Your day is better when you start it with a first read on what’s happening in Florida politics.
Good Thursday morning.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we ask our loyal Sunburn fans — particularly those in The Process — to let us know what you’re grateful for this year. We will publish the comments in our Tuesday edition — the last one for the holiday week. Please send your emails to [email protected].
Here are some other items on my radar:
— Hartville, Missouri ‘center of population’: The U.S. Census Bureau has calculated the center of the U.S. population in the southern Missouri town, home to just 600 people. According to the Census Bureau, the center is the point at which an imaginary, flat, weightless map of the U.S. would balance perfectly if every resident weighed the exact same. 2020 redistricting data from the 2020 Census puts the new center about 15 miles from Hartville. The calculation helps demographers quantify how fast and in which direction the population is moving over time. To put that into perspective, the first population center was in Maryland, about 23 miles east of Baltimore, in 1790. Since then, the center has moved further west and, more recently, further south, reflecting both immigration and the movement of U.S. citizens from the northeast and Midwest to the Sun Belt. Towns in Missouri have been the center of population since 1980. The point will be marked with a survey monument from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
— Why health care workers are fleeing the biz: Some have left because they didn’t want to get vaccinated, others because they contracted Long COVID-19 and could no longer work. But many, too many, have chosen to leave because they can’t handle the emotional toll. The Atlantic outlines stories from nurses who have lived COVID-19 horrors in ICUs across the nations. One said she left the industry after witnessing time and time again senseless death and becoming guilt-ridden over her resentment for it. She tells of a family who, despite spending 40 minutes pumping a respirator bag, the only thing keeping her patient alive, so the family had time to say goodbye, the family called to question whether the hospital had indeed done their best, all the while continuing to downplay the virus that claimed their loved one’s life. In all, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates nearly a half-million workers have left the health care sector since February 2020. A Morning Consult survey found 18% of health care workers had quit since the pandemic began. Read more here.
— Olympic sponsors face China dilemma: With the 2022 Winter Games scheduled in Beijing, Olympic sponsors are caught between the U.S. and one of the world’s major superpowers, concerned the nation will use the event as a loyalty test, writes Axios. The Chinese government has for years hosted global events with little impact on its continued human rights violations. Human rights groups and politicians have called on companies sponsoring The Games — there are 13 top-level sponsors — to speak out against the violations, but none have done so. Remaining silent could anger customers in the U.S. and other countries not named China. But speaking out could lead to boycotts from Chinese customers. And Beijing is unlikely to tolerate any criticism.
— Twitter is loud, but the cacophony is only from a few: When people like U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar tweet violent videos, it creates quite the media circus. But as much as politicians, media personalities and trolls thunder away, what you see on Twitter doesn’t necessarily represent the world as it really is. A new @pewresearch study makes clear just 23% of U.S. adults even use Twitter. Among those, just 25% make up 97% of the overall tweets on the platform. It brings to mind the adage: If a tree falls in the forest … But alas, the most shocking 160 characters still manage to resonate.
Wilton Simpson joins Tampa General for tribute to Florida health care workers — Senate President Simpson appeared alongside General President and CEO John Couris and CMO Dr. Peggy Duggan for an event honoring health care staff across the state who have been working around the clock during the pandemic. The event was held in the Capitol courtyard as part of Tampa General’s “We Are TGH Day” at the Capitol. “The health care heroes of Florida — and especially the dozens who have joined us here today from Tampa General Hospital — have always been essential to our state,” Simpson said. “But during the past two years, they’ve been tested like no other. And they have shined like no other. Florida’s health care heroes are hardworking, selfless and unwilling to give up. Thank you, health care heroes. We’re grateful for your service to our communities and to our state.”
Wilton Simpson and Tampa General Hospital honor the heroes of the pandemic — health care workers. Image via Facebook. ___
It’s Give Miami Day. From now until midnight, all donations to participating nonprofits in Miami-Dade will get a partial match through The Miami Foundation and the event’s sponsors.
The annual charitable event is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and a record 950 nonprofits have registered — that’s 100 more than 2020 when the day spurred more than $18.2 million in charitable giving.
Many worthy charities are on the list, but one deserves some special recognition (and maybe a few of your dollars): The Children’s Movement of Florida.
Miami celebrates the spirit of giving. Image via Facebook. For the past 15 years, the nonpartisan nonprofit organization has been a force in advocating for high-quality early learning opportunities, access to children’s health care, and parent support programs in Florida.
The Children’s Movement is just as active in board rooms as it is in the state Capitol. It is helping to lead the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s kindergarten readiness efforts. Its “Bosses for Babies” initiative also seeks to get employers of all sizes to promote kindergarten readiness.
If you can spare a few dollars, click through to the donation page.
Donors don’t have to live in Miami to participate, and all donations from $25 to $10,000 qualify for a partial match. There’s only one catch: Matching funds are only available for online donations, and they must be made before midnight tonight.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@Twitter: you’re doing great, even if your Tweets aren’t
—@AGAshleyMoody: We called @JoeBiden’s bluff and now, OSHA is suspending its unlawful effort to vaccinate millions of Americans against their will. While this is great news, we cannot relent in our efforts to fight back against unlawful federal overreach.
— @SenatorTaddeo: Senate Bill 2-B mentions “anticipated pregnancy” as a vaccine exemption. Turns out — nobody knows what exactly that means, I google’d it and still didn’t find anything. There are multiple studies showing that pregnant people should get vaccinated. This rhetoric is dangerous.
—@AnnaForFlorida: “That’s me,” (Frank) Artiles said, according to testimony health insurance industry lobbyist Stephanie Smith later gave to a South FL public corruption prosecutor. “That’s all me.” This is Artiles bragging about a fake candidate he facilitated. Let that sink in.
If you’re gonna be the biggest bill to help people since JFK/LBJ you gotta eat your veggies pic.twitter.com/Sr3oxKcQuk
— Eddie Vale (@evale72) November 16, 2021
—@ADL_Florida: The belief that the Rothschilds manipulate currency and influence global events for personal enrichment and world domination is a staple of antisemitic conspiracy theorists. It’s deeply disturbing to see these kinds of conspiracies promoted by a member of @GovRonDeSantis‘ staff.
—@JaxPeel: A member of the Florida House of Representatives called Pres. Biden a tyrant on the House floor today, and implied he wasn’t really the elected President of the United States. In case you’re wondering how America is doing right now.
—@MrEvanRoss: Can someone ask Rep James Bush if he’s planning on running as a Democrat or Republican in 2022? He seems to be as loyal to Ron DeSantis’ agenda as any Republican.
8:00 AM floor session just got a lot better. Thank you @michellesalzman – you are the best! pic.twitter.com/5mPygfo8qZ
— SpencerRoach (@SpencerRoachFL) November 17, 2021
—@GaryWhite13: CDC has bumped COVID transmission risk for Polk County back up to substantial. It had dropped to moderate by end of last week. Change reflects rise to more than 50 cases per 100,000.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 6; FSU vs. UF — 9; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 13; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 19; ‘Sex and the City’ revival premieres — 21; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 22; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 22; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 36; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 41; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 47; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 47; CES 2022 begins — 48; NFL season ends — 52; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 54; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 54; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 54; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 54; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 55; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 57; NFL playoffs begin — 58; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 78; Super Bowl LVI — 87; Daytona 500 — 94; CPAC begins — 98; St. Pete Grand Prix — 99; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 105; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 172; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 193; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 197; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 233; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 244; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 323; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 358; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 361; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 393; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 456; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 617. ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 701; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 981.
— TOP STORY —
“U.S. overdose deaths topped 100,000 in one year, officials say” via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press — It’s a never-before-seen milestone that health officials say is tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and a more dangerous drug supply. Overdose deaths have been rising for more than two decades, accelerated in the past two years, and, according to new data posted Wednesday, jumped nearly 30% in the latest year. Biden called it “a tragic milestone” and is pressing Congress to devote billions of dollars more to address the problem. Experts believe the top drivers of overdose deaths are the growing prevalence of deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug supply and the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many drug users socially isolated and unable to get treatment or other support.
COVID-19 helped push the opioid epidemic to grim heights.
— SPECIAL SESSION —
“Florida legislature sends Ron DeSantis four bills protecting workers who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations” via Steve Contorno of CNN — DeSantis didn’t get everything he wanted this week from state lawmakers in his campaign against federal coronavirus vaccine mandates. But in a fast-moving three-day special session criticized by Democrats as “political theater,” the Republican-controlled state legislature on Wednesday handed DeSantis plenty of firepower to pressure businesses and hospitals not to go along with Biden‘s push to get the country’s workforce inoculated. Acting mostly along party lines, the Florida House and Senate passed a package of four bills protecting workers who remain defiant against COVID-19 vaccinations. Once signed by DeSantis, Florida will become the first state with a law imposing fines on companies that require a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.
Ron DeSantis gets what he wants from the Special Session. mage via CNN. “Bill exploring Florida’s withdrawal from OSHA ready for DeSantis’ signature” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis didn’t ask for it initially, but lawmakers have prepared the Governor a bill asking him to develop a plan to pull out of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The bill (HB 5B) would give DeSantis until Jan. 17 to develop a plan for Florida to seek federal approval for a state counterpart to OSHA, which would result in the state withdrawing from the federal agency. Lawmakers approved the measure Wednesday along with three others, teeing them up for DeSantis’ signature. Leaders in Florida’s Republican-led Legislature initially framed the measure as a way to bypass vaccine mandates from a “weaponized” federal agency, although state occupational safety agencies must be at least as strict as OSHA.
“Florida lawmakers vote to limit Surgeon General’s emergency powers” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida’s GOP-dominated Legislature passed a bill Wednesday stripping the state Surgeon General of authority to mandate vaccinations, among other proposals. The Senate OK’d the bill (HB 7B) with a 23-17 vote. Republican Rep. Alex Andrade is the bill sponsor. “Floridians are worried by the expansion of executive power we’ve seen from the Biden administration and many local officials,” Andrade said. In 2002, lawmakers granted the state Surgeon General several emergency powers, including the authority to mandate vaccinations “by any means necessary.” A staff analysis noted the measure was passed amid ongoing national security concerns after the Sept. 11 terror attacks as well as the anthrax scare — a bioterrorism event that resulted in five deaths, including one Floridian.
“Dems fail to block public-records language in DeSantis’ vaccine-mandate legislation” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — The only drama during Florida House debate on Day Three of DeSantis’ Special Session was whether Democrats would hang together to block a public-records exemption. They did not. That measure, HB 3B, which would shield personal information about medical histories and religious views of workers challenging workplace vaccine mandates, passed on a vote of 85-32, with support from Democrats, including Rep. Michael Grieco. “I don’t like most of this bill. I don’t. I consider it to be somewhat of a trap bill for political purposes,” Grieco said in explaining himself. “But, at the same time, there’s one issue there that I know would be important to my constituents and to most of our constituents, and that’s our ability to protect the health information of employees.”
“Florida Legislature sends DeSantis the COVID-19 vaccine bills. Now what?” via Kirby Wilson and Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Details in the most important bill are up to the state’s Department of Health to interpret. And federal courts will determine how the bills will be felt in the workplace. If DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody succeed in their court challenges, the bills take full effect. That would mean Florida companies could not mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their employees without first offering several exemptions. If the court cases don’t go Florida’s way, federal rules would override the bills. The measures fall short of what DeSantis urged before the Special Session began. Lawmakers did not enact a blanket ban on vaccine mandates in the workplace. The bills do not apply retroactively to businesses that have already laid-off employees who refuse to get vaccinated.
Ron DeSantis gets the COVID-19 bills; now it’s up to Ashley Moody to make them work. —“GOP lawmakers advance anti-vax mandate bills; Democrats say workers in ‘tug of war’ between state, feds” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel
“Tensions boil as Anthony Sabatini questions whether Joe Biden is President” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Pent up frustration on both sides of the aisle boiled over on the House floor Wednesday, erupting into a war of words that saw a member question whether Biden is the President of the United States. Rep. Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hill Republican and a congressional candidate who has rubbed both Republicans and Democrats the wrong way with his history of outspoken remarks, fought for time to debate a bill (HB 1B) banning COVID-19 mandates. Sabatini told members he would be blunt and quick. He was correct on both counts, immediately saying the bill didn’t go far enough. He then made a call to wrest state powers back from the federal government.
Physician who testified in Special Session under investigation for spreading misinformation — A physician who testified in favor of the anti-vaccine mandate bills is being investigated in his home state for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. Dr. Kirk Milhoan, a pediatric cardiologist who practices in Hawaii, told Senators this week that the COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective and could be unsafe for children. The investigation, however, stems from his alleged endorsement of unproven COVID-19 treatments such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. The Hawaii Medical Board does not discuss open investigations, but a spokesperson said physicians found to be spreading misinformation could lose their medical license.
— The Senate meets for a floor session, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis vows pay raise, hiring bonuses for correctional officers” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida’s understaffed prison system is getting a long-need shot in the arm, and it’s not a vaccine. Beginning next year, Florida will raise the starting correctional officer salary to $38,750, marking a 16% increase. The state will also offer a slew of new hire bonuses: $3,000 per correctional officer, plus an extra $1,000 for officers who join a high vacancy institution. Applicants who are already certified, meanwhile, can also earn a $1,000 hiring bonus. DeSantis announced the plan Wednesday. The bonuses and salary increase are an answered prayer for prison leaders, who’ve long pleaded with state lawmakers for more resources.
Ron DeSantis promises a boost for Florida corrections officers. Image via AP. Assignment editors — Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will join elected officials, members of the fire service community and their families to honor Florida’s fallen firefighters at a memorial service, 9:15 a.m. Eastern time, Florida State Fire College, 11655 NW Gainesville Rd., Ocala.
“UF dean says he was directed to reject professor’s request to testify against the state” via Emma Pettit of The Chronicle of Higher Education — The University of Florida dean who rejected a political scientist’s request to offer expert testimony because it may “pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida,” said his decision was made at the direction of senior administrators. Daniel A. Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Austin, all UF scholars, were each told they would not be allowed to be expert witnesses in a voting-rights lawsuit against the state. News of the rejections provoked an international outcry, and within days the university reversed course.
“UF Faculty Senate asks for outside group to investigate any undue influence at school” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — In an emergency meeting Tuesday, the UF Faculty Senate voted to urge the university administration to bring in an independent group to investigate whether any undue influence from outside groups is affecting UF’s academic freedom. “There’s a lot of confusion over the roles that different bodies play in what is happening at UF right now in terms of some of these academic freedom issues,” said Sarah Lynne, an associate professor at UF’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences and the chair of the UF Faculty Senate Welfare Council, which drafted the passed resolution. The Senators are asking to see a report by the end of the spring 2022 semester.
“Chris Sprowls: Fear of empty toy shelves for Christmas drove federal vax mandate delay” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — While claiming victory at the conclusion of Wednesday’s floor session, House Speaker Sprowls noted the politics he sees behind the federal vaccine mandate. The Biden administration has pushed back its deadlines for the federal vaccine and testing mandates until January, allaying fears from some that the policy would narrow the already insufficient workforce if people refused to get vaccinated. But that’s become another angle for critics to argue the emergency order, to be implemented through the OSHA, isn’t an emergency. “They didn’t want the bad politics of people losing their job right before Christmas. That’s the reason, right?” Sprowls told reporters.
“Redistricting dilemma: Do legislators prioritize minority voting power or status quo?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Do Florida legislators have an obligation to create new congressional and legislative maps that reflect the growth in the state’s minority population and allow more minorities to get elected to office? When Cecile Scoon, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, asked a Senate committee why it wasn’t evaluating draft maps to determine whether the proposed maps maximize the ability for minority communities to elect people of their choice, the answer Republican leaders gave her boiled down to this: They don’t have to.
Cecile Scoon wants answers, which lawmakers didn’t feel the need to give. “Interviews examine Frank Artiles’ boasts about ‘ghost’ candidate scheme, funding for dark-money group” via Jeff Weiner, Annie Martin and Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Former State Sen. Artiles was at an election night party last November watching election returns on the Department of State’s website when he began pointing emphatically at the screen, according to a lobbyist who said she’d known him since his time as a lawmaker. Though the party was in Lake Mary for the campaign of now Sen. Jason Brodeur, the results being displayed were for the Miami-area District 37 race. It was becoming clear Republican Ileana Garcia had a strong chance to upset the incumbent, Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez. “That’s me,” Artiles said, according to testimony health insurance industry lobbyist Smith later gave to a South Florida public corruption prosecutor. “That’s all me.”
“Lobbying compensation: Floridian Partners scores $1.1M in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Floridian Partners pulled in $1.1 million in lobbying pay last quarter, according to newly filed compensation reports. Managing Partner Charlie Dudley and lobbyists Jorge Chamizo, George Feijoo, Nichole Geary, Cory Guzzo, Gary Guzzo, and Melissa Ramba earned an estimated $665,000 lobbying the Legislature and tacked on another $395,000 lobbying the executive branch. The team handled 50 paid contracts during the July through September reporting period, with John Deere being the most lucrative at $45,000. Other major companies include Anheuser Busch, HP, Liberty Mutual Group, U.S. Sugar and Duke Energy Corporation. Disclosures show Floridian Partners earned at least $750,000 last quarter and could have earned as much as $1.5 million.
“Lobbying compensation: Capitol Alliance Group snags $280K in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Lobbyists Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl represented 60 clients for the quarter ending Sept. 30, earning $150,000 lobbying the executive branch and adding another $130,000 through their efforts in the Legislature. Capitol Alliance Group clientele span several industries. In addition to electric cars and commercial space ventures, Sharkey and Biehl have established themselves as top lobbyists in the burgeoning cannabis and hemp sectors as well as emerging blockchain businesses. Affordable housing will also be a firm focus heading into the next Session. “We are actively preparing for the upcoming regular Session on issues related to strengthening Florida’s commercial launch industry, promoting more affordable housing, and preparing our diverse clients for the 2022 Session,” Biehl told Florida Politics.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Jennifer Kelly, Foley & Lardner: GrayMatter
Robert Beck, PinPoint Results: New World School of the Arts
Patrick Bell, The Legis Group: Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Captiva Erosion Prevention District
Stuart Brown, SKB Consulting Group: Learning. Com
Rebecca DeLaRosa: City of West Palm Beach
William Graham, Carr Allison: American Contractors Insurance Group
Jon Johnson, Travis Blanton, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: NWF Health Network
Fred Karlinsky, Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: U.S. Hemp Roundtable
Adrian Lukis, Ballard Partners: Fresh-Med
Debbie Mortham, Mortham Governmental Consultants: ConnectFamilias
Gerard O’Rourke, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Town of Cutler Bay
Adam Potts, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Jobs for Florida’s Graduates
David Ramba, Thomas Hobbs, Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Cedar Hammock Fire Control District, Lakeport Water Association
Phillip Singleton, Singleton Consulting: 2nd Mile Ministries, We Reach Foundation
Carlos Trujillo, Continental Strategy: Obront Corey
— STATEWIDE —
“Democrats form justice and safety reform task force to advise local governments” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats want to develop and offer local governments some best-practice models for criminal justice reform, developed by a new task force composed of law enforcement and justice officials. The Florida Democratic Party’s Safety & Justice Task Force will be chaired by Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren. Democrats are tasking them with meeting with local leaders, law enforcement, and victim advocates to develop criminal justice and safety reform models the party says would “help bring Florida’s justice system into the 21st century.” With little or no influence over statewide criminal justice policymaking, Democrats say they seek models to offer cities and counties.
Andrew Warren is tapped to guide Florida Democrats on justice reform. “Group behind ads in key Senate race settles complaint, avoids disclosing donors through legal loophole” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — An apparent legal loophole allowed a group that sent attack ads last year in a key Central Florida state Senate race to avoid disclosing its donors. The chairperson of the Republican-led group, known as Floridians for Equality & Justice, will face only a $250 fine for breaking a law that involved information missing from one of its initial registration forms, under a settlement approved Tuesday by the Florida Elections Commission, resolving a complaint that alleged several other violations. Floridians for Equality & Justice sent advertisements during the Democratic primary election in Senate District 9 in Seminole and Volusia counties, attacking front-runner Patricia Sigman and promoting a lesser-known challenger.
“Manatee graveyard: Florida surpasses grim milestone of 1,000 manatee deaths in 2021” via Max Chesnes of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Over 1,000 manatees have died in Florida waters this year, according to state data released Wednesday. It’s already a record-setting number, with six weeks still left in the year and experts bracing for more starvation as the weather turns colder. Manatees will soon gather around unnatural warm-water sources, like power plants, where food is scarce. At least 1,003 manatees have died through Nov. 12, according to the latest Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data. In July, Florida surpassed the previous single-year record of 830 manatee deaths set in 2013. February was the deadliest month, when at least 230 deaths were verified in 28 days, according to FWC data. That equates to over eight per day.
“Volusia shifts Medicaid cost-sharing away from Halifax Hospital despite lawsuit threat” via Mary Helen Moore of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Volusia County Council voted on Tuesday to shift some Medicaid costs from Halifax Hospital to the West Volusia Hospital Authority, despite threats of a lawsuit. “I’m torn because I don’t want the West Volusia residents to be impacted with a higher tax,” said Councilwoman Barb Girtman, a former member of the West Volusia Hospital Authority. “I think we need to get the best place we can for the fairest application today.” Volusia County and its three hospital special taxing districts have paid the state for Medicaid cost-sharing since 1972. The state in 2013 revised the Medicaid cost-sharing statute to do away with reviewing individual bills and instead have each county pay a fixed amount to be split between hospital authorities and taxing districts when present.
“Disney shows its cards in pursuit of sports betting dollars” via Alex Weprin and Georg Szalai of The Hollywood Reporter — The entertainment giant, notoriously conservative when it comes to protecting its brand, will use ESPN as its entry point into the fast-growing sector. “Given our reach and scale, we have the potential to partner with third parties in this space in a very meaningful way,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on an earnings call. While Disney isn’t following in the footsteps of Fox, which has its own betting platform, Fox Bet, it has held talks with a handful of betting operators about a partnership, multiple sources familiar with the matter confirm (Disney does own a small stake in DraftKings). BetMGM, Caesars and DraftKings are all seen as front-runners, though with so many players in the space, there is always the possibility for a wild card.
Facebook Neighborhoods expands in Florida to promote giving for the holidays — Facebook Neighborhoods is expanding this month to include more communities throughout the state, to provide a space for Floridians to connect with neighbors, support local businesses, ask for recommendations, and support others. As the holidays approach, Floridians in areas served by Facebook Neighborhoods — found in a section of the Facebook app — will be able to use a “Giving Marketplace” feature to offer items they’re no longer using to neighbors. During this season of giving, Neighborhoods will give Floridians even more opportunities to connect with neighbors and help others in the community.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: 1,548 cases added to state tally, more people in the hospital” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 1,548 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths on Tuesday. The Florida Department of Health will most likely add more deaths to Tuesday’s total, increasing it from zero. The state has done this in the past when it has added cases and deaths to previous days during the pandemic. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,674,581 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 60,846 deaths. On average, the state has added 61 deaths and 1,454 cases per day in the past seven days. There were 1,415 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida.
“DeSantis spokesperson blames vaccine passport on the Rothschilds” via Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine — The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a forgery written by the czarist secret police more than a century ago, purporting to reveal a lurid international Jewish plot. Rothschild & Co. is still an extant firm. While it is hardly a giant by the standards of the financial world, it remains a subject of fascination for anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. Christina Pushaw, learning through Twitter that a country that had implemented a COVID-19 pass had also met with the Rothschilds, put two and two together and issued a tweet. She perhaps does not literally believe the Rothschilds secretly conspired to foist a COVID-19 passport regime onto the Georgian government using investment as a pretext. But she is happy to fuel those suspicions.
Christina Pushaw goes over the edge, into Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory. Image via Colin Hackley. “Most Baptist Health, Ascension St. Vincent’s staff comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandate” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — About 95% of Baptist Health’s Jacksonville-area staff either received the COVID-19 vaccine or a medical or religious exemption by the health system’s Monday deadline, hospital officials said. According to a Baptist statement, employees who did not meet the deadline “have a window of 30 days” to be vaccinated or obtain an exemption and “will not be scheduled to work” during that time. “Their employment status will remain unchanged to give team members a final opportunity to meet the requirement,” according to the statement. Baptist has about 14,000 employees at five area hospitals and affiliated clinics and medical offices. The statement did not say how many employees received exemptions.
“‘We’re going on offense to protect children’: UF Health holds vaccination clinic” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — Cars lined up outside of the UF’s Phillips Center parking garage where five stations were set up to give children ages 5-11 long-awaited COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech vaccinations on Wednesday. There were 240 kids scheduled to be vaccinated through UF Health’s Screen, Test and Protect effort, a collaboration with the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County. In just one short hour after the clinic opened at 2 p.m., the health practitioners had vaccinated 71 children. Fred Guyer, a pediatrician with UF Health Shands Hospital, said that it feels great to be out vaccinating kids. “I feel like we’re going on offense to protect the children instead of playing defense for a year and a half. So, this is really exciting,” Guyer said.
“Universal drops face mask requirement for vaccinated employees” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando is no longer requiring fully vaccinated employees to wear face coverings at its parks, the company revealed Wednesday. Previously, Universal required all employees to wear masks indoors in public areas regardless of their vaccination status. A post on Universal Orlando’s employee website said the change was due to the lower community positivity rate of COVID-19. Employees can still choose to wear face coverings if they want. Universal still requires workers who are not vaccinated to wear face coverings at all times while at work, including in areas not accessible to park visitors. According to Universal, those who have not shared their COVID-19 vaccination status with the company are considered unvaccinated.
“Vaccine mandates expanding to kids: Disney Cruise requires children 5 and up be fully vaccinated” via Alison Durkee of Forbes — Disney Cruise Line expanded its COVID-19 vaccination requirement Wednesday to include children ages five to 11 for cruises starting in January, one of the first major cases of vaccine mandates extending to kids now that they’re eligible for the shot. Children are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken between 24 hours and three days before the cruise in order to sail on cruises before the vaccine mandate takes effect. All guests, including those vaccinated, are also required to take a COVID-19 test both directly before boarding the cruise and the day before they disembark.
— 2022 —
“DeSantis lines up with Kyle Rittenhouse” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor’s take is that while Rittenhouse is on trial, it is the corporate media that is guilty. “The whole Kenosha episode has been a tragic farce built upon a foundation of corporate media lies,” DeSantis asserted in a midweek blast about issues far away from the so-called Free State of Florida. DeSantis’ campaign released an essay Thursday to its email list. The treatise, entitled “Kenosha, Rittenhouse, and Media Lies,” urged supporters to join him and “fight back” against the corporate media and its purported mendacities. DeSantis juxtaposes “scumbag” Jacob Blake, shot by a police officer and paralyzed, with Rittenhouse, a defender of the community.
Ron DeSantis casts his lot with Kyle Rittenhouse. “Got balls? Ron DeSantis has new edgy merch” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Florida’s Governor has a pair. That’s the slogan emblazoned on new merchandise that debuted Wednesday as the Legislature made a decisive drive toward passing legislation DeSantis called for to fortify Florida against those pesky federal vaccine mandates. “Hold the line,” says the box, under the line about the Governor having a pair. Even if the line isn’t specified on the new merchandise, there’s plenty of double entendre. Allusions to anatomy abound. “Standing firm and setting an example for the rest of the nation in defending freedom as it comes under assault has become par for the course with Gov. DeSantis,” reads an email making the rounds with the advertisement to his store.
“Rep. Charlie Crist calls on DeSantis to freeze Florida’s gas tax” via Tampa Bay 10 — We don’t need to tell you about the high prices we’ve seen at the pump. The average gas price across the state is more than $3 per gallon, with no signs of getting any cheaper before the holidays. So, to provide Floridians with a little financial relief, Rep. Crist is proposing a short-term freeze on the state’s gas tax. The “Gas Tax Holiday” would save us 26.5 cents per gallon at the pump through the end of 2021. Crist’s proposal would work by tapping into Florida’s rainy-day fund as well as the nation’s strategic petroleum oil reserve. The tax freeze would only be possible with the approval of the Florida Legislature and DeSantis, who has previously pushed the responsibility for rising gas prices on the Biden administration.
“Crist pitches gas tax break to offset inflation” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Crist said Tuesday that Florida should consider a temporary gas tax break as an inflation hedge. “It’s very good for my fellow Floridians,” Crist said. “They deserve it.” Crist said he wanted an exemption through the end of the year on the state tax on gas “to reduce it about 26 cents per gallon per consumer.” “That’s a good, right way to get people some relief, especially during the holiday season. These are important things. These are tabletop issues. These are things we need to be addressing,” Crist said. “I think that’s a great way the state of Florida can address (inflation) in a responsible fashion.”
“Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta endorses Eric Lynn in CD 13 race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Panetta served as White House Chief of Staff and Director of the CIA under President Barack Obama before becoming Defense Secretary in 2011. Panetta also worked as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and served in Congress. This is Panetta’s first endorsement of the 2022 cycle. “This is a critical moment for our country, and we need leaders who put our national security ahead of Party; I know Eric Lynn is just the person to do that,” Panetta said in a statement.
—”Amanda Makki picks up endorsement from Belleair Mayor Mike Wilkinson” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
Save the date:
“Can SD 19 lines shift to only Hillsborough and still remain a minority district?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Could a Senate district now spanning Tampa Bay move east and exist entirely within Hillsborough County? That’s not proposed on any of the initial draft maps produced by the Senate Reapportionment Committee staff. But Nicholas Warren, a staff attorney for the ACLU who worked on the 2010 redistricting cycle litigation, testifying at redistricting hearings, submitted his own proposed map of the Tampa Bay region that contains Senate District 19 in Hillsborough County. That would have significant ramifications in the region and state, not the least of which includes that the district is now represented by Sen. Darryl Rouson. But on a larger scale, the district is one of Florida’s minority-controlled districts, meaning the political and demographic makeup of the district guarantees Black voters there can elect a candidate of their choice.
“Maps put Chris Nocco in Danny Burgess’ district” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Zephyrhills and Land O’ Lakes both sit within Senate District 20 on all four drafts of Florida’s 40 Senate districts. Those are the respective home bases of both Sen. Burgess and Pasco Sheriff Nocco. Many expect Nocco to run for legislative office if the right opportunity arises. But if this is the map, is a challenge to Burgess in SD 20 in the cards? Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano said, “It would be an interesting Republican Primary, with the Sheriff and Sen. Burgess, unfortunately, running against each other.” Still, other local politicos express some skepticism at a Burgess-Nocco race next year. The biggest issue? The two men are friends. While Burgess still served in the Florida House, he took a civilian job as Nocco’s manager of future operations.
“DeSantis will pick Broward’s next two County Commissioners. Two state Representatives have applied.” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Two state Representatives are among the five people who’ve asked DeSantis to pick them to fill two soon-to-be-vacant seats on the Broward County Commission. Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief submitted written resignations to run for Congress earlier this year, but neither won the November Primary. Still, their resignations are irrevocable, and now their seats — which pay $105,885 a year — will become empty in January. The applicants include state Reps. Anika Omphroy and Patricia Williams, as well as Jose A. Cuevas, Terry Edden and Kevin Tynan. The Governor’s office has not yet released the candidates’ applications and only released the names this week after an attorney for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel intervened.
Florida Republicans pass Democrats in voter registrations — GOP voters now outnumber Democrats in Florida. Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reported that state data shows Republicans now hold a 6,035-voter edge over Democrats out of an electorate that includes 14.3 million voters. Registered Democrats had outnumbered Republicans up to now, and their advantage was 568,000 voters just 10 years ago. That had been halved by Election Day 2018 and halved again ahead of the 2020 election. “This is a milestone moment in Florida’s history,” Republican Party of Florida executive director Helen Aguirre Ferré said Wednesday. Democrats counter that more of their voters have been deemed “inactive,” even though they can still vote. Currently, there are 343,000 inactive Democratic voters and 275,000 inactive Republican voters.
“Leon Sheriff Walt McNeil named to Florida Democratic Party’s ‘Safety & Justice Task Force’” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Sheriff McNeil has been named to a statewide “Safety & Justice Task Force” organized by the Florida Democratic Party, the party announced Wednesday. The five-member panel “will meet with communities around the state, gathering ideas to bring Florida’s justice system into the 21st century with improved public safety, fairness, and accountability,” a news release said. “We are at a pivotal point in Florida’s history,” McNeil, first elected in 2016, said in a statement. “How do we rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve?” The panel’s other members are Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, Miami-Dade County Public Defender Carlos Martinez, Leaders of America Executive Director Marcia Brown and Agency for Community Treatment Services CEO Asha Terminello.
— CORONA NATION —
“White House plans major expansion of COVID-19 vaccine production” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — The Biden administration, under pressure to increase the supply of coronavirus vaccines to poor nations, plans to spend billions of dollars to expand manufacturing capacity, with the goal of producing at least 1 billion additional doses a year beginning in the second half of 2022. The investment is part of a new plan for the government to partner with industry to address immediate vaccine needs in the United States and overseas and to prepare for future pandemics. It comes on top of recent decisions to buy enough of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 pill for about 10 million courses of treatment and to spend $3 billion on rapid over-the-counter tests, which are needed to detect the virus early enough for the Pfizer drug to work.
The U.S. is preparing to ramp up vaccine output. Image via AP. “The FDA could authorize Moderna boosters for all adults as early as this week.” via Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland of The New York Times — Moderna has asked federal regulators to authorize booster shots of its coronavirus vaccine for all adults, a request that the FDA could grant as early as this week along with a similar request from Pfizer, according to people familiar with the planning. If the CDC also signs off every adult who was fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot at least six months ago would not only be eligible for a booster, but could choose which vaccine. The agency’s committee of independent experts is set to meet Friday to discuss booster shots. It would also allow Biden to fulfill his August pledge to offer booster shots to every adult.
“‘Stressed and worn thin’ workers seek more fulfilling jobs, better work-life balance amid COVID-19” via Charisse Jones of USA Today — The pandemic has spurred many workers to reevaluate their lives and the role work plays in them, leading some to set fresh boundaries, find new jobs or maintain the side hustles that got them through the shutdowns and layoffs. Nearly 6 in 10 American workers in an October survey by job search site LinkedIn said they had gone through a career awakening during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it was a desire for better work-life balance, deciding to pursue a promotion, or redefining their meaning of success. The survey also found a majority of American workers who say the pandemic has altered the way they feel about their career report being less fulfilled in their current positions.
“School trips to D.C. are back in all their teenage glory” via Natalie B. Compton of The Washington Post — As vaccination rates rise and coronavirus cases decline, life in D.C. has started to look more how it did before the pandemic. That includes gaggles of middle-schoolers roaming around reopened museums and monuments, a welcome return for a local tourism industry devastated by a lack of visitors. Visitor spending between March 2020 and March 2021 plummeted by $6.1 billion, and the city lost $477 million in tax revenue as a result. In 2020, D.C. lost an estimated $370 million from canceled conferences alone. For decades, countless students, teachers and parents have come to D.C. from all over the country to learn about their nation’s beginnings. The pandemic took that opportunity away, but interest in the rite of passage has not waned. EF Educational Tours reports it has seen record demand for 2023 trips.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“A recession is coming: Will policymakers be caught flat-footed?” via Desmond Lachman of The Hill — The economic outlook is always subject to considerable risk. But seldom before has the global economy been subject to as many major downside risks as it is today. The materialization of any of those risks could make 2022 as difficult a year for the U.S. and global economic policymakers as was 2009 in the immediate wake of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. With U.S. inflation now at a 31-year high and proving to be much less transitory than the Federal Reserve had hoped, one major risk to the global economic recovery is the real possibility that the Fed will soon have to slam on the monetary policy brakes to keep inflation under control.
“Visions of a U.S. computer chip boom have cities hustling” via David McCabe of The New York Times — The shortage of computer chips has zapped the energy from the global economy, punishing industries as varied as automakers and medical device manufacturers and contributing to fears about high inflation. But many states and cities in America are starting to see a silver lining: the possibility that efforts to sharply increase chip production in the United States will lead to a busy chip factory in their backyard. And they are racing to get a piece of the potential boom. One of those towns is Taylor, a Texas city of about 17,000 about a 40-minute drive northeast of Austin. Leaders here are pulling out all the stops to get a $17 billion Samsung plant. The city, its school district and the county plan to offer Samsung hundreds of millions of dollars in financial incentives, including tax rebates.
The promise of homegrown computer chips has many cities scrambling. “Target, TJX post strong sales, say they have plenty in stock for Black Friday” via Sarah Nassauer and Charity L. Scott of The Wall Street Journal — Retail chains Target Corp. and TJX said they were able to sidestep supply-chain snarls to post strong sales in the most recent quarter and stock up with goods for Black Friday and the holiday season. Strong consumer demand for everything from apparel to electronics to hardware is boosting sales at several of the biggest U.S. retailers, despite rising prices. Executives said this week they have been able to pull forward the inventory they need for the critical holiday season, though they have had to absorb higher wages and freight costs. Target said comparable sales, those from stores or digital channels operating at least 12 months, rose 12.7% for the quarter ended Oct. 30. The company’s operating profit margins declined as the discounter absorbed higher expenses.
“Supply chain creates garage door waiting game; city inspectors allow lenience” via Steve Large of CBS Sacramento — No garage door, no problem. The city of Sacramento will now allow garages to be boarded up in new homes if the garage doors are not delivered in time. Because of the bottleneck, the city of Sacramento’s building division Is making a new temporary rule, for garage door shortages. Families can move into homes with garages boarded up until the doors are delivered. Sacramento Councilmember Jeff Harris is also a building contractor who agrees that a missing garage door in a new home is not a safety concern.
— MORE CORONA —
“NFL to intensify COVID-19 protocols around Thanksgiving” via Mike Jones of USA Today — Citing rising COVID-19 numbers in the United States at large, the NFL has instructed teams to intensify protocols in hopes of mitigating the risk of spread of the virus as holiday gatherings take place beginning with Thanksgiving next week. In a memo issued to all 32 teams, the NFL said, “This upward trend, coupled with the onset of colder weather driving individuals indoors, has resulted in an increased risk of infection among players and staff. Our experts and data confirm that getting vaccinated remains our strongest defense against contracting and transmitting the virus within club facilities. The NFL “strongly encouraged” that teams provide drive-thru testing for family members and friends visiting players and staff members for Thanksgiving.
The NFL is stepping up its COVID-19 game. Image via AP.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden’s social welfare bill breaks pledge not to raise taxes on people making less than $400,000” via Haris Alic of The Washington Times — Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social welfare bill breaks a key pledge from his 2020 campaign: that he would not raise taxes on individuals making less than $400,000 annually. The Joint Committee on Taxation released Tuesday analysis shows that the House version of Biden’s bill starts raising taxes as early as 2023 on middle-class families. “The analysis also documents that the administration’s pledge that ‘no one with income below $400,000 will see their taxes go up’ is not true,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Joe Biden’s promise on taxes is on shaky ground. “As gas prices surge, Biden asks the FTC to investigate ‘illegal conduct.’” via Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — Biden asked the FTC on Wednesday to consider whether “illegal conduct” by large oil and gas companies is pushing up gasoline prices for American consumers, the latest effort by the administration to target concentration in the energy industry in a bid to bring down prices at the pump. The move is unlikely to spur immediate action by the FTC, which has the power to break up large industry players, and it is unlikely to affect gasoline prices materially any time soon. But it could spur the Commission to open an investigation to gather data on how companies set gasoline prices, which could be used in future enforcement actions.
“Poll: Voters’ doubts rising about Biden’s health, mental fitness” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Voters have increasing doubts about the health and mental fitness of Biden, the oldest man ever sworn into the White House, according to a new poll. Only 40% of voters surveyed agreed with the statement that Biden “is in good health,” while 50% disagreed. That 10-percentage-point gap represents a massive 29-point shift since October 2020, when another poll found voters believed Biden was in good health by a 19-point margin. Asked whether Biden is mentally fit, voters are almost evenly split, with 46% saying he is and 48% disagreeing. But that negative 2-point margin stands in stark contrast to Biden’s numbers last October, when voters believed he was mentally fit by a 21-point margin.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Marco Rubio puts hold on Biden’s ambassador picks for China, Spain” via Nick Wadhams of Bloomberg — Rubio placed holds through a procedural move that will add to the delays the White House has faced getting its envoys to embassies around the world. Nicholas Burns, Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Beijing, doesn’t understand the threat posed by China’s leaders, Rubio said. “The last thing we need is another caretaker of American decline in the room with the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. The Florida lawmaker said Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, Biden’s nominee for Spain and First Lady Jill Biden’s chief of staff, is an apologist of the former Castro regime in Cuba.
“House, mostly along party lines, censures Paul Gosar for violent video” via Jonathan Weisman and Catie Edmondson of The New York Times — A bitterly divided U.S. House voted narrowly on Wednesday to censure Gosar, Republican of Arizona, for posting an animated video that depicted him killing a Democratic Congresswoman and assaulting Biden. The formal rebuke of the far-right Congressman who has allied himself with White nationalists — the first censure since 2010 and only the 24th in the history of the republic — also stripped him of his committee assignments. The vast majority of Republicans opposed the move against Gosar, whose conduct G.O.P. leaders have refused to publicly condemn, the latest sign of the party’s growing tolerance of menacing statements. The vote was 223 to 207, with just two Republicans, U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, joining Democrats in favor.
With bad Photoshop, Paul Gosar really screwed the pooch. Image via AP. “House bill to improve judges’ financial disclosures progresses” via James V. Grimaldi of The Wall Street Journal — The House Judiciary Committee passed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday to require federal judges to report more promptly their financial holdings and stock trades, sending the bill to the U.S. House floor less than a month after it was introduced. Introduced in response to articles in The Wall Street Journal, the legislation is meant to address a long-standing problem: that judges’ financial disclosures aren’t online, are cumbersome to request and sometimes take years to access. Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler said the bill “is an important bipartisan effort to address an alarming lack of transparency in the personal financial holdings of federal judges, and the conflicts — or appearance of conflicts — those holdings can create in the cases those judges are asked to decide.”
“Pentagon chief says more must be done to prevent civilian harm” via Eric Schmitt and Dave Philipps of The New York Times — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III said on Wednesday that the military needed to do more to prevent civilian casualties, his first public comments about a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of women and children. Austin had requested a briefing on the strike after a New York Times investigation over the weekend described allegations that top officers and civilian officials had sought to conceal the casualties. The defense secretary promised to revamp military procedures and hold top officers responsible for civilian harm, but he did not discuss any systemic problems that allowed civilian casualties to persist on battlefields in Syria and Afghanistan. He also did not say whether senior officers would be held accountable.
“Now inflation is impacting the U.S. ‘readiness’ for WAR: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin orders measure to help struggling military families pay for food and housing amid soaring prices” via Rob Crilly of The Daily Mail — Austin on Wednesday warned that rising prices for housing and food were affecting the readiness of U.S. armed forces. Inflation has emerged as one of the biggest issues facing the Biden administration, as ordinary Americans complain about the price of everyday items from gas to bread. During a Pentagon briefing, Austin said he was temporarily increasing payments to help troops pay for off-base housing in places where rents had increased by 10% or more. Last week the Labor Department revealed that prices were rising at their fastest pace in more than 30 years.
— CRISIS —
“Jan. 6 defendant known as QAnon Shaman sentenced to 41 months” via Alan Feuer of The New York Times — Jacob Chansley, the former actor and Navy sailor better known as the QAnon Shaman, was sentenced on Wednesday to 41 months in prison. Chansley, 34, emerged as one of the riot’s most familiar figures, largely because of the outlandish costume he wore that day: a horned helmet, a fur pelt draped across his naked shoulders, and a thick patina of red-white-and-blue face paint. Chansley’s sentence brought an end not only to one of the most widely publicized Capitol cases but also to one of the strangest. Not long after the attack, Chansley’s lawyer, Albert Watkins, announced that his client wanted Donald Trump to pardon him and later offered to have him testify at the former President’s second impeachment trial.
The Q Shaman faces hard time. Image via AP. “Steve Bannon pleads not guilty to contempt of Congress charges” via Ryan Lucas of NPR — Bannon, who once served as Trump‘s chief political strategist, is pleading not guilty to federal charges for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Bannon was indicted last week on two counts of contempt of Congress, and made his initial appearance Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C. In a document filed with the court Wednesday, Bannon waived his right to an arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty. The document is signed by Bannon and one of his attorneys, M. Evan Corcoran. Bannon is scheduled to appear virtually for a status conference in the case Thursday.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Donald Trump gave an agency $100 million to fight COVID-19. Here’s what happened.” via Laura Strickler of Yahoo News — In 2020, the Trump administration directed the International Development Finance Corporation to loan out $100 million in Pentagon funds through the CARES Act to “finance the domestic production of strategic resources needed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to strengthen any relevant domestic medical supply chains.” Adam Boehler, briefly a college roommate of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, ran the International Development Finance Corporation starting in fall 2019. After the onset of the pandemic in 2020, when public health officials were scrambling to find gloves, gowns and N95 masks, DFC expanded its role to focus on boosting the domestic supply chain via an executive order by Trump. According to a new Government Accountability Office report, 178 applications flooded into the agency’s downtown Washington office, but no money flowed out.
“Rupert Murdoch calls on Trump to move on: ‘The past is the past’” via Mychael Schnell of The Hill — News Corp Executive Chair Murdoch said Trump is preventing conservatives from moving the nation’s political debate forward with a focus “on the past.” “The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity,” Murdoch said in remarks at an annual meeting of News Corp stockholders obtained by The Hill. “It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate, but that will not happen if Trump stays focused on the past. Trump is mostly focused on the last year, specifically his loss in the 2020 presidential race. The former President on a near-daily basis has made false allegations about his defeat, which he has repeatedly blamed on massive voter fraud.
Rupert Murdoch tells Donald Trump to knock it off. Image via AP. “Trump’s latest media appearance? A 30-minute chat/pillow ad.” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — So there’s Trump, sitting on an uncomfortable-looking chair in an ornate but empty ballroom, decked out in a tuxedo as a rainstorm battered Mar-a-Lago. And across from him in another uncomfortable-looking chair, the pillow guy, Mike Lindell. For more than a half-hour, the two discussed their shared, wildly incorrect understanding of American politics. By now, you’re likely familiar with the Trump-Lindell universe of conspiracy theorizing, but it’s worth stepping back and considering what this discussion represents. This is the former President of the United States, a position of enormous historic gravitas, appearing in a video that serves as a lengthy commercial for a pillow company. And in that commercial, the former President continues to make false claims about the election results and the integrity of the country.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Bartow Mayor to step down, city looks to find replacement Commissioner” via Dustin Wyatt of The Lakeland Ledger — Bartow City Commissioner Scott Sjoblom, who currently serves as Mayor, is stepping down from his role to accept a promotion with a state agency. The city is now accepting applications for a new Commissioner to replace Sjoblom until his term ends in 2024. Sjoblom, elected in 2018, currently works as Communications Director with the Polk and Hardee Department of Health. He says he was recently promoted to assistant director of the agency. Unlike the city of Lakeland where a mayor is elected by voters, the Bartow City Commission appoints a Mayor and Vice-Mayor from among the Commissioners, and they typically take turns throughout their terms. The city will accept applications from any interested person who lives in the Central District Sjoblom represented.
Scott Sjoblom exits Bartow for a state-level gig. Image via Facebook. “Danielle Cohen Higgins again taps real estate to add $39K for Miami-Dade Commission defense” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Cohen Higgins added more than $39,000 last month to defend her District 8 seat, with much of the money again coming from the county’s booming real estate sector. Less than a year from Election Day, Cohen Higgins holds nearly $493,000 between her campaign and political committee, Fight for Our Future. Cohen Higgins was appointed in December to finish the term of Daniella Levine Cava, who left the Commission to become County Mayor. Since launching her election campaign in March, Cohen Higgins has raised close to $650,000. Along the way, she has seen several challengers fall to the wayside, including Cutler Bay Vice Mayor John DuBois and medical practitioner Leonarda Buike.
“Quincy manager fired after suing Commissioners, testifying to grand jury about 122% pay hike” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Quincy city commissioners voted to fire City Manager Jack McLean Jr., giving him 30 days’ notice as required by his contract. It happened one day after McLean took the drastic step of suing the Commission in a dispute over Police Department hiring and a week after he testified before a grand jury at the Gadsden County Courthouse. Mayor Ronte Harris moved to oust the city manager, though he didn’t give a public explanation. The move came after City Attorney Gary Roberts cautioned commissioners that the move could be seen as retaliatory. City Commissioner Freida Bass-Prieto expressed alarm about his firing. “I just think this could be a very, very costly adventure for the city of Quincy,” she said.
“Jacksonville City Council moves nonprofit funding reform forward” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville City Council is poised next week to approve a series of reforms intended to more closely scrutinize cases in which City Hall provides taxpayer money to nonprofits that employ members of the council. The legislation, written by Council member Rory Diamond, came in response to controversy the night the council approved the city’s annual budget in September: After 11 p.m., the council approved a raft of six-figure grants for three nonprofits that employed council members at the time, as well as a fourth for the JAX Chamber, a not-for-profit that employs council member Aaron Bowman. The payments required the council to waive rules ordinarily requiring that money to be competitively awarded.
“‘Somebody has to know.’ In Miami, investigators work to identify hundreds of unidentified bodies” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Across Miami-Dade, there are over 300 cases of unidentified bodies still waiting to be identified, of which 233 are considered “active” cases with a good shot at being solved. Some of the dead have been murdered. Others succumbed to natural causes. Some were skeletal remains, with no way to know exactly how they died. The earliest active case goes back to April 27, 1957, when the bones of a woman were found in a vacant lot after a brush fire in what is now the area of Palmetto Bay. The most recent: an older Black woman, wearing a cream-colored cheetah-print shirt and ripped jeans, was found unresponsive on a bus bench at Northwest Ninth Avenue and 17th Street on Sept. 12.
“Hillsborough limits summer fertilizer use” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — On Wednesday, Hillsborough County Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance limiting fertilizer use during Florida’s rainy season. It prohibits the application of landscape fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus from June 1 to Sept. 30 each year. The goal is to reduce Red Tide and other nutrient-triggered toxic algae blooms that result in fish kills and other ecological damage. Commissioner Mariella Smith first proposed the ordinance after dead fish swamped Apollo Beach canals and other county locations over the summer. Hillsborough’s ordinance is similar to rules followed by Tampa, Pinellas and 14 other counties in the state. The Hillsborough ordinance does not ban fertilizer sales. Agricultural land is exempt.
“Scientology members fuel another land-buying surge in Clearwater” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — City officials have long hoped for private investors to transform the North Marina Area, a 13-block district with undeveloped lots and 100-year-old bungalows overlooking Clearwater Harbor. Now, companies connected to the Church of Scientology are buying tracts of land within the 55-acre district and not disclosing what they plan to do with them. Since July 2019, eight limited liability companies managed or operated by members of the church have bought 45 properties in North Marina. The companies paid a combined $11.8 million in cash for 28 undeveloped parcels, five empty commercial buildings, and a dozen homes in the district. The acquisitions mirror the pattern that unfolded downtown between 2017 and 2019 when companies tied to Scientology bought 100 properties within walking distance of the waterfront.
“Peppa Pig theme park in Central Florida will be autism-certified” via Tribune News Service — Peppa Pig Theme Park will be a certified autism center when it opens in February, executives announced Tuesday. It was the first news conference at IAAPA, an annual convention put on by Orlando-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, one of the largest conventions in Central Florida devoted to the amusement park industry. The Winter Haven attraction is working with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards to achieve the designation. It also intends to have sister park Legoland Florida and the resort’s three on-property hotels certified with Peppa Pig’s Park, which opens Feb. 24.
Peppa Pig’s new theme park will be a safe bet for children with autism. “Okaloosa darter, little fish native only to this area, wins upstream battle against extinction” via Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News — A major victory was declared Tuesday in the long upstream battle of the Okaloosa darter, as the little fish native only to Okaloosa and Walton counties was declared no longer threatened by extinction. With its population grown from an estimated 1,500 when conservation efforts began in earnest in 1994 to a robust 600,000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has proposed that the Okaloosa darter be removed from the Endangered Species List. The darter’s habitat is confined to six adjacent stream systems that drain into Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Of the 243 estimated stream miles in which it exists, 90% are located on the Eglin Air Force Base reservation.
— TOP OPINION —
“Gosar made a murderous video. Kevin McCarthy is murdering democracy.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Gosar, the Arizona Republican who used congressional resources to produce and release a cartoon video of him murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, deservedly became the 24th person in history to be censured by his House peers. Ten days ago, as the world now knows, Gosar, a dentist/insurrectionist, tweeted from his official congressional Twitter account a manipulated animé in which the Gosar figure flies through the air and slashes the Ocasio-Cortez figure across the back of the neck. Blood sprays profusely from the neck wound. Ocasio-Cortez’s lifeless head snaps back. Gosar moves on in the video, swords drawn, to confront Biden.
— OPINIONS —
“In today’s GOP, voting for infrastructure is heresy. Threatening violence is not.” via Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — The House just voted to censure U.S. Rep. Gosar and remove him from his committee assignments after he tweeted an edited animé video portraying him killing Ocasio-Cortez. With the exception of two GOP members — Kinzinger and Cheney — virtually every other Republican voted no. Gosar is one of the Trumpiest members of the House. But when push came to shove, almost all his colleagues stood by him. The same is not true of the 13 House Republicans who recently joined with Democrats to pass an infrastructure bill that will deliver benefits to every congressional district in the country. The contrast between the two cases demonstrates how far policy has been driven from the minds and hearts of the Republican Party in Washington.
“Florida should stop withholding important COVID-19 information” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — As the delta variant gripped Florida this summer, Latinos and younger adults saw what was happening, and they jumped to get vaccinated. That finding shows what happens when people are armed with the facts and equipped to make informed medical decisions. And it’s another lesson of how state government has put Floridians at risk by withholding key COVID-19 data. The Sun-Sentinel discovered the trend after analyzing newly released data that we had to pry out of the state. Two of the groups most hesitant to be vaccinated, 25-to-44-year-olds and the Latino population, led the state in new vaccinations as the delta variant swept Florida. The newspaper found the trend became especially apparent in South Florida, as younger people and minorities sought vaccinations at higher rates than the state as a whole.
“DeSantis’ reckless COVID-19 stance has fallen to calling lifesaving vaccines ‘jabs’” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — DeSantis has completely adopted the language of anti-vaxxers. It’s a regrettable turn for the Governor, who just four months ago, sounded concerned about the Floridians who refused to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. In July, when the delta variant of the virus put his business-as-usual posture to the test, and 20% of the U.S. cases of COVID-19 were coming from Florida, DeSantis was temporarily scared into acting responsibly and urging Floridians to get vaccinated.
“Florida Democrats have a rare chance to block bad vaccine-mandate law. Don’t blow it!” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Republican lawmakers are pushing to fine businesses that impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates up to a whopping $50,000 per violation. But why and how those employers might end up facing penalties could be kept a secret. The point, lawmakers say, is to protect the identity of workers who file complaints against companies that fail to offer certain exemptions to those mandates, for anything from religious beliefs to an “expected pregnancy.” But Republicans have crafted a bill that’s so broad that it seems geared more toward protecting the government itself from public scrutiny.
“Biden’s Trumpian excess” via Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal — The hardest thing to believe about Biden is that his presidency is less than a year old. It feels like forever. Until 2024, the options available for dazed and confused Americans are: a) keep voting when they get the chance, or b) answer the phone when pollsters call. The results so far of this rolling referendum are 40 miles of bad road for the Biden Democrats. Virginia, a Biden win, flipped to Republicans on Nov. 2. The loss of suburban votes was an astonishingly swift reversal of political sentiment. Last week’s poll dropped Biden’s overall approval to 41%, a number that means independents are fleeing and Democrats at the margin are disappointed. On the economy, he’s hit 39%.
“Inflation and critical race theory have more in common than you think” via Jonah Goldberg of the Tampa Bay Times — A lot of voters have a hard time explaining how either works, but they know they don’t like it when they see it. Obviously, it’s a silly comparison on the merits. For starters, some voters actually like critical race theory while nobody likes paying higher prices. But, politically, the comparison is apt for two reasons. First, the country is in a mood to blame the party in power for things it doesn’t like, even if it’s not abundantly clear the party in power is responsible. The recent fights over CRT in Virginia’s elections had little to do with Biden or Congress. The same is mostly true for other hot-button issues such as “defund the police” or transgender bathrooms. But national Democrats are still being blamed for them.
“DeSantis’ gift to Cuban exiles is a gift to the entire Miami community” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Few historic buildings offer Miami’s Cuban exiles a flashback to one of the most significant moments of their lives. The Freedom Tower, their Ellis Island, is like no other. While in Miami to show support for the massive demonstration planned in Cuba, DeSantis used the opportunity to pledge a $25 million allocation from the Legislature to restore and preserve the 96-year building and enhance its museum component. It was a stroke of political genius by the Governor, a touching and savvy gesture aimed at the heartstrings of some of Miami-Dade’s most loyal voters, older Cuban exiles. Well played, Governor. It’s a worthy cause.
“What contribution did Sabatini ever make, besides nothing?” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Sabatini has twice won elections to represent House District 32 in Lake County. He received about 56% of the vote in 2018 and 2020, so this question is for those voters who decided Sabatini was the best choice. What do you believe you accomplished by sending this clown to Tallahassee? We send Representatives and Senators there to do things that help our state and local communities, not to run around acting like fools. What did he ever do for you? Nothing much, that’s for sure. Sabatini seems to treat his seat in the Legislature as a platform to pound his chest and shriek like anchorman Howard Beale in the movie “Network.” He’s as mad as hell, by gum, and he’s not going to take it anymore!!!
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Republican leaders in the Legislature grant the Governor’s wish to eject vaccine mandates with their “Keep Florida Free” agenda.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— Meanwhile, Democratic Leaders say the three-day Special Session was all political theater.
— Amid it all, there was a moment to give thanks to the people in health care at an event honoring those health care heroes.
— Today’s Sunrise interview is with Tampa General Hospital CEO Couris. He reflects on the people in health care working tirelessly throughout the pandemic. We caught up with Couris at his event in the Capitol Courtyard to talk about those heroes, while in the backdrop of the Special Session.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“A first look inside Disney’s Star Wars Hotel and its many Jedi mind tricks” via Carlye Wisel of Bloomberg — Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will be no ordinary hotel when it opens on March 1, 2022. The experience represents The Walt Disney Co.’s most ambitious project in recent memory, effectively, a family-friendly mission to the far reaches of outer space. It may not fall in the same category as Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin, but one takeaway from my afternoon aboard is that its all-inclusive “space voyages” may be the next best thing. My preview in November included tours of its cabins, some lightsaber training, and an abridged version of the immersive character-led narrative that’ll unfold over three days.
Disney’s Star Wars Hotel promises to be a unique experience. Image via Disney. “Disney shows off progress on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The first thing that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser passengers will see isn’t a lightsaber, a stormtrooper or Chewbacca. Visitors checking into Walt Disney World’s new experience will be greeted by a gray slab of an entrance. Once customers get past Starcruiser’s gray stuff, they will be placed in a launchpad capsule. When its doors slide open, passengers will exit into a two-story atrium. The look is bright and futuristic, with curved corners and splashes of orange. On the far side of the atrium is the captain’s bridge with a wide view of cosmos as well as other spaceships. This is Halcyon, in Disney/Star Wars lore. It’s the premier vessel within the Chandrila Star Line, a luxury liner in space. It’s been six years in the making.
For the Republican lobbyist on your Christmas shopping list:
.@RonDeSantisFL had the courage to stand his ground and fortify Florida as the model of freedom. Now, we’ve got the golf balls to back it up. 👀
The Fortified in Florida Golf Ball Set is available EXCLUSIVELY on our storefront! Get yours ⬇️🔥https://t.co/X7zY3NZGY4 pic.twitter.com/cRvbbmrSks
— Team DeSantis (@teamrondesantis) November 17, 2021
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Rep. Geraldine Thompson, former Leon Co. Commissioner Bryan Desloge, Madeline Holzmann, as well as former state Senate candidate Dean Asher, and Gerald Wester of Capital City Consulting.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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