Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.1.21

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Read all about it: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

It was such a busy Tuesday in the Legislature; we’re just gonna dive right into the news and notes.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JesseRodriguez: There were no COVID-related deaths yesterday in New York City, where the vaccination rate is over 90%.

@FPWellman: There’s no going “back to normal.” There’s no “overreacting to (Donald) Trump.” There’s no “moving past 1/6.” History is littered with examples of how failure to stand up to political violence and growing authoritarianism ends with them in power and millions suffer. We need change now!

@BennyJohnson: (Ron) DeSantis is the perfect example of how every state should be led. He puts Americans First, he keeps Florida open, and lets Floridians live free, and as a result, his state has one of the lowest COVID rates. This is how all of America should be.

Tweet, tweet:

@Annette_Taddeo: News flash, sweetie: Democrats don’t suffer from blind allegiance to blowhards who emulate dictators, like your boss. We support policies like expanding Medicaid and standing up for small businesses — things GOP voters want but have no chance to get under little Ronnie’s regime.

@IlleanaGarciaUSA: As the child of an immigrant who escaped the terrors of #communism for a better life, I ask others to step up & say NO to delisting #FARC, a well-known terrorist organization enabling other totalitarian regimes like #Cuba, #Venezuela, and #Nicaragua

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@Michellesalzman: My team has converted the candy bar into a hot chocolate bar. If you’re in the capitol & need to warm up, or maybe you’d like to add something fun to your coffee … You’re always welcome

: I don’t think any of these people pitching me gift guide ideas really hope I had a nice Thanksgiving.

@DDHewty: 2021 doesn’t get enough credit for being as trash as 2020.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 6; ‘Sex and the City’ revival premieres — 8; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 9; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 9; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 21; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 28; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 34; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 34; CES 2022 begins — 35; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 36; NFL season ends — 39; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 41; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 41; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 41; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 41; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 42; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 44; NFL playoffs begin — 45; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 51; ‘Billions’ begins — 53; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 65; Super Bowl LVI — 74; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 81; Daytona 500 — 81; CPAC begins — 85; St. Pete Grand Prix — 86; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 92; The Oscars — 116; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 161; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 180; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 183; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 220; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 231; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 275; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 310; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 345; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 348; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 380; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 443; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 604. ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 688; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 968.

— TOP STORY —

Ron DeSantis’ border mission cost at least $1.6M, an amount that is expected to rise” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — DeSantis over the summer sent dozens of Florida law enforcement officers and equipment to the southern border in Texas and racked up a taxpayer-funded bill that so far amounts to at least $1.6 million but is expected to keep growing. The seven-week trip, led by three state agencies, was cast by the Republican Governor as a needed measure to beef up security at the border amid the failures of President Joe Biden’s administration, while critics saw the effort as a state-funded political errand used to further DeSantis’ national footprint ahead of a potential 2024 White House bid. The Miami Herald reported earlier in November that the trip had cost taxpayers $570,988, but additional records show the actual cost was at least $1.6 million, a number that is still expected to grow.

How much did Ron DeSantis’ Texas border ploy cost Florida? Quite a bit, it seems.


— DATELINE TALLY —

Dept. of Interior still deciding whether to appeal Gaming Compact ruling — It’s hazy whether the Biden administration will move forward with its appeal of the federal court ruling striking down the new Gaming Compact, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports. The Seminole Tribe of Florida filed a motion in an appeals court to block the ruling from going into effect, but the Department of Interior, which approved the Compact earlier this year, offered only lukewarm support. The department said it “did not oppose” the Tribe’s motion even though it “does not agree with all analysis.” Left out of the statement was any indication of whether the department would forge ahead with its appeal. That decision will be made in the next two months, Interior said.

‘It Just Felt Wrong’: U. of Florida faculty say political fears stalled an initiative on race” via Emma Pettit of The Chronicle of Higher Education — Another University of Florida professor has accused the institution of violating his academic freedom to ward off possible action by state lawmakers. In this instance, the scholar says, administrators intruded upon curricular matters, recommending, for one, that faculty members avoid the word “critical” in the title of a new doctoral concentration related to race. The episode — as laid out in a grievance submitted by the faculty union — paints a portrait of university administrators who are hesitant to rile a potentially hostile Republican Legislature, and who are willing to compromise faculty autonomy to avoid essentially poking the bear. The actions described are at odds with stated academic-freedom principles and could “tarnish” the university’s reputation, reads the grievance.

Next year’s back-to-school sales tax holiday could include Christmas twist” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A proposal to repeat the 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday next year passed its first test on Tuesday, including a possible stocking stuffer for the next holiday season. The back-to-school sales tax holiday is effectively an annual tax-free period on school supplies and related products. However, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic and Florida’s unexpectedly quick economic recovery that the Legislature gave the holiday a full 10 days this year. Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry and others hope to continue providing parents, teachers and students a 10-day sales tax holiday with a bill (SB 500) extending the holiday for 2022. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee approved his bill unanimously, with one committee member even suggesting a new twist.

Keith Perry wants to put something special in your Christmas stocking.

Senate bill to protect imprisoned pregnant women clears first committee” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Legislation that would offer additional protections for imprisoned pregnant women cleared its first committee hearing Tuesday afternoon. The bill (SB 630), sponsored by Sen. Shevrin Jones, would require that every woman in custody be notified that they have a right to ask for a pregnancy test, which must be administered within 24 hours of the request if she had been held over three days. The legislation passed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously. This is the second consecutive year Jones has filed such a bill. But this time, the measure is known as “Ava’s Law,” named after a newborn who died earlier in August after being born in an Alachua County jail.

Bill to clean up Florida’s algae problem clears Senate committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Legislation that would instruct Florida officials to adopt and pursue aggressive algae removal programs cleared a Senate committee Tuesday. The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday unanimously approved the measure (SB 834). It would direct the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to identify the best technologies to remove algae, toxins and nutrients from water bodies, develop long-term programs to clean up harmful algal blooms, and develop short-term emergency response action plans. The bill presses DEP to assess and use the latest, most effective technologies and give preference to technologies that reduce nitrates and toxins that foster harmful algal blooms, are scalable, and are proven to improve water quality in freshwater bodies.

Catchall preemption bill clears first Senate panel — The Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward a bill (SB 620) that would require local governments to compensate businesses when their actions result in a loss of revenues. Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reported that the legislation would allow businesses to sue local governments if a local amendment or ordinance causes their revenues or profits to drop by 15% or more. “I think many of us are tired of coming up here and passing a one-off preemption bill that local governments have to follow because the state has preempted them,” said Sen. Travis Hutson, who is sponsoring the bill. Several organizations representing local interests, including the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties, oppose the bill.

Lawmakers prepare to spend federal broadband expansion money” via James Call of USA Today — Policymakers, think tank experts and lobbyists met Monday to discuss how to spend Florida’s share of the $65 billion for broadband access tucked inside the Biden’s administration’s infrastructure plan approved by Congress. The utilities, telecommunications, cable providers, and representatives met with Sen. Loranne Ausley and Rep. Chuck Clemons to find areas where they can work together to ensure that the money flows from Washington, D.C., into rural Florida. After the hourlong meeting, Clemons said it was OK that there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen working on the project. “We just can’t have a lot of recipes,” said Clemons about it being time to develop a clear process for how the money can be spent.

Loranne Ausley and Chuck Clemons want to make broadband … broader.

Florida considers teaching risks, benefits of social media” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Florida schools would be required to teach students the benefits and risks of social media under a bill unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. If passed, a curriculum would be developed, and school districts would be required to implement it into existing courses. The curriculum would also be made available to parents. The bill would also define social media in state law for the first time. “The things that our kids are exposed to is troubling. Kids are losing their innocence more and more every day earlier because of the things you can just see by pulling it up online, even if they’re not looking for it,” said Sen. Danny Burgess, the bill’s sponsor. The bill received enthusiastic support from Democrats and Republicans.

— MORE FROM TALLY —

Legislation creating ‘bill of rights’ for foster children passes Senate committee” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A bill that would create a de facto bill of rights for children in Florida’s foster care system passed a Senate subcommittee with bipartisan support Tuesday. The bill, SB 792, is sponsored by North Florida Democratic Sen. Ausley. The Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs heard the bill Tuesday. The committee’s Chair, Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia, co-sponsored the bill. “The purpose of this bill is to place all of the rights that are already in law into one place to ensure every child in out-of-home-care can be easily informed of their basic rights,” Ausley said. The bill doesn’t add or take away any rights, Ausley said. It puts them in one place and clearly establishes children’s physical, mental and emotional health as statutory priorities.

Ileana Garcia is fighting to provide basic rights for foster children.

Democratic lawmakers pitch Chief Diversity Officer position” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Democrats in the Legislature are pushing Republican leadership to create a position of Chief Diversity Officer to join the ranks of state leadership. In 2022, lawmakers will consider a proposal to establish a statewide diversity and inclusion office in Florida. The proposals (SB 388 & HB 221) are sponsored by Democratic Sen. Lori Berman and Rep. Tracie Davis. The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11. “We can promote changes that increase equity and make government truly representative of the people, and it starts with passing this legislation,” Berman told reporters at a Tuesday news conference If OK’d by Republican leadership, Florida would become the latest state to appoint a diversity executive.

Senate committee clears bill to broaden cross-county burglary penalties” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A Senate committee passed a bill Tuesday that would expand the ability of law enforcement to enhance charges against criminals who cross county lines to commit a burglary. Under current state law, authorities may enhance burglary charges if the offender crosses county lines to commit the crime. However, the same law also requires proof that a burglar did so to thwart law enforcement and counter property recovery efforts. If signed into law, authorities would no longer need to prove motive as a prerequisite for criminal enhancement. Rep. Gayle Harrell is the bill sponsor. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee OK’d the measure (SB 360) with a 6-2 vote.

Joe Gruters files bill to ban under-21 kratom sales, add further restrictions” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Gruters has filed legislation to add regulations to the sale of kratom, a plant grown in Southeast Asia that the FDA says has addictive pharmacological effects similar to morphine and other opiates. On Tuesday, Gruters filed the Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which would ban the sale of kratom products to people under 21 and require processors to ensure the products do not contain dangerous substances. Violators of the law, which would become effective July 1, 2022, would be fined $500 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for each subsequent violation. Kratom, whose principal compound, mitragynine, works as a euphoric pain reliever, has been used as herbal medicine for centuries in Southeast Asia. The plant leaves can be chewed to treat pain, act as an anti-diarrheal and reduce dependence on opiates.

No kratom for kids, says Joe Gruters.

Abandoned cemeteries task force adds ‘teeth’ and new category to policy framework” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Policy recommendations from the Abandoned African American Cemeteries Task Force are getting more teeth and a new category following the group’s fourth meeting Tuesday. Task Force members spent much of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting discussing ways to strengthen and fine-tune the language in its now four-tier policy framework. During a meeting last month, the Task Force established identification and preservation, maintenance, and education as primary areas of focus. The Task Force doesn’t draft legislation but must submit policy recommendations to the Governor and Legislature by Jan. 1, 2022.

‘Our generation’s big forever chemical’: Senate panel crafts bill to tackle PFAS” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — For half a century, a group of fluorine-based chemicals was widely used to make everything from firefighting foams to nonstick frying pans, but recent evidence shows they persist in the environment, contaminate groundwater, accumulate in the flesh and possibly cause cancer and other health dangers. On Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved a bill that would have Florida start looking at eliminating poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and related chemicals possibly still in use in Florida and those already contaminating facilities, soil and groundwater throughout the Sunshine State.

Legislative ball starts rolling on additional lobbying restrictions for former officials” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers have set in motion provisions to further restrict public officials like lawmakers from lobbying in the years after leaving office. The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee approved two proposed committee bills (PIE 22-01 and PIE 22-02) to implement 2018’s Amendment 12, which places business and lobbying restrictions on former lawmakers. Penalties under the measures include fines up to $10,000 and forfeiting money earned from illegally lobbying. People could also receive public censure or reprimand for violating the law. The first measure would extend, from two years to six years, the time in which lawmakers and state agency heads must wait after leaving office before lobbying legislators and other statewide elected officials.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Sara Clements, McGuireWoods Consulting: First Step of Sarasota

Ricky Dixon: Department of Corrections

Patsy Eccles, Patsy Eccles & Associates: Clara White Mission

Gerard O’Rourke, Converge Public Strategies: BLOCKCHAIN

Leg. Cmte. Schedule:

— The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 312, from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., to allow telehealth providers to issue renewal prescriptions for certain controlled substances, 8:30 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets for an update on affordable housing, 8:30 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

The Senate Transportation Commission meets to consider SB 398, from Sen. Ed Hooper, to change ways of funding for public transportation projects, 8:30 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

The House Ways and Means Committee will receive a presentation about understanding estimating conferences, 9 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

The House Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee meets to consider HB 31, from Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, to shield firefighters from being threatened with suspensions, transfers, or termination during informal inquiries into alleged misconduct, 11 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

The House Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update on the state unemployment program’s computer system, 11 a.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee meets to consider HB 273, from Rep. Vance Aloupis, to update money-service businesses, including changes involving virtual currency, 11 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

The House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee meets for an update on electrocardiograms for student-athletes, 11 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update from the South Florida Water Management District about a Lake Okeechobee restoration project, 1:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

The House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee meets to consider HB 225, from Rep. Fred Hawkins, to allow charters to be changed for charter schools, 1:30 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

The House Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets to consider HB 403, from Rep. Mike Giallombardo, to promote challenges to local-government ordinances, 1:30 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss restarting visitations in long-term care facilities, 2:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update from the Florida Department of Transportation on a new federal infrastructure law, 2:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee meets for an update on child-support guidelines, 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

The House Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee meets to consider HB 323, from Rep. Tyler Sirois, to make changes to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 3:30 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update from the Florida Department of Corrections about consolidation, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 342, from Chair Keith Perry, to expand requirements where juveniles could have arrest records expunged, 4:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

Assignment editors — Reps. Andrew Learned and Spencer Roach will host a news conference to discuss HB 679: Cannabis Regulation, noon, 4th Floor Rotunda.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Sen. Gary Farmer and Rep. Kelly Skidmore hold a news conference on efforts toward energy sustainability in Florida, 12:30 p.m., The Cabinet Room. RSVP to [email protected].

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: 1,632 new cases added, more people in the hospital” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 1,632 COVID-19 cases and one new death on Monday, according to Tuesday’s report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on Miami Herald calculations of CDC data. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,691,420 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 61,539 deaths. The CDC did not release Florida COVID-19 figures on Thanksgiving, Friday and Sunday, causing an artificially lower seven-day case and death average than state averages. There were 1,228 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida, according to a Tuesday report by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which compiled data from 227 Florida hospitals. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients increased by 14 from Monday’s report, when 241 hospitals submitted data.

Florida’s COVID-19 hospitalizations tick up. Image via AP.

South Florida continues record-low COVID-19 transmission rates” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — While experts monitor the emergence of the new omicron variant, South Florida’s tri-county area is continuing to set record lows in the region’s COVID-19 transmission rate. The Florida Department of Health released data Tuesday covering Nov. 19-25. That data would usually be released on Friday but was delayed due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The department’s newest report shows a record low weekly case positivity rate during that span in all three major South Florida counties: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. The case positivity rate measures the share of positive COVID-19 tests and can detect whether the virus is spreading more quickly. Palm Beach County had a 2.3% positivity rate from Nov. 19-25. That number was only 1.9% in Broward and just 1.6% in Miami-Dade.

New omicron variant is likely in Florida, but it will take some time to confirm that” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Omicron may already be circulating in the populous Sunshine State where international travelers, cruise passengers and snowbirds abound in the winter months. While the new omicron variant likely is in Florida by now, it could be weeks before it gets confirmed, said Dr. Glenn Morris, director of the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute. Researchers are testing COVID-19 samples and wastewater to monitor for its presence, but so far, such surveillance hasn’t found the variant present in Florida. Florida’s new cases have tapered following the delta wave. But omicron is looming just as the state enters its peak season for drawing holiday travelers and international visitors who come for the warm weather, beaches, theme parks and events such as Art Basel.

Senate panel agrees to introduce bill to extend COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted to introduce a committee bill to extend COVID-19 liability protections for nursing homes, hospitals and physicians until June 1, 2023, a tacit acknowledgment that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a concern. Chair Burgess, the sponsor, said he did not have any data on the number of COVID-19 related lawsuits filed. The June 1, 2023, expiration date for the enhanced legal protections aligns with the sunset date included in other recently enacted laws relating to COVID-19. That includes one law that bans Florida employers from requiring their staff to get vaccinated. The current law shields businesses and health care providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits only through March 2022.

— 2022 —

DeSantis thanks volunteers for voter registration effort — During a Tuesday conference call, DeSantis thanked GOP volunteers for their role in helping Republicans surpass Democrats in overall voter registrations for the first time in state history. In a statement issued through his re-election campaign, the Governor said the feat would “reflects years of hard work, combined with the success of our common-sense conservative policies.” He said new voters are tilting toward Republicans because the party has “prioritized the protection of individual liberties and the rights of parents, students, and workers all while promoting prosperity.” He continued, “While this milestone is a meaningful achievement, our work is not finished. We will continue our efforts to register more Republicans in the months to come and continue our work fighting to keep Florida free.”

Maxwell Alejandro Frost slams Willie Montague for playing ‘Black privilege card’ — Democratic CD 10 candidate Frost chastised Republican opponent Montague over recent comments claiming Frost had “pulled out his ‘Black Privilege’ card” when he was arrested by the Capitol Police for incommoding during a rally in Lafayette Square. Incommoding is a misdemeanor, but charges were dropped after Frost paid a fine. “This rhetoric of racial hatred is dangerous to society and must be flatly condemned by all of us. I’ll say this very loudly and clearly — there is no such thing as ‘Black Privilege.’ Racist analogies that compare my politics to bowing down to masters on a plantation are sick, wrong, and deeply offensive — especially as someone who has been beaten by cops, tear-gassed, arrested, and jailed right here in Central Florida for advocating for racial justice,” Frost said.

Maxwell Alejandro Frost is blasting his opponent for playing the race card. Image via Instagram.

Democrat Tom Keen wants to take his ‘Navy values’ to House” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Keen, an aerospace business manager, retired Navy flight officer, and longtime fixture in Orlando civics, is launching his campaign for the Florida House in District 50 in eastern Orange County. “I want to be seen as somebody whose values reflect what the district is all about,” Keen said. Keen grew up in Ohio and joined the Navy, serving for 21 years, much of it as a flight officer on aircraft carriers. He got into technology acquisitions for the Navy, and that, after his retirement, led to his career in private business, involving aerospace simulation, a big industry in Orlando. Keen has been around Orlando civics and politics for a while, active in the Democratic Party, and serving on multiple veteran service groups and councils, and as a member of the city of Orlando Citizens’ Police Review Board.

Happening tonight:

and

Chadwick Hardee walking, not running for Orange County Commission” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Hardee is kicking off his walk for a seat on the Orange County Commission. That’s right; he’s walking, not running. Hardee is kicking off the event with a commitment to walk the race, if not to victory for the District 4 seat, to a goal of losing 75 pounds throughout the campaign. He’s inviting others to join him in a campaign he’s dubbing “Walk With Me,” saying he intends to bring people together while also getting them to commit to themselves. The commitment starts with himself. Hardee, of Orlando’s Lake Nona neighborhood, is among four candidates seeking the District 4 seat in 2022, including incumbent Commissioner Maribel Gomez Cordero, who is running for a second term. The race also has drawn candidacies from Mercedes Fonseca and Karl Anthony Pearson. All the candidates are from Orlando.


— CORONA NATION —

White House aides search for available contingency funding as they monitor omicron risks” via Jeff Stein, Tyler Pager, Taylor Telford and Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — Senior White House officials have in the last few days studying how much funding they have available to respond to the omicron variant, as the Biden administration makes contingency plans to deal with the next potential stage in the pandemic, three people familiar with the matter said. The review comes amid fresh tremors on Wall Street related to omicron and the economy’s outlook. The CEO of Moderna alarmed investors Tuesday when he warned that vaccines might not be as effective against this particular strain. Several hours later, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spooked financial markets even more when he said the central bank could speed up the relaxation of its emergency measures amid concerns about inflation.

The White House is scrambling to find fresh funds to battle the omicron variant. Image via Reuters.

Omicron mutations alarm scientists, but new variant first must prove it can outcompete delta” via Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — When the variant now known as omicron first appeared on a global database of coronavirus genomic sequences, scientists were stunned. This was the weirdest creature they’d seen to date. It had an unruly swarm of mutations. Many were known to be problematic, impeding the ability of antibodies to neutralize the virus. But there had never been a variant with so many of these mutations gathered in a package. Even though scientists recognized some of these mutations, many others were new and utterly enigmatic. President Biden on Monday expressed confidence that the United States can handle the new variant.

Existing vaccines might not be as effective against omicron variant, Moderna CEO says” via Adela Suliman and Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — Moderna’s CEO predicted Tuesday that existing coronavirus vaccines would be much less effective at combating omicron compared with previous variants of the virus, spooking financial markets in the United States, Europe and Asia as scientists rush to learn about the new variant. Stéphane Bancel said it would take months for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture new variant-specific doses to address omicron, as public health officials and vaccine makers worldwide examine the tangible impact of the largely unknown variant.

US tracking of virus variants has improved after slow start” via Carla K. Johnson of The Associated Press — After a slow start, the U.S. has improved its surveillance system for tracking new coronavirus variants such as omicron, boosting its capacity by tens of thousands of samples per week since early this year. It’s a global effort, but until recently, the U.S. was contributing very little. With uncoordinated and scattershot testing, the U.S. was sequencing fewer than 1% of positive specimens earlier this year. Now, it is running those tests on 5% to 10% of samples. That’s more in line with what other nations have sequenced and shared with global disease trackers throughout the pandemic. Nearly 70 state and local public health labs contribute to the effort, which is sequencing 15,000 to 20,000 specimens each week.

Pentagon chief says Guard who refuse vaccine cannot train” via The Associated Press — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has decided that National Guard members who refuse COVID-19 vaccination will be barred from federally funded drills and training required to maintain their Guard status. Austin spelled out the policy in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press. In the memo, he instructed leaders of the military services Tuesday to publish guidance by next week on dealing with Guard members who fail to meet military medical readiness requirements by refusing the vaccine. The military services have set varying deadlines that apply to active and reserve forces. Members of the Air Guard must be vaccinated by December; Army Guard members have until June. Austin’s policy will affect Guard members only when the vaccination deadline set by their service has been reached.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

U.S. COVID-19 travel restrictions in a stasis — for now” via Oriana Pawlyk of POLITICO — The White House COVID-19 response team Tuesday said the administration is gathering more information on the new omicron variant before making any moves to change current restrictions on international flights, as the country ramps up for another busy holiday travel season that will start in just weeks. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients told reporters various health agencies are together evaluating data on the Omicron variant, particularly its transmissibility and severity, as well as how much protection current vaccines convey against it. “We’ll learn that across a short period of time, and based on the data and the science, the medical team will make a recommendation on any changes to international travel policy,” he said.

The decision to expand travel restrictions is in a holding pattern. Image via AP.

Gas prices are set to fall, thanks to the omicron variant. Here’s how much and how fast” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Oil prices, which fell along with stock prices, failed to recover on Monday and could remain low enough to bring consumers relief at gas pumps, travel club AAA said. The drop in oil prices, triggered by fears that the new variant will throttle economic activity around the globe over the coming months, could shave 20 to 25 cents a gallon off the current $3.34 per gallon average price of unleaded regular. The price of U.S. crude oil fell 13% on Friday, closing at $68.15 a barrel, its lowest price since Sept. 9. On Monday, it settled at $69.95 and had fallen further to $67.62 by midmorning.

— MORE CORONA —

Netherlands says omicron variant was within its borders a week before South African flights prompted panic” via Perry Stein of The Washington Post — The omicron variant had a foothold in multiple countries in Europe before travel restrictions were imposed, new genetic sequencing data has revealed. Dutch officials said Tuesday that they had detected the variant, with its unusually high number of mutations, in a sample collected on Nov. 19 and another on Nov. 23, well before Dutch authorities panicked over two flights from South Africa carrying infected passengers. The earliest known cases are still from southern Africa. The first identified samples were collected on Nov. 9, from a 34-year-old man and a 23-year-old man in Johannesburg. And on Nov. 11, five samples exhibiting the variant were collected in Botswana.

COVID-19 parenting is reaching a breaking point” via Sarah Laskow of The Atlantic — Aside from promises of clinical-trial data by the end of the year, the timeline on which children younger than 5 might be vaccinated is still unclear. The parents of these kids are staring down months more of carefully weighing the risks of COVID-19 against the benefits of indoor cheer. My own child, now 20 months old, was born in March 2020, so my entire experience of parenting has been pandemic-inflected. As the cold creeps down the East Coast, where I live, and nudges the people around me inside, I have been thinking about how the responsibility and anxiety of navigating around this one infectious disease might linger longer for the parents of small children than for most other Americans.

Is parenting during COVID-19 reaching a tipping point?

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden sells infrastructure bill at Minnesota tech college” via Josh Boak of The Associated Press — Biden used a visit to a Minnesota community college Tuesday to highlight how his $1 trillion infrastructure law will create jobs and help train workers and to make a case for nearly $2 trillion more in spending. Biden, who was set to deliver remarks in Rosemount, Minnesota, first met with students in a garage space with a bulldozer, backhoe and cargo truck. The President stressed the importance of education as part of the infrastructure package, even though the administration says the jobs being created won’t require college degrees. Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and economic bill, which he is still trying to get through the Senate, includes $5 billion for community colleges to expand workforce training programs.

Joe Biden takes his sales pitch on the road. Image via AP.

Biden has slipped with independents, can he win them back?” via Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report — According to Gallup polling, for example, Biden’s overall job approval rating has dropped from 57% in February to 42% today. That drop-off has been driven almost entirely by independent voters. Since February, Biden has lost 6 points of approval among Democrats, a similar 6 points among Republicans, but he has lost 16 points among independents. Independent voters are like the “check engine” light in American politics: when that light goes on, you are in trouble. Right now, that light is blinking red. That’s a terrible sign not just for Biden but for Democrats writ large. Biden’s job approval ratings among independent voters are only slightly higher than Trump’s and slightly lower than Barack Obama‘s standing with independent voters at this point in their presidencies.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Congress fumbles for shutdown remedy ahead of Friday deadline” via Jennifer Scholtes and Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — Congressional leaders continued to bandy Tuesday over the terms of the next temporary shutdown patch, with just over three days left before federal funding expires. Since cash for the military and nondefense agencies is set to run out at midnight on Friday, Democrats need to swiftly finalize the next stopgap bill by midweek, or risk running out of time to pass it through both chambers before a shutdown strikes. While Democrats have proposed keeping the government funded until sometime in January, Republicans are pushing for a longer stopgap. They argue that the two parties will need more time to strike a sweeping funding deal that updates spending levels for the Pentagon and every domestic agency of the federal government.

Byron Donalds riles up Democrat when he rips Biden: ‘Didn’t trash the man, I’m speaking facts’” via Amanda Prestigiacomo of The Daily Wire — Freshman Rep. Donalds riled up Small Business Committee Chair Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat, when he criticized Biden’s knowledge of the private sector, emphasizing Biden’s lack of experience with small businesses and the private sector more largely. After Velázquez warned Donalds he was allegedly violating the quorum, the GOP representative insisted he did not “trash” the President, but was merely “speaking facts.” Donalds told Isabella Casillas Guzman, who serves as the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, that she has far more experience in the private sector than Biden, illustrating why he believes child tax credits and government handouts will not help small-business owners staff their establishments, particularly at a time when help is hard to come by.

Byron Donalds doubles down on his criticism of Joe Biden.

— CRISIS —

Appeals court judges poised to reject Donald Trump’s effort to withhold Jan. 6 documents” via Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Three federal appellate judges appear likely to reject Trump’s effort to block Jan. 6 investigators from obtaining his White House records — a big potential boost for lawmakers hoping to reveal the former President’s actions as a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol. During Monday’s three-and-a-half-hour argument session, the judges — all Democratic appointees to the appeals court — underscored deep concerns about allowing a former President to intervene in delicate negotiations between the sitting President and Congress. The court’s ruling, which could come within days, could determine whether the House Jan. 6 Select Committee gains access to a massive trove of records that shed light on Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election and stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

A federal court is ready to open the flow of Donald Trump documents. Image via Getty.

Mark Meadows cooperating with January 6 investigators” via Annie Grayer, Zachary Cohen, Jamie Gangel and Ryan Nobles of CNN — Trump’s former chief of staff Meadows is cooperating with the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot and is providing records and agreeing to appear for an initial interview, CNN first reported Tuesday. The move represents a critical shift in the relationship between the top Trump ally and the panel and staving off a criminal contempt referral for now. Meadows’ lawyer George Terwilliger said there is now an understanding between the two parties on how information can be exchanged moving forward, stating that his client and the committee are open to engaging on a certain set of topics as they work out how to deal with information that the committee is seeking that could fall under executive privilege.

Prosecutors demanded records of Sidney Powell’s fundraising groups as part of criminal probe” via Isaac Stanley-Becker, Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — Federal prosecutors have demanded the financial records of multiple fundraising organizations launched by Powell after the 2020 election as part of a criminal investigation. The grand jury subpoena, issued in September by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, sought communications and other records related to fundraising and accounting by groups including Defending the Republic, a Texas-based organization claiming 501(c) 4 nonprofit status, and a PAC by the same name, according to the documents and a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the probe. As part of the investigation, which has not been previously reported, prosecutors are seeking records going back to Nov. 1, 2020.

Tweet, tweet:

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Trump called aides hours before Capitol riot to discuss how to stop Biden victory” via Hugo Lowell of The Guardian — Hours before the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol this year, Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard Hotel in Washington and talked about ways to stop the certification of Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January. The former President first told the lieutenants his Vice President, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term. But as Trump relayed to them the situation with Pence, he pressed his lieutenants about stopping Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January and delaying the certification process to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.

The Willard Hotel was ground zero for Donald Trump’s plans to stop the election certification.

Trump allies launch publishing house with an eye on upending the book industry” via Meredith McGraw of POLITICO — Trump announced last week that he was publishing a coffee-table book of photographs from his time in the White House with Winning Team Publishing. The outfit is a new imprint with a decidedly MAGA flavor, run by former Trump campaign aide Sergio Gor and Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. Part of the reason is that some of the major publishing houses have recoiled at the prospect of having to fact-check his work or the social backlash that would ensue. With allies setting up their own publishing house, Trump could potentially circumvent those hurdles. “My suspicion is Trump is self-publishing because he doesn’t want the humiliation of getting a smaller advance than he has before or anyone finding out that it is smaller than Obama’s,” said one publishing executive.


— LOCAL NOTES —

Fentanyl drives soaring increase in Central Florida overdoses” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Overdose deaths from fentanyl-laced drugs have soared in Central Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic, outpacing the increase for the state as a whole and killing an average of more than 50 people in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties each month, a new report on the crisis shows. The report found victims of overdoses are now younger, more likely to be Black, more likely to be male, and much more likely to have died of fentanyl than in 2015. In Orange, Osceola and Seminole, it said, 616 people died of drug overdoses between March 2020 and March 2021, the vast majority of them due to fentanyl or fentanyl mixed with other illicit drugs or alcohol. The yearlong investigation was paid for by Project Opioid, the nonprofit initiative founded in 2018 to help community leaders respond to what was initially a prescription opioid and heroin crisis.

Sick, toxic, dysfunctional; WUCF staff shake-up more than meets the eye” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — To the outside world, Phil Hoffman declared on social media he was leaving his $194,662-a year job as executive director of WUCF because of family responsibilities and the pandemic. But public documents show Hoffman resigned under pressure as he faced a university investigation and a litany of complaints from employees at Orlando’s PBS affiliate. “The last five years have been hell with Phil. I’ve never witnessed so much abuse, mismanagement,” said WUCF 89.9 FM Director Kayonne Riley’s statement after she spoke to a Title IX investigator in July. Employees described Hoffman as a bully who was sexist and ageist with a quick, unpredictable temper.

Phil Hoffman was a nightmare to work for, say WUCF employees. Image via WUCF/Facebook.

Here’s what may be funded with St. Petersburg’s $45 million share of federal stimulus” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — City officials on Monday presented an updated list of projects and initiatives they’d like to see funded with the city’s share of the federal stimulus Congress passed in March. The city has already received half the $45.4 million it’s set to accept, and the other half will come next summer. At an August meeting, city officials presented a budget that put $15 million toward housing and $3 million into public health and safety. But the city’s presentation on Monday looked much different. Affordable housing got a $5 million increase for a total of $20 million, and the public health and safety’s allocation was reduced to $651,900 — all for ionization systems to improve air quality inside the police and fire rescue buildings.

A dormant Tallahassee development has been fined $250 a day. The totals are nearing $10,000.” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Since last month, the dormant Washington Square development has been fined $250 per day for violating one of its permits totaling $8,500 as of Monday. Documents obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat show the city’s Environmental Board heard a case against developer Fairmont Tallahassee LLC on July 13. The board ordered the company to take “corrective action and cure the violations by or before August 12, 2021.” The board met on Oct. 12 and determined “the property was and remains in violation.” Fairmont failed to appear at the hearing, despite receiving proper notice.

New cruise line at Port Canaveral levels up with one of world’s largest ships” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Port Canaveral welcomed a fifth major cruise line less than two months ago, and it has already shifted up vessels, bringing yet another of the world’s largest cruise ships to the region. MSC Cruises said arrivederci to MSC Divina, which debuted in mid-September, and buongiorno to MSC Meraviglia this past week. The 171,598-gross-ton, 4,500-passenger Meraviglia is currently tied for the 11th largest cruise ship in the world. Port Canaveral already handles Oasis-class ships of Royal Caribbean and the new Mardi Gras from Carnival, which is ranked eighth. Meraviglia, which means “wonder” in Italian, debuted in 2017 and has a 450-person venue for original Cirque du Soleil shows among unique offerings. Other highlights include 12 distinct dining venues plus sushi, teppanyaki, and steakhouse, among others.

Port Canaveral lands a big fish.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid awarded $2.4 million for Eviction Protection Grant Program” via Katherine Lewin of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has been granted $2.4 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support legal assistance for low-income tenants at risk of eviction. The organization, which will manage the grant, plans to share the funds among five other Florida legal nonprofits, including Florida Legal Services, Gulfcoast Legal Services, Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Northwest Florida Legal Services. The money will be divided between the nonprofits based on size of the organization and the number of people it is expected to help. For example, Northwest Florida Legal Services is the smallest legal aid in the group, so it will receive the least amount of money.

Lake Nona honored for advancing automated mobility technologies” via Cindy Barth of the Orlando Business Journal — Lake Nona has another feather to add to its cap: The southeast Orlando community was named the 2021 Florida Automated Vehicles Summit Leadership and Innovation award winner for its advancements in automated mobility technologies. “Tavistock’s Lake Nona is setting the standard for automated mobility solutions for communities statewide and across the country,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Lake Nona is home to the largest and longest autonomous vehicle network at one location in the country, Move Nona. The autonomous shuttle network, operated by Beep Inc., is part of Lake Nona’s comprehensive sustainable transportation plan that includes the future home of America’s first high-speed, electric air mobility hub, the Lilium Lake Nona Vertiport.

Citrus County Commissioners pass on universal trash plan” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County Commissioners on Tuesday said no once again to a universal garbage collection program, saying they liked the idea but not the details. The 5-0 vote effectively ends the 30-plus year debate on whether Citrus County should have a one-size-fits-all trash program, a concept that once had public support but not lately. Commissioners said the proposed bid would have raised trash hauling prices for some county residents, which they promised would not happen. And up to 30% of county residents would have been exempt because they live on private roads that may not be accessible to garbage trucks.

— TOP OPINION —

Why Fox stopped talking about Trump” via Jack Shafer of POLITICO — It might come as a surprise to readers to learn that Fox, which many on the left consider an arm of the Trump propaganda machine, rarely mentions the former President. Both CNN and MSNBC have consistently mentioned Trump more often since 2015 and continue to do so. Conversely, Fox has regularly outdone MSNBC and CNN in Biden mentions since he became President. And so on. Fox mentions presidential press secretary Jen Psaki and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez much more than does MSNBC or CNN combined, mostly in a chiding or disparaging fashion. Indulging hatred while avoiding affinities is not limited to cable news. It’s human nature. War makes the heart beat much faster than does love.

— OPINIONS —

A busy, but wimpy, hurricane season fizzles in South Florida. We’re grateful, how about you?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — South Florida, you can exhale. The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends Tuesday at midnight. The National Hurricane Center will report it saw seven hurricanes, but only four became full-fledged Category 3 or 4 storms. A handful of tropical and subtropical storms of varying forces and brief hurricane status also formed. Some brushed Florida. We were lucky this year. Not a single hurricane seriously threatened us. A scenario worthy of a horror movie would have been a Category 4 barreling down on us this summer as we dealt with the daily ravages of the Delta variant or the immediate aftermath of the tragic building collapse in Surfside. It didn’t happen, and we’re thankful.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida lawmakers are advancing a bill to make school board races partisan.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Open government advocates reveal Gov. DeSantis’ U.S.-Mexico border mission and fundraising efforts in Texas came at a much higher cost to Florida taxpayers.

— And a Democratic South Florida congressional candidate is filing suit to get his primary loss erased, claiming his opponent bribed voters with the promise of free money.

— Today’s Sunrise Interview is with Pamela Marsh, president of the First Amendment Foundation, who recently helped the Miami Herald obtain public records which uncovered the true costs to taxpayers from DeSantis’ decision to deploy Florida resources to the U.S. Southern border in Texas over the summer.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

O Tannenbaum, where have you gone? Christmas trees fly off the stands in Orlando” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Warren Brown of Santa’s Trees doesn’t expect to have any Christmas trees left to sell after this weekend. His business at 1176 Lewis Drive gets about 1,300 trees a year, but he hasn’t been able to secure any more than that in recent years. He said he received 50 calls from potential customers on Sunday alone. “Of all the calls [Sunday], I don’t think anybody asked the price of a tree. They just want a Christmas tree,” Brown said. While the COVID-19 pandemic and shipping issues have bedeviled the holiday gift shopping season, the problem with fresh-cut Christmas trees goes back further. The trees take years to reach their ideal festive heights, and higher prices and quicker sellouts have sparked concerns from Orlando vendors in recent years.

Holiday spirit: There’s been a run on Christmas trees. Image via Reuters.

‘West Side Story’ first reactions: ‘Top-tier Steven Spielberg,’ Rachel Zegler’s star shines bright” via Ryan Lattanzio and Chris Lindahl of IndieWire — Spielberg’s adaptation of the beloved musical “West Side Story” finally began to screen for awards voters over the weekend ahead of its Christmas Day release. First reactions are pouring out as the film’s official premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles gets underway. Early reactions praise Spielberg’s direction and high marks for Zegler as Maria in her film debut. The musical premiered mere days after the death of Stephen Sondheim at the age of 91. The highest praise for the new film version came from the composer himself, who back in September dropped by “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to talk about the most recent stage production of “Company” and, of course, Spielberg’s movie.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Brian Bautista of The Southern Group, Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times, Mitch Wertheimer, and Amy Young.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, 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.



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Ron Brackett, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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