A new survey of legislative aides found that Florida Politics was the most read news outlet among state lawmakers. Again.
CATECOMM’s 2021 Florida Legislative Aide Survey shows 86% of Florida lawmakers read Florida Politics daily — more than Facebook, Twitter, newspapers or any other news source.
It is the second No. 1 showing in as many years for Florida Politics, and it also shows continued growth. The score is up from 71% in the last survey and 43% in the first Florida Legislative Aide Survey in 2013 (when we were known as SaintPetersBlog.com).
Florida Politics led Facebook, the No. 2 choice, by 12 points. Twitter ranked third, with 67% of aides saying lawmakers used the social media platform daily. A few rungs down from there, below local TV news and newspaper websites, is the next named political outlet, 25 points behind Florida Politics.
The 24-hour news networks also make an appearance, as do local TV stations and hometown newspapers. More curious, however, are the 3% of aides who lawmakers regularly load up TikTok.
On Wednesday, CATECOMM will release the full 2021 Florida Legislative Aide Survey. It will include questions on social media use, persuasion tactics, power players and more. Get it first by subscribing to emails from Kevin Cate.
When you become a parent, you don’t think about explaining death to your child. Once they’re born, your mind fills with a million other thoughts. True, some are worries and fears, but most of them are happy and filled with hope for the future.
And as they grow up, scrapbooks fill with photos of “firsts.” Their first Christmas. Their first birthday. Their first solid food. Their first big girl shoes. Heck, even their first time at the DMV … there really is no limit to what you’ll want to be memorialized, especially for the first one.
Those are the firsts you want to remember, the pictures you go back to induce that warm, fuzzy feeling after a rough day.
But there’s never a photo of the first time a child learns about death.
It’s a conversation parents dread. And if the person who died is a grandparent, as it often is, trying to stifle your own emotions — even a little bit — to reassure them that everything is OK takes a herculean effort.
In an ideal world, the conversation wouldn’t come until your child is older. But as the past year has shown, we don’t live in an ideal world.
The pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives, and each one of them is someone’s child, parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin or grandparent. The conversation is coming sooner, and it cannot be brushed under the rug.
Tallahassee power couple Ron Sachs and Gay Webster-Sachs, a licensed mental health counselor, hope to make that conversation a little easier for families with the release of “The Secret in the Clouds.”
The new children’s book is the perfect marriage of their talents, featuring sound strategies to work through grief and loss, and communicating them in a way that children can understand. It is brought to life with beautiful original watercolor illustrations by Nancy Simons Sica, with a dramatic layout designed by her husband, Aurelio Sica.
To watch a view about “The Secret in the Clouds,” click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MarcoRubio: A virus locomotive is heading straight at us, with the new variants increasing the urgency of the vaccine rollout. But the U.S. Senate will spend at least the next week on an impeachment trial of a President no longer in office.
—@IsaacDovere: Whatever you think of the impeachment charges, the argument that the Senate’s time is too precious to spend on the trial is undercut by many of the things the Senate regularly spends hours and hours on
—@girlsreallyrule: While Rep. [Jamie] Raskin played a 13-minute video of the violent attack on the Capitol, Sen. Rand Paul doodled on a pad of paper; Sen. Rick Scott studied papers in his lap; Sen. Tom Cotton looked at down at papers, and Sen. Marco Rubio did the same. #GOPCowards
—@SenRickScott: Day One of the impeachment trial (the sequel), and there seems to be a lot of interest in the book I’m reading. I’ll tell you this — it is a lot more interesting, factual and informative than what we heard in the House managers’ testimony today.
—@AaronBlake: Airing on midday cable news so far: Lots of F-words and a woman being shot to death
—@GarrettHaake: Impeachment manager @RepRaskin says he will reserve time for rebuttal after [Donald] Trump defense presents their constitutional counter-argument. That was not the plan as of 9 am this morning
— @ArekSarkissian: I just realized this, whether Publix opens more sites is up to the feds providing enough vaccine. So the Governor can cheer on plans to open more sites, but it’s part of the federal retail pharmacy program.
— @CarlosGSmith: Honored to join the FL Legislative Black Caucus (FLBC) in allyship and support of fair and just police reform bills to promote community safety. When we say #BlackLivesMatter, we must also commit ourselves to the LEGISLATIVE actions those words require. #HearTheBills
—@SteveSchale: Appreciate my GOP buddy @GovGoneWild asking if FL can expand vote by mail canvassing even further. This is arguably the single biggest thing FL has done to avoid what happened elsewhere. Every state should follow FL’s lead on how to handle vote by mail ballot canvassing.
— @lawrencehurley: “I’m here live, I’m not a cat,” says lawyer after Zoom filter mishap. “I can see that,” responds judge
— DAYS UNTIL —
Daytona 500 — 4; Dr. Aaron Weiner webinar on mental health in the workplace — 8; ‘Nomadland’ with Frances McDormand — 9; The CW’s ‘Superman & Lois’ premieres — 13; the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference begins — 15; Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, with exhibition games starting — 17; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 20; ‘Coming 2 America’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 23; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres — 30; 2021 Grammys — 32; Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ premieres on HBO Max — 36; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 44; MLB Opening Day — 50; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 51; Children’s Gasparilla — 59; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 66; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 86; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 142; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 151; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 164; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 171; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 196; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 219; ‘Dune’ premieres — 233; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 265; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 268; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 303; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 310; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 408; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 450; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 604.
— INSIDERS LIKE STEPH K. —
Shane Strum is leaving the Governor’s Office to become Broward Health’s next CEO, and Florida’s top political minds have a few predictions on who will replace him as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chief of staff.
A flash poll of Florida Influencers put a half-dozen staffers in the running, with Stephanie Kopelousos leading the pack by a mile.
A full 50% of Influencers said Kopelousos, the Governor’s Director of Legislative Affairs, would get the nod. Party registry had only a minor impact on her odds — 45% of Republicans, 56% of Democrats, and 75% of independents say she’s the obvious choice.
Deputy chief of staff Adrian Lukis was a distant No. 2 despite his title implying he’d be the natural pick. Just under one in five Influencers predict he’ll land the job, including a quarter of independents, 18% of Republicans, and the same number of Democrats.
Chris Spencer was the only other name to land in double digits, with 14% of those polled saying the Governor’s current Budget Director is also his future chief of staff. Democrats were more bullish on his odds, with 24% naming him, though just 12% of Republicans foresee the promotion.
There was an 11-point gap between Spencer and No. 4 contender Alex Kelly, who currently serves as chief of staff at the Florida Department of Education.
A couple more long shots: Director of Cabinet Affairs Beau Beaubien and deputy chief of staff Anna DeCerchio. Both made Strum’s shortlist of who could be given serious consideration to replace him — as did Lukis and Spencer, but not Kopelousos — yet they only drew 1% support each.
That puts them far behind the 9% odds of the Governor picking “Someone Else.” Names tossed around among the Influencers who took that option include Chris Clark, Pete Antonacci and even former Senate President Bill Galvano.
— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —
“Academic diversity bill clears second Senate committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation calling for a survey on the ideological beliefs of Florida’s college professors moved forward in the Florida Senate. The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee advanced legislation to require the collection and publishing of assessments of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity on college campuses. Sen. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, said other states have successfully conducted such surveys. The information would help make sure colleges in Florida remain welcoming venues for students across the political spectrum. The legislation comes as conservatives complain about liberal indoctrination of students.
“‘Baby boxes’ bill sparks debate” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — A proposal that would allow parents to place up to month-old newborns in so-called “baby boxes” cleared the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Despite the support for SB 122, Chair Aaron Bean said a nearly hourlong discussion on the bill underscores that there’s “work to be done.” The bill would change a state law about abandoned infants to allow babies up to 30 days old to be placed in a “newborn infant safety device” located at fire stations, emergency medical-services stations, or hospitals. The bill would require the devices to have certain design features that are included in devices made by Safe Haven Baby Boxes. Sen. Dennis Baxley, the sponsor, denied that the bill only benefits the company.
“New report suggests dental workforce expansion may help oral health crisis” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Sen. Jeff Brandes‘ proposal to bring dental therapy to Florida may broaden access to dental care for Floridians, a new study finds. Brandes’ proposal, SB 604, seeks to license dental therapists in Florida to perform certain tasks under a dentists’ supervision. According to a Florida Voices for Health report, licensing dental therapists to perform simple procedures could improve access and lower patient costs. The report notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated Florida’s ongoing dental health crisis. The longer the pandemic continues, the report contends, the more severe the crisis may become. While dental therapists won’t replace a dentist, the report suggests that they are trained to handle various yet common dental issues.
“Jason Brodeur wants Florida to adopt stricter pet sale laws” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Sen. Brodeur wants to bring home a bill that would ban cat and dog sales at pet stores. The Sanford Republican’s proposal, filed Monday, is part of a growing effort to curb puppy mills and breeders with inhumane practices. Last year, some lawmakers wanted to keep retail stores on a leash by requiring licenses to sell those furry friends. However, Brodeur and Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew this year instead hope to ban selling cats and dogs. Additionally, it would tack on a $500 fine for each pet for sale. The ban would not prevent individuals from selling pets they have bred and raised themselves, but retail stores selling dogs or cats would constitute a noncriminal offense. Under the proposed law, local governments could create harsher restrictions at the city or county level.
“Democrats revive Medicaid expansion fight amid COVID-19 woes” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Democrats are reigniting the fight for Medicaid expansion, framing it with the health and economic hardships facing Floridians amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate have filed a series of bills expanding Medicaid coverage to Floridians, as the Affordable Care Act allows. However, Republicans are unlikely to give Democrats’ proposals any airtime. Democrats have been pushing to expand Medicaid since 2012, but they now say the pandemic makes it especially necessary. “We didn’t know that there was going to be COVID pandemic that would come after that, but our predictions were still right, that people would die. It’s just now they’re dying on steroids. They’re dying in an exasperated manner,” Sen. Perry Thurston said.
Florida Legislative Black Caucus introduces police reform package — Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus unveiled several bills Tuesday that aims at increasing oversight and transparency in law enforcement. As reported by Giulia Heyward of POLITICO Florida, the proposals include creating a police misconduct registry, reviewing policies such as a police “Bill of Rights,” ending no-knock warrants, and standards for the use of body cameras. They crafted the bills in response to the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans at the hands of police last year.
—”Lauren Book brings back Senate bill eliminating Confederate holidays” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
—”Darryl Rouson introduces bill requiring officers to intervene when witnessing abuse” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
—“Nick DiCeglie wants $10 million for Imagine Clearwater development” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
—“Matt Willhite funding requests include trauma treatment, prison recidivism programs” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
“‘Our children no longer have a dream’: North Florida Rep. Jason Shoaf on legislating with purpose” via James Call of The Tallahassee Democrat — With a low-key approach to politics and a soft-spoken manner, the 41-year-old Shoaf says he intends to reverse the downward economic spiral that grips his hometown and the farming, timber and seafood communities of the Big Bend. For the lone Republican in Leon County’s legislative delegation, Job One is to create more jobs: “It is the main reason that I ran for office,” Shoaf says, about a plan to use a trained workforce to recruit businesses to North Florida. “I spent a lot of time, put a lot of thought into this,” Shoaf said. “And you know, to me, it really boils down to (the fact that) real poverty exists when our children no longer have a dream.”
“Pandemic puts brakes on dozens of road projects” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — State transportation officials cut or delayed 77 road projects from a five-year plan as revenues dropped with more Floridians working remotely and people delaying travel plans because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the Department of Transportation had to make up $763 million from lost gas taxes, rental car fees, toll collections, and other state and federal sources. Stacy Miller, assistant secretary for finance and administration at the department, said the affected road projects involve joint ventures with airports, seaports and local governments.
“Richard Gentry approved for Public Counsel post” via News Service of Florida — Gentry, a lobbyist and former longtime general counsel of the Florida Home Builders Association, was approved Tuesday to represent the public in utility regulatory cases. Gentry was the only applicant interviewed by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight to serve as state public counsel. But committee members defended the process to fill the position, which drew four applicants, three of whom withdrew before interviews last week. “I’m proud of the process that went on,” said Rep. Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican who is co-chairman of the committee. “And we can’t, once you open up a process of procurement, you can’t dictate what’s going to come your way. And we have a very qualified candidate.”
“Lobbying compensation: Tech, transportation and cannabis industries power Capitol Alliance Group’s $1.5M annual haul” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Lobbying duo Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl collected an estimated $1.5 million in fees last year, newly filed compensation reports show. Capitol Alliance Group showed $845,000 in earnings lobbying the Legislature and hauled in another $690,000 lobbying the executive branch. Lobbying firms report their pay from each client in ranges covering $10,000 increments. Florida Politics uses the middle number in each range to estimate total revenue for the quarter. The annual earnings estimate is the sum of the firm’s four quarterly reports. Sharkey and Biehl represented 59 clients for all or part of 2020. For years, Capitol Alliance Group has been the go-to Florida firm for Elon Musk. In addition to SpaceX, the pair have long represented industry-leading EV manufacturer Tesla.
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: MCCi
Mario Bailey, Carlos Cruz, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Associated Industries of Florida, Association for Accessible Medicines, AT&T, Operation New Uniform, UHS of Delaware
Brian Bautista, Clark Smith, The Southern Group: Cholla Petroleum, Jackson County School Board
Melanie Becker: Universal Orlando
Frank Bernardino, Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: Better Tomorrow Treatment Center, Florida Association of Property Appraisers, Niagara Bottling
Kevin Cabrera, Mercury Public Affairs: Information Technology Industry Council
Linda Collins: University of Florida
Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: College to Congress, Ohana Solutions
Edgar Gonesh: Public Employees Relations Commission
Nicole Graganella, Colodny Fass: Southern Fidelity Insurance Company
Samantha Hobbs, American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, Florida Engineering Society
Nick Iarossi, Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Andrew Ketchel, Scott Ross, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: B & H Foto & Electronics, Stream Recycling Solutions
Yolanda Jackson, LaToya Sheals, Becker: Children of Inmates
Brian Lambert, Cotney Construction Lobbying: Roofing Education Foundation, Roofman, West Coast Roofing Contractors Association
Jessica Lewis: Sierra Club
Selina Nevin, Pittman Law Group: ESP Media Production Company
Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Christopher Finkbeiner, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: MorseLife
Andy Zuttah: Ubiquity Systems
— LEG. SKED —
The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 74, from Chairman Brandes, to help shield health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee receives an update from the Department of Environmental Protection about Everglades restoration and water resources, 10 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee meets to workshop “pregnancy-associated” mortality, 10 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee receives an update from the Office of Insurance Regulation on Florida’s health-insurance market., 1 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Government Operations Subcommittee meets for an update from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability of nongovernmental and quasi-governmental agencies, 1 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee receives an update on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 1 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee meets to consider HB 219, from Rep. Jason Fischer, to give the state significant control of regulation of vacation rentals, preempting local restrictions., 1 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee meets to consider HB 259, from Reps. Jayer Williamson and Cord Byrd, to allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring guns on property owned, rented or used by churches, synagogues or other religious institutions, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee meets to discuss university system programs relating to in-demand careers and occupations, 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 3:30 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee will receive an update on specialty license plates., 3:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
— STATEWIDE —
“Ashley Moody committee raises little in January” via News Service of Florida — A political committee linked to Attorney General Moody continued to raise relatively little money in January. According to a newly filed finance report, the committee Friends of Ashley Moody raised $11,000 in January while spending $11,384. AT&T contributed $10,000 to the committee, while the law firm Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP contributed the other $1,000. According to the state Division of Elections website, the committee did not report raising any money in December after collecting $90,000 in November. It had about $637,000 in cash on hand as of Jan. 31.
“Elections officials seek ways to improve election security after 2020 cycle” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Despite the smooth Election Night in Florida, state officials are hoping to patch up problems the state faced in the lead-up to the election. The Associated Press called Florida for Trump within six hours of the first polls closing. The swift tabulation led DeSantis the following day to declare that the Sunshine State had perhaps “vanquished the ghost of Bush versus Gore.” However, the Department of State is grappling with how to address technical problems that downed its online voter registration portal hours before the registration deadline in October. The site began receiving more than 1 million attempts to view the site per hour.
“Order takes aim at retaliation against inmates” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — Amid a nearly two-year legal battle about the use of solitary confinement in Florida prisons, a federal magistrate judge has ordered a series of steps to prevent retaliation against inmates who take part in the case. Magistrate Judge Martin Fitzpatrick issued a 53-page order Monday that said testimony and evidence showed “actual overt retaliation by prison officials, as well as threats of retaliation.” The order came as the plaintiffs’ legal team has gone to prisons to investigate the use of solitary confinement and to interview inmates. In part, inmates contended that correctional officers threatened or intimidated them and withheld food in retaliation for participating in the case.
“Pandemic puts brakes on dozens of road projects” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — State transportation officials cut or delayed 77 road projects from a five-year plan as revenues dropped with more Floridians working remotely and people delaying travel plans because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the Department of Transportation had to make up $763 million from lost gas taxes, rental car fees, toll collections, and other state and federal sources. Stacy Miller, assistant secretary for finance and administration at the department, said Tuesday the affected road projects involve joint ventures with airports, seaports and local governments. “Our goal was to retain all active projects to their completion, whether those were engineering or construction projects,” Miller told members of a Senate committee. “We have not impacted any active projects at this time.”
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports 7,023 new coronavirus cases, a significant decline from a week ago” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Health officials on Tuesday reported 7,023 new coronavirus cases in the state, a decline from the 10,533 new cases a week ago. Florida reported 7,023 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and another 233 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 1,790,743 cases since the pandemic began. The seven-day average for new cases has been declining since 17,991 on January 8.
“Florida surpasses 300 cases of more-contagious variant of COVID-19 virus” via WFLA — The CDC says Florida has become the first state to have more than 300 cases of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first discovered in England. The variant that emerged in Britain was detected in a Martin County man in his 20s on New Year’s Eve with no travel history. Florida surpassed California with the most cases of the mutated virus on Jan. 19. In that three-week time span, Florida gained 294 cases while California gained 116 cases. Across the nation, there are 932 reported cases. New York trails at a distant third with 59 cases identified, followed by Georgia and Colorado with 37, Texas with 35, New Jersey with 31, and Michigan with 29.
“Publix’s vaccine sign-up expands to 41 counties in Florida. But Broward and Miami-Dade aren’t added yet.” via Lisa J. Huriash of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Publix this week almost doubled the number of counties where it distributes COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, expanding to 593 stores in 41 of the state’s 67 counties. But Miami-Dade and Broward counties again were excluded with this latest round of additions. Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County were already participating. The addition of Publix locations comes as pharmacies across the U.S. get a new stream of supply from the federal government this week. Publix has been at the forefront of vaccine distribution in Florida. It has offered COVID-19 vaccine sign-ups twice a week since Jan. 20 and gradually has added more counties.
“Ron DeSantis: 119 Walmarts to start vaccinating Friday, Publix expands vaccine program to Central Florida” via Richard Tribou of The Orlando Sentinel — The federal coronavirus vaccination program will roll out to 119 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations across 34 counties in Florida beginning on Friday, DeSantis said Tuesday. Publix also will expand its vaccination sites to nearly 600 locations across 41 counties beginning this week, including in Orange, Lake, Seminole, Osceola and Volusia counties in Central Florida for the first time, he said. Speaking from a Walmart Supercenter in Jacksonville, DeSantis said the Walmart locations will start giving shots this Friday. Publix had already been active in 23 counties using state supplies.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“South Florida crosses 9.5K COVID-19 deaths after another 34 succumb to the virus” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida’s tri-county area has now seen 9,527 people die after contracting COVID-19, according to the latest report from the Department of Health (DOH). Tuesday’s DOH report showed another 34 deaths in the region, spanning Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The newest report nearly cut Monday’s death toll — tallying 63 — in half. But at least 30 people have died from COVID-19 in South Florida for 17 out of the past 19 days. While individuals infected during the post-holiday spike are still dying in large numbers, the virus’s current spread does appear to be slowing.
“COVID cancels Calle Ocho and Carnaval on the Mile. ‘Public health is the priority.’” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — For the second year, Calle Ocho is canceled, the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana said Tuesday. This year, it’s related to Carnaval on the Mile held in Coral Gables, according to Ana Maria Reyes, Kiwanis/Carnaval’s creative and promotions director. Carnaval went on last March. But that was at the top of the novel coronavirus. Now, in 2021, with South Florida leading the way in COVID cases and deaths — Miami-Dade alone has had more than 5,000 deaths and 385,000 cases since the pandemic began, according to the Florida Department of Health — Carnaval has to go, too, organizers said.
“Sarasota County commissioners told COVID-19 vaccines and clinic coming to Venice soon” via Louis Llovio of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County’s director of emergency services Richard Collins told county commissioners in an email Tuesday that the state of Florida is working on a plan to get vaccines to Venice, and could hold a vaccination clinic there as early as this week. “The information and specifics are still in the works, and we will update you as more information becomes available,” Collins wrote. The email said DOH, Sarasota County, and Venice’s city were working with the state to “potentially set up the site on Thursday or Friday.” Officials and residents say it’s difficult for older people to get to where vaccines are now offered and that some have to travel up to an hour each way.
— CORONA NATION —
“White House tells Governors it’ll boost vaccine allocation another 5%” via Keshia Clueky of Bloomberg — The federal government plans to increase vaccine allocations by another 5% for the next three weeks, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The additional 5%, announced on a White House call with Governors Tuesday, follows an initial 20% increase and a subsequent 5%. During a call afterward with reporters, Cuomo said he doesn’t expect a major supply boost until Johnson and Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is produced. “The supply will only really increase when and if Johnson and Johnson is approved,” Cuomo said. “Johnson and Johnson would be a major and significant increase in production.” There will be more information on that over the next two weeks, he said.
“CDC survey shows some vaccine reluctance among Americans” via Riley Griffith and Emma Court of Bloomberg — Only about half of U.S. adults surveyed late last year said they were certain or very likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new report from by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, released Tuesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, surveyed 3,541 people in September and 2,033 individuals in December. The first COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11. A similar vaccine made by Moderna Inc. was cleared for emergency-use shortly thereafter. A more significant proportion of people indicated that they planned to get a vaccine in December than in September.
“Could a single vaccine work against all coronaviruses?” via Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — Now researchers are starting to develop prototypes of a so-called pan-coronavirus vaccine, with some promising, if early, results from experiments on animals. Dr. Eric Topol, a molecular medicine professor at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, thinks scientists should join together in another large-scale vaccine-creation project immediately. After coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s, they did not become a high priority for vaccine makers. For decades it seemed as if they only caused mild colds. But in 2002, a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV emerged, causing deadly pneumonia called severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Scientists scrambled to make a vaccine for it.
“Uber and Walgreens partner to offer free rides to vaccination sites” via Oriana Gonzalez of Axios — Uber and Walgreens on Tuesday announced they would join forces to offer communities of color free rides to vaccination sites. The pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic people, and initial vaccination data already shows that people of color are being vaccinated at lower rates than white people. People of color also tend to have fewer pharmacies per capita, making it more difficult to vaccinate. They are also less likely to say that they have been vaccinated or know someone who has.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“The pandemic is devastating a generation of working women” via Helaine Olen of The Washington Post — We can call Drisana Rios, a San Diego mom and former insurance executive, the patient zero of the current women’s employment crisis. Rios broke into headlines last summer when she filed a lawsuit alleging her employer fired her when she couldn’t keep the noise of her toddler children off Zoom meetings. Her employer, she says, complained she had “time-management issues.” (The employer disputes this and told The Post it denies all the allegations.) I reached out to Rios and her attorney this week to get an update. She’s interviewing for new positions but, Rios’s attorney, Daphne Delvaux, told me via an email she is “not yet employed.” Rios is far from alone.
“Around the globe, virus cancels spring travel for millions” via David McHugh, Casey Smith, and Joe McDonald of The Associated Press — They are the annual journeys of late winter and early spring: Factory workers in China heading home for the Lunar New Year; American college students going on road trips and hitting the beach over spring break; Germans and Britons fleeing drab skies for some Mediterranean sun over Easter. All of it canceled, in doubt or under pressure because of the coronavirus. Amid fears of new variants of the virus, new restrictions on movement have hit just as people start to look ahead to what is usually a busy time of year for travel.
“Malls spent billions on theme parks to woo shoppers. It made matters worse.” via Esther Fung of The Wall Street Journal — Destiny USA is New York’s largest shopping mall, a six-story structure by Onondaga Lake. Its feature attraction is WonderWorks, a 40,000-square-foot theme park where children can experience a simulated earthquake, learn about space travel wearing an astronaut suit, or play laser tag. That is, they could until the state made the mall close many of the attractions in November for the second time last year to counter COVID-19. Only 18% of the space leased to entertainment tenants is open currently, said a spokesman for the mall’s owner, Pyramid Management Cos. Adding theme-park-like attractions was a strategy that Pyramid viewed as crucial to drawing foot traffic and reversing the yearslong struggles of mall operators battling online shopping.
“‘A horrible idea’: Delta CEO blasts mandatory COVID-19 testing for U.S. flights as government pursues option” via Dawn Gilbertson of USA Today — Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has joined the chorus of travel-industry executives coming out strongly against a government proposal to require mandatory COVID-19 tests for passengers on flights within the United States. “I think it’d be a horrible idea for a lot of reasons,” Bastian said Tuesday in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow. Bastian said testing won’t keep domestic passengers safer and will set the travel industry’s recovery back by at least another year. Airlines saw cancellations and bookings spike after mandatory testing for international flights to the U.S. was announced in January.
— MORE CORONA —
“People with dementia are twice as likely to get COVID-19, a study finds.” via Pam Belluck of The New York Times — People with dementia have a significantly greater risk of contracting the coronavirus and are much more likely to be hospitalized and die from it than people without dementia, a new study of millions of medical records in the United States has found. Their risk could not be entirely explained by characteristics common to people with dementia known as risk factors for COVID-19: old age, living in a nursing home, and having conditions like obesity, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. After researchers adjusted for those factors, Americans with dementia were still twice as likely to have gotten COVID-19 as of late last summer.
“Remote school is stressing parents out. Here’s how to tame the anxiety.” via Devorah Heitner of The Washington Post — Kathy Koester feels judged. After an intense day cajoling and encouraging her 7-year-old — who has special needs — through remote school, getting a critical alert about missed assignments gives Koester the sense that she’s “in trouble.” Koester, who lives in Mundelein, Illinois, acknowledges that teachers are trying to be supportive, but she still feels criticized: “I am 110% engaged [and] giving everything I have. And these constant messages from [classroom app] Seesaw seem to be saying that my best isn’t good enough.” The tone or style of a teacher’s approach to correcting students can be stressful for parents to overhear, says Regine Galanti, a psychologist and the author of “Anxiety Relief for Teens.”
“With AstraZeneca rollout suspended, South Africa scrambles for a vaccine plan, a ‘preview’ of new fight against variants” via Max Bearak, William Booth, Lesley Wroughton of MSN — When a plane loaded with 1 million doses of vaccine produced by AstraZeneca landed in South Africa on Feb. 1, a hopeful country watched with rapt attention. Exactly a week later came the blow: A study, however limited and not yet peer-reviewed, said the vaccine provided only “minimal protection” against contracting mild to moderate infections of a new coronavirus variant that is widespread in South Africa, where it was first detected. The variant has since been found in at least 30 countries.
“Will holograms be the next innovation in the post-pandemic workplace?” via Dalvin Brown of The Washington Post — It’s a pressing question that has yet to be answered: Once the pandemic passes, what will the return to work look like for millions of Americans? Some tech companies have said people can continue to work from home indefinitely. Surveys suggest that most others contemplate hybrid workspaces where staffers rotate between working remotely and coming into the office. The possible post-coronavirus situation has some companies envisioning a future in which people can collaborate in more interactive and engaging ways, whether they’re on-site or at home. One novel approach is to use 3D holograms. Last month, Canada-based ARHT Media launched HoloPod, a 3D display system that beams presenters into meetings and conferences they otherwise might not be able to attend.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Denis McDonough confirmed as Joe Biden’s Veterans Affairs chief” via Lisa Rein of The Washington Post — The Senate on Monday confirmed McDonough as Biden’s Veterans Affairs Secretary, choosing a non-veteran but a manager with years of government service to lead the sprawling health and benefits agency. McDonough, 51, was chief of staff during Barack Obama’s second term and held senior roles on the National Security Council and Capitol Hill before that. He told Senators at his confirmation hearing that although he is not a veteran, his long career as a behind-the-scenes troubleshooter and policymaker would serve him well at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a massive bureaucracy beset by multiple challenges.
“White House confirms Biden will keep embassy in Jerusalem” via Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call — The White House confirmed Tuesday that President Biden intends to keep the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, where it was relocated during the Trump administration. The issue of where to locate the embassy has been a fixture of negotiations over Israeli and Palestinian territory and authority for decades. A White House spokesperson confirmed the administration’s intentions, following up on a query from last Friday’s White House press briefing. The Senate voted 97-3 last week during the budget “vote-a-rama” in favor of an amendment supporting the embassy’s location.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Donald Trump’s historic 2nd trial opens with jarring video of siege” via The Associated Press — Trump’s historic second impeachment trial opened Tuesday in the Senate with graphic video of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on Congress and the defeated former President whipping up a rally crowd saying “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol!” as he encouraged a futile fight over his presidency. The lead House prosecutor told Senators the case would present “cold, hard facts” against Trump, who is charged with inciting The Capitol’s siege to overturn the election he lost to Biden. Senators sitting as jurors, many who themselves fled for safety that day, watched the jarring video of the chaotic scene, rioters pushing past police to storm the halls, Trump flags waving.
“Trump’s lawyers say he was immediately ‘horrified’ by the Capitol attack. Here’s what his allies and aides said really happened that day.” via Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump was “horrified” when violence broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as a joint session of Congress convened to confirm that he lost the election, according to his defense attorneys. But that revisionist history conflicts with the timeline of events on the day of the Capitol riot, as well as accounts of multiple people in contact with the President that day, who have said Trump was initially pleased to see a halt in the counting of the electoral college votes. Some former White House officials have acknowledged that he only belatedly and reluctantly issued calls for peace, after first ignoring public and private entreaties.
“Meandering performance by defense lawyers enrages Trump” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — On the first day of his second impeachment trial, former President Trump was mostly hidden from view at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, moving from the new office that aides set up to his private quarters outside the main building. Trump was said to have meetings that were put on his calendar to coincide with his defense team’s presentation and keep him occupied. But he still managed to catch his two lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr. and David I. Schoen, on television — and he did not like what he saw.
“Republicans will exonerate Trump, but they can’t ignore the horrors” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — In the end, they will vote to exonerate Trump for inciting last month’s deadly attack on the Capitol. But first, Trump’s Republican defenders in the Senate will be made to relive the horrors he and his bloodthirsty insurrectionists inflicted. In the first moments of the Senate impeachment trial Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat serving as the lead impeachment manager, forced Senators to confront the violence and sedition of Jan. 6 with a graphic, 13-minute video of the invasion: The flagpoles, some with U.S. flags still attached, used to beat Capitol Police officers and to smash in windows of the Capitol.
“Patrick Leahy promises ‘fairness to all’ in presiding over impeachment trial” via Anna Kambhampaty of POLITICO — Leahy, the chamber’s President Pro Tempore, pledged fairness and an equal say Tuesday for Senate lawmakers as he presides over the impeachment trial of Trump. Leahy also promised to be guided by Senate precedent and to consult the Parliamentarian on the occasion of a motion, objection or request put before him. Leahy, the chamber’s longest-serving Democrat, will preside over the impeachment trial, which began Tuesday afternoon. Any decision he makes as the trial’s presiding officer is subject to review by the whole Senate, he said in the letter. He will also submit any constitutional questions brought up by the trial to the entire Senate.
“Trump plans a reemergence and some retribution after impeachment” via Meredith McGraw and Gabby Orr of POLITICO — Three weeks ago may have been the nadir of Trump’s political influence. A meager crowd of supporters gathered to send him off to Florida, he’d lost access to Twitter and the Senate’s most powerful Republican, Mitch McConnell, seemed fully prepared to ghost him out of the party. Now, heading into what could have been a historic bipartisan rebuke, the former President and his team are confident both of his acquittal and that he’ll come out of the trial with his influence over the Republican party all but cemented. Not even Trump’s closest allies can believe the turn in fortunes. Already, Trump aides contend, the impeachment process has ignited a grassroots backlash against Republicans who have attempted to nudge the GOP base away from Trump.
“As impeachment trial starts, Lincoln Project is running ads Trump is sure to see while at Mar-a-Lago. He won’t like them.” via Anthony Man of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The anti-Trump Lincoln Project, which tormented the former President last year with its viral videos and TV ads, was back on the air Tuesday with an ad buy crafted so the former President is almost certain to see them on TV at his Mar-a-Lago resort home. The ads coincide with the start of the Senate trial of Trump on charges of incitement of insurrection after a violent mob of his supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an unsuccessful attempt to block the counting of electoral votes that confirmed Biden as the new President. As is usual for Lincoln Project ads, the new spots are hard-hitting.
To watch one of the ads, click on the image below:
“Democrats have a backup plan in case the Senate doesn’t convict Trump on impeachment” via Michael Wilner of McClatchy D.C. — House and Senate Democrats may push ahead this week with a censure resolution to bar Trump from holding future office over his role in the U.S. Capitol riot, anticipating acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. The effort to draft the resolution that would invoke a provision of the 14th Amendment began quietly in January and gained momentum over the weekend, as Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine gauge whether the measure could attract bipartisan support. The reception has been lukewarm so far from Democrats.
“‘I think people will get tired of him’: For Trump, Sarah Palin’s fall shows the limits of media obsession” via Peter Hamby of Vanity Fair — Trump has only just left office; he has yet to give an interview; his second impeachment trial is underway, and his influence on the GOP seems secure enough. The media will cover him for a long time to come, and hangers-on like Matt Gaetz will always be available for #content. Without the presidency, he already commands much less of our mindshare than he did only a few weeks ago. Like Palin, Trump himself will recede over time, even if the damage he has inflicted on our political culture remains.
“Trump appears to gain edge in his ongoing dispute with Mar-a-Lago neighbors” via Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — Trump has the right to live at Mar-a-Lago despite a decades-old agreement with the Town of Palm Beach converting his iconic home to a private club, town attorney John Randolph said Tuesday during presentations on the issue to the Town Council. Based on the specific language in town zoning codes, his advice was the latest in an increasingly bitter dispute between Trump and some Palm Beach residents, who contend a private club cannot also be a private home. The council also heard presentations from various attorneys representing Trump, his Palm Beach neighbors, and a local group, “Preserve Palm Beach,” but is not set to decide on the matter until April. Randolph stressed his comments were simply “informational.”
“Trump partner exploring ways to end relationship with Ex-President’s company” via Craig Karmin and Brian Spegele of The Wall Street Journal — One of the nation’s most prominent real estate investors, which a longtime friend of Trump runs, is exploring ways to end a lucrative partnership with the former President’s real estate company. The partnership includes two of the Trump Organization’s most valuable assets. Losing them would shrink the Trump Organization’s business, just as it has struggled with the decline in travel and leisure spending due to the coronavirus pandemic. A sale could benefit Trump’s businesses, which have more than $400 million in debt due in the next few years.
“Ivanka Trump wants us all to know she’s having fun in Miami, damn it” via Alaina Demopoulos of The Daily Beast —Since the day her father left office, Ivanka has self-imposed a strict social media blackout. There are no planned “candid” shots of Jared and the kids, no tweets about “female empowerment” or whatever it was she did for the past four years other than gaslight and obfuscate her way into a government job. That kind of cold turkey logging off for someone who seemed to live for every photo opp seemed like remarkable restraint—until Daily Mail photographers caught up with her.
“Impeachment minefield awaits 2024 GOP field” via David Siders of POLITICO — Trump’s acquittal in his impeachment trial is all but a sure thing. What’s still unsettled is how the Republican Senators seeking to take his place in the 2024 presidential primary will navigate the minefield before the verdict is official. Torn between demands of the GOP’s pro-Trump base and traditionalists mortified by Trump’s postelection behavior, Senators like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton will be forced to strike a balance. That means calibrating their defense of Trump for a primary electorate whose level of devotion to the former President three years from now remains unknown.
— D.C. MATTERS —
Freedom Caucus is Florida bound — Some members of the conservative Freedom Caucus in Congress will travel to Florida this weekend for a retreat in Miami. The group will try to meet with Trump during the trip. Alabama U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the caucus and a staunch supporter of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, said he would be among those traveling to Florida.
“Vern Buchanan launches 2022 campaign with Super Bowl weekend fundraiser featuring Kevin McCarthy” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Super Bowl weekend also brought a campaign kickoff on Longboat Key. U.S. Rep. Buchanan officially launched his 2022 campaign with a fundraiser headlined by House Republican Minority Leader McCarthy. McCarthy spoke highly of Buchan at the Longboat Key Club event. “We have a lot of great members in Florida but only one leader,” McCarthy said. “There’s no one that works harder than Vern. He does a great job representing his district and his constituents.” Buchanan, first elected in 2006 by a mere 369 votes, has already drawn fire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Last week, the DCCC issued a news release when Buchanan voted against stripping controversial Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of committee assignments.
“Charlie Crist honors former USF administrator Helen Levine” via Bill DeYoung of StPeteCatalyst — When Levine retired last September, after 11 years as regional vice chancellor of external affairs at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, U.S. Congressman Crist read a tribute to the longtime educator into the Congressional Record in Washington. Tuesday morning, in a brief ceremony on a foggy USF lawn, Crist presented Levine with a bound copy of his statement.
— CRISIS —
“Over and over and over, arrested rioters say what spurred them: Trump” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — It has been a month since an armed mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. This all happened a month ago, but it feels far more distant, like so many other things in modern American culture. In that time, Trump was impeached for the second time and left office a week later. Jan. 6 seems to be obscured by fog, something that Trump’s impeachment defense clearly hopes to rely on. The first point is that the day’s violence’s effects are still very tangible and, the second point, that its proximate cause is no less murky. From those who’ve been arrested already, we hear a consistent refrain: They were there to support Trump or, in their view, there at his behest.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win fills sails of Tampa Bay businesses” via Jay Cridlin and Sara DiNatale of The Tampa Bay Times — During the build up to this year’s NFL championship at Raymond James Stadium, local business owners had feared the worst about what a pandemic Super Bowl might cost them. But as jubilant Bucs fans hit the streets before and after the team’s 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the picture looked and certainly felt a lot rosier. “I can tell you the reality has surpassed expectations,” said Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said that while it was disappointing to see so many revelers out and about without face masks, she knew the influx of fans made an economic difference.
“Darden Rice raises $100K in first month of mayoral campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rice, a St. Petersburg City Council member, has raised $97,599 in the first month of her Mayoral campaign, she announced Tuesday. Rice’s campaign collected $68,224, and the political committee Friends of Darden Rice received $29,375. Financial documents outlining the specifics of Rice’s latest fundraising haul are not yet publicly available. The campaign provided only fundraising totals. To date, Rice has raised more than $320,000 between her campaign and political committee, putting her in the lead for funding, with a formidable opponent and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch trailing behind.
“Archie Collins to take helm at Tampa Electric” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Tampa Electric announced today that Collins had been selected to be the next CEO, filling the shoes of Nancy Tower, who announced last year her plans to retire. Collins has served as the Chief Operating Officer at Tampa Electric for the last two years. Collins is a solid choice for the Tampa utility, given the progress and advancements they’ve made to increase sustainability and strengthen reliability during his tenure there. In the last two years, while Collins served as COO, Tampa Electric has grown to be the #1 solar power producer per customer in all of Florida. Last month, Tampa Electric announced a new goal to double the number of homes it powers through solar energy to 200,000 by 2023. The company also announced plans to retire another coal unit, Big Bend Unit 3, nearly two decades early.
“Tampa General Hospital breaks another record, over 600 transplants” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Tampa Bay’s “Titletown” is more than just for sports. Breaking yet another record, Tampa General Hospital performed over 611 transplants in 2020. TGH outperformed last year from the hospital’s previous total of 585 transplants in 2019. Dr. Kiran Dhanireddy, the executive director of the TGH Advanced Organ Disease & Transplantation Institute and surgical director of liver transplantation, emphasized that it’s more than just the number of successful transplants. It’s about the 611 lives TGH was able to save. Out of 100 transplant programs in the country, TGH ranks third in one-year survival after transplantation.
“Political consultant sues Miami Beach over law banning him from postelection lobbying” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — A political consultant and lobbyist who has helped get candidates elected in Miami Beach — while working with private companies to score political victories — has sued the city over a 2017 ethics law banning campaign consultants from lobbying the commission for 12 months after their candidate is sworn into office. David Custin, who helped get former Mayor Philip Levine elected and most recently represented a towing company on the Beach, filed a lawsuit last month in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging the law violates his First Amendment rights. The legal complaint states that Custin “may suffer lost future earnings and impaired earnings capacities” as a result of the law.
“Miami-Dade passing on another chance to cut pollution from cruise ships at PortMiami” via Douglas Hanks and Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade leaders on Tuesday advanced another PortMiami terminal project — but without modern pollution controls already adopted by cruise ships docking there. Under the plan, the county will spend $177 million to build the new MSC Cruises terminal but won’t let vessels connect to shore power. The arrangement involves a mix of county and MSC dollars for a 62-year lease on a $577 million terminal that can accommodate up to three cruise ships at the same time. While MSC has joined much of the cruise industry by equipping its ships with shore power capability, vessels would continue belching toxic gas from their smokestacks since the county declined to require hookups in any of its new terminals.
“How a Miami church that became a GOP campaign stop got wrapped into a messy divorce” via Bianca Patró Ocasio of The Miami Herald — The booming business of Miami pastor Guillermo Maldonado, which helps him pay for what court records describe as a half-dozen properties, at least three cars and a nine-seat jet, depends entirely on whether he can speak to God. The head of King Jesus International Ministry has built such a devout following in his 25 years at the bilingual evangelical church that when he tells his congregation that “communism is the anti-Christ” and invites Trump and other Republican politicians to his pulpit to reach thousands of Miami’s fervent Hispanic voters, his supporters will trust it is a divine message.
“Miami Beach officials celebrate $14.5M in grant money to help with storm infrastructure” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami Beach officials are thanking DeSantis after the state announced $14.5 million in grants to help the city deal with a hurricane and large storm impacts. “Miami Beach faces a daunting challenge from sea level rise over the next 20 years and beyond,” Mayor Dan Gelber said in a Tuesday statement on the new money. The city is one of Florida’s most vulnerable to flooding and storm surges. Around $7.9 million of the $14.5 million pot will go to three sewer pump stations aimed at stopping sewage floods in the event of a storm. The rest of the money will assist with six water booster stations to keep residents’ water pressure consistent.
“New mosquito species found in South Florida. It’s an aggressive biter, of course.” via Adriana Brasileiro of The Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County appears to be home to yet another new invasive species, this one a mosquito that was last officially documented in the Florida Keys 75 years ago. The Aedes scapularis has been confirmed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. “This is a very aggressive mosquito, like the ones that attack people in the Everglades,” he said. That pest, the black salt marsh mosquito, can swarm visitors at certain times of year in Everglades National Park, where large-scale mosquito control tactics like spraying are not allowed.
“Fissure among Bay GOP after declaring Biden illegitimate, asking Liz Cheney to resign” via Mike Cazalas of the Panama City News Herald — Two recent positions taken by the Bay County Republican Party have made public a fissure between some party members about the best tact to take for the future of the party. An aggressive stance by local party leaders led to a December vote not to recognize (at the time) President-elect Biden until Trump either conceded or said the vote was valid. It also led to a January vote requesting U.S. Rep Cheney of Wyoming step down from her position as House Republican Conference chairwoman or be removed by House Republicans for voting in favor of Trump’s impeachment. The moves drew media attention across the country, particularly the Southeast.
“Winter Park City Commission takes on Chamber’s slight” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Fallout continues from the back-and-forth indignation that erupted over a single question posed to Winter Park mayoral candidates at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. The hot-button question had accused the City Commission of collusion. Candidate Phil Anderson rebuked the Chamber for allowing a “baseless” charge to be made through a question. The Chamber’s board suggested President Betsy Gardner Eckbert felt threatened, denounced Anderson, and demanded a public apology. Anderson apologized. The two sides worked things out and issued a statement Monday calling the matter “an unfortunate incident.” It said Anderson and the Chamber have since “come to terms with the matter and look forward to placing it behind us in an effort to bring our community together.”
“EA Sports College Football will be built in Orlando, perhaps bringing more jobs” via Austin Fuller — Electronic Arts’ Orlando studio will build the recently announced EA Sports College Football game, which a company executive has said could lead to new jobs. “The EA Tiburon studio in Orlando will be responsible for delivering EA SPORTS College Football and will continue to leverage our talent here and around the world,” EA vice president Daryl Holt wrote in an emailed response to questions from the Orlando Sentinel. The game is returning after EA’s NCAA Football game was discontinued in 2013 amid legal wrangling and after conferences and universities backed out of deals that allowed the company to use logos but kept them from using player names.
— TOP OPINION —
“‘Oh, we’re still in this.’ The pandemic wall is here.” via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post — The pandemic wall pops up at different times for different people, but for a vast group of people, the wall has smacked them in the face within the past three weeks. In marathon running, “hitting the wall” is predictable, as are the rewards for powering through to the other side. Many runners hit the wall around the 18- or 20-mile mark. Marathoners know that the finish line is not all that far past the wall, at 26.2 miles. We have no idea how close we are to the end of the pandemic. The vaccines are here; so are the variants. Herd immunity might be further away than health officials had hoped.
— OPINIONS —
“The Republican Party is radicalizing against democracy” via Chris Hayes for The Atlantic — Instead of organizing its coalition around shared policy goals, the GOP has chosen to emphasize hatred and fear of its political opponents, who they warn will destroy their supporters and the country. Those Manichaean stakes are used to justify every effort to retain power and make keeping control the GOP’s highest purpose. We are living with a deadly example of just how far those efforts can go, and things are likely to get worse. And so, the Biden era of American politics is shaping up as a contest between the growing ideological hegemony of liberalism and the intensifying opposition of a political minority that has proved willing to engage in violence to hold on to power.
“Why progressives should be celebrating Liz Cheney and Ben Sasse right now” via Eugene Robinson for The Washington Post — I look forward to the day when I can get back to disagreeing with the likes of Rep. Cheney and Sen. Sasse about basically everything. But right now, with former President Trump‘s second impeachment trial set to begin, even progressives need to celebrate these conservatives as heroes. It is in everyone’s interest that the GOP become an actual political party again, rather than a cult dedicated to, according to Sasse, “the weird worship of one dude.” Such a party could play a productive role in governing and policymaking, rather than using Washington as the set for an increasingly bizarre reality show. For that to happen, lawmakers such as Sasse and Cheney need to win the battle for their Party.
“What Florida needs, the Legislature won’t give” via Randy Schultz in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — This could be a moment for Tallahassee to stop acting, well, like Tallahassee. Many Floridians remain out of work or underemployed because of the pandemic. Many children remain out of schools, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising that classes can resume safely — with strict mask-wearing and social distancing. The cost of that absence grows each month. So the priorities for Tallahassee are clear. Legislators should improve and enhance the unemployment system. Money to the jobless goes directly into the economy for groceries and mortgage and rent payments. That helps landlords, which helps lenders. As usual, however, Republicans intend to put politics over people.
“Florida should close tax loopholes for corporations” via Anna V. Eskamani of The Tampa Bay Times — While Republicans in Tallahassee are suddenly eager to close tax loopholes for consumers, they still refuse to close tax loopholes for corporations. Florida has one of the easiest-to-avoid corporate income taxes in the country because we are one of a shrinking minority of states that still allow big corporations to dodge taxes simply by moving money to subsidiaries in other states and countries. The world’s biggest corporations avoid millions in Florida taxes by creating sham transactions, such as paying themselves to use their own logos, that are done solely to shift profits out of Florida.
“Emmett Reed: AARP’s sideline response is a slap in the face to Florida’s health care heroes” via Florida Politics — There’s no connection between the prevalence of COVID-19 in a nursing center and its quality rating. What we know now is outbreaks are tied to community spread. Every interaction is a risk. For AARP or any organization to insinuate that these front-line heroes in any way disregarded their residents and families or in any way gave less than their best is bewildering. Rather than celebrate our caregivers for the innovative solutions they developed to overcome their ongoing challenges — from preserving PPE and meeting workforce shortages to developing isolation wings and setting up safe visitation — AARP simply criticizes these dedicated workers’ response to a crisis they did not create. Lawsuits are no way to guarantee high-quality care.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Florida House Black Caucus unveiled an ambitious plan to reform policing in the Sunshine State.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Guess who’s getting into the COVID-19 vaccination biz? The Governor says it’s none other than Walmart.
— While vaccinations are still reserved for people 65 and older, DeSantis says that will change once enough seniors are vaccinated.
— Florida lawmakers are scrambling to find enough money to make up the cash lost to the COVID-19 crisis, and Democrats have a suggestion. They say the state could save money and provide medical coverage for almost a million Floridians by expanding Medicaid.
— Another casualty of COVID-19 is the five-year plan at the Florida DOT. Seventy-seven road projects have been cut or delayed because of a $763 million shortfall in transportation taxes.
— And finally, two different Florida Men disrupted the Super Bowl, each in his own unique way.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Disney: Epcot’s Leave a Legacy panels going back up, getting colorful makeover” via DeWayne Bevil of The Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has started reinstalling portions of the Leave a Legacy attraction that was part of the entrance to Epcot for two decades. The photographs are going up just outside the theme park gate, and they’re presented in a new, colorful way. The postage-stamp, high-contrast, gray images were part of Disney’s millennium celebration. The headshots, for a price, were mounted on large granite slabs that curved upward to sort of frame Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth building. The monuments, criticized by some parkgoers as dreary, were removed in 2019 as part of the resort’s multi-project remodeling plan. Disney said the photos would return.
“Super Bowl audience plunges to lowest mark in over a decade” via Gerry Smith of Bloomberg — Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast on CBS attracted an audience of 96.4 million TV and digital viewers, falling to the lowest mark in over a decade. The championship, featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lopsided 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, marked a setback for the National Football League, which played many of its games in empty stadiums this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s broadcast on Fox drew an audience of 102 million, or 113 million, with out-of-home viewing included. CBS’s audience of 96.4 million included people watching outside their homes. The 15% decline from last year made it the fewest people to watch the big game since 2007.
“St. Petersburg business evicted from Albert Whitted Airport after hosting 50 Cent’s Super Bowl party” via Olivia Steen of WFLA — St. Petersburg city leaders are terminating Sky Addict Aviation’s rental lease at the Albert Whitted Airport after throwing a huge Super Bowl party without permission. Rapper 50 Cent hosted the party Friday night inside of the company’s hangar. “I had no idea. I wish I had known about it because we would’ve probably gone in and shut it down,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. He said his office found out about the party through social media. It happened just one week into the mayor’s Race to Safe Campaign that includes an order for hosting events during the pandemic.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our good friend, Franco Ripple, Communications Director in Fried’s office. Also celebrating today are Carrie Henriquez, Celeste Lewis-Hemanes, and Jamie Wilson. Belated wishes to Brian Swensen.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.