Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.19.21

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Don't miss your first look at stories driving today's agenda in Florida politics.

Former U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala turned 80 this week, and she celebrated with quite the party — virtually, of course.

More than forty of Shalala’s former colleagues joined a surprise Zoom birthday call to mark the milestone. Attendees included neighbors, University of Miami staff, Congressional staff, campaign staff, Clinton Global Initiative staff and many others.

The event was MC’d by United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez Mats. It featured several high-profile guests, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Pelosi recalled how earlier in her Congressional career, “we all knew who Donna Shalala was” and how she was always meticulously prepared for her hearings on Capitol Hill, earning broad respect from Republican and Democratic members alike.

The California Democrat said many members of Congress took it as a “high compliment” when Shalala chose to pursue a seat herself and that she was both beloved and effective as a colleague.

Donna Shalala’s birthday was quite the Zoom event.

Latino Victory Project Executive Director Mayra Macias named Shalala an “honorary Latina” for always showing up for and supporting Hispanic and Latino communities in her district, making special note of her advocacy for Venezuelans and tough stands on the Nicolás Maduro dictatorship.

Former Miami Mayor and current Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz fondly recalled working alongside Shalala when she was the University of Miami President to turn Miami into one of the “strongest brands on the planet.”

Other speakers included Rep. Kevin Chambliss, Rep. Nick Duran, Pinecrest Councilmember Anna Hockhammer, South Florida AFL-CIO President Jeffery Mitchell and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, who led the group in singing Happy Birthday.

As Shalala ate her cake, one repeated theme of the speakers is Shalala’s record of mentoring and supporting others — in academia, at the US Department of Health and Human Services, in Congress, and countless other ways.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JulianCastro: In crises like these, members of Congress play a critical role connecting their constituents to emergency services and assistance. @tedcruz should be on the phone with federal agencies, not on a trip to Mexico.

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@micheleforfl: I’m not stopping until there is EQUITABLE distribution for ALL FLORIDIANS. I met with @GovRonDeSantis office today and they committed to work with me to ensure more pop-up sites are coming to my district and underserved areas in the stay. I’m going to hold them to it.

@KayleeTuck2: First bill presentation is in the books, and thrilled to say HB423 passed the Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee by a unanimous vote. Thanks to the committee members for taking it easy on me.

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@Mdixon55: The House has formally admonished lobbyist Jason Steele for directly implying political payback against members who voted for a vacation rental preemption bill. His comments came during committee testimony last week. 

@PatriciaMazzei: Dr. Raul Pino, the health administrator in Orlando, Fla., said that two young women “dressed up as grannies” tried to get their second coronavirus vaccine doses on Wednesday. They wore bonnets, gloves and glasses, he said: “I don’t know how they escaped the first time.”

@MarcACaputo: Unwitting self-mocking villainy is the best villainy

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— DAYS UNTIL —

The CW’s ‘Superman & Lois’ premieres — 4; the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference begins — 6; Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, with exhibition games starting — 8; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 11; Florida TaxWatch 2021 State of the Taxpayer virtual event — 13; ‘Coming 2 America’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 14; municipal elections in Broward and south Palm Beach County — 18; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres — 21; 2021 Grammys — 23; Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ premieres on HBO Max — 27; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 35; MLB Opening Day — 41; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 42; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 77; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 133; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 142; MLB All-Star Game in Atlanta — 144; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 154; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 162; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 186; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 210; ‘Dune’ premieres — 224; MLB regular season ends — 226; World Series Game 1 — 249; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 256; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 259; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 294; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 301; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 399; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 441; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 595.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

Ron DeSantis appoints Julie Brown as DBPR Secretary” via Florida Politics — DeSantis appointed Brown as the next Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. DeSantis said he was “confident she will do a great job in our continued fight to cut red tape and ease regulation on our businesses and hardworking Floridians.” Brown’s appointment to lead DBPR comes a month after former Secretary Halsey Beshears announced he would step down, citing personal health issues. His last day was Jan. 29. “As Secretary, I will work to build on the Governor’s foundation to implement meaningful occupational licensing reform, as well with business leaders and business owners during Florida’s economic recovery,” she said.

Former PSC member Julie Brown gets a new gig in Tallahassee.

‘This is about common sense’: Wilton Simpson says anti-riot legislation isn’t politically motivated” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Senate President Simpson on Thursday disputed the notion that DeSantis‘ prized anti-riot bill is somehow politically motivated. The measure, proposed by Republican Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin of Miami-Dade, would intensify legal penalties against rioters, vandals, and looters. “I am really not sure how that became political at all,” Simpson said. “If you attack a law enforcement officer, there should be substantial penalties. If you destroy private property, there should be a substantial penalty for that. I think we should all be able to agree on those things.” Simpson described the anti-riot bill as “common sense.”

Simpson proposes west coast M-CORES route” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Simpson suggested a possible toll road route along Florida’s west coast to minimize its environmental impact. The Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) was one of the priorities of Simpson’s predecessor. Environmental activists have consistently opposed the possible toll read expansion. Simpson leveled with the plans’ critics Thursday, calling environmental concerns legitimate. But the current situation, with the Suncoast Parkway terminating in Citrus Country, should be improved. “You certainly should not build a major highway and dead-end it into a rural county,” the Trilby Republican said. “I believe there has to be some way to bring that rural road to I-10 without disturbing the environment or doing as little damage as possible.”

Simpson says committee chairs will decide THC cap’s fate Simpson said committee chairs would have the final say on whether to hear bills to cap THC concentration in medical cannabis. THC cap legislation has been supported in the House for the past couple of Legislative Sessions but didn’t get traction in the Senate. As reported by Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, Simpson said he is “not engaging in these bills” this year and would defer to the chairs. He added, “But I do think there’s a lot of support in the Senate for that type of bill.”

Wilton Simpson staying on the sidelines when it comes to THC caps. Image via Colin Hackley.

Constitution Revision Commission repeal redux clears final Senate committee” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Sen. Jeff Brandes’ proposal to eliminate Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (SJR 204) was approved in a 12-3 vote by the Senate Rules Committee and now heads to the Senate floor. The resolution would ask voters to abolish the 37-member commission, one of Florida’s five methods to amend the state constitution. The commission, created in 1968, meets every 20 years to make changes to the Florida Constitution.

Joe Gruters’ e-fairness plan goes back to revenue neutral” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A Senate panel has advanced a bill to enforce online sales taxes with the promise of using the bonus funds to lower taxes. Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters told the Senate Commerce and Tax Committee that his bill (SB 50) could generate $1.3 billion in currently uncollected sales taxes at the state and local level. He also vowed to make the bill revenue-neutral by offering tax relief somewhere yet to be determined. However, enforcing online sales is not a tax increase. The legislation merely moves the onus from shoppers to businesses and better ensures taxes owed are taxes paid.

Florida League of Cities thanks Senate for advancing ‘e-fairness’ — FLC applauded the Senate Finance and Tax Committee for voting in favor of a bill that would require online retailers to collect and remit sales tax to the state. The organization said, “Florida’s 411 municipalities thrive when their local businesses thrive, and this bill would finally put small businesses on a level playing field with out-of-state retailers who don’t contribute anything to the betterment of our communities. Florida’s local businesses sponsor Little League teams, have a vested interest in improving their community, and help pay for the infrastructure that ensures these retail items get delivered.” State budget experts estimate the bill would increase local sales tax collections by $229.5 million in the next fiscal year and $253.7 million in subsequent years.

Florida TaxWatch backs ‘e-fairness’ bill — Nonpartisan watchdog Florida TaxWatch is backing Gruters’ bill to require out-of-state vendors to collect sales tax for online purchases. In comments delivered to the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, FTW president and CEO Dominic Calabro said the proposal “remedies a long-standing problem that hinders state and local tax collections and currently places Florida businesses at a competitive disadvantage.” FTW estimates the lack of online sales tax enforcement “costs the Florida state government $1.080 billion annually and an additional loss to local governments of $254 million annually.” SB 50 cleared the Finance and Tax Committee and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers back POW-MIA bracelet memorial” via News Service of Florida — The Senate Rules Committee and the House Government Operations Subcommittee unanimously approved bills (SB 416 and HB 163) that would authorize a POW-MIA veterans bracelet memorial that would be built near an already-existing Vietnam War memorial across the street from the state Capitol. The bracelet memorial would be funded by the Vietnam Veterans of America Big Bend Chapter 96 in Tallahassee. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Mike Giallombardo, would direct the state Department of Management Services to consider recommendations from the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Florida Historical Commission in making decisions about the memorial’s design and placement.

Mike Giallombardo and Danny Burgess are considering a POW-MIA memorial at The Capitol.

— TALLY 2 —

Chris Sprowls hopes to move COVID-19 liability proposal to Senate first week of Session” via Jason Degado of Florida Politics — Speaking at a Thursday media availability, Sprowls suggested business liability protections would likely be the first proposal sent to the upper chamber. Proponents contend the legal protections are needed to fend off frivolous, cash-grabbing lawsuits. They also suggest the protections can reassure weary business owners operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Sprowls wants to get legislation to the Governor as soon as possible to help COVID-ravaged individuals. However, critics, including Democrats and interest groups such as AARP, warn the proposals offer near blanket immunity.

Cocktails to-go bill clears House panel” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Legislature is showing a thirst for cocktails to go, as a bill to make them permanently allowed in Florida easily cleared a House panel Thursday, two days after a similar measure drew cheers in a Senate committee. Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow’s HB 329 drew no opposition in the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. However, a couple of concerns were raised by members who said they were supporting now but wanted to see changes before the bill might hit the House floor. Republican Rep. Scott Plakon expressed discomfort for the prospect that restaurants might be able to send to-go orders that include hard liquor. Democratic Rep. Dan Daley also raised concerns about “the whole distilled spirit bottle concept.”

Josie Tomkow wants to help Floridians get their drink on.

—“Melony Bell files bill to expand dental health care access” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

AHCA briefs House on pharmacy benefit manager structure, but routes for cutting costs remain unclear” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Money boosted for concealed weapons background checks” via News Service of Florida — Lawmakers shifted $4.34 million on Thursday to cover a projected deficit caused by an uptick in people applying for concealed-weapons licenses. Without comment, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, made up of House and Senate members, approved the funding request from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Licensing, which oversees permitting for concealed weapons. “The Division of Licensing has experienced the largest call volume of concealed weapons license applications in the program history, with over 203,000 background checks billed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the first six months of the current fiscal year,” said Thomas Poucher, the department’s director of the Office of Policy and Budget.

Superintendents weigh in on ‘missing students’” via The News Service of Florida — Tying tangible experience to troubling data, five school superintendents addressed a House panel Thursday, with some asking for “more teeth” in a law to help find students who have gone unaccounted for this school year. State economists estimate that 87,811 fewer students have enrolled in public schools than were predicted for the 2020-2021 academic year. The superintendents tried to give the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee a clearer picture. Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said 10,006 fewer students than expected enrolled in his district’s schools, of which 78% either moved out of state, moved to another county, or enrolled in private schools.

Can Florida’s broken workforce aid program be fixed? Lawmakers aren’t sure.” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — In a dimly lit basement committee room at the Florida Capitol this week, lawmakers had one big question for the officials in charge of Florida’s workforce development program. Who exactly benefits from the web of bureaucracy Florida has set up to route hundreds of millions of federal dollars to people looking for jobs? After three presentations by some of the people in charge of the program, skeptics on the House Education and Employment committee never got the answer they were looking for. “It’s very concerning to me when y’all are getting paid to get people jobs, and you can’t tell us who you got jobs for,” said Rep. Chris Latvala. “There’s no transparency, there’s no accountability, at least from my perspective.”

Chris Latvala wants to know exactly what jobs are being filled by the state’s workforce program. Image via Colin Hackley.

Lawmakers trying to squash Key West voters’ wishes, but forget one thing” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — You hear a lot around Presidents Day and other patriotic holidays about how great democracy is and how important voting is. But in Florida, when a vote doesn’t go the way big corporations like, our Legislature is ever eager to squash the voters’ wishes. Sometimes, though, in their rush to crank up the steamroller for a good squashing, our legislators do something particularly boneheaded. A good example is what’s going on right now with Key West and cruise ships.

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Slater Bayliss, Christopher Chaney, Stephen Shiver, Sarah Suskey, Jeffrey Woodburn, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Sentry Insurance Company

Michael Corcoran, Matt Blair, Jacqueline Corcoran, Ralph Criss, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: Orange Station at The Edge, PropLogix/Orange Data Systems

Jorge Chamizo, Gary Guzzo, Floridian Partners: Talitrix

Scott Dick, SKD Consulting Group: United Faculty Miami Dade College

Jennifer Dritt: Florida Council Against Sexual Violence

Doug Holder, The Legis Group: Suncoast Communities Blood Bank

Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Capital City Consulting: Bonefish and Tarpon Trust

Carlos McDonald: Guardianship Program of Dade County

James McFaddin, Paul Mitchell, The Southern Group: Prominence Health Plan, Prominence Health Plan

Theresa Prichard: Florida Council Against Sexual Violence

Bill Rubin, Erica Chanti, Heather Turnbull, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Restoration Association of Florida

Daphnee Sainvil: City of Fort Lauderdale

Crystal Stickle, Magnolia Advocacy: Adelanto HealthCare Ventures

Carl Szabo: NetChoice

— STATEWIDE —

Court rejects challenge to armed school ‘guardians’” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — Three years after a mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School led lawmakers to pass a major school-safety bill, an appeals court Thursday rejected a challenge to allowing armed “guardians” on campuses. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a Duval County circuit judge’s ruling that lawmakers had authorized guardians — who are not law-enforcement officers — to carry guns to bolster school safety. Attorneys for three Duval County students and the League of Women Voters of Florida argued that allowing guardians to be armed violates a state law that has long prohibited people, except law enforcement officers, from carrying guns on campuses.

A legal challenge to armed school guardians was struck down.

Challenge to Florida mask mandate heads to state Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — After months of legal wrangling across Florida about mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge to a Palm Beach County mask mandate has gone to the state Supreme Court. Opponents of the mandate have filed a notice that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to consider arguments that the Palm Beach County mandate is unconstitutional, according to documents posted Thursday on the Supreme Court website. While justices do not have to take up the case, it could test challenges to mask requirements in the state. For example, the 1st District Court of Appeal heard arguments in November in a challenge to an Alachua County mask requirement, though it has not issued a ruling.

Students must return to school for testing, even if they’ve been learning at home” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida wants all students in grades 3 and up to show up in person for standardized tests this spring — regardless of whether their parents have kept them at home for COVID-19. State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran signed an order this week requiring the tests. The order said the tests are more important than ever because many struggling students are learning at home and falling behind. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education did not respond to questions about penalties for school districts that don’t comply or the risk of violating social distancing guidelines from the CDC.

Trucking takes on lawsuit abuse in Florida” via Eric Miller of Transport Topics News — For years, Florida owned a spot on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellholes” list. That could soon be changing as the Florida Trucking Association and its business allies take on lawsuit abuse in the state’s courts. In January, the state trucking association held a closed-door lawsuit abuse forum for guidance from some of its members on how to spur reform in the courts and seek legislation to rid the court system of unfair rules and processes. The group also is teaming with other groups to change various state laws and court procedures when the Legislature comes back in session in March. They include legislation giving motor carriers and the business community protection from liability from COVID-19 employee lawsuits.

VISIT FLORIDA tries to speed up tourism return to normalcy” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — Tourism-marketing leaders have set a goal of beating a projection that the vital leisure and hospitality industries won’t return to normal until 2024. VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young on Thursday called the effort “a big one” for an agency that has “faced many challenges. The state agency released estimates Monday indicating the state handled 86.714 million travelers in 2020, down 34% from the previous year and the lowest number in a decade. Last month, Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research, said while tourism numbers show expected improvements during the coming year, it might not be until 2024 before normalcy returns to the hospitality and leisure industries.

House rebukes lobbyist who threatened political payback” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — A House oversight committee officially admonished lobbyist Jason Steele for comments last week where he threatened political retribution if lawmakers voted against his client’s interests.  During a meeting of the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee last Wednesday, Steele spoke in opposition to legislation that would strip local limits on vacation rentals, an annual battle generally criticized by local governments, including those Steele represents.

— 2022 —

Ivanka Trump will not run against Marco Rubio for one of Florida’s Senate seats.” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Ivanka Trump will not run for the U.S. Senate from Florida in 2022, according to people close to her as well as an aide to U.S. Sen. Rubio, who holds the seat. Since the final days of Donald Trump’s term in office, speculation has been growing that his eldest daughter might try to run for statewide office in Florida, where she and her family have moved permanently. Such a bid would involve a primary challenge to a sitting Republican senator, Rubio, and a competitive general election. “Marco did speak with Ivanka a few weeks ago,” said Nick Iacovella, a spokesman for Rubio. “Ivanka offered her support for Marco’s reelection. They had a great talk.”

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Charlie Crist considers run for Governor” via Dave Elias of NBC 2 — Crist is seriously considering running against Republican Gov. DeSantis. “Well, I may. … It’s something I’m giving serious consideration to. A lot of friends have urged me to do it next year,” he said. Crist called it a big decision and explained that he is listening and will likely decide in the Spring one way or another. That could mean running against Nikki Fried first in a primary if she decides to run. “Well, I’m not running, if I do run for Governor, to run against anyone per se,” Crist said. “I would run for Governor of Florida again; if I do, I would run for Florida.”

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Stephanie Murphy’s team registers web domain with statewide appeal” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new domain for Murphy’s campaign website may hint at ambitions to seek statewide office. Visitors to StephanieMurphyforCongress.com now get immediately redirected to StephanieMurphyFL.com. That’s a subtle change many visitors won’t notice. But it’s a significant one considering the Winter Park Democrat frequently comes up on lists of potential contenders for Senator or Governor in Florida in 2022. The website change is fairly recent. According to WhoIs records, the domain StephanieMurphyFL.com was registered on Jan. 28, and the last update to the domain status came on Feb. 2. 

— CORONA FLORIDA —

DeSantis omits data on child COVID rates as he touts decision to open schools” via Tony Pipitone of NBC 6 Miami — This week, DeSantis twice misled the public about how Florida stacks up to other states when it comes to infection rates among school-age children. During comments Monday lambasting Democrats for, he claimed, putting teachers’ unions “ahead of the well-being of our children,” he said Florida is “34th out of 50 states and DC for COVID-19 cases on a per capita basis for children.” That is not true unless — as the Governor did — you ignore more than 50,000 children over the age of 14 who contracted the virus. The Governor compounded his misstatement of the data Tuesday in a tweet to his more than 717,000 followers.

When it comes to COVID-19 and opening schools, Ron DeSantis may be guilty of the sin of omission.

With the help of connections, several Florida groups appear to get special treatment in securing vaccine doses” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — As Florida residents rush to try to get vaccines, some well-connected political and business figures are securing front-of-the-line doses for their communities, raising questions about what appears to be special treatment. A fresh example cropped up on Wednesday, when DeSantis appeared in Manatee County to open a vaccine “point of distribution,” or pod, at the affluent Lakewood Ranch, developed by prominent business owner Rex Jensen. Showing up at the news conference was former Senate President Bill Galvano. DeSantis bristled when reporters asked why the vaccines weren’t targeted to less privileged neighborhoods.

‘Hang in there,’ Ron DeSantis tells Floridians as he announces more COVID vaccine delays” via Cindy Krischer Goodman  of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Florida still hasn’t received its shipment for this week of 200,000 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which means some seniors scheduled to receive shots this week will have to wait. “Normally those Moderna would be done today,” said Gov. DeSantis at a news briefing in Pinellas Park. “But because the storms we are seeing in the rest of the county, it’s basically sitting in the FedEx warehouse and I don’t think they can even get into it because of everything.” DeSantis said he can’t say exactly when the Moderna shipment will arrive, and it could be as far out as Monday.

DeSantis says it’s not his call on how pop-up COVID-19 vaccine sites dole out shots” via Richard Tribou and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis showed up at another pop-up vaccine site but shrugged off questions about who gets vaccinated after drawing heavy criticism over a similar site he visited Wednesday. “We don’t dictate how it’s done. We do not say they can’t invite people from outside,” he said Thursday. The questions stemmed from a report in the Bradenton Herald about a site in Manatee County’s Lakewood Ranch that allowed influential people from outside the area to receive vaccines. Defending the Manatee County choice, DeSantis on Wednesday suggested the state might choose to send its vaccines elsewhere if those in the county didn’t appreciate it.

Florida VA healthcare systems lead nation in vaccinating veterans” via Ileana Najarro of the Tampa Bay Times — Four of Florida’s veterans healthcare systems are leading the nation in administering the most first- and second-dose coronavirus vaccinations to military veterans. The Bay Pines system in St. Petersburg and the Tampa system are vaccinating outpatients 65 and older, as well as enrolled and eligible veterans who are essential frontline workers over the age of 18, following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to spokespeople for the systems. Since mid-December, the state’s six veteran healthcare systems have been administering vaccines in alignment with the federal guidelines.

— CORONA LOCAL —

South Florida crosses 700K COVID-19 cases as daily death toll spikes again” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida has now seen more than 700,000 infected with COVID-19, as the regional death toll remains at a relative high. The tri-county area crosses that mark on a day where just 1,833 cases were reported. That’s fairly low for the region and does show that cases are on a downswing overall. One problem area is Palm Beach County, which has seen its case positivity rate rise week-to-week. That number sits at 7% over the previous seven days. The week prior, from Feb. 4-10, it was down to 6.4%. Overall, cases are still trending downward in Palm Beach County. Miami-Dade and Broward counties have seen total cases and the positivity rate drop from week-to-week.

DeSantis touts 2M senior vaccinations at Pinellas Park pop-up site” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis fielded questions Thursday morning about how the state chooses pop-up sites for vaccines. But unlike at a combative news conference Wednesday, the Republican Governor stayed on message and promised to get shots in the arms of every senior who wants one in the coming weeks. “Trends are good across Florida,” DeSantis said. “Our hospital census continues to drop in patients with COVID. We’re far below where we were in the summer.” Now, the state has vaccinated roughly 42% of all seniors in the state, he said. He also claimed Florida health officials believe they recently vaccinated their 2 millionth senior. 

Ron DeSantis heads to Pinellas Park to tout 2M senior vaccinations.

Pfizer confirms massive new operations hub in Tampa” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has confirmed plans to open an operations center in Tampa — one that will include finance, human resources, digital and sourcing employees. The Business Journal first reported Pfizer had signed a lease for 105,000 square feet in office building Heights Union on Jan. 27. The Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Council issued a news release Thursday confirming the location. The EDC did not confirm the number of jobs Pfizer’s new location will create. In commercial real estate circles, the deal is rumored to represent up to 600 jobs. Heights Union was developed in a joint venture of Tampa’s SoHo Capital and Atlanta-based TPA Ventures.

Thousands of Miami and Broward students have left the public schools amid the pandemic” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — House Speaker Sprowls said last week that nearly 90,000 public school students in Florida are “missing,” meaning they haven’t shown up for class either in person or online during this school year. Nearly 20,000 of these children are missing from Miami-Dade and Broward school districts, the largest districts in the state and the fourth- and sixth-largest districts in the country. With schools’ funding based, in part, on the number of students attending a school, a significant reduction in students could lead to major budget cutbacks for public schools. However, school officials say the majority of these students are not “missing.” Most either transferred, are being home-schooled, or moved during the pandemic.

Michele Rayner-Goolsby blasts DeSantis over Manatee vaccine inequality” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Goolsby blasted DeSantis after he announced a boost in vaccines for Manatee County, but not for any of her constituents. “Gov. DeSantis has made a choice to prioritize affluent neighborhoods in Manatee County over our underserved populations knowing the numbers are criminally low when it comes to equitable distribution of this vaccine,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said. According to the most recent census estimates, within Manatee County, 28.1% of the residents are older than 65. Meanwhile, 86% of county residents are White, 9.3% are Black, and 16.9% are Hispanic. But of the 43,405 individuals vaccinated so far in the county, 71.6% are White. Just 1.8% are Black, and 2.5% Hispanic.

Michele Rayner-Goolsby will not have any of Ron DeSantis’ vaccine shenanigans in Manatee.

Manatee Commissioner Vanessa Baugh created vaccine priority list that included herself and donor” via Zac Anderson of the Herald-Tribune — Baugh was criticized by fellow Commissioners Thursday for creating a priority list of people to get the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Lakewood Ranch, a list that included Baugh and prominent developer Rex Jensen, inviting more concerns of favoritism in vaccine distribution. Baugh’s email raises the question of whether she abused her power to benefit herself, friends and a political donor. Jensen is the president and CEO of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, which has donated to Baugh and DeSantis.

— CORONA NATION —

A mass-casualty event every day” via The Washington Post — The post created a sweeping interactive map outlining the deadly effects of the COVID-19 crisis through the 10 different lenses — coroners, hospitals, day cares, cemeteries, mortuaries, Hospice nurses, priests and parents as well as the reservation the pandemic creates ad the new prevalence of the virtual funeral. Taken as a whole, the series paints a tragic picture of a pandemic run wild and the chaos that ensued on three of the deadliest days in the deadliest month of the crisis. It includes interviews and photos to capture the stories of the people and places closest to the lives lost.

American life expectancy fell by 1 year in the first half of 2020” via Marisa Fernandez of Axios — The coronavirus pandemic drove life expectancy in the U.S. to its lowest level since 2006, according to new preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Racial disparities in life expectancy also widened in the first half of 2020. White Americans now live an average of six years longer than Black Americans, up from about a four-year difference in 2019. Overall, American life expectancy was about 78 years in the first half of 2020. In 2019, it was roughly 79 years.

The government can — and should — send high-quality masks to every American” via Ranu S. Dhillon, Abraar Karan, David Beier and Devabhaktuni Srikrishna of The Washington Post — As more-contagious variants of the coronavirus spread, the CDC is urging people to wear better masks, or to double up on the ones they have. The Joe Biden administration is reportedly considering sending masks to all Americans, reviving a proposal that the Trump administration quashed last year. Several members of Congress are pushing that option, too, and specifically calling for high-caliber masks that better protect against small virus-carrying particles not reliably captured by cloth masks. This proposal echoes what we and others have been advocating over the past several months. Getting “hi-fi” masks to the general public to wear when indoors and among crowds is even more urgent now with the new, more transmissible variants.

Why can’t America just give masks to everyone? Image via AP.

Is it safe to open schools? Yes, but …” via Laura Meckler, Karin Brulliard and Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post — For months, school districts throughout the country have struggled with whether and how to reopen buildings that, in some cases, have been shuttered for nearly a year. Going back is frightening for many teachers and parents, especially with coronavirus rates remaining at high levels and new variants of the virus emerging. And yet, the negative consequences of all-remote learning are significant, too. In a review of the science, the CDC found in-person schooling has not been associated with substantial transmission in the wider community. Multiple studies found transmission rates inside schools are similar to, or lower than, levels in the community when mitigation steps are in place.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

U.S. jobless claims rise to 861,000 as layoffs stay high” via The Associated Press — The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid rose last week to 861,000, evidence that layoffs remain painfully high despite a steady drop in the number of confirmed viral infections. Applications from laid-off workers rose 13,000 from the previous week, which was revised sharply higher, the Labor Department said Thursday. Before the virus erupted in the United States last March, weekly applications for unemployment benefits had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

The latest unemployment numbers show a disturbing trend. Image via AP.

Florida jobless claims drop below 19K last week” via News Service of Florida — Florida drew an estimated 18,982 first-time unemployment claims last week. The U.S. Department of Labor estimate for the week ending Feb. 13 represented the lowest total for a single week since the coronavirus pandemic began. The federal agency initially estimated Florida received 17,621 new jobless applications during the week that ended Feb. 6. However, the agency revised that total to 21,710 in the numbers released Thursday. Florida has paid out nearly $22.5 billion in state and federal unemployment assistance to 2.28 million applicants with the pandemic hammering businesses since March 15. In December, Florida’s unemployment rate stood at 6.1%, with a January rate slated to be released on March 15.

— MORE CORONA —

Jabil gets FDA approval for U.S.-made face masks” via Lauren Coffey of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The FDA approved Jabil’s PPE on Thursday. The health care and technology manufacturer worked with Massachusetts-based subsidiary NP Medical Inc. to create the product. The PPE was made in a factory in Memphis and can now be distributed across the globe. The approval comes at a particularly good time for the company — Biden recently enacted a mask mandate on all federal property, along with planes, trains and buses. Jabil officials stated it would leverage its relationships with local and state governments to meet the now-increased mask demand.

St. Petersburg’s Jabil gets the OK to start producing masks. Image via Jabil.

Young Florida women dressed as grannies to get coronavirus vaccine — and it may have worked” via Adrienne Cutway of Click Orlando — With bonnets on their heads and bespectacled faces, two young women pretended to be seniors so they could get the coronavirus vaccine, and it seems their rouse may have actually worked at least one time. Dr. Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said the pair were busted when they tried to get their second shot on Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center. He’s not sure how or even if the two young women were able to get their first doses, but when they showed up Wednesday to complete the series, they presented a valid vaccination card. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said one of the women was 34 and the other was 44.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden tells Governors minimum wage hike isn’t happening — Biden told a group of Mayors and Governors last week that his minimum wage hike would likely be defeated, Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO report. “I really want this in there, but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told the group. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.” The comments suggest Biden is unwilling to ram the hike, included in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, through Congress.

U.S. reverts to targeted immigration enforcement under Joe Biden” via Ben Fox of The Associated Press — Immigration enforcement in the U.S. would be more targeted under Biden than under his predecessor, with authorities directed to focus on people in the country illegally who pose a threat, according to guidelines released Thursday. The guidelines set a new course for U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, which drew fierce criticism under Trump to arrest and remove anyone in the country illegally regardless of criminal history or community ties. Under Biden, ICE would primarily apprehend and remove people who threaten national security, commit crimes designated as “aggravated” felonies, or recently crossed the border.

Joe Biden’s immigration policy will be narrower, more targeted. Image via AP.

Biden’s immigration bill lands on the Hill facing bleak odds” via Laura Barrón-López, Heather Caygle and Anita Kumar of POLITICO — Congressional Democrats unveiled Biden’s expansive immigration reform bill Thursday, which would provide an eight-year pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. But it already faces dim prospects for becoming law with such narrow Democratic majorities in both chambers. Few on and off the Hill think it can pass a 50-50 Senate. “This bill was not designed to get to 60,” said a person close to the White House who was briefed on the bill. “There’s no pathway to 60.” White House officials wouldn’t say if Biden is considering passing immigration reform elements through a second budget reconciliation process later this year or if they are already talking to lawmakers about passing smaller items.

Amid winter storm, Biden seeks to showcase competence but avoids grand gestures” via The Washington Post — President Biden has quickly approved states of emergency in Texas and Oklahoma and is reviewing one for Louisiana. He has spoken with the Governors of seven states hit hard by cold and snow. His administration has coordinated supplies and assistance. Biden so far has tried to showcase a competent and by-the-books government, rather than make more-dramatic gestures. Biden is being briefed on the weather emergencies several times a day, the White House says. So far, Biden has not opted for higher-profile gestures such as visiting the stricken areas, making public comments, or seizing on the electrical failures to push his infrastructure plan.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Nikki Haley’s defense of her nuanced Donald Trump criticism, and the nuance it misses” via The Washington Post — Last week, Haley was featured in an extensive POLITICO profile in which she seemed to take inordinate care to distance herself from Trump. In a new Wall Street Journal op-ed, she argues the media simply won’t let Republicans offer a nuanced review of the Trump era, instead demanding that they firmly land in the “Always Trump” or “Never Trump” camp. This call for allowing nuance, though, itself glosses over lots of nuance. And Haley’s op-ed is a case in point when it comes to why the media is so critical of how she and other occasional Trump critics talk about his tenure.

There’s just no room for nuance in the Donald Trump era.

Trump ramps up efforts to retain control of the Republican Party by attacking Mitch McConnell” via S.V. Date of HuffPost — After lying low for nearly a month after leaving office, Trump is ramping up a return to relevancy that will involve renewed fundraising and continuing attacks on a new nemesis: Senate GOP Leader McConnell. Trump has not been collecting money for his Save America leadership committee since Jan. 6. Still, a website that will permit him to tap into his lucrative small-donor list will be up and running within days, said a Republican familiar with his plans. Trump is fixated on pressuring Senate Republicans to replace McConnell. “Because it’s smart,” the Republican source said. “It shows that Trump is still the leader of the new party and is pushing out the leaders of the old party.”

Manhattan D.A. recruits top prosecutor for Trump inquiry” via William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich of The New York Times — As the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office steps up the criminal investigation of Trump, it has reached outside its ranks to enlist Mark F. Pomerantz, a prominent former federal prosecutor, to help scrutinize financial dealings at the former President’s company, according to several people with knowledge of the matter. The investigation is focused on the possible tax and bank-related fraud, including whether the Trump Organization misled its lenders or local tax authorities about the value of his properties to obtain loans and tax benefits. Trump has maintained he did nothing improper and has long railed against the inquiry, calling it a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Recipe for disaster’: Democrat fears mount over immigration overhaul” via Sabrina Rodriguez and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Democrats in Texas and other states where immigration has been a lightning rod issue are growing increasingly uneasy the White House is walking into a political buzzsaw in its zeal to unwind hard-line Trump administration policies. Biden has not yet implemented expansive policy changes. The vast majority of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are still being turned away. But the softer rhetoric and modest changes announced so far by the Biden administration — such as admitting some migrants who have waited in Mexico for months and announcing he would halt deportations — raise the prospects of a new influx of migrants entering the country.

Ted Cruz’s Cancun trip: Family texts detail his political blunder” via Shane Goldmacher and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Photos of Cruz and his wife, Heidi, boarding the flight ricocheted quickly across social media and left both his political allies and rivals aghast at a tropical trip as a disaster unfolded at home. The blowback only intensified after Cruz released a statement saying he had flown to Mexico “to be a good dad” and accompany his daughters and their friends; he noted he was flying back Thursday afternoon, though he did not disclose how long he had originally intended to stay. Text messages sent from Ms. Cruz to friends and Houston neighbors revealed a hastily planned trip. Their house was “FREEZING,” as Ms. Cruz put it — and she proposed a getaway until Sunday.

It’s simply not a good look for Ted Cruz.

Bob Dole, Republicans’ 1996 presidential nominee, has advanced lung cancer.” via Maggie Astor of The New York Times — Dole said in a statement: “My first treatment will begin on Monday. While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own.” He has faced health challenges for decades, starting with a battlefield injury during World War II, in which he served as an Army second lieutenant. He was hit by machine-gun fire, which almost killed him and permanently limited his use of his right arm. He went on to support the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990. He later pushed for the United States to join the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

— CRISIS —

For Black aides on Capitol Hill, Jan. 6 brought particular trauma” via Luke Broadwater of The New York Times — Jabir McKnight woke up on the morning of Jan. 6 with an uneasy feeling. The day before had been great: He and another congressional staff member had celebrated Founders Day for their historically Black fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. But as McKnight walked that Wednesday to Capitol Hill, where he had always felt safe, images of White supremacist violence in Charleston, South Carolina, and Charlottesville, Virginia, began to race through his head. Hours before the violent pro-Trump mob rampaged through the halls of Congress, McKnight recalled, he could not shake the sense that something very bad was about to happen.

Police suggest keeping Capitol fence for months” via Michael Balsamo of The Associated Press — U.S. Capitol Police officials told congressional leaders the razor-wire topped fencing around the Capitol should remain in place until September as law enforcement continues to track threats against lawmakers. The threats range in specificity and credibility, but they include online chatter about extremist groups potentially returning to Washington and the Capitol in the coming weeks. But despite the recommendation, it is unclear how long the fence will remain surrounding The Capitol grounds, with dozens of lawmakers growing tired of it and an increased push in Congress for it to come down.

We may have to get used to this for a while. Image via AP.

After Capitol riots, billionaire’s scholars’ confront their benefactor” via Kate Kelly of The New York Times — The private equity billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman has spent many years financing educational programs, from his old high school to the Ivy League. But the Blackstone CEO’s largesse hasn’t always bought goodwill: There was swift opposition to his proposal to put his name on Abington Senior High School in Pennsylvania, and his close ties to Trump contributed to opposition to having his name on a campus center he funded at Yale. And now, some participants in the Schwarzman Scholars program are speaking out against their benefactor. They say he is failing to live up to his own values and harming the program’s reputation by not cutting off money to lawmakers who opposed certifying President Biden’s electoral victory.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Two former Delray officials in hot water after Inspector General’s report” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — The county Office of Inspector General (OIG) has concluded that former Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) administrators Michael Coleman and Jamael Stewart mismanaged a grant program and awarded funds to groups with whom they had a personal interest. The OIG, in a 36-page report, cited them for failing to follow city policies in distributing grant funds to neighborhood organizations from 2015 to 2018. OIG John Carey found that required applications were never submitted or reviewed by a committee appointed by the city manager as required by city policy. Coleman and Stewart were also cited for failing “to avoid conflicts of interest between their personal interests and the city’s interests in dealing with certain organizations seeking grant funds.”

Legal fight over Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort project deepens” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — The ill-fated renovation of Disney World’s Saratoga Springs Resort has led to a flurry of lawsuits from subcontractors claiming they haven’t been paid and a countersuit by Disney itself. In the nearly eight months since the legal fight began between Validus Construction Services and Disney, at least seven subcontractors, including one last week, have sued Validus, claiming they are owed a total of $1.58 million in payments, according to Orange Circuit Court documents. “Subcontractors live on small margins, and cash-flow is critical to the life or death of a small company caught between competing giants such as Disney and Validus,” said construction attorney Kevin Kelly, who represents Orlando-based GTM Painting.

The renovation of Disney’s Saratoga Springs has become a legal nightmare.

Panama City Beach seeks state funding for new list of potential projects” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News Herald — During a City Council meeting, Mayor Mark Sheldon and the rest of the council approved a list of items for the city’s lobbying team to present to the Legislature in hopes of getting additional funding. “This agenda is aggressive, and we’re asking for a lot of things, but we’re going to fight hard. It’s what we do,” Sheldon said. “There’s a lot of things there, but we’ve never wavered from the fact that we need to do road work, (and) we need more expansion of roads.” The approved list includes pursuing funds to expand Panama City Beach Parkway; develop a training tower for Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, and further developing Phillip Griffitts Sr. Parkway.

Hillsborough State Attorney files new fraud charges against former animal charity CEO” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office has filed six new felony fraud charges against Albert Adams, the former CEO of the nonprofit animal charity Soaring Paws. Investigators from the Florida Chief Financial Officer’s Office and prosecutors from the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office found that Adams had signed up for a pet insurance policy and sought false reimbursements for pets’ medical expenses. The pet insurance provider, Healthy Paws, discovered the fraudulent claims and contacted law enforcement. Now, Adams is being charged on one count of organized fraud less than $20,000 and five counts of false statements supporting an insurance claim less than $20,000. Each charge is a third-degree felony.

Blue Jays to play 1st 2 home stands at spring site in Dunedin” via The Associated Press — The Toronto Blue Jays will play their first two homestands of the season at their spring training facility in Dunedin because of Canadian government restrictions during the pandemic. The team said Thursday it has been planning different scenarios for home games and had hoped to see improvements in public health. The Blue Jays cited the “ongoing Canada-U.S. border closure” in making the “difficult decision.” The team added in its statement that it ”hopes of a return to play at Rogers Centre as soon as possible.” The TD Ballpark in Dunedin seats about 8,500 fans and had a major renovation in 2019-20. The Blue Jays will limit capacity to 15%.

— TOP OPINION —

Too many Florida lawmakers engage in political theater instead of actually governing” via Mac Stipanovich for the Tampa Bay Times — Political theater is supplanting public policy as the vocation of too many of our elected officials. Governing effectively and legislating wisely are hard work, while headline-grabbing news conferences, filing purely performative legislation, and writing indignant letters certain to be ignored by the recipients but equally certain to be widely reported on by the press are easy pickings. The hard road, always less traveled, is becoming almost deserted in this moment of decadence in American democracy. This preference for sizzle over substance is bipartisan: politicians in both parties like a dog and pony show. But Republicans have taken politics as theater to an entirely new level in the Trump era.

— OPINIONS —

Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes social media problem” via Fred Guttenberg and Igor Volsky for Florida Politics — Major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have long tolerated and even profited from inflammatory and dangerous rhetoric. These companies established a mechanism through which Taylor Greene and too many others have been able to grow an audience, recruit new adherents, and build a level of power and influence that represents a real danger to our democracy. The truth is until our country grapples with the ways in which the current social media environment incentivizes the loudest and most outrageous speech — speech that often puts all Americans and especially marginalized communities in physical danger — we will not be able to solve the problem that Taylor Greene represents. 

The media tries to divide Republicans” via Nikki Haley for The Wall Street Journal — Where does the Republican Party go from here? The party that abolished slavery, won the right to vote for women, and beat Soviet communism must continue to be strong and principled to move America forward. But the liberal media doesn’t care about that. It wants to stoke a nonstop Republican civil war. The media playbook starts with the demand for everyone to pick sides about Trump — either love or hate everything about him. The moment anyone on the right offers the slightest criticism of the 45th President, the media goes berserk: Republicans are trying to have it both ways! It’s a calculated strategy to pit conservatives against one another.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s death toll from COVID-19 is just short of 30,000. We’ll pass that milestone when the daily casualty count is released today.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Another day, another vaccine “feel good” story. Gov. DeSantis was back on FOX and Friends Thursday to participate in the vaccination of a World War II veteran in Pinellas County.

— The Governor says there will be a big increase in vaccine shipments next week … but this week’s shipment of the Moderna vaccine is still stuck in Memphis because of the severe winter storm.

— DeSantis used a series of executive orders during the COVID-19 crisis, giving him total authority over the state’s response. The House Speaker and the Senate President say they’re fine with that because they agree with the Governor … but they also believe it’s time to set guidelines on these extended emergency orders. They’re worried about future Governors.

— A bill requiring Floridians to pay the sales tax on online purchases is one step closer to law after clearing the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. Lawmakers seem to agree on the bill’s need, but they haven’t agreed on what to do with the new revenue — estimated at more than $1 billion.

— Across the street from the state Capitol is a memorial honoring Floridians who died in the Vietnam War; it may have company soon. The Senate Rules Committee approves a bill creating the POW-MIA Vietnam Veterans Bracelet Memorial.

— And finally, a Florida Man has a whole new take on grave robbing. Deputies say he burglarized 10 houses while the residents were attending funerals.

To listen, click on the image below:

— LISTEN UP —

podcastED: redefinED’s executive editor Matt Ladner speaks with longtime education choice advocate Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who previously served as executive director of School Choice Ohio and was Ohio State director for StudentsFirst.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: Groundbreaking strategist Sam Chapman shares his thoughts on the future of psilocybin in the United States, Oregon’s role as a drug reform pioneer and more. Chapman was the campaign manager for the successful Yes on Measure 109 campaign in 2020, which allows the manufacture, delivery and administration of psilocybin in Oregon. He is now leading the Healing Advocacy Fund, a nonprofit supporting the implementation of Oregon’s psilocybin therapy program through education and advocacy.

Tallahassee Business Podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Board member and local legislative advocate Sha’Ron James shares her passion for making Tallahassee more collaborative to improve the community. James chairs the Chamber’s Community and Prosperity committee, where they are focused on carving out a role for the business community to develop solutions for the entire region’s success.

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: The Senate’s impeachment vote was tough to swallow, with 43 Republicans voting to acquit Trump for the insurrection done in his name by people waving his flag. Even more gag-worthy was McConnell’s speech afterward — blaming Trump for the wannabe coup minutes after voting to let him off. “The most galling statements for me were the ones from the Mitch McConnells and the Rob Portmans and the Marco Rubios after they voted to acquit Donald Trump, basically saying, ‘Well, you know, the whole coup thing was kind of bad, and I wish you wouldn’t have tried to do it. And I wish a cop wouldn’t have died. And you know, he made some bad choices. But you know, I had no choice,’” Bulwark writer-at-large Tim Miller tells Jong-Fast.

The Yard Sign with host Jonathan Torres: Brock Mikosky, Andrew Cherry, Anibal Cabrera and Torres talk impeachments for all, digital exile, Biden versus DeSantis and Super shenanigans.

— WEEKEND TV —

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring U.S. Rep. Val Demings, political consultant April Schiff and Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of African American female trailblazers in politics, including Vice President Kamala Harris’s election. Joining Walker-Torres to discuss are Demings; Rep. Fentrice Driskel; and African American Chamber of Commerce President Tanisha Nunn Gary.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A one-on-one interview with the new Florida Democratic Party Chair Diaz; a look at how Republican Senators are navigating being in the minority in Congress.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Senior Policy Adviser on the White House COVID-19 Response team Dr. Cameron Webb, will discuss vaccine distribution, access in minority communities, travel restrictions and the impact of the virus; in honor of Black History Month, an examination of discrimination in voting and politics.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Sen. Loranne Ausley.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Former Congressman Jason Altmire, Rep. Paul Renner and Florida Democratic Party Chair Diaz.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., Rep. Evan Jenne, Infectious Disease Specialist at the FIU College of Medicine Dr. Aileen Marty.

— ALOE —

Touchdown! NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars to begin hunt for signs of ancient life” via Mike Wall of Space — The car-sized Perseverance, the most advanced robot ever sent to the Red Planet, aced its “seven minutes of terror” touchdown Thursday afternoon, alighting gently on an ancient lake bed inside the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater shortly before 4 p.m. After a series of instrument and hardware checkouts, Perseverance will start doing what it crossed interplanetary space to do: hunt for signs of ancient Mars life, collect and cache rock samples for a future return to Earth and demonstrate some shiny new exploration technologies. “I don’t think we’ve had a mission that is going to contribute so much to both science and technology,” NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said. “It’s going to be truly amazing.”

“Seven minutes of terror’: Getting Perseverance to Mars was the easy part. Now the real work begins.

Projections and nighttime lighting on Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Tree of Life previewed for 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World” via Tom Corless of WDWNT — With the full preview coming tomorrow on Good Morning America, Walt Disney World has released a teaser for the nighttime looks that the other park icons will display during the 50th-anniversary festivities. As we already knew, vibrant new lighting is coming to Spaceship Earth at EPCOT. It looks like projections may bring the Tower of Terror to life in golden hues, much like Cinderella Castle will look at both day and night during the celebration. The Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom also looks like it will get some new projections to complement the Tree of Life Awakenings.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to our friend Michael Williams; Brian McManus; Arek Sarkissian; Andy Abboud, Ryan Boyett, and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times.

___

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.


One comment

  • Jason Steele

    February 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

    I do not sugarcoat my testimony, if telling the truth to a committee gets me admonished I am OK with that. I did not directly threaten nor did my clients threaten anyone individually with sending out nasty mailers. I merely suggested that with a high profile bill like this there could be consequences that a political consultant could use that against them in upcoming campaigns. My testimony was strong it obviously hit a nerve, I was angered when the bill sponsor called Cities and Towns Socialist.
    I have since reached out to the Chairman of the Committee and the Sponsor to let them know I will certainly pick my words more wisely in the future . I respect the legislature and my comments were not meant to offend or threaten anyone, I apologize if my comments were taken as being offensive, they were not meant to be threatening. I can assure you my clients were in complete approval of my testimony, it was truthful and honest.

    Reply

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#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.

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