Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.22.21

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Heat up your day with a dose of Sunburn, the premier first read of Florida politics and policy.

Good Wednesday morning.

In less than a year, Florida voters will make some big decisions, including whether to re-elect Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio or replace them with the eventual Democratic nominees they’ll face on the November ballot.

“Before You Vote” hopes to help voters make a more informed decision with a pair of General Election debates for the statewide races.

The exact dates haven’t been set, but they’ll each be held on a Tuesday night in mid-October — Oct. 11 and Oct. 18 seem the most likely but put it in pencil for now. Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth will serve as the venue.

Debate season is taking shape.

The debates are expected to be simulcast on statewide public radio, daily newspaper websites, and one of the Big Three network TV stations in each of Florida’s media markets. A national C-SPAN rebroadcast is also expected after each live debate has aired.

“We are honored and excited to be the host site for these important debates in the most respected televised political debate series in Florida’s modern history,” PBSC President Ava Parker said. “In addition to this being a major (educational) tool for our campuses and community, the larger statewide community of voters will also greatly benefit.”

Alongi Media will produce both debates. The global media company was founded by longtime NBC News Executive Producer Phil Alongi Sr. and his son, Phil Alongi II, Executive Producer and alum of PBS and NBC News.

The father-and-son team won more than 100 Emmy Awards for debates and broadcast specials, including a 2016 debate between Rubio and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, and a 2018 debate between DeSantis and Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum.

As in those debates, anchor Todd McDermott of West Palm Beach’s WPBF will moderate alongside a select panel of journalists who will be selected at a later date.

___

A special holiday message:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@marcorubio: Omicron has overtaken delta as the dominant COVID strain in the U.S. So, a variant that caused severe illness in some people has been replaced by a variant that causes mild to no symptoms in most people.

@ShevrinJones: Since there’s no direction and it seems like every man/woman are for themselves in Florida with the uptick in #omicron cases, do your due diligence: 1. Get vaccinated/boosted 2. Get tested 3. Wear a mask (Follow @CDCgov rules, not Florida’s) 4. Stay safe

@mitchellreports: Dr. (Anthony) Fauci on South Africa omicron data, “It looked pretty convincing when you look at the ratio of hospitalizations to infections that it is lower than with delta and the duration of the hospital stay is less and the requirement for oxygen is less.” #AMRstaff

Tweet, tweet:

@kylegriffin1: Important note for the unvaccinated who believe in ‘natural immunity’: The first omicron-linked death in the U.S. was recorded in Texas’ Harris County on Monday evening. The man was unvaccinated but had previously been infected.

Tweet, tweet:

@portarican_RT: I lost a patient today that was fully vaccinated, 91 years old, a veteran, and was apologizing the whole time for being sick. To say my heart is broken is an understatement. #GetVaccinatedNow #COVIDVaccine #omicronVariant

Tweet, tweet:

@BenjySarlin: So, people said to do [safety practice] about the pandemic [before vaccines/delta/omicron] but now they say [different practice after one or more of these things]? How very curious. 

@wojespn: Adam Silver tells @malika_andrews that the Omicron variant constitutes 90% of the league’s cases now. “Beyond dominant,” he said.

@BillGates: I know it’s frustrating to go into another holiday season with COVID looming over us. But it won’t be like this forever. Someday the pandemic will end, and the better we look after each other, the sooner that time will come.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 7; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 13; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 13; CES 2022 begins — 14; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 15; NFL season ends — 18; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 20; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 20; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 20; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 20; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 21; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 23; NFL playoffs begin — 24; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 30; ‘Billions’ begins — 32; federal student loan payments will resume — 41; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 44; Super Bowl LVI — 53; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 60; Daytona 500 — 60; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 62; CPAC begins — 64; St. Pete Grand Prix — 65; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 71; The Oscars — 97; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 140; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 159; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 162; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 199; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 210; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 254; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 289; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 324; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 327; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 359; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 422; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 583; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 667; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 947.

— TOP STORY —

Winter arrives in Florida with new COVID-19 surge” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — As winter solstice arrives, the autumn lull in the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over, with Florida’s recent COVID-19 caseload more than triple in the past week. Tuesday’s federal data showed Florida confirmed 49,473 new cases in the most recent seven days through Sunday. That is the first time since early October that Florida has seen more than 20,000 cases in seven days and the first time since late September that Florida has seen more than 40,000. Through Sunday, the latest seven-day tally was more than triple the 14,741 new cases Florida tabulated during the previous week through Dec. 12. The latest seven-day total of new cases is more than Florida had confirmed during the entire month of November.

Welcome to winter in Florida.


— STATEWIDE —

Ron DeSantis adding ‘Hope Ambassadors’ to promote student mental health” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — As Florida students work through the stresses that come with learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, some may find comfort by talking with peers about mental health concerns. Some middle and high school students will be able to turn “hope ambassadors,” as First Lady Casey DeSantis has announced an expansion of a program that encourages students to mentor each other, work together to assist in charity events, and encourage an overall positive and supportive school environment. DeSantis’ Hope Ambassadors program will expand to 100 schools across Florida. Since DeSantis started the initiative, it has grown from 25 schools during the 2020-21 school year to 100 schools statewide.

The Hope Ambassadors Club grows by leaps and bounds.

State gives initial approval for five new hospice programs” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Agency for Health Care Administration announced Monday preliminary approval of five new hospice programs across the state to launch in January 2023, one more than what health care regulators said was needed. Health care regulators announced approval for hospice programs in Escambia, Marion, Polk, Indian River, and Palm Beach counties. The decisions, finalized Friday but published in the Florida Administrative Register on Monday, can be challenged in state administrative court and therefore are not final. It is unclear why the state gave tentative approval to a new hospice in Indian River County where there has not been a documented need for new services.

Case managers for at-risk children and families are leaving at an alarming rate; legislative help is critical” via Kurt Kelly of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida is in the midst of an avoidable catastrophe that is hurting our at-risk children. Case managers, trained to help at-risk families and children navigate what can be a difficult and confusing child welfare system, are quitting the profession at an alarming rate. The ever-changing faces of those tasked to help them only worsen what can be a terrifying experience for families and children. Case managers help children and families in complex and stressful environments. People who choose case management as a profession do so because of an intense desire and ability to help those who need it most in their communities. Unfortunately, very high case manager attrition rates negatively affect the ability to properly and effectively provide necessary services. Some of Florida’s lead child welfare agencies throughout the state are currently reporting staggering turnover rates higher than 50%.

— DATELINE TALLY —

DeSantis’ new election crimes office: 52 positions and ‘unprecedented’ authority” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Earlier this year, DeSantis signed off on several contentious changes to Florida’s election laws, limiting the use of ballot drop boxes and mail-in ballots. But after facing accusations from the GOP base that he still isn’t doing enough to support former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, DeSantis is proposing a new investigative unit to enforce election laws. And he wants to hire a staff larger than most police departments have to solve murders. The new Office of Election Crime and Security, likely the first of its kind in any state, would give DeSantis and future Governors unprecedented authority over election-related investigations. It would employ 45 investigators and have a $5.7 million budget and a broad mandate to look into violations of state election law and election “irregularities.”

Ron DeSantis seeks a major power grab over elections.

State leaders eye Chinese influence in state retirement system” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida is reassessing its exposure to foreign Chinese influence under a plan announced by DeSantis. The plan calls on the State Board of Administration to audit all Florida Retirement System investments and investigate its holdings in Chinese companies. Alongside Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody, the trio lambasted the Chinese government and described the relationship as a threat to national and economic security. DeSantis further urges the Legislature to pass laws that may bar investments into Chinese corporations.

DeSantis orders flags at half-staff in honor of former Sen. Roberto CasasCasas died on Dec. 16 at age 90. Born in Cuba, he served in the Florida House from 1982 until 1988, representing parts of Dade County. During Casas’ tenure in the House, he was chair of the Juvenile Justice, Regulated Industries, Transportation, and Fiscal Policy Committees. In 1988, Casas was elected to the Senate, serving until 2000, where he was President Pro Tempore from 1996 until 1998. On Wednesday, the United States and Florida flags will be at half-staff at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, the Hialeah City Hall, and The Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset.

Florida’s $99.7 billion budget proposal draws praise and criticism” via Chip Barnett of The Bond Buyer — When Florida’s Legislature returns on Jan. 1, one of its first items of business will be to look at DeSantis’ proposed budget of $99.7 billion for fiscal 2022-2023. The Governor’s recommended spending plan for fiscal 2022-23 is down 1.8% from the previous fiscal year’s adopted budget of $101.5 billion. This is largely because of the federal funding that has been flooding in from Washington. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, Florida is estimated to receive about $10.2 billion of funds, with counties getting about $4.2 billion, cities receiving $1.5 billion, and other local governments getting $1.4 billion.

Dep’t of Agriculture adds two communications staffers, bolstering all-woman team” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Nikki Fried named Sabina Convo on Monday as Hispanic Media Director and Kassandra Curiel as Social Media Manager. The pair will serve alongside Director of Strategic Communications Erin Moffet and Deputy Communications Director Caroline Stonecipher. Covo replaces Maca Casada, who left the department to join the Democratic National Committee as a Hispanic Media Director. Curiel, meanwhile, joins FDACS after serving as a business associate in the Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Florida State University.

Economists lower enrollment, cost projections for TANF program” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida’s economists agreed this week that about 31,000 low-income uninsured adults will be enrolled in the Medicaid program this year, about 8,000 fewer people than previously projected. With lower projected enrollment, members of the Social Services Estimating Conference Committee also agreed to lower by $26.6 million the projected costs of care for people enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Economists now anticipate the costs of providing health care to the 31,394 adults will total $97.1 million as of June 30, 2022. In addition to lowering cost and enrollment projections in the state fiscal year 2022-23, the budget lawmakers begin working on when they meet in the Legislative Session in January, enrollment projections declined from 38,256 to 31,234, and projected costs dropped from $118.5 million to $99.1 million.

Public Service Commission: ‘The 305’ needs a third area code” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — “The 305” is shorthand for Miami-Dade, but the region will soon have a third telephone area code now that possible number combinations are being exhausted as demand for phone lines escalates. Officials announced Tuesday at a Florida Public Service Commission workshop that both 305 and the second area code for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, 786, will soon be used up. They said that eight-digit combinations to form a unique telephone number will be exhausted by the first quarter of 2024. All but 12 of the 792 usable prefixes in the 305-area code have been depleted of combinations. And all but 73 of those 792 usable prefixes in the 23-year-old 786-area code have been assigned.

Documents show FPL wrote bill to slow rooftop solar’s growth by hampering net metering” via Mary Ellen Klas and Mario Alejandro Ariza of the Miami Herald — Rooftop solar power generation in Florida is still a nascent industry, but Florida Power & Light, the nation’s largest power company, is pushing to hamstring it by writing and delivering legislation the company asked state lawmakers to introduce. FPL, whose work with dark-money political committees helped to secure Republican control of the state Senate in the 2020 elections, asked state Sen. Jennifer Bradley to sponsor its top-priority bill: legislation that would hobble rooftop solar by preventing homeowners and businesses from offsetting their costs by selling excess power back to the company, an arrangement known as net metering.

Personnel note: Tiffany Vause leaves Agency for Health Care Administration” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — AHCA Deputy Chief of Staff Vause resigned her post last week for a position at Florida Ready for Work, a job readiness program under the auspices of the Department of Economic Opportunity. Taryn Fenske, Communications Director for DeSantis, said Vause’s last day at the agency was Dec. 14. “It looks like a great opportunity,” Fenske said of Vause’s new position at Florida Ready to Work. The program is administered by DEO in conjunction with WIN Learning. While not reflected in her job title at AHCA, Vause took a leading role in handling the agency’s communications efforts. Vause’s departure comes weeks after Deputy Communications Director Kristin McCaffrey left the agency. McCaffrey took a position as marketing manager at Tri-Eagle sales.

Congratulations to Tiffany Vause for her new gig at Florida Ready to Work.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Duval County’s COVID-19 cases up 62%; Florida cases surge 122.1%” via Mike Stuckam of the USA Today Network — New coronavirus cases leapt in Florida in the week ending Sunday, rising 122.1% as 28,841 cases were reported. Data shows that Florida ranked 39th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis. In the latest week, coronavirus cases in the United States increased 9.6% from the week before, with 913,491 cases reported. With 6.45% of the country’s population, Florida had 3.16% of the country’s cases in the last week. Across the country, 22 states had more cases in the latest week than they did the week before. Duval County reported 580 cases in the latest week. A week earlier, it had reported 358 cases. Throughout the pandemic, it has registered 168,360 cases.

COVID-19 isn’t done with Florida just yet. Image via AP.

Omicron could drive 40,000 COVID-19 cases a day in Florida, UF model shows” via Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — University of Florida researchers are projecting the highly contagious omicron variant will lead to about 40,000 new COVID-19 cases a day in Florida by its February apex, around 75% higher than what the state witnessed during the peak of the delta variant. But the new COVID-19 wave will be less lethal for Floridians than delta. The report, produced by three UF researchers at the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF, projects four different scenarios about how the COVID-19 situation may play out in Florida considering transmission, the ability for the virus to evade natural or vaccine immunity, and the severity of the disease.

AdventHealth Centra Care’s COVID-19 positivity rate at 21%, command center reinstated” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — AdventHealth is taking precautions ahead of a potential omicron surge over the holidays. AdventHealth’s urgent care system, Centra Care, saw its COVID-19 positivity rate move in the last few weeks from about 5% to 21%, said Dr. Victor Herrera, chief medical officer at AdventHealth Orlando and an infectious disease specialist, at a briefing on Tuesday. Community transmission is measured by the total number of cases and percent positivity rate in an area. If a community has high transmission, everyone should wear a mask in public, indoor settings, the CDC says.

Regeneron monoclonal antibodies in short supply as COVID-19 crush hits Florida” via Christina Vazquez and Saira Anwer of WPLG Local 10 News — Miami-Dade County’s supply of the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment touted by DeSantis has been exhausted, the Mayor’s office told Local 10 News on Tuesday morning. Tropical Park in southwest Miami-Dade was the only county-run site offering the treatment for people who recently tested positive for COVID-19. The site will reopen on Wednesday, and patients will be contacted directly to reschedule appointments, the county said. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s office said several other parts of the state have also run out or will soon be without supply. They are requesting more “urgently” from the state health department. Some hospitals and doctors in the area still have doses for eligible patients.

—“Crushed by demand, monoclonal antibody treatment sites close in Miami-Dade and Broward” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald 

Miami jury trials paused for two weeks as COVID-19 surge hits legal system” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — As COVID-19 cases surge in South Florida, courts in Miami-Dade County have paused jury trials through Dec. 31. “While we always suspend jury pool during the holidays, except for specially set court proceedings, in an abundance of caution, we have called off all jurors until after the holidays,” court spokeswoman Eunice Sigler said Tuesday in a statement. “Pursuant to the current Miami-Dade County and Florida Supreme Court directives, we may not impose mask mandates; however, we continue to strongly encourage the wearing of masks at all Miami-Dade Courthouses when individuals are in confined spaces with others.”

— 2022 —

Florida was once the perennial swing state. 2022 may prove how red it has become” via Steve Contorno of CNN — Four years ago, Republicans and Democrats in Florida were similarly optimistic about their chances of winning the Governor’s mansion and a tossup race for a U.S. Senate seat during the 2018 midterms. The results of those races devastated Democrats but nevertheless seemed to reinforce Florida’s status as a purple state. But doubts are creeping in as the calendar turns to 2022, as Republican momentum and Democratic malaise have many seeing a deeper shade of red here. On the back of DeSantis‘ aggressive governing style and national appeal among conservatives, Florida Republicans have built a media and fundraising juggernaut that Democrats have struggled to match.

Democrats riled by Spanish-language radio attacks on Kamala Harris” via Christopher Cadelago and Eugene Daniels of POLITICO — Florida Democrats are sounding alarms over what they believe is a sustained and coordinated campaign rapidly unfolding across Spanish-language media to tarnish the image of Vice President Harris. Democratic veterans in the state are unnerved by the ferocity and speed of the attacks, which have come from callers and guests on local radio programs in recent weeks. They suspect the participants are part of a larger, astroturf effort to diminish Harris’ standing among key Latino constituencies in a region where Republicans have notched sharp gains. Even more worrying for these Democrats has been the lack of pushback from their Party.

Attacks on Kamala Harris are starting to worry South Florida Democrats. Image via AP.

Nikki Fried announces round of endorsements from South, Central Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fried’s campaign announced a half dozen new endorsements. Elected officials and business leaders across the state threw their support to Fried as she seeks to deny DeSantis a second term. Oakland Park Commissioner Mitch Rosenwald, Miami Entrepreneur Felice Gorordo, North Miami Councilwoman Mary Estimé-Irvin, Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington, Palm Beach County Mayor Robert Weinroth and Broward County School Board Vice-Chair Patricia Good all publicly backed Fried. The support, including many Democratic leaders holding elected office, could prove crucial in the Democratic Primary.

‘Complete and Total Endorsement’: Facing a primary challenge, Vern Buchanan lands Donald Trump nod” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Buchanan landed an important endorsement from Trump. The support comes as the Longboat Key Republican faces a Primary challenge. Buchanan is running for a ninth term in the U.S. House. If the Republicans retake a majority in the chamber, he would also be the senior Republican on the Ways & Means Committee and a favorite to chair the most powerful committee in the House. But first, he must win re-election. This year, he faces a Primary challenge from Sarasota conservative activist Martin Hyde.

Lori Hershey ends campaign for House District 16 seat” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Hershey, a Duval County School Board member, has ended her campaign for the Florida House. A review of the state Division of Elections page no longer shows her as running in House District 16. Hershey had sought to replace outgoing Rep. Jason Fischer, a Republican who had emerged from that same School Board. But fundraising never materialized, and the district will be radically remapped in redistricting ahead of the 2022 elections. Hershey had expected to run a campaign branded on being a known presence in her district, in contrast to the newly arrived Adam Brandon, a lawyer with Rogers Towers and the only remaining candidate in the current HD 16 field.

Andrew Learned raises $22K+ in November for HD 59 re-election” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Learned raised $22,461 in November, a substantial haul for the House District 59 incumbent’s re-election bid. Learned raised the money between his campaign account and his affiliated political committee, Serve Florida. Between his two funding sources, Learned has raised $268,530 for the race. Learned’s opponent, Republican Michael Minardi, raised $3,920 in November. That brings his total raised to $25,070. Minardi, a well-known lawyer representing clients on cannabis-related issues, is the only Republican in the race to challenge Learned, a moderate Democrat. Learned’s campaign spent $3,286 in November, primarily on fundraising consulting services, as well as other small processing fees and service fees. Learned will enter December with $144,541 cash on hand.

Conservative group wants to inspect Polk election system” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — Lori Edwards, Polk County’s Supervisor of Elections for 20 years, likens the security protecting her office’s election equipment to that at Fort Knox. The office’s election management system, the computer server used for everything from creating ballots to recording votes in individual precincts, remains locked in a room controlled by passwords that only two people know, Edwards said. The equipment is stored in a room with two-factor authentication under 24-hour camera surveillance. A newly formed political group, County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF), is requesting permission to inspect the equipment and capture what it calls a “forensic audit,” a copy of the program’s functions.

Lori Edwards guards election equipment like a hawk.

Candidates in Broward state Senate primary similar on issues, differ on experience and don’t like each other” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Democratic voters in Broward County are deciding if they want to send Rosalind Osgood or Terry Ann Williams Edden to the General Election for the county’s Florida Senate seat. Their choice is between two candidates who have several similarities, as well as major differences. The candidates’ views are similar on many high-profile issues. Both are women in their mid-50s who have long been active in civic affairs. And both have run for office repeatedly in the past. The results, however, have been quite different. Osgood has been successful, having been elected to the Broward School Board three times, where she has served since 2012. Williams Edden has unsuccessfully run for office three times.

Brandon Brown just wants to drive his race car” via Ben Smith of The New York Times — Brown, you see, is the original Brandon, the guy in the anti-Joe Biden rallying cry “Let’s Go, Brandon!” On Oct. 2, at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, he experienced the greatest thrill in his life when he raced to his first-ever NASCAR victory after 113 Xfinity Series contests. His face covered in sweat, an ecstatic Brown stood before an NBC Sports Network camera for the post-race interview, shouting, “This is a dream come true! Wow! Talladega! Dad, we did it!” As the interview continued, a number of people in the stands started rhythmically chanting the name of Biden, preceded by a four-letter expletive. Brown wasn’t listening to the crowd when basking in his win. He first noticed that he had become a meme when he checked Twitter. But the hot slogan of the American right doesn’t turn out to be something you can easily shake off.

— CORONA NATION —

Joe Biden announces Omicron battle plan that includes a half-billion free at-home tests, help from military” via Andrew Jeong of The Washington Post — Biden outlined plans to expand coronavirus testing sites across the country, distribute a half-billion free at-home tests and deploy more federal health resources to aid strained hospitals, as the omicron variant drives a fresh wave of infections. At the White House, Biden acknowledged that Americans are “tired, worried and frustrated” with COVID-19, which he described as a “tough adversary.” But he stressed in remarks at the White House that “we’ve shown that we’re tougher; tougher because we have the power of science and vaccines that prevent illness and save lives.” The President said Americans have an obligation to get vaccinated, calling it a “patriotic duty,” and pointed to Trump’s comment that he got his vaccine booster shot.

Joe Biden is promising free at-home tests for anyone who wants one. Image via AP.

Companies get COVID-19 vaccine mandate reprieve as legal battle continues” via David Harrison of The Wall Street Journal — The Biden administration is pushing back the date by which large businesses must comply with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate as legal uncertainty continues to hang over the requirement. Following a federal appeals court ruling reinstating the administration’s vaccination rules, the Labor Department said it would give employers until Feb. 9 to comply with the rule’s testing requirements and until Jan. 10 to comply with the rest of it. The original deadline announced by the administration was Jan. 4. The rules apply to employers with 100 or more workers and cover roughly 84 million people. The department said it wouldn’t issue testing citations before the February deadline “so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

Lawmakers, business leaders begin to raise alarms about dwindling federal aid, as omicron cases rise across U.S.” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — The swift arrival of a new coronavirus variant has rekindled economic anxieties in Washington, as congressional lawmakers, business leaders and consumer advocates begin to worry whether there is enough federal aid to shield Americans from another round of financial despair. Some of the most significant programs to keep businesses afloat and help households pay bills have expired or run out of funds, raising new risks for the future of the country’s recovery, particularly as the omicron variant wave begins to take hold. There’s no federal money left to keep restaurants open. The aid for concert halls and other customer-starved performance spaces has nearly gone dry. Federal officials ended their primary effort that pumped money into small businesses. Federal student loan protections are expiring imminently.

U.S. population growth at lowest rate in pandemic’s 1st year” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — The United States grew by only 0.1%, with an additional 392,665 added to the U.S. population from July 2020 to July 2021, bringing the nation’s count to 331.8 million people, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The population estimates are derived from calculating the number of births, deaths and migration in the U.S. For the first time, international migration (245,000) surpassed natural increases (148,000) from births outnumbering deaths. In more than two dozen states, most notably Florida, deaths outnumbered births. Deaths exceeded births in Florida by more than 45,000 people, but the state’s saving grace was a migration gain of more than 259,000 people, the nation’s highest.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

COVID-19’s omicron variant starts to take toll on businesses” via Benjamin Mullin, Emily Glazer and Meghan Bobrowsky of The Wall Street Journal — COVID-19’s accelerating spread has hampered operations and slowed sales at some companies in a matter of days, but many say they hope precautions adopted during previous surges will help them motor through this one. Restaurants were among businesses most immediately hit. For the week ended Nov. 28, U.S. restaurant seatings were down 4% from 2019 levels. A week later, they were down 9% by the same metrics. The following week, ended Dec. 12, seatings were down 12%.

Omicron is hitting U.S. businesses hard. Image via Reuters.

Vast household wealth could be a factor behind U.S. labor shortage” via Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week that booming stock markets, home prices and savings are probably leading some people to stay home rather than return to work, with perhaps some couples moving from dual- to single-income households. That is consistent with past research showing that willingness to work depends on one’s finances. If so, then the labor force may get a boost as those savings are whittled down. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, Congress responded with three separate rounds of stimulus checks of as much as $1,200, $600, and $1,400 per person; enhanced jobless benefits of as much as $600 extra per week; and a boost in the 2021 child tax credit by as much as $1,600 per child. The government also suspended monthly student-debt payments for households from March 2020 through early next year.

Are more homes heading to the market in 2022? Survey suggests sellers are getting ready to list” via Amber Randall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Some possible good news for buyers — more inventory could be headed to the South Florida market in the coming months, as sellers become more willing to list their homes. A survey of 1,300 consumers by realtor.com, conducted in the fall of 2021, revealed that 26% of homeowners across the country planned on selling their home within the next year, up from 10% who felt that way in the spring of 2021. Urban owners, in particular, were feeling the urge to sell, with 46% saying they planned on putting their home on the market in the next 12 months. Suburban owners came in at 19% and rural owners at 11%.

— MORE CORONA —

Moderna says its booster significantly raises the level of antibodies to thwart omicron.” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — A booster shot of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine significantly raises the level of antibodies that can thwart the omicron variant, the company announced. The news arrives as omicron rapidly advances worldwide, and most coronavirus vaccines seem unable to stave off infection from the highly contagious variant. Moderna’s results show that the currently authorized booster dose of 50 micrograms — half the dose given for primary immunization — increased the level of antibodies by roughly 37-fold, the company said. A full dose of 100 micrograms was even more powerful, raising antibody levels about 83-fold compared with pre-boost levels. Both doses produced side effects comparable to those seen after the two-dose primary series.

Moderna boosters offer some solid protection against omicron.

The science behind omicron’s rapid spread” via Jason Douglas and Sarah Toy of The Wall Street Journal — As omicron has rapidly taken over as the dominant variant of the coronavirus in South Africa and the U.K., scientists are beginning to piece together what gives it its evolutionary advantage. Researchers are still refining and augmenting their findings, but omicron’s heightened transmissibility appears to be a combination of several properties: It seems able to more easily bind to and break into human respiratory cells; it appears to replicate faster once within our bodies; and it can substantially evade the immunity gained from past infection or vaccination. These advantages mean omicron is spreading across the world at a breakneck pace. Since scientists in South Africa first flagged its presence last month, it has been detected in 77 countries and is probably present in most others.

To track COVID-19 surges, scientists are studying sewage” via Josh Ulick of The Wall Street Journal — Public-health experts traditionally track the spread of an infectious disease through clinical data such as test results, hospitalizations and deaths. As COVID-19 continues to spread, scientists are turning to an alternative measure: wastewater analysis. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can be shed in an infected person’s feces. By sampling sewage at waste-treatment plants, scientists can get a picture of how widespread COVID-19 has become in a community, and how its prevalence changes over time. The extent of COVID-19 testing has varied throughout the pandemic. Because wastewater can be sampled at regular intervals, it may provide a reliable adjunct to data from clinical tests.

Walgreens and CVS struggle against ‘unprecedented’ holiday demand for home tests amid omicron surge” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — With coronavirus cases spiking because of the fast-spreading omicron variant, many Americans have flooded their Walgreens and CVS stores this week for at-home tests, which have become the must-have item for millions ahead of the Christmas holiday. Walgreens and CVS are struggling to keep at-home test kits on the shelves days before millions hold indoor family gatherings for Christmas. The high demand for at-home coronavirus tests such as Abbott BinaxNOW, Acon FlowFlex and Quidel Quickvue has also affected online orders. Many stores list the over-the-counter kits as “out of stock” or only available for in-store purchase.

The NFL’s new COVID-19 approach is smart for making money — and bad for public health” via Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post — It seems the NFL’s owners, players and coaches are done with COVID-19. They don’t want it interrupting their season, messing with their money, or delivering any kind of bad news. Omicron variant? This ain’t no spelling bee; they’re sticking to football. The NFL is behaving exactly the way a contagious, constantly mutating virus wants people to act. The chaos signals a need to rethink strategies and reduce the risk of a spread that could lead to temporary stoppages. At a time when the sport should deploy its resources to test as thoroughly as possible and seek clarity about the challenges it faces now and for the remainder of the season, the two sides have agreed to do less, know less and try to plow through the final weeks of the 2021 campaign.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Did Biden’s domestic ambitions outrun his slender legislative majorities?” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — There was always a flaw in Biden’s sprawling domestic agenda. His ambitions risked exceeding his legislative majorities. Now, the question is whether he can retool and turn a dramatic setback into a popular victory. Sen. Joe Manchin delivered the blow Sunday when he announced that he could not support the Build Back Better bill in its current form. For good reasons, the President feels burned by Manchin. That the legislation depended on the support of Manchin, however, spoke volumes about the problem Biden faced. It is possible that Biden will have to come forward with a package further scaled-down, more targeted, and more transparent in its costs. After all, the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better package once were seen as a single proposal but were later split into two pieces.

Did Joe Biden overreach in his domestic agenda? Image via AP.

Biden has installed a significant number of judges from diverse backgrounds — now comes the hard part” via Seung Min Kim and Ann E. Marimow of The Wall Street Journal — Biden has muscled through the highest number of federal judges in the first year of a presidency in four decades, rapidly filling vacancies at a clip that outpaces his predecessor with judicial picks from a diverse range of racial, gender and professional backgrounds. The pace reflects an urgency from the Biden White House and Democratic senators to make up ground lost to Republicans who prioritized filling the judiciary with conservatives, putting more than 230 judges in place during the Trump presidency. As the one-year mark of the Biden presidency approaches, the Democratic-controlled Senate has confirmed 40 judicial nominees and has the opportunity to shift the balance on several regional appeals courts in part because of a wave of judges stepping back from active service.

Bidens welcome new puppy and cat; Major to stay with friends” via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Biden introduced the newest member of his family, a purebred German shepherd puppy named Commander, while the first lady’s office said the cat she promised more than a year ago to bring to the White House will finally join them in January. But the news wasn’t as “paws-itive” for another member of the Biden animal family. The family decided it was best for their other German shepherd, Major, to live in a quieter environment with friends after some biting incidents. Biden shared a photo on his official Twitter account of the 3-month-old male puppy with a caption that said, “Welcome to the White House, Commander.” He also released a brief video of him tossing a ball to Commander and walking the leashed dog into the White House. Commander was a gift from the President’s brother, James Biden, and sister-in-law, Sara Biden.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Here’s why Joe Manchin’s climate objections to Build Back Better are misleading” via Rachel Treisman of NPR — Biden and congressional Democrats have spent months whittling down and rewriting his key domestic policy bill to win the support of Sen. Manchin. The roughly $2 trillion bill, known as Build Back Better, aims to expand the social safety net and address climate change. Democrats need unanimous support in the evenly-divided Senate to pass it and Manchin has long said it’s too costly. On Sunday, he delivered the fatal blow to the bill and Biden’s agenda: “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I just can’t get there.” Manchin singled out the bill’s climate change provisions as one of his objections, saying in a statement that “the energy transition my colleagues seek is already well underway in the United States of America.” The biggest threat to the electric grid is not clean energy, as Manchin said, but climate change.

Joe Manchin is not understanding BBB’s relation to climate change. Image via AP.

Manchin’s private offer to Biden included pre-K, climate money, Obamacare — but excluded child benefit” via Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Sen. Manchin last week made the White House a concrete counteroffer for its spending bill, saying he would accept a $1.8 trillion package that included universal prekindergarten for 10 years, an expansion of Obamacare and hundreds of billions of dollars to combat climate change, three people familiar with the matter said. But Manchin’s counteroffer excluded an extension of the expanded child tax credit the administration has seen as a cornerstone of Biden’s economic legacy, the people said, an omission difficult for the White House to accept in the high-stakes negotiations. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door deliberations.

Environmental groups file notice to sue EPA over manatee deaths” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Charging that both the Indian River Lagoon and Florida’s manatee population are amid “ecological collapse,” four environmental groups filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA. The notice contends the EPA failed to adequately oversee Florida’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, resulting in an environmental disaster with the massive die-off of manatees over the past year or so. The groups include Earthjustice, representing the Center for Biological Diversity, Save the Manatee Club, and Defenders of Wildlife. The notice gives the agencies 60 days to address violations alleged in the letter before officially filing a lawsuit in federal court. The notice asks the EPA to reinitiate consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service to reassess the water-quality standards in the Indian River Lagoon and the waterways that feed into it.

— CRISIS —

Nancy Pelosi announces plans for ‘solemn observance’ of anniversary of Jan. 6 insurrection” via Amy B Wang of The Washington Post — Pelosi has indicated there will be a “full program of events” to mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the confirmation of Biden’s Electoral College win, a siege that resulted in five deaths and left some 140 law enforcement officers injured. Pelosi noted the House would not be in session the first week of January but said some members had expressed interest in being involved in commemoration activities. The Speaker asked Democratic members of Congress who will be in Washington on Jan. 6 to email her office to fully prepare for what she called a “solemn observance” of the day.

Nancy Pelosi says the House will observe Jan. 6 Capitol attack anniversary with vigil, other events.

For first time, Jan. 6 panel seeks information from a House member” via Luke Broadwater of The New York Times — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is seeking testimony and documents from Rep. Scott Perry, the first public step the panel has taken to try to get information from any of the Republican members of Congress deeply involved in Trump’s effort to stay in power. On Monday, the committee sent a letter to Perry, the incoming chair of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, asking for him to meet with its investigators and voluntarily turn over his communications during the buildup to the riot. To date, the panel has been reluctant to issue subpoenas for information from sitting members of Congress, citing the deference and respect lawmakers in the chamber are supposed to show one another.

Michael Fanone resigns from D.C. police force 11 months after battling rioters at Capitol” via Peter Hermann of The Washington Post — Fanone, the D.C. police officer who was dragged into a mob and beaten during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and later publicly excoriated lawmakers and others who downplayed the attack, said he submitted his resignation from the force Monday. After using previously acquired leave, the 41-year-old officer will officially depart on Dec. 31. Fanone, whose frequent appearances on national television caused consternation among police commanders, said he will be an on-air contributor to CNN on law enforcement issues. Fanone, who voted for Trump in 2016 but did not support his re-election bid, spent months after the Jan. 6 riot repeatedly warning about threats to democracy, often alongside CNN anchor Don Lemon.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Ghislaine Maxwell case logs show how frequently Trump flew on Jeffrey Epstein jets; Bill Clinton, too” via Ben Wieder and Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald — Trump appears to have flown on Epstein’s private jets six more times than was previously known, according to flight logs released as evidence in Maxwell’s trial. Previous disclosures of portions of Epstein’s flight log have shown world leaders, billionaires and celebrities among the many passengers who have flown on Epstein’s private jets. The new log released as evidence in Maxwell’s case stretches back earlier than previous releases. Decades before he became President, Trump flew four times in 1993, once in 1994 and once in 1995, in addition to a flight in 1997 documented in portions of the flight log previously released. The flights were all between Palm Beach and New York City airports.

Donald Trump spent more time with Jeffrey Epstein than first thought. Image via AP.

Trump ally Scott Perry declines interview with Capitol riot panel” via Jan Wolfe of Reuters — U.S. Rep. Perry, an ally of Trump, said on Tuesday he would not provide the information requested by a congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Pennsylvania Republican said on Twitter he would not sit for an interview with the panel and would not provide electronic communications it had requested, including messages he exchanged with Trump’s lawyers. “I stand with immense respect for our Constitution, the rule of law, and the Americans I represent who know that this entity is illegitimate, and not duly constituted under the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Perry said. An appeals court ruled earlier this month that the Jan. 6 Select Committee was legitimate and entitled to see White House records Trump has tried to shield from public view.


— LOCAL NOTES —

Can the School Board ban ‘personal attacks?’ It depends how it’s enforced.” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — If Palm Beach County School Board members get their way, people who address them at their meetings soon will have to refrain from saying their names or personally criticizing them. A proposed change in the rules for public comment at board meetings says, “speakers may not address Board members by name and personal attacks against individual Board members, the Superintendent, or District staff are prohibited.” The proposal marks a significant shift in reaction to an onslaught of verbal attacks this year from parents upset over mask mandates. The school board is just the latest in Florida considering new restrictions on public speakers to calm raucous displays in their meetings.

Fighting ‘personal attacks?’ it’s all in the enforcement. Image via redefinED.

Parkland shooting, Surfside collapse top list of big trials coming in 2022” via David Ovalle and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Two of South Florida’s worst tragedies will be the focus of major trials this coming year — a horrific mass shooting at a Parkland high school and the shocking deadly collapse of a beachside condominium in Surfside. With the threat of COVID-19 having waned significantly, Florida courts are open and running again and 2022 is expected to bring a string of high-profile cases to state and federal courtrooms. Beyond some long-delayed trials, other significant events are expected, including federal appointments by the Biden administration. Those dates are not yet set and, like many trials, are always subject to change.

Was the Jeffrey Epstein case intentionally sunk? Judge won’t release secret grand jury papers” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — A Palm Beach County circuit judge on Monday refused to release secret documents that could explain why a 2006 grand jury indicted Epstein on a single charge of prostitution despite evidence that showed he abused more than a dozen girls at his Palm Beach mansion. In a 10-page order, Circuit Judge Donald Hafele rejected arguments by attorneys for The Palm Beach Post, who pushed him to release the records, citing a rarely used state law that allows the secrecy of a grand jury to be pierced to further the interests of justice. While Hafele noted that the newspaper offered “strong arguments,” he said he was bound by state law.

Residents of downtown West Palm Beach assisted-living home fear development next door” via Larry Keller in the Palm Beach Post — Invoking images of a future calamity like that of the Surfside condo collapse as well as frail elderly people forced to endure noise and dust, lawyers representing a downtown West Palm Beach assisted-living home have implored the city to proceed carefully or not at all. The “commercial development will unequivocally interfere with the physical and emotional well-being of these elderly assisted-living residents, which could cause severe emotional distress, pain, suffering and even death,” attorney Michael Pike warned the Downtown Action Committee in a six-page letter. Two days after receiving Pike’s letter, the committee unanimously approved the site for the proposed development.

No charges for Miami-Dade cop fired for slapping woman at airport. He retired, with back pay” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade police officer who slapped an angry woman at Miami International Airport last year won’t face criminal prosecution — and was allowed to retire with back pay for the time he was booted from the force. The June 2020 confrontation between the woman and Officer Antonio Clemente Rodriguez was captured on video that went viral during the summer of protests against police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd. In recent years, the incident was one of several rough arrests in Miami-Dade County and renewed scrutiny on so-called “distraction strikes” employed by cops. The revelation that Rodriguez won’t be prosecuted was made in Tuesday’s final memo released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

A Miami-Dade police officer was fired for punching a Black woman, but he won’t face charges.

Invivo Diagnostic Imaging in Gainesville will lay off over 500 workers in coming months” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — The Invivo Diagnostic Imaging plant at 3545 Southwest 47th Ave., which is owned by Philips North America, will begin its first round of the mass layoff of 330 workers starting on Dec. 31, according to a notice required under federal law to be sent to the city and county officials before the layoffs. And then, almost 200 more people will then be laid off in waves in Feb. and March. The initial layoffs are not a surprise. In 2019, Philips North America announced it had planned to move about 300 of the Gainesville plant’s 500 workers to India.

— TOP OPINION —

No, vaccinated people should not cancel their holiday plans” via Leana S. Wen of The Washington Post — For the second year in a row, a winter coronavirus surge is upon us. Despite these staggering numbers, I don’t think vaccinated people should have to cancel their plans for the holidays. Growing research shows that existing vaccines provide significant protection against severe illness due to omicron. Those recently boosted with the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines have the best protection, including a decreased likelihood of mild breakthrough infections. Vaccinated people can take three key precautions that allow them to go about most aspects of their lives while being responsible members of society. First, wear a high-quality mask. Second, obtain a rapid test before indoor, maskless get-togethers. Third, use additional tools such as quarantine and staying outdoors.

— OPINIONS —

Trump’s message on vaccines isn’t as powerful as Trumpism’s message” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — On Monday, the world learned that Trump had received a booster dose to supplement his original vaccination. It’s good both for his personal health and good in its message to the public. Trump not only said that he’d gotten vaccinated but made a case for others to do so. The problem is that even a direct, robust call from Trump for his base to get vaccinated probably wouldn’t change many minds. Among Republicans who didn’t intend to get a dose, only about 1 in 5 said that Trump’s endorsement would make them more likely to do so.

Most Florida conservatives want government to address climate change and some lawmakers are taking the lead” via George Riley for TheInvadingSea.com — Belief in climate change among Florida conservatives is at an all-time high, according to polling research. U.S. Sen.Rubio has been instrumental in supporting smart climate policies on the federal level like the Growing Climate Solutions Act. The legislation would leverage the power of the free market to incentivize farmers and foresters to incorporate carbon-cutting practices into their operations. Rubio is proving to be a leader on climate issues. We encourage him to keep up the good work and help advance policies that increase Florida’s conservation and resiliency efforts to help us prepare for and lessen the impact of climate change on our communities, businesses, and residents.

— JINGLE, JINGLE —

Last-minute Christmas shopping in Sarasota-Manatee wraps up” via Laura Finaldi of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Even though U.S. retailers encouraged people to buy early this holiday season, last-minute shoppers flocked to Sarasota-Manatee retail stores the weekend before Christmas. At the usually packed Shoppes at University Town Center, cars on all sides of the four-way stop signs in the plaza lined up, one after the other, to enter and exit the mall. Holiday retail sales in the U.S. are already on pace to set records, according to the latest data from the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales were up 18.2% year-over-year in November and 0.3% between October and November, the Census Bureau reported, following an October where retail sales were up 16.3%.

Angel tree: Over 800 area children will receive Christmas gifts thanks to Salvation Army” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Natasha Casner couldn’t hold back a tear as she spoke of what the Salvation Army Angel Tree program means to her in 2021. Casner’s children will be among more than 800 in Northwest Florida this year who will receive Christmas offerings of toys, clothes, bikes, even beds through the Salvation Army of Okaloosa and Walton counties, which worked with Catholic Charities to revive a tradition of fulfilling wishes appearing on lists hung from Angel Trees scattered around the community. “Our donors in this community have gone way over and above what anyone can imagine,” said Salvation Army Lt. James Milner.

The Salvation Army Angel Tree is making Christmas bright for 800 kids. Image via Salvation Army.

A man strung Christmas lights from his home to his neighbor’s to support her. The whole community followed.” via Sydney Page of The Washington Post — Kim Morton was home watching a movie with her daughter when she received a text from her neighbor who lives directly across the road. He told her to peek outside. Matt Riggs had hung a string of white Christmas lights, stretching from his home to hers in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood, just north of the Baltimore city line. The lights, he told her, were meant to reinforce that they were always connected despite their pandemic isolation. “Little by little, the whole neighborhood started doing it,” said Morton. “The lights were a physical sign of connection and love.” Although it started on Dunkirk Road, other streets in the area were soon lined with lights, too, and each block had its own character. While some showcased classic white lights, others opted for colorful or twinkly bulbs.

Wait, is ‘Die Hard’ a remake of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’” via Andy Kryza of Time Out — Questioning whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie (it is) has become the holiday version of ‘is a hot dog a sandwich?’ (it’s not). The debate has transitioned from Christmas dinner banter to the go-to blather of pub-bores everywhere. However, last year director John McTiernan finally weighed in on the topic, and in doing so threw a fresh log on the fire by saying Die Hard’s tone was informed by Frank Capra’s beloved holiday fable “It’s a Wonderful Life.” … “Specifically, the Pottersville sequence,” McTiernan said. “Which is what happens when the evil banker gets to do what he wants in the community without George getting in the way to stop it.” John McClane is basically George Bailey with bloody feet.

‘LET’S GO BRANDON’ Christmas lights spark battle with Sarasota homeowner’s association” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and goodwill to others. Spelling out “LETS GO BRANDON” in lighted letters on a balcony of his house brought plenty of joy to Martin Hyde, a Sarasota Republican running for Congress. It didn’t generate goodwill in his neighborhood, though. Now Hyde is locked in a standoff with his homeowner’s association, which sent him a “friendly reminder” that signs aren’t permitted and then dangled the possibility of a $150-a-day fine if he doesn’t comply. Some might wonder if a light display implying vulgarity is in keeping with the spirit of a religious holiday, but Hyde isn’t worried about that. Rather than take down the lighted lettering, Hyde is planning to unveil an even bigger display Wednesday during an event at his house.

— ALOE —

New Year’s Eve big orange rise in Miami and anchor drop in Fort Lauderdale to be held as planned” via Andrew Perez of WPLG Local 10 News — Coronavirus cases are doubling every couple of days in South Florida. This has prompted many holiday season indoor events to be canceled. As of Monday, the New Year’s Eve anchor drop in Fort Lauderdale and the big orange rise in Downtown Miami were still on schedule to be held as planned. Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava and Broward County Mayor Michael Udine are both receiving daily reports on hospital capacity related to COVID-19. Levine Cava and Udine asked the unvaccinated to get their two-shot doses and the booster shot. They expect the season’s peak of infections early next year.

Miami’s Big Orange is a go for 2021!

Airbnb trying new rental restrictions to deter neighborhood party zones on New Year’s Eve” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The new year is coming and with it new steps to deter raucous partying at short-term rental properties. Airbnb is taking steps to deter bacchanals that might irk the neighbors, with a new policy that will block Airbnb clients with a less than pristine record on the platform from last-minute home rentals on New Year’s Eve. The policy would also, in certain areas, block home renters from booking two- or three-night stays, a step up from last year’s policy that banned single-night stays on New Year’s Eve at properties owned by renters without a positive history on the rental platform. Last year, the anti-party policy stopped some 1,500 bookings in Miami alone, the company said.

Children of classic Christmas movie stars share memories of their parents’ beloved films” via Melissa August of TIME — These movies mean a lot to us as repeat viewers, but for the children of the actors and filmmakers who created these unforgettable gems, there is a deeper and more personal connection. We asked some of them to tell us about their memories of these beloved films and the parents who created them. Monsita Ferrer, actor and daughter of Rosemary Clooney, who starred in White Christmas, said she always called Bing Crosby “Uncle Bing.” … “I vividly remember a time when I was watching the “Count Your Blessings” scene, and suddenly I’m realizing that they were kissing. I went to Mama and I said, ‘Why are you and Uncle Bing kissing?’ She thought it was the funniest thing she had ever heard. But I was disturbed. Kissing my uncle!”

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today is Jon McGowan.

___

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.


One comment

  • Alex

    December 22, 2021 at 9:26 am

    “The new Office of Election Crime and Security, likely the first of its kind in any state, would give DeSantis and future Governors unprecedented authority over election-related investigations. It would employ 45 investigators and have a $5.7 million budget and a broad mandate to look into violations of state election law and election “irregularities.””

    With zero evidence of any election crimes – except by Republicans.

    “Nothing even slightly suspicious here, move along” – Trumpians not so secretly wishing for authoritarianism

Comments are closed.


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