Hello and welcome to Thursday.
Tension — There’s always been an uneasy relationship between the Republicans who control state government and the Democrats who run the capital city that at times seems more a part of south Georgia than Florida. Still, outright hostility would only flare up in occasional moments such as the time then-Gov. Rick Scott and Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee’s mayor at the time, clashed in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine.
Resistance — Now it appears that Tallahassee — and Leon County — has become an epicenter in the fight against the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The county government was fined more than $3 million this week because of its vaccine mandate for employees. The Leon County school district got tangled up in the mask mandate war. And now city leaders on Wednesday voted to join a lawsuit challenging one of DeSantis’ top legislative priorities — the “anti-riot” bill passed earlier this year.
Blue town in red North Florida — Look, Tallahassee is a Democratic town that is home to two universities and thousands of state workers who continually feel slighted year after year (pay raises, benefits etc.) by the Republicans who work in the big building downtown.
Risk — But there’s a downside for local Democratic elected officials if they press too hard against state officials. (Raise your hand if you remember the Senate president who used the state budget to order the removal of speed bumps on the road to the airport.) Anyone in Tallahassee city government knows that state government is the biggest customer for the local electric utility, which in turn is the money maker that helps pay for police and parks.
Response — Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow resisted the notion that something special is going on here. “It’s not just us. Cities and counties across Florida are responding to the aggressive incursions into local control from state government,” Matlow told Playbook. But he added that “People in Tallahassee don’t want to hear about ‘state preemptions,” they want to know their local officials are looking after their best interests. That’s what we’re going to do, even if we have to fight for the right to do so.”
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis
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JOINING IN — “Tallahassee mounting legal challenge to Florida’s ‘anti-riot’ law,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Karl Etters: “Tallahassee will mount a legal challenge to HB1, the state’s ‘anti-riot’ law, with commissioners saying it infringes on free speech and encroaches on home rule. In a unanimous vote Wednesday, Tallahassee City Commissioners committed to engaging pro bono legal services to challenge the legislation that was among Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top 2021 priorities.”
LOYALTY TEST — State Senate Democrats under Sen. Lauren Book are looking to revamp their caucus rules, and one proposed change sparked a lengthy back-and-forth during a Wednesday caucus meeting that shows a lot of tension remains months after Democrats ousted Sen. Gary Farmer and put Book in his place.
Kicked out? — At issue is whether Senate Democrats should change their rules to allow the expulsion of a legislator from the caucus by a “two-thirds secret ballot vote” of caucus members. Farmer was flatly opposed to this “drastic measure” and questioned why it was needed. But he also raised questions about what constituted “good cause” as noted in the proposal to expel someone since it wasn’t defined in the proposed rules. There was talk about whether it was about punishing a wayward Democrat or having a tool if someone is arrested or involved in a scandal. “When you define it, you are going to limit it,” Sen. Lori Berman said.
Shade — At one point, Farmer questioned what Democrats should do if the caucus leader strikes a deal with Republicans. Sen. Janet Cruz shot back that Democrats could remove that leader — something that they had done before — a not-so-subtle reminder of Farmer’s ouster. It appears as though the proposal will be tweaked and put back before Democrats at their next caucus meeting.
‘AN IRON CURTAIN’ — “Florida confirms flaws with handling of child welfare complaints following USA Today story,” by USA Today’s Suzanne Hirt: “Yet the Department of Children and Families said the allegations — many of them from teachers, health care professionals and day care workers — did not meet its definition of serious harm. DCF classified them as potential license violations that might prompt an administrative review rather than a full-fledged investigation. After a USA TODAY investigation in March brought to light more than 4,000 records detailing such complaints that had been kept secret from the public, DCF conducted an internal review of more than 1,100 of the calls. The review’s findings? Only 19% of the accusations were inaccurate.”
Hmm — “DCF presented results of the review to stakeholders in July as part of a quarterly performance update. The department ignored USA TODAY’s public records request for the presentation for almost two months until an attorney for the newspaper demanded fulfillment.”
GREEN RUSH — “Florida expecting surge in new medical marijuana licenses,” by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Florida’s medical marijuana regulator expects to more than double the number of licenses to sell and grow cannabis by 2023 after the state Supreme Court tossed out a lower court ruling that left the state’s application process in limbo for years. There are now 22 licensees in Florida for medical marijuana treatment centers. In an annual budget request made with the Legislature, the state Department of Health wrote its Office of Medical Marijuana Use expects to have a total of 49 licenses awarded by June 2023.
GENTLE GIANTS — “Starving manatees: Will Florida spend $7 million more to help save them?” by Treasure Coast Newspapers Max Chesnes: “As Florida approaches the grim milestone of a record 1,000 manatee deaths this year, state wildlife officials are asking lawmakers for an additional $7 million to save starving sea cows and fund more rehabilitation facilities. Facing the unprecedented die-off, both state and federal wildlife officials are also weighing another option: feeding them.”
— “Florida to get $1.1 billion boost in Medicaid money,” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton
The daily rundown — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there were 2,505 Covid-19 infections on Tuesday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 3,460 beds were being used in the state for Covid-19 patients. The Florida Hospital Association reported Wednesday that 14.5 percent of adult patients in intensive care units are infected with Covid-19.
HELP WANTED — “Florida Senate looks to address Covid-19 pandemic nursing shortage through higher education,” by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary Mayhew told the committee that droves of nurses are leaving hospitals for more lucrative work with nationwide staffing agencies. Others left the profession over the pandemic due to burnout. “We had a workforce shortage prior to the pandemic,” Mayhew said. “The pandemic has been like a gasoline can over that fire.” Mayhew also said the state could widen the pipeline of newly trained nurses by making changes to existing university nursing programs.
SHOTS IN ARMS — “State health department report: More than half of young kids and teens in FL have been vaccinated,” by Florida Phoenix’s Isaac Morgan: “An official from the state health department on Wednesday told lawmakers that more than half of young people have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19. That could help with warding off the virus in Florida’s massive public school system as well as private schools. More than a million young people — exactly 1,079,179 — or 55 percent of residents ages 12-19, have been fully vaccinated through Oct. 7, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.”
— “Hospital breaks promise to give Ivermectin to Loxahatchee woman sick with COVID, lawyer tells judge,” by Palm Beach Post’s Jane Musgrave
REPEAT CYCLE — “Gov. Ron DeSantis may not like his predecessor, but he’s using his campaign blueprint,” by NBCLX’s Noah Pransky: “Given his frequent criticisms of President Joe Biden and love for national talking points, it’s sometimes hard to tell which election appears first on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ calendar: the 2024 presidential primary or his 2022 re-election campaign. But one thing is clear: DeSantis’ opponent — at least figuratively — for any potential gubernatorial or presidential campaign is the same. ‘Joe Biden is the de-facto campaign manager for Governor DeSantis right now,’ said Melissa Sellers Stone, a veteran Republican consultant who ran then-Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign.”
BY THE NUMBERS — “Rubio hauls in $6M in fundraising as Florida GOP senator gears up,” by Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser: “Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is building a formidable war chest as he gathers resources for what will likely be a bruising reelection campaign in the 2022 midterms. The two-term Republican senator hauled in $6 million in fundraising during the July-September third quarter of fundraising, according to figures shared first with Fox News on Wednesday.”
PRIMARY BATTLE — “Voter depression’: In a Florida special election, Democrats are ready to give Biden an earful,” by Washington Post’s David Weigel: “Unlike those races, in which candidates stressed their support for President Biden to win votes, the Florida race is marked by frustration at how Democrats are using their power in Washington, and criticism — sometimes mixed with disbelief — of the administration’s policies toward migrants and asylum seekers. ‘They ducked on this one,’ candidate and former Broward County commissioner Dale Holness said in an interview, referring to the Biden administration’s deportation of thousands of Haitians who’d come to the U.S.-Mexico border last month.”
NOT ON BOARD — “In the Florida 20 special election, one candidate declares opposition to Iron Dome funding,” by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel: “While the leading contenders all seem largely aligned in their support for Israel — a cause championed by [Alcee] Hastings during his time in Congress — one staunchly progressive wild-card candidate, first-term state Rep. Omari Hardy, is sharing more critical views of the U.S.-Israel relationship. In an interview with JI on Monday, Hardy, 31, expressed his firm opposition to legislation that would grant $1 billion in supplemental aid for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system.”
REMEMBER LEV? — “Prosecutors argue Giuliani associate Lev Parnas knew donations he funneled were illegal,” by Washington Post’s Shayna Jacobs: “An associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani who hobnobbed at events attended by then-President Donald Trump illegally funneled foreign funds from a Russian investor to American political candidates to try to win their loyalty and earn favors, prosecutors argued at the start of his trial on Wednesday. Lev Parnas and another man, Andrey Kukushkin, allegedly conspired to transfer $1 million from financier Andrey Muraviev to donate to candidates who could potentially assist in getting licenses to run legal recreational cannabis businesses. Muraviev has not been charged.”
Flashback — “DeSantis laughs off questions about indicted Giuliani associate,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout & “Indicted Giuliani associate joined DeSantis on last-minute campaign swing,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout
— “Florida takes 4 months to tell voting rights advocate Desmond Meade his civil rights are restored,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello
— “Why Ray Rodrigues returned contributions from Senate GOP leaders,” by Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles
THE GUEST — “Republicans are bracing for an awkward Trump speech at an exclusive Palm Beach GOP donor retreat where hotel rooms go for $1,300 a night,” by Insider’s Kimberly Leonard: “Political insiders familiar with the event said they were shocked the Senate GOP’s chairman for the 2022 campaign, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, had even invited [Donald] Trump to speak. After all, Trump is publicly calling for the Senate Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to be ousted from his post. ‘Rick Scott really jammed his Leader McConnell by inviting Trump to the Senate Florida retreat,’ said one longtime GOP strategist, who did not attend the event at the $1,300-a-night hotel (ocean view with a king is an extra $400). ‘Trump who undermines the GOP Senate at every opportunity and cares little about governing.’”
THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY — “Mayor Suarez’s Miami pitch collides with City Hall politics,” by Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas and Bianca Padró Ocasio: “[Miami police chief Art] Acevedo’s failed, tumultuous tenure marks another blow delivered by City Hall to a mayor who has sought to make a name for himself as the future of the Republican Party. It is also a blemish on [Francis] Suarez’s pitch to tech moguls about a smoothly run city where sunshine meets opportunity for eager investors, instead revealing the city’s volatility and the limits of his power. ‘The problem is that the mayor was attracted to national headlines and didn’t really do his work, and didn’t do the work to know what made this individual tick,’ U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez said of Suarez’s handling of the Acevedo situation. ‘It has blown up in the city’s face, and in the mayor’s face, and now it’s blown up in all of our faces.’”
SIRI: WHAT IS URBAN SPRAWL? — “How Orlando and Tampa could become the next ‘megaregion,’” by Tampa Bay Times’ Bernadette Berdychowski: “Fletcher Moore, head of Origin Construction’s Central Florida division, and a fourth-generation Miami native, began his real estate career in South Florida. He moved to Central Florida 20 years ago and said the recent growth in the area shows signs of Tampa and Orlando becoming a true ‘megaregion’, a term those in the industry use to describe cities that grow into each other and produce billions — if not trillions — of dollars into the economy. The areas around Tampa and Orlando could soon almost look as indistinguishable as Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Moore said.”
— “Family sues Disney Cruise Line for $20 million, saying 3-year-old was sexually assaulted on ship,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Katie Rice
— “‘Save jobs.’ South Beach hospitality workers protest 2 a.m. booze ban outside City Hall,” by Miami Herald’s Martin Vassolo
— “White cops complain new chief is promoting officers based on race,” by Sun Sentinel’s Lisa J. Huriash: “At least two Fort Lauderdale cops are complaining they have been passed over for promotions in favor of minority colleagues by the new police chief, who they claim has made public comments about a ‘minority-first agenda.’ Attorney Tonja Haddad Coleman represents the officers, who are white. She confirmed one complaint was formally filed Tuesday and another Wednesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigates workplace discrimination.”
BIRTHDAYS: Shane Strum, president and CEO of Broward Health
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