Good Monday morning.
A top-of-Sunburn happy birthday shoutout to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Gov. Ron DeSantis will spend Monday evening in Palm Beach helping Adam Laxalt raise cash for his bid to become Arizona’s next U.S. Senator.
A fundraiser invite lists Capital City Consulting co-founder Nick Iarossi as the organizer and DeSantis as a “special guest.”
Those looking to rub elbows with America’s Governor and a potential third-generation U.S. Senator should be prepared to cut a check for $5,800 to get in the door. Those looking to be named a “host” are expected to chip in double.
The fundraiser runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The location is available with an RSVP.
“Ron DeSantis’ first month of re-election campaign draws $1.5 million” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Starting with a $100,000 opening check from the Republican Party of Florida and including 11,000 other donations, DeSantis’ pulled in $1,490,429 to kick off his campaign. That’s on top of the $4,531,294 collected in November by his independent political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, which essentially has been running his re-election campaign until he formally filed to open an official account on Nov. 5. The $6 million month all but made a mockery of fundraising efforts by his Democratic rivals in the 2022 campaign. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist collected a combined $805,000 for his campaign and political committee in November. Fried collected $216,000.
We are working on the ‘Lobby Up’ stories for the upcoming editions of our Sixty Days email and the legislative preview edition of INFLUENCE Magazine.
A good example of a Lobby Up story can be found by clicking here, where we discuss Smith Bryan and Myers representing Attenti Electronic Monitoring.
Is there a client sign-up you’d like us to mention?
Please email me at [email protected] to discuss.
Google released its “Year in Search” last week, illuminating the top things the world looked for online over the past 12 months.
The results mirror the many dualities we’ve come to experience as normal. For example, searches for “doomscrolling” and “affirmations” both reached an all-time high worldwide this year. And national searches for “soulmates” hit an all-time high, but searches regarding “long-distance relationships” were at a five-year low.
“Plumbers” have never been searched for more than they were in 2021, and searches for “Asian-owned” businesses were double the rate they were last year. “Body positivity” was also searched more in 2021 than ever before, as were “how to conserve” and “sustainability.”
President Joe Biden’s inauguration led to huge spikes in searches for “mittens” — thanks to Bernie Sanders’ meme-able moment — and in searches for “Amanda Gorman” following her breakout poetry reading.
These searches clearly reflect the mindset of Americans as the many political, cultural, and social phenomena of 2021 shook out.
But what about Florida?
Did residents of the Sunshine State follow these trends or deviate? What were the unique searches generated from within our borders, or curiosities about the state from the outside world?
To do that, we looked at top search terms, and the most trending search terms, generated by Florida internet users in several areas of life, such as entertainment, shopping, economy and finance, food, and travel.
The most trending vehicle in Florida was the “Kia Carnival,” and the most trending book search was for “Wheel of Time,” perhaps due to the November release of an Amazon Prime TV series based on the book. Searches for “Dr. Seuss books” also reached an all-time high in Florida this year, largely surrounding the ‘cancel culture’ controversy that unfolded when the icon’s publisher shelved six of his books, citing hurtful portrayals of race.
Trending economic searches were almost entirely focused on people trying to guess the timing of when “stimulus checks” would drop, while “Ethereum,” “Dogecoin” “cciv stock,” and “gme stock” dominated Floridian’s finance-related trending searches.
For food, Floridians searched more this year than prior for “crumbl cookies” and “White Castle Orlando,” and when it comes to television, searches for Spanish-language reality show “La Casa de los Famosos” rose the most.
Trending searches in Florida related to travel reveal an increased interest in “Disney World Annual Pass,” “Universal Studios,” and “Fort Lauderdale,” while top shopping-related searches fell to a few perennial favorites: “Walmart,” “Amazon,” and “Nike.”
That’s what Floridians were searching for, but what did outsiders search for related to the state?
National searches connected to Florida were dominated by queries on the Florida Lotto, the tragic Surfside condo collapse, and COVID-19 rates. Law and government-related searches about Florida were focused mostly on where to find “statutes” and information relating to the “Florida Bar,” while the most trending query about Florida in 2021 regards the “2022 Florida gubernatorial” election.
Worldwide, internet searcher interest in “Florida” was more vivid in some places than others. In South America, the highest volumes of searches for “Florida” were in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Columbia. In Africa, people in Nigeria and South Africa had the highest volumes of searches for “Florida” while the greatest volume of “Florida” searches in Europe originated in the UK, Spain, and Italy. Vietnam, India, and the Philippines led Asian countries in “Florida” searches. And, in North America, Canadians searched for Florida at three times the rate as did people living in Mexico.
Finally, because one can’t help but wonder, for the search terms that dominated the nation in 2021, where in Florida did these patterns fall most closely?
Turns out that “doomscrolling” was searched for most in St. Petersburg and Tampa, while “affirmations” was searched for most in West Palm Beach. “Long-distance relationships” were on more people’s minds in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, but “soulmates” caught more attention in Gainesville than anywhere else in the state.
“Plumbers” were searched for the most in Panama City, followed by Pensacola, and max searches for “body positivity” were in St. Pete and Tampa.” Searches for “how to conserve” were highest in Orlando, while Gainesville internet users had the state’s highest interest in “sustainability.”
Back to inauguration-themed searches, the greatest volume of “Amanda Gorman” searches originated in West Palm Beach, while “mitten” searches were the highest in Jacksonville.
Finally, when it comes to COVID-19 related searches, Ft. Myers and Naples led with the greatest volume of searches for various terms, including “vaccine,” “monoclonal antibodies,” “Moderna,” and “booster.” “Pfizer” was searched for most in Miami, “Anthony Fauci” the most in West Palm Beach, “hydroxychloroquine” in Panama City, “ivermectin” the most in Pensacola.
If we’re lucky, no pandemic-related terms will dominate internet searches in 2022. Cheers that the next “Year in Search” be uplifting.
Lina Rojas is returning to her alma mater, but not as a student.
Florida State University announced last week that it hired Rojas as the new legislative affairs manager in the university’s Office of Governmental Relations.
“We could not be more excited to have Lina join our team,” FSU Chief Legislative Officer Clay Ingram said. “Lina’s experience in the legislative and executive branches of state government along with her passion for higher education make her perfectly suited to serve as our Legislative Affairs Manager.”
Rojas comes to FSU from the Senate President’s Office, where she served most recently as a policy adviser to President Wilton Simpson. In her new role, she will work directly under Ingram to support the university’s government relations priorities.
“Lina has been a tremendous asset to the Florida Senate President’s Office, serving as a policy adviser for education and handling all of President Simpson’s appointments to boards and commissions. She has a special passion for higher education, which coupled with her knowledge of the legislative process will serve Florida State University very well,” said Kathy Mears, Simpson’s Chief of Staff and a former Chief Legislative Officer at FSU.
Rojas brings years of experience in the process. Before her time in the Senate President’s Office, she worked in the Florida Senate majority office where she crafted messaging for priority policy and legislative achievements.
Previously, she served five years in the Executive Office of the Governor under Govs. Rick Scott and DeSantis. During her time in the Governor’s Office, Rojas worked in External Affairs and the Office of Policy and Budget as the policy and budget analyst for the State University System.
A Miami native, Rojas was named one of Florida Politics “30 Under 30” rising stars in Florida politics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in international relations from FSU.
What’s the most popular Christmas decoration in Florida? The Christmas tree.
Maybe Florida isn’t scoring any points for originality — a bog-standard fir is the top decoration for a plurality of states. Still, a new survey from Lombardo Homes found the Sunshine State has more Christmas cheer than the average state.
According to the homebuilder, Florida ranked No. 15 in Google search volume for Christmas decorations — be they lights and wreaths or inflatable minions and rose gold feather boas.
The survey of 1,000 Americans found that lights and Nativity scenes were the second- and third-most-popular decorations of the season. And, for those wondering whether they’ve spent too much time on décor, the average non-Griswold spends about three hours decking the halls.
One interesting tidbit from the survey: The Grinch is a more popular decoration than Santa Claus. In Kentucky, the Grinch is the most popular decoration overall … we don’t know what that says about the Bluegrass State, but it probably isn’t good.
That might make Boris Karloff the most represented actor on lawns nationwide. He voiced Seuss’ grumpy green recluse in the animated Grinch specials and portrayed another grumpy green recluse, Frankenstein (or Frankenstein’s monster, for the pedants out there), which Lombardo Homes listed as a top Halloween decoration a couple of months back.
If you’re still calculating your decoration budget, the average American spends about $70 buying decorations. Sound steep? Worry not — if the Grinch taught us anything, it’s this: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”
Santa was catching some rays in South Florida before his worldwide tour, but, probably to Mrs. Claus’ chagrin, he clocked in for a few hours of work.
At least U.S. Sugar made his South Florida swing an easy one, sparing his bowl full of jelly and pack animals from some tough sledding through sugar country.
In partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps and Toys for Tots, the company fired up the Santa Express and helped Father Christmas fill it up with toys for kids throughout Glades, Highlands, Hendry, Palm Beach and Martin counties.
The Santa Express — powered by historic steam engine No. 148 — made stops in Belle Glade, Clewiston, Moore Haven and Lake Placid. As the train rolled into each station, hundreds of children were able to see Santa up close and mingle with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Throughout the day, children dropped off letters to Santa to take back to the North Pole.
“This is our second year operating the Santa Express, and we couldn’t be happier delivering these gifts to our friends and neighbors,” said Scott Ogle, operations manager for Sugar Express. “What a joy it was to see the smiles on the faces of so many local children and their parents.”
All told, Santa handed out more than 2,000 toys to children across the region. Better yet, Santa’s elves didn’t have to log any overtime, nor did the supply chain take on further burden — all of the toys provided were collected from local donations to Toys for Tots.
“Thanks to the generosity of the people of U.S. Sugar, hundreds of local children will know the joy of Christmas and receive gifts this year,” said Nardina Johnson, co-chair of Hendry County Toys for Tots. “We are extremely grateful for all of their support and for always being so involved in our community.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
For the next time someone tells you that US inflation is somehow unique, special or anyone's fault.
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) December 10, 2021
—@kkfla737: Brian Williams and Chris Wallace in the same week. Ugh. Everything is changing.
—@AnthonySabatini: Chris Wallace was a total hack — he won’t be missed
— Rep. Andrew Learned (@AndrewLearned) December 12, 2021
— Anthony Rodriguez (@RepRodriguez118) December 11, 2021
—@Jon_E_Johnson: I sit here in a short-sleeve shirt. Unable to “officially” call fire pit season. To be clear. fire pit season means a several-week period where the temperatures permit a fire to be comfortably erected at any part of the day. So far … a no-go. we can hope
A family in Rinteln, Germany holds the world record for the most decorated Christmas trees in one place, according to the German World Record Institute. Here's a look at the inside of their home pic.twitter.com/56ZhiijZaf
— CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) December 9, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 4; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 9; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 16; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 22; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 22; CES 2022 begins — 23; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 24; NFL season ends — 27; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 29; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 29; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 29; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 29; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 30; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 32; NFL playoffs begin — 33; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 39; ‘Billions’ begins — 41; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 53; Super Bowl LVI — 62; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 69; Daytona 500 — 69; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 71; CPAC begins — 73; St. Pete Grand Prix — 74; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 80; The Oscars — 106; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 149; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 168; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 171; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 208; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 219; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 263; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 298; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 333; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 336; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 368; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 431; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 592; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 676; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 956.
— TOP STORY —
“Amid JEA privatization controversy, a City Council member received a mysterious job offer. A dark-money group may have been behind it.” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — A longtime friend phoned City Council member Garrett Dennis in mid-2019 to relay a peculiar offer: An obscure group advocating for marijuana decriminalization wanted to hire Dennis to lead it, a lucrative $250,000 job possibility that only came with one catch. Dennis would have to leave the City Council to take it. The idea of a job offer was connected to Florida Power & Light, whose parent company, NextEra, offered $11 billion in 2019 to purchase JEA, Jacksonville’s municipally owned utility. Any transaction would have needed approval from the 19-member Jacksonville City Council, and Dennis was known to be one of the most vocal council critics of the divisive efforts by former JEA executives to privatize the agency.
— STATEWIDE —
“Las Vegas Sands drops request for restraining order against Seminole Tribe” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A Las Vegas Sands affiliate has dropped its request for a temporary restraining order against groups backed by the Seminole Tribe in a ballot initiative intimidation case. A Leon County judge denied the affiliates’ request earlier this week. The Las Vegas Sands team, circulating an initiative that could expand gaming in Florida, has accused the Tribe of trying to poach petition gatherers in an interference effort that is escalating as signature collecting comes down to the wire this month. “We will continue to pursue our legal options to expose and seek damages from those who have intentionally and aggressively attempted to thwart the constitutional signature-gathering process,” said Florida Voters in Change, a group funded by Las Vegas Sands.
“Ron DeSantis ties ‘illegal immigration’ crackdown to stabbing death in Jacksonville” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — DeSantis said he wants new state laws protecting Florida from the “Biden border crisis” that he directly tied to the stabbing death of a Jacksonville resident in a case where authorities charged a Honduran man who posed as a 17-year-old under a fake name. DeSantis made the link to that homicide case during a news conference at Jacksonville International Airport while saying Biden‘s immigration policies have left Florida exposed to people arriving from other countries without state and local officials knowing who they are. U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, who has criticized federal flights into Jacksonville of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border, joined DeSantis in blasting the Biden administration over immigration.
“DeSantis’ executive order on immigration could trigger constitutional crisis” via Avery Means of The Gainesville Sun — It has become evident over the past couple of weeks that both sides of the political spectrum are frustrated with the current administration for the way it is handling spikes in immigration, particularly from Central America. The kind of changeJoe Biden campaigned on during his run for office was supposed to be quick, efficient and drastically different than his predecessor, but there has been little change in policy or in the numbers of deportations, both internally and at the border itself.
“Florida drops 11th Circuit fight over Joe Biden deportation policies” via Grace Dixon of Law360 — Florida dropped its challenge, citing superseding guidance that renders the appeal moot. Florida had launched a challenge to two early Biden administration policies temporarily narrowing the types of immigrants prioritized for deportation, claiming the policies contravened a provision of federal immigration law that requires the federal government to detain criminal noncitizens. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in September introduced a new directive for immigration enforcement officials that requires them to undertake a case-by-case analysis when deciding which migrants should be prioritized for removal.
“Maintain you’re innocent? Florida Supreme Court says you could do more time” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling this month that enables longer prison sentences for convicted defendants who maintain their innocence. I know. It sounds like a basic violation of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. And encouragement for innocent people to say they’re guilty, not because they are, but just to avoid spending more time behind bars. And it doesn’t sound draconian just to me. It sounds that way to a couple of members of the Florida Supreme Court, too. “One needs to look no further than the 30 exonerations from Florida’s death row, the most of any state in our nation,” wrote Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis’ budget proposal would mean more money for public schools, and less for universities” via WUSF — DeSantis released a proposed education budget for next year that includes record spending for public schools but a cut in university funding. DeSantis is requesting that lawmakers provide $23.9 billion for the kindergarten through 12th-grade system, a $1.1 billion increase over the current year. The proposal would provide $8,000 in per-student spending, an increase of nearly $200. To retain educators amid an ongoing teacher shortage, DeSantis wants to use $238 million in federal stimulus money to give a second round of $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals. Lawmakers approved using federal money for an initial round of $1,000 bonuses during the 2021 legislative session, which ended in April.
“DeSantis’ budget doesn’t pay for a new appeals court in Tampa Bay” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — A plan to add a new appellate district as part of a reorganization of the court system recommended by a Florida Supreme Court commission isn’t included in DeSantis’ budget proposal to lawmakers. The state high court issued a recommendation on Nov. 24 asserting the need for a sixth appellate district in the Tampa Bay region, based on the commission’s Sept. 30 report. Lawmakers will consider the proposal when they meet for a 60-day session starting Jan. 11. The plan would move the 9th Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties, from the 5th DCA into the 2nd DCA, from a district that now includes the Jacksonville area to one that stretches south to include Polk, Lee, Collier and other rural counties.
“Legislators back vote to enlarge Alligator Point water district” via David Adlerstein of The Apalachicola Times — It went by in the blink of an eye, and it signaled that the Alligator Point Water Resources District will soon have a right to expand its boundaries. At a brief delegation hearing held Monday afternoon at Carrabelle City Hall, both State Sen. Loranne Ausley and State Rep. Jason Shoaf were supportive of granting the water district the right to hold a vote next year to see if residents outside the district’s boundaries are willing to become part of the district. The Florida Legislature would have to approve holding such an election, and the only people eligible to vote would be those who are registered to vote within the county, and who reside in the area of the expanded boundary. As it stands now, there are only about 127 households in that area, compared to about 650 within the district.
Aaron Bean discusses nursing workforce challenges with ICUF leaders — Sen. Bean, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, joined leaders from Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida member institutions for a panel discussion on the state’s nursing shortage. “ICUF schools are already producing 20% to 25% of our state’s nurses, but we need more nurses to fulfill the shortage and provide high-quality care to our residents. Let’s be a part of the solution,” Bean said. “I’m grateful for the ICUF team and their efforts to tackle the challenges we face and bring forward solutions. We’ve got some work to do, but this discussion is critical to our state.” ICUF noted that a quarter of nursing degrees awarded in Florida are earned at an ICUF institution.
Happening today — The Nassau County legislative delegation meets: Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd, 2 p.m., James S. Page Governmental Complex, 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee.
Lauren’s Kids lands an EMMY — Lauren’s Kids won a Suncoast Regional EMMY Award for videos produced for the foundation’s “Safer, Smarter Kids” abuse prevention curriculum. The nonprofit, founded by Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, works to prevent child sexual abuse and help survivors heal. “There is nothing more important than keeping our children safe. One in three girls and one in five boys will become victims of child sexual abuse before the age of 18, but 95% of this abuse is preventable with education and awareness,” Book said. “Thank you to the Suncoast Regional EMMY team for helping to amplify our efforts to teach personal safety from a place of fun — not fear.” The videos that earned Lauren’s Kids the EMMY are viewable online.
To watch “Lesson 1,” click on the image below:
Anthony Sabatini axed from Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee — Howey-in-the-Hills Rep. Sabatini lost one of the few committee assignments he had heading into the 2022 Legislative Session. Sabatini, a Republican, has repeatedly blasted leaders in his own party, including House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson. When Sprowls announced committee chair and vice-chair appointments before the 2021 Session, Sabatini was the only second-term Republican not to get a No. 1 or No. 2 post on any committees or subcommittees; earlier this year, he was exiled to the basement of the House office building. Now, he has lost his seat on the Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee.
“Longtime Florida Supreme Court spokesman Waters to retire” via The Associated Press — Longtime Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters, who became the court’s public face during the 2000 presidential recount, is retiring early next year, the justices announced Friday. Waters will step down in February after 35 years in the job, during which he ushered in once-novel ideas such as putting court records online, having oral arguments broadcast and distributing court material on social media. Replacing Waters will be Paul Flemming, who worked as a reporter and editor for 25 years before becoming the first public information officer for the Office of the State Courts Administrator in 2016. The justices voted to pick Flemming for the Supreme Court post.
Finally — “Tallahassee’s downtown Turlington Building getting a bath” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Its long-awaited exterior sprucing-up has begun. For the last few years, swaths of the top of the building have been marred by black streaks. This week, workers could be seen gingerly walking on its angled roof and rappelling down its sides. The three-decade-old edifice, commonly known as the Turlington Building, is the home of the Florida Department of Education. It’s named after former state Education Commissioner Ralph Turlington, who also was a Florida House Speaker. He died in May at the age of 100. The building’s renovations are being overseen by the Department of Management Services.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 infections rise for third week as officials mum on details of omicron” via Chris Persaud of the Tallahassee Democrat — New coronavirus infections grew for the third week in a row across Florida as the newest, most infectious version of the pathogen spreads statewide. The state logged 12,984 new COVID-19 cases this week, the Florida Department of Health reported Friday, the most since Oct. 29. The statewide caseload had been dropping between mid-August and Nov. 26. But the virus’ highly infectious omicron variant, first discovered last month in South Africa, was detected this week in Florida.
“Florida Department of Health rejects complaint against Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Department of Health rejected a complaint alleging Ladapo violated state medical laws by publicly casting doubts about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and promoting unproven treatments against the disease. “We have determined from our review that we can take no further action because the healthcare provider has not violated any laws or rules regulating this profession,” Investigation Manager Anthony Jusevitch told Dr. Howard Goldman in a letter dated Nov. 22. Goldman, a Delray Beach eye doctor, filed a complaint Oct. 29 claiming Ladapo made public pronouncements about COVID-19 that he knew to be false.
“South Florida’s weekly COVID-19 case count ticks up again” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — COVID-19 cases across South Florida’s tri-county area rose for the second straight week following Thanksgiving, though case counts remain relatively low. Raw case numbers and the case positivity rate are equivalent to numbers seen in October in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Those numbers were already quite low, having fallen significantly since this past summer’s spike. Just 2% of tests in Miami-Dade came back positive from Dec. 3-9. That number was 2.6% in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Raw case numbers saw a larger relative jump, though that’s likely due partly to testing capacity now getting back up to speed following the holiday.
“Omicron variant found in Miami-Dade, Mayor’s Office reports” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — The first case of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus was reported in Miami-Dade on Friday, bringing to three the total of known cases of the latest coronavirus strain in Florida. The other two omicron cases in Florida were confirmed earlier in the week in Tampa Bay and St. Lucie County. Numerous sources reported that the Miami-Dade omicron case was confirmed Friday by CardioPath, a private lab in Doral after it sequenced the variant in a sample it received and tested on Thursday. The Miami-Dade case had not been publicly confirmed by the Florida Department of Health or CDC as of Saturday afternoon.
—“Omicron variant found in Altamonte Springs wastewater, city manager says” via David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel
—”Polk County’s COVID-19 cases creep upward as Omicron reaches Florida” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger
“Senate Dem, GOP campaign chairs confident as they gear up for 2022 midterms” via Samantha Jo Roth and Justin Tasolides of Spectrum News — Sen. Scott, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, claims that “people want Republicans in charge of the Senate.” Republicans are feeling confident in 2022 after some victories in 2021’s off-year elections, including a surprise GOP win in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, as well as a closer-than-normal race in reliably blue New Jersey. Scott hopes to see 54 Republicans in the Senate after the midterms, citing what he says is a “very unpopular” Biden agenda, including inflation, vaccine mandates, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. “I think all these things are, unfortunately, horrible for our country, but I think it’s putting Republicans in position when they are just the opposite those things,” Scott said. “They’ll help us win races.”
— “Val Demings stops by West Tampa Cuban café, talks Latino vote, sings Happy Birthday” via Daniel Figueroa IV of Florida Politics
Assignment editors — Val Demings will visit a gun violence memorial and speak at a news conference featuring former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other gun violence survivors and activists, Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd, Miami. RSVP to [email protected]
“Florida Democrats plot for 2022 as GOP voting numbers grow” via The Associated Press — In Florida, for the first time in modern history, registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats. DeSantis is heading into a re-election campaign buoyed by a national profile and a cash reserve unmatched by any Democratic challenger. And Republicans control virtually all of state government. When Democrats met recently for their annual strategy conference, Annette Taddeo said there was a clear sense of the difficulties ahead for the party. With the 2022 election approaching, Democrats are confronting a host of disadvantages as they work to rebuild campaign networks and reignite excitement in their party. There is a growing worry that big donors and the national wing of the party may consider Florida to be GOP territory after years of bruising losses.
“Gambling initiative backers doubled down in November” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Two organizations trying to get gambling expansion initiatives onto Florida’s 2022 ballot doubled down on their stakes in November, spending more than $10 million apiece to collect petition signatures. Florida Voters in Charge, the Las Vegas Sands-backed committee seeking voter permission to build a North Florida casino, spent just about all the money it had left, $11.4 million, in November. The other group, Florida Education Champions, backed by the two daily fantasy sports platforms, wants to open up sports gambling to all. That group spent $10.5 million in November pushing its petitions. They’ve now combined to spend $54 million on their petition efforts, and neither is halfway toward the 891,589 verified signatures needed to qualify for the 2022 statewide ballot.
“Nikki Fried’s fundraising haul tanks in November” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Fried‘s gubernatorial campaign saw a significant decline in donations in November. In a Democratic primary battle with two other major contenders, Fried reported picking up $106,086 for her official campaign and $110,223 for her Florida Consumers First political committee in November. Those totals are the smallest monthly numbers reported since she officially entered the gubernatorial contest in June. They compare as fractions to what U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist posted collecting for his accounts in November. With her two committees combined, Fried attracted $216,309 in donations during the month. That compared with $414,410 in October, $350,000 in September, and $418,000 in August.
—“Can Florida Democrats afford to nominate Fried?” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze
—“Fried ethics failure reminds us she is neither honest nor transparent” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist
—”Fried’s letter against Vanessa Baugh was hypocritical” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“Jimmy Patronis raises nearly $400,000 in November for Cabinet re-election bid” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — Patronis continued his cabinet re-election fundraising in November, raising nearly $400,000 for his unopposed election. Patronis raised $199,675 for his campaign account and $193,530 for his Treasure Florida political committee, according to finance reports. As of Nov. 30, he had roughly $399,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account and about $2.86 million on hand with the committee. Patronis’ largest donor is Charter Communications, giving $25,000 to the former state Representative.
Tracie Davis tops $115K raised for Senate run — Rep. Davis pulled in $115,762 in her second month as a candidate for Senate District 6, her campaign announced Friday. The haul includes $24,662 raised into her official campaign account and $91,100 brought in through her political committee, Together We Stand. “I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received since announcing our campaign for the state Senate,” she said. “The residents of Jacksonville deserve a Senator who will represent our community’s shared values in Tallahassee.” With the $45,000 she previously raised, her campaign has raised about $170,000 to date. Davis faces Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney in the Democratic Primary for the seat.
Citrus County Commission backs Ralph Massullo for Senate — Rep. Massullo picked up endorsements from every member of the Citrus County Commission — Ronald Kitchen Jr., Ruthie Davis Schlabach, Holly Davis, Jeff Kinnard and Scott Carnahan — just days after filing for Senate. “Our County Commissioners are great conservative leaders who’ve helped protect the pocketbooks of our residents through lower taxes and kept our community safe by investing in our Sheriff’s Office and deputies. I am grateful for their service to our County and for the overwhelming amount of support they’ve shown to our campaign in the first few days,” Massullo said. Last week, the Lecanto Republican entered the SD 10 race, setting up a potential Primary showdown with fellow Rep. Blaise Ingoglia.
“Michele Rayner joins nine other Pinellas County elected officials to back Eunic Ortiz for SD 24” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Ten Pinellas County-based elected officials are backing Ortiz in her run for Senate District 24, where she hopes to replace outgoing Sen. Jeff Brandes. The list of new endorsements includes state Rep. Michele Rayner, who is currently running a Congressional campaign, as well as Pinellas County Commissioners Rene Flowers and Pat Gerard. St. Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson, St. Pete Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders and St. Pete Council member-elect Richie Floyd also joined as endorsers.
—”Nick DiCeglie collects over $60K in November for SD 24 run” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
Chuck Perdue endorses Griff Griffitts for HD 6 — Bay County Tax Collector Perdue endorsed Griffitts in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Jay Trumbull in coastal Northwest Florida’s House District 6. “Griff Griffitts is a strong conservative and the right candidate at the right time for this seat,” Perdue said. “Griff has a wealth of experience as a small-business man with a record of service to our community. As a County Commissioner, Griff has kept our taxes low, and he knows our issues inside and out … I’m confident he will handle any challenges we may face ahead.” Griffitts faces Brian Clowdus in the GOP Primary for the district. He has previously earned endorsements from CFO Patronis and Sen. Joe Gruters, among others.
—”Jennifer Wilson dishes out $10K on campaign, highest fundraiser in November for HD 66” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
“Dan Daley raises nearly $26K in November for House re-election bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Daley brought in close to $26,000 in November as he ramps up his fundraising efforts ahead of next year’s re-election bid. Daley also listed nearly $25,000 in expenditures in November, giving him a net of just over $1,000 for the month. But his November fundraising total marks the largest this cycle after he earned re-election to his House District 97 seat in June 2020. No candidates filed to oppose Daley that year, giving him a win. That victory allowed Daley to serve out his first full term in the House. Daley initially won the HD 97 seat during a Special Election in February 2019, in which he was also unopposed. However, proposed new House redistricting maps would put the majority of Daley’s district into House District 96.
“Jordan Leonard adds nearly $21K in November, floats swap to HD 106 due to redistricting” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bay Harbor Islands Council member and former Mayor Leonard raised nearly $21,000 in November and said he’s planning to swap to the House District 106 race if the Legislature OK’s newly proposed redistricting maps. In February, Leonard filed to run in the House District 100 contest to succeed the term-limited Rep. Joe Geller. He earned Geller’s coveted endorsement in that race as well. But in late November, the House released its first batch of proposed maps ahead of the 2022 election. Those two proposals would both see Leonard’s home located in HD 106. Leonard could move and run in another district, but he signaled his intention Friday to run in HD 106 if one of those proposals is approved.
— CORONA NATION —
“Anthony Fauci: Booster shots for Americans won’t deprive unvaccinated people around the globe” via David Cohen of POLITICO — Fauci said Sunday that pushing Americans to get booster shots won’t deprive others around the globe of the opportunity to get vaccinated. At issue is whether encouraging booster shots in the United States and other wealthy nations will deprive less-wealthy countries of the opportunity to vaccinate their own populations. Fauci, who said that early data shows that booster shots help combat the Omicron variant, said he did not see a conflict. “We are, right now, vaccinating our own country,” Biden’s top medical adviser said. Fauci reassured host George Stephanopoulos that the United States was committed to treating other nations fairly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Omicron won’t keep us from ending the pandemic. We’re doing that ourselves.” via James Hamblin of The Washington Post — After about two weeks of news about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, when it’s been tracked like some impending hurricane or escaped murderer, the story has become no less cryptic and confused. Taken together, the many important and accurate reports have led to a sense of conflict, even chaos. In the process, we’ve lost the point. First, there was the unprecedented alarm about mutations in the newly identified strain, B.1.1.529, which were far more extensive than experts expected to find. Officials’ conflicting messages have amplified an already roiling mix of anxiety, fatalism, ennui, and distrust. The public has been alerted to a potentially catastrophic threat, while also being told not to do anything differently.
“With delta surges and the threat of omicron, states call on military medics to relieve hospital staff” via Frances Stead Sellers and Katie Shepherd of MSN — Coronavirus cases, driven almost entirely by the delta variant, continue to surge across the United States, defying previous patterns, causing a military medical backup to be called into action and creating large caseloads in some highly vaccinated states. Cases in Colorado rose by 4% in the past week. Hospitalizations in Michigan and New Mexico jumped by 4 and 9%, respectively. Michigan has more hospitalizations per 100,000 residents than any other state. And in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul introduced a mask mandate for all indoor public places that do not require proof of full vaccination. The requirement starts Monday and will be reevaluated on Jan. 15.
“Hundreds of people are fired, online learning set to return amid vaccine resistance at nation’s second-largest school district” via Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post — The second-largest school district in the United States is facing mounting woes over its coronavirus vaccine mandate, recently terminating hundreds of employees who refused to comply and vowing to put thousands of unvaccinated students into online classes. The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted to terminate 496 employees who failed to get vaccinated ahead of the deadline. Some 34,000 students are also in violation of the requirements. Per the district’s vaccination policy, students 12 and older must be fully vaccinated by the start of the second semester in January. Those who fail to do so will not be allowed on school campuses and will be referred to an online independent study program.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
Essential reading — “COVID-19 malaise” via David Leonhardt of The New York Times — In recent weeks, economists and pundits have been asking why Americans feel grouchy about the economy when many indicators, like GDP growth, stock prices and the unemployment rate, look strong. But I think the answer to this supposed paradox is that it’s not really a paradox: Americans think the economy is in rough shape because the economy is in rough shape. The economy is more than a household balance sheet; it is the combined experience of working, shopping, and interacting in society. Americans evidently understand the distinction: In a poll, 64% describe their personal finances as good, and only 35% describe the national economy as good. Many services don’t function as well as they used to. Rising prices are cutting into paychecks, especially for working-class households.
“Inflation pinch challenges Joe Biden agenda, but President says worst will soon pass” via Jeff Stein and Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — Rising prices throughout the economy threaten to swamp the White House’s legislative agenda during a critical moment for Biden, as persistently high inflation spooks both voters and lawmakers. A government report released Friday showed that prices have risen nearly 7% in the past year, the biggest one-year surge since the early 1980s. A combination of soaring demand and supply disruptions has tarnished an otherwise robust economic recovery.
“Tampa inflation tops major U.S. cities at 8% in November from year ago” via Alex Tanzi of MSN — Sunshine is still free, but everything else in Tampa is getting expensive fast. The Florida city had the worst inflation of any major U.S. metro area last month, with November prices up 8% from a year ago. That’s 300 basis points higher than in New York City, where prices rose 5% last month. The Riverside, California, metro area and Dallas also saw inflation well above the countrywide average, at 7.9% and 7.5%, respectively. Consumer prices surged 6.8% nationwide, the fastest annual pace in nearly 40 years. A reading of 8% is the highest ever reported for any metro area. Out of the 12 cities that reported November figures, 10 were at a record for their area.
— MORE CORONA —
“British studies warn of omicron’s speed, and one notes the need for boosters.” via Benjamin Mueller of The New York Times — The first real-world study of how vaccines hold up against the omicron variant showed a significant drop in protection against symptomatic cases caused by the new and fast-spreading form of the coronavirus. But the study, published by British government scientists on Friday, also indicated that third vaccine doses provided considerable defense against omicron. Government scientists also offered the most complete look yet at how quickly omicron was spreading in England’s highly vaccinated population, warning that the variant could overtake delta by mid-December and, without any precautionary measures, cause COVID-19 cases to soar.
“NBA faces daunting question: How does heavily vaccinated league handle rising COVID-19 cases?” via David Wilson of the Miami Herald — The Miami Heat’s meeting against the Chicago Bulls, at one point, seemed like it was going to be a potential early-season measuring-stick showdown. Instead, the Heat only had 10 players available because of injuries and one COVID-19 case and the Bulls were down to 11 because of a larger COVID-19 outbreak within the team. It was the sort of situation that was somewhat commonplace last year and, at least so far, has been much rarer this season, but the omicron variant’s arrival in the United States in time for the holiday season has stoked worries of a new wave of cases across the country. The same angst is felt within the NBA, even though more than 95% of the league is vaccinated. The current NBA policy requires players to either quarantine for 10 days or return consecutive negative PCR tests 24 hours apart to return after testing positive for the coronavirus.
“In a pandemic, these pups have made all the difference” via Jessica Wolfrom of The Washington Post — Over the course of the pandemic, thousands of people have welcomed dogs of all shapes and sizes into their homes: purebreds and rescue mutts, pint-size puppies and senior dogs. For some people, the sheer amount of work required to care for a pet felt overwhelming. Housebreaking pandemic puppies during quarantine or socializing sensitive shelter dogs at a distance only amplified their distress. But for many others, their dogs provided levity in the darkest hours of shutdowns, a semblance of routine when so many had lost their jobs; a reason to leave the House when offices, gyms and restaurants were shuttered; and a sense of companionship and comfort amid so much pain and loss.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Democrats are solidly behind Biden. There’s no consensus about a plan B.” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times — Publicly, Democratic leaders are focused on what will be a difficult 2022 if Biden’s popularity does not pick up. However, it is 2024 that’s increasingly on the minds of a long roster of ambitious Democrats and their advisers. With Biden facing plunging poll numbers and turning 82 the month he’d be on the ballot, and Vice President Kamala Harris plagued by flagging poll numbers of her own, conversations about possible alternatives are beginning far earlier than is customary for a President still in the first year of his first term. None of the prospects would dare openly indicate interest, for fear of offending both a President who has made it clear to them that he plans to run for re-election and a history-making Vice President who could be his heir apparent.
“On ‘Tonight Show,’ Biden talks of political friendships and making breakfast” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — Biden made his late-night show debut as President Friday, appearing on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” hosted by Jimmy Fallon to tout his newly passed infrastructure bill and sell his social spending legislation still mired in Congress. In a virtual, pretaped appearance, the President joked about his falling poll numbers. When Fallon asked if he paid attention to his approval ratings, Biden quipped, “Well, not anymore.” He added that he’d start paying attention again when his numbers, which hover in the low 40s, move back up to the 60s. Biden said he has emphasized to the staff that they no longer need to come in to prepare breakfast for the Bidens. “We can make our own eggs or, you know, pour a bowl of cereal,” he said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
New York Times says Marco Rubio ‘misrepresented’ China coverage — The New York Times responded to a recent letter from U.S. Sen. Rubio claiming the paper had not covered speeches given by Chinese President Xi Jinping advocating for the detention and abuse of the Uyghurs in China. The Times claimed Rubio was misrepresenting the paper’s coverage, asserting it “not only broke the story” but it “obtained and thoroughly mined a trove of secret Chinese government documents.” The response continues, “But for the work of our journalists, the very matter you claim to be investigating — the orchestration of the brutal crackdown on Uyghurs by Chinese President Xi Jinping himself — may never have come to light.”
— CRISIS —
“Mark Meadows Jan. 5 email indicated National Guard on standby to ‘protect pro-Donald Trump people,’ investigators say” via Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — The context for the message is unclear, but it comes amid intense scrutiny of the Guard’s slow response to violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and conflicting timelines about their response from the Pentagon and National Guard leadership. The description of the message is part of a 51-page document released Sunday by the select panel a day before it is set to vote to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress. The full House is expected to vote to hold Meadows, former White House chief of staff to Trump, in criminal contempt of Congress on Tuesday. In other messages described by the committee, Meadows appears to have asked members of Congress to help connect Trump with state lawmakers. “POTUS wants to chat with them,” Meadows said.
“Trump campaign lawyer authored two memos claiming Mike Pence could halt Biden’s victory” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — A Trump campaign lawyer wrote two legal memos in the week before the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that claimed then-Vice President Pence had the authority to refuse to count presidential electors from states that delivered Biden the White House. The memos from then-Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, which contain widely disputed legal theories about Pence’s ability to stop a Biden presidency, underscore Ellis’ promotion of extreme arguments that she promulgated amid Trump’s effort to reverse the election results. Her actions have mainly remained below the radar as House investigators probe Trump’s inner circle.
“Election denier who circulated Jan. 6 PowerPoint says he met with Meadows at White House” via Emma Brown, Jon Swaine, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post — A retired U.S. Army colonel who circulated a proposal to challenge the 2020 election, including by declaring a national security emergency and seizing paper ballots, said that he visited the White House on multiple occasions after the election, spoke with Trump’s chief of staff “maybe eight to 10 times” and briefed several members of Congress on the eve of the Jan. 6 riot. Phil Waldron, the retired colonel, was working with Trump’s outside lawyers and was part of a team that briefed the lawmakers. The PowerPoint circulated by Waldron included proposals for Pence on Jan. 6 to reject electors from “states where fraud occurred” or replace them with Republican electors.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump entertains crowd in Sunrise by ripping Biden, but also says he ‘liked’ a recent Democratic President” via Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Trump delivered a dose of history, from his vantage point, Saturday to an army of supporters in Sunrise. That meant deriding the current President, claiming the election was stolen, and portraying the country under Biden as a crime-ridden, inflation-plagued mockery overrun by foreign criminals. While Trump had nothing pleasant to say about Biden, whom he said he doesn’t know personally, he did compliment former President Barack Obama. The crowd booed at his name, but Trump followed with, “I liked him.” He said Obama is “smart and sharp.” He criticized Obama’s methods, though, blaming him for causing “tremendous division” and hatred in America.
“You should take Matt Gaetz’s plan to make Trump the Speaker of the House seriously and literally” via Matt Ford of The New Republic — Gaetz revived an outlandish-sounding idea earlier this week: If House Republicans retake the majority in 2022, he and his colleagues will push to elect Trump as the new Speaker of the House. This notion has hitherto been either dismissed out of hand or derided as unlikely by political observers. In a post–Jan. 6 world, however, the Speaker-Trump proposal should be taken more seriously. For one thing, the Speaker-Trump idea is growing increasingly popular within Trumpworld. Mark Meadows embraced the idea earlier this month. In February, Trump adviser and pardon recipient Steve Bannon expressed support for it, suggesting that Speaker Trump’s first act should be to impeach Biden.
“Former Trump trade aide Peter Navarro gets subpoena warning from panel” via Billy House of Bloomberg — Navarro was warned he’ll be considered in “willful noncompliance” with a Congressional subpoena if he fails to testify Wednesday to a House panel investigating the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. James Clyburn, the committee’s chair, didn’t specify possible consequences in a letter to Navarro on Saturday. Navarro told the panel in a letter dated Dec. 7 that he won’t testify due to “a direct order from former President Donald Trump.” Clyburn’s warning signals a second front in the House’s subpoena battles with Trump allies refusing to cooperate with committee inquiries, which are already underway with a panel investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“They stayed at a vendor’s beach house. Now, a School Board member and a director face an ethics complaint.” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward school board member and an administrator could face a state ethics investigation over whether they showed any favoritism toward a district vendor after staying at his $1.1 million beach house. The Florida Commission on Ethics has received a complaint from a member of a Broward schools watchdog group, accusing School Board member Donna Korn and Shawn Cerra, director of student activities and athletics, of ethical breaches related to a vendor for graduation caps and gowns.
“Stoneman Douglas victims’ families to get $1 million each from school district” via Angie Dimichelle of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The families of the 17 students and staff killed in the Parkland school massacre each will receive slightly more than $1 million from the Broward School District. The School Board will formally vote Tuesday on two settlement agreements stemming from the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, ending a three-and-a-half-year saga between the school district and the victims’ families. The first settlement between the School Board and the families of the 17 murdered and the 34 injured and traumatized by the shooting says the School Board will pay a total of $25 million in three installments. The first $8.3 million will be paid within 60 days of the agreement’s effective date, the second payment a year later, and the final the third year.
“‘Not anymore’: Joe Martinez backs off on prospect of running for Miami-Dade Sheriff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Martinez has been considered a near-guaranteed candidate for Miami-Dade Sheriff once new rules kick in to make the county’s top law enforcement officer an elected position in 2024. But now, the decorated former police lieutenant doesn’t seem so keen on the idea. Martinez’s about-face on the prospect of being Miami-Dade’s top cop comes amid debate over what a Miami-Dade Sheriff’s Office will look like. There is an ongoing discussion about what powers the position will have, which aspects of the Miami-Dade Police Department will fall under its purview, what the office’s cut of the county budget will be and which, if any, other departments it will absorb. Those questions haven’t escaped Martinez.
“Melinda Gates spending millions to give women greater opportunities in Miami’s tech sector” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — A national effort backed financially by Gates to advance gender equity in the technology industry is coming to Miami. Called the Gender Equality in Tech, Gates’ Pivotal Ventures said it plans to bring the initiative here as part of the company’s broader $50 million investment in gender equality in tech. The goal of GET Miami is to place more women, particularly those of color, into education and internship programs to prepare them for careers and leadership roles in Miami’s burgeoning tech sector. Miami is the third city to host the GET Cities initiative, which started in 2020. Similar efforts are underway in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
“‘A momentous occasion’: Why the county created a majority-Hispanic commission district” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — Aiming to provide a better opportunity for residents to elect a representative who best reflects the community, Palm Beach County Commissioners approved new commission district boundaries, including for the first time a majority-Hispanic district. The 2020 census saw Palm Beach County’s Hispanic population grow to 23.5%, the county’s second-largest racial or ethnic group. “This is, I think, a very momentous occasion in a lot of ways for this county,” Commissioner Dave Kerner said. Redistricting left most Palm Beach County Commission borders untouched, with small portions relocated to neighboring districts.
“Tampa teens wanted their school to protect them. Instead, they say, it got worse.” via Bethany Barnes of the Tampa Bay Times — In the past five years at one high school, a boy was expelled after he tried to warn classmates that a student had sexually harassed others. Students reported a teacher’s inappropriate comments, but the school failed to document their concerns. And administrators suspended two girls who told police they’d been raped on campus. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights says it’s kept an active eye on Hillsborough County Public Schools for 10 years, ever since the agency found the district retaliated against a student who reported sexual abuse. The 2011 investigation concluded Hillsborough didn’t have enough protection in place to keep students safe under Title IX.
“Community members push Sarasota County to prioritize affordable housing with federal funds” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Bakery owner Kelly Erdmann told Sarasota County commissioners last Tuesday that three of her employees can’t find affordable housing. One team member at her Nothing Bundt Cakes store had to move back in with her family after her landlord raised her rent. The small-business owner was one of many people who urged the commission to prioritize affordable housing in allocating federal COVID-19 relief money. Commissioners are determining how to spend $84.2 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed last March.
“Venice City Council member Brian Kelly resigns Thursday” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Kelly resigned from the Venice City Council on Thursday. In an email sent to Venice city clerk Lori Stelzer and city manager Edward Lavallee, Kelly said that due to “personal and professional reasons,” he will no longer be living in the city limits and unable to serve the remainder of his three-year term on the Council. His resignation was effective immediately. Kelly told the Herald-Tribune that he was leaving the city because of a relationship change. He is no longer with his partner. He noted that he plans to stay in Sarasota County but will no longer be in Venice. Kelly was elected to Seat 2 on the Council in November 2020 with 59% of the vote.
“Geese end up dead in a Miramar lake, angering neighbors” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A gaggle of sedated geese ended up dying in a lake, angering neighbors and leading the city of Miramar to issue a code violation against their homeowners’ association over the birds’ deaths. The geese were majestic beauties to some neighbors and honking-loud poop machines to others in Miramar’s SilverLakes community.
— TOP OPINION —
“Jan. 6 crossed a line. We need to say so before it’s too late for democracy.” via Joanne B. Freeman of The Washington Post — Nearly a year after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, with the duly elected President in place, it’s tempting to conclude that the insurgency failed. It didn’t. At least, not yet. Our government is still under attack. The offensive is quieter now but no less menacing, eroding the government from within. The fundamental right to vote is under siege. The regulation of elections is being corrupted. And faith in the electoral process is fading; the “big lie” about Trump’s supposed victory in 2020 has staying power for just that reason. The Republican message is clear: There’s no reason to get upset. The day’s events were unremarkable, perhaps even praiseworthy. Nothing more need be done. This is dangerous.
— OPINIONS —
“Jan. 6 wasn’t an insurrection. It was vigilantism. And more is coming.” via Sam Tanenhaus of The Washington Post — Militant protest, as Garry Wills wrote in “A Necessary Evil,” his history of “American distrust of government,” comes in different forms. At one end of the spectrum are insurrectionists, who “take arms against the government because it is too repressive.” At the opposite end are vigilantes, who “take arms to do the government’s work because the authorities are not repressive enough.” They become “vigilant,” Wills writes, in times when they believe “the government is too slow, indifferent, or lax.” Vigilantism seems to be the defining strain of American conservatism today. Vigilantes have become a threatening presence during the coronavirus pandemic as well. Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers have tried to police their neighbors — sometimes violently — over their acceptance of mandates.
“I monitor Trump’s die-hard base. They’re still plotting out in the open.” via Ron Filipkowski of The Washington Post — I began using social media several months before the election to monitor the extremist elements that were taking control of the Republican Party, a party I had spent my life in but no longer recognized. After the election, however, it became clear that much of the MAGA movement was not going to accept the outcome. What we’re seeing is that many of the activists and influencers who promoted and attended the rally that became the violent attempt to stop the certification of Biden’s election have now turned their attention to three primary targets: school boards, city and county commissions, and secretaries of state and supervisors of elections.
“‘Normal’ Republican DeSantis wants to lock up Fauci. Being a less deranged authoritarian than Trump is a low bar.” via Jonathan Chait of POLITICO — There is a large wing of the conservative elite that thinks of the Republican Party as the parents of a wayward teen might think about their child, a good kid who was doing OK until he was led astray by falling in with the wrong crowd. In this case, the wrong crowd is Trump and his claque, and the Republicans are convinced that once Trump disappears, everything will return to normal. These Republicans have rallied around a candidate of choice: DeSantis, whom they hope will run for President whenever Trump can be coaxed off stage, hopefully in 2024.
“What’s the motive behind the Florida militia?” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — We’re not quite sure what DeSantis had in mind last week when he announced plans to reactivate Florida’s long-defunct civilian militia. We have our suspicions, of course. And we’re not alone. Conspiracy theorists on both ends of the spectrum are having a field day with DeSantis’ latest plan to create a 200-volunteer military unit, answerable only to the Governor’s office. Some have suggested the Governor might consider deploying armed, uniformed members of a new Florida State Guard to strategic polling places during upcoming elections as an intimidation tactic. DeSantis says the new unit would give Florida “the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.”
“Pay attention, Florida. The outcome of Georgia’s upcoming political shootouts could resonate here” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — A state that once had three men claim its Governor’s office at once has a fascinating brawl set for next year in a test of Trump’s dominance over the Republican Party that resonates in other states, including Florida. It’s been nearly 80 years since Georgia entertained the nation for a couple of months after former Gov. Gene Talmadge won his old job back but died before he could be sworn in. The outgoing Governor, Ellis Arnall, decided not to go out, claiming the law let him serve until his elected successor assumed office, which could no longer happen. Melvin Thompson, who had been elected to a newly created post of Lieutenant Governor, claimed to be the rightful heir. And then the Georgia General Assembly elected the late ex-Governor’s son, Herman Talmadge, to the job.
“Why I am sponsoring four different gun safety bills” via Tina Polsky of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As we see yet another school shooting, as we read about yet another family destroyed by gun violence and as we see — day in and day out — death after death after death, I believe someone needs to stand up and say “enough is enough.” My first bill is a “ghost guns” bill, a measure that will close the loophole that allows anyone, including children, to purchase parts and kits online that can be used to make a homemade gun. My second bill would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to submit the data of those who are not legally eligible to possess firearms into the Florida Crime Information Center. My third bill will put clear standards for gun storage in place, so guns do not accidentally end up in the hands of a child. Finally, I am sponsoring another simple loophole-closing bill known as “Jaime’s Law,” which would close the ammo loophole by requiring background checks on ammunition purchases.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
For the first time in modern history, registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats. We’ll break that down.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— A Las Vegas Sands affiliate has dropped its request for a restraining order against the Seminole Tribe. The tribe maintains the claims were unfounded.
And First Lady Casey DeSantis shares words of encouragement as she opens up about her breast cancer diagnosis.
To listen, click on the image below:
— JINGLE, JINGLE —
“Less mange, more frills: Rome’s new Mayor bets on his Christmas tree” via Elisabetta Povoledo of The New York Times — In recent years, Rome city leaders have also had to contend with their constituents’ jitters ahead of the annual Dec. 8 Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the central Piazza Venezia. At least they have since 2017, when Mayor Virginia Raggi set off a social media maelstrom after she installed a tree so pitiful that it was nicknamed Spelacchio, or Mangy. On Wednesday, it was her successor’s turn: At a news conference that evening, Mayor Roberto Gualtieri, elected in October, presented his “bellissimo Christmas tree.” Online, the grumbling has begun, with many social media users appalled by the price tag: 169,000 euros, or about $191,000, including the transportation, installation, and removal of the tree.
“Floridians say their favorite Christmas decoration is …” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Although it may not be a white Christmas for the Sunshine State, the holiday season is in full swing, and Floridians are decking their halls, especially by putting up Christmas trees, according to a new study. The study found that the favorite Christmas decoration among Floridians is the holiday staple, trees. And that seems to be the favorite piece of decor among most Americans. However, Americans are divided on the type of tree they prefer, with the majority (65%) preferring artificial trees over the real thing. The study also found that the ideal height for a tree is six to seven feet, but one-third of Americans like their trees petite, under 4 feet. When it’s time to add a topper, angels outrank stars.
“Christmas banners line Main Street as part of Destin Banner Art Project” via Tina Harbuck of The Destin Log — There’s a splash of Christmas on Main Street in Destin. Last week, city of Destin workers put up various Christmas-themed banners along Main Street, from a snowman on the beach to a Santa crab and even a surfing Santa as part of the Destin Banner Art Project headed up by Ron Sandstead of Flutterby Antiques. January 2022 will mark the fourth year for the banner project that features local works of art. And this Christmas is the second for the holiday-themed banners. The artwork displayed on each of the eight banners on Main Street was done by local artists, some of the artists are repeats, but a couple are new to the project, Becky Fisher and Ron Lazenby.
“First Baptist Church’s Live Nativity returns Monday for its 33rd year” via Devon Ravine of the Northwest Florida Daily News — First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach will host its Live Nativity beginning Monday and running through Saturday, Dec. 18. Hours are 6- 8:30 p.m. each night. Now in its 33rd year, the Live Nativity features about 40 volunteers dressed as a variety of characters from the time of Jesus. “We have everything from Roman guards and shepherds to angels and wise men, and of course, Mary and Joseph,” said Bruce Garner, who is on the church committee responsible for organizing the event. Garner said the Live Nativity usually draws about 3,000 visitors.
“Salvaging Christmas: Firefighters save presents from burning home in Argyle” via the USA Today Network — Walton County firefighters saved Christmas presents, family photos, and other prized possessions from a burning home Saturday morning. At 4:35 a.m. Saturday, the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department, Walton County Fire Rescue, Liberty Volunteer Fire Department and DeFuniak Springs Fire Department were dispatched to a structure fire on Old Airport Road. Once the blaze was under control, firefighters started trying to salvage as many personal belongings as possible from the smoke-damaged home. Firefighters were able to retrieve the family’s Christmas presents and many other treasured belongings from the smoke-filled home.
— ALOE —
“Oviedo Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe to be awarded posthumous Medal of Honor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Cashe, who rescued seven of his fellow soldiers from a burning, bombed vehicle and then died of his own injuries in 2005, will receive the Medal of Honor. Biden announced he would award the medal posthumously to Cashe “for his acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, while serving as a Platoon Sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade, 3d Infantry Division in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq on 17 October 2005, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Biden also announced Medals of Honor would be awarded to two other soldiers, one of them also posthumously. U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Michael Waltz, who’ve been lobbying for the medal for years and even got a law changed so that Cashe would be eligible, hailed the news.
“Publix Charities donates $3 million to housing, shelter initiatives throughout Southeast” via Paul Nutcher of The Lakeland Ledger — Publix Super Markets Charities has donated $3 million to housing and shelter programs as part of the organization’s commitment to building stronger communities. The donation will support 121 Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the Southeast, including funding for a total of six full houses at six locations, a news release announced on Thursday. In addition, 104 nonprofit organizations providing housing and shelter services will also receive funding. PSMC began its support of Habitat for Humanity affiliates more than 30 years ago with its first contribution to Habitat for Humanity of East Polk County in Winter Haven.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is Paula Cobb, Director Environmental Services at Florida Power & Light Company, Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig, Mike Millner, and Mike Stone. Belated best wishes to BG Murphy and Katie Strickland.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.