Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.29.21

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Here's your morning briefing of what you need to know in Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

With just hours before the Sine Die hankie drops, there is still time to send nominations for Florida Politics’ somewhat comprehensive list of the “Winners & Losers of the 2021 Legislative Session.”

But like Session, time is short — we need your input as soon as possible.

We are looking for who (or what) comes out on top, or took a fall — a person, group or issue. Send us a name, and why you think they deserve our recognition (or scorn).

Even though nothing is truly over until the hankie drops, there are some clear winners and losers. And we want to know!

As always, out-ot-the-box suggestions are welcome … and encouraged!

Forward your insightful choices now, or to [email protected]. Please send them no later than Sine Die, which (right now) is Friday afternoon.

We’re waiting for you!


Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried released an attack ad last week calling out Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing a bill to force online retailers to collect online sales tax and use it to refill the unemployment trust fund and slash the commercial rents tax.

“Last night, Ron DeSantis raised your taxes by over a billion dollars, and he did it right before midnight with no cameras, no one watching,” Fried says in the video. “I’m pissed, and you should be pissed too. Now go tell the other 22 million Floridians across our state that Ron DeSantis just raised our taxes by over a billion dollars.”

Now, Fried is putting that ad in front of Floridians who use Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

The video runs as a pre-roll ad on YouTube and as static, graphic ads on Facebook and Instagram. On YouTube, the ad has already received over 105,200 views, with 96% of those viewers watching the ad all the way through

Across all sites, the ad has notched 317,000 video views and generated about 1.75 million impressions, paid and organic.

The ad campaign was backed by a five-figure buy targeting a dozen of Florida’s blue and purple counties, including Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Leon, Duval, Sarasota and Collier.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Do you love Florida Politics? Do you wish there was more?

Wish granted.

Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch is teaming up with exiting Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz to launch a new podcast.

Tentatively titled “State of Emergency,” the first episode will drop this summer.

Stay tuned for more details.


An inspiring must-read on courage, determination from Kerry Kriseman: “They told me I was dying: Why doctors’ words matter” — Kriseman, the wife of St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, recounts to Alexandra Glorioso of Barred Owl Press the story of her 2019 cancer diagnosis after feeling discomfort during a family visit to California (Glorioso is also a cancer survivor): “A year and a half ago, I was lying on a California emergency room medical table when I first heard I was going to die. While one doctor probed me with a needle to extract thick, yellow turbid fluid from my abdomen, a gynecologist hovered over me and delivered the news: I probably had 7 to 8 months to live. ‘Oh my God. No,’ I said. I was a 51-year-old who had only been sick once in the last 10 years. If anything, I had skated by in life on my good health, and luck. The information didn’t match my self-identity. It all seemed so wrong. ‘Patient is appropriately shocked and in disbelief,’ read my medical notes from that day. ‘Fuck this shit,’ I told my husband hours later. I wasn’t ready to die. Thankfully, I didn’t believe her.”


Tweet, tweet:

@DJGroup: Every year we prepare to play the Globetrotters, nearly every year the Washington Generals show up instead.

@GrayRohrer: Tough couple of days for the Whips, who are theoretically supposed to count the votes and, you know, make sure they have enough before the actual votes are cast. Two public records exemptions going down two days in a row

@JacobOgles: It’s upsetting more people aren’t upset about the stunt pulled with the sports ban in the Legislature. This issue was debated over an extraordinary time in the House, but never made it through a 3rd committee stop in the Senate. Now its an amm on a charter school bill.

Tweet, tweet:

@CHeathWFTV: Nothing is dead until the handkerchief hits the ground.

@BSFarrington: So, I’ve covered the Florida Legislature for more than two decades. Today is the first day I’ve heard floor arguments about inspecting children’s genitals.

Tweet, tweet:


Disneyland to open — 1; Kentucky Derby — 2; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 3; Mother’s Day — 10; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 11; Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 18; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 29; Memorial Day — 32; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 35; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 43; Father’s Day — 51; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 56; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 63; 4th of July — 66; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 70; MLB All-Star Game — 75; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 85; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 85; The NBA Draft — 91; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 93; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 99; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 117; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 127; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 148; ‘Dune’ premieres — 155; MLB regular season ends — 157; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 163; World Series Game 1 — 180; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 187; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 190; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 211; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 222; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 229; Super Bowl LVI — 291; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 331; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 372; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 435; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 526; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 561.


Democratic turmoil: Long-simmering tension boils over as Florida Senators oust their leader” via Skylar Swisher and Gray Rohrer of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Simmering tensions plunged Florida Senate Democrats into turmoil Wednesday with a vote of no confidence in their leader and infighting that pitted two Broward lawmakers against each other. When the dust settled, Sen. Gary Farmer was jettisoned as Democratic leader in exchange for Sen. Lauren Book, another Broward County lawmaker. Book will take over as leader immediately. With the leadership shake-up, Book will serve through 2024 because she had already been chosen to succeed Farmer as the leader when his term ended. Earlier in the day, tempers flared during a caucus meeting over a bill seeking to make college presidential searches secret. Sen. Tina Polsky called the meeting the “last straw” that led to the push to oust Farmer.

Democrats give Gary Farmer the boot. Image via Colin Hackley.

—”In ousting Farmer, Senate Dems cause good trouble” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics

Legislature passes bill banning transgender girls from female sports teams” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Republicans in the Florida Legislature passed a bill prohibiting transgender female athletes from playing on female sports teams at public schools, drawing discrimination complaints from Democrats. Transgender female athletes would be limited to playing coed sports or on teams with male athletes under the legislation, restricting female teams to individuals identified as female on their birth certificate. The bill applies to high school and college sports sponsored by public schools, including intramural and club teams. The controversial legislation appeared to have stalled after it failed to clear a final Senate committee, but it was added as an amendment to a charter school bill by House Republicans Wednesday.

Equality Florida decries trans athlete ban revival House Republicans on Wednesday filed an amendment to a charter school bill (SB 1028) that would resurrect a proposal to block transgender girls from participating in women’s sports. The move drew a harsh rebuke from the LGBTQ rights organization Equality Florida, which has fought against the ban all Session. “In the eleventh hour of the 2021 legislative session, Florida lawmakers are still hellbent on passing this discriminatory bill,” said Gina Duncan, Equality Florida director of transgender equality. “Despite hearing the voices of trans kids and their families time and time again, extremists in the Legislature have made it their mission to make trans children pawns in their culture war.”

After brief stumble, House clears social media ‘de-platforming’ bills” via Renzo Downey The House has approved a bill to crack down on “censorship” by social media companies. A related bill to implement it initially failed to muster adequate support. By a 78-41 vote on Wednesday, the House will send the main bill (SB 7072) back to the Senate. But a public records bill tied to it (SB 7074) initially didn’t garner the two-thirds support it needed to pass. After a motion to reconsider the 78-40 vote by which it failed, Rep. Rene Plasencia swapped back to his side of the aisle to give it the 79-39 vote it needed. The main bill, carried by Sen. Ray Rodrigues in the Senate and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia in the House, would require social media companies to post their terms of service and apply them equally.

Rene Plasencia flips to give Republicans passage of the social media de-platforming bill. Image via Colin Hackley.

Legislators revive, then pass, preemption on Key West cruise referendum” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — A day after citizens of Key West thought the legislation aimed at overturning their vote to limit cruise ship traffic appeared dead, Republican legislative leaders quickly reversed course Wednesday and powered it past Democrats to send it to the governor. Sen. Jim Boyd, who sponsored the original bill that stalled earlier this week in the House, attached an amendment to an unrelated Senate transportation bill declaring that “any local ballot initiative or referendum may not restrict maritime commerce” at any one of Florida’s 15 deep-water ports. The provision is retroactive, applying the ban to three referendums approved by 60% of Key West voters in November. The bill was one of the most ambitious assaults on home rule this session and has commanded a remarkable amount of attention.

Senate tees up amended data privacy bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — With less than 72 hours remaining in the Legislative Session, the Senate on Wednesday amended a high-profile bill that is intended to give Floridians more control over their data. Sponsored by Rep. Fiona McFarland, the bill (HB 969) would allow consumers to control how their personal data is shared and sold. The bill also sought to allow individuals to take legal action against businesses that violate a consumer’s date preferences. But under the Senate’s adopted amendment, legal action would now be reserved exclusively for the Attorney General. Sen. Jennifer Bradley is the Senate companion bill sponsor. The internet, she said, is a “surveillance economy.”

Term limits a sticking point in charter school bill — A bill that would allow state colleges and universities to operate charter schools that draw in students from multiple districts is being bogged down in the Legislature by the late addition of a provision to set school board term limits. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, the House added the provision to SB 1028, which the Senate promptly removed. However, the upper chamber inserted its own set of changes and sent it back to the House. The additions include water safety education and provisions surrounding student retention amid the pandemic.

Wilton Simpson: Senate not holding up Ron DeSantis’ priorities over ‘Right to Farm’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — GOP Senate President Simpson says his chamber withholding action on a handful of bills important to Gov. DeSantis has nothing to do with the Governor not yet signing an agriculture bill that is Simpson’s top legislative priority. He told reporters Wednesday night that there are times in the final days of session when there is an obvious “tug of war” as the House, Senate and Governor’s office fight to get priorities passed. It’s a process that can include lawmakers holding up other member’s or the Governor’s priorities as leverage, but that is not the case here, he said.


House agrees on $50M funding plan for water storage construction north of Lake O” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lead negotiators in the Senate and House have agreed to a budget provision slotting $50 million to help implement the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) north of Lake Okeechobee. The project is a priority for Senate President Wilton Simpson. In early April, the Senate approved a measure (SB 2516) as a conforming bill linked to the overall budget bill (SB 2500). Now, the House has agreed to that provision, allocating $50 million to help expedite construction of storage capacity north of Lake O. Simpson and other supporters say the storage will help trap water containing nutrients, which can cause algae blooms. Those blooms sometimes enter other waterways when water is released from Lake O to control the lake’s levels.

Wilton Simpson’s Lake O reservoir plan gets thumbs-up in the House. Image via Colin Hackley.

Senate agrees to scuttle Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate on Wednesday accepted the House’s proposal to terminate and liquidate the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund. Named after former Gov. Chiles, the Legislature established The Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund (LCEF) in 1999 to fund health programs in the state. According to a staff analysis, the program today is valued at $958 million. It launched with $1.7 billion from the state’s settlement agreement with tobacco companies. But now, under the bill (HB 5011), the Legislature will eliminate the fund and redirect its balance to the Budget Stabilization Fund. The LCEF must be liquidated by the end of June 2022 under the bill. Rep. Jay Trumbull, the House budget chief, carried the measure for the House Appropriations Committee.

SLERS contract to be codified in law — L3Harris landed a big win in the budget, but now the House and Senate have agreed to codify into law language that hands them a 15-year contract to oversee and upgrade the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System. As written, it would have the state pay the Melbourne-based company a yearly fee to run the system and build it out under the Project 25 radio standard while also expanding capacity. The language also covers radio tower leases, which were the main sticking point when the state attempted to grant the SLERS contract to Motorola.

Here’s what’s in the proposed state budget for Tallahassee, Leon County” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County’s four-member delegation to the Florida Legislature may bring home more than $3.5 million in local project spending in the proposed state budget lawmakers will vote on Friday. In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars that will go to the operations of Florida A&M and Florida State universities and Tallahassee Community College, there’s money for a local mental health initiative and programs for at-risk youths in the next fiscal year’s $100 billion spending plan. Lawmakers also set aside $100,000 in planning and site acquisition for a new State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee’s Capital Circle Office Complex. And the county’s pretrial intervention program for military veterans is in line for $1.4 million, once the Legislature passes the budget later this week.


Wilton Simpson suggests increased unemployment benefits dead for this Session” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Simpson suggested Wednesday that his priority to increase weekly unemployment benefits by $100 likely won’t happen this Session. A week ago, Simpson declared that effort still alive. But the 2021 Regular Session ends on Friday, and the House hasn’t taken up the bill (SB 1906) to raise benefits from $275 to $375 per week and extending them from 12 weeks to 14 weeks. “It’s probably my fault that it may not be alive,” Simpson told reporters Wednesday evening. DeSantis dismissed the proposal during a news conference earlier this month. Some of Simpson’s other provisions did make it into the budget, including raising the minimum wage for state employees to $13 an hour and increased Florida Forever funding.

Lawmakers eye changes to property insurance in wake of soaring rates” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — In a scramble to stop Florida’s soaring homeowners insurance rates, state lawmakers are close to passing a bill that would reduce the amount of time to file a claim and allow Citizens Property Insurance to raise its rates above 10%. The Florida House voted 74-43 on Wednesday on a bill that would reduce the time to file a property insurance claim from three years to two years and stop contractors and public adjusters from soliciting homeowners to file a claim. While homeowners’ insurance rates have been rising, state lawmakers, including Republicans in the House and Senate, are split on how best to address it.

Florida’s gun preemption law just got more powerful” via Kirby Wilson of Florida Politics — A new bill that’s poised to become law is the legislative equivalent of a Rorschach test. Fans of Florida’s sweeping gun preemption law, which bars municipalities from regulating firearms and ammunition in any way, say Senate Bill 1844, offers little more than a technical correction. It’s a “glitch bill,” they say. Those who detest Florida’s gun preemption law say the new bill dramatically expands an already Draconian state policy. “I didn’t think it was possible to make this statute worse. And lo and behold, they found a way to do it,” said Rep. Dan Daley. The bill passed the Florida House Wednesday by a vote of 78 to 39. Since it’s already passed the Senate, it will now head to the desk of DeSantis.

Deal on tap for ‘alcohol-to-go’” via The News Service of Florida — Florida lawmakers appear ready to give final approval to a restaurant industry-backed measure that would make permanent a practice of allowing alcoholic drinks to be included with take-home meals. The House and Senate have reached a compromise on a bill (SB 148) that would include limits on restaurants that can sell alcoholic drinks with take-home and delivery orders, Senate sponsor Bradley said Wednesday. DeSantis, last spring, issued an executive order that included so-called “alcohol to go” to help restaurants forced to scale back operations in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has endorsed making the rule permanent. The agreement, which drew unanimous support Wednesday from the Senate, would cut off the sale of to-go drinks when restaurants’ scheduled food service ends for the day or at midnight, whichever occurs first.

Uber cheers cocktails-to-go — Uber raised its glass to Rep. Josie Tomkow, Sen. Bradley and the rest of the Legislature after the drinks-to-go bill rolled to the Governor’s desk Wednesday night. “Uber thanks both Sen. Bradley and Rep. Tomkow, as well as House and Senate leadership, for prioritizing SB 148/HB 329 and ensuring that alcohol delivery remains a permanent option for Florida restaurants. The overwhelming, bipartisan support emphasizes the positive economic impact that alcohol delivery has had on restaurant owners and their ability to maintain successful businesses during COVID-19, while also helping to steady Florida’s local economies. We look forward for this measure to become law under Gov. DeSantis’ leadership on this issue.”

Legislature passes rural broadband expansion bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers on Wednesday approved a measure to help expand broadband access in “unserved” parts of the state. That bill (HB 1239), which passed both chambers unanimously, would expand on last year’s bill transferring the Office of Broadband to the Department of Economic Opportunity and bolstering its mission. House sponsor Tomkow said the bill would “eliminate our digital divide throughout our state.” The proposal would encourage broadband companies to expand to rural areas by creating a path for the necessary infrastructure, including identifying federal grants available for local spending. The legislation no longer includes a sales tax exemption, which means the bill will not have a fiscal impact on local governments. Previously the bill provided a tax exemption for equipment used in the expansion.

Lawmakers approve measure raising smoking age to 21” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House has approved a measure to raise the smoking age in Florida to 21, aligning it with federal law, preparing the bill for DeSantis to act on. The bill (SB 1080) passed the House by a 103-13 vote Wednesday, two days after it passed the Senate 29-9. Lawmakers last year had bundled that proposal with a measure to regulate vaping products. However, DeSantis vetoed the bill, arguing that limiting the available vaping flavors limited ways for smokers to ween themselves off cigarettes, which he argued are more dangerous. However, lawmakers this year limited the bill’s vaping regulations, which Senate sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson predicted would alleviate the Governor’s concerns.

House approves bill expanding medical cannabis potency testing — The House voted unanimously in favor of a bill (SB 1568) that would expand potency testing for medical marijuana, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. The expansion would see DOH test all types of marijuana products. It currently focuses testing on edible cannabis products. The provision may set the stage for future THC caps on medical cannabis products. The 2021-22 budget also includes $4 million for DOH to expand testing under the rules outlined in the bill.

Medical marijuana legislation stalls as public employees are fired for legal use” via Alyssa Feliciano April Rubin of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Democratic representatives proposed House Bill 335 to prohibit employers from taking action against qualified medical marijuana patients, was referred to four subcommittees in February and hasn’t been heard since. Under current laws, agencies that receive federal funding, such as school systems, default to national laws that don’t allow medical marijuana use. Employees taking a drug test have 24-48 hours to provide a valid explanation for why opioids are in their system. This is not the case for marijuana because it is nationally considered a Schedule 1 drug. Rep. Nicholas Duran proposed the bill to protect patients he described as within their constitutional right to ingest medical cannabis.

Nick Duran is seeking to protect medical marijuana patients. Image via Colin Hackley.

—“Lawmakers clear legislation to improve foster care” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

House OK’s amended public works bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House on Wednesday gave final passage to a bill that would overhaul the construction bidding process for local public works projects. After concurring on a Senate amendment, the House passed the bill with a 79-34 vote. Republican Rep. Nick DiCeglie is the bill sponsor. The bill (HB 53) requires local governments to utilize competitive bidding processes when contracting city, town or county projects. It also blocks cities from “train(ing) employees in designated programs with restricted curriculum or from a single source,” according to the bill language. Local ordinances that require things like apprenticeship programs, a trend among some more liberal cities aimed at providing work opportunities for residents, would be prohibited.

— TALLY 3 —

Republicans carry expansion of renewable energy across the finish line” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Where are the Democrats on renewable energy? It’s hard to tell these days. On the House floor Wednesday, Democrats urged the chamber to vote down a bill that promotes renewable energy. Rep. Cord Byrd presented SB 896, sponsored by Sen. Jason Brodeur. The measure, which passed the Senate on Monday in a 25-14, expands production of renewable energy, specifically natural gas and solar. SB 896 adds to the statute a definition for renewable natural gas. It’s defined as anaerobically generated biogas, landfill gas, or wastewater treatment gas refined to 90% or greater methane content. The legislation also allows the Public Service Commission to approve cost recovery to purchase renewable natural gas.

Where are Democrats on renewable energy? They urged Senators to downvote Jason Brodeur’s expansion bill. Image via Colin Hackley.

Car sharing bill headed to Governor’s desk” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — DeSantis‘ signature is all that remains for a bill that clears Florida laws to make peer-to-peer car-sharing an accepted alternative to traditional rental cars. The House on Wednesday approved the measure (SB 566) by a 101-15 vote. It would set tax, insurance, and maintenance record rules into law so that individuals can rent out their private cars to total strangers, with Florida’s approval. The practice has been rising rapidly in popularity in the past few years, fueled by private vehicles on internet platforms such as Turo, GetAround, and Avail, which link individuals who have a vehicle to spare with visitors who’d like a vehicle for a day or a few days. The disruptive new business has met strong pushback from airports and from traditional rental car companies such as Enterprise and Avis.

Legislature passes bill to centralize utility pole oversight” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — With the House’s vote Wednesday, a bill to give Florida control of utility pole oversight is on its way to DeSantis‘ desk. The House voted 114-3 to pass the bill (SB 1944) to shift utility pole oversight from the FCC to the Florida Public Service Commission. That proposal, sponsored by Sen. Ben Albritton and Rep. Nick DiCeglie, both Republicans, would require the PSC to enforce rates, charges, terms and conditions for pole attachments and to resolve pole attachment disputes. Democratic Reps. Anna Eskamani, Joy Goff-Marcil and Omari Hardy cast the lone no votes. No member debated the measure. The bill, which passed the Senate by a 38-2 vote, outlines new rules for settling disputes, boosting grid reliability and hardening, and on redundant poles.

—”Smile and dial? CFO-backed crackdown on rogue telemarketers moves to Governor’s desk” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Anonymous code snitch ban clears House, heads to Ron DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Punitive and anonymous code complaints may become a thing of the past if a bill passed by the House Wednesday becomes law. The Florida House of Representatives passed by a resounding 81-35 vote, a Senate bill (SB 60) sponsored by Bradley. Bradley, in a manner reminiscent of her husband who preceded her in the Senate, took charge of a controversial issue, brokering a compromise that ameliorated concerns that this was another example of Tallahassee bigfooting the home rule dictum. The Bradley product replaced HB 883 from Rep. Toby Overdorf, an identical House bill laid on the table in favor of the already cleared Senate bill.

—“Senate blesses bill allowing police K9s to receive emergency care” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

House approves new round of specialty license plates, bill heads to Governor’s desk” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A bipartisan bill to create specialty license plates that rolled through the committee process faced pushback on the House floor. The bill passed 115-2 but not without debate. Legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley in the upper chamber and Rep. Allison Tant in the lower chamber, was intended to create a new specialty license plate that benefits Florida parks. But 12 other specialty license plates were rolled into the parks plate bill during a committee meeting. Legislators, it would seem, have realized the power of a specialty plate to bolster the bottom line of their favorite nonprofits. Portions of the annual use fees from each plate are given to a nonprofit. Rep. Tommy Gregory took issue with this part of the process though he supported the bill.

Allison Tant’s specialty license plate is heading to the Governor’s desk. Image via Colin Hackley.

—“Baxley’s rare disease bill, now ready for the Governor, shows the softer side of legislating” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics


The Senate Democratic Caucus meets, 9 a.m., Room 228, Senate Office Building. Zoom link here.

The Senate holds a floor Session at 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

The House holds a floor Session at 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.


The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets, 15 minutes after the Senate floor Session adjourns, Room 301, Senate Office Building.

— 2022 —

Democrats fume over silence from DeSantis on Florida election” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — Democrats are voicing frustration with DeSantis over the special election for the late Rep. Alcee Hastings’s seat. Hastings, who represented a majority Black district in South Florida for nearly three decades, died early this month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Florida law gives DeSantis broad authority to set a date for the special election to replace him, but he has so far remained silent on when voters can expect to choose their next representative. Given Democrats’ narrow House majority, the vacancy in Florida’s 20th Congressional District stands to have a potentially significant impact on the party’s ability to move its agenda forward in Congress, and some fear that DeSantis could seek to complicate Democrats’ legislative efforts by leaving the seat vacant for months.

Omari Hardy launches congressional bid seeking Alcee Hastings’ seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hardy, a Democratic freshman in the Florida House, says he’ll join the Special Election to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Hastings in Congress. Hardy posted a video Wednesday morning announcing his run for the seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District. “Why do we need a 31-year-old, fourth-generation teacher with two moms in Congress?” Hardy asks, briefly running through his bio. He then dubs himself an “unapologetic progressive” and highlights his struggles during the Great Recession. Hardy has already gained some national notoriety dating back to his time as a Lake Worth Beach Commissioner. That tenure featured a fiery exchange with then-Mayor Pam Triolo regarding the city’s handling of the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

Omar Hardy throws his hat in the ring for a congressional seat. Image via Colin Hackley.

Candidate emerges for Perry Thurston seat” via The News Service of Florida — With Sen. Thurston planning to seek a congressional seat, the first candidate has emerged to try to replace him in the Legislature. According to the state Division of Elections website, Broward County School Board member Rosalind Osgood, a Democrat, opened a campaign account Tuesday to run in Senate District 33. Thurston plans to run in a special election to fill the seat of the late Congressman Hastings, who died early this month. It is not clear when the special election will be held.

Randolph Bracy could run for Val Demings’ seat in Congress if she runs for Governor” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — If U.S. Rep. Demings opts to run for governor in 2022, Democratic state Sen. Bracy will likely run to replace her, forgoing a race for governor himself that he has been considering, a source close to Bracy said. Politico reported last week that Demings is seriously considering challenging DeSantis or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio next year. Bracy has released a video and has been eyeing a run for governor himself, but if Demings were to jump in the race, he’d give up hopes of a statewide run.

When this Florida woman was an NPA candidate for state Senate, she was moving to Sweden” via Samantha J. Gross, Kevin G. Hall and Mattias Carlsson of the Miami Herald — A Central Florida woman who ran as an independent for the state Senate kept a low profile and hardly campaigned. But before she even filed to run, she applied for residency in Sweden, and the day before the November 2020 election, she pressed immigration officials to accelerate her request. The short-lived political career of Jestine Iannotti and her journey from the Sunshine State to Scandinavia is stranger than fiction, and involves advertisements entangled with dark money political groups and the resettling of a young family halfway across the world. Working together, the Miami Herald, McClatchy and the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter tracked down the one-time no-party Senate candidate in Florida to a suburb of the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

Tweet, tweet:


DeSantis to appear on Fox News Governors’ town hall from Orlando on Thursday” via Steven Lemongello of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fox News Channel will air a live town hall from Orlando on Thursday night featuring DeSantis and four other Republican governors. The event, “Red State Trailblazers,” will be moderated by Laura Ingraham, host of The Ingraham Angle. The event will “focus on the successes and challenges each state has endured throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including their state’s approach to unemployment and GDP growth.” DeSantis and the other governors, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, also will have an opportunity to respond to President Joe Biden’s first joint address to Congress on Wednesday.

Fox News will hail Ron DeSantis as a ‘Red State Trailblazer.’ Image via NBC News.

Does it? — “Ante up: Florida’s gambling deal opens the door for online poker and blackjack” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s sweeping gambling deal wouldn’t just bring sports betting to the Sunshine State: It also opens the door for online poker, blackjack and other games. A 30-year deal inked by DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida would add Florida to more than two dozen states that have authorized sports betting. But Floridians could get to do even more gambling under another item near the end of the 75-page agreement. Under a “miscellaneous section,” Florida agreed to negotiate in “good faith” for the Seminole Tribe to offer online versions of all of its casino games. A lot needs to happen to get to that point, and several political and legal hurdles remain.

Hospitals fight new state rules” via Christine Sexton of The News Service of Florida — Some of Florida’s largest health care systems and children’s hospitals are challenging two proposed state rules, alleging that facilities could get shut out of the market and quality of care could be harmed. Under current rules, new heart transplant programs are required to have annual caseloads of at least 500 cardiac catheterization patients and 150 open-heart surgery patients and, within two years, be performing at least 12 heart transplants annually. A higher minimum threshold of 24 heart transplants per year is set once a program is established. In the proposed rule, Agency for Health Care Administration would require that hospitals maintain minimum volume standards authorized under a federal Medicare rule. But the Medicare rule doesn’t contain minimum volume requirements for pediatric organ transplant programs.

Toxic algae in Pahokee foreshadows Stuart’s fate if Lake Okeechobee discharges resume” via Matt Chesnes of TC Palm — As coastal residents along the Treasure Coast ramp up environmental education and activism in the face of the looming Lake O discharges, some are saying inland communities are facing environmental racism. “Although the cyanobacteria itself doesn’t discriminate, broken policy dictates that particular communities are hurt more than others,” Reinaldo Diaz wrote in an April 10 blog post. The troubles plaguing Lake O aren’t new, former Pahokee Mayor J.P. Sasser wrote. “We’re not going to take this in my community,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Mast. One of the bills pending in the legislature would prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from discharging lake water into the St. Lucie River if it contains a toxicity level of over 8 parts per billion microcystins, helping to curb the effects of algae.


Florida lags behind other big states in vaccinating public” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post —While about one in three adults across Florida have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the state lagging behind other large states. Statewide, 8,684,024 people in Florida have gotten at least one shot, including 5,985,537 residents fully vaccinated, a state health department report published Wednesday shows. About 34% of residents ages 18 and older were fully vaccinated, the CDC reported. That’s lower than large states such as New York (41%), Michigan (38%), and California and Illinois — 37% each, the same share of adults nationwide — and on par with Texas (34%).

COVID-19 resident death toll tops 35,000” via The News Service of Florida — In another grim milestone, Florida on Wednesday exceeded 35,000 resident deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic started last year. With an additional 72 resident deaths reported Wednesday, the total reached 35,030, according to numbers released by the Florida Department of Health. The state has also had 692 nonresident deaths. In all, Florida has had 2,222,546 cases of COVID-19. The largest number of resident deaths has been concentrated in Southeast Florida, with Miami-Dade County totaling 6,140 deaths. It is followed by Broward County, with 2,886 deaths, and Palm Beach County, with 2,760 deaths. Also hard-hit are long-term care facilities, where 11,266 residents and staff members have died.

Stanford Dr. Jay Bhattacharya praises DeSantis for COVID-19 response: ‘He’s extraordinary’” via Alexandra Hutzler of Newsweek — Dr. Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, has praised DeSantis for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. “I mean, I’ve never met a politician like him. He’s extraordinary,” Bhattacharya said during an interview on The Tom Woods Show. The podcast, hosted by libertarian Tom Woods, aired April 17. Bhattacharya said he didn’t know DeSantis well before they had a “remarkable” conversation about COVID-19 in the fall of last year. The governor, he said, had read lots of papers on the subject and “knew all of the details.” The Stanford doctor added that the Republican Governor knows more about coronavirus literature than “most epidemiologists.”

‘Extraordinary: Jay Bhattacharya gives Ron DeSantis props for his COVID-19 response.

Vaccine ‘passport’ ban clears House” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A bill banning vaccine passports and limiting some local government powers during an emergency cleared the House Wednesday. But debate, at times, digressed into DeSantis‘ handling of the pandemic. The House passed the bill 76-40 Wednesday. The bill (SB 2006) already passed the Senate, but it will need to go back to the upper chamber after the House added an amendment to the bill on its second reading. Rep. Tom Leek and Sen. Danny Burgess carried the bill in their respective chambers. The legislation would make changes to the state’s Emergency Management Act to “better address the threat posed by pandemics or other public health emergencies,” according to a staff analysis.

How Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is leaving essential farmworkers behind” via Daniel Bush of WGCU — When Florida began administering the COVID-19 vaccine, Maria Martinez assumed it wouldn’t be difficult for her to get vaccinated as a 65-year-old essential worker in the agriculture sector. But Martinez is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who doesn’t have official identification or paperwork proving that she lives in Florida, a requirement for receiving the vaccine under the state’s eligibility guidelines. Martinez had been waiting months to get vaccinated when she heard that her county health department in the Orlando area would be holding a vaccination event where residents would not be asked about their immigration status.


Jerry Demings eases Orange County mask order” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Demings is easing county requirements on mask-wearing, allowing people to go without in some circumstances now, and setting touchstones for when mask requirements would be further lifted and ended altogether. Under an executive order Demings signed Wednesday, Orange County residents are now allowed to go maskless outdoors alone or in small gatherings and may reduce social distancing to just three feet, from six feet in his earlier order. Phase 2 of Demings’ order kicks in once 50% of the county’s population aged 16 or older has received a first dose of the vaccine. That would lift facial coverings outdoors for all people in all circumstances, but masks still would be required for indoors, except when someone is eating or dining.

Demings won’t rescind face-mask order until COVID-19 vaccination rates higher” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Demings announced he won’t rescind his face-mask mandate completely until 70% of the county population 16 and older has been vaccinated against COVID-19. “As I have said many, many times, we in Orange County follow and continue to follow the science to guide our decision-making process,” Demings said. Demings said he consulted state health experts, UCF researchers and doctors from local hospitals in devising his new plan.

Jerry Demings relaxes — but not rescinds — the Orange County mask mandate.

Disney World pays staff to get COVID-19 vaccine, as other Orlando companies successfully promote shots” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World is offering up cash to its employees who get vaccinated against coronavirus, joining other Central Florida businesses pushing to protect their workforce against the pandemic. Staffers who are fully vaccinated by Sept. 30, either through the single-dose vaccine or both doses of a two-dose vaccine, become eligible for a one-time payment equal to four hours of pay. A number of Orlando companies have been offering money or extra time off as bonuses to workers who receive the vaccine. Incentives from businesses could help motivate more people to get a shot as vaccine demand has fallen in recent weeks.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause spurs worries in Tampa Bay” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — A poll conducted April 18-21, before the pause was lifted, found that less than a quarter of American adults who have not yet gotten a coronavirus vaccine said they were willing to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Significantly fewer respondents said that the vaccine was safe compared to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. U.S. health officials on Friday lifted a 10-day pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccines after the CDC said it found, out of 8 million people who had gotten the shot nationwide, 15 cases of women with an extremely rare blood clotting disorder. Advisers suggested the shots continue but with an additional warning about the rare risk.

Jim DeFede locked out of Twitter — then reinstated — after posting about Miami school firing vaccinated teachers” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeFede regained control of his Twitter account after he was restricted following a post about a Miami private school threatening to fire teachers vaccinated against COVID-19. And he got some help from Sen. Jason Pizzo along the way. Early Monday evening, DeFede highlighted a letter from The Centner Academy to teachers warning they could lose their jobs if they take the COVID-19 vaccine. The letter then pushes a small number of unverified complaints that the vaccine is causing changes in women’s menstrual cycles. After tweeting the letter, DeFede earned some time in “Twitter jail,” apparently for violating the company’s policy of sharing false information about the pandemic.

COVID-19 outbreak at upscale West Palm country club causing anxiety for residents” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — A rash of COVID-19 infections among restaurant staff at the Club at Ibis has forced the closure of some restaurants at the upscale country club in West Palm Beach. General Manager Stephen LoGiudice sent several emails in the past week informing members of the infections. In an email sent Saturday, LoGiudice reported that 133 workers were tested; 15 were found to have COVID-19. Another nine are in quarantine, leaving the country club without 24 restaurant workers. Any worker who tested positive has to quarantine for 10 days and must receive a negative COVID-19 test before returning to work, he noted.

Moms for Liberty pushes school district to drop mask mandate for last month of classes” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — Members of conservative parent group Moms for Liberty urged the Brevard County School Board to drop the district’s mandatory masking policy for the remainder of the school year at a Tuesday board meeting. Twelve people spoke against mask mandates at the tense, emotionally charged meeting, insisting that masks harm children’s physical and mental health. At times speakers cried or raised their voices and became argumentative as they pressed their demands. Board members did not agree to revisit the policy for the remainder of the school year but said they will work with health officials to schedule a meeting at which policies for the 2021-2022 school year would be discussed.


Joe Biden team advances COVID-19 workplace mask rules after Democrats demand explanation” via Michael Wilner and Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — National COVID-19 workplace mask rules and other protections that had been stalled for over a month past a deadline set by Biden moved forward this week after congressional Democrats demanded an explanation for the delay. Inside the administration, officials acknowledged that a delay in releasing the new standards had caused surprising blowback from congressional allies, who this week issued statements and letters and scheduled open hearings on the delay. The standards would set enforceable, temporary rules across the country for employees on wearing masks at work, a policy that Democrats had called for since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

After Democratic pushback, Joe Biden advances workplace mask mandates in certain circumstances. Image via Getty.

We can’t reach safety if only half the herd is vaccinated” via Jerome Adams of The Washington Post — We can’t reach the COVID-19 finish line with only half the herd. Our country has been moving rapidly toward community immunity to COVID-19, but the pace and enthusiasm are slowing from when Americans were willing to drive long distances and wait for hours to get vaccinated. We are swiftly approaching a tipping point on vaccine supply and demand. To finish this race and safely reopen, we urgently need to make it easier for holdouts to get vaccinated and implement new strategies to encourage them to do so. Tuesday’s announcement of new guidance for vaccinated Americans was overdue. Behavioral scientists know that the carrot often works better than the stick, especially when the stick isn’t applied equally across the population.

Fully vaccinated seniors are 94% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being deployed to fight the coronavirus pandemic are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations among older adults, the group most at risk for severe disease and death. While not surprising, the results are reassuring because they provide the first real-world evidence in the United States that both vaccines prevent severe COVID-19 illness, as they did in clinical trials, the CDC said. In the study, fully vaccinated adults 65 and older were 94% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than unvaccinated people of the same age, according to the CDC. People who were partially vaccinated were 64% less likely to be hospitalized with the disease than the unvaccinated.

The CDC is still repeating its mistakes” via Zeynep Tufekci of The Atlantic — Yesterday, the CDC released more relaxed mask guidelines for outdoor activities, as well as new charts for indoor and outdoor recommendations. The more permissive guidelines were a welcome step forward, but they’re still frustrating. By issuing recommendations that are simultaneously too timid and too complicated, the CDC is repeating a mistake that’s hounded America’s pandemic response. The new guidelines are rigid and binary and aren’t accompanied by explanations or links to an accessible version of the underlying science. Confused? You’re not alone. The CDC should, at the very least, explain the scientific reasoning behind these rules. Not only would this empower people, but it would also inform the inevitable debate about the guidelines.

Andrew Cuomo aides spent months hiding nursing home death toll” via J. David Goodman, Jesse McKinley and Danny Hakim of The New York Times — The effort by Gov. Cuomo’s office to obscure the pandemic death toll in New York nursing homes was far greater than previously known. Cuomo’s most senior aides engaged in a sustained effort to prevent the state’s own health officials, including the commissioner, Howard Zucker, from releasing the true death toll to the public or sharing it with state lawmakers, these interviews and documents showed. A scientific paper, which incorporated the data, was never published. An audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. Two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent.

Andrew Cuomo has been doctoring nursing home COVID-19 numbers for months. Image via AP.

Walmart expands delivery to your fridge, pandemic be damned” via Matthew Boyle of Bloomberg — In the fall of 2019, Walmart Inc. started testing a service to deliver groceries right into fridges while customers were out. Then the pandemic kept Americans at home, making Walmart’s InHome business largely unnecessary. But it’s not dead. With online grocery booming during COVID-19 and vaccinations rising, the world’s largest retailer is expanding the service. Walmart recently brought InHome to its home turf of Northwest Arkansas, expanded in Southeast Florida, and in July, will add Atlanta. A successful rollout could help solidify it as the biggest player in the $1.8 trillion U.S. grocery market, a position under attack from the likes of Aldi and Amazon.

U.S. cruises could restart in mid-July with 95% of passengers fully vaccinated, CDC says” via Morgan Hines of the USA Today — Cruising could restart in mid-summer in American waters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Wednesday in a letter to the cruise industry. “The goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19, said in the letter. Spokesperson Caitlin Shockey gave a more specific timeline. Cruises could begin passenger voyages from the United States in mid-July,


White House proposes $1.8 trillion package that would dramatically expand education, safety net programs” via Jeff Stein, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Laura Meckler and Caroline Kitchener of The Washington Post — The White House on Wednesday unveiled a $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan aimed at dramatically expanding access to education and safety-net programs for families, the latest effort by Biden to try to turn some of his campaign promises into new policy. The package cannot be implemented without congressional approval, and many Republicans have offered a cool reception to the scope of tax increases and spending that Biden has tried to advance. But the White House’s new “American Families Plan” provides Congress with details of the President’s domestic agenda. Biden’s plan proposes a suite of changes that would collectively represent a marked change in how Americans interact with the federal government.

Biden’s big bet: He can remake the economy without any negative side effects” via Heather Long of The Washington Post — Biden, fresh off a victory on a large stimulus package, is pitching another $4 trillion in spending to make bold investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure and human capital in what he says will spur growth, create a more equitable economy and make the United States more competitive with China, without any negative side effects. It’s a bold experiment that hasn’t been tested in the modern U.S. economy. This year and next, forecasters are predicting a burst in hiring and growth that will rapidly heal most financial wounds from the pandemic.

Go big or go home, Joe Biden says. Image via Twitter.

Biden to invite lawmakers to the White House next week to discuss big spending packages” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden will likely invite members of Congress to the White House next week for bipartisan meetings on his sprawling infrastructure and social welfare proposals. Together, Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan would constitute roughly $4 trillion in new federal spending over the next decade, financed by a combination of tax hikes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Congressional Republicans have balked at the proposed changes to the tax code, which would reverse certain provisions of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law, while also taking issue with the White House’s definition of infrastructure, which they criticize as overly broad.

Assignment editors — Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz, Reps. Demings, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Frederica Wilson and Orange County Mayor Demings will host a virtual news conference to highlight Biden’s first 100 days and how Democrats have taken major steps to get Florida and America on track, 11:30 a.m. Zoom registration here.

Inside Biden’s bubble: How an insular White House has kept drama and leaks at a minimum” via Natasha Korecki and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — When Biden sat in one of his first Oval Office briefings to discuss the earliest acts of his presidency — impending executive actions — he brought only five people into the room. The five: Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti, Bruce Reed, Ron Klain and Stef Feldman. Each had been close to Biden for at minimum a decade. That lifers would be with Biden in the early moments of his presidency was not a surprise. That so few of them were there was a sign of things to come. One hundred days into the Biden administration, the White House is a tight ship defined by insularity, internal power centers, and top-down micromanagement.

U.S. Catholic bishops may press Biden to stop taking Communion” via David Crary of The Associated Press — When U.S. Catholic bishops hold their next national meeting in June, they’ll be deciding whether to send a tougher-than-ever message to Biden and other Catholic politicians: Don’t receive Communion if you persist in public advocacy of abortion rights. Biden, only the second Catholic President, is the first to be such while espousing clear-cut support for abortion rights. Such a stance, by a public figure, is “a grave moral evil,” according to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and believes it’s necessary to rebuke Biden on the issue publicly. “Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Naumann said.


FBI searches Rudy Giuliani’s home and office, seizing phones and computers” via William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman and Kenneth P. Vogel of The New York Times — Federal investigators seized cellphones and computers from Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who became Trump’s personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said. FBI agents executed search warrants around 6 a.m. at Giuliani’s apartment on Madison Avenue and his Park Avenue office in Manhattan, carting away the electronic devices, Giuliani confirmed in a statement. The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former President.

In deep: The FBI raids Rudy Giuliani’s home, office as part of the Ukraine probe. Image via Getty.

Justice Department ends Donald Trump-era limits on grants to ‘sanctuary cities’” via Sarah Lynch of Reuters — The U.S. Justice Department has repealed a policy put in place during Trump’s presidency that cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. In an internal memo, acting head of the Office of Justice Programs Maureen Henneberg said that prior grant recipients, including cities, counties and states that were recipients of the department’s popular $250 million annual grant program for local law enforcement, will no longer be required to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a condition of their funding. She also ordered staff to take down any pending Justice Department grant applications with similar strings attached and start the process over again.

‘There is a tension there’: Publishers draw fire for signing Trump officials” via Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter of The New York Times — After backing out of a deal with Sen. Josh Hawley, Simon & Schuster announced this month that it would publish two books by former Vice President Mike Pence. Dana Canedy, who joined Simon & Schuster as publisher last year, called Pence’s memoir “the definitive book on one of the most consequential presidencies in American history.” That’s when much of the staff erupted in protest. On Monday, editors and other employees at Simon & Schuster delivered a petition to management demanding an end to the deal, with signatures from more than 200 employees and 3,500 outside supporters. Most were probably not aware that the company has also signed the former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.


D.C. officer who suffered heart attack on Jan. 6 calls out Trump for downplaying ‘brutal, savage’ riot” via Tim Elfrink of The Washington Post — On Jan. 6, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone was swarmed by a pro-Trump mob and dragged down the Capitol steps, suffering a mild heart attack and a concussion as he was shocked with a stun gun and beaten. In the months since, Fanone said it had been “difficult” to listen to politicians like Trump, who last month falsely claimed rioters were actually “hugging and kissing” police, downplay the severity of the insurrection. “It’s been very difficult seeing elected officials and other individuals kind of whitewash the events of that day or downplay what happened,” Fanone told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night.

Capitol police officer Michael Fanone called the riot ‘medieval.’

Trump supporter argues alleged death threats against leading Democrats were fueled by pandemic boredom” via Shayna Jacobs of The Washington Post — A fervent Trump supporter on trial on charges of making death threats to prominent elected Democrats before and shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol insisted Tuesday that his statements on social media and in private messages were not to be taken seriously. Brendan Hunt blamed his comments on pandemic-induced boredom and depression when he took the witness stand to testify in his own defense in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn and was confronted by prosecutors with violent, racist, and anti-Semitic statements that he argued did not reflect his beliefs. Hunt’s case is seen as a test of how far violent speech can go before it is a crime.

Doak Campbell Stadium name to remain the same” via Brandon Spencer of WCTV — At Wednesday’s Florida State University President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion meeting, the Task Force decided not to move forward on the recommendation to remove Campbell’s name from the university’s stadium. As of now, no action will be made on the name and it will remain the same. The Task Force did vote to allow the addition of a high-profile acknowledgment for the contributions on the park of Black and other underrepresented minority student-athletes at the stadium.


Lower-than-expected state population totals stoke concerns about the 2020 Census” via Tara Bahrampour, Kate Rabinowitz and Ted Mellnik of The Washington Post — A day after the government released the first results from the 2020 Census, some states and civic organizations were reeling from unexpected results, and wondered if the differences between projections and actual data might be an indicator of problems with the count. But this time, perhaps more than ever, the count faced unprecedented hurdles. They included underfunding, attempts by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question and exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment, the coronavirus pandemic, and natural disasters that struck just before the count ended.

Liberal group pushes Biden to take ‘urgent’ action on Puerto Rico in new report” via Alex Roarty and Syra Ortiz-Blanes of the Miami Herald — Biden must undertake a set of reforms to fundamentally change Puerto Rico’s relationship with the federal government, an influential liberal think tank argued in a report published Wednesday, including measures that would revoke a century-old law and ease the territory’s sizable debt. The report from the Center for American Progress says the steps are necessary to help Puerto Rico reverse a long-term economic decline that has persuaded many of its one-time residents to leave. The U.S. Census reported this week that the island lost more than 400,000 residents from 2010 to 2020, a greater than 10% decline over a decade in which Puerto Rico has been devastated by a fiscal crisis, hurricanes and earthquakes.

What if Matt Gaetz shared nudes in a ‘regular office’? Two HR execs have thoughts.” via Monica Torres of HuffPost — Congress is an unusual workplace, but it does have a place for members to report harassment or discrimination: The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights. Those who report harassment are entitled to a free confidential adviser, and if a member of Congress is found to be at fault, they have to reimburse the government for any monetary award or settlement. Beyond laws that protect against harassment, many companies have policies in place that specifically address misconduct. Common sense dictates that yes, in almost any company, Gaetz would be subject to disciplinary action and likely terminated as it’s pretty egregious behavior; a middle schooler would know better.

What if Matt Gaetz pulled his shenanigans in a regular office? He’d be fired, for sure.

Gaetz may be the only man who’s too gross for Newsmax” via Molly Jong-Fast of the Daily Beast — Just before his incredibly torrid sex trafficking scandal broke, Gaetz said he was thinking of “taking early retirement” and joining Newsmax. However, a Newsmax source quickly batted down the rumor, telling The Daily Beast, “Highly doubt it, highly.” If Gaetz is too creepy for Newsmax, he’s about the only guy who is. In 2017, at least a dozen women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Mark Halperin, who now hosts a weekend show on Newsmax.


Mayor Francis Suarez’s ‘cafecito’ city hall meetup attracts throngs seeking Miami tech momentum” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — More than 100 techies and investors heeded the call of Twitter, turning up Wednesday morning for chat and caffeination outside Miami City Hall in Coconut Grove for Mayor Suarez’s first public “cafecito tech talk.” The event came together almost overnight, as word of an impromptu Miami Tech Week began gathering steam on social media Sunday and continued over the next 48 hours. Entrepreneurs, many maskless, thanks to newly relaxed COVID-19 guidelines, queued for a cup of the promised cafecito from a larger-than-life cup-shaped kiosk and gathered under a tent to hear from Suarez. Suarez continues to be a primary conduit channeling the otherwise diffuse energy among tech and finance professionals from across the country flocking.

Frances Suarez gets caffeinated.

Miami cop probed for repeatedly punching homeless man accused of stealing Publix chicken” via Charles Rabin and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A Miami police officer is under investigation after video surfaced on social media this week showing him shoving a homeless man to the ground inside a supermarket, then punching him repeatedly in the head before handcuffing him. Officer Alexander Garcia-Contreras has been relieved of duty with pay as investigators review whether he acted appropriately in arresting the suspected shoplifter, the department said on Wednesday. The arrest of Willie Barbor happened at Publix. According to court records, the charges of petty theft, resisting without violence, and disorderly conduct were quickly dismissed by prosecutors four days after his arrest.

Robert Runcie pleads not guilty — and asks to have perjury charge dismissed” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Schools Superintendent Runcie formally pleaded not guilty Wednesday, again asking a Broward judge to dismiss the perjury charge filed by a statewide grand jury. In one of three documents filed by the defense Wednesday, Runcie said he is not guilty, demanded a jury trial and waived arraignment, eliminating the need for a May 12 hearing that had been scheduled. A second document is a demand for discovery, a routine request for the state to turn over any documents or witness lists that will be used to prepare to prosecute Runcie. The third filing was a motion to dismiss the case, again a standard motion at the early stage of a criminal case.

Court upholds conviction of officer in slaying of Black man” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — A Florida police officer who gunned down a Black motorist whose car had broken down six years ago could legally be convicted of both manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday. The court said that unusual combination did not constitute double jeopardy. The Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected the contention by Nouman Raja’s attorneys that his 2019 convictions and 25-year prison sentence for the shooting of Corey Jones should be overturned. Raja’s attorneys had argued that since a defendant can’t be convicted of both murder and manslaughter for killing one person, a guilty verdict for manslaughter and attempted murder should also be rejected. But the judges sided with prosecutors by a 3-0 vote, saying Raja’s convictions were for distinct crimes.

Demings: Proposed penny sales tax hike for transportation may appear on 2022 ballot” via Ryan Lynch of Orlando Business Journal — Demings on April 27 said he might revisit a proposed penny sales tax hike if the economy recovers “well enough.” During the county commissioners’ Tuesday meeting, he mentioned the potential for the proposed tax hike to go on the November 2022 ballot. Revenue from the initiative would be used to fund local transportation infrastructure and services. The proposal, previously slated to go on the 2020 ballot, was shelved in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impact on the economy. When the penny sales tax hike first was first proposed, it was projected to generate roughly $596 million per year for a dedicated transportation fund, which would be used on infrastructure as well as services like Lynx and SunRail.

Orlando Magic move offices out of Maitland and into downtown, setting up temporary home next to City Hall” via Alex Galbraith of Orlando Weekly — The Orlando Magic will move their operations into downtown Orlando, temporarily taking up residence in a 23,711-square-foot space next to City Hall on Orange Avenue. The Orlando Business Journal reports the team will move its operations staff out of their office in Maitland at the RDV Sportsplex Athletic Club, taking 200 employees with it. That future home is the long-planned sports & entertainment complex in the shadow of the Amway Center. The $200 million project is expected to include a hotel, seven stories of offices, 100,000 square feet of retail space and a residential community. The project has been in the planning stages for a decade, but the organization hopes to break ground before the end of this year.

Michelle Salzman confident in repercussions for Skanska, but likely not until bridge is complete” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — State Rep. Salzman said she’s confident there will be repercussions for Skanska following Hurricane Sally, but they might not come until the company has finished building the Pensacola Bay Bridge in its entirety. Salzman met with both the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office during the past week to push for both accountability for Skanska meeting its project deadline and remuneration for residents and business owners who have suffered as a result of the bridge’s ongoing outage. “The concern locally for my constituents and my community is to build back from this tragedy, but in the bigger picture, if we don’t send the message, then we set a precedent for this company being able to do this in another part of Florida,” said Salzman.

Michelle Salzman is certain Skanska will be held responsible for repairs to the Pensacola Bay Bridge. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida’s last harness racing track: Pompano Park might be in its stretch run” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The track at Pompano Park is the lone facility in Florida that features harness racing. The action on the racetrack conjures images of chariot races in ancient Rome as horses pull two-wheeled carts, each occupied by a “driver” (much like a jockey), who maneuvers the horse as it speeds around the facility’s 5/8-mile oval track. A measure likely to be considered in Florida’s legislative special session in May, when the body ponders sports betting, could approve decoupling, which would probably mean the end for harness racing at Pompano Park given that it’s the only place for harness racing in the Sunshine State. If decoupling is approved, Florida’s pari-mutuel facilities wouldn’t be required to “couple” slots and card games with races or matches.


Our generation’s ‘Sputnik moment’ has finally arrived” via James Hohmann of The Washington Post — This may be Biden’s chance to seize a Sputnik moment in a way that Barack Obama never managed. With his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, Biden has an opportunity to galvanize Americans to support his ambitious agenda, especially infrastructure investment, by highlighting the national imperative to come together to compete with a rising China. Just as President Dwight D. Eisenhower used Sputnik to build support for his agenda, which included the interstate highway system, beating Beijing requires Biden to rally support for expanding broadband, 5G, semiconductors, electric cars, artificial intelligence, and so much more. A decade after Obama tried to summon Americans, that Sputnik moment may have finally arrived.


What Chris Sprowls is reading — “Florida’s school voucher expansion” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — Florida already has among the most expansive school-choice offerings in the nation, and this week the Legislature expanded private-school vouchers to more families. Florida established the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) program in 2019 to help low-income students attend private schools. In the 2020-2021 school year, more than 36,000 students participated, with an average scholarship of nearly $7,000. The bill increases the eligible household income cap from 300% to 375% of the poverty level, about $100,000 for a family of four, though it prioritizes households under 185%. The enrollment cap will continue to escalate by 1% of public-school enrollment annually, allowing roughly 28,000 new students each year.

A conservative professor’s plea to DeSantis — veto HB 233” via Professor X for Florida Politics — HB 233 was written to protect Florida public university professors like myself — conservative or moderates working in a climate where liberal, ‘woke’ politics dominate and the failure to espouse these beliefs threatens careers. I am a tenured professor at one of our flagship universities. While my politics are complex, I am probably best described as a ‘closet conservative’ working in an extremely liberal field. Unlike literally 99% of my colleagues, I will be voting for DeSantis in 2022. Surveying the faculty will accomplish little; there are already jokes circulating about how professors intend to give fake answers to confound the results. The recording provisions of HB 233 are particularly troublesome. Decontextualized recordings are red meat to clickbait-oriented journalists, and professors will self-censor and stifle debate to avoid being targeted.

DeSantis does disease” via Gail Collins of The New York Times — Perhaps you didn’t notice, but cruise ships haven’t been sailing out of American ports lately. Something about, um, a virus. Many of us heard the first squeaks of a future pandemic when waves of infection broke out on a few alleged pleasure boats, leaving their multitudinous guests stranded on board, hostage to the new plague. The industry has recently been on hiatus. Florida, under the leadership of DeSantis, is suing the federal government to open up the harbors. At the same time, it’s prohibiting cruise lines from asking passengers for proof of vaccination. We pause here to note that at this moment in time, DeSantis is regarded as one of the leading candidates for the next Republican presidential nomination. DeSantis’s political committee has thus far received nearly $1 million from the owner of a pier that gets most of that Key West traffic.

Bill makes unfair, unnecessary, unreasonable changes to labor unions” via Jordan W. Scott of the Tallahassee Democrat — More than 100 union members have shown up to the Civic Center to speak against SB 1014, and its House companion bill HB 835, at least three times as it sits in its final committee before it would head to the Senate floor. Each time it has been postponed, but make no mistake, the threat of this bill remains. SB 1014 would take bargaining power away from public sector employees. It impacts state workers, university and college employees, faculty, graduate assistants and many other public sector workers. If made law, it would eliminate automatic dues deduction for union members. It would also decertify any union locals that have less than 50% membership of their bargaining unit.

Internship tax credits are an idea we can all support” via Shevrin Jones for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Because of the pandemic, countless Floridians have lost hours, their jobs or their businesses through no fault of their own. These challenges call for solutions that boost internship opportunities for students in Florida. That’s why I recently filed Senate Bill 258, a bill to create a new Internship Tax Credit Program to incentivize small businesses via a tax credit for each degree-seeking student intern that they hire for an internship. I am encouraged that colleagues on both sides of the aisle recognize the impact this can have for young people as our bill moves through Senate committees with unanimous support. By encouraging businesses to provide our students with opportunities to advance their knowledge and experience, we can prepare them for a career after they graduate.

Nakesa Barnhill: Crime survivors deserve better protections in Florida” via Florida Politics — Five years ago, when my two-year-old son Amari was murdered, my employer gave me just five days off. A week later, I returned to work because I couldn’t afford to lose my job. This is why I and other Florida crime survivors are calling upon state leaders to give victims more support — including a reasonable period of time off — following a criminal or violent incident. Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice believes that state policy should provide up to 30 days of leave for those who need to access services, or take measures to ensure their safety, or grieve the loss of a loved one. No one should have to go through what I did.

Runcie overstayed his welcome, and it’s time to go” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Runcie arrived as Broward’s new superintendent more than nine years ago as the desperately needed savior of a school district reeling from scandal and controversy and under the harsh microscope of a grand jury. Runcie will soon depart, facing a felony charge of perjury brought by another grand jury. The Broward County School District needs new leadership and a fresh start. Again. Runcie offered to resign Tuesday at an emotional workshop of the school board in the face of certain disciplinary action by a board that clearly has lost faith in him. Ten months after Parkland, this editorial board called for Runcie’s resignation because of the systemic failures the shooting revealed.


The bill banning transgender athletes is alive again. But now, lawmakers removed the part about inspecting genitals.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The House passes a bill banning vaccine passports, saying private businesses cannot ask customers to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

— The House has also approved a bill making it harder to vote by mail, and a bill that punishes local governments that try to do something about gun violence.

— The House also passed a bill making it illegal for social media platforms to ban users who spread lies and misinformation on their platforms.

— Yeah … it was that kind of day in the Florida Legislature.

— And finally, a Florida Man is accused of carjacking his own vehicle.

To listen, click on the image below:


NFL seeks return to normalcy with draft on Lake Erie shores” via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press — That’s not exactly the slogan for the NFL draft being staged Thursday through Saturday in Cleveland. It’s more at the top of the league’s wish list as it allows some prospects and fans to attend the festivities. Sure, the draft is the NFL’s most popular event other than the Super Bowl and opening day. The key here for the league is that, just as last season was completed on time, and the Super Bowl, albeit scaled down from a mega-event, was held on schedule, this draft will be as close as currently possible to the real thing. “We have to do this,” says Jon Barker, NFL head of live event productions. Another sign of business as usual is many, perhaps all the clubs, will be back at their facilities to conduct the selections. There are requirements and coronavirus protocols in place, of course.

After going all virtual in 2020, the three-day draft, one of America’s biggest, nongame sporting events, returns with thousands of fans. Image via AP.

Let’s rock! Cleveland goes all-out for NFL Draft (but will Mother Nature cooperate?)” via Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald — The NFL Draft is the most made-for-TV event in an increasingly made-for-TV sport. The league has prepared for 50,000 people to fill this city’s streets and parks over each of the next three days, making the 86th Player Selection Meeting pro football’s biggest mass gathering since the pandemic began. Of course, basically, none of the actual action will take place here in Northeast Ohio. The teams these throngs of out-of-town visitors support, and the executives making those franchises’ most important decisions, won’t be anywhere near the league’s sprawling soundstage on the banks of Lake Erie. Chris Grier and Brian Flores will be back in Davie, phoning their picks into an on-site team rep, who will relay them on to the league.

NFL draft could see record run of quarterbacks taken” via Josh Dubow of The Associated Press — As soon as the San Francisco 49ers traded three first-round picks to move up to No. 3 overall, it became clear that quarterbacks would come off the board at a record pace at the NFL draft. While QBs are widely expected to go 1-2-3 for just the third time in the common draft era that started in 1967, there are still questions about how many others will follow in the Top 10 and first round. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are expected to be the top two picks, Jacksonville and the New York Jets, with the Niners likely choosing among Mac Jones, Trey Lance and Justin Fields at No. 3. That would match 1971 and 1999 as the only drafts with quarterbacks taken with the top three picks. A record could be set with four QBs going in the top four if Atlanta drafts the successor to Matt Ryan or trades down to a quarterback-needy team.

A receiver? A tackle? A trade-down? GM Chris Grier is on the clock for Dolphins” via Dave Hyde for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Cut through the noise and the nonsense and do the math. The Dolphins sit at No. 6. Three quarterbacks will be drafted with the first three picks. Three top-graded prospects remain by most rankings: Florida tight-end-but-so-much-more Kyle Pitts, LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. Who falls? Who knows? But the last player standing is the Dolphins pick unless another surprise comes. Like trading down, which could happen. Like taking one of the smaller Alabama receivers, which they could trade down to do. The Dolphins delivered one surprise Tuesday by spending $6 million to send left guard Erik Flowers to play in Washington next season.

— ALOE —

What Jimmy Miller is reading — “Carmelo Anthony memoir coming out in September” via The Associated Press — Anthony’s life story includes a great deal besides basketball. The 10-time NBA All-Star has a memoir coming out on Sept. 14 that publisher Gallery Books calls “raw and inspirational,” tracing his rise from housing projects in New York City and Baltimore to becoming an Olympic gold medalist and one of professional basketball’s top scorers. The book is called “Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised” and is co-written by D. Watkins. “I’m a Black kid from the bottom,” the 37-year-old Anthony writes in an excerpt of the book shared Wednesday by Gallery. “I had to fight through some of the roughest housing projects in America. How did I, a kid who’d had so many hopes, dreams and expectations beat out of him, make it here at all?”

Carmelo Anthony’s autobiography has much more to offer than basketball.

What Danny Burgess is reading — “RV industry continues to grow in Florida, spurred in part by the pandemic” via Ileana Najarro of the Tampa Bay Times — Lorrie Atkinson, 60, and her husband have been living out of their camper for four years at the Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa. She found it’s a cheaper alternative to renting and homeownership, allowing them to save for retirement. In the past year, plagued by the coronavirus pandemic, Atkinson has noticed a demographic shift among her RV neighbors. “There are a lot more families coming in,” she said. “I’m seeing people up here teaching their kids school. I’m seeing other people up here working.” The recreational vehicle industry, both nationally and locally, was already on the rise in sales and RV park development, with customers skewing younger and younger.

Bear busts through Naples porch screen to have a dip in the pool” via Megan Myers of NBC 2 — A homeowner in Golden Gate Estates woke up to find a large hole in her porch screen. She quickly discovered the screen was ripped open by a bear. The homeowner said the bear has come into her pool and sat on the ledge multiple times. He normally splashes around in the water and minds his own business. The broken screen is the first and only thing the bear has damaged at the Naples property.

Unusually pale dolphin spotted off Florida coast may be albino” via Garfield Hilton of the Orlando Sentinel — An unusually pale dolphin swimming in the Gulf of Mexico was captured on video camera. Caitlin Mackey posted the video Sunday of the lightly colored bottlenose dolphin in the Clearwater Basin Marina. The dolphin was swimming with a few others just along the side of an embankment. Officials at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium said they won’t label the dolphin as “albino” until they do more research. The dolphin, nicknamed “Cherub,” is less than 1-year-old and the third known calf of a dolphin nicknamed “Guardian.”


Happy 67th birthday to ace photographer Mark Wallheiser and former State Rep. Renier Diaz de la Portilla. It’s also Gary Farmer‘s birthday.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Staff Reports


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