Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.30.21 💥💥

Good Thursday morning.

Please consider listening: After an 18-month hiatus, Michelle and I have released a new edition of our podcast “He Said, She Said.” Raw, emotional, yet redemptive and optimistic, we open up about everything we went through with Michelle’s life-threatening health scare.

Click here to listen on Apple podcasts.

Speaking of health scares, please join me this morning in prayers for one of the best guys in The Process, James Miller who, by the time many of you read this, will be under the knife for an important surgery. Jimmy had the misfortune of being my next door neighbor during our freshman year at Florida State and I have been haunting him ever since. Seriously, he is genuinely such a nice guy, with an infectious laugh and a big heart. Prayers for him and his family.

With the 50th anniversary of Disney World a day away, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is issuing a proclamation celebrating the legacy of fairy tales and pixie dust in Central Florida.

According to the proclamation, the theme park opened Oct. 1, 1971, hosting roughly 10,000 guests on its inaugural day. Fast forward a half-century, the attraction now boasts four parks, employs thousands, and welcomes millions of guests into Central Florida each year.

Jimmy Patronis celebrates the ‘Happiest Place on Earth.’

“I want to wish a big happy anniversary to Walt Disney World as they celebrate 50 years of magic!” Patronis said in a statement. “In 1971, Disney World opened its gates and turned the heart of our state into a worldwide destination and created countless jobs and opportunities for Florida families and businesses.”

The proclamation hails Disney World among the most attended theme park attractions in the world. It further touts Orlando — once a “sleepy citrus-growing town” — as Florida’s fastest-growing city.

However, Mickey and friends are more than job-makers, Patronis suggested.

They’re dream makers too.

Patronis credited the company with enriching the lives of millions with a degree of “creativity, innovation and charm” as only they can do.

After all, Disney is the “Most Magical Place on Earth.”

—“Psst! 10 Walt Disney World ‘secrets’ and tips … but don’t keep them to yourself” via Britt Kennerly of Florida Today

—”Disney World at 50: All the golden statues, snapped, and where they stand” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel

Disney World opened 50 years ago; these workers never left” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Applying to be one of the first workers at Walt Disney World, high school graduate George Kalogridis made a split-second decision that set the course for his life: he picked a room where prospective hotel workers were being hired. Chuck Milam got a tip about a job opening from a transplanted Disney executive. Earliene Anderson jumped at the chance to take a job at the new Disney theme park, having fallen in love with the beauty of Disneyland in California. At the time, the three were among the 6,000 employees who opened the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to the public for the first time on Oct. 1, 1971. Now, they are among two dozen from that first day still employed at the theme park resort as it celebrates its 50th anniversary on Friday.

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Spotted at Attorney General Ashley Moody’s re-election campaign kick-off in Tampa Wednesday night: Senate President Wilton Simpson, former Sen. Presidents Bill Galvano and Tom Lee, Sens. Danny Burgess and Tom Wright, Reps. Linda Chaney, Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Stan McClain, Fiona McFarland, and Will Robinson, former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, Sheriffs McCallum, Prendergast, Schultz and Staly (Sheriff Chad Chronister gave the introduction), West Miami Vice Mayor Eric Diaz Padron, as well as Anita Berry, Nick Catroppo, Ron Cristaldi, Peter Collins, Laura Crouch, Clif Curry, Helen Aguirre Ferre, Jason Gonzalez, Natalie King, Stuart Lasher, Stuart Levine, Chris Ligon, Bob Lloyd, Christie Mason, Amy Maguire, Ed Miyagishima, Pat Neal, Dan Nordby, Tom Pepin, Ron Pierce, Bill Schifino, Samantha Sexton-Greer, Brad Swanson, and JD White.

Southwest Florida’s Greg Steube briefly took the focus off the contentious BIF and reconciliation negotiations during Wednesday night’s Congressional Baseball Game by hitting a rare out-of-the-park home run in the Democrat vs. Republican grudge match. As the ball hit off a railing in front of the first row of the stands and ricocheted back onto the field, Steube broke into a Kirk Gibson-style slow trot around the bases. He was congratulated by Democratic fielders he encountered before being mobbed by his red-clad teammates as he crossed the plate, reports the NY Post. Steube is the first lawmaker to clear the fence at Nationals Park since the game was moved there in 2008. In addition to showing his prowess at the plate, Steube was also the GOP’s starting pitcher — taking the mound in a red “Save America” hat signed by former President Donald Trump — and toiled through 5 2/3 innings and 120 pitches before moving to third base.

Here’s video of Steube’s shot to left field:

Bill Nelson secured his spot in space history when he rocketed into orbit in 1986. As NASA Administrator, he’s among the most important people in present-day space exploration.

But what about the future? He has a thing or two to say about that, too.

Nelson, who served as one of Florida’s U.S. Senators from 2001-2019, will speak to The Economic Club of Florida about “Florida and the Future of Space” during a luncheon set for Friday at noon.

The Miami and Melbourne native will share the latest on America’s planned return to the moon, a crewed spaceflight to Mars, and his other goals for the space agency. He’ll also discuss the growing privatization of commercial spaceflight and its impact on Florida.

Bill Nelson made history; now, he is helping shape the future. Image via AP.

“The space program is a historical and critical part of Florida’s booming economy, especially as the boundaries of space expand by the growing number of private firms engaged in space launches and spaceflight,” said Bill Moor, club chairman and president of Capital City Investments and Capital City Trust Company, which is sponsoring the luncheon address. “We’re honored that Administrator Nelson can join us to share his vision of this critical new frontier and economic driver.”

More information and luncheon registration details — both in-person and virtual — are available on The Economic Club of Florida’s website.

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Personnel note: Tyler Russell now Deputy Chief of Staff at DMS — The Department of Management Services has brought on Russell, who will jointly serve as deputy chief of staff and legislative affairs director. After briefly holding the Chief of Staff position at the Department of Children and Families, Russell comes to DMS. Before his stint at DCF, the Florida State University graduate served as deputy director of Legislative Affairs in the Governor’s office.

Russell got his start in politics working at the Republican Party of Florida. He then moved on to campaign work, helping secure victories for Rep. Brad Drake and U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn. He later served as one of Dunn’s legislative assistants. He came back to Florida in 2018 and spent that year’s Legislative Session working for the Florida Realtors Association.

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Top eminent domain attorneys Charles Stratton and Joshua Stratton have joined the Dispute Resolution Team at Berger Singerman.

The father-son team will work out of the noted business law firm’s Tallahassee office and will focus their practice on representing private property owners and lessees in eminent domain and related matters.

“Charlie and Josh Stratton are two of Florida’s most distinguished eminent domain practitioners whose passion for defending the rights of property owners and lessees is a perfect match for Berger Singerman’s focus on representing entrepreneurs and their businesses,” said Paul Steven Singerman, co-chair of Berger Singerman. “They exemplify our commitment to recruiting and retaining culturally compatible top legal talent.”

Charles Stratton brings nearly 40 years of eminent domain expertise to the firm. He began his career at the Florida Department of Transportation, where he soon became the Chief Eminent Domain Attorney for the state.

Charles and Joshua Stratton are experts in eminent domain and related matters.

He later joined law firm Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel in Tallahassee, where he represented property owners affected by eminent domain and related proceedings, including national, regional and small businesses as well as individual homeowners throughout the state.

The University of Florida law school graduate has been recognized as a top Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law attorney by “The Best Lawyers in America” for 15 consecutive years and is a 13-time Florida Super Lawyers honoree.

Joshua Stratton also specializes in eminent domain matters, representing private property owners and lessees around Florida against state and local government entities, utility companies and more. He also has substantial experience in intellectual property law, particularly copyright and trademark litigation.

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Are you one of the Sunshine State’s top lobbyists, PR pros, or company/association executives?

How would it sound to know every time your company, client, policy/issue, or group is mentioned during Committee or floor Sessions?

Strategic Digital Services is testing a new audio tool (built with AI) for the 2021 Legislative Session that would do just that.

To help SDS build it right, please take a 90-second survey for your guidance and feedback!

Head over to Sessionaudiotool.com to share your quick opinion on your 📱 or 💻!

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@DaveWeigel: CW has shifted from “of course Dems will win Virginia” to “could (Terry) McAuliffe‘s impending defeat end the (Joe) Biden presidency” while polls have moved within like 1-3 points all year.

@RepValDemings: The last administration added trillions to the deficit with giveaways to the wealthiest Americans. Our #BuildBackBetter plan is fully paid for and is an investment in people who have to go to work every day. That’s why the American people strongly support our plan.

@ChristinaPushaw: “According to Miami Herald calculations” What calculations, you may ask? Well, their data journalists copied and pasted a number from the public CDC website. A+ journalisming!

@MaryEllenKlas: Ah, so you didn’t READ the story? @MiamiHerald reports the difference of daily totals the CDC provides. Because @HealthyFla changes past totals some days of the week, we must calculate this every day — just in case FDOH changes the reporting process without telling us again.

Tweet, tweet:

@DollyParton: I was so excited when someone told me that Lil Nas X had done my song #Jolene. I had to find it and listen to it immediately … and it’s really good. Of course, I love him anyway. I was surprised, and I’m honored and flattered. I hope he does good for both of us. Thank you @LilNasX

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Disability Employment Awareness Month begins — 1; ’The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres — 1; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 1; MLB regular season ends — 3; ’No Time to Die’ premieres — 8; ’Succession’ returns — 17; ’Dune’ premieres — 22; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ returns — 24; World Series Game 1 — 26; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 27; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 27; Georgia at UF — 30; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 33; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 33; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 36; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 36; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 38; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 39; Miami at FSU — 44; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 45; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 49; FSU vs. UF — 58; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 62; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 68; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 71; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 78; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 83; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 86; CES 2022 begins — 97; NFL season ends — 101; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 103; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 103; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 106; NFL playoffs begin — 107; Super Bowl LVI — 136; Daytona 500 — 143; St. Pete Grand Prix — 150; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 176; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 220; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 239; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 245; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 281; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 293; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 372; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 407.

— TOP STORY —

Education chief Miguel Cardona calls Florida’s new COVID-19 quarantine rule ‘dangerous’” via Bryan Lowery of the Miami Herald — Cardona called a new Florida rule restricting schools from requiring students to quarantine after having a direct exposure to COVID-19 “dangerous” and “irresponsible.” The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights earlier this month launched an investigation into Florida’s prohibition on school mask mandates, which could potentially lead to a loss of federal funds if a civil rights violation is found. Ron DeSantis has shown no sign of backing down on the mask policy. Last week newly appointed Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issued a new rule that also restricts schools from requiring students to quarantine if they’re asymptomatic after direct contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, leaving the decision up to the parents.

Miguel Cardona warns about Florida’s ban on school quarantines. Image via AP.

— STATEWIDE —

Does Ron DeSantis’ latest order pave the way for stricter E-Verify rules?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An executive order signed by DeSantis seeks audits to ensure companies’ employees can legally work in the United States. Two years after immigration hard-liners expressed disappointment about an employment verification law, the new order sounds a lot like E-Verify. And DeSantis told Florida Politics while leaving a Lee County news conference that, indeed, he would like stricter enforcement. “We need to have E-Verify,” DeSantis said. “I want as much as we can get … absolutely.” DeSantis included the direction within a larger order that attempts to pressure Biden’s administration on immigration enforcement.

Is Ron DeSantis opening the door for tighter E-Verify rules?

Assignment editors — Attorney General Ashley Moody will hold a news conference with Hispanic Police Officers Association President Sgt. Carlos Arguelles to honor the men and women of the HPOA with a Thin Line Tribute, 10 a.m. Eastern time, Hispanic Police Officers Association, 1470 NW 107th Ave., Suite P, Doral.

New ‘public safety czar’ position pays six figures” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida’s lead on illegal immigration will earn more than six figures as part of DeSantis’ reinvigorated effort to address the crisis at the southern border. Taxpayers will pay Larry Keefe, a former Trump-nominated U.S. Attorney, a $125,000 salary in his new role as “Public Safety Czar.” DeSantis announced the appointment Tuesday as part of a three-pronged strategy to combat Biden’s “open border” policies. As a senior policy adviser, Keefe is tasked with overseeing the Governor’s latest executive order against illegal immigration. Statewide policy development and lobbying are among the duties listed in his official job description, as well as advising DeSantis on pending legislation.

Florida moms have gotten expanded Medicaid coverage following childbirth, but not many people knew it” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — A major initiative pushed by Chris Sprowls to expand Medicaid coverage for women and babies has been happening for more than a year, a surprise to lawmakers who were getting antsy about the launch of the new program for postpartum moms. Sprowls pushed to expand Medicaid coverage for mothers and babies, from 60 days to a full year following childbirth. The 2021 Legislature approved the program, and Florida is awaiting federal approval to get the effort going. But with the nation under a public health emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has allowed states to expand the Medicaid coverage well beyond the original 60 days following childbirth.

Jeff Brandes again files bill to shirk minimum wage for some employees” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Brandes of St. Petersburg has filed a joint resolution to allow businesses to pay certain employees less for a limited time. SJR 382 follows a failed joint resolution Brandes filed last Legislative Session. Brandes’ new resolution does not specify which workers could be paid less and would task state lawmakers with setting the so-called “minimum training wage.” The wage would be based on either a federal temporary training wage — $4.25 per hour for people under 20 or 75% of the minimum wage — or what is recommended by a state-commissioned study to be conducted once every three years. Employers would be able to pay workers the state-set reduced rate for up to six months before having to pay them the normal minimum wage.

Ana Maria Rodriguez files bill to expand low-income senior housing property tax exemptions” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Sen. Rodriguez filed a bill this week to expand the type of business arrangements that could qualify for a property tax exemption meant for not-for-profit homes for the aged. Rodriguez’s measure, SB 362, would expand current law to allow such Florida limited partnerships to qualify for the tax exemption so long as the for-profit corporation is wholly owned by a not-for-profit corporation. Facilities that meet the ownership requirements would qualify for property tax exemptions on spaces where religious services are held and places where nursing and medical services are provided. Property appraisers may also exempt from the tax rolls spaces for individual units or apartments occupied by low-income state residents aged 62 and older.

Lawmakers propose to outlaw LGBT ‘panic’ defense in criminal trials during 2022 Session” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — Legislation filed for the 2022 Legislative Session would bar the use of the “gay panic” defense — arguments before a judge or jury that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity so freaked out the assailant that the assault was reasonable. The House sponsor, Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, was gay-bashed while a student at UCF. “As a survivor of hate violence, I understand how gay or trans ‘panic defense’ can be used as a legal strategy to justify or excuse violence against the LGBTQ community,” Smith said. The Senate sponsor is Democratic Leader Lauren Book. The proposed Gay and Transgender Panic Legal Defenses Prohibition Act is now pending in both chambers as SB 374 and HB 205.

Carlos Guillermo Smith has been personally affected by the so-called ‘gay panic defense.’ Image via Colin Hackley.

School bus cameras bill reintroduced in House” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Drivers who blow past a stopped school bus with its sidearm stop sign signal out could be photographed and fined under a bill introduced this week in the Florida House. Republican Rep. Thad Altman Rep. Emily Slosberg introduced House Bill 179, which would authorize school districts to install the new camera technology on school buses to catch stopped school bus runners, and would require local law enforcement to go after the drivers for fines. “I can think of no higher priority than protecting our children, and that is exactly what this bill does,” Altman said. Slosberg has introduced similar bills in past Legislative Sessions. Last year she said her bill had some momentum, moving through a couple of committees, but stalled.

Has Florida kept Black marijuana farmers from succeeding?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — In 2017, the Legislature passed a law that created the modern Florida medical marijuana industry. It set steep barriers to entry. By no later than Oct. 3 of that year, a new marijuana license was to be given to a business owner belonging to a “Pigford Class,” one of two groups of Black farmers who had won a judgment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for that agency’s history of racial discrimination. No such cannabis license has been awarded. The state’s decision to award a new Pigford license will almost certainly be challenged by the runners-up, said Jonathan Robbins, an attorney who’s done extensive work in the Florida cannabis industry.

Happening today — The Sarasota County legislative delegation meets: Sen. Joe Gruters; Reps. James Buchanan, Tommy Gregory, Fiona McFarland, Michele Rayner and Will Robinson, 9 a.m., Sarasota County Commission chamber, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jon Johnson, Travis Blanton, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Kids Central

Aimee Lyon, Karl Rasmussen, Metz Husband & Daughton: Florida Dental Hygienists’ Association, The Everglades Foundation

Adam Potts, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Florida Assisted Living Association

Clifford Repperger, WhiteBird: Barefoot Bay Recreation District

— CORONA FLORIDA —

COVID-19 in Florida: State reports 5,819 new cases; daily average below 6,000 for first time since July 13” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — At least 54,071 Floridians have now died of COVID-19 related causes through Tuesday. The pressure on hospitals has continued to ease throughout September. On Tuesday, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida was 6,138, a 24.5% decline over the past week. The CDC on Tuesday updated its county-by-county COVID-19 numbers, which it has released weekly. This week’s data shows that South Florida counties have among the lowest cases per capita in the state. After ranking first for several weeks among states in deaths per capita, Florida has dropped to third.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Florida eases up a bit. Image via AP.

Board of Education to scrutinize 11 districts’ school mask rules” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Eleven school districts’ compliance with the emergency state rules on COVID-19 policies will be discussed at an Oct. 7 hearing before the Board of Education, the Florida Department of Education announced. For school districts in Alachua and Broward counties, it appears to be a redux of the process they went through in August. Last month, those two districts had a hearing that resulted in a reduction to their state aid for board-approved policies mandating students wear masks indoors. But the emergency rule they were punished under has been rescinded and replaced with another, and both are cited in the meeting notice.

Florida health care transparency website gets 1.15 million visitors over 20-month span” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida’s premier website for information about all health care facilities, including ownership information and state inspection reports and complaints, has gotten about 1.15 million views in the last 20 months. Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency Bureau Chief Nikole Helvey told members of the Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council there has been “significant utilization” of the FloridaHealthFinder website. Helvey said the state was “definitely continuing our outreach” to promote its availability, adding that the communications staff at the Agency for Health Care Administration was promoting the website on a near-daily basis on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

— CORONA LOCAL —

USF to offer COVID-19 booster shots to eligible staff, family members, students” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — The University of South Florida announced this week it is offering COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all eligible members of its community. The shots will be made available to “those over 65 years old, those who are considered high-risk, as well as anyone in the teaching profession, as long as it has been at least six months since their last dose,” the university said on its website. Eligible family members can also receive a booster through the university. The CDC specifies that the high-risk category includes those ages 50 to 64. Also eligible are those ages 18 to 64 who work or live in schools and other settings where they would be at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.

USF jumps on the booster train. Image via WUSF.

Need a COVID-19 booster? Pfizer now available at drive-thru and walk-up sites in Broward” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine booster is now available for people 65 and older and for other high-risk groups at all drive-thru and walk-up sites in Broward County. The sites don’t take appointments — just show up and wait in line. Most of the government-run sites in Broward County are walk-up, which means you wait standing in line instead of in your car, and a few are drive-thru. Walk-up sites include C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, Vizcaya Park in Miramar, and Nova Southeastern University in Davie. Drive-thru sites include Central Broward Park and Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill, Pompano Beach Citi Centre, and Rev. Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park in Fort Lauderdale. A complete list of vaccine sites and their hours of operations is available online.

Florida A&M COVID-19 vaccination site now offering Pfizer booster” via the USA TODAY Florida Network — The Florida A&M University (FAMU) COVID-19 vaccination site has begun offering Pfizer booster doses, according to a Wednesday news release. “At this time, booster doses are not yet approved for Moderna. We anticipate that they will be approved in the coming weeks and will let the campus and community know once there is approval,” said Tanya Tatum, FAMU Student Health Services director. The vaccination site, at 659 Ardelia Court, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Vaccinations are free, and no appointment or physician referral is required.

Delta variant’s grip on Escambia County weakening. ICU’s still full even as hospitalizations fall” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — COVID-19 hospitalizations in Escambia County have dropped significantly in the past few weeks as health experts say the delta variant’s stronghold on the area is lessening. As of Tuesday, 138 patients were hospitalized because of COVID-19 compared to the peak last month that saw as many as 386 patients taking up 28% of Escambia County’s hospital beds. Ascension Sacred Heart Chief Medical Officer Peter Jennings said Tuesday that the drop is attributed to an increase in vaccinations and the high community transmission rate reverting many in the community back into mask-wearing and social distancing. Escambia recorded 85 COVID-19 deaths in the past week, which he attributes to the people who were likely hospitalized during the recent surge and did not recover.

Far fewer Palm Beach County students are home on quarantine as COVID-19 infections decline” via Andrew Marra and Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — The number of Palm Beach County students required to stay home over COVID-19 concerns has fallen dramatically in the past month as new cases decline across the region. More than 5,000 students a day were quarantined at home in late August because they had “direct contact” with someone with COVID-19 or tested positive themselves. By last week, the average number of quarantined students had fallen to 1,370, school district records show. On Monday, under a new state policy that lets parents decide whether to quarantine healthy seeming students, the number plummeted even further, to 647.

COVID-19 claims life of Green Cove Springs Police Chief Derek Asdot” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Asdot, who had been with the department for almost 20 years and its leader for four, died Tuesday after battling COVID-19. Asdot was 49. “Derek Asdot is widely regarded as a progressive leader who spearheaded dynamic transformational changes at the Green Cove Springs Police Department in a short period of time,” according to the city’s Facebook post. Asdot was named chief in October 2017 after serving as acting chief for seven months. His predecessor, Robert Musco, resigned following a racial discrimination complaint.

RIP: Derek Asdot will be remembered as a great, progressive leader.

Orange County School Board fires employee who refused to mask up” via Alex Galbraith of Orlando Weekly — The Orange County School Board convened to another room full of hot-under-the-collar anti-maskers on Tuesday. The room’s temperature wasn’t helped at all by one of the items on the agenda, a consideration of whether to terminate an employee who refused to follow the district’s mask guidelines. The tense crowd, barely discouraged by the new rules around public comments after out-of-control mask debates, shouted their complaints throughout the meeting. At one point, a commenter compared the OCPS system to the Third Reich. Four people were escorted out of the meeting by police. The employee in question was ultimately fired.

Magic’s Jonathan Isaac can’t give good reason why he’s the team’s only unvaccinated player” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — At least Orlando Magic star Isaac admits there is really no good reason for him not to be vaccinated for COVID-19. As far as I can tell from talking to Isaac both individually and in a news conference with other reporters, his reason for not getting vaccinated comes right out of an old Charlie Daniels song. Remember, Isaac is the same player who refused to kneel for the national anthem during the Black Lives Matters movement last summer when every other player in the league did. Isaac has become a story yet again because he was one of the unvaccinated NBA players featured in a recent article by Rolling Stone magazine. Isaac said Monday that he was “brutally misrepresented” in the article.

— 2022 —

DeSantis was on Hannity Wednesday night. The #FlaPol team watched so you didn’t have to:

—”‘It’s way down the road’: Ron DeSantis rebuffs 2024 speculation” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

— “Ron DeSantis: Migrants ‘will stop even coming’ if Joe Biden reinstitutes Donald Trump border policies” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

—”Ron DeSantis: Joe Biden rationing Florida’s Regeneron therapy is ‘punitive’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

‘Florever purge’ ad finds the terror in DeSantis COVID-19 response” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Remove Ron political committee released a new spot targeting the Governor and his COVID-19 mitigation strategies. It likens DeSantis’ laissez-faire virus response to the setup for a horror movie. “Florever Purge” spoofs the “Forever Purge” flick, with a special focus on what the committee calls “DeSantis’ anti-science policies on face masks and vaccines.” In the intro, the video begins on a commercial flight, with a flight attendant informing masked passengers that “we are now entering Florida airspace.” “Now that we’re making our final descent … please watch this short message from Gov. Ron DeSantis on COVID-19 … and thereafter, everyone on board will be required to comply with the state’s Florever Purge,” the flight attendant adds.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Eric Lynn talks about his role in advocating for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — Lynn was working as the lead Pentagon staffer on Israeli defense issues to Defense Secretary Bob Gates in Barack Obama’s administration in 2009 when he came across a file about the Iron Dome rocket system worked on by the Israelis, but previously rejected by members of the Bush administration. Lynn met with Benny Gantz — now the Israeli Defense Minister — who told him that the technology for Iron Dome had significantly improved and felt that it could save civilian lives. Lynn found allies in the Pentagon: Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Colin Kahl, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East. They presented their recommendation to Gates, who approved testing; it was presented to Obama, who approved the proposal.

Alcee Hastings’ last political wish: If it’s an endorsement, why didn’t he tell us?” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Hastings died in April. His would-be successors in the 20th Congressional District are falling all over themselves, promising to continue his legacy as a supporter of racial justice and economic fairness. But only one claims to have Hastings’ endorsement: Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, whose campaign signs in Broward and Palm Beach counties flatly declare: “Endorsed by Alcee Hastings.” But is it true? Hastings never publicly endorsed Holness as his successor and never put anything in writing.

Florida gained more Latinos than every other state but one, report finds” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — With more than 700,000 Latinos added to its population between 2015 and 2019, Florida saw its overall Latino growth climb more than every other state’s except for Texas, according to research by the Latin Donor Collaborative, a nonprofit focused on advancing Latino causes. Other, smaller states are adding Latinos at a faster clip. But among large states, the 14.1% growth rate the Sunshine State saw during the period was faster than every other state, with more than 500,000 residents save Pennsylvania. The report also found that if Latinos in the U.S. comprised their own economy, they would rank about the size of France and grow 50% faster than the U.S. economy.

Florida Panhandle residents to join in national Women’s March to protest abortion bans” via Sierra Rains of Northwest Florida Daily News — Several women from the Florida Panhandle will join thousands across the nation in a march in support of reproductive rights this weekend. The group will march about 1.4 miles from the Fort Walton Beach Civic Center to Liza Jackson Park at 10 a.m. Saturday. Several women will share their personal stories with the crowd afterward. Information on how to get involved after the march and voter registration will also be provided to those interested. The march comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency request to block a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks. A similar abortion law bill was filed in Florida last Wednesday.

— CORONA NATION —

U.S. COVID-19 recovery spreads as prospects improve in 47 states” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — In 47 states plus the nation’s capital, a measure of average new infections from one newly infected person is below the key level of 1, signaling that cases are expected to decline, according to covidestim, a modeling project with contributors from Yale School of Public Health, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Stanford Medicine. That measure, known as the effective reproduction number or Rt, was below 1 in 42 states and the capital a week ago; it was just nine a month ago. Meanwhile, the seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. was 110,232 as of Sept. 27, down from more than 160,000 at the start of September, according to CDC data.

‘It’s been the Wild West’: Experts urge Americans to follow official guidance amid COVID-19 booster craze” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — COVID-19 boosters are now available to millions of Americans who fall into certain broad categories and want greater protection from the coronavirus. While many are relieved boosters are finally here, there’s little policing to ensure third shots go to the intended people. Health experts say some people who don’t meet the requirements are ignoring official guidelines and seeking third shots. “Right now, it’s been the Wild West. I know people are going out and helping themselves to all kinds of things and basically lying to do so,” said Dr. Camille Kotton, an infectious disease expert at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The booster craze has no rules — for now.

Americans are getting COVID-19 boosters — no questions asked” via Robbie Whelen of The Wall Street Journal — Doctors and pharmacies are rapidly signing up patients for COVID-19 booster shots, many without requiring proof of eligibility under standards that federal officials set last week. The FDA and CDC have authorized a third shot of the vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for a wide swath of the U.S. population. Anyone over age 65 is eligible for a booster shot, as is anyone over 18 with a preexisting condition predisposing the person toward a severe case of COVID-19. Also eligible are those with a job or living situation that poses a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Boosters for all patients must be given at least six months after an initial Pfizer vaccine course.

More than one-third of COVID-19 patients had at least one symptom three to six months later, study finds” via Bryan Pietsch, Adela Suliman and Marisa Lati of The Washington Post — Nearly 4 in 10 people who became infected with the coronavirus still had at least one symptom three to six months later, a new study of COVID-19 “long-haulers” found. The most common lingering symptoms among the more than 270,000 people surveyed in the United States were anxiety and depression, trouble breathing, abdominal issues, fatigue and pain. The new research joins other studies that have found lingering COVID-19 symptoms to be common. The finding also comes on the heels of a study from the CDC concluding that the side effects Americans have experienced from a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine are similar to those from a second dose.

A large share of Hispanic adults in the U.S. got vaccinated over the summer, a survey shows” via Eduardo Medina of The New York Times — The share of Hispanic adults in the U.S. who say they have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine reached 73% in September, an increase of 12 percentage points from July, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. The increase was the fastest of any demographic group in the survey, and it put the reported vaccination rate for Hispanic adults slightly ahead of that of white adults. Experts say that disparities in vaccination rates and access persist in many parts of the country. But they said that the strong increases among Hispanic and Latino adults in the national poll signaled that on-the-ground vaccination efforts focused on the group were paying off.

Health workers once saluted as heroes now get threats” via Heather Hollingsworth and Grant Schulte of The Associated Press — Across the country, doctors and nurses are dealing with hostility, threats, and violence from patients angry over safety rules designed to keep the scourge from spreading. “A year ago, we’re health care heroes, and everybody’s clapping for us,” said Dr. Stu Coffman, a Dallas-based emergency room physician. “And now we’re being in some areas harassed and disbelieved and ridiculed for what we’re trying to do, which is just depressing and frustrating.” About 3 in 10 nurses who took part in a survey this month by an umbrella organization of nurses’ unions across the U.S. reported an increase in violence where they work. That was up from 2 in 10 in March, according to the National Nurses United survey of 5,000 nurses.

COVID-19 memorial in D.C. gives Americans a place to reconcile their loss” via Vanessa G. Sánchez of The Washington Post — Friends, families and other relatives of COVID-19 victims have made their way from all corners of the country to see “In America: Remember,” a public art installation by Maryland artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, which honors the more than 680,000 people in the United States who have died because of the coronavirus. Each flag in the exhibit, which continues through Sunday on the grounds surrounding the Washington Monument, represents a life taken. Hundreds of rows of flags distributed in 149 sections. Each flag is a foot from the ground. A sea of white. The immensity of loss is breathtaking. Installation of the exhibit took workers, including more than 300 volunteers, three days to complete.

The D.C. memorial gives folks touched by COVID-19 a place to comes to terms. Image via AP.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Floridians expect slow economic recovery for the country, lowering September consumer sentiment” via Perry Liebovitz of UF News — Consumer sentiment among Floridians dropped for a second consecutive month in September to 76.1, dropping 2.4 points from a revised figure of 78.5 in August and reaching its lowest level in almost eight years. These levels of confidence have not been observed since October 2013, when consumer sentiment reached 69.9 points. “The decline in consumer confidence was largely fueled by growing pessimism in Floridians’ expectations about national economic conditions in the short- and long-run. In the last two months, these two components have accumulated substantial losses indicating that Floridians foresee a slower than anticipated economic recovery,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Amid a labor shortage, former restaurant workers share why they left the industry for good” via Priscilla Totiyapungprasert of The Arizona Republic — Amid widespread reports of worker shortages, restaurant owners are desperate to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic business operations. But after being furloughed or laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, some bartenders, cooks and servers have moved on to other industries. Former hospitality workers shared the reasons why they’re not going back to work in restaurants or bars. Wages are only part of the problem. For some, that period of unemployed limbo was an opportunity to reprioritize their time and explore new careers. Some found that by stepping away, they could more clearly see the bigger problems in the industry that existed before the pandemic.

COVID-19 gave restaurant workers a chance to reprioritize their work lives.

Chromebook demand is plummeting as the pandemic eases” via Scharon Harding of Ars Technica — A global deceleration of laptop sales is being linked in a new report from market research firm Trendforce to increasing vaccination rates and a corresponding decrease in remote work and remote learning. After being a “primary driver” of overall laptop shipments in the first half of 2021, Chromebook shipments dropped by over 50% during one month in the second half of the year. And because Chromebooks represent a “relatively high share” of HP’s and Samsung’s overall laptop shipments, the OEMs’ shipments are predicted to fall by 10 to 20% from the first half of the year to the second half. Still, it’s not all downhill from here for Chromebooks — Trendforce still expects a total of 36 million devices shipped in 2021.

Dollar Tree to sell more items above $1 as costs rise” via Sarah Nassauer of The Wall Street Journal — The buck has stopped at Dollar Tree. The retailer, which sells nearly everything for a dollar in its namesake chain, plans to add more products at slightly higher prices, highlighting the pressure on companies to offset cost increases for a range of goods. Dollar Tree said it would start selling products at $1.25 and $1.50 or other prices slightly above $1 in some stores, expanding current tests selling items at higher price points as supply-chain snarls, a tight labor market, and inflation push costs higher. The discounter has experimented with selling items for $3 and $5 since 2019 in a shelf section labeled Dollar Tree Plus. Those tests continue in a few hundred of its roughly 7,900 Dollar Tree stores.

— MORE CORONA —

Virus fears linger for vaccinated older adults” via Matt Sedensky of The Associated Press — In a sign of the starkly different way Americans view the coronavirus pandemic, vaccinated older adults are far more worried about the virus than the unvaccinated and far likelier to take precautions despite the protection afforded by their shots. As the virus’ delta variant has fueled new waves of infection, the poll of people aged 50 or older found 36% are very or extremely worried that they or a family member will be infected, roughly doubled since June. The increase is fueled by the vaccinated, who are especially likely to be highly worried. Just 25% of vaccinated Americans, but 61% of unvaccinated Americans, say they are not worried.

Virus fears remain strong among older adults.

YouTube is banning prominent anti-vaccine activists and blocking all anti-vaccine content” via Gerritt De Vynck of MSN — YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists, including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who experts say are partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country. As part of a new set of policies to cut down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. Misinformation researchers have for years said the popularity of anti-vaccine content on YouTube contributed to growing skepticism of lifesaving vaccines in the United States and around the world.

Merck treatment inhibits COVID-19 variants, early data show” via Emma Court of Bloomberg — Merck & Co.’s COVID-19 antiviral drug, molnupiravir, appears to inhibit several major variants of the virus, including the highly contagious delta strain, according to early-stage data presented by the company at an infectious disease conference early Wednesday. The findings came out of laboratory research pitting the experimental drug against the variants in cell culture. Further research may be needed to confirm the results of human testing. “It’s a really nice observation because it gives us confidence that it will work the same across the variants that are already out there, and potentially against any new variants that may emerge,” said Jay Grobler, the lead author and executive director of biology discovery at Merck.

NBA cracks down on unvaccinated players as part of its COVID-19 protocols” via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today — The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver don’t have a mandate dictating that all players receive a COVID-19 vaccine for the 2021-22 season. At least no official mandate. The league and National Basketball Players Association couldn’t come to an agreement on that. Unofficially, the league has mandated players receive the vaccine. The league made it clear it wants players vaccinated and plans to institute greater restrictions for unvaccinated players. Vaccinated players are not required to undergo regular testing. Non-vaccinated players will undergo regular testing.

20-year-old who believed he was too healthy to need COVID-19 vaccine dies, North Carolina mom says” via Avi Bajpai and Mark Price of The Charlotte Observer — Tamra Demello had been begging her son Tyler Gilreath to get the COVID-19 vaccine for months. And for months, the 20-year-old resisted getting the shot, telling his mother he was young, healthy, and didn’t have any preexisting conditions, and therefore he didn’t need the vaccine’s protection. Finally, Gilreath agreed, just in time for his mother’s 60th birthday on Aug. 30. He told her he would get vaccinated once he reached the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he would be a sophomore and planned to major in computer science. But he never got a chance. Within days of Demello driving him from their home in Cary to Wilmington, he tested positive for the coronavirus. On Sept. 27, Gilreath died.

Tyler Gilreath thought he was too healthy for COVID-19. He was mistaken. Image via The News & Observer.

Tucker Carlson ties his vaccine fearmongering to a core Republican insecurity” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — The most misleading part of Carlson’s program was him connecting his long-standing efforts to sow doubt about coronavirus vaccines and the government’s response to the pandemic to one of the most fundamental concerns of the political right: the decreased centrality of White Christians in American society. Recent polling, also from Pew, found that most Republicans think that being Christian is central to America’s national identity and that Christians face a lot of discrimination. He was bizarrely arguing Monday that it was shifting its religious belief from existing traditions to what he called the “cult of coronavirus.”

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden’s plan: ‘Too big to fail’ can be too big to describe” via Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of The Associated Press — Biden’s plan for a massive expansion of social programs sets out to broaden well-known programs — for example, adding dental vision and hearing aid benefits to Medicare and continuing the Obama-era health law’s temporary subsidies that helped people buy insurance during the pandemic. But anxiety has risen among congressional Democrats during the negotiations, with some blame placed on Biden. Some Democrats worry the President’s pitch on the package doesn’t always click with people looking for a more concrete idea of what’s in it for them. Polling suggests that elements in the bill such as child care and infrastructure are popular with large parts of the public. But advocates worry the voters don’t know that those things are in the plan.

Too big to fail? It’s bigger than that. Image via AP.

Biden struggles to unite his Party behind his economic agenda” via Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — Biden has thus far failed to convince U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to agree publicly to a framework for how much they are willing to spend and what taxes they are willing to raise to fund the more expansive bill. If Biden cannot find a way to address their concerns while also assuaging progressives and persuading them to support his infrastructure bill, he could see the warring factions in his party kill his entire economic agenda. Some Democrats have complained this week that the President has not engaged in talks to their satisfaction, though he has cleared his schedule this week in hopes of brokering a deal.

‘This was a failure’: Biden’s ATF pick says White House left him open to attack” via Glenn Thrush of The New York Times — David Chipman’s confirmation odyssey began with a short congratulatory buzz from Attorney General Merrick Garland in April and ended, he said, with a long, rueful call from the presidential adviser Steve Ricchetti admitting the White House had fallen “short.” Chipman, a brash gun control activist whose nomination to head ATF imploded this month, said he had no other contact with the White House, which often left him feeling alone, on “an island,” when pro-gun groups attacked him. Instead, the West Wing strategy focused on selling Chipman to Manchin, the perpetual kingmaker in an evenly divided Senate, only to lose the support of independent Sen. Angus King, which left Democrats at least one vote short of the 50 needed for confirmation.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Donald Trump to headline Tampa fundraiser for House Republicans” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Trump will be the featured speaker on Nov. 8 at a fundraiser for House Republicans in Tampa. It’s $5,000 to get into the dinner and reception at the Tampa Convention Center, with VIP packages priced as high as $255,000. Anyone who donates more than $10,000 will access “political briefing panels” and breakfast the following day. The fundraiser will benefit the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House GOP. The two-day event will also feature Kevin McCarthy and his top deputies, Reps. Steve Scalise and Elise Stefanik. The fundraiser shows House Republicans will continue to lean on Trump for his popularity among some deep-pocketed donors.

Trump donor: Corey Lewandowski made unwanted sexual advances” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Trashelle Odom, the wife of Idaho construction executive John Odom, alleges that Lewandowski repeatedly touched her, including on her leg and buttocks, and spoke to her in sexually graphic terms. Odom said that Lewandowski “stalked” her throughout the evening. Four people who were firsthand witnesses at the event corroborated Odom’s allegations. Lewandowski has positioned himself as one of Trump’s closest and most loyal advisers, a role he has leveraged to gain access to top Republican donors and claim influence over the direction of the Republican Party.

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— CRISIS —

Jan. 6 committee prepares legal arsenal for likely subpoena fights” via Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — The House committee investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol is quietly devising plans to pressure hostile witnesses to spill their secrets. The select panel’s leaders are preparing a narrow set of legal and tactical options as they brace for Trump allies to invoke a wide range of constitutional protections to avoid testifying, from claiming executive privilege to invoking their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Whether it’s coaxing reluctant witnesses with offers of immunity or bludgeoning them with criminal contempt of Congress, lawmakers say they’ll be ready for whatever obstacles witnesses throw their way.

Jan. 6 investigators subpoena organizers of rallies that preceded Capitol attack” via Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney, and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — The Jan. 6 select committee has subpoenaed Katrina Pierson, a veteran Trump campaign operative who helped organize the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the insurrection at the Capitol. The subpoena was one of 11 issued to organizers of the events of Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, which drew thousands of Trump supporters, including those who turned violent at the Capitol, to Washington. Targets also included top organizers Amy Kremer and Caroline Wren, as well as Maggie Mulvaney, the niece of former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who was described in official paperwork as the “VIP Lead” for the rally.

Jan. 6 investigators have targeted Katrina Pierson, who helped organize the rally. Image via Facebook.

Charged in Capitol riot, St. Augustine man dies awaiting trial” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A St. Augustine man indicted after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has died while awaiting trial on charges that included civil disorder and assaulting or resisting officers. John Steven Anderson’s attorney told a judge in Washington about the death during a case status conference Friday, court records show. Anderson died on Sept 21 at Baptist Medical Center South in Jacksonville. The cause of death wasn’t listed. The funeral home said Anderson started and ran businesses. The obituary said he had been raised in Michigan and served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years in his youth, later enlisting in the Florida Army National Guard and living most of his life around St. Augustine.

Bury ’em all underneath the jailOhio men sentenced to 45 days become first Jan. 6 misdemeanor defendants to receive new jail time” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A court sentenced two Ohio men to serve 45 days in jail Wednesday after U.S. prosecutors for the first time requested incarceration at sentencing hearings for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders in the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The punishment comes after federal judges for months have questioned whether no-prison plea deals offered by the government to low-level Jan. 6 defendants are too lenient to deter future attackers from terrorizing members of Congress. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ordered Derek Jancart and Erik Rau to self-surrender to the D.C. jail at a later date, saying all charges related to the insurrection were serious.

Woman who said she wanted to shoot Nancy Pelosi in the ‘brain’ pleads guilty to misdemeanor” via Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A woman who said as she left the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6 that she had hoped to murder House Speaker Pelosi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. “I would like to accept my responsibility for what I did, for my part in Jan. 6,” Dawn Bancroft said in federal court in Washington as she admitted to illegally demonstrating. Bancroft pleaded guilty alongside her friend Diana Santos-Smith to a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Murphy said Bancroft made the comment while leaving the building, and there was no indication she intended to act on it. “It was a dumb, stupid comment,” Bancroft told the judge, one she said she made in jest. “I did not mean it.”

Dawn Bancroft threatens Nancy Pelosi at The Capitol riot, pleads guilty to a much lesser charge.

Fort Lauderdale White supremacist supporting ‘race-based civil war’ sentenced to 41 month in prison” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A White supremacist with aims to start a racial civil war was sentenced Tuesday to three years and five months in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of firearms and ammunition as a felon. Judge Raag Singal of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida imposed the sentence on Broward County man Paul Nicholas Miller, whom FBI agents arrested in March. The sentence includes that Miller will be subject to three years of supervision following his release. Miller, known by the online moniker “GypsyCrusader,” made “hundreds of internet posts publicizing his animosity toward various minority groups and his support for the initiation of a race-based civil war in the United States.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Nancy Pelosi defuses debt standoff with centrists, turns to rest of crises” via Nicholas Wu, Sarah Ferris, and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — Speaker Pelosi tore into moderate Democrats opposed to a debt-ceiling increase as the House prepared to vote Wednesday, one of several high-stakes standoffs bedeviling her caucus this week. During a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning, a furious Pelosi chided roughly half a dozen moderates who had been privately threatening to tank a measure to hike the debt limit, which they saw as a pointless political maneuver with the Senate GOP firmly opposed. Pelosi offered a vote on a measure that would essentially create a report card on the nation’s fiscal standing.

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Marco Rubio, Rick Scott legislation would overrule Biden’s Regeneron rationing” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott say the federal government should not decide which states can access Regeneron treatment supplies. Now, the Florida Republicans are introducing legislation prohibiting such rationing. The duo joined a group of GOP senators to introduce the Treatment Restoration for Emergency Antibody Therapeutics (TREAT) Act. If passed, the bill will stop the Health and Human Services Department from restricting hospitals and other facilities from ordering monoclonal antibody treatments directly from manufacturers to meet local demand. The move comes as DeSantis and other Governors promote the early treatment for those who come down with COVID-19.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Miami politicians raised more than $8 million for the 2021 elections. Who gave the most?” via Douglas Hanks and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — The leading donor in Miami politics so far this year is a New York developer who recently made a big bet on downtown real estate, outpacing other contributors backing Mayor Francis Suarez on a list that includes celebrities of tech and finance. Clean-Rite Maintenance, a company that ties back to New York developer Steven Witkoff, gave $260,000 between May and August to the city’s best-funded candidates: Suarez and District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo, incumbents running for second terms in November. The second-place slot went to Doug Kimmelman, an investment mogul in New York who is also an owner of the Miami Marlins. He gave $100,000 to Carollo and $55,000 to Suarez.

From New York with love: Steven Witkoff is the big donor in Miami politics. Image via Inc.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s reelection bid framed by national hype and local gripes” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — After nearly four years on the job, Suarez, a figurehead with limited legislative power, has become a walking, talking billboard for Miami. He’s the marketer-in-chief, looking to sell the world a glimmering narrative about sunshine, low taxes and tech-hungry entrepreneurship in a metropolis perhaps better known for rising seas, opulence, and a dependence on real estate and tourism. Despite the sales pitch, there are issues. The wealth disparity and unaffordable housing, with the looming threats of climate change, remain serious challenges. His hand-picked police chief is in hot water after a series of controversies. But if buzz and campaign cash are a measure of success, then Suarez — and, he would argue, Miami — has been on a roll all year.

When your neighbor is a hostile ex-cop, don’t count on your city for help” via Francisco Alvarado of Florida Bulldog — Over the past 18 months, Thais Alvarez’s next-door neighbor, Lyle Bien, hasn’t been so neighborly, she says. Yet, whenever she called the Hollywood Police Department for help, officers were often reluctant to tell her neighbor to knock it off. They wanted to protect one of their own, she said. Bien retired as Hollywood police sergeant on July 31, 2020, after 30 years on the force, including as a homicide unit supervisor during his last 16 years. The police department was done dealing with any criminal and internal affairs investigations related to her dispute with Bien and any changes to incident reports. “He does not have a deterrent to keep him from coming back to continue harassing me,” Alvarez said.

Richard Branson proclaims cruises safe, set to launch Virgin Voyages from Miami” via Anna Jean Kaiser of the Miami Herald — As Branson prepares to launch his Virgin Voyages cruises next week, the billionaire founder and the company CEO are insisting that the ship’s controlled environment makes it safer than the grocery store, plane or hotel. “Everyone’s vaccinated — all the crew, all the staff, all the guests,” Branson said about safety protocols in an interview Tuesday with the Miami Herald. “I don’t think that [COVID-19 restrictions] will need to last for too long.” Branson’s timing for Virgin Voyages couldn’t have been worse: It was set to launch out of PortMiami in March 2020. After an 18-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the mogul’s cruise line will launch from its Miami base on Oct. 6 — but at half capacity, with vaccine mandates and required COVID-19 testing before boarding.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings wants to bring back sales tax increase pitch next year” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Demings began laying the groundwork on plans to revive a campaign to raise the sales tax by a penny to bring in more than half a billion dollars annually for roads, rail and other transit needs. Demings, addressing a room of dozens of business executives hosted by the Orlando Economic Partnership, pitched the sales tax increase as the best method to build and repair roads and fund a transit system to support the explosive growth in the county of about 1.4 million people. He circled the county over months in 2019 and early 2020 stumping for the tax, a hallmark of his first campaign for Mayor. But the push was suspended as COVID-19 brought the region’s economy into a recession.

Orange County gets $41 million for septic-to-sewer projects in Wekiwa Springs, Pine Hills” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County’s push to convert homes from septic systems to sewers in the environmentally sensitive Wekiwa Springs area got a big boost from a state program, which also doled out millions in aid to help heal the ailing Indian River Lagoon amid record numbers of manatee deaths this year. The county will use most of its $41-million grant to help pay for the massive sewer project involving 14 neighborhoods east of Apopka. Getting rid of septic seepage is a crucial but expensive part of a state plan for improving the health of the Wekiva River and its ecologically vital springs, said Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore.

Six years for man who stole lawmakers’ IDs, passed bad checks” via The Associated Press — A Florida man has been sentenced to six years and five months in prison for stealing the identities of local, state and federal officials in a case involving more than $50,000 in fraudulent payments, authorities said. Michael T. Watters was sentenced Monday in Orlando federal court. He pleaded guilty in July to aggravated identity theft and wire fraud. Watters created approximately 35 counterfeit driver’s licenses using the stolen identities of current and former lawmakers. Between December 2018 and May 2019, Watters used those counterfeit licenses to pass about 265 counterfeit checks as payment at various stores in the Orlando area. Prosecutors said Watters caused total losses of $53,156.43 to the affected businesses.

‘Recipient sites’ in Florida charging up to $6,000 for relocating gopher tortoises … is that sustainable?” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — The state is beseeching landowners to provide shelter for a Florida native in dire straits for housing. A public plea for people to accept threatened gopher tortoises on their property was made last week by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is facing dwindling vacancies in a conservation program where landowners are paid a per-animal rate to offer the reptiles a forever home. With development uprooting the burrowing tortoises and replacement spots at a premium, one property owner of a so-called “recipient site” is charging up to $6,000 for each refugee.

Port Canaveral back to making profit, projects record revenue for 2022” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Port Canaveral is back in business now that cruise lines have returned to sailing, and the outlook for the fiscal year 2022 is projected to be a record. “August was the first time in 17 months that we covered our operating expenses and debt service in the result. So, it’s been a long 17 months, but we’re back,” said port CEO Capt. John Murray on Wednesday at the Board of Commissioners meeting. With legal wrangling aside, cruise lines have been able to restart from Florida ports since late June, and Port Canaveral looks to end its fiscal year on Sept. 30 on a positive note, lining up what would be a record year across the board for FY22.

Port Canaveral officials approve plan to develop $85 million aquarium run by Brevard Zoo” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — It’s been several years in planning, and may not open for several more, but Port Canaveral officials voted Wednesday to move forward with the group that runs the Brevard Zoo to construct an $85 million aquarium on-site. The port commission unanimously passed a development agreement with the East Coast Zoological Society of Florida to develop the attraction and conservation campus just south of State Road 528 on Port Canaveral property adjacent to the Banana River. “This is like an aquarium’s dream property. You could not pick a better site for this,” said Keith Winsten, executive director of the Brevard Zoo.

Tampa protesters poised for trial as unlawful assembly charges are dropped” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Attorneys for two people who were arrested during a Fourth of July protest last year scored a small victory Tuesday when a judge granted their request to dismiss unlawful assembly charges. With prosecutors standing silent, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Mark Kiser heeded defense arguments that the charge was civil, not criminal. But a trial still looms on other alleged crimes that include battery against police and resisting arrest. Addressing a prosecutor’s request to bar certain matters from the trial, including “the right to free speech,” and the constitutionality of the protest, the judge imposed no broad restrictions on those subjects. “That’s general public knowledge,” the judge said.

Tallahassee venues and theaters receive federal aid, but their future remains uncertain” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Just in time, the long-awaited Shuttered Venues Operators grant sent venues 45% of their gross earned revenue. Among the Tallahassee businesses to get money from the U.S. Small Business Administration program was The Moon ($924,000), the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee ($457,619) and the Tallahassee Ballet ($233,494), Symphony Orchestra ($162,957) and The Bradfordville Blues Club ($107,149). While the grant money has provided venues with catch-up money to pay rent, insurance, and talent, it may quickly dry up before there can be performances before large crowds. “That’s the sad part about this story,” The Moon owner Scott Carswell said. “We thought we were one and done, but the variants are here to stay, and I don’t know when we’ll see a capacity show.”

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After about-face, Citrus Commissioner OK’s hospital assessment ‘scheme’” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Two weeks ago, Commissioner Jeff Kinnard called a special assessment plan for the two county private hospitals a “scheme” and vowed to defeat it. On Tuesday, he led its passage, acknowledging an about-face after conducting more research. “I did take a strong position against it,” he said. “The more I dove into this, I’ve gotten to a position of being very comfortable with it.” The board’s 3-2 vote places a 3.2% annual assessment on net profits against Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness and Bayfront Health Seven Rivers in Crystal River to be used as a match for federal dollars to cover Medicaid shortfalls. The assessment is only against the hospitals. No one else is affected.

Navarre incorporation efforts need green light from Jayer Williamson” via Alex Miller of the Pensacola News Journal — A wave of optimism surrounds the newest attempt to incorporate Navarre into a city, so much so that two separate groups are working on vying proposals to move the initiative forward. Wes Siler of Preserve Navarre and Jonathan Cole of Navarre Area United PAC plan to speak — separately — to Rep. Jayer Williamson on Oct. 25 to learn what he expects from an incorporation effort before he considers bringing the idea to the state House. Williamson said he sees the need for a unified incorporation effort, but stressed he wanted the county to play an active role in the preliminary stages. “Obviously, when you have two groups doing the same things, it’s going to have to be consolidated to one,” Williamson said.

‘I see nothing new’: Santa Rosa Commissioners disappointed with $150,000 strategic plan” via Alex Miller of the Pensacola News Journal — After spending $150,000 and participating in months of work to develop a long-term plan to guide the county during unprecedented growth, Santa Rosa County Commissioners are apprehensive about the lack of new information in the report. Matrix Design Group presented its 2035 strategic plan to the board earlier this week. “You have to plan for your future, but right at this point I’m kind of disappointed,” said BOCC Vice Chairman Bob Cole. “I’m looking at 70 pages of stuff we already knew.” The BOCC in January approved paying Matrix about $150,000 to conduct the study, which Cole said he somewhat regrets.

— TOP OPINION —

We’re already barreling toward the next pandemic” via Ed Yong of The Atlantic — Almost 20 years ago, the historians of medicine Elizabeth Fee and Theodore Brown lamented that the U.S. had “failed to sustain progress in any coherent manner” in its capacity to handle infectious diseases. It might seem ridiculous to think about future pandemics now, as the U.S. is consumed by debates over booster shots, reopened schools, and vaccine mandates. Prepare for the next one? Let’s get through this one first! But America must do both together, precisely because of the cycle that Fee and Brown bemoaned. Today’s actions are already writing the opening chapters of the next pandemic’s history. Domestically, many public-health experts, historians, and legal scholars worry that the U.S. is lapsing into neglect, that the temporary wave of investments isn’t being channeled into the right areas, and that COVID-19 might actually leave the U.S. weaker against whatever emerges next. The panic-neglect cycle is not inevitable but demands recognition and resistance.

— OPINIONS —

Republicans aim their fire at the military” via Dana Millbank of The Washington Post — Perhaps nothing Republican lawmakers do anymore should come as a surprise, but their treatment of Gen. Mark A. Milley opened a new front in the war against civilized norms. Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska found perfidy in Milley’s de-escalation attempts. “You’re giving a heads-up to the Chinese Communist Party,” he alleged. Sen. Marsha Blackburn accused him of leaking “private conversations with the President,” a charge Milley adamantly rejected.

How DeSantis and his GOP allies reveal their anti-abortion hypocrisy” via Lizette Alvarez of The Washington Post — To the surprise of no one in Florida, a Texas-style anti-abortion bill landed in the Florida state Legislature last week. Like the Texas version, the bill is designed to ban most abortions by inviting citizen-filed lawsuits against anyone who helps a woman undergo the procedure. Florida joins at least a half-dozen other Republican-led states now considering their own versions of the law, which bars abortions around six weeks of pregnancy before many women are aware that they’re pregnant. In June, DeSantis vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have provided $2 million to help low-income women gain access to long-acting reversible contraception, such as IUDs and hormonal implants.

Florida gaming deal goes to court. One verdict is in: Lawmakers’ contempt for voters” via the Miami Herald editorial board — We believe there’s little doubt that lawmakers and gambling interests crafted the new Gaming Compact, which includes off-reservation sports betting, precisely to get around the 2018 constitutional amendment that voters approved — by an unheard-of 72% margin — that specified the electorate must determine if there are more casinos in Florida. For years now, the Republican-led Legislature has shown such contempt for the will of the voters, especially when it comes to constitutional amendments, that lawmakers can no longer enjoy the benefit of the doubt on that point. But Republicans play the long game, and this is no exception. Not only are they betting they’ll win the current contest, but they’re also clearly leaving the door open for more casinos here: specifically, in Doral and Miami Beach.

Joe Henderson: Break ties with Australia? Was DeSantis kidding?” via Florida Politics — DeSantis let his bravado overload his brain by suggesting the United States should consider breaking diplomatic ties with Australia. Why? Australia imposed stringent lockdowns to combat COVID-19 in its largest cities. “That’s not a free country. It’s not a free country at all. I wonder why we would still have the same diplomatic relations when they’re doing that. Is Australia freer than communist China right now? I don’t know.” Here’s a number for you: Total COVID-19 deaths in Australia as of Sept. 29: 1,278. That’s in a country of about 25 million, which is around 4 million more than Florida. Our death rate is 43 times higher than the country the Governor suggested we kick to the curb.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announces federal help is finally on the way for low-income families.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Taking a break from his persistent legal troubles, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz goes after the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

— Beginning Oct. 1, flood insurance rates are set to soar for some residents statewide.

— Today’s Sunrise interview is with Bob Diffenderfer, a shareholder at Lewis, Longman & Walker, where he tracks complex environmental and land use matters. Diffenderfer will weigh in about flood insurance and why some across the state will see steep insurance rate hikes.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Fat Bear Week is here. Here’s how to celebrate, according to huge fans.” via Natalie B. Compton of The Washington Post — The arrival of Fat Bear Week marks a joyous occasion on the internet. It’s a welcome distraction from life’s woes. It’s a time to appreciate nature, even though the nature you’re appreciating is thousands of miles away in one of the most difficult national parks to reach in the United States. You may be asking yourself, “What is Fat Bear Week, anyway?” It’s a single-elimination tournament from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5 between brown bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve that are fattening up for winter. The last two beefy contenders battle in the finals (on the internet, not real life) for Fattest Bear on Fat Bear Tuesday.

‘National treasure’: FSU dance prof Jawole Willa Jo Zollar named 2021 MacArthur Fellow” via Anna Prentiss of FSU — Zollar has received the 2021 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “genius grant,” for using the power of dance and artistic expression to celebrate the voices of Black women and promote civic engagement and community organizing. Zollar, a professor at FSU’s School of Dance and founder of Urban Bush Women, will receive the $625,000, a no-strings-attached award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, granted to talented individuals in a variety of fields who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits. She is the first FSU faculty member to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

Genius: Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of FSU is of the 25 2021 MacArthur Fellows. Image via FSU.

Brightline train rolls off California factory line for delivery to Florida” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — At nearly 500 feet long, more than a million pounds and redolent of leather upholstery, Brightline’s newest train consisting of two locomotives and four coaches rolled out of a Sacramento factory this week for delivery to Florida. Brightline will receive five trains in the coming months in anticipation of opening passenger service from South Florida to Orlando International Airport by early 2023. Brightline Trains and Siemens Mobility began a partnership nearly a decade ago to build what wasn’t made in the U.S. at the time, an upscale train designed for higher speed intercity passenger service.

‘Book of Boba Fett’ sets December premiere on Disney Plus” via Joe Otterson of Variety — The “Mandalorian” spinoff will debut on Dec. 29. The show was first teased following the conclusion of “The Mandalorian” Season 2 finale. In the series, legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand are navigating the Galaxy’s underworld when they return to the sands of Tatooine to stake their claim on the territory once ruled by Jabba the Hutt and his crime syndicate. Temuera Morrison returns in the role of Boba Fett, with Ming-Na Wen returning as Shand. Wen first played her character in Season 1 of “The Mandalorian” and provided the character’s voice in the animated series “Star Wars: The Bad Batch.”

Tom Brady chases all-time yards passing record in reunion game” via Josh Dubow of The Associated Press — Sometime in the first half Sunday night, Brady should add another record to his already impressive haul. It couldn’t come in a more appropriate location. With 68 yards passing in his return to New England, Brady will surpass Drew Brees’ mark of 80,358 yards that stands as the most ever in the regular season. Brady will add that to his long list of NFL records that already includes most TD passes (591), most wins as a starting quarterback (232), most Super Bowl titles (seven), and most conference championships (10). His longevity might be his most impressive trait, as he is still playing at a high level at age 44 after winning the Super Bowl in his first year in Tampa last season.

Tom Brady could break a record in a place with which he is very familiar. Image via AP.

Confident, talented Lightning aim for Stanley Cup 3-peat” via Fred Goodall of The Associated Press — With an ultra-talented nucleus featuring Conn Smythe Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, playoff scoring phenoms Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, top defenseman Victor Hedman and veteran leaders such as Steven Stamkos, Ryan McDonagh and Pat Maroon, the Lightning are set up for continued success. Bowman, nevertheless, knows it’s not a sure thing. The last team to claim at least three straight Stanley Cup crowns was the New York Islanders, who won four in a row under Al Arbor in the early 1980s.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are former Rep., now Alachua Sheriff Clovis Watson, Curt Anderson of The Associated Press, Michael Cantens of Flagler Strategies, Tracy Duda Chapman, Harrison Fields, Jason Gonzalez of Shutts & Bowen, House candidate Jason Holloway, Steve Lapinski, Capital City Consulting’s Chris Schoonover, and Vito Sheeley.

___

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


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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.30.21

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