Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.11.21

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

A month after celebrating its anniversary, Delegal | Aubuchon Consulting announced that its team is expanding with the addition of Scott Jenkins as government affairs director.

“Scott’s industry experiences along with his work on political campaigns and political advising will be a great complement to our services,” firm partner Mark Delegal said. “Most importantly, we have confidence in his integrity and work ethic.”

Jenkins brings nearly two decades of government relations experience to the firm. He worked as a deputy director of government relations for the Florida Bankers Association from 2002-10 and as state government relations director for Wells Fargo from 2010-18. Earlier in his career, he served as a legislative analyst in the House and as a field director for the Republican Party of Florida.

Congratulations to Scott Jenkins for his new gig at Delegal | Aubuchon Consulting.

“I’ve known Mark and Josh for more than a decade,” Jenkins said. “I am joining a team known for its in-depth policy knowledge and strong relationships and am proud to have found a place where I know I will thrive professionally while working with great people.”

Jenkins has experience managing advocacy projects and initiatives spanning multiple states, including managing state and federal political campaigns and advising legislative body leaders and committee chairs.

“We’ve always worked well with Scott on various issues over the years, and we’re excited to have him as part of the team,” said firm partner Josh Aubuchon. “He is passionate and experienced in the arena of Florida politics. He’s a good guy and a natural fit.“

Florida Bankers Association EVP of government affairs Anthony DiMarco praised the hire, “Working with Scott has always been a pleasure. He’s someone who brings an excellent reputation and a wealth of Florida policy knowledge. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish together.”

Jenkins earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Clemson University and a master’s degree in political science from Florida State University.


The Florida Transportation Builders’ Association held its annual conference in Orlando last weekend, and some attendees left with some bragging rights.

FTBA presented its Best in Construction awards at the conference, honoring companies that worked on the “most innovative, complex and impactful transportation system projects around the state.”

This year’s winners, selected in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation, included Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., Superior Construction Company Southeast, Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, and many others.

“We are proud of this year’s award winners for the excellent example they set for our industry and for upholding the highest standards as they work to improve transportation systems throughout Florida,” said FTBA President Ananth Prasad

FTBA’s Best in Construction awards are given for outstanding work in 15 different categories ranging from major bridge to utility coordination. The full list of award recipients is available online.


@WalshFreedom: Donald Trump, “Mr. Real Estate, Mr. Builder,” was too fucking incompetent to even get an infrastructure bill done.

@alivitali: It’s important to point out that men elevating some women to positions of power does not insulate, absolve, or prevent those same men from harassing or intimidating other women.

@MaryEllenKlas: So much energy has had to go into unraveling something so easily remedied. Florida could resume reporting on its website daily, and timely, the COVID detail it collects. Communities, school districts, Mayors, parents, the CDC and the media might then be a little better informed.

@Mike_Grieco: Question: If taxpayer-funded public schools are prohibited from mandating masks … what about the private schools that receive taxpayer-funded vouchers and have mask mandates? I ask because if the bs prohibition is only for public schools, we might see an equal protection issue.

@VoteRandyFine: I love the virtue signaling by some of these local politicians. A “mandate” with an opt-out is not a mandate. Perhaps we need to actually mandate vocabulary training for certain politicians.

@TravisDGibson: St. Johns County School Board meeting public comment is off to an interesting start: “I’m a Christian, I would never mask my children. We’re made in the image of God of the Bible; we will not conceal that image for it is not pleasing to our Lord.” … “So just like this board cannot ask Muslim students to remove religious headwear, this board cannot ask Christian children to conceal their identity by wearing a mask.”

Tweet, tweet:

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Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 7; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 13; Boise vs. UCF — 22; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 23; Notre Dame at FSU — 25; NFL regular season begins — 29; Bucs home opener — 29; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 34; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 34; Alabama at UF — 38; Dolphins home opener — 39; Jaguars home opener — 39; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 40; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 44; ‘Dune’ premieres — 51; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 51; MLB regular season ends — 53; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 58; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 76; World Series Game 1 — 77; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 77; Georgia at UF — 80; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 83; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 83; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 88; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 89; Miami at FSU — 94; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 100; FSU vs. UF — 108; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 112; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 121; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 128; NFL season ends — 151; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 153; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 153; NFL playoffs begin — 154; Super Bowl LVI — 186; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 226; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 270; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 295; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 331; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 343; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 422; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 457.


Florida capital schools go against Ron DeSantis, require masks” via Adriana Gómez Licón of The Associated Press — Though the Leon County mandate allows exemptions for students with a physician’s or psychologist’s note, it doesn’t give parents the authority to opt out, as DeSantis wanted. Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced in a livestreamed announcement that children from prekindergarten through eighth grade will be required to wear masks when classes resume in Tallahassee. “I did a lot of soul searching, a lot of thinking,” Hanna said. “If, heaven forbid, we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the Governor of the state of Florida. I can’t.

Ron DeSantis gets a wave of pushback for his school mask policy. Image via AP.

‘We will not switch.’ Florida school officials defy DeSantis over pay cut threats” via Ana Ceballos and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — At least three Florida school districts are defying DeSantis as they impose mask mandates with some medical exceptions, even as his administration threatens to withhold the pay of superintendents and school board members that go against his orders. DeSantis’ administration has signaled it intends to follow through with threats to dock the salaries of superintendents and school board members who vote not to give parents the full and unilateral ability to opt their children out of mask mandates. Broward County Public Schools on Tuesday became the third district in the state to show resistance against the Governor, joining Alachua County Public Schools and Leon County Public Schools.

Broward schools require students to wear masks, defying Governor again” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County students will have to wear masks in schools, and parents may not be able to opt out easily, the School Board decided Tuesday. The board voted 8-1, with Lori Alhadeff dissenting, to defy DeSantis and directives from two state agencies. The board also agreed to pursue legal action challenging state rules that allow parents to ignore mask mandates for their children. The action means the district keeps a mask mandate that requires all students, staff and visitors to wear masks when school starts Aug. 18. The only exception will be for students with medical conditions, or requirements of an individual education plan, which are already exemptions that have been allowed for the past year.

Mike Burke on masks and salary — ‘I didn’t get into this job for the money’” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — The first day of the new school year is now underway with more than 167,000 students expected to learn in person and with masks on unless their parent provided a note opting out. Palm Beach County Superintendent Burke, who landed the interim job last month, began his inaugural first-day tour of schools in Riviera Beach at Washington Elementary, arriving as students did in a typical Florida downpour. “I’m pretty excited to see smiling faces,” Burke said standing in the cafeteria of the school rebuilt over the last year. “It’s a new perspective,” said the man, who comes to the superintendency from the finance side of the district. “It’s kind of neat to see it all come together.”

Mike Burke is not in it for the money.

About 12% of Lee County students opt out of school mask mandate” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — More than 10,000 parents in Lee County opted their students out of the district’s mask requirement. But that means eight of nine students attending their first day of school will still mask up. The Lee County School District said as of the start of the school day Tuesday, a total of 10,664 opt-out forms had been turned in. There could still be more submitted, as the district just started the new school year Tuesday. Officials only announced a masking policy on Sunday and did not release an opt-out form until Monday, when it was sent to parents via email. The total represents just under 12% of the 89,024 students enrolled in district-run K-12 schools.

Just 4% of Orange students opted out of masks as new school year begins in Central Florida” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Thousands of Central Florida students headed back to school Tuesday, many of them wearing face masks, a visible, and contentious, sign the pandemic will put a stamp on the 2021-22 school just as it did to its predecessor. In Orange County Public Schools, only 4% of the nearly 180,000 students who attended classes Tuesday came without a mask and note from their parents opting them out of face-covering rules, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins announced at an evening Orange County School Board meeting. 

Senate Democrats to launch GoFundMe for defiant superintendents, school board members” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis may not want to pay School Board members backing mask mandates. But Senate Democrats intend to make sure those officials receive a paycheck. Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and caucus leadership announced they will launch a GoFundMe raising private donations to support education leaders if the Governor follows through on his threat. “If the Governor chooses to defund public education and withhold salaries from educators as punishment for protecting students’ health and safety, we will fill the gap to support them in this fight,” said Book. 

Michael Grieco will skip pay if DeSantis delivers on threat to withhold school admin money” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Grieco said he will work without pay if DeSantis follows through on a threat to withhold the salaries of school administrators who defy his executive order against school mask mandates. “I’ll say this right now. If the Governor pulls anybody’s salary, I am committing personally to forgo whatever measly salary I get in the House until that gets resolved,” he said. Florida lawmakers are paid about $30,000 yearly, plus a $152 per diem allowance. Fellow Democratic Reps. Robin Bartleman, Fentrice Driskell and Anna Eskamani also spoke during the 40-minute virtual event. 


One state agency is collecting COVID-19 data, the other is publicizing it, and no, it ain’t talking” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A COVID-19 data discrepancy published first by the CDC and then read out loud to media outlets by Nikki Fried is highlighting just how dysfunctional the lines of communication are between two of Florida’s biggest state agencies. The Florida Department of Health tracks the state’s COVID-19 data, but Fried, who heads up the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, gives daily COVID-19 briefings. Rather than request COVID-19 data from the FDOH a few miles away in Tallahassee, FDACS relies on COVID-19 data that gets routed from FDOH through the CDC. The only actual communication on the matter between FDACS and FDOH is in the public forum.

Nikki Fried tries to give accurate COVID-19 numbers, but other agencies aren’t playing nice. Image via Jason Delgado.

Florida accuses CDC of inflating COVID-19 numbers in apparent CDC mistake” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — In a move that reignited calls for Florida to resume daily COVID-19 reports, state health officials on Tuesday accused the CDC of inflating the number of new coronavirus infections Florida tallied over the weekend. The apparent mistake did nothing to change the Sunshine State’s status as the coronavirus hotspot of the nation, but the Florida Department of Health jumped on it. “The daily case counts for Florida currently posted on the CDC COVID-19 Tracker are incorrect,” it wrote in a tweet shortly after midnight. Instead of the 28,317 new cases that the CDC said Florida logged on Sunday, it said the actual number was 15,319. One of the state’s leading epidemiologists said it appears the federal agency made a simple math error.

With COVID-19 cases rising in Florida, what numbers can you count on?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida has gained national attention as the state contributing the most new COVID-19 cases to the U.S. count. But tracking the state’s COVID-19 data became complicated, with discrepancies between figures provided by the Florida Department of Health and published by the CDC. And on Tuesday, after a frenzy of social media accusations because of an apparent record-setting pandemic day in Florida, the CDC and the Florida DOH adjusted all the COVID-19 case counts and death tallies dating back to March 2020, which are displayed on the CDC site and collected by the state Department of Health.

‘Big experiment’: DeSantis says impacts of mask-wearing on youth are unknown” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis described student mask mandates as a “big experiment” with possible health and developmental consequences on youth. Speaking to reporters in Surfside, DeSantis criticized the “big experiment” and defended his decision to block mask mandates on school grounds. “A lot of parents have come to me … and said this has been very difficult on their young kids,” DeSantis told reporters in Surfside. Among his reasons, DeSantis said the impacts of long-term mask-wearing are unknown. He criticized the National Institutes of Health, suggesting the federal agency should explore the consequences of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

As kids return to school, most Florida counties report COVID-19 cases four times higher than last year” via Jayme Fraser and Mike Sutcka of USA Today — Most Florida children are returning to school in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks are far more intense than they were when school started last year. In most counties, cases are at least four times higher than a year ago, an analysis shows. Five counties report a more than tenfold increase. Cases among children are surging, too, raising questions about the health consequences of students returning to campuses and a state ban on school mask mandates while vaccines are available for only some of the schoolchildren.

Florida requests 300 ventilators from federal government as COVID-19 cases keep rising” via Sanela Sabovic of Local 10 News — As a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state of Florida requested 300 ventilators from the federal government. The request was made on Friday “to replace expended state stores,” the document said. The ventilators were expected to be delivered on Monday, though it was not said how they will be allocated. DeSantis said he was not aware of such a request when asked about it. “I have not heard about that, so I have to check to see if that’s true or not,” he said.

DeSantis predicts fall and winter COVID-19 wave for northern U.S.” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Vaccines might not have provided the herd immunity officials expected, and DeSantis says that means it will soon be the norther’s turn for a COVID-19 wave. Although nearly no vaccinated individuals have died or been hospitalized due to COVID-19, there have been more breakthrough cases than expected with the rise of the delta variant. Maintaining his claim that the state’s current wave is seasonal, DeSantis on Tuesday predicted a similar rise in other parts of the country outside the Sun Belt. As of Friday, 63% of Florida’s eligible population has received at least one shot. A smaller share, 53%, have received all their shots. That amounts to 46% of Floridians being fully vaccinated.

Ron DeSantis makes a bold prediction for the North.

Florida nursing homes face significant staffing challenges amid COVID-19 surge, survey shows” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The vast majority of Florida nursing homes are facing significant staffing challenges, a new survey from the Florida Health Care Association finds. The July survey reached 310 nursing homes, and 23 assisted living facilities across the state, which revealed that 92% face staffing challenges amid the current surge of COVID-19 and the delta variant. The survey also showed that about 9 in 10 FHCA member facilities said their overall workforce situation has gotten worse since 2020. The survey found other signs of struggling nursing centers; 88% of institutions said they’d experienced staff shortages within the last month, and 52% are having to reduce admissions as a result.


Jacksonville-area hospitals report more than 1,200 COVID-19 hospitalizations” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — As children returned to school across Northeast Florida on Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to rise regionally and statewide, again breaking a daily record. The number of patients being treated for the virus in Florida hospitals Tuesday was 15,169, with 3,050 of them in intensive care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There were 13,614 Monday. Baptist Health, the Jacksonville area’s largest hospital system, reported a slight decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday compared to Monday, but Ascension St. Vincent’s and UF Health Jacksonville reported caseload increases.

COVID-19 is hitting Jacksonville hospitals particularly hard. Image via AP.

Jacksonville student got COVID-19 as a freshman. He felt fine — until he didn’t.” via Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union — When Antonio Gonzalez tested positive for COVID-19, he and his family had taken it seriously, wearing masks, washing their hands. But he still got it. He was asymptomatic. He felt fine until a month later, when he didn’t. That’s when he tested positive again, not for COVID-19, for MIS-C (a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children). MIS-C is a new syndrome, first identified by doctors at children’s hospitals in April 2020, that can occur after COVID-19 infection. It’s relatively rare, but it also can be quite serious, leading to severe inflammation in organs and tissues, the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin, eyes.

Jacksonville sheriff tests positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated” via Dan Scanlan of the Florida Times-Union —Sheriff Mike Williams has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Williams, who started with the department in 1991, is currently experiencing minor symptoms and recovering at home, the department said. His is a “breakthrough” case of the virus since he received the full complement of a vaccine prior to his testing positive. Williams was not present during Tuesday’s news conference at the Sheriff’s Office when Gov. DeSantis handed out checks to almost 30 law enforcement officers as part of the ‘Florida’s Heroes’ initiative.

—”DeSantis ‘happy’ with COVID-19 trends in Jacksonville, thinks ‘summer wave’ may be ending” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

‘Florida Heroes’ one-time relief checks are on the way to first responders across Duval” via Katherine Lewin of The Florida Times-Union — DeSantis handed out checks to nearly 30 law enforcement officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office today as part of the ‘Florida’s Heroes’ initiative through the Department of Economic Opportunity. The state allocated approximately $208 million to distribute one-time relief payments of up to $1,000 to over 193,000 first responders, including law enforcement officers, EMTs, firefighters and across Florida. Mayor Lenny Curry and Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle also attended the news conference. 

Pinellas hits new high for COVID-19 hospital cases; positivity rate at 16.2%” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County hospitals have the highest number of patients with coronavirus than at any time since the pandemic began as the highly contagious delta variant infects mostly unvaccinated people. The county has hit a 16.2% positivity rate and 800 cases per day on a seven-day average, “the highest numbers and cases throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. That’s up from the 14% positivity rate announced by county officials a week ago.

—“Hospitals overcapacity as COVID-19 cases swamp Brevard admissions and emergency rooms” via Dave Berma, Rick Neale, Britt Kennerly and Amira Sweilem of Florida Today

—“Okaloosa County’s COVID-19 cases up 47.4%; Florida cases surge 21.7%” via Mike Stucka of USA Today Network 

Lee Health sets a record of 455 patients with COVID-19 as delta variant surge continues” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Lee Health set a record Tuesday with 455 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, while the caseload at the NCH Healthcare System dipped slightly. The publicly operated hospital system in Lee County saw an 8.6% increase in hospitalized patients from Monday’s tally of 419 patients. The previous record was 372 cases during last summer’s surge on July 20, 2020. The Florida Hospital Association reported 14,787 people are inpatients at hospitals with the virus, increasing 1,173 from Monday. Lee Health’s president and chief executive officer, Dr. Larry Antonucci, held a media conference Tuesday to discuss back-to-school safety for parents as the delta variant is infecting school-age children.

Ambulances wait outside Tampa Bay hospitals as COVID-19 infections spread” via The Associated Press — COVID-19 cases have filled so many Florida hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond to emergencies. In St. Petersburg, some patients wait inside ambulances for up to an hour before hospitals can admit them, a process that usually takes about 15 minutes, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said. While ambulances sit outside emergency rooms, they are essentially off the grid. “They’re not available to take another call, which forces the fire department on scene at an accident or something to take that transport. That’s caused quite a backlog for the system.”

As hospitals prepare for the next wave of patients, hospital waits get longer. Image via AP.

—“Vaccines available at funeral of unvaccinated Central Florida man, 28, who died of COVID-19” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel

West Melbourne woman, 30, dies of COVID-19 days after giving birth to her daughter” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — Weakened and hospitalized with COVID-19, West Melbourne resident Kristen McMullen gave birth to her tiny daughter, Summer Reign, via emergency C-section on July 27. She could only cradle her newborn for a few fleeting moments. “She was able to hold Summer for basically just two pictures,” said Melissa Syverson, McMullen’s aunt. McMullen, “a 30-year-old bright, beautiful, vivacious girl with the world ahead of her,” died of COVID-19 Friday at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Syverson said.


Florida remains in cone of uncertainty for system expected to become Tropical Storm Fred” via Joe Mario Pedersen and Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Heavy rain dumped over Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a tropical disturbance pushed northwest toward Florida with the potential to become Tropical Storm Fred. As of 5 p.m., the NHC’s updated advisory for “Potential Tropical Cyclone Six” still says it’s likely to become Tropical Storm Fred late Tuesday or early Wednesday with a 90% confidence that it will do so in the next 48 hours. Despite it not being named yet, the NHC said tropical-storm-force squalls had been reported over the Leeward Islands this afternoon.

Here we are again.

Nikki Fried water quality initiative criticized by some Agriculture Commissioner Fried has been talking up a water quality initiative across the state, but some environmentalists say the policy doesn’t go far enough. As reported by Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida, the policy touted by Fried comes from a wide-ranging water quality bill that lawmakers passed last year with support from agriculture and industry groups as well as some environmental organizations. The Sierra Club was not one of the backers. “I don’t want to be pessimistic. If she were actually going to do something that will make a difference wouldn’t she spell it out?” said Cris Costello, a Sierra Club representative. Former Office of Agriculture Water Policy director Rich Budell countered, saying the changes “are quite significant. I don’t know of any other state in the country doing this. It is pretty progressive.”

Shevrin Jones reports mistreatment from white Delta Air Lines employee at Orlando airport” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Jones, a Florida Senator who represents South Broward, said a baggage issue Monday resulted in racist treatment from a Delta Air Lines employee at Orlando International Airport. Jones, a Democrat, is Black. He said the Delta employee is white. “So, here’s my thing: I try my best not to automatically jump to the extreme of calling anybody a racist or all that other stuff,” Jones said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview. “But the unfortunate part here is, given the nature of how she responded to me at the moment, it was blatant,” Jones said. “No one should be treated in that manner. Nobody.” Jones posted about the incident on Twitter.

No more boom. Florida population growth slows to 1%. Fewer transplants find Florida appealing” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Down here, you can get all the physical beauty and sunshine of the Caribbean, except with fewer assassinations and civil wars. This has given every Florida politician in history an easy (and lazy) way to defend even their worst decisions. They argue: If people don’t like what I’m doing, why are so many moving here? Well, here’s our new reality: People aren’t coming here. At least not the way they used to. Once as high as 6% and 8% annually, Florida’s population growth has dwindled closer to 1%. That’s still better than most states. But 1% for a place like Florida is pretty anemic.

Florida’s Brightline trains to resume operations in November” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Florida’s higher-speed passenger rail service Brightline announced Tuesday it will resume operating sometime in November, 20 months after it closed because of the pandemic and with safety measures that it hopes will curb a spate of fatal collisions that plagued its initial run. The privately run company, which began operations in 2017, will resume with hourly service between Miami and West Palm Beach, president Patrick Goddard said. Goddard said Brightline will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and, following federal regulations, mandate masks for crew and passengers inside its trains and stations.


Lauren Book says Andrew Cuomo did the ‘right thing’ by resigning after harassment allegations” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Book, a survivor of sexual assault, says New York Gov. Cuomo made the right decision in stepping down Tuesday after he was accused of sexual harassment by several women. Cuomo was also facing an investigation into whether he improperly used state resources to write a book detailing his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Cuomo attracted scrutiny after his administration was accused of providing misleading information regarding COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes. 

Lauren Book says Andrew Cuomo did the right thing by resigning.

Chris Sprowls laments ‘devastating’ manatee die-off in meeting with scientists” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Sprowls took a boat tour with scientists Tuesday to discuss manatee health and red tide in Florida. The meeting comes as environmental factors such as algae blooms threaten the safety of Florida’s marine life and sea cow populations. According to the Speaker’s Office, 880 manatees have died so far this year. By comparison, the previous record was 830 manatee deaths in all of 2013. “The number of manatee deaths this year and the impacts of red tide on residents, tourism and the environment are devastating,” said Sprowls. Sprowls met with scientists from Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The group also explored the reaching impacts of algae blooms on resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

AHCA requests approval for postpartum Medicaid expansion — The Agency of Health Care Administration has requested the Medicaid waiver to lengthen the duration of Medicaid benefits for new mothers, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. The expansion, a top priority of House Speaker Sprowls last Session, would increase new mothers’ Medicaid benefit duration from 60 days to one year. For the policy to go into effect, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services needs to approve definition changes and extend the income-based requirements to allow new mothers to apply. Ann Dalton, acting bureau chief for Medicaid Policy, said Monday that there is no timeline for approval of the request.

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference will examine slot machine and Indian gaming revenues, 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: Estate of Molly Parker, Julia Perez and Julia Perez Trust, Maury Hernandez

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Tampa General Hospital

Sara Bremer: University of Florida

Jon Brooker: Ocean Conservancy

Carl Eldred, Michael Petrovich, Hopping Green & Sams: Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group

Nick Iarossi, Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Pichard Holdings, Motorola Solutions

Zach Hubbard, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: HCA Healthcare

Cameron Pennant: Charlotte County

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Syntech Systems

— 2022 —

DeSantis rakes in cash as Florida’s COVID-19 wars rage” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis has built a national political brand. Need proof? Just look at his political committee’s more than $4 million July haul. DeSantis, who has not yet formally declared his 2022 reelection bid, last month brought in political contributions from every state in the country, several United States territories, as well as from members of the military serving overseas, according to campaign finance records. DeSantis’ nearly 400-page July campaign finance report represents a massive expansion of DeSantis’ fundraising footprint, driven by his increased use of email to solicit contributions. The recent support is fueled, in part, by DeSantis’ hands-off response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s July haul included 18,201 individual contributions; more than 17,000 of those were from small-dollar donors chipping in $100 or less. Before July, the average donation to the committee was $8,000. Last month it was $233. Overall, Friends of Ron DeSantis showed $4.3 million raised for the month and entered August with more than $40 million on hand.

Ron DeSantis is brining in cash hand over fist. Image via AP.

Crist on Ron DeSantis’s COVID-19 response: ‘I’d do everything differently’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Crist, at a campaign stop in the Kissimmee-area with Hispanic leaders at the Lechonera El Jibarito, criticized DeSantis for doing too little to persuade Floridians to get vaccinated or to wear masks at indoor gatherings. He also dinged DeSantis for going on recent out-of-state campaign fundraising trips. And Crist called DeSantis’ efforts to prevent mask mandates for school children as “unfortunate.” Crist’s Kissimmee stop was part of a multi-city tour to reach out to Hispanic leaders for support.

Fried predicts a big drop for DeSantis poll numbers” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics —“ I’ve seen a couple of polls actually recently that have shown him dropping 10, 15 points. And I would say that will continue to happen. Because as this individual is running for President of the United States in 2024, we see that in all of his policies,” Fried said. “And so, he is stepping on the backs of Floridians and now our children in order to get votes for President in 2024,” Fried said, referring to the Governor’s threats to defund officials in school districts that require masks. For Fried, the delta variant has offered a reversal of fortune compared to DeSantis. The Governor is doing fewer prime-time media hits as hospital capacity is strained in the state.

Florida won’t appeal block of ‘John Morgan’ law; 2022 drives have already piled up cash” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Ashley Moody won’t appeal a federal court ruling knocking down a new law capping donations to political committees pushing ballot measures, allowing large donations to flow. But the ruling might not affect the ongoing 2022 ballot drives because of big checks already written to them. Judge Allen Winsor issued a temporary injunction against SB 1890 on July 1, the day it was slated to take effect, preventing the Florida Elections Commission from enforcing its prohibition against individual donations of more than $3,000. The deadline to appeal the ruling passed last week.

Gambling committees raise little, spend big in July” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida Education Champions, a joint effort between DraftKings and Fan Duel, added just $87 in July and spent $3.4 million. It has $16.43 million left in the tank. Florida Voters in Charge, backed by Las Vegas Sands, showed no income and $3.8 million in spending. It closed out July with $13.27 million on hand. Magic City Casino’s favored committee, People Against Regulatory Legislation Addressing You, laid an egg last month and didn’t spend anything either. It started with a $15 million deposit in June. Meanwhile, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has yet to report finance numbers for the new Voters in Control committee to oppose gambling expansions. It had $10 million banked on June 30.

Clay Yarborough scores endorsements from Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, ending SD 4 drama” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I am committed to working with our Republican leaders from throughout our state to protect Florida’s position as the freest and most prosperous state in the country. And while my service won’t be in the Florida Senate, I do look forward to working with Senate President (Wilton) Simpson, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, and the Senate conference in protecting our conservative values and principles,” Byrd said. A similar comment was offered from Fischer, who had raised a million dollars for a run that will not happen, for Senate at least. Yarborough is also endorsed by Simpson, Passidomo, and Sens. Jennifer Bradley and Travis Hutson. He has roughly $450,000 banked for a drama-free waltz toward 2022’s election.

Ed Hooper to kick off reelection run with Aug. 24 fundraiser” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Sen. Hooper will get his reelection campaign rolling with a fundraiser in his Clearwater-based district later this month. An invitation to the event shows a long list of current and former elected leaders who will be at Island Way Grill on the evening of Aug. 24. The headliners: Simpson, House Speaker Sprowls and Rules Chair Passidomo, set to take over for Simpson after the 2022 election. The list also includes Republican Sen. Ben Albritton, who is jockeying with Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. to become Senate President for the 2024-26 term. Hooper has held the District 16 seat in the Senate since 2018.

Rick King leads HD 88 fundraising race for second straight month” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — King raised nearly $14,000 for the second straight month, which once again puts him atop the House District 88 field in terms of fundraising. Jervonte Edmonds, competing against King for the Democratic nomination, raised just over $7,000 in July. Former Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections candidate Paulette Armstead filed to run as a Democrat but is no longer listed as an HD 88 candidate on the Division of Elections website. That leaves Edmonds and King to face off for the Democratic nomination in the race to replace Democratic state Rep. Omari Hardy, who is running for Congress. Hardy’s resignation will trigger a Special Election to replace him in HD 88, though the date of that election has not yet been set.

Rick King is the king of fundraising for a second consecutive month.

Hillary Cassel adds more than $13K in July, grows money advantage” via Hillary Cassel of Florida Politics — Cassel brought in more than $13,000 in July, besting her Democratic competitors and expanding her cash lead in the race for House District 99. Jeremy Katzman, an administrator at Nova Southeastern University’s Health Professions Division, raised a little more than $3,700 during the month. Barry Faske of the Florida Green Building Coalition collected just $1,000. Cassel has raised just over $179,000 in outside contributions since filing for the race in late February. She’s also put in $50,000 of her own cash, though that loan could be returned to the candidate if unspent. Still, as of July 31, Cassel had nearly $188,000 in available cash.

For your radar — “Terry McAuliffe took $100K from billionaire with ties to Harvey Weinstein” via Houston Keene of Fox News — Former Virginia Gov. McAuliffe, campaigning to recapture his old seat, took $100,000 from a billionaire who defended Weinstein. McAuliffe took the six-figure donation in April from Paul Tudor Jones, a billionaire hedge fund manager who was a close ally of Weinstein’s and a board member of the Hollywood convicted rapist’s production company, The Weinstein Company. Jones told Weinstein that he loved him in an email and said, “America loves a great comeback story,” and the allegations “will go away sooner than you think,” The New York Times revealed in 2017.


Teachers should be required to get COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci says” via Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg — Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said state and local governments should require teachers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As back-to-school season approaches and the delta variant surges across the U.S., Fauci acknowledged that his position might anger some people who’ve resisted vaccine mandates for teachers. “Yeah, I’m going to upset some people on this, but I think we should,” he said. “This is very serious business. You would wish that people would see why it’s so important to get vaccinated.” But Fauci said there wouldn’t be federal mandates for teacher vaccinations. Local mandates “for schools, for teachers, for universities, for colleges” would be appropriate, he said.

Anthony Fauci supports vaccine mandates for teachers. Image via AP.

Vaccination status has Americans picking sides” via Ray A. Smith of The Wall Street Journal — Day-to-day interactions are growing increasingly fraught as individuals grapple with how much to ask others about their vaccination status — and what to do if they hear an answer that makes them uncomfortable. Some employers are starting to mandate vaccination before people return to workplaces, but many more workers face office return dates with no such rules. Americans who have opted not to get the shots cite many reasons for holding off, from political beliefs to unease with such new treatments. Some unvaccinated people who were interviewed for this story say they have legitimate medical questions.

Vaccine side effects remain rare and are outweighed by benefits of vaccination, the CDC reported.” via Emily Anthes of The New York Times — For adults, the benefits of the three coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States outweigh the risks of serious side effects, which remain rare, according to a new report from the CDC. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been linked to inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may increase the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder and a neurological condition known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. All of the conditions can be serious, but remain uncommon. Experts concluded that these small risks are exceeded by the benefits of the vaccines, which provide powerful protection against disease and death. 

Poll: Majorities support vaccine, mask mandates — but not Republicans” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — A majority of voters support mandatory coronavirus vaccines and indoor mask-wearing requirements, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll that shows opposition to the requirements is chiefly limited to Republicans. The survey also found that about half of all voters blame the new wave of infections that have sent numbers spiking equally on the unvaccinated and on political leaders opposed to mask-wearing and social-distancing mandates. About one-fifth of voters said neither is responsible; 14% blamed the unvaccinated solely and another 7% targeted the politicians.

High trust in doctors, nurses in U.S., AP poll finds” via Emily Swanson and Tom Murphy of The Associated Press — Most Americans have high trust in doctors, nurses and pharmacists, a new poll finds. Researchers say that trust could become important in the push to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, as long as unvaccinated people have care providers they know and are open to hearing new information about the vaccines. At least 7 in 10 Americans trust doctors, nurses and pharmacists to do what’s right for them and their families either most or all of the time. The poll shows high levels of trust among both Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and white, Black and Hispanic Americans.

Inside the White House-Facebook rift over vaccine misinformation” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Cecilia Kang of The New York Times — White House officials had been meeting with Facebook to urge the company to stop the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines. The White House grew so frustrated by Facebook’s answers in meetings that at one point, it demanded to hear from the data scientists at the company instead of lobbyists. Facebook has pushed back strongly against the White House’s criticism, accusing the administration in public of scapegoating the company for the administration’s failure to reach its vaccination goals. He said the social network worked with the White House for “many months” to get people vaccinated, introducing features like prominent links to vaccine clinics.


More businesses could follow Norwegian Cruise Line and require vaccines” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Norwegian Cruise Line could be clearing the way for businesses across the U.S. to require customers to show proof of vaccination before being served. Attorneys looking into a federal district judge’s ruling on Sunday allowing Norwegian to require vaccination of all future passengers said the ruling, if upheld, could set a precedent that could strike down laws in several states barring businesses from requiring “vaccine passports.” If that’s the result of Norwegian’s challenge of Florida’s vaccine passport ban, it would be a huge political setback for DeSantis, rumored to be considering a presidential run in 2024, and other Republican Governors who have enacted passport bans to appeal to mostly conservative, vaccine-resistant constituents.

Will more companies follow Norwegian Cruise Line’s lead? Image via AP.

Will the pandemic productivity boom last?” via Neil Irwin of The New York Times — Since the pandemic recession bottomed out in the spring of 2020, the nation’s gross domestic product has more than fully recovered, with second-quarter output 0.8% higher than before coronavirus. The number of jobs decreased 4.4% in the same span. Productivity growth accounts for most of the wedge between those. What is less clear, though, is how much this growth represents real progress toward deploying the workforce in ways that will make Americans richer over time. It’s a murky story — like any attempt to connect big-picture productivity numbers to what’s happening in the guts of the economy — but crucial for understanding the economic outlook for the 2020s. There are several parts to the story, and each has different implications for the future.

South Florida renters behind on payments by almost $5,000 each” via Amber Randall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida renters will need about $5,000 per household to catch up on past-due payments, according to new estimates. Between 13% and 17% of renters in the tri-county area are behind, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by Surgo Ventures, a nonprofit organization. In Palm Beach County, about 13% of renters are behind on rent. For Broward County, it’s about 16%, and in Miami-Dade, a little under 17%, estimates show. “Our models have consistently shown that if someone in the household became unemployed during the pandemic, they are much more likely to be behind; on average, their odds are about 3 times higher than someone who did not lose employment,” said Aaron Dibner-Dunlap of Surgo Ventures.

How the pandemic upended Florida’s seafood industry” via Hannah Farrow of POLITICO — America’s appetite for seafood soared during the pandemic — and Florida’s fishing industry cashed in. Just how much have prices increased? Parker Destin, owner of the Dewey Destin’s restaurants in Florida, said he’s now paying $26 a pound for lump crab meat — up from $11 per pound before Covid swept through the country. From Washington to Maine to Florida, the price for crabs, shrimp, lobster and other delicacies has skyrocketed due to enormous demand, changes in eating and shopping habits and disruptions to the supply chain. In Florida, restaurant owners have never served so many customers.


Delta is bad news for kids” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — As the hyper-transmissible Delta variant hammers the United States, the greatest hardships are being taken on by the unvaccinated, a population that includes some 50 million children younger than age 12. Across the country, pediatric cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing alongside cases among nonimmunized adults; child hospitalizations have now reached an all-time pandemic high. In several states, health workers say that kids, many of them previously completely healthy, are coming in sicker and deteriorating faster than ever before, with no obvious end in sight. But the recent rash of illnesses among the nation’s youngest is a sobering reminder of the COVID-19 adage that lower risk is not no-risk. 

Delta is more dangerous to kids because more kids are getting infected. Image via AP.

—”D.C. mask mandate may be in effect through Thanksgiving if vaccinations don’t increase” via Mark Segraves of NBC Washington

CDC study of Kentuckians disputes Rand Paul, Thomas Massie claims about COVID-19 immunity” via Deborah Yetter of the Louisville Courier-Journal — Two Republican members of Congress from Kentucky, Sen. Paul and Rep. Massie, have steadfastly refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine, saying they have natural immunity because they had the viral infection. But a new study from the CDC, based on data from people in Kentucky who contracted COVID-19 a second time, says the vaccine boosts immunity in people who have had the virus. Unvaccinated people who contracted COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to catch it again than those who got vaccinated after contracting the virus, it said.

Europe reopened to Americans. Why, it asks, hasn’t the U.S. reciprocated?” via Nicholas Casey of The New York Times — In June, European Union leaders recommended that member countries reopen their borders to Americans, a significant gesture. They expected to be repaid in kind. But nearly two months later, even as Europe has overtaken the United States in vaccinations, America’s borders remain closed to most European travelers, even ones with vaccinations. That the United States remains largely closed has dismayed Europeans and frustrated their leaders, who are demanding that Europe’s decision to open its borders be reciprocated.


Joe Biden considering intervening in DeSantis mask mandate ban” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Biden says the White House is researching whether he has the authority to intervene in bans on mask mandates, such as the one DeSantis has ordered for Florida schools. Classes started in some Florida school districts Tuesday, and more schools are expected to open throughout the week. However, several school districts will require masks for students anyway, and the DeSantis administration has threatened to withhold the salaries of state administrators who implement those policies against his orders. The White House is looking for ways to support school board members and superintendents who break state law to follow the federal guidance, but Biden downplayed his options.

What to do with a problem like Florida? Joe Biden is weighing his options. Image via AP.

White House plans to fund Florida schools who defy DeSantis’ order against mask mandates” via Nathaniel Rodriguez of WFLA — The White House announced Tuesday that it is planning to support schools who defy DeSantis’ executive order and enact mask mandates for students. Under current rules from the Florida Department of Education, Florida school districts can only enact mask mandates if they give parents an option for their children to opt out, which keeps mask-wearing optional. DeSantis’ order states that if a district disobeys and forces mask-wearing at its schools, the FDOE could pull state funding to make them comply.

Vacation interrupted: Biden’s getaway plans shift by the day” via Jonathan Lemire and Aamer Adhani of The Associated Press — Biden’s vacation plans, like those of so many Americans during this national summer of uncertainty, keep changing. But while concerns about the resurgence of the coronavirus have caused Biden’s plans to shift, the biggest complicating factor was the world’s greatest deliberating body’s commitment to, well, deliberation. The president had hoped to begin his two-week summer vacation this week, but as negotiations dragged on last week, Biden decamped for his Wilmington, Delaware, home for the weekend, with officials planning a Sunday night return to mark the bill’s passage. The shifting schedule, which changed by the day, upended the plans of aides and reporters alike, many of whom were forced to hurriedly extend hotel stays and purchase an extra set of clothes.


Donald Trump’s election conspiracies are coming to a head — again” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — There’s only one actual question about the next few weeks, as the estimated deadline offered by Trump and his allies for his reinstatement as President comes and goes: How dangerous will it be? On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security released a bulletin warning state and local law enforcement officials of increasing chatter about potential violence that “may occur during August 2021.” Nothing was mentioned, but an official noted that the department was warning because of how quickly a threat could emerge. The warning stemmed from threats “fueled in large part by conspiracy theories and other false narratives” that are spread by “domestic extremist thought leaders,” among others.

Donald Trump will not be reinstated next week. How much trouble will that cause? Image via AP.

House Democrats won’t have a shot at getting Trump’s tax returns from the IRS until at least November” via Katelyn Polantz of CNN — The Biden administration won’t be turning over Trump‘s tax returns to the House until at least November, despite the recent dramatic Justice Department opinion that the IRS “must” hand them over. A federal judge will hear arguments then on whether Trump can block the tax returns’ release. The scheduling development puts one of two major ongoing court cases over access to Trump’s tax returns on ice for the foreseeable future. Last week, the Biden administration told Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee on the DC District Court, that the Treasury Department believes it should turn over Trump’s tax returns “promptly” to the House Ways and Means Committee.


Man charged in Jan. 6 assault on Capitol police officer Brian D. Sicknick ordered released” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A three-judge appeals court panel has ordered the release of West Virginia sandwich shop owner George Tanios pending trial in the Jan. 6 chemical-spray assault on three police officers including Sicknick, who died the following day after suffering two strokes. A lower court “clearly erred in its individualized assessment of appellant’s dangerousness,” the judges from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in an order filed Monday night. The court gave prosecutors seven days to appeal or seek a rehearing before the full appeals court. The ruling came two weeks after a different three-judge panel of the same appeals court upheld the continuing detention of Tanios’s co-defendant, Julian Khater.

The man accused of killing Brian Sicknick has been released. Image via AP.


Senate passes $1 trillion infrastructure bill, handing Biden a bipartisan win” via Emily Cochrane of The New York Times — The vote, 69 to 30, was uncommonly bipartisan. The yes votes included Sen. Mitch McConnell and 18 others from his party. “This historic investment in infrastructure is what I believe you, the American people, want, what you’ve been asking for for a long, long time,” Biden said. With $550 billion in new federal spending, the measure would provide $65 billion to expand high-speed internet access; $110 billion for roads, bridges and other projects; $25 billion for airports; and the most funding for Amtrak since the passenger rail service was founded in 1971. It would also renew and revamp existing infrastructure and transportation programs set to expire at the end of September.

Chuck Schumer and the Senate passed a $1T infrastructure bill. What about the rest? Image via AP.

AFP-FL praises Rick Scott, Marco Rubio for vote against infrastructure plan — The U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill, a top Biden priority, but it did so without a vote from U.S. Sens. Rubio or Scott. That netted them a commendation from Americans for Prosperity-Florida. “This ‘infrastructure’ proposal is simply a down payment on Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ $3.5 wasteful spending package,” state director Skylar Zander said. “Americans for Prosperity activists across Florida thank Senators Rubio and Scott for siding with taxpayers, instead of Washington special interests. This fight is far from over, and as this package moves to the House, AFP will continue to encourage members to oppose this wasteful spending spree.”

Watchdog sues FEC for closing investigation into Scott, allied super PAC” via Karl Evers-Hillstrom of The Hill — A watchdog group on Monday sued the Federal Election Commission for dismissing a complaint alleging that Sen. Scott unlawfully used a super PAC to support his 2018 Senate run. In a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Democratic group End Citizens United, Campaign Legal Center Action challenged the decision by Republican FEC commissioners to close an investigation into Scott against the recommendation of the agency’s nonpartisan lawyers. End Citizens United had alleged that Scott and the New Republican PAC, a group he formerly chaired, violated election laws prohibiting coordination between candidates and outside groups. 

Ted Cruz calls for ‘zero’ coronavirus mandates, while Paul urges defiance amid delta variant surge” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — As a resurgent coronavirus is forcing states to address soaring cases and hospitalizations, Sens. Cruz and Paul denounced health mandates against the virus at a time when the nation recorded its highest single-day number of new cases since January. The United States reported nearly 160,000 cases on Monday, pushing the seven-day average to almost 115,000 daily. It was the most severe day for new cases in the country since Jan. 29, when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available. Hospitalizations are also up to nearly 70,000 as businesses and schools grapple with mandates for vaccinations and masks during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul remain defiant on mandates of any kind. Image via The Washington Post.

From Britney Spears to political rivals, Joel Greenberg searched scores of names on confidential database” via Martin E. Comas and Jason Garcia of Florida Politics — Greenberg used a confidential database to look up the personal information of fellow elected officials, political rivals, county employees, family members and even celebrities newly released records show. The names of hundreds that Greenberg pried into, ranging from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, his friend who is reportedly the target of a sex-trafficking investigation, to his mother and even the elderly father of a rival county commissioner, reveals the extent to which the former tax collector apparently abused his access to the Driver and Vehicle Information Database beginning in August 2017 and continuing until just days before he was arrested and resigned from office in mid-June 2020.


J.T. Burnette told agents bribes were good business in Tallahassee, tells prosecutors it was bravado” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The public corruption trial of Burnette entered its 12th day of testimony, with the defendant facing a grueling day of grilling by federal prosecutors during cross-examination. Burnette, an owner of the DoubleTree Hotel and several other companies, is accused of arranging bribes for former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox. On Monday, he denied involvement in any bribery scheme during direct questioning from Tim Jansen, his lead attorney. Maddox and his girlfriend and business partner, Paige Carter-Smith, were indicted in 2018 for accepting bribes from prominent city vendors in exchange for his official action. 

Tweet, tweet:

Residents of Miami condo forced to evacuate. ‘We felt the building occupants were not safe’” via Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — An eight-story condo building in Miami was evacuated Monday night after city officials deemed the structure “unsafe.” The city said that the 138-unit building, 5050 NW Seventh St. in Flagami, was put on notice regarding several violations on July 7th. Among the violations: Not obtaining 40-year recertification. “We felt the building occupants were not safe,” added Building Director Asael “Ace” Marrero. Late into the night, residents were lugging their belongings to the packed parking lot as police cars were in the front of the building. The condo association could not be reached for comment.

Miami Beach fines itself after city-owned buildings miss 40-year recertification” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The Surfside condo collapse has led local governments in Miami-Dade County to pay closer attention to older buildings that are overdue for county-mandated safety checks. In Miami Beach, that process has also involved looking in the mirror. Five city-owned buildings are currently in violation of a 40-year recertification requirement: the administrative building at 1701 Meridian Ave., the South Shore Community Center at 833 Sixth St., the shuttered Byron Carlyle Theater at 500 71st St., a Fleet Management building at 140 MacArthur Causeway and a parking garage at 400 W. 42nd St.

After tumor surgery, Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz home recovering, ‘in good spirits’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Diaz is home and “in good spirits” after undergoing surgery last week to remove a benign tumor near his brain, his office said in a press note Monday. “Chairman Diaz would like to thank the entire staff at Jackson Memorial Hospital for their incredible work,” staff wrote. Diaz had a scheduled, nonemergency operation Thursday to excise an acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous and usually slow-growing tumor that develops on a cranial nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain. The surgery was a success, Diaz’s chief of staff, Isidoro Lopez, told Florida Politics on Friday.

“2 Palm Beach County judges, 6 lawyers among those who could replace Circuit Judge Krista Marx” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — Two Palm Beach County judges are among the six lawyers who have been tapped as possible replacements for Circuit Judge Marx, who retired on July 31. County Judges Bradley Harper and Melanie Surber are on the shortlist that was sent to DeSantis on Tuesday. Harper was elected to the county bench in 2016, and Surber was appointed by DeSantis in December 2019. Others nominated by the local Judicial Nominating for Marx’s seat are April Bristow, general counsel for the 15th Judicial Circuit; Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden Burke; Assistant Public Defender Schnelle Tonge; and Stephanie Tew, a statewide prosecutor who works in the attorney general’s West Palm Beach office.

Attorneys for school shooter want pretrial hearings closed” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Attorneys for the suspect in a 2018 Florida high school massacre told a judge the news media and public should be barred from all pretrial hearings, saying Nikolas Cruz’s right to an impartial jury will be irrevocably harmed if certain evidence is revealed before jurors are seated. Chief assistant public defender David Wheeler told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that discussing during open pretrial hearings evidence that might be excluded or barred would “let the cat out of the bag” and create news coverage that would prejudice the potential juror pool. Wheeler said the public’s view of Cruz has already been tainted by news coverage. 

Pensacola could end requirement for adult entertainment workers to register with city” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola is considering doing away with a long-standing regulation that requires adult entertainment workers to get a permit from the Pensacola Police Department to work at venues in city limits. On Monday, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson told the City Council that after discussion with police officials, his administration agreed the regulation was not serving any purpose. “We certainly don’t do this to anybody else in a variety of other (industries), and the police were happy to move out of this,” Robinson said. Robinson’s administration is proposing to repeal the requirement for adult entertainment workers to get a permit to work in the city, but to keep all of the other regulations dealing with adult entertainment venues.

Grover Robinson is considering a move to allow unlicensed strippers.

Former Gulf Breeze Mayor pleads no contest to recording teens in shower, may avoid prison” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Former Gulf Breeze Mayor Ed Gray will be sentenced later this month on charges related to secretly recording teenage boys undressing at his home and tracking their movements in some cases. Gray pleaded no contest July 6 to 11 charges in the case, including eight counts of video voyeurism, one count of illegal interception of communications, one count of illegally installing a tracking device, and one count of stalking. His sentencing has been set for Aug. 24. Assistant State Attorney Fredrick Longmire said it is unlikely Gray will be sentenced to state prison on the charges, citing Gray’s low score of 10 on the Florida criminal scoresheet. 

Compliance checks of sex offenders yield more than a dozen arrests in St. Lucie County” via Will Greenlee of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Sixteen people were arrested and two more are being sought after the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service officials made compliance checks on more than 555 sex offenders in the county, officials said Tuesday. The checks are performed continually throughout the year, though Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Brian Hester said some of the timing of this initiative related to the start of school Tuesday. “Our kids in our community are our most valuable asset,” Hester said. “We tend to, a lot of times during the summer months right before school, do these operations.” Hester said the initiative, dubbed Operation Watchful Eye, ran from June 14 to July 30 and was in three phases.


Why our school district is defying Florida’s ban on mask mandates — even if it means we lose funding” via Carlee Simon of The Washington Post — As superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools in North Central Florida, I am committed to providing high-quality education while protecting the health and well-being of nearly 35,000 students and staff members. That’s proved to be an enormous challenge in my state. Just a few weeks ago, my district was planning for a more “normal” school year free from many of the safety restrictions of the past year. But a surge in COVID-19 cases has upended those plans, at least temporarily. And unfortunately, DeSantis refuses to take the steps necessary to address the surge. Even worse, he’s preventing local leaders from doing what they can to protect their own communities.


Anti-vax insanity” via Charles M. Blow of The New York Times — Nothing better exemplifies the gaping political divide in this country than our embarrassing and asinine vaccine response. Trump’s scorched earth political strategy has fooled millions of Americans into flirting with death. And now thousands are once again dying for it. Almost from the beginning, efforts to combat the virus were met with disdain from a president who felt the crisis made him look bad. The science was denied. We should all have been celebrating in the streets and running to a lifesaving serum with our sleeves rolled up and a smile on our face. But not enough of us were. The public had been poisoned by partisanship. Masking was a political statement. Social distancing was a political statement. Receiving the vaccine, for far too many, was a political statement.

After a federal casino cop-out, it’s up to courts to quash Seminole gambling deal” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The feds have greenlighted the gambling deal between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. Now, the best chance of overturning this compact and restoring the state’s constitutional order rests with the courts. After a 45-day review, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has the say over gambling deals between states and tribes, allowed the compact to go forward without explicitly approving it. And yet, the approval also did not explicitly or implicitly address the hard truth that the deal between Florida and the Seminole Tribe has every appearance of violating the Florida Constitution.

Melanie Brown-Woofter: Addressing mental health on a national stage” via Florida Politics — Most recently, champion gymnast Simone Biles put her mental wellness first during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and publicly spoke out about her mental health. As a clinical nurse and president and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA), I thank anyone who has ever spoken out about his or her mental health. Because of superstars like Biles, the conversation on mental health and wellness is now on the national stage. If you or a loved one is suffering from mental health issues or substance use disorders, there are trained mental health and substance use professionals in your area. You can find our members’ crisis lines on the FBHA website at The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.


Democrats in the House are urging school boards to ignore the Governor’s ban on school mask mandates and stand up for student safety. But DeSantis says parents need to make that decision … not school boards and superintendents.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Are there limits when your choice affects other children?

— Meanwhile, more school districts say they will ignore the Governor’s orders against mask mandates. The latest is Broward County.

— DeSantis and the CDC are disputing some new case numbers, and the result could be the resumption of daily COVID-19 reports by the Florida Department of Health.

— The Governor starts handing out bonus checks to law enforcement.

— And finally, a Florida man got lost on a golf cart. He was searching for a Chili’s but ended up in jail.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Apple readies new iPhones with pro-focused camera, video updates” via Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — Apple’s next iPhone lineup will get at least three major new camera and video-recording features, which the company is betting will be key enticements to upgrade from earlier models. The new handsets will include a video version of the phone’s Portrait mode feature, the ability to record video in a higher-quality format called ProRes, and a new filters-like system that improves the look and colors of photos. The camera features are seen as some of the biggest selling points for the iPhone 12’s successor, which is expected to be sold in the next several weeks. Beyond the camera enhancements, the new iPhones will get relatively modest upgrades.

The new iPhone camera gets a significant upgrade.

Getting bigger: Bitcoin 2022 conference to be held at Miami Beach Convention Center” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — The Miami Beach Convention Center will host next year’s annual Bitcoin Conference to accommodate the thousands of guests expected to celebrate cryptocurrencies. In April, this year’s conference, held at the Mana Wynwood convention space, drew at least 12,000. The Beach space’s main hall is about five times the size of Mana Wynwood’s. “The Miami Beach Convention Center is the perfect place to host next year’s Bitcoin Conference,” David Bailey, CEO of BTC Inc., said in a statement. “It will be bigger and better than ever, and we expect Bitcoin 2022 to be our most successful event yet.” No information was immediately available about next year’s speaker lineup.

Goodbye Tropical Park, Santa’s Enchanted Forest is moving” via Veronica Crespo of WPLG Local 10 News — From Westchester to now, Hialeah, Santa’s Enchanted Forest has found a new home for the 2021 holiday season. According to the event website, Miami’s beloved Christmas theme park that lit up parts of Tropical Park along the Palmetto Expressway for nearly 40 years is set to reopen at Hialeah Park. In 1984, the owners of Santa’s Enchanted Forest began leasing the land from Miami-Dade County. That agreement expired in March of 2020. Park management said more than one million people visited Santa’s Enchanted Forest each year. Guests can expect to see many of the same vendors, millions of new lights, and more than 100 rides at its new space.


Celebrating today are Brice Barnes, CBS’s Jim DeFedeChris Hart IV and Matt Surrency.


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.


  • Tom

    August 11, 2021 at 7:48 am

    Governor DeSantis, America’s Governor stands on Angels wings compared to Democrats Cuomo, Newsom and Northam. Governors of New York, California and Virginia respectively.
    Cuomo resigned after 13 accusers of fondling.
    $5 million Covid book deal while over 15,000 seniors took ill per order to return to nursing homes. New York’s economy may never return.
    Newsom decimated California’s economy , people with lockdowns and faces defeat in recall in Sept. Northam has been scandalized with black face. You can’t make it up. Meanwhile CDC in coordination with WH and Nikki Fraud misleads on Covid infections. Lastly, Governor provides bonuses to first responders.
    As I said America’s Governor on Angels wings compared to those three. Florida is fortunate to have this good and decent Governor and wonderful family. God Bless them

  • Alice Wiggins

    August 11, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Hi, Peter. If you are back at work that must mean your wife is feeling better. I’m glad if that is the case.

  • Derek Logue

    August 15, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Lauren Book is desperate to make folks forget she betrayed the Parkland shooting victims. Seems the only thing she is really good at is begging for money. She should step down like Cuomo did.

Comments are closed.


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