Good Thursday morning.
Breaking overnight — “Betty Sembler, political matriarch, anti-drug advocate, and philanthropist, dies at 90” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Sembler, a prolific and powerful advocate for conservative and Republican policies and politicians, died Wednesday, her family said. She was 90. As half of a potent fundraising duo with her husband, developer Mel Sembler, she was befriended by presidents and dynasties, especially the late George H.W. Bush and his sons, George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. A message from Jan Sher, wife of The Sembler Company’s former executive chairman, Craig Sher, revealed Betty Sembler died Wednesday surrounded by family. “We all know she led a blessed life filled with amazing adventures, but her true passion was her family and all the people she treated ‘like family,'” Jan Sher wrote. “All of our lives were certainly enriches by knowing our dear ‘Aunt Betty.'”
Florida voters want lawmakers to greenlight stricter condo inspection rules but would prefer they butt out of the net metering debate, according to a new poll.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy found that 84% of Floridians support requiring utilities to credit customers at the going rate for the excess solar energy they pump back into the grid, a practice known as “net metering.” Utility companies are pushing a change that would allow them to pay a lower rate (SB 1024/HB 741).
The prospect is especially unpopular among voters, two-thirds of whom said utilities should instead make it easier for Floridians to install rooftop solar panels.
Enthusiasm varied based on party affiliation. Three-quarters of Republicans and 94% of Democrats said they support net metering, while 57% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats said installing panels should be made easier. However, when the word “incentive” was tossed in, GOP support dwindled to 43%.
“It’s clear that Floridians overwhelmingly support the freedom to choose rooftop solar for their homes and businesses,” said Justin Vandenbroeck, Florida Solar Energy Industries Association president.
Meanwhile, the state’s electorate expressed broad support for legislation (SB 1702/SB 7042/HB 7069) filed in response to the collapse of Champlain Towers South that would require more frequent and thorough condo building inspections.
About 2 million Floridians live in condo units at least 30 years old. Florida is home to 131,773 condo units that are 20-30 years old and more than 105,000 are more than 50 years old. However, most communities do not require periodic inspections to ensure aging buildings are structurally sound.
About six in seven voters told Mason-Dixon that should change, with only 11% of respondents saying they were against an inspection mandate.
“With 86% of Florida voters supporting periodic inspections of multifamily residential units, it’s clear that Floridians want lawmakers to take swift action this Legislative Session to help ensure we never experience another Surfside condo collapse,” said Allen Douglas, the executive director of the Florida Engineering Society and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida.
Mason-Dixon conducted the polls Feb. 7-10. They have a sample size of 625 registered Florida voters and a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points at a 95% confidence level.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Americans' satisfaction with "the way things are going in U.S." is near a 40-year low.
Americans' satisfaction with "the way things are going in personal life" is near a 40-year high.https://t.co/IPp3paZBSJ pic.twitter.com/rCpWvBHVIu
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) February 16, 2022
—@EWarren: It’s appalling, and it’s nothing new: Working people are paying the price for corporate greed.
—@AmyEWalter: The thing about politics is that most voters just want their gov’t to work for them. If the basics are going well, they’re more willing to accept change/transformation. When things aren’t going well, they aren’t. Timing matters. Competence matters.
Great to be with my friend @EnesFreedom today. Enes is a true fighter and I’m proud of our work together to highlight Communist China’s horrific abuses and stand for freedom and human rights for all. pic.twitter.com/FMG8NQndDc
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) February 16, 2022
—@JeremyRedfernFL: Florida’s Omicron wave peaked at 299 cases per 100k. New Mexico’s wave peaked at 362 cases per 100k. Only one of these two states has an indoor mask mandate and forces school children to wear a mask for 8 hours a day.
@desmondmeade, leader of Florida’s Amendment 4 effort, and hundreds of returning citizens are in Tallahassee today.
They’re meeting with more than 100 lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but the House Speaker and Senate President aren’t among them. pic.twitter.com/5rBzVVeiZJ
— Lawrence Mower (@lmower3) February 16, 2022
—@LMower3: I just asked Florida’s Senate President @WiltonSimpson why he didn’t agree to a meeting with Desmond Meade. “Who’s that?” he said.
The children of House Speaker @ChrisSprowls stole the show. pic.twitter.com/e0dxTCV3B8
— Jason Delgado (@byJasonDelgado) February 16, 2022
Pretty cool that they named this cup after me. 😃 @TBLightning @StanleyCup #FlaPol pic.twitter.com/DgGTJihrOe
— Stan McClain (@RepMcClain) February 16, 2022
My beautiful wife @BetterWFetter I’m so proud of you for putting together @starwars day at the #FloridaCapitol , your #passion and #creativity always #shines in what ever you are working for! #StarWars #StarWarsDay #StarWarsDayAtTheFloridaCapitol #MayTheForceBeWithYou pic.twitter.com/wz3VXxHprA
— John W (@JohnIIIFL) February 16, 2022
—@AGlorios: Second day in a row in the Florida House press gallery. Second day in a row as the only woman in the room.
—@AriannaWMC5: #Wordle has been extremely annoying lately
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 3; Daytona 500 — 3; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 5; Suits For Session — 6; St. Pete Grand Prix — 8; CPAC begins — 10; Joe Biden to give the State of the Union address — 12; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 15; Miami Film Festival begins — 15; the 2022 Players begins — 19; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 19; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 34; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 34; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 36; The Oscars — 38; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 40; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 41; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 45; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 60; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 64; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 70; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 70; federal student loan payments will resume — 73; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 78; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 97; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 99; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 105; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 142; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 155; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 173; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 197; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 232; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 268; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 271; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 303; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 365; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 400; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 526; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 610; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 890.
—TOP STORY —
House blesses bill addressing ‘fatherhood crisis’ in Florida” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House passed a sweeping bill to invest $70 million to promote “responsible” fatherhood, protect at-risk boys and support foster children throughout Florida. The bill (HB 7065) is a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Sprowls joined a bipartisan collection of lawmakers highlighting the measure. Collectively, they stressed the importance of fatherhood and warned of the possible negative outcomes of life without a father — an increased likelihood of poverty and incarceration, among other scenarios. “We cannot legislate fatherhood, responsibility, or character,” Sprowls said. “But we can direct some state resources to ensure that fathers, father figures, and mentors have the support they need to be inspired, equipped, and excited about being present and active in their children’s lives.”
It was an honor and privilege to be at the FL Capitol today on the invite of Speaker @ChrisSprowls to celebrate what is leading legislation in the fight for the fatherless. We have read the bi-partisan bill and are excited to get to work! #ProudFLDad pic.twitter.com/LfEMiQh7zn
— Man Up And Go (@ManUpandGo) February 16, 2022
— DATELINE TALLY —
“House passes GOP 15-week abortion ban” via Anthony Izaguirre of The Associated Press — Republicans in the House approved a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, moving to tighten access to the procedure ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit abortion rights in America. The GOP-controlled House passed the 15-week abortion ban after several hours of debate between Democrats who said the measure would impose an unnecessary burden on women and Republicans who said they were protecting the unborn. “This is the right to life and to give up life is unconscionable to me,” said Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy, who disclosed that she previously had an abortion but has “regretted it every day since.” Florida’s bill contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury to the mother or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. The state currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“The House just unveiled a giant package of tax cuts — and it’s actually pretty good” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — To be sure, there are several breaks for influential special interests. But the sweeping, 68-page proposal also includes several broad and long-lasting sales-tax breaks that could directly impact everyday Floridians. For instance, it would eliminate sales tax for one year on children’s diapers and clothing for babies and toddlers; for six months on energy-efficient refrigerators, washing machines and water heaters; and for three months on children’s books. The package would also permanently cut sales tax in half on selling new mobile homes (though not used mobile homes) and expand a tax-credit program that supports Habitat for Humanity. And the House plan consciously avoids the enormous corporate tax breaks currently advancing through the Senate. The plan also includes a “back-to-school” tax holiday July 25-Aug. 7; a “disaster-preparedness” tax holiday May 28-June 20; a “Freedom Week” tax holiday July 1-7; and a new, one-week “tools used by skilled trade workers” holiday Sept. 3-9.
“Democrats decry school, Medicaid, housing funding levels as House passes $105.3 billion budget” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The Florida House passed a $105.3 billion budget Wednesday, setting the stage for negotiations with the Senate, which is poised to pass a $108 billion spending plan Thursday. The vote on HB 5001 was an overwhelming margin of 102-14. But many Democrats, even those who voted for it, critiqued several portions of the plan, including withholding $200 million from 12 school districts, cuts to Medicaid, and the lack of funds for a key affordable housing program. The House spending plan would withhold $200 million from 12 school districts that enacted mask mandates for students when school returned last fall.
“Lawmakers want salary hikes for state workers, but there’s a conundrum: $15 an hour or 5.38%?” via Issac Morgan and Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — As it stands now, the Florida House and Speaker Sprowls wants to see a pay increase of 5.38% for the state workforce as inflation rises in Florida and elsewhere, according to budget documents. Meanwhile, the Florida Senate is pushing a minimum-wage increase of $15 an hour for state workers and a broader pool of employees, an initiative led by Senate President Simpson. With about three weeks to go before the end of the Legislative Session, the chambers will have to negotiate a pay plan that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Bill that penalizes districts could cost Tallahassee schools their security chief” via Ana Goñi-Lessan and John Kennedy of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Schools administrators have started tallying up which jobs might be at risk if Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature yank millions from the school district for defying the Governor’s ban on mask mandates. One would be the person in charge of keeping students safe. So far, the district has identified 16 administrative positions that meet the requirements, but local officials say they aren’t “bureaucrats,” as Rep. Randy Fine said to the Democrat last week or “union-controlled politicians,” as the Governor tweeted Tuesday. Since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year in August, at least nine Leon County K-12 students have been arrested for bringing weapons on campus.
Amendment to water bill filed to address ‘misinformation’ via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senate Republican leadership is out with an amendment to a controversial water bill that is one of the latest in a growing number of rifts between the Florida Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis. The measure (SB 2508), a revival in the fight over Lake Okeechobee’s water, emerged earlier this month and but drew staunch criticism from Florida’s Republican Governor. Bill sponsor and Wauchula Republican Sen. Ben Albritton calls the bill an accountability measure for the agency that oversees the Lake Okeechobee watershed, but DeSantis argues the measure was rammed through the legislative process. The bill requires the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to make recommendations to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that controls releases from Lake Okeechobee, that don’t reduce the amount of water available to “existing legal users.” To address some of the concerns of the bill’s critics, which include a school of fisherman, Albritton has filed an amendment to clarify provisions that the bill’s provisions don’t affect a 2017 law on water resources. The amendment isn’t a “deal” with the Governor’s Office, but senators hope the measure will address DeSantis’ concerns. Both Albritton and Senate President Wilton Simpson, who has named the bill a priority, say misinformation has surrounded the bill. “Over the last two weeks, there has unfortunately been purposeful misinformation on the intent and effect on Senate Bill 2508,” Albritton said in a statement Wednesday. “The legislative process is called a process for a reason. Part of that process is to listen to concerns, answer questions transparently, and make changes when necessary. Therefore, I am sponsoring an amendment that eliminates cross references, plainly states current law, and makes it crystal clear that we are not changing one word of SB 10.”
“Bill to swap out standardized assessments for progress monitoring aces House test” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation to replace standardized testing with a “progress monitoring program” is on to its final committee after receiving the unanimous support of a House education panel. The bill (HB 1193), carried in the House by Rep. Rene Plasencia, would replace the much-maligned Florida Standards Assessment, or FSA, with coordinated screening and progress monitoring. DeSantis and teachers support the proposal. Students would take more strategic tests three times during the school year, with the first two intended to give students, teachers and parents guidance on how to work on the students’ weaknesses. The final “summative” test, late in the school year, would still provide results in time for students to be able to use summer school to meet standards.
“A bill would make it easier to sue nursing homes. Elder advocates oppose it.” via Kirby Wilson and Hannah Critchfield of the Tampa Bay Times — The nursing home industry wrote the bill, but that’s not the end of the story. That was the assurance given by Sen. Ben Albritton, the lawmaker backing Senate Bill 804, which would substantially change the way the state regulates nursing home staffing levels. Albritton pledged to bring all parties with a vested interest to the table to compromise on the industry-backed legislation. Rep. Lauren Melo, who sponsored similar legislation, House Bill 1239, would do the same.
“Senate committee moves property bills, but Chris Sprowls is making no commitments” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A Senate committee Wednesday pushed ahead two bills, including a bill by Sen. Jim Boyd (SB 1728) that includes a provision that could result in some homeowners receiving coverage that does not cover the full cost to install a new roof. But it’s this provision that is drawing some questioning from other legislators — Speaker Sprowls — who worry about whether people would be able to replace their roofs. “I want to make sure people are compensated,” Sprowls said. “If you get a hurricane, and you’ve got a senior citizen on a fixed income, I am cognizant of the fact that they may not be able to go and get a huge roof.”
“House unanimously OK’s expansion of Inmate Welfare Trust Fund” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida’s Inmate Welfare Trust Fund could soon expand in size and scope under a bill passed Wednesday in the House. The Department of Corrections (DOC) uses the fund to finance inmate educational, vocational and substance abuse programs. It’s also used for inmate libraries, visitor services and religious ceremonies. The bill (HB 5401), which now awaits Senate consideration, would double the fund limit to $7.5 million and expand its uses. Lawmakers passed the bill in a unanimous 117-0 vote with only one question and no debate. Rep. Scott Plakon is the bill sponsor.
House leadership removes hurdled for EV charging bill — House leadership removed a committee reference for a bill (HB 737) that would limit utilities’ role in developing the state’s electric vehicle charging network. Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reported that the bill now has only one committee stop remaining after it cleared its first committee earlier this week. Gas station owners and utilities have sparred over the measure, which will define the limits of each Party’s role in setting the location of new charging stations and the costs for customers. The Senate companion (SB 920) passed its first committee on Jan. 18 but has not been heard since.
“Bill allowing businesses to sue and stop local ordinances heads to final House committee” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill enabling businesses to sue governments and halt enforcement of local ordinances is heading to its final committee after again advancing on a party-line vote Wednesday. The measure (HB 403) would freeze any ordinance for 90 days if a filed lawsuit claims its rules are “arbitrary or unreasonable.” The bill would also require governments to draw up a “business impact estimate” for every ordinance. Upon being sued, governments that choose not to roll back the ordinance in question and lose the lawsuit would have to cover up to $50,000 of a plaintiff’s legal fees, costs and related damages.
“Bill increasing school instruction on victims of Communism advances” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A bill that proposes public school students observe “Victims of Communism Day” and learn about the suffering under communist rule is heading to a final committee hearing in the Senate after getting a committee nod Wednesday. Sen. Manny Diaz is sponsoring the legislation (SB 268) to have students start observing the day on Nov. 7, 2023. Similar legislation (HB 395) is also headed to its third hearing in the House. Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, high school students in American government class would receive at least 45 minutes of instruction on the movement that has killed more than 100 million people.
— TALLY 2 —
“‘Preserving the sanctity of the dead’: Abandoned Black cemeteries bill clears House panel” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Rep. Fentrice Driskell‘s abandoned African American cemeteries bill cleared another House panel Wednesday. The House Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously reported the bill favorably, while commending the Tampa Democrat’s efforts to push its passage. “It’s been a labor of love over the last two years and good to get this thing moving,” said Committee Chair Jayer Williamson. “I just want to say congratulations. You’ve done a great job working this issue over the last couple of years.”
“Senate committee approves steep penalties for human traffickers, pimps” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation meant to strengthen state laws against human trafficking is headed to its last committee after receiving some constructive criticism. The bill (SB 760), which would make three significant changes to Florida’s laws concerning prostitution, cleared the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee with unanimous approval Thursday. But it still needs fine-tuning, according to its sponsor, Sen. Lori Berman, who agreed to work with Palm Beach County Public Defender Carey Haughwout on implementing fixes. “We do need to make sure to target the bill appropriately,” Berman said.
“Groping someone could result in stronger criminal charge under proposed Florida law” via Ana Ceballos and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — The Florida Senate has approved proposed legislation to create the new crime of “indecent battery,” intended to target those who grope people, 16 years and older, in a sexual manner. The bill would recognize unwanted sexual touches as a separate offense, rather than a simple battery. First-time offenders would face a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison. If they are convicted a second time for the same crime, they would face a third-degree felony. The House is moving a similar bill with the same penalties. But some lawmakers, including bill sponsor state Rep. Linda Chaney, are leaning toward making the crime a felony from the start.
“In ‘free state of Florida,’ lawmakers target ‘pop-up’ parties” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — As DeSantis on Tuesday touted how his lax COVID-19 policies helped prompt vacationers to flock to the relative freedom of Florida, state lawmakers were advancing a bill aimed at eliminating so-called “pop-up parties.” The gatherings are organized online and call for meeting in public places at an appointed time — think of a flash mob, but longer and rowdier. They sometimes feature chaotic scenes and violence, which is why 21 local law enforcement agencies are urging lawmakers to pass SB 1954, according to Sen. Tom Wright, sponsor of the bill.
“Event ticket resale bill clears first House committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill intended to make it easier for individuals to resell tickets for live theater, music, or sporting events cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. The committee approved Rep. Randy Fine’s measure (HB 969) to give ticket buyers more flexibility in how to transfer tickets. The effort drew some opposition and a couple of “no” votes. The long history of event ticket resales has sometimes been sordid, with street corner scalpers, and in more recent times with bots, buying up and reselling tickets en masse. That has led to complex legal, technological, and policy responses, sometimes involving big-name artists opposing any ticket resales.
“Senate panel advances bills to shape the future of license plates” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved two bills that could bring significant changes to vehicle license plates. One proposal, from Sen. Doug Broxson, could make digital license plates available. A decade ago, Florida allowed the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to start a pilot program to test alternative license plates on government vehicles. With legislation being considered this Session (SB 1178/HB 91), lawmakers hope to make FLHSMV-approved digital license plates available beginning July 1, 2023. The pilot program would roll out first on state vehicles, Broxson explained, before the proposed launch of public sales.
“Financial literacy course proposal earns top marks in penultimate committee” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation requiring high schoolers to take a financial literacy class has graduated to its final committee. The proposal (HB 1115), dubbed the “Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act,” would require high school students to take a half-credit financial literacy class before graduating. The measure is named after the late Hukill, a former Senator. The course would teach students about banking practices, money management, credit scores, managing debt, loan applications, insurance policies and local tax assessments.
“Bill to further limit use of physical restraints for students with disabilities heads to final committee” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A bill that seeks to further restrict the use of physical restraints on students with disabilities is headed to its final committee stop after the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education unanimously approved the bill Wednesday afternoon. The legislation (SB 390), sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, would bar school personnel from using mechanical restraints on students with disabilities. The measure does make an exception for school resource officers, school safety officers, school guardians or school security guards, who “may use mechanical restraint in the exercise of their duties to restrain students.” “At the end of the day, it’s about keeping students safe and giving families peace of mind,” Book said.
“Update to Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act heads to third Senate committee” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — New rules to update legislation passed in the wake of Florida’s worst school shooting received unanimous approval from a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. Two days after the four-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17, Sen. Joe Gruters’ bill (SB 802) would also extend the Commission’s term charged with overseeing the implementation of school safety rules. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission would not sunset as planned in 2023, but extend to July 2025, legislators in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education agreed. “Extending the Commission another couple of years will allow us to continue to work on those issues that are still outstanding,” Gruters said.
“Veteran suicide prevention bill coasts through Senate committee” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill designed to tackle the issue of veteran suicide in Florida sailed through another committee stop Wednesday. The bill (SB 1712) would require the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) to provide suicide prevention training to veteran service organizations as part of a pilot program. The training, the bill says, would emphasize crisis counseling tailored to the unique needs of veterans. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services blessed the bill unanimously without questions or debate. Sen. Danny Burgess is the bill sponsor.
— MORE TALLY —
Jimmy Patronis lauds advance of financial literacy bill — CFO Patronis applauded the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee for approving a bill (HB 1115) by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera requiring Florida high school students to take a financial literacy class to earn a diploma. “Financial literacy is an important key to a strong financial future and learning the basics of credit, budgeting, savings, and investing, can further prepare students for a successful future,” Patronis said. “These lessons are also critical to training future generations of Americans to appreciate America’s capitalist system and grow our nation’s pool of entrepreneurs.” The bill now heads to the House Education & Employment Committee. The Senate companion (SB 1054) is ready for a floor vote.
“‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill could run afoul of Title IX” via Naaz Modan of K12 Dive — Under the legislation, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents, parents would have a green light to sue school districts violating the bill for injunctive relief, which would require districts to fall in line with the legislation. The legislation specifically prohibits educators from encouraging “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” Florida’s bill and others could violate Title IX, in addition to other civil rights protections like the First and 14th Amendments. “A student who is heterosexual can learn about the history of people like them, but homosexual students cannot,” said Jackie Wernz, a partner at Thompson & Horton, a law firm that represents public schools.
Insurers endorse Senate property insurance package — The American Property Casualty Insurance Association on Wednesday gave its support to a proposal (SB 1728) to stabilize the state’s property insurance. The bill, among other things, would allow insurers to write policies that cover the actual value of roofs rather than their replacement costs. APCIA Vice President of State Government Relations Logan McFaddin said the bill “builds upon the positive reforms legislators passed last year to help address some of the key cost drivers in Florida’s property insurance market, such as unscrupulous roofing solicitations.” She added, “While SB 1728 moves the needle further in the right direction, Florida’s property insurance market will continue to struggle until the Legislature addresses the rampant lawsuit abuse taking place in the market.”
“Northwest Florida solar companies say new bill will pull the plug on their growing industry” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Northwest Florida solar companies are worried they’ll soon be turning off the lights on their businesses if a new net metering bill before the Florida Legislature becomes law. Justin Wolf, CEO of Meraki Solar, moved to Pensacola to start his business more than four years ago and now has more than 360 direct employees across Florida and another 300 contracted salespeople all in the business of putting solar panels on the roofs of people’s homes. As the cost of solar panels has come down in recent years, Florida’s regulations surrounding net metering have made it financially feasible for many people to begin installing them on their homes.
“Bill offering possible new ride for Standardbreds clears House panel” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Harness racing, heading toward what may be its final turn in Florida, would be offered another ride in a bill approved Wednesday by a House committee. Rep. Dan Daley, whose father raises Standardbred racehorses, has been trying to find a way to prevent the last run since the Legislature first started contemplating decoupling pari-mutuel racing from the casino action. His latest proposal (HB 1289), offered as a chance to save the Standardbred horse business, made it through the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee Wednesday. That bill would allow pari-mutuel operations that do not now offer harness racing to host harness racing as well.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Courtney Coppola, Adrian Lukis, Ballard Partners: FSCC
Mark Casteel: Community Associations Institute
Justin Hill, StateLinx: NetChoice
Malinda Horton, Horton & Associates: Florida Association of Museums
Lauren Jackson, TSE Consulting: Florida Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association
Samantha Kersul: TikTok
Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Solemia
Kendall Moore, Moore Law Group: Waste Management of Florida
Ken Pruitt, The P5 Group: St. Lucie County
Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Jacqui Carmona, Erica Chanti, Zachary Hubbard, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Better Tomorrow Treatment Center, Method Testing Labs, PrizePicks, SEIU State Council
Joe Saunders: Equality Florida
Andrew Secola: Students for Life Action
Alan Suskey, RJ Myers, Shumaker Advisors Florida: Gracepoint Wellness, SD USA, Tampa Bay Watch
— The House Health and Human Services Committee meets to consider HB 105 to allow local governments to ban smoking on beaches and in public parks, 8 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.
— The House Commerce Committee meets to consider HB 907 to 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, 8 a.m. Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee meets, 8 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The Labor Market Estimating Conference meets to discuss the gap between labor supply and demand, 8:30 a.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate will convene a floor Session to consider the proposed budget (SB 2500) for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, 10 a.m., Senate chamber.
— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group, 15 minutes after floor Session, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Florida Supreme Court releases opinions, 11 a.m.
— House Appropriations Committee meets, 11:30 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— House Ways and Means Committee meets, 11:30 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— House Education and Employment Committee meets to consider HB 703 that would shield applications for state college and university presidents from public record, 3 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.
— House Judiciary Committee meets to consider HB 1557 that would restrict discussions of LGBTQ and gender issues in schools, 3 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— House State Affairs Committee meets to take up a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 1/HB 1563) that would provide an additional homestead exemption for teachers, nurses, child welfare workers, police, firefighters, and other first responders, 3 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— House Rules Committee meets, 6:30 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
Assignment editors — Rep. Al Lawson headlines “Voting Rights Rally to #DefendDemocracy,” hosted by the Equal Ground Action Fund, a preeminent Black-led, nonpartisan, nonprofit group to support Black political power in Florida. Other speakers include Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried; Sens. Shevrin Jones and Annette Taddeo; Reps. Tracie Davis, Ben Diamond and Yvonne Hinson, 11:30 a.m., Capitol steps.
— GOV. CLUB MENU —
Manhattan clam chowder; Cobb salad and dressings; marinated mushroom salad; Mediterranean couscous salad; chicken cordon bleu wraps; Bombay burritos; crispy fried catfish, lemons, cocktail, and tartar sauce; uptown cheddar cheese grits; braised collard greens with ham; cupcakes.
“Florida officials kept file on ‘horrifying’ child abuse secret. A judge just rebuked them” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — On Nov. 12, 2020, state child welfare administrators filed a motion in court seeking custody of seven of Christopher Bryant and Jabora Deris’ surviving children. The couple’s 22-month-old son, Rashid Bryant, had died a week earlier, and an autopsy revealed “old and recent” skull fractures. Rashid, the court petition said, died after “sustaining multiple injuries due to severe physical abuse and medical neglect while in the care and custody of [his] parents.” The case is emblematic of a pattern in which Florida increasingly makes news organizations and the public go to court to secure access to documents that fall under the state’s public records law, one of the strongest in the nation.
“Lawmakers call for crackdown on ‘deceptive’ mailers following Florida ‘ghost’ candidate scandal” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Two members of Congress are calling on the U.S. Postmaster General to crack down on “deceptive mail practices” that allowed operatives to deliberately conceal their identities and send more than 500,000 mailers promoting “ghost” candidates in three Florida Senate districts in 2020. U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Gerald Connolly are asking U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to consider increasing identification requirements for people purchasing political mail and establishing a public database that would list people who design and market mail pieces as well as the beneficiaries of the ads.
“Why is Florida fertile ground for Oath Keepers and hate groups? We encourage extremism” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida’s role in the attack of Jan. 6, 2021, should put us all on notice about what’s brewing in this state. So far, 79 out of 734 federal Jan. 6 cases involve Florida residents. There are additional warning signs for the state. National figures associated with far-right groups are here, with strong political connections. Three the Herald named: Roger Stone; Miami’s own Enríque Tarrio, head of the Proud Boys and former Florida state director of Latinos for Trump; and Michael Flynn, the former Donald Trump national security adviser. Why here? Part of this concentration of extremism is, no doubt. But surely another steaming vat of blame must be placed squarely on the doorstep of Floridians for the government we have elected.
“Fernandina, Green Cove among USA’s top spots giving to help Canadian truck protest” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — They’re a long haul from the Great White North, but parts of Northeast Florida have reportedly become hubs of financial support for truckers protesting the Canadian government’s COVID-19 restrictions. ZIP codes around Fernandina Beach and Green Cove Springs were among the Top 10 areas donating to trucker fundraisers organized through GiveSendGo.com. The numbers aren’t huge; just 29 donors reported in each area by the time the data was released early this week. But they echo the resistance to pandemic restrictions expressed by portions of Florida’s population and its leadership.
“Bob Saget lawsuit: Judge temporarily blocks release of death probe records” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — The temporary injunction from Circuit Judge Vincent Chiu prohibits the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office from releasing any photos, videos or audio recordings related to the investigation into Saget’s death. In his order, Chiu said he found Saget’s wife Kelly Rizzo and his daughters would “suffer irreparable harm in the form of severe mental pain, anguish, and emotional distress if the requested temporary injunction is not granted.” Saget, 65, was found dead on Jan. 9 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Orlando. According to Saget’s autopsy report, he died of head trauma that “most likely incurred from an unwitnessed fall.” A toxicology analysis released along with the report did not reveal any illicit drugs or toxins.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: Case average drops to two-month low as omicron wave fades” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 6,458 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday as the seven-day average dropped to its lowest level in two months, according to CDC data. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients also declined, falling to 5,188 on Tuesday, down 27% in a week. On Tuesday, there were 845 COVID-19-infected patients in intensive care units, a one-week drop of 24%. Vaccinations in Florida have gone nearly stagnant over the past two weeks, with just 22,987 shots given per day on average, a 63.8% decrease from a month ago. About 65.6% of Floridians are fully vaccinated, and 37.9% have booster shots. There have been 5,763,580 known cases of COVID-19 in Florida, and at least 67,914 residents have died.
“Health Care District of Palm Beach County to offer some patients anti-COVID-19 pills” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — The Health Care District of Palm Beach County started prescribing Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir to patients at its primary care clinics scattered across the county. One Publix pharmacy in the county also has the pills at 2895 North Military Trail. Patients must bring prescriptions. Prescriptions are for patients at the highest risk of suffering severe COVID-19 illness, including those with weakened immune systems, such as transplant patients, cancer patients, and older adults who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are within the first five days of experiencing symptoms. Pfizer’s is authorized for patients as young as 12 years old. Merck’s is allowed for adults ages 18 and older. The FDA has approved other drugs.
“CDC lowers cruise travel warning from ‘very high’ to ‘high’” via Hannah Sampson of The Washington Post — The CDC says taking a cruise now presents a lower risk than it did at the end of 2021, at least in some cases. On Tuesday, the public health agency lowered its travel health notice for cruises from Level 4 to Level 3, which indicates COVID-19 levels on ships are “high” rather than “very high.” The agency had warned all travelers to avoid cruise travel regardless of vaccination status since Dec. 30, after the omicron surge sent cases on ships soaring. Under the new guidance, the CDC says travelers should make sure they are “up to date” with their coronavirus vaccines, which means the initial vaccination and a booster, when eligible, before taking a cruise.
“Port Canaveral officials take new CDC program to task as cruise travel warning level reduced” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The new voluntary CDC program that was announced last week asks for cruise lines to opt in to the safety protocols that replace the conditional sail order that all cruise ships sailing from the U.S. were subject to until it expired on Jan. 15. art of it is recategorizing ships as either “not highly vaccinated” or “highly vaccinated,” but also a new level called “vaccination standard of excellence.” The latter is given only to ships that can guarantee that at least 95% on board have had all their required vaccines and every available booster. This is a whole new level of bureaucracy that’s being added on tracking of the vaccination status of crew members and passengers,” Port Canaveral CEO John Murray said.
“Publix drops mask requirement for most vaccinated employees” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Publix is adding some breathing room to its mask requirement for employees. Fully vaccinated staffers of the Lakeland-based grocery store chain can decide not to wear a mask “as a result of the decrease in COVID-19 cases and wide availability of the vaccine,” Publix’s website states. the policy started Monday unless a worker’s responsibilities or a government requires a mask. Pharmacy employees still have to cover their faces when giving vaccines. Customers are not required to mask up.
“Tampa banker says requested exemption to COVID-19 vax got him fired, but employer pushes back” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A Tampa banker is suing his former employer, claiming he was fired mere hours after submitting a religious exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. But the bank said even without the exemption, he would’ve been fired anyway. Diego Rubio was fired as a loan executive with GTE Financial, a Tampa-based credit union, on Sept. 15 after working with the company for seven years. In the suit, Rubio was first vexed by the vaccine policy in July when the company announced a raffle for a free vacation to vaccinated employees. He said the company only allowed employees with medical or religious exemptions to participate after he complained. In response, GTE denied that allegation.
— 2022 —
“GOP culture war attacks ‘alarmingly potent,’ DCCC warns” via Sarah Ferris and Ally Mutnick of POLITICO — Democrats’ research shows that some battleground voters think the Party is “preachy,” “judgmental” and “focused on culture wars.” And the Party’s House campaign arm had a stark warning for Democrats: Unless they more forcefully confront the GOP’s “alarmingly potent” culture war attacks, from critical race theory to defunding the police, they risk losing significant ground to Republicans in the midterms. In presentations over the past two weeks, party officials and operatives used polling and focus group findings on arguing Democrats can’t simply ignore the attacks, mainly when they’re playing at a disadvantage. Generic ballots of swing districts from late January showed Democrats trailing Republicans by 4 points, according to the polling.
“Can Democrats convince struggling parents that the party hasn’t abandoned them?” via Grace Segers of The New Republic — Everyone can agree that parents have had a particularly difficult few years. Many parents of school-age children, particularly mothers, had to leave their jobs to take care of children unable to attend school. Children have struggled with virtual learning, as well as the mental health and educational effects of not being able to sit in a classroom. The chaos and inconsistency have naturally manifested themselves in our politics. Children and schools have increasingly become the focal point of several political maelstroms. Perhaps most concerning for Democrats and Biden, 58% of parents surveyed awarded him a “C,” “D,” or “F” grade in how he has handled the education response to the pandemic.
“Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio heavy re-election favorites in prediction market” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A prediction market suggests DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Rubio are sailing to re-election later this year, highlighting the incumbents’ heavy favorite status Wednesday. PredictIt, which allows users to buy “yes” or “no” shares on a given candidate’s electoral chances, suggests neither the Senator nor the Governor faces a serious challenge in November. The 2022 gubernatorial market, which DeSantis has dominated since it opened, is increasingly becoming a tale of just two candidates for investors. “yes” share for DeSantis is priced at 88 cents, which translates to an 88% chance DeSantis wins in November. That’s far ahead of Democrat Charlie Crist, at 11 cents. Meanwhile, Fried is free-falling, with a “yes” share valued at just 6 cents.
“North Florida casino campaign still wants Supreme Court review of ballot language” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Even though its petition drive failed to garner enough valid voter signatures to qualify a North Florida casino issue for the ballot, Florida Voters in Charge (FVIC) still wants the Supreme Court of Florida to review its ballot language. The organization that pushed to get a North Florida casino issue onto the 2022 statewide General Election ballot, but failed to meet the state’s petition requirements, asked the Supreme Court to render an advisory opinion on the ballot language review anyway. That would be just in case FVIC wins a lawsuit challenging the validity of its petition counts that came up short on Feb. 1. VIC asked the Supreme Court to put together a brief-filing schedule that would lead the court to issue an advisory opinion by April 1.
“Pinellas Co. elected officials endorse Eric Lynn for CD 13 seat” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Several local leaders have come out in support of congressional candidate Lynn, who is hoping to take the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 13th Congressional District contest. The elected officials who’ve endorsed Lynn include Belleair Beach Council member Dr. Robyn Ache, North Redington Beach Commissioner Gary Curtis, and former Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Jim Labadie. The new endorsements come after a Global Strategy Group poll showed Lynn leads his Democratic opponents in name recognition and favorability.
Joe Gruters backs Dean Black for HD 15 — Sen. Gruters endorsed Jacksonville Republican Black in the open race for House District 15. As a State Senator and former Co-Chair for President Trump’s campaign in Florida, I know how important it is that we elect true conservative leaders to work for us in Tallahassee,” Gruters said. That is why I support Dean Black for Florida House District 15. Dean is a proud constitutionalist, will fight to limit government overreach, and was a delegate for President Trump in 2020.” Earlier this month, Black officially entered the race for HD 15, which covers western Duval and all of Nassau counties. Republicans Bo Hodges of Hilliard and Emily Nunez of Yulee filed for the current HD 11 but could redesignate it to HD 15.
“Hillary Cassel raises $27K for House race — and loses her most serious primary opponent” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Cassel was ahead in the money race to represent House District 99 and replace term-limited Rep. Evan Jenne. But now, the House map that’s all but certain puts her in House District 101 with no competitors. And her closest competitor in the money race to represent HD 99, Jeremy Katzman, has opted to drop out of the race and run for Cooper City’s City Commission rather than face the incumbent, Rep. Michael Gottlieb, who is in the new House District 102. I live in a district where I would be running against someone I deeply respect and who, in my opinion, is doing a very good job as a legislator,” Katzman said. So, I made the decision, which was very tough for me, to withdraw my candidacy for the state House.”
— CORONA NATION —
“U.S. ‘excess deaths’ during pandemic surpassed 1 million, with COVID-19 killing most but other diseases adding to the toll, CDC says” via Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — The United States has recorded more than 1 million “excess deaths” since the start of the pandemic, government mortality statistics show, a toll that exceeds the officially documented lethality of the coronavirus and captures the broad consequences of the health crisis that has entered its third year. The excess-deaths figure surpassed the milestone last week, reaching 1,023,916.
“CDC chief wants to ‘give people a break’ from mask-wearing once transmission rates improve” via John Bacon and Jeanine Santucci of USA Today — COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are all declining, and federal health officials could ease guidance on masks soon, the director of the CDC said Wednesday. Rochelle Walensky, speaking at a White House briefing on COVID-19, said her agency was assessing data and “will soon put guidance in place” that encourages prevention measures while protecting public health and hospitals. The CDC recommends indoor masking in areas with substantial or high transmission. That includes 97% of U.S. counties, Walensky said. We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when these metrics are better,” Walensky said. And then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen.”
“The mask mandates were inside of us all along” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — As I was writing about the sudden push by Democratic Governors to rescind mask mandates last week, I noticed something interesting. Pulling the state-level case totals, it became obvious that there wasn’t any significant difference between the places that had instituted or maintained mask mandates and those that hadn’t. There is not any discernible pattern. It is possible, for example, that mask mandates were put in place in states that were already seeing big surges, and the mandates tamped down on how bad they would be. States with mandates were also more heavily vaccinated; perhaps confidence in the vaccine’s efficacy to prevent infection led to fewer precautions.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Joe Biden HHS estimates $30B needed in new COVID-19 aid” via Alice Miranda Ollstein and Adam Cancryn of POLITICO — The Biden health department needs at least $30 billion to keep its wide-ranging COVID-19 response work going, Health and Human Services Secretary x told congressional appropriators in charge of crafting a supplemental pandemic funding package on Tuesday. Sen. Roy Blunt, the top Republican overseeing health funding in the upper chamber, said Becerra talked to him and other lawmakers and staff that morning about the administration’s hope that the funding could be part of the expected supplemental bill that rides alongside the 2022 omnibus lawmakers are currently crafting.
“No longer the ‘mask police’: End of mandates brings relief for (some) business owners” via Chris Woodyard of USA Today — Now it’s going to be up to customers to make decisions on masks as business owners in California and the other states deal yet another twist in the pandemic saga. There are so many mixed messages going on out there,” said Rachel Michelin, President of the Sacramento-based California Retailers Association. But she expressed relief that the mandate is being diminished, saying it’s time that we all learn to live with coronavirus and make our own decisions on precautions to stay safe. Mask freedom still won’t apply to certain settings, whether riding mass transit or visiting a prison or nursing home.
“They rushed to buy in the pandemic. Here’s what they would change.” via Ronda Kaysen of The New York Times — For nearly two years, homebuyers have been shopping in conditions ripe for regret. Prices have soared, inventory has plunged, and competition has been brutal in markets across the country. With fixer-uppers fetching multiple offers, buyers must make snap decisions about what is often the most significant financial investment of their lives. Invariably, someone makes a choice they wish they hadn’t. Surveys found about three-quarters of recent buyers expressed some regret. About a third of respondents regret buying a house that needed more work than anticipated, 31% wish the home they purchased were bigger, and 21% thought they overpaid.
“U.S. retail sales jump as inflation surges” via Harriet Torry of The Wall Street Journal — U.S. shoppers boosted spending at the start of the year as the Omicron wave of COVID-19 started to recede and inflation reached a four-decade high. Retail sales, a measure of spending at stores, online and in restaurants, rose by a seasonally adjusted 3.8% in January from the prior month, the Commerce Department said. That marked the strongest monthly gain in retail spending since last March, when the pandemic-related stimulus was distributed to households. If you look at consumers’ financial position and the strength of the labor market, you have to say that in general, it’s pretty good,” Joshua Shapiro, an economist.
— MORE CORONA —
“COVID-19 could launch an epidemic of chronic fatigue syndrome, doctors warn” via Gene Myers of NorthJersey.com — Even as the latest COVID-19 surge recedes, doctors and patient advocates warn that the virus could leave a new epidemic in its wake: millions more cases of the rare, mysterious condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers increasingly see parallels between chronic fatigue syndrome, which affects 1.5 million Americans, and long COVID-19, the barrage of symptoms including exhaustion, persistent pain, and cognitive impairment that can linger for months in some patients. The connection between the two disorders is still being studied, but research suggests the pandemic could more than triple the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME.
“Vaccination during pregnancy may provide infants protection against coronavirus, CDC study finds” via Brittany Shammas and Amy Cheng of The Washington Post — Coronavirus vaccinations given during pregnancy might protect babies after they are born. The study found that infants whose mothers were fully vaccinated with mRNA shots while pregnant were 61% less likely to be hospitalized for the virus in their first six months of life. That protection appeared stronger if the vaccination occurred after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s the first real-world evidence demonstrating that maternal vaccination generates coronavirus antibodies that could be passed on and become protective to the baby. This conclusion was previously theorized by scientists after antibodies were found in umbilical cords, which act as a conduit for nutrients and waste between the mother and the baby.
“Delta passenger tried to open emergency door as attention-grab to share vaccine views, feds say” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — Michael Brandon Demarre, 32, was on a Friday flight from Salt Lake City to Portland, Oregon, when he removed a plastic covering over the handle on the aircraft’s emergency exit and forcefully pulled on the handle, Justice Department officials wrote in a news release. After a flight attendant intervened and demanded he let go of the handle, Demarre complied and was physically restrained by the flight crew, officials say. When asked why he attempted to open the emergency door in-flight, the Portland resident told police he hoped passengers onboard would start filming him, so he had “the opportunity to share his thoughts on COVID-19 vaccines,” according to an affidavit from FBI agent Adam T. Hoover.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Lawyers say the Biden administration is still rejecting some refugees once banned by Donald Trump” via Maria Sacchetti of The Washington Post — 300 refugees were in the advanced stages of processing when Trump issued a new refugee policy in October 2017 that barred people from Somalia and 10 other nations he considered “high risk” from traveling to the United States. Lawyers say that case processing is slow and shrouded in mystery two years after the court settlement. Lawyers said they seemed most likely to have been admitted under Biden. But 53 of more than 100 refugees in that group have been rejected under Biden. Advocates say they don’t know why.
“Biden is in a bind on crime and police reform” via William A. Galston of The Wall Street Journal — After the civil disorder of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Democrats were tagged as anti-police and soft on crime, charges it took them decades to overcome. Now the Party’s response to George Floyd’s murder has brought those charges back to center stage. Calls to reduce funding for police may have cost Democrats as many as 12 House seats in 2020, and a recent poll showed that only 36% of Americans approve of the way President Biden is handling crime. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden rejected demands to defund the police and kept the proposal out of the Democratic Party’s platform. The administration went to work on an executive order addressing police reform. This hasn’t been easy because civil-rights groups don’t see eye to eye with police representatives on key points.
“What the pundits get wrong about Biden’s presidency” via James Traub of POLITICO — In recent weeks, new conventional wisdom has coalesced: Biden is fumbling away his presidency by ignoring the first lesson of politics, give your voters what they want. Hard-headed analysts are tearing out their hair at Biden’s unwillingness to abandon electoral reform, ambitious social welfare legislation and climate change action when polls show that voters want relief on inflation and the pandemic. In “Profiles in Courage,” John F. Kennedy defined “political courage” as defying the will of constituents in the name of the national good. The giant investment of Build Back Better was the centerpiece of Biden’s effort to change the life prospects of ordinary Americans, and thus to weaken the virus of polarization and the threat of Trumpism. he voting bills were meant to counter the worst effects of that polarization. or all their defects, they were the right medicine for what ails us.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“‘I am so inspired.’ Hopes of U.S. Supreme Court pick stir Miami’s Black legal community” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Leah Simms knows something of what may lie ahead for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Miami-raised federal judge considered a leading contender to become the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. Forty-one years ago, Simms became the first-ever Black female judge in Miami-Dade County and Florida. Instantly, civic organizations flooded her with requests to give speeches, take photos and receive awards. Everyone seemingly wanted to chime in on her wardrobe. People will be stopping her on the street,” Simms said. I had people coming up to me and pray for me right on the street.”
“Eight Republican Senators say they oppose ‘no-fly’ list for disruptive passengers because it would equate mask opponents to ‘terrorists’” via Felicia Sonmez and Lori Aratani of The Washington Post — A group of Republican Senators is pushing back against efforts to create a federal “no-fly” list for unruly passengers, arguing that doing so would essentially draw an equivalence between terrorists and opponents of mask mandates. The eight Republican Senators voiced their concerns in a letter Monday to Attorney General Merrick Garland. They noted that most reports of unruly passengers were related to the mandated use of face masks amid the pandemic. The Senators argued that the Transportation Security Administration “was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior onboard flights.”
— CRISIS —
“Biden clears way for investigators to obtain Trump’s Jan. 6 White House visitor logs” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Biden has rejected Trump’s effort to assert executive privilege over White House visitor logs from Jan. 6, 2021, ordering the National Archives to deliver the documents to congressional investigators in two weeks. As a matter of policy, and subject to limited exceptions, the Biden administration voluntarily discloses such visitor logs monthly. The Barack Obama administration followed the same practice,” White House Counsel Dana Remus said in a letter to National Archivist David Ferriero dated Feb. 15. Biden has already rejected a string of executive privilege claims over other Trump White House materials, like briefing memos, speech drafts and call records.
“Texting through an insurrection” via Jacqueline Alemany, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Tyler Remmel of The Washington Post — The panicked texts started landing in Mark Meadows’s phone long before thousands of supporters of Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. These and thousands of other frantic, ephemeral text messages that might have otherwise been lost to history are now key to piecing together the most vivid and comprehensive picture to date of the events surrounding the chaos at the Capitol. Many were sent to Meadows by Fox News hosts, lawmakers and other Trump allies urging him to get his boss to put a halt to the assault.
“Charges dropped against Pinellas man accused of having explosive device near Jan. 6 rally” via Michaela Mulligan and Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — State prosecutors dropped the most serious charges Tuesday against an Oldsmar man who sheriff’s deputies said was found with a backpack that held several flammable items near a Jan. 6 rally outside the Pinellas County Jail. A notice filed in court Tuesday by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office indicates that prosecutors will not pursue charges of making and possessing a destructive device against Garrett Smith. Smith, 22, still faces a charge of loitering and prowling, a misdemeanor. Smith was arrested on Jan. 6 on charges of making and possessing a destructive device and loitering.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Why Trump’s accounting firm ditched him” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — Two investigations in New York are looking at whether Trump’s company falsified its records to either avoid taxes or get loans. And Trump and his company just got troubling news on that front: Their accounting firm won’t vouch for them anymore and is ditching them entirely. Mazars said in a recent letter that a decade’s worth of financial statements it prepared for the Trump Organization “should no longer be relied upon.” “While we have not concluded that the various financial statements, as a whole, contain material discrepancies, based upon the totality of the circumstances, we believe our advice to you to no longer rely upon those financial statements is appropriate,” Mazars executive William J. Kelly said.
“Candidates’ vaccine hesitancy ‘demonstrates the limits’ of Trump’s grip on GOP, say experts” via Lucien Bruggeman of ABC News — As the midterm primary season approaches, several Republicans running for state or national office are either refusing to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status or advertising that they haven’t received a shot, even as Trump calls on his followers to get the vaccine. Some experts say that disconnect could expose cracks in a party that continues to grapple with its loyalty to Trump as well as a growing distrust of government, scientists, and the media and may signal a loosening of Trump’s grip on the Republican voting base, according to Sarah Isgur, a former spokesperson for the Justice Department during the Trump administration.
“Investigation: Ryan Zinke misused position as Interior Secretary” via Matthew Brown of The Associated Press — Former U.S. Interior Secretary Zinke misused his position to advance a commercial development project that included a microbrewery in his Montana hometown and lied to an agency ethics official about his involvement in the project, according to a report by federal investigators released Wednesday. The Interior Department’s inspector general investigation found that Zinke continued working on the commercial project through a nonprofit foundation in the resort community of Whitefish, Montana, even after he committed upon taking office to break ties with the foundation.
“Money that won Melania Trump NFT came from Melania Trump wallet” via Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou of MSN — The source of funds for the winning bid in Trump’s first NFT auction appears to be the creators of the project themselves. A series of blockchain transactions show that the cryptocurrency used to purchase Trump’s nonfungible token came from a wallet that belongs to the entity that initially listed the project for sale. In January, the former First Lady began an auction for a collection of NFTs on the Solana blockchain, with art from her first official state visit in 2018.
— LOCAL NOTES —
Tracey Polson and Nick Howland polling in dead heat for Jacksonville City Council — The at-large Group 3 seat election of Feb. 22 turns into a virtual dead heat between Polson and Howland. In new polling of Duval County voters, the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida (PORL) found Polson up by just one percentage point, with 50.3% compared to 49.7% for Howland. Likely voters include those who said they would definitely vote or already voted in the City Council election, either by mail or early in person. It looks like we are dealing with another impossibly tight race for City Council,” said Dr. Michael Binder, UNF professor of political science. Voter turnout is going to be the deciding factor here, and predicting that can be tricky …” To read the report, click here.
“Fort Lauderdale City Auditor fired after opening secret investigation on police chief” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — City Auditor John Herbst, the man responsible for rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse at Fort Lauderdale City Hall, was fired late Tuesday night after Commissioners accused him of overstepping his authority by opening a secret investigation into the police chief. Mayor Dean Trantalis questioned why Herbst did not alert the Commission after his office got an anonymous tip that Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Larry Scirotto was working a side gig as a college basketball referee on city time. Herbst defended his right to investigate fraud claims by any city employee without permission from the Commission. Under his contract, he is due four months of severance pay and can stay on the job another 60 days.
“Court overturns conviction of North Miami cop who shot at unarmed autistic man holding toy” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — A Florida appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former North Miami police officer who was convicted of shooting at an autistic man holding a silver toy truck, a case that drew national headlines. The 3rd District Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned the misdemeanor culpable negligence conviction for Jonathon Aledda, who claimed he believed the man was holding a firearm and holding another man hostage during a standoff six years ago. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office must now decide if it will retry Aledda, fired from the police department after the shooting.
“Former Broward Mayor agrees to pay ethics fine over financial records” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Former Broward Mayor Dale Holness has agreed to pay a $1,000 fine after state investigators said he violated state laws that require him to make his finances public record to ensure he doesn’t have any conflicts of interest. State investigators said Holness did not report income from 2016 to 2019 for two companies he owns or the accompanying income he receives from rental properties. Holness, a County Commissioner from 2010 until his resignation went into effect in January, owns two companies but told investigators he had no income from those companies during the four years. Although initially part of the complaint, investigators did not go back to 2012 because of the statute of limitations.
“‘Opioids appear to know no bounds’: Lakeview reports sharp increase in abuse, overdoses” via Jennifer Rich of the Pensacola News Journal — Mental health experts are blaming pandemic devastation for a drastic increase in the rate of drug overdose deaths on a national and local level. There is a clear uptick and correlation between the pandemic and rise of overdose deaths we’re seeing,” said Sweneda McDonald, director of Lakeview Center Medication-Assisted Treatment programs. McDonald said overdose deaths are up 18% since last year, as the pandemic lingers into its third year. She believes more people are self-medicating to handle the isolation and economic impact, especially with opioids.
“Tallahassee City Commission takes next step toward lobbying, ethics changes” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — The Tallahassee City Commission voted Wednesday unanimously to take up potential changes to the city’s lobbyist and ethics ordinances during their March Commission meeting. During an ethics workshop, the vote took place where the Commissioners considered and discussed recommended ordinance changes from the city’s Independent Ethics Board. The changes include sweeping changes to the city’s lobbying process. The recommended ordinance changes specifically define what a lobbyist is, ban lobbyist contingency fees, and require lobbyists to submit contact logs to the city after lobbying a city employee or official. The logs would include what issue was discussed.
“Police launch internal affairs investigation into baby injured in Pensacola Police custody” via Olivia Iverson of WEAR-TV — The Pensacola Police Department says it has launched an internal affairs investigation after parents say a child was hurt while in police custody following last week’s police-involved shooting. It happened after Pensacola Police SWAT officers executed a search warrant last Thursday morning at home on N 7th Ave. 4-year-old Corey Marioneaux Jr. has been charged for shooting at one of the SWAT officers after they rammed his door. Marioneaux Jr.’s two young children, ages 1 and 3, were inside the home at the time. The family argues Marioneaux Jr. shot at the officers because he feared they were intruders.
“‘You won’t understand’: Walton Chairman says public should just trust Commissioners” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — In the eyes of Walton County Commission Chairman Mike Barker, residents can’t possibly understand the details of everything going on with their county government, and thus should simply trust the Commission to make decisions on their behalf. Barker left no doubt about his position as Commissioners decided Tuesday, with Commissioner Tony Anderson the only dissenting voice, to name Code Director Tony Cornman as a deputy county administrator. The vote also included other actions on county administration, based on recommendations in a scathing report submitted by an operations director hired by the Commission last August to assess government operations.
“Political organizer, environmental entrepreneur run for seat on Gainesville Commission” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — A Democratic Party organizer who has run the campaigns of numerous elected local officials and causes and another who has served on the city’s Plan Board and taught high school science have filed to run. So far, they are the only candidates who have filed to run for the seat, which is up for election on Aug. 23. The seat is currently held by Adrian Hayes-Santos, who is limited to completing his second term in office. Bryan Eastman is president of the Alachua County Young Democrats. He has run the campaigns of numerous local candidates and ballot initiatives. Christian Newman, 53, has taught high school science and founded various environmental consulting firms.
“New Palm Beach State College initiative will refund tuition for certain degrees if grads are unemployed” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Palm Beach State College (PBSC) is now offering a guaranteed job for students in several of its work-study programs, with the promise of refunding tuition if the graduates are unemployed after six months. Those refunds would apply to career training programs in the fields of dental hygiene, electrician work, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers (HVAC), nursing, respiratory care, and welding. The move comes after Florida approved a slate of workforce program reforms last year.
“Osceola Co. School Board members propose opening prayer” via Valerie Boey of Fox 35 Orlando — Leading school board meetings with prayer could make a big comeback in Osceola County. There’s a proposed resolution inviting people of all faiths to lead a prayer. Osceola School Board Chair Terry Castillo says she would rather start the meetings with a prayer, rather than a moment of silence. That’s why she’s hoping to pass a new prayer resolution. There cannot be school board and prayer; that’s unconstitutional,” says attorney Chris Line with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Line says the school district stopped praying before meetings last year after they contacted them. He’s concerned about the proposed prayer resolution.
“‘It’s heartbreaking for us’: Sarasota Jewish leaders disturbed, frightened at distribution of anti-Semitic flyers” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Area Jewish leaders say the recent distribution of anti-Semitic flyers in Sarasota neighborhoods has been disturbing and hateful. Temple Emanu-El Associate Rabbi Michael Shefrin said his Sarasota congregation felt anger after the leaflets were distributed. Rabbi Samantha Kahn of Temple Sinai noted the distribution of the flyers was frightening. The material was found in the South Poinsettia, Cherokee Park, Harbor Acres, and Oyster Bay neighborhoods. A member of her congregation celebrated her bat mitzvah this weekend, so Temple Sinai decided to hire extra security for the celebration.
“Commissioners moving forward on 1 cent sales tax referendum for St. Johns County” via Ashley Harding and Joe McLean of News 4 Jax — St. Johns County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to have attorneys draw up an official proposal to levy a one-cent sales surtax. Commissioners say the sales tax hike is needed to keep up with booming growth. St. Johns is one of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S. and the second-fastest growing county in Florida, and the county has a backlog of projects that need funding. County attorneys are now going to write up the sales tax as an official proposal, and the first discussion of it is now scheduled for March 1. the issue will still need approval from Commissioners before its placed on the countywide ballot and, in the end, would be decided by voters in November.
“Days after housing measure fails, Harvard study finds nearly half St. Pete renters are cost-burdened” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A study from the Harvard Kennedy School released found nearly half renters and a quarter of homeowners in St. Petersburg are cost-burdened, spending 30% of their income on housing. The study said nearly a quarter of renters and 11% of homeowners spend more than half their income on housing. And it gets worse for low-income residents. The study found 51% of homeowners who make less than 50% of the area median income (AMI) spend more than half that income on a mortgage. And 69% of renters below 50% AMI spend more than half their income on rent. The study’s findings were released Monday, four days after the City Council voted down a motion from Council Member Richie Floyd to declare a housing state of emergency in the city.
— TOP OPINION —
“Gas and sales tax ‘holidays’ are gimmicks. Floridians deserve real relief” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Something weird is happening in Tallahassee. Republican lawmakers are daring to challenge DeSantis. The most recent example comes as leaders in both chambers are throwing cold water on DeSantis’ proposal to cut gasoline taxes not permanently, but just for five or six months leading up to DeSantis’ re-election campaign this fall. DeSantis is calling his $1 billion proposal a “tax holiday.”
— OPINIONS —
“Now is the time to speak up on abortion legislation” via Juanita Powell-Williams, et al. for The Florida Times-Union — Would it surprise you to know that just 50 years ago, it was illegal to have an abortion? Would it further surprise you to learn that 59% of women support keeping abortion legal? In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized for the first time that the constitutional right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” That was when abortion became legal with the Roe v. Wade decision. Whether to terminate a pregnancy must remain a private decision. Currently, our Florida legislature is poised to add further restrictions to accessing abortion with several proposed bills. Making abortion illegal will only increase deaths and injuries, especially for the most vulnerable in our community.
“Whether ‘Don’t Say Gay’ or ‘sue the schools,’ state should scrap bad lawmaking” via Pensacola News Journal editorial board — The culture wars being waged by DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have produced laws that amount to little more than big government attempts to exert state control over what Floridians think and say. This sort of lawmaking has proved pointless and is doomed to be overturned when challenged in court. Political spectacle is a waste of taxpayer time and money. The latest example is proposed legislation containing a vaguely worded prohibition against “encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
“Democracy is under attack, and voters in Miami are the targets” via the Miami Herald editorial board — A voter-fraud scheme seems to be emerging in Miami, aimed at some of our most vulnerable residents: seniors in public housing. If it’s true, it’ll be a new and shameful moment in voter disenfranchisement in Florida, where lawmakers’ push to restrict access to voting is continuing with unnerving vigor. Residents of the Haley Sofge Towers in Little Havana have been coming forward to say that their voter registrations were switched without their knowledge to Republican after visits from canvassers, some wearing red caps and T-shirts that said, “Republican Party of Florida.” The Miami Herald reported a total of 103 people in that housing complex switched political-party affiliation in a three-month period, every single one of them to the Republican Party. Pretty hard to explain that without something odd going on.
“Consistency and accountability should be carrots, not sticks” via Dr. Ed Moore of Florida Daily — Politics, policy and philosophy all start with “p,” and yet that about ends any similarities. One might think you could track or even grade an elected official or a body of politicians, like a Legislature or a Congress, by linking these p words, but it seems lately that consistency is elusive. While they often mention accountability, their actions do not quite seem to match. This is very true this year in the Florida House, where a program that has served the state’s citizens since 1979 is subjected to a series of potential changes that will harm Florida’s families, students and higher education community. The Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) Act offers more than 46,000 Florida students each year the ability to make the right choice for them in pursuing higher education options.
“Carol Milliken: Support SB 1284, HB 823 to encourage next generation of nurses in Florida” via Florida Politics — Legislation this year could make a difference in the lives of numerous Floridians who find themselves in situations similar to the one I have been in — with a strong desire to further my education and advance my career, but without the time or ability to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school. Senate Bill 1284 and House Bill 823 can open up doors for Floridians, by expanding access to the Florida Postsecondary Student Assistance Grant to students who need more flexible education options to achieve their goals — including nurses like myself. I hope that lawmakers will better understand why the legislation is so important — so we can ensure all Floridians have this same opportunity to earn a degree from the institution that best fits their needs.
“Janelle Perez: Communities are stronger, better when we fight for the American dream, not tear it apart” via Florida Politics — Florida’s economy is powered by immigrants and essential workers. The top two economic drivers in this state are tourism and agriculture. Immigrants add $100 billion annually to Florida’s economy, and these contributions are what make our economy the 15th largest in the world. These workers keep our state running; they are our neighbors, family members, health care workers and loved ones. This is why it is so shocking to see DeSantis threaten businesses and religious groups with legislation that would harm immigrant children. Instead of providing compassionate and common-sense solutions to a challenge that demands leadership, they are pushing legislation to penalize private transportation companies and religious organizations for helping to reunite unaccompanied immigrant children with their families and loved ones.
—TODAY’S SUNRISE —
A long, emotional night of debate on the House floor over HB 5, which will impose a ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
Also on Today’s Sunrise:
— The House unanimously approves a bill aimed at relieving the Fatherhood Crisis.
— A bill to curb “Pop-Up” parties is headed to the Senate floor.
— And a police chase in the Orlando International Airport. The perpetrator was riding a motorized suitcase.
To listen, click on the image below:
— OLYMPICS —
“Erin Jackson’s golden moment is a breakthrough for U.S. speedskating and representation” via Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post — Brittany Bowe screamed for Jackson. She had enough lungs for all 37.04 seconds of her friend’s golden Olympic skate and left plenty for the celebratory aftermath. She screamed from a bench in the middle of the National Speed Skating Oval, screamed while running to the pads, screamed so loud and for so long, she said, “I think I passed out.” When Bowe gave up her spot last month to make certain Jackson would be an Olympian, her decision transcended friendship and sportsmanship and honored common sense. Bowe knew Jackson belonged here; U.S. trials mishap be damned. An American woman hadn’t won an individual medal, period, since Chris Witty set a 1,000-meter world record while taking the gold in 2002.
“For two weeks, they’re curling at the Olympics. Then it’s back to the COVID-19 front lines.” via Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post — Nina Roth and Vicky Wright are healers representing both their countries and the front line health care workers all over this planet still grappling with the coronavirus. They love to curl. They live to help people stay alive. Game on, conscience off. Like nursing, curling is a mental maze to navigate. It helps to think several steps ahead, but it also demands precision at the moment. The individual must do her job, but there’s little freedom to stray from the team concept. Roth plays for the United States, eliminated from medal contention late Wednesday night after a 10-7 loss to Japan. Wright, a curler for Great Britain, is a surgical nurse at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Scotland.
“China invented many things. It says skiing is one of them.” via James T. Areddy of The Wall Street Journal — China is using the Winter Olympics to further a claim that skiing originated there 10,000 years ago and to advertise Xinjiang, a part of the country usually synonymous with political strife, as both the source and future of the sport. Skiing’s roots are often traced to Northern Europe. The basis for China’s origin claim is 10 purplish humanlike silhouettes atop something that could be skis, painted thousands of years ago under a rock overhang in what is now Xinjiang. So far, only archaeologists connected to Chinese research institutions have concluded the pictograms are 10,000 years old, based on their observations of other rock art. Sometimes, Chinese media cite a figure of 12,000 years.
“Fly high, frog princess! Well done, Chen No. 3!” via Andrew Keh and John Liu of The New York Times — While sports fans worldwide marvel at the aerial contortions of the skier Eileen Gu, many in China are professing their admiration for one “Frog Princess.” Americans who watched Nathan Chen spin his way to a gold medal may be confused to see Chinese figure skating aficionados refer knowingly to someone named “Chen No. 3.” And although the name of the Russian figure skating star Anna Shcherbakova can be a mouthful for some of her Chinese-speaking fans, a sobriquet that translates to “Daughter of a Wealthy Family” rolls far more easily off their tongues. Official phonetic transliterations of international names into Chinese can be long, unwieldy, and in producing strings of unrelated characters, basically nonsensical.
“Why two Canadian ice dancers brought orange spandex and sequins to the Olympics” via Les Carpenter of The Washington Post — Olympic ice dancing is often the most fabulous of events, with blasting music, sassy moves, and costumes that are … well, extravagant. After three hours of endless interpretations of delinquency displayed in various forms of fake leather, short shorts and see-through shirts with little to hide, there appeared at the Olympics ice rhythm dance the Canadian team of Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier dressed in something best described as sherbet buried in an avalanche of sprinkles. Orange. Very, very orange. The fronts were ablaze with Vs of rhinestones that dipped to frightening lows; the backs clung tightly to every curve. The costumes demanded attention.
— ALOE —
“Snow moon 2022: February’s full moon lights up sky — here’s when to see it” via Kelly Hayes of Fox 13 — Look up to the sky this week as February’s full moon, dubbed the “snow moon,” makes its appearance. Overall, NASA says the moon will appear full for about three days, spanning from about midnight Tuesday morning to about midnight Thursday night. As a bonus, the full moon will appear low on the west-northwestern horizon near Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Regulus is the brightest star seen in the constellation Leo, typically best seen in the Northern Hemisphere’s late winter and spring.
“COVID-19 survivor who received double lung transplant to run in LifeSouth Race Weekend 5K” via Alan Festo of The Gainesville Sun — Eight months ago, Robert Domen was given a 3% chance of living. COVID-19 had ravaged the active-duty Marine’s lungs, and his heart and kidneys were failing. I was shocked back on two different days from flatlining,” Domen said. Domen was told he would need a double lung transplant and would likely need kidney and heart transplants as well. But through miraculous healing and UF professionals, my kidney actually fixed itself, and my heart fixed itself,” he said. He plans to ask his doctor if he can finally go home next week. The timing of his request comes as he prepares for an event that seemed unthinkable just a few months earlier. Domen will participate in a 5K with his wife, Debbie, as part of LifeSouth Race Weekend. I’m feeling great,” Domen said. Four and half months ago, I was struggling to take five steps, and now I’m going out there to do a 5K.”
“New UCF ‘Mission Control’ uses NIL to boost fan engagement” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Knights fans can now meet their favorite players and snag exclusive merch with a new subscription service that puts money in players’ pockets. Launched by Dreamfield, UCF’s “Mission Control” grans fans access to youth camps, team updates, online chats, NFTs, stickers, and “intimate private small gatherings with your favorite UCF athletes from all sports.” The membership packages, which all have space program-inspired names, start with the $10 a month “Pioneer” plan. The top-tier “Apollo” package costs $200 a month, includes exclusive events, and grants VIP status to other events.
“Orlando City and the Rise of Southern Soccer” via Christopher Adams of OTown’s 11 — Arguably the biggest trend in Major League Soccer over the last half-decade, off the field at least, has been the massive success of clubs in the southeast. Atlanta United has quickly risen to the top of MLS in terms of sheer size, boasting every attendance record and the largest presence or fan base of any team in league history. Nashville has built a strong and loyal fan base, set to open the largest soccer-specific stadium in American history. And now, Charlotte FC is approaching an MLS-record attendance for their season opener and has realistic aims at over 30,000 fans per game this season. Back in 2015, Orlando City set the American soccer world on fire by drawing huge crowds to now Camping World Stadium.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Rep. Ardian Zika, Danny Rivera, Dylan Shepherd, and Commissioner Bill Truex.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.