Sunday, May 16

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.9.21


Good Tuesday morning.

First in Sunburn — The House Democratic Office has promoted David Grimes to Staff Director and brought on a pair of new staffers.

Grimes is House Democrats’ lead adviser on rules, appropriations, constitutional law, and redistricting. He previously served as the office’s analyst for justice, ethics, finance and taxation policy. He was bumped up from Deputy Staff Director.

A Key Largo native, Grimes is a double alumnus of Florida State University, where he earned a bachelor’s in political science and a law degree, graduating cum laude.

Congratulations to David Grimes, Krista Dolan and Joey Arellano,  promoted/new faces in the House Democratic Office.

The House Democratic Office is also welcoming a couple of new faces: Attorney Krista Dolan and Deputy Communications Director Joey Arellano.

Dolan will serve as an analyst for justice, finance and taxation silos. She is an experienced public interest attorney having worked on post-conviction issues for the past 8 years, first with a public defender agency and most recently the Innocence Project of Florida. 

Dolan holds a master’s degree in applied American politics and policy as well as a law degree, both from FSU. She later earned an LL.M. from American University with a concentration in civil rights and constitutional law.

Meanwhile, Arellano is a Florida native hailing from Port Saint Lucie by way of North Miami Beach. The first-generation Mexican American is also an FSU alumnus with a dual degree in international affairs and editing, writing, and media. He also holds a certificate minor in disaster management and homeland security.

He got his start in communications as a press intern for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 2015 and most recently worked on Alton Edmond’s campaign for Brevard County Sheriff as a consultant tasked with communications and social media strategy.

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First in Sunburn Elizabeth “Blair” Hancock has joined GrayRobinson’s federal lobbying team, the firm announced Monday.

Hancock comes to the firm Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. At HUD, Hancock was tasked with accurately presenting the department’s views before 300-plus congressional offices in 30 states.

Her resume also includes working at the federal office of then-Gov. Rick Scott, a legislative fellowship in the Florida House’s Economic Affairs Committee, and a position at the University of Florida Office of Federal Relations. She holds an undergraduate degree in business administration from UF and a master’s degree in public administration from FSU.

“Since I started my career, I’ve had the great fortuity to be a part of both public and private sector teams, where I was able to build a wide network of relationships at the federal and state level of government,” she said. “In the political world, connectivity, strategy, and access is everything — and I couldn’t be more proud to have this opportunity to join such an esteemed team.”

Hancock will join GrayRobinson’s government affairs and lobbying practice as a federal legislative consultant in the Washington office. In her new role, she will assist the federal lobbying team in developing government relations strategies at both the state and federal level.

“We are thrilled to welcome Blair Hancock to our federal government affairs and lobbying practice,” said GrayRobinson President and CEO Dean Cannon, who serves as the chair of the firm’s government affairs and lobbying practice group. “Blair’s network and knowledge from serving inside both our nation’s and Florida’s Capitol will be a valuable asset to our clients. We are excited to have her as a part of our team, and we look forward to seeing her continue to develop her career here at GrayRobinson.”

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Because yesterday was an unofficial holiday for Sunburn, we were not able to share who was Spotted at the Super Bowl in Tampa: Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, Senate President Wilton Simpson, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida, Ron Christaldi of Shumaker, Jose Gonzalez, Jeff Hartley of Smith Bryan & Myers, Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting, Mary Beth and Ryan Tyson, Anthony Pedicini, and Stephanie Smith of Anthem.

Disney World celebrates Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@DanDarling: Blaming people who died of COVID to score cheap political points is one of the grossest things in the world. Seeing journalists and politicos do this repeatedly is awful.

@MattGaetz: Kevin [McCarthy] put it all on the line for Liz [Cheney]. Every House Republican knows it.

Tweet, tweet:

@StephenKing: I waited for a vaccination appointment, and patience was rewarded. Drive-thru in Pasco County. Moderna. No adverse effects. I think it was the National Guard running the show. Very cool. Get it done, folks. Let’s kill this thing.

@LobbyTools: 🚨 We’ve hit 1,000 bills filed for the 2021 Session! 🚨Will this year beat the 3,518 bills filed in 2020?

@Rob_Bradley: If you think the @Chiefs lost because of a subpar game from @PatrickMahomes, well, you really don’t understand football. I thought he was incredible in the face of relentless pressure. If his teammates catch 2 amazing passes that bounced off their helmets, it’s a different game.

@BrianKlass: If someone gave you $5,000 a day, every day, for 365 days a year, you’d have as much money as Elon Musk‘s current net worth in 101,369 years. To get there by 2021, you would have had to start collecting your daily $5k, roughly 88,000 years before the last Saber-toothed tiger died.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Daytona 500 — 5; Dr. Aaron Weiner webinar on mental health in the workplace — 9; ‘Nomadland’ with Frances McDormand — 10; The CW’s ‘Superman & Lois’ premieres — 14; the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference begins — 16; Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, with exhibition games starting — 18; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 21; ‘Coming 2 America’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 24; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres — 31; 2021 Grammys — 33; Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ premieres on HBO Max — 37; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 45; MLB Opening Day — 51; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 52; Children’s Gasparilla — 60; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 67; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 87; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 143; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 152; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 165; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 172; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 197; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 220; ‘Dune’ premieres — 234; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 266; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 269; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 304; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 311; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 409; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 451; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 605.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

Chief of Staff Shane Strum leaving Governor’s Office for Broward Health” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Strum will leave the Governor’s Office this week to become Broward Health’s CEO. Strum will begin a three-year contract at the helm of Broward Health on March 8. Broward Health’s board of commissioners voted unanimously for Strum from a pool of three candidates, he told Florida Politics. He will replace Gino Santorio, who leaves Thursday to become the Mount Sinai Medical Center CEO in Miami Beach. Strum touted his political connections and health care experience as a former executive vice president of Memorial Healthcare System.

Shane Strum heads back to South Florida to lead Broward Health.

Experts say Ron DeSantis’ de-platforming proposal violates first amendment” via Joshua Ceballos of Miami New Times — DeSantis and Florida GOP leaders are aiming the so-called Big Tech oligarchy with a new legislative proposal meant to regulate and punish social-media sites for their alleged bias against conservatives. But several attorneys say it won’t hold water in court. DeSantis and Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced their intent to file the Transparency in Technology Act, legislation that would allow the Florida Elections Commission to fine tech companies. The proposal would also allow citizens and the state attorney general to sue a tech company for alleged violations of the company’s own terms of service and allow users to opt-out of content algorithms that tailor a website to a user’s interests.

‘Tremendous fight’ looms in Florida over excluding ‘hard-to-hire’ workers from the minimum wage” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — Just a few months after Floridians voted to raise the state’s minimum wage, Florida lawmakers are considering a proposal that would exempt more than 2 million workers from it. Introduced by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Pinellas County Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the proposal, if passed this upcoming legislative session, would place an amendment on the 2022 ballot authorizing lawmakers to create a lower “training wage” for workers who have served time for felonies, who are under 21 and others considered “hard-to-hire.” Brandes, who has sponsored several bills over the years to reform the prison system, said the resolution is intended to mitigate the job losses that some groups expect to come from Amendment 2.

House, Senate diverge on health lawsuit bills via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — Chief among the differences are how long legal protections should be in effect, types of COVID-19-related lawsuits that would be limited and whether to require physician affidavits when lawsuits are filed. A proposed House bill (PCB HHS 21-01) would make changes in how lawsuits are filed, including requiring physician affidavits, but would rescind the changes “one year and one day” after they become effective. By contrast, the Senate proposal (SB 74) by Brandes would apply to COVID-19 lawsuits for injuries that occur up to one year after the end of a declared state or federal public health emergency, whichever is later. The chambers also take different approaches to the types of COVID-19-related claims that would be limited.

Evan Jenne laments COVID-19 liability proposals” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — As Republicans forge ahead with plans to enact COVID-19 liability protections in Florida, Jenne said Democrats will continue to dig their heels against the legislation. Speaking to reporters, Jenne conceded that Democrats face an uphill battle. Nevertheless, he said they will push back wherever they can. Ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session, Republican leaders have fast-tracked legislation that seeks to shield various businesses and institutions from frivolous COVID-19 related claims. The multiple Republican-proposed protections extend to businesses, schools and health care providers such as nursing homes.

Jenne says caucus not looking to defund police” via News Service of Florida — With members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus set to debut a slate of proposals to “support fair and just policing,” House Minority Co-leader Jenne told reporters Monday “they are not trying to defund the police.” The Black Caucus will hold a news conference Tuesday to roll out policing-related legislation. Jenne said the proposals aim to usher in “a more modern approach” to law enforcement practices. “When you look at a lot of … the proposals that are going to be included in this package that the Black caucus rolls out over the next couple days, it’s actually not going to be defunding the police; it’s going to see an increase in funding to police,” Jenne said.

Evan Jenne was clear — the House Black Caucus is not trying to ‘defund the police.’ Image via Florida House.

Local money requests pile up amid budget warnings” via Jim Turner of Florida Politics — Two major local funding requests, including a proposal to help a community devastated by Hurricane Michael, were filed last week, as legislative leaders reminded lawmakers that the upcoming state budget would be tight. Port St. Joe Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf put in an appropriations request for $25 million to help rebuild the shoreline in Mexico Beach, which sustained major damage when the Category 5 Hurricane Michael made landfall in October 2018. Despite concerns about state revenue because of economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Shoaf and Sen. Jason Pizzo’s proposals are among hundreds filed by lawmakers as they seek to bring home money to their districts and communities.

—“Chris Latvala requesting $670K for Pinellas County child welfare program” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—”Jackie Toledo seeks $3 million for statewide affordable housing program” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Lawmakers seek felonies for people submitting others’ DNA samples” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers in the House and Senate filed legislation Monday that would create criminal penalties related to handling another person’s DNA data without their consent. Bills filed by Estero Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Polk City Rep. Josie Tomkow would make submitting another person’s DNA sample for DNA analysis or conducting the analysis a third-degree felony. Disclosing another person’s DNA analysis to a third party would also be a third-degree felony. Collecting or retaining another person’s DNA sample with the intent to perform a DNA analysis would be a first-degree misdemeanor.

Confederate holidays targeted” via News Service of Florida — Democratic Sen. Lauren Book filed a bill Monday (SB 1116) that would end legal holidays marking the birthdays of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, along with Confederate Memorial Day. Lee’s birthday, Jan. 19, and Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, have been legal holidays in Florida since 1895. Davis’ birthday, June 3, was added in 1905. Florida is one of five states that have kept Confederate Memorial Day a legal holiday. The three state holidays are not paid holidays for public employees. A similar proposal Book sponsored in 2018, was approved by one Senate committee but did not pass the Legislature. It drew objections from people who argued the proposal would erase Southern history.

—”Ana Maria Rodriguez joins measure allowing mixed drinks to-go” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Jim Boyd tests positive for COVID-19 and is having ‘mild symptoms’” via Zac Anderson of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — State Sen. Boyd tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing “mild symptoms,” he said Monday. “Taking all necessary precautions including self-quarantine,” Boyd said in a text message. Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said in an email that Boyd “did not have close contact with anyone outside of his immediate family in the days prior to testing positive.”

Jim Boyd is down with the sickness. Image via Colin Hackley.

Pulse, Parkland victims plead for latest gun bill support” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Parkland and Pulse survivors are coming back, year after year, to push for legislation to ban high-powered, semi-automatic guns and high-capacity magazines, bills that consistently show majority public support in some polls, but which have annually died quickly in the Florida Legislature. This year they gathered on a Zoom press call Monday to support Sen. Gary Farmer‘s SB 370 and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith‘s HB 653. It’s a now-annual plea that runs into arguments from the Republican leadership that the guns and high-capacity magazines themselves are not the problem and that any restrictions on their availability are infringements on Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights.

— LEG. SKED —

Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus will hold a news conference to introduce proposals “to promote just policing and community safety.” Speakers include Sen. Bobby Powell, House Minority Co-leader Bobby DuBose, House Minority Co-leader Jenne, Sen. Darryl Rouson, Reps. Fentrice Driskell, Geraldine Thompson, Tracie Davis and Guillermo Smith, 10 a.m., House Office Building portico, east side.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update on the Medicaid program from the Agency for Health Care Administration, 11 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update from the Department of Transportation on the state’s five-year transportation work program, 11 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The House Education & Employment Committee will receive updates on Florida’s workforce system, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House State Affairs Committee will receive an update on flooding and sea-level rise, noon, Room 212, Knott Building.

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 274, from Sen. Keith Perry, to expand a law that allows juveniles to get their arrest records expunged after completing diversion programs, 2 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 264, from Sen. Rodrigues, to require state colleges and universities to conduct “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” assessments annually, 2 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Public Integrity & Elections Committee will receive updates on the 2020 elections from the Department of State and Florida Supervisors of Elections, 3 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will receive updates on DeSantis’ proposed budget and caseloads and expenditures in the Medicaid program, 4 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee meets for a report to the Senate President and House Speaker on changes to the Administrative Procedure Act, 4 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight meets to consider a replacement for J.R. Kelly, who recently stepped down as state public counsel. Lawyer and lobbyist Richard Gentry is among the candidates, 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

Assignment editors — Sen. Annette Taddeo, Rep. Thompson, and voting rights advocates from All Voting is Local, ACLU of Florida and America Votes will preview the Legislative Session and provide policy recommendations to ensure equitable voting access, 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, Zoom link here. Passcode: 866903. RSVP: Travis@AllVotingisLocal.org.

— LOBBYING REGS —

Kirk Bailey: ACLU of Florida

Brian Ballard, Bradley Burleson, Monica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: General Motors, HCR-Manor Care

Brian Bautista, Chris Dudley, The Southern Group: Tesla

Slater Bayliss, Sarah Suskey, Jeffrey Woodburn, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: The International Society of Automation

Amy Bisceglia, AB Governmental Affairs: Stream Recycling Solutions

Joshua Burkett, Mark W. Anderson: PropLogix/Orange Lien Data

Dean Cannon, George Levesque, Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: The American Law Institute

Charlie Dudley, Melissa Ramba, Floridian Partners: International Bottled Water Association

Tabitha Gale Fazzino: Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Mike Grissom, Mark Kruse, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Dosal Tobacco Corporation, Vertical Bridge Holdings

Lynn Hearn, Michael Phillips: Department of Elder Affairs Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Lixon Nelson: Alliance Community and Employment Services

Jason Steele, Smith & Associates: Omni Healthcare

Sam Wagoner, Sunrise Consulting Group: Ohana Solutions

— 2022 — 

Adam Brandon ‘seriously considering’ a campaign for HD 12” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — House District 12 may draw its first candidate for the 2022 cycle in the coming weeks. Brandon, a Jacksonville Republican, is exploring a possible campaign for the seat, which covers part of Duval County. Brandon is the first candidate to float a possible run for the seat. Though the 2022 election is nearly two years out, staking a claim early could help him build an advantage. His potential bid comes after current Rep. Clay Yarborough announced he would forego a fourth term in the House to run for Senate District 4, the district currently served by term-limited Sen. Aaron Bean. Assuming Yarborough sticks with the Senate campaign, HD 12 could draw a competitive field of Republican hopefuls.

Possible HD 12 candidate Adam Brandon with his wife, Kristi, and their children, John and Katherine.

First on #FlaPolRachel Plakon picks up Ashley Moody’s endorsement in HD 29” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Tightening her grip on an eventual Republican nomination, Plakon announced another early endorsement for her run to succeed her husband, Rep. Scott Plakon, in House District 29, Attorney General Moody. Though rumblings are sounding of other possible candidates in the northwestern Seminole County district, Plakon is quickly locking down endorsements of both local and statewide Republicans and their allies for her candidacy. Her other endorsements include CFO Jimmy Patronis, former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, Sen. Dennis Baxley and Reps. Rene Plasencia, David Smith and Webster Barnaby.

— STATEWIDE —

‘Careless and irresponsible’: AARP admonishes COVID-19 liability protections for nursing homes” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — On Monday, AARP urged lawmakers to derail a bill that would extend COVID-19 liability protections to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. In a statement, AARP State Director Jeff Johnson spoke against Sen. Brandes’ SB 74. Johnson warned the proposal would erode residents’ rights and allow nursing homes to operate with impunity. SB 74 seeks to raise the bar for plaintiffs who file COVID-19 related lawsuits against health care providers. Under the proposal, a plaintiff would need to prove a provider acted with gross negligence instead of simple negligence.

AARP Florida is no fan of Jeff Brandes’ COVID-19 liability bill. Image via Colin Hackley.

‘Pitting north versus south’: Brian Mast criticizes Wilton Simpson plan to refocus Lake Okeechobee restoration funds” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Mast is going after fellow Republican Simpson after he pushed to focus state funding on restoration projects north of Lake Okeechobee. Mast — who represents parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties in Florida’s southeast coast — has been an advocate for projects south of the lake. Those reservoir projects would help store water discharged from Lake Okeechobee, with the hope of capturing water containing harmful algal blooms before those blooms reach southern communities. In Simpson’s letter late last week, the Pasco Republican said the state had gone far enough in funding that work and could turn its attention to areas north of the lake.

Rebekah Jones drops lawsuit over Florida police raid on her home, at least for now” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — Jones, the data scientist fired from her position at the Florida Department of Health last year, has moved to dismiss her lawsuit against the FDLE over an armed raid on her Tallahassee townhome in December. Jones was arrested after the raid and is currently facing a criminal charge of violating Florida’s computer crime laws. The state alleges she used an official emergency messaging system to send a mass text calling on civil servants to speak out against how Florida managed its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones denies the charge and has claimed the raid, arrest and criminal charges are retaliation for her outspoken criticism of the state and a whistleblower complaint she filed in July.

Court refers ‘Grim Reaper’ beach case to Florida Bar” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — An appeals court wants The Florida Bar to consider taking action against a Panhandle attorney who pursued a high-profile case seeking to force Gov. DeSantis to close beaches because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal, in an order issued Friday, stopped short of imposing financial sanctions against Santa Rosa Beach attorney Daniel Uhlfelder and lawyers who represented him in an appeal of a circuit judge’s ruling in the case. But the panel sharply criticized Uhlfelder and his lawyers, saying that “they knew or should have known that their ‘demands’ that the Governor ‘close the beaches’ were not validly asserted below (in the circuit court) or on appeal.”

An appeals court gives Daniel Uhlfelder the smackdown.

Department of Education panic alarm contract nearly set — Smaller companies appear to have the advantage in the bidding process to outfit public schools with mobile panic alarm systems, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. Bids from large firms have been pricier and smaller companies’ bids have become more attractive after the Department of Education hinted at allowing them to split the $8 million contract to give school districts multiple options. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran will decide which company — or companies — will be awarded the contract. The decision is expected shortly, though the deadline is Aug. 1. The Legislature authorized the panic alarm contract in response to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Police union calls for lawmakers to protect cops with funding for new radios” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Florida Police Benevolent Association executive director Matt Puckett is calling for state lawmakers to allocate funding to improve the most vital piece of equipment police officers carry: their radios. For years, Florida’s aging Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System has been in dire need of an upgrade of not only the radio handsets carried by patrol officers but the underlying network infrastructure. Last year, the state awarded a $688 million contract to Motorola Solutions to do just that, but the company later balked at signing the contract, leaving law enforcement officials wondering when they might see new investment in the system they rely on. While DeSantis‘ budget didn’t include SLERS upgrades, he did recommend funding for upgraded handsets for some agencies.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID resident death toll nears 28,000, and state confirms 5,737 new cases” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida’s Department of Health on Monday confirmed 5,737 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s known total to 1,783,720. Also, 120 resident deaths were announced, bringing the resident death toll to 27,816. Seven new nonresident deaths were also announced, bringing the nonresident toll to 472. According to the state’s Monday COVID-19 vaccine report, 1,322,426 people have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, and 693,865 people have completed the series of two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Florida COVID-19 cases are approaching 1.8 million. Image via AP.

One million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped to Florida pharmacies” via NBC Miami staff reports — Walmart and Sam’s Club are expected to ship 1 million doses of the coveted COVID-19 vaccine to pharmacies across Florida this week, with vaccinations set to start Thursday. The shipments are being received as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The program aims to speed up vaccine distribution and eventually expand to 40,000 pharmacies. Nationwide, 6,500 pharmacies will be receiving the vaccine. Pharmacies in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are expecting a substantial shipment. But getting the vaccine won’t be as easy as walking in and getting a flu shot.

Bay of Pigs veterans to get COVID-19 vaccine, DeSantis announces in Little Havana” via Samantha J. Gross of The Miami Herald — A new batch of doses of COVID-19 vaccines will go into the arms of veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion. The doses are part of an effort to vaccinate homebound seniors across the state. Last week in Aventura, DeSantis announced that Holocaust survivors would be getting doses of the vaccine as part of that effort. Bay of Pigs veterans Eli Cesar, Raul Vallejo and Rigoberto Montesinos were inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Monday event. All three veterans spent 20 months as prisoners of war before their release in 1962. On Saturday, Little Havana was also the site of a vaccination event where 500 preregistered seniors received vaccination shots.

Tweet, tweet:

COVID-19 turns high schools into ghost towns” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With most students learning at home in the age of COVID-19, South Florida’s high schools have taken on the atmosphere of a ghost town. Classrooms that once packed 30 students now have two or three. Picnic tables where eight students once crammed together at lunch are now covered with tape marks, allowing just two students to sit on opposite ends. There’s no crowding in the hallways, no bumping up to students at lockers. Students often talk through texts or Snapchat since most friends aren’t on campus anymore. Many after-school clubs and activities have been canceled or greatly limited. It’s a depressing phenomenon that has transformed the high school experience, at least for one year that students will never get back.

These folks are having a tough month — “Judge refuses to dismiss COVID-19 case against Publix” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Carlos Lopez on Friday rejected a motion by Publix to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the estate of Gerardo Gutierrez, a 70-year-old employee of a Miami Beach store who died of COVID-19 in April. In November, the lawsuit contends that Gutierrez was infected in late March by another employee who came to work with COVID-19. It makes several allegations, including that Publix at the time prevented employees from wearing masks that could have prevented the spread of the disease. Publix argued in a motion to dismiss that the dispute should be handled as a workers’ compensation insurance case.

2020 was a boozy year for Floridians trying to cope with COVID, survey finds” via Amber Randall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — If the number of empty cocktail glasses is any indication, 2020 was rough for everyone, and Floridians did their share of drinking to help cope, according to a new study. Floridians drank an average of 813 alcoholic beverages each during 2020, which breaks down to about 16 drinks a week, the study by DrugAbuse.com found. Any more than 14 drinks a week for men and seven for women is considered “heavy drinking” by the CDC. It wasn’t just Floridians drinking; much of the rest of the country turned to alcohol in 2020 as well. In fact, the U.S. average was 17 drinks per week, and many states were boozing it up more.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami-Dade trails other Florida counties in vaccinating seniors for COVID-19 — by a lot” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Despite being the epicenter of severe COVID cases and deaths in Florida, Miami-Dade has vaccinated a smaller percentage of its seniors than the state average, significantly trailing other South Florida counties and metro areas. The state has been making progress as a whole, with about one-third of Florida seniors having now received at least one dose of the two federally-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. But in Miami-Dade, about 27.6% of people 65 and older have received the vaccine, according to epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka, a professor at Florida International University.

Vaccination rates for Miami-Dade seniors are lagging far behind the rest of Florida. Image via AP.

More than 40% of Palm Beach County seniors now vaccinated against COVID-19” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — More than 146,000 seniors have now been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, representing more than 40% of the region’s senior population. Palm Beach County has a large elderly population, making vaccine access a priority in the region. Some lawmakers have criticized DeSantis for his approach in ensuring the vaccine is available for seniors of all races and income levels. While the 40% marker represents progress on the effort, the state and nation still have a long way to reach herd immunity levels, which are necessary for a fuller return to normalcy.

— CORONA NATION —

Tweet, tweet:

The Joe Biden administration’s muddled message on reopening schools” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — If there is one issue that increasingly bridges much of the political divide over the coronavirus response, it might be reopening schools. Growing evidence from the CDC and other organizations has suggested that schools pose very little risk of spreading the virus once they reopen, and the Biden administration has set a goal of making this happen in its first 100 days. The big sticking point is whether schools might be able to reopen even before all teachers are vaccinated. At the very least, there seems to be a disconnect on how all this might soon be rolled out.

Inside the worst-hit county in the worst-hit state in the worst-hit country” via Atul Gawande of The New Yorker — North Dakota had more new cases and deaths per capita than any other state. Half its hospitals were facing critical staff shortages. Ward County had the highest rate of new cases of any county there, with a record five hundred and twenty active positive cases, and almost 40% of them had been diagnosed in the past two weeks. Entire groups of people became infected at crowded bars and restaurants or weddings with hundreds of attendees. North Dakota, departing from CDC recommendations, asked only exposed household members to quarantine, not close contacts.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Companies are charging hidden ‘COVID fees’ to make up for lost profits. They may be illegal.” via Hannah Denham of The Washington Post — Nearly a year into the pandemic’s gutting of the economy, businesses across the country are increasingly charging coronavirus-related fees, ranging from a $5 disinfection charge in a hair salon to $1,200 for extra food and cleaning in a senior living center, which are often undisclosed until the customer gets a bill. U.S. consumers in 29 states have filed 510 complaints of coronavirus-related surcharges at dentist offices, senior living facilities, hair salons and restaurants. Hidden fees are a legitimate concern for consumers, especially for economically vulnerable Americans or senior citizens without much income, but not every state protects consumers from them.

Airlines are ditching business hubs and rerouting flights to Florida” via Eric Rosen of Bloomberg — There were 13,600 passenger flights around the globe on April 25, 2020 — the lowest recorded number during the pandemic. Nine months later, 30% of global commercial airplanes remain in storage. Seat capacity remained at an estimated 50% in January compared with a year earlier. And new estimates from the International Air Transport Association show that recovery will be slower than expected. As a result, airlines are getting scrappy. The CliffsNotes version: Leisure is in, business travel is out. Those departing from such secondary cities as Boston, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis will find more direct flights than ever — particularly if they’re going to warmer outposts in Florida such as Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, Key West, and Tampa.

Airlines are making some major rerouting, particularly to Florida cities. Image via AP.

— MORE CORONA —

Around the globe, virus cancels spring travel for millions” via David McHugh, Casey Smith and Joe McDonald — Amid fears of new variants of the virus, new restrictions on movement have hit just as people start to look ahead to what is usually a busy time of year for travel. It means more pain for airlines, hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations that were already struggling more than a year into the pandemic and a slower recovery for countries where tourism is a big chunk of the economy. Colleges around the U.S. have been canceling spring break to discourage students from traveling. There is no sign of the annual Lunar New Year rush at bus and train stations in China. The government has called on the public to avoid travel following new coronavirus outbreaks.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Senate leaders agree to trial framework; Dems call Donald Trump defense ‘wholly without merit’” via Bart Jansen, Kristal Hayes, Nicholas Wu, and Caren Bohan of USA Today — Senate leaders agreed Monday on shaping how Trump’s impeachment trial will be conducted, with arguments consuming most of this week and a decision about whether to call witnesses days away. Democrats have been wrestling with whether to push for a quick trial or include witnesses, which could lengthen the proceedings by weeks or months. Some Democrats are eager to call witnesses for an exhaustive review of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. But other Democrats want to move quickly beyond the trial to confirm Biden’s nominees and work on spending legislation for COVID-19.

Congressional Democrats shrug off Donald Trump’s claims that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional. Image via Getty.

—“A step-by-step guide to the second impeachment of Trump” via Weiyi Cai of The New York Times

Poll finds narrow majority of Americans favor convicting Trump” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — A narrow majority of Americans would like their Senators to vote to convict Trump in the Senate impeachment trial that begins in earnest this week. The poll finds 52% want their Senators to vote for a conviction, while 45% prefer their Senators vote for acquittal. An additional 3% are unsure. Trump is going on trial on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” related to the Jan. 6 takeover of the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob. Americans lean slightly more toward convicting Trump now than right before his first impeachment trial began in January 2020.

Brad Parscale urges Trump to run again as a ‘martyr’” via Ben Leonard of POLITICO — Parscale is calling on Trump to run again, saying multiple impeachments can work in his onetime boss’ favor. “If they only impeached you twice, you need to run again. Because to change the system, you have to kick it in the a#$,” Trump’s former campaign manager wrote in a tweet Saturday addressed to the now Twitter-less Trump. “I would love to be [sic] the only President to be impeached three times. Because history remembers those that didn’t conform. I’m in, are you?” Parscale also gave Trump advice on strategy in a subsequent tweet. “If Trump asked me how to win again. I would run on being impeached twice. They are about to give him superpowers,” Parscale wrote.

Georgia election officials formally launch investigation into Trump phone calls” via Quinn Scanlan, Devin Dwyer and Olivia Rubin of ABC News — The Georgia State Election Board has formally launched an investigation into Trump’s phone calls to state election officials in which he sought help to overturn the results of the election after Biden’s narrow victory was certified twice. The investigation, which follows a formal complaint filed Monday by a law professor alleging that Trump violated the law during those calls, marks the first formal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results in the state. Walter Jones, a spokesperson for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger‘s office, confirmed the investigation to ABC News on Monday.

Paul Manafort can’t be prosecuted in New York after Trump pardon, court rules” via Jonah E. Bromwich of The New York Times — The Manhattan district attorney’s attempt to prosecute Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman was dealt a final blow when New York’s highest court said quietly last week it would not review lower court rulings on the case. The court’s decision brings to an end the district attorney’s quest to ensure that Manafort will face state charges for mortgage fraud and other state felonies, crimes similar to those for which he was convicted in federal court and then pardoned by Trump. When the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, first brought charges against Manafort in March 2019, it was widely understood that he was doing so to make sure that Manafort would face prosecution even if Trump decided to pardon him.

Paul Manafort skates on state charges, thanks to double jeopardy.

Florida businessman gets year in prison in fraud case against Rudy Giuliani associates” via Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — A Florida businessman was sentenced to just over a year in prison for swindling investors out of $2.3 million and obscuring the source of political donations in a case closely tied to Giuliani. Forty-five-year-old David Correia was the first of the four men charged in the case to plead guilty. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Oetken, who is based in Manhattan, imposed the sentence of a year and a day in prison after a hearing held via video conference. The sentence was only about a third of what prosecutors requested for Correia. The judge justified the sentence by noting that the defendant received only about $43,000 of the investor funds.

— D.C. MATTERS —

House panel renews probe into Trump administration’s interference with COVID-19 response” via Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — The head of a House oversight panel renewed its investigation into political interference in the nation’s coronavirus response, releasing new allegations of meddling in scientists’ work. Rep. James Clyburn, chairman of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, released emails from a Trump science adviser that he said showed how the administration worked to weaken guidance on who should be tested for the coronavirus. Clyburn also cited evidence that Trump appointees sought to boost access to unproven treatments for the coronavirus that the president favored.

James Clyburn received a smoking gun on how Donald Trump undermined the guidance on who should be tested for coronavirus. Image via AP.

House Democrats reject plan to sharply curtail $1,400 stimulus payments in new stimulus proposal” via Jeff Stein and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — Senior House Democrats on Monday night proposed sending full $1,400 stimulus payments to Americans with up to $75,000 in annual income, rejecting an early plan to sharply curtail the benefits. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal released legislation that would send the full benefit to singles earning $75,000 per year and couples earning $150,000 per year. Congressional Democrats had explored curtailing that to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples, a position embraced by Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat. Compared to prior plans, Democrats are accelerating the rate at which the benefit declines for higher-earners. The phaseout diminishes at the point at which singles earning $100,000 and couples earning $200,000 would receive no stimulus payments.

Rick Scott, Marco Rubio say rejoining U.N. human rights group is wrong” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The “tragic mistake,” according to Scott, was the Biden team’s order to rescind the 2018 decision to leave the United Nations Human Rights Council by the previous administration. “As I’ve said before, their actions don’t match their rhetoric, and reengaging with them in any capacity would be a tragic mistake. The Biden administration must make it absolutely clear that the United States stands for human rights and reject engaging with an organization that turns a blind eye to genocide,” Scott asserted. The Senator described the panel as a “U.N.-sanctioned club that spends most of its time targeting our ally, Israel.”

Assignment editors — Following her retirement after 14 years at the helm of USF St. Petersburg as Regional Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, Dr. Helen Levine will receive an official Congressional Record from Rep. Crist, 9 a.m., USFSP Bull outside of University Student Center, 200 6th Ave. South, St. Petersburg. After that, Crist will meet with Jerry Robinson, CEO of HealthDatix, on their creation of wristbands that are programmed to passively record patient vital measurements, including pre-symptomatic coronavirus, 9:30 a.m., HealthDatix, 501 1st Ave. North, Suite 901, St. Petersburg.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Pasco Sheriff’s campaign paid $15,000 to top Sheriff’s Office staffer” via Kathleen McGrory, Neil Bedi and Romy Ellenbogen of The Tampa Bay Times — Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco paid nearly $15,000 in campaign funds last year to a firm run by one of his subordinates. Chase Daniels oversees community relations, social media and lobbying for the Sheriff’s Office. He also recently filed paperwork to start a separate company with Nocco’s wife, a political fundraiser, corporate records show. The $15,000 was about a third of what Nocco, the incumbent, raised for the race. He ran unopposed.

Chris Nocco was very generous with his campaign funds, despite running unopposed.

Broward schools had no duty to warn parents about Parkland shooter, judge rules” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Broward school district had no responsibility to warn the students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of the danger posed by the school shooter in the weeks and months before his deadly rampage, a Broward judge ruled Monday. Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning’s decision was a significant victory for the Broward School Board and a painful loss for those suing the district for the lapses they say allowed the gunman to operate unchecked until it was too late. In the long-awaited ruling, Englander Henning said the district could not be liable for failing to predict actions that might have happened had various issues been handled differently.

Pinellas school contract with police agencies raises concerns” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Attorneys and civil rights leaders are scrutinizing an agreement between the Pinellas County school system and 13 local police agencies, saying officials pushed it through without adequate notice or input from the community. In a letter Thursday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said it was “dismayed” that the school district and the agencies “quietly negotiated the proposed agreement without the input of parents and students and with scarcely any input from educators.” The agencies, including the school district’s own police department, are tasked with maintaining order and safety in a school system that serves almost 100,000 students across more than 150 locations.

Winter Park mayoral debate ends in brouhaha with Chamber” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A Winter Park mayoral debate ended in hostilities Friday between candidate Phil Anderson, upset over the propriety of a question, and debate host Betsy Gardner Eckbert of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. That was followed by demands for public apologies a month from the March 9 city election between Anderson and Sarah Sprinkel to decide who will succeed Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary. Sources indicated that Anderson and the Winter Park Chamber intended to issue a joint statement to reconcile.

Phil Anderson rumbled with the Winter Park Chamber during a mayoral debate. Image via Facebook.

Tampa Convention Center to host state’s official travel trade show in 2022” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Florida Huddle, created through VISIT FLORIDA, will be held Jan. 24-26, 2022 at the Tampa Convention Center. It is the state’s official travel trade show, showcasing Florida to international and domestic tour operators and wholesalers. It offers one-on-one-appointments, educational sessions and networking. “Florida Huddle provides an invaluable opportunity to connect travel professionals from around the world with Florida’s top destinations, hotels, resorts and attractions,” VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young said in the Monday announcement. This year, the Florida Huddle will be held virtually from Feb. 8 to Feb. 12. The virtual event will encompass educational classes and insights from domestic and international travel markets.

— TOP OPINION —

The best vaccination strategy is simple: Focus on Americans 65 and older” via Ruth R. Faden, Matthew A. Crane and Saad B. Omer for The Washington Post — Now that COVID-19 vaccines are increasingly becoming available to people beyond health care workers and those in long-term care, the question turns to who should be immunized next. For many people, the answer is essential workers. But while many workers face an elevated risk and should receive a vaccine soon, we believe the most ethically justified path forward is to focus on individuals 65 and older. The primary reason to prioritize people in this age group is simple: They account for more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths, even though they are only about 16% of the population.

— OPINIONS —

Miami lawmakers right to punish wacko Marjorie Taylor Greene. But did they do it for the right reason?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — We’re going to give U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez and Maria Elvira Salazar the benefit of the doubt and believe that each of them voted their conscience. Because, otherwise, we’d have to consider that fear was the real motivating factor. These Miami-Dade Republicans voted to have controversial Republican U.S. Rep. Taylor Greene stripped of her committee assignments. Greene showed herself to be unfit for public office long before voters astonishingly judged her fit to serve. She has used — and abused — her 15 minutes of fame. But make no mistake: Greene is barely contrite. Rather, she’s making the most of this “victimhood” and is campaigning for her 2022 race. And, in all likelihood, so are Diaz-Balart, Gimenez and Salazar.

Biden-Kamala Harris administration should ‘Keep Larry Keefe’ as U.S. Attorney” via Sheriff Walt McNeil for the Tallahassee Democrat — Whether it’s a new governor or new president, it’s standard to replace top public servants appointed by their predecessor. This is especially true if the new leader is of a different political party than the predecessor. To best protect and serve the public safety needs of our region, Biden should make an exception to this replacement process by retaining the stellar leadership and dedicated public service of Keefe, the U.S. Attorney for the 23 counties of the Northern District of Florida. Since becoming U.S. Attorney two years ago, he has been a cleansing breath of fresh air. He is exactly what North Florida needs as the top federal law enforcement officer here.

If Bruce Springsteen’s Jeep commercial doesn’t bum you out, congrats on the purchase of your new Jeep” via Chris Richards of The Washington Post — Hey, maybe Springsteen’s intentions were good, or maybe he thought this farce would be OK after Bob Dylan did his dumb Super Bowl commercial, or maybe this whole cash grab is going straight to charity. It doesn’t matter. Despite the healing sound of his voice, Springsteen is ultimately preaching reconciliation without reckoning — which after January’s Capitol siege is no longer an acceptable path toward progress. Plus, this is Springsteen. Isn’t he the guy who’s supposed to know everything about hard work? Suggesting that we should all swiftly and metaphorically travel to the nucleus of White, rural America to make up and move along feels insulting and wrong.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Gov. DeSantis will have to find a new chief of staff. Strum will be leaving to take over as CEO of Broward Health starting next month.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Don’t bother DeSantis just yet: he’s basking in the warmth of the Super Bowl. The Governor says Florida is home to two of the greatest of all time. Unless, of course, the Super Bowl turns out to be a super-spreader. At times it appeared the only ones who really followed safety protocols were the masked dancers in the halftime show.

— First came the Holocaust survivors, now the Bay of Pigs veterans. The Governor says survivors of the ill-fated invasion of Cuba in 1961 can now get their COVID-19 vaccinations at home in Miami-Dade.

— State lawmakers will be taking up a bill in the upcoming session to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Two women say it was their only choice — and the Legislature should butt out.

— The co-leader of the House Democrats has a theory as to why Republicans are serving up a heaping helping of red meat designed to trigger “the libs.”

— And finally, a Florida man is saying that 22 pounds of crystal meth in his carry-on bag must belong to someone else who has an identical backpack.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Twitter considers subscription fee for TweetDeck, unique content” via Kurt Wagner of Bloomberg — Twitter Inc. is building a subscription product as a way to ease its dependence on advertising — a plan the social network has considered for years, and one that has taken on a heightened priority given the pandemic and pressure from activist investors to accelerate growth. At least one idea being considered is related to “tipping,” or users’ ability to pay the people they follow for exclusive content, said the people, who asked not to be named. Other possible ways to generate recurring revenue include charging for the use of services like TweetDeck or advanced user features like “undo send” or profile-customization options.

Twitter is looking at opening up some revenue streams. Image via Bloomberg.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to U.S. Rep. Patrick Rooney, state Rep. Fred Costello, and our friend, Todd Jennings, chair of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.





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