Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.
Good Monday morning.
The Seminole Tribe has released another ad heralding the new Gaming Compact.
For a multimillion-dollar gaming ad campaign, there’s a distinct lack of gaming imagery. There aren’t any playing cards, felted tables or dice. The closest is an aerial shot of the iconic Guitar Hotel at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood.
Compared to the multistate advertising assaults by big-name national sports betting brands, it’s minimalistic.
Gambling itself receives only a passing mention; it doesn’t invoke the arrival of sports betting or the Tribe’s exclusivity on a handful of new casino games. It simply reiterates that the Compact will provide $2.5 billion in revenues to the state.
Instead, the ad focuses on the Tribe itself and the mutually beneficial relationship forged with the state.
It depicts Seminoles from the Brighton and Big Cypress reservations wearing traditional tribal attire, touring the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and running the tribal standard up the flagpole.
There’s also a shot of Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus William Osceola Jr. inking the new Compact alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The closer features two Seminole family members hand-in-hand walking off into the distance.
“After a miraculous story of survival, The Seminole Tribe created an international entertainment icon: Seminole Hard Rock,” the ad narrator says. “Today, a new Seminole Compact is law, creating thousands of jobs and generating billions more for the state — guaranteed. And allowing this sovereign nation to provide for the well-being of its members. A partnership of trust.”
To see the ad, click on the image below.
Leslie Dughi is joining the lobbying team at Metz Husband & Daughton.
Dughi brings more than 20 years of experience in both Executive and Legislative Branch expertise to the firm.
She most recently worked at the Greenberg Traurig firm, where since 2004, she had worked as a lobbyist representing clients spanning several industries, including aerospace, international auto rentals and fleet management.
Congratulations to legislative expert Leslie Dughi on her new gig at Metz Husband & Daughton. Dughi has particular experience in lobbying health care and health insurance matters and other regulatory issues before the various state agencies and the Florida Legislature.
“We are extremely excited to welcome Leslie to our team. She has a well-earned reputation for being one of the hardest working and well-liked people in the Capitol. We are lucky to have her, and our clients will be well served by the depth of knowledge and relationships she brings to our team,” MHD lobbyist Andy Palmer said.
In addition to her lobbying experience, Dughi has considerable experience in political communications, serving as the political director for Associated Industries of Florida and as director of government affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
She is the second major hire at MHD in as many months. In August, the team added veteran lobbyist Karl Rasmussen as a senior policy adviser.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
I’m proud to recognize the bravery, integrity, and tireless service of Florida’s firefighters tomorrow night during the 2021 Fire Service Awards. Join us as we honor these heroes!
Watch live at 5:30 p.m. EST on @FloridaChannel. #TuneIn #FlaPol pic.twitter.com/hX2sQYntNx
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) September 19, 2021
(Shoutout to Jesse Romimora in Chief Patronis’ office for that video.)
I think someone really wants to go to Tallahassee tomorrow. #minime #SubstituteSenator ❤️ pic.twitter.com/WETbnIzMrV
— Danny Burgess (@DannyBurgessFL) September 19, 2021
No better spot to enjoy a great game, greater company, and celebrate @UF’s historic and well-deserved designation as a Top 5 Public University in America. Go Gators! @ScottStricklin @WiltonSimpson pic.twitter.com/alUAlyxDpw
— Chris Sprowls (@ChrisSprowls) September 18, 2021
—@RealJacobPerry: I have now walked out of three places today because they were so short-staffed that nobody could help me. Yet, I keep seeing people complain about lack of federal employment benefits. What am I missing?
—@MDixon55: Super excited for this cycle’s folksy anecdotal story ledes about Beto (O’Rourke) in his pickup truck
— DAYS UNTIL —
The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 10; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 11; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 11; MLB regular season ends — 13; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 18; ‘Dune’ premieres — 32; World Series Game 1 — 36; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 37; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 37; Georgia at UF — 40; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 43; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 43; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 46; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 46; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 48; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 49; Miami at FSU — 54; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 59; FSU vs. UF — 68; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 72; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri‘s death — 78; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 81; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 88; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 93; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 96; NFL season ends — 111; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 113; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 113; NFL playoffs begin — 117; Super Bowl LVI — 146; Daytona 500 — 153; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 186; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 230; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 249; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 255; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 291; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 303; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 382; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 417.
— TOP STORY —
“50,000 Floridians killed by COVID-19, taking only one month since 40,000 died” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — It took nearly six months for Florida’s COVID-19 death toll to climb to about 40,000 from 30,000, but just over a month for the state to surpass 50,000 lives lost to what health officials are increasingly calling a preventable disease. COVID-19 has killed 50,811 Florida residents, the CDC reported Thursday. In June, Florida health officials stopped reporting daily fatality counts to the public, instead sending statistics directly to the CDC instead.
The latest update shows Florida’s death toll surpassed 50,000 on Sept. 5. “Florida’s COVID-19 hospitalizations plunge to under 9,000; ICU patients now under 2,300” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Sunday report showed 8,976 COVID-19 patients reported from 255 Florida hospitals. That’s 417 fewer patients than Saturday’s report. In Sunday’s report, COVID-19 patients occupied 15.90% of inpatient beds in those hospitals, compared with 16.11% the previous day. The percentage is based on 255 hospitals reporting 8,976 inpatient beds for COVID-19 patients and 56,462 total inpatient beds. Of the people hospitalized in Florida, 2,284 people were in intensive care units, a decrease of 97 from the previous day’s report. That represents 36.28% of the ICU beds at the 255 hospitals reporting data, compared to 36.57% the previous day and 37.71% on Friday.
— DATELINE TALLY —
First on #FlaPol — “Personnel note: Lauren Book shakes up Senate Minority Office for new Session” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Book announced a shake-up among Minority Office staff ahead of the first committee week of the 2022 Legislative Session. Among those asked to leave the office are Staff Director David Cox, Communications Director Michelle DeMarco, Staff Attorney Stuart Rimland and Administrative Assistant Sherese Gainous. There is no word yet on who will replace the departing staffers. Interim meetings in advance of the 2022 Session begin Monday. The 60-day Legislative Session will start on Jan. 11. The Minority Office supports both Democratic Leadership as well as members of the Democratic Caucus. Book took the helm of the Senate Democratic Caucus in April, three days before the end of the 2021 Session, after Democrats ousted Sen. Gary Farmer as leader of the minority Party in what some described as a coup.
Lauren Book shakes things up. “South Florida’s loss could be Central Florida’s gain as redistricting process begins” via Mary Ellen Klas and Karen Wang of the Miami Herald — Florida legislators will formally launch their reapportionment efforts Monday, armed with the census data that gives Florida one new congressional district and promises to upset legislative and congressional boundaries from Miami to St. Petersburg. The biggest changes will be felt in Central Florida, where Florida’s congressional District 9, held by Rep. Darren Soto, grew faster than any other congressional district in the nation over the last decade, and the region became home to most of the state’s 2.7 million new residents.
“Bill walking back employee vaccine mandate withdrawn from House” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A House bill that would have pared back an existing vaccine mandate for firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, and correctional officers was withdrawn from further consideration this week. Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff had filed a bill late last month that would have added COVID-19 and “infectious diseases” to the list of conditions that, if suffered by an emergency rescue or public safety worker, is presumed to have been contracted while at work. But HB 53 also would have changed the existing law requiring those same employees to be immunized to have presumptive eligibility, which entitles the worker to higher disability and death benefits. The bill was withdrawn, and that provision was dropped from a replacement bill, HB 117.
“Book files bill requiring schools to offer free access to sanitary products” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Book wants to provide girls and women in Florida public schools access to tampons and sanitary pads free of charge. Sen. Book filed the Learning with Dignity Act (SB 248,) which would apply to all public schools, K-12. If passed and signed into law, it would take effect July 1, 2022. Book’s bill comes on the heels of the California Assembly passing the “Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021” last week. The Parliament in Scotland last year passed a new law declaring access to menstrual products as a human right and requires all designated public places to supply menstrual products free of charge to anyone who needs them.
“Ardian Zika wants insurers, HMOs to cover at home COVID-19 tests” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Insurance companies and health maintenance organizations could start footing the cost for at-home COVID-19 testing for the next two years if Rep. Zika gets his way. HB 129 bill would require insurance companies and health maintenance organizations to cover the cost of over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test kits, including those with emergency-use authorization. The coverage mandate applies to both the quicker acting, but less accurate, antigen tests as well as the molecular or PCR tests. The bill also makes clear that the test can be used at home or “elsewhere.” The mandate comes as the availability of at-home testing for COVID-19 expands.
“Proposal seeks to expand Florida’s ‘move over’ law” via CBS Miami — Motorists would have to put down their cellphones when moving over for law enforcement and other vehicles stopped on the side of the road, under a measure filed Friday to expand Florida’s “Move Over” law and the state’s ban on texting while driving. The proposal (HB 127) by Rep. Emily Slosberg would prohibit the use of handheld wireless devices while operating a motor vehicle where first responders are actively working. Slosberg, who just over 25 years ago was seriously injured as a passenger in a crash that killed her twin sister, has focused heavily on traffic safety issues since her election to the Florida House in 2016.
Emily Slosberg wants to bolster Florida’s ‘move over’ law, a subject she takes personally. “Shevrin Jones’ bill would add level of protection for struggling species” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Coming off the endangered species list is no guarantee a species’ continued survival is going swimmingly. Consider the manatee. Four years since getting dropped from the endangered species list, Florida’s iconic mammals are dying in record numbers. They might be Exhibit A for legislation that would require continued state monitoring of any species that gets delisted from federal concern. Sen. Jones has introduced a bill (SB 238) that would require Florida officials to continue protecting endangered and threatened species, even after the federal government removes a species from its list of “endangered” or “threatened” species.
Happening today — House Minority Office Co-leader Evan Jenne and Rep. Fentrice Driskell will hold a news conference ahead of the first 2022 Session committee week, 10 a.m. Zoom link here.
Happening today — The Florida Public Service Commission will start a hearing about a proposal to raise base rates for Florida Power & Light customers, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.
New lobby registrations:
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Pamela Anez Krivocenko: Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: Health Choice Network of Florida
Aurelie Colon Larrauri: National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice
Beth Labasky, Beth Labasky & Associates: COPD Foundation
Jonas Marquez: Enterprise Florida
David Rabma, Thomas Hobbs, Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Florida Association of Special Districts, Trailer Estates Fire Control District
Benjamin Stearns, Carlton Fields: Southeast Volusia Hospital District
Danielle Thomas: Florida School Boards Association
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Bashing Ron DeSantis, Nikki Fried urges Joe Biden to delay Regeneron squeeze” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis just gained an unlikely ally in trying to halt Biden’s push to stymie Florida’s flow of monoclonal antibody therapy doses: Fried, who is running to unseat the Governor next year. In a letter sent Friday to Biden, Fried asked him to postpone changing Florida’s allotment of the therapy treatment by biotech company Regeneron until after the state’s COVID-19 case counts drop further. Floridians need more time to avail themselves of the post-infection treatment, she said, because they “have been victims of the DeSantis Administration’s pandemic mismanagement and misinformation.”
Ron DeSantis has an unusual ally in the Regeneron dispute. “DeSantis’ ‘disastrous’ COVID-19 response ripped in viral ‘Florida is Vietnam’ video” via Lee Moran of HuffPost — Bestselling author Don Winslow’s latest viral video hammers DeSantis with the observation that his state’s death toll from COVID-19 will soon surpass the number of American soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. More than 58,000 U.S. service members died in the conflict. The coronavirus claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people in the Sunshine State; over 1,000 new deaths are being recorded each day. Winslow, a bestselling author who has become an outspoken critic of Donald Trump and his GOP enablers, captioned the video with #FloridalsVietnam. It’s been seen on Twitter more than 1.3 million times.
—“South Florida governments push back against DeSantis’ proposed $5K vaccine mandate fine” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
“Florida highway patrolman dies after COVID-19 complications” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Trooper Brian Pingry served more than seven years with the Florida Highway Patrol in Fort Myers as a Field Training Officer. “Trooper Pingry was a highly regarded member of the Florida Highway Patrol for more than seven years and will be truly missed by the entire Florida Highway Patrol and FLHSMV family,” said Executive Director Terry Rhodes. “We send our deepest condolences to the Pingry family — please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.” According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, COVID-19 is the leading killer of law enforcement officers in 2020 and 2021. Gunfire is the second leading cause of death.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“12,000 students leave Broward schools as pandemic continues” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — About 12,000 students have left the Broward County school system in the past 18 months, moving to other districts, private schools, home-schooling, or just missing without explanation. The drop surprised school officials who expected enrollment to rise as students returned to buildings after months of learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it contrasted with Palm Beach County, which lost a relatively small number of students. A total of 256,021 students are attending public schools in Broward this year, down 4,694 from last year. That’s the second-highest drop in the past 15 years, surpassed only by last year, when enrollment plummeted by 7,255.
Thousands of students are ditching school in Broward County. “Miami-Dade schools to ease COVID-19 quarantine protocols” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced Friday that it will ease some of its quarantine protocols related to students and staff exposed to someone with COVID-19. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that after consulting with a team of medical experts who have been advising the district on its COVID-19 protocols, his administration has decided to lessen the time high school students and staff who are not vaccinated must stay out of school after coming into contact with an infected person. He said the decision was made because Miami-Dade County continues to see a decline in the number of people becoming seriously ill or dying.
—”Miami-Dade reaches 90% vaccination rate as steady slide in South Florida COVID-19 cases continues” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
“Polk Commission rejects letter to DeSantis promoting ivermectin” via The Lakeland Ledger — The majority of the Polk County Commission on Friday rejected a proposal to send a letter to DeSantis promoting patients’ right to try ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as possible COVID-19 treatment options. Commissioner Neil Combee, the author of the letter, has for weeks shared frustration with the medical community for “refusing to prescribe these safe and effective therapeutics,” as he wrote in the letter. He said these drugs are “low-risk, inexpensive, and otherwise widely available.” He believes that if a patient wants these drugs, they should be able to get them, regardless of what federal health agencies say. With only Commissioner Bill Braswell supporting the letter as written, Combee said he would send his own letter to DeSantis making his case.
—“Lost to COVID-19: Deltona man leaves behind wife, seven adopted children” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel
—“Cases of COVID-19, new vaccinations reach lows in Tampa Bay” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
“Falling COVID-19 numbers mean masks could be optional in Sarasota schools” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Masks could become optional in Sarasota County Schools as soon as Monday if the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to drop. The school district’s mandatory mask policy includes a provision that automatically reverts to mask-optional for students and staff if the county’s single-day positivity rate falls below 8% for three consecutive days. The rate, which shows the percentage of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive, has declined steadily this week. If Friday and Saturday’s rates are still below 8%, masks will be optional on Monday.
“Seminole Tax Collector gets six-day Iceland trip — with 10-day quarantine” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — For his birthday, Seminole County Tax Collector J.R. Kroll received a six-day vacation to Iceland from his wife, Holly. But the venture was far from pleasant, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kroll found himself alone for nearly 11 days, quarantined inside a “cruddy” government-run hotel room, and served three cold meals a day. “You were not allowed to open the door. And if I left, I would be arrested,” Kroll said a day after he arrived home from the north European country. He spent most of his days pacing the 12-foot-by-15-foot hotel room, doing pushups, taking naps, browsing the internet on his cellphone, or staring out the second-story window at the landscape of small, squat houses.
— 2022 —
“‘All-hands-on-deck crisis’: Florida Democrats on verge on losing voter registration advantage” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Democrats in Florida are facing a five-alarm political fire headed into the 2022 midterms. They’ve known about it for years but have been unable to extinguish the blaze. Republicans have nearly entirely eroded Democrat’s long-standing voter registration advantage, which at its peak was 700,000 when President Barack Obama won Florida in 2008. At the beginning of 2021, the lead for Democrats was down to roughly 100,000. That advantage has further narrowed to 23,055 over the past eight months.
“Gavin Newsom used DeSantis to win California recall. Does it mean anything in Florida?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — One word kept popping up among those who supported Gov. Newsom: “Florida.” The Sunshine State’s deadly summer battle with the coronavirus Delta variant, it turned out, would help galvanize California Democrats. In the months that followed, Newsom and his Democratic allies turned DeSantis into an unofficial opponent. They linked the Republicans on the ballot to DeSantis’ hands-off approach to the public health crisis and doubled down on vaccine and mask mandates that Florida’s Governor has opposed.
NEW: @CookPolitical’s state-by-state estimates now show Rs netting just 1-2 House seats from redistricting alone, down from 3-4 a few months ago. The outlook for Dems has slightly improved in IN, NJ & NY. https://t.co/IaUNKmz1GP pic.twitter.com/Hcdl0Vvdsh
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) September 16, 2021
“Donald Trump delivers ‘complete and total endorsement’ of Mike Waltz reelection” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In a statement through the Save America Political Action Committee, Trump’s notably early endorsement enthused: “Congressman Mike Waltz is a relentless fighter for the incredible people of Florida. As a former U.S. Army Green Beret, Mike is working hard in Congress to hold Joe Biden accountable. Mike Waltz is strong on China, the Border, the Second Amendment, and our brave Military and Vets. Mike has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Waltz faces no serious competition in Florida’s 6th Congressional District field right now. And according to records with the Federal Elections Commission, he is well-positioned for whatever battle may await.
“Amanda Makki hits back after Trump endorsement of campaign rival” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Makki, a Republican candidate for the District 13 congressional seat, responded with a brutal email blast last week to Trump’s endorsement of her primary opponent, Anna Paulina Luna. Among other things, Makki called Luna “just Crist in a skirt,” one of the worst insults one Republican could hurl at another, reminding backers that Charlie Crist “betrayed our party” by switching to the Democratic Party when he believed the GOP had gone too far right. That made Crist the bête noire of the Florida GOP.
On Sunday, Makki snags endorsements from five CD 13 Mayors — Republican congressional candidate Makki announced a string of endorsements from local mayors. The set includes Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks, North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, Redington Beach Mayor David Will, and Belleair Shore Mayor Bob Schmidt. Quotes in the news release pitch Makki as the candidate who will put helping her district front and center if voters send her to Washington. Makki said she was “grateful for the support” and used the release to smack “Biden’s failed foreign policy” as another issue she will give attention to if she succeeds exiting U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist. She faces Audrey Henson and Anna Paulina Luna, the 2020 nominee, in the Republican Primary.
“Political activist Laura Loomer, who wished for COVID-19, now has it: ‘In so much pain’” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Outspoken anti-vaxxer and alt-right agitator Loomer is feeling the effects of COVID-19. The Barry University alum announced she had contracted the virus on conservative social media platform Gettr Wednesday. “Yesterday I was feeling ill,” wrote Loomer, a onetime Republican nominee to represent Florida’s 21st Congressional District in the 2020 United States House of Representatives elections. On Parler last December, the 28-year-old downplayed coronavirus, joining a digital chorus spreading misinformation, comparing it to food poisoning from eating “bad fajitas.”
First on #FlaPol — “Wengay Newton to run for former state House seat after unsuccessful mayoral bid” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Newton will run for his former seat in the Florida House after an unsuccessful bid for St. Petersburg Mayor, he announced Saturday. In an email to supporters of his mayoral campaign, Newton said he will be running to replace Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, who is leaving office to run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. He also references his loss in the Aug. 24 Primary Election, where he collected 7% of the vote. “What’s next, I have filed to run for my old House Seat, District 70, because your current Representative has resigned to run for Congress,” Newton said. “It would be an honor to represent you again in Tallahassee.”
“A test case for early voting gets testy in Palm Beach” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Palm Beach County’s postelection meltdown in 2018 disrupted three statewide recounts, helped cost an elections supervisor her job, and exposed the need for new equipment. Among other things, Palm Beach bought 525 pricy machines for voters with special needs, but they haven’t had much use until now. In an upcoming special election for Congress, Supervisor of Elections Wendy Link will use them at all five early voting sites in Belle Glade, West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach. Early voting will be from Oct. 23-31 in the part of the county that’s in the 20th Congressional District. The contest to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings features 11 Democrats, two Republicans, a Libertarian and two no-party candidates.
— CORONA NATION —
“FDA panel endorses coronavirus boosters for older adults and those at risk of serious illness” via Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — Expert advisers to the FDA voted Friday unanimously to recommend that the agency authorize a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine six months after vaccination for people 65 years and older and for anyone at risk for severe illness. The vote is not binding, and Peter Marks, the FDA official overseeing coronavirus vaccines, indicated that the final decision could be slightly different, encompassing people at higher risk of infection because of their professions, such as health care workers front-line employees, including teachers.
Officials in Israel said their booster campaign, launched in July, has helped curb the pandemic there. Image via AP. “Confusion over Biden’s booster plan riles Governors” via Lauren Gardner of POLITICO — Federal public health officials are still wrestling with who should get COVID-19 booster shots and when, but that hasn’t stopped some states from moving ahead on their own. Biden’s plan to roll out boosters for most Americans by Sept. 20 has sparked fierce debate about whether he’s getting ahead of the available scientific evidence and divided regulators and their outside advisers. And while the FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer and BioNTech’s booster shot in the coming days, it is not clear which groups would be able to get it. On Friday, the agency’s independent vaccine advisory panel rejected a plan to offer the shot to people 16 and older in favor of a narrower proposal to supply shots to people over 65 and those at considerable risk of severe disease.
“Majorities favor mask and vaccine mandates as pandemic worries increase” via Victoria Balara of Fox News — Majorities support mask and vaccine mandates advocated by the Biden administration, as the coronavirus pandemic remains a top concern. Three-quarters of registered voters are “extremely” or “very” concerned about the pandemic (74%), a 5-point increase from August when 69% were worried. The shift comes mainly from Republicans (+14) and men (+8). The only issue more worrisome to voters is inflation and higher prices (82% concerned). Sizable majorities believe face masks (69%) and vaccines (65%) are effective and favor a range of mandates and requirements. The new survey finds two-thirds believe schools should require masks of teachers and students (67%), and businesses should do the same with employees and customers (66%).
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Battle over Biden’s massive child care bill takes new turn with virus” via Megan Cassella of POLITICO — Working women, whose child care duties vastly expanded during the pandemic, are bracing for a new hit to their incomes and careers as the resurgent coronavirus jeopardizes plans to keep kids in school full time. After 18 months of shutdowns, the return to classrooms was supposed to be a turning point for women, whose participation in the labor force plunged to its lowest level in more than three decades during the pandemic. But as COVID-19 cases rose in the summer, more than 40,000 women dropped out of the labor force between July and August, even as Americans flocked back to work. Men returned to the job over that period at more than three times that rate.
Joe Biden’s plan for national child care programs is setting off a battle where women suffer the most. “Fund the police? Pushed by Biden, Democrat Mayors divided how to use COVID-19 money to fight crime” via Joey Garrison of USA Today — After watching homicides in Lorain, Ohio, more than double, Mayor Jack Bradley adjusted quickly when he learned his city could use federal COVID-19 rescue funds to hire more police officers. Bradley thought using American Rescue Plan funds to beef up law enforcement wasn’t an option. “We noticed that the shooting and murder rates was going up in our community — not just 100%, but several hundred percent,” said Bradley. The Biden administration has turned to the direct aid from the American Rescue Plan, approved by Congress in March, as one of its top strategies not only to combat rising crime in cities but to push back at attacks from Republicans seeking to tie Biden to the calls of progressive activists to “defund the police.”
“The days of full COVID-19 coverage are over. Insurers are restoring deductibles and copays, leaving patients with big bills.” via Christopher Rowland of The Washington Post — In 2020, as the pandemic took hold, U.S. health insurance companies declared they would cover 100% of the costs for COVID-19 treatment, waiving copays and expensive deductibles for hospital stays that frequently range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But this year, most insurers have reinstated copays and deductibles for COVID-19 patients, in many cases even before vaccines became widely available. The companies imposed the costs as industry profits remained strong or grew in 2020, with insurers paying less to cover elective procedures that hospitals suspended during the crisis.
— MORE CORONA —
“The Biden administration is negotiating to buy another 500 million Pfizer doses to donate overseas.” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Lara Jakes of The New York Times — The Biden administration is negotiating with Pfizer to buy another 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to donate overseas, which would bring the total number of planned donations to 1.15 billion doses about a 10th of the world’s need. It was not immediately clear over what period the donation would be. The deal is not yet final, but the talks come just as the White House announced Biden will host a global COVID-19 summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting next week.
The federal government is looking to make a major purchase of Pfizer vaccines. Image via AP. “Parents are lying to get their little kids vaccinated” via Sarah Hosseini of The Atlantic — These days, the distance between ages 11 and 12 is more than a year. It is a chasm between danger and safety. Vaccines promise people 12 and older protection from COVID-19 but aren’t yet approved in the U.S. for younger children, and it isn’t clear exactly when they will be. Frustrated by the wait and desperate to protect their children, some parents are sneaking their 10- and 11-year-old kids across this chasm and hoping not to get caught. In terms of liability, as long as pharmacists follow their company guidelines, they’re likely to be protected from litigation, but parents might not be. Purposely misrepresenting birth date, marriage status, date of death, and other vital information in state identity documents is unlawful in many jurisdictions.
“A new study suggests that children’s eyesight may have worsened during lockdown.” via Azi Paybarah and John Yoon of The New York Times — Young students who recently endured a year of pandemic lockdowns may have suffered deteriorating eyesight. The study was based on data from annual eye exams given to more than 2,000 students in a dozen primary schools in Guangzhou, China, from 2018 to 2020. About 13% of second grade students who had eye exams in 2018 developed nearsightedness by 2019. The findings suggested that younger children were more susceptible to environmental effects on their vision. The study did not explore the hours children spent in front of computer screens as part of remote learning, or the time spent reading books.
“Alabama saw more deaths than births for first time” via Jeanine Santucci and John Bacon of USA Today — For the first time in its documented history, Alabama recorded more deaths than births in a year, and state health officials are attributing the 2020 population shrinkage to COVID-19. The state had 64,714 total deaths and 57,641 total births last year, he said. There were 7,182 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020, according to state health data. “Our state literally shrunk this year for the first time in history, even going back to World War II, when people were serving overseas; going back to the Spanish Flu epidemic, when we had the flu in our state; going back to World War I,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said.
“She demanded a hospital treat her husband’s COVID-19 with ivermectin. A judge said no.” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — After her husband was infected with the coronavirus and entered an intensive care unit this month, Angela Underwood pushed for the Louisville hospital that was treating him to administer ivermectin to her husband. A judge denied her emergency order request Wednesday in a scathing ruling that called out people who have promoted and supported ivermectin as an effective treatment for COVID-19.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden pitching partnership after tough stretch with allies” via Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — Biden goes before the United Nations this week eager to make a case for the world to act with haste against the coronavirus, climate change and human rights abuses. His pitch for greater global partnership comes when allies are becoming increasingly skeptical about how much U.S. foreign policy really has changed since Trump left the White House. Biden plans to limit his time at the U.N. General Assembly due to coronavirus concerns. He is scheduled to meet with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and address the assembly before shifting the rest of the week’s diplomacy to virtual and Washington settings.
Joe Biden goes to the U.N. to try to patch things up with our allies. Image via AP. — EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump looks for challenger to depose Mitch McConnell as split widens” via Michael C. Bender and Lindsay Wise of The Wall Street Journal — McConnell’s record-long reign as Senate Republican leader has lasted long enough for Trump. Trump has spoken recently with senators and allies about trying to depose McConnell and whether any Republicans are interested in mounting a challenge. There is little appetite among Senate Republicans for such a plan, lawmakers and aides said, but the discussions risk driving a wedge deeper between the most influential figure in the Republican Party and its highest-ranking member in elected office. Since failing reelection, the former President has kept elevated levels of support among conservative voters, and polls show he has convinced much of the party that the 2020 results were fraudulent.
Donald Trump seeks a candidate to primary Mitch McConnell. Image via Reuters. “New Sarasota County resident Mike Flynn shows an interest in local politics” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — When Flynn bought a house in Sarasota County in April, it introduced a big wild card into GOP politics at the state and local level. After being dismissed as Trump’s first national security adviser, Flynn has emerged as a MAGA star, convicted of lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and then pardoned by Trump. Many conservatives view Flynn as a martyr who was unfairly prosecuted after being caught up in a Russian investigation they view as unjust. “Flynn is considered by a lot of people in the base as almost like a hero,” said Florida GOP Chair Joe Gruters.
— CRISIS —
“Sparse right-wing protest of Jan. 6 arrests draws huge police response” via Jonathan Weisman and Matthew Rosenberg of The New York Times — Fewer than 100 right-wing demonstrators, sharply outnumbered by an overwhelming police presence and even by reporters, gathered at the foot of The Capitol to denounce what they called the mistreatment of “political prisoners” who had stormed the building on Jan. 6. The peaceful gathering was the first significant right-wing protest since the Jan. 6 riot, and though even the organizers lamented the sparse turnout, the scene showed how the Capitol assault continues to reverberate eight months later. Where only movable metal barriers stood between a mob and the Capitol on Jan. 6, layers of newly erected fence and dump trucks lined end to end guarded the building. Mounted police, absent eight months ago, now stood at the ready.
At this latest rally, police far outnumbered protesters. Image via AP. “Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots” via Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post — Of the roughly 600 people charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, 78 remain jailed pending trial, with a majority of those still detained accused of assaulting police officers or some of the worst violence seen that day. However, defendants are being jailed pending trial at lower rates than federal defendants nationwide charged with similar offenses. And nearly half face misdemeanors that typically carry little or no prison time for first offenders. No one accused of a misdemeanor is still jailed.
“‘Oath Keeper’ from Wellington pleads guilty to role in Jan. 6 Capitol riot, faces prison term” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — A 45-year-old Wellington man faces a possible 6 1/2-year prison term after admitting he joined an angry mob that broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop Congress from certifying the results of the November presidential election. Jason Dolan, a former Marine marksman and one-time security guard at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the obstruction of an official proceeding. He is the second member of the Oath Keepers to plead guilty to charges in connection with the riot that left five dead and roughly 150 people injured. Charges against 16 other alleged members of the anti-government militia group are pending in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
“Jan. 6 committee taps former George W. Bush administration official as top lawyer” via Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has hired a former Bush administration official to serve as its top legal adviser. The panel tapped John F. Wood, a former U.S. attorney and adviser to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, to work as its senior investigative counsel. Wood joins the committee after a stint working as the chief legal officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He held a number of high ranking positions under the Bush administration, moving from serving as a deputy associate attorney general at the Department of Justice to top legal roles at the Office of Management and Budget
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Democrats push to retool health care programs for millions” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — Dental work for seniors on Medicare. An end to sky’s-the-limit pricing on prescription drugs. New options for long-term care at home. Coverage for low-income people locked out of Medicaid by ideological battles. Those are just some of the changes to health care that Democrats want to achieve with Biden’s massive “Build Back Better” plan. The $3.5 trillion domestic agenda bill touches almost all aspects of American life, from taxes to climate change, but the health care components are a cornerstone for Democrats, amplified during the COVID-19 crisis. The investment in the nation’s services could make a difference in the quality of life for decades.
Democrats are looking to build health care back better. “Crist looks to stem heat-related deaths in ‘catastrophic’ temperature rise” via Florida Politics — The announcement of the Preventing Health Emergencies and Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act came on the same day the United Nations released a report that said global temperatures will rise to “catastrophic” levels by the end of the century. Crist’s bill would set up and formally authorize the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS). It’s an interagency committee that would coordinate efforts to address extreme heat. The NIHHIS was an Obama-era initiative. By adding the NIHHIS to the statute, the committee would be protected from the whims of changing administrations as well as receive clear directives and funding. It would also create a $100 million financial aid program to help communities, especially historically marginalized ones.
“Health care advocates criticize Maria Elvira Salazar in support of Build Back Better” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Health care advocates and union workers met Friday morning outside of Congresswoman Salazar’s district office in Miami in response to her opposition of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda. The group spoke in support of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, particularly on the health care aspect of the plan, which looks to lower costs of prescriptions and health care in general. “It is not a partisan issue that drug costs in this country have been moving in the wrong direction, getting more prohibitively expensive without any checks being put on unscrupulous large pharmaceutical companies,” William Miller, Protect Our Care Florida state director, said in a statement.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Tampa announces reforms to Crime-Free housing program” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Mayor Jane Castor announced that the city will reform its Crime-Free housing program. The move comes four days after a Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed how officers encouraged landlords to evict tenants based on arrests, including some where charges were later dropped. The program was aimed at stamping out drug and gang crime in apartment complexes. But the Times investigation found that police officers were reporting tenants to their landlords after arrests for misdemeanor crimes, juveniles’ arrest, and arrests that happened elsewhere in the city. The report also revealed that roughly 90% of the 1,100 people flagged by the program were Black tenants.
Jane Castor is breathing new life into Tampa’s Crime-Free housing program. “Jacksonville tightens City Hall access after stepped-up protests of Confederate monument” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — After protesters demanding the removal of a Confederate monument tried to take their group into Jacksonville City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Lenny Curry, the city has enacted a new policy tightening accessibility by the public to the upper floors of City Hall. Signs posted Wednesday on the first floor of City Hall say going to the second, third and fourth floors can only happen “by appointment, consent or invitation of a City Hall official or department.” Violation can result in arrest. The city’s public information office did not respond to questions about how the policy would apply to public meetings that take place on the upper floors of City Hall.
“Alcohol banned at beach to discourage Georgia-Florida party” via The Associated Press — Officials are banning alcohol at a Georgia beach for the weekend of the Georgia-Florida football matchup, hoping to discourage big crowds amid a high rate of coronavirus infections. Commissioners in Glynn County voted 6-to-1 to prohibit possession or consumption of booze on the beach at St. Simons Island on Oct. 29 and 30, news outlets reported. The island has become a hotspot for Georgia Bulldog fans on their way to the big game in Gainesville each fall, with residents derisively referring to the surfside crowds as “frat beach.” Glynn County Commissioner Cap Fendig, who proposed the alcohol ban that was approved Thursday, says he hopes it will reduce the need for police and other public safety personnel at the beach, and therefore limit their potential exposure to the virus.
“No Zoom for them: Walton Commissioners opt out of remote participation in meetings” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Walton County Commissioners voted Tuesday unanimously to prohibit themselves and members of other county government entities such as the Planning Commission from using the Zoom teleconferencing tool to participate in public meetings. The Commission’s vote leaves unchanged rules put in place in July that require people wishing to take part in meetings via Zoom to preregister on the county website at least 24 hours before the meeting at which they want to speak. Also unchanged is a rule requiring people using Zoom to appear on video rather than solely via audio.
“Dixie Highway redesignated after abolitionist Harriet Tubman” via CBS Miami — Tubman was honored Saturday with the honorary re-designation of Dixie Highway. Florida Sen. Shevrin Jones, Rep. Kevin Chambliss were present during the designation. The road’s honorary designation comes after years of local voices and advocates calling for the change and Miami-Dade County’s motion to do so earlier this year. In 2020, all 13 Miami-Dade commissioners supported the name change.
Miami-Dade’s Dixie Highway gets a major name change, Image via CBS Miami. “Will American Dream Miami megamall ever become reality?” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The so-far disappointing financial performance of the American Dream megamall and entertainment complex just outside of New York City, has forced its developer, Triple Five Group, to seek a debt restructuring plan that would allow it to retain ownership of the project. Meanwhile, financing for the planned $4 billion American Dream Miami, south of the Broward County line where the Florida Turnpike intersects with Interstate 95, has not yet been secured. “It’s too early for financing,” said Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, an attorney with the firm Gunster who is representing the project planned on 175 acres in northwest Miami-Dade. But whether lenders would still see the South Florida project as viable if the New Jersey mall fails to become profitable remains to be seen.
“South Florida still No 1 in health care fraud. Rip-offs cost Medicare billions a year” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — At the cost of billions, fraud is corrupting the new health care fields of telemedicine, substance abuse facilities and COVID-19 programs, but U.S. authorities also say it’s still plaguing traditional areas such as medical equipment supplies, home care and pharmacies. Authorities say that South Florida continues to rank No. 1 in the nation for health care fraud, draining massive sums of money from the taxpayer-funded federal program, Medicare, and private insurance carriers. The region recently accounted for $308 million, or 20%, of the $1.4 billion in false health care claims nationwide.
—“Broward Judge Tarlika Nunez-Navarro appointed to 9th Judicial Circuit Court” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
“South Florida Cubans call for political asylum for Cuban YouTuber Alain Paparazzi” via Josh Navarro of WPTV — Members from the South Florida Cuban community rallied Saturday afternoon at Jose Marti Park in West Palm Beach in solidarity for popular Cuban YouTuber, Paparazzi. According to demonstrators, Paparazzi’s YouTube channel has shown the world the realities many Cubans lived in and heavily criticized the communist regime. Paparazzi, his wife and daughter, fled Cuba in December after receiving several threats because of his videos. Currently, they are in the country Panama, where he has applied for political asylum, but demonstrators said there too he has received threats from the Castro-Canel regime.
South Florida pushes to give political asylum to Cuban YouTuber Alain Paparazzi. “Protesters demand justice, accountability year after deputy shot, killed Immokalee man” via Rachel Heimann Mercader of the Naples Daily News — Dozens of people called for accountability, transparency, and justice for their tiny community 50 miles and a world away from the county seat. They demanded the end of police killings and brutality and that the Collier County Sheriff agreed to hear them out. Friday afternoon, nearly 60 people gathered a short distance from the sheriff’s headquarters, armed with signs that pictured Morales Besanilla. This group directed its frustration toward the Collier County Sheriff’s Office during a protest and march, a year after a deputy shot and killed Nicolas Morales Besanilla. The Immokalee man was suffering a psychotic break when a deputy fatally shot him on Sept. 17, 2020, as he charged another officer.
— TOP OPINION —
“Stop calling it a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’” via Yasmin Tayag of The Atlantic — Yes, vaccine mandates increase vaccination rates. The White House reported 4 million more first doses in August than in July, after Biden announced his first mandate, for federal workers. And the number of shots administered daily jumped 80% from mid-July to the end of August. But the way the mandates are presented is driving a wedge between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. If the goal is to inoculate enough people to reach herd immunity, this approach may eventually backfire. “If you get into these scenarios where you start pitting one group against another, you create tension, you create resistance,” says Simon Bacon, a behavioral scientist at Concordia University in Montreal. “What you really need to do is totally deflate that.”
— OPINIONS —
“What I say to persuade parents to vaccinate their kids — and what I hold back” via Rachel Pearson for The Washington Post — While it is tempting to unload the weight of all I have seen — children stricken with severe COVID-19, with mysterious clots and heart problems and respiratory failure — I generally hold back. When parents need to feel heard and reassured, worst-case scenarios can do more harm than good. I might start by acknowledging perspective: “I have also learned that most kids with COVID don’t get very sick … but some do, and a small number even die from COVID. We know that the risks from infection are worse than the risk from the vaccine — even for kids.” Having bridged from a vaccine myth to a plain-language fact, I stop. No vaccines have delayed negative effects; they occur in the first six weeks after vaccination.
“DeSantis must shut down COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, not give them platform” via the Pensacola News Journal editorial board — Northwest Florida is home to many smart and reasonable Republicans who enthusiastically support DeSantis. Even Floridians who may not subscribe to the Governor’s politics have a serious and sincere interest in the Governor being successful when it comes to Florida’s ongoing battle against COVID-19. The hospitalizations are beyond politics. The deaths are beyond politics. The uncertainty of a constantly evolving disease and the future threats variants could pose to Florida children are universal concerns that should all be far beyond the petty realm of politics.
“Beach reaper faces death by a billion bureaucrats” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — Daniel Uhlfelder may have wielded a scythe during his satirical tromps along Gulf and Atlantic shorelines to protest the COVID-19 policies of DeSantis. But it’s Uhlfelder who’s being sentenced to death by a thousand bureaucrats, under orders from judges on the 1st District Court of Appeal. It’s been a long and legalistic journey for Uhlfelder to reach this point, but the central plotline has remained that Uhlfelder has been an average-guy antagonist to numerous politicians with big-time connections to public money and power.
“Republicans lead on climate, resiliency efforts” via Jason Brodeur for the Orlando Sentinel — More so than perhaps any other state, Florida is vulnerable to the impacts of our changing climate and increasingly severe weather events. That’s why Republicans in Florida are leading on climate and resiliency issues. With the right policies in place, we can preserve our state’s beautiful natural areas, protect the private property of individuals and businesses, and strengthen economic opportunities across the Sunshine State. Legislators in Washington, D.C., should take note. Florida passed the largest climate resiliency package in our state’s history. Congress should take note as they debate resiliency funding in the infrastructure package: In the Florida Legislature, we worked across the aisle to get that job done.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Lawmakers are kicking off the once-a-decade redistricting process, but they continue to block the public from seeing draft maps.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— This first committee week, lawmakers will try to produce a plan for what’s next after Florida drops high-stakes standardized testing. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says something better is possible.
— A newly filed bill aims to make school board elections partisan. Christian Ziegler with the Republican Party of Florida says nonpartisan races are a sham.
— After an intensive search, authorities say they discovered a body Sunday in Wyoming believed to be Florida resident Gabby Petito.
— The Sunrise interview jumps right into a hot topic for committee week — redistricting. The guest is Ellen Freidin, campaign chair of the drive to amend the Florida Constitution to require more compact legislative and congressional districts — through Amendments 5 and 6, passed in 2010.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Trailblazing tourist trip to orbit ends with splashdown” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — Four space tourists safely ended their trailblazing trip to orbit Saturday with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast. Their SpaceX capsule parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier. The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut. The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists. “Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed.
The SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast. Image via AP. “Get them while you can: Friday is last day to harvest scallops” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Get your last few dives in while you can- scallop season officially ends next Saturday. The last day to recreationally harvest bay scallops is Friday, Sept. 24. Once these areas close, scallop harvest will not reopen until the 2022 season. Divers can collect scallops by hand, or less-hearty souls can use a landing or dip net. Scalloping is often referred to as an underwater Easter egg hunt, with the critters known for mesmerizing divers with a row of blue eyes that peep out from their shell, alerting divers of their presence. Recreational bay scalloping is allowed from the Hernando-Pasco County line north to Mexico Beach.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Rep. Jason Shoaf, former Reps. James Grant and Frank White, Chloe Barr of Allison Aubuchon Communications, Kevin Derby, our former colleague Drew Dixon, and Governors Club GM Barry Shields (turning the big 6-0). Belated birthday wishes to Brian May of Floridian Partners.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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