Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.12.21

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Wednesday morning.

According to a new poll, Florida voters overwhelmingly support the new Gaming Compact between the state and Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. recently signed the new Gaming Compact, which would give the Tribe exclusive control of sports betting in Florida and allow pari-mutuels to offer sports betting under the tribe’s supervision.

In exchange, the state would receive a minimum of $2.5 billion in revenue in the first five years of the 30-year deal, with yearly amounts adjusted afterward.

The poll, conducted by Ryan Tyson, found 62% of Floridians say they support the deal while just 17% opposed them. About one in five voters are undecided.

Ahead of the May 17 Special Session, a new poll shows Floridians overwhelmingly support the proposed Seminole Compact.

Support for the compact increased when pollsters told voters about the benefits of a new Gaming Compact.

After being told that the Seminole Tribe would invest profits back into the state and the Gaming Compact’s impact on state revenues, overall support grew three points to 65%.

Notably, voters indicated that they would be more likely to reelect their state legislators if they voted to approve the Gaming Compact, 46%-20%.

Voters also hold favorable views of the people on both sides of the Gaming Compact — voters said they approved of DeSantis 60%-36% while the Seminole Tribe of Florida was above water 44%-6%.

The poll was conducted May 1-5 by landline and cellphone. It has a sample size of 1,000 registered voters, 40% of whom were Republicans, and 37% were Democrats.

We have some more polling to share with you, this time via the Florida Chamber, which will be dropping these numbers later today. The latest Chamber statewide poll shows likely Florida voters overwhelmingly support Gov. DeSantis, with a strong job approval rating of 55%. DeSantis receives 88% support from Republicans and 57% from NPA’s, a 20-point lead among NPA’s. DeSantis also receives high marks across the board with 70 percent of Florida voters supporting his handling of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Chamber poll also found that DeSantis is in a strong position heading towards re-election. He holds a double-digit lead over any potential Democrat challenger that has been prominently mentioned for 2022.

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Florida Chamber Safety Council welcomes new executive director, expands online training” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Chamber Safety Council on Tuesday announced Jason Mozo has joined the team serving as executive director. Mozo brings more than 15 years of safety and business development experience to the Safety Council. He was involved in developing safety training and programs for companies such as Honeywell, Nestle, Red Bull, Lockheed Martin, Tropicana, Budweiser, and United Rentals. Also Tuesday, the Safety Council announced it had expanded its suite of tools for its members with the launch of an online, on-demand safety training platform, as well as the addition of a new risk management tool, ProcessMap, to its lineup.

Jimmy Patronis to speak at Chamber conference — CFO Patronis is scheduled to speak to attendees of the Safety Council’s Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability at noon. Patronis will speak on the COVID-19 liability protections lawmakers passed in the 2021 Legislative Session, including the steps businesses need to take to protect their customers, vendors and employees from COVID-19 and avoid a lawsuit. Day three of the conference will also include a keynote from Dr. Ed Racht, the chief medical officer of GMR Medicine, entitled “Lessons learned from something you can only see with a microscope.”

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First on #FlaPol — “Gopher CEO sends letter to community highlighting environmental and safety actions” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In the letter, Brian Leen said the company is already meeting regulatory targets and is still making plans for further investments. Since 2018, when he took over as CEO, the company has increased its annual safety investment by more than 50%. The boost in annual safety spending is in addition to the $230 million modernization program that began before Leen’s tenure. That program includes $140 million dedicated to environmental, health and safety initiatives. “We are looking for opportunities to accelerate our progress and are looking forward to the feedback from ongoing regulatory inspections to help us prioritize our efforts,” he wrote.

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Personnel note: Clayton Clemens joins FIT as public affairs director” via Florida Politics — Clayton Clemens has joined Florida Internet & Television as their new director of public affairs, the association announced Tuesday. Florida Internet & Television represents the state’s major cable companies, including Atlantic Broadband, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox and Mediacom. Clemens most recently served as the legislative aide to state Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican. He held that position for five years, during which he oversaw all internal and external office communications. “FIT is looking forward to having Clayton join our team and having an immediate impact on the association. His legislative experience and background in communications will be a valuable asset to FIT in reinforcing our mission,” FIT President and CEO Brad Swanson said.

Speaking of Swanson, happy birthday to our dear friend. What a great year he’s had!

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

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This tweet aged well:

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— DAYS UNTIL —

Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 5; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 16; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 16; Memorial Day — 19; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 22; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 30; Father’s Day — 39; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 44; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 51; 4th of July — 53; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 58; MLB All-Star Game — 62; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 72; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 72; The NBA Draft — 78; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 80; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 86; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 104; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 114; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 125; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 135; ‘Dune’ premieres — 142; MLB regular season ends — 144; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 150; World Series Game 1 — 167; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 174; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 174; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 177; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 198; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 212; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 219; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 244; Super Bowl LVI — 277; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 317; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 359; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 422; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 513; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 548.

— TOP STORY —

4 women say Matt Gaetz’s wingman pressured them to have sex” via Roger Sollenberger of The Daily Beast — Twelve women agreed to talk with The Daily Beast about their experiences with former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg under the condition of anonymity. All of them said it was their understanding that Greenberg was paying them at least in part for sex, going as far back as 2013. None of the women The Daily Beast talked to used the phrase “sexual assault” in their interviews, and the encounters seemed to cover a spectrum of experiences. Some women described platonic encounters where they still got paid. Others relayed that they had consensual sex for money. But some characterized their experiences as a trauma, and four women said Greenberg pressured them to have sex.

It keeps looking worse for Matt Gaetz.

Federal investigators press for cooperation from two key witnesses in Gaetz probe” via Paula Reid, Gloria Berger, Pamela Brown, and Jeremy Herb of CNN — Federal investigators scrutinizing Rep. Gaetz are seeking the cooperation of a former Capitol Hill intern who was once a girlfriend of the Florida Republican, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. Investigators could also soon gain the formal cooperation of a second key witness, Greenberg, who is approaching a deadline this week to strike a plea agreement with the government on more than two dozen charges he’s facing. The pursuit of the cooperation comes as investigators are nearly finished collecting evidence, one source said. The probe, which examines whether Gaetz broke federal sex trafficking, prostitution, and public corruption laws and whether he had sex with a minor, has been ongoing for months.

>>> I have a Twitter thread with more details about this story here.

— 2022 —

Stephanie Murphy announcing challenge to Marco Rubio” via Hans Nichols and Kadia Goba of Axios — Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in early June. Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican. With Murphy working to appeal to Florida voters statewide, she may be less inclined to support president Joe Biden’s proposed tax increases on corporations and capital gains — making House passage more difficult. In 2022, Florida may be less of a battleground and more of a proving ground for Democratic strategies about how to win Donald Trump supporters.

Donald Trump endorses Wilton Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Senate President Simpson hasn’t even announced that he’s running for Agriculture Commissioner yet, but Trump already is weighing in on the race. “Wilton Simpson has done an outstanding job as President of the Florida State Senate, and I hope he runs for Florida Agriculture Commissioner in 2022,” Trump wrote in an email, adding: “He will have my Complete and Total Endorsement!” The endorsement is a coup for Simpson, making him the instant front-runner to win the GOP nomination for a key statewide office. In endorsing Simpson, Trump showed that he still is taking an active interest in Florida politics, which could have big implications.

Wilton Simpson gets a big thumbs-up for his (as of yet nonexistent) campaign for Agriculture Commissioner. Image via Colin Hackley.

Patronis sits on $2M cash on hand” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A political committee for Chief Financial Officer Patronis has $2 million on hand ahead of his reelection. So far, the only thing he lacks is an opponent. While Patronis’ official campaign account at the end of April had $116,782 at the ready, that’s a fraction of the resources available for the Republican Cabinet member as he prepares to run for reelection. His committee, Treasure Florida, reported $2,018,152 in the bank as the reporting period drew to a close. That’s after raising some $504,503 since the start of the new year. Patronis, first appointed to his post in 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott and elected in 2018 to a full term, has filed for reelection.

Rachel Plakon tops $100K in early money push for HD 29” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Plakon, a Republican House candidate, raised just over $5,000 in April, pushing her four-month campaign in House District 29 over the $100,000 mark. Plakon, of Lake Mary, is setting a money pace greater than any her husband, Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, ever managed in his previous seven House elections, the last four in HD 29. In April, she picked up two $1,000 checks, including one from the Florida Psychological Association, continuing a strong reliance on those maximum donations. Since she entered the race in mid-January, Plakon has attracted 70 of those checks from organizations and individuals. She also has an independent political committee, Friends of Rachel Plakon, which has raised another $54,600, though none in April.

Rachel Plakon gets an early head start.

Jordan W. Leonard is leading the early money race for HD 100” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bay Harbor Islands Council Member Leonard leads the House District 100 fundraising contest so far, but he’ll have a new Democratic challenger to contend with in the weeks and months ahead. Leonard has topped Clay Miller for three consecutive months, according to data from the Division of Elections. The most recent fundraising reports show Leonard added more than $10,000 during April between his campaign account and his political committee, Americans for Florida. Miller, meanwhile, brought in just over $4,000 in April. But a new entrant into the race, LGBTQ rights advocate Todd Delmay, joined the contest last week and will look to post a strong opening fundraising month when May money reports are due.

Groups fight for influence in Florida’s redistricting battlevia Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Conservative and liberal organizations are starting to press Florida lawmakers on the state’s soon-to-be allocated new seat ahead of a fight that could determine control of Congress. Conservative non-profit Democracy Now, led by former Trump administration official Carlos Trujillo, is set to use Florida as the staging ground to rebuild a Republican majority in Congress, which would require flipping three seats nationally. On the Democratic side, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder, has already met with Democratic members of the Legislature, and created an affiliated group called All on the Line to focus on influencing lawmakers in key states like Florida.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Florida families to get more school vouchers as Ron DeSantis signs $200M choice expansion” via Ana Ceballos and Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — DeSantis signed into law a $200 million school choice plan that will pave the way for about 61,000 new students to become eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers that will help families pay for private tuition and other expenses. The measure is a continuation of a decadeslong push to expand school choice in Florida, a move Republicans support, and most Democrats have fought as they advocate for more oversight of private schools that get state-funded vouchers. The Governor signed the bill alongside Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, bill sponsors Sen. Manny Diaz and Rep. Randy Fine. A crowd of students from the school, where about 85% of students attend through a state voucher program, greeted DeSantis with cheers and handmade welcome signs.

Ron DeSantis signs a significant school voucher expansion.

Federal lawsuit challenging anti-riot bill claims law targets Black protesters” via Frank Fernandez of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Several groups have joined in filing a federal lawsuit on behalf of Black-led organizations challenging a recently enacted Florida law which the groups assert is intended to chill First Amendment rights. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the ACLU of Florida, and the Community Justice Project filed the lawsuit in federal court in Tallahassee. The state Legislature passed a so-called anti-riot bill in its recent session at the urging of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who championed the bill.

Florida Watch pops DeSantis for ‘middle of the night’ $1B tax hike” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new advertisement blasts Gov. DeSantis for signing a billion-dollar tax hike “when no one was looking.” The video spot from Florida Watch slams the online tax collection bill signing as a regressive tax. The Governor signed the legislation (SB 50) on April 19, the last possible day before it became law without his signature, at about 20 minutes until midnight. Splicing pictures of DeSantis, commentary from The Young Turks host Ana Kasparian and ominous voice-overs from a male narrator, the ad casts the change in Florida tax code as a corporate giveaway on the backs of consumers.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Broadcast journalism association calls out DeSantis over Fox News exclusive” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The world’s largest digital journalism association reprimanded Gov. DeSantis on Tuesday after he provided exclusive access to FOX News at an official bill signing event in Florida. The closed-door event angered dozens of national and local news outlets who remained locked out of the May 6 ceremony. In a letter published by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), Executive Director Dan Shelley described the decision as “exclusionary” and “ill-advised.” “As you know better than most, journalists have a First Amendment-enshrined obligation to serve the public by seeking and reporting the truth,” Shelly wrote. “That obligation includes journalists being able to attend official government activities and to ask questions of public officials.”

DeSantis to hold Newsmax town hall” via Thomas Moore of The Hill — The live event is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. and will include Sean Spicer and Lyndsay Keith, co-anchors of “Spicer and Co.” The town hall will be held in the retirement community known as The Villages. DeSantis, a prominent conservative and a potential 2024 presidential candidate, is slated to discuss topics such as seniors, vaccines, government lockdowns, Big Tech and religious liberty, Newsmax said. The Hill has reached out to Newsmax to inquire about the number of people who will be in attendance and whether the audience would be ideologically diverse.

Senate Democrats urge Ashley Moody to stand against plans to create Instagram for children” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — More than 40 Attorneys General are urging Facebook to abandon plans to create an Instagram platform for children. And to the frustration of Florida Senate Democrats, Attorney General Moody is not one of them. In a letter sent Tuesday to Moody, Senate Democrats implored her to get on board. “On all counts, this is a very bad idea, designed more to guarantee future profit-making for a social media giant than children’s privacy,” the letter said. Penned by Democratic Leader Lauren Book, the letter echoes the concerns voiced Monday by 44 state prosecutors to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a separate, bipartisan letter. Among them, they contend the platform would increase a child’s vulnerability to bullying and sexual predation.

—“Anna Eskamani deems 2021 Session ‘Session of culture wars’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

Lawmakers, alumni, school officials back Richard Corcoran for FSU president” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Corcoran applied for the job and is one of nearly two dozen applicants seeking the position currently held by John Thrasher. Letters show Corcoran has broad support among those he served alongside during his time in the Legislature, culminating in a term as House Speaker for the 2017 and 2018 Sessions. He has also garnered support from alumni, school superintendents and others. Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters nominated Corcoran for the job, likening him to a “young John Thrasher.” “We need someone to replace President Thrasher, who knows the legislative process and knows all the members of the Legislature. No time for introductions. We need someone to hit the ground running on day one for FSU,” wrote Gruters.

Richard Corcoran gets props in his bid for FSU president. Image via Colin Hackley.

—“Nick Duran ‘optimistic’ about new gaming deal, but questions remain” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Happening today — The House offers two webinars for lawmakers in advance of the May 17 Special Session to ratify the proposed Seminole Compact. One of the courses y will be about the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and tribal compacts (10 a.m.); the other discusses gambling enforcement and commissions (1 p.m.).

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Sarah Suskey, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Dania Entertainment Center

Matthew Duke: Ernst & Young

David Roberts, Nortelus Roberts Group: Novelle Health Partners

Christopher Smith, Tripp Scott: DraftKings

— STATEWIDE —

Florida declares state of emergency after pipeline shutdown” via The Associated Press — DeSantis declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening in response to gasoline shortages caused by the shutdown of a major pipeline by hackers. The order signed by DeSantis activates the Florida National Guard, as needed, and directs state emergency management officials to work with federal and local officials. The Colonial Pipeline, the biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S., delivering about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit Friday with a cyberattack. A large part of the pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.

The Colonial Pipeline hack is causing panic, hoarding throughout the East.

DeSantis says federal government needs to ‘step up’ on Texas pipeline cyberattack” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — DeSantis is weighing in on a national fuel shortage that is having ripple effects in north Florida. After a major cyberattack shut down a Texas fuel pipeline that supplies the east coast with 45% of its fuel, Floridians flocked to gas stations to top off their tanks in a panic. DeSantis gave his comments while he was in Jacksonville for a news conference about school choice legislation. “My fear is you have these gas shortages; it’s going to cause a lot of problems for people, just the convenience of life, but also for our economy,” DeSantis said.

Panic buying drives gas shortage in Panhandle cities” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — After a cyberattack shut down a gas line starting in Texas, Floridians flocked to gas stations to top off their tanks in a panic. The gas pipeline should not affect Florida’s gas supply because the peninsula mostly gets its gas shipped directly to the state’s ports. But that didn’t matter to some Floridians who joined long lines, sometimes wrapping the block, to fill up. “It’s basically a problem that’s being created by the drivers themselves,” said Mark Jenkins, a spokesperson for AAA, the Auto Club Group, which has been monitoring the gas shortage in Florida. Jenkins said he had heard reports of fuel shortages across the panhandle, including Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee.

State law enforcement leaders praise renewed radio deal” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — State law enforcement leaders are praising a late-session deal that will provide funding to manage the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) and pay for new radio handsets for first responders who work for state agencies. State lawmakers passed implementing language that cited “the critical nature of the statewide law enforcement radio communications system,” and found there is “an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare, and that is in the best interest of the state to continue partnering with the system’s current operator.” The direct result was a 15-year renewal contract with L3 Harris that emerged in the closing days of the 2021 Legislative Session.

College athlete pay rules move forward” via News Service of Florida — With a Florida law set to go into effect July 1 to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, the state university system’s Board of Governors has begun the process of adopting regulations to carry it out. The board on Tuesday agreed to begin a 30-day period for the public to comment on the new rules. After that, the regulations can come back to the board for final approval at a June 22 meeting. Syd Kitson, chairman of the Board of Governors, said Florida has a chance to “lead the nation” on the issue of college athlete pay. Kitson, a former professional football player, supported part of the proposal that would require instructing athletes on financial literacy.

Syd Kitson says Florida will lead the way on paying student-athletes. 

Happening today — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold a two-day online meeting to discuss the interactions between sharks and people fishing. “While some shark stocks are recovering, others remain overfished, are undergoing overfishing, or have an unknown status,” Marine Fisheries Management Director Jessica McCawley wrote in a premeeting memo. “As more fishers are on the water and shark populations recover, increased fishermen interactions with sharks are likely to occur, including shark predation on fishermen’s catch,” 9 a.m. Information here.

Happening today — Former secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Alan Levine, who now serves as executive chair, president and chief executive officer of Ballad Health, will speak at a meeting of the Economic Club of Florida, noon, Governors Club, 202 South Adams St., Tallahassee. Register here.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida reports 48 coronavirus resident deaths, 3,263 new cases” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s resident death toll from coronavirus rose to 35,831 with the addition of 48 more reported fatalities on Tuesday while also adding 3,263 more positive COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 2,275,365. The state has not reported more than 5,000 daily infections since May 1. That reflects the latest information from the White House, which said that from May 3-9, statewide cases have declined to 123 per 100,000 population. For all cases, that’s a 21% decline compared to the seven days prior.

DeSantis calls for a ‘normal school year’ in the fall” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis said he doesn’t think masks and other COVID-19 safeguards will be needed next school year. “Our direction is relatively simple: Have a normal school year. … These kids do not need to be wearing these masks,” DeSantis said in response to a reporter’s question in Jacksonville. “We need to be able to let them be kids.” Last month, Education Commissioner Corcoran wrote a memo to school superintendents telling them they should drop mask mandates for the 2021-22 school year. He encouraged districts to make mask-wearing voluntary. Students in South Florida’s public schools must wear masks. Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade school districts all say they still require them.

Ron DeSantis vows that the next school year will be ‘normal.’ Image via AP.

Happening today — U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday will hear arguments in the state’s request for a preliminary injunction against federal COVID-19 restrictions on the cruise ship industry. Attorney General Moody filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restrictions, 9 a.m., United States Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Thanks to vaccination push, South Florida’s COVID-19 numbers are plummeting” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida’s vaccination push has sent COVID-19 case numbers plunging, according to recent data from the Department of Health. The seven-day case positivity rate — measuring the share of COVID-19 tests coming back positive — is now at its lowest levels in the region in nearly six months. The same is true for the raw case totals in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The positivity rate has dropped a whopping two percentage points in just the past two weeks in each major South Florida county. The death toll has also begun dropping in Broward but has remained steady in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach. The fact that raw case numbers have gone down so quickly shows the effectiveness of the vaccine push.

Long-haul COVID-19 is rising among children. Image via AP.

Children with long-haul COVID-19 cases aren’t a myth. Ask this Boca Raton teen.” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — Just the thought of returning to in-person classes next fall exhausts eighth grader Heaven Moody. Walking through the halls. Sitting at a desk. Those activities now seem like a tall order for the Boca Raton 14-year-old, who, more than a year out from a mild COVID-19 infection, finds it difficult to get out of bed on some days. Working up an appetite is a chore. Her ears sometimes throb. Rashes on her wrists appear and fade randomly. She suffers from headaches and dizziness frequently. Her hair is thinning in spots. By now, the word has spread that a portion of those who come down with COVID-19 continue to suffer chronic illness in its wake.

‘Cease and desist’ letter filed by lawyer for Polk parents group over school district’s mask requirement” via Melissa Marino of WFLA — A lawyer for a group of parents in Polk County is demanding the Polk County School Board immediately stop a mask requirement and instead make it optional for students to wear face coverings. Attorney Jeff Childers said the school board is not listening to recommendations from state officials like DeSantis, Education Commissioner Corcoran and Surgeon General Dr. Scott A. Rivkees. “These state leaders have made their position against involuntary mask mandates known and have advocated for them to be removed from policy,” he said. Childers said he has been instructed by the parents to file a lawsuit if they ignored their cease and desist order.

Pinellas plans June 9 end to school masks despite calls to move faster” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Pinellas County School Board remained on track to end its mask mandate at the end of business June 9, after classes end. It stuck with its plan to rescind its policy in the face of overwhelming pressure to cancel the rule immediately. For nearly five hours, dozens of parents, students and other residents used the board’s public comment period to accuse the board of child abuse for its continued insistence that people wear masks inside schools and other district properties.

— CORONA NATION —

Average daily U.S. COVID-19 cases fall below 40,000 for the first time since September” via Nate Rattner of CNBC — The rate of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. fell to an average of 38,800 per day Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Federal data found the country is averaging 2.1 million daily reported vaccinations over the past week, down 37% from its peak level but showing signs of steadying in recent days. The U.S. reports 38,800 daily new infections, based on a seven-day average of data compiled by Hopkins, down 22% from a week ago and 46% from the most recent high, when the country was seeing about 71,000 daily cases in mid-April.

COVID-19 cases are falling across the U.S. Image via AP.

Study: Over 99% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were not vaccinated” via Oriana Gonzalez of Axios — The Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday released a study showing that 99.75% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and April 13 were not fully vaccinated, according to data provided to Axios. Real-world evidence continues to show coronavirus vaccines are effective at keeping people from dying and out of hospitals. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 95% and 94% effective, respectively, at preventing symptomatic infections. The study also looked at 47,000 Cleveland Clinic employees who had received one shot, both shots or no shots at all. The Cleveland Clinic found that 99.7% of its employees infected with the coronavirus were not vaccinated, and 0.3% were fully vaccinated.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Duke Energy commits to helping struggling Floridians save money, avoid disconnections” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Duke Energy announced a series of steps it is taking to ensure customers who are behind on their utility bills don’t have their power cut off at a dangerous time. After negotiations with Vote Solar, The CLEO Institute, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Duke Energy Florida has agreed not to disconnect power for nonpayment on days when the heat index is forecast at 105 degrees or a dangerous hurricane or tropical storm threatens residents. Unlike many other states, Florida currently has no protections for residents from power shut-offs during extreme temperature days, unless utilities voluntarily adopt them.

— MORE CORONA —

The 1918 pandemic tells us that we can’t celebrate the end of COVID-19 yet” via John M. Barry in The Washington Post — More than a year into the pandemic, the situation is chaotic. Lacking vaccines, lacking resources or lacking good policies, India, Turkey, much of South America and elsewhere are seeing the virus rage as never before. Europe is finally improving after an extraordinarily difficult few months, while in the United States, the pandemic’s end may be in sight. Are there any lessons that can be extracted from this landscape? And does the course of the 1918 pandemic hold any lessons for today?

We should take some hints from 1918.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

White House says Joe Biden will release updated health information this year” via Matt Viser of The Washington Post — Biden, in his first months in office, has signed sweeping legislation, reoriented U.S. foreign policy and approved stacks of executive orders. One thing he hasn’t done: go to the doctor. The nation’s oldest President in history has yet to get a checkup — or release an update to the three-page medical summary last provided to the public some 17 months ago. The White House has said more up-to-date information will be released “soon” and, when pressed, said he would do so by the end of the year. “The President is planning to have a checkup later this year, and the results will be released to the public,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said.

Joe Biden has done a lot as President. Getting a checkup is not one of them. Image via AP.

White House explores jones act waiver to ship fuel by tanker” via Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter of Bloomberg — The Biden administration took a first step toward waiving century-old U.S. shipping requirements to allow foreign tankers to transport gasoline and diesel to fuel-starved areas of the country, as the Colonial Pipeline Co. outage caused filling stations to run dry. The U.S. Maritime Administration said it had begun surveying vessels that are qualified to carry goods between U.S. ports, under 101-year-old Jones Act requirements that those ships be built in the U.S. and crewed by American workers. Although the administration left it unclear whether it will actually waive those requirements Tuesday, the assessment is the first step to any exemptions. The move comes as Biden faces increasing pressure to deal with fuel shortages tied to the pipeline’s closure.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP — 

Trump’s blog isn’t lighting up the internet” via Brandy Zadrozny of NBC News — Four months after former Trump was banished from most mainstream social media platforms, he returned to the web last Tuesday with ‘From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,’ essentially a blog for his musings. A week since the unveiling, social media data suggests things are not going well. The ex-President’s blog has drawn a considerably smaller audience than his once-powerful social media accounts, according to engagement data compiled with BuzzSumo, a social media analytics company. The data offers a hint that while Trump remains a political force, his online footprint is still dependent on returning to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Donald Trump’s blog is not going viral. Image via AP.

Liz Cheney strikes defiant tone in floor speech on eve of her expected ousting from House GOP leadership” via Jeremy Herb and Annie Grayer of CNN — The Wyoming Republican, who is all but certain to be removed as GOP conference chair after her continued criticisms of Trump, declared that she would not join with other leaders who ignore Trump’s lies, emboldening him and threatening democracy. “We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed,” Cheney said. “This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.” As Cheney spoke, the Republican lawmakers mostly cleared out of the chamber, with Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado the sole member who stayed on the floor.

 

— CRISIS —

Pentagon chief feared ‘coup’ accusations if he deployed troops to capitol riot” via Luke Broadwater and Katie Brenner of The New York Times — Christopher C. Miller, who was the acting defense secretary when rioters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, plans to testify before Congress he worried sending troops to the complex would contribute to perceptions of a “military coup” under President Donald J. Trump. He will also blame Trump for encouraging the violent mob that overran the Capitol Police, according to written testimony submitted to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Miller’s comments, part of the lengthy defense of the Pentagon’s actions before and during the mob violence, are the first he will make in sworn testimony.

🔘Must listen on the present-day GOP: FiveThirtyEight editors, analysts and reporters tackle two topics in their most recent podcast, including the role establishment Republicans like Cheney have in the new GOP and what Florida’s new voting law says about the party’s larger motivations. The 45-minute podcast is as informative as it is fun, with a nod to Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver’s cameo as himself on The Simpsons. It’s a must-listen for any of Florida’s political class and hobby politicos.

Liz Cheney is the hot topic on the FiveThirtyEight podcast.

Here’s former Tampa Bay anchor Rob Finnerty, now a Newsmax chud, getting roasted over election lies” via Colin Wolf of Creative Loafing — Finnerty is now the host of “Wake Up America,” and for his most recent Monday episode he brought on David Litt, a one time speechwriter for former President Barack Obama, to discuss billionaire Elon Musk’s recent appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” Besides admitting he hadn’t even watched the Musk episode of SNL, Finnerty’s most embarrassing moment came when Litt turned the conversation to Newsmax’s role in pushing baseless election fraud conspiracies. “What happened on ‘SNL’ this weekend was that people made stuff up and then said it on television like it’s true,” said Litt. “And that actually happens pretty frequently in American TV. For example, in 2020, Dominion Voting Systems sued Newsmax over its false claims about election fraud.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Rick Scott says Biden needs to ‘stand up’ for Israel — Amid a spike in violence between Israelis and Palestinians, U.S. Sen. Scott said Biden needs to stand up for Israel. “While President Trump took unprecedented action to stand with Israel, under President Biden, rockets are raining down on our great ally. It’s time for Biden to stand up and make it clear that the U.S. stands with Israel as it defends its people from these reprehensible terrorist attacks,” Scott said. “These terrorists need to know acts of aggression toward Israel will never be tolerated. President Biden should take immediate action to remind these terrorists and the world of the United States’ strong and unwavering support of the Israeli people.”

Rick Scott challenges Joe Biden to make clear that any aggression against Israel will not stand. 

Feds say UM hid inflated charges from patients in $22 million settlement over Medicare fraud” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — The University of Miami fraudulently billed millions to the Medicare program for unnecessary transplant lab tests and inflated doctors’ fees even after federal regulators had caught UM hiding the higher charges from patients, the Justice Department said as it released a settlement agreement with the school. The agreement, signed this spring to resolve false claims allegations in whistleblower lawsuits, requires UM to pay about $22 million to the federal government, with half that total going to the taxpayer-funded Medicare program for the elderly and disabled. The university must also pay the state of Florida about $325,000 under the terms, with half that amount going to the Medicaid program for the indigent.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Robert Runcie will step down as schools superintendent, but turmoil and uncertainty remain” via Scott Travis and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Runcie will officially step down as Broward Schools superintendent in three months, but major change may come slowly for a school district rocked by a statewide grand jury investigation and the arrests of three top administrators. Under a $754,900 separation agreement approved by a divided School Board on Tuesday, Runcie will stay around in some capacity until Aug. 10. An interim replacement probably won’t arrive for another month. A permanent replacement could take a year or more, School Board members say.

Tech, developers help Miami Mayor’s reelection campaign break $2.5M in fundraising” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez raised $830,000 in April for his reelection effort, another massive haul fueled by real estate, tech, energy and health care interests. Though he has yet to draw an established opponent, the Mayor has raised more than $2.7 million this year. David Sacks, a tech investor and one of PayPal’s founding executives, gave Suarez’s committee $50,000. The largest bundle of contributions in April came from health care investor Harris Schwartzberg and affiliated companies. Schwartzberg personally gave $50,000. Three affiliated companies contributed another $130,000. A bevy of real estate and construction interests also poured $280,000 into Suarez’s political committee, Miami For Everyone. Investment manager, philanthropist and former Goldman Sachs executive Doug Kimmelman gave the committee $55,000.

Francis Suarez makes big bank for his reelection.

Six months before Hialeah Mayor election, there’s already bad blood and big money” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — The race to replace term-limited Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández is still almost half a year away, but donations are already pouring in for the two front-runners: former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo and former Hialeah Councilwoman Isis Garcia-Martinez. In Hialeah, candidates have until July to make the ballot, meaning more could still enter the fray before voters go to the polls on Nov. 2. But corporate and political power players are lining up behind Bovo or Garcia-Martinez — and sometimes both. Bovo’s political committee reported more than $300,000 in donations across March and April. Meanwhile, Garcia-Martinez had raised nearly $250,000 by the end of April, $150,000 of which came from her own pocket to jump-start her campaign.

Palm Beach County Commission sells out the public” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — If the Palm Beach County Commission asks for money in the next year or so, say no. The public can’t trust this commission. That became clear last week. By a vote of 5-2, the commission disregarded what voters intended when they taxed themselves $100 million 22 years ago. That money, to buy land, was the centerpiece of an effort to protect the Agricultural Reserve Area. It comprises roughly 20,000 acres, mostly west of Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. With the money came a plan. It allowed a certain amount of residential and commercial development within the reserve — and then no more.

Happening today — Florida International University celebrates the launch of the Maurice A. Ferré Institute for Civic Leadership. Ferre, a former Miami Mayor who died in 2019, was a state House member and a member of the Miami-Dade County Commission, 1 p.m., FIU’s Graham Center, 11200 S.W. Eighth St., Miami. Register here.

Ana Cruz toured Tampa with Related CEO, but they didn’t talk Rome Yard business, she says” via Charlie Frago and Christopher McDonnell of the Tampa Bay Times — The month before the Related Group was named as the city’s choice for a lucrative contract to develop a prime West River property, the Mayor’s partner, Cruz, toured Tampa with the Miami firm’s founder. Later, Cruz and Jorge Pérez traveled to the burgeoning West River development near the Hillsborough River. Pérez, the head of the Related Group, then got out for a tour organized by Mayor Jane Castor’s nephew, Alex Castor.

VISIT FLORIDA backs show to boost Tampa Bay” via The News Service of Florida — VISIT FLORIDA has for nearly a year teamed with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater — with each putting up $275,000 — on an eight-episode show called “Life’s Rewards” that is streaming on platforms including Amazon Prime, YouTube, GoUSA TV and Places.Travel. Money comes from the current fiscal year when VISIT FLORIDA received $50 million in state funding. Legislators agreed to provide another $50 million for the fiscal year starting July 1 and added $25 million in federal stimulus money. The show is described as “an ambitious young executive finds his career and life in turmoil after losing his wealth in a series of high-risk deals. Stranded in paradise, he’s humbled by a hotel’s employees forcing him to reevaluate what really defines life.”

‘Life’s Rewards’ features (not so) subtle product placement for St. Pete/Clearwater.

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 completed in January. During his weekly news conference, Robinson said that he was bringing it forward after city staff determined the cost to remove the imagery.

What Heather Turnbull is reading — “Sick puppy tales lead Orange County to consider ban of retail pet sales” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — After again hearing horror stories about sick puppies bought from pet stores, Orange County commissioners took a big step toward passing a countywide ban on retail sales of kittens, puppies and bunnies. The board, by consensus, directed staff to prepare an ordinance to forbid pet stores from selling those animals. It’s unclear how soon commissioners will vote on the measure. The ban, if enacted, would apply to the eight retail pet stores in the county that sell dogs, cats and rabbits, but not to animal shelters or animal rescue groups that have low or no adoption fees.

— TOP OPINION —

Florida has entered an unsettling stage of the COVID-19 pandemic” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — There’s no denying that Florida’s COVID-19 numbers are better compared to the winter. There’s also no denying that the virus is still sickening and killing too many people in the state. And, unfortunately, there are too many denialists at both ends of the coronavirus spectrum who won’t accept reality — the overwrought who still want strict lockdowns and insist everyone wear masks even when alone and outdoors versus the crowd who claims “the crisis is over, if it really was a crisis.” Both extremes damage the efforts to stamp out the virus. It’s up to the rational majority in the middle to remain clear-eyed about where we stand and how to ensure the numbers keep getting better.

— OPINIONS —

Kevin McCarthy hits the bottom of the barrel” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post

Kevin McCarthy’s stunning — if not surprising — act of cowardice” via The Washington Post editorial board

The biggest threat to America is the Republican break with reality” via Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post

Meet Kevin McCarthy, political hollow man” via Michael Gerson of The Washington Post

DeSantis should meet with transgender children” via Nadine Smith for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel DeSantis has a moral obligation to meet with transgender kids and their families before acting on the cruel transgender youth sports ban surreptitiously passed in the final days of Florida’s legislative session. He must show the courage Republican leadership lacked in rushing through the state’s first explicitly anti-LGBTQ law in decades. Republican leaders tacked the ban onto an unrelated charter schools bill in the eleventh hour of Session. They did it with hardly an hour’s notice and no opportunity for public comment. They sidestepped the public accountability and vetting of a Senate committee hearing on the policy.

Lawmakers limit donations to amendment drives, but not their own committees” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida lawmakers say they’re sick of big money corrupting politics. So they passed a law that makes it a crime for anyone to give more than $3,000 to a political committee. Except not all political committees. Just the ones working on getting issues like smaller class sizes or a higher minimum wage on Florida ballots. Lawmakers’ own political committees can still accept unlimited cash. In other words: As of July 1, Florida law will allow DeSantis to continue cashing $250,000 checks from Las Vegas casino execs. That’s still fine. But if you cut a check for $3,001 to a committee trying to get, say, better pre-K programs or open primaries, you can go to jail. This is Florida’s version of reform.

— ALOE —

St. Pete allows restaurants to apply for temporary outdoor dining permits” via Dan Matics of FOX 13 Tampa Bay — The City of St. Pete has found a temporary solution to allow expanded outdoor dining as the city’s COVID-19 emergency order expires Friday. The city is giving businesses until Friday to apply for a temporary use permit. Restaurant owners were upset the expanded dining would end after DeSantis lifted local COVID-19 restrictions. Like Lincoln Road in Miami, even before the pandemic St. Pete has talked about making parts of Central Avenue a pedestrian mall by the year 2050. Councilwoman Gina Driscoll told FOX 13 they are working on a long-term solution. “More people want to sit outside these days, and it’s just a very St. Pete thing to do. It’s helping our businesses more than ever,” she said.

The City of St. Pete found a middle ground to allow expanded outdoor dining as the COVID-19 emergency order expires.

AAA projects huge increase in Memorial Day weekend travel” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — AAA, The Auto Club projects a huge rebound for Memorial Day travel at the end of the month and Florida will reap a big benefit from a resurgence in fliers and motorists as the coronavirus pandemic begins to wane. AAA officials project a 60% increase in travel across the nation during the Memorial Day stretch between Thursday, May 27 and the holiday itself on Monday, May 31. That’s a huge increase from a year ago when the COVID-19 outbreak rocked the travel industry, and Americans dramatically scaled back travel plans. An estimated 37 million Americans will likely travel more than 50 miles from their homes during the Memorial Day break.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson, Leslie Dughi of Greenberg Traurig, Jim Eaton, and Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union.

___

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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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