Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.16.21

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

By now, we’re used to movies set in Florida not being filmed in Florida.

Often, filmmakers dress up an Atlanta studio lot or a stretch of Georgia coastline to make it look like the Sunshine State, but movie magic can only do so much.

You can’t blame them, really — Georgia’s film production programs are among the most generous in the country.

But film productions have started flocking elsewhere since the state passed a ban on abortions after six weeks.

No matter your thoughts on that law, it should have been an opportunity for Florida to claw back some of the business it had lost over the past decade.

It wasn’t.

Take “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar.”

It has an amiable script, penned by Academy Award-nominated writing duo Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, who also play the title roles.

Where is Vista Del Mar? Florida.

Where is it really? Albuquerque.

‘Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar’ takes place in Florida but was filmed in Albuquerque — where there is no ‘vista’ of any ‘mar.’ Image via Cate Cameron/Lionsgate.

It was already hard to accept Savannah as an ersatz Florida, but Albuquerque is a new low.

With a film production rebate program, landing that production would have been a cinch. And we’re talking pennies on the dollar, really, once you factor in the jobs, it would have delivered and the hotel and catering bills the crew would have racked up.

Without a production program, however, crews will be more than happy to keep filming in the Southwest instead of Southwest Florida.

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Ron Pierce has committed to walking 500 miles — and 56 more — for a good cause this Legislative Session.

Pierce, the CEO of RSA Consulting, isn’t hoofing it out of devotion to a 1980s Scottish rock duo. He’s logging the miles as part of the “Steps for Session Challenge,” which aims to raise money for Southeastern Guide Dogs, a charitable organization that provides service dogs for visually impaired individuals, veterans, and children who suffered a loss of a parent in the military.

“Everyone at RSA knows firsthand the unconditional love and companionship that comes from a dog,” he said. “We are a very dog-friendly office and love having animals around throughout the workday. For veterans or visually impaired individuals, a guide or service dog provides more than just company; it can change their life.”

Pierce recently adopted his own puppy, Sammi, who joins the RSA team in the office every day and boasts her own Twitter account, @RSAPup, and serves as the firm’s “Chief Treat Officer.”

Ron Pierce’s adopted dog Sammi is a star in his own right. Image via Twitter.

The 556-mile goal is based on the round trip between Pierce’s home base in Tampa to Tallahassee.

“We drive from Tampa to Tallahassee every week during Florida’s Legislative Session, so I know firsthand how far the round-trip 556-mile trip is,” he said. “COVID-19 protocols mean that we’re not walking around the Capitol like we used to, but the entire RSA team, including Sammi, plan on joining me to achieve this goal. I’m excited to take on the challenge for such a worthy cause. Southeastern Guide Dogs relies solely on donations, and the work they do is just incredible.”

Pierce will track his progress using a smartwatch. You can follow along on Twitter at @RSAConsulting. To donate to his fundraiser, visit Tampa Walkathon: Ron Pierce — Southeastern Guide Dogs Inc.

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Jean Uthmeier has long envisioned a local gathering place where customers could find fresh-roasted coffee, homemade bread and pastries, and a welcome glass of wine after work. The result: La Florida Coffee & Wine Bar, which is opening in the former Starbucks in Kleman Plaza, good news for downtown Tallahassee, reports our colleague Rochelle Koff, who also publishes the Tallahassee Table.

The space has been vacated since March when Tallahassee Community College decided to close the Starbucks branch, which the school built and operated.

La Florida will launch its soft opening on February 22, with a grand opening for early March.

Uthmeier, the shop owner, is a home baker known for her sourdough, cakes, and other baked goods. With her sister-in-law, Julia Swanson, who will be the shop’s manager, she’ll offer breakfast sammies and lunch sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, along with pound cakes — choices include blueberry, lemon, guava and seasonal flavors — muffins, cookies and croissants. 

The shop will also offer single-origin coffee roasted locally, with espresso-based drinks and decaf available. Other beverages will include mimosas and wine.

“Our goal is to get people to loosen ties, appreciate fine coffee, wine and hors d’oeuvres in relaxed company and view downtown Tallahassee as something more than a work destination,” said Uthmeier, who, on Monday, was working on the last-minute touches to the shop, which will have 10 employees. 

The cafe’s name reflects her love of travel and history, said Uthmeier, who has visited 27 countries in her former job as an account manager for a travel company. “It’s a beautiful name, and I think people like it,” she said. 

With travel halted, “it was a beautiful window for me to express my passion for food and people and culture in Tallahassee,” she said. While so many businesses are closing their doors, she thinks customers are aware of being careful and safe in public spaces. For those who don’t want to linger inside, there will be outdoor seating. 

Either way, the idea, said Uthmeier, is “providing simple, healthy and fresh nourishment, where friends can break bread and quench thirst together.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Clairecmc: The Governor of Texas is telling Texans to stay home because it is risky to go out. Let that sink in. How dare he tell people what they can do, even if it is to protect them and others?

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: Florida’s bond finance director Ben Watkins being straight forward to Fla House budget panel. Says nearly $6B from feds “bought them time.” But warns it’s 1-time only and what happens next? Also pointed out Fla. burned thru almost half its reserves due to COVID-19

@MattGaetz: Jared is one of the greatest public servants I’ve ever known. I wish my friend and his lovely family well in their next chapter.

@MattGaetz: From taking on Big Tech to confronting the rising challenge of China, Speaker [Chris] Sprowls is putting on a clinic on how to execute the #AmericaFirst Agenda in state government. Amazing work!

Tweet, tweet:

@BMcNoldy: A ** 92° ** heat index in Miami … on February 15. Not only did that smash the previous record for the date by 4°, it’s now the highest value ever recorded this early in the year.

@LRiddickESPN: Repeat: check in on your people. Regularly.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Dr. Aaron Weiner webinar on mental health in the workplace — 2; ‘Nomadland’ with Frances McDormand — 3; The CW’s ‘Superman & Lois’ premieres — 7; the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference begins — 9; Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, with exhibition games starting — 11; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 14; ‘Coming 2 America’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 17; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres — 24; 2021 Grammys — 26; Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ premieres on HBO Max — 30; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 38; MLB Opening Day — 44; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 45; Children’s Gasparilla — 53; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 60; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 80; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 136; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 145; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 157; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 165; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 189; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 213; ‘Dune’ premieres — 227; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 259; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 262; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 297; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 304; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 402; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 444; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 598.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

First on #FlaPol — “Key Florida official overseeing COVID-19 response resigns” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — One of Florida’s top lieutenants in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak resigned Monday, citing the grueling nature of the role. Jared Moskowitz, who led Florida’s Division of Emergency Management for the past two years, said he is tired of being away from his wife and two children, all of whom remain in Broward County while he spends much of his time more than 400 miles (640 kilometers) away in the state’s capital city. “My 4-year-old said to me a couple of weeks ago: Daddy works for the Governor. I don’t want daddy to work for the Governor anymore. I want daddy to come home,” Moskowitz said. “And when your 4-year-old says that to you, you listen.”

Jared Moskowitz is stepping down to spend more time with his family. No, really. Image via South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Covid wars launch Ron DeSantis into GOP ‘top tier’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — By scrapping with reporters and President Joe Biden’s White House — which has singled out Florida and the governor in recent weeks — the wonky but combative governor has elevated his profile at a time when other big-state governors have been laid low. With a Covid death count cover up consuming New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a pandemic-related recall effort haunting California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Republicans are embracing DeSantis as a red-state exemplar, pointing to rates of Covid deaths, vaccinations and unemployment in the most-populous blue states. “Ron DeSantis is having a moment with conservatives,” said Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. “Part of this is liberals tried to cast this in the yin-and-yang comparison with Cuomo … It’s policy and it’s partly stylistic, the way he handles the news media and his blue-collar appeal.”

DeSantis announces second skirmish in ‘Big Tech’ battle with data privacy bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Two weeks after unveiling Republicans’ proposal cracking down on social media companies, DeSantis announced the sequel legislation to protect Floridians’ personal information from big tech. The Governor announced the second part of his priority Monday alongside Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, House Speaker Sprowls and Rep. Fiona McFarland, the Sarasota Republican who is sponsoring the bill. The bill would guarantee Floridians the right to find out what information companies have on them, have the companies delete the data, ask companies not to sell the data, and sue businesses that violate those protections.

What if Gillum won? Florida GOP eyes DeSantis’ emergency powers” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Now, as legislative leaders assess Florida’s coronavirus response and how long the crisis has raged, a small number of Republicans are starting to weigh the possibility of new limits on [Gov. Ron] DeSantis’ executive powers — something Democrats have been clamoring for. Fear of more severe lockdowns in the future has rattled some GOP lawmakers. ‘What would have happened if Andrew Gillum had won?’ state Sen. Jeffrey Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, said in an interview, referring to DeSantis’ 2018 Democratic opponent for governor. “Would we be like California? Would we be like New York?” Spread out decision-making? It’s not yet clear what lawmakers may do to alter the governor’s emergency powers, but Brandes — who sits on the Senate’s select committee looking at the pandemic — and others suggested that the governor should not have unilateral authority to impose business lockdowns. “I think a part of our role is absolutely to look at what the Legislature’s role is in a sustained emergency,” said state Sen. Danny Burgess, who chairs the select Senate committee. “We have never been in a situation where it’s been this prolonged and ongoing.”

Business lobby and trial lawyers clash: GOP wants to protect businesses from COVID lawsuits and possibly more” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — Barbara DeVane, lobbyist since 1972 for progressive causes, offered historical perspective to several Senators considering whether to shield medical institutions, including hospitals and nursing homes, from liability from COVID lawsuits. The Senate’s Judiciary Committee was debating a bill by its own chairman — Republican Jeff Brandes — and voting down a series of Democratic amendments to weaken the bill. To DeVane, representing Florida NOW and the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans, this was just another chapter in a decadeslong campaign to restrict access to the courtroom. “The tort reformers come and go about every 20 years,” she testified.

Florida Chamber, local Chambers join coalition supporting COVID-19 liability protections” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Chamber of Commerce said Monday that more than 100 local Chambers of Commerce had joined it to form a coalition in support of the COVID-19 liability protection bills. The Legislature has fast-tracked legislation that would shield businesses and health care providers from lawsuits related to COVID-19. There are separate proposals for health care facilities and non-health-care businesses, but they all have the same thrust, businesses that put in a “good faith effort” to protect customers from catching the coronavirus would be immune from liability. The Florida Chamber and other pro-business groups say the protections are necessary for Florida’s economy to continue recovering amid the pandemic.

Consumers, workers’ rights coalition push back against COVID-19 liability protections” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A coalition of consumer and workers’ rights groups voiced opposition on Monday to the legislative effort to create COVID-19 liability protections in Florida. The opposition comes as Republican leaders fast-track several bills that would shield businesses, schools and health care providers from COVID-19 related lawsuits. Speaking at a news conference on Monday, AFL-CIO Political Director Rich Templin warned the proposals offer near “blanket immunity” to employers. The AFL-CIO represents more than 1.3 million workers in Florida.

Business liability protections delayed in Senate” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — A scheduled committee vote on a high-profile bill that would protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits was delayed Monday after the measure’s primary sponsor, Sen. Brandes, was delayed in another meeting. Senate Commerce and Tourism Chairman Sen. Ed Hooper said that the lawsuit-limitation bill would most likely be considered at his committee’s next meeting, now scheduled for March 2, the same day as the start of the 2021 legislative session. Republican legislative leaders, backed by business groups, have prioritized passing a measure to help shield businesses from lawsuits related to the pandemic.

Florida retailers plead for sales tax collections on e-commerce” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Of 45 states which impose sales taxes, only two are not uniformly collecting it from out-of-state retailers for e-commerce: Florida and Missouri. That could change with Rep. Chuck Clemons‘ House Bill 15 and Sen. Joe Gruters‘ Senate Bill 50. They would require such collections by any out-of-state company doing at least $100,000 in retail sales into Florida through the Internet. It also would need “marketplace facilitators” such as Amazon or eBay to do so on behalf of their clients. Most already are. However, Monday’s discussion was not on those bills, committee chair Rep. Bobbie Payne repeatedly insisted. Yet much of the discussion remained about whether the bills would be supported, at least in principle.

Film rebate legislation clears first Senate committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Senate Commerce and Tourism committee moved ahead with a remake on Florida’s film rebate program. Sen. Joe Gruters championed legislation (SB 704) to set up the “Film, Television and Digital Media Targeted Rebate Program” under the Department of Economic Opportunity. “Florida has the locations, Florida has the talent, Florida has the infrastructure, and Florida is open for business,” Gruters said. But it will take a vote in more than one committee for the matter to move forward. Gruters filled similar legislation last year that cleared one committee. Its next stop this year will be the Appropriations on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Subcommittee.

Joe Gruters wants a remake of Florida’s film production incentive program. Image via Colin Hackley.

Senate panel gives first OK on bill to remove VISIT FLORIDA’s sunset date” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — VISIT FLORIDA is set to expire in October 2023, but a Senate panel gave its green light Monday to a bill to keep the state’s fundraising arm funded indefinitely. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee passed that bill on a 10-1 vote. Bill sponsor and Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper reminded the committee of the “spirited discussion” the Senate had last year with the House, which was reluctant to extend VISIT FLORIDA at all. Ultimately, lawmakers agreed to extend the agency for three years. Tourism is routinely Florida’s largest revenue generator. In 2019, Florida had 131 million out-of-state visitors who contributed a collective $97 billion to Florida’s economy and 1.6 million jobs.

No-fault repeal rolls through second Senate committee” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill repealing the no-fault auto insurance system despite concerns over its potential effect on insurance rates and health care providers. SB 54, sponsored by Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, would eliminate PIP coverage in favor of bodily injury liability coverage, which would pay up to $25,000 for a crash-related injury or death or up to $50,000 for injury or death in a crash involving two or more people. The current system requires drivers to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection, or PIP, to pay for medical coverage after an accident. The coverage pays out regardless of which party is responsible for an accident.

Senate committee advances ‘agritourism’ bill, but changes could be on the horizon” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved a bill aiming to shield farmers participating in “agritourism” from tort liability. But critics of the bill are pushing back against the measure, arguing its provisions are too broad. Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican who chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the legislation in the Senate. The measure aims to update the state’s Right to Farm Act. As Brodeur explained, he aims “to protect reasonable [farming] activities from nuisance lawsuits” with the new legislation. Senate President Wilton Simpson supports the effort.

Senate panel OK’s bill setting up independent office to direct sea level rise research” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A Senate panel has approved legislation from Sen. Ray Rodrigues that would set up an independent Office of Resiliency and task the state with studying expected sea-level rise projections. Monday’s victory in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee marks the first for Rodrigues’ bill. The measure sets up a nine-person Sea Level Rise Task Force to establish a baseline for sea-level projections in the state. The task force would submit those projections by Jan. 1, 2022, to be used “for the purpose of developing future state projects, plans, and programs.” Rodriguez, an Estero Republican, is behind the Senate version. Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca has filed a bill in the House as well.

Jackie Toledo refiles bill to raise smoking age to 21” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Tampa Rep. Toledo has refiled a bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21. The bill would alter current state law, which requires an individual purchasing a smoking product to be at least 18 years old. “What we want to make sure is that vape products are not in the hands of our youth,” Toledo said. Gov. DeSantis vetoed a similar bill back in September that had passed through the 2020 Legislative Session. That bill would have raised the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 and banned flavored nicotine products commonly used in vape cartridges.

Jackie Toledo tries again to push up the age to buy tobacco products. Image via Colin Hackley.

Marco Rubio warns state lawmakers about Chinese involvement in universities, local governments” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Rubio is calling on state lawmakers to remain proactive against Chinese government influence, particularly within local governments and universities. Speaking to the Florida House Public Integrity and Elections Committee on Monday via Zoom, Rubio warned members about a nationwide foreign interference effort. In years past, he noted, state universities have been compromised. “It’s an enormous challenge,” Rubio said. “It’ll define the 21st century, and there’s only so much we can do at the federal level about it.” Rubio said the Chinese government could infiltrate universities using several strategies. Researchers and graduate students, Rubio said, can be used to gather intelligence.

Anthony Sabatini says only people who are born female based on medical definition may compete in girls-only sports” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Following a presidential executive order that reignited public controversy about transgender people, Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini announced Thursday he would again try to criminalize gender-altering surgery and medical treatments performed on minors who want it, even when their parents approve. His effort to do so in 2020 gained no traction. This year, Sabatini, a Republican from Lake County, said he also wants to specify in state law that only people who are born female based on a medical definition may compete in girls-only sports, he announced on Twitter.

Jason Shoaf requests funding for Hurricane Michael recovery, public services” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Rep. Shoaf filed more than $80 million in budget requests on Monday to allocate funds for projects within his North Florida district. The largest request would fund beach restoration in Mexico Beach, a region devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018. Shoaf, who represents House District 7, noted the region’s ongoing battles including the Gulf oil spill, Hurricane Michael and the COVID-19 pandemic. “These communities need the support they deserve to rebuild and come back stronger than ever,” Shoaf said.

Smaller Orlando restaurants could serve booze under Rene Plasencia bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Smaller restaurants in Orlando’s historic, urban business centers could have an easier time obtaining state licenses to serve alcohol under a local bill offered by Rep. Plasencia. His proposal aims to cut some slack for restaurants that open in older, smaller business spaces in some of the city’s more historic buildings. Such facilities sometimes don’t meet state-mandated size minimums to qualify for liquor licenses. On Monday, the bill, yet to be numbered, drew support from the Orange County Legislative Delegation during a virtual meeting held on Zoom. The city of Orlando supports the measure, said Kyle Shephard, the city’s director of intergovernmental relations.

—”Omari Hardy calls for in-person jail inspections” via Florida Politics staff reports

—“Matt Willhite bill would block firework use in Wellington equestrian preserves” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Frank Artiles, Atlas Consultants: Freytech, Rogar Management & Consulting of Florida

Slater Bayliss, Steve Schale, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Waymo

Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, Melissa Ramba, Floridian Partners: Citizens for Responsible Pet Ownership, International Bottled Water Association, Petland

Christopher Coker, Coker Consulting: Associated Industries of Florida

Mary DeLoach, The Southern Group: Edmentum

Yolanda Jackson, LaToya Sheals, Becker & Poliakoff: Broward County Public Schools

Jeff Johnston, Anita Berry, Amanda Stewart, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Alexion Pharmaceuticals

Jeff Kottkamp, Jeff Kottkamp PA: Meridian HSN

Alexandra McGerigle, Serlin Haley: Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association

Tim Meenan, Meenan PA: FlowMSP

Jann Moore: Tom Walters

Adam Roberts: Apalachee Center, Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Penn National Gaming

— LEG. SKED —

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 80, from Sen. Brodeur, to make a series of changes in Florida’s child-welfare system, 9 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Education Committee will receive updates about the alignment of postsecondary education to meet the labor market demands, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 614, from Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, which would increase criminal penalties for committing assault or battery against people working or volunteering at hospitals, 9 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building. 

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update on red tide research and mitigation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 10 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee meets to consider HB 529, from Rep. Randy Fine, to require a daily moment of silence in public schools, 10 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets to consider HB 231, from Rep. Ardian Zika, to authorize the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to offer referral services to veterans and family members for such things as mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, 10 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee will receive an update from Harvard Medical School professor Bertha Madras on high-potency marijuana, 10 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will receive updates from Secretary of State Laurel Lee and Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley on the 2020 election, 12:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee will consider SB 44, from Chairman Tom Wright, to allow law enforcement to use drones to assist with traffic control and collect crime-scene evidence, 12:30 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building. 

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 522, from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., to preempt local control of regulation of vacation rental properties, giving the state authority at 12:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets to consider HB 133, from Rep. Joe Harding and Mike Beltran, to allow the use of so-called “baby boxes” when parents want to surrender newborn infants, 1 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee meets to consider HB 217, from Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, to name the northern portion of Florida’s coral reef system after the late Rep. Kristin Jacobs, 1 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will workshop funding for the university system, 1 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update on inmate health services and facility needs from the Department of Corrections, 1 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 512, from Sen. Danny Burgess, to create a public-records exemption for specific personal information in applications for “de novo” banking charters, 3:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation Committee meets to consider SB 380, from Sen. Keith Perry, to require 6-year-old children to be in car seats or booster seats, a raise by one year, 3:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The House Education & Employment Committee will receive an update about state workers’ oversight and accountability, 4 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Judiciary Committee meets to consider HB 7, from Rep. Lawrence McClure, to shield businesses from lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic, 4 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

Happening today — Fast food workers with the Fight for 15 organization will protest a bill from Sen. Brandes to give exceptions to a 2020 constitutional amendment that gradually raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, 12:30 p.m., outside Brandes’ district office, 9800 Fourth St. North, St. Petersburg.

— STATEWIDE —

Glad we cleared that upNo indication Joe Biden administration is planning to shut down the Florida border” via Noah Y. Kim of The Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis sent out a fundraising plea attacking the Biden administration for considering domestic travel restrictions to curb the spread of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant. DeSantis’ fundraising message followed a front-page article in the Miami Herald on Feb. 10. The story quoted an anonymous government official saying that the Biden administration was considering new domestic travel restrictions for regions affected by the highly contagious U.K. strain of the coronavirus. The White House has not said that it is considering a Florida travel ban.

No, Joe Biden is not considering travel restrictions for Florida. Image via AP.

Florida extends time for spring standardized testing, hopes ‘every student’ can take ‘critical’ exams” via Leslie Postal of The Orlando Sentinel — Florida students are scheduled to take the state’s annual standardized tests in the spring as usual, but this year their public schools can spread out the testing sessions over a month or more “to ensure that every student can be safely tested,” Richard Corcoran said in a new order issued Monday. Because of COVID-19 concerns, some education advocates have urged the state to cancel standardized testing this year. But Corcoran, and plenty of local school leaders, say the standardized tests in language arts, math, science and social studies will provide valuable information on what students have learned in a school year upended by the pandemic.

DOE announces vendors for ‘Alyssa’s Alert’ school panic alarms” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Department of Education on Monday announced its selections for an $8 million project to install a mobile panic alarm system in Florida’s K-12 schools. The companies set to handle the development and installation of the system are AppArmor/Cutcom Software, Ares Security Corporation, AT&T, Centegix, Everbridge, Intrado, Motorola Solutions, Raptor and 911 Cellular. Of the bidders, 911 Cellular scored highest, followed by ARES Security and AppArmor. However, earlier this month, DOE indicated that it was considering splitting the project across multiple companies to give school districts more choice. The bids were evaluated on price, quality, design, and workmanship.

Florida consumers ‘flabbergasted’ as property insurers push for double-digit rate hikes” via Suzanne Barlyn of Reuters — Florida property insurers are jacking up rates by double-digit percentages, blaming the hikes on lingering damage from past hurricanes, a wave of litigation, and a law that encourages lawyers to sue by allowing courts to award them hefty fees. According to some insurance agents and residents, the rate increases in Florida, the third-largest property insurance market among U.S. states, are the highest in memory. One danger, they say, is that the new rates could make owning a home in Florida unaffordable. Karlos Horn, a 35-year-old law student who owns a four-bedroom home in Hendry County, said his premium doubled to $200 per month last August.

— 2022 —

The battle over redistricting — and control of Congress — will be fought in Central Florida” via the Orlando Sentinel —Republicans could have the opportunity to completely redraw the congressional maps in their favor beginning in 2022, including potentially two new seats. New Census data showing big population increases in largely Democratic areas, including Central Florida, could tie their hands on any possible gerrymandering. But unlike the last redistricting a decade ago, conservative majorities on the Florida and U.S. Supreme courts might be more accepting of maps coming out of the GOP-controlled Legislature. Nationally, a slim margin in the U.S. House means Florida Republicans through redistricting alone could get their party two or three of the five seats it needs to take back control from Democrats.

Jimmy Patronis tees up reelection campaign” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis has filed for reelection in 2022, according to Florida Division of Election records. Patronis, a Republican, was appointed to the position in July 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott. He defeated Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring in 2018 for a full four-year term. As CFO, Patronis oversees the Department of Financial Services, serves as the State Fire Marshal, and sits as a Florida Cabinet member. The Department of Financial Services also oversees the state’s insurance department and treasury. According to campaign finance records, Patronis’ political committee, Treasure Florida, has more than $1.6 million on hand.

Jimmy Patronis is ready to take another swing at CFO.

First in SunburnShane Abbott files to succeed Brad Drake in HD 5” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Defuniak Springs Republican Shane Abbott opened a campaign account to run for House District 5 on Monday. “I grew up here — and I’m committed to putting all my life experiences as a small-business owner and community leader to work for Northwest Florida,” he said. “Now more than ever, we need leaders who will fight for the conservative principles our country was founded on, and I’m ready for the fight.” HD 5 covers all of Holmes, Jackson, Walton, and Washington counties and part of Bay County. However, district lines will shift ahead of the 2022 election due to the once-per-decade reapportionment process. Rep. Drake cannot run for reelection next year due to term limits.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Massive winter storm closes airports and delays vaccine deliveries to Florida” via James Call of The Tallahassee Democrat — A winter storm with icy roads, power outages, and dangerous low temperatures has snarled traffic from coast to coast and will delay shipments of coronavirus vaccines to Florida. Moskowitz said the state had been alerted the massive weather system will delay the Monday-Tuesday shipment of vaccines. It is unclear how many doses will be affected and when deliveries will resume. The state’s Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for information. Its office in Collier County, for example, is making no new appointments for the vaccine this week. It was unclear how many doses would be delayed there.

Butterfly effect: Storms in Texas are having an impact on vaccines arriving in Florida. Image via AP.

General public may have access to COVID-19 vaccine sooner than initially expected” via Andrew Perez of Local10.com — Additional supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine are coming to South Florida. So far, more than 2.3 million people have been vaccinated in the state. Vaccine Sites remain open across Miami-Dade and Broward counties as seniors are getting their second shots. The general public may get them sooner too, but it’s only because health officials have said that not enough people want it. “It’s simply not enough,” said Broward County Mayor Steve Geller. “The studies I’ve seen show anywhere from 55-70% will get vaccinated. If that’s the case, by May, we’re going to start to slow down. At that point in time, we will, for the first time, have more vaccine than people to give it to.”

Florida COVID-19 update on Monday: 159 deaths, but the fewest new cases since Halloween” via David J. Neal of The Miami Herald — The Florida Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard reported 3,615 new cases Monday, the fewest cases since the 2,331 reported on Oct. 31. Miami-Dade’s count fell under 1,000 cases for only the second time since November. Broward reported the fewest cases since Nov. 16. The daily death toll, which dipped under 100 for the first time in 2021 Sunday, numbered 155 Florida residents and four nonresidents Monday. Holiday weekend data collection and entry might have something to do with the lower numbers. Since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, Florida has counted 1,830,988 cases, 28,934 resident deaths, and 29,434 total deaths.

‘We are not turning back’: DeSantis says schools will remain open despite CDC guidance” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis said Florida schools would remain open despite the latest health guidelines released by federal health officials. “We have been open, we will remain open, and we are not turning back,” DeSantis told reporters at the Florida Capitol. The Governor’s vow comes after the CDC on Friday released new COVID-19 guidance for schools. Under the guidance, the CDC recommends hybrid, remote or virtual learning based on community spread levels. DeSantis contended the measures would shutter thousands of schools, many of which are already open for in-person learning.

— CORONA LOCAL —

FIU tells employees to return to campus, saying the university’s success depends on it” via Jimena Tavel of The Miami Herald — Nearly a year after Florida International University shuttered its campuses and ordered most of its more than 10,000 employees to work remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Miami-based public university is ready to “take back [its] space,” FIU President Mark Rosenberg told faculty and staff last week after sending an email that strongly suggested they return to the campus. The missive comes at a time when Florida is leading the nation in cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain of the virus, Miami-Dade’s confirmed case count is topping more than 1,000 new cases a day, and the county is lagging behind the state and other large counties in getting seniors vaccinated.

FIU President Mark Rosenberg strongly urges faculty to return to work; the school really needs it.

How one Miami school for fragile children has kept its doors open and kept COVID-19 away” via Mia Laurenzo of The Miami Herald — Every Monday, dozens of Early Beginnings Academy parents log on for a virtual town hall to get some face time with the small charter school’s principal. During a recent event, one of the parents, an emergency room nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital, shared her firsthand experience seeing the havoc COVID-19 wreaks on an infected person’s body. Principal Makeesha Coleman said one reason she asked the nurse to speak to her fellow parents was to reinforce the importance of taking precautions: Avoid large groups. Wear masks. Take the virus seriously.

Nearly 100,000 people in Palm Beach County received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine” via Julius Whigham II of The Palm Beach Post — Nearly 100,000 people in Palm Beach County have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccinations as state health officials Sunday reported Florida’s lowest case and death totals of the year. The Florida Department of Health reported Sunday that 99,272 people in Palm Beach County had received both two-dose coronavirus vaccinations. Statewide, a total of 1,082,141 in Florida people had been fully vaccinated, health officials said. Meanwhile, 5,436 new COVID-19 cases were reported statewide along with 96 deaths, the lowest number in each category for the year.

Sarasota County student test scores sink as COVID-19 slide sets in” via Ryan McKinnon of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With testing season right around the corner, teachers have their work cut out for them as they try to prepare students for the all-important state assessments. On Tuesday, the Sarasota County School Board will review diagnostic testing data that shows significantly more students are struggling this year than in previous years. And although some had hoped for a reprieve from the state tests, Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order that expands the window for testing but affirms that it will indeed occur. School Board member Karen Rose said the initial snapshot raises many questions and she was hopeful that the board would get more in-depth answers at Tuesday’s workshop.

COVID-19 vaccine clinic coming to Lakewood Ranch this week” via Louis Llovio of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The state of Florida will hold a vaccine clinic in Lakewood Ranch for three days this week, according to the chairwoman of the Manatee County Commission. Vanessa Baugh said Monday that the state will administer 3,000 doses at the clinic Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. These doses are in addition to the 5,100 the Florida Department of Health Manatee County plans to disburse this week. Baugh said the plan to hold the clinic in Lakewood Ranch began Friday when she got a call from Rex Jensen, president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

COVID-19 vaccine site in The Villages flees muddy mess prompting long wait times” via Meta Minton of Villages-News.com — There was a mixture of confusion and appreciation after heavy rain forced a quick change this weekend at the Global Medical Response COVID-19 vaccination site in The Villages. The company has once again been providing vaccinations in a grassy field near Buffalo Ridge Plaza after a rocky online rollout and abrupt shutdown in January. On Saturday, downpours turned the field into a muddy mess and the vaccinations were moved to The Villages High School. Clare Kromar of the Village of Sanibel said the line was unbelievable.

— CORONA NATION —

Four reasons experts say coronavirus cases are dropping in the United States” via Reis Thebault of The Washington Post — U.S. coronavirus case data, long a closely-watched barometer of the pandemic’s severity, has sent some encouraging signals: The rate of newly recorded infections is plummeting from coast to coast and the worst surge yet is finally relenting. But scientists are split on why, exactly, it is happening. Some point to the quickening pace of coronavirus vaccine administration, some say it’s because of the natural seasonal ebb of respiratory viruses and others chalk it up to social distancing measures. A former director of the CDC endorsed the idea that Americans are now seeing the effect of their good behavior, not of increased vaccinations.

More efficient vaccinations are helping the COVID-19 spread rate to drop. Image via AP.

Batch of homegrown coronavirus mutations seen in U.S.” via Maggie Fox of CNN — Researchers said Sunday they have identified a batch of similar troubling mutations in coronavirus samples circulating in the United States. They’ve not only drawn attention to them; they’ve come up with a better shorthand for referring to them. They’ve named them after birds. The mutations all affect the same stretch of the spike protein, the knob-like extension on the outside of the virus that it uses to dock onto the cells it infects, the researchers wrote in a preprint report. It’s not peer-reviewed yet, but researchers are rushing such findings online to share them quickly with other experts. The genetic stretch that is mutated, or changed, is called 677. The various changes are so similar that the researchers think evolution favors these particular variants.

COVID-19 shots might be tweaked if variants get worse” via The Associated Press — The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are figuring out how to tweak their recipes against worrisome virus mutations and regulators are looking to flu as a blueprint if and when the shots need an update. “It’s not really something you can sort of flip a switch, do overnight,” cautioned Richard Webby, who directs a World Health Organization flu center from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Viruses mutate constantly and it takes just the right combination of particular mutations to escape vaccination. But studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a mutant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions circulating around the world.

‘Starting from scratch’: Kamala Harris contradicts Anthony Fauci on White House COVID vaccine plan” via Mark Moore of the New York Post — Harris claimed in a new interview that the Biden administration is “starting from scratch” to develop a ​national ​vaccine distribution plan because Donald Trump​ left them with nothing​, ​contradicting comments from Fauci, who disputed that contention last month. “There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations, we were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out,” Harris told ​”Axios on HBO” Sunday evening. ​But Fauci was asked during a White House briefing on Jan. 21 whether the coronavirus team was beginning from scratch with vaccine distribution or building on what the Trump administration began. ​”W​e certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution,” Fauci said. ​

Andrew Cuomo acknowledges his administration mishandled data from virus-related nursing home deaths.” via Jesse McKinley of The New York Times — Admitting a degree of fault for the first time, Gov. Cuomo said on Monday that his administration’s lack of transparency about the scope of virus-related deaths in nursing homes in New York was a mistake. By failing to answer questions from state lawmakers and the media, Cuomo acknowledged that the state created a void that was “filled with skepticism, cynicism, and conspiracy theories which furthered confusion.” Speaking in the State Capitol, Cuomo made his first remarks since a top aide to the Governor privately told some state lawmakers last week that the state had withheld data from the Legislature because it feared the Trump administration would use it to begin a federal investigation into the state’s handling of nursing homes.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Judge to weigh lawsuit on unemployment problems” via Jim Saunders of The News Service of Florida — A circuit judge is again poised to consider a potential class-action lawsuit stemming from major problems in Florida’s unemployment compensation system. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper is scheduled to hear arguments about whether he should dismiss the lawsuit filed against the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Deloitte Consulting, LLP, a contractor that helped put the state’s CONNECT online unemployment system in place in 2013. Cooper in September dismissed an earlier version of the lawsuit but allowed the plaintiffs to file a revised complaint. The case seeks damages and raises several arguments, including that the department and Deloitte were negligent and breached a fiduciary duty.

Some jobless Floridians must resubmit unemployment paperwork to keep receiving benefits” via the Orlando Sentinel — Weeks after Congress extended unemployment benefits, out-of-work Floridians continue to face hurdles in collecting them. In particular, self-employed, part-time and contract workers have had the arduous task of resubmitting documents to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to stay on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, which provides jobless benefits to residents who otherwise would be ineligible under the state’s system. State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat who has helped thousands of residents get their benefits, said technical issues with the state’s much-maligned CONNECT system has made the situation worse.

COVID-19 vaccine gives Florida restaurants hope as some inoculated customers return” via Austin Fuller of The Orlando Sentinel — Some restaurateurs are hopeful the vaccine will have customers dining out again after many in the industry have endured almost a year of depressed business. According to the Florida Department of Health, more than 1.27 million people in Florida have received their first dose of the vaccine, and another 891,000 have completed the series. Geoff Luebkemann, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association senior vice president, said although he didn’t have specific data on its effects on restaurants, the vaccine is a positive development. The more the vaccine takes hold in the community, the more positive it will be for both public health and business, which are not mutually exclusive goals, Luebkemann said.

Geoff Luebkemann of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association says vaccinations are an encouraging step for his troubled industry.

IRS says it won’t extend this year’s tax-filing deadline” via Maurie Backman of USA Today — When the coronavirus pandemic hit in full force in March, it upended normal life in a very meaningful way. Businesses were forced to shut down. Schools closed for in-person learning all over the country. And countless families were left scrambling to pay their bills. Given that chaos, the IRS made what many agree was a smart and reasonable decision: to postpone 2020’s tax-filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. Not only were taxpayers given an extra three months to submit their returns, but they also got three more months to pay any tax debt they owed without incurring interest or penalties.

Why some state and local governments are desperate for more stimulus aid” via Alyssa Fowers and Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — Facing deep budget shortfalls, state and local governments have shed 1.3 million jobs since the pandemic began last year. While tax revenue grew in some states last year, the majority — at least 26 — were hit with declines. Revenue fell by 10% or more in five states, including a 10% decline in Florida. The toll was felt in both Republican- and Democrat-led. Rescuing struggling state and local governments has been at the center of Congress’ monthslong debate over how to address the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic. Republicans oppose the idea, calling it a “blue state bailout.” Democrats say that without this help, states and local governments could turn into a drag on an already slow economic recovery.

— MORE CORONA —

Why administering COVID-19 shots is so hard” via Julie Wernau of The Wall Street Journal — Delivering COVID-19 shots to sites around the country is just the first step in vaccinating the population. Getting them from the freezer and into arms is another journey, complicated by the special handling the doses require but also because of cumbersome data-management systems. Sites must take precautions to ensure that they don’t contribute to the spread of the virus, which can slow down the administration of shots. And at many locations, demand for doses has outstripped supply. Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.’s vaccines carry different handling requirements, storage protocols, and guidelines for thawing and timing doses.

Getting vaccinations to sites is one thing, getting them into arms is another. Image via The Wall Street Journal.

While ER visits were down last year, drug overdoses increased amid pandemic” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — Researchers from the CDC studied more than 180 million ER visits from Dec. 30, 2018, to Oct. 10, 2020, and found that weekly counts of all drug overdoses were up to 45% higher in 2020 than in 2019, according to the study published Feb. 3 in the peer-reviewed JAMA Psychiatry. Opioid overdoses, specifically, increased about 29% compared with before the pandemic. Overall visits to the emergency room plummeted when COVID-19 lockdown measures were implemented in March 2020, decreasing about 43% compared with the same time frame in 2019.

Dr. Fauci wins $1 million prize for ‘defending science’” via The Associated Press — Fauci has won the $1 million Dan David Prize for “defending science” and advocating for vaccines now being administered worldwide to fight the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, the Israel-based Dan David Foundation named Biden’s chief medical adviser as the winner of one of three prizes. It said he had earned recognition over a lifetime of leadership on HIV research and AIDS relief, as well as his advocacy for the vaccines against COVID-19. In its statement, the private foundation did not mention Trump, who undermined Fauci’s follow-the-science approach to the pandemic.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden faces pressure as U.S. sets new course on immigration” via Elliot Spagat and Ben Fox of The Associated Press — While Biden has taken some major steps in his first weeks in office to reverse Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, his administration hasn’t lifted some of the most significant barriers to asylum-seekers. In fact, it’s discouraging people from coming to the country, hoping to avoid what happened under both Trump and Barack Obama — border agents getting overwhelmed by migrants, including many Central Americans with children. That message hasn’t reached everyone. More people have been arriving at an encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, a dangerous city just south of the Texas border where hundreds of asylum-seekers have been waiting under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program.

Immigration is a sticky subject for Joe Biden. Image via AP.

Ambassador sweepstakes underway as figures jockey for plum posts” via Matt Viser and Anne Gearan of The Washington Post — Harry Reid’s phone has been ringing a lot lately, with calls from interest groups, friends and potential candidates themselves, all craving one thing: an ambassadorship. The former Senate majority leader then picks up the phone and dials Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s top advisers, who has been fielding requests for plum positions for months. It is a sweepstakes that comes along every four or eight years, intense jockeying in public and private as the well-heeled and well-connected seek coveted positions that come with lavish housing, a staff of chefs, and an expectation that the U.S. envoy will put the digs to use for parties.

Inside the new President’s routine: Oval Office fires and early bedtimes” via Kevin Liptak of CNN — As Biden has established a regular schedule, including coffee in the mornings with the first lady, meetings and phone calls from the Oval Office starting just after 9 a.m. and a return to his residence by 7 p.m. As he walks home along the Colonnade, he’s often seen carrying a stack of binders or manila folders under one arm. He still brings a brown leather briefcase into the office. Biden is more of an early-to-bed type. He has continued a tradition of reading letters from Americans, a handful of which are tucked into the briefing materials he brings home in the evenings.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

A bloody insurrection, a deadly pandemic: Historians weigh in on Donald Trump’s legacy after his acquittal” via David Jackson of USA Today — Many historians had already said Trump would rank low for a tumultuous single term that included the COVID-19 pandemic, a previous impeachment, lies about his actions and those of others, business conflicts of interest and alienation of global allies. Then came his election loss to Biden and the aftermath. Trump’s unprecedented efforts to reverse the results, his demands that supporters “fight” before the attack on Jan. 6 on the U.S. Capitol, the resulting second impeachment, and the Senate trial solidified Trump’s probable rank in the lower tier of the nation’s 46 Presidents, political analysts and historians said.

Already, history is not being kind to Donald Trump.

Loyalty to Trump remains the fault line for Republicans” via David Lauter of Yahoo! News — The Senate vote to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial vividly illustrated the fault line that runs through his adopted party: Even as the majority of Republicans stayed loyal, a sizable minority made clear their desire to be rid of him. One-seventh of the Republican caucus voted against Trump, fewer than half the number that would have been needed to convict, but a larger share of a President’s party defecting than in any prior impeachment. And several of those who voted with Trump, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, nonetheless denounced him in harsh terms.

Lara Trump for North Carolina Senate seat? Trump’s trial is renewing talk” via Annie Karni and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — A central issue in last week’s impeachment trial was whether former President Trump deserves a political future. But his acquittal sparked speculation on Sunday about the electoral prospects of another Trump: his daughter-in-law, Lara. Sen. Richard M. Burr’s decision to vote for the conviction of Trump incensed many Republicans in his home state of North Carolina, and in doing so reignited talk that Ms. Trump, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, would seek the Senate seat Burr will vacate in 2022.

Adam Kinzinger’s lonely mission” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — As the Republican Party censures, condemns and seeks to purge leaders who aren’t in lockstep with Trump, Kinzinger, the six-term Illinois congressman, stands as enemy No. 1, unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him. Two days after Kinzinger called for removing Trump from office following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, 11 members of his family sent him a handwritten two-page letter, saying he was in cahoots with “the devil’s army” for making a public break with the President. The author of the letter was Karen Otto, Kinzinger’s cousin, who paid $7 to send it by certified mail to Kinzinger’s father to make sure the congressman would see it.

Parler reemerges after a month offline” via Oriana Gonzalez and Sara Fischer of Axios — Far-right-friendly social network Parler is coming back online after going dark for more than a month, following suspensions from Google, Apple and Amazon in light of the Jan. 6 Capital siege. Parler’s de-platforming ignited a free speech debate over whether Big Tech giants have too much control over discourse in America and around the world. Parler’s app and site faced some technical difficulties throughout Monday, though the company did not comment on the details. Existing users will be allowed to return to the app this week, while those looking to join will be able to sign up beginning next week. The company did not reveal which web service will host Parler.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Nancy Pelosi says 9/11-style commission to investigate Capitol riots is ‘next step’ after Trump impeachment trial” via Ledyard King of USA Today — Pelosi is pushing for the creation of a special panel to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol a day after several lawmakers called for a bipartisan commission and report similar to the one drafted in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “Now, as always, security is the order of the day: the security of our country, the security of our Capitol which is the temple of our democracy, and the security of our Members,” Pelosi wrote in a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter released to the media Monday. Pelosi said the evidence presented as part of the just-completed impeachment trial of Trump justifies moving ahead with a fuller investigation by an independent panel.

Nancy Pelosi is calling for a 9/11-style commission to investigate The Capitol insurrection. Image via AP.

House Republican resolution urges U.S. to boycott 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing” via Brooke Singman of Fox News — Republican Rep. Mike Waltz introduced a resolution urging the U.S. to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing if they are not moved, saying the U.S. “cannot in good conscience” have American athletes celebrating an event hosted by “a brutal dictatorship” and warning that China’s Communist Party would be “emboldened by the legitimacy conferred by the Olympics.” The resolution urges the United States Olympic Committee to “propose the transfer of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games to a site other than within the People’s Republic of China,” and if rejected by the International Olympic Committee, that the “United States Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committees of other countries should withdraw from the 2022 Olympic Games.”

— LOCAL NOTES —

No class Tuesday in Escambia, Santa Rosa; UWF and PSC announce closures” via Pensacola News Journal staff reports — The University of West Florida will close at 9 p.m. Monday and will remain closed through 5 a.m. Wednesday as temperatures are expected to plummet below freezing overnight. All courses, including online courses, are canceled. All assignments, exams, virtual and in-person courses, and all virtual or in-person meetings, activities and services are suspended during this time. Essential employees must report to work, as assigned. If you are essential personnel and required to report to work, your supervisor will notify you. UWF residential students may be directed to shelter in place. Dining Services will work with Housing and Residence Life on facilitating dining options during the closure.

UWF braces for some rough weather.

Icy road conditions possible, FDOT to pretreat bridges in Northwest Florida” via Nick Tomecek of The Northwest Florida Daily News — Okaloosa County has announced that the Florida Department of Transportation will be pretreat bridges against icing conditions in Northwest Florida on Monday night. Okaloosa County officials said FDOT would likely begin treating bridges in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties about 9 p.m. and then an assessment will be made to determine if additional pretreating is required. Some areas may have frozen standing water, but FDOT does not expect large-scale black ice, the release said. “We will have a pellet contractor on standby for acute issues and will engage if necessary,” the release said.

Pensacola overnight temps to plunge into 20s; Santa Rosa tornado watch canceled” via Jake Newby of The Pensacola News Journal — “The threat of damaging winds is there and you can’t rule out a tornado,” said meteorologist Morgan Barry with NWS in Mobile. “And then everything moves out pretty quickly. By tonight (Pensacola) should dry out. And there’s a zero percent chance for rain Tuesday.” Freezing rain is not in Monday’s forecast. Still, temperatures are expected to plunge significantly Monday night once the rain stops, which could have an adverse effect on motorists on their Tuesday morning commute. Lows north of I-10 Monday should sit in the mid-to-low 20s, Barry said, and south of I-10 should be in the mid-to-upper 20s.

Panama City Beach sees damage and injuries from strong storm with possible tornado” via Tony Mixon of The Panama City News Herald — A significant storm caused sporadic damage at a park and tourist attraction and injured three people at a condo in Panama City Beach Monday afternoon. Bay County was under a tornado warning with a storm that threatened wind gusts up to 90 mph Monday. It was unknown if a tornado briefly touched down in Panama City Beach by the posting of this article. According to PCB officials, ceiling tiles fell as the Boardwalk condo on Thomas Drive and three people were injured. They were transported to Bay Medical on the beach. Panama City Beach saw damage to a hotel under construction next to the Aqua Resort and Fun-Land Arcade, officials said.

Panama City Beach city manager abruptly fired Thursday evening” via Nathan Cobb of The Panama City News Herald — About a year after being hired as city manager, Tony O’Rourke was fired Thursday during a Panama City Beach City Council meeting. The decision came after the council, apart from Councilman Paul Casto, who didn’t attend the meeting, unanimously voted in favor of O’Rourke’s termination. Although a discussion of the former manager’s performance wasn’t initially included in the meeting’s agenda, Mayor Mark Sheldon said he believed it was time to clear the air on a handful of “small errors, inconsistencies and embellishments” he’s noticed during O’Rourke’s employment.

Tony O’Rourke made it just over a year as city manager for Panama City Beach. Image via WJHG/WECP.

Hillsborough eyes closing, merging schools to help fix budget woes” via Marlene Sokol of The Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County public schools with too many empty seats will be eyed for possible mergers or even shutdowns for the year after next, according to the district’s leadership team. Superintendent Addison Davis and his staff are in the first stages of assessing under-enrolled schools and redrawing attendance boundaries as part of their effort to stop deficit spending in the district. In an interview, Davis said he is about six weeks away from coming to the School Board with a menu of options. He said he had identified 60 schools that are at least 30% vacant. Enrollment declines at individual schools happen for several reasons, from changing population patterns to the growing popularity of alternatives to government-run public schools.

Despite rising housing costs, more South Floridians are staying put” via Rob Wile of The Miami Herald — The rising cost of living has been driving Miami-Dade residents outward for a decade. Is the tide finally turning? New projections from real estate group Redfin show that despite another year of outflows among existing residents of Southeastern Florida, driven largely by Miami-Dade County, the pace of the exodus appears to be slowing. That’s good news for municipal coffers and the taxpayers who feed them. Neither the state nor regional governments impose income taxes, leaving them dependent on revenues from sales and property taxes to pay for local services.

Lauren’s Kids, AshBritt celebrate completed renovations at child trauma center ravaged by Hurricane Michael” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Nearly two-and-a-half years after Hurricane Michael destroyed a Panama City child trauma center, renovations to that facility have been completed thanks to a partnership between Lauren’s Kids and AshBritt. In 2018, the massive storm ripped through the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, which helps more than 7,000 sexual assault survivors each year. Lauren’s Kids is a charity organization launched by Sen. Lauren Book before her legislative career. Book is a child sexual abuse survivor. The Senator used her group to join with the AshBritt Foundation, AshBritt’s charitable arm, to find local partners to fund the center’s rebuild. That work is now complete.

Lauren’s Kids and AshBritt celebrate the rebuilt Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.

Marlins will allow fans, with capacity at about 25%” via Steven Wine of The Associated Press — Small crowds at Marlins Park will be back this season. The attendance-challenged Marlins plan to allow fans at home games, although crowds will initially be limited to about 25% of capacity. That would mean a maximum of about 9,300 spectators in the 37,446-seat ballpark. “We look forward to having the opportunity to have fans come back to our ballpark,” CEO Derek Jeter said Monday. “There will be a limited number of fans that are allowed at the onset. We hope those numbers increase throughout the course of the season, but the most important thing for us is to make sure everyone is healthy and safe.”

— TOP OPINION —

Rubio and Rick Scott’s shameless votes to acquit Trump make this a shameful Presidents Day” via The Miami Herald editorial board — On this holiday on which Americans pay tribute to two Presidents who loom large in the creation of this nation, it’s a disgrace that Florida’s representatives in the U.S. Senate have, for more than four years, continually, slavishly, backed a President who actively sought to tear it apart. It was no real surprise that Sens. Rubio and Scott voted to acquit Trump on Feb. 13 after his impeachment trial in the Senate. They have shown us, to quote another towering American, the content of their character. And there’s something missing.

— OPINIONS —

Now is no time to play politics with COVID-19” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — DeSantis has been more than a little sensitive and dismissive to those critical of how he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe the pressure of trying to guide a divided state through an uncooperative virus has him on edge. At a time when it’s vital for the best and brightest minds in this nation and its government to work together, DeSantis has all but told Biden to stay the (beep) out of Florida. Why is that? Because someone in the Biden administration apparently floated the idea of a travel ban to cut down the virus spread. However, it is not going to happen, and DeSantis knows that, or at least he should.

Anti-rioting bill helps Florida stand against violence” via Grady Judd for the Orlando Sentinel — I support the Florida Combating Public Disorder Act (HB 1 and SB 484) because it will protect a person’s right to peacefully protest and hold accountable those who commit violence and destruction. It is common-sense legislation designed to give law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to help keep the peace and protect life and property.

Florida Lottery tells ‘fans’ their jackpot dreams are ‘low-cost form of entertainment’” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — I’ve been wallowing in something that bills itself as “the Florida Lottery’s official fan page” on Facebook. If you had any doubt what a sucker’s game the lottery is, this is a good place to start. As of Monday, there were 385,301 people, presumably mostly Floridians, who “like” this page, operated by the state lottery in Tallahassee. Though not its purpose, the page serves as a virtual monument to foolish hopes and get-rich-quick retirement plans. And it delivers contradictory messages to its fans.

Mark Cuban had it right the first time. Sports should stop playing the anthem.” via Mike Wise of The Washington Post — In November, Cuban quietly told some of his employees to stop playing the national anthem before the Dallas Mavericks basketball games. It took more than a month for anyone to notice; more than 10 Maverick home games had already passed when the Athletic broke the “news” that the music had stopped. The play-the-anthem league policy was reinstated, including at Mavericks games, last week. Cuban had it right the first time. Like the flag before and after Jan. 6, we’ve now weaponized the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Organized sports have cheapened the national anthem for decades. The lyrics and the music have been co-opted by professional leagues determined to forge an unneeded alliance between sports and nationalism.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Director Moskowitz announces he will be resigning and replaced by his deputy, Kevin Guthrie.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— While DeSantis had nothing but praise for Moskowitz, he had nothing but scorn for the new guidance from the CDC about the safe reopening of schools. The Governor says it all about politics.

— A new coalition of labor and consumer groups is trying to stop the COVID-19 liability immunity bills in the state Legislature.

— Florida’s Department of Health is reporting 159 additional fatalities Monday but only 3,600 new cases of COVID-19. That’s the lowest number of new cases since the end of October.

— New research shows the wealthiest Floridians got considerably richer during the COVID-19 crisis, adding more than $28 billion to their net worth, while essential workers faced unemployment, bankruptcy, and foreclosure.

— Speaking of billionaires, DeSantis is upping the ante in his fight against Big Tech. He’s supporting a new bill that would prevent them from selling your personal data without your permission.

— Florida lawmakers hate the idea of gun control, but what about controlling bullets? Sen. Book talks about her bill that would require background checks to buy ammo.

— A new report from the Children’s Movement of Florida says businesses that want to attract the best talent have to adopt more family-friendly policies.

— And finally, a Florida Woman and her Florida Daughter are accused of stealing almost $200,000 by setting up fake cosmetic surgery clinics. 

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Spring training ’21: New year, but COVID-19 protocols remain” via Jake Seiner of The Associated Press — Completing the 2020 season required MLB to rewrite its rule book. Stadiums were emptied, schedules rewritten. Some players opted out. The ones that didn’t spat into COVID-19 testing cups until their mouths went dry. “When it was all said and done, you kind of look back and go, ’God, that was the longest 60 games I’ve ever been a part of,” veteran pitcher Jon Lester said last month. Against the backdrop of a still-dangerous coronavirus pandemic, pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training this week, the first step in a 2021 season that will take many of the complexities from 2020′s 60-game sprint and stretch them over an additional four months.

Froth it like it’s hot: The Frother’s Daughter is Tallahassee’s latest and most unique coffee experience” via Abby Cloud of FSUNews.com — Tallahassee’s newest addition in coffee suppliers, The Frother’s Daughter, brings a “cup of home on the go” to the community with a mobile coffee trailer. Bringing a new menu and a new set of wheels to the Capital City, the owner and creator of The Frother’s Daughter, Rosalyn Wilsey, is looking forward to serving handcrafted coffees and teas with the community. The Frother’s Daughter experienced its grand opening on Feb. 8, but Wilsey never expected this dream of hers to be coming true so soon. While searching for a new job after moving back home to Atlanta with her family during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilsey had difficulty finding opportunities.

With The Frother’s Daughter, great coffee comes to you. Image via FSUNews.

What Mac Stipanovich is reading — “Ancient Rome has an urgent warning for us” via Kyle Harper of The New York Times — The Antonine Plague is one example of a broader lesson that becomes clear in the study of human disease: Many of the most vicious microbes of human history are not altogether very old. A second lesson is that human health and animal health are inseparable. The final death toll of the Antonine Plague is unknown and unknowable. One of the hardest paradoxes to reckon with, though, is that the Antonine Plague was as much a symptom of the empire’s success as its sins or stresses. Rome was struck at its apex of power and prosperity — precisely because that power and prosperity had made it ecologically more likely that such a microbiological challenge would emerge and disseminate.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, state Rep. Dan Daley, our dear friend BillieAnne Gay of the Florida School Boards Association, former Orlando Sentinel scribe Mike Griffin, St. Pete lawyer Ian Leavengood (happy 50th!), and Lina Rojas of the Senate President’s Office.

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Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, 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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