Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.27.21

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Rise 'n' shine. Wake up to the best blurbs on politics and policy in Florida.

Breaking overnight — Although tt appeared (to several media outlets) as though Gov. Ron DeSantis opted not to extend the declared “State of Emergency” through Executive Order 20-52, DeSantis spokesperson Meredith Beatrice texted me today to say that “60 days following the last extension is today.” So, presumably, Gov. DeSantis has until 11:59 p.m. tonight to extend his order.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings’ death gives several Democrats a chance at a promotion. But it also allows DeSantis to build an insurmountable lead in the Legislature and chip away at Democrats’ progress in flipping the state’s congressional delegation.

How? He’s the one who will set the special election dates in Florida’s 20th Congressional District as well as the special elections for whatever seats it leaves vacant in the Legislature.

Already, it looks like there will be at least two openings — Sen. Perry Thurston has declared for the seat and Sen. Bobby Powell is considering it. Whether one or both run for the seat, they would have to resign their Senate seats effective the day they would take their new office, which would most likely be shortly after the special election.

Bobby Powell and Perry Thurston are possible contenders for the now-vacant CD 20 seat.

Special elections are expensive, so one would assume the Governor would call for state Senate elections to be held alongside the CD 20 special. It would be the most efficient way to do things.

But he doesn’t have to. And there’s really little incentive for DeSantis to call for special elections for CD 20 or state Senate other than voters not being represented.

If DeSantis were to slow-walk it, that could, in effect, really stick it to Florida’s Senate Democrats.

Let’s play this out.

Let’s say he sets the special for CD 20 for late August or early September — he has to have enough time for overseas voting in both a primary and a general, so the campaign window will be more than 3 months. He could even set it later in the year.

And at the same time, he holds off on calling for special elections in the state Senate seats that will become vacant.

Instead, he waits until the CD 20 election is over to order the Senate specials, setting a primary for deep into November or December and a general in late January or early February.

And that’s an aggressive calendar — not one the Governor has to follow. But if he follows anything like that, it would set up a scenario where Democrats would be down 24-14 in the Senate heading into a reapportionment cycle. Remember, the Legislative Session begins in January next year.

While 24-14 is not a two-thirds majority, it puts Democrats one positive COVID-19 test away from handing one to the GOP. With a two-thirds majority, Republicans could waive the rules during Session and muscle through whatever extreme ideas that normally wouldn’t pass even with a majority.


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@AaronRichmond23: Wow. Imagine being New York and losing an entire congressional seat by only 89 people. That is one less hedge fund moving to Florida. Wow.

@Redistrict: Btw, NY state reported 1,941 COVID-19 deaths as of April 1, 2020 — more than 21 times the margin it lost out on the House’s final seat.

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@RTemplin: Senator [Dennis] Baxley just stated on the floor that the Baby Boomer population will double in coming years?? Not sure that makes sense, but it is one of the scariest things he has said this Session … and that’s saying a lot.

@TinaPolsky: So instead of hearing my safer storage of guns bill, we passed more guns in churches today. This potential tragedy happens every day and usually with a much worse outcome. Why can’t people lock up their guns??!

@MDixon55: Find someone who looks at you the way @JeffreyBrandes looks at TED Talks

@SteveSchale: Jaguars get Trevor Lawrence in the NFL sprinkle list.

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season four premieres on Hulu — 1; NFL Draft begins — 2; Disney Wish announcement — 2; Disneyland to open — 3; Kentucky Derby — 4; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 5; Mother’s Day — 12; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 13; Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 20; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 31; Memorial Day — 34; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 37; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 45; Father’s Day — 54; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 59; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 66; 4th of July — 68; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 72; MLB All-Star Game — 77; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 87; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 87; The NBA Draft — 93; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 95; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 101; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 119; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 129; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 150; ‘Dune’ premieres — 157; MLB regular season ends — 159; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 165; World Series Game 1 — 182; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 189; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 192; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 213; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 224; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 231; Super Bowl LVI — 292; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 332; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 374; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 437; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 528; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 563.


Lawmakers reach deal on state budget, with $6.6 billion in COVID-19 relief spending” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — More than $6.6 billion in federal COVID-19 aid for Florida will be used on environmental, school construction and road projects, bonuses for first responders and an emergency response fund. It’s all part of a budget deal lawmakers sealed on Monday night. There’s also a boost in VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing funding from $50 million to $75 million and to pay for new aircraft for a state agency. Senate Budget Chief Kelli Stargel defended the GOP’s approach to spending the relief money, pointing to teacher and first responder bonuses and noting the cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs that were proposed earlier in the Session were reversed as part of the budget deal.

New limits on voting and social media sites sought by Gov. Ron DeSantis clear Florida Senate” via John Kennedy of USA TODAY — Two of DeSantis’ top priorities — restricting mail voting and drop boxes and imposing new regulations on social media platforms — were approved Monday by the Senate. The legislation cleared mostly on party-line votes. Both measures have been attacked by opponents who call the Governor’s moves on issues emerging from last November’s presidential election unconstitutional and unnecessary. The elections bill (SB 90) is part of a nationwide push by Republicans to tighten limits on voting, especially vote-by-mail and dropboxes, techniques that flourished during a 2020 campaign conducted amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The separate bill (SB 7072) that subjects Twitter, Facebook, and other online platforms to potential penalties for de-platforming users without explanation was inspired by Donald Trump being banned.

Two of Ron DeSantis’ priority issues are soon to hit his desk. Image via AP.

Legislation proposing $200M school choice expansion heads to DeSantis” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — The Florida Senate on 25-14 vote Monday passed a sweeping $200 million school-choice proposal that would combine and significantly expand the state’s voucher programs that help families pay for private schooling. The proposal is now on its way to DeSantis. The legislation would pave the way for about 61,000 new students to qualify for taxpayer-funded vouchers, a push that Democrats fought as they advocated for more oversight and accountability for private schools that will be getting state-funded vouchers. Republican leaders in the House and Senate were steadfast in continuing their decadeslong push to expand school choice in Florida and last week reached a compromise on the bill that includes a series of changes to the state’s school-choice infrastructure.

Senate passes controversial election law update” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida Senators voted mostly along party lines Monday to approve a controversial bill that would make dozens of changes to Florida’s vote-by-mail laws. Following nearly an hour of debate that included accusations by Democrats that the measures amounted to voter suppression, the Senate voted 23-17 to send the bill to the House of Representatives, which is advancing a similar measure. Sen. Brandes was the only Senator to cross party lines to vote against the proposal. Republican Senators said the dozens of changes they’re proposing are intended to improve upon Florida’s elections, which were mostly spared the unfounded accusations of voter fraud levied by Trump last year and were lauded by DeSantis.

Breaking overnight — The House dropped a 54-page strike-all amendment to its version of the elections bill. Have a look by clicking here.

Legislators send DeSantis a bill to limit citizen initiatives. Is it constitutional?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Floridians who want to amend the state Constitution through a citizen initiative and bypass an unresponsive state Legislature will now have their ability to finance the effort severely limited if a bill sent to the Governor by the Florida House on Monday becomes law. If signed by DeSantis, SB 1890 would impose a $3,000 cap on contributions to any political committee sponsoring or opposing a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative, limiting the ability of proponents to finance the expensive signature-gathering operation needed to bring a proposed amendment before voters. The $3,000 cap is the same limit set on contributions to individual legislative campaigns.

Pier operator fighting Key West cruise referendum gives DeSantis’ committee $1 million” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The business developer who operates the Key West pier which gets most of the city’s cruise ship traffic has donated nearly $1 million to the political committee of DeSantis. Legislation that would overturn a voter-approved referendum to limit cruise traffic is up for a vote in the House today and may soon be on its way to the Governor’s desk. At the onset of the Legislative Session, companies owned by Mark Walsh, a Delray Beach-based businessman who owns Pier B Development, gave $995,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the political committee operated by the Governor. Walsh leases the state-owned terminal on Key West Harbor in front of the Opal Key Resort and Marina, which his family owns along with dozens of other hotels.

A supporter of preempting Key West cruise ships, Mark Walsh gives big to Ron DeSantis’ committee.

Tech founder helps push new conservation program to finish line in the Legislature” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — Arnie Bellini, founder and senior adviser of ConnectWise, an IT firm in Tampa, has helped drive a nearly successful push to create and fund a new $300 million state conservation land acquisition program. The House is poised to pass legislation (FL SB976 (21R)), creating the Florida Wildlife Corridor program at the Florida Department of Environmental, which the Senate approved 40-0 on Thursday. A combination of factors, including $10 billion in federal stimulus relief money for Florida and a National Geographic feature in April about the Florida panther and the wildlife corridor, along with Bellini’s backing, has helped put the decadelong effort on the threshold of success.


Legislature earmarks $208 million of federal relief funds for front-line workers” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The Senate’s latest budget offer inches closer to the House budget and several stated priorities of DeSantis. The move signals negotiations over billions in federal aid may be nearing a compromise. Planning for the state’s likely $100 billion budget for the next fiscal year are ongoing. The negotiations include determining how to spend billions of coronavirus relief funds for state and local governments headed to Florida from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed by Joe Biden in March. The latest Senate spending plan totals more than $6.6 billion, still shy of the $10.2 billion in relief funds the state is expected to receive.

Legislature cuts two financial aid programs, avoids major reductions for universities” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — In final budget talks, Florida lawmakers largely backed off from major cuts to Florida universities and colleges but remained insistent on slashing two long-standing college financial aid programs for the upcoming fiscal year. House and Senate budget leaders agreed to suspend a $600 stipend that top-level Bright Futures recipients get each year to offset the cost of textbooks, a move that will save $37 million. Lawmakers have also signed off on a $5 million cut to eliminate the Access to Better Learning and Education (ABLE) grant program, which helps Floridians pay for private college tuition. State lawmakers contend the cuts to the financial aid programs were needed in a tough budget year.

Despite the protests of students, lawmakers make cuts in the Bright Futures scholarship program. Image via WCJB.

Budget chiefs rollout PECO spending” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Legislature plans to spend roughly $644.9 million on public education capital outlay projects (PECO) in the 2021-2022 state budget. PECO funds are dollars awarded to public schools, community colleges, and universities for capital needs such as building repair, renovation and construction. The latest award towers over the previous year’s allocation of $354 million, reflecting the anticipated infusion of federal relief dollars into the state budget. Biden signed the federal relief bill last month. In all, budget chiefs plan to award $243.7 million in PECO cash toward projects and more than $401.2 million in general revenue. The general revenue, Senate budget chief Kelli Stargel said, is contingent upon the American Rescue Plan.

Lawmakers agree to more than $100M in federal cash for Everglades restoration projects” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The latest budget offer from Senate negotiators sets aside a new pile of federal funding for Everglades restoration projects. The House on Monday evening agreed to the funding proposal. That money comes courtesy of funding included in the federal COVID-19 relief package, passed after the election of Biden. The Senate’s offer included nearly $59 million in new money for Everglades restoration generally, plus another $48 million for the C-51 Reservoir project, which is part of Florida’s comprehensive Everglades restoration plan. The CERP projects stem from a state-federal funding partnership to assist the Everglades ecosystem.

House agrees to send $25M in federal relief to VISIT FLORIDA” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate’s Monday afternoon proposal on how to spend nearly $10 billion in federal relief funds included increasing VISIT FLORIDA’s budget for the coming fiscal year by 50%. Lawmakers had already agreed to give the state’s advertising arm a $50 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Senators now want to pad that budget with $25 million from the American Rescue Plan. On Monday evening, the House matched the Senate, including the additional $25 million in its second offer on spending the coronavirus relief money. The additional appropriation would signal additional confidence in the embattled agency that lawmakers have highlighted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool to dig Florida out of the global economic slowdown, which has greatly impacted tourism.

House and Senate present 2021 sprinkle lists” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House and Senate have released their “sprinkle lists” for the coming fiscal year, outlining spending for dozens of projects amounting to millions of dollars. The sprinkle list is what Capitol insiders call the last-minute budget items used to sweeten the pot and provide funding for some pet products. Each year, legislative leaders withhold some money from the budgeting process until the end. As explained in 2015 by Jason Garcia for Florida Trend: The money can be “used to sprinkle one last helping of hometown projects into the budget in order to get a budget deal done.” Floridians are getting what Senate President Wilton Simpson promised when he teased earlier Monday that negotiators would present a “salt shaker full” of sprinkles.

Sprinkle list: Extra staff will manage influx of coronavirus relief funds” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — With billions of federal coronavirus relief aid already sent to Florida and billions more on the way, the state has a separate staffing plan to manage all that money. Senate budget chief Sen. Stargel said managing the influx of money is complicated. “I mean this is a new thing for our state to have to deal with this amount of money,” Stargel said. Stargel said the staff has already been in place to deal with funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Florida already received at least $8.4 billion from the $2 trillion CARES Act, signed into law by Trump on March 27, 2020.

Sprinkle list: House provides $1.2 million for heads of state agencies pay raises” via Haley Brown — It looks like front-line workers and teachers aren’t the only state employees to get a pay bump this year. A line in the House supplemental budget grants $1.2 million to “Agency Heads Salary Adjustments.” What amounts to pay raises for some of the state’s agency heads would use $300,000 of the state’s recurring revenue and $900,000 from the state’s trust fund. The $1.2 million for the salary adjustments is another line item on “sprinkle lists” in both chambers totaling nearly $350 million. Sprinkle list is the colloquial term for supplemental budgets released by each chamber that are not subject to the same level of budget negotiations as other parts of the state’s budget.

Sprinkle list: Court clerk pandemic recovery plan to get $6M” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House has budgeted $6 million for the Clerks of Court Pandemic Recovery Plan. That recovery plan was a $6.8 million request to provide resources to support the services clerks provide as Floridians attempt to navigate a logjam of cases in the court system. The House and Senate had previously agreed to fund the plan at $250,000. When fully funded, the plan would provide 102 temporary positions to manage the backlog of cases the Office of the State Courts Administrator anticipates. That matched the office’s request for $12.5 million for 102 senior judges and magistrates, which lawmakers ultimately agreed to. Increasing the number of judges and magistrates would increase the workload for clerks.

Sprinkle list: Central Florida lands Ocoee massacre, Indian River Lagoon funding” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Legislature is sprinkling across Central Florida to help Ocoee tell the story of the 1920 Election Day massacre, provide help for veterans with PTSD and people with addiction to opioids, and help restore the Indian River Lagoon. The Central Florida budget “sprinkles” were topped by $1.6 million set aside for a muck removal project in Brevard County. The Senate also is providing $600,000 for Ocoee’s July in November event memorializing the Julius “July” Perry story; $350,000 for a post-traumatic stress disorder center at the University of Central Florida; $150,000 for a drug-treatment program partnership in Seminole County; and $95,000 for improvements to a nature trail in Winter Park.

Sprinkle list: St. Petersburg College to get $6 million for projects, operational support” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — St. Petersburg College is set to receive a hefty sum from the Legislature this year, with several items on House and Senate “sprinkle lists.” The largest haul the college is set to receive is $5 million, allocated in the House list for operational support under recurring funds. The funding will come from the Department of Education, according to the list. The sprinkle list is what Capitol insiders call last-minute budget items used to sweeten the pot and provide funding for some pet products. Each year, legislative leaders withhold some money from the budgeting process until the end. The House and Senate decided to split funding in their respective lists for an appropriations project filed by Sen. Darryl Rouson (SF 1419) and Rep. Chris Latvala (HB 2481), which would go to the college’s Midtown Campus for digital inclusion and enhancements.

Darryl Rouson and Chris Latvala come through for St. Petersburg College.

Sprinkle list: Metropolitan Ministries Pasco Campus to receive $4 million for expansions” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A Metropolitan Ministries campus in Pasco County is set to receive at least $4 million for expansion as part of the Florida Senate’s “sprinkle list.” The funding addresses requests filed by Sen. Ed Hooper (SF 1348) and Rep. Amber Mariano (HB 3367) for expansion of an existing campus in Pasco County. The project seeks $6,988,800 total from the state. While the “sprinkle list” offers $4 million in funding, about 57.2% of the requested amount, the nonprofit may still receive an additional $2 million in funding as pushed in Senate budget offers.

Sprinkle list: FSU lands $18.4M for new research building” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College are both among the institutions to slide into the state budget in the 2021 Legislative Session’s closing days. The Tallahassee-based institutions are among the nearly 200 budget items on the “sprinkle list.”. Under the budget, lawmakers are awarding more than $18.4 million toward FSU’s Interdisciplinary Research Commercialization Building. According to the university, the building will foster a “collaborative environment” for research when it opens in Summer 2020.

Sprinkle list: The Underline, one of Miami-Dade’s newest parks, is among the big South Florida winners” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Just months after celebrating its Phase One opening, The Underline in Miami-Dade County nabbed $2.5 million in the sprinkle lists unveiled Monday night. The Underline is a 10-mile linear park and urban trail running underneath the area’s famed Metrorail line, adding some greenery to the transit system. According to its sprinkle list, the Senate slotted away $2.5 million in trust fund cash for the park project. As annual budget negotiations near a close, both the House and Senate get millions in tax revenue to play with in order to garner support from members for the final budget document. Monday night’s release of the sprinkle list shows that the budget negotiation process is all but wrapped up.

Florida Panhandle could get $10M from water projects list” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida Panhandle could receive more than $10 million of the $80.6 million lawmakers have set aside for water projects in its latest budget proposal. Ahead of this year’s Session, Senate President Wilton Simpson said water projects will remain one of his priorities despite the economic hardships the state is facing from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate proposed that list of water projects, which the House agreed to Monday evening. Panama City appears to be benefiting from its distinction as the hometown for the House’s lead budget negotiator, Rep. Jay Trumbull. Panama City would get the bulk of those funds, a total of $6.25 million across three projects filed by Port St. Joe Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf.

Sprinkle list: Southwest Florida environmental efforts land $3M” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The wetlands, shorelines and rivers of Southwest Florida are flooded with budget sprinkles. The House and Senate included substantial funding for environmental projects benefiting the region. The largest single budget item showered on the area goes to Everglades City, where the state provided $2,340,160 for the replacement of wastewater treatment facilities. This funding came courtesy of Senate supplemental funding initiatives released Monday evening. Along the same lines, the Senate directed $312,500 toward a Cape Coral Caloosahatchee-Reclaimed Water Transmission Main, as did the House. In nearby Fort Myers, the Senate budgeted $350,000 for a design-build phase of the Midtown Urban Infill Development Water Quality Initiative, which aims to modernize stormwater infrastructure.

Sprinkle list: Beverly Hills sewer funding finds flow” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville struggles with the ongoing need to convert failing septic systems to city sewer, and the House “sprinkle” list may offer some help. The House included $4.6 million for septic tank phaseout in Northwest Jacksonville’s Beverly Hills East neighborhood. That number falls somewhat short of the $6 million sought by Rep. Wyman Duggan for the Ballard Partners-pushed project, just another installment payment in Jacksonville’s long-delayed and very costly septic tank phaseout plan. The city proposed to match the $6 million with its own money. The $6 million was intended to fund the phaseout of 200 tanks, a move the appropriations request claims would be good for the adjacent Ribault River.

Sprinkle list: Veterans mental health services lands $1.15M” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Legislature’s supplemental funding list includes more than $1 million for veteran mental health services. This year, roughly $1.15 million will go toward veteran mental health. Under the budget agreements, $125,000 will be awarded to Aspire Health Partners to expand their military veterans and national guard mental health services. 

Sprinkle list: K9s for Warriors earmarked $375K from House” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — K9s for Warriors is in line to get $375,000 in the upcoming 2021-22 budget, thanks to a House supplemental funding line item. The Jacksonville-based nonprofit provides service dogs to military veterans who have Post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or military sexual trauma. Since its launch in 2011, the organization has provided service dogs to 298 army veterans, 83 Marine Corps veterans, 67 Navy veterans, and 45 and five to veterans of the Air Force and Coast Guard, respectively. The funding is a win for the organization, provided it survives the Governor’s veto pen. An appropriations request (HB 3581) from Rep. Nicholas Duran stalled in committee. However, the $375,000 proposed is far less than what was requested.

While Nick Duran’s request stalled, K9s for Warriors still get a slice of the budget.

Sprinkle list: Millions designated to protect sea cows” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House’s supplemental funding list includes $8 million to help protect Florida’s beloved manatee population. The supplemental funding list, known by insiders as a “sprinkle list,” is a last-minute collection of budget items introduced into the state’s spending plan. Among unusual items on this year’s list: sea cows. The House is proposing $8 million of general revenue to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help the state’s endangered manatees. According to budget language, the funding will go toward restoring “manatee access to springs and provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas.” The funding comes as manatees face an uncertain future.

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Democrats tout repeal of toll road plan” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A plan to massively expand Florida’s toll road networks appears to be reaching the end of the road early. The House heard legislation (SB 100) on Monday to repeal the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, or M-CORES, program. That’s an infrastructure plan passed just two years ago as the top priority for then-Senate President Bill Galvano. The Senate has now reversed course on the plan and passed the latest bill earlier this year. At that point, Sen. Gayle Harrell ran the bill without any formal House sponsor. Late in Session, Rep. Jayer Williamson picked up the effort and has carried the bill in the House. An affirmative vote on the House floor will send the bill directly to DeSantis’ desk.

Gayle Harrell helped put a nail in the M-CORES coffin.

Legislature is overhauling workforce job-placement system” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — HB 1507 and HB 1505, which passed unanimously earlier this month, amount to a sweeping overhaul of Florida’s workforce system. The Senate version, SB 98, passed Monday unanimously after no debate. The legislation now heads to the Governor. Lawmakers hope to increase transparency and efficiency in the workforce system following a 2018 investigation by the Tampa Bay Times into two local workforce boards: CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. The House and Senate bills hope to prevent scandals like the one that plagued the Tampa Bay-area boards. But they also go much further to overhaul the workforce system, which routes hundreds of millions of federal dollars to job programs every year.

—“Florida workforce program is about to get major changes. Here’s what they’d do.” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

VPK overhaul heads to Governor — The Senate OK’d a bill that would overhaul the state’s prekindergarten accountability system by granting the U.S. Department of Education authority over the state’s early learning programs, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The bill, HB 419, would phase in a new pre-K grading system that considers student test scores, learning gains and teacher observations. “We have been on the march for the last four years to really revamp our VPK system,” said Sen. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican who sponsored the Senate companion. With unanimous approval in the Senate, the bill now heads to DeSantis for his signature.

Colleges, universities could sponsor charter schools” via News Service of Florida — Senators voted 29-11 to approve a bill (SB 1028), which would allow higher institutions, after receiving the go-ahead from the Department of Education, to solicit applications for charter schools. State colleges currently are permitted to work with school districts to develop charter schools that offer secondary education and an option for students to receive associate degrees upon graduation. The bill would not limit the number of charter schools that institutions could sponsor, Hutson said. Among other things, charter school sponsors are responsible for approving or denying charter applications, overseeing the charter schools’ progress toward goals and monitoring financial performance. The House is ready to consider a similar bill (HB 51).

Senate salutes Purple Star School legislation” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill that would help military families identify schools specifically tailored to their unique circumstances. The bill (HB 429) requires the Department of Education to establish a Purple Star Campus Program. The program aims to identify schools that best support the children of military families. Rep. Patt Maney and Andrew Learned are the House bill sponsors. Schools will be recognized as Purple Star Campuses if they meet certain requirements. Some requirements include having a designated staff member serve as a military liaison, a resource webpage for military families and a student-led transition program for military students.

Patt Maney is promoting a program helps the family of veterans find specialized education.

Autonomous vehicle delivery bill clears Senate” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A bill that would pave the way for driverless delivery in Florida cruised through the Senate Monday. The Senate took up the House version of the bill (HB 1289), presented by St. Petersburg Republican Brandes. The bill passed in a 39-1 vote, with Sen. George Gainer voting against the measure. The legislation cleared the House unanimously on Friday. The bill authorizes the operation of low-speed autonomous delivery vehicles as defined by the federal government. The empty vehicles would be limited to roads with speed limits of 45 mph or less, though the vehicles will only move at speeds of 35 mph or less. “Florida has truly become a leader in this conversation,” Brandes said.


Florida’s close to overhauling auto insurance, ending ‘no-fault’” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawmakers continue speeding ahead with an overhaul of Florida’s automobile insurance laws. With no debate, the Florida House voted 99-11 on Monday to repeal Florida’s “no-fault” laws and require every motorist to carry bodily injury coverage, a move that could lower rates for some while raising rates for others. The biggest changes to the state’s automobile insurance laws in nearly 50 years could be just a Senate vote away from making it to DeSantis’ desk. The Senate passed its own version of the bill, with slight differences, two weeks ago. It would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Key West preemption bill delayed as it pulls into final House destination” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A controversial bill preempting a Key West referendum regulating cruise dockings was taken off a House calendar Monday. The bill (SB 426) would override voter-approved referendums prohibiting large vessels from docking in Key West. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, voters in the tourist-rich community voted to prohibit ships with 1,300 or more passengers and limit visitors off ships to 1,500 cruise passengers per day. State lawmakers expressed frustration at a local regulation that could impact the entire cruise industry. Rep. Spencer Roach, who previously sponsored preemption bills, including one on a Kew West sunscreen ban, has spearheaded an effort to legislatively override the referendums.

Car sharing bill clears Senate” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Senate approved a bill Monday to align car-sharing transactions with the traditional rental car industry. Sen. Keith Perry‘s SB 566 sets standards for taxes, insurance, and minimum maintenance record requirements for people who rent their private vehicles on internet platforms. The companion bill, Rep. Mike Caruso‘s HB 365, is on the House floor awaiting a second reading. Support was not unanimous. The Senate approved it 28-12 over objections that the insurance standards essentially are bare minimums of Florida law, and that the bill does not provide enough to assure public safety when private individuals are turning over their personal cars to strangers to drive. The no votes came mostly, but not exclusively, from Democrats.

Mike Caruso and Keith Perry helped drive car-sharing through Session.

Gas station preemption bill clears Senate” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A bill to preempt energy regulations cleared the Senate Monday on a near party-line vote. The Senate, considering the House version of a bill (HB 839) dealing with local regulations of gas stations, voted to approve the proposal in a 26-12 vote, with Sen. Lauren Book breaking from the party in support of the legislation. Sen. Travis Hutson sponsored the Senate version of the legislation and presented the House bill to the upper chamber. While the bill glided through its third reading without debate, it faced a series of questions from Democrats on the Senate floor during its second reading Thursday. At this point, the bill would shield gas stations and their related infrastructure from being outlawed by local governments that want to encourage clean energy.

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Lauren Book gets half-dozen bills through Senate — The Senate on Monday passed six bills by Book. Two of Book’s bills are already on their way to the Governor’s desk, including SB 192, which would prohibit seclusion and provide stricter guidelines for the use of physical restraint for students with disabilities in Florida schools. “Students deserve to be safe at school, and parents deserve peace of mind,” Book said. “While the majority of our special education school professionals provide caring and safe learning environments for students with disabilities, we have unfortunately seen serious abuses committed as well. When DeSantis signs this bill into law, students with disabilities will no longer be placed into dangerous situations, including seclusion and restraint while in Florida classrooms.

Lauren Book is having a very productive Session.

Mom devoted her life to her disabled son. A hospital said she was using him to make money” via Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Ashley Lamendola was still a teen when medical staff at St. Petersburg General Hospital delivered the awful news that would change her life forever: Her newborn son, Hunter, had suffered profound brain damage and would do little more than breathe without help. “It was like an atomic bomb went off in my life,” she said. Lamendola believed the hospital was partly responsible for Hunter’s birth injuries. But Florida is one of two states that shield doctors and hospitals. When she sued, the hospital advanced an extraordinary argument. It suggested that Hunter’s mother was not acting in her son’s best interest and that a critical decision about his future care should be put in the hands of an independent guardian and a judge.

Legislature codifies use of personal-care attendants in long-term care centers” via Bailey LeFever of the Tampa Bay Times — A measure passed by the Florida Legislature would allow long-term care facilities to continue to employ “personal-care attendants” to help with basic duties and would give the attendants four months to pass a certified nursing assistant exam to keep working in the facilities. The legislation codifies a state emergency order issued in March 2020 in response to staffing shortages that allowed nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to hire personal-care attendants who had undergone 8 hours of training. The legislation increases the amount of training to 16 hours. The measure passed the House, 106-11, and the Senate, 32-7. It goes to Gov. DeSantis for his signature.

Foreign influence bill’s next stop: Governor’s desk” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Foreign researchers and funding at Florida’s research institutions could soon face extra scrutiny. The Senate unanimously cleared a bill (HB 7017) Monday outlining rules and procedures to keep adverse foreign influence at bay in Florida’s colleges and universities. The Senate passed the House version of the bill 39-0 with no questions or debate. The legislation stems from federal investigations involving federal grant recipients of research funds who had failed to disclose professional, academic and business relationships with certain foreign agencies in violation of various requirements.

Guns in churches bill ready for Senate vote” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — An NRA-supported bill that would have the effect of allowing guns in schools located on church grounds faced pushback from Senate Democrats during a second reading Monday. The bill (HB 259) was sent over after it cleared the House floor mostly along party lines. It is now ready for a vote on the Senate floor. Bill sponsors in both the House and Senate have maintained the bill is a property rights issue rather than a gun rights issue. Democrats say the bill is too broad to be only a property rights issue. The bill would mean, for example, a church with a preschool attached could still allow guns on its premises. Democrats offered several amendments. Republicans in the Senate rejected all of them.

Senate sends rape kit tracking bill to Governor’s desk” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Legislature has unanimously approved “Gail’s Law,” a bill to help rape victims track evidence that could lead to their attacker. As established in the legislation (HB 673), a database would be open to the victims so they can track what is going on with their kits as law enforcement processes them. With the Senate’s passage on Monday, the bill will soon head to DeSantis‘ desk. The bill is named “Gail’s Law” after Gail Gardner, an Orlando woman sexually assaulted at knife point in 1988; her 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.

As lawmakers took aim at transgender athletes, old wounds reopened” via Margo Snipe of the Tampa Bay Times — Sports have long been a fraught topic for transgender and nonbinary youth, many of whom say they’ve felt isolated on teams, sometimes avoiding them altogether. For transgender youth, the Session has given rise to fears of another political assault on their place in society. They are reminded of efforts in recent years to dictate how transgender people can use public restrooms. And with parents and advocates joining in, they speak of lawmakers working to “legislate away” their identity. For the youngest, those uneasy feelings come amid the emotional turbulence of puberty. And the fact that lawmakers have targeted the world of sports adds anxiety.

Senate OK’s bill to raise smoking age” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate OK’d a bill Monday that would align Florida’s smoking age with federal law and grant state regulators broader oversight over nicotine products. The Senate voted 29-9 to pass the bill (SB 1080). Sen. Travis Hutson is the bill sponsor. The proposal would raise Florida’s smoking age to 21 and preempt local lawmakers from passing protections stricter than state law. It also empowers the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco with broader oversight on the marketing, sale, or delivery of tobacco or nicotine products. In December 2019, Trump signed a measure raising the federal sales age for tobacco and nicotine to 21. More than 550 local governments and 33 states currently limit tobacco sales to those 21 and older.

Travis Hutson is getting Florida’s smoking age in line with federal laws.

Bill that would outlaw ‘natural’ hair discrimination against Black people likely won’t get a hearing,” via Erica Van Buren of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — The CROWN Act bill, created to prohibit discrimination against Black men, women and children who choose to wear their hair naturally, appears poised to fail in the Florida Legislature for the second year in a row. “We are currently awaiting its first committee hearing,” said Rep. Kamia Brown, a Democrat and the bill’s House sponsor. “Unfortunately, just due to the time (left) in Session … It’s unfortunate that the House once again just does not have an appetite to really hear the bill.”

Senate looks to remove rope from vessel exclusion zones” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Those zones mark off areas where boats cannot travel. The delineations can be important in regions where swimmers and boaters may be near one another, as a way of keeping those swimmers safe. Last week, the Senate approved a wide-ranging package to regulate motor vehicles and water vessels via a unanimous 39-0 vote. Included in that package was a provision added during the final committee stop in the Agriculture Committee. Some South Florida lawmakers voiced support for the change, arguing those ropes may not always be visible and can cause problems for boats that accidentally clip them.

Voters to decide on home elevation tax break” via News Service of Florida — The Senate unanimously backed a proposal that will ask voters next year to provide a tax break to property owners who elevate their homes to address potential flooding. The proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 1377) is part of a House plan to combat rising sea levels. The issue involves the assessed values of homes for tax purposes when they are elevated. Under the proposal, such improvements would not determine assessed values if the work meets National Flood Insurance Program and Florida Building Code elevation requirements. A Senate staff analysis said the proposed constitutional amendment, if passed, would reduce local government property-tax revenue by $5.8 million during the 2023-2024 fiscal year, with the amount growing to $25.1 million annually.

It fell from the sky: Floridians must call police for found rocket debris” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — A warning to Floridians: If a piece of the latest SpaceX rocket falls into your yard, call the police or else. Under a bill passed by lawmakers Monday, Floridians would face charges for not turning over parts of rockets or other human-made space debris that fall onto their property or wash up on their beach. If you find an object that “reasonably” looks like a space part on your lawn and don’t report it to police, you could be subject to a new first-degree misdemeanor and up to a $1,000 fine, plus restitution to the owner of the part. The bill is now heading to DeSantis’ desk with backing by SpaceX, run by founder and CEO Elon Musk. The company has been launching from Cape Canaveral for years. On Friday, its Falcon 9 rocket carried four astronauts from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station.


Florida Chamber celebrates passage of SkillBridge bill — The Florida Chamber of Commerce cheered the passage of a bill aimed at boosting business participation in a federal program that helps military veterans transition to the private sector — and bring their skills with them. “The Florida Chamber of Commerce is thrilled to see HB 435 pass off the Senate floor unanimously,” Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson said. “With 402,000 jobs looking for qualified people and 475,000 people looking for jobs, we can further bridge the gap and address Florida’s workforce needs with the help of Veterans Florida and the SkillBridge coalition to increase Florida’s economic activity and grow Florida’s economy from 17th largest in the world to 10th largest by 2030.”

ACLU boos controversial election bill The ACLU of Florida blasted the Senate for voting in favor of a bill (SB 90) it says will make it harder for Floridians to vote. “Instead of upholding the fundamental right to vote, certain Florida Senators have decided to become accomplices to the nationwide voter suppression scheme underway by passing this undemocratic bill. They are suppressing the right to vote by obstructing access to vote-by-mail,” said Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel at ACLU of Florida. Nothing about Florida’s elections has shown a need for this law. In fact, legislators should be encouraged that Floridians turned out in record numbers to participate in their democracy.”

Kara Gross says the ACLU is no fan of Florida’s election law reforms.

Heritage Action urges lawmakers to ‘protect’ elections — Conservative group Heritage Action urged the Legislature to pass “strong legislation” to protect Florida’s election system and outlined the provisions it says will get the job done. Executive director Jessica Anderson said lawmakers should work to pass legislation “to prohibit outside, private funding of elections.” … “Additionally, the Legislature should retain language that grants greater transparency and access for candidates and other officials to review signature comparisons, as well as language preventing ballot trafficking by political operatives. These important provisions will improve the transparency and security of Florida’s elections and ensure that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in the Sunshine State.”

AFP-FL lauds school choice package Americans for Prosperity-Florida praised the Legislature after it sent a bill substantially overhauling the state’s school choice scholarships to the Governor’s desk. “Every child has unique educational needs, and parents should have the flexibility to meet the specific needs that will allow their children to thrive. Providing Florida’s families with the freedom to choose the right educational paths for their children gives Florida’s children a better shot at success and a bright future,” AFP-FL state director Skylar Zander said. “House Bill 7045 increases education opportunities for all Florida families by expanding state scholarship access and streamlining options. Americans for Prosperity applauds both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives for passing this legislation.”

LeadingAge Florida thanks lawmakers for OK’ing personal care attendant bill — LeadingAge Florida, Florida’s only association representing the entire continuum of care for older adults, thanked the Legislature for passing a proposal to change staffing rules at long-term care facilities. “We appreciate Rep. (Sam) Garrison and Sen. (Aaron) Bean for their leadership and the Legislature for its support in passing legislation that will help alleviate workforce pressures and build our future long-term care workforce,” LeadingAge Florida president and CEO Steve Bahmer said. “The workforce shortage in long-term care is an ongoing challenge that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PCA program is a valuable way to recruit more people to work as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and promote job growth.”


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Ralph Criss, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: Prizeout

Bethany Dame: American Property Casualty Insurance Association

Michael Kesti, Government Relations Group: Ancient City Brunch Bar

George Levesque, GrayRobinson: City of Hollywood

Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Fred Dickinson, Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Blink Science


The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to schedule which bills will be heard on the Senate floor, 8:30 a.m., Room 401, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Democratic Caucus meets ahead of a floor Session, 9 a.m., Room 228, Senate Office Building. Zoom link here. Meeting ID: 9165394846. Passcode: 410275.

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

The House will hold a floor Session, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet to schedule bills to be heard on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after the Senate floor Session, Room 301, Senate Office Building.

The House and Senate have a Tuesday budget deadline if they hope to meet the required 72-hour “cooling off” period to end the Legislative Session as scheduled on Friday.

— 2022 —

Florida gains one U.S. House seat after 2020 Census results are released” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Florida’s clout in Congress and the state’s importance in presidential elections is growing, but the gain was smaller than anticipated. The Census Bureau announced the initial results of the nationwide 2020 population count on Monday, and Florida gained one new U.S. House seat after a 14.6% population gain from 2010 to 2020. The state’s estimated population is now 21,538,187 as of April 1, 2020. Florida’s population increase was greater than the national average of 7.4% over the last decade, but the state just missed out from gaining a second U.S. House seat, as many demographic experts predicted. Florida will now have 28 U.S. House members and 30 Electoral College votes, in the 2024 presidential election.

Florida grows, gaining a seat in the U.S. House, and political power.

Florida braces for legal fights after picking up just 1 congressional seat” via Gary Fineout of Florida Politics — Florida will gain just one seat in Congress in 2022 setting off what will likely be a bruising redistricting effort that could easily wind up in court due to a state law meant to blunt gerrymandering. The state was widely expected to gain two seats, but Census officials told reporters that Florida did not gain as much population between 2010 and 2020 as had been previously forecast. Florida’s population increased by 2.73 million, or 14.6% between 2010 and 2020. It was Florida’s smallest population growth since 1970. The lower-than-expected numbers come after Florida waited until the last minute to promote the U.S. Census.

Make America Florida? Mystery deepens about new political committee” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is in the 2024 Republican Presidential mix, and a potentially supportive political action committee materialized. The Make America Florida political action committee was registered with the Federal Elections Commission on Apr. 2. The account is based in Tallahassee, with Melissa Peters as treasurer. She downplayed her role, saying “I’m just the treasurer,” disclaiming knowledge about who or what the PAC supported or opposed. She would not deny the PAC supports DeSantis, who has been increasingly linked with the urging to “make America Florida.” “Make America Florida is a federal SuperPAC committed to spreading the policies that have made Florida a conservative model for the Nation” goes the claim.

Senate funds election security hardware updates” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Senate Supplemental Funding initiatives include nearly $2 million for an upgrade to Florida’s election hardware. The so-called “sprinkles” budget includes several specific line items, including some matters negotiated out of prior versions of the budget. Last week, a negotiation between the House and Senate on State Department allocations dropped all funding for election legacy hardware replacement. Up until that negotiation, the House wanted $500,000, but the Senate had zeroed the item out. Now, it’s the Senate that included $1,986,000 for the line item. That’s a number close to the $2 million requested in DeSantis’ proposed budget ahead of Session.

Candidates seek Jay Trumbull, Fred Hawkins seats” via News Service of Florida — A second Republican has emerged to try to replace term-limited Rep. Trumbull while a Democrat has filed paperwork to run next year against St. Cloud Republican Rep. Hawkins. According to the state Division of Elections website, Panama City Republican Brian Clowdus opened a campaign account last week to run in what is now Bay County’s House District 6. Also in the race to replace Trumbull is Bay County Commissioner Philip Griffitts, a Republican. In Central Florida, St. Cloud Democrat Zane Christian Matter-Romero opened an account to challenge Hawkins in what is now House District 42 in Osceola and Polk counties. District boundaries — and potentially numbers — will change before the 2022 elections because of the once-a-decade reapportionment process.


Local governments want Supreme Court to decide gun case” via The News Service of Florida — Pointing to “far-reaching, statewide implications,” local governments want the Florida Supreme Court to rule in a case about a 2011 state law that threatens tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun-related regulations. Attorneys for the local governments filed a motion Friday requesting that the 1st District Court of Appeal send to the Supreme Court key issues in the case, a move known as certifying “questions of great public importance.” The motion, filed Friday, came two weeks after a panel of the Tallahassee-based appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the 2011 law, which was challenged by 30 cities, three counties and more than 70 local officials.

Feeding South Florida seeks formal hearing after losing state food assistance bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Feeding South Florida has filed a written protest requesting a formal administrative hearing after losing a bidding process for a contract with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The agency, led by Commissioner Nikki Fried, awarded a contract in late March for The Emergency Food Assistance Program to Farm Share instead. TEFAP is organized under the U.S. Department of Agriculture and aims to provide nutritious foods to low-income families. That contract was granted through an RFP bidding process that Feeding South Florida argues was conducted improperly.

Nikki Fried is troubled by funding cuts to Feeding South Florida. 


Florida reports 3,513 new COVID-19 cases, 64 more deaths” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 3,513 new coronavirus cases on Monday and another 64 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 2,212,097 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%. The state reported a daily positivity rate of 7.28% on Monday, up from 6.85% the day before. The state’s pandemic data report shows a total of 34,912 Floridians have died from COVID-19. In addition, 688 nonresidents have died after contracting the virus. Most of the fatalities reported Monday happened over several weeks but were just confirmed in the past day.

One in 5 Floridians don’t want to get vaccinated” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — One in five Floridians are not planning on getting a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new Morning Consult survey. In addition to the 20% of Floridians not willing to get a shot, an additional 16% remain uncertain whether they’ll get vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy has also risen over the last week with skepticism on the rise among younger individuals and Black adults. The most recent data shows that across the country, 27% of 18- to 34-year-olds, Republicans and Black adults don’t plan to get vaccinated. Older Americans, Democrats and well-educated adults are more likely to get vaccinated. Those uncertain about the vaccine cite side effects as the primary reason (36%), followed by concern over the expedience of clinical trials (29%).


Miami-Dade’s wealthiest areas are almost fully vaccinated. Black communities are at 31%” via Nicholas Nehamas, Ana Claudia Chacin, Ben Conarck and Sarah Blaskey of The Miami Herald — Now almost half the adults in Miami-Dade have received at least one dose of the vaccine. But the disparities between Black and white communities, and rich and poor, have remained largely unchanged. Despite a month of door-knocking, mobile vaccine campaigns, the addition of federally supported vaccination sites in minority neighborhoods, and loosened state eligibility restrictions, vaccination rates in majority-Black areas were still nearly 40% lower than the county as a whole as of April 17, the Herald analysis found. Politicians have been quick to blame the disparity on vaccine “hesitancy.” But residents of under-vaccinated communities interviewed by the Herald described a far more complex range of emotional reasoning and logistical hurdles.

There is a significant wealth gap in vaccination demographics. Image via AP.

A private school in Miami, citing false claims, bars vaccinated teachers from contact with students.” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — A private school in the fashionable Design District of Miami sent its faculty and staff a letter last week about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. One of the school’s co-founders, Leila Centner, informed employees “with a very heavy heart” that if they chose to get a shot, they would have to stay away from students. In an example of how misinformation threatens the nation’s effort to vaccinate enough Americans to get the coronavirus under control. Teachers who get the vaccine over the summer will not be allowed to return, the letter said.

North Miami Beach apologizes after Mayor’s vaccine invite ripples across Latin America” via Aaron Leibowitz and Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo caused a stir that shot across Latin America this weekend after he said in an interview Friday that international tourists could come to his city to get the COVID-19 vaccine, adding that “thousands and thousands” had already done so — despite state rules that restrict the vaccine to Florida residents only. On Monday, he tried to walk back his words, and the city apologized in a statement for “any confusion.” But by that point, the information had already reached major news sites and WhatsApp chats at home and abroad. “NORTH MIAMI BEACH OFFERS FREE VACCINES TO INTERNATIONAL TOURISTS TRAVELING TO SOUTH FLORIDA,” read a Facebook post on Sunday from the Argentine news site Infobae.

Pensacola’s mask ordinance ends 10 months after emergency declaration” via the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola’s mask ordinance quietly expired Thursday, meaning face coverings are no longer required to be worn inside businesses within city limits. Pensacola has been under a mask mandate since late June of 2020 when Mayor Grover Robinson issued an emergency order requiring masks to be worn in indoor public spaces. The City Council later passed its own emergency ordinance that added fines for violating the order. The Pensacola City Council again voted March 25 to keep the city’s mask ordinance in place, despite DeSantis’ executive order that prevents the city from issuing fines to enforce the measure and the Mayor saying he would no longer enforce the order. The ordinance expired Thursday.

Grover Robinson says he will no longer enforce mask mandates.

Citrus vaccination site relocates, catches some residents caught off guard” via Chip Osowski of WFLA — When Lisa Yattaw’s husband went to get his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, he never dreamed he’d spend half his day doing so. He went to the Central Ridge District Park in Beverly Hills where he received his first shot and wasn’t alone. Friday was the last day that site was open and was relocated to the Duke Energy training facility located at 8200 West Venable Street in Crystal River. Florida Department of Health in Citrus County spokesperson Audrey Stasko explains there were several reasons for the move. “Number one was the weather. We wanted our staff and residents out of the weather, temperatures have been rising we’re seeing more wind, more rain,” she said.

Teens needed for COVID-19 vaccine study in Lakeland” via Ken Suarez of Fox 13 — A COVID-19 vaccine for teenagers is being tested in Lakeland. The company running the clinical trials, Accel Research Sites, is looking for young people who want to participate in the study. Lakeland is one of the dozens of sites across the country where the vaccine is being tested. Nationally, the developer, Novavax, is looking to recruit 3,000 people between 12 and 17 years old. Potential participants will only be allowed to take part with parental consent. “It is two shots three weeks apart, exactly what we have experienced for the last many months,” said Dr. James Andersen, the chief investigator in Lakeland. Participants will be paid $300; $150 each time they receive a shot.


One vaccine to rule them all” via James Hamblin of The Atlantic — The pandemic is at its worst, globally, and expert eyes are trained on the role of new variants. Catastrophic surges are tearing across places where some thought the darkest days were already over. The potential implications of this viral evolution are profound. Last month, the United States’ CDC released a three-tiered system to prioritize the emerging risks. “Rather than playing whack-a-mole with each new problematic variant,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “it just makes sense to me to use all of our capabilities to really go for a universal SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.” That is, one that can protect us no matter which direction this virus goes, setting up at least partial immunity to any variant that may arise.

Anthony Fauci believes U.S. efforts should go to find one vaccine effective for all.

Even after being fully vaccinated, many still wrestle with a fear of catching COVID-19” via Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News — With more than 93 million people, or more than a quarter of America, fully vaccinated, two camps have emerged: those making up for lost time in the form of house parties, happy hours and travel, and those who cannot shake the fear that they may still get the coronavirus. A survey released last month by the American Psychological Association found that 48% of adults who have been vaccinated said they felt “uneasy” about returning to in-person interactions once the pandemic is over. For the time being, some timidness is a good thing, public health experts say. Nonetheless, for healthy, fully vaccinated people, the fear of catching COVID-19 should not be paralyzing, said Vaile Wright, a clinical psychologist.

The public’s concerns over the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine are widespread” via Amy Goldstein and Scott Clement — Fewer than 1 in 4 Americans not yet immunized against the coronavirus say they would be willing to get the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, according to a new poll that finds broad mistrust of the shot’s safety after federal health officials paused its use. The nationwide survey shows that slightly fewer than half U.S. adults overall say they consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine very or somewhat safe after its use was halted this month following reports of rare, severe blood clots. The other two coronavirus vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States, developed by Moderna and Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, elicit significantly greater public confidence. More than 7 in 10 people say they regard each of those to be very or somewhat safe, the poll finds.

‘How did that happen?’ Catching COVID-19 even after being vaccinated.” via Steven Findlay of The Washington Post — As more Americans are inoculated every day, a tiny but growing number are contending with the disturbing experience of getting COVID-19 despite having had one shot — or even two. In recent data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that at least 5,800 people had fallen ill or tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks or more after they completed both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. More than 95.9 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. These “breakthrough” infections occurred among people of all ages. Just over 40% were in people 60 or older, and 65% occurred in women. 25% of infected people reported no symptoms, but 7% were hospitalized and just over 1%, 74 people, died.

CDC updates summer camp advice” via Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — Children going to camp this summer can be within 3 feet of peers in the same-group settings, but they must wear masks at all times, federal health officials say. The only times children should remove their masks is when they are swimming, napping, eating or drinking; they should be spaced far apart for these activities, positioned head to toe for naps, and seated at least 6 feet apart for meals, snacks and water breaks. The CDC issued the anticipated updated guidance for summer camp operators this weekend, just weeks before many camps resume operations in mid-May. Many parents have been eager to find camps for their children, who had spent months indoors in remote learning classes during the pandemic.


U.S. economic confidence positive for first time in pandemic” via Jeffrey M. Jones of Gallup — Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index registered a score of +2 in April, the first time it has been net positive since early March 2020, just before Trump declared a national emergency amid rising coronavirus infections. The U.S. entered a brief but severe recession as business activity slowed amid stay-at-home orders, with the index dropping to -32 in early April. Americans’ economic evaluations improved in the ensuing months, staying just inside negative territory at -1 immediately after the presidential election. Confidence slumped again amid rising COVID-19 infections and deaths in the U.S., dropping back to -21 in January, before improving in each of the past three months, including a nine-point increase this month.

Even as economy heats up, Fed to stick with near-zero rates” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — Hiring is accelerating as Americans increasingly venture out to shop, eat at restaurants and travel, and inflation pressures are even picking up after lying dormant for years. Yet this week, the Federal Reserve is all but sure to reiterate its commitment to ultralow interest rates. At a news conference Wednesday after the Fed’s latest policy meeting ends, Chair Jerome Powell will likely underscore his view that the economy is far from fully recovered and needs the central bank’s continued support in the form of low borrowing costs. There are still 8 million fewer jobs than there were before the pandemic struck.

Jerome Powell seeks a robust economy, with near-zero interest rates. Image via AP.

Federal aid to renters moves slowly, leaving many at risk” via Jason DeParle of The New York Times — Four months after Congress approved tens of billions of dollars in emergency rental aid, only a small portion has reached landlords and tenants, and in many places, it is impossible even to apply. The program requires hundreds of state and local governments to devise and carry out their own plans, and some have been slow to begin. But the pace is hindered mostly by the sheer complexity of the task: starting a huge pop-up program that reaches millions of tenants, verifies their debts and wins over landlords whose interests are not always the same as their renters.’

Help wanted: In pandemic, worry about finding summer workers” via Philip Marcelo of The Associated Press — As vaccinated Americans start to get comfortable traveling again, popular summer destinations are anticipating a busy season. But hotel, restaurant and retail store owners warn that staffing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic could force them to limit occupancy, curtail hours and services, or shut down facilities entirely just as they’re starting to bounce back from a grim year. The problem, they say, is twofold: The annual influx of seasonal foreign workers has stalled in places because of the pandemic. Businesses have also struggled to attract U.S. workers, even as many have redoubled their efforts to hire locally amid high unemployment.


CEO of vaccine maker sold $10 million in stock before company ruined Johnson & Johnson doses” via Jon Swaine of The Washington Post — The stock price of government contractor Emergent BioSolutions has fallen sharply since the disclosure of production problems at the firm’s plant in Baltimore ruined 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. Those developments came after Emergent’s stock price tumbled on Feb. 19, following the company’s published financial results. Emergent stock has fallen since mid-February to about $62 a share from $125 a share. But the decline had less impact than it might have Emergent’s chief executive, Robert Kramer, who sold more than $10 million worth of his stock in January and early February.

A Johnson & Johnson vaccine manufacturer dumped stock before trashing millions of doses. Image via AP.

Have you satisfied your COVID-19 compliance officer?” via Chloe Malle of The New York Times — Part cop, part coach, C.C.O.s have become essential overseers in America’s tentative return to pre-pandemic life. “We’re at a tipping point,” said Dr. Blythe Adamson, an infectious disease epidemiologist and economist. “People are going out more, they have pandemic fatigue. They’re vaccinated, but people are still getting COVID with these new strains. It makes the compliance officer role extremely important.” … “It’s the difference between a hammer and a scalpel,” she said. “COVID compliance last April was just ‘stay home.’ Now, a year later, we’ve figured out a way to do more things but there are more nuances to how to do them safely. It’s much harder to be the C.C.O. with the scalpel.”

Japan declares COVID-19 emergency with less than 100 days until Olympics” via Kendall Baker of Axios — With 88 days until the Tokyo Olympics, a “fourth wave” of the pandemic has hit Japan. Bars, department stores and theaters across Japan will remain closed for 17 days after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three other prefectures. A senior member of Japan’s ruling party recently questioned Tokyo’s ability to host the Games and said cancellation is still an option. The Olympic torch relay has been detoured several times since it began on March 25 and banned altogether this weekend. As of last week, Japan had administered just over 2 million vaccine shots, which is roughly 1% of its population.

— 100 DAYS —

Joe Biden’s first 100 days reshaped America” via Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine — It’s not that Saintly Joe invented the prototype of a President who acts politely. Barack Obama was nice. George W. Bush was nice. Bill Clinton got away with it because he could be so charming. George H.W. Bush sent scads of handwritten notes to everybody from his favorite snack manufacturer to the presidential candidate who defeated him. Treating everybody with unfailing courtesy is (or was) standard advice for any aspiring politician. Biden’s advantage is that he’s not just nice; he’s also tedious. He is relentlessly enacting an ambitious domestic agenda. There’s nothing in Biden’s vanilla-ice-cream bromides for his critics to hook on to. Republicans can’t stop Biden because he is boring them to death.

Joe Biden makes a splash in his first 100 days. Image via AP.

‘Help is here’: 100 days of the Biden doctrine” via Jonathan Allen of NBC News — “The first hundred days have always been important to every White House, especially those of a first-term President,” said James A. Baker, who was President Ronald Reagan’s first Chief of Staff and Treasury Secretary before becoming President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State. “A President traditionally has the power to get things done immediately after the election when his favorability ratings are usually high.” Biden is riding high. But in many ways, his political challenge is even more daunting than Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s. FDR’s Democrats controlled more than 70% of the House seats and more than 60% of the Senate seats. Biden and his party have a much more tenuous grip on power.

Biden’s first 100 days: Where he stands on key promises” via Alexandra Jaffe, Aamer Madhani and Kevin Vineys of The Associated Press — As he rounds out his first 100 days in office, President Biden’s focus on reining in the coronavirus during the early months of his administration seems to have paid off: He can check off nearly all his campaign promises centered on the pandemic. Biden has delivered on a number of his biggest campaign pledges focused on climate change and the economy. But some issues have proved to be tougher for the administration — including immigration, where Biden is grappling with how to enact promised reforms in the face of a steep increase in unaccompanied minors seeking to cross the border. On some of his promises, Biden is waiting for Congress to act.

Biden’s hundred days at the kitchen table” via E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post — The shaping of Biden’s climate agenda reveals the contours of his larger effort to drive a wedge into the Trump constituency. A majority of Trump’s loyalists — the most fervent Republicans, ardent immigration foes, hard cultural conservatives, gun rights zealots, racial backlash voters — will never be available to Biden or the Democrats. But Biden is banking on his ability to use populist economics (relief checks, upward pressure on wages, a “Buy America” campaign to bring home more manufacturing work, confining tax increases to corporations and those earning more than $400,000 annually) to win back Trump voters whose dissatisfactions are primarily economic. Biden’s proposals have thus far won support in the polls from about a third of Republicans.


Biden and top officials set for nationwide travel blitz after prime-time address” via Phil Mattingly of CNN — Biden‘s joint address to Congress may stand as the prime-time marker of his first 100 days in office, but it will also serve as the launch point for an all-out administration-wide blitz to highlight accomplishments and the ambitious legislative push ahead. The Biden administration will launch what officials are calling the “Getting America Back on Track” tour the day after the President’s speech with the President, Vice President Kamala Harris, their spouses and key Cabinet officials fanning out to roughly a dozen states to highlight their first 100 days in office and Biden’s ambitious economic legislative agenda.

Joe Biden is taking his act on the road.

Kamala Harris cements her place in Biden’s inner circle during a consequential week” via Kevin Liptak and Jasmine Wright of CNN — Nearly 100 days into their tenure, Biden and Harris have worked to deepen their relationship, spending five hours or more together per day in meetings at the White House, according to aides. Both Biden and Harris shunned work travel in the early days to set an example during the pandemic — forcing them into closer proximity than their predecessors. She began her tenure attending nearly every one of Biden’s events, provided her own speaking slot and always in-frame as the President delivered remarks, an unmissable — and intentional — level of visibility. Her position as the country’s highest-ranking woman of color, she said in an interview last week, brings with it a heavy weight.


How Donald Trump softened up the GOP for Biden” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Increasingly, Biden’s popularity is because Trump bulldozed some terrain for Biden’s early agenda. By at times bucking his party establishment, Trump turned once-divisive issues into less-polarizing ones and put a premium on merely succeeding where he had failed. Trump flummoxed his party’s leaders by making a late charge for bigger, $2,000 coronavirus stimulus checks, which now decreased the sticker shock of Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan when he pushed for and passed the same thing. Ditto for Trump’s halting efforts to forge a big infrastructure package, which has again mitigated GOP efforts to complain about the price tag of Biden’s $2 trillion bill. Both proposals, which might once have been more divisive, poll quite popularly.

Donald Trump did his part to get Republicans ready for Joe Biden.

Kevin McCarthy defends Trump’s response to Jan. 6 insurrection” via Amy Wang and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post — House Minority Leader McCarthy claimed Trump was unaware the U.S. Capitol was being stormed until McCarthy called and urged him to tell his supporters to stop. “I was the first person to contact him when the riot was going on,” McCarthy told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “He didn’t see it, but he ended the call … telling me he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did. He put a video out later.” The statement contradicted McCarthy’s initial response to Trump’s role in the attack.


DHA. will review how it identifies and addresses extremism and White supremacy in its ranks.” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times — The Department of Homeland Security will undergo an internal review to root out White supremacy and extremism in its ranks as part of a larger effort to combat extremist ideology in the federal government. The task of identifying extremists throughout the United States, and specifically in government agencies, has come to the top of Biden’s agenda since the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. The review means that the department tasked with preventing domestic terrorism threats will now turn inward to assess if such ideology is coursing through its various agencies.

Before Jan. 6, FBI collected information from at least 4 Proud Boys” via Aram Roston of Reuters — Bureau agents maintained connections with key Proud Boys leaders starting as early as 2019, a Reuters examination has found. At least four Proud Boys have provided information to the FBI. Often these leaders were sharing intelligence about antifa, a loose movement of left-wing activists opposed by Trump and right-wing media. The connections between the Proud Boys and the FBI do not mean the agency had thoroughly penetrated the far-right group. But some law enforcement veterans say the ties show the agency could have done more to prepare for the deadly Jan. 6 uprising, which sought to overturn the election of Biden as President.

The FBI was already tracking Proud Boys before January 6.

—“Facebook stopped employees from reading an internal report about its role in the insurrection. You can read it here.” via Ryan Mac, Craig Silverman, and Jane Lytvynenko of BuzzFeed

Liz Cheney breaks with McCarthy on scope of Jan. 6 panel” via Scott Wong of The Hill — Cheney, House Republican Conference Chair, broke Monday with House Minority Leader McCarthy, telling reporters that a proposed 9/11-style independent commission should narrowly focus on the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. McCarthy, a close ally of Trump, has said the scope of the bipartisan commission should be broader and include other episodes of political violence, like Black Lives Matter and antifa protests around the country that have turned violent at times. “What happened on Jan. 6 is unprecedented in our history, and I think that it’s very important that the commission be able to focus on that,” Cheney said at a GOP gathering in Florida when asked about the scope of the commission’s probe.

’Never heard of them’: Arizona GOP audit firm unknown even in home state” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — A successful ninja is unseen, unheard, stealthy. By that standard, the firm Cyber Ninjas fits the bill: Almost no one involved in election or politics in Florida, the state where the company is headquartered, seems to have heard of it or knows anything about it. Nor do they know anything about Cyber Ninjas’ founder, Doug Logan, who registered his firm in the southwest Florida city of Sarasota in 2014, state records show. The firm’s relative anonymity is a curious anomaly in Florida, one of the nation’s biggest battlegrounds, where top political players are typically familiar with companies that provide election services and technology.

>>>Flashback to April 1: “Sarasota firm Cyber Ninjas controversially selected to head Arizona election result audit” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

The GOP is a grave threat to American democracy” via Peter Wehner of The Atlantic — The Trump presidency might have been the first act in a longer and even darker political drama, in which the Republican Party is becoming more radicalized. How long this will last is an open question; whether it is happening is not. Trump’s loyalists have launched ferocious attacks against Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him for his role in the insurrection, even as national Republicans eagerly position themselves as his heir. Today the Republican Party is hardly a healthy conservative party. In fact, it has grown inhospitable to authentic conservatism and certainly to conservative sensibilities. The best thing those who love the Republican Party can do for it is to speak the truth about it.


Matt Gaetz opponent wants media to focus on his victims rather than his ‘political theater’” via Ray Hartmann of Raw Story — The Democrat who ran against Gaetz for Congress in 2020 has an unusual request to the national media: Stop talking so much about my opponent and focus on who he has hurt. Phil Ehr, a retired military veteran, says he’s running again in 2022 for Gaetz’s seat in Florida’s heavily Republican 1st congressional district. “I’ve called for Matt Gaetz to resign and, if he doesn’t, for him to be expelled from Congress for his pattern of unethical and dishonorable conduct,” Ehr told Raw Story in an exclusive interview. “But it’s just awful to see the coverage he’s receiving that’s focused on him and not the alleged victims of his alleged crimes.

Phil Ehr wants the media to stop focusing on Matt Gaetz, and pay more attention to the victims.


Chief Justice John Roberts to represent Supreme Court at Biden speech to Congress” via John Fritze and Amanda Hernández of USA Today — A spokeswoman for the nation’s highest court confirmed Monday that only Chief Justice Roberts will attend the address. Roberts, spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said, was the only one of the nine justices invited due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols. That will mark a departure from past presidential addresses when most of the justices arrived in the House chamber clad in their black robes to hear the president speak. This year, far fewer lawmakers will also attend the address because of the pandemic.

John Roberts will stand-in for the entire Supreme Court during Joe Biden’s address.

New Census numbers shift political power south to Republican strongholds” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Political power in the United States will continue to shift south this decade, as historically Democratic states that border the Great Lakes give up congressional seats and electoral votes to regions where Republicans currently enjoy a political advantage. Texas, Florida and North Carolina, three states that voted twice for Trump, are set to gain a combined four additional seats in Congress in 2023 because of population growth, granting them collectively as many new votes in the electoral college for the next presidential election as Democratic-leaning Hawaii has in total. At the same time, four northern states with Democratic Governors that Biden won in 2020 will each lose a single congressional seat.

Tampa Bay lawmakers reintroduce bipartisan bill to permanently ban drilling off Florida coastlines” via WFLA — U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Kathy Castor have reintroduced the Florida Coastal Protection Act to permanently extend the drilling ban off the Florida coastlines. The current moratorium on drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico expires in 2022. “The fatal explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and massive spill into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was one of the worst environmental disasters in history,” Buchanan said. “We can’t risk another spill that would threaten our economy, our environment and our way of life.” The moratorium currently in place protects waters up to 235 miles off the west coast of Florida from oil drilling. The bill was introduced in the last Session of Congress but did not receive a vote.

Former Trump White House staffer joins Ballard Partners” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Alex Gray served as chief of staff for the White House National Security Council under Trump. He joins Ballard Partners to grow the firm’s national defense and foreign affairs presence in Washington D.C. “We are proud to have Alex join our Washington office and further grow our national security practice,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s president and founder, in an announcement Monday. Gray served as deputy assistant to the President and Chief of Staff of the NSC from September 2019 to January 2021, managing the National Security Adviser’s Front Office and the personnel, budget, and security functions of the NSC. He also served as a trusted policy adviser to the National Security Adviser on regional, functional, and administrative matters facing the NSC.


Standby passengers at center of Miami International Airport brawl” via CBS Miami — One person is charged with disorderly conduct following a brawl at Miami International Airport, which was captured on video and has since gone viral. Miami-Dade Police have identified him as Jameel Decquir, one of several people involved in the chaos on concourse D, gate 12, in the American Airlines terminal. The passengers were waiting on their flight to Chicago when a group of people started fighting after being told there were just three standby seats available for their party of four. All of the people involved in the fight were on standby to get on the flight. Video posted on social media shows the melee and people trying to stop it after it spread to two locations.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

The secret is out: Here’s what Robert Runcie is accused of lying about” via Rafael Olmeda, Marc Freeman and Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Schools Superintendent Runcie prepared for his testimony in front of a statewide grand jury last month by contacting witnesses in a criminal case, then lied about it when asked, according to prosecutors. The statewide prosecutor’s office released the details Monday after Runcie filed a court motion last week demanding specifics about the charges against him. The state’s response, filed in court, shows why Runcie was charged with perjury and why Broward Schools General Counsel Barbara Myrick was charged with disclosing the grand jury’s top-secret proceedings. The charges stem from the January indictment of former Broward Schools technology chief Tony Hunter, charged with rigging contracts for technology equipment for the district.

Racism complaints against Boca police resurface in ex-cop’s discrimination lawsuit” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Allegations about racism within the Boca Raton Police Department are being revived by a former Black officer who quit while on probation almost four years ago. The claims by Steve Robert in a federal racial discrimination lawsuit are set to be heard by a jury in Fort Lauderdale this fall. The city denies he was mistreated and says Robert “was not qualified to do the job.” Much of the dispute centers around alleged mistreatment by a supervisor who was previously accused of making racist remarks toward another Black officer. That cop, Jeremy Codling, was fired in 2018 and later rehired after apologizing and getting a “last chance.”

Tamarac politicians’ appalling abuse of taxpayers” via Doug Maesk for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The guiding principle of city government should be to always do what’s in the best interest of the residents. The current Tamarac city commission apparently believes in only doing what benefits commissioners. That is appalling. I’ve recently read articles with headlines such as More perks proposed in a city that lavishes its leaders with cash and an editorial that said Politicians in Tamarac need to stop ripping off city taxpayers, rip-offs such as giving each commissioner a $15,000 annual travel fund. The commission has more personal money-grabbing planned, and this needs to stop.

Town adopts resolution rejecting broad preemptions of home rule” via Adriana Delgado of the Palm Beach Daily News — The Town Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution urging members of the Florida Legislature to oppose “unwarranted or overly broad preemptions” of municipal home rule powers. In a memo sent to the Council recommending approval of the resolution, Deputy Town Manager Jay Boodheshwar said the text is modeled after a similar one adopted by the Florida League of Mayors. The resolution opposes a number of bills making their way through the legislature that would greatly reduce the ability of municipalities to make their own decisions on what is best for them, Boodheshwar said.

Collier County’s tourism industry bounces back quicker than expected from pandemic” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Collier County’s tourism industry has bounced back quicker than expected from the coronavirus pandemic. At least when it comes to the transient — or leisure — market. That’s reflected in the county’s latest visitor statistics Tampa-based Research Data Services shared Monday at a Tourist Development Council meeting. In March, all metrics turned positive, compared to the same month a year ago — when the World Trade Organization officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Here’s what the year-over-year improvement looked like last month: 230,200 visitors, up nearly 62%; 282,800 room nights booked, up more than 70%; and a $363,568,000 economic impact, up almost 93%.


Florida’s massive new casino deal: The good. The bad. The unconstitutional” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis and Florida legislators are touting a massive new expansion of gambling in this state. And when I say “massive,” I mean it. More casinos. More games. And legalized sports betting. Florida would become the new Las Vegas, except with fewer showgirls and more humidity. Gaming analysts say the deal would put Florida on the same worldwide gambling level as Vegas, Macao and Dubai. The Governor described the deal as “larger and more expansive than any other gaming compact in U.S. history,” … which is interesting, considering Floridians just passed a “No Casinos” amendment to the state constitution.


Notes on the rise and fall of the Anglo-Saxon Caucus and its Florida fellow travelers” via Diane Roberts of the Florida Phoenix — Although I’ve yet to hear Gov. DeSantis weigh in on preferred architectural styles (what do you want to bet he’s partial to the kind of ersatz Roman edifices that warmed the dark heart of Il Duce?), he’s certainly all about protecting white people from the unwhite people who constantly threaten the Anglo-Saxon Way of Life so cherished here in the state of Florida. As far as I know, DeSantis hasn’t publicly expressed his views on “replacement theory,” which holds that George Soros or some other sinister lib is importing brown people to America, where they proceed to have lots more babies than do white chicks. But this is now mainstream Republican thinking — and the Governor’s never disavowed it.

Meet the politicians who broke their promise to support better unemployment benefits” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Last year, we asked every candidate running for the Florida Legislature whether they would support better benefits for unemployed Floridians. This week, four of those state House candidates — who won their races in Central Florida — broke their promise to support better unemployment benefits: Reps. Scott Plakon, David Smith, Hawkins and René Plasencia. On Tuesday, each of them voted no to amendments that would have raised the maximum weekly benefit from $275 to $375, and raised the number of weeks people could collect unemployment from as few as 12 weeks to 22 weeks.

No-fault repeal creates more problems than it solves” via David A. Sampson of the Naples Daily News — Florida drivers are unknowingly on a collision course this week with the potential for dramatically higher insurance costs in the near future, due to legislation moving in Tallahassee. Auto insurance costs could skyrocket up to an additional $805 annually and likely lead to an increase in the number of uninsured motorists on Florida’s roads. Unfortunately, the legislation lacks the legal reform and cost control measures needed to help Florida drivers. It is also concerning that HB 719 bypassed the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, which is a critical committee that should review and weigh in on such a major auto insurance overhaul.

Why all the secrecy about Runcie’s indictment? Maybe more charges are on the way” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The secrecy surrounding this week’s arrests of Runcie and school district Myrick could be a sign that more criminal charges are on the way, according to legal experts. Keeping the details of the allegations against them under wraps could prevent other targets from learning they are under investigation, former prosecutors say, but it deprives the public of knowing exactly what some of their top leaders are accused of, and experts say it could be unfair to the accused. In most cases, the unsealing of indictments ends the secrecy of a behind-the-scenes investigation. But when the indictments against Runcie and Myrick were unsealed Wednesday, there were still more questions than answers.

Walt Disney would have liked what’s changing at his theme parks” via David Collier-King of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney once said, “Progress is impossible without change,” and as the mastermind behind perhaps one of the most successful corporations in the world, The Walt Disney Co., Walt was onto something. Relevance and value are almost always based in the relatability people have to the work and productivity of an entity. And if an entity is not changing with the times, it becomes a barrier to progress and change. Jonathan VanBoskerck, a self-proclaimed Disney World enthusiast and Christian conservative, asserted in a recent op-ed that recent changes in Disney policies ruined his experience. Disney will not lose loyal fans because these decisions are about equality and expanding the company’s reach and impact by being culturally and socially responsible.


The House approved a bill to try to weed out the bad apples of law enforcement. Backers of the bill hope it can improve relations between police and communities of color. 

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The policing bill passed the House unanimously … which absolutely no one would have predicted at the start of Session.

— A bill to expand and merge Florida’s private school voucher programs is headed to Gov. DeSantis after final passage in the Senate. This vote was NOT unanimous. They’ll have a lot more money to spend once the Governor signs the voucher bill.

— After boasting that Florida had the best election in the country last year, the Senate approves a controversial election reform bill. The bill passed on a party-line vote.

— The Senate also approves a controversial bill punishing social media platforms for banning Trump and censoring hate speech.

— Don’t look now … Otter Cat is back. Last week it was in the Senate … now it’s an issue in the House. It was fun the first few times, but Otter Cat may have worn out its welcome in The Capitol.

— And today, a homeless Florida Man is being hailed as a hero after saving the life of a driver whose SUV caught fire after a head-on crash in Escambia County.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

The only story that mattersChlorine shortage could make it harder to keep Florida’s pools sanitized this summer” via Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel — As temperatures have risen across South Florida in recent weeks, so has our desire to escape the heat by dipping into the refreshing clear water in our backyard swimming pools. But keeping that pool clean and inviting this summer could become more challenging than ever, as market forces have converged to reduce chlorine supplies and drive up prices. And that’s not something anyone in pool-centric South Florida wants to contemplate at the beginning of a long sticky summer. Prices for trichlor tablets, one of the most popular and convenient ways to keep pool water sanitized, have increased dramatically since Hurricane Laura caused a fire last August that destroyed one of the nation’s largest makers of the tablets.

Cuteness alert! Photos released of new penguin chick at Jacksonville Zoo” via First Coast News — Get ready for cuteness overload! The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens announced the hatching of a Magellanic penguin chick in a news release Friday. The announcement came ahead of World Penguin Day on Sunday. The zoo says the hatching of this chick marks the eighth successful hatching since the opening of the Tuxedo Coast exhibit in 2010 and the first since 2019. The chick hatched on April 25 to parents Oreo and Kowalski. The zoo says this is their fourth successful hatchling. But is the baby chick a boy or a girl? The zoo says the chick’s gender is not known right now but will be determined soon through DNA testing.

To watch a video of the cuteness, click on the image below:

Final week to enjoy stone crabs: Season closes May 2” via Rebecca Barry of WFLA — The sun is setting on the 2021 stone crab season. This is the last week of this season to enjoy a few claws before it closes May 2. This is the second year the season has been a few weeks shorter than in the past. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) moved to shorten the season in 2020 to reduce the percentage of claws harvested by 10%. If you are already missing the delicacy, you can register to put out a few of your own crab traps recreationally for the next season, which opens on October 15.

North Bay Village launches “Poop-Free NBV Week” because people suck at picking up dog shit” via Jessica Lipscomb of the Miami New Times — In the tiny municipality of North Bay Village, commissioners are taking bold action against the scat scofflaws. Today kicks off what’s been officially declared “Poop-Free NBV Week” in the island village that straddles the 79th Street Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach. Through Sunday, May 2, North Bay Village will encourage its residents to pick up their dogs’ poop with a weeklong social-media blitz. Residents who use the hashtag #PoopFreeNBV will be entered to win a free photo shoot with their dog, with 20 photo sessions to be awarded. Pet waste contains nitrogen and phosphorus, which can cause nutrient pollution and lead to toxic algae blooms when it gets into waterways.


Today would have been Benjamin W. Todd‘s 72nd birthday. We miss him dearly.

Belated best wishes to former Rep. Larry Ahern, Gina EvansAndres Malave, and Matt Spritz. Celebrating today are Rep. Adam BotanaDavid Millner and The Fiorentino Group’s Mark Pinto.


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 Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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