Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.12.21

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Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

Good Friday morning.

According to a new poll released by Ryan Tyson of The Tyson Group, Florida voters support several measures pitched as improving election security and voter access.

The poll, commissioned by nonpartisan nonprofit Secure Democracy, found more than three-quarters of Floridians want ballot drop boxes to be monitored either in-person or by video.

The proposal earned 77% among the 600 voters polled, with Republicans backing it at a higher rate (83%) than Democrats or no-party voters.

Meanwhile, nearly seven in 10 said they want their family members or caregivers to be able to turn in a ballot on their behalf. A near equal number (67%) want more days of early voting, while most (57%) want the state to tell felons what fines they need to pay to regain voting rights.

The poll also found distaste for rules that would depress turnout.

Florida voters are good with extra election security, but not with measures that restrict access to the ballot.

More than half (54%) said they were against prohibiting someone from dropping off another person’s ballot; three in five voters don’t want to seek out a notary to stamp their mail ballot, and almost two-thirds (64%) say the state shouldn’t ban early voting sites on college campuses. Republicans were less supportive than the electorate as a whole.

“Our polling shows clear bipartisan support for various policies which bolster election integrity and expand voter access, including additional days of early voting, video monitoring of drop boxes and assistance in returning a vote-by-mail ballot by a family member or caregiver” Tyson said.

“On the other hand, the findings also indicate the majority of Floridians are opposed to policies that would restrict voting access, such as requiring notaries for mail ballots or prohibiting early voting sites on college campuses. Voters were also broadly against the idea of super-voting sites if they replace existing precincts.”

Secure Democracy executive director Sarah Walker added, “The facts speak for themselves: our research clearly shows that Floridians of all political persuasions want policies that continue to improve voter access and bolster election integrity without being excessively restrictive.”

The full polling memo is available via The Tyson Group.

Here are some other notes:

💭One year later, and there are still too many tough decisions: How many possibly life or death decisions have you had to make since normal life faded into pandemic chaos one year ago? That’s the challenge contemplated in this thought-provoking column in FiveThirtyEight. To school in-person or not. To dine-in or takeout. Who can I visit? It’s been a year of constant cognitive overload and, while the column is full of scientific insight and well-researched information on the effects of taking on too much, it serves even more as a source of camaraderie. None of us have escaped the barrage of choices scattered before us like boulders along a mountain road after a landslide, and sometimes it’s just nice to be reminded we’re not alone.

🗳Here’s an answer to an age-old question: Why are so many politicians such a**holes? With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s continued fall from grace as a hook, POLITICO evaluates why some, and now seemingly many, politicians are unlikable even though they have a job that once demanded likability to get. There’s the obvious — that politics tends to attract the ambitious and, perhaps, arrogant. But there’s also the complexity of what being likable means. The piece contemplates Hillary Clinton as an example. There’s also the Donald Trump effect, a modern-day example of how being unlikable is the new likable. And, as POLITICO put it, there’s a new “cult of bad a**” alive and well in Washington politics and beyond. So what does that all have to do with Cuomo and his current predicament? Read more here.

Why are politicians a-holes? Finally, an answer. Image via AP.

⚠️ — Dave Wasserman’s dire warning to Florida Dems: As Republicans control redistricting efforts in Florida this year, Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for Cook Political Report, estimates that the GOP could gain at least two new safe seats. In the least damning to Democrats, Wasserman hypothesizes a 16-11 map in favor of the GOP. But with a hyper-conservative Florida Supreme Court opening the door for aggressive gerrymandering, their advantage could be 21-8 in favor of Republicans, a margin that would Cost Democrats almost their entire majority in the U.S. House without even looking at other states. See his hypothetical maps here.

✈ — Do you really need to fly?: If the past year of relentless restrictions on in-person interaction has taught anything, it’s that conducting business remotely is possible, and in some cases, preferable. New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo writes in his latest think-piece that video conferencing is good enough to replace some pointless business travel. Manjoo laments (at the risk of mockery) trips he’s taken that required thousands of miles of travel for meetings that were “more lunch than meeting” to make the point that even with Zoom meetings taking the place of the once obligatory face-to-face, big deals have still gotten done. So post-pandemic, he muses, might be the time to reevaluate what constitutes necessary travel — if not to save on productivity, sanity and overall well-being for the environment.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenJohnThune: Dems promised that “things would change in the Senate” if they got the majority. Now it’s clear what they meant: the rise of ruthless partisanship & silencing the minority. Under GOP leadership, we passed 5 *BIPARTISAN* COVID relief bills. Dems didn’t even try for bipartisanship.

@AndrewLearned: I just about lost my mind in committee today questioning a man who spoke against our bill to prevent CHILDREN under the age of 7 from being arrested, charged, and held back for the rest of their lives … I just can’t with this one

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet. tweet:

@GrayRohrer: “flying squirrel trafficking scheme” was not a phrase I expected to hear today, but that’s the beauty of covering the Florida Legislature

@FowlerThanEver: The Coneheads weren’t from France, and neither is @helenaguirrefer. It takes the same level of investigation to confirm both of these facts.

@BSFarrington: I still remember when @JebBush was Governor and we’d get his schedule emailed to us before the end of the business day the evening before. I also still remember 8-track tapes and pay phones.

@BSFarrington: Usually, I’m excited when @FSUHoops gets past @DukeMBB to advance in the ACC championship, but today was sort of a letdown.

— DAYS UNTIL —

2021 Grammys — 2; Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ premieres on HBO Max — 6; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 14; 2021 Florida Virtual Hemp Conference — 14; 2021 Florida Derby — 15; Disneyland, other California theme parks begin to reopen — 20; MLB Opening Day — 20; RNC spring donor summit — 28; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 56; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 59; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 77; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 112; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 121; MLB All-Star Game in Atlanta — 123; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 133; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 141; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 165; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 196; ‘Dune’ premieres — 203; MLB regular season ends — 205; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 211; World Series Game 1 — 228; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 235; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 238; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 273; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 280; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 378; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 420; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 574.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

Nikki Fried blasts GOP lawmaker for probe into teleworking at state agencies” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Fried defended her agency’s decision to allow more state employees to work from home during the pandemic. State Rep. Jay Trumbull pointed to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services extending teleworking opportunities to its workers until September 30, 2021. He also noted that “mass vaccinations are available” to protect state workers. However, Florida still has a ways to go for residents to get vaccinated. And some workers are likely cautious about returning to an office environment where they could become infected amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Fried mentioned how her agency’s workers have continued to serve the public, despite potential risks of infections.

Jay Trumbull and Nikki Fried are at odds over telework.

Fed cash going to one-time projects, Wilton Simpson says — Senate President Simpson said he wants Florida’s share of the federal stimulus to go toward projects that require one-time appropriations instead of projects that would need recurring funding across multiple budget years, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. “Potentially using it for one-time type projects like road construction and water projects,” he said. “Nothing has been decided … but the idea of being able to stimulate our economy through those types of projects would be meaningful.” Florida is set to receive about $8 billion from the recently passed federal pandemic relief package.

After facing fierce outcry, revised ‘anti-riot’ bill ready for the House floor” via Ana Ceballos of The Miami Herald — Following major changes, and rallying outcry from dozens of opponents for the third time in two months, House Republicans cleared the way for an “anti-riot” bill to head to the Florida House. It was the third time the proposal, House Bill 1, was heard by a House committee. But it was the first time Republicans approved any changes to the proposal, which was filed in January in a coordinated effort with Ron DeSantis, a big proponent of the bill. GOP backers once again argued the bill is meant to prevent violence and chaos while Democrats argued the measure is “red meat-based politics” that only enhances criminal penalties that already exist.

House committee advances online sales tax collection plan” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A House Committee for the first time heard and advanced legislation on collecting sales tax online. The House and Ways Committee voted in favor of moving a bill (HB 15) sponsored by Rep. Chuck Clemons that could generate nearly $1 billion in revenue this year for Florida. The bill advanced with a 16-2 vote. On the eve of the hearing, House Speaker Chris Sprowls offered his support to the bill, conditional on an amendment directing all dollars raised to Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. Sprowls and Simpson issued a joint release in support of the revenue-neutral approach to avoid an automatic trigger of an unemployment tax increase.

Tax ‘holidays’ teed up in Senate” via The News Service of Florida — Florida Senators moved forward Thursday with proposals that would lead to sales-tax “holidays” for purchasing back-to-school clothes and supplies and disaster-preparedness needs. With little discussion, the Senate Finance and Tax Committee approved bills that would provide tax breaks during two periods this year. The back-to-school proposal (SB 598), sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry, would allow shoppers to avoid paying sales taxes from July 30 through Aug. 8 on clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less and personal computers costing $1,000 or less. A Senate staff analysis said the proposal would reduce state tax revenues by $51.5 million and local revenues by $15.5 million.

Senate gives initial approval to bill protecting ‘agritourism’ from nuisance lawsuits” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate could soon pass legislation protecting farming operations from nuisance lawsuits, a quiet priority in that chamber. The Senate gave its preliminary approval to Sen. Jason Brodeur’s bill (SB 88) to moderate lawsuits against farmers by building off Florida’s Right to Farm Act. The Sanford Republican’s bill would restrict the types of civil lawsuits based on farming activities, require plaintiffs to prove noncompliance with state or federal requirements, and limit who may file nuisance lawsuits against farmers. “These laws do not grant absolute immunity but generally provide protections from those that move to the nuisance,” Brodeur told Senators.

— TALLY 2 —

Bill banning ‘disability abortions’ clears first committee hurdle” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill that would ban disability abortions in Florida cleared its first committee stop on Thursday. The Professions & Public Health Subcommittee OK’d the bill (HB 1221) with an 11-7 party-line vote. Rep. Erin Grall is the bill sponsor. Grall’s proposal would prohibit a physician from performing an abortion if they know or should know that a woman’s decision is based on a test result or diagnosis that suggests a disability. The bill makes exceptions for abortions deemed necessary to save a woman’s life. It also extends immunity to a woman if they violate or conspire to violate the provision.

Disability is no excuse for an abortion, says Erin Grall. Image via Colin Hackley.

Bill stressing permanent homes for foster children ready for Senate floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bill giving a “massive overhaul” to how and where the state places children within the child welfare system is on its way to the Senate floor. The Senate Rules Committee gave unanimous approval to a bill (SB 80), filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, making several changes to the system to prioritize finding children a permanent place to call home. In December, Florida had 22,000 kids in out-of-home care removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Some kids remain in foster care until they turn 18, meaning they enter adulthood without a permanent family. Finding a family for those children is a priority for Brodeur and Simpson, who were both adopted as kids.

Dual-enrollment scholarship bill heads to full Senate — A higher-education bill (SB 52) that would set up a $28.5 million scholarship for high school students to take college courses cleared its third committee and is ready for the Senate floor. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, the bill would offset costs colleges incur from educating dual-enrollment students. The bill has faced objections from Democrats because it would also allow funding college classes for private school students.

House committee clears minimum arrest age, but not without pushback” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A bill that would establish a minimum arrest age is having a much harder time in the House than its counterpart has in the Senate thus far. By the end of a Thursday afternoon meeting, proposed committee substitute legislation sponsored by Rep. Patricia Williams was reported favorably by the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee in a vote of 16-1, but not before pushback. The bill (HB 303) is watered down from what Williams said she would prefer, but it still prohibits the arrest of children under the age of 7, unless the offense involves a forcible felony. Williams said Speaker Chris Sprowls supports the legislation, but that didn’t stop the committee’s only no-vote, Rep. Spencer Roach, from questioning the legislation.

Bills to address effects of climate change receive full committee support” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Legislation to deal with effects of climate change is receiving support from both sides of the aisle. The legislation, in two bills, seeks to help local communities adapt to rising sea levels and flooding by monitoring and mitigating adverse effects. All members of the House’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations voted to support the two bills, now headed to their final stop in the State Affairs committee. The bills started as proposals in the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee. The legislation is backed by Sprowls and was put forth by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera.

—”Spacecraft debris bill rockets through House committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Bill to ease burdens on craft distilleries earns initial Senate approval; House will conform” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate could soon tip a bill to reduce restrictions on craft distilleries toward the House after giving that legislation its initial approval on Thursday. Sen. Travis Hutson’s bill (SB 46) would eliminate production caps and open the door for distilleries to sell their drinks in more ways. Other states are raising their caps on craft distilleries and providing them with more flexibility, the St. Augustine Republican told Senators earlier this year. “This puts us on the same playing field with our craft distilleries as every other state in the nation,” Hutson told senators. To achieve that, the proposal would raise the annual production limit at craft distilleries from 75,000 to 250,000 gallons.

Craft distilleries are toasting Travis Hutson. Image via Colin Hackley.

Manny Diaz’s vacation rental preemption bill stumbles through committee after changes” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — An amendment added to a vacation rental bill may be the change needed to get the legislation passed this year. The Sen. Diaz-sponsored vacation rental bill (SB 522) preempting local regulation of vacation rentals is winding its way through Senate committees. The bill passed its third of four committee stops Wednesday with a 13-5 vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The crux of the bill shifts licensing, tax collection and inspection of vacation rentals from local control to state control under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, protecting vacation rentals on internet platforms like Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) from the hodgepodge of local laws currently regulating Florida’s vacation communities.

Resolution requiring supermajority to adopt single-payer health insurance advances to final panel” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A resolution to make it harder for the Legislature to adopt a single-payer health care system advanced to its final committee stop Thursday. By an 11-6 party-line vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Hialeah Republican Diaz’s measure (SJR 340) to require a two-thirds vote from the House and Senate, plus the Governor’s approval, to implement a single-payer health care system. Should the Legislature approve the resolution, the issue would go to voters in a future election cycle. If 60% of voters sign off, the provision requiring a two-thirds vote would be added to the state constitution.

Lawmakers eye ‘gaps’ in mental health care” via Christine Sexton of The News Service of Florida — House and Senate insurance panels unanimously approved bills that would require health insurers and HMOs to provide a link to a state consumer website so customers can submit any complaints about their ability to obtain mental-health and substance-abuse care. Under the proposals (SB 1024 and HB 701), the Department of Financial Services would have to annually report to the Governor and legislative leaders the number of complaints submitted and how they were resolved. The first report would be due in January 2022. Senate bill sponsor Jason Brodeur told members of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee that the state currently doesn’t track such complaints from customers with commercial insurance policies or HMO contracts.

Lawmakers’ ‘fix’ for insurance roof issue: Less coverage for owners” via The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board — If SB 76 becomes law, it would allow property insurance companies to offer policies that slash the amount they’re responsible to pay in most roof-damage claims. It’s a significant hit to homeowners, some of whom would be forced to deplete their equity or take on high-interest credit-card debt to make repairs. Under current law, insurers are required to offer policies that reflect the cost to replace a roof. That’s the only option that really makes sense, and the one the vast majority of Florida homeowners purchase. But SB 76 would change the law, allowing insurers to force customers into policies that cover only the depreciated value of the materials in the damaged roof.

— TALLY 3 —

NFIB praises plan to recharge unemployment fund — Business group NFIB praised a plan outlined by Simpson and Sprowls that would use collections from new enforcement of online sales taxes to refill the state’s unemployment trust fund. “This is a billion-dollar-a-year shot in the arm for Florida’s small businesses. The pandemic put a lot of people out of work, and that’s put a real strain on the state’s unemployment system,” NFIB state executive director Bill Herrle said. “President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls’ plan would generate about $1 billion a year in revenue that would be earmarked for unemployment benefits, meaning there’s no reason now to increase the UI tax on small businesses that are struggling to keep the doors open and avoid additional layoffs.”

SGLF launches campaign backing ‘Right to Farm’ bill — The State Government Leadership Foundation launched a five-figure ad campaign extolling the benefits of the “Right to Farm” bill (SB 88) moving through the legislature. “Food prices are spiking. Farmers are going bankrupt. And America faces a looming food supply crisis,” the ad narrator says. “States can secure America’s food supply with Right to Farm legislation. Protecting our farmers protects our food supply.” The ads will begin running on digital platforms in Florida this week, and the campaign will last through April.

To watch the ‘Right to Farm’ video, click on the image below:

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

EMPOWER Patients latest comic explains anti-competition is ‘not how Florida works — The fifth comic strip in the Papa PBM series further details their “anti-competitive behavior.” In Florida, this anti-competition system has festered in Florida’s Medicaid system, creating significant access issues for Florida’s most vulnerable — especially in rural and inner-city areas. The group says there is evidence of prescription drug middlemen using their “monopoly-like market share” of the Medicaid program to line their own pockets. They are calling for “real, meaningful” PBM reform.

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Lester Abberger: Horizon Communities

Jennifer Bean: Automated Healthcare Solutions

Manthan Bhatt: Advanced Medical Technology Association

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette: City of Miami

Sara Clements, Rhett O’Doski, Ryder Rudd, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Innovative Emergency Management

Bradley Cornell: Audubon of the Western Everglades

Eric Criss, Corcoran Partners: Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

David Daniel, Smith Bryan & Myers: TMX Finance of Florida

Claudia Davant, Adams St. Advocates: Florida Council on Aging

Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: City of Pensacola

Amanda Fraser, Colodny Fass: Trulieve

Mike Grissom, Mark Kruse, Crystal Stickle, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Universal Orlando, University Medical Service Association

Karen Jaroch: Heritage Action for America

Michael Kesti, Government Relations Group: Dynamic Solutions Group

Brian Lambert, Cotney Construction Lobbying: Arry’s Roofing Services, Florida RACCA

Roy Miller: The Children’s Campaign

Gerard O’Rourke, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Electronic Arts

Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: BeenVerified, Intelius, Truthfinder.com

Jeff Sharkey, Taylor Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Redwire Space

Dawn Shirreffs: Environmental Defense Action Fund

— LEG. SKED —

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference will hold an “impact” conference to look at potential costs of legislation., 9 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.

The House Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee, 9:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, 9:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, 9:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Secondary Education and Career Development, 9:30 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

— STATEWIDE —

Governor said any student could repeat a grade next year. It’s not turning out that way” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of The Tampa Bay Times — “Parents may, at their discretion, choose to keep their child in the same grade for the 20-21 school year” if worried about learning lost during remote learning, DeSantis said in the first minute of his speech announcing campuses would remain closed after spring break because of COVID-19. While DeSantis expressed an intention, he didn’t memorialize it in any executive order changing the state’s laws on student progression. And when the Department of Education, run by a commissioner hand-picked by the governor, issued guidance to districts days later, it softened the Governor’s stance.

Ron DeSantis says students can repeat a grade; easier said than done. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida is one of the best U.S. states, according to U.S. News & World Report” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — According to the latest standings from U.S. News & World Report, Florida ranks 10th overall among the “Best States in the U.S.” And, we’re on the rise. Florida finished at No. 13 in 2019. State rankings were determined based on the average of three years of data from an annual survey that asked 70,000 people to rank their state in eight categories — health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime, corrections, and natural environment. Florida — a paradise for the young and old, water sports enthusiasts, golfers and others from all walks of life — ranked at No. 3 in education, No. 8 in economy, and No. 8 in fiscal stability in this year’s survey.

Green Swamp’s sand miners seek special treatment after their slip-up” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — A couple of weeks ago, the Lake County Commission spent more than two hours wrangling with a request from the Central Florida Sand Mining Association to make a big change in the county’s comprehensive growth plan. The miners’ goal: Dig up more sand in the Green Swamp. When you think about mining in Florida, you probably picture the phosphate industry, which digs up a key fertilizer ingredient, processes it, and then piles up its waste into the closest thing Florida’s got to actual mountains. Sand mining is a pretty big deal, too. The sand is necessary for making concrete, which means it’s crucial for building roads and houses and stores and office buildings.

— 2022 —

‘Retire Marco Rubio’ attack ad shines spotlight on Senator’s NRA links” via Darragh Roche of Newsweek — A political action committee opposed to the reelection of Sen. Rubio will air a new ad starting on Monday that focuses on the Republican’s approach to gun control. The Retire Rubio PAC will spend a five-figure sum on digital advertising for the new video, entitled “Parkland.” Newsweek has had an exclusive look at the ad, which highlights Rubio’s ties to the gun industry. The ad recounts details from the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, in which 17 people died, and transitions to criticizing the senator’s pro-gun policies.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

How GOP-backed voting measures could create hurdles for tens of millions of voters” via Amy Gardner, Kate Rabinowitz and Harry Stevens of The Washington Post — The GOP’s national push to enact hundreds of new election restrictions could strain every available method of voting for tens of millions of Americans, potentially amounting to the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction, when Southern states curtailed the voting rights of formerly enslaved Black men, a Washington Post analysis has found. In 43 states across the country, Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours, or narrower eligibility to vote absentee.

As GOP lawmakers look to pass new voting restrictions, some conservatives are pushing back” via Jon Ward of Yahoo! News — There is rising unease among some conservatives about the increasing aggressiveness of Republicans in state legislatures to tighten election laws and erect obstacles to voting. Many GOP lawmakers have doubled down on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and are using that false narrative as a pretext for restricting or eliminating early voting and vote-by-mail in the name of preventing future cheating. In Georgia, for example, the Republican-controlled Legislature is looking to eliminate early voting on Sundays, which critics say is a clear effort to stymie Black churches’ ability to get congregants to the polls after services.

Florida’s Neo-Confederate Republicans intend to stifle voter turnout” via Fred Grimm of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It would be easier to believe that Republican lawmakers intend to fix the problems that corrupted Florida’s last election if Florida’s last election had actually been corrupted. It would be easier to believe their meddling with the electoral process was unsullied by racist motives if the legislation wasn’t sponsored by Dennis Baxley, who has a history of thwarting memorials recognizing victims of slavery and voting against removing the name of an arch-segregationist state Supreme Court justice from a law building at Florida State University. Nonetheless, the majority party is pushing legislation that would ban drop-off boxes, require voters to reapply for absentee ballots ahead of each general election and limit who can collect and deliver completed ballots to election offices.

Dennis Baxley’s bill to tighten up Florida’s voting process is raising ire with many. Image via Colin Hackley.

Fried committee tops $122,000” via News Service of Florida — A political committee linked to Fried raised more than $122,000 in February, with most of the money coming in small-dollar donations. Florida Consumers First collected $122,741 and had nearly $1.1 million on hand as of Feb. 28, according to a newly filed finance report. Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, is widely expected to challenge Republican DeSantis in 2022. Most of the contributions in February were $100 or less, but larger contributions included $15,000 from an Associated Industries of Florida PAC; $15,000 from a PAC known as the Florida Alliance for Better Government; and $10,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union, the report shows.

Joe Gruters endorses Clint Pate for HD 5 — Sen. Gruters, who also chairs the Republican Party of Florida, endorsed Jackson County Commissioner Pate in the race for House District 5. “Clint Pate has been a fighter for the Republican Party for years. His leadership was crucial to our tremendous success during the 2020 election where we delivered Florida for President Trump,” Gruters said. “I know that Clint would provide consistent conservative leadership in the Florida House.” Pate is one of three candidates running for the North Florida seat currently held by Rep. Brad Drake, who is term-limited. Defuniak Springs Republican Shane Abbott and Marianna Republican Vance Coley are also vying for the seat.

— MUST-READ —

New report ‘Sounding the Alarm’ on the punishment of Black girls in school

According to a new report published by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, Black girls in Florida are disproportionately punished at nearly every disciplinary point in the education and juvenile justice systems.

The report, “Sounding the Alarm: Criminalization of Black Girls in Florida,” showed that while Black girls account for about 21% of the girl population in Florida, they are more than two times overrepresented in school suspensions, arrests, probation, incarceration, and in cases where minors are charged as adults.

Data shows that while 1,292 Black girls were eligible for an alternative to arrest, such as a civil citation, but 43% were still arrested. Also, of the 524 girls under 12 years old who were arrested last year, 55% of them were Black.

“While the disparate discipline rates among girls are troubling, what’s equally disturbing is the lack of awareness of how historical trauma and racial bias impact our day-to-day interactions with girls of color. Black girls do not misbehave more than their white peers, but their behaviors are responded to much more harshly,” said Vicky Basra, president CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

The report was released in collaboration with The Children’s Campaign as part of the Justice for Girls Movement.

In addition to a deep dive into the data, the report recommends several ways to address the disparity, such as policies that would ban suspension of Pre-K through third grade students and set limits on arrests of children under 12.

To watch the news conference announcing the report, click on the image below:

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida adds 5,065 coronavirus cases, 96 deaths Thursday” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida reported 5,065 coronavirus cases and 96 deaths Thursday, bringing the total number of reported statewide deaths to 32,639. The state has seen 1,962,651 cases of COVID-19 through the yearlong pandemic. On average, the Florida Department of Health has reported about 4,631 infections and 98 deaths per day this week. It can take officials up to two weeks to confirm and report a coronavirus death, meaning the number may not necessarily reflect the number of people who died the previous day. As of Thursday, Florida hospitals were treating 3,160 patients for COVID-19. About 21% of hospital beds and 19% of adult intensive care unit beds were available statewide. Florida’s positivity rate was about 5.9% Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Ron DeSantis: Vaccines could open to all adults in April” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is slowing down among people 65 and older, and DeSantis says that’s a good sign for the 60 and up and 55 and up age groups. When vaccine eligibility drops to 60 and older Monday, people 60 to 64 won’t have to compete with nearly as many of their elders trying to get a shot. DeSantis on Thursday said the state has probably vaccinated 3 million people 65 and older, but for sure more than 2.7 million, according to Department of Health data from Wednesday morning. Nearly 4.5 million people in that age cohort live in Florida. Florida received its first shipment of 175,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine last week. However, the Sunshine State might not receive another shipment of that formula until the week after next, the Governor said.

Ron DeSantis wants vaccines open to all Florida adults by April. Image via Colin Hackley.

DeSantis’ order invalidating fines aims at weakening local COVID-19 restrictions” via Jeff Weiner, Austin Fuller and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — By invalidating fines that local governments have used to penalize businesses that ran afoul of COVID-19 restrictions, DeSantis late Wednesday undercut one of the few options that remained to cities and counties for enforcing mask requirements and distancing rules. The late-evening executive order released by the Governor’s Office in a stroke remitted all local fines imposed between March 1, 2020, and Wednesday. It did not cancel out fines for violating state orders or those issued to hospitals, assisted living facilities, or health care providers.

DeSantis blasts local COVID-19 fines as ‘heavy hand of government’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis visited Lake City Thursday morning, where he defended rescinding local COVID-19 enforcement fines as a move to protect people from the “heavy hand of government” and “out of control” fines. “I don’t think it’s conservative or liberal. I just think that those fines are out of control and we want to make sure that folks are protected,” DeSantis said. “Most of those restrictions have not been effective. That’s just the reality,” DeSantis added. “The evidence is in on that.” “So we want to go forward fresh, and we want people to make decisions, but we don’t want it under the heavy hand of government,” the Governor wrapped.

Jerry Demings blasts Governor for waiving COVID-19 fines: ‘I believe DeSantis loves to create confusion’” via Jeff Weiner, Austin Fuller, Stephen Hudak and Steven Lemongello of The Orlando Sentinel — Demings unloaded on DeSantis, who he accused of hypocrisy and putting politics ahead of public safety, the day after the governor invalidated fines that local governments have used against businesses violating COVID-19 rules. “I believe Gov. DeSantis loves to create confusion,” Demings said, as he began a roughly five-minute rebuttal to the governor’s claim that counties and cities had issued “unprecedented” penalties against people and businesses based on bad science. The Mayor said the county was spurred to begin fining businesses in December due in part to residents’ concerns that some were defying state, local and federal guidelines meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and nothing was being done about it.

Ron DeSantis wants to create ‘confusion,’ says Jerry Demings.

Private doctors giving out thousands of coronavirus vaccines in Florida” via David Fleshler and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The campaign to vaccinate Floridians against COVID-19 moved to doctors’ offices this week. The state arranged delivery this week of 85,000 doses to private medical practices, setting off thousands of phone calls to patients on waiting lists and increasing the reach of the state’s campaign to defeat the disease. Vaccines went to a variety of providers, including large practices with multiple offices, kidney dialysis centers, medical offices that serve poor people, people with AIDS, the elderly and rural communities. Most Florida doctors still don’t have the shots, as supplies remain limited, but the number of practices receiving them is expected to increase in coming weeks now that Biden has secured promises of increased production from the manufacturers.

— VACCINATIONS BY THE NUMBERS —

A state report Wednesday showed that more than 2 million people had completed COVID-19 vaccinations. That total includes people who completed two-dose series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose. Here is a breakdown, via the Dep’t of Health and The News Service of Florida, by the age of people who have completed vaccinations:

— Ages 16 to 24: 24,313 people

— Ages 25 to 34: 84,645 people

— Ages 35 to 44: 105,991 people

— Ages 45 to 54: 129,641 people

— Ages 55 to 64: 177,319 people

— Ages 65 to 74: 844,935 people

— Ages 75 to 84: 488,429 people

— Ages 85 and older: 176,311 people

— CORONA LOCAL —

Daniella Levine-Cava has a plan to lower COVID-19 age barriers. She urges DeSantis to approve it” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Shortly after President Joe Biden directed states to make the COVID-19 vaccine available for all by May, Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine-Cava drafted a plan to begin slowly moving toward the President’s goal. On Thursday, Levine-Cava tweeted she had sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis calling on him to create a schedule to expand eligibility to all adults. In her letter, Cava detailed an “aggressive plan” on lowering the age requirement. Earlier this week, DeSantis announced he was lowering the minimum age from 65 to 60 starting Monday.

Miami Gardens partners with Black-owned company for citywide COVID vaccination program” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — Concerned with the lagging rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in minority communities, the Miami Gardens City Council voted Wednesday night to partner with a for-profit company on a new, citywide vaccination program. At the urging of Vice Mayor Reggie Leon, the council unanimously authorized City Manager Cameron Benson to license city land at 2775 NW 183rd St. to WorldSafe1st, a Black-owned company that plans to administer COVID-19 vaccines for the first time. City documents explain that the program will be implemented Citywide among the 113,514 residents in Miami Gardens, beginning with the three ‘ZIP codes that have the highest concentration of senior citizens. Leon said the site will also cater to North Miami and Opa-locka.

Miami Gardens is working to get shots in the arms of more people of color.

COVID-19 relief funds are coming to Tampa Bay area. Here’s what it means.” via Tracey McManus, C.T. Bowen, Barbara Behrendt and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Officials are still waiting for official guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department on how they can spend this round of COVID aid. Last year, local governments spent their millions on everything from rent and mortgage assistance for residents to grants for local businesses struggling from the impacts of the pandemic shutdowns. Pinellas County will receive $189 million from the COVID-19 relief act, according to a congressional summary from late February, up from the $170.1 million that came through the 2020 CARES Act. St. Petersburg is expecting $46.6 million and Clearwater is receiving $20.8 million.

Records show City of Sarasota didn’t enforce mandatory mask ordinance, despite complaints” via Timothy Fanning of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A key argument made by the majority of elected officials last month in allowing the city of Sarasota’s mandatory mask mandate to expire was that DeSantis had made it impossible to enforce the rule. But records show that in the ordinance’s seven-month life, Sarasota’s code enforcement officers did not issue a single citation to businesses or individuals for violating the mask-wearing requirement in public. While code enforcement did respond to more than two dozen complaints about lax public health safety measures at supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, and an urgent care clinic within city limits, it only issued one written warning.

Sarasota County opening vaccine registration to everyone 18 and over” via Louis Llovio of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County is expanding access to its COVID-19 vaccine appointment system to everyone 18 and over, though only those who qualify under state guidelines will be able to get vaccinated. The county announced the change Thursday as the state prepares to expand who can get vaccinated to include people over 60 years of age starting Monday. Because the county’s system works on a first-come, first-served basis, those already registered will not be affected. Allowing everyone 18 and over to create a profile in the appointment system is part of an upgrade the county is making to how it handles registrations moving forward.

Spring breakers are back to the Space Coast, a year after COVID-19 hit the U.S.” via Steven Walker of The Orlando Sentinel — Hundreds of tourists at the Cocoa Beach Pier this week basked in the 72-degree March air that smelled of sunscreen, saltwater and sangrias. March is historically the largest month of the year for Space Coast tourism, but in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, which tanked tourism numbers. A year later, business and tourism leaders on the Space Coast are optimistic about spring break, and they are bullish for an even stronger summer rebound. Some college students are coming to the Space Coast, but most visitors are young families and people over the age of 65.

COVID Leon: While hospitalizations continue deep decline, deaths have not leveled off” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Though the virus is certainly not gone, the pandemic’s presence in Leon County may be abating. With decreasing numbers of people being hospitalized and fewer confirmed cases of the virus locally and in the state, health and health care officials say data shows cause for optimism. Yet, as the CDC warns, the pandemic is not over. “The local impact currently is much less than our peak in mid-January,” Capital Regional Medical Center’s Dr. Trey Blake said. “The combination of less travel for holidays added to a large percentage of people over the age of 65 being vaccinated should continue our local improved pattern.”

Pensacola mayor calls on DeSantis to send more vaccines after nullifying mask mandate” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson is asking Gov. DeSantis to provide more vaccines to the area after the Governor completely stripped local governments’ ability to enforce any type of COVID-19 measures. Robinson told the City Council DeSantis’ executive order “jeopardizes” the city’s mask ordinance and he’s instructed Steve Richard, director of the city’s Code Enforcement Division, to end enforcement of the city’s mask ordinance. “I’m not going to put him in the position to have to enforce this where there’s no real capability to enforce it,” Robinson said.

— CORONA NATION —

Anthony Fauci says COVID-19 death toll would have “shocked” him a year ago” via Fadel Allassan of Axios — Speaking on the anniversary of the pandemic declaration, Fauci said Thursday he would have been “shocked” to hear a year ago that the U.S. coronavirus death toll would surpass 500,000. It’s a higher death toll than the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. The White House projected on March 31 that the virus could kill 100,000—240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place. “It would have shocked me completely. I mean, I knew we were in for trouble,” Fauci told NBC’s “Today” when asked if he would have been surprised a year ago by the eventual death toll.

Anthony Fauci would have been shocked last year by the current death toll from COVID-19. Image via AP.

How the coronavirus has touched most Americans personally, over time” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Nearly 1 in 625 Americans have died from COVID-19 while nearly 9% of the population has tested positive so far. But those numbers don’t show the full picture of how the virus has impacted American lives. Polls released this week showed that 1 in 5 Americans know someone who has died of the virus, and nearly three in 10 said a close friend or relative has died. Wide majorities also know someone who has at least been diagnosed with the virus. And the trajectory of how this has personally impacted the American population over time shows how this is an issue that has truly hit home for so many people.

Former U.S. Presidents (minus one) urge Americans to get vaccinated in new ad series” via Dan Diamond, Erin Cunningham and Paulina Firozi of The Washington Post — It’s been exactly a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. In the months since — in record time — three vaccines have been developed and approved for use in the United States. Now, former President Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are featured in a series of public service announcements, released Thursday, to overcome one of the next hurdles: convincing Americans to get their shots. Trump does not appear in them. “This vaccine means hope,” Obama says in one of the ads.

Andy Slavitt: I would ‘tip my hat’ to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed” via Ben Leonard of POLITICO — Slavitt, a senior adviser to the White House’s COVID-19 team, on Thursday credited the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed for spurring the development of a COVID-19 vaccine at an unprecedented pace. The Joe Biden administration has previously said that the Trump administration left them “a mess” on COVID-19 vaccination. Biden himself called Trump’s vaccine rollout in the early days a “dismal failure.” Slavitt said Thursday that the Biden administration hasn’t been trying to “point fingers.” After the Warp Speed program fast-tracked vaccine development, initial COVID-19 vaccine rollouts were sluggish but have since ramped up. Governors previously said Warp Speed didn’t keep promises on dose deliveries and some experts have said the rollout was disorganized.

One in five US adults say they may not take COVID-19 vaccine” via Alexandre Tanzi of Bloomberg — COVID-19 vaccination is ramping up in the U.S. as states loosen eligibility requirements, but millions of Americans still say they may not get a shot. According to a Census Bureau survey completed at the beginning of March, more than one in five adults don’t necessarily expect to get vaccinated. About one-quarter of Americans have already received a COVID-19 vaccine, while the remaining 53% say they definitely expect to do so. As more people receive doses, vaccine acceptance may increase. Recent Kaiser Family Foundation research found that the more people you know who have been vaccinated or plan to be, the more likely you are to do so as well.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

U.S. jobless claims fall to 712,000 as pace of layoffs eases” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 712,000, the lowest total since early November, evidence that fewer employers are cutting jobs amid a decline in confirmed coronavirus cases and signs of an improving economy. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for unemployment aid dropped by 42,000 from 754,000 the week before. Though the job market has been slowly strengthening, many businesses remain under pressure, and 9.6 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic that flattened the economy 12 months ago.

Unemployment numbers are starting to ease up. Image via AP.

A $60 billion surprise in the COVID-19 relief bill: Tax hikes” via Brian Faler of POLITICO — Democrats are getting an early start on their tax-increase agenda. They’ve tucked a trio of little-noticed tax hikes on the wealthy and big corporations into their coronavirus relief package that together are worth $60 billion. One takes away deductions for publicly traded companies that pay top employees more than $1 million. Another provision cracks down on how multinational corporations do their taxes. A third targets how owners of unincorporated businesses account for their losses. It’s surprising because Democrats were widely expected to put off their tax-increase plans until later. Many lawmakers are wary of hiking them now, when the economy struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.

Canada, Florida see partnership to help both economies reemerge from pandemic” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Trade and tourism relationships between Florida and Canada are likely to increase in importance for both economies as the world emerges from the coronavirus crisis, officials from both predicted Thursday. In a panel discussion kicking off a broader virtual conference Tuesday on “Restoring Bilateral Trade Between Canada and Florida,” Enterprise Florida Senior Vice President of International Trade Manny Mencia and Canada’s Consulate General to Florida Susan Harper both agreed the post-pandemic recovery period will be a time for new opportunities for Canadian and Florida businesses. “Frankly, I believe that. Canada is going to play an even bigger role than it has played in the years when we come out of the pandemic,” Mencia said in the Zoom-based conference.

The third stimulus check won’t cover a month’s rent in these Orlando neighborhoods” via Alex Galbraith of Orlando Weekly — Nearly two months into the administration of Biden, those immediate $1,400 checks are very nearly on the way. The House of Representatives approved the Biden-supported American Rescue Act on Wednesday, which includes $1.9 trillion in spending to help combat the coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects and a crucial third stimulus check for many Americans. While the money is a welcome financial injection for many people who have struggled over the last year, $1,400 doesn’t go very far in many parts of the U.S., Orlando included. The third check in a year won’t cover a single month’s rent in many of Orlando’s neighborhoods, and it’s barely enough for a month of shelter in many more.

— MORE CORONA —

Will schools fully reopen? It may depend on whether students have to sit six feet apart.” via Karin Brulliard of The Washington Post — State rules allow desks spaced as little as three feet apart. Whether other American schools fully reopen to all students this spring, or even in the fall, may rest on their willingness or ability to do the same, scrap the six-foot social distancing parameter that the federal government’s latest guidance says should be a priority in schools. Many other schools across the nation and world are also using three feet, the minimum distance endorsed by the American Pediatrics Association and the WHO. Others are open with no distancing at all.

Will schools reopen? Depends on if students can stay six feet apart.

The CDC said it’s OK for vaccinated grandparents to visit. Some families say: Not so fast.” via Tara Bahrampour and Samantha Schmidt of The Washington Post — It is still unclear whether vaccinated people can transmit the coronavirus, and new guidelines released this week from the CDC did not clearly delineate between what it is and is not safe for them to do. The guidelines said people two weeks past their final shot may visit indoors with unvaccinated members of a single household without masks or distancing. But many extended families include more than a single household. And the guidelines still discourage visits involving long-distance travel. Unlike childhood vaccines, which provide lifelong immunity, the coronavirus vaccines are more like the flu vaccine, which needs to be administered every year and has varying degrees of effectiveness.

Seattle’s virus success shows what could have been” via Mike Baker of The New York Times — Facing the nation’s first widespread coronavirus outbreak, some of Washington State’s top leaders quietly gathered on a Sunday morning last March for an urgent strategy session. One year later, the Seattle area has the lowest death rate of the 20 largest metropolitan regions in the country. If the rest of the United States had kept pace with Seattle, the nation could have avoided more than 300,000 coronavirus deaths. Although the region’s public health experts and politicians grappled behind the scenes about how to best manage the virus, they came together to present a united front to the public. And the public largely complied.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden signs $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill” via Zachary Basu of Axios — Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in the Oval Office on Thursday, one day earlier than originally scheduled. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing shortly after the signing that Americans with direct deposit set up can expect to see relief payments hitting their bank accounts “as early as this weekend.” The enactment of the massive coronavirus relief plan cements Biden’s first major legislative victory and comes exactly one year after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic. Federal agencies will now face the daunting task of implementing one of the largest economic relief packages in U.S. history.

Ka-Ching! Joe Biden signs the biggest relief bill in history.

With relief plan, Biden takes on a new role: Crusader for the poor” via Michael D. Shear, Carl Hulse and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Days before his inauguration, President-elect Biden was eying a $1.3 trillion rescue plan aimed squarely at the middle class he has always championed, but pared down to attract some Republican support. The new role as a crusader for the poor represents an evolution for Biden, who spent much of his 36 years in Congress concentrating on foreign policy, judicial fights, gun control and criminal justice issues by virtue of his committee chairmanships in the Senate. For the most part, he ceded domestic economic policy to others. But aides say he has embraced his new role.

Biden: States must designate all adults eligible for vaccine by May” via Jacob Knutson of Axios — Biden will direct all states and tribal governments to designate all adult Americans eligible for a vaccine no later than May 1, according to a senior administration official. It’s part of the Biden administration’s “wartime effort” to get the nation “closer to normal” by July 4. The announcement will be made during Biden’s prime-time address tonight on the American Rescue Plan Act. Biden said in early March that the U.S. will have enough vaccine doses for 300 million Americans by the end of May, roughly two months sooner than his previous promise of enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of July.

Biden faces pressure to distribute vaccines worldwide, while Americans still need them at home” via Anne Gearan and Miriam Berger of The Washington Post — Biden faces growing pressure to distribute coronavirus vaccines to other countries in response to aggressive “vaccine diplomacy” campaigns by China and Russia, a step he has until now ruled out while millions of Americans are still urgently seeking immunizations. China’s efforts in particular will be a focus of a meeting Friday between Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan. Aides say the four leaders may discuss an agreement in principle to pass out vaccine surpluses after their home populations’ needs have essentially been met. The United States’ authoritarian adversaries have the field mostly free for the moment to send vaccines to nations from Mexico to Lebanon to Uzbekistan.

‘Finishing the deal’: Biden vaccine victories build on Trump team’s work” via Dan Diamond and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — President Biden beckoned leaders of two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to the White House on Wednesday and credited his administration for the “nearly unprecedented collaboration” between the longtime rivals, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, now jointly producing a coronavirus vaccine. But the breakthrough touted by Biden was first conceived by Trump officials last year, culminating in a Jan. 4 conference call arranged between Merck and Johnson & Johnson’s senior leaders, said four Trump administration officials with knowledge of the efforts.

Biden should return to engagement with Cuba” via The Bloomberg Opinion editorial board — House Democrats are reportedly pressing Biden to reverse U.S. policy on Cuba once again, returning to the detente that prevailed before Trump took office. Biden should indeed take the first steps toward renewed openness and put the onus on Cuba’s Communist leaders to respond. As with so many of his predecessor’s policies, Trump was quick to declare the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba a “bad deal” and began dismantling it wholesale, imposing or reimposing more than 200 restrictions on travel, trade, and financial and diplomatic ties.

Kamala Harris may be our best bet to prevent a return of Trumpism” via Max Boot of The Washington Post — International Women’s Day, celebrated Monday, reminds us of how far the United States has come — and how far it still has to go. Biden has nominated a record number of women to the Cabinet, including the first female Treasury Secretary and the first female Director of National Intelligence. Assuming his choices are confirmed, this will be the first gender-balanced Cabinet in U.S. history and one of only 14 among 193 countries (as of last fall). There is also a record number of women in Congress (primarily among Democrats), although they still comprise only 27% of the total. And, of course, Kamala Harris is the first female Vice President.

Kamala Harris could be America’s buffer against Trumpism. Image via AP.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Even Donald Trump’s Defense Secretary during the Capitol riot blames him for inciting it” via Seb Walker — One of the most senior Cabinet officials in the Trump administration, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, told VICE on Showtime he believes the speech made by former President Trump on the morning of Jan. 6 was responsible for causing the mob to violently attack the Capitol later that day. Trump installed Miller after firing his predecessor Mark Esper in the days after the election. Miller said, “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened.”

Michael Cohen has seventh meeting with Manhattan DA as Trump investigation ramps up” via Adam Reiss of NBC News — Cohen, the one-time personal attorney for Trump, said that on Wednesday, he met with prosecutors from the Manhattan DA’s office for the seventh time. The meeting, which Cohen said happened over Zoom and lasted two and a half-hours, comes as the sprawling investigation into the former President’s taxes and finances intensifies. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and called the Manhattan DA’s probe a witch hunt. Cohen says he spoke with lead investigator Mark Pomerantz, an expert on white-collar crime who put away mob boss John Gotti and other organized crime figures.

Michael Cohen gives another marathon round with prosecutors.

With Trump gone, QAnon groups focus fury on attacking coronavirus vaccines” via Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin of The Washington Post — Unhinged conspiracy theories once ran rampant on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But months of purging accounts that trafficked heavily in the baseless QAnon ideology have reduced those voices on leading social media sites. Now adherents of QAnon, an extremist ideology that the FBI has deemed a domestic terrorism threat, can be found in the less-visible but still-virulent world of encrypted chat app groups on Telegram and elsewhere. These largely unmoderated online spaces have become cauldrons of ludicrous claims about the pandemic and breeding grounds for an increasingly intense alliance between QAnon and COVID-19 denialism.

Trump expected to meet with Scott amid GOP divide over former President” via Jim Acosta and Paul LeBlanc of CNN — Trump is expected to meet with Sen. Scott this week, a source familiar with the meeting told CNN, at a time when the party is heatedly debating Trump’s role in its future. The meeting with Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has been planned for weeks, the source said. But it will come at a time of considerable tension between the former President and the party establishment following his push to route supporters’ money through his own political apparatus, rather than traditional Republican campaign committees like the NRSC. The visit also underscores the GOP split over Trump’s legacy in the party as it moves forward in the Biden era.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Rick Scott implores states to ‘reject and return’ stimulus money. DeSantis wants more.” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — U.S. Sen. Scott has a message for states and cities poised to receive a collective $360 billion from the American Rescue Act stimulus package: Send it back. Scott’s call to reject money that polls show is popular nationally, even among Republicans, has flared tension between Scott and another Florida GOP leader, DeSantis. While Scott was calling for the rejection of assistance, DeSantis announced he has big plans for the stimulus money. And he may well be blaming Scott, at least partly, for not getting Florida more of it. “The Senate didn’t correct the fact that Florida is getting a lot less than what we would be entitled to on a per capita basis,” DeSantis said.

Rick Scott says ‘reject the money.’ Ron DeSantis says ‘not so fast.’ Image via AP.

Michael Waltz: COVID-19 relief package ‘largest expansion of the welfare state’ since the 1960s” via Michael Quinlan of Fox News — Waltz, a St. Augustine Republican, lambasted Democrats over the passage of the latest $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill Wednesday, telling Fox Business Network’s “Making Money with Charles Payne” that they “are selling this with a four-letter word called ‘free.'” “This is $5.5 trillion we’ve spent now under the umbrella of COVID. That is more than the GDP of the rest of the world, the entire world, except for China and the U.S. We spent $4.5 trillion on World War II. We’ve now exceeded that. One thing we need to do a better job of getting out there are some of the pay-fors that’s gone into this. China continues to be the big winner here.”

Congressional Democrats call on Merrick Garland to investigate Florida vaccine distribution” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Every Democrat in Florida’s Congressional Delegation wants new Attorney General Garland to investigate Florida’s vaccine rollout. Reps. Charlie Crist and Alcee Hastings lead a letter to the new Justice Department Leader outlining accusations of favoritism by DeSantis. All 11 Democrats representing Florida in Congress co-signed the letter. First among those is the opening of a Lakewood Ranch pop-up clinic that provided 3,000 vaccines to the swanky Manatee County community and limited access to those in two wealthy ZIP codes. The Democratic letter spotlights other media reports on similar clinics in Key Largo’s Ocean Reef Club and at the Grand Palm and Boca Royale gated communities in Southwest Florida.

Florida Democrats want Merrick Garland to get to the bottom of the state’s vaccine rollout. Image via AP.

Assignment editors — Crist will hold a news conference with Pinellas County officials and residents on the impacts of the newly signed American Rescue Plan. Then, he hosts a roundtable with Hispanic community leaders and residents on the impacts of inequitable vaccine distribution. News conference starts at 9 a.m., Clearwater High School (in front of the front office off Hercules Ave), 540 S. Hercules Ave., Clearwater. Roundtable starts 10:30 a.m., Hispanic Outreach Center, 612 Franklin St., Clearwater. Interested media can email [email protected].

Miami Republicans split on bill to expand background checks on gun purchases” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Two years ago, Miami Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was one of eight Republicans to vote in favor of expanding background checks on every gun sale. On Thursday, Diaz-Balart switched his position, voting against similar legislation he once supported. But Miami’s two other House Republicans, U.S. Reps. Carlos Giménez and Maria Elvira Salazar, voted yes. In Gimenez’s case, his “yes” vote comes after a mixed position on gun control measures during his 2020 campaign. Gimenez said he was opposed to a ban on assault weapons and limiting magazine sizes, but supported “red flag” laws. Salazar said she voted for the bill “because I believe that everyone who purchases a firearm must pass through a background check.”

— LOCAL TRAIL NOTES —

Tech investors pump another $350K into Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s reelection bid” via Joey Flechas of The Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Suarez’s political committee raised another $350,000 from tech investors last month as his political ambitions continue to benefit from a social-media crusade to lure Silicon Valley to South Florida. State records released Wednesday show Suarez’s committee, Miami For Everyone, raised $525,000 in February, a massive haul that boosts the first-term mayor’s war chest above $1 million as he heads into the Nov. 2 election. Most of the dollars came from bigwigs affiliated with Google, Shutterstock and Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency Suarez frequently promotes.

Francis Suarez banks some cryptocurrency cash.

Assignment editors — The Manhattan Institute is hosting a virtual “Enterprise-Friendly Cities: The Case for Miami” (and Florida in general) with Mayor Suarez and Keith Rabois, former exec at PayPal, Square and LinkedIn. The event begins at 1 p.m.; register here.

Darden Rice taps Conner Jure, Miranda Colavito to help lead St. Pete mayoral campaign” via Kely Hayes of Florida Politics — Rice, a St. Petersburg City Council member, has announced two senior-level staff hires to help in her bid for Mayor. Jure and Colavito will be joining Rice’s campaign team to build its outreach capacity. Jure will come on as organizing director, and Colavito will become the campaign’s finance director. “I continue to be humbled by the people joining our team and the community support our campaign is receiving,” Rice said in a news release.

Dave Aronberg backs Ken Welch’s bid for St. Petersburg Mayor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Aronberg, the Palm Beach County State Attorney, is endorsing Pinellas County Commissioner Welch in the St. Petersburg mayoral race. Aronberg made the announcement ahead of his appearance before the Greater Pinellas Democratic Club. “I’ve known and admired Ken for years, and I know he’ll be an outstanding Mayor of St. Pete because he’s such a positive and inclusive leader,” Aronberg said in a news release.

Dave Aronberg gives Ken Welch a big thumbs-up from Florida’s other coast.

Belle Glade voters back pro-ag candidates for City Commission” via Florida Politics staff reports — Glades voters went to the polls Tuesday, delivering wins to pro-agriculture candidates and rejecting Sierra Club-backed candidates running on an anti-farm platform. In the Belle Glade City Commission elections, Joaquin Almazan defeated local activist Steve Messam, who unsuccessfully tried to make farming an issue in the race. Additionally, Bishop Kenny Berry defeated Johnny Burroughs Jr., and incumbent Commissioner Mary Ross Wilkerson defeated Robert Mitchell, a chef from California. Almazan, Berry and Wilkerson ran on a platform of protecting jobs and creating opportunities within their communities and were supported by a strong grassroots campaign of local residents and community organizers. All three races were blowouts.

Sarasota Memorial leaders to kill PAC funding plan, return hospital cash” via Ryan McKinnon of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota Memorial Hospital leaders have reversed course on a plan that would have steered nearly $300,000 from the public hospital into a Political Action Committee. On Wednesday morning, during the hospital board’s Governance Effectiveness Committee meeting, Heath Care System CEO David Verinder announced that the Doctors Gardens Association, a condominium board staffed entirely with top hospital leaders, had voted to return money that it had collected from the hospital and previously planned to donate to a PAC. The original reason the condo association charged the hospital $265,833 in late 2019 was to make capital improvements to the Doctors Gardens building, an aging office complex on Sarasota Memorial’s campus.

— MORE LOCAL —

Federal grand jury to hear from witnesses on JEA investigation” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — A federal grand jury in Jacksonville will begin hearing witness testimony in the coming weeks related to a criminal investigation into the botched effort in 2019 to privatize JEA, the city-owned electric, water and sewer utility, according to multiple sources with knowledge of numerous grand jury subpoenas that have recently been issued. Federal prosecutors have been investigating issues swirling around JEA for about a year, a probe that became public knowledge last April when the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a grand jury subpoena directly to JEA demanding thousands of pages of documents. According to information gleaned from public records and sources, FBI agents and prosecutors have also conducted multiple interviews with an array of current and former JEA and city officials and others.

The feds are digging into the shenanigans at JEA.

North Florida corrections officer charged with misdemeanors in U.S. Capitol riot” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — A state corrections officer faced a federal magistrate in Jacksonville Thursday after his arrest on misdemeanor charges involving the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Jonathan Daniel Carlton, who works at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, could face up to 18 months behind bars if convicted of charges involving entering a restricted building and disorderly or disruptive conduct. He was released on a $25,000 signature bond, in which no money is posted upfront but a defendant agrees they can be held accountable for the cash if he violates terms of his pretrial release.

Lawsuit: Pasco intelligence program violated citizens’ rights” via Romy Ellenbogen and Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times — Four Pasco County residents are suing Sheriff Chris Nocco in federal court, alleging his intelligence program violated their constitutional rights. The plaintiffs say they were harassed, fined and even arrested by overzealous deputies who overstepped their bounds. They want a judge to end the program, which targets people the Sheriff’s Office deems likely to commit future crimes and their friends and family members. “The goal here is to shut this program down and to make sure it stops, both for these clients and everybody in Pasco County,” said Robert Johnson, an attorney with the Institute for Justice.

Tampa General Hospital marks record year in transplant, rising in rank to 6th busiest center in the nation, and 3rd nationally for kidney transplant” via Town News — Tampa General Hospital, a 1007-bed academic medical center, is proud to be ranked the 6th busiest transplant center in the nation and 3rd nationally for kidney transplants. In 2020, 611 solid organ transplants were performed at Tampa General, the largest number ever performed in the hospital’s history. The previous record for the hospital, set in 2019, was 584. “These national rankings showcase the expertise and advanced care Tampa General provides to our patients,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General.

Tampa General is establishing a permanent coronavirus unit.
Tampa General notches up another transplant record.

Father-son developers charged with extortion — a dozen years after another Broward scandal” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Bruce and Shawn Chait, a father-son development team whose history of bribes led to the prosecution of multiple Broward political figures in the last decade, have been charged with harassing and extorting the current owner of the property at the heart of their earlier misdeeds. Bruce Chait and his son accepted a plea deal in exchange for probation and their testimony against the elected officials, but in some of the cases, their testimony appeared to backfire. The earlier scandals were tied to the planned development of Prestige Homes, which would have replaced two golf courses with 732 single-family homes and town houses.

You may start seeing lots of cannabis ads around Miami. Jay-Z is behind them.” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — We can drink our heads off in Miami. But smoke cannabis to relieve stress? Nope, not yet (unless you have a medical marijuana card). Jay-Z wants to change that. The Grammy-winning rapper even started his own cannabis company called MONOGRAM. To promote MONOGRAM, the rapping mogul rolled out a gritty nationwide campaign; eight posters depict news stories, headlines and pictures of people who have been arrested for cannabis-related offenses. One sign reads, “Weed is a federal crime, even in states where sex with farm animals isn’t.” Jay-Z said, “I created this campaign to amplify the voices of those who have been penalized for the very same thing that venture capitalists are now prospering from with the emerging legal cannabis market.”

— TOP OPINION —

Biden is leading a quiet revolution” via E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post — Passage of the Biden economic plan reflects the triumph of precisely the opposite view: that only active and competent government can get us out of the mess we’re in now. The willingness of Democrats to speed through a program of this size reflects the final shrugging off Reagan-era constraints that made even liberal politicians gun-shy about government activism. The shift away from top-down supply-side economics could not be more dramatic. The Reagan theory, reduced to its essence, was: Help the rich, and their investments will produce jobs and prosperity for everyone else. The Biden theory is bottom-up: Help middle-class and low-income Americans, and their purchasing power will drive an unprecedented era of growth.

— OPINIONS —

THC caps would harm patients, discourage innovation” via Matt Gaetz for the Tallahassee Democrat — I like some caps: Welfare caps. Refugee admission caps. MAGA caps. THC caps are a different story. HB 1455, a misguided proposal to significantly lower the THC cap on medical cannabis, is currently making its way through the Florida Legislature. This bill would harm patients, discourage innovation and threaten liberty. A cap on THC levels of medical cannabis will have a simple and immediate effect: If it’s weaker, patients will have to use more. Yet the misguided and draconian provisions of HB 1455 also place a cap on the amount of cannabis patients can receive, limiting it to 15,000 mg every 35 days. The bill will greatly increase demand for medical cannabis, while at the same time artificially limiting supply.

A good day gone bad as DeSantis rejects a pardon for Desmond Meade” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — On a day that should have been a celebration of second chances, Meade’s plea for a pardon was rejected by DeSantis. The Governor, a Navy veteran, can’t stomach the fact that Meade — who won acclaim for his voting rights work — has a dishonorable discharge on his military record. Abraham Lincoln was willing to pardon the Confederate soldiers who participated in an armed rebellion and Union soldiers who deserted their posts. But DeSantis can’t find the compassion to forgive a man who got caught stealing three decades ago to support a drug habit while serving in the Army.

Is there ‘pay to play’ for COVID-19 vaccines in Florida?” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — COVID-19 vaccination sites have popped up in politically important areas across Florida, yet no one claims to have been responsible for them. Do we believe that it’s just a series of coincidences? Of course not. The Governor started out correctly. Adhering to CDC guidelines, the first doses went to health care workers and nursing home residents. But less than two weeks later, and with no warning to local health officials, DeSantis opened eligibility to anyone 65 and over. He also ignored the CDC recommendation that the second vaccination phase include teachers, first responders and essential workers, such as grocery store employees. Not coincidentally, that’s when the politics began.

‘Anti-riot’ bills show lawmakers are serious — seriously wrong” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — If the assault on the U.S. Capitol happened instead in Tallahassee, Trump could have been arrested under HB 1 for inciting a riot. While that would be a pleasing thought to many, it could have happened anyway under current Florida law. To quote the statute, “All persons guilty of a riot, or of inciting or encouraging a riot, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree.” So then, why do we need another law that parrots what’s already on the books? We don’t, but Tallahassee Republicans, starting with DeSantis, want to tell voters they’re tough on crime. The so-called “anti-riot” bills grew out of last summer’s violence after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. It was a scary time for many.

Transgender sports bill in Legislature an exercise in shameful scapegoating” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — There’s a new scrap of bigot bait floating around the Florida Legislature this session. It’s called the “The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” It addresses the imaginary problem of transgender girls unfairly robbing college scholarship opportunities from biologically born high school girls. You didn’t know this was a problem? In other news, Mr. Potato Head is under attack! The women’s sports bill is sponsored in the Florida House by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, a Sebring Republican, and co-introduced by, I’m guessing, a trio of biologically-born men* Republicans Cord Byrd of Jacksonville, Mike Giallombardo of Cape Coral and Joe Harding of Ocala. The Florida bill is just carrying water for the new flavor of scapegoating that’s all the rage these days.

David Rivera, after nine years, it’s time to accept the consequences of your illegal actions” via the Miami Herald editorial board — We have one thing to say to David Rivera: Pay up. The ex-congressman, ex-Florida legislator and current FBI person of interest has been evading punishment for almost a decade in a case of political skulduggery that netted federal criminal convictions for the other two main players while Rivera skated. This time, though, it’s a federal judge who is ordering him to fork over a $456,000 penalty to the Federal Elections Commission for violating campaign-finance laws in 2012 and secretly funneling campaign cash to a ringer candidate in a failed attempt to gain an edge in the congressional election for himself. It’s time for Rivera, the master at avoiding consequences, to finally pay up.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

On Day 11 of the 60-day Legislative Session, the House Ways and Means Committee signed off on a billion-dollar tax increase … or is it?

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Whatever you call it, that bill is moving fast — thanks to a new deal between the House Speaker and Senate President on how to spend the windfall.

— The Senate Rules Committee passes the COVID-19 liability protection bill.

— The Senate had been working on two separate bills … one for business, the other for health care workers and facilities … but they’ve combined the two in a single package that is now ready for the Senate floor.

— A House subcommittee passes a bill saying doctors cannot perform an abortion if the fetus has a genetic disability.

— The Governor stops in Lake City and Jacksonville to plug the COVID-19 vaccine … and Walgreens.

— And finally, two Florida Men: one faces charges for The Capitol riot; a Tesla saved the other from a carjacker.

To listen, click on the image below:

— LISTEN UP —

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Text messages show organizers of a vaccine pop-up clinic in Florida discussing the clinic’s political benefits for DeSantis. Journalists Antonio Fins, John Kennedy and Zac Anderson discuss the ongoing questions about political favoritism surrounding the vaccine rollout in Florida, a new elections bill that would put restrictions on mail voting and the political divide in Florida over the new COVID-19 stimulus bill.

podcastED: redefinED senior writer Lisa Buie speaks with Stephanie Conner, a mother of four from the tiny town of LaBelle. The former teacher and her husband, Joel, an adult education teacher, use the Gardiner Scholarship for their son, Eli, and daughter, Madeline. Their younger children, Meizie and Gideon, joined the family through adoption and used the Family Empowerment Scholarship to attend a nearby private school. Conner discusses her children’s unique needs and how pre-approved therapy equipment made possible by Gardiner’s flexible spending accounts helped maximize her two older children’s ability to learn. She also describes how an arrangement with the school that her younger children attend allows her to mix and match services for Eli and Madeline, providing a truly customized learning plan for each.

Tallahassee Business Podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Shawn McIntyre and his team from North American Properties (NAP) have invested more than $220 million since 2012 into the local economy in construction. McIntyre joins the podcast, presented by Event Owl, to discuss their biggest project, Cascades Park. Cascades brings the 18-hour city lifestyle of “live-work-play-stay” to Tallahassee with apartments, offices, retail and event space, a boutique hotel, and a community-envisioned historical plaza. He talks with Sue Dick about the development process and what to look forward to.

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: While DeSantis may have been the runner-up to Trump in the recent CPAC straw poll, his chances of ever becoming President himself are not good, according to Florida’s top Democrat. “You know, he went MIA for three weeks in November claiming that he was working on some statewide plan. My take is that he probably had COVID and didn’t want to tell people when the vaccines first came to our state,” Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried tells co-host Jong-Fast on the latest episode. Fried also spills the tea on DeSantis’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his real boss — Trump. “

The Press Secretary Club: Alia Faraj Johnson, Edie Ousley, and Ryan Banfill — three former press secretaries who served during Florida’s turbulent turn-of-the-century political dramas — analyze Florida policy and politics through their unique multimedia public attention and engagement lens. In the first episode, the hosts look at the opening of Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session.

The Yard Sign with host Jonathan Torres: Topics include the COVID-19 relief bill, HR1 voting laws, Cuomo and Spring Break.

— 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 Sens. Gruters and Janet Cruz, Bradenton Herald law enforcement reporter Jessica DeLeon and Dr. Donna Peterson, dean of the USF Health College of Public Health and COVID-19 Task Force chair.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9: Walker will discuss women’s and girl’s empowerment. Joining her are Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman and Tech Sassy Girls Executive Director Laine Powell.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look at where we are one-year into the COVID-19 pandemic; one-on-one interview with Simpson on the calls to investigate DeSantis’ vaccine distribution and the bill proposing changes to Florida’s mail-in voting system; and Rep. Fentrice Driskell will discuss the bills she’s sponsoring this Session.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A discussion about closing the opportunity gap for women and young girls; and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez will also discuss Women’s History Month and the importance of access to education women leaders in politics.

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

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Venezuelan Ambassador Carlos Vecchio.

— ALOE —

When Disneyland reopens, it’s going to have even more of a privilege problem” via Julie Tremaine of SFGate — At the best of times before the pandemic, Disneyland was hard to afford. Even if you lived near the park and could snag the most affordable entry, the Southern California Resident Ticket, a limited three-day pass offered every spring that worked out to just over $66 per day; there were still enormous costs once you arrived on Disneyland Drive, from the $25 parking to the $4 bottles of water to the $6.99 churros that are essentially flour and cinnamon sugar but are all-but-impossible to resist. But for some people, you can’t put a price on magic. Although Disney’s Grand Californian was consistently occupied by people who could afford to spend $700 a night on a hotel room, many others saved and scrimped to afford the park. If you wanted to be there badly enough, you’d figure out ways.

When Disneyland reopens, privilege will be an issue.

— PLAYERS —

‘Nobody knew what was going on’: How golf and sports stopped at the Players Championship” via Bob Harig of ESPN — One year ago, on Thursday afternoon at the Players Championship, Rory McIlroy wasn’t worried about a virus. He was annoyed. The defending champion at the PGA Tour’s signature event, he had just opened with even-par 72, sat 9 shots behind leader Hideki Matsuyama and was staring at a quick turnaround for an early tee time Friday. A few hours later, none of that mattered. The Players would be canceled. The coronavirus would put golf on a 13-week hiatus, and the country and world in a state of turmoil that has not subsided a full year later. Now, one of the strongest fields of the year is back at TPC Sawgrass’ famed Stadium Course. Everything is far different from it was that week one year ago, a time when no one knew what was to come.

It has been a strange year for TPC Sawgrass. Image via Getty.

At this semi-normal Players Championship, what a difference a year makes” via Michael Bamberger of Golf.com — Last year, on the Wednesday of the Players, I wrapped up a chat with Annika Sorenstam with … a handshake. Read her face (not happy), saw a jug of Purell out of the corner of my eye, retrieved it, gave her two sprits and swore not to make that mistake again. On Thursday, two masked men stood beside the driving range at the Stadium Course here and concluded a visit with … a handshake. This time, I was on the receiving end of it. (A proffered hand is hard to ignore.) It was my first outside-the-bubble handshake in a year. It was not CDC-sanctioned. Still, it felt — what’s the best way to say this? — semi-normal.

Players Championship, Stadium Course offers lessons on golf’s fragile nature” via Ken Willis of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — If Dustin Johnson wins the Players Championship and further punctuates his yearlong run, we can hang our Titleist caps on a particular golfer and declare, “Yep, he’s the man.” And even then, it could be fleeting. Going back to when the oldest of our fellow onlookers started paying attention to such things, the uppermost rung of men’s golf has had a linear progression. There’s a rather fine line between success and embarrassment, not only on this course but in this game, as several of yesterday’s heroes have learned as they reach the week on the calendar where Hal Sutton once proved that what goes down can also go up.

TPC Sawgrass rates: The hefty price to play the Players Championship course” via Josh Berhow of Golf.com — So you want to tee it up where the pros do, huh? Don’t we all. But some public/resort courses will cost you more than others, and places like TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course, the home to this week’s Players Championship — the PGA Tour’s premier event — will make a dent in your wallet. Although it’s difficult to say which course between Pebble and Sawgrass is more expensive since prices fluctuate and are based on add-ons (caddies, carts, etc.). So how much are you paying to get on? A round at the Stadium Course for the rest of March will cost $500 on the low end and $720 on the high end.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to my fellow RV co-captain Frank Mayernick. Also celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Val Demings, former Sen. Alan Hays, Steve Bousquet, Brian Franklin, Abby MacIver, Sarah Revell, and Jeff Ryan.

___

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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