Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.18.21

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Your day is better when you start it with a first read on what's happening in Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

Unless there is so much breaking news that we’d feel guilty not putting out an edition of Sunburn, I am taking Sunday off for Father’s Day.

Sunburn will be back in your inbox Tuesday morning.


It is Diane Moulton‘s last day as Director of Executive Staff in the Office of the Governor. Moulton has worked for Charlie Crist, Rick Scott, and Ron DeSantis. We wish her the best of luck in whatever comes next.


The 2021 Legislative Session is in the rearview, and most major bills that made it through the Legislature have already hit the Governor’s desk.

Now, it’s report card season.

Many organizations grade lawmakers for their votes on key bills, but the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Report Card is the most comprehensive. Most years, it tabulates about 4,000 votes made in committee hearings and on chamber floors. The 2021 edition approaches 5,000.

It’s report card time from Mark Wilson and the Florida Chamber.

Among the many Chamber priorities this year were bills to protect businesses from COVID-19 liability lawsuits, require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax for online purchases, expand and streamline school choice, cut the commercial rents sales tax, address cost drivers in the property insurance market, and boost voluntary pre-kindergarten accountability.

For the most part, the Chamber’s wishes came true.

“Florida’s economy won with the Florida Chamber-backed, pro-jobs policy passed during the 2021 Legislative Session,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson. “The actions taken by Gov. (Ron) DeSantis and Florida’s lawmakers will go a long way in continuing to build momentum toward creating the more than 2 million jobs necessary to take Florida from the 17th largest economy in the world to the 10th largest by 2030 and securing Florida’s future.”

Bills and policies on the test were outlined in the Florida Chamber’s pre-Legislative Session agenda, “Where We Stand.” A copy was sent to every lawmaker before their first votes were cast.

The average lawmaker scored 79% on the Chamber’s scale, a C+ on some scales but a flat C in the chamber rubric. The average Senator scored an 80% — good enough for a B.

Overall, 88 lawmakers earned an A, 13 landed a B, and eight skated by with a C, and a dozen are staring at a D. The other 39 lawmakers failed, and there are no summer school opportunities at the Capitol.


Potential Tropical Cyclone 3 prompts tropical storm warning along Gulf Coast, hurricane center says” via Joe Mario Pedersen and David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — The National Hurricane Center issued tropical storm warnings for parts of the Gulf Coast as the system now designated as Potential Tropical Cyclone 3 makes its way north, according to Thursday’s 5 p.m. update. The warning is in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the Alabama/Florida border. As of 5 p.m., the system was located 475 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana, and moving north at 9 mph. It will approach the north-central Gulf Coast late Friday or early Saturday and turn northeast after landfall. Maximum winds are at 30 mph, but strengthening is in the forecast Thursday night and Friday. Rainfall totals could fall between 4 and 8 inches with as high as 12 inches in some areas.

— “Up to 10 inches of rain possible in Pensacola as tropical depression or storm likely forms” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal


Personnel note: BaughmanMerrill taps David Gracin as new marketing director — BaughmanMerrill hired Florida-based former campaign manager and strategist Gracin to lead the firm’s marketing efforts for 2022. Gracin has managed local, legislative, and congressional campaigns, including for Oz Vazquez in CD 18 and Harry Cohen for Tampa Mayor in 2019. “We are thrilled David will be taking the lead on our marketing efforts to build on our portfolio of clients and expand BaughmanMerrill’s services to Democratic candidates, organizations, and independent efforts …,” BaughmanMerrill partner and creative director Duane Baughman said. Partner and national campaign director Katie Merrill added,As a former manager, David brings a depth of campaign knowledge from his years in the trenches that we’re proud to offer to our clients, both present and future.”


@POTUS: Juneteenth is officially a federal holiday.

@paimadhu: As North America & Europe vaccinate their way out of the COVID crisis, Asia, South America and Africa will get ravaged by the Delta variant. We must advocate for #VaccinesForAll & end the pandemic everywhere!

@jaredlholt: If Republicans actually believed that Jan. 6 was an “inside job,” they’d support a commission to investigate what happened that day and before. That they would rather outsource that role to misinfo swamps online says about everything one needs to know about the genuineness here.

@ddiamond: June 28, 2012: ACA survives*, 5-4 … June 25, 2015: ACA survives, 6-3 … June 17, 2021: ACA survives, 7-2

@loriberman: .@GovRonDeSantis and @AGAshleyMoody used taxpayer money in support of a legal challenge to overturn Obamacare, which would’ve stripped health care away from over 20 million Americans. The country is thankful that they failed.

@fswisen: By stacking the Florida Supreme Court with conservatives gen x or older, we ended up with a court whose judicial activism on cannabis is far out-of-step with the views of younger conservatives. I wonder what that means for the next 25 years of Florida pot.

Tweet, tweet:

@carigebin: No one wants to go to a restaurant and have to scan in a QR code to get a menu. No one. I hope this trend dies a million painful deaths.

@TamaraLush: ME: Yeah, I live in St. Pete. It’s like a little oasis of sanity in Flor- *reads article about my congressional district* *closes computer*


Father’s Day — 2; Amazon Prime Day — 3; New York City Mayoral Primary — 4; Microsoft reveals major Windows update — 6; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 7; Bruce Springsteen revives solo show, “Springsteen on Broadway” — 8; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 13; Fourth of July — 16; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 21; MLB All-Star Game — 25; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 32; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 35; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 35; the NBA Draft — 45; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 47; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 53; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 61; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 67; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 76; NFL regular season begins — 83; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 88; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 94; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 98; ‘Dune’ premieres — 105; MLB regular season ends — 107; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 112; World Series Game 1 — 131; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 137; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 137; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 139; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 153; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 161; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 175; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 185; NFL season ends — 205; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 207; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 207; NFL playoffs begin — 211; Super Bowl LVI — 240; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 280; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 322; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 349; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 385; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 476; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 511.


Affordable Care Act survives latest Supreme Court Challenge” via Adam Liptak of The New York Times — The Affordable Care Act survived a third major challenge as SCOTUS turned aside the latest effort by Republicans to kill the health care law. The law has been the subject of relentless Republican hostility. But attempts to repeal it failed, as did earlier SCOTUS challenges, in 2012 and 2015. With the passing years, the law gained popularity and was woven into the fabric of the health care system. On Thursday, in what Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. called, in dissent, “the third installment in our epic Affordable Care Act trilogy,” the Supreme Court again sustained the law. Its future now seems secure. Justice Clarence Thomas, who had dissented in the earlier decisions, was on the majority in the 7-2 decision.

Three is enough: The Affordable Care Act survives one last challenge. Image via AP.

Florida Democrats hail Supreme Court Obamacare ruling that deals GOP defeat” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — A yearslong legal battle waged against the Affordable Care Act by Republican leaders in states such as Florida ended in a resounding defeat Thursday. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against a legal challenge filed by the Donald Trump administration to void the law. Instead, the high court left the law, known broadly as Obamacare, intact and in place. Florida Democrats, who have long railed against efforts to strike down the law in the courts, hailed the victory. They noted that state GOP leaders and officials, who backed the lawsuit attacking Obamacare, had placed in jeopardy an extremely popular law in the Sunshine State, which typically has led the nation in Affordable Care Act health plan enrollment.

— 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 “antisemitic” 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 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 Muslim Democrat from Minnesota who came under fire recently when a handful of Democrats accused her of equating Israel with the Taliban and Hamas. Fried supporters also defended Charlie Crist, whose time as Governor included traveling to Israel in 2007 to put a note in Jerusalem’s Western Wall asking that God protect “Florida from storms and other difficulties.”


Assignment editors — Gubernatorial candidate Crist joins St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Rep. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren and former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch for a news conference to call on DeSantis to take on Florida’s connections to The Capitol insurrection of January 6, 10 a.m. RSVP at [email protected]

Florida Supreme Court snuffs out another effort to legalize marijuana” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — For the third time in three months, the Florida Supreme Court dashed the hopes of Floridians who want to see expanded access to cannabis. In a 5-2 ruling on Thursday, the state’s highest court found a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana to be misleading. The initiative, titled “Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and Other Restrictions,” also would have allowed Floridians to grow cannabis at home. Justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, Carlos Muñiz, John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans concurred Thursday that Sensible Florida’s ballot initiative misled voters because the 75-word summary of the proposed amendment was unclear on the word “use.”

Records link big business group to Florida elections probe” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Investigators searching for the source of more than half-a-million dollars spent last year in support of spoiler candidates that helped Republicans win three key state Senate races have obtained bank records for an organization tied to a dark-money group linked to Associated Industries of Florida. The records were obtained as part of a criminal case in Miami, where prosecutors have charged former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles with five felonies. Authorities say Artiles paid a financially struggling friend, Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, to run as an independent candidate in a state Senate race in South Florida. Only Artiles and Rodriguez have been accused of crimes. Ryan Tyson, a former AIF VP, said the group “has no control or knowledge of our activities around the country.”

—“Senate contests remain cool across Central Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

David Smith’s reelection campaign pulls in $23K in May” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Smith‘s reelection campaign raised $23,355 in May, topping legislative fundraising campaigns across Central Florida in a month that saw only four candidates raise much money. Smith’s May effort was in House District 28, where he’s campaigning to win a third term in 2022 to represent eastern Seminole County. Across Central Florida, only four candidates raised as much as $10,000 in May, none in Senate races. Smith was joined by Republican candidate Rachel Plakon, who collected $15,606 for her bid for the open seat in House District 29 in western Seminole; Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, who raised $10,818 for her campaign for a third term in House District 47 in central Orange County; and Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins, who raised $10,000 to get reelected to a second term in House District 42 in Osceola and Polk counties.

Margaret Good launches Democratic organizing effort in Southwest Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former state Rep. Good launched a new Democratic effort to boost grassroots support in Southwest Florida. Fried is offering her support for the effort. Good is the only Democrat living in Southwest Florida to win election to the Florida Legislature in more than a decade, flipping a Sarasota district in a 2018 Special Election and holding onto it in a subsequent election the same year. Sarasota political organizers David Lapovsky, Kay Mathers and Dennis Rees will also play key roles in the committee. Mathers, who previously worked with Good on past campaigns and in her legislative office, said this should help motivate voters in a place where enthusiasm can be hard to muster.

Margaret Good is pushing Democratic voter engagement in Southeast Florida.

Florida’s new voting law leaves elections supervisors confused, frustrated” via Jake Sheridan of the Miami Herald — Florida’s new elections reform law is causing headaches and confusion for the state’s 67 county elections supervisors — and several vented their frustrations to Secretary of State Laurel Lee and other state officials during a conference Wednesday. “We’re all still struggling with how vague some of the new things put into law are,” Okaloosa County election supervisor Paul Lux said following a sometimes-heated discussion on the controversial new law during the Florida Supervisors of Elections’ summer conference. “We need answers.” Recognizing that tensions over the law, SB 90, might be high, the state had asked that questions for Wednesday’s session with Florida Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews be submitted ahead of time.


Ron DeSantis refuses to answer whether he thinks 2020 election was rigged” via J.B. Biunno of WFLA — DeSantis was asked point-blank Thursday whether he believes the 2020 Presidential Election was rigged against Trump. His answer: Florida did its job. DeSantis was in St. Petersburg to host a roundtable with environmental officials on the recent red tide advisories issued in the Tampa Bay area. After the roundtable, a reporter in attendance asked DeSantis whether Joe Biden’s victory in last year’s election was rigged. “I think we had the best-run election in this state [than we’ve] probably ever had,” DeSantis responded. “I’m proud of what they did.” As the reporter attempted to interject about the lack of a response to the question, Gov. DeSantis moved on to the next question from a different reporter.

Ron DeSantis sidesteps the issue of a rigged 2020 election.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a press conference at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, 4015 Lewis Speedway, St. Augustine. 8:00 a.m.

Senate Democrats protest DeSantis’ Mexico border deployment” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s 16 Democratic Senators are protesting DeSantis‘ deployment of law enforcement officers to the Mexican border and urging him to reverse his order. The Democrats, led by Democratic Leader Lauren Book, wrote DeSantis Thursday afternoon decrying the deployment as questionable in need and likely political in motivation and dangerous for Floridians, who now are protected by fewer officers. In the letter, the Democrats contend that the federal government already is deploying people into border areas so there is no need for DeSantis to “sacrifice the safety of our state for what appears to be political posturing.”

DeSantis signs bill to rename conservation area after Kristin Jacobs” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis has signed legislation renaming the Southeast Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area after the late Rep. Jacobs. Legislators approved the measure from Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (HB 217) in early April. Jacobs prioritized environmental issues during her legislative career before passing away in April 2020 after a cancer battle. “Rep. Kristin Jacobs was a fierce advocate for the environment, a friend, and is sorely missed,” Hunschofsky said after DeSantis signed the bill late Wednesday. She also posted a video tribute from the House, which lawmakers played the day they signed the legislation. Hunschofsky holds Jacobs’ former seat in House District 96, making her the natural leader on the House measure. Democratic Sen. Book sponsored the Senate companion (SB 588) and released a statement upon the Governor’s signing.

DeSantis signs DFS agency bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed a bill Thursday that bolsters services provided by the Department of Financial Services. The bill (HB 1209) increases the department’s ability to support firefighters, protect sexual harassment victims, and protect Floridians from fraud. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis applauded the Governor for signing the legislation. Under the bill, the DFS risk management program can provide cancer coverage to state agency firefighters. It also designates the Division of Public Assistance Fraud as a criminal justice agency and makes the impersonation of a DFS officer illegal. Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff sponsored the legislation.

Clerks of Court seek budget fix with DeSantis-approved bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Thursday signed a proposal to address court clerks’ long-standing budget issues. Those problems have been magnified by declining funding from fines, fees and court costs. But the bill DeSantis approved (SB 838) strives to plug the leak. Unlike many government entities, clerks’ offices operate on a cash basis month-to-month, depending on fines, fees and court costs to fund critical public services. There are many services and activities that have no associated fees or revenue, such as domestic violence injunctions and indigency cases. The new law will allow clerks to carry statewide reserves to plan for emergencies, to submit funding requests for certain deficits and other provisions.

DeSantis signs Purple Alert bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed a bill Wednesday implementing an alert system to help locate missing individuals with cognitive disabilities. Sponsored by Palm Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman, the bill establishes a Purple Alert system under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The Purple Alert system will dispatch alerts when an endangered adult goes missing with a mental or cognitive disability, a brain injury, or another physical, mental or emotional disability. The bill passed nearly unanimously in both chambers. Wandering can be a danger to a person with limited cognitive abilities, according to the bill analysis. About 12% to 60% of individuals with a cognitive disability wander, and about 5% of wandering instances result in physical harm.

Bill targeting health disparities signed” via The News Service of Florida — DeSantis signed a bill that details a series of requirements for the state Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. The bill (HB 183) will require the office to coordinate with agencies, organizations and medical providers across the state on such things as gathering and analyzing data “regarding disparities in health status, health outcomes, quality of health care and access to health care services for racial and ethnic minority populations in this state.” It also will require the Florida Department of Health, where the office is housed, to post updated data about health disparities online at least annually.

DeSantis signs off on protections for domestic violence centers” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed a bill on Wednesday to help keep the location of domestic violence centers anonymous. The bill will create a new first-degree misdemeanor for those who maliciously publish or disclose any information or image that identifies the location of a domestic violence center. Repeated offenses would be a third-degree felony. First-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in prison or a $1,000 fine. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine. Currently, Florida law shields identifying information for domestic violence centers, but there is no crime for disclosing the information.

DeSantis signs bill to increase credit card security measures at the pump” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed a bill Wednesday that will require gas stations to increase credit card security measures at their pumps. Under the legislation, gas stations will need to implement a secondary security measure in addition to pressure-sensitive security tape. Gas stations must also report credit card-related security breaches to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services within 90 days of an incident. Sponsored by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, the bill comes as state officials struggle to thwart credit card skimmers and other fraud schemes. Skimmers are electronic devices that collect a consumer’s credit card information, according to a staff analysis.

DeSantis signs law preempting gas station regulations” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Florida cities aren’t allowed to tell gas stations to add electric vehicle charging stations under a new law. Meanwhile, the state is spending its own money to add fast-charging stations on Florida’s highways. DeSantis signed the gas station regulation preemption (HB 839) legislation Wednesday. The new law shields gas stations and their related infrastructure from being outlawed by local governments. The issue arose after some cities looked at policy options that want to encourage clean energy. Under the new law, local governments can still regulate things like zoning, building codes, and necessary transportation issues. A salient part of the new law is that a local government will not require a gas station to add electric vehicle charging stations.

DeSantis signs auto insurance flexibility bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Wednesday signed a bill to allow auto insurance policyholders to fully exclude members of their household from their policy. Currently, the Office of Insurance Regulation requires that insurers provide the minimum coverage even for explicitly excluded drivers from the policy. As a result, one driver can potentially drive up the rates for the entire household, pushing the household away from an insurance company they trust. Under Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper‘s proposal, policyholders can completely exclude drivers, such as a reckless teenager, from their policy to keep their premiums down or maintain coverage. The excluded driver will need to have their own car and own policy to keep driving.

Ed Hooper’s auto insurance bill could give policyholders an option to make premiums cheaper. Image via Colin Hackley.

—“Education bills aplenty await DeSantis’ signature” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Engineers praise urban search and rescue bill signing — The American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida and the Florida Engineering Society praised the Governor on Thursday for signing a bill (SB 1060) that would provide liability protection to search and rescue structures specialists. Florida has lost 60% of search and rescue engineers — who are volunteers — since 2017. “With hurricane season upon us, this new law will help ensure Florida has enough structures specialists during declared disasters to help first responders safely enter and navigate collapsed buildings to rescue victims,” said Allen Douglas, Executive Director of ACEC-FL and FES. The organization also thanked sponsors Sen. Jennifer Bradly and Rep. Kaylee Tuck, as well as CFO Patronis, for his vocal support during Session.


DeSantis says red tide this year ‘not like 2018’ bloom” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis said the growing bloom of red tide spreading around parts of Southwest Florida and Tampa Bay is not like the one that devastated the region in 2018. The Governor’s comments came during a roundtable with scientists and state environmental officials at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg to discuss efforts to better understand and combat red tide. The last major outbreak of the microorganism that turns the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico into the color of cola lasted from October 2017 to February 2019. It killed countless sea creatures, including fish, dolphins, turtles and manatees.

First on #FlaPol — “DeSantis ousts Alachua School Board member amid residency questions” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Ron DeSantis removed a member of the Alachua County School Board, opening the door for him to appoint a replacement. Diyonne McGraw is facing a legal challenge contending the member, elected to the board last year, doesn’t live in District 2, which she represents. According to reports, property tax records, voter registration records and her own statement show she lives in District 4, potentially making her ineligible to serve the second district. Judge Donna Keim of the 8th Circuit Court ruled that there’s a strong likelihood McGraw “is not entitled to hold the seat for that district.”

Jimmy Patronis, search and rescue teams urge hurricane prep — Patronis, flanked by members of the Urban Search & Rescue Florida Task Force 4, urged Floridians to prepare for disasters now before the next hurricane hits. Experts predict an active 2021 Hurricane Season with the possibility of three to five major hurricanes. Currently, a potential tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico could bring heavy rain and possible flooding to the Panhandle. “It is critical that residents heed all warnings from local authorities and take the proper precautions to stay safe before, during, and after a storm. As we’ve seen in the past, hurricanes can form and strengthen quickly, leaving little time to prepare and evacuate.” Floridians can find detailed information on how to prep for storms at

Jimmy Patronis joins search and rescue crews to remind Floridians it’s never too soon to get ready for a storm. 

Assignment editorsPatronis will hold a news conference to highlight Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 6 and the importance of preparing for the 2021 hurricane season, 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, San Carlos Park Fire Protection and Rescue Service District Station #53, 19591 Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, Fort Myers.

Florida Supreme Court asked to weigh gun law” via CBS Miami — A coalition of local governments and Agriculture Commissioner Fried want the Florida Supreme Court to take up a dispute about a 2011 state law that threatens tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun-related regulations. Attorneys for the local governments and Fried filed notices Wednesday that are initial steps in asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. As is common, the notices do not provide detailed legal arguments. But they stem, in part, from a decision last month by the 1st District Court of Appeal to deny a request to send the case to the Supreme Court — a request known as certifying “questions of great public importance.”

Proliferation of pumping permits produces preposterous pipeline proposal” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — As first reported by Politico last week, the Suwannee River Water Management District is considering “spending hundreds of millions of dollars to pipe Suwannee River water to nearby Ichetucknee Springs State Park to restore the aquifer that feeds the springs.” Yes, you read that right: The agency is considering piping water taken from one spring-fed river to bolster the flow of another spring-fed river less than 20 miles away. This is a little like withdrawing $100 from the ATM and then walking into the bank to deposit it back in your account. You’re not likely to show a big profit from that transaction.

What Mosaic is doing with its ‘gypstack’ to prevent another Piney Point disaster” via Steve Newborn of WUSF — Mosaic is the only fertilizer producer left standing in Bone Valley, where Polk, Hillsborough, Manatee and Hardee counties meet. It’s the largest phosphate producer in the world. That’s not the case at Piney Point, where a bankrupt company operating the gypstack there this spring failed to prevent a tear in the liner, sending hundreds of millions of gallons into Tampa Bay. Dennis Black, the gypstack manager at Mosaic’s Bartow plant, says that’s not likely going to happen here. “We’re up here seven days a week, doing maintenance activities,” said Black, who has worked at Mosaic for 25 years. “And also we have technicians running around. They’ll be doing visual inspections and documenting their inspections multiple times throughout the day.”

Amid red tide outbreak, Florida beckons visitors to beaches” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Plumes of toxic oceanic bacteria known as red tide continued to move up the western Florida coast, strewing thousands of dead fish on beaches while state officials tried to reassure Floridians and potential tourists Thursday that the outbreak was being taken seriously but isn’t as bad as it would seem. DeSantis on Thursday assembled a team of experts in St. Petersburg to describe the work that is underway to better understand and control the latest outbreak. The governor said it was important to let “folks know that these places are open. The hotels, the restaurants, the beaches are open.” Widespread images of rotting fish and empty beaches could be catastrophic to the state’s tourism industry, which use the state’s ample sunshine, sand and water to lure visitors to the state.


Nearly 5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine sit unused in Florida” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the Orlando Sentinel — Close to 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine sit in freezers in doctors’ offices, pharmacies, or clinics in Florida, waiting for someone to want protection from the virus. As Florida’s surplus grows and demand weakens, providers say they can’t help but waste doses and fear vials stored in their freezers will expire before they can be used. As of June 4, the most recent statistics available, more than 33,400 doses were wasted or spoiled after being removed from cold storage. Fair tickets, raffles, liquor shots for a shot, and countless other giveaways have failed to significantly motivate Floridians who are reluctant to get the vaccines; only about 42% of the population is fully vaccinated.

There are millions of unused vaccines in Florida. Image via AP.

Schools vaccinating students against COVID-19 as academic year approaches” via Stephanie Colombini of WUSF — Only 24% of 12- to 19-year-olds living in Florida have received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest state data. Some county health departments partner with school districts to get students’ shots before returning to their classrooms in August. Sitting on bleachers inside the gymnasiums of Robinson and Sickles high schools in Hillsborough County, teenagers shared why they got vaccinated against COVID-19: “Because the new variants were kind of scaring me,” said Rasara Weerasuraya, 15. Sports inspired Alonso High athlete Colin Valentin, 17, to get his shot. For Robinson High rising senior Luka Gudelj, 17, it was about social responsibility.

Florida was one of the first to cut back to weekly COVID-19 reports. Did it move too soon?” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — About two weeks after Florida health officials discontinued publicly reporting some data and stopped issuing their daily COVID-19 summaries detailing cases, test positivity and vaccinations, some researchers remain concerned that the moves were made too early. Even as the pandemic wanes, scientists such as Jennifer Nuzzo, a leading epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, say that state health departments should be presenting more data, not less, while the medical and science communities continue to gauge the effectiveness of a still-fresh vaccination campaign. Florida health officials contend they are monitoring flare-ups internally and would alert the public if one were simmering.

U.S. Virgin Islands Governor implores DeSantis to permit vaccinated cruises” via Wendy Rhodes in Health News Florida — One day after Royal Caribbean announced that two guests on the first cruise ship to sail from a U.S. port since the pandemic shutdown have tested positive for COVID-19, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands implored Gov. DeSantis to allow cruise lines to mandate vaccinations. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said the infection of vaccinated passengers is precisely why cruise lines need the freedom to require vaccinations. While vaccines do not eliminate risks, Bryan said that not having them could be catastrophic, including those in the islands that cruise passengers visit. “It emphasizes the need for us to have these protocols,” Bryan said.

Pandemic takes toll on caregivers” via The News Service of Florida — About 70% of caregivers reported having at least one adverse mental-health condition during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was based on a survey of 10,444 U.S. adults in December, February and March. Anxiety and depression were the most common mental health symptoms, with 55.3% of caregivers reporting having those symptoms. The study listed three caregiving categories: people with children under age 18; caregivers of adults; and parents who watch children and adults. Among the 2,391 respondents who reported being parents and caregivers, about 85% experienced one or more adverse mental- health symptoms, and about 50% reported past-month “serious suicidal ideation.”

Sarasota Memorial’s ICU is COVID-19-free for first time in over a year” via Allyson Henning of WFLA — Sarasota Memorial Hospital is celebrating a major milestone in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. For the first time in over a year, the hospital’s intensive care unit has no COVID-19-positive patients. The hospital’s epidemiologist, Dr. Manuel Gordillo, found out the ICU was COVID-19-free Wednesday. He admits, he was overcome with emotion. Dr. Gordillo diagnosed Florida’s first COVID-19 case in February last year at another local hospital. He says we’ve come a long way since that point and have learned a lot along the way, but we aren’t out of the woods just yet.

Barbs and praise for Tampa Bay stores that still require masks” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s been more than a month since the Governor suspended coronavirus restrictions statewide, including mask mandates. Since then, most bars, shops and restaurants have adopted the Centers for Disease Control guidelines that fully vaccinated people no longer need masks in most settings. Local schools are following suit, making face coverings optional when students return after summer break. But some Tampa Bay stores are continuing to require masks. That stance has led to heated exchanges, frustrated patrons and even vows never to shop there again. Stores have Florida law on their side. The Governor’s order does not prohibit businesses from requiring masks or refusing service to those who don’t wear them — just as they could for those shopping with no shoes and no shirt.

St. Petersburg is divided over businesses that still require masks. Image via AP.

For COVID-19 and hurricane season, tech is prep” via Florida Politics — Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie is emphasizing his agency’s increased use of technology to better manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming hurricane season, along with improving overall agency operations and response, at the 2021 National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans. Guthrie walked through several examples of technology implementations that helped emergency managers across the state manage a year-plus-long pandemic and multiple hurricanes on the horizon. He highlighted specific projects: Establish a comprehensive shelter management platform, collect information directly from constituents for disaster documentation, track thousands of volunteers across the state during vaccine distribution, keep accurate, real-time data from state-supported vaccination sites.


A pill to treat COVID-19? The U.S. is betting on it.” via Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — The U.S. government is pouring more than $3 billion on a neglected area of research: developing pills to fight the virus early in the course of infection, potentially saving many lives in the years to come. The new program, announced on Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services, will speed up the clinical trials of a few promising drug candidates. If all goes well, some of those first pills could be ready by the end of the year. Several other viruses, including influenza, HIV, and hepatitis C, can be treated with a simple pill. But despite more than a year of research, no such pill exists to treat someone with a coronavirus infection before it wreaks havoc.

A pill to treat viral diseases like COVID-19 is the Holy Grail being pursued by the U.S. government. Image via AP.

CDC’s travel warning for cruise ships eases, COVID-19 risk high for unvaccinated” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The CDC lowered its travel warning for cruise ships Wednesday, recommending only unvaccinated passengers avoid cruise travel. Previously, the CDC recommended all passengers avoid cruise travel. The changes come as the cruise industry prepares to restart from U.S. ports in the coming weeks. The first test cruise is scheduled for Sunday — Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas ship from PortMiami — and the first revenue cruise for June 26 — Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge ship from Port Canaveral. The agency recommends that all cruise travelers get tested for COVID-19 one to three days before their trip and three to five days after their trip. Unvaccinated passengers should self-quarantine for seven days after a cruise, even if they test negative.


U.S. jobless claims tick up to 412,000 from a pandemic low” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press — The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims rose 37,000 from the week before to 412,000. As the job market has strengthened, the number of weekly applications for unemployment aid has fallen for most of the year. The number of jobless claims generally reflects the pace of layoffs. Weekly unemployment applications had dropped for six straight weeks, and economists had expected another dip last week. Still, the report showed the four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week ups and downs, fell by 8,000 to 395,000 — the lowest four-week average since the pandemic began in March 2020. For jobless claims to rise slightly “should not be cause for concern yet,″ said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab.

The U.S. unemployment ticked up a bit. Image via AP.

Florida sees small increase in jobless claims” via The News Service of Florida — Florida saw a slight uptick in new unemployment claims last week, yet the numbers continued to be among the lowest since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday estimated 8,889 initial jobless claims were filed in Florida during the week that ended June 12, up from a revised count of 6,552 during the week that ended June 5. The department had initially estimated 5,800 claims were filed during the week that ended June 5. The state is running a four-week average of 8,395 new claims a week. That is the lowest four-week average since before March 15, 2020, which the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity marks as the start of the pandemic in considering unemployment claims.


Two weeks later, Tucker Carlson’s attack on Anthony Fauci has quietly collapsed” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Nearly 3 million people tuned in to Carlson’s Fox News show on the evening of June 2, a number equivalent to nearly 1% of the country. Among the things those viewers heard from Carlson that night was a staggering accusation of duplicity if not illegality on the part of the country’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci. Carlson accused Fauci of lying under oath, lying during a news conference, and being somehow implicated in criminal activity based on the contents of several emails released publicly under a Freedom of Information Act request. Those emails included a heavy dose of redacted sections but included enough Lego pieces for Carlson to build what he wanted to build.

Tucker Carlson’s anti-Anthony Fauci stance is quietly fading away. Image via AP.

FDA says hand sanitizer may be hazardous, in certain conditions” via The News Service of Florida — Hand sanitizer meant to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus might be hazardous to people’s health if applied in enclosed spaces or places with poor air circulation, the FDA warned Wednesday. “We have received increasing reports of these side effects since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most people experienced minor or minimal effects; however, some cases required treatment by a health care professional,” according to an update from the agency. Hand sanitizer should be used in well-ventilated areas, and hands should be completely dry before it is applied.


Federal employees to get Friday off as Joe Biden signs legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday” via John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — Biden, having returned to the White House from his first trip abroad as president, plans Thursday to sign into law a bill creating a federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in Texas. Because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will get this Friday off.

It’s official; Juneteenth is a federal holiday.

Miami lawmaker bears witness as Biden makes Juneteenth a federal holiday” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — For years, Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson commemorated Juneteenth with her Congressional Black Caucus colleagues, and Black celebrities frequently joined lawmakers in Washington to celebrate. But this year, Wilson, South Florida’s only Black member of Congress, celebrated by watching Biden sign a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday, the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was added in 1983. Wilson and a group of lawmakers attended a White House ceremony Thursday afternoon marking the occasion. The June 19 holiday will be observed Friday, the White House confirmed. “It kind of spread around. After George Floyd and the reckoning on race, justice and equality, the new buzzwords are equity and inclusion,” Wilson said of why the bill sped through Congress.

— “Juneteenth celebrations to kick off Central Florida voting rights tour” via Desiree Stennett of the Orlando Sentinel 


‘We didn’t win.’ Donald Trump appears to admit Biden won election in Fox News interview” via Mike Stunson of McClatchy — More than seven months after the 2020 election, Trump appeared to admit his defeat on Wednesday. In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Trump said the results of the 2020 election were “shocking.” Biden won the election with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, but the results continue to be disputed. “We got them by surprise in ‘16, and in ‘20, we did much better than we did in ‘16,” Trump told Hannity. “Shockingly, we were supposed to win easily at 64 million votes, and we got 75 million votes. We didn’t win, but let’s see what happens on that. The whole thing was shocking.”

Finally? Donald Trump seems to admit defeat to Sean Hannity.

Who is Trump reaching?” via Peter Nicholas of The Atlantic — Ahead of the midterm elections, the GOP seems to be casting about for an identity. If you open the National Republican Senatorial Committee website, you’ll see a slew of Trump-themed merch. But when you click around to other parts of the site, you’ll see a link to send Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska a campaign donation. After losing badly in 2020, the GOP wants candidates who can win in 2022. But the party’s biggest star seems less concerned with fellow Republicans’ electability than with their fealty. Trump aims to punish incumbents who voted for his impeachment and reward those who support the culture war he’s stoked, but reaching his loyalists gets trickier every day. One by one, the platforms Trump used to command attention are disappearing.


Justice Department releases harrowing new bodycam footage from January 6 attack” via Marshall Cohen and Katelyn Polantz of CNN — The Justice Department on Thursday released horrifying new police body camera footage from the January 6 assault on the US Capitol. The footage was used in the case against Thomas Webster, a former Marine and retired police officer from the New York City Police Department accused of participating in the Capitol attack. Prosecutors say that the 56-second tape shows Webster, wearing a red coat among a large crowd of pro-Trump rioters, screaming profanities at officers, threateningly wielding a flagpole, and finally rushing at the officers, who engaged in hand-to-hand combat with him and other members of the mob.


Supreme Court backs Catholic agency in case on gay rights and foster care” via Adam Liptak of The Washington Post — SCOTUS on Thursday unanimously ruled that Philadelphia may not bar a Catholic agency that refused to work with same-sex couples from screening potential foster parents. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for six members of the court, said that since the city allowed exceptions to its policies for some other agencies, it must also do so in this instance. The Catholic agency, he wrote, “seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.” Philadelphia stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against same-sex couples.

Philadelphia stopped orphan placements with Catholic Social Services after an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The Supreme Court sided with the agency.

Rick Scott seeks end to federal mass transit mask mandate” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Stop Mandating Additional Requirements for Travel (SMART) Act would remove governmental mask requirements from airplanes, trains, and other forms of mass transit. It does not address those imposed by businesses themselves. “Americans are working hard to recover from the devastation of COVID-19, and travel is critical to getting our economy fully reopened. Since the start of the pandemic, I have supported wearing a mask to protect yourself and others. Now, the science has shown we can change course, and mask mandates are being lifted across the country,” Scott contended. “The science just doesn’t support keeping this policy in place.”

Assignment editors — Sen. Scott will hold a roundtable discussion with small business owners to discuss the impact of rising inflation, 3 p.m., Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine, 8552 NW 53rd Street, Doral. RSVP to [email protected]

As Matt Gaetz investigation ramps up, feds mount sweeping probe into Central Florida political scene” via Will Streakin and Katherine Faulders of ABC News — Since federal prosecutors obtained the cooperation of GOP Rep. Gaetz‘s once close-ally in May, sources say the ongoing investigation, which includes sex trafficking allegations involving Gaetz, has engulfed the tight-knit Central Florida political scene as prosecutors continue their investigation of the Florida congressman. Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who reached a plea deal last month, has been assisting federal agents in the sprawling probe that has recently revved up its focus on alleged corruption and fraud stemming from Greenberg’s time in office and beyond, multiple sources familiar with the matter said.

Inside Gaetz’s breakup with Fox News” via Robin Bravender and Tom LoBianco of Business Insider — Since news broke that Gaetz is at the center of a federal sex-trafficking investigation, the Florida Republican hasn’t appeared on the network. It’s a major lifestyle change for the lawmaker, a darling of Fox hosts for years during the Trump administration and early into Biden’s term. He juices ratings with punchy sound bites that trash “wokeness,” “cancel culture,” and the COVID-19 poster doctorFauci. In March, Gaetz appeared on Fox shows at least 19 times. In April, May, and so far in June, he hasn’t appeared once. Gaetz has been “excommunicated within the Fox News circles,” said a former Gaetz staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity. It’s not worth it for the conservative network to risk putting Gaetz on its airwaves while the high-profile sex-trafficking investigation is playing out, according to Republican insiders and media watchdogs.


High hopes, dashed dreams: Texts chart medical marijuana entrepreneur’s $325K encounter with Scott Maddox” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Being a stranger to the inner workings of the Florida Legislature, David Raab knew he needed help. So he sought out a knowledgeable guide who could navigate the political channels. On the recommendation of a now-dead former Lake County sheriff who had a farm nearby, Raab contacted Maddox, who he didn’t know was a sitting Tallahassee City Commissioner when he represented him. Their business relationship is captured in a series of text exchanges obtained by the USA Today Network-Florida that may be used as evidence in J.T. Burnette’s trial. They chart the optimistic early days where Maddox was working to ease the rules for nursery growers to the bitter end when Raab and his partners failed to win a license after paying Governance $325,000.

Failed: Despite getting paid six figures, Scott Maddox couldn’t help a marijuana entrepreneur secure a Florida license.

Escambia County Commission fires County Administrator Janice Gilley” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Janice Gilley is out as Escambia County administrator. The Escambia County Commission voted 4-1 to fire Gilley, effective immediately. Commissioner Steven Barry sought the decision, saying that Gilley was not working out as county administrator.  Barry made the request to put Gilley’s contract up for debate as he came under increasing public scrutiny over a plan to seek back pay for commissioners and senior-level officials who he said weren’t informed of a lucrative county retirement plan. Barry noted Gilley was his long-time appointee on the Santa Rosa Island Authority before he nominated her for county administrator, but she was not working out in the position.

Orlando Police chief vying for position at Fort Lauderdale Police Department” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón is in the running to become chief of police at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, records show. A list of eight semifinalists for the open chief position provided by the City of Fort Lauderdale lists Rolón among its candidates, and Orlando Police Department spokesperson Autumn Jones confirmed Thursday that Rolón is “in a selection process” for the position. Rolón declined to comment on the application process. OPD referred further questions to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office transferring jail inmates ahead of Orange Crush Festival” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office plans to temporarily transfer about 100 Duval County jail inmates to neighboring facilities in preparation for the possibility of numerous arrests at this weekend’s Orange Crush Festival. According to law enforcement authorities, about 60 inmates will be housed in the St. Johns County Jail, while another 30 or 40 are expected to be held in Flagler County. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Christian Hancock declined to reveal specifics but said the agency is taking precautions should trouble arise as up to 20,000 people are expected at the festival’s events scheduled throughout Jacksonville and the Beaches.

Twice booted from office, ‘demon buster’ Kim Daniels seeks return to City Hall” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Call it a less-divine resurrection of sorts: Daniels filed last week for the open District 10 City Council seat, and she did so as a Democrat even though she doesn’t much like the party, and the party isn’t terribly fond of her. That tends to happen after proclaiming Jewish people “own everything,” that gay people should use her divine services to exorcise demons from their bodies, or that American chattel slavery was a favor from God — merely a sampling of the peculiar and wicked things Daniels has said over the years. Rep. Angie Nixon was the second public official to righteously boot Daniels out of office. Years before, a moderate Republican kicked her out of an at-large City Council seat.

After arrest, Lake Wales City Commissioner is back at meetings. Some want her removed” via Dustin Wyatt of The Ledger — Lake Wales Commissioner Kristen Fitzgerald was back behind the dais Tuesday night, her first public meeting since her arrest. Several residents used public comment time to voice support for the commissioner, who hasn’t had her day in court and has yet to be convicted of a crime. Others said she should be replaced — a decision that would need to come from Gov. DeSantis, not the city. And while at least one resident urged Fitzgerald to resign immediately, she has no plans to do so. Fitzgerald was arrested June 4 and spent a night in the Polk County Jail on charges that she used a gun to threaten an 11-year-old boy she’d picked up without the parents’ permission.

Manatee County abortion ban is hypocritical” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — James Satcher, the very same elected official who refused to wear a mask during the pandemic because, you know, how dare the government tell him what to do with his body, is now telling women what they should do with theirs. Satcher, a county commissioner for just six months, set match to tinderbox last week when he proposed Manatee County explore a ban on future abortion clinics, which, of course, there currently are none. He received unanimous support from his fellow Commissioners to allow the county attorney to research the legality of such a statute. Satcher’s proposal is political grandstanding at its core, as he is using an issue that does not exist to illuminate a personal belief.

Pinellas schools will pay $1,000 to employees who didn’t get state bonuses” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Pinellas County School Board decided to use $7.3 million of the federal stimulus funds it received to give $1,000 bonuses to about 7,000 non-classroom teachers, support personnel and all other full-time staff. To qualify, they will have to have worked in the district since Dec. 19 and remained employed through April 30. The representatives for the administration and bargaining units signed the agreement on June 7. “We have talked about, and meant all along, that every person in our district worked all year to innovate, to re-imagine what they were doing,” board chairperson Carol Cook said. “Everybody had to stop and look at things differently. They all deserve it.”

Trump birthday reveler accused of defacing LGBTQ intersection with pickup” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Trump birthday reveler faces multiple charges in the vandalism of a Delray Beach intersection painted to recognize Pride Month, police said Thursday. Alexander Jerich, 20, of Delray Beach, is charged with criminal mischief over $1,000, reckless driving and evidence of prejudice, which enhances the charge to a felony, police said. He turned himself in to police Thursday and was taken to the Palm Beach County Jail. Video of the incident posted on social media shows a pickup truck doing a tire burnout across the intersection as other drivers honk their horns. The drivers were part of a birthday rally for Trump, whose birthday was Monday.

West Palm Beach’s 4th of July celebration is back on after coronavirus cancellation” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — A year after the coronavirus forced its cancellation, West Palm Beach is once again hosting its 4th on Flagler holiday celebration at the waterfront. This year’s event will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, July 4, along the waterfront on Flagler Street between Banyan Boulevard and Fern Street. Refreshments will be available for purchase. There will be entertainment, the inaugural Bill Bone 5K, a patriotic salute and a fireworks show. “4th on Flagler is one of the city’s fan-favorite signature events,” West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said in a news release announcing the return of the celebration. “I am so pleased that this event will return this year.”

Bring on the sparklers: Keith James is bringing fireworks back to West Palm Beach.

FAMU receives $5M donation from Google to expand minority STEM representation” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — FAMU is receiving a $5 million donation from Google as part of the company’s initiative to increase the number of underrepresented groups in the tech industry. FAMU is one of 10 HBCUs getting a cut of Google’s $50 million effort to fund scholarships, invest in infrastructure for in-class and remote learning, as well as develop curriculum and career support programs for minority students. University President Larry Robinson called the measure “mutually beneficial” by allowing recipients to expand their programs while expanding the tech workforce. Google and the rest of Silicon Valley are plagued with an ongoing lack of racial diversity. Black Americans make up 12% of the nation’s workforce, but Black employees account for less than 4% of Google’s workforce.

FSU poised for change at the top” via Ryan Dailey of News Service of Florida — The FSU Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a five-year contract for incoming President Richard McCullough, as retiring President John Thrasher reflected on his nearly seven years at the helm. McCullough, who was selected last month to lead the university, would earn an annual base salary of $700,000. McCullough’s appointment needs final approval from the state university system’s Board of Governors, which will consider it during a meeting Wednesday. Thrasher will preside July 30 over two more commencement ceremonies for students graduating during the summer semester. Thrasher’s contract will end on Aug. 15, and McCullough’s contract would begin on Aug. 16.


Sending Florida’s police to Texas and Arizona? Try helping us closer to home, Gov. DeSantis” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida’s Governor is sending police to the border. Not Florida’s border. The border in Texas. And the one in Arizona. His ostensible reason for this attention-grabbing move is to help quell waves of migrants coming from Mexico, the desperate and poor who seek a new life in the United States. When the Republican Governors of the two states asked for help, DeSantis sprang into action. Such a noble gesture. We’re sure it has absolutely nothing to do with any presidential aspirations in 2024. But hold on. Where was all that “stepping up” during the recent spate of gun violence in Miami-Dade County — which is in DeSantis’ very own state? It’s not like he hasn’t been in South Florida, either.


Embracing Juneteenth is entirely consistent with the pushback against discussing racism in schools” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — The Senate unanimously approved the establishment of Juneteenth as a new federal holiday, and the House overwhelmingly agreed a day later. The difference between embracing Juneteenth and embracing education on the persistence of racism in American society and institutions is the difference between an evil that has been addressed and an ongoing injustice. While focused largely on how Black Americans are treated by police, the Black Lives Matter movement has also increased awareness of how systems more broadly can exhibit racism. One result of that focus was that in 2018, for the first time on record, more Americans saw the weaker economic position of Black Americans as being a function of ongoing discrimination than saw it being a function of inherent flaws in Black people.

We need another Freedom Summer” via Raymond Arsenault and Howard Simon for the Tampa Bay Times — The assault on democracy and voting rights is so widespread, taking place in so many states, young volunteers can devote a summer, or perhaps even a full year, working for democracy in their home state or temporarily relocating to other states where voting rights are under attack. But this call for a new Freedom Summer is directed primarily toward a new generation of high school and college-age Americans, urging them to accept the challenge of assuming the mantel of their courageous activist predecessors. What an opportunity to serve, to learn, to expand horizons. What an opportunity for young people, once again, to do great things for their country.

DeSantis thinks he can just defy state law and bypass the Cabinet (he can’t)” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Gov. DeSantis had a wildly successful lawmaking session this year because the Legislature rubber-stamped almost anything he wanted. That’s not the case with the Florida Cabinet, at least not when it comes to picking the next person to lead Florida’s most important environmental agency. At a Cabinet meeting this week, DeSantis said he thinks the state constitution lets him choose a Department of Environmental Protection Secretary without getting approval from the Cabinet. Instead, DeSantis said, he can replace departed DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein by simply choosing to get confirmation from the state Senate. Florida law clearly states that DeSantis’s pick for DEP secretary must be approved by all three Cabinet members plus the state Senate.

Florida Democrats shouldn’t be punishing internal dissent” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — In addition to money and incumbency, Florida Republicans have another enormous advantage as we head into the 2022 campaign season. That’s the Democrats’ historic tendency to start a big race by slashing their Achilles tendons. If the party has an embarrassing little weakness, something it would like to downplay in the face of certain Republican attacks, you can count on some Democrats, somewhere, finding a way to remind everybody of what we don’t like about them. Now, in this era of cancel culture and conspicuous virtue-signaling, we see signs that the Democrats want to demand a rigid orthodoxy regarding race, clearly the most difficult issue of our time.


The conservative majority on the state Supreme Court rejected a constitutional amendment that would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Florida. It’s the second pro-pot amendment rejected by the high court in the past two months.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Florida’s former chief science officer says the more than 200 million gallons of wastewater from Piney Point that ended up in Tampa Bay is NOT the cause of a red tide outbreak along the beaches of Pinellas County.

— It may not have been the cause, but Dr. Tom Frazer says the Piney Point discharge made the red tide worse.

— Once again, DeSantis refuses to say whether he believes last year’s election was rigged against Trump. DeSantis answered, but it had nothing to do with the question.

— The woman who wants to replace DeSantis next year — Agriculture Commissioner Fried — is holding a news conference to talk about an investigation of a Texas charity involved in conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election.

— Another Democratic rival, Congressman Crist, is also holding a news conference where he will ask DeSantis to investigate Florida’s ties to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

— One more week before the end of federal unemployment benefits that have helped Floridians during the COVID-19 crisis. The state is dropping out more than two months early because business leaders claim people won’t work while those $300 per week federal benefits are available.

— And finally, there’s a Florida Man who stole from sick kids and a Florida couple busted after playing around at a playground.

To listen, click on the image below:


Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Senate President Wilton Simpson.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring USF-St. Petersburg John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History Emeritus Ray Arsenault, Tampa Bay History Center Black History Curator Fred Hearns, Hillsborough County District 5 Commissioner Mariella Smith and Tampa Bay Estuary Program Executive Director Ed Sherwood.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: Juneteenth is the subject, featuring a discussion about the history of the holiday and the state of race relations in Florida with Sen. Randolph Bracy and Dr. Larry Walker, College of Community Innovation and Education Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: a closer look at Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva and previews Tuesday’s St. Pete mayoral debate.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Ybeth Bruzual speaks to Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith about bills passed during the Legislative Session and House Speaker Chris Sprowls addresses proposed environmental legislation. 

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks pollster/consultant Steve Vancore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Incoming Jacksonville City Council President Sam Newby, Jacksonville City Council District 8 Ju’Coby Pittman and SouthEast Development Group Principal Steve Atkins.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): A discussion with Rabbis from South Florida who recently returned from Israel.

— ALOE —

Massive cloud of dust sweeps across Atlantic, heads toward U.S.” via Kevin Byrne of AccuWeather — Radiant sunsets are in the forecast for parts of Florida thanks in part to a weather pattern currently underway across another continent. Dust kicked up across the Sahara Desert and carried by trade winds has been pouring off the coast of Africa in recent weeks and floating clear across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Caribbean and Florida. The dusty air is brought about by a weather pattern known as the African easterly jet, which consists of strong low to midlevel winds in the atmosphere over central Africa. “These features will bring more dust, but we can’t tell at this point whether there will be any mega dust outbreaks like we saw last year. We will just have to wait and watch,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

Grab your Dustbusters; it could soon get a little dusty in the South. Image via AP.


Best wishes to Rep. Joe HardingCary Aungst and Wendy Bitner Rodin.


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.

One comment

  • Ron Ogden

    June 18, 2021 at 5:26 am

    “. . .Democrats contend that the federal government already is deploying people into border areas so there is no need for DeSantis to “sacrifice the safety of our state for what appears to be political posturing.”

    The Demis want to feel safe on their way to their “defund the police” rally.

Comments are closed.


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