Good Friday morning.
Ella Joyce has a horse show today, so we’re getting out on the road. Here are a handful of items on my radar:
❌ — Media bias on full-display with Capitol Press Corps Rebekah Jones love: They never miss a chance to report on Jones, if it’s positive. But when someone offers a counternarrative, it’s crickets. Worse, the Tally crew was silent when Christina Pushaw, who has often challenged Jones’ narrative, landed a job as the Governor’s press secretary. It’s not a good look.
🏼🏼 — Winners and Losers, Rounders-style: Consider this my work of art. Winners and Losers in the Special Session are easy. Tying them to gifs from Rounders, the Texas Hold ‘em movie classic with Matt Damon and John Malkovich, not as much. Why did I do this? As I tweeted, “B/c in my club, like Teddy KGB, I will splash the pot whenever the f&ck I please.’
— Manny Diaz boasts historic school choice expansion: Speaking on the redefinED podcast with SUFS President Doug Tuthill, Diaz discusses how the landmark school choice bill passed this Legislative Session will normalize choice in public and private schools and touts the inclusion of education spending accounts as the next logical step in school choice expansion. But perhaps the most compelling talking point: Diaz contemplates how to remove partisanship from the school choice debate, which has typically pit opposed Dems against gung-ho Republicans.
— More trouble at the Tampa Bay Times is bad news for readers: With two high-profile departures and one containing claims of disproportionate pay between genders, things look even worse for the paper than they already did. And its track record snubbing Pinellas County doesn’t inspire confidence in promises to add two new reporters to beef coverage.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 7; Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 7; Memorial Day — 10; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 13; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 21; Father’s Day — 30; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 35; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 41; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 42; 4th of July — 44; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 49; MLB All-Star Game — 53; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 63; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 63; the NBA Draft — 69; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 71; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 77; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 95; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 105; NFL regular season begins — 111; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 116; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 126; ‘Dune’ premieres — 133; MLB regular season ends — 135; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 141; World Series Game 1 — 158; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 165; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 165; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 168; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 189; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 203; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 210; NFL season ends — 233; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 235; NFL playoffs begin — 239; Super Bowl LVI — 268; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 308; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 350; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 413; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 504; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 539.
— TOP STORY —
“NOAA predicts busy hurricane season” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects above-average storm activity during the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the federal agency announced Thursday. This year’s forecast comes after the most active hurricane season on record and marks the sixth consecutive above-average season. While NOAA expects a milder season in 2021 than last year, forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-average season with 13 to 20 named storms. Of the expected storms in 2021, six to 10 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, NOAA said. Meanwhile, three to five major hurricanes are forecast with winds 111 mph or higher. The average hurricane season, comparatively, produces 14 named storms, of which seven become hurricanes and three grow into major hurricanes.
“Three Florida property insurers will drop a total of 50,000 policies” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — More than 50,000 Florida policyholders will need to find a new property insurance carrier in the coming months, just as hurricane season roars into gear. Three Florida insurers have received approval to let some of their policies expire and to cancel others, a step the state’s insurance regulator called “extraordinary.” The approvals are the latest bid to bring financial stability to Florida’s property insurance market. Florida carriers posted their worst financial performance in decades last year, with a combined $1.57 billion in underwriting losses and no quick fix on the horizon.
— STATEWIDE —
“What’s wrong with Florida’s new gambling deal? Ask the one state Senator who voted against it” via Eric Glasser of 10 Tampa Bay — The gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, approved by the Florida Legislature on Wednesday, is almost certain to face legal challenges. Some of the issues have been raised by anti-gaming groups. There was also some political pushback, including one lone state Senator who voted against it. That Senator was Jeff Brandes from St. Petersburg. “Sometimes somebody’s got to stand up and say I see it in a different way. And we could do better,” said Brandes. Brandes says the 30-year compact, which grants the Seminole Tribe exclusive control over sports betting and expands table games like craps and roulette, wasn’t necessarily the state’s best bet.
“Gambling deal goes to Ron DeSantis” via The News Service of Florida — DeSantis formally received a bill that would carry out a 30-year gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Lawmakers held a three-day Special Session this week to pass the bill (SB 2A) and other gambling-related measures. DeSantis negotiated the deal, including allowing sports betting in Florida, with the Seminole Tribe, but the measure needed ratification from the Legislature. The deal, known as a compact, is expected to provide at least $2.5 billion to the state over the first five years. DeSantis is certain to sign the measure, but it is expected to face legal challenges.
“Florida lawmakers approved legalized sports betting. Now what?” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis and the Legislature this week approved a new deal with the Seminole Tribe that would give the Tribe exclusive rights to sports betting, including the ability to make bets from your phone anywhere within the state, for the next 30 years. The deal with the Seminole Tribe would allow you to bet from your phone if you’re physically located in Florida. Even if a judge says you can’t bet on your phone from your couch, you would still be allowed to go to a Hard Rock property or race track to place wagers. Although some states don’t allow betting on in-state college teams, Florida’s new deal allows it.
“Ashley Moody appeals after immigration ruling” via the News Service of Florida — Attorney General Moody quickly launched an appeal Wednesday after a federal judge refused to block immigration-enforcement moves by President Joe Biden’s administration. U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell issued a 23-page ruling Tuesday rejecting Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit that Moody filed in March against the Biden administration. The lawsuit focuses on memos issued Jan. 20 and Feb. 18 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about immigration enforcement, with Moody contending that the directives violate federal immigration laws and what is known as the Administrative Procedure Act.
“DeSantis’ press secretary locks Twitter account after ‘harassment & threats’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics —Pushaw, DeSantis’ new press secretary, locked her Twitter account on Thursday after she was harassed and threatened on the social media platform. In a Tweet she posted Thursday, the conservative journalist turned press secretary said the threats began after announcing her new gig with the DeSantis administration. Pushaw described the “waves” of harassment as “disgusting” and “deranged.” “Hopefully, it’s temporary,” Pushaw tweeted. “I have a lot of work to do & a lot to learn, so it’s better this way for now.” In a later tweet, Pushaw included a screenshot of a tweet she received that said, “your death would not be a tragedy.” Pushaw’s Twitter bio now says “temporarily locked” and references John 15:18 in the Bible.
“Report points to Medicaid expansion benefits” via The News Service of Florida — Florida could add 134,700 jobs, lower the number of uninsured residents by 852,000 and pump billions of additional federal dollars into the economy if it would expand Medicaid to low-income adults without children, according to a report released Thursday. The Commonwealth Fund released the report, which said expanding Medicaid in Florida would add 61,600 health care jobs from 2022 to 2025. It also said an expansion would lead to job increases in the construction, retail, finance and insurance sectors. State Republican leaders have long rejected expanding eligibility for Medicaid, pointing in part to concerns about potential future costs. The chances of that position changing appear to be nil, as Republicans control the House, Senate and Governor’s office.
“Proposal seeks to put strict guidelines on teaching U.S. history in Florida’s schools” via Ryan Dailey of NSF — A proposed rule that the State Board of Education will weigh aims to control the way history is taught in Florida classrooms and not allow teachers to “indoctrinate” students, as part of what state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran called a “constant, vigilant fight.” The proposed rule seeks to put strict guidelines on teaching U.S. history. It also would require that any classroom discussion is “appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students,” and teachers facilitating discussions wouldn’t be able to “share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” that is inconsistent with state standards.
“Constitutional law expert says FSU presidential search violated Sunshine Law” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Did the Florida State University presidential search committee violate Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws? To constitutional law expert and former General Counsel to the Constitution Revision Commission Will Spicola, the answer is simple: “Yes.” After an hour and a half luncheon by committee members, which was closed to the public, FSU consultant Alberto Pimentel took charge, stating, “based on (his) discussion with all of you,” there seems to be “excitement” about three candidates to move forward. Within 10 seconds of listing the names, faculty member Pam Perrewé motioned to advance them for campus interviews. Her motion was immediately seconded. As one observer noted, “this happened so fast it had to have been planned in advance.”
“Florida allowing mining of state-owned wetlands has a certain smell to it” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — This case involves a major chemical company that wants to expand its mining onto taxpayer-owned property, where it would chew up more than 700 acres of wetlands. And it’s looking like it will get a green light from the state even though it has complied with environmental regulations about as well as I have complied with the speed limit. Does that last part sound familiar? Here’s a hint: I have come to think of this mining permit as “Piney Point II: Electric Boogaloo.” You remember Piney Point, right? The big environmental crisis last month that made international headlines? The one that resulted from state regulators repeatedly giving a polluter a break despite its history of disobeying the rules?
“National, statewide officials offering up to $10K for information on intentionally-set fires in Everglades” via WFLA — Several national and statewide agencies are offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for the fires started in the Everglades National Park. Officials with the ATF, Everglades National Park, and the Florida Department of Financial Services Bureau of Fire, Arson, & Explosives said they are offering up to $10,000 for information regarding the human-caused fires that have occurred in the wetland preserve. Numerous fires have been intentionally set in the vicinity of the main park road (State Road 9336) and adjacent roads of Everglades National Park within the last three months. These areas are easily accessed through the Homestead entrance of the park.
“Summer school 2021 in Florida will be big, and hopefully better than usual” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Schools across the Tampa Bay area and Florida plan summer programs like none other in recent memory. They’re laying the groundwork for as many as four times the usual number of students to attend, with the primary goal of helping children get back on track for the fall after losing academic ground during the pandemic. Test scores and other measures will help teachers and principals determine who most needs to enroll. Families should begin receiving invitations by the end of May. Participation is voluntary, though encouraged. After a grueling year, where learning encountered more barriers than in normal times, getting buy-in could prove difficult from students and teachers alike.
— 2022 —
“RNC, NRSC join legal fray over Florida’s contentious new election law” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Republicans are jumping in to defend Florida’s newly adopted election law, which Democrats and an array of voting and civil rights groups are criticizing as unconstitutional. The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Thursday filed motions to intervene in two separate federal lawsuits that have been filed in Tallahassee. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, using the same talking point espoused by Florida GOP officials defending the law, said in a statement that “Florida’s recent election reforms are aimed at a simple goal: making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.” Sen. Rick Scott, who is chair of the NRSC, contended that critics are lying about the effect of the law.
“Why Republicans still have the upper hand for 2022” via Rich Lowry of POLITICO — Republicans have had a brutal news cycle over the past month or so, between the ouster of Liz Cheney from leadership and now the intraparty jousting over whether to get on board a Jan. 6 commission. The overwhelming sense from the press coverage is that the party is descending into madness and civil war and is a husk of its former self, risking long-term irrelevance. There’s no denying that much of the party has been too willing to indulge, excuse, or look away from wild theories about the 2020 election and the Capitol riot, but this shouldn’t obscure the fact that the party is well-positioned to take back the House next year.
“Crystal Ball lists four Florida seats as competitive in 2022” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sabato’s Crystal Ball, headed by the University of Virginia Center for Politics head Larry Sabato, predicts competitive races in at least four districts. The site lists the race to succeed Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District as a “Tossup.” That makes it one of 19 Democrat-held seats tabulated as top tier. That’s compared to two Republican-held seats ranked as coin flips. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar gets categorized by the UVA team as the most at-risk incumbent in Florida. But Crystal ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik notes these rankings all assume races under current lines, making the rankings purely hypothetical. The Republican Legislature will redraw all of Florida’s Congressional boundaries next year, and the addition of an additional seat in Florida means there’s no chance the lines stay put.
“Panhandle Republicans endorse each other, move to thwart heated primaries” via Jason Delgado via Florida Politics —Republican Reps. Alex Andrade and Michelle Salzman publicly endorsed one another ahead of the 2022 election cycle, a move that may help stave off the trend of heated primaries within their districts. The endorsements come after Greg Litton, a former major-league baseball player, opened an account Monday to run in the 2022 Republican primary for Andrade’s seat in House District 2. Both lawmakers praised each others track records and supported their reelection efforts. Salzman, a freshman, represents House District 1, a neighboring district that also encompasses Escambia County.
“The rise of the zero-issue candidate” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — There are a lot of people who are running for office these days who seem to be hoping to parlay notoriety into political success or to parlay political success into notoriety. Caitlyn Jenner’s gubernatorial campaign in California isn’t much of a campaign at all. In New York, former mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s son Andrew Giuliani has thrown his hat into the ring for governor, combating the perception that his political résumé is rather thin by including his father’s first mayoral campaign in 1989 when Andrew was 3. Obviously, it’s not unusual for political ads, particularly introductory ones, to be a bit light on specifics. But it often seems as though the point is simply to bolster a political team rather than to implement specific proposals.
— VAX STATS —
More than 7.65 million people were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Florida. Here is a breakdown, via the News Service of Florida, of fully vaccinated people by age group:
—Ages 15-24: 408,963
—Ages 25-34: 610,548
—Ages 35 to 44: 805,690
—Ages 45 to 54: 1,073,143
—Ages 55 to 64: 1,546,249
—Ages 65 to 74: 1,827,676
—Ages 75 to 84: 1,036,448
—Ages 85 and older: 342,859
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 positivity rate hits lowest point in seven months, as case numbers keep dropping” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s COVID-19 test positivity rate dropped Thursday to its lowest point since October, an encouraging sign that came as the daily number of new cases continued to decline. The positivity rate fell to 3.92%, continuing a downward trend begun in mid-April. The last time the positivity rate was lower was Oct. 10. Florida reported 2,893 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and another 76 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 2,302,489 cases since the pandemic began.
“Florida counties where Donald Trump support was heaviest have the lowest vaccination rates in the state” via Dan DeLuca, Frank Gluck, Lindsey Leake and Chris Persaud of the USA TODAY Network — Floridians of all races, ethnicities and ages who have avoided COVID-19 vaccinations live in large metropolitan areas, their suburbs, rural communities, coastal tourist enclaves, college towns and retirement destinations. But a key predictor of who will shun the shots is whether they reside in counties that strongly supported Trump in the 2020 election. And the more a county went for Trump in November, the more its vaccinations have lagged. Even when factoring for a county’s racial makeup, average age, non-English speaking population, college-educated population, overall population estimate, and income level, the analysis found that voter preference in 2020 remains a big factor in the share of a county’s residents who have been inoculated.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Vaccine site at MDC North isn’t shutting down — but will be under new management” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — The federally supported vaccination site at Miami Dade College North Campus will not shut down next week after all. Instead, the site will be under new management as Miami-Dade County takes over. Miami Dade College spokesman Juan Mendieta confirmed the change. And there’s another thing new: The walk-up site will also offer drive-through vaccinations, he said. FEMA will continue administering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and second-dose Pfizer shots at the site daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Tuesday, May 25. The site will then open again on Wednesday, May 26, but will be operated by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Mendieta said.
“Miami-Dade schools will make masks optional for outdoor, socially distanced activities” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Effective immediately, Miami-Dade County Public Schools is making masks optional only for outdoor, socially distanced activities. All other COVID-19 protocols will stay in place for the last two weeks of school. Looking forward to the fall, the nation’s fourth-largest school district may make masks optional for the 2021-22 school year. At Tuesday’s ad hoc medical and public health experts task force meeting, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he is “reasonably comfortable and confident we can announce a voluntary masking approach” for the next school year. As for summer school in six weeks, he said he’d like to reconvene the task force and review the data.
“Angry parents flood School Board meeting, want their kids’ masks off now” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — After hours of testimony from angry parents, the Palm Beach County School Board pressed Superintendent Donald Fennoy to immediately get the message to principals and teachers that students aren’t to be punished for face mask missteps. They also cleared the way for any children and staff to unmask, regardless of distance, when outdoors. The majority, however, held the line on an indoor mask mandate through the end of this school year and into summer school. The moves came between midnight and 1 a.m. after scores of parents, most of them fed up with the district’s mask mandate, took Wednesday night’s board meeting into the wee hours as speaker after speaker demanded the requirement be abandoned immediately.
“To make up for COVID-19 ‘lost learning,’ Central Florida schools invite thousands to summer school” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Aware COVID-19 disrupted education this past year, Central Florida school districts will host more expansive summer school programs in 2021, hoping to give students extra doses of reading and math, alongside fun classes in art, music, business, poetry and the like. Across the region, thousands of more students than usual have been invited to summer programs that begin next month. Orange County Public Schools, for example, hopes about 37,000 youngsters attend, up from the typical 10,000. “This is a rigorous program compared to years past,” said Superintendent Barbara Jenkins. “Intended not just to recover lost learning but also to accelerate and enrich our students. On top of all that, we’re going to make sure it’s fun as we need our children to come.”
“A Tamarac commissioner’s church is under review over COVID-19 relief loan” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported last month that Commissioner Marlon Bolton’s church received more than $36,000 in federal loans to meet payroll for 12 employees, but the state says it has no record of those workers. Under Florida law, employers must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, but the state says the church provided no record of having the employees, as is required, and there is no record of the church requesting an exemption. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, a violation of worker compensation requirements could lead to fines, citations, or criminal charges. The agency’s website says it also could require a business to stop all operations until it complies with the law and pays the penalty.
“Pasco deputies entered jail with coronavirus, disobeyed mask rules, reports show” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Schaeffer showed up to work at the county jail on Sept. 18 despite feeling under the weather. Schaeffer worked a 12-hour shift despite still feeling unwell and having a temperature of more than 100 degrees. The day after his shift, he tested positive for COVID-19. Two deputies, Hector Perez and Roland Bennett, failed to make sure inmates were wearing masks when they were moving through populated areas of the jail in July. Deputy James Moody also failed to wear his assigned N-95 properly in September, instead wearing it below his neck with a gaiter on.
“This Miami restaurant tried to do everything right during the pandemic. It still closed” via Carlos Frías of Miami.com — All Day café in downtown Miami looked like it was doing all the right things, right up until the morning it announced it was closing. It continued buying from small local producers as the pandemic made getting supplies difficult, ensuring a menu of fresh greens from Homestead farms, meat from one family ranch in Ocala, fresh eggs, premium coffee with trained baristas. But after a year of long days trying to keep the business running, with staff that kept turning over just after they’d been trained, the pressure of the business became too much, owner Camila Ramos said. She closed All Day on May 18, one day shy of its fifth anniversary. Ramos said she hasn’t figured out her next steps but has talked with the landlord about eventually reopening All Day at its same location with a different concept.
— CORONA NATION —
“The CDC’s critics are wrong. The agency was right to relax indoor masking.” via Joseph G. Allen of The Washington Post — Before the coronavirus vaccines arrived, we had few options to help slow the spread of this virus. Masks provided one of the simplest means to help slow the spread and protect yourself and others. Top-down restrictions from the CDC were absolutely needed to prevent the collapse of U.S. health systems. That’s no longer the case. To think otherwise is to ignore the unmistakable signs that the vaccines are rapidly and dramatically reducing risk for all in the United States. In fact, things are improving so quickly that the CDC’s announcement this past week on ending mask mandates that seemed so controversial will look obvious in just a few weeks.
“Anthony Fauci, 100 days into the Joe Biden administration, is finally getting to do his job” via Alice Park of Time — Fauci’s advice has been a part of every COVID-19-related decision made by the Biden Administration, beginning even before Biden took office, when the then-President-elect asked Fauci about requiring masks on all federal properties for 100 days to hold back the surge of new infections last winter. Every day since, Fauci has been asked about everything from whether the second dose of vaccines can be safely delayed, as the U.K. decided to do in January, to whether vaccines are still providing enough protection against new variants. That wasn’t the case during most of Fauci’s tenure on the White House Coronavirus Task Force under Trump. “Having been on the playing field, as it were, during both administrations,” says Fauci, ”having the ear of [this] President is manifestly totally different than what it was before.”
“Vaccine boosters could be necessary as soon as September” via Caitlin Owens of Axios — The first Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus could require a third “booster” shot as early as September, the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna told Axios. “The data that I see coming, they are supporting the notion that likely there will be a need for a booster somewhere between eight and 12 months,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said. That means some Americans could need a booster as soon as September or October, he added. Only time will tell how long protection from the first two vaccine doses will last, but there’s no evidence yet that it’s fading.
“New York offers $5 million lottery shot to newly vaccinated people” via Oriana Gonzalez of Axios — Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday that anyone who gets vaccinated in one of the 10 state vaccination sites next week will receive a free lottery scratch ticket for the chance to win a grand prize of $5 million. Cuomo said New York had inoculated approximately 43% of its population but that vaccination numbers are “slowing dramatically.” The program, named “Vax & Scratch,” will only run between May 24 and May 28, and it will offer prizes from $20 to $5 million. Cuomo said that those who participate have a 1 in 9 chance of winning a cash prize. “Everybody wins,” Cuomo said. “You get the vaccine, and you win.” Cuomo called the program a “pilot” and added that the state “will make decisions from there.”
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“U.S. jobless claims fall again as some states end federal aid” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 444,000, a new pandemic low and a sign that the job market keeps strengthening as consumers spend freely again, viral infections drop and business restrictions ease. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department coincides with moves by nearly all the nation’s Republican governors to cut off a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit that they and many business executives blame for discouraging the unemployed from seeking jobs. Those cutoffs will begin in June. Jobless people have received the $300 weekly benefit on top of their regular state unemployment aid.
“Rough recovery: One-third of Florida small businesses can’t pay their rent, study says” via Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal — More than a third of small businesses nationwide still face challenges paying their rent, said the May Rent Report. Specifically, 37% of 7,774 businesses surveyed from mid-April to mid-May said they could not afford to pay their rent in full, on time this month, representing an increase of six percentage points compared to 31% in April. About 33% of businesses in Florida don’t expect to make their May rent payments, up 1% from April. The Sunshine State ranked below the national average, but other states exceeded the average, including Michigan, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and New York. Two factors key behind the problem are lingering supply and inventory shortages, which led to rising supply costs and growing inflation, and customers being afraid to return to businesses.
“As COVID-19 worsens Florida eviction crisis, more Black renters’ lives upended” via Desiree Stennett of the Orlando Sentinel — Tens of thousands of people in Florida lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving many at risk of eviction. But renters living in predominantly Black neighborhoods were most vulnerable. The data provides the most comprehensive look at eviction the Shimberg Center has ever produced. An analysis of Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in 2019 and 2020 shows that when Black residents are the largest racial group in a ZIP code, the eviction rate is likely to be significantly higher than in most predominantly white ZIP codes nearby. It often takes landlords just days to evict a renter. Currently, about 70% of white Floridians own homes compared with only 47% of Black residents.
— MORE CORONA —
“U.S. borders with Canada, Mexico to remain closed to nonessential travel through June 21” via Jayme Deerwester of USA Today — The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain restricted through at least June 21, with only trade and essential travel allowed until then. The DHS confirmed the move in a tweet Thursday, but noted it is “working closely with Canada & Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve.” In conjunction with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts, the agency originally closed the U.S.’ northern and southern borders to leisure travelers in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have been extended monthly ever since.
“What are Americans making for dinner? Reservations.” via Laura Reiley and Andrew Van Dam of The Washington Post — With nearly half of all Americans at least partially vaccinated and 100% of Americans tired of their own cooking, restaurant traffic is rocketing back. Restaurant reservations, including diners who placed themselves on waiting lists, were up 46% in April compared with April 2019, according to the review site Yelp, and up 23,000% compared with April 2020, when most Americans began staying at home during the pandemic. Yelp’s competitor OpenTable paints a similarly rosy picture. In some states, restaurant traffic has blown by pre-pandemic levels, prompting industry experts to draw parallels between now and the Roaring ‘20s, which followed the 1918 influenza pandemic, bringing boom times for restaurants and other parts of the hospitality industry.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden’s top scientist gets OK from Senate committee” via Julia Arciga and Benjamin Din of POLITICO — The Senate Commerce Committee approved Biden Cabinet nominee Eric Lander to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy on Thursday in a bipartisan voice vote. Lander, a top geneticist and director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, is the last of President Biden’s Cabinet awaiting confirmation. Biden has elevated the top OSTP post to a Cabinet-level position for the first time in history in a bid that demonstrates his mantra of “science is back.” The President tapped Lander to lead the office in early January, following his stint as co-chair of the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama administration, where he briefed both then-Vice President Biden and President Barack Obama on science-related issues.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“N.Y. Attorney General has been looking into the taxes of Trump Organization CFO for months, sources say” via Kara Scannell and Sonia Moghe of CNN — The New York Attorney General’s office has opened a criminal tax investigation into top Trump Organization officer Allen Weisselberg, increasing the legal pressure on the longtime aide to Trump, people familiar with the investigation say. The pressure on Weisselberg is mounting from two directions, with the Attorney General looking into his personal taxes, while prosecutors in the District Attorney’s office are digging into his role at the Trump Organization, his personal finances, and benefits given to his son Barry, a longtime employee of the Trump Organization. Prosecutors seek to find leverage that could sway Weisselberg into cooperating with authorities, people familiar with the investigation said, potentially raising the legal stakes for Trump and his family.
—“Seven questions about New York’s investigations of Trump” via David A. Fahrenthold and Shayna Jacobs of The Washington Post
“Trump, even in exile, is the Republican Party’s cash cow” via Meredith McGraw and Sam Stein of POLITICO — All told, since resuming its email fundraising, the RNC account has sent 97 emails mentioning Trump, touting everything from his potential rallies, to his social media ventures, to his upcoming birthday. The messages add up to roughly 40% of all the email fundraising traffic from their campaign accounts. The RNC’s fundraising emails are just one of several data points that affirm the continued force of Trump’s gravitational pull over the entirety of the party. Fundraisers and operatives, some of whom are no fans of the former president, said GOP institutions have become increasingly reliant on Trump to help generate enthusiasm at the grassroots level, even after he left office and as he continues to question the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
“The country is on the cusp of a new era” via Kimberly Wehle of The Atlantic — Tuesday evening, New York state’s attorney general, Letitia James, announced, “We have informed the Trump Organization that … We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity.” According to The New York Times, James will be sending two of her office’s prosecutors to join the team of Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan DA. With this news, Trump, those around him, and the country as a whole inch closer to the prospect that a former President could face criminal charges and possibly even prison time. The country has not been through anything like this before.
“Republican leaders’ reversal on 1/6 commission shows Trump’s lies still rule the GOP” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Never in the United States have so many idolized an actual lawbreaker like Trump. A CNN poll recently found 70% of Republicans in full agreement with his gigantic lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and 50% of them firmly convinced that there is evidence to support his claims despite there being none. That lie is destroying America’s faith that our elections are honest and that our transfers of power are peaceful. It has entrapped a significant minority of Congress in a cesspool of subversion. To keep the faithful in the dark, Trump’s enablers think they must suppress the truth about who did what to inspire and carry out the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Trump attacks your family? Your wife? Your mom? No big deal in today’s GOP.” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — On Jan. 6, supporters of Trump broke into the Capitol to overturn the 2020 presidential election. While doing so, some of them chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” citing the vice president whose support for their plot was deemed insufficient. As they were marauding through the Capitol, Trump offered his first thoughts on the siege. He took to Twitter not to call off the dogs, but to attack Pence. It’s a tweet that, we’ve come to find out, came despite Trump apparently having been apprised of the danger Pence and others faced. Despite all of this, Pence’s brother, Rep. Greg Pence, voted against a bipartisan commission to look into what transpired that day.
“Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country” via Amy Gardner and Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — The ramifications of Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country: In emails, phone calls and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count — wrongly insisting that Trump won the presidential race. The most prominent example is playing out in Arizona’s Maricopa County, where Republican state lawmakers have forced a widely pilloried audit of the 2020 vote. That recount is being touted as an inspiration by small but vocal cohorts of angry residents in communities in multiple states.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Election considerations drive GOP opposition to Jan. 6 panel” via Carl Hulse of The New York Times — Leading congressional Republicans offer multiple justifications for why they oppose an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, but there is really one overriding reason: They fear it will hurt their party’s image and hinder their attempts to regain power in next year’s midterm elections. In a closed-door luncheon this week, Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, warned fellow Republican senators that the proposed panel was not as bipartisan as it appeared. He said he believed that Democrats had partisan motives to set up the commission and would try to extend the investigation into 2022 and the midterm election season.
“Filibuster brawl amps up with GOP opposition to Jan. 6 panel” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — The filibuster has been on hiatus since Joe Biden took over. Senate Republicans are about to change that — over a bipartisan commission to probe the Capitol riot. After more than four months of letting their power to obstruct lie unused in the Senate, the 50-member Senate GOP is ready to mount a filibuster of House-passed legislation creating an independent cross-aisle panel to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. If Republicans follow through and block the bill, they will spark a long-building fight over the filibuster’s very existence.
“Kevin McCarthy struggles to move Republicans past Trump” via Kristina Peterson and Lindsay Wise of The Wall Street Journal — When McCarthy helped engineer the ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney from House GOP leadership ranks last week, he hoped it would restore public unity among House Republicans and change the subject from Trump. It didn’t take. Instead, he hit another barrier Wednesday, when the House took up a bipartisan bill to create a commission to investigate the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6 by a mob of Trump supporters. The California Republican and Trump urged GOP lawmakers to oppose the measure. But Wednesday night, 35 Republicans broke with party leaders to back the legislation, which now goes to the Senate.
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, Sen. Lori Berman, and Palm Beach Commissioner Melissa McKinley will host a racial justice panel on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, 1 p.m., Zoom registration here.
“Charlie Crist announces $3.5M grant to Albert Whitted Airport” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Albert Whitted Airport will receive a $3.5 million grant for airport repairs and renovations. The grant for the downtown St. Petersburg airport will be provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration. The funds will be used to install a runway vertical guidance system and for runway rehabilitation. “Albert Whitted Airport contributes to (serve) our region’s air transportation needs, providing convenient and easy access to all St. Pete has to offer, while also supporting 650 jobs,” Crist said in a news release. “I’m thrilled to see this well-deserved grant be awarded to Albert Whitted that will enhance and improve our local, city-run airport, a major economic driver for the paradise we all call home.”
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Nikki Fried announces new urban farming partnership in St. Pete” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Fried, joined by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, announced a new urban farming partnership Thursday with two Tampa Bay organizations. The Commissioner welcomed a new partnership between St. Pete-based Brick Street Farms and Tampa’s Lykes Brothers Inc. “This will help both Tampa and St. Petersburg and the whole Tampa Bay region over and over and over again,” Fried said Thursday. “This is a perfect example of how government is helping facilitate business development, while serving the greater good in our communities.” Lykes Brothers Inc., a family-owned agribusiness, is making a significant investment into Brick Street Farms, a sustainable farming hub that houses an indoor, hydroponic farm.
“Arthenia Joyner endorses Ken Welch for St. Pete Mayor” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former Sen. Joyner, a political and civil rights icon in the Tampa Bay area, is endorsing former Pinellas County Commissioner Welch for St. Petersburg Mayor. Joyner represented St. Pete and Tampa for 10 years in the state legislature. “Ken Welch is a man of honor, integrity, and principles, and I proudly support him for Mayor,” Joyner said. “In the many years I have known him, he has never wavered in his commitment to the St. Petersburg community, an unbreakable bond forged over three generations. That history is his foundation and inspiration for the future he is intent on building, and the values he will follow to get us there.”
“Tampa City Council moves forward on police reform. Will Jane Castor veto it?” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — The power struggle in Tampa over who controls police conduct flashed into the open Thursday between council members and Mayor Castor’s administration. Council members voted 5-2 to give themselves control over seven appointments to the 11-member Citizen Review Board, along with other, non-controversial changes to the volunteer advisory board. The often heated debate was largely a continuation of a fight over legislative power that the City Council and Castor have been engaged in since street protests over the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last May.
“Health alert issued for Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island due to red tide bloom” via WFLA — The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County is notifying the public of a red tide bloom in the county. According to DOH-Manatee, the bloom is happening near Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island. Samples collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicate low levels of red tide. “Some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation similar to cold symptoms. Some individuals with breathing problems, such as asthma, might experience more severe symptoms,” DOH-Manatee said in a press release. Health officials recommend people with symptoms stay away from beach areas or go inside to an air-conditioned space.
“Ethics board makes recommendations to bolster Tallahassee lobbying ordinance” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board unanimously approved a series of recommendations to strengthen the city’s lobbying ordinance, chiefly defining who is a lobbyist. The board has worked to expand who would be considered a lobbyist and enact meaningful enforcement. Several of the recommendations codify language already in the city charter but also encourage certain expansions. “The major concern is defining what a lobbyist is, with regard to consultation versus lobbying. A person (may identify) themselves as a consultant when the reality seems to be that they are lobbying,” Ethics Officer Dwight Floyd said. “There are other considerations, but that’s the board’s main concern.”
“FSU asking Blueprint to ‘invest’ $20 million in tax money for football stadium project” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The university, in documents submitted Monday to Blueprint, said with the investment of tax money to maintain the underlying structure, it could focus on incrementally pumping another $100 million into other renovations to improve fan experiences such as diversifying seating options. A feasibility study submitted by FSU identified some of the issues taxpayer money could fund, including replacing lighting, railing improvements, painting and rust prevention to the interior structures and guardrails, additional steps within the seating bowl, addressing field drainage and creating a central food commissary. In all, a home football game attracted 220,000 out-of-town visitors to Tallahassee, resulting in millions of dollars being pumped into the community.
“‘Loophole’ write-in candidate fined $1,000 in Clay County” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A write-in candidate whose last-minute filing effectively blocked Democrats and independent voters from voting in the Clay County Sheriff election last year was fined $1,000 and reprimanded by the Commission on Ethics. The action came through a stipulated finding of fact issued by the commission and signed by the defendant, Francis Bourrie of Middleburg. Essentially, the commission found that Bourrie failed to fully and correctly disclose his financial interests, as all candidates are required to do. The commission responded to a complaint filed by Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and former Constitution Revision Commission Board Member Sherry Plymale. They have been on a bipartisan mission to punish, prevent, or at least discourage what they call “sham” write-in candidates, people who enter contests just to close down Primary elections.
“John Miklos appointed to UCF Board of Trustees” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis announced the appointment of Miklos, a controversial Central Florida development consultant, to the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees Thursday. Miklos, president of Bio-Tech Consulting, drew controversy over allegations of conflicts of interest during his tenure on the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board, an appointment initiated by former Gov. Crist in 2010 and twice reaffirmed with reappointments by former Gov. Rick Scott. Shortly after being inaugurated to succeed Scott in early 2019, DeSantis rescinded Scott’s second reappointment of Miklos to the St. Johns River board. His removal from the St. Johns River board was part of a broad sweep DeSantis did of late Scott appointments.
“Justices back attorney’s remote work” via The News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for an attorney to practice law for a New Jersey firm while working at his Florida home. The Supreme Court unanimously approved an advisory opinion that said intellectual property attorney Thomas Restaino would not be violating a ban on the unlicensed practice of law in Florida. The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law proposed the advisory opinion last year after Restaino asked whether he could work remotely from Florida on issues involving federal intellectual property rights. The advisory opinion said Restaino moved from New Jersey to Florida after retiring from a job as chief intellectual property counsel with a major corporation.
“Judge to be reprimanded for trying to sway candidate” via The News Service of Florida — A Citrus County circuit judge will be publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court after an investigation into his attempt to dissuade an attorney from running against a fellow judge in last year’s elections. The Supreme Court approved a settlement that recommended Circuit Judge face a public reprimand for inappropriate conduct. The settlement, known as a stipulation, was reached by Howard and the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. An investigative panel of the commission alleged that Howard in 2019 tried to dissuade attorney Pamela Vergara from running against then-Circuit Judge George Angeliadis. Howard tried to convince Vergara to run instead against Circuit Judge Mary Hatcher, who hears cases in Marion County, another part of the circuit.
— TOP OPINION —
“Vaccine certificates could help avoid a chaotic post-pandemic world” via The Washington Post editorial board — How do we know who has been vaccinated and who has not? The CDC announcement essentially leaves the question to an honor system. But relying on trust is not very promising in this divided United States. The CDC’s paper vaccination card is not sturdy or authoritative enough. The White House has insisted that the Biden administration will not impose a federal vaccination “passport” of any kind. The solutions taking shape so far are scattershot. It looks like everyone with a door is in a position to decide who passes through. The federal government should at least develop common standards, as it does with electronic medical records. This is important for interoperability; if you get an E-ZPass in Maryland, it works in New York, and to make sure privacy protections are in place.
— OPINIONS —
“CEO: Why I’m requiring that my employees and customers be vaccinated against COVID-19” via Benny Buller of USA Today — As the COVID-19 vaccines roll out quickly across the country, businesses like mine are wrestling with the question of how to handle employees returning to the office. In making these decisions, we must keep in mind that we have responsibilities to ensure our businesses succeed and to society at large. Over the past year, many have had to shut down altogether. We have a rule that managers should call in any employee to a meeting on-site when necessary. So all employees must be vaccinated. There are moments when business leaders face the opportunity to make a significant positive difference that can have a broad impact across society. This is one of those times.
“State officials are dangerously inserting religion into Florida public schools” via Ryan D. Jayne for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Legislature has passed a bill that will require a one-to-two minute moment of silence every morning at every public school in Florida, openly intended to encourage students to recite prayers in class. The requirement is being added to a provision of the law relating to the “study of the Bible and religion” in public schools. Although this year’s change eliminates the “prayer” language, it makes the activity mandatory, and the religious intent is still undeniable. DeSantis should veto this bill, but that seems unlikely. A second attack on secular schools is the Florida Department of Education’s proposal for new curriculum standards that indoctrinate children into a counterfactual version of history. It’s designed to paint a false narrative that the United States is a Christian nation.
“Coral Gables Mayor reconsiders renaming Dixie Highway for Harriett Tubman. We applaud him” via the Miami Herald editorial board — When Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago voted against renaming a portion of Dixie Highway after Tubman in January, he called the proposal “a pure example of playing politics.” The City Commission rejected the proposal, making the City Beautiful the only local government in Miami-Dade County to reject adding Tubman’s name to 42 miles of U.S. 1, a federal and state road also called Dixie Highway. Now Lago has changed his mind and is asking the commission to reconsider. He and newly elected Commissioner Rhonda Anderson are the sponsors of a resolution that will be heard on May 25 supporting the designation of the “Harriet Tubman Highway.”
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
We’re finally getting a break from the Legislature … but not the pandemic.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Florida’s death toll broke 37,000 Thursday, but the state’s positivity rate was the lowest since October
— Dr. Fauci appears in a “Fireside Chat” with U.S. Southern Command and Florida International University to offer a three-point plan for getting COVID-19 under control.
— Fauci says we need to do a better job convincing people to get vaccinated; a new report says people who live in Florida counties that voted for Trump are less likely to get a shot.
— The Biden Bucks from the American Rescue Plan is starting to go to local governments across the state … no thanks to the GOP.
— But Republicans in Tallahassee had no problem using that money to fund the largest budget in Florida history.
— An urban farm in St. Petersburg is trying to change the face of Florida agriculture with vertical farming in converted shipping containers. It’s called Brick Street Farms.
— A Central Florida Judge will have to make the trek to Tallahassee for a public reprimand because he tried to talk an attorney out of running against one of his fellow judges. That’s against their code of conduct.
— And finally, police are accusing a Florida Man of shooting at another driver because the guy threw a banana at his truck. Will he claim he was standing his ground?
To listen, click on the image below:
— WEEKEND TV —
Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Agriculture Commissioner Fried, Sen. Brandes, St. Pete Mayor Kriseman, Hillsborough Commissioners Stacy White and Kimberly Overman.
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Brandes, Rep. Anna Eskamani, high school teacher Amy Donofrio and Sarasota Herald-Tribune political editor Zac Anderson.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A look at the history of anti-Asian racism in the United States, details its normalization in Hollywood, and discusses with Adrian Lee, president of the University of Central Florida’s Asian Pacific Coalition and a member of the Florida Diversity Council, and Pinellas County Commission Charlie Justice on what local leaders are doing to reverse the trend of discrimination.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: one-on-one interviews with the candidates for Congressional District 13, State Rep. Ben Diamond and Anna Paulina Luna; a breakdown of the Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe and a closer look at who might challenge Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Ybeth Bruzual recaps the Legislature’s Special Session on gambling and the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. She speaks with Rep. Darren Soto about proposed statehood for the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Dr. Kent Thielen, CEO of the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville; Rick Mullaney, Public Policy Institute director at Jacksonville University; Kay Ehas, Groundwork Jacksonville CEO, on the Emerald Trail project possibly funded by doubling Duval County’s Local Option Gas Tax. Also, a remembrance of Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne (the first female university president in Florida history) with Tim Cost, president of Jacksonville University, and Dr. Timothy Snyder, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Jacksonville University.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Reps. Chip LaMarca and Nick Duran on the Gambling Compact, discussing Israeli-Palestinian conflict with local rally organizers, and a conversation with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
— ALOE —
“Tim Tebow signs with Jacksonville Jaguars as tight end” via Michael DiRocco of ESPN — Tebow‘s attempted NFL comeback has officially begun. The 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback signed his contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday as a tight end, reuniting him with Urban Meyer, his former head coach at Florida. Tebow signed a one-year deal and was on the field Thursday for the team’s offseason program as he sets out to compete for a roster spot. Tebow joined his new team on the field wearing No. 85; quarterback Gardner Minshew has No. 15 for now and took part in a voluntary, closed workout. Tebow was adamant about being a quarterback during his previous six-year stretch in the NFL, but he apparently has had a change of heart now that Meyer is running the Jaguars.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Sen. George LeMieux, James Blair, and former Speaker Tom Feeney.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.