Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.24.21

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Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

Senate President Wilton Simpson is the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s pick for this year’s “Most Valuable Legislator” award.

The Florida Chamber said Simpson’s first Legislative Session leading the Senate was a stellar one, resulting in nearly two-dozen Chamber priorities making it to the Governor’s desk.

Among the many: COVID-19 liability protections, online sales tax reform, strengthening Florida’s Unemployment Comp Trust Fund, and a cut to the commercial rent sales tax from 5.5% to 2%.

“The same innovation, resilience, and spirit of Florida’s businesses that kept our state afloat during the pandemic are leading us back to precrisis economic prosperity,” Simpson said.

Wilton Simpson is the Florida Chamber’s MVP. Image via Colin Hackley.

“As a farmer and a business owner myself, I understand firsthand the sacrifices and commitment our business families made to ensure Floridians had the goods, services, and safe food supply needed to get through these challenging times, and it was our responsibility to have their backs as we addressed important issues. The Florida Chamber has been a steadfast partner for us as we’ve worked to make Florida the most business-friendly state in the country, and I am grateful to them for this acknowledgment of that partnership.”

The Chamber described the MVL award as the business community’s premier legislative award honoring a single Florida lawmaker for their outstanding legislative leadership in policy to keep Florida competitive and willing to stand up for free enterprise.

“The Florida Chamber’s close partnership with Senate President Wilton Simpson this year led to 22 Chamber priorities reaching Gov. (Ron) DeSantis’ desk, several of which were legacy issues that have been years in the making,” Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson said.

“Further, his steadfast support of Florida’s job creators was also central to preventing several harmful bills from passing both chambers, such as the data privacy bill, which included the trial lawyers’ dream of another new private cause of action.”

The MVL announcement came after the Chamber last month recognized 23 lawmakers with its 2021 Distinguished Advocate Award. Like the MVL, the Distinguished Advocate Award recognizes lawmakers who fought for Chamber-backed policies during the Legislative Session.

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Mercury on Thursday announced that it hired Lisa Kauffman as a vice president in its Florida office.

Kauffman comes to the global, bipartisan public strategy firm from the Florida Senate Majority Office, where she served as the press secretary.

“We are thrilled to welcome Lisa Kauffman to the Mercury Florida team,” said Mercury Partner Ashley Walker. “With her deep experience and relationships within the Florida Legislature, Lisa will be a major asset to our growing roster of top experts on both sides of the aisle.”

Congrats to Lisa Kauffman, the newest VP at Mercury.

Kauffman is a seasoned pro and brings years of experience in communications, government relations, and event execution. At the Florida Senate Majority Office, Kauffman worked closely with Senate leadership to craft messaging for priority policy and on Florida’s $100 billion proposed budget.

Before that, Kauffman served as the press secretary for Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign. She has also worked for the Florida House of Representatives and the Orange County government.

“Mercury is a top-tier public affairs firm with an exceptionally talented slate of public affairs professionals,” Kauffman said. “I’m excited to be joining their team and I look forward to delivering successful outcomes for our clients.”

Originally from Valrico, Kauffman earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida.

Mercury provides a comprehensive suite of public strategy services that includes federal government relations, international affairs, digital influence, public opinion research, media strategy, and a bipartisan grassroots mobilization network in all 50 states.

The company has been expanding in the Sunshine State for years, including with the addition of former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio González and former U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller as co-chairmen of its Florida team last year.

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The Florida Democratic Party is hiring seven field directors across the state as the party looks to increase its grassroots organizing investment this cycle.

FDP says the new hires “show a commitment to building the sustainable grassroots organizing systems needed to win in Florida.” Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz also added a statement, arguing the hires will help Democrats get a head start on high-profile 2022 contests.

“By investing early in statewide, grassroots organizing, we will meet Florida voters where they are now, not just 3 months before each election,” Diaz said.

“To flip Florida blue, we are building a long-term, sustainable infrastructure and deploying field staff all across Florida earlier than ever. Our field team is the heart of the foundation necessary to defeat Marco Rubio, Ron DeSantis, and Republicans up and down the ballot.”

The hires include Desmond Batts in the central west region, Ric Gable for the central Panhandle region, Pensacola native Keith Hardy in the western Panhandle, activist Ebony Hardy-Allen in the northeast region, Rick Ibarria in the southeast, Jamie Jarvis in the central north region, and Drake Thomsen in the central region.

Democrats saw several near misses in 2018 before seemingly losing ground in 2020. Republicans’ performance in Miami-Dade County was particularly concerning, helping President Donald Trump win the state by 3 points and allowing the GOP to expand its hold on the state Senate.

With Diaz now leading the Party, the FDP hopes this cycle’s investments will pay off, with big-time races for U.S. Senate and Governor on the ballot in 2022. The FDP release says the organization “will be expanding the team further and hiring organizers throughout the summer.” 

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@WFLAJustin: #Breaking Graydon Young has agreed to plead guilty to two charges 1) conspiracy 2) obstruction of an official proceeding in exchange for other charges being dismissed. He has agreed to cooperate with the US government and testify before grand jury.

@DWUhlfelderLaw: The dominoes on January 6, 2021, are beginning to fall right here in Florida federal court

@kenbensinger: If Young testifies to having conspired to block certification of the Electoral College, and prosecutors show evidence (like Signal chats) of planning among Oath Keepers in advance, it becomes very difficult for remaining defendants to claim there was no conspiracy.

@kylegriffin1: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, on Matt Gaetz‘s critical race theory remarks: “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being ‘woke’ or something else.”

@samanthajgross: Trial date set in the State vs. Frank Artiles and Alex Rodriguez for August 30, 2021, per judge

@FBSaunders: After waffling on a congressional bid earlier this month — former Florida Health employee Rebekah Jones now has a campaign website for Florida’s 1st District: rebekahjonescampaign.com/platform

@jacobogles: I interviewed John McAfee while he was running for President as a Libertarian, which just from that tells you the type of guy he was. One way or another, a life of fleeing the law and other enemies while carrying a machine gun and trolling social media caught up with him. RIP?

@GrayRohrer: Free idea for a bill next year: Make @amazon recycle all the cardboard they drop at your house. Or at least make them pay for another recycling can

— DAYS UNTIL —

F9 premieres in the U.S. — 1; Bruce Springsteen revives solo show, “Springsteen on Broadway” — 2; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 7; Fourth of July — 10; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 15; MLB All-Star Game — 9; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 26; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 29; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 29; the NBA Draft — 39; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 41; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 47; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 55; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 61; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 70; NFL regular season begins — 77; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 82; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 88; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 92; ‘Dune’ premieres — 99; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 99; MLB regular season ends — 101; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 106; World Series Game 1 — 125; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 131; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 131; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 133; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 147; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 155; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 169; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 179; NFL season ends — 199; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 201; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 201; NFL playoffs begin — 205; Super Bowl LVI — 234; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 274; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 316; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 343; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 379; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 470; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 505.

— TOP STORY —

Trial date set for Frank Artiles, Alex Rodriguez over spoiler candidate charges” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former Sen. Artiles will face trial on Aug. 30 as prosecutors accuse Artiles of propping up a sham candidate in a Miami-Dade Senate race last fall. That candidate, Rodriguez, is also facing charges and will face an Aug. 30 trial start date with Artiles. Authorities arrested Artiles in mid-March and hit him with multiple charges. They also seized multiple electronics in connection with the investigation during a raid on Artiles’ Palmetto Bay home. Investigators say Artiles, a Republican, illegally funneled money to Rodriguez, who ran as a nonparty affiliated candidate in the 2020 Senate District 37 contest. Rodriguez collected nearly 6,400 votes in that contest. Then-Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez lost the race to Republican candidate Ileana Garcia by just 32 votes.

Frank Artiles and Alex Rodriguez get court dates.

Top Florida political players scrutinized in Artiles case ahead of August trial” via Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — A public corruption investigation that took root in a single Miami-Dade legislative race has roped in prominent players across Florida over the last several months. Most prominently, it includes emails, contracts and invoices from Data Targeting Inc., a Gainesville research firm operated by Pat Bainter with Artiles’ Miami Firm, Atlas Consulting LLC; as well as bank records from a Tallahassee-based group called Let’s Preserve the American Dream, run by Ryan Tyson, one of Florida’s most prominent Republican strategists and pollsters. The evidence list also ties in Baptist Hospital of Miami, which was served a subpoena for “email correspondence between investigators and an employee at Baptist.” It lists Wendy Kemp, the associate vice president of Baptist Health of South Florida, as a “witness.”

— 2022 —

Ron DeSantis leads Democratic gubernatorial challengers by nearly double digits” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis is sitting pretty with a nearly double-digit lead over his nearest 2022 challenger. Polling released Wednesday put the first-term Republican Governor in head-to-head matchups against Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried, the two Democrats vying for their party’s nomination. Crist, who was elected Governor in 2006 as a Republican, polls the closest to DeSantis, but is still down 45% to 55%. Fried, the only Democrat to win a statewide election in Florida since 2012, is down by a considerable 22-point margin, 39% to 61%. The bulk of Fried’s deficit to Crist appears rooted in support from Democrats. And that could be attributed to Crist’s advantage in name recognition.

Right now, Ron DeSantis has a significant lead over Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried.

Watchdog flags ‘ongoing ethics violation’ by Florida Democrat” via Matthew Foldi of The Washington Free Beacon — Within hours of announcing her Senate bid, Val Demings committed a blatant ethics violation. Demings used her official Twitter account, which has more than 300,000 followers, to direct people to her far less popular campaign account. The Tweet, which was pinned to the top of her timeline before it was deleted by Demings, was in violation of House rules banning the use of taxpayer-funded resources for campaign purposes. Demings deleted the post, which had already gained thousands of retweets. “Demings has committed a clear violation by using her official account to link to her campaign account,” the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust wrote in a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics. 

Wilton Simpson, Kathleen Passidomo endorse Colleen Burton for SD 22” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Simpson and Passidomo, the Senate Rules Chair, endorsed Burton in the race for Senate District 22. “Colleen Burton is the right person to represent Florida’s 22nd Senate District. She is a fearless conservative who is ready to advance common-sense policies that benefit and uplift Floridians,” Simpson said. Passidomo added, “With deep-rooted conservative values and the track record to prove it, Colleen Burton is a no-brainier for Florida’s 22nd Senate District. I believe Colleen has what it takes to advance our shared conservative values, which is why she has my endorsement for her Senate race.” Burton, a Lakeland Republican, is running to succeed term-limited Sen. Kelli Stargel. Last week, Stargel endorsed Burton in the SD 22 race.

Candidates file for Jeff Brandes, Kamia Brown seats” via The News Service of Florida — St. Petersburg Democrat Eunic Ortiz opened a campaign account to run in what is now Pinellas County’s Senate District 24. Brandes will leave the seat next year because of term limits. Also running for the seat are Rep. Nick DiCeglie and Largo Republican Timothy Lewis. Meanwhile, Clarcona Democrat Melissa Myers this week became the first candidate to open an account to succeed Brown in Orange County’s House District 45. Brown plans to run in 2022 for a state Senate seat. 

Assignment editors — The Florida House Republican Campaign Committee (FHRCC) will host a news conference featuring Chair Paul Renner announcing a series of new initiatives for the 2022 election cycle, 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, Zoom link here. Meeting ID: 968 857 9303. Passcode: 4SXYEq. RSVP to Andres Malave at [email protected]

Sports betting amendment filed for 2022 ballot” via Florida Politics — Two of the biggest sports betting platforms are launching a ballot initiative to open the market to all comers. The proposed constitutional amendment comes a little over a month after the Legislature approved a new Gaming Compact, which, among other things, gave the Seminole Tribe of Florida the exclusive rights to offer sports betting statewide. Sources say the proposed constitutional amendment say it is being pushed by DraftKings and FanDuel. The companies have reportedly staked the sponsoring political committee with a “significant amount” of cash. The initiative comes as the Gaming Compact faces an uncertain fate. Though approved by lawmakers and the Governor, it still requires approval from the U.S. Department of Interior and is expected to face several court challenges.

Court sides with consultant in campaign dispute” via The News Service of Florida — An appeals court backed political consultant Randy Nielsen in a dispute with former state Rep. Carl Domino involving a 2014 congressional campaign. Domino argued in the lawsuit that Nielsen, who was a consultant on Domino’s unsuccessful campaign, breached a fiduciary duty related to the hiring of a fundraiser. The ruling by a 4th District Court of Appeal panel upheld a decision last year by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Janis Brustares Keyser. The decision by Keyser said Nielsen helped direct the hiring of Annie Marie Delgado to work as a fundraiser for the campaign but that Domino fired Delgado in September 2014. Delgado sued Domino over the firing, alleging a breach of contract. 

— DATELINE TALLY —

Toll road revamp goes to DeSantis” via News Service of Florida — A bill (SB 100) that would scuttle large parts of a plan to build and expand toll roads was formally sent Wednesday to DeSantis. The bill takes aim at a law pushed through the Legislature by former Senate President Bill Galvano. The 2019 law called for building a toll road from Collier County to Polk County, extending Florida’s Turnpike to connect with the Suncoast Parkway, and extending the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to Jefferson County. But the bill passed this year would eliminate the planned road between Collier and Polk while requiring plans to extend the turnpike west from Wildwood to the Suncoast Parkway and plot a route that would weave the Suncoast Parkway north along U.S. 19.

Bill for free book delivery hits DeSantis’ desk” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The proposal (HB 3), sponsored by Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Fort Pierce Republican, would implement Florida’s first statewide book distribution plan as part of House Speaker Chris Sprowls‘ New Worlds Reading Initiative. The voluntary program would provide free book delivery to the homes of elementary students who read below grade level. Recipients would get one free book every month for nine months of the year, throughout the school year. Florida and the state Department of Education must select a state university to administer the program. The measure would also require school districts to identify eligible students and raise awareness for the initiative. Participating students could annually select book topics and genres at the start of each school year.

Dana Trabulsy’s reading program for elementary school students is hitting Ron DeSantis’ desk. Image via Colin Hackley.

Intense backlash on increase: LGBTQ community outraged by Governor’s Pride Month actions” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — DeSantis is having a Pride Month for which he likely long will be remembered. Many in the state will recall June 2021 as the month Florida’s leader took extraordinary steps that some say harm and humiliate the LGBTQ community. “It feels like Pride Month, at every turn, has been insult added to injury,” said Brandon Wolf, spokesman for Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization in Florida dedicated to securing full equality for the state’s LGBTQ community. DeSantis chose June 1 to travel to a Christian school in Jacksonville to sign a bill banning transgender girls from competing in girls’ and women’s sports.

Art Graham, Andrew Fay seek to keep PSC seats” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Florida Public Service Commission members Graham and Fay, along with a former congressional aide for Gov. DeSantis, are among 10 candidates seeking to be named to the utility-regulatory panel. Unlike other recent openings on the five-member commission, the list of candidates does not include members of the Legislature. Graham and Fay, whose terms will expire in January, are seeking reappointment to the commission. Graham joined the PSC in 2010 after being appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist and was reappointed twice by former Gov. Rick Scott. Fay was appointed by Scott. In his new application, Graham pointed to his experience on the commission, which regulates major electric utilities, along with water, gas and telecommunications companies.

Harvard provost of research to helm Florida State University” via The Associated Press — The governing board of Florida’s university system confirmed Richard McCullough, vice provost for research at Harvard University, to become the 16th president of Florida State University. The move came about a month after the university’s board of trustees unanimously selected McCullough for the job after interviewing its pool of finalists. McCullough replaces retiring FSU President John Thrasher and takes over on Aug. 16, the university said. According to his biography on the university’s website, McCullough has held his position at Harvard since 2012. McCullough is also a professor of materials science and engineering at Harvard. He has a Ph.D. in engineering from Johns Hopkins University. McCullough previously served as vice president for research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Richard McCullough has some big shoes to fill at FSU. Image via AP.

FSU, New College president picks confirmed” via News Service of Florida — The state university system’s Board of Governors also confirmed Patricia Okker as president of New College of Florida. Okker, dean of the University of Missouri’s College of Arts and Sciences, was selected to lead New College by the school’s trustees in April. Okker’s five-year contract will begin July 1, and she will earn a base salary of $305,000. She will replace Donal O’Shea, who has served as New College president since 2012.

— STATEWIDE —

USF survey finds most Floridians are concerned about hurricane season, but ill-prepared” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Most Floridians are concerned about this year’s hurricane season, according to a recently released survey from the University of South Florida. But, are they prepared? USF’s School of Public Affairs created the survey to measure the preparedness of Floridians for natural disasters while also examining the impact of COVID-19 on household readiness. The survey found that while a large majority of Floridians are worried about this upcoming hurricane season (81%), most also considered themselves prepared (78%). And, 81% of respondents said their household would be either severely or somewhat affected by a category 3 or higher storm. More than half of Floridians (58%) do not have an evacuation plan or hurricane-specific preparedness items, like an NOAA weather radio (57%) or a stocked emergency kit (51%).

Floridians are worried about hurricane season, but not really prepared.

John McAfee, software entrepreneur with outlaw persona, dies in prison at 75” via Glenn Rifkin of The Washington Post — McAfee, the eccentric British American software entrepreneur who sold his eponymous antivirus company in the 1990s and embarked on a globe-trotting life of bizarre, often allegedly criminal pursuits while embracing the persona of a gun-toting rogue and outlaw, was found dead in his prison cell near Barcelona on June 23. He was 75. Described as belligerent, attention-seeking and media savvy, McAfee was also considered a technology genius. With the riches he gained from selling McAfee Associates in 1994 — reportedly for $100 million — the self-proclaimed “lover of women, adventure and mystery” commenced a series of exploits that led, by his count, to 21 arrests in 11 countries for crimes involving gun violations, drug trafficking, tax evasion and securities fraud.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Celebrity Cruises drops requirement for passengers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine for Florida cruises” via Morgan Hines of USA TODAY — Celebrity Cruises passengers will not be required to show proof of vaccination on ships that depart from the Sunshine State, starting with the cruise line’s first sailing with paying passengers, departing Saturday from Fort Lauderdale. Instead, it will be at the passenger’s discretion whether they decide to tell the cruise line if they are vaccinated. Passengers were asked about their vaccination status during the booking process. If a passenger chooses not to share proof of vaccination upon boarding, they will not be denied boarding but will be subject to additional restrictions. And in addition to costing passengers onboard freedoms, not showing vaccine proof has a monetary price, too. Antigen tests are $178 and must be paid for by the passenger.

Palm Beach County to let mask mandate, state of emergency order expire” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — The mechanism through which Palm Beach County could mandate masks, close businesses and request reimbursement for dollars spent on the coronavirus pandemic will expire at midnight on Sunday. County Mayor Dave Kerner signed the final weeklong local state of emergency declaration related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, 466 days after he first deemed the pandemic an emergency on March 13, 2020. “I was ready to not continue the state of emergency,” Kerner said. “I don’t want this to go on in perpetuity.” It is far and away the county’s longest emergency declaration. The typical local state of emergency declaration, most often used to respond to hurricanes, lasts just a few weeks.

Dave Kerner signs his final weeklong mask mandate.

A sign on a Miami highway flashed ‘Arrest Fauci.’ The message wasn’t in the traffic plan” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — An electronic road sign on the Dolphin Expressway in Miami-Dade County went beyond traffic warnings this week. Way beyond. Drivers on State Road 836 saw this flashing message: “Arrest (Anthony) Fauci.” The sign also shared messages of misinformation, including “COVID-19 was a hoax” and “vaccines kill.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA say the shots are safe. Miami-Dade’s Expressway Authority said the electronic sign was hacked early Tuesday and directed other questions to the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency running the sign because of nearby construction. FDOT did not respond to whether the hacking was done from outside or inside the agency.

COVID-19 outbreak in Manatee government building has cruise ship parallels” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — There’s a reason most people say they don’t want to go on a cruise ship that allows unvaccinated passengers. And it’s hard to enjoy your vacation when the people around you start having trouble breathing and dying. I’m not being dramatic. Look at what happened last week at Manatee County’s nine-story Administration Building in Bradenton. The building was abruptly shut down Friday afternoon after COVID-19 infections swept through the seventh-floor Information Technology Office during the week. Two of the four IT workers in that office died from the virus. Three others who were in contact with them were hospitalized with the virus. Over the weekend, three more county workers contracted the virus.

— CORONA NATION —

President Joe Biden to extend CDC eviction moratorium by one month, reports say” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — Biden is expected to extend the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium, which is scheduled to end on June 30, by another month. News of the extension, which was first reported by Reuters, comes after a group of 44 U.S. Democratic lawmakers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn B. Maloney, sent a letter to the CDC arguing that nearly six million renter households are behind on their rents and could face eviction once the current moratorium runs out. Renters need to supply their landlords with an executed declaration form stating loss of income or other hardship caused by the pandemic.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Millions of Americans refinanced last year — but fewer Black and Latino homeowners did” via J.J. McCorvey and Julia Carpenter of The Wall Street Journal — Refinancings were popular in 2020, but not every household caught the wave. From January to October of last year, only 6% of Black borrowers refinanced their mortgages, versus 12% of white borrowers. The findings appear in a new report by economists at the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Philadelphia and Boston. Researchers matched borrower data with data from firms that track mortgage performance, including Equifax and mortgage-data firm Black Knight. The report found that 14% of Asian borrowers refinanced, while borrowers identified as Latino clocked in at 9%. Of an estimated $5.3 billion of savings for all households that refinanced during the 10-month period examined in the Fed report, only $198 million, or 3.7%, went to Black households.

The housing boom is leaving out people of color. Image via WSJ.

Janet Yellen says extraordinary measures to avoid default could run out in August” via Robert Schroeder of MarketWatch — Treasury Secretary Yellen on Wednesday urged Congress to raise or suspend the U.S. debt limit, saying failure to do so would have “catastrophic” consequences for the U.S. economy. Speaking at a Senate hearing on the Treasury’s budget, Yellen said she would plead with Congress to raise the limit “as soon as possible.” A suspension of the debt limit expires after July 31. The Treasury would after that have to take so-called extraordinary measures to prevent the U.S. from defaulting, and Yellen told lawmakers that the point of default could come in August. Yellen earlier this year said her department was concerned that such measures would last a limited time.

— MORE CORONA —

The Delta variant is a grave danger to the unvaccinated” via Dhruv Khullar of The New Yorker — Much of what we know about Delta is preliminary, and based on reports from India and, more recently, the U.K., where it now accounts for more than 90% of new cases. The variant has spread widely enough among those who remain vulnerable to fuel a quadrupling of cases and a doubling of hospitalizations in the past month. The vast majority of Delta-variant cases seem to have occurred in adults under fifty, whose vaccination rates remain lower than those of older people. In any reopening society that’s failed to vaccinate everyone, a collision between the virus and the vulnerable is inevitable. Because of its exceptional transmissibility, the Delta variant is almost certain to intensify the force of the collision.

The Delta variant is particularly nasty for the unvaccinated.

Scientist finds early virus sequences that had been mysteriously deleted” via Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — About a year ago, genetic sequences from more than 200 virus samples from early cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan disappeared from an online scientific database. Now, by rooting through files stored on Google Cloud, a researcher in Seattle reports that he has recovered 13 of those original sequences — intriguing new information for discerning when and how the virus may have spilled over from a bat or another animal into humans. The new analysis, released on Tuesday, bolsters earlier suggestions that various coronaviruses may have been circulating in Wuhan before the initial outbreaks linked to animal and seafood markets in December 2019.

The only way we’ll know when we need COVID-19 boosters” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — Nearly all experts say the need for boosters is looking more and more likely, but no one knows for sure when they’ll arrive, what the best ones will look like, or how often they’ll be needed, assuming they’re part of our future at all. What underlies this uncertainty isn’t scientific ignorance: We know the signs that will portend an ebb in vaccine protection, and we’re actively looking for them. But their timing could still surprise us. We do have, at least, hints about the longevity of vaccine protection. Antibodies that recognize SARS-CoV-2 are known to stick around in high numbers for at least six months after the first round of shots is administered.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden anti-crime effort takes on lawbreaking gun dealers” via Colleen Long, Jonathan Lemire and Michael Balsamo of The Associated Press — Biden’s plan focuses on addressing gun violence, providing money to cities that need more police and offering community support. Crime rates have risen after plummeting during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, creating economic hardship and anxiety. But there are also tricky politics at play, and Biden’s plan shows how few options the Democratic president has on the issue. The steps he is taking aim to crack down on gun dealers who break federal law and establish strike forces in several cities to help stop weapons trafficking. He also is seeking more money for the agency that tracks the nation’s guns. But the rest of his new strategy is largely suggestions for beleaguered localities.

‘These merchants of death are breaking the law for profit,’ says Joe Biden.

Biden administration removes Rodney Scott as head of U.S. Border Patrol” via Nick Miroff of The Washington Post — The Biden administration has forced out the head of the U.S. Border Patrol, clearing a path for a leadership overhaul at an agency strained by a 20-year high in illegal border crossings, and whose top officials were broadly sympathetic to Trump. Scott, a 29-year veteran, published a statement on social media Wednesday saying he had received a letter offering him the option to resign, retire or relocate. He said the notice did not provide a rationale for his removal, describing it as a pro forma notice “so the new administration can place the person they want in the position.” Scott’s departure was widely anticipated, with several of his current and former colleagues surprised he remained in the post long after Biden’s inauguration.

Biden administration removes Fannie, Freddie overseer after court ruling” via Andrew Ackerman and Brent Kendall of The Wall Street Journal — The Biden administration ousted the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency after the Supreme Court ruled it was structured unconstitutionally, dealing the latest blow to investors betting that mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be returned to private hands after more than 12 years of government control. The White House decision to replace Mark Calabria as head of the FHFA paves the way for Biden to install his own appointee to oversee Fannie and Freddie, regulated by the agency and back roughly half of the $11 trillion mortgage market. The Biden administration has signaled it won’t be in a hurry to privatize the companies.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP — 

‘Freedom, Faith, and America’: Donald Trump slates Sarasota rally for early July” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Saturday, July 3, the former President is giving the Sunshine State an early look at what a third Presidential campaign from Trump may look like. According to the media release from the Save America PAC, the Trump rally is co-branded with the Republican Party of Florida. “We are thrilled to be hosting President Trump as he launches out on his next voyage to continue making American great,” said RPOF Chair Joe Gruters, who was instrumental in bringing Trump to Sarasota. “We played an important role in his election and we want to show our support for his strong leadership as President.” The “45 Fest” at the Sarasota Fairgrounds leads off at 2 p.m. At 5 p.m., the “preprogram speakers” offer remarks. Then, at 8, Trump “celebrates Freedom, Faith, and America.” Fireworks of a more conventional variety follow the President’s remarks, filling the Sarasota sky by 9 p.m.

Donald Trump is coming to Sarasota. Is It a campaign preview? Image via AP.

Former President Donald Trump to hold first big rally in Florida since 2020 election” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Former President Trump will bring some extra fireworks to Sarasota’s July 4 holiday weekend with an appearance at the Sarasota Fairgrounds, his first big rally in Florida since the election. The Sarasota region has been a source of strong political support for Trump and a launching pad for his political ambitions, making it a fitting place for one of his first post-presidential rallies, which are a potential prelude to a 2024 presidential run. Trump will appear at the Fairgrounds on Saturday, July 3 at 8 p.m., his office announced Wednesday.

The Tea Party to the 10th power’: Trumpworld bets big on critical race theory” via Theodoric Meyer, Maggie Severns and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Former top aides to Trump have begun an aggressive push to combat the teaching of critical race theory and capitalize on the issue politically, confident that a backlash will vault them back into power. These officials, including Trump’s former campaign chief and two former budget advisers, have poured money and organizational muscle into the fight. They’ve aided activists pushing back against the concept that racism has been systemic to American society and institutions after centuries of slavery and Jim Crow. And some of them have begun working with members of Congress to bar the military from holding diversity training and to withhold federal funds from schools and colleges that promote anything that can be packaged as critical race theory.

Michigan Republicans debunk voter fraud claims in unsparing report” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — A committee led by Michigan Republicans on Wednesday published an extraordinary debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, delivering a comprehensive rebuke to a litany of accusations about improprieties in the 2020 election and its aftermath. The 55-page report, produced by a Michigan State Senate committee of three Republicans and one Democrat, is a systematic rebuttal to an array of false claims about the election from Trump supporters. The authors focus overwhelmingly on Michigan, but they also expose lies perpetuated about the vote-counting process in Georgia. The report is unsparing in its criticism of those who have promoted false theories about the election. It debunks claims from Trump allies, including Mike Lindell, Rudy Giuliani and Trump himself.

Some Republicans find failure to grapple with climate change a ‘political liability’” via Lisa Friedman of The New York Times — For four years under Trump, even uttering the phrase “climate change” was verboten for many Republicans. His administration scrubbed the words from federal websites, tried to censor testimony to Congress, and mocked the science linking rising fossil fuel emissions to a warming planet. Now, many in the Republican Party are coming to terms with what polls have been saying for years: independents, suburban voters and especially young Republicans are worried about climate change and want the government to take action. This month in Miami, a group of young Republicans carrying signs that read “This Is What an Environmentalist Looks Like” held what was billed as the first rally for “conservative” climate action.

— CRISIS —

Judge rebukes GOP for downplaying U.S. Capitol riot as he hands out first sentence in insurrection” via Marshall Cohen, Katelyn Polantz and Hannah Rabinowitz of CNN — A Trump supporter who spent 10 minutes inside the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 insurrection was sentenced to probation Wednesday, avoiding jail, becoming the first rioter to learn their punishment in the riot investigation. At a hearing in DC federal court, Judge Royce Lamberth said the insurrection was a “disgrace” and forcefully rebuked the “utter nonsense” coming from some Republican lawmakers and other right-wing figures who are whitewashing what happened. “I don’t know what planet they were on,” Lamberth said of the GOP lawmakers, without mentioning any names. Anna Morgan-Lloyd, 49, from rural Indiana, had pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor for trespassing inside The Capitol as part of the crowd on January 6. She was also assessed a $500 fine.

Indiana grandmother Anna Morgan-Lloyd pleads guilty to one misdemeanor charge in exchange for three years of probation.

Second alleged Oath Keepers member pleads guilty in Jan. 6 Capitol riot, will cooperate as prosecutors seek momentum” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A second alleged member of the Oath Keepers involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced charges and agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors in hopes of lowering a recommended six-year prison term. Graydon Young, 55, of Englewood, admitted to two federal felony counts, including conspiracy and obstructing Congress’s confirmation of the results of the 2020 presidential election. The government agreed to dismiss four other counts in a plea agreement and could request a sentence below a recommended 63-to-78-month range in exchange for Young’s substantial cooperation. Young’s plea was one of three Wednesday by defendants charged in The Capitol breach as prosecutors seek to build momentum with nearly 500 federally charged cases.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Supremes side with cursing cheerleader in campus free speech case” via The Associated Press — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Pennsylvania public school wrongly suspended a student from cheerleading over a vulgar social media post she made after she didn’t qualify for the varsity team. The court voted 8-1 in favor of Brandi Levy, a 14-year-old high school freshman when she expressed her disappointment over not making the varsity cheerleading squad with a string of curse words and a raised middle finger on Snapchat. Levy was not in school when she made her post, but she was suspended from cheerleading activities for a year anyway. Justice Stephen Breyer‘s opinion was that the high court ruled that the suspension violated Levy’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights. But the justices did not foreclose schools from disciplining students for what they say off-campus.

Brandi Levy may be foul-mouthed, but that is not for the school to punish. Image via AP.

High court curbs police warrant powers, ending ‘hot pursuit’ precedent” via The Associated Press — The Supreme Court limited when police officers pursuing a fleeing suspect can enter a home without a warrant. The high court ruled that when officers pursue someone suspected of a misdemeanor, a less serious crime, they cannot always enter a home without a warrant if a suspect enters. The court had previously given police greater freedom to enter homes in cases involving more serious crimes. The case the justices decided is important both to law enforcement and to groups concerned about privacy. But it doesn’t give police a bright line for when they can and cannot enter a home to pursue someone suspected of committing a misdemeanor.

Rick Scott jabs Biden’s ‘do-nothing executive orders’ as no answer to crime wave” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senator said Biden had finally “figured out there was a crime surge in this country due to the policies of the radical Democrats.” But Biden failed to follow the “real simple advice” to “stop defunding the police.” “The Democrats’ radical policies have caused this unbelievable crime wave,” Scott said. Scott was on Fox Business Network’s “Evening Edit” when he made the comments, which continued messaging from one of his political arms ahead of the speech. Scott’s National Republican Senatorial Committee blasted “defund the police” Democrats as “crazy and dangerous” in a new ad. “Here’s the Democrat plan for America: Crime.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Scott claims Dems’ ‘political science’ blocked his anti-mask mandate bill” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Unanimous consent would have been required to move what Scott called a “pure common sense” bill out of committee and to the floor for a vote. That did not come to pass because Democrats couldn’t help but follow their “political science,” Scott argued. “While we choose to listen to the science, all the Democrats care about is following their political science,” Scott said in a news release Wednesday evening. The Stop Mandating Additional Requirements for Travel (SMART) Act was intended, Scott said on the Senate floor, to contest the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decision “to buck the science when it comes to travel” by continuing to require masks on mass transit.

Military leaders push back on questions by Rep. Matt Gaetz about critical race theory” via Dartunorro Clark and Mosheh Gains of NBC News — Military leaders excoriated Gaetz after the Florida Republican raised questions about critical race theory being taught to the nation’s soldiers. “We do not teach critical race theory, we don’t embrace critical theory, and I think that is a spurious conversation,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Gaetz during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. “And so, we are focused on extremism behaviors and not ideology, not people’s thoughts, not people’s political orientations.” Gaetz claimed that he has heard from soldiers who have raised concerns about the subject being taught. Austin sharply responded. “And thanks for your anecdotal input, but I would say I’ve gotten 10 times that amount of input, 50 times the amount of input on the other side that have said, ‘We are glad to have had a conversation with ourselves and our leadership.'”

Frederica Wilson wants action after Local 10 investigation into rotting utility poles” via Jeff Weinsier of WPLG — The utility pole behind Adassa Woodward’s Miami Gardens house is cracked, rotting, weak, bending and likely being held up by attached power lines and — a whole lot of luck. The pole on the side of her house is cracked from top to bottom and hollow. Both have transformers on them. At 80 years old, Woodward says the last thing she needs is to be surrounded and worried about rotting poles. Local 10 News showed Woodward’s situation to Rep. Wilson, the Congresswoman representing the 24th District, along with photos from other residents who have reached out about the issue. “Very disturbing,” Wilson said. “This is quite a danger zone.” She added: “My office is on this like a pit bull.”

The U.N. voted for the 29th time to end the Cuba embargo. COVID-19 added some drama.” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — As it has every year since 1992, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution that calls for the U.S. to lift its embargo against Cuba — and this time, the pleading focused on the devastating impact of the economic blockade during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote on Wednesday was 184 in favor, three abstentions by Colombia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates and two “no” votes by the U.S. and Israel. Member states once again said the blockade goes against international law and the U.N. Charter. Cuba called the embargo “a systematic violation of the rights of the Cuban people.”

Federal council lowers bag limits on Mahi. Not far enough, South Florida anglers say” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A federal fisheries council voted Friday to lower the bag limits on Mahi-Mahi from the Keys to the Carolinas. But to many people who make their living catching the popular deep sea sport and food species in South Florida, the new rules don’t go far enough. Some actually want to see more restrictions on keeping the colorful migratory fish — also commonly called dolphin — because they say there just aren’t nearly as many as there used to be, and the ones they are catching are smaller on average. These fishermen say Mahi are being overfished recreationally and commercially in the U.S. and especially internationally, where other nations are not policing conservation laws.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Alleged murderer of former Florida state Senator’s son caught by U.S. marshals, police say” via Devoun Cetoute and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The death of former state Sen. Daphne Campbell’s son was the result of a love triangle with a twist, according to state prosecutors: The woman who shot him was the jilted ex-girlfriend of a woman who spent the night in Jason Campbell’s bed. On Monday, federal marshals found Lakoria Shamece Washington, 24, in Port Orange, Florida, and took her into custody. She has been charged with the first-degree murder of Campbell, 23. By Tuesday, Washington had not yet been extradited to Miami-Dade. The Miami-Dade Police Department, which announced Washington’s arrest, cited Marsy’s Law and did not name the woman at Jason Campbell’s apartment when he was murdered.

Marshals caught the killer of Jason Dwayne Campbell, son of Daphne Campbell,

Miami Beach says it won’t enforce 2 a.m. ban on alcohol sales after judge’s ruling” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — South Beach bars with early-morning liquor licenses can once again serve alcohol until 5 a.m. after the city announced late Tuesday it would no longer enforce a 2 a.m. prohibition on the sale and consumption of alcohol in its South Beach entertainment district. The announcement came a day after Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Beatrice Butchko granted the Clevelander hotel a temporary injunction blocking the city of Miami Beach from limiting the hours of alcohol service at the Ocean Drive business for the duration of the lawsuit. The Clevelander sued the city last month over the new law, which was enacted on May 22.

Chief fires Miami’s most powerful police couple. They vow to fight for their jobs” via Charles Rubin of the Miami Herald — Two of Miami’s top-ranked police officers — a couple with almost a half-century of combined law enforcement experience and personnel jackets brimming with commendations and promotions — were fired Tuesday for not being truthful about an accident involving a city-issued SUV, said Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo. The termination of Deputy Police Chief Ronald Papier and his wife Nerly Papier, a commander in Little Havana, came almost three months after Nerly Papier ran her SUV into a curb one morning on her way to police headquarters and blew two tires, an accident she claimed happened after steering quickly away from a car that had veered into her lane of traffic.

South Florida CEO charged in massive money-laundering case targeting illicit gold trade” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — The owner of a transportation company that hauls gold around the country has been charged in a massive money-laundering case extending from Latin America to South Florida that is still shaking up the precious-metals industry four years after the initial indictment was filed in Miami. Jesus Gabriel Rodriguez Jr., CEO of the Doral-based armored truck company Transvalue Inc., is the latest defendant to be charged in the multibillion-dollar conspiracy in which authorities say gold shipments were smuggled out of foreign countries with falsified paperwork to dupe U.S. Customs officials at Miami International Airport into thinking they were legitimate. Rodriguez, 45, is accused of participating in a piece of the international smuggling scheme.

Commissioners consider requiring businesses to increase security in area of South Beach” via Annaliese Garcia of WPLG — Nightclubs, bars, and restaurants in the entertainment district in South Beach are allowed to stay open and serve alcohol until 5 a.m. again. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that Miami Beach’s 2 a.m. last call for alcohol in a part of the district was unlawful. Commissioners are meeting on Wednesday at City Hall to discuss the possibility of requiring security at the bars in the area from midnight to after closing. This would increase costs for people like David Wallack, the owner of Mangos on Ocean Drive. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was a supporter of the 2 a.m. alcohol ban.

South Florida home prices have settled at last. But will the calm last?” via Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — In a sign that South Florida’s astronomical home prices may be settling, median sales prices for both houses and condos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties slipped or remained flat, according to data released Tuesday by the Miami Realtors Association. Median sales prices of single-family homes in Miami-Dade dropped by 3% between April and May, from $515,000 to $500,000, despite a surge in the number of transactions. Condo prices remained steady, with a median price of $325,000. While prices also slipped in February to $450,000 from $469,500 the prior month, they later surged.

Hialeah plans to impose new rules for adults-only motels — but won’t ban hourly rates” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — In late April, the Hialeah City Council gave initial approval to a plan to ban hourly hotel and motel rentals, a change with the potential to transform an Okeechobee Road corridor teeming with adults-only motels that some city officials say are hotbeds for criminal activity. But since then, lobbyists and owners for the motels — which are notorious for their romance-themed rooms and private garage entrances ostensibly designed for one-night flings — have succeeded in softening the council’s stance, working with the city on new legislation that was approved Tuesday night on first reading. The legislation that got a preliminary OK in a 4-2 vote Tuesday would impose three-hour minimum stays at motels in the city.

Documents show rifts remain in negotiations for David Beckham Miami soccer stadium complex” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — After two and a half years of quiet negotiations, the controversial no-bid deal to build a $1 billion soccer stadium complex for Miami’s Major League Soccer team still faces considerable obstacles, according to internal documents obtained by the Miami Herald that offer the public’s first glimpse inside the talks. The next step for co-owner Beckham’s eight-year quest to field an MLS franchise in a Miami stadium is a major vote at Miami City Hall, though it’s unclear when that will happen. City administrators and Inter Miami’s ownership said they’re optimistic, but attorneys for both sides apparently can’t even agree on where they have disagreements.

Safety chief resigns from Broward schools, one more high-level departure” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Brian Katz, the Broward schools safety chief who was passed over this month as interim Superintendent, is the latest top administrator to resign from a school district in turmoil. Katz, 43, was hired in Feb. 2019 to oversee safety and security in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland. His last day will be July 30, according to a letter Superintendent Robert Runcie sent Wednesday afternoon to the School Board. “I am grateful for what Mr. Katz has accomplished and contributed to this district as he built a national model for school safety and security,” Runcie wrote. “We were fortunate to secure his talent and passion for this work at such a critical time.”

The Pahokee Marina mess: Distributed photos show rotting algae, not ‘floating feces’” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Widely distributed images of “suspected floating feces” at the Pahokee Marina is more likely rotting algae stirred up by pumps circulating water to mitigate toxic algae bloom, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. A South Florida Water Management District employee apologized for sending breakfast-time images of the alleged poo in an email this month that went to dozens of district, county and state employees. The note followed a June 8 report from samplers who saw and smelled the debris when collecting water to be tested for microcystin toxins.

‘It was a terrible odor’: Boca removes over 1,000 dead shad from Sabal Lake” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez of the Palm Beach Post — The putrid smell of dead fish has finally started to fade. On Monday, an environmental contractor for Boca Raton removed more than 1,000 dead shad from the bank of Sabal Lake. The rotting fish, which ranged from small to large in size, carried a stench that wafted from the water to the Boca Square neighborhood. For Gina Tayem, 60, whose home sits about 20 feet from Sabal Lake, the odor made her want to vomit. “My husband thought there was a dead body in the yard,” Tayem said. In the four days since the dead shad were discovered, its odor had stretched far and wide.

Residents say the dead shad in Sabal Lake smelled ‘like vomit.’ Image via city of Boca Raton.

Accused Delray Beach LGBTQ Pride crosswalk vandal may face enhanced hate crime charge” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez of the Palm Beach Post — The State Attorney’s Office will review the case of a man accused of burning two 15-foot-long skid marks into the new LGBTQ Pride intersection and crosswalk in Delray Beach to determine whether he will face an enhanced charge of a hate crime. The enhanced charge could be prosecuted as a second- or third-degree felony. “It’s policy in the office to use the hate crime enhancement statute if it’s applicable,” said Mike Edmondson, spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office. “It’s done when we have the supporting evidence to actually apply it.” In its review, the agency will also examine whether Florida’s new Combating Public Disorder law fits the case.

— TOP OPINION —

Battle over critical race theory won’t benefit GOP in the long run” via Jonah Goldberg of the Tampa Bay Times — When proponents of critical race theory say they are merely proposing a belated corrective to the way American history has been framed, many parents don’t buy it, having seen what their children are taught now. The current battle over critical race theory is a wonderful gift to the Republicans in the short term. The GOP would love to win back white suburban parents with culture-war issues, now that it has no credibility on fiscal matters. But in the long run, this could be disastrous for the party and the country, because the last thing anyone needs is to redefine the culture war as a racial conflict.

— OPINIONS —

Biden is rushing America’s return to normalcy” via Scott Duke Kominers of Bloomberg Opinion — On July 4, Biden is planning to mark “a summer of freedom,” with a large event at the White House. It will be a key moment for the administration, which has been encouraging a return to normalcy. But a close look at the situation suggests this may project an excess of optimism. Vaccination rates are the first sign of the gap. After setting a partial vaccination target of at least 70% by July 4, Biden will have to settle for something less. Another red flag was raised by studies on the U.K. outbreak showing that the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines aren’t particularly effective against the delta variant on just a single dose. The risks described above could push COVID-19 deaths up even higher.

Supreme Court sides with Florida on college athletes” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Florida rarely leads the nation in progressive ideas. Last year, however, our state was at the forefront of a long-overdue movement to modernize college sports. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that colleges can’t limit compensation for athletes only to the four-year undergraduate scholarships they receive. The often-divided court torched the myth that young men and women must be amateurs while all the adults around them make millions off their skills. Old-school types will grumble about what happens. Consider, though, that not long ago, coaches could break contracts and leave schools immediately while athletes had to sit out for a year if they transferred.

Yes, you can cruise from Florida without a vaccine — if you pay for testing and sail in ‘mask class’” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — As you probably know, DeSantis told cruise lines they couldn’t ask for proof of vaccination. So now we’re seeing how the cruise lines are responding. Some are threatening to defy the Governor. But others are saying unvaccinated passengers can sail — with the understanding that they will face rules, restrictions and costs that vaccinated passengers won’t. For instance, Royal Caribbean requires unvaccinated adult passengers to cough up $136 for a COVID-19 testing package before boarding and another before disembarking. That makes sense to me. Actually, it made sense to let private businesses set health and safety precautions aboard their own private vessels. That’s gotten lost in the politicization of COVID-19: Cruise lines have long had health screenings and rules that prohibit some guests from boarding.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida gets an assist from First Lady Jill Biden, who holds two events in the state to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— College kids can say adios to Zoom. The head of the Florida Board of Governors says the state university system is ready to return to full-time face-to-face instruction.

— The board also approved the appointment of two new university presidents … including the first full-time female president at New College of Florida. Don’t let her looks deceive you: Dr. Okker can probably kick your butt … and outrun it too.

The board also approved a new president for Florida State University and the reappointment of Florida Poly and Florida International presidents.

— Sprowls asks the people who run universities to produce innovative ideas to make sure conservative students and faculty members aren’t silenced on campus.

— Gaetz claims the military stand-down to address White supremacy and extremist behavior that is hurting the service … but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says they need to know.

— And finally, police are accusing a Florida Woman of battering her boyfriend — with a plate full of chicken.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Animal Kingdom birth adds to Disney’s giraffe population” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The giraffe population of Disney’s Animal Kingdom has grown by one with the recent birth of a male Masai giraffe. Disney says the newborn arrived in a backstage barn at the theme park almost two weeks ago and is nearly 6 feet tall and 183 pounds. His mother is Lily. “He’s playful, curious, and pretty chill,” Scott Terrell, director of animal and science operations, wrote on the official Disney Parks Blog. Mother and son will stick close together for a while but will eventually join their herd on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Maple and Zella, two calves born in September and October, became visible to guests on the savanna in December.

Welcome to the Disney Animal Kindom family!

Loki is confirmed as the MCU’s first openly bisexual character in Episode 3: ‘I could cry right now’” via Ethan Alter of Yahoo Entertainment — Loki (Tom Hiddleston) mostly stayed in one place (and one timeline) for the third installment of his eponymous Disney+ series. But that didn’t make “Lamentis” any less dramatic. Midway through the episode, the gender-fluid Loki casually disclosed that he’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first openly bisexual character. That revelation came in the midst of a conversation with his female counterpart, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). While discussing their romantic pasts, Sylvie asked whether Loki’s status meant that he was ever wooed by “princesses” or “perhaps another prince.” Without missing a beat, Loki replied: “A bit of both. I suspect the same as you.” Not long after the episode dropped, director Kate Herron took to Twitter to confirm Loki’s bisexual identity.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, Rep. Dianne HartBlake Dowling, one of St. Pete’s best, Mario FariasKatie Flury of GrayRobinson, Tara Price, and our dear friend Rich Newsome.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

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


One comment

  • Tom

    June 24, 2021 at 8:23 am

    Peter, really devastating news for Dems on Govs race. Both are lagging big time and Fried is really getting blown out. Really a miserable month from her to date. She’s really out of touch with Florida, not even in tune with her party in the party. Time to withdraw.

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