Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.23.21

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Former Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith will become Tampa Mayor Jane Castor‘s next Communications Director, sources tell Florida Politics.

Smith, whose hire is pending final details, will replace Ashley Bauman, who left her post earlier this year citing health reasons. 

Smith most recently served as Senior Vice President at the public affairs firm Mercury in its Tampa office. There, he was overseeing work on former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch‘s bid for St. Petersburg Mayor. With Mercury, he also previously worked on Castor’s overwhelmingly successful mayoral campaign in 2019. 

While sources say Smith’s role will likely be somewhat different from Bauman’s, which was heavy on digital presence, he’ll take on leadership over the Castor administration’s messaging as she enters the second half of her first term in office.


Tampa will host a Donald Trump rally on the Fourth of July weekend. Maybe.

Sources say the former President’s team is doing the rounds looking for a place to host the event. So far, no dice. If they can’t book a location in the Big Guava, they’re ready to check out some alternatives.

Will Donald Trump hold a July 4 rally in Tampa? Could be. Image via AP.

Since leaving office, Trump hasn’t made many public appearances, mostly relying on statements, news releases, and various blogs to work around his social media bans and reach his fans.

He did, however, surface at the North Carolina Republican Convention to deliver his first major speech in months to a crowd of an estimated 1,250 people.

A full-on Trump rally typically draws in a larger crowd, if there’s a venue available, of course.


After years of trying, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state signed a new Gaming Compact that will bring sports betting to the state, assuming it’s approved by the federal government.

The massive shift in the gaming landscape has led the Tribe to add reinforcements to its lobbying corps via its Hard Rock International brand.

The paperwork has yet to show up on the state’s website, but once the lobbying registration database is updated, it will show the Tribe has inked a deal with Ballard Partners for help navigating the brave new world of gambling in Florida.

The firm, led by Brian Ballard, previously repped a variety of gaming interests. With the addition of the Tribe to its client sheet, Ballard Partners has deregistered two other gaming clients — Draft Kings and Fan Duel.

Ballard Partners is among the most successful firms in the state, and in most quarters, it tops the list of top lobbying firms by revenue.

In other notes:

🏛Path to insurrection: CNN released an interactive media package analyzing the chaotic events of Jan. 6 and took a deep dive into how the nation got to the point where thousands of Americans thought it prudent to seize the nation’s Capitol. It features videos of Trump supporters who bought into what’s become colloquially known as “the big lie” that Trump rightfully won the 2020 election, as well as information about the groups and leaders who fanned the flames. Read more here.

🐘It’s Ron DeSantis’ party now: For 10 minutes Tuesday, Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, along with a three-person panel, gushed about Florida’s Governor and how he may be rising in stature to the point of being the GOP’s new de facto leader. While there was plenty of praise heaped on DeSantis, the conversation also had an air of almost relief, that DeSantis may be the one pushing Trump from the spotlight. Florida Politics reporter Scott Powers dives more into the segment here.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

🚀Did Disney mangle the Star Wars universe?: The Atlantic makes the case they did. They explain why the transition from the early days of George Lucas’ vision to today’s Disney-fueled onslaught of streaming options might have watered down the brand’s value. But with anything Disney, hope is never far off. The piece hypothesizes The Mandalorian series as the Star Wars franchise savior. And of course … baby Yoda. (We know, we know: he’s not actually baby Yoda.)

💍 She said ‘yes’: Congrats to a super-smart couple: Vanessa Thompson, chief of staff for Sen. Jeff Brandes, on her engagement to RJ Myers, legislative and governmental affairs specialist at Suskey Consulting.

She said ‘yes!’


Tweet, tweet:

 @SenSchumer: Every single Senate Republican voted against even starting debate on critical voting rights legislation. Senate Republicans again signed their names alongside Trump, the Big Lie, voter suppression. Make no mistake: The fight in the Senate to protect voting rights is not over.

@JuddLegum: Senate Republicans unanimously vote to establish Juneteenth as a holiday and then a couple of days later unanimously vote to block legislation to protect voting rights. Any questions?

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@ChristinaPushaw: Dr. Peter Hotez reveals that he knows nothing about Soviet history. Yes, Stalin was a brutal dictator and Communism is inhumane, but the Soviets were very advanced in the sciences. First man in space, anyone? Even more important than science was scientism. Like Hotez wants here.

@PeterHotez: Wow is this really the press secretary of Gov DeSantis, trolling me? Apologizing for Stalin? Also confusing historical periods. Stalin died in 1953, and Yuri Gagarin made the first human space mission in 1961 under Khrushchev‘s thaw into the 1960s.

@michellesalzman: Friends around town as I see them: “How’s being a grandma?” Me: “It’s amazing!” #Family

@GrayRohrer: Say what you want about Scott Maddox, but when his palm got greased, the building got finished. Thanks a lot, FBI.


Microsoft reveals major Windows update — 1; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 2; Bruce Springsteen revives solo show, “Springsteen on Broadway” — 3; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 8; Fourth of July — 11; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 16; MLB All-Star Game — 20; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 27; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 30; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 30; the NBA Draft — 40; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 42; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 48; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 56; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 62; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 71; NFL regular season begins — 78; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 83; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 89; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 93; ‘Dune’ premieres — 100; MLB regular season ends — 102; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 107; World Series Game 1 — 126; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 132; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 132; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 134; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 148; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 156; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 170; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 180; NFL season ends — 200; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 202; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 202; NFL playoffs begin — 206; Super Bowl LVI — 235; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 275; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 317; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 344; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 380; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 471; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 506.


Ron DeSantis OKs academic surveys to ensure campuses aren’t ‘hotbeds for stale ideologies’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — During a stop in Lee County, DeSantis signed legislation requiring university professors to be surveyed on ideology. “It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you would be exposed to a lot of different ideas,” DeSantis said. He spoke at Three Oaks Middle School, where he signed multiple pieces of legislation involving Florida’s civics curriculum. He also signed a bill (HB 233) that requires annual intellectual diversity surveys of Florida’s university and college professors. He said hiring faculty with a range of political views and values would be essential to providing quality education in Florida’s public institutions. “You need to have a true contest of ideas,” he said. DeSantis said too often, he hears from parents concerned that if they send a child to a college or university setting, they will be “indoctrinated.”

Ron DeSantis wants to keep Florida universities from becoming ‘hotbeds of ideology.’

State university faculty, students to be surveyed on beliefs” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — The measure, which goes into effect July 1, does not specify what will be done with the survey results. But DeSantis and Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the sponsor of the bill, suggested on Tuesday that budget cuts could be looming if universities and colleges are found to be “indoctrinating” students. “That’s not worth tax dollars, and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting moving forward,” DeSantis said at a news conference. University faculty members have worried the new measure could create a chilling effect on their freedom of speech. Democratic lawmakers also have argued the bill might allow politicians to meddle in, monitor and regulate speech on campus in the future.

— 2022 —

How Democrats can defy history in 2022” via Ronald Brownstein of CNN — The huge voter turnout over the past three elections could scramble the usual dynamics of midterm voting, potentially providing Democrats their best chance to avoid losses next year that could cost them control of the House, the Senate or both. The President’s party has almost always lost ground in the first midterm after his election, a trend that stretches back well into the 19th century and threatens Democrats clinging to a slim majority in the House and a 50-50 split in the Senate after Joe Biden‘s victory in 2020. Democrats have a unique, rarely discussed, asset in avoiding that fate in 2022: the unusually large pool of voters who have backed its candidates in recent elections. Nearly 91 million individual Americans have voted Democratic in at least one of those three most recent elections, but only 82 million Republicans did the same.

How can Democrats flip the script for 2022? Image via CNN.

DeSantis cultivating a national army of small-dollar donors” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A committee backing DeSantis’ reelection raised nearly $870,000 in just over two weeks in June. Perhaps more significant, that came from nearly 1,200 different donors, including more than 1,000 individuals who gave less than $1,000. That shows DeSantis is cultivating a base of small donors as he becomes more of a national figure. A look at the 1,170 donations to Friends of Ron DeSantis bears that out. More than half the donations come from Florida sources, 730 of them. From June 1-16, the political committee tallied about $869,213. A $100,000 donation came from Naples real estate professional Brenda O’Loughlin, the largest donation so far this month. Cannae Holdings gave $50,000. So did Atlanta attorney Rahul Patel and New York real estate professional Haim Chera.

Charlie Crist slams DeSantis for stoking ‘The Big Lie’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Crist, a Democratic candidate for Governor, pounded Gov. DeSantis for continuing to let conspiracy theories fester. The St. Petersburg Congressman said the Republican Governor won’t address right-wing extremism or embrace the truth about the November election. “Three days ago, I challenged Gov. DeSantis to reject the Big Lie and launch a bipartisan investigation into Florida-based hate group members and their connections to the January 6 insurrection at our nation’s Capitol,” Crist said. “Our Governor could have done the right thing to keep Floridians safe and stop violent hate groups from organizing in Florida. Instead, he has chosen partisanship and division.”

Hearing delayed in death-threat allegations made by Anna Paulina Luna” via Matt Cohen of the Tampa Bay Times — Congressional candidate William Braddock was granted an extension Tuesday to review evidence cited in an injunction petition filed against him by political foe Luna. Braddock’s request for the extension came after the consolidation of two hearings on separate allegations that he made death threats, one by Luna and one by nurse and author Erin Olszewski. A new hearing is set for July 9. Luna and Olszewski obtained temporary injunctions earlier and are seeking to make them permanent.

Naples anti-abortion activist Bill Oppenheimer running for City Council in 2022” via Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of the Naples Daily News — Oppenheimer filed a form last month designating a treasurer and bank account for a campaign for the City Council election in February 2022. As president of the anti-abortion group Action for Life Inc., Oppenheimer has led in recent months a grassroots effort to ban abortions within city limits. Supporters of the ban have protested at City Hall and have taken over the public comment section of council meetings. They are demanding council members put an abortion ban ordinance on the agenda and declare Naples a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Four out of seven councilors have said they do not support adding such an item to a council meeting agenda.

Hearing set in ballot initiative battle” via News Service of Florida — U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor issued an order Monday scheduling a hearing on a request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and three political committees seeking to put initiatives on the November 2022 ballot. The law (SB 1890), passed by the Legislature in April and signed by DeSantis, places a $3,000 limit on contributions to political committees collecting petition signatures in initiative drives. The ACLU and the political committees contend that the cap violates First Amendment rights and would make it virtually impossible to collect the required petition signatures. Republican lawmakers passed the measure as part of years of efforts to make it harder to amend the state Constitution.

GOP governors call for redistricting data” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis and 14 other Republican Governors Tuesday urged the federal government to release coronavirus-delayed census data needed to formally begin the redistricting process. A letter, distributed by the Republican Governors Association, said, “we are now facing a nearly half-year delay beyond the statutory deadline for receiving redistricting data. This delay places an unreasonable burden on our states and undermines public trust in the foundations of our democratic republic.” The letter was sent to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo by DeSantis and the Governors of Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. The Census Bureau released some data in April, but the redistricting data isn’t expected until the end of September.

Ron DeSantis and GOP Governors are asking Gina Raimondo to get the ball rolling on redistricting. Image via AP.

Delray PAC finance report raises more questions than it answers on mayoral election” via Mike Diamond in the Palm Beach Post — Progress for Delray Beach, the dark-money political action committee (PAC) that was heavily involved in the March 9 mayoral election, has finally submitted a campaign finance report. The report, however, raises more questions than it answers. The PAC mailed thousands of flyers critical of Mayor Shelly Petrolia in the weeks leading up to the election in an unsuccessful effort to defeat her. The problem is that its finance reports indicate it had no money in its bank account during January and February when it mailed the flyers. And they had to be designed well before they were mailed. Petrolia claims some of the attack flyers were misleading and others untrue.


State urges judge to reject tech industry arguments against new social media law” via The News Service of Florida — Florida attorneys late Monday pushed back against an attempt to block a new state law that would put restrictions on companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The state argued that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle should reject a request by online-industry groups for a preliminary injunction against the law, a top priority of DeSantis. The law, which is scheduled to take effect July 1, seeks to prevent large social-media companies from barring political candidates from their platforms and would require companies to publish standards about issues such as blocking users. The industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association filed a lawsuit on May 27 and are seeking the preliminary injunction, contending that the law would violate First Amendment rights and harm companies’ efforts to moderate content.

State responds to social media crackdown challenge — Attorney General Ashley Moody put up the state’s first defense for the new social media crackdown bill in federal court. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, Moody argued that the law was intended to protect Floridians against Big Tech’s “unprecedented power.” “The social media behemoths’ power to silence both on their platforms and throughout society has given rise to a troubling trend where a handful of corporations control a critical chokepoint for the expression of ideas,” Moody’s office said a response to a challenge filed in Tallahassee federal court. The state’s response is 61 pages long and includes over 1,000 pages of new articles it claims will back its position that Big Tech companies unfairly target conservatives.

Ashley Moody is mounting a vigorous defense of the state’s Big Tech punishment law. Image via Getty Images.

Child care van alarms finally make it into law” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart‘s long-running effort to protect young children from being forgotten in sweltering child care transport vans finally notched a victory Tuesday. DeSantis approved SB 252 brought this year by Stewart and Rep. Ben Diamond in the pile of bills the Governor signed late Tuesday. “This will absolutely save lives,” Stewart said. Stewart has been pushing for nearly five years to require child care centers that provide transport for children to install vehicle alarms that will sound if someone is left behind inside. She first began pushing the legislation in 2017 after the death of 3-year-old Myles Hill of Orlando, who died of heatstroke after being left in the back of a day care van for seven hours.

Happening tomorrow — The St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce holds its annual Legislative Luncheon, featuring Sen. Gayle Harrell and Reps. Erin Grall, Toby Overdorf, Dana Trabulsy and Kaylee Tuck, 11:30 a.m., Boys & Girls Club of SLC Westside Club Campus, 3361 S. Jenkins Road, Fort Pierce. RSVP at

Steven Outlaw, former interim TPD chief, named head of Florida Public Safety Institute” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Community College on Monday announced law enforcement veteran Steven Outlaw as the new executive director of its Florida Public Safety Institute. Outlaw will direct the Institute, best known for operating the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in Gadsden County, which offers the training to become a sworn officer. Outlaw most recently was interim Tallahassee police chief after Michael DeLeo resigned in June 2019. Outlaw remained the top cop until current chief Lawrence Revell was appointed. “Steve Outlaw’s significant experience in law enforcement, strong background in training and connections in our community, as well as his leadership skills and integrity all make him an ideal executive director at the Institute,” TCC President Jim Murdaugh said. 


Nikki Fried announces first statewide study on energy equity” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Fried announced Tuesday morning her office is launching the first-ever statewide study of energy equity. The examination, conducted under Fried’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Energy, seeks to improve energy equity in Florida. “To help those who need it the most, we need to understand the systemic inequalities, the barriers and disparities and all the factors that keep vulnerable communities trapped in a cycle of energy efficiency and higher energy costs,” Fried said. Research has shown that low-income, Black and Hispanic families face an energy burden three times higher than other consumers. This is often driven by increased utility costs due to energy inefficient appliances, insulation and weather. The office has already issued requests for proposals for researchers, which are due by July 21 at 5 p.m.

Nikki Fried is launching a statewide energy audit. Image via Facebook.

Ashley Moody blasts court-packing proposals at South Florida roundtable” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Moody met with Republican leaders in South Florida Tuesday to rally against court-packing, a controversial move that would expand the U.S. Supreme Court to include additional justices. The roundtable, hosted by Florida International University, comes as a commission created by Biden explores the possibility of an expansion. It also comes after Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices. Proposed in April, the bill would allow Biden to nominate four additional justices to the bench. While unpopular among Republicans and some Democrats, more progressive lawmakers have pushed for the expansion in the weeks and months following Trump’s presidency.

States race to launch multibillion-dollar sports betting for NFL season; fans and foes in Florida ready to clash” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — Are you ready for some football? More to the point: Are you ready to gamble on it (legally)? Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia are set to go, and nine more are working on it as fast as they can, including Florida, hinging on approval from the federal government that could reshape the state’s gambling landscape. The initial target date is Sept. 9, kickoff day for the National Football League, resuming after a long time-out forced on the league by COVID-19. Preseason play begins on Aug. 12. The floodgates that blocked sports betting opened three years ago with a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court ruling, sparking a gold rush worth billions.

Assignment editors — Representatives of the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) and Florida municipal electric utilities, including Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Beaches Energy Service (Jacksonville Beach), Keys Energy Services (Key West), Kissimmee Utility Authority, Ocala Electric Utility and Orlando Utilities Commission, join for a news conference to mark the first year of the Florida Municipal Solar Project, 9 a.m., Harmony Solar Energy Center. 8101 E. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, St. Cloud.

‘Boys State’: High school boys create a mock government” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The Florida American Legion Boys State brings together 352 “delegates” for a week of mock government activities. In its 77th session since 1940, the youth leadership program is organized by the American Legion Department of Florida. This year marks a return of the program after canceled last year due to COVID-19. Delegates in Florida this session will get access to several high-profile guest speakers. Gov. DeSantis is slated to speak to the group Tuesday. Also on the agenda throughout the week are Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and FAMU President Larry Robinson, among others.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida study tracks invasive python movements” via Karl Schneider of the Naples Daily News — The Conservancy of Southwest Florida released a five-year study on invasive Burmese pythons to help design more effective control programs in the state. The study is the longest tracking effort to date, looking at home range estimates and preferred habitat for the invasive snakes. “This was quite a heavy-lifting assignment,” Ian Bartoszek, a wildlife biologist with the Conservancy and an author of the study, said. “It’s a wide-angle lens of how pythons are using the landscape here in the coastal region in Southwest Florida.” The study, released Monday, also marks a milestone in the Conservancy’s efforts to remove the invasive snakes from the ecosystem.

A wildlife conservatory is keeping tabs on invasive pythons.

A small program at George Stone got Yamaha’s attention. It could impact schools nationwide” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal — One program at George Stone Technical College is so successful that it could serve as a blueprint for more than 100 similar schools across the country. Executives at Yamaha spent Monday learning about the school’s marine service technology program, meeting its instructor, students and graduates. The executives wanted to learn just how the program has become so successful, boasting graduation and retention rates that hover between 96% and 98%. Kenyon Ward, the marine training coordinator for Yamaha Marine, said dealers in the industry are facing a massive lack of technicians. To help combat that problem, Ward and other Yamaha executives are hoping to apply George Stone instructor Stefan Schmitt’s methods to the more than 100 schools it has partnered with nationwide.


Joe Biden might extend the CDC eviction moratorium another month; Gov. DeSantis won’t reinstate his” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — The Biden administration is said to be considering a one-month extension of the CDC’s national eviction moratorium because of the slow rollout of rental assistance that’s prevented Americans from catching up on rent before the moratorium ends on July 1. Without the CDC moratorium, Florida renters would be particularly vulnerable to eviction after DeSantis allowed the state’s moratorium to expire last fall. For weeks, housing groups and Democratic lawmakers have urged the White House to extend the moratorium, pointing to Census Bureau data showing that 6 million people — mostly people of color and with disabilities — were behind on rent in May. In Orange County alone, 6,352 evictions were filed from April 2020 to March 2021.

Joe Biden wants to extend eviction moratoriums, Ron DeSantis is not keen on the idea.

Florida cruise industry getting ready to set sail” via Mel Holt and Jack DeMarco of WFTV — DeSantis took a moment during a Jacksonville news conference to talk about the ruling in favor of Florida’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction against the CDC. “I think it’s important for the folks in this industry to be able to have a path forward, but I also think it’s beyond this. In this country, we’ve seen government overstep its bounds in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic,” said DeSantis. The CDC has until July 2 to propose a narrower set of guidelines to safeguard the public’s health. While Port Canaveral’s CEO, Captain John Murray, has not commented about the federal judge’s most recent ruling, he has told us in the past that there’s no lack of demand for cruises.

Freedom of the Seas ship returns to PortMiami after simulated voyage” via Trent Kelly and Amanda Batchelor of WPLG — Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas ship returned to PortMiami Tuesday morning after setting sail on a simulated voyage and becoming the first ship to sail with passengers from the U.S. since the pandemic began. “There’s a huge comeback. There are lots of ships being planned to be restarted with lots of paying guests. We are very excited to get started again,” said Patrik Dahlgren, senior vice president of the Royal Caribbean Group. The simulated sailing left Miami on Sunday with some 600 employee volunteers onboard. “I think it was actually not too much different. I’d have to say,” one volunteer, Elisa Shen, said. “Everything you would normally want to do in a cruise ship, you could do.”

Jacksonville cruises to Bahamas still on hold until after August” via David Bauerlein and Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — The cruise industry will fire up the propellers again this summer for the first time since March 2020, but it still will be sometime after August before passengers resume boarding Carnival Cruise Line’s Ecstasy ship in Jacksonville. Two weeks ago, Carnival announced a handful of its ships would resume carrying passengers, starting with Mardi Gras from Port Canaveral on July 31 with other ships coming online in August with sailings from Miami, Long Beach, California, Galveston, Texas and Seattle. As for eight other ships, including the Ecstasy from Jacksonville, Carnival said June 10 it had “extended the pause” through Aug. 31 for voyages by them from U.S. ports. The company said Monday it has not made any changes to that statement.

Third grade language arts scores dip” via News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Education reported that 54% of third grade students this year scored “satisfactory” or above on the state English-language arts exam, a 4 percentage-point decrease from 2019 when the exam was last administered. The department, however, touted the results as evidence of the importance of keeping schools open through the COVID-19 pandemic. In a news release accompanying the results, the department wrote that despite the decrease, “the data clearly shows that, on average, districts with higher rates of in-person instruction weathered the ‘COVID-19 slide’ better and saw lesser declines between 2019 and 2021 than districts with higher rates of virtual instruction.” Results from other statewide assessments will be published no later than July 31, according to the department.


America hits 150 million fully vaccinated, White House says” via Katerina Ang, Miriam Berger and Derek Hawkins of The Washington Post — The United States has fully vaccinated 150 million people against the coronavirus, marking a major milestone in the fight against the pandemic. But the country is expected to fall short of Biden’s goal of getting one shot into the arms of 70% of U.S. adults by July Fourth, and the highly contagious new variants are spreading rapidly. Roughly 46% of U.S. residents have completed their vaccination schedule, a significant improvement but nowhere near the threshold necessary to snuff out the virus in the country. Health experts have said the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, first detected in India, could become dominant in the United States over the summer, adding urgency to their pleas for more people to get their shots.

America hits a vaccine milestone. But will it be enough? Image via AP.

COVID-19 rebounds in U.S. South, with many shunning vaccines” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — COVID-19 transmission is accelerating in several poorly vaccinated states, primarily in the South plus Missouri and Utah, and more young people are turning up at hospitals. The data present the clearest sign of a rebound in the U.S. in months. In Missouri, Arkansas and Utah, the seven-day average of hospital admissions with confirmed COVID-19 has increased more than 30% in the past two weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In Mississippi, the hospitalization rate is up 5% in the period. The jump in hospitalization is particularly jarring among 18- to 29-year-olds in the outlier states.

Why is there such a gender gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates?” via Angelica Puzio of FiveThirtyEight — For months, local, state and federal officials have been consumed with how to persuade Americans who are wary of the COVID-19 vaccine to get the shot anyway. Experts worried about low turnout among women, who reported significantly more vaccination hesitancy than men before the vaccine rollout. And public health officials warned that non-Hispanic Black Americans would be more hesitant than other racial groups because of the historical abuses and exclusion they’ve experienced at the hands of medical professionals and researchers. But the data on actual gender differences in vaccination rates veered in an unexpected direction, leaving an entire group of vaccine-hesitant Americans largely untargeted: men.

Biden administration to miss June target for some COVID-19 vaccine donations” via Sabrina Siddiqui of The Wall Street Journal — The White House on Monday detailed plans to allocate 55 million COVID-19 vaccine doses it is donating overseas, saying the shipments would likely take longer than Biden’s initial target of sending them out by the end of June. White House officials said the delays were related to logistical challenges in countries set to receive the vaccines. In addition, the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was supposed to be among those donated, hasn’t been approved for shipment, leading the administration to substitute vaccines from other manufacturers. Biden said last month that the administration expected to export 80 million donated doses by the end of June.


The pandemic stimulus was front-loaded. That could mean a bumpy year.” via Neil Irwin of The New York Times — The U.S. economy is about to face a new challenge that has its roots in the arithmetic of growth: That which fiscal stimulus giveth, fiscal stimulus taketh away. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan enacted in March, as well as a $900 billion pandemic aid package passed in December, is heavily front-loaded. They were set up to get money out the door fast. But one consequence of that strategy is that fiscal policy in the quarters ahead will subtract from economic growth. Economists mostly project that the economy, with strong momentum in the labor market and huge pools of pent-up savings by households, will be strong enough to keep growing despite the fading of the fiscal boost. There is no modern precedent for such huge swings in sums the government is pumping into the economy. The case for staying calm even as federal spending plummets rests on the rapid growth of the private sector in recent months.

It may be a rough year for the American economy. Image via Reuters.

This week’s end to $300 federal unemployment benefit sparks mixed reaction” via Emerald Morrow of 10 Tampa Bay — A $300 federal unemployment benefit will end on Saturday for Floridians, and it’s sparking mixed reactions among those depending on the benefit and employers desperate to fill open positions. “It’s going to be devastating for people. People are really scared,” said Vanessa Brito, an unemployment advocate who helps job-seekers navigate their unemployment benefits. The state decided last month to opt out of the additional federal benefit as part of its “Return to Work” initiative. Some employers across the Tampa Bay area who have had a hard time filling vacancies said they hope the end of the extra benefit will bring more workers into their doors.

Federal coronavirus relief for Orange County exceeds $400 million. How will it be spent?” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County revealed Tuesday it will receive more than $400 million in federal coronavirus relief assistance, including nearly $90 million combined for Lynx and SunRail and another $10.5 million from Housing and Urban Development to address homelessness. The total includes direct payment of around $271 million to the county from the American Rescue Plan. The county has received $135 million in direct aid, Deputy County Manager Darren Gray said. Details of the plan aren’t finished, partly because the money comes with strings attached. Cristina Berrios, an assistant county attorney, said last year’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act was a “nine-month spending frenzy almost” because it was pushed out as emergency-relief spending while this funding demands more accounting.

Santa Rosa County could spend majority of American Rescue Plan money on infrastructure” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Santa Rosa County Commissioners had many different ideas for how best to spend $36 million in American Rescue Plan Act money, but the one thing they all agreed on Tuesday was that much of the money should be used on infrastructure. Per federal guidelines, the funds must be encumbered or obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and fully expended by Dec. 31, 2026. Jared Lowe, grants and special programs coordinator with the county, cautioned that while stormwater and drainage projects are 100% allowable under ARPA federal guidelines, road infrastructure is a stickier subject, and there have to be specific guidelines met for the funding to be used for that sort of project.


Almost 900 Secret Service employees were infected with COVID-19” via The Associated Press — Roughly 900 U.S. Secret Service employees tested positive for the coronavirus, according to government records obtained by a government watchdog group. Secret Service records show that 881 people on the agency payroll were diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 1, 2020, and March 9, 2021, according to documents obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. More than 11% of Secret Service employees were infected. Secret Service spokesperson Justine Whelan said COVID-19 testing of employees was proactive, with more than 25,000 tests being administered. The records received through a Freedom of Information Act request did not include the names or assignments of those who tested positive.

COVID-19 is running rampant among members of the Secret Service. Image via AP.

Miami escapes upheaval at other American Airlines hubs. Few cancellations expected” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Despite a wave of summer flight cancellations by American Airlines, operations from Miami International Airport will remain largely unaffected, a spokesperson said. The onslaught of travel bookings by cabin-fevered Americans led the airline to announce temporary cuts earlier this week amid staff shortages. Throughout the rest of June, American will make around 50-60 short-notice flight cancellations nationwide each day as needed. For the first half of July, the company has already canceled around 50-80 previously scheduled flights per day nationwide, accounting for about 1% of its capacity. The impact on Miami flights will vary.


‘This fight is far from over,’ Biden says after Senate Republicans block debate on elections bill” via Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — Biden on Tuesday vowed to continue pushing for action on voting rights legislation, hours after Senate Republicans blocked debate on a far-reaching elections bill. “Unfortunately, a Democratic stand to protect our democracy met a solid Republican wall of opposition,” Biden said. “Senate Republicans opposed even a debate — even considering — legislation to protect the right to vote and our democracy. It was the suppression of a bill to end voter suppression — another attack on voting rights that is sadly not unprecedented.” While the measure was blocked, Biden said Democrats on Tuesday took “a step forward to honor all those who came before us, people of all races and ages, who sacrificed and died to protect this sacred right.”

The fight for voting rights is far from over, Joe Biden says. Image via AP.

Biden pushes shots for young adults as variant concern grows” via The Associated Press — The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to get younger Americans vaccinated for COVID-19 as concerns grow about the spread of a new variant that threatens to set the country back in the months ahead. The push is underway as the delta variant, first identified in India, has come to represent more than 20% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks, the CDC reported. That’s double what it was when the CDC last reported on the variant’s prevalence. “The delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said at a White House briefing on the virus. “Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the delta variant.” 


Donald Trump’s GOP friends and foes unite — to shrug at Dem fury over secret subpoenas” via Olivia Beavers of POLITICO — Democrats are pushing forward full-throttle on investigations, calling to hear from William Barr and Jeff Sessions as well as other Trump administration officials, such as former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The GOP is almost unified in its response: The government should investigate leaks of classified information, even if that sweeps up members of the opposite political party, as long as it is within the confines of the law. And they say that applies to Democratic Presidents, too. Trump’s Justice Department aggressively pursued leak investigations. And as skeptical as they are of those Democratic probes, multiple Republicans acknowledged that conservatives would be outraged if the situation were reversed.

Fox News and Trump are still pushing hydroxychloroquine. Here’s what the data actually shows.” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The rapid decline of the coronavirus in an increasingly vaccinated American public has allowed us all to focus on other related, but formerly less pressing, things. High on that list thus far has been whether scientists and the media were too anxious to dismiss the lab-leak theory — a valid debate with real implications. But also pretty high on that list — and rising — for a small but passionate number of people is something else they claim Trump was right about all along: hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. “There was a study that came out that said that hydroxychloroquine actually helped people survive,” Steve Doocy of Fox News said Monday morning.

A small group of people insists Donald Trump was right about hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. Image via AP.

Trump’s fundraising arm is back advertising on Facebook” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Trump’s fundraising arm is once again advertising on Facebook after the social media giant banned the ex-President from using the site. Starting late last week, Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, a joint venture between Trump’s Save America leadership PAC and his Make America Great Again PAC, has spent $3,506 on Facebook ads promoting Trump’s upcoming rally outside Cleveland, Ohio and calling for donations to his fund. Another ad, targeting Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, asks supporters to donate to “STOP SLEEPY JOE.” The ads link to Trump’s Save America fundraising page, run by the Republican digital ad firm WinRed.

RNC paid Trump’s Mar-a-Lago over $175,000 for donor retreat” via Brian Schwartz of NBC News — The Republican National Committee paid just over $175,000 to former President Donald Trump’s private club to host part of its spring donor retreat. Federal Election Commission filings show that the six-figure sum was paid in May to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, a month after the April donor event at the private club in Palm Beach, Florida. A Republican National Committee spokeswoman confirmed that more than $175,000 was, in fact, for the meeting. The new RNC filing describes the payment to Mar-a-Lago as fees for “venue rental and catering.”

Beware ‘smokescreen trolling,’ Trump followers’ favorite tactic” via Whitney Phillips of Wired — Some of the claims coming out of the Trump camp in recent weeks are laughable: that Biden is the Hamburglar, that Democrats are conspiring to take away the Chick-fil-A sauces of “real” Americans, that socialism is making your burritos more expensive. Some are much more serious, but just as demonstrably false: that the 2020 election was stolen, that Democrats are guilty of widespread voter fraud, that the January 6 insurrection wasn’t an insurrection at all. When Trumpists post wild accusations to social media, they’re not open to having their minds changed, and they will be impervious to whatever facts you think they might be missing. They will, however, be very pleased by your efforts to try.

Trump wanted his Justice Department to stop ‘SNL’ from teasing him” via Asawin Suebsang and Adam Rawnsley of the Daily Beast — In March 2019, the then-President of the United States had just watched an episode of the long-running, liberal-leaning NBC sketch comedy series, and grew immediately incensed that the show was gently mocking him. Trump had asked advisers and lawyers in early 2019 about what the Federal Communications Commission, the courts systems, and the Department of Justice could do to probe or mitigate SNL, Jimmy Kimmel, and other late-night comedy mischief-makers. “It was more annoying than alarming, to be honest with you,” one source recalled.


After seven months of debunking, the false belief that Biden won because of fraud hasn’t budged” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Despite Trump’s insistence that the evidence of fraud was overwhelming, it was not. In fact, it was all but nonexistent, and what evidence one might have pointed to was not credible. In the months since, other fraud theories have emerged and faded, with no such claim withstanding any extended scrutiny. Polling shows about a third of Americans think Biden won only because of voter fraud, the same fraction of the electorate that held that view in polling in March, in January and in November. Americans are as likely to ascribe Biden’s victory to unfounded fraud claims as they were seven months ago.

Some people just didn’t get the memo. Image via AP.

Judge tosses most claims over clearing protesters in D.C. park” via Michael Balsamo of The Associated Press — A federal judge dismissed most claims filed by activists and civil liberties groups who accused the Trump administration of violating the civil rights of protesters who were forcefully removed by police before then-President Trump walked to a church near the White House for a photo-op. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said Monday the claims in the suit, which alleged that Trump and then-Attorney General Barr had conspired to violate the rights of protesters last June, were speculative, and it was premature for the court to conclude whether the actions of law enforcement officers were justified. Friedrich dismissed the claims against Barr and other federal officials, including the acting U.S. Park Police chief, Gregory Monahan.


Marco Rubio urges ‘strong American leadership’ against China on COVID-19 question” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio, appearing on Fox and Friends, was promoting his so-called “COVID Act,” which would institute sanctions on Chinese doctors, firms and labs 90 days after being passed if China doesn’t allow a legitimate investigation of the genesis of the virus. “For all we know, the next great pandemic is being developed in a Chinese laboratory,” Rubio said, saying this was a “global issue.” The Rubio bill would “cut off any and all federal funding for research” if China “doesn’t allow for a full, clear, and transparent investigation of how this thing started … We already know enough about what happened in China, I think, to tell you they’ve done something wrong.”

Marco Rubio has zero doubt that China is cooking up a new virus.

Here are the Florida additions to the SEC’s list of companies misleading investors” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Four Florida companies are among the 64 most recent additions to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s list of “unregistered entities that use misleading information to solicit primarily non-U.S. investors.” That’s the agency’s description of its PAUSE — Public Alert: Unregistered Soliciting Entities — list. “The latest additions are firms that SEC staff found were providing inaccurate information about their affiliation, location or registration (with the SEC),” the SEC said. “In addition to alerting investors to firms falsely claiming to be registered, the PAUSE list flags those impersonating registered securities firms and bogus “regulators” who falsely claim to be government agencies or affiliates.


Gunfire blows out windows at Fort Lauderdale City Hall” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Shots were fired around 12:45 a.m. at 11 North Andrews Ave, police spokeswoman Casey Liening said. Patrol officers went to the address after getting a ShotSpotter notification and confirmed shots had been fired but found no victims. Police didn’t realize City Hall had been hit by gunfire until getting a call from workers who found a mess on the second floor when they showed up for work at 100 N Andrews Ave. That news was a relief to Mayor Dean Trantalis, who has found himself at the center of a political firestorm of late. He said the shooting initially gave him pause about “the dangers that lurk among us.”

Driver in Pride parade crash ‘keeps seeing it like a movie,’ friend says” via Andrew Perez and David Selig of WPLG — The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus is a family, a brotherhood that is now in mourning after a tragic crash took the life of one of its members at the start of Saturday night’s Stonewall Pride Parade. Jim Fahy, 75, was killed and Jerry Vroegh, 67, was injured when their fellow chorus member Fred Johnson Jr., 77, crashed into them with a pickup truck as they were set to march in the Wilton Manors parade. Police and Johnson have called it an accident. His foot reportedly slipped and got stuck under the brake, pushing down to accelerate. On Tuesday, Local 10 News spoke with Chuck Gregory, a friend of Johnson’s who says he is “devastated.”

The driver in the Wilton Manor pride accident is devastated by what happened. Image via AP.

The Town Square mess: Anger boils over Boynton’s downtown project that is only half-finished” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — By one measure, Boynton Beach’s massive Town Square development project has been a rousing success. The portion of the public-private endeavor funded by taxpayers — the work includes the new four-story City Hall, a police station, a fire station and an amphitheater — was completed on time, on budget and is in use. But the private component of Town Square — two parking garages and three residential apartment buildings — is a mess, a situation city officials blame on the developer. Boynton Beach, saddled between popular downtown destinations Lake Worth Beach to the north and Delray Beach to the south, wasn’t considered an option for retail, upscale condos and restaurants in one location.

Miami International Airport director Lester Sola out under Daniella Levine Cava, sources say” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Sola, director of Miami International Airport since 2018, is leaving his post, sources said, a move that follows several months of high-profile contract fights involving the county-owned airport under Miami-Dade’s new Mayor, Levine Cava. No details were available on Sola’s pending departure, which was confirmed by multiple county sources. County representatives and Sola did not respond to a request for comment. The veteran administrator was a leading figure in the administration of Levine Cava’s predecessor, Carlos Giménez, serving as head of Internal Services and Water and Sewer before Giménez named him the county’s Aviation Director in February 2018.

Miami federal inmate died after running into concrete wall, says union rep for guards” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — A federal inmate who may have been high on drugs threatened to slug a correctional officer before being pepper-sprayed, and then he ran directly into a concrete wall — an impact that led to his death from a head injury, according to sources familiar with the incident at a Miami lockup. Drew C. Sikes, who was arrested in March on charges of shooting his assault rifle at Everglades National Park rangers and police officers, died at the Miami Federal Detention Center on June 16, according to a Bureau of Prisons website. The site does not indicate the nature of his death, and BOP officials have not responded to requests for comment.

Blue-green algae warning issued for Lake, Seminole waterways” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Health officials in Lake and Seminole counties issued Blue-green algae alert Monday. The Florida Department of Health said it found harmful blue-green algal toxins in both Lake Howell in Seminole County as well as the Dead River residential canal south of U.S. Highway 441, which connects Lake Eustis and Lake Harris in Lake County. The findings came from samples taken on June 9. If toxic, the cyanobacteria can cause nausea, vomiting and even liver failure in severe cases. Officials advised people not to drink, swim or use watercraft in waters where algae bloom is visible; wash skin and clothing with soap and water if they come into contact with the algae or discolored or smelly water; keep pets away from the area; don’t cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms, or eat shellfish from water with the blooms.

New algae harvesting technology on Lake Munson filters water that flows to Wakulla Springs” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — In just 28 minutes, water from Tallahassee’s Lake Munson can go from choked with algae to crystal clear. On the shoreline of the 255-acre lake sits a single-story holding tank and filtration unit developed by California-based engineering company AECOM. It sucks out water through a pipe, separates individual algae particles and spits it back out to not only improve water quality before it hits the world’s largest first magnitude spring but actually also prevent explosive, toxic algal blooms. The test program in Lake Munson, where roughly half the stormwater runoff from the city ends up, hopes to introduce a new tool to fight nutrient buildup that causes more frequent trouble with algae that’s plagued Florida’s water in recent years.

250 gators removed from Disney properties since 2-year-old’s 2016 death” via Kalia Richardson of the Orlando Sentinel — About 250 alligators have been removed from Disney properties since an alligator killed 2-year-old Lane Thomas Graves from the shores of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa five years ago. Disney management and staff have worked directly with trappers contracted through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to remove them. Disney has also installed a boulder wall and reptile warning signs at the resort, as well as reinforced training among Disney staff. The majority of nuisance gators taken from Disney are euthanized and sold for their hide and meat, according to FWC spokesperson Tammy Sapp. Some are transferred to alligator farms, animal exhibits and zoos, while those less than 4 feet are relocated, Sapp said.

Washington Square consultant now suing developer over alleged breach of contract” via Tamaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A former consultant for the now-defunct Washington Square development in downtown Tallahassee is suing the property owner for more than $600,000. Walter Hall, of Synthesis Consulting Group, filed a breach of contract lawsuit on April 30 in Orange County against developer Fairmont Tallahassee LLC, run by Ken McDermott. Hall, a frequent face for the project, worked closely with McDermott, also the property owner. The lawsuit includes a copy of an April 7 email from McDermott to Hall that says Washington Square is “over for now.” Fairmont, one of at least two companies associated with the $150 million project, has been hit with a string of liens and lawsuits, including one that ended in a settlement with the city of Tallahassee over easement rights in 2019.

Orange County pet store owners protest proposed sales ban, say it will cost jobs” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Pet shop owners and their employees, literally armed with puppies, appealed Monday to Orange County commissioners to reject an ordinance that would ban stores here from selling puppies, kittens and bunnies — and most likely put the shops out of business. Trevor Elizabeth Davies, owner of Petland Orlando South near Orlando International Airport, said their near quarter-century record of operation should prove they care not only about the animals they sell but also the customers who buy them. More than three dozen people, all employees or owners of eight pet shops in Orange County, joined the demonstration at the County Administration Building, all wearing red T-shirts bearing the message “Save Our Pet Stores” in English or Spanish.

Opposition mounts to controversial Indian River curriculum ahead of Tuesday School Board vote” via Sommer Brugal of TC Palm — Some elements of a proposed school curriculum would be inappropriate for elementary-aged students, a group of parents and other community members are arguing. Their objections — ranging from concerns about lessons discussing systemic racism, immigration and gender identity to concepts of critical race theory, an approach that examines the intersection of race, law and equity — were brought into focus Monday at a “Save our Students” town hall meeting organized by Vero Beach activist Susan Mehiel. The event, which attracted about 60 people, was a last-minute effort to rally community members to speak out against the K-5 English Language curriculum, which the School Board is expected to vote on Tuesday.

Highwaymen museum could come to Fort Pierce with African American Cultural and Historical grant” via Olivia McKelvey of TC Palm — An African American Cultural and Historical grant could pave the way for a Highwaymen museum in Lincoln Park. To preserve the prominent Black artists’ legacy, former Rep. Larry Lee urges the city to apply for the grant, which could award up to $1 million with a local match. “If we could get the city, the county, its new schools and agencies on board and we could come up with a million locally, the state, the way I read it, will match it,” Lee told the City Commission Monday. “But I think we could do something really nice with $2 million.”

Collier County repeals burn ban due to significant rainfall since end of May” via Jake Allen of the Naples Daily News — Collier County commissioners repealed an outdoor burn ban Tuesday that was put in place in late May as dry conditions persisted and a large brush fire burned in Golden Gate Estates. According to the county, the burn ban was lifted due to significant rainfall that has accumulated since it was implemented. The Florida Forestry Service, Department of Emergency Management and the Collier County Fire Chiefs Association recommended a lift on the ban, according to the county. The burn ban impacted the unincorporated areas of Collier County and was implemented on May 25 as the 14th Avenue brush fire burned.

Federal grant could help researchers from Mayo unlock mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — A $33 million grant from the National Institute on Aging will support Alzheimer’s research led by Mayo Clinic’s Guojun Bu, principal investigator for a project led by the Jacksonville institution that will work with multidisciplinary teams from several other facilities. Focusing on a certain gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related dementias, they will determine if they can target it to disrupt the disease process. Bu said there is a reason for hope, given recent progress in Alzheimer’s research, including a newly approved drug and encouraging clinical trials underway. His team of about 25 to 30 researchers at Mayo with work with teams from Washington University in St. Louis and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

New report: Jacksonville gets full return on taxpayer backing of Shad Khan’s Four Seasons hotel” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Jaguars owner Khan‘s planned Four Seasons hotel moved closer to its first vote this week as a Downtown Investment Authority staff report said the city would get a dollar-for-dollar financial payback from pumping taxpayer incentives into the luxury development. The report’s finding on the rate of return for taxpayers will get close attention from City Council members after Khan’s previous proposal for turning Lot J near the stadium into an entertainment district fell short. The report on the Four Seasons proposal says the city would put up as much as $114 million for various financial incentives and city coffers would gain $114 million in new revenue from sales, property and hotel bed taxes over 20 years.

Shad Khan’s Four Seasons development will provide Jacksonville taxpayers a one-on-one return. 

Santa Rosa makes anything louder than normal conversation levels illegal past 9 p.m.” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Santa Rosa County is tightening up its noise ordinance to make it illegal for sounds louder than 60 decibels — the sound level of a normal conversation or a dishwasher — to come from private or commercial properties between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. That’s a marked change from the county’s old noise ordinance, which is more subjective and requires a deputy or code enforcement officer to sit in his or her patrol car with the windows up outside the offending property line and determine if they can hear the noise coming from inside the property. The new ordinance will utilize calibrated decibel readers to determine the actual, scientific level of noise coming from a property.

Why you’ll see fewer balloons and confetti in Boca Raton’s outdoor spaces” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez of the Palm Beach Post — A deflated balloon and a mess of confetti, the remnants of a private celebration at the park, will soon be tough to spot on an afternoon stroll through Boca Raton. Starting Jan. 1, Boca Raton will prohibit balloons, confetti and plastic foam containers at parks and other city properties. The city will follow the lead of 25 other municipalities in Florida, such as Boynton Beach, that have passed similar bans meant to reduce environmental pollution. Boca Raton Councilwoman Monica Mayotte, who proposed the ban, noted that the state prevents local governments from regulating plastic bags and several other single-use plastics. She argued that the ban was “the only option” that allowed the coastal city to protect the environment from plastic waste.


A win for DeSantis. Cruise ships still losing” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis and Florida Attorney General Moody declared victory for the state last week when a federal judge sided with them and against the CDC on COVID-19 rules for cruise ships. But are the state and the industry really in a better position? No, because of DeSantis. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday ruled that the CDC can’t impose requirements on ships leaving from Florida. Yet the injunction doesn’t take effect until July 18. Sixteen days earlier, Royal Caribbean hopes to resume cruises with paying passengers by using the CDC guidance. The company’s Freedom of the Seas conducted a test voyage out of Miami on Sunday, with just 600 passengers on a ship that can hold almost 4,400.


Will Florida’s antifa-aimed public disorder bill snag a Trump supporter?” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — Remember the rush by Florida lawmakers to craft an “anti-rioting” bill designed to enhance penalties against mostly nonviolent protests stemming from Black Lives Matter demonstrations? It was all about stopping the looting by antifa, a nonexistent organization, and protecting our Southern heritage, the Confederate monuments that venerated our slave-owning secessionist past. Alexander Jerich, a Trump supporter, put his truck into a “burnout” skid at an LGTBQ mural, leaving black tracks to deface the street mural. After the vandalism video appeared, Jerich turned himself into Delray Beach Police, which charged him with criminal mischief and reckless driving, with a felony enhancement based on prejudice, under the anti-rioting bill.

Maybe Seminole investigators won’t probe shady campaign. But we will. We’re going to court.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — When last we checked on two controversial legislative races from last year — both featuring suspicious, third-party candidates and an abundance of dark money coming from mystery sources — the state was probing only one of them. In the race down in Miami, the prosecutor had launched an investigation that led to the arrests of two people, including a former legislator. Fortunately for Central Floridians, the South Florida prosecutor — and your local newspaper — are still pressing for answers. The Sentinel is also fighting in court to access records that the indicted former legislator, Frank Artiles, is trying to hide to see if they shed light on actions here. Maybe the people paid to enforce the law in these parts don’t care enough to seek answers. But we do.


Florida’s education system is getting serious about civics. DeSantis approved three bills to revamp civics instruction in Florida schools.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— One bill orders the department of education to revamp the entire civics curriculum from kindergarten till the end of high school … and more.

— Another bill prohibits colleges and universities from excluding speakers with unpopular viewpoints. It’s the Florida GOP’s response to long-standing claims that liberal professors cancel conservatives; House Speaker Chris Sprowls says it’s more than just political posturing.

— Senate President Wilton Simpson shares that concern. During a speech to members of the Board of Governors, Simpson said universities are out of step with the rest of the state.

— On a lighter note, Wilton also recommended that members of the board not kill their annoying teenagers.

— And finally, a Florida Man is fined $2,500 because he cut the wrong nut.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Fourth of July travel volume in Florida will approach record, alongside national trends” via Grace Mamon of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Travel during Independence Day weekend is projected to be the second-highest on record, nearing pre-pandemic highs, as almost 2.6 million Floridians plan to take a trip. The number of Florida travelers is up 36% from the 2020 Independence Day weekend. “Travel is back this summer,” Debbie Haas, vice president for travel for AAA, said. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kickoff of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day.” Nationwide, about 47 million Americans plan to travel between July 1 and July 5, with most planning to travel by car, the release said.

Disney World to unwrap 2 fireworks shows, 50 golden statues for anniversary” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its opening. The 18-month celebration officially begins on Oct. 1, precisely 50 years after the resort opened to the public. In 2021, that will be the birth date of “Disney Enchantment,” a nighttime show at Magic Kingdom featuring fireworks and projection effects. It will also be the first night for “Harmonious,” the previously announced show on Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, “Disney KiteTails” will be presented multiple times daily inside the Discovery River Amphitheater. A more stationary 50th-anniversary offering will be a collection of golden statues of 50 characters spread across Disney World’s four theme parks. Visitors will interact with the figures “in surprising ways,” the company said.

Disney World unveils a little more of its 50th birthday celebration.

USA Today digital mosaic honors moon landing, newspaper in space” via USA Today — The story of humankind’s journey to the moon can’t be captured in a single frame. That’s why visual journalist Pat Shannahan did it in 105,147 frames. With hundreds of photos, graphics, illustrations and newspaper front pages collected from across our national network’s history of covering space, he built a one-of-a-kind picture-of-pictures. Deep inside the image, you’ll discover heavy rockets that lifted experimental payloads, renderings of real and experimental space vehicles, even hand-signed letters from Alan Shepard. A copy of this newspaper went to the moon in 1971, making this story both a triumph of technology and a work of art.


Best wishes to Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, Bill Horne, Danielle McGill, and Kate Wallace.


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.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

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