Good Tuesday morning. Let’s begin with some good news about a great person.
Erin Ballas has been promoted to vice president at Public Affairs Consultants.
Ballas got her start at Public Affairs Consultants as an intern in 2008. In the nearly 14 years since, she’s worked her way up the ladder, holding positions such as legislative assistant and associate before being named VP on Monday.
The firm credits Ballas’ experience forging strong relationships, crafting legislation and securing funding with its significant growth in the 2010s.
“Erin brings a sense of family to our firm, ensuring our clients will always receive excellent service,” Public Affairs Consultants President Keyna Cory said. “We are thrilled to continue to develop as a firm with Erin’s enthusiasm and passion for the process.”
The firm noted that it was unusual — in a good way — for someone in The Process to stick with the firm they started with.
“I have enjoyed every day with Public Affairs Consultants. Our work ethic is unmatched, and we believe in our clients. Our firm is made up of two of the hardest working individuals in politics, and I am blessed to call them my partners,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to grow the firm and help our clients achieve their goals.”
Ballas is a graduate of Florida State University, where she earned a master’s degree in political science and government. She and her husband John Ballas live in Tallahassee with their two children, Dayton and Jett.
Florida may have the third-largest congressional delegation in the country, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as other states on key committees in the U.S. House.
That may change if Republicans can flip the four seats they need to secure a majority, something that has become an increasingly likely eventuality in recent months.
If that happens, the House Ways and Means Committee will have a new chair: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.
The Sarasota Congressman is currently the No. 2 Republican on the panel, which serves as the primary committee responsible for overseeing the U.S. tax code, tariffs, and key social programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Buchanan’s ascent hinged not only on a Republican majority but on the exit of the U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the current ranking member on the committee.
The second half of that equation was solved Monday when the California Republican announced he would leave Congress this year to run the Trump Media & Technology Group — a venture launched by former President Donald Trump.
Buchanan, who is already the only Floridian with a seat on the panel, would make further history as the first member from Florida to hold the gavel.
His business background and experience in Congress make him a natural fit for the position. And, should he land the job, the Sunshine State would have substantially more muscle in the Capitol.
“There is no more solid member of Republican leadership than Vern,” prominent lobbyist Brian Ballard observed.
Rep. Ralph Massullo is running for the Florida Senate.
The Lecanto Republican told Florida Politics late Monday that he has filed paperwork to run in Senate District 10, the seat currently held by Senate President Wilton Simpson, who is term-limited.
“Over the past five years, I’ve had the honor of representing my district in the Florida House. During that time, I’ve worked tirelessly to live up to the trust my community placed in me by standing up for the conservative values we hold dear. Now, there is a new frontier on which to fight to defend those values — that is why I’m announcing my candidacy for the Florida Senate,” Massullo said in a statement first provided to Florida Politics.
While the current SD 10 includes Citrus County, where Massullo lives, it also consists of all of Hernando, the home base of Spring Hill Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, who also filed to run in the district. Reapportionment could complicate things further by removing Pasco and bringing in Sumter.
Both lawmakers have previously acknowledged that they could meet in a Primary — in a September interview, Massullo said he “wouldn’t have any qualms” about running against Ingoglia, but that going for re-election to the House was also something he was considering.
Massullo later clarified that he would not run against a current House colleague in a Senate race unless he had support from Senate leadership beforehand, though he did not tout the support of any Senate leaders in his announcement. Ingoglia has not either, though he recently landed a high-profile endorsement from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Massullo’s biggest hurdle, however, had been the substantial fundraising gap between him and Ingoglia.
The third-term Representative started November with $228,149 on hand between his campaign and political committee. Ingoglia, meanwhile, had $1.86 million banked between his campaign and multiple political committees. Massullo plans to virtually erase the gap by anteing up $1.5 million of his own money on his first day in the race.
It’s Election Day in Jacksonville. Voters across Duval County can vote in the First Election for the seat left vacant by the death of Tommy Hazouri, a functional primary for the open City Council seat in at large Group 3.
Four candidates are on the ballot: Republicans Nick Howland and Howland “Howdy” Russell and Democrats James “Coach” Jacobs and Tracye Polson. If one candidate somehow gets a majority of the vote, Tuesday’s vote will be decisive. If not, the top two candidates advance to the General Election on Feb. 22.
Polson is the leading fundraiser, though with the caveat that she is heavily self-financing, just as she did in her 2018 campaign for state House. Howland is the choice of the Republican business establishment. They are widely expected to be the top two finishers.
Turnout has been tepid, just below 7% in early voting. Democrats have the edge thus far in the raw vote, and the story of Election Day will be how quickly (or if) Republicans close that gap, which was roughly 6,000 at the close of business Monday.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Jeff, a Florida doctor I met in Brandon at the Special Session bill signing, was suspended from his job due to Biden's mandate. He has now been reinstated due to our efforts to stop this heavy-handed federal mandate.
Freedom has a home here in Florida. pic.twitter.com/4TLcNSehCl
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) December 6, 2021
—@JimmyPatronis: There may be no greater failure in American politics than @BilldeBlasio. I have no doubt that blue-checkmark Twitter is loving his vaccine mandate because they don’t like a free people. They like big government. They like obedience. Unfortunately, there are people in this country that think that firing a first responder, and cutting their health care, is good for public health. @BilldeBlasio is their hero. He is their patron Saint. It is literally insane. I know for a fact that @BilldeBlasio does not like New Yorkers. Why? Because he has made his entire career about running his residents out of New York and into @GovRonDeSantis’s Florida
—@AngieNixon: On Friday, myself and 29 of my colleagues sent @GovRonDeSantis a letter demanding that he work with DCF to provide a plan to the U.S. Department of Treasury for more than $660 million in unused Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Funds. What say you Gov?
—@AnnaForFlorida: First, @GovRonDeSantis banned trans students from playing sports, now he’s erasing anti-bullying materials that focus on #LGBTQ+ identity. We warned lawmakers that attacking trans kids was not only wrong, but connected to an agenda of LGBTQ+ bigotry. I hate being right on this.
—@ShevrinJones: It is my hope that the @EducationFL will replace all necessary resources for parents & students, as soon as possible. Our students and parents must know that we care about their well-being, and that includes providing ACCESS to every tool possible to ensure their safety.
Former Senator Bob Dole is greeted by President Trump and Former President Obama. pic.twitter.com/RBJg8DUKtj
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 20, 2017
—@ReporterCioffo: Sources: The Gingerbread replica of the Capitol, created and set to be delivered today to its exhibition location, was stymied by a logistical challenge — width. The Capitol, on its cart, was too wide to fit through one of the doors between Longworth and the Capitol.
‘Sex and the City’ revival premieres — 2; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 3; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 3; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 15; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 22; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 28; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 28; CES 2022 begins — 29; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 30; NFL season ends — 33; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 35; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 35; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 35; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 35; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 36; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 38; NFL playoffs begin — 39; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 45; ‘Billions’ begins — 47; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 59; Super Bowl LVI — 68; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 75; Daytona 500 — 75; CPAC begins — 79; St. Pete Grand Prix — 80; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 86; The Oscars — 112; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 155; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 174; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 177; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 214; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 225; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 269; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 304; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 339; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 342; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 374; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 437; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 598; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 682; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 962.
— TOP STORY —
“Las Vegas Sands, Seminole Tribe groups get court date in intimidation case” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Competing gaming interests are set to square off against each other in court for the first time Wednesday in a fight over expanding Florida’s gambling scene that one side argues has devolved into harassment and intimidation tactics. Groups backed by casino giants at Las Vegas Sands and the Seminole Tribe of Florida will meet with a Tallahassee-based judge in a time-sensitive case over whether Tribe-backed groups are strongarming members of a Las Vegas Sands-backed ballot campaign. Florida Voters in Charge, a group funded by Las Vegas Sands, has requested a restraining order against the Tribe’s groups, including Standing Up for Florida and Let the Voters Decide. According to the lawsuit, the Tribe-funded groups would prevent Florida Voters in Charge from getting its initiative to expand gaming in the Sunshine State on the 2022 ballot if the groups aren’t stopped. The Las Vegas Sands-backed group argues the Tribe is harassing and intimidating people and running a sham petition-gathering effort to siphon manpower from its campaign to add to the Florida Constitution an avenue for cardrooms to become casinos.
— STATEWIDE —
“Nikki Fried blasts Ron DeSantis, DCF over $660M in unaccounted for rental aid” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Emergency Rental Assistance is on Fried‘s agenda. Fried tore into DeSantis and Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris over $660 million unaccounted for Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds. Fried posted a copy of a letter she sent Harris and DeSantis on her Twitter page. The $25 billion federal relief program began after the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The funds are to help families pay rent and utility bills as the nation still reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. An Oct. 4 memo from the Department of Treasury warned that recipients with less than 30% of funds expended, or less than 65% of funds allocated as of Sept. 30, would have to submit a plan for remaining funds to the Treasury by Nov. 15. If not, the funds could be recaptured.
“Anti-bullying page, including pro-LGBTQ links, removed from Education Department website” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DOE removed the anti-bullying page after a right-leaning online publication inquired about the LGBTQ resources listed on the site, sparking a content review on the page. The bullying portal included links to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ StopBullying.gov and its page addressing bullying in LGBTQIA+ Youth. Until this fall, the page instructed educators to protect children’s privacy, guidance that could run afoul of the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Groups like the pro-LGBTQ civil rights group Equality Florida criticized the DeSantis administration for pulling the website, calling it a “staggering escalation of its anti-LGBTQ agenda.” Other links removed from the DOE website included the department’s model policy against bullying and harassment for school districts and a checklist for school districts when developing an anti-bullying policy.
Spotted — At the Governor’s Cup at Concession Golf Course in Bradenton for an EOG vs. Legislature tournament with proceeds going to the Gold Seal Foundation: First Lady Casey DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran; Sens. Joe Gruters and Ed Hooper; House Speaker Chris Sprowls; Reps. Tommy Gregory, Lawrence McClure and Will Robinson; former Senate President Bill Galvano; Paul Azinger, Slater Bayliss, Chris Chaney, Tony Cortese, Ashton Howard, Michael Johnston, Andrew Ketchel, Drew Menier, Jerry Pate, Will Rodriguez and Stephanie Smith.
“Florida draws 22% of foreign real estate investors, with Miami, Orlando leading pack” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida accounts for more than 22% of all foreign real estate investments in the U.S., the strongest market in the country, according to a National Association of Realtors report that came out last month. More than half that is focused on South Florida, with Miami accounting for 52% of foreign buyers. With 10% of the international investment, Orlando is the second strongest market. From August 2020 to July 2021, foreign buyers spent $12.3 billion on Florida real estate, 5% of the total market. That translates to 22,500 homes, or 4% of existing home sales. The state’s most prominent foreign buyers come from right over the northern border. Following Canada are buyers from Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis expected to announce complete 2022 budget proposals this week” via Forrest Saunders of WFTS — The Governor’s budget plan for next year will drop sometime this week. But what will be in it, and can Florida afford it? We already know some of DeSantis‘ big ideas for the next fiscal year. He slowly unveiled them throughout last month and, in some cases, seeks to increase spending after lawmakers passed a record-setting budget last Session of $101.5 billion. DeSantis hasn’t yet laid out details on infrastructure, economic development or health services. But critics like Rep. Anna Eskamani worry things like affordable housing will be left out. She calls his proposals “political.”
“Rule to implement Florida law nixing employer vaccine mandates is underway” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Florida Department of Health announced Monday it is developing vaccine opt-out forms for Florida employers who want to require staff to get vaccinated. A new rule also will include standards for two of the five potential avenues staff can use under the Florida law to exempt themselves from vaccines. A draft copy of the proposed rule has not been published, and the health department did not announce when it would hold a public meeting on the proposed new rule, 64D-3.050. The proposed new rule regarding the forms and medical standards will only apply to private employers. That’s because the Legislature banned vaccine mandates for all public employees.
“Medicaid managed care compliance data not so sunny for Sunshine Health Plan” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida Medicaid managed care plans have amassed $717,690 in liquidated damages for breach of contract violations settled during the second quarter of the fiscal year 2021-2022, with Staywell Health Plan accounting for more than half the liquidated damages assessed. State data shows Staywell Health Plan amassed $370,500 in liquidated damages for three state Agency for Health Care Administration actions finalized during the second quarter. Most of the damages, or 95%, stem from one final action regarding provider claims payment or reimbursement. Staywell Health Plan, which was the common name used by WellCare, merged with Centene, the parent company of Sunshine State Health Plan. Beginning Oct 1, the Staywell moniker ceased to exist.
“Lauren Book files bill pushing further reforms for infant compensation program” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lawmakers approved a NICA reform bill during the 2021 Legislative Session following an explosive report from the Miami Herald and ProPublica. That investigation showed families of injured infants often had trouble getting benefits. Last Session’s bill increased payment for housing assistance up to $100,000 for the injured child’s life, “including home construction and modification costs,” which may be necessary to care for the child. Senate Democratic Leader Book’s 2022 legislation (SB 1050) would add another $30,000 to that pot “to cover costs for devices that will ensure continuous light, heat, and power in the home for the care of the child, including, but not limited to, a generator or another alternative power source.”
“Lawmakers propose prohibition on employer discrimination against military spouses” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Rep. Dan Daley is proposing legislation that would prohibit employment discrimination against military spouses. Under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, an employer may not discriminate against an applicant, or an employee, based on factors including race, religion and gender, among others. However, the proposal (HB 853 & SB 550) would add military status to the list of protected categories, thus bolstering protections for military families. Florida is home to 21 military installations and more than 65,000 active-duty service members.
Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court will take up a dispute between Duke Energy and the Public Service Commission, 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee.
Happening today — The Escambia County legislative delegation meets: Sen. Doug Broxson and Reps. Alex Andrade and Michelle Salzman, 5:30 p.m., Pensacola State College, Jean and Paul Amos Performance Studio, 1000 College Blvd., Pensacola.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Bradley Burleson, Jose Diaz, Ballard Partners: AshBritt
Adam Basford: Associated Industries of Florida
Gus Corbella, Greenberg Traurig: Physician Compassionate Care
Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: BusPatrol
Amy Virgo, Travel Green Florida: Florida Cannabis Chamber of Commerce
Desinda Wood-Carper, DC Strategies: Town of Pembroke Park
Personnel note: Lillian Tamayo to leave PPSENFL in March — Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida President Tamayo will leave her position in March, the organization said Monday. “I have had no greater honor in my life than to lead our affiliate of Planned Parenthood in Florida these past 22 years. During that time, we have made huge strides, providing greater access to health services for more patients and defending reproductive rights for all Floridians,” she said in a Monday news release. During Tamayo’s tenure at PPSENFL, the organization said it has expanded to include more health centers, patients served, members, supporters, donors, and activists than at any other time in its history. PPSENFL is currently in the process of selecting Tamayo’s replacement.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: 2,714 cases and 158 deaths added” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida on Monday reported 2,714 COVID-19 cases and 158 deaths. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,702,338 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 61,789 deaths. Of the deaths added Monday, about 57% occurred over the past 28 days and about 38% in the last two weeks. The state has added 36 deaths and 1,793 cases per day in the past seven days. There were 1,298 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida. COVID-19 patients take up 2.32% of all inpatient beds in the latest report’s hospitals.
Happening today — U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday will hold a hearing on the state’s challenge to a Joe Biden administration vaccine mandate rule, 9 a.m., United States Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa.
“UF researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, faculty report says” via the Tampa Bay Times — “Fear of upsetting state officials is pervasive among faculty at the University of Florida, to the point that race-related references have been edited out of course materials and researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, according to a report released Monday by a Faculty Senate committee. … The committee received a flood of input from faculty, from stories about attempts to serve as expert witnesses to instances that dealt with race and COVID-19 research across disciplines. The report discusses several “challenges” faced by UF researchers who were working on COVID-19 with an unidentified state entity. It describes “external pressure to destroy” data as well as “barriers” to accessing, analyzing and publishing the numbers. Taken together, the report said, those problems “inhibited the ability of faculty to contribute scientific findings during a world-wide pandemic.”
“Brevard County has some of the lowest COVID-19 related death rates in months” via Amira Sweilem of Florida Today — Despite being considered a “community of moderate transmission” by the standards of the CDC, Brevard County continues to see some of the lowest COVID-19 related death rates in months. Between Nov. 20 and Nov. 27, there were two COVID-19 related deaths in Brevard County, according to data released by the CDC. The Space Coast has had a total of 1,705 COVID-19 related deaths since Jan. 2020. Though COVID-19 related deaths may have dramatically decreased since this summer’s surge, Brevard County remains a community of moderate transmission.
“Demand for booster shots rockets in Central Florida, breaks statewide record after omicron enters the U.S.” via Caroline Katherman of the Orlando Sentinel — A record-breaking 308,217 people in Florida got their COVID-19 booster doses last week as the omicron variant began spreading across the U.S. A rise in booster demand was seen in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. Statewide, the number of people who got boosters from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2 was almost 40,000 more than the week prior, raising the total past 300,000 for the first time since the week Sept. 3, when the Florida Department of Health began publicly reporting this number. “A lot of them are … referencing concern about the variants. Some of them are traveling or preparing for the holidays, and they want to maximize their protection,” said Florida Department of Health in Osceola spokesperson Jeremy Lanier.
“Family of ‘Sofia’ files $100m federal lawsuit against teachers, Brevard School Board” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — The family of Sofia Bezerra, a 7-year-old girl with Down syndrome who came home from school with a mask tied to her face, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the girl’s teachers and the Brevard County School Board, according to court filings. The child’s parents, Jeffrey Steel and Shirley Bezerra Steel, demand $100 million in the suit, court documents showed. The suit also named Brevard Superintendent Mark Mullins and three individual members of the Brevard School Board: Chair Misty Belford, Cheryl McDougall and Jennifer Jenkins.
“University of Florida art projects to encourage COVID-19 vaccine confidence” via Jenny Rogers of The Gainesville Sun — Where traditional communication fails, art prevails. After partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Florida called upon students, faculty and staff to submit proposals for art projects encouraging COVID-19 vaccine confidence on campus. “Art can resonate with people in ways that a government or a scientific statement may not be able to,” said Natalie Rella, the communications and social media coordinator of the Center for Arts in Medicine and leader of the initiative.
“Bruce Arians urges NFL look at vaccination status of more teams” via Fred Goodall of The Associated Press — Arians would like to see the NFL expand an investigation of the COVID-19 vaccination status of two players on his team to include other rosters around the league. Responding publicly for the first time to the league suspending wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards for three games for misrepresenting their status with fake vaccination cards, Arians said Friday those might not be the only cases of their kind in the league. “The league did their due diligence, and we move on,” Arians said after practice. “I will not address these guys for the next three weeks. They’ll just be working out, and we’ll address their future at that time. Other than that, there’s really nothing to say.”
— 2022 —
“‘If I run, he won’t’: Donald Trump downplays DeSantis’ 2024 hopes” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Trump continues to say DeSantis wouldn’t run against him in 2024, and couldn’t beat him if he did, while reminding voters DeSantis wouldn’t be Governor without Trump’s endorsement. During an interview, Trump offered his latest in a series of statements essentially claiming he made the Governor and that DeSantis knows better than to run against him in 2024. “I do think if I run, he won’t,” Trump said. “I know they try and create a friction. I don’t think it exists at all. It might, you know, you never know,” Trump added. “If he wanted to run, that’s OK with me. I think we’d win by a lot. But he’s good. And he’s done a good job as Governor.”
“Florida Democrats already pointing fingers as they steel themselves for November” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — POLITICO interviewed more than 20 Florida Democrats, including elected officials, Democratic National Committee members, activists and others about Diaz and his performance so far. Many were supportive, saying that Diaz has to overcome internal divisions that have constantly hindered Florida Democrats. Some, however, were less flattering, using terms such as “MIA” to describe Diaz’s term so far. Concerns about Diaz come as Florida Democrats face an existential crisis. Some Republicans are privately confident that 2022 could be the year they consign Democrats to a permanent minority status and remove any lasting doubts about whether Florida is a red state. What Diaz does now will play a key role in determining that outcome. The angst surrounding Florida Democrats was on display during their big Leadership Blue conference held this past weekend at an Orlando resort hotel as they delved into everything from organizing to message training.
“Fried turns DeSantis ‘private army’ plan into fundraising pitch” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “This is horrifying,” Fried said of the proposal. “He’s not only forming his own army, but it’s an army that’s not accountable to anybody. Not to the people of our state. Not to the Constitution.” Fried went on to say: “The Governor who is unhinged, who is going out of his way to show that he is an authoritarian dictator here in our state, believes that he is above the law, doesn’t listen to the Legislature, doesn’t communicate with the Legislature … this is an individual who believes he is running for President in 2024.” Fried linked to a video in her campaign email and urged donors to “support Nikki’s fight to end DeSantis’ authoritarian regime.”
“Democrats fall flat with ‘Latinx’ language” via Marc Caputo and Sabrina Rodriguez of POLITICO — As Democrats seek to reach out to Latino voters in a more gender-neutral way, they’ve increasingly begun using the word Latinx, a term that first started to get traction among academics and activists on the left. But that very effort could be counterproductive in courting those of Latin American descent, according to a new nationwide poll of Hispanic voters. Only 2% of those polled refer to themselves as Latinx, while 68% call themselves “Hispanic” and 21% favor “Latino” or “Latina” to describe their ethnic background, according to the survey from Bendixen & Amandi International.
SPLC to put $100M into Deep South voter engagement programs — The Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday said it will pump $100 million from its endowment into voter education and engagement in Florida and other southern states over the next decade. SPLC’s “Vote Your Voice” program will provide grants to support year-round civic engagement programs, expand partner groups’ fundraising bases, train political leaders, engage voters for the 2030 redistricting process and develop innovative tools addressing future problems. “Our Vote Your Voice program began as a robust effort to increase voter registration and turnout, particularly in communities of color who would most benefit from a true inclusive democracy in the South,” said SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang.
Personnel note: Geoff Burgan to lead comms for Democratic AGs — Veteran communications pro Burgan has joined the Democratic Attorneys General Association as communications director. Burgan has worked on several Democratic campaigns during his decade in the field. In Florida, he worked on Andrew Gillum’s 2018 campaign for Governor. During the 2020 cycle, he served as Arizona Communications Director on Biden’s presidential campaign. Most recently, he ran comms for Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Edward Markey. Burgan was one of several hires DAGA announced Monday. Other new additions include Michelle Ortiz as deputy executive director, Megan Hughes as research director, Emily Rossi as digital director, and David Sanchez as political director.
“After losing congressional primary by five votes, Dale Holness plans rematch against Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. Barbara Sharief ‘more than likely’ to run again.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A 2022 repeat is brewing among the top three finishers in the just-decided, fiercely fought South Florida congressional primary. Holness, who lost the Democratic primary to Cherfilus-McCormick by five votes, is planning another candidacy. Sharief, who finished third in the 11-candidate special primary on Nov. 2, said Monday she is “more than likely” to run again. The 2022 Democratic Primary could be entirely unlike the 2021 Special Primary in which Cherfilus-McCormick, Holness, Sharief and eight others competed for the Democratic nomination for the vacancy created by the April 6 death of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.
Equality Florida backs Eunic Ortiz for Senate — The political committee for LGBTQ+ rights organization Equality Florida weighed into the SD 24 race, backing St. Petersburg Democrat Ortiz. “(SD 24) is going to be one of the most competitive state legislative races of 2022, and we’re putting a marker down for our members and supporters early and clearly. Eunic Ortiz has a long history of fighting for all marginalized people, especially LGBTQ communities,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. “ … Having Eunic in the Florida Senate would be a game-changer for LGBTQ Floridians.” The current SD 24 covers a swath of central and southern Pinellas County and is represented by term-limited Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes. Rep. Nick DiCeglie and Timothy Lewis are running for the GOP nomination.
LaVon Bracy Davis launches campaign for HD 45 — Ocoee attorney Bracy Davis announced Monday that she entered the Democratic Primary for HD 45, the seat currently held by Rep. Kamia Brown, who is running for Senate. “I am excited beyond measure for the opportunity to serve and represent the people of West Orange County. After careful consideration and learning the concerns of the people of District 45, I have decided to take a leap of faith and run for this position of community service,” she said. “As state Representative, I will fight for job creation, arts and education, the protection of voting rights and affordable health care. I believe I am the right person for this seat.” The FAMU law graduate joins Charles Law Jr. and Melissa Myers in the Primary.
“Adner Marcelin, former Tallahassee NAACP president, running for City Commission seat” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Marcelin is challenging Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox — a candidate he vocally supported four years ago — as she vies for re-election to a second term in District 5 next year. While he respects Williams-Cox, he said that the two have serious policy differences. Marcelin had been mulling a run for city office for about a year. He decided to file after listening to a woman speak during Monday’s NAACP town hall on a proposal to spend $20-plus million in Blueprint funds to renovate Doak Campbell Stadium. The woman described herself as a mother of six with a full-time job who goes to school and lives on the financial brink. Like other opponents of the plan, Marcelin wants to see Blueprint’s sales tax dollars spent elsewhere.
— CORONA NATION —
“Clues to omicron variant’s U.S. spread include test samples, sewage” via Brianna Abbott of The Wall Street Journal — Researchers are racing to determine how widespread the Omicron variant might be across the U.S., scouring COVID-19 test samples and in some cases even examining wastewater. Federal regulators said Sunday that cases have been identified in 16 states and that the FDA is in conversations about streamlining authorization for revamped vaccines if necessary. COVID-19 surveillance is more robust in the U.S. than when the alpha or delta variants emerged, public-health officials and experts say. Nearly 30% of known COVID-19 cases were sequenced and shared online in Vermont during the past three months. Public-health, commercial and academic laboratories in the U.S. analyze genomic samples from positive PCR tests and report results to the CDC. Some laboratories send the agency test samples directly.
“The most-vaccinated big counties in America are beating the worst of the coronavirus” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — About 1 in 420 Americans died of COVID-19, according to official data. And we’re still averaging more than 1,000 deaths per day. But in certain areas, the story is far less grim. A big reason: widespread vaccination. But even that might undersell just how beneficial vaccination is in preventing the worst that the coronavirus has to offer. From the start of the vaccination effort, a pertinent question has been when we might achieve something amounting to “herd immunity.” That concept has proved elusive, particularly as the delta variant has rendered the vaccines less effective at preventing the spread — while still extremely effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. But those latter metrics remain hugely important.
“New York City to impose vaccine mandate on private sector employers” via Michelle L. Price and Karen Matthews of The Associated Press — From multinational banks to corner grocery stores, all private employers in New York City will have to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Mayor de Blasio announced Monday in the most sweeping vaccine mandate of any state or big city in the U.S. “We in New York City have decided to use a preemptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID and the dangers it’s causing to all of us,” he said. The mandate will take effect on Dec. 27, with in-person workers needing to prove they have received at least one dose of the vaccine. And they will not be allowed to get out of the requirement by agreeing to regular COVID-19 testing instead.
“Eric Adams, New York’s Mayor-elect, does not commit to the new vaccine mandate for private employers.” via Dana Rubinstein of The New York Times — In less than a month, Adams will succeed de Blasio, and on Monday, Adams declined to commit to enforcing the new rules, which intend to stem the spread of the virus, especially the new omicron variant. “The Mayor-elect will evaluate this mandate and other COVID-19 strategies when he is in office and make determinations based on science, efficacy and the advice of health professionals,” said Evan Thies, a spokesman for Adams. Adams, who says he is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot, has been vague about some of de Blasio’s other pandemic measures. Adams was less equivocal about de Blasio’s requirement that public indoor venues like theaters and restaurants deny entry to unvaccinated adults.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Stocks get a boost as omicron concerns ease” via Hardika Singh of The Wall Street Journal — U.S. stock indexes jumped to start the week, fueled by investors’ bets that the omicron COVID-19 variant may cause milder illness than previously feared, renewing confidence in consumer and travel demand. Markets have whipsawed in recent days because of rising concerns about the new variant, which has clouded the market with uncertainty. The market’s indecision is a contrast from earlier in the year, when the S&P 500 climbed steadily, notching 66 record closes. It is currently off 2.4% from its record set Nov. 18. Among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500 on Monday were shares of travel and entertainment stocks.
“Millions of workers retired during the pandemic. The economy needs them to ‘unretire,’ experts say.” via Sarah Ewall-Wice of CBS News — The number of people who retired rose much faster than the typical pace during the pandemic. More than 3 million additional people retired compared with normal. Meanwhile, the economy is still down nearly 4 million jobs from before COVID-19. While businesses pre-pandemic typically kept workers with more seniority and laid off newer workers, that didn’t hold during COVID, said Teresa Ghilarducci, labor economist and professor at The New School. “And then we didn’t see that willingness of employers to hire older workers in those phases when the COVID cases were down and the economy was coming back.” The expert consensus: The U.S. needs workers. Despite record openings and soaring demand, businesses claim they can’t find workers. “Unretirements” could help solve part of the equation.
“As COVID-19 persists, nurses are leaving staff jobs — and tripling their salaries as travelers” via Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post — If 2020 was the year travel nursing took off, with 35% growth over the pre-pandemic year of 2019, this year has propelled it to new heights, with an additional 40% growth expected, according to an independent analyst of the health care workforce. The continued pandemic; an aging, burned out and retiring nurse workforce; the return of hospital services that were shut down last year; and a shortage of foreign recruits and nursing students have combined to make travel nursing one of the most critical and sensitive issues in health care. Hospitals accuse the travel companies of price gouging. The companies say they are responding to the laws of supply and demand in an increasingly mobile work environment.
— MORE CORONA —
“Spike in omicron variant cases puts Europe on edge” via Megan Specia and Isabella Kwai of The New York Times — Confirmed cases of the omicron variant surged in Britain and Denmark on Sunday, backing up scientists’ fears that it has already spread more widely despite travel bans and adding to worries of new lockdowns before the holidays. The coronavirus variant has been found in at least 45 nations worldwide, with the United States and much of Europe reporting several new cases in recent days. On Sunday, Britain’s health security agency confirmed that it had now detected 246 instances of the variant, nearly double the total number of cases reported on Friday. In Denmark, the local health authorities confirmed 183 known cases of the variant, more than triple the total number of suspected cases reported on Friday.
“What’s with this year’s Santa shortage? COVID-19 fears, deaths and more, say experts.” via David Artavia of Yahoo News — While 2020 came with the disappointment of Santa visits at the mall or other holiday events being distanced by Plexiglas, turned virtual or canceled altogether, this year brings a different problem: a Kriss Kringle shortage. That’s due to the combination of an all-time high demand for Santa and a scarce supply — largely due to COVID-19 fallout. “We lost a tremendous number of Santas over the last 18 months,” Mitch Allen, the Fort Worth-based founder, and Head Elf at HireSanta.com, which recruits thousands of Christmas entertainers across the nation. In fact, of the near 8,000 Santas the company has in its database, through partners, and via social media, 335 have died in 2021 alone — COVID-19 being the cause for the vast majority, says Allen.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“No U.S. government official will attend Beijing Winter Olympics, White House announces” via Ellen Nakashima and Rick Maese of The Washington Post — The U.S. will not send Biden or any government official to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February in a signal of displeasure over China’s human rights abuses. The diplomatic boycott allows American athletes to participate in The Games, but is a significant political snub to Washington’s greatest military and economic competitor. Pressure to mount such a boycott has been building for months, with lawmakers from both parties and human rights advocates calling on the Biden administration to not attend in response to Beijing’s repressive policies against democracy activists in Hong Kong and Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. The administration in March declared China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims a genocide.
“Joe Biden weighs Russian banking sanctions if Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine” via Nick Wadhams and Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg — The sanctions — including against some of Russia’s largest banks and the Russian Direct Investment Fund — are among the options that Biden may spell out when he speaks with Putin on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter. The U.S. could also restrict the ability of investors to buy Russian debt on the secondary market. The most drastic option would be to bar Russia’s access to the Swift financial payments system, but that would wreak havoc on ordinary citizens. The Biden-Putin call comes with tensions high over what U.S. intelligence has told allies could be a plan to invade Ukraine with as many as 175,000 troops in the coming year.
“Biden touts savings on insulin and other drugs for Americans” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of The Associated Press — Biden pledged Monday that his social agenda legislation would deliver tangible savings on prescription drugs for all Americans. Relief that consumers have clamored for is now in sight, he asserted. But first, the bill has to pass Congress, where plenty of obstacles remain in its path. Biden tried to shift the focus to pocketbook provisions overlooked in the political machinations over his $2 trillion legislation, which deals with issues from climate to family life and taxes. Even before concerns over rising inflation, polls consistently showed support from Americans across the political spectrum for government action to lower drug costs. “It’s safe to say that all of us can agree that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive in this country,” Biden said at the White House.
“Dems plot escape from Biden’s poll woes” via Heather Caygle, Burgess Everett and Jonathan Lemire of POLITICO — Most Democrats are worried that Biden’s flagging polling numbers — with an approval hovering in the low 40s — will lead to a thrashing at the ballot box. With historical headwinds and a GOP-dominated redistricting process already working against them, they fear that unless Biden pulls out of his current slide, Congress will be handed to the Republicans in next year’s midterms. Even the party’s own polling has the President in the red. Of course, the election is 11 months away, an eternity in politics. Democrats say once they finally clinch their full agenda, Biden will recover and so too will their prospects for keeping their slim majorities. But there’s plenty of hand-wringing about where Biden stands. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Biden’s recent numbers are “scary.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“How Stephanie Murphy, a holdout on Biden’s agenda, helped salvage it” via Emily Cochrane of The New York Times — Rep. Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat who toggles between allying herself with party leaders and vexing them with her objections, has established herself as part of a group of rank-and-file moderate and liberal lawmakers who, empowered by Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House, can have a major influence on what happens there. Their maneuvering on Biden’s social policy bill was not just a break with tradition in the chamber, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has presided over a mostly top-down operation, but an early sign of a generational shift underway for a caucus led by octogenarians.
“‘It’s a middle-class bill’: Kathy Castor, labor leaders praise new infrastructure law” via Daniel Figueroa IV of Florida Politics — Leaders from local labor unions joined U.S. Rep. Castor Monday to celebrate the signing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and talk about its impacts on the Tampa Bay area. “We know the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was just signed by Biden a few weeks ago is the most historic investment of our generation in infrastructure in repairing our roadways, our bridges, our water systems and wastewater systems, improving transit that we desperately need here in the Tampa Bay area,” she said. Castor said the new law will help advance and take advantage of ongoing programs in the area, including by working in concert with new apprenticeship programs in Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.
“Kennedy Center Honors: A toast to tradition” via Peter Marks of The Washington Post — With a stellar slate of honorees watching alongside Biden, the Kennedy Center Honors sparkled back to full festive life on Sunday, after years of disruptions in tradition caused by both a pandemic and politics. A nearly four-hour performance in the Opera House toasted the high points of the careers of the Honors recipients: actress Bette Midler, comedy impresario Lorne Michaels, singer Joni Mitchell, Motown producer Berry Gordy and opera bass-baritone Justino Díaz. Before a packed audience that included Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, several Cabinet Secretaries, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a horde of celebrities, the evening’s medal winners were serenaded and saluted in a Washington tradition that goes back 43 years.
Spotted — At the 44th Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C.: Ballard, his wife Kathryn, and their daughters, Maddie and Sarah.
— CRISIS —
“Sidney Powell group raised more than $14 million spreading election falsehoods” via Emma Brown, Rosalind S. Helderman, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — In the months after Trump lost the November election, lawyer Powell raised large sums from donors inspired by her fight to reverse the outcome of the vote. But by April, questions about where the money was going — and how much there was — were helping to sow division between Powell and other leaders of her new nonprofit, Defending the Republic. Records reviewed by The Washington Post show that Defending the Republic raised more than $14 million, a sum that reveals the reach and resonance of one of the most visible efforts to fundraise using baseless claims about the 2020 election. Previously unreported records also detail acrimony between Powell and her top lieutenants over how the money — now a focus of inquiries by federal prosecutors and Congress — was being handled.
“Alleged Proud Boys associate charged in Capitol riot after FBI identified him in an August photo with Powell” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — Two men linked to accused Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean were among the first Jan. 6 riot participants to breach police barricades at the U.S. Capitol, newly unsealed charging documents allege. James Haffner of South Dakota and Ronald Loehrke of Georgia were arrested and charged this week with civil disorder, a felony. Haffner was also charged with assaulting or impeding officers with an aerosol spray. The FBI said it identified Haffner partly through a social media post by his wife on Aug. 7 that included a photograph of the couple and a third person whose image was redacted but his wife identified in a caption as Trump lawyer Powell, who was in South Dakota that week for a bus and motorcycle ride through the state coinciding with the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
Of course, it is — “Trump SPAC under investigation by financial regulators” via Aaron Gregg of The Washington Post — The publicly-traded company that plans to merge with Trump’s social media company is under investigation by two federal regulators, which have asked for stock trading information and communications. In an SEC filing, Digital World Acquisition Corp. disclosed that it had received “certain preliminary, fact-finding inquiries” from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in late October and early November regarding stock trading tied to the merger agreement announced Oct. 20. Separately, the SEC asked for information related to meetings of the company’s board of directors, information on investors, and communications, according to the filing. Digital World Acquisition Corp.’s stock went up by as much as 800% when it announced its venture with Trump’s social media company.
“Former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany to speak in Pensacola” via the Pensacola News Journal — McEnany will be the featured speaker at Marcus Pointe Baptist Church’s annual Spirit of Christmas service on Sunday. McEnany was the final of Trump‘s four press secretaries and took over the helm of the White House communications office during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She stayed in the position until the end of Trump’s term in office. She is now co-host of “Outnumbered” on the Fox News Channel. McEnany released a book last week titled “For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond,” about her time in the White House and how she relied on her faith. The service begins at 10 a.m. at all three Marcus Pointe Baptist Church locations.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Ex-Jacksonville Councilors Katrina Brown, Reggie Brown lose fraud-sentence appeals” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Bids by former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown to challenge their fraud convictions have been rejected by a federal appeals court. “After a thorough review of the record and the parties’ briefs, and with the benefit of oral argument, we find that the appellants’ arguments lack merit,” a three-judge panel for the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded last month. The judges upheld prison sentences the former lawmakers are serving — 33 months for Katrina Brown and 18 months for Reggie Brown.
“‘The city will help us.’ Miami Beach took cash, fast-tracked tower on Champlain’s edge” via Aaron Leibowitz, Ben Conarck, Sarah Blaskey and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — When Miami Beach city officials rushed to greenlight construction of an 18-story ultra-luxury condo tower just across the city line from Champlain Towers South, no one knew the 40-year-old building in the neighboring town of Surfside was teetering on the edge of collapse. But the leaps Miami Beach officials took to bring the Eighty Seven Park tower from concept to reality are now under scrutiny. The result was that Miami Beach moved Eighty Seven Park’s property line directly against the boundary of the aging Surfside condo, bringing heavy machinery and intense vibrations from sheet pile-driving far closer than would otherwise have been the case and heightening the potential of damage.
“Chicago billionaire donates $5 million toward Miami’s Underline park project” via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — The Chicago hedge-fund billionaire who last month bought the last privately owned first-edition copy of the U.S. Constitution is splurging on something else: The Underline, the 10-mile linear park and urban trail now under construction beneath Miami’s elevated Metrorail line. Citadel CEO Kenneth Griffin, an art patron and philanthropist who supports a broad range of causes, has made a $5 million gift to the ambitious project, overseen by a nonprofit group and Miami-Dade County. Griffin’s donation will seed an endowment to support long-range maintenance of the paved cycling and walking trails running the full length of the new park, said Meg Daly, founder of Friends of the Underline.
“New indictment alleges conspiracy against former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson” via the Northwest Florida Daily News — A federal grand jury has handed down a new indictment against former Mayor Anderson and businessman James Finch that charges them with conspiring together to commit crimes as far back as 2015 and as recently as Nov. 16. The superseding indictment charges Anderson with 21 law violations and Finch with 15. Count one states the two conspired together and with others “to defraud and deprive the city of Lynn Haven and its citizens of their right to the honest services of Anderson and former Commissioner and co-defendant Antonius Barnes through bribery or kickbacks.” It states that Barnes, who had previously entered a guilty plea, and Anderson accepted things of value from Finch in return for their performing official acts.
“Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson says I-110 homeless camp must be cleared by mid-January” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — After the city approved the first round of funding for homeless reduction initiatives, the clock is ticking to relocate about 91 people currently living under the Interstate 110 overpass. Mayor Robinson said organizations working to relocate people now camping under the interstate overpass will have until early January before the city will be forced to step in to remove anyone who refuses to leave. While operating as a city park, the land under the interstate is technically owned by the Florida Department of Transportation. Robinson said Monday that FDOT had told his administration that the camp violates state law and wants the property cleared by January. Robinson did not rule out having to use police to clear the encampment.
“FDLE breaks ground on long-awaited Pensacola Regional Operations Center” via Jennifer Rich of the Pensacola News Journal — The new building will be named after former FDLE Commissioner James T. “Tim” Moore. Moore began his career with FDLE in 1973 and served as Commissioner from 1988 to 2003. His 15-year tenure makes him the longest-serving leader of the agency. Current FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 to the current facility, a converted school FDLE moved into in 1994, made it clear that the agency needed a new office. Discussions began around 2007, but it was 2015 before the first official attempt to obtain legislative funding for a new facility. Construction will start in January on the 6.8-acre campus on a large parking lot in Marcus Pointe Commerce Park.
Happening today — The Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida holds a Holiday Kick-Off Social Event, with a fully lit Christmas tree and carolers, 5:30 p.m., ICON Park, 8375 International Dr., Orlando. Free for members; $35 for non-members. Tickets are available online here.
— TOP OPINION —
“A threat to shoot up your school? Blow it up? Grow up, you irritating little trolls!” via the Miami Herald editorial board — We’re tired of the threats; we’re tired of the fraught nerves, the school shutdowns, the police power diverted from other duties. Threats to shoot up South Florida schools, or blow them up, are not funny. We know these teens are hormonal and don’t think through the consequences. But on this score, they need to grow up, and the legal system, unfortunately, has become the place to accelerate some missing maturity. Most recently, in Miami-Dade County, police arrested a 15-year-old student accused of making a threat on social media against Miami Senior High School. Whether such incidents are a cry for help or just a bid for attention, any suspect in these cases should get one, the other, or both. If mental illness is playing a role, then get that kid evaluated and into therapy. If they’re making costly and disruptive mischief, then, yes, law enforcement is right to step in.
— OPINIONS —
“Tune out those 2024 presidential race predictions” via Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post — One recent poll conducted for NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist College finds that a plurality of Democrats — 44% — believe their party has a better chance of winning if Biden is replaced as their candidate. My question is: How would anyone know? Given today’s deeply polarized electorate, it is hard to imagine that any candidate could pull off the kind of lopsided victory that Ronald Reagan did in 1984. But if anything, that makes early 2024 predictions all the more ridiculous. Who might have imagined in advance that the 2000 election would come down to a relative handful of disputed ballots in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court?
“Florida Supreme Court again tramples on the rights of defendants” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Florida Supreme Court repudiated the U.S. Constitution and decades of precedents last week in ruling 5-2 that a judge may sentence someone harshly for showing no remorse. Short of waterboarding or other explicit tortures, there could not be a more deliberate violation of the precious right to not incriminate oneself. Justice Ricky Polston, a classical conservative and usual ally of Chief Justice Charles Canady, broke with him this time, to his credit. “Showing remorse is admitting you did something wrong — an admission of guilt. And increasing a defendant’s sentence based on the failure to show remorse is punishing a defendant for failing to admit guilt,” Polston wrote. Justice Jorge Labarga, who often dissents alone to the court’s recent right-wing dictates, chided his colleagues for overlooking Florida’s glaring record of wrongful convictions.
“The right wants to freedom us to death” via Michael Tomasky of New Republic — From this day on, I hereby announce that I shall prefer driving on the left-hand side of the road. I’ve always been kind of an Anglophile anyway. It just feels right to me. Also, I have decided that red means go, and green means stay. If other motorists don’t like it, too bad. If freedom doesn’t include the freedom to make my own traffic rules, then it is, in fact, slavery. This is precisely the logic of DeSantis and nurses — nurses, for God’s sakes — who won’t get vaccinated. The Republican Party is full of people who think man walked with dinosaurs and who have spent the last 20-odd months in the embrace of a death cult.
“Partisan School Board elections? It’s a dangerous idea, literally” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The day-to-day direction of public education across America is increasingly polluted by shrill, extreme, mean-spirited politics. Public office should not entail physical risk. But so many school board members have faced threats of violence that the FBI created a system of “threat tags” to track them. Florida has made things worse by targeting board members for retaliation for imposing mask mandates in several districts, including Broward and Palm Beach, and by trying to strip officials’ salaries. Amid heightened tensions caused by the pandemic, some board members have had protesters on their front lawns and endured screaming matches at meetings. Against this frightening backdrop, Florida lawmakers want to go backward and return to partisan school board elections in all 67 counties, a dangerous mistake.
“Anthony Fauci, Josef Mengele and the desperate need for Holocaust education” via Sara Bloomfield for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In recent years, there have been some alarming studies about young Americans’ lack of Holocaust knowledge. Reinforcing those findings, in an informal survey of 700 secondary school teachers across the U.S. that 37% report students have no familiarity with the Holocaust, another 20% report that students primarily learned about the Holocaust through social media. In the context of a dangerous rise today in Holocaust denial, distortion, and antisemitism, irresponsible analogies are more egregious than ever. Renate Guttmann was a victim of the Nazis. We will never educate the young people of America if we turn Renate into something else — a victim of our own political disagreements. That would be a second crime. Not only will Holocaust memory suffer. So will we.
“Sofia ‘mask abuse’ photos were as real as photos of Bigfoot” via John A. Torres of Florida Today — No matter how State Rep. Randy Fine and a Jacksonville attorney try to spin it, the photos of a 7-year-old girl with Down syndrome wearing a mask tied tightly to her face that outraged so many of us a few months ago, are as genuine as snapshots of Bigfoot. Staged. Phony. Fake. Don’t take my word for it. Just read the Indian Harbour Beach Police report. We would never have known this if the man with the photos, Steel, had not asked for a police investigation. Steel, the child’s stepfather, claimed child abuse and wanted a police investigation and got it. Steel told police that on Oct. 7, Sofia, his 7-year-old stepdaughter, exited the school bus at their Indian Harbour Beach home with a face mask tied tightly to her head with a rope. He has publicly claimed the child, who has Down syndrome, was distressed, panicked, and unable to breathe properly.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Trump is confident that DeSantis will keep out of his way in the race for the White House.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— If you missed it on Monday, there is still time to show some love to your local journalists and favorite newspapers. #LoveYourNewspaper
— Today’s Sunrise interview is with Democratic consultant Kevin Cate, who shares how he turned a conversation of someone dissing newspapers into a national movement of love for hardworking journalists.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Skiing Santas back to shredding Maine slopes for charity” via The Associated Press — More than 230 skiing and snowboarding Kriss Kringles took to a western Maine resort on Sunday to raise money for charity. The jolly ol’ St. Nicks took a break last year because of the pandemic. But they returned to kick off the ski season in full holiday garb, including white beards, red hats and red outfits. A sea of red Santa suits descended the mountain, carving wide turns as their beards fluttered in the icy wind. At least one green-costumed Grinch sneaked his way into the mix, disguised in Santa’s coat and hat. The event took place in the western Maine town of Newry. Before dashing through the snow, the Santas must all donate a minimum of $20, which helps support local education and recreation programs.
“New to St. Petersburg, he created a popular local meme page. friendship followed.” via Gabrielle Calise of the Tampa Bay Times — In February 2020, Howard Cheung came to St. Petersburg for the first time to visit a friend. By June of that year, the city lured him back for another trip. As he watched a Black Lives Matter protest wind down Central Avenue that summer, he decided to leave Brooklyn and move here. He just needed to meet people. So, he channeled his loneliness into an anonymous Instagram meme page. Cheung kept noticing posts from “affirmations” accounts pop up. Cheung saw an opportunity for the connection he craved. There were no St. Pete affirmations — yet. He admits that he feels a bit insecure about running a local meme page as a transplant. To offset this — and learn about his new home — he often reaches out to followers.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, our dear friends Anna Alexopoulos Farrar and Mark Ferrulo, Allie Ciaramella, Megan Turetsky, former Rep. John Wood, and Jon Yapo.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.