Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.13.22

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Here's your morning briefing of what you need to know in Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

We’re years away from a potential Donald Trump vs. Ron DeSantis primary battle, but it appears that the former President won’t wait until 2024 to take the gloves off.

During a Tuesday interview with Dan Ball of One America News, Trump laid into “a couple” of unnamed Republican politicians who had recently refused to say if they had received booster shots, calling them “gutless.”

According to Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, that was a thinly veiled barb directed at DeSantis, who refused to answer the question during a Fox News appearance last month.

“This would indicate Trump’s ‘must tell the truth’ message to me about the timing of his vaccine comments a few weeks ago were about DeSantis, who is increasingly under his skin,” she tweeted.

People close to Trump, she said, have noticed the former President taking an increasingly hostile stance toward DeSantis because the latter “won’t say the magic words,” meaning that he will not tell Trump that he will not challenge him for the Republican nomination in 2024.

Haberman added, “A smart R makes the point that Trump is not only positioning himself to get credit for a vaccine he once demanded it for, but he is trying to make DeSantis look like a ‘typical pol’ who won’t be straightforward.”

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce released its 2022 Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda, outlining the top priorities for the business community this Session.

The Florida Chamber releases its “Where We Stand” business agenda each year ahead of the Legislative Session. As in past editions, the 2022 agenda focuses on policies that the Chamber believes will help Florida’s economy become one of the 10 largest in the world by 2030.

That does include several priorities that directly benefit businesses, such as efforts to curb litigation in the insurance market, reduce the state’s communications services tax and prevent or offset the scheduled sunset of last year’s cut to the state corporate income tax.

Mark Wilson will lay out where The Chamber stands. Image via Facebook.

But the agenda also pushes for improvements that, at first glance, seem unrelated to the health of Florida’s business climate.

On education, for instance, the Chamber is signaling support for more high-quality early learning and child care opportunities for Florida children as well as initiatives that will boost kindergarten readiness from 57% today to 100% by 2030.

It also supports targeting resources at school districts that educate a disproportionate number of children who live in poverty — Chamber research shows that 15% of the state’s ZIP codes account are home to more than half of Florida children living in poverty.

Infrastructure priorities, meanwhile, include rural broadband expansion to ensure 100% of Florida residents have access to high-speed internet by the end of the decade, as well as investments in the state’s roadways, railways, airports, seaports and spaceports to accommodate growth in demand for trade, talent and visitors.

“The choices made by the Legislature matter, and the Florida Chamber is at the forefront as we prepare for Florida’s continued growth. The Florida Chamber’s Business Agenda is a set of legislative priorities that will help grow private-sector jobs, diversify our economy, and create additional economic opportunities for Floridians,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

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Thursday is Girl Scout Day at the Capitol.

Girl Scouts, volunteers, and senior leadership from all six Florida Girl Scout Councils will flock to the Capitol for Girl Scout Day to raise lawmakers’ awareness of the Girl Scout mission, including building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

Girl Scout Day, now in its third year, also highlights the four key pillars of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience: STEM, outdoors, entrepreneurship, and life skills.

Tallahassee gets a preview of cookie season.

(If you’re wondering how Girl Scouts teaches entrepreneurship, my own Girl Scout, Ella Joyce, has some cookies to sell you.)

A welcome from the Girl Scout of Florida CEOs and a Gold Award Girl Scout will kick off the event in the courtyard of the Capitol building. Later, Girl Scouts will pin Florida cabinet members and legislators as honorary Girl Scout members on the steps of the Florida State Capitol Building during a special ceremony.

“Girl Scouting is an integral part of developing leadership in girls across Florida,” said Mary Anne Jacobs, CEO of Girl Scouts of Gateway Council. “This event is an opportunity to demonstrate to our elected leaders how Girl Scouts helps girls discover their untapped potential to become the leaders that our businesses, communities, and planet need.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenRickScott: .@SenateDems’ filibuster flip-flop is a political power grab focused solely on passing a radical federal takeover of America’s elections. It will ruin our democracy, not save it. I won’t stop fighting against this insanity.

@Igorbobic: The idea that Dems could have passed voting rights if only (Joe) Biden pushed for it and called for rules changes earlier than he did seems like wishcasting/not based in reality, but what do I know

@EwErickson: A President with only 33% popular support wants the Senate Dems to change the Senate rules by ignoring the Senate Rules requirement of a 2/3 vote to change said rules in order to pass a voting bill designed to keep Democrats in power. But the GOP are the enemies of democracy?

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@ChicagosMayor: Earlier today, I tested positive for COVID-19. I am experiencing cold-like symptoms but otherwise feel fine, which I credit to being vaccinated and boosted. I will continue to work from home while following the CDC guidelines for isolation.

Tweet, tweet:

@ShevrinJones: Let the record show that the Surgeon General of the State of Florida, the LEAD doctor in the State thought he was coming to the Healthcare Appropriations committee and not mention one word about Florida’s COVID response.🙋🏾‍♂️ we have questions, sir!!

@CarlosGSmith: Florida’s new Surgeon General came to our committee today to present @GovRonDeSantis health care budget. He made ZERO mention of COVID until I pressed him on how much Florida was planning to spend on PREVENTION. He had NO NUMBERS to offer. They have NO plan.

@KirbyWTweets: It’s been my repeated experience that @GovRonDeSantis‘ top agency officials are hustled out of legislative meetings by aides while reporters try to ask them questions. These are public officials in public meetings, and they should answer questions from journalists. Beyond the journalistic and public good implications of having to get answers from spokespeople instead of directly from officials, it’s awkward on a personal level to be forced to run alongside an important person and have your questions shouted down by an aide. Unnecessary too!

@Aglorios: In Fla. Health Care Appropriations committee, @LeaderBookFL says a Memorial hospital in South Fla. is spending $21 million *per month* on the nursing shortage. AHCA Secretary @SMarstiller says hospital budgets have been bent but not broken by the expense.

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@MikeSington: Imagine if Venus Williams acted like Novak Djokovic.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 1; NFL playoffs begin — 2; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 8; ‘Billions’ begins — 10; Red Dog Blue Dog charity event — 12; James Madison Institute’s Stanley Marshall Day Celebration in Jacksonville — 15; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 22; Super Bowl LVI — 31; Will Smith’s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 31; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 34; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 38; Daytona 500 — 38; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 41; CPAC begins — 43; St. Pete Grand Prix — 43; Biden to give State of the Union — 47; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 50; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 69; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 71; The Oscars — 73; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 75; federal student loan payments will resume — 108; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 113; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 134; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 140; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 177; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 188; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 232; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 267; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 302; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 305; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 337; ’Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 400; ’John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 435; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 561; ’Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 645; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 925.

— TOP STORY —

Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend testifies to grand jury in sex trafficking probe” via Marc Caputo of NBC News — Rep. Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend testified Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating him for sex crimes, a major development that suggests the Department of Justice may be moving closer to indicting him. The ex-girlfriend has been in talks for months with prosecutors about an immunity deal. Under a possible deal, she would avoid prosecution for obstruction of justice in return for testifying in the investigation into whether Gaetz in 2017 had sex with a 17-year-old female for money and whether months later he and others violated a federal law prohibiting people from paying for prostitutes overseas. Legal sources familiar with the case say Gaetz is being investigated for three distinct crimes: sex trafficking the 17-year-old; violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking women across state lines for prostitution; and obstructing justice.

It’s not looking good for Matt Gaetz. Image via AP.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Ron DeSantis bashes Joe Biden while spending Washington bucks” via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Capital Bureau — DeSantis’ $99.7 billion state budget proposal, heavily supported by federal COVID-19 recovery dollars, is getting its first reviews from Florida lawmakers in the newly opened 2022 session. And for outnumbered Florida Democrats, frustrations are mounting. DeSantis, who regularly spars with the Biden administration, is using $3.8 billion in federal aid money to cover some of his most eye-catching initiatives in the spending plan. On Wednesday, DeSantis’ budget director, Chris Spencer, twisted the political knife even more when explaining his boss’s rationale for using federal dollars to cover a $1.1 billion gas tax break for Florida motorists. “The inflation we’re experiencing right now is largely the result of monetary and fiscal mismanagement coming out of Washington, D.C.,” Spencer told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Ron DeSantis hates Joe Biden but sure loves those Biden bucks. Image via NBC News.

DeSantis backs GOP bill that would ban most abortions in Florida after 15 weeks” via Travis Gibson of News4Jax — DeSantis voiced support Wednesday morning for a Republican-led bill that would ban most abortions in Florida after 15 weeks of pregnancy and signaled that he would sign it if it landed on his desk. The measures by Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Erin Grall are similar to a Mississippi law currently under challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court. “Obviously, I’m supportive of 15 weeks. I mean, I think that’s very reasonable. And I think that’s very consistent with, you know, with being supportive of protecting life,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Southwest Florida. DeSantis added that he had not read the specifics of the proposed bill yet. However, the bill does not go as far as a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, with enforcement provisions allowing citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who assists in an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

After unanimous passage, second attempt at emergency fund gets pushback” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senators last year voted unanimously to stow away $1 billion for the Governor to spend on emergencies, but making the fund a reality is proving more controversial. After DeSantis was forced to veto the Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund and an accompanying $1 billion installment for it, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 9-7 Wednesday to again set aside the amount. However, Democrats and some Republicans criticized the new plan (SB 96 and SB 98) for not placing guardrails around how the Governor could spend those dollars. After the Legislature had approved it near-unanimously, the state received federal guidance that the fund would be an inappropriate use of the federal relief dollars.

Kelli Stargel optimistic entering final Legislative Session” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — Sen. Stargel is among a small contingent of legislators who have served in Tallahassee since Barack Obama was a first-year President. Stargel made the familiar, 270-mile drive from Lakeland to Tallahassee last weekend to prepare for Tuesday’s opening of the annual, two-month Legislative Session. It will be the 14th and final gathering for Stargel, first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2008. “So, this year, obviously, our state is doing very well,” she said. “Our economy is doing very well. Revenues are coming in, month over month, higher than projected. So, we’re in a very good spot, financially, as a state, but we’re still going to have to be very conservative because I believe that this is not a sustainable (funding model).”

Senator behind 15-week abortion bill: Bill doesn’t eliminate abortion rights” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — At least one lawmaker backing legislation reducing the window for abortions in Florida says the proposal does not eliminate women’s abortion rights. Lakeland Republican Stargel, who on Tuesday filed the Senate bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks (SB 146), disagreed with opponents who say the bill takes away those rights entirely. Stargel, who became pregnant with her first child when she was a teenager and decided to give birth to her daughter, told reporters she believes life begins at conception. The end of the first trimester coincides with reveal parties, when some parents announce they are having a baby. Because people start going public then, the Senator said those behind the bill believed that was a good deadline.

Bryan Ávila wants to know why nursing homes, hospitals always seek more money” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The state may be flush in money, but the Chair of the House Health Care Spending Committee says accountability still matters. Rep. Ávila pressed Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller on spending recommendations included in the proposed legislative budget floated by her boss, DeSantis. Among other things, DeSantis’s proposed health care budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023 budget recommended the state continue to provide rate enhancements to hospitals that provide the most amount of Medicaid in the state. The Governor also recommended the Legislature spend an additional $185 million to increase reimbursement rates for Florida’s 690 skilled nursing facilities.

Lauren Book’s child welfare bill advances in committee” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Sen. Book’s bill that would guarantee an attorney is appointed for children in the state’s care advanced in committee Tuesday, but not before the bill drew heartbreaking testimony both for and against. The Senate Democratic Leader’s legislation (SB 948) would create the Office of Child Representation to provide an attorney to represent a minor involved in abuse or neglect, going through delinquency proceedings or the subject of parental termination of rights. Rep. Randy Maggard has filed an identical bill (HB 1549) in the House. Currently, an attorney is appointed to represent a child only if the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office recommends it. Some who came before the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee wanted to make sure it did not undermine the role of the guardian ad litem.

‘Justice delayed is justice denied’: Darryl Rouson pushes for reform school abuse victims to receive restitution” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Over the years, state lawmakers have pushed for restitution to victims of brutal crimes that took place at reform schools in Florida between 1940 and 1975, but those efforts didn’t come to fruition. But during the 2022 legislative session, state Sen. Darryl Rouson will continue advocating for the survivors of physical and sexual abuse at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna and the Florida School for Boys in Okeechobee by introducing legislation to certify former students for future compensation. SB 482, entitled “Victims of Reform School Abuse,” was filed on the first day of the legislative Session by Rouson, but it doesn’t specify the amount in restitution that the former students would receive. The bill would require victims to submit applications to the Department of State for certification, and the department would “review and process a completed application within a certain time frame.”

‘Preemption to end all preemptions’: Senate panel approves controversial local ordinance bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — After hearing strong comments describing the bill as the preemption to end all preemptions, local government guardrails for business ordinances, a trial lawyer’s dream, and an extreme overreach of state government, a Senate committee approved Senate Bill 280 Wednesday. The Senate Committee on Community Affairs voted along party lines to forward SB 280 after the bill was bombarded by opposition from advocates of local government. The bill, from Sen. Travis Hutson, also has provisions that would require local governments to write business environment impact statements on all proposed local statutes to evaluate whether they could have negative effects on local businesses; and provide that businesses could be compensated, made whole, for business losses under some new local ordinances.

Travis Hutson’s word of the day: ‘preemption.’

Bills would let counties object to tax collectors spending after Joel Greenberg debacle” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — In a way to prevent a tax collector from misspending public money as Greenberg was accused of doing, state Sen. Jason Brodeur and state Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil filed companion bills that would give county commissions more input into the annual budgets of the Tax Collector’s Office. “Right now, we really don’t have any oversight. It’s the Department of Revenue in Tallahassee,” said Seminole Commissioner Jay Zembower regarding the office’s budget. Under similar bills, Tax Collector’s offices in Florida’s 67 counties would have to submit their annual fiscal budgets to the state DOR and their county commissions by June 1, two months earlier than currently. Commissioners would then have 30 days to review the Tax Collector’s budget and provide comments and objections to state officials.


— TALLY 2 —

Senate readies new maps with plan that pits some Democrats against each other” via Mary Ellen Klas and Karen Wang of the Miami Herald — As many as four South Florida Democrats and no Republicans would be drawn into districts with another state senator under a redistricting map a key Florida Senate committee is scheduled to approve on Thursday. On the first day of the Legislative Session, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chair Ray Rodrigues quietly selected two redistricting maps from dozens of submitted maps, and they will serve as the baseline for any amendments from now on. The congressional proposal, C8040, and the Senate map, S8046, were among two recommendations made on Monday by the respective redistricting subcommittees.

Ray Rodrigues wants to shake things up for Democrats. Image via Colin Hackley.

Ray Rodrigues says he has at least one amendment to file on redistricting maps” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Rodrigues expects amendments to be filed on the maps he chose for consideration by the Senate Reapportionment Committee. One of those will be his own. “I do intend to file my own amendment to the map,” Rodrigues said. Rodrigues followed up on his word and filed his own Senate map (S 8056), which offers slight changes to a staff-generated draft map (S 8046). Why file an amendment? It goes back to the congressional and Senate maps drawn by the Legislature a decade ago, getting tossed by the courts mid-decade. As Rodrigues noted, the state House map at that time survived judicial scrutiny. “Our goal as the Senate has been to emulate the House process that the court blessed in their apportionment decisions,” Rodrigues said.

Senate’s map for Tampa Bay is drawing heat” via Mary Ellen Klas and Karen Wang, McClatchy of the Tampa Bay Times — A controversial plan to draw a Black state Senate district in Tampa Bay may become the catalyst for a lawsuit, some Democrats are warning about a redistricting map a key Florida Senate committee is scheduled to approve Thursday. The district is part of Senate map S8046, one of two redistricting maps quietly selected by Senate Reapportionment Committee Chair Rodrigues from dozens of submitted maps this week. The maps, chosen on the first day of the Legislative Session, will serve as the baseline for any amendments in the future.

Audrey Gibson aims to keep Duval’s minority-represented Senate seat more geographically expansive” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, filed a substantive amendment to a draft Florida Senate district map that could update the shape of Senate District 6. Following up on complaints she leveled at the last Senate Legislative Reapportionment Committee, Gibson offered alternative configurations to Northeast Florida’s districts (S 8054). She disliked a new iteration of SD 6 that appears far more geographically compact. The Senator represents the existing SD 6, one of Florida’s effective minority districts, allowing federal Voting Rights Act protections. The draft Senate map (S 8046) under consideration by the Senate Reapportionment Committee imagines a Jacksonville-centered district bound on the north and east primarily by State Road 526, a perimeter road.

House faces scrutiny of minority districts, expediency as it navigates redistricting” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As the Florida Legislature works on redistricting, there has been a commitment not to diminish minority voting power. But some want more discussion about whether there’s sufficient influence now. This week, Cecile Scoon, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, appeared at multiple redistricting meetings to address the topic. On the first day of Session, she brought the concern to the House Congressional Redistricting Committee. “There has been so much change in the population,” Scoon said.

Data privacy redux? House, Senate stake familiar positions on suing tech companies” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Speaker Chris Sprowls appears unwilling to bend on giving Florida consumers more control over their private information, allowing them to sue companies that sell their information without consent. And his counterpart, Senate President Wilton Simpson, appears equally unlikely to change his mind that civil enforcement is not the proper solution for aggrieved consumers whose data has been sold. DeSantis supported increasing data privacy in his State of the State address but where the Governor stands on the lawsuit issue is unclear. DeSantis sided Simpson and the Senate on the issue last year despite appearing at a news conference with Sprowls when the bill was unveiled.

Jason Fischer bill targets Google, Apple app fees” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — HB 1579, covering digital app purchases and payments, is intended to check so-called “Big Tech App Store Monopolies” such as the Goolge’s Play store and the Apple Store. Fischer believes the matter could bring Republicans and Democrats together. “Big Tech’s rampant disregard for the American values of a free and fair marketplace with healthy competition is truly concerning to Floridians of both political parties,” Fischer said. “With this legislation, Florida can foster innovation and create jobs in our own state by protecting growing app developers from the looming threat of Apple and Google’s un-American and anti-competitive business practices.” The crux of the complaint with these companies is their arbitrary fees and payment methods.

Florida may outlaw protests outside of private residence under new proposal” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Rep. Randy Maggard is sponsoring a bill that would outlaw protests outside of a person’s home. The measure (HB 1571) would penalize violators, classifying the first offense as a noncriminal violation and the second as a second-degree misdemeanor. Punishments vary between a first- or second-time offense. A first-time violator, the bill says, faces 16 hours of community service or a $25 fine. Two-time offenders, meanwhile, may face up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, and six months’ probation, per the statutory penalties listed in state law. “The state has a significant interest in protecting the tranquility and privacy of the home and protecting citizens from the detrimental effect of targeted picketing,” the bill says.

Randy Maggard wants to limit protests at private residences. What does that mean for the First Amendment?

Spencer Roach seeks end to committee week fundraising, zombie campaigns” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fundraising has largely stopped in Tallahassee since the Legislative Session began. But Rep. Roach wishes it had been cut off much sooner. “Committee weeks have devolved into a frenzied orgy of fundraising subsidized by the taxpayers,” Roach said. “It’s wrong, and it needs to end.” The North Fort Myers Republican filed legislation (HB 1359) ahead of Session to significantly alter Florida’s campaign finance laws. The bill includes a prohibition against fundraising during committee weeks. The bill would also slay so-called zombie campaigns — political committees that stop fundraising but which house dollars that can be drawn down for years. Language, as written, would dissolve any Florida political committee that doesn’t raise more than $5,000 over two years.

Lawmakers propose creating Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot Program” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida may soon launch a Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot Program under legislation sponsored by a bipartisan pair of lawmakers. The proposals (HB 1351 and SB 1712) would require the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to offer pertinent training to county and city veteran service organizations. The training would emphasize crisis counseling that is tailored to veterans. Sen. Danny Burgess, a member of the Army Reserve, and Rep. Ben Diamond are the bill sponsors. On average, more than 500 veterans commit suicide each year in Florida. There are signs; however, the issue is growing worse.

Legislature will consider creating Northeast Florida spaceport authority” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Legislation filed by two Jacksonville area lawmakers would create a Northeast Florida Regional Spaceport Authority for guiding the mission of winning a share of space launches and related commerce. The proposed regional space authority would take over from the Jacksonville Aviation Authority as the lead agency for creating commercial aerospace activity in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. State Rep. Wyman Duggan said the aviation authority had done a “fantastic job” setting the stage, but the stakes are high enough that a separate authority is needed to concentrate solely on aerospace ventures. He said the commercial aerospace industry generated $449 billion in 2020, which could double to become a trillion-dollar industry in five years.

What Wilton Simpson’s watching — ‘Saving the Florida Wildlife Corridor’ premiers Thursday on WEDU — Tampa Bay area PBS affiliate WEDU will air a documentary at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on the conservation efforts launched since the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was signed into law last year. “Through the voices of farmers, fisherman, ranchers and conservationists, the film offers a glimpse into one of America’s most unique and complex conservation opportunities and highlights the need to collaborate to ensure its survival. It explores how to balance Florida’s rapid growth with the green infrastructure that supports all Floridians,” a synopsis reads. WEDU also plans to hold in-person screenings of the documentary across the state in the coming months.

—“Latest on the House staffing merry-go-round” via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

AARP Florida is backing bills filed by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Sen. Audrey Gibson to strengthen financial accountability and transparency requirements for nursing homes and boost protections for patients and their caregivers.

The bills (HB 1237 and SB 1596) would require nursing homes to spend at least 75% of Medicaid funding they receive on expenses related to patient care, with at least 55% going toward direct care.

If a facility fails to meet the threshold, it would be required to return the excess Medicaid funds.

Carlos Guillermo Smith and Audrey Gibson file bills that get the AARP stamp of approval.

“The nursing home industry in Florida receives hundreds of millions of tax dollars while facing little oversight on how that funding is used,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said.

Citing a case study from United Healthcare Workers East, he said, “vast amounts of taxpayer funds are channeled to shell companies and corporate profits rather than being spent on high-quality nursing home staffing, caregiver pay and protections, and other critical elements that would improve nursing home care in Florida.”

“Enough is enough. The pandemic exposed and worsened problems that have been occurring for decades in Florida’s long-term care facilities. AARP members include current and future nursing home residents and their loved ones, who deserve peace of mind that facilities are providing a safe environment and high-quality care.”

AARP Florida representatives, caregivers and senior care advocates will head to the Capitol on Thursday to appear alongside Guillermo Smith and Gibson at an 11:30 a.m. news conference in support of the bill.

— MORE TALLY —

‘T-CPR’ bill gets first committee hearing Thursday — A bill that would authorize the use of telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or T-CPR, will get its first test Thursday during a meeting of the Senate Health Policy Committee. SB 890, sponsored by Sen. Burgess, would train dispatchers to provide step-by-step CPR instructions that callers can put to use while they wait for emergency personnel to arrive. The bill has been endorsed by the American Heart Association, which said T-CPR could be the difference between life and death, especially in rural areas, where it can take longer for emergency personnel to arrive. The House companion, HB 593, is carried by Rep. Dana Trabulsy.

— The Senate Reapportionment Committee meets to consider congressional and Senate redistricting maps, 1:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets, 15 minutes after Reapportionment Committee meets, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate Finance & Tax Committee, 9 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate Rules Committee, 9 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, 9 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee, 9 a.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, 9 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee, 9 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— Senate Agriculture Committee, 11 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, 11 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate Health Policy Committee, 11 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— House Redistricting Committee, 11:30 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee, 2 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, 2 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, 2 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee, 2 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— House Education & Employment Committee, 4:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— House Judiciary Committee, 4:30 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— House State Affairs Committee, 4:30 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

Happening today:

— STATEWIDE —

Gov. DeSantis orders flags at half-staff in honor of Harry Reid — DeSantis issued an order late Wednesday calling for U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of former U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Reid, who died last month after battling pancreatic cancer for four years. Reid served Nevada as a Lieutenant Governor, U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator during a career spanning 1971 through 2017. DeSantis’ memo said the was ordering flags flown at half-staff in response to an order from Biden and “as a mark of respect.” DeSantis’ order applies to U.S. and State of Florida flags “at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida from midnight (Wednesday) until sunset on Thursday.”

DeSantis announces $16.8 million for Bonita Springs stormwater infrastructure” via Joey Pellegrino of WINK — DeSantis held a news conference alongside Dane Eagle, secretary of the Department of Economic Opportunity, in Bonita Springs City Hall. DeSantis announced that he will award the city $16.8 million to upgrade its stormwater infrastructure along Terry Street in the face of future severe storms.

Ron DeSantis cuts a big check for Bonita Springs. Image via WINK.

GOP attorneys flag Donald Trump supporter’s arrest to bolster voter fraud claims” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Attorneys representing national Republican groups are using the arrest of a Trump supporter and alleged voter fraud in one of Florida’s biggest GOP strongholds to defend a controversial election bill pushed by DeSantis. Lawyers working for the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee late last week asked a judge overseeing a legal challenge to the controversial Florida voting law to take notice of three incidents of voter fraud that had surfaced in Florida over the last two years. One of the cases cited involved a central Florida woman who pleaded no contest in December to charges that she had turned in fake voter registration forms on behalf of registered voters. Democrats scoffed at Republicans, highlighting their members allegedly violating election laws.

Ashley Moody unveils new human trafficking initiative” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Moody announced a new initiative Wednesday to combat human trafficking in Florida. Dubbed the 100% Club, the initiative invites business owners to join other companies in vowing to train staff to spot and report instances of human trafficking. The companies, Moody suggested, will serve as partners to police. “We can’t be everywhere,” Moody said of law enforcement. “I wish we had a tremendous law enforcement presence in every area of our state to watch out and protect citizens. But we need partners in the community.” Florida will provide cards to all club members that feature the physical and verbal signs of human trafficking. The cards will also boast Florida’s new human trafficking hotline number, the first, Moody said, of its kind.

DCF knew Eckerd was trouble, then a child fell off a roof — It got worse after that” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — By January 2020, the red flags surrounding Eckerd Connects’ performance as the lead foster care agency in Pinellas and Pasco counties had become too much to bear, according to Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Shevaun Harris. The organization, which had been under contract with the state in the Sixth Judicial Circuit since 2008, was put on notice. Then, in October, an unsupervised foster child who left to spend the night with three others in an Eckerd Connects office climbed to the building’s roof and fell. From there, things got worse. Harris said the child survived “by the grace of God.”

DEO Deputy Secretary: Florida expected to return to pre-pandemic employment level in 2 to 3 months” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — The state of Florida is expected to return to its pre-pandemic employment levels within the next 2 to 3 months, according to Adrienne Johnson, Deputy Secretary of the Division of Workforce Services at Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Speaking at the 2022 Florida Chamber of Commerce Legislative Fly-In, Florida Chamber Executive Vice President David Gillespie discussed Johnson’s economic synopsis at large, focusing on the future of Florida and the state’s job growth through 2030. “Since the onset of the pandemic, and how Florida’s unemployment rate initially climbed to a record 14.2% at the onset of COVID-19, the unemployment rate of Florida has decreased now to 4.2% as of November of last year [2021], said Gillespie.

Courthouse to be renamed in honor of the late U.S. District Judge Stephan P. Mickle” via Aida Mallard of The Gainesville Sun — The Alachua County Criminal Justice Center will be renamed in honor of the late U.S. District Judge Mickle. The renaming will be held at noon Friday at the courthouse at 220 S. Main St. Those scheduled to speak include his wife, Evelyn Moore Mickle, his children, Stephan P. Mickle II and Stephanie Mickle. Along with dignitaries from the local community, they will speak about how the late judge is known as a quiet trailblazer who treated everyone equally. Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell said the commission unanimously approved renaming the criminal courthouse once the history of the late judge was heard. The renaming will highlight the 2022 King Celebration and represent a place where everyone can get justice, said Rodney J. Long, founder and President of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida.

Alachua County honors the late Judge Stephan P. Mickle. Image via The Independent Florida Alligator.

Environmentalists press judge to reconsider tossed lawsuit — The Florida Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups filed a motion Wednesday asking a Circuit Judge Layne Smith to reconsider his Jan. 3 decision to toss a lawsuit related to land conservation spending, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The suit centers on the 2014 ballot measure approved by voters guaranteeing $300 million a year for conservation land buys. The groups say their challenge to the 2015-16 budget is not moot, as alleged in the dismissal. They also cited the 1st District Court of Appeal’s 2019 ruling that the circuit court must decide the legality of the appropriations. “This court should not disregard the clear instructions of the District Court of Appeal and should proceed to make a decision on the merits,” the motion says.

USDA January citrus forecast sees another projected dip in Florida production” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Florida’s projected output for the 2021-22 citrus season is worsening. The USDA is now forecasting Florida will produce 44.5 million boxes of oranges this season, with 27 million boxes of Valencia oranges and 17.5 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges. Florida is also projected to produce 800,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos. Each of those projections is lower than last month’s report and represents a decline from the already-low start-of-season predictions issued in October. Those early season projections were the nadir or a decadeslong decline in estimated Florida citrus output, and it appears those numbers are dropping further as the season progresses.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: 71,742 new cases added to toll as hospital patients increase” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 71,742 COVID-19 cases and six new deaths Tuesday. In all, Florida has recorded at least 4,878,524 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 62,819 deaths. In the past seven days, as the omicron version of the virus circulates, the state has added 40 deaths and 65,551 cases per day on average. This rolling seven-day case average is the highest it’s ever been, breaking a record. There were 11,378 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida. COVID-19 patients take up 20.41% of all inpatient beds in the latest report, compared to 19.96% among Tuesday’s reporting hospitals.

DeSantis confirms 1 million COVID-19 tests can be used; Orange seeks 100,000” via Steven Lemongello and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis confirmed Wednesday that the FDA has approved a state request to extend the expiration date to the end of March for 1 million COVID-19 tests held in a state warehouse. Orange County was still waiting on a request for 100,000 tests as of Wednesday. DeSantis also defended the state not sending out the tests to local governments before their initial extended expiration date of late December, saying “for those three months [there was] almost zero demand in Florida for testing.” As for when the newly valid tests would be distributed, DeSantis said it would be “all contingent on demand.”

Florida gets the green light for a million COVID-19 tests. Image via AP.

Here’s how Florida distributes scarce COVID-19 therapy” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — To manage a scarce COVID-19 therapy in sharp demand among people with weakened immune systems, Florida’s health department said on Tuesday that the state distributes the drug, called Evusheld, to medical providers who request supply, based on the population density of their service area and in a way that ensures the treatment is no more than a two-hour drive from any resident who needs it. A spokesperson for the health department, responding to reporting that Florida had delivered more Evusheld in December to a small Broward County clinic than the state sent to the region’s public hospitals, said the agency chose that provider based on a track record of quickly administering other COVID-19 therapies to patients.

Nikki Fried’s distracted pot mogul fiance, Jake Bergmann, totals car, mailbox; no charges filed” via Steve Stewart of The Florida Capital Star — Bergmann was distracted when on Sept. 15, 2021, he drove his 2019 Ram 1500 Longhorn across the centerline of a two-lane road in northeast Tallahassee, destroying a neighbor’s $1,500 brick mailbox, according to a traffic crash report. The report indicated that debris from the crash was scattered west to east approximately 30 yards and the Ram truck was inoperable and towed from the scene. After the incident, the photo of the vehicle shows massive damage to the front of the truck and, consistent with the police report, indicates that the air bags in the front seat were deployed.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami City Hall limiting capacity, requiring masks due to COVID-19 omicron surge” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Fewer members of the public will be allowed to sit inside Miami City Hall while commissioners meet Thursday, and all will be required to wear masks, under COVID-19 protocols being reinstated as the omicron variant surges. Administrators announced on Tuesday that until further notice, the city will revert to rules for public meetings first introduced in the fall of 2020 when local governments were forced to meet in person after DeSantis allowed an emergency order permitting virtual meetings to expire. Several seats in the Chamber will be taped off to enforce social distancing on Thursday. Acrylic dividers have been reinstalled on the dais to create barriers between commissioners and senior administrators. Masks will be mandated inside the building.

This major TV industry event was going to take place in Miami Beach. COVID-19 shut it down.” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — If you were planning to attend The National Association of Television Program Executives, commonly known as NATPE, make other plans. The annual meeting, which brings together TV executives, actors, content producers, distributors and streamers in one place, has been canceled thanks to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Roughly 2,500 participants were expected to show from Jan. 18-20 at The Fontainebleau. Miami Beach has been the host location since 2010 after moving from Las Vegas. Last year, due to the ongoing pandemic, the event went virtual. “We put a great deal of safety protocols in place, but it is just not enough given the intensity of this virus which is spreading at an enormous rate all over the world,” said a NATPE statement.

NATPE simply couldn’t make it safe enough to meet in Miami.

Brevard hospitals see surge of patients amid latest COVID-19 wave; treatment tent set up at Holmes” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — As COVID-19 cases push toward record levels in Brevard County, local hospitals are feeling the new influx of patients as the current wave of infections takes its toll. Following the rapid proliferation of the highly-contagious omicron variant of the virus, the latest surge in cases prompted Health First officials to set up its outdoor treatment tent at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne. The increase comes after new weekly COVID-19 cases in Brevard County rose Jan. 7 by 63% in a single week with 8,190 positive tests and a rate of 1,339 cases per 100,000 people, both the highest since the pandemic began.

More COVID-19 Norwegian Cruise Line cancellations hit Port Canaveral, Miami, Tampa” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Norwegian Cruise Line has expanded its list of cancellations, including the first ship sailing out of Port Canaveral and more ships from PortMiami and Tampa as the omicron variant of COVID-19 surges. The line’s sole ship sailing from Port Canaveral, Norwegian Escape, had its next two sailings taken off the board. Its next available sailing is not until Jan. 29. Port Canaveral CEO John Murray said Wednesday that Royal Caribbean was also not going to be sailing two short sailings of Independence of the Seas that were chartered because the private groups canceled the events. Norwegian became the first cruise line to cancel sailings on active ships during this wave of COVID-19 when it cut short a cruise of its Norwegian Pearl last week sailing out of Miami.

COVID-19 surge in Alachua County Public Schools leads to staff shortages” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — Daily operations for Alachua County Public Schools have begun to be affected by the surge in COVID-19 cases, with a quickly growing number of students and staff infected or in quarantine as the system starts a new semester. In an email Monday afternoon to families, spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said that numbers in the school district continue to increase, with more than 400 students and 100 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days. Johnson said the district hopes it won’t have to close schools due to staffing shortages, but the conversation has come up. She said that due to the uptick, there are numerous employee absences districtwide affecting daily operations. According to the Alachua County COVID-19 dashboard, 616 students and 137 staff employees have tested positive for the virus within the past 10 days.

— 2022 —

—”Rick Scott predicts Republicans will pick up seats in all states Biden won by less than 10 points” via Fox News

Assignment editorsCharlie Crist will join a group of local pastors from across the Tampa Bay area at a news conference announcing the newly formed “Faith Leaders For Crist” coalition, 11:30 a.m., RSVP to receive the location information. Also livestreamed via Crist’s Facebook page (@CharlieCristFL).

—”CD 7 Republican candidate Erika Benfield announces small business coalition” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

First on #FlaPol — “Democrat Maxwell Frost’s CD 10 campaign announces raising $407K in 4th quarter” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Frost continues to defy expectations as a Generation-Z newcomer running in a field full of traditional candidates, announcing a stunning $407,000 fundraising effort for the latest period. Frost is a 24-year-old progressive activist taking on a state Senator, a former State Attorney, a well-known preacher, and a civil rights lawyer with a national profile in the Democratic Primary Election for the Democratic stronghold in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, his campaign announced Wednesday it raised $407,211 from 13,920 contributions received during the fourth quarter of 2021, covering October, November and December.

Maxwell Frost continues to defy expectations.

Kathy Castor draws another Republican challenger in veteran James Judge” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Castor has drawn another Republican opponent looking to flip Florida’s 14th Congressional District from blue to red: Judge, a Tampa Bay native. Judge, a 37-year-old local businessman, announced his entrance into the CD 14 race Wednesday after filing paperwork to declare his candidacy in mid-December. Since filing, he’s already made hefty gains, raising more than $100,000 in the final 16 days of 2021. Born in Clearwater, Judge graduated from Eckerd College and served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 2003 through 2007. Judge began consulting and later founded Judge Public Relations, a PR and marketing firm headquartered in Tampa.

Anna Paulina Luna mourns loss of father, asks for prayers” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Luna has announced the sudden death of her father, George Mayerhofer, who died Tuesday in a fatal car crash. His wife, Luna’s stepmother, is currently in critical condition at the ICU. In a statement sent Tuesday afternoon via Luna’s campaign email, the candidate asked for prayers and privacy during this time. Luna’s father has been a significant figure throughout her campaigns for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. In one campaign video, Luna recalled her childhood, when her family struggled with substance abuse. In her Wednesday statement, Luna went on to talk about how she joined the U.S. Air Force and found hope, helping her dad out of drug abuse and homelessness.

Shevrin Jones raises $35K for SD 35 defense with gains from grassroots, medical, gambling spheres” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Jones raised $35,000 in December to defend his Senate District 35 seat, with strong grassroots support and help from the medical, gambling and financial sectors. But thanks to another round of active campaign spending, the Miami Gardens Democrat ended up with less in the bank than he did at the beginning of the month. Jones holds about $30,000 between his campaign account and his political committee, Florida Strong Finish. He’s still unopposed, but state rules barring fundraising during the Legislative Session could provide a late challenger with strong money connections the chance to amass a war chest. Even if that happens, it wouldn’t likely be much of a problem for Jones, considering SD 35’s overwhelmingly Democratic lean and his performance in 2020, when he trounced his Primary opponents before running unopposed in the General Election.

Alen Tomczak collects $20K in December for HD 66 bid” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — While each House District 66 candidate raised more than $10,000 in December, Tomczak took the top spot as the highest monthly fundraiser, besting opponents Berny Jacques and Jennifer Wilson. Jacques still maintains the highest fundraising total among the three candidates vying to succeed Rep. Nick DiCeglie. Tomczak, a technical lead at Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, raised $20,550 between his campaign and his affiliated political committee, Friends of Alen Tomczak. His campaign collected $3,550 in December, while his political committee raised $17,000. His campaign spent little this past month, dishing out $483, all on advertisements. Tomczak’s political committee spent $2,500 on event tickets at Pinellas County Rec.

HD 94 Rep.-elect Daryl Campbell says he expects to be seated this Legislative Session” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — But that’s not what a House Democratic leader says. Rep.-Elect Campbell said he has been told he’ll be sworn in and seated after the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission meets to certify his victory Jan. 25. Campbell said another Representative, who he didn’t want to identify, told him Speaker Chris Sprowls said the HD 94 winner would be seated after that certification. House Democratic Co-Leader Rep. Evan Jenne said it’s his understanding Campbell can’t be seated until the Secretary of State certifies the election results and that’s not expected until after March 8.

— CORONA NATION —

Joe Biden sending medical teams to six states to help hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19” via Maureen Groppe and Donovan Slack of USA Today — The federal government is sending medical teams to six states – New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico – to help hospitals overburdened by COVID-19. President Biden is expected to announce the deployments Thursday when discussing steps the administration is taking to address a surge in infections driven by the omicron variant, according to a White House official.

Virus may infect most, Anthony Fauci says, but risk of severe illness ‘very, very low’ for vaccinated” via Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis, Brittany Shammas and Reis Thebault of The Washington Post — Fauci reiterated the stark warning that the coronavirus will probably infect most Americans eventually, but added an important caveat: While “virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected,” he said, “if you’re vaccinated and if you’re boosted, the chances of you getting sick are very, very low.” Fauci made the statement at a White House news briefing, echoing what other top health officials have said in recent days. His comments add to the growing list of clarion calls to the unvaccinated, urging them to get shots by citing grim numbers that show the uninoculated are in danger of serious illness. Fauci said that unvaccinated people are 20 times likelier to die, 17 times likelier to be hospitalized, and 10 times likelier to be infected than the vaccinated.

Anthony Fauci gives some sobering news — odds are you will get COVID-19. Image via AP.

Which mask? What test? COVID-19’s latest surge spreads an epidemic of confusion.” via Marc Fisher, Christine Spolar and Deborah Lynn Blumberg of The Washington Post — As Americans push into the third winter of viral discontent, this season has delivered something different: Amid the deep polarization about masks and vaccines, amid the discord over whether and how to return to pre-pandemic life, a strange unity of confusion is emerging, a common inability to decipher conflicting advice and clashing guidelines coming from government, science, health, media and other institutions. The omicron variant’s swift and supremely efficient spread has unleashed waves of new rules and decisions governing every aspect of life. The CDC’s guidance shifts from week to week, changing recommendations on how long people infected with the virus should isolate and who needs to be tested after symptoms resolve.

Frequent boosters spur warning on immune response” via Irina Anghel of Bloomberg — European Union regulators warned that frequent COVID-19 booster shots could adversely affect the immune response and may not be feasible. According to the European Medicines Agency, repeating booster doses every four months could eventually weaken the immune response and tire people. Instead, the agency said that countries should leave more time between booster programs and tie them to the onset of the cold season in each hemisphere, following the blueprint set out by influenza vaccination strategies. The advice comes as some countries consider the possibility of offering people second booster shots in a bid to provide further protection against surging omicron infections.

Pfizer plans to manufacture up to 100 million doses of omicron-specific vaccine by spring” via Christopher Rowland of The Washington Post — Pfizer is racing ahead with plans to manufacture 50 million to 100 million doses of a new omicron-specific version of its coronavirus vaccine, a reflection of rising concerns that current vaccine formulations may need to be tweaked for the new threat. Pfizer also is testing hybrid combinations of vaccines to target multiple coronavirus forms, as well as larger doses. The omicron-specific doses will be created “at risk,” CEO Albert Bourla said Monday, meaning that if they are not needed, Pfizer will absorb the costs. The company has climbed to the lead in global vaccine production with 3 billion doses in 2021 and is planning to produce up to 4 billion doses in 2022.

Schools see big drop in attendance as students stay away, citing COVID-19” via Scott Calvert and Ben Chapman of The Wall Street Journal — Public-school attendance across the U.S. has dropped to unusually low levels, complicating efforts to keep schools open, as districts also contend with major staff shortages. Many students in kindergarten through 12th grade are out sick because of COVID-19 or are being kept home by anxious parents, as the Omicron variant surges, officials say. Remote learning often isn’t being offered anymore for students who are home. Empty desks create a quandary for teachers, who must decide whether to push ahead with lesson plans knowing a large number of their students will need to catch up. New York City saw its overall attendance rate fall below 70% when classes resumed after the winter holidays. Many students missed class because of fears of contracting the virus or because they or a family member had tested positive.

White House promises to provide schools 10 million free coronavirus tests per month” via Laura Meckler and Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — The White House is promising to provide 10 million free coronavirus tests each month for schools, aiming to help keep classes in person at a time when testing across the country is uneven and, in some cases, virtually nonexistent. Biden has pushed schools to open and stay open for in-person learning, mindful of the academic and social-emotional damage wrought by remote learning, as well as the political risks among frustrated parents who crave normalcy and fully functioning schools. Last year, the administration said it provided $10 billion for school-based testing. Nonetheless, before the omicron variant began racing across the country, relatively few districts even attempted testing for students and employees absent symptoms of COVID-19.

Don’t worry; it’s covered. Image via AP.

Army ups bonuses for recruits to $50K, as COVID-19 takes toll” via Lolita C. Baldor of The Associated Press — The U.S. Army, for the first time, is offering a maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 to highly skilled recruits who join for six years as the service struggles to lure soldiers into certain critical jobs amid the continuing pandemic. Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, head of Army Recruiting Command, said shuttered schools and the competitive job market had posed significant challenges for recruiters over the past year. So, heading into the most difficult months of the year for recruiting, the Army hopes that some extra cash and a few other changes will entice qualified young people to sign up. To entice recruits, those who sign up for a six-year enlistment in one of several high-demand career fields can get bonuses that total as much as $50,000. Given the high standards, it will be difficult for many to qualify for the top bonus.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

December prices rise 7%, compared to a year ago, as 2021 inflation reaches highest in 40 years” via Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam of The Washington Post — Prices rose at the fastest pace in four decades in December, increasing 7% over the same period a year ago, and cementing 2021 as a year marked by soaring inflation wrought by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Prices were also up 0.5% in December compared to the month before. While high, inflation eased from the rapid price growth in October and November. On an annual basis, 2021 still saw the fastest price inflation since the early 1980s, as broken supply chains collided with high consumer demand for used cars and construction materials alike. Higher prices seeped into just about everything households and businesses buy, raising alarms for policymakers at the Federal Reserve and White House that inflation has spread throughout the economy.

Prices are on the rise again. Image via Bloomberg.

Surging COVID-19 puts an end to projected return-to-office dates” via Peter Grant of The Wall Street Journal — If businesses have learned one thing from COVID-19, it is to stop trying to predict when they are going to be back in the office. Companies across the U.S. said they were returning to the workplace in September, only to put off those plans when the spread of the Delta variant accelerated. In January, many of those same firms were poised to dust off their office desks. Now major banks, technology companies, and other firms have scrapped those plans thanks to the omicron variant and a sense that COVID-19 will linger longer than most first imagined. The postponements have unnerved office landlords and small businesses stretched thin by a dearth of demand in office districts.

— MORE CORONA —

The difference between being in the hospital from and with COVID-19” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — In their never-ending quest to prove that everyone except them is overreacting to the pandemic, critics of the government’s response have seized upon new data that speaks to one of their long-standing claims. That claim says COVID-19 hospitalization data conflates people in the hospital because of a coronavirus infection and those there with such an infection. In other words, you go to the emergency room because you broke your leg but, while there, test positive for the coronavirus. The new data comes from New York, where Gov. Kathy Hochul has begun reporting precisely this divide. In other words, for every 10 people reported as having COVID-19 in New York hospitals, four were admitted for something other than COVID-19.

Omicron wave prompts media to rethink which data to report” via David Bauder of The Associated Press — For two years, coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations have been widely used barometers of the pandemic’s march across the world. But the omicron wave is making a mess of the usual statistics, forcing news organizations to rethink the way they report such figures. “It’s just a data disaster,” said Katherine Wu, a staff writer. The number of case counts soared over the holidays, an expected development, given the emergence of a variant more transmissible than its predecessors. Yet these counts only reflect what is reported by health authorities. They do not include most people who test themselves at home or are infected without even knowing about it. Holidays and weekends also lead to lags in reported cases.

COVID-19 numbers are all over the map. What should the media focus on? Image via AP.

Cannabis sativa can prevent COVID-19 from entering human cells, researchers find” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — Certain cannabinoid acids can help prevent the COVID-19 virus from entering human cells, according to a study published by researchers at Oregon State University. The compounds, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) are found in hemp, aka cannabis sativa. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans,” said the study’s leader, Richard van Breemen. Van Breemen said the hemp compounds were effective against several COVID-19 variants by either preventing infections or shortening them. They work by binding to the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ spike proteins, disrupting these proteins’ ability to attach to receptors in human cells.

The new trend in health care: Do-it-yourself” via Betsy Morris of The Wall Street Journal — Many doctors support patients taking more responsibility for their own care, but warn that too much DIY without expert guidance could miss important health problems. Despite those concerns, more physicians are recommending that patients shoulder at least some additional work, because staff shortages and worker burnout mean that patients often face long wait times for appointments and overloaded care providers. Some doctors ask patients to monitor blood pressure with devices they can buy at the pharmacy or on Amazon. Some doctors recommend a home test more often: A first-line screening for colon cancer that can reduce the need for a colonoscopy. Some tests allow users to collect their own stool sample at home then ship it to a lab for analysis.

A wet January, thanks to COVID-19” via Danya Issawi of The New York Times — Between the emergence of a new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant, the sudden contraction of social life, business and school closures, and the fast approach of the coronavirus pandemic’s second anniversary, some people are wondering: Is this month really the time to stop drinking entirely? Deringer has opted for a middle ground. She’s using the month to go somewhat sober and swapping booze with a glass of diet tonic water combined with a nonalcoholic cocktail from Kin Euphorics, topped off with one of her “good ice cubes.” Throughout the pandemic, drinking has been a salve, a means of unwinding, and a point of social connection. Women and parents of young children, in particular, have turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Guests are back. Hotels are not.” via Katherine Sayre of The Wall Street Journal — People are going back to hotels. But with supply chain shortages holding up goods and workers quitting, the industry is having to figure out new ways to be hospitable. Hotels have been searching for mini-bottles of shampoo, towels and sheets, cleaning supplies, appliances and furniture, even plastic cups to serve frozen Pina Coladas and Champagne flutes for celebrations. Some hotels are getting creative, such as attempting to extend the life of towels by placing single-use packs of facial wipes in rooms for makeup removal. Other managers have sent staffers to nearby big-box retailers such as Target or Bed Bath & Beyond for last-minute purchases of sheets and feather pillows.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

The Biden agenda is meeting a dead-end” via Alayna Treene of Axios — Although Biden is now championing voting protection as the most pressing domestic issue, top Democratic lawmakers see little path to passage of anything like what the Party’s base is demanding. As midterm campaigning ramps up, Biden’s biggest accomplishments could well be in his rearview mirror. “All the Democrats in the Senate are anxious about delivering on our promises,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. “We know what’s at stake. And we’re working hard to try to find a path to get there. But it’s hard.” Biden used his bully pulpit in Georgia on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to build public pressure, not so much on Republicans but his own Party. He urged his fellow Democrats to take advantage of their full control of Congress and the White House to pass sweeping voting rights legislation, but his effort will be largely futile.

Joe Biden’s hitting a dead end. Image via AP.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio, Rick Scott fume at Democratic push to end filibuster” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio and Scott slammed calls to end the Senate filibuster to get Biden’s voting rights priorities passed into law. The speeches came on the day after Biden called for an end to the filibuster to pass voting rights measures. Consistent with the view of most Republicans, Florida’s senators see the Democratic gambit as a cynical power grab. Rubio contended that many on the left see Republicans as “insurrectionists” seeking to “overthrow democracy.” Rubio took some time in his remarks to downplay the severity of the Capitol riot last year. Scott was no less emphatic in attributing motives, saying Democrats were devoted to “radically transforming this nation into a socialist state,” seeking to “jam through progressive, socialist ideas without any compromise.”

Marco Rubio is no fan of changing the filibuster. Image via AP.

Rubio demands FDA change guidance prioritizing race in administering COVID-19 drugs” via Jon Brown and Andrew Murray of Fox News — Rubio sent a letter to the acting commissioner of the FDA on Tuesday demanding that the agency immediately update its guidance so that patients seeking monoclonal antibody treatments will be prioritized based on their medical history and not their race or ethnicity. Rubio’s letter comes in response to a fact sheet issued by the FDA regarding the approved emergency use authorization of sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody that proved to be effective against the omicron variant. The authorization extends only to patients considered “high risk.” The guidance, which was updated in December, says “medical conditions or factors” such as “race or ethnicity” have the potential to “place individual patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.”

Intel’s funding threatened by Rubio after ‘humiliating apologies’ to China” via James Vincent of The Verge — Rubio has threatened the government funding of chipmaker Intel after the company made what Rubio described as “humiliating apologies” to China. Intel issued apologies to its Chinese partners and the Chinese public last December after it noted in a routine letter to suppliers that it would not use “labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.” This stipulation is required by U.S. law as part of trading sanctions against China for its ongoing persecution of the Xinjiang region’s Uyghur population. Intel’s letter to suppliers, though, went viral in China and caused a huge public backlash against the company.

Chamber of Commerce CEO calls for doubling immigration into U.S., ‘permanent solution’ for DACA recipients” via Adam Shaw of Fox News — The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce used a speech this week to call for the doubling of legal immigration into the United States as well as a “permanent solution” for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children. CEO Suzanne Clark said in the speech Tuesday that fellow CEOs and business leaders believe there is a “workforce shortage,” posing a crisis that is “contributing to supply chain disruptions and rising inflation.” “Dreamer” is an activist-preferred term to refer to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, many of whom were given temporary protection under the Barack Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

— CRISIS —

Jan. 6 committee seeks to interview Kevin McCarthy” via Andrew Solender of Axios — The Jan. 6 select committee is seeking an interview with McCarthy about his communications with Trump. McCarthy is the highest-ranking elected official the committee has asked for information. It’s a clear sign that the panel sees nobody as off-limits. The committee has also requested information from Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Scott Perry, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus. Both have refused to cooperate. The committee is weighing whether it has the authority to bring subpoenas against sitting members of Congress.

Kevin McCarthy, you’re up next.

The big lie’s long shadow” via Kaleigh Rogers of FiveThirtyEight — Since the 2020 election, hundreds of new voter restriction bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, and dozens were enacted into law. In many cases, these bills were a response to the Big Lie. A vast network of right-wing influencers, both emergent and established, began feeding that appetite by investigating dubious claims and concocting new election laws. State legislators have heeded the call. Analysis revealed an anti-democratic shift among the GOP, catalyzed by the Big Lie and ushered in by a network of right-wing power brokers. Over the last year, Republican voters have become even less trustful of our elections, questionable amateur “research” is driving actual policy decisions, and many states have introduced or passed what experts call frighteningly anti-democratic legislation.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Trump blasts ‘gutless’ leaders over COVID-19 boosters but not DeSantis by name” via Dave Goldiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump is taking a dig at politicians like DeSantis who refuse to say if they got the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Calling those who evade the booster question “gutless,” Trump suggested that they are trying to avoid offending anti-vaxxer supporters even though they know the booster shot saves lives. “They don’t want to say it. Because they’re gutless,” Trump said. Trump didn’t name DeSantis in the interview that revealed a rare rift between the two. But there is little doubt he was referring to the rising GOP star, who awkwardly dodged questions about whether he had received a COVID-19 vaccine booster in a recent interview.

Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Trump speechwriter, GOP operatives” via Benjamin Siegel of ABC News — The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack issued three new subpoenas on Tuesday to former Trump White House aides and associates, including a speechwriter who helped craft Trump‘s speech to supporters ahead of the Capitol riot. The panel has subpoenaed GOP operatives Arthur Schwartz and Andrew Surabian, along with Trump White House speechwriter Ross Worthington. According to the committee, Worthington helped draft Trump’s speech that day to supporters, many of whom later marched across the National Mall to the Capitol after he encouraged them to do so. The committee has asked all three witnesses to turn over records by Jan. 24 and appear for interviews at the end of the month, or early February.

One of Donald Trump’s speechwriters goes under the microscope.

Trump abruptly ends NPR interview after he is pressed on baseless election fraud claims” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — Trump abruptly ended an interview with NPR on Tuesday after he was pressed on his baseless claims of election fraud and repeated contention that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him. After several lines of questioning related to Trump’s widely debunked election claims, Inskeep asked Trump whether he would endorse only Republican candidates this year who are pressing his case that the 2020 contest against Biden was stolen from him. Trump also spoke about his views on coronavirus vaccines, claiming a mandate on businesses by the Biden administration “is really hurting our country.” “A lot of Americans aren’t standing for it, and it’s hurting our country,” Trump said. “It’s hurting our economy very badly.”

Vilifying Trump supporters doesn’t solve anything” via Gary Abernathy of The Washington Post — A disturbing feature of last week’s commemoration of the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot was the suggestion that 80% of Republicans who still support Trump, roughly 60 to 70 million Americans, based on party registration numbers, are enemies of democracy. Biden rightfully called out Trump for fueling the riot. But then he went awry, conflating Trump and the relative handful of people who actually invaded the Capitol with millions of law-abiding Republicans across the country. The Post recently found that “the vast majority” are not thought to have been part of any “premeditated conspiracies to attack the Capitol.” Being labeled as anti-democratic — or even evil — will isolate Republicans further.


— LOCAL NOTES —

Jared Moskowitz’s hero is his ailing dad. And his father looked on proudly as he’s sworn in to Broward Commission.” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Michael Moskowitz, a Broward power broker who has pancreatic cancer, vowed that “come hell or high water” he would see his son get sworn in as a county commissioner, the latest move for an accomplished family. To make sure his ailing 68-year-old father could see his latest political accomplishment, Jared Moskowitz asked for his swearing-in to be moved up and relocated to Parkland City Hall on Wednesday. The original plan was for the elder Moskowitz to swear his son in, but that wasn’t feasible: Michael Moskowitz was helped to his feet out of his wheelchair, draped his arm around his son’s neck, while a family friend, Judge Peter Weinstein, conducted the swearing-in.

Jared Moskowitz made his father proud.

Fewer than 10 candidates have applied to be Miami’s next schools superintendent” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — As of Tuesday evening, one day before the window to apply to become Miami-Dade Schools’ next superintendent will close, just eight candidates had applied for the job to be the head of the nation’s fourth-largest school district, according to a list obtained by the Herald. The process to replace Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has garnered swift pushback from the community. Many have cited a lack of transparency, a rushed selection process, and the appearance that the board already has a candidate in mind. The board agreed on Jan. 5 to a seven-day advertisement and application period to fill the post of superintendent. By contrast, Broward County Public Schools hired Vickie Cartwright in July as an interim superintendent while the district conducts a lengthy search process.

Opa-locka police captain who shot fellow cop with Taser among 3 officers facing charges” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Authorities on Wednesday are expected to announce criminal charges against three South Florida police officers. The most high-profile case involves Opa-locka Police Capt. Sergio Perez is expected to surrender to state agents on Wednesday morning. He is believed to have fired a Taser police weapon equipped with what is known as a “hook-and-loop” cartridge that does not deploy an electrical charge. The Herald first reported that Perez, back in September, was under investigation for allegedly shooting a colleague, Sgt. Michael Steel, with the weapon after a shouting match. The allegation came to light after an anonymous memo began circulating detailing the allegation, and City Manager John Pate, during a city commission meeting, refuted allegations of a cover-up.

FPL wants injection wells at Turkey Point. It could also help Miami-Dade’s wastewater woes” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County has to find a place to send millions of gallons of wastewater it now pipes into the ocean. Florida Power & Light has been working for years to contain a saltwater plume beneath the troubled cooling canal system at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant. A partial solution to both those long-standing environmental problems may reside about 3,000 feet below the sprawling plant on the edge of southern Biscayne Bay. FPL is seeking permission to install injection wells on the property. If approved, FPL would switch from tapping a brackish underground aquifer to run through the cooling towers and instead use treated Miami-Dade wastewater — helping the county meet its federally mandated 2025 deadline to stop dumping its wastewater in the ocean.

Former Tallahassee ethics officer signs deferred prosecution agreement in stalking case” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Julie Meadows-Keefe, the former Tallahassee ethics officer charged a year ago with stalking, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the State Attorney’s Office. According to court records, the agreement was finalized on Jan. 3; the agreement is an alternative to trial for Meadows-Keefe. Over the next 12 months, she will not contact the alleged victim or his family, among other conditions. Additionally, according to court records, if the alleged victim files another civil injunction against Meadows-Keefe in the next 10 years, she cannot contest it. Meadows-Keefe was accused of cyberstalking former Tallahassee City Auditor Bert Fletcher, with whom she had a romantic relationship during their time at the city and afterward.

Julie Meadows-Keefe chooses not to go on trial. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

— TOP OPINION —

Biden-Liz Cheney 2024?” via Thomas Friedman of The New York Times — One reason I pay very close attention to the Israeli-Palestinian arena is that a lot of trends get perfected there first and then go global. It’s the most diverse national unity government in Israel’s history, one that stretches from Jewish settlers on the right all the way to an Israeli-Arab Islamist party and super-liberals on the left. Most important, it’s holding together, getting stuff done and muting the hyperpolarization that was making Israel ungovernable. Israel held four national elections over two years and kept failing to produce a stable governing majority. So BidenCheney is not such a crazy idea? “We should be ready to talk about Cheney as part of a blow-your-mind Israeli-style fusion coalition with Democrats. It is a coalition that says: ‘There is only one overriding goal right now — that is saving our democratic system,’” said Steven Levitsky, a political scientist.

— OPINIONS —

New infrastructure law moves Florida forward” via Dave Bauer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — At a Nov. 15 White House ceremony attended by both Republicans and Democrats, Biden signed into law the most significant federal transportation infrastructure investment since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956. It’s a moment worthy of celebration. Sadly, political cudgels are being swung at the 13 House Republicans who dared to vote for the bill’s final passage. These members have been accused of abandoning their Party, subjected to primary challenges, and threatened with the possible loss of future chairmanships if Republicans take control of the House in 2022. It’s a disturbing illustration of the current state of American politics. Lost in this theater of the political absurd is that the landmark Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act represents truly sound public policy that will benefit all Americans.

Want to just get omicron and get it over with? Here’s why you shouldn’t.” via Leana S. Wen of The Washington Post — If omicron is a milder variant, and contracting it provides additional immunity, why not get it over with? Even previously cautious individuals are asking whether they should intentionally expose themselves to COVID-19. If they’re going to get the coronavirus sooner or later, why not get it now? Hospitals are at or over capacity in many parts of the country, and hospitalizations from COVID-19 have just exceeded the previous peak from last winter. If you are sick enough to need care, you may have to wait hours in the emergency room for treatment and then spend days in the ER waiting for a hospital bed. Many people will experience up to a week or longer of fatigue, fever, congestion, sore throat, headache and overall crumminess. Surely, no one wants to be the person who inadvertently infects a vulnerable individual.

A plea to the news media: Please stop showing shots of vaccine shots” via Michael Benson for The Washington Post — Over the past year, and despite the sheer victory that scene represents it has gradually dawned on me, as I avert my eyes from the television, that even reputable broadcast media shares inadvertent culpability in vaccine avoidance. If I, as a vaccine proponent and science advocate, find myself looking away from the screen, how many thousands of others out there who have a deep-seated horror of needles, or who have doubts about science and vaccines, or both, how many of them have been put off by that shot of a shot, endlessly reshot? Something like 25% of adults have an irrational antipathy to needles. What I am saying is that even media genuinely operating in the public interest, and serving as a vital buttress to our democratic system, are playing an unwitting yet significant role.

—“The jaw-dropping hypocrisy of DeSantis” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Legislators want to videotape teachers. I say we put bodycams on lawmakers.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — In the Legislature’s latest effort to target public school teachers, two House Republicans want to video-record and place microphones on teachers whenever they’re around students. I have a better idea: Let’s force legislators to strap on bodycams and mics on themselves every time they’re around lobbyists. I’m serious. I can’t think of a transparency measure that would better serve the public interest. I emailed the two House sponsors of the let’s-record-teachers bill — Republicans Bob Rommel and Mike Beltran — to ask if they’d be willing to live by the same standard they want to apply to others. You may be shocked to learn that neither lawmaker responded.

Target puppy mills, not caring pet stores” via Ayaz Sutaria of The Palm Beach Post — Families cannot always trust that their four-legged companions were born and raised in safe and loving conditions. Too many dogs come from puppy mills, where they were mistreated and malnourished. A new proposal in the Florida Legislature seeks to protect pets from cruelty and put bad breeders out of business. SB 994, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, and HB 849, sponsored by Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, will establish health, safety and welfare protections in Florida for dogs, cats, and other animals sold through pet dealers or pet stores. This is a responsible proposal that will protect pets without shutting down good businesses and depriving families of furry friends. Families can trust pet stores like Petland to find puppies who are well cared for and were born from USDA certified and inspected breeders.

Voters in Broward and Palm Beach find new voices, at last” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Voters in both counties made definitive choices in Tuesday’s special election by sending Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick to Congress in the 20th District, where she will complete the year left in the term of Alcee Hastings, who died last April. In Fort Lauderdale and surrounding cities, voters in House District 94 elected Democrat Daryl Campbell to replace Rep. Bobby DuBose, who resigned to seek Hastings’ seat. The anemic voter turnout of about 12% was disappointing but hardly surprising considering that most candidates were not well-known and the election was scheduled over the holidays. To make things worse, early voting began on New Year’s Day, and that was no accident. DeSantis delayed the election and disenfranchised Floridians to weaken House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s slim Democratic majority.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Who are you calling gutless? The buzz is Trump called out DeSantis on admitting to being boosted against COVID-19. But the Governor’s office says no names were named, so don’t make assumptions.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— The Governor says he would sign a fifteen-week abortion bill. So, the abortion battle line is drawn.

— The Attorney General is emotionally tied to fighting human trafficking.

— The AARP wants nursing homes to be required to spend Medicaid money on patient care.

— And Strawberry Shortcake could be the state’s official dessert.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

What Michelle Schorsch is reading — “The NFL really does revolve around Tom Brady” via Anna Wiederkehr, Jay Boice and Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight — It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the NFL has revolved around Brady over the years. We can even demonstrate this visually. To see how vast a QB’s solar system is, we traced touchdown passes from a quarterback to a receiver, looking for the pairs who have shared at least five TDs. We then followed arcs of receivers to other quarterbacks, establishing levels of links echoing from the initial QB. If Brady were a star in a solar system, connected to other QBs through the significant receivers they share, his gravitational pull would be tough to escape. Given that Brady is the only quarterback to surpass 700 total passing touchdowns, it’s no surprise that his gravity is so vast.

Yes, it really is all about Tom Brady. Image via AP.

Michelle’s also reading thisMcKenzie Milton returns home to UCF for Hula Bowl, eyes NFL future” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — The solitary cry sliced through the quiet that had enveloped the practice fields on the UCF campus Wednesday afternoon. The call to arms drew a response from the more than 100 former college football players in attendance, sending them into a cascade of rhythmic stomping and slapping. All eyes were forward as the players participated in a traditional haka, a ceremonial dance used in many Polynesian cultures to prepare warriors for battle. Milton’s far from his home of Kapolei on the island of Oahu, but he’s back at the next best thing, spending the week on the UCF campus. Milton spent five years of his life as the quarterback of the Knights.

‘The longevity of mischief.’ Jimmy Buffett looks at 50 years after his first Key West gig” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — A profane phone call and Buffett’s inability to keep his daily planner organized 50 years ago in Miami set in motion events that changed the music world. Those events made the singer-songwriter one of the most beloved entertainers in America. And one of the wealthiest, with a net worth of around $600 million. The unusual events also helped brand Key West as a distinct sound of music and a destination known worldwide. “I was able to make a living and live how I wanted to, and then all of a sudden, things started getting better,” Buffett said in a telephone interview from his home in Palm Beach County.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated best wishes to Frank Collins of the CFO’s office (we missed your birthday again this year). Happy birthday to Rep. Charlie Stone, attorney Tony Glover, Anthony Sabatini‘s bestie, Francisco Gonzalez, Toni Smith Large, attorney Matt King, Marco Pena, Phillip Perry of Asana Creative Strategy, Chester Spellman; Kyle Ulrich of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, and Lucy White.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, 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.


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#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

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

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