Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.7.21

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Alcee Hastings made trails where previously there were no trails.

He was a fighter, a visionary, and Florida’s history cannot be written without including his chapter. As a civil rights fighter, he was arrested numerous times at sit-ins and demonstrations.

As a lawyer, Hastings battled fiercely for fairness and equality. He was the first Black federal judge in Florida.

RIP to Alcee Hastings, a trailblazing South Florida lawmaker who passed away Tuesday at 84.

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1995 as a Democrat, and he served there until his death Tuesday following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Hastings was 84 years old.

On January 13, 2021, Hastings voted to impeach President Donald Trump in perhaps his last major congressional action. It was the second time Hastings had cast such a vote.

But Hastings will be remembered for much more than that. 

In 1977, he became a judge in the Broward County Circuit Court. Two years later, he received an appointment by President Jimmy Carter to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

He remained there until 1989, when the U.S. Senate convicted him in a bribery conspiracy case and removed him from office. A civil court had acquitted Hastings two years earlier.

By 1992, though, he was back on his way to Washington after defeating Lois Frankel in the primary to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District. He easily won the general election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

Friend and congressional colleague U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson told the Miami Herald that Hastings “feared no man, no institution and was not shy about voicing his dissent on any issue.”

“I admired his spunk and his fearlessness,” Wilson added. “He basically didn’t give a damn what you said. You know that song ‘I Did It My Way’? That kind of speaks to Alcee’s life.”

Joe Biden praises Hastings as ‘trailblazing’” via News Service of Florida — Biden issued a statement Tuesday calling longtime Hastings a “trailblazing lawyer.” … “I greatly admired him for his singular sense of humor, and for always speaking the truth bluntly and without reservation,” Biden said in the statement. “A trailblazing lawyer who grew up in the Jim Crow South, Alcee was outspoken because he was passionate about helping our nation live up to its full promise for all Americans. It was a passion he forged as a pioneering civil rights lawyer in the 1960s, fighting tirelessly to desegregate hotels, restaurants, and public spaces in South Florida — a trailblazing spirit to advocate for what is right that guided him throughout his life.”

—“Democrats and Republicans remember Hastings for his ‘brilliance, perseverance and charisma’” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Hastings’ seat draws Democratic interest, but Ron DeSantis will play an important role” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The death of Congressman Hastings will touch off a competitive Democratic primary for a seat in a majority Black district that hasn’t been open since 1992. But DeSantis ultimately has the power to determine when the special election to replace Hastings will happen, and leaving a deep blue seat unfilled for months will help Republicans in Washington as they attempt to stop Biden’s legislative agenda. DeSantis hasn’t announced plans for a special primary and general election, and Hastings’ seat is the first vacancy in the state’s U.S. House delegation since DeSantis assumed office.

— THE OBITS —

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Congressman Hastings, after career of triumph, calamity and comeback, dies at 84 — “Ted Deutch described Hastings at a 2019 luncheon in his colleague’s honor as someone ‘who can stand up to a bully, who can represent people whose voices need to be heard, who’s unafraid to say what needs to be said.’” NPR, Longtime Florida Congressman Hastings dies — “Hastings began his career as a civil rights lawyer. In 1979, Carter appointed him to a U.S. District Court seat, making him Florida’s first African American federal judge.” The Washington Post, Hastings, civil rights lawyer and judge elected to 15 terms in Congress, dies — “Hastings’s arrival in the House of Representatives was a stunning turn of events. The chamber had voted only five years earlier to impeach him, in the aftermath of an FBI sting operation and bribery investigation that made him the sixth federal judge to be removed from office.” The Associated Press, Hastings dies at 84; was impeached as judge — “Throughout his career, Hastings’ impeachment remained a nagging footnote. It was repeatedly invoked in news accounts and seen as derailing his ambitions for a greater leadership role. ‘That seems to be the only thing of significance to people who write,’ Hastings told The Associated Press in 2013.” CNN, Hastings dies at 84 — “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid tribute in a statement, saying, ‘All who knew Alcee knew him as a champion for the most vulnerable in our nation.’” The Wall Street Journal, Hastings dies at 84 — “’Alcee Hastings was a trailblazer throughout his career,’ said Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. ‘For nearly three decades, he represented his constituents with dignity, grace and an unwavering commitment to the fight for justice.’” The New York Times, Hastings, longtime Congressman, dies — “His death reduces his party’s already slim majority in the House, which is now 218 to 211. His district, which includes Black communities around Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach as well as a huge, less populated area around Lake Okeechobee, is reliably Democratic.” POLITICO, Hastings’ death narrows Dem majority, sets off race for his seat — “The race to replace him in a yet-to-be-scheduled special election sets up what will likely be intense regional jockeying among some of the area’s most prominent political figures.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@POTUS: I’m proud to share that yesterday, we crossed 150 million shots in just 75 days of my Administration — on our way to hitting our goal of 200 million shots by my 100th day in office.

@MCIMaps: Twitter children loved to mock Hastings because of some corruption trial from 30+ years ago. But the man was beloved by the historically repressed Black community of Palm Beach and Broward. You may blow him off, but he was a giant down there

@TooMuchMe: Before Alcee Hastings was a congressman, he was a federal judge. And before he was impeached, he made a very important immigration ruling. He ruled in 1981 that the Reagan Admin could not hold mass hearings in order to fast-track deportations of Haitians. Right to counsel! RIP.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@JaredEMoskowitzI did speak with @60Minutes. Never said I didn’t. They were very nice, but I told them that the @publix story was “bullshit.” Walked them through the whole process. The fact that I didn’t sit down on “camera” because I am responding to a 100-year emergency doesn’t change the truth

@MDixon55: So, beyond a roughly $10b coming from the feds for covid stimulus, Florida’s general revenue estimate beat December forecasts by $2b. The state’s $2.7b budget gap seems like a distant, quaint memory that will live in budget copy for generations to come

@GNewburn: The Florida Legislature is unique. It’s made up of two chambers, the House and the House. The presiding officer of the first House is called the “Governor,” and the presiding officer of the other House is also called the “Governor.” Strange system, but it’s also dysfunctional.

@StuartPStevens: To be a Republican in good standing, you can’t drink Coke, watch baseball or pro-football, wear Nike, fly Delta or American, admit who won the 2020 election, and if you get vaccinated, must burn your “mark of the beast” card. It’s like some obscure sex cult without the sex.

— DAYS UNTIL —

RNC spring donor summit — 2; 2021 WWE WrestleMania 37 begins — 3; Disneyland to open — 23; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 25; Mother’s Day — 32; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 33; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 51; Memorial Day — 54; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 65; Father’s Day — 74; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 86; 4th of July — 88; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 92; MLB All-Star Game — 96; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 107; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 115; The Suicide Squad premieres — 121; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 139; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 149; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 170; ‘Dune’ premieres — 177; MLB regular season ends — 179; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 185; World Series Game 1 — 202; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 209; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 212; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 233; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 247; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 254; Super Bowl LVI — 312; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 352; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 394; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 457; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 548; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 583.

— DEBUTING TODAY —

It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic race to Sine Die. There are bills to pass (or quash, depending on where your loyalties lie), budget battles to be fought, and sprinkles to be liberally (or conservatively) applied. 

But if the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s to remain calm, even in the midst of the craziest times. As the end of the 2021 Legislative Session approaches, take a moment to celebrate the small victories and enjoy the little moments that make this 60-day session unique.

That’s what we’re trying to do with this issue of INFLUENCE Magazine. Rosanne Dunkelberger takes us on a tour of Tallahassee to highlight some of the local goods and services we all could use this time of year. We scope out the best places to grab a calming beverage, tea, or otherwise, and break down the 10 places you should need to go to chill out after a long day. 

From L-R, F-B, Aly Coleman, Jasmyn Henderson, Jared Willis, Sarah Busk Suskey, Chris Turner, Victoria Price, Ellen Anderson, Billie Ann Gay, Keaton Alexander pose for the cover of INFLUENCE Magazine.

An issue about the 2021 Legislative Session wouldn’t be complete without introducing you to the very good girls and boys taking over the Florida Capitol. These furry friends are begging for treats, not appropriations, and are putting smiles on the faces of colleagues, lobbyists and visitors alike.

We want you to be Zen, but also know there’s plenty of business left to do. That’s why we’ve recruited Chris Dudley, a lobbyist extraordinaire at The Southern Group, to break down the budget lingo to help you through the final stretch of budget negotiations. 

I’m also using this issue to tip my hat to the men and women who get things done in the capital city. Sorry, members and staffers, we aren’t talking about you. Instead, it’s a salute to the unsung lobbyists and the association executives who have been around for years. 

These men and women don’t always get the credit they deserve. Without them, Florida would be a much different state. Sure, they aren’t the hotshot up-and-comers anymore, but you can bet they won’t be hanging up their hats any time soon. 

And we’ll reflect on the life of Marvin Arrington, a well-respected lobbyist who died in 2002 and is the reason those in the known don pink on the final day of Session. 

All that, plus the usual roundup of movements on the fourth floor, advice from insiders, and updated rankings of the Top 25 lobby firms by revenue.

With just a few weeks left until the hankie drops, I think we can all heed some advice from across the pond: Keep calm, and carry on.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE LATEST EDITION OF INFLUENCE MAGAZINE.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

With Florida’s recovery better-than-expected, economists add $2 billion to forecast” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida economists added a stunning $2 billion-plus to the state’s revenue forecast, saying that consumer spending and corporate earnings have far topped expectations in recent months. Powered mainly by a spike in sales tax collections, the state’s treasury should be brimming with almost $1.5 billion more than anticipated this year and another $550.8 million next year, economists concluded. “Much of the gain in the current year reflects a faster-than-expected recovery,” said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research and one of the four economists who agreed on Tuesday’s forecast.

Protest bill ready for Senate spotlight” via The News Service of Florida — The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up HB 1, which is aimed at cracking down on violent protests by creating a host of new crimes and enhancing riot-related penalties. DeSantis began floating the idea for the legislation last year after protests throughout the country sparked by George Floyd‘s death. The Republican-controlled House passed the bill on March 26 in a party-line vote. A Senate version of the bill had been stuck in a committee, but Senate President Wilton Simpson used a procedural move to assign the House bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A procedural move by Wilton Simpson opened the door for the anti-riot bill to get closer to the Senate floor. Image via Colin Hackley.

Senate budget introduces uncertainty to behavioral health funding” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate budget shifts around crucial funding for mental health programs in a way that’s leaving some advocates worried about whether overburdened clinics will have enough money to care for everyone who reaches out. In short, advocates say they need a funding boost, perhaps more now than ever before. Yet the Senate budget (SB 2500) is playing three-card monte with behavioral health funding. The upper chamber would slash recurring general revenue funding by more than $60 million for the 2021-22 budget year. It would replace that funding with federal dollars pulled down through Medicaid. The move doesn’t so much cut funding as it shatters certainty among providers at a time when they see no drop in demand on the horizon.

After MLB pulls game from Georgia, a top House Dem says ‘very bad’ voting bills could hurt Florida tourism, too” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — As in Georgia, tourism in Florida could suffer if controversial election reforms pass here, predicts state Rep. Evan Jenne, co-chair of the House Democratic Caucus. In a rebuke of new Georgia laws restricting voting access, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday that MLB is moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta to another city yet to be determined. Jenne said comparable action could hit Florida if the state Legislature adopts Republican-sponsored reforms moving in the House and the Senate.

Transgender athlete ban proposal passes House; would make participation contingent on biological sex” via Ryan Dailey of News Service of Florida — A proposal to ban transgender females from taking part in girls’ or women’s high school and college sports is teed up for consideration by the full House, after a Republican-controlled education panel overrode fiery objections Tuesday. The House Education & Employment Committee voted 15-6 to approve the proposal (HB 1475) sponsored by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, a Lake Placid Republican, with Rep. James Bush of Miami being the only Democrat supporting the bill. Dubbed the “Fairness In Women’s Sports Act,” the proposal would make participation in athletics contingent on determining a student’s “biological sex,” a disputed term that refers to the sex assigned at birth. Tuck said “inherent, biological differences between men and women” give males an edge in sporting events.

Kaylee Tuck’s transgender athlete ban is headed to the House floor. Image via Colin Hackley.

Toll road project could see change” via The News Service of Florida — Jefferson County would no longer be the northern endpoint for a proposed extension of the Suncoast Parkway, under a bill approved unanimously by the House Commerce Committee. The Suncoast Parkway extension from Citrus County to Jefferson County was one of three controversial toll-road projects approved by the Legislature in 2019. HB 6059, sponsored by Rep. Jason Shoaf, would remove a reference to Jefferson County in the law but doesn’t provide another proposed endpoint for the Suncoast Parkway extension. Shoaf’s bill is moving forward as the Senate has passed a more far-reaching measure (SB 100) that would eliminate the planned toll road between Collier and Polk counties.

— TALLY 2

‘Anti-John Morgan’ bill heads to Senate floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Proposed campaign finance restrictions to make it harder to get citizen initiatives on the ballot are now ready for consideration in both chambers. Sen. Ray Rodrigues‘ bill (SB 1890) would cap donations at $3,000 to political committees backing proposed constitutional amendments during the signature-gathering process. In the past, some wealthy donors have poured millions of dollars into political committees backing ballot initiatives. Republican lawmakers and the Florida Chamber of Commerce contend the proposal is needed to stop deep-pocketed donors, from financing ballot initiatives on policy issues that should not be in the state Constitution. Some have dubbed the measure the “anti-John Morgan bill.”

Ray Rodrigues’ political donation cap is dubbed the ‘anti-John Morgan’ bill. Image via Colin Hackley.

Limits on local emergency orders advance in Senate” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — A proposal (SB 2006) spurred by the coronavirus pandemic to limit local emergency orders is ready to go to the full Senate. The Senate Rules Committee also added changes included in a separate bill (SB 1924), which in part would require local governing bodies to vote to extend emergency orders after 10 days and would give the Governor or the Legislature the power to invalidate the orders. “This is not an attempt to Monday morning quarterback anyone, whether they’re local or at the executive level,” said sponsor Sen. Danny Burgess. “This is an attempt to gather our lived and learned experiences and apply them to be better for it in the future.”

Disability abortion bill clears House committee” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Disability abortions may soon be outlawed under a bill cleared by a House committee Tuesday. The Health and Human Services Committee OK’d the bill (HB 1221) with a 12-8 vote. Rep. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican, 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 to abort is based on a test result 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.

House school safety bill ready for floor after clearing final committee” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new school safety measure is ready for the House floor after an 18-0 vote Tuesday by the Education and Employment Committee. Rep. Chip LaMarca is fronting this year’s bill (HB 7035), with Rep. Christine Hunschofsky serving as a prime co-sponsor. Hunschofsky served as Parkland Mayor during the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Hunschofsky thanked members of both parties for working on the legislation just after the attack’s third anniversary. Last year’s school safety bill failed in the closing days of the 2020 Session. Now, the House is reviving the effort after the Legislature approved other major changes in both 2018 and 2019.

House moves forward on insurance changes” via The News Service of Florida — The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee voted 11-7 to back HB 305, sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel, that includes increasing a cap on annual rate increases for customers of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and taking steps to prevent contractors and public adjusters from soliciting or providing incentives for homeowners to file roof-damage claims. The House and Senate have taken different approaches. The Senate could approve SB 76, sponsored by Sen. Jim Boyd, to allow insurers to limit amounts paid for roof damage and place new restrictions on attorney fees in insurance disputes. Supporters of the bill contend that questionable, if not fraudulent, roof claims and litigation are driving up costs for the industry.

Bob Rommel seeks caps on Citizens’ insurance rates and putting the brakes on incentives for roof-damage claims. Image via Colin Hackley.

Proposal to eliminate permanent alimony rolls through final House committee” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A repeat bill seeking to revamp Florida’s alimony laws glided through its final House committee Tuesday. The proposal (HB 1559), sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, passed the House Judiciary Committee in a 12-6 vote party-line vote, with Democrats opposed and Republicans in favor. The legislation, which has been floated for the past several years, would eliminate permanent alimony and set the presumption of child custody time-sharing at 50/50 between parents. If passed, Florida would join 44 other states in enacting a law banning perpetual alimony. Currently, long-term alimony can be modified at a judge’s discretion. A 1992 Florida Supreme Court ruling found that retirement counts as a change in circumstances that can modify alimony.

— TALLY 3 —

California-style data privacy law gets bipartisan support in Legislature” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Florida legislators are giving bipartisan support to legislation that imposes new disclosure requirements on companies that collect information on their customers and sell it to data brokers. SB 1734 creates the Florida Privacy Protection Act and requires businesses to tell consumers what information they’ve collected and how they’re going to use it. The bill requires any company that collects and sells consumer information to establish a button on its website to allow consumers to opt-out of allowing the company to sell the information it has collected about them. Senators from both sides of the political aisle commend Jennifer Bradley for tackling the issue. Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, said there is wide public support for privacy restrictions.

Jennifer Bradley’s data privacy bill gets the nod from both sides of the aisle. Image via Colin Hackley.

Ban on ‘disability abortions’ backed in House” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — Members of the House Health & Human Services Committee voted 12-8 on Tuesday to advance a controversial bill (HB 1221) that would charge physicians who terminate pregnancies solely because women don’t want children with disabilities with a felony. The bill would apply to physicians who know or should know abortions they perform were requested solely because of prenatal diagnoses, tests, or screenings that indicated fetuses would have disabilities. The Republican-controlled committee approved the bill on a nearly party-line vote, with Rep. Mike Caruso of Delray Beach being the only GOP member to vote against it.

Gail’s Law ready for the House floor — The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday OK’d a bill (SB 673) by Rep. Emily Slosberg that would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create and maintain a statewide system for tracking sexual assault evidence kits from the point of collection through the criminal justice process. The measure is known as Gail’s Law, referring to a Florida sexual assault survivor whose test kit went unprocessed for nearly 30 years. The bill is now ready for the House floor. “I am absolutely elated that Gail’s Law has passed its final House committee with unanimous support in all three committee stops. There is no reason why we should be able to track a pizza more efficiently than we can track critical evidence in a sexual assault case,” Slosberg said.


— CAP REAX —

Crime victims urge lawmakers, Governor to support reforms — Over 230 crime victims sent a letter to state legislative leaders and DeSantis urging them to support a package of criminal justice reform and pro-victim bills. Two bills (HB 1467/SB 1838) would extend workplace protections to crime victims, while the third (HB 799) would reform the state’s probation system to reduce recidivism. “Very often, public safety policies fail to incorporate the voices and needs of crime victims — all of who want what happened to them never to happen to anybody else,” said Aswad Thomas, national director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “The Florida legislature has an opportunity to build on previous accomplishments and further improve public safety so that all communities can be safer.

FCAN urges lawmakers to reject data privacy bills — The Florida Consumer Action Network and Consumer Federation of America on Tuesday urged lawmakers to reject proposals (HB 969/SB 1734) to give Floridians control over how their personal online data is shared or sold. “A major problem with the bills is the outdated ‘notice and opt-out’ framework that places the burden on consumers to navigate today’s incredibly complex data ecosystem and take steps to prevent unwanted uses of their personal information,” said CFA Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy Susan Grant. “Making ‘opt-out’ the default disempowers consumers and poses equity concerns; consumers with less sophistication, time, and resources to figure out how their data is being used and how to opt-out will inevitably be subject to more privacy violations.”

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Corcoran Partners: LaunchED Solutions

Ryder Rudd, McGuireWoods Consulting: Innovative Emergency Management

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Alliance for Safety and Justice/Tides Center

Lauren Whritenour, Cynergy Consulting: Kingston Public Affairs

— LEG. SKED —

The Senate will hold a floor Session, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

The House will hold a floor Session, 2 p.m., House Chamber

Also:

The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee meets, 11:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee meets, 11:30 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 11:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee meets, 11:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— CRISIS AT PINEY POINT —

Evacuation over as officials say risk of Piney Point catastrophe has lowered” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — Evacuation orders ended late Tuesday around a leaking wastewater pond at the old Piney Point phosphate plant as officials said the risk of an immediate crisis had dropped substantially. “Our residents and business owners can return home safely tonight,” said Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh. Ecological concerns for Tampa Bay, meanwhile, continued to come into focus. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimated that 165 million gallons of wastewater had been released into the deep channel at Port Manatee on Tampa Bay. About 300 million gallons are remaining in the leaking reservoir, the state said, compared to approximately 480 million gallons before the releases began.

The crisis at Piney Point may be over, but the questions are just beginning.

Evacuees head home as Florida leaders signal worst of wastewater breach danger is over” via Beau Zimmer of WTSP

As danger of major breach recedes, Florida seeks long-term solution for troubled plant” via Craig Pittman for The Washington Post — Since 1967, Piney Point has been plagued by repeated violations and problems. Over the years, state and local governments have been reluctant to take steps to resolve the trouble with Piney Point. But this latest near-calamity may finally push them to act. Even as they continue pumping wastewater from the reservoir to relieve the pressure on its weakened walls, officials are reviving a controversial cleanup proposal and suggesting an of-the-moment way to pay for it. The plan: to treat the plant’s polluted water and inject it 3,500 feet below ground and into a salty part of the Floridan Aquifer. The $200 million to do this would come from Biden’s COVID-recovery package.

Their homes are in the Piney Point danger zone. ‘Do I want my daughter exposed to that?’” via Jason Dill and Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — Hundreds of people are on ground zero of what could be one of Florida’s worst environmental disasters. Living in the shadows of a potential disaster zone wasn’t something mentioned when the Fitzsimmons family bought their home four years ago. “I’m shocked, I’m angry, I’m completely worried about longtime impacts,” Melissa Fitzsimmons said. “I don’t want to say I feel misled, but I feel like they are really trying to have people move into this area. The development and the infrastructure they are building for new homes and new families to move here in the Palmetto-Parrish area, especially around this Moccasin Wallow corridor, they’re about to expand the road, they know people are coming. But there is no disclosure about this being here. None.”

Nikki Fried: Problems at Piney Point were 20 years in the making” via Susan Giles Wantuck of WUSF — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried suggested more oversight and accountability could have prevented the release of millions of gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay. Fried weighed in on the massive spill from the Piney Point retention pond Tuesday. “Florida is one of the most amazing states in the nation with some of the best natural resources in the world,” Fried said. “And if we are destroying our environment and not doing anything to protect it, we are destroying the future of our state.” While Fried said the phosphate industry is not under her department’s purview, the commissioner expressed concern for people, waterways, farming and aquaculture that is near to the Piney Point site and in Tampa Bay.

—“Video: Piney Point leak ‘could impact the region,’ Vern Buchanan says

Lawsuit questioned how hedge fund manager purchased Piney Point, site of wastewater leak” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — William Harley III was a wealthy hedge-fund operator said to have managed $1.5 billion in assets. He owned a Hooters restaurant in New York, a pecan farm in Texas, and at one point, he attempted to build a massive electric car plant in Syracuse with the help of friend and current U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Also in Harley’s portfolio? Piney Point. U.S. Rep. Buchanan is among those who have said HRK Holdings LLC., one of the companies Harley has controlled, should be held accountable for the current crisis at Piney Point. Still, little is known about Harley, though a federal lawsuit filed in 2005 sheds some light — and raises questions — on his financial dealings.

Charlie Crist wants EPA to verify water quality in Piney Point dump” via Jacobs Ogles via Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Crist wants the Environmental Protection Agency to test water dumped from Piney Point into Tampa Bay. In a letter to DeSantis, he urged the state and federal government to work together to assure residents about what was taking place. “The situation in Piney Point is dire and has the potential to be one of the most devastating environmental disasters our region has seen in recent history,” Crist said. “We need an all hands on deck approach that will allow the EPA to join forces with our state and local leaders. The public deserves a full understanding of the situation — transparency is key.”

Piney Point poses ‘unreasonable risk’ for Manatee jail inmates, A.C.L.U. argues” via Kavitha Surana of the Tampa Bay Times — At the Manatee County Central Jail, across U.S. 41 highway from the plant, only about 267 inmates were evacuated. The rest were moved to the second floor. More than 700 people remain detained, waiting for news from the ongoing efforts to control the leak. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and Larry Eger, public defender for the 12th Judicial Circuit, filed an emergency petition arguing the inmates are held at “unreasonable risk of serious harm,” a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The petition asks for their release or relocation. He said some of the people in Manatee County Central Jail remain detained not because they have been determined a danger to the community, but because they cannot afford bail.

Nikki Fried inspects the potential environmental disaster at Piney Point.

Piney Point threatens Tampa Bay, but other FL estuaries are in trouble, too” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — Even if you live outside of Florida, you’ve probably heard of Tampa Bay. It’s a popular, if somewhat vague, sports team “location.” There’s also a real Tampa Bay, a 400-square-mile body of water that separates Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg. It’s the state’s largest estuary, meaning it’s full of fish and crabs and sea grass and dolphins and manatees, not to mention seabirds of every kind. And right now, they’re all facing a potential disaster. There’s a highly specific reason for this, summed up in two words: Piney Point. What’s happened boils down to this nearly ironclad rule regarding life in Florida: Our state’s leaders have consistently put the convenience of industry ahead of the cleanliness of our waterways.

Tampa Bay’s vital sea grass beds could be endangered by Piney Point wastewater discharge” via Ron Brackett of Weather.com — One of the biggest worries is what the nutrient-rich water is doing to vital sea grass beds in the bay along Florida’s Gulf Coast, according to Maya Burke, assistant director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Millions of gallons of acidic wastewater, which contains phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia, have been pumped out of the retention pond filled with water leftover from the manufacturing of fertilizer from phosphates. It also contains saltwater from a dredging project at Port Manatee and stormwater runoff and rain. Tampa Bay is home to more than 200 species of fish, including redfish, mullet, sheepshead, snook and spotted sea trout. It provides a habitat for dolphins and manatees and tens of thousands of water birds, like herons and egrets.

How manatees could be impacted by wastewater leak” via Daisy Ruth of WFLA — An “unusual mortality event” in the manatee population has been confirmed on Florida’s east coast due to the death of sea grass, the manatee’s main source of food. Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute’s Executive Director Dr. James Powell said he and his team are concerned that the additional nutrients spilling from Piney Point and into Tampa Bay could potentially cause algal blooms, which would decrease visibility and clarity of the water in sea grass habitats. “Without sunlight, plants can’t grow, sea grasses can’t grow. Sea grasses are food for manatees and so we’re concerned that over time, both in the short term and also in the longer term, is that it might impact sea grass growth,” he explained.

 Riverview man left threatening messages about Piney Point failure on FDEP line, authorities say” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Riverview resident Chad Ryan Lynch, 35, called a public phone line listed for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection 14 times on Saturday and left voicemails “regarding the Piney Point failure,” according to an arrest report. “During many of the voicemails, Lynch identifies himself and continually makes hostile threats toward the FDEP,” the report, written by a DEP special agent assigned to the case, states. The specific nature of the threats was unclear. A records custodian at the Hillsborough County jail who provided a copy of the arrest report redacted the portion containing statements made in the voicemail messages, citing an active investigation.

— STATEWIDE —

1st DCA rules Marsy’s Law privacy applies to police, shielding officer in Tony McDade case” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — In a major decision that could have sweeping implications in police use-of-force cases, a Florida appellate court ruled that Marsy’s Law privacy protections apply to law enforcement officers. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal on Tuesday unanimously reversed an earlier decision by Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson that on-duty officers are not afforded protection under Marsy’s Law, a state constitutional amendment that grants privacy rights to crime victims. The ruling sprang from the explosive case of Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was shot and killed last May 27 by an officer with the Tallahassee Police Department.

A court rules that Marsy’s Law can shield a Tallahassee police officer in the shooting of Tony McDade, a Black transgendered man.

Florida’s school mask mandate debate continues” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Floridians in several counties have pressured their school boards to end their mask mandates, most often with little success. The Pasco County Commission rescinded its executive order mandating masks. Its action did not apply to the county’s public schools, where the requirement remains in place. “I cannot in good conscience abandon our health and safety protocols at this time,” school superintendent Kurt Browning said. The Pasco School Board meets today. Will the anti-maskers show up?

— 2022 —

DeSantis political committee rakes in $5.1 million in March” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The political committee supporting DeSantis is off and running, bringing in $5.1 million in March, its biggest haul since just before his 2018 election as Governor. DeSantis has not yet opened an official campaign fund for a 2022 reelection run. His election prospects are already sitting on more than $17 million. While DeSantis might also be eying a 2024 presidential election campaign, his committee drew mainly from Florida interests in March. Roughly $4 million came from donors listing Florida addresses. The March haul followed $3.2 million that Friends of Ron DeSantis collected in February. That had been the committee’s biggest month, by far, since the 2018 election.

Philip ‘Griff’ Griffitts shows $60K raised in first HD 6 finance report” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Panama City Beach Republican Philip “Griff” Griffitts raised more than $60,000 in his first month as a candidate for House District 6. Griffitts, currently a Bay County Commissioner, is the lone candidate seeking the Bay County-based seat currently held by term-limited Rep. Jay Trumbull. The candidate said his March finance report included donations from Trumbull and Republican Sen. George Gainer, who also represents Bay County. The donor sheet also included checks from other prominent Republicans hailing from Bay County and the Panhandle region. Among them were Steve Counts, William Harrison, Randall McElheney, Chuck Perdue, Ralph Rish, Bo Rivard and Floyd Skinner. HD 6 covers all of coastal Bay County, including Panama City, Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven and Mexico Beach.

Philip ‘Griff’ Griffitts makes a splash in his first month of campaigning for HD 6.

Lakesha Burton, veteran Jacksonville officer and past PAL head kicks off run for Sheriff” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — Resilience — that is what Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Burton says she has had since she was a child. Now the 22-year department veteran says that resilience will help her as the first Black woman to run for sheriff in Jacksonville. She officially filed after an interview about her life, beliefs, and plans if elected next year to succeed Sheriff Mike Williams. Burton speaks of the sexual abuse of her teen years, then her turnaround in high school that ultimately led her to become a police officer under then-Sheriff Nat Glover. “I think the next person that leads this agency should be someone who is deeply connected in the community and really has the leadership ability to bridge the gap,” Burton said.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida adds 5,556 coronavirus cases, 70 deaths Tuesday” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida reported 5,556 coronavirus cases and 70 deaths Tuesday. The total number of reported statewide deaths is now 34,434. The state has seen 2,090,862 cases of COVID-19 as the pandemic enters its 13th month. On average, the Florida Department of Health has reported about 5,489 infections and 64 deaths per day over the past seven days. It can take officials up to two weeks to confirm and report a coronavirus-related death, meaning the number of deaths added does not necessarily reflect the number of people who died the previous day. The health department processed more than 79,282 tests on Monday, reporting a daily positivity rate of about 6.9%.

‘There’s going to be consequences’: DeSantis responds to 60 Minutes report on Florida vaccinations” via WFLA — During a stop in Panama City, DeSantis said the 60 Minutes report on his vaccine rollout “cut out everything that showed that their narrative was a piece of horse manure. They knew what they were doing was a lie. I knew what they were doing was a lie … They know that we know they’re lying, and they continue to lie.” DeSantis said the state offered 60 Minutes more information on their vaccination strategy, but they declined to interview key people, “because they didn’t want to let go of the narrative.” Alfonsi has faced backlash from Democrats as well, including Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, who called her report “intentionally false.”

Ron DeSantis blasts 60 Minutes for a ‘biased’ story on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Image via AP.

60 Minutes stands by controversial Publix report, says DeSantis presser comments were cut for ‘clarity’” via Rudy Takala of Mediaite — “As we always do for clarity, 60 Minutes used the portion of the Governor’s over two-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent,” a spokesman for the network said Tuesday in a statement to Mediaite. The network took broad editing liberties in Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes, which sought to blame DeSantis for a program that briefly allowed a limited number of Publix grocery stores in Palm Beach County to deliver COVID-19 vaccines before other drugstore chains. The program showed DeSantis calling the claim a “fake narrative” but omitted the more substantive portion of his response, including DeSantis noting that Publix was the first company to volunteer.

—”How Ron DeSantis’s critics are turning him into a hero for the right” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post 

Jimmy Patronis gets the jab — CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination from firefighters with the Tallahassee Fire Department on Tuesday and highlighted the work firefighters have done during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Florida’s firefighters have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic from day one, and I was honored to receive my vaccine from these heroes today. Of the more than 38,000 career firefighters in Florida, roughly 80% are paramedic or EMT certified and have been assisting in Florida communities by directly administering shots during the largest mass vaccination effort in American history. … They answer the call no matter the circumstances, and I cannot thank our firefighters enough for their hard work.”

2,600 Florida kids lost a parent to the coronavirus, study estimates” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — When Rep. Anna Eskamani was 13, she held the hand of her mother, Nasrin, while she died of cancer. A decade and a half later, Eskamani knows that an untold number of Florida children never got to do the same as their parent died of the coronavirus. “So many of these cases were sudden, unexpected,” said Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat. “There’s not even an opportunity to say goodbye.” A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics attempts to estimate how many children across the country lost a parent to the coronavirus. Researchers approximated that as of February, between 37,300 and 43,000 kids suffered such a loss.

Florida gets nearly $200 million to bolster vaccination effort” via Margo Snipe of the Tampa Bay Times — With millions in new funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida will expand its local efforts to vaccinate residents, particularly those disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, the agency announced Tuesday. “We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director. “Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic.” Throughout the crisis, communities of color — particularly Black Floridians — have been disproportionately burdened by COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates. And as vaccines become more widely available, Black residents statewide remain underrepresented among those receiving shots.

Rochelle Walensky is touting nearly $200 million to Florida for vaccinations.

Florida inmates to get the vaccine after monthslong wait” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Gov. DeSantis refused to send COVID-19 vaccines to state prisoners for several months, but state officials announced Tuesday that about 30,000 doses had been earmarked for the Florida Department of Corrections. Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz told the Miami Herald the state is sending doses within the next week. Once supplies arrive, corrections officials have indicated that they have the ability to vaccinate all inmates who want a shot within 10 days. Corrections officials have identified about 33,000 inmates who want to get the vaccine, Moskowitz said in an interview Tuesday. The state will also be assisting seven privately operated prisons in getting doses to inmates.

— CORONA LOCAL —

After 60 Minutes vaccine episode, county officials calm, DeSantis fighting mad” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — Two Palm Beach County commissioners agreed to end a short-lived spat over why residents of the poverty-wracked Glades were briefly blocked from getting coronavirus vaccines, while Gov. DeSantis declared war on a national news program. During a press conference in Panama City, DeSantis blasted the producers of a 60 Minutes episode as “smear merchants,” who “lied” about why the predominantly Black farming community was overlooked when all of the county’s vaccines were given to Publix in January.

State data reveals rising COVID-19 variants in Northeast Florida” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — State data on the coronavirus pandemic indicates an increasing incidence of COVID-19 variants of concern in Northeast Florida, although still well below the level recorded elsewhere in the state. County-by-county data as of April 1 revealed 42 known cases of “variants of concern” in Duval County. In all, the state data showed 2,945 known instances of these variants in Florida as of April 1, a total that has since surpassed 3,200 in the CDC’s latest update. More than 2,600 were B.1.1.7, although the state data did not specify which variants were found in which counties.

Disney World’s face-covering rule gets photo exception” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World is changing one of its COVID-related policies, and we’ll be able to see folks smiling when it kicks in. Starting Thursday, face coverings will be allowed to be removed while photographs are being taken — but with very specific restrictions. “You may temporarily remove your face covering while actively eating, drinking or taking an outdoor photo, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing during this time,” the official Disney World website reads, along with an asterisk indicating that this change is effective as of April 8. It’s similar to Disney World’s mask policy when eating and drinking, which keeps visitors from wandering without face coverings.

— CORONA NATION —

Biden moves up deadline to make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by April 19” via Courtney Subramanian and Maureen Groppe of USA TODAY — President Biden announced Tuesday that he is moving up his call for all U.S. adults to become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine to April 19, two weeks sooner than his initial goal of May 1. “Everyone is going to be able to do this before the month is out,” Biden said while touring a pop-up vaccination site at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, and before delivering a warning that now is not the time to become complacent about the virus. Biden wants to eliminate any confusion for Americans about whether they are eligible to be vaccinated, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Joe Biden is moving up the timetable of vaccines-for-all. Image via AP.

Nearly half of new US COVID-19 infections are in just 5 states” via Russ Bynum and Michelle R. Smith of The Associated Press — New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together reported 44% of the nation’s new COVID-19 infections, or nearly 197,500 new cases, in the latest available seven-day period, according to state health agency data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Total U.S. infections during the same week numbered more than 452,000. The heavy concentration of new cases in states that account for 22% of the U.S. population has prompted some experts and elected officials to call for Biden’s administration to ship additional vaccine doses to those places. So far, the White House has shown no signs of shifting from its policy of dividing vaccine doses among states based on population.

Encouraging signs that the vaccine rollout is having the desired effect” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — On Dec. 14, 2020, the first coronavirus vaccines were rolled out. The process was slow; it took until Jan. 11 before more than 10 million doses had been distributed. By about that point, COVID-19 metrics had already begun to decline. The drop in cases and deaths was sudden and dramatic. Beginning on Jan. 12, the number of new cases began to drop at an average rate of 4,500 new cases for the next 40 days or so. The number of deaths began to trend downward starting Jan. 17. We certainly can’t say that the vaccine rollout prompted that downward trend in cases. But that drop did look different from the other two surges.

U.S. bet big on COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer even as problems mounted” via Chris Hamby, Sharon LaFraniere and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — More than eight years ago, the federal government invested in an insurance policy against vaccine shortages during a pandemic. It paid Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland biotech firm known for producing anthrax vaccines, to have a factory in Baltimore always at the ready. The factory churned out about 150 million doses as of last week. But so far, not a single dose has been usable because regulators have not yet certified the factory to allow the vaccines to be distributed to the public. Former company employees depict a factory operation that was ill-equipped to take on such a mammoth manufacturing task.

Americans’ worry about catching COVID-19 drops to record low” via RJ Reinhart of Gallup — At the same time Americans’ satisfaction with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has surged, their concerns about getting the virus and about the availability of coronavirus tests and hospital services/treatment have fallen to record lows. Just 35% of U.S. adults say they are very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19, the lowest point in Gallup’s trend since April 2020. 22% of Americans are very or moderately worried about access to hospital services/treatment, and 14% are just as worried about access to COVID-19 tests. The current 35% worried about contracting COVID-19 is down 14 percentage points from February and well off the record-high 59% of Americans who voiced concerns about catching the disease last summer.

Public health experts urge Americans to not skip 2nd vaccine dose” via Sharon Crowley of FOX 5 New York — Side effects coming with the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have increased so-called vaccine hesitancy. Some people are even hoping to get away with just one shot. But the National Institutes of Health is warning against stopping at one dose. Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the vaccine education center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, urges people to get both shots despite the side effects associated with the second dose. “Although it’s true the second dose can cause fatigue and fever and headache and muscle ache, it is a small price to pay to be protected against this disease for a more durable or longer length period of time,” Offit said.

Vaccine cheat days are adding up” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — Even as infection rates tick up again, people are bending, stretching, and breaking the rules governing how they should act around others: A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans’ vigilance about distancing and avoiding public places seems to be slackening, regardless of their immunization status. Slowly but surely, we’re losing our grip. To be clear, we have reason for optimism. Vaccination rates are also rising, and according to the latest estimates, the currently cleared shots are extraordinarily effective at preventing not just symptomatic disease, but asymptomatic infections — key to slowing the virus’s often-silent spread.

White House rejects U.S. vaccine passports, skirting uproar” via Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg — The U.S. government won’t issue so-called vaccine passports, Psaki said, after Texas sought to limit their development because of privacy concerns. “The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Psaki told reporters. The administration wants to protect Americans’ privacy and doesn’t want vaccine passports “used against people unfairly,” Psaki said. Some businesses and colleges are pushing for people to show proof of vaccination as a way to safely resume pre-pandemic operations.

Vaccine passports are a non-starter, says Joe Biden’s administration. Image via AP.

An unexpected boon to America’s vaccine towns” via Daniel Block of the Atlantic — Vaccine tourism is a broad phenomenon that entails both residents driving to different parts of their state and, say, Californians flying to Florida. In some cases, like mine, this is explicitly allowed. But in other cases, it is forbidden. That’s because vaccine tourists have been blamed for worsening the pandemic’s already uneven toll. Knowing that, I felt guilty driving north to Plattsburgh. When I entered the vaccination center, I was seriously questioning my judgment. The nurse administering my shot asked where I was from, and I responded, sheepishly, “Westchester County.” What she said next surprised me. “I actually don’t mind that so many people are coming here for vaccines,” she told me. “It’s been good for the economy.”

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

A year after passage of Cares Act, watchdogs struggle to oversee trillions in coronavirus spending” via Yeganeh Torbati and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — When the $2.1 trillion Cares Act was enacted just over a year ago, Democrats in Congress, mistrustful of the Donald Trump administration’s ethical track record, made robust policing a top priority for the gusher of new spending. The law, intended to stem the economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, created new oversight bodies and directed more than $270 million to new and existing watchdogs. A House subcommittee with the power to issue subpoenas quickly got to work with queries to private corporations and government agencies. One year later, the conversation in Washington about overseeing a new, nearly $2 trillion relief package administered by the Biden administration is decidedly more muted.

1 in 4 plan to bolt job post-pandemic” via Kim Hart of Axios — 1 in 4 workers (26%) plans to look for a job at a different company once the pandemic has subsided, according to Prudential’s latest Pulse of the American Worker Survey, conducted by Morning Consult in March. High-skilled workers with plenty of opportunities are the hardest to replace. This massive reshuffling also will create major headaches for employers, and will likely expand the gaps between men and women in the workplace. The number of workers planning to bolt their jobs is even higher (34%) for Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce today. Of those planning to leave their current job, 80% are concerned about career growth.

One-quarter of workers plan to ditch their jobs post-pandemic.

CDC says passengers could be boarding cruise ships in U.S. ports as soon as July” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The director of the maritime division at the CDC said passengers could be boarding cruise ships in U.S. ports as soon as July. It all depends on how many people get vaccinated, how well COVID-19 variants can be kept at bay, and how fast cruise companies can secure agreements with local ports and health authorities in the cities they plan to visit, said CDC’s Martin Cetron in an interview. In recent weeks the cruise industry has dialed up its pressure on the CDC to allow for cruises to resume, citing July as a target. Cetron doesn’t think cruise companies are that far off, but it’s going to take some work to get there, and a lot of things have to go right, he said.

Disney Cruise Line cancels June sailings from Florida, looks to sail Disney Magic with U.K. residents” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Cruise Line announced further cancellations for its Port Canaveral-based ships Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy on Tuesday, which won’t sail until at least July, while also canceling its planned Disney Magic sailings in Europe through Sept. 18. Instead, the line announced it would sail Disney Magic on select dates from London Tilbury, Newcastle, Liverpool and Southampton as part of a staycation sailing plan exclusive to residents of the United Kingdom. Those plans, though, are pending UK government guidelines and authorizations, according to the cruise line. In the U.S., cruise lines remain under the CDC’s conditional sail order, which requires several COVID-19 protections in place before being allowed to sail.

— MORE CORONA —

Researchers are hatching a low-cost coronavirus vaccine” via Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — A new vaccine for COVID-19 that is entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam could change how the world fights the pandemic. The vaccine, called NDV-HXP-S, is the first in clinical trials to use a new molecular design widely expected to create more potent antibodies than the current generation of vaccines. And the new vaccine could be far easier to make. Existing vaccines from companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson must be produced in specialized factories using hard-to-acquire ingredients. In contrast, the new vaccine can be mass-produced in chicken eggs — the same eggs that produce billions of influenza vaccines every year in factories worldwide.

Poll: Parents split on vaccinating kids” via Margaret Talev of Axios — Just half of U.S. parents plan to get their children vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as they can, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. High vaccination rates are seen as a key to achieving herd immunity, but many parents don’t want their kids to be the first in line once pediatric vaccinations become available. Republicans surveyed were most resistant to vaccinating their children. As millions of adults get vaccinated and receive new stimulus payments, confidence is rising, and pandemic risk perceptions decline. For the first time in a year, the survey showed a net improvement in how people perceive their ability to do their jobs effectively.

Parents are leery of vaccinating their kids for COVID-19.

Family kicked off Spirit Airlines flight from Orlando after 2-year-old doesn’t wear mask” via David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — A family was asked to leave a Spirit Airlines flight before takeoff from Orlando International Airport to Atlantic City, New Jersey, after their 2-year-old child didn’t have a mask on while eating, according to videos of the confrontation. The videos, which started making the rounds on social media Monday afternoon, showed the young girl on her mother’s lap eating when a flight attendant, relaying a message from the pilot, said the girl had to have a mask on. “Seven months pregnant with special needs kids … on a flight trying to get this [mask] on, but she’s refusing to keep it on, but we are all getting kicked off,” the mother said in one of the videos.

The new shortage: Ketchup can’t catch up” via Heather Haddon and Annie Gasparro of The Wall Street Journal — After enduring a year of closures, employee safety fears and start-stop openings, many American restaurants are now facing a nationwide ketchup shortage. Restaurants are trying to secure the tabletop staple after COVID-19 upended the condiment world order. Managers are using generic versions, pouring out bulk ketchup into individual cups, and hitting the aisles of Costco for substitutes. The pandemic turned many sit-down restaurants into takeout specialists, making individual ketchup packets the primary condiment currency for both national chains and mom-and-pop restaurants. Packet prices are up 13% since January 2020, and their market share has exploded at the expense of tabletop bottles.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

The U.S. government approved trillions in aid. Many hard-hit families have yet to receive it.” via Heather Long of The Washington Post — A year into the pandemic, the U.S. government has enacted trillions in aid for hard-hit businesses and households, but it has faltered repeatedly on delivering relief in a timely manner. Early in the crisis, many benefit programs were overwhelmed with applications, leading to months of delays in sending out payments. Under the Joe Biden administration, the problems persist. Experts say the administrative stumbles underscore the need for massive upgrades in technology, more staffing, and clear program guidelines, so the nation isn’t caught flat-footed for the next crisis.

The Joe Biden administration is struggling to get timely relief payments to struggling Americans.

Iran and U.S. agree on path back to nuclear deal” via Steven Erlanger of The New York Times — The United States and Iran agreed through intermediaries to establish two working groups to try to get both countries back into compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In a meeting of the current members of the deal in Vienna, all parties agreed to establish one working group to focus on how to get the United States back to the deal by lifting harsh economic sanctions imposed or reimposed after Trump pulled out of the accord in May 2018. The other working group will focus on how to get Iran back into compliance with the accord’s limitations on nuclear enrichment and stockpiles of enriched uranium.

The Trump White House provided reporters with a gusher of leaks. Everything’s changed.” via Paul Farhi of The Washington Post — After 2 1/2 months of Biden’s presidency, something is missing from the news coverage of his administration: leaks. Juicy details about the President’s behind-the-scenes conduct and decision-making? No one seems able to dig up anything interesting. Early forecasts of major policy proposals on the horizon, aka the grand tradition of the Washington trial balloon? A story we’re not getting to read these days. Reporters drank lustily from the fire hose of leaks that emanated from the West Wing during the last four years. Since then, the pipeline has gone dry.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Donald Trump puts off presidential library plans, keeping options open for 2024 run” via Mark Niquette and Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News — Trump is spending his first months as an ex-President trying to ensure that he’s remembered the way he wants; but he’s holding off on plans to establish a library that would enshrine his version of his presidency. Refusing to cede the limelight, the former President has issued almost daily statements, set up a website, and turned up at multiple events at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But planning for a library would suggest he’s done being President, and that’s not something he’s ready to concede. By delaying a library, Trump puts aside, at least for now, a chance to shape the story of his presidency.

Don’t expect a Donald Trump Presidential Library anytime soon.

Trump got evicted from ‘the swamp.’ Some of his people are trying to stick around.” via Ben Terris and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — After four tempestuous years, thousands of former administration staffers find themselves in a familiar situation as old as Washington itself: trying to leverage their federal experience into further employment. The nameless staffers looking for jobs in Washington are de-emphasizing their time with Trump on their résumés if they want to work in corporate America, starting their own groups, or playing up their Trumpiness for a job on the Hill, where the ex-President is practically a religious idol in the Republican caucus.

The staggering scale of the Trump campaign’s opt-out fundraising scheme” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — How many times have you ended up on some random email list because you neglected to uncheck some box on some website? That’s what the Trump campaign did, too, except instead of a “sign me up for your hourly newsletters,” the checkboxes focused on encouraging people to demonstrate their fervent support for former Trump — by making their one-time contribution a recurring one. So it is true that people who identified their occupations as “mechanic” often gave to Trump. But there were also about 300 contributions from identified mechanics returned by Trump’s campaign or committees related to it (flagged as negative contributions in the FEC data). That’s a bit under 5% of the total.

What a photo of Trump’s new office reveals about how he wants to be remembered” via Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — Americans got a glimpse of Trump’s post-presidential office when former White House aide Stephen Miller tweeted out a picture of himself with Trump. The photo comes out as Trump tries to remain the kingmaker of the Republican party and has been meeting politicians down at Mar-a-Lago seeking his endorsement or hosting fundraisers at the resort. The office is above the ballroom at the exclusive Palm Beach club. The image rocketed around social media, with amatuer online sleuths analyzing everything from the collection of tsotchkes populating the room to the bottle hiding behind Trump’s phone.

Why the Republican party isn’t rebranding after 2020” via Perry Bacon Jr. of FiveThirtyEight — After losing a presidential election, a political party will undertake an intense intraparty debate over why it didn’t win and how the party needs to change to take back the White House. Despite Republicans losing the White House and Senate in 2020 and thus being totally swept out of power in Washington, there’s been no official “autopsy” or widespread consideration of appointing new leaders or anything else. Why has there not been such a reckoning among conservatives and Republicans? based on my own reporting and interviews with people studying the Republican Party closely, I’d offer five (overlapping) theories …


— GAETZGATE —

Matt Gaetz fundraises off teen sex-trafficking probe” via Sam Brodey of the Daily Beast — Gaetz is trying to turn his burden into a weapon by fundraising off the controversy. In an email to supporters, Gaetz accused the media of “publishing lies to drag me down” and dragging “my dating life into their political attacks.” A button at the end of the message directs the reader to “click here to fight back against the fake news.” Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for allegedly paying a 17-year-old girl for sex, is borrowing a page from Trump’s playbook by fundraising off bad press. But the congressman has largely been abandoned by allies in Trump’s orbit, and his colleagues in Congress, as he defends himself from the damaging allegations.

It should come as no surprise that Matt Gaetz is turning his troubles into a fundraising tool.

Gaetz, loyal for years to Trump, is said to have sought a blanket pardon” via Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos of The Washington Post — Gaetz was one of Trump’s most vocal allies. In the final weeks of Trump’s term, Gaetz sought something in return. According to two people told of the discussions, he privately asked the White House for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed. Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But DOJ investigators had begun questioning Gaetz’s associates about his conduct. It was unclear whether Gaetz or the White House knew at the time about the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for.

Gaetz’s aides reportedly sent embarrassing videos of him to other Republican operatives” via Sonam Sheth of INSIDER — Aides working for Gaetz sent embarrassing videos of their boss to other Republican operatives, POLITICO reported on Tuesday. It’s unclear what was on the videos, but it underscores Gaetz’s status as a wild card on Capitol Hill, one who is widely disliked even within his own camp. Perhaps the most notable silence is that of Trump, who had counted Gaetz among his most loyal defenders. Gaetz fervently defended Trump during congressional oversight hearings and endorsed Trump’s wildest conspiracy theories. One former White House staffer told Insider this month, shortly after the news of the Justice Department’s investigation into Gaetz broke, that while the President’s former aides weren’t happy to see him in hot water, they did “feel a little vindicated.”

@MattGaetz: They wanted $25 million to make false allegations against me go away. My family would never pay a bribe. Now, the DOJ must release the tapes implicating their former colleague in the smear campaign against me. It’s all on the tapes.

Tweet, tweet:

—“Given the dire allegations against him, Gaetz is very well-insulated” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post

—”Gaetz wanted to be a political celebrity. Now what?” via CNN

—“The problem isn’t a ‘witch hunt,’ Gaetz. It’s you.” via Danielle Tcholakian of the Daily Beast 

—”Stephen Colbert: ‘How dumb is Matt Gaetz?’” via Adrian Horton of The Guardian

—”Geraldo Rivera compares Hunter Biden to Gaetz; Twitter takes issue” via Brian Niemietz of the Daily News

MeanwhileJoel Greenberg claimed to have explosives during hourslong negotiation before bond-violation surrender, records say” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg claimed to have explosive devices and threatened to harm himself while negotiating his surrender with Seminole County deputy sheriffs in early March, which delayed for hours his arrest for violating his bond conditions. Deputy Jerome Grunat wrote that when he arrived at Greenberg’s home in Heathrow at about 9:20 p.m. on March 2, the former county tax collector initially said via phone that he would exit his home “after a short period of time.” During subsequent phone negotiations, Greenberg made suicidal comments and at one point opened his front door, threw a bag of medication onto the driveway, then retreated inside.

—“The congressman and his wingman” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

— CRISIS —

Understaffed and overtaxed, Capitol Police reeling from trauma of body and mind” via Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — Three months to the day after the deadly Capitol insurrection, the Hill’s police force is reeling from trauma of body and mind: Even those who weren’t physically injured on Jan. 6 have described hand-to-hand encounters with rioters, some hurling racist epithets, others brandishing weapons to threaten them. Members of Congress have wrestled for months over whether and how to overhaul Capitol security, with occasional partisan scuffles but mostly cross-aisle concern about safety and sufficient support for Capitol Police. The loss suffered on Friday is exacerbating concerns that the force is in the midst of a mental health emergency and could lend new momentum to efforts at better mental-health resources.

Capitol Police face physical and mental exhaustion.

Feds want to keep Ormond Beach Proud Boys organizer jailed before trial” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — Federal prosecutors have requested Ormond Beach Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs be detained as he awaits trial on charges that he helped plan the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, arguing his current home detention cannot adequately “guard against further attacks by his followers.” Prosecutors at a hearing Tuesday argued that Biggs — as well as a co-defendant and fellow Proud Boy Ethan Nordean, known as “Rufio Panman” — should not remain out of custody. In a motion to revoke his release, the government argued Biggs presents a danger “not only based on his own acts of defiance and violence, but through the actions of those who still undoubtedly support him.”

University of North Florida confirms anti-Semitic incident happened on campus during Passover” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — After anti-Semitic messaging was posted on the doors of Jewish professors’ classrooms and offices at the University of North Florida last week, the school says it knows who was behind it and is investigating. The incident happened during Passover — the Jewish commemoration of ancient Hebrews’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt. According to Jules Gerstein, the founder of UNF’s Jewish Student Union, flyers with QR codes that linked to an anti-Semitic radio station were found posted to the doors of Jewish faculty and staff members throughout the school’s social science building last Monday morning. The school confirmed an incident last week but did not go into specifics, citing an active investigation.

— D.C. MATTERS —

GOP mandating negative COVID-19 test for entry to spring donor retreat in Florida” via David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner — The Republican National Committee is requiring attendees of the party’s spring donor retreat in Florida to get tested for the coronavirus and submit proof of a negative result as a condition for gaining entry to the event. Wealthy contributors to the RNC and other GOP causes are set to gather later this week in Palm Beach to hobnob with top party officials and hear from Trump. Trump is set to host a portion of the retreat for a dinner speech at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence that has turned into a redoubt for ex-administration officials and Republican donors and businessmen.

RNC is requiring coronavirus testing for its spring donor retreat at Mar-a-Lago. Image via Reuters.

Latina ex-Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell takes new role” via Carmen Sesin of NBC News — Seeing her father’s body with gunshot wounds was one of the most traumatic moments for former Florida congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell as she grappled with the shock and grief of losing him to gun violence in 1996. The former Democratic lawmaker, who was the first South American-born member of Congress, will now be working on what she calls her “life mission” by joining Giffords, a gun control advocacy group, as a senior adviser. The group is named after former Arizona Democratic congresswomanGabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

U.S. considering joining boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics, State Department says” via Amanda Macias of CNBC — The United States and its allies are considering a joint boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the State Department said Tuesday. “It [a joint boycott] is something that we certainly wish to discuss,” State spokesman Ned Price told reporters when asked about the Biden administration’s plans ahead of the international games. While there is broad bipartisan support for taking a tougher policy stance against China, there is hardly unanimous agreement that a boycott would be the most productive path to pursue.

Cuban official: Island open to Cuban Americans investing, ‘strengthening ties’ with Cuba” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment is opening the door to Cuban Americans who want to participate in foreign investment projects as the island tries to jump-start its beleaguered economy and encourage Washington to loosen sanctions. Katia Alonso, the ministry’s director of foreign capital investments, said that Cuba won’t reject potential business bids from Cuban Americans based on the sole fact that they live in the U.S., something she said the law has never prohibited, though in the past exile entrepreneurs haven’t always been welcomed either.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Federal OSHA regulators begin inspection of Tampa lead factory” via Rebecca Woolington, Corey G. Johnson and Eli Murray of the Tampa Bay Times — Regulators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Monday began inspecting Gopher Resource, a Tampa lead smelter where dangerous conditions have plagued the factory for years. The federal inspection, which continued into Tuesday, comes a week after two Congress members wrote to Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and requested an expedited review in response to a Tampa Bay Times investigation that found hundreds of workers had been exposed to extreme amounts of lead and toxic gases. In a letter last Wednesday, Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa and Crist of St. Petersburg urged the department to take fast action, adding that “if the plant cannot operate safely, then it should not operate at all.”

OSHA begins to investigate how workers were poisoned at Tampa’s Gopher smelting plant.

30 pounds of cocaine, $330,000 in cash seized, 27 charged in North Florida drug ring” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A major drug ring operating out of Tallahassee had connections to other states and investigators say its members, 27 of whom have been taken into custody, were responsible for flooding North Florida with cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and Fentanyl. A collaborative of law enforcement officials announced the arrests after nearly a year of work, which allegedly brought down major players and street-level dealers who operated in Leon and Gadsden counties but had connections to California, Georgia and Texas. In court records detailing several of the arrests, Kevin Choute of Tallahassee is named as the head of the ring. He allegedly had multiple “stash houses” in town raided by police who discovered drugs, cash and guns.

Investors in new Marriott hotel near Disney sue, say refunds cost them shot at U.S. visas” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — A group of Vietnamese citizens is alleging in federal court that their combined $1.5-million investment toward a recently-opened Marriott hotel near Disney World was improperly refunded by firms involved in the project, costing them a chance for permanent resident cards through a U.S. visa program. The suit says the investors are among “many foreigners longing to receive legal immigration status in the United States” and “were attracted by the allure of obtaining an economic visa.” The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program provides a way to get a permanent resident card through an investment in a U.S. business, a benefit that extends to an investor’s spouse and children under 21.

River Life: The St. Johns reef system is still recovering from Hurricane Irma” via Quinton White of The Florida Times-Union — The project to monitor the St. Johns River reefs turned out to be even more challenging than expected. On Sept. 11, 2017, Hurricane Irma struck Jacksonville with massive rainfall over the entire state. The amount of freshwater input into the St. Johns River impacted the salinity and changed the nature of the estuarine lower basin where the reefs are located to more freshwater habitat. Hurricane Irma effectively killed the marine organisms and altered the reef for the rest of the project. In many ways, our research shifted from the growth and progression of a river reef to one where we followed the recovery of a reef system from a hurricane.

— MORE LOCAL —

Ex-Mayor Susan Haynie’s sentence another example of America’s dual system of justice” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Haynie, former Mayor of Boca Raton, is a free woman. Guilty of a pair of misdemeanors, sure, but those charges came with a $1,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and 12 months of probation. George Floyd probably would have been given worse, had he been found guilty of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Of course, Floyd never got the chance to go trial. Haynie’s sweetheart plea deal is yet another glaring example that America has two justice systems, one that sees Floyd dead on the streets of Minneapolis, and another that sees Haynie walking the streets of Boca Raton.

Susan Haynie’s light sentence puts a lampshade on racial divisions in the American justice system.

—”A crowded field is set for North Miami’s election. Here’s who’s running” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald

Miami Springs to get new Mayor and two new council members after election” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Realtor Jacky Bravo and Miami Dade College history professor Victor Vazquez defeated their opponents in Tuesday’s election in Miami Springs, winning seats on the city council to replace one interim council member who didn’t seek reelection and another who won the Mayor’s seat unopposed. Just over 2,000 votes were cast out of nearly 9,500 registered voters in the city, a turnout of about 22%. Bravo will succeed Councilwoman Maria Puente Mitchell, who ran unopposed for Mayor. She will replace term-limited Mayor Billy Bain. The new members will be sworn in at next Monday’s council meeting, which will be the last for Zavier Garcia, who was appointed last year after Jaime Petralanda resigned to run for school board. Vazquez will take Garcia’s seat.

— “Polk County municipal elections: Here’s who won” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics


— TOP OPINION —

Only Congress could give us a Gaetz” via David A. Graham of The Atlantic — If these scandals seem to demand an explanation for how a member of Congress, entrusted to hold power in Washington, could behave in such a way, the reality may be the opposite: Only a member of Congress could behave like this and get away with it. Whether Gaetz’s alleged behavior rose to the criminal is yet to be seen, but if true, it would have gotten him fired long ago in any conventional gig. Congress is no normal gig. It has none of the measures in place that other workplaces do to deal with bad behavior. In theory, the House and Senate ethics committees can investigate and punish members, but there are few real punishments short of expulsion.

— OPINIONS —

DeSantis stamps state’s passport to Fantasyland” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Two months ago, DeSantis bragged that Florida is an “oasis of freedom.” Apparently, however, “freedom” depends on how DeSantis defines it. DeSantis issued an executive order that seeks to prohibit public agencies or private businesses from demanding proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. Any business that requires a “vaccine passport,” the order said, will be ineligible to receive state contracts or grants. As usual, the order seemed hastily written by a first-year law student. As usual, DeSantis gave no heads-up.

The GOP pretends to break up with corporate America” via Mark Gongloff of Bloomberg Opinion — For decades, Republicans have lavished companies with tax and regulation breaks, and companies have lavished them back with campaign contributions. But Trump’s presidency strained that symbiosis. And lately, Coca-Cola, Delta and other companies have (belatedly) spoken out against Georgia’s new election law, inspired by Trump’s made-up election grievances, which seems designed to frustrate Black voters. Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have responded by publicly blasting companies that were once their best friends. Republicans learned a while back to use outrage to drive voters to the polls in off-year elections, and in this cycle, the role of scapegoat will apparently be played by corporate America. Corporate America doesn’t exactly have a natural new best friend in the Democratic Party, though.

Florida budget wouldn’t even spend more than $3 billion of the federal relief money” via Ben Diamond for the Tampa Bay Times — Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, which sends billions of dollars to the state so we can help our families and businesses recover. Unfortunately, the state budget being drafted in Tallahassee does not adequately meet those priorities. The Florida House will soon vote on a $97 billion state budget for 2021-2022 drafted by the Republican leadership. It does not even spend more than $3 billion of the roughly $10 billion in federal relief money. Instead of raising weekly unemployment benefits that rank among the lowest in the nation, Republican leaders plan to provide more tax breaks for big corporations.

Legislature finds $1 billion in tax revenue, gives it away to big business” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Tax reform was the original basic and sole concept of House Bill 15 and Senate Bill 50. The bills require all out-of-state retailers to collect and remit the sales tax that Florida customers would pay if they made the purchases from nearby stores. The money will be used to cut sales tax on commercial rentals from its current 5.5% to merely 2%. The tax reform component is still there, but it’s the business community that will reap the benefit rather than Florida’s schoolchildren or the overworked and underpaid staff of a prison system in crisis.

No sympathy for tantrum-throwing anti-maskers arrested at Disney, other Florida businesses” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — I have sympathy for many people. But not these rule-breakers and scene-makers. Aside from the fact that many take their frustrations out on innocent, front-line workers and uninvolved fellow customers, these folks seem not to understand a very basic concept: They are on someone else’s private property — upon which they voluntarily stepped. If they don’t want to abide by that property owner’s rules, there’s a simple solution: Go somewhere else. Hang out with your fellow anti-maskers where you guys can sneeze, cough and spit on each other until your hearts are full and shirts are soaked.

What we learned from 15 million guesses about a neighborhood’s politics” via Emily Badger, Josh Katz and Kevin Quealy of The New York Times — We recently showed Times readers images culled from Google Street View of 10,000 neighborhoods around the United States. Could readers guess how residents in a given place voted in the 2020 presidential election just by eyeballing a typical street scene? When shown a scene from a competitive precinct, they were more likely to guess that Trump carried it than Biden. We also suspect that some readers ascribed too much political meaning to pickup trucks and American flags. And readers looking for socioeconomic signals may have been foiled, too. As we suspected, readers tended to struggle with suburban-looking neighborhoods.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

The latest COVID-19 casualty count from the Florida Department of Health: more than 5,500 new cases and 70 additional fatalities. The state’s death toll has reached 34,434. The coronavirus has now infected almost one in 10 people in Florida, and one in 63 have died.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. DeSantis tees off on 60 Minutes, saying their story accusing him of setting up a “pay to play” system for the COVID-19 vaccine was bogus. The Governor’s outrage focused on one part of the story to make the whole thing look wrong. It was not.

— The Senate Rules Committee approves the Privacy Protection Act. Bradley‘s bill would allow you to opt-out of the data collection process; business lobbyists don’t like it one bit.

— A House committee approves a bill to prohibit transgender students in high school or college from playing on the women’s team. The ban is now ready for the House floor.

— The Florida Department of Law Enforcement breaks up a drug ring operating out of the Tallahassee region. The ten-month investigation was called “Operation No Warning.” More arrests are expected.

— Congressman Hastings of Palm Beach County died at the age of 84 of pancreatic cancer. Fellow South Florida Congressman Deutch says it was an honor to serve with him. DeSantis will soon schedule a special election to fill Hastings’ seat in the U.S. House.

— And finally, a Florida Man says his arrest for hosting a strip show at his bar was actually payback by the cops for ignoring COVID-19 safety rules.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

U.S. Navy Blue Angels to headline 2021 Fort Lauderdale Air Show in new Super Hornets” via Phillip Vays of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Six jet-shaped blurs, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels — will scream and thunder and barrel-roll over Fort Lauderdale beach as headliners of the 2021 Fort Lauderdale Air Show May 8-9. If this elite sextet of fighter jets kicks up more velocity, sonic booms and smoke trails than last time, it’s not just your imagination. Since the Blue Angels’ last Fort Lauderdale visit in 2019, the Navy’s legacy Hornets, flown in air shows since 1986, have been replaced by faster, sleeker twin-engine F/A-18 Super Hornets that pack 40% more power under the hood.

Fort Lauderdale prepares for a show by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels with newer, sleeker fighter jets.

Backyard orchid hobby blooms into beautiful business during pandemic” via Fox 13 staff reports — The St. Pete Orchid Farm is a small, family-owned urban farm full of orchids in all stages of growth, from seedlings to full-size plants. They also grow a variety of orchid-compatible plants and other unusual tropicals. The farm is actually two partners’ backyard. Doug and Mike turned their passion for orchids into an amazing unique business. The business helped Mike, a sidelined bartender, stay afloat through the pandemic. Business got even better as the state began to reopen, and now they want to continue to welcome people to their backyard farm.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Sen. Annette Taddeo, Erica DiCeglie, Veronica Rudie, and Chris Turner.

___

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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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.


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#FlaPol

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

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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