Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.13.21

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House will debate whether to make Donald Trump the first President to be impeached twice. Still, a new NBCLX poll found voters are more interested in uniting the country than handing POTUS another dis-commendation on his way out the door.

First reported by Noah Pransky, the survey revealed that 50% of American voters want Congressional Democrats to prioritize issues that will bring Americans together compared to 31% who want Congress to throw the book at Trump.

Donald Trump is poised to make history. Image via AP.

The poll was conducted on Jan. 12, six days after a mob of Trump’s most ardent supporters ransacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the election.

That doesn’t mean that voters don’t want Trump to be impeached — 53% said they do, and another 7% said they’re fans of the idea, but it’s not worth the time.

Additionally, 52% of voters said they want President-elect Joe Biden to shelve some of the issues he campaigned on to focus on bridging the political chasm between Republicans and Democrats. In late-November, just 42% of voters held that stance.

Democrats, Republicans and independents were nearly unanimous in saying the country was divided, with more than three-quarters saying it was “very divided.”

At 85%, Republican-leaning voters were the most pessimistic. Democrat-leaning voters were 11 points back, followed by independent voters at 67%.

Another tract of common ground: self-pardons.

Seven in 10 voters said a sitting President should not be allowed to pardon himself. Only 14% dissented.

The NBCLX poll was conducted by YouGov on the morning of Jan. 12. It took responses from 1,200 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

___

Only he knows why, but Sen. Joe Gruters will be slumming it with Rep. Anthony Sabatini at an anti-vaccine rally later this month.

While Sabatini probably doesn’t have anything to do on a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of a committee week, Gruters does.

The Sarasota Senator chairs the Florida GOP, and unlike Rep. Blackface, he chairs a committee in the Legislature, too.

Why in the world is Joe Gruters slumming with Anthony Sabatini?

But instead of doing something worthwhile, Gruters will be a guest speaker at an event that sounds like a rejected Party Down episode: The Florida Freedom Rally.

Hosted by the equally inane-sounding Conscious Coalition and Moms For Freedom, the event promises to be a cesspool of angry, misinformed, and conspiratorial whackjobs who are hellbent on rejecting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gruters’ presence isn’t harmless. If we’ve learned anything over the past week, or past four years, his presence is validation.

The people who gather at the state Capitol to hear him speak will walk away even more resolute in their beliefs than when they arrived, all because an influential Senator will have told them they might be onto something when he should have cringed.

And they don’t just believe that vaccines are a scam.

These same people believe masks have a mortality rate. They believe in the “plandemic.” They believe Biden wants to microchip them. They believe the election was stolen.

Simply put, this is the crowd who thinks Sabatini is a good attorney. Ergo, it’s the crowd all respectable elected officials should keep at arm’s length.

___

A giantFamed Pensacola Attorney Fred Levin has died at the age of 83 from COVID-19” via Jim Little of The Pensacola News Journal — Levin Papantonio Rafferty spokesperson Mollye Barrows confirmed to the News-Journal that Levin died Tuesday afternoon from COVID-19. Barrows said Levin was asymptomatic when diagnosed with the virus five days ago and the family is not releasing any additional details at this point. Levin, a Pensacola native, was known as one of the nation’s top trial attorneys throughout his career, which began in 1961 when he joined the Levin and Askew law firm founded by his brother David Askew and Reubin Askew. Levin’s most famous victory in the courtroom came in the 1990s when he was able to get the Florida Legislature to change the statute to Florida’s Medicaid law that allowed it to recoup money for the cost of treating lung cancer.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@DavidAFrench: It cannot be emphasized enough that radicalized Trumpists have created a culture of intimidation and fear through wave upon wave of targeted threats. It applies to media, to politicians, and to any prominent voice who stands in their way. It’s evil.

@KEMettler: Yesterday I went shopping for a new winter coat that would fit over a bulletproof vest so I can safely (and warmly) cover the inauguration of the next President of the United States. What an absolutely absurd sentence to write.

@Timodc: You don’t hear about the “alt-right” very much anymore because it’s no longer an alternative, it is the right.

@Munson_Jo: [Nancy] Pelosi said her young staffers knew to barricade the door, turn out the lights, and be silent, because they learned it in school.

@CamMcGrady: Those Georgia Senate races seem more consequential by the day.

@MDixon55: Kevin Guthrie, Deputy Director at Florida Division of Emergency Management, tells Florida Senate panel that state is ready for potential riots or protests, but says they would have to go into a closed session in order for him to get into specifics.

@SenJanetCruz: Very kind of those organizing the armed protest at our State Capitol this Sunday to schedule it on the weekend so Representative @AnthonySabatini can participate.

@Mcorley: Over 4,000 deaths from COVID-19 reported again today. We are in the middle of multiple national tragedies right now.

@NickIarossi: A beautifully written tribute by Dr. Miriam Adelson about the passing of Sheldon Adelson. I was privileged to represent Sheldon for many years and spend time with him. He was a kind man, looked out for the little guy, a true patriot, defender of Israel, a visionary. RIP

@NikkiFriedFL: This is tragic news. Fred Levin was a force behind @UFLaw and titan of Florida’s legal community — he did a lot of good, for a lot of people. I’m keeping the Levin family in my thoughts during this difficult time

Tweet, tweet:

https://twitter.com/CarolineMoss/status/1349139734719725569?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

— DAYS UNTIL —

WandaVision premieres on Disney+ — 2; the 2021 Inauguration — 7; Florida Chamber Economic Outlook and Job Solution Summit begins — 15; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 25; Daytona 500 — 32; “Nomadland” with Frances McDormand — 38; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 48; “Coming 2 America” premieres on Amazon Prime — 52; “The Many Saints of Newark” premieres — 58; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 79; Children’s Gasparilla — 87; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 94; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 99; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 114; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 170; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 178; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 191; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 198; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 224; “Dune” premieres — 262; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 294; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 296; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 338; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 331; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 436; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 478; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 632.

— IMPEACHMENT —

In his first public appearance since the Capitol siege, Donald Trump expresses no contrition for inciting the mob.” via James Dobbins and Annie Karni of The New York Times — Trump showed no contrition or regret for instigating the mob that stormed the Capitol and threatened the lives of members of Congress and his Vice President, saying that his remarks to a rally beforehand were “totally appropriate” and that the effort by Congress to impeach and convict him was “causing tremendous anger.” Answering questions from reporters for the first time since the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday, Trump sidestepped questions about his culpability in the deadly riot that shook the nation’s long tradition of peaceful transfers of power. Trump’s defiance came despite the near-universal condemnation of his role in stoking the assault on the Capitol, including from within his own administration and some of his closest allies on Capitol Hill.

In his first appearance after the riot, Donald Trump shows no remorse. Image via AP.

Mike Pence tells Nancy Pelosi he will not invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump” via Jacob Pramuk of CNBC — Vice President Pence said he will not remove Trump from office, shortly before a House vote to call on him and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. The Democratic-held chamber will vote Tuesday night to call on the executive branch to push Trump out of the White House. House Speaker Pelosi had pressed Pence on whether he would remove the President. She said that if the Vice President did not act, the chamber would vote Wednesday to make Trump the first President ever impeached twice. The chamber is expected to pass the 25th Amendment measure, which does not compel Pence and Cabinet secretaries to take action. The Vice President has so far resisted calls to remove Trump from office. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tried to pass the resolution by unanimous consent on Monday. Rep. Alex Mooney blocked it.

Tweet, tweet:

The GOP isn’t defending Trump on impeachment — not really” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to discuss the coronavirus vaccine rollout. But host George Stephanopoulos first had to ask him about the big issue roiling Washington: Trump’s alleged incitement of an attempted insurrection against the American government and the attempts to remove him from office that have followed. Azar was asked twice whether he felt Trump was able to discharge the duties of the presidency. Trump assured that “people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” but almost no Republicans are actually saying that.

GOP kicks Trump to curb after deadly Capitol insurrection, leaving President to fend for himself during his historic second impeachment” via Tom LoBianco of Business Insider — With just eight days left in office, the “adults in the room” who had been keeping Trump from flying off the rails are leaving him to fend for himself after he spurred his supporters to violently attack the Capitol. Sure, most Republicans aren’t joining the charge to oust Trump. But they’re not standing in the way of those efforts either. The threats to the Trump presidency in the final hours are indeed very real. House Republican leaders signaled to their rank-and-file members on Tuesday that they would not be lobbied to oppose impeachment. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately told others that he would welcome Trump’s impeachment after last week’s deadly attack on the Capitol.

John Katko, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are first Republicans to back impeachment as leaders forgo formally lobbying against it.” via Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Rep. Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, announced that she would vote to impeach Trump, saying there had “never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States” than Trump’s incitement of a mob that attacked the Capitol last week. In a stinging statement that drove a fissure through her party, Cheney dismissed fellow Republicans, arguing that the impeachment was rushed, premature or unwarranted. Her words were unequivocal and likely to give cover to two dozen or so other House Republicans looking to break ranks and join an effort that was also said to have the tacit support of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

Group pledges up to $50 million to defend Republicans who support impeaching Donald Trump.” via Annie Karni of The New York Times — A group of former administration officials and anti-Trump Republicans said they would make a $50 million commitment to support the reelection of Republican lawmakers who join Democrats in supporting impeachment of the President. The group’s financial commitment, the Republican Accountability Project, is designed to incentivize Republicans who have appeared open to voting in favor of the new article of impeachment that is expected to be considered by the House. “Donald Trump has made it clear he is going to try and politically punish anyone who stands against him,” said Sarah Longwell, a prominent Never Trump Republican who is behind the new group.

Former RNC chair says GOP will not be a governing majority again as long as it embraces Trumpism” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — After rioters stormed the Capitol less than a week ago after being egged on by Trump to overturn the 2020 election results, deep questions about the future of the Republican Party and its attractiveness to voters have surfaced. Some Republican lawmakers eyeing the 2024 presidential race are now being partly blamed for the GOP’s unpopularity with many of the voters who voted blue in the 2020 election, including by some Republicans. From this point, what the GOP does as their party leader is facing impeachment days before his successor is sworn in is still unclear. More Republican lawmakers have spoken out against the actions of Trump’s supporters than many people on both sides of the aisle expected given the past four years.

The GOP will become a minority party if it continues to embrace Donald Trump, says Michael Steele.

FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence” via Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post — A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” according to an internal document reviewed by that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s pro-Trump protest planned to do harm. A situational information report approved for release the day before the U.S. Capitol riot painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina and head in groups to Washington.

Lawmakers were feet and seconds away from confrontation with the mob in the Capitol” via Ted Mann, Dustin Volz, Lindsay Wise and Chad Day of The Wall Street Journal — The mob’s rampage last Wednesday was a rare and deadly assault by American citizens on the halls of Congress, leaving two killed, three others dead and widespread damage. The toll could have been much worse. In the hour after they breached the building, the rioters — some carrying nooses, bats, pipes, chemical irritants and zip ties that can be used to handcuff people — were feet or seconds away from the lawmakers they sought to confront, hoping to stop them from ratifying Biden’s election and keep Trump in power. 

How a Presidential rally turned into a Capitol rampage” via Lauren Leatherby, Arielle Ray, Anjali Singhvi, Christiaan Triebert, Derek Watkins and Haley Willis of The New York Times — When Trump railed against the election results from a stage near the White House on Wednesday, his loyalists were already gathering at the Capitol. Soon, they would storm it. We analyzed a crucial two-hour period to reconstruct how a rally gave way to a mob that nearly came face to face with Congress. About 15 minutes into his speech, Trump tells rally attendees to walk to the Capitol. “You have to show strength,” he says. At this moment, the Capitol grounds are protected by temporary perimeter fences, and there are few officers equipped to defend them.

Military investigating whether troops had role in violence at U.S. Capitol” via Tara Copp of McClatchy — The military is expanding its investigation into whether any troops who participated in last week’s pro-Trump rally also took part in the violence inside the U.S. Capitol, even as lawmakers are pressing the Defense Department to rescreen the thousands of military personnel assigned to support the presidential inauguration to vet them for potential extremist ties. Military personnel are allowed to participate in political events as long as they are attending in a personal capacity and not in uniform, several defense officials said. But the military is also looking closer at whether or not any of those service members took part in the deadly attack inside the U.S. Capitol building, after videos and photos of the protest identified several participants as military veterans and at least one as an active duty service member.

Something ‘very drastic’ to happen next, says pro-Trump organizer; watchdog investigator says threats should be taken seriously” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — Willie Guardiola, who organizes pro-Trump rallies and sign-waving events in Palm Beach County — where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home is located — told The Palm Beach Post “Trump is not going anywhere” and added “he is not going to lay down and be impeached” either. “Something very drastic is going to happen in the next nine days and everybody needs to be ready,” Guardiola said. Michael Hayden, a senior investigative reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s PLC’s Intelligence Project, said given last week’s insurrection, the threat cannot be taken “lightly” this week.

Elon Musk blames Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg for Capitol riot” via Sissi Cao and Jordan Zakarin of the Observer — In times of social crises in America, big tech billionaires are often among the first to speak up — though how they do so varies. Unlike many of his peers, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk didn’t directly speak about the riot that erupted in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday afternoon. But the second-richest man in the world did make it clear that he was watching the news and indeed had a strong opinion about the surreal events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol. His message was clear: The shocking rampage on Wednesday was the culmination of years of political and ideological polarization fueled by social media platforms, primarily Facebook. “This is called the domino effect,” Musk tweeted alongside the meme.

— FLORIDA ANGLE —

Ron DeSantis vows Florida will be ready if protests engulf state Capitol” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis, a top ally of Trump, vowed Tuesday that state authorities would be ready in case of any unrest ahead of Biden’s inauguration. DeSantis, who has refrained from criticizing Trump over last week’s riots at the U.S. Capitol, acknowledged FBI warnings about possible protests and violence at state capitals leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, but said he did not know about anything “specific” targeting at Tallahassee. During the protests that occurred in several cities throughout the state following the killing of George Floyd, DeSantis last year called up the Florida National Guard, but those units were not deployed.

The Capitol Police are ready for protests. says Ron DeSantis.

Florida lawmakers tell staff to avoid state Capitol Sunday because of election protests” via Kirby Wilson of The Tampa Bay Times — Senate President Wilton Simpson, one of the most powerful Republicans in the state, had a message for Florida’s Senators Tuesday: stay away from the Capitol this weekend. Right-wing election protests could come to state Capitols across the country in the coming days, authorities have warned. Many of those planning to participate in these events believe the fallacy that Trump had the 2020 election stolen from him. A Trump-supporting mob of hundreds stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, causing a scene that resulted in five deaths, including that of a police officer.

Cord Byrd addresses political tweet posted by wife” via News 4 Jax — The Florida lawmaker who represents House District 11 is clarifying a tweet posted by his wife, and both have since left Twitter. The tweet has since been taken down and was in response to the siege of the U.S. Capitol. The post was made by the wife of Rep. Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican. The tweet by his wife, Esther, read: “In the coming civil wars (We the People vs the Radical Left and We the People cleaning up the Republican Party), team rosters are being filled. Every elected official in D.C. will pick one. There are only 2 teams … With Us [or] Against Us.” News4Jax asked Byrd specifically about the opening line: “In the coming civil wars.”

Palm Beach County adds security for commission meeting after Capitol riots” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — Nearly one week after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob supporting Trump, Palm Beach County has added a second layer of security at its West Palm Beach administrative office. Anyone doing business at the Robert Weisman Governmental Center on North Olive Avenue goes through a security screening consisting of walking through a metal detector and placing purses, briefcases and bags through an X-ray scanning machine. On Tuesday, anyone who wanted to attend the county commission meeting had to be screened again before entering the chambers.

Sanford firefighter arrested by feds for trespassing in U.S. Capitol” via Grace Toohey and Jeff Weiner of The Orlando Sentinel — A Sanford firefighter who was photographed inside the U.S. Capitol among the pro-Trump mob that flooded the building during last week’s deadly riot has been arrested by federal authorities, records show. According to federal court records, Andrew Williams, who is also a paramedic for the Sanford Fire Department and has been with the agency since 2016, faces a charge of disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Williams was charged by the USAO in the District of Columbia. He appeared at the federal courthouse in downtown Orlando on Tuesday with his legs shackled. Despite concerns from prosecutors, a U.S. District Magistrate Judge Embry Kidd ordered his release from custody, with conditions including a psychiatric and mental health evaluation and travel restrictions.

Sanford firefighter Andrew Williams was deep in The Capitol riot. Image via People.

Former North Miami Beach cop went live on Facebook from inside the Capitol during riot” via Aaron Leibowitz and Charles Rabin of The Miami Herald — A former North Miami Beach police officer was among those who breached the United States Capitol building during the Jan. 6 riot seeking to prevent Congress from certifying the presidential election results, according to a video posted on the former officer’s Facebook account. In a video shared with the Miami Herald, Nicholes Lentz, an officer with North Miami Beach from June 2016 until last August, discusses the insurrection as he stands inside the Capitol building with hundreds of other Trump supporters. Surrounded by other members of the pro-Trump mob, Lentz said he was “not here to hurt any cops.” But, he added: “This is overwhelming for them. There’s no way they can hold us back.”

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida adds nearly 15,000 COVID cases as total tops 1.5 million, with 156 new deaths” via Howard Cohen of The Miami Herald — Florida’s Department of Health confirmed 14,896 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s known total to a new milestone: 1,503,482. Also, 156 new resident deaths were announced, bringing the state’s resident death toll from the novel coronavirus to 23,227. Five new nonresident deaths were also announced, bringing the nonresident toll to 358. The Sunshine State has the fourth-highest death toll in the country, after New York, Texas, and California. According to the state’s Tuesday COVID-19 vaccine report, 648,353 people have been vaccinated in Florida, with 51,234 people completing the series of two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

‘Putting seniors first was the right decision.’ DeSantis defends vaccine rollout” via Skyler Swisher of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis defended Florida’s rollout of the vaccine to older and vulnerable residents at The Villages mega-retirement community on Tuesday, saying he was ahead of other states in prioritizing seniors. Long lines, faulty appointment websites, jammed phone lines and blindsided local officials marred Florida’s push to offer the shot to seniors. But DeSantis said he made the right call to rush out the vaccine to seniors. “Putting seniors first was the right decision,” DeSantis said. DeSantis broke with initial CDC guidelines, which would have put essential workers like grocery store employees, teachers and postal workers ahead of healthy seniors between the ages of 65-74.

Putting seniors first in line for a vaccine was a good move by Ron DeSantis. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

Publix doubles vaccine distribution with total of 49 stores” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — Publix will soon administer COVID-19 vaccines in 49 stores across eight counties, roughly doubling its reach since its vaccination program began last week, the chain announced Tuesday. The Lakeland retailer is providing the vaccines to those 65 and older through a collaboration with the state health department. Select Publix stores in Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties will now have the vaccine available. Although Marion County had stores with vaccine starting last week, large retirement community the Villages will soon provide the vaccine, too. The newly added stores will begin accepting vaccination appointments Wednesday.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a news conference, 9 a.m., Publix at Sawgrass Village, 220 Front Street, Ponte Vedra Beach. Media must RSVP at [email protected]

AdventHealth opens coronavirus vaccinations to patients 65 and up” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — AdventHealth’s West Florida Division will start to administer coronavirus vaccine to elderly patients Wednesday, including at three locations in Tampa Bay, the nonprofit health care chain announced. The first phase of distribution will include patients who are 65 and older and have a primary care physician with AdventHealth Medical Group, as well as health care workers within AdventHealth’s network. Those who are eligible will receive an email from AdventHealth with information about how to register. AdventHealth did not say how many doses it has available and declined to share specific locations because vaccine appointments are not open to the public.

— CORONA LOCAL — 

South Florida adds 4.8K COVID-19 cases as hospitalizations trend upward in Broward, Miami-Dade” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida’s tri-county area added another 4,822 COVID-19 cases in Tuesday’s Department of Health report, putting the region above 575,000 total cases since the pandemic began. The region also recorded another 24 deaths Tuesday, marking 8,365 lives lost overall in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Tuesday’s report maintained troubling trends in Miami-Dade County. Average hospitalizations and deaths are up significantly week-to-week, though the virus’s spread seems to be slowing down just as the region was approaching numbers seen during the devastating summer spike. However, death and hospitalizations are lagging indicators, meaning those infected in previous weeks may just require serious care.

Will South Beach have spring break? Mayor wants to avoid COVID-19 ‘super-spreader’” via Martin Vassolo of The Miami Herald — Less than a month after recommending that the city of Miami Beach spend $1.5 million to organize a monthlong spring break festival, interim City Manager Raul Aguila said now is not an “appropriate time” to hold the event amid surging COVID-19 cases and varied university schedules that will result in a longer spring break. The March festival, expected to feature city-sponsored dance parties and concerts in South Beach, would seek to give party-fueled students an organized way to channel their energy while minimizing public disturbances and police encounters. The pandemic onset in South Florida stymied the city’s first attempt to organize a spring break festival last March. The city has not signed a contract with the event organizer, but the event will go forward if the commission approves the concept.

Miami Beach officials fear Spring Break could be a superspreader event. Image via AP.

As vaccine requests swell, health department struggles with tech issues in Palm Beach County” via Wells Dusenbury of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More than 100,000 people seeking COVID-19 vaccines have bombarded the state health department in Palm Beach County, and most are still waiting for appointments. Inadequate technology has left thousands of people waiting for an email response, and some people have raised concerns that the email process could open people to fraud. In many cases, health officials don’t have answers to the problems or have provided conflicting information. The long list of vaccine sign-up problems was thrust into the spotlight during a county meeting.

Health director: Seniors shots could take months; Publix in PBC could have doses soon” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — With 100,000 senior citizens in Palm Beach County on a waiting list for the coronavirus vaccine and only 4,000 additional doses received this week, the county’s health director on Tuesday said it could be months before anxious seniors are inoculated. “If you do the math, there’s no possible way this is going to be done in a week or a month,” Dr. Alina Alonso told county commissioners. “This is going to take time.” It will likely be March before the county’s 400,000 senior citizens — along with tens of thousands of health care workers, first-responders and nursing home residents and staff — are vaccinated, she said.

Hillsborough gives newly homeless in pandemic somewhere to go” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — Affordable housing in Hillsborough County and across the nation was in crisis long before the coronavirus put the economy on hold. Stagnant wages hadn’t kept the cost of living from skyrocketing in the region, and many were spending more than half their income on rent when the pandemic put their paychecks on pause. The federal moratorium on evictions may have bought struggling renters more time, but it didn’t stop their monthly rent checks from mounting, casting millions across the nation down a rabbit hole of debt. Now, Cheryl Howell, Hillsborough County’s affordable housing director, said staff is racing to stabilize those facing homelessness, many for the first time, before the federal moratorium on evictions runs out Feb. 1.

Publix to begin offering vaccinations to seniors in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia” via NWF Daily News — DeSantis announced Tuesday that select Publix locations in the Panhandle will offer COVID vaccinations to Floridians age 65 and up. In a news conference outside the Publix Super Market at 1520 John Sims Parkway East in Niceville, DeSantis announced that the grocery chain would be offering vaccinations by appointment at seven Publix locations in Okaloosa County, five locations in Santa Rosa County and locations six in Escambia County. Publix will begin setting appointments on Wednesday and began providing vaccinations on Thursday. Each location is equipped to provide between 100-125 shots a day. Floridians age 65 and older can make an appointment online at publix.com/covidvaccine.

More Publix locations will have COVID-19 vaccines. Image via WEAR.

‘Better than throwing it away:’ How a 31-year-old got a COVID-19 vaccine in Central Florida” via Leslie Postal of The Orlando Sentinel — As he gave a piano lesson at a Winter Park home last week, Jeff Licona got a question from his student’s mother: Did he want the COVID-19 vaccine? Yes, Licona said, but he figured it would be a while before he was eligible. “I’m not over 65, and I’m not in the medical field,” he said. The mother, who works in health care, told him, “Get in your car right now. Get in your car and follow me.” Though perplexed, he drove behind her to Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando. At the hospital, he learned why he was being offered a vaccine. It had a “batch that’s going to go bad,” he was told, and no takers. So at about 7 p.m. last Tuesday, the 31-year-old music teacher from Sanford got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

— CORONA NATION —

US COVID-19 death toll hits new daily record of nearly 4,500” via Barron’s — The US death toll from COVID-19 hit a new daily record of nearly 4,500, Johns Hopkins University said. As the health crisis rages out of control in the US, this was the first time the toll in the country hardest hit by the pandemic surpassed 4,000 in 24 hours. The US recorded more than 235,000 new cases of coronavirus infection and 4,470 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins tally. Around 131,000 people are now hospitalized in the US with COVID-19, said the COVID-19 Tracking Project. The weekly average of fatalities is at its highest level since the pandemic started, it said.

‘It’s what we feared:’ Hospitals from Georgia to California face surging COVID-19 cases, staff shortages and rising deaths” via Ken Alltucker of USA Today — Hospitals from Georgia to California are crowded with waves of coronavirus patients as the post-holiday case spike tests the limits of the nation’s health system. According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, a record 22,676 people died from COVID-19 during the past week. That’s more Americans dying every day than the 2,977 victims on Sept. 11, 2001. Four states with the largest share of hospital beds occupied with COVID-19 patients are struggling to keep pace with the unprecedented surge. The situation has become so dire in California that the state required hospitals to complete crisis-care plans detailing how they prioritize care when they don’t have enough workers, space, or supplies.

COVID-19 is as bad as feared, with hospitals nationwide facing rising cases, deaths.

What Shane Strum is reading — “In push to get more vaccines into arms, officials recommend states give to anyone 65 and up” via Erika Edwards of NBC News — States should expand access to COVID-19 vaccines to everyone 65 and older, as well as any adult with an underlying health condition that might raise the risk for complications of COVID-19, members of Operation Warp Speed recommended. The guidelines are intended to prompt faster distribution of the vaccines by making more people immediately eligible for vaccination, as well as expanding the potential locations where people can receive it. According to the CDC, of the more than 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine that have been delivered nationwide, just under 9 million shots had been put into Americans’ arms as of Tuesday.

US to require negative COVID-19 test for travelers boarding international flights to U.S., report says” via Dawn Gilbertson and Jayme Deerwester of USA Today — Travelers flying into the United States from international destinations will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight. The U.S. CDC could issue the order as soon as Tuesday, with the new testing requirement reportedly going into effect on Jan. 26, the newspaper said, citing unnamed sources. For months, airlines have been pushing for a testing program to restart badly depressed international travel. Airlines for America, the airline industry trade group, last week sent a letter to Pence urging the government to implement a global program to require rapid testing for travelers to the United States.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Housing advocates fighting evictions during COVID-19 are eager for the new President to take office” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — Millions of American renters living month to month in fear of being evicted have some protection until the end of this month, but their best hope for avoiding homelessness during the pandemic is, in a word, Biden. “Biden has said, as soon as he comes on, he will enact a substantial moratorium. … We need a program that’s going to be effective at solving this crisis in the long run, and, right now, Florida doesn’t have one,” said Stephanie Johnson, senior attorney with Legal Services of North Florida. Johnson and other housing specialists say President-elect Biden has a history of advocating for affordable housing.

— MORE CORONA —

One mask is good. Would two be better?” via Katherine J. Wu of The New York Times — Football coaches do it. Presidents-elect do it. Even science-savvy Senators do it. As the coronavirus cases continue to surge on a global scale, some of the nation’s most prominent people have begun to double up on masks, a move that researchers say is increasingly being backed up by data. The best masks remain N95s, which are designed with ultrahigh filtration efficiency. But they remain in short supply for health workers, who need them to safely treat patients. Layering two less specialized masks on top of each other can provide comparable protection.


— PRESIDENTIAL —

Mike Pence reached his limit with Doanld Trump. It wasn’t pretty.” via Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni of The New York Times — Trump was enraged that Pence was refusing to try to overturn the election. In a series of meetings, the president had pressed relentlessly, alternately cajoling and browbeating him. Finally, just before Pence headed to the Capitol to oversee the electoral vote count last Wednesday, Trump called the vice president’s residence to push one last time. “You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.” Pence decided he would uphold the election despite the president and despite the mob. And he would pay the price with the political base he once hoped to harness for his own run for the White House.

New York City to consider ending contracts with Trump that bring his company $17 million a year” via David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell of The Washington Post — The city of New York said Monday that it was “reviewing whether legal grounds exist” to terminate its business relationships with Trump, whose company has contracts to run a carousel, two ice rinks and a golf course in city parks. In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said that review was spurred by Trump’s actions on Wednesday. “The attacks on our Capitol killed a police officer, left four rioters dead, exposed lawmakers to COVID-19, and threatened the constitutional transfer of power. They were a national abomination,” said spokeswoman Laura Feyer.

New York considers dropping contracts with Donald Trump. Image via Reuters.

Top military leaders condemn ‘sedition and insurrection’ at Capitol, acknowledge Joe Biden win” via Amanda Macias of CNBC — In a letter Tuesday to the U.S. military, the nation’s top commanders condemned last week’s acts of “sedition and insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol, while acknowledging Biden’s victory. They did not mention Trump by name, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, made clear that the military will stand by the constitutional transfer of power to the next administration. “As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civilian authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” they wrote.

In Georgia, Trump’s attacks on election still haunt Republicans” via Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim of The New York Times — The impeachment charge that House Democrats have filed against President Trump stems from his role in inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol last week. But included in the resolution is another element of Trump’s behavior that is also drawing condemnation as an abuse of presidential power: His pressure campaign to persuade Georgia officials to overturn his electoral loss in the state. Before inspiring a throng of supporters to attack the Capitol, Trump had previously sought to “subvert and obstruct” the results of his failed re-election effort, a draft article of impeachment released Monday reads, citing in particular the president’s extraordinary intervention in Georgia.

— TRANSITION —

Secret Service launches massive security operation to protect Joe Biden inauguration” via Carol D. Leonnig, Karoun Demirjian, Justin Jouvenal and Nick Miroff of The Washington Post — The Secret Service and federal law enforcement agencies are spending the final days of the Donald Trump administration bracing for a possible violent assault against the Jan. 20 inauguration, launching a security mobilization that will be unlike any in modern U.S. history. On Wednesday, the Secret Service will take command of security preparations at the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings, backed by as many as 15,000 National Guard troops, thousands of police and tactical officers, and layers of eight-foot steel fencing. The high-alert security posture is starting six days earlier than planned to coordinate roles for various agencies.

Broadcast networks prepping Biden inauguration prime-time special” via Daniel Holloway of Variety — The Big Three broadcast networks are mulling a roadblock special to air in prime-time Jan. 20 celebrating the inauguration of Biden as President of the United States and Kamala Harris as Vice President. Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation tell “Variety” that the special would be 90 minutes to two hours in length and would be produced by Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner, the same team that handled the Democratic National Convention. Weiss is set to direct. The special would feature remote performances as well as other possible highlights such as an outdoor, ball-style “first dance” with Biden and soon-to-be-First Lady Jill Biden, and a fireworks display. Names of possible talent to appear are not yet known.

For most people, Joe Biden’s inauguration will be a virtual broadcast event. Image via AP.

Extremists move to secret online channels to plan for Inauguration Day in D.C.” via Anna Schecter of NBC News — Right-wing extremists are using channels on the encrypted communication app Telegram to call for violence against government officials on Jan. 20, the day Biden is inaugurated, with some extremists sharing knowledge of how to make, conceal and use homemade guns and bombs. The messages are being posted in Telegram chat rooms where White supremacist content has been freely shared for months, but chatter on the channels has increased since extremists have been forced off other platforms in the wake of the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week by pro-Trump rioters. Telegram is a Dubai-based messaging service that does little moderation of its content.

Biden team launching push to confirm national security nominees ASAP” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Biden’s transition team is expected to make a major push on Tuesday that calls on Republicans to swiftly confirm the President-elect’s national security picks so they’re in place when the Democrat takes office next week. Amid fallout from the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol, Biden officials and congressional allies will begin making the case Tuesday that there is a unique urgency in getting the positions filled as soon as possible so there is no gap in national security during a presidential transfer of power. The Biden team’s top priority is confirming Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, the source said, who added that the messaging push would take place in every forum, in and out of Congress.

Rubio asks Joe Biden for $2K stimulus checks as unity appeal” via Alayna Treene of Axios — Sen. Rubio urged President-elect Biden on Tuesday night to immediately call on Congress to increase the direct economic impact payments from $600 to $2,000as a sign of congressional unity. Rubio has supported such payments before, but in asking the incoming president to “break the paralysis in Washington by delivering desperately needed relief,” the possible 2024 presidential candidate is presenting himself as a practical partisan. Biden already supports the payments. “It would send a powerful message to the American people if, on the first day of your presidency, you called on the House and Senate to send you legislation,” Rubio wrote.

Biden will call on Congress to forgive $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers” via Annie Nova of CNBC — President-elect Biden will ask Congress to immediately cancel $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers and to extend the payment pause that’s scheduled to lapse this month, an aide told reporters Friday afternoon. The $900 billion pandemic aid package passed in December didn’t include an extension of the payment pause for student loan borrowers that has been in effect since March and expires at the end of the month, concerning advocates who say the financial pain wrought by the pandemic has left many borrowers unable to make their payments. In a recent Pew survey, 6 in 10 borrowers said it would be difficult for them to start paying their student loan bills again in the coming month.

Biden will stop the border wall and loosen immigration again” via Rebecca Rainey and Bryan Bender of POLITICO — The most dramatic reversal in the Biden administration versus the Trump administration will come on Trump’s signature campaign issue from 2016: the border wall. Biden has pledged to put a swift halt to border wall construction and loosen immigration restrictions imposed by Trump. Beyond the wall, the President-elect’s broader immigration plans represent a complete reversal of the Trump administration’s policies over the past several years. Biden wants to expand opportunities for legal immigration, including family and work-based visas, as well as access to humanitarian visa programs. Biden’s immediate moves would largely entail rescinding various actions initiated under Trump. Biden also has vowed to prioritize the reunification of any families still separated under the Trump administration’s now-defunct “zero-tolerance” policy.

One of Joe Biden’s first acts will be to stop Donald Trump’s divisive border wall. Image via AP.

Inside Biden’s plan to avoid a midterm ‘shellacking’” via Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Democrats under Obama and Biden were so badly pummeled in their first midterm elections that Obama famously called it a “shellacking.” Ten years later, now President-elect Biden is hellbent on avoiding a repeat. History isn’t on his side. Allies are concerned about his political strategy. And the party is worried about fundraising in an era where Trump is not on the ballot. In preparation for 2022, Biden is fusing his political operation with the DNC. Biden is also empowering former campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon with his political portfolio in and out of the White House. Dillon is steering DNC meetings in the run-up to the election of a new chair and officers later this month.

A pet-loving family is on its way to the White House” via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post — In 2009, then-Vice President Biden visited the Syracuse, New York, elementary school where his late first wife, Neilia, once taught. Amid a crowd of enthusiastic fifth-graders, one had an important question for the Vice President: Have you ever petted a dog? Biden grew animated, reported the local paper, The Post-Standard. “Have I ever petted a dog?” he said. “Oh, yeah! And guess what! I got one that lives with me! The smartest, coolest dog in the world. His name is Champ, and he’s a German shepherd, and he is the neatest dog!”

— D.C. MATTERS —

How government instability undermines the U.S. economy” via Noah Smith of Bloomberg — The U.S. has had an attack on its Capitol and may see more protests in the weeks to come. This upheaval is doing more than raising tempers and causing anxiety; it’s threatening the financial and economic foundations of the country. If political instability causes Treasury bonds to become riskier assets, it could undermine the entire banking system and, by extension, every American company and the jobs of the people they employ. There’s been some academic debate about whether the events of Jan. 6 should officially count as a coup. Some believe it does. The Polity Project, which measures the characteristics of national governments, has already downgraded the U.S. from a democracy to an “anocracy” a hybrid of democracy and dictatorship.

What was once unthinkable is now only highly unlikely. Image via Bloomberg.

Supreme Court rules abortion pills must be obtained in person” via Mark Sherman of The Associated Press — The Supreme Court ordered Tuesday that women must visit a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic in person to obtain an abortion pill during the COVID-19 pandemic, though similar rules for other drugs have been suspended during the public health emergency. Eight days before Trump leaves office, the justices granted a Trump administration appeal to enforce a long-standing rule on getting the abortion pill, mifepristone. The pill need not be taken in the presence of medical professionals. The court split 6-3, with the liberal justices in dissent. The new administration could put the in-person requirement on hold after Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

House installs metal detectors to check congressional lawmakers after Capitol riots” via Ebony Bowden of the New York Post — Lawmakers will now be required to walk through metal detectors before entering the U.S. House chamber. The acting Sergeant-at-arms announced on Tuesday afternoon that magnetometers had been placed at selected entrances to the chamber and reminded lawmakers that firearms were forbidden. “Effective immediately, all persons, including Members, are required to undergo security screening when entering the House Chamber,” the statement read. “Failure to complete screening or the carrying of prohibited items could result in denial of access to the Chamber.” The decision to install metal detectors outside the House floor follows a recent debate about whether legislators had the right to carry firearms in the building.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

‘We did a bad job’: Florida child welfare chief vows reforms after investigation” via Suzanna Hirt of USA Today — Florida’s child welfare chief announced that in response to a USA TODAY investigation, the Florida Department of Children and Families would establish specialized teams to investigate child abuse allegations against foster parents and to review the agency’s decisions in those cases. In a meeting with the Florida Senate’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee in Tallahassee, DCF Secretary Chad Poppell confirmed the findings and said his department assessed its handling of the “heartbreaking” cases of child sexual abuse at the hands of foster parents that the series brought to light. The series also highlighted how DCF blames mothers battered by an intimate partner and takes away their children. Some of the mothers believe their children were abused in foster care.

DCF Secretary Chad Poppell admits mistakes, vows reform. Image via Colin Hackley.

State says troubled domestic violence system ‘stabilized,’ ready for new vendor” via Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald — A top state agency head said that domestic violence services have now “stabilized,” nine months after the state took control of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence amid revelations that the agency had misused state and federal funds and paid its executive director more than $7.5 million over three years. “This is another case where the department got too far away from what was happening,’’ said Poppell at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs. Although DCF was supposed to be monitoring it, the nonprofit agency “stayed within their salary budget, but they left 40% of their spots vacant and that created a pool of money to move around,’’ he said.

Legislators seek to punish social media giants for ‘selective censorship’ of Trump” via Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald — After the nation’s most powerful social media platforms banned Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts following the mob violence on the nation’s Capitol last week, two Florida legislators are drafting legislation that will retaliate against the companies for engaging in what they call “selective censorship” of conservative opinions. State Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Randy Fine each said they were motivated by the response to the social media platforms and by Google, Apple and Amazon, which blocked Twitter alternative Parler. The companies said they severed the President from the accounts because he has used them to disseminate conspiracy theories and false claims about the election.

Democratic lawmakers file bills to eliminate the death penalty” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Sen. Gary Farmer and Rep. Joe Geller proposed legislation this week that would strike the death penalty from Florida’s penal code. The two South Florida Democrats’ proposals would repeal all mentions of capital punishment from state law. Farmer, the Senate Democratic Leader, filed his bill Tuesday after Geller filed his version Monday. However, the Republican-led House and Senate are unlikely to act on those bills. The pair filed similar bills in the 2020 Legislative Session that gained no traction. The death penalty issue reemerged in Florida during the 2020 Legislative Session after the Florida Supreme Court said it erred in a 2016 decision requiring a unanimous jury decision to sentence a defendant convicted of murder to death.

Senate Banking and Insurance Committee briefed on state’s property insurance woes” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman Jim Boyd says Citizens Property Insurance will be among the Committee’s priorities during the 2021 Legislative Session. During a panel meeting Tuesday, Citizens CEO Barry Gilway and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier explained that the state-backed insurance group is experiencing a large policy increase amid ongoing problems in the private insurance market. Among the problems is excessive litigation. “We’ve got to get our hands around it,” Boyd said after the meeting. “Part of our plan for this Session is to come up with some policy initiatives that will help us resolve some of these problems.”

Anthony Rodriguez seeks $7.2 million to help fund veterans’ clinic at Nova Southeastern University” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Rodriguez is requesting $7.2 million to help fund a veterans’ access clinic at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County. The clinic opened in Jan. 2020. The request from Rodriguez states the money “will be allocated to the network of clinics operated by Nova Southeastern University, including the Veterans Access Clinic opened in January 2020, for the provision of primary care and therapeutic care.” The state has already put some money toward the clinic, allotting $3.5 million in last year’s budget covering the fiscal year 2020-21. Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners is listed on this year’s request as the registered lobbyist seeking funding on the project.

Anthony Rodriguez is pushing for additional access to health care for veterans. 

Florida Chamber campaign pushes for COVID-19 liability protections” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Chamber of Commerce on Monday launched a campaign supporting legislation to protect businesses from COVID-19 liability lawsuits. In a news release, the Florida Chamber said the struggling businesses could be pushed to closure if they’re “forced to defend themselves against a wave of frivolous lawsuits.” The Chamber campaign asks Floridians to write their lawmakers and ask them to vote for the protections outlined in House and Senate bills filed last week. The House version, HB 7 by Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, would shield businesses, schools, nonprofits, and religious institutions who make a “good-faith effort” to follow government health guidelines. The protections would apply retroactively to a newly filed lawsuit if signed into law.

DeSantis taps two for State Board of Education” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis appointed two new members to the State Board of Education, Monesia Brown of Tallahassee and Tom Grady of Naples. Brown currently works as Walmart’s Public Affairs and Government Relations Director. Prior to that, she served as General Counsel to the Florida Department of Management Services and as the Chief Cabinet Aide in the Florida Office of the Attorney General. Grady, an attorney, is the Chairman of Quest for Success and the Chief Investment Strategist for PureAssets Management Company. Grady, a former Florida House of Representatives member, also served as the Florida Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner and Citizen’s Property Insurance Corporation President.

Today’s legislative meetings:

The Senate Health Policy Committee meets for a discussion of COVID-19 “mitigation” by the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Appropriations Committee meets to workshop the budget, noon, Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Ways & Means Committee meets to review the state revenue, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets with agency heads, 12:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update from the Department of Economic Opportunity, 12:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets with Department of Children and Families Secretary Poppell and Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer, 2 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee meets to discuss flooding and sea-level rise, 2 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to workshop the budget, 2 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to workshop the budget, 2 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update by the Department of Environmental Protection on coral reef protection efforts, 3:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to review crime trends in the state, 3:30 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss federal CARES Act funding for education, 3:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee considers HB 7 from Rep. Lawrence McClure seeking to offer immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits to businesses that have “substantially” followed public health guidelines, 4 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets to workshop the budget, 4 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets for an update on Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and its impact on the property-insurance market, 4 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee meets to consider “in-demand credentials” for high-wage jobs, 4 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— STATEWIDE —

What José Oliva should be reading — “Report points to VISIT FLORIDA return on investment” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — Florida took in $3.27 for every dollar the state spent on tourism marketing over a three-year period, before cuts in funding for the agency and before COVID-19 sent the travel and leisure industries into a tailspin, according to a report released Monday by the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research. The return over three fiscal years that started July 1, 2016, was more than in the three preceding fiscal years, the economic research staff determined. The research office found the estimated return, up from $2.15 per dollar in the prior three-year period, “is reflective of VISIT FLORIDA’s return in periods of strong tourism growth and state investments at their current levels.”

AppointedGabriel Bullaro to the College of Central Florida District Board of Trustees.

What Jimmy Patronis is reading — “As Wall Street heads south, Florida braces for a gold-plated makeover” via Jonathan Levin and Amanda L. Gordon of Bloomberg Businessweek — Locals are buzzing again that the Miami area might finally realize a long-elusive dream of becoming Wall Street South. Several prominent financial companies, including the mighty Goldman Sachs Group Inc., are considering moving some business there or are relocating outright. And in these days of working from home, Florida’s low taxes, year-round warm weather, and emerald golf links are already luring some Wall Street people down from New York. This sultry home of tourism, cruise ships, and retirees has been trying to diversify its economy for generations, with mixed success. But COVID-19 may just be the catalyst for a shift. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s own projections are modest in their assumptions about finance job growth.

Goldman Sachs is considering a major move. Image via AP. 

Orange production continues drop” via the News Service of Florida — The January forecast is down 3.57% from a December projection, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Overall, production is now forecast to be down nearly 20% from the 2019-2020 growing season. Florida is forecast to produce enough oranges to fill 54 million 90-pound boxes, the industry standard. That was down from a December projection of 56 million boxes — and down from 67.3 million boxes during the 2019-2020 season, according to the federal agency.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Broward teachers, staff ordered to return to their classrooms. Almost 100 retired instead” via David Goodhue of The Miami Herald — Broward County public school teachers and noninstructional staff were told by the district in December that anyone still working remotely had to report to their in-person assignments this week. Instead, since that Dec. 17 memo went out, almost 100 employees chose to retire, and more than 100 took leave or called in sick Monday, the day they had to return to their schoolhouses, according to the head of the Broward Teachers Union. Most of the staff who retired or called in sick are teachers, said Anna Fusco, BTU president. This comes just days after BTU sued the school district in Broward Circuit Court to stop the return-to-work mandate.

Broward Teachers’ Union head Anna Fusco is not pleased with the order to return to classrooms.

Union officials take Okaloosa County to task for jail conditions” via Tom McLaughlin of NWF Daily News — An official representing the union trying to organize Okaloosa County employees is airing grievances on behalf of jail workers who say there isn’t enough being done to protect them from COVID-19. Kelly Benjamin with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Florida wrote in an email he was “voicing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 inside the county jail.” “We’re hearing from inmates and guards and a number of people who work in the jail,” Benjamin said. The concerns are being made public following the Jan. 1 death of corrections officer Jason Goen, Benjamin said. The email alleges that there have been multiple cases of COVID-19 at the jail and that the county has not been following CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of those inside the facility.

— TOP OPINION —

As more MAGA violence looms, impeaching Trump is insufficient” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — As lawmakers took up a resolution Tuesday to urge Trump’s removal under the 25th Amendment, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a captain of the Republican attempt to overturn the election, defended the monthslong effort, which culminated in last week’s deadly riot. House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern pleaded with his colleague to cut it out. “For the sake of the country, it would be helpful if you would simply state for the record that this election was not stolen,” he urged Jordan. Those five words were too much for Jordan. People like Jordan are why the effort to impeach Trump is both imperative and insufficient.

— OPINIONS —

The attack on Democracy is not over. It’s still happening. Right now.” via Tim Miller of The Bulwark — Republicans in Congress are playing a dangerous game, again, this time trying to dodge responsibility for having incited the violent mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, rather than address the ongoing threat head-on. Their new posture is premised on the notion that what happened last Wednesday was a one-off protest that got out of hand. This is false. That attack was merely part of an ongoing, multipronged assault on our democratic system’s foundation by hostile actors. It is an assault that nearly all Republican congressional caucus members have taken part in, some as witting pro-insurrection cultists, and others as cowardly, cowering coddlers.

We need a better way of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s how to do it.” via Drew Altman of The Washington Post — The COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort is in trouble, and the Trump administration’s plan to release more of the existing vaccine supply intensifies the urgent need for improvement. First, the initial round of distribution should be finished as planned. Next, national pharmacy chains would become the primary distributors. States should fill the gaps, especially in pharmacy “deserts” where people cannot access such services. Switching gears won’t be easy. Complex plans that address public health priorities have made sense on paper.

Stacey Abrams showed the power of up-close and personal politics” via The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Georgia’s Senate runoff race offers important lessons for political campaigns around the country on old school, grassroots organizing of voters. Democrats flipped two seats in the historically red state, upending a Republican stronghold and practically ensuring President-elect Biden an easier ride as President. So badly was the status quo thrown off-kilter that Republican lawmakers are already talking about trying to restrict absentee voting, as mail-in voting helped to mobilize throngs of new voters. We know Georgia is no stranger to such voter suppression tactics. The runoff system itself, held when no candidate gets a majority of the vote, was created in the 1960s to dilute the Black vote and give white candidates an edge. But it didn’t work this time around.

Florida ‘Trump’ manatee takes political depravity to new depths“ via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking the public this week to call its wildlife crimes hotline for any information on what has been called “politically motivated manatee mutilation.” Over the weekend, a video appeared showing a manatee swimming near Homosassa Springs in Citrus County with the word “TRUMP” carved on its back. “I’m disgusted that someone would harm a defenseless creature to send what I can only assume is a political message,” responded Elizabeth Fleming, the senior Florida representative of the Defenders of Wildlife. I wonder if there was a red ball cap floating nearby. 

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Gov. DeSantis says Capitol Police will have additional officers on standby to deal with any armed protests by disgruntled Trump supporters.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— During a news conference at The Villages, the Governor talked briefly about last week’s deadly riot in Washington … with one question he would not answer.

— DeSantis may not want to answer about the President, but he is doing a bit of a victory dance over his decision to put seniors at the head of the line for COVID-19 vaccinations.

— DeSantis also announced Publix stores in three North Florida counties would start offering vaccinations.

— Shortly after that announcement, the Department of Health released the daily COVID-19 casualty count. As of Tuesday, 23,585 died in Florida, and more than one-and-a-half million have contracted the disease.

— On Sunrise in-depth, you’ll hear how the COVID-19 crisis has worsened the opioid crisis. 

— And finally, today’s Florida Man story is about a firefighter charged with shenanigans at the U.S. Capitol last week.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

People are now calling for the Trump robot to be removed from Disney World’s Hall of Presidents” via Ken Storey of Creative Loafing — While the nation prepares to welcome Biden as the new President, it’s clear Trump’s legacy is something the country will have to continue grappling with. The divisive politics fueled by Trump’s hatred and fearmongering have had an impact on many traditions and pleasures the nation enjoyed before his Russian-fueled 2016 win, including theme parks. The Hall of Presidents attraction at the Magic Kingdom became a microcosm of this in past years. The attraction requires live security guards, due to the heckling and derision the Trump figure attracts. Large spikes were also added near the stage to protect the animatronic figure. The Central Florida theme park has struggled to address political protests within its gates, with multiple incidents of Trump flags being unfurled on rides or buildings within the park.

The Donald Trump robot at Disney World’s Hall of Presidents has been polarizing from the start.

With movie theaters in limbo, Netflix plans its biggest year yet” via Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg — Netflix will release 70 original movies in 2021, the company said in a statement Tuesday, touting the streaming service’s most ambitious slate yet as the theatrical movie business remains stuck in limbo. Netflix’s lineup includes one of its most expensive movies to date, “Red Notice,” an action movie starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. Once a naughty word among filmmakers, Netflix is now one of the few reliable studios in town. The streaming service has scaled up its operations over the past few years under film chief Scott Stuber, whose team is overseeing a slate of 52 live-action movies in English and a further 10 in foreign languages. Netflix will also release eight animated movies in 2021.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated best wishes to Frank Collins of the CFO’s office. Happy birthday to Rep. Charlie Stone, attorney Tony Glover; Francisco Gonzalez, director of philanthropy at the National Review Institute; Toni Smith Large, attorney Matt KingMarco PenaPhillip Perry of Asana Creative Strategy, Chester Spellman; Kyle Ulrich of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, and Lucy White.

___

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.



#FlaPol

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, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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