Good Tuesday morning.
It’s Election Day in Jacksonville
The electoral stakes are relatively low in the upcoming Jacksonville City Council Special Election for the seat vacated last year by the death of Tommy Hazouri.
Whether the winner is Republican Nick Howland or Democrat Tracye Polson, Republicans will still have supermajority control of the Council.
Yet for both sides of the aisle, this off-off-year election to fill one of 19 Council seats — for a little more than a year — has drawn significant interest from statewide players.
Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed Howland, recording an eleventh-hour robocall for his campaign. In it, the Governor warns that Polson would “defund the police,” … an accusation Polson has challenged throughout the campaign. DeSantis weighed in after potential 2022 opponents Rep. Charlie Crist, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo came to town to campaign for Polson.
How will these statewide endorsements affect tonight’s outcome? For Democrat Polson, there may have been a boost in Early Voting.
By the end of Sunday — with the traditional “souls to the polls” outreach, which typically sees a Democratic voter push from Black churches — Democrats made up 47% of the turnout; Republicans were at 42%, and NPA and third-party voters made up the balance.
This election offers a unique opportunity for all gubernatorial candidates as the only citywide election between now and the August primary. However, the outcome could be more critical to DeSantis than his Democratic challengers.
Four years ago, DeSantis lost Duval County to Democrat Andrew Gillum, a precursor of the county going blue in 2020 and rejecting Donald Trump‘s re-election. Going into 2022, DeSantis would love to flip Duval; despite it being D+5 in registration down-ballot, Republicans still perform well.
Tuesday’s results in Duval are especially — worth watching as a test of where Republican branding stands with Jacksonville voters ahead of the 2022 General Election. The Governor’s endorsement suggests confidence in a Republican victory, as DeSantis positions himself to take credit for the win.
The 40th day of the 2022 Legislative Session has come and gone. Per the House and Senate rulebooks, which means many bills are, as Miracle Max would put it, mostly dead.
According to Senate rules, a bill (or its House companion) must be heard and approved by at least one committee to be considered by the full chamber. That rule can only be waived by unanimous vote by the full Senate.
Therein lies the significance of the 40th day. Under House Rule 7.15(b), lawmakers are no longer allowed to keep bills on life support via “reconsideration,” which allows committee members to keep a bill around that doesn’t appear to have enough support for passage.
Most House committees have already wrapped up their work for Session, and come Day 50, all Senate committees other than the Rules Committee are prohibited from holding a meeting. That makes for a bundle of mostly dead bills.
Of course, mostly dead doesn’t mean dead — it means slightly alive. That’s because the Senate President is still the ultimate judge. Among his powers: waiving the rule blocking committees from meeting.
Contentious bills setting up a 15-week abortion ban and restricting discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools are expected to clear the Legislature this week, but a new poll shows Florida voters would rather lawmakers ditch both proposals.
The Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida asked Florida voters whether they supported the abortion ban or the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and found both underwater — even when using phrasing that painted them in the best light.
Opposition to the abortion ban measured in at 57%. Half those polled were asked about the ban without being told there was no exception for rape or incest. Voters who heard that version of the question were against the bill 55-34%. Opposition climbed to 60% among voters informed of the lack of a carveout.
“Opposition to the abortion ban was five points higher with the ‘no exceptions’ version, but the fact that the responses weren’t terribly different speaks to the highly partisan and emotional nature of the abortion debate,” said Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and a UNF political science professor. “People tend to know where they stand on the issue and question-wording doesn’t change very many peoples’ minds.”
On the bill regarding school discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, just under half of the voters (49%) opposed them compared to 40% who said they favored the bill.
“Support for the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is only about 40%, despite it being passed in the state Senate last week,” Binder said. “When we break it down by party registration, we see 54% of Republicans supporting the bill, which is more in line with Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature.”
The UNF poll was conducted Feb. 7-20 via a mixture of cellphone and landline numbers. It has a sample size of 685 registered voters and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.74 percentage points.
The Southern Group was once again the top-earning lobbying firm in Florida last quarter, new compensation reports show.
Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, the firm reported nearly $5.9 million in earnings. The haul includes $3.4 million earned lobbying the Legislature and $2.5 million lobbying the Governor, Cabinet and state agencies.
Established in 2000 by founder and chair Paul Bradshaw, The Southern Group has spent the past few years at or near the top of lobbying revenue rankings. Last year, however, was the first where TSG was the definitive No. 1 in each reporting period.
The new reports, which list nearly 300 clients, also represent an increase of $200,000 over The Southern Group’s estimated earnings for the third quarter.
As in Q3, the No. 2 spot belonged to Ballard Partners last quarter. The firm, founded by Brian Ballard, earned an estimated $5.1 million in Q4, including $3.1 million in legislative pay and $2 million in executive branch pay.
Capital City Consulting repeated as the No. 3 firm in overall earnings, logging an estimated $4.4 million in pay. CCC had a near-even split between its legislative and executive reports, which came in at $2.1 million and $2 million, respectively.
Ron Book and his lobbying partners maintained their No. 4 ranking with $2.7 million in pay. Considering team size, the reports submitted by Book, Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette consistently feature the highest per-lobbyist earnings in the state.
GrayRobinson was close behind, rounding out the Top 5 with a $2.2 million report. Led by firm president Dean Cannon, a former House Speaker, the GrayRobinson team represented 201 clients last quarter, earning an estimated $1.1 million in the Legislature and another $1.1 million in the executive branch.
Two weeks after Anfield Consulting announced its merger with Capitol Access and a new partner, Brett Cyphers, the firm is welcoming another new member.
Rosanna Catalano, who has decades of legal and legislative experience, will join the lobbying firm.
As a lobbyist at Capitol Access, Catalano worked with clients in multiple industries, including energy, health care, criminal justice, technology, aviation, local government, insurance, and transportation.
Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Florida Elections Commission; an Associate Dean at Florida State University’s College of Law; an Assistant Attorney General in the Administrative Law Division; an Associate General Counsel for the Agency for Health Care Administration and Department of Health; a television news producer and show host for Florida’s News Channel; and an Assistant State Attorney in Florida’s 2nd and 17th Judicial Circuits.
“Rosanna’s diverse background will provide our clients with a unique perspective and skill set for solving problems, storytelling, and creating successful strategies,” Anfield partner Albert Balido said. “Beyond her experience with litigation and state procurement, Rosanna has cultivated an eclectic wealth of understanding on issues such as cryptocurrency, blockchain, virtual real estate, and other emerging technologies.”
Rosanna earned an undergraduate degree in telecommunications from Florida State University and a law degree from the University of Florida.
“We’re excited to welcome Rosanna to the team,” Anfield partner Frank Bernardino said. “She’ll offer continuity to clients previously with Capitol Access and extraordinary depth of knowledge to all of those in our circle.”
Welcome to the world — Jackson Ellis Ligas Ripple was born Feb. 18 to BCW Global’s Franco Ripple and Ashley Ligas, a partner at the Avenir Law Group. Everyone is doing well, and sons Evan and Carson are “beyond excited to be big brothers.”
Spotted — At the wedding reception for Nicole Gomez and Brian Goldmeier at the Loews Hotel in Miami Beach, music provided by DJ Irie: Sen. Shevrin Jones; Mayors Dan Gelber and Francis Suarez; Commissioners Angelo Castillo, Pepe Diaz, Oliver Gilbert; Kionne McGhee and David Richardson; State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Jon Adrabi, Gaby Castillo, Carlos Curbelo, José Félix Díaz, Cesar Fernandez, Greg Goddard, Alex Heckler, Chris Korge, Brian May, Alex Penelas, Stephanie Sass and Justin Sayfie.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @RBReich: How about we nix Presidents Day and make Election Day a national holiday instead?
— @GovRonDeSantis: All Presidents are not created equal, and while we colloquially call today Presidents Day, the holiday is codified in law solely to commemorate (George) Washington’s Birthday. This is appropriate, as Washington is America’s indispensable man. Happy Birthday to the father of our country!
— @marcorubio: #PresidentsDay is a fake holiday, today is #WashingtonsBirthday Many schools no longer teach real history, so make sure your children know #GeorgeWashington was a great man, our greatest President & made life better for every American who ever lived.
— @SenatorGainer: “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” — Abraham Lincoln #PresidentsDay
— @CarlosGSmith: Happy Presidents Day! “I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust.” — FDR April 14, 1938
— @LeaderBookFL: Today, for the second time, Republicans in the FL Senate rejected my amendment to ensure victims of rape, incest, & human trafficking are not forced to carry pregnancies resulting from their assaults. Taking choice away, revictimizing victims — this is NOT the will of the people.
— @Annette_Taddeo: As if the Don’t Say Gay Bill wasn’t bad enough — Republicans have amended it to further target LGBTQ+ students. Kids need a safe learning environment, not teachers being mandated to out them. This will lead to more LGBTQ+ youth homeless, particularly in Black & brown communities.
— @Mike_Grieco: The U.S. is on the brink of war while I have colleagues pushing bills that force Florida schools to out gay kids and erase Black history. And it’s only Monday …
Trigger warning: This is what people in favor of the #DontSayGay bill are saying about LGBTQ families. pic.twitter.com/L7nI41hMa5
— Michael Womack (@MichaelPWomack) February 21, 2022
— DAYS UNTIL —
Suits For Session — 1; St. Pete Grand Prix — 3; CPAC begins — 5; Joe Biden to give the State of the Union address — 7; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 10; Miami Film Festival begins — 10; the 2022 Players begins — 14; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 14; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 29; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 29; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 31; The Oscars — 33; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 35; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 36; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 40; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 55; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 59; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 65; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 65; federal student loan payments will resume — 68; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 73; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 92; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 94; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 100; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 137; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 150; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 168; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 192; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 227; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 263; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 266; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 298; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 360; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 395; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 521; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 605; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 885.
—TOP STORY —
“GOP’s 15-week abortion ban proposal cleared for Senate consideration” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Sponsored by Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall, the measure (HB 5) provides no exceptions for rape or incest — only a carveout for “fatal fetal abnormalities,” which would require the certification of two doctors. Dominated by Republican lawmakers, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the bill Monday with a party-line vote after a lengthy exchange of questions and debate. It now awaits the Senate’s full consideration. Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel is the companion sponsor. By design, the bill tests the limits of Roe v. Wade. It is similar to a Mississippi law under the review of the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill and the Florida proposal are unconstitutional, per current law. “It makes sense to mirror what they’ve done,” Stargel said.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Senate, House defend legislative maps, argue against any outside cartography” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lawyers for the Florida House and Senate filed briefs Saturday defending the constitutionality of new legislative maps. They also argue the Florida Supreme Court should avoid implementing any maps not approved by the Legislature. That’s a move that pushes against 2015 court rulings that tossed cartography approved for Florida Senate districts and the state’s congressional seats. Maps approved by the Legislature for Florida’s 40 Senate and 120 House districts undergo an automatic review by the Florida Supreme Court. This year for the first time, nobody has filed any legal objections to those maps, although entities including Latino Justice and the League of Women Voters of Florida have threatened legal action in the future.
“DCCC seeks redistricting records from Ron DeSantis’ Office, GOP lawmakers” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is seeking public records on more than a dozen Republican leaders and figures involved in Florida’s redistricting process. The request is vast. It seeks all communications (email, texts, and more) about congressional, House and Senate maps as far back as Nov. 4, 2020, involving DeSantis, Republican state lawmakers, and numerous outside parties. It further involves influential figures and organizations, including members of Florida’s congressional delegation: Mario Díaz-Balart, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar, among others.
“Senate Appropriations Committee signs off on fatherhood bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a sweeping bill Monday that aims to address the “fatherhood crisis” in Florida. A priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls, the bill would invest $70 million to promote “responsible” fatherhood, protect at-risk boys and support foster children statewide. The committee advanced the bill (HB 7065) unanimously with only one question and no debate. It now awaits full Senate consideration. Sen. Aaron Bean is the companion sponsor. “It goes all-in on fatherhood,” Bean told members of the proposal. The House boasted data saying children with father figures are twice as likely to attend college and hold a job. They’re also 80% less likely to spend time in jail.
“Senate panel advances DeSantis immigration priority cracking down on midnight flights” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation to further crack down on illegal immigration, a priority for DeSantis as he faces re-election, is on to its final Senate committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted along party lines Monday to approve a bill (SB 1808) expanding on a 2019 law that banned “sanctuary cities.” DeSantis announced the proposal last month after criticizing Biden’s immigration policies, including bringing flights to Jacksonville to relocate people who have entered the country illegally. The measure, carried by Fernandina Beach Republican Bean, would prevent transportation companies from doing business in Florida if they participate in programs transporting to the state people who have entered the country illegally.
“House community-based care proposal could sap $17M from Southeast Florida to boost funding elsewhere” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The House budget plan could send more than $127 million in new funding to community-based care agencies. But while most of the state would see a boost in funding from that plan, providers in Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Broward counties could see their funding cut. Multiple foster care providers in Southwest Florida ahead of Session sought a change in state funding formulas to address inequities. And the House might wipe out any problems for those providers. But with the increase in funding comes a change in how dollars are allocated. That change could see more than $17 million cut from the budget of Citrus Health Network, which serves as the provider in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Citrus’ budget sits at around $77.5 million in Fiscal Year 2021-22. That $17 million figure represents a 22% cut and could result in significant services being scaled back. “This is going to be something that’s devastating for our system of care locally,” said Leslie Viega, Communications Director at Citrus Health Network and Citrus Family Care Network. “It would have a pretty significant negative impact on our ability to provide services for children and families in Miami-Dade and Monroe.”
“Someone in the Senate wants to give Avis $5 million” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — The Senate has drafted a corporate tax break that would save one or two big rental car companies $5 million each — the functional equivalent of simply handing them $5 million in cash. State economists are certain that at least one company will qualify. And though they didn’t identify that company by name, records show that a lobbyist for Avis helped write the legislation. One other $5 million winner is likely Avis’ fellow rental-car giant, Enterprise Holdings Inc., giving $25,000 just before Session to Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the incoming Senate President. This corporate handout hasn’t been filed as a stand-alone bill, heard in open committee hearings, and subjected to extended public scrutiny. Instead, it’s a potential amendment that could surface anytime in the final three weeks of the Session.
—TALLY 2 —
“Net metering bill advances in House process, awaits compromise amendment” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A significant change is coming to alleviate concerns around a bill to end net metering that would raise energy rates on rooftop solar panel customers. Under current law, solar panel owners who have excess energy generated by the panels can sell it back to the utilities at the retail rate the utilities charge other customers, known as net metering. The bill (HB 741), carried by Rep. Lawrence McClure and as passed Monday by the House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, would require a lower wholesale price to be charged to the utilities.
“Restoring Florida local governments’ right to ban butts moves closer to state approval” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — Bucking the Legislature’s trend of preempting local governments from making their own decisions on anything from banning straws to regulating firearms, lawmakers now are lining up behind a bill that would return at least one home rule power: The right to ban butts. The legislation would restore the power of city and county governments to ban smoking at public parks and beaches and within 25 feet of some businesses, and establish designated smoking areas, an authority taken away from them two decades ago. The Senate version differs from the House version in that it doesn’t allow bans on premium cigars or pipes.
“Paid parental leave provision for government employees heads to House floor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation allowing expectant parents employed by the state to tap into voluntary paid sick leave pools for up to a month off with their new children is heading to the House floor. On Monday, the House State Affairs Committee unanimously approved HB 1053, which would require Florida departments and agencies to extend to employees welcoming a newborn or newly adopted child a perk that sick or injured employees already enjoy. The bill is “an important first step,” said its sponsor, Rep. Vance Aloupis, who told Florida Politics previously he based its language on a measure Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law in 2017.
House panel advances probation reform bill — The House Judiciary Committee on Monday advanced a bill (HB 1037) that would remove a month from the duration of a probation term for every six months a probationer averages at least 30 hours of work per week. The measure is backed by the Florida Safety Coalition, a group dedicated to preventing crime and recidivism by improving the probation system. “Anyone who has ever raised children knows that punishing bad behavior without offering incentives for when a child does well is a pathway to failure. HB 1037 would hold people accountable for their mistakes while offering meaningful incentives for education, employment and compliance,” said David Safavian, the general counsel of the American Conservative Union, which is a member of the Florida Safety Coalition.
“Bill tackling organized retail theft advances to House floor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A bill seeking to crack down on retail theft crime rings is on its way to the House. The proposal (HB 1511), filed by Rep. Chuck Clemons, would implement stiffer penalties against thieves who steal from multiple stores within a short period. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill in a 12-5 vote on Monday, sending it to the House floor. “In the last year, there’s been 60 cases involving more than 250 individuals suspected of organized retail theft or crimes related to organized retail theft,” Clemons said when presenting the bill.
“Bill helping cover retired law enforcement dog vet costs cleared for House floor” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — A bill allowing the owners of retired law enforcement dogs to recoup some of their pet’s vet costs cleared its final House committee Monday. HB 25, which allows former handlers or adopters of retired law enforcement dogs that served for five years or more to get up to $1,500 annually for veterinary costs, passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously. The bill passed all three of its committee stops without opposition. The bill provides $300,000 in recurring funding from the general fund to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to finance the program. Rep. Sam Killebrew, the bill’s sponsor, said the training police dogs need is intensive and wears them out, giving them more chronic issues in older age than normal dogs.
“Bill to OK $7.5M for mother of three boys maimed in state trooper crash clears last Senate committee” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation authorizing a $7.5 million payment to a mother whose three children suffered life-altering injuries when a Florida state trooper caused a gruesome highway crash nearly eight years ago cleared its final Senate committee Monday. The Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously approved a bill (SB 80) by Sen. Dennis Baxley to finally deliver long-sought funds to Christeia Jones as compensation for injuries she and her sons sustained in May 2014. The bill’s House analog by Rep. McClure (HB 6515) has one more committee hearing left.
“Proposed $3.2M payment to Monticello woman hurt in state employee crash heads to Senate floor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A Monticello woman permanently injured in a grisly highway crash with a state of Florida employee is closer than ever to receive the remaining balance of a nearly $3.4 million state settlement. The Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously approved legislation (SB 70) Monday by Sen. Darryl Rouson, clearing a $3.175 million payment to Donna Catalano. The bill will now head to the Senate floor. Catalano suffered severe injuries when Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employee Donald Burthe caused a near head-on collision in June 2019 near the border between Leon and Jefferson counties. Rouson’s bill is classified as a “claims bill” or “relief act,” as it is intended to compensate a person or entity for injury or loss caused by the negligence or error of a public officer or agency.
“Standardbred horse racing bill clears second House panel” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rep. Dan Daley’s late push to give a new chance to Standardbred harness horse racing in Florida cleared a second House committee Monday. The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee gave a 14-1 nod to Daley’s pari-mutuel wagering bill (HB 1269) that would allow pari-mutuel permit holders at any kind of racetrack to host harness races, even if that’s not what the permit was for. Daley, a Coral Springs Democrat whose family is in the Standardbred business, offered the bill as a lifeline to an industry with more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in Florida.
— MORE TALLY —
“‘What the hell are we doing?’: Top Senate Dem calls 2022 Session one of the worst she’s seen” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — At the start of a week in which senators will consider a series of hot-button issues from abortion to immigration, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book says the 2022 Session is one of the worst she’s seen yet. With the close of the 60-day Legislative Session less than three weeks away, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday will take up bills to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (HB 5) and a crackdown on illegal immigration (SB 1808/HB 1355). Additional legislation in the works, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics (SB 1834/HB 1337), is expected to go before the House later this week before making its way to the Senate. The Republican-led Legislature has until March 11 to pass those bills plus the budget and more, including controversial Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo’s confirmation.
‘Deepfake’ bill pulled for technical reasons — Legislation (HB 1453) that would beef up Florida’s criminal penalties for stealing an individual’s sexually explicit pictures was dropped from Monday’s House Judiciary Committee agenda. Rep. Joe Harding, the bill’s sponsor, told Florida Politics it was pulled for technical reasons: it is being reworked to match Book’s version (SB 1798). He said the bill still has overwhelming legislator support and will return to the committee in the coming days. The legislation bars someone from willfully and maliciously promoting sexually explicit deepfake images without the victim’s consent. That act would be a third-degree felony. The measure also makes it a third-degree felony when someone “knowingly and unlawfully obtains a sexually explicit image of an identifiable person with the intent to promote such image.”
“Security deposit alternative bill teed up for House vote” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A proposal slated to be heard on the House floor Tuesday would create consumer protections for tenants who choose to pay a monthly fee instead of a security deposit has taken the flak for its connection to companies that offer such a service in Florida and other states. The sponsors of (SB 884/HB 537) say the bills are a partial solution to the state’s affordable housing crisis, but its opponents have directed their frustrations with the affordable housing market and landlord-tenant issues at the bill. But they rarely acknowledge the benefits. As one renter told The New York Times, “We used the money we would have paid for a security deposit to furnish the apartment.”
“House nears vote chiding Joe Biden admin for removing Colombian FARC rebels from terrorism list” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The measure (HM 1383), which expresses the chamber’s commitment to Colombia and condemnation of FARC, enjoyed sweeping support Monday from the House State Affairs Committee, its third and final stop before the House floor. Its sponsor, Miami-Dade Republican Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin called the bill “personally important” to him and noted his district’s large Latin American population. “For those of you who are not familiar with FARC … they are a Marxist terrorist group sponsored and assisted by narco-traffickers and countries that sponsor terrorism like Cuba and Venezuela,” he said. “They’re responsible for the world’s longest Civil War at 57 years, and they’re responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and kidnapping.
Full House set to hear post-Surfside condo inspection bill — A bill filed in the wake of the Surfside condo collapse that would require regular inspections of condo buildings will go before the full House on Tuesday. HB 7069, sponsored by the Appropriations Committee and Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee, largely mirrors stronger structural and building safety measures outlined by the Surfside Working Group’s Florida Building Professionals Recommendations. A recent poll conducted by Mason-Dixon found Florida voters support requiring regular inspections of condo buildings by a 4 to 1 margin. Fittingly, the bill is being heard during national Engineers Week, when the House and Senate are expected to honor Florida professional engineers during floor sessions this week.
AARP Florida hosting teletown hall on nursing home bills — AARP Florida will hold an online Q&A on a pair of bills moving through the Legislature that would change staffing requirements at nursing homes. AARP Florida opposes the bills (SB 804/HB 1239), which would allow staff without nursing degrees to fulfill a portion of direct care hour requirements. The AARP event is Thursday at 1:05 p.m. The panel of experts includes AARP Florida state director Jeff Johnson and communications director Jamie Champion Mongiovi, as well as PinPoint Results founding partner Tanya Jackson. Registration here.
“Lobbying compensation: Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney notches $1.9M in 2021” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The seven-person team at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney earned an estimated $1.9 million in pay last year, according to the sum of its quarterly compensation reports. The Buchanan team includes Brett Bacot, Marnie George, Mike Grissom, Mark Kruse, Jim Magill and Kimberly McGlynn. They represented 50 clients for all or part of last year, landing $1.14 million in legislative pay and another $765,000 in executive branch pay. The firm’s top client for the year was the Palm Beach County Tax Collector, which paid a whopping $354,000 for lobbying work. The No. 2 spot belonged to the University Medical Service Association, which cut a $154,000 check for legislative lobbying work and sent over another $40,000 for help in the executive branch.
“Lobbying compensation: Corcoran Partners nears $6M in 2021 pay” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Michael Corcoran and the team at Corcoran Partners netted an estimated $5.9 million last year. Corcoran and lobbyists Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar represent nearly 100 clients for all or part of last year, collecting $3.9 million in legislative lobbying fees and $2 million in executive branch lobbying fees. The firm’s top client for the year was Fontainebleau Development. The South Florida-based luxury development company is behind the eponymous Fontainebleau Miami Beach and several other well-known hotels and resorts. On its own, the company accounted for $544,000 of its earnings last year. The Florida Optometric Association followed with $300,000 in payments, split evenly between the firm’s legislative and executive branch reports.
“Lobbying compensation: Meenan PA hits $550K in 2021 pay” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The team at Meenan PA earned as much as $550,000 last year lobbying the Legislature and executive branch. Founding partner Tim Meenan and lobbyists Daniel Olson and Joy Ryan represented 38 clients for all or part of last year. Much of the firm’s clientele hails from the insurance industry — the firm’s specialty. Tim Meenan’s pre-lobbying career included overseeing the Florida Department of Insurance, including the Division of Risk Management. The firm’s legislative reports list a half-dozen clients that paid an estimated $20,000 last year. They included America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association, the Florida Insurance Council, NAIFA-Florida, Nationwide Insurance and Prime Therapeutics.
— The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 1598, from Sen. Ileana Garcia, to create a state domestic violence task force, 9 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The House Appropriations Committee meets to consider a tax package HB 7071, from Ways and Means Chair Bobby Payne, to set up several sales-tax “holidays,” including for hurricane supplies and back-to-school clothes and supplies, 9 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 1800 and SB 1802, from Sen. Jim Boyd, to set up a program to replace poles to provide broadband in “unserved areas,” using $400 million in federal stimulus money, 10 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
Assignment editors — Sen. Lori Berman, Reps. Fentrice Driskell and Marie Woodson join more than 500 activists and community members to raise their voices in the fight for reproductive freedom with the “Fight for Repro Freedom” Day of Action: Rally begins 10:45 a.m.; news conference at 11 a.m., Senate Portico.
Happening today — Sens. Jones, Jason Pizzo; and Rep. Kevin Chambliss hold a news conference to support crime victims’ rights, 11:30 a.m., 4th Floor.
Happening today — U.S. Rep. Crist joins Sens. Jones, Bobby Powell and Taddeo for a news conference on the “State of Black Florida,” 12:30 p.m., Senate Portico.
— The House convenes for a floor Session to consider several bills, including two controversial measures about education: HB 7, from Rep. Bryan Avila, clarifies how to teach race-related issues in public schools; HB 1557, from Rep. Harding, restricts how topics related to gender identity and sexual orientation are taught, 1 p.m., House Chamber.
— The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 1940, from Sen. Jason Brodeur, to combat rising sea levels, 2 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— GOV. CLUB MENU —
Broccoli and cheddar soup; mixed garden salad with dressings, broccoli salad; cucumber mango salad, turkey club wraps; grilled salmon with Mediterranean relish; Not Your Nana’s Meatloaf; roasted red bliss potatoes; green beans amandine; s’mores for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
DeSantis announces $11M in rural infrastructure grants — On Monday, DeSantis announced about $11 million in infrastructure grants for projects in Madison, Suwannee and Putnam counties through the Rural Infrastructure fund and the Community Development Block Grant program administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The grant projects include $5 million for a new multi-use building in Suwannee County and $5 million to widen sidewalks and paths in and around downtown Palatka. Palatka will also receive $340,000 for expanding a lift station located at St. John’s Avenue and Zeagler Drive. Finally, Madison County received a $300,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study and obtain preliminary engineering services to extend centralized water and sewer services to the route along with the Honey Lake health facility clinic.
“Federal appeals court signals no hurry in Seminole Compact appeal” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — There will be no rush to judgment in an appeal of the federal court decision that struck down Florida’s 2021 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday gave lawyers in the case until March 21 to propose a briefing process for the appeal. In that appeal, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Seminole Tribe hoped to get the court to reverse the Nov. 22 ruling by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich that invalidated the Compact. The final deal was worth at least $500 million a year in revenue sharing for state coffers and presumably billions of dollars in revenue for the Tribe.
Happening today — The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in a case about a transgender male student who was prevented from using boys’ bathrooms at a St. Johns County high school, 9 a.m., Elbert P. Tuttle United States Court of Appeals Building, 56 Forsyth St. N.W., Atlanta.
“Despite ‘startling’ racial statistics, controversial ‘stand your ground’ laws withstand scrutiny” via Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News — When controlling for variables, the odds of a White-on-Black homicide found justified is 281% greater than the odds a white-on-white homicide is found justified, according to professor John K. Roman, whose research was based on the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report, which unlike other data sets takes into account the final disposition of a proceeding. The number of homicides of Black people deemed legally “justifiable” more than doubled in “stand your ground” states between 2005, when Florida’s law went into effect, and 2011. Alternatively, it was revealed that in cases involving a white shooter and Black victim, homicides were ruled justified 45% of the time, compared to 11% when the roles were reversed.
“Florida homebuyers eye historic houses — but for demolition or preservation?” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — They built their homes as stalwart as their ethos — all cinder block and right angles, no-nonsense, no-frills. It was the style of the Greatest Generation who found their way to South Florida after the Second World War by way of Morrison Field, now Palm Beach International Airport. Squat and plain, the single-story houses filled gaps between the 1920s Spanish Mediterranean romantics and the balconied Monterey Colonials in West Palm Beach. But with vacant dirt east of Interstate 95 scarce, a pandemic growth spurt, and a downtown business boom, the 1950s-era homes are toppling like sandcastles at high tide. Larger, taller, more efficient structures are the new tenet.
“Manta rays establish shadowy presence in South Florida, as global population threatened” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Giant manta rays radiate menace as they sweep across the ocean surface, their wings reaching a span of up to 29 feet. But despite their foreboding appearance, these marine phantoms are harmless, except to plankton. A juvenile population of giant manta rays has been discovered in South Florida, and it’s being studied as the federal government draws up plans for protecting the species. While the main threats to manta rays lie in the Pacific Ocean, where they’re targeted for use in traditional Chinese medicine, advocates say that peril just increases the significance of the U.S. population.
“Maggy Hurchalla, environmental advocate, former Martin County Commissioner, dies at 81” via Max Chesnes and Lamaur Stancil of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Hurchalla, a doyenne of slow-growth environmentalism and former five-term Martin County commissioner, died Saturday, her family said. She was 81. Hurchalla was a lifelong, fearless advocate for Everglades restoration and an emphatic voice protecting Florida’s natural beauty. She was an Everglades Coalition Hall of Fame member and won countless local, state and national environmental awards for her conservation work. “She was a creature of nature, and she took us all along for the voyage: Her family, friends, children, so many members of the county and complete strangers who just wanted to go on nature walks,” her daughter, Jane Hurchalla, said. “She worked to make natural resources available to everyone.”
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“COVID-19: Florida out of Top 10 list where virus spreads fastest, reports 42,373 cases and 1,330 deaths” via Mike Stucka and Jennifer Sangalang of the USA TODAY Network — Florida reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, Feb. 20, adding 42,373 new cases. That’s down 65.4% from the previous week’s tally of 122,428 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19. The state also had 1,330 newly reported deaths this week. Florida ranked 32nd among the states where coronavirus spread the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The state reappeared in the Top 10 list the week before, ranking No. 8. With 6.45% of the country’s population, Florida had 5.87% of the country’s cases in the last week. Across the country, three states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.
“Duval County’s COVID-19 cases fall 63.7%; Florida cases plummet 65.4%” via Mike Stucka of the USA TODAY Network — Duval County reported 1,805 cases and 64 deaths in the latest week. A week earlier, it had registered 4,979 cases and 53 deaths. Throughout the pandemic, it has reported 251,211 cases and 3,097 deaths. St. Johns County reported 535 cases and six deaths in the latest week. A week earlier, it had registered 1,784 cases and nine deaths. Throughout the pandemic, it has reported 62,444 cases and 504 deaths. Clay County reported 436 cases and 19 deaths in the latest week. A week earlier, it had registered 1,596 cases and 18 deaths. Throughout the pandemic, it has reported 53,083 cases and 766 deaths. Nassau County reported 153 cases and seven deaths in the latest week. A week earlier, it had reported 460 cases and two deaths. Throughout the pandemic, it has reported 21,938 cases and 267 deaths.
“Leon County’s COVID-19 cases fall 70.6%; hospitalizations continue descent” via Mike Stucka of the Tallahassee Democrat — Mirroring the state trend, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue their weekslong decline in Leon County, especially in the local schools. As of Monday morning, there were 88 people hospitalized with the virus in local hospitals. Medical workers at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) treated 60 patients, while Capital Regional Medical Center (CRMC) had 28. Last week, there were 111 people hospitalized between the two medical facilities. On Monday, Leon County Schools reported 68 self-reported COVID cases among students and staff within the past two weeks. Last week that number was 181 — a 62% decrease in just seven days.
— 2022 —
Charlie Crist to make Florida Capitol swing on Tuesday — On Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Crist, who is running for Governor, will be in Tallahassee for three events at the Capitol. At 8:30 a.m., he will attend the first of two “Bans Off Our Bodies” events related to the proposed 15-week abortion ban. The first is a rally; the second is a news conference at 11 a.m. Crist will also appear alongside Sens. Jones, Powell and Taddeo — one of his opponents in the Democratic Primary for Governor — for a news conference focused on the “State of Black and Brown Florida.” It begins at 12:30 p.m. at the Senate Portico.
“Ashley Moody, Wilton Simpson take opposing positions on North Florida casino issue” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With a petition drive failing to get enough valid signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot, should the proposed North Florida casino constitutional amendment language still get reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court? Yes, said Moody, in a brief filed with the Supreme Court on Friday, posted Monday publicly. No, said Senate President Simpson, in a brief filed on behalf of the Florida Senate Friday and posted Monday. Florida Voters in Charge (FVIC) pushed a North Florida casino issue onto the 2022 statewide General Election ballot. On Feb. 1, the campaign failed to meet the state’s petition requirements for ballot placement, though it had earlier met the petition requirements to get a Supreme Court review of the proposal’s ballot language.
“Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorses Michele Rayner for CD 13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Congressional Black Caucus PAC (CBCPAC) is backing state Rep. Rayner in her run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The CBCPAC seeks to increase Black representation in the U.S. Congress and support candidates who champion causes of Black communities across the country. With 56 sitting Black members of Congress, it makes the current Congressional Black Caucus the largest in U.S. history. Rayner, if elected, would also be the first Black Congress member to represent CD 13. Rayner has already made history in the Florida House as the first openly-gay Black woman. Florida’s CD 13 race will be among the most closely watched in the 2022 midterms. The race could help shift the balance of power in Washington.
“Gayle Harrell raises more than $22K in January in bid for second Senate term” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Sen. Harrell raised $22,100 last month for what appears to be an unchallenged bid for a second term in the Senate so far. January wasn’t any sort of a personal best for the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. She’s raised as much as $88,000 in recent months. But January’s donations through her personal campaign and political committee, Friends of Gayle Harrell, leave her with a total of nearly $300,000 cash on hand. Redistricting appears to be changing the number of her Treasure Coast district. It looks like she’ll be running in Senate District 31 instead of Senate District 25. But the physical boundaries do not appear to be changing dramatically.
“DeSantis wades into Jacksonville Special Election with robocall, endorsement” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is getting involved in Jacksonville municipal elections, offering a solid endorsement the day before the city’s Special Election. The Governor’s last-minute boost comes in a robocall Monday supporting Republican Howland. In the script obtained by Florida Politics, DeSantis contrasts Howland, a law-and-order Republican, with his opponent, “radical leftist” Polson. DeSantis’ endorsement comes after all three major Democratic gubernatorial candidates came to town for Polson.
To hear the robocall, click on the image below:
—“Jacksonville City Council runoff candidates stake out how they’d vote on big issues” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union
“Analysis of Party registration shows ‘status quo’ for redrawn Jacksonville City Council districts” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The political battleground in the 2023 city elections will only bring slight changes for Jacksonville City Council candidates in a proposed redistricting map that largely keeps the current mix of Party registration in 14 districts, according to an analysis for the ongoing process of drawing new lines. Five of the 14 districts would continue to give Democrats a solid advantage over Republicans in voter registration, five districts would have differences of 4% or less between Republicans and Democrats, and four districts would still have Republican voters in command. Republicans now hold nine of the 14 district seats for City Council.
“10 candidates, new ‘negativity’: Jupiter’s crowded 2022 election is playing out in your mailbox” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — In contrast to its loud-and-proud Trump boat parades, Jupiter’s local political scene has, at times in the past, been sleepy. Low voter turnout for local elections, a revolving door of candidates and small groups of people attending regular meetings led to fewer controversies and a comfortable status quo as the town grew, current and former elected leaders said. But recent elections have ramped up the political rhetoric. Jupiter’s legacy stands to change in 2022 with a record number of local candidates, social-media vitriol and money coming from at least one far-flung political committee. Seven candidates, many of them newcomers, are vying for two seats on the Town Council, and three men are running for Mayor.
“Indian River County School Board candidate Green ends campaign, citing family health needs” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Former school administrator Bruce Green has withdrawn from the School Board race, hoping to help his brother facing pancreatic cancer. “I have to take care of my family,” said Green, 51. Green filed in November for the District 1 seat, saying he was at a point where he wanted to give back to the community. His older brother, Allen, recently was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, causing Green to end the campaign. There was no way, he said, to work full time as general manager of Premier Landscape Solutions, run a School Board campaign, and help take care of his brother’s medical needs and family.
— CORONA NATION —
“The CDC isn’t publishing large portions of the COVID-19 data it collects” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — For more than a year, the CDC has collected data on hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the United States and broken it down by age, race and vaccination status. But it has not made most of the information public. When the CDC published the first significant data on the effectiveness of boosters in adults younger than 65 two weeks ago, it left out the numbers for a considerable portion of that population: 18- to 49-year-olds, the group least likely to benefit from extra shots, because the first two doses already left them well-protected. The agency recently debuted a dashboard of wastewater data on its website that will be updated daily and might provide early signals of an oncoming surge of COVID-19 cases.
CDC pushes for COVID-19 boosters in new optional program for cruise lines” via Morgan Hines and Bailey Schulz of USA Today — The CDC announced new guidance for the cruise industry on Feb. 9. The new COVID-19 program comes nearly a month after the agency’s Conditional Sailing Order, which outlined numerous health and safety protocols, expired on Jan. 15. Most guidelines outlined in the CSO remain in the updated program. The CDC assigned cruise ship travel a level 3 travel health notice on Feb. 15 and said travelers should receive all recommended vaccines, including any eligible doses when eligible, before cruising. Travelers at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid cruise travel, the agency says.
“As U.S. cases drop, Hawaii is lone remaining state with indoor mask mandate” via Celina Tebor, John Bacon and Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today — Forty-nine states have announced plans to drop their indoor mask mandates as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations steadily decline across the country. The only holdout remains Hawaii. The island state has taken strong precautions against the coronavirus from the beginning of the pandemic and requires out-of-state American travelers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to avoid a mandatory quarantine. Over 75% of Hawaii residents have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and coronavirus cases have dropped by a whopping 64% from Feb. 5 to Feb. 18.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Worried about inflation and supply constraints? Try being a small business.” via Ruth Simon and Gwynn Guilford of The Wall Street Journal — Small businesses are bearing the brunt of supply-chain pressures and rising prices, with many tapping their cash reserves or taking on debt just to compete with larger rivals. Most smaller firms don’t have the heft and sophistication to thrive in an environment of booming demand and short supply — the same forces that many of America’s biggest companies have been able to ride to higher earnings. High inflation, a tight labor market, stressed supply chains, and dwindling liquidity are straining many small businesses, exacerbating the existing power imbalance between small and big firms. Two-thirds of small businesses impacted by supply-chain constraints said suppliers favor large businesses because of the volume of orders, according to a recent Goldman Sachs survey of more than 1,400 businesses.
“An obscure corner of Wall Street is making billions trading inflation” via Donal Griffin and William Shaw of Bloomberg — Most of the world hates inflation. For Nikhil Choraria and a small band of traders, it’s an opportunity. The Goldman Sachs partner is a leading practitioner of the obscure art of inflation trading, a niche business that’s exploded — very lucratively — for some of the world’s major banks and hedge funds. Choraria, 38 and based in London, often orchestrates complex transactions designed to profit from gyrations in inflation. Over the past year, his team picked the right side on trades underpinned by the most significant inflationary spike in decades, which convulsed the global economy and even blindsided some central bankers. According to people familiar with the bank, they helped generate $450 million in revenue in 2021, twice what they made in previous years.
“Frackers push into once-dead shale patches as oil nears $100 a barrel” via Collin Eaton of The Wall Street Journal — Spurred by the highest oil prices in years, shale companies are leading an industry return to places like the Anadarko Basin of Oklahoma and the DJ Basin in Colorado, where drilling had almost completely stopped in mid-2020 when those areas became unprofitable because of lower oil prices. Oil production in these marginal regions isn’t expected to move the needle in the global market, facing tight supplies. But with oil climbing above $90 a barrel, near the highest levels in more than seven years, some peripheral drilling, particularly by smaller companies, is now becoming more feasible even in places like Kansas and Utah, where wells produce far less oil than prolific fields in Texas and New Mexico.
“Delay in COVID-19 vaccines for kids upset parents. Experts say it was the right thing to do” via Karen Weintraub of USA Today — Many parents were disappointed when the FDA decided this month to postpone consideration of COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5. Experts said the decision was the right one. The FDA won’t have enough data until the spring to judge whether a vaccine is safe and effective for young children. Parent activists said the move made them question the agency’s sincerity in providing shots for the youngest kids, wonder whether unreleased data was hiding anything, and yearn even more for the day they can stop worrying about the health of their children and families.
— MORE CORONA —
“Virus bubble rules rankle agents, prospects ahead of combine” via Arnie Stapleton of The Associated Press — NFL agents and their clients are rankled over COVID-19 restrictions at the league’s upcoming scouting combine that threaten expulsion if they go outside a “bubble” and limit them to bringing a single support person such as an athletic trainer or massage therapist. The idea of a boycott has been bandied about, but several agents said they couldn’t in good conscience advise their clients to skip the combine, which will take place in Indianapolis March 1-7. These logistical decisions were by the National Invitational Camp, which runs the combine, and not the National Football League itself. The NFL resisted the idea of a “bubble” even during the height of the pandemic. And the league lifted almost all COVID-19 restrictions late in the 2021 season.
“Hong Kong turns to traditional medicine during an omicron surge” via Amy Qin, Amy Chang Chien and Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — The authorities in Hong Kong are taking another page out of China’s coronavirus playbook: using traditional Chinese medicine to treat COVID-19 patients, despite scant evidence to prove the strategy is effective. On Sunday, Chinese state news media announced that the mainland government had donated 150,000 boxes of traditional Chinese medicine to Hong Kong to help the city manage a surge in COVID-19 cases. The treatment was developed by government-affiliated researchers during the H1N1 swine flu epidemic in 2009 and consists of 12 herbal components, including honeysuckle, mint and licorice. The Chinese state-owned newspaper China Daily reported in 2020 that the medicine effectively treated mild and moderate cases … But most of the data comes from observational studies, the weakest kind in medicine.
“Boris Johnson lays out ‘living with COVID-19’ plan, while Queen Elizabeth II remains in isolation” via William Booth and Karla Adam of The Washington Post — Prime Minister Johnson on Monday announced that England would lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions — including mandatory stay-at-home orders for the infected — saying it was time to finally move from government intervention to personal responsibility. It was to be a victory lap for Johnson, but his message of a return to near-normalcy was blunted as he had to begin his statement to Parliament by offering get-well wishes to Queen Elizabeth II, who is isolating at Windsor Castle after the palace announced Sunday that the 95-year-old monarch had “mild cold-like symptoms” brought on by COVID-19. Still, it was a signal moment. After two years of lockdowns, surging sickness, hospitalizations and death, Johnson said it was time to stop restricting “the liberties of the British people.”
“Dr. Paul Farmer, who devoted his life to fighting deadly epidemics, has died. He was 62” via Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — Farmer, the renowned infectious disease specialist who devoted his life to fighting deadly epidemics and spent the last several years working on four continents delivering health care to millions, has died in Rwanda, his organization Partners in Health confirmed. He was 62. A Florida native who lived in Miami with his wife and children when he wasn’t traveling or teaching at Harvard University, Farmer was co-founder of Partners In Health, a nonprofit health care organization based in Boston with a sister organization, Zanmi Lasante, in Haiti. Farmer told the Miami Herald that his mission was to change the way humans think of infectious diseases and address social inequalities in health care delivery.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“With or without war, Ukraine gives Biden a new lease on leadership” via Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan of The Washington Post — Today, Biden and his team have redeemed themselves in the eyes of many NATO allies, with a tough stance on Ukraine and the successful wrangling of the often-fractious alliance to support it. Ukraine’s fate, and Russia’s future relationship with the West, remain uncertain. There are differences of opinion on what Vladimir Putin wants out of the crisis. To some, he is laser-focused on reestablishing Russian dominion over Ukraine. Others believe Putin’s broader goal is to drive a wedge into NATO, where divisions opened wide during the Trump administration and even now are just barely healed.
“Biden administration halts new drilling in legal fight over climate costs” via Lisa Friedman of The New York Times — The Biden administration is indefinitely freezing decisions about new federal oil and gas drilling as part of a legal brawl with Republican-led states that could significantly impact Biden’s plans to tackle climate change. The move, which came Saturday, was a response to a recent federal ruling that blocked the way the Biden administration was calculating the real cost of climate change, a figure that guides a range of government decisions, from pollution regulation to whether to permit new oil, gas or coal extraction on public lands and in federal waters. Known as the “social cost of carbon,” the metric is designed to underline the potential economic threats from greenhouse gas emissions so they can be compared to the economic benefits from acts like oil drilling.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Rick Scott pushes own GOP agenda as Mitch McConnell holds off” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Senate Republican leaders have no plans to release an alternative agenda as they try to win back the majority this fall. So Scott is pursuing his own plan. The Florida Republican senator is devising a conservative blueprint for Republicans to enact should they win Senate and House majorities this fall. Among Scott’s priorities: completing the border wall and naming it after former President Donald Trump, declaring “there are two genders,” ending any reference to ethnicity on government forms and limiting most federal government workers — including members of Congress — to 12 years of service.
“Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump might be in less peril than people think” via Henry Olsen of The Washington Post — A close look at Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary contest, and those of the other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, shows the Republican renegades have a better chance at survival than many think. Cheney hopes that a combination of her financial advantage, a divided field, and Wyoming’s election laws allows her to make it through her primary challenge. The winner of the contest need only take a plurality to prevail. Other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are in better shape than Cheney. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has also drawn a Trump-backed challenger. With $1.6 million in the bank and the state’s election allowing her to garner primary votes from non-Republicans, Herrera Beutler could easily prevail.
“Inflation could cost Democrats control of Congress” via Andrew Prokop of Vox — University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket has modeled how changes in real per capita disposable income are related to midterm results for the President’s Party. The metric helps capture how the average voter experiences the economy: are their wages going up or down when adjusted for inflation? Can they afford more things, or fewer? The data covers 1950 to 2018, and it spans 18 midterm elections. In 15 of these midterms, real incomes were increasing. Only three midterms featured negative real income growth by Masket’s metric, and all went badly for the President’s Party, with two being among the worst performances in modern times.
“‘A singular focus’: Dick Durbin is determined to make history as he works to confirm Biden’s Supreme Court pick” via Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim and Rhonda Colvin of The Washington Post — The 77-year-old Democrat will hold the gavel when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings as soon as next month on Biden’s forthcoming nominee to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Durbin and his staff face the delicate task of shepherding the first Black woman justice to confirmation — and delivering a badly needed victory to Biden — in an evenly split Senate where just about everything, judicial nominations included, has turned exceptionally rancorous. At times, Durbin’s unpresuming, unfailingly courteous, thoroughly Midwestern personality has played against his interests. But senators of both parties said this month that his composure might be precisely what the Judiciary Committee needs — particularly after an especially acrimonious stretch for Supreme Court confirmations that began with the Republican blockade of Obama nominee Merrick Garland.
“IRS will allow taxpayers to forgo facial recognition amid blowback” via Alan Rappeport of The New York Times — The Internal Revenue Service said on Monday that it would allow taxpayers to opt-out of using facial recognition technology to gain access to their online accounts and would shift to an entirely different identity verification system next year as the agency tries to alleviate backlash over its use of biometric data. The IRS, which signed a two-year, $86 million contract with ID.me, will continue to work with the firm. Taxpayers can still choose to have images of their faces scanned to gain access to their accounts, but those who decline to use facial recognition technology can verify their identity during a live, virtual interview with representatives from the company.
— CRISIS —
“Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes ordered to be jailed until trial on seditious conspiracy” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A second federal judge has ordered Rhodes, founder and leader of the extremist group Oath Keepers, to remain jailed pending trial on a charge of seditious conspiracy for allegedly guiding a monthslong effort to use political violence to prevent the swearing-in of Biden. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta denied Rhodes’s renewed request for bond pending a July trial, calling his case the most serious brought against nearly 750 federal defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. With 10 other defendants, Rhodes is accused of coordinating travel, organizing into teams, undergoing paramilitary training, and staging weapons, ready “to answer Rhodes’ call to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction” before.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“National Archives confirms classified material was in boxes at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence” via Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post — The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed in a letter Friday that it found items marked classified in boxes of White House records that Trump took with him to his Mar-a-Lago residence. The letter provides the first official confirmation of classified material being in the boxes, and it is likely to reignite calls that the Justice Department investigate to see how the information got out of secure facilities and who might have seen it. It remains unclear how many classified documents were in the 15 boxes of materials or what the Justice Department might do.
“Trump’s luck may finally be running out” via George T. Conway III of The Washington Post — It has often been tempting, but never a safe wager, to predict the demise of Trump. Yet somehow, he has managed to survive, legally, financially and politically. Indeed, astonishingly, he remains far and away the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. On Thursday, a judge in New York ordered Trump, along with his daughter Ivanka and his son Donald Trump Jr., to testify within 21 days at civil depositions in the New York attorney general’s investigation of potential fraud at the Trump Organization. Even if lenders don’t exercise any rights, they might have to call in their loans; Trump apparently still needs to refinance hundreds of millions’ worth of them soon.
“Trump holds onto piles of cash, gives none to GOP candidates” via Bill Allison of Bloomberg — Trump’s Save America ended January with $108 million in the bank, yet the former President’s political action committee didn’t donate any of it last month to the dozens of candidates he’s backing. Though his name won’t appear on any ballot in November, Trump will have plenty of money to make his presence felt in the midterms. According to its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Trump’s leadership PAC took in $4.1 million and spent $1.5 million in January. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee raised $13 million and spent $17.6 million, including a $5 million donation to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which backs GOP candidates for the upper chamber.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff’s sister, husband found dead in Palm Beach County” via The Associated Press — The sister of Wall Street fraudster Madoff and her husband were found dead in what investigators said was an apparent murder-suicide in Florida. On Sunday, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office identified the couple as 87-year-old Sondra Wiener of Boynton Beach and her 90-year-old husband, Marvin. They were found unresponsive with gunshot wounds Thursday afternoon inside their residence. “Detectives from the Violent Crimes Division arrived on scene to investigate further. After further investigation, it appears to be a murder/suicide,” the Sheriff’s Office statement said. Officials said the Medical Examiner’s Office would determine the cause of death.
“10 officers on leave, one resigned, after Dade Correctional inmate dies in prison van” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Ten corrections officers were placed on leave, and one resigned after the mysterious, unannounced death of a Dade Correctional Institution inmate during a transfer to another facility. The Florida Department of Corrections refused to say whether the prisoner’s injuries were sustained before being placed in the transfer vehicle, in which prisoners are typically shackled and restrained, or during the ride itself. But he died 345 miles away from Dade Correctional, outside the Florida Women’s Reception Center in Ocala.
“‘Unacceptable behavior’: Why Boynton residents, Commissioners clashed at recent city meetings” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — City Commission meetings in Boynton Beach are becoming increasingly volatile. Threats, name-calling, slurs and general nastiness have been on the agenda since the death of Stanley “SJ” Davis III on Dec. 26 after he crashed his dirt bike along N. Federal Highway while being followed by a city police officer. In the four twice-monthly meetings since Davis’ death, angry family, friends and allies of the boy have packed City Hall chambers to rage at commissioners and city officials over what they feel is a lack of transparency and accountability. Tuesday’s meeting appeared ready to spin out of control during nearly two hours of emotionally charged public comment.
“‘I don’t know whether it’s going to work.’ Francis Suarez hedges on MiamiCoin as price drops.” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — With the price of a Miami-branded digital currency dipping to its lowest point since it launched in August, America’s crypto mayor conceded Friday that grand visions for funding municipal government with MiamiCoin might never happen. “I don’t know whether it’s going to work or not,” Miami Mayor Suarez said. “Innovation doesn’t always work.” The sober comments from the ordinarily bullish Suarez, who has suggested that Miami could become so flush with crypto-cash proceeds that taxes could disappear, came with MiamiCoin, the city-branded cryptocurrency, continuing a steady decline.
“Osceola School Board member accused of misusing office” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Osceola County School Board, after investigating one of its own, determined board member Jon Arguello likely abused his position by harassing and intimidating the school district’s lobbyist. The board asked DeSantis to determine if Arguello should face sanctions or suspension from office. It also voted to reprimand and censure Arguello, who won his seat in 2020. “I want to be very clear I consider this a very serious offense,” said board member Clarence Thacker. The board said Arguello sought a campaign contribution for his sister, running for another seat on the school board.
“Orlando forms RISE job training initiative with American Rescue Plan funds” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando officials signed off on using a portion of the city’s American Rescue Plan dollars on opening a job training and employment office, focused on those unemployed or underemployed due to COVID-19. The new office, called the RISE Employment & Training Program, will provide customized training to residents, including social workers and case management services. Services include career coaching, help in job searching, resume writing, financial literacy, and specific training for in-demand jobs, according to a summary of the program. “We’re primarily targeting people who have been affected by COVID-19,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said. “We would like to give them more skills to elevate their working and job potential.”
“Burned out, undervalued: WUCF takes ‘cultural audit’ after resignation” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — WUCF employees said they felt burned out, overworked and undervalued, although morale has been improving since the station’s leader resigned last year. WUCF Executive Director Phil Hoffman left in August after employees complained he had a bad temper and created a dysfunctional environment, UCF records showed. Hoffman previously denied the accusations to Florida Politics. After Hoffman’s departure, UCF hired a consultant to interview employees at Orlando’s PBS affiliate and WUCF 89.9 FM and perform a “cultural audit.” Some at WUCF said they felt micromanaged, and co-workers didn’t trust each other. Another complaint was people didn’t know the long-term vision for the station.
“Record deaths on Jacksonville roads as sheriff asks that drivers be alert and patient” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — The staggering numbers are a recent record, Sheriff Mike Williams said. Last year 207 people died on Jacksonville’s roads, 50 of those pedestrians, and another 47 victims of motorcycle crashes, Sheriff’s Office statistics show. It was no better in 2020, much of it during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when many people weren’t driving: 205 traffic crash fatalities, 50 of them pedestrians, and 26 killed in motorcycle incidents, police said. Pointing to overall traffic data that shows the number of crashes citywide also went up from 35,066 to 40,469 last year, Williams said many of these fatalities appear to be blamed on driver error and not vehicle malfunction, weather conditions or road issues.
“Tallahassee approves noise ordinance, giving police the authority to target pop-up parties” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — City Commissioners approved a noise ordinance that gives police more power in addressing rowdy pop-up parties and nightclubs. Developed alongside the Tallahassee Police Department, the ordinance looks to help maximize city resources by allowing officers to be the complainant, fixing an issue that Deputy Chief Maurice Holmes said is currently “unenforceable.” Currently, someone must log a noise complaint. Officers must identify its source and then take decibel readings to determine whether it is a violation. Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the new ordinance. The approved ordinance targets noise coming from the urban core and entertainment districts and address large gatherings that have been the source of shootings and other crimes in the past.
“Blueprint Doak deal: Cracks in wall of support for stadium funding as pressure campaign intensifies” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — As a critical vote approaches on whether to hand Florida State University $20-plus million in local Blueprint funds for its football stadium, opponents are intensifying an orchestrated pressure campaign on city and county commissioners, hoping to flip previous supporters of the divisive measure. On Thursday, all 12 commissioners who make up the Blueprint 2020 Intergovernmental Agency will vote on financing for the stadium. When they last voted on the funding in December, seven IA members were on board, with five opposed. There were signs of cracks in that wall of support as opponents turned up the heat on Mayor John Dailey, a leading supporter of the university’s funding request, over campaign donations he received from university officials and boosters.
“Pensacola family engages Cochran law firm after toddler injured in PPD SWAT encounter” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Pulled out of a dead sleep by an early morning phone call, a Pensacola woman jumped out of bed and into her car minutes after authorities urged her to come to the crime scene quickly. The father of the woman’s 1-year-old and 3-year-old boys, Corey Marioneaux Jr., had been taken into police custody in front of their children for firing a handgun at a SWAT team officer. After their dad left the scene in the back of a police car, the boys were left in the care of Pensacola police. While officials contacted their mom, the youngest child fell headfirst out of the back of a stationary patrol vehicle. The little boy’s face smashed against the pavement.
“Baker County ‘MegaFactory’ for green housing will be California firm’s first on East Coast” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — A California-based company that makes high-tech, energy-efficient modular housing is opening what it calls a “MegaFactory” in largely rural Baker County, where it plans to make 5,000 buildings every year, including luxury housing and middle-class subdivisions It’s the first East Coast factory for S2A Modular and the third to be built after plants in Patterson, California, and Waco, Texas. The company plans to eventually build 35 factories that will blanket the United States, providing homes, entire subdivisions, apartments and commercial properties. The Baker County plant is expected to be up and running in the late fall and will eventually employ 250 people making what S2A calls GreenLux buildings.
— TOP OPINION —
“Joe Henderson: Lauren Book’s candor shows helplessness of Democrats’ plight” via Florida Politics — You have to give Book credit for candor. On a Zoom gaggle with reporters, the Senate Democratic Leader called the current Legislative Session one of the worst she’s seen. Considering the buffeting Democrats have taken in recent years, that’s saying something. “We’ve got 18 more days to go, so basically we’re in hell week until Sine Die,” Book said. “Sorry, pretty sh**ty.” For members of her party, that’s one way to look at what’s happening in Tallahassee, but that’s probably not how Republicans see things. Lawmakers are supposed to solve problems during the Session to benefit the largest number of Floridians. But this Session has thus far been more about telling people how to live and what to think.
— OPINIONS —
“Increase the dental care workforce, breakdown barriers to care” via Joseph Benton for The Gainesville Sun — Since the onset of COVID-19, after temporary closures and the loss of multiple providers, some old dental care challenges have resurfaced and have even been exacerbated in the pandemic’s aftermath. We find ourselves unable to hire or even find candidates for providers, such as dentists and dental hygienists. We also live in an area where the demand and need for affordable dental care seems unending. HB 997 filed by Rep. Melony Bell and SB 1444 filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur will eliminate unnecessary barriers to dental care, especially for those who can least afford it, and increase the dental workforce in Florida. Two practical solutions would increase dental access, by utilizing existing infrastructures and educational institutions.
“Leave Doak Campbell Stadium funding to Florida State” via Mike Goldstein of the Tallahassee Democrat — Next week, the Blueprint board made up of our current elected county and city commissioners comes together to take a final vote on whether our tax dollars should go to Doak Campbell Stadium for “renovations and upgrades.” FSU Boosters and other private donations should handle any stadium improvements rather than from Blueprint funds. According to the Seminole Booster’s website, “Seminole Boosters, Inc. funds athletic facility construction and renovations on behalf of Florida State athletics, by way of capital gifts made by generous supporters.” If that’s the case, why does Blueprint need to step in to help fund a football stadium renovation?
—TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Worst. Legislative Session. Ever. Democratic Sen. Book lashes out at the culture war agenda of the Republican-controlled Legislature. In her words, “What the hell are we doing?”
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says an amended “Don’t Say Gay” bill will have the state ‘outing’ young people.
— It’s a special Election Day in Jacksonville. Sunrise talks to Florida Politics reporter A.G. Gancarski about why everybody in the state is watching this City Council race.
— Trump’s new social media app was the No. 1 download at the Apple store for a while. But it was a pretty glitchy rollout.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Don’t play ball! Spring training axed until March 5” via The Associated Press — Major League Baseball on Friday canceled the first week of spring training games through March 4 in the first public acknowledgment of the disruption caused by the lockout. The announcement came with the work stoppage on its 79th day, and a day after, economic talks between the management and the Major League Baseball Players Association lasted just 15 minutes. The lockout means Florida’s 13 Grapefruit League spring training sites will remain chained and locked. Negotiators are set to resume talks on core economics on Monday, and MLB said members of the owners’ negotiating committee will attend the session, just the seventh on the central issues of the dispute since the lockout began Dec. 2.
“SeaWorld changes height requirement for Ice Breaker due to ‘operational issues with smaller riders’” via Fox 35 News — SeaWorld Orlando has changed the height requirement for its new Ice Breaker roller coaster after officially opening the ride just days ago. According to the theme park, “we are experiencing some operational issues with smaller riders, and so out of an abundance of caution, we raised the height requirement from 48 inches to 54 inches for the time being.” SeaWorld says they are working with the manufacturer and safety professionals to adjust. “Ensuring our guests have a safe and thrilling experience in our park remains our top priority.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our colleague Ron Brackett, as well as Nelson Diaz of The Southern Group and Courtney Veatch.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.