Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.8.22

Sunburn Orange Tally (4)
Florida politics — and more — you can read in as much time as your first cuppa joe.

Good Tuesday morning.

It’s two Republicans in a row as guests for the State of the Emergency podcast as Jared Moskowitz, and I welcome the influential Rep. Tom Leek. The Ormand Beach lawmaker deep-dives on the redistricting process he’s overseeing in the House, while also explaining why he doesn’t mind staying out of the headlines. From there, Jared and Peter talk a lot about Democrats and Disney. Lots and lots of Disney.

Listen here.

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This week, the Governors Club will play host to a “Winter Reception.”

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. and will raise funds to support the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program, a non-partisan program that provides college and university students of state government with on-the-job training in state government.

According to program organizers, students selected for the nine-month program receive “an invaluable front-line view of the inner workings of government.”

In addition to the time they spend at their respective state agencies, which are selected based on their college major, fellows meet weekly to discuss their experiences and get face time with high-level government leaders.

Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program gives a select group of students a front-row seat to the inner workings of Tallahassee. Image via Facebook.

Each fellowship class includes about a dozen students selected via a competitive application process.

Donations to Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program are tax-deductible. Checks should be made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes volunteerism in the state, with “Florida Gubernatorial Fellows” written in the memo line.

More information on the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program is available on Volunteer Florida’s website.

Organizers recommend attendees chip in $25. Donors who cannot swing by the Governor’s Club Wednesday evening are encouraged to mail a check to the Volunteer Florida Foundation at 1545 Raymond Diehl Road, Suite 250, Tallahassee, FL 32308.

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Florida’s Historic Capitol will be lit purple Tuesday night starting at 6 p.m.

Put on by the Alzheimer’s Association of Florida, the lighting is an annual event meant to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 6.2 million Americans, including 580,000 Floridians. Alzheimer’s and other dementias were estimated to cost the nation $355 billion last year.

Alzheimer’s Association Regional Leader Angela McAuley and Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Michelle Branham are scheduled to speak at the lighting ceremony. Additionally, according to a news release from the association, “several government officials” are expected to attend and speak during the ceremony.

The Capitol gets lit.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Florida will livestream the ceremony on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

On Wednesday, the association and Alzheimer’s advocates will follow up with a day of action, urging lawmakers to prioritize legislation that would boost Alzheimer’s research and treatment in Florida.

In recent years, the state has taken several steps favored by Alzheimer’s advocates. In 2021, lawmakers provided an additional $12 million toward research and treatment, bringing the state’s overall commitment to $51 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MarcACaputo: When the Deep South folks come all the way south to Miami, they struggle with the seemingly exotic-sounding names. And so Rep @GKButterfield at a hearing today re Spanish-language disinformation trips over the name of the city of Hialeah It’s HIGH-ah-LEE-ah (not Ha-LEE-ah)

@AGAshleyMoody: Not only is there chaos at the southwest border, @JoeBiden is building new policies, right now, using your tax dollars to fund a travel agency to run a massive illegal immigration operation.

@Karol: I know I’m supposed to be thrilled that left politicians, hysterical doctors & their media friends are all stating the obvious re COVID now, but … I’m not. No apology, no deference to those who were right, and o plan for what to do for people caught in their insanity.

@JTTallman: It’s so amusing how when a Democrat politician like Stacey Abrams is rightfully criticized for something, the media goes on overdrive to make it about the “Republicans attack” over the actual action of the Democrat politician.

@RealJacobPerry: It’s stunning just how bad Democrats are at politics.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Super Bowl LVI — 5; Will Smith‘s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 5; Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show begins — 8; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 8; Spring Training report dates begin — 9; Synapse Florida tech summit begins — 9; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 12; Daytona 500 — 12; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 15; Suits For Session — 15; CPAC begins — 16; St. Pete Grand Prix — 17; Biden to give the State of the Union address — 21; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 24; Miami Film Festival begins — 24; the 2022 Players begins — 28; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 28; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 43; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 45; The Oscars — 47; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 49; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 54; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 73; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 79; federal student loan payments will resume — 82; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 87; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 108; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 114; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 151; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 164; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 182; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 206; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 241; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 276; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 279; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 311; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 374; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 409; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 535; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 619; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 899.

—TOP STORY —

Ron DeSantis refuses to take sides in Donald Trump — Mike Pence clash as 2024 speculation grows” via Marc Caputo of NBC News — DeSantis declined on Monday to weigh in on one of the most divisive issues in the GOP: Could then-Vice President Pence have “overturned” the 2020 Presidential Election? Trump has repeatedly insisted that Pence could have changed the election outcome by upending the congressional certification of the results, overturning Biden‘s win. On Friday, Pence rebutted his former boss, saying Trump was “wrong” to suggest he had the authority to change the outcome of the election. Pressed by a reporter, DeSantis then changed the subject to say that he had a “great working relationship” with the Trump administration during the two years his administration overlapped with it.

Ron DeSantis stays above the Donald Trump/Mike Pence fray. Image via @SNNTV/Twitter.

— DATELINE TALLY —

DeSantis takes immigration fight with Joe Biden to Miami during legislative crunchtime” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis took his criticisms of Biden‘s immigration policies to Miami Monday, highlighting another angle of the Governor’s stand against the federal government. During a roundtable discussion held at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami, DeSantis contrasted the Biden administration’s policies on illegal immigration against the immigration trends that have fueled South Florida’s mixed culture. DeSantis called the current situation “effectively the largest human smuggling operation in American history” that began with an immigration “explosion” after Biden took office. Drug cartels have also taken advantage, driving fentanyl overdoses and the use of methamphetamines, the Governor said.

On the road: Ron DeSantis takes the immigration battle with Joe Biden to Miami. Image via @GovRonDeSantis/Twitter.

In his fight against ‘woke’ schools, DeSantis tears at the seams of a diverse Florida” via Tim Craig and Lori Rozsa of The Washington Post — The school system in Florida’s most populous county includes students whose families moved here from 160 nations. Its broad cultural mix is represented in the district’s curriculum, which includes not only American history, but also the stories of violent government upheavals, such as the revolution of enslaved people who founded Haiti, and the more recent political trauma of protesters who fled or perished in Castro’s Cuba. But as Florida lawmakers consider legislation to police what students are taught, Miami Beach Senior High School teacher Russell Rywell wonders if he will still be able to discuss how some of his students’ ancestors arrived in the United States.

DeSantis doesn’t want schools to teach ‘choosing your gender’ without parental involvement” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A reporter asked DeSantis about HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill that would more closely regulate discussions about gender and sexuality in K-12 classroom settings. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Harding, would require schools to notify parents of “critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being,” unless it is determined that notification would subject students to abuse at home. The bill also would allow parents to sue if they perceived a violation of their rights. Critics refer to it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But DeSantis defended the legislation as necessary to stop an apparent trend in schools of helping students figure out issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Big fan: Joe Harding’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill has at least one significant supporter.

Ashley Moody, Lenny Curry want court to settle CD 5 redistricting question” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Moody says the Florida Supreme Court should weigh in on a redistricting concern raised by DeSantis. The Florida Legislature agrees. But groups who successfully challenged maps passed by the Legislature a decade ago say it’s improper for the courts to consider the constitutionality of new maps before they even pass. DeSantis last week asked the court to advise him on whether Florida’s 5th Congressional District must be preserved as a minority access district on a new congressional map. In a legal brief filed Monday, Moody doesn’t take a side on that argument. But she does say that since the Governor holds veto power over Florida’s congressional map, the high court has a responsibility to provide an opinion.

DEP Secretary responds to wetlands permitting criticism — After a Senate panel advanced his confirmation on Monday, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton said that the agency’s dispute with the federal government over wetlands permitting is “not about being lax,” as some environmentalists have suggested. As reported by Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida, the criticism stems from a recent letter sent by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that said the federal agency disagrees with how DEP has handled wetland’s permitting, which was transferred from the federal government to the state in the waning days of the Trump administration. Hamilton said EPA’s concerns were merely “about following process” and that DEP is continuing to work with EPA to resolve the disagreement.

Erin Grall accuses Office of Insurance Regulation of ‘agency malpractice’ before PIP vote” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Over the objections of Florida insurance companies, the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee voted 15-3 to pass a bill that would eliminate Florida’s long-standing no-fault insurance program and requirement to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection. Before the vote, HB 1525 bill sponsor Rep. Grall called out the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for its decision to commission a report on the fiscal impact of a near identical bill from 2021 bill that eliminated PIP. The Pinnacle report was released by the OIR before Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill.

—TALLY 2 —

Florida Republicans ditch Texas-style abortion law for what they call a ‘generous’ 15-week ban, drawing criticism from all sides” via Caroline Kitchener of The Washington Post — Florida Republicans have coalesced around a bill they have come to describe as “very reasonable” and “generous,” a 15-week ban modeled after the Mississippi law in the U.S. Supreme Court case that will determine the future of Roe v. Wade. It’s an approach, they say, that would prevent only a fraction of the more than 70,000 abortions performed in Florida each year, the vast majority of which take place in the first trimester. “We’re not banning anything. We’re not being mean,” said state Sen. Kelli Stargel, the bill’s sponsor. The state’s current law allowing abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy is among the most lenient in the Southeast.

Stuck in the middle: Kelli Stargel is getting grief from all sides over her ‘reasonable’ abortion bill.

House seeks ‘consultation’ with DMS on Capitol closing decisions” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — When Florida partially shut down in April 2020 due to DeSantis’ executive order to protect against COVID-19, the state Capitol building also was shut down. The House wants the Legislature to have a greater say in decisions to close and reopen the Capitol, as well as decisions on construction projects, security concerns, monuments, and maintenance and upkeep of the Capitol complex. One of the measures released by the House Friday as part of its slate of budget conforming bills is HB 5301, which would require the Department of Management Services (DMS) to consult with the Senate President, House Speaker, Governor and Cabinet members on closing and reopening the Capitol and other buildings in the Capitol complex during a declared state of emergency.

Second House committee approves legislation allowing voters to recall more county officials” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Two bills that would offer voters the power to recall County Commissioners and other county officers passed their second committee Monday. HB 663, a bill that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot expanding Florida’s recall law to include county officers in all Florida counties, passed the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee with only two dissenting votes. HB 1399, which lays out the recall process for County Commissioners and would only come into effect if the ballot initiative is approved, also passed the committee. Under Florida law, “county officers” include each county’s Clerk of Courts, Property Appraiser, Sheriff, Supervisor of Elections and Tax Collector.

Online security officer training proposal clears House committee” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The certification of security officers in Florida could soon become an online process under a bill OK’d Thursday by a House committee. State law currently requires aspiring security officers, armed and unarmed, to undergo an in-person training course before certification. However, the proposal (HB 1233) would shift unarmed training online. Armed courses, meanwhile, may feature at most 21 hours of online instruction. The rest of the training, including the firearm portion, would remain in person. Rep. Randy Fine is the bill sponsor. The Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee advanced the bill unanimously.

Property tax cut for first responders, teachers clears second House hurdle” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A measure that would ask voters to approve a new $50,000 exemption to homestead property taxes for teachers, nurses, child welfare workers, police, firefighters and other first responders passed swiftly through its second hearing in the House Monday. The House Local Administration & Veteran Affairs Subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of HJR 1 that would put a measure on the 2022 ballot. If approved by 60% of voters, it would exempt the value of a homesteaded property between $100,000 and $150,000 on the tax rolls for first responders and teachers. Despite the unanimous vote, some Democrats quibbled about the need to do more to address housing affordability for other Floridians, including renters, being hit with stark rent hikes.

Beach smoking change heads to final Senate Committee after amendment” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A Senate bill that would allow cities and counties the right to regulate smoking at public beaches and parks cleared its second committee Monday with a handful of amendments. The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources unanimously approved the legislation (SB 224), sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters. The bill amends the “Florida Clean Indoor Air Act,” which regulates vaping and tobacco smoking in Florida, to give local governments the power to restrict smoking on public beaches. The Sarasota Republican has pushed the legislation for years to give that right back to local governments, noting that many beach rankings give points for beaches remaining smoke-free.

Great outdoors: Florida’s Clean Indoor Air Act goes outside with Joe Gruters’ beach smoking bill.

Senate panel backs enhanced penalties for evidence tampering” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Monday, a Senate committee approved enhanced penalties for tampering with evidence in certain felony cases. Sen. Jennifer Bradley’s bill (SB 796) cleared the Judiciary Committee, the second of three committees of reference for the legislation. Bradley’s bill would make tampering with or fabricating evidence a second-degree felony if done in a criminal trial, proceeding or investigation relating to felonies. Currently, it’s a third-degree felony to tamper with evidence in all cases, and the law does not distinguish between tampering with evidence in murder cases and lesser offenses, such as possession of marijuana.

Bill requiring a financial literacy class in high school aces first committee stop” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — HB 1115, which would require all students to take a half-credit financial literacy class before graduating, passed the House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee unanimously. The class will teach students about banking practices, money management, credit scores, managing debt, loan applications, insurance policies, and local tax assessments. Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation aims to help all Florida students regardless of their career goals. Rep. Felicia Robinson, a career educator, said the bill would strengthen the curriculum across the state.

Bill requiring transferable tickets passes first Senate committee” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — A bill requiring ticket sellers to offer transferable tickets to concerts, festivals and sports games passed its first committee Monday. SB 1316, which requires any person or entity who offers non-transferable tickets for sale also to offer the ticket in a transferrable format, passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously. The bill would require a way for transferable tickets to be given to other people or sold on any third-party platform. Multiday tickets or passes, like annual passes to Walt Disney World and season tickets to sports teams, would be exempt from the law to prevent days from being divided among many people.

— MORE TALLY —

Democrats, activists decry ‘Individual Freedom’ bill at Capitol rally” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Nikki Fried and Democratic lawmakers led activists Monday in a “rally” against a Republican proposal that would stomp the teachings of critical race theory in Florida. Outside of the Florida Historic Capitol, Reps. Angie Nixon and Kelly Skidmore urged colleagues to continue challenging the proposal as it motors through the Legislature. It is undoubtedly among the more controversial proposals of the 2022 Legislative Session. It seeks to quell classroom and corporate discussions that Republicans consider “woke” indoctrinations of cultural guilt. The bill, Fried asserted, flies in the face of Floridians suffering from real issues such as rent increases and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stomp: Nikki Fried joined other Democrats to call for pushback on the so-called ‘Individual Freedom’ bill.

Lawmakers to consider changes to nursing home staff requirements; AARP Florida says its recommendations have been ignored” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Lawmakers this week will consider bills that reduce the number of nursing hours facilities are required to provide to patients and allow facilities that don’t meet the requirements to accept new residents. Supported by the state’s two nursing home associations, the House bill reduces the amount of nursing care residents must receive, paring back minimum certified nursing assistant requirements from 2.5 hours each day to 1.8. AARP’s Zayne Smith notes that the move to change staffing requirements comes on the heels of the Legislature’s decision last year to allow personal care attendants (PCAs) to be used in nursing homes, a move that AARP Florida opposed.

John Snyder files companion measure to recognize Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Snyder is once again sponsoring a resolution to recognize individuals suffering from Tardive Dyskinesia (TD). Snyder filed a similar resolution last Session, which resulted in the state acknowledging TD Awareness Week in the first week of May 2021. This year’s measure (HR 8021) would also slot the awareness week for the first week of May. Snyder’s resolution this Session, which he filed Friday, tags onto a similar proposal from GOP Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, who also carried last year’s Senate version. TD is “characterized by random, involuntary, and uncontrolled movements of different muscles in the face, trunk, and extremities,” as explained by the resolutions. Some patients will develop TD as a side effect of medication. TD symptoms can surface even months or years after they’ve stopped taking those medications.

Putnam port study measure departs for final House committee berth” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation asking the state to consider expanding the shipping facility in Putnam County was shipped to its final House panel. The proposal (HB 907) from Rep. Bobby Payne would allow Putnam County to request a grant to conduct a port feasibility study and add the county to the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council. Members of the House Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee voted unanimously and without comment on Monday to advance the bill. With help from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Putnam County Commission has plans to dredge a 12-foot-deep, 5,000-foot-long channel at the Putnam County Barge Port. The channel would improve vessel navigation and safety and increase the number, size and capacity of vessels using the barge port.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: Media Choice

Ron Brise, Kevin Cleary, Julie Fess, Larry Williams, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Atlas Air

Sara Clements, Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Clean Energy Jobs

Courtney Coppola, Ballard Partners: The Florida Principle Action Fund

George Feijoo, Floridian Partners: Liberty Mutual Group

Gary Hunter, The Vogel Group: Neal Land & Neighborhoods, Northlake Stewardship District

Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Anita Berry, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Empower the Trades

Joseph Juarez: Florida Healthy Kids Corporation

Rick Kendust, Long Run Strategies: Ball Janik, BRIDG

Michael McKinley, Shumaker Advisors Florida: School Board of Charlotte County

Soledad Roybal: Getaround


— SKED —

— The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1571, from Rep. Randy Maggard, to prevent picketing or protesting at residences “with the intent to harass or disturb a person,” 8 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1197, from Reps. Scott Plakon and Cord Byrd, to make changes for public-employee unions, including preventing workers from having union dues deducted from their paychecks, 8 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1303, from Rep. Wyman Duggan, to establish a Northeast Florida Spaceport Authority to boost the aerospace industry in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, 8 a.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1408, from Sen. Keith Perry, to expand the ability of grandparents in certain circumstances to petition for visitation rights to see their grandchildren, 9 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets for a confirmation hearing for Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon, 9 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Education Committee meets to consider SPB 7044 to prevent state colleges and universities from being accredited by the same agencies in consecutive cycles, 9 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee meets to consider HB 421, from Reps. Keith Truenow and David Smith, to require the Department of Environmental Protection to procure the “best available, innovative technology” to help address water-quality issues such as algae blooms, toxins and nutrients, 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

— The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 461, from Rep. Lauren Melo, to change Bright Futures scholarship requirements to allow paid work instead of volunteer service, 10:30 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1453, from Rep. Harding, to bolster laws about sexually explicit material amid rapidly developing technology, 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets for a confirmation hearing for state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, 12:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Military and Veteran Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets to consider SB 1670, from Sen. Travis Hutson, to revamp rules involving cybersecurity, 12:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 1852, from Sen. Bradley, to ban hourly rates at hotels and other lodging establishments to reduce human trafficking, 12:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Finance and Facilities Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1239, from Rep. Lauren Melo, to update nursing home staffing requirements, 1 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Government Operations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1121, from Rep. Chuck Brannan, to expand the public-records exemption to include traffic crash reports, 1 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 865, from Rep. Alex Rizo, to bolster charter schools, 1 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee meets to consider HB 721, from Rep. James Buchanan, to allow public housing authorities to impose restrictions on owners of dangerous dogs, 1 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 1258, from Sen. Shevrin Jones, to update performance measures that Medicaid managed-care plans report to the Agency for Health Care Administration, 3 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1024, from Chair Bradley, to require the Public Service Commission to overhaul a 2008 rule about “net metering,” which governs charges and credits between electric utilities and customers who have rooftop solar systems, 3 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Transportation Committee meets to discuss the future of the state’s specialty license-plate program, 3 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Education and Employment Committee meets to consider HB 7, from Rep. Bryan Ávila, to address how race-related topics should be taught in public schools, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Judiciary Committee meets to consider HB 1395, from Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, to overhaul the state’s alimony laws, including the end of permanent alimony, 3:30 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House State Affairs Committee meets to consider HB 717, from Rep. Josie Tomkow, to revamp the law for boosting encouraging agritourism, 3:30 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

Local officials urge lawmakers to shift priorities — State Rep. Anna Eskamani will hold a news conference on Tuesday alongside several local elected officials calling on lawmakers to focus on issues such as affordable housing, local democracy and First Amendment rights. Speakers at the event, which begins at 11:30 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol, will also urge lawmakers to shelve proposals that would infringe on local government powers. Eskamani will be joined by Tallahassee Commissioner Jack Porter, Hallandale Beach Commissioner Sabrina Javellana, Broward County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Alissa Schafer, former Gainesville Commissioner Gail Johnson, advocate and Local Progress deputy organizing director Francesca Menes.

— GOV CLUB MENU —

Garden vegetable soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; sweet & sour coleslaw; Waldorf salad; turkey Boursin wraps; Ronnie’s fried chicken; manicotti; fried green tomatoes; green beans and assorted cookies for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis weighs in on seniors’ voter fraud complaints in Miami-Dade” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida won’t tolerate any “election shenanigans” and will look into recent complaints of voter fraud in Miami-Dade County, where elderly Democrats are complaining their party affiliations were changed to Republican without their knowledge, DeSantis said Monday. DeSantis said the latest election-fraud complaints exemplify how his proposed “election integrity unit” — made of investigators and law enforcement — could help crack down on such problems. The unit “will go after those types of election shenanigans,” he said, because some local jurisdictions will investigate and others “don’t really pay a lot of attention to any election infractions.” On Friday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava asked prosecutors to investigate the elderly residents’ claims.

MLB Commissioner drops a line to DeSantis as lockout continues — A schedule released by the Governor’s office shows DeSantis had a chat with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday afternoon. The phone call comes as the MLB lockout enters its third month. The lockout — the ninth in league history — stems from the expiration of the 2016 collective bargaining agreement between the MLB and the players union. The lockout is near certain to impact Spring Training, scheduled to begin on Feb. 16. Florida is the spring home for 15 MLB teams, or half the league, with Arizona playing host to the other half. In 2018, Spring Training added an estimated $687.1 million to the state economy.

Play ball: Rob Manfred drops by the Governor’s Office amid a union dispute. Can Spring Break be saved? Image via USA Today.

Transgender athlete ban challenge on hold pending appeals court ruling — U.S. District Judge Roy Altman has paused proceedings in a challenge of the ban on transgender athletes participating in sports until the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals rules in a case where a transgender male high school student in St. Johns County was prevented from using the men’s restroom and instead required to use a gender-neutral or women’s restroom. In his order, Altman wrote that the appeals court decision could “materially affect the result in our case.” The appeals court will hear arguments in the St. Johns case on Feb. 22. The sports case challenges a controversial law signed by the Governor last year that disallows athletes from competing on sports teams that do not match their biological sex, regardless of their gender.

Florida’s emergency rental assistance program gets $740M boost” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has accepted the second round of funding through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Announced late last week, the $740.4 million will provide continued funding for OUR Florida, the DCF-led program that offers aid to renters facing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. DCF accepted $871.2 million in the first round of funding. Nearly all of the first-round funding, about $858 million, has been distributed. ERAP is a $25 billion federal program that began last January after passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: The latest on cases, deaths and hospitalizations” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida on Monday reported 51,356 COVID-19 cases and 456 new deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data. The CDC backlogs cases and deaths for Florida on Mondays and Thursdays, when multiple days in the past have their totals changed. In August, Florida began reporting cases and deaths by the “case date” and “death date” rather than the date they were logged in to the system. Of the deaths added, about 81% occurred in the last two weeks. In the past seven days, the state has added 171 deaths and 20,736 cases per day, on average. Florida has recorded at least 5,680,958 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 66,463 deaths.

Report: COVID-19 brought flexibilities, but more needs to be done to guard against Medicaid fraud” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — As the Legislature grapples with a potential rewrite of the state’s mandatory Medicaid managed care program, a new report from legislative auditors suggests Florida’s top Medicaid officials may not be doing enough to ferret out fraud and abuse in the $35 billion safety net program. The program covers 5 million residents, providing health care to the poor, elderly and disabled. The report also contains recommendations for improving its efforts. Auditors note the federal government allowed a lot of flexibility to make accessing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic easier. But the federal government has issued reports that indicate greater flexibility has led to increased fraud. The report recommends the agency increase the use of data analytics to monitor temporary changes to Medicaid-funded services such as home- and community-based care and telemedicine.

You gotta give a little: COVID-19 allowed Medicaid some flexibility, but there’s no stopping fraud, waste, and abuse. Image via AP.

COVID-19 in Leon County: Cases plummet in schools, local jail; hospitalizations see slight decline” via Mike Stucka of the Tallahassee Democrat — COVID-19 cases in Leon County, and across the state, have continued their weekslong decline while hospitals are continuing to see a large number of patients. As of Monday, there were 153 COVID-19-positive patients in Tallahassee hospitals. At Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), health care workers treated 98 COVID-19-positive patients, while 55 were at Capital Regional Medical Center (CRMC). Of TMH’s 98 patients, 31 are vaccinated, and 62% are considered “incidental,” meaning they were treated for other illnesses or injuries.

COVID-19 cases were down sharply in Tampa Bay schools this week” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — After reaching alarming levels earlier this month, case numbers of COVID-19 in Tampa Bay area schools are falling sharply. The virus is still widespread, and educators are scrambling to get their students ready for the spring Florida Standards Assessment tests. But this past week saw a significant drop in case reports from schools, typically by 30 to 45% from the previous week. By the end of Friday, the four area districts had reported 3,039 cases. That’s also down dramatically from the nearly 7,100 cases reported during one week in mid-January, a pandemic record for the area.

Leon Co. parents order thousands of N95 masks for schools” via Savannah Kelley of WCTV — Every single Title I elementary school and preschool in Leon County will be getting the free masks. Parents said they wanted to target those schools specifically because KN95s and N95s are expensive, about $1.20 per mask, and they said safety should not come with a price tag. They ordered 24,610 high-filtration KN95 masks for the Leon County community. More than 11,000 are going to local schools. “People who don’t have access and want access deserve access,” said parent Patricia Liedy, the parent who spearheaded this project.

—2022 —

Casino petition drive fraud claims, investigations multiply” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Increasing reports of alleged petition frauds and a massive petition failure rate are leading county supervisors of elections around the state to say they have never seen a petition drive as bad as the one that just concluded involving proposed North Florida casinos. At least two law enforcement investigations have been opened, in the 1st and 5th Judicial Circuits. Others are being requested in other parts of Florida. Several supervisors told Florida Politics their alarm over the drive conducted by Florida Voters In Charge  is not just because of the many allegations of  individual petition fraud but because of the drive’s unprecedented petition failure rate of perhaps 60-70% or higher.

Key Latino group urges Dems not to write off Florida” via Sabrina Rodriguez of POLITICO — As Democrats ramp up spending for the midterms, there’s an ongoing debate among national party officials, donors and major outside groups over how much time and money to commit to Florida in the wake of the party’s crushing losses there in 2020. As part of an effort to make sure the state isn’t written off by Democrats, Latino Victory Fund, a Democratic super PAC, is backing candidates in two Florida primaries — endorsements that come with a six-figure investment in ads, fundraising events and organizing help for the state.

After decadelong lull, Florida Democrats unveil multiyear voter registration push” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Since 2012, Florida Democrats have been in a state of voter registration complacency, a decadelong lull that allowed Republicans last year to overtake them in the state’s active voter rolls for the first time in more than a century. That’s all about to end, Democratic Party leaders say. “Democrats have had their foot off the gas,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said Monday. On Monday, Diaz joined Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, incoming House Democratic Leader Ramon Alexander and Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava, among others. The group announced a new, long-term, multimillion-dollar voter registration initiative. The effort, Levine Cava said, involves “a historic partnership” between the state Democratic Party, Senate and House caucus leaders, their individual fundraising apparatuses, local elected officials, and a key donor organization.

GOTV: Lauren Book is spearheading a major voter registration initiative. Image via AP.

Al Lawson for Lt. Gov?” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — As I write this, polling is starting to show that Charlie Crist, who has not made many mistakes in this campaign, is pulling away from his two primary Democratic opponents. An internal poll from the Crist campaign has the former Governor at 54%. Nikki Fried is at 28% and Annette Taddeo is at 7%. Crist is a St. Petersburg guy, and he’s polling well everywhere in the state but North Florida. I expect that Crist is nominated. And that if he’s smart, he will shore up his position with a running mate who knows North Florida. And who better than a man who has represented the region for decades? Should If Congress falls through, Lawson would be uniquely positioned to make the case against DeSantis.

Florida Supreme Court ponders DeSantis’ congressional redistricting questions” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Florida’s newest member of Congress, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, added her voice Monday to debate over whether the Florida Supreme Court should opine on DeSantis’ proposed congressional redistricting plan. Cherfilus-McCormick’s lawyers wrote in a brief that DeSantis’ plan discriminates against Florida’s Black voters. She argues that his request for an advisory opinion from the court, which is a rare thing, is an attempt to thwart the legislative process and “serves only to legitimize the prevention of Black voters from having a fair opportunity to elect candidates of choice.”

A new map will drive decisions for Southwest Florida lawmakers” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — With House boundaries all but set, several lawmakers representing Southwest Florida now have to decide if and where to run under the new cartography. Rep. Spencer Roach hasn’t decided yet if he’s going to run but said it wouldn’t be maps that make his choice. Still, whatever triggers a final decision for Roach, it’s likely the map just passed by the Legislature (H 8013) will give him pause. Partisan performance analysis by MCI Maps shows HD 76 remains a Republican seat, where Trump won a whopping 64.96% of the vote in the 2020 Presidential election.

Brian Mast has nearly $2.4 million for his re-election bid” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Mast’s bid for a fourth term representing Florida in Congress received more than half a million dollars in contributions during the final quarter of 2021, and he spent almost an equal amount. Those collections are a drop from the nearly $1 million he raised the previous quarter. But he’s got plenty of money to answer any of the challengers he’s drawn so far. Mast’s total cash on hand adds up to nearly $2.4 million. Republican Melissa Martz has filed to challenge Mast in the Primary, but her fundraising firepower does not come close to matching his. She reported raising $47,443 in the last quarter and having $9,525 cash on hand on Dec. 31.

Charlie Crist endorses Eunic Ortiz for SD 24” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Crist is endorsing Ortiz in her run for the Senate District 24 seat. Crist said Ortiz’s work in local government and advocacy drove him to support her. SD 24 represents a large portion of Pinellas County, including parts of Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo, Pinellas Park and Gulfport. Notably, Crist was first elected to office in a similar state Senate seat in 1992. Crist is the latest endorser of Ortiz, who has been backed by Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Michele Rayner, who is currently running a Congressional campaign, and Pinellas County Commissioners Rene Flowers and Pat Gerard.

John Rutherford endorses Dean Black for newly created HD 15 — U.S. Rep. Rutherford endorsed Black in the newly formed Northeast Florida House District 15, covering Nassau and parts of Duval counties. Rutherford, a former Jacksonville Sheriff, said in a statement: “Dean is a veteran, business owner, and patriot who has been on the front line for years fighting for our values. He has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to service Northeast Florida. Dean is also a strong supporter of law enforcement and our brave first responders — which we need now more than ever. I encourage all fellow conservatives to support Dean Black for Florida House District 15.” A staunch Trump supporter, Black was a campaign surrogate, official delegate to the 2020 Republican National Convention, and had a leading presence on the campaign trail.

First on #FlaPol —Emily Slosberg-King to leave House after three terms” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Slosberg-King announced Monday she would not seek re-election to the House in 2022. Slosberg-King is currently serving her third term representing House District 91. She’s eligible to run once more in 2022 before facing term limits. But Slosberg-King said she’ll step aside in a written statement Monday. “My call to public service began after my twin sister, Dori, was tragically killed in a car accident. Since then, I’ve led the charge on laws that save lives and policies to better our state,” Slosberg-King said. Slosberg-King, like her father, Irv Slosberg, before her, has focused on driving safety issues during her legislative career.

A good run: Emily Slosberg-King decides against re-election.

Dan Horton-Diaz posts best-ever fundraising figures for renewed run at HD 120” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Horton-Diaz accumulated more than $31,000 in January, his best-ever 31-day round of fundraising, in his first month running for Florida’s southernmost House District. That’s especially noteworthy considering his January haul for this year’s House District 120 campaign totaled more than all the funds he amassed in his two previous runs at the Legislature. “This strong first month will help our campaign continue to fight for the people of the Keys and South Miami-Dade,” he said in a statement. Horton-Diaz’s filings with the Florida Division of Elections show that more than half the $31,400 he collected last month, $16,000, came through a self-loan. He reported no spending.

‘This is a scam.’ Miami voters come forward with voter registration complaints” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Sometime in early December, Juan A. Salazar, a 77-year-old Dominican living in Little Havana, exited the elevator of his building tower. A group of three canvassers wearing red caps and T-shirts that said “Republican Party of Florida” approached him. Salazar has been registered to vote in Miami-Dade County since 1985. Salazar said he gave them his name without signing or filling out any form, and they pulled up his address. Several weeks later, he received a new voter ID card identifying him as a member of the Republican Party of Florida. He is one of several Miami residents who are now coming forward with their own claims about having their party affiliation changed from Democrat to Republican after interacting with canvassers.

— CORONA NATION —

U.S. death rate may finally begin falling” via John Bacon and Celina Tebor of USA Today — Daily U.S. deaths from the most recent coronavirus surge may finally be ready to decline. Most states are now reporting fewer deaths than they had been a week ago. Just 20 states reported increasing numbers of deaths compared to the previous week. That number was 34 states a week earlier. The United States continues to average about 2,400 to 2,500 deaths per day, a daily human cost about equal to the losses at Pearl Harbor. The U.S. reported its 900,000 death on Friday. If the pace of American deaths falls at the same rate it increased during the current omicron surge, the nation will reach 1 million fatalities in about 55 days, or the beginning of April.

Under pressure: Will America finally get a break from omicron?

A new attitude toward the pandemic seems to be taking shape. But we’ve been here before.” via Lenny Bernstein, Marisa Iati, Paulina Firozi and Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post — Fatigued, frustrated and frazzled by five surges over two years, some parts of the U.S. population have decided to simply live with the coronavirus and move on. And with a triple-shot of a vaccine on board or protection acquired from prior infection alongside case numbers falling precipitously, polls show their numbers are increasing. In a January poll, 28% of Americans said the country would “never” get the outbreak under control and return to normal, up from 9% in March 2021.

Republicans, wooing Trump voters, make Dr. Anthony Fauci their boogeyman” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — Republican attacks on Fauci are not new; Trump, irked that the doctor publicly corrected his falsehoods about the virus, called him “a disaster” and repeatedly threatened to fire him. But as the 2022 midterm elections approach, the attacks have spread across the nation, intensifying as Fauci draws outsize attention in some of the most important state and local races on the ballot in November. Both his friends and detractors agree Fauci has also become a symbol of something deeper, the deep schism in the country, mistrust in government, and a brewing populist resentment of the elites, all made worse by the pandemic.

New Jersey Governor to end school mask mandate in move to ‘normalcy’” via The New York Times — Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat who has imposed some of the nation’s most stringent pandemic-related mandates, will no longer require students and school employees to wear masks, signaling a deliberate shift toward treating the coronavirus as a part of daily life. “This is not a declaration of victory as much as an acknowledgment that we can responsibly live with this thing,” Murphy, the vice-chair of the National Governors Association, said. The new policy will take effect the second week of March, two years after New York and New Jersey became early epicenters of a virus that has since mutated and resurged, killing more than 900,000 people nationwide.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

States move to protect hospital patients from heavy medical debt” via Anna Wilde Mathews of The Wall Street Journal — At least 10 states enacted laws last year with a range of provisions affecting health care providers and collection agencies, including requirements for hospitals to provide financial assistance to people with low incomes or limit aggressive debt-collection practices. Other states are currently considering bills to add or bolster consumer medical-billing protections. The activity is a sign of the heightened scrutiny that hospitals face after reports about bare-knuckle tactics used to collect on medical debts and after some facilities’ own disclosures of high prices and limited financial assistance for certain patients. According to a Census Bureau analysis released last April, some 19% of U.S. households had medical debt, with the share higher among Black and Hispanic householders. The median amount owed was $2,000.

Debtor’s prison: Hospitals are starting to help patients avoid crippling medical bills. Image via Bloomberg.

‘We can’t do this on our own’: Small hospitals are left behind by COVID-19 staffing wars” via Bram Sable-Smith of Kaiser Health News — With no end to the crisis in sight, hospitals have taken to enticing workers from other facilities to fulfill needs. In South Dakota, Monument Health offered signing bonuses up to $40,000 for experienced nurses who would make a two-year commitment to the health system. Job listings for nurses in Maine and Virginia include $20,000 signing bonuses. Montana is offering health care workers up to $12,500 in moving expenses to relocate to the state. The labor market squeeze is affecting more than just health care. People are lured into teaching jobs and the military with $20,000 signing bonuses, while construction and trucking companies are looking everywhere for workers, even within their competitors’ ranks.

Food companies rely more on temp workers as labor shortages persist” via Jaewon Kang and Jesse Newman of The Wall Street Journal — Supermarkets and food processors are hiring short-term staff to unload trucks, move goods and assist in-store cooks, filling holes created by employees who have left the workforce during the pandemic or are out sick temporarily from COVID-19. Executives said hiring temp workers can be expensive because they typically cost more per hour than permanent staff and require additional training. In Kansas, Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. has retained hundreds of temp workers for its 11 distribution centers in recent weeks, as employees call in sick at record-high levels after contracting COVID-19 or being exposed to it. The food industry has boosted hourly pay and offered bonuses and other perks, but companies say they continue to struggle to recruit and retain workers.

Giving workers more time to grieve in an era of loss” via Rachel Feintzeig of The Wall Street Journal — Millions around the world have gotten a crash course in grief during the past two years. Nearly 1 million more Americans have died since the start of the pandemic than would have otherwise been expected, mostly from COVID-19. Other tragedies have marched on, too, with lives lost to illnesses and accidents. Increasingly, we’re talking about it. About half 4,327 people surveyed last fall by the New York Life Foundation, the charitable arm of the insurance company, said the pandemic had prompted them to have conversations with family or friends about death.

— MORE CORONA —

New study finds school COVID-19 transmission is rare” via The 74 Million — With masks, the transmission of COVID-19 in K-12 schools is low, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. It concluded this “with universal masking, in-person education was associated with low rates of secondary transmission, even with less stringent distancing and bus practices. Given the rates of sports-associated secondary transmission, additional mitigation may be warranted.” For every 20 community-acquired infections, there was one within-school transmission event. Relaxed distancing practices (less than 3 feet, 3 feet) and increased children per bus seat were not associated with an increased relative risk of secondary transmission.

COVID-19 transmission is rare in schools. Cooties are another thing. Image via AP.

How Denmark decided COVID-19 isn’t a critical threat to society” via Derek Thompson of The Atlantic — On Feb. 1, Denmark became the first country in the European Union to lift all pandemic restrictions. Indoor mask mandates? Gone. Vaccine passports at bars, restaurants, and stadiums? See ya. Mandatory isolation for infected individuals? Farvel. Reading this news, you might assume that Denmark succeeded in eliminating COVID-19. But its infection rate is the second-highest in the world. “If you are following Denmark’s infection numbers, this seems like a very, very strange thing to do,” Michael Bang Petersen, a Danish researcher who led a global survey of COVID-19 attitudes and advises the Danish government, told me. But Petersen defends the decision. Because of falling ICU admissions and shorter hospital stays, he said, COVID-19 is no longer a socially critical sickness in Denmark.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden-aligned group readies defense of Supreme Court nominee, whoever she may be” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — Building Back Together, a nonprofit organization that has spent tens of millions of dollars since last year promoting Biden’s agenda, is preparing to launch an effort defending the President’s forthcoming pick to serve on the Supreme Court, a spokesperson for the group says. The spokesperson said the group will work alongside judicial and civil-rights organizations and run paid ads. A BBT spokesperson added that the effort will focus on responding to attacks against the yet-unannounced nominee, whom Biden is expected to name in the coming weeks after current Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement.

‘Remain in Mexico’ is back under Biden, with little resemblance to the Trump version” via Nick Miroff and Arelis R. Hernández of The Washington Post — The immigration courts on the seventh floor of a downtown federal building here were jampacked in the summer of 2019 when the Trump administration ramped up its “Remain in Mexico” program. On an average day, more than 100 asylum-seekers were being sent back across the border to Ciudad Juárez, including families with children. Biden halted the returns when he took office, but in September, a U.S. District Court ordered his administration to reinstate the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. After months of negotiations with Mexico, the Biden administration relaunched MPP in early December, starting in El Paso.

Resurgence: This is not your father’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ plan.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Lawmakers signal stopgap spending bill needed as talks continue” via Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal — Negotiators remained locked in talks about overall spending levels for the current fiscal year and special items such as COVID-19 funding, with lawmakers set to turn this week to a short-term bill to keep the government running if no deal is reached. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, Sen. Richard Shelby and their House counterparts have intensified their conversations in recent weeks for an omnibus spending bill, and Republicans presented a formal offer to Democrats on Wednesday for fiscal 2022 spending. No breakthrough emerged, and lawmakers anticipate that Congress will need to pass another interim spending measure to keep the government operating beyond Feb. 18, when a current measure expires.

Rick Scott urges Senate to condemn IOC, saying it helped China cover up abuse of Peng Shuai” via Andrew Krietz of WTSP — Sen. Scott urged his Senate colleagues to pass a resolution condemning the Chinese Communist Party and the International Olympic Committee following a new interview with Shuai, a Chinese tennis player. While speaking with French sports newspaper L’Equipe, 36-year-old Peng walked back a post she wrote about Zhang Gaoli, a former vice-premier and member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, in which she accused him of sexual assault. Peng, a former No. 1-ranked player in women’s doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014, wrote on the Chinese social media platform Weibo in November that she was forced to have sex despite repeated refusals.

Peng Shuai’s accusations of sexual abuse give Rick Scott one more reason to blast China.

“‘Genocide games’: NBC refuses to run ad critical of China by NBA’s Enes Kanter Freedom, Florida Congressman” via Jon Levine of the New York Post — NBC is refusing to broadcast an ad critical of China during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. The 30-second spot, purchased by Florida GOP Rep. Mike Waltz, blasted the event as the “Genocide Games,” referenced China’s long history of human rights abuses, and called out major U.S. companies for participating. The first Green Beret to serve in Congress, Waltz has long been a tough China critic. He billed the $40,000 ad to his campaign. The spot also featured Boston Celtics center Kanter Freedom, a Swiss-born Turk who became a U.S. citizen in November.

U.S. House committee hosts Miami hearing about political propaganda” via Alex Finnie and Andrea Torres of Local 10 News — The U.S. House Committee on House Administration held a roundtable discussion on Monday morning at the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus about the impact of misinformation and disinformation on elections. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield Jr., the chair of the elections subcommittee, chaired the meeting. Democratic Representatives Pete Aguilar, Nanette Barragan, Teresa Leger Fernandez, and Darren Soto questioned the panel. “Florida is becoming the incubator for misinformation in Spanish that then is exported,” Leger Fernandez said. Raúl L. Martínez, a former Mayor of Hialeah and a Democrat, said there was a paid radio program spreading disinformation that was offensive to members of the Jewish and Black Santeria communities.

— CRISIS —

The GOP’s Jan. 6 committee dilemma: Disband it, or turn it on Dems?” via Olivia Beavers and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — A faction of pro-Trump House Republicans is escalating calls to preserve Democrats’ Jan. 6 select panel, but use it to serve their own purposes. Not all of the conference is convinced. The idea of keeping the Capitol riot committee alive if the GOP retakes the majority this fall, with a wildly different focus, has high-profile fans on the right. Rep. Madison Cawthorn said it would be “asinine” for a GOP majority to disband the panel, and Rep. Matt Gaetz has called for using it to pursue unfounded theories about the Justice Department’s involvement in the Jan. 6 attack.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Trump, DeSantis tensions shadow this year’s CPAC” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — The simmering tensions between Trump and DeSantis are looming over the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where both men are set to give highly anticipated speeches later this month. With Trump eyeing a political comeback and DeSantis seen as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential bid, the high-profile gathering in Orlando, offers a prime opportunity to take the temperature of the Republican base and pitch their political brands to the conservative activists and leaders who will play a major role in boosting the party’s next presidential nominee. But the conference also has the potential to highlight, and possibly even deepen, the emerging divide between Trump and DeSantis, stirring both worry and intrigue within the GOP.

Fireworks: Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump will be the main attractions at CPAC.

Heritage Foundation, former powerhouse of GOP policy, adjusts in face of new competition from Trump allies” via Jeff Stein and Yeganeh Torbati of The Washington Post — The Heritage Foundation has long shaped mainstream Republican policy in Washington. It drafted much of Ronald Reagan’s agenda to slash federal spending and launched a ferocious campaign to repeal Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But in recent months, the venerable think tank in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol has revamped its leadership after its former president, Kay Coles James, was subject to a torrent of criticism from a prominent conservative cable host. Heritage replaced James with a Texas firebrand more determined to fight pandemic restrictions, “critical race theory” in schools, and “teaching transgenderism to kindergartners,” bending the institution toward issues that have resonated with Trump and his allies.

St. Pete Trump supporter sued for reneging on election night bet sees victory after court reversal” via Daniel Figueroa IV of Florida Politics — A St. Petersburg man who bet a former friend $100 that Trump would defeat Biden might’ve lost the bet, but he won in court. Pinellas County Court records show Sean Hynes narrowly avoided jail time after missing a payment deadline. Hynes had agreed to pay on the bet, plus interest, during court-ordered mediation in March. When he didn’t pay by November, a judge warned he could face jail time. Then Hynes filed a motion to dismiss the whole case on the grounds that the bet was illegal. “The Court agrees,” Judge Edwin Jagger wrote in his ruling. “Since the basis of the parties’ agreement was expressly ‘void’ and of no effect under Florida law, and generally contrary to the public policy of the state, so too is the judgment.” Hynes bet Costa $100. The court previously ordered Hynes to pay Costa $207.50 by Oct. 9.

—LOCAL NOTES —

Many Florida counties, towns had fewer murders in 2021, going against the national trend” via Chris Perkins of WUSF — Some of Florida’s biggest municipalities went against the national trend in 2021 by reducing their murder numbers, or keeping them practically the same, from 2020. COVID-19 caused major changes in routine activities such as going to work, going to the movies, going out to eat, or attending late-night parties, which may have reduced opportunities for homicides and violent crime. “This could explain, in part, a decrease in crime in some South Florida regions,” Dr. Vaughn Crichlow, associate dean in the College of Social Work and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, said in an email.

Whodunnit? Florida towns are bucking the rising U.S. trend in murders. Why?

North Miami campaigns take voters into the booth. Are they helping voters or themselves?” via Aaron Liebowitz and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — During last year’s local election in North Miami, first-time candidate Laura Hill noticed something she found strange: an “abnormal” number of voters being accompanied into the early voting site at North Miami Public Library by city employees and campaign workers. More than one in 10 voters received assistance at the polls from non-poll workers in the city’s May 2021 election under a Florida provision designed to help people with disabilities or those who can’t read or write. But experts say the situation in North Miami is unique due to its scale and who is doing the helping. Records show that more than two-thirds of the assisted voters were helped either by city employees, some of whom were taking time off from work, or by campaign workers.

Hollywood resident running car rental business out of home, outraging neighbors” via Jeff Weinsier of Local 10 — Residents of one South Florida street are fuming after a neighbor opened a car rental business at his house. They say constant car washing, customers coming and going, and parking a fleet of vehicles has changed a quiet section of Lincoln Street in Hollywood to the point where some are ready to move. New state law actually protects these home-based businesses, and cities have little say. Neighbors say on any given day, they’ve seen up to eight cars parked in front of the small house, most of them taking up space on the roadway.

Brevard County Clerk of Courts gets another chance to challenge charter cap interpretation” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Brevard County Clerk of Courts Rachel Sadoff will get a second bite at the apple regarding the interpretation of a county charter rule that limits property tax increases. On Friday, the Florida 5th District Court of Appeal reversed a ruling of Circuit Judge Robert Segal when he dismissed “with prejudice” Sadoff’s lawsuit against the County Commissioners and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office; that meant the matter could not be appealed. The ruling by a three-judge Court of Appeal panel allows Sadoff to amend the complaint for another hearing. The case stems from a lawsuit filed in 2019 by Scott Ellis, who was clerk of courts at the time. Ellis contested the Brevard County Commission’s interpretation of the Brevard County Charter provision that caps the increase in revenue the county can collect in property taxes from one year to the next.

Cruise ship docking at Key West encroaches on Navy waters” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — On the same weekend residents rallied against three so-called mega-cruise ships entering Key West waters against voters’ wishes, one of the vessels mooring there Sunday was so big it encroached on waters reserved for Navy activity. The Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships — which organized the weekend protest — posted photos to Twitter showing the 1,004-foot Celebrity Apex docking at Pier B, a privately owned cruise ship dock. The ships rear extended well beyond a boundary line, designated by white-capped bollards, between Pier B’s space and the entrance to Naval Air Station Key West’s Truman Harbor.

Pump station leak near Lake Jackson spills 190,000 gallons of wastewater” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A sewage leak in a North Tallahassee pump station was discovered on Saturday, spilling about 190,000 gallons of untreated wastewater near Lake Jackson. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received a report of the spill on Meginnis Arm Road. The source was a break in the mainline in a City of Tallahassee pump station. The spill overflowed into a stormwater facility that eventually flows into Meginnis Arm Run, a small feeder creek that goes into Lake Jackson. And water from Lake Jackson eventually flows south to Wakulla Springs. City crews recovered 325,000 gallons using vacuum and pump trucks, applied lime, and disposed of “debris.” They are also monitoring water samples in the area.

Head of security at FSU’s Strozier Library charged with theft of thousands of rare comics” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — There are only four keys to the lock protecting a half-million dollars’ worth of comic books housed in Florida State University’s Strozier Library. Todd Peak, the library’s head of security, had access to one of them. Peak, 38, was arrested by FSU Police on Friday on charges that, in 2020, he stole nearly 5,000 comics from the Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection. Throughout the next two years, police said, he sold them to private buyers and comic book stores throughout the area. Peak, who lives in Crawfordville, is charged with grand theft of more than $100,000, fraud, dealing in stolen property, and sale of stolen property using the internet. He was released on bail Saturday afternoon.

Collier County deputy manager resigns Sean Callahan resigned his post as Collier County Deputy Manager after it was discovered he had a second job working as a lobbyist at the Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck law firm. County Manager Mark Isackson sent Callahan a letter informing him that he would be fired. “Your failure to share this vital information with me at the time you were considered for appointment to the Deputy Manager position, or at any time after that, is a serious breach of practices that cannot be tolerated,” the letter reads. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck later issued a statement saying they were unaware that Callahan worked for Collier County, which first hired him in 2017.

Two masters: Sean Callahan was fired from Collier County for having an undisclosed side gig.

Why Polk County schools are handling these 16 books differently than a normal ‘complaint’” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — According to Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Frederick Heid, during his first conversation on Dec. 10 with County Citizens Defending Freedom Education Division Leader and Executive Assistant Kayla Church, she shared “concerns” about 16 book titles her group felt were inappropriate for children. But when those concerns were elevated on Jan. 25 to possible violations of two Florida statutes, with the potential for arresting librarians or district officials, Heid invoked a long-standing process to review books.

Spirit, Frontier merger could have big impact in Orlando” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — The unveiling of merger plans by Spirit and Frontier Airlines Monday might also have included a heads-up to Southwest at Orlando International Airport: ease aside big guy, a new No. 1 is coming. The proposed combining of two of the most budget of budget airlines in a $2.9 billion deal would create a “disruptive” carrier ranking as the nation’s fifth-busiest and able to compete better in routes and fares against the big four, American, Delta, Southwest and United, representatives of Spirit and Frontier said. At Orlando International Airport, the yet-to-be-branded combination of Spirit and Frontier likely would knock Southwest Airlines off its long-standing post as the busiest carrier. The consequences of that remain to be seen.

— TOP OPINION —

Biden’s ‘friend’ is the enemy” via Charles M. Blow of The New York Times — In a two-party system in which one party has gone completely off the rails, Biden and the Democrats are the only option, the only chance for normalcy, sanity and truth. They are the only hope democracy has in this country. And yet Biden keeps saying and doing things that are absolutely infuriating, not to mention alienating. Mitch McConnell has led his party to block voting rights legislation as racialized voter suppression bills sweep the country. So, how can Biden maintain that McConnell is an honest, honorable friend? It seems that Biden suffers from the same blind spot as other white liberal leaders throughout history: looking past the oppressive impulses of other white men to see kinship and commonality.

— OPINIONS —

Predatory tactics against tenants disguised as ‘renter’s choice’” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Out-of-state companies are lobbying legislators for a new state law that would replace high, refundable security deposits with lower, non-refundable monthly fees that could be charged to tenants indefinitely. It’s true that a lump-sum security deposit, usually equal to one month’s rent, is a major financial burden for many renters, and a fee of, say, $25 a month sounds like an appealing alternative. But this idea should set off alarms and not only because it’s driven by the for-profit “insurtech” industry. It’s unconscionable that the answer legislators are offering is another way to entrap unsuspecting tenants into an endless cycle of monthly fees they will never get back.

Miami party-switch case sounds like a job for Election Police” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — December about an 84-year-old woman living in a housing project in Little Havana. A guy knocked on her door, saying he was renewing voter registrations. Later, the shocked woman found her lifelong identification as a Democrat had switched to the party united against election fraud. Follow-up stories showed it was not an isolated incident or clerical error, and that’s where it hit the fan. As more people came forward with similar stories, the calls for investigations increased. Fried, who is running for Governor, asked for U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s involvement. The Miami incident, I believe, won’t be a high priority item for the Governor. It certainly would improve his image if he took it seriously, but he won’t.

Legislation would eliminate barriers to dental care, increase Florida’s dental workforce” via Frank Catalanotto for The Gainesville Sun — When it comes to oral health, Florida is one of the worst states in the nation. That’s because Florida families have limited access to quality dental care, and many cannot afford it. HB 997, filed by Rep. Melony Bell, and SB 1444, filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, will eliminate unnecessary barriers to oral care, especially for those who can least afford it. The bills also increase the dental workforce in Florida. While Floridians of all ages suffer from poor oral health, kids suffer disproportionately. Twenty percent of children in Florida suffer from treatable dental problems. One in four third-grade children in Florida have untreated tooth decay, making Florida sixth in the nation for the highest percent of third-grade children with unfilled cavities.

William Gildersleeve: My life-altering decision is possible for others with SB 1284, HB 823” via Florida Politics — I was working odd jobs at the time the pandemic hit. I had seen an ad for Western Governors University (WGU), a unique online school that was offering programs that could be completed on my time and at my own pace for a fraction of the cost. I decided, why not? My life’s course and career trajectory completely changed from there. There is a bill before the Legislature that will provide more access to those looking to change their future. SB 1284, by Sen. Gruters, and HB 823, by Rep. Kaylee Tuck — would expand access to grant funds so that Floridians who need the means to pursue their educational aspirations can, and with a university that fits their life. I hope that Florida realizes the immense and positive impact this legislation will have for Floridians.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Gov. DeSantis says schools should not be telling kids when to make up their minds about sexual orientation. A gay Democratic Representative says bills to restrict talk about sexual orientation could eliminate school discussion about the Pulse nightclub tragedy.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— DeSantis says the Biden administration’s immigration policies are historically bad.

— Florida Democrats say they dropped the ball on voter registration.

— The AARP says proposed changes in nursing home rules are unnecessary and dangerous.

— And, finally settling a bet over the last presidential election – sort of.

To listen, click on the image below:

— OLYMPICS —

Jason Brown may not land a quad jump in Beijing. His fans don’t need him to.” via Dvora Meyers of FiveThirtyEight — “The quad will come.” That’s what choreographer and then-NBC figure skating analyst Sandra Bezic said as Brown stepped off the ice at the 2014 U.S. national championships in Boston. A lot has happened in the nearly eight years since Brown’s breakout performance at Boston’s TD Garden. To be sure, Brown has landed quads in practice. Brown has what most of the other skaters don’t seem to possess — or don’t possess to the same degree: exquisite musicality, deep engagement with the audience, and a mastery over his blade. That Brown continues to rank in the Top 10 internationally also serves as a reminder of all the ways most of his competitors are lacking in some regard.

Showtime: Jason Brown has an engagement with the audience that many competitors lack. Image via AP.

The jumps that gave Zoi Sadowski-Synnott gold in slopestyle” via John Branch et al. of The New York Times — Sadowski-Synnott, a 20-year-old from New Zealand, landed “the best run of my life” to win the gold medal in women’s snowboard slopestyle at Genting Snow Park. Her victory can be attributed to a three-jump sequence that no other women’s competitor can match. “I knew before I dropped in that if I landed the run that I set out to do,” she said, “I would win gold.” Her winning performance came on her third and final run, the last of the competition. She navigated the course cleanly and put herself in a position to win as she approached the last of her three major jumps. If she could land the backside double cork 1080, she knew, the Olympic title would be hers.

Everyone knows Mikaela Shiffrin. Her lack of company is U.S. skiing’s concern.” via Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post — Entering these Games, the evaluation is clear: There is Shiffrin, and there is everyone else. The 26-year-old from Colorado is a pre-Olympics darling because of her record to this point. Also, in a sport in which Team USA traditionally has mined medals, she is the only athlete considered a true contender for one here. There’s a strong possibility that the U.S. Alpine team will be decorated. It just won’t be diverse, and that’s a departure from the recent past.

Vincent Zhou out of men’s figure skating event after positive test clouds U.S. team’s silver” via Les Carpenter of The Washington Post — Zhou’s coronavirus test from Sunday had come back positive. So, while Karen Chen and the other skaters who had been part of the team event climbed the platform beside the Russian team, Zhou was elsewhere, awaiting the result of a confirmation test. At the medal ceremony, the Russians held hands and jumped as one on the ice. The Japanese skaters clapped. And the Americans had someone bring over a phone, so they could stand in front of their flag and record a video for Zhou. It was a weird moment in a weird Olympics for an American team that had a weird path to the silver.

— ALOE —

The last oyster tongers of Apalachicola” via David Hanson and Michael Hanson of The Better Southerner — Decades of accumulated oyster shells made up the beds (or reefs) sitting a few feet below the water’s surface. The oyster tongers would anchor over their favorite beds and literally rake up the oysters growing on top of the reef — with some rake loads yielding a dozen perfect oysters. In open-air backyard shops, a few local boat makers were building two to three skiffs per month. Oyster shucking houses dotted the shore and the docks in downtown Apalachicola, neighboring Eastpoint, and down the bay to Tommy Ward’s 13 Mile Oyster House. This year, though, no one is taking oysters. In 2020, Florida, responding to a historic collapse in oyster populations, closed Apalachicola Bay to all wild oyster harvesting for up to five years.

A rare breed: Oyster harvesters are slowly disappearing from Apalachicola Bay. Image via Florida Memory.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Michelle McGovern, and Rachel Witbracht.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

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