Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.29.21

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Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

Good Monday morning. I hope that you, like me, had an enjoyable and relaxing Thanksgiving break.

The news that another variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly through South Africa is guaranteed to ratchet up angst among many people as the Christmas season begins.

Scientists named this unwelcomed bug omicron, but whatever it is called, it’s sure to relaunch the mask/no-mask and jab/no-jab debate in Florida.

WPLG-TV in South Florida reported that Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert with Florida International University, called omicron the “most worrisome variant we have seen so far.”

Dr. Aileen Marty says omicron could be the worst variant yet.

It’s way too early in the process, though, to say with any certainty that “worrisome” will translate to more mass misery. For now, officials are resorting to prudent caution.

A World Health Organization panel classified the new mutant as a highly transmissible virus of concern. President Joe Biden responded by restricting travel to the U.S. from South Africa and seven other countries.

That restriction begins Monday.

He also stressed the need for booster shots, and those unvaccinated people should immediately consider correcting that.

” … the best way to strengthen your protection is to get a booster shot as soon as you are eligible. Boosters are approved for all adults over 18, six months past their vaccination and are available at 80,000 locations coast-to-coast,” he said. “They are safe, free and convenient. Get your booster shot now, so you can have the best way to strengthen your protection is to get a booster shot, as soon as you are eligible.”

Florida Republicans recently concluded a Special Legislative Session by handing Gov. Ron DeSantis his requested bans on mandatory masks and mandatory vaccinations.

In the meantime, here’s what we know about omicron.

Most of the new cases — and there aren’t that many yet — occurred in younger people, who report body aches and soreness.

So far, cases of the variant have appeared primarily in young people, leaving them exhausted and with body aches and soreness.

“We’re not talking about patients that might go straight to a hospital and admitted,” Dr. Angelique Coetzee, head of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC.

Research is just beginning with this new bug, although there are suggestions it could infect people who had COVID-19 and developed antibodies.

It’s also likely that the virus is in the United States because the bug was on the move before it was discovered, and travel restrictions were in place.

At this point, the best advice is this: Be wary, but not worried.


@ASlavitt: Now would be a good time for every Legislature or Governor who thought it wise to pass laws prohibiting mask requirements & other public health measures to undo them. Monday morning. Hold them accountable.

@POTUS: At its core, Hanukkah recounts a story at the heart of the human spirit — one that is inherently Jewish and undeniably American. From my family to yours, we wish you and your loved ones a Chanukah Sameach, a Happy Hanukkah!

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@Kriseman: May the lights of the menorah shine bright on all who celebrate. Have a happy and healthy #Hanukkah

@SrteveVanZandt: I do not dig this snowman commercial man. The little punk gets away with trashing the girl’s work. No accountability. Story of our lives.

@EvieN: I haven’t started Get Back but based on all the commentary it is kind of like Succession yes

@MattBrownCFB: First time ever that Florida State, Texas, Nebraska and USC all finish a season with losing records


Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 2; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 8; ‘Sex and the City’ revival premieres — 10; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 11; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 11; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 23; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 30; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 36; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 36; CES 2022 begins — 37; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 38; NFL season ends — 41; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 43; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 43; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 43; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 43; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 44; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 46; NFL playoffs begin — 47; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 67; Super Bowl LVI — 76; Daytona 500 — 83; CPAC begins — 87; St. Pete Grand Prix — 88; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 94; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 163; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 182; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 185; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 222; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 233; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 312; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 347; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 350; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 382; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 445; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 606. ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 690; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 970.


Seminole Tribe appealing order blocking gambling expansion” via The Associated Press — The Seminole Tribe of Florida is moving to appeal a federal judge’s decision to block its deal with the state to expand gambling and online sports betting throughout Florida. The Seminole Tribe’s filing of an emergency order came after a ruling from U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich that found the multibillion-dollar agreement between the state and tribe allowing online betting violated a federal rule that requires a person to be physically on tribal land when wagering. The lawsuit, filed by card rooms in Bonita Springs and Miami, anti-gambling organization No Casinos, along with Miami businessmen Norman Braman and Armando Codina, challenged the approval of the agreement by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.

The Seminole Compact gets bogged down in federal court.

—“Despite judge’s ruling on Seminole Tribe’s sports betting, you can still place bets” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

—“Can we bet on sports in Florida or not? We need a quick decision from the courts” via the Miami Herald editorial board

Ron DeSantis may need Joe Biden to rescue $2.5B gambling deal” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis may need help from his No. 1 adversary: President Biden. … The fate of the deal could depend on whether the U.S. Department of Interior, which was responsible for approving the Compact, decides to appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge Friedrich, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.

Who does Randy Fine blame for the Gaming Compact’s collapse? Biden.” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Fine holds one person responsible for a federal judge tossing Florida’s gaming compact: Biden. “I don’t know if Joe Biden is just stupid or incompetent, but he owes the state of Florida $500 million a year,” Fine said. The Brevard Republican, who chaired the House Select Committee on Gaming and is a former casino executive, warned during a Special Session that allowing online sports betting in the Compact was a legally dicey move. “Me personally, I don’t think it’s going to survive,” he said during a Special Session to approve the Compact. And in fact, that’s the component that led Judge Friedrich to throw out the entire Compact on Monday.

Florida could reap billions in economic impact if sports betting amendment approved, new report says” via Forrest Saunders of WPTV — According to the Florida Education Champions, Florida would see a $3.5 billion economic impact annually. The commissioned research also found state and local tax revenue would reach $350 million each year. Nearly $247 million of those dollars would be for Florida’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. Further — the report by Washington Economics Group suggested the support of more than 31,100 jobs and generation of $1.24 billion in household income. “The findings represent the significant benefits our proposed constitutional amendment will provide to Florida taxpayers, consumers, and our public education system,” said Florida Education Champions Chair David Johnson. Johnson told reporters signature collection was currently the focus. The group needs nearly 900,000 by February to qualify and have about half on hand.


Rest in powerFormer US Rep. Carrie Meek passes away at 95” via CBS Miami — Former U.S. Rep. Meek, the grandchild of a slave and a sharecropper’s daughter who became one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction, died Sunday at the age of 95. She died at her home in Miami after a long illness, family spokesperson Adam Sharon said in a statement. The family did not specify a cause of death. Meek started her congressional career at an age when many people begin retirement. She was 66 when she easily won the 1992 Democratic congressional primary in her Miami-Dade County district.

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Nikki Fried blasts DeSantis for late child food aid, demands request for more” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — More than two months after DeSantis’ administration adhered to the wishes of elected officials, advocacy groups, and food banks by applying for $820 million in outstanding federal child food aid, one of his opponents in next year’s gubernatorial election is asking where the money has gone and is prodding him to again apply for further funding available to the state. In a letter sent Monday, Fried demanded to know why families “are experiencing additional delays” in receiving Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) funding, including leftover funds from the last school year and summer session. She also inquired as to whether Florida will apply for P-EBT funds for the current school year.

Personnel note: Chuck Hatcher named acting Director at Florida State Parks” via Florida Politics — Hatcher is now acting Director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks. Hatcher has worked at DEP since March 2016 as assistant director of Field Operations for the Division of Recreation and Parks. He previously served as Director of Parks and Recreation in Jackson County, where he received numerous awards, including the Excellence in Leadership Award presented by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. Hatcher succeeds Eric Draper, who retired as Recreation and Parks Director earlier this month after four years in the position. Before leading the division, Draper spent his career working for the National Audubon Society and Audubon Florida, where he served as Executive Director from 1999 through 2017.

Personnel note: Kimberly Renspie to lead strategic initiatives at Florida Clerks” via Florida Politics — Renspie will serve as the organization’s first Director of Strategic Initiatives. In the newly created position, she will coordinate and implement FCCC’s strategic plan and corporate objectives, advance special projects, enhance advocacy efforts, and build upon the relationships with the association’s partners. She will report directly to FCCC CEO Chris Hart IV and work closely with FCCC leadership and membership to advance organization-wide initiatives. “As the Director of Strategic Initiatives, her experience — combined with her ability to tackle tough issues, build consensus, and influence change — will undoubtedly help Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers advance its strategic goals,” Hart said. Before the title bump, Renspie served as the deputy director of Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships within the FCCC Office of Government Relations.


—”Florida Senate serves up a second round of draft redistricitng maps” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Florida redistricting plans include a surprise — praise from Democrats” via John Kennedy of the USA Today Network — With Florida’s political future riding in the balance, lawmakers and analysts predicted a bitter, partisan clash over the state’s unfolding attempt to redraw state House, Senate and congressional boundaries. But the first redistricting plans emerging from the Republican-controlled Legislature have been greeted calmly, maybe even welcomed by the outnumbered Democrats. “I just think you’ve done a terrific job,” Sen. Linda Stewart told Jay Ferrin, staff director of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, after eyeing four congressional plans released this month, along with four versions of Senate maps. “I have heard no negative feedback on any of these to date,” she added.

Linda Stewart praises the first round of redistricting maps.

Lawmakers to consider subminimum wage; critics decry it as ‘loophole’ to $15 an hour” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — A year since Floridians approved Amendment 2 to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15, a Republican lawmaker is again looking for a way to pay workers less. Sen. Jeff Brandes refiled a joint resolution that would authorize the Legislature to establish a subminimum wage potentially as low as $4.25 an hour that employers could pay to new hires during their first six months. First, lawmakers would need to pass the resolution to place it on the 2022 ballot; then, it would need 60% approval from voters. Worker advocates argue it’s merely a way to undermine Amendment 2, which after receiving 60% of the vote, will annually raise the minimum wage by $1 until it hits $15 in 2026.

Doctors’ ‘free speech’ bill raises public safety questions” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — In a nod to the ongoing tug-of-war over the COVID-19 pandemic, a Republican lawmaker wants to bar state regulators from going after doctors even if they tout medically questionable treatments or cures. Rep. Brad Drake, a Republican from Eucheeanna, has filed so-called “free speech” legislation that would require the state or its licensing boards to prove by clear and convincing evidence that a health care provider’s social media posts caused harm to a current patient before revoking or threatening to revoke a license, certificate, or registration of a health care practitioner.

Bipartisan medical marijuana bill would close delta-8 ‘loophole,’ lower costs” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bipartisan proposal seeking a middle ground in the debate over medical marijuana and hemp regulation hit the Florida Legislature this week. On Monday, Democratic Rep. Andrew Learned and Republican Rep. Spencer Roach of Fort Myers introduced HB 679, which they described in an accompanying press note as the “first major update” to Florida’s medical statutes since voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment five years ago. The bill, which bears some similarity to failed proposals Roach filed last Legislative Session, would, among other things, close “loopholes” related to synthetic marijuana and the largely hemp-derived delta-8 type of THC.

Berry sweet proposal to designate official ‘state dessert’ gets a Senate sponsor” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Momentum is building to elevate the strawberry shortcake as Florida’s official state dessert. Shortly after Rep. Lawrence McClure’s legislation (HB 567) proposed the dessert become one of the state’s venerated official symbols, Sen. Danny Burgess filed an identical bill (SB 1006). “You know, I think it’s time that we all stand tall for shortcake,” Burgess joked. Seriously though, Burgess said, strawberries are a way of life in Senate District 20, which includes parts of Pasco, Hillsborough and Polk counties, some of the state’s prime strawberry-picking grounds. Some might remember the pie wars, in which South Florida battled it out with North Florida for Key lime pie’s superiority over pecan pie.

Danny Burgess stands tall for shortcake.

—“Manatee legislative delegation advances plan to consolidate fire districts” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Legis. sked.:

— The Senate Select Subcommittee on Congressional Reapportionment meets to discuss new maps, 10 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— Sen. Loranne Ausley and Rep. Chuck Clemons meet to discuss rural broadband, 10 a.m., Room 221 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Select Subcommittee on Legislative Reapportionment meets to discuss Senate maps, 2 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Adrian Lukis, Wansley Walters, Ballard Partners: MBI Health Services

Sara Clements, Rhett O’Doski, Ryder Rudd, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta

Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Anita Berry, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Reform Action Fund

Fred Karlinsky, Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: Lio Insurance Company

Zachary Lombardo, Woodward Pires & Lombardo: City of Everglades City

Vicki Lopez, VLL Consulting: Ari J. Arteaga Foundation


Florida reports lowest daily coronavirus cases per capita in nation” via Andrew Mark Miller of Fox 35 — Florida is reporting the lowest amount of coronavirus cases per capita in the nation after DeSantis was widely criticized by media outlets for his handling of the virus. The Sunshine State reported a daily average of 1,393 coronavirus cases as of Friday, six per 100,000, a 2% decrease over the last two weeks. Since the start of the pandemic, DeSantis has been slammed by critics in the media over his opposition to government-imposed mask and vaccine mandates. In 2020, DeSantis was accused by a Democratic politician of going on a “killing spree” for opposing mask mandates, and a Vanity Fair headline from September of this year referred to the Governor as an “angel of death.”

Parents of girl with Down Syndrome in mask-tying case made false statements, staged photos, police say” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — In multiple television spots and news articles, former priest Jeffrey Steel used pictures of Sofia allegedly taken by her mother to rail against school mask mandates and raise over $100,000 through the ‘Christian crowdfunding’ site GiveSendGo, ostensibly to fund legal action against the school district. The trouble is, according to an investigation by Indian Harbour Beach police, that doesn’t seem to be what happened. A 35-page case report and four-page supplement released detailing an investigation initially begun to determine whether school staff had committed child abuse contradicts many of the details of Steel’s story.

‘Anticipated pregnancy’? It’s one of many anti-vax loopholes” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Last week, Republicans passed and DeSantis signed a bill that makes this an anti-COVID-19 vaccine state. Among many bad things, it undercuts vaccine requirements at private businesses by allowing exemptions not based on science. Notably, a female worker can seek an exemption on the basis of “pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy.” The first is easy to define. But what is “anticipated?” A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, which Joseph Ladapo oversees, dodged questions about details of that second definition. The rule says that the exemption applies if “the employee intends to become pregnant” and is of childbearing age. The exemption “shall remain in effect for the time that the employee intends to become pregnant.”

Joseph Ladapo sidesteps the issue of ‘anticipated pregnancies.’

Pandemic shines light on question: Have we let our Guard down in Florida?” via James Call of USA Today Network — The Florida National Guard: The country’s oldest organized state militia and maybe its most overworked. A bipartisan push from Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. Dan Daley asks Congress and the National Guard Bureau to increase the number of troops in the state’s National Guard. In the past year and a half, the men and women who serve part-time in the Guard have cleaned up after hurricanes, set up testing sites and field hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, patrolled during protests, supplemented U.S. military forces in Africa, and aided Texas authorities along the border with Mexico. The multiple deployments radically departed from the Guard tradition of monthly weekend drills, annual two weeks of training, and maybe another week or two of hurricane response.

‘We are scared every day’: Student fights and assaults on teachers trouble Florida schools amid pandemic” via Brooke Baitinger and Scott Travis of the Miami Herald — When students returned to school this year, they brought with them pent up energy from a tough time in near isolation during the pandemic. Now, reports of fights, criminal batteries, and fear of violence are becoming an unwelcome part of students’ full return to in-person education. While the violence isn’t happening at every school, many are seeing the problems erupt on more South Florida campuses than in the past. There are reports of teachers, security staff and administrators being knocked to the ground. Footage of students fighting is often shared on TikTok and other social media.


— 2022 —

Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick preps for Congress following primary win” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After three campaigns spanning close to four years, Cherfilus-McCormick is about to become South Florida’s newest member of Congress, after besting a slew of prominent elected officials. She’s wasting no time. On Nov. 17, the day after her victory was certified by the state Elections Canvassing Commission, Cherfilus-McCormick headed for Washington for three days of introductions, meetings and guidance, including a scheduled meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. During a wide-ranging phone interview while Cherfilus-McCormick was in the capital, she said her plans to serve in Congress. She addressed the scrutiny she faced on the campaign trail, including over not filing a financial disclosure. She also analyzed the factors that led to her recent win in the Democratic primary.

Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick outlines her strategy for Congress. Image via Facebook.

Ben Diamond, Democrats acknowledge Donald Trump threat” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Congressional candidate Diamond is making a last-minute pitch to voters for donations to boost his race in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. According to a fundraising email to supporters, the Democrat hopes to raise $20,000 before Dec. 1. “The only way we can defeat Trump’s hand-picked opponent in this critical battleground congressional seat is by relying on supporters like you to power our campaign,” Diamond wrote. He references “Trump’s hand-picked” candidate three times in the email, referring to GOP front-runner Anna Paulina Luna who, like in 2020, earned a coveted endorsement from the former President. Diamond’s fundraising pitch acknowledges that, calling it “the most competitive congressional election in Florida.”

Vet’s campaign materials raise question on DoD photo regulations” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Republican veteran Jay Collins, running against U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, has heavily emphasized his military career as a Green Beret combat medic in his campaign. Collins, who lost a leg in Afghanistan, uses numerous photos of himself in uniform and identifies himself as “Green Beret Jay Collins” on his campaign website and Facebook page. But how they’re used could raise questions about whether the materials comply with Defense Department regulations. A 2008 Department of Defense directive says such photos can be used as part of a package of general biographical material, including other photos. A photo of the candidate in uniform may not be “the primary graphic representation in campaign media.”

Democrat Mark Caruso taking his fight to HD 28” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Caruso has been fighting for what he believes is right for decades. And now he’s taking his fighting spirit into a quest to win election in Florida House District 28. Caruso, a Democrat from Winter Springs, is running against incumbent Republican Rep. David Smith in HD 28, which encompasses eastern Seminole County. “A lot of people who have pushed me have told me I’m a fighter and they can see I’m a fighter and they can see that I’m going in the right direction,” Caruso said. He’s doing so after a long battle with the Florida Department of Corrections in which he contends he was up against corruption, speaking out against brutal corrections officers and corrupt officials. He got fired three times and won reinstatement twice. At least two of his hearings concluded prison officials had been trying to get rid of him.

Mark Caruso is a longtime fighter against prison corruption.

Adam Anderson stakes claim in Pinellas House district Chris Sprowls will leave” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Financial planner Anderson appears headed for a fait accompli in northwestern Pinellas County’s state House District 65, which Sprowls will vacate next year. Anderson, the only Republican to file in the race so far, has built a big early campaign fund and announced endorsements from the entire Pinellas Republican legislative delegation, including Sprowls, plus Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and others. That makes it clear he’s the favored candidate of GOP legislative leadership, which likely will ward off potential primary challengers.


Dr. Anthony Fauci says he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if omicron COVID-19 variant already in U.S.” via Kimberlee Speakman of Forbes — Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said Saturday that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the omicron coronavirus variant, which has already been detected in countries outside of southern Africa including the U.K., Hong Kong and Israel, is already circulating in the U.S., and travel restrictions would only buy time to assess the virus better before it spreads around the globe. Fauci said in an interview on NBC’s Weekend TODAY that the U.S. has not yet detected the omicron variant, but given the degree of transmissibility it seems to have, “it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.” Fauci said, omicron is likely more transmissible than the original form of the virus; however, more research needs to be done on the variant to know for sure.

Omicron could already be in the U.S., Anthony Fauci says.

Southern states fall behind in vaccinating kids as pediatric infections climb” via Katie Shepherd and Dan Keating of The Washington Post — Many Southern states, especially Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, have fallen behind the rest of the nation in vaccinating children as the threat of a winter surge casts a pall over the holiday season. Those states also rank near the bottom for vaccinating adolescents and adults, and have among the nation’s highest overall COVID-19 death rates. Their slow uptake of children’s vaccines has heightened fears that another pandemic wave could hit hard as families gather for the holidays and spend more time indoors. Many parents rushed to get their young children vaccinated after federal officials signed off on the long-awaited pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month.

What the CDC got wrong with COVID-19 booster shots” via Eric J. Topol and Michael T. Osterholm of The Washington Post — Even though the United States is experiencing a new surge of COVID-19, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended last week that all adults be made eligible for booster shots but only urged shots for people older than 50. That was a big mistake. It should have urged all adults to get them. Public health officials have always expected mRNA coronavirus vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech) to be a three-shot regimen. The only question was when the third shot would be necessary. Originally, the hope was that it would be after one or two years. It turns out, it is necessary at about six months.


Democratic allies press the White House to focus more — and say more — on inflation worries” via Annie Linskey and Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — The Biden administration has taken pains in recent days to show it is working to ease the pain of inflation for Americans. The emphasis comes after months of pleas from worried Democrats, who have pressed White House officials to do more to acknowledge inflation as a central concern for voters and tout what they are doing to combat it. That group included at least four leading Democratic pollsters who’ve urged White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain to make a bigger show of the policies that Biden is pursuing to stem inflation, with at least one saying they should point the finger at the villains in an economy in which large companies have seen record profits.


COVID-19 vaccines or infections: Which carries the stronger immunity?’” via Denise Roland of The Wall Street Journal — Evidence is building that immunity from COVID-19 infection is at least as strong as that from vaccination. Scientists are divided on the implications for vaccine policy. The role of immunity from infection, which scientists have been trying to figure out since the outset of the pandemic, has gained fresh significance amid the controversy over vaccine mandates. Vaccines typically give rise to a stronger antibody response than infection, which might make them better at fending off the virus in the short-term. The infection triggers a response that evolves, possibly making it more robust in the long-term. A combination of both types appears to be stronger than either alone. But the jury is out on whether one form is stronger than the other, and whether their relative strength even matters for vaccine policy.

Are vaccines better in the long-term? Image via AP.

New data shows Merck’s experimental COVID-19 pill is less effective than early results predicted” via Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post — Drugmaker Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics released data Friday showing their experimental pill to treat COVID-19 is less effective than early clinical trials predicted, a finding that emerged as the FDA raised questions about the drug. molnupiravir, a pill that could be taken at home, had shown promise in cutting the risk of hospitalization and death by half among high-risk patients in data released by the company in October. But according to the latest findings Merck presented to the FDA, the pill reduced the risk of hospitalization and death only by 30%.


Biden’s challenge, gamble and wish set the table for the 2022 elections” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — When Biden came into office, he had three overriding priorities: The first was to tame the coronavirus pandemic and deal with its effects on the economy. The second was to persuade Congress to enact the most sweeping domestic policy initiatives in generations. The third was to unify the country the best he could. The first was a challenge, the second a gamble, and the third, given a recalcitrant Republican Party, always a long shot. As December approaches, none of these goals has been fully accomplished, and that shapes the political environment heading into next year’s midterm elections, which could dramatically affect his presidency. The pandemic continues, with new infections rising again, nearing 100,000 per day. A few months ago, southern states were the hot spots.

Joe Biden has a rough road ahead for the midterms. Image via AP.

The disconnect between Biden’s popular policies and his unpopularity” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — Over the past few years, many Democrats argued that there was a simple secret to electoral success: enact popular legislation. Biden tried to make that theory a reality. He enacted a big stimulus plan; a bipartisan infrastructure bill and he’s made progress toward pushing through an ambitious $2 trillion spending bill that has finally passed the House. But so far, popular policies haven’t made for a popular President. His approval ratings have slipped into the mid-40s, even though virtually all of his legislation commands majority support in the same surveys. If voters often punish a President for pushing unpopular policies, they rarely seem to reward a President for enacting legislation. Instead, voters seem to reward presidents for presiding over peace and prosperity, in a word, normalcy.

Can Joe Biden come back? Many others have” via William A. Galston of The Wall Street Journal — The new President was in trouble. After a fast start on his legislative agenda, his job approval declined through his administration’s first and second years. Inflation was uncomfortably high, and the public’s mood about the economy had soured. In the midterms, the President’s party suffered significant losses in the House. As the third year of his presidency began, his job approval had sunk to 35%, and a national poll conducted later that month found him trailing his principal opponent for the presidency by 9 points. This President was Ronald Reagan. Modern U.S. history is replete with such reversals of fortune, which is why today’s hand-wringing about the Biden presidency is premature.

Biden picks women of color to lead White House budget office” via Darlene Superville and Alexandra Jaffe of The Associated Press — Two women of color are Biden’s picks to lead the White House budget office, a milestone for the powerful agency after his first choice withdrew following criticism over her previous attacks on lawmakers from both parties. If confirmed by the Senate, Shalanda Young would become the first Black woman in charge of the Office of Management and Budget, while Nani Coloretti, a Filipino American, would serve as Young’s deputy, making Coloretti one of the highest-ranking Asian Americans in government. “Today, it’s my honor to nominate two extraordinary, history-making women to lead the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said in a video announcement.


Democrats struggle to energize their base as frustrations mount” via Lisa Lerer, Astead W. Herndon, Nick Corasaniti and Jennifer Medina of The New York Times — Democrats across the party are raising alarms about sinking support among some of their most loyal voters, warning the White House and congressional leadership that they are falling short on campaign promises and leaving their base unsatisfied and unmotivated ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Biden has achieved some major victories, signing a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill and moving a nearly $2 trillion social policy and climate change bill through the House. But some Democrats are warning that many of the voters who put them in control of the federal government last year may see little incentive to return to the polls in the midterms.

Supreme Court set to take up all-or-nothing abortion fight” via The Associated Press — Both sides are telling the Supreme Court there’s no middle ground in Wednesday’s showdown over abortion. The justices can either reaffirm the constitutional right to an abortion or wipe it away altogether. Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion, is facing its most serious challenge in 30 years in front of a court with a 6-3 conservative majority that has been remade by three Trump appointees. “There are no half measures here,” said Sherif Girgis, a Notre Dame law professor who once served as a law clerk for Justice Samuel Alito. A ruling that overturned Roe and the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey would lead to outright bans or severe restrictions on abortion in 26 states.

SCOTUS faces its biggest decision on abortion rights in decades. Image via AP.

Interior Department calls for oil and gas leasing updates, but not ending production” via Jacob Fischler of Florida Phoenix — The U.S. Interior Department recommended increased fees for oil and gas exploration on federal lands as part of a long-awaited report that environmental groups said doesn’t go far enough in limiting fossil fuels and Republicans derided as an attack on domestic producers. The report, ordered by Biden during his first week in office, focuses on fiscal reforms, noting that energy exploration on federal lands and waters shortchanges taxpayers by failing to recoup fair value for the use of national resources, even without accounting for the environmental and climate harm oil and gas cause.

Matt Gaetz extortion scheme update: Court docs claim Stephen Alford lied about Iran hostage, Biden pardon” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — A “factual basis for guilty plea” document released with the news release announcing Alford‘s admission that he tried to extort money from the family of U.S. Rep. Gaetz reveals new information about the scheme. Alford pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to one count of wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 16. Court documents state that if he had gone to trial, prosecutors would have convinced a jury he tried to extort $25 million from Matt Gaetz’s father, former state Senate President Don Gaetz, by telling him that the money would be used to rescue a man being held hostage in Iran.


No one seems to like the Lincoln Project anymore” via Christopher Cadelago and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — It was the darling of the resistance for savagely attacking Trump. The outside political organization headed by disaffected Republicans and other top Democratic operatives has experienced caustic blowups, internal disputes over beach house-level paydays, and disturbing allegations involving a disgraced co-founder. Officials working for the Lincoln Project contend they’re simply being practical, even shrewd, about the new political climate, in which Trump is likely to be the GOP nominee anyway, and brass-knuckle tactics are now the norm. Biden even called one of the Lincoln Project co-founders Steve Schmidt after the 2020 election to say thank you for the group’s work helping him get elected.

With Donald Trump out of the picture (somewhat), Lincoln Project loses some cache.


‘They’re all begging me’: Donald Trump’s 2024 veep tryouts get underway” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — The last time Trump picked a running mate, he made a conventional choice in Mike Pence — a relatively safe decision with traditional presidential ticket-balancing in mind. But as Trump gears up for a 2024 bid to recapture the White House, the nascent thinking at Mar-a-Lago surrounding his potential Vice President is considerably different. According to conversations with a dozen Trump advisers and close associates, the former President doesn’t feel bound by geographic or ideological considerations — or any standard political rules at all.

Trump investigation enters crucial phase as prosecutor’s term nears end” via Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich and David Enrich of The New York Times — A long-running criminal investigation into Trump and his family business is reaching a critical phase as Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the prosecutor overseeing the inquiry, enters his final weeks as Manhattan district attorney. Vance’s prosecutors have issued new subpoenas for records about Trump’s hotels, golf clubs and office buildings. They recently interviewed a banker employed by Deutsche Bank, Trump’s top lender. And earlier this month, they told a top Trump executive who had been under scrutiny, Matthew Calamari, that they did not currently plan to indict him in the purported tax-evasion scheme that led to charges against Trump’s company and its chief financial officer. Trump or his company inflated the value of some of his properties while trying to secure financing from potential lenders.

As Cyrus Vance exits, a new phase of the Donald Trump investigation begins. Image via AP.

‘Nothing about this is normal’: RNC payments to Trump attorneys irk GOP officials” via Gabby Orr of CNN — A pair of payments the RNC made to a law firm representing Trump is raising questions among former and current GOP officials about the party’s priorities in a critical election year and its ability to remain neutral, as long-standing RNC rules require, in the 2024 presidential primary. The separate payments to Fischetti and Malgieri LLP totaling $121,670, listed in the committee’s latest filing to the Federal Election Commission, were first reported on Monday. The RNC said the party’s executive committee recently “approved paying for certain legal expenses that relate to politically motivated legal proceedings waged against President Trump,” and defended the payments as “entirely appropriate.”

Michael Cohen says Trump is ‘grifting’ off the American people” via Allie Bice of POLITICO — Cohen, a former attorney for Trump, said Sunday that the former President is “grifting off of the American people,” using the 2020 stolen election accusations as a fundraising motivator. “One of the things Donald Trump has done is grift off of ‘the big lie‘ — that the election was stolen from him in 2020. It was not stolen from him,” Cohen told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Cohen said he was convinced that Trump, contrary to almost all expectations, won’t run in 2024 because a second defeat would be another unacceptable blow to his ego. “If he loses, and he will in 2024, what happens to the big lie? The big lie disappears,” Cohen said. Cohen added that Trump will likely appear to be running in 2024 “right to the very, very last second” and then step aside.


Jacksonville men charged with falsifying voter registration forms” via Dan Scanlan of The Florid Times-Union — The discovery of at least 60 voter registration applications for people who were dead or did not authorize them has led to the arrest of two Jacksonville men, the State Attorney’s Office said. Devin Deangelo King was arrested on Nov. 3 and Jordan Rayeshaun Daniels on Nov. 17 on charges of criminal use of personal identification information, jail records show. Both are 33. Both the State Attorney’s Office and Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said the motive doesn’t appear to be political but for financial gain.

Man hid in plane’s landing gear from Guatemala to Miami, officials say” via Bryan Pietsch of The Washington Post — A man was apprehended at Miami International Airport on Saturday after he traveled there in the landing gear of a plane that departed from Guatemala, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. The 26-year-old man, whose name and nationality were not released by CBP, had “attempted to evade detection” by stowing himself in the landing-gear compartment, CBP said in a statement, adding that the man was evaluated by emergency medical services and taken to a hospital. The flight, American Airlines 1182, landed in Miami shortly after 10 a.m. on Saturday and “was met by law enforcement due to a security issue,” Alfredo Garduno, a spokesman for American Airlines, said in an email.

An unidentified man made a daring escape from Guatemala via the landing gear of an American Airlines jet.


Florida’s new anti-masking law denies us key tools to protect our schools from future COVID-19 surges” via Carlee Simon of The Washington Post — If and when there’s another COVID-19 surge in Florida, public schools will be without two of the most useful weapons in our fight against the virus: masks and quarantines. After months of harassing school districts, including mine, over our COVID-19 protocols, DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have just passed a new law that blocks schools from requiring masks for students and quarantines for students and staff who appear asymptomatic. The governor even called a special legislative session to get this and other bills targeting COVID-19 measures passed, although he conveniently waited until the delta-driven COVID-19 surge of the late summer and early fall had subsided in the state.


DeSantis is masterful at manipulating the press he bashes” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — You have to give DeSantis credit. No Florida politician is more masterful at using the press, even as he bashes them. On a near-daily basis, Florida’s governor calls news conferences to which the media dutifully flock and then splash whatever he says across their websites, front pages and evening newscasts, often before vetting the governor’s claims for accuracy. Sometimes journalists will later do due diligence that reveals the governor’s claims weren’t quite as billed. But by that point, it’s old news. DeSantis has scored his headlines and raked in the campaign donations. DeSantis claimed the officers were moving to Florida from New York to escape Democratic politicians and enjoy his support in Florida. The media event scored quick and easy headlines.

Low taxes, common-sense regs and strong leadership key to Florida’s fiscal stability” via Jay Trumbull for the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida is a state with low taxes, common-sense regulation, has a government that lives within its means, and balances its budget every year. That is part of why the U.S. News & World Report recently ranked us eighth for fiscal stability. For years, Florida has also stood among the Top 10 states in Mercatus’ report on states’ financial health; in 2017, we were No. 1. As House Appropriations chair, I feel it is my duty to safeguard your tax dollars like any family. And by doing that in a disciplined way, we have the financial strength to pay for those extras that California always talks about but can never do without raising or creating yet another burdensome tax.

Keep Florida Free agenda ensures protection of our rights” via Jason Shoaf for the Tallahassee Democrat — Never in my lifetime did I expect to witness the federal government assert forced control over the health choices of private individuals. And I surely didn’t expect a county in my own backyard to terminate Floridians unwilling to comply with a mandate that violates our core American values and infringes on our personal freedoms. Yet here we are. The federal government released a rule that requires all American workers in businesses with over 100 employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, pay out-of-pocket for weekly COVID-19 tests, or be terminated. Yes, the federal government has mandated private businesses to force employees to get the vaccine or lose their job.

Florida redistricting: Bring peace of mind to college communities” via Andrew Taramykin and Elizabeth Rodriguez for the Tallahassee Democrat — College campuses and towns across America are frequent victims of unfair redistricting practices. When campuses and their surrounding communities are “cracked” into two or more legislative districts, student voting power is diluted, and their concerns are at risk of being overshadowed. Splitting our communities is problematic for many reasons. When a split community is represented by more than one elected official, it is more difficult to get our concerns addressed. Doing so also hinders our ability to foster a cohesive civic identity as a campus while making it inherently more difficult for students to elect officials who will prioritize and advocate for their needs.

Sarasota Memorial makes the right call on vaccine mandate” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board — While it’s been the case throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has notably stood tall since the summer period when the highly contagious Delta variant began rampaging across our community — sickening large numbers of residents and cruelly claiming the lives of others. Of course, much of that enhanced stature is due to the tireless heroism shown by the Sarasota Memorial Hospital health care workers who were on the front lines as the variant’s surge accelerated at a frightening pace. But a large part of it is also the product of something else: the sense of steady, sound judgment that has been unfailingly displayed by Sarasota Memorial’s administration over the past several months.

Help me share the life-affirming mission of hospice and palliative care” via Scott Plakon for the Tallahassee Democrat — November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month set aside to recognize this incredible form of care delivery and to honor those who deliver that care. Hospice is believing that people should be able to live each day as fully as possible with dignity, choices, abiding by the patient’s wishes, especially at the end of life. Hospice is access to a compassionate team, relief from physical suffering, and therapy for the heart and spirit. It focuses on caring, not curing. Palliative care is similar but can be provided alongside treatment that seeks to cure the illness. It is specialized care for people living with a chronic, advanced, or serious illness that is focused on providing patient-centered care and relief from symptoms and stress.

Wisconsin verdict recalls Florida’s Trayvon Martin travesty” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It was a foolish, foolish decision by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse to carry his AR-15-style rifle into riotous Kenosha that night, a deadly provocation, whether he intended so or not. But as Floridians learned after the 2012 killing of Martin by another gunman with vigilante fantasies, foolish provocations don’t nullify an ever-more-elastic right to self-defense. Not in Florida. Not in Wisconsin. Not in 23 other states that have expanded the right to use deadly force in defense of home to almost anywhere someone happens to feel threatened. Legal niceties don’t much matter in a time of raging culture wars, especially if inconvenient details clash with popular narratives circulating on social media. In Wisconsin, like Florida, like much of gun-mad America, self-defense laws protect even the most ignoble shooters. The victims, not so much.


Tributes continue to pour in over the passing of former Congresswoman Meek.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— After a federal judge struck down the state’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. Now it seems all eyes (and bets) are on a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize sports betting in the Sunshine State.

— Lawmakers are back in Tallahassee for their final committee week before next year’s Legislative Session.

— Today’s Sunrise Interviews features Matthew Beatty, vice president and chief operating officer of the Carrie Meek Foundation, and Yolanda Cash Jackson, Shareholder of Becker and Poliakoff — they both share tributes and fond memories of Meek.

— On the show is Johnson, the Republican general campaign and initiative consultant who is president of Florida Education Champions, the group trying to get a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot asking voters to approve sports gambling in the state.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

After pandemic hiatus, Miami Art Week returns with ‘an explosion’ of local art and artists” via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — For years, homegrown Miami painters, sculptors, photographers and conceptual artists complained they had to decamp for New York or L.A. to make a name for themselves, not to mention a living. But for a growing cohort of visual artists, both native-born and from elsewhere, who have chosen to make Miami their working home. In sharp contrast to past years, in which local artists were largely eclipsed in their own South Florida hometown by big-name and even emerging artists from elsewhere, work by Miamians this time will be featured attractions in a dizzying number of art week showcases and platforms around the region.

Miami Art Week returns with a vengeance.

How Cirque, Disney beat COVID-19 to put magic into ‘Drawn to Life’” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — On his office calendar, “Drawn to Life” writer-director Michel Laprise penciled in the show’s opening five times, as it was pushed back again and again for more than a year, a tangible sign of how the COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with the first new Cirque du Soleil show at Walt Disney World in more than 20 years. The pandemic-caused delay ultimately changed the show, which finally opened Nov. 18, in ways the creative team couldn’t have imagined. From how performers rehearsed, to the variety of onstage acts, to the depth of the storytelling, to the audience response, COVID-19 played an unwelcome but undeniable part in the high-profile and highflying spectacle at Disney Springs. “That gave us the opportunity to see the show with different eyes,” said Disney’s Michael Jung of the unexpected delay in opening “Drawn to Life.”

‘Yell timber’: Families rush to get a Christmas tree amid the holiday supply shortage” via Nicole Asbury of The Washington Post — Black Friday kicked off Christmas tree cutting season at the 16-acre property. At about 9 a.m., a crowd had just started pouring in, but the owner and operator Sarah Stockstill predicted it would pick up heavily by the afternoon. By next weekend, they would probably be completely sold out of trees, she said. Christmas trees are in a shorter supply this year, much like other products during the economic mayhem of 2021. On Friday, many of the families at the Linden Hill Christmas Tree Farm in North Marlboro, Maryland, said they came soon after the Thanksgiving holiday because they worried the supply issues would result in them missing out on a tree altogether.


Celebrating today are former state Rep. Cindy Polo and South Florida Democratic political consultant Freddy Balsera. Belated happy birthday wishes to Jason Allison and Rebecca De La Rosa.


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. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Guy fox

    November 29, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    David smith is bad for Florida. Like a typical pilot he is a control freak. Trying to control the federal government with pointless bills on the va and abortion. Mark caruso is a working man and will make Seminole County great again. David smith is a rino and admitted he hated trump in an interview on here.

  • Jose López

    November 29, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Donald trump was the best we had to offer and will come back stronger. Ron desantis is a great republican, but David smith is a rino.

Comments are closed.


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