Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.18.21

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

President Joe Biden is above water in Jacksonville, but “Blu-Val” cheers might be premature.

A new poll conducted by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab found the President with a plus-3 approval rating in the county, 49%-46%.

Views were split along party lines, with 61% of Democrats saying they strongly approve of the President and 78% of Republicans saying they strongly disapprove.

Joe Biden is popular in Jacksonville, but it’s not yet time to call it ‘Blu-Val.’

While Biden’s numbers are good, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ numbers were better.

The first-term Republican has 50% support in Duval while 43% disapprove. His job approval rating is markedly improved from six months ago when he registered 42% support.

Again, the results were polarized. More than two-thirds of Democrats strongly disapprove of DeSantis, while 76% of Republicans strongly approve.

Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, meanwhile, scored a plus-20 approval rating — far higher than the President or Governor. But the top line obscures the number of voters who have no clue who the top statewide Democrat is. She garnered 37% approval, 17% disapproval, while a whopping 46% said they didn’t know.

The poll was conducted online May 11-16. It has a sample size of 1,263 registered voters in Duval County and a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Facebook post of the day:


Tweet, tweet:

@MarcACaputo: What makes (Joel) Greenberg’s case so unusual is the scope of crimes he pleaded guilty to, making him one of the most corrupt Florida politicians of all time. With such a record of rank dishonesty, his testimony alone is not enough for the feds to indict (Matt) Gaetz

@NoahPransky: Here’s the thing @mattgaetz gets … he could be the 2nd-most powerful man in the GOP within a year. B/c anything short of a trafficking conviction — regardless of all the evidence — allows him to claim “full exhortation” and become the new face of (Donald) Trumpism.

@ChrisSprowls: We stand with the Israeli people and our Jewish brothers and sisters. Israel has continued to demonstrate a willingness to make peace. Hamas is testing the new administration. We must all stand against terror, for Israel, and for peace.

@Fred_Guttenburg: A personal message to the nasty progressives who are telling me to “stay in my lane” & saying, “I used to support you, but now I can’t,” that is OK. What is not OK are some of the comments directed at me because I am a Jewish person. Let me be clear. I am not a political person & not looking for support. As someone with family & friends in Israel throughout my life, including now, I am well aware of the terror that they face daily. I am also well aware of the plight of the Palestinian people. I am entitled to and will share my opinions.’

@MDixon55: These gaming meetings might also uncloak a universal truth of lawmaking in Tallahassee: Members don’t really know what’s in the bills

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@BetterWFetter: Who goes to Special Session, files her taxes, and gets married all in the same afternoon? This girl right here. #productivitygoals#taxesfiled#Specialsession2021#Gettinghitched #HeIsBetterWithFetter @JohnIIIFL

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 10; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 10; Memorial Day — 13; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 16; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 24; Father’s Day — 33; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 38; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 45; 4th of July — 47; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 52; MLB All-Star Game — 56; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 66; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 66; The NBA Draft — 72; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 74; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 80; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 98; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 108; NFL regular season begins — 114; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 119; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 129; ‘Dune’ premieres — 136; MLB regular season ends — 138; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 144; World Series Game 1 — 161; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 168; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 168; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 171; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 192; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 206; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 213; NFL season ends — 236; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 238; NFL playoffs begin — 242; Super Bowl LVI — 271; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 311; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 353; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 416; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 507; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 542.


Supreme Court to take up major abortion-rights challenge” via Mark Sherman of The Associated Press — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to a showdown over abortion in a case that could dramatically alter nearly 50 years of rulings on abortion rights. With three justices appointed by Trump, who are part of a 6-3 conservative majority, the court is taking on a case about whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb. Mississippi is not asking the court to overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision confirming a woman’s right to an abortion. But abortion-rights supporters said the case is a clear threat to abortion rights. “The court cannot uphold this law without overturning the principal protections of Roe v. Wade,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a call with reporters.

An abortion challenge gets a SCOTUS review. Image via AP.


Lawmakers kill added mobile gambling in deal between state and Seminole Tribe” via John Kennedy and Jim Rosica of the Tallahassee Democrat — Minutes into the Special Session Monday, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said he and Republican leadership had gotten future online and mobile casino gambling nixed from a proposed deal between the state and Seminole Tribe. And sports betting, still a go, now will not start till Oct. 15 at the tribe’s casinos. “I realized many shared the same concern as I, that some language in the compact could be construed to lead to the backdoor expansion of online gaming,” he said. “Even the mere possibility of this was unacceptable.” The Palm Harbor Republican said he, Rules Committee Chair Paul Renner and Select Committee on Gaming Chair Randy Fine “engaged directly with the Seminole Tribe,” who agreed to strike that language.

Chris Sprowls throws a monkey wrench into the Senate’s gambling plans.

Ron DeSantis’ gambling deal means billions for Florida, but is it enough?” via Skyler Swisher and Gray Rohrer of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis’ deal-making skills are getting a test. DeSantis inked a $500-million-a-year gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe, but some lawmakers think the state could have done better given how much gambling the Seminole Tribe will get to control. “This is the dream deal of the Tribe,” Sen. Jeff Brandes said. “This was the easiest deal for the state — not the best. But this was a great deal for the Tribe.” DeSantis’ office has been lobbying lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and some representatives think the Seminoles should be paying more, House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne said. “That is their sticking point as to why they don’t plan on voting for the compact as it stands,” he said.

Legislature races toward mobile sports betting but without safeguards for data privacy” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times — Legislators spent much of the Regular Session on a proposal that would have imposed new disclosure requirements on companies that collect information from anyone who downloads an app or uses a website. Now, data harvesting is an essential component to operating the central provision of the new gaming Compact. Bettors are routinely required to provide extensive information, including date of birth, Social Security number, physical and email addresses, and other personal identifying data. While sports betting is “not going to produce a huge revenue stream” for the Seminole Tribe, it will allow the Tribe to get into the online gambling market and build a database of younger players, which it can use to target for its other products.

Senate panel greenlights Gaming Control Commission” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-3 on Monday to approve a bill (SB 4A) establishing the Gaming Control Commission as a law enforcement agency within the Attorney General Office’s Department of Legal Affairs. The commission would take up the findings from an investigation into gaming violations to oversee penalties and fines. “The goal is to have this commission have the state of Florida not violate the Compact ever again and to go in there and shut down anything they think violates the Compact,” said Sen. Travis Hutson, the St. Johns County Republican tapped to carry the Senate’s gaming measures. The Governor would appoint the panel’s five commissioners. The Legislature has already appropriated at least $2 million for the commission.

—”State gaming commission proposal clears House committee” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

House panel approves pari-mutuel decoupling bill, fantasy sports bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Two House bills weaving the legal framework for the Seminole Compact’s impact on horse racing (HB 7A) and fantasy sports (HB 9A) betting were approved by the House Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity. But the pari-mutuel decoupling bill is pitting parts of the horse industry against other parts, as the horse breeders and owners wish to see horse racing continue while some track owners wish to make that optional. The bill would allow card rooms and slot machines to continue operating even if races cease. That would not be so for thoroughbred racing, which Rep. Chris Latvala and other proponents of the bill contend is still too big and too important an industry in Florida to risk losing.

Senate passes fantasy sports regulations over DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s fears” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

‘Don’t mess with Bingo’; Senators are cold to rule changes amid gambling reforms” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — Changes in state rules over Bingo games in Florida may have hit a dead-end Monday. The Senate Appropriations Committee did not vote on the three measures related to Bingo. In the House of Representatives, the Bingo measures have no counterparts, indicating a lack of interest in that chamber, too. Sen. George Gainer, a northwest Florida Republican, and others said they don’t see why popular, low-dollar Bingo games have been swept into a Special Session called to implement a 30-year, $2.5 billion gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. “I represent northwest Florida, and we don’t care how much roulette or blackjack you play, but don’t mess with Bingo,” Gainer said, looking fierce but prompting good-humored laughter.

Don’t mess with North Florida bingo, says George Gainer.

House enlists gaming expert to help lawmakers navigate Compact” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House has enlisted the help of a gaming expert to assist lawmakers as they take up a historic gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The expert, Attorney George Skibine, will appear remotely at scheduled committee meetings to answer questions from lawmakers throughout the week. He will also help lawmakers navigate federal laws and entities, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the National Indian Gaming Commission, and the Interior Department. Skibine served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior from 2008 to 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Advocates want to boost resources for the 24-hour hotline in FL to respond to gambling addiction” via Issac Morgan of the Florida Phoenix — During the Special Session, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling wants lawmakers in both chambers to address issues surrounding gambling problems, such as increasing awareness of its 24-hour hotline and expanding operations to respond to a larger volume of callers. According to the Compact, the Council would work with the Seminole Tribe to provide online resources and display printed material about compulsive gambling at its facilities. The Tribe would be required to make an annual donation of at least $250,000 “per operational gaming facility” to the organization. Still, advocates want more funding to respond to residents across the state.

Dan Gelber, Philip Levine argue voters should have a say in new gaming deal” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Multiple Miami-Dade County leaders spoke out Monday against a new gaming proposal, arguing Florida voters should get a say in the process. Miami Beach Mayor Gelber and former Miami Beach Mayor Levine attended Monday’s news conference. Armando Codina, founder and executive chairman of Codina Partners, and Stephen Sawitz, who owns the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab, also spoke out against the deal. “The citizens of the State of Florida were very clear in their mandate when we approved Amendment 3 in 2018: We are the ones that must decide gambling in our state,” Gelber said. “What we’re watching is the Florida Legislature approving this law in backrooms and yachts. We need to let the people of Florida vote.”

Special Session sked:

The Senate Democratic caucus meets in advance of a floor Session, 8:30 a.m., Room 228, Senate Office Building.

The Senate holds a floor Session to consider a proposed Seminole Compact and other gambling issues, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

The House Select Committee on Gaming meets, 10:30 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Rules Committee meets, 5 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.


Nice scoop, fellas — “Christina Pushaw, outspoken Rebekah Jones critic, tapped as DeSantis’ press secretary” via Jordan Kirkland and Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — DeSantis has tapped conservative journalist and communicator Pushaw to be his new press secretary. Pushaw, who most recently worked as a freelance journalist publishing in national conservative outlets, landed inside the Governor’s office as DeSantis transitions into campaign season. Born in California, Pushaw carved out a career in communications after graduating with a bachelor’s in history from the University of Southern California. She also holds a master’s in international relations and economics from Johns Hopkins University. Pushaw first got onto the radar of the DeSantis administration for her willingness to call out the now thoroughly discredited “whistleblower” Jones in a series of investigative stories, including a blockbuster exposé in Human Events in February.

Freelance journalist and communications pro Christina Pushaw will now be press secretary for Ron DeSantis. Image via Twitter.

‘I don’t think anything’s a gimme’: Dana Trabulsy on her work this Session” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — After flipping a historically blue district, St. Lucie Republican Trabulsy headed to Tallahassee for her first Legislative Session. “I can’t believe it took me 57 years to figure out what I really want to do,” Trabulsy quipped. She started by making a splash in the world of aquaculture. “I learned more than I ever thought I would. I had no idea it was going to be such an intricate bill,” Trabulsy said. Trabulsy’s House bill (HB 669) adding largemouth bass to the list of farmed fish in Florida passed the House on April 26. “(It’s) a great opportunity for people to enjoy bass, just like they enjoy catfish or tilapia or salmon and the other fish that are farmed,” Trabulsy said.

Court refuses to send gun case to justices” via News Service of Florida — An appeals court Monday refused to send to the Florida Supreme Court key issues in a case about a 2011 state law that threatens tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun-related regulations. As is common, the court did not explain its reasons. A panel of the appeals court on April 9 upheld the constitutionality of the 2011 law, challenged by 30 cities, three counties, and more than 70 local officials. Florida since 1987 has barred cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state firearms laws, and the penalties in the 2011 law were designed to strengthen that “preemption.”


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Darrell Carrington, Carrington & Associates: 1st Financial

Nicholas Mortellaro, Strategos Public Affairs: Behavioral Health Center of Excellence


Joel Greenberg pleads guilty in federal court after striking cooperation deal” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — As Greenberg stood inside a federal courtroom pleading guilty as part of a cooperation deal with prosecutors, a plane flying outside towed a banner with an ominous message to a prominent ally of the former Seminole County tax collector: “Tick tock Matt Gaetz.” Greenberg, who resigned from the tax collector post in disgrace after his arrest last June, on Monday pleaded guilty to six felonies, including sex trafficking of a child. According to the plea agreement, Greenberg will be required to register as a sex offender when he is released. If the information he presents is useful and of “substantial assistance” to them, prosecutors will recommend a lower prison sentence.

Joel Greenberg pleads out in federal court. Image via AP.

—“How Greenberg’s plea deal spells trouble for Gaetz” via Roger Sollenberger and Jose Pagliery of the Daily Beast

Plane carrying ‘Tick Tock Matt Gaetz’ banner flies over Orlando federal courthouse” via Alex Galbraith of Orlando Weekly — A plane carrying a banner that read “Tick Tock Matt Gaetz” flew over Orlando’s federal courthouse on the morning that Greenberg entered a plea deal that included pleading guilty to sex trafficking charges. Greenberg paid out the exact amount sent to him by Gaetz to several young women under euphemisms like “school.” The Daily Beast claims to have obtained a letter from Greenberg where he admitted both he and Gaetz paid an underage girl for sex. In Gaetz’s home district, a billboard insinuating that the congressman was a sex offender was put up by a liberal PAC.

Meanwhile … Image via Twitter.

—”Gaetz, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene holding ‘America First Rally’ in Mesa” via ABC15

BOG member alleges improper influence on FSU presidential search” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Alan Levine sent a letter to Board of Governors Chancellor Marshall Criser III on Sunday questioning whether a letter from the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges led to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran being eliminated from contention. As Education Commissioner, Corcoran holds a seat on the SUS Board of Governors, which must approve the eventual pick for FSU president. SACSCOC President Dr. Belle Wheelan said in a letter to Board of Governors Chair Syd Kitson that Corcoran’s consideration presented a potential conflict of interest and implied that if Corcoran remained a candidate without giving up his seat on the board, that FSU could lose accreditation. Without accreditation, FSU could see a mass exodus of students and donors.

Corcoran says he made sure Amy Donofrio was fired; now her legal team’s responding” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — A Duval County teacher who hung a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom says she heard she was fired through a YouTube video. On Monday, Amy Donofrio‘s legal team released a statement criticizing a recent guest speaking engagement from Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran at Hillsdale College, a private conservative school in Michigan. Corcoran used Donofrio as an example while speaking about critical race theory and curriculum oversight and announced that he had her fired. In March, the school district announced Donofrio would be removed from her classroom. By April, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced it was suing Duval Schools on Donofrio’s behalf.

Groups back challenge to ‘Marsy’s Law’ ruling” via The News Service of Florida — First Amendment and journalism groups want to weigh in if the Florida Supreme Court takes up a case that could help shield the identities of law enforcement officers involved in use-of-force incidents. The constitutional amendment bolstered victims’ rights, and a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled last month that privacy protections in Marsy’s Law can apply to two Tallahassee police officers. One incident drew national attention, as an officer identified in court documents as “John Doe 2” shot a Black transgender man, Natosha “Tony” McDade, in May 2020. Because the police officer was the victim of an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the incident, he contends he had the right under Marsy’s Law to prevent the release of his name.

As hurricane season approaches, three insurers are canceling thousands of Florida customers” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As another hurricane season bears down on the state, more than 50,000 Florida home insurance customers will soon receive notices that their policies have been canceled or won’t be renewed. State insurance regulators recently authorized “extraordinary” terminations of thousands of policies of Florida-based insurers Universal Insurance of North America, Gulfstream Property & Casualty, and Southern Fidelity. And the bloodletting will likely continue over the coming months with other insurers seeking to shed risky or unprofitable policies while refusing to insure older homes with roofs, electrical systems and plumbing that have not been upgraded to comply with current building codes.

Citizens Insurance nears 600,000 policies” via News Service of Florida — Continuing to add thousands of customers a week, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was approaching 600,000 policies at the end of April. According to newly updated figures on the Citizens website, the state-backed insurer had 589,041 policies as of April 30, up from 569,868 at the end of March. As a sign of the major growth over the past year, Citizens had 453,911 policies as of April 30, 2020. The growth has come as private insurers have cited financial problems that have led them to shed customers and seek significant rate increases. The Legislature last month approved a bill (SB 76) that includes changes aimed at slowing the growth of Citizens and making it less competitive with private insurers.

— 2022 —

Val Demings to run for Senate against Marco Rubio” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — “For months, Demings mulled which statewide office to pursue, but decided she could do the most good by taking on the two-term senator, according to several Democrats familiar with her thinking.”

FP snagged this reaction from John Morgan: “Rubio’s in for the fight of his life.”

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 news 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.

When it comes to the press, Ron DeSantis goes a little too far. Image via AP.


Florida reports 58 coronavirus resident deaths, less than 2k new cases” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s resident death toll from coronavirus rose to 36,133 with the addition of 58 more reported fatalities on Monday while also adding 1,976 more positive COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 2,293,980. It’s only the third time the state has reported less than 2,000 new infections on its daily report this year and the first since April 12. Both cases and deaths have been declining. Week over week, the state Department of Health reported 22,198 new cases and 344 resident deaths from Sunday to Sunday. Compared to the week ending May 9, that’s a drop from 27,028 new cases and 463 resident deaths.

Your condo building still can require masks and much more. Here’s what associations may enforce.” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For more than a year, condo associations had to become COVID-19 traffic cops for hundreds of thousands of Floridians in high-rises and sprawling complexes. They had to enforce the use of masks, social distancing and rules for pools and other public spaces. Now the state of Florida has enforcement out of the hands of local governments, and the CDC has eased guidance for vaccinated people. It is debatable whether or not private residential community associations are impacted by the Governor’s prohibition against the use of “vaccine passports.” The recent COVID-19 liability bill does specifically protect community associations so long as they were following the advice of public health officials when the cause of action occurred.

Despite what the government says about mask-wearing, your HOA can make its own rules. Image via AP.

Florida tourism improves in early 2021, but still struggles to recover from pandemic” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Florida’s tourism industry saw improvement during the first three months of 2021, but the number of visitors was still down 14% from a year earlier as the state continued to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel-industry officials can envision bluer economic skies ahead as businesses scale back mask requirements and other social-distancing rules imposed to combat the virus that has killed more than 36,000 Floridians. Florida drew 26.16 million visitors from Jan. 1 to March 31, down from 30.4 million tourists during the first quarter of 2020, according to numbers posted late Friday by the state tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida.


Disney World fan reaction is complicated after the theme park changes its mask rule overnight” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney World announced that masks would no longer be required outdoors for the first time since the attractions reopened in July during the pandemic. The rule went into effect on Saturday, when the Magic Kingdom opened about 10 hours later. Disney still requires masks in the ride lines, transportation, and indoor spaces such as restaurants and theaters. Universal and SeaWorld enacted similar policies, relaxing face-covering rules also on Friday. In the theme park world, fans’ reactions ran the gamut from praise to concern. Many Disney guests said they were elated to take off their masks outdoors in Orlando’s hot, humid weather, calling it liberating.

Not everyone is thrilled with Disney’s mask rule changes, but many are. Image via AP.


The million-dollar jab and other giveaways reveal a desperate push to vaccinate America” via Joel Achenbach, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Frances Stead Sellers, and Kevin Williams of The Washington Post — The United States has a surplus of coronavirus vaccine doses on its hands, and long gone are the days when people waited hours to get jabbed. Dwindling demand has forced Governors and Mayors to get creative. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to market the vaccines by offering burgers and fries from Shake Shack, which he dutifully, awkwardly ate on camera while trying to keep a straight face. Now, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has upped the ante. He’s offering $1 million to five adults, provided they are vaccinated. That’s $1 million each. They’ll be chosen by lottery once a week, starting May 26. Separately, he’ll hand out full-ride scholarships at a public state university to five vaccinated teenagers.

Joe Biden to send U.S.-authorized vaccines abroad for first time” via Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg — Biden plans to send an additional 20 million doses of U.S. coronavirus vaccines abroad by the end of June, including, for the first time, shots authorized for domestic use, where supply is beginning to outstrip demand. Biden will announce Monday that he’ll export 20 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. or Johnson & Johnson, on top of 60 million AstraZeneca PLC doses he had already planned to give to other countries, according to a senior administration official familiar with the plan. The official stressed that the measures are only a first step as the U.S. pivots its attention to quelling the pandemic abroad.

Joe Biden starts sharing vaccines with the rest of the world. Image via Reuters.

CDC’s No. 2 official to retire this summer in second high-profile exit” via Lena H. Sun, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — The CDC’s No. 2 official plans to retire this summer, marking the second high-profile departure this month as the Biden administration seeks to rebuild trust in the battered agency. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, told senior agency leaders on Monday that she plans to retire after 33 years at the agency. Schuchat has been principal deputy director to four CDC directors and served as acting director several times. Schuchat categorically denied reports of tensions with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, saying in an exchange of text messages, “Whoever told you that has no idea of the close relationship we have.


Child cash benefit will begin hitting millions of parents’ bank accounts July 15” via The Internal Revenue Service on July 15 will start delivering a monthly payment of $300 per child under 6 and $250 per child 6 or older for those who qualify. The monthly benefits will be deposited directly in most families’ bank accounts on the 15th of every month or the closest day to that date, if the 15th falls on a holiday or weekend for the rest of the year, without any action required. For instance, an eligible family with two children ages 5 and 13 will receive $550 from the IRS directly to their bank accounts on or close to the 15th of every month from July to December.


Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance” via Maria Arias of Axios — A growing list of large retailers has begun to ease mask requirements for fully vaccinated customers, after the CDC issued guidance last week saying vaccinated people can do most activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing. Target and CVS Pharmacy on Monday were among the latest to update policies to allow fully vaccinated guests in their stores without face coverings, unless required by local law. CVS will still require employees to wear masks while at work. Target is also “providing paid time to U.S. hourly team members when they get their vaccines” as well as offering free Lyft rides, up to $15 each way, for their workers to drive to and from their vaccine appointments.

Target joins other retailers who are loosening their mask rules. Image via CNBC.

A vaccine from Sanofi and GSK is said to produce strong immune responses in a mid-stage study.” via Rebecca Robbins of The New York Times — Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, said on Monday that it would move the experimental COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with GlaxoSmithKline into a late-stage trial after the shot produced strong immune responses in volunteers in a mid-stage study. The findings are encouraging for a vaccine that has fallen behind in development and has so far disappointed those expecting that it would be crucial in combating the pandemic. If the vaccine can become available in the last three months of this year, as its developers hope, it could still play a central role as a booster shot as well as an initial inoculation in the developing world, where the pace of vaccination is lagging.

How to handle your reentry anxiety as the pandemic recedes” via Elizabeth Bernstein of The Wall Street Journal — For more than a year, we’ve followed certain routines — working and socializing from home, wearing masks and keeping our distance from others if we do go out and we’ve become familiar with them. But now the world is changing again. On Thursday, the CDC advised that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks or socially distance, except in certain settings. And while it feels like great news, for many of us, it’s also unsettling because we’re not sure what will happen. Start by deciding what you feel comfortable doing. You need to reassure your brain that you’re safe. “The whole point of going out is to improve our levels of happiness and well-being,” says Michelle Gielan, a positive psychology researcher.

Pandemic prom: No dancing, weird locations” via Te-Ping Chen and Valerie Bauerlein of The Wall Street Journal — After proms across the country were canceled last year, they’re back on at many schools this spring, with some unusual twists. No dancing cheek to cheek and, in some cases, no dancing at all. COVID-19 tests and vaccination cards are as de rigueur as corsages and boutonnieres. Some schools are turning to unlikely venues to promote social distancing, such as malls and football stadiums. At Kearney High School in northwestern Missouri, students attended prom in one-hour shifts. Owen J. Roberts High School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, held their prom under a tent in the school parking lot rather than in a hotel as usual. Some schools have even held their prom at a mall.


Biden paid 25.9% rate and earned $607,336, tax returns show” via Josh Boak of The Associated Press — Biden restored a long-standing presidential tradition Monday by releasing his tax returns, showing that 25.9% of the first couple’s income went to the federal government in 2020. The average federal income tax rate is just over 14%. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, a teacher, earned $607,336 last year while running for President. That is down from $985,223 in 2019, when they primarily earned money from book sales, speeches and positions at the University of Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia Community College. Those income opportunities diminished because of the campaign. Biden’s predecessor, Trump, declined to release his tax returns, a precedent that the new administration rejected.

The Bidens have no problem releasing their taxes.


Republicans’ conflicting message: Embracing Donald Trump election lie is key to prominence, just stop asking us about it” via Michael Kranish, Marianna Sotomayor, and Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — The Republican Party’s contorted response to Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen was on stark display as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stood in the White House driveway. McCarthy had helped engineer the ouster Wednesday of Rep. Liz Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican leader for saying Trump’s claim of a stolen election was a lie. Yet he insisted later that day, “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.” In fact, most Republicans say in polls that they still question the legitimacy of the election. While many Republican members of Congress have acknowledged the reality of Biden’s ascension to the White House, a number still twist themselves into political knots to avoid saying he did so fairly.

Kevin McCarthy wants you to stop making him lie about the 2020 election. Image via AP.

Trump jets off to New Jersey, but GOP Florida still in ex-President’s thrall” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Trump is at his New Jersey property for the summer, and his Mar-a-Lago club is closed until the fall, but Palm Beach County and South Florida remain very much in the Trumpian political limelight. Last week, the Trumpettes fan club, including numerous Mar-a-Lago club members, announced it will host another gala for Trump at Mar-a-Lago in mid-February of next year. The group held three major parties at Mar-a-Lago dating to 2018, selling out each year and welcoming then-President Trump and DeSantis at the 2020 gala. “This will be the biggest event we’ve ever held,” said Trumpettes co-founder Toni Holt Kramer, adding that next year’s event will be used to start 2022 midterm election efforts. “We’ve got the hottest weekend with Lincoln’s Birthday, the Super Bowl and Valentine’s (Day).”


Black, Brown and extremist: Across the far-right spectrum, people of color play a more visible role” via Hannah Allam and Razzan Nakhlawi of The Washington Post — People of color are playing increasingly visible roles across the spectrum of far-right activism. Today, non-White activists speak for groups of radicalized MAGA supporters, parts of the “Patriot” movement, and, in rare cases, neo-Nazi factions. The “multiracial far right,” as it’s sometimes called, adds another layer to an already fraught debate over how to address violent extremism, the top domestic terrorism threat. Although the GOP’s hard-right turn in the Trump era has blurred the line between mainstream and extreme, there remains a divide between ordinary conservatives of color and those who align themselves with right-wing movements linked to hate and violence.

Black members of the far-right are becoming more vocal. Image via NBC.

He was banned from having guns after his Capitol riot arrest. Then he shot a mountain lion, feds say.” via Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post — After his arrest for allegedly storming the U.S. Capitol building and kicking a police officer on Jan. 6, Patrick Montgomery was released from custody and allowed to return to Colorado, with a few stipulations, including that he does not possess any firearms. So federal prosecutors said they were disturbed to learn that Montgomery recently shot and killed a 170-pound mountain lion and then proudly posed for photos with the corpse. Colorado officials say he also broke state laws because he was banned from owning firearms due to an old felony robbery conviction. Now, federal prosecutors have filed a motion to revoke his release and asked a judge to place the 48-year-old on house arrest with a GPS monitor. He could also face new state charges.


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. As part of a public relations push, Russia vaccinated the entire microstate of San Marino, which is now offering Russian-made vaccines to tourists in a bid to revive its economy.

Maria Elvira Salazar wants America to follow China’s lead on vaccines. Image via Twitter.



First on #FlaPol — “Ken Welch staffs up as St. Pete mayoral primary nears” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In a sign that his campaign for St. Petersburg Mayor is about to ramp up, former Pinellas County Commissioner Welch is assembling a power squad of Tampa Bay area politicos. In recent days and weeks, Welch has brought on several top-tier consultants and strategists as the August Primary Election draws near. Hires include Stephanie Owens, who is serving as the campaign manager. Owens is a principal for Dolphin Strategies, a firm whose clients include advocacy organizations, government agencies, political candidates, parties, and committees. Kevin O’Hare, a former regional organizing director for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign, serves as a field director.

Ken Welch for Mayor staffs up.

Tampa’s Rome Yard bid process upheld by review officer” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — A disputed bid that has caused a political headache to Mayor Jane Castor has been decided in the city’s favor Monday, as a review officer ruled city officials and appointees did nothing illegal in awarding the contract to a Miami development firm. Castor greeted the news with a statement calling it “monumental” for the city and West Tampa neighborhoods. The Rome Yard, an old city truck lot adjacent to the West River project and the Hillsborough River, was preliminarily awarded to Related in March, pending negotiations between the city and the firm. Tampa-based InVictus Development, LLC, filed a formal protest, charging that a city selection committee member had fouled the process.

Lawsuit alleges ‘massive’ cover-up, lies in Hialeah police chase and killing of motorist” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Four years ago, Lester Machado led Hialeah police on a car chase that ended when he crashed into a concrete Metrorail column. Six police officers fired a staggering 122 bullets, killing Machado inside his car. The reason for the traffic stop in the first place? The Hialeah cop who tried pulling over Machado said his Honda Accord had a broken tag light. But lawyers for his family now claim that the officer, Teannie Hernandez, lied about the reason for the stop in October 2017. The evidence: When lawyers had the Honda, still in police custody, recently hooked up to a battery, the tag light worked perfectly, according to a newly updated lawsuit filed in federal court.

Massive development swallows Coral Gables home as city runs roughshod over longtime resident’s property rights” via Francisco Alvarado of Florida Bulldog — The path to Orlando Capote’s front door in Coral Gables is an impassable construction zone that no one can enter, not even his neighborhood mail carrier. On a recent afternoon, cement trucks and excavators clogged the unpaved, rocky terrain along the small stretch of Coconut Grove Drive, where Capote’s two-bedroom home is located. A padlocked chain-link gate and fence separates the construction site and the sidewalk in front of the house, forcing Capote to enter and exit his property through an alley behind his backyard. Capote accuses Coral Gables officials, including Fire Marshal Troy Easley and Fire Chief Marcos de la Rosa, of shutting down the only road with direct access to his front door even though it only benefited a private development.

Clevelander sues Miami Beach over 2 a.m. alcohol-sales rollback, Ocean Drive closure” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The Clevelander, one of South Beach’s best-known hotels, sued the city of Miami Beach Monday over what its attorneys called a “series of regulatory attacks” that will soon force the popular entertainment venue to turn down the music and end alcohol sales hours earlier. The historic Ocean Drive hangout is challenging the restrictions on alcohol sales and loud music, along with the city’s closure of Ocean Drive to vehicles and the practice of issuing code warnings that cannot be appealed. The Clevelander filed the lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. It seeks a temporary and permanent injunction, along with declaratory relief above $30,000.

The Clevelander is not taking Miami Beach alcohol rollbacks lying down.

At home on the high seas: Housing costs spawn liveaboard sailboat craze” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — In a county where the median annual income is less than $33,000, a typical one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,650 per month, and the median price of a home is about $450,000, life on the water has become an attractive and affordable option for some people. But what began as a last resort to homelessness for some, and a way to save money on housing costs for others, has become a preferred lifestyle choice for all. Sailboats can be purchased for the cost of a few month’s rent. Add to that the freedom to drift wherever the wind blows you and having the beauty and serenity of marinas, waterways, and the sea as your constant companion, and the choice becomes an easy one.

Cameras will combat child abuse in special needs classrooms” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Cameras may watch teachers and students in Broward County’s special needs classrooms this fall as part of a state effort to help prevent child abuse. Tucked inside a bill passed by the Legislature that limits when teachers statewide can restrain or seclude a child is a camera requirement that applies only to Broward County. The state plans to create a pilot program where the district will have to install video cameras in classrooms where most students are disabled if a parent makes a written request.

Grandmother loses custody of granddaughters after asking for help” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of Venice Gondolier — Zsazsa Karajman said her own daughter became addicted to drugs at 12. The 72-year-old grandmother has been the primary caregiver and mother figure to her two granddaughters since 2016, almost all of their lives. They were doing fine, Karajman said, until she asked for a three-day respite to heal from surgery, and state officials removed the children from her home. Caseworkers from the Department of Children and Families and the Safe Children Coalition have monitored custody of the girls since Karajman’s daughter did not legally sign them over to her care in 2016. The girls also have a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem who speaks for them during court hearings, home visits or other issues.


DeSantis wagers big on gambling compact” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — We’re watching a three-dimensional game of political chess play out in Tallahassee. Proponents of the compact must develop ways that A): ensure the best deal for the state and B): can survive a court challenge. DeSantis invested a huge amount of personal political capital in winning this battle. History is on his side, too. Florida lawmakers are awfully good at ignoring the will of the people if it stands in the way of something they want. Voting rights for ex-felons? Nah. The amendment regulating class sizes in public schools? Nope. Medical marijuana? Delay, deny, nitpick. Buying land for conservation? Nearly 75% of voters approved that amendment in 2014. Lawmakers must have thought they were kidding, though.


The CDC’s mask guidance is a mess. Biden needs to clean it up.” via Leana S. Wen of The Washington Post — Last Thursday’s abruptly announced guidance from the CDC has devolved into a giant mess. Governors and Mayors were caught by surprise, leading to a flurry of rapid changes and a patchwork of disparate regulations across the country. Businesses found themselves scrambling without the tools they need to relax restrictions for the vaccinated while protecting the ­unvaccinated. While many people happily shed their masks and celebrated the apparent end of the pandemic, others are concerned that with only 37% of the country fully vaccinated, this relaxation is premature and could lead to a resurgence of ­infections. If such a head-scratching turn of events had occurred under Trump, the administration surely would have been blamed for the lack of coordination and the resulting widespread confusion.

How compromise with the GOP can serve the country” via Bloomberg Opinion — On May 12, 113 days into his presidency, Biden finally sat down with leaders of the House and Senate: Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and McCarthy. It’s surprising and disappointing that this took so long to happen. Biden invited the leaders of both parties to the Oval Office to discuss infrastructure, taxes and other issues. He began by saying, “When I ran, I said I wasn’t going to be a Democratic President, I was going to be President for all Americans.” That’s a promise the country needs him to keep. Until now, unfortunately, he has largely left Republicans out in the cold. But building bridges requires cooperation, flexibility and pragmatism, as any engineer will tell you. To succeed, Biden will need to keep showing more of those virtues, and not just on taxes and infrastructure.

Don’t overlook Democrats’ hard-fought wins for everyday Floridians this Session” via Sen. Lauren Book for the Tallahassee Democrat — Democrats in the Florida Legislature prioritized the real needs of our state, reaching across the aisle to take action and get things done where we could. The Legislative Black Caucus ushered forth a meaningful first step toward ensuring transparency and accountability in policing. I was proud to champion significant reforms to Florida’s child welfare system and effectively prohibit the use of seclusion and unsafe restraint in special education classrooms. As Florida voters head to the ballot box in 2022 and ’24, I urge them to keep these facts in mind: Despite being in the minority, Democrats in the Florida Legislature fought hard to prioritize the needs of everyday people and keep a bevy of bad GOP bills at bay.


The Special Session on gambling is underway; it’s almost like lawmakers never left town.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Session began with a major concession as the House Speaker announced a controversial provision that could have turned your smartphone into an online casino is gone from the proposed Seminole Compact.

— Some lawmakers are dead set against any expansion of gambling, but an attorney for the Seminole Tribe says Florida can’t afford to pass up this deal.

— The compact passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 18 to one. It goes to the Senate floor and then the House floor tomorrow; lawmakers are trying to get out of town by Wednesday.

— The former Seminole County Tax Collector pleads guilty in a federal sex trafficking investigation, promising to cooperate with the feds as their investigation continues. North Florida Congressman Gaetz was not mentioned by name, but an airplane was circling over the courthouse towing a banner that read “tick-tock Matt Gaetz.”

— If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Orlando Congressman Darren Soto is leading the charge for a bill allowing the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices with Big Pharma.

— And finally, a Florida Man lost his job as a deputy for sending inappropriate text messages to two women he met on the job. 

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

What Mark Kaplan is reading — “Gators planning on full attendance at the Swamp this season” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Gators are planning on having full attendance this football season at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. UF said Monday that the school will resume “full in-person participation in athletic and other activities on our campuses, including fan participation in stadiums and arenas.” The news came during an announcement of other changes related to the coronavirus pandemic, including an updated guideline that masks are now optional. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was limited to 20% capacity (about 17,000 fans) last year. The stadium’s official capacity is 88,548. The announcement will no doubt please coach Dan Mullen, who made headlines last year when he called for UF fans to pack the stadium.

The Swamp may be full this season.

COVID-19-sniffing dogs, masks, smaller crowds: South Beach food festival prepares for the pandemic” via Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald — Dogs trained to detect COVID-19 symptoms will be sniffing the tens of thousands of guests entering the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which runs for four days starting on May 20. And a massive staff, including 1,500 Florida International University hospitality students, will be checking temperatures, enforcing masks and continuously sanitizing as they volunteer during a festival that will draw an estimated 20,000 people to South Beach this week. For its 20th anniversary, the festival finds itself re-imagining what hospitality means in a time when the coronavirus continues to be a threat, especially for what is believed to be the largest gathering of people outside of the Super Bowl since the pandemic began.


Happy birthday to a slew of Florida politicos, including former Rep. Mike Miller, St. Pete City Councilmember Robert Blackmon, FDLE PIO Jeremy BurnsBrooke BustleAna Ceballos of the Miami Herald, poker savant Trevor Mask, and Michael Wickersheim.


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.


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

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