Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.28.21

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Who's up, down, in and out — your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is far ahead of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary for Governor.

A new St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, found the former GOP Governor would snag 55% of the primary vote if the election were today. Fried would trap less than a quarter of the vote.

Crist’s lead carries across all races, regions and age groups.

Nikki Fried falls far behind Charlie Crist in a hypothetical Democratic matchup.

Fried, if elected, would be the first woman Governor in state history, yet she has only 20% support among women to Crist’s 57%. She’s also Gen Xer, who is currently losing the under-50 crowd by 30 points.

Another lackluster sign for the only statewide elected Democrat: About 42% of Democrats think she has little to no chance of unseating Gov. Ron DeSantis if she is the nominee. Only one in seven Democrats think she would have the edge in the General Election.

Crist, meanwhile, is seen as having either a coin-flip chance or an advantage by two-thirds of those polled.

Of course, Crist is already a candidate for Governor. Fried isn’t.

That’s about to change. Fried has been hinting at a run for a while, and she’s set to make a “major announcement” on Tuesday — almost certainly her official entry into the race.

Once she enters, she’ll have a year to put a dent in Crist’s sizable advantage. It’s a tall order, but it’s certainly possible. Especially now that other high-profile Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Val Demings have backed off from mounting a gubernatorial run.



@RepValDemings: Do not claim to support the police and then vote against the January 6th Commission. Just don’t.

@AndyBCampbell: The best indicator that the Jan. 6 mentality is still thriving is that people are choosing to attend — and applaud! — an event hosted by Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor-Greene, the two people just embarrassing enough for the GOP that nobody will say their name

@AnaCabrera: Sen. Joe Manchin: “I’m not ready to destroy our government. I’m not ready to destroy our government, no” when asked if he was willing to break the filibuster over the 1/6 commission. “It’s time to come together. I think there’s 10 good people,” he said.

@LarrySabato: An alternate #January6thCommission. Created by executive order with only the two co-chairs appointed by Pres. (Joe) Biden: Pres. George W. Bush (R) and Pres. Barack Obama (D). Bush and Obama pick the remaining members. Mix of public & private funding. Commission determines end date.

@samanthajgross: Florida’s steep barriers to enter the billion-dollar medical marijuana industry will stay put for now.

Tweet, tweet:


Memorial Day — 3; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 6; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 14; Father’s Day — 23; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 28; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 34; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 35; Fourth of July — 37; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 42; MLB All-Star Game — 46; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 56; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 56; the NBA Draft — 62; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 64; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 70; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 88; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 98; NFL regular season begins — 104; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 109; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 115; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 119; ‘Dune’ premieres — 126; MLB regular season ends — 128; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 134; World Series Game 1 — 151; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 158; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 158; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 161; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 182; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 196; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 203; NFL season ends — 226; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 228; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 228; NFL playoffs begin — 232; Super Bowl LVI — 261; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 301; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 343; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 406; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 497; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 532.


Justices reject challenge to medical marijuana law” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — Siding with the state in a closely watched case; the Florida Supreme Court upheld a 2017 law designed to carry out a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. The court’s 42-page ruling came in a drawn-out legal battle launched by Tampa-based Florigrown LLC, which, in part, challenged the state’s system of requiring licensed medical marijuana operators to handle all aspects of the cannabis business, including growing, processing, distributing and selling products. The challenge argued that the state law ran afoul of the 2016 constitutional amendment. A 6-1 decision found that Florigrown, owned in part by prominent Tampa strip club operator Joe Redner, “has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of any of its constitutional claims.”

Joe Redner suffers a major setback in his challenge to Florida’s medical marijuana law. Image via Facebook.


Ron DeSantis hopes to sign budget in ‘next couple weeks’” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — At a celebration for the completion of the first full in-person school year since COVID-19 began, DeSantis hinted he would sign the state’s $101.5 billion-dollar-budget “very shortly.” The news conference was in Baker County near Jacksonville. Calling out “idiot experts” who said in-person school was dangerous for children, DeSantis praised the Baker County School District for opening their doors in August. He compared the district to those in other parts of the country, none of which he mentioned by name, that did not have an in-person school year. In Baker County, more than 90% of the students attended school in person on the first day of the school year.

Ron DeSantis will get to signing the budget sooner than later.

Noah Valenstein resigning from DEP” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Valenstein will step down as department head next month. In a resignation letter sent to DeSantis earlier this month, Valenstein noted his final day would be June 4. The Secretary did not specify his plans for the future. Former Gov. Rick Scott initially appointed Valenstein DEP secretary in 2017, but DeSantis kept him on when he took office in 2019. The secretary was also doubling as the state’s Chief Resilience Officer on an extended temporary basis. He took on the dual role in March 2020, weeks after the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer, Julia Nesheiwat, left the state to be then-President Donald Trump‘s homeland security adviser.

Tech groups sue over social media ‘de-platforming’ law” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawyers representing Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice, two internet interest lobbying associations that partner with Twitter and Google and others, filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing the new law cracking down on Big Tech is a violation of free speech. “We are bringing this suit to safeguard the industry’s free speech right to deliver on their commitments to users to mitigate harmful content online,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement. “By constraining digital services’ ability to fight bad actors online, this law threatens to make the internet a safe space for criminals, miscreants, and foreign agents, putting Floridians at risk.” CCIA and NetChoice filed the case in the Northern District of Florida. The case is assigned to Judge Robert Hinkle.

Gambling deal to face federal scrutiny” via The News Service of Florida — While Florida lawmakers signed off last week on a far-reaching gambling pact with the Seminole Tribe that includes sports betting, Las Vegas-style casinos, craps and roulette, the deal now will face scrutiny from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior oversees tribal-state gambling “Compacts,” such as the one that DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed on April 23 and sent to lawmakers for approval. Once the Compact is submitted, the Department of the Interior has 45 days to approve the plan, reject it, or allow it to go into effect without the federal agency’s action.

Wins, losses during 2021 Legislative Session over Florida’s public records, meetings laws” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — The good news, according to the Florida First Amendment Foundation, is that the Legislature this year repealed a state law that allows state agencies to sue people making public-records demands. New legislation (SB 400), which still requires DeSantis signature, would end the practice by agencies seeking declaratory judgments concerning public-records requests — that is, asking a court to decide whether the information sought is confidential or exempt from release. “This practice drags out requests and makes access to government information more expensive,” the foundation wrote in a report summarizing the recently concluded Regular Session.

Not even COVID-19 could end Florida leaders’ long record of snubbing pro-renter bills” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — The COVID-19 eviction crisis has prompted some states to reconsider laws that push tenants out of their homes, but not in Florida, where lawmakers have shunned efforts to give renters more protection and for decades have supported one of the most pro-landlord eviction processes in the nation. During the two-month Florida Legislative Session that wrapped up April 30, the lone pro-tenant bill that got a hearing was filed by a Republican and ultimately failed. This year, the Republican-controlled Legislature snubbed proposals to allow counties to fine retaliatory landlords; another to automatically halt evictions during states of emergency, including hurricanes; and one that would have overhauled the state’s eviction process by guaranteeing tenants a court hearing.

COVID-19 exposed huge problems in Florida eviction laws. Image via The Aspen Institute.

’A mystery wrapped in an enigma’: How Florida hospitals won (again)” via Alexandra Glorioso of Barred Owl Press — People sometimes ask me why I beat up on hospitals. Because they get everything they want, and more, from lawmakers. And then they complain they didn’t get enough. Look no further than the most recent Florida Legislative Session as an example: 1. Hospitals succeeded in largely prohibiting patients from suing them for COVID-19-related medical malpractice. 2. They successfully lobbied to repeal a new law that hadn’t even gone into effect yet that would have required them to report to the state their tax-deductible community benefits. 3. They preserved $300 million in Medicaid money, and they managed to increase payments to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa by at least $10 million annually. Read more Florida legislative health roundup from the patient’s perspective.

Committee meetings set ahead of 2022 Session” via News Service of Florida — With the 2022 Legislative Session starting in January, the House and Senate will hold six weeks of pre-Session committee meetings, according to a schedule released Wednesday. The first week of meetings will be held from Sept. 20 to Sept. 24. It will be followed by the weeks of Oct. 11 to Oct. 15; Oct. 18 to Oct. 22; Nov. 1 to Nov. 5; Nov. 15 to Nov. 19; and Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. The Legislative Session will start on Jan. 11. Florida voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that requires Sessions in even-numbered years to start in January. Most Sessions in the past have started in March.


Tax holiday for hurricane supplies begins Friday in Florida” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — With the start of hurricane season just days away, now is the time to begin preparations ahead of what’s expected to be an active season. An added incentive is a 10-day tax holiday on all hurricane supplies purchased in Florida. The tax-free period will begin Friday and run until June 6, excluding Floridians from all sales tax on certain hurricane-related purchases. The tax holiday was officially signed into effect on May 21 by DeSantis. The purpose is to encourage Floridians to prepare for the oncoming season and that it’s expected to save residents approximately $10.5 million on purchases.

What’s next for Florida’s Heartland if Gov. DeSantis repeals plans for parkway?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — When plans unrolled for a new toll road through Florida’s Heartland in 2019, business leaders cheered. While the highway expansion drew instant ire from environmentalists, it had support from those dreaming of commercial growth. But legislation awaiting DeSantis signature nixes the plan entirely. It’s bittersweet for those representing the region, some of whom reluctantly support the repeal at a time when gas taxes are on the decline and feasibility studies show a troubling fiscal path for the project. When lawmakers want to boast at home about securing local spending, many now have to explain why this major plan will soon be off the books.

The scrubbed plans for a Florida Heartland parkway could cause political trouble.

Hurricane 2021: Florida may not be spared this storm season” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida escaped the record-breaking 2020 storm season without a single hurricane making landfall. That luck has some scientists particularly worried about the 2021 season. Though it’s expected to be a far cry from the record 30 named storms that formed last year, Colorado State University predicts there will be 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes in 2021. Lead hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach fears some Floridians won’t prepare as usual for this year’s storms after dodging so many in 2020. Colorado State scientists predict a 45% chance a major hurricane will strike Florida or the East Coast, and a 44% chance of landfall anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Texas along the Gulf Coast.

State hits managed care plans for damages” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — In the first three months of 2021, Florida Medicaid officials assessed more than $1 million in liquidated damages against managed-care plans, according to Agency for Health Care Administration data updated last week. The state imposed the damages because of 91 alleged violations of Medicaid contracts. The damages were imposed against all 11 managed health care plans that have contracts with the state, as well as three managed dental-care companies. Records kept by AHCA show that regulators assessed nearly $7 million in liquidated damages against Medicaid managed-care plans between July 1, 2020, and March 30 for 214 alleged contract violations in the first nine months of the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Court disciplines lawyer over campaign conduct” via The News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday reprimanded an attorney over criticism of his opponent in a 2018 judicial race and warned that lawyers could face stiffer discipline for future campaign attacks. Justices approved a referee’s recommendation to reprimand Bryon Aven, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Marion County Judge Robert Landt in an August 2018 primary election. The Supreme Court said Aven violated Florida Bar rules and a canon of the Code of Judicial Conduct, at least partly because Aven’s campaign website included criticism of Landt’s record in criminal cases.

The Florida Supreme Court reprimands Bryon Aven for election shenanigans. Image via Instagram.

Voters say farming is Florida’s most important industry” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — They think the state’s farmers and ranchers are doing a pretty good job, too. A new poll commissioned by the Florida Ag Coalition found 98% of Florida voters believe farming and ranching are key cogs in Florida’s economy. Hard data backs up the sentiment — Florida farmers contribute $140 billion a year to the state’s economy and support 2 million jobs. But farming and ranching were seen as important by broader margins than other major Sunshine State industries, such as tourism (96%) or construction and development (94%).

Why are 34 states ignoring a law designed to make your road trip easier?” via Noah Pransky of NBCLX — A road trip from California to Florida would likely require at least three different transponders to communicate with all the different tolling regions across the country that aren’t yet interoperable with each other. “To be very clear, it’s not a technology issue,” said former U.S. Rep. John Mica. “This is a bureaucracy issue.” Mica, who sponsored the bipartisan interoperability bill in 2012, said the nation’s more than 130 different tolling agencies — across 34 states — know how to pay each other for the billions of monthly toll transactions generated on America’s toll roads, bridges, and tunnels. But they’ve yet to sign contracts with each other or agree on exactly which technology to use to process the transactions.

— 2022 —

Democrats candidates in Florida jockey for 2022 races ahead of GOP-controlled redistricting” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Democrats in Florida and across the country were relieved when Rep. Stephanie Murphy decided not to run for Senate in 2022, avoiding a potentially messy and costly primary between her and Rep. Val Demings, a fellow Central Florida Democrat who jumped in the race hoping to unseat incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio. The move was rare among Florida Democrats, who have either lept into other congressional or statewide races or are heavily considering it, leading to a domino effect that could reduce their numbers in the Legislature, especially after the GOP-led chamber redraws congressional and legislative maps next year.

Ben Crump, Philonise Floyd endorse Natalie Jackson in CD 10 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Crump and Floyd, brother of George Floyd, announced their endorsements Wednesday of Jackson, an Orlando civil rights attorney, in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Jackson’s campaign released an endorsement video, made in Minneapolis during Tuesday’s rally marking the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer. Both Crump and Jackson have represented the Floyd family. “We’re proud to endorse Natalie Jackson for U.S. Congress,” the pair say together in the 13-second video. They then raise fists in salute. On Tuesday, Jackson announced her candidacy in CD 10, which is being vacated by Democrat Rep. Val Demings, who should soon be announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

To watch the announcement, click on the image below:

Spotted — Top Senate Republicans and donors flocked to Key West this week for a fishing trip fundraiser hosted by Senate President Wilton Simpson and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo. Lawmakers out on the water: Sens. Aaron Bean, Debbie Mayfield, Kelli Stargel, Doug Broxson, Travis Hutson, Ana Maria Rodriguez and Ileana Garcia. Lobbyists casting a line: Greg Black, Matt Blair, Steve Crisafulli, Mark Delegal, Scott Dick, Charlie Dudley, Megan Fay, Cory Guzzo, Jeff Hartley, Robert Hawken, John Holley, Ron LaFace, Dave Ramba.

Save the date:

Melissa McKinlay is raising cash for Michelle Oyola McGovern’s County Commission bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — McKinlay is reaching out to raise money for McGovern. McGovern is seeking the seat currently held by McKinlay, who faces term limits in 2022. The incumbent has already endorsed McGovern as her preferred successor. Now, she’s helping to raise cash for McGovern’s bid. “Every campaign needs the support of donors to be successful,” McKinlay wrote in an email to supporters of McGovern’s campaign. Commissioner McKinlay is backing “Michelle has what it takes to keep our District and County moving forward,” McKinlay added in her Wednesday email blast. McGovern is a veteran of former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office.


DeSantis gave $103.4 million in no-bid contracts to Sunrise’s MedPro, accused of ‘trafficking’ foreign nurses, to staff vaccine sites” via David Ducassi of Florida Bulldog — The administration of Gov. DeSantis has given more than $100 million in no-bid, COVID-19 related contracts to a healthcare staffing company accused in court of profiting from the “forced labor” of foreign workers under a system of “indentured servitude.” State contracting records show the governor’s office entered into four contracts worth a total of $103.4 million with Management Health Systems. Payments began as early as August 2020, and a state transparency website reveals nearly $47 million in payments from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which state law houses within the Governor’s Office.

Florida is still below national averages for residents fully vaccinated, plus people getting just one of the vaccine shots” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix — With May almost over, 37.8% of Florida residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, slightly lower than the national average of 39.5%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means residents have gotten both shots — Pfizer or Moderna — and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But Florida still lags behind many northern states when it comes to fully vaccinate its residents. Those include Vermont at 53.1%, Maine, (52.9%), Connecticut (51.8%), Massachusetts (50.8%) and Rhode Island (50%). States with the lowest percentage of residents fully vaccinated are southern states, including Mississippi (26.8%), Alabama (28.9%), Arkansas (30.3%), Louisiana (30.6%) and Georgia (30.7%).

Number of fully vaccinated long-term care residents, staff unknown” via News Service of Florida — The state requires nursing facilities to report to the state Emergency Status System the number of residents and staff who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The facilities also must report the number of residents and staff who have not been vaccinated. But nursing homes are not required to report to the state the number of residents and staff who have completed the recommended dosage to be considered fully vaccinated. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reports that, as of May 26, more than 93% of the state’s 74,818 assisted-living facility residents have received one COVID-19 vaccination, as have about 73% of Florida’s 65,278 nursing home residents.

Donald Trump called the vaccine a ‘modern-day miracle,’ but some followers aren’t buying it” via Antonio Fins and Wendy Rhodes of the Palm Beach Post — Leaving a May 6 gathering of Club 45 USA, a few members of the Trump fan club were asked about the legacy of Operation Warp Speed to develop the coronavirus vaccines at historic speed. Jaime Scheelk of Lantana said he will pass on inoculating against the virus that has claimed the lives of 36,660 Floridians precisely because he believes it was hurried. “I believe a human has an immune system,” Scheelk said confidently. “The vaccine was rushed through, even though it was done by Trump.” Sara Bernard, a Boca Raton resident, also said she had no interest in getting a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it was one of the former President’s top achievements.

Donald Trump called the COVID-19 vaccine a ‘modern-day miracle.’ His supporters aren’t so sure. Image via AP.

CDC approves first revenue cruise from Florida, but Governor may stand in the way” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Federal health officials have approved the first passenger cruise from the U.S. from Fort Lauderdale in June — but Florida’s Governor insists he will block company plans to require passengers be vaccinated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday gave Royal Caribbean Group approval to start seven-night cruises to the Caribbean on its Celebrity Cruises brand ship, Celebrity Edge, on June 26, according to a CDC spokesperson. The ship is the first to win CDC approval for revenue cruises since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The approval is a welcome milestone for the cruise industry, which has been paralyzed in the U.S. since March 2020 after COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths on several ships.

The tumultuous 2020-21 school year will end with more than 115,000 cases of COVID-19 in Florida’s K-12 schools” via Danielle J. Brown of the Florida Phoenix — The first full academic year under the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to a tumultuous close in Florida schools, with more than 115,000 infections accounted for by students, teachers, staff and others. But while the numbers continued to rise throughout 2020-21, the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 updates in schools became a difficult task, the Phoenix found. A massive list of COVID-19 cases in schools had no grand totals; updates on the numbers sometimes were late; an archive of previous reports from the health department was hard to come by, and the agency didn’t provide any analysis on the numbers of COVID-19 cases in schools across the state. In addition, getting information from the department was inconsistent.

Floridians face charges in pandemic health fraud” via The News Service of Florida — The U.S. Department of Justice has charged four Florida residents as part of a nationwide crackdown on health care fraud that authorities say exploited the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities said they charged 11 people and added charges for three other defendants in six states. Defendants include Palm Beach County residents Micheal Stein and Leonel Palatnik, accused of using telehealth waivers during the pandemic as part of a $73 million conspiracy in which Medicare beneficiaries were referred to a laboratory for unnecessary tests, according to the Department of Justice. Juan Nava Ruiz and Eric Frank of Coral Springs were charged in an alleged $9.3 million kickback scheme.


Airbnb to continue party crackdown through summer, with emphasis on Miami-Dade” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Airbnb is extending its ban on house parties through 2021, warning violators could be kicked off the platform or even face legal consequences. In Aug. 2020, as Airbnb began rebooting its business during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced it was barring house parties and limiting rental home occupancy to 16 people. While hosts always had the option of banning such parties, Airbnb’s move expanded the ban to all properties. Last year’s announcement noted the move would “remain in effect indefinitely until further notice.” On Thursday, Airbnb issued a news release announcing the ban would last “at least” through the end of this summer.

Airbnb is cracking down on parties in its Miami listings. Image via AP.

Miami-Dade County partners with hotels to inoculate workers, boost access to vaccines” via Bianca Padró Ocasio and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — A group of five young women, all of whom work as housekeepers at the Conrad Miami hotel in Brickell, nervously crowded around the sign-up table of a pop-up vaccine site on Wednesday in the parking garage adjacent to the JW Marriott Miami. A few said they hadn’t yet gotten the vaccine because they fear the side effects; others because they simply haven’t made time; one felt too anxious to get the shot and left. But some decided to take a few minutes from their lunch break to vaccinate themselves against COVID-19 at the JW Marriott Miami’s one-day event, in partnership with Miami-Dade County, to encourage hotel workers to get inoculated.

Most older residents are vaccinated in Miami-Dade, but senior comedores still closed” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — People familiar with the county’s network of government-funded senior cafeterias and dining rooms say Little Havana is the only operator they’re aware of that has resumed meal service, with most still relying on home delivery to clients under programs launched in March 2020. “A few have opened for activities, but not meals,” said Max Rothman, head of Miami-Dade’s Alliance for Aging, which administers state and federal funds for senior programs and runs a helpline (305-670-4357) for finding eldercare services. Rothman said he’s ready for senior meal centers to start operating again, provided they follow county and federal COVID-19 guidelines. “I think it’s time,” he said.

Expanded outdoor seating should stay but with new rules, commission recommends” via Adriana Delgado of the Palm Beach Daily News — Restaurants in Palm Beach that want to keep their expanded outdoor seating allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic likely will be able to do so, but under new guidelines proposed by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The board unanimously approved Friday a series of changes to sections of the town’s code for outdoor seating. The proposal will be reviewed by the Town Council next month. Zoning Manager Paul Castro said an outdoor café program will be added to the code, ending the need for the waivers given during the pandemic. Castro said businesses will be required to obtain a renewable permit, which will allow staff to evaluate each case. Permits would be renewed annually.

Disney expects full Florida theme parks by year-end” via News Service of Florida — Walt Disney World could approach full capacity by the end of the year, Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Chapek said during the JPMorgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference on Monday. According to a conference transcript, Chapek said his team anticipates “low double-digit growth” as the company follows federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coronavirus operating guidelines. Since reopening in Florida last July, the company has slowly expanded the daily number of people allowed to access its Central Florida facilities. Disney hasn’t released any attendance numbers, however. Meanwhile, Chapek claimed that many of the workers laid off due to the pandemic are back on the job.

Disney is expecting full capacity by the end of 2021. Image via

Clearwater bartender files suit against bar for harassment over mask enforcement” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A Clearwater bartender has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, alleging that the bar did not take reasonable precautions to protect her from harassment for enforcing COVID-19 mitigation rules, like mask-wearing and social distancing. Former employee Sarah Douglas filed the suit on May 11 and is seeking damages from Overtime Sports Bar for suffering a hostile work environment and alleged disability discrimination. In the complaint, Douglas alleges that the bar’s manager frequently forced her to work late-night shifts alone and confront customers who didn’t comply with mask requirements. Douglas also alleges that the bar management told her that she would be responsible for paying any related fines the bar might receive over mask violations.


Would you get vaccinated to win a cruise? Or is the Super Bowl more your style?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — CVS announced Thursday that it is starting a national contest to boost vaccination rates, the latest of several incentive programs across the country. On Wednesday, an Ohio woman won $1 million in that state’s Vax-A-Million lottery. Anyone 18 or older is eligible for CVS’ prizes if they receive at least one dose of a vaccine by July 10 or register by then to get a shot. Trips, hotel stays, and event tickets are all up for grabs. While 10.1 million people in Florida are vaccinated with one or more doses, that number represents less than half the state’s population — and vaccination sites have reported a slowdown in demand.


JPMorgan economist: States ending unemployment early is ‘politics, rather than economics’” via Denitsa Tsekova of Yahoo Money — Republican Governors of 24 states plan to cancel federal unemployment programs in June citing worker shortages, but one economist called the move politically — not economically — motivated. “Signs of labor market tightness when looking at unemployment rates, earnings growth, and participation rates don’t appear to be driving states to end these programs early,” Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, wrote in a note on Wednesday. “It, therefore, looks like politics, rather than economics, is driving decisions regarding the early ends to these programs.” While some states opting out of the programs have tighter labor markets and stronger earnings growth, which could be signs of a worker shortage, that’s not the case for many of them, according to Silver.

States cutting unemployment doesn’t make good sense, economically. Image via AP.

Broward’s biggest hotel stayed closed for 14 months. It’s finally reopening amid tourism comeback.” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The vaunted oceanfront Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood — the largest hotel in Broward County with 1,000 rooms — is setting the stage for reopening Tuesday after COVID-19 forced it shut more than a year ago. The return to business is a sign that South Florida’s battered conference and convention business may soon be on the rebound, mending a major wound in the area’s tourism industry. “It will be a bit of a soft opening,” Laurens Ziernan, the general manager, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We’re guaranteeing all ocean-facing rooms at the start. That gives you an idea as to how soft the opening is.”


Big travel weekend will feel like old times” via Christina Vazquez of WPLG — With half adults in the United States fully vaccinated against COVID-19, we kick off what is expected to be the busiest travel weekend since “the before times.” As a reminder, a federal mandate has masks still required at the airport and on airplanes regardless of your vaccination status. But the flurry of activity tells the story. This Memorial Day holiday weekend, Miami International Airport is expected to hit pre-pandemic passenger numbers. “We are really just a few percentage points off from where we were in 2019,” said Greg Chin of MIA. “115,000-120,000 passengers, which was a typical day before the pandemic.” Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport predicts over 630,000 travelers between Wednesday and Tuesday.

Miami International is bracing for a big travel weekend.


Joe Biden to propose $6 trillion budget to make U.S. more competitive” via Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — Biden will propose a $6 trillion budget that would take the United States to its highest sustained levels of federal spending since World War II as he looks to fund a sweeping economic agenda that includes large new investments in education, transportation and fighting climate change. Documents show that the budget request, the first of Biden’s presidency, calls for total spending to rise to $8.2 trillion by 2031, with deficits running above $1.3 trillion throughout the next decade. The proposal for the 2022 fiscal year and ensuing decade shows the sweep of Biden’s ambitions to wield government power to help more Americans attain the comforts of middle-class life and to lift U.S. industry to better compete globally.

Joe Biden’s $6 trillion budget seeks to make the U.S. competitive again.

White House to face key decisions on climate, elder care if bipartisan deal with GOP emerges” via Jeff Stein and Tony Romm of The Washington Post — In multiple rounds of talks, Republican lawmakers have held firm in opposition against key White House plans to address the changing climate, add $400 billion in funding for elder care, and a slew of other domestic priorities the administration is pushing for families and children. Meanwhile, a second bipartisan group of lawmakers is readying its own backup plan that is also likely to jettison some key climate and elder-care policies pushed by the White House. If centrists in both parties strike a deal, Biden probably would be forced to choose between accepting a compromise that leaves out these proposals, or rejecting a bipartisan infrastructure deal aides have long sought as a political triumph.

Biden won’t nominate former South Florida Congressman Robert Wexler as ambassador to Israel, reports say” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An effort to convince President Biden to pick former Rep. Wexler as U.S. ambassador to Israel apparently has failed. News reports from Washington said Biden had finalized a list of several ambassadorships. The administration has been leaking the names to media outlets. Several, including The Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC News and Axios, report that the president has selected Thomas Nides as the next ambassador to Israel. Nides, a Wall Street executive who was a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, had long been seen as the leading candidate.


Trump is starting to put together his own Contract with America. And he’s teaming up with Newt Gingrich.” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Fashion from the ’90s is having a comeback, and so too is the ’90s Republican playbook for how to win back congressional majorities. Trump has begun crafting a policy agenda outlining a MAGA doctrine for the party to win back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. His template is the 1994 “Contract with America,” a legislative agenda released ahead of the midterm elections in the middle of President Bill Clinton’s first term. And, as a cherry on top, he’s teaming up with its main architect — Gingrich — to do it.

Donald Trump turns to an old hand for a new Contract with America — Newt Gingrich. Image via AP.

‘It’s insane’: Proud Boys furor tests limits of Trump’s GOP” via David Siders of POLITICO — It’s been less than two weeks since South Carolina Republicans rejected Lin Wood’s Q-Anon-inspired run for state party chair. In Arizona, the GOP is still consumed with infighting over a farcical review of November election results. Now comes Nevada, where open warfare has broken out in recent days between state and local party officials over a pro-Trump insurgency involving far-right activists with ties to the Proud Boys. More than six months after the November election, the forces unleashed by former President Trump — election conspiracists, QAnon adherents, MAGA true believers, and even the often violent Proud Boys — are attempting to rewire the Grand Old Party’s leadership at the state and local levels.

Matt Gaetz still eyes 2024 bid despite fed sex trafficking probe — unless Trump runs” via Juliegrace Brufke of the New York Post — He may be facing allegations of sex trafficking of a minor, but Rep. Gaetz still has his eye on a 2024 presidential bid — as long as former President Trump does not decide to run. “I support Donald Trump for President. I’ve directly encouraged him to run, and he gives me every indication he will,” the Florida Republican texted The Post Wednesday. “If Trump doesn’t run, I’m sure I could defeat whatever remains of Joe Biden by 2024.” Gaetz, who said he hasn’t formally launched an exploratory committee, is facing a federal investigation into allegations of sex trafficking of a minor, a sexual relationship with a minor, and potential public corruption in addition to a Congressional Ethics investigation.

Is Matt Gaetz considering a White House run? Image via AP.

‘Who knows?’ Gaetz floats presidential run in Georgia speech” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Gaetz and Taylor-Greene continued their rally tour, but it was Gaetz who sounded like a candidate. This week, Gaetz floated himself as a presidential candidate should Trump not run, refloated a trial balloon in Dalton, Georgia, Thursday night to a live crowd. “I think Donald Trump is coming back in 2024 to secure the presidency for our movement and our people and our nation. And if he doesn’t? Who knows,” Gaetz said to Trump chants. Gaetz borrowed Trumpisms throughout, using fills about the “fake news media” and the “deep state,” contrasting the America First movement to the old-style establishment GOP. He whipped up his “digital army,” saying, “we need you donating to our campaigns.”

Gaetz, fiancé claim money for St. Pete yacht deal ‘went missing’” via Walt Buteau of News Channel 8 — Gaetz has sailed into a new controversy, claiming money wired to close the sale on a St. Petersburg yacht his fiancé had agreed to buy “went missing.” According to a spokesperson for the Republican, he and his fiancé Ginger Luckey were “targeted by malicious actors” during the purchase process of a St. Petersburg yacht. Follow-up questions about the transaction and clarification of the statement have not been answered. About a week after news broke about the investigation into Gaetz’s potential connection to the sex-trafficking case, the Republican was spotted with Luckey on a 41-foot yacht docked at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.

Happening today — Reps. Gaetz and Taylor-Greene continue their ‘America First Rally’ tour; doors open at 5 p.m. Eastern time, Dalton Convention Center, 2211 Tony Ingle Parkway, Dalton, Georgia. Register for tickets here.

Son, ghostwriter of late Senator say Trump intervened to stop probe of Patriots’ Spygate scandal” via Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham of ESPN — In the spring of 2008, the NFL was in crisis. A hard-charging United States Senator from Pennsylvania named Arlen Specter had launched an investigation into the Spygate scandal. The NFL tried to combat the Specter inquiry with public statements from teams that were the primary victims of New England’s spying, saying the league had done its due diligence. It wasn’t working. But there was one man, a mutual friend of Specter and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who believed he could make the investigation go away. The friend offered Specter what the Senator felt was tantamount to a bribe: “If you laid off the Patriots, there’d be a lot of money in Palm Beach.”


Former Palm Beach County GOP leader charged in Capitol riot” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — Using Facebook photos and video captured during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the FBI this week accused a one-time Palm Beach County commission candidate and former GOP heavyweight of joining the deadly rampage. Jody Tagaris, 67, who lives near Jupiter, is charged with four federal misdemeanors, accusing her of illegally entering a restricted building and being disruptive and disorderly once inside. She faces a maximum year-long prison sentence on two charges and six months on the two others. After a brief video hearing before a U.S. magistrate in West Palm Beach on Tuesday, she was released after posting a $50,000 bond.


The great capitulation on the Jan. 6 commission” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — In case there was any doubt about the fate of the bipartisan proposal for a Jan. 6 commission, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah pretty much said it all Wednesday. While describing his support for the proposal, he conceded that it would probably only get three or four votes from Republican Senators right now. That’s both far shy of the 10 GOP votes required and would mean the bill would get less bipartisan support in the Senate than in the House, which is unusual these days. One in 6 House Republicans voted for it — a proportion that would put the bill on the cusp of passage if transferred to the Senate.

A Jan. 6 commission proposal gets pushback from GOP Senators. Image via Bloomberg.

Marco Rubio warns there’s ‘no way’ Chinese communists cooperate in virus probe” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — With Dr. Anthony Fauci and Biden administration officials calling for “international experts” to investigate the source of COVID-19, with the assistance of the World Health Organization and Chinese cooperation, Rubio contends China won’t help out even if it could and suggests salient reasons to obscure the investigation. “There’s no way that the Chinese Communist Party is going to turn over any of the information needed to have a serious investigation,” Rubio said. “And the more that they do that, I think you’ve got to start concluding that they, in fact, had some role to play in how this happened.”

Rubio accuses UCF program of teaching students to hate America” via Scott Powers — Rubio condemned a University of Central Florida graduate program as neo-Marxist on Wednesday and said it should not be taught. Rubio said the program is “teaching our young students how to hate America.” On Fox & Friends, Rubio answered a question from host Steve Doocy about UCF’s Graduate Certificate in Social Justice in Public Service. As he understands the term, Rubio is not a fan of “social justice,” he made clear. He lectured Fox & Friends viewers on what social justice really means to him. UCF bristled at Rubio’s notion of social justice or the UCF program, suggesting that what UCF is offering is similar in concept to many of the themes in a summit the Florida Chamber Foundation is sponsoring. Still, the university walked carefully in responding.

Glades Mayors push back against Brian Mast over Lake O discharge drama” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Several Mayors from the Glades area and nearby regions are firing back against U.S. Rep. Mast over the Congressman’s continued calls to lower Lake Okeechobee’s water levels. The letter accuses Mast of acting out of concert with what Pahokee and nearby communities want. “When you attack farmers and our communities, you are doing nothing to help the lake. Instead, you delay and distract everyone from making progress on these issues,” the letter reads. Signing onto the letter were Pahokee Mayor Keith Babb, South Bay Mayor Joe Kyles, Clewiston Mayor Kristine Petersen, Okeechobee Mayor Dowling Watford, Moore Haven Mayor Bret Whidden and Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson.

Steve Wilson takes the Lake O discharge fight to Brian Mast.

Bill Nelson: NASA expanding mission to include study of climate change on Earth” via Samantha-Jo Roth of Spectrum News 13 — “When you look out the window of a spacecraft, it really gives you a different perspective,” Nelson said in an interview with Spectrum News. As it explores the heavens, NASA is now also going to take a closer look at what’s happening here on Earth by studying how the climate is changing. It’s a personal mission for Nelson, a former U.S. Senator and astronaut who flew on the space shuttle Columbia 35 years ago. “I was seeing how we were messing up our planet, and that made me much more sensitive — to want to be a good steward of our climate,” Nelson said. “It indeed informed my public service.”

Who made the final cut for Miami federal judge seats and U.S. Attorney? The list is out” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Six candidates have made the final cut to be considered by Biden for two federal judge openings in South Florida. The House commission recommended: Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso, U.S. Magistrate Judge Shaniek Maynard, Miami lawyer Detra Shaw-Wilder, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Miguel de la O, Palm Beach Circuit Judge Samantha Feuer, and Miami-Dade County Judge Ayana Harris. On a separate track, the House commission also picked three finalists to be considered by Biden for the vacant U.S. Attorney’s job in the Southern District of Florida. The three finalists are Jacqueline Arango, a former federal prosecutor in private practice; Michael Hantman, a Miami lawyer; and Markenzy Lapointe, a former federal prosecutor also in private practice.


Red tide algae levels growing stronger in some Manatee waters, recent samples show” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — Low concentrations of K. brevis have been detected at sampling points around Anna Maria Island and lower Tampa Bay for the last several weeks. This week, levels dropped around Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key but intensified farther north. And one sample gathered near Joe Island showed a medium count of K. brevis cells, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Scientists consider medium counts of K. brevis cells “bloom level.” The medium sample and one low-level sample west of Little Redfish Creek were collected within just a few miles from the Piney Point industrial site. USF researchers said it is too soon to tell whether the Piney Point wastewater might be to blame.

Immediate disaster response imagery supports Manatee County response — This spring’s wastewater breach in the retention pond at the former Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County spurred immediate action from the county and the Florida Department of Emergency Management. As part of its response, FDEM called Woolpert — an architecture, engineering and geospatial firm — requesting an emergency collection of lidar data and imagery to address the breach. The data and imagery were used to produce a digital elevation model, enabling first responders to compare current conditions to previous surveys to identify the precise change in conditions that occurred due to the breach. This information accelerated the county’s ability to identify and address the crisis, allocate resources quickly and effectively, and minimize the impact of the breach, which has since been repaired.

St. Pete Police investigate hate graffiti at Holocaust Museum” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The St. Petersburg Police Department is investigating hate graffiti left at the Florida Holocaust Museum from Wednesday night. The graffiti left the words “The Jews are guilty,” surrounded by swastikas. In response to the antisemitic language and symbols, the police department is investigating the situation as a hate crime, according to a news release from the museum. “This act of hatred demonstrates that the work of the Florida Holocaust Museum is more important than ever,” Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the Florida Holocaust Museum, said in a statement. The St. Pete museum is one of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, honoring the memory of the millions of individuals who suffered or died in the Holocaust.

‘Clearly, our society still has a long way to go.’

Frank Artiles’ lawyer files motion to hold back ‘voluminous’ records ahead of court date” via Samantha J. Gross and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Artiles’ defense team is asking a Miami District Court judge to hold back releasing a “voluminous” amount of potential evidence to the public because it would interfere with Artiles’ right to a fair trial and “infringe on the privacy rights of nonparties.” The request comes ahead of a status check-in with the court in preparation for a high-profile public corruption case centering on allegations that Artiles recruited and paid a no-party candidate, Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, to sway the outcome of a Miami-Dade state Senate race. In a motion, Artiles’ attorneys argue that the discovery contains a large amount of material regarding parties that have nothing to do with the case. 

County to appeal FEMA maps: Thousands of homeowners could be forced to get flood insurance” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — Thousands of county coastal homeowners could be forced to get flood insurance under FEMA’s maps, adding about 1,900 acres of land along the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean into the high-risk flood zone. “I guess my editorial would be that anything we can do to protect our residents, we need to, especially right now,” Commissioner Maria Marino said. Palm Beach County is the second South Florida county to appeal the FEMA maps, with the Keys’ Monroe County submitting its appeal in January. After FEMA receives an appeal from a local government or property owner, it may take weeks or months to process.

Palm Beach County School Board removes reference to ‘white advantage’ from equity statement” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — After hours of accusations that they were stoking racial tensions, divided Palm Beach County School Board members voted Wednesday to remove a reference to “white advantage” from a declaration they adopted three weeks earlier. The 4-3 vote came after a tense debate over the phrase’s purpose and the ramifications of removing it from an “equity statement” board members approved May 5 to underscore their commitment to disadvantaged students. The five-paragraph statement, which proclaimed the county’s public school system “is committed to dismantling structures rooted in white advantage,” drew complaints from hundreds of parents who said the phrase was confusing and divisive.

South Florida businessmen accused of bribing ex-Bolivian officials for tear gas contract” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Three businessmen associated with a South Florida-based company that makes tear gas have been charged with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to former Bolivian government officials to secure an inflated defense contract, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Bryan Berkman, 36, CEO of Bravo Tactical Solutions in Tamarac; his father, Luis Berkman, 58; and Philip Lichtenfeld, 48, were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering involving bribery payments totaling $602,000 to three former Bolivian officials, according to criminal complaints filed in federal court. The three are accused of paying the kickbacks to obtain a $5.65 million tear gas defense contract with the conservative government of former interim Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez, prosecutors said.

‘Welcoming committee’: Leaked video shows officers beating handcuffed Florida prisoner” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Dressed in a pair of boxers and weighing 150 pounds, Michel Hernandez faces a team of five Florida prison officers wearing full tactical gear who slide open the door of the Florida Department of Corrections transfer van. It is 7:40 p.m. Oct. 25, and Hernandez has just arrived from prison nearly three hours away in Miami-Dade County, where he had allegedly assaulted a group of officers. Now, with noticeable bruising on his face, Hernandez is roughly yanked out of the van by men shrouded in helmets. By the time he is finished with his transfer to Charlotte Correctional Institution 10 minutes later, Hernandez will be bleeding from fresh wounds on his head, barely able to stand.

UM fires its law school dean, setting off outrage among faculty, alums and students” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — In an abrupt move, University of Miami President Julio Frenk fired School of Law Dean Anthony Varona on Tuesday, sparking outrage among professors, students and alumni, and prompting Varona to hire a lawyer, who denounced the termination as “an egregious violation” of the dean’s legal rights. Frenk broke the news in an email to the university community, shocking faculty members who hadn’t been notified or consulted about it, the standard procedure in universities. It remains unclear if Varona sues UM over his dismissal, but his lawyer, Debra Katz, sharply criticized the university Wednesday. Varona, 53, stands to lose his deanship on July 1.

Julio Frenk made an abrupt personnel change at the University of Miami. Image via Miami Today.

Ultra Music Festival reaches agreement with downtown neighbors after years of fights” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — There may be a peace treaty in the long-standing war between Ultra Music Festival and the downtown Miami condo dwellers who have strongly opposed the electronic dance music event for years. Festival organizers announced an agreement to settle tensions with the Downtown Neighbors Alliance. Now, a loud and organized group of residents who have contributed to some of Ultra’s biggest problems will no longer seek to kick the event out of Bayfront Park. The deal appears to break a yearslong cycle of feuding between residents and Ultra that erupted every time City Commissioners weighed Ultra’s contract to mount its three-day event in one of the city’s signature parks.

Tamarac drops additional spending plans for travel, aides and furniture” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tamarac city leaders, facing mounting pressure to stop spending money on themselves, have agreed to drop plans to spend more than $125,000 on their perks. By a 4-1 vote Wednesday, the City Commission began scaling back plans. In addition to voting no for spending cuts, Commissioner Mike Gelin also said he wouldn’t favor an idea to lower their salaries. He invoked the case of the former Boca Raton mayor, accused of concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, corruption charges that were dropped this year. Tamarac Commissioners are paid $50,240 and the mayor $60,540.

A Florida Keys hospital was destroyed in a hurricane. Four years later, a new one is born” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — A new hospital building is opening soon in the Middle Keys. And that means more services for the sick and the injured. The new $43.7 million Fishermen’s Community Hospital is expected to open June 7 in Marathon, nearly four years after Hurricane Irma knocked out the original building. It’s a Keys comeback story. Baptist Health South Florida, a Kendall-based hospital network in South Florida, bought Fishermen’s in July 2017 for $13 million with plans for renovations. So much for plans. Two months later, Category 4 Irma hit, tearing up the hospital roof. And a renovation project suddenly turned into a rebuilding project.

Memorial Day expected to bring thousands of boaters, paddlers to Palm Beach County waters” via Bill DiPaolo of The Palm Beach Post — Boisterous boaters are expected on Palm Beach County waterways on Memorial Day, and local police agencies say they are ready. “We’re out here to educate boaters and enforce safety. A simple conversation with a boater almost always solves the problem,” said Jupiter Marine Patrol Officer Adam Brown as he and Officer Paul Gundlach cruised past Fullerton Island in the town’s 32-foot marine patrol boat. With about 40,000 registered boats in the county, big crowds are expected on the Intracoastal Waterway, local lakes, Peanut Island and the Atlantic Ocean. Kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and canoers will add to the mix on sandbars off Tequesta, Jupiter and Beer Can Island, near the Boynton Inlet.


Ron Matus: Rays, Florida schools using the same winning playbook” via Florida Politics — The Rays can’t outspend. But they can, and do, outsmart. No team is better at picking through the bargain bins or maximizing their talent. They’re plucky, gritty, resilient — and a joy to watch. Truth be told, Florida didn’t offer much diversity in learning options until the state opened the door. Charter schools in 1996. Vouchers in 1999. Tax credit scholarships in 2001. Education savings accounts in 2014. This year, policymakers expanded all of them. These programs give parents more options, which spur schools in every sector to up their game. Districts respond with their own creative, high-quality programming, from magnet schools and career academies to open enrollment and dual enrollment. The result is progress.


Trump supporters are getting the lab-leak story backward” via David Frum of The Atlantic — Suppose it’s true. Suppose the coronavirus spread throughout the world from a Chinese lab. What then? A ferocious early promoter of the idea that the coronavirus was a Chinese attack was the Trump White House’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon hoped to transfer responsibility for Trump’s failures onto China’s rulers. After months of belittling the virus, then-President Trump himself briefly endorsed the Bannon line. However, Trump’s early attempt at blame-shifting collapsed because it contradicted a deeper and bigger message from the President and those around him: that the virus was no big deal, nothing to worry about, no reason to close the economy.


Two tech groups have filed a federal lawsuit to try to derail Florida’s new law that tries to punish Twitter, Facebook, and other tech giants for censoring hate speech and misinformation spread by (among others) the former President of the United States. Matt Scheers with the Computer and Communication Industry Association says it’s an unconstitutional law that should never take effect.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— They filed the legal challenge just three days after DeSantis signed the tech bill.

— Hurricane season starts next week, but the tax break on hurricane supplies is already underway. This is your chance to buy emergency supplies without paying the usual sales tax.

Scott Shalley with the Florida Retail Federation talks about the sales tax holiday.

— The Florida Supreme Court rejects a challenge to the state’s medical marijuana law that limits who can get into the business. It’s a win for the 22 companies that already have a license to do business in Florida; Agriculture Commissioner Fried says it’s bad news for patients who will face ever-higher prices.

— And finally, the stories of two Florida Men: One is charged with battering his daughter with a slice of pizza; the other almost killed himself when he tried to stick a pole into a parrot nest next to a hot power line.

To listen, click on the image below:


Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch, government attorney Richard Harrison and journalist Kenya Woodard.

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: Hillsborough County NAACP President Yvette Lewis, professor Dan Ruth of the USF-Tampa Honors College, independent political journalist William March and Tampa Bay Times St. Petersburg City Hall reporter Josh Solomon.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Walker spotlights how to be a better ally in diversity with prominent members of Florida’s Asian American community, including Rep. Stephanie Murphy; Dr. Helen Van Ettento of the RNC Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Conservative Leadership Caucus; Shally Wong, the Orange County Liaison to the Asian American Community and National Committee of Asian American Republicans Executive Director Cliff Zhonggang Li.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: An examination of Florida’s changes to unemployment benefits, a look inside the St. Pete mayoral race, and an interview with NASA Administrator and former Sen. Nelson about his new role and current NASA projects, including climate studies here on Earth and what the future holds for space exploration.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Greg Angel examines how the changes to Florida’s unemployment benefits could affect unemployed Floridians moving forward. Samantha Jo-Roth speaks with Nelson about current NASA projects, including climate studies here on Earth and future space exploration.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Reps. Tracie Davis and Clay Yarborough and Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): A discussion of the rise in antisemitism Anti-Defamation League Interim Director Yael Hershfield, Rabbi Raphalel Tennenhaus of Chabad of South Broward, and Mark Freedman of the Jewish Federation of Broward. Also, Wallack Holdings and Mango’s Tropical Café COO Joshua Wallack talks about Miami Beach’s early last call and the Memorial Day weekend holiday.

— ALOE —

Disney World now has Dole Whip in a watermelon wedge” via Madison Roberts of People — If you’re looking for the perfect summertime treat, a trip to Walt Disney World might be in order. On Wednesday, Disney announced in a TikTok that a new menu item — Dole Whip Watermelon in a Wedge — would be available at Marketplace Snacks in Disney Springs, the resort’s main shopping and dining hub. The limited-edition treat features a watermelon-flavored Dole Whip in a slice of fresh watermelon, topped with chocolate chips. The company also announced that a fan favorite Dole Whip item would again be available this summer: the Dole Whip Watermelon Parfait with Key Lime Custard. Both summer menu items will be available through September 6.

What will Disney think of next? Image via Disney.

Universal increases starting pay to $15 an hour, first major Orlando theme park to do it” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando employees are getting raises next month with starting pay jumping to $15 an hour, the company said Thursday, calling it the largest single wage increase ever made by the theme park. Universal becomes the first major attraction in Central Florida to offer $15 an hour to new workers. The pay hikes will begin June 27 for more than 18,000 employees, which includes full-time and part-time hourly jobs as well as entry-level salaried positions, Universal said in a news release. Under the new base pay rates, some employees above the $15 rate could get paid more depending on how long they’ve worked at the company.


Belated best wishes to a pair of Florida Men, Stafford Jones and Christian Ziegler. Celebrating today are U.S. Sen. Rubioformer state Rep. Mel PonderTom DeMintRichard DeNapoli, Zach Monahan, Tammy Perdue of Sunshine Health, our good friend Scott Ross of Capital City Consulting, good guy Clark Smith of The Southern Group, top attorney Alicia Taylor, and Craig Waters.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannRenzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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