Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.12.21

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning. Let’s start with two first-in-Sunburn personnel notes.

Metz Husband & Daughton has brought on Karl Rasmussen as a senior policy adviser, the firm announced Wednesday.

Rasmussen has been a part of The Process for over a decade, specializing in environment, insurance, gaming, health care, construction, technology and energy issues. He has lobbying experience in both the executive and legislative branches and has scored funding and rule-making wins for numerous clients.

Karl Rasmussen brings talent and experience to Metz Husband & Daughton.

Before entering the private sector, Rasmussen spent seven years working in state government, culminating in a three-year stint as deputy chief of staff in the administration of then-Gov. Rick Scott. The position saw him develop policy positions, legislative priorities and recommendations to the Governor, focusing on health care and environmental issues.

“We’re excited to have Karl join our team and are looking forward to working with him,” MHD President Jim Daughton said. “Karl’s experience working inside state government as well as in the private sector will no doubt lend itself well to our firm and our clients. He has a depth of knowledge about both policy issues and the political process, that combined with his strong work ethic, will be a true asset for MHD.”

Rasmussen added, “MHD has a great reputation, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the MHD team. So, when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of this incredibly hardworking and professional team, I knew it was the right step in my career to continue to grow and support such great clients with MHD.”

Rasmussen joins a team that includes named partners Stephen Metz, Warren Husband and Daughton as well as Douglas Bell, Patricia Greene, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Andy Palmer and Allison Liby-Schoonover.


Dr. Lonna Rae Atkeson is now the director of The LeRoy Collins Institute.

Atkeson is a renowned expert on election science and administration, survey research, public policy, voting rights, state politics, public opinion and political behavior.

She comes to the Institute from the University of New Mexico, where she was a political-science professor and regents lecturer. She succeeds Dr. Carol S. Weissert, who retired at the end of July after serving as the Institute’s director for 14 years.

The LeRoy Collins Institute, located on Florida State University campus, studies and promotes policy solutions to issues facing Florida and the United States.

Congratulations to Lonna Rae Atkeson, newly named director of the LeRoy Collins Institute.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Dr. Atkeson as our new director,” said Lester Abberger, the LeRoy Collins Institute chair. “As a scholar and expert on public policy and elections, Dr. Atkeson is uniquely positioned to lead the Institute into the future.”

Atkeson earned plaudits for her public policy work in New Mexico and served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and various private companies.

Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, the Thornburg Foundation, the New Mexico Department of Transportation, the New Mexico Secretary of State, and Bernalillo County, New Mexico.

“Dr. Atkeson’s experience throughout her career and her knowledge of policy and research make her an ideal fit for the Institute,” Weissert said. “We are honored to have her join us and look forward to her tenure leading the organization through an interesting period in our nation’s political life.”


@SteveLemongello: (Ron) DeSantis now doing his 5th event in 2 days, handing out (federal) bonus checks to first responders & teachers. Praise from local officials, etc. If not for media Qs (one Jax reporter said he just came back from an overwhelmed hospital), you’d think everything was normal in FL

Tweet, tweet:

@Amy_Hollyfield: Day 2 of school and the first #COVID19 case is in for my kid’s high school #Florida

Tweet, tweet:

@PatSajak: I want to welcome Mike Richards to @Jeopardy. He thinks I’m a really good host, so he is obviously a man of taste and good judgment. (A reminder to Mike that the Game Show Host Association meets on Wednesdays at the Oxnard iHop.)

Tweet, tweet:


Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 6; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 12; Boise vs. UCF — 21; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 22; Notre Dame at FSU — 24; NFL regular season begins — 28; Bucs home opener — 28; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 33; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 33; Alabama at UF — 37; Dolphins home opener — 38; Jaguars home opener — 38; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 39; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 43; ‘Dune’ premieres — 50; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 50; MLB regular season ends — 52; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 57; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 75; World Series Game 1 — 76; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 76; Georgia at UF — 79; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 82; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 82; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 87; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 88; Miami at FSU — 93; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 99; FSU vs. UF — 107; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 111; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 120; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 127; NFL season ends — 150; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 152; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 152; NFL playoffs begin — 153; Super Bowl LVI — 185; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 225; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 269; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 294; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 330; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 342; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 421; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 456.


Think Florida’s latest COVID-19 surge has been bad? This UF model says it hasn’t peaked yet” via Danielle Ivanov of The Gainesville Sun — Florida hasn’t yet hit the peak of the ongoing COVID-19 delta variant surge, according to projections from University of Florida epidemiologists. Data and estimates from the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute show the delta wave capping around mid to late August, with infection rates reaching 40% higher than its last confirmed rate. The model assumes no substantial changes are made to flatten the curve, such as mandating masks. The published model does not include school reopenings, but that when added, the projected peak increases about 7%.

Delta doesn’t look good for Florida. Image via UF.


White House seizes an opportunity to whack Ron DeSantis” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — For the past two weeks, Biden and his allies have publicly escalated a war of words and with DeSantis on Twitter, in speeches by the president and in White House press briefings. Biden advisers see DeSantis — who has defiantly fought mask mandates as infections and hospitalizations skyrocketed in the battleground state — as a foil to a president whose strength is his empathetic style and safety-first response to coronavirus that helped him defeat DeSantis’ benefactor, President Trump, nine months ago. Amid the Covid explosion, DeSantis’ constant criticisms as well as his controversial policies and a barrage of media questions about the governor, White House advisers say Biden and the team had no choice but to take on the Republican. But the president has seldom gone to such lengths to train so much fire on a critic other than Trump.

24,753 new cases — state breaks record for third time this week” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida — which makes up about 6.5% of the U.S. population, accounted for 18.7% of the country’s new cases on Tuesday — based on data the state is reporting to the CDC. As of Aug. 10, the state’s seven-day moving average of new cases was 21,156, up from a moving average of 3,701 on July 10. That number represents roughly a 472% increase, stemming from the highly contagious delta variant. On Wednesday, the state also reported four new deaths the day before. In all, Florida has recorded at least 2,806,813 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide and 40,182 deaths, according to the CDC. The CDC reports that every county’s level of community transmission is high.

Florida keeps breaking COVID-19 records.

Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations keep rising, ICU patients over 3,100, federal HHS says” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Most hospitalization numbers related to COVID-19 patients in Florida continued rising, both in gross numbers and percentages. The state reset its record for current COVID-19 hospitalizations for the 11th consecutive day, this time at 15,449, an increase of 280 over Tuesday’s report. That accounts for 28% of all hospitalizations among the 232 hospitals reporting. As for patients per hospital reporting, that’s now at 66.6, a slight edge up from Tuesday’s 65.7. The intensive care units at those hospitals have 3,114 COVID-19 patients, the HHS said, 54 more than Tuesday. That’s 47.6% of all ICU patients in reporting Florida facilities. The ICU patients per hospital edged from 13.2 to 13.4.

Florida requested ventilators from the federal government. But there’s no shortage.” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The federal Department of Health and Human Services has sent 200 ventilators, and 100 high-flow nasal oxygen kits to Florida as hospitals deal with an unprecedented flood of COVID-19 patients. The federal government said it shipped the equipment after receiving a request to do so from Florida. But as with many issues surrounding the pandemic these days, the request for the emergency materials was not without political drama. This week, the White House and the DeSantis administration had another brief back-and-forth about the coronavirus emergency. On Tuesday, at a news conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis said he was unaware of the request for more materials.

Nikki Fried mounts economic case against Ron DeSantis’ COVID-19 policies” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Fried mounted an economic case Wednesday against DeSantis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at the Capitol, Fried charged DeSantis with prioritizing political ambitions over the state’s economy and physical health. The fallout, she warned, is dire. Fried reported a nearly 40% increase in teacher shortages across the state since August. The total, per the survey, accounts for nearly 5,000 teaching vacancies and 3,700 staff positions. Fried and the FEA laid blame, in part, to a resurging pandemic and the ongoing controversy over masks.

Nikki Fried keeps hammering away at Ron DeSantis; this time on the economics of COVID-19.

Assignment editorsFried will provide an update on COVID-19 and a review of updated mask guidance from the CDC, 2 p.m., the Cabinet Room. RSVP to [email protected].

Florida vaccinations climb during delta surge, but half the state is still unvaccinated” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida is setting records for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. The highly contagious delta variant spreads through the Sunshine State faster than ever seen before in the pandemic. But there’s one Florida COVID-19 metric finally moving in the right direction: More people are getting vaccinated after a sharp decline. According to the CDC, more than 340,000 Floridians got their first dose of protection against the coronavirus in the past week. It’s the highest weekly total since mid-May and marks the reversal of a four-month decline in vaccination rates around the state.

Florida officials alarmed by drop in childhood immunizations” via the Tribune News Service — The statewide vaccination rate for children between 24 and 35 months old who rely on county health departments was 79.3% in 2021, a drop from 93.4% the year before, an analysis of vaccination records conducted by the Florida Department of Health shows. Meanwhile, the statewide vaccination rate for 1-year-old children was 67%, down from 73% the previous year. Carina Blackmore, director of DOH’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, in a June 4 memorandum, attributed the declines to the impact of measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. The virus caused licensed day care centers to close and parents to seek telehealth services instead of in-person appointments.

‘It’s a real terrible sort of scenario’: Sarasota Memorial doctor discusses COVID-19 surge” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Dr. Joseph Seaman hears the vaccine regrets regularly. “Numerous” times in recent weeks at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where Seaman works, COVID-19 patients and their families have expressed remorse about decisions not to get vaccinated. “I’ve had multiple situations in the past month where a loved one said: ‘I told them to get the vaccine, I kept pushing them, maybe I didn’t push them hard enough,’” Seaman said. “And I’ve had a couple sad situations where people were told not to get the vaccine and they succumbed to the illness, and that’s really sad.”

Ron DeSantis confronts growing resistance over COVID-19 handling” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — Officials in a handful of Florida school districts are moving to flout DeSantis’s July 30 executive order banning schools from requiring students to wear face masks, even as his administration threatens to withhold pay to superintendents and school board members who defy his orders. At the same time, a federal judge delivered a blow this week to the governor’s efforts to prevent cruise operators from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination, ruling in favor of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of the ban.


Hospitals overcapacity as COVID-19 cases swamp Brevard admissions and emergency rooms” via Dave Berman, Rick Neale, Britt Kennerly, Amira Sweilem of Florida Today — As COVID-19 patient counts continue to soar in Brevard County, some in the medical and emergency management sectors paint an increasingly dire picture of the situation. All three hospital systems in the county are over capacity, and are continuing to deal with a strong surge in patients, Brevard County Emergency Management Director John Scott said. Brevard County Communications Director Don Walker said county officials are now working with the hospital systems to identify potential sites outside the hospitals to house patients, should the surge reach a level at which they run out of space and can no longer handle the patient counts.

Hospitals are reaching the breaking point with new COVID-19 admissions. Image via AP.

Broward Schools must reverse mask mandate or risk ‘sanctions,’ Ed. Commissioner says” via Michelle Marchante and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Broward school leaders have until Friday to tell Florida if they intend to comply with state rules on mask mandates that call for an opt-out option for parents who don’t want their kids to wear one. Broward’s mandate doesn’t have an opt-out option. If the district doesn’t change its mask-requirement policy, the state could invoke “sanctions,” including withholding the salaries of the superintendent and School Board members, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran warned in a letter. The letter was sent to Broward Schools Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood late Tuesday.

State hits back at Broward Schools over masks” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Education Commissioner Corcoran has issued a letter threatening to withhold money from the Broward School Board if they don’t reverse their decision to require all students to wear masks. The letter says the district has until Friday to state how it plans to adhere to a Governor’s order and state Department of Health rule, requiring that masks be optional for students. School Board Chair Osgood said the board will respond but has no plans to comply. “I am willing to get into Good Trouble to save lives,” Osgood said in a text. “I am willing to make a personal financial sacrifice to do what is morally right.”

School mask debate on social media heating up in Pinellas County” via Chip Osowski of WFLA — Parents of school-age children in Pinellas County are still debating whether masks should be required in school. Many are posting on the Pinellas County School District’s Facebook page. Some believe that there should be a mandate in place due to the spike in COVID-19 cases we’ve seen recently. Others post praise on the School District’s Facebook page, thanking district officials for not making it a requirement. School Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego says safety is the district’s main concern.

—“Escambia County parents hope for ‘normal year’ with fewer COVID-19 restrictions in schools” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal

—“COVID-19 in Leon County: School system will resume dashboard; 194 hospitalized locally” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat

—“Class is in session: Walton County schools leave COVID-19 precautions up to parents” via Jim Thompson of Northwest Florida Daily News

Monroe County School District implements mask mandate for start of school year” via Amanda Batchelor of WPLG Local 10 News — As students get ready to return to class Thursday in Monroe County, the School District has informed parents and staff members that they are implementing a mask mandate for at least the next two weeks. Students and faculty must wear masks while on school grounds and while traveling on school buses. According to a notice posted on the district’s website, the district will follow the state’s requirement to allow parents the choice to opt-out of having their children wear face masks if they choose to. “The status of the virus will be reexamined on August 24 and every School Board meeting thereafter,” the notice stated.

New first-day experience: Letter home warning of COVID-19 positive person at school” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — Before the sun rose on the second day of school in Palm Beach County, letters alerting parents to positive COVID-19 cases on campus had begun to roll out of at least four front offices, including notices from Jupiter Farms Elementary, Watson B. Duncan and Christa McAuliffe middle schools and Olympic Heights High. And according to the District’s relaunched COVID-19 dashboard, at least three more letters from Day One will be coming. The alert from Jupiter Farms went out Tuesday after school officials were notified that someone attending the school’s meet-and-greet Friday has tested positive for the virus, according to the letter from Principal Suzanne Matuella.

The first day of school is hectic enough. COVID-19 adds to the chaos. Image via AP.

FIU ‘strongly advises’ but will not require masks on campus” via Veronica Crespo of WPLG Local 10 News — Florida International University released guidance about curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus for the upcoming semester, in a message to students on Wednesday. When it comes to face coverings on campus, President Mark Rosenberg released the following statement: “Effective immediately and in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, we strongly advise all students, faculty, staff, visitors and vendors to wear a face-covering at all times while indoors at any FIU facility, regardless of your vaccination status.” The communication went on to list availability and information for on-campus vaccine appointments. Meanwhile, The University of Florida is not recommending masks indoors on campus and has said quote “they are expected to be worn.”

Parents, students hold rally in Miami in support of mask mandates at schools” via Hatzel Vela, Saira Anwer and Amanda Batchelor of WPLG Local 10 News — While a Miami-Dade County School District committee met in downtown Miami Wednesday, a rally was held outside in support of students and staff members wearing face coverings in class. “Just asking to keep them safe,” said parent Alberto Calvo. “I think it’s common sense.” In favor of a mask mandate, parents and students staged the peaceful demonstration outside of the School District’s administration building. “I want them to be protected and myself too,” one young boy said. Parents explained why they’re advocating for their children’s health. “His mask is protecting other children, and other children’s masks will protect him, and if we’re not all on the same page on this, some kids are going to get sick,” Rebecca Covey said.

Pensacola won’t issue new permits for indoor events through Sept. 15 as COVID-19 surges” via the Pensacola News Journal — The new restrictions, which the city of Pensacola announced in a news release Wednesday afternoon, will remain in effect through Sept. 15, at which point they will be re-evaluated based on current COVID-19 conditions. Events that have already been issued a permit or events currently in the permitting process between now and Sept. 15 will be allowed at outdoor city venues. The new restrictions only apply to city-permitted events at city venues and do not apply to private events. The city will work with event organizers to reschedule events as needed, according to the release.

City of Tampa now requires employees to show proof of vaccination to go mask-free” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — The city’s order requires city employees to prove their vaccination status to Human Resources before they get their buttons and wristbands. The city isn’t mandating vaccinations, but it requires employees who aren’t vaccinated to wear masks when inside a city vehicle with another person, moving through common space in office settings and when social distancing isn’t possible. So far, Mayor Jane Castor said, the reaction has been positive from city employees with high levels of compliance. And, she said, the city’s three main unions representing firefighters, police officers and mostly blue-collar city workers are on board. Although she didn’t have data available Wednesday afternoon, Castor said quarantines and infection rates of city workers are trending downward.

Jacksonville hospitals’ COVID-19 cases fluctuate as surge continues statewide” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — For the first time in weeks, two of the Jacksonville-area hospital systems that are releasing daily COVID-19 patient counts reported lower numbers Wednesday than the day before. And the third system reported the same number of patients hospitalized with the virus as the day before. In Jacksonville, Baptist Health reported 582 COVID-19 patients at its five hospitals on Wednesday, the same number they reported Tuesday. Of that total, 118 were in intensive care. Ascension St. Vincent’s three local hospitals reported 418 patients with COVID-19, a decrease of 14 since Tuesday. UF Jacksonville reported 257 COVID-19 patients at its two local hospitals, including 61 in intensive care. That’s 11 fewer patients than the 257 reported Tuesday.

The Jacksonville hospital system sees a roller-coaster in the latest delta surge. Image via NBC News.

Okaloosa sees ‘extraordinary’ number of COVID-19 cases filling up Okaloosa hospital beds, ICU” via Tom McLaughlin and Jim Thompson of Northwest Florida Daily News — The 181 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday in Okaloosa County are occupying 53.2% of all beds in the county’s three acute care facilities, according to Health Department Director Dr. Karen Chapman. “It’s the highest (number) we have ever seen,” Chapman said in an addendum to her weekly coronavirus report. Additionally, 30 patients with COVID-19 occupied the 60 ICU beds available countywide Tuesday, and 16 COVID-19 patients are presently relying on ventilators. “It is extraordinary to see so many beds overall and in the ICU occupied by patients with one disease cause,” Chapman wrote. Among the hospitalized, 94% are unvaccinated, 12% are people between the ages of 18-44, and 40% range in age from 45 to 64.

Lost to COVID-19: Ex-Lake Worth Beach Mayor developed Scholars for Dollars chapter” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Whenever David Cantley found himself in a financial pinch during his 19 years as principal at Lake Worth High School, there was one alumnus always ready to answer his call. Dennis Dorsey, a class of 1953 graduate who served as Mayor and City Commissioner in Lake Worth Beach, made a small fortune in the funeral home business after graduating from his alma mater. “He was successful, and he gave back a lot — very, very generous with his money,” said Cantley, the school’s principal from 1980-99. ” I was always needing money for something, and Dennis always came through. He never turned me down on anything.” Dorsey, 87, died Aug. 2 after contracting COVID-19.

Conservative radio host and vaccine critic dies of COVID-19 complications” via Adela Suliman and Paulina Villegas of The Washington Post — A conservative radio host in Florida who vehemently criticized the coronavirus vaccine has died of complications following COVID-19, his fiancee and life-partner Kittie Farley confirmed Monday. On Aug. 4, Farrel Austin Levitt, publicly known as Dick Farrel, died of “severe damage” caused by COVID-19, Farley said. He was 65. Farrel, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, had said on his Facebook page the inoculations had been “promoted by people who lied [to you] all along about masks, where the virus came from, and the death toll.”


Tropical Storm Fred could hug Florida coast this weekend” via Joe Mario Pedersen, Richard Tribou and Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — The eye of Tropical Storm Fred is passing over the Dominican Republic Wednesday afternoon while forecasts still have it targeting Florida this weekend, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. update. The season’s sixth named storm is 75 miles west-northwest of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds dropping to 40 mph, down from 45 mph earlier today. The system is moving west-northwest at 15 mph with tropical-storm-force winds extending out 60 miles. Its forward speed is expected to slow in the next couple of days.

Will Fred hit Florida? It’s still in the cone.

‘DeSantis presents teacher bonuses in St. Pete” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis appeared at Lakewood Elementary School to promote $1,000 bonus checks that will start hitting the bank accounts of all full-time teachers and principals statewide. Part of an initiative to improve teacher compensation, the bonus checks cost $216 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars allocated in the 2021-22 state budget. It’s part of an initiative to improve teacher pay, which in 2020 included $500 million to increase salaries for new and veteran teachers, with an additional $50 million added in 2021. The bonuses are intended to show appreciation to educators for working throughout the pandemic.

Assignment editors — Sen. Randolph Bracy will unveil a new workforce development proposal for the 2022 Legislative Session. Orange County School Board Member Vicki-Elaine Felder will also attend, 10:30 a.m., Orange Technical College Mid-Florida Campus, 800 Building, 2900 W. Oak Road, Orlando.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

James Daughton, Warren Husband, Douglas Bell, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Andrew Palmer, Karl Rasmussen, Metz Husband & Daughton: Age of Learning, South West Florida Enterprises

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: The Able Trust

Bill Rubin, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Independent Living Systems

Zach Sherman: Lockheed Martin Corp.

— 2022 —

Lincoln Project attacks DeSantis, Greg Abbott for ‘jeopardizing’ students” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Lincoln Project is attacking DeSantis for his prohibition on mask mandates in schools with its latest ad. In the ad, the prominent “Never Trump” organization led by Republican operatives set its sights on DeSantis and Texas Republican Gov. Abbott. The ads show masked children in school before cutting to a video of a child receiving chest physiotherapy, a medical technique to help clear the lungs. “This is where your child should be this fall,” the ad begins showing kids in school. DeSantis and Abbott have let Trump‘s “reckless base dictate their COVID-19 policies,” the Lincoln Project says. With several schools starting classes this week in Florida, they’re pointing to children.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Republicans are seizing on backlash to new mask and vaccine mandates” via Melanie Zanona of CNN — As Republicans head back to their districts for the August recess, they are hammering the CDC and seizing on the backlash to new mask and vaccine mandates, part of a GOP-wide effort to use the fears and frustrations of Americans worried about another round of school closures and lockdowns as cudgels against their Democratic opponents Those were the dominant themes of a House GOP news conference right before the summer break, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy continued to beat that drum, firing off a new letter to the Capitol physician and saying in a separate statement that President Joe Biden has “threatened a return to lockdowns and government-mandated restrictions for American citizens.”

New census data expected to reveal a more diverse America” via Nicholas Riccardi and Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — New data from the Census Bureau due to be released Thursday will map the scope of that demographic transformation over the last decade. The numbers are expected to show that dozens of counties across 18 states, largely in the South and Southwest, are now less than 50% white, and no racial or ethnic group makes up a majority. The non-Hispanic white population is expected to shrink for the first census on record. The estimates suggest that about 113 million people now live in a plurality county. The census figures will make plain the impact of expanding diversity: Virtually all population growth in the U.S. is among people of color, groups long viewed as racial or ethnic minorities. But when there is no majority, that label is increasing out of date.

High stakes redistricting process to start. Will Florida redeem bruised reputation?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The once-a-decade process of redrawing political boundaries to adjust for population growth officially begins Thursday as the U.S. Census Bureau releases detailed results from the 2020 Census, providing the shotgun start to what has traditionally been one of the most politically charged battles in Florida’s capital city. The numbers in the redistricting data file will become the foundation for the Florida Legislature, and local cities and counties, to redraw their political districts. It’s an important task because it can influence who gets elected, how well various communities often left out of the political process are represented, and how federal funds are allocated.

Black Floridians still have low COVID-19 vaccination rates. Community leaders hope to change that.” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — COVID-19 vaccination rates still lag in Black communities throughout Florida as the delta variant brings cases to new heights, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found last week. As of Aug. 2, 28% of Black Florida residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine compared to 52% of white Florida residents. About 9% of vaccinations go to Black people even though they make up 15% of the population and 15% of cases.

Gun reform activist Maxwell Frost announces run for Congress to succeed Val Demings” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Former ACLU staffer and March For Our Lives activist Frost of Orlando is the latest candidate to announce a bid to succeed Demings in her western Orange County congressional district next year. “When I’m elected to Congress, I’ll be among the first members of my generation, Generation Z,” said Frost, 24, who would meet the constitutional age requirement of 25 by the time the term would start in 2023. “I am an Afro-Cuban, born and raised in the district and someone who has been doing work on the ground for a while.”

Nick DiCeglie raises $42K in July, $25K from The Villages” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rep. DiCeglie raised more than $40,000 in July for his bid to succeed Sen. Jeff Brandes, including a $25,000 drop from the well-known retirement community, The Villages. DiCeglie raised $42,570 between his campaign and the affiliated political committee, Economic Freedom Committee. DiCeglie’s raised $3,570 last month for his official campaign, and his committee brought in $39,000 in the same period. With the added money from his committee, DiCeglie outraised Democratic opponent Eunic Ortiz, whose campaign collected $6,388 in July. DiCeglie’s campaign reported 10 donors in July, including two donations worth $1,000 from property management company First Service Residential Florida and the ABC of Florida PAC.

Ileana Garcia banks $32K in July, mostly from builders” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Garcia banked $32,000 last month to defend her District 37 seat in 2022. The haul brings her campaign war chest to over $183,000 more than a year from an election in which she has no opponents so far. Garcia’s campaign has nearly $70,000 to spend, up $10,500 from June. Her political committee, No More Socialism, has more than $113,000, thanks to $21,500 in July donations. More than two-thirds of her donations came from South Florida’s booming home construction industry and two of the state’s most prominent lobbyists.

Ileana Garcia makes some solid bank.

Annette Taddeo adds $35K to reelection bid in grassroots push” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Taddeo’s reelection campaign gained more than $34,500 last month through a blend of individual gifts and organization donations. Taddeo now has nearly $149,000 in cash ahead of an election more than a year away and in a District 40 race in which she currently has no challenger, and her haul last month marked the third-largest monthly uptick since she launched her reelection campaign in May 2019. Taddeo’s lean into grassroots fundraising is consistent with her past critiques and actions against political dark money.

Shane Abbott reels in another $40K in race to succeed Brad Drake” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Abbott built on his fundraising lead in the Republican Primary to succeed Rep. Drake in House District 5, new finance reports show. Abbott pulled in more than $40,000. His total includes $25,270 in hard money and another $16,500 raised through his affiliated political committee, Prescription for Florida’s Prosperity. “I am beyond thankful for the tremendous support and good faith shown to myself, my family, and our conservative, America First campaign,” Abbott said. The campaign report lists 60 contributions, including 18 checks for $1,000. About half the maxed-out checks were written by individual pharmacists and pharmacy managers.

Panama City Mayor backs Griff Griffitts for HD 6” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Bay County Commissioner Griffitts landed an endorsement from Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki in the race for House District 6. “I am proud to endorse Griff Griffitts for State Representative because he is dedicated to his community, as we have seen in his success and determination as a County Commissioner,” Brudnicki said. “I know he will fight tirelessly for conservative values and for Bay County. We need to send Griff to the Florida House. He will make a difference for the hardworking families in our community.” The Brudnicki announcement comes a month after Griffitts said he would be rolling out a series of nods from “key community leaders” as he seeks the seat currently held by Rep. Jay Trumbull, a fellow Republican who is leaving office due to term limits.

Berny Jacques again leads HD 66 money race against Alen Tomczak” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Jacques again leads the money race in his bid for Florida House District 66 against fellow Tomczak. Jacques, a former prosecutor and an ally of Rep. Anthony Sabatini, raised nearly $15,000 in July. That includes $10,000 raised for his affiliated political committee, Florida Values Coalition, and $4,573 in hard money for his official campaign. As of the end of July, Jacques had about $77,000 on hand between his two accounts for his bid to succeed incumbent Rep. Nick DiCeglie, who is leaving office to run for the state Senate. Meanwhile, Tomczak, a technical lead at Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, took in just $3,450 for his official campaign, raising his total to $72,480 since entering the race in March.

—”Tomczak nabs veteran advocate nod from Jerry Lavely” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics

—”Jordan Leonard expands HD 100 money lead, adds nearly $21K in July” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Vivian Casals-Muñoz $10K July haul for HD 111 bid led by charter school donors” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Casals-Muñoz added $10,000 in July toward her bid for House District 111. A sizable chunk came from parties backing Florida’s school voucher program, which reroutes public money to private and charter schools. Casals-Muñoz received $1,000 from School Development HC Finance, which is managed by Ignacio Zuleta, a founder of the for-profit charter school management company Academia. Donations of $1,000 also came from him and Fernando Zuleta, whom Academia’s website refers to as the company’s founder and president.


FDA expected to authorize COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for some immunocompromised people within the next 48 hours” via Kaitlan Collins Jon Bonifield of CNN — The FDA is expected to announce within the next 48 hours that it is authorizing COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for some people who are immunocompromised. This would be a third shot of the current two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That announcement could slide, the source cautioned, but this is the current timing. “The FDA is closely monitoring data as it becomes available from studies administering an additional dose of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to immunocompromised individuals,” an FDA spokesperson said. “The agency, along with the CDC, is evaluating potential options on this issue, and will share information in the near future.”

CDC urges COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy as delta surges” via The Associated Press — The CDC urged all pregnant women Wednesday to get the COVID-19 vaccine as hospitals in hot spots around the U.S. see disturbing numbers of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus. Expectant women run a higher risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications from the coronavirus, including perhaps miscarriages and stillbirths. But their vaccination rates are low, with only about 23% having received at least one dose. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

Pregnant women need to get vaccinated, so says the CDC. Image via AP.

Children’s hospitals are swamped with COVID-19 patients and it may only get worse” via Dan Goldberg and Alice Miranda Ollstein of POLITICO — The number of kids infected with COVID-19 is soaring as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads and schools reopen, pushing children’s hospitals around the country to the brink. Nearly 1,600 kids with COVID-19 were hospitalized last week, a new seven-day record and a 27% increase from the week before. Tennessee’s health commissioner expects the state’s children’s hospitals to be full by the week’s end. Louisiana reached that point more than a week ago. And Arkansas’ only children’s hospital has just two ICU beds remaining.

—“Texas now has the fewest ICU beds available it’s had during the entire COVID-19 pandemic” via Luz Moreno-Lozano of the Austin American-Statesman

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 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 7% targeted the politicians.


GOP, industry signal fight over potential Joe Biden vaccine ‘threat’” via Rachel Roubein of POLITICO — Republicans and some industry groups are signaling they would oppose any effort from the Biden administration to use the threat of withholding federal funds to push some employers, like nursing homes and health facilities, to mandate COVID-19 vaccines. If Biden goes that route, the move would mark the first time his administration has used the power of the purse to increase vaccinations. Administration officials have struggled for months to find new ways to jump-start immunizations, and some public health experts believe this could help.

Vaccine mandates cause a rift between Joe Biden and the private sector. Image via AP.

Inflation stayed high in July as economy rebounded” via Gwynn Guilford of The Wall Street Journal — Inflation remained elevated in July as the economic recovery continued, but prices showed evidence of cooling amid pandemic-related supply problems and signs that the recent rise in coronavirus infections is starting to crimp some business activity. Consumer prices rose 5.4% in July from a year earlier, the same pace as in June, the highest 12-month rate since 2008. On a monthly basis, however, price pressures weakened. The department’s consumer-price index climbed a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in July from June.

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, the owner of the Dewey Destin’s restaurants in Florida, said he’s now paying $26 a pound for lump crabmeat — up from $11 per pound before COVID-19 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.


U.S. mask makers say they’re in danger of going broke” via Karl Evers-Hillstrom of The Hill — American face mask manufacturers are warning they will soon go broke without government support, potentially ceding domestic mask production amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Private companies and state and local governments favor Chinese masks, costing just a fraction of American-made face coverings. The lack of demand has forced mask manufacturers to lay off more than 5,000 employees, and executives say the industry won’t make it to next year unless it is thrown a lifeline.

Republicans risk becoming face of delta surge as key GOP Governors oppose anti-COVID-19 measures” via Felicia Sonmez and Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has banned local governments from implementing mask requirements. In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem welcomed hundreds of thousands of revelers to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that last year bore characteristics of a superspreader event for the virus. And DeSantis is waging war on school districts seeking to defy his executive order prohibiting mask mandates for students. They and other national and local GOP officials cast their opposition to such measures have caused fear the party is on track to make itself the face of the delta variant.

Greg Abbott risks becoming the face of the delta variant. Image via AP.

—“Gavin Newsom orders school employees to get vaccinated or be tested regularly” via Howard Blume and John Myers of The Los Angeles Times

Will COVID-19 vaccine booster shots be needed? It’s likely, experts say, but the immunocompromised should be prioritized.” via Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub of USA Today — The U.S. government is considering ways to protect roughly 10 million immunocompromised Americans who may have gotten inadequate protection from their COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA is evaluating the possible use of booster doses. Immunocompromised people, who make up about 3% of the U.S. population, are in a different category than other Americans because they may not have mounted an adequate immune response to their COVID-19 vaccinations.

U.S. sends nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Caribbean nations” via Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — The Biden administration began shipping more than 830,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to six Caribbean nations as part of its commitment to help the fight against the pandemic. The vaccine donations come on the heels of the U.S. Southern Command’s assistance to the Caribbean as part of a COVID-19 response effort that has included desperately needed field hospitals for several Caribbean countries seeing peaks in virus cases, ventilators, personal protection equipment, and oxygen generators. Doral-based Southcom has more than 90 COVID-19-related projects in the Caribbean region alone, totaling more than $18 million, with more assistance to come, said Southern Command’s commanding officer, Adm. Craig Faller.

Why so many white evangelicals are shifting from vaccine hesitance to acceptance” via Mya Jaradat of Deseret News — White evangelicals, one of the groups with the highest proportion of vaccine-hesitant and refusers, are changing their minds. In March, less than half (45%) of white evangelicals said they would get the vaccine, according to a study, with more than half saying they were either hesitant or that they would refuse to get the vaccine. But by June, those numbers had flipped, with a majority (56%) of white evangelicals falling, instead, into the “vaccine acceptance” category. Hispanic Protestants, another group below 50% acceptance in March, have also changed, going from a 43% acceptance rate to 56% in June.


Biden defies expectations. Again.” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — The Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal with 19 Republican votes. Had someone polled the White House press corps a month ago, few would have expected any bipartisan deal possible. Journalists at mainstream media outlets are creatures of habit laced with cynicism. They rarely anticipate how swiftly events can change or how dramatically the future can depart from the past. In their deep cynicism about politicians, they routinely scorn those who do not conform to their low expectations. Those tendencies help explain why the mainstream media have consistently underestimated Biden and falsely predicted the failure of his agenda.

Joe Biden again exceeds expectations. Image via AP.

The President deserves a lot of credit”: Mitch McConnell praises Biden on infrastructure bill” via Erin Doherty of Axios — McConnell credited Biden on Tuesday for his role in getting the Senate to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. It’s a rare flash of praise from the Senate Minority Leader, who has previously said that 100% of his focus is on “stopping” the Biden administration’s agenda. McConnell applauded Biden’s role in getting Democrats to support the bill and push it across the finish line. “There’s nothing to back you up like the promise of a presidential signatory if you’re in the same party as the President,” McConnell told The Wall Street Journal. “And so I think the President deserves a lot of credit for getting the Democrats open to reaching a bipartisan agreement on this bill.”

Biden struggles to find a permanent FDA chief as agency nears approval of COVID-19 vaccine” via Kaitlan Collins and Jen Christensen of CNN — The FDA is on the cusp of approving the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine without a permanent leader at the helm, and a nomination doesn’t appear to be in sight. For months, the agency at the forefront of the coronavirus response has served under the leadership of an acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, as Biden struggled to find a candidate who can win Senate confirmation. For months, Biden’s top aides have considered several possibilities for the top job, but have ultimately come up short.

White House presses Senate to move more quickly to confirm political ambassadors: ‘What is the holdup?’” via Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized the Senate for not moving more quickly to confirm Biden’s ambassadorial nominees, as only one of Biden’s political ambassadors has been confirmed more than six months after the inauguration. “We are frustrated over the slow pace of confirmations, particularly for noncontroversial nominees,” Psaki told reporters at her Wednesday afternoon news briefing. Hours earlier, the Senate confirmed Ken Salazar, the former interior secretary and senator from Colorado, as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Salazar is the first of Biden’s political ambassadors to be confirmed by the Senate.

Biden team is seeking ways to address rising energy prices” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden’s administration is moving at home and abroad to try to address concerns about rising energy prices slowing the nation’s recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday called on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to move faster to restore the global supply of petroleum, and the White House asked the FTC to investigate the domestic gasoline market for any anti-competitive behavior. The joint actions come as the administration is increasingly sensitive to rising prices across the economy as it faces both political and policy pressure from inflation. “The production cuts made during the pandemic should be reversed as the global economy recovers in order to lower prices for consumers,” Biden said Wednesday.


Accountants must give the House some of Donald Trump’s financial data, a judge rules.” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — Trump’s accounting firm must give Congress his tax and other financial records from his time in the White House, and for a longer period about his lease of a government-owned building for a hotel, a judge ruled. But in his 53-page opinion, the judge, Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, also ruled that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform was not entitled to other financial records covering years before Trump took office. The panel had issued a broad request for records dating back to 2011.

Donald Trump must turn over some tax records, a judge ruled. Image via AP.

A Trump lawyer admits you can’t believe him — again” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — We knew, on the basis of the Justice Department inspector general’s report, that Rudy Giuliani had effectively walked back his late-2016 suggestions that he might have known something about the FBI’s reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Giuliani’s comments surrounding then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement were problematic because they indicated that he, a political ally of a presidential candidate, might have received nonpublic law enforcement information about an opponent late in a campaign. Giuliani and Marc Mukasey effectively contended that Giuliani couldn’t possibly be expected to have been telling the truth.

Rudy Giuliani told agents it was OK to ‘throw a fake’ during political campaign” via Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — Giuliani’s promise of a “big surprise” to help Trump’s election in October 2016 led to Democratic accusations the FBI was feeding him secrets about an investigation of Hillary Clinton. But a newly obtained transcript shows the former New York mayor told federal agents it was OK to “throw a fake” when campaigning, to which his then-law partner added, “there’s no obligation to tell the truth.” Giuliani’s comments came in a 2018 interview with agents for the Justice Department inspector general, conducted in a room at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington.

‘We are in harm’s way’: Election officials fear for their personal safety amid torrent of false claims about voting” via Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Amy Gardner of The Washington Post — Local officials across the country are coping with an ongoing barrage of criticism and personal attacks that many fear could lead to an exodus of veteran election administrators before the next presidential race. “The complaints, the threats, the abuse, the magnitude of the pressure — it’s too much,’’ said Susan Nash, a city clerk in Livonia, Michigan. As Trump continues to promote the false notion that the 2020 White House race was tainted by fraud, there is mounting evidence that his attacks are curdling the faith that many Americans once had in their elections and taking a deep toll on the public servants who work to protect the vote.


Jan. 6 panel’s hiring of Homeland Security official draws scrutiny” via Rachael Levy of The Wall Street Journal — Joseph Maher, a senior department attorney who was recently appointed to the select committee staff, last year oversaw the department’s Office of Intelligence of Analysis. That office is tasked with monitoring social media for threats and failed to warn law-enforcement agencies of a possible assault after the office scaled back its monitoring of online chatter in the lead-up to Jan. 6. The Jan. 6 panel intends to investigate that office and others over information-sharing ahead of the assault on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. Maher’s addition to the committee staff has upset some DHS officials, who have privately called for his removal. Outside government, some are publicly calling for Maher to be removed from the committee.

Capitol riot defendant from Polk County asks judge to remove ankle monitor” via Justin Schecker of WFLA — A Polk County man arrested for his participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is asking a federal judge to remove his GPS ankle monitor, but federal prosecutors are objecting that request to change his conditions of release. Joshua Doolin was terminated from his job as a Polk County Fire EMT after his arrest on June 30. According to a court filing from Doolin’s attorney, the 23-year-old exercises about five times a week, and he reports that the ankle monitor is a “hindrance” and has caused “annoying blisters.” Doolin is charged with the misdemeanors of unlawful entry and disorderly & disruptive conduct in a restricted building.

A Capitol rioter from Polk County has a problem with his ankle monitor. Image via AP.

—“Two Virginia friends plead guilty in Jan. 6 case” via Lexi Lonas of The Hill

—“2 Seattle officers who were at Capitol on Jan. 6 are fired” via Sarah Dewberry of KXLF


Florida could get billions for infrastructure. Here’s where it could go.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida could get $16 billion-plus in projects, including investments throughout South Florida, from infrastructure legislation that moved significantly closer to becoming law Tuesday with U.S. Senate passage. Just where the money will go isn’t yet known, though some likely priorities can be deduced through a combination of educated guesswork, the overall size and shape of the measure that won Senate approval on Tuesday, and earlier infrastructure legislation passed by the House. “Florida will receive billions of dollars to repair and upgrade our highways, bridges, public transportation, drinking and wastewater systems, and broadband,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel said.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveling to Miami next week to meet with Cubans, Haitians” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Mayorkas will meet with Cuban and Haitian Americans in Miami next week, amid ongoing crises faced by both Caribbean countries, according to a White House official. The trip is part of the White House’s efforts to meet with members of the Cuban diaspora in South Florida, over a month since the July 11 anti-government protests broke out on the island, sparked by a shortage of food and medicine and a lack of access to vaccines. Dozens of protests have since taken place in Miami and throughout South Florida to protest the communist regime in Cuba.

Alejandro Mayorkas will talk with Caribbean Americans about issues facing their homelands. Image via AP.

Dems renew push on elections bill that GOP vows to block” via The Associated Press — Democrats are renewing their push to enact their marquee voting bill, pledging to make it the first order of business when the Senate returns in the fall even though they don’t have a clear strategy for overcoming steadfast Republican opposition. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his plan for floor action in September on the bill. The measure would affect virtually every aspect of the electoral process, curbing the influence of big money in politics, limiting the partisan considerations in drawing congressional districts, and expanding options for voting. Democrats acknowledge that their latest effort is doomed to fail, and that’s the point. They are looking to show that Republicans will not waver in their opposition to voting and election legislation.

Stephanie Murphy gets closer look at Little Wekiva River disaster” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Rep. Murphy toured the Little Wekiva River in west Seminole County with a group of residents to get a close look at the growing amount of sand and silt clogging and drying large areas of the once-pristine and popular waterway. In a letter to the EPA last June, Murphy called for a federal probe of the deteriorating conditions of the river and pointed out that residents and environmental advocates say the large-scale reconstruction of Interstate 4, less than a football field’s length away from the Little Wekiva, is likely a main source of the sedimentation discharging into the river.

Matt Gaetz associate providing feds intel, documents as probe into congressman continues” via Will Steakin and Katherine Faulders of ABC News — As the federal investigation into Rep. Gaetz continues into the summer, sources said Gaetz’s one-time wingman has been steadily providing information and handing over potential evidence that could implicate the Florida congressman and others in the sprawling probe. Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, as part of his ongoing cooperation with prosecutors, has provided investigators with years of Venmo and Cash App transactions and thousands of photos and videos, as well as access to personal social media accounts, sources said.


Surfside victims Mihai Radulescu, Maria Popa showed what it meant to be ‘genuine, caring’” via Julius Whigham II of the Palm Beach Post — Radulescu and his wife, Popa, were among the dozens of victims identified in the June 24 partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside. Authorities recovered their remains on July 9. Radulescu died at the age of 82. Popa was 79. Records show that the couple lived on the tower’s fourth floor. An online tribute described Radulescu and Popa as friendly and positive. “When I was at my lowest of lows and most exhausting of days, it was like they had the foresight to show up — and when they did, they picked me up,” one person wrote. “They showed me what it means to be a genuine, caring, and proud individual.”

Mihai Radulescu and Maria Popa were a caring, loving couple who died in the Surfside collapse. Image via Facebook.

Agency investigating Surfside collapse says on-site work may be done in a ‘few’ weeks” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — It may take years for the federal agency investigating the Surfside condo collapse to determine the cause of the June 24 building failure, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology now says it expects to complete all on-site sampling and testing at the Champlain Towers South condo property in the next “few weeks.” The agency, which launched its investigation on June 30, said Wednesday that investigators will study the foundation’s integrity, the strength of the materials used to support the building, and the conditions of the soil and rock below where the 12-story condo once was stood. The collapse killed 98 people in one of the deadliest building failures in the nation’s history.

Bidder offering up to $120 million for Surfside condo property. Government purchase ‘unlikely’” via David Ovalle and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — A private bidder has emerged to offer up to $120 million to buy the beachfront tract where the doomed Champlain Towers South building once stood, a development that comes as an effort for a publicly funded purchase for a future memorial site seems to have fizzled. The offer from a new, unnamed buyer was revealed Wednesday morning during the latest hearing on a slew of lawsuits over the June 24 collapse of the tower, which killed 98 people in one of the deadliest building failures in U.S. history.

Miami-Dade let repairs slip at courthouse, and decades go by without recertification” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Judge Bertila Soto has given this kind of tour for years now, a hands-on demonstration of the decay inside Miami-Dade County’s civil courthouse. In her hands at this moment: a wedge of painted plaster from a 1928 tower subject to chronic leaks and basement flooding. “You can peel off pieces of the wall,” Soto said from an emptiedout storage room on the 25th floor of the courthouse at 73 W. Flagler St. “This has been happening since 2013.” Once the centerpiece of municipal architecture in downtown Miami, with columned walls at the base and a ziggurat roof, the county’s 27-story courthouse now offers a case study in deferred maintenance and daunting deterioration.

Requiem for a landmark? Dade courthouse’s future is uncertain, but its past is glorious” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — From the beginning, it was built to be a landmark. When it opened in 1928, the Dade County Courthouse was the tallest building in the entire Southeastern United States, towering over downtown Miami as a symbol of stability for a young boom town still reeling from a devastating Cat 4 hurricane and cratering real estate market. Early on, the 28-story tower hosted what would become a string of headline-grabbing trials, starting with the nation’s most notorious gangster, Al “Scarface” Capone, beating a perjury charge in 1930. But it’s really all the other business conducted inside the ornate building that made it so vital.

Lawyers for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz want public and media barred from pretrial hearings” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — The defense team for Cruz wants a judge to hold every single future pretrial court hearing in secret, arguing that more publicity will taint future jurors. One problem: the defense’s expert, a consultant who studies the effect of publicity on jurors, admits he doesn’t think such a drastic step is necessary. “I didn’t recommend full closure,” consultant Bryan Edelman told a Broward judge during a hearing Tuesday. The Miami Herald and a host of media outlets are objecting to the defense’s request.

Deputy accused of child abuse fired from Broward Sheriff’s Office” via Nicole Lopez-Alvar and Roy Ramos of WPLG Local 10 News — A Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who had been arrested for child abuse in 2019 has officially been fired from his position. According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), former BSO Deputy Willard Miller has been terminated from the BSO after their Internal Affairs investigators investigated an incident two years ago involving a minor. According to police, Miller is accused of slamming a 15-year-old female student to the floor at Cross Creek School in Pompano Beach on Sept. 25, 2019. The incident was captured on a school surveillance video. Miller turned himself in on one third-degree felony count of child abuse without great bodily harm.

Closings: Is bribery ‘how business is done in Tallahassee’ or was J.T. Burnette ‘blowing smoke’?” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The public corruption case of businessman Burnette finally went to the jury on Wednesday, a month after his trial began at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee. Government lawyers and the defense spent nearly the entire day delivering their closing arguments. Burnette, who bought and sold the Hotel Duval before acquiring the DoubleTree Hotel, is accused of giving former City Commissioner and Mayor Scott Maddox a $100,000 bribe in exchange for his help to kill a rival downtown hotel project. He’s also charged with facilitating $40,000 in bribes to Maddox from undercover FBI agents who posed as developers looking for an “inside track” on their purported real estate projects.

Were bribes par for the course in Tallahassee?

It’s official: Amazon fulfillment center is coming to Tallahassee” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality confirmed Amazon is the company behind Project Mango, which has been confidential until now but has been one of the worst kept secrets in the capital city. Last week, the Tallahassee Democrat reported obtaining a confidential letter from a Leon County official to an Amazon economic development policy manager pledging to work with the company. Amazon plans to create up to 1,000 new jobs with a minimum starting salary of $15 per hour — the largest private-sector job creation in Tallahassee’s history. The footprint of the fulfillment center will occupy 170 acres at 6720 Mahan Drive, the north side between Interstate 10 and Thornton Road.

Happening today — Florida Power & Light offers the media tours of its solar-powered battery, touted as the largest in the world, 10 a.m., Manatee Energy Storage Center, 19052 State Road 62, Parrish.

There’s $5M on the line when Jupiter’s U.S. 1 bridge closes for replacement in spring 2023” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — If Jupiter’s U.S. 1 bridge is closed for two peak tourism seasons, the contractor replacing the aging span will lose out on $5 million. That’s the Florida Department of Transportation’s incentive to start and finish the $133 million replacement on time to avoid more traffic delays and headaches for residents and businesses during the winter months. State transportation officials last week presented the Jupiter Town Council with their plan to stop traffic on the bridge starting on March 13, 2023. That’s a year later than originally planned, according to previous reporting from The Palm Beach Post. But once the traffic detours start moving traffic to Alternate State Road A1A, so does a ticking clock.


Senate infrastructure plan a boost for Florida” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The infrastructure plan the Senate passed is a boon to Florida, a bipartisan achievement and a much-needed investment in the nation’s future. It was too bad, but entirely predictable, that Florida’s two senators could not hoist themselves from the partisan sideline to do what was best for the Sunshine State. As the bill heads to an uncertain fate in the House, congressional Democrats need to cement this victory by avoiding the temptation to overreach. The vote, 69-30, capped weeks of bipartisan negotiations, and Sen. Mitch McConnell joined 18 colleagues from his party in approving the $1 trillion package.


Living and dying with COVID-19” via Sammy Westfall of The Washington Post — The prospect of an express ticket out of the coronavirus pandemic spurred the fastest development of vaccines in human history. But disparities in access and stubborn anti-vaccine movements have meant that a world without the coronavirus looks more and more unlikely. There are nations learning to live with it. Most simply do not have that luxury. While some, including Germany and Israel, have vaccinated more than two-thirds of their populations, the entire continent of Africa has only fully vaccinated some 2% of its population. Seventeen months after the WHO declared a pandemic, the global divisions created by the no longer novel coronavirus are starker than ever.

DeSantis gives children freedom to catch COVID-19” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Because DeSantis seemed to back down just a little on school mask mandates, he then had to act as if he hadn’t backed down. In the last two weeks, reality has hammered at DeSantis’ denials about Florida, COVID-19 and children. Cases and hospitalizations have set record after record. Hospitals again are delaying elective surgeries. Florida leads the nation in pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations. A Palm Beach County pediatrician called it an “alarming rise” that has affected not just teenagers but younger children and babies. Faced with those facts, DeSantis lied. He blamed the surge on illegal immigrants and deflected blame from unvaccinated adults, otherwise known as his base.

ALEC and the FEC: Did right-wing organization violate campaign law and its own tax-exempt status?” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It’s more than coincidence when Republican legislatures throughout the nation all start singing the same right-wing marching songs, as in the frenzy to bar critical race theory from public schools that aren’t even teaching the university-level discipline. That hysteria, an outlet for pent-up racism, has been fed not just by Fox “News” but also by a spider web of mostly tax-exempt political organizations in which the American Legislative Exchange Council is arguably the most significant.

Cruise lines win. And DeSantis keeps losing — to judges enforcing conservative principles” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A judge struck down DeSantis’ attempt to ban cruise lines from asking passengers to provide vaccine proof before boarding. The judge basically ruled that companies have a right to keep their passengers safe and that government has no right to stop that. Let’s pause here for a moment. Did you really need a judge to tell you that? That legal beatdown came after another judge ruled that the governor and his lackey legislators violated the U.S. Constitution by trying to arrest citizens who donate more than $3,000 to groups pushing to get issues like medical marijuana and smaller class sizes on statewide ballots.


The battle over mask mandates in schools is getting tense. Education Commissioner Corcoran is warning Broward County schools to rescind their mask mandate or face sanctions … but the Biden administration says it will work to bypass the DeSantis administration.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— The Governor is still spinning the stats for kids who are sick with COVID-19. Despite the surge in pediatric cases, DeSantis insists that the number of kids infected with the disease is the same as last year.

— Once again, Fried is appealing to DeSantis to change his mind about masks and start talking about the surge in COVID-19 cases.

— They may not want to talk about COVID-19 right now, but DeSantis and friends have started handing out $1,000 checks to teachers … a reward for their service last year during the pandemic. So, you had Corcoran threatening to cut off funding for districts that impose mask mandates while also handing out checks to teachers who masked up last year.

— And finally, two Florida Men: One is suing Facebook over censorship, the other is nursing a head wound after trying to hide from a police dog.

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— ALOE —

This Orlando hotel room goes for $17,000 a night. Its biggest perk: Service” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — The Royal Suite on the 16th floor of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando isn’t just the largest suite in Orlando. It doesn’t earn its $17,000 per night price tag with its crystal chandelier or views of Walt Disney World. For the clients who rent it, the real allure is the service. “We’re here to anticipate the guests’ needs,” said hotel manager Greg Viaud. “We keep ahead of the game.” Viaud wouldn’t disclose guests who have stayed in the Royal, though he said they range from celebrities to CEOs and even members of royal families. Privacy is one of the main draws of the suite for these megawealthy clients, who don’t blink at the price or hesitate to pay more for extra conveniences.

Live like a prince at the Royal Suite of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and it takes a fortune.

What did Miami’s airport look like in the 1950s and ’60s? These photos will show you” via Jeff Kleinman of the Miami Herald — Some people call Miami International Airport a city. And other things, too. But it wasn’t always a maze of concourses and parking garages. Miami’s airport started as a simple airfield and grew into a simple and intimate place to fly commercial before a building boom in the 1960s through today. Yes, there was a time when you could pull right up to the terminal’s front door and park just a few steps away. Try that today, and you might just get a visit from police officers and a tow truck. Miami’s airport grew along with the surrounding metropolis.


Celebrating today are former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, former Rep. Matt Caldwell and Alex Blair.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo 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.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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