Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.6.21

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

Good Friday morning.

The latest St. Pete Polls survey raised eyebrows this week, showing a slump for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ job approval numbers and his reelection odds — the poll found that U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist would be heading back to the Governor’s Mansion if the election were today.

But on Friday, the Florida Chamber of Commerce will release new poll numbers rebutting that dour assessment.

Here’s a tease of what’s to come.

The poll shows DeSantis ahead of Crist by eight points, 51%-43%. His number was padded by 85% support among Republicans and a strong edge among NPAs, who preferred him over Crist by eight points, 50%-42%.

Dueling polls: One day after a survey showing Ron DeSantis lagging slightly behind, the Chamber drops some rosier numbers. Image via AP.

If the Governor finds himself in a head-to-head against Nikki Fried next year, the Chamber poll predicts a similar spread at 51%-42%, advantage DeSantis. The one-point difference in the top-line stems from Fried’s weaker position among independents — they prefer DeSantis by 10 points, 49%-39%.

The Florida Chamber poll also found DeSantis above water among Florida voters, with 54% saying he’s done a good job leading the state.

About nine in 10 Republicans and 52% of independent voters gave him high marks — that’s well over the 70% support he earned from GOP voters in the St. Pete Polls survey, which also showed him with a minus-12 rating among independents.

The Chamber said that the most important issues among those polled were COVID-19 liability protections, job creation, and the economy. The poll also found that Floridians are also strongly supportive of local businesses, with 92% of those polled expressing confidence.

The Chamber cited DeSantis’ “strong and quick actions” as instrumental to the economic rebound, which allowed “local businesses to keep Floridians employed, and grow and diversify Florida’s economy.”

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@MegKinnardAP: In an interview today, the 1st he’s given since his COVID diagnosis, @LindseyGrahamSC tells me he’s “much better” after some “pretty tough days.” He said former President (Donald) Trump calls “every day” to check on him & he’s urged Trump to “speak up” and advocate for the vaccine.

Tweet, tweet:

@JaredEMoskowitz: If the politics of today existed when we were fighting Polio, we would still be fighting Polio today.

@Mike_Grieco: I really wish the Governor of Florida would spend more time in, Florida.

@zacjanderson: Sarasota Memorial Hospital announces elective procedures are being postponed to free up staff and space for crush of COVID-19 patients. Hospital had 160 COVID patients today, fourth day in a row of record COVID patient levels.

@Jason_Garcia: New: The $550K spent promoting spoiler candidates that helped Republicans win key Florida Senate elections last year came from a nonprofit with links to consultants at a *Democratic* firm in Alabama.

Tweet, tweet:

@DanRather: I remember a time when one thing we could largely agree on was rooting for and taking pride in American Olympic athletes.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 3; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 5; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 12; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 18; Boise vs. UCF — 27; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 28; Notre Dame at FSU — 30; NFL regular season begins — 34; Bucs home opener — 34; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 39; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 39; Alabama at UF — 43; Dolphins home opener — 44; Jaguars home opener — 44; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 45; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 49; ‘Dune’ premieres — 56; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 56; MLB regular season ends — 58; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 63; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 81; World Series Game 1 — 82; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 82; Georgia at UF — 85; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 88; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 88; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 92; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 94; Miami at FSU — 99; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 105; FSU vs. UF — 113; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 117; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 126; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 133; NFL season ends — 156; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 158; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 158; NFL playoffs begin — 159; Super Bowl LVI — 191; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 231; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 275; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 300; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 336; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 348; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 427; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 462.

— TOP STORY —

School vouchers to avoid mask rules? Florida education officials are considering it” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Florida education officials are holding an emergency meeting Friday to consider a proposal that will allow families to use school vouchers to transfer kids out of schools that impose rules on masking. DeSantis foreshadowed the move last week when he issued an executive order instructing state education and health officials to write rules to protect parents’ rights to decide whether their children will mask up in schools. Now, the State Board of Education has unveiled a rule whose language seems to be equating school mask mandates to bullying children while also conceding that public school districts may leave in place mask mandates despite the Governor saying they should not.

Ron DeSantis supports vouchers for students who refuse to mask up.

State Board of Ed: Kids could go to private schools if families dislike public COVID-19 policies” via Danielle J. brown of Florida Phoenix — Florida’s State Board of Education plans to hold an emergency meeting Friday to allow public school students to transfer to private schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and threatens the start of the school year next week. Under a rule from the education agency, families would be able to make the transfer if they believe a school district’s COVID-19 safety measures, including masks, pose a “health or educational danger.” The families would presumably have to apply to a taxpayer-funded state scholarship program to make the switch. Most school districts are mask-optional as the new academic year looms, but some have tried to push a requirement for children to wear masks indoors.

Congressional Dems slam Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — More recess time, ice cream at the end of the day, or maybe fighting DeSantis in court: those are all ways Democratic congressional delegates are getting creative to keep kids masked at school as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues its deadly surge through Florida. Reps. Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Darren Soto held a news conference reiterating their horror at how the Governor’s policies have made Florida the nation’s hotspot for new cases of COVID-19, record hospitalizations and needless deaths. “Florida is one of the most dangerous and least prepared places to be in America right now, and really, no one is more to blame for that reality than Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Wasserman Schultz said, pointing to record-breaking numbers of cases and hospitalizations.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

‘Governor who?’: Joe Biden dismisses DeSantis’ tirade” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — After DeSantis‘ lengthy rebuttal to Biden‘s rebuke of his pandemic response, Biden dismissed DeSantis’ speech in a five-word rebuttal Thursday. “Governor who?” Biden said, laughing off a reporter’s request for comment. “That’s my response.” After Biden told DeSantis and other Republicans to “get out of the way” of local governments trying to combat the virus on Tuesday, DeSantis responded by telling the President that he was “standing in your way,” referring to Floridians, and “I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID-19 from you,” referring to Biden. DeSantis’ four-minute retort, a possible preview of the 2024 presidential race, drew national headlines. Meanwhile, the Governor’s campaign committee highlighted his remarks in a fundraising email that evening.

Joe Biden pulls ‘Governor who?’ line in his beef with Ron DeSantis.

—”DeSantis blasts other forty-nine states for making Florida look bad” via Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker

Marco Rubio doubles down on ‘mask fetish’ critique, calls COVID-19 ‘a cold’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio is doubling down on his assertion that masks are not necessarily the way to go to combat the transmission of COVID-19. Rubio followed up Thursday on a Wednesday video mocking what he called a “mask fetish.“ The Thursday sequel did not delve into discussions of fetishism, but it did reinforce themes from the Wednesday footage in just over two minutes of runtime, with Rubio again contending Americans can’t rely on masks to stem the pandemic. Rubio said mask mandates wouldn’t address vectors of transmission, including weekend cookouts at people’s homes.

—“DeSantis promotes monoclonal antibody treatment amid COVID-19 surge” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics 

Nikki Fried to work with White House to sidestep DeSantis’ mask-optional school policy” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Fried said she’s working with the White House to thwart DeSantis‘s threat to defund schools that require masks. In the wake of what Fried called “the absence of leadership from this Governor,” the Democrat and 2022 gubernatorial candidate has been holding daily COVID-19 briefings. Fried had a message for Florida’s mask-friendly school districts: “We’ve got your back.” Fried said her office is in active discussions with the White House COVID-19 Task Force and school district leaders to either challenge or sidestep DeSantis’ recent executive order prohibiting schools from requiring masks and threatening to defund school districts that defy his order.

Florida hospitals fighting to get oxygen with ‘hand tied’” via Shira Stein of Bloomberg Law — Florida hospitals are struggling to get oxygen due to a rise in COVID-19 cases attributable to the delta variant and DeSantis’ decision not to declare another state of emergency. A shortage of drivers who are qualified to transport oxygen, as well as restrictions around how long truck drivers can be on the road, means that the supply isn’t getting to the hospitals that need it most. There is “plenty of oxygen, just not in the right area,” Brig. Gen. David Sanford, a member of the Health and Human Services Department Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response targeting team, said in an interview. The targeting team, which was created in January, works on health care industrial base expansion projects.

Oxygen is getting hard to find in Florida, due to several factors. Image via Bloomberg.

Florida children’s hospitals see pediatric COVID-19 cases soar amid delta variant surge” via Daniel Chang and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — More Florida children were hospitalized with COVID-19 than in any other state, reflecting a rapid rise in serious illness among an age group considered to be at the lowest risk of severe outcomes from the disease and many still not eligible for the vaccine. A total of 46 pediatric patients were admitted to a Florida hospital with confirmed infection, while an additional 22 were hospitalized with a suspected case, according to the federal government’s hospital capacity data. Only Texas reported a higher total number of pediatric patients in hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 on Tuesday, 142 children, compared to 135 in Florida.

Assignment editors — Fried will join Dr. Aisha Bailey, a Tallahassee-based pediatrician, for a COVID-19 update, 2 p.m., Office of the Agriculture Commissioner, Plaza Level, The Capitol. RSVP to [email protected]

—”COVID-19 surge prompts visitor restrictions at Ascension St. Vincent’s Jacksonville hospitals” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union

Happening today — U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams will preside over the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ challenge to the state’s ban on “vaccine passports,” 10 a.m., Southern District of Florida, 400 North Miami Avenue, Miami.

School leaders want COVID-19-quarantined kids to watch classes from home. Teachers aren’t so sure.” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — With days to go before the school year begins, Palm Beach County public school leaders are scrambling to set up a way for students booted from campus for COVID-19 quarantines to listen in on their classes from home. Virtual classes, a staple of the last school year, are not permitted at traditional public schools this year. But as coronavirus cases once again surge, hundreds of school district students are expected to contract the virus in the coming months, triggering mandatory quarantines of at least 10 days. Students on quarantine will have excused absences and a chance to make up all missed schoolwork.

Florida’s pandemic bonuses won’t include Governor’s logo, state says” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — The $1,000 pandemic bonuses going out to Florida’s teachers, principals and first responders won’t include a Governor’s logo. Although the state’s contract with a private vendor says the bonuses must bear an “Office of the Governor graphic design” approved by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, a spokesperson said the checks will bear the state seal instead. Whether the checks will bear the signature or name of DeSantis is unclear, however. When asked, a department spokesperson did not respond. At DeSantis’ request, the state Legislature this year decided to spend more than $400 million in federal coronavirus relief money, awarding $1,000 “bonuses” to hundreds of thousands of teachers, principals, police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders.

Florida’s second summer of COVID is different: Vaccines, ban on restrictions change landscape” via John Kennedy and Jeffrey Schweers of the USA Today Network — This time, there’s plenty of vaccine supply that’s proven to be effective against COVID. But many folks are reluctant to take the jab, and about half of all eligible Floridians are still not fully immunized. Meantime, cases are soaring daily, breaking new records and prompting hospitals crowded with mostly unvaccinated patients to postpone non-emergency surgeries, restrict visitors and even require their staff to get vaccinated. New laws and executive orders signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis also have imposed strict limits on public safety.

Gov. DeSantis doesn’t support mandates for hospital staff to get COVID vaccines” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis didn’t want Florida businesses to require customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to get served or to enter establishments, so he swayed lawmakers this spring to pass legislation banning “vaccine passports.” Now, the governor says he also doesn’t support hospitals requiring their staff members to get vaccinated. DeSantis would not say whether he would ban hospitals from requiring staff to get vaccinated but made clear he’s not a fan of the idea. “It’s not something I support,” DeSantis said when asked about the issue during a news conference at Tampa General Hospital.

— CORONA LOCAL —

In Broward County hospitals, ‘there are only so many beds’” via The Associated Press — A Broward County hospital chain is suspending elective surgeries and putting beds in conference rooms, an auditorium and even a cafeteria as many more patients seek treatment for COVID-19. “We are seeing a surge like we’ve not seen before in terms of the patients coming,” Memorial Healthcare System’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marc Napp said during a news conference in Hollywood. Napp said they’ve opened up an additional 250 beds at Memorial’s six hospitals in Broward County. Unlike last year’s spring and summer COVID-19 surges when many sick people tried to avoid hospitals for fear of catching the virus, Napp explained that patients suffering from other ailments are also seeking treatment now.

Not just COVID-19 patients are filling hospital beds quickly. Image via AP.

Jackson Health system requires workers, vendors to be vaccinated, as Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations hit new all-time high” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Miami’s Jackson Health, one of the largest public health systems in the country, announced it will require all employees and on-site vendors to be vaccinated or adhere to regular testing and other restrictions. Jackson’s announcement comes as the hospital has seen a 385% increase in COVID-19 patients in a month. Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health, said 60% of the health system’s 13,000 plus employees are vaccinated. “Given the dire situation we are facing, this is way too low.” The COVID-19 surge continues to hit Florida’s hospitals hard, and the state reported new record-breaking hospital admissions for the virus on Thursday.

Orange County expects more deaths amid delta variant surges” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County officials are bracing for an increase in deaths over the coming weeks as the county and state continue to see record-setting hospitalizations affiliated with the spike of COVID-19. Officials have received reports of15 county residents who have died with the virus since Monday, though some of those are traced back to last month. With area ICUs full of patients, more could be coming soon. Dr. Raul Pino, the state health officer in Orange, said roughly 50% of ICU patients with the virus died so far during the pandemic, but he said the rate could be higher this time, citing the aggressiveness of delta and that most in ICU are unvaccinated.

—”‘He will never be forgotten’: Longtime Orange deputy dies of COVID-19” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel

Lee Health cancels some elective procedures as COVID-19 continues to climb at Southwest Florida hospitals” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Southwest Florida’s largest hospital system is temporarily suspending some elective procedures because of surging numbers of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The publicly operated Lee Health in Lee County is delaying elective procedures that require an overnight stay, joining a handful of other Florida hospitals this week taking similar measures due to rising COVID-19 cases, high occupancy rates and staffing shortages. All three hospitals in Collier and Lee counties reported upticks in COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday. Lee Health said the elective surgery change was spurred by its high patient census, which Thursday stood at 89% of operational and staffed beds, a slight drop from 92% on Wednesday.

Spessard L. Holland Elementary School closed until Monday after COVID-19 outbreak” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — On Monday, a photograph on Spessard Holland Elementary School’s Facebook page showed teachers packed into the cafeteria for professional development training. By Wednesday evening, the school had to be shut down “due to multiple cases of COVID-19 impacting the school.” “We are aware of eight confirmed cases of staff members testing positive at Spessard Holland Elementary,” Polk County Public Schools spokesman Jason Geary said. School officials said Spessard Holland, just north of Bartow, would undergo deep cleaning to make sure it is safe for the start of school on Tuesday. There were no cars in the school’s parking lot on Thursday at noon, and no one was seen on campus.

Leon School Board member Rosanne Wood tests positive for COVID-19, blames unmasked crowd at meeting” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — “I was exposed, and I was unlucky,” Wood said of her test result. “Because of my asthma, those people who were seeking their freedom denied me mine.” At the last school board meeting, Wood said she felt like she was sitting in a petri dish of COVID-19. The Aquilina Howell Center was packed. The chairs were right next to each other. Others stood against the wall, and more people sat in an overflow room, waiting to be called for public comment. The meeting was another opportunity for Leon County teachers, parents and community members to voice their concerns or support to keep masks optional in schools. It was also another opportunity for the spread of COVID-19, Wood said.

Rosanne Wood caught COVID-19 just doing her job.

Florida tween takes on school board to call for mask mandate” via Leyla Santiago and Sara Weisfeldt of CNN — Lila Hartley is heading into seventh grade next week. She’s excited about history class and trying to figure out how to make more friends when she gets back to in-person school. But first, the 12-year-old feels she has to stand up for her little brother and all children too young to be vaccinated against coronavirus. “It’s definitely a big deal to me,” she said. Lila said her 10-year-old brother Will was the first person she thought about when she heard that Duval County Public Schools would not require masks for students. She grabbed her writing pad and pencil and wrote to the Duval County School Board and Superintendent, expressing her concerns, starting with her brother. Only one school board member responded.

Jared Moskowitz — Florida’s ‘Master of Disaster’ — to advise Miami-Dade’s COVID-19 response” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Moskowitz, who led Florida’s pandemic response as statewide emergency management director, will advise Miami-Dade County on its COVID-19 response, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced. “He is our special adviser on COVID, and he is with us today,” Cava said at a televised news conference. She said he will advise county emergency management officials on vaccinations, testing and overall strategy. In a previous interview with the USA TODAY Network-Florida, Moskowitz said that he has been working with city mayors behind the scenes since leaving his state government position three months ago.

Seminole schools mandate masks for teachers, other employees and ban visitors because of COVID-19 surge” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole County’s public schools will require teachers and other employees to wear face masks while in school starting Friday, a directive that mirrors that announced by Orange County schools a day earlier. Seminole Superintendent Serita Beamon’s Thursday announcement comes as COVID-19 cases surge in Central Florida and debate about face masks continued to roil the state. “Based on the information from the Seminole County Emergency Management Department, our community continues to see an increase in the positivity rate for COVID-19 cases, which are fueled by the Delta variant,” Beamon wrote.

Non-emergent surgeries postponed at all local Cleveland Clinic hospitals as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase” via Will Greenlee of TC Palm —Three Cleveland Clinic hospitals in Martin and St. Lucie counties will be postponing procedures starting Monday, following steps taken last week at the Cleveland Clinic hospital in Indian River County, a top official said Thursday. The move comes as COVID-positive patients in the facilities increase. There were nearly 195 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in the four Cleveland Clinic hospitals across the Treasure Coast, including two hospitals in Martin and one hospital each in St. Lucie and Indian River counties, according to Dr. Richard Rothman, institute chair for hospital medicine for the Cleveland Clinic Florida region.

“‘We are doing our part.’ Miami-Dade mayor mandates COVID testing for unvaccinated workers.” via Daniel Change of the Miami Herald — With more than 1,500 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Miami-Dade and the number of new patients growing daily, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and the top administrator for the county’s public hospital, Jackson Health System, announced new policies on Thursday intended to persuade more of their employees to take the vaccine. Beginning the week of Aug. 16, Levine Cava said, the county will require weekly COVID testing of all Miami-Dade employees, a workforce of about 29,000 people. Those employees who wish to opt out, she said, can show proof of vaccination.

— CORONA NATION —

Biden aims to vaccinate more kids through sports and PTAs” via Heidi Przybyla of NBC News — The Biden administration hopes it can encourage more children to get vaccinated through a network of pediatricians administering back-to-school sports physicals, schools hosting “pop-up” vaccination clinics and pediatricians parachuting into PTA meetings. According to an administration official familiar with the plans, they are all part of a final sprint to vaccinate more children over age 12 before thousands of schools reopen amid the fourth wave of coronavirus infections. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the federal government is doing everything it can short of mask and vaccination mandates, which he doesn’t have the power to order. Officials hope that seeing the high school quarterback or volleyball players get vaccinated will influence other kids and parents, he said.

The administration is trying everything short of mandates to get shots in arms. Image via NBC News.

Education secretary warns that politicizing masks could lead to in-person school disruption” via Betsy Klein and Maegan Vazquez of CNN — Cardona warned Americans not to let adult politics get in the way of schools reopening safely and remaining open without disruption, specifically expressing concern about states that are preventing schools from instating mask mandates. “The tools are there; it’s just — are we following the mitigation strategies?” Cardona told reporters during the White House press briefing. ” Those “adult actions,” he suggested, include policies that “go against what (CDC) recommendations are.” Cardona warned that those policies, like others that prevent schools from imposing masking requirements, could lead to school disruptions.

FDA COVID-19 vaccine booster plan could be ready within weeks” via Stephanie Armour and Jared S. Hopkins of The Wall Street Journal — The FDA expects to have a strategy on COVID-19 vaccine boosters by early September that would lay out when and which vaccinated individuals should get the follow-up shots, according to people familiar with discussions within the agency. The Biden administration is pushing for the swift release of a booster strategy because some populations could need boosters as soon as this month, two of the people said. Any booster strategy from the U.S. government will need to address declining protection for certain people at a time when vaccines remain in short supply in the developing world. About half the country has been fully vaccinated, or 165 million people, federal data show.

Some Republicans have changed their messaging on the COVID-19 vaccine. Is it too little, too late?” via Mary Radcliffe and Alex Samuels of FiveThirtyEight — Republican leaders’ pleas to get the vaccine also aren’t new. Just ask Trump. Having gotten the vaccine himself in January, but out of the public eye, he encouraged his supporters to follow suit. “I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it,” he said in a phone interview on Fox News in March. “It’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine, and it’s something that works.” But his endorsement carried little weight with Republicans who rejected the vaccine. Flat-out noes on getting a vaccine were not moved by Trump’s words or deeds. However, among Republicans who were undecided, hearing that Trump was vaccinated and encouraging others to do the same did move the needle.

— STATEWIDE —

Hurricane season could produce a few more named storms than predicted” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — A new revision to this season’s hurricane forecast projects a total of 15 to 21 named storms and seven to 10 hurricanes in 2021. Three to five of those storms are expected to reach Category 3 strength or higher. A preseason forecast called for 13 to 20 named storms, a minimum of six hurricanes, and three to five major storms. While the increase is minimal, it reiterates that the Atlantic is likely in line for its sixth year in a row with an above-average number of storms. There’s been a lull in tropical activity since Elsa passed through the Gulf Coast in mid-July, but forecasters now say the storm season will ramp up as the traditional peak of Sept. 14 approaches.

This hurricane season, experts say the worst is yet to come. Image via AP.

There are 2 Atlantic systems — and one may become a tropical depression, forecast says” via Alex Harris and Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Forecasters are monitoring two disturbances in the Atlantic, including one that is likely to turn into a tropical depression by early next week. One of the disturbances was just inland over Africa Thursday, dumping rain over the Guinea Highlands. The tropical wave was expected to move off the west African coast later Thursday and could develop over the next few days as it moves west across the Atlantic at about 15 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. As of the 2 p.m. advisory, the system’s chances of becoming a tropical depression climbed to a 40% chance in the next 48 hours and a 70% chance of formation through the next five days.

Treasure Coast sheriffs haven’t sent deputies to Texas-Mexico border, but Martin County sheriffs still ready if needed” via Mauricio La Plante of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Sheriffs along the Treasure Coast have not sent any deputies to the Texas-Mexico border to help secure it. DeSantis said in June he would send law enforcement officers to stop people from crossing into the United States illegally after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent out a joint letter claiming the Biden administration had failed to secure the border. They asked for help from the other 48 states. Martin County Sheriff William Snyder joined several law enforcement officials across the state to offer deputies to send to the border.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Alexander Alt: Pasco Sheriff’s Office

Lisa Ard, Cornerstone Procurement Strategies: ChenMed

Rachel Cone, Christopher Dudley, The Southern Group: Embrace Families, Windstream Communications

Randy Enwright, Enwright Rimes Consulting: Smart Data Dashboard

Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Megan Fay, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Longhorn Health Solutions

John Johnston, Ballard Partners: Radise International

Max Losner, Becker & Poliakoff: City of Miami, City of Miami Springs, City of South Miami, City of Sweetwater, Florida Venture Foundation, Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade Transportation Planning, Village of Pinecrest, Village of Virginia Gardens

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: The Able Trust

— 2022 —

Dark money behind Florida ‘ghost’ candidates has ties to Alabama political players, records suggest” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — At issue is $550,000 donated last year by a dark-money nonprofit to a pair of political committees that promoted little-known independent candidates in three key Senate races: SD 9, 37 and 39. Authorities charged two people in connection with one of those races, including former Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles. During the election, the two political committees filed campaign finance reports showing they got all of their money from the same donor. They initially identified that donor as Proclivity Inc., a nonprofit set up in Delaware and based out of a UPS store in Atlanta. But they later changed their reports to say the donor was Grow United Inc., a nonprofit set up in Delaware but based out of a UPS store in Denver. But records suggest the nonprofits had ties to consultants working for Matrix LLC, an Alabama-based communication and political consulting firm.

DeSantis’ political team ramps up as his national star rises” via Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis has a stable of taxpayer-paid staff that works to arrange logistics, security and messaging for his events, and just in the last month that has included: A mission to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, a prime-time Fox News Town Hall on Cuban relations, and a closed-door discussion on mask-wearing that his “official” political team used in a fundraising email. The official events highlight the fine line DeSantis walks between governing and campaigning as his official state business is increasingly promoted by his independent political action committee, taking advantage of narrow state laws that separate coordination between campaigns and outside groups.

Ron DeSantis is boosting his national stature. Image via The Washington Post.

DeSantis fundraised in Michigan on Monday amid Florida COVID-19 surge” via Beth LeBlanc of The Detroit News — DeSantis raised hundreds of thousands of dollars toward his reelection campaign Monday during a series of fundraising events in Northern Michigan. The events were held in the Petoskey area as Florida experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases that topped the state’s hospitalization records when the state reported 11,515 hospitalized patients as of Tuesday. The former Florida congressman was elected Governor in 2018 and is running for reelection in 2022. DeSantis’ popularity among Republicans over policies that avoid mask mandates and COVID-19 business restrictions has increased over the past year, sparking speculation regarding the Governor’s viability as a running mate with Trump in 2024 or as a presidential candidate if Trump doesn’t run.

Happening Saturday — Crist and Fried will attend the cocktail reception for the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus Summer Conference, where Sen. Shevrin Jones will receive an award. Sens. Annette Taddeo and Jason Pizzo will speak earlier in the day. Events begin at 8:30 a.m.; cocktail reception starts at 7 p.m., Hilton Miami Downtown, 1601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.

Janelle Perez adds $150K in first 24 hours after announcing CD 27 run — Perez, a Democratic candidate looking to challenge Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, said she pulled in the $150,000 from more than 250 donors since launching her bid Tuesday. “I am excited and humbled by the early support my campaign has received in the first 24 hours,” Perez said. “Our campaign is only getting started and we are energized by the early support and ready to bring together a strong grassroots movement that will ensure we have young energy behind this moment to win in Nov. 2022.” Like Salazar, Perez is the daughter of Cuban exiles. Perez is also a first-time candidate, making a strong fundraising start all the more important.

Republican ad goes after Stephanie Murphy on spending, inflation” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Murphy is the target of a new Republican attack ad launched Thursday charging her with pushing out of control federal spending and causing inflation. The 30-second ad, “Stephanie Murphy: Helped Cause Inflation … And the Worst Is Yet to Come,” runs on social media and other digital platforms by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC aligned with House Republican leadership. The political action committee said it is spending “mid-five figures” to place three ads, targeting Murphy and two other Democratic House members nationwide. The Murphy ad ties the Winter Park Democrat to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a couple of digitally combined images that run before and after imagery representing inflation, money, and struggling taxpayers.

2nd Republican ad goes after Stephanie Murphy on inflation” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican groups launched a second digital ad Thursday attacking U.S. Rep. Murphy by tying Democrats’ spending bills to inflation. The National Republican Congressional Committee began a digital advertising campaign against 15 potentially vulnerable Democratic House members, including Murphy. Like the 30-second ad “Stephanie Murphy: Helped Cause Inflation,” launched earlier Thursday by the Republicans’ Congressional Leadership Fund, the NRCC’s 15-second “Sticker Shock” aims to blame the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and other initiatives for inflation. The NRCC said its battleground polling has found 70% of voters are concerned about rising prices. On the other hand, polls last spring found the American Rescue Plan drew high public approval ratings in many polls. The bill was approved almost entirely along party lines in March.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

‘A political disaster’: How Alcee Hastings’ congressional vacancy impacts local, state politics” via Daniel Rivero of WLRN — The lengthy wait to fill the congressional seat left vacant by the death of Hastings in April has candidates calling foul, with emerging ripple effects on local, state and federal politics. One candidate has likened the situation to a “political disaster” awaiting residents of Broward and Palm Beach counties. “Now is the time for us to start identifying projects that could fit in the scope of the infrastructure bill,” said Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. He suggested that without representation from the district, infrastructure projects benefiting the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach could suffer. “Healthcare is a huge issue. We have no voice in terms of advocating for decreasing prescription drug costs,” said Barbara Sharief, who also serves on the Broward Commission.

— MORE CORONA —

Moderna says its vaccine’s protection holds through six months.” via Carl Zimmer and Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times — The powerful protection offered by Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine does not wane in the first six months after the second dose, according to a statement released by the company on Thursday morning in advance of its earnings call. But during the call, Moderna executives said they anticipated that boosters would be necessary this fall to contend with the delta variant, which became common in the United States after the results were collected. “We believe a dose three of a booster will likely be necessary to keep us as safe as possible through the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Dr. Stephen Hoge, the president of Moderna.

When money can’t buy shots: New York City’s vaccine holdouts” via Henry Goldman and Amy Yee of Bloomberg — New York City, once the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, is hitting a plateau in vaccinating enough of its population against the virus. In the ZIP codes with the lowest participation rates, reasons for resisting the shot range from mistrust and misinformation to inaccessibility and indifference. In Far Rockaway, Queens, only 34% of residents are vaccinated. Dmitriy Gelfand, who owns the Smartshop Pharmacy on Beach Channel Drive, says demand for shots has dissipated since March, and he now has 200 Moderna vaccines he’s struggling to give away.

New York City is struggling with stubborn vaccine holdouts. Image via AP.

COVID-19 cases now fall into three distinct categories” via Dylan Scott of Vox — Even as the current surge of COVID-19 in the United States surpasses those in the spring and summer of 2020, trailing only the devastating winter wave, it is being driven by a different mix of cases than the prior waves. Back then, the coronavirus was still new, and most people had no immunity to it. The vaccines were still months away. When cases started to rise, experts issued dire warnings that deaths would soon rise in accordance. They were right. But this wave comes as the U.S. hits a milestone: 70% of the over-18 population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. There are still large pockets of the country without robust protection, with vaccination rates lagging in the 40s. Those places are driving the current surge. 

How Provincetown, Massachusetts, stress-tested the coronavirus vaccine with summer partying and delta” via Hannah Knowles and Randy Dotinga of The Washington Post — July festivities at the tip of Cape Cod stress-tested the vaccines against indoor crowds and the fast-spreading, game-changing delta variant of the coronavirus. Provincetown’s outbreak of overwhelmingly mild or no-symptom cases would grow to more than 1,000 people. Officials say that only seven people with a mix of vaccination statuses were hospitalized in the Provincetown cluster, and no one has died. Lab analysis of the first few dozen cases seemed to show that the virus spread initially among tourists, who brought the delta variant with markers suggesting it came from places including Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta. Officials argue that Provincetown was something close to a best-case scenario for living with the variant now rampant in the United States.

As bad as COVID-19 has been, a future pandemic could be even worse — unless we act now” via Eric Lander of The Washington Post — Coronavirus vaccines can end the current pandemic if enough people choose to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated. But in the years to come, we will still need to defend against a pandemic side effect: collective amnesia. As public health emergencies recede, societies often quickly forget their experiences and fail to prepare for future challenges. For pandemics, such a course would be disastrous. New infectious diseases have been emerging at an accelerating pace, and they are spreading faster. Our federal government is responsible for defending the United States against future threats. That’s why Biden has asked Congress to fund his plan to build on current scientific progress to keep new infectious disease threats from turning into pandemics like COVID-19.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

U.S. jobless claims down 14,000 to 385,000 as economy rebounds” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week by 14,000 to 385,000, more evidence that the economy and the job market are rebounding briskly from the coronavirus recession. The Labor Department reported Thursday that unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, dropped last week from a revised 399,000 the week before. The applications have more or less fallen steadily since topping 900,000 in early January. Still, they remain high by historic levels: Before the pandemic slammed the United States in March 2020, they were coming in at around 220,000 a week.

The latest unemployment numbers show a robust rebound. Image via AP.

BlackRock and Wells Fargo delay return to office on delta concerns” via Hannah Levitt and Annie Massa of Bloomberg — BlackRock and Wells Fargo are pushing their return-to-office plans back a month to early October, as Wall Street grapples with rising COVID-19 rates across the U.S. BlackRock is allowing workers to choose whether or not to come into U.S. offices through Oct. 1. With almost 260,000 employees, Wells Fargo will now begin bringing back staffers who have been working remotely starting Oct. 4 rather than Sept. 7, as previously announced, according to an internal memo Thursday from Chief Operating Officer Scott Powell. The shift signals the financial industry is rethinking its return-to-office plans as the highly contagious delta variant sweeps across the country. BlackRock has only allowed fully inoculated workers to come back.

Ben Diamond urges DCF to hurry up with allocating federal rent aid” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Diamond is urging the Florida Department of Children and Families to expedite the distribution of federal rental assistance. In a letter sent to DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris, Diamond pleads for the Department to address issues with the state’s federally-funded emergency rental assistance program, known as the OUR Florida. “Hundreds of thousands of Floridians face the terrifying prospect of losing their homes in the middle of this pandemic. Many of these families are my constituents. With the cases of COVID-19 rising in Florida, it is absolutely critical these emergency relief funds get to those Florida families who so desperately need it,” Diamond writes in the letter. Diamond’s push comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported the state had only disbursed 2% of its federally-funded rent aid as the federal eviction moratorium expires.

New COVID-19 economic impact: Conventions canceled in Orlando” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — As Florida continues to struggle with what Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings called “its worst public health crisis since the coronavirus pandemic started,” economic shocks are beginning to hit the heart of the tourism sector again. Four more big conventions slated for the Orange County Convention Center have pulled out, including one that was expected to bring 10,000 members of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers to Orlando late this month, Demings said. Together, the four show cancellations are expected to cost Orange County $43.9 million in economic impact, Demings said. Last week Demings announced the cancellation of another show, which he said was a loss of $12-15 million to the community.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

In a new ad, a Democratic group pointedly pushes Biden on voting rights and the filibuster.” via Nick Corasaniti of The New York Times — A major Democratic nonprofit group is taking aim at Biden in a new television ad, urging the President to take a more aggressive and concrete stand on overhauling the filibuster to pass federal voting legislation. The ad, aired by a group called End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund, is the first to publicly call out the President by name on the issue and is yet another sign of growing tension between the White House and left-leaning voting rights groups over the federal response to a wave of new laws governing elections from states with Republican-controlled legislatures this year. The group said it would spend $1.1 million on the ad, which will air on broadcast and cable television in certain states and Washington, D.C.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Biden wins voluntary pledges from automakers” via The Associated Press — The Biden administration wants automakers to raise gas mileage and cut tailpipe pollution between now and model year 2026, and it has won a voluntary commitment from the industry that electric vehicles will comprise up to half U.S. sales by the end of the decade. The moves are big steps toward Biden’s pledge to cut emissions and battle climate change as he pushes a history-making shift in the U.S. from internal combustion engines to battery-powered vehicles. They also reflect a delicate balance to gain both industry and union support for the environmental effort, with the future promise of new jobs and billions in new federal investments in electric vehicles.

U.S. offers Hong Kong residents temporary safe haven amid China’s political crackdown” via Vivian Salama of The Wall Street Journal — Biden signed an order enabling some Hong Kong residents to remain in the U.S. rather than return to the Chinese territory, citing Beijing’s crackdown on political freedom there. Hong Kong residents who qualify for the program will be granted a work permit for 18 months and a reprieve from deportation. In the past, U.S. administrations have extended similar actions beyond their initial expiration dates. “This action demonstrates President Biden’s strong support for people in Hong Kong in the face of ongoing repression by the People’s Republic of China and makes clear we will not stand idly by as the PRC breaks its promises to Hong Kong and to the international community,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP — 

Lindsey Graham says he’s told Donald Trump to ‘speak up’ on COVID-19 vaccines” via Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press — As he recovers from a breakthrough infection of the coronavirus, Sen. Graham said he had urged Trump to press his supporters to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which the South Carolina Republican called “the antidote to the virus that’s wreaking havoc on our hospitals.” “I’ve urged him to be aggressive and say, ‘Take the vaccine,’” Graham said in an interview. On Monday, Graham said he had tested positive days after gathering with a handful of Senate colleagues on Sen. Joe Manchin’s houseboat. That same night, Saturday, Graham said he began experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Lindsey Graham tells Donald Trump to talk up vaccines. Will it work? Image via AP.

Top DOJ official drafted resignation email amid Trump election pressure” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — In early January 2021, one top Justice Department official was so concerned that then-President Trump might fire his acting attorney general that he drafted an email announcing he and a second top official would resign in response. The official, Patrick Hovakimian, prepared the email announcing his own resignation and that of the department’s second-in-command, Richard Donoghue, as Trump considered axing acting attorney general Jeff Rosen. At the time, Hovakimian was an associate deputy attorney general and a senior adviser to Rosen.

Trump is planning a much more respectable coup next time” via Richard L. Hasen of Slate — There has been a subtle shift in how Trump and his allies have talked about the supposed “rigging” of the 2020 election in a way that will make such claims more appealing to the conservative judges and politicians that held the line last time around. Come 2024, crass and boorish unsubstantiated claims of stealing are likely to give way to arcane legal arguments about the awesome power of state legislatures to run elections as they see fit. The potential coup next time will come in neatly filed legal briefs and arguments quoting Thomas Jefferson and wrapped in ancient precedents and purported constitutional textualism. It will be no less pernicious.

Trump proudly announces new plan to con supporters out of their money” via Ryan Bort of Rolling Stone — Trump is no longer President of the United States, but to paraphrase Robert Earl Keen: the road goes on forever, and the grift never ends. Last month, Trump’s Save America PAC raked in over $75 million in 2021, largely on the idea that last November’s election was stolen and Trump needs all the help he can get to uncover the truth. The report continues to note that not much of this money has been spent on efforts to overturn the election, going instead to Trump’s travel, legal costs, and other expenses. Maybe it will be used to prop up MAGA-friendly Republicans running in 2022? Maybe it will be used to fuel a Trump presidential run in 2024? Maybe it won’t. There aren’t many limits on how the Save America PAC can spend its money.

— CRISIS —

Not patriots, not political prisoners — U.S. judges slam Capitol riot defendants at sentencing” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A federal judge rejected claims that detained defendants in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach are “political prisoners” or that riot participants acted out of patriotism before sentencing a Michigan man to six months in prison Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Karl Dresch was held because of his actions, not his political views, and that others who joined the attack on Congress as it met to confirm the results of the 2020 presidential election could face prison time. “He was not a political prisoner,” Jackson said. In a deal with prosecutors, Dresch pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of parading, picketing, or demonstrating in the Capitol after four other charges were dropped, including a felony count of obstructing an official proceeding of Congress.

No, they are not patriots, nor political prisoners. Image via AP.

—”Proud Boys leader married to Orange deputy pleads not guilty in Capitol riot case” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel

Judge removes public blackout of Capitol riot video showing St. Augustine man” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Video that investigators said shows a St. Augustine man passing a police shield into a crowd during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol shouldn’t be blocked from public release, a judge has ruled. The decision from U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington is a sort of victory for St. Augustine resident John Steven Anderson’s defense, which argued the clip “exposes the weakness” of the case behind Anderson’s eight-count indictment on charges including theft of government property, civil disorder and assaulting or impeding officers. The video had been labeled “highly sensitive” and, under terms of an earlier court order, barred from release except to a limited circle of people preparing for Anderson’s trial.

‘The stuff of which violent insurrections are made:’ Federal judge punishes Colorado lawyers for 2020 election lawsuit” via Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — A federal judge in Colorado has disciplined two lawyers who filed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election late last year, finding that the case was “frivolous,” “not warranted by existing law” and filed “in bad faith.” In a scathing 68-page opinion, Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter found that the lawyers made little effort to corroborate the information they had included in the suit, which argued there had been a vast national conspiracy to steal the election from Trump. He particularly called out the duo, Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker, for quoting Trump in their legal filing, which cited a presidential tweet that claimed without evidence that voting machines manufactured by the company Dominion Voting Systems had “deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide.”

Must-readWhat Mike Fanone can’t forget” via Molly Ball of Time — In late July, Fanone was one of four officers who testified at the first hearing of the House committee investigating Jan. 6, a proceeding that just two Republicans took part in. “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” he cried, pounding the table. A Fox News anchor joked that he should get an Oscar for acting. His voicemail filled with threats and mockery. “I wish they would have killed all you scumbags,” one caller said. Others threatened to rape and kill his mother and daughters. For most Americans, Jan. 6 keeps getting further away. For Fanone, it’s still the only thing — the day his life stopped. And yet, as awful as it was, he’s grateful for it. And so he keeps telling his story — the story of what really happened that day.

Tweet, tweet:

— D.C. MATTERS —

Republicans bask in their Miami platform, as pressure mounts for Biden on Cuba” via Bianca Padró Ocasio, Marie-Rose Sheinerman and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The spontaneous protests that exploded in dozens of small towns and cities throughout Cuba on July 11 have largely disappeared from the streets of the island. But in South Florida — with Miami’s Cuban American community as the backdrop — the anti-government demonstrations in Cuba have given U.S. Republicans a platform to attack Democrats largely unchallenged, offering an early window into the GOP’s playbook ahead of the 2022 elections. For weeks, notable Florida Republicans from DeSantis to Miami Reps. Salazar, Carlos Giménez and Mario Díaz-Balart have spoken in front of riled-up audiences throughout Miami, calling on Biden to escalate actions against the Cuban regime.

An unfree, unconnected Cuba is a threat to U.S. security, Florida Republicans say” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Compared to the night before, the Thursday news conference on the crisis in Cuba, U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Cuban American Congress members from Miami-Dade held with DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez was a tame affair. But what they said was anything but reassuring. The setting was appropriate for the subject, the central message of which has remained the same for weeks: Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must take action to help topple the communist regime that for more than six decades has subjugated the people of Cuba. At around noon, more than a dozen Republicans assembled behind a podium inside a Hialeah Gardens Museum honoring thousands of Cuban exiles who participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

Kevin McCarthy and Florida Republicans call for an end to the repressive Cuban regime. Image via AP.

—”Lori Berman, Anna Eskamani urge Congress to pass ‘game-changer’ infrastructure package” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Once again, Cuba blames the U.S. embargo for its domestic problems. It’s not that simple” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — For decades, the government has blamed most of its own shortcomings on what it calls the “murderous criminal blockade” — everything from lack of food to lack of furniture in libraries to lack of insulin for people with diabetes. The embargo has been used time and again by the Cuban government to obscure what Cubans on the island, in turn, call “the internal blockade” — the economic and political restrictions imposed by the Communist Party with the support of an extensive military and security apparatus. But the reality is that while the embargo does impact the island’s economy and the population, it is not the principal reason the country’s economy is in tatters.

U.S. to probe Phoenix police over excessive force allegations” via Michael Balsamo and Bob Christie of The Associated Press — The Justice Department said it was launching a widespread probe into the police force in Phoenix to examine whether officers have been using excessive force and abusing people experiencing homelessness. The investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department is the third sweeping civil investigation into a law enforcement agency brought by the Justice Department in the Biden administration and comes as the department has worked to shift its priorities to focus on policing and civil rights. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the probe will also examine whether police have engaged in discriminatory policing practices and will work to determine if officers have retaliated against people engaged in protected First Amendment activities.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Firefighter sues after pulling daughter’s body from Surfside rubble” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Miami firefighter who frantically worked to free his 7-year-old daughter from the rubble in Surfside has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The suit, filed Tuesday by firefighter Enrique Arango, seeks unspecified damages. It names multiple companies “involved in the ownership, maintenance, restoration, management, inspection and oversight of the building.” In the decades leading up to the catastrophe, building officials knew about “deplorable conditions,” such as seawater pooling in the garage, the suit alleges. The girl, referred to by her initials, lived with her mother and grandparents in unit 501 at Champlain Towers South. The collapse of the 12-story building on June 24 killed 98 people.

What will happen to Surfside memorial wall? Officials try to figure that out.” via Rosh Lowe of WPLG Local 10 News — County and local officials gathered Thursday at the Surfside memorial wall to discuss a big question. What is going to happen to this wall? Just west of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo site, where 98 people were killed, the memorial wall started with a few pictures and flowers and expanded into a blocks-long tribute to the victims. “We do not want this thing to blow away because we want to preserve it as it is,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. The memorial grew on the side of the Surfside tennis courts. It became a place for people to pay their respects. Those who drove by would pause, take pictures and remember the lives of those lost.

What to do with the Surfside Wall? Image via AP.

LGBTQ youth get support from Miami Dolphins, Big Brothers Big Sisters” via Emmett Hall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — There is no offseason for the Miami Dolphins organization, especially when it comes to staying engaged with the community. The Miami Dolphins Football UNITES program presented by Baptist Health recently partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County to sponsor BIGPride. The outreach program is all part of an initiative to create mentoring relationships to address the specific needs of vulnerable LGBTQ youth in the community. Over the past year, the Dolphins organization has worked with LGBTQ organizations and restaurants to help those in need during the pandemic. A special screening of the movie “Moonlight” was shown with proceeds donated to two local LGBTQ groups.

Volusia schools settle with feds over ‘systemic discrimination against students with disabilities’” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — A federal investigation that led to a settlement confirmed that the Volusia County School District disciplined students with disabilities in an overtly punitive way. They excluded the children from the district’s education program, and they removed kids from their classrooms with the use of suspensions, law enforcement involvement, and a mental health law, known as the Baker Act, which can involuntarily detain a student. The U.S. Department of Justice looked into allegations stating that Volusia County School District engaged in systemic discrimination against students with disabilities by relying on overtly punitive disciplinary tactics and law enforcement to address behaviors. The federal investigation found that the allegations were substantiated.

Florida teacher at center of Black Lives Matter flag flap won’t return to classroom” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida school district decided to settle with a high school teacher who said she was punished for displaying a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom. “Though we know we haven’t done anything wrong, these are taxpayer dollars,” Duval School Board member Warren Jones said. Part of the agreement, which passed a board vote on Tuesday evening, is that Amy Donofrio cannot return to the classroom. The district’s legal representative, attorney Stephen Busey, said a trial could have been long, cost several million dollars, and potentially reach the Supreme Court.

Racial discord continues over Coral Springs’ basketball courts” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A plan to settle a racially charged dispute about public basketball courts in Coral Springs may not put the issue to rest. The city intends to build two new basketball courts, with an option for a third, after eliminating several courts at Cypress Park, where players’ foul language was drifting to an adjacent playground. Some residents complained that closing the courts was a slap to the Black community that often played there. And they’re not satisfied with the city’s new solution. They want the old courts returned. The situation began last year when homeowners across the canal complained of cussing ballplayers using the courts.

Trump reveler charged with defacing LGBTQ intersection. Why wasn’t it a hate crime?” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The man who turned himself in to police after allegedly defacing a gay pride intersection in Delray Beach has been formally charged, but a local LGBTQ group thinks the charges don’t go far enough. Alexander Jerich has been charged with criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said the act didn’t meet Florida’s definition of a hate crime. Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, was unsatisfied. “I was very disappointed, to say the least, that they didn’t seek the enhanced penalties,” Hoch said.

Palm Beach County closes loophole: Canal rights of way can’t be used as preserve space to boost density” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — Following a contentious vote that ultimately allowed a homebuilder to use canal rights of way to boost density in the Agricultural Reserve, Palm Beach County commissioners last month supported changes that would block similar tactics in the future. Commissioners agreed to change the county’s master plan that, in future requests, wouldn’t let these strips of unbuildable land owned by the Lake Worth Drainage District be used as preserve areas. In May, five out of seven commissioners sided with GL Homes — who sought to remove 276 acres of existing preserve made up of row crops and replace them with 63 segments of canal rights of way purchased from the district — agreeing that the county’s language was too ambiguous.

‘He put people first.’ Opa-locka Commissioner Alvin Burke dead at 67” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — At the next Opa-locka City Commission meeting, the fighting spirit of Burke — a mainstay in the community long before holding local office — will be missed. Burke succumbed to cancer on Wednesday, Opa-locka City Manager John Pate announced on Facebook. He was 67. The Commissioner’s death leaves a void in the community, as well as on the city commission, which must now find someone to serve the remainder of his term. “He was a one-of-a-kind individual, an upstanding citizen, a veteran of this country who truly epitomized what it meant to be a patriot,” Pate told the Miami Herald.

RIP: Alvin Burke was a people person, beloved by many. Image via Joe Wesley/Miami Times.

Boca Raton cops suspended for fixing traffic tickets for friend” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Two police officers were suspended after an investigation found they were involved in a scheme to fix traffic tickets. Boca Raton Police Officer Heather Leinonen asked officer Kenneth Fong not to show up in court for at least two tickets he issued to a friend of Leinonen’s, disciplinary records show. As a result, the tickets were dismissed. The Boca Raton Police Department suspended Leinonen and Fong for two weeks without pay for conduct unbecoming of an officer and fixing traffic tickets. The department launched an internal affairs investigation after a tipster said Leinonen was socializing with a criminal. The investigation found that to be untrue, but it determined that Leinonen had intervened on behalf of her friend, Raymond Gibson.

Amazon fulfillment center in Port St. Lucie to bring 500 full-time jobs” via Will Greenlee of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A 1.1-million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center is coming to northern Port St. Lucie, bringing more than 500 full-time jobs to the area, according to the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County on Thursday. Construction of the facility, on 110 acres east of Interstate 95 and south of Midway Road at Midway Business Park, is expected to be done by late summer or early fall 2022. “It’s a great thing, not only for the city, but it’s a great thing for the region,” said Jill Marasa, vice president of business retention and expansion at the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County.

It’s a sin what we’ve done to Florida’s seagrass” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — “We’re pulling tons of floating seagrass out of the water,” Levy told me. “I mean tons. It’s very disappointing.” She explained that the red tide algae bloom has been lingering along the state’s Gulf Coast since December, but it hit the Tampa Bay area during the seagrass’ growing season. The grasses the crews have been pulling out of the water look fine, other than being dead. You know how people say, “I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news?” Well, this is like that, except the good news is bad too. We need healthy seagrass, the kind that’s still alive, that is. It’s absolutely essential to the continued health of our Gulf, estuaries, and other waterways. It filters impurities, stabilizes the sandy bottom, and provides habitat for small fish, shrimp, and crabs. It also feeds manatees.

Florida DEP files civil lawsuit against HRK Holdings over Piney Point fertilizer plant” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has filed a civil lawsuit against HRK Holdings, the owner of the former Piney Point fertilizer plant. State officials have stated their intent to hold HRK Holdings accountable for the fallout from a breach at the former fertilizer plant facility in April. The lawsuit, filed today, says that HRK did not comply with requirements to completely remove process water from the main retention ponds on the property by February 2019. The DEP claims HRK is liable for up to $50,000 per day for not accomplishing the goal. “This action enforces compliance with the state’s environmental laws and all of HRK’s existing authorizations, orders and agreements with the department,” DEP Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton said.

The Piney Point mess goes to court. Image via AP.

The new CEO of Tampa Electric Co. envisions a greener Tampa Bay” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Archie Collins has big plans to make Tampa Bay a greener and more sustainable place. As the new president and CEO of Tampa Electric Co., he’s committed to driving down the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and investing more in solar energy going forward. Originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Collins was the chief executive of Grand Bahama Power Co. and chief operating officer of Emera Caribbean before becoming chief operating officer of Tampa Electric. In February, he became the company’s new leader. Collins, a Tampa resident since 2018, spoke about his vision for Tampa Electric Co.’s future.

Woman bought $1M Florida Lottery ticket at Publix after flight was canceled” via The Associated Press — Having just had her flight canceled, a Missouri woman’s luck quickly changed when she won $1 million from a Florida Lottery scratch-off ticket. Angela Caravella, 51, of Kansas City, claimed a $1 million top prize last month from The Fastest Road to $1,000,000 scratch-off game. She chose to receive her winnings as a one-time, lump-sum payment of $790,000. Caravella purchased her winning ticket from a Publix supermarket in Brandon, just east of Tampa. The store will receive a $2,000 bonus commission for selling the winning ticket.

— TOP OPINION —

‘Freedom,’ Florida and the delta variant disaster” via Paul Krugman of The New York Times — Florida is in the grip of a COVID-19 surge worse than it experienced before the vaccines. There’s no mystery about why. So, let’s talk about what the right means when it talks about “freedom.” Since the pandemic began, many conservatives have insisted that actions to limit the death toll should be matters of personal choice. Does that position make any sense? When people on the right talk about “freedom,” what they actually mean is closer to “defense of privilege” — specifically the right of certain people (generally white male Christians) to do whatever they want. Once you understand the rhetoric of freedom is actually about privilege, things that look on the surface like gross inconsistency and hypocrisy start to make sense.

— OPINIONS —

What DeSantis is readingEradication of COVID-19 is a dangerous and expensive fantasy” via Jay Bhattacharya and Donald J. Boudreaux of The Wall Street Journal — Much of the pathology underlying COVID-19 policy arises from the fantasy that it is possible to eradicate the virus. Governments and compliant media have used the lure of zero-COVID-19 to induce obedience to harsh and arbitrary lockdown policies. Among all countries, New Zealand, Australia and especially China have most zealously embraced zero-COVID-19. New Zealand’s and Australia’s temporary achievement of zero-COVID-19 and China’s claimed success were greeted with fanfare. When COVID-19 came back, so did the lockdowns. Each government has had multiple opportunities to glory in achieving zero-COVID-19. Australia’s current lockdowns in Sydney are now enforced by military patrols alongside strict warnings from health officials against speaking with neighbors.

DeSantis has unilaterally halted school mask mandates. The federal government must act” via Alexandra Ayala for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As an elected board member of the School District of Palm Beach County, I knew when I was sworn in last November that there was a tough road to recovery ahead from this pandemic. I knew I’d have to make difficult decisions. However, I could not have fathomed I’d be pressured to obey mandates from our state government that unreasonably threaten the public health of our 200,000 students and over 22,000 employees. Public education has endured so much throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators, school staff and students have too often borne the brunt of ever-changing guidance meant to navigate the impacts of this unrelenting virus.

—“As COVID-19 numbers go up, DeSantis politicizes public health” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board 

Biden’s terrible decision on the evictions ban” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Biden’s temporary ban on evictions is likely illegal. He said so himself after many scholars advised him the ban would not pass constitutional scrutiny. Biden’s decision also came just days after his administration stressed that it had no legal authority to extend a previous evictions moratorium that ended over the weekend. But he went ahead with the new ban anyway. The reckless move elevated doing what’s easy over doing what’s right. And that’s a terrible way to govern. No one wants to see millions of people get evicted during a pandemic. But no matter how righteous the cause, this kind of legally suspect maneuvering undermines faith in the process.

A big booster push now would be wrong and dangerous” via Max Nisen for Bloomberg — A growing number of wealthy countries are now launching or making plans for COVID-19 booster-shot initiatives for parts of their populations amid evidence of waning immunity among some of the vaccinated. That’s prompted the World Health Organization to call for a moratorium on top-up shots through September or until all countries are at least 10% vaccinated. The WHO has it right — the priority should be first vaccinations as long as supplies are limited and there’s a huge global disparity in protection. Existing data suggests the vast majority of those who are vaccinated don’t need a booster yet. Rolling third doses out broadly at this point is an ethically questionable, potentially dangerous and ineffective way of fighting the pandemic.

Disney steps up in COVID-19 battle after Florida’s surrender” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Ears off to Walt Disney World for putting the health of visitors and employees first. Recognizing the severity of the current COVID-19 outbreak, the company has decided to reinstate some mask-wearing protocols and gave its nonunion employees 60 days to get vaccinated. Disney’s moves are what responsible corporate behavior looks like. This region’s other big employers need to fall in line. We’re looking at you, Universal and SeaWorld. Neither of those companies has announced mandatory vaccinations for employees. And neither is requiring its visitors to wear masks, just recommending.

— WEEKEND TV — 

Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Preempted this weekend by the Tokyo Olympics on NBC.

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Rep. Anna Eskamani, Florida Federation of Republican Woman President Deborah Tamargo, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton and Jay Wolfson, senior associate of Morsani College of Medicine and associate vice president of USF Health.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of the evolving educational environment as children head back to school, featuring Pasco County Public School Superintendent Kurt Browning, Seminole County School Board Member Abby Sanchez and Manatee County Public School Deputy Superintendent Doug Wagner.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: As students head back to school, an interview with Rep. Kathy Castor about charter schools; details the congressional Democrats asking for a student loan repayment freeze and profiles the president of the Florida Education Association’s reaction to the state’s mask policy.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Ybeth Bruzual speaks with Mary Mayhew, the president of the Florida Hospital Association, about the state of our hospitals as Florida breaks records in the number of COVID-19 cases, and Congresswoman Val Demings discusses the Jan. 6 commission.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Steve Vancore speaks with Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Broward Health CEO Shane Strum and Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid.

— OLYMPICS — 

Jupiter’s Zion Wright falls short of medal in men’s park skateboarding” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — Wright failed to qualify for the men’s park skateboarding finals Wednesday night at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Wright had an impressive first run, posting a score of 67.21, but then dropped from contention. Both he and his U.S. teammate Heimana Reynolds, the world’s top-ranked park skater, failed to qualify after entering the Summer Games with hopes of winning medals. Wright finished 11th overall and Reynolds 13th. One American skater, Cory Juneau of San Diego, advanced to the finals and won bronze. His best score was 84.13. Keegan Palmer of Australia won the world’s first gold medal in men’s park skateboarding with 95.83.

Zion Wright fell short of medaling in skateboarding. Image via NBC Sports.

Belarus runner used quick thinking to avoid being sent home” via Monika Scislowska and Daria Litvinova of The Associated Press — Krystsina Tsimanouskaya described a dramatic series of events at the Olympics that led her to decide not to return to Belarus, where an authoritarian government has relentlessly pursued its critics. She fled instead to Poland, arriving Wednesday. After posting a message on social media that criticized how her team was being managed, Tsimanouskaya said she was told to pack her bags. Team officials told her to say she was injured and had to go home early. On her way to the airport, she spoke briefly to her grandmother, who explained a massive backlash against her in the media in Belarus, including reports that she was mentally ill. Her grandmother, she said, advised her not to return. Her parents suggested she could go to Poland.

With talent and resolve, Kevin Durant leads U.S. men’s basketball team back to gold medal game” via Ben Golliver of The Washington Post — At these Tokyo Olympics, Team USA has been either horrid or “holy cow,” with nothing in between. The Americans, led by Durant, responded by cranking it up with a 12-0 run to start the second half to cruise past one of their biggest threats at these Games. With the win, the United States advanced to face France in Saturday’s gold medal game, trying to claim its fourth straight Olympic gold. Australia, which has longed for its first medal in a major international competition, will head to the bronze medal game. For all the talk about the international competition closing the gap on Team USA when it comes to talent, no one has had an answer for Durant, who has continued to state his case as the world’s best player.

Kevin Durant brings Team USA closer to gold. Image via AP.

A restrictive Olympics has reminders of NBA, WNBA bubbles” via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press — For those who were in the NBA and WNBA bubbles in Florida last summer, it seems familiar. That has no doubt played a role in both U.S. basketball teams reaching the Olympic semifinals. There are clear similarities between what basketball players endure at these Tokyo Olympics and what went on last summer for NBA players in Lake Buena Vista, Florida and WNBA players in Bradenton, Florida. The Olympics aren’t quite as difficult as the bubble was. The rules in Tokyo designed to keep everyone safe are restrictive, yes. But Fournier said there are at least some opportunities to see other athletes, whether through taking part in the opening ceremony and then going to the Olympic Village or simply by getting away from basketball by tuning into something else on television.

— ALOE —

What Scott Powers is readingMLB season starts March 31, again with every team scheduled” via The Associated Press — Major League Baseball will open the 2022 season on March 31, as long as there isn’t a work stoppage, and will try for the fourth time to have every team play its first game on the same day for the first time since 1968. The league released the full schedule on Wednesday. MLB tried to have all 30 clubs play on the same opening day for three of the past four seasons. The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players’ association expires on Dec. 1. Given the acrimonious relationship between the sides, a lockout or strike appears possible this season.

The schedule is set for the 2022 MLB season. Image via AP.

Florida Panthers organizes specialized hockey clinic for blind and visually impaired youth” via Emmett Hall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It was a special treat and a summer highlight for members of the Lighthouse of Broward when they partnered with the Florida Panthers for a specialized hockey clinic at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. The Lighthouse of Broward has been in existence since 1973 and has established training and rehabilitation programs for blind and visually impaired children and adults. There were about 20 Lighthouse youth from Broward and Lighthouse of Miami who headed over to the Panthers arena on separate weeks for a specialized hockey clinic in which they got to incorporate their sense of hearing by playing games and practice drills with balls equipped with bells.

Halloween Horror Nights: Universal now selling Frequent Fear passes” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Multiple-night tickets for the 2021 edition of Halloween Horror Nights have been posted on Universal Orlando’s website, including express passes and the all-you-can-scream Ultimate Frequent Fear Pass. Previously, only single-night tickets had been on sale for this year’s event, which begins Sept. 3. The Halloween Horror Nights Ultimate Frequent Fear Pass sells for $284.99 online, and it includes admission to all 42 evenings of the event. Adding “express,” a shortcut to each of HHN’s 10 haunted houses one time per night, makes the price $749.99. There are several less intense options available online.

You can enjoy the whole Halloween Horror Nights experience — for a price.

What Lauren Book is reading — “Apple to detect, report sexually explicit child photos on iPhone” via Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — Apple Inc. said it will launch new software later this year that will analyze photos stored in a user’s iCloud Photos account for sexually explicit images of children and then report instances to relevant authorities. The moves quickly raised concerns with privacy advocates. As part of new safeguards involving children, the company also announced a feature that will analyze photos sent and received in the Messages app to or from children to see if they are explicit. Apple also is adding features in its Siri digital voice assistant to intervene when users search for related abusive material. The technology giant previewed the three new features on Thursday and said they would be used later in 2021.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Rep. Tom Leek, Arlene DiBenigno of Conversa, and Mercer Fearington of The Southern Group.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


One comment

  • Tom

    August 6, 2021 at 7:31 am

    America’s Governor will win by 10 Pts vs either come Nov/22. It will be a landslide. What’s amazing is the sandbagging polls that ran back to back earlier this week. The St Pete poll was clearly a set up, which I explained purposefully underscored Republicans and men. It also oversampled the metro cities, south Florida and Miami even more. Regardless, as Joe mentioned Gov. Ron is in very strong position. He has his challenges no doubt and trip wires are many but his opponents have more. The whiz kid Governor is showing the new kid on the block belongs. As the youngest chief executive in the country he’s showing he is
    America’s Governor.

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