As we jump in, allow me to say that geoFence protects you against inbound and outbound cyber attacks!
Here’s your morning briefing of what you need to know in Florida politics.
Another poll shows Florida voters think Big Tech is a big bully that needs to be put in its place.
A survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy found that 59% of Florida voters want the Legislature to move forward with bills that would limit the power and influence of companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon.
Voter support for a legislative fix comes as they feel increasingly restricted on what they can say on social media — particularly Facebook and Twitter. Half the voters said they feel less free online now than they did five years ago, while 66% say Facebook has too much power and influence. More than three in five Florida voters said the same of Twitter.
Those claiming social media unfairly censors speech had their case strengthened this week when YouTube, a sister company of Google, pulled down a video of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ recent roundtable with scientists because it furthered scientifically unsound coronavirus theories.
Distrust in Big Tech is also reflected by the fact that 72% of Florida voters believe these companies care more about their profits than they do about ensuring their customers are safe when using their services.
The poll, commissioned by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, also found widespread support for specific provisions in the Legislature’s plan to push back (SB 7072).
An even 60% of voters said platforms should be required to clearly spell out what content will result in a ban, and 56% want Big Tech to stop “arbitrarily censoring and de-platforming users.”
More than two-thirds want a requirement on the books ensuring established news organizations and qualified political candidates have equal access to reach users free from manipulation by algorithms while 68% said they want the ability to opt-out of algorithms altogether.
“Florida has the chance to set an example for Congress by enacting legislation in support of Gov. DeSantis’ goal to put fair guardrails on big tech companies,” said Liliam “Lily” Lopez, president of the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “SB 7072 can establish both transparency and accountability to ensure a fair marketplace for all of Florida’s small businesses.”
This poll was conducted via telephone April 5-8 and had a sample size of 625 registered Florida voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Here is even more content:
— Old school blogging, from yours truly (part 1): Florida is on pace to see nearly 100,000 property insurance lawsuits in 2021, set on pace with 24,000 filed in the first quarter alone. Data presents a compelling argument for reform — two attorneys filed more than 1,000 suits each in just the first three months of 2021; others have filled hundreds each. Read more here.
— Part 2: As lawmakers grapple with a handful of gaming-related proposals and plans for a compact move forward, the Seminole Tribe would be foolish to turn down the latest offer. My argument, in full here, centers on the notion that the future of gambling in Florida is on sports betting, an industry that could benefit both them and the state.
🤦🏻♂️ — Part 3: Juan Peñalosa has a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Look no further than his boneheaded decision to take a Paycheck Protection Program loan for the Florida Democratic Party last year that landed the party in hot water and helped the party’s overall dismal performance at the polls. Yet now he’s landed a top spot on Andrew Yang’s committee aiding his New York City mayoral bid. Intrigued? Read more here.
🦠 — Big Sur, big clean: One California restaurant, located in picturesque Big Sur, is taking a comprehensive approach to cleaning its air, and it could be a model for other restaurants nationwide. A digital package created by The Washington Post highlights how the restaurant used tabletop air purifiers, strategically placed larger air filters, new AC, and clean air monitors to ensure the cleanest air possible.
Health care heroes have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year now.
Looking back, there were times of real uncertainty, high emotion and great sacrifice. This week, Tampa General Hospital released a video honoring the commitment and sacrifice of the doctors, nurses and workers on the front lines. It’s a simple thank you for their selfless service through this unprecedented global health crisis.
Here is the video:
We’ve made really great progress in the state of Florida, but the crisis is not over. Florida health officials have reported nearly 16,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the last 48 hours. New variants are surfacing and spreading. The next few months are critical. Doctors, nurses and workers remain on the front lines, providing care for patients suffering from COVID-19 and addressing other health needs.
To mark four months since the vaccine first arrived in Florida and was administered to a nurse at Tampa General Hospital, ABC Action News last night aired a live special: COVID-19 Vaccine Process and the Path Ahead. Several leaders at Tampa General Hospital were featured, including CEO John Couris, Dr. Abe Schwarzberg and Rafael Martinez, the nurse who administered the first vaccine at TGH.
Watch the segment here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@SenRickScott: I just received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! I encourage all Americans to help prevent the spread of the virus and get vaccinated.
—@DavidMDaut: Imagine being the kind of person who is even performatively upset that the kid selling $12 popcorn at Disneyland is now allowed to wear up to three (3) earrings.
—@OmariJHardy: I’m tired of Republicans pretending that they won’t vote for bad bills if we point out the bills’ flaws in debate. They vote for bad bills no matter what we say because what happens in the chamber is about power, not reason. I wish that they’d admit as much.
—@MDixon55: A bit of the wind is taken out of the sails of “we are the Florida Senate, we are deliberate when we act” when it is said as the Senate is taking up a House bill on the floor that got there through a series of procedural bank shots
—@Scott_Maxwell: Floridians write me with a whole host of concerns. Each and every day. I can count the number who have written to say this anti-transgender bill is a priority on zero fingers.
—@MrsCouture217: Did anyone do a fiscal analysis regarding all the outside attorney’s fees going to have to be paid by the state to defend all the lawsuits about to drop against multiple pieces of legislation passed this Session in Florida? Just asking.
Elections matter? Day after Coral Gables election @Wawa chops down beloved fifty year old oak across from G.W. Carver to make room for a driveway into a gas station. pic.twitter.com/LvU2AaB6cx
— Attorney David Winker (@davidjwinker) April 14, 2021
Introducing the official 🇺🇸Team USA🇺🇸 Closing Ceremony uniforms for the #TokyoOlympics.
(via @RalphLauren, poloralphlauren/IG) pic.twitter.com/KUAkZW6BAK
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) April 14, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Apple’s new hardware event — 5; Disneyland to open — 15; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 17; Mother’s Day — 24; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 25; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 43; Memorial Day — 46; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 49; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 57; Father’s Day — 66; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 78; 4th of July — 80; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 84; MLB All-Star Game — 89; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 99; The NBA Draft — 105; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 107; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 113; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 131; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 141; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 162; ‘Dune’ premieres — 169; MLB regular season ends — 171; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 177; World Series Game 1 — 194; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 201; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 204; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 225; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 236; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 243; Super Bowl LVI — 304; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 344; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 386; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 449; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 540; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 575.
— GAETZGATE —
“Matt Gaetz’s glare stings House GOP — but his future’s safe for now” via Melanie Zanona and Oliva Beavers of POLITICO — While top Republicans acknowledged the serious nature of the allegations surrounding Gaetz, just one sitting GOP lawmaker has so far publicly called on him to resign: Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Instead, Republican leaders were quick to defer to the ongoing Justice Department probe, noting the Florida Republican would automatically lose his committee assignments if he were indicted. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said he needs to see “what the facts are” and pointed out there hasn’t “been any formal DOJ action yet,” but added that “obviously we’re watching it closely.”
“Gaetz’s wingman paid dozens of young women — and a 17-year-old” via Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger of The Daily Beast — Joel Greenberg made more than 150 Venmo payments to dozens of young women and to a girl who was 17 at the time. The payment from Greenberg to the 17-year-old took place in June 2017. It was for $300 and, according to the memo field, was for “Food.” Nearly a year after Greenberg’s June 2017 payment, Gaetz Venmo’d Greenberg to “Hit up ___,” using a nickname for the teen. She was 18 years old by then; Greenberg described the payment as being for “School.” Gaetz made a payment for $300 on November 1, 2018, with the love hotel emoji (“🏩”) in the memo field. Greenberg booked one night for that date at The Alfond Inn, a luxury hotel in Winter Park.
“Marco Rubio, Rick Scott: Too soon to weigh in on Gaetz’s future” via Alan Fram of Florida Politics — Florida’s two Republican senators are steering clear of voicing support for Gaetz, branding sex trafficking accusations against him serious but calling it premature to say what should happen to their fellow Floridian and GOP lawmaker. The remarks by Sens. Rubio and Scott were the latest cautious comments about Gaetz by Republicans, who have mostly taken neutral stances or said nothing about him. Federal agents are scrutinizing Gaetz over allegations that include sex with a minor, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly.
“Steve Scalise sidesteps question about whether he has confidence in Gaetz” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — Scalise sidestepped a question about whether he retains confidence in Rep. Gaetz, who is under investigation by the Justice Department over allegations of sex-trafficking-related to a relationship with a 17-year-old girl. “If something’s going on, obviously, we’ll find out about it,” Scalise said at a news conference held by House Republican leaders that largely focused on other issues. “Right now, it’s hard to speculate on rumors.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not participate in Wednesday’s leadership news conference, as he usually does, making Scalise the highest-ranking GOP member in attendance. Scalise said he has yet to talk to Gaetz “to get his, you know, get his explanation of what’s been alleged, serious things alleged.”
“The veteran Air Force pilot hoping to oust Gaetz” via Daniel Strauss of The Guardian — Veteran Air Force pilot Bryan Jones is laying the groundwork to challenge the scandal-hit Gaetz in the Republican primary for Florida’s 1st congressional district. Jones serves as the director of operations for the Florida Air National Guard headquarters detachment 2 based out of Hurlburt Field. He is being advised by consultants from New Politics, a bipartisan consulting firm specializing in recruiting and boosting civil servants running for office. Jones is a CV-22 Osprey pilot for the air national guard. Jones is also a co-owner of a CrossFit gym in Florida. His background could appeal strongly to voters in the district, which has a large population of service members.
“Gaetz takes aim at CNN as women involved in allegations speak out” via Olivia Iverson of WEAR-TV — Gaetz is hitting back at CNN over their reports surrounding a sex trafficking investigation. On Wednesday, CNN sourced two anonymous women who say they attended Orlando-area parties with Gaetz. The women reportedly said the events included drug use, sex, and digital payments. The claims come as Gaetz faces investigations from the DOJ and the House Ethics committee over allegations of him having sex with a minor and sex trafficking. Gaetz has denied all allegations. One of the women in the new report says she doesn’t believe anyone at the Orlando parties was underage. The report also states a spokesman for Gaetz did not respond directly to a request for comment on their story but challenged the use of anonymous sources.
“We spoke with 21 of Gaetz’s high school classmates. Some say they could have predicted the Congressman’s sex scandal.” via Robin Bravender of Business Insider — Insider interviewed 21 of Gaetz’s former classmates this month, including alumni from his Niceville High School graduating class of 2000 and members of Gaetz’s high school debate team. Several say they have known Gaetz since childhood, and some still live in his congressional district at the end of the Florida Panhandle. His classmates have been texting one another and posting memes on Facebook as they’ve watched and read the stream of updates about Gaetz’s sex scandal on national news. “Honestly, it was ‘What are they going to dig up next?’” said one female high school classmate who spoke with Insider on condition of anonymity.
‘Remove Ron’ highlights Ron DeSantis’ ties to Gaetz — Remove Ron, a political committee working to defeat DeSantis in 2022, put out an online video Wednesday highlighting the Governor’s friendship with Gaetz, Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. The ad, titled “Reprehensible,” rolls through the current scandal surrounding Gaetz as well as alleged improprieties by the other men. “The three stooges of Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan and Donald Trump … couldn’t have found a better ally in Florida than Ron DeSantis,” Committee Founder Daniel Uhlfelder said. “It’s sick and repulsive. And the fact that the Governor has refused to not only condemn but also to completely detach himself from these toxic and barbaric monstrosities speaks volumes about his character. We plan to hold Ron accountable.”
Watch the video here:
Read this Scott Maxwell column just to get to this sentence: “That’s $7,000 to a firm run by someone who appears to work for Gaetz-Greenberg buddy Jason Pirozzolo … whom Gaetz tried to get appointed surgeon general … but whom Gaetz instead convinced DeSantis to put on the airport board … where the ganja-preneur helped create a stink pushing for a shady no-bid legal contract … that involved an attorney for controversial River Cross developer/lobbyist Chris Dorworth … who was busy offering booze and luxury seats to legislators … and whose lobbying firm had an $87,000 contract from Greenberg’s office … along with Gaetz protégés [Anthony] Sabatini and [Matt] Morgan … the payments for whom auditors struggled to find any legitimate taxpayer justification.”
— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —
“Senate backs off ballot drop box ban, but fuels controversy with new signature rules” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Florida Senate backed away from a plan to ban ballot drop boxes Wednesday, but its election package added new requirements for signature matching that opponents said could disqualify millions of current voters. The legislation (SB 90) is among hundreds of voting restrictions promoted by Republican lawmakers across the nation. Some of the most visible changes occurred in Georgia, where Major League Baseball recently announced moving the All-Star Game planned for Atlanta in protest of new limits seen as directed toward blunting Black voting strength. Sen. Dennis Baxley, sponsor of the measure, heard Wednesday in the Rules Committee insisted it will enhance election security, but few Democrats accepted that explanation.
“Chris Sprowls celebrates House passage of workforce bills” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Sprowls led the lower chamber in the passage of two bills that will transform Florida’s career system for job seekers and students. Both bills passed with bipartisan support on the House floor Wednesday. In a statement after the bills’ passage, Sprowls, who deemed the legislation a priority, said the need came after a federal audit revealed weaknesses in CareerSource, the network that guides workforce development in Florida. The issues were exasperated during the COVID-19 pandemic. REACH, one piece of the legislation, aims to streamline and coordinate data collection among Florida’s workforce and education programs. The other bill (HB 1505), which deals with workforce programs and services, is sponsored by Naples Rep. Lauren Melo.
“‘I certainly couldn’t care less’: Sprowls stands firm after corporate boycott threats” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House passed a bill to prohibit transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams. Lawmakers are also advancing a bill tightening Florida’s election laws (HB 7041). Other states have passed similar laws and face consequences from companies and out-of-state groups threatening to stop doing business in those states. The NCAA warned states that the association could move championships from states that pass bills restricting transgender females in sports. “I certainly couldn’t care less. I really couldn’t,” Sprowls told reporters. “I think that this is now a movement that you’re seeing in corporate America that, whether it’s the NCAA today or it might be someone tomorrow, that we’re going to use our corporate largesse to bully the state.”
“House passes bill banning transgender athletes from women’s sports” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — In one of the most contentious votes of the Legislative Session, the House voted Wednesday to ban transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ scholastic sports. The bill passed by lawmakers, HB 1475, is aimed at maintaining the competitive balance in women’s sports, its supporters say. Detractors say it’s a thinly veiled attempt to marginalize already vulnerable transgender kids. The legislation is part of a national effort on the part of Republican state lawmakers to remove transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports. Florida is one of at least 30 states debating such a bill. After an emotional hour of debate, it passed the House with just one Democrat supporting the measure. No Republican voted against it.
Equality Florida condemns House passage of trans sports ban — Equality Florida slammed the House after it voted mostly along party lines to pass a bill prohibiting transgender girls from participating in women’s sports. “All eyes are on the Florida Senate to stop this cruel legislation and protect the transgender youth this bill vilifies,” Equality Florida public policy director Jon Harris Maurer said. “If this bill passes, it would be the first anti-LGBTQ bill to pass the Florida Legislature in 23 years and could send shock waves through an economic recovery dependent on conventions, events, sports, and tourism. We know this is a nationally coordinated attack fueled by far-right anti-LGBTQ organizations, and the Florida House has taken the bait. The Florida Senate must hear the voices of transgender kids and reject this state-sanctioned discrimination.”
“House leaders, Black Caucus agree on policing reforms. Choke holds targeted.” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — After months of negotiations, Republican House leaders and members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus have reached a compromise on a bill that aims to improve trust in police by addressing the use of force and other police tactics. The bill, introduced by the House Judiciary Committee, would set statewide use-of-force policies for Florida law enforcement officers, limit the use of the controversial chokehold tactic and would require the state to collect data on cases in which police officers use force that results in serious bodily injury or death or shoot at a person.
“Anti-riot bill awaits Senate vote” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Sen. Danny Burgess ushered a bill onto the Senate floor Wednesday that would stiffen penalties against rioters in Florida, marking the proposal’s latest step toward the Governor’s desk. As DeSantis’ flagship proposal, the bill has garnered national attention throughout the committee process and is arguably the most contested proposal of the 2021 Legislative Session. The 61-page bill, which now awaits a Senate vote, contains a slew of provisions. Among them, the proposal would intensify several criminal and civil penalties against rioters while also creating a new penalty coined “mob intimation.” The bill would also allow state leaders to overrule a municipality’s decision to slash a police department’s budget.
“Gambling bills backed — but could see changes” via News Service of Florida — The House Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved bills (PCB COM 21-05/PCB COM 21-03) that would revamp laws about pari-mutuel facilities and create a state gaming commission. That proposed change, known as “decoupling,” comes after a 2018 constitutional amendment ended live greyhound racing in the state. The proposals have emerged as the state tries to reach an agreement on a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Chairman Blaise Ingoglia made clear at the beginning of Wednesday’s discussion that the bills were a vehicle “to keep the gaming issue alive.” He added later, “These bills will, most likely, change.” The decoupling proposal drew the most attention, with Rep. Dan Daley objecting to ending harness racing at Isle Casino Pompano.
— TALLY 2 —
Aligning Florida tax code with feds will cost $200M — A Senate tax bill to aligning Florida law with recent federal tax policy changes is expected to cost the state about $200 million. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, SB 7082 would address the tax law changes included in the federal coronavirus stimulus bills. The most contentious change is a 100% deduction for business lunch expenses, which was aimed at encouraging people to head back to restaurants. The bill would also account for a change in depreciation schedules for certain business renovations. The so-called “retail glitch fix” forced businesses to write off upgrade expenses over 39 years. That would change to 15 years under the bill.
“Despite business pushback, House data privacy bill gets panel approval” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Businesses feel the financial burden for protecting consumers’ data. Meanwhile, consumer advocates argue customers would be shocked to know what information businesses have on them. That was the crux Wednesday of public discussion and debate over Rep. Fiona McFarland‘s consumer data privacy bill (HB 969) in the House Commerce Committee. Business interests united in opposition, saying the measure would create untold operational and legal expenses. McFarland, of Sarasota, and others, contended businesses just don’t want to be forced to disclose what data they have on their customers.
“House bill preempting local energy regs clears Commerce Committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A House bill designed to preempt cities or counties from restricting which forms of energy, particularly natural gas, can be provided received approval Wednesday from the House Commerce Committee along largely partisan lines. The bill (HB 919) moved forward on the strength of sponsor Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow‘s argument that it will help assure that Florida consumers can have choices in energy, and would help ensure energy independence overall. While Tomkow insisted the bill would do nothing to prevent individual cities and counties from pursuing wide-ranging clean energy agendas, key phrasing in the bill left opponents unconvinced.
“No-fault repeal earns Senate’s support” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The bill (SB 54), carried by Burgess, would end the requirement that Floridians purchase $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and would instead require mandatory bodily injury (MBI) coverage that would pay out up to $25,000 for a crash-related injury or death. Those backing PIP repeal say the system is rife with fraud and that the $10,000 coverage limit, set in the 1970s, is woefully inadequate five decades later. “The key question before us is are the current coverages sufficient, and I think we can all agree that they’re not. This bill seeks to address just that,” Burgess told Senators.
“Flood mitigation tax break resolution clears second Senate committee” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Sen. Jeff Brandes wants to amend the Florida constitution to give a property tax break to homeowners for home improvements that prevent flooding. Brandes isn’t the only legislator who likes the idea. In a Senate Finance and Tax Committee meeting Wednesday, other Senators used debate to praise the joint resolution (SJR 1182), including fellow Sen. Ed Hooper. “My property appraiser and yours from Pinellas County has been very vocal about how excited they are that you’re bringing forward this legislation. So, thank you. And for everybody that is impacted by potential flooding, this is a win, and they need to win very badly in that arena,” Hooper said. The resolution passed the committee unanimously. It now heads to its final committee stop, Appropriations.
“Ports preemption bill drudges up opposition from the Keys” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bill prohibiting local governments from writing their own seaport restrictions is on its way to the Senate floor after hitting turbulent waters in committee. The controversial bill (SB 426), filed by Rep. Jim Boyd, would prohibit local ballot initiatives from restricting seaport activity and preempting seaport restrictions. On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee approved the bill for the full Senate’s consideration. Voters in Key West in November amended the city’s charter to block large cruise ships from docking. Around two-thirds of Key West voters voted to limit the capacity of cruise ships that can dock at the tourist destination’s port, limit the number of passengers who can disembark, and prioritize cruise lines with the best health records.
To watch the protest, click on the image below:
— Listen: “Without cruise ships, Key West residents are enjoying a quieter, clearer harbor” via NPR
“Toilet-to-tap program heads to Governor’s desk” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A bill to reclaim Florida’s used water will head to the Governor’s desk. If signed, the legislation would compel Florida utility companies to submit plans by 2032 for cleaning and reusing water. The House passed the Senate’s version of a reclaimed water bill (SB 64) Wednesday in a 118-0 vote. The Senate already passed the legislation 39-0 in March. DeSantis’ prioritization of Florida’s water systems in the past might offer a clue as to whether he will sign this bill. DeSantis, in September, announced $1.1 million toward a reclaimed water project benefiting Wekiwa and Rock Springs.
— TALLY 3 —
“College president search exemption clears House” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House on Wednesday OK’d a bill that would create a 21-day public record exemption on the personal information of college and university president applicants. The House passed the bill (HB 997) with a 101-16 vote. Rep. Sam Garrison of Fleming Island is the bill sponsor. The bill aims to attract more applicants for president at Florida higher education institutions. Proponents contend some applicants within academia are dissuaded from applying if their application is made known, particularly if they face long odds. Moreover, people in business and elsewhere could face repercussions for applying to a new job.
“House backs more power for physician assistants” via News Service of Florida — The Florida House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would broaden the “scope of practice” for physician assistants, authorize them to prescribe 14-day supplies of psychiatric controlled substances for minors, and bill insurers for services. The House voted 106-5 to pass the bill (HB 431) after sponsor Bob Rommel made a change Tuesday that would cap the number of physician assistants a doctor could supervise at one time. Under the bill, doctors would be authorized to supervise 10 physician assistants at a time, up from four. The bill also would delete a requirement in law that physician assistants be required to advise patients that they have the right to see physicians before being prescribed drugs by physician assistants.
“Health providers targeted in sex crimes bill” via News Service of Florida — Health care providers charged with child-related sex crimes such as human trafficking, soliciting or luring a child, and transmitting child pornography by electronic devices or equipment, would be hit with emergency suspension orders and be banned from working, under a bill (HB 1579) approved Wednesday by the House Health & Human Services Committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis, is now ready to be heard by the full House. Chris Nuland, a health care attorney and lobbyist, said concerns remain about the bill because physicians’ licenses would be suspended even though they have not been convicted. “We recognize the heinous nature of these offenses, but we are concerned about a potential lack of due process,” Nuland told The News Service of Florida.
“Lawmakers clarify pelvic exam law” via News Service of Florida — Lawmakers appear poised to clarify that a 2020 law requiring doctors to obtain written consent before conducting pelvic exams applies only to women. A House panel on Wednesday approved a bill (HB 361) meant to clarify the law, which caused confusion for doctors and nurses and led to requests that state regulatory boards issue declaratory statements providing guidance. The bill would define a pelvic exam as a “manual examination of the female reproductive system” and make clear that consent is required unless patients have emergency medical conditions and exams are needed to provide care or if exams are part of child- protective investigations or investigations related to alleged child neglect.
“Commerce Committee green lights House bill to do away with crosswalk yellow lights” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill to do away with yellow flashing lights at midblock pedestrian crosswalks was sent to the House floor Wednesday by the House Commerce Committee despite passionate debate about whether it could make walking safer or more dangerous. Bill (HB 1113) sponsor Republican Rep. Randy Fine argued it would be safer without the yellow lights; contending drivers are conditioned to think yellow means “go” and too often don’t stop. But others, such as traffic safety advocate, Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg, contend any flashing lights attract drivers’ attention to the crosswalk, which is better than nothing. The committee overwhelmingly approved the measure, named after Sophia Nelson, a 12-year-old Brevard County girl killed in a crosswalk in December 2019.
“House signs-off on ‘Victims of Communism Day’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida public schools may soon observe a “Victims of Communism Day” under a bill approved Wednesday by the House. Sponsored by Republican state Rep. David Borrero of Sweetwater, the bill (HB 1553) would designate Nov. 7 in Florida as “Victims of Communism Day.” The proposal also calls on high schools to teach students about communist dictators and the experience of communism victims. The instruction, which would become a high school graduation requirement, must be at least 45 minutes long. The bill now moves to the Senate. If signed into law, the bill will take effect July 1.
“POW-MIA memorial plan goes to DeSantis” via News Service of Florida — Florida lawmakers Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that calls for creating a memorial in Tallahassee to honor military members who were captured or went missing in combat during the Vietnam War. The House unanimously passed the bill (SB 416), authorizing a POW-MIA veterans bracelet memorial along South Monroe Street near the state Capitol. The Senate unanimously approved the bill last month, meaning it is now ready to go to DeSantis. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Burgess and Rep. Mike Giallombardo, would direct the state Department of Management Services to consider recommendations from the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Florida Historical Commission in making decisions about the memorial’s design and placement.
“Girl Scouts ‘Get REAL!’ program produces results, but funding is in jeopardy” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In this time of uncertainty, the Girl Scout mission continues. In fact, more than ever, girls need Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts of Florida is up to the challenge. The organization aims to keep helping middle-school-aged girls struggling with upended routines and shifting school formats by continuing its “Get REAL!” program, which connects girls with positive, caring adults to help them boost their grades and build social positive skills. The program connects girls with mentors at their school or community center to provide them with programming focused on four components: improving reading skills, life skills, community care projects and enhancement programs.
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society
David Barmore, Runway Strategies: MedMen
Kevin Cabrera, Mercury Public Affairs: New WinCup Holdings
Kathleen Curatolo: Collier Building Industry Association
Gerard O’Rourke, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Town of Surfside
Manny Reyes, Pereira Reyes Consulting: Village of Pinecrest
Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Berkeley Housing Initiative
Heather Turnbull, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Orchid Cove Health Group
Screven Watson, Screven Watson & Associates: IQVIA
The Senate Appropriations Committee meets to consider several bills, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The House Education and Employment Committee meets to consider HJR 1461, a constitutional amendment to prohibit school board members from receiving compensation, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Judiciary Committee meets to consider HJR 61, a constitutional amendment to raise the threshold for future ballot amendments to pass from 60% to two-thirds, 9 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House will hold a floor Session, 2 p.m., House Chamber.
The House State Affairs Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Rules Committee meets 15 minutes after the floor Session adjourns, Room 404, House Office Building.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after the Appropriations Committee adjourns, Room 402, Senate Office Building.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis says ’60 Minutes’ has ‘contempt’ for its viewers” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis continued to work “60 Minutes“as a punching bag, taking aim at the franchise’s “mealy-mouthed statements,” purportedly “false” reporting, and charging them with having “contempt” for their viewers. The Governor offered these extended comments to Fox and Friends on Wednesday morning, his latest in a series of responses to a piece the CBS newsmagazine did. DeSantis was in high dudgeon about the network’s attempts at damage control, which included a short viewer response epilogue on Sunday’s show where the franchise attempted to reassert control of the narrative. “They’ve issued a lot of mealy-mouthed statements since the episode aired,” groused the Governor. “They knew what they were putting on the air was false. And that’s the problem that they have.”
“Nikki Fried flashes medical marijuana card in latest hype video” via Nikki Fried of Florida Politics — Fried uses medical marijuana, and she wants the world to know it. In a new campaign-style video, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat flashed her state-issued Florida Medical Marijuana Card. And she said no one’s taking it from her. “I want to show you something,” she tells the camera in the video. “This is my medical marijuana card. It’s legal and a direct result of 71% of Floridians voting to allow medical marijuana, but you wouldn’t know that in Tallahassee.” She references the constitutional amendment passed in 2016 that legalized cannabis in Florida for certain medical use. Then she hammered proposals in the Legislature this year to limit the potency of product sold at Florida dispensaries.
“Dark money details emerge as Frank Artiles and no-party candidate head to court” via Ana Ceballos and Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — While prosecutors have charged Artiles and Alexis Pedro Rodriguez related to the state Senate election scheme, the investigation is still open, and many questions remain on whether the case could expand to other 2020 Florida Senate races that also featured mysterious no-party candidates. Investigators, when searching Artiles’ Palmetto Bay home last month, found he was in possession of campaign documents of another no-party candidate who ran in Miami-Dade’s Senate District 39. Investigators are also probing who was behind $550,000 that paid for political mail pieces that advertised the no-party candidates. The money has so far been untraceable, as have portions of the nearly $50,000 investigators say Artiles paid Rodriguez.
“‘Grim Reaper’ lawyer seeks to scuttle disciplinary case” via the News Service of Florida — A Northwest Florida attorney who drew national headlines by dressing as the Grim Reaper to criticize DeSantis’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic is asking a judge to dismiss court proceedings seeking penalties for comments attributed to him in a news story. Prosecutors last month filed a motion in Walton County to pursue sanctions against Santa Rosa Beach lawyer Uhlfelder, who traveled throughout the state in the macabre costume to call attention to issues such as the Republican Governor’s refusal to close beaches amid the pandemic. The motion came after a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal took the rare step of ordering State Attorney Ginger Bowden Madden to pursue discipline against Uhlfelder
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports 6,772 new coronavirus cases and another 44 deaths” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The number of new COVID-19 cases dropped Wednesday slightly from the previous day but remains significantly higher than the daily count a month ago. Florida reported 6,772 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday and another 44 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 2,141,686 cases since the pandemic began. Wednesday’s daily count of new cases represents nearly 2,300 fewer cases than the previous day, but it also represents test results of nearly 27,000 fewer people.
“Does COVID-19 test positivity still matter? Vaccines are upending trusted virus metrics” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — About four out of every 10 Floridians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — a shift in the pandemic landscape that has upended the meaningfulness of various statistics that health experts, government officials, and the public have relied on for the last year. Now, the number of people hospitalized has become the single most important measure in understanding both the severity of an outbreak and how effectively the vaccines are working. “The relationship between each of these metrics and what they mean for the future is rapidly changing,” said Stephen Kissler, an immunology and infectious disease expert with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Masks should be voluntary in schools in the fall, says Florida Education Commissioner” via Colleen Wright and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Wednesday asked school superintendents to revise their school district’s mask policy, if they have one, to be voluntary instead of mandatory for the 2021-22 school year. In a memo, Corcoran bolded and underlined reasons that he says are why districts should make masks voluntary: That data shows that districts’ face-covering policies do not impact the spread of the coronavirus; that families and individuals should maintain their ability to make a decision unique to their circumstances; and that broad sweeping mandatory face-covering policies “serve no remaining good at this point in our schools.” Corcoran did not include any data to back up his claims in the letter.
“Ease COVID-19 vaccine requirements for undocumented immigrants, Florida Democrats urge” via Skylar Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida should loosen residency requirements that have made it difficult for the state’s nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants and seasonal farmworkers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, four Democratic members of Congress wrote to DeSantis Wednesday. The request, which was led by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, cites a growing disparity in the state’s vaccination effort with reports of undocumented residents being turned away. The lawmakers asked for targeted vaccine sites for immigrant communities and more flexibility in documentation requirements.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Former neighbor put on vaccine VIP list after complaining to Manatee Commissioner, emails show” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Emails show the former neighbor of Manatee County Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh complained to Baugh about her inability to get a vaccine through the county’s lottery system shortly before Baugh put the neighbor on a vaccine priority list that appears to have bypassed that appointment system. The vaccine VIP list created by Baugh — which included herself and former neighbors — prompted a complaint to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives are investigating whether Baugh abused her power when she directed a county employee to put the five names on the list of individuals scheduled to get the vaccine at a Lakewood Ranch pop-up clinic Feb. 17-19.
“Orange County provides vaccination rates by ZIP code, gets cut off from state database” via Lauren Seabrook of WFTV — Weeks after Channel 9 first requested records providing a breakdown of COVID-19 vaccination numbers by ZIP code, Orange County finally turned over some of the data. Orange County provided Channel 9 with three maps showing which communities have had the most access to the vaccine. The maps are public records and do not identify any personal information. But after the county released the records, the state turned around and cut off the county’s access to the Florida Department of Health database. The vaccination rates provided help Orange County determine where to put vaccine sites. “I wish that relationship could be better between Tallahassee,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
“Could Indian River schools make masks optional? Superintendent to develop plan for School Board” via Summer Brugal of TC Palm — When is the right time to make mask-wearing optional for students and staff? After hearing from more than a dozen community members for and against the district’s mask mandate, the board unanimously agreed to direct Superintendent David Moore to devise a plan that would phase out masks, determine what safeguards need to be in place to make masks optional, and minimize the number of students required to quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure. In June, he’ll discuss what can be expected for the 2021-22 school year.
— CORONA NATION —
“Most Americans approve of how Joe Biden and state Governors are handling the coronavirus” via Emily Guskin of The Washington Post — A 62% majority of Americans said Biden is doing a good job handling the coronavirus outbreak. Both Biden and state Governors enjoyed a slight boost in their ratings on handling the outbreak compared to March when just under 6 in 10 said each was doing a good job. While majorities of Americans have praised Governors positively throughout the pandemic, Biden’s ratings for handling the outbreak are markedly higher than Trump received at any point. As he left office, 34% said Trump was doing a good job on the issue. But among Republicans, just about 2 in 10 said Biden is doing a good job dealing with the coronavirus, while almost 6 in 10 said their state Governors are.
“Why Biden health officials decided to pause Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine” via The Washington Post — Top administration health officials faced a difficult decision. Six women in the United States had developed extremely rare but potentially life-threatening blood clots after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — a problem with disturbing parallels to the one in Europe linked to AstraZeneca’s vaccine. They didn’t want to undermine confidence in vaccines, given the danger of COVID-19. But as they talked, two big worries emerged. They feared there might be additional cases of brain blood clots they didn’t know about. And what if the government didn’t act quickly, and as a result, more people were hurt or died?
“Did spotlighting a rare potential vaccine side effect put more at risk?” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jan Hoffman of The New York Times — To federal health officials, asking states on Tuesday to suspend use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine until they can investigate six extremely rare but troubling cases of blood clots was an obvious and perhaps unavoidable move. But where scientists saw prudence, public health officials saw a delicate trade-off: The blood clotting so far appears to affect just one out of every million people injected with the vaccine, and it is not yet clear if the vaccine is the cause. If highlighting the clotting heightens vaccine hesitancy and bolsters conspiracy theorists, the “pause” in the end could ultimately sicken and even kill more people than it saves.
“Underserved communities bear brunt of paused Johnson & Johnson rollout” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — Because the single-shot option is favored for transient and hard-to-reach populations, the pause’s most immediate cost was exacted on those with the fewest other options. That includes students, rural residents and people involved in shift work, throwing a new hurdle in front of the Biden administration’s efforts to introduce greater equity into the nation’s vaccination campaign. The places best able to address the change were those with abundant vaccine supply, newly underscoring the uneven nature of the rollout. Federal officials estimated that the pause would last a “matter of days,” although they did not foreclose the possibility that the vaccine would be recommended for a narrower subset of the population.
“Why the Johnson & Johnson pause should bolster confidence in vaccines” via Leana S. Wen in The New York Times — The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint recommendation on Tuesday to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on the basis that it could be associated with a rare blood clotting disorder. I am a doctor and a participant in the Johnson & Johnson clinical trial who received the vaccine myself less than two weeks ago; here is how I’m processing the news. First, federal health officials made exactly the right decision. Any concerning safety signals should be investigated immediately. With so much scrutiny on vaccine safety, an abundance of caution bolsters public confidence.
“Republican vaccine resistance remains stubborn” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Two things have happened over the past several months. As more Americans have received doses of the available coronavirus vaccines, the percentage of people who say they are wary of being vaccinated has declined. The percentage of people who flatly state that they won’t be vaccinated, though, hasn’t changed much at all. Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, made that point flatly when releasing new data showing that 21% of Americans say they will probably never get vaccinated. Since October, the percentage of people saying they are not sure if they will get vaccinated has dropped from 33% to 16%, cut in half. The percentage reporting that they either will be or have been vaccinated has climbed by about the same amount.
“The rural pandemic isn’t ending” via Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic — In pockets of the country, vaccination rates could stay low, creating little islands where the coronavirus survives and thrives. In a worst-case scenario, the virus could mutate, becoming a highly transmissible and much more lethal version of itself. Eventually, the new variant could leak from these islands and spread into the broader population, posing a threat to already-vaccinated people. This is the future that keeps some public-health experts awake at night. Right now America is in the simplest stage of its vaccination campaign: getting shots to people who want them. But many Americans are still reluctant to get a vaccine—especially those living in rural areas, who tend to be politically conservative and are among the most fervently opposed to inoculation.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Billions in COVID-19 aid is slow to reach renters and landlords” via Christine Mai-Duc and Dan Frosch of The Wall Street Journal — Overwhelmed state and local authorities are grappling with how to allocate $25 billion in federal rental relief, leaving many tenants and landlords waiting weeks or months for their share. Before the pandemic, Orange County, California, spent less than $1 million a year on rental assistance for tenants at risk of eviction. Now, it has to distribute more than $60 million in federal aid to thousands of residents behind on rent because of coronavirus-related hardships. State and local governments around the U.S. are scrambling to launch programs to handle the nation’s largest-ever emergency rental assistance effort, intended to help an estimated 13 million people.
— MORE CORONA —
“The mRNA vaccines are looking better and better” via Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic — A year ago, when the U.S. decided to go big on vaccines, it bet on nearly every horse, investing in a spectrum of technologies. The protein-based vaccines have moved too slowly to matter so far. J&J’s and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 — but a small number of recipients have developed a rare type of blood clot that appears to be linked to the adenovirus technology and may ultimately limit those shots’ use. Meanwhile, with more than 180 million doses administered in the U.S, the mRNA vaccines have proved astonishingly effective and extremely safe. So many doses have been administered that these unusual blood clots — or any serious one-in-a-million event — would very likely have shown up by now.
“A U.K. trial on mixing vaccines expands” via Anna Schaverien, Melissa Eddy and Shashank Bengali of The New York Times — Researchers in Britain investigating the effects of using one coronavirus vaccine for a first dose and another for a second have expanded their trial, they said. Mixing doses could help countries weather vaccine supply shortages. Some governments have also recommended that some people who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine receive a second injection of a different vaccine after a small number of recipients developed a rare blood-clotting disorder. On Wednesday, German health authorities recommended that anyone under 60 who had received an initial inoculation with the AstraZeneca vaccine get either the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine for their second shot.
“‘Long COVID-19’ mystery sparks a research revolution” via Mohana Ravindranath of POLITICO — Researchers racing to understand the lingering coronavirus symptoms collectively known as “Long COVID” face a crucial data problem: They don’t know exactly what they should be looking for. Entirely new symptoms could manifest months, maybe even years, after infection, and it’s not yet clear who’s most likely to experience them. Getting a better grasp on the syndrome means setting up entirely new systems to monitor patients’ biometrics and vital signs long after they test negative for active coronavirus infection. And as federal rules easing the flow of health data take effect, it could also mean using sophisticated software to look for patterns hidden deep in patients’ records.
“NFL outlines COVID-19 vaccination protocols as players union resists in-person voluntary workouts” via Mike Jones of USA Today — The NFL has laid out team guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinations and is strongly urging franchises to have all employees vaccinated. Commissioner Roger Goodell told teams in a memo Tuesday to plan on using stadiums or team headquarters as vaccination centers for their players, employees and family members. Teams must report their vaccination plans to the NFL and update the league weekly on vaccination figures. The memo instructed that any Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees who decline vaccinations without “bona fide medical or religious grounds” should have limited access to facilities and be barred from working directly with players.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden announces withdrawal from Afghanistan in speech heavy on symbolism” via Nick Niedzwiadek of POLITICO — Biden formally announced plans to end America’s military presence in Afghanistan by September, in a White House address heavy on symbolism and marking one of his first defining decisions as commander in chief. The administration had earlier this week signaled the withdrawal timeline would coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, which have indelibly shaped American politics and foreign policy in the years since. It also guarantees that the administration will not meet the May 1 deadline set by the Trump administration, though Biden said the final drawdown would begin by then and warned adversaries not to interfere.
To watch the announcement, click on the image below:
“Democrats were lukewarm on campaign Biden. They love President Biden.” via Lisa Lerer and Giovanni Russonello of The New York Times — While Biden went on to win his party’s nomination, he was never widely seen as capturing the hearts of Democratic voters in the way Barack Obama and Bill Clinton once did. For many of his supporters, he seemed simply like their best chance to defeat Trump, who inspired far more passion than he did. Yet, in the first few months of his administration, Biden has garnered almost universal approval from members of his party, emerging as a kind of man-for-all-Democrats after an election year riddled with intraparty squabbling. He began his term this winter with an approval rating of 98% among Democrats.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Shades of 2016: Republicans stay silent on Donald Trump, hoping he fades away” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — While Mitch McConnell and a few other Republicans have been directly critical of Trump’s conduct following the Capitol riot, most are trying to avoid alienating the former president, knowing he will set his sights on them for withering attacks, and hoping that someone or something else intervenes to hobble him. Even as Trump makes clear he will not leave the public stage, many Republicans have privately said they hope he will fade away after a tenure in which the party lost both houses of Congress and the White House.
“Trump didn’t bring White working-class voters to the Republican Party. The data suggest he kept them away.” via Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu of The Washington Post — Political analysts have widely embraced the view that Trump uniquely attracted working-class voters to the GOP, in particular White working-class Americans. Is any of this true? Did Trump really bring a wave of White working-class voters over to the Republican camp, reshaping his party and American elections? In a newly published study, we looked at survey data on voting behavior going back to the 1980s. The answer is no. In fact, our research shows the Trump’s term in office stalled a long-term trend of White working-class voters moving to the Republican Party. It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class.
— CRISIS —
“Capitol Police told to hold back on riot response on Jan. 6, report finds” via Luke Broadwater — Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator. In a 104-page document, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“House and Senate Democrats plan bill to add four justices to Supreme Court” via Ryan Grim of The Intercept — Congressional Democrats plan to unveil legislation expanding the size of the Supreme Court on Thursday, according to three congressional sources familiar with the closely held measure. The bill would add four seats to the high court, bringing the total to 13 from the current 9. The number of justices on the Court has fluctuated widely throughout the course of the nation’s history. Republicans currently hold 6 seats, while Democrats hold just 3 after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the quick confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The bill is led by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, Subcommittee chair Hank Johnson, and freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones. In the Senate, the bill is being championed by Ed Markey.
“Miami’s Frederica Wilson discusses police reform, reparations during Biden meeting” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Miami Democratic Rep. Wilson was one of 10 Black lawmakers to meet with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday when the President voiced his support for changing policing standards and committed to picking a Black woman for the Supreme Court. Wilson, who holds a leadership post in the Congressional Black Caucus as secretary, said the meeting tied to Biden’s first 100 days in office that was scheduled for an hour ended up lasting more than two hours. “We talked about what’s going on in Minnesota and how police are killing Black people across the nation,” Wilson said, noting that the attendees stressed the importance of passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“Federal infrastructure plan includes knocking down barriers in communities” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — The massive infrastructure bill currently debated in Washington includes money for badly needed upgrades to the nation’s roads, bridges, airports, and so on. It’s not just about filling potholes, though. It’s also an attempt to address systemic racism built into highway construction throughout the land. “There is racism physically built into some of our highways,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told theGrio.com. Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa has firsthand knowledge of what that division means. Her family had their home taken by eminent domain in the early 1970s as Tampa eagerly accepted federal money to construct I-275 and I-4. Those roadways cut right through the heart of a thriving Black community, forever changing it in ways still felt today.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Judge is accused of taking too much time off. She says she was working remotely.” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Palm Beach County Judge Marni Bryson is under fire for apparently taking too much time off when she should have been working at the courthouse, according to the official state watchdog that polices judicial misconduct. The Judicial Qualifications Commission announced Wednesday it is filing five formal charges against Bryson, who has been on the bench since 2010. “You failed to devote full time and attention to your judicial duties during periods of 2016,” the first charge read. Identical charges were filed for 2017, 2018 and 2019. “You were absent from the courthouse and not otherwise working full time on a recurring basis.”
“LIV can get loud: Miami Beach removes COVID-19 noise limit ahead of club’s reopening” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Hours after Miami Beach city officials met with representatives of the Fontainebleau to discuss the reopening of the hotel’s LIV nightclub, the city announced it would remove a COVID-19-era noise restriction that would have hampered the club’s Friday opening. The emergency order, which banned music and live performances louder than conversation level, applied only to businesses with food licenses. The city called Wednesday’s meeting with the Fontainebleau after learning of the club’s scheduled reopening, which will feature DJ performances all weekend, Assistant City Manager Eric Carpenter said. LIV has a food license and thus would be at risk of a 24-hour closure if it played music above ambient levels, a city spokeswoman said.
“Miami Beach cut off his water to get him to pay Airbnb fines. Now city owes him $250K” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Three years after Miami Beach turned off a homeowner’s water and electricity to try to force him to pay fines for illegally renting the property, it’s the city that must pay up. In a settlement finalized Tuesday, Miami Beach agreed to pay $250,000 to Ralph Serrano and his lawyers. Serrano, 50, owner of the four-bedroom, four-bathroom house at 3098 Alton Road, first sued the city in 2018 after it turned off his water and electricity to try to get him to pay around $200,000 in fines. Courts have ruled the fine structure, and the city’s decision to cut off Serrano’s utilities, to be illegal. Florida law prohibits local governments from fining residents more than $1,000 a day for code violations.
“Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says Related deal doesn’t contain personal conflicts” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — A lucrative preliminary selection for a prime parcel in Tampa had family ties to Castor. Her nephew, Alex Castor, works for Related, the Miami-based firm that won the initial nod to develop the 18-acres near Armature Works and the Hillsborough River in West Tampa. And her partner, Ana Cruz, works as a lobbyist for Ballard Partners. Ballard was working for Related during the request-for-proposal process that ended in March. “Jane and I agreed when she decided to run for Mayor that I wouldn’t profit from any business that Ballard does before the city. This has and will continue to be the case,” Cruz texted.
“Young Republicans plan to ‘save Gasparilla’ with Tampa boat parade” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — There’s a map of the parade route, a newsletter announcement and a T-shirt for the so-called “Official 2021 Gasparilla Boat Parade (NOT CANCELED)” taking place Saturday on Hillsborough Bay. And yet, a main organizer of the boat parade said he wants it abundantly clear: the people who’ve run Tampa’s official Gasparilla Parade of Pirates for over a century have absolutely nothing to do with it. Jake Hoffman, the owner of Tampa-based marketing agency Invasion Digital Media and president of the Tampa Bay Young Republicans, said they’re not worried about legal threats from the Krewe, the elite Tampa social club that controls Gasparilla, because of its shaky hold on the “Gasparilla” trademark that Krewe lawyers have tried to pin down for years.
“Escambia County’s Tourism Council wants state to determine legality of tourism tax use” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County’s Tourist Development Council wants the state to weigh in on whether the county’s use of tourism tax funds on administrative costs and marine resources, such as preservation of sea turtle nests, is legal. The council asked the county to pay for an audit last year after members raised questions about spending for the Marine Resource division and administrative fees charged to the TDT fund, but the council held off an audit after learning it would cost $50,000. Tourist Development Council Chairman David Bear and Pam Childers, Escambia County Clerk and Comptroller, agreed to have more discussion about how the county determines the cost for administering the tax.
— TOP OPINION —
“Central Florida has big role in Everglades restoration” via Mel Martinez for the Orlando Sentinel — One of the great moments during my service in the Senate was when Congress came together in a bipartisan fashion to finally authorize several Everglades restoration projects that had been languishing for years. It was a momentous time that represented years of hard work by the state of Florida, scientists, coastal communities, engineers, farmers, developers, environmental organizations, and the business community. Moments like these were rare then and are even less frequent today, especially with our toxic political climate. Opportunities that can unite many disparate groups behind one important common goal and cause need to be increased.
— OPINIONS —
“Legislature’s university meddling promotes quackery, not diversity” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — One of the several fronts in the culture wars that Republicans are waging in the Florida Legislature is an outwardly innocuous bill to protect “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” at the state’s universities and colleges. But to look into the details is to ask “Why?” and conclude, “Whoa!” This so-called “intellectual freedom” bill transgresses what used to be a cardinal principle of conservative politics: Don’t make laws without a persuasive reason. There doesn’t seem to be any for this bill, which has passed both houses as the committee substitute for House Bill 233 and will be on its way to the Governor sooner or later.
“Republicans are gutting Florida’s housing fund again. Gov. DeSantis should stop them” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida lawmakers have been raiding the state’s affordable housing fund for so long, they’ve decided to drop the pretense and alter the law to fit their own twisted reasoning. That’s what’s happening in Tallahassee now, where legislators have been siphoning money from the state’s housing trust fund to pay for other budget items for 18 years, housing advocates say. Lawmakers passed a bill last week that, if DeSantis signs it, will permanently enshrine those shoddy actions into law. And in a year when the state is set to get $10 billion in COVID-19 money from the feds and an unexpected $2 billion in state taxes, that change is not only wrong, it’s unnecessary.
“Enough already! Rename Jacksonville’s Confederate schools” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — There is no particular historical reason to have a school named after Robert E. Lee in Jacksonville. And, it turns out, history — or, rather, the sober recognition of it — is not why these schools possess such names. There is no ambiguity here: Jacksonville has public schools named after Confederate leaders because past generations of city leaders were at war against the modernizing world. They remain in place today because some people here are still fighting that war. This is about simple decency. Most of these schools have majority-Black student bodies. Jacksonville is growing up. The world is moving on. So too will the aging and upset alumni once these schools are renamed.
“Vince Lago vows to be mayor of all Coral Gables? Then reverse course on renaming Dixie Highway” via the Miami Herald editorial board — During his campaign, Vince Lago insisted that he rejects racism and would govern fairly as Mayor, despite putting his name on a controversial letter criticizing an anti-racism program in the school his children attend. A day after his election, he has a chance to prove it: Mayor-elect, reverse your previous vote and support renaming Dixie Highway in Coral Gables for Harriet Tubman. And it gets worse. Coral Gables — nicknamed the “City Beautiful” by founder George Merrick — is the only local government in Miami-Dade County to reject adding Tubman’s name to 42 miles of U.S. 1, a federal and state road also called Dixie Highway for a century.
“Dental therapists can increase access to dental care” via Sal Nuzzo for the News-Press — Poor dental health profoundly impacts Florida students’ ability to learn and Florida workers’ ability to provide for their families. Despite the importance of dental health, one in four Floridians doesn’t have access to a provider. Fortunately, Florida lawmakers, with their eyes on solving problems, have a valuable policy reform available to them: enable dental therapy. Sen. Jeff Brandes has proposed a measure that would mean thousands of Floridians could get access to care, by enabling and bringing the proven concept of dental therapy to Florida. It’s past time for the Legislature to make it happen. The James Madison Institute and Florida Policy Institute agree that establishing a career track in Florida for qualified midlevel practitioners is a common-sense solution to solve Florida’s dental health crisis.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Senate has begun debate on a bill cracking down on protesters.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— As Senators debated the right to protest, the House was voting to ban transgender athletes from playing on the girl’s team.
— The House also approves a bill to try to limit foreign influence at Florida colleges and universities.
— The head of the Florida Council of Churches says the Legislature is behaving in a most ungodly way this year. The Rev. Dr. Russell Meyers tells Sunrise that the Legislature’s actions are all about White supremacy.
— And finally, a Florida Woman is working as a judge — but only when she feels like it. She could face sanctions after accusations of neglecting her full-time job.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Users could soon hide ‘like’ counts on Instagram, Facebook” via Barbara Ortutay of The Associated Press — The tiny red hearts that appear under Instagram photos of kids, kittens and sandwiches can be a source of stress for many users, an insidious way of measuring self-worth and popularity. Now Facebook says it’s going to test out an option for users to hide those “like” counts to see if it can reduce the pressure of being on social media. Instagram, which Facebook owns, will soon allow a small group of random users to decide whether or not they want to see the number of likes their posts and those of others receive. The social media giant says it’s also exploring the feature for Facebook.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to numbers guru Donna Arduin, former Senate President Bill Galvano, and former U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
After all of that geoFence helps make you invisible to hackers and guard your personal data and that’s the real deal.