Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.3.21

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Get ‘burned first: Here’s your AM review of the news driving Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

Election Day may be more than a year away, but bettors think Gov. Ron DeSantis is a safe bet to win reelection.

The latest odds from New Jersey-based give the Republican incumbent 23/100 odds to secure a second term — roughly an 81% chance for those without a working proficiency in fractional odds.

DeSantis’ chances are down a bit from last week, but the wind has been at his back for a few months now. According to the same bookie, back in May, he boasted a 79% chance to snag another four-year term.

Is Ron DeSantis a safe bet? Bookies think so.

“DeSantis’ odds have not had a significant impact following the recent challenges faced by the state of Florida, which suggests that bookies are still confident in him being reelected,” says US Sportsbonus gambling industry analyst Jay Sanin. “The end of July marked the peak in DeSantis’ chances of winning, so this recent minimal change could mark the beginning of a downward trend depending on how he responds to these challenges.”

That leaves the window open — though only slightly — for the two major Democrats challenging him, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (10%) and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (8%). Essentially, if the race were a roulette wheel, Crist is a four-number combo, and Fried is a three.

The odds will change, of course, once the Democrats pick their nominee.

“It’s not uncommon to see an incumbent candidate heavily favored in an election in which the rival party’s nominee has not been declared,” Sanin said. “But DeSantis is also a top contender in presidential betting markets, which is a good indication that he has a lot of public support.”

Indeed, the Governor currently has a 20% chance to win the GOP nomination in 2024, behind only Donald Trump (25%). He also has an 8% chance to win the presidency, trailing Trump (12.5%), President Joe Biden (20%) and VP Kamala Harris (22%). 


Liberty Partners of Tallahassee announced a pair of high-profile personnel moves on Tuesday, the eve of its 15th year in business.

The personnel moves include Tim Parson’s elevation to vice president of the firm and the addition of Adam Potts as director of governmental affairs.

Parson’s promotion comes after more than five years at Liberty Partners, during which time he led the team through significant client growth in Northwest Florida and statewide.

Liberty Partners President Jennifer Green said Parson will continue to be a key strategic adviser on policy development, public affairs and legislative advocacy while taking on a higher profile role in running the firm.

Moving on up: Tim Parson, Adam Potts and Katie Taff take on new roles at Liberty Partners.

Potts comes to the firm from the Florida Public Service Commission, where he serves as the chief lobbyist for the utility regulatory body. The Florida State University graduate has a wealth of experience in government affairs, having held positions at the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

“We are very excited to be able to bring someone like Adam onto our team at such an important time in the history of our firm. He brings more than 15 years of experience in both the government sector and political arena. I am confident that his tremendous skills will bring incredible value to all of our clients,” Green said.

Liberty Partners also highlighted its Grants Division, launched last year and led by Katie Taff. The growing practice aims to help clients with both federal and state grant writing and provide grant management services and economic development consulting.


Spotted — At Sen. Aaron Beans annual Amelia Island Gathering at The Ritz-Carlton: Sen. Ben Albritton, as well as Audrey Brown, Scott Dick. Ron LaFace, Allison Kinney, Tracy and Frank Mayernick, Joel Overton, Chris Schoonover, Stephanie Smith and Ted Smith.


Tweet, tweet:

@TaylorLorenz: Officials & influencers hope their pro-vaccination messaging will serve to counter the often very loud vaccine skeptics online. “If we view disinformation as a negative information effort, this campaign is a positive information effort,” @Rob_Flaherty said

@JamaalBowman: The White House says it doesn’t have authority to extend the eviction moratorium or cancel student debt. But it hasn’t had a problem conducting airstrikes without authorization from Congress.

@LindsayGrahamSC: I feel like I have a sinus infection, and at present time I have mild symptoms. I will be quarantining for 10 days. I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination, I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now.

@JakeSherman: So, to review: boat full of lawmakers. One got COVID. All of their votes are necessary to pass the infrastructure bill, which they want to pass this week. Senate doesn’t require masks. Got it. Cool.

@PaulKrugman: DeSantis has been touting the FL economy — although how well will that economy hold up as potential visitors realize that the Sunshine State has become extremely dangerous and its hospital system is in overload crisis?

@SContorno: Mary Mayhew was a critical piece of Gov. DeSantis’ early COVID-response team as head of AHCA. It’s interesting to watch the DeSantis administration dismiss her warnings about the recent surge in hospitalizations now that she’s an outsider (CEO of Florida Hospital Association).

Tweet, tweet:


‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 3; Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 6; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 8; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 15; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 21; Boise vs. UCF — 30; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 31; Notre Dame at FSU — 33; NFL regular season begins — 37; Bucs home opener — 37; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 42; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 42; Alabama at UF — 46; Dolphins home opener — 47; Jaguars home opener — 47; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 48; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 52; ‘Dune’ premieres — 59; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 59; MLB regular season ends — 61; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 66; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 84; World Series Game 1 — 85; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 85; Georgia at UF — 88; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 91; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 91; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 95; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 97; Miami at FSU — 102; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 108; FSU vs. UF — 116; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 129; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 136; NFL season ends — 159; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 161; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 161; NFL playoffs begin — 162; Super Bowl LVI — 194; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 234; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 278; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 303; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 339; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 351; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 430; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 465.


Pro-Joe Biden groups to spend $100 million on August ad blitz” via The Associated Press — An array of progressive and pro-White House groups plans to spend nearly $100 million to promote Biden’s agenda over the next month to pressure Congress while lawmakers are on their August recess. The push being announced Monday is meant to promote and secure passage of Biden’s two-track infrastructure plan: a bipartisan package focused on highways, transit and broadband, and a Democrats-only budget reconciliation bill for child care and what the White House calls human infrastructure. Votes on both proposals, expected in the weeks ahead, are expected to be narrow, with Biden and Democratic leaders needing to keep in line a group of moderate Republicans for the nearly $1 trillion bipartisan bill.

Joe Biden is getting a big boost with a six-figure ad buy. Image via AP.


Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations shatter record as Ron DeSantis downplays threat” via Matt Dixon and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — The head of Florida’s largest hospital association warned that the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is unlike anything the state has seen before even as DeSantis downplays the spike. On Monday, the Florida Hospital Association reported 10,389 COVID-19 hospitalizations, the most statewide during any point in the pandemic. This follows CDC reporting over the weekend that the state had more than 21,000 new coronavirus infections on Friday. It was the highest one-day total for Florida, making up roughly one and five new cases nationally.

Despite record-breaking COVID-19 cases, Ron DeSantis brushes off the threat. Image via AP.

Nikki Fried accuses DeSantis of delaying COVID-19 data to CDC” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — After criticizing DeSantis for scaling back public reporting of COVID-19 data and instituting her own public COVID-19 briefings, Fried is now accusing DeSantis of delaying the state’s COVID-19 reporting to the CDC. Fried continued Monday with her independent COVID-19 briefings in the absence of daily data from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). But there were no new COVID-19 numbers to share, Fried said, because the Florida Department of Health has not sent updated COVID-19 data to the CDC since Friday. “Our Governor, the Florida Department of Health, should be giving daily reporting numbers. It’s 2:30 on Monday; we have nothing reported since Friday,” Fried said.

Florida Hospital Association’s Mary Mayhew says new COVID-19 surge ‘dramatically different’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging Florida now is dramatically different in character from previous waves because the Delta variant is putting many young people into intensive care, Florida Hospital Association President Mayhew said Monday. Mayhew said Florida’s hospitals, particularly in Jacksonville and Orlando, are filling fast with much younger COVID-19 patients. “In Jacksonville, in one of our hospitals, their average age now is 42 years old. They have 25-year-olds who are in intensive care, on ventilators,” Mayhew told “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski. Mayhew said Florida had experienced a dramatic increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions over the past 27 days, far faster than what was experienced in 2020.

Florida leads the nation in kids hospitalized for COVID-19” via Rose Wong of the Tampa Bay Times — The Sunshine State leads the nation in another alarming coronavirus statistic. Florida had 32 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations per day between July 24 and 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adjusted for population, that’s 0.76 kids hospitalized per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the country. The Florida Department of Health reported 10,785 new COVID-19 infections among children under 12 between July 23 and 29. That’s an average of 1,540 new cases per day.  The surge is worse for children who are eligible for the vaccine — 11,048 new cases among those ages 12 to 19 in the same week.

Greater Jacksonville region leads Florida, nation in COVID-19 resurgence” via Steve Patrick & Eric Wallace of Health News Florida — Nassau County has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita of any large metropolitan county in the United States. Baker, Clay, St. Johns and Duval counties are also in the top 10 counties among the nation’s large metropolitan areas, based on the rate of new infections in the last seven days. The CDC’s national map showing the level of community transmission shows nearly every Florida county in red, at the highest transmission level. Data posted with the map also gives the rate of new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days. Nassau County’s rate is 744.71 per 100,000; Baker’s is 708.66, and Clay County’s is 541.84.

—”COVID-19 continues to brutalize Duval County” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Nearly 40% of Miami-Dade hospital ventilators in use as COVID-19 surge continues” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Almost 40% of the working ventilators in hospitals across Miami-Dade are now in use, and a third of them have gone to COVID-19 inpatients who are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. Of 276 new COVID-19 patients placed in Miami-Dade hospital beds Friday and Saturday, all but 31 were unvaccinated. Twenty-six percent of intensive care unit occupants are there for COVID-19 complications. That figure, 26%, also represents the share of acute care bed occupants across 21 local health care facilities who have been hospitalized due to the virus. As the COVID-19 positivity in Miami-Dade climbed past 12% last week, the number of unvaccinated residents in hospitals is mounting.

Miami-Dade schools’ masks on buses requirement might not ride with DeSantis order” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — DeSantis‘ order prohibiting schools from mandating children wear masks at school has potentially upended Miami-Dade schools’ requirement that students wear masks on the school bus. DeSantis issued an order Friday saying schools risked losing state funding if parents were not allowed to decide whether their children were masked. The order has been widely interpreted as giving parents the right to ignore any local mask mandates. The Governor’s Office said more specifics will be coming soon. The Broward County School Board is backtracking on its vote to require students to wear face coverings at school. The school mask mandate, the only one in the state, was still up on its website Monday. But the school district released a statement Monday saying that the district intends to comply with the Governor’s latest executive order.

PBC public schools can’t require students to wear masks, School Board chair says” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County School Board attorneys have concluded that DeSantis’ executive order last week makes it impossible to enforce a mask mandate for students, the school board’s chairman said Monday. While the Governor’s order doesn’t stop a school district from putting a requirement in place, “what it does do, however, is authorize parents to disregard any Board action requiring mandatory masking of their children,” School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri said in a statement. The conclusion that the district can’t legally enforce a mask requirement puts into doubt the calls by many parents and doctors to have all students on district campuses wear facial coverings when classes begin on Aug. 10.

The big reason these Palm Beach County residents finally got their COVID-19 shots” via Chris Persaud of the Palm Beach Post — It took about seven months for Marie Emilcar to get the coronavirus vaccine, but it wasn’t because she was stubborn. Her fully vaccinated son, Wendruick Emilcar, drove her Thursday morning to the Lantana Primary Care Clinic in south Lake Worth Beach. They heard that free shots were being administered there, he said, without needing an appointment. That was important. “Before, it was harder getting scheduled,” Wendruick said. For months, his 73-year-old Haitian-born, Creole-speaking mother had trouble booking an appointment, he said. Vaccine seekers earlier this year needed to schedule shots online when fewer doses were available. So the elder Emilcar — not so good with computers — didn’t get vaccinated.

Broward County will add testing sites as COVID-19 numbers surge” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Three new public COVID-19 testing sites will open next week in Broward County, and another opened Monday as cases in South Florida continue to skyrocket, particularly among children. Broward Mayor Steve Geller announced the locations Monday. These are scheduled to open early next week: Tradewinds Park, 3600 W Sample Road in Coconut Creek; Markham Park, 16001 W. State Road 84 in Sunrise; C.B. Smith Park, 900 N Flamingo Road in Pembroke Pines. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health in Broward was mum about hours, saying “we will advise when all of the information is finalized.” The existing public COVID-19 testing centers, which are free and allow testing of children, do not require appointments.

Most hospitals are reluctant to mandate vaccines for workers. That may soon change.” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — There may be no better argument for employees of Miami-Dade’s Jackson Health System to get vaccinated against COVID-19 than the young nurse colleague who has been hospitalized with the disease for the past three weeks. “It makes it very real,” said Alix Zacharski, a nurse and manager of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. “It hits us now.” Zacharski said she did not have any information about her colleague, one of more than 200 patients with COVID-19 admitted at Jackson Health’s three hospitals in North Miami Beach, Miami and South Miami-Dade.

Vaccine mandates for hospital workers could be a common sight. Image via AP.

Delray Beach to require COVID-19 vaccinations for city employees” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Delray Beach will begin requiring city employees to be vaccinated as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Florida. According to a city news release, all employees will be required to comply with the new mandate by Aug. 31 unless they’re exempt by health, religious, or other legally covered reasons. Those who are exempt will be required to take a COVID-19 test every week. According to the release, the decision was made “in accordance with guidance from the CDC confirming vaccines are the best method of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting employees and the public at large,” according to the release. Delray Beach Fire Rescue personnel will administer the vaccines and perform weekly COVID-19 testing.

AdventHealth Central Florida further limits visitors to hospitals in 7 counties” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — AdventHealth has further restricted visitors to its hospitals amid an unprecedented flood of COVID-19 hospitalizations, over 1,060 patients on Friday. The changes are effective Monday, Aug. 2. The hospital system no longer allows COVID-19 positive patients to have in-person visitors at any of its Central Florida hospitals, including facilities in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Polk, Volusia and Flagler counties. AdventHealth said it will help arrange virtual visits between patients and their loved ones if needed. This restriction does not apply to COVID-19 positive patients under 18, who can see two adult caregivers at a time. Obstetric patients who are COVID-19 positive and need a C-section are allowed two visitors a day, with no visitors allowed in the operating room. 

—”Sarasota Memorial Hospital breaks record, reporting 131 COVID-19 patients” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Key Biscayne requiring masks in government buildings, citing uptick in COVID-19 numbers” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Citing the steep rise in hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19, Key Biscayne Mayor Michael Davey announced Sunday that the village will require masks in all government facilities, making the tony island one of the first municipalities in Miami-Dade County to do so since restrictions lifted following the rollout of the vaccine. Village Manager Steve Williamson came up with the idea and authorized the order Sunday afternoon, Davey said. The order went into effect Monday. “Not what we wanted, but it is the prudent course of action,” the Mayor tweeted. “If you haven’t already, please get vaccinated.” The main areas affected by the mandate are Key Biscayne Village Hall and the island’s community center.

Are masks a must at City Hall? You must wear one again in Key West government buildings” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — The city of Key West on Monday announced that people must again wear masks while inside all government buildings because of the surge in COVID-19 cases. “We want to be sure that our staff and our citizens stay healthy,” City Manager Patti McLauchlin said in a statement. “We’ve come so far, and we want to stay strong and continue to recover.” Key West’s rule revival means the people attending meetings such as Tuesday’s 5 p.m. City Commission at City Hall must mask up. “This applies to visitors as well as staff,” said city spokeswoman Alyson Crean. “We encourage social distancing at city meetings as well as requiring masks indoors.”

Top RNC official in Florida spreads COVID-19 conspiracies, calling vaccines the ‘mark of the beast’” via Em Steck, Drew Myers and Andrew Kaczynski of CNN — A top Republican National Committee official in the state has spread anti-vaccine rhetoric and misinformation, comparing the Biden administration’s vaccine efforts to Nazi-era “brown shirts,” and twice calling the vaccines “the mark of the beast,” comparable to a “false god.” A review found Peter Feaman, a lawyer and RNC committeeman from Florida, made the comments on his blog “The Backhoe Chronicles,” which he regularly publishes in a private group on MeWe. The social media platform bills itself as the “anti-Facebook” app. “The Biden brown shirts are beginning to show up at private homes questioning vaccine papers,” Feaman wrote, incorrectly implying government officials would be showing up at people’s homes to question their vaccination status.

Former ‘Master of Disaster’ Jared Moskowitz won’t stop schooling on COVID-19” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — After leading the state through hurricanes, a pandemic, and a hurricane during a pandemic, Florida’s former emergency management director was welcomed to the Coral Springs City Commission chambers last week like a conquering hero. Moskowitz’s efforts to handle emergencies in a famously disaster-prone state has landed him on all the national television networks. Last week, he also showed up for a city of Coral Springs certificate of appreciation, complete with a photo opportunity. “This guy was running the entire state during one of the most unprecedented events in the world, and he was leading one of the largest states through that time, and when you called him, he answered,” raved Coral Springs Vice Mayor Joshua Simmons. “It’s unheard of, unheard of.”

Even after leaving office, Jared Moskowitz keeps up the fight against COVID-19. Image via AP.

Popular Florida restaurant asks all guests to be vaccinated” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — The owner of a popular Anna Maria Island restaurant, who calls DeSantis “a bonehead,” is asking all guests to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and says most patrons welcome the rule. “Beach Bistro will now require its patrons to be vaccinated, given the dangerous surging of delta coronavirus and the Beach Bistro’s deep commitment to safety for both staff and guests,” the restaurant said in an email. Every staffer is vaccinated at the waterfront Holmes Beach restaurant. Four employees who refused were fired. Owner Sean Murphy says his restaurant isn’t requiring proof of vaccination but simply asking patrons to be vaccinated to enter his businesses. “Patrons seem to appreciate it; they seem to be very grateful,” he said.


CDC says 7-day average of daily U.S. COVID-19 cases surpassed peak seen last summer” via Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Nate Rattner of CNBC — The seven-day average of daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed the peak seen last summer when the nation didn’t have an authorized COVID-19 vaccine, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. U.S. COVID-19 cases, based on a seven-day moving average, reached 72,790 on Friday, according to data compiled by the CDC. According to the CDC, that’s higher than the peak in average daily cases seen last summer, when the country reported about 68,700 new cases per day. The daily average in COVID-19 cases has since dropped, however, falling to 68,326 new cases per day on Saturday and 63,250 new cases per day on Sunday.

COVID-19 cases keep peaking across the U.S. Image via Reuters.

U.S. hits Biden’s vaccination goal a month late” via Adela Suliman, Bryan Pietsch and Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post — The U.S. reached a milestone of getting at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 70% of adults on Monday, almost a month after Biden’s original July 4 goal. The news came as the highly contagious delta variant is driving a coronavirus surge, with the CDC reporting more than 100,000 daily cases Friday. It was a number not seen since February. Biden called on more Americans to get the shot, tweeting Monday afternoon that the nation was “prepared to deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases like never before.” According to CDC data, new daily reported deaths have gone up by 33% and hospitalizations by 46% on average in the last seven days compared to the week before.

U.S. employers ratchet up the pressure on the unvaccinated” via Alexandra Olson of The Associated Press — The biggest precedent so far has come from the federal government, the nation’s largest employer. Biden’s decision could embolden other employers by signaling they would be on solid legal ground to impose similar rules, said Brian Kropp, chief of research at consulting firm Gartner’s human resources practice. But Kropp said some companies face complicated considerations beyond legalities, including deep resistance to vaccines in many states where they operate. Retailers like Walmart might have a hard time justifying vaccine requirements for their workers while allowing shoppers to remain unvaccinated, Kropp added. Stores have mostly avoided vaccine requirements for customers for fear of alienating them and the difficulty of verifying their status.

Workplace vaccine mandates reveal a divide among workers.” via Lauren Hirsch of The New York Times — So far, except for the health care industry, corporate vaccine mandates tend to cover the white-collar workers whom executives want back in the office, not the lower-income workers on the front lines who are less likely to be vaccinated. Walmart’s vaccination mandate, for example, doesn’t cover the company’s most vulnerable employees: workers at its stores and warehouses. One fear that companies have with broad vaccine mandates is that they could drive away employees when workers are already in short supply, especially in industries like retail and restaurants. At the same time, not requiring vaccines may make other groups of workers anxious and more likely to quit.

Target reinstates mask mandate for employees in high-risk counties” via Kierra Frazier of Axios — Target will start to require masks for employees in high-risk counties across the United States starting Tuesday. The new policy comes after the CDC issued updated guidance recommending vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the country with substantial to high transmission. Target strongly recommends that customers who are shopping in high-risk areas wear a mask, but will not be enforcing them. Currently, 59.7% of U.S. counties have “high transmission,” and 18.8% have “substantial transmission.”

You’re going to be asked to prove your vaccination status. Here’s how to do it.” via Chris Velazco and Geoffrey A. Fowler of The Washington Post — Congratulations, you’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Now you have to prove it, and your smartphone can help. Across the world, fears about the contagious delta variant lead more businesses, schools and travel destinations to require vaccination. Like it or not, there’s a real chance that somewhere you want to go will ask to see proof of your shots. Let’s say you are planning to visit Hawaii; you’ll need to be vaccinated or show a negative coronavirus test if you want to avoid quarantine. You’ll need proof to work in the federal government, at tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Uber, and a growing list of other companies. And in New York and San Francisco, you’ll need it to go inside a bar, get a seat at some restaurants, or take in a show on Broadway.

Vaccinated? Get ready to prove it. Image via Wall Street Journal.

How local media spreads misinformation from vaccine skeptics” via Sheera Frenkel and Tiffany Hsu of The New York Times — As the local news industry has been hit by declining advertising revenues and cuts, some outlets have sometimes unknowingly run vaccine misinformation because they have fewer employees or less oversight than in the past, said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst. Without the resources to publish original, independent journalism, they may also rely on whatever can be freely repurposed from online material, he said. There are still about 1,300 daily papers and 5,800 weekly publications, roughly half located in small rural communities. It starts when a rumor is covered or published in local media, she said, where it can gain a sheen of credibility. Then “when you pitch it to a Fox News or a larger news platform, you can say that this other outlet covered it, so it must be real,” she said.

To fight vaccine lies, authorities recruit an ‘influencer army’” via Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times — Fewer than half of all Americans age 18 to 39 are fully vaccinated, compared with more than two-thirds of those over 50. And about 58% of those aged 12 through 17 have yet to receive a shot at all. To reach these young people, the White House has enlisted an eclectic army of more than 50 Twitch streamers, YouTubers, TikTokers, and the 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo, all of them with enormous online audiences. State and local governments have begun similar campaigns, in some cases paying “local micro-influencers,” those with 5,000 to 100,000 followers, up to $1,000 a month to promote COVID-19 vaccines to their fans.


Happening today — Agriculture Commissioner Fried continues her three-day tour to discuss the FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy Clean Water Initiative: 9:30 a.m., news conference with Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, Jaclyn Lopez with the Center for Biological Diversity, and Tampa Bay aquaculturists, Picnic Island Park Near Pavilion 615, 7404 Picnic Island Blvd., Tampa; 12 p.m., news conference with St. Petersburg city officials, St. Petersburg City Hall, 175 5th Street N, St. Petersburg. RSVP to [email protected].

Happening today — The Florida Public Service Commission meets to consider rate hikes from Tampa Electric and Duke Energy Florida, among other items; meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. with a hearing immediately after, Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee. Livestream here

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to examine the Public Education Capital Outlay program, funded by utility taxes, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Bullet fired during self-defense class blasts into Spencer Roach’s district office” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Roach’s district office staff returned to work Monday to find a bullet hole in the building. The North Fort Myers Republican had no reason right now to believe there was any intention to attack his office, but notified the Lee County Sheriff’s Office of the situation. “Anytime something happens, you are concerned for the safety of staff,” he said. An investigation found the bullet wasn’t intended for Roach or anyone in his office. Rather, a women’s self-defense group holding weekend classes in a unit in the same complex accidentally loaded a weapon with a real bullet. As a participant practiced a quick draw and fire, that bullet blasted into the neighboring unit. A bullet appears to have passed through the wall of Roach’s office about three feet to the left of his desk. Deputies ultimately found it lodged in a wall near a conference table. 

Bullet hole found in Spencer Roach’s office. Image via Spencer Roach.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Christopher Carmody, Carlecia Collins, Christopher Dawson, Katie Flury, Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: the City of Belle Isle, Here Tomorrow

Courtney Larkin: Florida Farm Bureau Federation

— 2022 —

Remove Ron crosses $250K raised, remains overshadowed by DeSantis’ fundraising” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The “Remove Ron” political committee opposing DeSantis‘ reelection campaign has crossed $250,000 raised half a year after the committee first launched. Remove Ron, which Santa Rosa Beach lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder opened Feb. 1, announced Monday it had crossed the quarter-million milestone from 10,000 donations. But what Remove Ron raised in the last six months is less than what DeSantis’ own political committee raised last week alone. Sunday through Friday last week, DeSantis raised more than $387,000. Overall, Friends of Ron DeSantis has raised $88.6 million, nearly half of which is from out of state. 

As for fundraising, Ron DeSantis leaves his opposition in the dust.

“‘The one to beat’: Wilton Simpson praised ahead of possible bid for Agriculture Commissioner” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — Republican Senate President Simpson has for years championed Big Agriculture in Florida — and the industry is ready to return the favor. Simpson is on a glide path to being elected the next agriculture commissioner should he choose to run, and some agricultural groups are already publicly praising him. He’s a proven ally, they say, who already has deep ties to the industry. “Obviously, President Simpson is a farmer who has spent a better part of 10 years in the Senate making agriculture a priority,” said Adam Basford, director of legislative affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

Personnel note: Attorney General Ashely Moody names Meagan Hebel as political directorHebel, one of the 2021 “New Year, New Stars” in INFLUENCE Magazine, is a George Washington University master’s graduate who previously campaigned for the Nevada GOP and the RNC. In Florida, Hebel worked on campaigns for Reps. Colleen Burton and Will Robinson and on former Sen. Denise Grimsley’s 2018 bid for Agriculture Secretary. Most recently, she worked as campaign manager for now-Sen. Danny Burgess and served as his legislative assistant.

Congrats to Meagan Hebel, who returns to the campaign trail for Ashley Moody.

Nearly 30% of Democratic voters undecided in race to replace Alcee Hastings” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A survey of likely Democratic voters shows 29% are still unsure who they’ll vote for in the Nov. 2 Special Primary Election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Hastings in Florida’s 20th Congressional District. While undecideds make up the largest chunk of Democratic voters at 29%, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness has the next-highest share of support at 17%. He’s followed by fellow Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief at 14% and state Rep. Omari Hardy at 10%. Hardy, representing parts of Palm Beach County in the state House, got a boost with 23% support from Palm Beach County voters. That’s the highest share of any candidate, though it’s less than the 40% of Palm Beach voters who are undecided. 

Texts show worry as dark money scheme to help Florida GOP candidates unraveled” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — A little more than a week after the November 2020 general election that included some close wins for Republicans in Florida races, an “on edge,” pregnant 25-year-old Pinellas County woman started getting calls from reporters. “You’re sure I’m not going to go to jail, right?” Hailey DeFilippis texted on Nov. 12, 2020, to Alex Alvarado, a 26-year-old Republican political operative from Tallahassee. Alvarado had hired DeFilippis two months earlier to serve as chairperson of a political committee called “The Truth,” despite her lack of political experience. That PAC and another PAC called “Our Florida” were used to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to support no-party-affiliation “ghost” candidates. The ghost candidates siphoned votes away from Democrats.

A brazen scheme? ALEC software giveaway to GOP lawmakers violated FL campaign-finance laws” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — An organization backed by major corporations gave state legislators, including at least two from Florida, campaign software worth thousands of dollars in violation of state campaign-finance law. The alleged gifts from the American Legislative Exchange Council, which DeSantis addressed last week, amount to illegal in-kind campaign contributions. Recipients in Florida include Rep. Roach and Rep. Jason Fischer. Roach is an attorney and represents part of Lee County in the Legislature. He is listed as vice-chair of the Public Integrity & Elections Committee in the state House. Fischer represents part of Duval County. It’s hard to know the exact number of Florida legislators involved because ALEC doesn’t release its membership list, the organizations said.

Jeff Brandes backs Robert Blackmon for St. Pete Mayor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Brandes backs councilman Blackmon in his bid for Mayor. “Our city needs leaders with innovative ideas to tackle the tough challenges ahead,” Brandes said in a statement. “I know Robert Blackmon has the right skills to keep our city open, affordable and prosperous.” Brandes joins a growing list of supporters for Blackmon’s campaign, including former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, former St. Pete Mayor Bob Ulrich, County Commissioner Kathleen Peters and former Rep. Larry Ahern, who previously served Florida’s 66th District in northwestern Pinellas County.


Where a vast global vaccination program went wrong” via Benjamin Mueller and Rebecca Robbins of The New York Times — Deaths from COVID-19 were surging across Africa in June when 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Chad. The delivery seemed proof that the United Nations-backed program to immunize the world could get the most desirable vaccines to the least developed nations. Across Africa, the program monitored at least nine countries where it said doses intended for the poor were at risk of spoiling this summer. The vaccine pileup illustrates one of the most serious but largely unrecognized problems facing the immunization program as it tries to recover from months of missteps and disappointments: difficulty getting doses from airport tarmacs into people’s arms.

COVAX was supposed to be a global powerhouse, Instead, it struggled to get doses.

GOP lawmaker who once spurned masks urges people to take COVID-19 seriously after eight-month illness” via Kim Bellware of The Washington Post — A Tennessee legislator who went from unmasked gatherings with fellow legislators to being placed on ventilator days later has emerged with a message for constituents after a harrowing eight-month experience with long-haul COVID-19: Take the coronavirus seriously. “It is a disease that wants to kill us,” state Rep. David Byrd said in a statement Friday. Byrd described an ordeal that included 55 days on a ventilator in which COVID-19 ravaged his memory, muscles, and organs.


Heavyweight companies enjoy outsize rewards as economy rebounds” via Tom Fairless of The Wall Street Journal — Big companies raced ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging the changes driven by the deepest business disruption in decades to grab a larger slice of the economic pie. Now, as the rich world bounces back, they’re extending that lead. According to IMF research across industries and countries, industry concentration, defined as the ratio of sales of the top four firms to the sales of the top 20 firms in the market, has increased by more than 30% since 1980. After the pandemic, the top four firms will hold 60% of those sales on average, compared with 56% had the pandemic not happened. But some economists and antitrust experts say it isn’t clear how or whether regulators should respond to the growing clout of large, tech-savvy companies.

U.S. manufacturing expands again in July, but pace slows” via Martin Crutsinger of The Associated Press — The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Monday that its index of manufacturing activity declined by 1.1 percentage points to a reading of 59.5. The index had also slowed in June, dropping to 60.6 from a reading of 61. in May. Any reading above 50 indicates growth in the manufacturing sector. July was the 14th consecutive month manufacturing had grown after contracting in April 2020 when the coronavirus triggered nationwide business shutdowns. But the July reading showed slower growth in new orders and production. But there are some encouraging signs in the July report that suggest the various supply-chain and labor problems are beginning to recede, said Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM manufacturing survey committee.

U.S. manufacturing expands but at a noticeably slower pace. Image via AP.

Why remote work is a big problem for the economy” via Anneken Tappe of CNN Business — In 2020, the number of people working from home nearly doubled, to 42% of America’s workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And although many workers may prefer that setup, staying home is likely to delay the recovery of the vital office-adjacent economy. According to economists from Goldman Sachs, office attendance in large U.S. cities is only about one-third of pre-pandemic levels. That’s a lot of employees who are still working remotely and not spending cash on items like train tickets or lattes — the kind of economic activity is essential in America’s consumer spending and service-driven economy.

A trucking crisis has the U.S. looking for more drivers abroad” via Ari Hawkins of Bloomberg — The U.S. has been grappling with a chronic lack of drivers for years, but the shortage reached crisis levels because of the pandemic, which simultaneously sent demand for shipped goods soaring while touching off a surge in early retirements. The consequences have been both dire and far-reaching: Filling stations have had gasoline outages. Airports have run short on jet fuel. A stainless-steel maker declared force majeure. And lumber prices hit a record, with some suppliers partly blaming delivery delays. Trucking has emerged as one of the most acute bottlenecks in a supply chain that has all but unraveled amid the pandemic, worsening supply shortages across industries, further fanning inflation and threatening a broader economic recovery.

Air travel hits another pandemic high, flight delays grow” via David Koenig of The Associated Press — More than 2.2 million people went through airport checkpoints Sunday, according to the TSA. That is the highest number since Feb. 28, 2020, before the U.S. felt the full brunt of the pandemic. However, air travel was still down 17% Sunday from the same Sunday in 2019. The resurgence of leisure travel, coupled with some bad weather, has led to delays and flight cancellations at airlines struggling to ramp up after being crushed by the pandemic. By midafternoon Monday, Spirit Airlines canceled about 290 flights — more than one-third of its schedule. That was after canceling one-fifth of its flights Sunday. The Florida-based discount carrier was “working around the clock to get back on track,” spokesman Field Sutton said.


Which Biden priorities are not included in the bipartisan infrastructure deal?” via Ashlyn Still and Daniela Santamariña of The Washington Post — The bipartisan infrastructure deal that advanced in the Senate includes approximately $550 billion in new spending to rebuild roads and bridges, improve public transit systems and invest in broadband infrastructure. The new spending falls short of the $579 billion outlined in a blueprint that Senate negotiators released in June, with public transit spending seeing the biggest cut. The agreement is a quarter of Biden’s initial $2.65 trillion American Jobs Plan, which included several Democratic priorities not traditionally considered part of core U.S. infrastructure.

What was left out of Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure bill? Image via Reuters.

Biden urges landlords to pause evictions for 30 days as White House scrambles for solution to extend moratorium” via Joey Garrison of USA Today — Biden challenged all landlords to hold off on evictions for the next 30 days and said he’s asked his administration to consider the possibility of unilaterally extending a moratorium even in the face of legal concerns. The president also called on all states and cities to extend or put in place policies to freeze evictions for at least two months. The moves came amid a growing backlash from progressive Democrats after Biden and the Democratic-controlled House adjourned for recess last week without taking action on a bill that would have renewed it. The White House had previously said only Congress can extend the evictions freeze after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the CDC overstepped its authority when it created the policy.

Evictions lead to rare clash between the White House and Dems” via Jonathan Swan of Axios — The White House and Democratic leaders have been dueling, publicly and privately, over who should take responsibility for extending an eviction moratorium that could protect millions of people on the verge of homelessness. It’s a rare moment of dysfunction between the usually-in-lockstep Biden team and congressional leadership. The White House had said its hands were tied last month by the Supreme Court and that Congress must pass a bill to extend the ban on evictions. Democratic leaders contend that the Biden administration can and must extend the federal moratorium in place since last September to prevent landlords from evicting tenants regardless of whether they can make rent.


Trump to fight release of tax returns, his lawyer says” via Corinne Ramey and Sadie Gurman of The Wall Street Journal — Trump will fight any move by the Treasury Department to turn over his tax returns to Congress, a lawyer for Trump said Monday, days after the Justice Department directed the agency to provide the documents to a House panel. “There is no evidence of any wrongdoing here and I object to the release of the returns not only on behalf of my client but on behalf of all future holders of the office of the president of the United States,” Ronald Fischetti said. A judge asked the parties to lay out a time frame for written arguments by Wednesday. It could take months before the judge ultimately decides whether the Treasury Department must hand over the returns to Congress.

Trump paid $680,000 in campaign funds to defense lawyers in second impeachment” via David Yaffe-Bellany of Bloomberg — Trump used nearly $700,000 in campaign funds to pay the lawyers who defended him at his second impeachment trial, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Trump’s campaign committee, since renamed the Make America Great Again PAC, paid $580,000 to the Philadelphia law firm of Michael van der Veen and Bruce Castor and another $100,000 to a third impeachment defense lawyer from Alabama, David Schoen, according to filings released Saturday. The FEC filings showed that Trump’s political committees raised $50.5 million in the first half of the year. The Trump campaign spent a total of $8.6 million challenging the results of the 2020 election, according to the filings.

Jihadists flood pro-Donald Trump social network with propaganda” via Mark Scott and Tina Nguyen of POLITICO — Just weeks after its launch, the pro-Trump social network GETTR is inundated with terrorist propaganda spread by supporters of Islamic State. The social network, started a month ago by members of Trump’s inner circle, features reams of jihadi-related material, including graphic videos of beheadings, viral memes that promote violence against the West and even memes of a militant executing Trump in an orange jumpsuit similar to those used in Guantánamo Bay. The rapid proliferation of such material is placing GETTR in the awkward position of providing a safe haven for jihadi extremists online as it attempts to establish itself as a free speech MAGA-alternative to sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Jason Miller started a pro-Trump Twitter clone called GETTR, which was promptly spammed. Image via The Washington Post.


Third D.C. officer who responded to Capitol riot dies by suicide” via Tim Fitzsimmons of NBC News — Capitol police officer Gunther Hashida, who responded to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, has died by suicide, police said Monday. “Officer Hashida joined MPD in May 2003. We are grieving as a Department as our thoughts and prayers are with Officer Hashida’s family and friends, the Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement. In a Facebook post Monday, Romelia Hashida shared a photo of herself with her late husband. “A thousand words couldn’t bring you back … I know this because I tried, neither could a thousand tears … I know this because I cried, you left behind a broken heart and happy memories too … but I never wanted memories … I only wanted you,” the caption read.

How Ashli Babbitt went from Capitol rioter to Trump-embraced ‘martyr’” via Paul Schwartzman and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Micki Witthoeft answered the call and listened as Trump expressed condolences over Babbitt’s violent death and acknowledged, she said, that her daughter had died Jan. 6 trying to salvage his lost presidency. Witthoeft took the opportunity during the 30-minute call to ask Trump for help getting information about Babbitt’s death and to fight for those still imprisoned because of the riot. After their call, the circumstances of Babbitt’s death, once a focus of right-wing extremists and white supremacists, became a talking point for the nation’s most dominant Republican. 

CIA feud complicates Jan. 6 probe” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — A long-percolating conflict between two prominent alumni of the CIA’s secretive internal watchdog office has burst into public view, creating a headache for the House’s investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. David Buckley is now the top Democratic staffer on the select committee investigating the insurrection. But 11 years ago, he was a CIA inspector general who made clear upon taking office that he wanted a cultural shift: Buckley sought a more aggressive approach to rooting out alleged wrongdoing in the agency, prioritizing probes that could lead to criminal prosecutions over inside-the-family resolutions.


Lindsey Graham tests positive for the coronavirus after meeting Senators without masks” via Max Hauptman and Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post — Sen. Graham has tested positive for the coronavirus, he said, a development that comes after he recently attended GOP and Senate functions without wearing a mask. “I feel like I have a sinus infection, and at present time I have mild symptoms,” Graham tweeted Monday afternoon. Graham, who was vaccinated in December against the coronavirus that can cause the illness COVID-19, said he had first started experiencing flu-like symptoms Saturday evening and saw the House physician Monday morning. He will quarantine for the next 10 days. He was in the Senate as recently as Friday and attended party lunches and other meetings, and was seen in hallways not wearing a mask. Graham was also reportedly among lawmakers who gathered with Sen. Joe Manchin on Saturday.

Lindsey Graham catches COVID-19 and could have spread it around. Image via AP.

Some Democrats call on Kevin McCarthy to resign after comment ‘hard not to hit’ Nancy Pelosi with Speaker’s gavel” via Libby Cathey of ABC News — Some Democratic lawmakers are calling on House GOP Leader McCarthy to resign after he said over the weekend it would be “hard not to hit” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel he hopes to win if Republicans take back the House chamber in next year’s midterm elections. McCarthy’s comment was met by laughter among the audience of 1,400, according to audio posted to Twitter by a Main Street Nashville reporter and not disputed by McCarthy’s office. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill responded on Twitter Saturday, saying “a threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting.”

A new kind of hero? Last week’s emotional TV may be a sign” via Joe Ferullo for The Hill — For anyone tuned in to television news, this past week was very emotional. I mean that literally. Tears flowed through the screen, and difficult feelings were exposed by prominent personalities, all in very public settings. Hearings by the House select committee looking into the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 delivered the most powerful punch of the week. Four police officers who defended the Capitol often broke down in tears and reached over to comfort each other as they described what they endured. On the other side of the globe, star gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Games, citing the need to care for her emotional health. Not long ago, these kinds of direct displays and frank talk could often destroy the reputation of anyone in a leadership position.

Democratic Reps. Lori Trahan, Kathy Castor, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz appear to have violated a federal transparency law” via Dave Levinthal, Warren Rojas, and Camila DeChalus of Business Insider — Reps. Trahan, Wasserman Schultz, and Castor were late disclosing stock trades. In Trahan’s case, she sold up to $15,000 in the software company Stella Connect. Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, purchased up to $15,000 in a telecommunications product company called Westell Technologies in October but didn’t disclose the trade until Tuesday. Wasserman Schultz also reported that a dependent child purchased up to $45,000 worth of Westell Technologies shares on the same day. Castor’s latest congressional records show that she failed to disclose within the prescribed 45 days up to $45,000 worth of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock she acquired last summer. Relatedly, she was late disclosing up to $30,000 worth of additional Berkshire Hathaway shares she reported acquiring in June.


Beefed-up safety measures might affect hundreds of buildings in Boca Raton” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hundreds of buildings in Boca Raton could be affected by the city’s proposed safety program, which is poised to go into effect to prevent another tragedy like the June 24 collapse in Surfside that killed 98 people. But at least one professional engineer has urged city officials to go further when the council votes on the proposal on Aug. 24. The total number of buildings has not yet been determined, according to a city spokeswoman. But a South Florida Sun-Sentinel database of condominiums and apartments communities shows about 20 building projects near the ocean. Some of those projects may include two or three individual buildings each.

Sea rise under scrutiny in condo collapse: Corrosion likely, but no sign of sinkhole” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Scraped clean of tons of rubble late last month, the bare garage floor of Champlain Towers South appears to rule out at least one early suspect in its catastrophic collapse. There were no telltale signs of a sinkhole. The garage floor, the building’s lowest level, remains in one piece with no craters or potholes, suggesting unseen geological forces were at work. The “sinkhole” a doomed resident saw opening from her balcony in a final phone conversation was likely not erosion beneath the building but the implosion of the concrete pool deck above the garage floor — the seeming trigger event of a massive and still unresolved structural failure.

Experts are ruling out a sinkhole causing the Surfside condo to collapse. Image via Jason Pizzo/Twitter.

Five Miami Beach officers charged with battery after rough arrest in hotel lobby” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Five Miami Beach police officers were hit with criminal charges on Monday after roughing up a bystander who was filming other officers making an arrest last week in the lobby of a South Beach hotel. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced the charges — all for misdemeanor battery for the use of force — after the officers were suspended last week by Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements. Clements made the decision after he viewed the video of the arrest of Khalid Vaughn, 28, at the Royal Palm Hotel on July 26. The charges against Vaughn of resisting an arrest with violence and impeding a police investigation were later dropped.

Second-ranked Black female Miami cop says she’s seeking whistleblower protections” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Miami’s second-highest ranked Black female police officer, one of four majors demoted this week with little explanation by the new police chief, has informed the city she is seeking whistleblower status and intends to file a civil rights lawsuit. Keandra Simmons believes she was targeted because she did not support the termination of the city’s highest-ranked married couple, a deputy chief and his wife, who commanded the Little Havana neighborhood. Simmons, a 16-year veteran who oversaw the evidence room, once commanded Liberty City and was one of the city’s first Black female public information officers.

USF confirms Rhea Law as interim president, lays plans for national search” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — The University of South Florida’s board of trustees voted Monday to confirm Law as interim president of the school, replacing outgoing president Steve Currall. While the decision won’t be formally approved until a state Board of Governors vote on Aug. 31, Law’s term begins today, which is Currall’s last day on the job. She will serve until the next president takes office following a national search. With little discussion in their first full meeting since Currall announced July 19 he was stepping down, board members also approved the terms of his departure just two years into his tenure.

Rhea Law is tapped as USF’s interim president. Image via WUSF.

New rankings show Tampa General lives up to ‘Champa Bay’ legacy” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The legacy of “Champa Bay” continues as Tampa General Hospital earns top national recognition once again. The annual U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” rankings are out, and TGH tops the list for the sixth consecutive year; it’s the No. 1 hospital in Tampa Bay for 2021-2022. “Year after year, Tampa General has been recognized as a leading health care system by U.S. News & World Report, considered by health care consumers as the global leader in quality rankings,” said TGH President and CEO John Couris in a statement. In addition, TGH is among the top four hospitals in Florida and has been identified as one of the nation’s Top 50 facilities in five medical specialties.

Jupiter police radios go dead in one corner of town. The plan to fix it has riled some neighbors.” via Katherine Kokal of The Palm Beach Post — A 100-foot-tall radio pole could mean the difference between life and death in Jupiter’s southeast corner, town police say. That’s because at the intersection of Marcinski Road and U.S. 1, and for nearly a mile around that area, there’s a dead zone for the radio system used by police, fire rescue, and other emergency services. “(Police) are talking, and no one is hearing them,” Jupiter Police Chief David England said. England and his department lobbied to install the radio pole this month at a Jupiter Town Council meeting. Officers came to share stories of times their jobs were made more difficult, and more dangerous, by being unable to communicate.

She stopped showing up. Palm Beach County public schools kept paying her $134K salary.” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — A former principal drew a six-figure salary from Palm Beach County’s public schools for nearly a year without reporting for duty or doing any evident work, a school board investigation found. Bonnie Fox, the longtime principal of the now-closed Odyssey Middle School in Boynton Beach, was assigned last year to work in the school district’s charter school office. But she never showed up, communicated with her supervisor, or completed any job duties, the school board’s inspector general concluded. Yet, the 76-year-old veteran administrator kept collecting her $134,000 annual salary, one of the highest in the school district. When she was discovered this spring, she told investigators the district’s deputy superintendent had told her to stay “under the radar.”


The hypocrisy, and danger, of DeSantis’ ‘personal choice’ talk” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — “Personal choice” is the mantra of COVID-19′s dangerous enablers and their justification for opposing face mask mandates and vaccination requirements, no matter what. Yet the loudest of them also threw in with 11 other states now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 that guarantees personal choice in the matter of abortion. That would be DeSantis, who appears oblivious to his own hypocrisy. His denunciation of “forced masking” follows a classic demagogic pattern: Tell people what they want to hear regardless of consequences. DeSantis’ latest executive order effectively forbids schools from requiring face masks even though there are still no approved COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12. The order appeared aimed squarely at Broward County.


It’s time to admit it: The vaccination campaign has hit its limit. Mandates are the only way forward.” via Joseph G. Allen of The Washington Post — It’s time to acknowledge what few in the public health field are willing to say: The campaign to persuade all Americans to accept coronavirus vaccinations voluntarily has hit its limit. The Biden administration’s vaccine rollout has been remarkable in distributing 400 million doses in the United States. But we have hit a wall with this voluntary approach. The only way out of our COVID-19 morass is to mandate vaccines. This will inevitably face opposition, and, yes, that includes unions. It is absolutely appalling to see vaccination rates around the 40 to 50% range for unionized workers. Many companies and universities understand that the passive approach has failed and have mandated vaccines for all employees.

No more excuses — Democrats can’t risk another crisis” via James Downie of The Washington Post — Time is of the essence when it comes to the two-track infrastructure and spending plan being pushed by Biden and congressional Democrats. They should kick things into high gear to pass both the bipartisan deal and the accompanying reconciliation bill this summer and help hundreds of thousands of renters while they’re at it. “It’s 99 and nine-tenths finished,” Sen. Manchin said, referring to the bipartisan infrastructure deal that he and nine other senators negotiated. But finished doesn’t mean passed, and that’s the tricky part. The rest of the president’s priorities are in a still-to-be-fleshed-out plan to be passed, they hope, by a simple majority vote. Americans need help now. This is Democrats’ best chance to provide it — and the sooner they act, the better.


Simone Biles plans to compete in Olympics balance beam final via Saphora Smith of NBC News — Gymnastics legend Biles plans to compete in the balance beam final Tuesday, USA Gymnastics confirmed Monday, after she withdrew from several competitions to focus on her mental health. The balance beam competition is scheduled to begin at 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, which is 4:50 a.m. EDT. Biles, widely considered the world’s best gymnast, shocked the world last week by suddenly withdrawing during the team gymnastics final. The Tokyo Olympics were meant to be a showcase for Biles, a four-time gold medalist who has wowed the gymnastics world with her talent. Instead, it has thrust her into the conversation around mental health and sports.

Simone Biles takes one more shot at Olympic gold. Image via AP.

In the driving rain, a former dancer wins gold in the discus throw for Team USA” via Roman Stubbs of The Washington Post — Before she became one of the world’s best discus throwers; before she overpowered her opponents and braved a rain delay to win an Olympic gold medal at National Stadium on Monday night, Valarie Allman dreamed of being a dancer. When she threw a discus for the first time, she discovered how familiar it felt to dancing. “I think it’s a second-and-a-half dance that you do hundreds of times and it’s really repetitive, but gosh-darn, I do think it’s a dance. It’s poetry. It’s balance. It’s grace. It’s power,” Allman said. All of those virtues together are what defined her performance Monday night to give the U.S. track and field team its first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics.

The world’s best pole-vaulter gets more Swedish as he goes” via Scott Cacciola and Jeré Longman of The New York Times — Mondo Duplantis was a high school freshman when his life changed. A pole-vaulting prodigy from Lafayette, La., Duplantis was a couple of months from his first international competition, the 2015 world youth championships, when he received a recruiting call from a coach. The twist was that the coach was from the Swedish Athletics Association. Duplantis has since emerged as one of Sweden’s most beloved athletes, endearing himself to a once-skeptical public by speaking Swedish in interviews, driving Swedish cars, buying a place to live in Sweden during the summer and dating a Swedish model, Desiré Inglander. “I think today he’s fully embraced,” said Lisa Gunnarsson, one of Duplantis’s training partners. “If I say I pole-vault, people say, ‘Oh, yes, Mondo Duplantis.’”

U.S. women’s soccer team loses in Olympic semifinal 1-0 to Canada” via Patrick Smith of NBC News — Canada’s Jessie Fleming scored a penalty kick in the 75th minute to reach the country’s first Olympic soccer final, guaranteeing at least a silver medal. The U.S. will have to settle for the chance to win bronze in a third-place playoff Thursday. American defender Tierna Davidson committed a foul in the penalty area and Fleming calmly stepped up to score the goal. U.S. goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, brought on as a substitute for the injured Alyssa Naeher, guessed correctly and dived to her left, narrowly missing the ball. The penalty was only awarded after a video assistant referee check. “Not our best game, not our best tournament,” star midfielder Megan Rapinoe said after the game.

The Canadian women’s soccer team dealt a major loss to the U.S. Image via AP.

Canada’s Quinn to become 1st openly transgender, nonbinary athlete to win Olympic medal” via Andrea Janus of CBC Sports — Canada’s appearance in the gold-medal match won’t be the only first for the women’s soccer team when it takes to the pitch Friday (10 p.m. ET on Thursday in Canada). Quinn, a 25-year-old midfielder from Toronto, will also become the first openly transgender and nonbinary athlete to win an Olympic medal, as the team is assured of a gold or silver. Quinn came out publicly as transgender in a social media post last fall, changed their pronouns to they/them and now goes by one name. Since Canada’s 1-0 semifinal victory over the United States, setting up the final against Sweden, Quinn said they’ve been “getting messages from young people saying they’ve never seen a trans person in sports before.”

— ALOE —

Giant panda on loan to France gives birth as world cheers reproduction effort” via Jennifer Hassan of The Washington Post — Huan Huan, a giant panda on loan to France from China, gave birth to female twin cubs early Monday at Beauval Zoo, south of Paris. Staff members celebrated the rare event, describing the babies as “very lively, pink and plump.” Officials said Monday that the mother and her cubs were in good health and that Huan Huan, whose name means “happy” or “joyous” in Chinese, licked and cleaned the newborns after they arrived in a world in which their conservation status is classified as vulnerable because of a significant threat from humans. The cubs are tiny, weighing less than one-third of a pound each.

Huan Huan, a giant panda on loan to France from China, had an eventful visit. Image via AP.

Carnival Cruise Line roller coaster on Mardi Gras super quick, but also super quick” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Slow. Slow. Give it some throttle. Wooooooooo. Umm … Ahhh. OK, this is pretty fast, and am I supposed to be enjoying the view? And wait, I’ve come around the corner. I guess there was at least another corner. I must have lost track. And now I’m done. Can I go again? That’s pretty much the feeling for what was about 20 seconds of thrill ride on the first roller coaster at sea, a flashy thrilling adrenaline shot of a ride called BOLT. The roller coaster is the highlight of the new class of ship and the largest ever built for Carnival Cruise Line. Mardi Gras left Port Canaveral on its first-ever sailing Saturday with nearly 4,000 passengers on board.

Led Zeppelin documentary, with unprecedented access to band, has been completed” via Manori Ravindran of Variety — “American Epic” director Bernard MacMahon has revealed the title of his long-awaited and recently completed Led Zeppelin feature documentary: “Becoming Led Zeppelin.” The project, which was first announced in 2019, has unprecedented access to the band, marking the first and only time the group has participated in a documentary in 50 years. Though 1976 doc “The Song Remains the Same” centered on the band, that was largely a concert film of a series of Madison Square Garden performances in 1973. The film includes new interviews with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones and rare archival interviews with the late John Bonham, who died in 1980. A release date hasn’t yet been set for the pic.

This is the largest fan-made LEGO Star Wars build ever” via Matthew Hart of Nerdist — LEGO Star Wars builder and YouTuber Richboy Jhae is responsible for the mind-bogglingly massive build. Jhae’s MOC is a re-imagining of Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens, as fans can easily spot. The builder painstakingly replicated the “real” thing from the film over the course of two-and-a-half years. It’s extremely hard to pick a favorite section of the build, as they’re all incredible. The MOC has multiple rows of custom ships; movable turbo lasers; landing bays with slanted walls that were “such a feat to try to design”; Hux’s command center room that genuinely has a good view of the LEGO layout; Snoke’s hologram room; and Captain Phasma stuck in a trash compactor. Among about 100 other little hilarious and Easter eggy Starkiller Base vignettes.

After two-and-a-half years, a Star Wars superfan completes the largest fan-made Lego structure in the world.

City of Miami launches its own cryptocurrency, ‘MiamiCoin’” via Nicole Lopez-Alvar of WPLG Local 10 News — The Magic City is looking more like the next Silicon Valley with each passing month, and the city of Miami is embracing this shift in a big way. Miami will be debuting a cryptocurrency this summer to help raise additional funding for local projects. According to multiple reports, Miami’s own form of cryptocurrency payment, MiamiCoin, is slated to debut this month. According to CityCoin’s official website for MiamiCoin, “MiamiCoin is the first CityCoin to market, [and is] built to support the Magic City while rewarding its holders through the Stacks Protocol.” CityCoin will be the service that launches MiamiCoin.


Celebrating today are Jay Caruso; Cody Farrill, chief of staff for the Agency for Health Care Administration, and Nancy Smith.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.

One comment

  • F Baisden

    August 6, 2021 at 12:38 am

    Unbelievable political coverage. Good job!

Comments are closed.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704