Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.14.21

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

Happy Monday.

Bibi Netanyahu is coming off the worst weekend of his political career. At the end of last week, he was Israel’s Prime Minister. By Sunday afternoon, he was Opposition Party Leader. It was not a graceful transition. The now-former Prime Minister channeled his inner Donald Trump, claiming the election was “a fraud” and “possibly the greatest fraud in history.”

To add some salt to the wound, the coalition that defeated him in a razor-thin vote was mostly composed of his former allies, including new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Ouch.

If you think you had a bad weekend, it’s almost certain Bibi Netanyahu’s was worse.

In other world news — or Earth news, to be more precise — National Geographic announced that it officially recognizes the waters around Antarctica as the world’s fifth ocean. Splitting off the uncreatively named Southern Ocean (a real missed opportunity there) is justified because of its “ecological separation” from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans it borders.

It was undoubtedly a good weekend for the few brainiacs who spend their days studying currents and the ocean floor’s topography. We just have one question: Are we allowed to Sharpie it onto our globes, or is this just a ploy to sell us a new, fancy one?

While you’re at it, go ahead and spin that globe over to Monte Carlo because that’s where the French Open trophy is headed. It’s the second French Open win for Novak Djokovic, who came back from two sets down against Stefanos Tsitsipas in a Sunday thriller.

Even more exciting for Djokovic: he’s now halfway to a Grand Slam, and if he manages the feat, he’ll pass Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most Grand Slam event wins in the history of men’s tennis.

Across the Atlantic, assuming that’s still what it’s called, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is underway. The event was originally to be held in February at Madison Square Garden in front of a throng of spectators. Instead, the hoity-toity pups are holding an ersatz competition under tents at a Tarrytown estate without an audience.

It’d be a stretch to say they’re roughing it but compared to what could have been; the weekend seems a little meh. Thanks, coronavirus!

Closer to home, the Florida Supervisors of Elections Summer Conference kicked off Sunday in Tampa. Yes, the attendees are there to work, but once they clock out, they’ll get to walk around and enjoy everything the Water Street neighborhood has to offer. And, of course, Hillsborough SOE Craig Latimer probably had a blast playing host to his colleagues around the state.

Those who tuned in for the second episode of “State of Emergency” can say that at least one hour of their weekend was top-notch. For those of you who missed it, well, here’s your chance to have an awesome Monday.

Finally, we’d like to extend our sincere congratulations to Ana Ceballos and Matt Dixon, who officially tied the knot on Friday. A good weekend indeed, and hopefully many more to follow.


House Republicans will be in Tampa next week, where they are expected to vote on who will take over as House Speaker following the 2026 election.

Rep. Sam Garrison is all but certain to land the job after impressing fellow freshman during his first Legislative Session.

The Special Session on gaming that followed only lasted a few days. Still, it provided the Fleming Island Republican another opportunity to comport himself as a leader by carrying the House’s implementing bill for the new Gaming Compact and proving he knew the ins and outs of the complex deal.

The race has been a quiet one, largely because of reforms put in place by former House Speakers Richard Corcoran and José Oliva, but Garrison has been seen as the front-runner for more than two months now.

He did have some competition, however.

Reps. John Snyder and Fiona McFarland were still angling for the job as recently as late March, though it was never clear how deep their support was — at one point, sources with knowledge of the leadership race said there were nine or 10 freshmen who were undecided.

No longer.

Come June 29, after a relaxing dinner and cruise around the Bay, Garrison is expected to be confirmed as the 2020 class’ Speaker pick.


Weekend wedding — Meredith and Jeff Ivey were married Saturday in Newburyport, Massachusetts. They were married at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, followed by the cocktail hour and reception at the Custom House Maritime Museum on the Merrimack River. They were joined by family and friends from across the country, including Florida. Meredith is Chief of Staff at DEO and Jeff is Legislative Affairs Director at the Florida Lottery.

The groom and bride couldn’t have asked for better weather or a more perfect day.


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@PeterBakerNYT: A few days ago, Trump issued a statement reaffirming that he trusts Putin more than US intelligence agencies. Today he issues a statement assailing US allies like France, saying they are “ripping off our country.”

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@BrandyZadrozny: Critical Race Theory is the new antifa and it’s just so frustrating to see this boogeyman political tactic work over and over again.

@DavidAFrench: In short, banning ideas is dangerous. The statutes are overbroad and vague. Existing civil rights law provides strong protection against radical excesses without resort to banning ideas. The better course of action is replacing bad curriculum with better curriculum.

@MichaelHarriot: There are more laws against schools teaching Critical Race Theory than schools that teach Critical Race Theory.

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@OmariJHardy: Imagine if Joe Manchin was in Gryffindor. He’d probably be holding out for bipartisan Horcrux reform. He wouldn’t destroy any of Voldemort’s Horcruxes unless at least 10 Slytherin students were onboard. Would probs entrust the Sword of Gryffindor to Malfoy as a show of good faith


Father’s Day — 6; Amazon Prime Day — 7; New York City Mayoral Primary — 8; Microsoft reveals major Windows update — 10; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 11; Bruce Springsteen revives solo show, “Springsteen on Broadway” — 12; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 17; Fourth of July — 20; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 25; MLB All-Star Game — 29; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 36; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 39; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 39; the NBA Draft — 49; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 51; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 57; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 65; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 71; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 80; NFL regular season begins — 87; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 92; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 98; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 102; ‘Dune’ premieres — 109; MLB regular season ends — 111; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 116; World Series Game 1 — 135; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 141; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 141; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 144; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 158; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 165; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 179; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 189; NFL season ends — 209; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 211; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 211; NFL playoffs begin — 215; Super Bowl LVI — 244; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 284; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 326; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 353; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 389; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 480; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 515.


Titanic clash pits Ron DeSantis against potent cruise industry as it prepares to restart” via Mary Ellen Flas and Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The return of operations for one of South Florida’s most iconic industries has turned into a battle of the heavyweights. On the one side is Florida Gov. DeSantis. Emboldened by growing approval ratings, DeSantis refuses to budge from a state law he sought that bars the cruise industry from requiring passengers to be vaccinated. On the other: The industry, a powerful pillar of Florida tourism, is quietly crafting a workaround for the Governor’s mandate as it seeks to restore public confidence and restart cruising after a 15-month shutdown that has put thousands of Florida jobs on hold and cost the industry billions — not including losses to its suppliers.

Ron DeSantis girds for battle with the cruise ship industry.

—”DeSantis confident courts will rule against CDC in vaccine passport squabble” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

— 2022 —

Seven House members back Charlie Crist’s run for Governor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Crist unrolled his first round of endorsements from state lawmakers backing his bid for Governor. Democrats from Tampa Bay, Orlando and South Florida expressed their support for Crist. “Florida needs Charlie Crist’s heart and commitment, and that’s why I’m excited to endorse him,” Ben Diamond said. “I trust Charlie Crist,” Susan Valdes said in her English statement. “Charlie has been a champion for Floridians, and we need him back in Tallahassee,” Christopher Benjamin said.

Charlie Crist gets a big push from House Democrats.

Nikki Fried’s political committee raises just $215K in May” via The News Service of Florida — Relying heavily on small-dollar donors, a political committee tied to Fried raised nearly $215,000 in May. The $214,832 collected by the committee Florida Consumers First was significantly less than what was raised by political committees linked to DeSantis and Crist. The committee Friends of Ron DeSantis raised more than $7.5 million in May, while the committee Friends of Charlie Crist raised more than $1.2 million. Crist also raised $323,963 for his campaign account, reports filed Thursday show. Fried opened a campaign account June 1 and will file the first report for the account in July.

Fried’s personal, financial connections to cannabis complicate her campaign for Governor” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — In January 2019, just as Fried took office promising to expand access to marijuana and hemp, records show that her now-fiance sold nearly $5 million worth of stock from a marijuana company he co-founded and used much of the money to invest in a number of new cannabis businesses. Within two years, records show that Fried’s fiance, Jake Bergmann, had amassed interests in about a dozen cannabis companies, including at least one that obtained a hemp permit from Fried’s agency after Fried led the effort to legalize hemp in Florida. Fried also revealed that she is personally invested in one of Florida’s few licensed medical marijuana providers, a company now being acquired by the state’s biggest marijuana business in a $2.1 billion deal.

Jake Bergmann, Fried’s fiance, finalizes Georgia divorce from previous wife” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Agriculture Commissioner Fried’s fiance has finalized divorce proceedings with his ex-wife. Georgia court records show Bergmann’s divorce case with Aubree Bergmann is now closed. The contested divorce had been set to go to trial this week, but court dates scheduled from Monday through Thursday have now been canceled. A final judgment in the case grants a total divorce between the two. Jake and Aubree Bergmann reached a settlement agreement, filed with Fulton County Superior Court on Friday. Public records did not disclose full details of the settlement but said the parties agreed to have all assets from their marriage “equitably divided.”

— “Marco Rubio-Val Demings 2022 showdown could become most expensive Senate race ever” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News

With Marco Rubio’s seat up for grabs, Miami-Dade gets front-row seat to feisty Senate race” via the Miami Herald editorial board — South Floridians, especially those in Miami-Dade, have just won a front-row seat to what is expected to be one of the most heated Senate races in the country in the 2022 midterms — the state’s senior Republican Sen. Rubio of Miami vs. Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, who just announced her candidacy. or Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell. And that’s just so far. Not just party politics and philosophy will come into play, but also gender, race, ethnicity, geography and even age will likely be points of attack for both sides. In other words, this race will have everything — and Miami-Dade voters will be smack in the middle of it all.

EMILY’s List backs Val Demings” via James Arkin of POLITICO Florida — EMILY’s List endorsed Rep. Demings‘ Senate campaign, giving the Florida Democrat a major boost the day after she officially launched her bid to take on incumbent GOP Sen. Rubio. Demings, a former police chief and three-term Orlando-area member of Congress, has already received widespread support for the Senate run against Rubio. However, she’ll still have to win a Democratic primary to face him. Democrats are hopeful that Demings, a rising star in the Party once considered a potential vice presidential pick, will put Florida in play. Rubio, seeking a third term, is one of just two vulnerable Republican incumbents facing competitive reelections.

Ashley Moody committee collects huge haul in May” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Moody’s political committee raked in more than $516,000 in May, according to the latest finance report. The latest haul comes as Moody prepares for reelection in 2022 through her political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody. In all, the committee holds more than $1.6 million on hand. Duke Energy contributed the most to Moody’s campaign in May, providing the Republican Attorney General a $50,000 donation. Moody also received a slew of small and large contributions, including several $10,000 donations from ABC Liquors, Disney Worldwide Services and Florida Power and Light Company. Notably, May marks the fourth consecutive month of six-figure hauls for the committee. After months of dormancy amid the pandemic, the committee raised $153,000 in February, $200,000 in March, and $184,600 in April.

Andrew Warren considering run for Attorney General” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County State Attorney Warren, regarded by Hillsborough County Democrats as a rising political star, is considering a run for Attorney General next year. In an interview, Warren spoke only vaguely about the possibility of challenging Moody, but said people had asked him to consider it and that he’s not ruling it out. Warren said he hasn’t yet sought support for a race. “I’m giving consideration to how I can best help Florida,” he said. “My focus is on where it’s been — reforming our criminal justice system — but I’m happy to be part of the discussion about how we can make a difference in our communities across the state.”

Andrew Warren sets his sights on statewide office.

Florida civil rights attorney and legislator Michele Rayner to run for Charlie Crist’s seat” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Rep. Rayner, who became the first openly Black LGBTQ woman to get elected to the Florida Legislature last year, is jumping into the race for the congressional seat now held by Rep. Charlie Crist. Rayner, a St. Petersburg Democrat, will formally announce her candidacy on Monday, throwing herself into a potentially crowded contest for a seat that may be targeted by changes by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature. Her decision to run places an up-and-coming progressive candidate into what will be a highly competitive primary.

Hillary Cassel adds nearly $30K in May to grow HD 99 fundraising lead” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cassel is continuing to grow her cash lead in the House District 99 contest, raising close to $30,000 in May. Cassel is running to succeed House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne, who is barred from running in 2022 due to term limits. Cassel collected more than $7,300 through her campaign account in May. But she also raised more than $22,000 via her political committee, Friends of Hillary Cassel. That PC had only raised $500 from its launch in February through the end of April. But Cassel’s team courted the bulk of her May cash via the PC. Nearly 80% of the money raised by the PC came from lawyers or law firms.

‘Demonbuster’ Kim Daniels seeks return to Jacksonville City Council” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A durable political veteran is seeking another stint in office. Former state Rep. Daniels, who represented House District 14 from 2016 to 2020, filed for the Jacksonville City Council in the 2023 election. Daniels, a socially conservative Democrat, exorcist, and minister described as the “Demonbuster,” previously served on the City Council as an at-large member. She served one term citywide and was defeated in re-election. Daniels has filed to run in District 10, where one of her closest political allies, former Councilman Reggie Brown, once served. Brown is out of office. Incumbent Democrat Brenda Priestly Jackson has not filed for reelection but did not indicate that she won’t run for a second term.

Records: GOP-linked firm subpoenaed in Miami public corruption case against Frank Artiles” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — A Gainesville Republican research firm that was involved in a 2018 vote-siphoning scheme was served a subpoena in the state’s case against a former senator who prosecutors allege recruited and paid a no-party candidate to run to secure a GOP win. Court records show Data Targeting Inc., run by longtime operative Pat Bainter, was served a subpoena for emails, invoices, and contracts related to former state Sen. Frank Artiles and his Miami firm, Atlas Consulting LLC. Data Targeting’s relevant documents provided to the state attorney’s office in late April remain under a protective order put forward by Artiles’ defense team.

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Amid praise from conservatives, DeSantis also drawing lawsuits” via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Network Florida — While DeSantis is drawing praise from conservatives and pulling in campaign cash from across the nation, he also is attracting a crush of lawsuits spurred by the polarizing legislation he signed into law. Opponents say the outcome of the courtroom challenges will be pivotal not just to stop what they say are unconstitutional overreaches in Florida but also to blunt a wave of copycat measures spreading across other Republican-leaning states. “Florida has passed more of these than any other state,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which is suing DeSantis over a new law criticized as anti-protest and another imposing strict financial limits on citizen-led ballot initiatives.

DeSantis’s much-touted Florida EVerify immigration law snares no one” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — “Private employers in Florida have been required to use E-Verify, a federal system for checking the legal status of a potential hire, since the start of the year. But there have been no complaints made to the state agency in charge of enforcing the law in the five and a half months it’s been in effect. A Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman told the Orlando Sentinel there have been no complaints and no enforcement measures taken against any employers since the provisions affecting private businesses took effect Jan. 1.”

DeSantis signs home insurance bill sought by industry and opposed by some consumer advocates” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis signed property insurance legislation Friday that allows for larger rate hikes at state-run Citizens Property Insurance and makes other changes requested by private insurers and opposed by some consumer advocates. Touting the bill as an effort to “turn the corner” on the struggling property insurance market, DeSantis signed the measure during an event in downtown Sarasota that included a roundtable discussion on insurance issues. Many private property insurers are hiking rates by double digits as they complain about litigation costs, prompting lawmakers to respond. Supporters of the insurance bill say it will keep rates down by targeting what they describe as unscrupulous legal practices.

Ron DeSantis signs a ‘common-sense’ insurance reform bill that’s loved by the industry and hated by consumer advocates.

DeSantis says no ‘messaging’ involved in denial of Sarasota’s LGBTQ bridge lighting request” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis implied Friday that a decision by his administration to deny a request by Sarasota officials to light the Ringling Bridge in rainbow colors to celebrate Pride Month wasn’t intended to be a swipe at the LGBTQ community. DeSantis said he doesn’t believe there was any “messaging” intended in the decision by the Florida Department of Transportation to deny the lighting request. Asked Friday during an event in Sarasota whether the decision to deny Sarasota’s bridge lighting request is being reconsidered, DeSantis said, “you’ll have to talk to FDOT; I’m not involved in bridge lighting.”

Controversy over lights comes to Tallahassee’s old Capitol as gun control advocates cry foul” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — In the wake of LGBTQ+ community outrage over the turning off of Pride Month rainbow lighting on bridges in Jacksonville and Sarasota, gun control advocates now say the state blocked lighting the Historic Capitol building in orange to honor gun violence victims. The Department of Management Services (DMS), which manages state buildings and reports to DeSantis, ignored a request for orange lights at the Capitol on National Gun Violence Awareness Day. News of that inaction came after the Department of Transportation ordered rainbow lighting shut off this week on Jacksonville’s Acosta bridge because there was no “permit” that allowed such lighting. It also denied a request by Sarasota officials to light the Ringling Bridge in rainbow colors.

Lauren Book praises 4th DCA decision on termination of parental rights in abuse cases” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic Sen. Book says a Court of Appeals panel made the right call upholding a 2014 law expanding officials’ ability to terminate parental rights in child abuse cases. Book, a survivor of child sexual abuse herself, pushed for that legislation before joining the Senate. The 2014 law was used to take away four children from a woman — who the court identified as “V.S.” — after officials found evidence she abused one of those children. Lawmakers added language to the state statute, reading, “Proof of a nexus between egregious conduct to a child and the potential harm to the child’s sibling is not required” for parental rights to be terminated.

Happening today — Sen. Randolph Bracy will discuss money in the new state budget for African American historical projects, noon, Wells’ Built Museum of African American History & Culture, 511 West South St., Orlando.

Michael Grieco ordered to pay $1,000 after probe of ethics lapses” via Christina Saint Louis of the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust has issued a “letter of instruction” rebuking Rep. Grieco for twice violating the Citizens’ Bill of Rights during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner. The commission, an independent body that imposes civil penalties on county and municipal elected officials and employees, took action this past week after it unanimously found in December that Grieco violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights by falsely portraying his involvement with the political action committee People for Better Leaders. It ordered him to pay $1,000 to cover costs. A third allegation that Grieco indirectly solicited a contribution from a city vendor, contrary to a city ordinance, was dismissed.

Mike Grieco gets hit with fines for ethical lapses.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Doug Holder, The Legis Group: PRH Miami Central

Jim Daughton, Warren Husband, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Lyon, Andrew Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton: American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance

Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Scott Ross, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: OBS Real Estate Holdings

Ron Pierce, Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: Blue Line Solutions, Florida Venue Managers Association, Tampa Bay Thrives


Happening today — Attorney General Moody will honor law-enforcement officers for a “Thin Line Tribute initiative,” 11:15 a.m., Perry Police Department, 211 South Washington St., Perry.

What Florida’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ ban tells us about anti-antiracism” via Julia Craven of Slate — As the Florida law demonstrates, the goal of the anti-CRT effort is to put analysis of ongoing racism out of bounds — to treat any inquiry into the material inequities that define the color line in America as something equivalent to Holocaust denial, and to reframe the discussion of ongoing injustice as an insult to “white persons.” Other campaigners go as far as to equate CRT with Marxism, as if a true accounting of racism in America were somehow going to upend capitalism. Such intentional misreadings allow conservatives to create a dichotomy where considering how racism shaped the country is unpatriotic and anti-American. The crusade DeSantis is promoting is one based on generalities — on a vague and all-encompassing political boogeyman.

Banning critical race theory says a lot about discussing racism in the classroom.

Anxiety mounts as Medicaid funding deadline looms” via Christine Jordan Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Time is running short, and people are starting to get anxious. Florida faces a Sunday deadline to take advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars in additional Medicaid money that Congress made available to deliver home- and community-based services. Despite recent assurances from the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities that Florida was moving ahead with plans to draw down the additional federal funds, advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities say they have been kept out of the loop. The American Rescue Plan Act stimulus law provides states with a temporary 10 percentage-point increase to the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.

Florida election experts meet voter fraud crackpots. What could go wrong?” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — When DeSantis and lawmakers were making it harder for people to vote by mail, they didn’t seek the opinions of the professionals who actually count those votes. That would be Florida’s 67 county election supervisors who refuse to play politics. The state’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, and her top elections expert will field questions from supervisors at a statewide conference where the overriding topic of conversation will be Senate Bill 90, the new law that forces voters to request mail ballots more often, and restricts the use of mail ballot drop boxes. These politically motivated changes and others are the focus of three federal lawsuits filed by voter advocacy groups.

Environmentalists call Florida’s proposal to pipe water to springs ‘totally crazy’” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Environmentalists called a state agency’s proposal to pipe river water to a popular springs state park to boost spring flows “absurd,” an idea that even some agency board members seriously questioned. The region has been the site of a political and legal fight over a state water permit for a supplier to a Nestlé Waters North America bottling plant. Some board members raised concerns about allowing the dark river water, stained by tannins from leaves in swamps, to discolor the clear blue Ichetucknee Springs. Critics of the permit renewal request last year for Seven Springs Water Co., the Nestlé water bottling plant, cited the low Santa Fe flows during opposition at board hearings.

Environmental activists push findings of professor without disclosing paid relationship to media” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — An environmental group with financial ties to the Everglades Foundation hired an out-of-state professor to conduct a narrowly focused environmental impact study. The professor then made at least one media appearance on the matter before the report, and the paid nature of the work was made public. The Sierra Club paid $4,200 to University of Miami (Ohio) professor Dr. Jessica McCarty to produce specific “deliverables” in a report looking at the “impacts of sugar-cane burning on air quality in South Florida, particularly for predominantly Black and Latino communities.” The Sierra Club also asked the professor to include “a critique of the US Sugar Air Report from 2019,” among other specific requests.

Unhappy hour: 1930s law bars Florida breweries from distributing their own beer” via Suzy Fleming Leonard of Florida Today — Florida has a three-tier alcohol distribution system aimed at preventing monopolies by giant beer manufacturers that could lead to every bar serving only one brand. Giving power and protection to distributors was a way to break those monopolies. And the system was set up to ensure, through the distributors, that the government got its share in taxes from alcohol sales. Thirty-seven states already allow breweries various forms of self-distribution, and the Florida Brewers Guild, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1996 to preserve the rights and interests of craft brewers, has tried to get bills through the Florida House and Senate for the past three years that would do the same.


More than 1.68 million specialty license plates were on Florida roads in 2020. Here are the Top 10 specialty plates last year by sales, according to the News Service of Florida:

Florida’s No 1 specialty license plate.

—Endless Summer: 93,986

—University of Florida: 93,716

—Helping Sea Turtles Survive: 91,423

—Florida State University: 70,909

—Protect Wild Dolphins: 52,247

—Miami Heat: 51,572

—Marine Corps: 48,036

—Save the Manatee: 47,673

—Protect the Panther: 41,080

—Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 41,004


Florida added 12,157 coronavirus cases, 280 deaths in the past week” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida officials reported 12,157 coronavirus cases over the seven-day period from June 4 to June 10. That brings the total number of cases up to 2,300,786 since the pandemic’s first two cases in Florida were reported more than 15 months ago, on March 1, 2020. The state added 280 deaths in the past week, bringing the total statewide number of deaths since the pandemic began to 37,265. The Florida Department of Health announced a week ago that it would no longer release daily COVID-19 data. Instead, it is now releasing a weekly report every Friday, but has withheld some publicly available information before.

DeSantis says no to masks for next school year” via Reno Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis‘ vision for the upcoming school year is for schools to forgo mask requirements, he told the state Board of Education Thursday. Students are starting summer break, and school districts envision what the fall will look like as Florida continues emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the school districts “are there already,” the Governor said, streaming into the meeting remotely from the West Coast, where he’s on a fundraising tour. “I think when we go into August when the schools come back, it’s got to be a normal school year, and that’s what we should be doing, and I think that’s the best-stuff formula for success for our students,” DeSantis said. Several school districts in Florida and across the nation began scrapping mask mandates before the end of the school year.

No masks next school year, Ron DeSantis vows. Image via AP.

What Evan Power is reading — “Appeals court targets mask requirement” via The News Service of Florida — Pointing to privacy rights, a divided state appeals court Friday overturned a circuit judge’s decision last year that allowed Alachua County to keep in place a mask requirement to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, said Alachua County Circuit Judge Donna Keim did not properly consider the privacy rights of plaintiff Justin Green before she rejected a request for a temporary injunction against the mask requirement. The majority stopped short of declaring the Alachua County requirement unconstitutional but sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration. Lewis also argued that the case is moot because DeSantis in early May issued an executive order that prevented Alachua County and other local governments throughout the state from requiring masks.

Disney World drops indoor mask policy in ‘most areas’ for vaccinated visitors” via Bailey Shultz of USA Today — Starting Tuesday, fully vaccinated guests at Disney World will no longer be required to wear face coverings in most areas of the Orlando, Florida, theme park, according to its website. Masks will still be required for all guests on Disney transportation, including buses, monorails and the Disney Skyliner aerial gondolas. The park does not require visitors to provide proof of vaccination but expects guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor areas upon entering and throughout attractions and transportation. The new mask policy follows a recent update to COVID-19 guidelines in Orange County, where Disney World is located. The county lifted all local face mask recommendations on June 5.

City Commissioner and family got questionable COVID-19 loans, records show” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — North Lauderdale City Commissioner Regina Martin, her brother-in-law and her niece-in-law collected $100,000 in all from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, records show. Records from the Small Business Administration, which oversaw the program meant to help keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic, show Martin received a $20,000 PPP loan in July, using a code earmarked for insurance agencies and brokerages. She received a second $20,000 loan in February, using a code earmarked for tax preparation services. In paperwork for both loans, she reported being the sole employee. Martin’s brother-in-law, Andre Archat, received a $20,000 loan in July. The code used was for insurance agencies and brokerages.


600,000 dead: With normal life in reach, COVID-19’s late-stage victims lament what could have been” via Marc Fisher, Fenit Nirappil, Annie Gowen and Lori Rozsa of The Washington Post — They came so close. Philip Sardelis already had his vaccine appointment in hand. Cinnamon Jamila Key had just received her first shot. Charles Pryor tried but couldn’t get the coronavirus vaccine in time. Alexey Aguilar had been reluctant to commit to such a new medicine but was coming around to the idea. And then COVID-19 took them. On top of the grief and sorrow, their families now must deal with the unfairness, the eternal mystery of what might have been. The Americans who have died of COVID-19 in recent days and weeks passed away even as their families, friends and neighbors emerged from 15 months of isolation and fear.

Most blue states will make Joe Biden’s July 4 vaccine goal. The red ones won’t.” via Harry Enten of CNN — The United States looks increasingly unlikely to reach Biden‘s July 4 vaccine goal. We need at least 70% of all adults to have one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we’re on pace to have somewhere between 67% and 68%. However, the overall picture masks an underlying pattern: Nearly all of the states Biden won will make his goal, while all of the states he lost are unlikely to. As of Thursday’s CDC report, 69.9% of adults in the average Biden-won state have received at least one dose. Compare this to the states Biden lost and Trump won, where an average of 54.9% of adults have received at least one dose.

Blue states are leading the way in meeting Joe Biden’s July 4 vaccination goals. Image via AP.

The CDC is investigating nearly 800 cases of rare heart problems following immunization.” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — Federal officials are reviewing nearly 800 cases of rare heart problems following immunization with the coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Not all cases are likely to be verified or related to vaccines, and experts believe the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risk of these rare complications. But the reports have worried some researchers. More than half the heart problems were reported in people ages 12 to 24, while the same age group accounted for only 9% of the millions of doses administered. About two-thirds of the cases were in young males, with a median age of 30 years.

California COVID-19 plunges to new lows, fueling hope big reopening won’t bring new surge” via Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II of The Los Angeles Times — California will fully reopen its economy next Tuesday under remarkably favorable conditions, with the COVID-19 risk rapidly receding and new cases being reported at the lowest levels in 14 months. The state has for several months recorded one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the country, a distinction that’s endured despite the end of many restrictions and the rise of new variants. The numbers and rapid rollout of vaccinations have given public health officials even more confidence that life can return to some semblance of normal without the horrific surges that thwarted California’s two previous attempts at reopening.

As the pandemic retreats, we’re left wondering what we’ve been through” via Stephen Marche of The Washington Post — Part of the problem in understanding the COVID-19 period, other than the sheer mental fog it wreathed the world in, is that it was a double event: First, a monster arose and then time changed. Because of the fear of contact, of touch, of connection, the structure of our lives altered. That’s what I mean by time changing. The passage of life moved differently. I once imagined that, when the plague was over, there would be some orgiastic reprieve. After lockdown, simply eating dinner with friends around the same table is sob-inducing. To sit in the park and to watch people laugh with each other is enough. At the end of this, I don’t need some crazy new fleshiness.


Social Security weathered COVID-19 better than expected, but long-term challenges remain” via Kate Davidson of The Wall Street Journal — The near-term finances of the federal government’s retirement and disability programs appear to have weathered the storm better than many policy analysts had predicted, taking some pressure off the Biden administration and Congress to reach a long-term solution to keep them solvent. A faster-than-expected economic recovery has bolstered the payroll taxes that help finance the programs. And new benefit claims for disability insurance, which typically jump when the economy is weak, declined for some groups as the Social Security Administration’s field offices remained closed. The possibility of higher inflation could boost benefit payments.

Social Security made it through COVID-19 fairly well. Image via Reuters.

State jobless claims fall below 6,000” via The News Service of Florida — The U.S. Department of Labor estimated 5,800 initial jobless claims were filed in Florida during the week that ended June 5, down from a revised count of 8,257 during the week that ended May 29. The department had initially estimated 7,291 claims were filed during the week that ended May 29. Nationally, 376,000 new claims were filed last week, down 9,000 from the prior week. Florida’s count was its lowest since the week ending March 14, 2020, when the number was 6,463. The state Department of Economic Opportunity marks March 15, 2020, as the start of the pandemic in compiling unemployment claims.

Believe it or not: Orlando’s tourism industry may top the summer of 2019, despite the pandemic” via Richard Bilbao of The Orlando Business Journal — Metro Orlando may welcome even more tourists this summer than it did in the summer of 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. A perfect storm of domestic travel trends, pent-up demand, and excess cash savings all may play a role in a stronger summer this year, said the lead data expert with Visit Orlando, the region’s tourism and marketing agency. One of the clear indicators that this summer season will be busy is the increase in new flights service.


Schools across U.S. brace for surge of kindergartners in fall” via Heather Hollingsworth and Cedar Attanasio of The Associated Press — School districts across the United States are hiring additional teachers in anticipation of what will be one of the largest kindergarten classes ever as enrollment rebounds following the coronavirus pandemic. As they await the arrival next fall of students who sat out the current school year, educators are also bracing for many students to be less prepared than usual due to lower preschool attendance rates. “The job of the kindergarten teacher just got a lot harder,” said Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He co-authored a report that found that the number of 4-year-olds participating in preschool fell from 71% before the pandemic to 54% during the pandemic.

The number of kindergartners is set to surge next school year. Image via AP.

Russia scrambles to contain a new surge, as most of its people appear to be avoiding the Sputnik vaccine” via Anton Troianovski of The New York Times — Russian officials scrambled on Saturday to slow the spread of a new wave of the coronavirus, ordering workers in Moscow to take next week off and pleading with the populace to make use of widely available vaccines. The biggest spike appeared in Moscow, the Russian capital, which reported 6,701 new cases on Saturday — more than double the rise five days ago and the highest single-day total since December. Mayor Sergey S. Sobyanin said the situation had “sharply worsened” in the past week and that thousands of hospital beds were being repurposed to provide care for COVID-19 patients.


Biden and his aviators greet queen on a sunny afternoon” via The Associated Press — Biden and his aviator sunglasses met Queen Elizabeth II on bright Sunday afternoon. The Queen hosted the President and First Lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle, her royal residence near London. Biden flew to London after wrapping up his participation in a three-day summit of leaders of the world’s wealthy democracies in Cornwall, in southwestern England. He arrived at the castle aboard the presidential helicopter and was ferried to the queen in a black Range Rover. The 95-year-old monarch greeted the Bidens in the castle’s quadrangle, where she waited beneath a covered dais that shielded her from the sun. Assembled soldiers from the Queen’s Company First Battalion Grenadier Guards gave a royal salute and the Bidens placed their hands over their hearts as the U.S. national anthem was played.

Joe Biden, in his trademark aviators, meets with Queen Elizabeth II.

Biden scuttles Donald Trump’s dreams for border wall cash” via Caitlin Emma and Connor O’Brien of POLITICO — The Biden administration is calling on Congress to cancel billions of dollars set aside for Trump’s border wall, so the White House is not forced to spend the cash on the U.S.-Mexico barrier. The White House on Friday detailed its plans for handling money Trump diverted for the project, plus border wall funding Congress passed last year. More than $2 billion Trump diverted from military construction projects will be returned, funding 66 military projects in 11 states, three territories, and 16 countries. The new White House plans come as President Biden faces a federal watchdog probe for hitting pause on billions of dollars in wall funding on his first day in office, instructing his administration to figure out the next steps for the money.

Biden calls Pulse ‘hallowed ground’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “Five years ago today in Orlando in the middle of pride month, our nation suffered the deadliest attack affecting the LGBTQ+ community in American history, and at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman,” Biden said. “Within minutes, the Pulse nightclub that had long been a place of acceptance and joy turned into a place of unspeakable pain and loss,” Biden said. “Forty-nine people were there celebrating Latin night were murdered, even more injured, and countless others scarred forever — the victims were family members, partners and friends, veterans and students, young, Black, Asian and Latino — our fellow Americans.” Biden traveled to Orlando along with then-President Obama in the days following the tragedy.

Biden supports Yoshihide Suga in moving forward with Tokyo Olympics” via Rieko Miki of Nikkei Asia — Biden gave his support on Saturday to Japan’s efforts to carry out a safe Summer Olympics as outlined by Japanese Prime Minister Suga on the sidelines of the G-7 summit here. “We will take all precautions against infections in carrying out a safe and secure” Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Suga told Biden as the two leaders met between G-7 events in Cornwall. Biden expressed his support for the prime minister. On the G-7 leaders’ joint statement, Suga said, “A forceful message should be sent, taking into account the success of the Japan-U.S. summit. We will work together closely.”

It wasn’t just economics on the agenda at the G-7.


Trump team’s effort to explain away Lafayette Square hits yet another snag, one year later” via J.M. Rieger of The Washington Post — One year since mostly peaceful protesters outside the White House were cleared out on June 1, 2020, the Trump administration’s statements as to why and how Lafayette Square was cleared continue to be incomplete, contradictory or false. In a June 2, 2020 statement describing police actions in Lafayette Square, U.S. Park Police pointed to protesters throwing projectiles to explain why the square was cleared. Park Police said officers used “smoke canisters and pepper balls” to clear protesters but “did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells.” The next day, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “no one was tear-gassed.”

Donald Trump’s photo-op at Lafayette Park last year was not so easy to explain away.

GOP shake-up sees top Trump campaign official installed in key data post” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — The GOP’s centralized voter data hub has orchestrated a shake-up in its top ranks, amid concerns from top Republicans about the party’s data infrastructure following the 2020 election. According to two people familiar with the move, Matt Lakin, who had been serving as president and chief executive officer of Data Trust, will be stepping down from the position. Chris Carr, a veteran party operative who was a senior official on Trump’s reelection effort, will take over Lakin’s position on an interim basis. Carr was initially brought into Data Trust late last month as a senior adviser. At the time, top Republicans said his role would include conducting a “listening tour” to hear out concerns within the party.

MyPillow guy’s MAGA rally rouses ‘stop the steal’ truthers with corn dogs and hate for Fox News” via Jared Goyette of the Daily Beast — At just over seven months since Trump lost the presidential election, just how strong is the siren song of “stop the steal” conspiracy theories within the Republican base? An answer of sorts could be found in the thousands of people wearing Trump-themed “patriot” gear who streamed into a grass field on Saturday to attend a “free speech festival” organized by one of the leading lights of election fraud misinformation: MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. While Trump was scheduled to address the predominantly white crowd via Jumbotron, Lindell, who dubbed the event a “free speech Woodstock,” inexplicably threatened to end an interview with The Daily Beast when asked if the rally could be seen as a show of strength of the Trump movement generally. “I’m the one who paid for this whole rally, I’m the one who put this on. I paid for everything out of my pocket,” Lindell said.

‘Full of s—‘: Candidates warned not to fake Trump endorsement” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Lynda Blanchard donated nearly $1 million to pro-Donald Trump political committees, served as his ambassador to Slovenia and launched her Alabama Senate campaign with a video spotlighting her Trump bumper sticker-adorned pickup truck. But the former President was annoyed after hearing from donors that Blanchard was hyping her connections to Trump and giving them the impression she had his backing. Trump, who was widely believed to be leaning toward Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican and a longtime ally who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the deadly Capitol riot, vented to his advisers that he barely knew Blanchard.


Capitol Police watchdog flags training contractor’s use of Nazi-adjacent symbols” via Chris Marquette of Roll Call — Capitol Police spent $90,075 of taxpayer dollars in 2018 and 2019 to train its specialized Containment Emergency Response Team with Northern Red Inc., a company that publicly displays symbols often associated with the White supremacist movement. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton discovered the symbols as part of his review into the Jan. 6 insurrection and has recommended the department “review the appropriateness of utilizing Northern Red, Inc. for further training,” according to an advisory report shared with acting Chief Yogananda Pittman and other department officials. CQ Roll Call obtained a copy of that report, which has not been publicly released.

Northern Red’s signature patch has some claiming it has White supremacist ties.


Crist lands victory on $25M for Pinellas infrastructure projects” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Crist is celebrating the inclusion of $25 million for Pinellas County in the proposed INVEST in America Act. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee received more than 2,000 Member Designated Project Requests, and all four of Crist’s requested projects were approved for full funding, totaling nearly $25 million for Pinellas. The projects include $6 million for solar panels and electric charging infrastructure for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s growing fleet of electric buses; $4.48 million for preservation, maintenance and renovations to the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge; $8 million for renovation and expansion of the Dunedin Causeway; and $6 million for the construction of a trail overpass along the Duke Energy Trail at State Road 60.


Miami Mayor’s reelection bid breaks $3.5M in fundraising as hedge funds give big” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez raised $1 million in political contributions in May. Two political committees affiliated with Suarez reported $1,027,480 in contributions last month, putting his fundraising total at about $3.7 million six months before the November election. Since January, a string of investors, tech executives, and local real estate development interests have pumped large sums into the mayor’s reelection bid every month. Campaign finance reports posted on Thursday show that in May, the largest single contribution of $150,000 came from Joseph DaGrosa, chairman of Miami-based private equity firm DaGrosa Capital Partners, the firm that recently hired Suarez as a senior operating partner.

Copley Gerdes jumps into St. Pete City Council District 1 race” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Gerdes will run for St. Petersburg City Council, District 1, he announced Friday. Gerdes, the son of former District 1 representative Charlie Gerdes, is running to replace Robert Blackmon, who is leaving office to run for Mayor. “I’ve had lots of conversations with civic, political, and business leaders around the city over the past few weeks. Their encouragement helped me come to this decision, and I’m humbled by their offer of support,” Copley Gerdes said. Gerdes enters the race with support from incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Copley Gerdes makes it official; he is running for his dad’s old seat.

Marjorie Taylor Greene to headline Hillsborough GOP dinner this summer” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Greene, the freshman lawmaker from Georgia who once suggested the Parkland shooting was a false flag operation, will headline the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner in August. The local party sent out a “save the date” email for the event to its supporters, along with a bio for Greene that says the Republican is “doing exactly what she said she would do on the campaign trail: fighting to Save America and Stop Socialism.” Under Jim Waurishuk, the local Republican Party has become one of the most pro-Trump organizations in the state, energizing the party’s pro-Trump faithful. However, the approach has led to a loss of financial support from many local Republicans, and the GOP has lost significant ground in local elections.

Could Tampa Bay’s Red Tide be connected to Piney Point disaster?” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — Red Tide has come to Tampa Bay. A patchy bloom suspected to be the reason for fish kills on the Pinellas coast and around Port Manatee showed up two months after 215 million gallons of wastewater were pumped into the estuary from an old fertilizer plant site. People already have suspicions. But can anyone know for sure whether harmful algae are feasting upon pollution from Piney Point? “Nutrient chemistry in seawater is a complex issue, and this is certainly true for Tampa Bay,” said University of South Florida chemical oceanography professor Kristen Buck, who took samples after the Piney Point release. “At this point, we simply do not have data to support a direct cause-and-effect relationship.”

He rose from slavery to state Senate. His grave and hundreds more may lie under a parking lot.” via Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — Robert Meacham worked to register Black voters and pass the 1868 state constitution that he promised was made “not for the White man, not for the Black man, but for the people.” As a state senator in charge of the education committee, he helped establish Florida’s public school system. Yet Meacham may lie under a Tampa parking lot, just outside an Italian cemetery, among more than 1,000 unmarked and forgotten graves of Black people. College Hill Cemetery, where Meacham may lie, became city property in the 1900s and eventually went to the local Italian Club.

‘Keep fighting’: Scott Maddox coordinated with J.T. Burnette in medical marijuana vote” via Jeffrey Schweers of the USA TODAY Network Florida — A recently disclosed text exchange with real estate mogul Burnette shows former Tallahassee Commissioner Maddox boasting that he saved a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. … That and several other text messages from 2014 to 2018 point to a larger role by Burnette … — telling Maddox how much was needed to invest in the company and that he’d be willing to “talk to anyone” to help Maddox out.

What Husein Cumber is reading — “Indian River County approves settlement with Brightline, ends lawsuit over safety improvements” via Colleen Wixon of TC Palm — The county’s fight against Brightline is over. County Commissioners agreed Tuesday unanimously to drop Indian River’s lawsuit against the railroad in exchange for about $31.6 million in safety improvements at the 32 rail crossings across the county. Brightline and the Florida Department of Transportation will be for the crossing upgrades. Commissioners said the county had spent about $5 million in legal fees fighting Brightline’s plans for the higher-speed train project. Brightline officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday but are to attend a news conference with county officials and state Sen. Debbie Mayfield at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Personnel note: Karen McAllister joins JEA comms team — JEA expanded its communications team last week with McAllister as its new media relations manager. McAllister most recently worked as the lead public relations strategist for insurance brokerage Advocate Health Advisors, where she was tasked with prepping news releases and developing messaging strategies. Her resume also includes a stretch at AT&T, strategic development and tactical planning of media relations in Florida media markets, including Tampa Bay, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. She previously led digital news teams and audience engagement for the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times.

Media relations veteran Karen McAllister joins the JEA.

City of Brooksville accidentally sells its water tower” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — The buyer, Bobby Read, agreed to deed the tower back to Brooksville after the mistake was made. Read asked about the small building with a garage at the water tower’s base. It had been used as storage for various city departments, but Read was hoping to use it as a gym. City Council member Blake Bell said he was told that during the sale’s closing, which was May 5, Read told city officials he thought the legal description was more extensive than what he was buying. When Read went to the Hernando County Property Appraiser’s office to get an address for his new business location, he was told that the parcel he bought included the entire water tower site.

Sheriff: Florida supermarket shooter made Facebook threats” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — The gunman who stalked and then fatally shot a grandmother and her 1-year-old grandson inside a Florida supermarket had been threatening to kill people, including children, on his Facebook page but no one reported him, a Florida sheriff said Friday. Timothy Wall had been making the threats for some time before he walked into a Publix in Royal Palm Beach on Thursday, stalked his victims in the produce aisle before first shooting the child and then the woman before killing himself, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his detectives said. If somebody had let us know who he is, we would have contacted him, seen if he has got a gun, gotten him into mental health, and you wouldn’t have two people dead,” Bradshaw said. “This didn’t have to happen.”

Palm Beach billionaires’ fix for sinking megamansions: Build bigger” via Prashant Gopal and Amanda L. Gordon of Bloomberg — Thomas Peterffy became one of the world’s richest people by mastering risk on Wall Street. Building his Mediterranean-style mansion seven years ago on a vulnerable stretch of Florida’s Palm Beach Island was a matter of seeing the odds clearly once again. The consequences of climate change will play out over decades, and Peterffy is 76 years old. “I don’t have a care about it at all,” he said over lunch at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, just down the street from his home. The founder of Interactive Brokers Group has a fortune of more than $21 billion. “If something needs to be done to save it,” he added, “it’s not going to be my problem.” During the first quarter of this year, homes at high risk of flooding sold for a record 13.6% premium over less risky homes.


Marco Rubio’s Faustian bargain” via Mac Stipanovich for Florida Politics — The much-anticipated U.S. Senate race in Florida between Rubio and the Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Demings is on. And it bids fair to be the highest-profile contest in the country in the struggle for control of the Senate. One of the more interesting aspects of this matchup is how Rubio arrived at this critical time and place. It was not by paying his dues. No, he made a deal with the devil to get here. There is not space here to detail all of the times a seemingly resolute Rubio has folded under pressure. It is DeSantis who may save Rubio from metaphorical mercy killing at the hands of Demings that would spare him six more years of the continued contempt of his fellow citizens.


Florida is among the last holdouts against expanding Medicaid. Why? It starts with an O” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Enough with the Obama excuse, Florida Legislature. In the past 14 months of this pandemic, we’ve seen that access to health care and decent insurance is critical. We’ve seen the virus disproportionately hurt minority and low-income communities, and those inequities have been worsened by the systematic kneecapping of Florida’s own public-health system through years of cuts. But Republican state lawmakers — who control the Legislature — are continuing to flat-out refuse to help some 964,000 Floridians get insurance by broadening who qualifies for Medicaid because that would mean accepting federal money associated with the Obama administration and its Affordable Care Act.

Florida Democrats can fall for DeSantis’ bait, or they can try to win. They can’t do both” via Mac Stipanovich of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis is working indefatigably to define the 2022 gubernatorial election as a culture war, specifically, as he said in a recent interview, a war against cultural Marxism, a meaningless phrase that never fails to trigger a Pavlovian response of fear and outrage among the MAGA faithful. He views that as just a way station on his road to the White House in 2024, which is why he has been furiously padding his right-wing résumé since Trump’s defeat in November and his failed coup attempt on Jan. 6. If the Democrats accept DeSantis’ definition of the election, if they let it be an argument about racism, sexuality and socialism, if they charge the red cape, then DeSantis will put them down as sure as God made little green apples.

Big deal: Orange County stands up to tourism industry on taxes” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando has grown up a lot in the past few decades. But in many ways, this community is still a small town — a company town where tourism bosses still call the shots. This past week, though, Orange County took a big step toward growing up. It happened inside the County Commission chambers where — for the first time I can recall in more than two decades of covering this community — a majority of elected officials stood up to this town’s tourism interests and said: Enough. We’re tired of using so many tax dollars to pad your profit margins. We have other needs. It was a big darn deal.

Democrats’ censure is a step down a troubling road” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — No one could remember the last time a local political party censured elected officials from its own ranks. The Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly on June 3 to scold four School Board members who voted to remove the words “White privilege” from an equity statement that turned contentious — never mind that School Board elections are nonpartisan. Two of those targeted members, Frank Barbieri and Barbara McQuinn, promptly announced they would quit the Democratic Party. Have we entered a new era of political orthodoxy? Let’s hope the answer is no. Because it can be nothing but unhealthy for an American political party to insist upon a “correct” viewpoint or else.


A federal judge has scheduled a hearing to discuss the legality of Florida’s new law punishing social media companies that de-platform politicians for lying and spreading disinformation.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The lawsuit challenging Florida’s new social media law was filed by the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice — two groups that stand for online companies.

— Gov. DeSantis signs a new law designed to limit the amount of money insurance companies have to pay for roof repairs and legal fees.

— DeSantis is right when he talks about the ups and downs of the insurance market. As in, your coverage is going down and your premiums going up. This new law will not change that, but the insurance companies like it.

— The COVID-19 relief bill known as the American Rescue Act includes $4 billion in debt relief to help minority farmers. Agriculture Commissioner Fried says that could help as many as 17,000 minority farmers … but White farmers are trying to stop it.

— Fried says the best thing about that lawsuit is that it will create a national forum to air the grievances of Black farmers about discrimination, past and present.

— And finally, a Florida Man signed over the deed for the water tower in Brooksville after the city council sold it to him by accident.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

What Sydney Ridley is reading —ZooTampa announces birth of southern white rhino” via The Associated Press — Officials at ZooTampa at Lowry Park announced the birth of a southern white rhino, the eighth to be born in Tampa as part of a plan to help species. ZooTampa officials said the baby was born to a 20-year-old rhino named Alake last week. The female calf has not been named yet, but both baby and mother are healthy and doing well. “The baby rhino appears to be strong and is nursing alongside her mother,” the zoo said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Saturday. Alake was paired with the only adult male in the Tampa zoo, Ongava. Their calf will join the crash, or group of rhinos, in the coming weeks, zoo officials said. Visitors will be able to see the baby rhino in the new Expedition Wild Africa attraction, set to open soon.

Welcome to the world: A baby white rhino is born at ZooTampa.

Recreational bay scallop season kicks off as biologists work to maintain population” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The state’s biologists have worked to bring back bay scallop populations by doing everything from population monitoring to a Scallop Sitter program. The efforts worked well enough to allow selective recreational scalloping in some parts of the state. In recent decades, declining bay scallop populations mean the activity is closely monitored by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Recreational bay scalloping is only allowed between the Hernando-Pasco County line north to Mexico Beach. Each region has its own dates. The Fenholloway River through the Suwannee River opens June 15 and will remain open through Labor Day.

Tarpon Springs High band to march again in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Talk about keeping a secret. Tarpon Springs High band director Kevin Ford applied in winter 2020 for the school’s Outdoor Performance Ensemble to march in the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The group made the cut, and event officials were preparing to visit the north Pinellas County campus with the news when the pandemic hit. They never came. Until Saturday, that is, to announce the band’s selection as one of 10 to take the 2.5-mile trek through Manhattan in the 2022 parade. Students learned of their selection during an afternoon “icebreaker rehearsal” for new members and their families. Macy’s gives bands 18 months advance notice so they can raise funds and prepare for the high-profile televised activity.

Winning auction bid to fly in space with Jeff Bezos: $28M” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — An auction for a ride into space next month alongside Bezos and his brother ended with a winning $28 million bid. The Amazon founder’s rocket company, Blue Origin, did not disclose the winner’s name following the live online auction. In a couple of weeks, the identity will be revealed closer to the brief up-and-down flight from West Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing. It will be the first launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket with people on board, kicking off the company’s space tourism business. Fifteen previous test flights of the reusable rocket and capsule since 2015 — short hops lasting about 10 minutes — were all successful.


Best wishes to Josh Aubuchon of Delegal Aubuchon Consulting, Alex Castellanos of Purple Strategies, Courtney DeSistoAnnette Hansford, Foyt Ralston, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith. Belated happy birthday wishes to former Sen. David Simmons, the fantastic Sally Bradshaw, Ron BriseHusein Cumber, our dear friend, the smart, fiery, and funny Allison Carvajal, Matt Lettelier of the St. Pete Chamber, Margie Menzel, and Rick Minor. 


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.

One comment

  • Ron Ogden`

    June 14, 2021 at 8:48 am

    “Florida needs Charlie Crist’s heart and commitment, and that’s why I’m excited to endorse him,” Ben Diamond said.

    Kindly reminding Mr. Diamond that Charlie was a committed Republican for years until it suited him to abandon that relationship. As far as his heart is concerned, I would rather have a Congressman with a reputation for brains.

Comments are closed.


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