Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.27.21

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Good Wednesday morning.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum begins today in Orlando.

The event promises an in-depth look at how business leaders are uniting behind the Florida Chamber’s “Six Pillars Framework” and accomplishing the 39 goals outlined in the Florida 2030 Blueprint with the end goal of making Florida a top-10 global economy.

Attendees will hear from the foremost business leaders and politicians in the Sunshine State.

Jimmy Patronis is a featured speaker at the Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum.

Day One opens with an address from Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson, who will outline the “magic” happening in Florida and speak on the ways Florida businesses are adapting to a changing world.

The ensuing agenda is a who’s who of Florida politics.

CFO Jimmy Patronis will take the stage in the morning to speak about how Florida can grow its economy by protecting tax dollars, fighting fraud, and supporting small businesses and first responders. Senate President Wilton Simpson, a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, will deliver a post-lunch speech on “Building a Post-Pandemic Florida.”

More than a dozen panels and deep dives are planned for the interim, with featured speakers including Florida Chamber Chief Economist Jerry Parrish, Orlando Health HR Director Tiffany Pratt, Florida Ready to Work Executive Director Colleen Englert.

Shutts & Bowen managing partner Jason Gonzalez is also on tap to moderate a discussion titled “Fixing Florida’s Broken Legal System” with Publix VP of Risk Management Marc Salm and Georgia-Pacific VP and General Counsel Tye Darland.

The full Future of Florida Forum agenda is available online.


Florida TaxWatch will kick off its 42nd Annual Meeting in Sarasota today.

The meeting, held at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota, will focus on one of the most pressing issues facing the Sunshine State: What remains to be done to get Florida back on track after the pandemic?

The meeting will focus heavily on FTW’s recent research reports, such as “Who Knows What — Analysis of Data Privacy Legislation in Florida” and “A Rising Tide Sinks All Homes — The Effects of Climate Change on Florida’s Economy.”

The meeting gets underway at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and dinner, during which Bradenton Republican Sen. Jim Boyd — the Senate lead on this year’s property insurance reform package — is scheduled to speak.

Jim Boyd, a lead figure in the Legislature’s property insurance reform effort, will speak at the Florida TaxWatch event.

It continues Thursday with a speaker list that includes FTW Chair and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody, Miami Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, Department of Management Services Secretary Todd Inman, Department of Transportation District One Secretary L.K. Nandem, Keiser University Vice-Chancellor Belinda Keiser and The Chiles Group owner Ed Chiles.

After FTW issues its annual TaxWatch Productivity Awards during a midday ceremony, Patronis will take the stage to deliver the meeting’s final address.


Tweet, tweet:

@DavidAxelrod: Leaving aside that COVID’s proven more lethal to law enforcement than criminals in the past year, the defiance of Chicago police to a vaccine mandate raises a disturbing question: What happens when those we rely on to enforce the law pick and choose rules w/which they’ll comply?

Tweet, tweet:

@CindyPoloFL103: Is anyone struggling whether to stay on FB? I, for one, am. I keep posting and liking posts, as if nothing has happened. The only thing I know for certain is that we, as a society, are not worthy of whistleblowers. They risk so much, and we continue on, as if nothing has happened.

@Stephanixmedina: Dios mío, y’all put down the GOOGLE TRANSLATE, stop asking your Spanish speaking staff to do stuff out of their pay grade and just hire someone whose job it is to translate and create culturally competent content 😔

@JeffWeinerOS: The claim of not being able to “communicate effectively” while masked is odd coming from a member of a profession in which workplace mask use has been a norm since well before the pandemic.

@kylamb8: If you are a journalist and respect the job of bringing honest and accurate reporting to the public, do not be upset at those expressing distrust toward your profession. Be upset at the colleagues and peers that do not take the job seriously to cause the distrust to begin with.

Tweet, tweet:


Georgia at UF — 3; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 6; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 6; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 9; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 9; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 11; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 12; U.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers — 12; Miami at FSU — 15; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 18; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 22; FSU vs. UF — 31; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 35; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 41; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 44; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 51; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 56; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 63; CES 2022 begins — 70; NFL season ends — 74; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 76; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 76; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 77; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 79; NFL playoffs begin — 80; Super Bowl LVI — 109; Daytona 500 — 116; St. Pete Grand Prix — 123; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 128; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 191; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 212; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 218; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 254; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 266; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 345; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 373; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 380; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 415; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 478; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 632.


Dr. Joseph Ladapo says he didn’t wear mask with Senator because he can’t ‘communicate clearly’ with one on” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Ladapo wrote on Twitter about his refusal to wear a mask while meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky, who has breast cancer, saying he can’t “communicate clearly and effectively” with his face covered. “Having a conversation with someone while wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist,” Ladapo stated in his first public remarks about the incident. “It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can’t do that when half of my face is covered.”

Joseph Ladapo insists he has difficulty communicating through a mask. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida Black leaders ‘denounce’ Ladapo” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — A Black Republican minister who’s head of a statewide effort to get people of color vaccinated against COVID-19 is leading civil rights leaders and others to “denounce” Ron DeSantis … “The decision by the new Florida Surgeon General to not wear a mask when requested by Sen. Polsky was repugnant, reprehensible, and regretful,” the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr. said in a Tuesday statement.

Assignment editors — Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist will join a group of local doctors deeply concerned about the Florida Surgeon General’s “reckless lack of science-based leadership” as communities continue to battle the public health risks associated with COVID-19, 12:30 p.m. The news conference will be livestreamed via Crist’s Facebook page (@CharlieCristFL). Media joining virtually and asking questions can RSVP [email protected] to receive the Zoom link.


Nikki Fried calls on Ladapo to give Black farmers a break — then slams him” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Four years into Florida’s medical marijuana program, still no Black farmers have obtained grow licenses, and now the state has jacked up fees, leading Fried to implore Surgeon General Dr. Ladapo to reconsider recent fee changes she says are discriminatory. “He’s not helping me out. He’s helping out our minority farmers. This is not about me. Certainly, he should be doing what’s right for the community,” Fried said Tuesday. She also noted she does not expect to hear back from Ladapo’s Department of Health on her inquiry about the new rules, because the Department was not responding to previous inquiries.

Nikki Fried asks — then blasts — Joseph Ladapo. Image via Twitter.

Broward legislative delegation endorses tax for affordable housing” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Legislation that would allow a surtax on Broward County’s commercial property sales to go toward affordable housing received the unanimous endorsement of the Broward County legislative delegation Tuesday. If the full House of Representatives approves, the Broward County Commission could levy up to 45 cents on every $100 worth of commercial property sales in Broward County. That could raise up to $31 million for affordable housing in Broward County in the first, full year it was implemented. The situation has become more urgent in the last year as housing prices have continued to climb, Rep. Michael Gottlieb pointed out. A recent study shows Broward County residents are spending 40% of their income on rent, Gottlieb said.

Dark money group pumps another $350K into data privacy fight — Dark money group Propel Florida returned with another $350,000 in donations to political committees in the push for legislation allowing Floridians to take action against tech companies over how their personal data is shared or sold. Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reported that the new round of contributions went to the political committees Citizens for Principled Leadership, chaired by Bill Helmich, and Strong Communities of Southwest Florida, chaired by Dave Ramba. Propel Florida backed efforts to pass data privacy legislation this year, but the bill ultimately failed on the last day of the 2021 Legislative Session. No data privacy bill has been filed ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session, though one is expected before it begins in January.

Legislature needs to seriously look at FHP retention, competitive pay — highway safety depends on it” via Vince Hafeli for Florida Politics — We’ve been building roads in Florida for 40 years and as such, we want to see that safety is maintained on our state’s infrastructure and roadways for the health and well-being of Floridians and all those that travel to Florida. A big component of maintaining safety, especially on our highways, is done by our Florida Highway Patrol. When it comes to the average salary for a state trooper, it is about $45,000, while the average pay for troopers in all states is about $53,000, which makes Florida $8,000 under state averages. Sens. Ed Hooper, Tom Wright, Jim Boyd, and Debbie Mayfield also spoke up to address this issue during a committee hearing. With a job as important as ensuring and maintaining the safety on our state’s highways, we cannot afford to wait.

For safer roads, the Florida Highway Patrol needs to offer competitive pay. Image via Facebook.

Southwest Ranches could follow Wellington in limiting fireworks displays” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State lawmakers from Broward County are supporting a potential ban on private fireworks displays in the town of Southwest Ranches. Rep. Robin Bartleman, who is backing the proposed legislation, said the town’s makeup necessitates a local bill limiting fireworks. “It’s an agrarian community. It has cattle ranches. It has farms. It has horses,” Bartleman explained Tuesday at a Broward County legislative delegation meeting. “It’s very unique. There aren’t stoplights. The people who live there have lived for generations.” Bartleman told fellow lawmakers the legislation would mirror a bill approved during the 2021 Legislative Session, allowing Wellington to stop fireworks displays except for those OK’d ahead of time by local officials.


Florida COVID-19 update: 2,024 more cases added and county death tolls increase” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 2,024 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths on Monday. The Florida Department of Health will most likely add more deaths to Monday’s total, increasing it from zero. The state has done this in the past when it has added cases and deaths to previous days during the pandemic. The last time the state saw no increase in deaths consistently, without backlogged deaths added later, was in early March of last year during the nascent days of the pandemic. On average, the state has added 113 deaths and 1,863 cases per day in the past seven days.

Broward School Board makes masks optional for high school students” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward high school students can take off their masks next week. The School Board voted 5-3 Tuesday to keep its mask mandate for elementary and middle students, but make masks optional while “strongly encouraged” at high schools. The reason: Elementary students and some middle school students have no access yet to a vaccine. The change takes effect Monday. It will keep the school district out of compliance with a state Health Department rule that says parents have the right to choose whether their children wear masks, regardless of the grade level. Teachers, employees, and visitors at high schools and district offices would not have to wear masks, but they would if they worked at elementary and middle schools.

Leon Superintendent adjusts mask rule, bringing district into compliance with DeSantis order” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Asymptomatic students who have been exposed to COVID-19 will no longer have to wear a mask to return to school during the quarantine period, making the district in compliance with the state’s emergency rule that banned mask mandates. “Data and numbers are moving us into compliance, not simply to comply,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna, adding that the district will not hesitate to reinstate stricter policies if the situation warrants. “We’re going to do what’s best to protect the safety of our children.” The district required masks for students exposed but asymptomatic if they wanted to return to school during the seven-day quarantine, now, parents can opt-out. For teachers, masks will be required indoors “when appropriate.”

Rocky Hanna makes Leon County schools toe the mask line. Image via Facebook.

As COVID-19 vaccine efforts continue, ‘gentle giant’ remembered with 49ers theme” via Laurence Reisman of TCPalm — In 1996, Rob Vaccaro was a teenager when he started playing pickup basketball against a much bigger man 12 years older. Vaccaro and Jesse Eugene Parker bonded. Earlier this month, Vaccaro helped give Parker a send-off fit for a dignitary. At 6-feet-2, 275 pounds, Parker was a “gentle giant,” talking about his beloved San Francisco 49ers. Parker put off a COVID-19 vaccination after Vaccaro ended up in Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital’s intensive care unit for seven days. But with cases rising, Parker decided to get a shot. Parker became ill on Aug. 23 and continued to go downhill until he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he spent almost two weeks in intensive care before succumbing to COVID-19.

— 2022 —

Joe Biden campaigns in Virginia amid high-stakes Governor’s race” via Will Weissert of The Associated Press — Biden headed Tuesday night across the Potomac River to campaign for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a tight and increasingly bitter Virginia Governor’s race, attempting to demonstrate the durability of his popularity in a state he won handily a year ago. No Republican has won statewide office in Virginia since 2009, and Biden carried it by a comfortable 10 percentage points in 2020. Yet polls have shown McAuliffe, who previously served as Governor from 2014 to 2018, tied with Republican former business executive Glenn Youngkin with the election a week away and the President’s own popularity is on the decline. In the final days of the race, both candidates are focused on turning out their base supporters, with Republicans pressing culture war issues and McAuliffe hammering Youngkin for his ties to former President Donald Trump.

Happening tonight:


COVID-19 cases keep falling” via David Leonhardt of The New York Times — The number of new daily COVID-19 cases has plunged 57% since peaking on Sept. 1. Almost as encouraging as the magnitude of the decline is its breadth: Cases have been declining in every region. If you are vaccinated (and boosted, if eligible) and you were comfortable socializing indoors and without a mask last spring, you can probably feel comfortable doing so again, now or soon. Despite all the encouraging news, one shadow still hangs over the U.S.: The pandemic does not need to be nearly as bad it is. About 1,500 Americans have died of COVID-19 every day over the past week. For older age groups, the virus remains a leading cause of death.

FDA panel backs Pfizer’s low-dose COVID-19 vaccine for kids” via Lauran Neerguard and Matthew Perrone of The Associated Press — The U.S. moved a step closer to expanding COVID-19 vaccinations for millions more children as a panel of government advisers on Tuesday endorsed kid-size doses of Pfizer’s shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. An FDA advisory panel voted unanimously, with one abstention, that the vaccine’s benefits in preventing COVID-19 in that age group outweigh any potential risks, including a heart-related side effect that’s been very rare in teens and young adults despite their use of a much higher shot dose. While children are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 than older people, ultimately, many panelists decided it’s important to give parents a choice to protect their youngsters. The FDA isn’t bound by the panel’s recommendation and is expected to make its own decision within days.

Business groups ask White House to delay Biden COVID-19 vaccine mandate until after the holidays” via Spencer Kimball of CNBC — Worried that Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private companies could cause a mass exodus of employees, business groups are pleading with the White House to delay the rule until after the holiday season. White House officials at the Office of Management and Budget held dozens of meetings with labor unions. OMB officials have several meetings lined up Monday and Tuesday with groups representing dentists, trucking companies, staffing companies and Realtors, among others. The American Trucking Association, which will meet with the OMB on Tuesday, warned the administration last week that many drivers will likely quit rather than get vaccinated.

Business groups urge Biden to wait a bit on vaccine mandates.

Federal judge tosses out Southwest Airlines pilots’ petition against vaccine mandate” via Oriana Pawlyk of POLITICO — A Texas judge on Tuesday dismissed a request for an injunction against an impending vaccine mandate brought by a union that represents pilots at Southwest Airlines, a significant blow against their attempt to sidestep Bidens mandate for government contractors. Federal workers and government contractors, which includes major U.S. commercial airlines, must be vaccinated by Dec. 8. Pilots also had argued that Southwest violated the Railway Labor Act, alleging the airline failed to maintain a status quo during the ongoing “major” dispute between the parties. That dispute is a previous lawsuit filed by SSWAPA involving claims of unfair labor practices during COVID-19.

How COVID-19 is killing people who don’t even have the virus” via Mark Rothstein for POLITICO — The pandemic has killed over 700,000 Americans, but it has indirectly killed many more — all the people with treatable health emergencies who were unable to obtain care at hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. It’s easy to point to the pandemic — and all the attendant controversies, from masking to vaccines to lack of preparedness — as the cause of all these ancillary deaths. But COVID-19 didn’t create this particular crisis; it merely revealed it. The underlying problem is the decadeslong decline in the number of hospital beds and the federal government’s failure to address the issue. Had public health officials heeded earlier warnings, many lives could have been saved.


Rising prices, once seen as temporary, threaten Biden’s agenda” via Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — At least once a week, a team of Biden’s top advisers meets on Zoom to address the nation’s supply chain crisis. They discuss ways to relieve backlogs at America’s ports, ramp up semiconductor production for struggling automakers and swell the ranks of truck drivers. The conversations are aimed at one goal: taming accelerating price increases that are hurting the economic recovery, unsettling American consumers and denting Biden’s popularity. An inflation surge presents a fresh challenge for Biden, who for months insisted that rising prices were temporary. Instead, the President and his aides are now bracing for high inflation to persist into next year. That reality has complicated Biden’s push for sweeping legislation. And it is dragging on the President’s approval ratings, which could threaten Democrats’ already tenuous hold on Congress.

Rising prices, supply chain issues threaten to sink Joe Biden’s plans.

Federal government collected record taxes in fiscal 2021” via Terence P. Jeffrey of CNS News — The federal government collected a record $4,045,979,000,000 in taxes in fiscal 2021. Federal spending also hit a nominal high of $6,818,158,000,000 in fiscal 2021, up from the $6,551,872,000,000 that the federal government spent in fiscal 2020. However, when the $6,551,872,000,000 the federal government spent last year is adjusted for inflation from September 2020 dollars into September 2021 dollars it equals $6,905,040,760,000, thus, exceeding this fiscal year’s total of $6,818,158,000,000. Before this year, the record for federal tax collections occurred in fiscal 2016.

‘The pandemic isn’t over’: CDC extends Conditional Sailing Order for cruises into January amid COVID-19” via Morgan Hines of the USA Today — Cruise lines will be required to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol for COVID-19 on ships through Jan. 15. Capt. Aimee Treffiletti, who leads the CDC’s maritime unit, said the agency decided to temporarily extend the agency’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order “in the best interest of public health.” “The pandemic isn’t over. We’ve seen what the delta variant can do,” Treffiletti said.

DIY Halloween: Haunted by shortages, fans conjure up their own costumes” via Alex Janin of The Wall Street Journal — Halloween decorations and costumes have been haunted by a backlog of container ships at U.S. ports, causing delays and shortages. This year, many consumers are resorting to do-it-yourself alternatives. They often need extra backup plans as even raw materials for their home-brew costumes grow scarce. Those who have been patiently waiting for Halloween costumes and decorations to come back in stock may be out of luck or facing higher prices, says Craig Austin, a professor of logistics and supply-chain management at Florida International University.


Beijing Olympics will require vaccine or 21-day quarantine” via Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal — Beijing 2022 organizers unveiled a tough set of COVID-19 protocols for next February’s Winter Olympic Games, including a requirement that almost all participants be vaccinated against the virus or face a 21-day quarantine that would effectively shred their competitive hopes. The requirements outlined in the first of a series of “playbooks” are significantly tighter than those imposed by the Tokyo organizers of the delayed Olympic Games held this summer, confirming signals already sent by Beijing. Competitors and officials will have to arrive in Beijing on direct flights, which will have to be chartered flights for many countries. That rule did not exist for Tokyo.

China says vax or quarantine. Image via AP.


White House eyes new climate change strategies in Biden bill” via Lisa Mascaro and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press — The White House is zeroing in on a package of clean energy strategies for Biden’s big domestic policy bill that officials believe could reach similar greenhouse gas emission reduction goals as an initial proposal that was quashed by opposition from a centrist Democrat. The emerging proposals would expand grants and loans in the agriculture and industrial sectors to help them shift to clean energy providers with fewer greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, the official said. There would also be new, refundable home improvement tax credits for tapping solar and other renewable energy sources. Momentum was building as the group coalesced around the new ideas.

Clean energy will be a big piece of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Image via AP.

Biden releases ‘gender equity’ plan that calls for eliminating cash bail” via Michael Lee of Fox News — “We are also committed to increasing federal oversight and accountability for police departments and prosecutors’ offices to address systemic misconduct, including gender bias and sexual misconduct,” reads part of a White House report. “And we will work to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system, recognizing the harm these processes cause, particularly for Black women and families.” The report calls for a “whole of government” approach to ending gender inequalities, with the elimination of cash bail being one of the steps governments can take to combat gender and race disparities. But the calls come at a time when FBI data show an unprecedented rise in violent crime, with murders in the U.S. rising by nearly 30% in 2020.

Biden to meet Pope amid pressure from anti-abortion U.S. bishops” via Philip Pullella of Reuters — Devout Roman Catholic Biden meets Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday at a time when the U.S. President is under pressure from conservatives in the Church for his conflicted position in the dispute over abortion rights. Biden goes to weekly Mass regularly and keeps a picture of the Pope behind his desk in the Oval Office. He has said he is personally opposed to abortion but cannot impose his views as an elected leader. It is not known if Biden and Pope Francis will discuss abortion and communion disputes at their private meeting. National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the two men would discuss climate change, migration and income inequality.

Biden nominates Jessica Rosenworcel as FCC’s first female leader” via Elizabeth Williamson of The New York Times — If confirmed by the Senate, Rosenworcel would lead an agency whose responsibilities include ensuring that millions of Americans have internet access. The FCC promotes competition among providers, scrutinizes mergers between telecommunications and broadcast companies, and regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. Biden also named Gigi B. Sohn to the seat on the five-member commission vacated by Rosenworcel when she became the acting chair. Sohn, a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, served from 2013 to 2016 as a counselor to Tom Wheeler, a former FCC chair. If confirmed by the Senate, Sohn would be the FCC’s first openly LGBTQ Commissioner, the White House said.

Jessica Rosenworcel is poised to become the first female FCC head. Image via Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.

Biden reminds Donald Trump he’s a has-been who lost the election” via Bess Levin of Vanity Fair — After the White House refused to keep secret the initial batch of documents requested by the House committee, press secretary Jen Psaki explained that Biden had “determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not warranted for the first set of documents from the Trump White House that have been provided to us by the National Archives,” adding that the West Wing would “evaluate questions of privilege on a case-by-case basis, but the President has also been clear that he believes it to be of the utmost importance for both Congress and the American people to have a complete understanding of the events of that day to prevent them from happening again.”


Dems confront flagging momentum for $1T-plus deal” via Nicholas Wu, Sarah Ferris, and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — The White House hosted last-minute meetings with influential groups of House Democrats on Tuesday as party leaders in both chambers raced to resolve disagreements still snarling Biden’s domestic agenda. Even as they get closer to an agreement with Senate centrist holdouts on their social spending mega bill, Democrats face hang-ups over major issues that include taxes, Medicare and Medicaid expansion, and paid leave, all of which are in flux as lawmakers keep negotiating. The remaining hurdles include prescription drug pricing, expanding Medicare benefits, creating a paid family leave program and closing the coverage gap for states that declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats inch closer to an agreement on Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, but some hurdles remain. Image via AP.

Democrats’ billionaire tax would heavily target 10 wealthiest Americans, but alternative plan is emerging” via Jeff Stein, Andrew Van Dam and Tony Romm of The Washington Post — Senate Democrats this week are preparing to propose a new tax increase that would raise billions of dollars from a handful of the richest Americans, attempting to create perhaps the most narrowly focused tax policy in postwar history. But criticisms of the proposal have emerged, and party leadership is still considering more traditional approaches to taxing the rich. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden said Monday he will “in a matter of days” release a tax on billionaires that economists and tax experts project could raise more than half its revenue from just 10 people. Estimates vary widely on exactly how much money the plan would bring into federal coffers, in part because no such idea has ever been put into effect.

Additional Medicare, Medicaid benefits may be whittled or cut as Democrats woo moderates” via Dan Diamond, Rachel Roubein, Amy Goldstein and Tony Romm of The Washington Post — Democrats’ sweeping plans to bolster Medicare and Medicaid benefits have been scaled back amid an assault from industry groups and opposition from centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin, with popular coverage expansions likely to be narrowed in hopes of reaching a deal this week. A proposal to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits is in danger of falling from the tax-and-spending package rapidly taking shape in Congress. A framework to expand Medicaid to cover Americans in a dozen mostly Southern states has also been reworked. Meanwhile, progressives’ plan to give Medicare broad power to negotiate prescription drug prices has come under sustained attack from pharmaceutical lobbyists and some Democrats.

Democrats quietly scramble to include immigration provision in social spending bill” via Sean Sullivan and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post — Democrats are scrambling intensely behind the scenes to address immigration in the framework they are crafting to expand the nation’s social safety net, according to people with knowledge of the situation, even as Biden and other party leaders have said little publicly about their strategy in recent weeks. The most pressing question confronting Democrats is what to do about millions of undocumented immigrants seeking a path to legalization. One option under discussion is a plan to provide protected status that stops short of a path to citizenship. Another is to include a proposal that would enable immigrants who arrived in the United States before 2010 to apply for a green card.

Senate confirms former Senators, lawmakers’ widows to ambassadorial roles” via Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed a quartet of former Senators and widows of former Senators to key ambassadorial posts, in a rare move by the chamber to approve some of Biden’s diplomatic nominees. The Senate unanimously confirmed former Sen. Jeff Flake as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; former Sen. Tom Udall as ambassador to New Zealand; Victoria Reggie Kennedy as Ambassador to Austria; and Cindy McCain as Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. Kennedy is the wife of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. McCain is the wife of the late Sen. John McCain.

Man arrested for allegedly threatening Matt Gaetz” via Josh Gerstein, Marc Caputo and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — A man was arrested last week for allegedly making a death threat to Rep. Gaetz earlier this year, just days after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Authorities arrested Eugene Huelsman last week in the Los Angeles area on an indictment returned in May by a federal grand jury in Pensacola, court records show. Federal prosecutors say that on Jan. 9, Huelsman called the office of someone described in the indictment solely as “M.G.” and issued threats to him and his family. Gaetz confirmed he was the target of the alleged threats. The message arrived as he played a prominent role in advancing Trump‘s false claims of widespread fraud in last year’s presidential race.

On top of everything else, Matt Gaetz is getting death threats. Image via Getty.

Miami lawmakers demand answers from Anthony Fauci over puppy experiments” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Two Miami lawmakers joined a bipartisan group demanding answers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after an advocacy group revealed that taxpayer funds paid for research that involved infecting beagle puppies with parasites to test experimental drugs. Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar signed a letter addressed to Dr. Fauci, the NIAID director and public face of the federal government’s COVID-19 response efforts, demanding answers on why drug tests were performed on dogs. They also wanted to know why the U.S. government reportedly received an invoice for a procedure to cut the dogs’ vocal cords during the medical experiments.


Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation” via Jeremy B. Merrill and Will Oremus of The Washington Post — Five years ago, Facebook gave its users five new ways to react to a post in their news feed beyond the iconic “like” thumbs-up: “love,” “ha-ha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry.” Behind the scenes, Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content, including content likely to make them angry. Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business. Facebook’s own researchers were quick to suspect a critical flaw. Favoring “controversial” posts could open “the door to more spam/abuse/clickbait inadvertently,” a staffer, whose name was redacted, wrote in one of the internal documents.

Capitol riot defendant from Lakeland has hearing set for Dec. 2” via The Lakeland Ledger — A trial has again been delayed for Lakeland resident Corinne Montoni, who faces charges of entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. Montoni, 32, appeared Friday by video before Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for a status hearing. Faruqui approved a joint motion to continue the case and set Montoni’s next hearing for Dec. 2. Montoni faces charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted space and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds. FBI agents arrested her at her Lakeland home in March. Montoni remains free on bond.

Corinne Montoni gets a court date. Image via WTSP.

‘It’s absolutely getting worse’: Secretaries of state targeted by Trump election lies live in fear for their safety and are desperate for protection” via Isaac Dovere and Jeremy Herb of CNN — Officials and aides in the Secretary of State offices in Arizona and other states targeted by Trump in his attack on last year’s election results spoke about living in constant terror, nervously watching the people around them at events, checking in their rearview mirrors for cars following them home and sitting up at night wondering what might happen next. Law enforcement has never had to think much about protecting secretaries of state, let alone allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars in security, tracking and follow-up. They don’t have the budgets to monitor threats, and certainly not to suddenly protect officials who never had to be protected before. No systems were in place on the state or federal level to back them up.


Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Deborah Birx tells Congress, saying more than 130,000 people died unnecessarily” via Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — The Trump administration was “distracted” by last year’s election and ignored recommendations to curb the pandemic, the White House’s former coronavirus response coordinator told congressional investigators this month. “I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season,” said Birx, who led the government’s virus response. Birx detailed advice that she said the White House ignored late last year, including more aggressively testing younger Americans, expanding access to virus treatments, and better distributing vaccines in long-term care facilities.

Deborah Birx says U.S. COVID-19 deaths could have been mitigated much better.

Wildlife agencies to cancel Trump endangered species rules” via The Associated Press — Biden‘s administration announced Tuesday plans to cancel two environmental rollbacks under Trump that limited habitat protections for imperiled plants and wildlife. The proposal to drop the two Trump-era rules by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service is part of a broad effort by the Biden administration to undo regulations that Democrats and wildlife advocates say favored industry over the environment. The designation of lands and waters as critical for the survival of vulnerable species can limit mining, oil drilling, and other development. That’s made the designations a flashpoint for conflict between environmental and business interests.


Guatemalan man illegally in U.S. kills Florida girl, 5, in DUI collision, authorities say” via Louis Casiano of Fox News — A man living in the United States illegally fled from a deadly Florida car collision in which a 5-year-old girl was killed Saturday, authorities said. Ernesto Lopez Morales, a Guatemalan citizen, was speeding in a 2005 black Chevrolet Suburban with his headlights off around 8:30 p.m. when he collided with the rear of a 2016 Hyundai Elantra. The Elantra, being driven by a woman with her daughter in the back seat, was pushed more than 600 feet before both vehicles stopped. First responders arrived and found the girl dead at the scene. The woman was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He allegedly told investigators that he drank six 32-ounce beers and left to buy more. He admitted to not having his headlights on and leaving the crash scene.

Francis Suarez dusts opponents in fundraising stretch ahead of Tuesday election” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami Mayor Suarez again left his opponents in the dust with fundraising between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15, pulling in $875,000 in the final stretch of a race where no true threat to his reelection emerged. As of Oct. 15, Suarez held more than $4.8 million between his campaign and political committee, Miami for Everyone. Suarez’s four challengers — digital sports show producer and podcaster Maxwell Martinez; former call center representative and University of Miami student Marie Exantus; recently arrested private investigator Frank Pichel; and mystery candidate Anthony Dutrow — hold less than $10,000 combined, or about 1% of what Suarez has on hand.

Francis Suarez has almost a million reasons to smile.

Paid protesters? A $300K referendum? Questionable claims in Miami Beach’s 2 a.m. fight” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — In the debate over whether to limit early-morning alcohol sales on Miami Beach, the campaigns on either side of a contentious Nov. 2 referendum have accused the other of using half-truths or outright lies. The attacks have heated up as the election draws closer and as voters begin to decide whether Miami Beach should ban alcohol sales after 2 a.m. citywide, with yet-undetermined exceptions. The “Yes” campaign is associated with Mayor Dan Gelber and former Mayor Philip Levine, who view a 2 a.m. last call as a first step to repositioning South Beach as a “live, work, play” area rather than party central. The “No” campaign is bankrolled by South Beach bar owners, who say an earlier last call won’t reduce crime and will cost the city millions in tax revenue.

School tax referendum becomes bitterly partisan in Manatee County” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Manatee County school tax that barely passed four years ago lands on the ballot again Tuesday. Now the issue has turned partisan, with Republicans in this red county campaigning against it. “We’re going to defeat the tax,” said Steve Vernon, president of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club. Vernon, the only declared candidate to succeed Kathleen King as Manatee County Republican Party chair, has criticized the proposed 1-mill property tax from its inception. Before King’s departure as chair, the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee last July approved a resolution opposing the tax. The party criticized spending $400,000 to hold an off-year special election, said the tax ended up raising far more than necessary, and the need has never borne out.

Lakeland mayoral campaign email blasts Bill Mutz for Black Lives Matter support” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Mutz said an email attacking his work with the group Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk is an attempt to insert divisiveness and polarization into the nonpartisan municipal race. “The campaign has been based on lighting rod accusations that cause people to question and undermine what we have done as a Commission and what I have done as an individual in this community the last 25 years,” Mutz said. Mutz is running for his second four-year term as the city’s Mayor. The retired Lakeland business owner faces political newcomer Saga Stevin in the Nov. 2 General Election. Stevin moved back to Lakeland last summer after living in Minneapolis for 24 years. The race has grown contentious in its closing weeks.

—“With one week until Election Day, 15% of St. Pete voters have cast a ballot” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Tom Mullins cuts $90K check for St. Pete City Council campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Mullins, a Raymond James executive, has cut another hefty check for his St. Petersburg City Council campaign, this time for $90,000. Mullins, who faces former prosecutor Lisset Hanewicz in the race for District 4, reported raising $90,600 in the latest campaign finance filing, which accounted for the first week of October, lasting from Oct. 2 through Oct. 8. That amount is made up of $90,000 in self-funding, $500 from the Pinellas NOW PAC, and a $100 individual donation. The latest report brings Mullins’ total fundraising to $197,655, which includes $180,100 of his own money. Hanewicz, on the other hand, raised $3,505 in the same period.

Lake Worth Beach voters may be facing several referendums in March elections” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Single-member district voting and term limits could be coming to Lake Worth Beach, while runoffs might be on the way out. Those are among a handful of issues voters may get to decide in March if the City Commission accepts four recommendations made by a review committee tasked with analyzing the city charter and providing proposed amendments. The charter review committee — a 13-person group of local residents that met twice a month after being appointed in late May — chose to focus only on electoral issues because of a Dec. 3 deadline to get language on the March ballot.

Opa-locka loses second police chief in six months. Controversy swirls after Taser incident.” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Opa-locka, a troubled town with a troubled police department, has lost yet another chief. Steven Barreira, recruited from the Jacksonville area just six months ago to fill the shoes of former Chief James Dobson, suddenly resigned last week. Dobson was fired only 18 months ago after his boss decided the chief had failed to implement some much-needed reforms. In a city-issued news release that went out Monday, Barreira said he had grown to love the city, but it was time to go. “After much deliberation and prayer, I feel that my resignation is the best course of action for myself and my family,” Barreira said.

Jupiter Town Manager resigns after weeks of calls for ouster from police department, former staff” via Katherine Kokal of The Palm Beach Post — Jupiter Town Manager Matt Benoit has resigned after weeks of mounting pressure from town police and residents who have raised concerns about how he manages the oceanfront town and its employees. On Nov. 2, the Jupiter Town Council will consider a severance package for Benoit, said Shawn Reed, the town’s public information officer. The agenda packet for that meeting, including the draft severance agreement, was published at about 5 p.m. Tuesday. Benoit’s resignation effective date is listed as Nov. 8.

Matt Benoit exits Jupiter, to the delight of many. Image via Huntsville Item.

Florida Keys commercial fishermen caught with over 100 undersized lobsters, police say” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Three commercial fishermen working in the Florida Keys are facing felony conservation charges after state wildlife officers say they caught them with almost 130 undersized wrung spiny lobster tails on their boat Saturday night. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers said they caught the men as they were selling their catch to a fish house owner near Coral Key in the Middle Keys around 6 p.m. The men, Elmis Ruiz Recano, 45, Blas Ismar Santos Pompa, 30, and Amaury Abreu Gonzalez, 49, were still being held in Monroe County jail Monday night on a bond of $50,550 each. They all live on the mainland, according to jail records.

How ‘happy coral’ is thriving in a trashy, polluted port thrashed by cruise ships” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — Corals are surviving, even thriving, in an unlikely PortMiami stew of garbage, polluted runoff, deep temperature swings, and ship-stirred currents that wrench unnaturally through Government Cut. It’s an unusual habitat for the marine invertebrate that prefers more fastidious ocean environments with limited disturbances and fixed salinity, temperature and tidal fluctuations. In those pristine offshore conditions, the Florida Reef Tract prospered, but in recent decades it has suffered widespread death, bleached in water warmed by climate change, and overrun by infectious diseases. The corals eat with gusto, use specialized proteins to protect against toxins, and host codependent life-forms tolerant of heat.

Ultra Music Festival is officially on for 2022 at Bayfront Park” via Nicole Lopez-Alvar of WPLG Local 10 News — Ultra Music Festival, possibly one of Miami’s most well-known and notorious music festivals in recent history, is officially on for 2022 — and the lineup for Phase 1 has already been announced. Ultra Music Festival will be returning to Bayfront Park from March 25 — 27, 2022, following an agreement with the Downtown Neighbors Alliance. According to the festival, “The community partnership solidified earlier this year between the festival and the city’s local denizens will foster a shared vision of sustainable coexistence in the heart of downtown, allowing Ultra to continue showcasing Miami and its local culture as the dance music capital of the world.”


What’s Florida Surgeon General Ladapo’s problem?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Ladapo’s reckless disregard for another person’s welfare is stunning, but consistent with his flip approach to the pandemic since taking office in September. In his brief tenure, he has questioned the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, fought masking mandates, and mocked lockdowns and other restrictive policies as being rooted “in fear” rather than science. Speaking alongside the Governor at a news conference Thursday, behind a lectern emblazoned with a sign reading “Protect Florida Jobs,” Ladapo went further to cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines, despite having been proven largely effective at protecting against severe disease and death.


Senators must reject unfit, unprofessional Surgeon General” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis hired a dangerously unqualified doctor from California to be Florida’s chief health officer and Surgeon General. Dr. Ladapo’s only apparent qualification was his use of the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal. He has scared parents, started feuds with school boards, politicized the pandemic, and sent shock waves through the medical community. His outlandish views would be bad enough, but he committed an unpardonable act of disrespect by arrogantly refusing to wear a face mask requested by a Senator who’s waging a courageous fight against breast cancer. The Florida Senate should send him packing.

Don’t act surprised. Florida Surgeon General is just the latest chapter in DeSantis’ war on science — and decency” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Much of America was shocked over the weekend when news got out that Florida’s surgeon general refused to wear a mask when meeting with a Senator who was preparing for cancer treatment. Even Republican Senate President Simpson weighed in to say the petulant behavior of the Governor’s $512,000-a-year appointee “will not be tolerated.” Guys like Simpson have not only tolerated this kind of trolling, anti-science, and generally indecent behavior, they’ve indulged and endorsed it. If legislators are serious about standing up for decency, they will begin the process of rejecting Ladapo during the Special Session DeSantis wants to take on mask mandates.

Cops are human beings, not gods. Salute their bravery, but call them on their abuses” via Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald — As police misbehavior goes, it was a small thing. No one was killed, or shot, or even arrested. But in a sense, that gives it all the more impact. Shorn of the distracting emotionalism of bloodshed or false arrest, last week’s video recording of an incident between a subway rider and two New York City Police officers provides a clear and unmistakable view of the highhanded arrogance that too often masquerades as policing. It seems 27-year-old Andrew Gilbert approached the unmasked officers, one male, one female, and asked them to put on facial coverings. This would be in compliance with rules set down by both the transit authority and the police department. Gilbert says the male officer played dumb, claiming he could not hear through Gilbert’s mask.

Miami taxpayers should vote to do what’s best for marina on Virginia Key” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Voters are being asked to settle, through a charter amendment, a long-standing fight for a coveted piece of city-owned property on Virginia Key. The issue has landed in voters’ laps because City Commissioners punted on resolving the land dispute between the current 30-year leaseholder of a marina on city-owned Virginia Key land and high-powered developers who also covet this 27-acre waterfront property. After almost six years of failed procurement and bidding processes, a Miami Commission passed its responsibility to voters. The Commission is asking voters to allow it to waive competitive bidding and negotiate a 75-year waterfront lease with the current operator, Aabad Melwani, and his company, Biscayne Marine Partners, whose long-standing lease came up for renewal.


A prominent pastor in Tallahassee is rebuking the actions of Gov. DeSantis, so much so that he announced plans to leave the Republican Party. However, one Republican says he’s a little skeptical about the Reverend’s sermon.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Agriculture Commissioner Fried says she is going to keep asking the Senate to not confirm Florida’s Surgeon General.

— Today’s Sunrise Interview is with Republican Rep. Alex Andrade, who stands behind Surgeon General Ladapo and his right to refuse to wear a mask. Andrade says he is tired of Republicans being accused of being heartless because they oppose government intervention of mandates.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show is back — with a superyacht extravaganza” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The 62nd annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is opening Wednesday, kicking off a five-day extravaganza that marks the return of a superyacht fleet and a revived convention center space for the masses. A marine industry sales surge has defied the COVID-19 pandemic, remaining remarkably resilient with consumers flocking to buy boats. That trend will be on display in Fort Lauderdale this week, said Andrew Doole, president of Informa Markets, the firm that stages the show for the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the franchise. A preview is scheduled to kick off at noon Wednesday with 642 exhibitors and 677 boats, and Doole said he is expecting more than 700 vessels to be on display.

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is an ultra-luxurious delight. Image via Privaira.

Police bust lucrative Lego trafficking scheme” via Lauren Aratani of The Guardian — Police in Seattle went undercover to break open what they said was a trafficking ring involving the sale of expensive stolen goods: Lego, taken from an Amazon store. The accused store owner denied knowingly selling stolen goods, protested against the picture, and said he would fight the resultant charges. According to one expert, Lego theft and trafficking have become a major concern. RJ Coughlin, a director at BrickCon, a convention for adult Lego enthusiasts, said Lego theft was “very, very prominent here in the Northwest,” in part because sets can fetch $800. This summer, the Amazon 4-Star, a store in downtown Seattle run by the online retail giant, said it was the target of a repeat shoplifter who stole electronics and Lego sets worth more than $10,000.

University of Florida stunt lands YouTube prankster in legal trouble” via Maybel Cerrato of Fresh Take Florida — Prosecutors have filed a felony charge against an aspiring YouTube celebrity over a prank video showing him harassing University of Florida students and faculty while posing as a campus security guard. Tanner Austin Williams of Palm Coast was charged with falsely impersonating an officer, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted. The case involves a 10-minute YouTube video — seen by nearly 80,000 people before Williams removed it — that Williams and another man recorded on the UF campus last month. When a startled student confronted by Williams tried to call the real campus police, Williams shouted an expletive at him: “I am the cops. I am the … law,” police said.


Happy birthday to Rep. Mike Giallombardo, devoted Sunburn reader and GOP activist extraordinaire Deborah Cox Roush and the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Alexis Muellner.


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.

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