Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.11.21

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

Good Tuesday morning.

Lobbying firm Capital City Consulting will announce today that Jared Rosenstein has joined its team of government affairs consultants.

Rosenstein comes to the firm from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, where he served as legislative affairs director.

“Jared fits our firm culture of hard work, a deep knowledge of issues, and attention to detail very well. He will undoubtedly provide top-notch government affairs services at the state level and before local governments in South Florida,” founding partner Ron LaFace, Jr. added.

Congratulations to Jared Rosenstein, the newest government affairs expert at Capital City Consulting.

Before FDEM, Rosenstein served as a legislative assistant to then-Rep. Jared Moskowitz during his time in the House. He also served as a district aide to former Rep. Bill Hager and interned under former Rep. Holly Raschein and former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff.

Capital City Consulting founding partner Nick Iarossi said Rosenstein’s experience working with Democratic and Republican lawmakers would be an asset to the firm.

“Jared’s experience as a legislative aide in the Florida House of Representatives and most recently as legislative director at the Florida Division of Emergency Management dealing with hurricane recovery and the COVID-19 pandemic will be a tremendous benefit to CCC’s clients,” Iarossi said. “His ability to work with all policymakers from every party and region is like no one I have ever encountered, and I’m very happy he is joining our growing team.”

“I am so honored to join Capital City Consulting — their team of professionals is unrivaled,” he said. “I look forward to working alongside Nick, Ron, and the whole team in Tallahassee and beyond.” 

Rosenstein is a graduate of Florida State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He earned his law degree from Nova Southeastern University. He is an ardent supporter of Jewish causes, animal rescue organizations and cancer research initiatives.

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The Capitol was closed during the 2021 Legislative Session, putting a barrier between lawmakers and the Floridians they represent. But social media picked up some of the slack.

An analysis by Moore Public Affairs found that, for some lawmakers, Twitter engagement was through the roof. The 2021 “Session on Social” analysis lists the Top 10 lawmakers on social media, in terms of engagement.

Rep. Anna Eskamani was the runaway No. 1. During Session, she made 1,850 tweets and 420 replies. But her most impressive stat: 86.8 million impressions. Topping the list is nothing new for Eskamani — she was No. 1 last year, too — but her impressions nearly doubled year-over-year.

Democrats dominated the top-10 list, claiming seven spots. They include Sens. Annette Taddeo and Shevrin Jones and Reps. Omari Hardy, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Andrew Learned and Angie Nixon. The highest-ranked Republican on the list was Rep. Chip Lamarca. He was joined by Sen. Debbie Mayfield and Rep. Chris Latvala.

“Moore applauds these Top 10 legislators with the highest social media engagement this Legislative Session and all of Florida’s lawmakers for their efforts to reach constituents online during this socially distanced year,” the agency said in a news release.

Moore also determined the Top Three “Most Talked About Bills” of the Legislative Session.

The anti-riot bill made the list, but it didn’t take the top spot. It was second to the controversial — and ultimately scrapped — proposal to rework the Bright Futures scholarship program to cut funding for students pursuing degrees that aren’t seen as leading to careers. The No. 3 issue was the transgender sports ban, which resurfaced in Session’s final hours.

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Florida Chamber Safety Council conference features astronaut, FPL CEO and more — Business and public health leaders are scheduled to speak about workplace safety on Tuesday as part of the Florida Chamber Safety Council’s Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability. Day two of the conference will feature an 8 a.m. keynote from NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino, who will discuss lessons learned from tragic accidents and miscues in spaceflight. At noon, Florida Power & Light Company CEO Eric Silagy will deliver a presentation titled “Why Investing in Safety is Good for Business.” And at 12:40 p.m., state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees will deliver a presentation and hold a Q&A session.

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Spotted — At the Loblolly Rise Plantation on Saturday, partying for the pandemic-delayed celebration of Mike and Kristen Grissom’s nuptials, who married on March 28, 2020: Brewster and Amanda Bevis; Tony Cortese; Ana DeCerchio; Tim Nungesser; Marc Reichelderfer; Chris and Alli Schoonover; Clark Smith; Angela and Davin Suggs; and Justin Thames.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@AdamKinzinger: A few days before Jan 6, our GOP members had a conference call. I told Kevin (McCarthy) that his words and our party’s actions would lead to violence on January 6th. Kevin dismissively responded with, “OK, Adam, operator next question.” And we got violence.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@KKfla737: The Everglades is a major reason why I am far more inclined to support Gov. (Charlie) Crist than the current Dem Ag Commissioner — their records couldn’t be more different on this matter. I am not sure about Congresswoman (Val) Demings opinions (if she has any) on the glades.

@LaurenBankert: Islamorada dining establishments went HARD on paper straws.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 6; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 17; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 17; Memorial Day — 20; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 23; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 31; Father’s Day — 40; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 45; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 52; 4th of July — 54; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 59; MLB All-Star Game — 63; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 73; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 73; The NBA Draft — 79; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 81; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 87; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 105; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 115; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 126; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 136; ‘Dune’ premieres — 143; MLB regular season ends — 145; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 151; World Series Game 1 — 168; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 175; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 175; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 178; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 199; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 213; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 220; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 245; Super Bowl LVI — 278; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 318; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 360; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 423; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 514; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 549.

— TOP STORY —

Free booze, 24/7 slots & cards: Pari-mutuels pony up new language for big gambling deal” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Ahead of an upcoming Special Session, lobbyists representing a large swath of Florida’s gaming industry are sending a package of recommendations to offices of the Gov., Senate President and House Speaker. Some of the pari-mutuels’ recommendations relate to casino operations. Under the industry consensus, slot machines and card rooms could operate 24/7. Currently, they are limited to 18 hours during the week but can operate 24 hours on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Complimentary alcoholic beverages and ATMs would also be available at slot machines. Slot machine license holders could also have their licenses extended if hurricanes or other crises beyond their control shuttered their operations.

Ahead of next week’s Special Session, Chris Sprowls, Wilton Simpson and Ron DeSantis are bracing for a deluge of lobbyists from the gaming industry. Image via Colin Hackley.

— 2022 —

Ron DeSantis committee hauls in cash” via News Service of Florida — In a show of force, DeSantis’ political committee raised nearly $14 million in April as he prepares for a reelection campaign next year — and as speculation builds about a possible bid for President in 2024. The committee Friends of Ron DeSantis raised $13.9 million in April and had about $31.6 million in cash on hand as of the end of the month, according to a report posted Monday on the state Division of Elections website. Though the 2022 election is still almost 18 months away, the April haul was the largest amount raised by the committee since October 2018, when it collected $17.36 million. October 2018 was the month before DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum to become Governor.

‘I can’t sit idly by’: Ben Diamond announces CD 13 bid” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Surrounded by Pinellas County politicos Monday morning, state Rep. Diamond launched his campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “I feel a responsibility to acknowledge this moment,” the Pinellas County Democrat said. “I can’t sit idly by.” Diamond, who announced his run in an email to House Democratic colleagues over the weekend, made his candidacy official alongside former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, former Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw and Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard and Janet Long. Diamond made sure to pay tribute to incumbent Crist, who is vacating the CD 13 seat to run for Governor. Crist made his announcement Tuesday, with Diamond by his side.

Ben Diamond cannot stay on the sidelines; he hopes to take the fight to Congress. Image via Colin Hackley.

—“Eric Lynn raises $100K in first five days of congressional campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics 

—“Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk endorses Anna Paulina Luna for CD 13 … again” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

First in Sunburn — Top Senate Republicans to reel in cash at fishing fundraiser — Senate President Wilton Simpson and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who is set to succeed him, will host a Key West fishing fundraiser May 25-27. The agenda includes a VIP dinner on May 25, a welcome reception and dinner on May 26 and fishing and dinner on May 27. The fundraiser will benefit the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the GOP campaign arm for state Senate elections. The invitation notes that all events will be held outside and asks attendees to “remember to wear a mask.”

Shane Abbott separates from GOP pack in HD 5 money race” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Abbott received another financial boost in his bid to win the Panhandle’s House seat. The DeFuniak Springs Republican garnered another $28,525 in April in his campaign for the HD 5 seat covering all of Holmes, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties. Abbott is running against fellow Republicans Vance Coley of Marianna and Joel Clinton Pate of Graceville for the seat vacated by current Rep. Brad Drake, who is also a member of the GOP. Drake will reach term limits in 2022 when the position is up for election. The district leans heavily Republican.

Taylor Yarkosky passes $80K mark in HD 32 race” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics —   Montverde Republican Yarkosky has raised more than $80,000 for his campaign to succeed exiting Rep. Anthony Sabatini in House District 32. The total includes all money raised through his campaign and an affiliated political committee, Lake County Conservatives, since he entered the race in March. Yarkosky faces Winter Garden Republican Matt Silbernagel in the primary for the Lake County-based district, though the two could find themselves in separate districts depending on how district lines shift after reapportionment last year. Silbernagel entered the race in mid-April and has not yet filed his first campaign finance report.

Berny Jacques raises $41K in first month of HD 66 campaign” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Seminole Republican Jacques raised more than $41,000 during his first month running for House District 66, his campaign announced Monday. The April fundraising numbers represent contributions to Jacques’ official campaign account and his political committee, Florida Values Coalition. The campaign proper brought in $36,415 and spent just $650. The political committee added another $5,000 and has $11,315 on hand, including money raised before Jacques entered the 2022 race. In total, he has $47,730 on hand between the two accounts. Jacques is one of two Republicans running for the Pinellas County seat currently held by Rep. Nick DiCeglie, who announced earlier this year he would run for state Senate rather than another term in the House.

Hillary Cassel continues to outpace Jeremy Katzman in HD 99 fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cassel is keeping up a healthy cash lead in the House District 99 Democratic primary. Cassel has pulled in nearly $122,000 in outside money since filing for the contest in late February. That includes more than $100,000 raised in March, her first full month as a candidate. Cassel’s latest fundraising report shows she collected just under $19,000 in April. She also lent her campaign $50,000 in February. Though she dropped off from her March fundraising highs, Cassel still topped her Democratic primary opponent, Katzman, in April fundraising. Katzman added less than $3,000 during the month. Since filing in December he’s raised around $40,000 and has added another $5,000 in loans to his campaign.

New candidates emerge to seek vacated South Florida House seats” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In HD 88, Jervonte Edmonds becomes the first candidate seeking to replace Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy, who is running for Congress. Edmonds founded Suits For Seniors, a high school mentoring program aiming to prepare students for their future careers. Edmonds has also worked as executive director of the West Palm Beach Police Athletic League, sat on the Palm Beach County Black Chamber of Commerce executive board, and served as president of Palm Beach Young Black Progressives. In HD 86, former Wellington Mayor Bob Margolis is running to succeed Rep. Matt Willhite. He’s the second Democrat to officially declare for the contest, joining Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Katherine Waldron.

Adrienne Bogen launches ‘Florida Ground Game’ to register voters” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida Ground Game will work to register voters through 2021. “In 2020, Democrats suffered major losses in our state Legislature, losing some races by razor-thin margins, a result of the fact that we were outspent and outworked in voter registration by Republicans,” Bogen said. “Our hope is that Florida Ground Game will lead voter registration efforts in targeted state legislative districts, helping to secure victories for Democrats in 2022.” Bogen’s resume includes organizing and strategy for Joe Biden‘s 2018 Iowa caucus campaign and Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign, and work for former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Andrew Gillum for Governor, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s 2017

— DATELINE TALLY —

Seminoles cut 30-second version of pro-Compact ad — The Seminole Tribe of Florida has released a 30-second ad as part of its campaign to build support for the new Gaming Compact that will go in front of lawmakers next week. “Florida is on the verge of history — with a new Seminole Compact that promises thousands of new jobs, tourism and the biggest financial guarantee on record … $2.5 billion in the first five years,” the ad says, citing headlines touting as many as 2,200 new jobs. “Thanks to Gov. DeSantis, and our legislative leaders, we’re now just one vote away. Do this, and Florida will make history,” the ad concludes. The spot follows the tribe’s recent release of a 60-second ad promoting the benefits of a new Seminole Compact.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today — The House will present two online courses to help lawmakers prepare for the Special Session on May 17, where they expect to debate the proposed new Seminole Compact. One outlines the history of gambling in Florida (10 a.m.); the second will be about the “current gaming landscape” (1 p.m.).

School choice expansion bill heads to DeSantis” via Florida Politics — Lawmakers on Monday formally sent a bill (HB 7045) to the Governor that would pave the way for the largest school choice expansion effort in Florida history. The bill would repeal the Gardiner Scholarship Program and McKay Scholarship Program and transition students into the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. The repealed programs originally served special needs students. The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program, a low-income grant, would broaden to include students with special needs and military children. The bill also increases voucher amounts from 95% to 100% for students in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Family Empowerment Scholarship and Hope Scholarship Program. If DeSantis doesn’t veto the bill by May 25, it will take effect July 1.

Kathy Castor urges Governor to veto energy preemption bill — U.S. Rep. Castor on Monday implored DeSantis to veto a bill (HB 919) that would block local governments from restricting which forms of energy utilities can offer, such as natural gas. As reported by Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida, several environmental groups have criticized the measure as a way to prevent local governments from moving to clean energy, such as solar. Castor, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said utilities “do not have the public interest at heart. They have their profits at heart. They are quite willing to pass along increased costs to consumers, and it’s wrong.” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the Florida Conservation Voters and the CLEO Institute joined Castor in calling for a veto.

‘Absolutely yes’: Ramon Alexander running for 2023-24 House Democratic Leader” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Rep. Alexander will file to take the reins of the House Democratic Caucus for the 2023-24 term. The Representative from Tallahassee has the support of dozens from the caucus. He decided “absolutely yes” after taking the recommendations from his colleagues into very serious consideration in talks with his wife and young family, he told Florida Politics. Rep. Diamond is currently lined up to lead the caucus during the 2023-24 term. However, the St. Petersburg Democrat announced Monday morning that he would run to succeed U.S. Crist as the Congressman makes his third bid for Governor.

Ramon Alexander is ready to fill in the leadership vacuum left by Ben Diamond’s run for Congress. Image via AP.

Restricting abortion access fizzled in the Legislature; reproductive rights advocates expect future battles” via Danielle J. Brown of the Florida Phoenix — On the abortion front, GOP lawmakers tried to restrict abortion access in Florida but various bills failed in the 2021 Legislature. “Every year, there is an onslaught of anti-abortion bills,” Amy Weintraub, reproductive rights program director for Progress Florida, said in an interview with the Phoenix. “We expect those types of bills to be back.” The efforts to change Florida abortion laws covered a wide range of measures, including restricting abortions based on a detected disability in a fetus, reducing the number of weeks a mother has to terminate a pregnancy, and dictating what should be done with the fetal remains following an abortion.

Happening today — The Florida State University Presidential Search Advisory Committee meets to consider a successor for President John Thrasher, who is retiring, 10 a.m., Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

DeSantis appoints Gabriella Passidomo to Public Service Commission” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Passidomo, a lawyer in the Regulatory Analysis Section of the PSC Office of the General Counsel, was chosen among nine applicants to fill the seat left vacant in February by former Commissioner Julie Brown, who vacated the seat after DeSantis appointed her to lead the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Passidomo, the daughter of Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, graduated cum laude from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in political science and earned her law degree from the Washington and Lee University. The newly appointed Commissioner previously served as a legal intern in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office and as a law clerk for the Florida Solicitor General in the Office of the Attorney General.

— STATEWIDE —

Wary of summer discharges from Lake O, DeSantis pushes Army Corps to better manage water levels” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis is calling into question the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ management of Lake Okeechobee, as he pressed the Corps to lower the lake’s water levels ahead of hurricane season. The newest comments could be seen as another front in the Governor’s battle with Biden, whose administration now oversees the Corps. DeSantis spoke Monday at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound following a helicopter tour to survey the lake and the algae present inside. DeSantis said the lake levels are higher than in recent years, which could prompt discharges from the lake, which spread algae elsewhere.

Nikki Fried reassures Floridians amid looming gas shortages” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — In a video posted to Twitter, she discouraged Floridians from hoarding gas, buying fuel in a panic, and forming long lines around the pump. Fried said she’s in talks with the EPA, U.S. Department of Energy and the petroleum industry over the shortages. The shortage, meanwhile, is raising concerns in North Florida, where gas lines are beginning to form. “In general, Floridians may expect some fuel pricing and sales issues in the coming days due to several factors,” Fried said. “These include the temporary shutdown of a major U.S. fuel pipeline due to a cyberattack, causing fuel to be trucked into certain regions, as well as a shortage of truck drivers currently affecting both the fuel industry and agriculture industry.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Colonial pipeline hack sparks fears of shortages in Tallahassee” via Lynn Hatter of WFSU — The cyberattack that brought down a pipeline that supplies 45% of the fuel to the U.S. East Coast is impacting Tallahassee and other parts of North Florida. Lines of vehicles stretched into roadways as rumors of gas shortages spread. “People are hearing there’s an outage on this pipeline and are racing to the pumps to top off their tanks,” said AAA Spokesman Mark Jenkins. “If everyone goes to the gas station at one time, that creates a huge strain on existing supplies, even if there isn’t a supply problem. If everyone rushes to the gas station at one time, that’s going to cause the gas station to run out of fuel.”

Tweet, tweet:

Long-term care facilities meet backup power rules” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — Headed into the 2021 hurricane season, the vast majority of Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities are complying with rules requiring them to have emergency backup generators and 72 hours of fuel on-site. The state Agency for Health Care Administration website shows that 17 nursing homes and eight assisted living facilities have not fully complied with the backup power requirements. The 17 nursing homes, which account for about 3% of the overall nursing home beds in the state, are scattered across 11 counties. The eight assisted living facilities that have not fully complied are in Miami-Dade, Broward and Pinellas counties. That means that 681 nursing homes and 3,127 assisted living facilities are “fully compliant.”

Clues to 1-year-old’s death — and whether DCF failed him — remain hidden in Florida files” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — Rashid Bryant lived only 22 months. It was enough time for him to fracture his femur, break a rib, and crack his skull — the last more than once. It is impossible to say whether administrators with Florida’s child welfare agency, which was involved with the family, did everything they could to keep Rashid safe. Caseworkers for the children of Jabora Deris, 32, and Christopher Bryant, 37, parents of 10, had first come to the attention of the Department of Children & Families in 2013. DCF had investigated at least 16 reports to the state’s child abuse hotline. DCF has refused to release any documents that would shed light on Rashid’s DCF history.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

50,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19, health institute estimates” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Last week, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation began publishing its estimates for COVID-19 deaths rather than just reporting official death tolls. The estimate is computed based on an analysis of weekly excess deaths, those above what is expected on average. As of Monday, the Department of Health reports 35,783 deaths to date. However, IHME puts its current projection at 50,277, which it expects to grow to 53,037 by the start of September. Excess mortality is a metric for all deaths, regardless of their cause. To account for that, IHME attempts to estimate what percentage of excess deaths COVID-19 is directly responsible for, weeding out other influences like delayed treatments, worsening mental health and the reduced transmission of other diseases.

Florida reports 2,296 new COVID-19 cases and 52 additional deaths” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 2,296 new coronavirus cases on Monday and another 52 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 2,272,102 cases since the pandemic began. The seven-day average for new cases reached as high as 17,991 on Jan. 8. It was 3,750 on Monday. The state reported a daily positivity rate of 5.01% on Monday, down from 5.32% the day before. This method of calculating positivity counts new infections only, but also counts repeat negative tests, which skews the figure downward. Out of all 50 states and D.C., Florida ranks No. 23 for deaths per 100K residents and No. 16 for cases per 100K residents, according to data from DOH and the COVID Tracking Project.

DeSantis touts ‘rights and liberties’ and ditching COVID-19 restrictions; health experts say that’s dangerous” via Isaac Morgan of the Florida Phoenix — Amid thousands of new COVID-19 cases reported daily, with more than 2.2 million residents overall testing positive, and a surge of COVID-19-mutation cases causing more deaths, Gov. DeSantis is using his sweeping authority to get rid of pandemic restrictions in communities across Florida. That means that as of July 1, face masks would no longer be necessary and rigid restrictions on social recreational gatherings would be gone, among other measures. State employees also could go back to work in their government offices, according to DeSantis’ May 3 executive order — a way of protecting Floridians’ “rights and liberties,” according to the Governor’s view.

Ron DeSantis wants to ditch COVID-19 rules; experts say that’s dangerous.

With eviction moratorium in jeopardy, Florida launches pandemic rental assistance program” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris announced Monday her office launched OUR Florida, the emergency rental assistance program to benefit those affected by the pandemic’s economic impact. The U.S. Treasury Department gave Florida $1.4 billion in emergency rental assistance funds DeSantis announced earlier this year, $800 million, which the state will administer directly. The launch comes days after a judge ruled the federal eviction moratorium unconstitutional. OUR Florida will prioritize renters with household incomes at or below 50% of a city or county’s Area Median Income and families who have experienced unemployment within the past 90 days. However, the program is available to certain renters whose incomes are at or below 80% of the median level.

‘A hard position’: Florida’s cruise industry struggles with vaccine passport ban” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The state’s massive cruise industry is caught in the crosshairs between the federal government’s cautious coronavirus rollbacks and DeSantis’ no-holds-barred approach. After the Governor successfully pushed for a new law banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, also called a vaccine passport, the state’s multibillion-dollar cruise industry is unsure how to proceed on a directive from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says large-capacity cruise ships can start cruising again in July, but only if 95% of passengers can show proof they’ve been vaccinated. “Something’s going to have to give there,” Frank Roig, Chief Operating Officer at PortMiami, said.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Florida nursing home achieves 92% COVID-19 vaccination rate with creative $1,000 bonus plan” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Last month, the Sentinel revealed a disturbing fact — that the COVID-19 vaccination rate of staffers in Florida nursing homes and long-term care facilities was an abysmally low 38%. That’s a recipe for both health risks and heartbreak. Infected staffers can spread the virus to vulnerable residents and also prompt lockdowns that prevent families from seeing ailing parents or fragile spouses for weeks at a time. None of that, however, happens at The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center in Winter Park. There, a whopping 92% of staffers are vaccinated. Not a single case of COVID has been detected since the pandemic began. And it seems largely due to a creatively structured cash incentive.

The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center in Winter Park is doing something right with COVID-19.

At least 3 nursing homes in Polk County face lawsuits over COVID-19 deaths” via Gary White of The Ledger — Dr. Rudolph Dorsett. Joyce Valentine. Mercedes Quintero. Patricia Prillmayer. Those are four of the names behind the death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, four of the more than 36,000 Floridians so far claimed by the viral illness. Each contracted COVID-19 as a resident at a nursing home in Polk County, family members say. Those relatives are now suing the nursing homes, claiming negligence allowed their loved ones to become infected with the virus that caused their deaths. But a recently enacted Florida law shielding long-term care facilities from liability makes it nearly impossible for such lawsuits to succeed.

Showdown looming between anti-mask group and Polk School Board, with 3 weeks left of school” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — The Polk County School Board is facing a showdown Tuesday, when more parents and students plan to demand a mask-free option on campuses across the district beginning immediately, with one Facebook group calling for a day of protest with less than three weeks of school left. “The student code of conduct face-covering policy requirement implemented by the PCSB should be brought to a vote and rescinded at the May 11 regular meeting,” the group No More Mask Mandate for Children stated on its private Facebook page last week. The School Board voted unanimously last summer to add the mask mandate to the student code of conduct.

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, following 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 —

The FDA authorizes the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 to 15.” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in the United States, a crucial step in the nation’s steady recovery from the pandemic and a boon to tens of millions of American families eager for a return to normalcy. The authorization caps weeks of anticipation among parents, who have been grappling with how to conduct their lives when only the adults in a household are immunized. It removes an obstacle to school reopenings by reducing the threat of transmission in classrooms, and allows millions of adolescents to attend summer camps, sleepovers and get-togethers with friends.

The FDA gives thumbs-up for younger teens to get vaccinated. Image via AP.

COVID-19 restriction guidance could ease as more Americans get vaccinated” via Andrew Restuccia of The Wall Street Journal — Biden administration officials said Sunday that the U.S. is entering a new phase of the pandemic in which many vaccinated Americans can begin returning to normal activities and signaled that the federal government would further relax mask-wearing recommendations as more people get shots. “I would say we are turning the corner,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s COVID-19 coordinator, told CNN’s “State of the Union.” The administration said last week it is focused on helping hesitant and hard-to-reach Americans get shots, to have 70% of the adult population receive at least one dose by July 4.

Hundreds of bodies of COVID-19 victims are still in New York’s refrigerated trucks more than a year into the pandemic” via Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post — As New York emerged as the center of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, the overwhelmed city began storing the bodies of victims in refrigerated trucks along the Brooklyn waterfront. More than a year later, hundreds remain in the makeshift morgues on the 39th Street Pier in Sunset Park. In a report to a city council health committee last week, officials with the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner acknowledged that the remains of about 750 COVID-19 victims are still being stored inside the trucks, according to the City, the nonprofit news website. Officials said during a Wednesday committee meeting that they will try to lower the number soon.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Joe Biden administration will begin disbursing $350 billion in state and local aid this month.” via Alan Rappeport of The New York TimesThe Biden administration will begin sending the aid to state and local governments, a significant step in its effort to shore up segments of the economy that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, White House and Treasury officials said. The infusion of funds, which were included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed into law in March, marks President Biden’s first big opportunity to start reviving infrastructure across the nation and fulfill his goal of ensuring a more equitable recovery.

Joe Biden is ready to cut some checks to states and municipalities.

— MORE CORONA —

The world may need to learn to live with the virus.” via Andrés Martínez of The New York Times — Early in the pandemic, there was hope that the world would one day achieve herd immunity, the point when the coronavirus lacks enough hosts to spread easily. But over a year later, the virus crushes India with a fearsome second wave and surges in countries from Asia to Latin America. Experts now say it is changing too quickly, new more contagious variants are spreading too easily and vaccinations are happening too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon. That means if the virus continues to run rampant through much of the world, it is well on its way to becoming endemic, an ever-present threat.

COVID-19 may be with us for a while. Image via Reuters.

How the Zoom era has ruined conversation” via Rachel Kurzius of The Washington Post — When Rabbi Hannah Goldstein would talk to families before a funeral in pre-pandemic times, she remembers how they would share information about a loved one with her. Everyone tended to “jump in, and someone corrects a detail and then someone adds another piece of it,” recalls Goldstein, who works at Temple Sinai in D.C. “It’s collaborative. It’s like everyone’s sort of telling that story together.” That style of conversation — a freewheeling ebb and flow where people interrupt one another — is much harder to pull off in the video communications necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

AP poll: Biden approval buoyed by his pandemic response” via Julie Pace and Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press — Biden is plunging into the next phase of his administration with the steady approval of a majority of Americans, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows Biden is buoyed in particular by the public’s broad backing for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In the fourth month of his presidency, Biden’s overall approval rating sits at 63%. When it comes to the new Democratic President’s handling of the pandemic, 71% of Americans approve, including 47% of Republicans.

Joe Biden’s popularity is above water, thanks to his COVID-19 response. Image via AP.

Reversing Donald Trump, U.S. restores transgender health protections” via The Associated Press — The U.S. will protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in health care, the Biden administration announced Monday, reversing a Trump-era policy that sought to narrow the scope of legal rights in sensitive situations involving medical care. The action by the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement the Biden administration policy will bring HHS into line with a landmark 6-3 Supreme Court decision last year in a workplace discrimination case, which established that federal laws against sex discrimination on the job also protect gay and transgender people.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP — 

New White House panel aims to separate science, politics” via Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press — Eager to turn the page on the Trump years, the Biden White House is launching an effort to unearth past problems with the politicization of science within government and to tighten scientific integrity rules for the future. A 46-person federal scientific integrity task force with members from more than two dozen government agencies will meet for the first time on Friday. Its mission is to look back through 2009 for areas where partisanship interfered with what were supposed to be decisions based on evidence and research and keep politics out of government science.

The White House is working to put the Trump years behind us. Image via AP.

2020 election lawsuits lead to requests to discipline lawyers” via Brent Kendall and Alexa Corse of The Wall Street Journal — Courts are weighing whether some of the failed legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election were frivolous or improper and warranted punishment for the lawyers who filed them. Supporters of former President Trump, and, in some cases, the Trump campaign itself, filed — and lost — dozens of lawsuits seeking to block or overturn election results in battleground states won by Democrat Biden. Some Democratic governors and other state and local officials who were sued have filed motions asking the judges who heard the cases to impose sanctions on the plaintiffs’ lawyers and, in some instances, the plaintiffs themselves. Some also have filed separate grievances with disciplinary bodies that can reprimand, suspend or disbar attorneys who violate their professional obligations.

— CRISIS —

Capitol Police inspector general testifies about intelligence, staffing failures ahead of Jan. 6 riot” via Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post — Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton told House lawmakers Monday that the force needs a stand-alone countersurveillance unit, after his ongoing investigation determined that vague guidance and lax protocols likely caused officials to miss their own warnings of impending violence ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Bolton faulted outdated guidance, poor communication procedures, inadequate record-keeping and a habit of relying on overworked, undertrained staff as among the reasons why the Capitol Police were unprepared when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol grounds and broke into the building.

Michael Bolton recounts failure after failure leading up to Jan. 6.

FBI still after ‘worst of the worst’ in Capitol riot as new arrests come at steady pace” via Pete Williams of NBC News — Four months after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, FBI agents maintain a steady pace of arresting people accused of taking part, as one of the largest criminal investigations in American history keeps growing. More than 440 people have been charged with taking part in the Capitol siege, coming from all but six states — Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming. The largest number come from Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida, in that order.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Personnel note: Ballard Partners’ James Rubin accepts OECD appointment” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Rubin, a partner in Ballard Partners’ Washington office, has been appointed Diplomatic Counselor to incoming Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary-General Mathias Cormann. Rubin has chaired Ballard Partners’ International Policy and Strategy practice since joining the firm in 2018. His appointment to OECD is effective June 1. “We could not be happier for Jamie and applaud his return to government service for our nation in this significant new role,” firm founder and President Brian Ballard said. “Jamie will undoubtedly have a positive impact in promoting stronger economic and political relationships between key countries around the globe at the OECD.”

Ballard Partners’ James Rubin returns to public service.

 

— LOCAL NOTES —

Data show tech workers moving to Miami — and fleeing San Francisco — during pandemic” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The buzz has been building for months that South Florida is building itself into an American tech hub. New data from LinkedIn reveal some numbers to support that narrative. Kim Hart of Axios broke down the stats, which show the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area with a year-to-year increase of more than 15% in the number of tech workers, based on locations listed in LinkedIn users’ profiles. That was the biggest net gain of any major city Axios analyzed. While the Axios article grouped the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, Miami has been the major winner. Fort Lauderdale is still looking to capitalize on the economic migration seen over the past year.

Millennium set to open two more offices in tax-friendly Florida” via Hema Parmar of Bloomberg — Izzy Englander’s Millennium Management $50 billion hedge fund firm will have outposts in Miami and West Palm Beach. The move is mostly driven by its portfolio managers’ preference for the state, which doesn’t tax income, estates or capital gains. Meanwhile, top earners in New York City face among the highest state and local taxes in the U.S. Millennium’s Miami office, which will be the firm’s second in the city, can accommodate 350 people and will open in the third quarter of next year, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing nonpublic information. The West Palm Beach location will have a capacity for 150 employees and will open in the second quarter of 2022.

Izzy Englander’s Millennium Management hedge fund is expanding its footprint in Florida.

Miami’s Mayor leaving Greenspoon Marder to join another firm. It’s new to Miami” via Joey Flechas and Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is leaving his position at Greenspoon Marder to join Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, a national litigation firm that is launching a Miami office. Suarez will be of counsel with Quinn Emanuel, which announced the hire of 10 attorneys from Greenspoon and Hogan Lovells on Monday to staff its Miami operation. The Mayor, a real estate attorney, is changing firms for the fourth time in five years. Suarez’s move to Quinn Emanuel, which focuses on litigation, is expected to minimize the potential for conflicts because the firm focuses on litigation and does not represent clients in real estate transactions or land use matters that require City Hall approvals.

Battle over Palm Beach County schools’ use of the Baker Act waging behind closed doors” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — When an advocacy group released a report in March blasting Palm Beach County public schools for forcing too many children into psychiatric facilities, the school district’s chief executive dismissed it as old news. But the controversy over the school district’s use of the Baker Act hasn’t gone away. Weeks after the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report, the center and a coalition of other advocacy groups and attorneys is quietly threatening legal action to halt what they called a harmful and often illegal practice. Citing the report and previously undisclosed findings, the coalition blames the problem on the school district’s police department and demands district leaders negotiate new policies to curb the practice, documents obtained through a public-records request show.

Superintendent Robert Runcie could get $743,052 settlement — less than he wanted” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Schools Superintendent Runcie has reached a possible separation agreement that would give him $743,052 in cash and benefits. The proposed deal, agreed to Monday by School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood, will go before the board on Tuesday. It’s about $320,000 less than what Runcie was asking for. He had wanted the School Board to invest $400,000 into a retirement system, but now that would be $80,000. Runcie would stay until Aug. 9 under this proposal, but not as superintendent. An interim replacement could be named as soon as Tuesday, and Runcie would help with the transition.

Robert Runcie cashes out with a somewhat lower than expected amount.

Jeffrey Epstein prosecution, perks were proper, Florida investigation finds” via Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald — FDLE has cleared Palm Beach state prosecutors and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office of any wrongdoing in connection with the lack of criminal prosecution and liberal jail privileges received by sex trafficker Epstein. FDLE investigators found no evidence that former Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer, nor his assistant state attorney on the case, Lanna Belohlavek, committed any crimes, accepted any bribes or gifts, or did anything improper in their handling of the case. While conceding that it “appears that Epstein received differential treatment” while in the custody of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), state investigators nevertheless concluded that Epstein met all the criteria for work release that were set by the county sheriff.

Hillsborough schools avert state takeover with $101 million in bailout funds” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Leaders of the Hillsborough County School District have received the first $101 million in this round of federal COVID-19 relief funds, avoiding a feared financial takeover by the state, Superintendent Addison Davis announced Monday. “We will now focus on the academic successes of Hillsborough County,” Davis told reporters, surrounded by members of his finance staff and School Board Chairperson Lynn Gray. “It’s been nine months that I have been focused on finances. [This] gives us an opportunity to focus on children. This is what I came to Hillsborough to do. This is what I do best.” Gray, who first tweeted the news on Saturday, said staff is to be commended, as well, for getting spending under control.

Removing Confederate flag from Pensacola police badges will cost $290,000” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson is asking the City Council to approve spending $290,000 to remove the Confederate flag from all Pensacola Police Department uniforms and badges as recommended earlier this year by the Citizens Police Advisory Committee. The request is the first item to come to the City Council from the police advisory committee report that was completed in January. Robinson said Monday during his weekly press conference that he was bringing it forward after city staff determined the cost to remove the imagery.

— TOP OPINION —

The making of a myth” via Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, Jon Swaine and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Key elements of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump took shape in an airplane hangar here two years earlier, promoted by a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream. At meetings beginning late in 2018, as Republicans were smarting from midterm losses in Texas and across the country, Russell J. Ramsland Jr. and his associates delivered alarming presentations on electronic voting to a procession of conservative lawmakers, activists and donors. Briefings in the hangar had a clandestine air. Guests were asked to leave their cellphones outside before assembling in a windowless room.

— OPINIONS —

Kevin McCarthy hits the bottom of the barrel” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — McCarthy was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted. A few days before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the House Republican leader had a conference call with GOP lawmakers. On the call, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois warned McCarthy that his and other party leaders’ claims — that the election had been stolen and that Republicans had the power to block Biden’s victory from being certified — “would lead to violence on January 6th.” The response? Crickets, Kinzinger said, and then McCarthy “dismissively” blew off the warning. The rest — a Capitol ransacked, certification halted, five dead — is history. “This was entirely predictable,” the sixth-term lawmaker said of the deadly attack, “and it was disregarded.”


— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

The pace of vaccination is slowing, not just in Florida, but nationwide. The problem is vaccine hesitancy, and partisan politics definitely plays a part.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Blue states have the highest percentage of vaccinations; red states are at the bottom of the list. Some experts are worried that so many Americans won’t get vaccinated that we’ll never reach herd immunity. And DeSantis is expecting another summer surge of COVID-19.

— The Governor signs a bill that says cities and counties that try to do anything about guns can be sued by the public and face additional penalties. A legal challenge to the state preemption law is already making its way through the courts.

— DeSantis gets a chopper ride to check out the algae in Lake Okeechobee, and he’s worried the Army Corps of Engineers may start releasing that water into nearby estuaries.

— And finally, a young Florida Man didn’t want to stop fighting when the law showed up, so he turned on the deputy — and got a taste of the taser.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

The only story that matters — “Disney Cruise Line wants to base one of its ships in Fort Lauderdale” via Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It would be the company’s first year-round ship outside of Port Canaveral, where the cruise line is headquartered. There’s no word yet about which ship might call Port Everglades home or where it would go. Typically, Disney cruises stop at the company’s island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. According to a letter the company sent to Port Everglades, the ship that would sail from Port Everglades could carry about 3,500 passengers. All three ships will be powered by 144,000 gross tons of liquefied natural gas and would have 1,250 staterooms, making them slightly larger than the Disney Dream, the letter says. The Disney Dream carries about 4,000 passengers.

New scripted series subtly markets Florida vacations” via Kathleen Christiansen of the Orlando Sentinel — A new scripted series debuting May 10 on streaming platforms highlights prominent destinations in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, where the dramedy is set. “Life’s Rewards” follows Dan Kinney (Sebastian Rocha), who, after losing on a big gamble, is forced to live off the generosity of others and his hotel points at The Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach. There, he must rebuild his life. Visit Florida developed the initial idea for the series and coproduced it with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commission and Sarasota-based Odyssey — The Studio at Miles Partnership. The series offers a new frontier for destination tourism as these organizations market their communities by utilizing entertainment-first content instead of direct advertising.

A new scripted TV series is a thinly veiled Florida vacation marketing tool.

There was a Taylor Swift question on the AP government and politics exam” via De Elizabeth of Teen Vogue — Picture this: You’ve reached the free-response portion of your Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics exam. You turn the page and find yourself staring at a question about Taylor Swift. For high schoolers who took the AP government & politics test on May 3, that Swiftie fantasy was actually a reality. CNN reports that the exam included a question about voter registration laws and civic participation, and it used Taylor’s Instagram post ahead of the 2018 midterm elections as an example of encouraging voter turnout. Jerome White, a spokesperson for the College Board, told CNN that the way Taylor used her platform to mobilize voters is directly linked to the AP course content itself.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Ashley LigasAlison Morano, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

___

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.


One comment

  • Kevin

    May 11, 2021 at 8:16 am

    Feel sorry for the professionals at CCC. Rosenstein is a boob.

Comments are closed.


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