Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.23.21

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All the news that fits, and more: Your first look at Sunshine State politics and policy news.

Good Thursday morning.

#RaysUp

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Breaking overnight — “FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up” via Axios — The approval comes just days after an FDA advisory panel recommended boosters for the two groups but overwhelmingly voted against the third shots for younger Americans. The approval also applies to people ages 18 to 64 “whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure” puts them at high risk for serious complications from the virus. The White House had hoped to begin administering boosters to many Pfizer recipients, including young Americans, this week. Several experts on the FDA advisory committee said last week that they hadn’t seen enough data to justify boosters for the general population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will likely issue guidance on boosters after a key advisory panel votes Thursday on third doses.

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We wanted to hold this story back for our FP Plus partners and subscribers, but we can’t help but spill it.

The Senate’s health care policy lead plans to put vaccine mandates in the crosshairs in the 2022 Legislative Session.

No, not that vaccine. All of them.

Hialeah Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, who chairs the Senate Health Policy Committee, told Christine Sexton of Florida Politics he plans to “review” existing vaccine requirements that have long been in place in Florida schools — the ones that require students to get shots for measles, mumps and more.

Manny Diaz wants to review the need for vaccine mandates. All of them.

Said review comes as GOP electeds are facing heat for their anti-mandate rhetoric on the COVID-19 vaccine and none of the others.

Under current law, only parents who cite religious or health reasons can exempt their children from vaccination requirements. Otherwise, parents need to show proof of vaccination — or a vaccine passport, if you will — showing they’ve received a long list of vaccinations.

Diaz, who hasn’t been vaccinated for COVID-19, did offer a moderate defense of the more ubiquitous and “proven” vaccines required of schoolchildren, such as the Truman-era combo shot for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

“I think there’s a distinction when you have something that is proven to work and doesn’t have any side effects,” he said.

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Welcome to the worldJoshua Karp, a Democratic communications strategist and founding partner at Hone Strategies, and Dorian Karp, director of policy and advocacy at Jewish Women International, on Tuesday morning welcomed Rory Shoshana Karp, who came in at 7 lbs., 2 oz., and joins her big sister Ellie.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@JonahDispatch: It’s like the apologists who were determined to parrot the line that COVID was “just the flu” or “not as bad as the flu” couldn’t let go of the fact they were embarrassingly wrong, so they still want to claim 675K dead are no big deal.

@mkraju: Stephanie Murphy, moderate House Dem, tells @AnnieGrayerCNN of Pelosi: “I would be deeply disappointed if she didn’t put the infrastructure bill on the floor as the resolution requires her to.”

@AshleyMoodyFL: “Defund” is the new radical buzzword in D.C. Dems are gung-ho on wasteful spending, but when it comes to funding for peace and safety there always seems to be an issue. To defund the Iron Dome would endanger the lives of the people of Israel, one of our most important allies.

@LMower3: That’s one of the main themes of the @GovRonDeSantis administration during the pandemic: Major policy changes, made cryptically and quietly with no clarifications or opportunities for questions to be answered.

@NateMonroeTU: it’s like we’re doing reverse contact tracing now, after, of course, never having really tried contact tracing in the first place

@BenDiamondFL: Many school districts have followed the advice of public health professionals and taken appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of our children and teachers. This new rule from the (Ron) DeSantis administration will interfere with those efforts. It’s misguided and dangerous.

@FowlerThanEver: I’d encourage everyone who wants to talk trash about redistricting to draw a map and see how “easy” it is.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 7; Disability Employment Awareness Month begins — 8; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres — 8; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 8; MLB regular season ends — 10; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres — 15; ‘Succession’ returns — 24; ‘Dune’ premieres — 29; World Series Game 1 — 33; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 34; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 34; Georgia at UF — 37; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 40; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 40; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 43; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 43; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 45; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 46; Miami at FSU — 51; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 56; FSU vs. UF — 65; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 69; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri‘s death — 75; Steven Spielberg‘s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 78; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 85; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 90; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 93; NFL season ends — 108; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 110; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 110; Joel Coen’s ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 113; NFL playoffs begin — 114; Super Bowl LVI — 143; Daytona 500 — 150; St. Pete Grand Prix — 157; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 183; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 227; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 246; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 252; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 288; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 300; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 379; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 414.

— TOP STORY —

Florida lawmaker files Texas-style fetal heartbeat abortion bill enforced by lawsuits” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The bill, filed by Rep. Webster Barnaby, would create civil penalties of at least $10,000, echoing the controversial Texas law that passed muster by the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 6-3. The bill also would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, generally at about six weeks, although the science is disputed whether a fetal heartbeat actually exists before seven weeks of gestation. Anyone other than a government employee can file a lawsuit against someone who not only performs an abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, but anyone who “aids or abets” such an abortion, including “paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise … regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced,” the bill reads. The proposed legislation specifies that the state or any state agency or local government would not be responsible for enforcement, only civil lawsuits.

Webster Barnaby is taking his cue from Texas. Image via Colin Hackley.

Nikki Fried blasts abortion bill — Agriculture Commissioner Fried called Barnaby’s Texas-style abortion bill “dangerous, radical, and unconstitutional” in a statement released shortly after it was filed. “The hypocrisy of this attempt by Gov. DeSantis and Republicans in the state Legislature to take away our rights while at the same time preaching ‘my body, my choice” when it comes to wearing masks is absolutely disgusting,” she said. “They have made it abundantly clear by banning masks in schools and refusing to apply for money to help hungry kids that they don’t actually care about children’s lives.” The sole statewide Democrat closed with a promise to Florida women: “I will do everything in my power to stop this bill from becoming law. “

Lauren Book says abortion bill all rhetoric, no science — Senate Democratic Leader Book noted the filing of the “extreme” anti-abortion bill means “women’s fears have been realized.” The Plantation lawmaker continued, “Rooted in rhetoric instead of science, the bill cruelly strips women of their right to choose what happens to their own bodies. No exemption for rape and incest. Vigilante cause of action included. The House bill will be fiercely opposed by our Caucus because this outright attack on women will never be tolerated.” The statement reiterates the stance she expressed in a recent digital ad produced by the Florida Democratic Party, in which she said any attempt to import a Texas-style abortion law to the Sunshine State will be met with “fierce, fierce, fierce opposition.”

Lauren Book bristles at the newly filed ‘heartbeat bill.’ Image via Colin Hackley.

ButChris Sprowls asks Erin Grall, Colleen Burton to explore options for abortion bill — House Speaker Sprowls said while he has been consistently anti-abortion, any state bill limiting abortion rights would need clear hurdles set in Article I, Section 23 of the Florida Constitution, which guarantees Floridians a right to privacy. “Our laws have to be strong enough to jump through multiple levels of judicial scrutiny. We look forward to bringing to the floor a bill that saves every unborn life possible,” he said. “I have asked House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Grall and House Health & Human Services Chairwoman Burton to review the various proposals, look at other ideas, and take point on this issue this Session.”

—”‘Unconscionable but not unexpected’: House Dems react to Texas-style abortion bill filed in Florida” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis bobbles question about the bill” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Asked to compare and contrast “The Florida Heartbeat Act” (HB 167), called “freedom of choice during the pandemic,” DeSantis fumbled and ultimately offered an inconclusive answer. “Well, I think the difference is between, uh, the right to life is that another life is at stake. Whereas whether you’re doing stuff is really … if you’ve put something in your body or not, it doesn’t affect other people. So that’s in terms of protecting another life,” he asserted, choosing generalities over policy specifics. DeSantis demurred that he had not “seen what was there … I have a 100% pro-life record and very much have supported when I was in Congress and signed as Governor.”

— DATELINE TALLY —

Legislature launches redistricting website — The Legislature on Wednesday debuted a joint redistricting webpage that features an interactive map drawing function that allows the public to draw and submit redistricting plans. A news release announcing the website says the website’s GIS backbone includes the “data necessary to build districts down to the census block level.” Senate President Wilton Simpson said, “staff have been working tirelessly to integrate recently received census data with the new map-drawing application so legislators and the public can appropriately and actively participate in this once-in-a-decade process in a tangible and meaningful way.” House Speaker Sprowls added that the website launch “marks an exciting milestone for this redistricting cycle.”

Check out the website here.

OK Florida, have at it.

Manny Diaz wants to ‘review’ existing non-COVID-19 vaccine mandates” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics+ — Florida’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be a major focus during the 2022 Legislative Session for Sen. Diaz, the top Republican shaping health care policy in the upper chamber. His work could include revisiting existing vaccine requirements long in place in schools, a response to the debate about whether COVID-19 vaccines should also be required. Diaz, who came down with COVID-19 last winter, said he wants to review the state’s vaccination efforts as well as DeSantis’ work on getting monoclonal antibody treatments to those who test positive for COVID-19. The Senator, who acknowledges he hasn’t gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, says he’s firmly against vaccine mandates.

Christine Hunchofsky miffed by lack of nursing home personal care attendant data” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — AHCA could not say on Wednesday how many people who have worked as personal care attendants in the last 17 months went on to become certified nurse assistants, a stated goal of the personal care attendant program. “At this point, we do not have that information,” AHCA Deputy Secretary for Quality Assurance Kim Smoak said when House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee member Rep. Christine Hunschofsky asked the question. Hunchofsky, though, was less than pleased. “It’s a little concerning that you don’t have that data since the pandemic began in March 2020,” she said. The goal of the temporary personal care attendant program was to provide nursing homes with additional staff to care for their residents and to eventually grow the size of the state’s long-term care workforce.

Republican lawmaker files take two of ‘Victims of Communism Day‘” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Floridians could soon observe ‘Victims of Communism Day’ under a new bill filed in the Florida Senate, similar to a failed bill last Session. Sponsored by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, the bill (SB 268) would designate Nov. 7 as ‘Victims of Communism Day’ and require public school students to receive instruction on communist dictators. “Communism has proved incompatible with the ideals of liberty, prosperity, and dignity of human life and has given rise to such infamous totalitarian dictators as Josef Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot,” the measure reads. Students must also learn of the experience of communism victims. The bill would require at least 45 minutes of instruction for students enrolled in a high school government course.

Oenophiles rejoice: Chip LaMarca again seeking to repeal bottle size limits” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. LaMarca once again wants bigger bottles of wine — for retailers to sell, that is. The bill (HB 6031) the Lighthouse Republican filed Tuesday is identical to the one he filed last Session and the Session before. It seeks to repeal state law banning wine sales in containers larger than 1 gallon. The measure has sailed through the House of Representatives only to die in the Senate three years in a row. The standard size of a wine bottle is 750 milliliters, which is about five servings. One gallon would be 3,785 milliliters, with about 25 servings. A wine bottle called the Nebuchadnezzar is equivalent to 20 standard wine bottles, and the Solomon is equal to 24 standard wine bottles.

Florida law requires landlords to provide heat, not air conditioning. Michael Grieco wants to fix that” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — In Florida, one of the hottest states in America year-round, landlords are required by law to provide tenants with “functioning facilities for heat during winter.” They don’t have to do the same for air conditioning. It’s an absurd oversight, said Grieco, a state Representative from Miami Beach who aims to correct the issue through legislation this Session. “I almost fell over when I found out about it,” he told Florida Politics. “I’ll be filing a bill to address that specific issue, and we’ll see if it gets any traction.” Grieco said he hopes his forthcoming bill receives bipartisan support. He’s not sure it will, considering the current political climate.

Agriculture Department wants raises for first responders, funding for water and climate change” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics+ — The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is asking for $150 million in the upcoming budget, including nearly $6 million to fund pay raises for the department’s first responders. The agency released its funding request Monday as the first week of legislative committee hearings began. Fried, who is also mounting a campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, leads the department. “Despite the challenges of operating through a continuing pandemic, our core mission remains the same: to safeguard the public and support Florida agriculture,” Fried said. “Our budget priorities are solutions-oriented and critical not only to our department’s success, but also to our state.”

“‘EVs are coming’: Lawmakers hear findings from electric vehicle study” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida transportation officials say infrastructure efforts the Legislature launched have given the state a head start on the road to electric vehicles. Officials from the state Department of Transportation and Florida Power and Light briefed House and Senate panels on the recent history and future of electric vehicles in Florida. FDOT has worked with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Service Commission to develop a master plan for building charging station infrastructure to expand Florida’s electric vehicle network. Expanding the grid would help address the problem of “range anxiety,” fears that electric vehicle drivers won’t find the power stations necessary to make their trips, kind of like running out of gas.

Universities tout high rankings, low tuition in push for additional funding” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida schools are decreasing tuition while increasing their national rankings, education officials tout to lawmakers as they ask for increased funding. State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser and the Board of Governors are requesting budget increases, including an additional $15 million in performance-based funding for the coming fiscal year. Criser outlined a $5.5 billion total budget request. Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Suzanne Pridgeon posed a $3.3 billion operating budget. The Sunshine State’s public universities have been excelling, Criser said, accentuated by the University of Florida’s recent ranking as a top-five public school nationally by U.S. News and World Report this month.

Marshall Criser is hoping Florida can float some more cash to its top-ranked universities.

State University System working with FSU politics institute to develop ‘intellectual diversity’ survey” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — State University System Chancellor Criser told the House Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee the system is working with the Institute of Politics at Florida State University to develop the survey. With DeSantis’ blessing, the Republican-led Legislature mandated creating that survey earlier this year in a bill to protect “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” on college campuses. The Legislature established the Institute of Politics last year as part of a broader higher education package. “We saw it as a potential resource for us to work in the development of the survey mechanism,” Criser said.

New lobby registrations:

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Jose Diaz, Ballard Partners: MC Advisors

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Pigeonly

Melanie Brown-Woofter, Shane Messer: Florida Council for Behavioral Healthcare

Scott Dick, SKD Consulting Group: Association of Support Coordination Agencies

Leslie Dughi, Metz Husband & Daughton: American Lung Association, Florida Physical Therapy Association, Florida Psychiatric Society, Mayo Clinic

George Feijoo, Gary Guzzo, Floridian Partners: Allstate Insurance Company

Meghan Hodde, Ken Pruitt, Mark Pruitt, The P5 Group: ITI Holdings

Jonathan Kilman, Mario Bailey, Converge Public Strategies: Florida Independent Liquor Store Owners Association, WANRack

Allison Sackett: State Courts System

Corey Staniscia, CS Consulting Group: OceanTherm

Monte Stevens, The Southern Group: Next Insurance

— STATEWIDE —

“‘Writing on the wall’ at prominent appeals court supports DeSantis’s pandemic agenda” via Noreen Marcus of FloridaBulldog.org — Judges are expected to set aside their biases when they rule. But Judge Adam Tanenbaum of the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee has written or signed onto pandemic rulings that appear to rely on partisan spin and not on scientific facts. Most recently, on Sept. 10, Tanenbaum was one of three judges who lifted, for now, Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper‘s order rejecting the state ban on school mask mandates. Tanenbaum wrote an opinion that attacks an Alachua County masking order directed at businesses. Also, a three-judge panel including Tanenbaum threatened the career of Daniel Uhlfelder, a Panhandle lawyer who suggested in court papers that DeSantis is risking lives for political gain.

Ron DeSantis gets some backup from a prominent court of appeals.

State prison official sounds alarm: ‘We don’t have another Session to get this right‘” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida prison system remains under duress, and the time to act is now, a Florida Department of Corrections official told lawmakers Wednesday. Speaking to the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee, Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon said staffing issues and overcrowding remain the agency’s chief concern. An immediate intervention, he warned, is necessary. “We just don’t have another Session to get this right from all the statistics we’re looking at,” Dixon said. The agency will seek to raise starting pay to over $41,000 in the upcoming Legislative Session. The move, he added, may slow the migration of state prison employees to other higher-paying agencies.

CIO says Florida’s cybersecurity isn’t in a ‘great place,’ but it’s getting better — Florida Chief Information Officer Jamie Grant told a House panel Wednesday that the state is spending a lot of time on cybersecurity yet remains behind the curve. Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reported that the Republican former lawmaker said that while the state has lagged in maintaining its cybersecurity capabilities, it’s getting better. “Anyone who tells you we are in great posture, or in a great place is giving false hope,” he said. “At the same time, if anyone tells you the state is not heading in the right direction, they do not know what they are talking about.” Grant said also described recent reports on the severity of staffing problems at FDS as “clickbait.” He said nearly 90% of FDS hires made during his tenure are still at the agency.

Environmental inspections fell in Florida during COVID-19 pandemic” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics+ — State environmental investigators inspected fewer potential violations in 2020 than in 2019, but the number of enforcement actions reached their highest level in nearly a decade, according to a new study from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) investigators did find more violations in 2020 than in 2019 as industry compliance rates fell. The agency initiated 742 enforcement cases in 2020. That’s the highest yearly total since 2011, when more than 1,100 cases were opened. But DEP conducted fewer inspections “in every major program” except one, according to a news release about the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility study.

Florida approves preservation of 20,000 acres” via Ben Montgomery and Selene San Felice of Axios — Gov. DeSantis and the Cabinet approved $50 million on land preservation deals for seven parcels covering almost 20,000 acres. The money comes from the Florida Forever program, and the deals either preserve wilderness lands by limiting public access or allow ranching operations to continue with rules against development. The move protects important water supplies and preserves linkages through the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which runs the length of the state to provide safe migration routes for the Florida Panther and other animals. Six of the seven parcels are in the Corridor. This is the first time the Governor and Cabinet have met since the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was signed into law, showing a bipartisan commitment to the environment.

David Altmaier paints bleak picture of property insurance market” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida insurers are reporting heavier losses in 2021 than last year, and Insurance Commissioner Altmaier told state legislators that his office was currently monitoring several insurance companies to ensure they remain solvent and asked as many as 12 companies to submit monthly financial statements just to make sure they are still functioning. “The results are dire, and this is cause for concern,” Altmaier said. He also told legislators that even with a recently enacted bill designed to cut down on legal costs burdening insurers, he could not guarantee a time when rate hikes won’t continue to be needed. Florida has the third-highest property insurance rates in the nation. “There’s no quick fix to this,” Altmaier said.

David Altmaier does not give encouraging news. Image via Colin Hackley.

Altmaier says meeting on workers comp catastrophe fund assessment not likely” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida Insurance Commissioner Altmaier said Wednesday he has no plans to hold a public hearing on the National Council on Compensation Insurance’s request to levy an assessment against employers to establish a catastrophic fund for workers’ compensation. Altmaier would not say whether he was inclined to approve or reject the NCCI filing. Altmaier told Senate Banking and Insurance Committee members the agency would schedule a public meeting on the proposed 4.9% reduction in workers’ compensation rates. If approved, employers’ workers’ compensation rates would be reduced by nearly 70% since 2003, the Commissioner said. The OIR had not published a meeting date or time for the proposed rate filing at press time.

State delays start of ‘negotiated rule-making’ for neonatal intensive care beds” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A top health care official told members of a House panel the state wants to “aggressively” move forward with new rules governing the establishment and operation of neonatal intensive care units in Florida. AHCA Deputy Secretary for Health Quality Assurance Kim Smoak did not tell members of the House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee the agency delayed the meeting Sept. 30-Oct. 1 to Oct. 25-26. Following the meeting, an AHCA official attributed the delay, in part, to the need for the agency to hire a mediator to help negotiate rules that competing hospitals can agree upon. Moreover, the agency also needs time to review applications that have been submitted by people who want to be part of the negotiated rule-making panel.

MeanwhileMagic City Casino owners sue federal government to block sports betting in Florida” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Two Florida pari-mutuels filed a new motion in U.S. District Court in Washington, asking a judge to block implementation of online sports betting under the Florida tribal gaming compact which is scheduled to begin later this year. The motion asks a court to enjoin the sports-betting portion of the state’s compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The compact gives the Tribe a monopoly over sports betting in the state by allowing wagers to go through an internet server on tribal land. The plaintiffs allege that although the Department of the Interior allowed the compact to take effect, the court should reverse that decision and block implementation until a legal sports-betting compact is established for Florida.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Lost to COVID: Summer delta wave puts Florida in top 10 states for pandemic deaths” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida has moved up as a fierce summer wave pushes the virus’ toll past 50,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida now has the No. 10 highest per capita death rate among U.S. states. More than a fourth of those deaths have occurred over the summer, despite the widespread availability of vaccines that are highly effective in preventing serious illness. Behind the numbers is a trail of heartbreak.

Florida COVID-19 update: 10,073 cases added, daily death average stays at its highest” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida on Wednesday reported to the CDC 10,073 more COVID-19 cases and three deaths. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,527,250 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 51,892 deaths since the pandemic began. In the past seven days, on average, the state has added 376 deaths and 9,020 cases per day, according to Herald calculations of CDC data. The state’s seven-day death average has held at 376 deaths per day over the last three days, Florida’s highest seven-day death average. There were 8,187 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida. That is 251 fewer patients than Tuesday’s report.

In Florida, COVID-19 marches on. Image via AP.

—”A big drop! Okaloosa County’s COVID-19 cases fall 40.4%; Florida cases plummet 24.2%” via Mike Stucka of the Northwest Florida Daily News

COVID-19 quarantines no longer required in schools; parents will decide whether their kids stay home” via Scott Travis and Leslie Postal of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Children who have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 will no longer have to quarantine unless the parents want them to, under a new emergency rule signed by the state’s new Surgeon General. Children can now be sent back to school without quarantining even if they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus — as long as they have no symptoms. The new rule is likely to intensify the debate over parents’ rights vs. the need for public health precautions in schools. Previously, state rules required students to quarantine off campus at least four days after exposure to someone with the virus.

Court tosses school masking rule challenge — A challenge to the state rule banning school mask mandates was thrown out on Wednesday after a revised Department of Health rule made the challenge moot, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. “The Division of Administrative Hearings lacks jurisdiction to determine the validity of a rule after it has been repealed,” reads a Wednesday order from Judge Brian A. Newman. The new rule, put in place by new Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, allows parents to decide whether their child must stay home if exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The change comes as student infections are on the decline. There were 12,202 cases in children under 12 for the week ending Sept. 16 — a drop of more than half from the 26,475 cases for the week ending Aug. 26.

New Florida Surgeon General often takes contrary positions on COVID-19 policy, treatment” via Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times — For the first year and a half of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida, it was difficult to heed the advice of Florida’s top health official — Dr. Scott Rivkees — because he rarely publicly shared his views. That won’t be a problem for Rivkees’ successor, Dr. Ladapo. In more than a dozen published columns in major newspapers, Ladapo has frequently deviated from the medical establishment consensus. In the USA Today piece at the start of the pandemic, for instance, Ladapo warned that American economic shutdowns would not stop the spread of the virus. That piece was published four days after DeSantis issued a series of restrictions via executive order curtailing activities at bars, restaurants and gyms.

Florida’s new Surgeon General to make $462,000 a year in dual roles” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Ladapo will make $462,000 a year in his dual role as chief of the Department of Health and a member of the faculty at the University of Florida. Ladapo will be a professor at the UF College of Medicine, a tenure-track position subject to approval by the UF Board of Trustees. He will receive $262,000 in that job, in addition to his $200,000 salary as surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health. UF anticipates the health agency “will contribute a significant portion of this salary based on the percentage of time he dedicates to the surgeon general role,” UF spokesman Ken Garcia wrote in an email.

Nikki Fried celebrates vaccination milestone, casts doubt on new Surgeon General” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Fried celebrated a milestone — 12 million Floridians having been vaccinated against COVID-19. But she also expressed concern about the state’s new chief health officer. “The people of the state of Florida need to be congratulated for finally listening to the calls and listening to all of our recommendations of the last eight weeks, asking people to getting vaccinated,” Fried said, castigating DeSantis for inoculation “disinformation.” This was Fried’s first news conference since DeSantis brought on a controversial new Surgeon General who, like DeSantis, sees vaccines as optional. “It seems like the Governor went out of his way to find him and bring him to Florida,” Fried said.

Nikki Fried is touting success in getting Floridians vaccinated. Image via Colin Hackley.

Judge halts Gainesville from enforcing rule that employees get COVID-19 shots” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — Circuit Judge Monica J. Brasington has granted a temporary emergency injunction requested by the employees’ attorney, which stops the city from enforcing the Oct. 1 deadline for employees to get their first shot. “The city did not put on any evidence, at all, at the injunction hearing,” she writes in her ruling. “Without any evidence, the court is unable to consider whether the vaccine mandate serves a compelling interest through the least restrictive means, whether the vaccine mandate meets a strict scrutiny test, a rational basis test, or whether it meets any other standard.”

PBC schools seek to add COVID-19 testing, contact tracing staff for every campus” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County education leaders are laying the groundwork to expand school-based COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, with a long-term goal of a speedier return to campus for healthy students and staff. The efforts would be coordinated with local health agencies and paid for with grant money flowing from the CDC. The steps proposed Wednesday are only a start, said Keith Oswald, the district’s chief of Equity and Wellness. The first step district officials are proposing is to offer more testing at each school. Each week, hundreds, sometimes thousands of unvaccinated teachers and students are told they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and must seek out testing on their own to speed their return to the classroom.

Sarasota store suing Florida over lack of vaccine requirement” via Bailey LeFever of WUSF — In some states, vaccination cards have become the golden ticket to restaurants, bars and stores. But in Florida, businesses are legally not allowed to require proof of vaccination for entry. The owners of Bead Abode, a Sarasota craft store, are suing the Florida surgeon general over the law. The store has been closed since March 2020 but wants to reopen its new location in October with safety protocols, such as a proof-of-vaccination requirement to protect customers, said Andrew Boyer, co-owner and legal counsel. Bead Abode has still been making online sales throughout the pandemic. But most regulars are eager to return in person, Boyer said. He added that safety measures like proof of vaccination, also known as “vaccine passports,” will make customers feel more protected.

— 2022 —

Democrats commit $30M to Senate battles in Florida, other battleground states” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democrats in Florida and eight other battleground states will split $30 million in a new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee initiative to establish early grassroots campaigns for U.S. Senate contests. The DSCC’s “Defend the Majority Program” represents the committee’s largest-ever ground field organizing investment at this point in campaign cycles. The money will go toward helping provide field staff, field offices, and field training programs. That means the Florida Democratic Party, which already has staff assigned to the 2022 U.S. Senate election effort, could get early field organizing help.

Florida Democrats are seeing some organizational cash for 2022. Image via Colin Hackley.

Republicans pull nearly even with Democrats in number of registered voters in Florida” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — The gap between Florida’s registered Democrats and Republicans, which has been steadily closing nearly every year since 2012, is a few thousand voters away from the GOP pulling ahead for the first time in state history. Despite two decades of Republican dominance on a statewide level, Democrats in Florida have maintained their edge in the number of registered voters. But that lead is now down to about 24,000, according to Florida Department of State data — far from the 558,000-voter-advantage Democrats had nearly a decade ago. There are about 5.1 million Republicans and just slightly more Democrats listed in state data showing active voters as of Aug. 31. There are about 3.8 million NPA voters and about 250,000 minor party voters.

Assignment editorsCharlie Crist will join parents and a group of Floridians concerned about the newly named Surgeon General’s emergency rule on COVID-19 protocols, 12:30 p.m., livestreaming on Facebook. RSVP to [email protected] to ask questions of the attendees.

— CORONA NATION —

CDC panel tackles who needs booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine” via The Associated Press — An influential panel of advisers to the CDC grappled with the question of which Americans should get COVID-19 booster shots, with some members wondering if the decision should be put off for a month in hopes of more evidence. The doubts and uncertainties suggested yet again that the matter of whether to dispense extra doses is more complicated scientifically than the Joe Biden administration may have realized when it outlined plans a month ago for an across-the-board rollout of boosters. The rollout was supposed to have begun this week. Much of the discussion at the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting focused on the possibility of a scaled-back booster program targeted to older people or perhaps health care workers.

Is it time to roll up your sleeves again? Image via AP.

Is the worst over? Modelers predict a steady decline in COVID-19 cases through March” via Rob Stein and Carmel Wroth of NPR — The delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths will likely decline steadily now through the spring without a significant winter surge. The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub combined nine different mathematical models to get an outlook for the pandemic for the next six months. The modelers developed four potential scenarios, considering whether or not childhood vaccinations take off and whether a more infectious new variant should emerge. Deaths from COVID-19 would fall from about 1,500 a day now to fewer than 100 a day by March 2022.

“‘Post-vax COVID’ is a new disease” via Katherine Wu of The Atlantic — We’re not yet at the point where we can officially label post-vaccination COVID-19 cases as “modified”; maybe we never will be. Some immunized people are still getting dangerously sick. But the shots are softening COVID-19’s sharp edges: On average, breakthrough infections seem to be briefer, milder, and less contagious. If this virus becomes as inescapable as the culprits behind the colds and flus that trouble us most years, we could all have to grapple with one of these infections and learn that lesson on a personal level. That’s the social tax of a forever virus: Nearly everyone may eventually know what it is to get COVID-19 — but a tamer, more domesticated version.

The struggle to define Long COVID” via Dhruv Khullar of The New Yorker — There is little doubt among researchers that Long COVID exists. But the syndrome is new, and lives for the moment in the realm of theory and anecdote. Amid an always online pandemic, the condition is also the subject of constant conjecture. Doctors, scientists, and patients are sharing their opinions freely, along with everyone else. The needed research is underway. Medical schools around the country have begun studying Long COVID, and hundreds of papers trying to demystify the syndrome have been published. Congress has authorized more than $1 billion for research on the long-term consequences of coronavirus infection; NIH Director Francis Collins has announced an initiative that will include a large-scale, $470 million study of the syndrome, designed in part using input from patients and families.

Children face racial disparities as COVID-19 infections rise” via Margo Snipe of the Tampa Bay Times — COVID-19 is infecting more kids, and the racial disparities of who is falling ill is similar to those among adults. The age group 19 and younger saw nearly 4.9 million COVID-19 infections, over 39,000 hospitalizations, and 725 deaths nationwide through the end of August. While the data for young folks remains limited, it suggests children of color have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, which “may widen existing gaps in health and well-being between children of color and white children,” wrote Nambi Ndugga, a policy analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation who contributed to the report. Children of color are more likely than white children to be infected, hospitalized and die from the coronavirus.

Children are being hit hard with COVID-19 and along similar racial lines. Image via Reuters.

OFFSAsthma group warns against social media trend of inhaling hydrogen peroxide to treat coronavirus” via Aaron Gregg of The Washington Post — A leading asthma patient group has issued a warning against a coronavirus treatment circulating on social media that is leading some people to post videos of themselves breathing in hydrogen peroxide through a nebulizer. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America called the practice “concerning and dangerous” in a Tuesday blog post, emphasizing that it will neither treat nor prevent the virus and is harmful to the lungs. “DO NOT put hydrogen peroxide into your nebulizer and breathe it in. This is dangerous!” wrote the foundation in a brief blog post. It’s the latest case in which the medical community has grappled with unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous at-home coronavirus treatments.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Democratic lawmakers urge Joe Biden to help Haitian migrants at southern border” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — With Haiti residents migrating in unprecedented numbers to the U.S. southern border, Democratic lawmakers called on Biden Wednesday to address the crisis and remove a public health order that expedites the deportation of migrants amid the pandemic. Led by Reps. Marie Woodson and Dotie Joseph, roughly a dozen Democratic lawmakers decried the situation and described it as a “humanitarian crisis” that requires immediate action. Among other calls, they urged Biden to undo a Donald Trump-era public health order known as Title 42. The order fast-tracks deportations at the southern border and has remained in effect under the Biden administration. They also urged the Democratic President to meet with members of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network.

Joe Biden is called on to address the Haitian migrant crisis. Image via AP.

“‘Biden nou fache’: Protesters in Miami demand asylum for Haitian migrants at border” via C. Isaiah Smalls II and Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Demonstrators protesting the deportation and treatment of Haitian migrants on the outskirts of Texas took to the streets outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami field office Wednesday, blocking parts of Northwest Seventh Avenue near Little River Drive. More than 100 people turned out to protest the deportations at the U.S.-Mexico border and demand the Biden administration accommodate Haitians seeking refuge in the U.S. after July’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and August’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people. The 11 a.m. event was organized by the advocacy group Family Action Network Movement. The invitation called Miamians to protest “the illegal expulsions of Haitian refugees and grave human rights abuses in Del Rio, Texas.”

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Donald Trump sues New York Times and niece Mary Trump over tax records story” via Katerina Ang of The Washington Post — Trump sued over the publication of a 2018 article detailing allegations he “participated in dubious tax schemes … including instances of outright fraud” that allowed him to receive over $413 million from his father, Fred Trump Sr., while significantly reducing taxes. The suit, filed in a Dutchess County, New York, court, alleges Mary Trump, The New York Times, and at least three of its reporters “engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly sensitive records” about the former President’s finances. According to the lawsuit, Donald Trump suffered at least $100 million in damages as a result.

Donald Trump gets litigious, again. Image via Reuters.

Trump’s red, white & blue Air Force One paint job is not final, General says” via Marcus Weisberger of DefenseOne — The red, white, and blue paint scheme selected by former President Donald Trump for the next Air Force One has not been finalized, a top Air Force general said Tuesday. A final decision about the color will be made closer to when the planes enter service, which is now even later than planned due to supply chain issues, according to Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the Air Force military deputy for acquisition. For several years, the Air Force has used a concept image of the plane with the red, white, and blue livery chosen by Trump in the service’s official budget request. The Biden administration’s fiscal 2022 budget request also used the picture.

Somehow, we’re still learning the depths of Trump’s dishonesty” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — This week, we learned new details about the conversations that were unfolding in the White House in the days before the counting of electoral votes at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. We’ve learned the extent to which Trump’s insistences about the election having been stolen were predicated on information that his team and his allies knew were unfounded. We’ve learned from the aforementioned memo that Trump seized upon a fringe opinion about constitutionality as a rationale to pressure his Vice President into doing something that he couldn’t do and shouldn’t have done even if he could. We’ve learned more, in other words, about just how shoddy Trump’s claim to a second term was.

— CRISIS —

Why sane Republicans are purging themselves” via Charles Sykes for POLITICO — Last week, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio) announced that he wouldn’t stay and fight his Trump-backed primary challenger, walking away from what had once been a safe seat in Congress. The decision was greeted with dismay among anti-Trumpers of both parties who saw Gonzalez’s survival as a test of whether Trump’s grip on the GOP could be shaken. By and large, GOP officeholders have internalized that message; they know that defying or even questioning Trump’s most bizarre claims is political suicide. Trump has already made dozens of endorsements in down-ballot races against Republican officials who refused to back his election fraud claims. By leaving office and ceding the field to the Trumpists, they are also ensuring that the identity of the GOP is now frozen in place and will be for a generation.

Anthony Gonzalez is the latest sane Republican to ditch the madness. Image via AP.

— D.C. MATTERS —

“‘America is back’: Val Demings touts $3.5 trillion budget bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics+ — In less than two weeks, Democrats in Congress are expected to push their $3.5 trillion, 10-year budget package putting much of Biden’s social and climate agenda into the federal budget for the next decade. Democratic U.S. Rep. Demings of Orlando is one of Congress’ most outspoken advocates of the plan. She’s also the leading Democratic candidate challenging Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate election in 2022. She spoke with Florida Politics about why she supports the plan. The package includes much of what Biden had proposed last spring in his $2 trillion climate resilience plan and his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.

Bipartisan police-overhaul talks end with no deal” via Eliza Collins and Sadie Gurman of The Wall Street Journal — Bipartisan talks aimed at overhauling police tactics and accountability have ended with no agreement, the top Democratic negotiator said, with lawmakers unable to reach a compromise following nationwide protests sparked by the killings of Black Americans by law-enforcement officers. Sen. Cory Booker said Wednesday that he called Sen. Tim Scott to tell him the Democrats were done negotiating after Scott didn’t accept their final offer. The negotiations, which began early this year, were led by Booker, Scott and Rep. Karen Bass. A previous effort to pass policing rules had ended in partisan acrimony before the 2020 election.

Cory Booker and Tim Scott fail to close the deal on police reform. Image via AP.

The tangled tale of the Israel consulate, the Dilbert cartoonist and the Matt Gaetz case” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO —Scant media attention has been paid in the sex crimes investigation to the mysterious cameo of Jake Novak, broadcast media director of the Consulate General of Israel in New York. Three days before the story broke in March that federal investigators were probing whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl, Novak began corresponding with Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams about the scandal. Novak indicated to Adams he had inside knowledge of the probe and suggested he was personally involved in an effort to get $25 million out of Gaetz’s wealthy father to help free an American hostage in Iran named Bob Levinson.

We hear you, Southwest Florida, new Army Corps leader tells audience at Congressman Byron Donalds’ town hall” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Naples Daily News — U.S. Congressman Donalds put water quality front and center at a Tuesday night virtual town hall that included a top federal regulator. Up for discussion: algae problems, flexibility with water releases from Lake Okeechobee and whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is listening to the state’s west coast residents. Col. James Booth took charge of the 61st commander of the Corps Jacksonville District, which includes Southwest Florida, a little more than two weeks ago. He arrived as the district continues wrestling with a tongue-twistingly named, brain-bogglingly complicated process updating the way it runs Lake Okeechobee and its attached waterways.

— LOCAL NOTES —

No signs of Gabby Petito’s boyfriend after days of searching” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Search teams found nothing of note Wednesday at a Florida wilderness park where they have spent days looking for the boyfriend of Petito, the young woman who authorities say was killed while on a cross-country trip with him. The search resumed Wednesday morning at the 24,000-acre (9,700-hectare) Carlton Reserve Park and ended just before dark, North Port police spokesperson Joshua Taylor said. Investigators say Brian Laundrie’s parents told them he had gone there after returning home without Petito on Sept. 1. It marked the fourth day of searching in the Carlton Reserve, with operations suspended Monday while the FBI searched the nearby Laundrie home for evidence. The search of the reserve was set to resume Thursday morning.

The search for Brian Laundrie is coming up empty, so far. Image via AP.

Book latest prominent Democrat to back Ken Welch for St. Pete Mayor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — “As the Democratic Leader in the Florida Senate, I believe it’s critical for Democrats to win up and down the ballot next November and I am proud to support local city leaders like Ken who have both the background and experience necessary to make a difference for everyday Floridians,” Book said in a statement. “I am confident Ken will be a tremendous partner with local and state government and I look forward to working with him to improve the lives of St. Pete residents when he is Mayor.” Welch, a registered Democrat, faces Republican City Council member Robert Blackmon.

Everyone is talking about DeSantis — except in St. Pete’s mayor race” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — He’s a topic of conversation in races from California to Virginia and in the White House briefing room. He’s a hashtag and on flags. It seems everyone these days is talking about Gov. DeSantis — except the candidates running for mayor in St. Petersburg. Ken Welch and Robert Blackmon have all but ignored the state’s consequential and contentious Governor on the campaign trail. DeSantis hardly came up during the summer primary, and he remains a distant presence in the weeks since the race for City Hall became a two-man runoff.

Sarasota City Commission plans legal action to advance ranked choice voting” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The city of Sarasota is seeking a court judgment on whether it can use ranked choice voting in its elections. Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank all candidates in a race, according to their preferences. This form of voting ensures that the winner of an election has received over 50% of the vote. The city will be seeking a declaration that the Florida Election Code and the state’s Constitution allow municipal elections to be conducted using ranked choice voting. The Sarasota City Commission voted 4-1 to work with outside legal counsel on this effort. Fournier said a declaratory judgment is a way to decide a dispute between two parties about their rights and obligations.

Florida is a hot spot for government homes sold in flood-prone areas” via Lisa Peakes of WUSF — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is disproportionately selling homes in areas prone to flooding. More than 500 in the past few years were sold in Florida: 112 of them in the greater Tampa Bay region. While HUD isn’t required by law to disclose that houses are in an official flood zone, NPR found the federal agency often doesn’t fully disclose the potential danger to buyers. And in some cases, the homes are being rented out or resold to new buyers who were unaware of the risks.

DEP: Piney Point cleanup could take years to complete” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A breach in a reservoir at Piney Point was repaired last year, Department of Environmental officials confirmed. But there remains the risk of further disaster as long as millions of gallons of polluted war remain above ground on the Manatee County site. DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton told lawmakers that even if a plan remains on track to remove all water and level the land, it will be years before that work concludes. That’s because state and local officials must still find and build a place to dispose of that water while continuing to monitor the site regularly. Officials remain concerned about whether the 215 million gallons discharged from Piney Point directly into Tampa Bay due to the disaster fed red tide hitting many of Florida’s coastal counties this year.

Red tide resurgence in Florida Panhandle” via Jake Holter of WHNT — It’s been three years since Panhandle beaches dealt with red tide, but it’s back again. The harmful algae bloom, named Karenia brevis, releases a toxin that can irritate respiratory systems. The common side effects include itchy skin, a scratchy throat, coughing and a burning sensation to your eyes, nose, and throat. During major blooms, the water will turn a brownish-red color and will kill marine life. Beachgoers reported red tide to the South Walton Fire District, prompting officials to post warnings on Facebook and raise the purple flags.

SFWMD Governing Board approves $1.15 billion budget” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — This year’s budget total represents a 6% decrease from the district’s budget last fiscal year. The largest chunk of the 2021-22 budget — just under $638 million — will go toward land acquisition, restoration and public works. Nearly $390 million will be used for the operation and maintenance of lands and works, according to the proposal discussed at a Tuesday evening SFWMD Governing Board meeting. Those two areas make up nearly 90% of the overall budget. Nearly $58 million is set aside for water resources planning and monitoring, while close to $42 million will be used for district management and administration. Just over $22 million is earmarked for regulation and another $1.25 million will go toward outreach.

Ducks Unlimited, SFWMD complete restoration of nearly 6,400 acres in Gardner-Cobb Marsh” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The marsh is located near the Kissimmee Upper Chain of Lakes. The project came as part of a grant proposal under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Groups can use NAWCA to apply for grant money for projects that help preserve wetlands and nearby uplands habitats, specifically those used by waterfowl and other migratory birds. DU successfully petitioned for that funding under the act and worked with the SFWMD to fill ditches and increase water flow to assist the prairie wetland system. “The Gardner-Cobb Marsh was acquired by SFWMD to support the Kissimmee River Headwaters Revitalization Project,” said DU Director of Conservation Programs Emily Purcell in an announcement celebrating the project’s completion.

Is time running out for the Cape Sable sparrow? Numbers drop to lowest in five years” via Jenny Staletovich of WLRN — The tiny Cape Sable seaside sparrow, a bird perilously perched on the edge of extinction, is getting closer to vanishing. Helicopter surveys this year, over grassy prairies where the bird lives in Everglades National Park, detected the lowest number in five years. While Everglades restoration is expected to increase the sparrow’s prairie habitat elsewhere, the safer, remote area on the park’s western border has switched chiefly to inhospitable sawgrass, where the birds won’t nest. Repairing it will take a decade or more, said Larry Williams, Florida’s state supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Will Everglades restoration come in time for the Cape Sable sparrow?

Space Force says demand for Cape Canaveral rocket launches may soon exceed capacity” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The commercial space business is evolving and growing so rapidly its main U.S. launch center, Cape Canaveral, may soon be facing more rocket launch requests than it can handle, a Florida Senate panel was told Wednesday. Those are mostly commercial launches of private satellites and other orbital commerce, which U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy, Jr. said accounted for 65% of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station launches in the past year. He expects that share to rise to 81% in the next 12 months. He said they have more companies lining up, interested in launching seven newly developed private rockets.

— TOP OPINION —

There is no choice between vaccinating Americans and vaccinating the world. We must do both.” via Jeffrey Zients and Antony Blinken of The Washington Post — Since Day One, Biden has been clear that the only way to defeat COVID-19 is to defeat the virus both here at home and around the world. Our most powerful weapon in this fight is safe and effective vaccines. Vaccinating Americans and vaccinating people around the world aren’t a choice; they are an imperative. That’s why we’re doing both. So far, the United States has committed to donate more than 630 million coronavirus vaccine doses globally. Nearly 160 million of those doses are already on the ground in more than 100 countries. The United States has now delivered more doses than every other country in the world, combined.

— OPINIONS —

The Texas abortion law is a human rights crisis for American women” via Uma Thurman for The Washington Post — The Texas abortion law was allowed to take effect without argument by the Supreme Court, which, due in no small part to its lack of ideological diversity, is a staging ground for a human rights crisis for American women. This law is yet another discriminatory tool against those who are economically disadvantaged, and often, indeed, against their partners. Women and children of wealthy families retain all the choices in the world, and face little risk. I am grief-stricken, as well, that the law pits citizen against citizen, creating new vigilantes who will prey on these disadvantaged women, denying them the choice not to have children they are not equipped to care for, or extinguishing their hopes for the future family they might choose.

—”Anti-abortion Republicans again remind women who’s in charge” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics

For Florida’s new surgeon general, DeSantis trades out a ghost for a crackpot” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Floridians could be forgiven for not knowing who Rivkees is: A pediatrician and former state surgeon general who was airbrushed out of the public record for making an accurate prediction last year, in the presence of DeSantis and the media, that Floridians might need to practice social distancing well into 2021 to combat the spread of COVID-19. For this sin, a DeSantis apparatchik promptly escorted him out of the room. DeSantis is so committed to ensuring Rivkees stays out of the daylight the state has tried to stop him from being deposed in a lawsuit over the governor’s failed attempt to ban mask mandates in public schools.

Florida’s new Surgeon General: A well-educated COVID-19 crank” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — It was bad enough when Florida had a surgeon general who went missing in action during a full-blown pandemic. Now DeSantis has picked a replacement who thinks COVID-19 vaccines are overrated. Ladapo, a Harvard medical-school graduate, was introduced by DeSantis Tuesday as the replacement for outcast Surgeon General Rivkees. Ladapo believes in herd immunity through natural infection. He warns of unknown risks from COVID-19 vaccinations. He’s argued against vaccine mandates. And on Wednesday, to kick off his tenure, Ladapo signed an order that does away with mandatory quarantines for students exposed to COVID-19.

What Bridget Ziegler is reading — “Mask mandate helps to protect Sarasota County’s schoolchildren” via Shirley Brown for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Parents have rights to make health care choices for their children. But under the Florida Constitution, parents also have rights to a free and safe public education for their children. That’s why we have laws that require proof of childhood vaccinations before children can attend public school. I find the argument akin to the debate over smoking in public places. You are allowed to smoke even though you know it may give you cancer. However, the government stepped in and passed laws that say that your right stops when your cigarette smoke affects others in a public space. That is why I voted for a mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors in our schools.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Looking beyond Texas, a state lawmaker files the “Florida Heartbeat Act” to ban abortions.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The first move from Florida’s new Surgeon General, Dr. Ladapo, makes quarantine optional for students exposed to COVID-19.

— Florida’s Haitian American lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to end the mistreatment and to stop the deportation of Haitian migrants.

— A federal judge strikes down parts of Florida’s immigration law, SB 168, ruling it was racially motivated.

— Two Sunrise interviews — Democratic Reps. Woodson and Joseph, both Haitian Americans — call for Biden to swiftly address what they call a “humanitarian crisis” and end the deportation of Haitian migrants.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Apple store workers to get bonuses of up to $1,000 in rare move” via Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — Apple Inc. will give store employees as much as $1,000 in one-time bonuses next month, a rare move that follows a tumultuous effort to get its retail operations back on track after pandemic shutdowns. According to people familiar with the situation, the iPhone maker will give $1,000 to retail staff hired before March 31, while anyone who joined after that date will receive $500. New workers for the holiday shopping season will get $200, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. The payouts also will go to AppleCare and online sales workers as well. But the good tidings came with a bit of coal. In a separate memo, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook criticized leaks to the press.

Veteran Apple Store employees will get a grand as thanks for sticking it out.

Crossroads is officially gone — goodbye to a piece of Disney history” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics+ — It’s officially farewell to the Crossroads. The shopping complex at Walt Disney World’s front door was vacated late last month. The property will be torn down to become a new interchange for the Interstate 4 Beyond the Ultimate expansion project. The state acquired the Crossroads Plaza in a $198 million agreement that’s considered the largest eminent domain settlement in Florida’s history, the lead attorney representing Crossroads’ owner has said. Disney built the Crossroads then changed hands over the years. It was a favorite for some Disney-goers who ate at chain eateries like Red Lobster or Perkins Restaurant, bought groceries at Gooding’s Supermarket, or hit a hole-in-one at a pirate-themed miniature golf course overlooking the interstate near Exit 68.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Nicole Hagerty of HCA, John Fox, Jeff Frederick, Lisa Greer, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, and Kimberly Diaz Scott.

___

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 and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to 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.



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
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