Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.6.21

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Wednesday morning.

Because he just loves publicity so much, we have to give Mat Bahl a top-of-‘burn birthday shoutout.

Seriously, not many people outside The Process know who Mat is, but those who do know him readily acknowledge there are few individuals more responsible for the Florida House’s enormous success of the last decade than him. That’s why joining us this morning in celebrating Mat are three Florida House Speakers who have depended on Mat for his counsel and loyalty.

“Mat Bahl is the most brilliant mind in the Process for crafting innovative solutions to complex problems. He’s been Chief of Staff for three Speakers, and his fingerprints are all over the best of Florida’s achievements. He is counted as a friend and confidant to many, and we all are better for having his friendship. For his birthday, let’s all take a moment to toast the architect of the Florida House. Cheers to Mat!” — House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

“Anne and I wish the happiest of birthdays to our friend, Mat. Mat advises speakers and members on not only public policy but what it means to be a member of the Florida House and a better person. Happy Birthday, MB/TC.” — Former Speaker and current Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

“Happy Birthday to my friend, who is also one of the most strategic, thoughtful, and loyal advisers any presiding officer has ever known. I know how much you dislike attention, so I will keep this brief. You are a force to be reckoned with, with a loyalty that runs just as deep as the traditions of the institution you love — The Florida House. Happy Birthday, Mat! “ — Former House Speaker Dean Cannon.

Happy birthday, Mat.


First in Sunburn U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist raised more than $655,000 for his gubernatorial campaign last month and started October with about $2.8 million in the bank.

“I continue to be humbled and honored by the support I’ve received from Floridians across the state who are done with the reckless leadership that has turned its back on our neighbors,” Crist said.

“It’s time we work to build and deliver a Florida for all its people, where our middle class can thrive, our environment and families are protected, and the sun once again shines on the Sunshine State. With these resources, we are one month closer to building that Florida, and delivering for all our neighbors.”

Charlie Crist posts another solid month.

The September haul continues the steady trend established over the first four months of the former Governor’s bid for the Democratic nomination — he tallied $700,000 in August, $500,000 in July, and $412,000 in June. May, when Crist entered the race, saw the campaign reel in $1.5 million.

The campaign said that, to date, it has received contributions from 14,098 individual donors.

Currently, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is the only other major Democrat running for Governor. She has not yet announced her September fundraising numbers. Through Aug. 31, she had raised about $1.55 million. She started September with $2.8 million on hand, including money raised before she entered the contest.


Hit refresh on your podcast app of choice, because “State of Emergency” and “Hunkering Down” are back with new episodes.

The latest State of Emergency, POLITICO’s Matt Dixon joins me and co-host Jared Moskowitz for a wide-ranging discussion on all things Florida politics — especially the surge in GOP voter registrations and some of the factors driving it.

Listen up: A podcast twofer.

Of course, we also discuss the most significant events of the year: Disney’s 50th anniversary and Matt’s wedding and honeymoon. Queue it up for your drive to work.

On the return of Hunkering, Down, former Pinellas County Commissioner and St. Pete Mayor candidate Ken Welch stops by to discuss the future of the city he hopes to lead. We cover Pinellas County’s pandemic response, the threat of gentrification in South St. Pete, and workforce needs.

Welch also touches on what it’s like to grow up a Black man in St. Petersburg, music, race, and whether things are getting better.

If you live in the ‘burg, you won’t want to miss it. Plug in your headphones and click play.


@GovRonDeSantis: Attorney General (Merrick) Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation. Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.

@SenRickScott: (Joe) Biden’s Treasury Secretary wants to monitor Americans’ financial transactions. Biden’s AG wants to silence opponents of Critical Race Theory. This is what the Chinese, Russian & Cuban regimes currently do: snoop on their citizens & squash dissent. Biden = Systemic Socialism.

@EliseStefanik: Fire (Anthony) Fauci. Save Christmas!

@NLVWarren: Rick Scott set 22 special elections as Governor. On average, he took 8.5 days after a vacancy arose. Crist’s average was 6.5 days. Jeb? 7.5. It’s been 70 days. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

@RealStanVG: Representative Murphy, I am a supporter of yours but isn’t it also past time for universal pre-K, free community college, paid parental leave, universal broadband coverage, lower drug prices, expanding the child tax credit, etc.? Why be against things that will help many in need?

@SollenbergerRC: Periodic reminder that whatever evidence the government has against Matt Gaetz, it was strong enough to get a federal warrant to seize a sitting Congressman’s phone.

@EmmaKinnery: Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen: “Only about 10% of people who ever smoke get lung cancer, so the idea that 20% of your users could be facing serious mental health issues and that’s not a problem is shocking.”

@Snowden: My infant son has just discovered he can sit up on his own, and quickly went mad with power. It’s well past bedtime, but I still hear him trying to decree that the Age of Sleep has ended.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


’No Time to Die’ premieres — 2; ’Succession’ returns — 12; ’Dune’ premieres — 16; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ returns — 18; World Series Game 1 — 20; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 21; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 21; Georgia at UF — 24; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 27; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 27; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 30; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 30; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 32; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 33; Miami at FSU — 36; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 39; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 43; FSU vs. UF — 52; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 56; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 62; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 65; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 72; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 77; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 84; CES 2022 begins — 91; NFL season ends — 95; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 97; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 97; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 98; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 100; NFL playoffs begin — 101; Super Bowl LVI — 130; Daytona 500 — 137; St. Pete Grand Prix — 144; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 170; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 214; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 233; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 239; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 275; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 287; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 366; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 401.


Feds: Florida missed deadline to receive $2.3B in school aid” via The Associated Press — The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Commissioner Corcoran Monday that said the state Department of Education missed the deadline to release $2.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) money. “The Department released the first two-thirds of each State’s allocation in March and required each State to submit its plan for spending its ARP ESSER funds by June. FDOE did not meet this deadline, nor did it meet the July and August submission timelines that were anticipated following conversations with your staff,” wrote Ian Rosenblum, the federal department’s deputy assistant secretary for policy and programs. In response to the letter, Ron DeSantis’ office said school districts still haven’t spent all of the first round of aid.

Richard Corcoran misses $2.3 billion in education money for Florida Image via AP.

—“Ron DeSantis bashed for not tapping $2.3B for schools” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics


DeSantis cries foul after DOJ orders FBI to target school board threats” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis vowed Tuesday to defend Floridians after the Department of Justice ordered federal law enforcement to address the nation’s “disturbing spike” in threats against educators and school board members amid the pandemic. The order, directed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, comes after the National School Boards Association urged the federal government to address a reported rise of threats and harassment against educators. In a letter, the organization warned Biden that educators are under “immediate threat” and require federal intervention. They, the letter says, are facing backlash over school mask mandates and the “false inclusion” of critical race theory into the curriculum.

Ron DeSantis vows to fight the Department of Justice on investigations into a sharp increase of threats to school board members. Image via AP.

Richard Corcoran: Dock pay from more school boards plus withhold additional state funds” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — Corcoran determined that at least 10 local schools boards with strict mask mandates have violated Florida law and rules, and wants to dock pay from more boards, plus withhold more money, a new punishment. That punishment is related to federal grants from the Biden administration. Corcoran wants to withhold “state funds in an amount equal to any federal grant funds” awarded to districts for not complying with the DeSantis administration mask policies. That would include not only withholding school board member salaries but also withholding state funds intending to backfill those salaries. So far, Alachua and Broward school districts have gotten federal grants to supplant what state officials took away.

Human Trafficking Summit spotlights all-hands-on-deck approach” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Ashley Moody kicked off the 2021 Human Trafficking Summit alongside Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin. The virtual summit hosted local and national leaders to discuss strategies and measures to protect victims, prevent human trafficking and prosecute perpetrators. More than 4,000 attended the forum from 40 states, engaging in breakout sessions. “Ending this despicable crime is a fight that we must win, and we cannot beat this evil by working alone,” said Moody, who also serves as chair of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. Breakout sessions spanned topics including policy, research, law enforcement, health care and more.

Casey DeSantis’ cancer journey will include balancing the private and public, survivors say” via Jim Rosica of USA Today Network — Barbara Pariente, a retired Florida Supreme Court justice, now has something in common with DeSantis: Dealing with breast cancer while in the public eye. Pariente was first diagnosed in 2003. “For me, I know that when I was first diagnosed, I assumed that I would keep it private,” she said. Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to work while she underwent treatment, scheduling surgeries during recess weeks to avoid colleagues and missed votes. Her advice: “Surround yourself with people who love you and lean on them.”

DeSantis’ cancer diagnosis: Few are willing to discuss the political implications” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix


Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Fried will join Sen. Tina Polsky, Rep. Kelly Skidmore, and others to roll out an energy efficiency bill that would set statewide greenhouse gas reduction goals and create new standards for buildings that receive state funding, 3 p.m., The Rooftop Solar Terrance at Schmier & Feurring Offices, 2200 Butts Road, Boca Raton. The news conference will also be livestreamed at The press should RSVP to [email protected]

Kelly Skidmore and Tina Polsky are seeking greater energy efficiency in state buildings.

Ed Hooper files bill to stiffen penalties for firefighter murderers” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Sen. Hooper is proposing legislation that would stiffen criminal penalties related to the murder of an on-duty firefighter. Under the proposal (SB 370), the convicted murderer of a firefighter would face the same consequences as a person who killed a police or correctional officer, life in prison without the possibility of parole. Hooper said firefighters are worthy of the same legal classification as their first responder counterparts. They, he asserted, face many of the same risks as law enforcement officers. “They’re right in the line of fire,” Hooper said of firefighters and medics.

Ileana Garcia, Nicholas Duran propose expansions to college tuition waiver program” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Garcia and Rep. Duran have answered the call of a devoted grandmother and filed bipartisan legislation to expand access to college tuition waivers for students in out-of-home care. The twin bills (SB 304 and HB 203), Garcia said, “correct a missing piece” of the state’s tuition waiver program, which provides fee exemptions to some postsecondary students. The program is available to students 27 and younger in the state foster care system, living with a nonparent relative or nonrelative by the time they reach 18 or are homeless. It covers tuition and fees, including lab fees, for undergraduate, graduate, and professional school classes and workforce education programs provided by school districts.

Randy Fine, Scott Plakon seek money for local projects” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Lawmakers continue to file funding requests for hometown projects in the coming fiscal year, with Republican lawmakers filing appropriation bills to earmark money to a program in Brevard County that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities find jobs. Rep. Fine filed an appropriations bill requesting $250,000 for the Brevard Achievement Center. Rep. Plakon is asking for $400,000 for the Seminole County Sheriff Office’s Hope and Healing Center.

Randy Fine and Scott Plakon are seeking local cash.

State agencies, Legislature respond to conservation spending lawsuit — The Legislature and state agencies filed responses Monday to a lawsuit alleging land conservation money was improperly spent, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club claim the state misspent about $70 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year on items such as computer monitors, promotional swag and other things outside the scope of a 2014 constitutional amendment that required those funds to be spent on land acquisition and conservation efforts. In the responses, filed in Leon County Circuit Court, lawyers representing the state and the Legislature said those expenses were inbounds and the environmental groups have not provided enough evidence showing otherwise.

State transportation officials OK heliport sites for two Florida hospitals” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — State transportation officials announced preliminary site approval for new heliports at two central Florida hospitals. The Florida Department of Transportation announced its intent to issue “airport site approval order(s),” for Orlando Health Reunion Heliport in Osceola County and Advent Health Hospital Port Orange Heliport in Volusia County. The Orlando Health heliport will be located at its one-story 1,500-square-foot stand-alone emergency room in northwest Osceola County near Reunion Village. The Advent Health heliport is for the new free-standing emergency room the hospital system opened earlier this summer.

Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in several cases and death penalty appeals, including Marlin Joseph, convicted of killing two people in 2017 in Palm Beach County and Kim Jackson, convicted of killing a woman in 2004 in Duval County, 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee.

Happening today — The Broward County legislative delegation will workshop with the Broward County School Board before a public meeting: Sens. Lauren Book, Gary Farmer, Shevrin Jones, Tina Polsky, Perry Thurston; Reps. Robin Bartleman, David Borrero, Dan Daley, Bobby DuBose, Tom Fabricio, Joe Geller, Mike Gottlieb, Christine Hunschofsky, Evan Jenne, Chip LaMarca, Anika Omphroy, Felicia Robinson, Patricia Williams and Marie Woodson, workshop begins at 10 a.m.; public hearing starts at 12:30 p.m., Broward County School Administrative Office, 600 S.E. Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Jeff Atwater, Abigail Vail, Ballard Partners: Florida Sheriffs Risk Management Fund

Emily Buckley, Dean Mead: alliantgroup, Carvana, Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Rock Central

Jorge Chamizo, George Feijoo, Floridian Partners: Rock Central

Richard Coates, Tidewater Consulting: Kareem Hawari

Mike Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: The Association of Early Learning Coalitions

Leslie Dughi, Metz Husband & Daughton: Associated Industries of Florida

Crystal Stickle, Magnolia Advocacy: Palm Beach County Tax Collector

Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Jacqui Carmona, Zachary Hubbard, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Town Of Highland Beach


State reports 3,598 new cases as deaths begin to reflect recent decline in cases, hospitalizations” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 3,598 new COVID-19 cases as deaths began to reflect the weekslong drop in both hospitalizations and cases. The seven-day average for deaths was 222 on Tuesday, a decline that has been consistent for about a week. The average for new cases dropped to 4,321, the lowest it has been since July 10. There have been at least 3,590,400 COVID-19 cases and 55,622 deaths in Florida since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations also continued to drop, a trend that has continued for more than 40 days.

New COVID-19 cases are starting to trend down in Florida.

COVID-19 vaccines prevented 2,400 deaths among seniors in Florida, HHS report says” via Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — A government report has found that 17,000 senior citizens in Florida were shielded from being infected with the coronavirus because they were vaccinated against COVID-19, 6,700 were saved from being hospitalized, and 2,400 avoided death. The report from the Department of Health and Human Services, scheduled to be released on Tuesday, found that Florida was among three states, alongside California and Texas, which benefited the most from the vaccine shots. The study found a reduction of 265,000 COVID-19 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations, and 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries between January and May 2021.

State may strip Broward schools of $421,000 Joe Biden grant over masks” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A week after the Biden administration awarded Broward Schools $421,000 for defying a state ban on mask mandates, Corcoran has threatened to take that money away. The school district received a letter today from Corcoran promising to increase the penalties to the district over mask mandates. Corcoran now plans to recommend that the State Board of Education continue to withhold money equivalent to board member salaries and withhold money in the exact amount of any federal grants the district receives “for its noncompliance” with the state emergency rule.

Meanwhile …COVID-19 made Florida’s opioid problem worse. What will lawmakers do?” via Kirby Wilson and Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — She spent her years in and out of rehab, her father said, struggling to hold down a job for a decade, but by spring of 2020, she had been sober for several months. Then, the pandemic hit. The medical treatment place where 40-year-old Lori Holzman went for help with her substance abuse issues shut down, and support meetings stopped. In April 2020, Holzman overdosed on fentanyl and Xanax. “I think that she needed those meetings,” said her 67-year-old father, Stephen J. Holzman of Delray Beach. “Indirectly, COVID killed her.” State lawmakers are returning to Tallahassee to prepare for the 2022 Legislative Session at an inflection point of the opioid crisis.

— 2022 —

Florida redistricting battle begins, with control of Congress potentially in the balance” via Gray Rohrer and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Redistricting is inherently political, as any change in the lines can mean the difference between winning or losing a U.S. House or legislative seat. Democrats hold a slender 220-212 advantage on the U.S. House over Republicans, so a map that helps elect one or two more Republicans could help push the GOP over the top to control the chamber after the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans’ advantage over Democrats in the Legislature, which stands at 78-42 in the House and 24-16 in the Senate, is unlikely to be overcome by changes in the maps. Lawmakers held their first meetings on redistricting in September but won’t hold floor votes on new maps until the next regular session begins Jan. 11.

The Florida redistricting battle begins. Image via Colin Hackley.

Geraldine Thompson files to retake SD 11 seat” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Thompson filed to return to the open Senate District 11 seat she held until 2016. Her predecessor, Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy, is running for Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Thompson’s candidacy also creates a Democratic Primary with Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown for the SD 11 seat. Thompson represents HD 44 in southwestern Orange County. Brown represents the adjacent HD 45 in western Orange County. No Republicans have yet filed to run in SD 11.

Lake County GOP demands Florida election audit, despite Trump’s win” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Lake County Republicans are the latest GOP group to echo former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud by demanding a statewide forensic audit of Florida, a state Trump won by almost 372,000 votes. In a letter and two resolutions unanimously approved last week and sent to Florida GOP leaders, the Lake County Republican Executive Committee claimed ‘a majority of citizens doubt that the November 3, 2020, election was conducted openly and fairly’ and ‘doubt the number of legal votes cast for each candidate equals the reported and certified results, in Lake County, the State of Florida, and the United States.”


Republicans gird for battle and businesses brace for details of Biden’s new vaccine rule” via Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post — Biden’s planned vaccine requirement faces several tests in coming weeks, as at least two dozen Republican-controlled states prepare legal challenges, setting up a clash between the federal government and local officials that could ultimately determine the fate of the rule. Top administration officials have been working carefully to ensure the proposal is ironclad, and some have been heartened to see anecdotal evidence that companies and local governments implementing vaccine requirements have seen large-scale cooperation. The new federal policy will leave room for companies to allow unvaccinated employees to be frequently tested for the coronavirus.

Francis Collins to step down as NIH director by year’s end” via Megan Wilson, Sarah Owermohle, and Erin Banco of POLITICO — Collins plans to step down from his position of National Institutes of Health director by the end of the year after nearly three decades at the agency, including 12 years at the helm The 71-year-old physician-geneticist led the agency under three consecutive presidents, making him the first presidentially appointed NIH director to serve in more than one administration and the longest-serving NIH director. Collins will continue to lead his research laboratory at NIH, studying the underpinnings of Type 2 diabetes and developing new genetic therapies.

Francis Collins to step down after nearly three decades at the National Institutes of Health. Image via AP.

COVID-19 shots saved the lives of 39,000 older or disabled Americans through May of this year, the U.S. reports.” via Richard Pérez-Peña of The New York Times — Even in its first months, the U.S. coronavirus vaccination campaign saved the lives of tens of thousands of older people. From January through May, vaccination prevented about 265,000 cases, 107,000 hospitalizations, and 39,000 deaths among Medicare recipients, who are either over age 65 or are disabled. The analysis found that for each increase of 10 percentage points in a county’s vaccination rate, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare recipients fell 11 to 12%.


Charlie Crist: Hotel workers still suffering amid COVID-19 need federal aid” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Hotels are the only segment of the hospitality industry left without direct aid from Congress and Crist is hoping that will change as soon as possible. Crist hosted hotel officials Tuesday morning to make the case that the COVID-19 pandemic still affects workers who live closest to the edge of desperation. They are housekeepers, front desk clerks, laundry workers, and groundskeepers. Estimates are that Florida will end the year with 44,000 fewer hotel jobs than there were in 2019. The problem is that business travel has not returned. The bump in tourism seen over the summer dissipated as school came back into session.

Charlie Crist goes to bat for hotel workers.

Rise in singles, who face economic costs, worry researchers” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — A new study from Pew Research Center released Tuesday underscores the economic advantages of being married, especially as the share of single people in the U.S. has grown over the past three decades. The flip side, of course, is that it’s harder to be single. The share of the U.S. population not living with a romantic partner during prime working years has grown from 29% to 38% from 1990 to 2019. Single women earned more in 1990, but their advantage was reversed by 2019. Single men, meanwhile, have fallen further behind partnered men in earnings and education. Researchers have concluded it’s a combination of high-income men being more attractive as partners and cohabitating boosting men’s economic fortunes.

Holly Hill woman says she never applied for $3.4 million COVID-19 grant she’s listed as getting” via Jim Abbott of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Among the familiar local businesses that received assistance from the federal COVID-19 Restaurant Revitalization Fund in Daytona Beach, one name is conspicuously unfamiliar. At the top of rankings of 31 businesses in the Daytona Beach area, with a whopping $3.4 million in relief, is Amy Williams. It’s an astonishingly high amount, roughly 40% of the total $8.6 million distributed from the fund to 31 Daytona Beach area restaurant and catering businesses. She said she never applied for the grant, never received any money, and has never worked in the restaurant business.


Johnson & Johnson asks FDA to authorize booster shot” via Bryan Pietsch, Adela Suliman and Marisa Iati of The Washington Post — Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson asked the FDA to grant emergency use authorization for a booster dose of its one-shot coronavirus vaccine, becoming the third company to ask the Biden administration to approve additional doses. The FDA’s expert advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Oct. 14 and 15 to discuss whether to authorize both J&J’s and Moderna’s booster shots. The agency already has authorized a booster for people who received Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-shot regimen.

Are Johnson & Johnson boosters on the way? Image via AP.

A better name for booster shots” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — The pandemic has, in effect, boosted boosters into the public sphere. And yet, we are still really bad at talking about them. In the top echelons of the CDC, in the back alleys of Twitter, no one can seem to agree on who needs boosters, or when or why, or what that term truly, technically means. What we now refer to as boosters, then, might be better described as a refresher, refill, or reminder shots — something that signals not just growth, but growth from a place of temporary loss. This mirrors how several Romance languages describe booster shots: Spanish speakers say refuerzo, a term that signifies reinforcement, while Italians say richiamo, and the French say rappel — both words that signify recollection.


Biden’s polling numbers are even worse than they appear” via Henry Olsen of The Washington Post — Democrats are rightly worried about Biden’s poor job approval ratings. A closer look at his ratings among independents shows Democrats should be even more worried than they are. Biden’s overall job approval ratings are bad enough. Only 45.1% of Americans approve of his performance; 47.9% disapprove. That alone makes Biden less popular at this stage of his presidency than any President in the past 40 years except for Donald Trump. However, among independents, Biden is about as unpopular as Trump was at this stage in his presidency. Biden’s abysmal standing with independents spells disaster for Democrats in the midterm elections if it does not substantially improve.

Joe Biden’s popularity is worse than many people thought. Image via AP.

Biden scales back his agenda in hopes of bringing moderates onboard” via Jim Tankersley and Emily Cochrane of The New York Times — Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress in recent days have slashed their ambitions for a major expansion of America’s social safety net to a package worth about $2 trillion or less, which will force hard choices about how to scale back or discard key portions of the President’s agenda. The figure is substantially less than Biden’s initial $3.5 trillion collection of spending programs and tax increases. But the President has acknowledged that he and Democratic leaders will need to pare down their plan in a concession to two Democratic centrist holdouts, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have said repeatedly they would not support the larger version of the bill.

Merrick Garland says authorities will target school board threats” via The Associated Press — Garland directed federal authorities to hold strategy sessions in the next 30 days with law enforcement to address the increasing threats targeting school board members, teachers and other employees in the nation’s public schools. Garland said there has been “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools.” The action is in response to an urgent request last week from the National School Boards Association. The group, representing school board members around the country, asked Biden for federal assistance to investigate and stop threats.


I told the Trumps my relationship with a White House staffer had turned abusive. They didn’t seem to care.” via Stephanie Grisham for The Washington Post — One day, while meeting with Melania Trump alone, she asked how I was holding up after our breakup. My eyes started to well up. I told the first lady that he got physical with me. A few weeks later, I confided the same story about the physical abuse I had told Melania Trump. I told the President that this “great guy” had anger issues and a violent streak. The President and First Lady seemed totally unfazed about whether there was an abuser, another abuser, in their workplace. There was no follow-up from either of them to see if I needed help or protection.

Stephanie Grisham had serious problems with a staffer, but the Trumps didn’t seem to care. Image via AP.

Donald Trump drops off Forbes 400 list for first time in 25 years” via Aaron Gregg of The Washington Post — Trump, a businessman, entertainer and former U.S. President whose personal brand has always been closely intertwined with his wealth, is no longer in the top tier of America’s richest people. The magazine reported Tuesday that the former President was left off the Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people for the first time in a quarter-century. The business magazine estimates his net worth fell by about $600 million during the coronavirus pandemic as big-city properties, the core of his assets, lost value, leaving him with a $2.5 billion fortune. Losing a spot on Forbes’s widely followed ranking marks a turn for Trump, whose wealth made him famous long before entering politics.


Mike Pence: Media’s focus on deadly Jan. 6 riot is meant to ‘demean’ Trump supporters” via Dylan Stableford of Yahoo News — Pence, who was a target of vitriol and violent rhetoric during the deadly Jan. 6 riot, dismissed on Monday the media’s continued focus on the attack. He told Fox News host Sean Hannity that the coverage was designed to “demean” Trump’s supporters. “I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration’s failed agenda by focusing on one day in Jan.,” he said. “They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believed we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.”

Mike Pence insists the media is overblowing the Jan. 6 riot as a dig at Donald Trump supporters.

Prosecutors defend Jan 6 felony charge filed against former Marine helicopter pilot” via Mark Hosenball of Reuters — Federal prosecutors defended their decision to file a felony “obstruction” charge for actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot against a former U.S. Marine who served in a presidential helicopter squad when George W. Bush and Barack Obama were in the White House. At a hearing before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Kelley said that video found on the cellphone of former Marine John Andries “was central” to a decision by prosecutors to add a felony charge to misdemeanor riot-related charges. Public defender Maria Jacob, representing Andries, said the felony for which her client was charged was vague and that “many” riot defendants only faced misdemeanor charges for the same Jan. 6 behavior.

Federal judge rejects comparisons between Capitol insurrection and racial justice unrest” via Hannah Robinowitz of CNN — A federal judge rejected comparisons between the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and civil unrest. “To compare the actions of people around the country protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights, to a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and downplays the very real danger that the crowd on Jan. 6 posed to our democracy,” D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said. Her comments came during a sentencing hearing for Matthew Mazzocco of Texas, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally demonstrating in the Capitol building.


Convinced ‘Havana syndrome’ is real, Biden team issues sharper guidance for U.S. personnel” via Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — The U.S. government is sending a message to diplomats, national security staff and intelligence officers that “anomalous health incidents” — also known as “Havana syndrome” because it was first detected in Cuba — are serious, widespread and pose a real danger to their health at home and abroad. It is a shift in the U.S. response after years of skepticism in some corners of government about whether the strange health incidents are real and connected. “We need to believe our personnel who are coming forward,” a senior administration official said. “People are facing real symptoms. We are very conscious that people are experiencing something very real, and it is having a real negative effect on their health.”

Democrats wrangle over how to shrink $3.5 trillion proposal” via Kristina Peterson, Andrew Duehren and Eliza Collins of The Wall Street Journal — Biden acknowledged in a series of meetings with Democrats this week and on Friday that a package once pegged at $3.5 trillion would have to be smaller, given opposition from centrist Senate Democrats to a bill of that magnitude. Democrats are also looking at narrowing the eligibility for the programs to lower-income Americans. Some of the programs Democrats are proposing, such as universal prekindergarten, are currently available to Americans regardless of income level.

Democrats struggle to pare down a massive infrastructure bill. Image via WSJ.

The IRS wants to look at your bank account” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — On your next trip to the ATM, imagine that Uncle Sam is looking over your shoulder. As if your annual tax filing wasn’t invasive enough, the Biden administration would like a look at your checking account. Charles Rettig, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, wants banks to report annual cash flows for ordinary account holders. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is promoting the plan. Yellen says the reporting will help to catch wealthy tax dodgers. In a recent letter to the committee, she said the plan would reveal “opaque income streams that disproportionately accrue to the top.” Yet the IRS plans to review every account above a $600 balance, or with more than $600 of transactions in a year.

Marco Rubio warns of Mexican border ‘terrorist threat’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “President Biden is failing,” Rubio said. “Every day, we see pictures of the crisis on our southern border. Refugee camps, human trafficking, COVID-19 outbreaks, and overwhelmed and under-supported Border Patrol agents.” “What we cannot see is how terrorists who hate America are exploiting the chaos. The Biden administration cannot continue to ignore the very real terrorist threat. It is time for President Biden to take the necessary steps to keep our nation safe and secure our southern border.” The former head of the U.S. Border Patrol cited the “terrorist threat” in a recent interview, apparently spurring Rubio’s use of the phrase to heat up a familiar line of complaint.

Rick Scott won’t let Biden ‘intimidate’ parents opposed to ‘socialist’ critical race theory” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott lambasted U.S. Attorney General Garland‘s call to have federal law enforcement take a look at parents who take issue with “radical curriculum,” including so-called critical race theory, which spotlights structural racism as a persistent problem in American institutions. “Joe Biden’s attorney general wants the FBI to go after parents for speaking out at school board meetings to protect kids from radical curriculum like critical race theory,” Scott tweeted. “Biden’s disgusting socialist agenda must end. We won’t let him intimidate & silence parents.” The Senator returned to the theme some minutes later, in a second tweet placing the critical race theory position in a larger context of global totalitarianism.

Joel Greenberg asks to delay sentencing until March as cooperation with feds continues” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg has asked a judge to delay his sentencing until March 2022 as he continues to cooperate with federal authorities. Greenberg is currently slated to be sentenced on Nov. 18. But in a newly filed motion, his attorney Fritz Scheller said that Greenberg’s cooperation with investigators, which was a condition of his plea deal, “cannot be completed prior to the time of his sentencing.” Federal prosecutors have said they will not oppose the sentencing delay, which increases the likelihood of being granted. Greenberg faces a mandatory minimum of 12 years in federal prison on sex trafficking, stalking, bribery, and other offenses, but prosecutors have indicated they will recommend a lesser sentence if Greenberg provides substantial assistance.


Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry favors moving Confederate monument from Springfield Park” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Curry‘s top administrator told City Council over the weekend he will file legislation for moving the Confederate monument out of Springfield Park at an estimated cost of about $1.3 million. Curry had said in June 2020, hours after the overnight removal of a Confederate soldier statue from what is now called James Weldon Johnson Park, that “others in this city will be removed as well.” “We hear your voices,” he said at a rally outside City Hall. “We have heard your voices.” Curry ordered the removal of the Confederate soldier statue, but the higher cost for moving the much larger monument dedicated to the “Women of the Southland” would require City Council support.

Lenny Curry starts work on removing Confederate statues. Image via Facebook.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan says Urban Meyer’s conduct was inexcusable” via John Reid of The Florida Times-Union — After a second video surfaced Monday showing Meyer touching a woman’s backside in a restaurant bar in Columbus, Ohio, Khan said his head football coach conduct was inexcusable in a statement issued Tuesday. ”I have addressed this matter with Urban. Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence,” Khan said. The video appears to be from the same event in Columbus, Ohio, where a video surfaced Saturday on Twitter that showed Meyer sitting in a chair while a woman who is not his wife was seen dancing up to him.

Judge orders Skanska to pay $92,000 in fees for destroying evidence in bridge trial” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — A federal judge has ordered Skanska to pay more than $92,000 in fees after the court found the construction company had destroyed potential evidence in the Pensacola Bay Bridge case. The order was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and follows months of back-and-forth between Skanska’s attorneys and the attorneys representing business owners, commuters and governments in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties say they were impacted by the bridge’s nine-month outage. The case, which stems from claims Skanska was negligent when it failed to properly secure 23 barges ahead of Hurricane Sally, is set to go to trial this month.

Man accused of vandalizing LGBTQ Pride intersection to stand trial” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The man accused of using his pickup to burn tire marks across a gay-pride streetscape in Delray Beach moved to fight the charges against him. Alexander Jerich, 20, appeared in Palm Beach County Court. He had the opportunity to take a plea deal, but his attorney indicated a desire to go to trial. Jerich turned himself in to police after a viral video showed a white pickup truck registered to his father burn tire marks into the rainbow flag painted on the road. He is charged with criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving. The case stems from a video that started gaining notoriety on social media back in June. Gay rights advocates expressed frustration that Jerich wasn’t charged with a hate crime.

Florida Democratic Party demands shadow group blasting Ken Welch stop using its name” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The email in question came out in two versions. One was distributed with the “from” line titled simply “St. Pete Update.” But a second claimed it was from “St. Pete Democrat Update.” Florida Democratic Party General Counsel Benjamin Tyler took issue with that wording in the letter, listed generically as [email protected] The cease-and-desist letter is addressed to the originating email address: “to whom it may concern.” The email contained a Tampa Bay Times editorial, about Welch and controversy stemming from an alleged conflict of interest over lobbying for a job for his wife when he served as a Pinellas County Commissioner, which states that the communication was paid for by the group Citizens for a Health St. Pete.

A sketchy ad attacking Ken Welch is making the rounds, and Pinellas Democrats are not happy.

Pinellas County School Board members endorse Robert Blackmon” for St. Pete Mayor via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Bill Dudley and Lisa Cane are backing Blackmon. Cane, who represents District 2 on the Board, is the founder and creative director of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Academy. She was elected to the Board in 2018. Cane said in a statement: “As St. Petersburg’s next Mayor, I know Robert Blackmon will continue to foster partnerships to expand the rich arts and civic culture for the St. Petersburg Community.” Dudley, who represents District 6, is a former Pinellas County high school coach. He was also first elected to the School Board in 2018, and previously served two terms on St. Pete City Council.

Rays finish 2021 season with franchise-low home attendance due to COVID-19 pandemic” via Mark Bergin for Florida Politics — An average of about 9,396 fans per game attended the team’s 81 home games this season at Tropicana Field, according to Baseball-Reference. Tropicana Field has a capacity of 25,025 fans. Baseball-Reference data shows the Rays had total home attendance of 761,072 fans during the 2021 regular season. The Rays’ 2021 attendance ranked 28th in Major League Baseball ahead of the Miami Marlins (642,617 total fans, 7,934 fans per game) and Oakland Athletics (701,430 total fans, 8,660 fans per game). The Rays’ previous low attendance came in the 2003 season when the team had 1,058,695 fans, or an average of about 13,071 fans per game. The team was known as the Devil Rays back then.

Happening today — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will meet to consider a draft permit for Manatee County to inject wastewater from the site of the former Piney Point phosphate plant into the ground, 4 p.m., Manatee County Central Library, 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. West, Bradenton.


Women of Florida, follow Casey DeSantis’ lead and get tested for breast cancer” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The Cancer Statistics Center estimates that 20,160 new cases of breast cancer have been diagnosed in the state of Florida this year. Monday, that estimate grew by at least one: That is when DeSantis announced that his wife, Casey, has breast cancer. The Governor’s very personal, very moving announcement coincides with the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We wish Casey DeSantis a resounding victory over breast cancer. Given her high profile, we hope that her diagnosis spurs women throughout the state to renew their commitment to preserving their health for their sake and the sake of their families. That begins with making an appointment for a mammogram and examination.


Hey Ron DeSantis, where do grieving Floridians go to get their apologies?” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Last week, after a summer of failure, Florida surpassed New York in total fatalities for the first time. Florida’s been steadily creeping up on New York in per capita deaths as well. We’re now No. 9 in the nation; New York is No. 5. Which brings us to a question for DeSantis: Where do grieving Floridians go to get their apologies? We shouldn’t expect one from DeSantis, who remains publicly convinced his COVID-19 strategy on lockdowns, masks, vaccines — everything — has been infallible. He’s never acknowledged the scope of the disaster that was Florida’s summer of 2021.

South Florida navigated COVID-19 for two major sports events. Let’s build on that success” via Jack Seiler for the Miami Herald — Since 1935, South Florida has become the top destination for hosting premier postseason college football games. Our ability to continue building this legacy is based squarely on community collaboration and partnership to stage marquee events and always focus on what is best for South Florida. We will embrace this commitment when hosting the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 at Hard Rock Stadium. Likewise, as our region looks forward to a promising future of many major events, we must share the goal of having every event organizer, convention planner, or leisure traveler conclude that South Florida knows how to provide its visitors a safe, comfortable and entertaining experience.

Barry Gilway: Now is not the time to raise taxes on reinsurance” via Florida Politics — Rising premiums, cancellations, and nonrenewals are becoming an unfortunate fact of life for too many Florida homeowners who are bearing the brunt of poor market conditions. Given such challenges, a provision of the Biden administration’s proposed “Made in America” tax plan that raises tax rates on global reinsurers could not come at a worse time. As Florida’s insurer of last resort, Citizens is seeing its policy count skyrocket as private companies raise premiums and stop writing policies. By the end of 2022, Citizens will insure more than 1 million policies and again be the largest property insurer in Florida. Now is not the time to place additional burdens on Florida’s private insurers by raising tax rates on reinsurance.


On Capitol Hill, the Facebook whistleblower calls for government oversight of the social media giant.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— In Florida, lawmakers are making a call for a state Chief Diversity Officer.

— And on the heels of Florida’s virtual human trafficking summit, advocates say it’s important to stay vigilant.

— Doubling up on Sunrise interviews: First, Democratic Sen. Lori Berman who just filed a bill for Florida to create a Chief Diversity Officer. Then, Erin Collins, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking. This comes after more than 4,000 people attended the virtual 2021 Human Trafficking Summit Tuesday featuring Attorney General Moody alongside Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Florida’s ivory-billed woodpecker is officially extinct — but a few still hope” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially declared the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct, along with 22 other plant and animal species. The bureaucratic decision dampens hope in finding the bird that once thrived in the bottomlands and long-leaf pines of Florida and sprawling forests throughout the southeast. For decades, reports of the bird had emerged intermittently, rousing intrigue and skepticism in ornithology circles. In the absence of proof, the bird ceased to be a bird. It was a ghost, a Holy Grail. It stood for obsession and salvation. If it still lived, it meant it had survived the wrath humans inflicted upon its habitat.

Florida’s ivory-billed woodpecker is declared extinct; but is it really? Image via AP.

Disney World to bring back character meet-and-greets, Indiana Jones stunt show” via Ashley Carter of Bay News 9 — For the first time since the theme parks reopened last summer, Disney World will have indoor character meet-and-greets starting next month. The character interactions will be socially distanced, however, meaning no hugs or autographs. “Although the environment is not right for hugs and autographs, you’ll soon be able to have individualized time with some of your favorite characters, getting to visit with them in themed locations and snap a photo or two,” Disney said. At Magic Kingdom, visitors will be able to meet the Disney Princesses at Princess Fairytale Hall and Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater. Mickey will be wearing his EARidescent 50th-anniversary outfit.

‘I Dole Whipped cancer’s butt’: Woman visits Disney World after completing chemotherapy” via Fox 51 — A woman who loves Disney and Dole Whip but has also fought a hard battle with cancer says that she recently had a special moment at Walt Disney World. Angela Kinsley Lawler is from Hillside, New Jersey, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in Jan. 2021. Since being diagnosed, she has had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy treatment. Her last round was in July, but she still receives hormonal treatment every three weeks through March 2022. Angela and her family are big Disney fans. In fact, she and her husband of 36 years celebrated their honeymoon at Disney. Since she finished chemotherapy, Angela was visiting the parks with her family and wearing an ‘I Dole Whipped Cancer’s Butt!’ button.


Best wishes to a great guy and great friend, Jim Rimes, as well as Joe Follick, former Pinellas Tax Collector Diane Nelson, and former Sen. Kevin Rader.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

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