Good Monday morning.
Let’s start the day with some good news about a great person.
Lobbyist Edward Briggs has been promoted to vice president of Government and Community Affairs at RSA Consulting.
In his new role, Briggs will continue to oversee government relations and public policy for the Tampa Bay-based firm and its more than 70 clients across the state.
“It is not only his determination and strong work ethic that has brought Edward much success but his genuine desire to help others and ability to connect with our clients,” said Ron Pierce, president and CEO of RSA Consulting. “Edward embodies the team spirit that defines RSA, and over the years, I’ve watched him grow into a leader that is well-respected and an expert in his field. He is an integral part of our team, and we are so excited to see what he will accomplish in this new position.”
Briggs joined the firm in 2013 when it included just Pierce and Chief Operating Officer Natalie King. He played a significant role in RSA’s growth into the team of seven that it is today.
Briggs’ work spans several industries, but most recently he’s become a prominent player in education policy, particularly within the charter school space. He works extensively in the construction and workforce development arenas and has a growing list of policy wins to show for it.
In 2018, Briggs received the Distinguished Merit Award from the Brevard County Sherriff’s office for his work in fixing a legal loophole to prevent child exploitation. In 2015, he was named one of Florida Politics’ “30 under 30” Rising Stars.
Before joining RSA, Briggs served as the grassroots campaign coordinator for former Sen. Tom Lee and his legislative aide during the transition to Tallahassee. He earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Florida State University.
Spotted at the Bayshore Boulevard home of Robert and Nancy Watkins for their viewing party of the Children’s Gasparilla parade: Mayor Jane Castor and Ana Cruz, former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, former Attorney General Pam Bondi, former Speaker Will Weatherford, Rep. Jackie Toledo, DPBR Secretary Melanie Griffin and husband Mike, Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman, VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young and husband Matt, Melissa and Kevin Dempsey, Merritt and Rick Lindstrom, Joe Lopano, Veronica and Preston Rudie, Lucy and J.D. White. Missed by all: Anthony Pedicini and the entire Pedicini clan.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@PoliticsReid: Two years ago today, the first case of #COVID19 in the US was identified in a patient in Snohomish County, WA. The virus was in the US before that, but that was the first confirmed case here.
—@RyanStruyk: The United States is now reporting 1,853 new coronavirus deaths per day, the highest seven-day average since October 2, according to data from @CNN and Johns Hopkins University.
I never expected CNN to destroy Biden in one minute, yet here we are. This is pure fire pic.twitter.com/hrKvLLoqqI
— Kambree (@KamVTV) January 21, 2022
—@Liz_Cheney: A former Speaker of the House is threatening jail time for members of Congress who are investigating the violent January 6 attack on our Capitol and our Constitution. This is what it looks like when the rule of law unravels.
"Why I became a police officer"
Written by NYPD Officer Jason Rivera, 22-year who grew up in Inwood, killed last night in the line of duty.
Stop whatever you are doing and read this. pic.twitter.com/VGDhH4WMIY
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) January 22, 2022
—@Sen_Albritton: Today is #. It’s a great opportunity to seriously focus on family & friends. Do something special for the loved ones in your life, even it’s just calling or texting “I Love You, I’m thankful you are in my life.” Don’t hesitate, just do it! 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
—@LoriBerman: If someone feels guilt or shame about 246 years of human bondage, Jim Crow segregation, or the Trail of Tears, those are appropriate human emotions. We shouldn’t feel pride in it, nor should we look away. It’s our American history.
— Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom) January 22, 2022
The NFL’s worst special teams unit turned in one of the worst special teams performances in NFL playoff history … and appears to have had only 10 men on the field for the winning field goal. pic.twitter.com/bJvPtHYXkQ
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 23, 2022
— DAYS UNTIL —
Red Dog Blue Dog charity event — 1; James Madison Institute’s Stanley Marshall Day Celebration in Jacksonville — 4; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 11; Super Bowl LVI — 20; Will Smith’s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 20; Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show begins — 23; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 23; Spring Training report dates begin — 24; Synapse Florida tech summit begins — 24; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 27; Daytona 500 — 27; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 30; Suits For Session — 30; CPAC begins — 31; St. Pete Grand Prix — 32; Joe Biden to give State of the Union — 36; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 39; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 58; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 60; The Oscars — 62; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 64; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 69; federal student loan payments will resume — 97;’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 102;’ Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 123;’ Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 129;’ Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 166; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 179; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 197; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 221;’ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 256; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 291; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 294; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 326;’ Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 389;’ John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 424; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 550;’ Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 634; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 914.
—TOP STORY —
Booming state revenues give Legislature extra $4B for budget — Lawmakers will have an additional $4 billion more in state money available for the 2022-23 state budget due to higher-than-expected tax revenues. Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reported that most of the extra money comes from sales tax collections, which came in about $2.2 billion above what state economists forecast in August. They predicted that revenues will continue to grow over the coming months, adding to the “overage.” Lawmakers already had extra cash to play with by way of about $3 billion federal COVID-19 relief money from the stimulus package passed by Congress early last year.
If you're a lobbyist in Florida and can't get a budget win for your clients this year, it might be time to consider getting a real job
— Matt Dixon (@Mdixon55) January 21, 2022
— DATELINE TALLY —
First on #FlaPol — “Federal government will appeal Florida Gaming Compact ruling” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has notified a federal court that she and the Department of Interior intend to appeal the November court decision that struck down internet sports betting and Florida’s 2021 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Haaland filed her notice to appeal the decision Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The actual appeal is set to be filed by Saturday. The federal government’s argument would have to convince the Appeals Court that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives the Interior Department authority to approve Florida’s Gaming Compact even if the Compact allows bets to be placed outside tribal lands. The notice itself does not reveal what arguments Haaland and the government might be preparing to make. On Nov. 22, the U.S. District Court issued a summary judgment invalidating her federal approval. Without that approval, the Compact could not be enacted.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis issues state of emergency for Charlotte and Lee counties after severe storms” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis issued a state of emergency in Charlotte and Lee counties Friday in response to the severe storms impacting the area and displacing at least 300 individuals. DeSantis issued the state of emergency via Executive Order 22-17, which designates Kevin Guthrie, the Division of Emergency Management director, as the State Coordinating Officer to manage response, recovery, and mitigation plans to aid those affected. Last Sunday, the Southwest Florida counties were hit with heavy rain, thunderstorms and two confirmed tornadoes. According to the Governor’s Office, the storms resulted in widespread power outages and damage across Charlotte and Lee counties. The Executive Order is effective immediately and is set to expire in 60 days.
DOC asks for extra $420M in 2022-23 budget — The Florida Department of Corrections’ legislative budget request includes an additional $420 million in funding over what Gov. DeSantis requested in his “Freedom First” budget. Stephany Matat of POLITICO Florida reported that the extra funding is to address high turnover at the agency, where about a third of positions are currently unfilled. New DOC Secretary Ricky Dixon told Senators last week that the department could reduce the vacancy rate to 3% and substantially reduce the amount of overtime it pays to officers — $103 million last year — with the funding to increase base pay for employees. Overall, DeSantis requested $2.9 billion for DOC and the agency is requesting $3.4 billion.
—TALLY 2 —
“Anger and anguish over 15-week abortion ban” via Steve Bousquet of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Arguments raged back and forth in the Capitol this week as the Florida House fast-tracks passage of a law to ban abortions after 15 weeks, even in cases of sexual assault or incest. Its passage is considered a certainty, and that will make Florida the major abortion battleground in the country in the upcoming midterm elections. Far beyond the Capitol bubble, this is the issue generating the most interest this Session, and it will drive a lot of voters to the polls next fall, making it a huge issue in the 2022 elections. It’s about politics, and timing, with a 15-week statewide ban in Mississippi awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Some people drove hundreds of miles and spoke in anguished tones as they pleaded for defeat of the bill.
“In the dark: Lawmakers creating new ways to keep public records private” via Jeffrey Schweers of the USA Today network — The annual assault on Florida’s popular open government laws continues this Legislative Session, even as the public clamors for greater transparency and access to their elected officials and government as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year. Lawmakers have filed more than 50 bills, either adding new exemptions to the state’s public records law or sparking what is known as open government sunset reviews, which make previously public information secret. During the first week of Session, which began Jan. 11, no less than 20 of those bills cleared their first review committees, including a highly contentious proposal to shield the names of people applying to be state university presidents until finalists are selected.
“Lawmaker pulls plug on solar power plan, but it still could affect industry” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — As solar power advocates nervously watch a bill that could change the amount solar users can sell their excess energy for, another proposal in the 2022 Legislative Session could also affect the industry, even after it was withdrawn. The measure (HB 259), by Rep. Rick Roth, sought to prohibit cities and counties from allowing solar panels to be installed without being considered what’s termed “accessory use structures.” This would take away from local governments the power to streamline solar installations by potentially reducing permitting requirements. While this change would not add new restrictions for solar users or buyers, it would maintain a costly and time-consuming process for solar sales, a process that might discourage some buyers. The bill was withdrawn before being introduced in the House.
“FPL consultants behind ‘ghost’ candidate scheme funded anti-net metering think tank” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Two years ago, a Republican state Representative wrote to the people who regulate Florida’s electricity markets, asking them to review a popular program that incentivizes residents to install rooftop solar panels. In his letter to the Public Service Commission, Rep. Lawrence McClure cited a report from a think tank that was critical of the policy, known as “net metering.” The current system is fiercely opposed by the state’s utility providers, including Florida Power & Light, the nation’s largest energy company. That think tank, an organization known as “Energy Fairness,” has received extensive funding from entities controlled by FPL consultants.
“Travis Hutson kills plan to nix Soil and Water Conservation Districts, eyes limiting their membership instead” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A proposal to abolish every Soil and Water Conservation District in Florida has been replaced with a much milder version leaving the organizations intact but requiring that their elected members be agricultural professionals. That’s a step in the right direction, an opponent of the initial bill and its replacement said, but it’s still not enough. Sen. Hutson has tossed most of the original content of legislation he and Rep. Keith Truenow filed in November. In their early form, the bills (SB 1078 and HB 783) aimed to eliminate the districts, whose assets, liabilities and responsibilities would have fallen to Florida’s regional Water Management Districts and a handful of counties. Hutson said farmers had complained that the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) Board in his area did not have an adequate number of members from the agriculture industry.
“Teachers union leaders dismiss classroom camera bill as ‘nonsense,’ ‘destructive to morale’” via Joe McLean of News 4 Jax — A bill in the Florida legislature would open the door for cameras to be placed in public school classrooms and microphones to be placed on teachers. Sponsors are branding Florida House Bill 1055 as a surveillance measure to prevent abuse and/or neglect by teachers or students. If passed, the proposed law would not require districts to install the equipment, but would require each public school board to consider and vote on the concept by January 1, 2023. The classroom footage collected would be controlled by the respective school’s principal and, in the event of an incident that requires law enforcement investigation, the footage would be redacted to shield the students’ identity.
“Daryl Campbell comes to Tallahassee this week, but his start day remains uncertain” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep.-Elect Daryl Campbell won a four-way Primary Election on Jan. 11 to succeed outgoing Rep. Bobby DuBose in Broward County’s House District 94. Since no other parties fielded qualifying candidates in the district that covers parts of Fort Lauderdale, Plantation and Wilton Manors, Campbell is the de facto winner of the General Election, which was scheduled for March 8. Campbell said that conversations with Republican Speaker Chris Sprowls’ office and his Democratic colleagues have led him to believe he will be sworn in this week — although he hasn’t received the schedule for it yet. “I am anxious — I really want to get to work,” said Campbell, who worked as an aide when DuBose served in the Legislature. “I’ve got to play catch-up, obviously.”
—INSIDE THE LINES —
“House advances first redistricting map, but Democrats have many questions” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Democrats could gain as many as seven seats in the Florida House of Representatives and Republicans could retain a solid majority under a redistricting map approved Friday along partisan lines by a state House subcommittee. But despite their numeric gains, the proposal was criticized by Democrats who questioned several of the decisions made by staff, including why they did not maximize minority districts when it appeared population shifts would allow for it. “The state House map before you today is a constitutionally compliant work,’’ said state Rep. Cord Byrd who chairs the subcommittee. He said the plan creates 18 constitutionally protected Black districts and 12 protected Hispanic districts while doing a better job of keeping communities whole than the current map adopted by legislators a decade ago.
—”House panel splits on first redistricting map; critics say Latinos and Blacks are underrepresented” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix
“DeSantis map could affect Tampa Bay congressional seats” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis’ surprise congressional redistricting map proposal, if adopted, would have a dramatic effect on the Tampa and south Pinellas districts of Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist. According to an analysis by Democratic political mapping expert Matt Isbell, the proposal likely would flip the Pinellas district from a narrowly Democratic-voting district to a strongly Republican voting one, while packing more Democrats into Castor’s already Democrat-dominated district. In part, it would do that by extending Castor’s district across the bay to take in heavily Democratic-voting areas of south and downtown St. Petersburg now in the Crist district.
“Corrine Brown’s revenge? DeSantis goes after Al Lawson” via A.G. Gancarski for Jacksonville Today — That is one interpretation of the Year Zero-style Congressional redistricting map from the Governor’s general counsel, a document dropped the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The map lays waste to the concept of protected minority access districts, creating a map that puts aside the Fair Districts amendments in favor of some race-agnostic document that guarantees legal challenges, if this map became realized. The map also, if it somehow got through the Legislature, would mean the end of Congressional District 5, replaced by a Congressional District 3 combining areas north and west of the St. Johns River with Nassau and Clay Counties.
“Tommy Gregory will run in HD 74 under current House map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Gregory said he’s planning to run in the district where he lives, regardless of the political landscape. “There’s a 0% chance I am moving,” he said. “There’s a 100% chance I am running.” A House map (H 8009) just advanced by the House Legislative Redistricting Committee put the Sarasota Republican in House District 74. That means he shares the turf with Rep. James Buchanan. The new district covers most of east Sarasota County but none of its coastline, and it’s entirely contained within Sarasota County. That’s a big shift for Gregory, whose existing seat in House District 73 primarily includes east Manatee and only a portion of Sarasota County. But that portion happens to be where Gregory lives.
— SKED —
Happening today — House Minority Leader Evan Jenne; Reps. Ramon Alexander and Fentrice Driskell will hold a media availability, 10 a.m. Zoom link here. The availability is also expected to be livestreamed on The Florida Channel.
Happening today — Democratic lawmakers will hold a news conference to oppose Florida’s proposed 15-week abortion ban. Participants include U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Sen. Minority Leader Lauren Book; Reps. Robin Bartleman, Christine Hunschofsky and Felicia Robinson, 10 a.m. Zoom link here.
— The House Ways & Means Committee meets to consider HB 777, from Rep. Will Robinson, to require local tax referendums in general elections, rather than in primary, local or special elections, 1 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
Happening today — Reps. Dotie Joseph and Yvonne Hinson hold a news conference about decriminalizing marijuana and other drugs, 1 p.m., Fourth Floor.
— The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 1808, from Sen. Aaron Bean, to strengthen immigration enforcement in Florida, 3 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 1800 and SB 1802, from Sen. Jim Boyd, to create a program to help replace poles to provide rural broadband, 3 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 1816, from Sen. Linda Stewart, to require $100 million a year for the Florida Forever conservation program, 3 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
— The House Health and Human Services Committee meets to consider HB 17, from Reps. Tom Fabricio and Mike Giallombardo to allow prescribing particular controlled substances through telehealth, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.
— The House Commerce Committee meets to consider HB 489, from Rep. Linda Chaney, to extend VISIT FLORIDA to Oct. 1, 2028, 3:30 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after Senate committee meetings, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.
— STATEWIDE —
ICYMI — “Federal judge sides with UF professors in free speech dispute” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today — A federal judge has sided with three University of Florida political science professors, giving them a preliminary win in their fight to provide expert witness testimony in a lawsuit challenging a new state election law that starts in less than two weeks. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted them a preliminary injunction on Friday in a 74-page order in which he cites the removal of a tower at the University of Hong Kong known as the “Pillar of Shame” commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The judge, who sits in the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee, issued the order against the university’s controversial conflict-of-interest policy regarding giving expert testimony in legal matters. The injunction applies to the University of Florida Board of Trustees, President Kent Fuchs, Provost Joe Glover, Law Dean Laura Rosenbury, and others.
“Florida school district cancels professor’s civil rights lecture over critical race theory concerns” via Marc Caputo and Teaganne Finn of NBC News — A Florida school district canceled a professor’s civil rights history seminar for teachers, citing in part concerns over “critical race theory” — even though his lecture had nothing to do with the topic. J. Michael Butler, a history professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, was scheduled to give a presentation Saturday to Osceola County School District teachers called “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” which postulates the civil rights movement preceded and post-dated Martin Luther King Jr. by decades. He said that he was shocked to learn why the seminar had been canceled through an email.
“DeSantis announces city of Sarasota will get $10.4 million for climate resiliency projects” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis announced on Friday a $10.4 million grant for projects meant to protect Sarasota against the impacts of climate change and address other environmental issues. In one of these projects, the city will raise Van Wezel Way, the road that leads to the iconic Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, to prepare it for future sea level rise. “Continued vitality of the state really does require us to be focusing on key infrastructure improvements,” DeSantis said in a ceremony at the performing arts hall, with Sarasota Bay as a backdrop. The announcement highlighted the state’s award to the city of Sarasota of a federal grant of more than $10.4 million for several projects relating to The Bay Park on Sarasota Bay.
“Florida’s red tides are getting worse and may be hard to control because of climate change” via Aman Azhar of Inside Climate News — A task force appointed by DeSantis to address the state’s algal bloom crisis concluded in a recent report that “without hard work and careful planning” adverse human health impacts and widespread wildlife mortality would most likely “worsen” because of climate change and the state’s growing population. The blooms are caused by high concentrations of a plantlike microscopic organism known as Karenia brevis fed by nutrients in runoff from stormwater, agricultural lands and wastewater treatment plants. A key stimulant is phosphorus from fertilizer used on farms and ranches in the Kissimmee River Basin, which forms the headwaters of the Everglades and drains into Lake Okeechobee. The algal blooms, which at one point in 2018 covered 90% of the lake’s surface, can have devastating impacts on ecological resources and communities.
“Saving the manatees — rescue by rescue, rehab by rehab” via Lori Rozsa of The Washington Post — On an unusually cold winter morning in central Florida, Corleone the manatee was awakened before dawn by wetsuited workers who slipped into his pool at SeaWorld and wrapped him in a long vinyl sling. “He’s very chill. He’s such a good traveler,” rescue specialist Maggie Mariolis said. “He should be, because he’s done a lot of it lately.” Mariolis was part of the team that in mid-November brought Corleone some 310 miles from Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he’d gotten stuck in a canal near a golf course, far from his winter feeding grounds in Florida and at risk of succumbing to cold stress. Ensuring his survival was part of an increasingly urgent effort to save the manatee population, which has been dying off at alarming speeds in the past 14 months, especially along Florida’s Atlantic coast.
“‘Sufficiently mature’? Judge John Stargel’s dissent in teen’s abortion petition draws attention” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — Abortion-rights proponents are criticizing a judge for citing the grade-point average and grammar of a 17-year-old girl in arguing that she be denied an abortion without parental approval. Judge Stargel focused on those elements in his dissent as part of a three-judge panel in an opinion issued Tuesday. The other two judges overruled a lower-court judge and approved the girl’s petition for a judicial bypass of the state’s parental consent law. Stargel is a former state legislator and the husband of Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel, who sponsored a bill in last year’s Session requiring parental consent before a minor can obtain an abortion. The bill, signed into law by Gov. DeSantis, includes the option of receiving court approval to avoid parental consent.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“DeSantis dodges COVID-19 booster shot question again, even as Donald Trump says not answering is ‘gutless’” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis again declined Friday to say whether he received the COVID-19 booster shot, even after his mentor, Trump, called politicians who dodge the booster question “gutless.” DeSantis called his booster status a “private matter” during an event in Sarasota, despite having revealed details of his vaccination status in the past. “That’s something that I think people should just make their own decisions on,” DeSantis said. “I’m not going to let that be a weapon for people to be able to use; I think it’s a private matter.” DeSantis did disclose last year that he received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Trump was booed at an event in Dallas when he revealed that he received the booster.
“Florida is well behind other states when it comes to getting COVID-19 booster shots” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — When DeSantis hinted Friday that he hasn’t gotten a COVID-19 booster shot, it wouldn’t be unusual. Florida is below the national average and well behind other states when it comes to COVID-19 booster shots that can help ward off COVID-19. But the numbers show that many people across the nation aren’t pursuing the booster shots, even as COVID-19 infections continue during the pandemic. Data from the C.D.C. show that only 35.6% of people in Florida have gotten a booster dose. That puts Florida’s ranking at 38th of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and below the national average of 39.3%. Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Maine have the highest percentage of people, more than 50%, who have gotten the shots.
“A ‘trifecta’ of ‘lunacy’: Why Florida’s COVID-19 response favors treatment, not prevention” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — Starting with his first public appearance after the omicron variant began spreading through Florida, DeSantis has questioned or outright inveighed against the effectiveness of vaccinations, masks and testing as the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. He boasted about rejecting federal guidelines for quarantining students, saying the vaccine is ineffective against spreading the omicron variant. Instead, he promoted several monoclonal antibody treatments (MABs) that the government temporarily halted shipments after data showed they didn’t work against omicron. In promoting the continued use of Regeneron and bamlanivimab, both monoclonal antibody treatments, the Governor said he was not convinced they wouldn’t work against omicron: “That hasn’t been definitely shown at all,” he said. DeSantis’s actions have raised concern among members of the medical community.
“Florida tops 5 million COVID-19 cases” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida has now seen more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 among residents, with another 289,204 reported in the past week. The Sunshine State has recorded 5,280,903 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since it first emerged in March 2020. That is equal to about one in every four Floridians, though the COVID-19 total includes recurring cases of the disease suffered by some people. Florida’s latest total includes more than a million new cases that have been tallied just in the past three weeks, since the end of 2021, as the omicron surge has overtaken Florida. The most recent weekly total was a sharp drop from the record 429,311 cases recorded the week ending Jan. 14.
“Omicron shows signs of decline in Florida, but weekly death toll rises by 605” via Cindy Kirscher Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s weekly COVID-19 report showed a drop in new cases from the record high last week, an indication that the state has passed the peak of the omicron wave and the testing madness has subsided. However, the death toll from omicron is beginning to reveal itself. On Friday, Florida reported 289,204 new cases for the past seven days, a drop from 430,297 a week ago, and from 397,114 the week prior. In another encouraging sign, the positivity rate declined this week, too, dropping to 26.8% from 29.3% last week. It is now near pre-Christmas levels. The long lines at Florida’s COVID-19 testing sites appear to have abated, and about 20,000 fewer PCR tests were done in the last seven days.
—“Florida’s omicron wave could be worse than data shows” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times
“Florida reports 22,818 new cases, lowest daily count since Christmas” via David Schutz and Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida reported 22,818 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, dropping the state’s seven-day average to 37,414, a 31% decline from one week ago. Hospitalizations have held steady for nearly two weeks, another key indicator that the omicron wave is slowing. There were 11,351 patients with the virus in Florida hospitals on Friday and 1,619 adult COVID-19 patients in intensive care, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows. The state reported a large batch of new vaccinations, which had been slowing significantly in recent days. The average daily vaccination rate increased to 52,036 over the past week but remains at its lowest level since late October.
—”Sunday Florida COVID-19 update: Hospitalizations fall by 700, ICU patients down by 130” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald
“Feds approve Florida’s delayed COVID-19 plan for schools; state can access all $15.7 billion in relief” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — The U.S. Department of Education approved Florida’s plan outlining how the state will use COVID-19 relief funds to help schools recover from the impacts of the pandemic, releasing the final $2.3 billion for the projects. The approval came after months of delays. Florida and other states were supposed to submit a COVID-19 plan for schools by June 7, but Florida didn’t get its plan into the USDE until Oct. 6, well into the new school year. “Would have been nice if the Florida Department of Education would have gotten that plan in sooner like they were supposed to,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, a statewide teacher union.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Suspension of Dr. Raul Pino comes as administration tightens muzzle on public health, critics say” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — The suspension of Orange County’s Dr. Pino, after urging his health department staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, is the most blatant example yet of the state’s increasingly tight muzzle on health authorities fighting the pandemic, critics say, making Florida one of the most repressive in the nation when it comes to public health matters. The state in recent years has required even the most mundane public statements to be approved by administrators in Tallahassee. And previous governors have been known to forbid county-level health workers from speaking in public forums on such topics as climate change. “This [suspension] is just shocking and dismaying,” said Dr. Leslie Beitsch, who worked for the Florida Department of Health for 12 years.
“Orlando Mayor says he has COVID-19, encourages shots” via The Associated Press — The mayor of central Florida’s largest city said Friday he has COVID-19, just days after the mayor of the area’s most populous county announced he had the virus. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted that he got tested for the virus after being told he had been exposed to someone with COVID-19. He said he was asymptomatic, which he credited to being fully vaccinated and boosted. “I encourage everyone who is eligible to get their booster shot, too,” he said. The Orlando mayor said he planned to isolate and work on city business remotely. Dyer’s announcement came days after Orange County Mayor Demings said he had tested positive for COVID-19. Demings was experiencing mild symptoms and would be working from home.
“Central Florida student, staff absences stress schools during omicron surge” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The recent coronavirus surge, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, began in late December in Florida, just when schools were closed for their winter break. When Central Florida campuses reopened the week of Jan. 3, they quickly felt omicron’s presence, as the number of cases reported for students and staff shot up, and then so did the absences. COVID-19 cases statewide began falling last week, giving educators some hope of a coming reprieve, but the positivity rate in the region is still more than 30% and many schools have empty desks. Orange County Public Schools reported about 28,500 student absences on Tuesday, an improvement from the 40,000 absences reported Wednesday, Jan. 5.
“Sick teachers, shortage of subs straining Leon County Schools amid COVID-19 surge” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — As COVID-19 cases increase in Leon County, so does the school district’s need for substitute teachers. There have been 222 requests for substitute teachers in Leon County Schools in the past three days. As of 1 p.m. Thursday, there were 229 requests for substitute teachers for Friday alone. This makes up about 10% of the 2,241 teachers employed by the district. “We have not reached critical mass yet on the possibility of closing due to staffing issues,” said Chris Petley, a spokesperson for the district. Petley said the district had over 300 substitute teachers. Later in the day, he corrected that number to 600.
“Tampa Bay schools report more than 6,100 COVID-19 cases for the week” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa Bay area schools continue to struggle with staff and student illness from COVID-19, with case numbers in the thousands across Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. In Hillsborough, superintendent Addison Davis, who was recovering from COVID-19 this past week, asked that meetings and training be held virtually where possible. These included a principal’s meeting, a new teacher training, a citizens’ budget committee and an upcoming meeting of the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion task force. The four-county total for the past week was 6,172 cases, down from 7,098 the previous week. Since classes began in August, the case total is 45,462. At just over halfway through the school year, that’s nearly triple the number for all of 2020-21.
—“Hillsborough to open COVID-19 drive-thru test site at Adventure Island” via Jamal Thalji of the Tampa Bay Times
“COVID-19 deaths increase while cases drop in Lee and Collier” via Dan Deluca of the Naples Daily News — COVID-19 deaths in Lee and Collier counties are on the rise, weeks after the surge of the omicron variant began. The two counties reported a combined 26 virus-related deaths for the week ending Jan. 20. That’s five more deaths than the previous week’s total and the most in a week since late October. There have been 1,901 reported COVID-19 deaths in Lee County and 904 in Collier since the pandemic began. The jump in reported deaths comes as the numbers of cases and hospitalizations are stabilizing. Deaths can take weeks to appear in state and national statistics. Lee Health, the largest hospital operator in Southwest Florida, reported six COVID-19 patient deaths on Thursday, making it the deadliest day of 2022. Lee Health reported 22 deaths for the week ending Jan. 20, and 47 deaths from COVID-19 so far this month.
“UF tells students sick with COVID-19 to leave dorms, go home, prompting outrage,” via Danielle Ivanov of The Gainesville Sun — The policy itself is much the same as it was during the fall 2021 term, but now set in the context of the omicron variant, students and their families have been questioning the university’s decision to have COVID-positive students quarantine off campus while also not providing separate housing for the sick or guarantee online class accommodations for those who are infected.
“Three things you can do to beat omicron” via John Couris of Tampa General Hospital for the Tampa Bay Times — We are entering the third year of the pandemic. People are tired. Frustrated. No one feels this more than the health care workers on the front lines of the war against COVID-19. For more than two years, the doctors, nurses, technicians, and other support staff of Tampa General Hospital and hospitals across the nation and worldwide have gone to great lengths to care for us and keep us safe. Whether or not you get the vaccine is your choice. I chose to get the vaccine and the booster. We have the option to wear a mask and practice physical distancing. You may be a young, healthy person. You may not be at high risk. What’s important is to consider the individuals around you.
— 2022 —
“Facing tough ’22 elections, Dems want a year of achievements” via Alan Fram of The Associated Press — Staring at midterm elections that could cost them control of Congress, Democrats are trying to sculpt a 2022 legislative agenda that would generate achievements and reassure voters that they’re addressing pocketbook problems and can govern competently. Last year, Biden and congressional Democrats notched two massive accomplishments: a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure package. Yet also imprinted on voters’ minds are the months of Democratic infighting over priorities that saw holdouts embarrass Biden and party leaders by scuttling two top goals: their roughly $2 trillion, 10-year social and environment measure and voting rights legislation. Democrats are looking to claim election-year wins in a Congress they steer with almost no votes to spare, often against solid Republican opposition.
“Virginia’s education wars emerge in Florida Governor’s race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Democrat Crist’s gubernatorial campaign this week rolled out a group of parents dubbed “Parents for Crist” that he says will be an “organizing force” for his campaign. Crist’s move is a clear attempt to boost his chances in the wake of Virginia’s big November upset, where Glenn Youngkin trounced Terry McAuliffe in part by tapping into parents’ anger with local school boards over issues like mask mandates and critical race theory. Parents have clashed over how their children are taught and have fought against topics like critical race theory and book banning. DeSantis too has made education one of his top priorities and regularly blasts “wokeness” in schools while attempting to wrestle control of education from school boards.
“This week in South Florida: Nikki Fried” via Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg of Local 10 News — The big news of the week involved Fried, not for what she did but for what she said. Fried is the state’s lone Democrat elected statewide and a candidate for Governor in the party primary, but the headlines she made last week came from her comments comparing DeSantis to Adolf Hitler. She joined This Week in South Florida hosts Putney and Milberg to discuss.
“Retired Navy captain emphasizes leadership experience in joining crowded CD 7 Republican field” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican congressional candidate Kevin “Mac” McGovern wants to be seen for his conservative views and leadership credentials without any of the loud, angry, dishonorable rhetoric he attributes to both extremes of current politics. McGovern is one of the latest candidates to enter the crowded Republican field to run in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. The seat, which covers Seminole County and parts of Orange County, is opening because three-term Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy has decided not to seek a fourth term. McGovern is a retired Navy Captain who has moved in and out of active duty with the Navy Reserve and into the private sector throughout the past several decades.
— CORONA NATION —
“Trump appointee blocks Joe Biden federal worker vaccine mandate” via The Associated Press — U.S. judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction on Friday barring the federal government from enforcing Biden‘s requirement that federal workers without qualifying medical or religious exemptions to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Judge Jeffrey Brown, appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by Trump, ruled that opponents of Biden’s vaccination mandate for federal employees were likely to succeed at trial and blocked the government from enforcing the requirement. The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling.
“Omicron cases appear to peak in U.S., but deaths continue to rise” via Mitch Smith, Julie Bosman and Tracey Tully of The New York Times — New coronavirus cases have started to fall nationally, signaling that the omicron-fueled spike that has infected tens of millions of Americans, packed hospitals and shattered records has finally begun to relent. More and more states have passed a peak in new cases in recent days, as glimmers of progress have spread from a handful of eastern cities to much of the country. The country averaged about 720,000 new cases a day through Friday, down from about 807,000 last week. New coronavirus hospital admissions have leveled off. Even as hopeful data points emerge, the threat has by no means passed. The United States continues to identify far more infections a day than in any prior surge, and some states in the West, South and Great Plains are still seeing sharp increases.
“FDA approves use of antiviral drug remdesivir as an outpatient therapy for people with COVID-19” via Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — Federal regulators Friday approved the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir for COVID-19 outpatients at high risk of being hospitalized, providing a new treatment option for doctors struggling with shortages of effective drugs to counter the coronavirus. The FDA said the intravenous treatment, which had been limited to patients in the hospital, could be administered to outpatients with mild-to-moderate illnesses. Remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, was among the first coronavirus treatments authorized in 2020. The drug received full agency approval later that year for people 12 and older. Treatment of younger children is permitted under an emergency use authorization, but Friday’s expansion to outpatients includes both age groups.
“FDA considers limiting authorization of certain monoclonal antibody treatments” via Steve Contorno of CNN — Federal regulators are considering limiting the authorization of certain monoclonal antibody treatments that have not proved effective against the omicron variant of the coronavirus. The FDA could decide in the coming days to take steps to curb the use of antibody treatments produced by Eli Lilly and Regeneron, the source said, pointing to the growing body of evidence that shows their monoclonal therapies don’t effectively neutralize the virus’ omicron variant. The National Institutes of Health had recently updated its guidelines to advise clinics against using these treatments on patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 due to their diminished effectiveness against the omicron variant. The treatments have remained popular among some Governors, who continue to push them despite the recent data. Over the last two weeks, states have distributed nearly 110,000 doses of the Lily and Regeneron treatments.
“Stressed hospitals are asking workers with COVID-19 to return — even if they may be infectious” via Brittany Shammas and Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — Hospitals are increasingly asking staff who have the coronavirus to work while potentially infectious, underscoring how the hyper-transmissible omicron variant has sidelined employees, overwhelmed resources and upended nearly two years of strict protocols. Though vaccine requirements are common at hospitals, many health care workers are coming down with the virus, exacerbating staffing issues. Ten-day isolation periods have given way to five-day ones under C.D.C. guidelines updated late last month, with workers sometimes allowed back as long as symptoms are deemed mild and improving. Some in the health care industry call the changes dangerous to already-demoralized front-line workers and their patients.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“‘That raise meant nothing’: Inflation is wiping out pay increases for most Americans” via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — Ty Stehlik, who works the front desk at a hotel in Milwaukee, pleaded for a raise all through the pandemic, and finally got an extra $1 an hour in the fall to make $15. But higher prices for rent and food have completely negated that 7% bump. Stehlik, who identifies as nonbinary, says they’re still relying on family for help covering rent and groceries. “That raise meant nothing,” said Stehlik. After years of barely budging, wage growth is finally at its highest level in decades. The same strong economic recovery that is emboldening workers is also driving up inflation, leaving most Americans with less spending power than they had a year ago. Overall wages fell 2.4% on average for all workers, when adjusted for inflation.
“Why the pandemic’s work-from-home tech darlings are falling back to earth” via Aaron Gregg of The Washington Post — The early months of the pandemic brought soaring fortunes for a handful of uniquely positioned tech companies that benefited from a work-from-home economy. For many of them, it didn’t last. Roughly two years into the pandemic, several of 2020′s highfliers have seen their stock valuations under pressure while the world returns to something more closely resembling a normal business cycle. On Thursday, Peloton’s stock fell roughly 25% as the company pursued an aggressive plan for “right-sizing” its manufacturing operations. Netflix’s stock lost a fifth of its value on Friday after an earnings report revealed its subscriber growth had slowed. And the teleconferencing company Zoom lost 60% of its stock value throughout 2021 as people returned to their offices.
“U.S. food supply is under pressure, from plants to store shelves” via Jesse Newman and Jaewon Kang of The Wall Street Journal — The U.S. food system is under renewed strain as COVID-19’s omicron variant stretches workforces from processing plants to grocery stores, leaving gaps on supermarket shelves. In Arizona, one in 10 processing plant and distribution workers at a major produce company was recently out sick. In Massachusetts, employee illnesses have slowed the flow of fish to supermarkets and restaurants. A grocery chain in the U.S. Southeast had to hire temporary workers after roughly one-third of employees at its distribution centers fell ill. Food-industry executives and analysts warn that the situation could persist for weeks or months, even as the current wave of COVID-19 infections eases. Some executives say supply challenges are worse than ever.
— MORE CORONA —
“Biden plan to ship 500 million coronavirus test kits transforms Postal Service into relief agency” via Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post — The U.S. Postal Service’s mission to deliver 500 million coronavirus test kits has cast it in an unprecedented role in the nation’s pandemic response just as COVID-19 infections have peaked within its own ranks and its network is under immense strain. Online orders began rolling in this week for the free rapid tests, scheduled to ship by the end of the month. The agency has hired thousands of seasonal workers and converted more than 40 facilities into ad hoc fulfillment centers in what experts have called the largest disaster-relief mobilization in its 247-year history. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy hopes the test-kit assignment will relieve political heat on the agency caused by his controversial 10-year cost-cutting plan and its tumultuous performance during the 2020 presidential election.
“‘The CDC alone can’t fix this’: Rochelle Walensky calls for overhaul of U.S. public health system” via Erin Banco of POLITICO — The U.S. needs to rethink its approach to tackling COVID-19 by rebuilding the nation’s public health system, CDC Director Walensky said. It’s been a year since Walensky took over the public health agency, and the country has gone through a vaccine rollout, seen variants emerge and witnessed three massive surges. To Walensky, the pandemic shows no signs of vanishing. This week, an average of 740,000 infections were reported each day. On Thursday, more than 2,400 people were reported as having died from COVID-19. Now, as the pandemic enters the third year, she said the CDC needs help to fight COVID-19. If the pandemic is to turn endemic, a situation top Biden health officials say they could more easily control, the U.S. needs to overhaul the nation’s public health workforce, she said.
“Game-changing COVID-19 pills remain out of reach for some patients” via Lauren Gardner of POLITICO — Antiviral COVID-19 pills were billed as game-changers for the way they could provide a convenient way to treat infections at home and keep people out of the hospital. But that assumed patients could get the drugs quickly. Instead, a flurry of regulatory, testing and logistical issues complicate the rollout, potentially requiring people with symptoms to make multiple stops at doctors’ offices or testing sites within the five-day window when the drugs are recommended. The two pill options already came with some caveats. Trials have shown Molnupiravir is the less effective of the two and is not recommended for pregnant people or children because of possible side effects. Paxlovid interacts with a host of blood pressure, cholesterol and other widely used drugs, meaning patients may have to suspend taking those medications.
“New conservative target: Race as factor in COVID-19 treatment” via Todd Richmond of The Associated Press — Some conservatives are taking aim at policies that allow doctors to consider race as a risk factor when allocating scarce COVID-19 treatments, saying the protocols discriminate against white people. The wave of infections brought on by the omicron variant and a shortage of treatments have focused attention on the policies. Medical experts say the opposition is misleading. Health officials have long said there is a strong case for considering race as one of many risk factors in treatment decisions. And there is no evidence that race alone is being used to decide who gets medicine.
“Hallelujah, NBA, NFL phasing out COVID-19 testing and living life again!!!” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — Now, after increased testing during the holiday rush caused several players to miss games as the omicron variant surged throughout the world, the NBA, as planned, has gone back to its previous policy; a policy of no COVID-19 testing whatsoever for vaccinated, boosted and asymptomatic players, coaches and staff members. The NBA’s message now: Let’s play ball and get back to normal, even if it is a new normal. The NFL sent out a memo to all of its teams on Friday telling them that the league will no longer test any asymptomatic players, whether they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. Moving forward, the league will test only players who display COVID-19 symptoms.
“Gonzaga suspends John Stockton’s season tickets over mask rule” via The Associated Press — Gonzaga has suspended Stockton’s basketball season tickets after the Hall of Fame point guard refused to comply with the university’s mask mandate. Stockton, one of Gonzaga’s most prominent alums, confirmed the move in a Saturday interview with The Spokesman-Review. Stockton has come out against COVID-19 vaccines, mask mandates and other protective measures. Last June, he participated in a documentary titled “COVID-19 and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed.” Stockton claimed without evidence that more than 100 professional athletes have died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Ron Klain under scrutiny as Biden struggles” via Mike Memoli, Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker and Courtney Kube of NBC News — As President Biden looks for a reset at the start of his second year in office, the spotlight on Klain, the White House chief of staff, is especially bright. From inside the administration, some officials express concern that Klain “micromanages” the West Wing and gives outsize credence to cable news and social media. Senior White House officials counter that even the friendly fire from fellow Democrats doesn’t reflect reality. They attribute much of the grumbling to politics, personal score-settling and constraints that the coronavirus has put on Biden’s ability to reach out.
“Biden nominates former Stacey Abrams lawyer for campaign finance watchdog” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Biden is nominating a new Commissioner to the Federal Election Commission, the nation’s chief campaign finance watchdog. The White House announced on Friday that Biden was putting forward Dara Lindenbaum, a campaign finance attorney, to join the six-member board governing the agency, which is charged with enforcing campaign finance laws and issuing opinions guiding federal office seekers. Lindenbaum was general counsel to Abrams‘ 2018 Georgia gubernatorial run and deputy general counsel for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley‘s 2016 presidential bid. If confirmed, she would replace longtime Commissioner Steven Walther, who said in a statement that he would remain on the board until the Senate confirms his replacement.
“Biden as a new F.D.R.? Try L.B.J.” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — Biden was supposed to be another Roosevelt, a Democratic President who enacted transformative liberal legislation and in doing so built a lasting political coalition. Biden’s efforts have shifted from the pandemic and the economy to also pursue longstanding Democratic policy goals: universal prekindergarten, climate change, voting rights, a child tax credit. Only 33 percent of voters say the president is focused on the issues they “care a lot about.” It’s not so much Roosevelt’s New Deal as Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. One launched an era of Democratic dominance; the other brought that era to its end. Perhaps the history books will remember Biden for putting America on a path to normalcy. But Americans do not have that impression of the Biden administration today.
— D.C. MATTERS —
Assignment editors — U.S. Sen. Rick Scott will host a news conference with Boston Celtics Center and human rights activist Enes Kanter Freedom, as well as members of the Uyghur and Hong Kong communities to highlight human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party, 3:30 p.m., Russell Rotunda (SR-325), Washington D.C. RSVP to [email protected] to attend.
“Matt Gaetz quits Capitol Hill Club over D.C. vaccine passport mandate” via Craig Bannister of CNS News — At least two members of Congress have canceled their memberships at a popular D.C. club, due to a vaccine passport mandate imposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser on the Nation’s Capital. “As a result of their compliance requiring vax papers for entry, I am canceling my membership at the Capitol Hill Club,” Rep. Gaetz declared. “As you likely know, our Club must comply with Mayor Bowser’s vaccination mandate, effective Jan 15. To enter the Club, all persons must display proof of at least one vaccination,” the Capitol Hill Club website tells patrons.
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, joined by Sen. Tina Polsky and others, will host a virtual news conference on the current state of American democracy and the importance of the voting rights legislation, 10:30 a.m. RSVP to [email protected] for the link.
“Anti-Muslim bigot Laura Loomer ambushes Republican retreat” via Zachary Petrizzo of The Daily Beast — Perpetual Republican Florida congressional candidate Loomer ambushed the National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy at a Saturday morning retreat in Miami. “During a staff NRCC briefing for donors, Laura Loomer stood up and asked why the party committee isn’t trying to defeat Liz Cheney and the others who voted to impeach [Donald] Trump.” Citing sources, he noted Loomer “was not on the list for the retreat, and they [NRCC] are not sure how she got in.” Loomer disputed that, claiming she was a guest of “one of the biggest” and a “very well respected [NRCC] donor.”
Spotted — On POLITICO Influence’s revenue rankings: Ballard Partners, which earned an estimated $18.6 million in federal lobbying revenue last year (versus $24.6 million in 2020), including $4.5 million in the fourth quarter. The performance earned the firm the No. 17 spot on the list.
— CRISIS —
“‘Downhill,’ ‘divisive’: Americans sour on nation’s direction in new NBC News poll” via Mark Murray of NBC News — Overwhelming majorities of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, that their household income is falling behind the cost of living, that political polarization will only continue and that there’s a real threat to the nation’s democracy and majority rule. That pessimism and gloom isn’t helping the party in control of the White House and Congress. While the poll shows Democrats enjoying a narrow 1-point advantage over Republicans as the party that should control Congress, it also shows Biden’s job approval rating remaining in the low 40s.
“Videos show ‘Stop the Steal’ rally organizer saying he would work with extremist groups” via Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck of CNN — Ali Alexander, a leader of the “Stop the Steal” rally and a central figure in the House select committee’s investigation of Jan. 6, said he would reach out to the right-wing Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on providing security for the event. Both groups later had members charged in the attack on the Capitol, including conspiracy. Last week, the Justice Department charged the Oath Keepers leader and 10 others with seditious conspiracy related to the attack. Alexander has not been charged or implicated in any unlawful act. He has denied working with anyone, including lawmakers or extremist groups, to attack the Capitol.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Read the never-issued Trump order that would have seized voting machines” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — Among the records that Trump’s lawyers tried to shield from Jan. 6 investigators are a draft executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines and a document titled “Remarks on National Healing.” The executive order was never issued. The remarks are a draft of a speech Trump gave the next day. Together, the two documents point to the wildly divergent perspectives of White House advisers and allies during Trump’s frenetic final weeks in office. The draft executive order shows that the weeks between Election Day and the Capitol attack could have been even more chaotic than they were. The order empowers the defense secretary to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under” a U.S. law that relates to the preservation of election records.
—”‘I’d like to report an insurrection!’ CNN’s Jim Acosta calls on DeSantis to send election police to Mar-a-Lago” via John Wright of RawStory
“Rudy Giuliani associate gets year in prison in foreign donor case” via Larry Neumeister of The Associated Press — A Florida man who helped Giuliani seek damaging information against Biden in Ukraine was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and fined $10,000 Friday in an unrelated campaign finance case. Igor Fruman was told to report to prison March 14. He pleaded guilty in September to a single charge of solicitation of a contribution by a foreign national. As part of the plea, he admitted soliciting a million dollars from a Russian entrepreneur, Andrey Muraviev, to donate to Republicans in Nevada, Florida and other states. Federal prosecutors in New York had urged Judge J. Paul Oetken to sentence Fruman to between three and four years in prison. Defense lawyers had argued he should face no incarceration because he has otherwise led a law-abiding life. Oetken said the crime of soliciting foreign money for U.S. political campaigns was serious and deserved incarceration.
“GOP voters still like Trump, but many ambivalent about 2024 run” via Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report — Normally, a one-term President, who presided over the loss of the House and Senate and came up short in his own re-election campaign, would be a pariah within his party. Trump, of course, has only tightened his grip on the party since losing re-election. Among Republicans, Trump enjoys a 70% favorable rating. Republicans aren’t opposed to Trump running again. Yet, for a few weeks now, I’ve picked up signs of ambivalence from some GOP voters about the thought of Trump running again in 2024. These aren’t anti-Trump types. They like Trump. They’d support a candidate for a down-ballot contest like Senate or House who had Trump’s backing. But, they are not sure they want a rerun.
“Ann Coulter is rooting for a Trump-DeSantis throw-down. She’s not alone.” via Michelle Cottle of The New York Times — Coulter has a gift for pushing just the right buttons to inflict maximum irritation. She has been a top-tier troll since Trump was little more than a failed casino magnate. “No one wants Trump,” she asserted in a column last week. “He’s fading faster than Sarah Palin did — and she was second place on a losing presidential ticket.” Parsing recent polling data, Coulter made the case that high approval for Trump among Republicans is less about his enduring appeal than about the G.O.P. having been boiled down to a Trumpian rump. Increasingly, she contended, “the only people calling themselves ‘Republicans’ these days are the Trump die-hards.”
—LOCAL NOTES —
“Mark Rosenberg resigns amid sexual harassment investigation” via Maya Washburn of Panther Now — Two days after Rosenberg’s abrupt resignation from FIU, a sexual harassment complaint has challenged both the University’s and former president’s initial statements over his departure. The original announcement of his resignation, released on Friday, Jan. 21, centered both his and his wife’s health as the cause. The former president’s statement to the University on Sunday uncovered the reason behind the sudden end of his 13-year tenure leading FIU. Rosenberg sought mental health counseling in the wake of his wife’s declining health in October 2021. He admitted that the situation spilled over into the workplace and caused “discomfort for a valued colleague.” The harassment complaint against him involved several forms of communication, including text messages.
“Source: FIU employee confided to colleague that Rosenberg had been harassing her” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — A young woman who worked closely with the Florida International University president confided to a colleague in December that Rosenberg harassed her for months, triggering an investigation that led to his abrupt resignation, according to a source close to the investigation. FIU hired an outside law firm to lead the investigation, which began in mid-December and will likely end with a final report in the next few weeks, the source said. Investigators are examining text messages, emails and in-person conversations between Rosenberg, 72, and the FIU employee, who is in her 20s. A second source confirmed the investigation.
—@GiancarloSopo: All of the Florida Democrats who falsely accused Gov. DeSantis of being the reason why Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg abruptly resigned on Friday look incredibly stupid right now.
“Judge: legal costs in Florida condo collapse may reach $100M” via The Associated Press — The legal fees and costs associated with the deadly collapse of a Florida beachfront condominium building could reach $100 million, a judge said Friday. That’s why Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman urged all sides to work toward mediated settlements of numerous claims arising from the Champlain Towers South disaster. “Put forth a Herculean effort to settle these claims if possible,” Hanzman said at a hearing held remotely. There are claims for wrongful death and for property loss that could take years to resolve, including possible appeals, without some kind of settlement. Champlain Towers was in the midst of its 40-year structural review when it collapsed, triggering multiple federal and state investigations and a flurry of lawsuits by victims, families and condo owners.
“While desperate renters waited for federal aid, conflicts delayed approvals in Broward” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hundreds of past-due renters in Broward County waited weeks and months last year for promised federal rental assistance money as they feared eviction orders that would leave them homeless. As their applications for assistance languished, county employees sparred with Pasadena, California-based Tetra Tech Recovery Services, a global contractor that County Administrator Bertha Henry hired last spring to review applications, answer phone calls and make eligibility recommendations. One reason was that county administrators decided early last year to require that applicants provide more documentation than U.S. Treasury Department guidelines required in order to prove that they lost income due to the pandemic or were in danger of losing their homes.
“Miami Beach police investigates after anti-Semitic flyers were distributed overnight” via Omar Rodríguez Ortiz — Miami Beach police is investigating the origin of anti-Semitic flyers that were distributed in residential neighborhoods overnight, the department said Sunday. Police increased patrols in neighborhoods and religious institutions following the first report received shortly after 7 a.m., Ernesto Rodriguez, the department’s spokesperson, said. “There is no place for hate in our community and it will not be tolerated,” he said. In a tweet, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said that hundreds of families found small plastic bags with the anti-Semitic flyer and small rocks inside. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, the county’s first Jewish Mayor, called the community to “condemn this disturbing flyer.”
This morning hundreds of homes in our community found plastic bags outside their homes filled with a hateful anti-Semitic flyer and small pebbles. @MiamiBeachPD is actively investigating to determine their origin. As a precaution we’ve increased patrols in our neighborhoods and… pic.twitter.com/5bx0RvnRoD
— Dan Gelber (@MayorDanGelber) January 23, 2022
“County Commissioner derails renaming of Miami Beach Convention Center for cruise line” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — A proposal to rename the Miami Beach Convention Center after Norwegian Cruise Line may be dead in the water after Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins lobbied city leaders to reject it. Higgins, whose district includes Miami Beach, spoke out against the $12 million deal at a Thursday meeting at City Hall. She argued that the deal was unfair to county taxpayers who helped fund the renovation of the city-owned facility, which she said was part of the brand of Miami-Dade as a region. Were Miami Beach to name the center after Norwegian, Higgins said she would propose to divert most of the revenue the city would receive to a tax-funded trust that helps underwrite the convention center. In an interview Friday, she said she expected that the naming-rights deal would no longer be considered. The deal would earn the city between $1 million and $1.35 million. It would begin March 1 and end Jan. 2032.
“Brightline complex cleared for 2,000 residential units in towers by Government Center” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Brightline’s parent company plans 2,000 residential units in a pair of towers next to its downtown Miami train station, with the new residential complex rising next to another transit hub in Miami-Dade County’s Government Center. The vacant property at the corner of Northwest First Avenue and Northwest Third Street forms the southern end of a five-block corridor that Brightline parent Florida East Coast Industries assembled for its for-profit train depot that opened in 2018, and for the cluster of residential and commercial buildings going up around the station. Miami-Dade County Commissioners on Thursday approved development of the two mixed-use towers, exercising their authority to control zoning within city limits if the land sits near the county-owned Metrorail line. The developer hasn’t said whether the units will be sold as condominiums, rented as apartments or a combination of the two.
“Clearwater Council candidate Aaron Smith-Levin punched after allegedly calling woman a ‘c–t’” via Daniel Figueroa — A Clearwater City Council candidate is accused of harassing a woman and calling her vulgar names multiple times during a September incident, police body camera footage shows. The video captures about 15 minutes of interaction between Clearwater Police officers and Aaron Smith-Levin. In the March municipal election, Smith-Levin, a 41-year-old former Scientologist, is running for Seat 5 on the Clearwater City Council. According to the video, Smith-Levin called officers on Sept. 17 after a man punched him in the face at Fusion Cigar Lounge on Clearwater Beach. Smith-Levin told officers he was out collecting signatures to get his name on the ballot when the boyfriend of a woman he knew from their time in Scientology approached him.
“Tampa lead factory faces $518,000 in more fines for environmental violations” via Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington and Eli Murray of the Tampa Bay Times — A Tampa lead factory is facing $518,000 in additional fines following a two-month inspection by local environmental regulators prompted by a Tampa Bay Times investigation. If finalized, the penalty against Gopher Resource would be the largest in the history of the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, said Sterlin Woodard, the lead investigator on the case. In April, county regulators began their wide-ranging inspection of Gopher after the Times’ investigation detailed dangerous working conditions inside the factory. The county’s probe confirmed many of the newsroom’s findings. The Commission’s actions come on top of federal penalties issued in September. Combined, Gopher faces $837,000 in fines. The county’s investigation found more than two dozen possible violations.
Personnel note: Kathleen McGrory leaves Tampa Bay Times — McGrory announced Friday that she will leave her post as deputy editor of investigations at the Tampa Bay Times to become a reporter at ProPublica, effective Jan. 24. “I joined the staff in 2015 and instantly knew I had landed somewhere special,” she said of the Times. “This newsroom is home to some of the most talented and generous journalists in America, and I’m proud to have been part of it.” She said she is “beyond excited” to join ProPublica and that the new position will allow her to “work alongside some of my journalism heroes.”
“Poll shows Naples incumbents favored, but there’s a fight for a third City Council seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A poll of the upcoming elections in Naples shows incumbent Council members Ray Christman and Terry Hutchison in strong position to win re-election. But there’s a battle for a third available spot at the dais. The poll from Victory Insights, which has a presence in Naples, released results from a survey taken ahead of the Feb. 1 municipal election. The at-large race puts five candidates on the same ballot, with the top three vote-getters winning seats. While the pollsters acknowledge such races are difficult to gauge, a survey considering voter rankings of candidates modeled the election and predicted results if the vote happened today. It found Christman and Hutchison with solid support. Ultimately, the poll concluded Hutchison had a 94% chance of winning a seat, and Christman had a 91% chance.
“Washington County residents vote to end ‘dry’ law, allow hard liquor” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Washington County’s prohibition on the sale of hard liquor is coming to an end. County residents voted 2-1 in a special election Friday that only had one issue on the ballot: whether the county would become a ‘wet’ and allow restaurants and businesses to sell liquor or remain ‘dry.’ Washington was one of just three Florida counties (Lafayette and Liberty) that still had dry law restrictions. About 30% of registered voters in the county participated in the referendum. Three thousand four hundred nine residents backed lifting the ban, while 1,729 voted to keep it. On the referendum’s second question, over 70% voted to allow the sale of liquor packages and drinks instead of just packages. Washington County Supervisor of Elections Carol Rudd said the turnout was expected.
“J.T. Burnette reports early to federal prison camp in Alabama in FBI public corruption case” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Burnette, convicted on public corruption charges in the FBI’s “Operation Capital Currency,” has reported to a federal prison camp in Alabama. The wealthy businessman, developer and hotelier is serving a three-year sentence for extortion and related crimes at the minimum-security camp located on the grounds of Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Burnette, who had been free since shortly after his arrest in 2019, reported to prison slightly earlier than required. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over his trial in July and August at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee, ordered him to report by Sunday.
“Franklin Co. Sheriff’s Office collecting donations for family who lost 2 girls in mobile home fire” via WCTV — The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed two children died in a mobile home fire overnight Friday. Authorities said it happened around 1 a.m. at a home in Eastpoint, on Wilderness Road, the same street where flames claimed dozens of homes three and a half years ago. Multiple agencies responded to the initial call, including the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Carrabelle Police Department and the Apalachicola Police Department. First responders made it to the scene within minutes of receiving the call; unfortunately, they didn’t make it in time to save the children who died. Officials believe the fire was caused by a heating lamp the family was using to keep a litter of puppies warm. FCSO says the puppies also died in the fire.
“Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Jacob Panetta suspended for racist gesture in ECHL hockey game” via Clayton Freeman of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Panetta was suspended indefinitely by the league and released by the club Sunday, accused of making a racist gesture toward the South Carolina Stingrays’ Jordan Subban during Saturday night’s ECHL hockey game at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Panetta, a 26-year-old from Belleville, Ontario, is accused of making a monkey gesture at Subban, who is Black, during a fight 23 seconds into overtime. Video shows Panetta appearing to raise his arms toward his side while looking at Subban in the aftermath of the initial scuffle. The ECHL office announced Sunday just before noon that Panetta is under indefinite suspension, pending a hearing under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. The Icemen announced his release Sunday afternoon.
— TOP OPINION —
“Without Trump, does the unlikeable, boring DeSantis stand a chance?” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The twist in the story I did not expect was how similar DeSantis and Scott turned out to be. How could someone be as mortifyingly awkward, as devoid of charisma, as morally bankrupt, as cringingly scripted as Scott? It didn’t seem possible; it was like wondering how a Beyond Meat patty could be less meaty. As if it were a personal challenge, DeSantis seems on a mission to be Florida’s coldest Governor. And what a long winter it’s been. Fittingly, DeSantis and Scott, both harboring presidential ambitions, can’t stand one another. DeSantis once, and briefly, feigned moderation and good sense, and his steady, steep decline from those early days in his governorship was at least a bit interesting. DeSantis nonetheless poses an interesting problem for Trump because he is not only a rival but a rival who has meticulously fashioned himself after Trump.
— OPINIONS —
“The legal walls are closing in around Trump” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — Defeated former President Trump just had a really bad week. He faces, perhaps for the first time in his political career, a real prospect of being held accountable for his conduct in multiple legal challenges. Start with New York, where state Attorney General Letitia James showed her hand in the pending civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s finances. She made some powerful accusations on Tuesday concerning six of the business’s properties. Trump’s risk of criminal liability escalated in the case in Georgia concerning his attempt to bully secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find” just enough vote to reverse Georgia’s election outcome.
“What’s Marco Rubio done for Florida?” via The Palm Beach Post — We elected Sen. Rubio to represent the interests of Floridians and vote for the policies that would improve our lives. But has he? Or has he been a silent soldier marching like a lemming to Mitch McConnell‘s orders to obstruct any and every idea put forward to help America catch up with the rest of the world in our social policies? Here are some of the initiatives Rubio has made it clear he will vote against: increased Social Security benefits for seniors, including vision and dental coverage; lower prescription prices, again which would help seniors who are being gouged by the big drug companies; universal pre-K for children three and four years old; affordable housing, of which Palm Beach County has little. He’s opposed to addressing climate change, which is already starting to affect any Floridian living near our coastline.
“Florida feels like another planet compared with Quebec” via Josh Freed for the Montreal Gazette — A friend told me about an available condo in Florida, my wife and I made a last-second decision to briefly escape and work remotely. But the second we landed, it felt like we’d arrived on another planet. While Quebec is in full confinement mode, Florida is Cowboyland, where you barely know COVID-19 is happening, despite much higher new case and hospitalization rates than ours. It’s lunacy by Canadian standards, but an eye-opening experience. For starters, everyone’s out and about, filling bars, restaurants, movies, gyms, and jam-packed sports arenas. Stores and supermarkets don’t require masks, but some cashiers and customers wear them, though often under their nose or chin Florida-style. Every Florida pharmacy does free PCR tests, even for traveling foreigners. It seems bizarre in a country with no universal Medicare, where people are often bankrupted by medical bills.
“DeSantis has been avoiding election fraud in Florida, not pursuing it” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — DeSantis is about to “round up the usual suspects” this Legislative Session with a call for his own Office of Election Crime and Security. The Governor is claiming that he needs a 52-person unit that includes 45 investigators to root out election fraud in the state. And it sounds like he thinks they’ll find some, because he’s also proposing to hire six state prosecutors to handle nothing but election-crime cases. And it’s coming after an election year where more than 18 million ballots were cast in Florida and just 75 instances of fraud complaints were forwarded from the state’s Secretary of State to local law-enforcement agencies. The biggest examples of retail voter fraud in Florida’s 2020 elections were that four old men in The Villages thought they could get away with voting in two states.
—”Ron DeSantis’s election police squad would poison democracy” via The Washington Post editorial board
“Straight, white male? Florida’s GOP wants to protect you from ‘guilt’ and ‘anguish’” via the Miami Herald editorial board — A proposed law would “prevent all kinds of discrimination” at Florida public schools and workplaces, based on the principle that “all individuals are created equal” and that teachers should teach, not indoctrinate. But despite the platitudes its sponsor used to describe Senate Bill 148 and House Bill 7, this is not an effort to stop real discrimination. The true intent of the legislation advancing in the Florida Senate is to provide state cover for students and employees offended by diversity training at private companies and by classroom lectures about racism, sexism and homophobia. The plan is to subvert what we have historically considered discrimination. Under the proposal, it’s possible that this group of people could claim discrimination if they feel uncomfortable during a discussion of, say, bias or racism.
“Florida Democrats have an everything problem” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Any state party that’s coiled into retreat for two decades obviously has a messaging problem. The Democrats’ takeaway was not only dated, but superficial, self-atoning and self-defeating. Democrats haven’t occupied the Governor’s Office since Buddy MacKay served the final weeks of Lawton Chiles’ second term, ushering in Jeb Bush in Jan. 1999. Democrats hold only one statewide office. And they have lost down-ballot races even as the issues the party champions have proved popular among Florida voters. If Democrats think their problem is only messaging, the hurdles they face this election year are higher than they imagine. Democrats are only now waking up to the risks of not fully appreciating their traditional constituencies, having treated Hispanics as a monolith for so long while ignoring the nuanced interests of Black voters.
“If there’s fraud in the casino gambling petition drive, Florida voters deserve to know” via the Miami Herald editorial board — County elections supervisors across the state are reporting possible widespread fraud among signature-gatherers in the push to expand casino gambling in Florida. Election-related fraud is serious stuff, and the alarms have been sounded. A full seven weeks ago, Florida’s secretary of state, Laurel Lee, wrote a three-page letter to state Attorney General Ashley Moody. The Dec. 3 letter laid out information from six elections supervisors who said they suspect hundreds of cases of fraud in the signature-gathering process for a proposed constitutional amendment. The letter didn’t specify which constitutional amendment, but supervisors said the problems are coming from the casino gambling amendment. The problems outlined in Lee’s letter aren’t minor. Some forms included the names of dead people.
“Elliot Saunders: Proven solutions that can make Florida safer” via Florida Politics — I know from personal experience that making funeral arrangements or meeting with law enforcement following the death of a close family member can feel overwhelming. This burden is even worse if you fear that missing a few days of work will cost you your job. Florida already provides some recourse to victims of domestic violence who need time to find safe housing or file for an order of protection. The same work accommodations should be extended to families wracked by loss from murder. A legislative package, introduced as HB 611 by Rep. Michelle Salzman and as SB 1138 by Sen. Bobby Powell, further reduces the likelihood that someone on probation for a low-level offense will go to prison simply for failing to adhere to the conditions of their release or committing an infraction where no one was harmed.
“UF Presidential search must be transparent, free from political influence” via The Gainesville Sun editorial board — As the University of Florida prepares to search for its next president, state lawmakers are trying to make it easier to hide contenders for the position from the public. Bills being considered in the current state Legislative Session, HB 703 and SB 520, would shield the names of candidates for a state university or college presidency from public release until the finalists are selected. The legislation would also close meetings held to vet candidates to the public. But even under current law, a shadow selection process can happen outside of public view that flouts Florida’s Sunshine Law. During its last presidential search, UF held public meetings on such issues as compensation for the job but met privately with serious contenders in order to keep their names secret until late in the process.
“Remove the national anthem from games? You bet” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Ah, The Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. What better time to display our national pride than right before a game where overpaid knuckle-draggers attempt to concuss each other as we glug down beer in our salsa-stained jerseys while watching on TVs the size of garage doors? This week, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted in favor of legislation that would require professional teams in Florida to play the national anthem before games or risk losing government funds. State Sen. Joe Gruters sponsored the bill. State Rep. Tommy Gregory filed the House companion. Forget the fact that this is inventing an issue that doesn’t exist, as all teams currently play the song. Forget that for some Americans the song represents struggles in society not yet overcome.
“I earned my college degree with EASE” via Jacob Cooper for The Lakeland Ledger — College tuition is expensive. Florida’s EASE voucher helped me pay the bills. EASE is the Effective Access to Student Education school voucher funded by the Florida Legislature. Students who are residents of Florida and choose to attend independent, nonprofit higher education institutions are eligible to receive $2,841 per year toward their tuition payments. This voucher gives students access to earn a degree and the option to choose the school that is right for them. It is far cheaper for the state to support students through school choice vouchers than to expand the public schools to accommodate all students in pursuit of a degree. Tell your legislator that you support the EASE voucher. It’s critical that Florida continues to fund the EASE voucher for students like me to gain their education and contribute to our economy.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
DeSantis still won’t share his booster status, so does that mean he’s on the outs with Trump? Well, Trump says their supposed feud is “fake news.”
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— Florida Politics Reporter A.G. Gancarski shares his read on Trump, DeSantis, and “(Anthony) Fauci flip-flops.”
— The Governor has declared two Southwest Florida counties in states of emergency after tornadoes last weekend.
— And the new “smart” elevator system in the state Capitol has inspired a mocking Twitter account.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“From May Day celebration to parade of pirates, Tampa museum exhibit features 100 years of Gasparilla history” via Fox 13 News — Gasparilla season is here, and for the land lovers and uninitiated, the Henry Plant Museum offers a look back in time to learn the history of Tampa’s premiere pirate event. “It is a fantastic exhibit all about the history of Tampa’s most popular community festival,” explained Lindsay Huban, member manager at the Henry Plant Museum. “Gasparilla started in 1904 as a May Day celebration, some of the leading citizens invaded on horseback, they didn’t actually have a boat yet.” The museum is packed with the loot and luxury from parades past as the displays feature gowns from the 1920s, pirate costumes, and even the very first queen’s crown. Other photographs dating back to the 1930s and 40s show packed streets and the Hillsborough River filled with boats, all helping the pirates invade Tampa. It proves Tampa’s boat parade history goes back decades.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Alex Dominguez, Dana Loncar, ace photographer Scott Keeler, legislative staff attorney Roberta Skinner, and Karen Woodall. Belated happy birthday to Nick Matthews, Janee Murphy, Jacob Perry, Tom Jackson, and Luis Viera.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.