Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.16.21

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Don't miss your first look at stories driving today's agenda in Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Suncoast Tiger Bay Club is holding its Annual Legislative Wrap Up with the Pinellas County delegation today, and yours truly will serve as moderator.

The event will feature Sens. Jeff Brandes and Darryl Rouson as well as Reps. Ben Diamond, Traci Koster, Chris Latvala and Michele Rayner, who will discuss what went down during the 2021 Legislative Session and the Special Session that followed.

We’ll also discuss the wins, opportunities, and ongoing challenges facing each of them in Tallahassee. 

The event runs from noon to 1 p.m. on Zoom. Attendees will have an opportunity to submit questions and I’ll pass them on to the lawmakers.

Wrap Up tickets are free for members and $5 for nonmembers, though Suncoast Tiger Bay Club encourages those who can to chip in a $25 donation — ticket sales will be used to support continuing programming for the Young Tigers Scholarship Program.

Registration is available online.


The Sunshine State is getting its own 24-hour news network.

The E.W. Scripps Company announced the launch of The Florida 24 Network, which will be beamed out through apps on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV streaming devices.

The Florida 24 Network will feature coverage from Scripps’ TV stations in Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Tallahassee and Fort Myers markets.

The company said the network will cover the “issues most essential to Floridians,” such as tourism, wildlife, beaches, lifestyle and agriculture. And yes, politics too.

Meteorologists from each market will also contribute frequent weather updates, focusing on tropical weather during hurricane season.

All Florida, all the time

“Scripps is committed to serving both longtime Florida residents and newcomers with the authentic and hyperlocal journalism we know is essential to people’s lives,” Scripps Local Media president Brian Lawlor said. “The launch of the Florida 24 Network is the evolution of our longtime commitment to our Florida audiences and advertisers. We know our local business partners are eager to reach TV consumers via OTT.”

Scripps said it will pull in staff from its stations across the country. Nicole Wolfe of WSFL in Miami has been tapped as news director, and Matt Borek of WFTS in Tampa will serve as The Florida 24 Network senior director of digital.

Statewide investigative reporter Katie LaGrone and Florida State Capitol reporter Forrest Saunders will feature prominently.

“The pandemic has taught us a lot about the ways in which our newsrooms are able to collaborate to produce high-quality news and information in a remote environment,” Lawlor said. “The Florida 24 Network captures those learnings with the same commitment to essential journalism for which Florida residents have known Scripps for many years.”


@DaveWeigel: I still feel like “GOP guy will speak out against (Donald) Trump” stories get too much attention relative to their importance in GOP politics. Remember how Paul Ryan gave a speech about moving past Trump? No, you don’t. It was last month.

@JeremyHerb: I asked former WH chief of staff Mark Meadows if it was appropriate for him to email acting AG (Jeff) Rosen pushing election claims. “I’ll let you answer that,” he said, leaving the Senate dining room. “Obviously, I’m not going to comment on anything that may or may not have happened.”

—@Liz_Cheney: On January 6, as the violent mob advanced on the House chamber, I was standing near @RepGosar and helped him open his gas mask. The Capitol Police led us to safety. It is disgusting and despicable to see Gosar lie about that day and smear the men and women who defended us.

@nxthompson: If you’re vaccinated, the variants aren’t much of a threat. If you’re not vaccinated, you face a much more dangerous coronavirus than a year ago.

Tweet, tweet:

@JReinerMD: People reluctant to get vaccinated will only listen to those they trust. So the 42% of Republicans who say they will not get vaccinated, or are still deciding, need to hear from Republican leaders. Yet, there is mostly silence. This is a massive dereliction of duty.

@FarnoushAmiri: In a huge departure, @AP will no longer name suspects in brief stories about minor crimes in which there is little chance AP will provide coverage beyond the initial arrest. This is an effort to minimize harm on suspects’ who later gain employment or just move on in their lives.

@AndreaGainey: People have no idea the positive they can often miss out on because they either 1. Won’t forgive the mistake. 2. Won’t admit a mistake was made. When I’m in the position to forgive, I try to always remember how many people I pray offer me the same 2nd chance when I screw up.

@zeitchikWaPo: Expressing public excitement about the arrival of Ted Lasso screeners seems like a very unhumble, un-Lasso-like thing to do, and yet Lasso love dictates no other response. Damn you and your beautiful contradictions, Ted Lasso.


Father’s Day — 4; Amazon Prime Day — 5; New York City Mayoral Primary — 6; Microsoft reveals major Windows update — 8; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 9; Bruce Springsteen revives solo show, “Springsteen on Broadway” — 10; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 15; Fourth of July — 18; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 23; MLB All-Star Game — 27; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 34; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 37; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 37; the NBA Draft — 47; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 49; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 55; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 63; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 69; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 78; NFL regular season begins — 85; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 90; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 96; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 100; ‘Dune’ premieres — 107; MLB regular season ends — 109; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 114; World Series Game 1 — 133; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 139; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 139; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 142; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 156; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 163; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 177; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 187; NFL season ends — 207; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 209; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 209; NFL playoffs begin — 213; Super Bowl LVI — 242; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 282; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 324; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 351; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 387; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 478; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 513.


Report: Americans support pathway to citizenship for most immigrants” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A new report shows that nine in 10 undocumented immigrants are part of groups that most U.S. citizens believe should have a pathway to citizenship. The report finds that voters, regardless of political affiliation, would support legislation allowing immigrants in the country for at least 10 years, have a child or spouse who is a citizen, or seek asylum to achieve citizenship. Support is also strong in battleground states. Polling found about three-quarters of voters favor providing a pathway to U.S. citizenship to most subsets of immigrants. The only groups to fall short of that threshold are asylum-seekers (71%) and undocumented immigrants who hold Temporary Protected Status (68%).

Most immigrants should have a pathway to citizenship, a new poll of Americans found. Image via AP.

— 2022 —

Florida GOP under fire for tweet accusing Democrats of antisemitism” via Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout of POLITICO — The Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday night tried to brand 2022 statewide Democratic candidates “anti semitic” in a now-deleted tweet — a move that drew immediate backlash and prompted the party to delete the post on social media and claim it was a “typo.” Included in the GOP’s post was gubernatorial candidate and Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is Jewish. The Florida GOP’s tweet included a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to defend Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota who is Muslim and recently criticized by a handful of Democrats for equating Israel with the Taliban and Hamas. In the video, Pelosi did not mention any Florida-elected officials. But the Florida GOP’s tweet included Fried and Rep. Charlie Crist, both of whom are challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, and Rep. Val Demings, who is running against GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

Ron DeSantis to keynote Faith and Family Coalition event” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor, who continues to get talked up as a 2024 presidential contender, will headline the “Road to Majority” event. The Faith and Family Coalition event runs on Jun. 17-19 at the Gaylord Palms Resort. Expect a pro-DeSantis crowd at what is billed the “premier grassroots conservative policy conference.” Speeches from DeSantis and the rest will stream, via the Fox Nation service. It will be the second major Orlando speech for DeSantis this year; he also offered remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2021.

—”DeSantis continues to dance around 2024 questions” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Nikki Fried’s marijuana-money conflicts are too big, plentiful to ignore” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Sentinel recently revealed troubling details about Fried’s personal financial connections to the cannabis industry her office helps regulate. She’s personally invested in one of the state’s few licensed marijuana providers. Her fiance is an investor in one of only 17 hemp extractors in Florida permitted by her department. And she made money lobbying for the industry before she took office, money she didn’t fully disclose until the Sentinel started asking questions. All that stinks worse than an unwashed bong. Either make money off cannabis or regulate cannabis. Don’t do both.

Nikki Fried’s ties to marijuana interests could be a problem on the campaign trail. Image via Twitter.

Marco Rubio’s play for anti-China votevia Lachlan Markay of Axios — Rubio is making a play for China hawks in Florida as he braces for a competitive reelection fight next year, records show. Why it matters: Hostility toward communism drove a significant number of Latino voters in Florida into the Republican column in 2020. The Rubio campaign’s focus on China can capitalize on that trend and a wider — and widening — American mistrust of Beijing. What’s new: Rubio allies have spent the past year quietly building a list of voters motivated by anti-China sentiment. Now his campaign is openly hitting up their inboxes. Rubio campaign emails with subject lines such as, ‘Dems <3 China,’ and, ‘Is it time to stand up to Communist China?’ have started going out to a list maintained by a nonprofit group called Stand Up to China.

—”Rubio pleads for campaign donations on Fox News Radio” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Rick Scott downplays Val Demings’ Senate chances” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Save the date:

Ben Diamond rakes in endorsements from Pinellas Democrats” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rep. Diamond has raked in several endorsements from notable Pinellas County Democrats in his bid for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Diamond’s supporters include Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard and Janet Long, who also joined Diamond for his campaign announcement. “We have tremendous needs in Pinellas for improved infrastructure and more robust transit,” Gerard said in a statement. Diamond also received endorsements from St. Pete City Council members Gina Driscoll, Amy Foster, and Brandi Gabbard. Diamond faces Eric Lynn, a former national security adviser in former President Barack Obama’s administration, and fellow state Rep. Rayner.

Adam Anderson pulls support from entire Pinellas County Republican Legislative Delegation” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Anderson, a candidate for House District 65, is getting backing from all members of the Pinellas County Republican Legislative Delegation as he campaigns to succeed current House Speaker Chris Sprowls. The list of endorsers include Sens. Brandes and Ed Hooper, as well as Reps. Nick DiCeglie and Latvala.  Brandes credited his endorsement to Anderson’s experience as a small business owner, and Hooper cited the candidate’s support for the first responder community. “Voters want their government to be more innovative, adaptable, and efficient. To achieve these goals, we need leaders like Adam Anderson,” Brandes said in a statement.

—“Kathleen Peters endorses Berny Jacques’ HD 66 bid” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics

Berny Jacques nabs more notable endorsements.

Kim Berfield becomes 2nd Republican to join HD 67 race” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former state Rep. Berfield is officially seeking a return to Tallahassee. The Republican former lawmaker filed Friday to run for House District 67. Berfield previously served in what was at the time House District 50 from 2000 to 2006. She left office in 2006 after she ran unsuccessfully for the Florida Senate, losing in the General Election to Democrat Charlie Justice. Berfield will face fellow Republican Jason Holloway in the Republican Primary to succeed incumbent Republican Chris Latvala, who is not seeking reelection due to term limits. She currently serves as the vice president of government affairs and community health at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, a position she has held since 2017.

Miami-Dade Democratic Party Treasurer Evan Shields joins HD 100 contest” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Shields, a businessman who serves as Treasurer for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, will be the fourth Democrat to file in the House District 100 race to replace Rep. Joe Geller. Geller is barred from running again due to term limits. With the seat open in 2022, Shields and his Democratic rivals are taking advantage. “At the end of the day, I think I provide a really diverse set of experiences as a business leader, as an educator, as an activist,” Shields told Florida Politics about his run. Shields will compete in the Democratic primary against LGBTQ rights activist Todd Delmay, Bay Harbor Islands Council Member Jordan W. Leonard and Clay Miller, who serves as Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr’s legislative director.

Is 2022 the year Florida parents wake up to school board politics?” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — In most Florida counties, school districts are the biggest employers, running multimillion- and even billion-dollar budgets while controlling issues that impact families and children daily. Yet, their profile has remained low, with many parents and taxpayers taking the system for granted. The pandemic is changing all that. Sitting on the Sarasota County School Board since 2014, Bridget Ziegler often has found herself fighting a lone conservative battle against some of the policies and initiatives she sought election to challenge.

Poll shows where to find swing voters: Online” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — A new survey commissioned by one of the leading Democratic digital advertising firms argues that the party can reach more swing voters online. The poll, conducted by the firm HIT Strategies for Rising Tide Interactive, measures the entertainment and media consumption of 600 “persuadable likely voters” spread out among a dozen politically competitive states. It shows that digital adoption is increasing even among older swing voters, as is the frequency of online media use, from streaming video to gaming to social media. Despite winning the presidency, the Senate, and the House in the last election, professional Democrats are engaged in a series of reviews of the party’s tactics, examining its polling failures, messaging struggles, and tactical missteps.


In early clash of rivals, DeSantis, Fried spar over rule governing police funding” via John Kennedy of the Tallahassee Democrat — A heated exchange over a provision of Florida’s new law responding to Black Lives Matter protests sparked the first publicly tense moment between DeSantis and Fried since the Agriculture Commissioner announced she is challenging the Republican Governor. Seated two seats apart on the Florida Cabinet dais, Fried questioned DeSantis over a Cabinet rule implementing part of the new law that gives city commissioners or a local state attorney authority to challenge any move by local government seen as reducing police budgets. “We all support our law enforcement officers and the difficult job that they have to do, but this is straight-up hypocritical interference,” Fried said. DeSantis was quick to fire back — saying he didn’t remember “people talking about defunding the police” during that election campaign.

—“Fried to DeSantis: ‘Who is really the big-government bureaucrat?’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics 

So which one is the big-government bureaucrat?

Gov. DeSantis could bypass Cabinet on DEP pick” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — In what would be a precedent-setting action, DeSantis indicated he might only need the approval of an appointee from the Legislature. During a Cabinet meeting, the issue came up when Fried asked about plans to replace former DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “It’s an executive appointment,” DeSantis initially replied. “So, that’s our prerogative, and we’ll do it when we want to, and we’ll let folks know about it.” When Fried said the appointment requires Cabinet approval, DeSantis disagreed. “I think if you actually look at the Constitution, it says either the Cabinet or the Legislature, the Senate,” DeSantis said. “The statute said both, but there’s an argument that it conflicts and that it would be one or the other.”

>>>We’re hearing that state Rep. Toby Overdorf is interested in serving as the next Sec’y of DEP.

DeSantis dubs Big Tech bill state’s most interesting legal battle” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Silicon Valley is challenging Florida’s social media de-platforming bill, and DeSantis is looking forward to the legal battle. Florida faces a series of lawsuits over recent policies, including an anti-rioting bill and reopening cruise ships. But the “most interesting,” the Republican Governor said Tuesday, is the lawsuit to torpedo one of his priorities, a law (SB 7072) limiting social media’s control over what appears on their platforms. “This is really new ground that we’re trotting,” DeSantis said after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. The lawsuit, which contests the state’s view that social media platforms should be treated like common carriers and not private companies, could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Florida misses deadline on federal schools money” via News Service of Florida — Florida is among 21 states that have not submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education detailing how they intend to use the latest round of federal stimulus funds earmarked for schools. The state missed the June 7 deadline to submit its plan, citing a delay “due to (the) Legislative Session and required State Board review,” according to the federal agency. Florida has been allocated more than $7 billion under the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, out of nearly $122 billion being distributed. But the U.S. Department of Education is withholding a third of the funds earmarked for Florida until the state submits a plan and gets approval.

Jeanette Núñez says more must be done to stop Florida’s ‘disturbing’ rise in human trafficking cases” via CBS Miami — Florida Lt. Gov. Núñez, at a roundtable at Miami Dade College, weighed in on the alarming number of human trafficking cases on the rise in the state. She said Florida ranks among the third highest in the number of human trafficking cases reported across the country, and more must be done to stop these crimes. “When you look at the impact it’s having on our state, in Florida, what I can tell you is that Florida ranks third in terms of the national trafficking hotline,” she said.

Jeanette Núñez is concerned by the rise in human trafficking.

Ashley Moody says thank you to Perry law enforcement as part of Thin Line Tribute initiative” via Emma Wheeler of WCTV — Saying thank you to real-life heroes: Moody recognized police officers in Perry Monday morning. The initiative is called the Thin Line Tribute. It’s a special thank you that, she says, goes beyond awards or accolades. Perry Police Chief Jamie Cruse says a visit like this from a state leader is unusual but refreshing. “Signing up to protect others at your own safety and risk is a calling,” Moody said, saying thank you to the men and women following that calling. February 5, 2014, is a day that Cruse will never forget. An employee of the Timberland Ford drove through the dealership showroom and opened fire. Taylor County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Lundy was shot before killing the gunman. It’s this kind of sacrifice and dedication that Attorney General Moody hopes to recognize with Thin Line Tribute.

Jimmy Patronis calls on state to explore consumer protections against subscription services” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis is calling on the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) to explore measures that may protect consumers from the automatic renewal fees associated with subscription-based services. In a letter sent Tuesday to OFR Commissioner Russell Weigel, Patronis tasked the office to research and develop recommendations to address “negative option billing,” a system by which a consumer’s inaction is considered consent for renewal. In a statement, Patronis criticized subscription companies that make service termination “suspiciously difficult” for consumers. “Opting out of recurring billing should be easier, plain and simple,” Patronis said. In recent years, consumers have increasingly used subscription services for television, music, video games and more.

Patronis, Cabinet recognize June as Florida Safety Month — CFO Patronis and the Cabinet today presented the Florida Chamber Safety Council with a resolution recognizing June as the official safety month in Florida. “On behalf of business leaders from every corner of Florida, I would like to thank CFO Patronis and the Florida Cabinet for sharing our vision for Florida’s future and for placing an emphasis on safety in the workplace,” said Florida Chamber Safety Council President Katie Yeutter. Founded in June 2020, the Florida Chamber Safety Council serves as the official state chapter of the National Safety Council and is Florida’s leading provider of workplace safety training and promotes policies, practices, and procedures to increase workplace safety.

Learners to Earners Summit: Florida’s future hinges on workforce development” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida’s economy could become the 10th largest in the world over the next decade, but only if its workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. “Everything in Florida depends on talent,” Florida Chamber of Commerce president Mark Wilson said. He and Florida Chamber Foundation SVP Kyle Baltuch stressed the importance of workforce development during their opening remarks at the Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit in Orlando. “If you only hear me say one thing, it would be … we don’t have an unemployment problem; we have a skills gap problem,” Wilson said. That was true before COVID-19, and the pandemic only “amplified” it. “It’s not only the No. 1 issue; it’s the issue that I hear about when my phone rings.”

Learners to Earners Summit: ‘Soft skills’ in demand as employers fight for workers” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida currently has more job openings than job seekers, and the state’s workforce system has had to adapt to help businesses fill those positions. “The last year has been pivotal for the workforce system,” CareerSource Florida president Michelle Dennard said. “The workforce system provided over 60,000 services to businesses over the last year.” Denard led a panel on how the state’s workforce system has adapted over the past year to help job seekers find work and, increasingly, help businesses stand out in a crowded job market. One of the reasons is that many former tourism workers, particularly in Central Florida, have been transitioning to jobs in logistics, health care or public safety.

Learners to Earners Summit: Adult education may remedy workforce shortage” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — What do educational leaders, military veterans and state prison officials have in common? They want Florida’s business community to get more involved. They need input to align the skills of their populations to workforce needs. “My plea to the business community is to join the school districts, join the state colleges, join the local workforce development boards, join the Chambers in addressing adult education,” Department of Education Division of Career and Adult Education Chancellor Henry Mack. Veterans Florida Program Director Jeremy Sinnemaki encouraged job creators to consider nontraditional applicants. Sinnemaki stressed that veterans often possess translatable skills. Meanwhile, Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch highlighted efforts to develop the incarcerated population, including through education and job skills programs.

Learners 2 Earners: Nearly everyone agrees that education is key to preparing Florida’s workforce for the future.

Florida Chamber Foundation adds Nemours Children’s Health as community development partner — The Florida Chamber Foundation announced Nemours Children’s Health’s expanded efforts as the newest Florida Chamber Foundation Community Development Partner. “The business leaders and futurists who make up the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Community Development Partners play an essential role in uniting Florida’s job creators across all industries as we prepare for 2030,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Wilson. “Their collective action with philanthropic alignment is guiding the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 Blueprint initiative to secure Florida’s future.” Nemours Children’s Health joins 11 other partners, including CareerSource Florida, Duke Energy, Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, Florida Power & Light, Holland & Knight, PhRMA, Publix, RS&H, TECO Peoples Gas, Third Lake Partners, and Wells Fargo.

Florida property insurance is a sea of red ink” via Mike Vogel of Florida Trend — The Legislature passed a bill in its 2021 Session that allows for Citizens Property Insurance, the provider of last resort, to raise its premiums by as much as 15% a year instead of the current maximum of 10%. The law also includes measures to blunt the onslaught of litigation responsible for the losses and the resulting rate increases. Insurers blame unscrupulous contractors canvassing neighborhoods and soliciting homeowners to file unwarranted claims. The insurers also fault attorneys and state law and Supreme Court decisions that allow attorneys for property owners to collect their standard fees — and sometimes multipliers on top of those fees — from insurers when they win, but not the other way when they lose.

Florida hurricane season 2021: The good news and bad news” via Mike Vogel of Florida Trend — Florida’s a national leader when it comes to its statewide building code, the nation’s strongest for windstorms. Since Florida adopted the statewide code in 2002, builders have pulled some 1.59 million single-family home building permits — equal to 28% of the state’s single-family homes. The statewide code is “making the entire state much safer,” says Miami engineer John Pistorino, who has consulted with Florida government bodies for decades on building codes. The hardening of Florida shouldn’t be overstated — upward of 70% of Florida houses don’t meet current code. Pre-code homes, in fact, could do worse as they deteriorate with age. The older the home or roof, the harder it is to find an insurer willing to take it.


DeSantis downplays COVID-19 variant” via The News Service of Florida — As the CDC labeled the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus a “variant of concern,” DeSantis downplayed the potential impact it could have on the state. DeSantis avoided directly answering a reporter’s question about whether the state needs to do more to prepare for the Delta variant. “There’s been a lot of talk about variants leading up to this,” DeSantis said after a state Cabinet meeting. “I think it gets put out there in ways designed to frighten people.” The Governor noted that a recent U.K. study showed that vaccines aren’t as effective against symptomatic infection from the Delta variant but that two doses of the vaccines are still effective in reducing hospitalizations. The study showed that the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer was 96% effective against hospitalizations from the Delta variant.

‘I don’t think it’s going to go up anywhere like it did last summer because we have so much immunity,’ DeSantis says.

Florida nursing homes see spike in COVID-19 cases” via Hannah Critchfield of the Tampa Bay Times — Coronavirus infections among people living in nursing homes are on the rise in Florida, despite widespread vaccine availability. Almost 20% of Florida’s nursing homes had new confirmed resident cases in the last month, nearly double the national average, which sits at 10%. As much of the world reopens, seniors living inside these facilities remain at risk, and even those who are vaccinated must bear the brunt of outbreaks in the form of lost visits. The Sunshine State currently ranks third-worst in the country for staff vaccinations at nursing facilities.

—“DeSantis takes credit for cruise ‘movement’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Royal Caribbean cruise ship launch, sailings postponed after crew members test positive for COVID-19” via Bailey Schulz of USA Today — The Odyssey of the Seas initial sailings, which the cruise line had laid out as six- and eight-night Southern and Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, from July 3 to July 31, are being canceled out of an abundance of caution. The ship’s launch will be postponed until July 31, when the first sailing with paying passengers. Four sailings were scrapped in total. A test cruise originally slated by the company to leave in late June is on track to be rescheduled at a date to be later announced. All 1,400 crew members on Odyssey were vaccinated on June 4, but the positive cases were found before the vaccines would be considered fully effective June 18

Royal Caribbean scrubbed the initial sailing of the Odyssey of the Seas. It’s now scheduled for the end of July.

Scoop —Rebekah Jones continues GoFundMe efforts with $300K+ already raised” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Jones is fundraising on GoFundMe again. The COVID-19 dashboard architect-turned-Department of Health whistleblower (and occasional prospective candidate for Congress) has updated a GoFundMe. The fundraising effort now includes links to a Miami Herald feature on her, and she is promoting the page from her new Instagram account. Based on a screenshot shared on her social media on Monday, she’s raised thousands in less than 12 hours, though what the money will be used for remains somewhat unclear. “The truth sets us free, they say,” reads the official summary on her GoFundMe, “But for whistleblowers, the truth can often imprison us.” Jones has dropped a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, though she has indicated she could file a new one.

Miami’s ‘first full open seating event post-COVID-19’ just got canceled because of COVID-19” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — On Saturday night, stars were set to come out in full force for what was being billed as “Miami’s first full open seating event post-COVID” at the newly renamed loanDepot park (formerly Marlins Park). But alas, the pandemic’s not over, people. The Triller Fight Club Event, a rap concert and 12-round match headlined by NYC’s Teofimo Lopez vs. “Ferocious” George Kambosos Jr., of Australia, will now take place later this summer. The reason? Fox Sports 640 radio host Andy Slater tweeted Tuesday afternoon that Lopez tested positive for COVID-19.

Tourism bounces back around Tampa Bay as COVID-19 pandemic eases” via Diti Kohli of the Tampa Bay Times — Since March, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have seen hotel occupancy and tourism tax revenue that rival numbers from 2019, tourism officials said. Visitation statistics and average daily rates for lodging skyrocketed, too, as businesses leave pandemic-era travel and gathering restrictions behind and more Floridians are vaccinated. This April, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater found that Pinellas County made $8.7 million from bed taxes, the fees tacked onto the cost of lodging. That means those communities saw 30% more in returns than in the same month in 2019. According to data from Visit Tampa Bay, tourism tax collections in and around Tampa topped $4 million this May, a 22% increase from the previous monthly pre-pandemic record.


More evidence suggests COVID-19 was in U.S. by Christmas 2019” via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press — A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and largest study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019, weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials. The analysis is not definitive, and some experts remain skeptical, but federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China. “The studies are pretty consistent,” said Natalie Thornburg of the CDC. Such results underscore the need for countries to work together and identify newly emerging viruses as quickly and collaboratively as possible.

Christmas 2019 may have had an unwelcome guest. Image via AP.

Huge disparities in vaccination rates are creating islands of vulnerability across the country” via The Washington Post editorial board — Just as the United States fell into a patchwork of pandemic responses last year, the lifesaving vaccine drive has encountered troublesome zones of indifference and resistance. President Joe Biden’s goal of at least partial vaccination for 70% of Americans by July Fourth now looks to be slipping away. Even more worrisome are persistent islands of vaccine hesitancy in some states and communities that could face renewed illness in the autumn. On Monday, Gov. Phil Scott announced Vermont had become the first state to vaccinate 80% of eligible patients with at least one dose. By contrast, in Mississippi, only 35% of the overall population has received at least one dose.

White House to host July 4 ‘independence from virus’ bash” via The Associated Press — Biden wants to imbue Independence Day with new meaning this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption. Even as the U.S. is set to cross the grim milestone of 600,000 deaths from the virus, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July Fourth will serve as a breakthrough moment in the nation’s recovery. That’s even though the U.S. is not expected to quite reach its goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated by the holiday. As COVID-19 case rates and deaths drop to levels not seen since the first days of the outbreak, travel picks up and schools and businesses reopen, Biden is proclaiming “a summer of freedom” to celebrate Americans resuming their pre-pandemic lives.

96% of doctors are vaccinated against COVID-19” via Bruce Japsen of Forbes — The American Medical Association says 96% of “practicing physicians” have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The AMA said its survey of practicing doctors showed “no significant difference in vaccination rates across regions. “Of the physicians who are not yet vaccinated, an additional 45% do plan to get vaccinated,” the AMA said in a statement accompanying its poll results. The AMA’s policymaking House of Delegates, which meets this weekend, said the survey was conducted last week. The AMA said the vaccination rate its analysis showed was a far greater improvement, or an increase of more than 20% for physicians compared to a May poll.

A third dose of COVID-19 vaccine may help protect immunocompromised patients, small study suggests” via Akshay Syal, MD and Erika Edwards of NBC News — The third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine may boost protection for some people with weakened immune systems. The study, from researchers at Johns Hopkins University, included 30 organ transplant recipients. Despite being fully vaccinated, the vast majority of patients in the study had no antibodies against the coronavirus, and six patients had only low levels. About two weeks after receiving the third dose, their antibody levels were measured again. In patients who had no antibodies to begin with, eight had an increase following their third dose of the vaccine. And in the six patients who started with low levels, all had an increase in antibodies against the coronavirus.

The complaint in some cities as California reopened: What took so long?” via Giulia Heyward of The New York Times — While many Californians were celebrating a fully reopened state, a complaint emerged from some residents and officials in the redder parts: It should have happened a long time ago. “Here in Merced, the majority of people would think that we waited a little too long and were too restrictive,” said Matthew Serratto, the city’s Mayor. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic policies helped fuel a Republican-led recall campaign against him. Some in the state believe Newsom’s latest moves, the reopening date, cash prizes for the vaccinated through a state-financed lottery drawing, have been done to keep voters happy in the run-up to a recall election.

Some Californians wonder why it took so long for Gavin Newsom to reopen the state. Image via AP.

Hawaii’s multistep road to a full reopening begins now” via Hannah Sampson of The Washington Post — Hawaii’s complicated, evolving rules for visitors are changing again, and this time things are getting easier. As of Tuesday, restrictions on traveling between islands in the Aloha State are a thing of the past. Previously, travelers had to get tested before traveling to Kauai, Maui or Hawaii Island from other parts of the state if they wanted to avoid quarantine. “There will be no testing, no quarantine requirements for inter-county travel,” Gov. David Ige said. Ige said at the time that the change was possible because Hawaii was approaching a new milestone of having 55% of the population fully vaccinated.


Retail sales dropped 1.3% in May as pandemic shopping habits shifted” via Sarah Chaney Cambon of The Wall Street Journal — Retail sales dropped in May, marking a shift in consumer spending from big-ticket items to goods and services related to going out amid business reopenings and higher vaccination rates. Consumers cut spending by 1.3% last month, trimming expenditures on autos, furniture, electronics, building materials and other items, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. People spent more on such items throughout the COVID-19 pandemic but are now pulling back. Supply-chain disruptions and higher prices are also crimping sales of long-lasting goods. Americans instead are spending more on services, with restaurants and bars rising 1.8% last month, sending food-service sales beyond pre-pandemic levels.

COVID-19 may have long-term effects on retail. Image via Reuters.

Airbnb says it plans to prevent landlords from profiting off pandemic evictions” via Cat Zakrzewski of The Washington Post — Airbnb is implementing a new policy to prevent landlords from exploiting its service as a federal moratorium on evictions expires this month. Beginning Tuesday, the company will prohibit landlords from listing properties where they evicted a tenant for failure to pay rent. Airbnb says the policy will be in effect at least until the end of the year to ensure that landlords aren’t forcing out renters to profit off short-term rentals during a public health crisis. The company said it will work with cities to identify properties where renters were pushed out after being protected under the moratorium. Cities around the country are bracing for a potential wave of evictions as the federal moratorium expires on June 30. An estimated 14% of adult renters in the United States are behind on payments.


Drop in childhood vaccinations during pandemic may raise risk of other outbreaks when schools reopen, CDC says” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — Routine childhood vaccinations dropped dramatically during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, and although they began rebounding last summer as families rescheduled doctors’ visits, many children and adolescents are behind on their shots. The lag might pose “a serious public health threat” of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as measles and whooping cough, that has the potential to derail school reopenings. With health care systems overburdened, CDC is recommending that providers give coronavirus vaccines on the same day as other vaccines, especially when children and teens are behind or in danger of falling behind on recommended shots.

I miss Portugal — “Portugal reopens to U.S. travelers with negative COVID-19 tests” via Bailey Schultz of USA Today — Portugal is the latest European country to open its borders to U.S. travelers. The country announced that tourists from the U.S. would be permitted to enter the country as long as they provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Travelers 2 years and older must take a nucleic acid amplification test, such as a PCR test, within the last 72 hours before boarding, or a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of boarding. Various COVID-19 restrictions are still in various places across Portugal. Masks are required at beaches while entering and moving around, and visitors must keep at least 1.5 meters (around 5 feet) between their towels while lounging.

Slowly, Portugal is reopening to vaccinated American tourists.

Copa America soccer tournament has seen 41 positive coronavirus tests” via Matt Bonesteel of The Washington Post — Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga told reporters 41 people associated with the Copa America soccer tournament have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Sunday, the first day of games at South America’s top international soccer competition. All 41 positive tests came in Brasilia, where the host nation defeated Venezuela, 3-0, on Sunday to open the tournament. Venezuela was without eight players and three coaches who tested positive for coronavirus upon their arrival in Brazil. Bolivia also had three players and one coach test positive before its 3-1 loss to Paraguay on Monday, and two members of Colombia’s coaching staff tested positive before its 1-0 win over Ecuador on Sunday.

Jon Stewart goes all-in on the lab leak theory” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — It seems ages ago now, but there was a time in which a comedy show guided a substantial portion of our country’s political debate. Stewart cast a spotlight on the absurdities of modern politics like nobody before or since, sharply criticizing the Iraq War, Fox News and the rest of the media, among other pet causes, often with a demeanor that practically screamed, “Are you serious with this stuff?” Stewart rekindled that posture in a segment that seems like a potential inflection point in the debate over the coronavirus’s origins. Appearing on Stephen Colbert’s late-night show, Stewart launched into an animated bit, promoting the coronavirus lab leak theory. Colbert summarized his argument as “a chance” that the lab leak theory was true.


Joe Biden and the G-7 fell short on vaccines” via Ishaan Tharoor of The Washington Post — Biden and the other leaders of the Group of Seven nations styled themselves as champions in the war against the coronavirus. But public health advocates and international organizations are adamant that the steps outlined this past weekend in Cornwall are not big enough. For months, the United States, Britain and Canada practiced vaccine hoarding, amassing stockpiles that helped get more than 50% of their populations at least partially inoculated, even as poorer nations elsewhere had yet to even distribute doses to their medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

The G-7 meeting may not have been as effective on COVID-19 vaccines as expected.

Lobbyist brother of top Biden adviser poses challenge to President’s ethics promises” via Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — When Biden flew to Detroit last month to highlight his infrastructure plans for a new network of electric car-charging stations, a White House official announced on Air Force One that senior counselor Steve Ricchetti had stayed behind to negotiate the bill with Republicans. Left unmentioned was that Ricchetti’s brother, Jeff Ricchetti, was also working on the infrastructure bill as a lobbyist for General Motors, hired to push charging station funding in the House, Senate, and Commerce Department. Under White House ethics guidance, Jeff Ricchetti’s work with GM did not trigger a recusal for his brother because his lobbying targeted a Cabinet agency and not the Executive Office of the President and because the issue of electric charging stations applied broadly to the car industry.


Trump planning July 3 rally in Tampa, report says” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Former President Trump is planning a July 3 rally in Tampa as he seeks to recapture the political spotlight and remain the biggest force in his Republican Party, according to a tweet from a Washington Post reporter. Word of Trump’s potential holiday weekend visit was first reported by Post reporter Josh Dawsey. Trump is also planning a June 26 event in Cleveland, according to Dawsey. Trump, a Florida resident, frequently campaigned in his adopted home state during the 2020 presidential election and has made the state the backdrop to some of the most consequential moments of his political career.

Emails: Donald Trump White House pressured Justice Department to back claims of voter fraud” via Kristine Phillips of USA Today — The Trump White House began to privately pressure then-Deputy Attorney General Rosen to look at allegations of voter fraud just before he was about to step in as acting head of the Justice Department in December and even after then-Attorney General William Barr had publicly acknowledged the agency had found no evidence of widespread fraud that would’ve changed the results of the election. A trove of emails released Tuesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee show a persistent pressure campaign in the days leading up to Jan. 6. The emails also show how top Justice Department officials, unconvinced about the merits of the voter fraud allegations, resisted calls from the White House to investigate the claims.

—“We’re learning more about how Trump leveraged his power to bolster his election fantasies” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post

The White House pressured Jeff Rosen to act on nonexistent voter fraud.

Trump may be banned from Facebook, but he’s still reaching millions — through his family” via Jemima McEvoy of Forbes — Though banned from Facebook for the next two years and Twitter permanently, Trump still benefits from easy access to a large social media audience as he continues to receive boosts from allies, including family members, who help his messaging reach millions every month. Members of the Trump family, including the spouses of his three adult children, earned over 6.3 million interactions on posts and nearly 44 million views on videos shared on Facebook over the past month. The majority of the activity came from three family members, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Lara Trump, who frequently promote Trump’s policies and public appearances on their pages.

‘He’s screwed over so many publishers’: Trump confronts a skeptical book industry” via Daniel Lippman and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Almost five months after leaving office, major publishing houses still are wary of publishing a book by Trump, even though a post-White House memoir would almost assuredly be a bestseller. Their reluctance is driven by several factors, though the underlying fear is that whatever Trump would write wouldn’t be truthful. It’s unheard of for a former U.S. president to struggle to score a major book deal after leaving office. And the absence of Trump’s own words from the literary world is made even more pronounced by the fact that several of his top aides and former Cabinet officials are writing books of their own. There have been rumors and a report that Trump is privately angry over Mike Pence’s book deal.

Trump executive could face charges as soon as this summer” via The New York Times — The Manhattan district attorney’s office appears to have entered the final stages of a criminal tax investigation into Trump’s long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, setting up the possibility he could face charges this summer, according to people with knowledge of the matter. In recent weeks, a grand jury has been hearing evidence about Weisselberg, who is facing intense scrutiny from prosecutors as they seek his cooperation with a broader investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization, the people with knowledge of the matter said.


Proud Boys descended into dysfunction and finger-pointing as members were arrested in U.S. Capitol riot, new messages show” via Marshall Cohen of CNN — Defense attorneys for Ethan Nordean, a leader of the Proud Boys in Washington state, released a rough transcript of the audio messages in a court filing. The FBI, which had seized Nordean’s cellphone, found the audio clips on the Telegram app and produced the transcript. “We are f — ked … they are coming for us,” one member said on February 1 as the national manhunt for Capitol rioters ramped up. Another member said that the situation “completely f — king crashes and burns on us.” The same person went on to criticize other Proud Boys who handled communications and security on January 6, saying, “I mean, f — k, ‘tifa looks like professionals compared to us,” referring to antifa.

After The Capitol riot, the Proud Boys quickly descended into chaos. Image via CNN.

Florida emerges as a cradle of the insurrection as Jan. 6 Capitol riot arrests keep piling up” via Zac Anderson and Dinah Voyles Pulver of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida is tied with Texas for the most individuals facing charges stemming from Jan. 6, with 47 arrests in each state out of the 484 total nationwide. And Florida leads all states in arrests of individuals associated with two far-right groups, the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, that were active in breaching the Capitol. More than 40% of the Oath Keepers arrested on charges stemming from Jan. 6 are from Florida, and about a quarter of the Proud Boys. Florida’s large number of arrests related to Jan. 6 raises concerns about the prevalence of extremist groups and views in the state.

White House unveils strategy to combat domestic terrorism” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Myah Ward of POLITICO — The White House announced a cross-agency strategy to combat domestic terrorism, just two weeks after Biden promised the upcoming release during his remarks commemorating the Tulsa massacre. The effort is the culmination of a review, led by the National Security Council, of how the U.S. government has dealt with the growing threat. It reiterates that militia extremists and racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists are the most lethal and persistent terrorism threat facing the U.S. In a speech at the Justice Department headquarters’ Great Hall, Attorney General Merrick Garland touted the new national strategy. He noted that foreign terrorism remains a threat.


‘Going to be a long winter’: Congress hits snooze on funding the government” via Jennifer Scholtes and Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — The next government shutdown threat is 15 weeks away, and already top lawmakers assume they won’t strike a deal in time to prevent another funding punt. Half a dozen senators on the influential Appropriations Committee seem to have resigned themselves to keeping the government functioning past September using a stopgap funding bill known as a continuing resolution, rather than passing a long-term spending bill. A continuing resolution maintains government funding at current levels to ensure the lights stay on but prevents Congress from making desired adjustments to spending. Congress has failed for well over a decade to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for funding the government. Seldom have lawmakers been so behind in that work as they are this year.

Demings pushes national voting rights bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Demings is taking her shot at crafting new national voting rights law, in part to temper the impact of some of the Republican-led state laws like Florida’s latest elections overhaul. Demings introduced her “Every Vote Counts Act” to address Americans’ rights to “easily, safely and securely cast their votes.” Her federal bill, House Resolution 3867, would preempt state laws. It was unclear how much impact it might have on Florida’s new elections law. Similar laws were pushed through, or are in the works, in other states led by Republicans. Among other provisions, HR 3867 would mandate minimum numbers of drop boxes based on populations and require 24-hour access by voters to those drop boxes. Those provisions likely would expand voting access in Florida beyond what the new state law, SB 90, permits.

Val Demings seeks to make voting more accessible nationwide.

Lois Frankel, colleagues want 90-day extension considered in decision on managing Lake Okeechobee via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post —The new Lake Okeechobee plan could last for a decade or longer. A handful of Florida congressional members, including Frankel, are asking the Army Corps to consider a request for a 90-day extension the plan. Environmental groups say they were excluded from a local meeting.

Assignment editors — Congressman Mike Waltz will join U.S. Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, the American Legion, and No One Left Behind to discuss Afghan Special Immigrant Visas and the evacuation of interpreters for U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, 2 p.m. Eastern time, House Triangle, Washington D.C. To RSVP, email [email protected]


Mackenzie Scott makes large gifts to 3 Florida schools” via The Associated Press — Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Bezos, on Tuesday donated $40 million each to two state universities in Florida that have a history of promoting social mobility and educating students from communities traditionally underserved by higher education, and made a $30 million gift to a community college in South Florida. The philanthropist and her current husband, Dan Jewett, donated to Florida International University in Miami, the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Broward College in Fort Lauderdale. In the case of UCF, the gift was the largest in the school’s 58-year history.

Jeff Bezos’ ex Mackenzie Scott is generous to Florida schools. Image via AP.

Cabinet clears way for Miami-Dade’s highway through Everglades wetlands” via Adriana Brasileiro and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet rejected a legal ruling that loomed as a massive roadblock to Miami-Dade County’s controversial plan to run a major highway through wetlands fringing the Everglades. The decision doesn’t technically green light the planned Kendall Parkway, which would add about 14 miles to State Road 836 in a project that the county touts as a solution to ease traffic jams in western suburbs. But the move does clear the way for the county to seek environmental permits from state agencies. DeSantis stressed that it was “premature” to assume that the project will be approved. Environmentalists said the decision ran counter to state efforts to restore the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, both dependent on a plentiful supply of fresh, clean water.

Hillsborough plans to reverse impact fee jump” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hillsborough County Commission is poised to hit the brakes on more expensive impact fees charged on new development. But not by choice. Wednesday morning, the commission is scheduled to hold public hearings and then vote on reversing its March stance to accelerate growth fee increases to pay for transportation and recreation. The backpedaling comes after the state Legislature put controls on how often and by how much local governments can increase impact fees. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Nick DiCeglie and Sen. Joe Gruters, is retroactive to Jan. 1, effectively negating commissioners’ action in March to raise the fees before July 1.

Ethics panel won’t act against School Board member over house” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The State Ethics Commission has dismissed a complaint filed against Alexandria Ayala, who took office in November. It’s unclear whether any action will be taken by two other agencies, the Florida Department of State and the FBI, which received complaints alleging fraud. Ayala maintains that she helped her boyfriend buy a house in Delray Beach but that she lives in District 2 in central Palm Beach County and has turned the house over to him. She characterized the complaints as politically motivated, coming from the consultant of her opponent in the 2020 election. Ayala signed a federally backed mortgage, agreeing that the house would be their primary residence. But under state law, Ayala can’t live there and also represent her district.

Seminole to seek court costs from Chris Dorworth after River Cross ruling” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Attorneys said they will move this week to recover the court costs Seminole County spent defending itself against a federal lawsuit filed by Dorworth’s River Cross Land Co. that was dismissed by a judge on June 4. U.S. District Judge Anne Conway said Seminole is entitled to recover costs from River Cross. Those could include expenditures on court reporters, filing fees, charges for serving summons and hiring experts. Seminole attorney Bryant Applegate said to county commissioners at a recent meeting that “we’re going to pursue that very aggressively.” County attorneys added they might file a motion in federal court to recover attorneys’ fees that could top as much as $500,000.

Federal investigation initiated into St. Johns County Schools’ dress code policy” via Colleen Michele Jones of the St. Augustine Record — The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating the St. Johns County School District for potential violation of federal statutes for its dress code policy based on gender bias. The school district received a complaint alleging its dress code has unfairly targeted female students; publicly humiliated those female students; and also altered only female, not male, images in this year’s yearbook photos for Bartram Trail High School, one of nine secondary schools in the county’s public school system. The complaint is based on the Title IX statute enacted by the federal Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Battle over bridge tolls heats up again” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — A Leon County circuit judge will hear arguments next week about whether he should force the state Department of Transportation to reinstate tolls on the span. Representatives of bondholders want Judge John Cooper to order the collection of tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge. The state has not collected tolls on the bridge since Hurricane Sally in September — after bondholders and DOT had clashed for years about raising tolls. The department has said the Garcon Point Bridge is an alternate route for motorists during repairs to the Pensacola Bay Bridge. But attorneys for UMB Bank, a trustee for bondholders, argued that the Pensacola Bay Bridge has reopened to traffic, and tolls should be reinstated on the Garcon Point Bridge.

It may once again start costing drivers to cross the Garcon Point Bridge.

Happening today — Florida Power & Light will mark the demolition of its last coal-fired power plant, 8:30 a.m., Indiantown Cogeneration Plant, 13303 S.W. Silver Fox Lane, Indiantown.

Gadsden County accepting applications for $8M in American Rescue Plan funding” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The rural county, just west of Leon, is slated to receive $8 million allocated for the American Rescue Plan and is opening the application process to individuals, businesses, churches and nonprofits that experienced hardship during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. “These much-needed funds will help put food on Gadsden residents’ tables and assist businesses, churches, nonprofits, and health care organizations with expenses,” board chairperson Brenda Holt said. “This money will help us make sure that our families do not fall apart and ensure that this county comes out of this pandemic stronger and better.” Applicants face fewer restrictions than CARES Act funding released last year so that the impact can be more widespread. However, applicants can only receive assistance under one program.


While Democracies lecture, their adversaries run free” via Walter Russell Mead of The Wall Street Journal — As Biden travels across Europe from one summit to the next, the memory of Trump’s disruption is starting to fade, and the soothing pageantry of diplomacy is resuming its stately course. The familiar rituals are back. In Cornwall, England, meetings were held, communiqués were composed, and all was harmony and light, with the exception of intra-European squabbles over the rules governing sausage shipments from the mainland of Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Climate campaigners welcomed the grand proposals for dramatic cuts in emissions, but worried that this year’s Group of Seven communiqué did not include a coal ban. Health campaigners welcomed commitments to provide a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to poor countries, but they warned that the pledges didn’t address distribution problems and fell far short of the need.


In paying tribute to Pulse victims in Orlando, Biden shows the content of his character. So does DeSantis” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Biden paid a kind and beautiful tribute to the victims of the horrific shooting carried out at Pulse. Already, he has laid out policy changes to be carried out by the Justice Department; and he called on the U.S. Senate to pass two gun-control bills. We also commend DeSantis for ordering this year, too, that flags be flown at half-staff on Saturday in observance of Pulse Remembrance Day. But his response leaves us confused. He signed a bill that prohibits transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams of girls or women. The very next day, he cut $900,000 in funding for programs that serve LGBTQ residents in Central Florida.

Cruise industry tanks: DeSantis’ mixed messaging leaves business grounded” via Philip Levine of USA Today — A court case in Florida might not only decide the financial fate of America’s cruise industry, in ports from Miami to Anchorage, but also the political fate of a governor (and 2024 presidential contender) who now finds himself caught in its wake. Beyond the lawsuit, the overriding issue is whether cruise lines can mandate vaccinations and other safety measures if they conflict with state law. Meanwhile, an industry nearly shuttered by COVID-19 is held at anchor while solutions are held at bay. Florida, home to the world’s largest cruise terminal Port Miami, is at the epicenter of this square-off over who gets to make the call — the federal government, the CDC, the state or the companies themselves.

DeSantis should appoint a powerful statewide resilience officer who will tackle Florida’s growing climate challenges” via J.P. Brooker for the Tampa Bay Times — As DEP Secretary Valenstein leaves office after leading the department across two administrations, DeSantis should immediately appoint a new, stand-alone, statewide chief resilience officer. Floridians need powerful environmental and climate leadership, especially with respect to our ocean and coasts. Climate changes makes these occurrences even worse. Here in Florida, climate change is an undeniable reality, and you don’t have to look hard to see it. Tropical weather is becoming more frequent and severe. The swelling threat of climate change shines a spotlight on a tremendous need for leadership. Currently, resilience in Florida is managed by a patchwork of state and local laws and ordinances that lack a coordinated, statewide strategy.

GOP uses working-class Floridians as political props” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — When Democrats in Washington offered money that could help him, DeSantis took it. When Democrats in Washington offered money that could help average Floridians, DeSantis refused it. That first offering was $10 billion from the COVID-19 assistance bill that every Republican in Congress opposed. But every Republican in Florida took that money to balance the state budget, hand out bonuses to educators, and let DeSantis claim credit for Democrats’ work. That second offering was an extension until September of $300 per week in unemployment benefits that every Republican in Congress opposed. Now every Republican in Florida, especially DeSantis, pushes the false narrative that lazy Floridians would rather take the extra money than work.

Facebook is an easy target for Republican conservatives — but it’s all an act” via Hayes Brown of MSNBC — “I’ll just cut to the chase: Big Tech is out to get conservatives,” Rep. Jim Jordan said during a hearing in July. In reality, Facebook is the best thing that ever happened to the conservative movement. Its algorithm effortlessly magnifies and amplifies the exact pitch and tone of fear that the Republican Party has harnessed for decades. A study from the University of Virginia in November showed that Facebook “tends to polarize users, particularly conservative users, more than other social media platforms.” In fact, the researchers found that typical conservative users, in months when they visited Facebook more than usual, read news that was about 30% more conservative than the online news they would typically read,” a release from the university read.

Anti-farming activists do not care about people like me in the Glades” via Fitzroy Douglas of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Recent comments in the Sun Sentinel suggesting the harvesting practices I have helped implement throughout my career are somehow “racist” are simply false and especially concerning to a Jamaican immigrant like me. The person who wrote this column has never reached out to me to ask about my well-being, and I find his concern to be shallow and offensive because it attacks my community, my neighbors, my integrity and my job. The column is wrong about what I do in my job on a daily basis. We use mechanical harvesting, the most sophisticated equipment available in the world today. The suggestion that we can just stop burning the cane completely is also concerning because it threatens the long-term health of our crop by leaving behind a blanket of leaves that encourages moisture, pests and rot.


Gov. DeSantis claims he can ignore the state Cabinet when he picks a new boss at the Department of Environmental Protection. Agriculture Commissioner and Cabinet member Fried told DeSantis he’s wrong.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— Fried says she’ll sue if DeSantis tries this power grab. They also clashed over adoption of a new rule to implement House Bill 1 — the anti-protest law that allows the state to override any city or county’s decision to reduce spending on law enforcement.

— Fried is also calling on the Governor to reverse his decision and order the Florida Department of Health to resume issuing daily reports on COVID-19 cases. They’re only doing weekly summaries now.

— The Sierra Club of Florida issues a scorecard for the 2021 Session: it’s not pretty. The club is concerned about assaults on the environment … and democracy. Deborah Foote with the Sierra Club is today’s Sunrise Interview.

— And finally, police arrested a Florida woman for going commando at a Circle K.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

On Florida’s horizon: Dust, brilliant sunsets and allergies” via The Associated Press — Sunsets across Florida in the coming days could become even more spectacular, as clouds of dust from the Sahara desert sweep in across the Atlantic coast. The plume is expected to dampen storm activity but worsen air pollution, causing trouble for some people with allergies and other respiratory problems. Some health experts say symptoms could mimic those from COVID-19. NASA is monitoring the dust, which was swept off Africa by strong winds swirling across the deserts of Mali and Mauritania. Trade winds are carrying the plume across the ocean, with the leading edge expected to arrive in Florida in the coming days. Experts said that dry winds carrying the particles could help smother storm systems by drying out the humid tropical air that feeds turbulent weather across a well-traveled route for hurricanes.

Fireworks coming back to Disney World this summer” via WFLA — Fireworks are coming back to Walt Disney World in Florida this summer. Disney has been slowly working to get back to normal in recent months as more people in Florida get vaccinated against the coronavirus and COVID-19 restrictions ease. The company announced Tuesday that nighttime fireworks spectaculars will return to Disney parks starting in July. “A Disney tradition since 1957, fireworks shows are what Walt Disney called the perfect ‘kiss goodnight’ at the close of a magical day, and this summer, the skies above Disney theme parks will sparkle with color once more,” a post on the Disney Parks blog said. Nightly fireworks performances will begin at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT starting July 1.

Disney fireworks are back!

Disneyland Resort theme parks to welcome back guests from outside California beginning June 15” via Kelsey Lynch of Disney Parks Blog — Beginning June 15, 2021, Disneyland will once again be able to welcome travelers from outside the state of California back to the park. Out-of-state visitors may now begin booking their return to the parks on Until June 15, all guests visiting the Disneyland Resort must be California residents visiting in groups no larger than 3 households. The State of California strongly recommends that all guests be fully vaccinated or obtain a negative COVID-19 test before entering the theme parks. In addition, all guests will be required to wear an approved face-covering throughout their visit to the Disneyland Resort. 

NBCUniversal CEO says Tokyo Olympics could be most profitable ever for company” via Helen Coster of Reuters — NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell said on Monday that the upcoming Tokyo Games could be the most profitable Olympics in NBC’s history. “I think we’re pretty optimistic about both the ratings and the economics of the Olympics and advertisers have embraced it,” Shell said at Credit Suisse’s virtual Communications Conference. Every Olympics has an issue that people worry about in the run-up to the Games, Shell said. In March 2020, NBCUniversal said it had sold more than $1.25 billion in national advertising for the Tokyo Olympics, a record for any broadcaster for the event. Shell on Monday said the company had officially completed its advertising sales “upfront,” which he said was the strongest in the history of NBCUniversal.

Indian River State College to house new USA Diving headquarters” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A world-class diving facility is coming to Indian River State College’s Fort Pierce campus under a new partnership between the school and USA Diving. The facility plans were announced Friday during the 2020 Olympic Team Trials-Diving in Indianapolis. On hand were USAD President Lee Michaud, USAD Board Chair Dave Gascon, and IRSC President Timothy Moore. “Partnering with Indian River State College advances our purpose meaningfully and significantly. IRSC has a storied swimming and diving franchise and an unrivaled commitment to developing student-athletes in the sport,” Michaud said.

‘Kindness warrior’: FAMU student goes viral for giving shoes, clothes to homeless man” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — As Jabari Richardson‘s mother always told him: “No good deed goes unnoticed.” The Florida A&M senior gave some shoes, clothes and other belongings to a homeless man at a stoplight near the I-10 and North Monroe Street interchange last week. A driver waiting at the light behind 22-year-old Richardson filmed some of the interaction and uploaded it to TikTok. In just one week, the video has gotten over 5 million views. “My mom always taught me there’s a lot of people that are in need,” Richardson said. “Not everyone’s blessed as I am. My mom always had clothes and shoes on my back. I can definitely take that for granted. Anything can be gone in the blink of an eye.”

Vacationers cyberstalk these small towns in the Florida Keys the most, survey says” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — Over the past year, Key Largo and Islamorada are two of the most-searched-for destinations in Florida. On its list of the Top 10 most popular Florida small towns, praises the clear waters and boating and snorkeling possibilities around both areas. Don’t-miss attractions around Key Largo include Harry Harris Park and Beach and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Islamorada gets a nod for being home to Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park and “colorful cafes and restaurants.”


Happy birthday to Omar Khan, now a senior managing director for state and local government affairs at engineering and professional services consultancy WSP USA, Kurt Kelly of the Florida Coalition for Children, Anna Grace Lewis of The Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Ramon Maury.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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