Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.
An annual event highlighting Florida’s farming industry will return tonight, punctuated by a speech from Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who announced the relaunch of a pandemic-era platform linking producers in the state to buyers and consumers.
The free Taste of Florida reception — co-hosted by the Farm Bureau and Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services — is open to the public and will run from 5-7 p.m. at the Capitol Courtyard in Tallahassee.
While the event will highlight Florida-grown products and the importance of the state’s agriculture industry, it will also feature a demonstration of the revamped online portal, Florida Farm to You. Fried’s agency created the portal in spring 2020 to help Florida producers circumvent market disruptions that shuttered traditionally dependable buyers like restaurants and hampered farmers’ ability to move perishable products.
The portal was — and continues to be — available on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Keep Florida Growing webpage, a repository of agricultural information for the coronavirus era. The Florida Farm You commodities list, the webpage’s most significant piece, allows farmers to list produce they have on hand and their contact information so potential buyers and consumers can contact them directly.
The page also includes information on current Florida agriculture initiatives, safety guidance for food workers, details on the state’s agriculture purchasing programs, work visa information, guidance on food assistance programs, and a U-pick farm locator, among other things.
Shortly after the launch of Farm to You last year, Fried said farmers went from preparing about 40 boxes of produce weekly for direct sales to 400.
“Given the positive reception of this initiative, (the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) will be keeping the portal active and has worked to improve its functionality to make it more user-friendly,” a press note from Fried’s agency said. “At the reception, local products from participating farms from across the state will be available as well as a digital demonstration where attendees can explore the website.”
Taste of Florida guests will be able to sample products from the following vendors: Ag in the Classroom, Broward County Farm Bureau, Farm Bureau for Women’s Committee, Farm Credit, Fawn Weather Station, Florida Agriculture Museum, Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Federation of Fairs, Florida Peanut Federation, Florida Poultry Federation, Florida State Beekeepers Association, Kumquat Growers, Orchard Pond, Serenoa Shellfish Company, Southern Craft Creamery, St. Augustine Distillery, St. Pete Distillery, TCC Oyster Program, Timbercreek Distillery, Watermelon Growers, Young Farmers and Ranchers, and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Florida Aquaculture Association.
Fried issues ‘best practices’ for Giving Tuesday — Fried released a lengthy list of recommendations aimed at helping Floridians donate smart on Giving Tuesday. Fried, whose department regulates charities in the state, urged donors to be wary of high-pressure tactics, avoid clicking links in unsolicited emails, and to research what portion of a donation is used for overhead costs such as fundraising campaigns — the Wise Giving Alliance recommends that at least 65% of charitable contributions serve a nonprofit’s mission. “Helping individuals make informed charitable donations that best reach those in need is one of our top priorities,” she said. Fried encouraged donors to research the background and financials of charities via the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services online “Check-A-Charity” tool.
Jimmy Patronis offers tips to avoid Giving Tuesday scams — CFO Patronis urged Floridians to be on the lookout for phony charities during the giving season — especially on Giving Tuesday. “The holidays bring out the best in people, but they can also bring out the worst in some,” he said, adding, “Beware of unsolicited offers from charities through email and social media and be suspicious of any charity asking for cash-only payment. Always research and verify the charity you’re giving to is reputable and never feel pressured into donating. By staying alert this holiday season, you can ensure your donation is going to a good cause and not lining the pockets of a scam artist.” Patronis warned that some bogus charities will use a name similar to a legitimate one. He also recommended donating via credit card for added security.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@NoahPransky: 20 yrs after Prez (George W.) Bush went “nucular” … Prez (Joe) Biden gives comedians the gift of “Omnicron.”
—@JamesHamblin: The honest answer to “what should we do about variant X” is going to be the same again and again … build and maintain a global system of viral genomic surveillance. Synchronize that with vaccine development, distribution, and communication. That’s it.
—@Annette_Taddeo: Growing up on a farm in Colombia taught me a lot, but it did not prepare me for the night a Marxist terrorist group kidnapped my father and took over our farm. Seeing my parents persevere through the seemingly impossible taught me to always #believe and never give up.
Inspired by the acts of kindness and experiences that lifted our spirits this year, decorated rooms in the White House reflect the Gifts from the Heart that unite us all: faith, family, friendship, the arts, learning, nature, gratitude, service, community, peace, and unity. pic.twitter.com/fsaYFthIqH
— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) November 29, 2021
Trees in state dining room decorated with old photos of first families. Stockings on fireplace have names of Biden grandkids pic.twitter.com/pkFjrAPyhy
— Emily Goodin (@Emilylgoodin) November 29, 2021
Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 1; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 7; ‘Sex and the City’ revival premieres — 9; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 10; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 10; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 22; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 29; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 35; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 35; CES 2022 begins — 36; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 37; NFL season ends — 40; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 42; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 42; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 42; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 42; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 43; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 45; NFL playoffs begin — 46; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 52; ‘Billions’ begins — 54; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 66; Super Bowl LVI — 75; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 82; Daytona 500 — 82; CPAC begins — 86; St. Pete Grand Prix — 87; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 93; The Oscars — 117; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 162; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 181; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 184; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 221; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 232; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 276; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 311; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 346; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 349; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 381; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 444; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 605. ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 689; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 969.
— TOP STORY —
“Full Sail could get $1.3M from property tax exemption crafted specifically for university” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Full Sail University could benefit from over $1.3 million in property tax breaks next year thanks to a new exemption explicitly created for the for-profit school near Winter Park. The exemption, approved at the last minute by the Republican-led Florida Legislature earlier this year, exempts property used by private schools with more than 500 students specializing in teaching movie production skills. Full Sail uses nine properties near the school’s main campus off Semoran Boulevard, owned by companies run by the school’s leaders, including CEO and co-chairman Ed Haddock. Based on those properties ‘ tax liability, if those property owners apply and are approved for the exemption, they stand to receive $1.3 million in tax breaks from Orange County.
— STATEWIDE —
“Ron DeSantis blames Waukesha parade attack on ‘media lies’ about Kyle Rittenhouse” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “So let’s just be clear. They are not wanting to cover this Wisconsin thing for what it is. They are not wanting the facts to come out the way they are because the facts do not support their narrative. And it’s all about pursuing partisan narratives,” DeSantis said in Orlando. “One of the things that’s been most frustrating to witness in terms of law enforcement is how anti-law enforcement narratives are consistently spun by these national corporate media outlets. They will swoop into a community, they will create a false narrative, and then they kind of just leave, and they never correct the record when what they’re saying is obviously false. And we’re seeing that right now in real time with Waukesha, Wisconsin.”
“DeSantis says more first-responder bonuses, raises planned for upcoming budget” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis announced plans for another round of $1,000 bonuses for police and other first responders as part of his upcoming budget proposal during a news conference in Orlando on Monday. Appearing at the Semoran Boulevard headquarters of Florida Highway Patrol Troop D and flanked by uniformed troopers, DeSantis also said his proposed budget would include $73 million in funding to increase the minimum pay for entry-level law enforcement officers by 20%. DeSantis said his proposal would also increase pay for veteran officers statewide by 25%. The budget will also include $124 million to increase salaries for correctional officers, hiking their base pay to $20 an hour.
“DeSantis: School crossed line by tying mask to student’s face despite discrepancies” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis maintains that a school district went afoul in October after they tied a mask onto the face of a student with Down syndrome, even if the police don’t necessarily think so. Speaking in Orlando, DeSantis said educators in Brevard County were “wrong” to tie a mask onto the 7-year-old student and called the move a violation of state policy. Indeed, DeSantis banned school mask mandates in July. “She was not treated right,” DeSantis said. “That school district was not following state policy. That’s just a fact.” However, the issue is that a recently released police report widely contradicts the account of the student’s parents and calls the claims “unfounded.” The Indian Harbor police report disputes claims that the student was unable to breathe and in distress while wearing the mask.
“Christina Pushaw deletes tweet promoting the false news that Nancy Pelosi bought a $25 million estate in Florida” via Rudy Takala of Mediaite — “Nancy Pelosi just bought a $25,000,000 mansion in Florida,” Andrew Pollack wrote in the Nov. 23 tweet that Pushaw shared. “Remember this the next time she criticizes @GovRonDeSantis for keeping Florida open and taxes low.” The false claim appeared to originate with John Cardillo on Nov. 20, when the conservative Twitter personality said “local sources” told him Pelosi had purchased an estate in the luxury coastal community. Pelosi spokesperson Andrew Hammill denied the report days later, saying in a Nov. 24 statement to media it was “completely false” and adding, “There’s no such pending sale nor is the family looking or interested.” The claim by Pushaw had vanished from Twitter as of Nov. 29.
“DCF won’t say what it’s doing with more than $660M in unused rental aid; now it could lose it” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Florida Department of Children and Families won’t say what it’s doing with more than $660 million in unused Emergency Rental Assistance Program Funds. The agency was supposed to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of the Treasury on Nov. 15, but it has not confirmed a plan’s details or even if one exists. The Treasury could now recapture the funds. Florida Politics reached out to DCF multiple times since Nov. 10 to learn the status of its ERAP funds. DCF has said only it’s “diligently processing the request.” However, data available from the Treasury shows both what Florida was awarded and how much of it has been spent.
Hearing from residents at Tzadik Brookside in Orlando that there are multiple evictions going on that gave residents no time to even remove their belongings from their homes. Residents had applied for rental assistance but the company never responded so they never saw assistance.
— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani 🔨 (@AnnaForFlorida) November 29, 2021
“Lockdown-free Florida top vacation spot for holidays” via The Associated Press — Cooped-up tourists eager for a taste of Florida’s sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, and warmer climates are visiting the Sunshine State in droves, topping pre-pandemic levels in recent months. Miami is one of the top search destinations on travel websites and statewide, Florida had 32.5 million travelers from July to September of this year, exceeding the number of visitors during that period in pre-pandemic 2019, DeSantis said recently. The state was boosted by the Republican Governor’s pro-business, anti-lockdown and anti-mask restrictions all year, allowing one of Florida’s main economic engines to flourish, even as tourism dipped in other parts of the country.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“House maps could add more Florida Republicans to Congress” via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Capital Bureau — The two House proposals would create 17 and 18 Republican-leaning congressional districts, potentially increasing the state’s number of GOP members of Congress from the current 16. The House approach also contrasts with Senate plans released earlier this month, which do little to disrupt Florida’s current partisan balance. The House plans are set to get their first public review by lawmakers Thursday when the chamber’s congressional redistricting subcommittee meets. Florida, which is adding a congressional seat because of population gains over the past decade, has been targeted as a likely 2022 battleground given its size and history of Republican-controlled legislatures pushing partisan maps.
“House redistricting map targets Stephanie Murphy’s seat, gives GOP big advantage” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The GOP-controlled Florida House released a draft congressional map that would radically change Democratic U.S. Rep. Murphy’s seat in Central Florida and make it much harder for her to win re-election. But the House’s other draft map released Monday makes only relatively mild changes, matching the four draft maps from the state Senate that would basically keep the status quo. The first House draft map targets her seat, which currently includes Seminole County and parts of central Orange County, splitting it between a GOP-leaning district to the north and a largely African American district to the west. The changes would leave Murphy, a Winter Park resident, with no home base and no obvious seat for her to run in.
“New House maps could pit Joy Goff-Marcil against Anna Eskamani” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The two new proposed House maps could have Democratic Reps. Goff-Marcil and Eskamani squaring off in a primary to stay in office, while also creating several districts around Central Florida that have neither incumbents nor serious challengers running yet. Goff-Marcil and Eskamani appear to be the only incumbents currently at risk of being redistricted into the same election. Both maps reconfigure north and central Orange County representation by creating a new House District 42. On both maps, a new House District 39 would cover northwestern Orange County, including Apopka and part of Winter Garden. None of the incumbents nor anyone else who has filed to run for the House lives there.
“League leader unhappy with access to detailed data driving reapportionment” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — The President of the League of Women Voters of Florida has called upon the state Senate to release precinct-level data pertaining to race and voting behavior to allow independent analysis of congressional and legislative reapportionment plans now under development. President Cecile Scoon argued during a meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Legislative Reapportionment afternoon that the Senate has acquired those data under a contract with Florida State University but hasn’t released the more granular details to the public. The subcommittee drawing new congressional maps met earlier in the day. Small adjustments committee staff members made to their latest legislative maps to ensure two majority-minority districts in Broward and Miami-Dade counties affected an additional two counties in the area, Scoon noted.
“Democratic lawmakers file legislation guaranteeing right to abortion” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Democratic state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would guarantee an individual’s right to an abortion as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs cases that would allow states to eliminate access to the procedure almost completely. Sen. Lori Berman and Rep. Ben Diamond filed bills last week (HB 709/SB 1036) that would bar any individual, state or local government from interfering with the right to get an abortion. The identical bills also have a mechanism that allows legal action against any individual or any entity standing in the way of someone’s right to choose this health care. The legislation, called “Reproductive Health Care Rights,” is a counterpoint to another bill (HB 167) prohibiting abortion after a heartbeat is detected. Berman said her legislation was not prompted by Rep. Webster Barney’s bill so much as the current cases now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“New legislation seeks to differentiate unwanted sexual gestures and simple battery” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A new bill seeks to help police officers better identify perpetrators of unwanted sexual encounters. The legislation (HB 379/SB 444), filed by Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Linda Chaney, would specify what constitutes a crime of lewd or lascivious molestation upon a person older than 16. Under current law, a person who commits an act of unwanted sexual touching on an individual over 16 would be charged with simple battery. Chaney said this legislation would differentiate sexual crimes from simple battery, adding that police officers have found that sexual offenders can often escalate, unlike other crimes defined under simple battery.
“Ileana Garcia, Adam Botana push boating safety measures following surge in accidents” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Garcia is set to appear before the Environment and Natural Resource Committee Tuesday, pushing an act she says will help improve boat safety and cut down on illegal renting of vessels in Florida’s waterways. Garcia is being joined by Rep. Botana as the lead sponsors in the Senate and House, respectively. The Boating Safety Act of 2022 will require individuals renting out boats to earn a no-cost permit from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. To qualify for that permit, the person renting the boat must provide a list of vessels being rented, have valid insurance, have a sufficient number of flotation devices and provide other safety equipment required under state and federal law.
Happening today — Sen. Berman and Rep. Tracie Davis hold a news conference to highlight SB 388/HB 221, which creates the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, 11 a.m., Senate Building Portico.
Leg. cmte. schedule:
The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SPB 7014, to extend COVID-19 legal protections for health care providers, 9 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 500, from Sen. Perry, to set up a nine-day back-to-school tax holiday in late July and early August, 9 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 834, from Sen. Jason Brodeur, to require the Department of Environmental Protection to consider ways to remove algae from state waters, 9 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 539, from Appropriations Chair Jay Trumbull, to change financial reporting for nursing homes, 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.
The House Public Integrity and Elections Committee meets to consider PCB PIE 22-01 and PCB PIE 22-02 to set up constitutional prohibitions against lobbying by former public officers and judges, 10:30 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 792, from Sen. Loranne Ausley, to clarify rights for foster children, 12:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 482, from Sen. Darryl Rouson, to establish a certification process for abuse victims at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School 12:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
The Senate Education Committee meets to consider SB 480, from Sen. Danny Burgess, to require public schools to teach about social media literacy, 12:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
The House Judiciary Committee meets for updates on background screening by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Education, 2 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets to consider SJR 244, from Sen. Joe Gruters, to create partisan school board elections in Florida, 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 254, from Brodeur, to prevent religious services from being shut down by state emergency orders, 3:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
The House Commerce Committee meets to discuss school concurrency issues, 4 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.
PIFF lays out 2022 Session priorities — The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida outlined its policy priorities for the 2022 Legislative Session on Monday. PIFF, which represents personal lines property and casualty insurance companies, said it will fight back against any effort to repeal the state’s personal injury protection auto insurance system and oppose any data privacy legislation that would provide a private cause of action and statutory damages. PIFF said it will support bills to ease “unnecessary regulatory burdens” on the insurance industry and any bills that would tamp down on auto glass claims and litigation. Property insurance reform, which PIFF President and CEO Michael Carlson said is one of the “greatest challenges” facing the industry, also remains a top priority.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: 391 deaths and 4,789 new cases added to state toll” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida on Monday reported 391 more deaths and 4,789 additional COVID-19 cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data. Only 174 of the newly reported deaths — about 45% — occurred since Nov. 1. About 24% of the newly reported have died in the past two weeks, the analysis showed. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,689,788 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 61,538 deaths. The CDC did not release Florida COVID-19 figures on Thanksgiving, Friday and Sunday, causing an artificially lower seven-day case and death average than where state averages currently stand. Looking at these lower averages, the state has added 56 deaths and 1,226 cases per day in the past seven days.
“DeSantis adamant against lockdowns as fears emerge over potential omicron variant in U.S.” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — A new COVID-19 variant called omicron that emerged in South Africa has some state officials already bracing for potential cases if the variant of concern is detected in the United States. But DeSantis is adamant: Lockdowns are “not going to happen in the state of Florida, you can take that to the bank.” The Governor also stressed at an afternoon news conference that shutdowns don’t work and that “you can’t cripple your society for fear of a variant where we don’t have any meaningful data on.” If cases arise in the state, Florida hasn’t announced any plans to prepare for a threat of the COVID-19 mutation. In fact, DeSantis didn’t appear to mention such plans at all when he spoke to the reporters Monday.
“COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers extended under Florida Senate proposal” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Weeks after the delta variant surge raced through the state, and amid expectations of a new variant arriving in the United States, the Florida Senate is working on legislation that would extend COVID-19 liability protections for nursing homes, hospitals and physicians. The Senate Judiciary Committee has rolled out a one-page proposed committee bill that would shield health care providers, including nursing homes, hospitals and doctors, from lawsuits related to the pandemic until June 1, 2023, or 14 months after the current legal protections are scheduled to expire. The bill is a tacit acknowledgment that the pandemic remains an ongoing concern.
“How many Florida students will opt-out of mask requirements under new law? Who knows?” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — Following months of debate, legal challenges, and a special legislative session on the matter, it seems the drawn-out discussion about who decides whether students wear masks in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic has concluded. The result: Florida school districts are forbidden from requiring masks in classrooms unless parents can opt their students out. It’s now law. And districts are complying. But officials haven’t closely and persistently tracked the number of students who opted out of mask requirements statewide. Inconsistencies in mask policies throughout the state complicate the issue further. It’s going to be difficult to know just how many students are wearing masks compared to how many are not now that the question is truly up to the parents.
“First wave of children receive COVID-19 vaccine; doctors hoping for more with holidays ahead” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — As of last week, roughly 11% of the nation’s 5- to 11-year-olds had been vaccinated. And though Florida lags with only 6% vaccinated, at Palm Beach Pediatrics, parents gobbled up appointments, and demand continues to outpace availability. Across the country, about three in every 10 parents with children in that age group are right there with them, eager to have their youngsters inoculated, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation. But another third reported they want to wait and see because they have concerns and questions about the vaccine and its safety. “There are a lot of people who are absolutely pro-vaccinating their children in general who had questions and wanted help navigating the decision,” Dr. Stacey Stout said.
“COVID-19 again forces change for Jacksonville, Clay Christmas toy giveaways” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — The 23rd annual Children’s Christmas Party of Jacksonville will not be in person at its typical Prime Osborn Convention Center home, instead distributing toys to needy families through two child-serving nonprofits. And the 40th annual J.P. Hall Jr. Children’s Charities Christmas Party in Green Cove Springs will return to the Clay County Fairgrounds on Dec. 18 but as a drive-thru toy distribution. Diane Halverson, executive director of the Jacksonville event, said that the decision to forgo the in-person event for the second year in a row was painful but necessary. “They will have holiday parties and hand out our bags of toys. Each bag will have a few toys and a pencil that says, ‘Stay Smart. Stay in School,’” Halverson said.
— 2022 —
2024 odds inch higher for DeSantis — Oddsmaker US-Bookies.com says DeSantis has an 11.1% chance to win the 2024 presidential election, up from 8.3% in mid-October. The jump comes as Republicans’ odds are increasing across the board. Donald Trump is the current leader with a 25% chance to reclaim the presidency, followed by incumbent Biden at 20% and Vice President Kamala Harris at 15.4%. Outside of Trump, DeSantis is the leader among potential GOP candidates. His chance of victory is double that of former Amb. Nikki Haley (5.3%) and former Vice President Mike Pence (3.8%), both of whom are on the downswing among bettors.
DeSantis campaign says Florida is ‘saving Christmas’ — The Governor’s campaign embraced the “DeSanta” moniker on Monday. An email to supporters blasted President Biden as “the Grinch” over supply chain woes, rising gas prices and inflation. But DeSantis, the email says, has put Florida in position to “save Christmas” by keeping “state-of-the-art ports open 24/7 to alleviate worldwide supply chain issues.” The campaign then pitches DeSantis merch as stocking stuffers. “Tis the season to support your favorite freedom-loving, Christmas-saving Governor,” the email exclaims. The campaign store has rolled out a half dozen DeSanta-themed items, including sweaters, mugs, koozies, and, of course, socks. They feature the first-term Republican sporting the same pixilated sunglasses found in iterations of the “deal with it” meme.
“Rubio becomes visible as 2022 nears” via The Palm Beach Post — Rubio has seen the shadow of Election Day 2022 and is suddenly pretending to do his job. The latest is slowing Biden’s appointments of ambassadors to China and Spain. He claims Biden’s pick for Ambassador to China, Nick Burns, doesn’t understand the threat of China’s Communist Party. He claims Biden’s pick for Ambassador to Spain, Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, wouldn’t push Spain to put pressure on authoritarian regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This, from a man who has cowered before our former President’s efforts to create an authoritarian regime in the United States, knuckled under to the pressure of tweets and sacrificed the sanctity of the Constitution to avoid angering the Trump base, to preserve his re-election prospects.
“Rubio endorses Blaise Ingoglia for state Senate” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Rubio is getting behind Ingoglia as he seeks to jump from the state House to the state Senate in 2022. Ingoglia is currently filed to run in Senate District 10. However, the redistricting process could upend that matchup and potentially pit Ingoglia against fellow Rep. Ralph Massullo of Lecanto in a GOP Primary contest. As those boundaries continue being finalized, Rubio is already stepping out to back Ingoglia. “Blaise Ingoglia is a proven conservative leader who has been a staunch defender of our values and an instrumental part of the Republican Party’s success here in Florida,” Rubio said in a statement endorsing Ingoglia obtained by Florida Politics. “I am proud to support my friend Blaise Ingoglia for state Senate.”
“Former Citrus Commissioner Rebecca Bays considering House run” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — A former Citrus County Commissioner is eying the outcome of legislative redistricting and a potential run at the Florida House. Bays, who served on the County Commission from 2010 to 2014, said in an interview Monday that she’ll likely run if State Rep. Ralph Massullo does not. “I love policy. I’ve always been accused of being a big-picture thinker,” Bays, who owns a landscape tree nursery near Inverness, said. “We need strong leadership in this state.” No decisions will be made until the Legislature finalizes new district maps, she said. The House Redistricting Committee staff released a pair of proposed maps that show Citrus intact in a newly created District 23 and join communities to the north.
Seminole Tribe pays petition gatherers to stay home — The Seminole Tribe has been cutting checks to convince major petition gathering firms not to participate in efforts to get a pair of proposed gaming amendments on the ballot. As Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports, the Tribe’s “blocking” campaign also includes hiring on-the-ground workers to interfere with the petition gathering efforts. According to the CEO of one petition gathering company, workers are being paid as much as $7,000 to sit on the sidelines. The buyout operation is being led by Cornerstone Solutions, a West Palm Beach firm run by Rick Asani. Some petition gathering firms say the interference borders on intimidation. Advanced Micro Targeting regional director Faten Alkhulifi said some canvassers “fear for their safety.”
— CORONA NATION —
“Joe Biden: Omicron coronavirus variant ‘a cause for concern, not a cause for panic’” via Maureen Groppe of USA Today — Biden on Monday called the coronavirus variant omicron a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic” as he urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Biden plans to outline Thursday a “detailed strategy” on how the administration will fight COVID-19 in the coming winter. “Not with shutdowns or lockdowns,” he said. “But with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.” Biden’s remarks came on the day travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries begin. Biden announced the travel rules Friday, days after the variant was first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa.
“As omicron emerges, a tired public has little appetite for new restrictions” via Annie Linskey and Fenit Nirappil of The Washington Post — Cold weather is driving more Americans indoors. The holiday season has prompted a wave of travel, generating new lines of coronavirus transmission. And the delta variant has pushed up hospitalizations. Now, adding to the potentially bad news, an ominous new variant has emerged: omicron. But after nearly 21 months of coronavirus restrictions, there is little appetite in the country for the kinds of school closures, indoor-gathering bans and restaurant restrictions that defined the early days of the pandemic, who say the political will to push for unpopular; but effective mitigation measures are waning.
—“Slammed nurses brace for omicron ‘nightmare’ in Michigan”via Pilar Melendez of the Daily Beast
“Omicron is feeding the Republican conspiracy beast” via Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg — Is anyone surprised that it took only a couple of days for Republicans to spread obviously nonsensical conspiracy theories about the omicron coronavirus variant? U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, a Texas Republican and former White House physician, took to Twitter on Sunday to claim: “Here comes the MEV — the Midterm Election Variant! They NEED a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election — but we’re not going to let them!” I suppose I should point out how unlikely it is, to put it mildly, that Democrats would be capable of getting the entire world to pretend there’s a new, potentially dangerous variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, which would then serve as a pretext for absentee voting, which somehow Democrats would supposedly be able to use to cheat.
“Federal agencies won’t seriously discipline vaccine holdouts until next year, White House tells unions” via Eric Yoder and Lisa Rein of The Washington Post — Federal employees who have not complied with the coronavirus vaccine mandate will not face aggressive discipline, including unpaid suspensions or firing, until at least early next year. The American Federation of Government Employees said administration officials had told the union that agencies, for now, will continue offering counseling and education to the roughly 3.5% of workers who have yet to receive a vaccination or request an exemption. Agencies will pursue only “education and counseling efforts through this holiday season as the first step in an enforcement process” and take no further actions beyond a possible letter of reprimand.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“The Biden administration, under fire for supply chain woes, says stores will be fully stocked for the holidays.” via Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson of The New York Times — Biden told executives from some of the nation’s largest retailers on Monday that his administration was committed to partnering with them to untangle supply chains and ensure that American consumers can find everything they want this holiday season, as a surge in shopping tests an already strained global delivery system. Biden had planned to speak following his supply-chain meeting with top executives from large grocers and a range of retailers. But administration officials abruptly canceled his White House remarks less than a half-hour before Biden had been scheduled to speak, saying the President wanted to spend more time in conversation with the executives. His remarks were rescheduled for Wednesday.
— MORE CORONA —
“New York City may be at start of winter surge of COVID-19” via Stacie Sherman and Linus Chua of MSN — New York City may already be seeing signs of a winter spike in COVID-19 even though holiday travel, gatherings and colder weather are just getting started. The city’s positive test rate rose to a two-month high as hospitals admitted more than 100 new virus patients on Friday, contributing to a 25% jump in hospitalizations in just two weeks. The city has 463 people in the hospital for COVID-19, up from 370 on Nov. 12. The seven-day average of residents testing positive for the virus has climbed above 2% for the first time since the end of September. That metric doesn’t include rapid antigen test results. Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency late Friday. While the variant known as omicron hasn’t been found in the U.S., Hochul warned, “it’s coming.”
—“NYC reinstitutes COVID-19 mask advisory ‘at all times’ indoors regardless of vaccination status” via Spencer Kimball of CNBC
—”Oklahoma bid for Guard exception to vaccine mandate denied” via Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns of The Associated Press
“‘Vaccine’ is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year” via Paulina Firozi of Florida Phoenix — After a year marked by the nation’s immunization effort, from early scrambles to get appointments for shots against the coronavirus, campaigns meant to incentivize holdouts, and now a push for boosters, Merriam-Webster determined “vaccine” is the word of the year for 2021. Searches for the word “vaccine” increased by 601% this year at Merriam-Webster.com, according to the dictionary company, which chooses its word of the year based on lookup data. The winning word seems fitting in 2020, Merriam-Webster announced that “pandemic” was the word of the year. Interest in the word “vaccine” has been up since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to Merriam-Webster, lookups for the word surged 1,048% from 2019 to 2021.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Panicked Democrats are ready to shove Biden aside. Again.” via Matt Bai of The Washington Post — Ten months into Biden’s term, panicky Democrats have already begun to speculate on who might take his place on the ticket in 2024, despite Biden’s assurances that he intends to stand for re-election. But if there’s one Democrat in Washington who isn’t feeling panicky right now, I’m betting it’s the President himself. For Biden, being written off as too old and out of his depth isn’t exactly a gut punch. It’s more like another day in the last 30 years. What Biden knows, after three-plus decades of being politically left for dead, is that nothing’s over just because a bunch of unnamed staffers who spend too much time reading polls say it’s over.
“Why a ‘Sister Souljah moment’ won’t save Biden” via Seth Masket of POLITICO — Biden needs a “Sister Souljah moment.” At least, that’s according to the quickly congealing conventional wisdom in Washington. That is, Biden and Democrats are in dire danger of losing control of Congress next year, and the one thing that could save them would be by bashing someone to Biden’s left on matters of race. Calls to do just that are coming from conservative anti-Trump voices, seeking to make Biden and Democrats more acceptable to the general population. The party has a long history of both advocating for civil rights and then blaming that advocacy for its losses. Bill Clinton’s maneuver was seen as a way to demonstrate his and his party’s rightward shift in a ploy for electability.
“White House official travels to Miami to smooth over FARC delisting controversy” via Nora Gamez Torres and Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez is meeting members of the Colombian community in Miami on Monday to smooth over the controversy around the Biden administration’s recent decision to drop the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. The trip comes after critical statements by Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Colombian American Annette Taddeo, who is a Florida state Senator running for the Democratic nomination for Florida Governor. Taddeo, who left Colombia with her family fleeing from the violent conflict, told a local radio station the decision was “dangerous” and was poorly explained. Florida Republicans also criticized the decision, with Rubio calling it an “incentive” for other “narco-terrorists” in the region.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Food banks latest benefactors of Rick Scott salary donations” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Food banks in Tallahassee and Palm Beach County and a church outreach program that provides food and other necessities in Hardee County are the latest benefactors of U.S. Sen. Scott‘s pledge to donate his government salary to charities. Scott, a first-term Senator, announced Monday he is donating his third quarter Senate pay to the Hardee Help Center in Wauchula, the Palm Beach County Food Bank in Lake Worth and the Second Harvest of the Big Bend located in Tallahassee. U.S. Senators are paid $174,000 a year, so a quarter would be $43,500. “Today, my wife, Ann Scott, and I are proud to support three great organizations that are working day-in and day-out to help Florida families with food and resources they may need in the face of hardship,” Scott said in a news release.
“Wake for late-U. S. Rep. Carrie Meek planned for Wednesday at Miami Dade College” via Bianca Padro Ocasio of the Miami Herald — A wake for former Meek, who died Sunday after a long illness, will take place at Miami-Dade College’s North Campus on Wednesday, relatives told the Miami Herald. The time is not yet confirmed. An official funeral service is planned for Dec. 7. The family did not immediately say if the wake or funeral services will be open to the public, as they will be subject to health and safety protocols. But there will be a public viewing next Sunday. The planned location has not been confirmed.
— CRISIS —
“Jan. 6 investigators prepare to hold former Donald Trump admin official in contempt” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — The Jan. 6 select committee is gearing up to hold a former top Trump administration official in contempt of Congress, a spokesperson announced Monday. The House’s panel investigating the Capitol attack is poised to target Jeffrey Clark, who helmed the Justice Department’s environmental division during Trump’s presidency. If the full House green lights the move, Clark will become the second person referred to the Justice Department on contempt charges for refusing to comply with the probe after ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
“Orlando actor charged in Capitol riot almost talked way into staying in jail” via Jacques Billeaud of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An Orlando actor charged with storming the U.S. Capitol as a member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group nearly talked his way into remaining in jail after a judge heard on Monday that the Florida man was challenging the court’s authority over him. “A defendant who rejects the jurisdiction of the court, rejects being subject to the laws of the United States, rejects the rule of law is not typically released pretrial because that person cannot be trusted to comply with the conditions of pretrial release,” Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell warned James Beeks during a hearing in federal court in Washington. His chances of being released from jail seemed to wane as he offered answers that the judge said she couldn’t understand.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Trump allies work to place supporters in key election posts across the country, spurring fears about future vote challenges” via Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump and his supporters are pushing an ambitious plan to place Trump loyalists in key positions across the administration of U.S. elections. The effort goes far beyond the former President’s public broadsides against well-known Republican state officials who certified Biden’s victory, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Citing the need to make elections more secure, Trump allies are also seeking to replace officials across the nation, including volunteer poll watchers, paid precinct judges, elected county clerks and state attorneys general, according to state and local officials, as well as rally speeches, social media posts and campaign appearances by those seeking the positions.
“Defiant Lincoln Project lays out 2022 ‘road map’ for Republican defeat” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Lincoln Project has come under increased criticism of late, but its leaders continue to hold to its original mission: defeating Trumpism. The 2022 midterms may be headed to a Republican wave, but The Lincoln Project promises to stand in opposition, promises co-founder Reed Galen. The GOP’s goal, the spot argues, is to “pave the way for Trump’s return and a GOP takeover.” “We’re the Lincoln Project, and we’re here to do one thing: Defeat them,” the narration continues, urging the like-minded to “join us in the fight.” The new ad comes as other members of the group, including co-founder Rick Wilson, are actively defending the group’s continued relevance despite controversies of late.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“LeAnna Cumber fundraising in D.C. ahead of potential Jacksonville mayoral bid” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Among the major names on the host committee: former U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California; Jesse Panuccio, formerly of the Trump Justice Department and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity under then-Gov. Scott; and Brian McCormick, former Chief of Staff for former Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The event will be held at the home of Jim Ray, who was previously a senior adviser to the U.S. Transportation Department under then-Secretary Elaine Chao.
“Jacksonville men charged with falsifying voter registration forms” via Dan Scanlan of The Florid Times-Union — The discovery of at least 60 voter registration applications for people who were dead or did not authorize them has led to the arrest of two Jacksonville men, the State Attorney’s Office said. Devin Deangelo King was arrested on Nov. 3 and Jordan Rayeshaun Daniels on Nov. 17 on charges of criminal use of personal identification information, jail records show. Both are 33. Both the State Attorney’s Office and Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said the motive doesn’t appear to be political but for financial gain.
“Rented electric scooters are being allowed back in downtown Miami for five weeks” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Downtown Miami’s break from electric scooters lasted about a week, but they’re coming back with more regulations during a busy holiday season that brings thousands of art lovers and tourists to the city. Seven companies that rent out dockless electric scooters are allowed to operate again in downtown, Edgewater, Brickell and Coconut Grove after Miami commissioners voted on Monday to relaunch a temporary program they had canceled only days earlier. The vote allows the scooters back on the street for five more weeks. But this time, riders will be required to wear helmets. The commission also cut the number of scooters allowed to be parked on sidewalks to reduce clutter, and reduced hours of operation. Before, riders could use e-scooters until midnight. Now, the scooters can only be used between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“Saving birds to save ourselves: $2 million gift helps Florida’s ‘hidden gem’ science center soar” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Fort Myers News-Press — The gift from Philadelphia-area philanthropist K. Lisa Yang will help Central Florida’s nonprofit Archbold Biological Station “really focus on the good in avian ecology,” says Executive Director Hilary Swain. Classified as threatened by the Federal Endangered Species Act, scrub jays are endemic to Florida. Like many of the state’s cherished critters — panthers, gopher tortoises and manatees — they’re struggling against a rising tide of humans. Archbold is a rarity: a protected and multifaceted complex of nearly 10,000 acres on the peninsula’s sandy spine in Highlands County. Archbold’s jay census counts are the stuff of ornithological legend. Not only do they illustrate individual life spans, they show how and when immigrants move in or out of Archbold.
— TOP OPINION —
“The forgotten pandemic roars back to life” via David Dayen of The American Prospect — The emergence of a new variant called omicron, which appears to be more contagious than the dominant delta, has ended any hopes of herd immunity. We know little at this point about whether omicron is more symptomatic, but the fear about omicron evading vaccination protection is real, and why global markets are tanking and travel restrictions were instituted. We instituted normalcy at the metaphorical barrel of a gun and decided collateral damage was acceptable in the name of personal choice. This also created the malaise that has brought Biden low, and it’s hard not to see that as deliberate. From the conservative perspective, it’s been one of the most self-destructive political strategies in history. They sacrificed their own people to win a future election.
— OPINIONS —
“Biden is right to fight omicron with travel restrictions. But more must be done.” via Leana S. Wen for The Washington Post — Less than a day after South African researchers announced the discovery of a worrying new COVID-19 variant, Biden took swift action to restrict travel from eight southern African nations. This was a necessary move, but it’s not nearly enough to prevent the worst-case scenario: another virus surge that sets the United States back in our pandemic recovery. There is a lot unknown about the omicron variant. Banning travel from countries with high caseloads of omicron could slow its seeding into the United States. This buys time for scientists to find out how much danger omicron truly poses and for health officials to increase prevention efforts.
“Kevin McCarthy’s weakness on Lauren Boebert defines the GOP” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — Rep. Boebert told a racist story, and a lie to boot, about Rep. Ilhan Omar. McCarthy’s written statement indicated no disapproval, let alone condemnation of his member’s vile remarks. It should not be so hard for a House minority leader to show some degree of spine and set a minimal level of acceptable conduct for his members. McCarthy has done neither. He has consistently groveled before former President Donald Trump, fearing the wrath of his radicalized base. After Trump instigated an insurrection, McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring of the former President.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Florida House released its proposed congressional maps, appearing to favor Republicans as House Democrats continue to call foul.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— Gov. DeSantis is proposing additional raises and bonuses for law enforcement and first responders.
— And the intense debate over mask mandates in Florida has fueled the growth of what has now become a national organization, Moms for Liberty.
— Today’s Sunrise Interview is with Tiffany Justice, a former school board member and co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a group uniting parents to fight against what they see as shortsighted and destructive policies that they claim are hurting children and families.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
Spotted — At DeSantis’ Hanukkah Reception: Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, Reps. Mike Caruso and Randy Fine, Ellyn Bogdanoff, Stephanie Kopelousos, Jared Rosenstein, Ashley and Scott Ross, Derek Silver, James Uthmeier.
Eskamani to host toy drive benefiting Orlando nonprofits — Rep. Eskamani launched a “Team Anna Toy Drive” on Monday, inviting supporters to bring unwrapped toys for any age to her district office in Orlando, 1507 East Concord Street. Office staff will accept donations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays through Dec. 10. Collections will support Nathaniel’s Hope, which supports children with special needs, and United Against Poverty Orlando, which serves low-income families in Central Florida. More information on the toy drive is available on Eskamani’s Facebook page.
“‘It’s become an icon for Miami Beach Hanukkah.’ Shell menorah artist reflects on 20 years” via Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Roger Abramson searched through a red Folgers coffee canister looking for the perfect shell to fill a hole on his oversized menorah. Twenty years and more than 45,000 shells later, the menorah and an equally large dreidel still serve as a gathering point on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road during the holiday season. On Sunday, the community will congregate around Abramson’s unique creations to mark the first night of Hanukkah, which is also known as the festival of lights. The holiday, which lasts eight nights and marks the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after Jews were banned from practicing there more than 2,000 years ago, is early this year. The celebration is open to everyone and will include music, a fire show and traditional food including latkes. The menorah lighting, in which oil is lit on fire, will be at 6 p.m.
“Christmas on Las Olas turns Fort Lauderdale into a winter wonderland on Tuesday” via Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After a rather low-key edition last year because of the coronavirus-lump-of-coal that the pandemic left in the world’s stocking, Christmas on Las Olas’ light will once again shine bright for the 59th annual celebration. Rain or shine (or presumably snow) the family-friendly festivities will happen from 5-10 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, according to the Las Olas Association, the event producer.
“Hundreds gather at Fort Walton Landing for lighting of Christmas tree” via Devon Ravine of the Northwest Florida Daily News — With lights and sirens blaring, Santa Claus rode into town atop a Fort Walton Beach fire truck to help kick off the holiday season with the city’s “Light Up the Night” event at the Fort Walton Landing. Claus waded through hundreds of admirers, posing for pictures before reading a story to the assembled crowd. Fort Walton Beach Mayor Dick Rynearson led the countdown to the official lighting of the 30-foot-tall Christmas tree and the other decorations that dotted the downtown park.
“Tampa Riverwalk to light up for the holidays” via Fox 13 News — The city of Tampa is kicking off the Riverwalk’s annual Holiday Spectacular Monday night. Mayor Jane Castor will flip the switch during a special tree-lighting ceremony. The event starts at 6 p.m. near the Convention Center docks and, like most festive events on the Riverwalk, the Holiday Spectacular is free for all ages. The lights will stay on through Jan. 2. The next big holiday event along the Riverwalk is the lighted boat parade on Saturday, Dec. 18.
“Sarasota Holiday Parade to celebrate its silver anniversary on Saturday” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After a hiatus in 2020 because of the pandemic, the Sarasota Holiday Parade will return this year. The event, which starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, marks the parade’s 25th anniversary. In honor of the silver anniversary, the parade’s theme is silver bells. The 25th anniversary was supposed to be celebrated in 2020, but was postponed “in the interest of our community’s health and safety,” according to the event’s Facebook page. Saturday’s parade will include the Baltimore Orioles mascot, Florida Studio Theatre, Art & Soul Dance Company and three marching bands, among other organizations. Santa will also make a special appearance.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is our friend, Mark Kaplan, VP for government and community relations at the University of Florida, who last year was included in INFLUENCE Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in Florida politics. Also celebrating today are state Reps. Yvonne Hinson and Bob Rommel, Eddie Borrego, Phil Compton, and former Rep. Keith Fitzgerald.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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