Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.10.21

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Your morning briefing of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

Let’s start with some good news about a great person.

Northwest Florida Water Management District Executive Director Brett Cyphers announced Friday that he will be leaving his position early next year to care for his oldest daughter as she goes through cancer treatments.

“The important work of the district requires a leader who can give their full attention to the job, and my focus will naturally be elsewhere for the time being. I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished together over the past 10 years, and I have extraordinary confidence in what the district will continue to deliver for the people of Northwest Florida,” Cyphers said.

Brett Cyphers is stepping away from public service to tend to a serious family matter.

“This kind of experience with a child is life-changing and reorienting, and I believe the best course for me and my family will be to continue working on issues I’m passionate about through the private sector, once she is well.”

Cyphers, a U.S. Army and the Florida National Guard veteran, has been with the district for almost 10 years. He joined in June 2012 as Assistant Executive Director and became Executive Director in December 2014.

His work in Florida’s government began as a member of the Senate’s reapportionment staff in 2001, and he went on to serve in the administrations of Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. In 2011, he joined the Department of Environmental Protection overseeing water management district budgets, before moving to the Northwest Florida Water Management District in 2012.

“The many things the district has accomplished are a huge testament to Brett’s commitment and vision,” said Board Chair George Roberts. “Under his leadership, we have been able to do more for the residents of Northwest Florida, more efficiently, than ever before. Brett will definitely be missed.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@KeithEdwards: I wish the media would report that Omicron is appearing less deadly, the supply chain is relaxing, and gas prices are improving as fervently as they do when things are looking bad.

@PollsAndVotes: A new report from conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) finds “no evidence of widespread voter fraud. In all likelihood, more eligible voters cast ballots for (Joe) Biden than (Donald) Trump but raises a number of procedural issues. 1/n

Tweet, tweet:

@SenRickScott: I cannot think of a member of Congress more capable of leading the House Ways and Means Committee than my friend @VernBuchanan.

@MDixon55: Breakdown by funding source of @GovRonDeSantis‘ $9.7 b budget The $3.5b in Biden bucks going to get a lot of attention, but every state budget is packed with federal cash State revenue general roughly just a third of the overall plan

@JaredEMoskowitz: I’m so happy to see @FLCaseyDeSantis doing well and talking about her diagnosis. It’s so important. My dad has not been so lucky. More Cancer research is needed. Florida can lead. I’ll be coming to committee to speak on the $100 million increase for Cancer.

Tweet, tweet:

@JamesMadisonInst: As more and more New Yorkers flee their state’s high taxes for Florida’s low-tax, limited government policies, we want to thank @GovRonDeSantis for proposing a budget less than half that of New York’s, with roughly the same population.

@JosephBHarding: The current real estate market is not a buyer or a seller’s market. We are living in a banker’s market.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 7; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 12; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 19; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 25; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 25; CES 2022 begins — 26; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 27; NFL season ends — 30; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 32; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 32; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 32; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 32; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 33; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 35; NFL playoffs begin — 36; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 42; ‘Billions’ begins — 44; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 56; Super Bowl LVI — 65; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 72; Daytona 500 — 72; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 74; CPAC begins — 76; St. Pete Grand Prix — 77; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 83; The Oscars — 109; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 152; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 171; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 174; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 211; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 222; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 266; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 301; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 336; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 339; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 371; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 434; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 595; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 679; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 959.

— TOP STORY —

Helped by federal aid, Gov. Ron DeSantis spends big in $99.7 billion budget proposal” via John Kennedy of the USA Today Network — The “Freedom First” state budget is an election-year spending plan that increases dollars for schools and the environment while spreading pay raises and bonuses across a range of public sectors. DeSantis’ free-spending is helped by $3.5 billion in federal pandemic relief aid sent to Florida under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which Florida’s ruling Republicans are using to bolster state programs and projects. “Florida’s clicking on all cylinders when it comes to the economy and the budget,” DeSantis said. Democrats anticipated much of DeSantis’ focus when they held a news conference to spotlight economic inequities in Florida. A lack of affordable housing, child care, elder care and other needs of working families was certain to get short shrift, Democrats predicted. “Floridians can’t afford Florida,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Ron DeSantis outlines a blockbusting budget, with a little help from the feds.


—BUDGET NUGGETS —

DeSantis includes pay raises, health insurance premium protections” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — DeSantis‘ proposed nearly $100 billion spending plan would provide an average 4% pay increase for state employees and ensure their health insurance benefits remain the same through 2023. DeSantis’s budget proposes $255 million for career service state employee raises. The raises are in addition to previously approved pay increases set to take effect next year, which would bring all employee pay to at least $13 an hour. DeSantis’ budget also allocates $75.4 million to increase the base rate of more than 4,500 sworn law enforcement officers; $124.2 million to increase the base rate pay for correctional probation officers and inspectors who work for the Department of Corrections; and another $15.9 million to the department to implement an employee retention plan.

Ron DeSantis’ Freedom First Budget offers across-the-board pay raises for all state employees. Image via NBC News.

DeSantis budget includes raise for state workers, new emergency operations center” via James Call of the USA TODAY Capital Bureau — DeSantis wants to use $225 million to boost the pay for nearly 97,000 workers in the state personnel system, and another $228 million to provide sworn law enforcement officers a 25% pay increase. That salary increase alone, with 19,000 state workers in Leon County, adds roughly $44 million to local workers’ pay. “Every state employee under our budget will be able to see a salary increase,” DeSantis said Thursday. His budget, however, is just a proposal to lawmakers, who will produce the official state budget during the annual Legislative Session that starts Jan. 11. Health insurance premiums for state employees will remain frozen at current levels, and DeSantis calls for an expansion of benefits to include mental health coverage.

DeSantis includes Seminole Compact revenue in budget despite court blow” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Despite a federal judge throwing out Florida’s Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe, DeSantis has kept the anticipated revenue from that agreement in his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. The Biden administration had issued its OK for the Compact, which was supposed to bring in a minimum of $500 million a year for the next five years. But U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled last month that sports betting provisions within the deal allowed people to place bets while not on Tribe property, violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. However, DeSantis doesn’t expect that to be the last word. He expects the Compact to survive on appeal.

Amid state’s affordable housing crisis, DeSantis proposes highest spending in a decade” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times — The panel of academics and housing professionals assembled before the Florida Senate committee last week delivered a unified message: Florida is in the throes of an affordable housing crisis and more money is needed to keep the economy humming. Fueled by taxes on soaring real estate values, DeSantis on Thursday found $144 million more than he had last year in the state account and proposed $355 million in affordable housing initiatives as part of his $99.7 billion budget proposal. If legislators approve, it will mean the state would spend more than the $209 million they dedicated to workforce and low-income housing this budget year. And it could mean the largest amount spent on the issue in more than a decade.

DeSantis budget pushes for shorter prison guard shifts” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The budget includes a recommendation to implement 8.5-hour shifts at all correctional institutions. “Gov. DeSantis recognizes the challenges of long, sometimes unpredictable work hours for correctional officers and strongly supports FDC’s complete transition to 8.5-hour shifts at all state correctional institutions. Following the recommendation of national experts, shorter shifts will reduce staff attrition, use of force incidents, contraband and violent incidents. It will also support better work-life balance for officers,” asserted an email from the Department of Corrections. The move to 8.5-hour shifts would represent a remarkable change for at least some guards, who have been called on to work up to 16-hour shifts due to staffing shortages. Lawmakers are acutely aware of the issue.

Urban Search and Rescue teams get $10M boost in Governor’s 2022 budget” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ Freedom First Budget would provide a different kind of liberty: The freedom to be rescued when disaster strikes. DeSantis included in his proposed budget, released Thursday, $10 million for Urban Search and Rescue teams to fortify disaster response. Search and rescue teams were front and center this summer as teams scrambled to rescue survivors from the rubble of the Surfside condominium collapse in South Florida. But teams also serve as part of the first responders who are on the scene throughout the state when hurricanes hit and are deployed to other parts of the country to assist in various rescue missions. The $10 million boost won high praise from Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis.

‘Freedom First’ budget would continue SLERS payments” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ budget proposal includes millions in funding to continue the controversial tower lease agreement for the state’s police radio system, but not as much as lawmakers set aside for the current fiscal year. Lawmakers last Session approved a plan to send $165 million in nonrecurring money to radio company L3Harris to upgrade the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System. It also authorized $31.5 million a year in funding for the system for the next 15 years. Of that, $19 million will head to the Melbourne-based company to oversee the system and $12.5 million will pay to lease radio towers. DeSantis’ budget proposal for 2022-23 sets aside $10.6 million in payments for “tower relocation, lease agreements, and other efforts to posture DMS’ future updates” to SLERS.

FWC leadership praises conservation funding in DeSantis’ budget proposal” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is commending DeSantis for including millions of dollars for environmental initiatives in a new budget proposal unveiled Thursday. The FWC spotlighted just under $54 million in funding items included in DeSantis’ proposed $99.7 billion budget that would help conservation efforts. That includes $4.2 million for red tide research, $3.8 million for manatee care and $3 million for restoration of lakes, rivers and springs, among other items. FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton also added his praise for the budget’s focus on environmental issues.

DeSantis seeks $700K for crypto projects — The budget recommendation asks for $700,000 to use on pilot projects to help state agencies put blockchain technology to work. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, the requests included $250,000 for a blockchain pilot program aimed at helping AHCA suss out Medicaid fraud; $200,000 for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to create a blockchain system for title transfers; and $200,000 for the Department of Financial Services to launch a cryptocurrency that businesses could use to pay fees to the Department of State.

Nikki Fried pans DeSantis’ budget proposal — Agriculture Commissioner Fried, who is challenging DeSantis in 2022, blasted the Governor’s $99.7 billion budget proposal as one that doesn’t address the needs of everyday Floridians. “Floridians need a budget that addresses real issues and puts resources directly into their pockets, starting with tackling the costs of everyday living,” she said. “We need more affordable housing and health care. We need to invest in Bright Futures and find ways to reduce tuition costs as working families are overburdened by student loans. We need a leader focused on the issues right here at home … “ She also said DeSantis “should be thanking the Biden administration for stepping up and providing the support needed to address the state’s problems that the Governor has not only failed to fix but too often ignored.”

Nikki Fried says the newly announced budget proposal leaves everyday Floridians in the dust. Image via Colin Hackley.

‘Not enough’: House Democrats blast DeSantis budget as status quo” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A handful of House Democrats called DeSantis‘ newly proposed $99.7 billion 2022 state budget nothing more than a return to pre-pandemic status quo at a time when Floridians now need much more. Democratic Reps. Anna Eskamani and Guillermo Smith, Angie Nixon, and Michele Rayner said Thursday the Governor was not proposing nearly enough for affordable housing, public education, health care, property insurance, or social services. They also said many of the budget increases they like can be traced to the Governor using federal money allotted to Florida through the American Rescue Plan pushed through last spring by Biden.

AIF cheers ‘Freedom First’ budget — DeSantis’ budget earned praise from The Associated Industries of Florida, one of the state’s largest business lobbies. AIF President Brewster Bevis was especially enthused by the four sales tax holidays in the spending plan. “Gov. DeSantis’ focus on fostering freedom and prosperity is undoubtedly helping our state economy thrive and creating a brighter future for all Floridians,” he said. “This proposed budget continues that important work with significant investments in our environment and science-based water quality projects, a high-quality education system, vital transportation projects, and workforce development.” He said AIF looks forward to working with the Governor and lawmakers “to ensure a pro-business environment for Florida’s employers and employees to flourish for years to come.”

— DATELINE TALLY —

DeSantis seeks new office to investigate elections, using statewide prosecutor — In November, the Governor floated the idea of a statewide law-enforcement office dedicated to pursuing election crimes, despite his earlier boast of the trouble-free 2020 elections in Florida. Now, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports that DeSantis is preparing a five-page bill outlining the Office of Election Crimes and Security, with a $6 million budget. Florida’s statewide prosecutor, appointed by the Attorney General, would have primary jurisdiction for “enforcement and prosecution of election law violations and election irregularities.” The prosecutor would take over investigations that are referred by local prosecutors and law enforcement.

Ana Maria Rodriguez files resolution to recognize Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Rodriguez has filed a resolution to recognize those suffering from Tardive Dyskinesia during the first week of May. Rodriguez’s resolution (SR 1206) would raise awareness for the ailment the week of May 1, 2022. Rodriguez backed a similar resolution last Session, as did Rep. John Snyder. DeSantis also signed a proclamation to help spotlight the movement disorder. Several other states have also recognized TD Awareness Week. But last year’s resolution was not recurring, meaning Rodriguez is again filing a measure to repeat the effort in 2022. The Movement Disorders Policy Coalition describes TD as “an involuntary, sometimes irreversible movement disorder that can occur due to use of antipsychotics, commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, or other medications.”

Ana Maria Rodriguez must refile to get another Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week.

—“Ralph Massullo seeks millions for Citrus, Hernando projects” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics

Nick DiCeglie bill would provide tax relief to property owners who harden buildings” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Individuals who take steps to harden their homes and businesses against natural disasters may be in line for tax relief, that’s if a new bill clears the upcoming Legislative Session. Rep. DiCeglie filed legislation that would provide tax relief to those preparing for Florida’s extreme weather climate. Specifically, the bill would allow sales tax refunds on building materials used to reinforce buildings against natural disasters like hurricanes. The bill lists examples of storm hardening improvements, including the installation of impact-resistant doors or windows, and installation improvements that better secure roofs on homes or businesses.

Abandoned cemeteries task force finalizes recommendations for Legislature” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Florida’s Abandoned African American Cemeteries Task Force met for its fifth meeting Thursday as the group finalized its list of policy recommendations and continued work on a final report. One of the top take-aways: Lawmakers must understand the job is not done. The report will include a list of known and researched cemeteries. But it will also contain speculated and not-yet researched sites where cemeteries are suspected. The rediscovery of Zion Cemetery beneath a Tampa housing complex spurred the unearthing of lost, forgotten and abandoned Black cemeteries throughout the state. The Task Force was formed earlier this year with the mission to submit a list of policy recommendations to the legislature along with a report on the status of abandoned African American cemeteries throughout the state.

— STATEWIDE —

>>>Gov. DeSantis will hold a press conference at Jacksonville International Airport at 9:30 a.m.

Florida sees uptick in Obamacare enrollment” via Rachel Levy of POLITICO — About 4.6 million people signed up for Obamacare through the fifth week of open enrollment, with roughly 923,000 people newly enrolled. Enrollment is up 20% in Texas and 9% in Florida compared to this time last year, administration officials told reporters Wednesday evening, crediting increased subsidies from the American Rescue Plan. These two states also have some of the highest uninsured rates in the country. Texas leads the nation with 17.5% of its population uninsured. Florida ranks fifth, with 12.3% of its population uninsured. Last year, through the fifth week of enrollment, 1,119,200 people in Florida and 621,085 in Texas had signed up. This year, those numbers are up to 1,220,238 in Florida and 747,860 in Texas.

Florida continues to embrace Obamacare. Image via AP.

DeSantis administration predicts spike in K-12 enrollment — The DeSantis administration estimates K-12 enrollment will increase by 118,287 students, or roughly 4%, in the 2022-23 school year. As Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports, the predicted increase comes after two school years of decreased enrollment due to the pandemic. At one point, enrollment had dropped by 76,000 and lawmakers blasted school districts for being unable to locate many of those who went “missing.” To prepare for the influx, the administration is pitching $23.9 billion in K-12 funding, including record per-pupil funding and money for teacher bonuses. The Governor’s budget proposal, if accurate, would represent an enrollment increase of 170,000 since the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Snowbirds could feel chill: Citizens revives idea of surcharge on second homes” via William Rabb of the Insurance Journal — Citizens Property Insurance Corp. officials have spoken extensively about the need to depopulate the insurer’s rolls and reduce its dramatic growth rate, and the measures Florida lawmakers can take to help with that. “One idea has been, ‘Why don’t you get rid of the rate cap on second homes?’” Citizens’ Christine Ashburn said at a summit panel. Such a plan is workable, but in some cases, Citizens’ rates need to be adjusted downward for a number of reasons, she said. So, a concept, endorsed in a bill sponsored last year by state Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, is to place a 20% surcharge on policies for homes that are not primary residences.

USA-IT, FTW team up for roundtable on illegal trade — United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade and Florida TaxWatch are holding a roundtable discussion on combating illegal trade at 1 p.m. Tuesday at World Trade Center Miami. USA-IT is concerned with the illegal trafficking of drugs, tobacco, wildlife, and even people and is working with policymakers to coordinate efforts to combat criminal networks. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who has made human trafficking an area of focus, will open the event with a video message on the topic. The roundtable discussion will include representatives from the Florida Retail Federation, Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, James Madison Institute, the World Trade Center, and the Greater Miami Free Trade Zone, among others.

December citrus forecast sees slight dip in orange production, slight increase in grapefruit” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting its 2021-22 citrus forecast, revising down its orange production forecast while increasing its estimate for the number of grapefruits produced. Both changes, announced Thursday, are slight. The shifts come after November’s forecast made no changes to the USDA’s original estimates from October. Analysts say Florida will produce 28 million boxes of Valencia oranges during the 2021-22 season. That projection has not changed. But forecasters now say Florida will produce 18 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges, down from a projection of 19 million boxes in October and November. That drops Florida’s projected orange production overall from 47 million boxes of oranges to 46 million.

Florida could be a world leader in fighting blue-green algae, task force members agree” via Amy Bennett Williams of Naples Daily News — With an eye to making Florida a leader in cyanobacteria response, the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force met Wednesday at Fort Pierce’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. The theme of the day was “Data Collection and Predictive Modeling.” In plainer language, members focused on understanding algae research in order to forecast future blooms. the task force is headed by Florida’s Chief Science Officer, Mark Rains, a professor who directs USF’s School of Geosciences. Members represent some of the state’s leading water scientists, including Florida Gulf Coast University Marine Sciences Professor Mike Parsons, who directs the Coastal Watershed Institute and Vester Field Station in Bonita Springs. Task force members pointed out that though cross-institute collaboration already is happening informally, there needs to be more of it.

Starving manatees will be fed romaine lettuce in state plan to save their lives this winter” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — Florida wildlife officials will undertake an unprecedented effort to feed manatees flocking to warm water sites this winter hoping to avert another convulsion of starvation and death. A Wednesday announcement outlining the supplemental feeding of romaine lettuce to animals showing signs of starvation. This year, a record-shattering 1,038 manatees have died statewide with about 75% of deaths occurring along the Atlantic coast, especially in the Indian River Lagoon where seagrasses were wiped out by algae blooms and nutrient-laden runoff. The feeding is one of a handful of plans to thwart another winter famine that so overwhelmed rescue organizations that manatee carcasses were towed to spill islands and left to rot.

Florida comes to the rescue of starving manatees.

Waiving rules for moving Florida gopher tortoises helps only developers” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — In an executive order issued on Nov. 18 with no warning, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s executive director, Eric Sutton, waived several long-standing rules for moving gopher tortoises out of the way of new development. One rule he waived says you can’t move a tortoise more than 100 miles away from its home. The commission is supposed to get a report on these changes on Dec. 15. The meeting agenda doesn’t say anything about the commissioners overturning this boneheaded move, or even informing Sutton, “You’re now on Santa’s naughty list.” I don’t know if the gopher tortoises are upset about this executive order. But the biologists who study gopher tortoises are definitely freaked out.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: 218 deaths and 2,305 cases added. Hospitalizations tick down” via Michelle Marchante and Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida on Thursday reported 218 more deaths and 2,305 additional COVID-19 cases. Of the deaths added, about 73% occurred over the past 28 days and about 45% in the last two weeks, according to Herald calculations of CDC data. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,708,204 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 62,007 deaths. In the past seven days, on average, the state has added 54 deaths and 1,795 cases per day. There were 1,389 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida.

Booster shots are on the rise in South Florida as omicron arrives in the state” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — With the arrival of the highly-mutated omicron variant in the state, Floridians are heeding the advice of medical experts and getting boosters. On Dec. 4, Florida hit a new daily high for the number of boosters administered — more than 97,000 doses. And most days this week, more than 50,000 booster doses went into the arms of Floridians, leading to a weekly total that surpasses any other since they became available in early October, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention data shows. Overall, the seven-day average for vaccinations in Florida is at the highest level since May 23.

Appeals court upholds Escambia County judge’s ruling to allow evictions in pandemic” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — Most of the country adhered to a CDC eviction moratorium that was in place between September 2020 and July 2021 that prevented landlords from evicting tenants who were unable to make rent payments due to the impacts of COVID-19. But 1st Circuit Judge Patricia Kinsey determined in a November 2020 local case that the moratorium rose to levels of government overreach, and eviction cases in the First Circuit continued. Attorneys for the tenant in the case appealed Kinsey’s ruling, but last week, the 1st District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

Evictions get the green light to continue in Escambia County, Image via AP.

— 2022 —

Ron DeSantis beats every Republican in hypothetical 2024 matchup if Donald Trump doesn’t run” via Matthew Impelli of Newsweek — A new poll, conducted by Harris/Harvard CAPS, asked respondents who they’d vote for in a hypothetical 2024 Republican primary election if Trump does not run. According to the poll, DeSantis led all other candidates as 30% of respondents said they’d vote for him. Following behind DeSantis was former Vice President Mike Pence, who received 25% of support from respondents. Among other possible candidates, 13% said they’d vote for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 8% said they’d vote for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 7% sided with former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley and 10% said they would support another candidate.

The Lincoln Project asks voters to support ‘the Americans who want to protect America’ — A new ad from The Lincoln Project takes aim at Republican lawmakers who attempted to overturn the 2020 election or backed bills making it harder to vote, claiming such actions are “how democracies die.” In addition to the 147 congressional Republicans who voted against certifying Biden’s win, the ad notes that GOP lawmakers “passed or are trying to pass” more restrictive voting laws in 49 states. “There aren’t good people on both sides in this fight,” the ad narrator states. “In 2022, democracy is on the ballot. Vote for the Americans who want to protect America.” The Lincoln Project said the ad will air Dec. 9-10 in the Washington D.C. and Palm Beach media markets.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

UF free speech controversy becomes an issue in Florida Governor’s race” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s flagship university, battling allegations that it is too easily swayed by political leaders, has suddenly become a topic in the Governor’s race. As concerns mount over academic freedom at the University of Florida, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Fried have separately called for action, while also taking DeSantis to task. In a letter Wednesday to the Board of Governors, the governing body of the state university system, Crist called for an investigation into the allegations brought forth in a report this week by the university’s Faculty Senate. His letter came a day after Fried, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, called for the firing of Mori Hosseini as chairperson of UF’s board of trustees.

Annette Taddeo lands cache of local endorsements — Sen. Taddeo’s gubernatorial campaign on Thursday touted endorsements from Rep. Kevin Chambliss, former Rep. Ricardo Rangel and former Village of Pinecrest Vice Mayor James McDonald. “Sen. Annette Taddeo had demonstrated that she doesn’t just prioritize minority communities during election time, but she has stayed engaged with those same communities in and out of season,” Chambliss said. Rangel lauded her as the embodiment of “what it means to be a strong Democrat and a Floridian.” And McDonald praised her “track record of being a proponent for the hardworking people of Florida.” Taddeo, a Miami Democrat, entered the Primary in mid-October and had raised $650,000 for her campaign heading into November.

Broward Commissioner Dale Holness didn’t disclose his rental income, ethics panel finds” via Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — The Florida Commission on Ethics concluded Holness, who recently lost a congressional primary by just 5 votes, violated state requirements by not reporting all of his income for years while serving as a Broward County commissioner. Although he listed his county commission salary and Lauderhill pension where he served as a city commissioner, state investigators said he did not report income for two companies he owns from 2016-2019, and accompanying income he receives from rental properties.

Blaise Ingoglia has $2M banked for Senate bid — Spring Hill Republican Rep. Ingoglia entered December with $2.05 million on hand between his campaign account and his political committees, Government Gone Wild and Friends of Blaise Ingoglia. Ingoglia, who is in his fourth term in the House, is running for state Senate. “The grassroots is the heart of our party, and I am humbled by the incredible enthusiasm and support our campaign is receiving. I am excited to continue defending the conservative values under attack by the radical Left and the issues that matter most to Floridians all the way to victory in November,” Ingoglia said. Ingoglia is currently signed up to run for Senate District 10, where redistricting may put him into Primary battle with Rep. Massullo.

Blaise Ingoglia is building an impressive war chest for his Senate campaign. Image via Colin Hackley.

Orlando Lamas announces $150K raised for HD 111 bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Days ahead of the deadline by which candidates must report all fundraising from last month, Lamas announced Wednesday that his campaign has amassed more than $150,000 since filing in March to run for House District 111. Lamas, a Hialeah-born-and-raised architect and general contractor, is running to succeed Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, who reaches term limits next year and is running for the Miami-Dade County Commission. Lamas’ campaign reported raising nearly $118,000 through Oct. 31, including at least $40,500 of his own money.

Daniel Sotelo taps freight, real estate to cross $150K in unopposed HD 118 bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — With another decent round of fundraising last month, Sotelo has now amassed more than $150,000 for his still-unopposed bid to succeed fellow Republican Anthony Rodriguez in House District 118. Sotelo added $9,000 to his campaign coffers in November, including a $1,000 self-contribution but not counting a $1,000 transfer from his political committee, Floridians for a Brighter Future. Altogether, Sotelo has raised more than $155,000 and spent just under $5,000 since launching his campaign in June. Much of his funding is self-given, including a $50,000 loan he gave his campaign at its onset and some $1,000 kick-ins since through his various holdings.

— CORONA NATION —

The pandemic of the vaccinated is here” via Rachel Gutman of The Atlantic — Even before the arrival of omicron, the winter months were going to be tough for parts of the U.S. Enter a new variant that appears better able to evade immunity, and that seasonal wave could end up a tsunami. Back in July, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced that COVID-19 had become “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” an unfortunate turn of phrase that was soon picked up by the President. Now the flaws in its logic are about to be exposed on what could be a terrifying scale. Unvaccinated Americans will certainly pay the steepest price in the months to come, but the risks appear to have grown for everyone. The pandemic of the vaccinated can no longer be denied.

It’s now become the ‘pandemic of the vaccinated.’ Image via AP.

Some U.S. health care systems are struggling with delta-fueled hospitalizations.” via Eduardo Medina of The New York Times — Health officials may be bracing for the Omicron variant to sweep through the country, but the delta variant remains the more imminent threat as it continues to drive an increase in hospitalizations. Health care workers said their situations had been worsened by staff shortages brought on by burnout, illnesses and resistance to vaccine mandates. More than 55,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized nationwide, far fewer than in September, but an increase of more than 15% over the past two weeks. The United States is averaging about 121,300 coronavirus cases a day, an increase of about 27% from two weeks ago, and reported deaths are up 12%, to an average of about 1,275 per day.

U.S. schools are closing unexpectedly, leaving parents in the lurch.” via Giulia Heyward of The New York Times — After a few months of relative calm, some public schools are going remote, or canceling class entirely, once a week, or even for a few weeks, because of teacher burnout or staff shortages. Several Michigan districts extended Thanksgiving break; three in Washington State unexpectedly closed on Nov. 12, the day after Veterans Day; and in Florida, Brevard schools used leftover “hurricane days” to close schools Thanksgiving week. Some closings have occurred with little notice, causing major logistical problems for parents and worries that children will fall further behind. For many districts, remote learning days are a last-ditch effort to prevent teachers who say they are burned out from resigning after a tough year of working with learning loss and putting in overtime to make up for labor shortages.

More than 200 million people in the U.S. are now fully vaccinated, though deaths and cases are still rising” via Adela Suliman of The Washington Post — The United States reached a significant milestone late Wednesday, with more than 200 million people now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, about 60% of the population. In the past week, an average of 1.92 million doses per day were administered, a 35% increase over the week before. The achievement comes as the nation’s tallies of daily deaths and new cases rose in the past week and hospitalization rates jumped by 10%. The looming threat of the newly identified omicron variant of the coronavirus also hangs over the country as it enters the holiday season.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout for young children is slow in many states” via Jon Kamp of The Wall Street Journal — COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 to 11 years old are off to a slow start in many parts of the U.S., federal data show, underscoring the challenges health officials face in persuading parents to inoculate their children. Roughly 5 million, or 18%, of the estimated 28.4 million U.S. children in the 5-to-11 age bracket have gotten at least one shot in the five weeks since they were cleared to get vaccinated, the data show. The picture varies by region, with rates in several New England states above 30% and some states in the South far off the national pace, an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of the data shows.

FDA expands Pfizer COVID-19 booster, opens extra dose to age 16” via Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone of the Orlando Sentinel — The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters, ruling that 16- and 17-year-olds can get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine. The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant. The FDA gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, if it’s been six months since their last shot.

Boosters for everyone! (Almost.) Image via AP.

Rapid coronavirus tests are still hard to find in many places, despite Biden vows” via Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun, Laurie McGinley, Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Biden announced last week that rapid coronavirus tests were a pillar of his plan to fight the new and potentially more transmissible omicron variant, now confirmed in at least 21 states. But nearly a year into his administration, the availability of low-cost coronavirus tests that return results in as little as 15 minutes remains an oft-promised but still unrealized capability in large swathes of the country, a far cry from the situation in countries such as Britain and Singapore, where the government purchased the kits last spring and distributed millions of them free or at low cost.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

JPMorgan says 2022 to see full global recovery” via Reuters — JP Morgan predicted on Wednesday that 2022 will mark the end of the coronavirus pandemic and see a full global economic recovery. The bank’s outlook report for next year said new vaccines and therapeutics would result in a “strong cyclical recovery, a return of global mobility, and a release of pent-up demand from consumers.” Marko Kolanovic, its Chief Global Markets Strategist & Co-Head of Global Research, said the bank expected the U.S. S&P 500 (.SPX) to rise nearly 8% to 5050 points, emerging market stocks to surge 18% and 10-year U.S. Treasury yields — a key driver of global borrowing costs — to rise to 2.25% by the end of 2022. “Our view is that 2022 will be the year of a full global recovery, an end of the pandemic, and a return to normal economic and market conditions we had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Kolanovic said.

It’s a rosier picture for 2022.

As millions of jobs go unfilled, employers look to familiar faces in ‘boomerang employees’” via Chris Woodyard of USA Today — You can only play so much golf. The Great Resignation, as it has become known, has led to massive disruption and record numbers of job openings. But for former workers who took an exit ramp as the pandemic took hold, the dream of endless days on the links, snoozing, or watching old TV reruns may not have proved fulfilling. Employers who seek out former workers can tab top performers or those with specialized skills. Former employees might be thinking differently about a hole in their resume in a tight job market.

Long COVID-19 is destroying careers, leaving economic distress in its wake” via Christopher Rowland of The Washington Post — Across America, many of the nearly 50 million people infected with the coronavirus continue to suffer from some persistent symptoms, with a smaller subset experiencing such unbearable fatigue and other maladies that they can’t work. Long COVID-19 is testing not just the medical system, but also government safety nets that are not well suited to identifying and supporting people with a newly emerging chronic disease that has no established diagnostic or treatment plan. Insurers are denying coverage for some tests, the public disability system is hesitant to approve many claims, and even people with long-term disability insurance say they are struggling to get benefits. Employers are also being tested, as they must balance their desire to get workers back on the job full time with the realities of a slow recovery for many patients.

COVID-19 spurs biggest rise in life-insurance payouts in a century” via Leslie Scism of The Wall Street Journal — The COVID-19 pandemic last year drove the biggest increase in death benefits paid by U.S. life insurers since the 1918 influenza epidemic, an industry trade group said. Death-benefit payments rose 15.4% in 2020 to $90.43 billion, mostly due to the pandemic, according to the American Council of Life Insurers. In 1918, payments surged 41%. The hit to the insurance industry was less than expected early in the pandemic because many of the victims were older people who typically have smaller policies. The industry paid out $78.36 billion in 2019, and payouts have typically increased modestly each year. COVID-19 also spurred the fastest rise in sales of insurance policies in 25 years, an industry research group said.

— MORE CORONA —

The pandemic effect on education: A special report” via Adi Odzer of NBC Miami — Now that the first semester is nearly over, teaching and learning are happening in classrooms all over South Florida, but no one is pretending that the pandemic hasn’t changed education. “So, what we’ve learned through COVID is that education is constantly fluid, and how we deliver services to our students is constantly evolving,” Broward County Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said. Broward and Miami-Dade are each doing similar things to get students back up to speed academically, and there’s some evidence that their strategies are working. Having activities like drama, and sports again is helping to get kids back in step emotionally, Cartwright said. “We’re really having to take that holistic approach, that whole child approach and it’s not only academics … ” she said.

COVID-19 has left its mark on education.

A GOP Senator suggested gargling mouthwash to kill the coronavirus. Doctors and Listerine are skeptical.” via Andrew Jeong of The Washington Post — Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin recommended mouthwash as a treatment for the coronavirus during a town hall meeting Wednesday, immediately drawing criticism for suggesting gargling would offer protection. The Senator has been criticized for spreading conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and has promoted the use of drugs that have shown little to no evidence that they are effective in treating COVID-19. YouTube this year suspended his account for violating the company’s medical misinformation policies. He has also expressed skepticism about the efficacy of coronavirus vaccine mandates and doses, which have undergone vigorous health testing. His latest remarks run up against medical advice from a major producer of mouthwash and health experts.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

White House braces for legal, political showdown over vaccine mandates” via Lauren Egan, Sahil Kapur and Jonathan Allen of NBC News — Biden‘s vaccination mandates are under assault. The mandates were heralded as a way to help get America out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Biden now finds himself fighting for them on three fronts: in the judicial system, in Congress and in the court of public opinion. The White House says it is prepared for the fight. A legal team has been assembled to wage the battle in the courts. Biden is prepared to veto any legislation that Congress might manage to pass to erode his mandates as bipartisan opposition grows. And he will keep talking to the public about his goals. Biden is gambling that the long-term value of defeating the disease far outweighs short-term political considerations.

The battle over mandates is gonna get ugly.

Biden warns against ‘backward slide’ in democracy around the globe at outset of two-day summit” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — Biden warned world leaders Thursday of a “backward slide” in democracy around the globe and urged them to champion a form of a government that he said needs concerted work to be sustained through an “inflection point in history.” Biden’s remarks came at the outset of a two-day, virtual “Summit for Democracy” that he convened with the goal of rallying 110 invited nations against the forces of authoritarianism. His rallying cry came 11 months after a deadly attack on a democratic institution at home: the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that interrupted Congress’ count of electoral votes from the November 2020 Presidential election.

Jill Biden rejects ‘ridiculous’ concerns on President’s mental fitness” via Judy Kurtz of The Hill — Biden is dismissing any concerns about his mental fitness. “I think that’s ridiculous,” Biden says in an interview for this week’s “CBS Sunday Morning.” Portions of the sit-down at Camp David with Rita Braver were released Thursday. Biden shook her head as Braver asked about some recent polling that the CBS News journalist described as showing “quite a few Americans have some questions about the President’s current mental fitness.” A survey conducted last month found that only 46% of respondents agree that 79-year-old Biden “is mentally fit,” while 48% disagreed. Biden also opened up about her role as First Lady being more difficult than she predicted before she entered the East Wing. Biden chalked up the challenge to the nonstop nature of working in the White House.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Democrats just proved they can get around the filibuster — when they want to” via Tré Easton of The Washington Post — The complicated agreement reached in Congress this week to ensure the nation doesn’t default on its debt is a Frankenstein’s monster of arcane legislative procedures. The House-passed bill creates a one-time process in which 10 Republicans will technically agree to limit debate on a resolution to eventually allow Senate Democrats to vote to increase the debt ceiling through a simple majority. Republicans don’t have to vote for a specific debt ceiling bill or increase amount. They are just agreeing to not filibuster the creation of this one-time process. When it comes to the debt ceiling, Republicans have been insistent that Democrats raise the debt ceiling on their own, while refusing until now to allow a simple majority vote.

The filibuster is toast if Democrats want it enough.

Mitch McConnell-Kevin McCarthy divide grows as Donald Trump aims to keep his grip on GOP” via Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona of CNN — With control of both chambers at stake in next year’s midterms, the two top Republican leaders have increasingly taken sharply divergent positions on major issues dominating Congress, reflecting both the different institutions that they lead but also how they view the GOP’s posture headed into a hugely consequential election season. With a 50-seat minority in a chamber where 60 votes are needed to get anything done, the GOP’s longest-serving Senate leader has been forced to cut deals with Democrats and Biden, accords that have run into a buzz saw of opposition from McCarthy and House Republicans. McConnell, more than 20 years McCarthy’s senior, believes they can govern as the GOP fights tooth-and-nail to derail much of theBiden agenda.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mario Díaz-Balart ask feds for $1.5B for Everglades restoration” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Reps. Wasserman Schultz and Díaz-Balart have signed a bipartisan letter asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allocate $1.5 billion for Everglades restoration. The letter was sent to Biden Tuesday, the same day U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sent a similar missive to Michael Connor, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. The money would come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which the Democratic-controlled Congress approved in November. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act carves out funding for the Army Corps, which includes $11.6 billion for Corps construction projects and another $1.9 billion for aquatic ecosystem restoration efforts.

From grime to crumbling masonry, U.S. parks get a makeover” via Rebecca Reynolds of The Associated Press — Near the Tidal Basin in Washington, crews have cleaned the grime off the white marble exterior of the Jefferson Memorial and fixed cracked stone to prevent falling debris. At the Statue of Liberty, plans are in the works to waterproof the exterior of the massive stone fort built in 1807 that serves as the monument’s base. And at New River Gorge in West Virginia, one of the newest national parks, historical masonry grills have been restored near the Grandview Visitor Center, which features a breathtaking overlook of the valley and waterway 1,400 feet below. Under legislation passed by Congress in 2020, some of America’s most spectacular natural settings and historical icons, from the monuments of the East Coast to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite in the West, are getting a makeover.

— CRISIS —

‘This call never happened’: Ex-D.C. Guard leaders push back as internal Army report on Jan. 6 emerges” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Two former top D.C. National Guard officials claim that an internal Army report on its response to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol is loaded with falsehoods. The Army report lays the foundation for the Pentagon’s defense against criticism that it took too long to approve the Guard’s response to the Capitol attack. The March 18 report says Guard members weren’t prepared to respond quickly to the riot and describes multiple communications between top Army officials and the D.C. Guard’s commander, then-Maj. Gen. William Walker. The report and the subsequent pushback from Guard officials highlight the growing controversy about how exactly the military handled the attack on the Capitol.

An Army report on the Capitol riot is filled with BS, the National Guard says. Image via AP.

Lawyer: Capitol Police whistleblowers face retaliation” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — Multiple people who worked in the Capitol Police intelligence division on Jan. 6 raised concerns about the department before and after the insurrection and have since faced retaliation. “I represent a group of U.S. Capitol Police whistleblowers who worked in IICD on Jan. 6, 2021,” Dan Gebhardt of the Solomon Law Firm. “My clients are experiencing retaliation for speaking out about Capitol Police management failures related to Jan. 6, 2021,” he added. Dated Nov. 8, that letter said Capitol Police intelligence analysts have made at least 93 complaints about “abuse and mismanagement of the USCP intelligence operations” before and after Jan. 6.

Low-profile heiress who ‘played a strong role’ in financing Jan. 6 rally is thrust into spotlight” via Beth Reinhard, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Eight days before the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, a little-known Trump donor living thousands of miles away in the Tuscan countryside quietly wired a total of $650,000 to three organizations that helped stage and promote the event. The lack of fanfare was typical of Julie Fancelli, the 72-year-old daughter of the founder of the Publix grocery store chain. Even as she has given millions to charity through a family foundation, Fancelli has lived a private life, splitting time between her homes in Florida and Italy, and doting on her grandchildren, according to family members and friends. Now, Fancelli is facing public scrutiny.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Appeals court denies Trump effort to block White House records from Jan. 6 investigators” via Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — A federal appeals court panel has rejected Trump’s effort to stop congressional Jan. 6 investigators from obtaining his White House records. “On the record before us, former President Trump has provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the Political Branches over these documents,” wrote Judge Patricia Millett of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, joined by Judges Robert Wilkins and Ketanji Brown Jackson. The court delayed the effect of its order for two weeks, allowing Trump’s attorneys time to either ask the full bench of the D.C. Circuit to consider the issue or take it to the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump gets a legal smackdown. Image via Bloomberg.

New York attorney general seeks Trump’s deposition as part of civil fraud investigation” via Josh Dawsey and David A. Fahrenthold of The Washington Post — New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking a deposition from Trump early next year as part of her investigation into potential fraud inside the Trump Organization. James has requested to take his testimony on Jan. 7 at her New York office as part of a civil investigation into whether Trump’s company committed financial fraud in the valuations of properties to different entities, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing. One of the people familiar with the investigation said James is examining whether widespread fraud “permeated the Trump Organization.” In a statement, the Trump Organization decried the move as politically motivated.

National Archives: Mark Meadows may not have stored all Trump-era records ‘properly’” via Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney, and Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — Meadows and the National Archives are in talks over potential records he did “not properly” turn over from his personal phone and email account. “NARA is working with counsel to Mark Meadows to obtain any presidential records that were not properly copied or forwarded into his official account,” a NARA spokesperson said. A source close to Trump’s ex-chief of staff confirmed that Meadows is working with the National Archives to turn over any documents that he was supposed to provide upon the end of Trump’s term. The National Archives acknowledgment comes as Meadows clashes with the Jan. 6 committee, which is seeking information about his knowledge of Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election.

A conservative group debunks Trump’s voter-fraud claims (yet again)” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Repeatedly now, conservatives who are sympathetic to voter-fraud allegations have conducted audits in the key states that Trump contested in 2020. And repeatedly, they have come up empty when it comes to finding anything amounting to the widespread fraud that Trump claimed, and they have often explicitly debunked him. The latest example comes in Wisconsin, where the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty conducted its own 10-month review parallel. The report found that more than 23,000 votes “did not comply with existing legal requirements” and that this number exceeded Biden’s 20,608-vote margin in the state. But it notes that it’s very unlikely, even if all those votes were excluded, that the result would have been different.

Trump’s 2022 endorsements are earlier, bolder and more dangerous than when he was President” via MacKenzie Wilkes and Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight — Almost since the moment of his inauguration, Trump has been the kingmaker of the Republican Party. First, Trump is endorsing more candidates earlier. So far in the 2022 midterm cycle, he has endorsed 46 candidates in Republican primaries to fill roles in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and state Governorships. So far in the 2022 elections, Trump has endorsed 21 non-incumbents in contested Republican primaries for these offices, 46% of his total endorsements. Finally, not only is Trump endorsing earlier in national races, but he’s also backing candidates in state-level elections, particularly for secretary of state.


— LOCAL NOTES —

Alberto Carvalho is leaving to become L.A. Unified School District superintendent” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Carvalho is leaving the job he has held since 2008 to head the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. Carvalho, as head of the nation’s fourth largest school district and the state’s largest, has become an international public official, especially this year as he battled with DeSantis over mask mandates. This is not the first time Carvalho considered taking another leadership role at a school district in another state. In February 2018, Carvalho told New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that he would accept the job as head of the city’s school district, only to turn it down during an emergency meeting of the Miami-Dade County School Board.

Welcome to Los Angeles, Alberto Carvalho. Image via AP.

Will a new sheriff take over Miami-Dade’s police department in 2025? A fight is brewing” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — An elected sheriff is coming to town, but Miami-Dade County’s government may not be ready to give up all its policing power. Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment three years ago that, among other things, requires Miami-Dade to join all other counties in the state and elect a sheriff by the end of 2024 to take office in Jan. 2025. Currently, Miami-Dade’s Mayor holds the powers of sheriff, placing Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in charge of a county police force with 4,700 employees and an $815 million budget. In a recent interview, Levine Cava said she may want to keep control of much of that police force if she wins a second term in 2024.

New Miami International Airport hotel builder to be chosen in early 2022” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — After months in limbo, Miami-Dade County’s plan to build the first new hotel at Miami International Airport in six decades will advance this month through a second bid request phase meant to determine a winner among three development firms. Miami-Dade will issue a “Phase II” request for proposals by the end of December. The second RFP will mark the first significant step forward in nine months for the project, which the Miami-Dade Commission approved in 2019 as part of a $5 billion MIA overhaul. That ongoing initiative, set to unfold through 2035, includes plans for at least one, but likely two, new airport hotels: one east of the Dolphin Garage by the North Terminal, where the hotel in current contemplation is to go, and another central to all terminals.

Can DeSantis’ Broward County Commission appointee stay until 2024 as announced?” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ appointee to the Broward County Commission hasn’t yet taken his seat, but a fight may be brewing over how long he gets to stay. Torey Alston was appointed to become the representative of District 9 on the Broward County Commission, to fill Commissioner Dale Holness’ seat. Holness resigned to run for Congress. The Nov. 23 news release from the Governor’s office says Alston will serve the centrally located district until November 2024. But not so fast, says Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller, who has also served in the state Senate. The Constitution calls for an election if the term of an unexpired, vacant office is 28 months or longer, Geller pointed out.

Palm Beach County commissioners do a double-take after learning land donation to UF more than triple the value” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — As University of Florida officials and government representatives hash out details of a deal to bring a campus to downtown West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County Commissioners learned Tuesday their donation of land for the campus would be more generous than previously thought. Part of the deal gets Palm Beach County, the city of West Palm Beach and real estate developer Jeff Greene to give UF a combined 12 acres of public and private land in an area east of Tamarind Avenue known as Government Hill. The property appraiser’s office gave the county-owned 5 acres of public land an assessed value of $12.8 million. But the market value of this land, based on the average of two appraisals sought by county staff, amounted to $42 million.

Budweiser Clydesdales to return to Southwest Florida” via WINK — The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales are trotting back to Southwest Florida and will be making six stops in the area over the next two weeks. The Clydesdales’ appearances in Southwest Florida are one of the hundreds by the traveling hitches. Horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdales hitch must be at least 3 years of age, stand approximately 6-feet at the shoulder, and weigh an average of 2,000 pounds. They must also be bay in color, have four white legs and a blaze of white on the face and black mane and tail. They must also have a gentle temperament because they meet millions of people each year.

Cruise ships have returned to Key West. Locals gathered to protest one ship’s arrival” via Gwen Filosa of FL Keys News — Cruise ships began returning to Key West two weeks ago, ending a 20-month shutdown due to the pandemic. About 200 people on Thursday morning showed up to send a message to cruise lines that large ships holding a few thousand passengers aren’t welcomed by all in Key West. They were protesting the arrival of the Norwegian Dawn, gathering at the city-owned Mallory Pier, holding signs and flags denoting support for Safer Cleaner Ships, a group that says it stands for responsible tourism that requires smaller ships coming to town. “We are not done fighting this,” said Arlo Haskell, one of the group’s organizers, addressing the crowd with a microphone and speaker. “We are far from done.”

Key West residents protest the arrival of the Norwegian Dawn. Image via WLRN.

Packed house: In Dunnellon, a resounding no for Florida’s proposed northern turnpike extension” via Austin L. Miller of the Ocala Star-Banner — The City Council on Wednesday directed staff to draft a letter opposing the possible northern extension of the Florida Turnpike. Mayor Bill White and council members Jan Cubbage, Louise Kenny, Anita Williams and Valerie Hanchar spoke against the project during a well-attended workshop at City Hall. Cubbage urged her colleagues to let county commissioners and their state representatives know that they need to be unified in stopping the initiative before it goes any further. Kenny said now is the time to act. She said the sooner they make their voices and intentions known, the better chance they have in preventing the road extension plan from moving forward.

Large crowd gathers for town hall discussing push for Siesta Key incorporation” via Rick Adams of ABC-7 WWSB — Siesta Key residents packed a town hall meeting, most of whom were in support of incorporating the island. “People on the Key feel like things have come to the boiling point,” said Jann Webster. “We need to have a say, we need to have representation.” This town hall was hosted by Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Fiona McFarland. “This is a fantastic example of people that want to get involved in their own governance,” said McFarland. “This is the American democracy, the American experience and I think that’s fantastic.”

— TOP OPINION —

Republicans must stand with poll workers and election officials” via Trey Grayson and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for the Orlando Sentinel — Over the last year, election officials and poll workers have faced death threats. They’ve required police protection. Their children’s lives have been threatened. This is an alarming trend that bodes poorly for the fabric of our democracy. Republicans must stand up for this group’s safety in the face of ascendant extremism and conspiracy theories. Defending these public servants exemplifies three key conservative values: rule of law and limited government, fairness in our elections, and patriotism. Election officials and poll workers uphold the rule of law and curtail the power of government. Peaceful transitions of power are the American way.

— OPINIONS —

Marco Rubio gets it. Our economic addiction to China is a national security threat.” via Henry Olsen of The Washington Post — Rubio has spoken eloquently in recent years about the need to reorient the United States market economy to better support workers and families. His speech on Wednesday crystallizes that belief and persuasively shows how our lust for cheap goods is endangering our national security. Rubio delivered his remarks for the conservative reform group American Compass. The group, headed by Oren Cass, has emerged in recent years as a leading entity calling on conservatives to rethink their devotion to free-market fundamentalism. Rubio’s lecture argues that model is now threatened because of the decision to admit Communist China into the World Trade Organization in 2001. That choice allowed a nation committed to neither economic nor personal freedom to amass great wealth at the expense of the United States.

DeSantis’ proposed civilian force is more vanity than viable” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board — The adage “When you’re a hammer, everything else looks like a nail” may be the only sensible explanation for why Gov. DeSantis — a leader forever looking for a fight, even if it’s in an empty room — is now loudly banging on about launching a 200-volunteer civilian military force that would be solely under his control. DeSantis’ idea to revive the Florida State Guard, which was last in existence during the World War II era and would be armed with a $3.5 million budget for training and equipment, would “solve” a problem that doesn’t exist while potentially causing actual problems that might not have otherwise surfaced.

A proposal to return Florida to partisan School Board races is a really bad idea” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — It’s not often that there are so many things wrong with an issue before the Legislature, you don’t know where to start listing them. In fact, it’s hard to find anything good to say about the proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 244, sponsored by state Sen. Gruters. Gruters is chair of the Republican Party of Florida, which enhances chances of this bad idea getting through the 2022 legislative session but, thankfully, it should have a hard time getting public approval. Sponsorship by the GOP chair might be the first red flag, warning that this is a highly partisan idea. Its approval by a 5-4 party-line vote in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, with all Republicans voting “Aye” and all Democrats “Nay,” might be a second clue to its partisan pedigree.

Denisha Merriweather: Black families in Florida all in for education choice” via Florida Politics — The great migration of Black families to choice schools in Florida is a story that remains oddly overlooked. A new report seeks to change that. “Controlling the Narrative: Parental Choice, Black Empowerment & Lessons from Florida,” is a joint effort between Black Minds Matter, the American Federation for Children, and Step Up For Students about Florida’s increasingly choice-driven education system and how it has helped Black families and educators. Among the report’s takeaways: Black parents want options; better outcomes in choice schools; better outcomes in district schools and black educators’ benefit, too. The best available evidence shows Black families are using their power to find schools that better serve their children — and, in the process, driving quality throughout the system.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Gov. DeSantis announces his $99.7 billion “Freedom First” budget proposal. Democrats and critics say it’s all for political show.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— Today’s Sunrise interview is with Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida’s state director, who joins us to discuss concerns raised in a recent study that shows nursing home deaths rose 25% after Hurricane Irma.

— Also, Cathy Timuta, CEO of the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions joins the program as this week marks 30 years of service for the organization supporting healthy babies and their moms.

To listen, click on the image below:

— WEEKEND TV —

Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Ryan Gorman of WFLA Radio; Matt Tito, Republican candidate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District; Natasha Goodley, a Democrat and political consultant.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Travis Horn, president and CEO, Bullhorn Communications; Victor Di Maio, president and CEO, Di Maio Associates; Florida Politics reporter Janelle Irwin Taylor; Rick Wilson, editor of The Daily Beast and co-founder of The Lincoln Project.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion regarding the supply chain issues and how it’s affecting toy supplies and toy donations during the holiday season. Joining Walker are Rep. David Smith, retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel; Staff Sergeant Ash Jacques, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve/Coordinator, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation; Gary Schmidt, Toymakers of East Lake, Palm Harbor.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look at DeSantis’ proposed Freedom First budget, who benefits the most and where Tampa Bay could see funding increases.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: a one-on-one with Sen. Taddeo, who is now running for Democratic nomination for Florida Governor. Taddeo will discuss her run for Governor, primary challengers, and current policies by DeSantis.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Steve Vancore will talk with Tiffany Cruz of the Cruz Law Firm.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Rep. Angie Nixon; Jacksonville City Council candidates Tracye Polson and Nick Howland.

— ALOE —

Florida-based cruise line rebrands as Margaritaville at Sea” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville empire has found itself a party ship. The bar, restaurant and resort chain is launching Margaritaville at Sea, taking over control of the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica ship and rebranding it as the Margaritaville Paradise. The nearly 53,000-gross-ton, 1,308-passenger ship, will continue the two-night voyages between the Port of Palm Beach and Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line launched service in 2016 with its original vessel Bahamas Celebration, since sold and scrapped. What the company calls a multimillion rebranded version is slated to debut April 30, 2022, and will feature the signature Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville stylings in its cabins, suites and open spaces.

I’m on a boat, I’m on a boat.

Hot under the collar? Police say man used flamethrower to settle parking dispute” via Fresh Take Florida — Andre Abrams is facing three counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intending to kill. He posted a $15,000 bond last week and is awaiting a decision whether prosecutors will formally file criminal charges. The mother of one of the teens, Ashley Gainey, said Abrams frequently sprayed the flamethrower to scare off guests at her home. Gainey’s daughter, Nate’talya Baker, 16, fled the car with her friends as Abrams continued to spray flames toward them, police said. “When he shoots it, it lights the whole road up,” Gainey said. “It’s like it’s daylight outside. He’ll do it in the middle of the night.” Police identified the weapon in the Nov. 30 incident as an XM42 Lite Flamethrower, which shoots flames up to 20 feet.

— JINGLE, JINGLE —

Merry politicized Christmas” via Matt Labash of Slack Tide — Just yesterday, I received my favorite email so far — a Christmas-season gift arrived from the “Trump Christmas Store,” which is probably just a cutout for the Save American Safes From Greatness 501-BR549. On offer was a free red-hat-shaped “Trump Save America” Christmas ornament. Or it would be “free,” so long as I contributed a minimum of $75. Which is technically about 45 bucks more than I’d pay for the damn thing if I just bought it at Trumpshop.net. Not to mention $47 more than the Trump Las Vegas Christmas ornament (both available at trumpstore.com). The latter is “dazzling in gold embroidery … representing Trump Las Vegas and it’s {sic} beautiful architecture, the TRUMP sign is displayed on the top of the ornament, similar to the real building.”

Stuff these in your stocking.

A boat with ‘Let’s go Brandon’ Christmas lights won the holiday parade. Then the prize was revoked.” via Jonathan Edwards of The Washington Post — The 50-foot vessel named Southern Rock, owned by Bill Berger, went on to win the 25th annual Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade’s “Best in Show” award. Second place: the “Peace on Earth” boat. Berger’s win set off a four-day firestorm. The parade’s parent organization, the nonprofit Yorktown Foundation, disqualified the boat retroactively and stripped it of its title, citing its “overt political message.” The nonprofit’s board apologized and voted to continue the parade only if organizers put in safeguards to block political entries from future participation. “We absolutely apologize for this. We had no idea this was going to happen, and we regret it,” Walt Akers, one of the foundation’s board members, told WTKR.

‘You only have one’: NWFL women show single moms they matter with Christmas stocking drives” via Savannah Evanoff of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Kathy Inness was reading the Northwest Florida Daily News in December 2020 when she stumbled across an article that spoke to her, “Single mom turns pain into joy with stockings.” The Niceville resident saw how Melody Parkhurst, a former Fort Walton Beach resident, was collecting items through an Amazon wish list to put together holiday stockings for single mothers who likely wouldn’t receive one. As a former single mother of three, it was a feeling with which she felt familiar. Inness contacted Parkhurst a couple of months ago to start a Niceville stocking drive. Destin resident Amanda Lee also runs a Northwest Florida stocking drive, which she distributes to Destin United Methodist Church and Shelter House in Fort Walton Beach.

—“OCSO Deputies decorate trees for hospice” via Northwest Florida Daily News

What Ron LaFace is reading — “More than 1 million lights: World Equestrian Center goes big for its first holiday season” via Danielle Johnson of the Ocala Star-Banner — When the World Equestrian Center opened its doors last year in Ocala in December, it was poised to be a world-class facility for the horse community in Marion County and around the world. In nearly a year since its opening, the center continues to show its multipurpose uses for competitions and events, ranging from dog shows to marching band championships to this year’s monthlong Winter Wonderland, which will kick off WEC’s first official holiday season. The holiday festivities will begin on Friday, Nov. 26, with a tree lighting event at 6 p.m. and will continue through Dec. 25. Throughout the month, there will be appearances by Santa, live reindeer and acrobats to spread the holiday spirit.

Porch pirates with nothing to plunder” via WJCT News — Neptune Beach Police have a plan to thwart porch pirates before they ever get to your door this holiday season. As online shopping grows, the Police Department invites you to ship your purchases to the department and pick them up there. This will be the third year for the program, which the department skipped in 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How often packages get hijacked is hard to say. Most thefts get reported to shippers like Amazon, not to police, a police spokesman said. But the frequency is rising with online shopping, which grew in part because people shunned stores during the pandemic. As deliveries increase, experts say, so is the value of packages.

The Publix Christmas commercial is back, and so is the magic. Watch and cry at ‘The Attic’” via Gary T. Mills of The Florida Times-Union — Christmas is about believing. And Publix knows that. After a year’s hiatus, the Publix Christmas commercial is back, in the just-released “The Attic.” And like the best Publix and Christmas commercials, it tugs at the heartstrings and tears up the eyes. In the one-minute ad, a young girl is captivated by a lonely snowman figure in the window of an older neighbor’s attic. He notices her staring in wonder out the window.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Toy sellers should disarm for the holidays” via Peter Funt of The Washington Post — I grew up loving toy guns, primarily six-shooters like the ones used by Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. To be fair, this playacting didn’t promote an interest in firearms later in life. Indeed, I came to favor stricter gun regulations, and my kids never owned guns of any kind. But to say times have changed since the 1950s is to vastly understate what’s happening in a nation where, in 2019, there were 991 deaths involving gun violence among people 17 and younger, a number that climbed to 1,375 in 2020. For me, in “those thrilling days of yesteryear,” I treasured my gleaming silver Lone Ranger pistol. But I also took note of what the masked man said to Tonto in the first TV episode: “If a man must die, it’s up to the law to decide that, not the person behind the six-shooter.”

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Reps. Daisy Morales and Alex Rizo, Dean Cannon‘s better half, Ellen, as well as former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff GreeneJustin Hollis, Nicole Krassner, former Rep. Jennifer Webb, and Marilyn Young of Florida Blue.

Also, Florida TaxWatch’s Dominic Calabro is celebrating the big 6-5 on Saturday. Happy birthday.

___

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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, 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.

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