Good Wednesday morning.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has been fighting tooth and nail to stamp out mask and vaccination mandates, but a new poll suggests that may be a losing strategy with voters.
According to a Data for Progress survey commissioned by the Committee to Protect Health Care, more than nine in 10 likely Florida voters are concerned by the delta variant, and they mostly dislike the Governor’s actions to contain it.
The lead takeaway from the poll: An overwhelming 73% of Florida voters say decisions on requiring masks in school should be made at the local level.
The Governor launched a crusade against school mask mandates last month, and his administration has started withholding school board member salaries in some counties that have moved forward with mandates.
Unsurprisingly, the most fervent opposition came from Democrats — 96% said they wanted school boards to make the call without interference from Tallahassee. But a slim majority of Republicans (51%) also told the pollster they wanted locals in charge.
Independents mirrored the overall at 73%.
About half of voters want DeSantis to pull a full 180 and institute a statewide mask requirement, not just for schools but for all indoor spaces. About one in seven voters are on board with the half-measure of requiring masks in areas with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Again, Democratic voters’ strong support for masking bolstered the overall line, but Republicans were not entirely opposed. About a third of GOP voters told Data for Progress they wanted a statewide indoor mask mandate. Another 11% would support the conditional requirement.
Asked directly whether the Governor’s COVID-19 messaging was helping him earn or lose their vote, responses trended toward the latter.
Of all his stances, DeSantis’ war on school mask mandates was the biggest loser — a combined 62% said it was either a “somewhat convincing” or “very convincing” reason to vote against him next year. His forays into vaccine skepticism and his focus on treatments over vaccinations were also underwater.
“Taken together, these results clearly indicate that Florida voters take the threat of the Delta variant seriously and favor the common-sense public health solutions that Gov. DeSantis has repeatedly undermined. DeSantis’ continued dismissal of the science and severity of the crisis is out of step with his electorate — and likely voters have taken notice,” the polling memo says.
The Data for Progress survey was conducted Aug. 27-31 and received responses from 753 likely voters online. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.
DeSantis won’t be the only statewide elected official speaking at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and Future of Florida Forum.
The Florida Chamber announced Tuesday that Attorney General Ashley Moody would also make the trip to Central Florida for the event, set for Oct. 27-28 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando.
“Attorney General Ashley Moody is a proven leader who has a clear vision for free enterprise in Florida,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson. “As a mother herself, Attorney General Moody is committed to offering a safe and bright future for all of Florida’s children.”
During Moody’s segment, titled “Preserving a Crime-Free Environment for Florida Business to Thrive,” she is expected to discuss her vision of making Florida “the most pro-law enforcement” state in the U.S.
“To keep Florida, Florida, we must continue to support the brave men and women who dedicate their careers to protecting and serving. While some states are turning their backs on their law enforcement officers, here in Florida, we back the blue,” Moody said in a news release.
“I am excited to speak at the 2021 Florida Chamber of Commerce Future of Florida Forum about how we are creating the most pro-law enforcement state in the nation — to build a Stronger, Safer Florida.”
Moody and DeSantis are among 80 speakers who will address the state’s business leaders during the Future of Florida Forum. The two-day event will be focused on how business leaders are engaging in the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillars Framework and the 39 goals of the Florida 2030 Blueprint.
More details and registration information for the 2021 Future of Florida forum are available online.
Democrat Janelle Perez has canceled her bid to beat Republican U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar next year. Instead, she’s aiming to flip the state’s Senate District 37 blue next year by unseating Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia.
“Florida’s state government’s dysfunction has reached new lows,” she told Florida Politics. “Gov. Ron DeSantis has made our children less safe during the pandemic by restricting health and safety measures in schools. Voting rights have been consistently attacked as Republicans are desperate to maintain power, (and) what’s happening in Texas is just an example of the need for Democrats to step up and fight (at) local levels.”
The change from a federal to a local race comes less than a month and a half after Perez announced her candidacy for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Since then, her campaign self-reported raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in grassroots donations. The most recent tally, nearly $300,000, will go into a new political committee called Democracy and Freedom PC, which longtime Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert will manage.
While Perez’s shift from a federal to state election lowers the general profile of her political aspiration, it likely improves her chances at winning. Salazar’s campaign funds swelled to more than $672,000 by her last reporting. Garcia sits on a less formidable war chest of $256,000. Garcia, a first-time state Senator, supplanted incumbent Democrat Sen. José Javier Rodriguez in November by a mere 34 votes in a race that has since led to a pair of felony charges for election meddling.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office said it had no evidence Garcia, who denied involvement, knew of or took part in the scheme.
Still, Perez said the way Garcia won office in November “absolutely” puts her at risk of losing her seat.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@SenRickScott: It’s unacceptable that Joe Biden‘s failures in Afghanistan have damaged America’s reputation, jeopardized our national security & made the world more dangerous. His complete catastrophe calls for @SenSchumer & @SpeakerPelosi to launch an investigation & hold Biden accountable.
—@akarl_smith: Sen. (Marco) Rubio calls on Biden to “immediately” fire Gen. (Mark) Milley after it was reported he made a pair of secret phone calls to his Chinese counterpart late in (Donald) Trump‘s presidency to assure them the U.S. would not start a war
—@KevinMKruse: In today’s America, the well-informed elder statesman serving as a sober voice of reason and wisdom is … Dan Quayle.
—@JStein_WaPo: Absolutely incredible: Census says poverty rate **fell** in 2020 ***during one of the worst labor market shocks in US history***, due to the combo of stimulus checks/federal relief that reached millions both in and outside the workforce. Reflects limits of jobs to reduce poverty.
—@LeaderBookFL: Gut check — poverty is defined by our federal govt as having an income less than $26,200 for a family of four. 🤯😱😞😠 What kind of fever dream is this??? It’s 2021 & clearly well past time to update this formula.
—@Annette_Taddeo: How can any Governor invite someone to the official state platform and not listen to what they said? Is anyone buying it …
—@CarlosGSmith: Well, well, well. After withholding detailed COVID death data for months, #DeSantis suddenly releases the info after WE SUED THEM. Coincidence? 🤔 Why not release all remaining data + resume daily dashboard reporting before Monday’s pretrial hearing?
—@FloridaEA: A big announcement JUST was made re: high-stakes testing. The gov announced the intent to drop high-stakes FSA testing in the 2022-23 school year. It will free up time for genuine teaching and learning, a move that the FEA, local unions & our 150,000 members have long advocated.
I think about these two and a half pages from Norm Macdonald’s book constantly. When I reviewed it, I wrote that they would “make for a fine eulogy”—and I swear I didn’t mean anything by it. But they do. pic.twitter.com/vxLRAd2OeP
— Sean O'Neal (@seanoneal) September 14, 2021
I've been so scared something out of our control would knock tonight sideways. I hadn't allowed myself to let it in.
Out with my dog this morning, a kind neighbor walked by & whispered "Happy Opening Night."
It's real. So grateful. Happy opening night. -LMM #YayHamlet https://t.co/299D7Ip60y
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) September 14, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Alabama at UF — 3; Dolphins home opener — 4; Jaguars home opener — 4; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 5; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 15; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 16; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 16; MLB regular season ends — 18; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 23; ‘Dune’ premieres — 37; World Series Game 1 — 41; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 42; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 42; Georgia at UF — 45; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 48; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 48; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 51; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 51; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 53; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 54; Miami at FSU — 59; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 64; FSU vs. UF — 73; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 77; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 86; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 93; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 98; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 101; NFL season ends — 116; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 118; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 118; NFL playoffs begin — 122; Super Bowl LVI — 151; Daytona 500 — 158; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 191; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 235; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 254; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 260; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 296; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 308; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 387; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 422.
— TOP STORY —
“Florida to end high-stakes FSA exams, replace with progress monitoring, Gov. Ron DeSantis says” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida plans to scrap its end-of-the-year, high-stakes standardized tests replacing them with short “check-in” assessments, DeSantis announced Tuesday, a dramatic shift that would align the state’s Republican leadership with the position long advocated by many educators and parents. If approved by the Florida Legislature, the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA, would be administered for the last time this coming spring. In 2023, the series of exams in math and reading would be replaced by a statewide system of short, progress-monitoring tests given three times a year. DeSantis said the FSA is “quite frankly outdated” and given too late in the school year to allow teachers to alter instruction for those who are struggling or providing “timely information” to parents.
“Tallahassee educators optimistic about the end of high-stakes testing in Florida” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Local educators are optimistic yet cautious about the end of standardized testing in Florida. “Thank goodness this is happening … hopefully, they’ll start listening to the teachers who have been saying this for years,” said Scott Mazur, president of the Leon Classroom Teacher Association. DeSantis announced that ending the Florida Standards Assessments, the state’s standardized test, is a priority this upcoming legislative session. The first committee week starts next Monday; Session begins Jan. 11. At Doral Academy Preparatory School, a public charter middle and high school in Miami-Dade County, DeSantis brought teachers and a parent to support his efforts.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Months of secrecy end as state releases COVID-19 death toll for every county” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For the first time in months, Floridians could learn Tuesday just how deadly the newest COVID-19 wave has been in their communities, including a brutal toll in South Florida. Some 2,900 people succumbed to the coronavirus during the 99 days between June 5 and Sept. 12 — an average of 29 every day, according to a report released Tuesday, the first county-by-county breakdown since the state clamped down on the information in June. The deaths included 631 people in Palm Beach County, 1,011 in Broward, and 1,258 in Miami Dade. The tri-county area accounted for about a quarter of the 11,799 deaths statewide during the summer, according to the report.
“DeSantis says he didn’t remember hearing vax misinformation at his own news conference” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor told reporters that he essentially wasn’t listening to controversial comments a speaker made in Newberry suggesting COVID-19 vaccines scramble the genetic codes of the vaxxed. “Honestly, I don’t even remember him saying that, so it’s not anything I’ve said,” DeSantis said, about the news conference announcing big $5,000-per-incident fines for cities mandating COVID-19 shots for employees. The question that DeSantis sidestepped was from POLITICO reporter Marc Caputo: “At yesterday’s news conference, the guy next to you said that the vaccines changed (his?) RNA. As you’ve said, you’re a data-driven guy. That doesn’t line up with the data. Two questions. Do you believe that? And if you don’t believe it, how come you didn’t say anything at the moment?”
“As quarantines mount, students, teachers struggle to keep up” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Boca Ciega High senior Matthew McCrary has a message for Pinellas County school district leaders: All the quarantines taking place are wreaking havoc on learning. “It is very difficult,” McCrary said, offering the example of him sitting in the school auditorium four of seven periods one recent day because so many teachers were out. “We don’t get assignments and we’re falling behind.” This was supposed to be the year when students who lost class time over the past two semesters would be helped to get back on track and move ahead academically. For many, it’s not happening.
“Shamarial Roberson, Florida Deputy Secretary for Health, to step down” via Jim Rosica of USA Today Network — Roberson, a veteran of the state’s fight against the COVID-19 virus, is stepping down from her post. As Florida continues to be an epicenter of COVID-19 infections, her resignation temporarily leaves the department without another top leader. A colleague, who asked not to be named, said Roberson’s leaving was her own decision, citing her desire to spend more time with her family after “essentially being on call 24/7” through most of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the state was producing daily COVID-19 statistical reports, for instance, Roberson supervised the staff compiling the data, which for them was an “all night job, every night.”
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Tampa Bay schools have more COVID-19, fewer protections. Many families ask why.” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Sophia Giri couldn’t wait to get back to school, real school, to play violin in the Wiregrass Ranch High School orchestra and see her friends without a computer screen between them. But her joy, after a year and a half at home, was short-lived. In a matter of days — frightened by the sight of unmasked teachers and classmates and concerned about her health and that of her mother — Sophia made the tearful decision to retreat once more to online learning. One month into a third straight school year altered by COVID-19, thousands of Tampa Bay area students and parents are experiencing a similar existence.
“Pinellas School Board again turns away request to meet on mask rule” via Marlene Sokol of Tampa Bay Times — The Pinellas County School Board will not adopt a masking rule for the schools and will not hold a meeting to consider any such rule at this time. Board member Caprice Edmond could not get a second for her motion to impose a 90-day rule that would require medical documentation for any family who wished to opt out. Edmond then asked for consensus to schedule a special meeting on Sept. 21 before a planned board workshop. Board member Laura Hine, who is also in favor of more aggressive steps, wanted to use that time to discuss other mitigation measures as well.
“For decades, Scott Hopes advocated for face masks. Now his hands are tied.” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Nearly 20 years ago, the director of the World Health Organization’s China office briefed Hopes about the first outbreak of a deadly new disease called SARS. To Hopes, an epidemiologist and health care executive, the virus seemed to spread like tuberculosis — another respiratory disease — and at the time, he recommended that WHO contain the spread by using N95 masks, respirators, gowns, face shields, and gloves as protective equipment. Decades later, Hopes once again finds himself facing a deadly coronavirus. Only this time, he must calibrate his response to the priorities of the political leaders who are his bosses and the divided community he serves.
—”Former faculty member at Sarasota County’s Pine View School dies of COVID-19” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“‘This Is really horrible’: Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber slammed Gov. DeSantis over ban on cities, counties requiring employee COVID-19 vaccinations” via CBS Miami — “He’s spreading these conspiracies about vaccines and now stopping major employers from getting their employees, who deal with the public every day, vaccinated. This is really horrible,” Gelber said. DeSantis said cities or counties that require employee vaccinations would be fined $5,000 per violation, potentially millions of dollars statewide. At a news conference near Gainesville, he said vaccine mandates are not about the science. Many health experts have said a person’s natural immunity after recovering from COVID-19 is not as strong as the protection provided by the vaccines.
“This Overtown soul food pop-up was a pandemic hit. Now it’s opening a permanent spot” via Carlos Frías of Miami.com — The Overtown soul food pop-up Rosie’s grew out of a broken dream. During much of the pandemic, Jamila Ross and Akino West, partners in life and business, had to close their boutique Copper Door Bed & Breakfast. The silver lining was their impromptu restaurant, Rosie’s, where they cooked out of the hotel kitchen and served in a makeshift patio outdoors for the past year. Rosie’s was an instant hit with buttery vanilla-nutmeg waffles, crispy fried chicken, flaky biscuits, pastrami hash, and cheddar grits with tomato coulis. Ross and West will debut a new Rosie’s just 1.5 miles north, near Jackson Memorial Hospital.
— STATEWIDE —
“Pensacola could see 15 to 20 inches of rain, flooding from Tropical Storm Nicholas” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — Tropical Storm Nicholas could bring up to 15 to 20 inches of rainfall to some localized areas of Pensacola between Tuesday and Thursday. A flash flood watch is expected to go into effect across Escambia and Santa Rosa counties Tuesday and won’t expire until Thursday night. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the storm was moving east-northeast across the upper Texas coastal plain and was expected to turn eastward over Louisiana on Wednesday. Nicholas is expected to gradually weaken and become a tropical depression Tuesday evening, which is when the system’s impact will begin to be felt in Northwest Florida.
“Competition is hot for four new hospice programs” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida health care planners received another 20 letters of intent from entities interested in providing hospice services in Florida, bringing to 83 the total number of entities that are vying this year to provide four new hospice programs across the state. A letter of intent is not binding, but it is a prerequisite for any entity that intends to submit a Certificate of Need application. Of the letters of intent, 12 were filed by entities with interest in providing hospice services in Escambia County; six were filed for Leon County; one for Polk County; and one by a vendor with interest in providing hospice services in Indian River County.
“New school year, new terror threats by Florida students. One was a Columbine-style plot” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Several Florida schools have faced threats from students since the 2021-22 school year started, including the recent arrest of two middle school boys who deputies say plotted a Columbine-styled mass shooting in Lee County. On Sunday, Pembroke Pines police were tipped off by Silver Trail Middle School staff that a Snapchat conversation among three of its students included threatening messages. By Monday, the three students — two boys and a girl, all 12 years old — were arrested, and each face a second-degree felony charge of making a written threat to do bodily harm or commit an act of terrorism. The girl also faces a charge of conspiracy to commit a criminal offense.
“Trulieve launches first hydrocarbon product line in Florida market” via Jacob Ogles from Florida Politics — The medical cannabis company launched its Live Resin product line on Monday, with its first sale at a Tallahassee dispensary. The release of a hydrocarbon extract makes Trulieve the first medicinal marijuana company in Florida to bring such a product to market. Live Resin products come through an extract lab derived from the company’s TruFlower product after being frozen immediately after harvest. The extract used a proprietary propane-butane blend. Company officials say the hydrocarbon process results in an extract with high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, making for a higher-flavor product with a “powerful and richly aromatic experience with a broader sensation of effects.”
Assignment editors — On Thursday, the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) will host the second annual ROSE Awards to honor outstanding hospitality champions who provide excellent customer service. Nomination categories include — Hotels: Front desk, housekeeping, valet, bellmen, administrative assistants, security, maintenance staff, engineers; Restaurants: Chef, cook, kitchen staff, hosts, bartenders, servers; Retail: Clerks and stock keepers; Transportation: Drivers. The event begins at 6 p.m., Sandpearl Resort Clearwater Beach, 500 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach.
“Amazon continues hiring surge in Florida with 8,000 new positions” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Amazon plans to hire roughly 8,000 new employees in Florida as it continues its explosive growth and bumps its average starting salary to $18 per hour. Its annual Career Day takes place Sept. 15 and provides free virtual one-on-one career coaching for all interested. Hundreds of jobs in several markets are part of the company’s hiring surge, including 1,000 positions in South Florida, 800 in Orlando and over 100 in Tampa. It’s not yet clear when up to 1,000 job positions will be advertised in Tallahassee, where the company recently began construction of a new robotics fulfillment center.
“Peoples Gas President T.J. Szelistowski to retire in December” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Szelistowski is planning to retire later this year, he said in a Tuesday morning statement. “Over my career with this organization, I’ve been fortunate to work with so many talented people committed to safety, customer experience and growth,” Szelistowski said in written remarks announcing the news. Szelistowski has served as president of the gas utility since 2016. His upcoming retirement will cap a 42-year career with Tampa Electric Co. (TECO) and its sister company. Peoples Gas Chief Operating Officer Helen Wesley will take over as president starting Dec. 1. Scott Balfour, president and CEO of Emera, TECO’s parent company, announced the change-up Tuesday.
“Bay News 9 meteorologist says it’s time to invest in solar panels and clean energy” via Brian McClure and John Morales of the Tampa Bay Times — As meteorologists representing Florida’s largest metropolitan areas, we get an up-close-and-personal view of the weather patterns affecting our state from thunderstorms to hurricanes and everything in between. The one constant is sunshine. It rarely stays cloudy very long here in Florida, where we get to enjoy hundreds of sunny days per year. So, it only makes sense to have solar panels in a climate like ours. This, and the increasing demand for electricity, is why it is critical for Florida to invest in expanding and developing our clean energy infrastructure. Florida has the opportunity to become a leader in solar production.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Will Florida GOP push Texas-style abortion law? DeSantis notes legal hurdles” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis stopped short of promoting a Texas-style law that would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The law, implemented in Texas earlier this month, is among the most restrictive in the nation. It bans the procedure after six weeks and provides no exception for rape or incest. It also allows a person to sue someone they suspect of aiding another to obtain an abortion. When asked by a reporter Tuesday if he’d support similar legislation in the upcoming Legislative Session, DeSantis noted looming legal hurdles. “That is obviously, I think, going to have some legal challenges between now and then, so we’ll see what happens,” DeSantis said before touting his devotion to “pro-life” principles.
—”DeSantis orders flags at half-staff to honor Justice Stephen Grimes” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics
Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a news conference, 9:15 a.m., Camp Blanding, 5269 State Road 16 West, Starke. RSVP to [email protected]
“Florida Cabinet won’t consider DEP pick,” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — The Florida Cabinet will not consider the appointment of the state’s next top environmental regulator at its next meeting, a move likely to stoke further tensions between Gov. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. DeSantis last month appointed Shawn Hamilton to serve as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection without getting a vote of the three-member Florida Cabinet that oversees that post. Fried, a member of the Cabinet and a Democrat running for Governor, said that decision is illegal and has vocally been fighting DeSantis on the issue since June, when former DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein announced he was resigning.
“Democrats shuffle House ranking committee members for redistricting hearings” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Democratic House Co-Leaders Bobby DuBose and Evan Jenne have named the minority party’s leadership team for the House’s various committees ahead of committees convening next week. After musical chairs of leadership positions, largely due to the three redistricting panels added for the 2022 Session, 25 Democrats will lead the party across 34 committees and subcommittees. Committee weeks for the upcoming Session begin Monday. “The Florida House Democrats are ready to get back to work and help Floridians still struggling because of the pandemic,” DuBose said.
“Democrats name ranking members for House health committees” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Kamia Brown, who worked closely with House Speaker Chris Sprowls on extending Medicaid benefits to postpartum mothers by 10 months, was named the ranking member of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. When it comes to substantive health care policy issues, Jacksonville Rep. Tracie Davis will serve as a ranking member of the Health & Human Services Committee. Rep. Emily Slosberg was named ranking member of the Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee, established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Rep. Susan Valdés was named ranking member of the Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee; Rep. Dotie Joseph to the Finance & Facilities Subcommittee; and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith to the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee.
Happening today — The Clay County legislative delegation meets: Sen. Jennifer Bradley; Reps. Sam Garrison and Bobby Payne, 4 p.m., Clay County Commission Meeting Room, 477 Houston St., Green Cove Springs.
“Personnel note: Holly Brooks named comms director at Florida Trucking Association” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Trucking Association announced this week that Holly Brooks has joined its leadership team as Director of Communications. Brooks is a former digital communications specialist at The Florida Bar and a former senior account manager with RB Oppenheim Associates in Tallahassee. She is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she earned a degree in telecommunications. “With professional experience in broadcast journalism, public relations and digital marketing, Holly brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to the FTA team. Her impressive skill set and passion for the communications field will benefit Florida’s trucking industry and will continue to propel FTA forward,” said Alix Miller, who took over as Florida Trucking Association president on Aug. 1.
— 2022 —
“COVID-19 likely to overshadow Afghanistan, abortion rights and spending plans in midterm elections” via Aaron Zitner and Joshua Jamerson of The Wall Street Journal — Even with Afghanistan, abortion rights and multitrillion-dollar domestic-spending proposals competing for attention, the trajectory of the pandemic and which party’s approach would be more effective at taming it remain the top concerns for voters, along with its effects on the economy and schools, strategists in both parties say. Most say candidates shouldn’t count on COVID-19 concerns subsiding substantially before next year’s midterm elections and should think now about how to talk with voters about them.
“Val Demings blasts Marco Rubio for giving credence to anti-vaxxers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In her first overt campaign attack on Republican U.S. Sen. Rubio, Democratic U.S. Rep. Demings bashed her likely 2022 opponent for supporting anti-vaccine talk show hosts and urged him to stop giving them credence. “Stop appearing on these anti-vaccine pundits’ television shows, immediately,” Demings said in a news release. Specifically, Demings declared Rubio “loves to hang out” with radio host Sean Hannity, Newsmax host Eric Bolling, and Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Brian Kilmeade, all of whom she describes as “noted spreaders of anti-vaccine disinformation that is hurting Floridians.”
—”Demings campaigns with activist who repeatedly compared GOP to Taliban” via Jessica Chasmar of Fox News
“Donald Trump endorses Anna Paulina Luna for CD 13, calls opponents RINOs” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — “Luna is a great fighter who is running for Congress in Florida,” Trump said in a statement. “Anna is a warrior, she is a winner, and it’s time for all America First Republicans to unite behind her strong campaign. Anna has my complete and total endorsement.” The former President’s endorsement of Luna comes as a jab to fellow Republican and previous opponent Amanda Makki, who dove headfirst into Trump territory and heightened conservative rhetoric at her campaign kickoff in July. Trump went as far as to call Luna’s primary opponents RINOs (Republican in Name Only), a slam to Makki and recently filed Republican candidate Audrey Henson.
“‘I think that he’s evil’: Luna testifies against former opponent in stalking case” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Pinellas Judge Doneene Loar listened to Luna’s testimony at an eight-hour hearing on dual stalking complaints filed by Luna and Erin Olszewski, the Palm Harbor nurse who secretly recorded William Braddock allegedly threatening the life of his fellow candidate. “This man has put me through emotional hell. I think that he’s evil,” Luna testified, eyes swelling with tears. “I’ve had to pause doing fertility treatments with my husband, and I think that anyone defending him is a bad person.” The hearing was set to tackle Braddock’s motion to dismiss the stalking complaints and the petitioners’ motion to make the previously issued temporary injunctions against Braddock permanent.
Happening today — Democratic candidates in the special election for Florida’s 20th Congressional District will take part in a virtual debate, 6 p.m. Zoom link here.
“Jason Pizzo’s committee raises $20K to defend Senate seat” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Pizzo’s political committee collected $20,000 from two union donations. The freshman Senator had a better month than his usual. Still, it all pales compared to the $500,000 donation his political committee received in January from Tristar Products, based in New Jersey. That donation inspired some speculation that Pizzo could make a run for the Governor’s Mansion, but then Pizzo shot down the rumors the next month. And campaign reports show he’s since had four months with little or no fundraising. For now, Pizzo has drawn a challenger for the Primary Election, Democrat Daphne Campbell. Campbell was the incumbent Senator for this district in 2018 when Pizzo challenged her for the seat and won.
“So far unopposed Annette Taddeo posts record fundraising haul in August” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Taddeo’s contributions topped $90,000 in August as she publicly mulls taking a run for the Governor’s Mansion. Between direct contributions to her campaign and those collected for her committee, Fight Back Florida, Taddeo now has $233,037 cash on hand, with no opponent challenging her yet for her Senate District 40 seat. In May, she told Florida Politics she was considering a gubernatorial bid, and her criticism of DeSantis escalated as the delta variant pushed COVID-19 rates, hospitalizations, and deaths to record levels for a string of days in August.
—”Vance Aloupis crosses $108K in August with best fundraising month this cycle” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
—“Daniel Perez banks $180,000 in August for unopposed HD 116 reelection” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
—”Demi Busatta Cabrera August fundraising nets her biggest committee haul” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
—”Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin posts strongest fundraising month yet in race for HD 119” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
“With election looming, Homestead council avoids property tax increase, keeps rates flat” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Less than three weeks before early voting begins in Homestead’s primary election, the city’s seven-member council successfully avoided a significant tax hike by voting Monday on a budget that keeps the property tax rate flat for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. During the first of two budget hearings, the council agreed on a $203 million budget and a tax rate of $6.20 per $1,000, the same rate Homestead property owners have paid the last eight years. The council will take a final vote to set the tax rate and budget on Sept. 29.
“Former state House candidate Jeff Hinkle digital defamation suit opposed by political power brokers” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — After filing a lawsuit to force a John Doe defendant to remove what Hinkle termed “digital defamation” from public information resources, Hinkle attorney Lori Weems Evers said her client had spared no expense to achieve his goal. “He has spent literally tens of thousands of dollars,” she said. Motions filed Tuesday in opposition to his efforts, and his methods, demonstrate the extent Hinkle has been willing to go to, as Evers put it, “get someone to step up” and take down political ads messaging the lawsuit claims to be false.
— CORONA NATION —
“COVID-19 cases, deaths climbing, wiping out months of progress” via Heather Hollingsworth, Cathy Bussewitz and Colleen Long of The Associated Press — COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to where they were over the winter, wiping out months of progress and potentially bolstering Biden’s argument for his sweeping new vaccination requirements. The cases are concentrated mostly in the South. While one-time hot spots like Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fueled by children back in school, loose mask restrictions, and low vaccination levels. The dire situation in some hospitals is starting to sound like January’s infection peak: Surgeries canceled in hospitals in Washington state and Utah. Severe staff shortages in Kentucky and Alabama. A lack of beds in Tennessee. Intensive care units at or over capacity in Texas.
“COVID-19 vaccines for younger children could be authorized sometime this fall” via Madeline Holcombe, Holly Yan and Christina Maxouris of CNN — COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 could get the green light from the FDA sometime this fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “If you look at the studies that we at the (National Institutes of Health) are doing in collaboration with the pharmaceutical companies, there will be enough data to apply for an emergency use authorization both by Pfizer, a little bit later by Moderna,” Fauci said. Also Tuesday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said data on how the company’s COVID-19 vaccine works in children between 5 and 11 should be submitted to the FDA by the end of this month or the first week of October. Vaccine data for younger children will soon follow, he added.
“The U.S. Army tells troops to get vaccinated soon or face discipline up to possible dismissal” via Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times — Army officials said Tuesday that all active-duty units are expected to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, and Reserve and National Guard members by June 30. According to the guidelines, those who refuse to be vaccinated and have not been given an exemption will face suspension or even dismissal. “While soldiers who refuse the vaccine will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers,” the Army guidelines say, “continued failure to comply could result in administrative or nonjudicial punishment — to include relief of duties or discharge from the service.” Since the Pentagon mandated coronavirus vaccinations last month, the percentage of all military service members with at least one shot has risen to 83% from 76%.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Delta’s force hits economies from U.S. to China in real time” via Simon Kennedy of Bloomberg — Both the world’s two largest economies are feeling a squeeze. The U.S. economy is on pace for a 5.8% annualized quarter-on-quarter expansion in the current quarter, according to Bloomberg Economics’ GDP Nowcast, down from a 6.6% print in the second quarter. In China, the Bloomberg Nowcast is tracking a 6.1% year-on-year expansion in the same period, down from 7.9% in the second. Its economy is dealing not just with delta but also a government crackdown on high polluting industries and — potentially — a blow to business confidence from the new “common prosperity” agenda. The decelerations are faster than economists previously expected and leave central banks and governments facing a challenging combination of slackening recovery and stubborn price pressure.
“Relief programs staved off hardship in COVID-19 crash” via Ricardo Alonso of The Associated Press — Massive government relief passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic moved millions of Americans out of poverty last year, even as the official poverty rate increased slightly. The official poverty measure rose 1 percentage point in 2020, with 11.4% of Americans living in poverty, or more than 37 million people. It was the first increase in poverty after five consecutive annual declines. But the Census Bureau’s supplemental measure of poverty, which considers government benefit programs and stimulus payments, showed that the share of people in poverty dropped significantly after the aid was factored in.
“Poverty fell overall in 2020 due to massive stimulus checks and unemployment aid, U.S. Census says” via Heather Long and Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — U.S. poverty fell overall in 2020, a surprising decline largely due to the swift and substantial federal relief that Congress enacted at the start of the pandemic to try to prevent widespread financial hardship as the nation experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The U.S. Census reported poverty fell to 9.1% in 2020 after accounting for all the government aid, the lowest rate on record and a significant decline from 11.8% in 2019. The official poverty measure, which leaves out much of the federal stimulus payments, rose slightly to 11.4.
Another incredible chart.
Every age, race/ethnicity, and educational level saw a decline in poverty in 2020, largely due to gov't aid payments.
Really big declines in poverty for:
Americans w/No HS degree
Those not working pic.twitter.com/GNcttY9D2v
— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) September 14, 2021
“Census figures show Americans’ incomes fell in 2020” via John McCormick and Paul Overberg of The Wall Street Journal — American incomes fell last year despite increased government aid tied to the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented millions from falling into poverty. In an annual assessment of the nation’s financial well-being, the new data offers insight into how households fared during the pandemic’s first year and arrives as Washington debates how much more to spend to bolster the economy during the worst public health crisis in a century. Median household income was roughly $67,500 in 2020, down 2.9% from the prior year when it hit an inflation-adjusted historic high. The last time median household income fell significantly was in 2011, after the 2007-09 recession.
“What’s your raise really worth? Inflation has something to say about it.” via Sarah Chaney Cambon and Gwynn Guilford of The Wall Street Journal — This should be the best of times for low-wage workers, as pandemic-induced labor shortages force employers to raise pay sharply. Yet, it doesn’t feel that way for many because those same disruptions have pushed inflation to near its highest rate in over a decade. Overall consumer prices rose 5.3% in August from a year earlier, a slightly slower pace than in June and July but still near a 13-year high, said the Labor Department. That means that for the lowest-earning tier of workers, “real” wages — pay adjusted for inflation — fell 0.5% in August from a year earlier, according to data from the Atlanta Fed and the Labor Department. That contrasts with 2.1% annual growth in the two years before the pandemic.
“U.S. consumer price growth cools, smallest gain in seven months” via Olivia Rockerman of Bloomberg — Prices paid by U.S. consumers rose in August by less than forecast, snapping a string of hefty gains and suggesting that some of the upward inflation pressure is beginning to wane. According to Labor Department data released Tuesday, the consumer price index increased 0.3% from July, the smallest advance in seven months. Compared with a year ago, the CPI rose 5.3%. Excluding the volatile food and energy components, so-called core inflation climbed 0.1% from the prior month, the smallest gain since February and reflects declines in the prices of used cars, airfares and auto insurance. Economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.4% increase in the overall CPI from the prior month and a 5.3% gain from a year earlier.
— MORE CORONA —
“Pandemic is delaying retirement and Southerners are the most impacted” via Hannah Critchfield of the Tampa Bay Times — Fifty-five percent of older Southerners said they’ve financially supported family members due to COVID-19, as opposed to 41% of respondents nationally. An almost equal proportion reported needing to dip into their retirement savings to do so. About half — 49% — said this aid impacted their retirement plans. In contrast, just 18% of Western Boomers, and roughly 25% of Northeastern and Midwestern older adults, delayed retiring due to the pandemic. He said that the pandemic had caused 60% of older adults in the South to reevaluate how much money they need to save to retire comfortably. Less than half of seniors living in other regions reported the same.
“New Orleans Saints COVID-19 cases will test NFL’s pandemic strategy” via Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal — Eight members of the New Orleans Saints tested positive for COVID-19 in a developing situation that represents the first major test of the revamped protocols for the NFL’s second pandemic season. The positives include six coaches, a nutritionist and one player. NFL rules call for all coaches to be vaccinated. The player who tested positive is on injured reserve and did not travel with the team to its opening game. NFL rules call for vaccinated personnel to be tested weekly, instead of daily, this year. That raises the uncomfortable prospect that the positive individuals may have been infectious for up to a week — and in proximity to other members of the organization — before they were identified.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Sixty percent of Americans support Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for federal workers, businesses, poll shows” via Lateshia Beachum of The Washington Post — Sixty percent of Americans support Biden’s vaccine requirements for federal employees and businesses with more than 100 employees, highlighting continued political division around coronavirus-related mandates, according to an Axios/Ipsos poll released Tuesday. About 8 in 10 Democrats and 6 in 10 independents were in favor of Biden’s recent requirements. Yet only about 30% of Republicans expressed the same support, according to the poll. There is also majority support for workplace requirements for vaccinations, with about 57% of employed Americans backing such efforts as more employers appear to be recommending mask usage while at work.
“GOP condemnation of Biden coronavirus mandate fuels concern other vaccine requirements could be targeted” via Felicia Sonmez, Marianna Sotomayor and Mariana Alfaro of The Washington Post — Republicans’ sweeping denunciations of Biden’s plan to force more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus are raising concerns among public health experts that this heated criticism could help fuel a broader rejection of other vaccine requirements, including those put in place by schools and the military, as the issue of inoculations becomes increasingly political. Over the weekend, Kevin McCarthy declared on Twitter that there should be “NO VACCINE MANDATES.” More than a dozen other prominent Republicans in Congress and the states have made similarly defiant statements in recent days, often using inflammatory rhetoric.
“Biden’s baffling FCC delay could give Republicans a 2-1 FCC majority” via Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica — Biden’s failure to nominate a fifth Federal Communications Commission member has forced Democrats to work with a 2-2 deadlock instead of the 3-2 majority the President’s party typically enjoys at the FCC. But things could get worse for Democrats starting in January. If Biden doesn’t make his choice quickly enough to get Senate confirmation by the end of this year, Republicans could get a 2-1 FCC majority despite Democrats controlling both the White House and Senate. To ensure a 3-2 Democratic majority in January, Biden has to nominate a third Democrat, renominate FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel or nominate a replacement for Rosenworcel, and hope that the Senate confirms both nominations in time.
“Biden urges climate action: ‘We don’t have much more than 10 years’” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — Biden warned on Tuesday that the U.S. had only a decade left to confront a global climate crisis, using his second day touring a wildfire-ravaged West to try to rally the public, and congressional Democrats, to support measures that his administration hopes will reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Biden’s stops this week in Colorado; Boise, Idaho; and Long Beach and the Sacramento area in California amounted to more than an opportunity to call attention to the severe destruction of wildfires and other natural disasters that have been exacerbated by climate change. The visits were a last-ditch opportunity to sell the importance of measures aimed at mitigating climate change, some of which appear increasingly at risk in his spending packages.
“‘Hurricane tax’ could boost Floridians’ property insurance by $300 each a year” via John Haughey of The Center Square — Ballooning reinsurance costs, “loss creep” from 2017-18 hurricanes, coastal flooding, and excessive litigation costs are among converging “perfect storm” factors that are hiking Florida property insurance renewal rates by 30% to 40%. A provision of Biden’s proposed ‘Made in America Tax Plan’ (*MATP) being debated in Congress could add to that increasingly expensive pain for all 6.5 million Florida residential and commercial property owners. In Florida, forecasts show property insurance costs would increase between $864 million and $1.62 billion a year and cost $170 to $319 per property annually.
“Jackson County woman pleads guilty to sending videos threatening VP Kamala Harris” via C.A. Bridges of the Tallahassee Democrat — A former Florida nurse who recorded a video telling Vice President Harris “you are going to die” now faces five years in prison. Niviane Petit Phelps pleaded guilty Friday to six counts of making threats against the Vice President. Phelps’ arrest comes after the mother of three sent a series of videos to her husband in prison expressing anger over the results of the 2020 election. In the videos, Phelps said, “Kamala Harris, you are going to die. Your days are numbered already.” Phelps, who is Black, told authorities she threatened the Vice President because Harris wasn’t “actually Black.” Harris is Black and of South Asian descent.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Bob Woodward/Robert Costa book: Worried Trump could ‘go rogue,’ Mark Milley took secret action to protect nuclear weapons” via Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart of CNN — Two days after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Trump‘s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Milley, single-handedly took secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons, according to “Peril,” a new book by legendary journalist Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Costa. Woodward and Costa write that Milley, deeply shaken by the assault, ‘was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election … constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.’ Milley worried that Trump could ‘go rogue,’ the authors write. “You never know what a President’s trigger point is,” Milley told his senior staff.
“Trump advisers privately warned of ‘critical mistakes’ as pandemic loomed” via Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — “In truth, we do not have a clue how many are infected in the USA. We are expecting the first wave to spread in the U.S. within the next seven days,” adviser Steven Hatfill wrote to Peter Navarro, the President’s trade director, on Feb. 29, 2020. “This will be accompanied by a massive loss of credibility, and the Democratic accusations are just now beginning. This must be countered with frank honesty about the situation and decisive direct actions that are being taken and can be seen in the broadcast news.” Hatfill urged Navarro to begin purchasing additional testing supplies, and to develop alternative ways to immediately screen for virus infections. His warning came hours after Trump boasted of his “pretty amazing” response.
“To be or not to be: Trump’s big 2024 question” via Tina Nguyen of Puck — It was entirely predictable that Trump would engineer a telenovela-style storyline to sustain interest in his will-he-or-won’t-he plot to potentially reassume power in 2024. For every move he makes demonstrably indicating another run for President, Trump also makes dramatic zags away from campaign politics, yawing toward a more lucrative post-presidential life. Such is the nature, of course, of a supremely undisciplined superego reaching for the levers of power and attention in a post-Twitter and post-White House existence. And it’s also the result of neutered, powerless Republican establishment fearfully overthinking a political moment rather than defining it. Again, it was entirely predictable. But what comes next?
— CRISIS —
“The Vice-President who saved democracy on January 6 Was … Dan Quayle?” via Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine — Pence’s refusal to go along with Trump’s coup attempt created heroic mythology. Even people (like me) who had no use for this lifelong ally of the Christian Right who had descended to the most embarrassingly sycophantic behavior in praising Trump’s “big shoulders” had second thoughts after Pence stood up to his boss’s bullying. But now comes new evidence, in the book from Woodward and Costa, that Pence wavered and perhaps even leaned toward helping Trump blow up democracy. If this account undermines Pence’s assumed heroism, it also raises a new and even less likely hero: former Vice President Quayle. Quayle was adamant, according to the authors. “Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away,” he said.
“GOP’s Jan. 6 problem returns to its doorstep” via Olivia Beavers of POLITICO — The Saturday rally defending some rioters arrested during the Capitol insurrection is reminding the GOP of an uncomfortable reality: Part of its base believes the Jan. 6 attack was justified. Saturday’s rally comes as some conservative lawmakers fan outrage on the right over Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him — rhetoric that worries some fellow Republicans, who warn that their colleagues are riling up the biggest fans of the former President. That still-simmering discord within the GOP puts party leaders in an awkward position ahead of the Sept. 18 “Justice for J6” rally on Capitol Hill, organized by a former Trump campaign aide.
“Connecticut mother, daughter charged in Jan. 6 riot after Facebook friend turns them in” via Mark Lungariello of the New York Post — Agents ID’d mom Jean Lavin, 56, and daughter Carla Krzywicki, 19, after a tipster sent a screenshot of a post that showed photos taken as protesters stormed the Capitol, an FBI statement of facts said. The post, by Krzywicki, included a picture taken inside of the building and a selfie of the smiling kin decked out in Trump winter hats taken outside of the building. “This is history,” the post stated. “We do not go burning down your city and stealing from your business. we come for the government officials that are ruining our country. … We go straight to the source. Change needs to happen. that is our house, and you work for us.”
“Ex-cops accused of violating George Floyd’s civil rights plead not guilty” via Amy Forliti of The Associated Press — A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao in May for allegedly depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority on May 25, 2020. All four of the men appeared at the hearing remotely via videoconference. Chauvin, wearing a plain T-shirt, appeared from a small room in the state’s maximum-security prison. The other three men appeared remotely alongside their attorneys. All are pleading “not guilty.” Attorneys for Lane and Kueng asked the judge to remove language from the indictment that says their clients had been police officers since December 2019. Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, said his client was still in training and remained under supervision for months.
“Conspiracy theorists keep popping up in Sarasota County” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — It’s now become a game of conspiracy theorist whack-a-mole in Sarasota County. Bop one over the head with the rubber hammer of reality, and another pops up, crazier than the last. Maria Zack is the latest mole of misinformation tied to our area. She still thinks the 2020 presidential election was rigged, and wait until you hear this doozy of a reason how: She is convinced that foreign powers used a military satellite in Italy to change votes from Trump to Biden on election night. You laugh, but Trump grew so desperate that former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows repeatedly pestered the Department of Justice to investigate Zack’s claim.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“An expensive surprise for rich heirs lurks inside the Democrats’ tax plan” via Allyson Versprille and Ben Steverman of Bloomberg — The package by the Ways and Means Committee calls for a revamp of the U.S. estate-and-gift tax, a levy on the country’s largest fortunes which has been greatly weakened over decades. If House Democrats have their way, rich Americans will soon be scrambling for new and probably more expensive ways to pass wealth onto heirs. The 881-page legislative proposal cracks down on several strategies that have made the tax easy to avoid if you hire the right advisers. “That’s a huge sea change,” said Brad Dillon, a senior wealth strategist at UBS Group AG in New York. The move eliminates a majority of transactions estate planners would typically advise clients to do, he said.
“Senate Democrats unite behind revised elections legislation” via Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal — A group of Senate Democrats unveiled revised elections legislation that aims to ease voters’ access to the polls, a proposal that is expected to unite the party but not draw sufficient Republican support to advance. The bill results from months of closed-door negotiations dominated by Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Joe Manchin. By securing the support of Manchin, who had rejected an earlier proposal passed by the House in March, the new bill is expected to have the backing of all 50 Senate Democrats but will need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a GOP filibuster.
“JCT: House tax plan targets rich, but $400K pledge under stress” via Laura Weiss of Roll Call — The bulk of tax increases included in proposals from the House Ways and Means Committee to pay for Democrats’ planned $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package would fall on households making $1 million or more, according to an estimate Tuesday from the Joint Committee on Taxation. The nonpartisan tax scorekeepers found Ways and Means’ provisions would lead to double-digit percentage tax increases for millionaires and up for much of the next decade, while taxes could go up by as much as 2% on households making between $200,000 and $500,000. Biden committed not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 per year, and Democrats in Congress reiterated that pledge. But JCT’s analysis suggests there could be slightly higher taxes for those within that range.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“‘Her story was just getting started.’ Globe-trotting daughter died with Cuban father in Surfside” via Syra Ortiz-Blanes of the Miami Herald — Father and daughter duo Miguel and Michelle Pazos, world travelers and dedicated professionals, died when the Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside on June 24. Michelle had traveled to Miami with her best friend from college, 24-year-old Anastasia Gromova. Pazos’ father, 55-year-old Miguel, had an apartment in the oceanfront Surfside tower condo. The friends wanted a vacation together before Anastasia moved to Japan to teach English and travel the region. The bodies of Miguel and Michelle were found on July 8 and 9, respectively; Anastasia was among the last victims to be found, recovered on July 18.
“‘Dancing in heaven’: Surfside couple Mihai and Maria Radulescu loved music, celebrating life” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — Maria Popa Radulescu, 79, and her husband Mihai, 82, lived in unit 404 of Champlain Towers South in Surfside and perished in the collapse in the early hours of June 24. Their bodies were recovered on July 9. Funeral services were held at the Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church in Hollywood on July 31, on what would have been Radulescu’s 83rd birthday. According to a family friend, the Radulescus are survived by their son Alexandru, who lives in Mastic, New York. According to property records, the couple bought the apartment in 2009, after owning a house in Long Island. Music was part of their lives.
“A Key West condo building at risk of being condemned faces a $10 million repair bill” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Key West’s chief building official on Monday said he will not condemn a troubled condominium building at this time, but he gave the condo association a strict timeline for repairs. Raj Ramsingh’s decision gives the residents at the 111-unit Santa Clara condominium building a reprieve. After hearing an engineer say the building is repairable and not under the threat of collapse, Ramsingh gave the condo board deadlines so the city could track the progress of repairs to the 1980-era building in the New Town section of the city. “However, if we do not see positive movement according to this order, this is still not off the table,” Ramsingh said of condemnation after a hearing at City Hall.
“Miami Commission calls meeting to grill police chief after string of controversies” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo, a surprising and prized hire by the Mayor, is already on the hot seat only five months into the job. Miami Commissioners — angered over a series of controversial decisions and gaffes by the new chief — have called for a special meeting in two weeks to grill Acevedo and potentially decide his future. Last week, in the most recent controversy, the chief drew a rebuke from Commissioners for telling a group of officers that the department was run by the “Cuban Mafia.”
“‘Activism works’: Miami plans to increase funding, hires for climate change department” via Alex Harris and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — A month after Miami’s chief resilience officer announced his resignation, leaving the position in limbo for the second time in as many years, the city has moved to refill his job and hire two additional people for the resilience department. Advocates for climate action cheered the decision as a win for their long-running campaign to get the city to invest more in the team of people charged with helping Miami adapt to climate change. Commissioners gave first approval to a budget that included a chief resilience officer position and deputy chief resilience officer, as well as three full-time project managers.
“Miami-Dade Mayor announces her pick for Miami International Airport director” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava chose an in-house candidate as the new director of Miami International Airport, promoting acting Director Ralph Cutié to the permanent spot as head of the county’s Aviation Department. The pick of a Miami-Dade government veteran to run one of the most high-profile and politically volatile county departments ends a hiring process that began in June when Levine Cava asked for the resignation of Lester Sola, MIA’s director at the time. After a search that brought multiple outsiders into the contention spotlight, Levine Cava went with a candidate who has worked in county government for 30 years.
“Miami-Dade has a new transit director. He doesn’t think you need a car in downtown Miami” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade’s new transit director commutes to his Miami office on the Metromover each morning, and he thinks the city has a better transit system than most people realize. “I was surprised this existed,” Eulois Cleckley said as he walked down the stairs from the Museum Park station for Metromover, a free county-run wheeled train that runs on elevated tracks throughout Miami. “There should be no reason why you should be moving around downtown, Brickell, through Omni, by the use of your car,” he said. “Between the bus system, and the Metromover system, you have probably one of the better transit mobility options in cities I’ve seen.”
“Palm Beach County School District begins to pay out $50M to charters once denied a share of tax windfall” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — With its legal recourse all but eliminated in court rulings this month, the Palm Beach County School District will begin paying out millions of dollars it previously denied the county’s roughly 50 charter schools — money intended to improve teacher pay and cover the growing costs of school security. The sum, about $50 million over the next two budget years, is the charter schools’ share of the proceeds generated by a 2018 voter-approved property tax hike that currently is bringing the district about $250 million annually. Next month, a Palm Beach County Circuit Judge will decide whether the district also owes those schools money withheld in the first two years of the tax increase.
“International love … for the racetrack? Pitbull voices support for saving Palm Beach International Raceway” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — Music performer Pitbull is the latest auto enthusiast to sign on to the effort to preserve — and upgrade — the Palm Beach International Raceway. “It is a true honor and an amazing opportunity to help in this important effort to save Palm Beach International Raceway. Bringing together community and culture to create generational experiences is priceless,” said Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, in a statement. “We look forward to making history in West Palm Beach like we’ve done in music, NASCAR and education, Dale!” Corey Saban, who is helping to manage the effort, said Pitbull is just one of the thousands of “celebrities, car enthusiasts, residents and leaders” who have vocalized their desire to keep the raceway.
“Orange County pledges $13 million to ‘jump-start’ 4 new affordable housing projects” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Commissioners decided unanimously Tuesday to award more than $13 million to developers proposing to build four multifamily affordable housing complexes, including two in Pine Hills, the first large-scale projects to win financing from a taxpayer-supported housing trust fund. When completed, likely in early 2023, the developments will add more than 500 apartments for low-income renters. The four projects combined carry a price tag of $128.9 million, according to county figures. The trust fund was a key recommendation of the Housing For All Task Force, a 38-member advisory panel Demings created to address the region’s scarcity of affordable housing for low-wage workers.
“Did a Panama City Beach resort misuse Hurricane Michael money? Some residents say yes” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — A legal council was recently formed to voice a list of allegations against officials of the Edgewater Beach Resort Community Association, including that they have grossly misused Hurricane Michael recover funds. According to a letter from Attorney Craig Morris of Morris Law Firm that was addressed to Jim Bailey, association president, and Tom Sparks, association manager, a handful of board members and owners are “very concerned” with how the association is handling its finances. Among the allegations listed are that the association unlawfully mixed almost $16 million of Hurricane Michael insurance funds with its operations funds, instead of depositing the money into a trust or construction account.
“$176 million ‘classroom’: Hill AFB airmen turning crashed Eglin F-35 into training aids” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Don’t tell the airmen at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base the F-35 fighter jet that crashed last year at Eglin Air Force Base was written off as a $176 million loss. They know better, and are proving it as they transform the remains of the jet into training aids for F-35 maintenance personnel. The F-35A Lightning II was assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, part of Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing, when it crashed on an Eglin runway the night of May 19, 2020, at the close of an air combat training mission involving two F-35s and two “aggressor” aircraft.
— TOP OPINION —
“After badgering public schools, DeSantis got something right and it’s a big deal” via the Miami Herald editorial board — He wants to eliminate the Florida Standards Assessments — three words that teachers hate, students dread and parents stress over. So much hinges on the FSA and those hours of test-taking that happen every spring: teacher performance evaluations, school grades and student self-esteem. DeSantis wants to replace that testing model starting in the 2022-23 school year with student “progress monitoring” three times a year to reduce testing by 75% and allow for more individualized assessment that helps teachers adjust during the school year. Using algorithms and technology to build tests for each student’s needs? We like that. Providing test scores before the school year ends, instead of waiting until kids are home for the summer? Ditto.
— OPINIONS —
“Here comes the Biden tax bill” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — It’s been under wraps longer than some Egyptian mummies, but the bill for the Biden-Pelosi–Bernie Sanders spending agenda is about to be exposed to the air. The Ways and Means Committee draft tax increase leaked over the weekend is a $2.2 trillion Washington money grab for the ages. The most bizarre spin is that the House Democratic draft is less onerous than Biden has proposed. As a share of GDP, the House proposal is still the largest tax increase since 1968. If Americans are successful, Democrats want to tax more of their income. The top individual tax rate will rise to 39.6% from 37%.
“DeSantis reaches a new low of cynicism and recklessness” via The Washington Post editorial board — Although the wave of illness from the delta variant appears to be receding in Florida, the state has suffered a terrible summer toll of hospitalizations and deaths. A Governor facing such a cataclysm might naturally be expected to use all methods to keep people safe. Instead, DeSantis has for months been campaigning against mask and vaccine mandates and actively sought to prevent business, government, and schools from imposing them. These are vital tools to save lives in the face of a highly transmissible disease. He casts himself as a defender of personal freedom. This is a favorite argument of Republican Governors and others. But personal freedom does not give an individual the right to hurt others.
“Attack on vaccine mandates is about saving jobs, not lives” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — With no apparent regard for health and safety, DeSantis threatened to impose “millions and millions” of dollars in fines against cities and counties that make COVID-19 vaccinations a condition of employment, citing a new state law (SB 2006) that he says gives the state power to impose $5,000 fines against governments or businesses for each violation. What’s going on? Reelection politics, obviously. Monday’s event had all the trappings of a political rally. DeSantis, running for a second term next year, sees a huge political upside in taking up the cause of police and firefighters facing the loss of their professional livelihoods at the hands of what many will see as heavy-handed government action. He may well be right about that.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s Senate Democrats called on a critical care nurse to clear up misinformation on whether the COVID-19 vaccine changes your RNA.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— Gov. DeSantis announces an end to high-stakes testing.
— And while preparing to fight off a Texas-style abortion law, Rep. Anna Eskamani files a bill to repeal Florida’s 24-hour abortion waiting period law. Eskamani is on the Sunrise interview.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Disney: Candlelight Processional set for Epcot in 2021 but with choir change” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Candlelight Processional, a live holiday concert at Epcot, is returning to the theme park in 2021, Walt Disney World announced Tuesday. But the format won’t be exactly the same as before the pandemic. This year’s event, scheduled for Nov. 26-Dec. 30 as part of the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, will not include members of community and school choirs. Instead, the cast-member portion of the choir will be expanded to fill the stage. All Candlelight Processional performers will be required to be fully vaccinated. Candlelight Processional has been staged at Epcot since 1994 but was not held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Disney is optimistic that guest choirs will be allowed to participate in the 2022 edition of the program.
“Epic Universe is coming to Universal — but when?” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Epic Universe, Universal’s new theme park under construction in Orlando, doesn’t have a tentative opening date, an executive said Tuesday. Comcast chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh was asked when the park is opening while he answered questions about the company’s business during a virtual investor conference. “It’s going to take us several years,” said Cavanagh, calling Epic Universe a “multiyear project” with the construction cost spread over three or four years. Epic Universe is expected to up Universal’s competition with Disney World.
“Black News Channel launches BNC GO streaming service for younger audiences” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Black News Channel, the Tallahassee-based news network available in more than 50 million homes, expanded its portfolio this week with the launch of BNC GO, a streaming product offering separate content for younger viewers. The network says BNC GO is aimed at Black and brown Millennial and Gen Z audiences by offering original programming 18 hours daily. The lineup includes a mix of culture, business, travel, food, fashion, sports, and finance. The Black News Channel was launched in February 2020 in Tallahassee with the goal of providing news, analysis and other content specifically targeting Black and brown audiences.
“Navarre among best places to live in the U.S.? These experts say so!” via USA Today Network — There’s a reason Navarre’s population is exploding; it’s an awesome place to live! But the secret is out. Navarre landed on the 2021-2022 Best Place to Live in the United States by Money, coming in at No. 34. It was the only Florida community to make the list. To curate its list, Money analyzed thousands of different places in the U.S. with an emphasis on affordability, job opportunities and top-notch schools. “Don’t let its prime role in Jaws 2 scare you,” Money wrote. “Though Navarre’s beaches were the backdrop for the 1978 film, it’s not all sharks and scares here. In fact, the town is actually a safe harbor for many of the ocean’s most beloved creatures.”
“The iPhone 13 wants to shoot your next feature film” via Julian Chokkattu of Wired — The iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max refine every single aspect of their predecessors. The OLED displays are smoother, batteries last longer, and internal storage sizes are larger. So, it’s a lot like last year’s iPhone, just nicer. The displays on these iPhones are where you’ll see many of the biggest improvements. The main camera on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini also features sensor-shift stabilization, and the sensor can capture 47% more light than last year, meaning your low-light photos should be brighter and show less visible noise. The ultrawide on the Pro models now feature autofocus, enabling you to use them for macro photography.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Rep. Mike Caruso, Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida, Chris Heath, Chris Hudson, Scott Kosanovich, and Chris Wilkerson.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.