The weekend could have gone better for Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who managed a more disappointing finish in the FSU prez race than Medina Spirit did in the Preakness. Despite getting rec letters from influential alums and one-time rivals such as former FEA head Fedrick Ingram he didn’t win, place or show. We’ll be kind and say he finished fourth.
Actually, when you consider the latest development in the Matt Gaetz–Joel Greenberg saga, falling just short of succeeding John Thrasher sounds like a freakin’ blast. According to … well, everyone … disgraced former Seminole County Tax Collector Greenberg is ready to spill his guts to federal investigators. We’d say we hope Gaetz had a fun weekend since it appears it could be his last before an indictment drops, but wild weekends are what got him in this situation in the first place.
To make matters worse, the lengthy ledger of receipts for “tuition” payments aren’t tax deductible — sorry, they have to be for your minor, not ANY minor. And while the rules are lax on what qualifies for the 50% (in some cases 100% this year) business meal deduction, Venmo payments for “food” will likely lead to an audit — even if your dinner guest was on the clock.
For everyone else, however, Tax Day should only be a mild annoyance. Just make sure you file that return, or at least file for an extension, or else you’ll find yourself having a disastrous weekend down the road.
The good news is, if you were clairvoyant enough to bet on Rombauer to win the Preakness, you not only struck it big, you won’t have to pay taxes on the windfall until next year. If you’re looking to blow the winnings on something fun, maybe plan a trip to Tampa Bay. Tourism has been booming there with no signs of a slowdown — in fact, Pinellas County’s tourism revenues in March beat those from the same month in 2019, a year before COVID-19 hit the travel industry like a freight train.
If you bet on Medina Spirit, don’t fret. Sure, you’re out a few bucks, but if you did your duty and got your vaccine, the CDC says you can ditch your mask in most situations, including your next trip to Wally World, Costco, Starbucks, and more. That’s a lot better than the post-shot lollipops of yesteryear. Speaking of which, make sure you grab yourself a cookie on your next grocery run — the Publix freebies are back! Yeah, yeah, it’s a “kids only” treat, but you could probably get away with it if you shave off the quarantine beard or wear pigtails.
Florida Politics is flooding the zone with coverage of the Special Session; we have a deviated section on the front page of FloridaPolitics.com where you will find a constant stream of stories about this week’s proceedings.
As for what I think will happen this week, here are three quick thoughts:
Pure, raw politics: Whether you love him or hate him, there is currently not a hotter figure in Florida politics than Gov. DeSantis. The Governor is on the verge of doing something historic (something his predecessor never could) and you better believe the people in his orbit know it. Expect the Governor to lean in heavily this week, essentially daring those from his party to cross him at their own peril. When your name, signature and reputation are this closely tied to the Compact, you leave nothing to chance.
The hometown kids: Just how hot is DeSantis? The Seminole Tribe of Florida has spent big bucks, rather masterfully, on a television advertising campaign linking the Compact with the Governor while also profiling the Tribe as one of Florida’s greatest success stories. Behind the scenes, Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, has been making the case directly to lawmakers from both parties on the merits and economic benefits the state will reap from the compact. With a 30-year deal on the table, the Tribe has called on the big guns to carry it over the finish line.
Amendment 3 debate: Depending on who you talk to the gaming Compact is either in violation of Amendment 3 or in accordance with it. What everyone can predict, however, is a post-session legal challenge derby over sports betting in the months ahead. And we haven’t even begun to talk about online gaming. Place your bets and lawyer up.
Happening tonight — Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff will marry John William Ward in a ceremony followed by a reception at the Governors Club and dinner at Il Lusso. 5:30 p.m., Historic Senate Chambers of the old Capitol.
Congratulations — Erin Daly Ballas of Public Affairs Consultants and her husband James Ballas are celebrating their 7th anniversary!
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@immillhiser: One thing that I really like about Joe Biden is that, if I don’t check the news for a couple hours, I’m confident that he did not taunt any nuclear-armed dictators while I wasn’t paying attention.
—@SenPizzo: I #, and hope for peace, just like I do at home. If that makes you unfollow me, dislike me, vote for another, or post things like this while waiting for your mom to bring you more meatloaf, have at it.
—@NikkiFried: It’s not even 6.01.21 and I’m reading a column calling me “telegenic, energetic, and smart” but too “loud” and “acerbic” when holding @ accountable. And just “too ambitious.” My announcement is in 2021, not 1951.
—@RexChapman: Matt Gaetz is a young Roy Moore. Republicans love them both.
Are you sure you’ll be able to cross state lines? https://t.co/CeiHQyKP26
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) May 16, 2021
—@JasonIsbell: If you’re wearing a mask in public and somebody tells you you don’t have to do that anymore, just say, “I don’t want to be recognized from the Star Wars movies.”
—@ALevine014: @floridastate has 3 good candidates. But let’s be clear, the letter sent by SACSCOC amounts to a tortuous intrusion into a Presidential search. @FLBOG is the governing body, we have standards, and those standards were being followed. Accreditation bodies have no role in participating or opining on ongoing searches. You CANNOT ACCREDIT that which you participate in. This is not over. I will be inquiring as to what steps we should be taking to ensure the independence of our presidential searches as governed by Florida’s constitution.
—@VoiceofFLBiz: This announcement from Kool Beanz Cafe in Tallahassee is upsetting. Florida businesses need employees in order to keep their doors open. We need workers committed to rebuilding our economy rather than committed to sitting on the couch collecting unemployment.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 11; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 11; Memorial Day — 14; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 17; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 25; Father’s Day — 34; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 39; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 46; 4th of July — 48; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 53; MLB All-Star Game — 57; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 67; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 67; The NBA Draft — 73; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 75; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 81; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 99; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 109; NFL regular season begins — 115; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 120; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 130; ‘Dune’ premieres — 137; MLB regular season ends — 139; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 145; World Series Game 1 — 162; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 169; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 169; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 172; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 193; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 207; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 214; NFL season ends — 237; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 239; NFL playoffs begin — 243; Super Bowl LVI — 272; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 312; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 354; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 417; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 508; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 543.
“Joel Greenberg to plead guilty to 6 counts, cooperate with federal investigators in plea agreement” via Monivette Cordeiro, Jeff Weiner, Jason Garcia, Martin E. Comas and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Days before he was first arrested for stalking a political rival, Greenberg was in the midst of preparing a fraudulent application for a COVID-19 relief loan, with the help of a government employee he’d later bribe. If there was any doubt of his untoward intentions for the aid funds, Greenberg erased it with a text message. “How quickly can I blow it all on p-ssy?” he asked. Greenberg will plead guilty to six federal crimes — including sex trafficking of a child — in a deal that calls for him to cooperate with federal investigators in the “investigation and prosecution of other persons,” according to an agreement released Friday. The 86-page document laid bare the remarkable brazenness of Greenberg’s behavior.
“Matt Gaetz snorted cocaine with escort who had ‘no show’ gov’t job” via Jose Pagliery and Roger Solenberger of The Daily Beast — When Gaetz attended a 2019 GOP fundraiser in Orlando, his date that night was someone he knew well: a paid escort and amateur Instagram model who led a cocaine-fueled party after the event, according to two witnesses. According to a source familiar with the investigation, the Florida congressman’s one-time wingman, Greenberg, will identify that escort to investigators as one of more than 15 young women Gaetz paid for son. But what distinguishes this woman, Megan Zalonka, is that she turned her relationship with Greenberg into a taxpayer-funded no-show job that earned her an estimated $7,000 to $17,500, according to three sources and corresponding government records obtained by The Daily Beast.
“Gaetz equates sex trafficking investigation with earmarks in Ohio speech” via Henry J. Gomez of NBC News — Gaetz told a crowd of Republican activists Saturday that sexual misconduct allegations involving him are as benign as legislative earmarks. “I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors,” Gaetz said at the Ohio Political Summit, a gathering sponsored by the Strongsville GOP in suburban Cleveland. “Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption.” Gaetz’s keynote speech came a day after Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax official and associate of the congressman, pleaded guilty to six charges and is cooperating in a federal sex trafficking investigation.
— SPECIAL SESSION —
“‘Feeding frenzy’: Florida’s big push to remake gambling” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis and the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature could be just days away from approving a multibillion-dollar deal designed to reshape gambling in the tourist mecca. Just don’t expect everyone to be happy about it. If state lawmakers sign off on a sweeping package of gaming bills, it will bring sports betting to the nation’s third-largest state for the first time and expand casino-style games at tribal facilities. Politically, it will be a signature victory for DeSantis, who will accomplish something that former Gov. Rick Scott couldn’t pull off. That victory could be short-lived as opponents are already preparing to drag the state into court over the pending deal, claiming it violates the state’s rule that voters must approve future casino gambling.
“Ron DeSantis uses sports betting to craft gambling deal that would bring Florida $2.5 billion” via John Kennedy of USA TODAY — DeSantis has navigated between the neighboring worlds of gambling and sports, attracting millions of campaign dollars from casino titans and turning mega-fan while cheering on the NFL champion Tampa Bay Bucs. This week in Tallahassee the Governor will try to mash those worlds together — pushing state lawmakers to approve a $2.5 billion gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe that brings legal sports betting to Florida for the first time. Still, after more than a year of closed-door negotiating, DeSantis’ accomplishment really is powered by something usually elusive, said a longtime industry lobbyist. “Timing,” said Marc Dunbar. “Sports betting has changed the landscape for gaming across the nation. The Governor’s a really smart guy … and he understood the new gaming chessboard.”
—“Fantasy Sports, live racing and Bingo: Florida lawmakers to consider new gaming rules” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times
“Special Session on Seminole Compact: How we got here” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Blame Lawton Chiles. The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida’s Democratic Governor for most of the 1990s fought, in and out of court, over whether the Tribe could have slot machines. Lawton’s answer was no. The U.S. Department of Interior eventually backed him up, because slots simply weren’t legal in Florida. Or blame Jeb Bush. In 2004 Florida’s Republican Governor did not want Florida’s big expansion of legalized gambling to happen on his watch and did all he could to delay implementation. Or blame Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio. Crist and the Tribe reached agreement in 2007 for a new 25-year gambling compact, covering slot machines. Rubio was angry that Crist didn’t run it through the Legislature. So he sued.
“Travis Hutson takes center stage as Legislature mulls gambling overhaul” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Hutson, a Republican from St. Johns County who chairs the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, will carry nine bills into the Senate Appropriations Committee, including the formal deal, and legislation dealing with a revamped state gaming control commission, bingo and fantasy sports. The ambitious larger framework would hold until 2051, as currently contemplated, putting $500 million a year into the state’s coffers from the tribal accord. Hutson anticipates a protracted process and knows that some lifts will be heavier than others. “The votes are going to be there, but some will vote no,” Hutson said, noting that some senators are opposed to gambling altogether.
“Casino opponents pledge lawsuit if Legislature expands gambling, but how strong is the case?” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — How likely are the anti-casino gambling forces in Florida to take the state to court if the Legislature approves DeSantis’ proposed gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe? You can bet on it. “We’re interviewing lawyers right now,” John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, told the Phoenix in an interview.
“Dog racing’s gone in Florida. Horse racing and jai alai next? Why they may be next to go” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA TODAY — One hundred years after it was first legalized in Florida, could horse racing be going the way of greyhound racing: Out of business? A bill filed for the Special Session would allow Florida pari-mutuels — with the exception of thoroughbred racing — to “decouple” live racing and jai alai matches from their casino operations. That means jai alai frontons and race tracks that have card rooms and slot machines, nicknamed “racinos,” wouldn’t have to run expensive live events that cost more than they earn, relying on the casino profits to subsidize them. Tracks that just want to operate more lucrative card rooms, for instance, could abandon racing.
“Which Broward city stands to gain the most from Florida’s new gambling deal?” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Seminole Tribe’s Hollywood reservation land is home to two casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, and a towering guitar-shaped hotel. Up to three more casinos could be built on the Hollywood reservation under the gambling agreement signed by the Tribe and DeSantis. Hollywood would see its share of the revenue fall from 55% to 35%. Davie would see its share increase from 10% to 30%. Davie Rep. Mike Gottlieb said the increased share is justified because the city responds to many of the emergency calls for traffic wrecks and other incidents related to the casinos. But changing the funding balance could set off fighting among competing interests, said Dania Beach Rep. Evan Jenne.
“Hollywood in ‘emergency mode’ over new gaming deal that could cost the town millions” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Mayor Josh Levy was one of several Hollywood officials shocked to learn Davie would get a dramatically bigger cut at Hollywood’s expense from the state-revenue sharing deal with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. “We’re now in emergency mode,” Levy said. “This was a surprise. And a very disproportionate one at that.” Under the current proposal, the state would collect at least $2.5 billion in the first five years alone, with about $75 million going to cities and counties affected by tribal casinos. Hollywood would see its share of the money drop from 55% to 35%, and Davie would see its share increase from 10% to 30%. Those new percentages have plenty of people in Hollywood scratching their heads.
Special Session sked:
House Minority Co-leader Jenne will host a pre-Special Session media availability, 10 a.m. Zoom link here.
The House and Senate start the Special Session to consider a series of gaming issues and ratify the proposed Seminole Compact, 1 p.m., House and Senate Chambers.
The Senate Appropriations Committee meets, 2 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The House Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity meets, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Select Subcommittee on Gaming Regulation meets, 3:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Seminole Gaming Compact meets, 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to list bills to be heard on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after the Appropriations Committee, Room 412, Knott Building.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“What DeSantis’ media strategy reveals about him” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Past governors also resented the media at times. Bob Martinez, Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush and others had their share of bad press, and all had tense moments with reporters. Claude Kirk once memorably threatened to oppose the license renewals of TV stations after they didn’t cover his press conference the day he unveiled a new “Arrive Alive” license tag. But that was the exception. Tangling with the press is a rite of passage for a Governor, a test of mettle. The occasional “hit piece” or blind “sources say” story goes with the territory. This Governor goes way too far.
“Motorola urges DeSantis to veto LERS contract” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Motorola Solutions sent a letter to DeSantis on Thursday asking him to veto a budget item that grants Harris Corp. a contract to upgrade and maintain the state’s police radio network. The 2021-22 budget passed by lawmakers includes $165 million in nonrecurring funding to upgrade the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System and awards the company a 15-year contract at $31.5 million a year — $19 million to oversee the system and $12.5 million to lease radio towers controlled by the company.
“Jason Fischer’s cybersecurity work will factor into his Senate run” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — In a world where everyone wants their technology to work, but no one wants to know how it works, Jacksonville Rep. Fischer has embarked on the sometimes thankless job of stepping up the state’s tech infrastructure. Fischer is chairman of the House Government Operations Subcommittee, which is where a bill to update the state’s cybersecurity infrastructure originated during Session. But it turns out understanding technology is not the only thing you need to get a tech bill passed in the Florida Legislature, where members don’t always want to dive into the minutiae of technology best practices. “I usually try to start out with the personal side of things and say, ‘has anyone ever hacked your Facebook?’” Fischer explained.
“Anika Omphroy fails to disclose how she spent $47,994 in campaign cash. Prosecutor looking at whether she violated election law.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Rep. Omphroy, a two-term Broward Democrat, is under investigation for violating Florida election law. The existence of the investigation was disclosed in an executive order signed by DeSantis, in which he appointed Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to handle the case. The order, signed Wednesday by DeSantis, states “that allegations have been made against Anika Tene Omphroy for violation of the Florida Election Code” but doesn’t give any more information about what the case is about. Omphroy said Friday she didn’t know what it was about. “I have no idea what it is,” she said in a telephone interview, adding that she planned to file a public records request to try to find out.
“Despite a prison system ‘in crisis,’ Florida again fails to pass major criminal justice reforms” via The Gainesville Sun editorial board — Florida’s prison system “is in crisis,” in the words of one Republican state senator, yet lawmakers once again failed to pass reforms that would reduce recidivism and the prison population. The GOP-controlled Legislature considered numerous criminal justice reforms in the recently ended Session, but most weren’t approved. Instead of working on the issue in a bipartisan manner, Republican lawmakers prioritized passing divisive measures such as a blatantly unconstitutional anti-protest bill backed by DeSantis. Lawmakers should prioritize reforms that save taxpayer money while improving public safety by helping former inmates get jobs and reacclimate to society after their release. The Legislature also made limited progress on reforms that help restore trust between police and the public.
— STATEWIDE —
“Gov. DeSantis appoints three to Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Friday appointed Jillian Hasner, Erin Knight and Nelson Telemaco to the Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors. Hasner, of Boca Raton, serves as the President and CEO of Take Stock in Children, a group that helps children from low-income families succeed in school by connecting them with mentors. She is a graduate of Nyack College. Knight, of Coral Gables, is president of Monument Capital Management and a Florida State University graduate. Telemaco of Coral Springs is the CEO of Proximity Works and a University of Pennsylvania graduate. The Florida Legislature created Citizens Property Insurance Corporation in 2002 as a not-for-profit alternative insurer. The corporation exists to provide insurance to property owners who cannot find coverage in the private insurance market.
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joins the UCF Veterans Community History Project for a virtual panel discussion on documenting the experiences of veterans in the state’s agriculture community. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is part of the project to honor and memorialize the state’s veterans in agriculture, 10:30 a.m. Zoom registration here.
“And then there were three: FSU president search committee cuts locals, sticks with academics” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida State University Presidential Search Committee whittled its list down to three finalists Saturday afternoon, following a marathon, two-day interview blitz with nine candidates. In the end, the committee stuck to academics with impressive resumes, cutting four quasi-internal candidates, who were either employed by the university or who held deep Tallahassee ties. Candidates selected to move forward next week for on-campus interviews with faculty, staff and students were: Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Richard McCullough, vice president for research, Harvard University; and Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., vice president for research at Tulane University and professor of pediatrics in the Tulane School of Medicine, Tulane University.
“Ralph Turlington, former Speaker of House, education commissioner, dies at 100” via Mickie Anderson of The Gainesville Sun — Turlington, who used keen political skills to create laws that shaped his home state, died Wednesday in North Carolina at age 100. He wrote and pushed through legislation that changed Florida: the Government in the Sunshine law, the state employees’ pension system, lowering the voting age to 18 and the state’s first corporate income tax. He represented Alachua County for 24 years in the state Legislature and along with state Sen. William Shands and state Rep. Osee Fagan secured a huge prize for their hometown: the initial funding for a medical center at the University of Florida — now the statewide system known as UF Health.
“Company challenges Florida on denial to use a chemical to combat citrus greening” via Karl Schneider of the Fort Myers News-Press — A South Carolina-based pesticide manufacturer is appealing a Florida agency’s denial to use a chemical to combat citrus greening. AgLogic Chemical filed May 11 for an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services claiming the application to use the pesticide aldicarb was denied in an “erroneous manner.” … “The Department’s denial threatens to deprive the beleaguered Florida citrus industry of an important tool to fight the most devastating pest in its storied history,” the filing says. Fried said in a news release that AgLogic’s application does not meet the requirements of state law and will therefore deny the registration of aldicarb for use in Florida.
— 2022 —
“Congressional candidate Barbara Sharief suggests legislator-opponents should quit current jobs now” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The large number of elected officials running to fill the job left vacant by the death of Congressman Alcee Hastings is creating a domino effect of turnover in their jobs, all of which will be filled by appointments or special elections. One result: Some Broward and Palm Beach County voters may go unrepresented for most or all of the 2022 annual state Legislative Session in Tallahassee. In an attempt to avoid that, congressional candidate Sharief said Wednesday that three of her competitors for the nomination to succeed Hastings should consider resigning their current jobs right away.
“Sarasota congressional candidate touting MAGA views once called Donald Trump wretched and his supporters bigots” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota Republican Martin Hyde has steeped himself in all things MAGA as he tries to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan from the right. Hyde wears Trump hats and T-shirts, decorated his house with a “Trump Santa” for Christmas and attended Trump’s rally in Washington, D.C., that precipitated the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. During a “Save America Patriot Rally” in Bradenton last month, Hyde called Trump “a man that came out and stood up for each and every one of you.” Yet while Hyde praises the former President now, five years ago, he had a much different description of Trump, calling him “wretched” and saying he was “horrified” by the “bigotry and bullying” by Trump supporters.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida adds 2,482 coronavirus cases, 22 deaths Sunday” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s weekly case average continued its more than three-week-long decline Sunday, from just under 6,000 cases announced per day to about 3,171 cases announced per day. The Florida Department of Health announced 2,482 coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the total number of infections found statewide to 2,292,004. Another 22 deaths were recorded. In Florida, 36,798 people have died from the virus. About 67,000 tests were processed Saturday, resulting in a single-day positivity rate of 4.36%. As of Sunday, 9,577,875 people in Florida are vaccinated, an increase of 39,765 from the day prior. Of those vaccinated, more than 7 million are fully immunized.
“CDC says you can ditch your mask. Not so fast, Florida. What do the rules mean for you?” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — So, to all those who waited in lines, worked your computers to get an appointment the way Stevie Wonder works a keyboard and took the single dose Johnson & Johnson or the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna and waited two weeks afterward to be considered fully vaccinated: Toss that mask in the trash and wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Right? Not so fast. The new CDC guidelines say that masks are still required when traveling in any public conveyance. You’re flying. You’re masking. Same for health care settings and visiting inmates at correctional facilities. Fully vaccinated shoppers and workers will no longer have to wear masks inside Publix supermarkets starting Saturday, May 15.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Publix will no longer require facial coverings starting Saturday” via David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — Starting this past Saturday, Publix shoppers who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus will no longer be required to wear facial coverings, the Lakeland-based company said on Twitter on Friday night. “In accordance with CDC guidance, face coverings are optional for fully vaccinated individuals inside Publix stores unless required by a state or local order or ordinance beginning May 15,” the company said in the Tweet. In another tweet, Publix said, “Individuals who are not fully vaccinated will be reminded of face-covering requirements through store entrance signage. We expect everyone in our stores to do their part to help limit the spread of COVID-19.”
“Sarasota Mayor unleashed fury over vaccination video that didn’t feature him, employees say” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Hagen Brody was furious. An 18-second video posted on the city of Sarasota’s Facebook page of a vaccination event at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall did not star the ceremonial Mayor or give him proper credit for organizing the March 29 event. Brody decided there was one person to blame: Jan Thornburg, Sarasota’s senior communications manager, who had filmed the event that weekend. Thornburg instead put Mary Bensel, the performing arts hall executive director, in the spotlight, city employees say. The 39-year-old mayor’s response was sudden, fierce and unspooled over nearly two hours, according to staff members. His actions so jarred city employees that three of them filed written statements with the Human Resources department recounting the incident.
— CORONA NATION —
“Feds won’t issue COVID-19 vaccination mandates, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says” via Craig Torres and Yueqi Yang of Bloomberg News — “It may very well be that local businesses, local jurisdictions, will work toward vaccine mandates,” CDC Director Walensky said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “That is going to be locally driven and not federally driven,” Walensky spoke in four Sunday-morning interviews, days after the CDC announced that Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 were clear to shed their face masks at most times. The decision was kept under wraps among a small circle of top White House aides last week as they began making arrangements for the president to address the watershed moment on Thursday. The move has created confusion, though, about who should continue to wear masks and who should be responsible for checking on peoples’ vaccination status.
“Some fear the CDC is moving too fast in lifting COVID-19 mask rules for the vaccinated” via Rong-Gong Lin II of the Los Angeles Times — Some health experts are questioning whether federal officials moved too fast in relaxing mask recommendations that would allow for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to shed face coverings in most indoor and outdoor settings. And they are suggesting California and local leaders move a bit more cautiously in easing mask mandates. Dr. John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s infectious diseases division, said, “There is good science to support changing our policy. On the other hand, I’m surprised they came out with it this soon. I would’ve liked to have had another month under my belt of seeing the numbers continue to come down.”
“‘The right decision wrongly handled’: Inside the Joe Biden administration’s abrupt reversal on masks” via Lena H. Sun, Tyler Pager, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Annie Linskey of The Washington Post — During her opening statement before a Senate health committee Tuesday, CDC director Walensky was adamant that the Biden administration’s masking and social distancing policies remained sound. “While we continue to have community transmission,” she told a bipartisan panel of senators who were respecting the social distancing rules of the moment as their masked staffers looked on, “we must also maintain public health measures we know will prevent the spread of this virus: mask hygiene, hand hygiene, and physical distancing.” Even under hostile questioning from Republican senators, including Sens. Bill Cassidy and Sen. Susan Collins, Walensky ticked off a series of statistics to support the CDC’s current guidance.
“Some aren’t ready to give up masks despite new CDC guidance” via The Associated Press — Many are ready to put aside the sadness, isolation and wariness of the pandemic. Ditching face masks — even ones bedazzled with sequins or sports team logos — is a visible, liberating way to move ahead. Yet others are still worried about new virus variants and the off-chance they might contract the virus and pass it along to others, though the risks of both are greatly reduced for those who are fully vaccinated. The CDC last week said fully vaccinated people — those who are two weeks past their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — can quit wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings and give up social distancing. Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people should continue wearing masks, the agency said.
“U.S. schools should maintain mask requirements, CDC says” via Tony Czuczka of Bloomberg — U.S. schools should maintain mask requirements at least through the end of the academic year, the CDC said in its latest guidance, even after saying fully vaccinated adults can safely shed face coverings in most settings. “Universal and correct use of masks should be required” at K-12 schools providing in-person instruction, the CDC said in a statement Saturday. “Physical distancing should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.” The CDC said it’s recommending that schools apply the existing guidance because students won’t be fully vaccinated by the end of the 2020-2021 school year and youth under age 12 aren’t eligible for shots yet. That will allow schools that reopened to stay open, the agency said.
“They aren’t anti-vaxxers, but some parents are hesitant to have their kids get the COVID-19 vaccine” via Jessica Grose of The New York Times — On May 4, Dr. Hina Talib asked the parents among her 33,000 followers if they were hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine for their 12- to 15-year-olds, and if so, why. Talib, a physician in the adolescent medicine division at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York, was surprised to get 600 messages filled with questions and concerns. More often than not, Talib said, the parents had already had the COVID-19 vaccine themselves and would preface their message with, “I’m not an anti-vaxxer or an anti-masker. I’m just worried.” According to recently released polls, parents across the country share those concerns, with only about 30% saying they would get their children vaccinated right away.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld all drop outdoor mask rules for guests, effective immediately” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Visitors won’t have to wear face masks outdoors at any of Central Florida’s major theme parks, as Universal Orlando, Disney World and SeaWorld relaxed the COVID-19 rule effective Saturday, sparking a mixed reaction among some fans. Universal Orlando was the first to drop the outdoor mask requirement Friday evening. Guests don’t have to wear a mask outdoors at Universal but are still asked to bring masks with them to wear when they go inside, or standing in line for a ride. At Disney World, masks are still required for indoor spaces, including theaters throughout the attractions, on Disney transportation and at restaurants, except when guests are eating or drinking while stationary. SeaWorld announced its policy change after 11 p.m. Friday.
— MORE CORONA —
“No one actually knows if you’re vaccinated” via Ian Bogost of The Atlantic — If you have been fortunate enough to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you also possess an essential, high-tech tool for proving your immunity to others. Just kidding, it’s a piece of cardstock. The cards offer no special marker to prove their authenticity, no scannable code to connect to a digital record. At three by four inches, they’re even too awkwardly sized to fit in a wallet. This setup has made things complicated for businesses, employers, universities, restaurants, concert halls, airlines, and any other institutions that want to verify people’s vaccination status as the country reopens. It’s easy to say that customers, employees, or students need to be vaccinated, but it’s much more difficult to check that someone really is.
“A vaccine for lots of coronaviruses could be in your future” via David Axe of The Daily Beast — The vaccines that the world’s leading pharmaceutical firms have developed to prevent COVID-19 work really well. Against the novel coronavirus, that is. But SARS-CoV-2 isn’t the only coronavirus out there; there are more pathogens like the one that causes COVID-19. And it may be only a matter of time before some new coronavirus jumps from whatever animal population harbors it to human beings. When it does, it could wreak as much havoc as SARS-CoV-2, if not more. That’s what worries a team of scientists led by Barton Haynes and Kevin Saunders at Duke University. And what motivated them, a year ago, to begin work on a new vaccine that could work against a whole bunch of coronaviruses.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden’s America: Democrats see competence, Republicans see chaos” via Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Biden’s administration by the middle of last week was confronted with images of long lines at gas pumps. The Middle East had erupted in violence. Headlines were warning that fears of inflation could threaten a fragile economy. “Don’t panic,” Biden urged on Thursday afternoon. He meant it as a plea to drivers worried about filling their tanks, but it captured his message on the flurry of crises he is suddenly facing. As Biden and his aides seek to project steadiness, many Republicans offer an alternative interpretation: The world is increasingly engulfed in chaos on Biden’s watch as gas prices surge, crime rates rise, border crossings grow, and the costs of consumer goods threaten to spike.
“Biden cancels Trump’s planned ‘Garden of American Heroes’” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden on Friday put the kibosh on his predecessor’s planned “National Garden of American Heroes” and revoked Trump’s executive orders aimed at social media companies’ moderation policies and branding American foreign aid. In an executive order of his own, Biden abolished the Trump-formed task force to create the new monument, which the former President proposed last year. It was to have featured sculptures of dozens of American historical figures, including presidents, athletes and pop culture icons, envisioned by Trump as “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.” Trump himself curated the list of who was to be included, but no site was selected, and Congress never funded the garden.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Forty-dollar chicken, Ferraris and mesh masks: Two months in Trump’s Anthony Fauci-free Palm Beach utopia” via Tara Palmeri of POLITICO — When I told a Breitbart reporter I would be leaving COVID-19-wracked New York and my cramped Brooklyn apartment to spend a month and a half in balmy Florida, he called me a “political refugee in the land of Ron DeSantis.” I didn’t know then how right he was. I wanted to get to a fingertip feel for what had become the new center of the GOP’s political universe — Palm Beach, where top Republicans were migrating to soak up the Florida sunshine, liberate themselves from COVID-19 rules they view as overly restrictive and bask in the glow of Trump, who has set up his post-presidential court at his Mar-a-Lago beach club.
“Republican Arizona election official says Trump ‘unhinged’” via The Associated Press — The Republican who now leads the Arizona county elections department targeted by a GOP audit of the 2020 election results is slamming Trump and others in his party for their continued falsehoods about how the election was run. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer on Saturday called a Trump statement accusing the county of deleting an elections database “unhinged” and called on other Republicans to stop the unfounded accusations. “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country,” Richer tweeted.
— CRISIS —
“House members announce bipartisan deal for Jan. 6 commission” via Karoun Demirjian and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post — A group of House Democrats and Republicans announced Friday that they had struck a deal to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The proposed 10-member commission, which emulates the panel that investigated the causes and lessons of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, would be vested with subpoena authority and charged with studying the events — with a focus on why an estimated 10,000 Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol grounds and, more importantly, what factors instigated about 800 of them to break inside. On the heels of the deal, House Democrats announced their proposal for $1.9 billion of supplemental funds to pay for security upgrades for the Capitol and other parts of the federal government.
“411 suspects in Capitol riot” via Axios — Prosecutors have filed at least one charge against 411 suspects in the Capitol riot and have charged about 75 people with assaulting police, The Washington Post reports. Those charged publicly so far with federal crimes hail from 259 counties spread across 44 states and D.C., according to an analysis by The Washington Post of court filings. About 15 are U.S. military veterans. About 44% of those accused in federal court [181 of 411] … are charged solely with low-level crimes, primarily trespassing or disorderly conduct on restricted grounds, which typically don’t result in a jail or prison sentence for first-time offenders.
“Liz Cheney cautions Jan. 6 riot could happen again” via Hope Yen of The Associated Press — U.S. Rep. Cheney criticized GOP colleagues Sunday for downplaying the Jan. 6 riot and condoning Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen, saying they were “complicit” in undermining democracy. In television interviews, the Wyoming Republican said there was “no question” an attack like Jan. 6 could happen again if Trump’s claims go unchecked. Asked if she believes House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Elise Stefanik, who replaced Cheney in the No. 3 leadership job, are complicit, Cheney responded: “They are.” She also said McCarthy should testify before a bipartisan commission investigating the riot because he has key facts about Trump’s “state of mind,” including whether Trump knew the proceedings were turning violent and did nothing to stop it.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Riot revisionism, hallway aggression, squashed alliances: The House nears a Cold War” via Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — Four months after a siege on the Capitol, much of the House is still living like it’s Jan. 7. A sizable faction of the House GOP is downplaying Jan. 6’s violent attack by a pro-Trump mob, with one Republican comparing it to a “normal tourist visit.” Infuriated Democrats say remarks like that — plus this week’s public ousting of the most vocal Trump critic in the GOP — is further proof of the extremism overtaking the Republican Party, leaving little chance of healing the political and psychological wounds caused by the deadly assault on Congress. The rift between the two parties over the insurrection is worse today than it’s been at perhaps any point since early January.
“Americans for Prosperity launches campaign against infrastructure plan, targets Stephanie Murphy” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian advocacy group, has launched a campaign in opposition to Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. The campaign will focus on 27 lawmakers, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Murphy, to drive opposition to the plan. The group launched the campaign Thursday, describing it as a seven-figure national campaign called “End Washington Waste: Stop the Spending Spree.” The goal of the campaign is to rally Americans against the proposal while offering alternatives, according to the organization. The campaign plans to drive opposition by mobilizing grassroots activists across the country, aggressive outreach to Capitol Hill offices, robust media efforts and more.
“Miami lawmaker wants American branding on all vaccines sent abroad” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald— Miami Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar wants the U.S. to be more like China and Russia when it comes to international vaccine distribution. For months, the two U.S. adversaries have sent their own COVID-19 vaccines to countries across the world. China sent millions of doses to Chile, and the South American country’s 84% vaccination rate per 100 people ranks among the highest in the world. Russia, as part of a public relations push, vaccinated the entire micro-state of San Marino, which is now offering Russian-made vaccines to tourists in a bid to revive its economy.
“Insuring more Americans’ health shouldn’t require big government spending” via Sally C. Pipes for The Orlando Sentinel — Biden announced late last month that he plans to permanently expand health-insurance subsidies as part of his $1.8 trillion “American Families Plan.” This new spending would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. The vast majority of uninsured Americans already has access to discounted health plans. But for a variety of reasons, they just haven’t signed up. Sometimes, they don’t even realize they’re eligible. Rather than light more taxpayer money on fire in an attempt to marginally reduce the number of uninsured Americans, it’d be far smarter to work with the private sector to help people sign up for plans that meet their needs and budget.
“MacDill AFB finalist for KC-46A tanker aircraft headquarters” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — MacDill Air Force Base could be home to a new tanker aircraft. According to the Air Force Times, the base was named one of two finalists under consideration for KC-46A jets. If selected, 24 of the new aircraft will replace KC-135 Stratotankers at the base now. The only other active-duty base in competition for the jets is Fairfield Air Force Base in Spokane County, Washington. “Tampa is a ‘tanker town,’ and we intend to keep it that way,” Castor said. “Our neighbors are united in support of the missions and military service members at MacDill. … community leaders will make our case to the Air Force to locate the new tankers in Tampa sooner rather than later.”
“UFOs regularly spotted in restricted U.S. airspace, report on the phenomena due next month” via Bill Whitaker of 60 Minutes — After decades of public denial the Pentagon now admits there’s something out there, and the U.S. Senate wants to know what it is. The intelligence committee has ordered the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to deliver a report on the mysterious sightings by next month. After receiving classified briefings on unidentified aerial phenomena, Sen. Marco Rubio called for a detailed analysis. This past December, while he was still head of the Intelligence Committee, he asked the director of national intelligence and the Pentagon to present Congress an unclassified report by next month.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Jacksonville will get $343 million in federal pandemic budget relief” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville will land $343 million from the latest round of federal pandemic relief, a gusher of money that will help fill budget shortfalls and quickly gained attention from opponents of raising the local gas tax who said the federal cash can pay for work such as septic tank phaseouts. City officials reviewed federal guidelines issued this week by the U.S. Department of Treasury for how they can use the money. Opponents of raising the gas tax said the federal relief, which is part of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package signed by Biden in March, provides enough money for the city to avoid raising the gas tax.
“Former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel gets job reviewing red light camera footage” via The Associated Press — Israel, who was removed from office by the Governor because of his agency’s response to the Parkland school shooting that left 17 people dead, has found a new job reviewing the footage of red-light cameras. Israel was hired this month by the Davie Police Department as a traffic infraction enforcement officer, the Sun-Sentinel reported. He’ll make $65,000 a year, the same as his retiring predecessor, Davie Police Chief Stephen Kinsey said. The full-time job involves Israel reviewing the city’s five red light cameras and appearing in court if anyone challenges a ticket. The job was posted for two days in early May. Three people applied, and only Israel was interviewed.
“Staff shortages now forcing some South Florida restaurants to go dark, limit hours” via Phillip Valys of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After months of trying in vain to fill jobs — even enticing new hires with $400 bonuses — some South Florida restaurants have turned off the lights or limited hours to give servers, line cooks and managers time off to recharge. Tucker Duke’s Boca Raton location is now closed on Mondays. So is Plant-Based Mafia, a restaurant that opened in April in Palm Beach Gardens. It posted on its Facebook page: “Our employees are working double shifts all week and need a day to recoup.” While some restaurant owners think collecting benefits at home may explain the employee drought, state unemployment claims are actually plummeting. Hospitality workers in South Florida made 6,861 claims in January, 1,628 in February and 921 in March.
“When the JEA grand jury news goes dark” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Federal prosecutors investigating the JEA privatization controversy may want to hear in the coming weeks from a lengthy list of potential grand jury witnesses who have lower or nonexistent profiles in Jacksonville politics and government, in contrast to many of the recognizable former and current city officials already summoned to the courthouse the past several weeks. Investment bankers, consultants, attorneys at New York law firms — dozens were wrapped into the drawn-out campaign to put JEA up for sale by the utility’s former CEO, Aaron Zahn, who aren’t part of the routine City Hall cast of characters.
“Former Sebastian City Council members Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris finally will stand trial next week” via Janet Begley of the TCPalm — More than a year after an apparently illegal City Council meeting triggered a political and legal firestorm, two former council members are about to stand trial. As many as 21 witnesses will testify in the trial of Gilliams and Parris, who are charged with Sunshine Law violations and perjury. The trial, which could take several weeks, begins at 9 a.m. with jury selection, after several postponements. The charges against them date back to April 22, 2020, when City Manager Paul Carlisle canceled a City Council meeting and Gilliams, former Vice Mayor Charles Mauti and Parris held their own meeting. All three were removed from office in September by a recall election.
“A Hallandale cop taunted a city commissioner about getting a kiss. Now he’s getting written up.” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A veteran police sergeant acted inappropriately when he asked Commissioner Michele Lazarow about giving him a kiss at the polls during early voting last November, an internal investigation has found. Sgt. Pietro “Pete” Roccisano, who was campaigning for one of Lazarow’s opponents, told Internal Affairs he made the comment in jest while off-duty. Lazarow wasn’t laughing. Within hours of the incident, Lazarow emailed the city manager and Police Chief Sonia Quinones demanding an investigation. Because the Internal Affairs case was sustained, it will go on Roccisano’s record. Roccisano joined the department in January 2008. “This is the first blemish on his record,” said Teri Gutman Valdes, a union attorney who represented Roccisano during the Internal Affairs investigation.
“Orlando Sentinel staffers, supporters rally against Alden Capital’s bid to buy Tribune papers” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando Sentinel staffers and community supporters staged a rally Saturday at Lake Eola Park to oppose a hedge fund’s impending acquisition of Tribune Publishing, the newspaper company whose properties include the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando paper. “Everyone in this community benefits by having a strong local newspaper,” said Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell, who cited the Sentinel’s difference-making coverage of corporate tax exemptions, voucher school scandals and the Greenberg-Gaetz mess. Tribune’s board of directors are set to vote Friday on Alden Global Capital’s $631 million offer for the newspaper giant. Alden’s $17.25-a-share bid has worried many inside and outside of Tribune newsrooms because the hedge fund has a track record of shrinking newsrooms of the papers it buys.
— TOP OPINION —
“The new mask policy is a moment to savor. This is the beginning of the end.” via The Washington Post editorial board — We can all agree that face masks have been hard to bear, uncomfortable, politicized, smile-defeating, and a powerful symbol of pandemic life and its discontents. So it was joyful to hear the CDC announce on Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear them, either inside or outside. It feels like an inflection point. Despite clouds over the horizon, this is a moment to savor. For now, at least, the COVID-19 epidemic is ebbing. We’ve said plenty about the foibles and failures of political leaders, including a president who mused about injecting disinfectant, but let’s take a moment to express profound thanks for the remarkable work of scientists who confronted the gravest disease threat in a century and forged an effective response.
— OPINIONS —
“Trump killed the old GOP — and he’s getting away with the murder” via Colbert I. King for The Washington Post — So how was it Richard Nixon had to skip town, while Trump was allowed to stick around and gleefully watch the Jan. 6 bloody function at the junction of the U.S. Capitol? Trump was on hand for the great insurrection because he had — still has — what Nixon lacked: the backing of a Republican Party controlled by weak-kneed leaders whose notion of duty is limited to what they perceive Trump expects of them. Thus enter Cheney, who believed that the truth about Trump’s presidential defeat should trump his lies, and that integrity deserves a place in her party. Proving her wrong on both counts, the Republican Party showed her the door this week.
“The CDC’s new mask rules just follow the science” via Faye Flam of Bloomberg Opinion — The vaccinated can now go maskless. (Mostly.) Some people are looking with horror at this new recommendation from the CDC, while others react with relief. Some of the fearful reactions might be driven by people getting stuck on earlier reports that the clinical trials didn’t do enough to test whether the vaccines cut down on transmission. But a lot has changed since then. The bottom line: the evidence that vaccines protect others is stronger and more direct than the evidence that masks do. So if you want to protect others, getting vaccinated is more likely to help than wearing a mask — and of course, people are still welcome to do both.
“For economic rebound, vaccinate minority communities” via Jaclyn Karasik of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida is a national embarrassment in equitable vaccinations. Nationwide, the state has the 4th most unequal vaccine distribution for Black people. More than half of states have been more equitable than Florida in reaching Hispanic communities. We are leaving behind critical members of our neighborhoods. The state can combat these deep-seated issues with a three-pronged strategy: Make vaccines convenient, engage community leaders and transparently communicate data. Failure to reach Black and Hispanic communities with vaccines could mean continued communitywide outbreaks of COVID-19 and a sluggish economic recovery. We have the tools and strategies to get more vaccines out there, and now we must act quickly — lives and livelihoods depend on it.
“Floridians thought they controlled gambling. Turns out, that was a sucker bet” via the Miami Herald editorial board — It looks like Miami Beach probably has gotten a temporary reprieve from having a casino at the Fontainebleau Resort jammed down the throats of residents by the Legislature. That’s great news. But the Special Session on gambling that starts Monday still is likely to produce a big expansion of gambling in Florida. And it opens the door to even more. That’s some seriously bad news. The deal would all but certainly end up in court on the grounds that it violates a 2018 amendment to the Florida Constitution giving voters control over gambling expansion. And it sets up the possibility for even more online gambling in the state within 36 months from now.
“In final insult, DeSantis, Florida GOP spend our tax dollars to defend taking away our rights” via the Miami Herald editorial board — DeSantis and Republican lawmakers are taking a victory lap around Florida touting their success in pushing through their agenda during the 2021 Legislative Session. What they consider priorities are not only bad for Floridians but they could be deemed unconstitutional if the several groups suing the state win in court. It’s not lost on us that taxpayers will foot the bill for defending these new laws against the legal challenges. But Republicans are emboldened after securing several conservative appointees to federal benches under Trump and to the Florida Supreme Court under DeSantis. Lawsuits can go on for years and cost millions. From 2011 to 2017, the state spent $19 million to cover lawyers who sued the state.
“DeSantis has made a mess of voting in Florida. Here’s how I would fix it” via Charlie Crist for the Tampa Bay Times — If I am elected as Florida’s next Governor, here are five steps I would immediately take to make it easier to vote: First, I would reverse the DeSantis limits on mail ballots. Second, I want Florida to join about 20 other states and automatically register to vote for anyone who seeks a driver’s license or conducts business with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Third, I would push the Legislature to move the Florida primary from August to the spring. Fourth, I would make Election Day a state holiday, so every voter has a better opportunity to cast their ballots. Fifth, I would make it easier for the Governor and Cabinet to restore felons’ rights — just as I did before.
“Nikki Fried’s bid for Governor is blind ambition” via Mac Stipanovich for Florida Politics — I do not understand why Nikki has embarked on the course she is on, and I am puzzled by the manner in which she is going about it. She is young, telegenic, and energetic. It takes zero imagination to see her as the Democratic front-runner four years from now in a 2026 nonincumbent Governor’s race, when she would be just 47 years old with six-plus years of experience under her belt and the positive name ID and grassroots organization that comes from hard work over time, provided, that is, she could win reelection as Ag Commissioner in 2022. And therein may lie the problem as Nikki sees it.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
It’s Day One of the Special Session on gambling. The fun starts at 1 p.m.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you don’t need to wear a mask if you’ve been vaccinated, Florida businesses are trying to figure out how to keep customers safe. They still have the right to require masks and — under a new Florida law — they cannot ask you for proof of vaccination.
— Former Seminole County Tax Collector Greenberg has a date in federal court. He’s agreed to a plea bargain in a federal investigation of sex trafficking and testify against others. Gaetz is not mentioned by name in the plea deal.
— Carlie Brucia‘s killer will get another chance to overturn his death sentence. The state’s highest court has ordered new hearings for Joseph Smith and four other death row inmates.
— Florida added 10 new names to the state’s Law Enforcement Hall of Fame.
— And finally, a Florida Man used to be a sheriff; now he reviews video of red-light runners.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“‘How did he get up there?’ Florida man makes like Spider-Man atop South Beach light pole” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — South Beach seldom fails to deliver the wacky. On Friday at about 5:25 p.m., Miami Beach police say Todd Fitzroy Boothe clambered atop a traffic light pole at the corner of 10th Street and Collins Avenue in the city’s bustling entertainment district. There, Boothe, 29, inched along the pole on his butt, lanky limbs under his 5-foot, 11-inches frame, dangling astride the pole for balance. That’s when crowds, armed with cellphones — naturally — started taking and posting a video onto Twitter and Instagram, et al. You can hear the hoots and hollers below from the sidewalks and street But that’s only one reason Boothe, of Miramar, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and breach of the peace, according to court records.
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) May 15, 2021
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Deputy Chief Financial Officer Julie Jones, former Tampa Bay Times reporter, now at Axios Denver John Frank, Shannon Gravitte, VP for Public Affairs at AdventHealth, former lobbyist Karen Skyers and Jeff Wright. Belated best wishes to U.S. Rep Lois Frankel, Sen. Tom Wright, Matthew Ubben, and Rick Watson.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.