Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.2.21

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Heat up your day with a dose of Sunburn, the premier first read of Florida politics and policy.

Good Wednesday morning:

Gov. Ron DeSantis will sign the state’s 2021-2022 budget today. He will be in New Smyrna Beach at 10ish, followed by a stop in Pasco. As for the veto list, we hear it will be “light, very light.”

Gov. DeSantis didn’t sign the transgender sports ban last week, or on Monday. He signed it on Tuesday. The timing matters — it was the first day of Pride Month.

Was it intended to rub salt in the wound, or did the Governor add insult to injury by accident?

Thanks to Florida Politics’ own A.G. Gancarski, we know the (non-)answer. He asked the question that needed to be asked: “What message are you sending to LGBT people signing this on the first day of Pride Month?”

According to DeSantis, “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness in women’s sports. We believe that it’s important to have integrity in competition, and we think that it’s important to be able to compete on a level playing field. You’ve seen what’s happened when you don’t have that.”

News outlets far and wide seized on the angle. ABC News, the Orlando Sentinel, and even DeSantis’ favorite platform, Fox News, were among the many to dedicate headline space to it.

To watch the exchange, click on the image below:

None noted the reporter who asked the question. We’re not dinging them. It’s not even readily apparent who asked in a video of the event. And, of course, A.G. is not the newsmaker here.

But he still deserves a shoutout for asking the tough question and getting an answer from the Governor. It’s what we strive for at Florida Politics and yesterday, A.G. delivered.

A couple of other notes:

✔️❌ — How Americans went from ‘yes we can’ to MAGA: Who better than to tell this story than former President Barack Obama, who coined the ‘yes we can’ slogan in 2008? He does just that in a must-listen podcast with The New York Times’ Ezra Klein. Told through Obama’s sleek oratory skills, the history-making ex-President addresses his own failures, new opportunities, and the polarization of American politics. Listen here.

🗳How Nikki Fried can turn 2018 victory into 2022 success: It wasn’t much, but Fried eked out a victory and became Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat. Now, she’ll face a tough Primary and an even tougher General Election (should she win her party’s nomination) for Governor in 2022. Data guru Matthew Isbell of MCIMaps analyzed her 2018 strategy to imagine what Fried’s next move might be. Making the case that she already did what others couldn’t in 2018, Isbell predicts, might be her strongest strategy.


@CapehartJ: For y’all who don’t think the hair is on fire at the White House over the assault on voting rights, President Biden’s lengthy comments on the assault on voting rights should disabuse you of that…..

@MaggieNYT: (Donald) Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August (no, that isn’t how it works but simply sharing the information).

@Timodc: The speed with which people like Marco (Rubio) went from supporting amending the constitution to ban gays from marrying to using their newfound tacit support for gay rights as a cudgel to dunk on Muslims is pretty astounding. Happy Pride!

@ChrisSprowls: Today, Florida sends a clear signal that we will protect female athletes to showcase their skills on a level playing field. I’m thankful to @KayleeTuck2 and Sen. (Kelli) Stargel & applaud @GovRonDeSantis & Pres. @WiltonSimpson for ensuring the hard work of our female athletes is rewarded.

@JaxPeel: Happy Pride Month to everyone except Ron DeSantis.

@LindaStewartFL: Much respect, @naomiosaka, for setting boundaries and making her mental health a priority. This is an important conversation for all of us, and it takes a lot of strength and courage, but your mental health is just as important as physical health!

Tweet, tweet:


‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 7; Father’s Day — 18; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 23; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 29; Fourth of July — 32; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 37; MLB All-Star Game — 41; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 51; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 55; the NBA Draft — 61; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 63; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 69; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 83; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 93; NFL regular season begins — 99; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 104; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 110; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 114; ‘Dune’ premieres — 121; MLB regular season ends — 123; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 128; World Series Game 1 — 146; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 153; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 153; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 156; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 170; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 177; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 191; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 198; NFL season ends — 221; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 223; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 223; NFL playoffs begin — 227; Super Bowl LVI — 256; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 296; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 338; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 401; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 492; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 527.


Ron DeSantis signs controversial bill banning transgender women and girls from sports” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — DeSantis signed into law Tuesday a policy banning transgender athletes from playing girls and women’s sports that opponents have condemned as deeply discriminatory against transgender athletes and students. Dubbed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” Florida’s new law establishes that women’s sports from middle school through college, including intramurals and club teams, are closed to males based on the biological sex listed on a student’s birth certificate. Republicans have widely celebrated the measure for “protecting the integrity” of girls’ athletics. Florida joined more than 20 other GOP-leaning states pushing similar ideas.

To watch a video of the signing, click on the image below:

— “DeSantis not worried about NCAA reaction to Florida’s transgender athlete ban” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

COVID-19 student retention measure signed” via News Service of Florida — Parents of public-school students in kindergarten through fifth grade will be able to request that children be retained in their current grade levels for the 2021-2022 school year under a bill signed by DeSantis on Tuesday. The student-retention issue seeks to have parents make requests by June 30, though principals will be able to consider retention requests that come in after that deadline. Parents are required to submit requests in writing to principals, specifying “the academic reasons for the retention.”

Democrats blast transgender athlete ban” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Reactions are pouring in from Democrats across the state after DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday that would bar transgender women and girls from competing on a high school or collegiate women’s sports team. Among those swift to react: Fried, who later in the day announced her candidacy for Governor. “By signing a heartless ban on transgender kids in sports, Gov. Ron DeSantis is marginalizing an entire community,” Fried tweeted. “Signing it on the first day of #Pride2021 is especially cruel. Florida should stand for inclusivity, equality, and liberty — not peddling hate for political points.” Meanwhile, House Minority Co-Leader Bobby DuBose of Fort Lauderdale described the bill as the latest strategy in GOP’s “culture war agenda.”

— 2022 —

To beat Marco Rubio, Val Deming’s inner circle says she must ‘double down’ on Latinos, rebut socialism” via Adrian Carrasquillo of Newsweek — The time a Democrat lost a Florida Senate race was in 2018, when Rick Scott beat former Sen. Bill Nelson, who was doomed by tepid Latino support and the belief within the party that he took Hispanics for granted. Rep. Demings will have to avoid that mistake, and other political landmines with Latinos, after announcing that she is “seriously considering” running against incumbent Sen. Rubio in a state that has only become more unfriendly terrain for Democrats since then.

Nikki Fried, Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat, is running for Governor” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Fried announced Tuesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Governor against incumbent DeSantis, who she’s publicly lambasted since the day she took office. The 15-month trek toward a nomination won’t be an easy one. While Fried squeaked out a win in 2018 after machine and manual recounts in some counties, she only won by 6,753 votes — a margin of .08%. Her name recognition certainly trails U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist. And there is still chatter about newcomers to the race, and plenty of time to enter. Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo teased a run last week, and her political committee published a poll memo pitching her as a formidable candidate who could help rebuild the Democrats’ Hispanic coalition.

To watch the announcement video, click on the image below:

Fried needs to tack left if she wants to replace DeSantis” via Mac Stipanovich for the Tampa Bay Times — The bottom line is that the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary appears anomalous in two important ways. First, there is the paucity of serious candidates. Second, there is no one in the left lane. The lack of anyone on the left is Fried’s lifeline. Both she and Crist are what pass for moderates in the Democratic Party, more traditional liberals than social democrats, more Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders. And without any brand separation from Crist, Fried is not faring well. St. Pete Polls released a survey just before Fried’s announcement, and it had to have harshed her buzz: Crist led her by 33 percentage points overall, 55 to 22. Like old-time baseballer Wee Willie Keeler, Fried needs to hit’em where they ain’t, strategically speaking.

— “Fried hits DeSantis over cruise stance, calls for new blood as primary kicks off” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

Ballot initiatives seek to boost voting” via News Service of Florida — Political committees have filed three proposed constitutional amendments aimed at expanding voting in Florida. One, by the committee Our Votes Matter, would automatically register eligible people to vote when they get driver’s licenses unless they opt-out of registration. Another proposal, by the committee Florida Votes Matter, would allow eligible voters to “both register and vote at the same time at early voting sites during early voting and at polling places on Election Day.” The third proposal, by the committee Fair Vote Florida, says the restoration of voting eligibility could “not be denied because of any debt, including legal financial obligations.” That proposal comes after a legal battle about a 2018 constitutional amendment to restore felons’ voting rights.

Florida Democrat wants to pass three constitutional amendments making it easier to vote” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Happening Thursday:

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman rules out Congressional run” via Josh Solomon and Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Kriseman, who is term-limited come January, announced on social media Tuesday that he will not run for Congress. Kriseman said he “strongly considered” running to replace Crist, who announced a 2022 gubernatorial run, in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which includes St. Petersburg. “Mindful of the important work that remains, the amount of time left in my term and the time commitments and requirements (lots of fundraising!) of being a strong congressional candidate, I have decided not to be a candidate for the open U.S. House seat in Pinellas County,” Kriseman wrote.

Bryan Avila files to succeed Rebeca Sosa on Miami-Dade County Commission” via Ryan Nicols of Florida Politics — Avila is barred from seeking another House term in 2022. On Tuesday, he signaled his intention to transition to the Miami-Dade County Commission. Avila’s decision came the same day his fellow Republican, Rep. Anthony Rodriguez also announced a 2022 run for County Commission. Rodriguez will seek the District 10 seat, while Avila has filed for the District 6 contest. That District 6 seat is currently held by Commissioner Sosa, who will also face term limits in 2022. With Sosa on her way out after two decades of service, Avila is looking to succeed her and is so far the only candidate filed in the contest. Avila submitted his paperwork Tuesday.

Tweet, tweet:


Lawmakers formally send budget to Gov. DeSantis” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — “The Legislature sent their $101.5 billion budget plan to Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday, officially putting the ball in his court to finalize the state’s spending for the next fiscal year. The $101.5 billion tab (SB 2500) for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is $9.3 billion larger than the current year’s $92.2 billion budget, more than a 10% increase. During a press conference Wednesday, DeSantis said he hoped to sign the budget in the next couple weeks. With the June 16 deadline to act on the budget, the Governor looks set to keep his word.”

— “Lawmakers send bill to Governor expediting reservoir project north of Lake O” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

— “Bill setting up Biscayne Bay Commission now on Governor’s desk” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

What to do about compulsive gambling? Maybe next year, say lawmakers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Left on the table in last week’s whirlwind Special Session: What to do about the spread of compulsive gambling that will inevitably be a side effect of Florida’s gambling expansion. Most likely, it will be one of the first issues the Legislature takes up in the 2022 Legislative Session. While the Legislature pushed through the Seminole Compact and gambling bills to support it, the matter of dealing with compulsive gambling drew debate but no action. As roulette wheels start spinning and craps dice start tumbling, more Floridians will lose rent money, child support money, or a semester’s tuition. Richard Pinsky, a lobbyist for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, warned that “thousands and thousands” of Floridians will fall into compulsive gambling problems.

Now that there is a new Seminole Compact, what to do about compulsive gambling? Image via AP.

Future looks good for fantasy sports games in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Legislature’s rejection of a fantasy sports bill turned out to be just what the fantasy sports business needed. Officially, the big fantasy sports companies such as FanDuel, DraftKings, and Bet MGM lost big, twice, in the Special Session. The Seminole Compact now explicitly defines fantasy sports, saying they are games of skill, not games of chance. That means the state of Florida officially defines the unregulated yet unauthorized business that’s been operating for many years in Florida now because the Legislature ratified the Compact, and DeSantis signed it. With that, the businesses can continue to do what they’ve been doing without the previously lingering fear that some rogue State Attorney or crusading Attorney General might try to charge operators with practicing a form of unauthorized, regulated gambling.

—”Polk native Fentrice Driskell prepares to lead Florida House Democratic Caucus” via Gary White of The Ledger

Personnel note: Melissa Meshil joins HCA Healthcare” via Florida Politics — Meshil, an experienced state government pro, is joining HCA Healthcare as its new Local Government Relations Manager position in the Tampa Bay area. Meshil comes to HCA Healthcare with an extensive background in government and community relations. She most recently served as a senior legislative aide to Sen. Jeff Brandes. In that role, she led local government relations activities and addressed constituent issues for Senate District 24. Meshil has also worked closely with the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate. “Melissa is the perfect addition to our Florida GR team. We are thrilled to have someone with her expertise to help strengthen our community relations efforts in the Tampa Bay region,” said Allison Kinney, VP of Government Affairs at HCA Healthcare.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

David Clark, Allegiant Strategies Group: DSM Technology Consultants, Perspecta

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Old American Group


Ashley Moody wants quick action in immigration appeal” via the News Service of Florida — After a lower-court judge rejected the state’s arguments, Florida Attorney General Moody wants a federal appeals court to quickly take up a challenge to immigration-enforcement moves by Biden’s administration. Moody last week asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for “expedited” consideration after U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell turned down a request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit that Moody filed in March against the Biden administration. The motion filed at the Atlanta-based appeals court contends that the federal government has shirked “mandatory obligations” in enforcing immigration laws. The federal government objects to expedited consideration, according to the state’s motion.

Attorney General asks judge to block DNA testing in Tommy Zeigler case that State Attorney agreed to” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Moody’s office pushed back Tuesday on an agreement to allow additional DNA testing in the death penalty case of Zeigler, arguing it does not comply with Florida’s rules on criminal procedure, court records show. Zeigler, 75, has spent more than four decades on death row after being convicted in the killings of his wife, her parents and a customer at the family’s Winter Garden furniture store in 1975. “Previous DNA testing has failed to exonerate Zeigler, and he has been unable to show how any further testing could contradict the testimony of the several witnesses who make his version of events impossible and unbelievable,” Assistant Attorney General Patrick Bobek wrote in a notice.

Ashley Moody is putting the brakes on DNA testing in the Tommy Ziegler case.

Florida protected OB-GYNS from paying for their mistakes. They handed taxpayers the tab” via Daniel Chang and Carol Marbin Miller — Every other month, Jay Alexander Benitez would be hospitalized with pneumonia or other respiratory infections that stemmed from the profound brain damage he suffered at birth. “It was heartache,” the boy’s mother, Alexandra Benitez, said. “Being in the hospital scared him.” Jay’s pulmonologist said that regular therapy with a nebulizer — a machine that delivers vaporized medication to the lungs to improve breathing — might prevent some of those illnesses. But Benitez said she was forced to wait months before the treatments could begin.

Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court hears arguments; on the docket is a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that involves the estate of John C. Price, a Duval County resident who died after years of smoking. The 1st District Court of Appeal rejected an earlier verdict against R.J. Reynolds. If the Supreme Court sides with R.J. Reynolds, it will become more difficult to sue cigarette makers. Arguments begin at 9 a.m. on video conference. Link here.

AAA survey finds 29% of Floridians wouldn’t evacuate in hurricane” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — About three in every 10 Floridians say they would ignore official warnings to evacuate from a hurricane. Of those who would leave, six of every 10 would only go if facing a Category 3 or worse storm. AAA released the results of its survey on the first day of hurricane season, Tuesday, with warnings that Floridians need to be prepared, including checking on insurance coverage and possible claims. According to The AAA Consumer Pulse Survey conducted in March of 400 Florida residents, 29% would not evacuate their home if they were warned to. Of those who said yes, they would evacuate, 60% would only do so for a Category 3 hurricane or greater. The poll also found that 43% of Floridians do not have an emergency plan.


Florida reports 5,937 new COVID-19 cases and 95 more deaths from three-day weekend” Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Health officials held off reporting new cases over the holiday weekend and on Tuesday reported three days’ worth of results from only 32,251 COVID-19 tests. Florida reported 5,937 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and another 95 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 2,326,755 cases since the pandemic began. The seven-day average for new cases reached as high as 17,991 on Jan. 8. It was 1,849 on Tuesday. The state reported a daily positivity rate of 3.89% on Tuesday, up from 3.06% the day before. The state’s pandemic data report shows a total of 36,869 Floridians have died from COVID-19, addition. Most of the fatalities reported Tuesday happened over several weeks but were just confirmed.

DeSantis administration denies preparing cruise exemption for vaccine passport ban” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A spokesperson for DeSantis says Forbes misinterpreted comments from a cruise executive when it reported the administration is working with the industry to create a mutually beneficial loophole to the state’s vaccine passport ban. The Governor’s Office and three of the largest cruise lines are crafting an exemption to the prohibition against businesses requiring proof of vaccination for entry. That’s despite the DeSantis administration actively fighting a CDC order allowing cruises to set sail next month if 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. According to Forbes, the state and the industry are looking to distinguish between on-land and at-sea. Cruisers would be under the state’s protections in the terminal, but the state would consider them outside its jurisdiction once they step on the ship.

Ron DeSantis denies any talk of a vaccine passport exemption for the cruise industry. Image via AP.

—”Pam Bondi backs DeSantis, Moody in vaccine passport fight with feds” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics


Tampa Bay assisted-living company one of few to mandate staff vaccinations” via Bailey LeFever of the Tampa Bay Times — The majority of Florida long-term care staffers were not vaccinated against the coronavirus at last count earlier this month, but one company with three assisted-living facilities in Tampa Bay “couldn’t be happier” with its decision to mandate staff vaccinations. Atria Senior Living announced on Jan. 11 that all staffers be fully vaccinated, said spokesperson Bill Todd. Atria has two facilities in Hudson and one in Spring Hill. At the time, Atria was aware of only one other national senior living company, Juniper Communities, that had mandated staff vaccinations, he said.

Disney Cruise Line lines up test sailing from Port Canaveral” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Cruise Line will be sailing once again after announcing it had received the OK from the CDC to embark on a test sailing from Port Canaveral. Disney Signature Experiences president Thomas Mazloum revealed in a letter that the CDC had approved its application for a simulated cruise with volunteer passengers from June 29-July 1. The two-night sailing is part of the CDC’s requirement under its conditional sail order for vessels to receive the OK to resume normal cruises. The guidance from the CDC allows lines to either prove out their COVID-19 safety protocols on test cruises or to assert they will be sailing with at least 98% vaccinated crew and 95% vaccinated passengers.

FSU seeks to scuttle COVID-19 lawsuit” via News Service of Florida — FSU is asking a judge to reject a potential class-action lawsuit that seeks to recoup money for students who were forced to learn online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a Leon County circuit court filing, FSU attorneys pointed to sovereign immunity, which helps shield governmental entities from lawsuits. Also, the FSU attorneys argued that no contract existed between plaintiff Harrison Broer and the university. Like similar lawsuits filed in Florida and other states, it contends that students paid to learn in person but were shortchanged last spring when they had to take classes remotely because of the pandemic. The lawsuit alleges that FSU has not offered “fair and/or appropriate refunds of fees charged for tuition and other services ….”


‘Open air’ effect gave the south a break from COVID-19 spring surge” via Robbie Whelan of The Wall Street Journal — Six months into the drive to inoculate the U.S. population against COVID-19, stark gaps have opened up between the states with the highest and lowest vaccination rates. Many of the states with the lowest shares of people who have had at least one vaccine shot are located in the Deep South and avoided large outbreaks last spring. Residents in Southern states have largely faced a lower risk of transmission during the winter and spring months because they have spent more time socializing in the open air, where the virus disperses more easily. And unlike their Northern counterparts, they haven’t had to use heating systems that dry out the indoor air.

Open-air is keeping COVID-19 cases down in the Deep South. Image via AP.

‘Time don’t heal it’: The ‘grief pandemic’ from COVID-19 will torment Americans for years, experts say” via Liz Szabo of Kaiser Health News — With nearly 600,000 in the U.S. lost to COVID-19, researchers estimate that more than 5 million Americans are in mourning, including more than 43,000 children who have lost a parent. The pandemic have inflicted unique forms of torment on mourners, making it harder to move ahead with their lives than with a typical loss, said sociologist Holly Prigerson. The scale and complexity of pandemic-related grief have created a public health burden that could deplete Americans’ physical and mental health for years, leading to more depression, substance misuse, suicidal thinking, sleep disturbances, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and impaired immune function.


COVID-19 doomsday never came for Florida retail and hospitality” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — In spring 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had the U.S. in its grip, and dining rooms, gyms and nonessential retail remained closed in favor of online ordering and streaming. One year later, the COVID-19 doomsday forecast for retail and hospitality properties hasn’t arrived, at least in Florida, where DeSantis reopened the state in mid-May after a 30-day “safer at home” policy. Restaurants, gyms and retailers operated at limited capacity until Sept. 30, when DeSantis declared the state entirely reopened. Retail and hospitality developers have championed the state as a place where those businesses can thrive, even as they’ve been decimated in places with more stringent COVID-19 policies. CoStar Group Inc. reports that the retail vacancy rate in the Tampa area is just 4%.

The COVID-19 retail apocalypse never materialized for Tampa Bay and Florida. Image via Tampa Bay Business Journals.

‘It has gone up a lot’: South Florida consumers worry about higher prices” via Alina Machado of NBC 6 — Whether it is filling up the gas tank or shopping for food, some consumers told NBC 6 they’re feeling the pinch. “People can’t afford it,” said Margaret, a shopper. “I’m on Social Security, and it’s a little tight going to the grocery store and getting gas.” According to the latest consumer price index data for the South Florida region, area prices went up 4.1% in the past year (April 2020 v. April 2021). If you look at where things were in April of last year, much of the economy was shut down and prices had dipped to their lowest point in years. But as the economy recovered, the consumer price index for all items shot up. The highest percentage increases over the year were seen in the gasoline category, with a 47.2% jump. Used cars and trucks also saw a double-digit increase of 20%.


The pandemic is getting worse, even when it seems like it’s getting better” via Ishaan Tharoor of The Washington Post — In the United States, life is returning to normal. Restaurants and bars are filling up again, vacations are being booked and flights are selling out. That’s all for good reason: A majority of Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and daily new infections and deaths are at their lowest levels in almost a year. But the pandemic is hardly in retreat elsewhere. The emergence of more virulent variants of the virus in countries like Brazil and India and the slowness of vaccination efforts in many places outside the West have contributed to deadly new waves.

80% of cruise enthusiasts would prefer to sail with vaccine requirement” via Ron Hurtibise of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Eighty percent of likely cruisers want to resume sailing on ships that require vaccinations, according to a survey conducted over the Memorial Day weekend by the consumer-focused travel website The poll results, which generated 5,025 responses, indicate that a majority of cruise industry consumers do not agree with DeSantis’ decision to extend his “vaccine passport” ban to the cruise industry. The respondents weren’t cruise novices. Sixty-five percent said they’ve taken 10 or more cruises. Of the 80% who favor vaccinated ships, 89% said they would feel safer sailing on a ship with fellow vaccinated travelers, and 69% said they want a more traditional cruise experience, without masks, social distancing or testing requirements.

Most cruise aficionados say they are fine with vaccine requirements.

WHO renames COVID-19 variants with Greek letter names to avoid confusion, stigma” via Elizabeth Weise of USA Today — The WHO has created a new system to name COVID-19 variants, getting away from place-based names that can be hard to pronounce, difficult to remember and stigmatizing to a country. The new system, which was announced Monday, is based on the letters of the Greek alphabet. The United Kingdom variant, called by scientists B.1.1.7, will now be Alpha. B.1.351, the South Africa variant will be Beta, and the B.1.617.2 variant discovered in India will now be known as Delta. When the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet are used up, WHO will announce another series. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco.


Joe Biden prioritizes voting rights law as restrictions mount” via Alexandra Jaffe and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — President Biden used the 100th anniversary of Tulsa’s race massacre to make a plea for sweeping legislation in Congress to protect the right to vote as Republican-led governments in states pass new restrictions making it tougher to cast ballots. Biden, marking the centennial in Oklahoma, called out lawmakers in Congress — including two senators in his own party — for holding up action on voting bills. Invoking the words of the late Rep. John Lewis, Biden said the right to vote is “precious” and must be protected.

Biden suspends drilling leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” via The New York Times — The Biden administration suspended oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, unspooling a signature achievement of the Donald Trump presidency and delivering on a promise by President Biden to protect the fragile Alaskan tundra from fossil fuel extraction. The decision sets up a process that could halt drilling in one of the largest tracts of untouched wilderness in the United States, home to migrating waterfowl, caribou and polar bears. But it also lies over as much as 11 billion barrels of oil.


Republicans fear Donald Trump will lead to a ‘lost generation’ of talent” via Meredith McGraw, David Siders, and Sam Stein of POLITICO — As Trump ponders another presidential bid, top Republicans have grown fearful about what they’re calling the party’s “lost generation.” In conversations with lawmakers, ex-lawmakers, top advisers and aides, a common concern has emerged that a host of national and statewide Republicans are either leaving office or may not choose to pursue it for fear that they can’t survive politically in the current GOP. The worry is that the party is embracing personality over policy and that it is shortsighted to align with Trump. He has driven sitting GOP lawmakers and political aspirants into early retirements ever since he burst onto the scene.

The GOP is worried about Donald Trump leading a Republican talent drain. Image via AP.

Trump found millions of new voters in 2020. Will they turn out for next year’s midterms?” via Aaron Zitner of The Wall Street Journal — Then-President Trump drew substantial support in some battleground states in 2020 from Americans who had skipped prior elections, creating a new pool of voters whose decisions on whether to participate again will be central to next year’s midterms. These voters had cast ballots intermittently or sat out all prior elections, despite being old enough to vote, but were drawn off the sidelines by the Republican president’s race against his Democratic challenger, Biden. New analyses found that more of these “low-propensity voters” chose to register as Republicans than Democrats in several of the closest battlegrounds, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

Put Trump on the ballot in ’22? No thanks, some Dems say” via Sarah Ferris and Melanie Zanona of POLITICO — As Trump cannonballs back into national headlines more scandal-ridden than ever, it turns out that Republicans aren’t the only ones who don’t want to fixate on the former president. Many House Democrats feel the same way. “The former President is now a private citizen, and it appears our justice system is handling whatever potential misdeeds he may or may not have committed,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, among roughly three dozen endangered Democrats who will need to win in order for their Party to keep the House. “Trump is a Republican problem and a Republican cancer that they need to cut out of their party. But that’s their problem.”

Trump’s company puts D.C. hotel lease up for sale, again” via Jonathan O’Connell and Shayna Jacobs of The Washington Post — Former President Trump’s company has again hired a broker to sell the lease to its D.C. hotel, according to two people familiar with the discussions, a second attempt to unload the property after the pandemic thwarted a previous effort. The Trump Organization previously listed the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel, in the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion, in the fall of 2019. When covid-19 struck, many hotels closed either completely or partially due to government shutdowns, and the company pulled the property off the market.


Marco Rubio ‘absolutely’ thinks China controls Hollywood, mass media ‘narrative’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio “absolutely” thinks that communists in Beijing have veto power over American mass media. The Miami Republican, interviewed on Fox News Radio Tuesday, was unrelenting in his assertions of Chinese control over American corporate culture, answering a question from host Jimmy Failla about crackdowns on social media and control from afar. “Yeah, absolutely it is. And it’s a narrative they continue to push out,” Rubio said. The Senator turned his sights on professional wrestling legend John Cena, who cut a promo last week apologizing for calling Taiwan a nation, a phrase that’s a thought crime in China. Rubio called that mea culpa a “hostage video” and suggested Cena’s apology was what the studio deemed best for business.

On the first day of the 2021 hurricane season, Rick Scott toured the National Hurricane Center in Miami and received a briefing from Director Ken Graham. Image via Rick Scott’s Office.


After two terms in House, Anthony Rodriguez to run for Miami-Dade County Commission” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rodriguez is planning to exit the House following next year’s Legislative Session and mount a run for the Miami-Dade County Commission. Rodriguez is now listed as an active candidate for the District 10 seat, currently held by Commissioner Javier Souto. Souto, who has served on the Commission for nearly three decades, will be subject to the county’s new term limit system when his current term expires in 2022. That leaves an open race in District 10. Libertarian Martha Bueno is the only other candidate who’s filed for the contest so far. She’s added just over $1,200 in outside campaign cash since entering in late February while also tacking on a $10,000 loan to her campaign account.

Anthony Rodriguez is making a move to the Miami-Dade County Commission. Image via Colin Hackley.

Lori Alhadeff announces Broward School Board reelection bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Alhadeff, who lost her daughter in the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, will seek a second term representing District 4 on the Broward County School Board. Alhadeff ran for and won that seat in 2018, just months after the attack claimed the life of her daughter, Alyssa. With the 2022 election on the horizon, Alhadeff is formally announcing her decision to run for reelection. “Over the course of the past three years, we have come a long way toward making schools safer and improving the overall quality of our public education system,” Alhadeff said. During her School Board tenure, Alhadeff was among the voices working to push out Superintendent Robert Runcie, arguing the district did not do enough to keep students safe ahead of and during the 2018 attack.

FDLE investigating Alachua County election’s office for voter fraud” via WCJB — The Alachua County Supervisor of Election’s Office is being investigated on accusations of voter fraud. TV20 has confirmed the alleged fraud involves inmates at the Alachua County jail. An Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson says they handed off the investigation to FDLE. Agents are reviewing the Supervisor of Election’s Office’s registration of 18 inmates to determine if they voted illegally. The Alachua County Attorney says they are working to learn more about the investigation, which they just found out about.

Former Broward Health executive pleads guilty in kickback scheme” via Brooke Baitinger and Victoria Ballard of the South Florida Sun Sentinel —  A former executive pleaded guilty to accepting $427,000 in kickbacks. Brian Bravo, of Pembroke Pines, admitted he took the money, $150,000 of it in cash, from two vendors and a consultant for other vendors in exchange of awarding them contracts for Broward Health goods and services, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. He pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge on Tuesday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. For 15 years, Bravo worked as the procurement officer for the hospital district.

Duval School Board votes to change six Confederate-tied schools including Lee” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Nearly a year since the shift was first proposed, Duval County School Board members met back in the Cline auditorium to decide if they would rename six Jacksonville schools with Confederate ties. Members voted to rename six schools and keep three school names. The decision aligned entirely with Superintendent Diana Greene‘s recommendations and community input. The names approved to change will go into effect on Aug. 3. “As a board and a community, we’ve done really hard things. But we can get this done,” School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen said.

Florida boating is deadlier and holiday waters were packed. Cops were ready for the worst” via David Goodhue of FlKeysNews — Police were out on the water in full force across South Florida over the long Memorial Day weekend. They were looking for safety violations, hazards, impaired boaters, anything that could get people hurt or killed. But with a few exceptions, the seafaring public was well-behaved and there were no serious boating accidents. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state police agency with the biggest presence on the water, reported a few boating accidents with no serious injuries and a vessel fire in the Lower Florida Keys.


This Pride Month, focus on supporting all our students” via Sarah Leonardi for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Teachers, parents and mental health professionals around the world continue to sound the alarm that our kids have suffered serious mental health impacts due to the isolation we were all subjected to during the pandemic. Those effects were exacerbated in our LGBTQ youth. Schools often provide LGBTQ kids with socialization, safe spaces and support networks that some do not necessarily have at home, and because of the pandemic, access to those positive networks was limited. This Pride Month, and every day and month of every year, we must work to do better by our LGBTQ youth. Given the disparate impacts of the pandemic and the harmful policy efforts coming from Tallahassee, we can all do our part to advocate for LGBTQ kids and adults. 


Rubio’s hypocritical dismissal of Trump’s Jan. 6 insurrection” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As the day to honor soldiers who died for democracy approached, Rubio dismissed the Jan. 6 attack on American democracy. The commission, Rubio said, would be “a partisan joke,” even though Democrats had agreed to balance the representation and give Republicans a say in issuing subpoenas. Had Rubio voted to convict Trump on the insurrection impeachment charge or to approve the commission, he might have faced a primary challenge next year. So the Rubio who couldn’t hear enough about Benghazi has heard enough about the White supremacist-fueled insurrection.

‘I got caught up in the mob’: Jan. 6 rioters’ lame excuses don’t hold up” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Some of the defendants facing charges in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol deserve points for creativity. Among the defense arguments emerging in court documents: “I got caught up in the mob” and “Trump told me to do it.” But the “mob” and the individuals charged in the insurrection are one and the same and breaking the law just because you think a higher authority with a well-known penchant for dangerous rhetoric said you could doesn’t make it right. The attempt to brush aside criminal behavior with such lame excuses turns the concept of personal responsibility on its head. Other defendants facing charges from Jan. 6 are invoking what’s known as a public authority defense, in essence, Trump gave them permission to do what they did.

On Pre-K, America should follow Florida’s lead … and Florida should do better” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A few weeks ago, Biden proposed government-provided preschool classes for every child in America. The reactions were swift, partisan and predictable, with many Republicans going straight to their socialism/communism/Marxism playbooks. Florida has had universal pre-K for 16 years now. And do you know what group of Marxists made that happen? You. Nearly 60% of voters approved it as a constitutional amendment in 2002. Yes, while Republicans in Washington are screaming about preschool, Republicans and Democrats in Florida are uniting to improve it. Florida does pre-K both right and wrong. We have one of the most expansive and inclusive programs in America, offering it to any 4-year-old who wants it. But our program is also one of the shoddiest.

Coincidence? DeSantis signs anti-transgender bill on first day of Pride Month” via the Miami Herald editorial board — It feels more like an insult that DeSantis chose June 1, the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month, to sign Florida’s biggest anti-LGBT bill in recent history banning transgender women and girls from playing sports. Perhaps the irony was lost on him that Pride Month celebrates the Stonewall Riots that ushered in the LGBTQ rights movement. Perhaps DeSantis doesn’t care to know about that history, or purposely chose June 1 so he could generate controversy that helps him with the GOP’s conservative base. When asked whether the timing of the bill signing was meant to send a message, DeSantis said, “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness and women’s sports,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Skylar Zander: It’s time for leaders to chart a different course on infrastructure” via Florida Politics — The Senate will consider the largest spending bill in U.S. history, advertised as an effort to improve infrastructure. The reality is that this bill contains far more special interest payoffs, damaging tax increases, and corporate welfare than it does infrastructure dollars. The package contains more than $4 trillion in spending, but with less than 5% actually dedicated to roads, bridges and other transportation improvements. The bill also includes costly tax increases that amount to more than $2 trillion. This is a steep burden to impose on the economy when individuals and small businesses are just trying to get their heads back above water after protracted and costly coronavirus lockdowns. Congress would do better to forego tax increases completely. 


On today’s Sunrise:

— Tuesday was the start of Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community. What better time for Gov. DeSantis to sign the bill banning transgender kids from taking part in high school and college sports.

— Apparently, transgender kids are an ideology, not persons. The Governor also brought a woman from Connecticut to complain about transgender athletes because he couldn’t find any evidence of the problem in Florida.

— Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of military vets; many of them are dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s. There’s no cure, but there is help. Veterans Affairs and the Alzheimer’s Foundation have some tips for coping with dementia.

— And finally, a naked Florida Woman was rescued from an underground storm drain … again.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Pride MagicShots brighten Disney parks” via Lindsey Paris of ITM — Polish up your colors! Disney PhotoPass at Walt Disney World and Disneyland is adding brilliant rainbow MagicShots and effects to select photos this month. Celebrate Pride at Disney in any of the four major parks or at the Disney PhotoPass Studio at Disney Springs for some added color and plenty of #lovewins support. Two awesome options are Guests holding the ends of a rainbow, as well as rainbow corners placed onto any photo. The Disney PhotoPass Studio photo backdrop is the newly repainted Cinderella Castle without its 50th-anniversary swag, but with an added full-arc rainbow over the top.

Disney World is gearing up for Pride Month. Image via D23.

NASA releases stunning new pic of Milky Way’s ‘downtown’” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — It’s a composite of 370 observations over the past two decades by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, depicting billions of stars and countless black holes in the center, or heart, of the Milky Way. A radio telescope in South Africa also contributed to the image, for contrast. Astronomer Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts Amherst said Friday he spent a year working on this while stuck at home during the pandemic. “What we see in the picture is a violent or energetic ecosystem in our galaxy’s downtown,” he said. “There are a lot of supernova remnants, black holes, and neutron stars there. Each X-ray dot or feature represents an energetic source, most of which are in the center.”


Happy birthday today to super legislative staffer Andrea Gainey, as well as Jim Gill, Chris Ingram, and Daniel Tilson.


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.


  • Ron Ogden

    June 2, 2021 at 8:36 am

    “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness in women’s sports. We believe that it’s important to have integrity in competition,” — The Governor

    FLAPOL favors fairness and integrity, right? There can be more than one perspective on what constitutes fairness and integrity, isn’t that true? And, because we’re equal, each perspective is valuable and affirming–agree? And the legislature passed this bill, the legislature elected by a majority vote, and in a democracy the majority rules, right?

  • Jeff

    June 2, 2021 at 9:36 am

    I don’t get it. In the last election accusations of “socialism” bought the South Florida Hispanic vote. All the while, the top of the ticket made clear that he wanted to place himself n a Venezuelan Maduro style regime in the United States and end legitimate election by popular vote. Even now, the Republican party continues that fight for managed elections and courts that will provide “sure” rulings. Didn’t Cubans and Venezuelans come to this country to escape such autocracies? Or did they just want to see one of their own?

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