First in Sunburn — A new poll of the impending Special Election in Florida’s 20th Congressional District shows a packed field with many voters still undecided. But Broward Commissioner Dale Holness and state Sen. Perry Thurston appear to hold an advantage among the rumored and declared candidates.
The Public Policy Polling survey, obtained by Florida Politics, was commissioned by a Democratic consultant working in the race. The survey polled 416 likely Democratic primary voters, giving them three different possible fields to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, who passed away last week following a cancer battle.
Holness and Thurston had a leg up in all three versions polled. Holness has already said he intends to run, while Thurston is a rumored candidate.
The first version of the poll included Holness, Thurston, state Rep. Bobby DuBose, state Sens. Shevrin Jones and Bobby Powell, and Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief. All six are Democrats. Sharief filed to run well before Hastings’ death. DuBose and Powell are reportedly weighing runs, while Jones announced Thursday he would forego a run and remain in the Senate.
That version found Holness with 13% of the vote, followed by Thurston at 11%, Powell at 9%, and DuBose at 7%. Sharief earned 6% while Jones pulled in just 3%. The remaining 50% of voters said they were undecided.
That leaves plenty of room for movement in a field this tight, though Holness and Thurston led.
The second variant dropped DuBose from the field, and that sent Thurston surging. In that scenario, Thurston pulled in 14% support, followed by Holness at 11%, Powell at 10%, Sharief at 7%, and Jones at 4%. The remaining 53% of respondents were undecided.
A third and final version polled only Holness, Sharief and Thurston. In that field, Holness and Thurston both pulled in 15% support, with Sharief earning 11% and 59% of voters saying they were undecided.
Gov. Ron DeSantis will decide the date and time for the Special Election contests in the Democratic-leaning district.
“Shevrin Jones won’t run for Alcee Hastings’ congressional seat” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Jones won’t be a candidate to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Hastings. “I just got to the Senate,” he said. “The people of Senate District 35 elected me to do the job, and I have not even gone through my first Session. It was important for me to look at the bigger picture, which isn’t Shevrin, but the people that elected me. This is my main priority right now.” Jones, who is 37, said he has plenty of time to run for a higher office in the future. “My time will come. If the people desire for me to go to higher office, they’ll push me there, so I rest in that.”
Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch will hold a virtual news conference to urge DeSantis to expeditiously call for a Special Election to fill the late Congressman Hastings’ seat, 9:30 a.m., register here and email [email protected].
The Right to Farm bill (HB 1601) is headed to the House floor for debate after a majority of Democrats and nearly all Republicans on the Judiciary Committee supported it.
Glades leaders and ministers were out in full force Thursday, meeting with lawmakers and encouraging them to vote for the bill, which would further protect farmers from frivolous lawsuits.
Contrast that to a barely-noticed news conference last week, where Reps. Anna Eskamani and Omari Hardy said they had “concern” over how the bill would impact the Glades communities.
Well, the Glades community showed up, including South Bay Mayor Joe Kyles and Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson. They weren’t there to fight against the bill, however. Quite the opposite.
Looks like, when push comes to shove, legislators know a real community priority when they see it.
Here are a couple of other notes:
— 17 calls for backup in 78 minutes: That’s how many times law enforcement called for help on Jan. 6 as a mob of Donald Trump supporters overtook the U.S. Capitol. A Washington Post reconstruction of the deadly riot and at the Capitol in the days leading up to it shows how failed planning and poor preparation left police hampered on the day of the Capitol Riot. See the complete reconstruction here.
— A treat for political wonks: The Cook Political Report released a post-2020 edition of its Partisan Voter Index, showing political leanings in all 50 states and 435 congressional districts. The map is likely to change some with redistricting affecting district boundaries, but it’s a good baseline to compare changes as they come down the pipeline ahead of the 2022 midterms. So put your nerd glasses on and geek out!
🛣️ — A long and winding road: Screenwriter and former journalist Pamela Weiss recounts her journey to connect with her “childhood shero,” veteran Tampa Bay Times investigative reporter Lucy Morgan. In telling the story, Weiss, a one-time copy editor and Harvard Business School graduate, touches upon her more than four-decade appreciation of the “most-admired and most-dreaded” political reporter in Florida, as well as ruminate the state of investigative journalism today. Check out this must-read here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@JossieBarroso: Florida House is rolling through bills so quick, we almost got a ‘That is the Speaker, Mr. Bill’
—@AndrewLearned: Thank you @JeffreyBrandes for making a principled stand against #HB1. Your courage is noticed, my friend.
—@DeFede: Remember when you used to be able to laugh at how ridiculous and silly the Florida Legislature was? The Great Truck Nuts Debate of 2008. Or how it took SIX YEARS for legislators to agree on a bill making it illegal to have sex with a dog. I miss those days.
Meanwhile in Palm Harbor, FL pic.twitter.com/FwUTCobcp5
— Tim Wronka (@TimWronka) April 15, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Apple’s new hardware event — 4; Disneyland to open — 14; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 16; Mother’s Day — 23; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 24; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 42; Memorial Day — 45; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 48; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 56; Father’s Day — 65; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 77; 4th of July — 79; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 83; MLB All-Star Game — 88; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 98; The NBA Draft — 104; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 106; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 112; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 130; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 140; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 161; ‘Dune’ premieres — 168; MLB regular season ends — 170; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 176; World Series Game 1 — 193; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 200; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 203; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 224; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 235; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 242; Super Bowl LVI — 303; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 343; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 385; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 448; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 539; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 574.
— GAETZGATE —
“How the Justice Department came to investigate Matt Gaetz” via Matt Zapotosky and Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — The missive arrived at an Orlando-area preparatory school in October 2019, outlining a damaging allegation against a music teacher there. The allegations against Brian Beute, federal investigators concluded, had been fabricated by his incumbent opponent, Joel Greenberg, in a bid to smear him. But when authorities arrested Greenberg and sifted through his electronic records and devices — according to documents and people involved in the case — they discovered a medley of other alleged wrongdoing, leading them to open an investigation into sex trafficking involving a far more high-profile Florida Republican: Gaetz. Greenberg, according to a person familiar with the matter, has been providing investigators information about Gaetz since last year in a bid for leniency — a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz.
“Gaetz using donors’ dollars on legal bills as feds investigate possible sex trafficking” via Noah Pransky of NBCLX — According to Gaetz’ newest campaign disclosure, filed Thursday, the congressman has spent $85,626 of donors’ dollars on legal consulting since last July, with the first payments coming just weeks after the initial indictment of his friend and associate, former Seminole County Tax Collector Greenberg. More Greenberg charges, related to sex trafficking, came in August. Gaetz’s campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) do not specify what services were provided by DC law firm Venable, LLP, but the firm’s website touts its experience in congressional investigations and collected more than $64,000 from the Gaetz campaign in the second half of 2020. The Gaetz campaign had spent a total of just $9,113 on legal consulting between 2016 and 2019.
GOP Rep. John Katko told me he returned the $ that Rep. Matt Gaetz gave him.
"I’m donating it to a local charity."@ryanobles reports: Gaetz had given Katko $2,000, according to FEC report. 2 other Rs have returned donations from Gaetz: Reps. David Valadao & Brian Fitzpatrick.
— Annie Grayer (@AnnieGrayerCNN) April 15, 2021
—“It’s even weirder than you thought: How a Roger Stone acolyte and a ‘Tiger King tax collector’ spawned the Gaetz scandal” via Sarah Rumpf of Mediaite
“Kevin McCarthy: I’ve met with Gaetz, he professed innocence” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — House Minority Leader McCarthy said Thursday he has met privately with Gaetz and that he denied any impropriety stemming from a federal sex trafficking investigation that’s entangled him. “I’ve spoken to Mr. Gaetz about the accusations. He’s told me he’s innocent of the accusations,” McCarthy said during a news conference in the Capitol, adding that he reiterated Gaetz that an indictment would cause internal consequences: “I explained to Mr. Gaetz the rules inside our conference. If there was something to come forward, we would take action.” Asked whether Gaetz would maintain his seat on the House Judiciary Committee given its oversight of the Justice Department, McCarthy said Gaetz “is the same as any American. He’s innocent until proven guilty.”
— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —
“Senate passes ‘anti-riot’ bill, sends it to Ron DeSantis to sign into law” via Gray Rohrer and Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Senate approved an “anti-riot” bill championed by DeSantis, sending it to him for signature into law over the objections of Democrats and civil rights groups who say the measure infringes on the fundamental First Amendment right to protest. The hotly debated measure passed 23-17, largely along partisan lines. The parts of the bill (HB 1) that most upset Democrats grant civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road; prevent people arrested for rioting or offenses committed during a riot from bailing out of jail until their first court appearance, and impose a six-month mandatory sentence for battery on a police officer during a riot.
ACLU lambastes anti-riot bill passage — ACLU of Florida blasted the Senate after it sent the anti-riot bill to the Governor. “HB 1 is racist, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic, plain and simple. The bill was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed toward Black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest,” ACLU of Florida executive director Micah Kubic said. “It was introduced as a political stunt after a year of historic protest, in which millions of Americans joined together to call for an end to the disparate killings of Black people at the hands of police. It is no coincidence that these bills were introduced by politicians who harshly criticized these calls for racial justice and police accountability.
Criminal justice group says HB 1 is ‘unwanted by Floridians’ — The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform criticized the Senate for greenlighting the anti-riot bill without it going fully through the committee process and called the bill “authoritarian” and an “attempt to silence Floridians. SPLC Action Fund policy counsel Carrie Boyd added, “This bill is wrong. What’s in it is wrong, and the way it was passed is also wrong. Hundreds of people showed up in Tallahassee to oppose this bill, and thousands more wrote to their legislators in opposition. It’s also widely unpopular. But the bill still passed the Florida Senate because legislators were afraid to go against Gov. DeSantis. Many Republican legislators know this is a bad and unnecessary bill, but with the exception of Sen. Brandes, none of them would stand up to the Governor.
Shot — “Senate wants to hike unemployment benefits by $100 a week. House may not agree.” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times — A Senate committee Thursday approved a few changes to Florida’s stingy unemployment system including raising the maximum weekly benefits by $100 and reversing several policies championed by former Gov. Rick Scott. In a rare show of bipartisanship late in a contentious 2021 Legislative Session, Senators from both parties agreed to changes that would increase the number of people eligible for benefits. Senators also clarified that Florida’s unemployment agency can’t deny claims for women simply for being pregnant, codifying federal requirements in state law. “This is indeed a banner day,” said Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, the bill sponsor. The changes still must be approved by the full Senate and the House, where Speaker Chris Sprowls opposes increasing the weekly benefit amounts.
Chaser — “Legislature’s “cheers!” to tax break for 3-martini lunches draws jeers from critics” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Legislators may be using the budget to cut government and services, but they are also advancing proposals to deliver millions in corporate tax breaks to a select number of businesses including a $31.6 million break to allow qualifying businesses to write off 100% of the cost of all business meals from their state income taxes. Dubbed the “three-martini lunch” tax deduction by critics when it was passed by Congress last year, it refers to the practice of taking long leisurely business lunches and deducting them on tax returns as a business expense. The idea was seen as a way to revive the ailing restaurant industry, battered by the pandemic, but critics say allowing companies to write off Florida taxes for the same meal that gets a federal tax break is a kind of double-dipping the state can’t afford.
“Unemployment benefits bill gets two Democratic amendments” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A Senate bill (SB 1906) would increase the maximum weekly unemployment benefits from $275 to $375 and increase the duration of unemployment benefits from 12 to 14 weeks. The bill is now ready for the Senate floor. Two Democratic amendments were added to the bill. One provision, offered by the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jason Brodeur and Democratic Sens. Jason Pizzo and Powell, would tie the duration of unemployment benefits to the state’s most recent unemployment rate. The amendment also prohibits the denial of unemployment benefits based solely on a woman being pregnant. Another amendment filed by Sen. Gary Farmer would increase the initial claim processing time.
“House proposes tax ‘holidays’” via News Service of Florida — A package that would provide $61.5 million in tax reductions next fiscal year will be introduced Friday and taken up by the House Ways & Means Committee. The proposal (PCB WMC 21-01) is topped by a seven-day back-to-school tax holiday in early August. During a disaster-preparedness holiday over seven days around the June 1 start of hurricane season, shoppers would be able to avoid paying sales taxes on items ranging from tarpaulins and small batteries to portable generators costing up to $750. The “Freedom Week” holiday, which would be held the first week of July, would provide a sales-tax exemption on tickets purchased for such things as live music, athletic contests and in-theater movies.
— TALLY 2 —
“House adopts changes to toll road plan, nears M-CORES repeal” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House has voted to reroute a proposed toll road away from Jefferson County. Meanwhile, a House panel is slated to consider a separate proposal to scrap most of the state toll road plan. By a 115-2 vote, lawmakers voted Thursday to erase Jefferson County as the terminus for the Suncoast Connector, intended to extend the Suncoast Parkway to Interstate 10 and the Georgia border. Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf, whose district covers Jefferson County, told members his proposal (HB 6059) comes after the County Commission passed a resolution in December asking lawmakers to remove the county from the route. The road, which doesn’t yet have a set route, could now terminate wherever else state planners see fit.
“‘Tell the truth, shame the devil’: Sparks fly over union dues” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy lashed out at Republican Rep. Cord Byrd as lawmakers debated Byrd’s union dues proposal (HB 835). “Old folks say tell the truth, shame the devil,” Hardy said. “I’m going tell the truth and let whoever shamed by it feel that sense of shame.” … “I’ve been in plenty committee meetings; I have not ever been this disgusted in a committee meeting and part of it has to do with the dishonesty coming from the person who is presenting the bill.” The statement struck a chord. “Point of order,” Byrd exclaimed. “The member just called me a liar, Mr. Chairman. This is the kind of conduct that has been going on from Rep. Hardy the entire Session.”
“Gaming bills running hot, ready for Senate floor” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The Senate has quickly advanced gaming legislation that would add a regulatory authority for the state’s gaming industry and decouple jai alai, harness, and quarter horse racing from pari-mutuels ability to run card rooms and other forms of gaming. The Senate bills originated in the Regulated Industries Committee Monday and cleared their final Senate committee Thursday. House companion legislation cleared its first committee Wednesday.
“Wilton Simpson raises possibility of Special Session on gambling” via News Service of Florida — Senate President Simpson said Thursday he remains hopeful about a possible gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe, but he acknowledged time is running out to finalize a deal before the scheduled April 30 end of the Legislative Session. Speaking to reporters, the Trilby Republican raised the possibility that lawmakers could hold a Special Session to address a potential gambling deal, known as a compact. This is the third consecutive year that Simpson, who took over as Senate President in November, has tried to seal a compact with the Seminoles. But a deal remains elusive as DeSantis and the Seminoles exchange offers and counteroffers. House Speaker Chris Sprowls was less optimistic this week about the prospects for a compact.
“House deal on police reforms clears first panel” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation to prevent excessive use of force by police officers and rebuild trust in the police is now moving through the committee process. By a unanimous vote, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve (PCB JDC 21-01), the product of months of negotiations between House leadership, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus and law enforcement groups. The proposed bill would call for basic training on the proportional use of force, including de-escalation techniques and intervening in another officer’s excessive use of force and chokeholds. Chokeholds could only be used when an “officer perceives an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or another person,” the bill outlines.
“House passes ‘Gail’s Law’ to establish rape kit database” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House has unanimously passed a bill to create a database of “rape kits,” which contain evidence obtained from victims after sexual assaults. The database, as established in Rep. Emily Slosberg‘s legislation (HB 673), would be open to the victims, so they can track what is going on with their kits as law enforcement process them. The bill is named “Gail’s Law” after Gail Gardner, an Orlando woman who was sexually assaulted in 1988 and whose rape kit was not tested for more than 30 years. A few months ago, she found out that her attacker was a serial rapist linked to 15 other sexual assaults and serving a life sentence. He’s been incarcerated for more than a decade. But because of the trauma from that attack, she has spent years living in fear that her attacker could return.
“Bill targeting unwritten gun policies heads to House floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-2 to approve Rep. Byrd‘s bill (HB 1409) clarifying the state’s preemption over local firearm and ammunition laws. State law expressly prohibits a local government from creating a gun “ordinance, regulation, measure, directive, rule, enactment, order or policy” that is more restrictive than state law. The broad list was intended to show it includes unwritten policies, but some courts have sided with cities and counties on unwritten rules. While the targeted rules are unwritten, he noted it must come from an official, like a Sheriff or a police officer. By clearly defining the state’s intent to overrule unwritten policies, the Representative hopes to dissuade municipalities from creating policies that courts will strike down.
“Academic foreign influence bill clears final Senate committee” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A bill to keep foreign influence from “countries of concern” out of Florida’s research institutions is handily moving through the Senate, just as it did the House. The bill passed its final Senate committee, Appropriations, Thursday with no debate. The day before, companion legislation (HB 7017) passed the House unanimously. The Senate bill (SB 2010) requires greater disclosure of where Florida researchers are getting their grant money. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., who sponsors the bill, added an amendment during the hearing, which he said maintains the major provisions of the bill with a few changes like adding protections for whistleblowers. The bill is now similar to the House bill that passed.
Bipartisanship! — “House approves bill clearing applied behavior analysis techs to work in schools” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Technicians providing one of the more effective therapies for children on the autism spectrum could be fully cleared to provide applied behavior therapy in schools, under a bill that swept through the House of Representatives Thursday. HB 1401 is sponsored by Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia. But it wound up being presented Thursday by Democratic Rep. Allison Tant, in a bipartisan partnership of lawmakers who have autistic children in their families. Plasencia missed Thursday’s Session due to illness in his family. The House approved the bill 118-0.
— TALLY 3 —
“Higher vote threshold going to House” via News Service of Florida — The Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Thursday to approve a proposal (HJR 61) that would ask voters in 2022 to increase the percentage of votes needed to pass future constitutional amendments from 60% to two-thirds. Florida voters in 2006 approved requiring the 60% threshold to pass constitutional amendments. Since then, 31 of 50 ballot proposals have been approved. Of those 31, 15 received more than 66.7% support. Amendments that did not reach two-thirds support included a 2020 measure to raise the minimum wage and a 2018 amendment to restore felons’ voting rights. Democrats argued the proposal is part of GOP attempts to make it more difficult to pass already expensive and time-consuming ballot initiatives.
“Impact fee changes heading to House, Senate” via News Service of Florida — Proposals that would add restrictions to impact fees charged by local governments are ready to go to the full House and Senate. The House State Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved the measures (HB 337 and SB 750), which include putting limits on impact-fee increases and defining types of infrastructure projects that can be funded with impact-fee money. House sponsor Nick DiCeglie cited large impact-fee increases in places such as Hillsborough County and said developers pass along the costs to homebuyers. Senate sponsor Joe Gruters said the proposed changes are about “predictability.” The proposals, in part, would seek to prevent impact fees from being increased more often than every four years and cap such increases at 50%.
“Eyeing new revenue forecast and a 3.8 million nationwide home shortage, Realtors push to increase affordable housing funds” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Last week, the Florida Senate passed SB 2512, which will carve out nearly a quarter of a billion dollars from Florida’s affordable housing trust fund this year alone, and in future years, will cut similar amounts from the fund automatically. Under the bill, the state’s housing programs would get $200 million next fiscal year, with the remaining $223 million split between two environmental infrastructure programs. The Florida Realtors Association says those environmental spending programs were not what the trust fund is intended for. But, Realtors, say, an even bigger issue is the permanent nature of the proposal to carve out 50% of the trust every year to use on other projects.
“House OKs tourist tax funds for flood mitigation projects” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The House Wednesday approved a bill from Republican Rep. Bryan Avila that would allow the state’s tourist tax revenue to help pay for flood mitigation. The legislation (HB 1429) sailed through on a 114-2 vote, with only Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown and Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois voting no. The Avila bill expands the ways the local government could use revenue collected through that tax. For instance, local governments could use tourist development dollars for debt service or refinancing certain facilities, but only with voter approval. The money could also be used for flood mitigation projects or improvements. Those projects aren’t currently listed as proper use of tourist tax revenue.
“Civics education bill clears final Senate committee” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The Legislature is well on its way to adding a “comparative political ideology” component to civics education for Florida students. A civics education bill (SB 1450) passed its final Senate committee, Appropriations, Thursday with no questions or debate. Companion legislation (HB 5) already passed the House earlier in April in a 115-0 vote. During the bill presentation, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez said the coursework would include a comparative study of political ideologies that conflict with the nation’s representative democracy. The legislation would require the Florida Department of Education to develop or approve an integrated civics education curriculum for public school students in kindergarten through grade 12.
“Sex ed bill with ‘opt out’ approved in House” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The House moved forward Tuesday with a bill increasing parental consent regarding a student’s education on sexually transmitted diseases. But the House Education and Employment Committee stripped the strongest language in the bill. Current law allows parents to opt their child out of the STD curriculum by providing a written request to the school. Absent such a request, the student would go through that education. Rep. Linda Chaney’s original bill sought to flip that default position. That is, a child would not undergo the instruction unless his or her parent first chose to opt into the curriculum. Tuesday’s hearing saw that the latter language removed. The bill does strengthen parental notification requirements but does not mandate a written letter before the instruction.
“House backs off requiring parental consent for STD education in schools” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The House moved forward Tuesday with a bill increasing parental consent regarding a student’s education on sexually transmitted diseases. But the House Education and Employment Committee stripped the strongest language in the bill, which would have required written consent from parents beforehand. The measure (HB 545) is being fronted by Republican Chaney. Current law allows parents to opt their child out of the STD curriculum by providing a written request to the school. Absent such a request, the student would go through that education. Chaney’s original bill sought to flip that default position. That is, a child would not undergo the instruction unless his or her parent first chose to opt into the curriculum.
Sex ed rewrite angers former supporters — A House bill that would have required parents to opt-in for their children to receive sexual education in school was amended to require they be informed they can opt their child out, causing organizations such as the Florida Citizens Alliance that previously supported the bill to oppose it, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. Rep. Chris Latvala called out FCA leader Keith Flaugh for asking lawmakers to vote against a bill he once “strongly supported.” Flaugh bristled saying, “This is not the bill we talked about.”
“After adopting changes, House OKs new Biscayne Bay Commission” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — House lawmakers moved forward with setting up a Biscayne Bay Commission to help improve environmental quality in the South Florida bay. But the measure from Republican Rep. Bryan Avila (HB 1177) did undergo some changes Thursday. Legislators adopted an amendment slightly altering the committee makeup. The Biscayne Bay Commission would be installed within the Department of Environmental Protection. Avila’s bills would also ban sewage disposal facilities from dumping waste into Biscayne Bay without providing advanced waste treatment. Miami-Dade County has designated Biscayne Bay a conservation area, but the popular tourist spot still deals with serious pollution problems.
“Panel backs school board term limits” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — School board term limits are back on the table in the Florida House. The House Education and Employment Committee signed off on a joint resolution Thursday seeking to limit school board members to eight consecutive years of service. A previous iteration would have proposed eliminating school board member salaries. Rep. Sam Garrison, the sponsor, used the Legislature as an example of why he said that “having an end date on your service” is beneficial. “It’s part of the reason why Tallahassee, for all the pressures we have, hasn’t turned into Washington, D.C. Because we know we have a finite amount of time to get things done here, and we have to work with our colleagues to make that happen,” Garrison said.
“Abandoned cemeteries task force bill clears final House committee” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House State Affairs Committee unanimously advanced a bill Thursday that would address the issue of abandoned or neglected African American cemeteries in Florida. Sponsored by Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the bill (HB 37) calls on the Department of State (DOS) to create a ten-member Task Force to identify unmarked or abandoned African American burial grounds throughout the state. “The purpose of the task force is to develop and recommend strategies that will preserve this history and ensure dignity and respect for the forgotten and deceased,” Driskell said. Abandoned and neglected burial grounds are not emerging issues in Florida. In 1998, a burial ground task force mobilized by the Legislature reported that 40 to 50% of cemeteries are neglected or abandoned, according to a staff analysis.
“House approves bill to let space companies keep their rocket debris” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The House of Representatives wants space companies to be able to keep their rocket parts, even if they’ve fallen from the sky. The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday that would require debris to be returned by private citizens to space companies, should parts of rockets or reentry vehicles fall into someone’s property, or get washed up on a beach. HB 221, from Sirois, is in part a response to the rapidly evolving reusable spacecraft technology being pursued by rocket companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. They’re dropping rocket parts back to Earth on purpose, intending to retrieve and reuse them.
“‘Save the manatees!’ Lawmaker sends mucky Indian River Lagoon water to colleagues” via Tori Lynn Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — “Delivery from Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil,” the representative’s legislative aide said, dropping a small gift bag in each Senator’s office. The gray bags were adorned with a small blue sticker with an illustration of the Florida state marine mammal reading “Save the Manatees!” The bags held a small jar of murky water from the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) and were delivered to all 40 Senators and 120 House members this week. “Over 500 manatees have starved and died in the IRL since December because there are no plants to eat,” a sheet of paper also slipped inside the bags read. Goff-Marcil’s office said the papers also listed proposed water quality funding requests this year for the state budget.
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brett Bacot, Mike Grissom, Michael Harrell, Mark Kruse, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Crystal Stickle, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Genlantis
David Browning, The Southern Group: Easterseals Northeast Central Florida
Brad Burleson, Ana Cruz, Monica Rodriguez, Katherine San Pedro, Ballard Partners: Circles of Care, Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society, KIPP Miami, SEIU Florida Public Services Union
Bryan Cherry, PinPoint Results: Green Apple Accreditation of Children’s Services
Dimitri Daskalakis, Keystone/Golden State Strategies: Big Trak Technologies
Scott Goodlin: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Alex Kelly: Executive Office of the Governor
Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Ban Assault Weapons Now, Indelible Solutions
The House will hold a floor Session, 11 a.m., House Chamber.
The House Ways and Means Committee meets, 8:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Rules Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets, 15 minutes after the Rules Committee ends, Room 401, Senate Office Building.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release March unemployment figures, 10 a.m.
The Revenue Estimating Conference meets for an “impact” conference, considering the costs of legislation, 12:30 p.m., Room 117, Knott Building.
The Florida Commission on Ethics meets for issues from Tallahassee, Delray Beach, Temple Terrace and Indian River, Madison and Monroe counties, 11 a.m., Leon County Courthouse, Commission Chamber, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee.
— STATEWIDE —
“‘A nicer version of Trump’: GOP donors flock to Ron DeSantis” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — One evening in February, DeSantis quietly slipped into the luxurious Charleston Place Hotel in South Carolina. Over dinner, the Florida governor addressed an audience of deep-pocketed donors convened by the influential Bradley Foundation, an organization that funnels cash to right-leaning nonprofit groups. DeSantis, whose attendance has not been previously reported, held forth for nearly an hour, detailing the anti-lockdown approach to the coronavirus pandemic that’s turned him into a conservative hero and propelled him to the upper echelon of potential 2024 GOP hopefuls.
“Want public records? ‘So sue me’ seems to be state’s attitude, First Amendment experts say” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis and his administration have resisted sharing all they know with the public. Instead, he and his team have chosen public relations over public records, deciding what information they want to release, First Amendment experts say. They’ve carefully choreographed and strategically staged news conferences and photo ops spotlighting various achievements in the battle against the virus. Meantime, they’ve slow-walked or refused requests for vital information that Florida residents want to know about contact tracing, infection rates at schools and nursing homes, weekly White House advisories, agreements with pharmacies and grocery chains, and variant data.
“Hiding Piney Point toxic waste underground may give us a taste of super-nasty water” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — Gov. DeSantis held a news conference at Piney Point. A week earlier, the old phosphate processing plant was making international headlines for being the source of a potential toxic waste disaster. Now the crisis had been averted, and DeSantis didn’t want a repeat. What the Governor didn’t mention was what would happen to the millions of gallons of pollution at the old plant, all sitting atop the towering phosphogypsum waste stacks that the processing plant left behind. But don’t worry. The Manatee County Commission has a plan.
“Florida Chamber Safety Council highlights ways to boost workplace mental health” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Chamber Safety Council hosted a webinar to help business leaders learn how to recognize issues their employees may be facing and how addressing those issues proactively can produce positive outcomes for the individual and business alike. Dr. Aaron Weiner, a clinical psychologist who specializes in addiction counseling, led the discussion. Anti-anxiety prescriptions are up 40%, alcohol and cannabis sales are booming, and opioid overdoses are on the rise. Florida has not been immune to the national trends. The Florida Behavioral Health Association, which represents mental health and substance abuse treatment centers across the state, has reported a marked increase in crisis calls, opioid deaths and even suicides over past year.
“He’s filed civil suits on behalf of Black victims, collecting millions for grieving families. But he cannot replace those who died” via Lucy Morgan of the Florida Phoenix — Tallahassee attorney Benjamin Crump was standing in a snowstorm Tuesday, watching the mother of yet another young Black son weep as she described the night her son called her from his car to tell her he’d just been stopped by police. A veteran police officer shot and killed Duante Wright, 20. The veteran officer, Kimberly Potter, said she meant to shoot Wright with her Taser, but fired her gun by mistake. Potter and the police chief resigned Tuesday about the time Wright’s family retained Crump as their lawyer.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports 6,762 new COVID-19 cases, 74 more deaths” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 6,762 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and another 74 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 2,148,448 cases since the pandemic began. Public health experts say the virus is considered under control when the COVID-19 test positivity rate is under 5%. But since Oct. 29, Florida has exceeded 5% in its widely publicized calculation for assessing the rate for testing of residents. The state reported a daily positivity rate of 6.66% on Thursday, down from 7.44% the day before. According to the state, the new reported case numbers reflect the results of 101,372 COVID-19 tests of Florida residents received from labs in the past day, up from 90,357 results reported the day before.
“DeSantis orders worsened Spring Break COVID-19 surge, Mayors say” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Rendered nearly toothless by DeSantis, the governmental leaders of some of Florida’s most popular Spring Break destinations say they had little power to stop revelers from clustering in their towns last month, spreading the coronavirus. In the four weeks between March 13 and Tuesday, coronavirus infections have surged more in Florida’s Spring Break hot spots than elsewhere in the state. DeSantis shares blame for that because he removed cities’ and counties’ ability to enforce their anti-coronavirus rules, local officials say. There were especially large swells of infections in Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties.
“DeSantis’ ban of vaccine passports could lead to showdown with businesses in Florida” via Steven Lemongello and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Vaccination passports have become a new ideological battleground of the COVID-19 pandemic, with DeSantis joining the fray by issuing an order banning their use by both local governments and businesses. But already, businesses ranging from cruise lines to sports teams have announced they’re planning to require some kind of proof of vaccination for entry into their ships or arenas. And with the Joe Biden administration ruling out issuing federal passports, that means there could be a consequential showdown between the GOP Governor and major national and international businesses.
“School leaders aren’t ready to ditch masks, despite recommendation from Tallahassee” via Andrew Boryga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Districts in South Florida say they aren’t ready to abandon the facial coverings just yet. When they do, they said, they’ll listen to public health experts first. Those experts were baffled Thursday about what data Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran was relying on in a memo he sent to school districts. “I would worry that his letter would be misconstrued as: The pandemic is over,” said Marissa Levine, professor of public health at the University of South Florida. “Unfortunately, it’s not.” None of the schools in South Florida plan to follow Corcoran’s recommendation to stop requiring masks next school year.
“Florida company illegally peddling ‘miracle cure’ bleach for new COVID-19 variants” via Ed Pilkington of The Guardian — Peddlers of industrial bleach who urge Americans to drink the fluid as a “miracle cure” for cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases have begun touting the product illegally as a treatment for the latest variants of COVID-19. Chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleaching agent used in textile and paper manufacturing, is being compounded and sold out of a makeshift laboratory in Miami. The company, Oclo Nanotechnology Science, is playing on fears of the new strain of the coronavirus discovered in the U.K., which is now spreading rapidly and widely through the U.S. The U.K. variant, B117, is thought to be more transmissible and deadly than the initial form of the virus.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“International and out-of-state students can now get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Florida” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Thousands of students across South Florida, home to many who study here from foreign countries, don’t have IDs issued by the state. Additionally, it’s difficult or impossible for them to get a hold of utility bills or other documents under their name to confirm they, in fact, live here. To solve this problem, Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade County’s public hospital network, is partnering with five local universities to allow international and out-of-state students to show their student identification card, along with a driver’s license or passport, to get the vaccine. The initiative could allow colleges to revive their campuses sooner than expected.
“Ivanka Trump just got her COVID-19 vaccine at a CVS in Miami. Reactions were mixed” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Wednesday was a momentous day: Trump returned to social media and got her COVID-19 vaccine. “Today, I got the shot!” the former White House adviser announced on Twitter and Instagram, with two pics of her behind a screen at a South Florida CVS. “I hope that you do, too!” Former President Donald Trump’s daughter also thanked “Nurse Torres,” who apparently administered the dose. While some followers commended Trump for taking her health seriously during a worldwide pandemic, others went on the attack.
“Orlando airport rebounds from pandemic’s slowest day to crowded ticket counters before dawn” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — The pandemic plunge at Orlando’s airport hit bottom on April 15, 2020, with the number of travelers at security checkpoints that entire day fewer than during 30 minutes of an average day before COVID-19. Senior operations director Tom Draper said “1,579 people went through the checkpoint that day. It was very quiet. The fountain was off and there was almost nobody in the checkpoints.” He expects summer to be better. “We think it will be just like spring break. We are hearing that from all of the airlines. We had a great spring break. For 2021 versus ’20, we are up 68%. For 2021 versus 2019, which is really what we are looking at, were only down 30%.”
“Inmates in Leon County are being vaccinated at the direction of the sheriff” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A month after the local health department administrator said she would find a way to begin vaccinating Leon County Detention Center inmates against the coronavirus, an effort led by the sheriff has put at least 400 shots in arms. Sheriff Walt McNeil just a few weeks ago directed inmates be vaccinated in the weeks after County Commissioners pressed the issue in a tense public exchange with Leon County Health Officer Claudia Blackburn. Inmates are not required to be vaccinated. Testing for coronavirus is also voluntary. Blackburn told Commissioners on March 9 that vaccinating inmates was not a priority under questioning from Commissioner Bill Proctor.
“No plans to yet to repeal Leon mask ordinance, but county adjusts process for how it will happen” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Although there are no immediate plans to back away from one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, wearing a face covering, county leaders are beginning to ponder how the decision will be made when it’s time to unmask. Leon County Commissioners voted to give county staff the authority to bring back an agenda item to repeal the mask mandate if federal health guidelines change on masking. However, that isn’t likely to occur anytime soon.
“Tampa Bay school leaders plan to watch, wait on mask decisions for fall” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The state’s call to give Florida students the choice of whether to wear masks in school starting in August fell short of winning clear backing in Tampa area districts on Thursday. School districts in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties agreed their hope and goal is to return campuses to the normal operations that preceded the pandemic. But they signaled an unwillingness to commit at this time to education commissioner Richard Corcoran’s request that they revise their facial covering policies from mandatory to voluntary.
“Health Department to offer six days of no-appointment, drive-thru COVID-19 vaccines in Viera” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — The Florida Department of Health will be holding drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Viera during the next six days, with no appointments necessary. There will be a total of 8,600 doses of the vaccine available during the six-day period at the Department of Health complex at 2555 Judge Fran Jamieson Way. Only first doses of the two-shot Moderna vaccine will be provided during these expanded hours. After people receive their first dose, they will be given an appointment before they leave the site, so they can have a reserved time to receive the second dose of the vaccine four weeks later.
— CORONA NATION —
“Spring wave of coronavirus crashes across 38 states as hospitalizations increase” via Joel Achenbach and Jacqueline Dupree of The Washington Post — Thirty-eight states have reported an increase during the past week in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. But the national statistics don’t capture the intensity of the coronavirus emergency in the hotspots. Michigan reported more than 10,000 new infections on Tuesday alone. The state on Wednesday reported an average of 46 deaths a day, up from 16 a month earlier. If there’s a single broad trend, it’s that the northern tier of the country is generally faring worse than the southern, for the moment. By contrast, much of the Deep South, with the exception of Florida and Georgia in recent days, has reported sharp decreases. Since the winter wave ended, numbers in West Texas and the Great Plains have improved.
“Pfizer CEO says third COVID-19 vaccine dose likely needed within 12 months” via Berkeley Lovelace, Jr. of CNBC — Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said people will “likely” need a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated. Bourla said it’s possible people will need to get vaccinated against the coronavirus annually. “A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between six and 12 months and then from there, there will be annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role,” he told CNBC’s Bertha Coombs during an event with CVS Health. The comment comes after Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told said people may need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots.
“Top health officials urge Americans to get vaccinated but barely address the J&J dose pause.” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — Three top federal health officials appeared on Capitol Hill and implored Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, but said little about the investigation into whether the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be linked to a small number of cases of rare blood clots, or when that vaccine might be put back into use. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments came as the future of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine hung in the balance. Earlier this week, the FDA and the CDC called for a pause in the use of the vaccine in the wake of reports of a small number of rare blood clots in recipients. Though it is unclear whether the vaccine was responsible for the clots, injections came to a sudden halt across the country.
“Nearly half of Republicans say they don’t want a COVID-19 vaccine, a big public health challenge.” via Giovanni Russonello of The New York Times — With COVID-19 vaccines now widely available, just over half of American adults have now received at least one shot, according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday. But more than two in five Republicans said they would avoid getting vaccinated if possible, suggesting that Biden has not succeeded in his effort to depoliticize the vaccines — and leaving open the question of whether the country will be able to achieve herd immunity without a stronger push from Republican leaders to bring their voters on board. The results of the Monmouth poll lined up with those of a separate survey by Quinnipiac University, also released on Wednesday, that found 45% of Republicans did not plan to get vaccinated.
“Unused vaccines are piling up across U.S. as some regions resist” via Anna Edney and Drew Armstrong of Bloomberg News — Many U.S. states and cities have a growing surplus of COVID-19 vaccines, a sign that in some places demand is slowing before a large percentage of the population has been inoculated, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News. Overall, demand remains strong. But even some states that are doing well are struggling with stubborn pockets where uptake is low. In Virginia, for instance, 83% of vaccines supplied to the state have been used. In Charlottesville, a mostly Democratic area that is home to the University of Virginia, vaccine appointments are tough to snag even with two mass clinics right in town In Lynchburg, 70 miles south and dominated by conservative Liberty University, open appointments at an old TJ Maxx are easy to find.
“The rural pandemic isn’t ending” via Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic — In pockets of the country, vaccination rates could stay low, creating little islands where the coronavirus survives and thrives. In a worst-case scenario, the virus could mutate, becoming a highly transmissible and much more lethal version of itself. Eventually, the new variant could leak from these islands and spread into the broader population, posing a threat to already-vaccinated people. This is the future that keeps some public-health experts awake at night. Right now America is in the simplest stage of its vaccination campaign: getting shots to people who want them. But many Americans are still reluctant to get a vaccine — especially those living in rural areas, who tend to be politically conservative and are among the most fervently opposed to inoculation.
“Americans will likely have to navigate a maze of vaccine ‘passports’” via Ashley Gold and Caitlin Owens of Axios — Many private businesses and some states are plowing ahead with methods of verifying that people have been vaccinated, despite conservative resistance to “vaccine passports.” Many businesses view some sort of vaccine verification system as key to getting back to normal. But in the absence of federal leadership, a confusing patchwork approach is likely to pop up. “I think it’s going to be a tidal wave that’s going to be very difficult to stop because there’s an enormous economic and social incentive for proof of vaccinations,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown University.
“Meet the latest COVID-19 annoyance: The vaxinista” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Are you showing off your COVID-19 vaccine? You may be a vaxinista. Urban Dictionary, the online repository of the latest slang, describes the vaxinista like this: “A person who gets the vaccine and flaunts it with high-end shopping, trips, and parties.” The vaxinista is distinct from the anti-masker, anti-vaxxer or any of the other types who have denied the severity (or existence) of the pandemic, thereby doing their part to prolong it. The vaxinista takes COVID-19 seriously but treats the achievement of immunity as just another high-status consumer item to be thrown in the face of their friends, or “friends,” like a new BMW X3 or the admission of their offspring into a competitive college.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“U.S. economy ramps up on spending surge, hiring gains” via Amara Omeokwe of The Wall Street Journal — The U.S. economic recovery is accelerating as stimulus money, COVID-19 vaccinations and business re-openings spur a spring surge in consumer spending, a sharp pullback in layoffs and a bounceback in factory output. Retail sales jumped 9.8% in March, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The gain in consumer spending came as the government began distributing hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus funds to households. It was the largest monthly gain since last May, during the initial recovery from lockdowns early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Separately, nearly 200,000 fewer workers filed for initial unemployment benefits last week. Jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell to 576,000 last week from 769,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said.
“Steep drop in jobless claims, soaring retail sales buoy hopes for a robust recovery” via Taylor Telford of The Washington Post — First-time unemployment claims fell sharply last week to a pandemic low of 576,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That’s down 193,000 from the preceding week’s surprise spike, an unexpectedly strong showing even as unemployment remains elevated. Meanwhile, fresh Commerce Department data showed retail sales soared 9.8% in March as stimulus checks hit bank accounts, business restrictions loosened and spring weather arrived. The better-than-expected jump comes on the heels of a 2.7% decline in February.
— MORE CORONA —
“Where the world’s coronavirus vaccines are coming from and going to” via Dave Lawler of Axios — The world crossed a coronavirus vaccine milestone this week: over 1 billion doses have now been produced. Production continues to ramp up quickly. While it took several months to reach one billion doses, we should hit two billion by the end of May. China is the biggest producer and easily the biggest exporter, particularly now that India is curbing exports to fight a brutal second wave. Russia, Switzerland, South Korea, Brazil and South Africa are all producing doses but lag behind the five producers on our chart. The U.S. has kept nearly all of its supply for domestic use, but expects to become a major exporter once domestic needs are met. The U.S. has also administered the most doses to date with 23% of the global total.
“Why you shouldn’t skip your second dose of the coronavirus vaccine” via Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post — More than 100 million people in the United States have taken one of the coronavirus vaccines authorized by the FDA, on track to more than meet Biden’s goal of 200 million inoculations during his first 100 days in office. But some people have not shown up for the second shot of the messenger-RNA vaccines, which require two doses to achieve the strongest and longest-lasting immunity. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, recently expressed concern that although a single dose is proven to be up to 80% effective, “it is somewhat of a tenuous 80%.” It is not yet known how long the antibodies from a single dose will last because that data was not included in the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials. But health experts say it is clear that people who get a single shot and stop there will not get the full protective benefit of the vaccine.
“The mRNA vaccines are looking better and better” via Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic — A year ago, when the U.S. decided to go big on vaccines, it bet on nearly every horse, investing in a spectrum of technologies. The protein-based vaccines have moved too slowly to matter so far. J&J’s and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 — but a small number of recipients have developed a rare type of blood clot that appears to be linked to the adenovirus technology and may ultimately limit those shots’ use. Meanwhile, with more than 180 million doses administered in the U.S., the mRNA vaccines have proved astonishingly effective and extremely safe. So many doses have been administered that these unusual blood clots — or any serious one-in-a-million event — would very likely have shown up by now.
“Can the COVID-19 vaccine protect me against virus variants?” via Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times — While it’s true that the virus variants are a significant public health concern, the unrelenting focus on each new variant has created undue alarm and a false impression that vaccines don’t protect us against the various variants that continue to emerge. While it’s true that the vaccines have different success rates against different variants, the perception that they don’t work against variants at all is incorrect. In fact, the available vaccines have worked remarkably well so far, not just at preventing infection but, most important, at preventing serious illness and hospitalization, even as new variants circulate around the globe.
“A year into the pandemic, it’s even more clear that it’s safer to be outside” via Karin Brulliard and Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post — The photos of Clearwater Beach went viral last spring: people crowded on the sand, seemingly unconcerned about the deadly new contagion coursing across the world. Local officials, accused of fueling a public health crisis, quickly shut 35 miles of county beaches and left them closed for weeks. What a difference a year makes. The beaches were even busier this year, but officials say there were no talks of closure. There was also far less outcry. And with good reason, according to many scientists and public health experts, who say that the outdoor spaces now warming under spring sun should be viewed as havens in the battle against a stubborn virus and restriction-induced fatigue.
“CDC says blocking middle seats can reduce COVID-19 risks. Will airlines keep selling them?” via Natalie B. Compton of The Washington Post — A CDC study released Wednesday found that blocking the middle seat on planes, a practice almost all U.S. airlines have stopped, can reduce coronavirus risks to passengers by 23 to 57%. Although the study, which addresses exposure and not transmission, was conducted without taking passenger masking into account, the CDC said social distancing on planes is still beneficial. Most airlines returned to packing flights last year in an attempt to make up for staggering financial losses. Delta is the last major U.S. airline still blocking middle seats, and it will stop doing so on May 1.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden’s approval rating rises, helped by the vaccine distribution push” via Giovanni Russonello — The American public doesn’t think President Biden deserves sole credit for the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, but it overwhelmingly likes the job he’s doing getting them distributed — and it’s feeding a high job approval rating over all. Those are among the results of a Pew Research Center poll that offers a portrait of a country that is increasingly positive about its political leaders. As Biden nears his 100th day in office, his approval rating stood at 59 percent, according to the poll, with 39 percent of respondents disapproving of his performance in office.
“Biden’s presidency isn’t splashy, but Republicans still dislike all the ripples” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Sen. John Cornyn offered an odd criticism of Biden this week. “The President is not doing cable news interviews,” Cornyn said on Twitter. “Tweets from his account are limited and, when they come, unimaginably conventional.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, Biden spends his time “working for the American people,” head down and avoiding the limelight, as she’d no doubt have us believe. That pointed difference in the approach Biden takes relative to Trump was pitched as an asset during the campaign. Despite America’s newfound disinterest in its President, Republicans still hold skeptical views of how Biden approaches his job. Not in a policy sense, mind you, in his personal conduct.
“Biden proposals may not guarantee all Fortune 500 corporations pay federal income taxes, experts say” via Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — Faced with criticism over their proposed tax hikes, senior Biden administration officials have in recent days pointed to large American corporations that are paying no federal income taxes. Under Biden’s plan, corporations would pay at least $2 trillion more in taxes than they do now. But tax experts are not sure whether Biden’s plan would in fact substantially reduce the number of large corporations paying zero dollars in federal income taxes. That is because Biden’s plan would still allow virtually all corporations to use federal tax credits and deductions to reduce their existing tax obligations — one key reason some large firms pay nothing. Biden’s $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan includes a significant expansion in these kinds of credits.
“Biden’s delay on refugees baffles and frustrates allies” via Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — Biden sent a stark message in February to foreigners fleeing oppression, persecution and danger: The United States stands ready to help them once again. He pledged an eightfold-plus increase in the annual cap on refugees set during the Trump administration, saying he would aim for a “down payment” on that promise “as soon as possible.” More than two months later, Biden has not made good on his vow. People close to the White House’s decision-making attribute the delay to several factors. Some point to the administration’s ongoing struggles to contain a massive increase in migrants arriving at the southern border, saying they detect political concerns at a moment when there is increasing pressure on Biden to be tougher on immigration.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“The government finally connects the line from Trump’s campaign to Russian intelligence” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — On Thursday, the Treasury Department unveiled new sanctions against the Russian government, linked to its apparent hack of U.S. government networks. But the news release also included a statement pointing out the connection between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. “During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Konstantin Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy. Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the statement read.
“Mr. President, your misinformation on Georgia’s voting law is dangerous” via Gabriel Sterling in The Washington Post — “Someone is going to get hurt.” I made that prediction four months ago regarding misinformation about the 2020 election. I was horrified to see it come true on Jan. 6. The reaction to Georgia’s new election law has me worried again. Though I have not received any threats yet, thankfully, that same foreboding is creeping up again as the President of the United States and others once again spread lies about what is going on in Georgia. So I plead with the President once again: Someone is going to get hurt. Your words matter. The facts matter.
ETTD — “GPS is endangered by a misguided FCC decision made during the Donald Trump administration” via Diana Furchtgott-Roth in The Washington Post — GPS is vulnerable to interference from ground-based transmissions, yet last April, the FCC unanimously granted an application by Ligado Networks, based in Reston, Virginia, to offer a ground-based 5G service in the spectrum, much of which is next to spectrum allocated for GPS. Why is that likely to be a serious problem? Because Ligado’s signals will be 2 billion times as powerful as GPS signals. Just as an outdoor rock concert would drown out birdsong, the proposed Ligado 5G transmitters would overwhelm GPS signals. Ligado is authorized to begin work, but as a relatively small company unlikely to be able to tackle a nationwide deployment, it is expected to sell the spectrum to a giant wireless carrier.
“What ever happened to Trump?” via David A. Graham of The Atlantic — Although making any statements about Trump’s relative irrelevance feels like tempting fate, he has remained unexpectedly peripheral since leaving office. You’re not imagining it. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump showed recently that Google search interest and cable news images of Trump have both returned to roughly where they were before he ran for office. An outburst over the weekend — speaking to a room of Republican officials and donors, Trump called the most powerful elected Republican in the nation a “dumb son of a bitch” — underscores his fade. The speech got some attention, but not much. The time when “covfefe” could consume the nation for days on end is, mercifully, past.
— CRISIS —
“Armed ‘quick reaction force’ was waiting for order to storm Capitol, Justice Dept. says” via Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — As the Capitol was overrun on Jan. 6, armed supporters of Trump were waiting across the Potomac in Virginia for orders to bring guns into the fray, a prosecutor said Wednesday in federal court. The Justice Department has repeatedly highlighted comments from some alleged riot participants who discussed being part of a “quick reaction force” with stashes of weapons. Defendants have dismissed those conversations as bluster. But in a detention hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said the government has evidence indicating otherwise.
“Inspector General says police order to hold back riot-control weapons compromised Capitol on Jan. 6” via Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post — Inspector General Michael Bolton told the House Administration Committee that a deputy assistant chief of police instructed Capitol Police officers not to use heavy riot-control weapons — including sting balls and 40 mm launchers — during the riot at the Capitol out of concern that “they could potentially cause life-altering injury and/or death, if they were misused in any way.” Bolton did not identify the chief, but he said that had officers employed such measures, “it certainly would have helped us that day to enhance our ability to protect the Capitol.” To date, the inspector general has produced two interim reports for Congress detailing investigators’ preliminary findings, including that the force lacked the security clearances needed to properly assess warnings of the attack.
“Gallows or guillotines? The chilling debate on TheDonald.win before the Capitol siege.” via Craig Timberg of The Washington Post — Conversations flowed freely and visibly on TheDonald.win for weeks, underscoring the openly violent intent of some of the thousands of Trump enthusiasts who thronged the Capitol on Jan. 6, as well as the intelligence failures of the authorities charged with preparing for that day. The clashes left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Cached versions of the comments on the now-defunct site show the chilling precision and pragmatism of the advanced planning for an assault whose reverberations are still shaking Washington, with a hearing Thursday expected to turn a harsh light on operational missteps by the Capitol Police.
“Brevard County man hunted Nancy Pelosi at U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors say” via Erik Sandoval of News 6 — A federal judge ruled a Titusville man will stay in jail until his trial on charges he conspired with members of the Oath Keepers to storm the U.S. Capitol. Kenneth Harrelson’s attorney had asked the judge to grant bond after he was denied the change to leave jail by a federal magistrate in Orlando in March. Prosecutors alleged Harrelson conspired to break into the Capitol building. They also claimed Harrelson was the leader of ground operations for the group that day, with the task of finding House Speaker Pelosi.
“As insurrection raged, a South Florida video blogger provided a play-by-play — to Russians” via Kevin G. Hall of the Miami Herald — His broadcast reached Russian speakers across the United States and in the mother country, pushing the Stop the Steal narrative and other debunked election-fraud allegations. In the digital version of a tip jar, his YouTube and Instagram accounts included electronic payment links to PayPal and Zelle for those who might want to thank him for his broadcasts. His name is Stanislav Doudnik. He’s a Hallandale Beach-based private detective/blogger, part of the growing, insular community of expatriates from the former Soviet Union that has put down roots in South Florida.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Vern Buchanan makes a bid to lead the Ways and Means Committee” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily News — With U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, not running again in 2022, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said he wants to lead the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful bodies in Congress. Brady, who currently leads Republicans on the committee, announced this week that he will not run next year. On Thursday, Buchanan said he wants to lead the committee. “At the appropriate time, it would be an honor to be considered for the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee when we win back the House in 2022,” said Buchanan.
“In the climate change fight, the Interior Department becomes a battlefield” via Juliet Eilperin and Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post — The struggle over the leadership at the Interior Department is just one example of how the agency has become the first big battlefield in the brewing fight over Biden’s climate change agenda. The oil and gas industry is pushing back against the administration’s desire to reassess and perhaps increase royalty rates for drilling on federal lands, which have remained unchanged for a century. It is hostile to the possibility of Biden curtailing new leases. It also has objected to his proposal to eliminate certain industry tax breaks. While several departments are already working to advance the President’s ambitious climate goals, including Agriculture and Energy, Interior has taken the most concrete steps because it oversees onshore and offshore energy exploration.
“The Republican Party finds a new group to demonize” via Adam Serwer of The Atlantic — Republicans lost the fight over marriage equality so decisively that some now pretend not to have vigorously opposed it in the first place. The fight over immigration is locked in a stalemate. Anti-Muslim animus has hardly disappeared, but it is no longer as useful a tool to oppose the current leader of the Democratic Party, an elderly Irish Catholic man. And so Republicans have conjured a new existential threat, targeting trans people, a tiny segment of the population that is nevertheless the subject of full-blown panic. Earlier forays into anti-trans politics resulted in a backlash. But Republicans have since redoubled their efforts, with a particular emphasis on “protecting” children, a familiar echo of their opposition to LGBTQ rights.
“The GOP is voting against its base” via Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic — With their opposition to Biden’s infrastructure plan, Republicans are doubling down on a core bet they’ve made for his presidency: that the GOP can maintain support among its key constituencies while fighting programs that would provide those voters with tangible economic assistance. That resistance represents a political gamble, because the proposed benefits — including $1,400 stimulus checks, and rural broadband in the infrastructure plan — are large enough and visible enough that voters may be more likely to feel them in their daily life than most legislative actions. Even many Democrats, such as Link, agree that Republicans may not immediately suffer for opposing these initiatives. But longer-term, Democrats see more of an opening because assistance will be flowing so visibly.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Auditor who blew the lid off JEA bonus plan talks to federal grand jury” via Nate Monroe for The Florida Times-Union — A federal grand jury in Jacksonville on Thursday heard testimony from now-retired City Hall auditor Kyle Billy who blew the whistle in 2019 on the JEA bonus plan that could have paid the agency’s top executives millions of dollars each if they had been successful courting a private buyer. Grand jury deliberations are highly secretive and neither the Department of Justice nor FBI confirm or deny the existence of active investigations, but it’s clear prosecutors have been calling a cast of witnesses to testify at the courthouse each week. The appearances Thursday of Billy and another auditor in that office, Jeff Rodda, are the strongest signal yet prosecutors are zeroing in on the bonus plan.
“Ethics complaint: Former lawmaker lobbied Gables on Wawa project but didn’t register” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — A group of Coral Gables residents who sued the city in opposition to a planned Wawa gas station and convenience store are complaining that a veteran lobbyist met with city officials on behalf of Wawa without registering as a lobbyist. In a complaint filed Thursday with the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust on behalf of the Gables Accountability Project, the group alleges that lobbyist and former state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and lobbyist Laura Russo sent letters to the Gables City Attorney and other officials regarding the removal of decades-old Oak trees at the site of the future gas station.
“A Coral Gables nurse specializing in Botox preyed on the elderly in phone scam, cops say” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — By day, Paulette Padilla is a nurse practitioner, using Instagram to proudly hawk beauty procedures: Botox and filler injections at the Nu You Wellness Center in Coral Gables. But investigators say Padilla was also part of a growing scam that targets elderly victims, conning them into mailing or wiring large amounts of money. Padilla was arrested this week and charged with organized scheme to defraud. She was also charged with drug trafficking after detectives say they found 170 pounds of marijuana stuffed in suitcases hidden in the bathroom of her Kendall apartment.
“Former judge under investigation in election law case. But why?” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Former Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lynch is under investigation on accusations that he violated state election law during his 2020 campaign to become Broward’s public defender. The investigation was disclosed in an April 6 executive order posted on the Governor’s website, assigning the case to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor asked the Governor to take his office off the case because Lynch’s son, Michael Lynch, is current a judge overseeing criminal cases. No details about the alleged election law violations have been disclosed. The Governor’s executive order also names political consultant Michael Ahearn and his wife, Megan Donahue, as targets of the investigation. Donahue was the treasurer of Lynch’s campaign.
“Red Tide reported at several Sarasota County beaches, health officials warn” via WFLA staff reports — The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County is notifying the public of elevated levels of red tide along the coast of Sarasota County. Due to elevated counts of red tide from Monday’s beach water samples as well as reports of respiratory irritation the DOH will be posting signage tomorrow at several beaches to advise the public that red tide is present. The beaches affected include Longboat Key, Bird Key Park (Ringling Causeway), North Lido Beach, Lido Casino, South Lido, Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach, Nokomis Beach, and North Jetty Beach. Some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation similar to cold symptoms. Some individuals with breathing problems such as asthma might experience more severe symptoms.
“Video shows driver jumping rising drawbridge in Daytona Beach” via WSVN — A driver in Daytona Beach did not let a rising drawbridge stop them from reaching their destination. Traffic camera video shows the driver speeding through the drawbridge crossing, breaking the arm and then driving over the bridge as it began to rise. The car briefly caught a bit of air before landing on the other side and driving off. The incident happened early Monday morning. The crossing arm also required repairs. Police believe they have identified the driver, who they said, will likely face charges. This is not the first time a driver has decided to take on the rising drawbridge. In March, a rider drove a motorcycle over the bridge as it rose.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
— TOP OPINION —
“Republicans will keep up the craziness until they pay a real price” via James Hohmann of The Washington Post — John Boehner first realized “the crazies” were taking over the Republican Party during the 2008 financial crisis, two years before the tea party wave made him speaker of the House. The moment of clarity came when 133 House Republicans voted down a $700 billion rescue package sought by President George W. Bush. To Boehner, then minority leader, these members seemed more worried about pleasing Fox News’ Sean Hannity than preventing another Great Depression. Boehner is correct, if not blameless, in his diagnosis of what caused the GOP to become unable to govern responsibly or effectively: The lack of meaningful consequences for political arsonists since 2008 has warped incentives for ambitious Republicans.
— OPINIONS —
“When it comes to helping us recover from COVID-19, DeSantis gives with one hand, slaps with the other” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Good people can have an honest disagreement over DeSantis’ decision to leave the state open for much of the COVID-19 pandemic. It certainly helped some businesses stay afloat, even if it dismayed residents looking for stricter lockdown measures to contain the virus that has killed more than 34,000 Floridians. It’s easy to understand DeSantis’ motivation to stave off an economic disaster. If you look at the pandemic from that prism, he has succeeded. At 4.7 percent, the state’s unemployment rate falls below the national average of 6.2 percent. We can’t complain about that. But what’s mystifying is how DeSantis has also done his best to undermine the use of mitigating measures.
“DeSantis wants to censor us like Cuba censored my people” via Cloe Cabrera in Latino Rebels — Those who came to Florida fleeing authoritarian governments, both from the right and the left, still have images of repression and censorship engraved in their minds. Images of the Cuban authorities beating the Ladies in White for protesting peacefully are still recorded in my mind and regrettably continue to happen in my longed-for Cuba. My parents never thought we would see such repression in our new home after they fled to the United States, a country that claims to be a model of democracy and freedom of expression. But Gov. DeSantis is breaking that promise by censoring and threatening to jail people who disagree with his government.
“Florida trans girls are cordially invited to play sports at my house” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — Apparently, getting through school is not traumatic enough! Let’s add the potential for student-athletes to undergo abhorrent genital testing, like we are living in a 1950s B horror movie. Trans people have existed forever, even if you don’t realize it. The frosted flakes in the Legislature would open up all girls to this gross scrutiny. If this becomes law, it will ensure anyone can lodge a complaint, asserting someone is not female and demanding they prove it. This will hurt girls who happen to be tall or strong or fast. It will hurt Black girls, who are already disproportionally subjected to questions. So, you are cordially invited to play youth sports at my place.
“Appeals court wounded public’s right to know with Marsy’s Law decision” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Sometimes, sympathy and kind intentions get in the way of common sense — leading to unintended, even harmful consequences. Marsy’s Law protects the identity of crime victims. Good, so far. But in two separate shooting cases involving TPD, the Police Benevolent Association sought to prevent release of the names of officers involved. It argued that the officers were victims, too. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled that the cops were acting in an official capacity in each incident. The PBA appealed and the 1st DCA reversed Dodson. Disclosing the identity of a public employee who takes an official action in the name of a community is not meant to condemn or commend that employee. It’s just informing the public of facts.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Senate votes to crack down on violent protests and a House committee advances a bill on police standards designed to weed out bad cops.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Those two bills are basically the Yin and Yang of Florida lawmaking.
— The Senate Appropriations Committee votes to make changes in the unemployment system to increase benefits and make it easier to sign up for help
— The House votes to repeal the free kill bill by allowing the parents of adult children to sue if their child dies as a result of medical malpractice.
— The House also passes a bill targeting teachers who commit sexual abuse and avoid punishment by simply resigning.
— And finally, a Florida man was busted from running in the buff, and a Florida Woman was busted for fraud — and the 170 pounds of pot they found in her bathroom. Must have been stinkweed.
To listen, click on the image below:
— LISTEN UP —
Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Text messages show organizers of a vaccine pop-up clinic in Florida discussing the political benefits of the clinic for DeSantis. Journalists Antonio Fins, John Kennedy and Zac Anderson discuss the ongoing questions about political favoritism surrounding the vaccine rollout in Florida, a new elections bill that would put restrictions on mail voting and the political divide in Florida over the new COVID-19 stimulus bill.
Tallahassee Business Podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Tallahassee entrepreneur Bill Lickson shares the latest to come out of the incubation hub Domi Station as well as his new role with North Florida Innovation Labs. In 2023, the capital city will be home to the Southeast’s technology incubator serving hard science, high-impact companies in the region. North Florida Innovation Labs will be a groundbreaking resource for entrepreneurs and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Trump’s tweet about Mika Brzezinski “bleeding badly from a face-lift” originated from a conversation between her and the former first couple in their bedroom. Really. The Morning Joe co-host gives her hilarious retelling of the events that led up to this infamous tweet, and exactly how she responded when she found out about it: “I’m talking to Melania about it, woman to woman, then Donald came up and said, you know, Melania has had no work done. She’s perfect. I’m like, ‘that’s great.’” Then! The National’s Elie Mystal breaks down the Derek Chauvin trial and why it’s unlike any other cop murder trial he’s ever seen. Plus! Why are Gaetz’s Republican enablers just as skeezy?
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Mary Ellen Klas, capital co-bureau chief, Tampa Bay Times-Miami Herald; Andrea Peaten, community immunization liaison, Florida Department of Health, Pinellas County; POLITICO Florida senior reporter Matt Dixon; and Gina Duncan, director of transgender equality, Equality Florida.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion on the recent deaths of manatees in Florida, how their habitats are being environmentally compromised, and what can be done to reverse the trend. Joining Walker are Sen. Jason Brodeur, chair, Environmental and Natural Resources Committee; Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist, and executive director, Save the Manatee Club; Jaclyn Lopez, president, Center for Biological Diversity; and Dr. Jason Evans, associate professor of environmental science and studies, Stetson University.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Rep. Blaise Ingoglia will discuss the latest on the Legislature’s plans to reform vote-by-mail, and Sen. Scott will discuss his proposal to jump-start the cruise industry.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: House Speaker Sprowls will discuss unemployment, affordable housing, and combating public disorder; and an in-depth look at crime reform in Florida.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with pollster Steve Vancore and Melissa McKinlay, president of the Florida Association of Counties.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack; Dr. Sunil Joshi, president, Duval County Medical Society Foundation; Amanda Lewis; and Skylar Zander, Florida director, Americans for Prosperity.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Sen. Thurston and Florida International University infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty.
— ALOE —
“We’ll all be video-chatting each other over hologram by 2030, experts predict” via Matt Clemenson of the Daily Star — After a year of communicating via video calls, which saw Zoom and FaceTime soar in popularity, tech forecasters are now predicting that holograms will be the next form of virtual communication within just nine years. It comes after a study of 2,000 Brits found half are bored of video calls, while 63% feel they don’t give the level of interaction or closeness they want. But 44% believe the pandemic has permanently changed the way we interact with technology, and that it will have a remarkable impact on our lifestyles in years to come. In fact, tech forecaster and futurologist James Bellini has predicted that by 2030, we could all be using holograms to stay connected to our nearest and dearest.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
So much fun, we celebrate them twice: Best wishes (again) to numbers guru Donna Arduin, Senate President Bill Galvano, former U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns and Jeb! alum and comms pro Cory Tilley.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.