Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.24.22

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Florida politics — and more — you can read in as much time as your first cuppa joe

Good Thursday morning.

A top of the ‘burn birthday shoutout to Alexander’s dad, Matt Farrar.

Matt’s always been someone whose business sense and forward-thinking I admired. But this year, I am especially proud and motivated by Matt’s decision to get healthier. He’s months ahead of what I am doing, but, per usual, he offers inspiration and a glimpse of what the future may hold. Have a great day, Matt.

Happy birthday, Matt!

___

If today were Election Day, Gov. Ron DeSantis would win a second term by 20 points, according to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF.

The PORL poll showed DeSantis taking a massive lead against the two leading Democrats running to replace him. If U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is DeSantis’ opponent in the November ballot, the incumbent will win 55%-34%. If Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried is the Democratic nominee, DeSantis would win 55%-32%.

In a further blow to the Democrats’ chances, only a third of those polled said they approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing, whether somewhat or strongly, with 57% disapproving, including 46% who said they strongly disapprove.

Ron DeSantis would take on all comers in a hypothetical matchup.

But a lot could change in the eight months between now and Election Day, said UNF professor and PORL faculty director Michael Binder.

“A lot of Democratic voters still don’t know who they would vote for, so I would expect that lead to narrow between now and November,” he said.

As far as the Democratic Primary, Crist leads at 27%, followed by Fried at 19%. At 4%, Sen. Annette Taddeo was tied for third with little-known candidate David Nelson Freeman. The true leader, however, was “unsure.”

“Crist has eight points on Fried in the Governor’s primary, but we still have 38% of registered Democrats in this survey who are undecided,” said Binder. “These folks likely won’t make up their minds for a while, so this will be a pretty muddled picture until later in the summer.”

The UNF PORL was conducted Feb. 7-20. It has a sample size of 685 registered voters and was conducted and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.74 percentage points.

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Florida Politics is conducting a new Influencer Poll l asking our exclusive list of influencers to weigh in on the state of the 2022 Legislative Session. As with any poll, the more, the merrier! So, if you would like to be added to the list — or know someone who would be a good fit — drop us a note this morning, and we will add you (or them) right away. And if you are already on our roster of influencers, thanks again; your participation is always welcome.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@BeschlossDC: So once again we are shown — in case anyone needed to be shown — that there is never an end of history.

Tweet, tweet:

@MarcoRubioBiden’s war on American oil & gas made #Russia’s energy more valuable, #Putin more powerful & the U.S. more vulnerable to what’s happening in #Ukraine

@JHendersonTampa: Whatever @NBCNews pays @RichardEngel for reporting in the world’s most dangerous places, it isn’t enough

@MarcEElias: Has Rick Scott explained why he wants to make it harder for members of the U.S. Military to vote?

@RealChrisRufo: New York Magazine says that parents are “household tyrants” and don’t deserve the right to direct their children’s education. The Left has long believed that children should be “liberated” from their families and shaped by the state. Now they’re saying it out loud.

@Caroline0902: The Florida Senate just confirmed Dr. (Joseph) Ladapo as Surgeon General. He won’t say if he’s been vaccinated, won’t wear a mask, promoted ivermectin, and appeared at an event about the powers of hydroxychloroquine with the lady who thinks demon sperm causes gynecological problems.

@Fineout: Those magic words oft heard at the Capitol … “I wasn’t going to debate …”

@BrowardPolitics: State Rep. @ChipLaMarca says he’ll vote “no” on “Don’t Say Gay” bill when it comes up for final action in Florida House. He’s the only Republican Florida lawmaker whose district lies entirely within heavily Democratic Broward & has many #LGBT constituents.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

St. Pete Grand Prix — 1; Biden to give the State of the Union address — 5; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 8; Miami Film Festival begins — 8; the 2022 Players begins — 12; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 12; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 27; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 27; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 29; The Oscars — 31; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 33; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 34; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 38; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 53; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 57; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 63; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 63; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 64; federal student loan payments will resume — 66; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 71; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 90; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 92; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 98; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 103; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 135; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 148; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 166; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 190; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 225; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 261; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 264; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 296; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 358; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 393; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 519; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 603; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 883.

—TOP STORY —

‘No proof at all’: CNN catches Donald Trump-loving Florida group red-handed pushing voter fraud misinformation” via Matthew Chapman of RawStory — On CNN Monday, reporter Leyla Santiago investigated the claims of Defend Florida, a right-wing “voter integrity” group promoted by people including former Trump strategist Roger Stone and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and found that their critical claims of election irregularities in Florida are disinformation. “So, in all of your reporting, were you able to find any, any evidence to back up this group’s claims?” asked anchor Erin Burnett. “No proof at all for some of their claims,” said Santiago.

Defend Florida insists there was voter fraud — without a shred of proof. Image via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Florida Senate confirms Joseph Ladapo as Surgeon General” via Robert Pandolfino of WFLA — The Senate confirmed Ladapo as the state’s Surgeon General, despite complaints from Democrats over his positions on how to address the ongoing pandemic and his medical philosophy. Ladapo won confirmation on a straight party-line vote of 24-15, with all Republicans voting yes and every Democrat voting no. Following his appointment as State Surgeon General, Ladapo quickly made headlines for how he had rewritten and adjusted state policy for COVID-19 in education. While state leaders have been supportive of Ladapo, Democratic lawmakers have not been as receptive.

Joseph Ladapo is officially official.

Senate fast-tracks Ron DeSantis immigration priority as House advances measure” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Both chambers are ready to consider legislation to further crack down on illegal immigration, a priority for DeSantis that lawmakers have fast-tracked as the Governor faces re-election. The Senate bill was slated to head to the Senate Rules Committee. But in a rare move Wednesday, the Senate fast-tracked the bill (SB 1808) by scrubbing the need to send it through that panel, preparing it for the floor. Speaking to reporters Wednesday evening, Senate President Wilton Simpson told reporters his chamber did that “so we could get it here a lot quicker … because we want to get it done.”

Consumer data privacy moves to House floor despite Senate inaction” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation to strengthen consumer data privacy in Florida passed its final House panel on its way to the floor despite being slow-walked in the Senate. The proposal (HB 9) would give consumers the right to determine what information has been collected, delete or correct the data, and opt out of selling or sharing personal information. But the House version, filed by Rep. Fiona McFarland, has drawn resistance from business interests who fear complying with the measure will be financially crippling. The bill unanimously passed the House Commerce Committee earlier this month. However, four Democrats voted against the measure as it passed 13-4 in the House Judiciary Committee.

Florida TaxWatch scores impact of data privacy bill at $21B economy-wide” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Data privacy legislation still under consideration by the Legislature could deliver a $21 billion hit to Florida’s economy. “Affording consumers greater rights over their personal information and privacy is obviously a good idea, but policymakers have a responsibility to ensure they know the true cost of implementing consumer data privacy before enacting a comprehensive, wide-reaching law,” said Dominic Calabro, TaxWatch president and CEO. The study, entitled “The Impacts of Consumer Data Privacy on Florida’s Economy,” looks at bills in the House (HB 9) and Senate (SB 1864). It takes particular aim at the House version, which includes giving consumers an ability to sue should companies fail to delete or correct information.

Medicaid dental care is a done deal, but differences remain in House, Senate bills” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Legislative dogfight over Medicaid dental care appears to be resolved after a House panel amended its bill to allow dental care to continue to be provided by separate Medicaid managed care plans. While the move brings HB 7047 closer to its Senate counterpart, the House bill still contains mandatory contracting requirements for faculty teaching plans and other hospital providers referred to in the bill as “essential providers.” Sponsored by Rep. Sam Garrison, HB 7047 contains language that would prohibit the state from auto-assigning Medicaid beneficiaries who did not choose a health plan to any health plan with more than a 50% market share in a region. The language is meant to address Centene Corporation’s acquisition of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. in the Medicaid managed care market.

Nursing home staffing changes clear last House panel” via Florida Politics — Legislation to “modernize” nursing home staffing requirements by reducing the number of certified nursing assistant hours and allowing non-nursing care to be provided instead cleared its last panel Wednesday in a 15-5 vote. Before passing the measure, the committee agreed to tag an amendment onto HB 1239, filed by Rep. Lauren Melo. The bill requires nursing homes to conduct facility assessments to determine the staff needed “to provide the level and types of care needed for the facility’s resident population considering the types of diseases, conditions, physical and cognitive disabilities, as required by federal rule.” The level of resident care required would be determined by the facility assessment and the resident’s direct care plan.

Bill reducing rooftop solar buyback price clears key hurdle” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The window of opportunity to make rooftop solar more financially viable for homeowners may be closing. On Wednesday, a key committee of the Florida House approved a bill that would reduce the price FPL pays homeowners when buying back excess power generated rooftop solar systems and would increase monthly FPL costs. The legislation, which the House Commerce Committee approved Wednesday, has cleared three committees and will advance to a vote by the full House. The bill would reform a 2008 law that encouraged the adoption of rooftop solar technology by requiring net metering. The new bill would reduce that rate over time and allow utilities to impose fixed fees to recover lost revenue from solar customers. Florida Power & Light is pushing the bill. FPL contends that grid maintenance costs that guarantee solar owners’ access to the utility grid are unfairly borne by non-solar owners.

Rooftop solar fight pivots to phased reduction of net metering’s financial incentives” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Florida homeowners and businesses would be given 18 months to install rooftop solar before current financial incentives are reduced under a House proposal intended to find a middle ground between the rooftop solar industry and the state’s powerful electric utilities. But the change to HB 741, which was originally written by Florida Power & Light for the House and Senate sponsors, also includes several sweeteners for the utility industry to revise net metering laws. For example, the amendment by bill sponsor Rep. Larry McClure would allow utility companies to ask regulators to allow it to charge all its customers so that they can recover the revenue it loses when some homeowners install solar panels. The House Commerce Committee approved the amendment.

GOP members amend language labeling Black kids as ‘special needs’ after uproar from Dems” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Following members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus expressing concerns about the language used to define Black children in the child welfare system, GOP state lawmakers acted Wednesday to fix the troubling issue in the law. Just last week, several Black lawmakers voiced their frustration on the House floor about language in existing state law that defines a “special needs child” as a child “of Black or racially mixed parentage.” On Wednesday, the issue was addressed through legislation sponsored by a GOP member of the House related to the child welfare system, including the placement of children in therapeutic group homes.

Joe Geller demands racial polarization study become public ahead of redistricting hearing” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Geller wants a glance at all relevant data before the House Redistricting Committee holds its final meeting. The ranking Democrat on the House Redistricting Committee sent a letter to Committee Chair Tom Leek asking for data the minority caucus has not seen. “I share the expressed desire of the Speaker and chairmen to generate a constitutionally compliant Congressional map,” Geller wrote. The letter is one of several sent to the House Redistricting Committee ahead of a meeting. There, the panel expects to advance a map dividing Florida into 28 congressional districts (H 8011) to the House floor.

Joe Geller calls on Tom Leek to produce the racial redistricting data.

NAACP, Fair Districts Coalition sound alarms on House redistricting plan to reconfigure CD 10” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Watchdog groups are urging House redistricting leaders to reconsider a plan to reconfigure Rep. Val Demings’ district significantly. The Fair Districts Coalition and the NAACP separately sent letters to Rep. Leek, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, on the matter. Both called into question cartography that significantly changed the shape of districts in the Orlando region. Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida Conference, said a draft map (H 8011) could violate Florida’s Constitution The letter raised concerns about a significant alteration of Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

DeSantis sends Florida Democrats to redistricting purgatory” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Florida Democrats still don’t know who will run in a handful of competitive congressional districts with just six months before the state’s primaries. And they may not know any time soon. DeSantis’ unexpected and unusual push to reshape Florida’s redistricting process has all but frozen the field, leaving Democrats frustrated as they wait for state lawmakers and possibly the courts to sort out how Florida’s maps will look. “I have to see the map,” said former Rep. Donna Shalala, a Miami Democrat who says she is considering challenging Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar to win back the seat she lost in 2020. “I’m not making a decision until I see the lines.” A legislative deal is becoming increasingly unlikely. The uncertainty has the potential to further disadvantage the Party in Florida.


— TALLY 2 —

Hold the Mayo — House wants to move Dept. of Agriculture employees from creaky Tallahassee building” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) employees working in the Nathan Mayo Building would move to new offices under a provision in the House budget. The House spending plan (HB 5001) requires the Department of Management Services (DMS) to issue a competitive bid for office space to move 272 employees in the Mayo building, located one block from the Capitol in Tallahassee at the corner of Pensacola Street and Calhoun Street. House leaders believe the move will save the state money, as the building is 85 years old and experiencing chronic leaks, “structural deficiencies,” and electrical problems that lead to costly repairs.

The House is seeking new digs for the Department of Agriculture.

Corrections bills move forward in House, Senate — Bills that would allow judges to hold juveniles accused of a crime in jail in 21-day increments while they await trial moved forward in the House and Senate on Wednesday, Stephanie Matat of POLITICO Florida reports. The proposal (SB 7040/HB 7029) passed along party lines despite concerns from Democrats that the bill treats juveniles who are accused of crimes as if they are guilty. Separately, a House bill (HB 1515) that would allow counties, the Florida Department of Corrections and Florida College System institutions to collaborate on technical training programs advanced through the House Judiciary Committee, its final stop. The full Senate has already approved the companion bill (SB 722).

Senate passes bill updating rape laws” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill that extends a victim’s time for reporting rape in some cases and makes other changes in Florida’s sexual battery laws to help prosecutions won unanimous approval from the Senate Wednesday. The final bill wound up being a cooperative effort of Sen. Linda Stewart and Sen. Gayle Harrell, with a nod toward assistance from Sen. Keith Perry. The Senate approved SB 692 38-0 Wednesday with no questions or debate. The final bill focuses on extending the time that victims who were assaulted while incapacitated have to report the crime. Now, if a victim is not aware of the sexual battery for some time because of mental defection, mental incapacitation or physical helplessness, there would be an additional year on the statute of limitations.

Senate passes bill bolstering rights of crime victims” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate passed a multi-prong measure Wednesday that would bolster the rights of crime victims. The proposal (SB 1012) would require law enforcement to inform crime victims of their right to counsel. It would also encourage the Florida Bar to develop a list of attorneys willing to work pro bono for crime victims. Sen. Danny Burgess is the bill sponsor. He also serves as a member of the Army Reserve. The bill contains a slew of secondary provisions. Among others, it would clarify state law by saying crime victims may “upon request” attend or be heard at a criminal proceeding.

Measure raising payout caps in claims against governments heads to Senate floor with last-minute change” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A contentious bill raising the cap for claims against the government is on its way to a full Senate vote after debate over proposed payout tiers prompted a last-minute change in its final committee stop. The measure (SB 974) by Sen. Joe Gruters would change the maximum payout for claimants before they must go to the Legislature to overcome sovereign immunity, which prevents the government from settling pricy claims without its consent. The Legislature can approve payments above existing caps through measures called “claims bills” or “relief acts.” Gruters’ bill and its analog in the House (HB 985) by Rep. Mike Beltran have undergone several changes since last year’s initial filing.

Senate passes bill to expedite occupation licenses of military spouses” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would expedite the work license applications of military spouses who hold an out-of-state certification. The upper chamber passed the bill unanimously without questions or debate, ranking it among the few proposals to pass without a single “no” vote. Sen. Janet Cruz is the companion bill sponsor (SB 562). Cruz and proponents hope the proposal will curb the unemployment rate among military spouses, which hovered near 22% pre-pandemic. The bill would provide a temporary work license to military spouses who hold an out-of-state professional license. It would also, among other provisions, waive Florida’s license application fees.

Fentrice Driskell’s bill addressing abandoned Black cemeteries will head to House floor” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Rep. Driskell came one step closer to realizing the fruition of three years’ hard work and a racial reckoning nearly a century in the making. Driskell’s Abandoned African American Cemeteries bill (HB 1215) cleared its final panel and will now head to the House floor. The bill creates an Office of Historic Cemeteries within the Division of Historical Resources. The office would focus on coordinating research, repair, restoration, and maintenance efforts at abandoned Black cemeteries, but would extend to all historic cemeteries as well. The bill seeks to staff the office with three full-time employees at an estimated cost of $200,000 per year. The bill also seeks grants to pay for some of that work and creates an Abandoned African American Cemeteries Advisory Council.

Bill formalizing statewide resilience office, authorizing grant dispersal clears final House panel” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A bill that would formalize the Statewide Office of Resilience and create the official position of Chief Resilience Officer under the Governor and would add on to sea level rise and resilience measures passed last year, cleared its final House panel Wednesday. The bill (HB 7053) was sponsored in the House by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera in response to Senate legislation introduced by Sen. Jason Brodeur. “What we’re doing here is putting some of the finishing touches on the work we started last Session,” Rep. James Buchanan said. HB 7053 codifies the office and its head position and places it under the purview of the Executive Office of the Governor. But the measures have grown from formalizing an executive order to taking a stance on climate change and coastal resilience.

Foreign contribution ban heads to Senate floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation to clarify the ban on political contributions from foreign nationals is ready for the Senate floor. Federal law already prohibits donations from foreigners and foreign entities to elections. However, the FEC’s decision in November opened the door to foreign donations for state ballot initiatives. A bill filed by Brodeur (SB 1352) would ban contributions from foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign businesses and foreign citizens, as well as people who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t granted permanent residence. That doesn’t include dual citizens. As the Senate Rules Committee considered Brodeur’s bill on Wednesday, he told committee members his proposal falls into the “I thought this was already illegal” category.

House committee advances bill protecting personal info in crash reports” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House Commerce Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that aims to protect the personal information of people involved in car accidents. State law currently exempts crash reports from the public record for 60 days, yet allows select parties to access the information. That includes individuals involved in the crash, lawyers, law enforcement and media, among others. The proposal (HB 1151) would keep the 60-day exception in place. Afterward, however, it would permanently redact sensitive information such as driver’s license and phone numbers, date of birth and addresses. Rep. Chuck Brannan is the bill sponsor. The committee advanced the bill unanimously, marking its final committee stop before the floor.

Privacy please: Chuck Brannan’s bill gives some cover to car crash victims.

Bill swapping out standardized tests for progress monitoring graduates from final House committee” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Legislation to replace standardized testing with a “progress monitoring program” passed its final House committee Wednesday. HB 1193 passed the House and Education employment committee via a 13-5 vote. It is now waiting to be heard on the House floor. The bill would replace the much-maligned Florida Standards Assessment, or FSA, with coordinated screening and progress monitoring. DeSantis and teachers support the proposal. It also places a cap on class time dedicated to state testing at 5%. 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 use summer school to meet standards.

Financial literacy class legislation gets straight A’s at committee stops” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Legislation requiring high school students to take a financial literacy and management class passed its final House committee Wednesday. HB 1115, which would require all students to take a half-credit financial literacy class before graduating, passed the House Education and Employment Committee unanimously. The legislation has passed all three committee stops without a single downvote. The course will teach students about banking practices, money management, credit scores, managing debt, loan applications, insurance policies, and local tax assessments. The legislation passed with little discussion or comments from Committee members.

Broadband bills could get throttled — Legislation to help expand broadband in Florida could be in trouble. On Tuesday, the Senate pulled its funding for broadband expansion (SB 1800/SB 1802) during an Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday, noting the U.S. Treasury hasn’t OK’d funds yet. Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Boyd says the Senate intends to proceed with the bill. But in the House, the legislation (HB 1543/HB 1545), filed by Rep. Josie Tomkow, still needs to go through the Commerce Committee, which might not meet again. But rural Floridians shouldn’t fret yet. Lawmakers could still find a way to keep the measure alive.
Peer support specialist bill poised for vote in Florida House” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — Mattie Velasco serves as the Client Care Coordinator at the River Oaks Treatment Center in Riverview, where she works with clients from intake to discharge while concurrently pursuing a degree in human services with a concentration in addiction studies at St. Petersburg College. It’s all part of her goal to work as a counselor helping others with substance abuse issues, but she’s stymied from advancing because of her involvement in the criminal justice system due to addiction issues. She will get that chance if St. Petersburg Democrat Darryl Rouson’s “peer specialist” legislation makes it through the Legislature this Session.

—MORE TALLY —

Jimmy Patronis lauds advance of fire investigator cancer treatment bill — CFO Patronis, who doubles as State Fire Marshall, praised the House Commerce Committee’s vote to advance a bill (HB 557) sponsored by Rep. Michelle Salzman that would extend existing firefighter cancer coverage to fire investigators. “Both firefighters and investigators never fail to answer the call and work to protect our homes, businesses and communities at a moment’s notice. It is critical that we provide these men and women the support they need if faced with a life-changing cancer diagnosis. A huge thank you to Chair Ingoglia and the Commerce committee for moving this legislation forward …,“ Patronis said.

‘Answering the call’: Jimmy Patronis praises a bill extending cancer treatment to firefighters.

—“Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill raises concern among students, school leadership” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun

Crime victims ask lawmakers for support, action — Crime survivors and families of murdered Floridians came to the Capitol on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to expand support for crime victims and make communities safer. Crime survivors were joined by elected officials at Survivors Speak Florida — an annual event hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) — with families holding photos of murdered loved ones and advocating for safety reforms. Crime survivors from the 8,000-member Florida chapter of CSSJ said that in addition to employment protections for grieving families, they’re calling for other public safety reforms, including investing in rehabilitation rather than prisons.

Lawmakers push for lower wages. Yes, lower.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Some Florida politicians really seem to want to keep people poor. I didn’t always believe that. I used to think they were just indifferent to the working poor. But we have evidence lawmakers want to keep them that way. A bill advancing in the Legislature would ban cities and counties from choosing to hire only contractors that pay living wages. If you found that last sentence confusing, that’s probably because you have a brain. After all, we’re not talking about local municipalities passing citywide minimum-wage laws. We’re just talking about cities choosing how they want to spend their money.

— SKED —

— Senate Appropriations Committee meets to consider a series of bills, including a bill (SB 524) carried by Sen. Travis Hutson overhauling the state’s election laws, 9 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to list bills to be heard on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after the Senate Appropriations Committee, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House will convene for a floor Session; on the agenda is HB 357, from Rep. Jackie Toledo, to change regulations on pharmacy benefit managers; a controversial measure about “woke” education and training (HB 7), by Rep. Bryan Ávila, and a proposal critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB 1557), filed by Rep. Joe Harding, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.

— House Rules Committee meets 15 minutes after the floor Session, Room 404 of the House Office Building.

—GOV CLUB MENU —

Zuppa Toscana soup; Caesar salad; mozzarella and Roma tomato Caprese with basil; antipasto salad; Italian hoagies; chicken piccata; vegan spaghetti and meatballs; white rice pilaf; grilled asparagus; s’mores for dessert.


—STATEWIDE —

DeSantis presents infrastructure check to Moore Haven leaders” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis presented a check worth more than $1 million to Moore Haven’s Mayor on Wednesday. The money will go to infrastructure projects in Glades County. “We really like rural infrastructure,” DeSantis said. “You get a lot of bang for the buck.” He said that improvements to roads and stormwater drainage systems will improve economic opportunities and environmental safeguards. Moore Haven Mayor Bret Whidden celebrated the dollars coming to the rural community. “I want to thank the Governor for making this happen,” he said. The presentation comes days after a similar grant presentation in Madison.

Ron DeSantis cuts the big check to Moore Haven Mayor Bret Whidden. Image via Twitter.

Ashley Moody joins GOP AGs in seeking ouster of U.S. Homeland Security chief” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — In another chapter in Florida Republicans’ campaign against the Biden administration’s immigration policies, Attorney General Moody has co-signed a letter demanding the resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The letter, also signed by the Republican attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, alleges failure by Mayorkas to enforce immigration laws. It accuses the secretary of presiding over sharp increases in fentanyl seizures and entry of sex criminals, plus a decline in deportations compared to the Trump administration.

Thousands of Florida children could lose Medicaid coverage in months ahead, study says” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Medicaid has become a significant safety net for families during the COVID-19 pandemic, with about half of all children in the United States now covered through their state’s public health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans, including about 2.4 million kids in Florida. But those gains in Medicaid coverage are likely to plummet when the federal government declares an end to the pandemic-related public health emergency. When that time comes, possibly as soon as July, states will be required to restart annual renewals for everyone in their Medicaid programs if they cannot verify eligibility. More than 1.34 million people have gained Medicaid coverage in Florida since March 2020.

Florida is No. 2 in the number of Black-owned businesses” via Florida Politics — Florida has the second-most Black-owned businesses in the country, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The Florida Chamber on Wednesday announced that it had started tracking the number of Black-owned businesses in the state and including the ranking on its Florida Scorecard website. According to the Chamber, there are more than 250,000 Black-owned businesses in Florida, and they collectively employ 77,136 Floridians and represent an annual payroll of $2.63 billion. However, the pandemic has presented many challenges for Black-owned businesses, with 77% of businesses categorizing their financial situation as “fair” or “poor.”

For fans and businesses in Florida, the MLB lockout is a new spring training curveball” via Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post — Around 11 a.m. Monday, Parker and Scott Cain walked along each gate at Roger Dean Stadium, searching for signs of life. “What’s going on?” shouted Scott, Parker’s father, to a familiar worker at the park. Short answer: No one knows, and everyone has been instructed to say nothing. In Jupiter, as in towns across Florida and Arizona, he’s not alone. MLB has postponed the start of spring training games until at least March 5. Full team workouts have not begun, either. Around Roger Dean this week, fans and business owners are bracing for a longer holding pattern. And it all comes after spring training was dashed by the coronavirus pandemic halfway through in 2020, then stunted by fear and attendance limits in 2021.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Testing positivity rate nears 5% threshold in parts of South Florida” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The number of patients with coronavirus in Florida hospitals dropped to its lowest level in nearly two months as the testing positivity rate neared the 5% mark in Miami-Dade County, according to federal data. The state reported 3,931 new cases on Wednesday, pulling the seven-day average down to 4,382, data from the CDC shows. That’s a 93% decline from the peak of the omicron surge on Jan. 11. There were 3,687 patients infected with COVID-19 in hospitals across the state on Tuesday, a drop of 68% from the peak of hospitalizations during the omicron surge. There were 624 cases in intensive care units.

Bottom line: Positivity hits its lowest levels in South Florida. Image via AP.

Are you back in the supermarket? See how shopping has changed in Florida during COVID-19” via Jeff Kleinman of the Miami Herald — Are you still relying on Instacart and Amazon for groceries? Or are you back at Publix, Aldi, Winn-Dixie, and all the others, shopping list in hand? At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many shoppers turned to delivery with concern over supermarket safety. While some have grown to like the digital ordering and door-to-door service, many consider in-person shopping a pleasure, and have returned to the supermarket aisles. Guess we like to squeeze the Charmin and eyeball the steak. How did grocery store foot traffic change, or not, at major Florida supermarkets during the pandemic in Florida?


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— CPAC —

They’re back. CPAC draws Trump, DeSantis to Orlando again for more political drama” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Today, the Conservative Political Action Conference returns for four more days of drama, including scheduled appearances from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, conservative media figures such as Glenn Beck, and celebrities including actor Kevin Sorbo and sportscaster Michele Tafoya. This year’s event comes amid reports of a rift between the event’s two headliners, Trump and DeSantis, over their shared 2024 ambitions and COVID-19 vaccines. “This DeSantis-Trump thing is real,” said David Jolly, a former Republican Congressman. “A lot of people describe DeSantis as the guy who could win the nomination if Trump doesn’t run. I’ve started reframing this lately. This is DeSantis’ party now. And the only person that can stop Ron DeSantis is Donald Trump.”

CPAC brings out the big guns — is a conflict inevitable?

—”On eve of CPAC, DeSantis targets George Soros” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Annual conservative gathering puts Trump’s sway vs. rising DeSantis under scrutiny” via Alexandra Ulmer of Reuters — The leading photo on the CPAC website is of a grinning Trump. When the conference kicks off … the former President will be counting on an adoring crowd to cement his dominance of the Republican Party ahead of November’s congressional elections — as well as a potential presidential run in 2024. The photo next to Trump’s on the speakers’ list is of DeSantis, whose rising national profile is driving speculation that the 43-year-old former federal prosecutor is also eyeing a run for the White House. The juxtaposition is symbolic of the Republican Party’s looming choice: Does it coalesce around a fresh face or Trump, who would be 78 in 2024 and whose presidency was marked by turmoil?

This year’s CPAC lineup speaks volumes about the conservative movement” via Henry Olsen of The Washington Post — This year’s CPAC lineup shows a party attempting to marry pre-Trump conservatism with Trumpian style. And what’s missing? Genuine discussion and debate of the issues. This year’s agenda speaks volumes about who is and is not considered potential star material for movement conservatives. Trump makes the grade, as does his son, Donald Trump Jr., but former VP Mike Pence does not. Neither does former U.S. Amb. Nikki Haley. DeSantis and Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota have coveted solo slots, as do Sens. Cruz and Marco Rubio and even former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Other potential 2024 candidates, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, are missing despite their consistently conservative stances on the issues.

—“Tulsi Gabbard to speak at CPAC, joining its ‘Great Un-Wokening’via Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone

Former GOP voters take over billboards ahead of CPAC — Ahead of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting in Orlando, the Republican Accountability Project has snapped up more than 100 billboards in the area. The group will feature Republican and former Republican voters explaining how they feel abandoned by today’s GOP. They will be on display in the area throughout the meeting. One billboard features a Republican voter from Arizona, Nancy, who says, “I’m disgusted by today’s GOP. No integrity. It’s all about power.” In addition to the billboards, RAP is collecting video testimonials from right-leaning voters and promoting them digitally in swing states through the midterm election.

Billboards at CPAC will blast Donald Trump’s conservative values (or lack thereof).

GOP critics of Trump to gather in D.C.to offer CPAC ‘counterprogramming’” via Mychael Schnell of The Hill — Anti-Trump conservatives are set to attend a summit on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 hosted by Principles First, an organization that describes itself as “a grassroots effort to rediscover and champion principles in the 21st century.” The summit, according to the group, will focus on “conservatism’s meaning & the path to a more principled future for our country” through panels, speeches, networking, and discussions concerning “the meaning of conservatism today and the future of our movement.” According to the organization, attendees will include conservatives, independents, thought leaders, and grassroots activists. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are both slated to speak. Their appearances will be roughly three weeks after the RNC voted to censure them for their criticisms of Trump.

CPAC recruits payment processor that vows to ‘eliminate risk of being de-platformed’” via Brooke Singman of Fox Business — CPAC has recruited Revere Payments as its official payment processor for their 2022 event — a platform that vows to eliminate the “risk of being de-platformed or restricted by financial institutions taking political stances.” Fox Business has learned that Revere Payments, a brand owned and operated by commerce and payments platform Metrics Global, will process CPAC tickets and fundraising payments. “At Revere Payments, we believe in the freedom to do business, not cancel culture,” Metrics Global founder and CEO Wendy Kinney told Fox Business. “Every day, we partner with clients to eliminate their risk of being de-platformed or restricted by financial institutions taking political stances.”

Florida has become the GOP’s favorite destination, and not just for its beaches” via Greg Allen of NPR — Florida is a big draw for snowbirds from around the country looking for warm weather in the depths of winter. But Republicans are flocking to the state to pick up connections and campaign cash year-round. Trump is hosting congressional candidates on Wednesday for a big fundraiser at his private club in Palm Beach. On Thursday, CPAC opens in Orlando. It was held in the D.C. area until last year when it moved to Florida. So did the House GOP retreat. Among the reasons Republican politicians are drawn to the state, the first is its approach to COVID-19. Enter Florida, where DeSantis has raised his profile within the GOP by challenging Biden COVID-19 policies and fighting vaccine and mask mandates.

—2022 —

Why are White liberals so pessimistic about politics?” via Daniel Cox of FiveThirtyEight — More than 60% of Black and Hispanic Democrats said they were somewhat or very optimistic about the country’s future, but White Democrats were much more divided — roughly as many said they felt optimistic (53%) as pessimistic (47%). One possible explanation may lie in how White liberals prioritize politics over other activities. Certainly, liberals have experienced a precipitous decline over the past few decades when it comes to religious participation. Research also finds that the most politically active among us are less engaged in civic and social activities. This group of people leans farther left than the general population. Another possible reason might have to do with their media diet. Compared to other Americans, White liberals spend much more time-consuming political news.

DeSantis takes a jab at Jen Psaki on National Margarita Day” via Tyler O’Neil of Fox News — DeSantis took a jab at White House press secretary Psaki in a new inflation-themed video on National Margarita Day on Tuesday. The video opens with a clip from Psaki’s Jan. 21 interview, in which the press secretary offered advice to Americans who were “frustrated” and “angry.” The camera pans to DeSantis, watching Psaki from a Florida bar with a margarita before him. “Having a margarita is well and good, but it is not a cure for Bidenflation,” the Governor says.

To watch the spot, click on the image below:

Charlie Crist opens Ukraine offensive on Ron DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Crist’s campaign is challenging the DeSantis administration, posing the question: “Why won’t Ron DeSantis defend democracy abroad?” “Gov. DeSantis’ administration is shamefully failing to give a straight answer on whether they support democracy abroad, from Ukraine to Cuba to Venezuela. This should be easy, Governor. Just tell the people of Florida whether you stand with democracy, or with Vladimir Putin, Nicolás Maduro, and the Castro regime. Your silence is a slap in the face to the countless Floridians who have suffered at the hands of authoritarians and dictators,” said press secretary Samantha Ramirez. Crist spotlighted a quote from gubernatorial spokesperson Christina Pushaw, who invoked her own professional experience in that part of the world and questioned America’s ability to “promote democracy” in foreign lands given issues at home.

Assignment editors — Crist will join parents, teachers, and students for a “Parents for Crist” roundtable to discuss the efforts to defund Florida schools, 10 a.m. RSVP at [email protected] to receive the Zoom link. Livestreamed via Charlie Crist’s Facebook page (@CharlieCristFL).

GOP challenger matches Frederica Wilson in Q4 fundraising, but trails far behind in on-hand cash” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Wilson raked in almost $55,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021, bringing her war chest total to $495,000 as she looks to defend her seat representing Florida’s 24th Congressional District. Her sole Republican opponent, Lavern Spicer, all but matched her blow-for-blow in the fundraising department with more than $54,000 collected over the same period. But thanks to healthy spending, Spicer and Democratic challenger Christine Olivo both challenged Wilson in 2020, together holding less than 1% of what Wilson did on New Year’s Day. Spicer, who is running “to expose the lies of the left and end the Democrats’ destruction of Black America,” ended 2021 with less than $7,000 in her campaign bank account.

Eunic Ortiz garners endorsements from 11 state lawmakers for SD 24 run” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Eleven state legislators from across Florida are backing Senate District 24 candidate Ortiz. Ortiz, a Democrat, raked in endorsements from state Sens. Lori Berman, Shevrin Jones, Tina Polsky, Bobby Powell, Linda Stewart and Victor Torres. “The Florida Senate needs more leaders who will work toward finding solutions to meet the diverse needs of communities across our great state,” said Torres, an Orange County Democrat, in a statement. “I am proudly supporting Eunic Ortiz for Florida State Senate, District 24 because she will fight for Floridians and not special interests. We need more women, more Latinas, more union organizers, and more LGBTQ leaders in the Florida Senate to ensure a more representative democracy.”

Eunic Ortiz lines up some solid Democratic endorsements.

Pinellas Commission leaves it to residents to get term limits on ballot” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers again pushed his colleagues to put a referendum on the November ballot on whether to impose term limits for the County Commission. It was the third time he’s raised the issue in four months, and for the third time, his effort failed. The Board of County Commissioners voted 4-3 Tuesday against Eggers’ motion to begin crafting language for a ballot question. Only Commissioners Kathleen Peters and Charlie Justice supported him. A citizen-led petition, approved by Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus on Jan. 25, is already underway to put a term limits question before voters in November.

— CORONA NATION —

How many people died believing vaccine misinformation?” via The Washington Post editorial board — “Freaking miracle.” That’s how health journalist Helen Branswell recently described the vaccines that have saved millions of lives in the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccines, offered to the U.S. population, have proved to be 90% effective against infection. Ready within a year of the outbreak, they have proved to be safe. And they are widely available and free. There is no parallel in modern times. Yet, some people chose to believe otherwise. Five percent said vaccines contained microchips; 7% said vaccines used aborted fetal cells; 8% said the vaccines could alter human DNA, and 10% were concerned that vaccines could cause infertility. Forty-six percent were uncertain about the veracity of at least one of the four false statements.

Is omicron leading us closer to herd immunity against COVID-19?” via The Associated Press — Is omicron leading us closer to herd immunity against COVID-19? Experts say it’s not likely that the highly transmissible variant, or any other variant, will lead to herd immunity. “Herd immunity is an elusive concept and doesn’t apply to coronavirus,” says Dr. Don Milton at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Herd immunity is when enough of a population is immune to a virus that it’s hard for the germ to spread to those who aren’t protected by vaccination or prior infection. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a community to be immune. Early hopes of herd immunity against the coronavirus faded for several reasons.

Is herd immunity finally at hand?

Masks come off in blue states. Residents wonder: Is it too soon, or long overdue?” via Fenit Nirappil, Jane Gottlieb, Ryan Slattery and Katherine Kam of The Washington Post — At Janssen’s Market, the baked goods were fresh, the Godiva chocolate was on display, and the masks were gone, at least on some of the customers. Delaware’s Democratic Governor, like a growing roster of his compatriots in other blue states, raced this month to lift an indoor mask mandate as the omicron surge fizzled, even if the administration of Delaware’s favorite son, Biden, continued to urge that masks be worn in public. The mask era appears to decline as the coronavirus pandemic lurches into a third year, another turning point on the circuitous path to normalcy.

U.S. vaccination drive is bottoming out as omicron subsides” via Mike Stobbe of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The vaccination drive in the U.S. is grinding to a halt, and demand has all but collapsed in places like this deeply conservative manufacturing town where many weren’t interested in the shots, to begin with. The average number of Americans getting their first shot is down to about 90,000 a day, the lowest point since the first few days of the U.S. vaccination campaign, in December 2020. And hopes of any substantial improvement in the immediate future have largely evaporated. Government and employer vaccine mandates have faced court challenges and may have gone as far as they ever will. And with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths subsiding across the U.S., people against getting vaccinated don’t see much reason to change their minds.

Maternal deaths rose during the first year of the pandemic” via Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — The number of women in the United States who died during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth increased sharply during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study, an increase that health officials attribute partly to COVID-19 and pandemic-related disruptions. The latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics found that maternal deaths rose 14%, to 861 in 2020 from 754 in 2019. The United States already has a much higher maternal mortality rate than other developed countries, and the increase in deaths pushes the nation’s maternal mortality rate to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020 from 20.1 deaths in 2019.

Harvard students are COVID-19 sheep” via Julie Hartman of The Wall Street Journal — Harvard has required students to get vaccinated and boosted and test for COVID-19 twice a week, hectored us to wear masks nearly everywhere, and banned students from several communal spaces, including dining halls at one point, and from having informal campus gatherings indoors with more than 10 people. Most of my classmates lost nearly a third of their time on campus. The aggregate burden of these measures over two years has diminished our college experience. More concerning than the administration’s heavy-handedness has been the zombielike response of the student body. I ask my friends, “Why do young, fully vaccinated students continue to tolerate these irrational COVID restrictions?” While many of my peers acknowledge the excess, they shrug it off. The prevailing mood on campus is resignation, learned helplessness, and reluctance to dissent.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

‘Immense fraud’ creates immense task for Washington as it tries to tighten scrutiny of $6 trillion in emergency coronavirus spending” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — There are hundreds of cases involving a slew of programs enacted by Congress in the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic, money dispatched with such urgency at the time that it is now putting Washington watchdogs to the test. Roughly two years after lawmakers approved their first tranche of rescue funds, the U.S. government is grappling with an unprecedented challenge: how to oversee its own historic stimulus effort. There are lingering questions about whether it benefited those who needed it the most. And the aid continues to be a ripe target for criminals nationwide, the full extent of which is only beginning to come to light.

It was supposed to help, but fraud in handling the COVID-19 relief package is making it difficult.

Omicron ripping through cargo ships may exacerbate shipping woes” via K Oanh Ha and Ann Koh of Bloomberg — Omicron is ripping through cargo ships, raising concerns that a surge in cases, coupled with China’s tightened quarantine requirements for vessels, could delay supply chain stabilization for the shipping industry. COVID-19 outbreaks are hitting ships globally, with cases increasing “exponentially,” said Francesco Gargiulo, CEO of the International Maritime Employers’ Council Ltd. Anglo-Eastern Univan Group, which has an active crew of about 16,000, is seeing infections on five to seven vessels a month compared with only one or two a month last year, the company said. Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen Ship Management Ltd. has had infections on four of its ships since January after less than a dozen vessels were struck with COVID-19 in all of 2021, said Carl Schou, chief executive officer at the ship manager.

— MORE CORONA —

A new COVID-19 vaccine shows 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalizations, its makers say.” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — Two doses of a new COVID-19 vaccine that is based on a conventional approach achieved 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalizations, and it could be an effective booster after other COVID-19 shots. The vaccine, made by the Europe-based pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and GSK, is one of four candidates that received billions of dollars for development from Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s program to accelerate vaccines. The new vaccine had an efficacy of 75% against moderate-to-severe disease. It showed 58% efficacy against symptomatic disease in its Phase 3 clinical trial.

A new vaccine from Sanofi is showing incredible promise. Image via AP.

Against omicron, vaccine protection was much weaker, CDC data shows” via Amy Cheng, Annabelle Timsit, Brittany Shammas, Dan Keating and Naema Ahmed of The Washington Post — Although coronavirus shots still provided protection during the omicron wave, the shield of coverage they offered was weaker than during other surges, according to new data from the CDC. The change resulted in much higher infection rates, hospitalization, and death for fully vaccinated adults and even those who received boosters. The decline in protection continued a pattern driven by coronavirus vaccines’ reduced effectiveness over time, combined with the increasing contagiousness of the delta and omicron waves. Vaccines still provide their greatest protection against death. CDC’s data on deaths went through only December before the peak of more than 2,600 deaths per day in January.

The U.S. mask mandate for air travel is due to expire in March, but some flight attendants say that’s too soon.” via Alyssa Lukpat of The New York Times — With federal in-flight and airport mask mandates scheduled to expire next month, a flight attendants’ union is pushing the Biden administration to extend the mask requirement until more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Association of Flight Attendants-C.W.A. said that allowing the mask requirement to lapse on March 18 would endanger medically vulnerable travelers and passengers under 5, who are not yet eligible for a vaccine in the United States. “The layered approach to safety and security includes masks,” the union, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, said in a statement on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the TSA, Patricia Mancha, said Tuesday night that the requirement was still on track to expire on March 18.

COVID-19 is still surging in the Caribbean, where rising deaths, low vaccination continue” via Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — While COVID-19 deaths have dropped in the Americas region for the first time since the beginning of the omicron variant, the Caribbean remains vulnerable to the deadly virus, the WHO’s Americas office warned Wednesday. Vaccination rates continue to lag in many countries and territories, and a surge in new cases is leading to increases in hospital admissions and deaths, said Dr. Carissa Etienne, the director of the WHO’s Pan-American Health Organization. “We have to continue to be vigilant; we need to ensure social distancing … [and] the best way to protect yourself is getting a vaccine,” said Etienne, making a special appeal to her fellow Caribbean nationals. She is from the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

So dumbRashida Tlaib to deliver response to Biden’s State of the Union address” via Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post — Rep. Tlaib will deliver a response to Biden’s State of the Union address next week on behalf of the progressive Working Families Party group, in a rare instance of a formal response by a member of the president’s own party. Tlaib’s speech is expected to be a call for her fellow Democrats, particularly Party members who have blocked Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending proposals, to act with greater urgency while they hold the majority in the House and Senate. Tlaib will note that “Republicans and a handful of corporate Democrats are standing in the way of Biden’s agenda,” but is not planning to call out any members of Congress by name.

Rashida Tlaib will give the far-left ‘response’ to the SOTU. Image via AP.

— D.C. MATTERS —

New tax plan from leading GOP Senator would require all Americans to pay federal income taxes” via Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — A leading GOP Senator faced a backlash this week after calling for all Americans to start paying federal income taxes, leading to criticism from both the White House and leading conservative policy experts. Sen. Scott, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released an “11-point plan to rescue America” that included a proposal for all Americans to pay some form of income tax, even if it was a nominal amount. He received so much blowback to the ambiguity of his proposal within less than 24 hours that he was forced to offer two caveats, insisting the new tax wouldn’t apply to seniors or those who are not, as he described them “able-bodied.”

Like a lead balloon: Rick Scott unveils a GOP ‘rescue America’ plan. It did not go over well. Image via YouTube.

Shot@CurtOnMessage: MEMO FOR REPORTERS — When anonymous consultants who helped lose the Senate majority complain about Rick Scott’s rescueamerica.com plan, call me and I will destroy them on the record. The idea that we should be timid & quiet without a plan is antiquated thinking from the ’90s

Chaser@TonyFabrizioGOP: While I applaud my friend @SenRickScott courage for staking out an agenda (though don’t understand embracing or saddling GOP with a tax increase) if you’re gonna challenge @LeaderMcConnell just say so. Don’t shadow box.

— CRISIS —

Fighting Jan. 6 committee, John Eastman details how he came into Trump’s postelection fold” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Eastman, a key ally in Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election, says he began advising Trump two months before Election Day when a prominent conservative attorney recruited him to “begin preparing for anticipated postelection litigation.” That attorney, Cleta Mitchell, was deputized directly by Trump in August 2020 to establish an “election integrity working group,” Eastman indicated in court papers filed Tuesday evening in a federal court in California. Eastman says he advised Trump on various lawsuits seeking to invalidate millions of votes and spoke to state legislators who he said had the authority to appoint their own set of pro-Trump electors.

How did John Eastman get mixed up in this mess?

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

2 prosecutors leading New York Trump inquiry resign, clouding case’s future” via William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, Kate Christobek and Nate Schweber of The New York Times — The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Trump and his business practices abruptly resigned amid a monthlong pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury. The stunning development comes not long after the high-stakes inquiry appeared to be gaining momentum, and throws its future into serious doubt. The prosecutors, Carey R. Dunne and Mark F. Pomerantz, submitted their resignations after the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Trump, the people said.

Trump’s Truth Social’s disastrous launch raises doubts about its long-term viability” via Drew Harwell of The Washington Post — Trump, a longtime critic of how Democrats debuted Healthcare.gov, is facing a bungled website launch of his own. His long-promised social network, Truth Social, has been almost entirely inaccessible in the first days of its grand debut because of technical glitches, a 13-hour outage, and a 300,000-person waitlist. Even Trump supporters made jokes about the early slog. Jenna Ellis, a former member of his legal team, posted to Instagram a photo showing Trump with his finger hovering over a laptop, “letting us on to Truth Social one at a time.” Early glimpses at Truth Social suggest its offerings are almost identical to what Twitter and other sites have offered for years — except tweets are called “truths,” and retweets “retruths.”

Truth Social is poised to flameout fast.

—LOCAL NOTES —

Brian Flores says he turned down NDA from Dolphins that would have left him ‘silenced’” via Des Bieler of The Washington Post — Flores said in an interview that aired Tuesday night that he turned down millions from the team by refusing to sign a nondisparagement agreement that would have “silenced” him. Among the explosive aspects to his court filing was an allegation that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him a $100,000 bonus for each defeat Miami took in 2019 to help improve the team’s draft position. He also claimed Ross tried to enlist his help in recruiting a quarterback on another team in violation of NFL anti-tampering rules. Asked how much money he left on the table, Flores replied, “A lot.” An attorney for Flores who was present during the interview, John Elefterakis, interjected by stating, “It was millions of dollars.”

An NDA would have silenced Brian Flores on his discrimination claims. Image via AP.

In teachers’ union election, challengers say leaders lost touch; incumbents point to raises” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — A new political caucus is hoping to unseat United Teachers of Dade’s leadership by focusing on three focus areas: advocacy, community and transparency. Alexandria Martin is running to become the new president of UTD, the association representing thousands of educators across Miami-Dade County Public Schools; Richard Ocampo, the next vice president; and Katherine Prelaz, the new secretary-treasurer. The trio comprises People Over Politics. Incumbents Karla Hernandez-Mats, Antonio White and Mindy Grimes-Festge, who ran in the Frontline Caucus in 2019, were re-elected to their positions of UTD president, vice president and secretary-treasurer, respectively.

‘We’ll give them everything they want’: Isle Casino in talks to add corporate headquarters to huge redevelopment project” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The massive 223-acre redevelopment plan for Isle Casino Pompano Park, which already includes an expanded casino, entertainment complex, hotel and residential elements, is looking to increase its footprint in South Florida with the addition of a major company headquarters on-site. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the economic development arm of Broward County, is working with a company on the idea, but all parties are being tight-lipped about it at this point. “We are working with a company that is considering locating on the site, which could bring numerous jobs and a significant capital investment,” said spokeswoman Maggie Gunther in an email.

David Bellamy defends donations to DeSantis, other Republicans” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Bellamy faced questions from members of the Leon Democratic Environmental Caucus Tuesday about past political contributions he made to DeSantis and other Republicans. Bellamy, a registered Democrat running against Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, donated $14,525 to national Republican candidates and causes from 2003 to 2020 and made $16,300 in donations to state Republican candidates and causes. He gave $2,000 to national Democrats and $7,500 to state Democrats during that same time. Bellamy told the caucus he feels his political beliefs align with the no-party affiliation category, but he is registered as a Democrat to participate in local primaries.

Wedge between Florida State, taxpayers could have been avoided” via Kristin Dozier of the Tallahassee Democrat — For nine months, we have been embroiled in a conflict about proposed funding for Doak Campbell Stadium that never should have happened. Marked by misinformation and ‘missing information,’ it has divided our community and jeopardized our relationship with FSU. From the beginning, the Doak proposal was presented in a way that led many to believe the Blueprint board had ‘earmarked’ $20 million for any ‘FSU project.’ This is not true, and yet even today, supporters believe we want to ‘take something away from FSU’ and that we don’t understand the substantial economic impact the university has on our local economy. The decision to present both issues in the same agenda Item was extraordinary because it combined an overdue report on the proposed convention center with a new project that had never been presented to the board.

Senate bill raises faculty concerns on transparency of presidential search” via Hannah Wagner of The Oracle — As USF prepares to review presidential applicant profiles to replace Interim President Rhea Law, concerns have been raised among faculty over the impact the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 520 would have upon transparency. Approved by the Florida Senate on Feb. 10, SB 520 would withhold public records for applicants seeking higher educational presidential positions. Under SB 520, the process of considering and interviewing prospective presidential applicants would be assigned to the search firm hired by the university, closing previous lines of communication about candidates between the search committee and the public.

USF interim president Rhea Law has applied to take the job permanently” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — Law, the influential Tampa attorney who is serving as the University of South Florida’s interim President, has applied to take the job permanently. Tasked with creating a “smooth glide path” for the next president, Law, who assumed the interim role in August after former President Steve Currall stepped down, has been praised by many for working efficiently and building relationships. She’s met regularly with state legislators, including Senate President Simpson, whose daughter now serves on the university’s board of trustees, and her former mentee, House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Rhea Law applies to drop the ’interim’ title. Image via WUSF.

Former Brooksville Mayor gets 15 years for child pornography” via The Associated Press — Kevin Hohn, 66, was sentenced in Tampa federal court, according to court records. He pleaded guilty in November to the production of child pornography. Hohn was also ordered to pay a fine of $30,000, a special assessment of $20,000, and $6,000 in restitution to the victims. Hohn will be required to serve five years of supervised release and register as a sex offender. After executing a search warrant in February 2021, federal agents discovered more than 100 images of child pornography on Hohn’s computer, including some that appeared to have been secretly taken in his home.


— TOP OPINION —

Scott’s plan to ‘rescue’ America: tax the poor” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — News flash: Scott wants to rescue America. As the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the good Senator has some ideas about how to accomplish that. Scott spelled them out in an 11-point plan he says Republicans will push when (if) they win control of the Senate after the midterm elections. “Americans deserve to know what we will do when given the chance to govern,” Scott said. Poor people might especially deserve to know what Scott has in mind for them. He wants to make some of America’s most cash-challenged citizens, in his words, “pay some income tax to have skin in the game.” This is Christmas in February for Democratic Senate candidates.

— OPINIONS —

With his praise for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Trump makes his apologists look foolish. Again.” via Max Boot of The Washington Post — It is a commonplace on the right that the only reason that Putin is invading Ukraine is that President Biden is too weak to deter him. As one right-winger tweeted: “I’m convinced that Putin would be a lot, LOT more hesitant to invade if Trump was President. Biden simply does not evoke any sense of strength or danger to our enemies.” To believe this is to suffer from temporary amnesia about how Trump actually acted toward Putin while he was in office. Who can forget Trump’s kowtow to Putin at Helsinki in 2018? The U.S. President rejected the findings of the United States’ own intelligence community about the hacking of the 2016 election and said: “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Marco Rubio shows up, then reminds us his time should be up” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Rubio is up for re-election this year. But the more he opens his mouth, the less he appears to deserve six more years. He defended the Republican National Committee’s jaw-dropping declaration that the House select committee investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” However, he alluded to only one such person, who turned out to be properly under investigation for having signed one of those fraudulent elector certificates intended to keep Trump in the White House. Rubio couldn’t bring himself to say that Trump was wrong when he claimed Vice President Mike Pence could have discarded electoral certificates for Biden.

Don’t use a ‘hate slate’ to turn our kids into cannon fodder” via David J. Johns of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Legislature is advancing bills that would bar the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, a measure that has the support of Florida’s Governor, and potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, DeSantis. As an elementary school educator and inaugural director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence on African Americans, as well as a Black LGBTQ+ civil-rights leader, I can say that the actions of the Republican Party in Florida are beyond disgusting. Taken together, the message is simple: this legislation will harm children ― both children who may come to identify as LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ children who would benefit from learning to celebrate diversity.

Repealing PIP insurance is a bad deal for Floridians — and a costly one, too” via Michael Carlston and Scott Matiyow of the Miami Herald — Florida is one of the most expensive states for auto insurance. Rates are increasing because of the complexity and cost of new vehicles, the rising cost of used vehicles, and increased auto crashes. Yet Florida lawmakers are considering a policy that will only add to the insurance cost that millions of drivers pay. The Legislature once again is considering the repeal of Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law and its Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance requirement. Bills filed in the Senate and House would replace PIP with mandatory bodily injury coverage; the Senate bill goes one step further and creates a flawed third-party insurance bad-faith standard.

Kevin Doyle: It’s time to end the welfare for the wealthy” via Florida Politics — As we continue our solid growth in solar usage all across the Sunshine State, it’s well past time for Florida lawmakers to get rid of “welfare for the wealthy” and make solar accessible for all of us. Because of outdated state laws called “net-metering,” now high-income Floridians who invest and solar to generate renewable energy for their homes are enjoying the financial benefits. When solar was just getting started, net metering made sense. Now, it does not. We are all paying for it, including the less fortunate, while more well-off Floridians reap the rewards.


—TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Ladapo has been confirmed as Florida’s Surgeon General — but not before Democrats have their last say against the nomination of the doctor who won’t endorse vaccines.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Republican Aaron Bean says Ladapo’s refusal to wear a mask in the office of a Senator fighting breast cancer was — a poor bedside manner.

— It looks like aging Florida condos will be getting a lot more inspecting after the deadly collapse in Surfside.

— Lookin’ good Tallahassee. Sunrise talks to Volunteer Florida about the annual “Suits for Session” clothing drive.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

A new Disney living community means superfans can call the Magic Kingdom home” via Jessica Cherner of Architectural Digest — A new Disney living community is perhaps the best news to House of Mouse fans that nearly live within the media conglomerate’s seemingly unlimited offerings. And though Disney’s theme parks have been dubbed the happiest place on Earth, the international behemoth has a new venture in the works that is stealing the show. Per yesterday’s announcement, superfans can now call Disney home by buying an estate, condominium, or single-family home within one of the company’s Storyliving by Disney communities. The entertainment giant even enlisted a development firm to break ground on the first of many communities. The first, dubbed Cotino, will take over a sizable plot of land in Rancho Mirage, California, and comprise nearly 2,000 homes.

A Disney utopia? Rancho Mirage could be the place. Image via Disney.

As Dollywood workers get free tuition, Orlando theme parks largely lag in offering same benefit” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Ahead of opening for the 2022 season, Tennessee theme park Dollywood announced earlier this month it would provide free tuition to all workers. Tim Berry, Dollywood’s vice president of human resources, said the move was intended to care for existing workers and attract new ones in an industry that shrank during the pandemic. The benefit is through Guild Education, the same program Disney uses to offer free worker tuition. But Dollywood takes its education program a few steps further: all workers are eligible for the benefit from their first day of work, and its program also covers books and fees. Disney Aspire is available to part- and full-time workers after 90 days of employment and reimburses books and fees. Universal Orlando and SeaWorld offer tuition reimbursement, but details on their programs are scarce.

Orlando restaurateurs make semifinals for James Beard Awards” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — The chef at Kabooki Sushi along with the restaurateurs behind Reyes Mezcaleria and The Osprey, an Orlando baker and a pastry chef, are all semifinalists for prestigious James Beard Awards. On Wednesday, Henry Moso, of Kabooki Sushi, was named a semifinalist in the “Best Chef: South” category. Jason and Sue Chin of Good Salt Restaurant Group were named semifinalists for outstanding restaurateur recognition. Their restaurants include Reyes Mezcaleria and The Monroe in downtown Orlando as well as The Osprey and Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated happy birthday wishes to our longtime friend Joel Silver. Best wishes to Reynolds Arrington, Kevin Besserer of the Florida Realtors, Jessica Ellerman, Beth Houghton, Susan Goldstein of The Legis Group, and former Rep. Carl Zimmermann.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

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



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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