Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.25.21

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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went to Green Bay on Sunday to procure the name of … Titletown U.S.A.?

Well, maybe not exactly, but the Bucs completed Tampa Bay’s sports trifecta by beating the Green Bay Packers 31-26 at storied Lambeau Field to secure their spot in Super Bowl LV. That game will be played at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on February 7.

The Bucs become the unlikeliest franchise — but not the team — to be the first to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Bucs made the NFL playoffs this year for the first time since 2007.

Tom Brady gives the Buccaneers exactly what they wanted — a trip to the Super Bowl.

But this was exactly what Bucs fans hoped for when their team signed Tom Brady last year to be their quarterback. After six Super Bowl rings, Brady left the New England Patriots, and immediately Bucs’ fans believed/hoped Tampa Bay would bring his seventh.

This Super Bowl originally was supposed to go to Los Angeles in the new SoFi Stadium, but when planners couldn’t guarantee it would be ready, the NFL turned to reliable Tampa. This will be the fifth time the NFL brought its biggest game Tampa.

How did a team that finished 7-9 last year advance to this stage?


The Bucs signed the G-O-A-T — Brady, the Greatest Of All Time. He directed a team that forgot how to win to the NFL’s biggest stage.

Oh, that Titletown thing?

Green Bay claimed that name after the Packers won three consecutive NFL titles from 1965-67. But Tampa Bay can boast the current Stanley Cup hockey champions in the Lightning. The American League champion Tampa Bay Rays advanced to the World Series.

And now, the Bucs are champs of the NFC and are one win away from winning the franchise’s second Super Bowl.



Some housekeeping:

—The latest edition of INFLUENCE Magazine is back from the printer and going out in the mail this week. Only paid subscribers will receive a hard copy. You can subscribe here at

—The deadline to reserve space in the next edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, which will set the table for the 2021 Legislative Session, is this Friday, January 29. Email [email protected] if you would like to insert an ad.

—We sent a Florida Influencer Poll to the usual suspects. Responses are due by noon today. If you know of anyone who would make an excellent Influencer for future polls, drop a line to [email protected]!

—With another week of legislative committee meetings, you’ll want to be signed up for the #FlaPol text messaging service. You can sign up here on Subtext. Also, we have just two ad slots left before we close out the opportunity. Email [email protected] if you are interested in one of the two slots.

Best of luck — Axios Tampa Bay newsletter launches today — Axios is launching a locally-focused newsletter in the Tampa Bay region today. The newsletter, delivered via email and posted on the media organization’s website, will be written with what Axios describes as “smart brevity.” They are top stories that highlight anything from politics affecting the region to transportation initiatives, business and culture. Former Tampa Bay Times enterprise reporter Ben Montgomery and Capitol Gazette shooting survivor Selene San Felice are co-writing the publication.


Rest in peace Acting U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Nilda Pedrosa died this weekend from an “aggressive” cancer. The Miami native was a former assistant dean at Florida International University College of Law, chief of staff to Attorney General Pam Bondi, and one-time chief of staff to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named her acting undersecretary on Sept. 28, 2020. Pedrosa leaves behind a husband, Eliot, and two young children, Elias and Emma.

>>>Here is the Miami Herald’s obituary.


Personnel note: Jared Willis joins Strategos Group — The Strategos Group announced that it has brought Willis on as a Government Affairs Manager. Willis comes to the firm from the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, where he served as Director of Government Relations. He previously worked as a legislative aide in the Florida Senate, president of the Tallahassee Downtown Business Association and as an investor services coordinator at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “I am thrilled to have Jared joining the Strategos family. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to see Jared operate as a legislative staff member — he has always been an exceptional worker willing to go above and beyond. He is smart and diligent, and he will be an asset to our team and our clients,” Strategos partner Tara Reid said.


Personnel note: James Hewitt in as Mike Waltz’s communications director — U.S. Rep. Waltz has brought Hewitt on as his new Communications Director. Hewitt comes to Waltz’s office from the Environmental Protection Agency, where he worked as an associate administrator for public affairs. He previously worked at the U.S. Department of State, Dezenhall Resources and the Republican National Committee and interned in the office of then-U. S. Rep. Cory Gardner. Hewitt is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history.


@MorningMoneyBen: Deep down in places you don’t talk about at cocktail parties, you want him tweeting those tweets. You miss him tweeting those tweets. … And the sweet rush of outrage that followed. If you say you don’t you are lying.

@SteveLemongello: “Move on” morphing into “[Donald] Trump 2024″

@NewsBySmiley: Miami’s @MarioDB, like last week on NBC, says on #TWISF that the article of impeachment is a debunked “farce” because it blames the insurrection on Trump’s comments at the Stop the Steal rally.

@MarcACaputo: “I just had to believe in a political cabal of homicidal pedophile vampires partly due to ‘hyperbolic’ media coverage” is almost as galactically stupid as believing QAnon in the first place

@CindyMcCain: It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well … and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I’ll wear this as a badge of honor.

@CDotTurn: [Joe] Biden is a devout Catholic and evangelicals still say he’s not religious enough. Reminder that they care about party, not faith.

@GovRonDeSantis: In politics, if you want a friend, get a dog. In football, if you want to go to the Super Bowl, get a GOAT. Congratulations to @TomBrady & the @Buccaneers on the NFC Championship win. See you in Tampa for the Super Bowl.

Tweet, tweet:

@SteveLemongello: Tom Brady will have played in Super Bowls in four different presidential administrations

@EvanAxelbank: Think of how much money this region lost without having playoff crowds, hotel stays, sales taxes, vendor shifts, etc. etc. etc.


Florida Chamber Economic Outlook and Job Solution Summit begins — 3; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 13; Daytona 500 — 20; “Nomadland” with Frances McDormand — 26; The CW’s Superman & Lois premieres — 29; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 36; “Coming 2 America” premieres on Amazon Prime — 40; “The Many Saints of Newark” premieres — 46; 2021 Grammys — 48; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 60; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 67; Children’s Gasparilla — 75; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 82; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 102; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 158; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 166; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 179; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 186; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 212; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 235; “Dune” premieres — 250; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 282; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 284; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 319; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 326; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 424; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 466; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 620.


Democratic leaders, Florida residents urge Ron DeSantis not to ‘exile’ them on vaccination effort” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — DeSantis is again drawing fire from Florida’s congressional Democrats. A letter they sent the Governor called for “improved communication” and insisted “more can be done to expeditiously administer the vaccines.” Democrats in the state legislature say they, too, are impatient. For DeSantis, the letter and demands speak to not just the frustrating stumbles in the delivery of the highly anticipated vaccines but also to a new political reality. The Governor, a stalwart supporter of Trump, finds himself sandwiched between a new administration in Washington that has labeled its predecessor’s vaccine rollout a “dismal failure” and Florida Democrats who have challenged and questioned his decisions on key coronavirus moves.

Florida congressional Democrats call on Ron DeSantis to clue them in on the vaccination effort.

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Democratic lawmakers mount another attempt to expand Medicaid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Shevrin Jones and Rep. Nick Duran are continuing Democrats’ yearslong quest to expand Medicaid in Florida with a pair of new bills filed this week. The difference this year? Florida is dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOP-controlled Legislature has repeatedly rejected past efforts to open up Medicaid to more Floridians, citing the state’s increased costs. But Jones and Duran, a pair of South Florida Democrats, argue the pandemic should serve as a motivator to change course. Florida is one of a handful of states that declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which Congress approved during the Barack Obama administration. Jones and Duran say the expansion would cover nearly 850,000 Floridians.

Jason Shoaf tests positive for COVID-19” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Port St. Joe Republican notified the public Sunday afternoon in a Facebook post. “I tested positive for COVID this weekend, and I have notified local health officials,” Shoaf wrote. “For the safety and health of my colleagues and staff, and in accordance with House protocols and CDC guidelines, I will not attend committee meeting this week in person.” Shoaf told followers he is “feeling fine” and plans to virtually participate in all meetings planned. “We have a lot of work to do for our state, and I plan to return to meeting in person as soon as it is safe to do so,” he added.

Disaster preparedness ‘holiday’ proposed” via The News Service of Florida — Sen. Joe Gruters filed SB 734, proposing a holiday from May 28 through June 13. The annual six-month hurricane season will start June 1. The proposal would allow people to avoid paying sales taxes on a series of items, such as portable generators costing $750 or less, tarps costing $50 or less, packages of batteries costing $30 or less and food coolers costing $30 or less.

Randy Fine bill aims to make waterways — and loan terms — crystal clear” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Rep. Fine has a bill that would kill two birds with one stone. HB 387 would help improve water quality by allowing property owners to take out loans through the Property Assessed Clean Energy program for environmental mitigation projects such as septic-to-sewer conversions or advanced on-site wastewater treatment systems. The Property Assessed Clean Energy program, better known as PACE, is a financing vehicle that allows consumers to pay back the upgrades’ cost through assessments on their property tax bill. As the name implies, the program is mostly geared toward energy efficiency upgrades such as solar panel installation, though storm hardening projects also qualify.

A new bill from Randy Fine kills two birds with one stone. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat/Tori Lynn Schneider.

—”Mike Grieco joins Jeff Brandes push for sentencing reform” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Chris Latvala seeks $250K appropriation for at-risk youth program, Ruth Eckerd Hall renovations” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—”Darryl Rouson joins Amber Mariano in refiling TBARTA bill to give mayors more flexibility” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Legislative committee meetings — The Senate will hold a procedural session for Senate chairs and vice-chairs, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 50, filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, seeking to expand the collection of sales taxes on goods sold online, 2:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 72, filed by Chair Jeff Brandes, seeking to give businesses immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits, 2:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building. The Florida Legislative Black Caucus will hold an online town hall to discuss issues related to COVID-19, 7 p.m. Facebook Live link here.


Will they work together? Joe Biden faces Florida Republicans who rejected his win” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Many state GOP leaders have only grudgingly acknowledged the fact of his presidency. The few who have pledged to work with him have paired their olive branches with criticism about his agenda. “Biden will be able to work with them to the degree that they are willing to work on anything with him,” Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida. “And I don’t know that most congressional Republicans in Florida are going to be willing.’’ “I’ll work with the Biden administration on any issue that advances the needs of Floridians in my district and the nation,” Waltz said in an email.

Can Joe Biden expect to work with Republicans who denied his presidency? Image via AP.

Jobless rate inches down in Florida” via The News Service of Florida — Florida’s jobless rate dipped 0.2 percentage points in December amid what state officials said is growing economic confidence as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. On Friday, the state Department of Economic Opportunity announced a 6.1% unemployment rate, down from 6.3% in November. The new rate reflected 614,000 Floridians qualifying as being out of work in December out of a workforce of more than 10.14 million. Adrienne Johnston, the department’s chief economist, pointed to continued growth in seasonal hiring. Appearing in Key Largo on Friday, DeSantis credited his policies of reopening schools and businesses during the pandemic, in contrast to some other parts of the country.

Florida leaves billions behind, and we all lose” via Steve Bousquet of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Year after year, Florida has refused to require that out-of-state retailers collect the 6 percent sales tax from online purchases. The tax is owed, but it goes uncollected. That makes potential scofflaws of everyone who buys a shirt online and avoids paying their share. If you buy that same shirt at a store, you pay sales tax on it and don’t even think about it. This fiscal stupidity costs the state billions of dollars it is rightfully owed, money that could reduce child neglect, provide a tutor for prison inmates or put more state troopers on the highways. The blame belongs to a Legislature lacking in vision, with too many members weak-kneed and petrified about being accused of raising taxes in their next campaign.

Did the Donald Trump administration make it harder for Florida to expand Medicaid on its way out the door?” via Kirby Wilson of The Tampa Bay Times — At first, Florida only wanted the federal government to re-up the state’s Medicaid program into 2024. But last week, in the final days of Trump’s presidential administration, the feds extended the state’s program through June 2030. That struck some Florida advocates for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act as suspicious timing. Under Florida’s current system, the state hospitals that provide so-called “charity care” to the poorest patients get reimbursed by a combination of federal and local funding commonly referred to as the “Low-Income Pool.” With another decade of generous federal funding for the Low-Income Pool, those advocates say, lawmakers might be less inclined to then expand Medicaid.

David Jolly eyes run for Governor” via Axios — Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly is “strongly considering” a run for Florida Governor in 2022 as an independent, a source close to him tells Axios. Jolly, who repped Florida’s 13th Congressional District as a Republican from 2014 to 2017 and publicly left the GOP in 2018, has built a brand on cable news as a critic of former President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress. Since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an unusual number of Republicans in the three biggest Tampa Bay-area counties have switched parties.


United States tops 25 million cases of COVID-19” via Minyvonne Burke of NBC News — The United States recorded more than 25 million cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and just under 417,000 deaths. This comes days after Biden signed 10 executive orders to expand vaccine production, ramping up testing and reopening schools, among other goals. His full 198-page strategy to end the pandemic was boiled down to seven key points. “We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it is going to take months to get it turned around,” Biden said. He warned the country is likely to top 500,000 deaths next month. According to NBC News’ statistics, the current death toll is 416,925 with 25,012,572 cases.

America didn’t get into the COVID-19 mess overnight; it will take some time to get out. Image via AP.

DeSantis walks back claim over 1 millionth shot” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — DeSantis had a made-for-TV moment: A 100-year-old World War II veteran getting a vaccine against the coronavirus. “An American Hero,” the Governor proclaimed Friday, would be the 1 millionth senior in his state to get a lifesaving shot in the arm. As it turned out, the assertion was premature, and the Republican Governor later walked back the claim, saying instead that the injection was symbolic of the state being on track to hit 1 million doses soon. State officials acknowledged that it could take a few more days to reach the milestone. DeSantis’ own health department reported that fewer than 840,000 seniors had received the shot. The Governor’s misstep came as Florida’s congressional Democrats, in a letter to DeSantis, expressed “serious concerns with the state’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

DeSantis says Florida can vaccinate many more, but supply isn’t there” via David Goodhue of The Miami Herald — DeSantis said the pace at which people are being vaccinated in Florida is faster than the supply of the doses coming into the state. His remarks Friday signaled a shift in message for the Governor from touting the state’s ability to rapidly vaccinate a large number of residents to acknowledging that Florida’s infrastructure is dependent on a supply chain he does not control. “If you look at a place like Hard Rock Stadium, they do a thousand a day. We can do two to three thousand a day if we had more vaccine,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Key Largo. He said that the state received 266,000 doses last week and expects the same amount to arrive next week.

Many people say it’s hard to get the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Florida stops reporting number overdue” via David Fleshler of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Many people who persisted through long lines and jammed phone systems to get the first dose of the COVID vaccine in Florida say it’s turned out to be just as difficult to get the second dose. About two dozen seniors expressed concerns about the second-dose procedures to the Sun-Sentinel. Some said the instructions were unclear. Others said appointments for second shots were canceled with the explanation that no doses were available. Others said no one picked up the phone. The number of people overdue for second doses reached 44,470 Monday, according to the daily vaccine reports issued by the Florida Department of Health.

For some seniors, getting a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is just as challenging as the first one. Image via AP.

Older Floridians: Guinea pigs for the safety and success of the COVID-19 vaccine” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Because so few elderly people were included in the vaccine trials, much remains unknown about how the vaccine will affect them. Answers may now come from Florida, where DeSantis chose to give the vaccine first to nursing home residents and where nearly a million people over 65 have now been vaccinated. Until now, research about the vaccine’s effect on older people has been minimal and short term. Researchers still do not know if the immune response in vaccinated older individuals stays robust over time, particularly compared with younger adults.

Florida vaccine residency rule may block access for migrant farmworkers” via Monique O. Madan and Ana Ceballos — Herlinda Mendez is among the hundreds of thousands of Florida farmworkers who hope to be prioritized during the next round of vaccine distribution. But a state proof of residency requirement is raising concerns about whether many of them will be able to get inoculated at all. Workers who are considered essential to the economy are expected to be next in line, according to the state’s draft vaccination plan, though officials have not yet defined who is in that category. Further complicating matter is that many farmworkers are guest workers on temporary visas or undocumented.


Record deaths, dwindling vaccine supplies mark Jacksonville’s week in COVID-19 fight” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — The highest seven-day rolling average so far for COVID-19 deaths in the six-county region. The deadliest single-day report in Duval County since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The end, for now, of some of Jacksonville’s widely-used vaccination options. A week of concerning numbers came to a close Saturday in Northeast Florida, even as the area’s vaccination drives continue in the battle to beat back the pandemic. The state shows progress: Several indicators, notably the Agency for Health Care Administration’s count of currently-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, which has decreased by more than 1,000 in the past two weeks, are pointing in a more favorable direction.

Miami-Dade’s wealthiest ZIP codes are also the most vaccinated for COVID-19, data shows” via Douglas Hanks and Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — New state data on vaccinations by ZIP codes map out a familiar pattern for the coronavirus pandemic. Just as low-income neighborhoods tend to get hit harder by the COVID-19 spread, wealthier neighborhoods are getting their shots at a faster rate. Fisher Island’s ZIP code of 33109 easily leads the county in vaccination rates, with 51% of the enclave’s 400 inhabitants vaccinated. Only a few neighborhoods have vaccination rates above 10%, and each of them are among the county’s top 20 wealthiest ZIP codes. Some of the county’s poorest ZIP codes have the lowest vaccination rates. Of the three ZIP codes in Opa-locka, 33054 sits at the bottom with vaccination rates.

Access to COVID-19 vaccination seems to correlate with ZIP codes. Image via the Miami Herald.

Pensacola must vaccinate Black community. Earning their trust hasn’t been easy.” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Marcel Davis, the head pastor at the predominantly Black church Adoration for a New Beginning in Pensacola, has become a fierce advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine, tasked with convincing his followers to get the shot despite an overwhelming hesitation in historically underserved communities to trust medicine. “I think pastors are the face of the faith, and you have to have faith in something,” Davis said. “I think my role has been to show people to have faith in the science, particularly to the underserved and marginalized communities, who have often lost their faith in science and they’ve lost their hope. But without science, without this vaccine, these whole communities could end up dying.”

COVID-19 vaccine brings hope to Polk’s senior communities” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger — Senior Mary Gullage said the day she has been praying for arrived Friday as she received her first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Residents of Azalea Park, an independent living facility run by Holiday Retirement, was one of at least three senior communities in Polk County scheduled to receive vaccinations on Friday. Beacon Terrace mobile home community in Lakeland and Spring Haven Retirement in Winter Haven also had events. There was a building sense of anticipation at Azalea Park about 9 a.m. in the building’s lobby. Florida Department of Health in Polk County had set up several makeshift stations in a common space. Two members of Florida’s National Guard were on hand to assist. Leon Parrish was the first in line to roll up his sleeve and receive a shot.

Despite virus, some find nightlife irresistible lure” via Danielle Ivanov of The Gainesville Sun — And while the parties are on, masks are off, and 6 feet of space is uncommon inside popular Midtown and downtown bars and clubs. Though most students were wary of talking to The Sun, those who did say they weren’t afraid of picking up the virus because they weren’t at risk of infecting elderly, vulnerable family members, would get tested before returning home or already had COVID-19. Alachua County and the City of Gainesville currently cannot enforce pandemic capacity limits on residents without conducting, submitting and getting state approval of an economic impact study analyzing how the proposed legislation would affect the local economy, according to county spokesman Mark Sexton and Gainesville Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Stephen Hesson.

University of Florida students are going to party, virus be damned. Image via Gainesville Sun.

Unlike majority of the Gulf Coast, Milton Mardi Gras a spectacle of selfishness” via The Pensacola News Journal editorial board — The first full week of January brought 25 reported deaths from COVID-19 in Santa Rosa County. Now consider the fact that despite that grave and ongoing threat, the city of Milton plans to be one of the only communities on the entire Gulf Coast that still insists on defying directives from the CDC and warnings from health care professionals by hosting a Mardi Gras parade and party that can only exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 in our local communities. This is the height of frivolousness and irresponsible local leadership.


U.S. virus cases are falling in the U.S., but the circulation of variants could erase progress.” via Julie Bosman and Donald G. McNeil Jr. of The New York Times — In recent days, coronavirus cases have been dropping steadily across the United States, with hospitalizations falling in concert. But health officials are growing increasingly concerned that quickly circulating variants of the virus could cause new surges of cases faster than the country manages to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Public health experts likened the situation to a race between vaccination and the virus’s new variants — and the winner will determine whether the United States is approaching a turning point in its battle against the coronavirus, now entering a second year.

Higher mortality of new variant ‘reflected in hospitals’” via BBC News — There is still “a lot of uncertainty” about just how severe the new UK variant is, according to another of the government’s scientific advisers. Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, said the figures given during the Downing Street briefing suggested an increase of something like 30 to 40% in terms of mortality, which “really ties in with what we’re seeing in the hospitals.” Speaking to Radio 4’s PM programme, he said: “It is obviously a blow. We were rather hoping that this virus was going to be quite genetically stable.”

Higher death rates of the new strain of coronavirus are reflected in hospital numbers. Image via Reuters.

New pandemic plight: Hospitals are running out of vaccines” via Simon Romero and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio of The New York Times — In the midst of one of the deadliest phases of the pandemic in the United States, health officials in Texas and around the country are growing desperate, unable to get clear answers as to why the long-anticipated vaccines are suddenly in short supply. Inoculation sites are canceling thousands of appointments in one state after another as the nation’s vaccines roll out through a bewildering patchwork of distribution networks, with local officials uncertain about what supplies they will have in hand. In South Carolina, one hospital in the city of Beaufort had to cancel 6,000 vaccine appointments after it received only 450 of the doses it expected.

CDC says 2nd coronavirus vaccine shot may be scheduled up to 6 weeks later” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — People who have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine can schedule their second shot up to six weeks later if they are not able to get one in the recommended time frame, according to updated guidance this week from the CDC. The agency also said that in “exceptional situations,” patients may switch from one of the authorized vaccines to the other between the first and second doses. The recommended interval between doses is three weeks for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s. The updated guidance comes as the United States and other countries seek to accelerate vaccination efforts while health officials warn of broader circulation of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus.

Biden says his mask mandate is common-sense. Republicans say ‘kiss my ass.’” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — When Biden issued an executive order this week requiring mask-wearing on federal properties, it was framed as the least controversial provision he would issue early in his presidency. “It’s not a political statement,” he said, “it’s a patriotic act.” But shortly after the newly elected President uttered that plea, some Republicans made clear that even this ask wouldn’t go over well with them. And within days, it became clearer that opponents wouldn’t just complain about the mask mandate but actively fight it, too. The pushback against Biden’s mask mandate is the earliest, most visceral sign to date that consensus will be nearly impossible to form in a still very-much-divided D.C.

Joe Biden’s mask mandate is going over like a lead balloon with Republicans. Image via AP.

A tsunami of randoms”: How Trump’s COVID-19 chaos drowned the FDA in junk science” via Katherine Eban of Vanity Fair — Facing a once-in-a-century pandemic, a well-run FDA could have guided the private sector early on in developing lifesaving products, made fast but careful approval decisions, and retained its political independence, not linking arms with the President in touting specific products, to preserve a critical firewall between the regulator and the regulated. “The FDA commissioner should be like the head of the CIA,” said the senior HHS official. “You stay in the shadows.” Interviews with various insiders reveal an agency stumbling through the pandemic, buffeted by mercurial demands from the White House, political sabotage from its parent agency, Health and Human Services, and an inexperienced commissioner unsure of whom to trust, and so eager to be liked that it amounted to a “Shakespearean flaw,” according to the senior HHS official.

Criticized by science community and Trump, Deborah Birx said she ‘always’ considered quitting” via Meryl Kornfield of The Washington Post — Facing criticism from the administration she worked for and some in the scientific community, Birx, coordinator of the Trump White House’s coronavirus response, “always” considered quitting her job, she said in an interview set to air Sunday. “I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day?” Birx said in a clip of her conversation with Margaret Brennan on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.” Birx, at one point called “pathetic” by Trump on Twitter, told Brennan that her job and the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 412,000 people in the United States were politicized under the Trump administration.


World’s economic recovery delayed by slow vaccine rollouts” via Enda Curran of Bloomberg — The world economy is facing a tougher start to 2021 than expected as coronavirus infections surge and it takes time to roll out vaccinations. While global growth is still on course to rebound quickly from the recession of last year at some point, it may take longer to ignite and not be as healthy as previously forecast. The World Bank already this month trimmed its prediction to 4% in 2021 and the International Monetary Fund will this week update its own outlook. Double-dip recessions are now expected in Japan, the euro area and U.K. as restrictions to curb the virus’s spread are enforced. Record cases in the U.S. are dragging on retail spending and hiring, prompting Biden’s new administration to seek an extra $1.9 trillion worth of fiscal stimulus.

Slow vaccine rollout is not doing the economy any favors. Image via Bloomberg.

Biden signs orders to expand food stamps and raise wages, but says economy needs more help” via Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport of The New York Times — Biden signed two executive orders on Friday to provide help to struggling families and raise wages for certain workers, turning once again to the power of the executive branch to advance his economic goals as the legislative chances for his broader stimulus package remain uncertain. “The crisis is only deepening,” Biden said, calling the need to help those out of work and unable to afford enough food “an economic imperative.” Biden’s executive orders are intended to increase the amount of money poor families get for food each month and provide additional meal money for needy students.

Pandemic aftershocks overwhelm global supply lines” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — One year after the coronavirus pandemic first disrupted global supply chains by closing Chinese factories, fresh shipping headaches are delaying U.S. farm exports, crimping domestic manufacturing and threatening higher prices for American consumers. The cost of shipping a container of goods has risen by 80 percent since early November and has nearly tripled over the past year. The increase reflects dramatic shifts in consumption during the pandemic, as consumers redirect money they once spent at restaurants or movie theaters to the purchase of record amounts of imported clothing, computers, furniture and other goods.


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 wrestling with mental health, a result of the isolation by COVID-19. Image via AP.

Anti-vaxxers meltdown over Airbnb discounts, of all things” via Daniel Modlin of The Daily Beast — Thomas David Keho, an Airbnb Superhost for five years, took to the Facebook group “Airbnb Host Community — Vent, Recommend, Discuss,” a forum typically used to complain about rowdy guests or strategize how to appeal Airbnb for a better rating, to ask what he considered an innocuous question: “How do I offer a 50% discount to vaccinated guests?” The responses were far-ranging. Many anti-vax-aligned members balked at what they perceived as “unbelievable discrimination.” A group of hosts speculated that the original poster was using vaccinated guests to get around Airbnb’s COVID cleaning policies and was, therefore, able to offer such a steep discount.


White House begins talks with lawmakers on COVID-19 relief” via Aamer Madhani and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — Top aides to President Joe Biden on Sunday began talks with a group of moderate Senate Republicans and Democrats on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package as Joe Biden faces increasing headwinds in his effort to win bipartisan backing for the initial legislative effort of his presidency. Lawmakers on the right question the wisdom of racking up bigger deficits while those on the left are urging Biden not to spend too much time on bipartisanship when the pandemic is killing thousands of Americans each day and costing more jobs amid tightening restrictions in many communities.

Just off embargo — “Biden plans to sign order for government to buy more U.S. goods” via Josh Boak of the Associated Press — President Biden on Monday plans to sign an executive order that aims to boost government purchases from U.S. manufacturers, according to administration officials. The United States has shed roughly 540,000 factory jobs since last February as the coronavirus pandemic hurled the world’s largest economy into recession. The goal of the order would be to use the $600 billion the federal government spends on procurement to boost domestic factories and hiring, said officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss the forthcoming announcement.

Biden is firing some top Trump holdovers, but in some cases, his hands may be tied” via Lisa Rein and Anne Gearan of The Washington Post — The Biden team, showing a willingness to cut tenures short, moved quickly last week to dump several high-profile, Senate-confirmed Trump appointees whose terms extended beyond Inauguration Day, in some cases by several years. They include the surgeon general, the National Labor Relations Board’s powerful general counsel, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau heads, and the U.S. Agency for Global Media. But other, lower-profile Trump loyalists, some of whom helped carry out his administration’s most controversial policies, are scattered throughout Biden’s government in permanent, senior positions. And identifying them, let alone dislodging them, could be difficult for the new leadership.

Joe Biden is starting to clean house. Image via The Washington Post.

Biden expected to repeal Trump’s transgender military ban as soon as Monday” via Bo Erickson, David Martin, Ed O’Keefe and Ellee Watson of CBS News — The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision said. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday. The senior Defense official said the repeal would be through an executive order signed by Biden. The announcement is expected to occur at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.

85% diversity on Biden people team” via Alayna Treene of Axios — The Biden administration will announce a slate of political appointees to the Office of Personnel Management on Monday, and more than 85% of them identify as people of color, women or LGBTQ. Biden has pledged a diverse Cabinet and government, and his gatekeepers to it reflect that promise through their own ranks. The office is in charge of recruiting new government employees and managing their benefits. The President has yet to name an office director, but Kathleen McGettigan, a longtime civil servant who also served in a temporary capacity at the start of the Trump administration, is currently acting director.


Trump jumps into a divisive battle over the Republican Party — with a threat to start a ‘MAGA Party’” via Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Trump threw himself back into politics this weekend by publicly endorsing a devoted and divisive acolyte in Arizona who has embraced his false election conspiracy theories and entertained the creation of a new “MAGA Party.” In recent weeks, Trump has entertained the idea of creating a third party, called the Patriot Party, and instructed his aides to prepare election challenges to lawmakers who crossed him in the final weeks in office. Multiple people in Trump’s orbit say Trump has told people that the third-party threat gives him leverage to prevent Republican Senators from voting to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial.

Donald Trump leaves the White House, and jumps into a GOP civil war. Image via AP.

Growing number of GOP Senators oppose impeachment trial” via Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — A growing number of Republican Senators say they oppose holding an impeachment trial, a sign of the dimming chances that Trump will be convicted on the charge that he incited a siege of the U.S. Capitol. House Democrats, who will walk the impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate on Monday evening, hope that strong Republican denunciations of Trump after the Jan. 6 riot will translate into a conviction and a separate vote to bar Trump from holding office again. But GOP passions appear to have cooled since the insurrection, and now that Trump’s presidency is over, Republican Senators who will serve as jurors in the trial are rallying to his legal defense, as they did during his first impeachment trial last year.

Mitch McConnell privately says he wants Trump gone as Republicans quietly lobby him to convict” via Michael Warren and Jamie Gangel of CNN — As the House prepares to send an article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, CNN has learned that dozens of influential Republicans around Washington have been quietly lobbying GOP members of Congress to impeach and convict Trump. The effort is not coordinated but reflects a wider battle inside the GOP between those loyal to Trump and those who want to sever ties and ensure he can never run for President again. The lobbying started in the House after the January 6 attack on the Capitol and in the days leading up to impeachment. But it’s now more focused on Sen. Mitch McConnell, the powerful minority leader who has signaled he may support convicting Trump.

Supporters’ words may haunt Trump at impeachment trial” via Alanna Durkin Richer and Colleen Long of The Associated Press — The words of Trump supporters who are accused of participating in the deadly U.S. Capitol riot may end up being used against him in his Senate impeachment trial as he faces the charge of inciting a violent insurrection. At least five supporters facing federal charges have suggested they were taking orders from the then-President when they marched on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 to challenge the certification of Biden’s election win. But now, those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take center stage as Democrats lay out their case. It’s the first time a former President will face such charges after leaving office.

Trump and Justice Dept. lawyer said to have plotted to oust acting Attorney General” via Kate Benner of The New York Times — The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with Trump to oust Jeffrey Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results. The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians.

Donald Trump planned to oust acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and use the Department of Justice to invalidate Georgia’s vote. Image via AP.

‘The President threw us under the bus’: Embedding with Pentagon leadership in Trump’s chaotic last week” via Adam Ciralsky of Vanity Fair — In the hours before Trump’s last flight aboard Air Force One, many Americans and TV anchors wondered what the hell the 45th President and his inner circle had been doing, or undoing, in his waning days. Until Biden took the oath of office, the country had held its collective breath. Trump, in those final weeks in office, hadn’t simply dented the guardrails of governance. He’d demolished them. In order to watch things up close, I sought and secured a front-row seat to what was happening inside the Department of Defense, the only institution with the reach and the tools — 2.1 million troops and weapons of every shape and size — countering any moves to forestall or reverse the democratic process.

Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims as President. Nearly half came in his final year.” via Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post — Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. The final tally of Trump’s presidency: 30,573 false or misleading claims — with nearly half coming in his final year. With his unusually flagrant disregard for facts, Trump posed a new challenge, as so many of his claims did not merit full-fledged fact checks. What started as a weekly feature, “What Trump got wrong on Twitter this week,” turned into a project for Trump’s first 100 days. Then, in response to reader requests, the Trump database was maintained for four years, despite the increasing burden of keeping it up.

Biden administration weighs turning over Trump tax returns to House Democrats” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — House Democrats have renewed their long-stalled demand for Trump’s federal tax records, but the Biden administration has not decided whether it will drop its predecessor’s objections and release the Treasury Department records to investigators, Justice Department attorneys told a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden declined to lift a stay on a pending House lawsuit. Instead, the judge agreed to give Treasury and Justice Department officials two weeks to report back to him, acknowledging that President Biden’s team was just settling in after the inauguration this week. McFadden also kept in place an order requiring the government to give the former President’s lawyers 72 hours’ notice before releasing his tax return information to allow them to file a request to block the release.

Davos founder: Trump ‘probably’ won’t be invited back” via Tracy Connor of The Daily Beast — Trump, who considers himself an economic genius, likely won’t be getting another invitation to Davos, the nickname for the annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps. The founder, Klaus Schwab, told the newspaper NZZ am Sonntag that he doesn’t regret bringing Trump into a previous gathering of the world’s top government and business leaders. But asked if there could be a repeat, Schwab said, “I’d have to go into a quiet room and think about it. If I came out, the answer would probably be ‘no.’” Schwab said he is hopeful that Biden will attend a forum gathering in Singapore this summer or next January’s usual confab in Davos.

Davos World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab says Donald Trump will probably not be welcome.

Universities face pressure to vet ex-Trump officials before hiring them” via Marisa Lati and Lauren Lumpkin of The Washington Post — There is a long tradition of political appointees moving into academia; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to Stanford University as a professor, ex-CIA director Robert Gates was a dean and then president at Texas A&M University, and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell is president of American University. But in recent months, some students and faculty have argued colleges should apply more scrutiny to former Trump officials looking to make similar transitions. A petition circulating at Harvard University demands that the school vet Trump administration officials “for their role in undermining” democracy before they are invited to teach or speak on campus.


Marco Rubio: It’s ‘arrogant’ to impeach Trump to ban him from running again” via Kelly Hooper of POLITICO — Rubio said the argument that Trump should be impeached so that he can’t seek public office again is “an arrogant statement for anyone to make.” When “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked the Senator about the idea that Trump should be impeached to ban him from running again, the Florida Republican quickly shot down the argument. “I think that’s an arrogant statement for anyone to make. Voters get to decide that. Who are we to tell voters who they can vote for in the future?” Rubio said. Legal scholars, including members of the conservative Federalist Society, have presented this disqualification argument, countering Republicans who say that impeaching Trump after he has left office would be unconstitutional.

Marco Rubio says Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is ‘dumb.’. Image AP.

Rubio coy on possible challenge from Ivanka Trump” via Shant Shahrigian of The Orlando Sentinel — Rubio was coy Sunday when asked about a possible 2022 primary challenge for his Florida seat from former President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser. “I don’t really get into the parlor games of Washington,” he said on “Fox News Sunday” about speculation Ivanka Trump is gunning for his job. Ivanka Trump is working on a possible Senate run behind the scenes since she moved to Florida. One source was quoted as saying her husband Jared Kushner, a former top adviser to President Trump, is “working singlemindedly to protect and promote his wife’s ‘political career.’”

—”We found out why Rubio keeps wearing USF Cougars gear” via Trevor J. Mitchell of The Argus Leader

Democrats start reining in expectations for immigration bill” via Alan Fram of The Associated Press — It’s taken only days for Democrats gauging how far Biden’s bold immigration proposal can go in Congress to acknowledge that if anything emerges, it will likely be significantly more modest. As they brace to tackle a politically flammable issue that’s resisted major congressional action since the 1980s, Democrats are using words like “aspirational” to describe Biden’s plan and “herculean” to express the effort they’ll need to prevail. A cautious note came from the White House on Friday when press secretary Jen Psaki said the new administration views Biden’s plan as a “first step” it hopes will be “the basis” of discussions in Congress. Democrats’ measured tones underscore the fragile road they face on a paramount issue.

Kathy Castor slams DeSantis, Florida Republicans for rebuffing call for unity” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Castor slammed Florida Republicans, including DeSantis, for ignoring a call for unity by Biden. That comes amid finger-pointing over the National Guard’s treatment and slams on the President’s first actions since taking office. “Biden continues to call for unity as the nation confronts historic challenges. Everyone is relishing the return to normalcy — what a relief! Biden specifically said, ‘Let’s give each other a chance,’” the Tampa Democrat tweeted. DeSantis early Friday called the Florida National Guard back from protecting the Capitol in what he deemed a “half-cocked mission.” “These folks are soldiers, not Nancy Pelosi‘s servants,” DeSantis told Fox News.

Greg Steube seeks to disqualify transgender students from women’s sports” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Steube wants to keep transgender students off the women’s track team. The Sarasota Republican filed new legislation, dubbed the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, that would require women’s sports at the scholastic level to allow only athletes born biologically female. “By forcing biological female athletes to compete against biological male athletes in competitive sports, we are taking away women’s opportunities on and off the field,” Steube said. Specifically, the bill would require school athletics to apply Title IX protections, which requires schools to offer the same sports opportunities to male and female athletes, to recognize an athlete based on their reproductive biology and genetics at birth.


Inside the deadly Capitol shooting” via Adam Goldman and Shaila Dewan of The New York Times — During the four-and-a-half-hour attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, one of the moments when the mob came closest to the lawmakers they were pursuing took place just after 2:30 p.m. On one side of a set of antique wood and glass doors were dozens of lawmakers and their aides trying to evacuate the House chamber. On the other were rioters yelling “Stop the steal” as they hammered the panes with a flagpole, a helmet, and even a bare fist. In between was a Capitol Police lieutenant, scrambling to pile tables and chairs into a makeshift barricade. He had 31 rounds for his service weapon, and he has told others that he feared he might need them all.

The scene of The Capitol shooting was the closest rioters got to lawmakers.

Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack, court documents say” via Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman and Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack and then communicated in real-time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday. While authorities have charged more than 100 individuals in the riot, details in the new allegations against three U.S. military veterans offer a disturbing look at what they allegedly said to one another before, during and after the attack — statements that indicate a degree of preparation and determination to rush deep into the halls and tunnels of Congress to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials.

Pensacola man arrested in Capitol riots begins crowdfunding his legal defense” via Emma Kennedy of The Pensacola News Journal — Jesus Rivera, the Pensacola man arrested Wednesday for allegedly entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots, has taken to social media to ask his supporters to crowdfund his legal defense. In a video posted Thursday to both TikTok and a newly created Facebook account, Rivera said officials raided his home Wednesday and confiscated all of his electronics before being arrested. “The FBI raided my home and confiscated all of my equipment, everything I used to report as an influencer and to do any type of documentary work that I do as a cinematographer,” he said in the video. Rivera is charged with a slew of offenses, including knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building and engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

—”‘I’m in … this is our house.’ Another Floridian is accused in Capitol riot” via Eileen Kelley of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—“‘Zip tie guy’ Eric Munchel, who has Florida connections, to appear before D.C. judge” via Mariah Timms and Brinley Hineman of the Nashville Tennessean

—”Senate Chamber selfie leads to Fort Pierce man’s federal charge in Capitol riot” via Melissa E. Holsman and Will Greenlee of TC Palm

—”Kissimmee police officer fired over Facebook posts supporting Capitol insurrection, predicting civil war” via Katie Rice of The Orlando Sentinel

—”Macclenny man charged with role to disrupt presidential election” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union

Justice Department, FBI debate not charging some of the Capitol rioters” via Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — Federal law enforcement officials are privately debating whether they should decline to charge some of the individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol this month, a politically loaded proposition but one alert to the practical concern that hundreds of such cases could swamp the local courthouse. The internal discussions are in their early stages, and no decisions have been reached about whether to forgo charging some of those who illegally entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. Justice Department officials have promised a relentless effort to identify and arrest those who stormed the Capitol that day, but internally there is robust back-and-forth about whether charging them all is the best course of action.

Impeachment trial to keep National Guard troops at Capitol” via Andrew Desiderio, Lara Seligman, and Natasha Bertrand of POLITICO — Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial poses a security concern that federal law enforcement officials told lawmakers last week requires as many as 5,000 National Guard troops to remain in Washington through mid-March, according to four people familiar with the matter. The contingency force will help protect the Capitol from what was described as “impeachment security concerns,” including the possibility of mass demonstrations coinciding with the Senate’s trial, which is slated to begin the week of Feb. 8. Despite the threat, the citizen-soldiers on the ground say they have been given little information about the extension and wonder why they are being forced to endure combat-like conditions in the nation’s capital without a clear mission.

National Guard will continue to stay at The Capitol at least throughout the Senate impeachment trial. Image via AP.


Shad Khan’s downtown development plans hit another setback” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — Khan‘s downtown development ambitions have encountered another setback, as the federal government said it would not consider relocating Metropolitan Park, where Khan wants to build a Four Seasons hotel, to a nearby waterfront property. Met Park is protected from private development under a grant the city received in the 1980s to purchase the land. To build on the land, the city would need to replace the park with a new public space. Any plan would need approval from the National Park Service. Khan’s plan to build a Four Seasons hotel on Metropolitan Park currently hinges on the city building a new park on the old Shipyards. However, the National Park Service told the city on Dec. 2 they would not consider that property as a replacement for the park.

Shad Khan faces a setback in his bid to develop a Jacksonville entertainment district.

Key West wants to ban people from feeding roaming chickens” via The Associated Press — Feral chickens run free in Key West, just one of those things that keep the Southernmost City charmingly weird. But what’s delightful here and there becomes a nuisance when they’re everywhere. With the population getting out of hand, city commissioners are taking action, not by hunting down the fixings for a massive tailgate party, but by going after their human enablers. They’re making it illegal to feed the free-roaming birds. An ordinance unanimously approved on a first reading Wednesday said the Florida city’s feral chickens could “carry and spread diseases, destroy property, and cause copious amounts of fecal deposits on public property.”


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 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.


Biden faces a tougher task than any President but Abraham Lincoln” via Jeff Greenfield of The Washington Post — Nobody is likely to match what Lincoln faced. By the time of his inauguration, seven Southern states had seceded; Fort Sumter fell in just over a month, and the Civil War began. Biden faces nothing like a 25 percent jobless rate, which Franklin Roosevelt faced. But because the still-ailing economy is largely a product of the pandemic, there is a limit to what he can do to fix the problem. He’ll argue for a massive infusion of money to keep people in their homes with food on the table and to stave off disastrous damage to the critical work of state and local government. But a revived economy, with businesses thriving, with tourism and travel and crowded restaurants, with a surge of relief and optimism, has to wait until it’s safe for people to be with one another again.

Trump is out. Are we ready to talk about how he got in?” via Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic — One hopes that after four years of brown children in cages; of attempts to invalidate the will of Black voters in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit; of hearing Trump tell congresswomen of color to go back where they came from; of claims that Biden would turn Minnesota into “a refugee camp”; of his constant invocations of “the Chinese virus,” we can now safely conclude that Trump believes in a world where white people are or should be on top. It is still deeply challenging for so many people to accept the reality of what has happened, that a country has been captured by the worst of its history, while millions of Americans cheered this on.

Trump made official what has always been obvious: He’s Florida Man” via Diane Roberts of The Washington Post — Taking up full-time residence at Mar-a-Lago, assuming the town council of Palm Beach decides not to enforce the 1993 agreement he signed barring anyone from making the club a permanent residence, the twice-impeached Trump joins a long list of shady characters who found refuge, even if only fleeting, in sunny South Florida. What with its paradisal weather and a certain ethical looseness when it comes to the rich and famous, Florida has always been a desirable location for the well-heeled disreputable. DeSantis is one of Trump’s more limpet-like supporters, an early adopter of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 miracle cure, hostile to lockdowns and social distancing, and an enabler of Trump’s claims of a “stolen” election.

Maybe Biden can rescue Saturdays” via Erik Wemple with The Washington Post — Biden and his new appointees are trying to restore a lot these days. Restore trust in government. Restore decency and adult behavior in the White House. Restore the truth. How about one more: Restore Saturdays. The destruction of this once-sleepy day began at the very start of the Trump administration. Remember when White House press secretary Sean Spicer scolded the media for accurately reporting the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd? That was a Saturday. Before Trump’s accession, there was a fair bit of certainty for White House correspondents when it came to planning their weekends. Upending the week’s slowest news day stands as an unrecognized Trump achievement.

Depoliticizing COVID-19 may be Biden’s most important task via Stephen Neely and Ronald Sanders with The Tampa Bay Times — Not only are the newly inaugurated President and his administration plunging headlong into a pandemic, but they are doing so against a backdrop of sociopolitical upheaval perhaps unseen in the United States since Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration in 1861. The degree to which they succeed in confronting these challenges may hinge largely on how effectively Biden and his team can depoliticize the public conversation around COVID-19. For many Americans, the politicization of COVID-19 has not merely been an abstract phenomenon playing out in cyberspace. Nearly a third of respondents noted that disagreements over COVID-19 had caused tension in their personal relationships with family and friends.

Why vaccines alone will not end the pandemic” via Matthew Conlen, Denise Lu and James Glanz of The New York Times — The arrival of highly effective vaccines in December lifted hopes that they would eventually slow or stop the spread of the disease through the rest of the population. But vaccines alone are not enough, the model shows. And if precautions like working remotely, limiting travel and wearing masks are relaxed too soon, it could mean millions more infections and thousands more deaths. Social distancing, masking and other measures should remain in place until late July, “and that may be optimistic,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia who shared his team’s modeling calculations. Otherwise, yet another resurgence of the virus is possible.

Democrats have a values problem. But here’s how they can fix it.” via James Piltch of POLITICO — In the fall of 2017, I set out on a 9,000-mile road-trip to talk to people about what it means to be an American and a good citizen. My conversations contained bad news for Democrats. More than 60 percent of the people I spoke with discussed the importance of “freedom,” the ideal Republicans push relentlessly. But less than 5 percent talked about “equality,” the ideal at the core of Democrats’ priorities and policies. National polling suggests my anecdotal observations were not a coincidence. Democrats need to affirm the importance of community. The challenge to using the idea of community to build political coalitions is that many people see their community as those who are only like them.

Theme park fundraisers, massive money, an insurrection: The problem with American politics” via Scott Maxwell of The Orlando Sentinel — Last weekend, the owner of the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando canceled an upcoming fundraiser for Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who fired up the insurrectionists at U.S. Capitol by claiming Biden had won an illegally staged election. Loews Hotels said it was “horrified and opposed to the events at the Capitol and all who supported and incited the actions.” Hawley also lost a book deal after Simon & Schuster cited his “role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.” Hawley fumed and claimed his First Amendment rights were being violated … proving he is one of many politicians who doesn’t understand the Constitution he swore to uphold.


Florida lawmakers are returning to The Capitol for another week of committee hearings. It’s all part of the run-up to the Legislative Session that begins March 2.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— 155,000 people have now received both of their flu shots in Florida, and more than a million are waiting for their second shot. Gov. DeSantis says the only thing that stops them from doing more is a lack of vaccine.

World War II veteran and former state Sen. Henry Sayler celebrated his 100th birthday last week, and he capped it off with a flu shot administered live on Fox and Friends. Sayler’s televised vaccination gave the Governor a “made for TV moment” at a time when he’s under fire for his response to the COVID-19 crisis.

— DeSantis is also boasting about 20,000 new jobs in Florida last month — and a drop in the jobless rate. The chief economist at the state unemployment office says it went from 6.3% to 6.1%.

— Hurricane Irma is history, but the damage is still under repair; the state is handing out $100 million worth of grants to help local governments rebuild infrastructure and enhance their resiliency to storms.

— And finally, a naked Florida Man is accused of stealing the cruiser of a Jacksonville deputy.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Jimmy Patronis urges Summer Olympics 2021 to come to Florida” via Fox 35 — Florida is offering to host this summer’s Olympic Games. Olympic organizers insist that the games will go forward in Tokyo despite reports that the Japanese government plans to cancel. Patronis posted a message on social media to the Olympics Committee suggesting that they should consider Florida because “no other place in the world has what we have to offer.” Speculation was fueled this month when Japan’s government put Tokyo under a state of emergency order to curb a surge of COVID-19 cases. The virus is resistant to being brought under control worldwide. Its future path is uncertain as more transmissible mutant strains emerge.

Jimmy Patronis is floating the idea of a Summer Olympics in Florida.

Dry January is moist for some at the rocky start of 2021” via Leanne Italie of The Associated Press — A raging pandemic, tumultuous presidential election and deadly Capitol insurrection have combined to make the annual tradition of Dry January more moist than airtight for some. Eight-year-old Dry January, which comes at the height of resolution season after the holidays, has brought on the desired benefits for many among the millions participating worldwide. They’re losing quarantine weight, experiencing more clarity and sleeping easier. Others with lockdown time on their hands and round-the-clock access to TV news and the home liquor cabinet struggle to meet the challenge. Some who have already cheated hoisted a glass on Inauguration Day, Dry January’s surreal New Year’s Eve.


NFL giving free Super Bowl tickets to 7,500 health workers” via The Associated Press — The NFL announced Friday that 7,500 health care workers vaccinated for the coronavirus would be given free tickets to next month’s Super Bowl to be played in Tampa. In a news release, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said that attendance at the Feb. 7 game would be limited to those workers and about 14,500 other fans. According to its website, Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a capacity of just under 66,000. Goodell said most health care workers who will get free game tickets would come from the Tampa Bay area and Central Florida. But he added that all 32 NFL teams would choose some workers from their cities to attend the game.

The NFL giving free Super Bowl tickets to 7,500 health care workers in the Tampa Bay area. Image via AP.

Airbnb joins ‘It’s a Penalty’ to combat human trafficking ahead of Super Bowl” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Airbnb is partnering with the global anti-trafficking group “It’s a Penalty” to combat human trafficking in Tampa as it prepares for the 2021 Super Bowl. The partnership will prepare Airbnb hosts ahead of the Super Bowl with information and resources developed by It’s a Penalty on recognizing signs of trafficking and how to report it. “Hosting the Super Bowl is a huge economic boon for our state, but the possibility of quick cash from out-of-state visitors can also bring out criminals like human traffickers who profit from trafficking men, women and children,” Ashley Moody said in a news release. Big sporting events like the Super Bowl can increase human trafficking due to an influx of visitors.

Almost half of U.S. sports fans want Super Bowl Monday holiday” via The Associated Press — Nearly half of American sports fans would give up one of their other work holidays to have a day off after Super Bowl Sunday, according to a 2020 survey commissioned by the daily fantasy sports company DraftKings. The survey, conducted by the polling firm SurveyGizmo, found that more than 40% would rather work Presidents Day, Martin Luther King’s birthday or Columbus Day than the Monday after the NFL championship game. About one in 10 would even prefer to work Christmas or Thanksgiving, and still more would give up the Fourth of July, New Year’s Day or Memorial Day.


Belated happy birthday wishes to one of our favorites, Janee Murphy, as well as Nick Matthews, Jacob Perry, and Tampa City Councilmember Luis Viera. Celebrating today is Sen. Aaron Bean, Sean Cooley, our great friend Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig (learn more about Gus by reading this recent profile in INFLUENCE Magazine here), Scott Keeler of the Tampa Bay Times, Beth Kennedy, and Austin Stowers, Deputy Legislative Affairs Director to CFO Patronis.


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.

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