Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.1.22

Good Tuesday morning.

Tuesday is Children’s Day at the Capitol.

The event, which coincides with Children’s Week Florida, is expected to draw more than 700 people to the Capitol Courtyard for various interactive events and educational activities focused on young children and youth.

Sponsored by the Florida Lottery, Children’s Day will see the Capitol decorated with custom hand artwork from children across the state — what’s known as the “Celebration of the Hands.”

Playtime’s here: It’s Children’s Day at The Capitol!

The day starts, however, with “Storybook Village.” Starting at 9 a.m., various children’s books will be brought to life through storytime, performances and music. Organizers expect some “celebrity readers,” and attendees will also be able to snag free books and something to eat. Performances run through 1 p.m.

At 11:45 a.m., Lottery Secretary John Davis, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, Sen. Loranne Ausley, Rep. Vance Aloupis and others will hold a news conference on the steps of the old Capitol alongside the winners of this year’s Children’s Week Florida advocacy award winners, which include Chiles Advocacy Award recipient Doug Sessions and Youth Advocate Award recipient Lauren Page.

Those who want to participate from afar can check out the documentary “No Small Matter” online through Feb. 4 using the password CW2022.

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Matt Bryza, the former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan and former deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, is joining Ballard Partners as a senior policy adviser.

Bryza has more than two decades of experience in diplomacy, culminating with the ambassador post, which he held from February 2011 to January 2012.

Matt Bryza is bringing his considerable international diplomacy experience to Team Ballard.

“Ambassador Bryza’s extensive experience in the White House and State Department brings a new dimension of international expertise to the firm, and we are honored to have him join our team,” said firm founder and President Brian Ballard. “Matt’s unique perspective will be invaluable to the firm’s global clients.”

From 2005 to 2009, he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia and Director on the National Security Council Staff at the White House, responsible for the South Caucasus, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, and Eurasian energy.

He simultaneously served as the U.S. co-chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and as U.S. mediator of the Cyprus, South Ossetia and Abkhazia conflicts.

Bryza, who lives in Istanbul, Turkey, is a frequent commentator in media outlets such as CNN International, Al-Jazeera, BBC, Fox News, the Financial Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, among others.

He currently serves on the board of Turcas, a publicly-traded fuel distribution and power generation company, and Nobel Upstream, an oil exploration and production company based in London. He is also CEO of environmental solutions company Lamor Turkey and is the founder and CEO of Eurasian Business Diplomacy, a strategic consultancy.


Must-read10 years since Trayvon: The story of the first decade of Black Lives Matter.” via New York Magazine — On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford because as a Black boy walking in a gated community, he was deemed “suspicious.” Zimmerman’s acquittal appalled a nation often willfully blind to the vulnerability of living while Black. Ten years later, “Black Lives Matter” has grown from a hashtag to a protester’s cry to a cultural force that has reshaped American politics, society, and daily life. At the same time, it is a specific collection of organizations and people whose decisions have attracted both applause and criticism, whose actions have been a source of intrigue, and whose personal relationships have strengthened and splintered under the stress and exposure. This special issue attempts to tell the story of the first decade of Black Lives Matter.

Assignment editorsKen Welch, the first African American Mayor of St. Petersburg, will raise The Woodson Flag over City Hall to mark the official start of Black History Month. The flag depicts Dr. Carter G. Woodson, widely recognized as the father of Black History, noon, St. Petersburg City Hall, 175 5th St. N (flagpole at the corner of 5th St. and 2nd Ave. N).


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@Liz_Cheney: (Donald) Trump uses language he knows caused the Jan 6 violence; suggests he’d pardon the Jan 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy; threatens prosecutors; and admits he was attempting to overturn the election. He’d do it all again if given the chance.

@WiltonSimpson: The anti-Semitism on display in Orlando this weekend has no place in our state. Floridians stand together today to reject these cowards and their hate.

@ChrisSprowls: Yesterday’s disgusting display of anti-semitism in Orlando does not reflect the values of Floridians. These thugs and their hateful messaging are not welcome in this state.

@ADL_Florida: We are alarmed that @ChristinaPushaw would first give cover to antisemites rather than immediately and forcefully condemning their revolting, hate-filled rally and assault.

@BonillaJL: If you jump up and condemn (X) on the left’s schedule, you accept whatever thing they’re trying to smear you with by association, and you grant them the power to compel your speech. Ron DeSantis understands this.

@MacStipanovich: You and Tater have been working like demented and mendacious beavers all day to clean up a huge mess you made through sheer incompetence. And this is just your most recent FUBAR outing. Tell us again about how bad Dem comms people are.

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@ShortFormErnie: Congratulations to Wordle, which proves that pawning off something you gave to your partner as a gift is sometimes a winning strategy.

@DJMia00: If you want to live a long time, it never hurts to go for a walk. Walking 16,000 steps per day was associated with a 66% reduction in all-cause mortality compared to walking just 2,700 steps per day.


XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 3; Super Bowl LVI — 12; Will Smith‘s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 12; Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show begins — 15; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 15; Spring Training report dates begin — 16; Synapse Florida tech summit begins — 16; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 19; Daytona 500 — 19; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 22; Suits For Session — 22; CPAC begins — 23; St. Pete Grand Prix — 24; Joe Biden to give the State of the Union address — 28; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 31; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 35; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 50; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 52; The Oscars — 54; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 56; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 61; federal student loan payments will resume — 89; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 94; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 115; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 121; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 158; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 171; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 189; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 213; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 248; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 283; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 286; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 318; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 381; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 416; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 542; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 626; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 906.


Ron DeSantis aide deletes tweet suggesting Nazi protesters were Democratic operatives” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — In the now-deleted tweet, press secretary Pushaw suggested that a group of about 20 protesters who were seen wearing Nazi symbols and shouting anti-Semitic slurs Saturday afternoon could be political opponents of DeSantis trying to frame the Governor in a bad light. “Do we even know if they are Nazis?” Pushaw tweeted. “Or is this a student like the ‘White nationalists’ who crashed the (Glenn) Youngkin rally in Charlottesville pretending to be Dem staffers?” After facing swift blowback on Twitter, Pushaw Sunday night followed up her initial Tweet with another post admitting that she did not know who staged the Orlando protest and stressed that Nazi symbolism and hate speech are wrong. Yet Pushaw on Monday morning continued to post on social media about the incident, tweeting: “So — If the Governor himself does not issue a public statement of specific condemnation of whoever this group is, within a time period that the Left deems acceptable, he is smeared as a Nazi sympathizer by default?”

Here we go again. Another Christina Pushaw tweet (now-deleted) causes a stir.

Republican legislative leaders denounce neo-Nazi demonstrations in Central Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — House Speaker Chris Sprowls unequivocally condemned the denounced pro-Nazi demonstrations in Central Florida over the weekend. “Yesterday’s disgusting display of anti-semitism in Orlando does not reflect the values of Floridians,” he tweeted. “These thugs and their hateful messaging are not welcome in this state.” The Palm Harbor Republican’s words stood in stark contrast to a message from DeSantis’ press secretary. Shortly after Sprowls tweet, Senate President Wilton Simpson posted his own statement. “The anti-semitism on display in Orlando this weekend has no place in our state. Floridians stand together today to reject these cowards and their hate,” he wrote.

As officials denounce Nazi rallies in Orlando, DeSantis accuses political opponents of ‘smear’” via Jeff Weiner, Desiree Stennett, and Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Neo-Nazi demonstrations in Orlando over the weekend drew bipartisan condemnations from state and local officials, but DeSantis remained silent until Monday afternoon when he responded to a question about the rallies with a tirade against his political enemies. “So, what I’m going to say is these people, these Democrats who are trying to use this as some type of political issue to try to smear me as if I had something to with do that, we’re not playing their game,” DeSantis. He referred to the demonstrators as “some jackasses doing this on the street” and said they’d be held accountable by law enforcement.

—“Transcript of DeSantis’ answer to a question about neo-Nazis in Orlando” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel


Florida GOP leaders unveil new bill with election law changes sought by DeSantis” via Zac Anderson and John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Network — Republican Sen. Travis Hutson on Monday unveiled legislation with a slew of changes to Florida’s voting laws, including a proposal sought by DeSantis to create a new police force investigating voter fraud and a mandate to purge voter rolls more frequently. The bill comes as Trump continues to spread unfounded claims about fraud in the 2020 election, an issue that has inflamed the GOP base and put pressure on the state’s Republican leaders to act. “Confidence in the integrity of our elections is essential to maintaining a democratic form of government,” Hutson said in filing the legislation, which is being proposed as an amendment to a bill (SB 524). The legislation is scheduled for a Tuesday hearing in the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections.

Frozen out? House Democrats won’t file amendments, expect little input on redistricting maps” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — House Democrats don’t anticipate offering amendments to a House redistricting map heading to the chamber floor Tuesday. “We all know this is something headed toward the judiciary,” said House Democratic Leader Jenne. Unlike the Senate, which passed new Senate and Congressional maps with largely bipartisan support, a map (H 8013) for Florida’s 120 House districts has moved through committee with mostly party-line votes. The House map set for consideration Tuesday afternoon has seen only one Democratic vote in its favor so far. Jenne said that’s the result of a non-transparent process, and one he doesn’t anticipate changing this Session. Issues raised by Democrats about the failure to consider language minorities could create cartography at risk of failing a judicial review.

Bill easing appointment of DeSantis’ DEP Secretary pick gets Senate makeover” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senators have altered a plan to allow the Governor to appoint the state’s top environmental official without the Cabinet’s approval. The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee postponed a hearing on the bill (SB 1658) earlier this month when Sen. Aaron Bean, sponsor of the bill, said the measure needed to be “fine-tuned.” Following changes made to the legislation Monday, the committee voted 4-1 to advance the proposal. As initially filed, the measure only removed the requirement that three members of the Florida Cabinet must approve the Governor’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), sending the appointment only to the Senate. The amendment would instead allow the Governor the choice to court support from three Cabinet members or seek the Senate’s consent.

Aaron Bean seeks to change a single word — ‘approval’ — to ‘support.’

Danny Burgess wants wrongful death bill ‘ready for prime time’ before Senate Judiciary vote” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A measure changing Florida’s medical malpractice laws stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday after Chair Burgess put a halt on the bill until it’s “ready for prime-time.” Burgess suggested altering SB 262 after calling the bill filed by Sen. Anna Maria Rodriguez too broad as currently written and not the direction he thinks the Senate should go. But he said changes are needed in the state’s complicated and contentious malpractice law. But insurance lobbyists maintain that Burgess’s idea could do the opposite. The amendment proposed by Burgess contained language that would have eliminated a long-standing pre-suit process currently required for all medical malpractice cases.

House Appropriations Committee OK’s Governor’s rainy day fund proposal” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House Appropriations Committee OK’d two measures Monday that would provide the Governor with a rainy-day fund in the event of an emergency. Under the bills (HB 7023 and 7025), lawmakers would equip the Governor with a $500 million response fund they could use during a declared state of emergency. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dana Trabulsy, originally flushed the fund with $1 billion. An amendment, however, slashed the proposed fund in half. “We reduced it based on the feedback we got during the committee that $1 billion might be a large sum to start with, and we also wanted to pair with our Senate companion,” Trabulsy said, referring to the Pandemic and Public Emergencies Committee.

Property tax break for first responders, teachers advance in House” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Police, firefighters, prison guards, teachers, child welfare officials, and active-duty military personnel with homestead property in Florida could see a new tax break under a constitutional amendment that cleared its first House committee hurdle Monday. The bill (HJR 1) would create another homestead exemption on a property’s assessed value from $100,000 to $150,000 for eligible first responders, teachers, and military members. If the Legislature passes the measure, more than 60% of voters would have to approve it on the 2022 General Election ballot. If voters give the go-ahead, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. Rep. Josie Tomkow, the bill’s sponsor, said it was an effort to help law enforcement officials.

Bill boosting law enforcement recruitment passes second committee” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — A bill offering a slew of state-funded benefits designed to bolster the recruitment of police officers in Florida has passed its second House committee. HB 3, one of the centerpieces of DeSantis’ legislative priorities, passed the House Appropriations Committee unanimously Monday. The bill offers a slew of monetary incentives for in-state officers and out-of-state officers looking to relocate. Under the measure, Florida would provide recruits a bundle of perks, including a one-time $5,000 bonus for newcomers and a $1,000 reimbursement program for out-of-state officers who certify themselves in Florida. It also bumps the base pay for sheriffs and sheriff’s deputies by $5,000. Rep. Thomas Leek, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill would show the state’s support for law enforcement.

Tom Leek wants to give LEOs a pay bump.

Bill protecting consumers from price-gouging mover scams clears Senate committee” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A bill that would protect consumers from price-gouging scams set up by moving companies was packed, loaded and shipped onto its next committee without a scratch Monday. SB 1928, sponsored by Palm Harbor Sen. Ed Hooper, passed the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism unanimously without comment or debate. “This gives the mover a better understanding of what their requirements are,” Hooper said. “It gives the shipper, the person who is having their goods moved, better protection and understanding of what their obligations are. And better protection for all involved.” The bill would cover intrastate movers, starting and ending in Florida. Interstate movers, those between states, are covered under federal law.

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Democrats expect Republicans to give no ground in abortion fight” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — House Minority Leader Evan Jenne on Monday said Democratic opposition would remain firm against a proposal that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, even if Republicans offer to include exceptions for rape or incest. Styled after a Mississippi law that’s currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill would ban abortions after 15 weeks and provides no carveouts for rape, incest or human trafficking. Speaking to reporters, Jenne suggested such carveouts may appease moderate Republicans, but not Democrats, who oppose the bill at large. Republicans have shot down several dozen Democratic-sponsored amendments on the bill.

Evan Jenne expects a battle over abortion. Image via Florida House.

Democrats deride anti-‘woke’ bill as a distraction from real issues” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Democrats are preparing their lines of attack against legislation aiming at “woke” instruction that continues to march through the committee process. The legislation, filed in part at DeSantis’ urging, is Florida Republicans’ effort to quell classroom or corporate training discussions they consider “woke” indoctrinations of cultural guilt. Democrats in the House and Senate are working to find ways to expose what House Democratic Whip Ramon Alexander called the bill’s hypocrisies, fallacies and shortsightedness, he told members of the media Monday.

Orange County Sheriff backs bill to ban protests at homes” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — A bill advancing in the Florida Senate seeks to outlaw targeted residential protests, such as one that happened at the Orlando-area vacation home of George Floyd’s killer. The measure would make it a misdemeanor crime to picket or protest at a private residence with “the intent to harass or disturb that person in his or her home.” The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill on Monday. Sheriff John Mina is supporting the proposal. “The right to protest must be balanced with an individual’s right to be safe in their homes,” said Michelle Guido, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office. Kevin Goldberg, a First Amendment specialist at the Freedom Forum, said the legislation is vague, overly broad, and could face issues in court.

Florida could end court fees for kids. Will election-year politics stop it?” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — Despite bipartisan support, bills that would stop courts from fining kids when they enter the juvenile justice system have yet to be heard in committees during this year’s Legislative Session, scheduled to end on March 11. Senate Bill 428, called the “Debt-Free Justice for Children Act,” and the companion House Bill 257 would end court fees for juveniles. It would not end court fines, which are criminal penalties, nor would it end restitution to victims. If passed, Florida would join a slew of states to end the practice. In the last few years, states from Texas to Oregon have eliminated vast swaths of user fees for kids.


House tax cut bills for beer, hydrogen, heavy equipment would save millions, economists predict” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A trio of House bills aimed at cutting taxes in targeted industries could progress this Session after state economists issued official estimates Friday regarding their effect on state and local revenues. Craft brewers would get a break from paying a $3,000 license fee and be able to pay a $500 license fee instead under HB 1451. But the real savings for the industry and cost to the state would come in the recalculation of the excise tax on beer. The bill would make the excise tax 0.375 cents per ounce, saving brewers $58 million next fiscal year.

Nick DiCeglie is looking to give craft brewers a (tax) break.

House moves forward with bill to slash school board pay, review textbooks — House Republicans advanced a bill (HB 1467) on Monday that would slash pay for local school board members and create a content review process for schoolbooks, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The bill at one point aimed to make school board positions unpaid, but the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that would allow board members to be paid up to $200 per meeting, up to $4,800 annually. Comparable legislation in the Senate bill would set school board pay at $29,697, the same as lawmakers. The bill also requires every elementary school to create a public list of library material. It would also require meetings about instructional materials to be noticed, open to the public, and include parents. It would not apply to private or charter schools.

Proposals to raise payout caps in lawsuits against state, local governments advance” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A pair of bills intended to update how governments in Florida settle hefty lawsuits advanced Monday through both chambers of the Legislature. But while nearly all lawmakers agreed the state’s existing system needs changing, they and the bills’ sponsors were divided on fixing the problem. Florida currently operates under a sovereign immunity law, which protects government agencies from costly lawsuits by limiting what can be paid without legislative action to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. It’s a policy with roots that can be traced to the days of British colonialism when subjects could not seek legal damages against the monarchy, and it’s a cushion against losses governments enjoy from the federal to the hyperlocal level.

Senate panel to inspect building safety bill — A bill (SB 1702) requiring condo building inspections, crafted in the wake of the Surfside collapse, will go before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee when it meets Tuesday. Sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, the legislation shares traits with a list of recommendations outlined by the Surfside Working Group’s Florida Building Professionals Recommendations, a group that includes the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, the Florida Engineering Society, the Florida Structural Engineers Association, the Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and other building professionals. The recommendations, delivered in October of last year, include a requirement for “Minimum Structural Inspections” and establishing a “Whole Building Safety Inspection” program for buildings over a specific size throughout the state.

LBGTQ advocates slam ‘Individual Freedom’ bill that removes ‘gender’ from Florida schools” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Emily Gray doesn’t need to wait for a bill like HB 7 to pass because she already knows the kind of damage it can do. “Going to do stuff like sex ed and the physical classes they put in there, it unnecessarily separates trans kids and makes them uncomfortable,” Gray said. “I know because I was that child myself before,” Gray said. Gray, a transgender woman from Bay County, who also has a 14-year-old trans child in Florida schools, said with HB 7, situations like that can be more common. HB 7, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Ávila, is one of DeSantispriority bills. It comes on the heels of last Session’s bills keeping trans girls and women from participating in sports.

— SKED —

— The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider bills for funding local programs or projects, 8 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Judiciary Committee meets to consider a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 1127), from Rep. Mike Beltran, to limit what can be included in ballot initiatives, 9 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House State Affairs Committee meets to consider HB 7, from Rep. Ávila, to address the way issues of race should be taught in public schools, 9 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Education and Employment Committee meets to consider HB 1203, from Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, to revamp procedures for evaluating teachers, 10 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 1534, from Sen. Jim Boyd, to boost felony charges for people committing multiple retail thefts, 10:30 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Commerce Committee meets to consider HB 1439, from Reps. Jackie Toledo and Demi Busatta Cabrera, to set up rules to curb human trafficking, including barring lodging establishments from offering hourly room rates, 12:30 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Health and Human Services Committee meets to consider HB 357, also from Toledo, to revamp the regulation of pharmacy benefit managers, 12:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1708, from Chair Ileana Garcia, to revamp state laws to help homeless youths, 1 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 876, from Chair Jason Pizzo, to crack down on “stunt driving,” 1 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Education Committee meets to consider SB 1690, from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., to create a revolving loan program to help charter schools with building needs, 1 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House will convene to consider several issues, including legislative redistricting (SJR 100) and HB 159, from Reps. Tracie Davis and Dotie Joseph, to extend the public-records exemption for the names of people who win lottery prizes of $250,000 or more, 3 p.m., House Chamber.

— The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets to consider SB 524, from Sen. Travis Hutson, to address elections issues, including banning ranked choice voting, 3:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets to consider SB 1360, from Chair Tom Wright, to continue the Medal of Freedom award program, 3:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 1702, from Sen. Bradley, to require inspections of multifamily residential buildings in the state, 3:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

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Spanish bean soup; mixed garden salad with dressings egg salad; tabbouleh salad; Charlie Tuna Wraps; cider grilled pork chops with cranberry cabernet sauce; Grilled eggplant with macadamia ricotta and Arrabiatta sauce (vegan, paleo, keto); roasted sweet potatoes with a spicy honey drizzle; julienne medley of vegetables; and GC bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert.


This Everglades project would help stop algae blooms. DeSantis wants Joe Biden to fund it faster.” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The Biden administration just set aside a record-breaking $1.1 billion to help revive the Everglades. DeSantis wants a lot more, $725 million more, to be exact, for a project he calls “the crown jewel” of Everglades restoration. In a Monday news conference, the Republican Governor, a frequent and vocal critic of Biden, said the White House had failed to include the additional funding in his upcoming presidential budget for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. The reservoir is considered one of the most vital projects in Everglades restoration because it would decrease the amount of polluted Lake Okeechobee water.

Joe Biden funds Everglades restoration with a record amount of cash. Ron DeSantis wants more, faster. Image via Jacob Ogles.

Ashley Moody joins multistate lawsuit against family-unification plan for immigrants” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Moody has joined in an eight-state lawsuit challenging a Biden administration program that allows children from three Central American countries to enter the United States and possibly qualify for residency. The Central American Minors program will enable parents and legal guardians legally in the United States to bring in their children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and seek refugee status. Moody, along with other GOP Attorneys General, filed a 34-page complaint arguing the program unjustifiably conflates two federal statutes to create an illegal immigration scheme. “The Biden administration created it without consideration of the effects it will have on the plaintiff states and the continuing crisis along the Southwest Border. The administration created it without notice-and-comment rule-making,” the complaint reads.

‘People are intimidated’: Florida election law in crosshairs as testimony in trial begins” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — Florida’s controversial, year-old election law has hurt the voter registration efforts of the League of Women Voters of Florida, its President testified in federal court in Tallahassee Monday. Cecile Scoon was the first witness called in the trial over the law held by teleconference before Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. The League and several other plaintiffs sued the state, contending the new law is unconstitutional and saying it raises barriers to voting for Blacks and other minorities. “People are very intimidated by the change in the law. They are afraid they are going to be perceived of doing something wrong,” Scoon said, adding that volunteers are quitting because voter registration has become too stressful.

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Florida may ease new graduation rules for class of 2022” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s high school class of 2022 is the first facing the higher hurdle to graduation state leaders erected four years ago. Given the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, many educators fear it will be an unfair obstacle. In Central Florida alone, more than 10,000 teenagers are struggling to meet test score requirements needed for a diploma just months before graduation. The State Board of Education may help by delaying a rule adopted in 2018. At its Feb. 9 meeting, the board will consider whether to put off the implementation of a stricter test score rule that kicks in for this year’s seniors.

Gasoline prices in Florida skyrocket by double digits in last week” via USA TODAY — Prices heading into the week increased by 12 cents, just 1 cent lower than last year’s high of $3.36, which were the highest gas prices have climbed since 2014, according to AAA-The Auto Club Group. The sharp increases in price to consumers are linked to the rising cost of crude oil, from which gasoline is refined. AAA is predicting prices to continue to climb. Crude oil prices have risen by 15% since the start of the year, setting a new market high on Wednesday at $87.35 a barrel. “Unfortunately for drivers, it doesn’t seem that oil prices will see any significant relief anytime soon. Gas prices may only get more expensive as fuel demand increases because of spring break and summer road trips,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said in his weekly briefing.


Florida reports 197,768 cases and 1,192 deaths in a week, still on list where virus spreads fastest” via Mike Stucka and Jennifer Sangalang of The Palm Beach Post — Florida spent a nerve-wracking six weeks on a Top 10 list of states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest. From late December to mid-January, the state saw a spike in COVID-19 cases brought on by the more infectious, but less severe, omicron variant. Last week the state was barely in the Top 40. Florida reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 197,768 new cases. That’s down 30% from the previous week’s tally of 282,520 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19. Florida ranked 37th among the states where coronavirus spread the fastest on a per-person basis. With 6.45% of the country’s population, Florida had 5.73% of the country’s cases in the last week.

Moving fast: Florida remains in the Top 10 of COVID-19 spread.


Orange County schools extend mask requirement for all adults” via Matt Reezer of WFTV — Orange County Public Schools said the requirement applies to all employees, volunteers, visitors and vendors while in OCPS buildings and vehicles. The mask requirement does not apply to students. However, district officials said they “strongly encourage the use of face masks by students.” Orange County Public Schools had reinstated its mask requirement for all adults on Jan. 3. At the time, the district had cited the increase in COVID-19 positivity rate. On Wednesday, OCPS said the district will no longer provide excused absences in cases where parents keep students home due to increased COVID-19 cases.

Barbara Jenkins wants everyone to mask up. Image via The Apopka Voice.

With Dr. Raul Pino on ‘administrative leave,’ who’s in charge of the Orange Health Department?” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Since Pino, the chief health officer in Orange County, was placed on administrative leave after raising concern about the lack of vaccinations among the agency’s staff, state officials will not say who is in charge of the Health Department in Florida’s sixth-largest county. The office’s website lists Beth A. Paterniti as deputy health officer, a post she has filled since November 2020. Her photo appears below Pino’s on the website. But the state Health Department has not answered the question, “Who is running the Health Department in Orange County now?” Inquiries posed by email to state health officials more than 10 days ago have been ignored or funneled through a public records portal.

Tallahassee hospitals report highest monthly death count since October; cases fall over 22%” via Mike Stucka and Christopher Cann of the USA TODAY Network — Tallahassee hospitals reported their highest monthly count of COVID-19-related deaths since October when the delta variant was raging through the community. Since the new year, there have been 21 COVID-19-related deaths between Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), which reported 11 deaths, and Capital Regional Medical Center (CRMC), which reported 10. In December, TMH reported six deaths, and CRMC reported four. However, cases in Leon County continue to fall while hospitalizations in Tallahassee remain steady. As of Monday, there were 155 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Tallahassee hospitals. Medical staff in TMH were treating 105 patients, while CRMC had 50. Of TMH’s 105 patients, 36 are vaccinated and 59% are considered “incidental,” meaning they were being treated for other illnesses or injuries and happened to test positive while at the hospital.

Gainesville health officials hope omicron peak near as hospitalizations fall slightly” via Alan Festo of The Gainesville Sun — The number of local hospitalizations related to COVID-19 has fallen slightly following the Florida Department of Health’s report Friday that cases were down about 31% from the previous week. On Monday, UF Health Shands Hospital reported 151 COVID-19 patients, down from 181 on Jan. 24, with another 63 patients deemed no longer infectious. Of those 151, 50 are being treated in the ICU, and 13 are pediatric patients, four of whom are in the ICU.

New COVID-19 deaths double in Lee and Collier as cases, hospitalizations drop” via Dan DeLuca of the Naples Daily News — The two counties reported a combined 52 virus-related deaths for the week ending Jan. 27, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker. That’s double the previous week’s total of 26 and the most in a week since late September during the surge of the deadly delta variant. There have been 1,931 reported COVID-19 deaths in Lee County and 926 in Collier since the pandemic began. Lee Health reported 38 patient deaths for the week ending Jan. 27, 16 more than the previous week. The hospital system also said there had been 85 deaths from the virus so far in January, the most in a single month since a pandemic-high 242 patients died in September.

Facility in Lakeland makes millions of N95 respirators daily to answer federal call” via Angelina Salcedo of WTSP — The first of the federal government’s free N95 masks began arriving at some U.S. pharmacies this past week. Some may be from right here in the Tampa Bay area. ACI in Lakeland is answering the federal government’s call for help, making millions of surgical respirators a day. “We’re running pretty hard right now,” Matt Mueller, president of ACI, said. A unique machine they’ve built from scratch is the only one in the country pumping out nearly 2 million surgical N95 respirators a day. “Our N95 respirator is not only NIOSH approved, which is a part of the CDC, but ours is also FDA cleared. So, it’s an additional step. It’s the highest level of an anti-fibrous mask you can possibly get,” Mueller said.

Matt Meuller is answering the federal call for masks. Image via Bay News 9.

‘Greed and selfishness’: Daughter of former Broward Mayor awaits her fate in COVID-19 fraud case” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The daughter of former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness on Monday will learn her fate after she pleaded guilty last year to lying on a COVID-19 loan application to get $300,000 during the pandemic. Damara Holness is scheduled to appear in federal court Monday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, where she could face federal prison, a fine or both. Prosecutors argue she sought to enrich herself when she applied for the Paycheck Protection Program to help keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic. The day his daughter pleaded guilty, Dale Holness said, “this experience has been a difficult one for my family. My daughter has taken ownership for her actions and admitted to her mistakes. Taking responsibility takes courage, and I’m saddened it’s a lesson she learned in this manner.”

—2022 —

White House tries to tamp down Democratic jitters about midterm messaging” via Peter Nicholas, Carol E. Lee and Mike Memoli of NBC News — Biden’s poll numbers are slumping amid a pandemic he has been unable to quash, and his party faces a wipeout in the midterm elections that could doom his legislative agenda for the rest of his term. Yet the White House is privately telling its most loyal supporters that it sees a way for Biden to reverse course: by focusing more on what he has achieved thus far rather than on what remains unfinished. White House counselor Steve Ricchetti described plans for Biden to spend more time on the trail promoting accomplishments and less time in Washington bogged down in negotiations with Congress.

Joe Biden tells Democrats to settle down. Image via AP.

Pot legalization push goes up in smoke — The committee backing a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana is no longer aiming for the 2022 ballot, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. Michael Minardi, the chair of Sensible Florida, said the committee plans to regear their campaign for the 2024 election cycle. “The plan is to start off fresh,” Minardi said. The announcement came after the effort had gathered just 17,596 petition signatures, far below the 891,581 needed to make the ballot and the 222,898 required to trigger a judicial review.

Marco Rubio showcases Senate record as he readies to run for a third term” via Kevin Derby of Florida Phoenix — Gearing up for his re-election campaign in November, U.S. Sen. Rubio released a report toward the end of last week showcasing his record in 2021 and over the past five years. “One of my highest priorities is making sure my staff and I are available to help Floridians with whatever federal assistance they may need,” Rubio said. Rubio’s office highlighted some of his accomplishments during his second term. “Sen. Rubio authored dozens of laws over the past five years, including the expansion of the child tax credit,” his office said.

Small, historically-Black Florida town set to lose Black Congressman under DeSantis redistricting” via Fresh Take Florida — A small, historically Black city an hour east of Tallahassee is in the crosshairs of a controversial redistricting plan by DeSantis. The plan would radically redraw the state’s 5th Congressional District and could cost the Black Democrat who represents it his seat in Congress. Madison is a rural community with about 3,000 people, almost two-thirds of whom are Black. Its Congressman, Al Lawson, is a Democratic former longtime state lawmaker who won his House seat in 2016 and is one of five Black members of Congress from Florida. If DeSantis’ redistricting plan were approved, Lawson wouldn’t represent Madison anymore. He could be vulnerable to losing his next election in the new mostly Republican and White district created.

Kathy Castor ends year with nearly $650K cash on hand after raising $194K in Q4” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Castor started the new year with $648,168 in available spending money for her congressional re-election campaign. The most recently submitted report covers the fourth quarter, which started Oct. 1 and ended Dec. 31. In that time frame, the incumbent raised $194,697. Her Q4 haul brought her total yearly fundraising total to $528,904. The incumbent spent $63,936 in Q4 on campaign staff payroll, consulting services and processing fees, among others. In 2021, Castor dished out $305,518 in total.

Laura Loomer raised $120K in Q4, spent almost all of it” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Loomer reported almost $120,000 raised in the fourth quarter of 2021, and she burned through nearly all of it. The Lake Worth Republican’s year-end report shows a total of $119,821 in contributions. Meanwhile, she spent $105,232 for the quarter, including sending $8,400 in refunds. But those expenditures primarily fueled a campaign apparatus seemingly built on spending money to raise more money. That means she netted just $6,189 in the quarter. The bottom line is that despite two consecutive quarters raising six figures in contributions, which came on top of raising upward of $100,000 since launching her campaign in March, Loomer sits on $84,444 total as she enters 2022. For now, Daniel Webster and Loomer are filed in Florida’s 11th Congressional District. But that could change based on the once-a-decade redistricting process.

Laura Loomer spends it as fast as she can make it. Image via the New York Post.

Personnel note: Michele Rayner taps Jasmine Webb for campaign managerWebb has been hired as campaign manager for state Rep. Rayner’s campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “I am honored to join this team and work with a proven leader whose values mirror my own,” Webb said. “As a queer Black woman, I have always felt a strong passion for uplifting the voices of marginalized communities. I see politics as a way to right the wrongs I saw in my community, and Rep. Rayner is the leader who can get that done. Her work is rooted in serving the people, and I am honored to join the cause and am eager to see Congresswoman Rayner in office.” Rayner faces fellow state Rep. Ben Diamond and former national security adviser Eric Lynn in the August Democratic Primary.

Mike Moore to retire from Pasco County Commission at end of term” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Moore announced he will retire from the Commission at the end of his term, which wraps up this year. Moore, who has held the District 2 seat since 2014, said in a statement announcing his retirement that he will return to the private sector full time as a small-business owner. The decision came after “much deliberation and discussions with family,” Moore said. “It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the citizens of Pasco County over the past seven years, and I am pleased to have led a number of transformative changes to better the quality of life for the citizens of Pasco County” Moore said in a statement. Moore served as chair in 2017 and 2020, and vice-chair in 2016 and 2019.

Fired GRU general manager Ed Bielarski files to run for Gainesville Mayor” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — It didn’t take long for Bielarski to follow through on his pledge to run for Mayor of the city of Gainesville. He filed the paperwork to run for the seat on Monday. “I think it does show that I’m serious,” Bielarski said. Last Thursday, after the Gainesville City Commission voted to fire Bielarski, he fired back that he would run for Mayor, which is up for election in August. “I want to really stop the continued dysfunctionality of the City Commission,” he said Monday.


One million deaths: The hole the pandemic made in U.S. society” via Jon Kamp, Jennifer Levitz, Brianna Abbott and Paul Overberg of The Wall Street Journal — It robbed society of grandparents, parents, spouses, sons and daughters, best friends, mentors, loyal employees and bosses. It could take years to fully realize the pandemic’s lasting social changes, and its human toll will yield. Major wars can redraw maps, shift the balance of global power and leave memorials in the nation’s capital. The pandemic is a reminder our biggest enemies are often too small to see. A Wall Street Journal analysis of CDC data shows the pandemic has weighed especially heavily on the elderly, fueled by the risk older people face from serious COVID-19 cases. There are roughly 700,000 excess deaths among people 65 and up, about 1.5% of that population. The pandemic exposed racial and ethnic disparities that already lurked in health outcomes. These disparities are one reason why the U.S. had a particularly high proportion of people who died in middle age or younger. In explaining the overall excess death count, epidemiologists believe many COVID-19 deaths were never properly recorded as such, and that there were significant fatalities resulting from other kinds of health and social problems that became amplified by the pandemic.

COVID-19 is leaving a not-so-insignificant mark on American society. Image via AP.

COVID-19 cases plunge in the U.S.” via Mitch Smith of The New York Times — New coronavirus cases are falling rapidly across the country after an omicron-fueled surge. But hospitalizations remain near peak levels, and deaths are rising. Eastern states hit early by the omicron variant are seeing especially pronounced declines. More than 2,500 deaths are being announced most days nationwide, a figure that continues to grow. Even as the national data improves, a few states continue to see surges in new cases. But across most of the country, omicron is slowing down.

Omicron pushes health authorities toward learning to live with COVID-19” via Dasl Yoon, Feliz Solomon and Julie Wernau of The Wall Street Journal — Health officials everywhere, many for the first time, are forgoing some of the sharpest tools they have to combat omicron, even as infections soar. They accept the virus like never before to minimize disruptions to economies, education and everyday life. That makes omicron a critical turning point in a pandemic rounding into the third year. Public-health authorities had long championed flattening infection curves and shouldering personal responsibility to socially distance, wear face masks, and get vaccinated. But the omicron variant is regarded as so transmissible that even the harshest and economically most-damaging lockdowns are unlikely to keep the virus out.

U.S. gives full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine” via Matthew Perrone of The Associated Press — U.S. health regulators granted full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, a shot that’s already been given to tens of millions of Americans since its emergency authorization over a year ago. The action by the FDA means the agency has completed the same rigorous, time-consuming review of Moderna’s shot as dozens of other long-established vaccines. The decision was bolstered by real-world evidence from the more than 200 million doses administered in the U.S. since the FDA cleared the shot in December 2020. The FDA granted full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine last August. Public health advocates initially hoped the regulatory distinction would boost public confidence in the shots. But there was no discernible bump in vaccinations after the Pfizer approval.


White House braces for bad omicron jobs numbers” via Neil Irwin of Axios — Job growth numbers may be about to turn negative for the first time since Biden took office, and the White House is seeking to get ahead of potential negative headlines. Vast numbers of Americans missed work this month due to the omicron variant, which is likely to drag down January jobs numbers. But the White House believes these effects will be temporary. In a winter of economic discontent, the good news has been that the job market has been booming. The virus surge undermined that in January. Forecasters projected only 162,500 jobs added in January, which would be the weakest since December 2020. There is some reason to think the number could turn out to be significantly worse than that.

Joe Biden is bracing for a winter of discontent. Image via AP.

How we broke the supply chain” via David Dayen and Rakeen Mabud of The American Prospect — Breadlines, the Big Book of Capitalism assured us, could not happen in a market economy. Supply would always rise to meet demand, as long as there’s money to be made. Yet we have breadlines in America today, or at least just off our coasts. They consist of dozens of ships with billions of dollars of cargo, idling outside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. As a direct result, for the first time in most of our lifetimes. Big companies got the law changed to enable ocean carriers to offer secret discounts in exchange for volume guarantees. Trucking and rail deregulation in the Jimmy Carter administration eliminated federal standards and squeezed workers. Wall Street was behind all of these choices, insisting on more profit maximization through deregulation, mergers, offshoring, and hyper-efficiency.


Reuters issues major correction to report originally claiming ivermectin was found effective against omicron” via Aidan McLaughlin of Mediaite — Reuters initially reported early Monday morning that a Japanese pharmaceutical company had found ivermectin — an anti-parasitic drug that has been touted as a treatment for COVID-19 but has not been approved by the FDA — effective against the virus in a Phase III trial. The headline and lede of the original report, which like every Reuters story was syndicated on other major outlets around the world, read as follows: “Japanese trading and pharmaceutical company Kowa Co Ltd said on Monday anti-parasite drug ivermectin has been found effective for treating the omicron variant of COVID-19 in a Phase III trial.” In a correction, Reuters noted that the drug was not found effective in Phase III clinical trials, but had an “antiviral effect” against omicron in “non-clinical research.”

Reuters forced a major walk-back on an ivermectin story. Image via AP.

Worth a read — “Bed Bath & Beyond decluttered its stores and ended up frustrating shoppers” via Suzanne Kapner of The Wall Street Journal — Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Bed Bath & Beyond wanted to improve the shopping experience by reducing the number of products in stores and launching new, private-label brands. Those moves, led by Chief Executive Officer Mark Tritton, ended up making the home-goods chain vulnerable to supply-chain problems that have roiled many retailers, according to former employees, industry executives and analysts. During part of the critical holiday season, the chain ran short of its 200 bestselling items, from kitchen appliances and electronics to sheets and bath towels, resulting in $100 million in lost sales for the most recent quarter. The company’s shares have lost more than half their value in the past year.


White House frustrations grow over health chief Xavier Becerra’s handling of pandemic” via Dan Diamond, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — White House officials have grown so frustrated with Becerra as the pandemic rages on that they have openly mused about who might be better in the job, although political considerations have stopped them from taking steps to replace him, officials involved in the discussions said. Their dissatisfaction has escalated in recent months as the omicron variant has sickened millions of Americans in a fifth pandemic wave amid confusing and sometimes conflicting messages from top health officials that brought scrutiny to Biden’s strategy. The administration has also struggled in the face of a tsunami of cases that have overwhelmed hospitals and shuttered some schools and businesses because so many workers became infected.

The White House gives Xavier Becerra the side-eye on his COVID-19 response. Image via AP.

Biden delivered a booming economy. Now he needs the Fed to deal with the fallout.” via Victoria Guida and Adam Cancryn of POLITICO — The economy grew at a blistering 5.5% rate in 2021, wage gains have far outstripped their pace from before the pandemic, and unemployment has plunged to 3.9%. But price spikes eat up people’s paychecks and feed anxiety about the future. As a result, Biden is getting little credit for the economic boom. Biden will mostly have to hope that the Fed can bring prices to heel through interest rate hikes without derailing the recovery. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has accepted the task, saying on Wednesday that there’s “quite a bit of room” for the central bank to raise interest rates. But even that isn’t without risk: The Fed has a history of causing recessions when it increases borrowing costs to bring down inflation.


Democrats put Build Back Better in Joe Manchin’s court” via Andrew Duehren of The Wall Street Journal — Democrats are increasingly willing to accept whatever child care, health care and climate package that Sen. Manchin would support as they return to Washington this week, hoping to salvage elements of the party’s economic agenda after months of failed negotiations. Manchin is expected to largely control whether, and when, the party moves forward with a package, which has been the centerpiece of Biden’s economic agenda. Manchin has repeatedly pushed to slow down work on the legislation and has continued to raise concerns about whether the bill could contribute to rising inflation.

The BBB ball is in Joe Manchin’s court. Image via AP.

Bryan Jones calls out ‘abhorrent’ Matt Gaetz transgender tweet” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Jones is criticizing Gaetz for mockingly tweeting about a transgender college athlete. On Sunday evening, Gaetz quote tweeted a New York Post article about University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. He posted a screenshot of a media player playing the Aerosmith song “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” a shot at Thomas, a trans woman. Jones, who is running in the Republican Primary against Gaetz, said in a statement that Gaetz’s post was unsolicited and misuse of his platform. “This is yet another example of the abhorrent behavior that is unfitting of a public servant and sitting member of Congress,” Jones said.


Kamala Harris drove within several yards of pipe bomb at DNC headquarters during Capitol riot” via Whitney Wild, Zachary Cohen and Evan Perez of CNN — Then-Vice President-elect Harris drove within several yards of a pipe bomb lying next to a bench outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Jan. 6, 2021, and remained inside the DNC for nearly two hours before the bomb was discovered, according to multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the situation. The revelations further expose a security lapse on Jan. 6 as law enforcement tried to respond to multiple major events, protect highly visible politicians, and fend off tens of thousands of riotous protesters.

Did Kamala Harris dodge a bullet? More like a pipe bomb.

The Jan. 6 panel’s on a hot streak against Trump World. Now, what?” via Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — In the past few weeks, the Jan. 6 committee has prevailed against Trump at the Supreme Court, obtained pivotal documents related to the former President’s effort to subvert the 2020 election, secured testimony from the highest levels of his White House and unearthed explosive texts from Trump’s son and top aides. That recent success has heightened the importance of turning lofty expectations for the select panel’s probe into results that are tangible to the public.


Donald Trump’s grip on GOP faces new strains” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — About halfway into his Texas rally on Saturday evening, Trump pivoted toward the teleprompter and away from a meandering set of grievances to rattle off a tightly prepared list of Biden’s failings and his own achievements. A fresh round of skirmishes over his endorsements, fissures with the Republican base over vaccines, a word Trump conspicuously left unsaid at Saturday’s rally, and new polling all show how his long-standing vise grip on the Republican Party is facing growing strains. After issuing roughly 100 endorsements in races nationwide, Trump will face a gantlet of proxy tests of his political strength in the coming months, just as public polls show his sway over the GOP electorate is not what it once was.

Is Donald Trump’s iron grip on the GOP starting to rust?

Trump’s Texas trip illustrates his upsides and downsides for Republicans and their midterm hopes” via Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Trump on Saturday night delivered the exact message some Republicans have been eager to hear: Biden and the Democratic Party are incompetent, and Republicans need to turn out to vote in the midterm elections to take back majorities in Congress. The former President also dangled pardons for Jan. 6 rioters and urged his throngs of supporters to descend on New York, Washington or Atlanta for street protests if he is convicted of crimes. But for as much time as Trump spent critiquing Biden, he spent more on personal grievances.

Trump-world adjusts to the growing influence of vaccine skeptics within its ranks” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — A few weeks ago, Trump decried politicians who did not share their COVID-19 vaccine booster status as “gutless” — a seeming swipe at other Republicans with presidential ambitions, mainly DeSantis, who were keeping mum on the matter. Days later, Trump took the stage in Arizona and didn’t mention his vaccination status or encourage others to get it, as he had at past rallies. He has not talked about booster shots since. The silence from the former President is not coincidental. Within Trump’s circles, there is a growing sense that encouraging vaccines too aggressively could carry political risks. Like much of the rest of the GOP, the current calculation has been to rail against vaccine mandates but keep quiet on the push for the vaccines themselves.

Georgia DA investigating Trump asks FBI for security help” via The Associated Press — The prosecutor who’s investigating whether Trump and others broke the law by trying to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Biden’s Presidential election victory is asking the FBI for security help after the former President railed against prosecutors investigating him. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wrote a letter to the FBI office in Atlanta asking for a risk assessment of the county courthouse and government center. She also asked the FBI to provide protective resources, “to include intelligence and federal agents.”


Sentencing for Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz trial faces delay. Prosecutors ask a judge for more time” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — The long-awaited trial for Cruz may be delayed, possibly for months. Prosecutors asked that the Feb. 21 sentencing trial be postponed giving attorneys more time to prepare. In a recently filed motion, the Broward State Attorney’s Office cited the extensive amount of pretrial legal work that still needs to be completed revolving around mental-health experts who may testify at trial. “There is not enough available time remaining for the necessary depositions, motions, and expert testing to be completed,” prosecutors wrote. “As a result, the State will not be able to be ready for trial on Feb. 21, 2022.” In a motion made public on Monday, prosecutors also pointed out that victims, and relatives of the dead, have been told of the need for more time.

Ambush in Sunrise left two agents dead. A year later, FBI still reviewing how it went wrong.” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — It was one of the bloodiest days in the FBI’s history: A year ago, two veteran special agents were shot to death and three others wounded while trying to serve a search warrant in a child-porn case. Inside a Sunrise apartment, a computer programmer with no criminal history had monitored the agents’ approach with a doorbell camera and ambushed them with an assault rifle before later turning the gun on himself. “He fired blindly,” recalled George Piro, FBI special agent in charge in Miami. But he would not discuss any details of an operation that had raised questions with some law enforcement experts. Piro said the bureau had yet to complete an internal review of the team’s actions, but he said nothing about the incident had persuaded the FBI to change its policy and make SWAT backup mandatory.

The ambush of Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger is still leaving the FBI scratching their heads.

At State of County speech, Miami-Dade Mayor wears scarf honoring young shooting victim” via Douglas Hanks of Florida Politics — As she praised a decline in shootings and murders in Miami-Dade during her State of the County address on Monday, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava included a reminder of a victim of chronic gun violence. Wrapped around her neck for the televised speech was a scarf, given to the Mayor by the family of Chassidy Saunders, 6, killed a year ago in a drive-by shooting in Miami’s Model City neighborhood. Gun violence was one of three crises Levine Cava has identified as defining her first year as Miami-Dade County’s top administrator, along with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium tower in Surfside.

Broward Superintendent candidate accused of covering up for principal who refused to call the Holocaust a fact” via Kate Payne of WLRN — While the principal’s statements were first reported in 2019, a whistleblower lawsuit stemming from the incident is ongoing. Keith Oswald is the chief of equity and wellness for Palm Beach County’s school district and one of the three semifinalists to be the next school superintendent for Broward County. Oswald was named in a lawsuit filed last month by a former district HR investigator that alleges he knew about the statements by Spanish River Community High School former principal William Latson but failed to report them.

Pinellas schools make a reading push, just for boys” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — State data show that third-grade boys underperformed girls on 2018-19 statewide language arts exams by 4 points. That same year, 10th-grade boys lagged behind girls in proficiency by 11 points. Pinellas schools had similar scores. Citing such results, lawmakers established a Task Force on Closing the Achievement Gap for Boys. Stacy Baier, chief executive officer of the Pinellas Education Foundation, and Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego served on the panel. Key to their proposals was the notion that schools must develop strategies to overcome the gap after researching effective models. The Pinellas model, which has attracted attention from other districts since the report’s release, focuses heavily on student engagement, said Ellen Truskowski, the district’s student assignment director, who coordinates the initiative.

St. Petersburg’s mural culture defines city commitment to the arts, artists” via Nick Stubbs of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s no secret to anyone who gets around the neighborhoods of downtown St. Pete that the city is big on art, quite literally. From the Grand Central, Edge, MLK, Central, and Warehouse Arts districts and elsewhere downtown, huge murals grace the walls of buildings, making a bold statement about the city’s strong arts culture. Downtown St. Pete is an outdoor art gallery, where the works of local, national and international artists are on display. And like a gallery, the exhibits are ever-changing, as older murals are painted over with new works. The city’s annual SHINE Mural Festival is when many new murals are painted. The most recent festival was in October when 19 new murals debuted. The rotation of new murals into the city is what helps keep the downtown scene fresh and vibrant, believes Terry Marks, CEO of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, which stages SHINE. She said over time, the city’s murals have helped define its character, and many businesses are embracing it.

Miami nurse’s rent increased almost 40% overnight as Florida housing prices surge” via Sam Sachs of WFLA — Strapped inventory and dramatic price increases are making Florida’s housing affordability a big problem, even for people with jobs in high demand. Joe Flahie, an ICU nurse, lives in Miami with his wife and two kids, but can no longer afford the rent. With one call from his landlord, Flahie’s rent went from $1,725 a month to $2,400, a nearly 40% increase. Rent increases are becoming the name of the game. The country’s most expensive rent is in New York City, where a one-bedroom rents for a median price of $3,260. In the Top 10 cities with high rent prices, Miami and Fort Lauderdale both entered the ranks for priciest one-bedroom apartments, while the rest of the nation has averaged a 12% rent increase for one-bedroom apartments.

Brevard County posts record tourism during fall, sees bright 2022 for more visitors” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — A key measure of tourism along the Space Coast set records in October, November and December, with momentum strong for 2022. Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said tourist development tax revenue during each of those three months was the highest it has ever been during the respective months, breaking records set in 2019. That 5% tax is charged on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals and is a widely watched economic indicator of the tourism industry’s strength. The tourist tax collection numbers are important because the money collected is used for such things as marketing the Space Coast to potential tourists and beach sand renourishment.

Clearwater debates development moratorium due to U.S. 19 concerns” via Mark Parker of St. Pete Catalyst — Construction of new residential units along the U.S. 19 corridor continues to soar as mixed-use developments lag far behind, leading the Clearwater City Council to discuss a development moratorium in hopes of addressing the issue. Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard called a special work session Monday morning in response to development along the U.S. 19 corridor deviating from guidelines in the city’s redevelopment plan. The fear is that the preponderance of new residential construction decreases the supply of larger redevelopment sites for mixed-use and employment generating applications. Hubbard noted the effort that went into creating the U.S. 19 Corridor Redevelopment Plan but said at some point, the city needs to reassess if the plan is working. He said the city is not currently seeing the development patterns it hoped would occur.

Pensacola’s deadline to clear I-110 homeless camp is hours away, only seven people remain” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Just seven people were left in the encampment under Interstate 110 on Monday morning as Pensacola’s deadline to vacate the camp was less than four hours away. The past 72 hours at the camp at Hollice T. Williams Park had seen a whirlwind of activity as volunteers helped relocate people to shelters or hotels, with some people even renting moving trucks to help assist, according to Lawrence Powell, city neighborhoods administrator. Many of the people in the camp have been moved to another camp located at Pathways For Change, 17 people have been placed in hotels and others have had friends or family help them move out of the campsite to private residences. The campsite at Pathways For Change will serve as a temporary shelter until city-funded shelter spaces open up in March.

St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Ernesto Torres resigns after dust-up with PD on wife’s DUI charge” via Colleen Michele Jones of the St. Augustine Record — Commissioner Torres resigned Monday after a police report alleged that he berated and tried to use his elected position to gain favor with local officers during his wife’s Jan. 22 DUI arrest. In a statement issued to The Record Monday morning, Torres said he was stepping down effective immediately “to spend more time with my family.” He offered no additional comment. According to St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Daniel Carswell, details of the incident had been sent on for review to the Florida Commission on Ethics. St. Augustine Beach Police Department officers arrested Nicole Torres, 47, shortly before midnight on Jan. 22 after witnessing her car traveling erratically on A1A Beach Boulevard.

Commissioner Ernesto Torres tried to use his position to fix his wife’s DUI. It didn’t work.

Holmes County discusses election for alcohol law changes” via Emily J. McLeod of — Just as Washington County recently changed their alcohol sale law, Holmes County voters might have the opportunity to do the same later this year. Holmes County is not a dry county; their current law allowed the sale of alcohol above 6.234% by the package only. Large chain restaurants and other businesses require any county to have a liquor-by-the-drink law before they even consider bringing a business here. Holmes County Development Commission Executive Director, Joe Rone, brought the issue to the County Commission at their recent meeting. Rone suggested placing the liquor-by-the-drink law on the ballot due to the Highway 79 corridor and the need for businesses to sell alcohol by the drink.


In the line for scarce COVID-19 treatments, immunocompromised Americans should go before the unvaccinated” via Govind Persad and Emily Largent of The Washington Post — Should people who have refused coronavirus vaccines be allowed to compete for treatments with people who are immunocompromised? We think no. Doing so would be unfair to Americans who remain unprotected by vaccines through no choice of their own. Several ethicists and some experts/physicians disagree. They believe allocation decisions should strive purely to prevent harm without considering whether the harm could have been avoided by taking recommended precautions. They would, presumably, take issue with the FDA’s eligibility rules for the antibody therapy Evusheld, which is authorized for COVID-19 prevention. People who have merely refused coronavirus vaccines are ineligible for the therapy.


DeSantis should learn lessons from antibody debacle” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board — “Part of it is I think there’s politics at play,” DeSantis bemoaned at one point regarding the FDA’s move to pull emergency use authorization for monoclonal antibody treatments from Eli Lilly and Regeneron. Clearly, one lesson DeSantis should learn from the federal government’s swift action is that accusing others of playing politics while actively reveling in doing so is always a bad optic and never a good look. Let’s not lose sight of why the federal government took forceful action on the two monoclonal antibody treatments: neither has been very effective in combating the omicron variant, which is now the cause of nearly all new COVID-19 infections in Florida and across the country.

The goal of teaching about slavery, racism and other sins is to tell the truth” via Mona Charen of the Tampa Bay Times — Democrats often object that CRT is “not taught in K-12 schools,” which is evasive. It’s true that third graders are not being assigned the works of Kimberle Crenshaw or Ibram X. Kendi, but CRT-adjacent ideas are making their way into classrooms. Large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor teaching about slavery, racism and other sins of American history. Schools should teach about the admirable progress we’ve made in moving toward a more just, multiethnic society. If we’re hoping to elicit the right feelings from students and we should then the feelings we’re after are sympathy, understanding and solidarity, not guilt.

Grace Carpenter: SB 1284, HB 823 could help change the lives of Floridians, including future teachers” via Florida Politics — Bills filed by Sen. Joe Gruters (Senate Bill 1284) and Rep. Kaylee Tuck (House Bill 823) would expand eligibility for the Florida Postsecondary Student Assistance Grant Program to Floridians who want to earn a college degree, but for personal reasons, can’t attend a traditional four-year, in-person school. This is something that would have helped me tremendously when I was trying to figure out my own life and career path, and it could make a big difference in the lives of countless Floridians. Expanding eligibility for the grant program will allow Floridians who want to go back to school and earn a degree, but need a more cost-effective and flexible option to fit their work and family obligations.


Nazis in the news. Lots of talk about Nazi demonstrators in Orlando over the weekend. The Governor’s press secretary tweeted out speculation that they may not really have been Nazis but Democrats trying to cause a fuss. Most state leaders condemned the Nazis. The Governor … sort of …

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— Sunrise goes in-depth with the Anti-Defamation League about who these Nazis are and how we should be reacting to them.

— House Democrats say this has been far from an open redistricting process.

— What are the odds that Gov. DeSantis will become the next President of the United States? We’ll tell ‘ya what the bookies are saying.

To listen, click on the image below:


Spying. Human rights. COVID-19. Beijing Olympic athletes face the most complex games ever.” via Rachel Bachman and Stu Woo of The Wall Street Journal — China’s “zero-COVID” approach, with strict testing protocols, effectively puts The Games in a bubble. Geopolitical tensions are high. Governments are protesting the country’s alleged human rights abuses and warning about state-backed cybersecurity threats. Team members have gone to great lengths to avoid catching COVID-19 in the days leading up to The Games. Some stayed away from loved ones for weeks or months. Many are leaving their phones at home over spying concerns.

China’s ‘zero-COVID-19’ policy puts The Games in a bubble. Image via AP.

— ALOE —

Florida State-Florida football showdown at Doak in 2022 moved to Black Friday” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida State-Florida football game has long been played on Saturdays following Thanksgiving. That tradition, however, has been tweaked for 2022. The rivals will play this season on Friday, Nov. 25, at Doak Campbell Stadium, the Democrat has learned. The showdown — which marks the debut of Florida coach Billy Napier to the rivalry — is expected to be a nationally-televised, prime-time night game. Fans, local businesses, and high school football programs may not like the switch to Black Friday. Last year’s FHSAA football regional games were played on Friday night, Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving. However, television networks, specifically ESPN College Football Friday Primetime, embrace Friday games and the unique exposure to programs and cities during the regular season.

Doak will be rocking for Black Friday.

Life in Disney’s Celebration is good, but some worry charm getting lost in crowd” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — More than 25 years after its opening, Celebration has kept its crime rate low and its property values high. But residents say they feel encroachment from curious tourists, other Osceola residents and development along the nearby tourist strip of U.S. Highway 192. Despite a sign along Celebration Avenue that says, “Town of Celebration,” the community has never incorporated. Though it was de-annexed from Disney to avoid conflicts over resident control, it is run as a Community Development District, a designation from the state without full municipal powers. It also doesn’t have a dedicated police force and other services, relying instead on Osceola County.

Vibrant runner died at Surfside. Her father, brother will run Miami Marathon in her honor.” via Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald — Pablo and Martin Langesfeld will begin the 2022 Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday with more than 200 uniformed first responders at the back of the 15,000-strong field, walking in solidarity with many of the police, firefighters, paramedics and others who searched for their daughter and sister Nicole “Nicky” Langesfeld’s body after she and her husband perished June 24 in the Surfside condominium collapse. Nicky’s mother, Andrea, will be nervously waiting at the finish. Pablo will begin running the half marathon while Martin will tackle the full, 26.2-mile marathon. The father and son are doing it to honor Nicky and Luis Sadovnic and the other 96 victims who died at Champlain Towers South.


Best wishes to Rep. Chuck Brannan, former Sen. Oscar Braynon, Kevin Beckner, Emil Infante, James Miller’s better half, Angela.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

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