Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.10.21

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Good Monday morning.

Here’s a quick scoop: Cody McCloud, press secretary to Gov. Ron DeSantis, is exiting the comms shop to become Legislative Affairs Director at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

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State Rep. Ben Diamond is entering the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District — a seat being vacated by incumbent Charlie Crist, who jumped into the 2022 gubernatorial contest Tuesday.

The St. Petersburg Democrat is set to make the announcement today at USF St. Pete, where he will be joined by several local politicos, including Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard and Janet Long. St. Pete City Councilmembers Gina Driscoll, Amy Foster and Brandi Gabbard will also be joining Diamond for the announcement.

Ben Diamond makes it official; he’s running for Congress. Image via Colin Hackley.

Diamond, who was slated to become House Democratic Leader from 2022 to 2024, is the second Democrat to enter the race for CD 13. Diamond will race against President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser Eric Lynn, who announced his campaign Wednesday.

The race also includes Anna Paulina Luna, who also joined the race last week. The GOP firebrand — who gave Crist a run for his money last year — ran, among other things, as a pro-cop candidate who took every available opportunity to bash Crist as socialist and anti-law enforcement.

The candidates will face off for CD 13, which is currently a fairly purple district. Heading into last year’s presidential election, Republicans, through a massive voter registration effort that will continue into the 2022 midterms, chipped away at the Democratic advantage in the Pinellas County district from 5.2 percentage points to just 4.6.

And with redistricting on the horizon, Republicans leading the process could narrow that even more by shifting district boundaries northward. However, they may be reluctant to get too creative with redistricting after the Florida Supreme Court foiled their last attempts to draw a map favorable to the GOP.

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Offering yet another sign that Florida is emerging from the yearlong crisis precipitated by COVID-19, the Florida Chamber kicks off its first in-person conference since the beginning of the pandemic May 10-12 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

Fittingly, the event they are hosting — the inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety Health and Sustainability — has arranged several safeguards to keep its 330 attendees safe. They are required to wear face coverings. There also will be on-site temperature screenings and COVID-19 rapid tests, as well as social distancing and hand sanitizer stations. A blood drive is part of the gathering with COVID-19 antibody testing.

“All of that has been put in place to make sure … we can be live, but we can do that in a really, really safe way,” said Ivette Faulkner, the Florida Chamber’s Executive vice president for Strategic Communication & Marketing. The conference also offers a virtual option to attend the conference’s professional development training and 31 educational sessions. In addition, there will be an exhibition hall on-site featuring 25 vendors.

The conference is attracting EHS — Environment, Health and Safety — professionals from across the south. While the COVID-19 crisis has been front-and-center over the past year, its practitioners can face a wide range of workplace situations — everything from slip-and-falls, protective equipment and disaster preparedness to OSHA regulations and workplace violence — all of which and more will be covered in the three-day meeting.

Other speakers include Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees and Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, The Florida Chamber had created a safety group to help propel the state to become one of the safest, healthiest and most sustainable in the nation. The pandemic and its impact on every business in Florida have highlighted the critical importance of EHS’s purpose.

“Safety is Job 1 to Florida’s business leaders, which is why the Florida Chamber Safety Council is working to unite Florida’s business community for a movement to create a culture of safety,” said Florida Chamber Safety Council President Katie Yeutter

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@POTUS: This has been an extraordinarily tough year for moms across this country. To all the moms who have carried us through this pandemic — as front-line workers, caregivers, parents, and more — happy Mother’s Day and thank you from a grateful nation.

@GovRonDeSantis: Happy Mother’s Day to all — but especially to my incredible wife @FLCaseyDeSantis. Not only is she a wonderful mother to Madison, Mason and Mamie, but she has spearheaded important initiatives to support the mental wellness and resiliency of all Floridians.

@SenRickScott: Happy #MothersDay to my wonderful wife, Ann, our two daughters and all of the amazing and hardworking moms in Florida and across the nation. We are grateful for your love, dedication and strength not just today, but every day.

@AshleyMoodyFL: After many long days in the bleachers, multiple trips to the emergency room over the years and countless hugs for wins and losses, this week, we celebrated a Little League Championship! #HappyMothersDay to all the moms out there getting it done. Celebrate you today!!!!

@KathyCastorFL: On this #MothersDay, I’m thinking about the women who have supported me throughout my life. One woman, in particular, has inspired me to no end: my mother. @FlCastor taught me the value of hard work, empathy & dedication. She taught me something else: the value of leadership. What she knew — and what millions of women across this country know — is that leadership isn’t about giving speeches or drawing crowds. It’s about delivering for the children and families who rely on you day in and day out.

Tweet, tweet:

@DaveNewWorld_2: I don’t want to see a single Mother’s Day tweet from anyone who can look at the latest jobs report and not realize we need universal child care in this country. Women didn’t “drop out” of the workforce. They were shoved out, just for having children.

@JoyAnnReid: In the FL Governor’s race, @CharlieCrist could be as dangerous to @GovRonDeSantis as Joe Biden was to [Donald] Trump: a known quantity to most state voters, a decent man and moderate who’s hard to caricature as some proto-Marxist and someone who can de-Trumpify the state’s cruel image. And if more cruise lines start pulling out of Florida ports over DeSantis’ “From Mount Tallahassee down” bullying of cities over COVID-19 and sports leagues and businesses back away over voter suppression, “hit BLM with cars” bills and anti-trans laws, DeSantis’ numbers could shift.

@FacetheNation: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) likens GOP to “Titanic”: “We’re in the middle of this slow sink. We have a band playing on the deck, telling everybody it’s fine, and meanwhile, Donald Trump’s running around, trying to find women’s clothing and get on the first lifeboat.”

@KwikWarren: Brian Williams scoffed at Josh Hawley taking to Twitter to sell his new book, saying: “His book, by the way, is called ‘The Tyranny of Big Tech.’ Apparently, the title “Gaslighting For Idiots” was taken.”

@DustinCarmack: I certainly wasn’t “scarred” @playbookdc @tarapalmeri @rachaelmbade@GovRonDeSantis @FLCaseyDeSantis are the best of the best. Looks like anybody on-the-record here actually backs that up.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 7; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 18; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 18; Memorial Day — 21; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 24; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 32; Father’s Day — 41; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 46; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 53; 4th of July — 55; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 60; MLB All-Star Game — 64; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 74; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 74; The NBA Draft — 80; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 82; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 88; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 106; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 116; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 127; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 137; ‘Dune’ premieres — 144; MLB regular season ends — 146; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 152; World Series Game 1 — 169; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 176; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 176; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 179; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 200; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 214; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 221; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 246; Super Bowl LVI — 279; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 319; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 361; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 424; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 515; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 550.

— TOP STORY —

Controversial U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene find refuge at raucous joint rally in The Villages” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Two of the most controversial Republicans in the country were a big draw in The Villages Friday night, as hundreds gathered to see U.S. Rep. Greene join U.S. Rep. Gaetz for the kickoff of their “America First” tour. The two have joined to create “Put America First,” a joint fundraising committee, and Friday’s event in the country’s biggest senior community was the first of a series of scheduled rallies designed to appeal to former (and potentially future) Trump voters. Rallygoers at The Brownwood Hotel & Spa cheered and waved signs for both Gaetz and Greene at a rally that echoed Trump rallies down to the choice of music, including “Macho Man” and Elton John.

Tweet, tweet:

— 2022 —

New redistricting group aims to use Florida to flip House” via Stef W. Kight of Axios — A former Trump administration official is aiming to win the House back for Republicans with a new redistricting group focused on Florida that he’s launching Monday. With multiple competitive seats, an extra seat the state is receiving because of population growth and the once-a-decade redistricting process, “whoever controls the U.S. House could come through Florida, and I think it will come through Florida,” Carlos Trujillo said. Just as Democrats looked to California to flip control of the House in the 2018 midterms, this group of Republicans sees Florida as the path back to House control in 2022. Trujillo, a former Florida lawmaker, was Trump‘s ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Democrats agonize over who should try to dethrone Marco Rubio” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — The race to challenge Sen. Rubio may turn into another battle that pits the Democrats’ progressive faction against its moderate establishment, to Rubio’s possible benefit. Democrats initially hoped that Rep. Stephanie Murphy would be the strongest challenger to the conservative Cuban American Republican in Florida’s 2022 Senate race. The 42-year-old Murphy first won her seat by toppling 12-term incumbent GOP Rep. John Mica and has since won two more races in a highly competitive central Florida district. While Murphy ponders jumping into the Senate race, she may find her path blocked by Aramis Ayala, a former state attorney whose political career was aided by billionaire George Soros and who could be helped again by a network of liberal donors.

Who will be able to take down Marco Rubio? Democrats are struggling to find out. Image via AP.

Charlie Crist makes first Miami swing campaigning for Governor” via Samantha J. Gross of The Miami Herald — Crist made his first campaign stop in South Florida Saturday as he angles to get his old job back as Florida Governor. Crist, who launched his campaign Tuesday in St. Petersburg, kicked off a daylong itinerary in Miami-Dade with Cuban American Democrats at Tropical Park, where he spoke about loosening economic restrictions placed by the U.S. on the communist island. “I’m running for Governor because you deserve better,” he told an audience of about two dozen people while sitting at a table filled with Cuban coffee and guava pastelitos, though he didn’t touch the food. During his remarks, Crist outlined his policy stances on Democratic mainstays like expanding Medicaid, raising teacher salaries, and committing to renewable energy.

—”Crist glided to Democratic nomination for Governor in 2014. This time won’t be so easy.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

If Val Demings runs statewide, Bakari Burns will consider run for Congress” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — If U.S. Rep. Demings takes the leap to run for Governor or U.S. Senate, Orlando City Commissioner Bakari Burns said Friday he’d consider running for Congress, following encouraging from supporters. Burns, who was first elected to city council in 2019, represents a swath of neighborhoods in west Orlando south to Universal Orlando Resort, which is a piece of Florida’s 10th Congressional District. He’s also CEO of the Healthcare Center for the Homeless, which does business as Orange Blossom Family Health throughout the region. Burns said he hasn’t spoken with Demings yet about potentially running. “I think it would be an awesome opportunity to follow Congresswoman Demings,” Burns said Friday.

Happening today — State candidates and political committees have a deadline for filing reports detailing finance activity through April 30.

Naples Councilman Ray Christman running for reelection in 2022” via Brittany Carloni of the Naples Daily News — Councilman Christman is running for reelection to the Naples City Council. Christman filed forms in March, designating a campaign treasurer and bank account for the election in February 2022. The city councilman was elected to office during a special election in 2019 to replace then-Naples Councilwoman Linda Penniman, who announced she would step down. In the 2019 election, Christman received 2,241 votes, or 50.8% of the vote, edging out challengers such as former Naples City Manager Bill Moss and now-Naples Councilman Ted Blankenship. “My election in 2019 was then viewed as an upset, but I think in retrospect it ushered in a new era in Naples city government,” Christman said.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Did Ron DeSantis violate First Amendment with Fox News-only bill signing?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis not only broke from decades of precedent on Thursday when he blocked all news outlets except Fox News from covering the signing of a voting bill into law. He also may have violated the U.S. Constitution. That’s the opinion of First Amendment experts who told the Tampa Bay Times it is illegal for DeSantis to handpick which media can cover a public proceeding. “The law leaves no question as to the impropriety of banning certain media while allowing only friendly media,” said Pamela Marsh, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation. “That is viewpoint and content discrimination.” Decades of precedent in federal courts have affirmed that elected officials cannot block certain news outlets from reporting on public events just because they don’t like the coverage.

Was Ron DeSantis’ Fox-only bill signing against the Constitution?

Citizen initiatives will be harder to get on Florida ballot” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Florida Republicans have succeeded in making it more difficult for voters to change the state constitution under a bill DeSantis signed Friday. The new law limits contributions by groups promoting ballot initiatives. Political committees seeking to change the constitution are now limited to $3,000 individual contributions until their proposal is approved for the ballot, a limit that could have made it impossible for medical marijuana and an increase in the minimum wage to get before voters. The bill passed in the House last month on a 75-40 vote, with Republicans arguing that it is needed to keep out-of-state special interest money from influencing the state constitution.

— “ACLU sues to stop law limiting contributions to ballot initiatives” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida 

Reworked Tobacco 21 bill earns DeSantis’ approval” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Friday signed a measure to raise the smoking age to 21. The bill (SB 1080) passed the House 103-13 last week after passing the Senate 29-9. Lawmakers formally sent the proposal to the Governor earlier Friday. DeSantis vetoed a similar proposal last year. Nevertheless, the Senate sponsor, Travis Hutson, accurately believed the Governor could sign the measure this year because the bill won’t regulate vaping flavors like last year’s version would have. “We are working to keep tobacco and nicotine products out of the hands of children,” Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo said in a news release. Toledo and Rep. Nicholas Duran have been consistent House sponsors. DeSantis argued limiting the available vaping flavors reduced ways for smokers to wean themselves off cigarettes, which he said are more dangerous.

DeSantis signs rural broadband expansion bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Friday signed a bill that aims to expand broadband access in “unserved” parts of the state. Sponsored by Rep. Josie Tomkow the bill (HB 1239) transfers the Office of Broadband to the Department of Economic Opportunity and bolsters its mission. Tomkow said the bill would “eliminate our digital divide throughout our state” and expand a similar bill passed last year. It also encourages broadband companies to expand to rural areas by creating a path for the necessary infrastructure, including by identifying federal grants available for local spending. The legislation no longer includes a sales tax exemption, which means the bill will not have a fiscal impact on local governments.

Compromise bill to modernize legal notices wins DeSantis’ pen” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legal notices in Florida may soon be featured online under a bill DeSantis signed Friday. Earlier that day, the Legislature formally sent its proposal (HB 53) to modernize the state’s public notice system to the Governor. Last week, the House voted 105-9 to pass the bill after the Senate approved it unanimously, marking the end of a legislative tug-of-war over the measure. The bill, carried by Republicans Rep. Randy Fine and Sen. Ray Rodrigues, will expand state law to allow legal notices to be posted online as well as in a local newspaper. Legal notices are public alerts on fiscal and other matters for cities, counties, school districts and special taxing districts. They cover infrastructure plans, changes in land use and other ordinances.

Unwritten firearm policies under the gun as DeSantis signs preemption bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Friday signed a measure to crack down on local governments creating gun control measures. Lawmakers last week passed a bill (SB 1884) clarifying that existing preemptions on local firearm and ammunition laws also apply to unwritten rules and policies. The proposal, which the Legislature formally sent to the Governor earlier in the day, will also make clear local governments can’t bypass court cases simply by scrapping gun laws. State law expressly prohibits a local government from creating an “ordinance, regulation, measure, directive, rule, enactment, order or policy” relating to guns that are more restrictive than state law. 

Wilton Simpson: Fontainebleau Resort will not get casino license this year” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — After spending more than a million dollars in campaign contributions and hosting elaborate, star-studded fundraisers for Republicans on his mega yacht, Fontainebleau Resort owner Jeffrey Soffer will not be allowed to move his casino license to Miami Beach, at least for now. Simpson closed the door on Soffer’s dream of a casino at his storied hotel during an interview. “We will not contemplate moving a casino license out to the Fontainebleau,” Simpson said. It was the clearest statement yet by Simpson, the most powerful Republican in the state Senate.

Horse breeders want full race slate, but not at their own track” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — In the Special Session, lawmakers are expected to take up gaming legislation pitched during the Regular Legislative Session last month. Regular Session gaming bills (SB 7076, SB 7078 and SB 7080) would have nixed a requirement that pari-mutuels conduct live horse races or jai alai games to offer more lucrative forms of gambling, which is known as “decoupling.” Once the deal was struck on the new Seminole Compact and a Special Session became necessary, the bills were shelved. Decoupling represents a significant change in the state’s gaming policy. While the move is supported among pari-mutuel operators, it was met with staunch opposition from the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association.

DeSantis lights Florida Historic Capitol blue for National Police Week” via WTXL — DeSantis announced Florida will honor the men and women of the state’s police force by lighting the Florida Historic Capitol blue during National Police Week, beginning Sunday, May 9, 2021, through Saturday, May 15, 2021. National Police Week recognizes those who protect our nation and the State of Florida and those who have made the supreme sacrifice with their lives to protect the freedom of others and preserve law and order. “In Florida, we stand behind our police officers who protect our freedoms and defend our society — putting themselves in harm’s way to keep our people safe and our businesses secure,” said DeSantis. DeSantis announced $1,000 bonuses for first responders for their dedicated response during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Not touching this — “Ex-DeSantis staffers form support group” via Celine Castronuovo of The Hill — Several former staffers for DeSantis have reportedly formed a “support group” in which they reflect on their hardships and difficult experiences from their time working for the Governor. Roughly a dozen former aides and consultants to the Florida Governor all said that the staunch ally of Trump treats staff as expendable workers. DeSantis is known among Republicans for having a substantially high turnover rate and currently only has two staffers who have stayed with him since his time in Congress. DeSantis ranked in the 70th percentile for the highest turnover in a House office. Some of the disgruntled former staffers who spoke to Playbook said the Governor does not have the type of stable political team that could sustain a national campaign.

—”‘Tough Session’: Tracie Davis looks back as 2022 decision looms” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Behind the scenes in the FSU presidential search: Familiar faces emerge as possible contenders” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — A search committee is hoping to identify candidates who will be received by alumni, faculty, students and by megadonors, who are waiting in the shadows. John Thrasher, who has served as president since fall 2014, announced last fall he will retire when his successor is on board. But as the insiders discussed the search with the Tallahassee Democrat, several names that will be recognized locally have also surfaced: Jeff Kottkamp, an attorney, lobbyist, and former Lieutenant Governor of Florida. David Coburn, vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics at FSU, and Thrasher’s former chief of staff. Richard Corcoran, 56, Florida’s Commissioner of Education, a former Florida House Speaker and an adviser to DeSantis.

Welcome back — A favorite son is seeking a return to Florida politics. Former Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan is a surprise name entering the race to succeed John Thrasher as FSU president. Brogan, most recently acting as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, returned to Tallahassee in February. In addition to serving nearly five years as Lt. Governor under former Gov. Jeb Bush, Brogan was also Florida’s Commissioner of Education, President of Florida Atlantic University, and the Chancellor of both the Florida and Pennsylvania university systems. A longtime popular political figure, Brogan is certainly a name to watch in the FSU Presidential Search Committee meeting on Tuesday, which will narrow the applicant list.

Frank Brogan makes a bid for FSU president.

How impact fees work in Florida and what changes under the new law” via Clayton Park of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Impact fees in Florida are set to change under the newly passed state bill HB 337, which DeSantis is expected to sign into law. Impact fees are a one-time fee assessed to either developers or builders for new homes, including townhouses, apartments and condominiums, as well as new commercial developments. The purpose is to help pay for increased infrastructure demands created by the new growth. Impact fees can be used for new roads and bridges, as well as new water, sewer and utility lines, schools, parks and recreational facilities, as well as first-responder services. Impact fees are only supposed to offset the growth created by the new development in question. Counties, cities and special districts assess impact fees. Often those fees are simply passed on by the developer or builder to the end-user.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida leads the way in Joe Biden’s reopened ACA exchange” via Christine Jordan Sexton of The News Service of Florida — Floridians have continued to lead the way during a special enrollment period ordered by Biden. More than 117,000 Florida residents enrolled in an Obamacare health plan last month and paid for coverage, bringing Florida enrollment in the exchange during the special enrollment period to 264,088. Data showed that 939,575 people had enrolled nationwide in plans and paid for coverage — meaning that 28% of all new sign-ups were in the Sunshine State. When it comes to Obamacare, Florida is a contradiction. Republican legislative leaders stand solidly against expanding Medicaid, a key feature of the federal law, yet the state leads the nation in overall enrollment in the insurance exchange.

Joe Biden’s reopened health care exchange is a hit with Floridians.

What Lenny Curry is reading — “Florida ends marijuana testing for boxers and MMA fighters” via A.J. Herrington of Forbes — The Florida Boxing Commission voted to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances, opening the door for combat sports fighters to use cannabis for nonperformance enhancing purposes. The move follows the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) recommendations and the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s new anti-doping policy announced earlier this year. After the vote on Tuesday, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation spokesperson Patrick Fargason said that both boxers and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters would no longer be subject to drug screenings for cannabis in the state.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

COVID-19 in Florida: 3,231 new cases, 31 more deaths reported Sunday” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 3,231 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and another 31 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 2,269,806 cases since the pandemic began. While slightly up from Saturday, the numbers show a general trend downward. South Florida counties reported a total of 1,204 new cases and 10 deaths Sunday. The state reported a daily positivity rate of 5.32% on Sunday, up from 4.67% the day before.

Norwegian Cruise Line threatens to skip Florida ports over vaccine passport ban” via The Associated Press — Norwegian Cruise Lines is threatening to steer clear of Florida after the Governor signed an order banning businesses from requiring that customers show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. The company says the order by DeSantis is at odds with guidelines from federal health authorities that would let cruise ships sail in U.S. waters if nearly all passengers and crew members are vaccinated. “It is a classic state-versus-federal-government issue,” says Frank Del Rio, CEO of parent Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. Norwegian aims to have all passengers and crew vaccinated.

Norwegian Cruise Line could bypass Florida altogether.

Crist criticizes DeSantis’ vaccine passport ban, impact on cruise industry” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis faces scrutiny from political opponent U.S. Rep. Crist for his vaccine passport ban, which has led to Norwegian Cruise Line threatening to pull ships from Florida ports. “Gov. DeSantis would rather wipe out a billion-dollar industry in our state and cost thousands of Floridians their jobs instead of making sure folks can take a COVID-free cruise,” Crist said in a statement. “How does that make sense?” The cruise company, which owns Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is threatening to remove their ships from Florida ports if the state maintains laws that will not allow them to verify the vaccination status of customers. DeSantis signed the controversial bill (SB 2006) on Monday.

COVID-19 vaccines: A moneymaker for Florida doctors, pharmacies, grocery stores” via David Fleshler and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the Orlando Sentinel — Although you didn’t have to pay anything for the shots, the fees paid by insurance companies and the federal government put as much as $150 million in the pockets of Florida pharmacies, grocery stores and private medical practices. A look at doses provided to Publix, Walgreens, CVS and private doctors shows that the COVID-19 vaccine business provided a big source of revenue after a difficult year. Aside from direct revenues, by bringing customers in the door, the shots result in sales of everything from diapers to annual physicals.

Publix will offer walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday” via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press — All Publix Pharmacy locations will provide COVID-19 vaccinations to walk-in customers starting Monday, another indication that inoculations are becoming more easily available to all who want them. Customers who are 18 and older will have a choice of the two-dose Moderna and one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Those interested may still also schedule their shots online, something the supermarket chain encourages people to do. Walk-in customers should check with their local stores to make sure they have supplies on hand on any given day. According to Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous, vaccinations are free, though customers with health insurance should bring their cards.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Polk Rep. Melony Bell endured case of COVID-19 just before Session” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — The COVID-19 pandemic hovered over the recently completed Session of the Florida Legislature, reducing state revenue, influencing new legislation and keeping the public from the Florida State Capitol. For one Polk County legislator, COVID-19 became a personal concern. Rep. Bell said she contracted the viral illness in the weeks before the Session opened on March 2. Bell missed pre-Session committee meetings, which are crucial for generating support for bills, but managed to be in Tallahassee when the Session convened. Bell said her husband, Robbie Bell, became infected first and then passed the illness on to her. “My husband had it, and I thought between him and I that he would be on a ventilator and I would be fine, and I never went on a ventilator, but it was just the opposite,” Bell said. “I was very sick.

Melony Bell and her husband dealt with a serious COVID-19 infection just before the 2021 Session. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida State University says masks indoors recommended, no longer required” via WTXL — In an email sent to Florida State University faculty, students and staff, the school lifted its mask requirement for those indoors on campus. “As we prepare for the summer and fall semesters, I want to remind everyone that the University will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The University recommends the use of face coverings while indoors, in accordance with CDC guidance. This represents a shift from the previous face-covering requirement and reflects our substantial efforts to vaccinate the university community, along with a low number of COVID-19 cases on campus.”

— CORONA NATION —

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 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. Researchers estimated dramatic undercounts in countries such as India, Mexico and Russia, where they said the official death counts are some 400,000 too low in each country.

Well, yeah — “CDC acknowledges airborne transmission” via Jennifer Hassan, Kim Bellware and Meryl Kornfield of The Washington Post — Federal health officials revised coronavirus guidance on Friday to acknowledge that people can get infected by inhaling very fine, aerosolized particles carrying the virus, following warnings from health experts since last year. The CDC advised that airborne transmission is one of several ways the virus can spread, adding that people more than six feet away from others indoors can become infected, according to the agency’s website. Epidemiologists have pushed for worldwide recognition that the virus can be transmitted by inhalation, saying improved ventilation and other airborne-specific mitigation measures could curb outbreaks.

Senior CDC official who met Donald Trump’s wrath for raising alarm about coronavirus to resign” via Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — Nancy Messonnier, a senior health expert at the CDC who was the first U.S. official to warn Americans last year that a new coronavirus would upend their lives, is resigning from the agency, she told colleagues in an email Friday morning. Her last day is May 14. She will become an executive director at a California health philanthropy. “My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career,” she wrote in the email reviewed by The Washington Post.

Nancy Messonnier was one of the first to warn of COVID-19, and she paid a price.

White House, state officials scramble to get docs’ help with lagging vaccination effort” via Rachel Roubein and Dan Goldberg of POLITICO — The Biden administration and state health officials are rushing to overcome logistical hurdles to get more COVID-19 shots into doctors’ offices, believing that physicians who have largely been excluded from the inoculation effort so far could be key to boosting vaccination rates. Doctors have lobbied the White House and states to ship them doses, but officials instead focused their efforts on mass vaccination sites and other places that could quickly immunize hundreds or even thousands of people daily. With demand for shots now slipping, officials are now trying to steer doses to smaller, local sites like doctor offices that can make targeted efforts to reach people who are hesitant to get vaccinated or have faced other obstacles like lack of transportation.

States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes” via The Associated Press — States asked the federal government this week to withhold staggering amounts of COVID-19 vaccine amid plummeting demand for the shots, contributing to a growing U.S. stockpile of doses. From South Carolina to Washington, states are requesting the Biden administration send them only a fraction of what’s been allocated. The turned-down vaccines amount to hundreds of thousands of doses this week alone, providing a stark illustration of the problem of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. More than 150 million Americans, about 57% of the adult population, have received at least one dose of vaccine, but government leaders from the Biden administration down to the city and county level are doing everything they can to persuade the rest of the country to get inoculated.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

GOP Governors slash jobless aid to try to force more Americans to return to work” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — An unexpected slowdown in hiring nationwide has prompted some Republican Governors to start slashing jobless benefits in their states. The new GOP cuts chiefly target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received for months in addition to their usual unemployment checks. Arkansas on Friday became the latest to announce plans to cancel the extra benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina earlier in the week, in a move that signals a new effort on the part of Republicans to try to combat what they see as a national worker shortage. Republican policymakers have long opposed these heightened unemployment payments and unanimously voted against extending them earlier this year.

It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America.” via Heather Long of The Washington Post — Biden’s team has vowed that its massive stimulus package will recover all the remaining jobs lost during the pandemic in about a year, but that promise won’t be kept unless there’s a big pickup in hiring soon. There are still 8.2 million jobs left to recover. There is also growing evidence that many people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic psychological effect on workers, and people are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work, whether in an office, at home, or some hybrid combination. A survey this year found that 66% of the unemployed had “seriously considered” changing their field of work, a far greater percentage than during the Great Recession.

Don’t call it a ‘worker shortage.’

U.S. Treasury releases $21.6 billion rental assistance, aims to aid renters directly” via Reuters — The Treasury Department on Friday said it allocated an additional $21.6 billion for rental assistance under Biden’s coronavirus rescue package, adding new rules aimed at assisting more renters directly. The Treasury said that new guidance to local agencies administering rental assistance programs allows them for the first time to offer aid directly to renters first, before offering it to landlords. It also requires that aid funds be offered directly to renters when landlords do not participate in such programs. It also said that the length of time that renters must wait to receive rental funds was cut in half to as little as five days after determining a landlord is not participating in the rental assistance program.

Hunger rates plummet after two rounds of stimulus” via Helena Bottemiller Evich of POLITICO — The percentage of Americans struggling with hunger is now at its lowest level since the pandemic began, suggesting the recent flood in aid from Washington is making a significant difference to families struggling economically. Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week shows the percentage of adults living in households that sometimes or often did not have enough to eat dipped to just over 8% late last month, down from nearly 11% in March. That is a substantial drop, and it came after hundreds of billions in stimulus checks went out. The rate of American adults in households struggling with food is now down more than 40% since its peak in December.

— MORE CORONA —

America’s COVID-19 vaccine hesitation is an insult to countries in need” via Julia Jones of CNN — America’s abundance, this wealth of resources that financed the massive efforts against COVID-19 is the very same reason many are hesitant to get vaccinated. This wealth and privilege blind some Americans. For all the lives that the pandemic took and all the lives it changed forever, many still choose to ignore science in favor of their own unscientific rationalizations. About a quarter of adult Americans say they will not take the vaccine. Meanwhile, Brazil is struggling not only to import vaccines but with a massive COVID-19 wave that has filled cemeteries and ICUs and caused oxygen shortages. Thousands of people in my hometown in southern Brazil have had their second doses of the vaccine delayed because there aren’t enough doses.

To mask or not to mask? With vaccines and new guidelines, the mask-faithful navigate a ‘weird gray area.’” via Karin Brulliard of The Washington Post — Some Americans never fully embraced face masks. But for many across the nation who did, rising vaccination rates and shifting public health advice are forcing a recalibration of a relationship with an accessory that has served as a shield against a deadly pathogen, a security blanket during a crisis, and a symbol of regard for the common good, liberal politics or belief in science. Suddenly, in the spring of 2021, donning a mask for a solo stroll outside, where scientists have found scant evidence of transmission, has become the unscientific approach. A poll found that 63% of all vaccinated respondents always wear masks outside their homes, down from 74% in mid-April.

Changes in the COVID-19 situation are confusing to people who wish to keep wearing masks. Image via AP.

Relieved this is cleared up — “No, the COVID-19 vaccines won’t give you genital herpes” via Miriam Fauzia of USA Today — The good news in the fight against the coronavirus: New infection cases continue to decline, according to the latest data from the CDC. The bad news: So are daily vaccinations, which had peaked in mid-April. Health officials state part of the deceleration may correlate with the timing of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause announced on April 13 but lifted on April 23. Part of it may also be due to lingering fears surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. One such recent claim connects the shot with herpes infection. And that’s not exactly what a study found. The Israeli study was actually evaluating whether mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s shots, are safe for people with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases (AIIRD) since clinical trials have excluded this specific patient group.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

As Biden faces a struggle to hold the Senate, Democrats’ divisions resurface” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — As Democrats survey the upcoming fight to keep their narrow Senate majority, they face similar challenges in an array of states: The factions that set aside their differences to deliver the Democrats control of Washington are redividing along racial, gender and generational lines. That could be a problem for Biden. With Republicans making a strong play to retake the House, the Senate could hold the balance of power in Washington after 2022, making it critical to the rest of his term. But the White House is taking a hands-off approach to the primaries for now, even while watching them intently. The brewing primary fights underline how little Biden’s election did to resolve the party’s debate over how best to win elections.

Democratic divisions are not making things easy on Joe Biden. Image via AP.

White House embraces Zoom to target local audiences” via Hans Nichols of Axios — The White House is seizing upon the pandemic’s breakthrough technology to give local TV stations nearly 500 Zoom interviews to date with senior White House officials and members of the Cabinet. The Biden administration tries to sell the President’s policies to Americans who don’t live and breathe politics by reaching them at home with broadcasts fed directly from a 4th-floor studio in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Biden’s team has been targeting local audiences since Day One as a way to bypass national media and ignore whatever Twitter-generated stories are dominating Beltway coverage.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP — 

Trump’s out-of-power agenda: Retribution against foes, commanding the spotlight and total domination of GOP” via Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump is moving to handpick members of the House GOP leadership team, relentlessly attacking Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, and endorsing Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace her. He is plotting to take down Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol while continuing to stoke the false claims of a stolen election that have become a dangerous rallying cry for the party. And he is playing host to a burbling stream of Republican well-wishers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. and Sen. Ted Cruz, who travel to his private Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida to pay their respects, seek his support, and post a photo of their ring-kissing on social media.

Retribution is Donald Trump’s primary motivation. Image via Washington Post.

The view from here: Mar-a-Lago-to-go” via Shawn McCreesh of Air Mail — A day before Facebook reinstituted its ban of his account, Trump rolled out a new blog on his website, a dumping ground for the erratic news releases he’s been beaming out. Will anyone care? For five years, his every utterance was A1-worthy; now, he can’t even make the papers. He called Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch” to a roomful of donors and couldn’t scrape more than half a news cycle out of it. Trump is a Gloria Gaynor record at Comiskey Park in 1979 — nobody wants to hear it. “It’s the supernova effect,” says tabloid archivist Matt James, who runs the popular Instagram account @popculturediedin2009. “You burn so bright that you automatically fade to black.”

Trump can stay at Mar-a-Lago legally — as a ‘bona fide’ employee, Palm Beach town attorney says” via Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The final word on whether Trump can live at his Mar-a-Lago estate is out, and some of his neighbors in Palm Beach won’t like it. Some of Trump’s neighbors alleged that the former President violates a 1993 agreement with the town that limits how many days members of the Mar-a-Lago Club can stay in the estate’s guest suites. But he is free to live there, as a bona fide employee, according to Palm Beach town attorney John “Skip” Randolph. Randolph reviewed the 1993 Declaration of Use Agreement, and determined the agreement doesn’t specifically prohibit Trump from living at Mar-a-Lago. He also advised that private clubs can provide living quarters for bona fide employees under the town’s zoning code.

— CRISIS —

Justice Dept. starts to seek plea deals in Capitol riot cases” via Alan Feuer of The New York Times — The prosecutors overseeing the vast investigation into the riot at The Capitol this winter have started offering plea deals to defendants, several lawyers said, a significant step in advancing the inquiry into the attack. The plea negotiations, which have largely been informal, are in an early stage, and as of late last week, only one defendant among hundreds charged had pleaded guilty. But many lawyers have recently acknowledged having private conversations with the government and have sought to determine how much prison time their clients might be willing to accept. The hashing out of plea deals will also force the government to grapple yet again with what has from the start been the central tension in the mass prosecution: the struggle to mete out justice on an individual level for the often intersecting actions of a mob.

The Justice Department is starting to make plea deals with Capitol rioters.

Capitol Police, taking heat for Jan. 6, challenges Congress to pay for fixes” via Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post — The Capitol Police sought to shift the onus for improving security at the U.S. Capitol to Congress, issuing a testy response to its inspector general’s latest examination of the failures that allowed insurrectionists to breach the complex Jan. 6 in their failed bid to overturn Trump’s election defeat. An interim report from Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton, the third produced thus far in his ongoing investigation, concludes the force lacked “adequate resources” to assess risks posed to the Capitol properly. The Capitol Police argued in a statement that implementing the inspector general’s recommendations will “require resources and authorization” from Congress, and that the agency has taken “significant steps” to make other necessary changes in the meantime.

— D.C. MATTERS —

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch to GOP: If you want credit for stimulus, vote for it.” via The Palm Beach Post — Once Biden came into office, Democrats have not had much Republican support in delivering help to America. When Biden proposed the American Rescue Plan that has by now made vaccinations available to any Floridian who wants one, Republicans said ‘No.’ Florida Republicans jumped quickly to partisan politics in attacking this relief package. In their next breath, they congratulated themselves and took credit for spending over $6 billion of Rescue Plan funds in their proposed budget. DeSantis’s partisanship is leaving billions of dollars in Washington that could do more to improve Florida’s recovery. Hypocrisy is nothing new in politics. But when America faces a crisis, we must come together. Unfortunately, their partisanship once again let the people of Florida down.

Ted Deutch is taking Republican hypocrisy to task.

Congress can now control more money, and two South Florida Reps. will play a big role” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Earmarks, are back. And two South Florida lawmakers will play an important role in the budgeting process, which is competitive. Not every lawmaker will get what they want. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have leadership roles in the House Appropriations Committee, responsible for federal spending proposals. Wasserman Schultz is the top Democrat on the subcommittee responsible for earmarks related to military construction projects, while Diaz-Balart is the top Republican for transportation funding requests through the appropriations process, though Democrats ultimately control the subcommittee.

—“16 Florida congressional reps file 167 ‘earmarks’ seeking $316M in project funding” via John Haughey of The Center Square Florida 

Gaetz helped set off Florida’s marijuana ‘green rush.’ Some of his friends, allies scored big” via Tribune News Service — Less than 24 hours before the Florida Legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana law in May 2014, Gaetz and other members of the state House of 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. Gaetz also worked with some of these same friends in other arenas. 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, an obscure-but-important entity that spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on contractors and vendors.

Al Lawson decries rodent-plagued conditions at HUD-supported Jacksonville apartments” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Lawson became the second member of Congress in a week to call out rodent-plagued, federally subsidized apartments in Jacksonville when he said Thursday residents of Hilltop Village Apartments should be relocated until exterminators can clear out infestations. “It is unacceptable that young mothers who live in the units and are working to raise healthy children are forced to put their food in airtight containers so disease-carrying rodents cannot disrupt their child’s development,” Lawson said in a statement. Lawson’s criticism comes on the heels of Rubio taking aim over the past week at conditions at Hilltop Village and two other Jacksonville apartment complexes.

— LOCAL NOTES —

‘Let’s make good trouble:’ Votercade drives through Broward County to raise awareness of voting restrictions” via Amber Randall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A motorcade of voters drove from the Supervisor of Elections office in Broward County to a park in Pompano Beach Saturday afternoon to bring awareness to voting restrictions not only in South Florida, but throughout the rest of the country. Organized by various activists and local leaders in Broward County, the caravan took to the streets from US 441 in Lauderhill, through Coconut Creek, and finally culminating in a celebration at Hunters Manors Park in Pompano Beach. “So much has been sacrificed for people just to walk in and pick who they want to vote for,” said Joshua Simmons, vice mayor of Coral Springs. “We are fighting for the people who can’t be here right now.”

Cybercriminals potentially accessed data of 10,000 people in Brevard School Board breach” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — Cybercriminals could have accessed the identifying information of about 10,000 people last year through the email accounts of 12 Brevard County School Board employees, a school district spokesperson said Friday. The School Board became aware of strange activity in its systems on Oct. 31, 2020, and on Jan. 4, determined that someone had accessed 12 staff email accounts without authorization. On March 24, the School Board completed its review of the incident and identified individuals whose information had been accessed. A letter from the board dated May 4 was sent to thousands of people potentially impacted by the data breach explaining the chain of events.

Ex-Miami prosecutor who ran the U.S. Capitol riots probe loved by Bill Barr, but then hits snag” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — In September 2019, Michael Sherwin won a widely publicized criminal case against a Chinese woman accused of trespassing at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. Impressed, Barr eventually appointed Sherwin as the acting U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia. In that hot seat, he wound up running the investigation of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. Sherwin’s star turn in Washington would come to a crashing finale under the new Biden administration opened an internal probe of him for his appearance on “60 Minutes.” Sherwin, who did not get permission to do the “60 Minutes” interview, had already given notice to leave the Justice Department days before it was broadcast on March 21.

Michael Sherwin was a rising star — but soon crashed.

‘Waiting on your last look’: Campaign manager helping Miami-Dade Mayor in County Hall” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — In early January, Miami-Dade Commissioner Kionne McGhee asked the county’s new mayor for dramatic action on transit: freeze $300 million in upgrades on the South Miami-Dade busway and invite private companies to submit rail proposals instead. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava drafted a two-page memo to McGhee rejecting the idea. But before sending it, she wanted to hear from Christian Ulvert, her 2020 campaign manager. Ulvert, who also worked as an adviser last year to Biden’s Florida campaign, helped stage-manage her first day in office with a Nov. 17 swearing-in ceremony at the Adrienne Arsht Center, funded with leftover dollars from her successful run to be the county’s first female Mayor.

Jane Gilbert is Miami-Dade County’s first ‘chief heat officer.’ How cool is that?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Miami-Dade County now has an official “chief heat officer.” That may sound like a gimmick, but it’s deadly serious. A heat officer is a good start, but it’s not going to be enough. Heat isn’t just an inconvenience. It complicates health conditions. It adversely affects outdoor workers, children, pregnant women and the elderly. It disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income residents who have fewer resources to manage it. And it can kill, especially after a hurricane, when the power is out for extended periods. Jane Gilbert, the former chief resilience officer for the city of Miami, will head up a heat health task force with partners including municipalities, county departments, health care, and community-based organizations and universities.

Which Tampa Bay projects will survive a DeSantis veto?” via Kirby Wilson, Lawrence Mower and Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Legislators approved at least $245 million for specific projects affecting the region in the state’s record $101.5 billion budget. As Governor, DeSantis has the power to veto individual budget items approved by the Legislature. Some of the repeat budget requests grew in size from the projects DeSantis vetoed last year. The $50 million lawmakers approved to build a new Second District Court Of Appeal courthouse in Pinellas County far surpasses the $21 million DeSantis vetoed for a similar project in 2020. The courthouse site was also the source of a rare intraparty fight among GOP senators, with the Senate’s budget chief wanting to build it in her hometown of Lakeland.

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 approved updated rules for peer-to-peer car-sharing apps and services that connect car owners and renters, like an automotive version of Airbnb. 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. The agreement follows the Florida legislature’s recent passage of a bill setting tax, surcharge and insurance rules for the peer-to-peer car-sharing industry, and comes after a more than two-year court battle between the Aviation Authority and Turo.

TIA moves ahead with peer-to-peer car-sharing.

Change in Jacksonville gas tax plan would shift $150 million from Skyway to Emerald Trail” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — City Council member Matt Carlucci said Friday he favors taking $150 million from a proposed Skyway conversion project and using the money instead for adding the long-planned Emerald Trail to the list of projects that would be financed by doubling Jacksonville’s local gas tax. The shift has full backing from Mayor Lenny Curry, his chief of staff Jordan Elsbury said. “From a policy perspective, the mayor has always supported funding the Emerald Trail,” Elsbury said. That amendment to the gas tax legislation would still leave the Jacksonville Transportation Authority with $229 million in the Jobs for Jax project list to turn the elevated structure where Skyway trains run into a system that uses autonomous vehicles that can operate on city streets.

‘He thought he could get away with it’: An inside look at Zachary Wester drug planting trial” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Wester, the former North Florida patrol deputy accused of planting meth on innocent motorists, will finally face a jury of his peers when his trial begins Monday. Wester, a former deputy with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office whose alleged misdeeds were captured in some cases by his own body camera, faces charges of racketeering, official misconduct, perjury, fabricating evidence, false imprisonment and possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. If convicted on all 67 counts, Wester could be sentenced to a maximum of more than 200 years in state prison, though he would serve only a fraction of that. Under state sentencing guidelines, his actual term could top out under 20 years.

— TOP OPINION —

OK, Florida Legislature, try not to torpedo the gambling deal” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Seminole Tribe’s revenue-sharing agreement with the state has run its course, Florida is getting nothing from the piles of cash the Seminoles are raking in and suddenly, lo and behold, the Governor announces a new deal with the Tribe has been reached, and our state will benefit to the tune of billions of dollars. That was the headline a couple of weeks ago when DeSantis announced he had reached an agreement with the Seminoles, subject to ratification by the Florida Legislature. It was also the headline six years ago when then-Gov. Rick Scott announced precisely the same thing. The Florida Legislature needs to get this done. This year’s $101.5 billion budget was only made possible through $10 billion in federal funds through the Biden administration. That money won’t be there forever.

— OPINIONS —

How do Trump’s perpetrators and bystanders stay silent?” via Colbert I. King of The Washington Post — What is it about Trump that he can get away with inciting and fomenting an insurrection of domestic terrorists who, bearing the Confederate flag and Jesus Saves signs and calling for the vice president of the United States to be hanged, storm and sack the U.S. Capitol to disrupt a constitutionally directed proceeding of Congress? Perhaps there is no real mystery: They need Trump like he needs them. In Trump, they liked his strut, his promise to be their savior, his pledge to make them great again. And they’ll stop at nothing to protect and defend the one in whom they place faith above all else, except God, and of that, I’m not too sure.

Why DeSantis signed voting rights restriction on Fox News” via Judith Browne Dianis of USA Today — In a way, it was poetic that DeSantis appeared live on Fox News on Thursday to sign a law restricting voting rights in Florida. After all, Fox & Friends, like much of its parent network, isn’t really a news outlet just as the law, despite Republicans claiming otherwise, isn’t really about stopping voter fraud. Voter fraud, like facts on Fox News, is so rare as to be basically nonexistent. Simply put, Republicans are afraid of the future. The protests for Black Lives Matter this past summer were multiracial demonstrations, Americans of all races and walks of life coming together to demand justice and equality. They were also moving, radical acts of hope and faith  and power.

State of Florida should mind its own business. Let Norwegian require COVID-19 vaccines on its ships” via the Miami Herald editorial board — DeSantis’ escalating drive for more state control may have just run into a cruise ship-sized boulder. During an earnings call on Thursday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio threatened to take the company’s ships elsewhere if Florida won’t allow the company to require COVID-19 vaccinations for passengers and crew. Coming days after DeSantis signed a bill that bans businesses, schools and government entities in Florida from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, Del Rio’s remarks were a clear and public rebuke to the Governor. And his words have economic weight. Miami-Dade County spent $263 million building a terminal for Norwegian at PortMiami. What Del Rio’s company wants to do is reasonable and right. He wants to protect the people on his ships.

Is DeSantis headed for a Charlie Brown moment?” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — If DeSantis gets help from lawmakers and the court, the 2021 Gaming Compact will primarily be known for two things: legalizing sports betting in Florida, and giving DeSantis a feather in his cap for being able to pull together a blockbuster deal. If DeSantis fails, he’ll face that iconic “Charlie Brown / Lucy and the football” moment and go flying head-over-heels while the football — an elusive gaming deal — is pulled away from him. DeSantis doesn’t even have to do all that much except be himself and continue to play the role he’s earned as a conservative champion. What self-respecting Republican lawmaker wants to fall out of favor with the guy currently considered the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination?

Why is Crist running for Florida Governor again?” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida politics are Florida politics today largely because of one man and one fateful decision he made back in 2008, the moment when Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez announced he was resigning from his seat nearly two years before his first term would end. Crist lost to Rubio in that election, then ran for Governor again in 2014. In 2016, Crist was given a second chance at a political career when he defeated Republican David Jolly to go to Congress representing St. Petersburg. Crist easily has been reelected ever since. All in all, it’s not a bad life for the soon-to-be 65-year-old happy warrior. The 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary field will likely be crowded. Still, a Crist run for Tallahassee seemed inevitable. After all, old warhorses never die. They just keep looking for greener pastures of ballots.

—“Welcome back, Charlie! It’ll be a fun campaign” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat 

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

One day after the Governor signed a bill putting new limits on donations to help pay for citizen amendments to the state constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union files a lawsuit.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— The civil rights group says that the new law violates First Amendment rights and is the latest move by lawmakers to abolish citizen initiatives.

— No Casinos is launching a new ad campaign attacking the proposed gambling compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

— Lawmakers will be taking= up the Seminole Compact during a Special Session next week.

—Embattled North Florida Congressman Gaetz joins Georgia Congresswoman Green in the friendly confines of The Villages for the kickoff rally of their “American First” campaign.

— The Florida Supreme Court pays its last respects to Joe Hatchett, the first African American to serve on the state’s highest court. Justice Hatchett will be laid to rest in Dunedin.

— May is Mental Health Awareness Month and on the Sunrise Interview is Melanie Brown Woofter of the Florida Behavioral Health Association.

— And finally, a Florida Woman will NOT be facing criminal charges for padding a 6-year-old at school.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Florida weighs allowing limited harvest of goliath grouper” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Florida may lift its three-decade ban on catching and killing goliath groupers, with wildlife officials saying the coastal fish’s numbers had rebounded from when they were driven to near-extinction by overfishing and environmental damage. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will consider a staff proposal to allow 100 goliaths to be caught and kept annually during a four-year period. Supported by fishing groups, the proposal calls for a lottery to issue $300-per-week licenses that allow each recipient to catch and kill one goliath, with proceeds funding research of the species. The goliath almost died off in the 1980s from overfishing and pollution and is not allowed to be caught in any other state or federal waters.

Florida may allow the harvesting of goliath groupers.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated best wishes to Bobby Caina Calvan, Erica Chanti, Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey, and the great Ashley Walker of Mercury. Happy birthday to our friend Ryan Wiggins, Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Ambassador Mel Sembler and Tom DiGiacomo.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannRenzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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