Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.1.21

Sunburn Orange Tally (5)
Here’s the day that was — and will be — in Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

First in Sunburn and just off embargo — Trulieve’s $2.1 billion deal to acquire another cannabis MSO, Harvest Health & Recreation, is now complete with Trulieve having acquired all of the issued and outstanding voting shares of stock. With the completion of this transaction, this creates the largest U.S. cannabis operator across a combined retail and cultivation footprint basis. “The closing of this transaction marks a transformational milestone in our company’s history and positions Trulieve as the leading medical and adult-use cannabis operator in the U.S.,” stated Kim Rivers, Chief Executive Officer at Trulieve, who will host a conference call and webcast today at 8:00 a.m. Look for a full write-up about the deal on Florida Politics later this morning.

The stars had seemingly aligned for former Rep. Lake Ray’s campaign to return to the Legislature.

House District 12 is open now that Rep. Clay Yarborough is running for Senate with leadership support. And the Duval-based seat has a sizable GOP advantage. Add in a volley of high-profile endorsements from the Jacksonville legislative delegation, and it seemed pretty close to a sure thing.

Well, Jessica Baker has something to say about that.

The Assistant State Attorney entered the field on Friday, setting up what could easily become a barnburner of a Republican Primary.

Lake Ray and Jessica Baker could make for a barnburner of a Republican primary in HD 12.

She spared the pleasantries in her campaign announcement: “Each day it seems another career politician finds a new way to rant about how divided we are as a nation, determined to drive a wedge between all of us and common-sense solutions.

“I’m running for Florida House District 12 because, like so many of you, I’m ready to tune out the politically driven outrage and focus on Florida-based outcomes for our families, our businesses and our communities that preserve our God-given freedoms and defend your right to pursue the American dream.”

Before becoming a prosecutor, Baker worked at high-powered lobbying firms Ballard Partners and Sachs Sax Caplan as well as in various capacities for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

While the Florida State University law school grad is accomplished in her own right, she has an ace up her sleeve — her husband is political consultant Tim Baker, who was instrumental in Curry’s election as Mayor.

Ray is not without firepower. He has veteran campaign consultant Bert Ralston in his corner. He’ also has a head start in the money race, with about $150,000 on hand between his campaign account and political committee.

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Timodc: Low vaxxed upper Midwest states about to get their Florida surge, and nobody seems to have learned anything. PS. Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana have all passed NY in deaths per capita thanks to their post-vax spike. Insane.

Tweet, tweet:

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@JeffreyBrandes: Question — Why does the Florida lottery use a flamingo 🦩 in its advertisements and not the current State bird the mockingbird? Maybe because no one associates the northern mockingbird with the southernmost state.

@JKennedyReport: While it’s @WaltDisneyWorld‘s 50th anniversary Friday, it almost didn’t go to the Orlando area. When (Walt) Disney met with St. Joe Paper boss Ed Ball about land in NW Fla, he was told, “Mr. Disney, I’m not going to see you today — or any day. I don’t do business with carnival people.”

@pixelatedboat: If they made The Sopranos in today’s woke society, it would be about Tony Soprano going to therapy

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— DAYS UNTIL —

MLB regular season ends — 2; ’No Time to Die’ premieres — 7; ’Succession’ returns — 16; ’Dune’ premieres — 21; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ returns — 23; World Series Game 1 — 25; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 26; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 26; Georgia at UF — 29; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 32; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 32; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 35; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 35; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 37; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 38; Miami at FSU — 43; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 44; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 48; FSU vs. UF — 57; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 61; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 67; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 70; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 77; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 82; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 89; CES 2022 begins — 96; NFL season ends — 100; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 102; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 102; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 105; NFL playoffs begin — 106; Super Bowl LVI — 135; Daytona 500 — 142; St. Pete Grand Prix — 149; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 175; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 219; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 238; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 244; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 280; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 292; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 371; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 406.

— TOP STORY —

Disney World moves into full 50th-anniversary mode” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Although only a reported 10,400 eager people visited on Oct. 1, 1971, the foundation was laid to become the world’s most visited theme park. Expect Main Street U.S.A. to be more crowded 50 years later. Visitors will see a park in full celebration mode, from the tip of the bejeweled Cinderella Castle down to the shiny new name tags for Disney World employees. The resort also is introducing attractions that will affect the theme parks for months and years to come. “We have some surprises in store for our guests. … I think that I think it’ll be a day for the memory books,” Melissa Valiquette, vice president for Magic Kingdom, said Thursday.

Disney is ready to party. Image via Facebook.

—“New attractions, makeovers and more: 10 things to know as Disney World hits 5-0” via Britt Kennerly of Florida Today 

—”These Disney World attractions may be gone, but their memories are still holding strong” via USA Today

Disney World’s ‘First Family’ remembers excitement of opening day” via Rebecca Turco of Spectrum News — The 50th anniversary brings back cherished memories for the Windsor family, the very first family to visit on opening day. For Marty Windsor Ritter, Bill Windsor and their two toddlers, getting that special honor involved a little luck and a lot of planning. “We parked behind a gas station that was here all night long,” she said. “And then we had a police officer come by and say, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘We want to be the first family to get into Walt Disney World.’ He said, ‘OK, I’ll watch you all night long.’” Her son Jay Windsor, who was only 3 years old at the time, still remembers bits and pieces. “Meeting all the characters was the exciting thing back then,” he said.

Disney World faces several new challenges over the next 50 years” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Nearly 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have proved the future can be unpredictable, but theme park experts say they believe Disney World’s leaders can navigate the next 50 years to maintain the resort as a world leader in entertainment. Even so, the theme park likely faces challenges as virtual reality options grow, climate change makes the summers even hotter, and families have fewer children. Many predict that Disney’s focus on storytelling will continue to take center stage in the next five decades. The pandemic has helped Disney World, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, realize it can successfully adopt the model of “fewer people, richer experience,” said Bill Coan, President and CEO of a theme park company called ITEC Entertainment.

— DATELINE TALLY — 

Ron DeSantis pulls one road from the Everglades, but OKs putting in another” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Man, I always loved that old TV show “The Twilight Zone.” In a news release, DeSantis says, “Since day one, my administration has been focused on expediting key Everglades restoration and water quality projects to protect Florida’s natural resources for future generations, and I’m proud of our record-setting progress.” The Governor who had just bragged about yanking an environmentally destructive road out of the Everglades turned around and voted to put another one into the Everglades. The Kendall Parkway has been touted as a way to relieve the constant State Route 836 traffic jams in the Kendall area. The cost: a mere $1 billion. A billion dollars to cut travel time by six minutes!

Did Ron DeSantis pull an Everglades switcheroo? Image via Twitter.

Republican lawmakers file bill to protect religious freedoms during emergency lockdowns” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Two lawmakers are proposing legislation in the upcoming Session to ensure a department store is never more ‘essential’ than a church. The legislation is a product of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the measures, an emergency lockdown or shutdown order must apply equally across businesses and religious institutions in Florida. Sen. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Nick DiCeglie are the bill sponsors. “If we’re going to close down and restrict religious institutions from being open, then we have to apply that same restriction to everybody,” DiCeglie explained. DiCeglie pointed to New York and California amid the pandemic, two places where government closed church doors while allowing some businesses to remain operational.

Docs who help transgender youth could face prison time under Anthony Sabatini bill” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida could go after doctors and health care providers that offer treatment to transgender teenagers under a bill filed this week by Rep. Sabatini. Sabatini’s bill (HB 211) mirrors those introduced in dozens of other states aimed at health care providers who treat transgender minors. The legislation says that health care providers could face a year in prison or be fined $1,000 if they prescribe or supply puberty-blocking medication or provide large doses of testosterone to females or estrogen to males. The bill would create a new section of general health care law dubbed the “Vulnerable Child Protection Act” that would apply to nearly every licensed health care professional in the state.

Marie Woodson seeks to fast track veterans into health care amid staff shortages” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Rep. Woodson is proposing legislation that would streamline outgoing service members into the ranks of Florida’s medical field, a move she contends would remedy the state’s ongoing shortage of health care workers. Under the proposal (HB 131), a medically trained military veteran may work under the supervision of a licensed health care provider without subscribing to the state’s time-consuming certification process. The benefits, she contends, are twofold: Veterans transfer immediately into gainful employment, and providers are afforded a deeper pool of experienced applicants. “This is a population that is very dear to my heart … I was trying to find a way to address those shortages, but also looking for ways to help our veterans,” the Hollywood lawmaker said.

Out of the nest: Lawmaker wants mockingbird ousted as state bird of Florida” via James Call of USA Today Network — State Sen. Jeff Brandes has had it with the northern mockingbird as the official state bird of Florida. He has filed a bill for the 2022 legislative session and taken to social media to build a flock of supporters. He wants to persuade fellow lawmakers to rescind the mockingbird’s designation as the avian representative of the Sunshine State. The Department of State defends the mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) as “helpful” because it eats insects and weed seeds. But detractors point out its annoying habit of singing all night long under a full moon. Brandes is not impressed by mockingbird supporters who claim it is a year-round resident. He wants a bird that “immediately says Florida,” like orange juice does as the state drink, and the alligator and manatee as state reptile and mammal. 

Proposed law to care for retired police dogs ‘huge,’ Volusia K-9 handlers say” via Patricio G. Balona of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — In the course of their careers, police dogs often suffer wear and tear from constant training, chasing suspects, and sometimes even taking a bullet in the line of duty. When K-9s retire, sometimes expensive care for the animals falls to the officers who adopt the dogs as their own. But a bill put forward by Rep. Sam Killebrew could ease that financial burden and offer quality care for the retired dogs. Killebrew’s bill, HB 25, would disburse funds to cover veterinary visits and more for the K-9s. Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the bill is important. Two dogs from the Sheriff’s Office were recently shot and wounded by an armed carjacking suspect.

A bill by Sam Killebrew would give backup to K-9s. Image via Colin Hackley.

A judge blocked Florida’s ban on ‘sanctuary cities.’ What it means for the undocumented” via Kalia Richardson of the Miami Herald — A Florida judge struck down key portions of the “sanctuary city” ban this month. U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami said a part of the ban “was enacted based on biased and unreliable data generated by anti-immigrant hate groups” despite having a “chilling and disparate impact” on immigration communities. Neza Xiuhtecutli, the general coordinator of The Farmworker Association of Florida, felt the impacts of the ban firsthand. Although associations like this can breathe a little easier after the judge’s ruling, there is still confusion as to what a “sanctuary city” is and the implications it has on undocumented communities. 

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Ellen Anderson: Moffitt Cancer Center

Emily Buckley, Dean Mead: American Health Associates, American Sportfishing Association, Florida Outdoor Advertising Association, Florida Recreational Vehicle Trade Association, Step Up for Students, Tampa Bay Water, The Williams Companies

Shan Goff: Foundation for Florida’s Future

Robert Holroyd, Tripp Scott: Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition

Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Cerner Corporation

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: 938 deaths added to tally. State saw lowest 7-day death average in weeks.” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida on Thursday reported 938 more deaths and 4,781 additional COVID-19 cases to the CDC, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data. All but 78 of the newly reported deaths, about 92%, occurred since Sept. 2. About 55% of the newly reported died in the past two weeks, the analysis showed. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,570,752 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 55,009 deaths. In this most recent phase of the pandemic, Florida through the CDC has reported deaths in Monday and Thursday clumps. In the past seven days, on average, the state has added 272 deaths and 5,612 cases to the daily cumulative total.

YouTube misinformation policy update: DeSantis’ office promises to fight censorship” via Sam Sachs of WFLA — YouTube announced an expansion to their community guidelines, focused on what the company called harmful misinformation relating to vaccines and other health-related topics. In response to YouTube’s updated content policies, DeSantis’ office promised to oppose censorship and continue fighting in defense of a recent law aimed at preventing de-platforming on social media sites. The new YouTube guidelines include a three-strike content and account takedown policy with a 90-day timeline. An instant ban is also a possibility for accounts that promote content directly in opposition to the new guidelines.

After new YouTube rules on COVID-19 misinformation, Ron DeSantis promises a fight.

Florida probes 43 ‘entities’ under COVID-19 ‘vaccine passport’ law, but no fines issued yet” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida is investigating 43 businesses or governments for possibly violating the state’s 2-week-old COVID-19 “vaccine passport” law, but no one has yet been issued a $5,000 fine, health officials said Thursday. “Applicable entities that are found to be in violation will be fined,” said Department of Health communications director Weesam Khoury. Khoury did not provide specifics on who was being investigated. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said that the DeSantis administration has not fined anyone is telling. He said the law was politically motivated. Guillermo Smith added he knows of businesses that are requiring vaccinations for customers but did not want to name them.

Fight over COVID-19 vaccines may keep some kids from traditional back-to-school shots” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — With COVID-19 vaccinations a political battleground, fallout from the fight could be filtering down to Florida schools: In some counties, not enough kids are getting their routine back-to-school shots. And public health officials worry when even a small amount of school children aren’t immunized for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and more. They fear the combative divide over COVID-19 vaccinations, driven by so much misinformation, is creating a new threat in Florida classrooms. “This is another public health crisis on top of a public health crisis,” said Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, chair of the College of Medicine Pediatrics at USF Health, part of the University of South Florida.

Families scramble for at-home COVID-19 tests. Here’s how they’re doing it.” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Where South Floridians once frantically sought Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, now they are after a new hot commodity: at-home COVID-19 tests. Online and in stores, many major retailers like CVS and Walgreens are sold out of the popular at-home rapid tests. Medical supply vendors will fill only large quantities, and the wait is six to eight weeks. Workers in need of regular screening for employment and parents desperate to show a school a negative result are scrambling to find the tests, which return results in minutes. 

— CORONA LOCAL —

Jerry Demings pushes back against DeSantis’ ‘usurpation of epic proportion’ for proposing to fine Orange County” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County will fight any efforts by state officials to impose potentially millions of dollars in fines on the county for Demings’ mandate requiring employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or face discipline. Demings’ letter was sent to Doug Woodlief, a division manager at the state Health Department, who called the Mayor’s vaccination mandate a “discriminatory policy” and a violation of a law, making the county potentially liable for a fine of $5,000 per individual violation.

Jerry Demings pushes back on Ron DeSantis’ threats to fine Orange County.

Orlando pediatricians urge COVID-19 vaccinations” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With federal approval for COVID-19 vaccinations for younger school-age children imminent, two Orlando pediatricians urged parents to vaccinate their children when federal approval comes and to vaccinate themselves. “That’s how you express to your children the fact that you care about them, the fact that you love them. This is what responsible parenting and membership in a community is all about,” said Dr. Kenneth Alexander, the pediatrics infectious disease resident at Nemour’s Children’s Health in Orlando. Alexander and Dr. Adriana Cadilla, a pediatric infectious disease consultant at Nemours, spoke at Demings‘ biweekly COVID-19 update briefing. They made it clear they harbor no doubts that vaccinating children would be the right thing to do if and when federal approval comes, which they expect.

Duval School Board votes to ‘explore’ challenging state order on COVID-19 safety” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — The Duval County School Board is fighting back against a state executive order that jeopardizes how the district handles its mask mandate and, potentially, quarantine policies. Tuesday, the Board voted 4-3 to allow its general counsel the ability to explore or move forward with litigation challenging a rule issued last week by Florida’s new Surgeon General. Board members Charlotte Joyce, Lori Hershey and Cindy Pearson voted against the motion. School Board members say the move is about more than just its existing mask mandate, but a statement in favor of home rule. The decision followed an hourslong emergency board meeting featuring dozens of public comments from people against the district’s existing universal mask mandate.

Powerful reporting — “She has Down syndrome, then got COVID-19. Could Amanda Hall learn to walk again?” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Hall was born with Down syndrome, which left her at high risk of severe illness if she contracted COVID-19. She tested positive on Dec. 3. Two days later, she was on a ventilator in intensive care. So much time spent in a hospital bed had atrophied her muscles, and she could no longer walk or feed herself. Doctors said she needed extensive physiotherapy. After her discharge, home rehab therapy was set up for Amanda, but it was just twice a week. After several days of calling rehab centers, they were frantic. It was hard not to dwell on the home therapist’s warning: Amanda would likely never walk again without intensive daily therapy. A turning point in Amanda’s two-month rehabilitation came the day she was strong enough to walk in the hallway.

— 2022 —

Democrats worry a loss in Virginia could set off a cascade of election troubles” via Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Joe Biden’s slumping approval ratings and gridlock on Capitol Hill have raised the risk that Democrats could lose the Virginia governor’s race, according to party insiders who fear a defeat could spark broader legislative and electoral problems in the coming year. “I think Biden’s poll numbers are dragging (Terry) McAuliffe down,” said John Morgan, who gave $100,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign and was a major Biden donor. “I think when voters see dysfunction, they tend to look at parties and go, ‘The Democratic Party is dysfunctional. You know, why not give somebody else another chance?’ And so, I worry for Terry.” Moreover, Washington Democrats are locked in a complex stalemate that has imperiled the infrastructure bill and a plan to expand social programs.

Is Joe Biden weighing down Terry McAuliffe? John Morgan seems to think so. Image via AP.

DeSantis says he’s running for reelection, but he’s not ready to disclose the details” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — DeSantis made it official on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. He used the moment to deflect from talk that he is on course to run for President in 2024 and announced he is indeed running for reelection. “I’m not considering anything beyond doing my job,’’ DeSantis said in response to the question if he is “considering a run for the presidency in 2024.” “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on in Florida, I’m going to be running for reelection next year.” To run for President, DeSantis must first get reelected Governor in 2022, but there’s still no official sign that DeSantis is prepared to file the paperwork required to be an official candidate.

DeSantis puts $2M into GOP voter registration efforts — DeSantis has been raising money hand over fist through his political committee, which had $53M banked heading into September. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, he’s been putting that money to work by underwriting the Republican Party of Florida’s voter registration efforts to the tune of nearly $2 million. The push has seen the GOP nearly eliminate Democrats’ advantage in voter registration, which now stands at 23,500. “This did not happen overnight,” RPOF Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré said. “In the 2018 midterms, Florida Democrats had an advantage of 265,251 and since his inauguration in 2019, Gov. DeSantis has been laser-focused on overtaking Democrats in voter registration.”

Anti-DeSantis PAC’s new ad mocked as unintentionally helpful” via David Rutz of Fox News — A left-wing PAC’s new ad attacking DeSantis over his coronavirus leadership was roasted Thursday as an unintentional ad for moving to his state. The ad from “Remove Ron” features a plane entering Florida’s airspace as passengers are required to listen to DeSantis discuss COVID-19 policy, such as his opposition to vaccine passports, and how he won’t force Floridians into lockdowns, mandates, and COVID-19 restrictions. Comparing the scene in Florida to the dystopia of “The Purge” movie franchise, the ad’s narrator notes visitors don’t have to get a vaccine or wear masks, and features fake headlines from made-up newspapers like “The Tampa Bay Terror Times.”

Facing a historic challenge, Florida Democrats stumble against DeSantis” via Tim Craig of The Washington Post — Yet as they seek to defeat [Gov. Ron] DeSantis’s brash style of conservatism, Florida Democrats have been battered by internal divisions over strategy and messaging, lackluster fundraising and a flailing voter registration effort, even as the state’s population gets more diverse. For the first time in history, there are nearly as many Republicans registered in Florida as there are Democrats. The state continues to drift to the right even as new census data shows White residents have slipped to 51 percent of the state’s population. ‘We have failed to counter Republican propaganda, which has been especially aimed at Independent and no-party affiliated voters,” said Steve Simeonidis, a former chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.”

Personnel note: Charlie Crist campaign adds Lourdes Diaz as Hispanic media adviser — Veteran Hispanic market and media strategist Diaz has joined the Crist campaign as Senior Adviser for Hispanic Outreach and Media. Diaz has decades of experience in communications, media sales, public relations, political consulting, and advertising. Her resume includes the strategic development of bilingual, Spanish-dominant, and crossover programs Biden’s 2020 run and Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Diaz is currently the President of the Pembroke Pines Democratic Club and is Precinct Committeewoman in Pembroke Pines. “Continuing to be an ally to Hispanic Floridians, fighting disinformation and fearmongering head-on, and pushing forward on issues of importance to our Hispanic neighbors, like immigration reform, health care, and economic opportunity, is a top priority in our campaign to take back the Governor’s mansion in 2022,” Crist said.

Midnight deadline looms for Ken Russell $5,000 Democratic voter registration challenge” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — With the gap between Democratic and Republican voters in Florida shrinking, Russell is calling on his fellow party members to chip in funds to help Democrats regain lost ground. On Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day, Russell challenged Nikki Fried, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and current U.S. Reps. Crist and Val Demings to join him in donating $5,000 to the Florida Democratic Party for a statewide voter registration push. He later put them on blast on Twitter, where he challenged all statewide candidates to do the same. Two days later, with the midnight Sept. 30 deadline to report campaign spending looming, none of them has answered the call, he said.

CD 20 debate highlights broad agreement on the issues, contrasting experience” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — With few divisions between them on issues such as affordable housing, gun control and expanding Medicaid to more people, Wednesday’s debate among candidates to represent Congressional District 20 became a contest of experience on each topic. Trinity Health Care Services CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy, Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief and Sen. Perry Thurston debated for the right to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. The candidates were asked whether they would support a federal move to expand Florida’s Medicaid through budget reconciliation. All the candidates agreed it should happen and some took it as an opportunity to highlight their own actions to make health care more affordable.

The CD 20 candidates are diverse in background, but all toe the same line on policy.

What James Blair is reading — “GOP infighting spoils chance to retake Crist’s Florida seat” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — “(Anna Paulina) Luna made headlines this summer when she alleged that her potential Republican rivals were plotting to kill her. And at one point, she suggested Makki was also involved in the scheme — leading Makki to call Luna “unstable” and pledge that she will spend the primary exposing Luna as a “phony” for once supporting Barack Obama. Amid this increasingly bitter backdrop, Luna gained an important ally when Trump earlier this month endorsed her following a 45-minute sit-down between the two at Trump’s resort in Bedminster. But Trump’s blessing did little to scare off other Republicans. Instead, it led to recriminations and finger pointing, including from long-time Trump ally Roger Stone, who predicted that Trump would rescind his endorsement once he learned more about Luna.

Jim Davis, Alex Sink announce support for Ben Diamond in CD 13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rep. Diamond has announced a handful of new endorsements from state Democratic leaders supporting his run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. New endorsers include former U.S. Rep. Davis, former Florida Chief Financial Officer Sink, and former state Rep. Sean Shaw. Davis, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2007, said Diamond “will be a highly effective member of Congress.” Sink became the first Democrat elected to the state Cabinet since 1998 when she took the office of Chief Financial Officer in 2006. She credits her endorsement to her experience working with Diamond while in office.

Spotted at the Senate Democrats fundraising trip to Napa Valley, which included stops at the Bryant, Ghost Block, Opus One, Paul Hobbs, and Spottswoode vineyards: Sens. Lauren Book, Janet Cruz, and Shevrin Jones, Senate candidate Janelle Perez, as well as Matt Blair, Amy Bisceglia, Ron Book, Jacqui Carmona, Edgar Castro, Candice Ericks, Diana Ferguson, Jeff Johnston, Natalie Kato, Corinne Mixon, Sean Pittman, Stephanie Smith, Amanda Stewart, Christian Ulvert, and Katie Webb.

Save the date:

Lake Ray lands legislative endorsements for House comeback Former Rep. Ray on Thursday announced five endorsements from sitting lawmakers and a handful more from former ones as he seeks to return to the House in District 12. The nods came from Sen. Aaron Bean and Reps. Chuck Brannan, Cord Byrd, Chris Latvala, and Yarborough, the latter of whom currently represents the Duval County district. Ray, a Republican, also touted support from former Senator and Education Secretary Jim Horne, former Sen. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, and former Reps. Jay Fant and Jim Fuller. “This powerhouse group of conservative leaders have helped to make Florida a great place to live, work and raise our families. I am honored to have their support,” Ray said.

— CORONA NATION —

New COVID-19 cases fall by 25%” via Sam Baker of Axios — New coronavirus infections in the U.S. fell by 25% over the past two weeks — another hopeful sign that the worst of the delta wave may be behind us. The U.S. is now averaging roughly 114,000 new cases per day. That’s still a lot, but it’s a significant improvement from this summer when the delta variant unleashed a new wave of infections, hospitalizations and death. Deaths are still on the rise nationwide, because of that summer surge. They’re up 4% over the past two weeks, to an average of 2,000 per day. If the decline in cases keeps going, deaths should begin to come down relatively soon. Deaths are the last number to increase when a new wave hits, and the last number to decrease when it subsides.

Tweet, tweet:

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shows 74% efficacy in large U.S. trial” via Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters — AstraZeneca PLC’s COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 74% efficacy at preventing symptomatic disease, a figure that increased to 83.5% in people aged 65 and older. Overall efficacy of 74% was lower than the interim 79% figure reported by the British drugmaker in March, a result AstraZeneca revised days later to 76% after a rare public rebuke from health officials that the figure was based on “outdated information.” read more. The data looked at more than 26,000 volunteers in the United States, Chile and Peru, who received two doses of the vaccine spaced about a month apart.

Joe Biden vaccine mandate splits U.S. on Party lines” via Carla K. Johnson and Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press — A survey of Americans on Biden’s plan to require most workers to get either vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19 finds a deep and familiar divide: Democrats are overwhelmingly for it, while most Republicans are against it. With the highly contagious delta variant driving deaths up to around 2,000 per day, the poll showed that overall, 51% say they approve of the Biden requirement, 34% disapprove, and 14% hold neither opinion. About three-quarters of Democrats, but only about a quarter of Republicans, approve. Roughly 6 in 10 Republicans say they disapprove.

Biden team’s booster divide deepens as risk of winter virus surge looms” via Erin Banco of POLITICO — Biden’s top health advisers are split over the role booster shots should play in the next phase of the pandemic, setting up key fault lines to close in the coming weeks as they try to ward off further surges this fall and winter. Their disagreement centers on whether the U.S. should eventually offer an additional shot to every vaccinated adult in hopes of preventing even mild and moderate symptomatic breakthrough infections. The growing tension among the President’s top COVID-19 advisers raises questions about whether the goals of the nation’s vaccination campaign are changing and the degree to which breakthrough infections may be inevitable.

The CDC escalates its pleas for pregnant and breastfeeding Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19” via Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — In an urgent plea, federal health officials are asking that any American who is pregnant, planning to become pregnant or currently breastfeeding get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible. COVID-19 poses a severe risk during pregnancy, when a person’s immune system is tamped down, and raises the risk of stillbirth or another poor outcome, according to the CDC. Twenty-two pregnant people in the United States died of COVID-19 in August. About 125,000 pregnant people have tested positive for the virus; 22,000 have been hospitalized, and 161 have died. Hospital data indicates that 97% of those who were infected with the virus when they were hospitalized were not vaccinated.

The U.S. says Texas’ ban on school mask mandates may violate disabled children’s rights.” via Amanda Morris of The New York Times — The Justice Department signaled its support for the families of children with disabilities in Texas who are suing to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in the state’s schools. The department filed a formal statement on Wednesday with the federal district court in Austin that is hearing one of the lawsuits, saying that the ban violates the rights of students with disabilities if it prevents the students from safely attending public schools in person, “even if their local school districts offered them the option of virtual learning.” The move signals a willingness by the federal government to intervene in states where governors and other policymakers have opposed mask mandates.

Turns out a lot of those never-vaxxers were really ‘I’ll get it if required’” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Various employers, including the federal government, implemented vaccine requirements or new vaccine standards in recent months, setting deadlines that have started to arrive. What we’ve seen is that relatively few employees flat out resist vaccination. Given that 12% of respondents in the poll said they would never get vaccinated (compared with only 4% who said they’d do so if required), it certainly seems as if some of the resistance to vaccination expressed to the pollsters eroded when a requirement was actually put in place. Those who may have been obstinate about the vaccines when called by a pollster seem to have been a bit more flexible when called by their bosses.

Anti-vaxxers seem to fold when the boss calls. Image via AP.

Messy, incomplete U.S. data hobbles pandemic response” via Joel Achenbach and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — Critically important data on vaccinations, infections, hospitalizations and deaths are scattered among local health departments, often out of date and hard to aggregate at the national level, and it is simply inadequate for the job of battling a highly transmissible and stealthy pathogen. The dearth of timely, comprehensive data impaired the ability of the nation’s top public health officials and infectious disease experts to reach a consensus on the need for booster shots. The lack of testing and standardized reporting of cases and deaths left U.S. officials slow to grasp the scale of the crisis when the virus began to spread. Insufficient data also meant supplies to fight the pandemic arrived too late in hard-hit cities.

In well-vaccinated Maine, COVID-19 still fills hospitals with the unvaccinated” via Jon Kamp and Brianna Abbott of The Wall Street Journal — The delta variant is finding clusters of unvaccinated people even in some of the best-vaccinated parts of the country, such as Maine. A COVID-19 surge in the New England state has filled hospitals and put dozens of mostly unvaccinated people on ventilators, setting records for the state. The problem, public-health experts say, is the variant’s high transmissibility combined with the relaxation of precautions such as wearing masks. COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have also flared among mostly unvaccinated people in Vermont and western Massachusetts, highlighting the risk Delta poses even in states with the best track records for getting shots in arms.

Montana hospital ICU reaches 150% capacity amid surge of COVID-19 cases” via Meg Oliver of CBS News — At Billings Clinic, the largest hospital in the state, the ICU is running at 150% capacity with younger and sicker patients admitted daily. The National Guard is on hand to help care for and screen new patients while hallways house the overflow. In the past week, Montana averaged about 108 COVID-19 patients in hospital ICUs — breaking the record seen during the winter of 2020. Thirty-five people have died in the state since the start of the month. “So we are — we’re getting short on beds,” emergency room doctor Jamiee Belsky said. “People need to get vaccinated because right now we’re hurting.”

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

U.S. unemployment claims rise third straight week to 362,000” via The Associated Press — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the third straight week, a sign that the highly contagious delta variant may be slowing recovery in the job market. Claims rose unexpectedly by 11,000 last week to 362,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, though economists had been expecting claims to go in the opposite direction. The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week ups and downs, rose for the first time in seven weeks to 340,000. Since topping 900,000 in early January, applications had fallen fairly steadily as the economy bounced back from last year’s shutdowns. But they’ve been rising along with coronavirus infections.

Unemployment and COVID-19 infections rise together. Image via AP.

Florida, Texas report surge in COVID-19 comp claims” via Louise Esola of Business Insurance — The summer surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida began in July, as 4,221 COVID-19 workers’ compensation indemnity claims were filed and August tallies show a slight drop. The monthly report, which tracks overall indemnity, or income replacement, claims, including data on costs and industry breakdowns, showed that the 4,221 claims reported in July and the 3,287 reported in August remain a steep drop from the peak of 8,406 claims in July 2020. Since March 2020, the lowest number of claims were reported in June 2021: 664. insurers in the state have paid $1.5 million in total benefits, indemnity plus medical, for COVID-19 claims.

Morning must-read — “Inside America’s broken supply chain” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — The commercial pipeline that each year brings $1 trillion worth of toys, clothing, electronics and furniture from Asia to the United States is clogged, and no one knows how to unclog it. Dozens of cargo vessels stuck at anchor off the California coast illustrate the delivery disruptions. Americans trapped at home slashed spending at restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting events and splurged on goods such as laptops and bicycles, triggering an import avalanche that has overwhelmed freight channels. But the pandemic also exposed weaknesses in the nation’s transport plumbing: investment shortfalls at key ports, controversial railroad industry labor cuts, and a chronic failure by key players to collaborate.

— MORE CORONA —

Woman who survived 1918 flu, world war succumbs to COVID-19” via Todd Richmond of The Associated Press — She lived a life of adventure that spanned two continents. She fell in love with a World War II fighter pilot, barely escaped Europe ahead of Benito Mussolini’s fascists, ground steel for the U.S. war effort, and advocated for her disabled daughter in a far less enlightened time. She was, her daughter said, someone who didn’t make a habit of giving up. And then this month, at age 105, Primetta Giacopini’s life ended the way it began — in a pandemic. “I think my mother would have been around quite a bit longer” if she hadn’t contracted COVID,” her 61-year-old daughter, Dorene Giacopini, said. “She was a fighter. She had a hard life, and her attitude always was … basically, all Americans who were not around for World War II were basically spoiled brats.”

Dorene Giacopini’s mother Primetta Giacopini saw two pandemics. The second one took her life. Image via AP.

Proposed bill would require COVID-19 vaccine, negative test for domestic air travel ahead of holidays” via Melanie Woodrow of ABC 6 — With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner and one of the busiest times to fly, California U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein tweeted, “We can’t allow upcoming holiday air travel to contribute to another surge in COVID cases. Today, I introduced legislation requiring passengers on domestic flights to be vaccinated, test negative or be fully recovered from a previous COVID illness.” Willis Orlando, a Flight Expert at Scott’s Cheap Flights, said if the bill became law, “it really would just be kind of adding restrictions in the U.S. that already exist elsewhere in the world and that have been working pretty well to contain COVID.”

Why are people nostalgic for early-pandemic life?” via Morgan Ome and Christian Paz of The Atlantic — It’s easy to forget about the toilet-paper shortages, the empty streets, and the disinfected groceries. The first days, weeks even, of the pandemic felt like a twisted novelty. You didn’t know what a variant was. And you thought you would probably return to school or your office in a couple of weeks. This was March 2020. Deep in the throes of the late-stage pandemic, millions of young people have grown to miss this time early last year. Their longing is captured in TikToks and YouTube videos that romanticize the trends, obsessions, and sounds of 18 months ago. These “early-pandemic aesthetic” creators had built an online community tied together by a yearning for a time when the world seemed united in facing an uncertain future.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden signs bill to avert partial government shutdown” via The Associated Press — With only hours to spare, Biden signed legislation that would avoid a partial federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Dec. 3. Congress had passed the bill earlier Thursday. The back-to-back votes by the Senate and then the House averted one crisis, but delays on another continue as the political parties dig in on a dispute over how to raise the government’s borrowing cap before the United States risks a potentially catastrophic default. The House approved the short-term funding measure by a 254-175 vote not long after Senate passage in a 65-35 vote. A large majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against it. The legislation was needed to keep the government running once the current budget year ended at midnight Thursday. 

Democrats get the job done, with hours to spare. Image via AP.

Biden’s approval rating recovers some from last month’s low, an NPR poll finds” via Domenico Montanaro of NPR — Last month, just 43% of survey respondents approved of how he was doing his job and a majority, 51%, disapproved. Since then, Biden has gained back some of that, drawing to about even, with 45% approving and 46% disapproving. The survey of 1,220 adults was conducted from Sept. 20 through Sunday and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, meaning Biden’s approval rating could be about 3 points higher or lower. The 7-point net change in his approval rating from one month to the next is slightly outside the margin of error. Biden’s somewhat-recovered numbers come from registered Democrats and independents.

The Biden objectors who hold the 2022 election in their hands” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — A sizable share of Americans are souring on Biden as President, but they don’t completely hate him, either. More Americans disapprove of how Biden is handling his role as President than approve. But a decisive number of those disapprovers say their opinion of Biden is soft, meaning they only rate his performance only “somewhat” negatively not “strongly.” Those who mildly disapproved of Biden added up to about a quarter of his total disapproval. In all, more than a third of Americans say they have only a weak opinion, positive or negative, of how Biden is doing in recent surveys. Whether the President can bring back those who’ve shifted into the “somewhat disapprove” category could determine whether Democrats’ narrow congressional majorities can withstand Biden’s first midterm elections.

‘We want to support you’: Senior U.S. officials meet with Cubans, Haitians in Miami” via Jacqueline Charles, Nora Gomez Torres, and Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — The Biden administration’s top officials on Latin America and the Caribbean say they have no plans to rush Haiti to elections or impose “a road map” when they visit Thursday. “We’re going there to understand the situation,” said Brian Nichols, a career diplomat with experience in Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean. “We’re going to listen more than we are talking so that we can better understand how … we can help organize U.S. policy.” Nichols said before heading to Haiti, he and Juan Gonzalez met with members of the Haitian diaspora, as well as the Cuban American community “to talk about what we can do to support the peoples of those nations.”

— EPILOGUE TRUMP — 

A Donald Trump lawyer wrote an instruction manual for a coup. Why haven’t you seen it on the news?” via Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post — The Eastman memo, unearthed in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, is a stunner. Written by Trump‘s legal adviser John Eastman, it offered Mike Pence, then in his final days as Vice President, a detailed plan to declare the 2020 election invalid and give the presidency to Trump. For the most part, the memo slipped past the public, just another piece of flotsam from the wreckage of American society, drifting by unnoticed. There’s so much other news to cover these days: a possible government shutdown, the Afghanistan troop withdrawal, and of course, the audience-riveting case of Gabby Petito. Eastman’s coup hasn’t happened yet. But given the media’s shrug-off, maybe all we have to do is wait.

John Eastman crafted a blueprint for destruction. Image via Reuters.

Trump server mystery produces fresh conflict” via Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman of The New York Times — John H. Durham, the special counsel appointed by the Trump administration to scour the Russia investigation, indicted a cybersecurity lawyer this month on a single count of lying to the F.B.I. But Durham used a 27-page indictment to lay out a far more expansive tale, one in which four computer scientists who were not charged in the case “exploited” their access to internet data to develop an explosive theory about cyber connections in 2016 between Trump’s company and a Kremlin-linked bank. Emails provide a fuller and more complex account of how a group of cyber experts discovered the odd internet data and developed their hypothesis about what could explain it.

How to plan for Donald Trump Jr. and American Freedom Tour in Jacksonville Oct. 8-9” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Trump Jr. and a slate of right-wing luminaries will draw fans to Jacksonville’s Prime Osborn Convention Center next weekend for a two-day primer on their vision for a Republican resurgence. Trump Jr.’s talk on “How to Win Back America” will be the marquee message in the American Freedom Tour, a traveling “celebration of faith, family, unalienable rights and God-given American freedoms” reaching Jacksonville Oct. 8-9. Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, political writer Dinesh D’Souza, and more than a dozen politicians, activists and business figures are also scheduled to speak at the ticket-only event presented by the Republican Party of Duval County.

— CRISIS —

Panel subpoenas 11 in Capitol riot inquiry, eyeing Jan. 6 rally planners” via Luke Broadwater of The New York Times — The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack issued 11 more subpoenas, targeting Trump allies who were involved in the planning and organizing of the “Stop the Steal” rally that fueled the mob violence on Jan. 6. The subpoenas indicated that the committee was trying to delve deeper into their investigation of the rally. The panel sent subpoenas to Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of Women for America First, which helped plan the rally near the White House on Jan. 6; Caroline Wren, a Trump fundraiser, who was listed as a “V.I.P. adviser” for the event; Cindy Chafian, another organizer; Hannah Salem Stone, who managed logistics; and Justin Caporale, a former top aide to Melania Trump, the first lady, who was listed as a “project manager” for the rally.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio isn’t bothered by Trump’s ‘strong opinions’ about Jan. 6, election legitimacy” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview at The Atlantic’s “Festival” event, Rubio ignored components of a question about whether he thought Trump had a constructive influence on the GOP and politics, with the way the former President talks about Jan. 6 and the election spotlighted. Trump told supporters to “fight like hell” before they stormed the Capitol, at which time he did nothing to quell the violent assault on the building and the legislative process. Yet during comments Thursday, Rubio ignored Trump’s denialism of the insurrection attempt and of the legitimacy of the election, saying they were merely “strong opinions.” “Well, I think he certainly has strong opinions and he’s giving those strong opinions,” Rubio conceded. “Some people agree with them, and some people don’t.”

Marco Rubio has been a busy guy. Image via AP.

Rubio called the $3.5 trillion Democratic spending bill ‘Marxism,’ the latest example of the GOP baselessly linking things they oppose to communism” via John Haltiwanger of Business Insider — Rubio denounced the $3.5 trillion spending bill being pushed by Democrats, which includes provisions to address climate change and expand the social safety net, as “Marxism.” Rubio tweeted: “The $3.5 trillion Biden plan isn’t socialism, it’s Marxism.” This does not make sense, based on the definition of Marxism, and the Florida Republican was mocked by economists, historians, and Democrats about it on Twitter. “Rubio is engaging in political hyperbole, a sin which both Republicans and Democrats commit quite often,” Thomas Alan Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University historian and political scientist, told Insider.

—“Rubio cracked wise about transgender people again; it went about as well as you’d think” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

—“What happened to Rubio, Time mag’s ‘Republican Savior’ of 2013?” via Myra Adams of The Hill 

John Rutherford failed to timely report up to $75,000 in stock trades” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Rutherford earlier this year disclosed five stock transactions, each one worth between $1,001 and $15,000. That means Rutherford could have made as much as $75,000 from the trades. The omission was first reported by Business Insider, which has closely watched financial disclosures. The trades occurred between Oct. 21 and Dec. 22, and the STOCK Act requires that each trade should have been reported to the House clerks office within a month of the transaction. Instead, none were reported until February. “Any late periodic transaction reports have been submitted in full and accepted by the House without fine,” spokesman Alex Lanfranconi said.

OSHA proposes $319,000 in penalties for Tampa lead factory” via Rebecca Woolington, Corey G. Johnson and Eli Murray of the Tampa Bay Times — Gopher Resource is facing more than $319,000 in fines after a federal investigation found the company willfully exposed workers to high levels of airborne lead. In addition to calling out the dangerous air-lead levels, OSHA cited Gopher for letting workers sweep and shovel lead dust and for exposing them to cadmium and arsenic. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat who had asked for the OSHA review, called the situation at Gopher “a failure on all levels.” “These violations by Gopher make it clear that the health of our neighbors was jeopardized every day they came to work with damaged, lead-exposed equipment,” she said in a statement.

High-priced hiring at Cyber Florida raises questions” via Adam Walser of ABC Action News — Cyber Florida, overseen by the University of South Florida, hired former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike McConnell in 2020 without interviewing any other candidates or conducting a national search. McConnell was given the green light to hire a full-time staff director. The position was advertised by USF on April 17, 2020. McConnell’s friend and former Booz Allen colleague Dr. Ron Sanders, who worked in another department at USF, sent him a proposed organizational chart, with Sanders named the “Associate Director.” He was later given the position. “In this case, what we see is kind of like a backdoor, handshake deal,” said attorney Daniela Carrion, who specializes in employment law.

Agonizing choices as Dems debate shrinking health care pie” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of The Associated Press — Democrats are debating how to divide up what could be a smaller serving of health care spending in Biden’s domestic policy bill, pitting the needs of older adults who can’t afford their dentures against the plight of uninsured low-income people in the South. “There’s always a battle of where you place your priorities,” Rep. Jim Clyburn said. Clyburn explained that more than 100,000 of his fellow South Carolinians remain uninsured because Republicans in charge of state government have refused to expand Medicaid to low-income working adults under the Affordable Care Act. Health care is foundational to Biden’s $3.5 trillion domestic policy bill, which touches everything from taxes to climate change, child care to community college.

Congressional members share own abortion stories at hearing” via Jim Salter of The Associated Press — Three Democratic members of Congress offered deeply personal testimony about their own abortions as a congressional committee examined how to respond to conservative states that are passing laws limiting abortion access. Rep. Cori Bush said she was raped on a church youth trip. Rep. Barbara Lee said she received a “back-alley” abortion in Mexico after a teenage pregnancy. And Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington said she opted for an abortion after being told her pregnancy would be high risk for her and the baby. “Choosing to have an abortion was the hardest decision I had ever made, but at 18 years old, I knew it was the right decision for me,” Bush told the House Committee on Oversight Reform.

Members of Congress open up with their own abortion stories. Image via AP.

Supreme Court will hear Ted Cruz’s challenge of campaign contribution limit” via Robert Barnes of The Washington Post — The Supreme Court said it would consider Sen. Cruz’s challenge to a law limiting postelection political contributions to repay a candidate’s loan to his campaign. The FEC asked the court to take the case after a three-judge panel sided with Cruz saying the law unconstitutionally restricts a candidate’s political expression. The provision limits the amount of money that federal candidates can use after an election to repay personal loans. The government defends the law as necessary to prevent the appearance of quid pro quo corruption. Cruz lent his campaign $260,000 the day before the general election. The point was to challenge the law, as only $250,000 of that could be repaid with money raised after the election.

Alex Ojeda to take over as Rick Scott’s state director” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Scott has tapped Ojeda to serve as Florida state director for his Senate office. She previously worked on Scott’s 2018 Senate campaign as his Hispanic outreach director and later as his Spanish-language press secretary. In October, she will start in her new role after serving most recently for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. The Puerto Rico native holds a law degree from the University of Puerto Rico, where she served as a member of the Law Review. Ojeda takes over as state director from John Tupps, who joined Scott’s staff after serving the Naples Republican while he was Florida Governor.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Miami mayoral candidate Frank Pichel wanted in Keys on felony charge of impersonating a cop” via David Ovalle, David Goodhue, Joey Flechas and Charles Rabin of FL Keys News — Monroe County authorities have obtained an arrest warrant for Pichel, a controversial former cop who is running for Miami mayor, accusing him of impersonating a police officer. Court records show that a Monroe County judge has signed a warrant for Pichel, who had not been arrested on the felony charge as of Thursday. Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said his deputies notified Pichel’s attorney this week about the warrant and asked him to surrender. Pichel’s name has been entered into state and national law enforcement databases showing the arrest warrant, Ramsay said.

Judge approves $120 million sale of Surfside collapse site but bidding may not be over” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — A Miami-Dade Circuit judge approved a sale agreement for the nearly 2-acre oceanside property where the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo collapsed. If no higher bids are approved, the property will be sold for $120 million and turned over to billionaire real estate developer Hussain Sajwani by spring 2022 for the construction of a new luxury high-rise. Sajwani, who owns the Dubai-based DAMAC Properties, is currently the lone bidder for the land and has signed a contract requiring he pay a $16 million deposit. Despite some objections from family members of the victims over the speed of the sale process, the judge overseeing the fate of the property has sought to sell the property as quickly as possible in order to compensate property owners who lost their homes and the families of those who died in the collapse.

Miami police chief is under fire. But he has solid support with a key group — Black cops” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo faces yet another grilling from City Commissioners. Acevedo, brought in from Houston just six months ago, has managed to win strong support from a too often-overlooked segment of the community that has been at odds with police department leadership for decades. Miami’s Black police union and a handful of community leaders have thrown their support behind the chief for what they see as much-needed reform in a department rife with cronyism. It was only six months ago that the city managed to shed five years of federal oversight for a series of police shootings that left several unarmed Black men dead. 

Miami’s Black police officers are standing tall with embattled Art Acevedo. Image via AP.

Siesta Key continues its push to become a city despite lawmaker skepticism” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Could Siesta Key become Florida’s next city? Lawmakers representing Sarasota County expressed some skepticism at a delegation meeting on Thursday. But cities on the island community have moved forward with evaluating the feasibility of incorporation. “The delegation will eventually come to accept our arguments and support us,” said Harry Anand, who presented a proposal to lawmakers. Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican and chair of the Sarasota County delegation, expressed some concern the push comes over issues well outside the Legislature’s purview. The push by Save Siesta Key, a citizen group, to incorporate occurs as four hotel proposals make their way in front of the Sarasota County Commission.

Jackson Hospital fires nurse for posting disturbing photos, captions of NICU baby on social media” via CBS Miami — A neonatal intensive care nurse, accused of mocking a sick child on social media, has been fired. Jackson Memorial Hospital has confirmed that Sierra Samuels has been terminated. Samuels was put on administrative leave for a disturbing invasion of privacy issue after she posted pictures of a baby born with a birth defect in their neonatal care unit on her social media account. Jackson Health System said all its employees go through privacy policy training on a regular basis. It said any potential privacy breach is taken seriously.

Making fun of sick kids is beyond the pale.

Red tide is back in Southwest Florida and around Anna Maria Island. How bad is it?” via Ryan Ballogg of the Miami Herald — A patchy red tide continues to plague the coasts of Southwest Florida. The harmful algal bloom’s current range spans from offshore Charlotte to offshore Pasco County, including waters off Sarasota, Anna Maria Island, Tampa Bay and the Gulf Coast of Pinellas County. In Manatee County, red tide was detected Monday at bloom level in three samples around Anna Maria Island. At bloom level, negative impacts of red tide including respiratory irritation and fish kills are likely. One of the samples was collected in Anna Maria at the Rod and Reel Pier. The other two samples were collected off Bradenton Beach.

— TOP OPINION —

Florida has some explaining to do about its recent COVID-19 record” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida is a big state, with the third most residents, so a high death tally is not unexpected. Florida’s vaccination rates aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible compared to other states. About 84% of Florida residents 65 years and over are fully vaccinated, but that means about 700,000 older Floridians remain less than fully vaccinated. Florida also has a larger gap than most other states between the percentage of residents partially vaccinated and those fully vaccinated. The state also has a mediocre record of vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds, ranking 29th out of all states. For now, Florida’s recent surge in deaths appears to have peaked, but it will take weeks for the state’s death rate to fall to where it was at the beginning of the summer.

— OPINIONS —

‘Or else!’: Some Florida lessons about caring during COVID-19” via Barry Golson for the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis picked out a few studies claiming school infection rates were the same whether or not masks were used, predictably kicking up hysteria across the state. The CDC then reported new findings showing that 87.5% of school-associated COVID-19 outbreaks were in schools without mask requirements. Not a peep from DeSantis, no pulling back. More doubling down. Meanwhile, angry parents continued shouting down principals and administrators, whose salaries continued to be docked by the state. Misinformation has ugly consequences. So does a stubborn refusal to recant.

Stop abusing Florida’s school board members over COVID-19 mask decisions” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Holding elected office is both a privilege and a sacrifice. But for many county school board members who have been forced to the front lines of the battle over masks in schools, the “privilege” of their office is subjecting them to abuse and harassment that is way out of line. The only way to cool this overheated debate is for everyone with a stake in it to commit to returning to more civil discourse and common courtesy. The mask issue is supercharged thanks to DeSantis’ heavy-handed stance. Some districts defied that order, citing COVID-19 infection rates and the higher transmissibility among young people of the delta variant. DeSantis responded by withholding those school board members’ pay, casting them as unruly foes in his game of brinkmanship.

Florida’s Texas-style abortion bill is based on murky science. Is anyone surprised?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — To no one’s surprise, a Florida lawmaker was quick to jump on the anti-abortion bandwagon after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Texas law to go into effect. To no one’s surprise, he filed a cruel bill that would ban abortions as early as about six weeks, before most women know they’re pregnant. And to no one’s surprise, just like the Texas law, the Florida proposal would all but turn private citizens into bounty hunters. Wilton Simpson has cleared the way for such a bill by removing Democratic Sen. Book, an abortion-rights advocate from Broward County, as chair of a key committee that would have to hear the legislation.

Every student deserves every opportunity” via Jeb Bush for RealClear Education — If we’ve learned one thing from the pandemic, it’s that our education system must be flexible and centered around students. A single, one-size-fits-all pathway for every kid will never deliver great results. A quality education break cycles of poverty, lift up communities and help ensure all students can reach their God-given potential. But in Michigan, special interests — some fueled by religious bigotry — have funded education in a way that ignores what parents want and shuts down flexibility and options. It prizes one system alone over the needs of individual students, ignoring what Florida and other states have proved: that it shouldn’t matter the type of school a student attends. What matters is what’s best for each child.

A parent’s story: How a Florida education choice scholarship may have saved my daughter’s life” via Debra Manning for reimaginED — Being able to send your child to a school that where you feel comfortable that they are getting what they need is a must. Public schools are crowded with almost 30 students in one classroom. Kids cannot learn like that. It is also hard to notice bullying when you have to pay attention to so many kids. My daughter was just so much more comfortable at Master’s Academy. I think that every parent should have the ability to choose the right school for their child. Every child learns at different paces and in different ways. In a smaller classroom setting, teachers are able to accommodate every child. No one child is sacrificed because the teacher cannot spare the extra time for them. 

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Congress finally passes legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. DeSantis says he’s not planning to go anywhere. We will see.

— Should Florida embrace the flamingo and make it the state bird?

— Congressman Greg Steube scores the big home run in the Congressional Baseball Game.

— Sunrise interview is with Julie Wraithmell, executive director of Audubon Florida. As the U.S. declared this week that 23 birds, fish and other species are now extinct, Wraithmell says it should serve as a wake-up call with a commitment to doing better for all remaining species. Wraithmell also chimes in on calls by Sen. Brandes to ditch the mockingbird for a more Florida-centric state bird.

To listen, click on the image below:

— WEEKEND TV —

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Rob Lorei moderates a discussion with candidates in the St. Petersburg mayoral race — Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and St. Petersburg City Council Member Robert Blackmon.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A look at expanding opportunities and access to education, including how relief from student loan debt or free community college could benefit students. Joining to discuss are Reps. Amber Mariano and Kristen Arrington.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz will discuss the push for voter registration ahead of 2022; a look at Florida’s lawsuit of the Biden administration over Immigration issues; and the latest on the budget battle in Congress.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Sen. Jason Brodeur will discuss the latest legislation being discussed in Tallahassee, including a Texas-style abortion bill and redistricting efforts ahead of the 2022 election.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Steve Vancore speaks with attorney Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Rick Mullaney of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, Jake Gordon of Downtown Vision Inc., and Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

— ALOE —

New interactive MagicBand+ coming to Disney World” via Bailee Abell of Inside the Magic — If you are a longtime visitor of Walt Disney World, then you likely know about MagicBands. MagicBands are a highly convenient amenity for Disney Guests — you can use your MagicBand as your theme park ticket, your hotel room key, payment method, and so much more. But soon, Disney will introduce a new offering called MagicBand+ that’s sure to elevate your vacation even more. MagicBand+ will be how you as a theme park Guest can interact with the Disney Fab 50, the golden statues now on display in each of the four theme parks as part of the 50th-anniversary celebration. Your MagicBand+ will also light up during firework shows like Disney Enchantment, and you can even use it inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Disney MagicBand+ takes interactive entertainment to new heights. Image via Disney.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opens March 1, Guardians of Galaxy ride in 2022, Disney says” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the immersive experience planned for Walt Disney World, will open to the public March 1, the resort announced in a virtual news conference Thursday morning. And the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride under construction at Epcot will debut in 2022. These are the most specific dates yet given for the attractions. Previously, Disney had narrowed the window for Starcruiser to merely “spring” of next year, and Cosmic Rewind’s debut had been publicly adrift since the thrill ride was announced in 2017. Galactic Starcruiser, sometimes referred to as “Star Wars hotel” by fans, will put visitors in the setting of a space vessel, where they will choose roles and make decisions that affect their two-night stay.

Tom Brady sounds extremely sick, and he doesn’t know why: ‘Very strange’” via CBS Boston — The 44-year-old quarterback gave his weekly news conference for the media in Tampa, and immediately, his raspy voice was startling to hear. Brady has had some on-and-off rasp over the past couple of months, but Thursday certainly sounded like the sickest he’s been. After answering a few questions, Brady was finally asked about the condition of his throat. “I don’t know. I’ve had a few of these days. I don’t know what the deal is, so I gotta try to figure this out,” Brady said. “I said my throat’s more tired than the arm. Imagine that.” Brady did recently reveal that he tested positive for COVID-19 back in February, be he offered nothing to suggest that his malady is at all related.

What John Lux is reading — “Florida man gets a Netflix show — in North Carolina” via Business Observer — The moonlight set on Florida’s movie industry five years ago, turning the Sunshine State into a quiet place for cinematic-themed business opportunities, at least ones backed with Tallahassee-approved incentives. Florida’s $242 million transferable tax credit for the industry expired in 2016. Incentive proponents have a new cringeworthy story to back their play: Netflix is working on a new show called Florida Man, and it’s being filmed in North Carolina. Tallahassee lobbyist David Johnson pointed out the irony, that, after nearly a decade of Florida Man making the state a punch line, when it finally gets the Hollywood treatment, it’s 500 miles away in Wilmington, North Carolina.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated happy birthday wishes to Curt Anderson of The Associated Press. Celebrating today are Ryan Banfill, Rena FrazierKimberly Stone Kirtley, Danielle Ochoa, and Danielle Cone Scoggins of the Florida Realtors.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannRenzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


One comment

  • Tom

    October 1, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Interesting,
    2000 new jobs announced Monday, new manufacturing plant by Orbiton Satellite maker on Florida’s space coast. New jobs, new factory and infrastructure investment in Florida.

    Compliments to Gov Ron, America’s Governor getting it done.

Comments are closed.


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