Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.18.22

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Good Tuesday morning. I just finished Sunburn while waiting for our return flight from Harry Reid International Airport. Forgive me if there are any typos.

Let’s start with some good news about a good guy.

Former Deputy Secretary of Business Regulation Michael “MJ” Johnston has joined Shumaker Advisors Florida, the firm announced Tuesday.

Johnston served as Deputy Secretary at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation from 2019 through 2021, providing policy and regulatory guidance related to alcoholic beverages and tobacco; condominiums, timeshares and mobile homes; hotels and restaurants; and pari-mutuel wagering.

Michael “MJ” Johnston is taking his talents to Shumaker.

He previously served as Chief Information Officer and Director of the Office of Agriculture Technology Services for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

At Shumaker Advisors Florida, he will help clients navigate government and regulatory matters.

“It is an honor to join Shumaker Advisors and have the opportunity to use my years of experience in policy and regulatory arenas to make a difference and help Florida businesses expand,” MJ said. “Empowering clients and entrepreneurs with the insights they need to succeed is a key part of growing our economy, creating jobs, and making the Sunshine State a great place to live for generations to come.”

Shumaker Advisors President and CEO Ron Christaldi added, “MJ stands out as a visionary leader, especially in the hardest of times. Throughout the pandemic, he helped Florida industries stay open for business and thrive. We are honored to have MJ join our team and look forward to many more successes to come at Shumaker Advisors.”


The ACLU of Florida announced Friday that it tapped Amy Turkel to serve as interim executive director.

Turkel had been working as the organization’s director of philanthropy and will serve in her new role during the organization’s search process for a permanent executive director.

A native Floridian and longtime ACLU member, Turkel comes from a family of lifelong ACLU members and civil rights activists. Her parents were members of the Greater Miami Chapter before there was a staff-led ACLU affiliate.

She has worked at the ACLU of Florida for almost ten years. She was the organization’s director of communications before becoming its director of philanthropy. She has also had an extensive career in marketing and communications, first as the vice president of an advertising agency and then as president of a branding firm.

“I am excited to welcome Amy in her new role. We are fortunate to have so many talented staff at the Florida affiliate. Amy hails from a family dedicated to protecting civil liberties. Her depth of experience will be invaluable to the organization as we search for a new organizational leader,” ACLU of Florida President Michael Barfield said.

Turkel’s elevation comes as current executive director Dr. Micah W. Kubic is set to leave his position after three years to return to his home state of Kansas and lead its ACLU affiliate.

“It has been a great honor to work with Micah. His engaging leadership and accomplishments have advanced Floridians’ rights in every part of the state,” Barfield said. “The Florida affiliate is well poised to continue the vital work of securing equity and justice for communities adversely impacted by attacks on freedom. We wish Micah much success and will miss him.”


On Monday, Ad Fontes Media released the first edition of its semiannual Media Bias Chart, and Florida Politics was featured front and center. Well, top and center, but that’s all the better.

The media watchdog’s flagship product rates select news sources on the reliability of their reporting and partisan lean.

Ad Fontes Media’s chart includes only a handful of Florida-based publications. That Florida Politics was even included in the chart is an honor.

Being rated as one of the most reliable, least biased news sources on the web is a testament to what our team has accomplished in the nine years since publishing the first post on

Since then, Florida Politics’ roster has grown to include some of the best state government reporters in the business, and our coverage has expanded into all aspects of Florida government, from campaign finance and committee coverage to wonkish analyses of budget proviso.

We’ve done it all while remaining less biased and more reliable than some of the most prominent outlets in the land, and while topping the list as the most-read news outlet among state lawmakers two years running.

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, we encourage you to rifle through the interactive version of Ad Fontes Media’s chart to see where we and the other sources you read and watch land.

There we are, top and center.


@GiancarloSopo: The “(Donald) Trump vs. (Ron) DeSantis” stories are not a coincidence. They’re a Beltway concoction meant to distract from Biden’s disastrous presidency. Don’t take the bait.

@JMartNYT: If by “beltway” you mean @RuthlessPodcast teeing up @GovRonDeSantis hit on trump’s covid handling, this is totally right

@DWUhlfelderLaw: Trump made DeSantis and he is going to destroy him.

@NikkiFried: Ron DeSantis and his anti-democratic demagoguery is a danger to our state, our country, and yes, the world. Choose your own historical example if you want, but it’s the damn truth.

@MappingFL: To honor #MLK, Ron DeSantis decided to propose a Florida Congressional plan that reduced the number of African American districts from 4 to 2

@CarlosGSmith: His map is actually illegal and it torches minority representation. I call BS on their ‘legal’ concerns.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@Mike_Grieco: A few yrs back, I had the honor of sitting on a panel with @OfficialMLK3 and my colleagues @AttorneyCrump & @Markomaralaw as we candidly discussed the realities of race relations in the U.S. (and Florida). Just because @BarackObama was President doesn’t mean the work is done.

@DanGelber: “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice.” So many know the quote; fewer think of the work to make it bend. So many small efforts to make a more just future. We must thank all who have bent that arc, especially Dr. King, and continue that work.

@ChristineSexton: In the five days since HB 9 has been filed, 100 entities have lobbyists working the bill, a priority for @ChrisSprowls

@ByCASimmons: Malzahn coming to UCF is gonna end up going down as one of the worst moments in UF history


‘Ozark’ final season begins — 3; ‘Billions’ begins — 5; Red Dog Blue Dog charity event — 7; James Madison Institute’s Stanley Marshall Day Celebration in Jacksonville — 10; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 17; Super Bowl LVI — 26; Will Smith’s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 26; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 29; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 33; Daytona 500 — 33; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 36; CPAC begins — 38; St. Pete Grand Prix — 38; Biden to give State of the Union — 42; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 45; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 64; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 66; The Oscars — 68; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 70; federal student loan payments will resume — 103; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 108; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 129; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 135; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 172; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 183; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 227; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 262; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 297; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 300; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 332; ’Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 395; ’John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 430; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 556; ’Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 640; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 920.


Ron DeSantis touts his state as ‘freedom’s vanguard’ but critics see authoritarianism” via Richard Luscombe of The Guardian — There are still almost 10 months until Florida’s voters elect their next Governor, but the campaign of DeSantis appears well underway. In a red-meat-for-the-base address at the opening of Florida’s Legislature last week, themed around the concept of “freedom” but described by critics as a fanfare of authoritarianism, DeSantis gave a clear indication of the issues he believes are on voters’ minds. They include fighting the White House over COVID-19, ballot box fraud, critical race theory in schools and defunding law enforcement. Yet to opponents of the Trump protégé, who is tipped for his own presidential run in 2024, DeSantis has chosen to focus on problems that don’t exist in Florida, either to distract from real priorities or to bolster the Trumpist base and improve on his narrow victory over the Andrew Gillum in 2018.

Ron DeSantis’ word of the day: ‘freedom.’ For others, it’s ‘dictator.’


Who is King of Florida? Tensions rise between Donald Trump and a former acolyte” via Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — For months, Trump has been grumbling quietly to friends and visitors to his Palm Beach mansion about a rival Republican power center in another Florida mansion, some 400 miles to the north. DeSantis, a man Trump believes he put on the map, has been acting far less like an acolyte and more like a future competitor, Trump complains. With his stock rising fast in the party, DeSantis has conspicuously refrained from saying he would stand aside if Trump runs for the Republican nomination for President in 2024. Last week, Trump seemed to swipe at DeSantis by blasting as “gutless” politicians who dodge the question out of fear of blowback from vaccine skeptics. DeSantis shot back on Friday, criticizing Trump’s early handling of the pandemic and saying he regretted not being more vocal in his complaints.

—“Trump dogs ‘dull’ DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup” via Jonathan Swan of Axios

Is the bromance over?

DeSantis says he disagreed with Trump’s decision to shut down economy at start of pandemic” via Chloe Folmar of The Hill — DeSantis said he disagreed with then-President Trump’s decision to shut down the economy at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeSantis appeared on the conservative podcast “Ruthless,” where he claimed that one of his biggest regrets in office is not speaking out “much louder” against the initial COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020. DeSantis worked closely with the Trump administration to determine a response to COVID-19 but was allegedly caught off-guard by the White House’s decision to shut down the economy. DeSantis criticized members of the administration’s COVID-19 response team, including Anthony Fauci, for encouraging economic shutdowns at the beginning of the pandemic.

DeSantis uses conservative lifeline as Trump sours on him” via Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Conservative social media influencers have flocked to Florida for “freedom,” “liberty,” and another reason: DeSantis. The Republican Governor’s team has been courting popular conservative media and online figures, an effort that comes as Trump appears to be turning on DeSantis. Some of those the Governor’s staff are wooing are heavily involved in amplifying the anti-vax movement and downplaying the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. DeSantis hosted nine prominent social media stars in Tallahassee for a night that included stops at DeSantis’ office, dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, and drinks at Level 8 Lounge, a popular downtown rooftop bar near Florida’s statehouse. Almost all of them have recently very publicly announced on social media that they moved to Florida.

We agree with Trump. Tell us whether you got a booster, DeSantis” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Trump said he has received a COVID-19 vaccine booster and called politicians who refuse to say whether they got one “gutless.” DeSantis, who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine last year without any fanfare, has refused to say directly whether he’s gotten a booster shot. DeSantis aggressively promoted vaccinations for seniors when the shots first became available, but you don’t hear the Governor talk about boosters these days. DeSantis understands that vaccine skeptics are his constituency, one he inherited from Trump, who got booed by supporters last year for revealing he got a booster. “You gotta say it, whether you had it or not,” Trump said. We need a Governor who has the guts in this political climate to urge Floridians to roll up their sleeves.


‘If you cross him once, you’re dead’: DeSantis keeps tight grip on Florida lawmakers” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis has become arguably the most powerful Governor in Florida’s history. This week, the Republican Governor opened Florida’s new Legislative Session by pushing for even more control over state lawmakers and his top priorities, including cracking down on election crimes, spending $8 million to transport “unauthorized aliens” out of state, and targeting “wokeness” in schools. DeSantis’ consolidation of power has become clear: Democrats, who are in the minority, are unable to stop him. And Republicans in the Florida Legislature are enthusiastically carrying out his wishes or are unwilling to buck him.

DeSantis’ office offers a proposed congressional redistricting map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Ryan Newman, the Governor’s General Counsel, submitted his own proposal for a congressional map in Florida Sunday night. The draft (P 0079) was submitted days after the Florida Senate Reapportionment Committee advanced to the floor its own plan (S 8040) for how to divide Florida into 28 congressional districts. While legislative maps for the House and Senate will be approved without the Governor’s involvement, DeSantis will have the opportunity to sign or veto a congressional map. DeSantis also served in the U.S. House before his election as Governor. An analysis shows the map produces 18 districts with a Republican lean and 10 with a Democratic one. By contrast, the Senate map has 16 districts where Trump won the most votes for President in 2020 and 12 where Biden won.

Ron DeSantis weighs in.

Senate redistricting plans keep state’s partisan split, but challenges may emerge” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — The first redistricting maps for congressional and state Senate seats were approved Thursday by a Senate panel, largely keeping a partisan balance in Florida that currently favors Republicans. This year, Florida gains a new congressional district because of population gains over the past decade. The maps advanced Thursday would create 16 Republican-leaning seats to 12 for Democrats, not varying much from the state’s current 16-11 congressional split. Similarly, in a Senate where Republicans now control 24 seats in the 40-member chamber, the boundaries approved include 23 districts where Trump beat Biden last fall and a Republican would be considered favored.

Reproductive rights activists, groups vow to take fight over recently filed abortion bill to streets, elections” via James Call of USA Today — On the opening day of the Florida Legislature’s 2022 Session, abortion opponents sparked a battle that reproductive rights activists said will continue until the November election. Encouraged by new restrictions enacted in Mississippi and Texas, and emboldened by the questions justices asked during a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the Mississippi law, two GOP women lawmakers have filed a 15-week abortion ban for colleagues to consider during the 60-day Session. The legislation (SB 146, HB 5), carried by state Sen. Kelli Stargel and state Rep. Erin Grall comes with exceptions in cases of medical harm for the mother or fatal fetal abnormalities but not for rape or incest. It also proposes to spend $260,000 annually on a fetal and infant mortality review committee.

‘They’re perhaps 1%’: Ileana Garcia signals support for abortion ban, even for victims of rape, incest” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Garcia stopped short of fully endorsing new restraints on abortion in Florida, including in cases of rape and incest, but what she said about the issue in a Sunday interview indicated if such a law were to come up for a vote today, she would back it. Garcia, the founder of Latinas for Trump, who narrowly won office in November 2020, said the percentage of women seeking abortions because of rape or incest is extremely low. Rather than allow women safe access to abortion, Garcia said, governments should instead focus on prevention and better forms of the birth control pill.

— TALLY 2 —

Joe Gruters, Kaylee Tuck look to expand student assistance grant program — Sen. Gruters and Rep. Tuck filed bills (SB 1284/HB 823 to expand eligibility for the Florida Postsecondary Student Assistance Grant Program to students who have been accepted at a competency-based nonprofit virtual postsecondary institution that is accredited by a member of the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions and is created by the governors of several states. “While attending a traditional, four-year college works for some, many Floridians need more flexible educational opportunities to help them achieve their career goals,” Gruters said. Tuck added, “Students seeking fully virtual college education options that better fit their needs should be provided every opportunity that the state offers to traditional college students, including access to the Florida Postsecondary Student Assistance Grant Program.”

Granted: Joe Gruters and Kaylee Tuck hope to boost postsecondary students.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: Le Magnifique

Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: ACT Environmental & Infrastructure, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, WSP

James Harris: Manatee Harvesting Co.

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Carfax

Thomas McCullion, NorthPointe: OneStream, Roeing

Eric Prutsman, Prutsman & Associates: Florida Home Builders Association

— SKED —

Happening today — Disney Day at the Capitol will feature Walt Disney World Ambassadors and Cast Members hosting displays and activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World at the Rotunda Plaza. Attendees can also get a new Disney specialty license plate, as the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will be on-site accepting applications.

Tallahassee gets a little Disney magic.

Happening today — Hundreds of students from across the University of South Florida, along with alumni and administrators, will head to Tallahassee to meet with legislators and advocate for USF Day at the Capitol, to advocate for USF. Students will meet with dozens of elected officials to discuss USF’s 2022 legislative priorities and get a firsthand look at how government works.

— The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 1298, from Sen. Gruters, to require Florida professional sports teams receiving government assistance to play the U.S. national anthem before every home game, 9 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 1658, from Sen. Aaron Bean, to make clear the Governor can bypass the state Cabinet in appointing the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 9 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 1420, from Sen. Danny Burgess, to provide a public-records exemption for county and city attorneys, 9 a.m., Room 412 Knott Building.

Assignment editors — House Democratic Caucus Leader Evan Jenne, Leader-Designate Rep. Ramon Alexander and Policy Chair Rep. Fentrice Driskell will hold media availabilities to discuss topics of interest, 10 a.m. This event will be livestreamed on The Florida Channel and available in their archives afterward. Media Zoom link here.

Happening today — Sen. Gary Farmer and Rep. Angie Nixon will hold a news conference about SB 1648 and HB 1245, to prevent lead in drinking water in schools, 10:30 a.m., the Senate Office Building portico.

— The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SPB 7034, to reform rules for children who need out-of-home care, including increasing payments families providing homes for the children, 11 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets for an update from Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon about issues such as staffing levels and temporary dorm and prison closures, 11 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Education Committee meets to consider SB 148, from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., to address issues about how race should be taught in public schools, 11 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets for a financial update about state veterans’ nursing homes, 11:30 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Public Integrity and Elections Committee meets to consider proposed constitutional amendment HJR 1127, from Rep. Mike Beltran, to restrict subjects that could be included in ballot initiatives, 11:30 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets to consider confirmation of numerous appointees, including retired Maj. Gen. James Hartsell as executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and former Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera for the Florida Elections Commission, 1:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 448, from Sen. Jason Brodeur, to establish rules for veterinary telemedicine, 1:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee meets to consider HB 3, from Rep. Tom Leek, to bolster recruitment and training for law-enforcement officers, 2 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee meets to consider HB 703, from Rep. Sam Garrison, to extend a public-records exemption to applicants for presidents of state universities and colleges, 2 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update on cybersecurity from the Department of Management Services, 2 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee meets to consider HB 489, from Rep. Linda Chaney, to allow VISIT FLORIDA to operate until Oct. 1, 2028, 2 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 1402, from Sen. Danny Burgess, to establish “domestic surplus lines” insurers, 3:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 510, from Brodeur, to require financial-disclosure forms filed from city officials, such as Mayors and City Commissioners, to file full financial-disclosure forms, 3:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Transportation Committee meets to consider SB 1614, from Chair Gayle Harrell, to extend a public-records exemption for traffic crash reports, even though law-enforcement agencies can provide summary information about accidents to news media, 3:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee meets to consider HB 699, from Rep. Fiona McFarland, to extend a public-records exemption for identifying information about people included in homelessness counts and databases, 4:30 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee meets for an update from the Department of Environmental Protection on the state’s flooding and sea-level rise resilience plan, 4:30 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss nursing with representatives of the state Division of Career, Technical and Adult Education, the Division of Florida Colleges and the university system’s Board of Governors, 4:30 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 287, from Rep. Sam Garrison, to tighten criminal penalties for evidence tampering in capital-felony cases, 4:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to examine “fiscally constrained” counties such as rural regions of the state, 8:30 a.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.

— The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to examine the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program, 8:45 a.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.

— The Revenue Estimating meets for an update on projections for the Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund and the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, 9 a.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.

— The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to discuss slot machines and Indian gaming revenues, 1:30 p.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.


Casey DeSantis condemns ‘disgraceful’ Nikki Fried comparison of DeSantis to Hitler” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In an email to supporters, First Lady DeSantis condemned a “disgraceful attack” on her husband by Fried. DeSantis was referring to a radio interview last week in which Fried compared Ron DeSantis to Hitler. Fried’s comments have become global news since, with Mrs. DeSantis the latest in the Governor’s orbit to go on the offensive against Fried. “Just this weekend, Florida Democrats compared Gov. DeSantis to Hitler. This comparison is repulsive, offensive, and minimizes Hitler’s evil crimes against humanity,” the First Lady wrote. “ Such a comparison trivializes Hitler’s crimes against humanity. This is not funny; it’s sick,” DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw said on Twitter.

Jeanette Nuñez condemns ‘despicable’ Fried comparison of DeSantis to Hitler” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Nuñez called the comparison “despicable” and said that “if it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable.” Nuñez appeared on “Fox and Friends,” when host Rachel Campos-Duffy asked the LG about the Agriculture Commissioner’s controversial comments from a radio interview on Friday. “What we’ve seen in terms of her reference is that she is no student of history. Because Gov. DeSantis has stood strong on the side of freedom. He’s protected people’s liberties throughout this entire pandemic,” Nuñez said. “I don’t know what reference she’s referring to as it relates to Hitler, but it is a despicable reference, and it is sad,” Nuñez said. “Nikki, shame on you.”

Jeanette Nuñez slams Nikki Fried for dropping an H-bomb.

Assignment editors — Attorney General Ashley Moody will hold a news conference to release a new anti-human trafficking resource focused on protecting children online. Also attending are Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez, Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation Director Ron Stucker, Created Women Executive Director Jillian Penhale, and Orlando Deputy Chief Jose Velez, 2:15 p.m., Orange County Sheriff’s Office Headquarters, 2500 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando.

Trustee conflicts at Florida’s public universities are starting to bleed over into public view” via Lynn Hatter of WUSF — More than a dozen people at seven of Florida’s public universities that are still serving on their boards, despite their terms being over. State law does not address whether trustees have to step down when their terms are up. Ben Wilcox with the government accountability group Common Cause Florida says it’s a complicated issue. He also doesn’t understand why the Governor and Board of Governors don’t just reappoint the trustees whose terms are up. Recently, Fried accused DeSantis of pay-for-play, asking for donations in return for appointments. There’s no direct evidence to support that claim, but there are many university employees across the system who are growing increasingly concerned about trustees overstepping their bounds.

Study: Florida among top migration destinations in 2021; most departures from high-tax blue states” via The Capitolist — While Americans continued to move out of higher-taxed blue states in 2021, migration patterns were different from what they were in 2020. United Van Lines customers primarily moved for new jobs or to be near family, resulting in their destination states being more varied than they were in 2020 when they primarily moved to western and southern states from northern states, its 45th Annual National Migration Study found. Vermont saw the largest percentage of inbound moves compared to outbound, with 74% of movers moving in. New Jersey saw the largest percentage of residents leaving the state, at 71%. New Jersey has been the top outbound state for four consecutive years.

‘People should move on’: Garcia says racism isn’t an issue because Barack Obama was President” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Not only should critical race theory be banned in Florida public schools, but racism against African Americans is no longer an issue in the United States because Obama was elected President and served two full terms, according to Sen. Garcia. Garcia said she believes the Black experience in America is “not at all” different from that of White people. “That’s why we had Obama as President,” she said. “That’s the best example in the world. Obama was President not for four years, for eight.” Garcia’s comments came shortly after Garcia was asked whether she supported DeSantis’ Stop W.O.K.E. Act. The proposed law, which stands for Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act, would, among other things, codify the state Department of Education’s June 2021 ban on critical race theory, empower parents to sue districts that implement critical race theory policies and allow the defunding of schools that hire critical race theory “consultants.”

Ileana Garcia believes racism is pretty much over.

Florida Digital Service launches $15.9M overarching cybersecurity initiative” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Digital Service is launching a cybersecurity initiative to keep much of the state’s cybersecurity services under one roof. Officials from the Department of Management Services touted the $15.9 million program as a “historic” interagency collaboration bringing enhanced, standardized threat protection to more than 20 agencies. By bundling the agencies together under one contract, the Digital Service saved $4 million compared to what it would have cost the state for each agency to work with contractors directly, which officials say is the current standard.

Ron Howse, Rusty Roberts reappointed to Florida Transportation Commission” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis has reappointed Howse and Roberts to the Florida Transportation Commission. DeSantis announced the decision Friday. Roberts, of Longwood, is a transportation consultant and previously served as vice president of government affairs for Brightline Trains. Howse, of Cocoa, is the President of Real Deal Development Group and the current Chairman of the Florida Transportation Commission. The appointments are subject to Florida Senate confirmation.

AppointedSlater Bayliss (reappointed) to the Florida Prepaid College Board.


Florida surpasses 5 million coronavirus cases” via Carl Lisciandrello of WUSF — According to the CDC, the state added 49,339 cases on Saturday to bring the statewide total to 5,041,918. According to the CDC, Florida is the third state to reach 5 million coronavirus cases. As of Saturday, California had the highest number of cases, at 6,789,403, followed by Texas at 5,402,259. While it’s previously taken months for the state to add 1 million cases, Florida’s total grew from 4 million to past 5 million in less than three weeks. That occurred on Dec. 28, when the state reported 4,032,212 total cases.

DeSantis announces five new monoclonal treatment sites” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — A second monoclonal antibody therapy site will open in Jacksonville Tuesday, two weeks after DeSantis called on the federal government to increase access to the COVID-19 treatment. The new site at the Duval County Senior Center at 10080 Beach Blvd. will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, the Florida Department of Health announced Monday. In early January, DeSantis called on the federal government to increase Florida’s supply of “lifesaving” monoclonal antibody treatments to at least 30,000 doses per week. A few days later, he announced the state had obtained 15,000 doses of Regeneron to support new monoclonal antibody sites. The Duval Senior Center is one of five new sites statewide. The others are in Sunrise, Miami, Lake Worth and Altamonte Springs.

A new crop of monoclonal antibody treatment centers is popping up around the state.

Pressure eases on Florida hospitals as number of infected patients remains stable” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The number of patients with COVID-19 in Florida hospitals declined over the weekend and has remained relatively stable for the past week. Although Florida did not report its weekend numbers to the C.D.C. because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, data from other agencies continue to show a downward trend in the dramatic omicron surge. Positivity rates are declining in many Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, which dropped below 30% on Sunday for the first time this year. Broward County’s rate was 30.9 and Palm Beach County’s was 31.3%, both at their lowest levels since Dec. 30. The number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 dropped on Sunday to 11,258, nearly 300 fewer than on Friday. The number of intensive-care beds in Florida occupied by COVID-19-infected adults was 1,506, also down slightly over the weekend.

The state of Florida promised her help with rent. Then she was evicted.” via Lauren Peace of the Tampa Bay Times — Three days before Christmas, Catherine Owens found the pink notice taped to her door telling her she was being evicted from the Temple Terrace apartment she shared with her 58-year-old mother. The women had five days to vacate, the notice said. Owens had applied for rental assistance three months earlier through Florida’s emergency relief program, called Our Florida. Owens’ application for assistance was approved in September, and she was told she’d receive seven checks totaling more than $8,000. The money was earmarked to cover rent for the last quarter of 2021 and the first two months of 2022. It was also to help her pay a balance owed after she missed rent payments in August and September.


COVID-19 cases drop week-to-week across South Florida for first time since November” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — For the first time since late November, COVID-19 cases have dropped week-to-week in all three major South Florida counties, confirming trends which showed the omicron surge is peaking in the region. Case counts shot up during the omicron surge. While hospitalizations have not reached the heights seen during prior surges, the huge number of people getting sick has impacted businesses and society in South Florida and across the U.S. The latest report from the Department of Health, released Friday, showed a modest 4% drop in case counts this past week in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Miami-Dade County saw its caseload drop 15% week to week. Of course, those numbers don’t account for at-home tests, which often aren’t reported to the state.

Tampa Bay schools report 7,100 COVID-19 cases for the week, a pandemic record” via Marlene Sokol and Thomas C. Tobin of the Tampa Bay Times — Public schools in the Tampa Bay area continue to report soaring COVID-19 case numbers, setting a record for the pandemic this past week. The 7,098 cases reported in Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties topped the previous weekly high of 5,420 recorded during the week ending Sept. 3. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, no week has seen more cases in area schools. The area already was on pace to shatter last year’s case total of 17,242 cases for the four school districts. Just halfway through the 2021-22 school year, the total stands at 38,590.

Tampa Bay schools hit a COVID-19 record. Image via WFLA.

Tampa Bay life carries on amid record COVID-19 infections” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — With the vaccines proving less effective at stopping the current wildfire of infections, and the remaining risk of serious illness or death even among the healthy, you might expect to see public life scaling back. Instead, Tampa Bay may look more “normal” today than it has at any point since March 2020. The Lightning beat the Canucks at Tampa’s Amalie Arena in front of 19,092 fans Thursday. International Plaza has been full of shoppers. Brunch on St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive appears as slammed as ever. Even Gasparilla, Tampa’s massive pirate-themed parade and festival, is set to return on Jan. 29. Work-life remains disrupted, but while many companies still have not returned to the office, many workers went back months ago.

Vaccinated Jacksonville City Council member Kevin Carrico catches COVID-19 second time in a year” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Even a full round of vaccinations plus a booster shot on top of natural immunity couldn’t keep Carrico from getting the COVID-19 virus infection for the second time in a year. Carrico said Monday he is recovering at home after testing positive. He has not had to get hospital treatment the way he did after his first infection from COVID-19 in February 2021. He said he hopes to be back “in full swing by the end of the week.” “So far, the symptoms are mild, resembling a cold, so my ask is that you pray that they remain that way,” Carrico said.

Florida restaurant owner fighting for his life after COVID-19” via Carlos Frias of the Orlando Sentinel — Nino Pernetti called his restaurant, Caffe Abbracci, the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2020, to say he was skipping the annual New Year’s Eve dinner. Days later, he called his daughter, Tatiana Pernetti. He was at the hospital. Come quickly; he told her: In 40 minutes, he would be transferred to the COVID-19 ward at Mercy Hospital, where no visitors were allowed. More than a year later, Pernetti has not returned home. Pernetti remains in a rehab facility. He needed a tracheotomy to help him breathe with lungs riddled with fibroids and scar tissue caused by the coronavirus. He was denied a lung transplant because of ongoing issues with his heart. And he remains on machine-assisted breathing, while he relearns to speak and walk after spending most of the last year in hospital beds.

— 2022 —

Republicans end 2021 with 43K voter registration advantage over Democrats” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — After overtaking the Florida Democratic Party in statewide voter registration in October, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) finished the year with a voter registration advantage over Democrats of more than 40,000. Republicans’ milestone in 2021 was built on nearly a decade of steady progress. Democrats, meanwhile, secured big increases during former President Barack Obama’s two campaigns for President. Those gains began steadily eroding after the 2012 election. End of 2021 voter registration numbers posted by the Secretary of State’s office show Florida had 5,123,799 registered Republicans, 5,080,697 Democrats, and 4,083,215 voters either registered without a party affiliation or registered to one of the more than two dozen “minor” parties in Florida.

Prediction market proclaims 2022 re-election bid is DeSantis’ ‘race to lose’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The PredictIt platform highlighted an erosion of what little investor confidence exists in the three major Democratic candidates: Agriculture Commissioner Fried, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Sen. Annette Taddeo. DeSantis is trading at 85 cents on the platform Friday, indicating he has an 85% chance of winning in November. Fried is trading at just 8 cents, with Crist at 6 cents and Taddeo at 3 cents. “Overall Trend: This is DeSantis’ race to lose,” PredictIt asserted. “Case in point, over the past 90 days, DeSantis’ contract has gone from 78 cents to 85 cents, while the two Democrat favorites have seen their contracts fall 4 cents for Fried, and 7 cents for Crist.”

Bettors have soured on the Democratic gubernatorial race.

Who will challenge Carlos Giménez, Maria Salazar for seats in Congress? Don’t ask Florida Democrats” via Bianca Padró Ocasio and Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — Evidence is piling up that Democrats in Florida have no clear bench of candidates willing to challenge Republican incumbents in South Florida, in what’s expected to be a daunting and expensive 2022 cycle for their party. Two first-time candidates who made early announcements they would run for South Florida House seats have both since dropped their bids to pursue runs for state office. And even with proposed new congressional maps shaping up to give Democrats a fighting chance at flipping Florida’s 26th and 27th congressional districts, no Democrat has registered a campaign committee in one of the two competitive districts to run against Giménez. There’s growing suspicion among some Democrats that the wait-and-see approach from two former members of Congress on whether to announce runs for the seats is running out the clock for newer candidates to step up to run and appeal to donors.

Lindsay Cross reaches $100K campaign benchmark for HD 68 bid” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Cross surpassed the $100,000 fundraising benchmark in December for her House District 68 campaign. Cross, who is so far the only candidate in the race to succeed Rep. Ben Diamond, hit the milestone after collecting $6,145 last month. She now has raised $102,272 since launching her campaign. Her affiliated political committee, Moving Florida Forward, reported no donations in December. In December, her campaign spent $1,309 split among campaign consulting, software/email services, and processing fees.

Toby Overdorf hits a personal high, raises $22K to defend House seat” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Overdorf doesn’t have a challenger to stop him from winning a third term in the House, but he did have his best fundraising month on record in December to defend his seat should one emerge. Overdorf raised $22,200 last month, the most he’s ever raised since opening his current campaign account in November 2020. He won’t be able to raise much money in the next two months, though. Lawmakers are not supposed to collect cash while the Legislature is in Session. Overdorf, an environmental consultant, spent little in December, $400 in bookkeeping services with Renee Rizzuti in Palm City and $375 with GLC Consulting in Stuart for event planning and fundraising.

Chip LaMarca closes year strong, adds $30K in December for re-election bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. LaMarca added another $30,000 in December, leaving him just shy of $200,000 in cash on hand as the calendar turned to 2022. Last month, LaMarca raised $18,500 through his campaign account and another $11,500 via his political committee, Citizens Helping Improve Policy. In December, Beta Team Investments, a Boca Raton-based firm, donated $10,000 to LaMarca’s PC. That was the largest single donation courted by LaMarca during the month. LaMarca spent light during the month, listing just under $260 in expenses. Most of that went to Xfinity Mobile for campaign communication services. He also paid nominal fees for domain name registration and service fees.

John Snyder raises $26K to defend House seat representing Martin, Palm Beach counties” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Snyder raised $26,600 in December for his contest against a Democratic challenger to represent what is now House District 82. Current drafts of the House redistricting maps show HD 82 remaining largely intact, but it would change its number to 86 and lose a slice of the north-central portion of Martin County. According to preliminary plans, that slice, just south of Port St. Lucie and including Palm City, would be part of House District 85. Snyder’s December’s fundraising totals were propelled by donations from firefighters, energy representatives and political committees representing a wide swath of interests. The total comes out to a modest haul for the freshman lawmaker from central Martin County, who owns a payroll and staffing service.

Rick Roth posts a personal best for December donations as he seeks a fourth House term” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Roth in December posted his best fundraising performance this cycle, adding $21,650 to his campaign for a fourth term in the Legislature, currently in House District 85. Between his campaign account and his political committee, Palm Beach Prosperity Fund, Roth has $44,861 to spend should a challenger emerge. However, it’s likely the agricultural owner’s district boundaries could be shifting and changing numbers. One map shows him in House District 87, which extends north to the Martin County Line. Another shows him in House District 88, which extends north to Lake Park.

Alex Rizo posts best fundraising month this cycle to defend Florida House seat” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Rizo of Hialeah raised more than $70,000 in December. That’s his best fundraising month this election cycle, with more than a third of his gains coming from the real estate and development sector. He now has more than $167,000 between his campaign and political committee, Principled Moral Conservatism, to defend the seat he handily won in 2020. Rizo spent more than $8,000 last month, mostly on consulting and party dues. He paid David Custin’s DRC Consulting about $5,800 and another $1,800 to the Republican Party of Miami-Dade. Another expenditure, $408, went to Tony’s Liquors in Hialeah for “promotional items.”

Grassroots, lawyer support propel Robin Bartleman to new fundraising record” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Bartleman had her best fundraising performance so far this cycle last month, raising $18,065. That total was fueled mainly by individual donations and support from lawyers. So far, the freshman Democratic lawmaker is facing a rematch with Republican George Navarini in House District 104, which could soon become House District 103. Navarini raised $4,090 in December and spent $4,102, leaving him with $1,314 in cash on hand for the campaign.

Democrat Jordan Leonard closes 2021 with nearly $180K on hand for House bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Leonard added just under $12,000 in December, allowing him to close the year with nearly $179,000 in available cash as he pursues a House seat this year. Leonard, a Bay Harbor Islands Council member and former Mayor, collected just $1,600 through his campaign account last month. But he also raised $10,000 via his political committee, Americans for Florida. Leonard originally filed to compete in the House District 100 contest to succeed term-limited Democratic Rep. Joe Geller. Geller endorsed Leonard in that pursuit. Until the final maps are approved, Leonard remains listed as a candidate in HD 100.

Demi Busatta Cabrera welcomes new challenger by raising $32K to defend HD 114” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Busatta Cabrera tapped a broad range of industries to amass $32,000 in her final full fundraising month before the 2022 Legislative Session. Lawmakers are barred from seeking campaign contributions during the two-month Session. That lull could provide some runway for her new Democratic challenger, South Miami lawyer Adam Benna, to catch up to the incumbent. As of Dec. 31, Busatta Cabrera held nearly $147,000 between her campaign and political committee, People Above Politics, to defend her House District 114 seat. Benna, who filed to run on Jan. 2, has raised roughly $46,000. Busatta Cabrera spent just under $4,000 last month. Most of it went to Tampa-based campaign consulting firm Strategic Image Management for a “mass mailout.”

‘Keep Florida free’: Dennis Cooley files to run for remapped House District 70” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Cooley has filed to run for Florida House District 70, whose redrawn borders could provide parts of Hillsborough and Manatee counties with a new state Representative. The Ellington insurance consultant filed to run on Jan. 12. His goal: “to keep Florida free.” “Gov. DeSantis has made Florida the envy of the nation, and I want to keep it that way,” Cooley said in a statement. Born in Bradenton, Cooley developed a payroll software interface in 2000 that, according to a press note from his campaign, has since processed billions of dollars in payroll transactions. He now runs Bridgely Key Options, an insurance company that helps businesses and employees navigate insurance issues.

Dennis Cooley is jumping on the ‘free Florida’ bandwagon.

Did a Tampa-based political consultant secretly participate in the redistricting of Manatee County?” via Dawn Kitterman of The Bradenton Times — Information gathered by The Bradenton Times raises questions as to whether Commissioner-connected political operative, Anthony Pedicini, played a secretive role in drawing maps submitted in the county’s redistricting process. The Bradenton Times has confirmed that the original Map B submitted by Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh on Nov. 9 — and subsequently edited and resubmitted by Baugh on Nov. 13 — was drawn by an account registered at by someone with the username of “Anthony.” Utilizing publicly accessible HTML code, TBT painstakingly replayed past Commission meetings comparing details in those to the “Anthony” account’s map login activity stored as HTML.

Donald Trump’s advisers point the finger at Mitch McConnell as reports of Ron DeSantis feud swirl” via Marc Caputo, Jonathan Allen and Peter Nicholas of NBC News — When Florida Gov. panned COVID-19 lockdowns former President Trump encouraged early in the pandemic, the remarks made for irresistible headlines — the two GOP heavyweights and possible 2024 contenders were feuding. Days before, Trump appeared to take a swipe at DeSantis, calling politicians who refused to reveal their vaccination status “gutless.” Both camps denied any real friction and blamed “the media” for overhyping tensions, but Trump advisers say they see a hidden hand at play: that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is in a pitched battle with Trump over the future of the Republican Party


U.S. reaches 1,819 daily average deaths, the highest since early October” via Meryl Kornfield and Jacqueline Dupree of The Washington Post — For the first time, the U.S. has surpassed the weekly average of 800,000 coronavirus cases a day in an explosive growth of infections fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the country’s toll reached 1,819 daily deaths averaged over the past seven days, the highest since early October, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Meanwhile, eight states and Puerto Rico set records for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations: Delaware, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington. The latest hot spots are turning up in the West and Midwest, with California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Arizona experiencing the highest rate of increase of average new cases per capita.

The CDC’s new challenge? Grappling with imperfect science” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — The CDC was long revered for its methodical and meticulous scientific approach. Agencies in other nations modeled themselves after the world’s most highly regarded public health authority, even adopting the name. At the outset of the pandemic, the CDC moved at its accustomed pace. But this time, with a novel virus moving so quickly, the country paid a price: Testing and surveillance lagged as the agency tried to implement dated approaches with creaky infrastructure. Now the contagious omicron variant is pushing the CDC into uncharted territory. Because decisions must be made at a breakneck pace, the agency has issued recommendations based on what once would have been considered insufficient evidence, amid growing public concern about how these guidelines affect the economy and education.

Omicron is pushing the CDC into uncharted waters. Image via AP.

—“Confusing COVID-19 messages risk Americans tuning out” via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board

Just over a third of Americans think the U.S. pandemic response is ‘going well,’ a new poll says.” via Sabrina Imbler of The New York Times — As the anniversary of Biden’s inauguration approaches this week, American opinion of his efforts to contain the pandemic is lower than ever, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll. The poll found just 36% of respondents believed U.S. efforts to deal with the coronavirus were “going well.” Just 49% of Americans approved of the President’s management of the pandemic, compared to 66% of Americans who gave the same response in July, in a previous version of the poll. The poll, of 2,094 adult respondents surveyed between Jan. 12 to 14, found that 35% of Americans believed the administration’s policies were improving the pandemic, compared to 40% who believed the policies made the situation worse.

Omicron pushes up hospitalizations though pressures ease in early hot spots” via James Hookway of The Wall Street Journal — The omicron variant is continuing to generate high numbers of new infections, with hospitalizations climbing to levels that are threatening to pile more pressure on medical services, while some European countries are seeing a fall in new cases and Chinese authorities worry about the potential for new infections ahead of the busy Lunar New Year travel period. The seven-day average for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. was at the highest recorded level over the weekend, with about 155,958 reported Sunday, after topping old records last week. The seven-day average for newly reported cases also reached nearly 808,000 a day on Saturday, the first time it has breached 800,000.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom takes aim at DeSantis: ‘We’d have 40,000 more Californians dead if we took his approach’” via Andrew Romano of Yahoo! News — Newsom and DeSantis unveiled their budget proposals for their new year. And while neither mentioned the other by name, both took the opportunity to disparage the other’s COVID-19 policies in the process. Asked to respond to Republican attacks, Newsom didn’t mince words. “They’re performance artists, some of these people,” Newsom snapped. “With respect, we’d have 40,000 more Californians dead if we took [DeSantis’] approach,” Newsom continued. This week’s split-screen divide between DeSantis and Newsom reflected deeper disagreements over the role of government that have surfaced during the pandemic and may one day resurface if the two politicians, who many believe harbor higher ambitions, ever meet on the presidential campaign trail.


Omicron, inflation drive down U.S. growth outlook” via Harriet Torry and Anthony DeBarros of The Wall Street Journal — The outlook for economic growth in the first quarter and 2022 is darkening amid the latest wave of COVID-19, as consumers grapple with high inflation and businesses juggle labor and production disruptions. Forecasters slashed their growth expectations in the first quarter by more than a percentage point, to a 3% annual rate from their forecast of 4.2% in the October survey. The combination of higher inflation, supply-chain constraints and the fast-spreading omicron variant caused economists to trim their forecast for growth to 3.3% for the current year as a whole, based on the change in the inflation-adjusted gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2022 from a year earlier, from 3.6% in October. Last year, output rose 5.2%, economists estimate.

It’s not looking good for the U.S. economy in Q1 2022.

Omicron fallout and tough labor talks likely to rattle supply chains and fuel inflation” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — Worker shortages caused by the omicron coronavirus variant and haggling over a new dockworkers contract are likely to aggravate costly supply chain jams over the next several months, clouding prospects for quick relief from the highest inflation in four decades. The White House says the worst supply snarls may be in the past, noting that key Southern California ports are shrinking their cargo backlogs, and trans-Pacific shipping costs have plunged by more than one-third from their mid-September peak. But the cost of sending a standard metal container from China to the U.S. West Coast remains more than three times what it was one year ago and is expected to remain elevated through the first half of the year, fueling painful annual inflation readings.

Omicron surge spurs new COVID-19 relief push in Congress” via Brody Mullins of The Wall Street Journal — Hotels, fitness clubs, tour bus companies, and minor league ballclubs are part of a long line of businesses seeking billions of dollars in new COVID-19 relief aid, if they can overcome opposition from many Republicans who say Congress has already given enough. Lobbyists for the businesses say their campaign has taken on new urgency as the omicron variant sweeps across the country, forcing many companies to scale back or shut down operations as employees call in sick and customers cancel orders and reservations. Efforts to provide COVID-19 relief assistance appear to have support in the House. Nearly 100 Democratic and Republican lawmakers signed a letter in December calling for help for businesses.

Global tourism about to rebound, luxury hotel operator says” via Randy Thanthong-Knight of Bloomberg — Global tourism is on its way to a “long-term, sustainable recovery” as more travelers and countries recognize the endemic nature of COVID-19. Hotels in tourism-reliant Thailand, which kept its so-called Phuket Sandbox open as a pathway for international travelers to skip quarantine, hasn’t seen major cancellations after the emergence of omicron, Banyan Tree Executive Chairman Ho Kwon Ping said. “While the pickup in new bookings is slower because people want to be cautious, there’s a recognition that it is going to become endemic and that recognition is changing people’s attitude,” Ho said. “That’s why we’re so optimistic.”


China halts Winter Olympics ticket sales as omicron arrives in Beijing” via Eva Dou and Pei Lin Wu of The Washington Post — Last fall, Beijing had already limited tickets to The Games to domestic spectators. On Monday, Beijing’s Winter Olympics Organizing Committee said this would be further restricted: Only certain approved groups will be allowed to watch the Olympics in person, after undergoing strict measures to prevent transmission of the virus. The lone case of omicron registered on Saturday in Beijing sparked mass testing of 13,000 residents who might have crossed paths with the patient, who authorities said visited several restaurants and malls before testing positive. It also led Beijing to bar entry to anyone who has visited any Chinese city that recorded even a single case of the coronavirus in the past 14 days.

Only certain approved groups will be allowed to watch the Olympics in person. Image via Reuters.

Clap, don’t chant: China aims for ‘Zero COVID-19’ Olympics” via Candice Choi of The Associated Press — Athletes will need to be vaccinated take tests daily and wear masks when not competing or training. Clapping is OK to cheer on teammates, not chanting. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be sent into isolation and unable to compete until cleared for discharge. Welcome to the Beijing Olympics, where strict containment measures will aim to create a virus-proof “bubble” for thousands of international visitors at a time when omicron is fueling infections globally. The prevention protocols will be similar to those at the Tokyo Games this summer, but much tighter. That won’t be a stretch in Beijing, with China maintaining a “Zero COVID-19” policy since early in the pandemic.

What can occur when COVID-19 turns cruise vacations into nightmarish voyages?” via Anna Jean Kaiser of the Miami Herald — With the rapid spread of the omicron variant and multiple outbreaks on cruise ships, vacations turned into nightmares for many people cruising over the recent December and New Year’s Day holidays. Becky Brunette went on the Norwegian Joy cruise that left PortMiami on Dec. 23 for an 11-night trip around the Caribbean. She was with her 28-year-old son Cassady. Her son’s test came back positive, while her test was negative. The next day, Brunette and her son were forced to leave their balcony room and were escorted by crew members wearing biohazard suits to a small interior room on the ship and remained there for four days. Their room service food often took hours to arrive cold in to-go containers.


Joe Biden waited too long to engage on voting rights. It’ll cost him — and voters.” via Keith Boykin of The Washington Post — This coming week marks the anniversary of President Biden’s first year in office. His administration so far has focused most of its energy on important issues like the coronavirus, Afghanistan, infrastructure, inflation and an expansion of the social safety net. But the biggest threat to his presidency, his party and his country is the one issue that has only recently become a priority for the White House: voting rights. First, we’ll see more voting restrictions. We’ll also see more partisan election reviews disguised as “audits.” As voter suppression laws become more effective in targeting unwanted voters, Black voter turnout could plummet in this fall’s midterm elections.

Biden is no Jimmy Carter. He should wish he was.” via Jonathan Alter of The Washington Post — While historical analogies are often glib and partisan, they can also be illuminating. Biden faces challenges that are strikingly similar to those that bedeviled Carter: surging prices for gasoline and other consumer goods, serious new tensions with Iran and Russia, anemic poll numbers. The danger for Biden is that he may follow Carter’s pattern of receiving little credit for his achievements, which already include record job creation, a huge and rapid vaccination campaign, and a long-sought bipartisan infrastructure bill, with the voting rights bills all but dead and his Build Back Better package hanging fire.

Tweet, tweet:

Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — Gen. Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has tested positive for COVID-19, just days after being in contact with Biden. Milley, who attended Gen. Raymond Odierno’s funeral on Jan. 12 with Biden, tested negative every day leading up to Sunday’s positive test, a statement said. He is working remotely and isolating after he tested positive on Sunday. “He is experiencing very minor symptoms and can perform all of his duties from the remote location,” Col. Dave Butler. The statement also noted that all the other Joint Chiefs, except for one, had tested negative.

Jill Biden: I didn’t expect ‘healing role’ as First Lady” via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Her husband campaigned to help unite the country, but Jill Biden says “healing” a nation wounded by a deadly pandemic, natural and other disasters and deep political polarization is among her chief roles as first lady, too. Wrapping up a year in which she saw herself as a key member of President Biden’s team, the first lady said she found herself taking on a role that “I didn’t kind of expect, which was like a healing role, because we’ve faced so much as a nation.” Jill Biden spoke sitting in the sunshine near a swimming pool at a Las Vegas hotel a day after she and the president comforted families in Louisville, Colorado, where a huge swath of homes burned to the ground in a late December wildfire. She hugged people as they stood in front of the charred ruins of their lives and later offered public condolences for dogs and other pets killed in the blaze.


Vern Buchanan takes over as lead Republican on Ways and Means Health Subcommittee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Buchanan will take over this week as the top Republican on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. Among the hierarchy of panels under the Ways and Means umbrella, the Health Subcommittee is widely considered the most important. Buchanan takes over from former U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes. Buchanan will serve as ranking member of the subcommittee, as Republicans are in the minority in the House. “Health care represents one-fifth of our economy and is enormously important to every family and business in the country,” Buchanan said.

Vern Buchanan steps into his new leadership role.

Val Demings showcases federal money going to repair bridges across Florida” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Continuing her bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, at the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Demings showcased funds headed to Florida to help repair bridges from the infrastructure package backed by the Biden administration. “Florida will receive $245 million in new federal funding to repair crumbling bridges. The outlay for FY2022 is $49 million. This is new funding on top of other federal funding already available to Florida from the U.S. Department of Transportation,” her office noted. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 11.6 percent in Florida and on average, each driver pays $425 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair,” the congresswoman’s office insisted.

Stephanie Murphy leaves Congress for now … maybe with an eye on Rick Scott” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Murphy takes a swig of her coffee, seeming relieved to sit down for a moment. It’s Monday, and she just finished making the morning run to her two kids’ school. Today she made the run twice, since her 11-year-old son had forgotten his homework binder as 11-year-old boys sometimes do. Murphy has decided to leave Congress, saying she wants to spend more time with her family. But we’ve heard that line before. I figure there must be more to it. And I later learn I’m right … especially when Murphy concedes that she hasn’t ruled out a future run against Scott. Murphy could try to do to Scott what she did to Mica: oust an entrenched incumbent, and compare her record as a do-something deal-maker to Scott’s as a do-little grouser.

South Florida Congresswoman-elect Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s swearing-in set for Tuesday” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Congresswoman-elect Cherfilus-McCormick is scheduled to take the oath of office on Tuesday, one week after she was elected. The swearing-in will take place Tuesday evening at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Cherfilus-McCormick will fill the year remaining on the term of the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. The incoming congresswoman won 79% of the vote in the Jan. 11 Special Election in the Broward-Palm Beach County 20th Congressional District.

Ballard Partners to handle communications, lobbying for Guatemala” via Florida Politics — Ballard Partners has signed a one-year lobbying contract with Guatemala worth an estimated $900,000. The deal will see the firm provide the Central American nation with legislative updates and handle its public relations efforts in the United States. The lobbying deal comes as Guatemala continues to struggle with corruption and human trafficking. It is also the home country for a large portion of the migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Taiwan is reportedly covering the cost of the Ballard Partners contract for Guatemala, one of the poorest nations in Central America and one of the few that still recognize Taiwan as the legitimate government of China. Lobbyists signed on to the deal include firm founder Brian Ballard, José Félix Díaz, John O’Hanlon and Justin Sayfie.


The Justice Dept. alleged Jan. 6 was a seditious conspiracy. Now will it investigate Trump?” via Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post — The Justice Department’s decision to charge Oath Keepers with seditious conspiracy last week makes clear that prosecutors consider the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol part of an organized assault to prevent the peaceful transfer of Presidential power. But so far, the department does not appear to be directly investigating the person whose desperate bid to stay in office motivated the mayhem, Trump, either for potentially inciting a riot or for what some observers see as a related pressure campaign to overturn the results of the election. FBI agents have not sought to interview or gather materials from some of Trump’s most loyal lieutenants about their strategy sessions at the Willard hotel.

Oath Keepers are being charged with seditious conspiracy. Is Donald Trump next? Image via Bloomberg.

Jan. 6 panel grapples with how to secure testimony from lawmakers, Mike Pence” via Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is in the middle of a pivotal debate over how aggressively to seek cooperation from key witnesses who are resisting providing testimony to the committee, including several members of Congress and former Vice President Pence. Pence, along with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Reps. Scott Perry and Jim Jordan, could help the committee complete a comprehensive picture of Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection and the extent of his influence on efforts to disrupt the official certification of Biden’s victory. But all three lawmakers have refused to cooperate, leading the Jan. 6 committee to weigh whether it should issue subpoenas to sitting members of Congress, a step taken only rarely in the past.

Three Tampa Bay men charged in U.S. Capitol attack” via The Associated Press — Three more Florida men, one with connections to a right-wing extremist group, have been arrested on charges related to storming the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, officials said. According to federal court records, Alan Fischer III, Zachary Johnson, and Dion Rajewski were arrested Thursday and charged with civil disorder. Fischer and Rajewski are additionally charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers with a dangerous weapon. The men are being prosecuted in Washington, DC, federal court. According to a criminal complaint, Fischer marched to the Capitol with members of the Proud Boys, a group that describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.”

Sarasota Oath Keeper charged with seditious conspiracy for actions surrounding Jan. 6” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday added new seditious conspiracy charges to the case against Sarasota Oath Keeper Joseph Hackett, who already was facing an array of other charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Hackett is among 11 Oath Keepers, including the group’s leader, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, to be indicted on a charge of seditious conspiracy. The indictment is the first time Rhodes has been charged for involvement in the Capitol riot. “The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, Presidential Election, Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power,” according to a United States Department of Justice news release.


Trump soft-launches his 2024 campaign” via Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic — Deep in the Arizona desert, thousands of people chanted for Trump. It was Trump’s first public event since July. On paper, the gathering was meant as his response to the anniversary of Jan. 6. Trump chose Arizona for this moment for a reason. In this state, the Big Lie thrives. Trump lost Arizona by only 10,000 votes in 2020, giving him and his supporters the space, apparently, to allege that the close outcome was the result of left-wing chicanery. By the end of the evening, Trump was having trouble pretending that he wasn’t actively running for President. At the rally, as Trump’s fans called for the arrests of poll workers and the reinstatement of the rightful President, I got the sense that this might be just the beginning.

Donald Trump tests the waters at the heart of The Big Lie. Image via AP.

Some in GOP begin testing party’s lockstep loyalty to Trump” via Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — Trump stepped up his election-year effort to dominate the Republican Party, holding a rally in Arizona on Saturday in which he castigated anyone who dares to question his lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, including the state’s GOP governor, Doug Ducey. But 2,000 miles to the east in Washington, there are small signs that some Republicans are tiring of the charade. Mike Rounds, the generally unassuming senator from South Dakota, was perhaps the boldest in acknowledging the reality that the election was in fact fair. Instead of being shunned, he was supported by his GOP colleagues. The recent dynamics bring new clarity to the debate that will likely animate the GOP all year: how closely candidates should align themselves with Trump and his election lie.


Broward powerbroker Michael Moskowitz dies days after seeing his son Jared sworn in as a County Commissioner” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Moskowitz, the high-power attorney, lobbyist and one of Broward’s most prominent money-raisers for Democratic candidates, died late Saturday, just a year and a half after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, his family confirmed. He was 68. It was days after he got to see his son Jared Moskowitz sworn in as a Broward County Commissioner as an appointee by DeSantis, an event he was so determined to witness that his family made arrangements to take him to Parkland City Hall by ambulance. Hospice had come to his house to help care for him two days earlier. Scores of political well-wishers, and some former clients, waited patiently to kneel down to him in his wheelchair, shake his hand, or rest it on his shoulder and whisper their congratulations about his son’s latest accomplishment.

Two favorites emerge among Miami-Dade superintendent candidates” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade County Public School Board will convene to discuss a list of possible replacements for outgoing Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, but two candidates are rumored to be front-runners. They are Collier County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Jose Dotres, a former MDCPS chief of staff and chief human capital officer who has also served as chief academic officer in Broward County, and Florida Department of Education Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva, a former Flagler County superintendent. Dotres is an odds-on favorite because of his cross-county experience and administrative history with Miami-Dade Public Schools, while Oliva’s background in leading local and statewide education matters also places him atop the list.

Jane Castor apologizes for past Mayors’ roles in erasing Black cemeteries” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The last two years have seen a deluge of reports on rediscovered Black cemeteries across the state that led to the creation of the Task Force on Abandoned African American Cemeteries and newly filed legislation to address the issue. Lost and forgotten cemeteries became a focus after Tampa Bay Times reporter Paul Guzzo helped uncover the purposely forgotten Zion Cemetery under an East Tampa housing complex. “We can’t right past wrongs,” Castor said. “But certainly, we can acknowledge those and apologize for the wrongs of our community in the past.” Castor issued the apology from Memorial Park Cemetery. Memorial Park was founded over 100 years ago to serve as the final resting place of Black veterans who fought in World War I.

FSU Associate Dean James Zedaker resigns amid sexual misconduct investigation” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Zedaker, associate dean of FSU’s School of Physician Assistant Practice and head of the university’s COVID-19 vaccine and testing administration program, has resigned after an internal investigation found he violated the university’s anti-sexual misconduct policy. Investigators found on Jan. 4 that it was more likely than not that Zedaker engaged in “pervasive, unwelcomed behaviors of a sexual and/or romantic nature, creating a hostile work environment,” as well as behavior of a romantic and/or sexual nature while in a position of institutional authority with three FSU COVID-19 clinic employees. As director of university special projects for Health and Emergency Operations, Zedaker was leading the COVID-19 clinic.

James Zedaker makes a hasty exit from FSU.

Tallahassee sees its first Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee saw its first Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade Monday. A middle school provided a band and cheer team, and the motorcycle squads of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and Tallahassee Police Department led the way with sirens and flashing lights. More than 40 organizations, businesses and individuals had signed up to participate but many bowed out because of COVID-19 concerns. Over 100 people were out watching. A score of advocacy groups, churches, civic organizations, theaters, businesses and political candidates followed the band and their cheering compatriots to the Capitol.


Republicans ignore that Martin Luther King, Jr. was concerned about more than the content of one’s character” via Leonard Pitts, Jr. — Dear White conservatives: When you’re right, you’re right. And you are definitely right about that quote from King. When he stood at the temple of Lincoln in 1963 and declared his dream “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he surely spoke a word for the ages. Your fondness for that word has not gone unnoticed. Most recently, you’ve used it in opposing the teaching of critical race theory. It’s summed up in something he said on the last night of his life. He was a tired and frustrated man by then after 13 years of marches, speeches and death threats, struggling with a nation that refused to venerate its own lofty ideals. And he told an audience in Memphis: “All we say to America is: Be true to what you said on paper.”


A flailing Biden sold his ‘whole soul’ in political desperation” via Marc A. Thiessen of The Washington Post — During his venomous speech in Atlanta, Biden attacked his fellow Americans who oppose blowing up the Senate filibuster to pass his partisan election law by comparing them to racists and traitors. The Democrats’ federal election takeover has zero chance of passing not because of GOP opposition, but because, thankfully, it does not have enough support among Democrats to get rid of the filibuster to pass it. This was a violation of every principle on which Biden campaigned for the presidency. During his victory speech following his 2020 election, Biden declared that it was “time to put away the harsh rhetoric” and “stop treating our opponents as our enemy.”

If Democrats want to win, they must change the venue” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — Our democracy is already badly injured. One political party flirts with violence and seeks to undermine the sanctity of elections. And many voters seem indifferent to the fate of democracy going into this year’s midterm elections. When it comes to voting rights and, frankly, all constitutional rights, Biden must take his case outside the Beltway. That means Democrats need to double down in support of state-level, pro-democracy referendums akin to anti-gerrymandering initiatives that have succeeded in curbing partisan redistricting. Voters can insist on nonpartisan redistricting and shield election workers from removal without cause. They can also block abortion “bounties” and other schemes that impair women’s physical autonomy.

EASE voucher eases college access for Florida students” via Elizabeth Smith for the Orlando Sentinel — EASE is the Effective Access to Student Education grant program. It is a student voucher for residents of Florida to attend Florida’s nonprofit, independent colleges and universities. Living with a disability is challenging due to infrastructure accessibility issues, ableist mindsets and daily symptoms. Florida’s independent colleges and universities are engines of opportunity for Floridians and can provide flexibility and individual support to meet the various needs of Florida students. These institutions accept more minority students, more low-income students and more students over 25 than the State University System, and EASE helps them pay for their tuition. With EASE, access to higher education for students in these demographics is more affordable and achievable.


Just one week into the Legislative Session and still a long way from the next gubernatorial election and “Hitler” is now in play. Hear why the Governor’s wife calls comments from a would-be opponent “disgraceful.”

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— The day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a Republican state Senator says the fight for civil rights has been won.

— Are Democrats just “blowin’ smoke” with their bills to legalize marijuana?

— Pinellas County has a record year for pedestrian and bike rider fatalities.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Bee sweet: Disney Grand Floridian’s iconic gingerbread house feeds insects after holidays” via Michelle Spitzer for Florida Today — Thousands of people flock to Walt Disney World every holiday season to see the iconic gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Even when the holidays are over and cast members dismantle the 600 pounds of sugar, 800 pounds of flour, and more than 10,000 combined pieces, the famous gingerbread house still continues to attract thousands. Although these after-holiday visitors aren’t people, they do create a buzz. In true Disney fashion, the gingerbread house is not merely discarded. Instead, it’s repurposed and used to help the bee population. Pastry Chef Kristine Farmer, who has been leading the project for its entire 23 years, said the gingerbread house having a second life helping bees is a “happy accident.” More on that later.

What happens to the Grand Floridian’s gingerbread house after the holidays?

Runner makes history, wins four Disney races — including a marathon — in four days” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Brittany Charboneau is a serious runner. The Denver-based professional runner sometimes logs 100-mile training weeks and once competed in hopes of going to the Olympics. Charboneau, 33, was the first person to sweep all the races — the 5K, 10K, half marathon, and the crown jewel, the 26.2-mile marathon — at Walt Disney World this month. It was the first time anyone has ever won the entire race series in runDisney’s 29-year history. She won the Dopey Challenge, the nickname given to anyone who runs the 48.6 miles over the four days. And Charboneau did it while racing in Disney costumes. In one race, she crossed the finish line dressed as Elsa from “Frozen.” In another, her hair was spray painted black-and-white as the villain Cruella de Vil from “101 Dalmatians.”


Celebrating today are former Speaker Larry Cretul as well as U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell, and good folks Brody Enwright and Sara Johnson. Happy birthday belatedly to our dear friend, Caitlin Murray, as well as U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez, Maxwell Frost, Jeff Johnson of AARP Florida, Brian Goldmeier, Kaitlyn Bailey Owen of RSA Consulting, and Robert Stuart of GrayRobinson.


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, 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Alex

    January 18, 2022 at 6:44 am

    FP is actually slightly right-wing according to Ad Fontes.
    Interesting how the far right nutters here think all news is automatically left huh?

    Echoes of Mango Mussolini’s Fake News lie, but more our ‘nutters utter lack of ability to think for themselves.

  • Alex

    January 18, 2022 at 6:56 am

    Almost forgot;

    Biden’s approval is still ahead of Trump’s at the same time in their terms, but you won’t hear that from the ‘winger media as they continue to be all the things righties claim is wrong with the MSM.

  • Alex

    January 18, 2022 at 7:12 am

    AP News and Reuters are the two most unbiased news sources of all, and are the ones I read.

    I don’t need a Tucker Carlson to tell me what to believe, I come to it just based on the unbiased truth.

    It’s called thinking, something in short supply in ‘winger alt-facts la la land.

Comments are closed.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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