Who’s up, down, in and out — your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.
Good Thursday morning.
Just as most of you are reading this, my wife, Michelle, will be heading into the operating room for a third — and hopefully final — surgery to, as she says, make her whole again.
Given the life-threatening ordeal she went through during previous surgeries, she is frightened. But she continues to put her faith in God that everything will turn out for the best.
It was the prayers from so many of you who helped her through the previous crisis that I am asking, one more time, that you lift her in prayer.
Thank you for your consideration, and God bless.
There is A LOT of content on FloridaPolitics.com right now and here in Sunburn. Also, here are three stories that really stood out to me.
— Not all Democrats: 2020 was a decent, if not good, year for Democrats. They took back the White House, maintained, albeit narrowly, an advantage in the U.S. House and split the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris offering the decisive tiebreaking vote. But not every Democrat is singing the new administration’s praises, and it’s in South Florida where the case can be made that progressives aren’t exactly thrilled with the Joe Biden administration. Washington Post author David Weigel makes the case in his deep-dive analysis of the South Florida Special Election in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, where Democrats have lined up to put a progressive in office to fill the vacancy left by the late Alcee Hastings. As Weigel notes, the bevy of candidates are lining up to criticize Biden administration policies on migrants and asylum-seekers. Read his analysis here.
— Are overeducated youngsters crashing the Democratic Party?: That’s the question raised in a thought-provoking Politico analysis poking fun at the young Dem staffer “tools of the trade” — laptop stickers, hipster apparel, coffee-to-go and campaign swag. The piece, by writer Ian Ward, questions whether that image is trampling the Party’s broader message. The problem raised: Young staffer-types are more likely to be further left than the coveted median voter, yet hold an outsized impact on Party messaging. Read more about it here.
— Mockery is the sincerest form of flattery?: It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between Gov. Ron DeSantis and his predecessor, now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Yet Florida’s current Governor is taking a page from Scott’s playbook as he eyes reelection and, eventually, a possible bid for President in 2024. How? DeSantis’ campaign is less about his Democratic rivals seeking to dethrone him — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist — than it is the current occupant of the White House. Scott used the same strategy in 2010 when he first made his mark in the political sphere, attacking then-President Barack Obama and his administration’s policies. That’s reporter Noah Pransky‘s take-away in his analysis for NBC’s new platform, LX, where he draws the correlation between national politics and statewide campaigns.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@DalaiLama: I don’t like formality. There’s no formality when we’re born and none when we die. In between, we should treat each other as brothers and sisters because we all want to live a happy life. This is our common purpose and our right.
Two-thirds of Americans over 12 are fully vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/S3NLddOs53
— Virginia Heffernan (@page88) October 13, 2021
—@Jon_bois: people can criticize Kyrie Irving all they want. all I’ll say is this: after I got the vaccine, I found I was completely unable to play basketball at the NBA level
.@SenJanetCruz pointedly asks @HealthyFla: “As a state, are we playing a Squid Game here, where only the strong survive? We’re working toward herd immunity rather than try to save as many lives as possible. It seems like we’re trying to save as many businesses as possible.” /1
— Mary Ellen Klas (@MaryEllenKlas) October 13, 2021
—@Phillip_germain: Not voting in elections to own the libs
—@GovRonDeSantis: The U.S. Navy has kept the rounds on target, and the sea lanes open in defense of our nation. I’m proud to be a Navy veteran, and I thank all who are serving and those who have served in the best sea service in history.
@FlaFarmBureau is proud to recognize Rep. @JosieTomkow, Rep. @AndrewLearned, @RepMcClure, Sen. @JimBoydFL, Sen. @darrylrouson, Rep. @DanaTrabulsy and Rep. @KayleeTuck2 as Champions for Florida Agriculture. #ChampionsofAg pic.twitter.com/2jF2ScRhbL
— Florida Farm Bureau (@FlaFarmBureau) October 13, 2021
From Tallahassee to Orlando, #TeamCarlos is hard at work! We’re so excited to welcome our fellows back to the Capitol and in our #HD49 District Office! pic.twitter.com/3iX7RG8wYS
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) October 13, 2021
Guess who’s back (at City Hall), back again 🤗⚡️ pic.twitter.com/16U9z9xpCC
— St. Petersburg, FL (@StPeteFL) October 13, 2021
—@Independent: North Korea says it loves Squid Game because it reflects ‘beastly’ capitalist society
— DAYS UNTIL —
’Succession’ returns — 3; ’Dune’ premieres — 8; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ returns — 10; World Series Game 1 — 12; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 13; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 13; Georgia at UF — 16; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 19; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 19; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 22; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 22; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 24; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 25; Miami at FSU — 28; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 31; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 35; FSU vs. UF — 44; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 48; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 54; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 57; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 64; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 69; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 76; CES 2022 begins — 83; NFL season ends — 87; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 89; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 89; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 90; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 92; NFL playoffs begin — 93; Super Bowl LVI — 122; Daytona 500 — 129; St. Pete Grand Prix — 136; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 163; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 207; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 225; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 231; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 267; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 279; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 358; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 393.
— TOP STORY —
“Tallahassee mounting legal challenge to Florida’s ‘anti-riot’ law” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee will mount a legal challenge to 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 among DeSantis’ top 2021 priorities. In March, Mayor John Dailey first pitched challenging the law and was vocally opposed to it during the 2021 Legislative Session. In a tweet Wednesday, he said: “We’re challenging HB1 because policy and budget decisions that affect your livelihood and well-being should be made by the government closest to the people with direct citizen input, not by the state through a line-item veto.”
John Dailey is taking on the state’s ‘anti-riot’ law. Image via Facebook.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Legislators to limit public input before drawing new redistricting maps” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — They will instead rely on the public to submit comments and maps through a redistricting website but, in response to questions from legislators at meetings this week, they have made no commitment they will review what they get. “We’re going to make everything available through the website and give the citizens the tools, the very tools that we have, and the very data that we have, and allow participation that way,’’ said Rep. Tom Leek, chair of the House Redistricting Committee.
“Health insurance advisory board mulls 2022 legislative recommendations” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics+ — Insurers would be required to provide patients with a complete copy of their medical record under a proposal presented to members of a health insurance advisory panel Tuesday. The Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board was asked to consider several potential changes to present to the Legislature for consideration in the 2022 Session. Board member Louisa McQueeney asked her peers to consider eight changes to individual and small group health insurance laws the advisory board should forward to legislators as recommendations that need legislative fixes to take effect.
“Lori Berman, Anna Eskamani try again to get guns out of hands of domestic abusers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sen. Berman and Rep. Eskamani are trying again to get guns out of the hands of people convicted of domestic violence. Berman’s Senate Bill 372 and Eskamani’s House Bill 83, both filed last month, require people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to surrender their firearms, ammunition, and concealed carry licenses to police. The bills also would provide police the authority to temporarily confiscate firearms at the scenes of reported domestic violence. Similar bills have been filed many times, including Berman’s Senate Bill 186 and Eskamani’s House Bill 709 in the 2021 Legislative Session. Those bills died without hearings, as have previous efforts.
Lori Berman and Anna Eskamani say no guns for abusers. “‘A ticking time bomb’: Lawmakers plan to address National Guard troop shortage” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — State lawmakers are hatching plans to bolster the ranks of Florida’s woefully staffed National Guard, suggesting they may send a joint letter to Congress or pass a memorial urging Washington to act. The political call-to-arms was swift, coming moments after Florida’s top-ranking general stressed the issue to a Senate panel. Florida, the general warned, is ill-positioned to handle its next major emergency or “worst day.” “This is stark. This is scary. It’s a ticking time bomb,” responded Sen. Danny Burgess, an Army Reservist and member of the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security. Florida ranks second to last in the Guard members-to-Citizen ratio with roughly 12,000 troops. That number, Florida’s top-general contends, should hover upward of 20,000.
“Police brief Senate panel on ‘new frontier’ issues cops face statewide” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Members of Florida’s law enforcement community briefed a Senate committee Tuesday on various issues, including state crime trends, policing and community violence. Led by Chair Jason Pizzo, the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice explored methods to address those issues and others: officer retention and recruitment, mental health and social media investigations. The collective of officers described social media as the new frontier of policing. Perpetrators frequently share relevant information, such as a picture of a firearm, on social media posts and via direct messages.
“Lawmakers file bill to broaden DUI laws” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Two lawmakers are proposing legislation that would broaden the application of Florida’s DUI laws to specifically include prescription and over-the-counter drugs. However, the proposals (SB 436 & HB 271) would broaden the definition of “controlled substances” to include prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that are known to impair motorists. Presently, the state uses a running list of controlled substances to enforce DUI laws. The bill sponsors. Rep. Joe Casello and Sen. Lori Berman, contend the list cannot keep up with the latest drug trends, thus creating a loophole within state law.
”Jordan Leonard hauls in more than $21K in September, tops HD 100 field” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bay Harbor Islands Council member and former Mayor Leonard raised more than $21,000 in September, putting him atop the House District 100 field and increasing his cash lead. Leonard collected more than $11,000 through his political campaign. That includes a $5,000 loan from Leonard to his campaign account. A Miami Beach real estate development company, South Beach Ocean Parcel II, contributed another $10,000 to Leonard’s political committee, Americans for Florida. That gives Leonard more than $135,000 in cash on hand available as of Sept. 30. Leonard is competing for the Democratic nomination in HD 100 against Todd Delmay, Clay Miller and Evan Shields.
“Anti-immigrant group almost redefined “White nationalism” in Florida legislation” via Michael Marchrowicz of the Miami New Times — When it comes to the definition of “White nationalist,” there is no nuance. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a White nationalist as “one of a group of militant white people who espouse White supremacy” According to Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN), it takes one to know one. The lobbying group that works to introduce anti-immigration ideology into state policy defines a White nationalist as “a Caucasian who supports the rule of law and America First,” and the group seems determined to insert that definition into Florida legislation.
“Lawmakers learn of ‘technological revolution’ coming to Florida’s farms” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Florida’s farmers are readying for a “technological revolution,” according to a Wednesday morning presentation in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Those new technologies can better help farmers prepare harvests, diagnose crop abnormalities and deal with invasive weeds and insects. Nathan Boyd explained the potential benefits to lawmakers Wednesday morning. Boyd helps study the science of weeds and how to implement technology to target them. By using deep learning technology, Boyd said farmers will train a computer to recognize weeds inside a field and deploy treatments that target only weeds and not the surrounding crops. Those AI programs are taught to differentiate between photos of weeds and crops, allowing for more targeted treatment efforts.
“House seeks answers on fighting red tide horrors” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Gil McRae, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, updated the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee on the horrors unleashed by harmful algal blooms this year. “One thing with this particular red ride event is that it has gone far up into the estuaries,” he said. Rep. Allison Tant questioned what impact the Piney Point disaster earlier this year had on blooms. McRae echoed testimony by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton earlier this year, in that scientists cannot conclusively say the Piney Point releases directly fed red tide. More likely, drought conditions contributed to the worsened impacts of blooms this year.
“Lawmaker: Furry friends deserve dignity” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics+ — All dogs (and cats) may go to heaven, but at least one state Senator wants to make sure their remains are treated with dignity here on Earth. Sen. Gayle Harrell has filed for the third time a bill to regulate animal crematoriums and to establish the rights of pet owners allowing them to sue businesses that don’t follow the guidelines. Specifically, SB 416 requires animal crematorium businesses to provide information about their services free of charge to veterinarians, pet shops and businesses that advise pet owners on funeral services or regularly refer pet owners for such services. The information also must be provided to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Our four-legged companions deserve dignity, says Gayle Harrell. “Lawmakers to consider $3.2M payment to woman injured by state employee in grisly car crash” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics+ — More than two years after a state employee’s on-road inattention led to a grisly highway accident that left a Monticello woman permanently injured and unable to work, lawmakers will decide whether to pay the woman the remaining balance of a nearly $3.4 million settlement. Republican Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin of Miami-Dade and Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg this month filed twin bills for the 2022 Legislative Session that, if approved, would direct the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to pay Donna Catalano $3.175 million.
“Why Ray Rodrigues returned contributions from Senate GOP leaders” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Rodrigues received donations in September from political committees run by Senate GOP leadership, but he promptly returned the checks. It’s not a beef with his Senate colleagues, he said. As chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, he doesn’t want any appearance of impropriety. “I want to make sure I am not doing anything that would appear to be a conflict,” the Estero Republican told Florida Politics. Republican Leader Debbie Mayfield’s Conservatives for Good Government committee donated $1,000 to Rodrigues’ campaign on Sept. 8. So did Working Together for Florida PAC, the committee associated with Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who is in line to be Senate President if Republicans maintain control of the chamber in 2022. Rodrigues returned both checks on Sept. 28.
“Facing worsening backlog, ethics panel seeks additional staff” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida Commission on Ethics will ask the Legislature for spending flexibility to deal with a backlog in cases that is expected to worsen. In a budget workshop Tuesday, Commissioners agreed to ask lawmakers to continue its current funding level, which amounts to $2.7 billion. However, Commissioner Don Gaetz raised concerns that the team is understaffed, making it difficult to eat into the existing accumulation of ethics cases. Plus, the continued implementation of 2018’s Amendment 12, which places business and lobbying restrictions on former lawmakers, is expected to deepen the backlog. Two other parts of the amendment aren’t set to become law until Dec. 31, 2022. Gaetz has met with legislative leadership this week as lawmakers prepare to draft language for the lobby ban.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Laura Boehmer, The Southern Group: Royal Caribbean Group
Rosanna Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Englewood Water District
Jorge Chamizo, Floridian Partners: DocuSign
Jake Farmer: Walgreen Company
Eduardo Gonzalez, William McRea, Sun City Strategies: Miami Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #20
Karin Hoffman, Key Innovative Solutions: Associated Builders & Contractors Florida East Coast Chapter
Julia Juarez, JEJ & Associates: Village of Estero
Andrew Kingman: TikTok
Denise Lasher, Lasher Consulting: Best Friends Animal Society
John Learn: BayCare
Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Armor Exploration
Adam Potts, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: City of Defuniak Springs
Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Deloitte Consulting
Geoffrey Sluggett, Mary McNicholas, Geoffrey B. Sluggett & Associates: Indian Trail Improvement District
Rashad Thomas: AT&T
Heather Turnbull, Jacqui Carmona, Erica Chanti, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority, Town Of Highland Beach
— STATEWIDE —
Happening today — Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez will appear at a Latinos for USA event, 6 p.m., Hilton Palm Beach Airport, 150 Australian Ave., West Palm Beach.
“They work at Florida’s last unemployment call center. And they know what it’s like to lose a job.” via Caroline Glenn of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — At the state’s only remaining call center helping people apply for unemployment, there’s a special empathy for the laid-off workers on the other end of the line. The staff at Lighthouse Works, a nonprofit that’s operated in Orlando for 10 years, are mostly blind, and for many, losing their vision also meant losing their jobs. Not unlike the thousands of Floridians who have lost jobs during the pandemic, for some of the call agents at Lighthouse Works, suddenly being unemployed was a shock to the system that threatened to upend their very lives. The nonprofit was getting between 3,000 and 4,000 claimant calls per month before the pandemic. Afterward, Lighthouse hired more agents so it could handle triple that.
“Florida to get $1.1 billion boost in Medicaid money” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics+ — The federal government has given Florida “conditional approval” of a plan to pump $1.1 billion in increased federal Medicaid funds into home and community-based services, according to a top health care official in DeSantis’ administration. Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller told members of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee this week that her agency was preparing budget documents that would spell out how the state plans to distribute the money among the various home and community-based services providers that treat people on the Managed Long-Term Care and iBudget Medicaid waivers.
Simone Marstiller makes plans for a major cash influx. Image via Facebook. “Federal judge tosses challenge to air ambulance ‘balance billing’ law” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A North Florida federal judge Wednesday issued a final order dismissing a challenge to a 2020 law banning non-contracted air ambulance providers from “balance billing” insured patients. Balance billing is a practice that providers use to charge a patient the balance of bills not paid by insurance, and it can cost those left on the hook in the tens of thousands. Florida Association of Health Plans President and CEO Audrey Brown, a lobbyist who pushed for the law, hailed Wednesday’s ruling. “Florida is the only state in the nation to find a legislative path forward, that has been upheld time and again by the court system, to ban air ambulances from balance billing Floridians, an anti-consumer practice that burdened our state’s families,” she said.
High court to take up Duke Energy challenge to refund order — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in Duke Energy’s challenge to a 2020 Public Service Commission order requiring the company to refund $16.1 million to customers. Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reported that the order stems from a 2017 turbine failure that required Duke to temporarily shut down its Bartow plant and purchase replacement power from elsewhere. An administrative law judge ruled that Duke should refund customers because it should have known it was operating the turbine outside of its design specifications. Duke is asking for the PSC order to be overturned because, according to Duke, the utility regulatory company mistakenly assumed it was bound to concur with the order. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 7.
“Citizens Property Insurance executive Barry Gilway says he needs rate flexibility” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The longtime head of Florida’s state-created property insurer contended Wednesday that Citizens Property Insurance needs to increase its rates at a much swifter pace than currently allowed by law. Gilway, president and CEO of Citizens, maintained that the current rate structure for insurers is “not sustainable” and that Citizens rates are moving further and further out of line with other carriers that have resorted to significant rate hikes as Florida’s overall residential insurance market continues to teeter. “We’re not supposed to be the cheapest on the street,” Gilway told members of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. Gilway told legislators that right now, 91% of Citizens homeowners policy customers pay less than the average charged by competitors.
“Nearly 2 of every 10 Florida children age 10-17 are obese, new report says” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida has seen a drop in the number of children and teenagers classified as being obese, but there are still plenty of warning signs, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The organization found that in 2020 that obesity rates for children between the ages of 10 and 17 dropped to an average of 15.8%, a 2% decline, even as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted schools and daily life. The overall number places Florida ninth nationally in the percentage of obese children between ages 10 and 17. But when broken down by race and ethnicity, the data shows that Black and Hispanic children nationally have higher obesity rates than their non-Hispanic White peers.
“Not a lot of vape shops applying for new nicotine permits” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — One. That’s how many vape shops have applied for and received permits to sell nicotine products under the new “Tobacco 21” law the Florida Legislature approved last spring. There also are 28,680 other stores that sell tobacco, and many of them also sell electronic cigarette products. They already have licenses, tobacco licenses, so they don’t need the new license, which was designed for shops that just sell electronic cigarette products and devices. The so-called “vape shops” now must be regulated and monitored to make sure they only sell to people aged 21 or older, and meet other requirements, under Senate Bill 1080.
New regulations fail to attract vape shops. “Starving manatees: Will Florida spend $7 million more to help save them?” via Max Chesnes of Treasure Coast Newspapers — 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. A private citizen caught feeding a manatee can be fined up to $500. But as winter nears and manatees’ main food source, seagrass, is in short supply in the Indian River Lagoon, officials are considering whether to feed them, said Gil McRae, director of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: 2,505 more cases added, new county death tolls released” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,614,272 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 57,303 deaths since the pandemic began. In the past seven days, the state has added, on average, 240 deaths and 2,870 cases per day, according to Herald calculations of CDC data. It is unclear when these newly reported deaths occurred. The Community Profile Report updates Florida’s county death tolls and rates about once every seven days, on or after the COVID-19 weekly situation report is published by the Florida Department of Health on Fridays.
“Florida’s plan to defund counties — and make them sicker — through vaccine fines” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The Florida Department of Health wants to fine Leon County $3.57 million for requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s a significant chunk of money. Where’s the county going to go to find it? The easiest place is where the county spends the most money: public safety. Fully half the increased spending in Leon County’s new budget is dedicated to law enforcement and fire services, including 10 new positions for the Sheriff’s Office. These are the decisions Florida is forcing counties like Leon to make because of the state’s heavy-handed, authoritarian approach to managing the pandemic. If you think the fine against Leon, Florida’s 22nd largest county, is large, wait until the Department of Health sets its sights on Orange County, the fifth-largest.
Ron DeSantis’ plan to defund counties (through vaccine fines) will only make people sicker. Image via AP. “Senators want more COVID-19 data from Health Department” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate Health Policy Committee drilled representatives of DeSantis‘ administration Tuesday on what data is and isn’t presented on COVID-19, then heard about how the pandemic has created a staffing crisis with no end in sight. Presenters from the Florida Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration were pressed from the left and right about what data is provided, and where gaps remain in the presentation. Chair Manny Diaz Jr. stopped the presentation mid-deck for questions. Diaz, who briefly floated legislation questioning not just COVID-19 shots, but vaccines writ large, wanted details about people who had been infected previously in the data, offering some weight to natural immunity in addition to documentation of vaccine rates.
“Hundreds of doctors call for more scrutiny into Ron DeSantis’ Surgeon General nominee” via Clare Heddles of WJCT — More than 350 Florida doctors signed a letter asking state lawmakers to closely scrutinize DeSantis’ nomination for surgeon general, a doctor who eschews much of the common medical advice about COVID-19. At least 19 Jacksonville doctors signed the letter regarding Dr. Joseph Ladapo. They included Dr. Leonardo Alonso, an emergency physician who worries his patients will get confused with someone at the top spreading misinformation. Ladapo opposes mask mandates and believes COVID-19 vaccines are overrated. He has supported natural immunity or achieving herd immunity by allowing less vulnerable people to become infected. Ladapo also has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, contradicting conclusions of the WHO that the drug does not work.
“In dead of night (again), Jacksonville City Council approves personally chosen list of COVID-19 grant recipients” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Mostly defiant members of the Jacksonville City Council late Tuesday overwhelming approved doling out $4.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to 38 organizations they hand-picked with no formal criteria, ranging from well-known nonprofits to one for-profit company in Gadsden County, and to more obscure groups with personal connections to the council members who selected them. “We did what we did,” council member Joyce Morgan said during a long soliloquy defending her choices. The legislation was put on an emergency legislative cycle, meaning the normal six-week path a bill takes through committee hearings and approvals was condensed to a simple up or down vote Tuesday.
“‘Day of Remembrance’ at Jacksonville park Sunday to honor COVID-19 victims” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Flags will cover the field Sunday at James P. Small Park in memory of the almost 3,000 Jacksonville residents and others worldwide lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. “A Day of Remembrance, Hope and Unity” will also offer speakers, music, information and free coronavirus vaccinations. The sponsor is the Jacksonville COVID-19 Taskforce, part of a statewide group formed in 2020 to promote the vaccine in the Black community. “This event allows the … task force to provide support, encouragement and hope to our community,” former Mayor Alvin Brown, chair of the local group, said.
Jacksonville will host its own COVID-19 memorial. Image via AP. “State attorneys, public defenders voice recruitment and retention concerns” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — State attorneys and public defenders are pleading with lawmakers ahead of the upcoming Session to provide courts more resources to tackle the backlog of cases created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other needs, the offices are desperately seeking more money to bolster salaries as a means to recruit and retain staff. The situation, they explained, is dire. “We’re in a crisis,” said Stacy Scott, public defender for Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit. Speaking Wednesday to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, Scott and State Attorney Jack Campbell pleaded their case to lawmakers.
“Orlando, Tampa end water emergencies as virus fades” via The Associated Press — Two of Florida’s largest cities have ended water emergencies now that COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined drastically in the state. Back in August, the city-owned Orlando Utilities Commission asked residents to stop watering their lawns or washing their cars because liquid oxygen that is used for treating the city’s water was being diverted to hospitals for patients suffering from the virus. Around the same time, the Tampa Water Department started using chlorine instead of its usual liquid oxygen method to disinfect its water of viruses and bacteria because liquid oxygen was being diverted to local hospitals. Utility officials in Orlando said Tuesday that residents can resume their normal water use, including irrigating their lawns and washing their cars.
— 2022 —
So petty — “Florida takes four months to tell voting rights advocate Desmond Meade his civil rights are restored” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Meade had been fighting for 11 years to get his civil rights restored, only to have his quest repeatedly end abruptly at yet another Clemency Board hearing. According to his certificate, Meade’s rights ended up being restored via an executive order by the Office of Executive Clemency on June 23, shortly after the June Clemency Board meeting. But it took almost four months for him to be notified. Meade said of the 11 years it took to gain back his civil rights, “if a person who’s done the things that I’ve done can have a hard time getting their rights restored, what does that say about everybody else?”
Restoring Desmond Meade’s rights was, in the end, a low-key affair. Image via AP. “State Board of Education notifies Brevard School Board that salaries will be withheld” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — The Florida Board of Education officially notified the Brevard County School Board that it will withhold board member salaries as long as the school district’s mask mandate remains in place. The School Board was given 48 hours to either remove its mask mandate or confirm the annual salaries of board members. If the board doesn’t comply, the Florida Department of Education will withhold state funds equal to board members’ monthly salaries for each month the mask mandate remains in place. The department will also withhold funds matching any federal grant intended to compensate for the loss in wages to prevent the federal government from using COVID-19 relief funds to cover board members’ salaries.
“Marco Rubio hauls in $6M in fundraising as Florida GOP senator gears up for 2022 reelection” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — Rubio hauled in $6 million in fundraising during the July-September third quarter of fundraising. His fundraising the past three months is an increase from the $4 million he brought in during the April-June second quarter and brings to nearly $12 million the amount he’s raised so far this year for this 2022 reelection campaign. Rubio also reported an impressive $9.6 million cash on hand in his campaign coffers at the beginning of October. The senator’s campaign noted that Rubio’s third quarter haul is nearly double what any Republican Party senator up for reelection raised during the third quarter of 2019, the comparable quarter in the 2020 cycle.
“The first five maps for Florida’s congressional districts are in” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida’s first redistricting proposals are in. Members of the public have started to submit maps on FloridaRedisting.gov. Amateur cartographers from across the state and beyond have already jumped into the process. Lawmakers this year have required the identity of all submitted maps to be available with the proposals. None of the individuals to file maps thus far has any significant digital footprint, and it’s unclear what interests they may hold in the reapportionment process. Rep. Tyler Sirois expressed excitement that proposals have already started to roll in. “As far as public input goes, this website is phenomenal,” Sirois said. “The resources it offers to the residents of our state and our Legislature is something to be proud of moving forward.”
“In the CD 20 special election, one candidate declares opposition to Iron Dome funding” via Matthew Kassel of Jewish Insider — While the leading contenders all seem largely aligned in their support for Israel — a cause championed by Hastings — 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, Hardy expressed his firm opposition to legislation that would grant $1 billion in supplemental aid for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. The bill, which is currently stalled in the Senate, was overwhelmingly approved last month by both parties following an emotionally charged House vote in which just eight Democrats and one Republican voted against the measure. “I would have voted no,” Hardy said bluntly.
“Gambling initiatives race a short calendar” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gambling advocates racing to place two constitutional amendments on the 2022 ballot are at the point where they’ll have to be collecting about 100,000 petition signatures per week — each — through the rest of 2021. Through Tuesday, Florida Voters in Charge, pushing a proposed constitutional amendment to allow certain existing North Florida parimutuel-based card rooms to move to bigger, better locations as full-service casinos, had 48,042 validated signatures. Another committee called Florida Education Champions, pushing a proposed constitutional amendment to expand sports betting in Florida, had 32,959 signatures collected and validated. They each need 891,589 signatures to get on the 2022 ballot. To get that — considering the typical 20% to 30% signature rejection rate — they would be wise to collect at least 1.2 million signatures, informed observers suggested.
—“Nick DiCeglie raises $18K in September for Senate bid” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
—”Ana Maria Rodriguez adds $36K in September to defend SD 39 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
Wilton Simpson, John Thrasher endorse Jessica Baker for HD 12 — Assistant State Attorney Baker on Wednesday added endorsements from Senate President Simpson and former FSU President Thrasher in the Republican Primary for House District 12. Simpson, running for Agriculture Commissioner, praised Baker as “a pro-business, pro-life, common-sense conservative, who will fight for our shared values in Tallahassee.” Thrasher, meanwhile, said she is “a constitutional conservative who will defend the rule of law, protect Florida’s families and fight for the American Dream for all Floridians.” The Simpson and Thrasher endorsements landed a couple of days after Baker announced nods from Republican Reps. Wyman Duggan and Jason Fischer. She faces Republican former Rep. Lake Ray, who has banked endorsements from Sen. Aaron Bean and state Reps. Chuck Brannan, Cord Byrd and Chris Latvala, as well as Clay Yarborough, the HD 12 incumbent who is vacating the seat to run for state Senate.
“Dotie Joseph adds more than $29K in September as Roy Hardemon again files in HD 108” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Joseph raised more than $29,000 in September as she prepares to defend her seat in House District 108 against a familiar foe. Former Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon has filed to run again in HD 108 after losing to Joseph in two straight cycles. He submitted paperwork on Sept. 21 and hasn’t shown any money raised for his challenge yet. Joseph first ousted Hardemon from the HD 108 seat in 2018, defeating him in a three-way Democratic Primary 49%-36%. After Hardemon filed to run again in 2020, Joseph increased her margin in the August 2020 Primary, winning another three-way race over Hardemon 58%-31%.
—”Grassroots support ups Daryl Campbell’s fundraising lead in 5-way race for open HD 94 seat” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
Happening this weekend:
— CORONA NATION —
“Anthony Fauci says other variants not expected to ‘outstrip’ delta as new one emerges” via María Paúl of The Washington Post — Fauci said health experts are not expecting a variant “that’s going to outstrip the capability of delta,” even as another one has just been detected in Louisiana. Dubbed B.1.630, the iteration was sequenced last week from two samples collected in Baton Rouge. First detected in March in the Dominican Republic, it is one of over a dozen “variants under monitoring” designated by the WHO. Since May 2020, the COVID-19-causing virus has mutated into a slew of variants, yet none as potent as delta, which drove a surge in cases throughout August and September in the United States. There have been 79 of these variants reported in the country, but scientists said they will continue to monitor the new variant.
Anthony Fauci says the next variant will not pack as big a punch. Image via AP. “Fauci says U.S. coronavirus rates declining but virus is not yet under control” via María Paúl of The Washington Post — After another period of acceleration, coronavirus cases in the United States are falling again but the virus is not yet under “control,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said. “We had an acceleration. We had a peak. … All three of the parameters — cases, hospitalizations and deaths — are going down. But we have got to do better than that.” The comments from the White House’s chief medical adviser come amid hope that the summer surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus is ebbing. Yet while the numbers are dropping, Fauci cautioned that the rates have surged from low points in the past.
“U.S. to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated” via The Associated Press — The U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic. The new rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.
“COVID-19 booster shots overtake first doses in the U.S.” via Caitlin Owens of Axios — More Americans are getting a booster dose of coronavirus vaccine each day than are getting their first shot. Some individuals will undoubtedly benefit from getting a booster shot, but experts say that the most important goal for the U.S. right now should be convincing vaccine holdouts to get their initial round of shots. Two-thirds of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, as has about 77% of the eligible population. Only 4.6% of the U.S. population has received a booster shot, as most Americans aren’t yet eligible. However, nearly 12% of people 65 and older have received a booster.
Wonderful! — “People who received a J&J vaccine may be better off with a Moderna or Pfizer booster, a study finds” via Carl Zimmer and Noah Weiland of The New York Times — People who received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may be better off with a booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech. That finding, along with a mixed review of Johnson & Johnson’s booster data from the FDA released earlier in the day, could lead to a heated debate about whether and how to offer additional shots to the 15 million Americans who have received the single-dose vaccine. The agency’s panel of vaccine advisers will meet Friday and vote on whether to recommend that the agency authorize the company’s application for boosters for recipients of its vaccine.
A cross-vaccine booster is effective for those getting the J&J shot. Image via AP. “Federal vaccine mandates can override Texas’ sweeping new ban, experts say.” via Dan Levin of The New York Times — An order by the Governor of Texas barring nearly all COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the state appears sweeping. But legal experts say that it does not supersede Biden’s orders requiring vaccine mandates for many kinds of employees and that it is likely to be challenged in court, where the case law so far has been heavily in favor of the validity of vaccine requirements. “Texas has just set itself up for a grand political show, but not a potentially legally sound initiative to stop all vaccine mandates,” said James Hodge, the director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University. “It boils down to a lot more politics than law.”
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Serious financial problems afflict 40% of U.S. households in recent months” via Amanda Holpuch of The Guardian — Nearly 40% of U.S. households have faced serious financial problems, including struggling to afford medical care and food, in the last few months. The survey also showed that in those last few months, the percentage of households reporting serious financial problems rose to 59% when they had an income under $50,000 a year. Among those lower-income households, 30% said they had lost all their savings during the coronavirus pandemic. Reports of serious financial problems were not equal across racial and ethnic groups: 57% of Latinos, 56% of Black people and 50% of Native Americans said they had experienced serious financial problems in the past few months, compared with 29% of white people.
A significant number of American households have struggled in the pandemic. Image via The Wall Street Journal. “Inflation soars to 13 year high” via The Associated Press — Another surge in consumer prices in September pushed inflation up 5.4% from where it was a year ago, matching the highest shift since 2008. U.S. consumer prices rose 0.4% in September from August as the costs of new cars, food, gas, and restaurant meals all jumped. The annual increase in the consumer price index matched readings in June and July as the highest in 13 years. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core inflation rose 0.2% in September and 4% compared with a year ago. Core prices hit a three-decade high of 4.5% in June. COVID-19 has shut down factories in Asia and slowed U.S. port operations, leaving container ships anchored at sea and consumers and businesses paying more for goods that may not arrive for months.
— MORE CORONA —
“WHO says global COVID-19 deaths fell to lowest level in a year last week” via Robert Towey of CNBC — COVID-19 deaths fell to their lowest level in almost a year last week at nearly 50,000 fatalities, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. COVID-19 are declining in every region except Europe, but vaccine inequities continue to plague much of the developing world. Tedros said 56 countries did not reach the WHO’s goal of vaccinating 10% of their populations against COVID-19 by the end of September, adding that reported deaths have been highest in countries with the least access to the shots. “It’s still an unacceptably high level, almost 50,000 deaths a week,” Tedros said at a COVID-19 briefing. “And the real number is certainly higher.”
COVID-19 deaths hit a low point. Image via AP. “Joe Biden admin warns Moderna to ‘step up’ global vaccine supply” via Bob Herman of Axios — The federal government is demanding Moderna provide enough vaccines to the global initiative COVAX, at not-for-profit prices, a top federal official said during an intense panel event today. “We expect that Moderna will step up as a company,” David Kessler, the Biden administration’s chief science officer of the COVID-19 response, said, adding Moderna has additional capacity to meet these demands. Kessler said Moderna can make at least 1 billion extra doses in the short-term. He said the government has made Moderna aware it has already received $10 billion from taxpayers that helped fund the research and supply current doses.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“White House scrambles to address looming Christmas crisis” via Steven Overly of POLITICO — Biden is rushing to relieve congestion across the nation’s complex shipping supply chain as it threatens to disrupt the holiday season for millions of Americans. The White House is leaning heavily on port operators, transportation companies and labor unions to work around the clock unloading ships and hauling cargo to warehouses around the country. Biden will meet virtually with industry leaders before delivering a speech on the administration’s efforts to address the bottlenecks. There’s a growing fear among retailers that Washington’s efforts can do little at this point to save the all-important holiday shopping season.
Can Joe Biden save Christmas? “Biden administration orders halt to ICE raids at worksites” via Nick Miroff of The Washington Post — The Biden administration Tuesday ordered a halt to large-scale immigration arrests at job sites, and said it is planning a new enforcement strategy to more effectively target employers who pay substandard wages and engage in exploitative labor practices. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s memo ordered a review of enforcement policies and gave immigration officials 60 days to devise proposals to better protect workers who report on their bosses from facing deportation. Mass arrest operations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly referred to as ICE raids, have been used primarily against industries that employ large numbers of immigrants, such as meatpacking.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Donald Trump thinks there’s something suspicious about Black voting (again)” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — At this point, it’s hard to tell if Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election are old or new. It’s not new that Trump would make allegations of fraud that impugn Black people in particular. Trump alleges that Obama outperformed Biden with Black voters everywhere but in five swing states. Biden did better than Obama with Black voters in non-swing states, which isn’t what Trump had asserted. Heavily Black counties in swing states cast about 223,000 more votes for Biden in 2020 than for Obama in 2008, but heavily Black counties in non-swing states cast about 235,000 more votes for Biden.
Donald Trump casts doubts again on Black turnout. Image via Getty. “The final days at Trump Justice” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — Democrats can’t quit the 2020 election any more than Trump can, and their latest effort in looking backward is a Senate report that suggests the former President nearly succeeded in corrupting the Justice Department with a goal of overturning the election result. Except that the facts tell a different story. Dick Durbin’s Judiciary Committee issued a report Thursday focusing on, among other things, then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark and a draft letter he wanted to send in December recommending that state legislatures convene special sessions to void Biden’s victory.
“The case for not prosecuting Trump” via William D. Cohan of Puck — Before anyone gets too exercised by the possibility of Trump in an orange jumpsuit, certain additional facts must be considered. First, by all accounts, we know that Trump rarely used email, which means the chance of finding his contemporaneous thoughts as he was seeking loans from Deutsche Bank or representing the value of his assets to the Internal Revenue Service will be a major challenge. The truth is that there is always a bit of a cat-and-mouse game when it comes to getting a loan, especially for a project that doesn’t yet exist. The more I think about it, the best course of action is to complete a careful and detailed review of the evidence against Trump and then to drop the case, unless the evidence is very different from what I suspect is sitting in the D.A.’s files.
— CRISIS —
“Jeff Rosen, former acting AG under Trump, appears before Jan. 6 committee” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — Rosen, the acting attorney general during the final days of the Trump administration, sat for an interview with the Jan. 6 select committee Wednesday. The committee also subpoenaed another top Trump Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, for documents and testimony, with a deadline of Oct. 29. Rosen has detailed, firsthand knowledge of Trump’s attempt to dragoon the DOJ into his effort to overturn the 2020 election. But it’s unclear how much new information the panel will get from him.
Jeff Rosen gets gilled by the Jan. 6 select committee. Image via AP. “Stephanie Murphy wants Jan. 6 panel to use jail threat to enforce subpoenas” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Murphy, a member of the House Jan. 6 Commission investigating the Capitol insurrection, said she would recommend jail time and fines for subpoenaed witnesses who fail to show up to testify. Murphy is a member of the investigatory panel formally known as The National Commission to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex. Murphy assured the hosts she expects the panel to enforce subpoenas to “the full extent of consequences that is available by the law.” None of the people in the recent rounds of subpoenas have confirmed they will appear before the committee, leading to speculation that many might refuse, particularly Mark Meadows, who said he was turning the matter over to his attorneys.
“Judge calls for Justice Dept. civil rights probe into D.C. jail’s treatment of Jan. 6 detainees” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A federal judge found the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court Wednesday and called on the Justice Department to investigate whether the jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth acted after finding that jail officials failed to turn over information needed to approve surgery recommended four months ago for a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant’s broken wrist. The defendant, Christopher Worrell, is an accused Florida Proud Boys member charged with four felonies, including rioting and spraying pepper gel at police at a critical point leading to the initial Capitol breach.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Most Democrats favor a bigger bill on social safety net and climate” via Jennifer Agiesta and Ariel Edwards-Levy of CNN — As congressional Democrats negotiate the size and scope of a budget bill that could significantly remake the social safety net in the United States, a new poll finds 75% of the Party’s rank-and-file prefer a bill that goes further to expand the social safety net and combat climate change over one that costs less and enacts fewer of those policies. Support for an economic bill that enacts the proposed social safety net and climate change policies is broadest among liberal Democrats (84%), but two-thirds of moderates and conservatives in the party share that view (67%). Despite this relative agreement, the poll also suggests a near-even split among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents over which faction in this intraparty debate is doing more to help the Party overall.
Rank-and-file Democrats support a bigger safety net. Image via The Washington Post. “Florida Republicans want Biden to sanction non-Cubans who do business with the regime” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — A group of Republicans in Congress wants to give the President widespread authority to sanction non-Cubans who do business with the country’s defense, security and intelligence sectors. Scott announced Tuesday that he’s introducing the Denying Earnings to the Military Oligarchy in Cuba and Restricting Activities of the Cuban Intelligence Apparatus (DEMOCRACIA) Act. Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds is introducing identical legislation in the U.S. House. Miami’s entire Cuban American contingent in Congress is backing the bill. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP U.S. Reps. Carlos Giménez, Mario Diaz-Balart and Maria Elvira Salazar are co-sponsoring the legislation.
“Toxic texts: Matt Gaetz’s friends assume the FBI is reading their messages to the embattled Congressman” via Robin Bravender of Business Insider — Rep. Gaetz‘s friends think twice these days before texting the Florida Republican. “They know that there’s a massive investigation going on,” one Gaetz friend told Insider. So, when Gaetz’s friends and associates communicate with the Congressman, they’re mindful of the possibility that Uncle Sam is watching. Some of Gaetz’s associates and former friends have been surprised to see their names linked to the Congressman in news reports and social-media threads. Earlier this year, reporters and data geeks were digging into Gaetz’s Venmo contacts in the wake of reports that Gaetz had used the app to pay Joel Greenberg, who later used the app to send money to women.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Ashley Moody sues Olympus Pools over hundreds of unfinished jobs” via Jackie Callaway of WFTS — Moody is suing now-shuttered Olympus Pools and its owner for taking upfront payments and leaving jobs incomplete. The move comes less than a week after I-Team investigator Jackie Callaway, who’s been covering the Olympus Pools saga for months, asked the AG’s office when it would release the findings of its investigation. Moody’s office said Olympus Pools, Inc., and owner James I. Staten, Jr., allegedly accepted payments from hundreds of consumers in exchange for contracted pool services, then failed to perform the services as promised. The unfinished jobs sometimes leaving consumers with giant holes on their property.
Ashley Moody takes on Olympus for shoddy work. “Leon County Commissioners will meet privately to discuss $3.57 million vaccine fine” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Commissioners will meet in what’s known as a “shade” meeting on how to defend against a multimillion dollar fine leveled by the state for imposing a vaccine requirement on employees. Normally in Florida, official action has to be discussed in the “sunshine” at open and public meetings. But state law allows elected officials to meet in the “shade” to discuss legal strategy under an attorney-client exemption to the Sunshine Laws. Such meetings can precede legal action. Commissioners will talk with County Attorney Chasity O’Steen privately to figure out a response to the $3.57 million in fines levied by the Florida Department of Health. They did not set a date, but the shade meeting is expected to happen soon; the fine must be paid by Nov. 5.
“Could Key West compromise on cruise ships?” via Mandy Miles of Keys Weekly — City lawmakers changed the course of Key West’s cruise ship conversation Oct. 5, introducing words like, “compromise,” “mediation,” “stakeholders,” “discussion” and “input from all sides” ideas that had been raised by some business owners 19 months ago. Commissioner Greg Davila suggested a meeting of all stakeholders, including Safer Cleaner Ships, which led the voter-approved 95% reduction in cruise ship traffic, and the owners of Pier B, the privately-owned cruise dock that has given the city 25% of its cruise ship revenue for nearly 30 years. City Attorney Shawn Smith has repeatedly warned about a costly lawsuit from Pier B if the city infringes on its business and revenue.
“Political purity tests shake up Miami Beach race, while candidates push crime initiatives” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — In an election where just about every politician is talking tough on crime in South Beach, it can be difficult for candidates to distinguish themselves. Bringing up Trump’s name is one way to divide the field. Miami Beach’s Group 3 Commission race is nonpartisan, but the two non-Democrats in the field of four seeking to replace term-limited Commissioner Michael Gongora have faced political attacks about whether their “values” align with Miami Beach’s liberal voting base. “Trump. DeSantis. Beattie. Here we go again,” reads one attack ad targeting Melissa Beattie, a registered independent and first-time political candidate. The mailer labeled Beattie an “extremist” because her campaign manager has worked for Republican candidates.
“‘Save jobs.’ South Beach hospitality workers protest 2 a.m. booze ban outside City Hall” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The protesters, who work at late-night clubs like Mango’s Tropical Cafe and the Clevelander, waved signs, wore matching T-shirts and shouted their opposition to any attempt at shutting down booze sales early. Mango’s owner David Wallack led the crowd — estimated to be at least 170 workers and business leaders — in chants of “Stop the Lies” and “Vote No, Save Jobs.” Wallack and others in the crowd challenged the argument made by proponents of the 2 a.m. shut-off, including Mayor Dan Gelber, that the late-night business model has contributed to the crime and disorder that has upset residents and led to international news coverage. Crime actually went down in 2020, according to Miami Beach Police data.
“‘Enough buildings’: Brickell residents oppose church plan to sell land for development” via Kalia Richardson of the Miami Herald — Samantha Castellano sits in Mary Brickell Park watching her 5-year-old son scale the rope ladder and slip down the slide. As a Brickell resident for 15 years, she’s seen residential and office towers clog the skyline. At nine months pregnant, Castellano, 38, said she has a big problem with First Miami Presbyterian Church looking to sell some of its land to a developer. “I think there should be more green spaces and not more buildings,” said Castellano. Owning one of the last waterfront properties in Brickell, the church is looking to sell the parking lot and the Key Point Christian Academy building at 609 Brickell Avenue to a real estate firm to develop a soaring residential high-rise.
First Miami Presbyterian Church plans to sell some of its prime real estate. “Residents sent packing as Broward beachfront condo is ordered closed” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A condo building in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea was evacuated after authorities said electrical problems raised the risk of fire and electrocution. And residents might be unable to return to their homes for several months because of delays in getting hold of some equipment. The town estimates about 60 people were ordered out of the mid-rise Crane Crest Apartments. Florida Power & Light did not turn off the power saying the building is safe as long as it is not occupied. Jim Hook, the homeowner association’s vice president, said a temporary fix for the electrical equipment could happen as quickly as two weeks, but anticipated supply chain issues for the specialized equipment could drag out residents’ return for months.
“Boynton Beach to settle lawsuit after whitewashing mural featuring city’s first Black female firefighter” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It was designed to honor Boynton Beach’s first Black female firefighter, but instead, it turned into a racial firestorm for the city after her face was replaced with a White face on a public mural. Now, the city is ponying up to settle a lawsuit filed by the firefighter, Latosha Clemons, in April. Boynton Beach has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle the case, Mayor Steven Grant said. The lawsuit claimed defamation and negligence in the city’s handling of the mural, which generated national headlines after being unveiled in June 2020. The lawsuit claimed Clemons suffered mental and emotional harm as well as damage to her reputation.
“Tampa Community Redevelopment Agency to vote on giving Straz Center $25 million Thursday” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Tampa’s Community Redevelopment Agency will vote on giving the Straz Center $25 million Thursday. Tampa’s City Council members, acting in their capacity as the Community Redevelopment Agency, will vote Thursday on whether they should approve the largest single-funding request in the group’s history. The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts asked the city for $25 million as part of its $100 million expansion. The request, particularly its size and how that money would be used, has begun to raise questions over CRA funds’ mission and purpose. The Community Redevelopment Act of 1969 provided the avenue for local governments to establish CRAs to develop slum and blighted areas.
“Jeff Brandes files to dissolve TBARTA, again” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Brandes has refiled a bill seeking to put an end to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, an agency Brandes has vocally criticized as “doing nothing.” The proposal, SB 426, would dissolve TBARTA, which oversees regional transit planning in the Tampa Bay area. Brandes filed an identical bill for the 2021 Session (SB 1130), but it never saw a committee hearing. Brandes’ grievance with TBARTA came to a head in the Senate last Session, when the chamber was hearing a transportation package by Sen. Ed Hooper. While the bill appeared unobjectionable, the floor got heated when discussing several amendments related to TBARTA.
If at first, you don’t succeed … “In Pensacola Mayor race, D.C. Reeves breaks record for money raised in single month” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — In a crowded 2022 race for Pensacola Mayor, Reeves appears to have broken a record for the highest amount fundraised in a single month, bringing in $124,147 in his first month since pre-filing for candidacy. Reeves’ report shows the highest, single-month fundraising in an Escambia County or Pensacola race since 2004 when the county began filing financial reports electronically. His significant financial start comes from 225 individual and business contributors chipping in up to $1,000 each. So far, a sizable portion of Reeves’ campaign donors have been real estate investors and agents, and almost all contributors are local to Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
— TOP OPINION —
“DeSantis beats Greg Abbott in COVID-19 race to the bottom” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Many months have passed since any conservative media outlet gushed about how DeSantis got it right on the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because he didn’t, as the evidence continues to show. Researchers studied responses to the pandemic in Florida and Texas. DeSantis and that state’s Republican chief executive, Abbott, have been competing to see who can be more irresponsible. By July 31, Florida had vaccinated only 59.5% of adults. Texas was worse, at 55.8%. Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island had vaccinated a combined 74%. Had Florida matched those states, the state could have had 61,327 fewer hospitalizations and 16,235 fewer deaths during that period.
— OPINIONS —
“Biden’s $3.5T plan to help working families depends on Democratic unity” via Bernie Sanders for Fox News — At a time when working families continue to struggle, poll after poll shows that the vast majority of the American people support the provisions in Biden‘s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act. Some 88% believe we should lower the cost of prescription drugs, 84% believe we should expand Medicare to include dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses, 73% support establishing Paid Family and Medical Leave, and 67% want universal Pre-K. In a tied Senate and a House of Representatives, which has a mere three-vote-majority for Democrats, the question of whether we finally deliver consequential legislation to improve the lives of working-class families comes down to Democratic unity.
“How Democrats can save themselves” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — With the Bernie Sanders faction trying to pull the Party toward social democracy and the establishment acting as if its major challenges were Russian bots and nefarious Facebook memes, there was hardly anyone left to point out the ways that Democrats might be in danger of moving too far left. With the increasing awareness that Bidenism is probably not a long-term strategy, we’re finally getting the fuller argument that should have broken out after 2016 over what the Democrats can do and whether they can do anything to win over the working-class and rural voters alienated by the Party’s increasingly rigorous progressive litmus tests.
“Ronna McDaniel: Republicans set to outpace Democrats in Florida voter registration. That’s just the beginning.” via Florida Politics — The GOP is closing the gap in the Sunshine State, and much of that is thanks to Hispanic voters. More than 127,000 Hispanic Americans have switched their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican since 2018. If this trend continues, Republicans will surpass Democrats in registration for the first time in state history. The truth is, Democrats have long taken minority voters for granted. Identity politics and critical race theory are central to their push to dictate the issues they think voters should care about, the candidates they should support, and the Party they should join. But their praise of socialism and promises of government welfare fails to resonate with Hispanic voters in Florida.
“The case for ‘smart, strategic’ prison consolidation” via Wilton Simpson for the Tallahassee Democrat — Governments have long grappled with challenges of criminal justice reform. From policing, to sentencing, to reentry — goals are shared, yet solutions remain evasive. We all want safe communities where justice is fair, petty criminals are rehabilitated, and perpetrators of serious, violent crimes are sent to prison. Last Session, we codified public safety practices in law enforcement, which address interactions with police on the front end of the system. As important as those reforms are, we cannot ignore problems on the back end, which include how Florida manages approximately 80,000 inmates and the officers who guard them.
“Dan Daley: Florida National Guard is owed gratitude — but needs troop numbers” via Florida Politics — The National Guard needs proper troop numbers based on the size of our state and propensity for natural disasters. We simply don’t have enough of them and are overworking these citizen soldiers because of it. The Florida National Guard has deployed 25,000 soldiers since 9/11/01 and has responded to the fifth most FEMA declared disasters of all states in the past 70 years. In just the past year and a half, the Florida National Guard has logged the same number of operating hours as they had over the last 20 years. Florida has roughly 21 million residents and 12,000 Guardsmen. In contrast, Alabama has the same number of allotted Guardsman (12,000) but only approximately 4.9 million residents.
“Jimmie T. Smith: As forever wars come to an end, honor those who served with timely care” via Florida Politics — Post-9/11 era veterans have unique physical and mental health needs. As that population ages, their needs will continue to change. That will have a significant impact here in Florida. Florida is home to more than 1.4 million veterans. Florida will jump to the second-highest veteran population by 2040. The VA must be prepared to care for these veterans, and the VA MISSION Act’s Community Care Program has an important role in ensuring timely, quality care. Community Care standards require veterans to be offered non-VA care if VA wait times are longer than 20 days for primary care or 28 days for specialty care. But there is hope for progress if the VA and lawmakers are willing to prioritize the needs of veterans.
“Jon Gruden needed to go. But that’s hardly the full story.” via The Washington Post editorial board — The National Football League spent 10 months investigating the toxic culture of the Washington Football Team after dozens of women came forward with complaints of sexual harassment and mistreatment. It interviewed hundreds of witnesses and collected some 650,000 documents. No information, nothing but a vacuous statement, was released. That made it easy for the league to let owner Daniel Snyder off with only a slap on the wrist. If the NFL is seeking to repair its image, what about the Washington Football Team? The league didn’t coddle Gruden in the same way, and he was forced to resign as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after offensive emails he wrote became public.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis and his elections chief reject calls to do a forensic audit of the 2020 elections.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Looking ahead to the Governor’s reelection campaign, observers note DeSantis is playing copycat with his frenemy, Sen. Scott.
— Attorney General Moody is out with a warning about counterfeit pills hitting the black market.
— The Sunrise Interview is with Pransky, political editor with LX.com, who points out that just like Scott before him, DeSantis would rather focus on fighting with Biden than with the Democratic challengers gunning for his job.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SPOOKY —
“Florida retailers expect a treat for Halloween season with national sales surpassing $10B” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics+ — This year’s Halloween season is expected to be a treat for Florida retailers, according to data from the National Retail Federation. Halloween is the second biggest retail event of the year, and data anticipate this year will be a comeback from the slowdown from the pandemic. “You can already feel the energy and excitement among Florida retailers, with consumers in-store and online searching for items to make this Halloween one for the books,” Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, said in a statement. “When you’re selecting your costume, stocking up on candy, or loading up pumpkins, be sure to Find It in Florida! Support our local businesses and local jobs this scary season.”
“You won’t believe what the most popular Halloween decoration in Florida is” via Nicole Lopez-Alvar of Local 10 — It may average around 82 degrees in October in the Sunshine State, but that doesn’t mean the spooky season isn’t alive and well in Florida. Although many might assume hanging spider webs from palm trees would be Florida’s go-to Halloween decoration, it turns out Floridians love to decorate their homes with none other than this four-legged feline. Florida’s most popular Halloween decoration is the black cat. Interestingly enough, Floridians are also the only folks who like to decorate with a black cat.
Black cats are the hot Halloween accessory in Florida. “These Jacksonville sites probably should be haunted, even if they’re not” via Tom Szaroleta of the Florida Times-Union — There are plenty of spots around Northeast Florida: The 48-foot stainless steel memorial to Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901 where Market Street dead-ends into the St. Johns River. The St. Johns Cathedral in downtown Jacksonville — on Billy Goat Hill. The Gateway Town Center, which now houses a Duval County Elections Center, stands on grounds where patients were treated during Jacksonville’s Yellow Fever epidemic. Work was halted on an interchange at I-295 and North Main Street in 2020 when human remains were uncovered. The Carling apartment building was known as the Roosevelt Hotel when a fire struck; 22 people were killed, including one woman who fell while trying to climb down a sheet dangling from her 11th-floor window.
“Halloween light show in South Tampa raises money for charity” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — Sam Johnson was a teenager when he came up with an idea to entertain and give back. The largely self-taught techie puts on three shows a night every weekend during Halloween and in December for Christmas to raise money for charity. He has put on the light shows for five years. Last year, between the Halloween and Christmas events, he was able to raise more than $10,000 total for multiple charities. The Johnsons want to be good neighbors, so they only run the light show on Fridays and Saturdays, then daily during Halloween week, with the last show always at 9 p.m. They set up a Sylvan Ramble Light Show page on Eventbrite.com to try to limit crowds.
— ALOE —
“Apple studying potential of AirPods as health device” via Rolfe Winkler of The Wall Street Journal — Apple is studying ways to make AirPods into a health device, including for enhancing hearing, reading body temperature and monitoring posture. Apple is also working on technology that aims to use iPhones to help diagnose depression and cognitive decline, the Journal reported last month. It isn’t clear if Apple is developing specific new hearing-aid features for AirPods or wants to market the earbuds’ existing hearing-improvement features as hearing aids. AirPods Pro, Apple’s higher-end earbuds, already offer features to improve hearing.
AirPods to monitor your health? Apple is looking into it. “Opening, ticket prices announced for Peppa Pig theme park” via The Associated Press — A stand-alone Peppa Pig theme park at the Legoland Florida Resort is set to open Feb. 24, park officials announced Tuesday. Officials also announced ticket prices. A one-day ticket for the central Florida park will be $34.99 at the gate and $30.99 online. An annual pass costs $79.99. The new park is also offering several combo deals for Legoland and its water park. Based on the popular preschool animated television series, the new park will be located near the main Legoland theme park, but will be separately ticketed. The Peppa Pig theme park will feature rides, interactive attractions, themed playscapes, water play areas and live shows, mostly designed for small children and their parents.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are former gubernatorial Chief of Staff Shane Strum, as well as Slater Bayliss‘ better half, Sara, Stephanie Rosendorf Diaz, and Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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