Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.22.21

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

Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith are teaming up on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.

According to the lawmakers, SB 710 and HB 343 would “establish a robust and free-market regulatory approach to the governance of cultivation, processing, and retail sales of both medical and adult-use marijuana.”

The main takeaway: Floridians over 21 would be able to buy cannabis without being on the state’s medical marijuana registry.

Jeff Brandes and Carlos Guillermo Smith team up for adult-use cannabis.

There are rules: The product would have to be purchased through a medical marijuana treatment center, and the bill sets a per-person limit of 2.5 ounces. Smoking, dabbing, vaping or any other use of pot in public would remain illegal.

Also, the bill would create license categories for growing, processing, and retailing and transporting cannabis. It would also allow people convicted of certain cannabis-related crimes to petition the court for resentencing or expungement.

“This is an issue of liberty for me. We should give adults in the state of Florida the freedom to make their own choices when it comes to cannabis,” said Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican. “It’s not a matter of if, but when, Floridians will have access to adult-use marijuana. This bill allows the legislature to lead on an issue a supermajority of Floridians support.”

Indeed, cannabis interests organized under the name “Make It Legal Florida” are working to put the issue to voters on the 2022 ballot. They’ve already gathered more than 550,000 of the 892,000 signatures they need to make it happen.

Smith, an Orlando Democrat, added: “The need to end Florida’s prohibition of responsible adult use of cannabis is long overdue. This bill creates a sensible bipartisan framework for legalization to earn the support needed to pass the Florida legislature. It doesn’t include everything I’d like to see, but it’s the fresh start Floridians deserve to finally move past the draconian cannabis prohibition era.”

The adult-use bill was one of many filed Thursday. Read about the others below in the Dateline Tallahassee section.


@SahilKapur: One thing you learn covering Washington and elections is that there’s no such thing as a “mandate.” Not one that will be widely accepted anyway. There is only power and what you choose to do with it.

@Jeneps: [Jen] Psaki says the [Joe] Biden administration will abide by the Hatch Act. “You will not see a political rally on the South Lawn of the White House under President Biden,” she says.

@MaryLTrump: Reporters have gotten more questions answered substantively in one and a half days than they had in four years.

@Josh_Wingrove: Another break from the [Donald] Trump era: Biden is signing executive orders in pen, not sharpie.

Tweet, tweet:

@LeaderMcConnell: Minority rights on legislation are key to the Senate. President Biden spent decades defending them. More than two dozen Senate Democrats backed them just four years ago. This isn’t complicated. Simply reaffirming that Democrats won’t break the rules should not be a heavy lift.

—@GovRonDeSantis: Last night, I ordered our Adjutant General to bring Florida National Guard soldiers home from the National Capital Region.

@APantanzi: If Duval continues vaccinating at the pace it has the last two weeks (2,738 vaccines a day), then it will take about 8 months to get to 75% of people vaccinated. Hopefully, the pace will quicken & more vaccines will get authorized.

Tweet, tweet:


Florida Chamber Economic Outlook and Job Solution Summit begins — 6; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 16; Daytona 500 — 23; “Nomadland” with Frances McDormand — 29; The CW’s Superman & Lois premieres — 32; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 39; “Coming 2 America” premieres on Amazon Prime — 43; “The Many Saints of Newark” premieres — 49; 2021 Grammys — 51; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 63; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 70; Children’s Gasparilla — 78; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 85; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 90; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 105; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 161; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 169; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 182; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 189; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 215; “Dune” premieres — 253; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 285; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 287; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 322; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 329; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 427; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 469; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 623.


Man arrested in connection with bomb threat that closed Florida state Capitol” via James Call and Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee police arrested the man they say made a bomb threat that closed the Florida Capitol. Mark W. Clark, 61, had been arrested at the Apalachee Parkway bar The Corner Pocket overnight, police said. He was charged with making a false bomb threat in reference to a state owned property. He was released on $10,000 bail at about 11:30 a.m. and will appear before a Leon County judge Friday. The specific threat Clark made has not yet been made public, and court records detailing his arrest had not yet been filed Thursday.

Senate pandemic chair takes aim at lockdowns” via The News Service of Florida — Businesses will remain open for the economic well-being of the state even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Florida, the head of a Senate select committee on the pandemic said Thursday. And if similar pandemics occur in the future, the state intends to have guidelines that would keep businesses from again facing closures, said Sen. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican who chairs the Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response. Burgess said a lesson from COVID-19 is the economic carnage created when businesses were closed last year to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 24,700 Floridians since March.

First on #FlaPol — “Manny Diaz bill would expand eligibility, maximize parental choice in K-12 scholarship programs” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — A bill that would simplify Florida’s education choice programs by merging five scholarship programs into two, while adding flexible spending options, has been filed today in the Florida Senate. The bill, SB 48, would transfer students currently receiving the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program to the Family Empowerment Scholarship, signed into law in 2019, and sunset the 20-year-old tax credit scholarship. Donors would still be allowed to contribute to the program through a newly created state trust fund. Both the tax credit scholarship and the Family Empowerment Scholarship are income-based and serve students whose families meet financial eligibility rules.

Manny Diaz Jr. introduces an ambitious education bill to simplify, clarify and expand the state’s low-income scholarship program.

Joe Gruters’ film rebate bill gets a 2021 remake” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Sen. Gruters filed a bill Thursday that would set up a targeted rebate program aimed at attracting film and television productions to Florida. SB 704 would set up the “Film, Television, and Digital Media Targeted Rebate Program” under the Department of Economic Opportunity. The program would offer film, TV and digital media productions a rebate for the lesser of 20% or $2 million of production costs if they get preapproved as a “certified project.” To get certified, studios must rent equipment such as cameras, vehicles or lighting setups from Florida businesses; spend at least 70% of its budget or production days in Florida; employ a majority Floridian cast and crew.

Republicans file bill to set up Office of Resiliency, help study sea-level rise” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Rep. Chip LaMarca are spearheading legislation aimed at preparing the state for rising sea levels due to climate change. The bills will create a new Office of Resiliency under the executive branch and set up a nine-person Sea Level Rise Task Force. “I’m grateful to have a partner in Rep. LaMarca who, like me, has been a tireless champion on the environment,” said Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, in a Thursday statement promoting the plan. The nine-person task force would include the state’s Chief Resilience Officer and Chief Science Officer. The Senate President and House Speaker would each name one member. Various other agency members would make up the remainder of the commission.

Lawmakers seek to protect public employees who use medical marijuana from retaliation” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Tina Polsky and Rep. Nick Duran are bringing back legislation to stop public employers from firing workers who use medical marijuana. Polsky filed a similar bill last year. Duran is serving as a co-sponsor on this year’s version. In 2016, Florida voters approved an amendment legalizing marijuana for medical use. In the 2019 Session, the Legislature approved a bill allowing the sale of a smokable form of medical marijuana. However, many employees are still required to undergo drug tests, and under current law, a positive test can result in an individual being fired.

Audrey Gibson bill would require enhanced dementia training for health care providers” via Florida Politics staff reports — A new bill from Sen. Gibson would require bolstered training about dementia and Alzheimer’s for some health care workers. The legislation, which was filed last week, would require some employees of nursing homes, home health care providers, hospices, assisted living facilities and adult day care facilities to complete at least one hour of Department of Elder Affairs-approved dementia-related training within 30 days of starting employment. Current law mandates that all employees at these facilities receive “basic written information about interacting with persons with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder” when they start work.

Tom Fabricio, Mike Giallombardo want to change telehealth practices” via Florida Politics staff reports — A new bill, filed last week by freshmen Reps. Fabricio and Giallombardo, would allow prescribers to prescribe controlled substances to patients during telehealth visits. That includes prescriptions for treating psychiatric disorders, inpatient treatment at licensed medical facilities, treatment for patients in hospice care, and treatment for nursing home residents. The bill would also remove language preventing “audio-only telephone calls” from being used for telehealth appointments. Current statutes, which were approved in 2019, do not consider phone calls, emails and “facsimile transmissions” to be acceptable media for telehealth visits. An identical bill was also filed last week by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz. If approved, the measures would go into effect on July 1.

Randy Fine looks to ax in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Rep. Fine filed legislation Thursday to revoke in-state tuition rates for students who immigrated to the United States illegally. The Palm Bay Republican’s bill would repeal a 2014 state law that lets those immigrants pay the subsidized in-state rate to attend one of Florida’s 12 state universities and 28 state colleges. “With a multibillion dollar projected budget deficit, Florida can no longer afford to spend $45 million a year on college and university subsidies for families who came to this country illegally,” Fine said. The latest projections from state economists predict a $3.3 billion revenue shortfall over two years, an improvement from an August outlook projecting the hit at $5.4 billion.

Randy Fine looks to end in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat/Tori Lynn Schneider.

Jackie Toledo appropriations request would provide $750K for at-risk mothers and babies program” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Tampa Rep. Toledo is asking the state for a funding boost for the Nurse-Family Partnership program in an appropriations bill filed Thursday. In HB 2133, Toledo requests $750,000 from the state to help fund the nonprofit. The nonrecurring request is $250,000 more than another last year when Toledo successfully secured $500,000 for the program. According to the appropriations request, the statewide nonprofit pairs expectant, at-risk mothers with a registered nurse, who maintains regular health visits through the child’s second birthday. The nurses coach, guide and educate the mothers to improve the quality of life for both mother and child. The program serves between 50 to 100 individuals at a time, according to the appropriations request.


Donald Trump administration gives Medicaid gift to Florida” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — The Trump administration last week agreed to extend a “waiver” for Florida’s Medicaid program — and $1.5 billion in supplemental funding each year until June 2030. But the lengthy extension caught many people off guard, as Florida Medicaid officials initially only requested a two-year extension. Joan Alker, executive director and a co-founder of the Center for Children and Families and a professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy, said a 10-year extension is unusual, if not illegal. “It was a pretty blatant attempt, I think, to reward political allies and block Medicaid expansion,” Alker told The News Service of Florida.

Donald Trump gave Florida Medicaid an unexpected parting gift. Image via AP.

Decision pending on release in protest case” via The News Service of Florida — A federal magistrate judge did not rule on whether a Tallahassee man accused of plotting to “violently confront” potential protesters at The Capitol over the weekend will remain in jail until trial. An attorney for Daniel Baker asked for pretrial release. Prosecutors pointed to online posts made by Baker as credible threats, focusing mainly on a Facebook event Baker created, issuing a “call to arms” for like-minded people to surround would-be protesters. Law enforcement and local officials had been anticipating protests at The Capitol ahead of Biden’s inauguration this week, but the protests never materialized.



Florida adds 12,873 COVID-19 cases and 161 deaths as Broward, Palm Beach hit milestones” via Howard Cohen of The Miami Herald — Florida’s Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 12,873 additional cases of COVID-19 to bring the state’s known total to 1,613,884. Also, 161 resident deaths were announced, bringing the resident death toll to 24,739. Two new nonresident deaths were also announced, bringing the nonresident toll to 389. The total death count for the state is 25,128, the fourth highest in the country after New York, California and Texas, according to The New York Times database of U.S. cases. Palm Beach County hit a new milestone, topping 100,000 cases. Broward topped 2,000 deaths and the Florida Keys saw three new deaths.

Florida now requiring proof of state residency for COVID vaccines” via Ana Claudia Chacin, Bianca Padró Ocasio and Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Anyone who wants to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 in Florida must prove they are a resident of the state, according to a new emergency public health declaration signed Thursday by Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees. In the advisory, Rivkees said the “prioritization of Floridians for COVID-19 vaccine in Florida” is “necessary to protect public health and safety” due to limited vaccine availability in the state. The advisory would apply to “every vaccine provider,” the advisory said. The only cited exception to the new residency mandate is health care workers working directly with patients.

Anyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida must first prove they are a resident, according to an order from Scott Rivkees. Image via AP.

Tech, supply hurdles leave Florida seniors struggling to get vaccinated against COVID-19” via Stephen Hudak and Kate Santich of The Orlando Sentinel — U.S. Air Force veteran George Hardy, soon to be 90, served four years in the Korean War and has since generally felt the nation honored and respected his military service. But the Orlando retiree’s struggle to get a COVID-19 vaccine has sown doubts. Hardy, a widower who owns a home but not a computer, also didn’t have a smartphone or an email address. He was told he needed one or the other to pre-register with the state’s booking portal to even have a shot at getting a dose of the vaccine. Despite Ron DeSantis’ insistence that seniors are Florida’s top priority for COVID-19 vaccinations, plans to inoculate the state’s oldest residents have failed many Central Florida elders.


South Florida adds 4K new COVID-19 cases as Palm Beach crosses 100K mark” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Thursday’s Department of Health report tallied 4,078 new COVID-19 cases in South Florida’s tri-county area. The newest numbers put Palm Beach County over the 100,000-case mark since the pandemic began. For the first time since Friday, though, the case positivity rate in Palm Beach County dropped. A dayslong increase had set to reverse an otherwise downward trend in that metric across the region. Around 7.3% of all Palm Beach County tests recorded in Thursday’s report were positive. That’s the second-lowest daily share of positive tests recorded in the last 22 days in the county. The positivity rate in both Broward and Miami-Dade County also dipped below 8% in Thursday’s report.

A downward trend in South Florida COVID-19 cases seems to have made a turnaround. Image via AP.

As South Florida hospitals cancel vaccines, is the state shifting distribution plans?” via Samantha J. Gross of The Miami Herald — Florida’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts will shift away from hospital-run sites and toward pharmacies and county-run operations, according to one of the state’s top hospital officials, a change that may explain recent scarcity of appointments and in some cases, total cancellations. According to Mary Mayhew, CEO of the Florida Hospital Association and the former secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration under DeSantis, Florida’s hospitals have been told they are not likely to receive more first-dose vaccines as the state maximizes the role of retail pharmacies like Publix and prioritizes government-run sites.

Seniors fume as Publix vaccine sign-up system jams under weight of 250,000 calls” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — Michael Aisenberg woke before dawn on Wednesday, anxious to secure his wife an appointment for a coronavirus vaccine at Publix. After waiting in a virtual line for 90 minutes, the 69-year-old Palm Beach resident was finally invited to fill out a questionnaire and told he could get an appointment at 6 p.m. on Friday at a Publix in Merritt Island. He wasn’t eager to make a more than two-hour drive, but he was desperate. So he accepted it. Within seconds, he received a message, saying someone else had swooped in and taken the spot. Minutes later, he was offered an appointment in Fort Walton Beach in Florida’s Panhandle.

Why is Miami-Dade vaccinating Black residents at much slower rate than White residents?” via Ben Conarck and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Statistics released this week by Florida’s COVID operation show a vaccine operation that has steadily left Black residents behind. According to the latest state data released Thursday, of the roughly 138,000 people who have gotten the vaccines in Miami-Dade, just 8,265 — or 6% — identified as Black. Excluding the 19,200 or so people who were marked as “unknown” race, that’s still just 7% of the total, compared to the overall portion of Miami-Dade that is Black — 16.7%, according to U.S. census data. The lack of access for Black people comes even though the Black population, especially older Black men, are known to suffer disproportionately high death rates from COVID.

Many military vets turned away for COVID-19 vaccine. They make too much money.” via Susannah Brown of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — They served in the military decades ago, often putting their lives on the line for their country. But aging veterans are learning that their sacrifice may not guarantee them a COVID-19 vaccine at a Veterans Affairs clinic. Army veteran Paul Jacobs found out the hard way. Jacobs showed up at the VA clinic in West Palm Beach on Sunday hoping to get the shot, but he says he was turned away three hours later because he makes too much money. “It’s not fair that they turned us away,” he said. Years ago, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offered medical care to nearly all military vets. That changed in 2003 when the underfunded and overburdened agency imposed income limits.

Aging veterans are finding it difficult to get vaccines. Image via AP.

Lakeland officials adopt resolution to urge mask use, question whether it’s enough” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger — Lakeland officials are urging residents to mask up against COVID-19, warning stricter measures could follow if the voluntary precautions aren’t taken seriously. The City Commission unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night strongly encouraging residents to wear face masks in public along with other health and safety measures to reduce community spread of the virus. It rejected the idea of restoring the city’s mask mandate, at least for now. “I think it does behoove us to do this first,” Mayor Bill Mutz. Lakeland officials are asking city residents, employees and businesses to adhere to several measures through April 15.


Joe Biden says death toll from pandemic likely will top 500,000 next month, says it will take months ‘for us to turn things around’” via Amy Goldstein, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Laura Meckler of The Washington Post — Biden issued a new national strategy Thursday to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and took executive actions intended to make tests and vaccines more abundant, schools and travel safer, and states better able to afford their role in the long road back to normal life. The President framed the actions in a sober portrayal of the pandemic’s damage. “The death toll will probably top 500,000 next month,” Biden said. In a tone that balanced grimness with optimism, the new President reiterated that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.” But then he added, “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on its way.”

Biden signs burst of virus orders, vows ‘Help is on the way’” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — The 10 orders signed by Biden are aimed at jump-starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. One directive calls for addressing health care inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus. “We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around,” Biden said at the White House. But then, looking directly into the TV camera, Biden declared: “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way.”

Anthony Fauci, unchained” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Fauci was a regular frustration to Trump. He spoke to the media regularly but was clearly sidelined within the White House. As of noon Wednesday, there is a new White House. And Fauci, speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, was clearly enjoying being unshackled. At one point, for example, he was asked whether an offer from Amazon to aid the vaccine distribution effort would have been welcomed during the Trump administration. Fauci said he didn’t know. Then he celebrated his ability to offer that response. “One of the new things in this administration is if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” he said with a chuckle. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”

Anthony Fauci is enjoying his newfound freedom. Image via AP.

Fauci tells the WHO that the U.S. stands ready to work with it.” via Nick Cumming-Bruce and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — A day after Biden reinstated American ties with the World Health Organization, Fauci told the organization that the country was committed to working closely with other nations to implement a more effective global response to the pandemic. “Given that a considerable amount of effort will be required by all of us,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said via video link during a meeting of the group’s executive board, “the United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international COVID-19 response, mitigate its impact on the world, strengthen our institutions, advance epidemic preparedness for the future, and improve the health and well-being of all people throughout the world.”

Potential ‘game-changer’: Hopes high for Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine if authorized” via Lindy Washburn of USA Today — A COVID vaccine being developed by New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson could dramatically speed up the fight against the pandemic because, unlike the two vaccines already in use, this one would require only one dose and would not need to be stored at super-cold temperatures. Results from the new vaccine’s clinical trials, developed and produced by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen division, are expected by the end of this month. The vaccine would be the third authorized by the federal FDA. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is much easier to store than Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines because it requires only normal refrigeration rather than sub-Antarctic temperatures.

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be a ‘game-changer.’ Image via Johnson & Johnson.

The coronavirus variants could dash our hopes of getting back to normal. We must prepare.” via Mega McArdle of The Washington Post — After what feels like the longest year in any adult life, it finally looked as if COVID-19 was about to be over. All the old disputes about whether to restrict our lives while we waited for a vaccine or just go about our lives to reach herd immunity naturally had been mooted by the lightning-fast production of two good vaccines. It appears the viruses of South Africa would like a word with us. As you probably know, a new and more contagious variant has been circulating there. On Monday, one of that nation’s leading epidemiologists presented some results from a new study testing whether the antibody-rich convalescent plasma could neutralize that variant.


U.S. jobless claims decline to a still-high 900,000” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to ongoing job cuts in a raging pandemic. The Labor Department’s report Thursday underscored that Biden inherited an economy that faltered this winter as virus cases spiked, cold weather restricted dining and federal rescue aid expired. The government said 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. That suggests that while some unemployed are finding jobs, others are likely using up their state benefits and transitioning to separate extended-benefit programs.

First-time unemployment claims have dropped but remain at historic highs. Image via AP.

United Airlines offers grim outlook but seeks to rebuild” via Alison Sider of The Wall Street Journal — United Airlines Holdings Inc. on said it expects the coronavirus pandemic will continue to weigh on travel demand this year as the airline turns its focus to rebuilding itself. United reported a net loss of $1.9 billion for the fourth quarter, compared with a $641 million profit in the same period a year earlier. Altogether, United lost $7.1 billion in 2020. While the outlook for the next few months remains dim for airlines, United said it has gotten a handle on how to survive its immediate challenges and outlined the broad strokes of its plan to exceed its 2019 profit margins by 2023 through a combination of returning travel revenue and cost-cutting.

Biden to make international travelers quarantine. How will Miami’s tourism industry cope?” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The new measure, along with a mask mandate for all interstate transportation including airports, airplanes, trains, buses and ships, is part of an executive order signed Thursday to combat the spread of COVID-19, which continues to claim thousands of American lives each day. “We are instituting now a new measure for individuals flying into the United States from other countries,” Biden said Thursday. “In addition to wearing a mask, everyone flying to the United States will need to test before they get on that plane…and quarantine when they arrive in America.”


Health experts blame rapid expansion for vaccine shortages” via Carla K. Johnson, Brian Melley and Karen Matthews of The Associated Press — Public health experts blame vaccine shortages around the U.S. in part on the Trump administration’s push to get states to vastly expand their vaccination drives to reach the nation’s estimated 54 million people age 65 and over. According to state and local officials, the push that began over a week ago has not been accompanied by enough doses to meet demand, leading to frustration and confusion and limiting states’ ability to attack the outbreak that has killed over 400,000 Americans. Over the past few days, authorities in California, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii warned that their supplies were running out. New York City began canceling or postponing shots or stopped making new appointments because of the shortages.

The push to expand vaccination efforts have resulted in shortages nationwide. Image via AP.

Biden signs order mandating masks on planes: Will it reduce number of in-flight scofflaws?” via Dawn Gilbertson of USA TODAY — Biden has promised a mask mandate on flights, trains and buses for months, and on Thursday, he made it a reality. “Today, we’ll be signing an additional executive action to extend masking requirements on interstate travel, like on trains, planes and buses,” he said during a televised address Thursday outlining his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On his first day in office, Biden said that “changing the course of the COVID crisis” is a top priority, signed an order mandating masks on federal property Wednesday. According to White House officials, the new travel-specific order will require people to wear masks in airports on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, and intercity buses.

Is mask-slipping the new manspreading?” via DNYUZ — When I saw Bill Clinton’s mask slip below his nose during the inaugural festivities, I figured, well, it could happen to any of us. But then John Roberts’ mask was not entirely covering his nose at different points. And even Barack Obama’s mask dipped below the tip of his nose at one point. A couple of months back, then-President Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow was spotted outside the West Wing with his mask down. I realized it’s not a Democratic thing. Or a Republican thing. Or an inaugural thing. It’s a male thing. It’s like manspreading, but with masks. Call it manslipping. It’s not all men, of course. But then, not all men take up two or three subway seats.

Yes, people with coronavirus vaccinations should still distance from each other. Here’s why.” via Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post — While the vaccines are a critical step toward slowing the spread of a virus that has now caused more than 2 million deaths worldwide, experts have repeatedly emphasized that getting vaccinated doesn’t mean an immediate return to pre-pandemic life. So far, more than 2.2 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, according to The Washington Post’s tracker. But public health officials say at least 70% of the population needs to be inoculated for the country to achieve herd immunity and stop the virus’s spread. Clinical trials have shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna two-dose vaccine regimens are both highly effective at preventing illness from the virus, but they don’t provide instant and complete protection.

Partly hidden by isolation, many of the nation’s schoolchildren struggle with mental health” via Donna St. George and Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post — More than 10 months into the pandemic, mental health is a simmering crisis for many of the nation’s schoolchildren, partly hidden by isolation but increasingly evident in the distress of parents, the worries of counselors and an early body of research. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health problems account for a growing proportion of children’s visits to hospital emergency rooms. From March, when the pandemic began, to October, the figure was up 31% for those 12 to 17 years old and 24% for children ages 5 to 11 compared with the same period in 2019. Others suggest the fallout of the pandemic could reverberate far beyond the time of masks and quarantines.

Schoolchildren are dealing with mental health issues, a result of COVID-19 isolation. Image via AP.

Slow COVID-19 vaccine distribution adds to Tokyo Olympics woes” via Rachel Bachman and Alastair Gale of The Wall Street Journal — Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics face a long list of obstacles as they attempt to carry off the postponed Games in six months — and the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases around the world recently is only one of them. Potentially bigger hurdles include the need to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations globally and in the U.S. and convincing a skeptical Japanese public to accept vaccines and welcome thousands of visitors from around the globe. The International Olympic Committee and organizers in Japan last March delayed the Games from 2020 to 2021, which came about four months before the event was set to begin. They are now closing in on the same decision-making window for 2021.


Biden immigration bill would help reunite families, scratch use of ‘alien,’ sponsor says” via Jacqueline Charles of The Miami Herald — The U.S. Senate’s lead sponsor of Biden’s immigration bill laid out more details of the sweeping reform as he called on business and labor groups to support the effort, noting a host of changes beyond offering an expedited path to citizenship. In a webinar with about 2,000 business, labor and faith leaders, and immigration advocates, Sen. Bob Menendez, highlighted some of the provisions and the tough fight ahead. He will need at least 60 votes in the Senate for passage. Calling it a “bold and visionary reform,” Menendez said the bill not only offers a fast-track to legal status for approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Biden revokes Trump report promoting ‘patriotic education’” via Collin Binkley of The Associated Press — Biden revoked a recent Trump administration report that aimed to promote “patriotic education” in schools but that historians mocked and rejected as political propaganda. In an executive order signed on Wednesday in his first day in office, Biden disbanded Trump’s presidential 1776 Commission and withdrew a report it released Monday. In September, Trump established the group to rally support from White voters and as a response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which highlights the lasting consequences of slavery in America. In its report, which Trump hoped would be used in classrooms across the nation, the commission glorifies the country’s founders, plays down America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the “lofty ideals” espoused by the Founding Fathers.

Joe Biden cancels Donald Trump’s patriotic education plans that were considered propaganda appealing to White voters. Image via AP.

Biden poised to freeze oil and coal leasing on federal land” via Jennifer A Dlouhy and Ari Natter of Bloomberg — Biden will suspend the sale of oil and gas leases on federal land, which accounts for about 10% of U.S. supplies, according to four people familiar with the matter. The moratorium, which would also freeze coal leasing, is set to be unveiled along with a raft of other climate policies next week. The move would block the sale of new mining and drilling rights across some 700 million acres of federal land. It could also block offshore oil and gas leasing, though details are still being developed, some of the people said. Spokesmen for the White House and Interior Department, which oversees leasing on federal land, declined to comment.

Biden administration to seek five-year extension on key nuclear arms treaty in first foray with Russia” via John Hudson of The Washington Post — Biden is seeking a five-year extension with Russia on the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals just days before it expires, said two senior U.S. officials. At the same time, his administration is preparing to impose new costs on Russia, pending a newly requested intelligence assessment of its recent activities. The officials said Biden is ruling out a “reset” in bilateral relations with Moscow as many U.S. Presidents have done since the end of the Cold War. The decision to seek a five-year treaty extension reflects the rapidly approaching deadline for Washington to renew the New START pact on Feb. 5, the officials said.

Biden Defense Secretary pick Lloyd Austin set for quick confirmation” via Robert Burns and Andrew Taylor of Tampa Bay 10 — The Democratic-controlled Congress easily passed legislation Thursday required to confirm retired Gen. Austin as Biden’s Secretary of Defense, brushing aside concerns that his retirement occurred inside the seven-year window that safeguards civilian leadership of the military. It would be the first measure to be signed into law by brand-new Biden. The Senate sent the measure exempting Austin from the seven-year rule to Biden after a 69-27 Senate tally that came moments after a comparably lopsided 326-78 House vote. The back-to-back votes put Austin in a position to be confirmed as Secretary. Sen. John Cornyn confirmed that the confirmation vote on Austin would be conducted Friday.

If confirmed, Lloyd Austin would be the first Black Secretary of Defense. Image via AP.

As expected, Biden intends to keep FBI director in his post, an official says” via Jeff Zeleny, Kevin Liptak and Caroline Kelly of CNN — Biden intends to keep FBI Director Christopher Wray in his post, a senior administration official tells CNN, a sign of confidence for the bureau’s leader who has more than six years remaining in his term. This is not unexpected. During the transition, Biden signaled his plan to keep Wray on board, if he wasn’t fired first by Trump. Like all FBI directors, Wray has a 10-year term. Wray was appointed by Trump in 2017 and faced criticism from the ex-President on several issues. “I have not spoken within him about specifically FBI Director Wray in recent days,” press secretary Jen Psaki said, “but I’ll circle back if there’s more to convey.”

Will our military lose as much as Florida Democrats with him involved? — “Scott Arceneaux takes Department of Defense post” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Arceneaux, a former state party executive director who played a key role in Biden‘s Florida campaign, has joined the administration. On Wednesday, Arceneaux was sworn in the U.S. Department of Defense as a special assistant for the White House liaison office. He was one of 25 new Defense Department appointments sworn in simultaneously, either in person or virtually, on Inauguration Day, as the Biden administration begins both installing its leadership and backfilling long-vacant positions former Trump‘s administration had neglected. The other officials who were sworn in included chiefs of staff to the Secretary of Defense and secretaries to the various military branches, and lawyers for various divisions in the department.

Biden halts border wall building after Trump’s final surge” via Elliot Spagat of The Associated Press — In the days before Biden became President, construction crews worked quickly to finish Trump’s wall at an iconic cross-border park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Biden, on Wednesday, ordered a “pause” on all wall construction within a week. The order leaves projects throughout the border unfinished — but still under contract — after Trump worked feverishly last year to build 450 miles, a goal he said he achieved eight days before leaving office. The Trump administration said it had identified $15 billion to reach a total of 738 miles, but it is unclear how many additional miles are under contract and what cancellation fees Biden would face fulfilling his pledge not to build “another foot.”

Joe Biden vows not to build ‘another foot’ of the border wall. Image via AP.

Biden calls for LGBTQ protections in Day One executive order, angering conservatives” via Samantha Schmidt, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Moriah Balingit of The Washington Post — On his first day in office, Biden issued a sweeping executive order making clear that gay and transgender people are protected against discrimination in the workplace, schools, health care, and other realms of American life. The executive order outlines a broad interpretation of last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that gay and transgender employees are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex.” The Trump administration had interpreted that decision in Bostock v. Clayton County narrowly and only applying to employment.

Biden inauguration captures bigger audience than Trump’s” via Brian Steinberg of Variety — Biden’s inauguration won more viewers than Trump’s 2017 ceremony, per early Nielsen figures, and saw a reversal of fortunes for some of the nation’s best-watched cable-news outlets. Approximately 39.87 million people watched the half-hour swearing-in ceremony over the nation’s six major TV-news outlets, according to Nielsen, compared with 38.35 million viewers for the 2017 event. The 2021 figure represents an approximately 4% increase over its 2017 predecessor. The numbers are preliminary, and may change after Nielsen tabulates a wider array of viewing sources.

3 significant shifts that Kamala Harris cements” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — With the election of Harris, most American voters OK’d a return to the multiculturalism on display in the Obama administration. The Trump administration was known for the number of officials it promoted who had little political experience. In contrast, Biden has drawn up his Cabinet from people steeped in government. Biden’s selection of Harris embodies that approach. Also, Harris’s experience in lawmaking and familiarity with some activists — including those who were widely critical of her — could be useful in finding a middle ground in a party that often found itself consumed with infighting during the primary.


Time, transparency needed as Biden inherits frazzled census” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — The U.S. Census Bureau under a new Biden administration has the tall task of restoring confidence in the numbers that will be used to determine funding and political power. They advised the new administration to take more time to review and process population figures to be sure they get them right. The high-stakes undertaking will determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year. Census workers across the country have told The Associated Press and other media outlets that they were encouraged to falsify responses in a rush to finish the count.

Joe Biden inherits a mess of a census. Image via AP.

NRSC head Rick Scott to back GOP incumbents over Trump challengers” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Scott pledged to back GOP incumbents, even if Trump or his family get involved in the 2022 Senate races. Scott, now the chair of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, shrugged off the possibility that former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump could run against Sen. Marco Rubio or that Trump’s vow to primary Senate Minority Whip John Thune will be problematic. He seemed unworried about Trump-backed challengers meddling in GOP primaries. “I’m supporting the incumbents,” Scott told reporters. He said that he has not spoken to Ivanka Trump or anyone about Rubio possibly getting a primary challenge from her.

Ross Spano campaign ends 2020 in debt” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — After raising about $1.2 million for his unsuccessful reelection campaign, former U.S. Rep. Spano finished 2020 with $128,716 in campaign debt, according to his latest financial filing. The biggest single chunk of that debt, $59,500, is owed to Spano himself. Another $46,441 is in legal fees. The report also shows the campaign refunded $149,830 in contributions, apparently ones designated for general election campaign expenses. Spano lost the Republican primary to Scott Franklin. The money Spano lent his campaign, which he said came from his own personal funds, actually came from loans to him from supporters — a violation of campaign finance law that led to investigations by the Federal Elections Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.

Congressman urges probe of Pasco school data program” via Kathleen McGrory, Neil Bedi and Romy Ellenbogen The Wall Street Journal — Denouncing the program as promoting “racial bias” and further feeding the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a U.S. congressman called for a federal investigation into the Pasco school district’s practice of sharing student data with law enforcement. “This use of student records goes against the letter and the spirit of (the federal student privacy law) and risks subjecting students, especially Black and Latino students, to excessive law enforcement interactions and stigmatization,” said U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott, a Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, in a letter to the acting federal education secretary.

Tampa’s First Lady reacts to new presidential administration and her expanding role in national policy” via Andrea Alvarez of CBS Tampa Bay —The First Lady of Tampa and a top Tampa Bay Government Affairs Professional for Ballard Partners, Ana Cruz is confident in the political relationship between Washington, D.C. and home, stating, “We have an incredible opportunity with the incoming administration.” She affirmed, “I know that our Mayor, who happens to be my partner, will indeed build relationships that are necessary to ensure that Tampa is properly represented.” Cruz, the managing partner of one of the state’s largest political bipartisan lobbying firms, Ballard Partners’ Tampa Bay practice, is a Tampa native.


From Commander in Chief to interloper in Palm Beach” via Patricia Mazzei and Julia Echikson of The New York Times — On Wednesday, Trump did what many older New Yorkers do: He retired to Florida. His presidential career, filled with the bombast and showmanship he displayed while announcing his candidacy after a golden escalator ride in New York, ended quietly and in private, behind the groomed hedges of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. The wealthy have long sought to retreat from public life on this chichi barrier island. But in seeking refuge in Florida, Trump may find that some in Palm Beach are not exactly eager to embrace the former President as a full-time neighbor, not after he incited a mob of his supporters two weeks ago to storm the U.S. Capitol.

Donald Trump learns that he is not as welcome in Palm Beach as he thought, Image via AP.

Mitch McConnell proposes allowing Trump two weeks to prepare impeachment defense” via Burgess Everett, Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — McConnell is proposing to give Trump two weeks to prepare his legal case for his impeachment trial, according to sources familiar with the matter. McConnell told Republican senators that he would propose to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that the former President has until early-February to prepare his case, according to three people briefed on a conference call Thursday. The discussion of a two-week delay comes as congressional leaders attempt to work out details of Trump’s second impeachment trial, including the former President’s defense against the House’s charges that he incited the deadly insurrection.

Trump disclosure reveals extent of pandemic damage to his business empire” via Sophie Alexander, Bill Allison and Shahien Nasiripour — Trump’s empire has been hit hard by coronavirus closures, with revenue from his Washington and Las Vegas hotels down by more than half. In his last financial disclosure form as President, Trump detailed the damage the pandemic has wrought at a time when many tourism businesses are suffering from a lack of travelers. As President, the real estate magnate resisted policies to slow the pandemic through mask-wearing and insisted it remained safe for people to travel domestically. According to the disclosure posted Wednesday, revenue from the Trump hotel in Washington, which he had been trying to sell, fell to $15.1 million from $40.5 million a year earlier.

Trump tax law firm ends work for ex-President” via Corinne Ramey of The Wall Street Journal — The law firm that handled the tax affairs of Trump and his company during his presidency said it would stop representing him and his business. The firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, is currently wrangling with the New York Attorney General’s office over documents related to its work for the former President’s business, the Trump Organization. Led by Democratic Attorney General Letitia James, the office is conducting a civil-fraud probe into Trump’s financial dealings. “We have had a limited representation of the Trump Organization and Donald Trump in tax-related matters,” a Morgan Lewis spokeswoman said. “For those matters not already concluded, we are transitioning as appropriate to other counsel.” The spokeswoman didn’t provide a reason for the firm’s decision.

‘A total failure’: The Proud Boys now mock Trump” via Sheera Frenkel and Alan Feuer of The New York Times — After the presidential election last year, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, declared its undying loyalty to Trump. In a Nov. 8 post in a private channel of the messaging app Telegram, the group urged its followers to attend protests against an election that it said had been fraudulently stolen from Trump. “Hail Emperor Trump,” the Proud Boys wrote. But by this week, the group’s attitude toward Trump had changed. “Trump will go down as a total failure,” the Proud Boys said in the same Telegram channel on Monday. As Trump departed the White House on Wednesday, the Proud Boys, once among his staunchest supporters, have also started leaving his side.

The Proud Boys’ attitude toward Donald Trump changed overnight. Image via AP.

There will be no Trump china collection due to cost and time, source says” via Kate Bennett of CNN — The Trump administration will not have its own signature collection to display in the White House China Room, another departure from protocol for the outgoing first family. Timing and exorbitant cost prevented outgoing First Lady Melania Trump from following through on the collection, the patterns and colors for which she had selected, according to a source familiar with the events. Ultimately, the china took too long to make and cost too much. Trump pulled the plug on the project at some point during the last six weeks. Each administration has the opportunity to design and have made its own official china collection. Except for few, every administration since George Washington has done so.


Santa Rosa commissioner peddles debunked antifa claims, pushes county to endorse GOP bills” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — James Calkins, the newly elected District 3 Santa Rosa County commissioner, pushed debunked claims of antifa involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots at Thursday’s commission meeting while trying to convince his fellow board members to endorse right-leaning legislation that was not directly tied to county business. Calkins, who ran on a decidedly conservative, pro-Donald Trump platform in the 2020 primary race, made the antifa comments during board discussion about three resolutions he asked be put on the agenda.

Fort Myers City Council votes to remove pedestal that held Robert E. Lee bust” via Bill Smith of the Fort Myers News-Press — A bronze bust of Confederate Gen. Lee that occupied a position of honor in downtown Fort Myers for decades has taken its place on the scrap heap of history, unlikely to ever appear again on city-owned space in downtown Fort Myers. The Fort Myers City Council voted Tuesday night unanimously to remove the Monroe Street pedestal on which the bust had spent more than a half-century. The removal may mean the controversial bust never again commands an official presence in Fort Myers. The turning point leading to keeping the bust off city streets was an hourlong celebration of the Confederate Army hero on the day before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Fort Myers City Council voted unanimously to remove the pedestal on which the Robert E. Lee bust had spent more than a half-century. Image via the Fort Myers News-Press.

Medical marijuana controversy: Marion school dean, combat veteran fired for use” via Joe Callahan of The Ocala Star-Banner — A local high school dean, who tested positive for medical marijuana, was fired by the Marion County School Board on Wednesday after a lengthy discussion. Mike Hickman, a Belleview High School dean, faced a hearing after the board asked an administrative law judge to hear the case and issue a recommendation. Judge Suzanne Van Wyk, of the state Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee, issued an order a few months ago that upholds former Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier’s decision to fire Hickman. However, the judge also stated in the order that the school board could choose suspension instead.

Palm Beach draws flood of wealthy homebuyers in COVID exodus” via Alex Wittenburg of Bloomberg — The housing market in Palm Beach is booming. Good luck finding something to buy. Sales of single-family homes in the tony South Florida market, home to former Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, more than quadrupled in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, the largest increase in more than a decade. The surge in demand helped lift the median sale price 29% to $4.9 million, appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report Thursday. The inventory of condos and single-family homes to buy, meanwhile, is the lowest it’s been in nearly nine years of tracking, according to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel.

Judge shoots down proposal for jai alai fronton in Edgewater. But the case isn’t over” via Rene Rodriguez of The Miami Herald — A controversial proposal to bring a jai alai fronton to Edgewater has been shot down in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Judge Michael Hanzman ruled on Wednesday that the push by West Flagler Associates, the owners of Magic City Casino, to bring gambling to Edgewater in downtown Miami was, at its core, a “land use issue” that overruled any other permissions the company had been granted to pursue its pari-mutuel facilities. West Flagler had received a permit to proceed with its establishment in July 2018. Judge Hanzman’s ruling on Wednesday affirmed Mayor Francis Suarez’s legal ability to veto the deal, citing the casino owners “claimed they obtained special rights to expand casino gambling through private meetings with City officials.”

Despite a court ruling, it may not be game over for a jai alai fronton in Edgewater. Image via Miami Herald.

Tampa Electric doubles goal for solar-powered homes” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Tampa Electric announced this week its plans to double the number of homes it powers by solar energy from 100,000 today to 200,000 by 2023. The utility brought the Durrance Solar project online on Jan. 1, making Tampa Electric the Florida utility with the most solar power. The 60-megawatt project in Polk County is Tampa Electric’s 10th utility-scale photovoltaic solar project. But Tampa Electric is not stopping there. Upon completion, Tampa Electric projects will produce enough solar energy to power 200,000 Florida homes. This carbon reduction resulting from this effort is equivalent to removing one million cars from the roads.

FWC charges 4 with illegal deer harvest in Walton County after yearlong investigation” via Nick Tomecek of NWF Daily News — After almost a yearlong investigation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has charged four people with multiple hunting-related charges. The charges include night hunting, an over-the-season bag limit of white-tailed deer, petit theft and entering fraudulent information into the FWC Harvest Reporting System. In February 2020, FWC officers received information of illegal deer harvesting that was taking place at night on private property without landowner permission, according to a news release from the FWC. Dustin Bryant of Freeport was identified as a suspect. Arrest warrants were issued for the suspects, and they were booked into the Walton County Jail on Jan. 8.


Biden charged the people of this republic with fixing it. So the people need to grow up.” via George F. Will for The Washington Post — Standing where his predecessor decried what he subsequently delivered — “American carnage” — Biden on Wednesday promised a recuperative presidency. His call for Americans to heed the better angels of their nature — “each of us has a duty and responsibility” — recalled an admonition 160 years ago. In 1861, when seven of the 34 states had already voted for secession, the 16th President said in his inaugural address that the nation’s fate was “in your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine.” Today, too, the ultimate responsibility for the republic’s trajectory resides in the citizenry. Biden’s responsibility involves the restoration of institutional norms and equilibrium.


Biden has a once-in-a-century chance to fix capitalism” via Joe Nocera of Bloomberg — If the Biden administration is serious about transforming the economy, it needs to go further. It needs to enlist U.S. industry in a push to change the values that now dominate American capitalism. It needs to help instill values that, for instance, give more weight to having domestically made hospital equipment over saving a few dollars. To put it another way, the U.S. needs to reclaim the kind of capitalism that existed before the 1980s, when the financialization of American business — and the belief that Wall Street was the only thing that mattered — began. And maybe, just maybe, the experience of the pandemic can help show the way.

Some of Trump’s foreign policies are worth sustaining. Biden should keep that in mind.” via David Ignatius of The Washington Post — The world needs (and mostly wants) a strong United States back in harness. Biden’s task is partly just rebuilding after Donald Trump’s demolition derby. Let’s be contrarians for a moment about the repair job that’s ahead: Not everything is broken. U.S. power is partly about continuity and momentum. Sometimes, the generals, diplomats and intelligence chiefs had to defy Trump to maintain a sound policy. Still, the simple fact is that not everything the Trump administration did in foreign policy was wrong. Some things are worth sustaining. At the top of my list of positives is that the United States kept its roughly 2,500 troops in Iraq, which Baghdad wants, despite Iran’s effort to drive them out.

Democrats, here’s how to lose in 2022. And deserve it.” via Ezra Klein of The New York Times — In their book “Presidents, Populism and the Crisis of Democracy,” the political scientists William Howell and Terry Moe write that “populists don’t just feed on socioeconomic discontent. They feed on ineffective government — and their great appeal is that they claim to replace it with a government that is effective through their own autocratic power.” Trump was this kind of populist. Democrats mocked his “I alone can fix it” message for its braggadocio and feared its authoritarianism, but they did not take seriously the deep soil in which it was rooted: The American system of governance is leaving too many Americans to despair and misery, too many problems unsolved, too many people disillusioned. But now Democrats have another chance.

If you’re offered a vaccine, take it” via Melinda Wenner Moyer of The New York Times — Last week, as friends of mine learned they would soon be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, I received a slew of angst-ridden text messages. A teacher who sees students only once a week wondered if she should wait so teachers who were more at risk could get a shot first. A friend with a health condition who is mostly able to stay home and isolate pondered letting her dose go to someone more deserving. On social media, I stumbled across posts from friends who are eligible for vaccination but could not get appointments — and who were angry that others they knew, whom they considered lower risk, had already been inoculated.

To Florida’s Senators — confirm Xavier Becerra for HHS Secretary to jump-start federal COVID-19 response” via Manrique Iriarte for Florida Politics — Our country is in the middle of the worst public health crisis in American history, and despite the approval of multiple COVID-19 vaccines, the Trump administration’s failure to effectively distribute the vaccine far and wide has undermined the response to the pandemic and left Floridians vulnerable to the virus. As a front-line doctor here in Miami, I’ve seen firsthand the tragic toll it has taken in my community, where we still have too many COVID-19 cases and not nearly enough vaccines. Ultimately, the blame for this dysfunction is not on our local government, who are trying their hardest with limited resources; it stems from the lack of experience and coordination from the very top.

Three new toll roads across the state? No thanks” via Paul Owens for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In October, Florida Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault addressed the last meeting of the task force he had appointed to evaluate a northern extension of Florida’s Turnpike, one of the three M-CORES toll roads through rural western Florida authorized by state lawmakers in 2019. In his remarks, Thibault invoked Charles CoStar, who successfully lobbied lawmakers in 1953 to pave the way for the Turnpike. This disastrous project is taking a heavy toll on Florida’s environment to this day, more than half a century later. M-CORES threatens to leave a legacy of destruction. The Everglades, natural springs, rivers, wetlands, forests, habitat for panther and other endangered wildlife, prime farmland and small towns would all be at risk.


State Surgeon General Rivkees is issuing an order saying anyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination in Florida must prove they live in the state — a bit odd since last week his deputy told lawmakers those vaccines belong to the feds and states cannot discriminate based on residency.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Florida Department of Health officials report 163 additional fatalities and almost 13,000 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, but the chair of the new Pandemic Committee in the Florida Senate says there won’t be any more lockdowns — no matter how bad it gets.

— The pandemic put a $3 billion hole in the state budget, but that hasn’t stopped the demand for new spending. Economic developers want lawmakers to set aside more money to lure businesses.

— Health care advocates also have an ask for lawmakers: They want better dental care for kids from low-income families.

— On the Sunrise Interview, Viviana Jordan of Airbnb. The Super Bowl is coming to Tampa in a couple of weeks, and the home-sharing service is telling clients how to spot signs of human trafficking.

— And finally, a Florida Man says he wasn’t rioting at The Capitol; he just was looking for a bathroom. The feds aren’t buying it.

To listen, click on the image below:


Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States could impact many issues important to Florida residents, including federal funding to the states and environmental policies. Journalists Zac Anderson, Antonio Fins and John Kennedy discuss how Biden’s inauguration will reset Florida’s relationship with the White House and what Trump’s new life as a full-time Florida resident could look like.

podcastED: Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill speaks with two members of the SUFS leadership team — Chief Operating Officer Gina Lynch and Chief Financial Officer Joe Pfountz — about the mechanics of managing ESAs, state-based programs where parents are given funds to pay for approved educational expenses that allow them to customize an education that fits their child’s needs.

Tallahassee Business Podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Jay Smith, a respected leader in Tallahassee and vice president of Ajax Building Company, recently took on a new title as chair of the Chamber Board of Directors. Smith and Sue Dick discuss what the community can expect to see from the Chamber in 2021, including the Chamber’s recently refreshed strategic priorities: Talent, Workforce & Education; Economic Competitiveness & Business Climate; and Community & Prosperity.

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: It is said that before Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, a group of Republicans got together and vowed to oppose everything that he would do, or rather, try to do. Did the Trump loyalists on the hill and Mitch McConnell’s Republicans huddle together last night and make a similar vow, this time for President-elect Biden? It’s a possibility, says Michael Tomasky, a special guest on a members-only episode, which happened LIVE on Zoom.

The Yard Sign with host Jonathan Torres: Chris Chambers, Anibal Cabrera and Torres talk MLK Day, impeachment 2.0, Big Tech censorship and the Biden administration.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring former Florida CFO Alex Sink, The Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson and attorney C.J. Czaia.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion with newly elected state Senate Republicans about their agendas as they prepare for the first Legislative Session. Joining Walker-Torres are Sens. Danny Burgess and Jim Boyd.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A recap of Biden’s Inauguration and his administration’s first days in office.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: U.S. Rep. Val Demings will discuss the historic 59th Presidential Inauguration, the new dynamics in Washington D.C., and her agenda for 2021.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville City Council member Brenda Priestly Jackson.

— ALOE —

Disney: Hall of Presidents closed for refurbishment; Biden figure to be added” via DeWayne Bevill of The Orlando Sentinel — The Hall of Presidents “is currently closed for refurbishment” at Magic Kingdom theme park, according to Walt Disney World’s official website. The closure coincides with Inauguration Day for Biden and the last day of the presidency for Trump. It’s the first movement Disney has shown on the attraction during the transition. As of Tuesday, the site continued to list operating hours for the Hall of Presidents through mid-March. Typically, the Liberty Square attraction is taken down to incorporate an animatronic figure of the new President. In January 2017, the hall was closed to add Trump.

Disney’s Hall of Presidents prepares for the arrival of Joe Biden.

Disney: ‘Festival of the Lion King’ set to return to Animal Kingdom” via DeWayne Bevil and Gabrielle Russon of The Orlando Sentinel — “Festival of the Lion King” is returning to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. According to a post on the official Disney Parks Blog, the production’s comeback is “expected this summer” at the park’s Harambe Theatre. The show, featuring singers, dancers, acrobats, stilt walkers, animated floats, colorful costumes, characters and music from “The Lion King” film, has not been produced since the resort went into coronavirus lockdown in mid-March. When the parks reopened in mid-July, the show did not return. It will be a modified production, Disney says, to reflect the health and safety needs associated with the pandemic.


Best wishes to former Senate President Don Gaetz, Greg Black of Waypoint Strategies, Tim Center, former House candidate Julie JenkinsGeorgia McKeown, and Dr. Jeff Sharkey of Capitol Alliance Group.

It’s not their birthday, but happy 32nd anniversary to Debbie and Michael Millner.


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.


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, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704