Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.25.21

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Who's up, down, in and out — your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.

The staff of Florida Politics joins the rest of the state (and much of the nation) to pray for the victims, survivors and families waiting for news of loved ones caught in the tragic Champlain Towers collapse in Surfside. We also thank the first responders who have been heroically working nonstop on rescue efforts.

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Kinley Morgan is the new press secretary for the Senate Majority Office.

Morgan is a veteran Senate staffer with a solid background in communications and will now be working under Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican.

Previously, Morgan served as a legislative analyst in the Majority Office, focusing on education, military affairs, and tax policy.

Congratulations to Kinley Morgan, the new Senate Majority spokesperson.

An Ocala native, she also served a stint as a legislative aide to Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican whose district includes portions of Marion County.

Before her legislative service, Kinley served as a spokesperson for former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and an account supervisor for Geiger and Associates, a public relations firm specializing in tourism marketing.

Morgan is a graduate of Florida State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in applied American politics and policy.

She succeeds Lisa Kauffman, who recently left the press secretary position to accept a job at Mercury. The bipartisan public strategy firm announced Thursday that she would serve as vice president of its Florida office.

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@GovRonDeSantis: Thank you to those who have responded to the tragic building collapse in Surfside. These first responders saved lives. The state has emergency response personnel on-site and will assist in any way it can.

@MarcoRubio: A substantial number of those living at the Surfside building, which collapsed are originally from overseas. Our office is on-site at the family reunification center to help provide assistance with obtaining humanitarian visas for their loved ones who need to travel to the U.S.

Tweet, tweet:

@MayorDaniella: I just signed a declaration of local state of emergency that will immediately begin to allocate the necessary resources we need here on the ground. I urge @GovRonDeSantis to do the same at the state level.

@FrancisSuarez: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in Surfside as we respond to this tragedy in our community. Thank you to @MiamiPD and @CityofMiamiFire for getting to the scene quickly — we sent 10 fire rescue units along with drones and K-9 units to assist with search and rescue.

@conarck: “We can confirm we have received two patients from the building collapse in Surfside, but don’t have consent to release more information,” officials from Miami-Dade’s public hospital.

@kaitlancollins: President (Joe) Biden tells pooler @jeffzeleny he hasn’t spoken to Florida Gov. DeSantis, but White House staff has, and they are waiting to hear whether Florida wants to request federal disaster funds.

@JaredEMoskowitz: The scene at the reunification center will haunt witnesses for years to come. I am still haunted by those images from 3 years ago in Parkland

@SamBrockNBC: Surfside Mayor: — Treated 10 ppl on-site — One confirmed fatality from police. Dozens displaced … 50 hotel rooms next door evacuated … Concerned for safety of firefighters responding “It’s hard to imagine how this could happen — buildings just don’t fall down.”

@AnaCabrera: Search and rescue efforts from FL building collapse are ongoing. “This is not something that’s going to be brief” said Andrew Hyatt, Surfside Town Manager. “It’s going to be … for the long term … and possibly at least a week,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Raide Jadallah said.

@MiamiDadeFire: #MDFR #TRT & #FLTF1 are working in the basement parking garage at Champlain Towers. Firefighters continue working on locating possible victims, while dealing with heavy damage and changing conditions in the parking garage. #SurfsideBuildingCollapse

@MaryEllenKlas: CNN’s @jaketapper asks @JeanetteNunezFL if @GovRonDeSantis plans to sign the emergency order. She does not answer. Says: “I haven’t talked to him, so I’m sure that we’ll look at it and review it, and he’ll do what’s in the best interest of those individuals.”

@AGGancarski: So @GovRonDeSantis is doing a political interview with @marklevinshow while @LtGovNunez will talk Surfside condo collapse with @CNN @jaketapper … interesting move for #AmericasGovernor to do a red meat pre-tape instead of a national live hit during crisis.

@SamBrockNBC: Surfside mayor: -Treated 10 ppl on-site -One confirmed fatality from police. Dozens displaced … 50 hotel rooms next door evacuated … Concerned for safety of firefighters responding “It’s hard to imagine how this could happen- buildings just don’t fall down.”

@JudiciaryGOP: Kamala caves!

@FrankThorp: On @MSNBC, @SenSanders to @mitchellreports: “I’m tired of talking about Mr. (Joe) Manchin and Miss (Krysten) Sinema …”

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Bruce Springsteen revives solo show, “Springsteen on Broadway” — 1; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 6; Fourth of July — 9; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 14; MLB All-Star Game — 8; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 25; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 28; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 28; the NBA Draft — 38; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 40; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 46; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 54; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 60; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 69; NFL regular season begins — 76; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 81; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 87; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 91; ‘Dune’ premieres — 98; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 98; MLB regular season ends — 100; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 105; World Series Game 1 — 124; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 130; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 130; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 132; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 146; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 154; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 168; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 178; NFL season ends — 198; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 200; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 200; NFL playoffs begin — 204; Super Bowl LVI — 233; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 273; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 315; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 342; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 378; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 469; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 504.

— TOP STORY —

Videos show tragic aftermath of condo collapse near Miami. ‘Like a bomb went off’” via Mike Stunson of the Miami Herald — Images and video shared on social media early Thursday morning show the devastating aftermath of a partial collapse of a building in Surfside. The 12-story oceanfront condo tower near Miami collapsed around 2 a.m. Thursday, leaving at least 10 people injured and one person dead, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told the Miami Herald. According to Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, about 70 of the condo’s 130 apartments were destroyed or damaged. Horrified reactions poured in from across the nation as images circulated online.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Ron DeSantis signs emergency order in wake of condo collapse” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — DeSantis, just before 6:30 p.m. Thursday, issued a state-level emergency declaration, which creates more flexibility around how the DeSantis administration can respond and is a key step in potentially drawing in federal help. The decision to issue the order came after hours of speculation and outside pressure from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and Biden, who was asked about the collapse during a news conference. Late into the afternoon, DeSantis’ office said the state had dispatched five separate agencies to assist and did not yet see a need on the ground for a state-level emergency declaration. Cava issued a local emergency order, and tweeted that she was urging DeSantis “to do the same at the state level.”

‘This is a gut-wrenching scene.’ How to help victims of the Surfside condo collapse” via Devoun Cetoute and Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — As news of the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside spread across the nation, organizations began efforts to support victims who were forced out of their homes in the wee hours of the morning with little to nothing. Cava said the county is working with the American Red Cross, the county’s social service agency, police and fire departments “to make sure those people are properly situated.” “This is a predominantly Jewish community and we’ve had the rabbis and chaplains on hand,” she said.

‘Hopefully they are alive’: Many missing after building collapse are from Latin America” via Syra Ortiz-Blanes, Kevin G. Hall, Bianca Padró Ocasio, Martin Vassolo, Adriana Brasileiro and Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — At least 27 people from Latin American countries — including Colombia, Cuba, Chile, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Argentina — are among those reported missing by friends and family following the partial collapse of a residential building in Surfside on Thursday morning, highlighting the international reach of the tragedy in a region that serves as a link between the United States and Latin America. Sophia López Moreira Bó, the sister of First Lady of Paraguay Silvana López Moreira Bó, along with her husband Luis Pettengill and their three young children, were among those said to be missing. They were accompanied by Lady Villalba, a domestic worker.

‘It’s just really traumatizing’: Surfside residents wait for updates after building collapse” via Alex Finnie and Andrea Torres of WPLG — Lola Ram is waiting for news of her friend after an unexpected tragedy struck Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside. Many woke up to police sirens. Some ran out of their buildings to see what was happening early Thursday morning. Shortly before 2 a.m., a 40-year-old condominium building partially collapsed. Fire Rescue personnel and police officers responded to the L-shaped Chaplain Towers South. Ram said her friend is among the 99 people who are unaccounted for on Thursday afternoon. She was among the anguished at 88th St and Harding Ave, where the ruins of the 12-story building were visible. “I know I can’t do anything, but I just want to make sure she was OK,” Ram said through tears.

—“DeSantis: State will help find housing for those displaced by Surfside condo collapse” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—”‘Ready to move’: Joe Biden waiting for DeSantis to ask for help with Surfside condo collapse” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics —

—”Collapsed Miami condo had been sinking into Earth as early as the 1990s, researchers say” via Gina Barton, Kyle Bagenstose, Pat Beall, Aleszu Bajak and Elizabeth Weise of The Palm Beach Post

—”Surfside building: Engineer who probed FIU bridge collapse to investigate Surfside condo” via Alexandra Clough of The Palm Beach Post

Miami-Dade’s search-rescue team goes to disasters across world. Now, tragedy hits home” via Madeleine Romance of the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue team is known around the world for its lifesaving efforts. On Thursday, back home, the team was at the collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside. Since its inception in the 1980s, the search and rescue team has been dispatched to disasters in the U.S. and worldwide to help comb through the rubble, save lives and locate the dead. The team is made up of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel and outside specialists and is divided into groups including command, rescue, search, medical and planning. The task force also has nine FEMA-certified canine teams, each with one handler and one search dog.

Buildings don’t just fall down. Why did the condo in Surfside?” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It’s extremely rare for a building constructed in this country to just fall down, said Fred Bloetscher, a civil engineering professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. “I saw the video of it falling,” he said. “I don’t think we have enough information yet on what happened there, whether it’s a foundational problem or a failure in something in the concrete. It’s too early to really tell.” The building has been sinking since the 1990s, according to a 2020 study conducted by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, USA Today reported.

Miami-Dade rescue teams are focusing on recovery at the ruins of Champlain Towers South Condo. At least 99 are still missing. Image via AP.

‘The building was in OK shape.’ The upscale condo near Miami Beach still collapsed” via Rene Rodriguez, Rebecca San Juan, Taylor Dolven and Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — As far as ages of buildings go, the 12-story oceanfront condo tower that partially collapsed Thursday morning in Surfside was a relative youngster. The Champlain Towers South Condo was built in 1981 by a group of developers, Champlain Towers South Associates, including the late philanthropist Nathan Reiber. It was the first project to be built in Surfside after Miami-Dade County placed a moratorium on new developments during the 1970s, said Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League. Surfside struggled financially during the 1970s, Ciraldo said, and its water and sewer systems had degraded. The county required the town to upgrade its water and sewer systems before approving any projects.

Surfside building that collapsed was starting a critical inspection process. What went wrong?” via Aaron Leibowitz and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — The Surfside condo building that partially collapsed early Thursday was built 40 years ago — a crucial milestone for most buildings in Miami-Dade County that requires them to seek expert opinions to ensure they’re still safe. Now, in the absence of official statements about what may have caused the disaster — and as rescue workers scrambled to account for dozens of people who are still unaccounted for — speculation ran wild about what would cause such a calamitous event and whether there were any red flags. According to city officials and others familiar with the building, Champlain Towers South was early in its 40-year recertification process.

Condo collapse is an urgent alert that old Florida structures need auditing” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — How can apartments in the pricey oceanfront condo of 130 units — there are many condos like this one along Collins Avenue — be sold even recently without unit inspections turning up some clues that something significant was amiss? Condo sales inspections aren’t like home inspections where the entire structure is investigated at a point of sale, but maybe they should be. Florida law only requires that buildings and properties be structurally inspected every 40 years, which is the process the fallen condo was undergoing before the collapse. That is far too long to go without an audit of conditions that affect hundreds of people, as this horrific collapse has demonstrated. This, too, must change.

How to know if your condo tower is safe” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — No one knows yet why a 40-year-old, 12-story condo building collapsed in Surfside, but there’s no doubt that the miles and miles of towers in South Florida are susceptible to deterioration. Many of them were built in the 1970s and ‘80s as an era of condo living exploded across the region. Although they are subject to periodic inspections, people living in high-rises now wonder how safe their own homes are. High-rises in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that reach their 40-year anniversaries must have structural inspections, said Greg Batista, owner of G. Batista Engineering & Construction in Davie.

— 2022 —

Out-of-state campaign cash flows to DeSantis as his GOP stock rises” via John Kennedy and Yoonserk Pyun of USA TODAY — Since anointed a favorite for the White House at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, DeSantis has become a new Florida attraction — a right-leaning politician on the minds of many Republicans nationwide. And with that attention has come money. Since that CPAC event, DeSantis has been raking in campaign contributions — raising a remarkable $28.7 million, with almost half the cash coming from donors outside Florida, a USA Today Network-Florida analysis shows. But the torrent of out-of-state money also is giving DeSantis rivals a fresh line of attack. “It’s no surprise that nearly half Ron DeSantis’ contributions come from other states,” said Max Flugrath, a spokesman for Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who announced this month her candidacy for Governor.

Ron DeSantis’ stock is rising, and so are his coffers. Image via Twitter.

Charlie Crist campaign announces new hires” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Crist announced three new staff members to his gubernatorial campaign on Thursday. Joining his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are Pamela Burch Fort as senior adviser, Gayle Andrews as senior adviser for constituency media, and Samantha Ramirez as press secretary. Burch Fort is president of The Commerce Group, a government affairs and political consulting practice. Andrews is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Ramirez comes to the campaign from Crist’s congressional office, where she has worked since 2018, most recently as press secretary in his Washington office.

Rebekah Jones launches campaign website saying she’s running against U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Jones, the former Florida Department of Health data analyst who helped build the COVID-19 dashboard, has launched a website announcing she is running for Congress against Republican U.S. Rep. Gaetz. As of Thursday morning, Jones has not filed any campaign paperwork with the state or the Federal Election Commission. Her campaign website indicates that she will be running as an independent candidate to represent CD 1. Jones can legally run for the seat as long as she resides in Florida when elected; however, under the U.S. Constitution, she doesn’t actually have to live in the district. Jones also is facing a pending felony charge in Florida that could complicate her run if she is convicted.

Democrat Eunic Ortiz files to run for Pinellas state Senate seat” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Ortiz, an adjunct professor at the University of Florida and communications director of a major union, announced her run for state Senate District 24 in 2022 to replace term-limited Sen. Jeff Brandes. Ortiz, 33, is seeking elected office for the first time and running as a Democrat. She will step down from her post as national political communications director at Service Employees International Union during her campaign and work as a consultant for the labor union. As Ortiz involved herself with the 2020 campaign to approve Amendment 2, which sought to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, it sparked her desire to run for office.

Ashley Moody endorses Adam Anderson in HD 65 bid” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Moody has endorsed House District 65 candidate Anderson in his bid to succeed House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Moody credited her endorsement to Anderson’s support for law enforcement. Freshmen Reps. Linda Chaney and Traci Koster are also supporting Anderson, along with Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The early endorsements from major players indicate Anderson is likely the preferred choice for the area’s GOP political class and could discourage other potential Republicans from jumping into the race, a move that would help Anderson avoid a potentially costly Primary.

Adam Anderson gets the nod from Ashley Moody for HD 65.

Judge hears challenge to contribution cap” via Dara Kam of News Service of Florida — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and three political committees backing initiatives to expand voting urged a federal judge on Thursday to block a new law that imposes a $3,000 limit on contributions to political committees collecting petition signatures to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. Critics of the law, slated to go into effect on July 1, contend that the contribution cap effectively will make it impossible to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures required to place proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. But a lawyer representing the Florida Elections Commission urged Judge Allen Winsor to give the state more time to consider the consequences of the law instead of issuing a preliminary injunction.

Judge appears skeptical of contribution cap — U.S. District Judge Winsor, appointed by Donald Trump and worked under former Attorney General Pam Bondi, appeared skeptical about a new law placing a $3,000 limit on contributions to committees sponsoring ballot initiatives. As reported by Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida, Winsor didn’t offer direct criticism of the law but said he was bound by past rulings on campaign contributions and questioned what the state’s interest was in instituting the limit. Winsor said he would try to issue his ruling on whether to block the new law before it goes into effect on July 1.

Golf-cart confrontation involving granddaughter leads Wellington man to run for Village Council” via Rachida Harper Skinner of the Palm Beach Post — A racially charged altercation that hit too close to home and the lyrics of his wife’s worship music are just two of Tony Nelson’s greatest motivators to run for Wellington Village Council. Nelson said this month that he intends to run for Seat 2 in the March 8 election. Councilwoman Tanya Siskind has held the seat since 2018. She told The Palm Beach Post this week she intends to seek reelection “on the many accomplishments of the current council.” Neither person had filed as a candidate as of this week, the village clerk’s office said. If he were to win the office, Nelson would be Wellington’s first Black elected official.

— DATELINE TALLY —

DeSantis signs off on new workforce program” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Florida is about to test out a totally revamped workforce system. The new system is expected to create a more efficient pipeline from the classroom to the workplace by streamlining state career resources. The legislation was a priority of House Speaker Sprowls this past Session. “There is nothing like it in the nation. No state in America has tried to re-imagine their workforce system to this scale,” Sprowls said at the bill signing. Three new laws signed by DeSantis are aimed primarily at vocational and technical programs. The new laws should create easier access to the non-university track in Florida. Sprowls called the new system a “melody of economic mobility.” The new program and funding will allow high schoolers to start apprenticeships and other job training while still in school.

Ron DeSantis signs a bill that revamps Florida’s workforce development system.

Bill restoring July 1 start date for college athlete NIL pay lands on Governor’s desk” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — College athletes looking to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL) are now awaiting the Governor’s signature on a bill that landed on his desk late Wednesday. The legislation (HB 845) reinstates a July 1, 2021, start date to allow athletes at Florida universities to generate revenue off NIL rights, such as through advertisements, signing autographs, and other forms of promotion. In 2020, lawmakers approved a bill — with GOP support — setting up the July 1, 2021, start date. But during the final week of the 2021 Session in April, GOP Sen. Travis Hutson introduced a last-minute amendment to delay the compensation law from going into effect until July 1, 2022.

Assignment editors — Rep. Randy Fine and Moms for Liberty will hold a news conference to show that “thousands of dollars” are spent to teach and promote critical race theory in Brevard Public Schools, 11 a.m., RSVP at [email protected]

Your car insurance could go up $200 — or more — if no-fault system is repealed” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Auto insurance premiums will increase by an average of $202 for Florida drivers and far more for those who buy the minimum coverage, if DeSantis signs a bill that would repeal the state’s decades-old no-fault insurance system, according to a new analysis. The 40% of drivers who currently buy the cheapest coverage allowed by law will see the sharpest increases, as much as 77%, the study said. But those increases would be lower for South Florida motorists, where current auto insurance rates are already among the highest in the nation. The analysis, commissioned by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, was conducted by Pinnacle Actuarial Resources but not released before the Legislature voted to repeal Florida’s longtime no-fault insurance law in April.

Impact fees going up for schools and roads, but not as Orange County leaders originally planned” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Impact fees collected to build new schools and new roads are going up in Orange County but not as originally scheduled. A new state law (HB 337) thwarted the original plans of both the Orange County School Board and Orange County commissioners by limiting how much local governments can charge builders and developers for growth caused by their projects — and by requiring some increases be phased in. School officials estimate the new rules will cost the district between $10 million and $12 million, roughly the cost of half an elementary school. Levied by local governments, impact fees are one-time charges assessed on all new residential and commercial construction to defray the cost of growth’s “impact” on vital services.

— STATEWIDE —

Algae task force hears from residents who say they were sickened by toxins in drinking water” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force heard for the first time since its inception in 2019 from people Wednesday who said they were sickened by drinking cyanobacteria-poisoned tap water flowing into their homes. The group of scientists appointed by Gov. DeSantis and led by Florida Chief Science Officer Mark Rains has dealt previously with the widespread toxic microcystin blooms infecting the recreational waters of Lake Okeechobee, state estuaries and regional canals. But its meeting Wednesday in West Palm Beach gave city residents who were under a health alert from late May 28 to June 4 a chance to address the more intimate danger of harmful algae blooms in their water supply.

To get a shot at justice, they were forced to prove their disabled daughter’s intelligence” via Daniel Chang and Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — There is a perverse irony at the root of NICA. Hundreds of parents facing financial ruin desperately want to get into the program but can’t because their child’s birth circumstances don’t fit the precise parameters. Maybe their son or daughter weighed 5 pounds, 4 ounces, instead of the minimum 5 pounds, 5 ounces. Others, mostly those whose children have the most severe disabilities, want out so they can try to impose a measure of accountability on their doctor by pursuing a lawsuit. Those who want out of NICA sometimes meet M. Mark Bajalia, a lawyer for NICA and part of the legal and emotional gauntlet they must successfully navigate.

Assignment editors — Americans for Prosperity-Florida is hosting a discussion, led by AFP President Tim Phillips, on the contributions of immigrant communities in Florida, 6:30 p.m., DuPont YMCA, 737 Old Kings Road S., Jacksonville.

USF survey finds most Floridians are concerned about hurricane season, but they’re 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 study 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 most 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. But more than half (58%) do not have an evacuation plan or hurricane-specific preparedness items.

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

Former NRA president promotes gun rights at fake graduation set up by Parkland parents” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A former NRA president invited to give a commencement address to a school that doesn’t exist was set up to make a point about gun violence. Former NRA president and current board member David Keene delivered the commencement speech to more than 3,000 socially distanced chairs as part of what he thought was a rehearsal for graduation at James Madison Academy. The sea of empty white chairs was meant to represent high school students who should have graduated this year but were killed in gun violence. Keene advocated for gun rights and the Second Amendment in his speech on June 4 in Las Vegas. After filming, speakers were told the graduation was canceled because of a threat of violence. They had no idea it had all been a fake until a reporter told them.

Fireworks are legal on July Fourth now, but manners are still hard to enforce” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — With July Fourth approaching, firework stands are popping up and shouts of “Hey ya’ll, watch this,” are ringing across Tampa Bay. Mix in last week’s new federal Juneteenth holiday, and celebrations are already lighting up the skies in some neighborhoods. In April 2020, DeSantis signed a law that allows Florida residents to use fireworks legally, but only for three days out of the year: New Year’s Day, July Fourth, and New Year’s Eve. That’s a big change from the decades-old precedent that said all fireworks, defined as anything that leaves the ground or explodes, were illegal to sell or set off in Florida. But there are numerous loopholes in the restrictions that made enforcement laughable even before the governor gave the occasional thumbs-up to blow stuff up.

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 in a release. “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.

Cracking the case of who smothered a Florida river” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — The victim here is Central Florida’s Little Wekiva River. It’s not as famous as the Suwannee, but it’s pretty special. The Little Wekiva is part of a Florida and National Scenic and Wild River, an Outstanding Florida Water, and a state-designated paddling trail. It runs for about 15 miles, flowing northward from Lake Lawne. Jeanette Schreiber, a lawyer for the University of Central Florida’s College of Health, has lived on the river for 15 years. In the area of Longwood where she lives, it used to be four or five feet deep, she said. By the end of 2019, Schreiber said, “you couldn’t get a motorboat through there, and by Jan. 2020, you couldn’t even get a kayak through.”

Environmental groups sue state over phosphate site” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — A coalition of environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging that Florida and other defendants have long mishandled Piney Point, where massive amounts of contaminated water were released this spring to avert a potential catastrophe. The groups want a federal judge to require the state, property owner HRK Holdings, and the Manatee County Port Authority to “abate the present imminent and substantial endangerment to health and/or the environment” at the Piney Point site. The lawsuit said about 215 million gallons of wastewater were discharged from the Manatee County site into Tampa Bay because of fears about a potentially catastrophic breach of a reservoir. It said the discharges, in part, contribute to harmful algae blooms.

Did you know Florida hosts a Scallop Rodeo?” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — State biologists have worked to bring back bay scallop populations by doing everything from population monitoring to a Scallop Sitter program, even hosting a Scallop Rodeo to collect and preserve the mollusks. The efforts worked well enough to allow selective recreational scalloping in some parts of the state. In recent decades, declining bay scallop populations mean the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) closely monitors the activity. Recreational bay scalloping is only allowed from the Hernando-Pasco County line north to Mexico Beach. Each region has its own dates. Steinhatchee has some of the state’s prime scalloping grounds. The coastal area has rivers flowing into the Gulf, stirring up the right mix of fresh and saltwater to keep the scallops happy.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Jill Biden, Anthony Fauci visit Kissimmee” via Joe Burbank of the Orlando Sentinel — First Lady Biden visited a vaccination clinic in Kissimmee Thursday afternoon along with Dr. Fauci promoting the administration’s push to drive up vaccine totals. With White House Chief Medical Adviser Fauci, Biden addressed health care workers at the Osceola Community Health Services drive-thru vaccination site in Kissimmee. Biden and Fauci greeted residents getting vaccinations and met with leaders from the nonprofit health agency.

Jill Biden and Anthony Fauci head to Central Florida to boost vaccinations. Image via Reuters.

As the aggressive COVID-19 delta variant spreads, Floridians don’t know where it is and how to avoid it” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As the dangerous delta variant of the coronavirus makes its way through Florida, those who live in and visit the state will not know where it lurks. Should you vacation in Fort Lauderdale with unvaccinated children? Should you venture to amusement parks where masks are not required? “There are all kinds of databases, but no information available about which counties have cases,” said Marco Salemi, professor of Experimental Pathology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. “That is the information people really need to know.”

Celebrity Cruises drops requirement for passengers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine for Florida cruises” via Morgan Hines of USA Today — Celebrity Cruises has adjusted its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for cruises from Florida. Now, 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, such as testing.

— CORONA NATION —

CDC extends eviction moratorium a month, says it’s last time” via Ashraf Khalil and Michael Casey of The Associated Press — The Biden administration extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month to help millions of tenants unable to make rent payments during the coronavirus pandemic, but said this is the last time it plans to do so. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, extended the evictions moratorium from June 30 until July 31. The CDC said, “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.” A Biden administration official said the last month would be used for an “all hands on deck” multiagency campaign to prevent a wave of evictions. One of the reasons the moratorium was put in place was to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and into shelters. As of June 7, roughly 3.2 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months.

Behind the historic U.S. vaccine effort is FDA’s Peter Marks. The job is ‘not for the faint of heart.’” via Karen Weintraub of USA Today — Earlier this month, Dr. Marks helped decide to ditch 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, worried they might have been manufactured under unsafe conditions. In April, he was part of the group that ordered the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it appeared the shots were causing a potentially fatal side effect. And early last spring, he played a pivotal role in an all-out effort to quickly develop and mass-produce hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine. To add urgency, he named the project after the incredibly fast rate a spaceship could travel on the cult classic TV series Star Trek: warp speed. Marks, who runs a division of the FDA, has played a crucial role in nearly every major vaccine-related decision since the United States’ COVID-19 outbreak began.

Peter Marks says handling the U.S. vaccine effort is ‘not for the faint of heart.’

Despite decreasing COVID-19 anxiety, 4 in 10 Americans are still wearing masks, poll shows” via Taylor Avery of USA Today — As cases continue to drop in the United States, Americans are less anxious about COVID-19 affecting their family members. Only 23% of Americans said they were “very concerned” about a family member experiencing severe illness due to COVID-19, compared with 60% in January. Another finding: 4 in 10 Americans haven’t changed their mask-wearing habits since the CDC dropped mask requirements for vaccinated people in mid-May. “As the CDC has loosened its mask restrictions for people who have had the vaccine, we’re finding more of the unvaccinated are using that as an opportunity to take off their masks as well, because you can basically blend in with the crowd,” Patrick Murray said.

Chinese COVID-19 gene data that could have aided pandemic research removed from NIH database” via Amy Dockser Marcus, Betsy McKay and Drew Hinshaw of The Wall Street Journal — Chinese researchers directed the U.S. National Institutes of Health to delete gene sequences of early COVID-19 cases from a key scientific database, raising concerns that scientists studying the origin of the pandemic may lack access to key pieces of information. The NIH confirmed that it deleted the sequences after receiving a request from a Chinese researcher who had submitted them three months earlier. “Submitting investigators hold the rights to their data and can request withdrawal of the data,” the NIH said in a statement. The removal of the sequencing data is described in a new paper posted online Tuesday by Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

U.S. confirms removal of Wuhan virus sequences from database” via Rachel Chang and Robert Langreth of Bloomberg — Details of the genetic makeup of some of the earliest samples of coronavirus in China were removed from an American database where they were initially stored at the request of Chinese researchers, U.S. officials confirmed, adding to concerns over secrecy surrounding the outbreak and its origins. The data, first submitted to the U.S.-based Sequence Read Archive in March 2020, were “requested to be withdrawn” by the same researcher three months later in June, the U.S. National Institutes of Health said in a statement Wednesday. The genetic sequences came from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the COVID-19 outbreak was initially concentrated.

Life expectancy in the U.S. has trailed high-income countries for a decade. The pandemic made it worse.” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — The coronavirus pandemic has widened the life expectancy gap between the U.S. and other high-income countries, a new study shows, and experts say it could take decades to overcome. According to a study published Wednesday, the life expectancy gap between the U.S. and other comparable countries already had increased from 1.88 years in 2010 to 3.05 years in 2018. But researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University found the gap substantially increased to 4.69 years between 2018 and 2020. This decrease in life expectancy over the past two years was 8.5 times the average decrease in peer countries.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

U.S. jobless claims tick down to 411,000 as economy heals” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week, a sign that layoffs declined and the job market is improving. The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims fell just 7,000 from the previous week to 411,000. Weekly claims have fallen steadily this year from about 900,000 in January. The economy expanded at a healthy pace in the first three months of the year, the government also reported Thursday, and economists are optimistic that growth will accelerate in the April-June quarter, when it could Top 10% at an annual rate. As the pandemic fades, states and cities are lifting more business restrictions, and the economy is picking up as consumers are traveling, eating out more, and visiting movie theaters and amusement parks.

The economy expanded at a healthy pace in the first three months of the year; experts say it will just get faster. Image via AP.

$300 supplement for unemployed set to expire Saturday; advocates ask that DeSantis give an extension” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — Though a $300 per week federal unemployment supplement expires this Saturday, the Florida AFL-CIO and other advocates are calling on DeSantis to keep the supplement going as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. On Thursday, the union plans to deliver a petition of more than 6,000 signatures to DeSantis’ office, signatures from the AFL-CIO, the Tallahassee-based Florida People’s Advocacy Center and other organizations. The groups also plan a news conference Thursday, as the clock ticks down on the last day of the $300 supplement on Saturday.

SeaWorld offers hiring bonus as it looks to add about 600 restaurant workers” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — SeaWorld is hiring about 600 food and beverage workers across its Orlando parks and offering a signing bonus to bring in employees. According to a news release, food and beverage service ambassadors and prep and line cooks are eligible for a $1,000 hiring bonus. The starting wage is $14.75 per hour. Universal Orlando previously said it was looking to hire more than 1,000 restaurant workers. Its starting pay is going up to $15 an hour. Restaurants across the country have been struggling to hire workers, leading some to raise wages.

— MORE CORONA —

The delta variant is a grave danger to the unvaccinated” via Dhruv Khullar of The New Yorker — Lineage B.1.617.2, now known as the delta variant, was first detected in India in December 2020. An evolved version of sars-CoV-2, delta has at least a dozen mutations, including several on its spike protein, making it vastly more contagious and possibly more lethal and vaccine-resistant than other strains. In India, the delta variant contributed to the most devastating coronavirus wave the world has seen so far; now, it has been detected in dozens of countries, including the United States. In the U.S., it accounts for a minority of cases — but it is rapidly outcompeting other variants, and will likely soon become our dominant lineage.

The delta variant is particularly nasty for the unvaccinated.

CDC advisory group says ‘likely association’ between mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and rare myocarditis cases” via Talal Ansari and Brianna Abbott of The Wall Street Journal — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers said Wednesday that there is a “likely association” between Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and an inflammatory heart condition in some younger individuals, but noted that cases were rare and that most patients quickly felt better. The CDC and other health authorities still recommend COVID-19 vaccination for those age 12 and above, given the greater risk from COVID-19, which itself can cause myocarditis and other complications. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which consists of pediatricians, infectious-disease doctors and other medical experts outside the CDC, is meeting through Friday to discuss the rare but serious heart inflammation after mRNA vaccines and other vaccine issues.

World Health Organization expects annual COVID-19 booster shots for the most vulnerable populations” via Marisa Fernandez of Axios — The World Health Organization anticipates vulnerable populations will need to get an annual COVID-19 booster shot to be protected against variants, while the general population may need one every two years. The World Health Organization forecasts that the need for boosters in wealthier countries could push poorer nations, which have barely received any vaccine, to the back of the line and further widen the gap of vaccine inequality. The document does not say how these conclusions were reached and notes it’s still a “work in progress.” On Wednesday, the CDC’s advisory committee said the vulnerable might need annual boosters, but there was insufficient evidence to support the need for boosters for the general population.

Colleges want students to get a coronavirus vaccine. But they’re split on requiring the shots.” via Nick Anderson, Susan Svrluga, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lauren Lumpkin and Maria Aguilar of The Washington Post — The pandemic threat appears to be easing, especially in places with high vaccination rates. But maintaining public health on packed campuses with sizable shares of unvaccinated students and employees could prove difficult. Colleges may need to keep asking students to swab inside their noses or spit in test tubes to check for a resurgence of the virus or the spread of variants. Educators are pushing as hard as possible in the next several weeks for mass inoculation to avoid a reprise of pandemic disruptions. The health association recommends colleges require vaccination of on-campus students where state law allows.

The only way we’ll know when we need COVID-19 boosters” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — Midway through America’s first mass-immunization campaign against the coronavirus, experts are already girding themselves for the next. To keep our bodies from slipping back toward our immunological square, one researchers are looking to vaccine boosters, another round of shots that will buoy our defenses. Around the world, scientists have already begun to dole out these jabs on an experimental basis, tinkering with their ingredients, packaging, and dosing in the hope that they’ll be ready long before they’re needed. The need for boosters is looking more and more likely. 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.

Vaccine boosters are looking more likely. Image via U.S. Navy.

COVID-19 will find its way onto cruises. The critical thing is what happens next.” via Hannah Sampson of The Washington Post — When two passengers on a Celebrity Cruises ship tested positive for the coronavirus during the company’s first Caribbean cruise this month, it was an unwelcome development. But not entirely unexpected. The CEO of Celebrity’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Group, had predicted months earlier that the virus could sneak on board, despite precautions to keep it off. As cruise ships slowly start to return to service in the United States, all eyes will be on the seas to see whether the embattled industry can avoid the kind of early outbreaks that laid it up for more than a year. Earlier this month, one of the first voyages scheduled from the United States was postponed for nearly a month after eight crew members tested positive.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

‘We have a deal’: Pared-down infrastructure bill still huge” via Jonathan Lemire, Josh Boak and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — Biden announced a hard-earned bipartisan agreement on a pared-down infrastructure plan. But he openly acknowledged that Democrats will likely have to tackle much of the rest on their own. The bill’s price tag at $973 billion over five years, or $1.2 trillion over eight years, is a scaled-back but still significant piece of Biden’s broader proposals. It includes more than a half-trillion dollars in new spending and could open the door to the President’s more sweeping $4 trillion proposals for child care and what the White House calls human infrastructure later on.

Is bipartisanship possible? Image via AP.

Falling short: Why the White House will miss its vax target?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Standing in the State Dining Room on May 4, Biden laid out a lofty goal to vaccinate 70% of American adults by Independence Day, saying the U.S. would need to overcome “doubters” and laziness to do it. “This is your choice,” he told Americans. “It’s life and death.” As for the ambition of his 70% goal, Biden added: “I’d like to get it at 100%, but I think realistically we can get to that place between now and July Fourth.” He won’t. With the July Fourth holiday approaching, the White House acknowledged this week that Biden will fall shy of his 70% goal and an associated aim of fully vaccinating 165 million adults.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP — 

So when is Donald Trump going to turn on DeSantis?” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — For most of the summer of 2015, Trump was leading the field of Republicans vying for the party’s presidential nomination. By August, though, he faced a new threat: Neurosurgeon Ben Carson had emerged from the pack behind him to surge into second place. By the end of October, Carson had nearly caught Trump, gaining support as Trump flatlined. In Iowa, polling showed Carson taking the lead. Trump went on the offensive. At an event in Iowa, he mocked a story Carson liked to tell about having tamed his temper through his faith. That story included a claim from Carson that he had tried to stab a friend, only to strike the friend’s belt buckle. During his speech, Trump wiggled his belt to mock the alleged incident.

When will the other shoe drop in the Donald Trump/Ron DeSantis bromance? Image via AP.

Rudy Giuliani suspended from practicing law in New York” via Zachary Basu of Axios — Giuliani has been suspended from practicing law in the state of New York due to his false statements about the 2020 election. A New York court ruled that Giuliani made “demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump.” The court examined several instances in which Giuliani made false statements about alleged election fraud in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan. Each were found to violate various provisions of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. Giuliani is also under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York for his dealings with Ukraine.

‘The Tea Party to the 10th power’: Trumpworld bets big on critical race theory” via Theodoric Meyer, Maggie Severns and Meredith 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. 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. The immediate goal is to get legislative language included in a must-pass bill.

Michigan GOP investigation finds no evidence of widespread fraud in 2020 election” via Veronica Stracqualursi and David Wright of CNN — A Republican-led investigation concluded Wednesday that there was “no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud” in Michigan’s 2020 election, rejecting claims by former Trump and his allies that the state’s election results were fraudulent. “There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters,” the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee said in a report released Wednesday. The report’s findings refute allegations that Trump and his supporters promoted about the 2020 election process in Michigan as they sought to overturn Biden’s victory.

Inside the extraordinary effort to save Trump from COVID-19” via Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — Five days in October 2020, from the moment White House officials began an extraordinary effort to get Trump lifesaving drugs to the day the president returned to the White House from the hospital, marked a dramatic turning point in the nation’s flailing coronavirus response. Trump’s brush with severe illness and the prospect of death caught the White House so unprepared that they had not even briefed Vice President Mike Pence’s team on a plan to swear him in if Trump became incapacitated. Trump’s medical advisers hoped his bout with the coronavirus, which was far more serious than acknowledged at the time, would inspire him to take the virus seriously. Perhaps now, they thought, he would encourage Americans to wear masks and put his health and medical officials front and center in the response.

— CRISIS —

Nancy Pelosi announces a select committee will investigate Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob” via Felicia Sonmez and Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post — Pelosi announced the House will form a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, one month after Senate Republicans blocked an effort to form an independent, bipartisan commission. “This morning, with great solemnity and sadness, I’m announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection,” Pelosi said at a morning news conference. According to Pelosi, the panel will investigate the facts and causes of the insurrection and provide recommendations to help prevent similar attacks in the future. Senate Republicans last month blocked the creation of an independent Jan. 6 commission, despite 35 House Republicans having endorsed the effort.

‘Imperative’: Nancy Pelosi is creating a special committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on The Capitol. Image via AP.

In sentencing regretful Capitol protester, federal judge rebukes Republicans” via Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post — U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth castigated Republican lawmakers for downplaying the violence of the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, saying in handing down the first sentence to a charged defendant that those who break the law must pay a penalty. The 49-year-old Indiana woman before him, who had just pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of demonstrating inside the Capitol, did not disagree. Although the day after the riot, Anna Morgan-Lloyd described Jan. 6 as “the most exciting day of my life,” in court, she expressed regret and contrition. Lamberth credited Morgan-Lloyd for her early cooperation and admission of guilt, expressing frustration with both defendants and observers who argue that the riot was merely a political protest. He sentenced her to three years of probation.

Inside the ‘shadow reality world’ promoting the lie that the presidential election was stolen” via Rosalind S. Helderman, Emma Brown, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The slickly produced movie trailer, set to ominous music, cuts from scenes of the 2020 election to clips of allies of Trump describing a vast conspiracy to steal the White House. “The Deep Rig,” a film financed by former Overstock.com chief executive Patrick Byrne for $750,000, is set to be released online this weekend, the latest production by a loosely affiliated network of figures who have harnessed right-wing media outlets, podcasts, and the social media platform Telegram to promote the falsehood that the 2020 election was rigged. The baseless assertion is still reverberating across this alternative media ecosphere five months after Trump, and many of his backers were pushed off Facebook and Twitter.

Melbourne pastor, son and church member arrested for Capitol riot, feds say” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — Pastor James “Jim” Cusick Jr., Casey Cusick and David Lesperance, a member of Global Outreach Church of Melbourne, are charged with entering restricted grounds, disorderly conduct and violent entry of the Capitol building. Surveillance footage shows the three men standing inside the building as thousands of people flooded the Rotunda during a “Stop the Steal” rally that turned violent during a speech from Trump. About two weeks later, the FBI received its first tip that Jim Cusick was inside the Capitol during the riot, according to an arrest affidavit. Then on March 26, an anonymous letter to the FBI alleged that all three men traveled from Florida to Washington D.C., heard Trump speak, then joined the mob, the complaint said.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Crist, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz push for democracy, peace in Venezuela” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Crist and Wasserman-Schultz met with members of the Interim Government of Venezuela Wednesday to discuss how the U.S. could “peacefully end (the) Maduro regime and restore freedom and democracy.” As a part of the Congressional Venezuela Democracy Caucus, the Congress members were briefed by exiled Venezuelan leader Leopoldo López and Ambassador Carlos Vecchio on the current political and humanitarian situation in the South American country. “The Venezuelan people are in the midst of a horrific humanitarian crisis at the hands of the Maduro regime,” Crist said in a statement. Venezuela is currently under rule by Nicolás Maduro, and, like the Trump administration, the Biden White House has harshly denounced Maduro as a socialist dictator.

Charlie Crist and Debbie Wasserman Schultz meet with Venezuelan interim officials. Image via Twitter.

Judge blocks aid to minority farmers” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — Siding with a white farmer from North Florida, a U.S. district judge has blocked a federal plan to provide loan relief to Black and other minority farmers who historically faced discrimination. “In enacting (the section of the American Rescue Plan Act), Congress expressed the intention of seeking to remedy a long, sad history of discrimination against (minority farmers) in the provision and receipt of USDA loans and programs. Such an intention is not only laudable, it is demanded by the Constitution,” U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard wrote. “But in doing so, Congress also must heed its obligation to do away with governmentally imposed discrimination based on race.”

— LOCAL NOTES —

Judge in J.T. Burnette trial will allow improperly released Scott Maddox texts into evidence” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The federal judge presiding over Burnette’s public corruption trial denied a request by his lawyers to keep out of evidence text messages between Maddox and others that were improperly posted on the court’s public website. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued the ruling during a telephonic hearing along with an explanation for how the evidence became public in the first place. Hinkle said Burnette’s lawyers properly filed a hard copy of a motion seeking to keep the texts and other exhibits out of evidence that the court clerk properly posted online under seal. However, one of the defense lawyers later uploaded a redacted version of the motion, which was proper, and the attached evidence was not supposed to be posted.

Evidence in J.T. Burnette’s trial hits a snag.

South Florida has plans to attract more movie and TV projects” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Left on the cutting room floor after the state stopped giving companies money to film here, South Florida wants producers to know it’s ready for its close-up — and is willing to pay for the spotlight. Broward plans to start a rebate program similar to the one already in place in Miami-Dade. Palm Beach County subsidizes productions that boost tourism but doesn’t offer a rebate. Proponents say the money bolsters the local economy. They argue movie companies bring in out-of-town stars who need to stay at hotels; local caterers are hired to provide meals on set, and aspiring actors here are hired to be the extras in movie scenes.

‘The water is coming’: Florida Keys faces stark reality as seas rise” via Oliver Milman of The Guardian — The Florida Keys is now acknowledging a previously unthinkable reality: it faces being overwhelmed by the rising seas and not every home can be saved. Following a grueling seven-hour public meeting, officials agreed to push ahead with a plan to elevate streets throughout the Keys to keep them from perpetual flooding, while admitting they do not have the money to do so. The string of coral cay islands that unspool from the southern tip of Florida finds itself on the front line of the climate crisis, forcing unenviable choices upon a place that styles itself as sunshine-drenched idyll. The lives of Keys residents face being upended. If the funding isn’t found, the Keys will become one of the first places in the U.S. to inform residents that certain areas will have to be surrendered to the oncoming tides.

Orlando police union demands investigation into agency’s Internal Affairs manager” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando police is reviewing an incident involving the agency’s Internal Affairs manager after the union that represents officers demanded an investigation earlier this month. Adam Krudo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Orlando Lodge 25, said that Internal Affairs Manager Dwain Rivers submitted false information about Officer Dana Hilliker to the state’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission in a June 10 letter. On a form, Rivers indicated Hilliker was charged criminally for kicking a burglary suspect in the face and pulling his hair during a 2019 arrest. But prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Hilliker, according to Krudo. Orlando police spokeswoman Heidi Rodríguez said that the issue had been discussed with union representatives, and a “thorough” review will be conducted.

After string of failed bids for historic Eatonville property, Orange district seeks proposals again” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Public Schools is trying again to sell a 94-acre property along Interstate 4 in Eatonville, after multiple failed bids to revitalize the gateway of the oldest incorporated Black municipality in the U.S. “Finding a developer has been a long process, but it’s essential that we find the right fit for the Town of Eatonville,” the school district’s attorney Amy Envall said in a statement. Applications must have plans that include elements for public use, residential units, office space and retail space. Developers must pay $100,000 in “earnest money,” a refundable deposit if the project isn’t selected or a deal doesn’t close. In January, two companies vied for the land, but both were rejected last month.

Florida man to take plea deal after changing Governor’s address in voting database” via Kaitlin Greenockle of the Naples Daily News — A Golden Gate man accused of hacking into the state’s voter database and changing DeSantis address plans to accept a plea deal on Tuesday in Collier County Circuit Court, the man’s lawyer reports. Anthony Steven Guevara, 20, was charged in October with unauthorized access to a computer and altering a voter registration without consent, both of which are felonies. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Guevara logged onto the Florida Department of State website, entered the Governor’s date of birth, and changed his address to a home in West Palm Beach. The change to DeSantis’ address briefly stalled the Governor when he was attempting to vote in the 2020 General Election in Tallahassee.

Anthony Steven Guevara takes a plea for hacking into Ron DeSantis’ voter file.

On Pinellas beaches, business owners watch as Red Tide conditions evolve” via Gabe Stern of the Tampa Bay Times — High levels of Red Tide appeared off Honeymoon Island on Monday, and medium concentration was detected off Clearwater Beach on Tuesday. County officials issued a health warning to beachgoers that they could have respiratory problems on June 11. Karenia brevis, the organism that causes Red Tide, is spreading north in patches. Along a stretch of Gulf Boulevard from Sand Key to Madeira Beach, monitoring has shown bloom levels of Red Tide over the last couple of weeks in multiple samples. Fish kills have been reported at different levels, though the county’s cleanup efforts have made some of those unnoticeable. However, tourism officials say Pinellas County’s best summer tourism season in years has not let up in the weeks since the health warning. So far, there haven’t been any reports of tourism impacts from the bloom.

Harmful algae warning at Port Mayaca announced by Martin County Health Department” via Ed Killer of Treasure Coast Newspapers — It’s June. It’s hot. And cyanobacteria like it hot. The Florida Department of Health in Martin County issued a Health Alert on June 24 for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in the waters of the C-44 Canal near Port Mayaca. This is in response to water samples taken by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on June 21. The public should exercise caution in and around the area of Port Mayaca. June 4, the Martin County DOH issued an advisory for Timer Powers Park east of Indiantown, about halfway along the canal between Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Lock and Dam in Tropical Farms.

— TOP OPINION —

‘This is a tragic day.’ Surfside condo collapses near Miami Beach. We need answers ASAP” via the Miami Herald editorial board — It will take a while to find out what happened, but we must learn who, or what, is to blame. And then never allow it to happen again, and punish those responsible, if need be. Let’s hope human greed or carelessness are not responsible. Finding out what caused this latest massive structural calamity will likely play out much like the aftermath of a plane crash: There will be several critical components found that led to the catastrophic event. But we need to know what those weaknesses were. Who knows what role, if any, all these elements played in creating a perfect storm of a tragedy.

— OPINIONS —

Are Democrats hypocritical on voter ID?” via Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg — Let’s talk voter-identification laws. Republicans have been passing them. Most Democrats seek to ban them. However, a version of voter ID was included in a voting-rights compromise bill that numerous high-profile Democrats have endorsed. Republicans have therefore accused Democrats of hypocrisy for first claiming that these laws were bigoted attempts to keep Black voters from the polls but then accepting them in exchange for other provisions, such as districting reform. It’s true that some Democrats have made over-the-top claims about the effects of these laws. But there’s nothing wrong with reluctantly accepting that provision if it’s part of the best available deal. And as far as voter ID is concerned, the problem remains that Republicans are insisting on a policy that makes it harder to vote.

In Florida’s urban areas, broadband costs create a digital divide” via Stanley Gray of the Tampa Bay Times — When the pandemic hit, many Floridians quickly adjusted to working from home, shopping online and attending school remotely. However, for some, that was not an option. Why? Because they lacked the broadband internet access that made it possible. There are steps that can be taken to help address this digital divide. As part of coronavirus relief, the federal government allocated funds to help more Americans access broadband internet. But this is only a temporary fix. Addressing the issue of affordability will require reform to the federal Lifeline program, intended to make telecommunications services more affordable for low-income Americans. It’s time to fill in the gaps and make sure everyone can afford access to the broadband services available right outside their doors.

This is what Derek Chauvin’s sentence should be” via Paul Butler of The Washington Post — Eighteen years. That would be the most appropriate sentence for Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd in one of the most high-profile criminal trials in U.S. history. Some Black Lives Matter activists, and probably Floyd’s family, hope Chauvin receives the 40-year maximum. Keeping it real, I wouldn’t be too mad if the judge throws the book at Chauvin. He is not exactly the face of sentencing reform. But principles are best demonstrated by hard cases. The truth is, 18 years is a very long time in prison. Chauvin would not be getting away with anything, and it’s in the best long-term interests of racial justice in America if punishment is based less on emotion and more on reason.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s usual political follies take a back seat to the tragedy in Miami-Dade, where a condo collapsed. Surfside Mayor Burkett says the building literally pancaked and calls it a horrific catastrophe.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— Emergency crews from across Miami-Dade have converged on the site, and the Governor went to see for himself. “It’s bad.”

— It’s going to be a while before they figure out exactly why this happened.

— Before Gov. DeSantis flew to Miami-Dade, he held a news conference in Tampa to sign bills rebooting the state’s vocational education and training system. He says that makes more sense for some people when compared to the price of a university degree.

— 150,000 Floridians who are receiving federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic will be cut off early. DeSantis is taking Florida out of the program 10 weeks early … which means those $300 weekly checks end Saturday.

— And finally, part-time Florida Man Trump will be returning to the Sunshine State on July 3 for his first Florida rally since the election. There will be fireworks … both figuratively and literally. Also, the story of a Florida woman with a bad case of road rage — and a gun.

To listen, click on the image below:

— WEEKEND TV —

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Florida Politics columnist Joe Henderson, Creative Loafing contributor McKenna Shueler and League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A spotlight on the future of arts and entertainment in Central Florida post-pandemic, previewing the tax holiday passed by the state Legislature with hopes of jump-starting the recreational economy. Guests include Sen. Linda Stewart, Rep. Bobby Payne and the Orlando Repertory Theatre’s Olivia DeMarco and Chris Brown.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A recap of the St. Pete Mayoral Debate, a preview of what’s next for election reform in Congress, and a one-on-one interview with Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, candidate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Ybeth Bruzual speaks to Rep. Scott Plakon about bills passed during the Legislative Session and a look at DeSantis’ ban on critical race theory.

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

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, Jacksonville City Council Incoming Vice President Terrance Freeman, and Director Rick Mullaney of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Continued coverage of the Surfside condo collapse.

— ALOE —

Windows goes to 11” via Ina Fried of Axios — Microsoft on Thursday offered a first look at Windows 11, coming this holiday season. The new version changes both the look of the operating system and its underlying business model, as well as supporting Android apps for the first time. Windows has been steadily losing market share on the desktop, which has itself lost prominence to smartphones. Microsoft also plans changes to the economics for the Microsoft Store, a move that could help it competitively and increase the pressure on rivals Google and Apple.

Get ready; it’s coming.

‘Rosie the Rocketeer’ to launch on Boeing’s Starliner again from Cape Canaveral” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — While SpaceX had “Starman” and “Ripley,” and Blue Origin has “Mannequin Skywalker” to simulate humans on launches, Boeing is giving “Rosie the Rocketeer” another ride when it attempts to launch its CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station next month. The Starliner mission is the second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test, labeled OFT-2, for the private spacecraft attempting to join SpaceX as one of two commercial partners with NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. It’s slated to lift off atop an Atlas V rocket at 2:53 p.m. on Friday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Starliner’s first Orbital Flight Test in December 2019 did not make it to the space station after technical issues.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muñiz, state Reps. Bryan Avila and Anika Omphroy, former Rep. Javier FernandezRebecca Kapusta, and Amanda Prater.

___

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 25, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Condolences to families in Surfside.
    Shockingly, no reference at all to the devastating poll released by Matrix Listener a few days ago,
    Fried is in a real bad place, almost insurmountable to overcome. More likely to withdraw than to continue. Crist is still distant and surviving off of name ID. Governor Ron is in very strong position. He’s dominating the playing field in state and nationally. Liberal media is wary and keeping a watchful eye. Florida poll shows it’s going to take a lot to have a real contest as more like a re elect coronation at this point. Surprising as to no reference at all and it’s impact. Just devastating for them both especially to fundraise.

Comments are closed.


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