It’s been said for decades that if Charlie Crist could just shake every voter’s hand in the state, he could win any election.
“He will try to shake every hand,” observed John Morgan, the Orlando rainmaker, currently unaffiliated. “The thing about Charlie, he feeds off people. He truly enjoys the retail politics in politics.”
Crist, the Democratic Congressman and once a Republican Governor, is ready to announce the “Charlie Crist for Governor 3.0” campaign Tuesday in his hometown of St. Petersburg.
There may be no politician in Florida with more history, more career twists and turns, or more wins and losses. There are few whom Florida voters know better. There’s also almost no one with more baggage.
Yet there may be no one in Florida with Crist’s gift for person-to-person charm, with voters, with volunteers, with lawmakers, with journalists, and, perhaps most significantly, with donors.
He is notoriously late for every event because he gets distracted to talk with every person he meets on his way over. Afterward, Crist never gets hustled out a back door.
“Charlie loves people,” said Bob Poe, the former Florida Democratic Party chair who battled against Crist for years and then ran his independent fundraising committee, Charlie Crist for Florida, the last time Crist ran statewide, for Charlie Crist for Governor 2.0, in 2014. “He’s the happy warrior. He’s the happy candidate. He’s ready to go, 24/7.
“He likes to do it. He enjoys this connection with people. And he is truly one of the best individual fundraisers I’ve ever known,” Poe added.
It doesn’t matter what Crist might stand for; he’s Charlie. Charlie.
Still, in 2021 and ‘22, retail politics might be to winning Florida statewide elections what big-box book stores are to selling books: so 2006.
The last time Crist won a statewide election in Florida was in 2006, when fewer than 5 million votes were cast. There were more than 8 million votes in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Most likely, there will be far more than that in 2022. Last year there were 11 million votes counted in the presidential election.
Florida Democrats await moves by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the true progressive who won statewide in 2018 and then was dubbed “A New Hope” for the party; by Rep. Val Demings, the fiery Orlando Congresswoman with a background straight out of Central Casting and a national appeal; and perhaps by others.
Beyond winning the Democratic Primary, a Democrat still faces the matter of finding a way to beat sitting Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who seemingly has made all the right moves, and who appears well positioned in polls to defeat any Democrat.
Both Fried and Demings can appeal to broad communities of the Democratic Party, not just on policy positions but as symbols for political movements. They’re likely to attract support and money from people and organizations who otherwise know nothing about them.
The same is true of DeSantis. In 2018, he showed Republican Movement politics can do retail politics. His Republican primary challenger Adam Putnam was very much like Crist: brilliant at retail politics.
You remember Adam Putnam, right? Red hair? Came to your Kiwanis Club barbecue? Knew your kids’ names? Trampled in DeSantis’ political movement stampede.
Celebrating end-of-Session in style — The first item on Madison Rowe’s to-do list after surviving her first Legislative Session was to get hitched. Sunday evening, Rowe of Red Hills Strategies married Ethan Dorval at Loblolly Rise Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia. The newlyweds are off to honeymoon in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Congratulations to the happy couple!
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@Liz_Cheney: The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.
—@RepStephMurphy: I was rescued by the U.S. Navy and given refuge in America, so I know America is a powerful and compassionate country. I’m glad more refugees fleeing violence and persecution will have the chance to find safe haven, raise families, and contribute to their new home.
—@NateMonroe: All performative all the time. Proof of vaccination, just like masks, are a tool Florida could use to responsibly return to normal, but Ronnie D is courting internet-brain freaks who believe online furniture stores are trafficking children, so this is what we get.
—@DavidJollyFL: The threat of COVID is over when science says it is, not when politicians say it is. Be smart, people. Enjoy reopening. But take precautions. Follow public health guidance. Willful ignorance is a dangerous drug.
—@ChristianSelig: Our province today: several people are now in the hospital with COVID after going out to celebrate immediately after their first vaccine. I just …
—@FBSaunders: Quick reflection … I’ve just become fully vaccinated against a deadly novel virus a little more than a year after it appeared in Florida. This country can do amazing stuff when it works together.
— Callista Gingrich (@CallyGingrich) April 30, 2021
—@DaveWeigel: How’s your Monday going? Here’s mine: A candidate I had described as a “gadfly” in a story demanded a correction by emailing every single one of my colleagues.
—@MattYglesias: If a fancy restaurant takes all the meat off its menu and leaves the prix fixe the same, that’s inflation.
The world may change and evolve. But the one thing that will never change, we’re all part of one big family. pic.twitter.com/TUU5848QYR
— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) May 3, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Mother’s Day — 5; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 6; Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 13; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 24; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 24; Memorial Day — 27; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 30; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 38; Father’s Day — 47; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 52; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 59; 4th of July — 61; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 66; MLB All-Star Game — 70; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 80; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 80; The NBA Draft — 86; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 88; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 94; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 112; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 122; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 143; ‘Dune’ premieres — 150; MLB regular season ends — 152; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 158; World Series Game 1 — 175; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 182; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 185; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 206; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 220; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 227; Super Bowl LVI — 285; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 325; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 367; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 430; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 521; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 556.
— TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis invalidates COVID-19 restrictions statewide, says there’s no need ‘to be policing people at this point’” via James Call of USA Today — DeSantis suspended local COVID-19 emergency orders and signed a proposal lawmakers approved last week that limits the government’s ability to impose mask requirements and other social distancing measures used to combat the coronavirus this past year. The measure, Senate Bill 2006, also makes permanent DeSantis’ executive order that prohibits “vaccine passports,” saying it is unnecessary “to be policing people at this point.” The legislation also makes it more difficult for local governments to order measures such as wearing masks or limiting businesses by requiring emergency orders to be narrowly tailored and be in seven-day increments totaling no more than 42 days.
“DeSantis order ending local mask rules does not apply to schools” via Jeffrey Solochek the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis issued an emergency order immediately ending “local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on individuals and businesses.” It doesn’t apply to school districts. Facing confusion from school district officials across Florida, the Department of Education issued a statement late in the evening to clarify the governor’s remarks and actions. The order, effective immediately, suspended pandemic-related local restrictions through June and “only impacts city and county governments, and does NOT impact school districts and individual schools,” the department said. According to the clarification, the same holds true for a second order that invalidates all remaining local emergency COVID-19 orders that are still in place after July 1. Neither order impacts “any school district’s policies for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
“Rick Kriseman outraged at DeSantis’ local emergency order ban” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — St. Petersburg Mayor Kriseman blasted DeSantis after his announcement lifting all local emergency orders. “Instead of the Legislature and the Governor preempting cities and counties, they should be calling us all up and saying thank you,” Kriseman said, standing on the same patio the Governor made his announcement at earlier Monday. “What could have happened in the state of Florida — as far as the number of hospitalizations and deaths — didn’t happen because of the actions that cities and counties took, that this legislation directly addresses, and in large part, prohibits.” The Mayor criticized DeSantis’ move to terminate the local emergency orders through June. After that, the termination is made possible by new laws that take effect July 1.
To be clear, cities like St. Pete, Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Miami Beach, saved Florida and the governor's behind throughout this pandemic. Can you imagine if each city had been led by Ron DeSantis? How many lives would have been lost? What would our economy look like today?
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) May 3, 2021
— EPILOGUE —
“Elections measure goes to DeSantis” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis formally received an elections bill that was one of the most controversial issues of the 2021 Legislative Session. DeSantis will have until May 18 to act on the bill (SB 90) but has already said he will sign it. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill Thursday, the next-to-last day of the annual Legislative Session, over fierce opposition from Democrats. The bill, in part, would place additional restrictions on voting by mail, including on the use of drop boxes for ballots. Republican supporters said the measure is designed to ensure election security, but critics said it would lead to voter suppression.
“How unemployment got lost during Florida’s legislative session” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — With the state’s unemployment system inoperable, hundreds of thousands of desperate Floridians bombarded lawmakers’ phone lines begging for help filing their claims. Lawmakers from both parties pledged to reform the antiquated system. Yet by the time they convened months later in Tallahassee for their annual legislative session this March, the unemployment crisis had been eclipsed by hot-button culture war topics such as penalizing social media companies, banning vaccine “passports,” voting reforms and “anti-riot” legislation.
“Higher-ed aid programs face changes” via Ryan Dailey of The News Service of Florida — Lawmakers during this year’s Session eliminated grants that help students at some private colleges pay tuition and got rid of an annual textbook stipend for Bright Futures scholarship recipients — but stopped short of upending the way the $650 million Bright Futures program is funded. Senators proposed that scholarship funding be tied to the amount of money appropriated to Bright Futures in the state budget. Critics argued it could threaten the funding for the program and compromise a “guarantee” of scholarships covering 75% or 100% of tuition and fees. The state’s new budget “maintains Bright Futures students’ awards at levels that are consistent with current law,” Senate Education Appropriations Chairman Doug Broxson said as he presented the final higher-education budget last week.
“Governor proposed protecting college students’ right to party. What happened?” via Meleah Lyden and Emma McAvoy of WUFT — To party or not to party? As college students across Florida wrestled during the pandemic over public health restrictions, including whether it was safe to visit bars, nightclubs or house parties, Gov. DeSantis weighed in. The Republican governor said Florida was exploring a bill of rights that would protect students — generally at lower risk from the virus — from being punished by their universities if they violated social-distancing rules, mask-wearing violations, or other public health measures. “It’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party,” DeSantis said in September. “That’s what college kids do, and they’re at low risk.”
“Lawmakers spiked pharmacy bills after DeSantis officials moved to debunk claims pushed by advocacy group” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Health care officials working in the DeSantis administration appear to have taken an unusual step to undercut the claims of independent pharmacy groups by labeling them as “flawed” and inaccurate. The message wasn’t lost on lawmakers, who promptly spiked a pair of bills pushed by the groups. Last year, DeSantis pushed aggressively to promote programs that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Floridians. Some of those initiatives rested on a fault line between independent pharmacy groups and pharmacy benefit managers that work for larger chain stores and use bulk buying strategies to get lower prescription drug prices for members.
“Shevrin Jones predicts ‘uprising of the people’ over GOP’s legislative wins” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Sen. Jones believes Floridians will mount protests in the wake of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Republican-led Legislature successfully routed Democrats during the Session, passing most of Republicans’ and DeSantis‘ priorities. The slate included a controversial anti-riot bill, stricter election laws, and a measure to ban transgender girls from girls’ sports, in what Jones, a West Park Democrat, called the “most disastrous Legislative Session” in his nine years in the Legislature. “The people are mad as hell at what happened in Tallahassee this last Legislative Session, and I can guarantee you, I know they put HB 1 out, but I can tell you that there is going to be an uprising of the people to show who’s really in charge,” Jones said.
“‘Much work needs to be done ’: SPLC reflects on 2021 Session” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund has released its reflection on this year’s Legislative Session after it came to a close on Friday. The consensus of the advocacy group: there’s much work left to be done in the Sunshine State. Mirroring the response of other civil rights groups, the SPLC Action Fund condemned the passage of the Republican-backed anti-riot bill (HB 1). The legislation stiffens penalties against violent protest, as well as protects police budgets from cuts by allowing local lawmakers to appeal proposed reductions to the Governor and his Cabinet. Opponents of the legislation, including the SPLC, argue that it attempts to silence protesters.
“North Florida has key projects funded under Panhandle Appropriations Chair” via Blaise Gainey of WFSU — North Florida is often an afterthought when people think about Florida as a whole. The same sometimes happens during Session when money is doled out for member projects. Part of this is due to representation — there are more people in South and Central Florida, and that rewards those regions with more representatives. This Session, however, the Appropriations Chair is Panama City Republican Rep. Jay Trumbull. I spoke with him and another North Florida representative about how they worked to make sure the panhandle got a slice of the pie. North Florida can often be overlooked since there aren’t as many delegates as more densely populated areas.
“Jason Shoaf secures $29 million in special project funding” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The funding will go toward more than a dozen projects within Florida House District 7, which includes Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jefferson, Lafayette, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla and parts of Leon. “We’ve worked really hard this session to allocate state funding wisely and in a way that will have a really meaningful impact on our communities,” Shoaf said. “I’m proud to have secured $29 million in funding for projects across North Florida.” The millions will go toward myriad projects, including $19 million to build a new school in Calhoun County and $1 million for the Liberty County Jail improvements; $1.2 million into the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communication System and $650,000 for the Madison County Agricultural and Expo Center.
—”Pensacola area lawmakers sent 15 bills to the governor’s desk, find out what they are” via Jim Little of PNJ.com
“State parks win ‘record funding’ in new budget” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The Florida Legislature poured more than $67 million into the state’s parks this year. The budget marks a record year for the parks, according to Gil Ziffer, State Parks Foundation President. “In every sense, this has been one of the most successful Legislative Sessions ever as far as Florida’s award-winning state parks are concerned. This is a year of record funding,” Ziffer said in a written statement. Should the funding all survive DeSantis‘ veto pen, $50 million will be used for facility repairs and other improvements. Land and recreation grant programs will receive $13.8 million. Recreational trail programs will receive $1.5 million, and $2 million will go toward Florida Recreational Development Assistance programs.
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Erica Chanti, Christopher Finkbeiner, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Chesapeake Utilities, Skydio
Ken Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Medallia
Eliakim Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: Novelle Health Partners, Sharkey Air
Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Florida League of Cities
SPOTTED — Ballard Partners on Bloomberg Government’s 2020 Top-Performing Lobbying Firms list. The Florida-based firm founded by Brian Ballard placed third on the list of firms with the largest increase in revenue last year as well as the list of firms with the highest revenue per client.
“Florida Republicans rushed to curb mail voting after Donald Trump’s attacks on the practice. Now some fear it could lower GOP turnout.” via Amy Gardner of The Washington Post — Virtually every narrow Republican victor of the past generation owes their victory, at least in part, to mail voting. Now, some Florida Republicans are reacting with alarm after the GOP-dominated state legislature passed a far-reaching bill that puts new restrictions on the use of mail ballots. Not only are GOP lawmakers reversing statutes that their own predecessors put in place, but they are also curtailing a practice that millions of state Republicans use, despite Trump’s relentless and baseless claims that it invites fraud. These Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril, too.
“Former State Attorney Aramis Ayala exploring a run for U.S. Senate” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Ayala is considering a run for U.S. Senate, according to a new ad on Twitter. “You may know me as a colleague, a friend, family, and a former state attorney here in Florida,” Ayala says in the ad. “You know me as a lover of truth and justice, a principle fighter for what is right, someone who bases decisions on facts and evidence, one who values and respects science.” “I am exploring a run for the United States Senate, and if I do, I will be prepared to win. You know, I can be trusted to defend what is right and will always stand up for Florida,” Ayala says.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
— Aramis Donell Ayala (@AramisAyala) May 3, 2021
“‘Let’s keep Florida open’: Jimmy Patronis kicks off reelection campaign” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Patronis kicked off his 2022 reelection campaign on Monday with the release of a new ad touting his accomplishments over the past four years. The ad, titled “Let’s keep Florida open,” opens with Patronis wiping down tables in his family’s Panama City restaurant, Capt. Anderson’s before hopping into his truck for a dashcam one-on-one with voters. He highlighted measurables since he took office: 3,920 fraud arrests, $167 million in ill-gotten gains returned to victims, his work to expedite post-Hurricane Michael insurance claims and more than $1.2 billion in unclaimed property returns. So far, Patronis is the only candidate running for CFO in 2022. He has about $2.1 million banked between his campaign and political committee, Treasure Florida.
“Pinellas dominoes could fall
if when Charlie Crist runs for Governor” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — As Crist edges closer to running for Governor in 2022, talk is picking up about Democrats and Republicans who may run to replace him, and the falling political dominoes that might result as some of those candidates leave offices they now hold. On the Democratic side, speculation on Crist’s congressional seat focuses on state Rep. Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn, both of whom are considered almost certain to run — though neither will say so outright, partly out of deference to Crist. Several others are also mentioned, including state Rep. Michele Rayner and even Mayor Rick Kriseman.
First domino — “Anna Paulina Luna announces congressional bid in FL CD 13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Luna has announced another congressional campaign in hopes of flipping Florida’s 13th Congressional District red, about six months after her loss to incumbent Crist. “I said in November that it wasn’t the end of the road for me because patriotism and public service are lifelong endeavors, and today I’m proud to announce that I’m back and am running for Congress in 2022,” Luna said in a statement. Luna made headlines as a vocal Trump supporter with a brazen attitude toward guns and political opponents, like Crist; rhetoric she seems intent on keeping as she heads into 2022. In announcing her campaign, the 31-year-old Air Force veteran seems to be reiterating similar campaign rhetoric, specifically, blasting Crist by sending out a mock resume of the Congressman.
What do you think?
— Rebekah Jones #Vaccinated (@GeoRebekah) May 3, 2021
“Brian Clowdus enters HD 6 race” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A second Republican has entered the race for Bay County-based House District 6. Panama City Republican Clowdus announced he is running for the seat currently held by term-limited Rep. Trumbull, joining Bay County Commissioner Philip “Griff” Griffitts. Clowdus is an Alabama native who moved to Florida last year. In a news release, his campaign said the Panhandle has “always been his second home” and that “for three generations, he and his family have continued to grow deep, sandy roots in their favorite place on earth.” After moving to the state, Clowdus quickly became involved with the Bay County Republican Party to help reelect Trump, knocking on “thousands of doors,” making “thousands of calls,” and volunteering at “countless events.”
“Adam Brandon to run in HD 16 instead of HD 12 for ‘family reasons’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rogers Towers lawyer Brandon, who had opened a campaign account to run in House District 12, announced Monday his intention to shift his campaign to HD 16. A media release cites “family reasons” for the move. “My family and I are moving within Jacksonville to be closer to our work, our kids’ schools, and our church,” Brandon said. “Over a decade ago, when I was on active duty, we bought our first home to be near Naval Station Mayport. We love our city, and this move puts our family in a better location for everything going on in our lives today.” Both seats are in Jacksonville. The HD 12 seat is in the Arlington area, while HD 16 is in Mandarin.
— STATEWIDE —
“No surprise: Florida ranked No. 2 on CEO Mag’s best for business list (again)” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — A decade after Florida first edged North Carolina out of the number two spot on CEO Magazine’s 2012 Best States for Business list, the Sunshine State scored its tenth straight number two ranking. Then-Governor Rick Scott often touted the rankings and his friendly competition with Texas, which has been ranked #1 on the list even longer. Since that lead has never been smaller, thanks most recently to DeSantis and his open-for-business posture during the pandemic. DeSantis undoubtedly deserves credit for taking the political risk to keep the state open, and he received his share of accolades for efforts to lure business in this year’s story.
Governor, legislators look to raise awareness for Tardive Dyskinesia” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis and state lawmakers are seeking to highlight Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) Awareness Week, beginning Sunday. The Governor has signed a proclamation supporting TD Awareness Week, which runs from May 2-8. Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez and GOP Rep. John Snyder also recently joined Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA) President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter to highlight measures from the Senate and House aiming to bring attention to those suffering from TD. The condition is described as “an involuntary, sometimes irreversible movement disorder that can occur due to use of antipsychotics, commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, or other medications,” according to an explainer from the Movement Disorders Policy Coalition.
“Rick Scott and Jimmy Patronis ally in line for top job at Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Florida’s state-created insurer may hire a long-time ally of Sen. Scott as its next general counsel and chief legal officer. Tim Cerio, whose law firm has worked for Chief Financial Officer Patronis’ political committee, is one of two remaining finalists for the job of top lawyer at Citizens Property Insurance. Cerio was Scott’s general counsel for two years when he was governor. Cerio currently works at the Tallahassee offices of GrayRobinson, the powerhouse politically connected law firm run by former House Speaker Dean Cannon.
“Longtime head of Florida foster care agency resigns to take new job” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — The head of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program has resigned to take a new position as the chief executive officer of a nonprofit that works with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Alan Abramowitz led the state-funded program for about 10 years. It receives roughly $53 million each year to provide advocacy for roughly 35,000 children in Florida’s foster care system. His departure comes as the program came under fire earlier this year from state lawmakers and others following a study that found that the agency was serving fewer children even though state lawmakers had increased its annual funding by $10 million. The report also cast doubt on whether Florida’s model of volunteer advocates backed up by program attorneys provided the best representation for children.
“Can a teacher fly a Black Lives Matter flag at school? A Florida court will consider” via Sydney Boles of WJCT — Amy Donofrio, an English teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, hung a Black Lives Matter flag outside her classroom to mark it as a safe space for students to process the death of Reginald Boston, a member of an at-risk student group. This March, Jacksonville’s public school district told Donofrio to take the flag down, saying it violated district policy on political speech by employees. Donofrio said no. So she was reassigned to nonteaching duties. Donofrio is now represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The suit alleges the flag’s removal was a violation of her First Amendment rights.
Personnel note: Avery Jaffe now communications director for Mastercard — Jaffe has joined Mastercard as director of North America communications, he announced in a Monday email. Jaffe served as a regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2020 election cycle. In the 2018 cycle, he was the communications lead and Central Florida press secretary for Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign. He is a graduate of George Washington University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in political communication. “Over the course of this year, I hope to be able to provide a steady stream of intelligence and insights from Mastercard on America’s road to economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jaffe said of his new position.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports 39 coronavirus resident deaths, 3,075 new cases” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s resident death toll from coronavirus rose to 35,307 with the addition of 39 more reported fatalities on Monday while also adding 3,075 more positive COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 2,245,853. It’s the second day in a row with cases below 4,000 and less than 50 reported deaths. For the week, infections are down slightly while reported deaths ticked up when comparing Sunday-Sunday numbers. From April 25-May 1, the state reported 34,194 new cases than 39,683 reported from April 18-24. In that same time period, the state reported 420 resident deaths than the 409 the previous week.
“Doing away with masks in schools may be ‘premature,’ says USF infectious disease expert” via Kerry Sheridan of WUSF — In mid-April, Florida’s education commissioner urged schools to abandon mandatory mask policies in the fall, saying district face-covering policies do not impact the spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, chair of pediatrics at the USF Morsani College of Medicine, said an edict like that for the entire state might be premature. “We have about a 9% positivity rate, at least in Hillsborough County. For our positive tests and children under 18, it’s a 17% positivity rate. So, we have no vaccinations for anyone under 16 years of age and really no opportunity to realize those until hopefully the late fall. So, I think it’s a little premature to make that kind of broad sweeping statements about the entire state.”
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Jerry Demings blasts DeSantis order nixing emergency orders: ‘We expect better’” via Stephan Hudak and Ryan Gillespie — Officials across Central Florida were blindsided when Gov. DeSantis said he would be issuing an executive order lifting any similar order signed by cities and counties relating to COVID-19. The order wasn’t publicly distributed until the evening, leaving local officials in the dark on what it did, and what effects it would have on their communities. Orange County Mayor Demings received a copy of the order minutes after he wrapped up a regularly scheduled news conference, and later issued a written statement blasting DeSantis – and Republicans – for what he saw as an attempt to seize power from left-leaning local officials
“Leon County says mask ordinance ‘no longer in effect’ after DeSantis executive order” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County on Monday evening said its mask ordinance was “no longer in effect” now that Florida Gov. DeSantis issued executive orders countermanding local coronavirus emergency measures. The Governor signed into law a measure (SB 2006) that goes into effect in July, giving him the ability to override local ordinances. But he also issued an order that immediately suspended city and county-level restrictions. Leon County’s mask mandate was enacted last June. Its enforceability, like others around the state, was nullified by an earlier DeSantis executive order that no fines or penalties could be levied by local governments.
“Palm Beach County officials mull impact of DeSantis order ending COVID-19 measures” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — County officials on Monday were still assessing how DeSantis‘ suspension of mask mandates and other measures that local governments have imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19 would impact their efforts to stem coronavirus infections. After signing a bill that bans “vaccine passports” and limits local governments’ emergency powers, DeSantis signed an executive order “invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID-19 orders” on July 1, using his executive power to suspend them immediately in the meantime. In his executive order, DeSantis pointed to “a select number of local governments (that) continue to impose mandates and business restrictions, without proper consideration of improving conditions and with no end in sight.”
“Palm Beach County reopens rental assistance portal” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Palm Beach County has reopened its rental assistance portal for past-due tenants who fell behind on their payments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The online portal has been opened twice since March 11. Both times it soon closed after receiving high volumes of applications. It opened for a third time Monday morning. As of May 3, officials received 3,105 applications for rent and utility assistance and disbursed $5.6 million, a spokeswoman said. Last week, the agency said rental assistance applicants who were approved received an average of $5,500, while those seeking help for utilities received an average of $276. The money comes from Palm Beach County’s $45.2 million share of $25 billion in federal funding for rental assistance.
“Move by DeSantis to suspend local COVID-19 orders may thwart Sarasota mask mandate push” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — During a bill-signing in St. Petersburg, DeSantis said ending local restrictions was the “evidence-based thing to do” considering the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. “I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that, you really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data,” DeSantis said. Last month, Sarasota City Commissioners decided by a 3-2 vote to begin the process of resurrecting the citywide mask mandate that had been put in place last July – but was allowed to expire in February.
“Santa Rosa County School District drops mask mandate immediately” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal — The School Board voted in a special meeting Monday morning to remove the district’s mask mandate. The order has stirred debate during the board’s recent meetings, including one last month that led to parents being escorted out by law enforcement. The mandate’s removal is effective immediately. Face coverings are now only recommended in schools. The District called the special meeting after the state Surgeon General rescinded a public health advisory from July that required face masks be used when social distancing wasn’t possible. That public health advisory was used by the district to form its mask mandate.
The Santa Rosa Country (FL) School Board met today to discuss lifting the mask mandate in schools. When Asian-American Chair Wei Ueberschaer attempted to read her statement, the audience yells “you’re a communist” and “this is Santa Rosa County, not China.” pic.twitter.com/FoPoYUxwmW
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) May 3, 2021
— CORONA NATION —
“Joe Biden administration to cover vaccine fees” via The News Service of Florida — As part of the Biden administration’s efforts to provide free access to COVID-19 shots, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday it will pay administration fees to health care providers who vaccinate patients enrolled in health plans that don’t cover the fees or that require patient cost-sharing. Providers can submit vaccine administration fee claims for reimbursement to the online web portal called the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund. Providers must show that claims were submitted to patients’ insurance plans and that the claims were denied or partially paid to tap into available reimbursements.
“Millions are saying no to the vaccines. What are they thinking?” via Derek Thompson of The Atlantic — The mega-popular podcast host Joe Rogan advised his young listeners to skip the COVID-19 vaccine. “I think you should get vaccinated if you’re vulnerable,” Rogan said. “But if you’re 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go, ‘No.’” Rogan’s comments drew widespread condemnation. But his view is surprisingly common. One in four Americans says they don’t plan to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and about half Republicans under 50 say they won’t get a vaccine. This partisan vaccine gap is already playing out in the real world.
“The FDA is set to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those 12-15 years old by early next week.” via Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere and Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old by early next week, according to federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans, opening up the nation’s vaccination campaign to millions more Americans. The news is highly anticipated: Eager parents have been counting down the weeks since Pfizer announced results from its trial in adolescents, showing the vaccine is at least as effective in that age group as it is in adults. Vaccinating children is also key to raising the level of immunity in the population and bringing down the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
“CVS, Walgreens wasted more coronavirus vaccine than most states combined” via Kaiser Health News — Two national pharmacy chains that the federal government entrusted to inoculate people against COVID-19 account for the lion’s share of wasted vaccine doses, according to government data obtained by Kaiser Health News. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 182,874 wasted doses as of late March, three months into the country’s effort to vaccinate the masses against the coronavirus. Of those, CVS was responsible for nearly half, and Walgreens for 21%, or nearly 128,500 wasted shots combined. CDC data suggests that the companies have wasted more doses than states, U.S. territories and federal agencies combined.
“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stuns Broadway and cultural world with lifting of pandemic capacity restrictions on May 19” via Peter Marks of The Washington Post — In a sweeping acceleration of efforts to reopen New York, Cuomo announced the lifting of all of the state’s capacity restrictions on May 19 in restaurants, concert halls, bars, museums and theaters, including Broadway. The swiftness of the governor’s timetable stunned the arts community, much of which had been operating under the assumption that controls would remain in effect for several more months. Still, as far as an industry like Broadway is concerned, the May date bears no relationship to reopening reality, which even Cuomo acknowledged at his Albany news conference on Monday. It will take a number of months to get productions in shape for normal running schedules; the early fall has been widely discussed as the likely time of a Broadway reset.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Rampant racial disparities plagued how billions of dollars in PPP loans were distributed in the U.S.” via Laura C. Morel, Mohamed Al Elew and Emily Harris of Reveal News — The federal Paycheck Protection Program promised to help small businesses. In signing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act — on March 27, 2020, Trump announced that the PPP would provide “unprecedented support to small businesses” in order “to keep our small businesses strong.” The program has injected more than $770 billion into the economy. Widespread racial disparities were visible across the nation. Reveal found that in the vast majority of metro areas with a population of 1 million or more, the rate of lending to majority-White areas was higher than the rates for any majority-minority areas. In many metro areas, the disparities were extreme.
“As landlords and tenants go broke across the U.S., the next crisis point of the pandemic approaches” via Eli Saslow of The Washington Post — In the COVID-19 economy of 2021, the federal government has created an ongoing grace period for renters until at least July, banning all evictions in an effort to hold back a historic housing crisis that is already underway. According to census data, more than 8 million rental properties across the country are behind on payments by an average of $5,600. Nearly half those rental properties are owned not by banks or big corporations but instead by what the government classifies as “small landlords” — people who manage their own rentals and depend on them for basic income, and who are now trapped between tenants who can’t pay and their own mounting bills for insurance, mortgages and property tax.
“Delta stops blocking middle seats, officially ending social distancing on planes” via Hannah Simpson of The Washington Post — Saturday marks the end of a pandemic era in the air: no more social distancing on flights. Delta was the final holdout, ending its practice of blocking middle seats on Saturday. That is more than a year after the airline first introduced the practice as the coronavirus cratered the number of air travelers. Other major U.S. carriers have long since returned to full flights. American and United started selling all their seats last summer. Southwest started doing the same in December, and Alaska Airlines and JetBlue followed in January. Delta announced at the end of March that it would make all seats available for flights starting May 1.
— MORE CORONA —
“A new understanding of herd immunity” via James Hamblin of The Atlantic — Edward Lorenz was just out of college when he was recruited into World War II. He was assigned to be a weather forecaster, despite having no experience in meteorology. What Lorenz knew was math. So he started experimenting with differential equations, trying to make predictions based on patterns in data on past temperatures and pressures. One day, while testing his system, he repeated a simulation with a few decimals rounded off in the data. To his surprise, a radically different future emerged. He called this finding “the butterfly effect.” In a complex model, where each day’s weather influences the next day’s, a tweak in initial conditions can have wild downstream consequences.
“Next generation of COVID-19 vaccines could be pill or spray” via Peter Loftus and Gregory Zuckerman of The Wall Street Journal — The next generation of COVID-19 vaccines in development could come as a pill or a nasal spray and be easier to store and transport than the current handful of shots that form the backbone of the worldwide vaccination effort. These newer vaccines, from U.S. government labs and companies including Sanofi SA, Altimmune Inc. and Gritstone Oncology Inc., also have the potential to provide longer-lasting immune responses and be more potent against newer and multiple viral variants, possibly helping to head off future pandemics, the companies say. Because some of the new vaccines are administered as a nasal spray, they also might induce a type of immune response known as mucosal immunity, which could help clear the virus from the respiratory tract.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden open to options on spending as Congress takes over” via Nancy Cook, Laura Davison, and Erik Wasson of Bloomberg — Biden’s $4 trillion vision of remaking the federal government’s role in the U.S. economy is now in the hands of Congress, where both parties see a higher chance of at least some compromise than for the administration’s pandemic-relief bill. The president, at this point, is open to various possibilities to pass his proposals, including breaking them into multiple bills, according to a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity. The GOP has embraced parts of the infrastructure-focused “American Jobs Plan.” “The good news is, I think there’s overwhelming bipartisan support for this,” Biden said.
“Biden quadruples Trump refugee cap after delay backlash” via Matthew Lee, Zeke Miller and Julie Watson of The Associated Press — President Biden on Monday formally raised the nation’s cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 this year, weeks after facing bipartisan blowback for his delay in replacing the record-low ceiling set by former President Trump. Refugee resettlement agencies had waited for Biden to quadruple the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year since Feb. 12, when a presidential proposal was submitted to Congress saying he planned to do so. But the presidential determination went unsigned until Monday. Biden said he first needed to expand the narrow eligibility criteria put in place by Trump that had kept out most refugees. He did that last month in an emergency determination.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump’s delegitimization of democracy isn’t wearing off” via Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine — People who are fond of democratic norms have been hoping that the widespread Republican mistrust of the fairness of the 2020 elections that Trump created before, during, and after Election Day would fade, another vestige of four aberrant years yielding to something approaching “normalcy.” So far, it hasn’t, according to a new survey, which shows that 70% of self-identified Republicans do not believe “Biden legitimately won enough votes to win the presidency.” That’s just a tick below the 75% who felt that way in a survey. In what the pollsters took to be an encouraging sign, the percentage of Republicans who think “there is solid evidence that Biden did not win has dropped from 58% in January to 50% now.”
“Liz Cheney refuses to back down on Trump criticism” via Axios — Rep. Cheney, the No. 3 Republican on the House, tweeted Monday that anyone promoting “THE BIG LIE” that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump is “turning their back on the rule of law” and “poisoning our democratic system.” Top Republicans are now openly suggesting that Cheney could be removed from her leadership position because of her criticism of Trump. Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In February, the House GOP conference held a secret ballot about retaining Cheney in her current role. She won overwhelmingly, 145-61. Since then, Cheney has increasingly been at odds with other top House Republicans.
“A Facebook panel will reveal on Wednesday whether Trump will regain his megaphone.” via Cecilia Kang of The New York Times — Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent and international panel that was created and funded by the social network, plans to announce whether Trump will be able to return to the platform that has been a critical megaphone for him and his tens of millions of followers. The decision will be closely watched as a template for how private companies that run social networks handle political speech, including the misinformation spread by political leaders. Trump was indefinitely locked out of Facebook on Jan. 7 after he used his social media accounts to incite a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol a day earlier.
—“DeSantis, Josh Hawley are trying to get a 2024 leg up by attacking Big Tech” via Caleb Ecarma of Vanity Fair
— CRISIS —
“Daniel Baker, charged in Florida Capitol threats case, goes on trial this week” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Baker, the Tallahassee man arrested by the FBI after posting a “call to arms” against right-wing extremists he thought were coming for Florida’s Capitol, will face a jury starting Tuesday. Baker, 33, was arrested on Jan. 15 at his High Road apartment after issuing what federal prosecutors alleged were “true threats” on Facebook. He called for people to “rise up” with “every caliber available” against “armed racists” he feared would storm the Capitol on Jan. 20 amid FBI warnings of violence that day at statehouses nationwide. Attorneys will pick a jury Tuesday morning, and the trial will commence in the afternoon. At least two days have been set aside for the trial at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee.
“Canadian chapter of the Proud Boys, designated a terrorist group by the government, says it has ‘dissolved’” via Amanda Coletta of The Washington Post — Nearly three months after Canada declared the Proud Boys a terrorist entity, the Canadian chapter of the militant far-right group claims it has “officially dissolved.” In a statement posted on social media on Sunday, the group said, “there is officially no longer any Proud Boys in Canada.” It cited the financial difficulties of mounting a legal challenge to overturn the government’s terrorist entity designation. The designation in February did not make it illegal to belong to the group, but it did carry financial and legal consequences. Authorities can add members to the no-fly list. Banks can freeze their assets, and police can seize their property. It’s a crime to knowingly assist the group, including by purchasing merchandise.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Florida stands to gain from Biden infrastructure plan. Will GOP oppose?” via Antonio Fins, Wendy Rhodes and John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post — At a rally Thursday in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County Democratic Party members cheered what they said was the successful completion of President Biden’s first 100 days — with an eye toward another windfall in the next 100 days. “He has rescued us from very, very dark days, with shots in the arms and money in pockets, businesses saved and children back to school,” boasted Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach. “Thank God for federal dollars for this,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who lauded the $292 million from the American Rescue Plan coming to Palm Beach County from Biden’s signature legislative achievement. “I don’t know where this county would be without it.”
“Defiant Matt Gaetz breaks media silence” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Gaetz, appearing on the America First radio program with Sebastian Gorka, was conducting his first interview in a while, as reports of a wide-ranging federal investigation into the Congressman continue to percolate, albeit without formal charges. As he has since the story broke, Gaetz continued to maintain his innocence and suggest that a larger conspiracy is unfolding. Gorka said Gaetz was targeted “because he was effective” in his role as a conservative commentator, and Gaetz concurred. “The things the media has said about me are lies, and the truth will prevail,” the Congressman asserted.
—“Rep. Mike Garcia challenged to return campaign donation from Gaetz” via Brittany Martin of Los Angeles Magazine
“Brian Mast charges Nikki Fried with not doing her job under Clean Waterways Act” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Mast on Monday said Fried was not following through with water pollution test reports and inspections required of certain properties participating in the state’s Best Management Practices Program, leading to uncertainty whether they were following guidelines to reduce pollution. He went so far as to accuse her of shielding polluters from scrutiny. Mast’s charges came in a letter the Stuart Republican sent Fried Monday. Specifically, he contended her Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had not followed requirements set in the 2020 Clean Waterways Act requiring reports on monitoring nitrogen and phosphorous use. Those are the agriculture fertilizer agents most associated with algae blooms, red tides, and environmental and public health degradation from Lake Okeechobee to both coasts.
“Frederica Wilson is always dressed up. A new Netflix series explores why.” via C. Isaiah Smalls II — Rep. Wilson didn’t deliberately don her signature hat to make change. But you can’t argue with results. “When you stand out in a crowd of policymakers, people pay attention to what you have to say,” Wilson said in a new Netflix docuseries. “It helps you get shit done.” Wilson was among the many people featured in “Worn Stories,” a limited series that explores why individuals wear what they do. The congresswoman appears in the “Uniform” episode where she details how her fascination with fashion and, simultaneously, equality began. “Even before you speak, you have made an impression by what you wear,” Wilson said.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Will JEA, other utilities fight plan to raise Keystone Heights lakes?” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — A state agency’s bid to protect water levels at Clay County’s shrunken Keystone Heights lakes is getting pushback from utilities including JEA. JEA likes the St. Johns River Water Management District’s plan to build the pipeline from Black Creek but worries it could be stuck paying an “inequitable” bill for $13 million. “While we support the project … we have to do that with the customers in mind and what the financial impact might be,” CEO Jay Stowe told his board before it gave him a free hand last week to challenge the water agency (if needed) over a proposed rule to safeguard water levels in Lake Brooklyn and Lake Geneva.
“Miami-Dade police lieutenant and union VP suspended amid criminal probe in Palm Beach” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — A Miami-Dade police lieutenant and high-ranking union member has been suspended with pay while Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies investigate an alleged incident that took place two weeks while he was in Palm Beach Gardens for a police union gala. Lt. John Jenkins resigned as executive vice president of Miami-Dade’s Police Benevolent Association last week. He was relieved of duty by Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez, pending the investigation. Miami-Dade internal affairs investigators reached out to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office detectives before Ramirez decided. “It’s a criminal investigation, and the lieutenant has been relieved of duty,” said Miami-Dade PBA President Steadman Stahl.
“As businesses flock to South Florida, has Fort Lauderdale fallen behind in luring them?” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fort Lauderdale appears to be missing out on many of the companies moving to South Florida during the pandemic — with a number of them instead landing in West Palm Beach and Miami. Business relocations are becoming a key force in the economic recovery, delivering the potential for more high-skilled, high-paying jobs in the region. But Miami and West Palm Beach boast higher buzz factors right now than Fort Lauderdale, perhaps because the neighboring cities have more defined messages and vocal advocates speaking on their behalf. Fort Lauderdale’s Downtown Development Authority and Mayor Dean Trantalis, who says the city needs a more diversified economy, say they seek ways to raise the municipality’s visibility among out-of-state companies.
“Orlando airport, UCF detail what’s next for high-tech campus concept” via Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal — A partnership between the Orlando International Airport and the University of Central Florida for a high-tech campus at the air hub is taking the first steps toward becoming a reality. Last August, the airport and UCF revealed a conceptual plan for a digital-twin technology campus environment consisting of a complex of buildings, operations and users. Now, the airport has detailed what’s next for the future project, including determining the focus industry, seeking an anchor user, assembling the development and marketing team, and securing other support tenants such as hotels and cargo operators, according to an April 21 update provided to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
“Key West Airport readies for $80M upgrade” via Mandy Miles of Keys Weekly — Despite the beloved island charm of Key West International Airport, the days of passengers walking across the tarmac when arriving and departing soon will be gone. Richard Strickland, Monroe County airports director, presented plans at a meeting on April 27 for a new concourse at the Key West airport that will include a new security checkpoint, new gates, a new “hold room” for departing passengers, new concessions, a new baggage claim area and glass-enclosed jet bridges, or jetways, to connect the planes with the building. The targeted completion date is Oct. 2024.
“Joe Neunder files for open Sarasota County Commission seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Neunder, a Venice City Councilman, announced Monday he will run for a vacant Sarasota County Commission seat next year. The founder of Sarasota Spinal Mechanics, a chiropractic practice in Sarasota County, Neunder said he’s running on a platform of keeping the county a good place to do business. “My family moved to Sarasota when I was a teenager,” the North Venice Republican said. “As soon as I finished my education, I moved back to Sarasota to build my business and raise my family here. I’m running for County Commission to ensure that my three sons grow up in a safe community, receive an excellent education, and have the opportunity to chase their own version of the American Dream.”
— TOP OPINION —
“Fox News should fire Tucker Carlson before his bullying on COVID-19 masks gets someone killed” via Steven Petrow of USA Today — Carlson used his prime-time bully pulpit to urge his millions of viewers to confront strangers, like me, who choose to wear masks in public and even to call 911 if they see kids wearing a mask. Carlson, whose program is regularly riddled with falsehoods, described mask-wearing as a “sign of political obedience” and attacked those who wear them outdoors as “zealots and neurotics.” Not only is Carlson dead wrong about his latest facts, but he’s continuing the politicization of masks as a blue state/red state issue, claiming they turn “citizens into drones,” rather than talking about them as a public health issue or, more importantly, how wearing them protects others.
— OPINIONS —
“It’s not vaccine hesitancy. It’s COVID-19 denialism.” Via David Graham of The Atlantic — Several years ago, two sociologists researched whether Americans were willing to take a novel vaccine during a pandemic. Taking poll data from the midst of the 2009 H1N1 swine-flu outbreak, they broke out hesitancy by race, age and partisanship. Although the H1N1 pandemic was very different from today’s COVID-19 pandemic — not nearly as many people in the United States fell ill, far fewer died, and vaccines were not as widely available as they are now — the results were striking. The researchers found widespread hesitation. Nearly two-thirds of Americans were unwilling to receive a shot. But those qualms were relatively evenly distributed in the population.
“‘Because we can’ — the Florida GOP’s arrogant slogan for lawmaking” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Florida’s 2021 lawmaking session was summed up best last week during a House debate over the state’s $101.5 billion budget. State Rep. Susan Valdés, a Democrat, wanted to know why school districts were being forced to apply for state grants to get money from the federal American Rescue Plan, when the money was supposed to go directly to districts with no strings attached. Rep. Randy Fine tersely replied, “Because we can.” Those three words perfectly encapsulated the Republicans’ breathtaking arrogance in shaping new laws to govern Floridians in 2021. Republicans broke legislative rules, rejected legitimate objections, ignored basic constitutional principles and steamrollered opposition so they could pass what may be the most radical political agenda in modern state legislative history.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis signs an executive order abolishing all of the COVID-19 rules and regulations enacted by city and county governments throughout the state. The Governor’s order also prohibits businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The ban on vaccination passports and local COVID-19 rules is part of a bill DeSantis signed Monday. The new law doesn’t kick in until July, so he signed executive orders to impose those rules until the law takes effect. But businesses can still require you to wear a mask in their stores and Rep. Evan Jenne says that’s going to confuse folks.
The Governor also claims it’s wrong for the feds to recommend social distancing and masks for people already vaccinated … but Rep. Fentrice Driskell says DeSantis is ignoring the obvious.
— After being closed to the public for more than a year, Senate President Wilton Simpson says The Capitol is about to reopen to the public this Friday; masks are optional, and you will NOT need a vaccine passport.
— Democratic Congressman and former Republican Gov. Crist is expected to announce another run for Governor. Let’s just say he’s no fan of the incumbent.
— A Florida Man is accused of dealing drugs; he tried to escape on an electric skateboard.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“As Florida gasoline prices still on the decline, which markets offer the cheapest gas?” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gas prices across Florida have continued their decline, dropping 8 cents in the last month, to the lowest daily average in two months. The average price per gallon on Monday was $2.78. However, summer demand and crude oil prices could have impacts as Americans begin to look toward traveling more. “Gas prices have mostly declined for six consecutive weeks, as refinery activity recovered from power outages earlier this year,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins in his weekly briefing. “That downward trend is now in jeopardy. Crude and gasoline futures prices rebounded last week after positive U.S. economic data increased market optimism about summer demand.”
“Orlando White Castle opening draws big line of little-burger fans” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Scores of White Castle fans lined up overnight for a chance to buy the restaurant’s signature sliders from the Orlando location that opened today. More than 100 people were standing in line under a tent before the sun came up, and the drive-through was packed with cars backed up all the way to the Daryl Carter Parkway in the O-Town West development near Walt Disney World. Sheila Santiago, a 49-year-old from Orlando, said she arrived at 3:30 a.m. Originally from New York, she worked at the chain as a teenager. The restaurant will be open until 1 a.m. Tuesday and then 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day of the week.
“The eyes have it: A quarter-century of watching and being watched by Dave Matthews” via Katie Baker of The Ringer — In the whirlwind days before the late April 1996 release of Dave Matthews Band’s sophomore studio album, Crash, Matthews the man was both savoring and confronting what it meant to be truly hitting the big time. A few years earlier DMB had been available for gigs at Charlottesville bars, fraternities, and debutante balls. By 1994 the band was opening for Blues Traveler and Phish. And now the band was at Saturday Night Live, its second visit in a year, to play the first two singles: the plucky “So Much to Say” (a-little-baaaay-by!) and the funky “Too Much.”
— MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU —
“May the 4th be with you: All about the Star Wars holiday” via Dawn Yanek of Reader’s Digest — If you thought this phrase came from George Lucas or a really smart marketing team, you’d be wrong. So, it must be the day that the first movie premiered way back in 1977, right? Wrong, again! (For the record, it premiered on May 25 of that year.) No, credit for that pun goes to England’s conservative party, the Tories, after Margaret Thatcher won the election to become the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom on May 4, 1979. The group took out a newspaper ad that stated, “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations.”
“Disney Plus is celebrating May the 4th with plenty of new Star Wars content” via Tatiana Tenreyro of the AV Club — Disney+ was already well-prepared for Star Wars Day. The animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch is premiering on a very appropriate date. The show follows the group of genetically mutated clone troopers known as the “Bad Batch.” But Disney+ is also celebrating the day with a Simpsons and Star Wars crossover short, Maggie Simpson In The Force Awakens From Its Nap. If you’re looking for something relaxing, Disney+ is introducing two virtual experiences: Star Wars Biomes and Star Wars Vehicle Flythroughs.
“Lego offers sweet Star Wars deals for May the Fourth” via Elizabeth Howell of Space.com — The building toymaker recently released a $200 R2-D2 model, a $70 Darth Vader helmet, a $50 Scout Trooper helmet and a $60 Imperial Droid, adding on to an ever-growing list of dozens of “Star Wars” products. Lego’s “Star Wars” event page notes that VIP members of Lego — you can join the program for free — will receive double points on all Lego “Star Wars” purchases between Saturday (May 1) and Wednesday (May 5). VIP members can also enter a sweepstakes for a Lego “Star Wars” collectible featuring Jon “Dutch” Vander, one of the Rebel test pilots who died during the successful attempt to blow up the Death Star in “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977).
“To celebrate May the 4th, ask Alexa these Star Wars questions” via Gael Fashingbauer Cooper of CNET — If you have virtual assistants that use Amazon’s Alexa, such as an Echo or Dot, you can get your Star Wars fix for free from the comfort of your couch. Admittedly, there is not a whole galaxy of options, but try out the questions and commands: Alexa, tell me a Baby Yoda joke; Alexa, tell me a Star Wars joke; Alexa, how cute is Baby Yoda? Alexa, talk like Baby Yoda; Alexa, begin my Jedi lessons; Alexa, use the Force.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Sen. Tina Polsky, my friend (and the best State Attorney in Florida) Dave Aronberg, as well as Candice Ericks, former scribe Brandon Larrabee and Susannah Randolph.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.