Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.23.21

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Read all about it: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

Summertime often sees a flurry of personnel moves in the world of government and politics. Let’s start the morning with an update about who’s in the Departure Lounge.

— First up in the Lounge is Fred Piccolo, the former Communications Director and spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Speaker José Oliva. Piccolo has left his position as Executive Vice Chancellor for the Florida Department of Education’s college system and is now the Communications Director at the Florida Justice Association.

Fred Piccolo makes another big move. Image via Colin Hackley.

— As first reported by POLITICO Florida, Mr. Meerkat, Matthew Mears, is leaving his position as the Department of Education’s general counsel to run the state’s Division of Early Learning.

— Another high-profile flyer in the Departure Lounge is Paige Davis. Previously a Deputy Chief of Staff to Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Davis, who was the campaign manager of Patronis’ first race, is transitioning to the Republican’s reelection campaign, where she will be an in-house fundraiser. Davis is also moving to Jacksonville to be closer to her husband, Nick Primrose.

Emily Duda Buckley, a truly generous and kind person who spent the last two years as Director Legislative Affairs at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is now a lobbyist at the Dean Mead lobbying firm, where she will rejoin former colleagues, Marc Dunbar and Chris Moya. Meanwhile, Carlos Nathan, who had served as Buckley’s deputy, has been promoted to Director.

— Smart guy Chris Emmanuel, who had been the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s primary advocate for transportation, utilities, energy, and property rights issues, is now in Chris Spencer‘s shop — the Office of Policy and Budget — DeSantis’ office. Also new to OPB are Melissa Smith and Michael Wilson, who moved over from the Florida House.

BillieAnne Gay, a fierce competitor in our TallyMadness tournaments, is exiting her position as Director of Legislative & Advocacy Services at the Florida School Boards Association. “BillieAnne has been instrumental in leading our advocacy services for the past several years and will be greatly missed,” said Andrew Messina, the Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association. We already know what Gay’s next move is, but it deserves a full write-up, so check back on that later this week.

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First in SunburnAgriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried today is announcing two promotions and a new hire in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ communications office.

Franco Ripple, who served as FDACS communications director, has been promoted to Director of Strategic Initiatives, filling the role vacated by Shahra Lambert, who recently joined the Joe Biden administration at NASA.

He previously served as vice president of CATECOMM and as an adviser to numerous gubernatorial, congressional, and statewide campaigns. He most recently served as North Florida Director on the Biden-Harris presidential campaign.

Franco Ripple gets a major promotion in the Nikki Fried orbit.

As Director of Strategic Initiatives, Ripple will continue to advise on communications while managing strategic goals, partnerships, and innovation for FDACS.

Fried also elevated Erin Moffet from Director of Federal Affairs to Director of Strategic Communications and Federal Affairs, where she will continue to oversee the federal affairs team while managing the FDACS Office of Communications.

Moffet has worked in the department since March 2019, first as deputy director of federal affairs. She previously spent nine years working in Washington for members of the Florida delegation, including former U.S. Reps. Alcee L. Hastings, Lois Frankel, Patrick Murphy and Charlie Crist.

Caroline Stonecipher is a new addition to the department. She was appointed as Deputy Director of Communications, joining the department after serving as press secretary for U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan. She has also served as press secretary for former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and as deputy press secretary for former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

In her new role, she will serve as a spokesperson and assist in the day-to-day communications functions of the department.

Ripple and Moffet began their new roles in July, and Stonecipher joined the department in early August.

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First in Sunburn — Political marketing firm MDW Communications will announce today that Andrew Dolberg will be joining their team as director of strategic initiatives.

Dolberg was the Florida Jewish vote director for Biden’s presidential campaign and most recently served as the director of outreach for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“Andrew is an incredible talent,” said Michael Worley, the president and founder of MDW communications. “We’re thrilled to have him joining our team.”

Before working as a political operative, Dolberg started an education resources company called Champion Briefs, which focused on improving speech and debate education for high school students.

Outside of his professional work, he serves as a board member for the Voter Participation Project, as the vice-chair of the City of Plantation’s Education Advisory Board, and as programs director for the Broward Jewish Democratic Caucus.

In 2019, Dolberg was named a Rising Star of Florida Politics by FloridaPolitics.com and INFLUENCE Magazine.

MDW is one of the top digital and direct mail firms for Democratic candidates and causes in Florida. It has won 25 national awards for excellence in political communications, including five Reed Awards from “Campaigns & Elections” earlier this year.

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Spotted at Florida Senate Democrats’ “Family Weekend” fundraiser at Disney World this weekend: Sens. Lauren Book, Bobby Powell, Annette Taddeo, and Vic Torres, as well as Melanie DiMuzio, Jose Gonzalez, Sean Pittman, Orlando Pryor, and Stephen Shiver.

___

Spotted throwing out the first pitch at the Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg: Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Sources close to Speaker Sprowls say his first pitch was ‘member-driven.’

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@wxdam: What a complete failure that almost half the country doesn’t think COVID is a big issue anymore. If you’re one of them, I hear you and ICU.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@Annette_Taddeo: It’s been 40 days since @GovRonDeSantis started selling anti-(Anthony) Fauci gear for his ‘24 campaign. Since then, 3,290 Floridians have died & there’s still no state of emergency in sight despite my various calls. Heck of a job there, Ron.

Tweet, tweet:

@VoteRandyFine: Despite our passing a law making this illegal, @Facebook has just de-platformed me over a post I made weeks ago against mask mandates. Bad move.

@AnnaEskamani: 1. Judge halted FL de-platforming law bcuz it’s unconstitutional; 2. You posted cellphone # of a colleague & encouraged ppl to berate her; that’s potentially against the law (HB1, you voted for it); 3. Online actions can cause mental & physical harm to others — this isn’t a game.

@KevinCate: One day, we’re all going to read books about this pandemic and still be in absolute disbelief and shock that so many refused to save their own lives or give a shit about anyone else.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

St. Petersburg Primary Election — 1; Boise vs. UCF — 10; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 11; Notre Dame at FSU — 13; NFL regular season begins — 17; Bucs home opener — 17; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 22; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 22; Alabama at UF — 26; Dolphins home opener — 27; Jaguars home opener — 27; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 28; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 39; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 39; MLB regular season ends — 40; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 44; World Series Game 1 — 57; ‘Dune’ premieres — 60; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 65; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 65; Georgia at UF — 68; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 71; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 71; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 74; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 76; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 77; Miami at FSU — 82; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 87; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 88; FSU vs. UF — 96; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 100; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 109; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 116; NFL season ends — 139; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 141; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 141; NFL playoffs begin — 145; Super Bowl LVI — 174; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 214; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 258; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 283; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 319; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 331; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 410; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 445.

— TOP STORY —

Threat to withhold school funds over mask mandates polarizes lawmakers” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Florida legislators, who control the purse strings over public education, are just as polarized over whether it is right for state officials to withhold money for violating the Governor’s executive order as they are over whether school districts can require students to wear masks. Republican lawmakers said Friday that they support Richard Corcoran’s threat to withhold money from school boards that impose mask mandates. But Democratic members of those same committees, who are the minority party in the Legislature but are a majority in most of the largest school districts, say the executive order by DeSantis violates the Florida Constitution’s provision requiring that schoolchildren be protected from harm.

Richard Corcoran’s threat to withhold money from school districts is causing a huge rift among lawmakers. Image via AP.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida adds 150,118 coronavirus cases, 1,486 deaths in past week” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida officials reported 150,118 coronavirus cases over the seven-day period from Aug. 13-19, an average of more than 21,400 infections per day. This marks the first time the state’s weekly report has recorded a reduction in cases since June 18, more than two months ago. The latest tally brings the total number of cases to 3,027,954 since the pandemic’s first two cases in Florida were reported nearly 18 months ago on March 1, 2020. The state added 1,486 deaths since the previous week’s report, a 141% increase from two weeks ago. This brings the total statewide number of pandemic deaths to 42,252.

Florida COVID-19 cases dipped slightly in the past week. Image via AP.

Florida’s COVID-19 deaths climb as children lead state in positivity rate” via Ian Hodgson and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s pandemic is getting deadlier and infecting more children. The state reported 1,486 deaths, a 141% increase from two weeks ago. And it’s the most deaths since Feb. 10, as federal data shows Florida approaching the weekly death toll last seen this past winter. In the most recent seven-day period, one out of every four COVID-19 infections recorded by the state was 19 or younger. Younger Floridians are also testing positive at a higher rate than other age groups: Children 12 and under have a positivity rate of 23%, and ages 12-19 have a positivity rate of 25%.

Ron DeSantis promotes Regeneron, a COVID-19 treatment connected to one of his largest donors” via Zac Anderson, John Kennedy and Jeffrey Schweers of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis has zeroed in on monoclonal antibody therapy as a lifeline for COVID-19 patients, holding news conferences around the state where he name-checks a specific drugmaker, Regeneron, which is a major investment for one of his largest campaign contributors. “The Regeneron, just so everybody knows, is free,” DeSantis said during an appearance at a monoclonal antibody therapy center the state opened at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. As DeSantis ramps up his reelection bid, the largest donation to his political committee this cycle is a $5 million contribution from Kenneth Griffin, the CEO of hedge fund Citadel, which owns $15.9 million in Regeneron share.

Has DeSantis muzzled Florida’s top doc? Scott Rivkees, a pediatrician, silent as kids get COVID-19” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Where in the world is Florida’s surgeon general, a pediatrician, no less, as COVID-19 numbers spike for kids in Florida? We may have trouble summoning up his face, but Dr. Rivkees was named to the top medical job in the state by DeSantis in April 2019. The doctor’s official biography on the state’s website is overflowing with pediatrics credentials: He was “professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and physician-in-chief of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.” He served as “academic chair of pediatrics at Orlando Health and pediatric chair at Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart in Pensacola.”

Florida’s peak of the delta wave could be days away, university models show” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — One model created by the University of South Florida researchers predicts the state will hit the most daily infections by Aug. 24, bringing about 23,000 that day, said Dr. Edwin Michael. Because the delta variant has infected so many unvaccinated people, and more than 66% of Floridians have been immunized, he said the state will likely hit herd immunity in early September. If immunity gained from infection proves to be long-lasting and if vaccines hold, Michael said the pandemic could end by early next year. “If immunity is long-term, this will be the last significant wave,” he said, noting “flare-ups” could still occur. “There’s a lot of caveats to this.”

COVID-19 is still a deadly threat to older Floridians” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Since the latest wave of cases started rising on June 18, Floridians ages 60 and up have accounted for 16% of infections. But they represent about half of all hospitalizations and 74% of deaths. Nearly 3,500 older adults have died of COVID-19 in Florida since the start of the fourth wave. That’s about three times the number of deaths suffered by every other age group combined. University of Florida epidemiologist Cindy Prins said there’s no way to protect one segment of the population from this level of mass infection. Hundreds of thousands of older adults haven’t received the vaccine in a state where 38% of the total population is unvaccinated.

Federal vaccination mandate for nursing homes could exacerbate staffing problems in Florida” via Karen Murphy of The Capitolist — An announcement Tuesday by Biden that all nursing home workers will be required to be vaccinated against coronavirus has added additional stress to a health care industry already suffering from an unprecedented staffing shortage. In Florida, over 90% of nursing homes are reporting serious workforce shortages. If these new regulations are added, it is feared that shortage will worsen as staff leaves nursing homes for other health care provider jobs not requiring vaccination. Biden’s intention appears to be the protection of an extremely vulnerable population from the coronavirus.

COVID-19 delta variant is hitting seniors hard, again. Image via AP.

COVID-19 shatters hopes for a safe and smooth school year” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida parents worry their kids will fall further behind, especially if they have to endure multiple weeklong quarantines. Test results showed huge drops in student achievement last year with students learning at home. “Let’s see how much school we can miss this year. Might as well home-school. I mean seriously,” said Jenn Ward, a parent at Hollywood Hills Elementary. More than 1,000 students were sent home from Palm Beach County schools only days into the school year, disturbing parents and short-circuiting their ability to recover from last year’s academic losses. School officials say the delta variant, considered far more contagious than the virus common last school year, makes it likely to increase the number of students quarantined.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Full ICUs, daily deathwatch: A look at COVID-19, unvaccinated patients in Southwest Florida hospitals” via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press — Staffers say they’re exhausted and hoped not to face yet another surge. They believe it has largely been driven by residents’ continued refusal to get vaccinated as the highly contagious delta variant spreads through the state. And too many are still dying. Medical staff said they’re exhausted and losing patience with people who still refuse to take coronavirus seriously and avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s a choice with consequences. “This particular disease requires an incredible amount of effort around infection control — it’s very labor-intensive, very tense and very draining,” said Justin Senior, CEO of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. “People are naturally going to be worn down by incredibly labor-intensive practices that are done under tense circumstances.”

Treating COVID-19 is ‘labor-intensive,’ and the unvaccinated are taxing the system. Image via AP.

At least 5 South Florida officers died from COVID-19 over the course of one week” via Melissa Alonso of CNN — In the week beginning August 14, at least five police departments in South Florida reported the deaths of law enforcement officers from COVID-19: Coral Springs Police Sergeant Patrick “Pat” Madison, Miami Beach police officer Edward Perez, West Palm Beach police officer Robert Williams, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Lazaro R. Febles and Fort Lauderdale police officer Jennifer Sepot. At least 103 law enforcement officers have lost their lives to COVID-19 in 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which counts COVID-19 as the leading cause of officer deaths this year.

Orlando urges reduced water usage as liquid oxygen used to purify water goes to COVID-19 patients” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — The city of Orlando and its water utility made an urgent appeal Friday afternoon for residents to cut back sharply on water usage for weeks because of a pandemic-triggered shortage of liquid oxygen used to purify water. If commercial and residential customers cannot reduce water usage quickly and sufficiently, Orlando Utilities Commission may issue a systemwide alert for boiling water needed for drinking and cooking. Without reductions in water usage, a boil-water alert would come within a week, utility officials said.

—“Winter Park joins Orlando in asking residents to conserve water so liquid oxygen is saved for COVID-19 patients’” via Eric Mock of My News 13

Sarasota becomes first Donald Trump county to defy DeSantis on school masks” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida — After a heated marathon meeting, Sarasota County school officials voted Friday night to require students to wear masks in schools, a blow to DeSantis that comes in a heavily Republican-leaning region of the state. By a 3-2 vote that came late Friday night, Sarasota’s board became the sixth in Florida to mandate masks and the first in a GOP county to defy state laws blocking local COVID-19 requirements. Parents and local residents showed up in droves to protest the decision, telling the board they were “disgusted” and “mad as heck” over their “medical tyranny” during a tense five-hour meeting where multiple people were kicked out for disruptions.

—”Naples physician, a champion for LGBTQ community, dies from COVID-19” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News

—“Lee Health reports first slight COVID-19 hospitalization drop in weeks while Collier cases rise” via Frank Gluck of Naples Daily News

Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna makes masks mandatory for K-8, drops opt-out option” via Tori Lynn Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — In an announcement livestreamed on Facebook from a Gilchrist Elementary School classroom, Hanna said: “The reason for this is because these children are not eligible to become vaccinated and remain the most vulnerable in our community.” Hanna said parents have until the end of this school week to complete a form signed by a physician or a licensed psychologist for their child to opt out of wearing a mask. The forms will be available on the Leon County Schools website. “I am in total favor of individual rights and freedoms and the rights of parents; however, I strongly believe that my rights end when they infringe on the rights of others,” Hanna said.

‘It’s an emergency’: Duval School Board member calls for meeting to get rid of mask opt-out provisions” via Anne Schindler of First Coast News — Just 10 days into the school year, the district is reporting 589 COVID-19 cases. According to Duval County School Board Member Darryl Willie, last year at this time, that number was 20. The data prompted Willie to call for an emergency School Board meeting to remove mask opt-out provisions and toughen COVID-19 protections. In an email, he said it is time to address “an issue that is clearly an emergency, as every day, our students and employees are becoming sick with a life-threatening virus.” As one of the first Florida districts to return to school on Aug. 10, Duval School Board members attempted to craft policies to protect students but not run afoul of DeSantis’ ban on mandatory masks.

— “Duval Schools says health department ‘hasn’t been able to keep pace’ on contact tracing, announces new strategy” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union

—”‘A tremendous loss’: St. Johns County deputy, high school resource officer dies after battle with COVID-19” via First Coast News

Pinellas parent groups demand mask mandate ahead of School Board meeting” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A coalition of Pinellas County parents and advocates are ramping up their demand for district schools to mandate masks as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The group is planning a news conference outside school district headquarters in Largo. And they intend to rally outside the School Board’s meeting before bringing their message inside for public comments. Along the way, they’ve begun sending action alerts via social media and email to thousands of supporters, urging them to press board members to join the growing number of Florida school districts imposing a mask mandate with a medical note as the only exception.

Escambia County Commissioners want better data on COVID-19 deaths” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County Commissioners want better data from the state on the number of COVID-19 deaths as the number of coronavirus hospitalizations in the area remains at all-time highs. Since the outbreak of the virus, 42,252 people have died in Florida. On Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 346 new deaths across the state. However, the state had not released a breakdown of where those deaths took place since early June and before the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus caused a huge upswing in infections. Florida Department of Health in Escambia County Administrator Marie Mott gave the County Commission an update on COVID-19 numbers and vaccination rates on Thursday.

‘Pandemic of the unvaccinated’: Here’s why Ascension requires staff vaccination” via Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast Board of Directors for Northwest Florida Daily News — We are the Board of Directors of Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast, which includes Ascension Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe, Ascension Providence in Mobile, and Ascension St. Vincent’s in Jacksonville. We truly value and appreciate our associates and medical staff, and we care about their safety. Therefore, we wholeheartedly support Ascension’s decision that all associates and medical staff members must be vaccinated against COVID-19. This decision is consistent with our mission and with the actions of an ever-increasing number of major health care systems nationwide, which are also requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all their employees.

Think DeSantis will pardon your anti-mask violation? Maybe think again.” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Despite the Governor’s promise to defend anyone cited over facial-covering rules, it turns out that’s not always the deal. You could still wind up in criminal court. This cautionary tale for anti-maskers is found in the case of a woman arrested in January after she refused to wear a mask at Einstein Bros. Bagels in West Boca, and deputies escorted her out. Cindy Falco DiCorrado turned in her DeSantis “get out of prosecution free” card, but a court on Thursday refused to accept it. Charges of misdemeanor trespass and resisting arrest continue. Palm Beach County Judge Bradley Harper ruled after the Governor’s office recently advised prosecutors that the 62-year-old Boynton Beach woman is not entitled to any breaks.

Cindy Falco DiCorrado learned the hard way that Ron DeSantis does not have your back.

FHSAA: COVID-19 cancellations will not be forfeits, playoffs revert to pre-pandemic format” via Adam Fisher of Naples Daily News — The Florida High School Athletic Association is returning to its pre-pandemic playoff formula this season, which means wins against good teams are highly coveted. However, with COVID-19 cases higher than ever in the state, an outbreak of the coronavirus could wipe games off the schedule, which could have a drastic effect on a team’s playoff standings. With that in mind, the FHSAA will not punish teams who are affected by COVID-19. The statewide organization announced Friday that schools will not have to forfeit games that are canceled due to team quarantine. The move means teams won’t have to take a loss on their records if affected by the virus.

— STATEWIDE —

AP urges DeSantis to end harassing tweets aimed at reporter” via The Associated Press — Twitter suspended the account of DeSantis’ press secretary for violating rules on “abusive behavior” after The Associated Press said her conduct led to a reporter receiving threats and other online abuse. A Twitter spokeswoman said that the DeSantis aide, Christina Pushaw, saw her account locked for 12 hours. Earlier Friday, incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham wrote to DeSantis, asking him to end Pushaw’s “harassing behavior.” AP is seeking to fight online bullying against journalists, a growing trend often triggered by public figures. “You will ban the press secretary of a democratically-elected official while allowing the Taliban to live-tweet their conquest of Afghanistan?” Pushaw said.

The AP urges Ron DeSantis to dial back the rhetoric from his press secretary. Image via AP.

DeSantis blames ‘Beltway clique’ for Afghanistan botch” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In remarks in Lakeland, the Governor castigated the “Beltway clique”: the “in-group” elites who lurched into what became a 20-year American adventure in the land often called the “graveyard of empires.” DeSantis said the policy failures ran deep in D.C. “After 20 years, there’s been a lot of failures on the political front. And there’s no accountability that I’ve seen. Has anyone been fired? Have we seen anything?” “It just seems like with our national government, if you’re part of the Beltway clique, you won’t have any consequences. As long as you’re part of the ‘in group,’ you can fail upward and keep failing upward. I think there needs to be some accountability for this.”

Florida Dems urge state to release $7 billion in COVID-19 money to schools” via Robbie Gaffney of WFSU — Florida Democrats have jumped into the fight over school mask mandates. They’ve been urging school board members and superintendents to defy DeSantis and mandate students wear face coverings indoors. But flying just under the mask fray is another issue, how the state should use billions in federal money to help schools mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The federal government has sent billions of dollars to schools across the country amid the pandemic. Districts have used that money to shore up their buildings, install new HVAC units, and hire more mental health counselors in the case of Leon County Schools.

This Florida insurance company raised rates 36%. Will regulators approve it?” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — State regulators took a hard line on a property insurance company that wants to raise rates by an average of 36% on more than 64,000 homeowners policies, the company’s second big rate hike in a year. During a Friday morning hearing, regulators grilled executives from Southern Fidelity Insurance Co., based in Tallahassee, questioning the company’s methodology, viability and reasons for wanting to raise some homeowners’ rates by more than $3,000. “We made it very clear that we’re concerned about the rating methodology this company has used for years,” said Susanne Murphy, deputy insurance commissioner for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Online sales taxes, gambling pact boost two-year Florida revenue forecast by $2.6B” via John Haughey of The Center Square — Citing anticipated revenue boosts from online sales taxes and the Seminole Tribe gambling compact, state economists say Florida lawmakers could have up to $2.6 billion more to spend than previously forecast when they convene their 2002 legislative session in January. According to projections revised Wednesday during a General Revenue Fund Revenue Estimating Conference (REC), through June, the state collected $2.4 billion more than forecast between April and June. The REC is comprised of economists from state agencies, the Governor’s Office and the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research (OEDR) who meet regularly to update economic projections.

A new Seminole Compact gives Florida’s economy a big boost. Image via Facebook.

DeSantis appoints prominent Republicans to Elections Commission, breaking year-plus delay” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The most recognizable is Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state Representative and Miami-Dade Property Appraiser who was Florida’s 19th Lieutenant Governor from 2014 to 2019 under Rick Scott. Since leaving office, he has continued to run his political committee, Helping You, which this year gave to the campaigns of Miami-Dade Judge Elisabeth Espinosa, whom DeSantis appointed in 2019. Another DeSantis appointee, Nicholas Primrose, will chair the FEC, DeSantis’ office said. Primrose served as general counsel for the administrations of both Scott and DeSantis. Lastly, DeSantis appointed retired Miami police detective Marva Preston, whom he endorsed last year in her unsuccessful campaign for Senate District 3.

— 2022 —

DeSantis’ colossal COVID-19 gamble: schools, vaccinations, masks — and his political future” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — What’s happening now with DeSantis and Florida’s struggles with COVID-19 could ultimately impact not only his political future, but the 2024 presidential contest. DeSantis has bet the house, gambling that his approach is the right one, or at least good enough to keep his supporters enthralled. The denouement may be far off, but many Floridians already have rendered their verdicts, with energized supporters and outraged foes. “I think he is more concerned about his public image than the safety of our children,” wrote Jaye DeCapua, parent of two students at Western High School in Davie.

Mask mandates, parental choice loom large in 2022” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida has never had a statewide election decided by a deadly disease. It’s maybe an overstatement to say DeSantis’ reelection depends on his handling of COVID-19 and how Democrats Crist and Fried exploit the issue against him. But there’s no doubt the pandemic is the biggest thing on the minds of millions of elderly Floridians, parents of school children, classroom teachers, and everyone else who’s been paying attention to some alarming trends. DeSantis faces a full-scale revolt by school officials in at least five big counties defying his edict that no schools may require masks. Biden said he’ll make up any state funds for counties and told recalcitrant Governors to “get out of the way” if they won’t help the feds fight COVID-19.

Masks and personal choices could be the big issues looming over the 2022 Governor’s race.

Assignment editorsCrist will join a group of parents of students with disabilities suing DeSantis and the State of Florida over the Governor’s anti-mask mandate, 10 a.m., livestreamed via Crist’s Facebook page (@CharlieCristFL). RSVP here to receive the Zoom link.

Jimmy Patronis endorses Griff Griffitts for HD 6” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Bay County Commissioner Griffitts picked up an endorsement from Patronis in the race for House District 6. HD 6 covers coastal Bay County, including Panama City, Lynn Haven and Mexico Beach. It also encompasses Panama City Beach, where Patronis is from, and where his family operates a seafood restaurant, Captain Anderson’s. Griffitts, a Republican, currently holds the District 5 seat on the County Commission. He has previously served as a commissioner on the Panama City Beach Civil Service Board, the Bay County Planning Commission, and the Bay County Tourist Development Council.

Redistricting makes for unclear battle lines in Brandon legislative race” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — One of the toughest battles for a legislative seat in the Tampa Bay area in 2022 could break out in the Brandon-based House District 59, a seat now held by first-term Democrat Andrew Learned. But who his Republican opponent might be is unclear. With redistricting about to start, District 59 looks like a prime target for the Republican-led Legislature to try to change its boundaries and flip it red. And there’s a chance they’ll have a big-name candidate, in outgoing Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White.

For your radar — “9 of 10 fastest growing districts repped by Republicans, Census data shows” via POLITICO —The eight congressional districts that grew the most over the past decade were all in either Texas or Florida, mostly centered around growing cities such as Dallas, Houston and Orlando. Districts in Utah and South Carolina rounded out the top 10. All but one of those districts are represented by Republicans — many of whom found themselves in more competitive races driven by those population changes as the last decade went on. But now Republican lawmakers in both states have the opportunity to redraw their states’ maps.

— CORONA NATION —

First U.S. COVID deaths came earlier — and in different places — than previously thought” via Harriet Blair Rowan of The Mercury News — In a significant twist that could reshape our understanding of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, death records now indicate the first COVID-related deaths in California and across the country occurred in January 2020, weeks earlier than originally thought and before officials knew the virus was circulating here. A half dozen death certificates from that month in six different states — California, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — have been quietly amended to list COVID-19 as a contributing factor, suggesting the virus’s deadly path quickly reached far beyond coastal regions that were the country’s early known hotspots.

FDA poised to grant full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine” via Lateshia Beachum, Derek Hawkins, Adela Suliman, Bryan Pietsch, María Luisa Paúl, Tyler Pager and Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — The FDA is expected to grant full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine in the coming days, according to four people with knowledge of the plans. If approved, the vaccine would be the first in the United States to receive full licensure, and it could result in private businesses issuing a new wave of vaccine mandates. Public health experts have argued that the FDA’s move to grant full approval will be a pivotal moment in the fight against the pandemic, predicting that it would ease the ability of employers to mandate that millions of holdout Americans get vaccinated.

The FDA is ready to give Pfizer the nod. Image via AP/Pfizer.

Delta variant likely to bring a fall and winter of masks, vaccine mandates, anxiety” via Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money of Yahoo News — The rise of the Delta variant has upended previous optimistic projections of herd immunity and a return to normal life, with many health experts believing mask mandates and tougher vaccine requirements will be needed in the coming months to avoid more serious coronavirus surges. The fall and winter will bring new challenges as people stay indoors more often and vaccine immunity begins to wane. The rapid spread of Delta among the unvaccinated shows that significant increases in inoculations will help stop the spread. In fact, officials are now preparing to provide booster shots to those who already got their first series of vaccinations, saying the extra dose is needed to keep people protected.

More children are hospitalized with COVID-19, and doctors fear it will get worse” via Sarah Toy and Julie Wernau of The Wall Street Journal — Hospitals in the South and Midwest say they are treating more children with COVID-19 than ever and are preparing for worse surges to come. Cases have jumped over the past six weeks as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads primarily among unvaccinated people. That is leading to more sick kids in places where community spread of the variant is high. Children under age 12 aren’t yet eligible to be vaccinated, and vaccination rates for those between 12 and 17 remain relatively low. Recent data show pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at the highest point since the agency began tracking them last year, driven by states that have been hit hard by the Delta variant.

The science of masking kids at school remains uncertain” via David Sweig of New York Magazine — At the end of May, the CDC published a notable, yet mostly ignored, large-scale study of COVID-19 transmission in American schools. A few major news outlets covered its release by briefly reiterating the study’s summary: masking then-unvaccinated teachers and improving ventilation with more fresh air were associated with a lower incidence of the virus in schools. Distancing, hybrid models, classroom barriers, HEPA filters, and, most notably, requiring student masking were each found not to have a statistically significant benefit. In other words, these measures could not be said to be effective.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of masking in schools. Image via AP.

Health worker crunch pressures states battling delta variant” via Dan Goldberg and Alice Miranda Ollstein of POLITICO — Hospitals and lawmakers are offering nurses tens of thousands of dollars in signing bonuses, rewriting job descriptions so paramedics can care for patients and pleading for federal help to beef up their crisis-fatigued health care workforces. The alarming spread of new cases is draining the pool of available health workers in ways not seen since the pandemic’s winter peak, forcing officials to improvise and tear up rules dictating who cares for whom. Governors and hospital directors warn that the staffing crisis is so acute that patients can no longer expect the level of care that might have been available six weeks ago.

How the U.S. vaccination drive came to rely on an army of consultants” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — When Gavin Newsom outsourced key components of California’s vaccine rollout to the private sector during the pandemic’s darkest days last winter, the Democratic Governor promised the changes would benefit the most vulnerable. His “No. 1” reason for handing the reins to Blue Shield of California, an Oakland-based health insurance company, was “equity” delivering vaccines to those at greatest risk, many in communities of color, he said in February. But the $15-million contract with Blue Shield, plus another $13 million for McKinsey, did not deliver on that promise.

Vaccine resistance in the military remains strong, a dilemma for Pentagon as mandate looms” via Max Hauptman of The Washington Post — The Pentagon’s effort to mandate coronavirus vaccination for all 1.3 million active-duty service members will continue to face resistance from a segment of the force, troops and observers say until military leaders devise an effective strategy for countering pervasive doubt about the pandemic’s seriousness and widespread misinformation about the shots designed to bring it under control. When Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced earlier this month that he would seek to require inoculation no later than mid-September, Pentagon data showed that thousands of personnel, about one-third of the force, remained unvaccinated.

—“Rev. Jesse Jackson, wife Jacqueline hospitalized for COVID-19” via The Associated Press

—”COVID-19 cases overwhelm the Gulf Coast, leaving region with no I.C.U. beds.” via Dan Levin and Daniel E. Slotnik

—”Georgia nursing shortage at crisis levels” via Ariel Hart and Willoughby Mariano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

—”A Texas GOP official’s COVID-19 death went viral. Then came calls for vaccination — and bitter divides.” via Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Now hiring: Inquire within” via Annie Gowen of The Washington Post — A record 10 million jobs are vacant, and many workers remain on the sidelines, making do on their unemployment benefits and pandemic relief checks, struggling to find child care, and worrying about the rapidly spreading delta variant preying on the vulnerable and vaccine-resistant. Workers wanted remote jobs and less commute, jobs shifted to industries such as warehousing that might not be nearby, and workers could afford to be choosy and hold out for higher wages during a period of historic government aid. Labor force analysts had once predicted that students’ return to classes would bring more parents back to the workplace and lessen the burden on employers, but the fast-spreading delta variant has quashed those hopes.

The pandemic has caused a shift in employment. Image via AP.

In Florida, DeSantis cut jobless aid just as virus began terrifying new wave” via Yeganeh Torbati of The Washington Post — Few political leaders have rebuffed federal economic aid and public health guidance as much as DeSantis, a presumptive 2024 presidential candidate whose political campaign sold T-shirts that read, “Don’t Fauci My Florida.” His derision of Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, and virtually any other public health expert he disagrees with has made him a conservative hero but a divisive figure in his home state, which is now leading the nation in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.

The great divide: Gap between Miami’s haves and have-nots widened during COVID-19” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — While many workers with jobs that could be performed remotely were spared from significant financial damage, many of those with lower-paying service jobs — occupations that dominate the South Florida economy — have faced hardship. It’s a trend mirrored nationally: According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 70% of the increase in household wealth in 2020 went to the top 20% of income earners — with about one-third going just to the top 1%. Even as people from wealthier parts of the country come to Miami to take advantage of its weather, lifestyle, looser COVID-19 rules, and relatively lower cost of living, existing disparities have grown worse.

— MORE CORONA —

The vaccinated are worried and scientists don’t have answers” via Kristen V. Brown and Rebecca Torrence of Bloomberg — Anecdotes tell us what the data can’t: Vaccinated people appear to be getting the coronavirus at a surprisingly high rate. But exactly how often isn’t clear, nor is it certain how likely they are to spread the virus to others. And now, there’s growing concern that vaccinated people may be more vulnerable to serious illness than previously thought. There’s a dearth of scientific studies with concrete answers, leaving public policymakers and corporate executives to formulate plans based on fragmented information. While some are renewing mask mandates or delaying office reopenings, others cite the lack of clarity to justify staying the course. It can all feel like a mess.

Uncertainty of vaccines is beginning to worry some, and scientists don’t have easy answers. Image via AP.

What Michelle Schorsch is readingCDC issues warning to not cruise to those at high-risk whether vaccinated or not” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The CDC updated its guidance Friday to warn those at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to avoid cruise ships, whether they’ve had the vaccine or not. It is a shift from the previous warning that only targeted unvaccinated travelers. “Severe illness means that a person with COVID-19 may need: hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator to help them breathe or they may even die,” according to the CDC. The updated guidance specifically warns those at high risk, including older adults, people with certain medical conditions and people who are pregnant or recently pregnant.

Stop horsing around with ivermectin to treat COVID-19, warns FDA” via Ian Fisher of Bloomberg — The FDA issued a strong and unusual warning on Saturday: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.” On Friday, Mississippi’s health department issued a warning that more than 70% of recent calls to the state’s poison center came after people took ivermectin bought at livestock supply centers. The FDA was reacting to alarms from Mississippi, the state with the worst outbreak in the U.S., that people have been taking ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. The drug is often used against parasites in livestock. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, said earlier this week he knew of only one hospitalization but was hearing reports of people taking the drug “as a preventive.”

A hospital finds an unlikely group opposing vaccination: Its workers” via Kimiko de Fretas-Tamura of The New York Times — Their movement started discreetly, just a handful of people communicating on encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal. But in just days it had ballooned tenfold. And within two weeks, it had turned into a full-blown public protest, with people waving picket signs to denounce efforts to push them to receive coronavirus vaccines. But these were not just any vaccine resisters. They were nurses, medical technicians, infection control officers and other staff who work at a hospital in Staten Island, which has the highest rate of Covid-19 infection of any borough in New York City.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden sees dip in support amid new COVID-19 cases” via Julie Pace and Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press — Biden is facing a summer slump, with Americans taking a notably less positive view of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his job approval rating ticking down. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 54% of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance, down slightly from 59% last month. While that’s still a relatively solid rating for a President during his first year in office, particularly given the nation’s deep political polarization, it’s a worrying sign for Biden as he faces the greatest domestic and foreign policy challenges of his presidency so far. The biggest warning sign for the President in the survey centers on his handling of the pandemic.

—“Biden’s job ratings decline amid COVID-19 surge, Afghanistan withdrawal in NBC News poll’” via Mark Murray of NBC News

Joe Biden sees a summer slump. Image via AP.

Four weeks in July: Inside the Biden administration’s struggle to contain the delta surge” via Annie Linskey, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Tyler Page of The Washington Post — The surge of delta cases that overran the country forced Biden and his top aides and Cabinet members to reckon with their overconfidence, which led to a host of decisions — on masks, vaccines and other pivotal issues — that had to be reversed or revised as the crisis spiraled out of control. The administration had been caught flat-footed — and then took weeks to enact a plan in an attempt to catch up. By the end of July, the White House began to take a more muscular approach to vaccinations. But these measures came only after the virus exacted a massive toll, with nearly 1.3 million new infections, 8,633 deaths and signs of a weakening economy.

Biden’s view of job comes into focus after Afghan collapse” via Jonathan Lemire and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden made up his mind about Afghanistan months, really years, ago. For more than a decade, Biden advocated for an end to American involvement in Afghanistan. But he did so as something of an outsider, a Senator whose ultimate power came from a single vote on Capitol Hill or a Vice President who advised another president. And despite the rapid collapse of the Afghan government, spurring a humanitarian crisis and searing criticism at home and from traditional allies, he was resolute, at times defiant. He took responsibility and, in turn, leveled blame at his predecessor.

Biden is betting Americans will forget about Afghanistan” via Peter Nicholas of The Atlantic — The President’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan simply aligns him with everyone else who has given up on the notion that the military could mold a fractious country into a stable democratic ally. The administration hopes that grisly images of desperate Afghans clinging to a C-17 fade, replaced by collective relief that no more Americans will die in a murky, brutal war that spanned two decades and four presidencies. Despite the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, White House officials and people close to Biden don’t foresee his decision hurting Democrats in next year’s midterm elections, nor in the presidential race that follows.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Trump booed at Alabama rally after encouraging crowd to get COVID-19 vaccine” via Christina Zhao of Newsweek — Trump was booed by his own supporters during a rally in Cullman, Alabama Saturday night after he encouraged the crowd to get vaccinated against COVID-19. “I believe totally in your freedoms, I do, you gotta do what you gotta do, but I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good,” he said, drawing boos from the crowd of supporters. “That’s OK, that’s all right,” Trump continued, brushing off the disapproval. “But I happen to take the vaccine. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be the first to know. But it is working. You do have your freedoms; you have to maintain that.”

Donald Trump’s vaccine pitch doesn’t go over well. Image via The Hill/Twitter.

‘Trump was an inspiration for me:’ Matt Gaetz tries to shift the narrative with a MAGA romance’” via Abigail Tracy of Vanity Fair — Gaetz has always worked hard to manage his image. Now that he’s under investigation for potential sex trafficking, he wants to discuss his engagement. His description of his meet-cute with Luckey sounded like Cinderella fanfic for the MAGA world, what they referred to multiple times as their “COVID-19 love story.” “For me, it was love at first sight,” he said. “For her, it took six dates.” After Kimberly Guilfoyle‘s birthday party, Gaetz continued to court fiance Ginger Luckey, inviting her to the Kentucky Derby as a pretense to continue talking. As the allegations against Gaetz started piling up, there was speculation that Luckey would break things off. But now they’re married. “Never Left. Never Leaving,” Luckey posted to social media.

In Iowa, Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene pick up where Trump left off” via Astead W. Herndon of The New York Times — Far from Washington, and even farther from their home congressional districts, Representatives Gaetz and Greene found their people. As the two Republican lawmakers spoke at an “America First” rally in Des Moines, held in an auditorium that often hosts people with presidential aspirations, up was down and misinformation was gospel. Greene denounced COVID-19 vaccines to applause. Both declared Trump the rightful winner of the 2020 election.

Barron Trump to attend exclusive school near Mar-a-Lago” via The Associated Press — Trump’s youngest son will be attending an exclusive private school not far from Mar-a-Lago. The Palm Beach Post reports that 15-year-old Trump will be attending Oxbridge Academy starting next week. Administrators at the West Palm Beach school sent an email to parents on Wednesday telling them about his arrival with the family’s permission. The school wanted to alert the parents that a small contingent of Secret Service agents will accompany Barron. Oxbridge was founded in 2011 by billionaire Bill Koch. He is the brother of Charles and the late David Koch, who ran the family’s Koch Industries.

— CRISIS —

FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated” via Mark Hosenball and Sarah N. Lynch of Reuters — The FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials. Though federal officials have arrested more than 570 alleged participants, the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of Trump. “Ninety to 95% of these are one-off cases,” said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.

There’s little evidence that The Capitol riot was preplanned.

Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt exonerated in internal probe” via Ken Dilanian and Rich Schapiro of NBC News — The Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Babbitt outside a door of the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot has been formally exonerated after an internal investigation. The officer, whose name has not been released, opened fire on Babbitt as she and a mob of other Trump supporters tried to enter the Capitol forcefully. Video of the shooting showed Babbitt in front of a crowd of rioters trying to get through a door leading to where members of Congress were being evacuated on the House side of the building.

—D.C. MATTERS —

“‘Curveballs and obstacles’ face Nancy Pelosi this week as Democrats spar over $3.5 trillion budget plan” via Tony Room of The Washington Post — House Speaker Pelosi continues to grapple with persistent political divides among her own fractious caucus. Despite wide-ranging support for some of the new spending, the party’s liberal and centrist wings remain at odds over how exactly to proceed, raising the potential for defections that Democrats simply cannot afford in a chamber where they hold only a slim advantage. The tensions have played out over what should have been a routine process to bring the budget to a final vote. Nine centrists, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, have signaled they could vote against the proposal unless Pelosi first permits a vote on a bipartisan, roughly $1.2 trillion bill to improve the country’s infrastructure. The Senate adopted both packages before departing for recess earlier this month.

Nancy Pelosi struggles to keep Democrats united. Image via AP.

— LOCAL NOTES —

The Surfside condo collapse triggered evacuations. Hundreds are still waiting to go home.” via María Luisa Paúl of The Washington Post — For some 20 years, Alcira Guarnizo lived a peaceful life in North Miami Beach’s Crestview Towers, a 156-unit condominium. The building where Guarnizo lived was the first deemed “structurally and electrically unsafe,” prompting an immediate evacuation. Nearly two months later, the complex’s over 300 residents remain displaced. Several have found refuge with relatives and friends. Since the Surfside disaster, two other buildings have been evacuated in Miami, some late at night while residents were getting ready to sleep.

The Surfside collapse forced evacuations in the neighborhood. When can they go home? Image via AP.

In St. Petersburg Mayor’s race, development dollars play major role in campaigns” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — St. Petersburg’s next mayor is going to have a large influence on the future development of this growing city, which makes it unsurprising, perhaps, that real estate companies, developers and investors have taken an active interest in the race’s front-runners. Ken Welch and Darden Rice have both brought in sizable sums from these groups, as has Robert Blackmon to a lesser extent. Thousands more have poured in through the candidates’ affiliated political committees, which don’t have the $1,000 cap on donations that campaign contributions do. Overall, Rice has amassed the largest pot of money, totaling just under $750,000 through her campaign and political committee.

Woman arrested after fight outside Universal’s VelociCoaster ride, records show” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — A New York woman was arrested in July after officers said she punched a woman in the face during an argument in line for Universal’s VelociCoaster ride, records show. Shaeika Allen, 28, was arrested on a charge of felony battery after surveillance video showed she punched the woman on July 9 during the dispute, her arrest report said. Allen has since been charged in court with misdemeanor battery, and the case remains open, records show. The woman who officers said Allen punched, who the Orlando Sentinel is not identifying because she was the victim of an alleged battery, suffered a cut and bruise on her face, which the report said required stitches or glue.

— TOP OPINION —

Legislators should work with school boards, not poison them with politics” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Florida school districts need more support from state politicians, not more politics. Yet, a proposed constitutional amendment would make all school board races partisan. Florida’s public schools are already dealing with the new COVID-19 surge. They don’t need a new political surge. Some school districts have dared to defy DeSantis and the entrenched Republican radicalism by setting policies that emphasize the safety of students. Some districts have dared to suggest that students benefit from studying race issues. Some districts actually prioritize traditional public schools over charter schools.

— OPINIONS —

Florida must take action to protect manatees, too” via Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker for the Orlando Sentinel — In its Aug. 15 editorial, the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board correctly calls for the relisting of manatees as an endangered species, but notes it has “zero confidence that the current Legislature and Governor are going to have a fit of courage and pass new environmental rules to crack down on polluters.” The trouble with this “zero confidence” position is that it has the effect of letting the pressure off Tallahassee in favor of federal action. The reality is, we must have both federal action and state action, or our iconic Floridian ocean and coasts are doomed.

Why the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy supports FPL rate increase” via Stephen A. Smith for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) is a nonprofit organization committed to a cleaner and more equitable energy future in Florida and the Southeast. We have a long history of both working with and at times challenging Florida’s big electric utilities to increase investment in clean energy, such as solar power, electric vehicle infrastructure and energy efficiency. If approved, the agreement will reduce the rate increase FPL originally proposed through 2025 by over $400 million and drive significant investment in clean energy technologies.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Floridians are anxiously awaiting the latest in the modern-day soap opera that is Florida’s anti-mask mandate.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— But the Governor has no intention of moving on and relishes a showdown with the Biden administration.

— The latest COVID-19 stats show almost 151,000 cases and 1,486 deaths in the past week. But DeSantis says the worst may be over.

— The Governor opens three more Regeneron centers where people with COVID-19 can be treated before they end up in a hospital. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo says they were a huge help when she and her husband caught COVID-19.

— The unemployment rate is up again. Florida created 68,000 new jobs, but the workforce grew by 83,000.

— Wedding bells for Gaetz in Southern California.

— And finally, the story of a Florida Man charged with a felony over a Snickers Bar. If only he hadn’t pulled out that pocketknife.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Marvel just dropped the final “Eternals” trailer, and now we know why they didn’t help defeat Thanos” via Nora Dominick of BuzzFeed — While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is next up for the MCU, it’s already time to start getting pumped for Marvel’s Eternals, which will hit theaters in November. Directed by Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao, Eternals will follow the Eternals, who have secretly been living on Earth for over 7,000 years and have been tasked with protecting humans from the Deviants. This epic new movie kicks off when the Eternals are forced to come back together to stop a new threat. So, like everyone, I’ve been dying to know where the heck the Eternals were while the Avengers were battling Thanos; listen, our team won in the end, but a little extra help couldn’t have hurt.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

McKenzie Milton’s orthopedic surgeon details the FSU QB’s long road back to football” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — Milton’s long-awaited return to the football field is nearly three long, arduous years in the making. Few people understand the pain and sacrifice the Florida State quarterback has endured since suffering a catastrophic knee injury on that fateful Friday on Nov. 23, 2018, at Raymond James Stadium. But if anyone can, it’s Bruce Levy. Levy is one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the country, working at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for the past 14 years. And throughout his 22 years, he’s never seen an injury like the one Milton suffered. Milton suffered a knee dislocation where the thigh bone and the lower leg bone were completely dislocated.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, former Rep. Margaret Good, Alexis Lambert, Peggy McKeel, and Peret Pass. Belated best wishes to Sen. Dennis Baxley, Rep. Kristen Arrington, and Kurt Browning.

___

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


One comment

  • Alex

    August 23, 2021 at 11:02 am

    The Delta surge may be slowing thankfully, but kids are still getting it at a faster pace, and our Governor who is more concerned with his political ambition is STILL doing his best to spread it faster.

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

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