Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.14.21

Sunburn Orange Tally (7)
Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

A reminder: It’s Seersucker Day in the Capitol.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ COVID-19 response may be getting dragged through the mud by national media, but a new survey shows Florida voters are fans.

Polling firm Cygnal surveyed 800 likely general election voters in Florida and found 60% believe DeSantis has done a good job navigating the state through the pandemic. That beats the 58% approval earned by the Joe Biden administration and the 49% approval for Donald Trump’s response.

Ron DeSantis gets high marks for his COVID-19 response strategy.

Floridians aren’t just fans of DeSantis’ plans; they’re fans of the man himself, handing him a plus-17 job approval rating halfway through his first term. The media, which has taken to thrashing DeSantis a few times in recent weeks, earned a minus-14 approval rating from the same set of voters.

Cygnal founder and CEO Brent Buchanan said DeSantis’ high numbers are because of — not in spite of — negative media coverage.

“I was shocked when I saw how brazen and dishonest the 60 Minutes segment was,” he said. “DeSantis’ net favorability went up eight points after voters saw the segment and learned more about his actions throughout the pandemic. We didn’t test 60 Minutes’ image, but I imagine it would have plummeted. After all, 53% of respondents already viewed the mainstream media unfavorably.”

While Cygnal didn’t poll voters’ regard for 60 Minutes, it did ask whether they saw the segment on DeSantis’ alleged pay-to-play vaccine rollout.

Just 45% of Florida voters were aware of the story when asked. When shown a portion of the segment and provided a copy of DeSantis’ response, the poll found 52% sided with DeSantis and 27% sided with the team at CBS News.

Cygnal conducted the survey online April 8-11. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SamStein: The so-called boring Biden presidency: Massive J&J vaccine news, Readout of a call with [Vladimir] Putin (with news of a potential summit), News break of full Afghanistan withdrawal by 9/11, [Eulogy] for killed Capitol police officer, all before noon.

@MarcoRubio: President @JoeBiden words today at the memorial services for Officer Billy Evans were very moving and fitting Thank you

@FrankThorp: Just absolutely gut-wrenching to see Officer Billy Evans’ children standing at the top of the steps of the East front of the Capitol holding teddy bears as they watch their father’s casket being carried to the rotunda so he can lay in honor.

@MollyFitz: Wait till America hears about birth control side effects

@ScottMaxwell: Feels like a lot of this coverage is sourced from inside [Matt] Gaetz world. (He was set up. Sources say the girl was definitely 18. Doesn’t everybody pay someone else’s tuition?) But today’s piece also has a helluva drive-by/comparison with an [Jeffrey] Epstein reference

@Fineout: Always interesting to hear legislators — whose names have been bandied about for openings at state universities — come out in favor of shutting down public access to who’s applying for top position at a college or university

— DAYS UNTIL —

Apple’s new hardware event — 6; Disneyland to open — 16; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 18; Mother’s Day — 25; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 26; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 44; Memorial Day — 47; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 50; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 58; Father’s Day — 67; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 79; 4th of July — 81; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 85; MLB All-Star Game — 90; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 100; The NBA Draft — 106; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 108; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 114; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 132; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 142; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 163; ‘Dune’ premieres — 170; MLB regular season ends — 172; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 178; World Series Game 1 — 195; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 202; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 205; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 226; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 237; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 244; Super Bowl LVI — 305; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 345; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 387; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 450; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 541; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 576.

— GAETZGATE —

Questions swirl over investigation into Matt Gaetz as House returns” via Jeremy Herb and Ryan Nobles of CNN — House Republicans have remained conspicuously quiet since the investigation into Gaetz became public, but they’re likely to face new questions about their colleague’s future as the chamber returns to Washington on Tuesday. Two weeks ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the allegations being investigated were serious, adding that he planned to speak with Gaetz about them. It’s not yet clear if that conversation has happened, and McCarthy hasn’t said anything since. Gaetz is also now facing a House Ethics Committee investigation involving both the criminal allegations and potential violations of House rules, including a CNN report that he allegedly showed nude photos of women he said he had slept with to his colleagues while on the House floor.

As the House returns, Matt Gaetz faces new questions, investigations. Image via AP.

Gaetz’s glare stings House GOP — but his future’s safe for now” via Melanie Zanona and Oliva Beavers of POLITICO — While top Republicans acknowledged the serious nature of the allegations surrounding Gaetz, just one sitting GOP lawmaker has so far publicly called on him to resign: Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Instead, Republican leaders were quick to defer to the ongoing Justice Department probe, noting the Florida Republican would automatically lose his committee assignments if he were indicted. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said he needs to see “what the facts are” and pointed out there hasn’t “been any formal DOJ action yet,” but added that “obviously we’re watching it close.”

Marco Rubio, Rick Scott: Too soon to weigh in on Gaetz’s future” via Alan Fram of Florida Politics — Florida’s two Republican senators are steering clear of voicing support for Gaetz, branding sex trafficking accusations against him serious but calling it premature to say what should happen to their fellow Floridian and GOP lawmaker. The remarks by Sens. Rubio and Scott were the latest cautious comments about Gaetz by Republicans, who have mostly taken neutral stances or said nothing about him. Federal agents are scrutinizing Gaetz over allegations that include sex with a minor, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly.

New details shed light on Gaetz’s Bahamas trip” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO — The group took off for their Bahamas weekend getaway on three separate flights. Most of the passengers, which included at least five young women, flew out of Orlando on two separate private planes. Gaetz flew commercial. In the Bahamas, Gaetz was joined by two GOP allies: Halsey Beshears, then a state legislator, and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and Republican fundraiser for DeSantis. But questions surrounding the ages of some of the women surfaced immediately upon their return — three of them looked so young when they returned on Beshears’ private plane that U.S. Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip. As the investigation intensified this winter, Beshears abruptly resigned as DBPR Secretary.

CNN staffer admits network hyping Gaetz coverage because rep is ‘problem for the Democratic Party’” via Joseph A. Wulfsohn of Fox News — In another damning clip released by the right-wing guerrilla news outlet Project Veritas, CNN technical director Charles Chester was asked if the network uses “propaganda” on-air. When he was asked to explain how CNN uses “propaganda,” Chester cited the scandals plaguing Gaetz, which had surfaced just days prior. “ … we’re going to keep running those stories to keep hurting him and make it so that it can’t be buried and, like, just settled outside of court. And just like, you know, if we keep pushing that, it’s helping us. That’s propaganda because it’s helping us in some way,” Chester summarized.

—”Gaetz is both unique and … not so unique” via Gail Collins and Bret Stephens of The New York Times

’People mischaracterize my personal life’: Gaetz’s love affair with the public eye comes crashing down, for now” via Abigail Tracy of Vanity Fair — Now, as Gaetz’s problems grow as the allegations — ranging from gross to potentially illegal — stack up against him, there is a question as to whether he overplayed his hand. After all, there is acting like Trump, and then there is being Trump. As the standard-bearer of the Republican Party, with a vice-like grip on the rank and file, Trump was able to throw out a defense of his behavior, and no matter how ludicrous, the vast majority of the party would parrot his talking points. But the problem for Gaetz is he doesn’t have his own Gaetz. Aside from a meek defense from Jim Jordan and freshman Marjorie Taylor Greene, the silence from his party has been deafening.

Behind the Gaetz scandal, there’s a bigger issue: Most states have loopholes that let men exploit teenage girls” via Amber Lusvardi of The Washington Post — States, not the federal government, set the age of consent. In Gaetz’s home state of Florida, the age of sexual consent is 18, making any sexual conduct between an adult and a minor statutory rape. In many other states, the age is 16, although that varies by how close the two people are in age, what the circumstances may be and what type of sexual act is involved. State laws vary even more dramatically on allowing minors to wed. Forty-six states allow child marriage under certain circumstances. Some states have no minimum age for marriage, as long as the minor has a parent’s written permission or a judge’s approval.

Indicted Gaetz associate is said to be cooperating with Justice Dept.” via Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner of The New York Times — Joel Greenberg has been providing investigators with information since last year about an array of topics, including Gaetz’s activities, according to two people briefed on the matter. Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him could undermine his credibility as a witness. Greenberg faces a mandatory minimum of at least 12 years in prison: 10 years on the sex trafficking count and two on a charge of identity theft. He is the only person who has been publicly charged in the investigation.

Joel Greenberg is talking. A lot.

Records: Joel Greenberg doled out contracts to politicians, strategists tied to figures in Florida’s political scandals” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Audit documents, emails and other records reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel show Greenberg took a taxpayer-funded trip to Miami to meet with Gaetz and received an invitation from Dorworth to a VIP experience at an event with Trump in which Dorworth promised, “They will feed us all booze and give us a ride as well as an escort to our luxury boxes.” Viewed together, the records depict a Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office that, under Greenberg, turned into a source of money for people either personally close to Greenberg or plugged into GOP politics. Auditors also found ample evidence of potential “misuse of taxpayer dollars” and a series of vague consulting contracts for which they found no evidence of work.

Tweet, tweet:


— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

Ron DeSantis wants voters’ signatures to match. Would he pass the test?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Handwriting experts say no two signatures from one person are the same. It’s why Florida election officials for years have used all the signatures at their disposal when they authenticate a voter’s signature on a mail-in ballot. DeSantis wants to rein in that long-standing practice. Vote-by-mail signatures “must match the most recent signature on file” with the state Department of Elections, DeSantis declared. A bill moving through the Florida Senate would make that the law. Experts and election officials who reviewed DeSantis’ signature history said some of the modifications in his penmanship could have posed trouble for election workers, especially if constrained to one point of comparison. In a handful of instances, it’s possible the ballot could have been rejected, they said.

Ron DeSantis wants signatures to match on ballots. But signatures change with time.

Three more bills land on the Governor’s desk — The Governor’s office announced Tuesday evening that it had received three more bills passed by the legislature. The bills include SB 2510, SB 7054 and SB 7056. The first bill would extend the sunset date for a $3 surcharge that funds the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System. SB 7054 would recreate Triumph Gulf Coast Trust Fund within the Department of Economic Opportunity while SB 7056 would shutter the Public Defenders Revenue Trust Fund and the Welfare Transition Trust Fund. The Governor has until April 20 to act on the bills.

Sports betting in Florida: Has its time come or run out for this Legislative Session?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — For weeks, negotiators for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and DeSantis worked on an agreement for a gaming compact. Then, late Monday, the Governor made what was likely a final offer: Florida would become the largest state in the nation to legalize sports betting, and the Tribe would control it. The Tribe would not stand in the way if legislators were to allow Miami Beach to become home to a controversial new casino. And the Seminole Tribe would give the state hundreds of millions of dollars in annual payments. By the end of the day Tuesday, the Tribe would reject the offer. The biggest source of conflict: How much of the sports betting proceeds to split between the Tribe and pari-mutuels.

Fight over sex trafficking bill has Ashley Moody at odds with survivors” via Giulia Heyward and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Moody is lobbying for a version of human trafficking legislation that does not include provisions making it easier for victims to expunge their record, a piece survivors say is key to helping them reenter society. Moody’s office won’t say why she supports a Senate version of human trafficking legislation that does not include expungement language, and not a House version that would allow victims to erase their record of offenses committed while they were trafficked in multiple jurisdictions. Allowing their records to be cleared in multiple jurisdictions at once, survivors say, would allow sex trafficking survivors to get their lives back on track quicker and help them gain employment.

Jewish day schools directly benefit from school choice bill this Session” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In the 2021 Session, school choice has been a high-profile topic, and the result this year is almost certain to back up the hype. The bill (SB 48 / HB 7045) seeks to simplify the scholarship process as low-income parents and families with special needs children seek vouchers and scholarships to attend the schools they choose. Expanding scholarship access to more students will go a long way to help families, especially those hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. One example is private day schools that serve Jewish communities and close to 10,500 students, 40% receiving income-based or special needs scholarships. Jewish day schools safely operated with 90% in-person education during even the worst days of the pandemic.

Controversial transgender athlete sports bill awaits full House vote” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing on a women’s sports team now awaits a full House vote. The bill (HB 1475) is among the most contentious proposals of the 2021 Legislative Session. Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck is the bill sponsor. Coined the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ the proposal would prohibit transgender athletes from competing on female teams. It does not, however, ban transgender men from competing on male teams. Tuck said the bill isn’t discriminatory and still allows transgender females to compete on men’s teams.

Kaylee Tuck’s transgender athlete bill hits the house Floor. Image via Colin Hackley.


— TALLY 2 

House adopts resolution to denounce socialism” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — After a lengthy party-line debate, the House adopted a resolution Tuesday that would denounce democratic socialism and reaffirm individual liberty, constitutional democracy and private property. The House adopted the resolution (HR 145) with a 79-36 vote. Republican Rep. Tom Fabricio is the resolution sponsor. “This is a message from the Florida House of Representatives to say that we stand by our economic system, progress and our system of government,” Fabricio said. Republicans and Democrats fired back and forth over the resolution.

House ready to vote on foreign influence crackdown bills” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Two bills cracking down on foreign espionage in research and higher education cleared second reading on the House floor and are ready for a final vote. One of the bills (HB 1523), sponsored by Lithia Rep. Mike Beltran, takes aim at foreign governments by updating trade secret law. Under the bill, if trade secret theft is committed to benefit a foreign government or company, the offense would be a first-degree felony. The other bill (HB 7017), carried by Vero Beach Rep. Erin Grall, requires greater disclosure of where Florida researchers are getting their grant money and prohibits some agreements between government agencies or schools with China and six other countries.

Mike Beltran seeks to crack down on trade secret theft. Image via Colin Hackley.

House prepped to vote on pregame prayers bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bill that would allow opening remarks — including prayers — ahead of high school sports championship events is ready for a vote in the House. The bill (HB 1027), sponsored by Deltona Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby, would afford a speaker two minutes for public remarks over a loudspeaker before a high school championship game. The proposal comes after the Florida High School Athletic Association prohibited the Cambridge Christian School of Tampa from offering a prayer over the public-address system before a football championship game at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in 2016, sparking an ongoing legal battle.

Workforce revamp bills ready for House vote” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Two bills cleared on second reading in the House Tuesday seek to address issues from that audit by revamping the state’s workforce system to create a more efficient pipeline from the classroom to the workplace, by streamlining state career resources and providing accountability across all new programs. Jacksonville Rep. Clay Yarborough sponsors one piece of the legislation, the Reimagining Education and Career Help Act (HB 1507), also called REACH, which would streamline and coordinate data collection among Florida’s workforce and education programs. The other bill (HB 1505), which deals with workforce programs and services, is sponsored by Naples Rep. Lauren Melo.

Patt Maney takes on the Baker Act” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Maney took on something no other lawmaker has had much luck tackling: a thorough overhaul of statutes governing the Baker and Marchman Acts. “These laws have been subject to numerous revisions since their enactments, but their fundamental structure has remained unchanged despite numerous case law and scientific developments,” Maney’s introduction to House Bill 405 states. Maney might be uniquely qualified for the task he has set out to accomplish. He served for 20 years as a county judge in Okaloosa County, where he saw firsthand the impacts of mental illness and substance abuse not only on individuals and families, but also on the legal system.

— TALLY 3 —

Food fight #1 — “Bill to regulate prescription middlemen successfully navigates second rocky panel” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bill to add oversight to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) is headed to its final Senate panel. The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee voted unanimously to send the measure (SB 390) to its final committee stop before it is ready for the full Senate’s consideration. The bill would clarify that the Office of Insurance Regulation can examine PBMs, like it does other entities, to audit potential cost-cutting areas. The reworked proposal stripped provisions that would have stabilized prescription prices to their values at the time an insurance claim is made, ending “clawbacks,” in which PBMs charge more for drugs than they initially quoted a pharmacy.

Food fight #2 — “Next House checkup to include PAs’ scope of practice vote” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House is slated to vote on a bill that would expand the scope of practice for physician assistants, but not as far as originally planned. The bill (HB 431), carried by Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel, would lift several restrictions on PAs, including removing the restriction on how many PAs a physician can oversee. But that was before lawmakers adopted an amendment on the House floor Tuesday to instead raise the cap on how many assistants a physician can supervise from four to 10. When Rommel filed the bill in January, it would have removed physician oversight altogether.

Food fight #3 — “Bill to ease burdens on craft distilleries awaits final vote” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers are nearing final approval on a bill to ease regulations on craft distilleries. The House on Tuesday gave its initial approval to Sen. Travis Hutson‘s bill (SB 46), passed unanimously in the Senate last month, to eliminate production caps and open the door for distilleries to sell their drinks in more ways. The House is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday. The proposal would raise the annual production limit at craft distilleries from 75,000 to 250,000 gallons. It would also give distilleries in entertainment venues, such as wedding and concert venues, greater flexibility to dress up their drinks to effectively act as a bar.

Florida craft distilleries have a reason to toast Travis Hutson. Image via Colin Hackley.

Josie Tomkow mixes Senate drinks-to-go bill with House language” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House is prepped to vote on a bill to enshrine the drinks-to-go practice in state law. With no debate, House members approved an amendment Tuesday to bring Sen. Jennifer Bradley‘s bill (SB 148) in line with Rep. Tomkow‘s bill (HB 329). The Senate has already passed the bill, but if the House passes it as amended, as is expected Wednesday, the bill will go back to the Senate. The Senate will also be in session Wednesday and could consider the amendment. The order, and the bill, requires that restaurants mix drinks on-premises and send them out in tamper-proof sealed containers. Patrons could also order drinks with delivery orders.

Mug shot crackdown proposal inches forward in House” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House is ready to vote on a bill that would crack down on companies that publish mug shots on the internet for profit. After a second reading Tuesday, the proposal (SB 1046) now awaits a House vote. Rep. Jason Fischer is the companion bill sponsor. Under the proposal, mug shot publishers would be required to remove booking photos if requested by the person featured in the image. The bill also creates noncompliance penalties. The publisher must remove the photo within 10 days of written notice or face a daily $1,000 penalty. The bill would give thousands of Floridians a second chance, proponents contend.

We should make murder illegal, too! — “House nears vote to increase penalties on ‘traveling criminals’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House could soon vote on a proposal to dissuade thieves from venturing away from their hometowns to commit crimes. A bill (HB 279) filed by Rep. John Snyder, would increase the offense level for committing grand theft if the offender commits the crime outside their home county with the intent to evade police who may be familiar with the offender, subjecting them to possibly increased prison time. Judges would have greater discretion when sentencing offenders. And people whose charges have been reclassified because of the law could not be released on bail until their first court date. Additionally, the bill would increase penalties for burglaries committed on fire or police department properties.

Only thing worse than murder is Communism‘Victims of Communism Day’ teed up in House” via News Service of Florida — Students would be taught each year about how people have suffered and died under communist regimes, under a bill expected to get House approval on Wednesday. The House on Tuesday took up the bill (HB 1553), which also would require the Governor to annually issue a proclamation designating Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day.” On Nov. 7, 1917, the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace as part of Russia’s October Revolution. Public high school students enrolled in U.S. government classes would be required, starting in the 2022-2023 school year, to get at least 45 minutes of instruction on dictatorial regimes in China, the former USSR, Cuba, Vietnam and Venezuela.

St. Johns County judge request advances in Tallahassee” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record — An effort to increase the number of county judges in St. Johns County is advancing in the Florida Legislature, and county court officials said the need is critical. House Bill 5301 would, among other things, add one county judge for St. Johns County. It is currently being negotiated between the House and the Senate, but the bill recently received a 117-0 vote on the House floor. “I hope this will be our year,” said Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, who represents part of St. Johns County. Stevenson helped build a case for having the additional judge considered, including sharing statistics about population growth and the court backlog, she said.

Cyndi Stevenson feels this may be the year for more judges. Image via Colin Hackley.

NFIB urges DeSantis to sign online sales tax plan — Small business advocacy group NFIB sent a letter to DeSantis on Tuesday asking him to sign the online sales tax bill (SB 50) that landed on his desk Monday evening. The plan would use new sales tax collections from out-of-state retailers, rather than unemployment taxes, to refill the state’s unemployment trust fund. It would later use the collections to fund a reduction to the commercial rents tax. NFIB said both uses would provide much-needed relief to business owners. NFIB State Executive Director Bill Herrle wrote “this bill would nearly completely offset these new tax hikes” and would “represent a major step forward in our mission to eliminate” the commercial rent tax.

New face at Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops keeping watch on education choice bills” via Lisa Buie of redefinED — It’s crunchtime for Michael Barrett. Charged with advocating for the passage of bills that help Florida’s Catholic school students, Barrett has been working long hours during Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session, which began March 2. His reading material these days is heavy on proposed bills and legislative analysis. And, quite appropriate for the education representative for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, a book about prayer. A product of Catholic schools, Barrett represents Catholic education at the state level and coordinates with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the federal level. He also represents the Conference with the Florida Association of Academic Nonpublic Schools and maintains relationships with school choice organizations and special needs groups.


— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Jan Gorrie, Ballard Partners: Renewable Energy Aggregators

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: The Everglades Trust

Lawrence Kast: Honeywell International

Amy Maguire, Lesley Miller, Sandra Murman, Shumaker Advisors Florida: M2GEN

Marc Reichelderfer, Landmarc Strategies: New Venture Fund

Lane Stephens, SCG Governmental Affairs: BlueTriton Brands

Freda Stevens: Green Apple Accreditation of Children’s Services

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: City of New Smyrna Beach Utilities Commission

— LEG. SKED —

The Senate Finance and Tax Committee meets to consider constitutional amendment SJR 1182, from Sen. Jeff Brandes, to offer a property-tax break to homeowners who make improvements to protect property from flooding, 9 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider SB 90, from Ethics and Elections Chairman Dennis Baxley, to add restrictions to voting by mail, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House is holding a floor Session, 2 p.m., House Chamber.

The Senate is holding a floor Session; the agenda includes the hotly debated anti-protest bill (HB 1), 3 p.m., Senate Chamber.

Also:

The House Commerce Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Health and Human Services Committee meets, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Pandemic and Public Emergencies Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

Assignment editors — Nearly 100 PreK-12 teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and university graduate assistants will gather to oppose Senate Bills 1014 and 78, 8 a.m., Tucker Civic Center, 505 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

Assignment editors — Equality Florida will hold a news conference featuring Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida public policy director Jon Harris Maurer, former ALSO Youth executive director Nathan Bruemmer and three student speakers, to oppose the transgender sports bill, 11 a.m., the House Office Building Portico.

Happening todayCliff Albright, co-founder/executive director, Black Voters Matter Fund; Jamil Davis, Florida lead organizer, Black Voters Matter Fund; Genesis Robinson, Volusia County lead organizer, Equal Ground Education Fund; Abdelilah Skhir, voting rights policy strategist, ACLU of Florida; David Caicedo, Florida Student Power Network; Sean Shaw, founder, People Over Profits are hosting virtual news conference in protest of SB 90 and HB 1, 11 a.m., Zoom and the ACLU of Florida’s Facebook page. Zoom link here.  

Assignment editors — Key West Mayor Teri Johnston, renowned Florida Keys fishing guide Will Benson and Arlo Haskell of the Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships will gather with a dozen other Keys residents to call on DeSantis for his help to protect the coral reef in the Keys by stopping mega cruise ship preemption legislation, 1 p.m., near Governor’s Mansion, 700 N Adams St., Tallahassee.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis hangs ’Florida uses E-Verify’ signs on all highways into Sunshine State” via Matthew Boyle of Breitbart — The signs, DeSantis’s office told Breitbart News, are now visible on all three main interstate gateways into Florida along I-10, I-95, and I-75. The signs come after Florida’s legislature last year passed E-Verify measures which DeSantis signed into law last summer. “I want all residents and visitors to receive this message: Florida Uses E-Verify,” DeSantis told Breitbart News exclusively. “For years before my administration, attempts to pass E-Verify legislation in Florida failed, but I would not yield until this matter was addressed.”

Ron DeSantis is plastering these signs all over Florida highways.

‘Joe Biden, pay attention’: Moody blasts no-sail fail” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Moody has already sued Biden‘s White House to try to get the state’s cruise industry back in the water. On Tuesday, she made a more modest attempt to try to get him to, as she put it, “pay attention.” While the waters of legal recourse may be uncertain, smooth sailing could be found on Fox News Primetime Tuesday night, where Moody got ample opportunity to make her case that the shutdown of the cruise industry imposed by the Trump White House must be overturned by the not so new Democratic administration. “You cannot have an agency decide that an entire industry is canceled. That cannot be. It is not legal,” Moody thundered to host Lawrence Jones.

State plans Piney Point phosphate plant cleanup” via News Service of Florida — The state expects to put more than $115 million toward closing the site of a former phosphate plant where a reservoir leak set off a wastewater crisis in Manatee County. DeSantis also said Tuesday investigators are working to determine if legal action can be taken against HRK Holdings, the owner of the old Piney Point site. While crews averted a potential catastrophe, DeSantis returned to the site Tuesday to announce he was redirecting $15.4 million in Department of Environmental Protection dollars to pretreat water at the Piney Point site in case additional controlled discharges are needed to reduce pressure in the reservoir. Meanwhile, a study will be conducted about the overall need to “mothball” the site.

Florida Democrats sound the alarm after ‘Spanish-Language OAN’ buys Miami radio station, fires liberal host” via Adrian Carrasquillo — Raul Martinez was the kind of well-connected radio host based in a swing state who got major interviews during the 2020 campaign. The former longtime Democratic Mayor of Hialeah earned a “tells it like it is” reputation among his supporters for railing against corruption in Miami politics, and was a fan of giving nicknames to politicians he felt were doing a bad job, calling DeSantis, Ron Desastre, or disaster, for example. But for a Democratic Party that suffered brutal defeats in Florida in November, he was also like water in the desert, one of the very few Democratic voices on air.

Former Hialeah Mayor and radio host Raul Martinez unceremoniously signs off.

Personnel note: Eddie Thompson joins AT&T as regional external affairs director” via Florida Politics staff reports — Thompson has been named as a Regional Director of External Affairs for AT&T Florida, the company announced. In his new role, Thompson will be responsible for external and legislative affairs activities in Florida’s Panhandle. He will be tasked with reaching out to local governments and state government officials in Tallahassee as well as enhancing AT&T’s presence throughout Northwest Florida. Before joining AT&T, Thompson served as a chief legislative aide to Longwood Republican Rep. Scott Plakon. He started his professional public service career serving as a legislative aide to former Sen. Mike Fasano in 2006 and since that time has been involved in shaping Florida public policy in both the public and private sector.

— 2022 — 

EMILY’s List ramps up for 2022 — EMILY’s List announced Tuesday that it had launched an initiative aimed at flipping Governor’s Mansions and key U.S. Senate races in the 2022 cycle. The targets include DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. The group is focused on electing pro-choice women to public office and, to that end, said the nine state’s its targeting in its gubernatorial efforts “would be much better served by electing a Democratic pro-choice woman Governor.” As for Rubio, the group took aim at his votes against equal pay protections for women and the recent COVID-19 relief package. “It’s time to elect a Democratic pro-choice woman who will put Florida’s families before Donald Trump’s interests,” EMILY’s List said.

EMILY’s List targets Marco Rubio for a flip in 2022. Image via AP.

DeSantis continues to pull in millions for reelection campaign” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Gov. DeSantis continues to haul in money for his reelection campaign at a torrential pace, adding close to $6 million since the start of this year’s annual Florida legislative session on March 2. DeSantis shut down his fundraising operations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he restarted his efforts back up in October. He has raised more than $11.3 million over the last six-and-a-half months — but about half of it flowed in since state legislators started their work. The Governor is significantly outraising the Republican Party of Florida, which reported it raised $3.65 million into its state account for the first three months of 2021.

Nikki Fried’s political committee pulls in nearly $150,000 in March” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fried’s political committee in March reported its strongest fundraising numbers since 2019. And she’s picking up support from some surprising places. Florida Consumers First, the committee affiliated with Fried, raked in $148,641 over the course of the month. That’s money that could aid in a presumed run for Governor against incumbent DeSantis next year, though Fried has yet to file for higher office or reelection to her current post. That she’s not filed for another term as Agriculture Commissioner yet could be as clear a sign as any she intends to take on the Governor.

Jimmy Patronis adds more than $107K in March, as possible challenger Lauren Book brings in $86K” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Patronis raised more than $107,000 in March as he seeks a second full term as the state’s Chief Financial Officer. His political committee pulled in another $310,000 and change. Patronis picked up the fundraising pace after a potential challenger, Democratic Sen. Book, added more than $250,000 in February. She’s considering a run against the Republican Patronis, though Book can also seek reelection in Senate District 32. Patronis brought in more than $107,000 after raising just $10,000 in February, following his official announcement that he’d run for reelection. Mach was his first full month of fundraising since that decision.

Moody committee hits $200,000” via News Service of Florida — Moody’s political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, raised $200,025 last month, after bringing in $152,650 in February, according to a new finance report posted on the state Division of Elections website. Those were the largest monthly amounts since 2018, when Moody was elected attorney general. Among the large contributions in March were $50,000 from Joseph C. White, identified as a Largo construction company executive; a combined $20,000 from the Daytona Beach-based insurance firms Brown & Brown, Inc. and Brown & Brown of Florida, Inc.; and $10,000 from Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, according to the report.

Scoop — “Tom Rooney considering a run for Agriculture Commissioner” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former U.S. Rep. Rooney may pursue a return to politics in 2022. The Tequesta Republican confirmed to Florida Politics Tuesday he’s exploring a bid for Agriculture Commissioner. “I definitely still have political ambitions,” he said. “I’m 50. I’m not retired.” Rooney won election to the House in 2008 and served for a decade before announcing in 2018 he would not seek reelection. “Most of the things our office worked on dealt with agriculture,” he said. But Rooney stressed he’s still gauging interest in a run and considering what a statewide campaign may mean as far as his own family. He retired from Congress in part so he could spend more time at home while his sons finished high school.

rooney
Tom Rooney considers a return to politics. Image via Getty.

Shane Abbott dominates fundraising in open HD 5 race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — In his first six weeks as a candidate, Abbott established himself as the heavyweight in an open House race. The Defuniak Springs Republican closed March with more than four times the cash on hand of any competitor. After raising $23,900 in March, on top of a major haul in late February, he closed out the month with $72,718 cash on hand. By comparison, Vance Coley, who filed for the seat in June, raised $5,760 in March and finished with just $17,243 in the bank. The Marianna Republican over the past year has spent less than $400 on the race. Jackson County Commissioner Joel Clinton Pate, the latest candidate to jump into the GOP primary, pulled in $8,410 in March and wrapped up the reporting period with $10,410 raised. The Graceville Republican still hasn’t reported any spending.

Matt Silbernagel enters race for HD 32” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Silbernagel, a Winter Garden Republican, has filed to run for Lake County’s House District 32. Silbernagel is the third candidate in the race and the second Republican to file since incumbent GOP Rep. Anthony Sabatini announced he would forego reelection to run for Congress. A lifelong resident of the region, Silbernagel is a practicing attorney who defends property owners in eminent domain proceedings to ensure they receive just compensation and the full protection of the law. He currently serves on the Lake-Sumter MPO Community Advisory Committee and is the Vice-Chair of the Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Eminent Domain.

HD 32 contender Taylor Yarkosky raised $45K in two weeks” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Montverde Republican Taylor Yarkosky raised more than $45,000 in his first two weeks running for House District 32. Yarkosky entered the race in mid-March, shortly after incumbent Rep. Sabatini announced he would forego reelection to run for Congress. Campaign finance reports for March show Yarkosky brought in $45,050 and spent just $15,028, leaving him with $43,522 in the bank. That’s about how much Sabatini spent for the entire primary cycle when he first ran for the seat in 2018. Notable donors on the list include lobbyist Michael Corcoran and his firm, Corcoran Partners, as well as attorney Dan Newlin. The report comes as Yarkosky drew his first opponent. Republican Matt Silbernagel launched his campaign for the seat on Monday.

Alen Tomczak raises more than $33K during first month of campaign to succeed Nick DiCeglie” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — House District 66 candidate Tomczak collected more than $33,000 in his first campaign finance report. The St. Petersburg Republican, who is running to succeed Rep. DiCeglie, launched his campaign at the start of March, making this haul his first. Tomczak, an Army Veteran and current member of the Army National Guard, received contributions from prominent Pinellas County leaders, including St. Pete City Council Chair Ed Montanari, Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, restaurateur and former “Mr. Clearwater” Frank Chivas, former Rep. Seth McKeel and lawyer Brian Aungst Jr. Some of his donors — including Montanari and Aungst — also appeared in DiCeglie’s finance reports for his Senate race.

Alen Tomczak makes solid bank in his first month of the HD 66 race.

Jennifer Canady remains cash leader in HD 40 race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Canady added onto an already sizable war chest for an open House seat. While her March donations were a fraction of her headline-making initial report, she continued to outraise all competitors. Canady, who announced in February she wanted to succeed Rep. Colleen Burton, pulled in $8,995 in new donations for March. That brings her grand total in donations to $95,760 in just two months, and she’s sitting on $89,125 in cash on hand. By comparison, Lakeland City Commissioner Phillip Walker, who jumped into the race in January, posted a solid March with $7,980 in new donations and has raised $25,950 in total. He’s spent little of that so far and still has $25,394 in the bank.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida reports 9,068 new COVID-19 cases, 64 new resident deaths” via Adelaide Chen of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s resident death toll from coronavirus rose to 34,120 with the addition of 64 reported fatalities on Tuesday while also adding 9,068 more positive COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 2,134,914. Florida ranked 10th among states for the most new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people from April 5 to 11. After the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area, the Orlando metro ranked second-highest in the state for new cases per 100,000 people. Miami recorded 289 new cases per 100,000, while Orlando had 216.

Florida suspends use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine” via David Flesher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida will suspend use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, after it was linked to rare and dangerous blood clots, DeSantis said Tuesday. The Governor said Florida would follow recommendations issued Tuesday by the federal government, which temporarily halted the use of the vaccine at federal sites after blood clots were discovered in six women. The CDC and the FDA both called for a suspension of the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after it was linked to rare blood clots in female recipients. Six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed the blood clots within two weeks of vaccination. One died and another remains hospitalized.

—“Publix, Winn-Dixie, CVS and Walgreens adjust plans after Johnson & Johnson vaccine is halted” via Marc Freeman, Andrew Boryga and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

A one-in-a-million problem leads the CDC and Florida to hit pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Florida’s FEMA vaccination rollout failed Black communities. Except in one place” via Nicholas Nehamas, Ben Conarck and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — When the state of Florida partnered with the federal government to open COVID-19 vaccine sites around the state in early March, the pilot program was supposed to help boost lagging vaccination in underserved communities. Just over a month into the program — which used city parks, youth centers, community colleges and sometimes even roving vans to administer vaccines — state officials are claiming success, touting data that show people of color received the majority of the hundreds of thousands of FEMA shots. But in Black communities, where vaccination rates are lowest statewide, the FEMA-supported vaccination effort fell flat, at least during its initial rollout.

Florida prisoners, staffers — hard hit by COVID-19 — getting vaccines” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — In a move that is being cheered by those who have loved ones behind bars, the state has started giving coronavirus vaccines to inmates at the Palm Beach County jail and those held in Florida prisons. State strike teams were at the main county jail in West Palm Beach and the one in Belle Glade, vaccinating any inmate or staff member who wanted it, said Teri Barbera, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. At the same time, teams have been dispatched to state prisons, including South Bay Correctional Facility in the western reaches of the county where eight inmates have died.

— CORONA LOCAL —

What does the J&J vaccine ‘pause’ mean for MDC North and the rest of South Florida?” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — DeSantis said that the state will pause J&J distribution in accordance with the guidance issued early Tuesday by the FDA and CDC. The Governor, who recently received the single dose J&J shot, said that Florida had not seen any “significant effects” caused by the vaccine. A total of 510,247 Floridians have received the J&J single dose so far. The J&J pause is affecting Florida’s four federally supported vaccination sites, its homebound vaccination program, its mobile pop-up vaccine units and select pharmacies. J&J vaccinations are now temporarily suspended at these locations. The state also canceled all 14 one-day pop-up sites that were set to open Tuesday, including the one in Homestead and Wellington. Florida’s homebound vaccination program is also being affected.

Orange County could soon relax some mask, social distancing requirements, Jerry Demings says” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Mayor Demings said his administration and local health officials have begun devising a plan to reduce some COVID-19 restrictions on wearing facial coverings, as more than 26% of county residents have received at least one shot of vaccine. The plan, which could be announced this week, wouldn’t wipe out his executive order requiring facial coverings to be worn in public but could reduce occupancy restrictions on some businesses, loosen social distancing requirements and some masking requirements.

Jerry Demings is considering relaxing Orange County’s mask mandate.

Most online classes coming to an end in South Florida; students must return to campus in the fall” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The superintendents of Broward and Miami-Dade school districts both announced Tuesday that they plan to open 100% face-to-face classes or close to it. Palm Beach County made the same announcement Friday. “There will be no blended, hybrid or remote learning for students,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told the School Board. In making the decision, Runcie said he considered the ease of teachers getting vaccinated for COVID-19, an effort to make vaccinations available to kids 12 and over, and the poor academic results this past year. The number of students receiving failing grades more than doubled compared to before the pandemic. Alberto Carvalho, superintendent for Miami-Dade schools, made the same announcement Tuesday afternoon.

Polk schools’ COVID-19 sick-time policy expires, leaving some employees in limbo” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — Polk County Public Schools and the Polk Education Association teachers’ union are in final talks to extend until June 4 the 10 days of COVID-19 sick leave. In August, the district implemented paid sick leave specifically for COVID-19 through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which uses federal funding to pay the sick leave salary, among many things. In January, district officials extended the COVID-19 sick leave through March 31. PCPS and the PEA signed a memorandum of understanding on this issue, which did not need a vote from the School Board. About 300 teachers in Polk County, both public and private, have contracted COVID-19 between Sept. 6 and April 3.

Why a South Florida bank was a big lender of COVID-19 rescue money” via Tom Hudson of WLRN — Jorge Gonzalez still has voicemails from some of the toughest days of the pandemic. The messages are from business owners who secured government emergency loans through the bank he leads. City National Bank of Florida was one of the most active banks, lending money through two federal economic pandemic rescue programs. One was through the Federal Reserve. The second was a congressional program — the Paycheck Protection Program. In all, the bank processed about $4 billion of loans to thousands of companies. That represents more than a normal year’s worth of lending for the community bank, which has been owned by Chilean bank BCI since 2015.

First the vaccine, then the bridge: How Pensacola hospitality leaders are eyeing recovery” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola-area hospitality leaders are cautiously optimistic about recovering from 2020, as long as the two biggest hurdles, the spread of the pandemic and the ongoing Pensacola Bay Bridge closure, are addressed. Business owners are reporting that tourists are returning in droves this spring, but the biggest impact has been a workforce hesitant to battle detour traffic to the beach, a local customer base that has strayed to other Gulf Coast beaches and a disconnect between two communities cut off from one another without the bridge.

— CORONA NATION —

The U.S. calls for a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after rare clotting cases” via Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere and Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — Injections of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine came to a sudden halt in much of the country on Tuesday after federal health agencies called for a pause in the vaccine’s use after discovering a rare blood clotting disorder in six recipients. All six were women between the ages of 18 and 48, and all developed the illness within one to three weeks after being vaccinated. One woman died, and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition. Over seven million Americans have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and about nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the CDC.

Anthony Fauci says the Johnson & Johnson pause shows the government is putting people first. Image via AP.

—“The risk-reward calculus of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, visualized” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post

—”I got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Now what?” via The Associated Press

Moderna says new data shows its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective against virus six months after second shot” via Berkeley Lovelace Jr. of CNBC — Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting against COVID-19 and more than 95% effective against severe disease up to six months after the second dose, the company said, citing updated data from its phase three clinical trial. The update brings Moderna a step closer to filing its request for full U.S. approval for its vaccine. Full approval requires a more rigorous review process to show the shot is safe and effective for its intended use. Once it gets full approval, Moderna can begin marketing the shots directly to consumers and selling them to individuals and private companies in the U.S.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Poll: 15% of Americans worse off a year into pandemic” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — While most Americans have weathered the pandemic financially, about 38 million say they are worse off now than before the outbreak began in the U.S. Overall, 55% of Americans say their financial circumstances are about the same now as a year ago, and 30% say their finances have improved, according to a new poll. But 15% say they are worse off. The problem is more pronounced at lower-income levels: 29% of Americans living below the federal poverty line say their personal finances worsened in the past year. Roughly that many also find themselves in a deepening financial hole, saying they struggled to pay bills in the past three months.

Federal aid available to help pay for funerals of those who have died from COVID-19” via Brendan Rivers of WUSF — People whose loved ones have died from COVID-19 can get the federal government to help pay for a funeral. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin accepting applications for funeral assistance starting Monday, April 12. Under the program, up to $9,000 in federal aid is available for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. Applicants are required to provide a death certificate, funeral home contracts, and receipts, as well as proof of any funds received from other sources that were used for funeral costs. Funds will be sent by mail or via direct deposit.

FEMA to begin reimbursing funeral costs for families who lost loved ones to COVID-19. Image via AP.

Uber posts record demand for March” via Dave Sebastian and Preetika Rana of The Wall Street Journal — Uber Technologies Inc. reported record monthly bookings for March as COVID-19 vaccination rates accelerated across the U.S. The company said Monday that it received more bookings in March than in any single month since it was founded in 2009. Uber’s mobility business, which was decimated during the coronavirus pandemic and includes its core ride-hailing operations, had its best month since March 2020. Meanwhile, its food-delivery unit posted record monthly bookings, with business more than doubling year-over-year. Rival Lyft Inc. said last month that its weekly rides bookings in March had rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. But both companies face a daunting challenge: not enough drivers to meet surging demand.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden says ‘pause’ on J&J shots shows wisdom of his approach” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign hit a snag Tuesday when federal regulators recommended a “pause” in administering Johnson & Johnson shots. But the White House portrayed the action as an important validation of his measured approach throughout the rollout. Biden declared that even with a temporary loss of J&J ’s one-shot vaccine, there is a huge supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, enough that “is basically 100% unquestionable, for every single solitary American.” Perhaps more concerning than any worry about supply, however, is the potential blow to public confidence in all of the vaccines.

Nancy Pelosi invites Biden to address Congress on April 28” via The Associated Press — Biden will address a joint session of Congress for the first time on April 28. Speaker Pelosi extended the invite to Biden on Tuesday, “to share your vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment.” The address is all but certain to look different from a traditional joint session due to the coronavirus pandemic. Details on the Capitol’s preparation for the event were not immediately available.

Nancy Pelosi officially invites Joe Biden to give his State of the Union address. Image via AP.

Biden to make historic Census director pick with Latinx statistician Rob Santos” via Hansi Lo Wang of NPR — In a historic move, Biden is naming Santos, one of the country’s leading statisticians and the American Statistical Association’s president, as his intended nominee to head the U.S. Census Bureau. Santos, who is Latinx, would be the first permanent director of color for the federal government’s largest statistical agency, which is in charge of major surveys and the once-a-decade headcount used for distributing political representation and funding. Depending on the timing of a confirmation, Santos could finish the term left open by former Director Steven Dillingham that is ending this year. Dillingham was the Trump-appointed director who quit in January after whistleblowers filed complaints about Dillingham’s role in trying to rush out an incomplete data report on noncitizens.

GOP Senators ask FBI to probe social media posts of Biden nominee for Defense Undersecretary” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — A group of 18 Republican Senators on Tuesday wrote to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray requesting an investigation into whether Colin Kahl, Biden’s nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy, disclosed classified information on Twitter after leaving a national security post in the Barack Obama administration. The Senators, led by Bill Hagerty and Tom Cotton, also asked Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer not to advance Kahl’s nomination until the FBI can complete a review of the GOP allegations, which Kahl has denied.

Kristen Clarke faced abuse for taking on Donald Trump. Now she’s poised to lead Justice Dept.’s civil rights team.” via David Nakamura of The Washington Post — Trump was waging his baseless assault on the election results last fall when Kristen Clarke, head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, opened her inbox to a stream of vicious threats over her efforts to fight back and protect the rights of voters. Openly misogynistic, littered with racial epithets, the messages were of the variety that seeks to debase and intimidate prominent minority women. “May you be found guilty by military tribunal and executed by hanging,” one email read.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Trump says New York tax law doesn’t apply because he’s not President” via Joe Schneider of Bloomberg — Trump said a New York law enabling Congress to ask for his state tax returns no longer applies because he isn’t President. The law, known as the Trust Act, allows the state to share the President’s tax information with a congressional committee that asks for it. Trump sued the House and Ways and Means Committee to block it from requesting information. Trump had also sued the New York attorney general’s office and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to block them from handing over the information to Congress. Trump’s lawyers had argued that New York enacted the state financial-disclosure law to punish him for his speech and political views.

Donald Trump is trying to convince New York that its tax laws don’t count since he is not President. Image via Bloomberg.

Republicans pray for truce after Trump attacks on Mitch McConnell” via Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine of POLITICO — Trump and McConnell‘s relationship simply can’t go on like this for Senate Republicans. Though the Senate GOP is tantalizingly close to retaking the majority next year and largely united in opposition to Biden’s agenda, the ongoing feud between the former President and the Senate Minority Leader has decayed to an entirely untenable place. Trump’s insult-laden diatribe against McConnell this weekend signals that the GOP could splinter badly in primaries next year — and raises the question of whether McConnell and Trump can work together at all.

Trump alumni launch largest post-administration group” via Mike Allen of Axios — A constellation of Trump administration stars today will launch the America First Policy Institute, a 40-person nonprofit group with a first-year budget of $20 million, and the mission of perpetuating Trump’s populist policies. The board chair is Linda McMahon, who was administrator of the Small Business Administration, and a member of Trump’s Cabinet, after winning fame as a pro-wrestling entrepreneur. Among the group’s leaders is former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who will head a “law and justice” center. In the coming months, the group plans to take a large office space near the U.S. Capitol as a symbol that it’ll fight to be a muscular, well-heeled center of the future of conservatism.


— CRISIS —

Capitol Police told to hold back on riot response on Jan. 6, report finds” via Luke Broadwater — Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator. In a 104-page document, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians.

Capitol riot defendant from St. Augustine fights bid for limits on use of trial evidence” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — The lawyer for a St. Augustine man indicted after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is arguing prosecutors want “an unprecedented informational blackout” over records investigators collected to build their case. “This is not the Soviet Union and the government does not get to control the narrative of what happens in the courtroom,” attorney Marina Medvin argued to a federal judge in Washington weighing the prosecution of John Steven Anderson. “The weedlike growth of the government’s power over public information is outrageous and un-American and cannot be permitted to continue unchecked.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

New Rick Scott, Marco Rubio bill seeks to override CDC’s cruise regulations, allow sailing soon” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Florida’s U.S. Senators introduced legislation Tuesday to override the CDC’s existing framework cruise ships must follow to resume operations and replace current regulations with a new set of recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 aboard ships. Sens. Scott and Rubio, along with Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, all Republicans, introduced the Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements, or CRUISE Act, the latest way Florida politicians are criticizing the CDC for the agency’s rules cruise lines must follow before they can resume operations.

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott seek to override the CDC over vaccine requirements for cruise ships. Image via AP.

Scott slams Biden administration, previews 2022 strategy — In a Tuesday appearance on Washington Post Live, U.S. Sen. Scott said the Biden administration has left “gaping holes” in the border and hasn’t prioritized securing it. Heading into 2022, the NRSC Chair said the GOP message will center on jobs, the border and transgender sports bans. On Trump, Scott said he didn’t agree with the former President’s assessment that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was a “dumb son of a b****.” He also touched on the Gaetz scandal, saying the allegations are “serious.” However, he said, “I think the most important thing before anything happens, let’s get the facts out. Then we decide what to do.” The full program is available via YouTube.

Dem pollsters acknowledge ‘major errors’ in 2020 polling” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — A group of top Democratic Party pollsters is set to release a public statement Tuesday acknowledging “major errors” that left party officials stunned by the election results that failed to come close to expectations in November. In an unusual move, five of the party’s biggest polling firms have spent the past few months working together to explore what went wrong and how it can be fixed. It’s part of an effort to understand why — despite data showing Biden well ahead of Trump, and Democrats poised to increase their House majority — the party won the presidency, the Senate and House by extremely narrow margins.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Incumbents Tom Kinsella and Todd Maklary retain Port Richey City Council seats” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Kinsella and Maklary will continue to serve on Port Richey’s City Council after winning Tuesday night’s election. Kinsella landed on top with 41% of the vote, followed by Maklary, who took 39%. The third candidate, newcomer Seth Kapp, only mustered 21%. Voters could select two of the three candidates for the seats. Incumbents Maklary and Kinsella were first elected in a special election in September 2019 to fill the seats of two Council members. The seats opened after the arrest of former Mayor Dale Massad and the ensuing resignation of Terrence Rowe. Kinsella served in the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office for two decades before retiring as a sergeant. He completed his career in law enforcement by serving on the International Police Task Force for the United Nations. 

Incumbency has its perks: Tom Kinsella and Todd Maklary retain their seats on the Port Richey City Council. 

Florida man promised immigrants licenses, work permits. Instead, he stole their money and got them deported.” via Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post — Hundreds of immigrants turned to Elvis Harold Reyes for driver’s licenses and work permits. He represented himself as a philanthropist, lawyer and pastor who had learned immigration law as a former FBI agent and who gave back to the immigrant community through his nonprofit ministry. Instead, according to prosecutors for the Middle District of Florida, he was leading “a life of frauds and swindles,” that led his victims to financial ruin and even caused some to be deported. Reyes was sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to dozens of charges connected to filing fraudulent immigration documents and intercepting communications from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to conceal the fraud, all while stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You better watch out: Kitschy Santa triggers neighbor spat that ends up in state Supreme Court” via Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — The dispute began as a lawsuit over their elderly neighbor’s kitschy yard display, specifically her “sound-emitting Christmas decoration.” It was so loud, they said in a lawsuit, they were forced to vacate their home for weeks at a time and live aboard a 27-foot sailboat with their “two large-breed dogs.” Later they sicced city Code Enforcement inspectors on the neighbor, Miriam Galan, for allegedly turning her suburban house into a nursing home for “at least two individuals unrelated to her,” one of whom liked to sit on the front door porch. West Palm asked the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in. Fearing a statewide precedent if a resident could have courts tell a city how to enforce its own laws, West Palm drew support from friend of the court briefs.

Orlando moves toward renaming Stonewall Jackson Road after Roberto Clemente” via Ryan Gillespie, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio and Ingrid Catto of the Orlando Sentinel — City officials signaled Monday that the road’s name would change to Roberto Clemente Road, after a middle school on the road was also renamed from the Confederate General to the Puerto Rican baseball legend. Commissioners Monday unanimously approved meeting minutes from its Municipal Planning Board meeting from March, which OK’d the name change, setting up the drafting of an ordinance to change the name. Ordinances need to be approved at two city commission meetings, meaning it will be at least a month until the change is final, though an exact date of those votes wasn’t immediately known.

Miami is now home to the world’s first mega club to accept bitcoin” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — E11EVEN MIAMI nightclub is known for many things. It will soon be known for one more: the first corporate nightclub in the U.S. to accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The move is part of the club’s grand, post-pandemic reopening on April 23. The club, 29 NE 11th St., has been shut down since Miami-Dade’s March 2020 emergency order. Guests can begin reserving tables using Bitcoin, Ether, Dogecoin, Ripple, and a host of other cryptocurrencies. E11EVEN declined to state which cryptocurrency payment processor it is choosing. Nearly all commercial ones allow service providers like E11EVEN to choose whether to instantly convert the cryptocurrency into “fiat” cash or keep it as is.

E11EVEN MIAMI nightclub makes history as the first mega club to accept cryptocurrency.

What Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster is reading — “Developer chooses a five-star resort to operate the Naples Beach Club Hotel” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Naples could soon boast a five-star Four Seasons resort. While Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts hasn’t publicly announced its interest yet, The Athens Group has confirmed it has a letter of intent for the world-renowned brand to operate the five-star resort that will replace the landmark Naples Beach Hotel. “Four Seasons’ destination resort hotels and residences are unsurpassed, and we believe this unique location in Naples deserves nothing less,” said Kim Richards, CEO of The Athens Group, in a statement. The closing on the entire 125-acre property, including the golf course and tennis center, is set for the end of May.

Students push back against possible development of USF Forest Preserve” via Seán Kinane of WMNF — The University of South Florida, Tampa has issued a request for information to companies interested in developing a large area of land north of campus; but students and faculty are fighting the idea of altering the USF Forest Preserve. WMNF spoke with Jeannie Mounger, a Ph.D. candidate in the Integrative Biology department at the University of South Florida. We spoke about the possible development of a large section of land north of the USF Tampa campus between Lettuce Lake Park and the Hillsborough River and the USF golf course (it’s called the Northern Property and includes “USF ecological research area” or “USF forest preserve”).

— TOP OPINION —

Worst. Lawmaking. Session. Ever. (So far)” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — We cannot remember a year when so many bad laws have been proposed, many of them enthusiastically backed by DeSantis, who looks to be padding his resume for a 2024 presidential run as Trump 2.0. The scope and folly of these proposed laws are breathtaking. No one in Republican leadership appears inclined toward moderation. No one in Democratic leadership seems capable of exerting influence. None of these laws does anything to help working-class Floridians. It’s an agenda designed to line the pockets of business interests, fight culture wars, boost the Governor’s political prospects, and further tighten the Republican Party’s grip on power in Florida.

— OPINIONS —

It’s time to break the traditions of White nationalism in our civic institutions” via Walter Greason of The Washington Post — The determination of the zealots to undermine the election, to sabotage the certification process and to distort election law continues unabated. The forces of authoritarianism aren’t going to lay down their weapons voluntarily. The only way to stop the movement is to prosecute the individuals who participate in events and to condemn the ideology that encourages them. The Biden administration has an opportunity to deliver justice for a nation still bound by segregation. If it misses the chance this year and next, it may be a generation before another opportunity arrives.

This Legislative Session, Republican lawmakers have declared us Floridians the enemy” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Republican lawmakers want to make it harder for you to vote by mail. They want to permanently cut funds available for the construction of affordable housing and limit the power of cities and counties trying to fight climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. They want to know the ideological leaning of college professors, students and staff. And they want to silence even peaceful protesters by creating new categories of enhanced crimes. Despite all of that, the Florida Legislature, emboldened by a larger GOP majority and Trump’s wide victory margin in the state in 2020, fears no backlash from voters. The 2021 Legislative Session will likely go down in history as a year that is both pro-special interest and extraordinarily anti-people.

Anthony Rodriguez: Modernize alimony and provide bridge to independence” via Florida Politics — In Florida, it’s time for us to update the tired, obsolete, and frankly reflexive approach to the award of alimony in Florida. With the support of the volunteer-run group Florida Family Fairness, I’m working with Sen. Joe Gruters to build a fresh policy to retire our forever alimony law and join the 44 other states that have ended permanent alimony. Without responsible reform, the way our system works, divorce attorneys are the only sure winners when a marriage hits the rocks. As divorced couples set their lives off in new and different directions, our proposed legislation (CS/HB 1559/SB 1922) helps them transition toward independence and self-sufficiency.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

On Tuesday, House belittled the rights of transgender people and condemned Democratic Socialism. They even had a bill allowing prayer at high school championship games. It was one of those days in the fun House.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. DeSantis suspends Johnson & Johnson vaccines after the feds call for a pause to investigate a handful of cases where people developed blood clots. But DeSantis still has faith in J&J.

— Nearly half a million Floridians have already received a J&J vaccination … including the Governor.

— Now that the breach at the Piney Point phosphate pond in Manatee County has been sealed, DeSantis says it’s time to end this threat to the environment for the last time. The Governor ordered Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein to close it down and clean it up and take legal action against HRK Holdings — the hedge fund that owns Piney Point.

— The Mayor of Key West travels to Tallahassee to ask the Governor for protection from mega cruise ships. Renowned fishing guide William Benson says most ships are fine, but the big ones can do serious damage.

— And finally, a Florida Woman is accused of threatening to kill the Vice President because she’s not black.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

‘Woah!’ What the heck was that huge fireball in the sky over Miami? Experts weigh in” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Some folks in South Florida and its environs got an eyeful of well, something, Monday night. Videos circulating on social media Tuesday morning show a brilliant flash of light that seems to explode as it hits earth. Best educated guess? It was a chunk of an asteroid that NASA had predicted would pass close to Earth. Though the fireball looked terrifying and something out of a sci-fi flick, astronomers say it posed no threat to humans because it would never survive a journey through the Earth’s atmosphere. Translation: You can sit back on your couch now.

To watch the fireball over Miami, click on the image below:

How do you write an Anthony Bourdain book without Anthony Bourdain?” via Sebastian Modak of The New York Times — Bourdain and his team decided he would carve out some time to write in the summer of 2018, when he would have a few rare continuous weeks at home during a break in filming. That, of course, never happened, as he died by suicide in June 2018. Nevertheless, next week, almost three years after his death, and after a pandemic that almost completely shut down international travel, Ecco will publish “World Travel: An Irreverent Guide” It may feel more like an anthology of greatest hits than a new, original guidebook. But read cover to cover, country by country, it is an enduring embodiment of Bourdain’s love for the whole world.

Apple expected to launch new hardware at April 20 media event” via Ina Fried of Axios — Apple sent out invitations to the media on Tuesday for an April 20 event where it is likely to debut new hardware. Apple has yet to introduce a number of products that have been long-anticipated, including updates to the iPad as well as AirTags- small devices that can help keep tabs on physical objects. While the event will likely focus on the new hardware, Apple is likely to use the new hardware introduction as a time to also introduce a long-planned big change on the software side: requiring app makers to get permission before tracking users individually.

Disney’s inclusion push includes updated rules on tattoos, jewelry, hair for cast members” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World workers soon may look different thanks to changes in the Disney Look, the company’s long-standing appearance guide. Visitors may see tattoos, fingernail polish, and newly allowed hairstyles for the first time in Disney theme parks. These dress-code changes and other alterations are part of the company’s broader look at inclusion, the resort says. Details and parameters are to be shared with workers Tuesday. For instance, visible, appropriate tattoos will be limited in size and must be below the neck. Going forward, two earrings will now be allowed in one ear, although the size of the hoops will be restricted.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannA.G. GancarskiRenzo 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.



#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.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704