The last day of Session is a day of joy for some and a day of agony for others. It is the end of an intense few months of pushing legislation, meeting new members, making new friends, and finishing battles. Legislators and the lobby corp share an assortment of emotions.
The last scheduled day of Session also is when lobbyists and legislators wear pink to remember those who aren’t with us anymore and to remember that we all believe in The Process.
Marvin Arrington loved The Process and bringing us all together. The gregarious lobbyist loved cooking for us at his house, or anyone else’s who would put up with him making a total mess in their kitchen.
He brought legislators and lobbyists to the table together to learn more about each other’s families, their children and their issues. To Marvin, lobbyists were not only experts in their field but an essential part of The Process.
Because of these conversations, better legislation was an outcome for all sides. After dinner, even if we disagreed on the legislation, we knew each other’s intent and could still be cordial and respectful in our discussions.
The pink jacket originated when a young insurance lobbyist named Robert Hawkes embarked on a trip to the Florida Derby. He accidentally ripped his pants getting out of the plane.
The crowd of lobbyists, which included Marvin and Paul Sanford, stopped by Jacks for Slacks to get Hawkes some new britches and, while there, a few pink jackets were purchased for The Derby. Once back in Tallahassee, Marvin occasionally felt spry enough and wore his jacket to the Capitol advocating for his clients.
According to former Speaker James Harold Thompson, “Anyone that was man enough to wear pink at his age was man enough for us to listen to.”
Jovial and trustworthy, Marvin stood as an honest broker of information on any issue for which he lobbied.
On March 19, 2002, Marvin was driving to his office and suffered a heart attack pulling into his parking garage at Highpoint Center.
In the most stressful of times, with bills on the line and budget negotiations in gear, we all had to stop and lean on each other. Even more heartbreaking than losing Marvin at the young age of 43 was that he left behind his wife, Lynn, and two young children, Reynolds and Maggie.
When Reynolds was a young boy, his constant talking led us to believe he would follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps (Marvin’s dad, C. Fred Arrington, served in the Florida House in the 1950s).
Marvin would be proud to know Reynolds is still in Tallahassee and has followed in his footsteps on the cooking side. Starvin’ Marvin’s BBQ Company continues to be supported by the Tallahassee community and lobbyists alike. In 2018, Reynolds had a son and appropriately named him after his father. Lobbyists Jeff Hartley, Gary Guzzo, and others that knew Marvin continue to offer help, support, and plenty of orders of BBQ to support our friend.
On this final day of the COVID-19 Session, whether you are sitting in your office or joining friends watching the final hours, wear some pink and remember those we have lost as well as the lessons they have left us.
Remember that the battles we had, although vigorous at times, do not define who we are and are not. Appreciate those who deal honestly and with integrity, celebrate the end of Session, and let us return to our families and friends.
Marvin wouldn’t want it any other way.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@AngieNixon: This is the most exhausting experience/process I’ve ever been a part of. It’s to the point now you have to divorce your mind/spirit from your body everyday bc you know something will be done to violate and harm your community’s well-being via policy, and you have no way to stop it
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) April 29, 2021
—@FDSportsbook: One customer has placed a $29,900 bet on Trevor Lawrence to be the #1 pick in the #NFLDraft. The bet would win $59.80.
— Urban Meyer (@CoachUrbanMeyer) April 29, 2021
—@Buccaneers: Who will be next?
How we woke up this morning: pic.twitter.com/Km6dKE00W6
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) April 29, 2021
My final QB rankings for #NFLDraft
1) Trevor Lawrence
2) Justin Fields
3) Zach Wilson
4) Trey Lance
5) Mac Jones
6) Davis Mills
7) Kellen Mond
8) Kyle Trask
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) April 29, 2021
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) April 29, 2021
—@RapSheet: An example of why this is a wild time: The #Panthers are sitting at No. 8 and have made calls about possibly trading back … and up. Could they move up to No. 4? Or 6? They are exploring.
— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) April 29, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Kentucky Derby — 1; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 2; Mother’s Day — 9; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 10; Gambling Compact Special Session begins — 17; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 28; Memorial Day — 31; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 34; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 42; Father’s Day — 50; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 55; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 62; 4th of July — 65; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 69; MLB All-Star Game — 74; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 84; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 84; The NBA Draft — 90; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 92; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 98; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 116; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 126; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 147; ‘Dune’ premieres — 154; MLB regular season ends — 156; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 162; World Series Game 1 — 179; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 186; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 189; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 210; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 221; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 228; Super Bowl LVI — 290; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 330; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 371; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 434; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 525; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 560.
— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —
“Legislature passes police reform, data privacy bill, eyes Friday Session end” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — A day after a bitter partisan fight over a bill banning transgender women from competing in girls’ sports and acrimony among Senate Democrats soured the mood of the Legislative Session, lawmakers passed a series of bipartisan measures as the Session headed toward its scheduled end Friday. The Senate unanimously approved a police reform bill that requires applicants for law enforcement jobs to disclose whether they have any pending investigation against them, creates minimum training standards for the use of chokeholds, use of force, de-escalation tactics, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force. The Senate later passed a bill that requires businesses to give consumers control of their personal data, part of Ron DeSantis’ crackdown on Big Tech.
“Legislative tweetstorm clears on social media ‘de-platforming’ bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House and Senate have reached an agreement on Republicans’ bill to crack down on “censorship” by social media companies. By a 77-38 vote, the House passed the proposal (SB 7072) hours after the Senate passed it 23-17. The bill, carried by Sen. Ray Rodrigues in the Senate and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia in the House, would require social media companies to post their terms of service and apply them equally. DeSantis named the proposal a priority ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session after Twitter and other prominent social media companies removed Donald Trump and other conservatives from their platforms following the U.S. Capitol riot. Conservatives argue they have been disproportionately targeted with bans, censoring, shadow bans and other restrictions.
“‘Shocked and appalled’: How Florida lawmakers resurrected a transgender athlete ban, angered an FSU quarterback and left Democrats fuming” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Times-Union — Democrats thought they had secured rare victories in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, killing controversial bills that would have banned transgender athletes and overturned voter-approved limits on Key West cruise ship traffic. Then those issues rose from the dead in an 11th-hour political drama that left Democrats “shocked and appalled” and a Florida State University’s quarterback complaining about how business is done in Florida’s Capitol. Republicans tacked on the transgender ban as an amendment to a charter schools bill. That allowed the item to come back up in the Senate, which approved it Wednesday night after an emotional debate and sent it to DeSantis with just two days left in the Legislative Session.
“‘Bigotry is expensive’: Democrats warn transgender sports ban likely to hit Florida’s wallet” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Democrats forecast that economic woes rest ahead of Florida’s horizon after Republicans muscled an amendment into a bill that bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports. The amendment arrived in the Session’s closing hours and was inserted into a distant charter school bill, a move that sidesteps traditional legislative scrutiny. Speaking at a news conference late Wednesday after the Senate floor vote, more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers gathered to blast the amendment. “Bigotry is expensive,” said Rep. Omari Hardy. “And if we’re going to walk down this hateful road, if we’re going to enact bigot policy, then we should be prepared to pay the consequences.”
“Florida’s ‘shameful’ push to ban transgender athletes could prompt lawsuits, critics say” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Newly passed legislation that would ban transgender females from playing on girls’ and women’s school sports teams in Florida was criticized Thursday as “despicable,” “full of hate” and a “solution in search of a problem” by opponents, some of whom said the proposal could face a legal challenge should DeSantis sign it into law. The Florida Legislature late Wednesday revived and then passed the transgender ban, which last week appeared to be dead in the Senate. In doing so, Florida joined a nationwide push by conservatives who tout what they call “fairness in women’s sports” acts as a way to protect girls and women from unfair competition from athletes who were born male.
First on FlaPol — Despite tough talk against NCAA, Republicans punt on paying college athletes for another year” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In approving a bill barring transgender athletes from participating in women’s college sports, Republicans slipped in an amendment to delay a law allowing college athletes to cash in on their likeness until 2022. That name, image and likeness (NIL) bill was approved during the 2020 Session and was set to take effect on July 1 of this year. But the bill regulating transgender athletes — which was originally positioned as a measure on charter schools — now amends the 2020 NIL law and moves its effective date to July 1, 2022. That’s a big win for the NCAA, which has vehemently opposed states individually awarding those NIL rights to college athletes.
“Legislature passes Serena’s Law to close background check loophole” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A loophole in public records law left an abused Southwest Florida girl confronted with the sight of her assaulter volunteering with children. Now the Florida Legislature has passed a bill (HB 1229) to stop that from ever happening again. If signed into law, Serena’s Law will make sure public record shields intended to protect the identity of sex abuse survivors don’t also keep offenders’ identities concealed from background checks. The bipartisan legislation passed in the Senate unanimously Wednesday. It returned to the House Thursday, where it cleared the lower chamber on a 116-0 vote. The bill is named for a Lee County girl who drew the weakness in Florida’s background check system to the attention of Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka.
“Lawmakers tee up sales tax ‘holidays’” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Floridians are in line to get “holidays” from paying sales taxes as they prepare for the school year and hurricane season and as they plan to get out for some entertainment and recreation. State lawmakers on Thursday released a nearly $200 million tax package tied to a new state budget. The Senate passed the package, which still needed to go before the House as of early Thursday evening. The package focuses heavily on tax holidays on back-to-school items, hurricane gear, and what House leaders dubbed “Freedom Week” around the July 4 holiday. As with most aspects of the state’s budget talks this year, the tax proposals grew with the state’s expected infusion of federal stimulus money and increased state revenue as the economy has reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Conservation groups call on veto of seaports legislation” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — More than 20 organizations called Thursday for DeSantis to veto controversial seaports legislation. That came the morning after the issue was revived and passed, and two days after, it appeared completely sunk. Legislation passed as an amendment to a broader transportation bill (SB 1194) Wednesday evening would reverse and prohibit regulations on maritime commerce passed through voter referendums. The issue arose after Key West voters passed three measures in November, placing limits on the cruise industry there. Those prohibited ships with 1,300 or more passengers from docking there and capped visitors from ships to 1,500 cruise passengers per day. One measure also called for ships that brought less environmental risk and pollution.
— BUDGET NOTES —
“Legislature prepares budget for swift Sine Die” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers have readied the state’s budget for the coming fiscal year for a quick vote on the final day of the Legislative Session. On Thursday, the House and Senate discussed their $101.5 billion budget plan (SB 2500), finalized Tuesday afternoon. The Legislature must wait 72 hours before passing the budget and sending it to DeSantis, meaning lawmakers can vote on it beginning at 12:06 p.m. Friday. Senate President Wilton Simpson expects his chamber to leave early on Friday, the 60th and final day of Session. Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull, chairs of their respective chambers’ appropriations committees, served as lead negotiators in budget talks. Those discussions have been underway for the entirety of Session.
Tax cut bill gives break to Full Sail — The Senate boosted its tax cut package by $100 million and added a provision giving the private, for-profit Full Sail University a $600,000 property tax break, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. The package (SB 7061) now totals $162 million, up from $50 million before the changes. The House had previously passed the bill, but it now heads back to the lower chamber for approval on Friday — the final day of the Legislative Session. “The final tax package is always a mixture of priorities of many Senators and many Representatives,” Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez said of the Full Sail exemption. “Some feel that property used by a school should be exempt.”
APD funding will trim waitlist by 9% — Lawmakers said that the $95 million budgeted for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities in the 2021-22 budget will allow the agency to work through about 9% of the waitlist for services. As reported by Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, Rep. Bryan Avila made the claim during a House floor Session Thursday. He said it would allow APD to remove 1,951 people from the waitlist, which currently sits at more than 22,000 people. The $95 million in appropriations is more than triple the $30.2 million sent to the agency in the 2020-21 budget.
— TALLY 2 —
“Lawmakers snuff out big part of M-CORES” via Grant Holcomb of The Florida Capital Star — The House passed SB 100, a repeal bill of the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance program. The repeal bill will cancel the Heartland Parkway, connecting Polk and Collier counties. However, the development of the Suncoast Parkway is still intact and set for development, as well as an extension of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway. The Suncoast Parkway portion of the M-CORES package infamously received the nickname “toll roads to nowhere.” Notably, the extension of the Florida Turnpike would extend from its current terminus ending in Jefferson County. Some Jefferson County residents publicly vocalized their opposition to the proposed infrastructure developments. Now, the Suncoast Parkway will head north along U.S. 19 to connect with Interstate 10 in Madison County.
“Legislation paves way for task force to preserve African American cemeteries” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A popular bill, years in the making, that would establish a task force to preserve Florida’s African American cemeteries is headed to DeSantis’ desk. Attempts in previous Sessions to pass similar legislation were not successful. Sen. Janet Cruz and Rep. Fentrice Driskell carried the House to a nearly unanimous vote in both chambers. The bill passed its final legislative hurdle on the Senate floor Thursday.
“Police training bill touted as ‘good start’” via Ryan Dailey of News Service of Florida — The Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that includes new use-of-force training requirements for officers. The measure (HB 7051) moved swiftly through the Legislature after it was filed in the House about two weeks ago. After unanimous votes in the Senate and House, the bill is headed to DeSantis. “With the summer of unrest after the George Floyd murder, we needed to do substantial criminal-justice reform. This is a good start. It gives us a foundation to build upon for next Session,” said Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat who is Black. Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat who is Black, also said the measure is something future legislatures could build on.
—“House passes bill stiffening penalties for false crime reports” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics
“Lawmakers back higher ed protections, tuition breaks” via Ryan Dailey of News Service of Florida — The House voted to approve a wide-ranging higher education bill (HB 1261) which had passed the Senate earlier and now will go to DeSantis. Under the proposal, colleges and universities would be shielded from lawsuits related to decisions to close campuses and force students to learn online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some such lawsuits have already been filed. Three parts of the bill are designed to give tuition waivers to some students, with House Speaker Chris Sprowls saying the measure fulfills House priorities “designed to help our nontraditional students and the strength of our workforce.” One part of the bill would give “buy-one-get-one” upper-level courses to students in programs of “strategic emphasis,” which would be adopted by the state university system’s Board of Governors.
“Florida lawmakers pass compromise measure affecting newspaper ad revenue” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — In March, the Florida House passed a bill which would have stripped many Florida news organizations of a key source of advertising revenue. After weeks of negotiations between Republican lawmakers and lobbyists for the state’s newspaper industry, that bill, House Bill 35, looks likely to become law. It cleared the Senate unanimously and the House by a vote of 105-9, on Thursday. But the current version of the bill looks much different from it did when it first cleared the House. The original bill essentially removed a provision from state law that required legal notices to be published in certain newspapers. The Senate version kept the legal notices provision of state law intact, but it added several caveats that would allow smaller publications to join the market.
— TALLY 3 —
“‘Polar opposites’ work together on health panel” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — Rep. Bobby DuBose is the co-leader of the House Democrats and a member of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. Conversely, Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley has spent 18 years in the Legislature carving out a reputation as a staunch conservative who has sponsored measures such as the “stand your ground” law that sparked massive controversy after the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. But in a show of bipartisanship, DuBose and Baxley worked together this year to pass a bill (SB 272) that would create a “Rare Disease Advisory Council” and empower it to make recommendations to the Department of Health about how to improve people’s quality of life and to advise the state’s top institutions on potential research.
Lawmakers are chipping away at growth management, critics say — Environmental groups say the Legislature has sent a slate of bills to the Governor that would undermine local growth management policies. As reported by Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida, the House passed bills (HB 421 and HB 1101) that would allow property owners to file takings claims under state law. They also passed a bill (HB 487) that would bump the development size for a required state review from 10 acres to 50 acres. 1000 Friends of Florida policy director Jane West said the bills chip away at current development regulations. “Now, with this slew of preemption bills, they have taken away that local control,” she said. “And there is no state oversight. There is no growth management.”
“New law seeks to curb spam calls” via S. Brady Calhoun of myPandhandle.com — Our phones are supposed to be magical devices that connect us to the internet, news, and each other, but all too often, they become annoyance beepers as scammers and spammers try to reach out and touch someone. Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, said he deals with the daily headache. “I probably get four a day,” he said. “I had one earlier today.” Patronis takes some time every time he gets a call to try and make it stop. Americans received about 28 spam calls a month last year, according to the phone app maker Truecaller. The company adds that 56 million Americans reported losing money to scams and about $19.7 billion was lost to these calls.
‘Right to Farm’ signing earns praise from SGLF — The State Government Leadership Foundation has been pushing for lawmakers and DeSantis to approve an expansion to the state’s ‘Right to Farm’ laws, and the advocacy group was quick to cheer the Governor after he signed the measure Thursday morning. “This common sense right-to-farm reform will make it easier for farmers to navigate the tough times they are currently facing and benefit the country’s overall food supply,” said SGLF deputy executive director Casey Dietrich. “The Republican-led legislature did a tremendous job crafting this legislation and we applaud Gov. DeSantis for signing it into law today. The SGLF was proud to be a part of the fruitful effort to highlight the importance of strengthening protections for our farmers.”
— LOBBY REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Gregory Black, Waypoint Strategies: DraftKings
Ana Cruz, Ballard Partners: Freedom for All Americans
— LEG. SKED —
The Senate Democratic Caucus meets, 9 a.m., Room 228, Senate Office Building. Zoom link here.
The Senate holds a floor Session, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.
The House holds a floor Session, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.
The Legislative Session should end Friday once lawmakers pass a budget. With the mandatory 72-hour “cooling off” period, the vote starts no earlier than 12:06 p.m.
— 2022 —
“Senate Democrats target Marco Rubio with digital video ad” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Senate Democrats are targeting Sen. Rubio with a new digital video ad appearing on Floridians’ Facebook feeds, hitting him for opposing President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The 30-second video “Sen. Rubio is Opposing COVID relief” is running this week in a five-figure media buy from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The ad offers highlights of the American Rescue Act, approved by the Democratically-controlled Congress in March without any Republican yes votes. As the video shows Biden, and then various scenes of health care workers, families, businesses, a school, and first responders, the text lauds the $1,400 direct relief checks to individuals and 200 million COVID-19 vaccine shots administered.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
“Mark Zuckerberg money could affect Ron DeSantis reelection campaign” via Fred Lucas of Fox News — Millions in Zuckerberg-financed election grants to Democratic-leaning South Florida counties made last year will likely carry over to the 2022 election when DeSantis is up for reelection. Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan bankrolled $350 million for Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) grants to jurisdictions with the stated purpose of making elections safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Palm Beach County got one of the largest grants for the state, $6.8 million. Most of the election equipment in the county’s wish list was purchased with the funding, but some of the cash was not spent. Miami-Dade County got an approved grant for $2.4 million on Oct. 15 and didn’t spend any of it for 2020.
Nikki Fried says Republicans are a ‘hot mess,’ tells voters to ‘drop’ them — Agriculture Commissioner Fried released a video ad Thursday calling out the values of elected Republican leaders and urging voters to “#DropTheGOP.” Fried refers to the Republican Party as “a hot mess descending into fascism,” citing legislation championed by GOP lawmakers in Florida and in statehouses nationwide. “Listen, nobody is born Republican, Democrat, or independent — we choose, based on our values. But if you look at the values of elected Republicans, you’ll see why more and more people are just done. Republicans are trying to kill vote-by-mail, overturn elections, suppress votes, and even block stimulus checks, parental tax credits, and job-creating infrastructure and climate projects,” she says in the video. Fried’s political committee produced the ad, Florida Consumers First.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
Every day the Republican Party descends further & further into fascism. It’s time for Republicans with American values to #DropTheGOP.
— Nikki Fried (@nikkifried) April 29, 2021
“Senate Democrats target 2022 rivals with ads on popular agenda” via Ryan Teague Beckwith of Bloomberg — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is targeting Republican U.S. Sens. Rubio and Ron Johnson and open seats in North Carolina and Pennsylvania in ads criticizing Republicans for not backing Biden’s efforts to boost the economy and vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus. The ads were posted Thursday to mark Biden’s 100th day in office and highlight some of the more popular items on his agenda. The stakes in the 2022 election are high for both parties. The incumbent President’s party typically sheds seats in midterm elections, and the loss of even a single Democratic Senator would stall Biden’s legislative agenda and judicial appointments.
“Mike Pence, Chris Christie, other top potential GOP White House contenders to speak at Texas donor event” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — Former Vice President Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Christie and other Republican leaders who are considered potential contenders for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024 are planning to attend a private donor meeting in Texas next week. The donor gathering is being organized at least in part by Karl Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush. The schedule also lists former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DeSantis, and Sens. Tom Cotton and Rubio. Another potential contender, Sen. Tim Scott, is also set to attend, following his rebuttal to Biden’s congressional address Wednesday. Notably absent from the speaking agenda is Trump, who has publicly and privately blasted Rove.
— STATEWIDE —
“‘Certainly, Ron would be considered’: Donald Trump floats DeSantis as 2024 VP” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — Trump said on Thursday that he would “certainly” consider DeSantis as a potential running mate should he decide to mount a third White House campaign in 2024. “He’s a friend of mine. I endorsed Ron, and after I endorsed him, he took off like a rocket ship. He’s done a great job as Governor,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo in an interview. “A lot of people like that — you know, I’m just saying what I read and what you read — they love that ticket,” Trump added. “But certainly, Ron would be considered. He’s a great guy.”
“DeSantis-Seminole gambling deal is likely to face legal pushback” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — While state lawmakers and pari-mutuel operators were praising DeSantis’ announcement late last week, lawsuits challenging the gaming compact appear inevitable and an attorney who specializes in the industry said federal law is clear: Sports betting is not legal under the structure of the deal. Daniel Wallach, a Hallandale Beach attorney whose firm specializes in sports betting issues, said in an interview with The News-Journal this week that no other state has been approved for sports betting in the way conceived in Florida. The compact between DeSantis and the Seminole tribe allows wagers beyond the bounds of the reservations. “This part is going down, either now or later,” Wallach said.
“Vaccinated Floridians don’t need to wear masks, state health advisory says” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — Fully vaccinated Floridians no longer need to wear masks in public, according to a new statewide health advisory issued on Thursday. Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees announced the change in a public health advisory Thursday. The order states that vaccinated Floridians, who have received all necessary immunizations, no longer need to avoid social and recreational gatherings except in “limited circumstances.” The order also said some people who aren’t Florida residents but live in the state are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. It opens the door for vaccination sites to administer COVID-19 vaccines to non-Florida residents who provide “goods and services” in the state.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports 54 coronavirus resident deaths, 5,666 new cases” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s resident death toll from coronavirus rose to 35,084 with the addition of 54 more reported fatalities on Thursday while also adding 5,666 more positive COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 2,228,212. While the resident death toll surpassed the 35,000 mark on Wednesday, the reports have been declining, averaging 55 per day for the last week compared to 65 per day the week previous. Infections are also down, with the state averaging 5,311 per day for the last week compared to 6,084 per day the week previous. With a population of about 21.5 million, more than one in 10 Floridians have now been infected. That number is also about one in 10 nationally and one in 52 worldwide.
“Florida lags behind other big states in vaccinating public” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — While about one in three adults across Florida have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the state lagging behind other large states. Statewide, 8,684,024 people in Florida have gotten at least one shot, including 5,985,537 residents fully vaccinated, a state health department report published Wednesday shows. About 34% of residents ages 18 and older were fully vaccinated, the CDC reported. That’s lower than large states such as New York (41%), Michigan (38%), and California and Illinois — 37% each, the same share of adults nationwide — and on par with Texas (34%).
“How Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is leaving essential farmworkers behind” via Daniel Bush of WGCU — When Florida began administering the COVID-19 vaccine, Maria Martinez assumed it wouldn’t be difficult for her to get vaccinated as a 65-year-old essential worker in the agriculture sector. But Martinez is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who doesn’t have official identification or paperwork proving that she lives in Florida, a requirement for receiving the vaccine under the state’s eligibility guidelines. Martinez had been waiting months to get vaccinated when she heard that her county health department in the Orlando area would be holding a vaccination event where residents would not be asked about their immigration status.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Palm Beach County official orders workers to vaccinate or risk firing” via The Associated Press — The Palm Beach County tax collector has ordered her employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or risk being fired. “We have communicated to our entire staff that our expectation is that all employees will receive one of the FDA-authorized vaccines by June 15, 2021,” Tax Collector Anne Gannon said in a statement Wednesday. Gannon had told her 315 employees last week of her decision on COVID-19 vaccinations after doing research and concluding she could legally do it, she told the Palm Beach Post. She said her employees have contact with the public, and two workers tested positive last week. Many others tested positive earlier, and one died.
“J&J pause, myths fuel vaccine hesitancy among Palm Beach County Blacks, Hispanics” via Jane Musgrave and Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Now that they are finally getting a steady supply of coronavirus vaccines to inoculate people in underserved communities, officials at FoundCare face a new problem. Few people seem to want them. With 200 vaccines set aside for a clinic at a low-income mobile park in Greenacres on Saturday, only 60 people have signed up for shots, said Yolette Bonnet, executive director of the health center. Even some of her own health care workers said they are no longer interested in getting vaccinated. “We kind of have to start all over again to get people to want it,” Bonnet said. “We’re calling them and doing everything we can to say, ‘We have shots. The disease is still out there.’”
“Tropical Park and other Miami-Dade vaccination sites no longer require appointments” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — After nearly four months of scheduling vaccinations in advance, Miami-Dade’s county-run vaccination sites on Thursday dropped the requirement for appointments. The current county sites are the Homestead Sports Complex, Tropical Park, and Zoo Miami. Miami-Dade’s county government launched its public vaccination effort in early January and required appointments for all participants. With demand dropping for vaccinations across Miami-Dade, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced Thursday that appointments are no longer needed at the sites. The shift comes as Miami-Dade is also taking over the weekly shipments of first-dose vaccines from the county-owned Jackson Health System.
“Centner Academy co-founder tells vaccinated employees in Zoom call she’s ‘not OK’ with them” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Days before a Miami private school wrote an email to its employees saying it wouldn’t employ people who had been vaccinated against COVID-19, the school’s co-founder held a video conference call with faculty and staff saying she was “not OK” with people who had received the vaccine working at the school. “Today and going forward, [to people] considering getting the vaccine, I’m not OK with you being at this school,” Leila Centner, who co-founded the school with her husband, David, told employees during the call. “I’m not comfortable with you being around kids.” Centner held the mandatory call last week to announce and explain the school’s new vaccination policy, which public health experts have denounced as spreading misinformation about COVID-19
“Orange County reports first known death from COVID variant; businesses can apply for vaccination events” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — The highly-contagious COVID-19 variant that hammered the United Kingdom months ago has caused its first known fatality in Orange County, state health officer Dr. Raul Pino revealed Thursday during a press briefing about the coronavirus pandemic. With vaccination stagnating in Orange County at about 44% of people age 16 and older, health officials announced they will try new strategies next week to boost inoculations. They will make more doses available at small sites in neighborhoods and businesses. Beginning Friday, Pino said, Orange County businesses and other groups can apply to host vaccination events using a form on the health department’s website, orange.floridahealth.gov. The Health Department will provide the vaccines and nurses to give the shots.
“Disney and Publix offer vaccine bonus pay if employees hit the target” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Walt Disney World in Central Florida has joined Publix and other companies in offering cash bonuses to employees who get vaccinated against COVID-19. Disney “cast members” who are fully vaccinated by Sept. 30 are eligible for a one-time payment equal to four hours of pay, Disney World spokeswoman Erica Ettori told the Orlando Sentinel. The offer applies to employees who opt for either the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. The move, announced in late March by the union representing Disney cast members, UNITE HERE Local 362, comes as the U.S. has delivered at least one shot to more than half its adults ages 16 and older. But that pace declined 20% to 2.6 million shots per day in the past two weeks as of April 26.
“COVID-19-sniffing dog on staff at Florida hospital” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — Three days a week, Buffy greets visitors at the entrance to Doctors Hospital of Sarasota. If they grant permission, she sniffs their feet seeking a whiff of active COVID-19 infection. Few decline the offer when they see the yellow Labrador retriever with a wagging tail. People generally don’t love going to a hospital, said CEO Robert Meade, but, “Who doesn’t love labs?” Palmetto-based Southeastern Guide Dogs trained Buffy as part of a four-dog pilot program for scent detection. Southeastern Guide Dogs has for years trained service animals and provided them for free to disabled veterans and people with vision loss. Scent detection, however, was new territory.
“St. Petersburg artist paints portraits of those who died of COVID-19” via Maggie Duffy of the Tampa Bay Times — Last October, St. Petersburg artist Margaret Bayalis, feeling burned out by the pandemic, was grappling with how to respond to it visually. She came up with the idea to offer free painted portraits of people who died from COVID-19 to their loved ones. She reached out on the social media app Next Door and immediately got a few requests. Soon, word spread, and she was getting queries from as far as Hawaii, Portugal and India. “I never dreamed it would go so far when I started,” Bayalis said. To date, she’s created more than 50 portraits. Along the way, she created a collage of them.
— CORONA NATION —
“How the vaccine rollout progressed during Joe Biden’s first 100 days” via Harry Stevens and Naema Ahmed of The Washington Post — 100 days into the Biden presidency, the pace of coronavirus vaccinations has far exceeded his initial promise, and the President has repeatedly updated his vaccine promises to keep pace with the data. Although the United States has become one of the world leaders in vaccination rates, Biden will soon have to reckon with supply outpacing demand as studies show vaccine skepticism becoming more entrenched. Before he took office, Biden prioritized racial equity in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, but missing race and ethnicity data for vaccine recipients makes it impossible to know how effective those efforts have been. According to CDC data, a smaller share of Black, Hispanic and Asian populations have been vaccinated than the White population.
“Cruising could resume from U.S. ports in mid-July — if passengers are vaccinated” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Cruising could resume from U.S. ports by mid-July aboard ships with at least 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated, the nation’s top health protection agency announced. A key CDC official delivered a set of revised guidelines Wednesday that could clear the way for cruising more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down. The guidelines follow a high-profile campaign by top industry officials, and a lawsuit by Florida’s attorney general, demanding that the CDC allow the industry to resume operations from Florida’s six cruise ports this summer. Still unknown is how DeSantis will respond to the CDC’s statement that cruise lines can speed up their resumptions if nearly all crew and passengers are vaccinated.
“Free weed, doughnuts and other incentives offered to get reluctant Americans to take COVID-19 vaccine” via Carla K. Johnson and Michelle R. Smith of The Associated Press — Free beer, pot and doughnuts. Savings bonds. A chance to win an all-terrain vehicle. Places around the U.S. offer incentives to try to energize the nation’s slowing vaccination drive and get Americans to roll up their sleeves. These relatively small, mostly corporate, promotion efforts have been accompanied by more serious and far-reaching attempts by officials in cities such as Chicago, sending specially equipped buses into neighborhoods to deliver vaccines. Detroit is offering $50 to people who give others a ride to vaccination sites. Public health officials say the efforts are crucial to reach people who haven’t been immunized yet, whether because they are hesitant or because they have had trouble making an appointment or getting to a vaccination site.
“Mask on or off? Life is getting back to normal, and we’re rusty.” via Matt Richtel of The New York Times — It’s the springtime of the pandemic. After the trauma of the last year, the quarantined are emerging into sunlight, and beginning to navigate travel, classrooms and restaurants. And they are discovering that when it comes to returning to the old ways, many feel out of sorts. Do they shake hands? Hug? With or without a mask? It’s a confusion exacerbated by changing rules, state and federal, varying by congressional district or even neighborhood. Many states and cities are scrambling to incorporate the agency’s new counsel into their own rules. New York has ended its curfew. In California, where masks remain recommended, the authorities are looking to reconcile the clash of cues.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“U.S. economy grew robustly in first quarter” via Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal — A burst of growth put the U.S. economy just a shave below its pre-pandemic size in the first quarter, extending what is shaping up to be a rapid, consumer-driven recovery this year. GDP, the broadest measure of goods and services made in the U.S., grew at a 6.4% seasonally adjusted annual rate in January through March, the Commerce Department said. That left the world’s largest economy within 1% of its peak, reached in late 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. Households, many of them vaccinated, drove the first quarter surge in output by shelling out more for cars, bicycles, furniture and other big-ticket goods.
“Are Florida’s job gains stalling? New state unemployment assistance claims rise by 4,700” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Florida’s breakneck economic gains amid an aggressive reopening may be stalling, as new applications for unemployment assistance climbed for the second time in three weeks, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday. For the week ending April 24, new unemployment claims climbed from 18,838 to 23,600. While that remains well below the highs seen at the outset of the pandemic, it is nearly five times above pre-pandemic levels. Florida’s count of insured unemployment, or among those filing at least two consecutive weeks, fell from 123,557 to 119,947 on the week. While that figure has now declined for four consecutive weeks, it is above the low seen the week ending March 27 of 116,512.
“Business travel slow down during pandemic continues to affect South Florida’s economy” via Hank Tester of CBS Miami — Though commercial flying in South Florida has picked up in recent months, the same can’t be said for business travel. In fact, business travel has been slow to recover in the pandemic and has affected South Florida’s economy. “We have not seen a substantial, sustained return of the road warrior,” said Scott Berman, principal and industry leader, Hospitality & Leisure Group PwC. Travel associations report about $300 billion out of $800 billion spent on travel comes from business travelers. What does that mean for South Florida, where beach hotels report an uptick in bookings?
— MORE CORONA —
“COVID-19 pass should guarantee free movement without quarantine, testing for travel” via Samuel Petrequin of The Associated Press — European lawmakers said COVID-19 certificates aimed at facilitating travel across the European Union should be enough to move freely this summer, a position likely to clash with member states’ prerogatives in their upcoming negotiations. EU legislators said in their negotiating position on the European Commission’s proposal that EU governments should not impose quarantines, tests, or self-isolation measures on certificate holders. The EU’s executive arm proposed last month that the certificates would be delivered to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated, and also to those who tested negative for the virus or have proof they recovered from it. The Commission’s goal is to boost travel from one member state to another during the pandemic.
“The dark horse of the vaccine race may be this French biotech” via Suzi Ring of Bloomberg — As the battle with COVID-19 rages around the world, a small French biotech has a possible solution for the long-term war against the virus and the rapidly spreading mutations. The company, Valneva SE, has a vaccine that could be more variant-proof, giving it an edge over other shots in what may be an annual campaign against a disease that’s already killed more than 3 million people. The first participant in its phase three trials will be dosed this week. If successful, that could lead to an approved shot in the fall. Valneva’s shot is the only candidate in clinical trials in Europe that uses a tried-and-true vaccine technology involving an inactivated version of the whole virus it’s targeting.
“Las Vegas is seeing a surge of visitors again: ‘It’s like somebody turned on a light switch’” via Natalie B. Compton of The Washington Post — After a year of battling the coronavirus on the front lines, health care workers Charmaine Lamsin and Dennis Bowman were overdue for a vacation when they spotted a cheap flight to Las Vegas in March. For just $33 per person, the husband and wife could fly from their Seattle home to the entertainment capital of the world, where hotel prices were as unbelievable as the airfare. They booked a reservation at ARIA Resort & Casino, a luxury property, for $85 a night. “It was their premier suite. … It was facing the Strip, and we had a great view,” Lamsin says. Las Vegas has been one of 2021′s most popular domestic travel destinations. The number of visitors has been climbing consistently for months, along with the Strip’s gambling revenue.
“These six pandemic pivots should become permanent” via Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post — No one wants a repeat of 2020, but a diner can find silver linings in some of the many restaurant changes resulting from the pandemic. To go cocktails are likely here to stay. Hand sanitizer at the host stand and the table is the new flowers. Not just Chinese and pizza, as before, but high-end cooking, too, has gone with takeout service often personalized with handwritten notes, gratis sweets, even suggested playlists. Restaurateurs feared cold weather but responded to diners’ desires with greenhouses, tents, igloos, yurts, blankets, fire pits and other heaters to enable outdoor dining. Pools of space between diners might not be great for restaurants’ bottom lines, but customers appreciate the elbow room and sense of privacy.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“At 100 days, Biden is transforming what it means to be a Democrat” via Lisa Lerer and Annie Karni of The New York Times — When Biden served as Vice President in the Barack Obama administration, he was known to preface his recommendations to other officials with a self-deprecating disclaimer. He may not have attended Harvard or Yale, but he knew how to work Capitol Hill. Biden isn’t apologizing anymore. Now 100 days into his presidency, Biden is driving the biggest expansion of American government in decades, an effort to use $6 trillion in federal spending to address social and economic challenges at a scale not seen in a half-century. Aides say he has come into his own as a party leader in ways that his uneven political career didn’t always foretell, and that he is undeterred by matters that used to bother him, like having no Republican support for Democratic priorities.
“Stocks are off to best start to a Presidential term since Great Depression” via Karen Langley of The Wall Street Journal — The stock market closed out Biden’s first 100 days in office on Thursday with its best start to a presidential term since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. The S&P 500 has risen 11% since Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. The index recorded its strongest performance since the start of Roosevelt’s first term in 1933 when it surged 80% after a spectacular crash in the Great Depression. By comparison, the S&P 500 rose 5.3% in the first 100 days of Trump’s term in early 2017 and, on average, has gained 3.2% over that period in presidential terms since Herbert Hoover’s in 1929. Investors say it is no surprise that bountiful government spending and increasing COVID-19 vaccinations have powered the latest leg up in the stock market.
“Senate confirms Bill Nelson to be NASA administrator” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Senate has confirmed Nelson as NASA administrator, by unanimous consent. Thursday’s confirmation came swiftly on the Senate’s executive calendar after Nelson’s nomination cleared the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee just Wednesday. There was little surprise. Nelson’s three terms in the Senate, as a Democrat from Florida, had won him strong support and bipartisan respect throughout that body. Among his supporters are Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with whom Nelson had co-sponsored numerous NASA bills, and Mississippi Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, who said Nelson was “well-suited.” Nelson is the 14th and oldest administrator in NASA’s 62-year history. He succeeds Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine was administrator during most of Trump‘s term.
“Biden announces 2nd round of diverse federal judiciary picks” via Colleen Long of The Associated Press — Biden announced another diverse group of candidates for his second round of judicial nominations, a day after some in his first slate of picks went before a Senate committee. The second round is three nominees. Democrats, narrowly controlling the Senate for the first time in six years, are eager to turn the page from the Trump administration, especially when it comes to judges. Trump appointed mostly white men to fill the jobs, and now more than one-quarter of the federal judiciary is made up of his appointees. Trump, a Republican, also nominated three members of the Supreme Court: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump’s battle to win the first 100 days” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO — From the Florida perch, he has turned into the unofficial capital of the GOP and the most important address in American politics not in Washington, D.C., Trump’s delivered a crescendoing, double-barreled barrage from his Save America PAC and his post-presidential office in Palm Beach. He’s not working on a memoir, and he’s not putting into motion a presidential library, after-the-Oval activities that are nothing if not conventional. Indeed, ramping up of late the volume and frenzy of his declarations, he is trying not only to not fade like any other former leader of the free world but to stoke his considerable remaining political sway, his first 100 days out of office a brazen continuation of his lack of a concession in the wake of his defeat.
“Inside the pitch to create Trump Media Group” via Kia Kokalitcheva of Axios — Trump last month was pitched on launching a multibillion dollar media and technology company built around his personal brand. The 24-page presentation made its way to Trump’s desk at Mar-a-Lago, although it does not seem to have gained traction with the former President. One individual listed as part of the proposed management team says he is no longer involved, while another says he was never affiliated with the effort. Trump Media Group — headed by Trump as its CEO, chairman and president — is referred to in the pitch deck as “a conservative media powerhouse that will rival the liberal media and fight back against ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley.”
“Former pro-Trump artist wants the National Portrait Gallery to drape Trump portrait in black cloth” via Jessica Sidman of the Washingtonian — Artist Julian Raven became something of a right-wing celeb for his sprawling painting of Trump and his subsequent legal battle with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to get it displayed. However, after the January 6 storming of the Capitol Building, the two-time Trump voter spoke out against his former hero, calling on him to resign. Now, the painter says the museum should not display a photo portrait of Trump destined for its presidential gallery when it reopens in the coming months. Raven says he has nothing against the artwork itself; In fact, he thinks it’s a “beautiful” photo. But, Raven says, Trump shouldn’t be honored with a portrait until the former President “humbles himself” and takes responsibility for his actions surrounding election fraud claims and the insurrection.
“Pence is returning to the public eye this week — and insiders say it could foreshadow a 2024 presidential run” via Tom LoBianco of Business Insider — Pence‘s team is emerging to test whether the former Vice President has a future in politics. Pence is set to headline a fundraiser for a conservative Christian group Thursday. During the past three decades, Pence has found ways to come back from crippling defeats. Pence’s political career should be toast. Pence refused to derail Congress’ certification of Biden‘s victory in the Electoral College. For weeks he has been plotting a return to public prominence, employing a methodical approach that has been a hallmark of his career in public service. In February, he teased news he was joining a pair of top conservative organizations.
“Appeals court overturns conviction of Chinese woman accused of trespassing at Mar-a-Lago” via News Service of Florida — In a case that drew national attention, a state appeals court has overturned a resisting-arrest conviction of a Chinese woman who had taken photos of the Mar-a-Lago resort owned by Trump. A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, ruled Wednesday that Lu Jing should be acquitted of the charge of resisting an officer without violence. The appeals court said, “Handcuffing (Lu) to place her in a patrol car and transport her to the station house for further questioning elevated an investigatory stop into an arrest. Well-established Florida law precluded (the officer) from making an arrest under these circumstances, so appellant was entitled to resist being handcuffed without force.”
— CRISIS —
“They went to D.C. on Jan. 6. Now they’re running for office.” via Kelly Weill and Larrison Campbell of the Daily Beast — Now, undeterred by hundreds of arrests of rioters since Jan. 6 and the ex-President being reduced to hurling insults at the Academy Awards, a new slate of Jan. 6 rallygoers is vying for its own place in government. Some are campaigning on their pro-Trump credentials. Current candidates were not the only people to rally in Washington on Jan. 6 to harbor personal political aspirations. At least 15 prominent participants in the rally or the riot had run failed campaigns for political office. Some of them, like failed Hawaii candidate Nick Ochs and failed Texas candidate Jenny Cudd have since been arrested for their alleged roles in the attack. Jason Howland, who is running for Michigan’s 31st house district in 2022, was spotted in the throng pushing its way up the Capitol steps, as the New Yorker previously reported.
“Problem police officers don’t just go away, studies find. They get hired somewhere else.” via William H. Freivogel and Paul Wagman of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting — There is a straightforward solution, experts say: a national database open to the public with the names of all officers who have engaged in misconduct; and a requirement that all law enforcement agencies consult that database before hiring. But that solution has proved elusive. Most states keep the names of disciplined officers secret and the vast majority of departments do not fully investigate the background of an officer they are hiring. Police chiefs generally support stronger laws. Police unions oppose them, arguing that past allegations — many of them denied — shouldn’t follow officers through their careers. Derek Chauvin‘s prosecution for the death of Floyd illustrates that officers who come to public attention in abuse cases often had a string of prior allegations of abuse.
“Relatives of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Andrew Brown meet with lawmakers, White House officials” via Jon Street of Fox News — The relatives of several Black Americans who were killed by police met with lawmakers and White House advisers on Thursday. Attorneys Benjamin Crump, Monique Pressley, Antonio Romanucci, and Bakari Sellers joined the relatives. White House Senior Adviser and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond and White House Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice met with the relatives and attorneys. Just before meeting with Richmond and Rice at the White House, they met with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. “They listened very intensely. It got very emotional at times,” Crump said of the Capitol Hill meetings. The talks reportedly centered on police reform efforts, which Biden urged Congress to pass by the end of May.
“Floyd protests trigger wave of GOP ‘anti-riot’ laws” via Devin Dwyer of ABC News — Dramatic protests that unsettled the nation after the murder of George Floyd in police custody have triggered quiet but growing backlash from state Republican lawmakers who are now pushing legislation to crack down on public demonstrations. At least 90 bills targeting protests have been introduced across 35 states since last May, according to the nonpartisan International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, which has been tracking the legislation. “We haven’t seen anything like this in our experience tracking these trends,” said Elly Page, the group’s senior legal adviser and director of the U.S. Protest Law Tracker. They are “unprecedented in their nature, in the extreme lengths they go to restrict and chill protest rights.”
“The next trial in the killing of Floyd will be the real test” via Paul Butler of The Washington Post — The most important trial of police officers charged in the killing of a Black man has not yet happened. That is set to take place in August when three former Minneapolis police officers will be tried on charges of aiding and abetting Chauvin, convicted last week of murdering Floyd. A guilty verdict against these three would be even more significant than the jury’s conviction of Chauvin because it would punish a far more routine form of police misconduct: active support for, or pretending not to see, another officer abusing his or her badge. Because this kind of misconduct is less extreme, prosecutors will have a tougher time convincing a jury that these three former officers are criminals.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“GOP Senators railing against ‘woke’ businesses say they’ll keep taking their PAC money” via Andrew Solender of Forbes — Sens. Cruz and Josh Hawley have declared they won’t take corporate PAC money in response to business boycotts of Georgia over its recently passed voting restrictions, but other GOP Senators who have railed against the “wokeness” of corporations in recent weeks say they won’t follow suit. Sen. Marco Rubio told Forbes he will continue to take corporate PAC money: “if they want to support us, that’s great.” Rubio even said he wouldn’t reject money from companies like Coca-Cola, Delta and MLB that have condemned the Georgia law. Sen. Rick Scott told Forbes “elections cost money,” and that “we’ll take the money.”
“You’re not supposed to say that out loud, Ted Cruz” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — I hold the minority view that elected officials don’t make policy based on campaign contributions, not directly, anyway. Instead, those contributions buy access, time with legislators and their staff in which donors can make the case for what they want to see happen. It’s a subtle distinction, but a useful one: Many elected officials can be persuaded on minute policy points, if you can just get in front of them. The catch, of course, is that money is the easiest way to achieve that goal. However, I am not used to elected officials suggesting there is a direct line from contributions to policy. Cruz’s argument is predicated on the objections offered by various corporations in response to Georgia’s new rules about elections.
“Florida Democrats in Congress celebrate Biden’s speech, first 100 days” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats are in a celebratory mood, saying Biden‘s speech Wednesday night drove home what they see as successful and enormously popular initiatives he has pushed in his first 100 days with no help from Republicans. “This is a day of celebration for all of us,” U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson said. “We have bragging rights because we have so much to brag about.” “President Biden just crushed it,” said U.S. Rep. Darren Soto. Wilson and Soto were joined by U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz in assessing the more than $5 trillion in COVID-19 relief, infrastructure, and family and education proposals Biden has rolled out.
“GOP lawmaker who voted to overturn Biden’s election win wants to help him on criminal justice reform” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — Moments after Biden concluded his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, he was greeted by lawmakers aiming to get in some coveted face time with the President. Among them was Rep. Troy E. Nehls, who helped barricade the entrance of the House Chamber during the insurrection on Jan. 6 but still voted to overturn the election that Biden won. But in a brief exchange Wednesday night, Nehls, wearing a Texas flag mask, introduced himself to Biden as “a sheriff from Texas” and offered his experience policing Fort Bend County to help with the President’s efforts on criminal justice reform.
“Bombshell letter: Matt Gaetz paid for sex with minor, wingman says” via Jose Pagliery of The Daily Beast — A confession letter written by Joel Greenberg in the final months of the Trump presidency claims that he and close associate Rep. Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women — as well as a girl who was 17 at the time. “On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg wrote. “From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand, and Venmo transactions, Cash App, or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”
“Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene plan national tour to call out RINOs” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Gaetz is going on tour. With Marjorie Taylor Greene. Rocked by a steady stream of leaks about a federal investigation into alleged sex crimes, the Florida congressman is planning to take his case on the road by holding rallies across the nation with Greene, another lightning rod member of Congress. Their targets? So-called RINOs and “the radical left.” Together, they plan to attack Democrats and call out Republicans they deem as insufficiently loyal to Trump, such as the 10 GOP House members who voted for his second impeachment after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Gaetz and Greene will kick off their barnstorming “America First Tour” on May 7 in the mega-conservative Florida retirement community known as The Villages.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Cruise ships’ fix for dirty smoke led to water pollution in South Florida ports, study finds” via Alex Harris and Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — In an effort to curb their air pollution, cargo and cruise ships have been forced to reduce the sulfur in their emissions since January 2020. Rather than switching to cleaner-burning fuel, many ships turned to a piece of technology that scrubs some of the pollution out of the exhaust from the fuel — and splashes it back into the ocean. A new study reveals that ships pour 10 gigatons, or 10 billion metric tons, of that polluted water into the ocean in a year. And Port Everglades, PortMiami and ports in the Caribbean are some of the top dumping grounds.
“Miami code inspector files libel lawsuit against Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — A city of Miami code inspector is suing Commissioner Díaz de la Portilla for defamation, a legal twist in a controversy over what happened when the city shut down an illegal late-night party where the commissioner was present after curfew. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, code inspector Suzann Nicholson accused Díaz de la Portilla of making libelous statements to the media “with the intent to silence or intimidate” her after she publicly said he had poked and pushed her when she encountered him at a pop-up establishment in his district on the night of Feb. 21. She’s seeking more than $100,000 in damages.
“Few knew about a lucrative proposal for city leaders. Now they want to know who didn’t keep it secret.” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It wasn’t bad enough that a small Broward County city considered heaping perks on its elected leaders. Now the city will spend more taxpayer money to find out who let the secret out. Tamarac city commissioners decided this week to hire an investigator to figure out who leaked the proposal. There was no dollar amount yet set for how much the city will pay for the investigator. Under a recent proposal, commissioners would’ve made the city pay for their health care coverage, education, as well as new retirement benefits and a technology stipend, among other perks. But those plans fell apart after the Sun-Sentinel obtained a city memo and brought the matter to light two weeks ago.
“Vote on Robert Runcie’s severance package could be delayed over school board lawyer issue” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Broward County School Board members were hoping to approve Runcie’s separation agreement by the end of next week, but they hit a snag during a meeting Thursday morning over which attorney would represent them in negotiations. Runcie and the district’s general counsel, Barbara Myrick, agreed to step down from their jobs Tuesday following an April 15 grand jury indictment. Runcie is facing a perjury charge related to his grand jury testimony on March 31 and April 1 and Myrick is accused of disclosing the grand jury’s proceedings. Since they are both under contract, their severances must be negotiated with the School Board.
“Divided Dade City Commission gives first nod to 500-unit housing development” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — For many residents near the planned development known as Summit View II on Dade City’s outskirts, the project represents a betrayal of long-standing rules and promises to keep the rural nature of their community, complete with its rolling hills, heritage trees and bucolic ambience. For some city leaders, the development is a way for Dade City to control its own destiny, funding much-needed city infrastructure and managing their little piece of the rapidly spreading residential growth across Pasco County. Those views clashed Tuesday evening, as the Dade City Commission considered four separate actions that could make the residential community a reality after another vote in June.
“Lakes, creeks sue state under Orange County’s ‘rights of nature’ rule” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Backers of the newly-approved Orange County Charter amendment granting legal rights to nature elements have sued Florida on behalf of five water bodies to stop a development in southeastern Orange County. As allowed under a radical, untested legal theory dating to the 1970s, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a developer are being sued by Wilde Cypress Branch, Boggy Branch, Crosby Island Marsh, Lake Hart, and Lake Mary Jane. Proponents of rights of nature are saying the suit filed Monday in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit is a big test case, not just in Florida but nationally. It is the first-ever rights of nature enforcement case in the United States.
— TOP OPINION —
“DeSantis: Governor of Florida, Mayor of Fox News, P.T. Barnum of policy” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — If you’re wondering what DeSantis has been up to during the two-month lawmaking Session that ends this week, you haven’t been watching Fox News. He’s been a guest on the network’s talk shows nearly a dozen times during the Session, one of more than 40 appearances during the past year, at least half those coming in the first four months of this year. The Governor gets yet another shot at Fox stardom tonight when he will take the stage with four other Republican Governors in Orlando for a town hall moderated by one of DeSantis’ biggest fans at Fox, Laura Ingraham. DeSantis is Fox’s golden child.
— OPINIONS —
“Good luck to Republicans if Biden’s family plan becomes law” via Paul Krugman for The New York Times — Conservatives beware: If the main elements in Biden’s American Family Plan become law, they’ll be very hard to repeal. Why? Because they’ll deliver huge, indeed transformational benefits to millions. I mean, just imagine trying to take away affordable child care, universal pre-K, and paid leave for new parents once they’ve become part of the fabric of our society. You’d face a backlash far worse than the one that followed Republican attempts to eliminate protections for coverage of preexisting health conditions in 2017. So what’s the Republican counterargument? Well, much of the party appears uninterested in debating policy, preferring to lash out at imaginary plans to ban red meat or give immigrants Kamala Harris’ children’s book.
“Tim Scott plays the race(ism) card” via Christine Emba of The Washington Post — “America is not a racist country,” Sen. Scott declared, directly after accusing liberals of calling him the “n-word” and “Uncle Tom.” So what does that signify, then? That the entirety of America isn’t racist, just half? Scott spent much of his rebuttal pushing back against a race-forward speech that the President didn’t actually give. It was a way to signal to the GOP, at least, that he was awake to their preferred line of attack — that the best way to slime Democrats was to portray them as critical race theory-obsessed, reverse-racist oppressors of the everyday Americans who just want to be free to read the spicy parts of old Dr. Seuss books and gender their potatoes in peace.
“A Piney Point disaster will happen again. Will the Tampa Bay area be ready to respond?” via Tom Frazer of the Tampa Bay Times — Piney Point, a retired fertilizer processing plant in Manatee County, began to leak on March 27. The threat of flooding from an uncontrolled release led to controlled discharges of nutrient-rich wastewater to Tampa Bay. This emergency is the latest reminder that you want scientists to build the foundations for success before a moment of crisis, so that they can respond when the stakes are high — not just react. Just like we all need that annual checkup at the doctor’s office, Tampa Bay needs consistent, long-term monitoring — and the requisite funding. Why is the need for sustained monitoring so often an afterthought? We pay for it, over and over again. We forget so quickly.
“Florida lawmakers, you cracked down on violent protests. Now, crackdown on violent police” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The police reform bill the Legislature passed is like the dessert liqueur after a four-course meal. It was not the main entrée. A stronger bill that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle helped craft was put aside to give way to this compromise between House Republicans, the Florida Black Legislative Caucus and law enforcement. Although some elements of that stronger bill ended up in the final product, left out were a requirement that law enforcement take implicit-bias training and stronger limits on chokeholds. These proposals deserved more discussion, but we’ll take what we can get. The alternative would be that Florida, when faced with a national reckoning on policing of communities of color, chose instead to get tough on those asking for change.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Lawmakers are set to approve their new budget, but they’ll be back in a couple of weeks for a Special Session on gambling, so don’t pop the cork on the end-of-Session Champagne just yet.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— A bill setting new standards for law enforcement officers is on its way to Gov. DeSantis. It’s their response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of Floyd; members of the Black caucus say this is only the beginning.
— LGBTQ advocates are heartbroken over what they see as a betrayal in the Legislature. They believed a bill banning transgender kids from high school and college athletics was dead, but it wasn’t. The bill is on its way to the Governor for signature.
— The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center are asking DeSantis to veto the transgender bill. And a group called “Food and Water Watch” is asking him to veto three bills that preempt the authority of cities and counties to set their own energy policies.
— One of the heroes of Florida’s fight against COVID-19 is stepping down. Jared Moskowitz has led the Division of Emergency Management since DeSantis became Governor. He’s a graduate of Stoneman Douglas High; Moskowitz says the Parkland massacre convinced him that government could make a difference.
— Moskowitz gives an exit interview to Sunrise.
— And finally, a Florida Man is accused of smuggling drugs into the Pinellas County jail inside his artificial leg.
To listen, click on the image below:
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Hillsborough County School Board Member Jessica Vaughn and Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee correspondent Lawrence Mower.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion on the future of Florida’s workforce and how job training and education is shifting to meet the needs of emerging businesses in the Sunshine State. Joining Walker are Rep. Amber Mariano; Doug Wagner, superintendent of operations for Manatee County Schools; and Aakash Patel, board chair of The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A recap of the biggest takeaways from the Legislative Session; Biden’s first 100 days in office and his address to Congress; and a look at Republican’s hopes renewed after new census data is released.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: An analysis of Biden’s address to Congress and first 100 days with political analysts Eddie Fernandez and Wes Hodge; a look at Republican’s hopes renewed after new census data is released and a discussion with U.S. Reps. Michael Waltz and Soto about Florida’s new congressional district after redistricting in early 2022; and a recap of the Legislative Session.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with former Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Moskowitz and attorney Sean Pittman.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville City Council President Tommy Hazouri, OurJax Chairman David Miller and Ken Babby, owner of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp minor league baseball team.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Sens. Rodriguez and Jason Pizzo, Rep. Bobby DuBose and Broward School Board Members Lori Alhadeff and Sarah Leonardi.
— ALOE —
“Disney Cruise Line reveals details of new Port Canaveral-bound Disney Wish” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Cruise Line announced a boatload of details Thursday for its fifth cruise ship Disney Wish coming to Port Canaveral in 2022, including immersive spaces from Star Wars, Marvel and “Frozen,” plus a marquee attraction starring Mickey & Minnie Mouse that the line is calling its first attraction at sea. The water ride called the AquaMouse takes a similar space on the ship as the AquaDuck water coasters on the older Disney Dream and Fantasy, but this one will be a combination of fast sections and a lazy river. It’s all themed to the mouse duo running an excursion company named “Port Misadventures” while watching a new animated short called “Scuba Scramble” that plays out through oversized virtual portholes.
“Universal theme parks booming with busy Orlando spring break; executive touts VelociCoaster opening” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal theme parks broke even for the second quarter in a row with Comcast’s CEO singling out the Orlando parks for “remarkable attendance” during spring break. “Obviously, during a pandemic when you’ve closed, it’s not a good business. It’s going to be choppy getting open again,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said. “But it’s hard not to get excited about our parks business. The demand is there. We’re seeing it in Orlando. We have no international travel yet … and we still are at capacity.” He stressed the parks are still limiting attendance because of pandemic safety precautions. The Orlando theme parks were operating at 35% normal capacity, Shell said in December. He did not provide an update Thursday.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our friend, the great Jennifer Green of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Ambassador Allan Katz, former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, the brilliant Lori Killinger, Lauren Schenone, as well as Amanda Colon, and our friend, political consultant April Schiff.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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