I am stepping down as your Acting Secretary,” Wolf wrote in a message to the department. “I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration.” Wolf cited ongoing court rulings challenging his authority as acting secretary. A federal judge’s ruling in November put into question the legality of his appointment to the post, based on established succession law. Pete Gaynor, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will replace him as acting secretary, Wolf wrote.

Why Josh Hawley is atop the list of GOP lawmakers getting backlash over The Capitol riots” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — More than 140 congressional Republicans voted not to seat electors Biden duly won, even after the deadly invasion of The Capitol. Though, one of them has stuck out above the rest for receiving castigation over what happened: Sen. Hawley of Missouri. Hawley has become a symbol of how far the Republican Party went to stay in Trump supporters’ good graces. Hawley argued that Pennsylvania wasn’t following “its own election laws,” even though the GOP legislature and Democratic Governor agreed to change them. Many states changed the way they vote as a result of the pandemic. Especially in heavily litigated Pennsylvania, courts upheld those changes.

Facebook will remove all content mentioning ‘stop the steal’” via Pilar Melendez of The Daily Beast — Facebook on Monday announced it is removing all content mentioning “stop the steal,” a phrase popular among MAGA supporters who falsely claim Trump won the 2020 election. After last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol as Congress met to confirm Biden’s victory, the social platform said they are taking “additional steps and using the same teams and technologies we used during the general election to stop misinformation and content that could incite further violence” before Inauguration Day. But with continued attempts to organize events against the outcome of the U.S. presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in D.C., we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration.”

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Facebook tells employees to avoid wearing Facebook-branded apparel” via Alex Heath of The Information — Facebook told employees to avoid wearing or carrying company-branded clothing and other items in public following the company’s suspension last week of Trump’s account and its more recent crackdown on content mentioning “Stop the Steal,” an online movement that falsely claimed the presidential election results had been corrupted. The Facebook management’s internal memo to employees about the issue, which was reviewed by The Information, reflects concerns that the company’s actions following the deadly rally at the U.S. Capitol last week could put its staff at risk.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick declines Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump” via Boston Globe staff reports — Belichick said Monday he will not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump, issuing the following statement, as reported by ESPN: “Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the President Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and the admiration for prior recipients. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award. Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy …”

No, a Capitol rioter didn’t die after tasering himself in the balls” via Randall Colburn of the AV Club — It’s been nearly a week since a crowd of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol Building with flex cuffs and visions of bloodshed, but it still feels as if we have more questions than answers. Why was law enforcement so lax? How much of the insurrection was planned? Did a guy really die of a heart attack after accidentally tasing himself in the balls? It’s important when dealing with such a disquieting and volatile event that we value facts over hearsay and conspiracy, which is why it is our duty to inform you that, no, nobody tased themselves in the balls while trying to overthrow the government.


Florida monitoring calls for armed protests. ‘Chatter doesn’t always stay chatter.’” via Mary Ellen Klas, Jay Weaver, David Ovalle and Ana Ceballos of The Tampa Bay Times — With the FBI on Monday issuing a bulletin about possible armed marches on state Capitol buildings across the country this weekend, Florida law-enforcement officials are monitoring online chatter from extremists like the ones that ransacked the U.S. Capitol last week. So far, they say they aren’t aware of any credible threats directed toward Tallahassee or elsewhere in the state. But the federal warning came as at least one call, by an unidentified group, circulated on social media urging the “storming” of government buildings if lawmakers oust Trump, who lost the election by more than 7 million votes.

Rick Scott takes over GOP Senate fundraising as corporations pull plug on contributions” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Many major U.S. corporations are halting contributions to all congressional Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, putting Sen. Scott in a potentially tough spot. Scott was one of just eight Senators who made objections to the election results, even after a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. On Monday, he took over the GOP’s Senate campaign fundraising arm. Progressive groups have called on him to resign, but Scott spokesman Chris Hartline responded, saying, “I have no doubt that Democrat groups in Washington are scared of Rick Scott taking over the NRSC. No, Sen. Scott will not be resigning.”

Rick Scott faces a challenge as he takes over Senate fundraising just as companies are pulling support.

Lincoln Project targets companies who donate to Republicans” via Urela Perano of Axios — The Lincoln Project is launching an ad campaign against companies who bankroll Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying states’ Electoral College votes last week. There’s mounting pressure on businesses to separate themselves from Republicans who sought to delay or stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden‘s win. Major corporations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dow and Marriott International, say they are pausing donations to candidates who voted against certification. Other companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Goldman Sachs and BlackRock, say they’re halting donations altogether.

Charlie Crist: No pardons for Capitol insurrectionists” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Crist is calling for no pardons, pushing against reports suggesting that Trump may be considering pardoning those arrested for the armed Capitol insurrection last Wednesday. “As our nation continues to grapple with last week’s horrifying attack on democracy, one thing remains clear: the insurrectionists who committed this attack must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Crist said in a statement. Since Wednesday, at least 90 people have been arrested for the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol that led to the death of five individuals, including a Capitol Police officer.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls for censure of congressman who urged Trump supporters to ‘start taking down names and kicking ass’ just before Capitol takeover”  via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Rep. Wasserman Schultz wants the House to censure a colleague who told the crowd at President Donald Trump’s pre-riot rally in Washington that it was “the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” The crowd later descended on the Capitol for the hours-long takeover. Wasserman Schultz, a Broward/Miami-Dade County Democrat, and Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced a resolution Monday calling for the censure of Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, by the full House. They said he incited violence against members of Congress.

‘Every Senator here is concerned’: Political violence top of mind for some Florida lawmakers” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The FBI memo warns that protesters are planning to show up at Capitols in all 50 states at some point, regardless of which candidate the state elected and certified. Now, some Florida lawmakers are expressing concerns over their physical safety as they prepare to return on and off ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session. “Every Senator here is concerned about what may or may not happen,” said Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat who has served in the Legislature since 2012. “Based on what we’ve seen in Washington, D.C. and the FBI reports, they tell you that we’re going to have more of it.”

‘Lectern guy’ suspected in U.S. Capitol riot released from jail after Tampa court appearance” via Fox 13 staff reports — At least three people from Florida are facing charges following the U.S. Capitol riot, including a man from Parrish who was booked into Pinellas County jail over the weekend. Adam Johnson made his first federal court appearance Monday afternoon in downtown Tampa. Federal officials said Johnson was caught on camera holding House Speaker Pelosi’s lectern. Johnson’s attorneys asked that he be released on bond, while federal prosecutors objected and called him a threat to the community who needs to be held accountable for his actions. The judge agreed to give Johnson a $25,000 bond, with several conditions that include surrendering all of his weapons and passport.

Man who tipped the FBI on Adam Johnson takes a stand against hatred” via Chris Anderson of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — It wasn’t hard to identify Johnson. He was the goofy-grinning guy stealing Pelosi’s lectern, not a care in the world, like he was at a sorority house panty raid in 1952 instead of an all-out riot at the United States Capitol. Allan Mestel knew as soon as he saw the photo. That was Johnson, all right: Unemployed, father of five, married to a doctor, resident of Parrish. Mestel had met Johnson at a social function before, and as a photographer in Manatee County, he remembered his face. They also have some friends in common. He knew things about him. As any responsible person would, Mestel went on the FBI’s website and provided the agency with a tip. On Thursday, the morning after the riot, an FBI agent called him. 

Adam Johnson was identified pretty quickly by an acquaintance who took a stand against hate. Image via Getty.

‘Zip tie guy’ Eric Gavelek Munchel charged in connection to Capitol invasion has ties to Lee County” via Bill Smith of The Fort Meyers News-Press — Munchel, who has been charged in connection with the invasion of the U.S. Capitol building by supporters of Trump, was a registered voter in Fort Myers as recently as last November, Lee County voter records show. Munchel was listed as a resident of Reflection Cove Drive in the sprawling Reflection Lakes community as recently as Nov. 30, according to the county voter registration list. He is believed by authorities to be the “zip tie guy” whose picture was among those circulated around the country following the Capitol invasion.

Mini-exodus Of Republican voters In Hillsborough, Pinellas after Capitol riots” via Steve Newborn of WUSF — Last week’s riots at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., may have prompted a small exodus from the Republican Party. In Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, more than 1,000 Republicans left the party in the three days after the mob attack. In Hillsborough County, voting registration records show 407 Republicans became mostly No Party Affiliation or Independents. As a comparison, voting records show during the same three-day period last year, 65 Republicans and 100 Democrats left their parties. In 2020, more than 9,000 Republicans and 14,000 Democrats in Hillsborough left their parties.


Florida adds more than 150 COVID deaths, pushing toll past 23,000, and 11,576 new cases” via Michelle Marchante of The Miami Herald — Florida’s Department of Health on Monday confirmed 11,576 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s known total to 1,488,586. Also, 159 new resident deaths were announced, bringing the resident death toll to 23,071. Four new nonresident deaths were also announced, bringing the nonresident toll to 353. Testing information was not immediately available. According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine report, 558,326 people have been vaccinated in Florida through Sunday, with 38,409 people completing the series of two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Cars line up for COVID-19 testing outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Florida’s Department of Health confirmed another 11K cases Monday. Image via AP.

Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis will hold a news conference, 9 a.m., 3800 Wedgewood Ln., The Villages.

Florida coronavirus pandemic more evenly spread now than in summer” via Langston Taylor of The Tampa Bay Times — As Florida’s coronavirus pandemic balloons for the second major wave, there’s a key difference between now and the summer: It’s less of a South Florida-specific problem. At their summer peaks, Miami and Fort Lauderdale recorded twice as many cases per population as Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. The state’s two most populous counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, account for nearly a quarter of all Floridians. But in July, after cases exploded in and around Miami, the region’s hospitals held 36% of all COVID-19 patients. Per capita, they ranked second and third among all Florida counties in hospitalized patients that month.

What is Florida’s plan for vaccinating thousands of farmworkers? It’s unclear” via Janine Zeitlin of The Naples Daily News — Florida counts more than 100,000 farmworkers. Still, the Governor has not announced a plan for when or how to reach this vulnerable population with the state’s limited COVID-19 vaccinations. Because of their high risk and role in bringing fresh produce to tables during the winter season, advocates and the state’s Agriculture Commissioner say they should be included in the next wave of shots. Nikki Fried has “strongly advocated” that farmworkers and agriculture personnel be included in the “critical infrastructure category,” likely the next phase, wrote Franco Ripple, the agency’s communications director, in an email.


Miami-Dade County sees COVID-19 case count slow, but deaths, hospitalizations are surging” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida is beginning to see a slowdown in the post-holiday COVID-19 surge. But hospitalizations and deaths in Miami-Dade County have seen significant week-to-week increases. From Dec. 21-27, the state’s most populous county saw an average of 24 newly-reported hospitalizations per day and 8 newly-reported deaths per day. The next week, those numbers increased. From Dec. 28-Jan. 3, Miami-Dade had an average of 28 newly-reported hospitalizations per day and 14 newly-reported deaths per day. During the most recent week, those metrics spiked even higher. Miami-Dade has seen an average of 44 newly-reported hospitalizations per day and 26 newly-reported deaths per day from Jan. 4-10.

COVID-19 case numbers in Miami-Dade are slowing down, while deaths ate ticking up. Image via AP.

Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale to open as Broward Health vaccine site” via Samantha J. Gross of The Miami Herald — Fort Lauderdale’s Inter Miami CF Stadium will transition Tuesday into a COVID-19 vaccination site, where up to 500 vaccines a day will be administered to those who preregister online. The site, run by Broward Health, is a partnership between the City of Fort Lauderdale and Inter Miami CF. The stadium, formerly known as Lockhart Park, will be open Monday through Friday for people 65 and over, the office staff of Broward Health-credentialed physicians and other health care providers and their office staff members. The vaccine distribution sites have been in high demand statewide, and slots often fill up within minutes of going live online.

Long lines for first day of city of Jacksonville COVID-19 vaccine rollout” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The first round of vaccinations at two city-run sites kicked off Monday by delivering close to 1,000 injections to Duval County residents who showed up early and often for vaccinations at the Mandarin Senior Center and the Lane Wiley Senior Center. The city provided the shots on a first come first serve basis to county residents 65 and older whose birth months are January and February. The vaccinations will continue Tuesday for seniors born in March and April as the city uses a birthday-based system rather than have people go through telephone and online reservation systems.

In-person or online? As COVID-19 cases rise, Escambia, Santa Rosa families weigh switch” via Madison Arnold of The Pensacola News Journal — Coronavirus cases in both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have climbed steadily in the fall and winter and surged over the past few weeks. Escambia County saw 338 new cases reported Friday alone, bringing the total number of infections to 24,868 since the pandemic began. Santa Rosa County reported 214 cases Friday for a total of 12,524 since March. In the wake of those numbers, families have had to decide how best to handle the return to school after winter break. In Santa Rosa County, roughly 1,100 students changed how they’re learning, with most choosing to move to in-person, despite the spike in cases.

Polk’s health care providers buckling under COVID-19, urge public to take precautions” via Sara-Megan Walsh pf The Ledger — Lakeland’s health care providers say the city is squarely within COVID-19’s cone of uncertainty as virus rapidly spreads, pushing hospitals and clinics to their limits.  Dr. Joy Jackson, director of Florida Department of Health in Polk, told Lakeland commissioners there’s been a significant increase in emergency room and urgent care visits because of the virus. Across the county, Jackson said there are three times more people hospitalized because of COVID now than in early December. There were 304 hospitalized as of 3 p.m. Monday, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration’s online dashboard.

Limited COVID-19 vaccine supplies arrive in Sarasota-Manatee, a surprise to local officials” via Louis Llovio of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Less than an hour after Sarasota and Manatee counties announced to the public that no new COVID-19 vaccines were coming this week, the state proved them wrong. Sarasota and Manatee actually received 1,000 doses of the vaccine each on Monday afternoon. The doses arrived after both counties announced that they would likely be unable to vaccinate the public this week. Manatee announced it in an emailed statement and Sarasota held a news conference. As expected, this news set off a rash of tweets and online posts about how the vaccine effort locally was coming to a screeching halt. The announcements reinforced a narrative that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been riddled with problems and confusion.


Northeast sees signs that COVID-19 hospitalization’s pace is easing” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — The pace of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Northeast is showing some preliminary signs of easing, adding to hopeful indicators in the Midwest, where the latest viral wave began. In the Northeast, the number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 was 21,494 as of Sunday, up 0.8% from a week earlier, the smallest seven-day percentage increase since Sept. 25, according to COVID-19 Tracking Project data. The trend, which could still worsen again, comes as the virus now rages across the Sun Belt, and as many states are fumbling through the first few weeks of the vaccine rollout. Based on U.S. Census Bureau definitions for each region, hospitalizations are up 6.1% in the past week in the South, up 4% in the West, and down 4.2% in the Midwest.

The Trump administration’s plan to speed up vaccinations” via Sam Baker of Axios — The Trump administration is set to deliver new guidelines that will get coronavirus vaccinations moving much faster. New federal guidelines will recommend opening up the process to everyone older than 65, and will also aim to move doses out the door rather than holding some back. The early phases of the vaccination effort were designed to put the highest-risk people at the front of the line, but the pace of inoculations has frustrated experts and everyday Americans alike. The administration’s new guidelines aim to speed things up and ultimately move the U.S. closer to the widespread immunity that will put the pandemic behind us.

Governors’ red tape blamed as vaccine doses pile up” via Susannah Luthi, Shannon Young, and Victoria Colliver of POLITICO — Governors face a growing outcry over inflexible vaccine policies that are now being blamed for leaving millions of doses to pile up in freezers and some to land in the trash. Pharmacists and hospital leaders, scrambling to get the scarce COVID-19 vaccine doses into the arms of the willing, are begging state leaders not to tie their hands. They say a patchwork of Byzantine-like state regulations has left the medical community paralyzed over what to do with extra supplies. Instead of moving rapidly through all the available doses, some states have been trapped by their own policies as pandemic deaths and hospitalization continue to hit records.

Record low flu cases show how COVID-19 is more contagious and ‘less forgiving,’ experts say” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — As COVID-19 raged last year, the seasonal flu all but vanished, according to data from the U.S. CDC. During the 2019 flu season from Sept. 29 to Dec. 28, the CDC reported more than 65,000 cases nationwide. During the same period this flu season, the agency reported 1,016 cases. Health experts said that high vaccination rates against the flu played a huge role in preventing influenza transmission. The drop occurred despite a sixfold increase in testing at public health labs, most of which checked for influenza A and B along with the coronavirus. Clinical lab testing was slightly lower during the last quarter of 2020 as physicians ordered fewer flu tests because less of the illness was circulating.

A light regulatory touch to keep COVID-19 drugs current” via Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan in The Wall Street Journal — New variants of the COVID-19 virus appear more infectious, and it’s urgent to get as much protective immunity into the population before these strains can take root. These new variants are evolving in ways that may allow them to slip past diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines. The effort will require a new scientific and regulatory framework that allows countermeasures to be adapted and updated quickly as the threat evolves. The recent variants don’t seem to make COVID-19 infections more severe, but they make the virus easier to transmit. Some have mutated part of the coronavirus spike protein called the receptor-binding domain, a target of drugs and vaccines. This genetic evolution was inevitable.


‘It was a joke’: Some small businesses got $1 relief loans” via Stacy Cowley of The New York Times — The Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline for millions of small businesses brutalized by the pandemic. Over a four-month span, the government program distributed $523 billion in forgivable loans to more than five million companies. The average recipient got just over $100,000. And then there were the roughly 300 businesses that received loans of $99 or less. The profusion of minuscule loans is yet another illustration of how the relief program’s hastily constructed rules sometimes led to absurd outcomes. Because of the SBA edict that sole proprietors had to be profitable to get a PPP loan, many didn’t qualify.

Some PPP business loans were as small as $1. Image via Bloomberg.

Some Floridians finally seeing new $300 unemployment checks after delay” via Jay Cridlin and Lawrence Mower of The Tampa Bay Times — Two weeks after Trump signed a new $900 billion federal pandemic relief package, many unemployed Floridians are still waiting on help to arrive. The new aid, including weekly $300 checks, has been delayed as the state figures out how best to incorporate the new benefits into its unemployment system. But as with Florida’s vaccine rollout and plans for rent relief, the lack of details about a timetable for the payments has frustrated users. The package provides $300 per week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, a popular program that paid $600 per week before ending in July. It also extends programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, benefiting gig workers and the self-employed, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which lengthens a claimant’s window of eligibility.

Carnival Corp. CEO says company has enough cash to endure 12 more cruise-less months” via Taylor Dolven of The Miami Herald — Carnival Corporation has enough cash to survive a cruise-less 2021, CEO Arnold Donald told investors Monday. The company reported a net loss of $2.2 billion during the final quarter of 2020 but ended the year with $9.5 billion in liquidity, enough to endure at least 12 more months without cruises, Donald said. To tighten supply, the company has divested of 15 ships from its pre-pandemic fleet of 105 and plans to bid farewell to four more in the coming weeks. “I’m glad to put 2020 behind us,” Donald said. “It proved to be a true testament to the resilience of our company.” The company has returned 30 of its ships to U.S. waters since the U.S. CDC lifted its monthslong no-sail order in October, replacing it with requirements cruise companies need to meet to resume passenger cruises.

Rosen lays off another 202 employees, capping disastrous year for hotel workers” via Trevor Fraser of The Orlando Sentinel — Rosen Hotels & Resorts laid off 202 employees on New Year’s Eve, according to paperwork filed with Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, closing out a year that saw thousands of Central Florida hotel workers lose their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With eight hotels in the Orlando area, Rosen employed more than 4,000 people at their pre-pandemic peak. In July, the company laid off 1,948 workers, a move which founder Harris Rosen said at the time was a “drastic decision.” The 202 newly fired workers join a tourism labor force that has been hit hard by the pandemic.


Biden dresses down his COVID-19 team over plans to speed vaccinations” via Adam Cancryn and Tyler Pacer of POLITICO — President-elect Biden has grown frustrated with the team in charge of plotting his coronavirus response, amid rising concerns that his administration will fall short of its promise of 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days, according to people familiar with the conversations. Biden has expressed criticism on multiple occasions to groups of transition officials — including one confrontation where Biden conveyed to COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients and his deputy, Natalie Quillian, that their team was underperforming. The tensions have surfaced as Biden’s advisers plan a dramatic scale-up of vaccinations starting Jan. 20, when the incoming team inherits a troubled Trump administration vaccine rollout that has fallen well short of its initial targets.

Joe Biden wasn’t happy with staffers who suggested major changes to speed up the vaccination program. Image via AP. 

Biden eyeing ways to prevent impeachment from derailing Senate confirmations” via Nick Neidzwiadek of POLITICO — Biden said Monday he was hopeful that a looming impeachment trial of Trump would not impede the confirmation of his Cabinet selections. The President-elect said he had a discussion earlier in the day with people in both the House and Senate about ways to potentially “bifurcate” Senate proceedings along dual tracks to allow multiple things to unfold without interfering with one another. “Can you go [a] half-day on dealing with the impeachment, and a half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate?” Biden told reporters after receiving the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Biden also said he was awaiting word from the Senate parliamentarian about whether such an idea was doable.

Economist Nellie Liang is a leading contender for senior Treasury post” via Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal — Liang, an economist who specialized in financial stability during her career at the Federal Reserve, is a leading contender for a senior post in the Biden administration’s Treasury Department, according to people familiar with the matter. Liang is being considered for a position as the U.S. Treasury’s undersecretary for domestic finance. Trump nominated her to a seat on the Fed’s seven-member board of governors in 2018, but her nomination ran into opposition from Senate Republicans. Her nomination never had a committee hearing, and she withdrew from consideration after her nomination expired in early 2019.

Trade Chief Robert Lighthizer urges Biden to keep tariffs on China” via Bob Davis of The Wall Street Journal — In his nearly four years in office, U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer helped move protectionism from the fringes of American policymaking to the core. His advice to the Biden administration: Stay the course. Keep tariffs on China — all of them — even if that raises prices for U.S. businesses and consumers, he said. Weaken the World Trade Organization so that it can’t overrule U.S. policies, and make it harder for American companies to move overseas despite the cost to their competitiveness. In an interview, Lighthizer credited the Trump administration with taking a tough approach toward Chinese trade practices that benefited U.S. workers — ending years of accommodation by previous administrations fearful of angering Beijing.


Trump adds Cuba back to list of states sponsoring terrorism in final move against island” via Nora Gámez Torres and Michael Wilner of The Miami Herald — The United States added Cuba back to its list of states accused of sponsoring terrorism Monday in one of the Trump administration’s last foreign policy decisions, a move that caps four years of escalating economic and diplomatic pressure against the island. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Cuba’s government of having “fed, housed, and provided medical care for murderers, bomb-makers, and hijackers.” In particular, he mentioned Cuba’s refusal to extradite to Colombia members of the National Liberation Army guerrilla group following a terrorist attack in Bogotá and a breakdown in peace talks.

—“Carnival eyes return to Cuba as Trump places new obstacles” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg 

Cuba is back on the state-sponsored terrorism list.

For Our Future Florida provided ‘air support’ in Georgia — Progressive group For Our Future Florida said it provided substantial “air support” for Democratic Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the lead up to last week’s runoff elections in Georgia. The statewide grassroots organization said it tallied more than 1 million text messages ahead of the election, which swung control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. “Florida front-line workers still need Congress to pass state and local aid and help millions here who are unemployed, struggling to pay bills, and staring down evictions,” said State Director Jenn Whitcomb. “Every vote in the Senate will matter, but putting Marco Rubio and Rick Scott in the minority makes helping Floridians exponentially easier.”


Noah Valenstein touts importance of climate change role he’s held on interim basis for 10 months” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics —DeSantis has touted his administration’s environmental advancements, which includes hiring the state’s first CRO, tasked with preparing Florida for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea-level rise. But his 2019 appointee, Julia Nesheiwat, departed less than six months later to become Trump‘s Homeland Security Adviser. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Valenstein has been the state’s interim CRO since March. He says he can effectively juggle being DEP Secretary and CRO because his department already has a resiliency team that would tackle the topic of climate change regardless. However, lawmakers and activists are eager for an independent resiliency chief to take the reins of the climate change effort.

Interim CRO Noah Valenstein says his agency is focused on climate change.

Should computers seized in raid of data analyst’s home be returned? A judge will hear arguments this week in court case” via Jim Saunders of The News Service of Florida — A Leon County circuit judge is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday about whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement should return the property to fired state Department of Health analyst Rebekah Jones after agents searched her home and hauled away computer equipment last month. Judge John Cooper will hold a hearing on a motion by Jones’ attorneys to force FDLE to return the property amid a broader lawsuit that alleges the agency violated Jones’ First Amendment and due-process rights and conducted an unlawful search and seizure, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges that a search warrant used to enter her home “was obtained in bad faith and with no legitimate object or purpose.”

Traffic tickets plunged in Florida. It may mean painful budget cuts for many services” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Average Floridians might not realize that every time they pay a court fine or fee, the money helps keep government operations afloat. The revenue — especially from traffic tickets — helps pay for everything from wildlife and environmental conservation, compensation for crime victims, and even treatments for people with brain and spinal injuries. But as the pandemic has largely shuttered courts and led to fewer motorists getting tickets, revenue across Florida has plummeted — exposing what critics have long derided as an unreliable and unfair system built on the backs of court defendants.

Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light will ask state to approve plan to merge power rates” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light officials are planning to ask state regulators for a new four-year rate plan agreement that ultimately will bring the companies under the same rate structure. Gulf Power officials said the plan would result in lower bills for its Northwest Florida customers at the end of the four-year plan while other Florida customers will see an increase. The two companies, Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light, legally became the same company at the start of 2021.


Vacation rental proposal reemerges” via The News Service of Florida — SB 522, filed by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., would largely give the state control of regulation of vacation rentals, preventing local restrictions. Local governments could only regulate the rentals in the same way as other properties in neighborhoods, a restriction that cities and counties have strenuously opposed in the past. He sponsored a similar measure during the 2020 session, but it did not pass. The regulatory issue has sparked a long-running battle pitting local government officials against advertising platforms, such as Airbnb.

Manny Diaz is looking for the state to take over short-term rental regulations.

Jim Boyd seeks to overturn cruise limits passed by Key West voters” via Taylor Dolven and Gwen Filosa of The Miami Herald — A bill introduced this week in the Florida Legislature would overturn three laws recently passed by Key West voters to limit cruise tourism to the city. The so-called preemption bill filed by state Sen. Boyd would retroactively prohibit local governments from regulating seaport business, including restricting a vessel’s type or size. In November, more than 60% of Key West voters decided to ban cruise ships with a capacity of more than 1,300 people from docking in the city and to limit the number of cruise visitors who can disembark each day to 1,500. “I support commerce and revenue sources for all ports in our state,” said Boyd via text message.

Lawmakers file bills elevating apprenticeship programs to students” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation filed last week would connect high school and middle school students to job training programs, helping provide youth a pathway to the workforce that doesn’t go through college. Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jason Shoaf‘s bills, titled Apprenticeship and Preapprenticeship Programs, would require the Department of Education to alert students in grades 6 through 12 to apprenticeship and career opportunities. DOE would also have to develop a detailed process for education agencies to create training programs with private apprenticeship groups. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics projects the demand for many skilled jobs in America to grow faster than average between 2019 and 2029.

Florida’s Historic Capitol to illuminate blue for National Human Trafficking Awareness Day” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida Historic Capitol building will shine blue Monday evening to raise awareness for human trafficking. Florida Attorney General Moody said the gesture unites Florida with other states and groups recognizing National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. “As Attorney General, I am committed to ending human trafficking in Florida,” Moody said in a news release. “This is a momentous goal, and we need as much help from Floridians on this mission as possible. To shine a light on these atrocious crimes and encourage public support, tonight, we are lighting Florida’s Historic Capitol blue — the international color of human trafficking awareness. Moody encouraged lawmakers and council members to show their support by wearing blue and posting on social media with the hashtag #WearBlueOAG.

The Florida Capitol will be bathed in blue light for Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Happening tonight — Rep. Dan Dailey will be holding a cocktail fundraiser for his reelection bid for HD 97, 5:30 p.m., Eve on Adams, 101 South Adams St., Tallahassee.

Today’s legislative committee meetings

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will hear presentations from Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell, Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer, Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom and Department of Revenue Executive Director Jim Zingale, 9 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will receive an update on Florida’s criminal-justice system, 9 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Education Committee will receive and update on voucher programs for K-12 schools and financial aid programs for college and university students, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee will hear a presentation from Maj. Gen. James Hartsell, deputy executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs; Beth Medina, vice president of Enterprise Florida; and Jared Moskowitz, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, 12:30 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will receive an update on property insurance by Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance President and CEO Barry Gilway, 3:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation Committee will receive updates on three toll road projects: extending the Suncoast Parkway between Citrus and Jefferson counties, connecting Florida’s Turnpike from Wildwood to the Suncoast Parkway, and another linking Polk and Collier counties, 3:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.


Can Mayor Francis Suarez bring Silicon Valley to Miami?” via Zoë Bernard of The Information — The Miami hype is fueled not only by Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists and entrepreneurs but by a prominent Miamian: its 43-year-old Republican Mayor. Suarez has turned himself into a one-man chamber of commerce on Twitter, personally responding to hundreds of potential recruits and handing out his phone number to any businessperson contemplating a move to the Magic City, as Miami is nicknamed. Suarez is joined by a small but vocal group of Silicon Valley ex-patriots extolling Miami’s virtues, including, most notably, Keith Rabois from Founders Fund. Rabois moved to Miami in November and, in recent weeks, also took to Twitter to praise his new home for its “interesting people,” timely police department, and the Mayor’s embrace of founders and investors.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is trying to lure Silicon Valley to Florida. Image via the Miami New Times.

Miami Beach plans to say ‘good riddance’ to hard-partying tourists” via WLRN staff reports — Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola and other city leaders are now supporting a slate of new ordinances that they hope will fundamentally rebrand the city and discourage people from partying hard there. Elected officials have ruminated on making changes for years, but they say a fatal stabbing in November in the middle of Collins Avenue has made the situation in South Beach more pressing than ever. The package of reforms would mean stricter sound ordinances, an increased police presence, rolling back the last call on alcohol sales to 2 a.m. from 5 a.m., and enforcing a new code of conduct for businesses on Ocean Drive. The legal mechanism is at times unclear, but city officials say they hope the package will push businesses that cater to tourists out of the area and ultimately make it more expensive for visitors to stay in Miami Beach.

Former Broward Health executive accused of $600,000 in kickbacks” via Mario Ariza of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A purchasing executive at Broward Health steered plum contracts to his accomplices in exchange for $600,000 in kickbacks, vacations to Cancun and the Bahamas, and even a pair of World Cup tickets, prosecutors say. Now Brian Bravo faces up to 60 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine if convicted. Bravo, the former head of purchasing for Broward Health, a hospital district that operates with taxpayer dollars, pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale to charges of bribery, money laundering and extortion. He was released Friday on $200,000 bond. His federal public defender, Jan Smith, declined to comment. “Mr. Bravo is not an employee of our system and has not worked for our organization in over five years,” said Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for Broward Health.

WTF is the matter with people?Someone wrote ‘Trump’ on a manatee. Feds and Florida officials are investigating” via Adriana Brasileiro of — Federal and state wildlife officials are investigating the apparent harassment of a manatee that had the word “Trump” written on its back. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are looking into the incident, spokespeople said. The sighting was reported to federal authorities over the weekend. A video of the manatee swimming in the Blue Hole in the Homosassa River was first reported in the Citrus County Chronicle on Monday. It was unclear how the word was applied, whether it had been scraped on the algae that often grows on the backs of the slow-moving sea cows, or drawn in some other way. Christina Meister from FWS’ public affairs office and Susan Neel, a spokeswoman at FWC, said the agencies would provide more information about the case later.

Sick: A manatee with the word ‘Trump’ on its back was found in the Homosassa River. Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Yes, It was a coup. Here’s why.” via Fiona Hill of POLITICO — Technically, what Trump attempted is what’s known as a “self-coup,” and Trump isn’t the first leader to try it. Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte pulled one off in France in December 1851 to stay in power beyond his term. Then he declared himself Emperor, Napoleon III. More recently, Nicolás Maduro perpetrated a self-coup in Venezuela after losing the 2017 elections. The storming of The Capitol building on Jan. 6 was the culmination of a series of actions and events taken or instigated by Trump so he could retain the presidency that together amount to an attempt at a self-coup. This was not a one-off or brief episode. Trump declared “election fraud” immediately on November 4, even while the votes were still being counted.


Trump should be impeached. But that alone won’t remove White supremacy from America.” via Hillary Clinton for The Washington Post — Wednesday’s attack on The Capitol was the tragically predictable result of White-supremacist grievances fueled by Trump. But his departure from office, whether immediately or on Jan. 20, will not solve the deeper problems exposed by this episode. What happened is cause for grief and outrage. It should not be cause for shock. What was too often passed off as the rantings of an unfortunate but temporary figure in public life are, in reality, part of something much bigger. That is the challenge that confronts us all. Trump ran for President on a vision of America where whiteness is valued at the expense of everything else. By the time he lost in 2020, he had whipped a dangerous element of our country into a frenzy.

COVID-19 lawsuit immunity for businesses is bad for Florida” via Frederick Southwick of The Orlando Sentinel — The COVID-19 vaccine now arriving in Florida means there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though we may still have a long, dark winter before reaching the tunnel’s end. It could take months for most of us Floridians, other than front-line workers and vulnerable seniors, to have widespread access to a vaccine. That makes it critical that we keep our guard up, wear lifesaving face masks, maintain safe distances from people, practice good hygiene, and do all we can to encourage responsible behavior. That is why I worry about state lawmakers talking about enacting sweeping COVID-19 lawsuit immunity to businesses and health providers. It sends exactly the wrong message to the public and businesses, the vast majority of which are acting responsibly to safeguard Floridians during the pandemic.


Democrats in the state Legislature are vowing to thwart the GOP plan to pass a new law targeting people who protest in public. They say the Governor is trying to use White supremacist violence in Washington to justify a crackdown on peaceful Black Lives Matter rallies in Florida.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— DeSantis and Attorney General Moody both joined in Trump’s effort to overturn Biden’s election. The Democratic leader of the state Senate says their lies about voter fraud undermined democracy and helped enable the coup at The Capitol.

— DeSantis is also under fire for the way COVID-19 vaccinations are happening in Florida.

— But Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Tampa says the situation will improve once Trump is out and Biden is in charge of the federal response COVID-19.

— No sign of a break in the casualty count. The Department of Health reports 163 more fatalities from the disease and more than 11,000 newly confirmed cases.

— Florida TaxWatch is issuing a new report saying Florida businesses will pay a heavy price if the Legislature doesn’t protect them from COVID-19 liability lawsuits.

— Republicans in the Legislature are vowing to protect businesses from liability lawsuits and discuss a bill this week. They have shown zero interest in fixing the broken unemployment system or dealing with the flood of evictions and foreclosures waiting in the wings.

— And finally, the Florida Man photographed during The Capitol coup wearing a gun while dressed in a Punisher shirt and holding a handful of zip ties often used for handcuffs.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

No more puny prizes: Mega Millions, Powerball jackpots soar” via Scott McFetridge of The Associated Press — After a long stretch of relatively paltry prizes, U.S. lottery players now have a choice of games that offer combined jackpots of more than $1 billion. The jackpot for Mega Millions’ Tuesday night drawing has climbed to $615 million, and the top prize in the Powerball game reached $550 million ahead of Wednesday’s drawing. It has been nearly two years since the two national lottery games offered such giant prizes, and only the second time both jackpots have topped $500 million. The projected Mega Millions grand prize is the eighth largest in U.S. history, and the Powerball jackpot is the 12th biggest. Both still pale compared to the largest prize, a $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot won by three players in 2016.

After a series of small payouts, the Powerball is back to blockbuster prizes. Image via AP.

Amazon, Walmart tell consumers to skip returns of unwanted items” via Suzanne Kapner and Paul Ziobro of The Wall Street Journal —, Walmart and other companies are using artificial intelligence to decide whether it makes economic sense to process a return. For inexpensive items or large ones that would incur hefty shipping fees, it is often cheaper to refund the purchase price and let customers keep the products. The relatively new approach, popularized by Amazon and a few other chains, is being adopted more broadly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a surge in online shopping forces companies to rethink how they handle returns. “We are getting so many inquiries about this that you will see it take off in coming months,” said Amit Sharma, chief executive of Narvar, which processes returns for retailers.

Disney ending Magical Express bus service and Extra Magic Hours for hotel guests” via DeWayne Bevil of The Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World will discontinue Disney’s Magical Express bus service and end its Extra Magic Hours benefit for hotel guests in 2021, the company announced Monday. Later this year, resort guests will begin getting 30-minute head starts in all four theme parks every day, Disney says. Disney Magical Express, a free service that carries visitors from Orlando International Airport to Disney resort hotels, will not be available starting with arrivals on Jan. 1, 2022. It will operate for existing and newly made reservations for 2021 stays. Meanwhile, Extra Magic Hours, which granted Disney hotel guests additional time inside Disney World’s theme parks, is being retired.

Epcot arts fest returns: We hear Voices, revel in ratatouille, earn our wings” via Dewayne Bevil of The Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has unveiled the 2021 edition of the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Arts. This was the last of the theme park’s special events uninterrupted by the coronavirus pandemic last year. The “taste” designation may sound like the festival is not at full strength, and there certainly are differences and absences. But the fest continues to showcase art in an expanded way, which extends to the food menu. There are more than three dozen new food and beverage items sprinkled around World Showcase.


Happy birthday belatedly to Rep. Tommy Gregory. Celebrating today is Rep. Charlie StoneBarbara Petersen, and Jeff Woodburn.


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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