Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.6.22

Sunburn Orange Tally (2)
Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Thursday morning.

Let’s begin with some good news about a bunch of good people.

Corcoran Partners on Thursday cut the ribbon on a new St. Petersburg office and brought on Helen Levine, Ph.D., to run the ship.

“Our team prides itself on providing focused and exceptional service for our clients on a broad range of issues and funding requests. The addition of our fourth office reflects the high degree of importance we place on St. Petersburg and Pinellas County and Helen Levine is the right person to lead our firm’s expansion and growth in the area,” said founding Partner and CEO Michael Corcoran.

Helen Levine helps cut the ribbon on a new Corcoran Partners office.

“Her integrity and commitment to excellence are second to none. Helen’s respect for all stakeholders on both sides of the aisle, her persuasive problem-solving abilities, and her love of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County truly made her the only choice for us.”

Levine comes to the firm with more than 30 years of experience in local government, higher education and the nonprofit sector. She most recently served as regional vice chancellor of USF St. Petersburg, where she oversaw the school’s government relations.

“I am pleased and honored to lead the St. Petersburg office of Corcoran Partners where the tradition of client-centered service, deep and enduring relationships, and impactful outcomes will continue to be the hallmark for our existing and new clients. I am grateful to Mike and Jessie (Corcoran) for their trust and confidence and look forward to a very productive and successful 2022.”

St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond lauded Levine as “an extraordinary community leader, passionate advocate and pragmatic problem solver” and said her hire “clearly demonstrates the firm’s commitment to effectively advocating for organizations in the nonprofit and education sectors, especially those serving residents in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, and the entire Tampa Bay region.”

___

Uber has tapped Javi Correoso to serve as its Head of Public Policy and Communications in the southern United States.

Correoso, a longtime Republican strategist and a close ally of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, has worked at Uber for the past six years and was part of the team that helped create ride-share regulations for the industry in Florida, serving as a regional spokesperson.

Congrats to Javi Correoso on his new Uber gig.

More recently, he led the company’s efforts to secure passage of the “cocktails to go” bill last Session, which allows restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages to take out and delivery customers, such as those who order meals through Uber Eats.

In his new role, Correoso will oversee the ride-share and delivery giant’s public policy and communications efforts in 20 states, including Florida.

Correoso, an FIU graduate, got his start in the political arena as a staffer to former Rep. David Rivera and as the executive director of the Miami-Dade Republican Party. He has held key positions in numerous political campaigns, including Rubio’s 2010 Senate bid.

After launching his public affairs firm National Capitol Strategies in 2013, he served as a top adviser to Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign and the campaign opposing the 2014 amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

___

The Florida Beer Wholesalers Association expanded this week with the addition of Jared Ross, who comes aboard as the association’s inaugural executive vice president.

“When looking for an executive vice president, we were looking for someone driven, passionate, and focused on the future, and Jared not only meets those expectations, but exceeds them,” said FBWA President Mitch Rubin. “Jared brings a unique perspective and shared vision for the future of the association that we are looking forward to seeing come to fruition.”

Ross joins the team with more than 15 years of experience working with and for trade associations, most recently as president of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates.

Congrats, too: Raise a glass to Jared Ross, the inaugural executive VP for the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association.

Before SCUA, Ross worked as Director of Public Policy at the American Cancer Society’s Florida division. He got his first taste of the Process working as the Chief Legislative Aide at The Rubin Group — the lobbying firm now known as Rubin Turnbull & Associates.

He is a double alum of Florida State University, where he earned his bachelor’s and law degrees. and is actively involved with several community organizations in the Tallahassee area. In addition to serving the board of multiple local organizations and committees, he is the founder of the FSU Jewish Alumni Network.

FBWA represents a consortium of nearly two-dozen independent licensed beer distributors in the Sunshine State. In addition to advocating for distributor interests in the Legislature, the organization educates licensees and the public on issues related to the manufacturing, distribution and retail sale of alcoholic beverages.

___

Allison Aubuchon Communications kicked off the New Year by promoting Chloe Barr to senior account manager and launching a new website.

Barr joined the Tallahassee-based public relations firm in 2019 and in the time since she has supported a broad range of clients and topics with work spanning several states.

“Chloe has been a huge part of our team’s successes since she joined in 2019,” said Allison Aubuchon, the firm’s president. “She is a skilled communicator and problem-solver, along with being one of the most positive and passionate people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing or working with. I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve together and how well she represents our team and industry.”

More congrats: Allison Aubuchon Communications kicked off 2022 by giving a boost to Chloe Barr.

Barr is a graduate of Florida State University and an active member of the Florida Public Relations Association — she was named FPRA’s New Member of the Year in 2021.

“I am so proud to continue my career with Allison Aubuchon Communications,” she said. “Allison is an amazing mentor and leader who has guided me through immense professional growth over three years with the company. I enjoy working with our clients on statewide, regional and national projects that influence social and policy change. I am incredibly grateful to work for a company that values wellness, family and personal growth along the way.”

Alongside the personnel news, the Allison Aubuchon Communications team’s new website, buzzwithpurpose.com, went live this week, with updates Aubuchon says better highlight the award-winning team’s work, areas of expertise and members.

___

Shutts & Bowen LLP is bringing on lawyer Tara Price to serve as a partner at its Tallahassee office, according to an announcement obtained by Florida Politics Thursday.

The move will help Shutts & Bowen expand its appellate offerings. Price has experience in appellate litigation and has also worked in administrative, commercial and constitutional law.

“Shutts & Bowen’s Appellate Practice Group has seen tremendous growth over the last two years and the addition of Tara’s substantial experience in appellate advocacy will further bolster the capabilities we offer to our clients,” said Jason Gonzalez, managing partner of the Shutts & Bowen Tallahassee office and chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group.

Even more congrats: Tara Price makes partner at Shutts & Bowen.

The Appellate Practice Group works to “provide appellate support during trial and pretrial activities, assisting in the development of legal theories and proper record establishment, as well as preserving and identifying error,” according to the firm.

Price has appeared before the Division of Administrative Hearings, District Courts of Appeal, the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. She graduated from the Florida State University College of Law after attending undergrad at the University of South Florida.

“I am thrilled to join the accomplished team of attorneys at Shutts and look forward to expanding my practice with one of Florida’s oldest statewide law firms,” Price said.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JKertzer: I have an enormous amount of respect for the terrific political scientists, but I found this piece very puzzling. I know a lot of Civil War scholars, and … very few of them think the United States is on the precipice of a civil war.

@k_mahlburg: The reason Joe Rogan is so hated is because he is speaking effectively to the persuadable middle.

@GovRonDeSantis: The Chinese Communist Party steals America’s technology and is a threat to the semiconductor supply chain. I am investing funds to increase microchip and semiconductor manufacturing in Florida so that the CCP cannot hold our supply chain hostage.

@CindyKGoodman: UF announced starting Jan. 1 it will no longer publicly track the number of infected students, faculty or staff on campus. Its final tally since March 2020 was 14,522, including a rapid rise in the number of positive cases in the final days it made data available.

@Jusrangers: I’m much more concerned about Long Illiteracy and Long Depression than Long COVID. Open every school now.

@KKriseman: Very surreal to be picking my husband up from his last day of work.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

NFL season ends — 3; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 5; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 5; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 5; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 5; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 6; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 8; NFL playoffs begin — 9; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 15; ‘Billions’ begins — 17; Red Dog Blue Dog charity event — 19; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 29; Super Bowl LVI — 38; season two of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 43; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 45; Daytona 500 — 46; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 48; CPAC begins — 50; St. Pete Grand Prix — 50; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 57; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 76; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 78; The Oscars — 80; federal student loan payments will resume — 115; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 120; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 141; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 147; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 184; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 195; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 239; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 274; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 309; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 312; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 344; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 407; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 442; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 568; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 652; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 932.

— TOP STORY —

University of Florida’s President is stepping down” via Fresh Take Florida — Kent Fuchs, the President of the University of Florida during the school’s ascension to a Top 5 ranked public university but whose leadership was questioned over his reluctance to challenge Ron DeSantis, said Wednesday he will step down. Fuchs, who had been appointed the 12th President of the state’s flagship university in 2014, made the surprise announcement on the first day of spring classes. He said he had quietly informed the chair of the Board of Trustees, Mori Hosseini, about his decision back in August. Fuchs said he will remain President through the fall semester later this year and until the next President is appointed, which was expected by early 2023. He said he plans to return to conducting research and teaching electrical and computer engineering at Florida after a sabbatical. Under Fuchs’ tenure, Florida increased the number of full-time faculty from 3,691 to 4,642, and increased research spending from $709 million to nearly $1 billion.

To watch Fuchs’ retirement announcement, click on the image below:


— STATEWIDE —

—“Road, college money seed Osceola County’s high-tech hopes” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

AG wants tougher sentences for smash-and-grab thefts. Critics say it barely exists” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody stood outside of Hialeah City Hall, calling for beefed-up retail theft sentencing guidelines to deter a crime she acknowledged hadn’t really taken hold in Florida. At least not yet. Surrounded by state and federal lawmakers, the attorney general referenced widely viewed videos of gangs rampaging through retail outlets, the vast majority of them outside of Florida, and called it an “endless cycle of smash-and-grabs.” A draft copy of Moody’s bill shows charges stemming from organized retail theft could be enhanced if prosecutors could prove five thefts were committed within a 30-day period with a total of 10 items taken in a minimum of two locations. Moody said the sentencing guidelines would be left to legislators.

Does Ashley Moody have a solution looking for a problem?

Jimmy Patronis urges creation of digital insurance verification tool for motorists” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Patronis is urging the state’s lead transportation agency to harness technology that would allow Floridians to show digital proof of insurance on their smartphones. In a letter sent Wednesday to Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Director Terry Rhodes, Patronis shared plans to push legislation that would require the state to create the digital insurance verification tool by 2023. The technology, Patronis said, should coincide with the state’s ongoing effort to develop a digital driver’s license. The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11. “Your agency is doing important work with this digital effort, and we all look forward to the day when we can legally drive on Florida’s roadways and leave the wallet at home,” Patronis wrote.

Miami-Dade prosecutors target prominent political consultants in sham candidate case” via Samantha J. Gross, Ana Ceballos and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Prosecutors appear to be targeting prominent Republican and Democratic operatives in Florida for potential criminal charges stemming from a 2020 Miami-Dade election scheme marked by sham candidates, court records reveal. Those targets: Alex Alvarado, a Republican consultant; Dan Newman, a prominent Democratic fundraiser; Richard Alexander, the chair of the dark-money group Grow United; and Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit run by Ryan Tyson, a top GOP pollster in Florida. Each has been sent what is known by prosecutors as a “prior to” letter, which generally precedes criminal charges in a case. The existence of the letters was included in a document filed in circuit court late last month by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

Resident of The Villages arrested, suspected of casting multiple ballots” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — Charles Franklin Barnes was arrested and taken to Sumter County Jail; he faces a charge of fraud in casting more than one ballot during an election, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. Barnes is not affiliated with a political party in Florida. Voter records indicate Barnes registered in Florida in 2019. Before moving to The Villages, Barnes previously held an address in Connecticut. Barnes was released from jail after paying a bond amount of $2,000.

— DATELINE TALLY —

We almost forgot — “Florida’s election-year Legislative Session set to start” via John Kennedy of the USA Today Network-Florida — Florida lawmakers open Session Tuesday ready to spend from a state treasury brimming with budget cash while advancing a host of ideas heavily shaded by election-year politics. DeSantis has laid out an agenda that sprinkles pay raises across teachers, first responders and state employees — using a bounty of state cash enhanced by $3.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan, COVID-19 relief handed down to states by President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats. But DeSantis also will bite the hand that helps feed Florida’s cash flow. Under the Governor, the state sued the White House four times, over immigration and vaccine policies, even as the $1,000 pay raises for teachers and first responders he’s proposing are financed by those Biden bucks.

Wilton Simpson accuses Miami Herald reporter of pre-litigation collusion regarding redistricting” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Simpson sent an angry letter to the Miami Herald accusing reporter Mary Ellen Klas of dangerous bias. Specifically, Simpson said the veteran reporter had often penned pointed articles and asked leading questions about the once-a-decade redistricting process. While complaints of media bias are nothing new to politics, Simpson took the extraordinary step of sending a complaint to Miami Herald Executive Editor Monica Richardson. Simpson sent the message on Florida Senate letterhead. In it, Simpson actually praised Herald coverage of the redistricting process a decade ago. Simpson said Klas’ reporting has not only been less favorable but appears oriented toward preluding legal challenges like those that derailed maps approved by the Legislature in 2012.

Collusion course: Mary Ellen Klas seems to be rubbing Wilton Simpson the wrong way.

Superspreader? Following Ron DeSantis’ lead, Legislature to convene without COVID-19 restrictions” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — When Florida lawmakers and thousands of state employees, lobbyists and visitors convene next week for a two-month legislative session, more than bills, budgets and gossip will be passed. COVID-19 and its newest, highly transmissible omicron variant may prove to be a key influencer in the state Capitol complex, which will be open to all with no restrictions in place to reduce the spread of the virus. Participants in the 2022 session will have far fewer protections against the spread of COVID-19 than they did in the spring 2021 Regular Session, when an estimated one-fourth of state Senators contracted the virus. State Rep. Allison Tant said House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Simpson will be reluctant to institute any COVID-19 rules now that DeSantis has essentially outlawed them throughout the state.

Senate redistricting leader plans to renumber districts randomly” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — When lawmakers consider a new Senate map, a random process will decide the numbering for each district. More than a clerical matter, the selection of numbers will determine how long Senators elected this year will serve before standing for election again. Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the Estero Republican chairing the Senate Reapportionment Committee, issued a memo to all sitting Senators outlining a timeline on the redistricting process in the upper chamber. The ambitious schedule aims for maps to land in front of the committee on Jan. 13, the third day of the Regular Session. While Rodrigues outlined such a plan with a separate memo last month, he raised the prospect of random numbering in a memo released Wednesday afternoon.

Outgoing Sen. Jeff Brandes still chasing a legacy in prison reform” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times —In 2014, a Department of Corrections official stood before a panel of lawmakers and described how prison guards had walked an inmate into a scalding hot shower and left him there, pleading, as his skin peeled off. The Republican Senator from St. Petersburg listened in disbelief. Newly minted as a member of the criminal justice committee, he felt out of place. It wasn’t his expertise. Senate leaders put him on the committee anyway. Over the next few years, Brandes went from a tourist in Florida’s criminal justice world to an authority determined to make sweeping change to what he saw as a crisis.

Proposal to ban free prison labor introduced for Session” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — The state of Florida allows for unpaid prison labor, but that could change if a Tampa-based Democratic lawmaker’s joint resolution makes it through the Legislature in the upcoming session, which begins next week. State Rep. Dianne Hart’s joint resolution (HJR 39) calls for prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude. If it were to be approved by lawmakers (along with its Senate companion) and signed by the governor, the measure would go before Florida voters as a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot. Hart introduced a similar proposal before last year’s legislative session. The resolution is one of a handful on the wish list this coming session of Florida Cares, the nonprofit advocacy organization that works to improve the lives of the incarcerated in Florida.

— MORE TALLY —

Lawmakers seek audit of FPL ties to ‘ghost’ candidate scandal” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Democratic lawmakers in Orlando and Jacksonville are seeking an audit of Florida Power & Light, following Orlando Sentinel reports revealing ties between the utility giant and the operatives who orchestrated the “ghost” candidate scandal in last year’s state Senate elections. Records recently obtained by the Sentinel showed the consultants who controlled Grow United Inc., the dark-money nonprofit at the center of the “ghost” controversy, billed FPL more than $3 million days before they began moving money through the entity. The documents also showed that FPL donated more than $10 million in recent years to other entities controlled by those consultants, who were also coordinating on campaign contributions and strategy with top executives at the utility, including CEO and President Eric Silagy.

Circuit judge: Conservation land challenge moot as lawmakers have already allocated the money” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — A Leon County circuit court judge Monday issued an order that sides with lawmakers over a challenge to the way legislators have allotted billions of dollars over the past seven years. Environmental groups like the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club say state lawmakers misappropriated money under the Constitutionally mandated Legislative Acquisition Trust Fund, which came from an amendment that garnered more than 75% support in 2014. “Where is the justice for the Florida voters,” said Cris Costello, with the Sierra Club. “I think the Legislatures since 2015 have just decided that they’re not going to follow the Constitution on this.” The trust fund sets aside one-third of documentary stamp tax revenues for land conservation and preservation under the Florida Forever program.

Cris Costello seeks justice. Image via Tumblr.

Legislation allowing Florida to join an interstate compact for psychologists gets bipartisan support” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — There is a bipartisan effort in the Legislature to increase access to mental health services by expanding the use of telepsychology and allowing psychologists to cross state lines to, for a limited time, provide in-person care to patients in other states. Sen. Gayle Harrell and Rep. Christine Hunschofsky have filed bills that authorize the state to join what is known as the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact, or PSYPACT. An interstate compact, PSYPACT allows psychologists in compact-participating states to provide telepsychology or offer face-to-face counseling for up to 30 days per calendar year. In a prepared statement, Sen. Harrell said, “Patients will have more access to mental health services” if SB 1370 is passed and becomes law.

Assignment editors — Sen. Tina Polsky joins Rep. Ben Diamond, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott, and League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon for a virtual news conference as part of the national Jan. 6 Day of Remembrance and Action, 2 p.m. Registration and Zoom link available here.

Happening today — The Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida holds its pre-Session legislative panel discussion with Sen. Dennis Baxley; Reps. Anna Eskamani, Fred Hawkins and Geraldine Thompson, 11:30 a.m., Citrus Club, 255 S Orange Ave. Ste. 1800, Orlando. Register here.

Personnel note: Breanna ‘Bre’ Kim joins House Democratic OfficeKim will serve as an analyst focused on education and employment. Originally from Naples, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Florida State University. Kim previously served as an administrative assistant for the House Judiciary Committee and the Office of Public Counsel. Before that, Kim served as a research assistantship at FSU focused on criminal justice issues.

Congratulations to Breanna ‘Bre’ Kim for her move to the House Democratic Office.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: 59,487 new cases added to state toll, hospital patients increase” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 59,487 COVID-19 cases and one new death Tuesday. In all, Florida has recorded at least 4,419,665 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 62,542 deaths. In the past seven days, as the omicron variant circulates, the state has added 22 deaths and 58,216 cases per day on average. That rolling seven-day case average is the highest it has ever been. The CDC rates the community transmission for each Florida county as “high.” COVID-19 patients take up 14.06% of all inpatient beds in the latest report. At delta’s August peak, more than 15,000 people were hospitalized in Florida, with over 25% of all inpatient beds being filled by COVID-19 patients.

Omicron is moving more Floridians to the hospital. Image via AP.

DeSantis downplays COVID-19 vaccines, pushes antibody treatment unproven against omicron” via Gerard Albert III and Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — In his first news conference since the omicron variant surged across Florida, DeSantis badmouthed vaccines while pushing for unproven treatments against the mutated pathogen. “With omicron, you know, the vaccinations are not preventing infection,” DeSantis said Monday at Broward Health Medical Center. But since the beginning of nationwide vaccine rollouts, doctors and scientists have emphasized that although the virus can infect inoculated people, they offer the best protection against severe illness and death, even for those who catch the heavily mutated omicron variant. Those with booster shots are the most protected, authorities say.

DeSantis says shots won’t end pandemic, denies losing faith in vaccine” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis says he hasn’t lost faith in the COVID-19 vaccine but wants to be honest with people about the protections it provides. The omicron variant is driving a record-breaking surge of cases nationwide and is infecting vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike. Florida is currently in the top three states for per capita virus spread. DeSantis, who has gained national attention for opposing strict methods of combating the pandemic and for his critiques of Biden, said claims that vaccinations will end the pandemic haven’t come true. When a reporter told the Governor it sounds as if he’s given up faith in the vaccine, he replied, “No, no, no.” The Governor held a similar view regarding the delta variant, which hit Florida and the South particularly hard over the summer.

Florida offers to pick up monoclonal antibody shipment from federal storage” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Rather than wait on a federal shipment, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) is offering to mobilize trucks to retrieve the 30,000 doses of monoclonal antibodies destined for Florida. In a Wednesday letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, DEM Director Kevin Guthrie offered to use preexisting shipping contracts to retrieve the federally-provided drug. The Florida-bound supply is currently awaiting shipment at a federal storage site. “FDEM is thoroughly experienced in moving resources quickly and is prepared to assist the federal government in deploying this lifesaving treatment,” wrote Guthrie. In recent months, some states including Florida began criticizing Biden after his administration throttled the federal supply shipments.

Joseph Ladapo argues it was ‘completely specious’ to say COVID-19 could be eliminated” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Ladapo contended on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” that testing the asymptomatic was not necessarily a “high value” use of tests. When pressed about asymptomatic people who may have been exposed and worried they are contagious, Ladapo blamed federal leadership for a “specious” strategy of claiming the virus could ever be stopped. “Allow me to help unwind some of the beliefs that unfortunately our federal leadership has convinced so many Americans is true,” Ladapo argued. “The idea that stopping the spread of a virus is the objective of a public health campaign when probably somewhere around half or more have no symptoms at all, that’s completely specious. That should never have been something that the federal leadership convinced Americans is possible.”

Joe Ladapo argues that eliminating COVID-19 is a shaky claim, at best. Image via Fox News.

Florida health care providers torn between federal, state vaccine laws” via Caroline Catherman, David Lyons, and Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration sent an email threatening Florida health care providers with fines if they comply with a federal vaccination mandate. While many experts are advising clients to follow federal law, David Miller, a Miami-based employment attorney at the Bryant Miller Olive law firm, equated the situation faced by many Florida employers as being “a bone between two dogs,” with the canines being the state and federal governments. The Biden Administration on Nov. 4 laid out requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations for staff at nearly all Medicare and Medicaid-certified health care facilities. At True Health, which operates seven federally funded community health clinics in the metro Orlando area, CEO Janelle Dunn said the state’s warning has left the nonprofit organization in limbo in regard to vaccination mandates.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Mayo Clinic fired about 700 unvaccinated staff. None came from Jacksonville — yet” via Beth Reese Cravey of the Florida Times-Union — Because of conflicting state and federal rules about employee vaccine mandates, no staff at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville are among the 700 or so fired by the Rochester, Minnesota-based health system nationwide for being unvaccinated. At least not yet. Their respite stems from legislation signed by DeSantis in November that bans private Florida employers from mandating that all employees get vaccinated, instead requiring various exemption options. The legislation includes fines of $50,000 for larger companies that don’t allow employees to opt-out and $10,000 for smaller firms. The state law clashes with a federal rule requiring vaccinations of all health care workers at hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

‘Political hand grenade’: Family sues Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to allow ivermectin for dying patient” via Katherine Lein of The Florida Times-Union — Daniel Pisano was given a 5% chance of survival after being taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Mayo Clinic on Dec. 18. The 71-year-old man from Jacksonville was put on a ventilator as he fought COVID-19. His family is now suing to allow Dr. Ed Balbona, a doctor of internal medicine at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, to use ivermectin treatments. Circuit Court Judge Marianne Aho last week wrote Pisano family’s lawyers have not proven that the “potential benefit to the patient of administering the requested treatment protocol will outweigh the potential harm to the patient of administering the protocol.”

‘We’re playing politics with our children’: Daniella Levine Cava knocks state pandemic handling” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis may have won a legal battle to stop local governments from mandating masks in public schools, but history will remember his victory as part of the politicization of common-sense pandemic safeguards, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Levine Cava. State overreach was a prominent topic during a news conference hosted by Levine Cava to endorse Sen. Annette Taddeo as Florida’s next Governor. The two women discussed several instances of interference from Tallahassee. DeSantis’ executive order empowers the state to withhold discretionary funding, grant dollars, lottery funds, and other financial provisions from a school district that disobeys a relatively new Parents’ Bill of Rights. “We need those dollars to educate our children,” Levine Cava said. “That’s a choice nobody should have to make, between educating our children and keeping them safe.”

Daniella Levine Cava blasts Ron DeSantis for politicizing children’s lives. Image via Facebook.

Miami-Dade, Broward schools struggle with acute teacher shortages amid omicron surge” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — Thousands of teachers are calling out sick in Miami-Dade and Broward county public schools, as new COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in the county and across Florida, forcing some district staff out of the office and into classrooms. On Monday, the first day back after the two-week winter recess, 2,110 Miami-Dade instructional personnel, including counselors, and 94 bus drivers were absent, officials said. On Tuesday, that number decreased to about 1,700 instructional staff and 78 drivers. In Broward County public schools, about 1,640 instructional personnel were out Monday, Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said. By Tuesday, however, approximately 1,760 called out. Moreover, while 96 bus routes on Monday were doubled, meaning some drivers picked up a second route, the number increased to 103 routes on Tuesday, she said.

COVID-19 wave hitting Miami-Dade government: Police, paramedics, bus operators isolating” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The omicron COVID-19 wave has kept enough bus operators home to put transit cuts on the table, sidelined about 10% of Miami-Dade County’s police force and left the Fire Department short-staffed as ambulance calls for people sick with the virus hit new peaks for the winter. “It’s a problem,” Levine Cava said Tuesday. “We have a significant number of firefighters and police out, but it’s not compromising our ability to provide service.” As the county’s second-largest employer behind the school system, Miami-Dade’s government of roughly 29,000 employees offers one of the largest barometers for the spread of workplace absences as more people either contract COVID-19 or quarantine after exposure to the virus.

COVID-19 surge takes toll on Miami-Dade law enforcement. Some 1,400 inmates also isolated

Florida’s Surgeon General wants less COVID-19 testing. Miami ignored him in droves” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida Surgeon General Ladapo on Monday: People have gone overboard on COVID-19 testing. We have to “unwind the testing psychology.” Miami-Dade County, also on Monday: There are 70,236 of us who want to be tested, the highest number yet. It was a victory for common sense — for once! — and we are here for it. Ladapo tried to wave away COVID-19 testing as unnecessary, saying at a news conference, “It is really time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many have natural immunity.”

Norwegian Pearl returns early to Miami as crew members test positive for COVID-19” via Carli Teproff and Anna Jean Kaiser of the Miami Herald — The Norwegian Pearl returned to Miami on Wednesday, after just one full day at sea and an outbreak of COVID-19 among crew members. Passengers were informed that their cruise, an 11-day voyage to the Panama Canal, would be turning around on Tuesday night. They were told that the ship would be returning to Miami on Thursday, Jan. 6, but the ship pulled into PortMiami midday Wednesday. In a letter from the cruise line to passengers and posted on a Florida travel agency’s Facebook page, cruise operator NCL said even though all guests and crew members aboard the Pearl were vaccinated, several crew members tested positive for the coronavirus.

Frustration growing as Tampa Bay area residents struggle to find COVID-19 testing” via Melissa Marino of WFLA — Frustration is growing as people struggle to find COVID-19 testing in the Tampa Bay area. Many are spending hours waiting to get swabbed as cars lined multiple blocks at the Al Barnes Park testing site Wednesday. The City of Tampa reported more than 4 hour wait times at Al Barnes Park Wednesday, and 40-minute wait times at the Al Lopez Park testing site. “It’s been quite a while, almost four hours, people cutting in line and everything. It’s been pretty crazy today,” said Ashley Benefield, who drove from Plant City to the Al Barnes Park site. The demand for testing is high across the state, leaving testing facilities overwhelmed.

Teachers, students and staff line the streets for Pinellas County COVID-19 tests” via Chip Osowski of WFLA

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey tests positive for COVID-19” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Dailey announced he tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday morning in a recorded statement to Tallahassee residents posted to his Twitter account. Dailey said he contracted the disease despite being fully vaccinated, including the COVID-19 booster. However, he said he has light symptoms due to receiving those vaccinations. “Even though I am fully vaccinated and had my booster shot, it is a stark reminder at how transmissible COVID-19 is,” Dailey said. He also encouraged Tallahassee residents to keep taking COVID-19 precautions seriously, and plugged a website that connects residents with local COVID-19 resources.

—“Challenger asks Dailey to cancel MLK events due to COVID-19 concerns” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat

It’s John Dailey’s turn. Image via Facebook.

District extends quarantine period to 10 days; COVID-19 cases climb on first day of school” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Schools will extend its quarantine period from five to 10 days for students who test positive for COVID-19, according to Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Hanna, who on Tuesday said he had not yet received guidance from the Florida Department of Education, said the district received information later that night from the state about COVID-19 protocols. “I’m frustrated, but I apologize that we sent out the guidance yesterday, but we had to do something given that our students were returning. We have to abide by state law, and we will abide by the rules set forth by the state of Florida as directed by the Governor. Thank you for understanding.” Hanna said in a video posted to Twitter.

—”Escambia County hospitals, governments spinning up COVID-19 measures as cases keep rising” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal

— 2022 —

Surprising good news, bad news for Democrats in 2022” via David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report — On the current trajectory, there will be a few more Biden-won districts after redistricting than there are now — producing a congressional map slightly less biased in the GOP’s favor than the last decade’s. The bad news for Democrats: if Biden’s approval ratings are still mired in the low-to-mid-40s in November, that won’t be enough to save their razor-thin House majority (currently 221 to 212 seats). As we’ve written all cycle, redistricting was never going to be the GOP bonanza depicted in some sky-is-falling narratives on the left. Yes, Republicans wield the authority to redraw 187 seats compared to 75 for Democrats. But that’s less lopsided than in 2011, when Republicans had nearly a five-to-one advantage.

GOP sees ‘huge red wave’ potential by targeting critical race theory” via Liz Crampton of POLITICO — DeSantis is urging the GOP-led state Legislature to pass a measure that would allow parents to sue school districts that teach lessons rooted in critical race theory. Attacking the study of racism in the United States emerged as a leading culture war cause for Republicans in 2021. But state lawmakers have only just begun focusing on the issue, which promises to dominate red-state legislatures across the country this year. Legislators in at least a dozen Republican-controlled statehouses plan to push dozens of bills in upcoming legislative sessions that aim to halt teachings about race and society and give parents more say in what’s discussed in classrooms. Most public-school officials across the country say they do not teach any curriculum based on the theory, even in districts and states where lawmakers are seeking to ban the practice.

Charlie Crist homes in on policies for seniors” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — U.S. Rep. Crist on Wednesday announced a multiprong policy plan targeting the health and wellness of seniors, becoming the first gubernatorial candidate this season to put out a campaign platform focused on the state’s aging population. “Gov. DeSantis has rejected Medicaid expansion and lowering drug costs, he’s made it harder for seniors to cast their ballots safely during a pandemic, he’s ignored our nursing homes and the workers caring for our loved ones, and he’s recklessly endangered older Floridians with his soft-on-COVID-19 policies,” Crist said in a statement. Crist highlighted his previous action as Governor to create the Florida Discount Drug Card, which was initially meant for seniors and low-income Florida residents but later expanded to all Floridians.

Charlie Crist goes to bat for Florida seniors.

Simpson earns AIF endorsement for Ag. Commissioner bid” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Associated Industries of Florida leadership announced Wednesday the group has endorsed Simpson to lead the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Trilby Republican is already the clear favorite to be Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner. But additional support from one of the state’s top business groups helps clear his path even more. Simpson is currently the only major candidate in the race to succeed Democratic Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is forgoing re-election to challenge DeSantis. Simpson, an egg farmer by trade, has served in the Senate since 2012. Simpson is entering his second Session as Senate President but will be termed out come November. That lined up the opportunity to run for statewide office.

Ben Diamond nears $1M fundraising mark in CD 13 campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — State Rep. Diamond is nearing the $1 million fundraising mark in his bid for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, his campaign announced Wednesday. His total includes more than $280,000 raised in the fourth quarter, which ended last week. So far, nearly 90% of contributors to Diamond’s campaign have been in-state donors, including more than 1,600 grassroots donations of $100 or less. As of Dec. 31, Diamond reported nearly $700,000 on hand after launching his campaign last May. Diamond’s campaign provided the latest fundraising update. More details on December fundraising will be available when financial reports are due next week.

Happening tonight:

New data shows impact of ‘prison gerrymandering’ on Florida’s redistricting processs” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As lawmakers balance districts based on population, should inmates count as residents in the location for their respective prisons? Or should they be considered residents of the place they call home? Most states, including Florida, will draw from population figures which count people as living wherever they rested their head on Census Day, April 1, 2020. But many justice reform advocates deride that policy, disparaging the practice as “prison gerrymandering.” It means some communities are being undercounted by thousands of people. This week, the organization went live with an interactive map of Florida, dubbed the Body Count, which scrutinizes just how many people weren’t counted by the U.S. Census at their last known pre-incarceration address.


— CORONA NATION —

Joe Biden steps up vaccine push as U.S. cases surpass records” via Matthew Dalton, Stephen Fidler, and Natasha Khan of The Wall Street Journal — Biden stepped up his vaccination push as cases reported in the U.S. rose to records, saying unvaccinated people would suffer the worst of the Omicron-driven surge in infections. The development came as the U.K. national statistics agency estimated Wednesday that one-in-15 people in England had COVID-19 in the last week of December. The government there said it would try to ride out a record wave of infections without further restrictions. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron lashed out at unvaccinated people. Biden urged the 35 million American adults who aren’t vaccinated to get a shot, saying unvaccinated people were taking up hospital beds that others needed.

Emmanuel Macron gets tough with the unvaccinated.

White House embraces a manage-not-contain omicron game plan” via Adam Cancryn and Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Besieged by the fast-spreading omicron variant, the White House is racing to limit the fallout from record cases swamping the nation. The administration has fast-tracked COVID-19 treatments to hard-hit states and pledged emergency personnel to medical centers short-handed by the waves of infection sweeping through their staff. They’ve done it all while juggling immense political pressure from fellow Democrats to maintain some semblance of social normalcy lest the party be hit even further by pandemic fatigue among voters. The new reality has further darkened the mood among White House aides already frustrated by the lack of progress toward ending a pandemic many initially believed could be dispatched within a year. It’s also accelerated the administration’s pivot toward preparing people to live with the virus indefinitely.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tells his National Guard Biden is NOT their ‘commander in chief’ as he sues the White House over ‘unconstitutional’ military vaccine mandate” via Geoff Earle of the Daily Mail

Science advisers to the CDC endorse Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for children ages 12 and older.” via Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — A panel of scientific advisers to the CDC on Wednesday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, citing rising infections in teens and young adults and a troubling increase in pediatric hospitalizations. As the contagious Omicron variant spreads through the country, public health officials have seized on extra vaccine doses as the first line of defense. Pfizer-BioNTech boosters are now authorized for any American older than 12 who is five months past his or her second dose of the vaccine. If the committee recommendations are endorsed by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, as expected, adolescents ages 12 to 15 may begin to receive boosters immediately.

—”Teacher arrested after allegedly giving teen a coronavirus vaccine” via Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post

Doctors bemoan limited supply of game-changing antiviral pills amid winter surge” via Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post — Easy-to-take antiviral pills, authorized just before Christmas, were hailed as a potential turning point in the fight against the coronavirus because of the medicines’ ability to keep high-risk people out of the hospital. But doctors say the limited initial supply of the pills, especially Pfizer’s Paxlovid, means they are unlikely to alleviate the strain on many hospitals confronting climbing admissions and staffing shortages made worse by omicron infections. In communities with soaring case numbers, physicians are especially eager to offer the pills, which people can take at home to avoid serious illness. “I don’t think they’ll end up being the game changers we want them to be,” because of scant supply, said Shelley Schmidt, a critical care physician and pulmonologist, who doesn’t expect to have access to the antiviral pills until mid-January.

U.S. hospitals seeing different kind of COVID-19 surge this time” via The Associated Press — Hospitals across the U.S. are feeling the wrath of the omicron variant and getting thrown into disarray that is different from earlier COVID-19 surges. This time, they are dealing with serious staff shortages because so many health care workers are getting sick with the fast-spreading variant. People are showing up at emergency rooms in large numbers in hopes of getting tested for COVID-19, putting more strain on the system. And a surprising share of patients are testing positive while in the hospital for other reasons. At the same time, hospitals say the patients aren’t as sick as those who came in during the last surge. The pressures are nevertheless prompting hospitals to scale back non-emergency surgeries and close wards, while National Guard troops have been sent in several states to help at medical centers and testing sites.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Lawmakers begin talks on another round of coronavirus relief for businesses” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — Democratic and Republican lawmakers have held early discussions about another round of coronavirus stimulus spending as they seek to blunt the fast-spreading omicron variant and its threats to public health and economic recovery. The efforts have focused primarily on authorizing billions of dollars to help an array of businesses that face another potential blow to their already-battered balance sheets as a result of the evolving pandemic. In recent weeks, the talks have been led by Sens. Ben Cardin and Roger Wicker. The duo in mid-December cobbled together the outlines of a roughly $68 billion proposal, two of the people said, which could include a mix of new spending and repurposing of some unused cash authorized under previous packages.

Is another wave of relief on the way? Image via AP.

The sabbatical, a power move for the burnout era” via Katherine Bindley of The Wall Street Journal — Workers are putting in more hours than ever nearly two years into the pandemic. They are in many cases burned out and believe a prolonged break is the best respite. Surprisingly, some companies agree. Employees who take sabbaticals say they return to work energized and more productive. Managers who are worried about retaining top talent and how the COVID-19 era is wearing on employees’ well-being find sabbaticals engender loyalty and greater creativity. Sabbaticals still aren’t mainstream: 5% of companies offered them in 2019. One study of 50 people who took extended time off from work found that most of the interview subjects suffered from “functional workaholism,” according to the Sabbatical Project, which conducted the research. Many reported that a negative event, such as the end of a long relationship or the death of a family member, prompted them to take a break.

— MORE CORONA —

NFL looks at contingency sites for Super Bowl amid COVID-19” via The Associated Press — The NFL, not surprisingly in the midst of a rise in COVID-19 cases, has looked into other potential sites for next month’s Super Bowl. That’s not unusual because the league does so every year. But with Los Angeles the site for this year’s title game, and restrictions increasing for attendance at indoor events, it has become more noteworthy. “We plan on playing Super Bowl 56 as scheduled at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said Wednesday. “As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances. AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, reportedly is one of the facilities contacted.

Omicron is sending the Super Bowl into chaos. Image via AP.

Sundance cancels in-person film festival due to virus surge” via Jake Coyle of The Associated Press — Just two weeks before it was to be held in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is canceling its in-person festival and reverting to an entirely virtual edition due to the current coronavirus surge. Festival organizers announced Wednesday that the festival will start as scheduled on Jan. 20 but will shift online. The festival had been planned as a hybrid, with screenings both in Park City and online. Last year’s Sundance was also held virtually because of the pandemic. “This was a difficult decision to make,” the festival said in a statement. “But with case numbers forecast to peak in our host community the week of the festival, we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk.” The cancellation of an in-person Sundance is a huge blow to an independent film industry that has struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic.

—“The 2022 Grammys are postponed” via Tatiana Tenreyro of AV Club

—“Rio cancels Carnival Street parades for second year on omicron wave” via Andrew Rosati and Marisa Wanzeller of Bloomberg

—”Man arrested on charges of attacking vaccination clinic, injuring staffers he called ‘murderers’” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post

— PRESIDENTIAL —

The left is already looking to 2024. Some want to see a Biden primary challenge.” via Holly Otterbein of POLITICO — When Biden first came into office, progressives said he could be the next FDR. Now, as Biden’s relationship with the left has come under strain, liberals are talking about treating him like former President Jimmy Carter instead and mapping out a Democratic primary challenge in 2024. “Will there be a progressive challenger? Yes,” said Jeff Weaver, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former presidential campaign manager. No one now in office — and none of the top-tier presidential contenders from 2020 — is viewed as a serious prospect to take on Biden. The chatter about a left-wing challenge to Biden, which was virtually nonexistent weeks ago, has suddenly burst into public view in the wake of Sen. Joe Manchin killing the President’s climate and social spending bill.

Will the left take on Joe Biden?

Why isn’t Biden’s expanded child tax credit more popular?” via Ian Prasad Philbrick of The New York Times — A significant piece of Biden’s domestic agenda has come to an end. The monthly expansion of the existing child tax credit expired last month after Congress failed to extend it. Since July, the federal government has sent the families of 61 million children monthly payments of $300 per child under 6, and $250 per older child. Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better spending bill, which would have renewed the expanded credit into this year, has not cleared Congress, and may never. When the policy first passed in March, many experts hailed its potential to cut child poverty and hunger, and many Democrats hoped regular cash in families’ pockets would prove wildly popular.

— CRISIS —

Recalling Jan. 6: A national day of infamy, half-remembered” via Jake Coyle of The Associated Press — A Quinnipiac poll found 93% of Democrats considered it an attack on the government, but only 29% of Republicans agreed. A poll by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 4 in 10 Republicans recall the attack — in which five people died — as violent, while 9 in 10 Democrats do. Since that day, separate versions — one factual, one fanciful — have taken hold. The Capitol riot — the violent culmination of a bid to delegitimize the 2020 election and block its certification — has morphed into a partisan “Rashomon,” the classic Japanese film about a slaying told from varying and conflicting points of view. Indeed, the act of remembering can be a highly mercurial thing — particularly when deep-seated political views are involved. Nations remember the way people do: imperfectly. Neuroscientist Lisa Genova, author of “Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting,” describes how even the most searing memories are edited each time they’re revisited. An original memory is replaced with a 2.0 version, a 3.0 version and beyond.

So soon we forget. Image via AP.

The Jan. 6 committee: What it has done and where it is headed” via Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post — In a little less than six months, the committee has taken in a massive amount of data — interviewing more than 300 witnesses, announcing more than 50 subpoenas, obtaining more than 35,000 pages of records and receiving hundreds of telephone tips provided through the Jan. 6 tip line. The task of wading through this torrent of information has been divided among five teams that the committee initially put together for its staff of about 40. The House has so far sent two contempt of Congress referrals to the Justice Department: one for Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and one for Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist. The committee is also waiting on another crucial disclosure: 800 pages of Trump’s official records and communications related to Jan. 6.

Merrick Garland: DOJ will hold those responsible for Jan. 6 riot accountable, whether they were present or committed other crimes” via Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — Garland vowed to hold all those responsible for the Jan. 6 riot accountable saying investigators are methodically building more complicated and serious cases and would prosecute people “at any level.” “The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last,” Garland said, speaking in the Justice Department’s Great Hall. “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.” The Attorney General did not name the former President or those close to him, and many of his statements were common-sense assurances that could be said of any investigation.

Prosecutors move quickly on Jan. 6 cases, but one big question remains” via Alan Feuer of The New York Times — By almost any measure, the criminal investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is a prosecutorial effort of unparalleled complexity and scope. For an entire year, federal agents in almost every state have been poring over mounting stacks of tipster reports, interviews with witnesses, public social media posts and private messages obtained by warrants. They have also collected nearly 14,000 hours of video, enough raw footage that it would take a year and a half of round-the-clock viewing to get through it. While the Justice Department has called the inquiry one of the largest in its history, traditional law enforcement officials have not been acting alone. Working with information from online sleuths who style themselves as “Sedition Hunters,” the authorities have made more than 700 arrests with little sign of slowing down.

White House concludes Jan. 6 preparations hurt by lack of high-level intelligence-sharing” via Devlin Barrett, Ashley Parker and Aaron C. Davis of The Washington Post — Senior Biden administration officials have concluded that the government’s Jan. 6 preparations were hampered by a lack of high-level information-sharing and a failure to anticipate how bad the day could be — lessons they say they are applying today in an effort to prevent another such attack. Those conclusions, described by people who spoke on the condition of anonymity, are not formal findings. But they offer a kind of road map for how the Biden White House is attempting to prevent similar assaults on the democratic functions of government. Officials said they conducted the analysis not as a form of “finger-pointing” at the U.S. Capitol Police or the FBI, but to be better prepared to prevent future violence or unrest.

—“’We have to be there’: AP photographer recalls Capitol siege” via J. Scott Applewhite of The Associated Press

Being there was part of the job. Image via AP.

The Capitol Police and the scars of Jan. 6” via Susan Dominus and Luke Broadwater of The Washington Post — It is widely known that about 150 officers from the Capitol and Metropolitan Police Departments and local agencies were injured during the violence. Less understood is how long-lasting the damage, physical and psychological, to the Capitol Police force has been, damage that informs many officers’ outrage about what they perceive as a lack of accountability for those responsible. Interviews over many months with more than two dozen officers and their families reveal a department that is still hobbled and, in many ways, dysfunctional. Among those still on the force and those who have left, many significant injuries and psychological disorders remain, including serious traumatic brain injuries and neurological impairment, orthopedic injuries requiring surgery and rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress disorder and heightened anxiety.

Capitol Police intelligence official says she sounded alarm about potential violence days before Jan. 6 riot” via Michael Kaplan and Chris Van Cleave of CBS News — Three days before the Jan. 6 riot, a top Capitol Police intelligence official sounded the alarm about potential violence at the U.S. Capitol. Julie Farnam, now the acting director of intelligence for the Capitol Police, had been with the department for 72 days when violent protesters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. Her team’s “overall analysis” raised concerns about permits given to groups affiliated with “Stop the Steal,” known to attract “White supremacists” and “militia members … who actively promote violence.” The analysis warned that Trump supporters “see Jan. 6 … as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election. … This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent,” and “unlike previous postelection protests … Congress itself is the target of the 6th.”

A year after Capitol attack, police chief marks improvements” via Farnoush Amiri and Kevin Freking of The Associated Press

Capitol Police Board to upgrade windows as part of security overhaul following Jan. 6 attack” via Nolan McCaskill of the Los Angeles Times

—“Rep. Marcy Kaptur reflects on being trapped during Jan. 6 Capitol attack” via Taylor Popielarz of Spectrum News

—“‘It was an attack on our hometown’: How 11 Washingtonians remember the insurrection” via Héctor Alejandro Arzate, Margaret Barthel, Dominique Maria Bonessi, Jenny Gathright, Colleen Grablick, Rachel Kurzius, Jordan Pascale and Elliot C. Williams of DCist

The Jan. Sixers have their own unit at the DC jail. Here’s what life is like inside” via Andrew Beaujon of the Washingtonian — The Sixers, as they’re known to their faithful, are confined to a medium-security annex, away from other prisoners. The brass call the block C2B, or Charlie Two Bravo. Its 40 or so residents call it the Patriots’ Pod. Most of a Sixer’s existence goes down in isolation — the cells on Charlie Two Bravo are singles. Each day, they get a five-and-a-half-hour window of “rec,” or time outside the cell. One day it’s from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then they wait 25 and a half hours for the next day’s rec, starting at 4. Sixers on that rotation get to take part in a cherished ritual: singing the national anthem in unison at 9 p.m. When they get to the lyric “That our flag was,” they shout the last two words, “STILL THERE!”

Poll: Americans fear a Jan. 6 repeat” via Margaret Talev and David Nather of Axios — A majority of Americans expect a repeat in the next few years of something like the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and just half say they now have faith in American democracy, according to a new Axios-Momentive poll. The survey shows that fewer than six in 10 Americans say President Biden legitimately won the 2020 election — a share that hasn’t changed since our poll last year, published hours before the Jan. 6 insurrection. While partisanship was a huge divide in the survey, age was another. Older Americans were far more concerned about the fate of democracy than younger respondents, and also more likely to support the work of the Jan. 6 commission.

A year after attack, Floridians in Congress reflect on ‘fragile’ democracy, fallout” via Brian Lowry of the Miami Herald — One year after rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election, Florida Democrats are reflecting on the fragility of democracy and the unfinished fight for accountability. Their Republican colleagues kept their focus on gaps in Capitol security for the somber anniversary rather than the motivations behind the unprecedented attack. Rep. Ted Deutch, a South Florida Democrat, said he was on his way to lunch when he received the emergency alert from Capitol Police that rioters had breached the Capitol. He ran to his office where he and staff hid in the dark and watched the chaos unfold on a muted iPad. “Every time there was a noise outside the office I wondered if they were looking for members,” Deutch said. A year after the attack, Deutch and other congressional Democrats say the work to safeguard democracy remains largely unfinished as Biden and lawmakers prepare to commemorate the anniversary of the attack Thursday.

Could it happen again? Image via AP.

Insurrection’s toll evident in Florida a year later as fraud claims color political debate” via Zac Anderson and Antonio Fins of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A year after Trump‘s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Joe Biden’s election victory from being certified, the rhetoric that led to the insurrection continues to reverberate in election offices across Florida and color the political debate in Trump’s home state. Florida had the most arrests stemming from Jan. 6 and the most members of two far-right extremist groups arrested in connection with the insurrection, but there has been no effort to address extremism. Instead, Florida GOP leaders have worked to placate a Republican base inflamed by Trump’s unfounded election fraud claims, instituting new voting restrictions and likely pursuing other changes to election oversight this year.

Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene will hold a Republican response on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 protests, 2:15 p.m., 574 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. RSVP to Joel Valdez at [email protected]

Assignment editors — Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz; Sen. Shevrin Jones; Reps. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, Andrew Learned, Daisy Morales and Allison Tant will hold a virtual event on the anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, 2 p.m. Registration and Zoom link available here.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Donald Trump tried a coup in plain sight — and has, so far, gotten away with it” via S.V. Date of HuffPost — What if you attempted a coup but people were unwilling to wrap their heads around what you had done? A year after Jan. 6, 2021, that is the peculiar situation in which Trump finds himself. Instead of being carted off in handcuffs for inciting an insurrection, or even just being banished from federal office for life by the Senate, he instead remains the leader of one of the two major political parties. Trump allies describe Jan. 6 as a protest that got out of hand, that never had a coherent plan to reverse the election results, and no coordination with Trump or his staff. That characterization, though, ignores the larger context of the day and the weeks leading up to it.

—“‘Sleazeballs’ to ‘rigged election’: 7 grievances Trump amped up since Jan. 6 Capitol riot” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post

With eye on midterm, Democratic group runs new ads highlighting Trump, Capitol attack” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — A Democratic group on Wednesday launched a new national ad campaign featuring images of last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol and arguing that voters who oppose former Trump need to turn out in this year’s midterm election. The digital ads, which officials with the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA say are backed by an initial $100,000 investment, are part of an ongoing effort from the group to keep left-leaning voters engaged in politics even without Trump in office, something party strategists say is a major concern ahead of the midterm. It’s also a test of whether the attack on the Capitol, which delayed certification of the 2020 election, can be part of a successful political message for Democrats, as they seek to protect their narrow control of the House and Senate.

To watch one of the ads, click on the image below:

A long, hard year for Republicans who voted to impeach after Jan. 6” via Jonathan Weisman and Luke Broadwater of The New York Times — The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump did so with the same conviction — that a President of their party deserved to be charged with inciting insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021 — and the same hope — that his role in doing so would finally persuade the GOP to repudiate him. But in the year since the deadliest attack on the Capitol in centuries, none of the 10 lawmakers have been able to avoid the consequences of a fundamental miscalculation about the direction of their party. The former President is very much the leader of the Republicans, and it is those who stood against him whom the party has thrust into the role of pariah.


— LOCAL NOTES —

NAS Pensacola, FDOT partnering on public access road to Barrancas Cemetery, Aviation Museum” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — The effort to reopen public access to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the Pensacola Lighthouse and the Barrancas National Cemetery on Naval Air Station Pensacola made a breakthrough last month when the Florida Department of Transportation signed onto the idea of creating a public corridor through the base. FDOT District Three Secretary Phillip Gainer sent NAS Pensacola Base Commander Capt. Tim Kinsella a letter in December endorsing the idea of creating a new state road that would allow the public to access the museum and other attractions on the base. The plan would take the existing route between the front gate on Navy Boulevard and the back gate on Blue Angel Parkway and make it a public route, while the Navy would add new perimeter fences along the route to secure the rest of the base.

The path to reopening access to Barrancas National Cemetery is making inroads.

Class-action lawsuit against Skanska seeks compensation for Pensacola commuters” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A new class-action lawsuit was filed against Skanska last week on behalf of Northwest Florida commuters seeking to recover their increased costs from the loss of the Pensacola Bay Bridge for nine months following Hurricane Sally. The lawsuit is the latest in the ongoing legal battle against Skanska over its construction barges knocking out the Pensacola Bay Bridge when they broke free of the moorings during the hurricane. The lawsuit was filed the same day that a federal judge found that Skanska was negligent in its preparations ahead of the September 2020 hurricane. The federal judge ruled that Skanska was not able to limit its financial liability over the incident to the $1.2 million value of the barges as the company had sought to do.

Fort Lauderdale to state: Time to let cities ban smoking at beaches” and Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Under current Florida law, only legislators can ban smoking in public places. But that might change if a new bill gets signed into law that lets cities make the call on whether they want to ban smoking at the beach or public parks. Officials in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and other coastal cities have griped for years about not being able to ban smoking at their own beaches. On Wednesday night, Fort Lauderdale commissioners are expected to approve a resolution urging all state legislators and DeSantis to support the bill.

It’s time to let cities decide. Image via WTSP.

Citrus County officials discuss economic development plans, raising impact fees” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County commissioners see a lot of expenses on the horizon. And no way to pay for them. And no game plan to attract the type of taxpayers they seek. Commissioners concluded their annual goal-setting retreat Wednesday in Lecanto determined to do something to kick-start a fledgling economic development program while, at the same time, looking to bump impact fees to pay for myriad road and building projects. The county has tried various economic development efforts through programs funded by business taxes. The most recent was an ordinance in 2019 designed to give the economic development director more flexibility in enticing industry, but the effort has so far brought “less than exciting results,” Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said.

Honor Guard at Disney goes without pay after firefighters complain about safety, union chief says” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — The President of the Reedy Creek Firefighters Association, which represents Walt Disney World’s first responders, says members of its Honor Guard will have to perform without pay at an international convention in a retaliatory move for union members publicly speaking about their safety and staffing concerns at the Disney resort. Jon Shirey said department and district officials initially told him the Honor Guard would not be allowed to appear at the upcoming International Association of Fire Fighters’ Affiliate Leadership Training Summit, which will be held at Disney’s Dolphin Resort Jan. 9-12. Shirey said Fire Chief Richard LePere told union Vice President Paulette Montero that members could appear at the convention off-duty, on an unpaid basis.

— TOP OPINION —

One single day. That’s all it took for the world to look away from us.” via Francis Fukuyama of The New York Times — The Jan. 6 attack on Congress by a mob inspired by former President Trump marked an ominous precedent for U.S. politics. Not since the Civil War had the country failed to effect a peaceful transfer of power, and no previous candidate purposefully contested an election’s results in the face of broad evidence that it was free and fair. The event continues to reverberate in American politics; but its impact is not just domestic. It has also had a large impact internationally and signals a significant decline in American global power and influence. Jan. 6 needs to be seen against the backdrop of the broader global crisis of liberal democracy. According to the 2021 Freedom in the World report, democracy has been in decline for 15 straight years, with some of the largest setbacks coming in the world’s two largest democracies, the United States and India.

— OPINIONS —

The real tragedy of Jan. 6 is that it’s still not over” via Matt Fuller of The Daily Beast — I wish I could tell you that, 364 days after one of our darkest days as a nation, we are in a much better place. We are not. Security at the Capitol is better. Most of Trump’s supporters haven’t learned anything. By and large, the people who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 don’t care about an insurrection, they don’t care that he honest-to-God tried to overturn an election. They don’t believe it was an insurrection. Only 26% of Republicans think the people who entered the Capitol were “mostly violent.” They can’t be convinced Trump was really trying to overthrow democracy. Wasn’t there something fishy about all those mail-in ballots? I mean, have you even read her emails?

Jan. 6 rioters do not love America. They hate — and fear — the America we’re becoming” via Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald — The Republican Party is where moral courage goes to die, so in the ensuing year, Trump’s canard has become coin of the realm on the right. Rep. Paul Gosar has described as “peaceful patriots” the architects of the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. Tucker Carlson called them “solid Americans.” Sen. Ron Johnson said they were “people that love this country.” The right has doggedly resisted the idea of holding accountable the man — Trump — who called the rioters together, who exhorted them like Vince Lombardi in a pregame speech and aimed them like a gun at the heart of American democracy. Because you see, they “love” America so. Oh, and their votes were “stolen.”

The new right wants division, cruelty, ratings” via S.E. Cupp of the New York Daily News — Edmund Burke. Russell Kirk. And … Jesse Watters? “[D]o I feel sorry for Joe Biden? No. I work at Fox. I wanna see disarray on the left. It’s good for America. It’s good for our ratings,” Watters said. In those eight seconds of television, Watters may have unknowingly articulated the entire philosophy of the new American right, adding to the canon of philosophical giants before him. I kid, of course. The leaders of the modern conservative movement, from Burke, to Kirk, F.A. Hayek to William F. Buckley, Ayn Rand to Ronald Reagan, likely wouldn’t recognize today’s American right-wing.

Omicron doesn’t vindicate right-wingers who refused to take the coronavirus seriously” via Max Boot of The Washington Post — While omicron is more ubiquitous than previous versions of the coronavirus, it appears to be less severe: It penetrates the upper airways but not the lungs. Moreover, booster shots provide strong protection against infection and even better protection against hospitalization. That’s why deaths and hospitalizations have not surged along with caseloads: The New York Times COVID-19 tracker shows that over the past 14 days, while the number of coronavirus cases nationwide has increased by 204%, hospitalizations are up only 35% and deaths are down by 3%. Granted, hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators, but these figures still suggest that omicron is less dangerous than the original version of the coronavirus or the delta variant despite right-wing attempts to pretend that this is the same disease that it was two years ago.

Children cannot afford teacher walkouts” via Michael R. Bloomberg of Bloomberg News — America’s schoolchildren have suffered terrible harm during the pandemic, and the damage has fallen heaviest on poor children from Black and Latino communities. Data from across the country make that fact painfully clear. Tragically, it’s about to get worse. Chicago teachers’ decision to walk out on their students and refuse to return to the classroom Wednesday is a profoundly troubling abdication of duty that should be met with public outrage — and national opposition to its spread. Remote schooling has been a colossal failure for America’s most vulnerable students. In Chicago, fewer than one in five third graders met state standards in math and reading last spring. In other words: More than 80% of students are failing to achieve basic proficiency in the two most important skills determining their life trajectories and career success.

Behold Marco Rubio’s wacky COVID-19 stances. They’re dangerous, Miami” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — Sen. Rubio deserves his own Top Ten List of COVID-19 Falsehoods. His hometown, Miami, continues to be the state’s epicenter of the raging coronavirus pandemic, this time around more contagious in its latest incarnation, omicron, a variant named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. Almost two years in, most of us and especially so elected officials ought to be pros at promoting best practices for how to help the public stay safe or, at least, as safe as possible. Yet, the record numbers of infected, the hospitalized on the rise and people still dying mean nothing to the Senator. Just when you think he couldn’t possibly go there, the Senator becomes an even worse caricature of himself.

What Floridians can do to beat omicron” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Ken Welch tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and is doing the right things. He disclosed his condition promptly and candidly, and he will follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC. Welch was vaccinated and boosted, but he still contracted COVID-19, a reminder of omicron’s transmissibility. The good news is that omicron appears to be cresting quickly and should fall rapidly as well, weeks at most. So, to get through this rough patch, it’s best to avoid the politics and apply practical solutions that work for students, teachers, and, frankly, everyone: Get your vaccinations and wear a high-quality mask. This too shall pass, but let’s help it go quickly.

Legislature should try helping school boards, not harassing them” via The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The latest political harassment comes from a predictable source: Sen. Joe Gruters. For the session that begins Jan. 11, Gruters filed a proposed constitutional amendment to make all school board races partisan. He’s back with another bad idea. Under Senate Bill 1300, Tallahassee would dictate how school boards conduct meetings. Gruters’ bill would require at least 30 minutes of public comment at the beginning of meetings. Speakers would have at least three minutes to speak on any topic, regardless of the agenda. Speakers also would get three minutes to comment on agenda items. In addition, the entire meeting would have to be recorded and livestreamed. Speakers could criticize individual board members “provided that the speaker maintains orderly conduct and proper decorum.” The bill leaves it to board members to define those terms.

— ALOE —

Welcome to the worldDouglas Alexander Singleton, born Dec. 13 to author, political strategist, and influencer Phillip Singleton — known as “The Hip Hop Lobbyist” — and mom Jalencia Singleton. Singleton says Douglas — all 21″ and 7 lb. 8 oz. of him — could be “The Hip Hop Lobbyist Jr.” … but might also be the next POTUS (in 2064). Congratulations!

Happy birthday to (future POTUS) Douglas Alexander Singleton.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are former House Speaker José Oliva, Bryan Anderson of HCA, Dr. Ray Arsenault, Kyle Simon, and former Rep. John Tobia.

___

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

    January 6, 2022 at 8:46 am

    “DeSantis is urging the GOP-led state Legislature to pass a measure that would allow parents to sue school districts that teach lessons rooted in critical race theory”

    The only problem is racism is very real, and blacks especially are hindered by it in virtually everything they do.

    But it’s good for Republicans to keep a divided society where white people are on top.

    Racists don’t want the reality of racism taught.

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories