No Casinos is launching a new statewide ad campaign to warn Floridians about the new Seminole Compact, which opens sports betting that they say illegally expands gambling in violation of the Florida Constitution.
The Orlando-based anti-gambling group argues the deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, signed by DeSantis late last month and could be finalized during a Special Legislative Session starting May 17, lets “politicians and gambling lobbyists, instead of voters, authorize a massive expansion of gambling” in the Sunshine State.
No Casinos specifically cite the Amendment 3 constitutional mandate passed in 2018 by 72% of Florida voters. The amendment gives Floridians “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.”
Despite that explicit provision, the group says an expansion of sports betting could turn every cellphone into a “slot machine.”
The details of the 30-year pact would support nontribal game rooms now running at pari-mutuel tracks, “decoupling” them from a requirement to hold pari-mutuel operations. In exchange, the Tribe would expand its operations to include online sports betting.
Florida would get revenue sharing starting at about $500 million a year from the Seminoles.
“Voters were crystal clear that they wanted the final say on gambling expansion in Florida, and we’re letting them know that this proposed compact is a blatant violation of the constitution and the will of the people,” No Casinos President John Sowinski said in a statement.
The ad — titled “People, Not Politicians” — will run both online and on cable TV in key markets statewide.
To watch the spot, click on the image below:
Floridians say President Biden is doing a good job managing the coronavirus pandemic, but on the whole, they could take him or leave him, according to a new FAU poll.
FAU’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative found 57% of Florida voters are fans of the new President’s virus response, and the same number said they like the stimulus package he signed earlier this year.
Yet just 45% said they approved of the job he’s done so far, while 43% disapproved, and 13% told pollsters they were still undecided a little over 100 days into Biden’s presidency. The bulk of Biden’s support comes from his own party, while few Republicans are willing to cross the aisle and give the Democrat high marks.
“The state continues to be sharply divided with only 13% of Trump voters and 18% of Republicans overall approving of President Biden’s performance in his first 100 days,” FAU professor Kevin Wagner said. “Younger voters were far more likely to approve of President Biden.”
Among Florida voters, Biden’s biggest drawback is his handling of the current situation at the southern U.S. border. More than half disapproved of his response, while just 29% approved.
Outside of a 100-day checkup, FAU BEPI found the American dream is alive in well in Florida — nearly three-quarters of Republicans and 52% of Democrats said that it is easier to make the dream a reality in Florida than in other states.
“It’s encouraging to see both parties coming together on that issue,” FAU BEPI director Monica Escaleras said.
The survey was conducted from April 30-May 2 and sampled 893 registered voters in Florida by phone and online. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Floridians can rest assured that their votes count and that Florida will continue to conduct elections that are efficient, transparent and secure. https://t.co/0URffO6WZb pic.twitter.com/tO7pWNwILD
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) May 6, 2021
—@CharlieCrist: This is the difference between @GovRonDeSantis and me. He locks out the public and caters to FOX News. When I was Governor, everyone was invited in — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. And when I’m Governor again, this will be a Florida for all.
How Florida reporters cover a bill signing in the DeSantis era. Press barred from campaign-style rally at election-law restrictions at an airport hotel in West Palm Beach pic.twitter.com/yf9AFBL6AC
— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) May 6, 2021
—@ChrisSprowls: Election integrity is essential to a functioning democracy. We should ensure that our elections process remains secure, accessible, and transparent. Thank you @GovRonDeSantis, @GovGoneWild & our partners in the FL Senate for their work to protect our most sacred civic duty.
—@AnnaforFlorida: The bill signing of a voter suppression bill by our Governor is a “Fox Exclusive” — when did public policy become an exclusive to any media company, let alone a hyper-conservative one?! This is how fascism works y’all — & if you’re proud about the bill, let ppl see you sign it!
—@OmariJHardy: [email protected] is a budding autocrat. He’s signing the voter suppression bill in my city, in my district, and he won’t let the press film the signing or the rally he’s holding afterward.
—@marceelias: We sued Florida 9 minutes after DeSantis signed the Florida law. We are watching Texas closely.
—@TroyKinsey: One of the hallmarks of covering the @CharlieCrist administration: unfettered access to cover the people’s business. When reporters couldn’t get an issue resolved, we’d call the Governor’s phone — and he’d pick up!
—@NateMonroeTU: Ex-U. S. Rep. Corrine Brown, Jacksonville’s most notorious Democrat, was at least temporarily saved by federal appeals judges auditioning for the Christian right in hopes of a future SCOTUS appointment. As ever with her, a twist, and a remarkable one at that.
—@Daniel_Sweeney: Yeah, worth noting that the new trial doesn’t change the evidence against Corrine Brown, which is, you know, really, really substantial.
—@MikeOkuda: Norwegian Cruise Line plans to resume business, requiring crew and passengers to be vaccinated, but a new Florida law prohibits vaccine mandates. The cruise company may pull their ships from Florida ports if they are forced to comply.
—@SchmitzMedia: Fox News should at least advocate for allowing a pool crew in. It’s the right thing to do, and as a network that relies on pool footage all the time, they know that what is happening right now is absolutely wrong. … Networks should recognize and address what happened in PBC today. If this happened on a national level, Fox would be admonished or punished. Our local colleagues deserve the same level of respect.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Mother’s Day — 2; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 3; Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 10; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 21; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 21; Memorial Day — 24; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 27; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 35; Father’s Day — 44; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 49; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 56; 4th of July — 58; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 63; MLB All-Star Game — 67; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 77; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 77; The NBA Draft — 83; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 85; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 91; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 109; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 119; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 140; ‘Dune’ premieres — 147; MLB regular season ends — 149; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 155; World Series Game 1 — 172; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 179; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 179; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 182; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 203; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 217; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 224; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 249; Super Bowl LVI — 282; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 322; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 364; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 427; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 518; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 553.
— TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis gives Fox ‘exclusive’ of him signing election bill” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Gov. DeSantis, continuing his ongoing feud with most of the “corporate media,” on Thursday signed into law a contentious election bill during an event where only Fox News was allowed to observe. DeSantis’ decision to sign the measure, which puts restrictions on mail-in ballot collections and the use of drop boxes, was already well-known ahead of time. Over the last several days, the Republican Governor publicly touted the measure, which the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature approved by a largely party-line vote last week. Before DeSantis approved the legislation, his staff barred other reporters from attending the West Palm Beach event that also included some of the legislators who backed the bill as well as political supporters.
To watch the signing segment, click on the image below:
“Fox News didn’t ask for an exclusive on DeSantis bill signing, network says” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — When DeSantis signed a new bill Thursday morning to change mail-in voting in Florida, the only television cameras allowed to capture the moment belonged to Fox News. Outside, reporters and videographers from local news outlets were told the ceremonial bill signing was an “exclusive” for Fox & Friends. But Fox never asked for the special treatment. In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, the network said, “FOX & Friends did not request or mandate that the May 6 event and interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis be exclusive to FOX News Media entities.” Later, the network clarified that its producers there weren’t aware that DeSantis would sign the bill on camera.
— 2022 —
Too small a sample — “Poll shows DeSantis leading all Democrats, Charlie Crist topping primary field” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new poll shows DeSantis narrowly leading all three high-profile Democrats he may face next November. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Crist boasts the best chance at winning the Democratic nomination for Governor and — just barely — puts up the best showing against DeSantis. Victory Insights, a national polling firm with a presence in Naples, polled more than 600 Floridians on Tuesday, the same day Crist announced he would run for Governor this cycle. But the firm also surveyed voters’ thoughts on two other likely Democratic candidates: Agriculture Commissioner Fried and Rep. Demings. DeSantis leads all three candidates in head-to-head matchups. His narrowest lead came against Crist, a former Republican Governor-turned-Democratic Congressman.
Assignment editors — Crist will campaign in the Orlando area, including a meeting with Rep. Darren Soto and Puerto Rican community leaders, 11 a.m. RSVP to receive location. Mills 50 District small business tour with Orlando AAPI leaders, 12:30 p.m. RSVP to receive location. Contact [email protected].
“DeSantis the divider? Conservative agenda designed for future campaign and comes with lots of opposition” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In an audacious display of the style that’s increasingly DeSantis’ brand, he signed controversial election legislation into law Thursday — at an event open only to 800 cheering supporters at a campaign rally. He’s sought to brand himself, especially in the just-completed annual Legislative Session, as the potential presidential candidate most closely aligned with Trump — in both style and substance — with priorities that appeal to the Republican base in Florida and the rest of the country. “Republicans doubled down on these issues to appeal to the base,” said Sean Foreman, a Barry University political scientist, at times passing laws “that we don’t seem to need.” The election law is a clear example.
“Alcee Hastings II endorses Charlie Crist for Governor” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Alcee “Jody” Hastings II, son of the late congressman, is endorsing Crist for Governor, saying it reflects his father’s wishes. “Charlie was a lifelong friend to my father, Congressman Alcee Hastings. Before he passed, my father committed to supporting Charlie, because he felt that he was the best Democrat to take on Ron DeSantis,” Jody Hastings said in a statement. His endorsement Thursday comes two days after Crist entered the race for Governor — and before any of the other likely candidates have formally entered the race. Jody Hastings said his father had decided before he died to support Crist, who has unofficially been running for Governor for months.
“Republican Governors Association accuses Nikki Fried of campaigning with state resources” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — RGA accused Fried on Thursday of using office staff and resources to campaign against DeSantis. The allegation comes after Fried lambasted DeSantis at a news conference outside her Capitol office early Thursday. “Nikki Fried hasn’t even officially announced her campaign for Governor, and she’s already facing accusations of failing to do her day job,” said RGA spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. “But Fried’s desperation doesn’t excuse her blatant and inappropriate use of her official taxpayer-funded resources for soft launch campaign events focused entirely on spreading partisan misinformation and lies.” The RGA notes that Fried announced the news conference on her campaign Twitter and that the event was facilitated by “taxpayer funded staff.” Fried’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Ballot initiatives bill goes to DeSantis” via The News Service of Florida — DeSantis on Thursday formally received a bill that would place a $3,000 cap on contributions to political committees trying to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. The bill (SB 1890) would make it harder — some critics say impossible — to move forward with ballot initiatives because it would prevent deep-pocketed donors from paying for petition gathering. The bill came after wealthy donors, such as Orlando attorney John Morgan, have largely financed successful initiatives on legalizing medical marijuana and raising the minimum wage. Under the bill, contributions would be limited until initiatives have met requirements to get on the ballot. After that, contributions would not face a cap. DeSantis faces a May 21 deadline to act on the bill.
“DeSantis: $111 million in Hurricane Michael recovery for 22 communities, 8 in Bay County” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News Herald — DeSantis announced the awarding of $58 million to eight communities in Bay County for Hurricane Michael recovery during a Panama City Beach news conference Thursday morning. The money is part of more than $111 million granted to a total of 22 communities across the state through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Repair program for communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. The program is designed to help areas rebuild and harden their infrastructures to better withstand future natural disasters. With the largest portion of the funds, Panama City Beach plans to combine stormwater outfalls near Lullwater Lake and the Calypso Resort and Towers to channel stormwater underground and deposit it about 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico.
“DeSantis threatens to remove cases from prosecutors who balk at his new anti-riot law” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis warned Florida’s prosecutors not to go soft on enforcing his draconian new law against political demonstrations. “Can a prosecutor just decide they’re going to ignore the law? The answer to that is no,” DeSantis said. “You are duty-sworn to enforce the law and constitution in this state,” he said. The new law, in this case, is legislation formerly known as House Bill 1, a so-called anti-riot/anti-protest bill that was the Governor’s first initiative for the 2021 Legislative Session. DeSantis acknowledged that prosecutors enjoy discretion when charging crimes. “And so, if a prosecutor says, ‘I’m going to ignore the law,’ then, obviously, we would be able to make sure those cases end up in a prosecutor’s office who is willing to follow the law.”
“State revenues continue topping forecast” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — In a report released Wednesday, the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research reported March general-revenue collections came in $299.6 million above an estimate issued in December. That came even though tourism and hospitality-related industries continued to lag in the recovery. The March number was bolstered by sales tax revenue, which accounted for a $201.1 million gain over the December forecast. Still, the office noted that based on figures revised in early April, revenue numbers for March should have been $319.4 million over the December estimate. Economists said they were “anticipating a greater overage to the estimate than actually materialized.” No matter how the numbers line up with forecasts, the state’s financial outlook is brighter than a year ago.
“How Carlos Guillermo Smith used amendments to accomplish his agenda” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics: “2021 was the toughest Legislative Session I’ve ever experienced as a lawmaker,” Guillermo Smith said. He had to eschew the traditional bill-through-committee process. “For Democrats in the minority, we can’t always judge success by the number of bills we get signed into law. We can be effective in other ways,” Guillermo Smith said. He said he used the amendment process to create awareness about two of his priorities: improving services for Floridians with disabilities and funding for arts and culture programs. “We worked with Republicans behind the scenes, but we also used the amendment process to draw public attention to issues that really needed it.”
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Jennifer Kelly, Foley & Lardner: Alternative Materials
Rosanna Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Florida Studio Theatre
Ken Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Lexmark International
Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: No Casinos
“DeSantis pushes coastal ‘resilience’ while doing little to tackle climate change” via Amy Green and James Bruggers of WMFE — Brick by brick, the stucco shell of a new flood-resilient public works building is taking shape blocks from the beach, the most visible sign yet of a small community’s enormous task staving off the rising sea. “This is actually the highest point in the city,” Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker said, adding that right next door to the new public works building will be a new fire station. It’s a close-knit community established by rocket scientists south of Kennedy Space Center, on a low-slung barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River Lagoon.
“Casinos aren’t coming to Orlando, Seminole Tribe insists, but sports betting could be everywhere” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Gambling casinos won’t expand to Central Florida as part of a new $2.5 billion pact between the state and the Seminole Tribe, its leaders insist. But at the same time, gambling could soon be taking place everywhere in Florida, on anyone’s smartphone. New Jersey, where gambling is only legal within the city boundaries of Atlantic City, has a sports betting law similar to what Florida’s could look like. Just like sports betting servers would be located on tribal land in Florida, in New Jersey, the servers are all located in Atlantic City and attached to casinos. But anyone can then place a sports bet on their phone or a computer anywhere in the state.
“State’s $300 million for wildlife corridors could help North Florida conservation” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Protecting cross-state corridors of Old Florida from development sounded impossibly ambitious when advocates crossed 1,000 miles of wilderness to highlight how much the state had to lose. Now, the Florida Legislature’s embrace of the Florida Wildlife Corridor in a $300 million land-preservation effort is making conservationists think how much they might finally gain. “This is such a huge opportunity for conservation in the state,” said Jim McCarthy, president of the North Florida Land Trust. If the funding and the act become final, they can give important boosts to efforts to permanently protect undeveloped portions of North Florida, including 50,000 acres of woodlands in Baker and Union counties controlled by forestry giant Weyerhaeuser.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“COVID-19 in Florida: 4,504 new infections, 71 more residents dead” via Tiffini Thiesen of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida added 4,504 coronavirus cases Thursday to bring the cumulative total to 2,258,433. With 71 more fatalities, 35,549 Florida residents are now dead. Cases continue to decline statewide as deaths remain on the upswing. As of Thursday’s report, the latest seven-day case count is 30,221, compared to the seven days before that, which was 37,174. For deaths, it’s 465 in the past seven days, compared with 388 for the seven days before that. To date, 93,264 people have been hospitalized in Florida, according to the state’s report, which includes 231 newly reported hospitalizations since Wednesday’s update.
“Is Florida ‘leading the way’ on pandemic recovery? Not so much, says data” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — DeSantis Monday made moves to strike down the few remaining coronavirus restrictions enacted by Florida counties and municipalities and again touted Florida’s record on the pandemic. But data on the state’s health and economy released this week suggests that the Sunshine State’s recovery lags behind the pack. “The approach here is Florida leading the way, again, because I think there’s some states going a different direction,” DeSantis proclaimed Monday as he signed a law banning “vaccine passports” and announced executive orders tearing down any locally passed coronavirus restrictions. But a recent analysis ranks Florida a mere 41st out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia in terms of its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“In Florida, soon kids 12, 13, 14 and 15 can get Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson vaccine” via Jennifer Sangalang of The Palm Beach Post — Young people between 12 and 15 years old may soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci said vaccines for 12- to 15-year-olds likely will be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in “days.” The vaccines have been authorized for use only in adults and older teens. The FDA authorization would allow the Pfizer-BioNTech shots to be given to 12- to 15-year-olds for the first time, once the CDC also signs off. As of May 6, all Florida residents and persons providing goods and services to Floridians ages 16 and up are eligible to receive any COVID-19 vaccine as prescribed by the Food and Drug Administration.
“HHS, HUD team up to bring coronavirus vaccines to public housing and shelters” via Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — The Biden administration’s health and housing departments, have formed a partnership to bring coronavirus vaccines and tests to public housing and homeless shelters, part of an effort to promote access to the protective shots and foster confidence in them. Speaking Wednesday at a community health center and housing-assistance organization in Southwest D.C., Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said their agreement is a strategy to help defeat the pandemic by seeking out low-income people where they live. “We are going to go where you are, and we are going to invest in you,” Becerra said.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Miami Beach suspends COVID-19 orders, announces return of in-person Commission meetings” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Two days after DeSantis ordered all local COVID-19 restrictions suspended, Miami Beach announced it had canceled its remaining emergency measures — including mask requirements at businesses, a ban on retail alcohol sales after 10 p.m. and room occupancy limits for short-term rentals. In a memo, City Manager Alina T. Hudak wrote that she does not plan to impose any new emergency measures, but would retain the city’s declaration of a state of emergency to preserve its eligibility for federal reimbursements. “Even though we are suspending our Emergency Order, it’s in everyone’s best interest to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing,” she later said in a statement.
“They want to swim. But their HOAs won’t reopen the pool because of COVID-19.” via Lois K. Solomon and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Let us swim! That’s the cry from some South Florida homeowners whose community pools remain locked down even though Florida’s Governor has suspended all local restrictions related to COVID-19. The two pools in Boca Fontana, a neighborhood off Lyons Road in West Boca, closed in March 2020 and their gates remain shuttered. The Knightsbridge neighborhood in Coral Springs has also had a closed pool since COVID-19 commenced. “We moved here for the neighborhood pool,” said Matt Sampson, 43, a Citrix software director and Knightsbridge resident for six years. “The frustrating part is no one has identified the criteria they will use to reopen. Meanwhile, we are still paying our homeowners’ association dues.”
“Palm Beach County schools will stop requiring masks outdoors and reopen playgrounds” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After receiving complaints that kids were wearing masks in the “brutal heat” outdoors, Palm Beach County public schools no longer will make students cover their faces while they play and exercise outside. The School Board reached its decision Wednesday after noting how some schools seemed to have inconsistent practices about mask-wearing outside. “It is really brutal outside,” School Board member Karen Brill said Wednesday. “I don’t want children in 90-degree heat running around with masks on their face.” Superintendent Donald Fennoy said that the district’s practice for months has been to allow maskless outdoor activity, but Brill said that the official policy needs to be updated to reflect what has been practiced.
“COVID-19 cases are on the decline in Bay County: Could complacency reverse the trend?” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News Herald — While it seems the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are lessening, hinting that life soon might return to normal, local health care professionals still advise everyone to socially distance and wear masks when they feel it is appropriate. As of this week, there were fewer than 10 patients with COVID-19 at Panama City’s two hospitals. This is a drastic dip compared to January when both hospitals saw a surge in cases. “The good news is that cases in Bay County have dropped, and 30% of Florida’s population is fully vaccinated,” Mike Burke, spokesman for Ascension, wrote in an email. “The bad news is that while cases have leveled off in our area, the virus has not gone away.”
“How big Pensacola employers are planning to bring staff back on-site” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — Navy Federal Credit Union will begin phasing back its in-office personnel in September, offering a flexible hybrid model that’s likely to set the tone for how other companies and office buildings in the region handle their own return-to-work plans. The credit union, which is Escambia County’s largest employer with about 8,400 employees, seeks volunteers among its staff to start phasing into physical office hours this summer before everyone returns in September. The September target date is largely for working parents who likely will be able to return to the office once school starts. “It’s not going to be this light switch flips, and we’re all back at once,” Kara Cardona said. “We want to be very thoughtful about it.”
“St. Petersburg sidewalk seating in jeopardy after DeSantis order” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — The city on Wednesday sent notices to businesses that expanded sidewalk seating — which was allowed under Mayor Rick Kriseman’s state of emergency order from last year to help businesses make up for indoor dining capacity restrictions — was ending. Restaurants and bars with expanded outdoor seating will have to remove their tables and chairs by Sunday, and the city will remove the temporary barriers that have guarded tables placed on top of street parking spots. Kriseman said capacity restrictions in city buildings have also now been lifted thanks to the Governor’s order. The Mayor said DeSantis’ order — touted as a way to free businesses from restrictions — has instead squeezed the bars and restaurants that will have to take down their sidewalk seating.
— CORONA NATION —
“U.S. rolls out carrots and expands access in push to get holdouts vaccinated against COVID-19” via Madeline Holcombe and Eric Levenson of CNN — In the last six months, nearly 150 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in what is the fastest and largest mass vaccination effort in world history. Still, the US vaccination rate has declined from its peak last month, pushing officials to offer new incentives to further encourage the wary, hesitant, and inaccessible to get vaccinated. Some of those carrots are access to cultural events. The NFL has offered 50 Super Bowl tickets to fans who share their stories of why they wanted to get vaccinated. Most directly, a few states have offered to pay those who get vaccinated. The ultimate carrots, though, remain the COVID-19 vaccines themselves.
“U.S. administers nearly 252 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines” via Trisha Roy of Reuters — The United States has administered 251,973,752 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Thursday morning and distributed 324,610,185 doses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. The agency said 149,462,265 people had received at least one dose while 108,926,627 people are fully vaccinated as of Thursday. The CDC tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine as of 6 a.m. ET on Thursday. A total of 7,805,656 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.
“New study estimates more than 900,000 people have died of COVID-19 in U.S.” via Becky Sullivan of NPR — A new study estimates that the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. is more than 900,000, a number 57% higher than official figures. Worldwide, the study’s authors say, the COVID-19 death count is nearing 7 million, more than double the reported number of 3.24 million. The analysis comes from researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, who looked at excess mortality from March 2020 through May 3, 2021, compared it with what would be expected in a typical non-pandemic year, then adjusted those figures to account for a handful of other pandemic-related factors. The final count only estimates deaths “caused directly by the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” according to the study’s authors.
“CDC eviction moratorium remains in effect, after feds appealed judge’s ruling to overturn it” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — The CDC’s national eviction moratorium remains in effect after the U.S. Department of Justice appealed a federal judge’s ruling calling it illegal. Late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich of Washington, D.C., agreed to put her ruling on hold until at least May 12. Friedrich emphasized the delay was granted to give landlord groups and the federal government time to file legal papers for the appeal process. New research estimates that eviction moratoriums at the state and federal level led to at least 1.5 million fewer eviction cases being filed in 2020 than in a normal year. Housing attorneys advised tenants whose landlords file eviction cases to immediately file the paperwork that invokes the CDC moratorium.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“U.S. unemployment claims fall to a pandemic low of 498,000” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 498,000, the lowest point since the viral pandemic struck 14 months ago and a sign of the job market’s growing strength as businesses reopen and consumers step up spending. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that applications declined 92,000 from a revised 590,000 a week earlier. The number of weekly jobless claims — a rough measure of the pace of layoffs — has declined significantly from a peak of 900,000 in January as employers have ramped up hiring. At the same time, the pace of applications is still well above the roughly 230,000 level that prevailed before the viral outbreak tore through the economy in March of last year.
“Fed says COVID-19 is major financial risk, asset prices vulnerable to ‘significant declines’” via Paul Kiernan of The Wall Street Journal — The COVID-19 pandemic remains one of the biggest near-term risks to the stability of the financial system, the Federal Reserve said while noting that asset prices are vulnerable to significant declines if investor sentiment shifts. The report said other parts of the financial system appear resilient. Banks remain well-capitalized, it said, and leverage is low among broker-dealers. Household debt is manageable, and businesses are better able to service their obligations as interest rates remain low and earnings improve, it said. High asset valuations were also flagged in the previous financial stability report, released in November. Thursday’s report showed measures of risk-taking have continued to rise in equity and bond markets since then.
“White House says these Floridians would benefit from $1.8 trillion Families Plan” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The latest massive proposed expansion of the federal government from the Biden administration would see Florida’s students and families receive billions in benefits ranging from universal community college to paid family and medical leave. If Biden’s plan comes to fruition, the changes in Florida would be immense. The administration estimates that 474,450 Florida college students currently receive federally funded Pell Grants that would increase by $1,400. And 38 historically Black colleges, tribal colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving higher education institutions in Florida would be in line to get more federal funds. That would include Miami-based institutions like Miami Dade College and Florida International University, classified by the Department of Education as Hispanic-serving institutions.
“Florida jobless assistance claims fall. But are generous benefits causing a worker shortage?” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Employers statewide and beyond say they cannot find enough workers. Are out-of-work Floridians taking advantage of the fact that they can earn as much as $575 a week by continuing to file for unemployment? Some cite additional factors that are likely driving the worker shortage. Many service workers may have simply moved on from occupations that too often pay low wages and provide few benefits. “A year ago, it was convenient for us restaurants to lay people off for our survival,” said Abe Ng, founder of Sushi Maki. “Then a year later, when they’re not coming back on our timing — it’s not surprising. It’s, ‘You laid me off when you needed to, now let me look at all my options.’ “
“SeaWorld, parent company of Busch Gardens, reports steady improvement in profits” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — The earnings report from the Orlando-based parent company of Busch Gardens beat Wall Street expectations with a slight uptick in revenue since mid-March of last year. That’s when all 12 of its theme parks were shut down due to the global spread of COVID-19. The theme park operator posted revenue of $171.9 million in the period, exceeding Wall Street forecasts that expected $121.6 million. That number is up 12% from the first quarter of 2020. It gave the company a net loss of almost $45 million, a nearly $12 million improvement from 2020′s first quarter. The company did not announce when it will open Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens or SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker, two rollercoasters that had their 2020 debuts delayed by the pandemic.
— MORE CORONA —
“Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective against variants, studies find” via Emily Anthes of The New York Times — The studies, which are based on the real-world use of the vaccine in Qatar and Israel, suggest that the vaccine can prevent the worst outcomes — including severe pneumonia and death — caused by B.1.1.7, the variant first identified in the U.K., and B. 1.351, the variant first identified in South Africa. Previous research suggested that vaccines still worked well against B.1.1.7. But vaccines appeared to be less effective against B. 1.351, according to earlier studies. In multiple analyses, the researchers found that the vaccine was 87% to 89.5% effective at preventing infection with B.1.1.7 among people who were at least two weeks past their second shot. It was 72.1% to 75% effective at preventing infection with B. 1.351 two weeks after the second dose.
“Europe signals it may not support Joe Biden’s call to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents.” via Matina Stevis-Gridneff of The New York Times — Europe indicated on Thursday that it won’t necessarily support Biden’s proposal to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines, creating an obstacle as some of the world’s poorest countries struggle to contain the latest wave of cases. Under growing pressure, the European Union — whose approval would be needed — said Thursday it would consider the Biden administration’s decision. But the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said she did not endorse the plan, raising questions about whether the bloc would agree to waive patents. And Germany, the bloc’s de facto leader, said that the U.S. proposal could trigger “significant implications” for the production of vaccines.
“COVID-19 reached Everest base camp. Now climbers are trying to prevent its spread amid a record season.” via Júlia Ledur and Artur Galocha of The Washington Post — As India’s massive coronavirus wave spreads, neighboring Nepal is also quickly becoming overwhelmed. Even as the country faces its steepest coronavirus wave yet, it has kept its main tourist attraction, the Nepali side of Mount Everest, open to foreigners seeking to climb the world’s tallest mountain. After the 2020 climbing season was canceled, this year, a record number of 408 expedition permits have been issued for the peak, leaving climbers to work out rules to contain the spread of the virus. Now growing concerns of a coronavirus outbreak at the mountain cast doubt on the safety of climbers and locals after multiple people were evacuated from base camp and later tested positive for the virus.
“Why is India running out of oxygen?” via Lauren Frayer of NPR — In India, procuring oxygen is a task that normally doesn’t fall to patients’ families. But with the country confirming more than 300,000 coronavirus cases a day for the past two weeks, medical supply chains have broken. In addition to oxygen shortages, there are shortages of hospital beds, antiviral drugs and coronavirus test kits. It’s a consequence, experts say, of decades of neglect and lack of spending on public health in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people — one that is now hit by the biggest coronavirus wave in the world. India invests just above 1% of its gross domestic product in public health. Brazil spends more than 9%; in the United States, the figure is nearly 18%.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden open to compromise with GOP on spending plans but stands by call for corporate tax increases” via John Wagner, Eugene Scott, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post — Biden on Wednesday said he is open to compromise with Republicans on his $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan but stands by his proposal to finance the spending with tax increases on corporations and the wealthy. The President made the comments in response to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, who earlier in the day said 100% of his focus is on stopping the Biden administration. Biden’s speech comes as the drama continues to unfold over whether Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming will keep her No. 3 leadership post among House Republicans in the wake of her continued criticism of Trump.
“Biden wants the nation to ‘return to normal.’ Will the White House follow?” via Natasha Korecki and Anita Kumar of POLITICO — Biden is preparing to make his first international trip as President. White House and administrative staff are beginning to trickle into the West Wing in greater numbers. And additional journalists are working at the White House. As the President this week set an ambitious goal to get 70% of Americans vaccinated by July Fourth and “return to normal,” 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is starting to open up. How much, however, remains unclear, in part because White House officials are reluctant to say.
“Biden once asserted Republicans would have an ‘epiphany.’ Now he admits he doesn’t understand them.” via Matt Viser of The Washington Post — Biden was speaking in a barn to a sparse campaign crowd in Iowa when he offered a prediction. “If we defeat Trump,” he said in 2019, “you’re going to see, as we say in southern Delaware, an altar call. You’re going to see people all of a sudden see the Lord.” The Republican Party, Biden suggested, would no longer be beholden to one man. But on Wednesday, Biden offered a more flummoxed, less confident assessment: “I don’t understand the Republicans.” Biden now faces a basic question: What if he was wrong about the Republican Party? What if it has changed in more fundamental ways than he contemplated? And if it has, what does that mean for his presidency?
“Jennifer Garner to be featured in Biden administration’s vaccination push on Mother’s Day” via Sarah Mucha of Axios — Actor Garner will team up with the Biden administration in a coordinated campaign to encourage vaccinations around Mother’s Day, Axios has learned. The administration is eager to keep up the pace of inoculations now that all adult Americans are eligible, but the pace of vaccinations is starting to slow. “We hope this will help create a foundation of vaccine confidence for mothers who may have otherwise been hesitant to get vaccinated or get their children vaccinated once available,” an HHS official said. The partnership comes shortly after Biden announced a new goal to get 160 million Americans fully vaccinated and at least one shot administered to 70% of individuals by the Fourth of July holiday.
“Biden still ‘ready to compromise’ with GOP on infrastructure despite Mitch McConnell comments” via Justin Gomez of ABC News — Standing before an aging bridge in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Thursday afternoon, Biden once again said he’s ready to work across the aisle with Republicans to pass his $2.3 trillion infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan. “I’m willing to hear ideas from both sides,” Biden said. “I’m ready to compromise. What I’m not ready to do, I’m not ready to do nothing. I’m not ready to have another period where America has another infrastructure month and doesn’t change a damn thing.” He will likely get his next chance when he’s expected to meet with Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy next Wednesday at the White House. The meeting would mark the first time he’ll host the congressional GOP leadership.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trumpland thought Donald Trump would get back on Facebook. Now, they’re anxious and scrambling.” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Republicans expressed outrage over news Trump’s Facebook suspension would remain in place. Privately, many were panicked. The ruling by the Facebook oversight board meant that Trump would remain off the platform for the foreseeable future and, perhaps, well beyond should the company make the ban permanent. In practical terms, the main driver of Republican Party enthusiasm would be less omnipresent in voters’ lives — a reality that sparked fear for GOP operatives. As for Trump, he would remain without one of the great money-raising spigots in all of politics as his political operation geared up for a possible 2024 run.
“What Trump has to fear from Rudy Giuliani” via George T. Conway III for The Washington Post — To borrow the infamous line of his ex-presidential ex-client, it looks like Giuliani is “going to go through some things.” Like possibly being charged with a crime. Worse, some people who might have tried to save him from that fate might have guaranteed it. Whatever happens, the investigation marks yet another step in Giuliani’s unimaginable fall from grace. The once-respected former federal prosecutor, New York Mayor, presidential candidate, and possible Cabinet pick, stands reduced to a laughingstock. If Giuliani has anything to offer prosecutors to save himself, it would have to be Trump, the only bigger fish left. In fact, Giuliani’s admission that he wasn’t conducting foreign policy, but merely helping Trump personally, is exactly what would make the scheme prosecutable.
“Trump is still banned on YouTube. Now the clock is ticking.” via Tripp Mickle of The Wall Street Journal — With Trump’s return to Facebook in limbo, YouTube has emerged as the former President’s best chance to return to social media in the near future. Company leaders have said they will revisit the suspension but have given few details on when or who will make the call. The video service has a three-strikes policy that governs channel suspensions. A single strike, as it imposed on Trump’s channel, typically results in a one-week suspension. A YouTube spokesman said Wednesday the service prolonged the suspension because of the continuing risk of violence. The spokesman declined to say who would determine when Trump’s account would be restored, adding that internal teams would continue to evaluate social-media posts, government security alerts and law-enforcement activity.
— CRISIS —
“Man found guilty in Florida Capitol plot” Ryan Dailey via News Service of Florida — Tallahassee resident Daniel Baker, who made online posts about confronting supporters of former Trump during an expected protest at the state Capitol, was convicted on two counts of sending, in interstate commerce, a true threat to kidnap or injure. During a trial that lasted about two-and-a-half days, Baker’s defense argued that the series of social media posts that led to his arrest were “jokes.” Federal prosecutors set out to prove that “inflammatory rhetoric” Baker posted online constituted a true threat. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor set a sentencing hearing for Baker on Aug. 16. Court officials said in January that Baker faced a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“A Pinellas protester was in jail for months. A fight against cash bail got him out.” via Kavitha Surana of the Tampa Bay Times — The protester had been locked up in the Pinellas County Jail for four months. He’d been arrested during the tumultuous first week of the George Floyd protests. Police accused him of throwing rocks at the St. Petersburg Police Department and threatening to shoot an officer. They alleged he was a leader of a group that “numbered in the dozens.” Other protesters arrested in those early weeks had long since been released, many with charges dropped. But Alfred Lenard Nelson remained imprisoned in September, accused of three felonies. His bail had been set at $30,000. Nelson’s case fell to a public defender named Catherine Henry. She looked at his file and thought she saw a way out.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“‘Holy Spirit’ comment from juror wins former lawmaker new trial” via Brian Flood of Bloomberg — Former U.S. Rep. Brown is entitled to a new trial on fraud and tax charges because the trial judge abused his discretion in removing a juror who said he received divine guidance on the case, the 11th Circuit said Thursday. During deliberation in Brown’s federal trial, a juror stated the Holy Spirit told him in prayer that Brown was not guilty on all charges. Because there was a substantial possibility that the juror was rendering proper jury service, the district judge abused his discretion by dismissing the juror, and the removal violated Brown’s right under the Sixth Amendment to a unanimous jury verdict, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said.
“Florida Democrats say they, not DeSantis, provided dollars for bonuses, relief” via Antonio Fins and Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — Florida congressional Democrats blasted DeSantis for seeking credit for financial relief, such as $1,000 bonuses for first responders, that they said arrived courtesy of federal stimulus provided by the Biden administration and Democrats in spite of wholesale Republican opposition. In a conference call Thursday, Florida Democrats reminded the public that the nearly $10 billion in funds Florida state officials received was thanks to their partnership with the Biden White House. “A vital wave of federal relief has made its way to millions of Floridians to help keep them safe and financially secure,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Gov. DeSantis apparently thinks that Florida residents, and the media, are fools as he brazenly tried to take credit for it.”
“Brightline executive urges Congress to ‘break inertia’ and expand support for private, high-speed rail” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — With Brightline poised to complete its link from South Florida to Orlando International Airport, a top executive of the passenger service urged Congress on Thursday to broaden public support for private, high-speed trains. “We have provided a few of what we think are very actionable, very practical things this subcommittee can do help us do what we think we are doing, which is breaking the inertia that has limited progress in this space over the last several decades,” CEO Michael Reininger said. During his visit, DeFazio referred to Brightline’s presence in Florida, including its plans for a link between Orlando and Tampa, as “very exciting and exactly what we want to encourage with federal funds.”
“Matt Gaetz helped set off Florida’s marijuana ‘green rush.’ Some of his friends, allies scored big” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Less than 24 hours before the Legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana law in 2014, Gaetz and state Representatives rewrote the bill to limit who would be able to get in on the ground floor of what has since become a billion-dollar business. A number of Gaetz’s friends and allies managed to squeeze through that narrow door. Gaetz also worked with some of these same friends in other areas. In 2019, for instance, Gaetz, Halsey Beshears, Chris Dorworth and Jason Pirozzolo were all involved in efforts to replace key leaders at the agency that runs Orlando International Airport. All four have also recently been rocked by a federal investigation that emerged from a probe into Joel Greenberg.
“Help from Joel Greenberg, his allies boosted Seminole election chief’s rise to public office” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Chris Anderson was a rank-and-file deputy sheriff when a weekend in Miami with former Seminole County tax collector Greenberg and U.S. Rep. Gaetz culminated in a job offer from Greenberg that served as a springboard to a political career, setting Anderson up to become one of the area’s most powerful local elected officials. Now Anderson has risen to oversee elections in a county that held some of the state’s most competitive races in 2020. He was appointed to that post in 2019 by DeSantis, who tapped Anderson to replace Mike Ertel, the newly elected Governor’s pick for Secretary of State. Anderson had only been working in Greenberg’s Seminole County tax collector office for a year and a half.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“‘Want to arm wrestle?’ Commissioner’s remark to transgender woman ignites firestorm” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It was a simple question that has sparked a firestorm: “Do you want to arm wrestle?” That off-the-cuff remark from Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Heather Moraitis to a transgender woman has sent waves of outrage through the LGBTQ community, advocates say. Moraitis posed the question Tuesday night after Carvelle Estriplet, a political activist from Wilton Manors, called her out for not supporting transgender girls who want to compete on girls’ sports teams. On April 20, Moraitis cast the lone vote against a city resolution that slammed legislative bills aimed at the controversial transgender ban. After hearing Estriplet’s criticism on Tuesday, Moraitis stood her ground and insisted that transwomen are indeed stronger than women who were born girls.
“On way out, attorney Barbara Myrick blasts School Board as dysfunctional” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Minutes after receiving a $226,000 separation package from the Broward School Board on Thursday, General Counsel Myrick lambasted the board as dysfunctional. Myrick warned the board that it was losing two “highly dedicated committed individuals” — herself and Superintendent Robert Runcie — and said more problems could come if the board doesn’t shape up. “I would implore you as I leave that you all are the parents, and because you aren’t functioning as a cohesive group, eventually those underneath you aren’t going to function,” she said. She said Runcie’s cabinet has been functioning well. But she thinks that may not continue. “As soon as the cabinet and the people underneath them begin to fall apart, the district will really lose,” she said.
“Orlando cop avoids being fired again after suspension for violating conduct rules” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando police officer who was fired in 2014 and later rehired has avoided being terminated a second time after he was suspended recently for violating conduct rules. Officer William Escobar was put on a “last chance” agreement to keep his job on March 16 after an internal affairs investigation found he submitted a false report about an April 18 arrest. Orlando police spokesperson Heidi Rodríguez said Tuesday that Escobar was suspended for 240 hours without pay before returning to work. He remains employed with the agency under the agreement, which remains in effect through 2023. “If Officer Escobar violates any OPD Policy between now to March 16, 2023, he will be terminated,” she said.
“Osceola School District to explore guardian program at charters despite misgivings” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — The consideration comes as heads of local law enforcement agencies, led by Kissimmee police Chief Jeff O’Dell, said they struggle with staffing shortages nearly three years after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act mandated some form of armed security presence on public school campuses. On-campus officers make up about a tenth of KPD’s staffing, similar to other Osceola agencies, while charter schools make up less than 1% of calls for service, he said. But school board members said they are against replacing SROs at the charter schools, with recently-elected Jon Argüello calling such a move “a punishment on people who choose charter schools.”
“Hillsborough School district continues to chip away at budget crisis” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — It will be five more days before the Hillsborough County School Board can vote on a plan to keep the school district out of state receivership. There was no arrival of $100 million from the state on Thursday, as was discussed earlier in the week. And, despite nonstop calculations and cost-cutting measures, the district is still $10 million away from the $65 million it will need to satisfy the state’s requirement for a 2% reserve. Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran has demanded a plan by May 12 to demonstrate the district can balance its operating budget this year and in the year to come.
“Tampa City Council pumps brakes on apartment ‘moratorium’” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Reversing course from three weeks ago, Tampa City Council members Thursday voted down a pared-back proposed citywide pause on giving developers more leeway to build large apartment complexes, saying more time was needed to wade through the complicated issue. Several council members said during Thursday’s discussion that they had tired of discussing the controversial subject. That sentiment has been echoed by members of Mayor Jane Castor’s staff, who noted the Council had considered some sort of moratorium on single-use multifamily housing in parts of the city seven times since December. The policy change came after council members in April supported a city plan to tackle the large uptick in big apartment complexes by imposing a nine-month halt on new rezoning requests.
“Tampa airport strikes car-sharing deal, allowing for peer-to-peer rentals” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Thursday approved updated rules for peer-to-peer car-sharing apps and services that connect car owners and renters. It also approved an official concessions agreement with one such service, Turo, with which it has waged a long legal battle over licenses and fees. Among the stipulations: Turo must pay the airport 6.5% of its gross receipts from doing business there and must rent five spaces atop an economy parking garage at the cost of $1,520.83 per month. Turo must arrange pickups and deliveries in a designated area; cars must not circle while waiting, and the company must not advertise on airport property. Turo President Alex Benn electronically signed the agreement in late April.
“Tech company ID.me opening Tampa office, aims to bring 500 jobs” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — ID.me, a digital authentication company that secures personal login information for services ranging from e-commerce to unemployment, is opening a Tampa office and planning to hire 500 local workers this year. The company has already started posting tech support, human resources and other administrative job openings in Tampa. While ID.me will remain headquartered in McLean, Virginia, a statement announcing the move referred to Tampa as the company’s “second home.” … “We looked at other cities like Jacksonville, Provo, Greensboro, North Carolina, and a few others, and Tampa just rose to the top as a really good fit,” said founder and CEO Blake Hall. “A lot of tech talent is going into Florida in general right now.”
“Johns Hopkins All Children’s boosting minimum wage to $15; 300 affected” via The Associated Press — Johns Hopkins plans to boost the minimum wage at its university and health system to $15 an hour. The institutions announced the increase that affects more than 6,000 workers in Maryland on Thursday. The increase also affects about 300 workers at Hopkins’ All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. The changes take effect July 1 for university workers and on Jan. 1 for health system employees. They come ahead of the 2025 target date for statewide adoption of a $15 minimum wage for businesses with at least 15 employees. Hopkins officials don’t expect the increase to impact tuition or hospital rates and that budgetary savings and additional sources of revenue will cover the $9 million cost.
— TOP OPINION —
“Secretive DeSantis signs flawed voting law that courts should reject” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — What’s wrong with this picture? Everything. Scene One: DeSantis came to West Palm Beach Thursday to sign a flawed and needless overhaul of state election laws. Scene Two: DeSantis signs it at a morning rally at a Hilton hotel. The woman at the door wears a Trump hat, and a pickup truck has a big Trump flag and one that says “DeSantis 2024: Make America Florida.” Scene Three: The news media is blocked from entering the hotel’s Majestic ballroom and must peer through a plate-glass window as DeSantis signs one of the most controversial laws of the year. It’s another revealing glimpse of life in Florida under the iron-fisted rule of DeSantis.
— OPINIONS —
“DeSantis wants to deny 800,000 Floridians representation for nine months” via The Washington Post editorial board — Cedric Richmond resigned from Congress on Jan. 15. A special election to fill his Louisiana seat was held in March. Deb Haaland resigned from her New Mexico seat. A special election to replace her is set for June 1. But thanks to the cynical calculations of Florida’s Republican Governor, voters in the state’s 20th Congressional District — primarily Black, primarily Democratic — will have to wait until next year to be represented in Congress. That about 800,000 Floridians will be deprived of representation for nine months apparently worries him not one bit. In fact, it meshes neatly with his larger agenda of suppressing the vote whenever possible for anyone but Republican voters. The thread running throughout is a disdain for democracy.
“Videotaping police officers is a valuable tool in Florida. Let’s keep it that way” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — If you can get arrested for recording a police officer conducting public business in public, who isn’t off-limits? Florida appellate Judge Martha Warner made it clear this week in a strongly written judicial smackdown that videotaping the police is not only legal but essential. While two of her colleagues on the 4th District Court of Appeal took a pass, she penned the legal equivalent of “Are you kidding me?” Warner gets it exactly right. Cameras can give a fuller picture of what the police do — both to clear them of wrongdoing and to hold them up for public scrutiny. Just think how different the Derek Chauvin trial would have been under a pinched understanding of the public’s right to record.
“Quit using Florida law to celebrate Confederate traitors” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Once again, the Florida Legislature had a chance to remove the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis as official state holidays. Once again, lawmakers had a chance to say that Confederate symbols — including the Confederate battle flag — should no longer be protected under state law. Once again, the Legislature declined to take any action whatsoever. This wasn’t a heavy lift. A bill introduced by Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, would not have added any new laws to the books. It simply — and literally — would have drawn a line through references in state law to Confederate symbols and the legal holidays marking Confederate leaders and Confederate memorial day.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Governor signs a controversial election bill — and kicks the hornet nest. Gov. DeSantis invited FOX & Friends to broadcast the signing live from Trumpland near Mar-a-Lago in front of an invitation-only audience while the press was denied access.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— We got a lot of feedback … no one was proud.
— Agriculture Commissioner Fried responded to the election bill signing by calling DeSantis a dictator who doesn’t care about people.
— The League of Women Voters responded with a lawsuit, saying there was never a reason to pass the bill in the first place because it was based on the big lie that there was widespread voter fraud.
— On the Sunrise interview, a conversation with Patti Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
— DeSantis is also under fire for playing Santa Claus with someone else’s money. Democrats on Florida’s congressional delegation say DeSantis is bragging about providing COVID-19 bonuses for teachers and first responders without admitting the money is from The American Rescue Act, which every Republican in Congress opposed.
— And finally, a Florida Woman is facing a felony charge for battery with a burger.
To listen, click on the image below:
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Tampa Bay Times political editor Steve Contorno, FloridaPolitics.com publisher Peter Schorsch and Rep. Fentrice Driskell.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A look at the end of the 2021 Florida Legislative Session, the traditions, accomplishments, controversies, and what’s to come. Joining Walker are Minority Leader Bobby DeBose and House Speaker Designate Paul Renner.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look at Crist as he announces his run for Governor, who else might jump in the race, and what it means for his Congressional seat. Rep. Nick DiCeglie will reflect on the Legislative Session and discuss what’s next for his political career.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will discuss the future of space exploration and the role of the new top space leader, former Sen. Bill Nelson; and a look at how younger voters are responding to today’s politics and insights on why they decide to or decide not to vote.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Ambassador Alan Katz and attorney Sean Pittman.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. Cord Byrd.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): U.S. Rep. Demings, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott.
— ALOE —
“AdventHealth to provide Disney visitors concierge services, virtual care and build free-standing ER near park” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — AdventHealth will build a free-standing emergency room on Disney-owned property and provide virtual consultations, pre-vacation health care planning and prescription medication delivery to Walt Disney World Resort’s guests as the theme park’s new “official” health care provider, the companies announced Thursday. Most of AdventHealth’s services will come with the usual bills and fees, but the arrangement gives visitors greater convenience and peace of mind, said Jeff Vahle, Walt Disney World Resort’s president. The concierge services will be free. Under the deal, Disney visitors with chronic health conditions will be able to arrange physical therapy, dialysis treatment or chemotherapy, for instance. They may line up lactation consultants for breastfeeding mothers, reserve wheelchairs or have hospital beds delivered to their hotel rooms.
“Donor pays full year of homeless shelter’s lease” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — Caleb Houston held a ribbon-cutting for There is Hope homeless shelter on North Davis Highway on Saturday, though the building won’t accept residents until at least June as he works through such logistics as permitting and fire marshal plans. An individual donor at the event paid the lease in full for a year, lessening Houston’s worry about funding the shelter, which will provide services at no cost for guests. Houston, who is himself formerly homeless, said the community has overwhelmingly come forward to help, and he’s received everything from food to beds to ceiling tiles as donations to help him get started. “It is unbelievable; it’s all God, I tell you,” he said.
“Batman fan Doug Flutie built a Batcave replica in his garage and it’s awesome” via Nick Goss of NBC 6 South Florida — Most sports fans know Flutie as the 1984 Heisman Trophy winner for Boston College who went on to play for several teams in the NFL, including his hometown New England Patriots. What you might not know about Flutie is he’s a huge Batman fan. But it doesn’t stop there. He actually built a Batcave replica in his garage. Not only that, Flutie has an old-school Batmobile, too, and even drives it from time to time. The Batcave also features lots of cool Batman memorabilia, including autographs.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is Jennifer Edwards, U.S. Reps. Gaetz and Ted Deutch, and former Rep. Ken Littlefield.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson, with an exclusive contribution from Mac Stipanovich.
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