Good Tuesday morning.
With a 15-week abortion ban one vote away from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is taking to the airwaves.
The organization has rolled out a 30-second ad that features news coverage labeling the proposal (HB 5) as “Florida’s strictest abortion bill in history” and includes a clip of DeSantis saying the proposal is “something that we will be able to sign.”
The ad closes with a narrator urging viewers to tell DeSantis to “stop attacking our rights.”
Planned Parenthood said it staked the campaign with $100,000 and that the ad buy will put it in front of 200,000 Floridians, including districts represented by anti-abortion lawmakers.
“Floridians should decide what happens to their bodies, their lives, and their futures — not politicians. What we’re seeing in Florida demonstrates legislators’ complete disregard for individual liberty and the will of their constituents, who support abortion access and do not want abortion banned in their state,” said Sarah Standiford, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s national campaign director.
“Throughout the Legislative Session, student activists have been silenced and even were kicked out of the HB 5 floor vote by Capitol police. With this advertisement, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is reminding Gov. DeSantis, his allies, and anti-abortion rights legislators in Florida and around the country that we are watching them — and we will hold them accountable for attacking our rights.”
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
Beth Sweeny wins St. Augustine Beach Commission seat — The better half of the St. Augustine Beach Sweeny family was elected by the SAB Commission to fill the remainder of the term of former Commissioner Ernesto Torres, who resigned in January. She will run for a full term in November.
Two candidates are launching campaigns Tuesday for what are expected to be competitive seats in the state House.
Tiffany Hughes, a Democrat from Orlando, is entering the race for the new House District 39, which includes parts of Orange and Seminole counties.
Hughes is a first-time candidate who currently serves as president of the Orange County branch of the NAACP and is a member of the Orange County Community Development Advisory Board and the City of Orlando’s Certification Appeals Board. She and her husband manage staffing firm KBI Staffing Solutions.
“Central Floridians deserve an advocate in Tallahassee who will prioritize the issues that keep us up at night — economic opportunity, ensuring a strong public education system, access to affordable housing and health care, and more,” Hughes said.
Meanwhile, Tampa Democrat and small-business owner Jen McDonald filed to run in the new House District 65, which covers part of Hillsborough County and closely mirrors the current House District 60, held by third-term Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo.
McDonald is the founder and owner of Liberty Bella Enterprises and vice president at Merchant Insurance Solutions. She has also chaired the Hillsborough County Citizens Advisory Committee and the Hillsborough Community College Business Advisory Board.
“As an entrepreneur who founded and built my business right here in Tampa Bay, I’m all too aware of our need for a representative in Tallahassee who will deliver for our community. I will bring bold leadership and a fresh perspective to service on behalf of all District 65 residents,” McDonald said.
Ruth’s List, an organization that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women to public office, recruited both candidates.
“Ruth’s List Florida is excited to have played an integral role in actively recruiting these two incredible women candidates to run for newly created seats in the state House,” said Ruth’s List vice president Kayla vanWieringen. “In our entire history, we’ve never issued endorsements this early in non-incumbent legislative races, but we know our early support is critical to ensuring victory in November.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Another haunting image out of Kharkiv. A rocket embedded in a children's playground. pic.twitter.com/HOH2m3bU3V
— Michael Weiss 🌻 (@michaeldweiss) February 28, 2022
—@MarcoRubio: DANGER (Vladimir) #Putin’s legitimacy built on image as the strong leader who restored #Russia to superpower after the disasters of the ’90s. Now the economy is in shambles & the military is being humiliated & his only tools to reestablish power balance with the West is cyber & nukes
—@ProjectLincoln: Hey @MarcoRubio, where was all this energy when (Donald) Trump was withholding aid from Ukraine?
This was the scene when Putin ordered his nuclear alert. It tells tons about the state of isolation of the man with his finger on the button. pic.twitter.com/B2PFq2k6EB
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 27, 2022
—@DKThomp: The sudden smothering and suffocation of the Russian economy is without modern precedent. This is terra incognito, and I have no idea what happens next.
—@IanKearns_: Second, creative thinking about something that could serve as a face-saving way out for Putin while not giving anything of fundamental importance to Ukraine or the West away. In the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, this was a secret deal to remove some U.S. missiles from Turkey.
—@Salisbot: BREAKING: every woman in your life now has at least a small crush on Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it
—@CWarzel: also, as with the earliest days of COVID, new and nuanced information is super important, but it’s also basically impossible for the news to give people what they want, which is any kind of certainty/definitive relief
—@MikePompeo: Associating with anti-Semitic neo-Nazis is not consistent with the conservative values I’ve defended for decades. Representative Taylor-Greene playing footsie with Nick Fuentes and his splinter movement is shameful.
—@GovRonDeSantis: Last week, the (Joe) Biden Administration requested the assistance of State National Guards to deploy to Washington D.C. I have rejected this request — there will be no @FLGuard sent to D.C. for Biden’s State of the Union.
—@SteveSchale: I see the Listener Group poll has filled the space once occupied by Gravis Poll as the leading challenger to Quinnipiac University for most bizzaro world polling in ye here ole Florida.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘The Batman’ premieres — 3; Miami Film Festival begins — 3; the 2022 Players begins — 7; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 7; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 22; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 22; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 24; The Oscars — 26; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 28; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 29; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 33; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 48; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 52; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 58; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 58; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 59; federal student loan payments will resume — 61; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 66; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 71; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 85; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 87; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 93; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 98; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 130; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 143; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 161; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 185; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 220; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 256; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 259; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 291; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 353; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 388; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 514; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 598; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 878.
— FLORIDA REACTS TO UKRAINE —
“Ron DeSantis finally speaks of Ukraine attack, blaming Joe Biden” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — After five days of silence on the matter, DeSantis finally on Monday expressed a position on Russia’s attack on Ukraine, ridiculing Russia’s effort, extolling Ukrainians, blaming Biden and praising Trump. DeSantis said Putin miscalculated what it would take to conquer Ukraine because Putin read too much into what the Governor said was Biden’s appearance of weakness. DeSantis also expressed his belief that Europe and the United States under Biden still have not done enough to dissuade Putin because they have not “hit him where it counts.”
“Florida is ‘evaluating’ Russian investments as Governors in other states cut financial ties” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida is evaluating its investments in Russian companies as governors in other states seek to cut financial ties with the country over its invasion of Ukraine. DeSantis hasn’t publicly called for Florida to halt investments and business with Russia. Florida’s $195 billion in assets include about $300 million in holdings in “Russian-domiciled investments,” said Dennis MacKee, a spokesperson for the State Board of Administration, which manages state retirement funds. Florida will comply with “applicable laws and any sanctions required by the U.S. government,” he said.
“Nikki Fried says Florida must divest from Russian investments” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Fried continues to be the lone voice in the Florida Cabinet calling for the state to stake out its position in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Monday, Fried said state officials should immediately ensure Florida ceases any business with Russian-backed entities. She made the call in a letter to DeSantis, Ashley Moody and Jimmy Patronis. “It is imperative that we not only speak out against these attacks on democracy, but that we ensure Florida taxpayer dollars are not propping up the autocratic regime in Russia,” Fried asserted. The letter did not specify what, if any, investments Florida has in Russian-backed entities from which the state could divest.
“Rick Scott says not to blame ‘hardworking Russian-American people’ for Ukraine invasion” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Scott cautioned Monday that people should not blame “hardworking Russian-American people” for the military incursion undertaken by Putin last week. “We should be clear here: the many hardworking Russian-American people living and raising families across our nation are not to blame for Putin’s evil war,” Scott asserted in a news release from his Senate office. “Now is a time for all Americans to come together in defense of freedom and democracy. American leadership is needed now more than ever, and taking these steps now is how we as a nation stand up against evil. Until this conflict is over, supporting Ukraine, and making this horrific war as painful as possible for Putin and his evil regime, must be our top focus.”
“Florida residents worry about families in Ukraine: ‘Today is already so bad’” via Fresh Take Florida — Hours after Russian troops launched a full invasion on Ukraine, the largest military action in Europe since World War II, Floridians living here and around the world with ties to Ukraine and Russia fear for their friends and relatives. Anastasiia Valenko’s parents’ two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of a building in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. “The house is wooden,” she said. “So, if it starts burning, it will be very quick.” After four years living in Ukraine, Michael McCarthy of Tampa left his home in Hostomel, one of the cities targeted by Russian attacks a week after his evacuation.
“Does Miami have a Little Russia or a Little Ukraine? This is where the war hits home” via Jeff Kleinman of the Miami Herald — South Florida is a place for the world. Immigrants from everywhere have settled in Miami, Broward and the Keys and, in some cases, in such great numbers in one area that their neighborhoods are now nicknamed “Little” before the name of their homeland. Our region has Little Havana and Little Haiti, of course. And while not called Little Venezuela, Doral and Weston can easily claim the name. Sunny Isles Beach, a coastal municipality on the northern edge of Miami-Dade County, is sometimes called Little Moscow. Hundreds of people rallied against the attacks on Thursday night near Hallandale Beach City Hall on Federal Highway. Like Sunny Isles Beach, Fisher Island also has drawn wealthy Russian investors.
“‘A frightening situation’: South Florida sends supplies, support to Ukrainians” via Julia Bagg of NBC 6 — More supplies were leaving South Florida by air and by sea Monday as support for the war-torn nation continued to grow. Another round of supplies was being boxed up and sent out from the Global Empowerment Mission in Doral. The organization, which responds to global disasters, still seeks supplies to send. “Vital necessity kits, so anything that you might need, from socks, non-perishable items,” GEM’s Kimberley Bentley said. “Anything that you might need, like when you’ve been walking, and you leave your house with the shirt on your back.” Last week, GEM founder Michael Capponi traveled to Poland, which borders Ukraine to the west, to help distribute supplies on the ground.
“‘People are staying strong’: Florida State student from Ukraine remains hopeful” via Mariah Wiggs of the Tallahassee Democrat — Anastasiia Vlasenko became emotional at the thought of not having a home to go back to. The 31-year-old’s future hangs in the balance along with that of her husband and their 5-month-old son. Her expectation to return to Ukraine in August with a degree in hand and a job ready to start were altered in a matter of hours after Russia invaded Ukraine. “I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen to my family and to me,” Vlasenko said. “Here in Tallahassee, it was supposed to be my last year, and I was supposed to go back to Ukraine. But by the time I have to go back, if Ukraine doesn’t exist, I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
“With war raging in their home country, Klitschko brothers fight for their beloved Ukraine” via Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald — The Klitchkos represent their rugged people, as leaders, as symbols for Ukranian might and Ukrainian fight, and now these powerful men, 45 and 50 years old, have nonetheless chosen to enter the fight of their lives as if they didn’t have a choice at all. Of course, we can’t know how any of this will end for the Klitschko brothers. But the bravery in the choice is quite the awe-inspiring thing to behold. The Russians are coming for their freedom and their country. But they will have to pry it from the gnarled fists of two old warriors who have spent their lives learning what is required to win the unholiest kinds of fights.
“Florida business owner walks three days to escape Ukraine” via Emily McLeod of WFLA — Patrick Pfeffer, the owner of Club La Vela in Panama City Beach, posted on Facebook Sunday that he had made it safely to Poland after traveling by foot for three days as the Russian invasion continues. Pfeffer said it had been the most intense three days through which he had ever lived. Pfeffer said he received a warm welcome at Poland’s border and added that he was safe and comfortable. He said he needs to rest for a while, but will be sharing more of his journey in the coming days. For now, he said his thoughts and prayers are for the people of Ukraine and adds no matter what, it’s his home.
“As Ukraine crisis intensifies, Florida gas prices up are 4 cents in past week” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gas prices across Florida increased by an average of 4 cents per gallon in the past week as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised prospects of even further impacts on the global oil supply. AAA reported that Floridians are paying an average price of $3.52 per gallon. That’s the most expensive daily average since July 2014. Florida gas prices have risen an average of 33 cents per gallon since the beginning of 2022 and $1.33 per gallon since the beginning of 2021. If Russia’s oil and gas supply to Europe is entirely disrupted by the war, the impact on gas prices could grow.
“Total Wine & More pulls Russian-made products from shelves” via D’Ann Lawrence White and Cassie Fambro of Patch — Total Wine & More, which has 34 locations in Florida, has removed Russian products from its shelves nationwide. The decision was made to support Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion of their country. The company announced it in an Instagram post and has received significant praise for the move, garnering thousands of “likes” on the post showing a photo of an empty shelf where Russian alcohol once was. Showing their support for Ukraine, individual bar owners have begun boycotting popular Russian vodka brands. Some bar owners are mistakenly pouring out their stores of Stolichnaya and Smirnoff, although neither is made in Russia. Nearly all Stoli is made in Latvia, the former Soviet Republic, and Smirnoff is owned by Diageo beverage company in London.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis doubles down on map veto threat” via Florida Politics — DeSantis again was unambiguous regarding his intention to veto a congressional reapportionment map that doesn’t meet his muster. “I’ve said very clearly that I will veto maps that include some of these unconstitutional districts. And that is a guarantee. They can take that to the bank. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get something good that is positive for the people of Florida.” DeSantis made his comments in Indian River County Monday, his first since the Florida House Redistricting Committee approved a new “two-map” proposal Friday intended to split the difference between the variations on the baseline maps that had been advancing through House and Senate committees.
“Fentrice Driskell questions if two-map solution will pass court muster” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An insistence on bringing two congressional maps to the House floor could spell legal trouble for redistricting, according to Rep. Driskell, a Tampa Democrat serving on the House Redistricting Committee. At a news availability with Democratic leadership, Driskell voiced concerns that a bill advanced by the committee (HB 7503) takes a risky approach. Specifically, she’s concerned that the House seems poised to attach two maps to a bill that could go to the Governor. “Two maps,” she repeated. “I emphasize that because our obligation is to pass a constitutionally compliant map, singular. So many of us at the committee felt that we were essentially running afoul of the constitutional requirements for the Legislature to produce a singular map.”
“Elections bill passes last committee, ready for House floor” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — A bill establishing an election crimes investigations unit, banning ranked choice voting, and requesting a study to look into changes to vote-by-mail forms passed its final House committee Monday. HB 7061, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Perez, passed the House Appropriations Committee along party lines. The legislation, which emerged from the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee earlier this month, contains several of DeSantis’ “election integrity” priorities. During the meeting, an amendment to the bill made it almost identical to SB 524, which passed its final committee last Thursday. The revision asks elections supervisors to maintain voter roll lists annually instead of every two years, one of DeSantis’ requests.
“‘Don’t say gay’: Senate panel rejects Republican’s attempt to tone down bill” via Kirby Wilson and Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — A Republican state senator offered an amendment to the so-called “don’t say gay” bill Monday in an attempt to reduce partisan tensions over one of the most controversial measures of the Legislative Session. His GOP colleagues voted the idea down, then voted to move the bill to a full Senate vote. Sen. Jeff Brandes argued that his amendment would fix the most contentious portion of House Bill 1557, which would bar schools from teaching lessons on gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade or in ways that are not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate in other grades.
“Senate proposes stripping name, funding from BIDEN inflation fund” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate wants to spoil House budget chief Jay Trumbull‘s fun with an amendment that would rename the proposed “BIDEN” inflation fund. The House voted 90-26 earlier this month to create the Budgeting for Inflation that Drives Elevated Needs Fund (HB 5011) to cover increased costs for state contracts due to the current high level of inflation. The fund generally received support from several Democrats despite some calling out the petty politics to pin the high inflation rate on Biden. The House proposed the state immediately stock the fund with $2 billion, but the Senate panel’s version would instead ask lawmakers to fill the fund during the appropriations or budget amending process.
“Property tax cut for teachers, first responders now heading to Senate floor” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A proposed $81 million property tax cut for teachers, first responders, military members, and child welfare professionals is headed to the Senate floor after the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the legislation Monday. The changes come in a pair of bills (HJR 1, HB 1563). The first places an amendment on the ballot in November to grant another $50,000 homestead property tax exemption to select groups of workers. The second bill implements the measure if 60% of voters approve of it, starting Jan. 1, 2023. Both bills passed the House last week unanimously but received some questions Monday from the Senate panel about how it would affect smaller counties. “Are we just passing this $50,000 on to the counties — are they just suffering this loss?” asked Sen. George Gainer.
“Bill requiring hospitals, nursing homes, ALFs to allow visitors passes last House panel” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALFs) would not be able to close families out of their facilities under a bill approved by the House Health & Human Services Committee Monday. It is a top priority for the administration of DeSantis. Filed by Rep. Jason Shoaf, HB 987 would require hospitals and long-term care facilities to develop policies and procedures on infection control screening, personal protective equipment, permissible length of visits, and the number of allowable visitors. The amended bill makes clear that residents, clients, or patients can designate an “essential caregiver” and that caregiver is entitled to two hours of in-person visitation per day in addition to any other visitation authorized by the provider.
“Bill letting businesses sue to stop local ordinances heads to House floor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The House State Affairs Committee voted 14-9 for the bill (HB 403) by Cape Coral Republican Mike Giallombardo, which would freeze any ordinance for 90 days if a filed lawsuit charges that its rules are “arbitrary or unreasonable.” Right now, Giallombardo argued, local governments are able to enact ordinances that can “completely disable” a small business’ operations. As a result, state lawmakers every year are flooded with complaints and requests for preemption. Allowing businesses to contest local rules locally, he said, should reduce the number of state preemptions while empowering businesses to defend their bottom lines. “This is giving these small businesses the ability to challenge it at the local level,” he said.
“Cyberterror, ‘deepfake’ bills pass final committees” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — The House and Senate version of legislation that would beef up Florida’s criminal penalties for stealing an individual’s sexually explicit pictures and other sexual image-related crimes passed their final committees Monday. Rep. Joe Harding’s bill (HB 1453) passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously with little discussion. Sen. Lauren Book’s measure (SB 1798) passed Senate Appropriations through the committee’s consent agenda. The legislation targets deepfakes, which are images or videos that make it look as if a person said or did something that they did not. The measure also stiffens penalties for revenge porn and other sex-related crimes.
— TALLY 2 —
“Senate panel moves forward with House’s police recruitment package” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate is moving forward legislation DeSantis and lawmakers hope will enshrine Florida as the most “law enforcement-friendly state,” bolstering officer recruitment and retention. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill (HB 3), which would provide recruits with a bundle of perks. Among them is a one-time, $5,000 bonus for first-time officers and a $1,000 reimbursement program for out-of-state officers who relocate to Florida. It would also bump the base pay for a Sheriff by $5,000. The House voted 108-4 earlier this month to approve the package, sponsored by Rep. Tom Leek. Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper is shepherding the bill through the Senate. The measure will next head to the chamber floor.
“Bill hiking payout caps for lawsuits against government clears final House committee” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A House measure raising payout caps in claims against state, county and municipal governments has cleared all assigned committees ahead of a full floor vote by the chamber. Members of the House Judiciary Committee voted 19-0 Monday for a bill (HB 985) by Rep. Mike Beltran revising Florida’s sovereign immunity law, which prevents the government from having to settle pricy lawsuits without its consent. The Senate counterpart is also ready for the floor. Currently, the Legislature must approve paying claimants, who often sue the government for loss or injury, settlements higher than $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. The Legislature can then approve payments in excess of existing caps through measures called “claims bills” or “relief acts.”
“Pharmacy benefit management bill inching closer to law” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A bill that puts teeth into Florida’s pharmacy benefit management laws cleared its last Senate committee Monday. Filed by Sen. Tom Wright, the bill (SB 1476) authorizes the Office of Insurance Regulation to levy up to a $10,000 penalty against pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that don’t register with the state. Twenty lobbyists registered to lobby the Senate bill. The bill cleared the Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously without debate or fanfare and is now ready for the Senate floor. Pharmacy benefit managers are responsible for managing the pharmacy benefits of about 270 million Americans. The bill’s staff analysis shows there are 66 PBMs registered in the state. Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and OptumRx have more than 89% combined market share.
“Bill putting strict limits on Soil and Water Conservation District boards passes final Senate panel” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The idea seemed so ludicrous to GOP Sen. Brandes that he was exasperated as he pleaded with his Senate Committee on Appropriation colleagues to vote down SB 1078. “I mean, we’re not serious with this bill. I can’t believe that” he said. “Let’s not do this. This is not a good bill. This isn’t ready for prime-time. This isn’t ready for spring training. I’m not sure this thing’s even ready for T-ball.” But the bill, put forth by fellow Sen. Travis Hutson, cleared its final Senate committee stop. The bill would require candidates for the volunteer public office to be agriculture producers working or retired after at least 15 years of work or employed by an agriculture producer. An amendment added Monday further limits membership to producers who make at least $500,000 in a year.
“Senate panel recommends Melanie Griffin’s confirmation for DBPR Secretary” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has recommended the chamber confirm Griffin as Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). DeSantis named Griffin in December to replace outgoing Secretary Julie Brown, who shifted over to the new Florida Gaming Control Commission. With the committee’s recommendation on Monday, the next step for Griffin’s confirmation will be a vote by the full Senate. Griffin was a lawyer with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick before her appointment. She also is a senior adviser for business-to-business relationships for Shumaker Advisors Florida and the founder of Spread Your Sunshine, which provides speaking and professional training services and sells inspirational products.
“Todd Inman’s confirmation for DMS Secretary moves to Senate floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee is recommending lawmakers confirm Secretary Inman in his position atop the Department of Management Services. DeSantis, this summer, tapped Inman to replace outgoing Secretary Jonathan Satter, who left the administration in February 2021. Inman previously served as Secretary Elaine Chao’s chief of staff in Trump’s U.S. Department of Transportation. There, he worked as the executive manager for the department’s more than 55,000 employees, 20,000 contractors, 1,000 facilities, and an $89 billion annual budget. “It instilled in me a great pride that, when my time in D.C. ended, I didn’t want to leave public service,” Inman told Senators on Monday.
Senate considers adding separate roof deductible to property insurance package — An amendment to a Senate bill (SB 1728) aimed at stabilizing the property insurance market would allow insurers to write policies specifying a separate deductible for roof claims. Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reported that the proposed amendment would cap the roof deductible at 2% of a homeowner’s policy. While supporters said the cap would keep costs down, opponents worried that the cost would place too big a burden on lower-income Floridians. The most significant sticking point between the House and Senate property insurance bills is how and whether to tackle roof claims. House Speaker Chris Sprowls has publicly criticized proposals that would allow insurers to write policies covering the value of a roof rather than its total replacement cost.
Senate Appropriations Committee sends property insurance bill to the floor — The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a property insurance package (SB 1728) on Monday, teeing it up for a floor vote. The bill aims to stabilize the market as premium prices increase and insurers exit the Florida market. The bill is backed by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, an insurance industry group. APCIA vice president of state government relations Logan McFaddin praised the committee vote, saying the bill “contains important provisions aimed at bringing stability to Florida’s insurance marketplace and ultimately lowering costs for consumers.” The Senate bill has provisions related to roof policies that are not included in the House plan, though McFaddin said APCIA is “hopeful that lawmakers … can continue working together to pass these critical reforms.”
FEA says House bill will drive away teachers — The state’s largest teacher union noted that a bill OK’d by the House on Monday will “drive more teachers out of our public schools.” HB 1203 would let school districts decide if unions should be able to bargain over teacher evaluations and would add additional rules that would make it harder to raise pay for veteran teachers. The Florida Education Association cited a Florida Board of Education report that an estimated 9,000 teacher vacancies will exist at the end of this school year and found there are currently more than 5,300 support staff vacancies statewide. FEA President Andrew Spar said the House bill would only make it more challenging to attract and retain experienced teachers.
— MORE TALLY —
“Florida has a chance to close corporate tax loopholes” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Florida allows corporations to use an antiquated tax system that pretends as if parent companies and their subsidiaries were independent companies. Florida has a chance to put a stop to this. On Tuesday, the House expects to vote on legislation that would require combined reporting in Florida. It’s been filed by Rep. Angie Nixon, a Democrat from Jacksonville, as an amendment to HB 7071, which is otherwise a massive package of tax breaks. It might not get much attention, but this is one of the most critical decisions the Legislature will make this year. Combined reporting could generate nearly $500 million a year in revenue. That’s more than the state of Florida currently spends on preschool.
“School board member salaries appear to be on hold in Legislature; now it’s a question of term limits” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — After significant backlash from some educators and lawmakers, school board member salaries will likely remain intact across Florida’s 67 school districts. That’s because HB 1467, a bill that initially proposed slashing school board salaries, has been put on hold. Instead, bill sponsor Rep. Sam Garrison is pursuing eight-year term limits on school board members. And another lawmaker, Sen. Joe Gruters, thinks those school board term limits should be 12 years. The two are sponsors of the original bill related to board member salaries.
“As Floridians face massive rent hikes, problem takes a back seat to culture wars in Legislature” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — As housing costs skyrocket in Florida, measures that aim to help tenants struggling with soaring rent hikes have gone unheard in the Legislature. Legislation has languished, requiring landlords to notice impending rent hikes, allow the local government to impose rent control measures, and shield pregnant women from eviction. At the same time, the Florida House’s proposed budget doesn’t include any funding for a program geared toward aiding developers of apartments for low-income people. Democrats and advocates for renters say DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature are failing to address a crisis in the rental market, with tenants seeing their rent jump by $300 a month or even more.
“Mom-and-pop liquor stores hope for product fairness bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bill to level the playing field for liquor stores is dead this year, but mom-and-pop shops hold out hope lawmakers will pass a measure in 2023. The Florida Independent Liquor Store Owners Association came forward this Session with a proposal that would require distributors and manufacturers of wine or liquor to make even deals to vendors. In some cases, stores could even restock their shelves directly from the competition. Mario Bailey, who represents the Independent Liquor Store Owners Association, said owners initially thought they weren’t receiving product deliveries because of supply chain disruptions. But as owners kept noticing big-box stores in stock, they began to feel targeted.
“Bills calling for study of psychedelic mental health treatment die in committee” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida will remain closed to mental health treatments using psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound in “magic mushrooms,” and other psychedelic substances after a measure directing state staff to examine their potential use failed to gain traction this Legislative Session. The legislation would have ordered the Florida Department of Health and Board of Medicine to study the alternative therapeutic applications of psilocybin, ketamine and MDMA in treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, chronic pain and migraines. But neither of the twin bills (SB 348, HB 193) by Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and Rep. Michael Grieco received a single committee hearing, again forcing Grieco to punt on the issue until next year.
Alzheimer’s Association Brain Bus to visit Capitol — The Alzheimer’s Association Brain Bus will be parked at the Capitol for tours on Tuesday. The Brain Bus is a mobile and virtual outreach initiative that provides information on brain health and risk reduction, early detection and diagnosis, and care consultations. Virtual Brain Bus programming is also available on-demand at alzprogramsanytime.org. The Brain Bus will be displayed from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Capitol Courtyard.
— The Senate convenes a floor Session to consider several proposals, including SB 364, from Sen. Aaron Bean, to change the state’s specialty license plate program and SB 868, from Sen. Linda Stewart, to levy rape charges against people who knowingly commit sexual battery against an intoxicated person, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.
— The House convenes a floor Session where they will consider HB 9, a priority of House Speaker Sprowls filed by Rep. Fiona McFarland, on consumer data privacy and HB 741, from Rep. Lawrence McClure, to eventually end net metering, 10 a.m., House Chamber.
— House Rules Committee meets 15 minutes after the House floor Session, Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The Senate Rules Committee considers HB 7, from Rep. Bryan Ávila, to limit how “woke” topics are covered in classrooms and corporate training and HB 1467, from Rep. Garrison, to impose term limits on all school boards, 1:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after the Rules Committee meeting, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.
Happening today — Sen. Annette Taddeo hosts an event as part of “Colombia Day 2022,” 5:30 p.m., AC Hotel by Marriott, 801 South Gadsden St., Tallahassee.
— GOV CLUB MENU —
Fat Tuesday — Cajun shrimp soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; Cajun corn and bacon Maque Choux; Cajun pasta salad; muffuletta; chicken and andouille gumbo; Cajun jambalaya with chicken, shrimp and crawfish; “Not You Mamma’s” red beans; crispy fried okra; GC bread pudding with bourbon sauce and King Cake for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
Jimmy Patronis honors US&R Task Force 6 with challenge coins — CFO Patronis, who doubles as State Fire Marshal, presented members of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 6 with commemorative challenge coins during a ceremony in Fort Myers held as a part of his “Year of the US&R” statewide tour. The coins recognize the US&R team’s response to the Surfside Condo Collapse. Patronis also used the event to highlight his budget priority calling for $10 million for US&R training and equipment. “As the State Fire Marshal, I felt compelled to do something to honor these heroes for everything they sacrificed. … The challenge coin represents respect, unity and courage, values that Florida firefighters live by,” he said.
“FHSAA passes proposal to split Florida football schools into metro and suburban classes” via Ainslie Lee of The Gainesville Sun — After an hour and 40 minutes of discussion and a 9-7 vote, the Florida High School Athletic Association passed a proposal to split the state’s football member schools into four metro and five suburban classifications on Monday morning from the Robert W. Hughes FHSAA building. The change is effective this coming football season. The proposal uses the population density of Florida’s 67 counties to divide the FHSAA’s 495 member schools into four metro classifications, four suburban classifications, and one rural classification. The four metro classifications would feature 228 schools from the state’s eight most densely populated counties: Duval, Seminole, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.
“Florida is already seeing climate change. New global report says it could worsen” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Climate change has already changed places like Florida permanently and irreversibly, affecting coral reefs, leading to higher property values and increasing inequality for vulnerable populations in the state. “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future,” says the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The nearly 2,000-page report had a global focus, but Florida was repeatedly used as an example of a place where the impacts of climate change were already being felt.
MedMen cashes out in Florida — Medical cannabis company MedMen is selling its Florida assets to Green Sentry Holdings for $83 million. Mona Zhang of POLITICO Florida reported that the deal includes MedMen’s medical cannabis license, inventory, dispensaries, and cultivation facilities. “As MedMen continues to transform its business model and position itself for future growth, our go-forward strategy is going to include an asset-light model that enables us to leverage the power and strength of the MedMen brand,” MedMen CEO Michael Serruya said in a statement. The sale must be approved by regulators and expects to close in late April or early May.
“Producer of documentary on Florida Wildlife Corridor discusses threats and measures to protect it” via Duncan Strauss of WMNF — Tori Linder, a producer of a documentary on Florida Wildlife Corridor, discusses threats and measures to protect it. The conversation starts on a recent edition of “Talking Animals” by explaining, more fundamentally, what constitutes the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and why it’s vitally important that it be protected and preserved. She also defines “green infrastructure,” a central term that often surfaces in these discussions. Linder outlines how she and her fellow filmmakers approached creating the documentary, including selecting the array of Floridians and the formidable challenges in editing the film down to a lean running time of less than a half-hour.
“New game offers highest ever jackpot for Florida Lottery scratch-off” via Garfield Hylton of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Lottery is introducing a new scratch-off game called 500X THE CASH. According to a Florida Lottery news release, the new game will offer the largest top prize ever for a scratch-off game from the state at $25 million. At $50 per ticket, the game provides more than $1.5 billion in cash prizes with overall odds of winning at least something at 1-in-4.5. On Monday, the Florida Lottery also debuted three additional scratch-off games: DOUBLE YOUR MONEY, BONUS CASH, AND WILD DOUGH. Prices for those games range from $1 to $5 and offer more than $125 million in prizes. The new scratch-off games are expected to be available everywhere by Wednesday.
“Democrats try to regain footing for midterm elections” via Michael Scherer, Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — When House Democratic leaders met with President Biden this month in the Map Room, they brought with them an unexpected request: Could he identify a senior White House point person to work with them on the midterm elections? The fact that the question needed to be asked at all, in a room filled with several of Biden’s top aides, spoke to the Democratic disorganization just nine months before elections that will shape the second half of Biden’s term. Lawmakers’ frustration had been building, according to multiple people familiar with the situation, as campaign strategists struggled to work with Biden’s team while the administration tried to craft a consistent strategy for dealing with hot-button issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and inflation.
“DeSantis committee has pulled in more than $11M in 2022 donations” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A committee supporting DeSantis’ re-election has collected more than $11 million so far in 2022. Through Thursday, Friends of Ron DeSantis listed 280 new donations to the campaign for February. That added up to another $3.6 million in the campaign register in a few weeks. And that’s with a few days to go in a short but lucrative month. That means the Governor’s political committee is sitting upward of $81.2 million in cash on hand. The biggest donation comes from Uline President Liz Uihlein, the distaff half of a donating power couple backing conservatives across the country. She gave $250,000 to DeSantis’ campaign on Feb. 8.
“Annette Taddeo gains School Board endorsements in bid for Governor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Three School Board members from Miami-Dade and Orange counties have endorsed Sen. Taddeo’s bid to take the Governor’s Mansion in November, citing her support and involvement to keep public education strong in Florida. As a parent with a child in public school, Taddeo said in a statement Monday that public education is a personal issue for her. “In the midst of (Ron) DeSantis’ and the Legislature’s attempt to defund $200 million from public schools, having the support from these strong advocates for public education means a lot to me,” she said. Since she took office in 2017, Taddeo has been a friend to public schools, serving as “an ally and not a roadblock,” said Johanna López, who taught for 19 years before being elected to the Orange County School Board.
“House redistricting map creates Jax-only CD 5 … lands with a thud” via A.G. Gancarski of Jax Today — The intramural pissing match between Republicans in Tallahassee continues, and no clear resolution is at hand as they try to figure out if they can chop up Democratic districts, and if so, by how much. In the House map, most of Jacksonville becomes a minority-access Congressional District 5. Eastern Duval gets chopped off into CD 4 with northern St. Johns and Nassau counties. Lawson wasn’t happy Friday after the meeting, saying the altered district compromised voters’ interest west of the city. In that context, the new map seemed like an attempt at splitting the difference between the two positions. Objections to the House map mounted from the left and the right. Democrats like Rep. Joe Geller warned that the proposed map is “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“Chip LaMarca eyes CD 22 seat, will make a decision at the end of Session” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. LaMarca said Monday he’s going to decide at the end of Session if he’s running for the congressional seat that U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch is vacating. LaMarca of Lighthouse Point, now in his second term as a state lawmaker, appears to be the first among elected leaders to announce a specific timeline for deciding. It will be as the last gavel falls on March 11. A few other “maybes” emerged soon after Deutch made his announcement. Democratic state Sen. Gary Farmer said he’s going to wait until after redistricting is over to announce his plans. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said he will soon decide on it and Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen said he’s looking at it, but hasn’t made any decisions
“Jupiter Island Town Commission to fill second vacancy after resignation of Michael Brooks” via Lina Ruiz of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Former Town Commissioner Brooks is the second public official within 2 ½ months to resign from the Commission, prompting back-to-back appointments to fill the vacancies. The Commission could appoint a replacement for Brooks at its March 16 meeting — the same meeting where resident Joe McChristian Jr. will be sworn in to replace former Commissioner Harold “Hank” Heck, town officials said Monday. Brooks served for almost a year after being elected on March 16, 2021, for a four-year term. He submitted his resignation letter on Feb. 10, and Heck resigned on Dec. 30. Their departures were foreshadowed by a special Dec. 13 meeting — which they jointly called — that discussed the possibility of vacancies on the Commission.
“Jupiter candidates have raised $156K to sway voters. Have town elections changed for good?” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — A record number of candidates for local office in Jupiter are raising and spending significant amounts of money to sway voters, who will choose a new Mayor and two new Town Council members on March 8. As of Feb. 4, candidates seeking office in Jupiter have raised more than $156,000 and spent $108,000 on television ads, campaign T-shirts, yard signs and mailers that arrived in local mailboxes in January. With that money comes questions about why candidates running to serve in a town-level office would raise so much money, how they will stay objective when they have major donors, and whether high-rolling political committees are here to stay in Jupiter’s local politics.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports 25,523 COVID-19 cases as state nears 70,000 total deaths since pandemic began” via Mike Stucka and Jennifer Sangalang of The Palm Beach Post — In Florida, COVID-19 cases continue to fall. From No. 8 to No. 32 to No. 31: COVID-19 cases are declining, with Florida reporting 25,523 cases and 888 newly recorded deaths. This week, the state dropped one spot to No. 31 on a list of states where coronavirus spreads the fastest. Also, this is the second time since the week of Dec. 19 that Florida reported fewer than 100,000 cases in one week. Florida reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, Feb. 27, adding 25,523 new cases. That’s down 39.8% from the previous week’s tally of 42,373 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Leon Cases, hospitalizations plummet, school district deactivates dashboard” via Christopher Cann and Mike Stucka of the Tallahassee Democrat — While the Centers for Disease Control currently lists Tallahassee and Leon County as high risk for transmission of COVID-19, local health officials are expecting that to be downgraded in the days ahead. As has been the trend for over a month, the capital county and the state of Florida have reported fewer virus cases and hospitalizations compared to the week before. On Monday, there were 40 people in Tallahassee hospitals with the virus: Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare had 18 and Capital Regional Medical Center had 22.
“UF Health Jacksonville: COVID-19 trial studying effectiveness of ivermectin, two other drugs” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — UF Health Jacksonville is part of a nationwide COVID-19 clinical trial studying whether three drugs approved to treat other conditions, including the controversial ivermectin, may help prevent hospitalizations and deaths in people with mild to moderate coronavirus symptoms. About 200 people are expected to be enrolled in the UF Health component of the trial, with about 15,000 participating nationwide, according to Carmen Isache, the study’s principal investigator in Jacksonville. To qualify, people must be at least age 30, have two or more mild to moderate symptoms for no more than seven days, and recover at home.
“Florida hospitals trying for 100% COVID-19 vaccine rates for workers as mandate looms” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — After months of paying bonuses to persuade employees to get vaccinated or hitting them with extra training and penalties if they didn’t, Florida hospital leaders say their institutions are well on the way to complying with a federal mandate to inoculate their workers against COVID-19. As of Monday, hospitals were required to have all workers fully vaccinated or to grant them an approved exemption, though federal regulators are giving facilities more time to comply with the mandate without being penalized — as long as they have achieved at least a 90% compliance rate. After the March 30 deadline for hospitals to vaccinate or grant an exemption to 100% of their staff, compliance will be enforced through federal and state surveyors and by accrediting organizations.
“Orlando closes Camping World Stadium COVID-19 testing site” via Ryan Gillespie and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando is closing its COVID-19 testing site at Camping World Stadium, which opened on Jan. 10 amid a crush of demand for testing during the omicron wave. Since then, as cases and positivity rates have dropped, so has testing demand, said Samantha Holsten, a spokesperson for the city. In that time, more than 45,000 tests were administered at the site staffed by CDR Maguire, Holsten said. Over the past two weeks, 7.5% of tests for the virus have revealed a positive result. At the peak of the omicron surge, the rate was about 40% in the county.
— CORONA NATION —
“Biden wants to declare a new chapter in the COVID-19 fight. He’s trigger shy.” via Adam Cancryn and Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO — Coronavirus cases are plummeting. Mask mandates are coming to an end. And for the first time in months, the pandemic threat that hung over Biden’s presidency appears to be receding. But as he readies his first State of the Union address, Biden isn’t planning a victory declaration, at least not yet. On Tuesday, the President expects to stop well short of the mission accomplished moment on COVID-19 that many members of his own party would like to see, stressing instead the need to remain vigilant against the virus, even as the nation enters what many people hope will be a pandemic endgame.
“140 million Americans have had coronavirus, according to blood tests analyzed by CDC” via Dan Keating of The Washington Post — The estimates, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that the virus has infected about 43% of the country. The study shows that the majority of children have also been infected. The data goes through late January, when the omicron variant of the coronavirus was causing more than 500,000 cases a day, meaning the number of Americans now infected is considerably higher. The data comes from 72,000 blood samples taken in January. Every two weeks, the CDC gathers tens of thousands of blood tests analyzed by commercial labs nationwide for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus, such as checkups or other medical treatment. Those samples are also tested for coronavirus antibodies. The percentage of people with antibodies is known as seroprevalence.
“School is back in person, but the five-day school week often isn’t” via Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times — Last month, at the height of the omicron wave, one-quarter of U.S. schoolchildren missed more than a week of in-person learning. Most students were home at least three days, and nearly one in 10 was out for half the month or more. The disruptions were spread across the country, with no region spared. The survey revealed more widespread interruptions than other recent measurements have suggested. It demonstrates the degree to which unexpected classroom closures have upended children’s education and parents’ routines, even two years into the pandemic.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Fed’s Raphael Bostic says half-point move possible if inflation persists” via Steve Matthews of Bloomberg — Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Bostic said he favors raising interest rates by 25 basis points at the Federal Open Market Committee’s March meeting and would consider a larger half-point move if monthly inflation readings fail to decline from elevated levels. February consumer price data will be released on March 10, five days before the FOMC begins its two-day policy meeting. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News expect the consumer price index to rise 0.7% from the previous month and 7.8% year-over-year. Fed officials in the past week stuck to their resolve to raise interest rates next month despite uncertainty posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Gov. Christopher Waller discussing the possibility of a half-point move.
“U.S. positioned to withstand economic shock from Ukraine crisis” via Jon Hilsenrath of The Wall Street Journal — A range of U.S. data suggests U.S. economic activity picked up in recent weeks. Many Wall Street analysts expect the Labor Department on Friday to report significant job gains in February and a further decline in unemployment. These developments suggest that the U.S. is in a position to withstand the economic shock that might emanate from battlegrounds in Ukraine. Those effects could push U.S. inflation higher from already elevated levels, but the economic expansion appears to be on solid ground. Much could change in the days or weeks ahead. If fighting intensifies or spreads to other countries, or if sanctions and Russian reprisals to sanctions deepen, the effects could hit the U.S. economy harder.
“Hillsborough, Tampa renew COVID-19 rental help” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa have $28 million available to aid people unable to pay rent or utilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The county, which is administering the program for both governments, will begin accepting applications Tuesday. It anticipates being able to offer help to 6,000 tenants. Dubbed the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the effort previously distributed nearly $53.8 million to more than 13,800 applicants. The average grant was $3,897 to cover rent payments for 3.4 months. Additionally, the program provided an average of $229 to cover electric utility bills.
— MORE CORONA —
“What is long COVID-19? Current understanding about risks, symptoms and recovery.” via Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post — The condition known as long COVID-19 continues to frustrate its sufferers, baffle scientists and alarm people who are concerned about being infected by the coronavirus. The term, a widely used catchall phrase for persistent symptoms that can range from mild to debilitating and last for weeks, months or longer, is technically known as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or PASC. But scientists say much remains unknown about long COVID, which is also referred to colloquially as “long-haul COVID,” “long-term COVID,” “post-COVID conditions,” and “post-COVID syndrome,” among other names.
“Why is everyone standing so close? Personal-space boundaries shifted during the pandemic.” via Alex Janin of The Wall Street Journal — If it feels as if everyone you encounter is a close talker these days, you’re not alone: Distances that would have felt comfortable for most people before the pandemic are much too close for many now, researchers and mental-health experts say. Among a small group of subjects whose personal-space boundaries were tested by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, personal-space requirements increased by 40% to 50% on average, says Daphne Holt, who led the study and is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden wanted to use the State of the Union speech to pivot to his agenda. Then Russia started a land war.” via Annie Linskey and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Biden’s team has revised his first State of the Union address to emphasize Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as a major crisis facing the West, shifting the tenor of a speech that his team had long hoped would launch a reset of his struggling administration. While not a wholesale rewrite of the address, the new version will reflect how the crisis has added urgency to Biden’s longtime theme of defending democracies. This new heavy dose of foreign policy is one of several ways the speech will depart from the typical State of the Union address, which modern Presidents usually use to sell domestic ideas and exhibit sunny optimism.
“The White House lifts its mask mandate for fully vaccinated people.” via Emma Fitzsimmons, Sharon Otterman and Nicole Hong of The New York Times — The White House is relaxing its mask mandate in time for Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, according to a memo sent to staff on Monday. “Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 1, we are lifting the requirement that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks on the White House campus,” the memo said. It added: “Some individuals will choose to continue to wear masks to protect themselves. We must respect these choices.” The policy for unvaccinated people visiting the White House is not changing, a spokesperson said: They will still be required to be tested, wear masks and maintain social distance. Nearly the entire White House staff is vaccinated.
“10 consequential days: How Biden navigated war, COVID-19 and the Supreme Court” via Michael D. Shear, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Katie Rogers of The New York Times — Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, gave a pep talk early on Feb. 18 at the daily gathering of the President’s most senior aides: The next 10 days will be the most consequential of the Biden presidency. Biden’s military and intelligence chiefs had told him that a Russian invasion was all but inevitable. Klain also reminded them of what they already knew: A coming land war in Europe was about to collide with some of the most critical moments of Biden’s time in office. The dizzying events of the past week have for now pushed to the sidelines the congressional squabbling over Biden’s domestic agenda and are already redefining the arc of his presidency.
“DeSantis snubs Biden ask for National Guard troops” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Security problems at Tuesday night’s State of the Union are not DeSantis’ problem. The Florida Governor announced his decision not to send National Guard troops to Washington to help with logistics around Biden’s speech. “Last week, the Biden administration requested the assistance of State National Guards to deploy to Washington, D.C. I have rejected this request — there will be no Florida Guard sent to D.C. for Biden’s State of the Union,” DeSantis tweeted. Though the Governor discussed the State of the Union during remarks in Indian River County Monday, he did not describe further his refusal to deploy Florida Guard members.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Scott won’t commit to attending State of the Union” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Scott hasn’t decided yet whether to attend Tuesday night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address. And he won’t decide until the last minute. “I haven’t made a final decision on it,” Scott said. “I don’t know if I’m going to go. I’m going to make a decision tomorrow.” Ultimately, Scott wonders if there’s even a point to showing up for Biden’s first SOTU. He rhetorically posed the question: “Why do it?” “Nothing good is going to happen,” Scott said. Sen. Rubio has not committed to attending the speech either.
“Ted Deutch will retire from Congress” via Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — U.S. Rep. Deutch won’t seek re-election to Congress this year, the Florida Democrat announced Monday. First elected to the U.S. House in a 2010 Special Election, Deutch announced his plans to forgo the midterm election a day before Biden delivers his first State of the Union address. The Florida lawmaker is the 31st House Democrat to announce retirement plans, a signal that the party is in danger of losing its narrow House majority in November. Deutch’s 22nd Congressional District includes Parkland. The Florida Democrat has been a vocal advocate for stronger gun control measures and has called on Biden to use Tuesday’s speech to push for legislation.
“Deutch to succeed David Harris as American Jewish Committee CEO” via Melissa Weiss of Jewish Insider — Rep. Deutch will succeed American Jewish Committee CEO Harris when he steps down in October after 32 years of leading the prominent Jewish group, Jewish Insider has learned. “After serving the public for more than 15 years, I have decided I will not seek re-election this November. Public service was instilled in me by my father, who earned a Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge, and it has been a tremendous privilege to serve the people of Palm Beach and Broward counties in Congress since 2010. I am incredibly grateful to my constituents for their support and friendship,” Deutch said. The move will trigger a race to succeed Deutch in the blue district that currently encompasses Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale.
“Freezing the clock: Nationwide push for permanent Daylight Saving Time gains momentum” via Erin Cox of The Washington Post — The national surge to make daylight saving time permanent unites unlikely bedfellows who say Americans can transcend our political divides to abolish the century-old practice of changing our clocks. Research has linked the time shift to an uptick in everything from heart attacks and miscarriages to fatal traffic accidents and workplace injuries. But debate rages over whether the healthier solution is to abandon Daylight Saving Time or make it year-round. Most proposals favor locking Daylight Saving in permanently to shift sunshine later. One study notes our bodies never adjust to Daylight Saving Time, reducing our sleep by 19 minutes per night until Standard Time is restored.
— CRISIS —
“Guns, radicalization and a father’s alleged threat: First Jan. 6 trial begins” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — Jury selection started Monday for the trial of a purported Texas recruiter for the right-wing, anti-government Three Percenters charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Guy Wesley Reffitt is the first Capitol breach defendant to go to trial in a case with high stakes for him, federal authorities and roughly 275 other people similarly charged with storming Congress the day it certified Biden’s 2020 election victory. Reffitt faces five felony counts to which he has pleaded not guilty in a courtroom confrontation as long-awaited as it promises to be dramatic. They include obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and trespassing at the Capitol while carrying a holstered semi-automatic handgun.
“Pennsylvania man dies by suicide after pleading guilty to Capitol riot charges” via Patty Coller of WKBN — Matthew Perna, 37, died Feb. 25. Investigators said that Perna took his own life. Perna was federally indicted in the Capitol riot and pleaded guilty in December to entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, disorderly and disruptive conduct on a restricted building or grounds and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building. In an online obituary, the indictment and subsequent persecution of Perna are blamed for his death saying that “his community (which he loved), his country, and the justice system killed his spirit and his zest for life:”
“Top prosecutor: We’re ‘still somewhere in the middle’ of Jan. 6 investigation” via Mychael Schnell of The Hill — More than 725 defendants had been arrested in connection to the Capitol riot at the end of December. Of those, more than 225 have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employers. The office, however, said the FBI is still working to identify more than 350 people who are believed to have committed violent acts on Capitol grounds. Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said, “it’s really hard to predict what the final number will be, given that we’re still somewhere in the middle — using that term very broadly — of the investigation phase.”
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“William Barr calls prospect of Donald Trump running for President again ‘dismaying,’ says GOP should ‘look forward’ to others” via Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Barr says in a new book that the prospect of Trump running for President again is “dismaying” and urges the Republican Party to “look forward” to other candidates, concluding after a searing, behind-the-scenes account of his time in the President’s Cabinet that Trump is not the right man to lead the country. In the book “One Damn Thing After Another,” Barr takes shot after shot at Trump. Barr, who had a famous falling-out with Trump late in his presidency, writes that Trump’s “constant bellicosity diminishes him and the office” and that in the final months of the administration, he came to realize that “Trump cared only about one thing: himself. Country and principle took second place.”
“Trump, who wanted to withdraw the U.S. from NATO, now claims credit for its existence” via Peter Wade of Rolling Stone — Trump, who has a long history of denigrating NATO and who, as President, discussed removing the U.S. from the alliance, has now claimed credit for its existence. He’s also patting himself on the back for supplying Ukraine with weapons, despite once threatening to withhold security assistance from the country unless it helped smear Biden ahead of the 2020 election. “I hope everyone is able to remember that it was me, as President of the United States, that got delinquent NATO members to start paying their dues, which amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars,” Trump wrote in a statement released Monday. “There would be no NATO if I didn’t act strongly and swiftly.”
“Anti-Trump Republicans struggle to plot path forward” via Peter Nicholas of NBC News — CPAC ended with Trump cementing his status as the de facto leader of the GOP. The smaller Principles First summit in Washington concluded with a still-unanswered question: For Republicans who despair of his dominance, what should be done? Many participants were in one way or another casualties of the MAGA movement. As the weekend unfolded, the panels had the feel of a support group for political outcasts. A panel called “Should We Stay or Should We Go?” ended without consensus around either option — staying in the GOP and trying to reform it from within seemed fruitless to many in attendance, while creating a third party risks splitting the anti-Trump vote and helping him win if he runs for President again in 2024.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Law enforcement agencies investigating school district’s $3.7M land deal” via John Henderson and Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the Alachua County school district’s handling of a near $4 million land purchase in 2020 that involved two prominent Gainesville real estate agents who are now facing criminal charges. At least five sources close to the investigation have confirmed the FBI is one of those agencies probing the land deal. The inquiry proceeds as the School Board prepares to meet Tuesday when Superintendent Carlee Simon’s tenure may be decided. She has been embroiled in tensions between board members, a fight with the state over COVID-19 safety measures, and administrative reorganization, but there is no indication the criminal probe points in her direction.
“‘It is frustrating’: Miami-Dade’s middle class priced out of housing market” via Michael Butler of the Miami Herald — Single mother Sarah Thompson is frustrated. The Jamaica native has lived in Miami for most of her life and since 2019 has been looking for a condominium to buy in Kendall without any luck. Surging prices have blocked her from attaining homeownership. “It is frustrating,” she said. “It’s been challenging to say the least. Prior to looking now, I’ve tried two other times, and it’s gotten worse, honestly.” Thompson is one of many Miami-Dade middle-class residents left out of the booming housing market, unable to afford the lofty prices. Since only an estimated 8% of Miami-Dade County residents have the financial means to buy a home at the median sales price, shopping for one comes with many letdowns.
“San Francisco developer seeks to cement Wynwood as Miami’s tech mecca” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Less than three years after completion, Wynwood Annex, a prime office tower filled with technology firms in the namesake hipster neighborhood, is being acquired for $44 million by a tech-focused San Francisco real estate developer. Brick and Timber Collective, whose holdings in San Francisco and Pasadena include hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of commercial space occupied mainly by tech tenants, announced the acquisition Monday. The Annex was sought by Brick and Timber in the wake of some of the biggest names in the tech world, signaling their intention to depart San Francisco for Miami amid the pandemic and set up shop in Wynwood.
“A mystery no more? Condo financial reports close to becoming public in Miami-Dade” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Even condo residents can have trouble getting hold of their buildings’ financial records, documents that are supposed to be readily available under Florida law to both owners and buyers under contract. Now those records may be opened for anyone to scrutinize under a proposed Miami-Dade County law that would require associations to file critical financial and maintenance documents into a public online library. That includes engineering reports and other documents related to long-term maintenance and structural concerns about buildings — records now in the spotlight after the June 24 collapse at the Champlain Towers South complex in Surfside that killed 98 people. While Surfside brought political momentum to the effort, disclosure rules have been a target of condo-law reformers for years.
“Schools PR chief is cleared after planning a Robert Runcie rally. But the rules could change for workers with second jobs.” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For the past three years, the leader of Broward Schools’ communications department has juggled her district duties with her privately owned company, business relationships and desire to protect the former superintendent. Kathy Koch, who makes $168,300 a year, secretly organized a rally held on district property during the school day on April 23 to try to save the job of Runcie after his arrest on a perjury charge. She also left her job one morning in 2019, without taking leave, to secure a contract for her private company, a school district investigation has revealed.
“Fort Lauderdale auditor fights to keep his job after being fired over police chief investigation” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fort Lauderdale’s longtime city auditor is fighting to be reinstated to his job, citing whistleblower protection while arguing that he shouldn’t be penalized for launching an investigation into the police chief. Auditor John Herbst was fired by three of his Commission bosses on Feb. 15, but his job contract guarantees him two more months on the job. On Monday, Herbst sent an email to City Manager Chris Lagerbloom asking to be reinstated and claiming status as a “protected employee” under the state’s Whistleblower’s Act. In the email, Herbst accuses Mayor Trantalis and Commissioners Steve Glassman and Ben Sorensen of taking a “prohibited action” by wrongly dismissing him.
“Citrus County welcomes opening of Suncoast Parkway” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Twenty-plus years of wait, wonder and worry ended Monday when state and local officials cut the ribbon to open the $135 million Suncoast Parkway extension into Citrus County. The 13-mile extension from U.S. 98 in northern Hernando County to State Road 44 in Lecanto connects Citrus County with the Tampa Bay region. The state is promising it won’t end there. Construction expects to begin in early 2023 on the 3-mile parkway extension to C.R. 486 and eventually to U.S. 19 at Red Level north of Crystal River. Monday wasn’t about the future or the past, though. Citrus County was just happy to have the road done.
“Derek Jeter out as Marlins CEO, citing different ‘vision for the future of the franchise’” via Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald — Miami Marlins Chair and principal owner Bruce Sherman said in a statement Monday that the organization and CEO Jeter have “agreed to officially end their relationship” after four MLB seasons. Jeter was entering the final year of a five-year contract that would have expired after the 2022 season. In a statement, Jeter said he is also giving up his 4% stake as a shareholder in the franchise and that the reason for his departure was because “the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead.” How exactly the vision changed wasn’t made clear.
— TOP OPINION —
“Florida’s shameful lack of condo-safety laws on the brink of change after Surfside” via the Miami Herald editorial board — What if Champlain Towers South had been inspected 20 years before it collapsed and killed 98 people last year? If waiting 40 years is too long, imagine not requiring building inspections at all. That’s the reality in most of Florida. Luckily, lawmakers from both parties agree that needs to change. Bipartisan legislation approved by the House Thursday would reverse Florida’s let-it-be approach to condo safety. The last time we saw lawmakers react this quickly was after the Parkland shooting in 2018 prompted them to strengthen school security mandates and gun-control laws. These post-Surfside reforms are long overdue, but they might come with a sticker shock for condo owners in buildings that haven’t seen proper maintenance in decades
— OPINIONS —
“Scott appears to imagine he can out-DeSantis DeSantis in the Culture War” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — Why does Scott hate America? Last week he lurched out of wherever he’s been sulking and presented an 11-point action plan so reactionary, so dangerously stupid, so antithetical to American values, Vladimir Putin should write him a thank-you note. Scott’s full of bright ideas. Raising taxes, anyone? “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount.” He means the elderly, the working poor, and people struggling to make a living, unlike him. Most of Scott’s hateful road map to hell frantically pushes Culture War buttons. Children will “say the Pledge of Allegiance, stand for the National Anthem, and honor the American Flag.”
“Florida should help unaccompanied minor refugees, not punish them” via Nora Sandigo of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Nicaraguan children who flee communism deserve to be embraced and allowed to escape tyranny like the Cuban unaccompanied minors who found refuge in Florida during Operation Pedro Pan in the 1960s. Just like then, Florida should welcome children from Venezuela, Haiti and other nations with the understanding that children hold the key to imagining a better world. They are the best example of resilience, forgiveness and love. We stand to learn a lot from children, especially those who brave and endure forced migration. I urge our elected officials to welcome these children with compassion. It’s not only these young people who are getting a second chance at life; this country is also welcoming its future. Refugee children should be welcomed and protected.
“Florida must prevent Medicaid debacle” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The state did a terrible job of getting unemployment aid and rental assistance to Floridians devastated by the pandemic, leaving thousands to suffer additional, needless hardship. Given that track record, there’s a chance another debacle’s in the making once Medicaid reviews its enrollment. The state needs to ensure that deserving Floridians don’t fall through the cracks. Medicaid has become an essential safety net during COVID-19, with about half of all children in the United States now covered through their state’s public health insurance program, including about 2.4 million kids in Florida. Gains in Medicaid coverage are likely to plummet when the federal government declares an end to this public health emergency.
“Melanie Brown-Woofter: Lives are on the line” via Florida Politics — Families, including children and adults of all ages, are struggling with anxiety, depression and drug use. Community mental health and substance use providers are experiencing daily pressure to provide more services and must increase Medicaid funding to meet this new demand. Behavioral health providers received minimal COVID-19 relief as they could only access 3% of the $500 million in federal Health and Human Services provider relief funds that came into Florida. Of the other COVID-19-related Medicaid funding opportunities, behavioral health providers had limited or no eligibility to participate. Florida lawmakers can support these community providers by increasing funding for mental health and substance use services covered by Medicaid. Medicaid rates for these services have not increased since 2001.
“Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will harm our family and community” via Brandon and Michael Hensler for the Tampa Bay Times — We are a two-dad family living in Pasco County with our 4-year-old daughter who will be entering Florida’s public school system next year as a kindergartner. Having lived in Florida as we gained the right to adopt children and, a short time later, to get married, we shouldn’t be astonished that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is even before the Florida Legislature, yet we are. It breaks our hearts. This bill, which passed the House last week, is an affront to every parent who, like us, is raising a child who will be directly and negatively impacted. The state has no business telling our daughter that she cannot talk about her family at school.
“Florida families and small businesses deserve to recover solar costs” via Dawn Shirreffs for The Florida Times-Union — Florida families and small businesses deserve to recover costs on solar investments at the same rate as utilities. Solar customers already pay their share toward maintaining the grid through minimum monthly fees. What’s more: utilities in Georgia, Arizona, and elsewhere have repeatedly testified that servicing solar customers is less expensive than providing power to traditional customers. Yet, proposed legislation SB 1024/HB 741 would allow utilities to charge new grid access fees and reduce the rate homeowners are paid, thereby creating new barriers to accessing solar for millions of Florida families and businesses while undermining growth of the solar industry that already supports 40,000 jobs in the Sunshine State.
“Gregory Boebinger: Senate investment in MagLab keeps world-class facility on cutting edge” via Florida Politics — The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, proudly headquartered at Florida State University, has been the world’s premier magnet lab for more than two decades. With support from Florida and the National Science Foundation, MagLab scientists are tackling issues that Floridians are most concerned about — from diversifying our energy portfolio and improving our domestic supply of critical manufacturing materials to protecting our beautiful wetlands, forests, beaches and communities. High-magnetic fields are unlocking the secrets of quantum materials — work that will build the technologies of tomorrow. The critical equipment that supplies electrical power to the National MagLab’s FSU site is almost 30 years old and at the end of its life span. The lab’s continued international leadership in magnet technology depends on making infrastructure upgrades today.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill is on its way to a Senate floor vote — without an amendment to soften its language singling out sexual orientation.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
House Democratic leadership still wonders about punishing mask mandating schools in the budget and using two maps for redistricting.
Sunrise talks to the Florida Behavioral Health Association about the need for post-pandemic mental health treatment.
And, before filing for office you might want to make sure you’re old enough.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“From noir to nirvana: Everything ‘The Batman’ has been compared to” via Miles Surrey of The Ringer — If there’s one thing that Batman fans can’t complain about, it’s the number of opportunities the character has had to shine on the big screen. Since Michael Keaton portrayed the Caped Crusader in 1989’s Batman, Bruce Wayne has shown up in 12 live-action films with five different actors putting on the Batsuit. Some of these Batmen have regaled us with a voice that sounds like Bruce sandpapered his larynx; others have embraced pointy nipples and credit cards bearing their Bat-signature. If you take all these quotes about the movie’s thematic inspirations at face value, then The Batman is shaping up to be the cinephile’s equivalent of Space Jam: A New Legacy, with pop culture references flooding every inch of the screen like a colony of bats emerging from a damp cave.
“Robert Pattinson in ‘The Batman’: Film review” via David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter — Led with magnetic intensity and a granite jawline by Pattinson as a Dark Knight with daddy issues, this ambitious reboot is grounded in a contemporary reality where institutional and political distrust breeds unhinged vigilantism. It’s a soulful nocturne of corruption and chaos, and as much as I longed for a few more glimmers of humor, at no point during the hefty three-hour run time did my attention wander. Matt Reeves delivers a lot of movie. Does it stretch the definition of escapism to immerse ourselves in fiction so reflective of the toxic cynicism that pervades our 21st-century reality? Perhaps. But this glowering study in crime and punishment is meticulously crafted, vividly inhabited storytelling with a coherent, thought-through vision, and that makes for muscular entertainment.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Rep. Travaris McCurdy, David Christian of AdventHealth, former U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, our Rosanne Dunkelberger, smart guy Ralph Lair, Adrianna Sekula, Sally West, and Stephanie Grutman Zauder of Ballard Partners.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.