Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.
The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit kicks off at 9 a.m. in Orlando.
The event will focus on Florida’s education and workforce development needs and the work that can be done from cradle to career to ensure our future workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.
Notably, the 2021 edition of the Summit is the Chamber Foundation’s since it launched the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative, a united front for the organization’s efforts to combat poverty, improve educational outcomes and boost workplace diversity and inclusion.
Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson and Kyle Baltich, who is helming the initiative, will open the summit. Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish will follow with a preview of new research on the state’s future workforce needs.
The agenda that follows is jam-packed with policymakers and thought leaders in education, who will provide a comprehensive look at how the Sunshine State can build a workforce able to adapt to those needs, whatever they may be.
Topics on the agenda include a look into early learning in the Sunshine State, the changing landscape of middle and high school, the pathways for students entering higher education, adult education, and reentry opportunities.
Speakers will include Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch, Lottery Secretary John Davis, Florida Gulf Coast University President Michael Martin, Office of Early Learning Executive Director Shan Goff, and Florida Department of Education Chancellor Henry Mack.
House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee Chair Vance Aloupis, a stalwart advocate for early education, will bring it home in discussion with Children’s Movement of Florida President Madeleine Thakur titled “Where do we go from here? Policy that aids education.”
A full agenda and registration information are available online.
The team at Bascom Communications & Consulting is continuing to grow with the addition of recent University of Florida graduate Kelsi Snow.
Snow joins the seasoned, powerhouse team of professionals at Bascom as a communications assistant, specializing in research, the development of owned media content, and crafting messaging for various advocacy campaigns, to provide support to Bascom’s broad roster of clients.
Snow joins Bascom after interning for an NYC publicist, where she gained firsthand experience in developing written materials for clients, event planning, voice technology, and social media campaigns.
Snow graduated from UF with a degree in public relations and a minor in leadership. While at UF, Snow was involved in Florida Blue Key, Student Government, Preview Orientation, Reitz Scholars, and the Association for Media Professionals.
Born and raised in Fort Myers, Snow now resides in Tallahassee with her kitten, Liberty.
Matthew Henderson has joined the House Democratic Office as the legislative analyst for the Ways & Means and Judiciary committees.
After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in finance, Henderson went to work at E-Trade as an internal auditor. He started at the height of the Great Recession and witnessed firsthand the effects it had on Americans.
This exposure to the dire financial straits faced by millions across the country led Henderson, a Tampa native, to return to the Sunshine State and pursue a law degree from Florida State University.
As a law student, Henderson researched and wrote about legislative power and election law. He eventually served as the executive editor of the FSU Law Review.
Henderson first started working with the House Democratic Office as a clerk, then as the Legislative intern for the 2020 Legislative Session.
Away from the Capitol, Henderson can be found hiking or paddling North Florida’s many nature trails and waterways. His dog’s name is Bolt, and he is very, very good.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— Andrew Ba Tran (@abtran) June 14, 2021
—@Districtai: So far have analyzed over 5000 tweets from Miami Herald. Only 4 times (over 50 mentions) has a headline with (Ron) DeSantis‘ name in it been more positive than negative (using polarity From Vader Sentiment). More work to be done and, of course, the usual caveats.
Good afternoon! Got bored last night so I made a 2030 Census Reapportionment map based on current population growth. Some interesting outcomes here- OH, MI, and NY lose nothing, but CA, MT, and MN drop one. The spare seats go to TX, FL, and the Mountain West. pic.twitter.com/k3XDjyxezY
— Dane Hammond (@_daneiel_) June 14, 2021
—@SamHolsington: there is not a single person in your newsroom who makes more public-facing editorial decisions than audience/social editors
— TOI Mumbai (@TOIMumbai) June 13, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Father’s Day — 5; Amazon Prime Day — 6; New York City Mayoral Primary — 7; Microsoft reveals major Windows update — 9; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 10; Bruce Springsteen revives solo show, “Springsteen on Broadway” — 11; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 16; Fourth of July — 19; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 24; MLB All-Star Game — 28; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 35; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 38; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 38; the NBA Draft — 48; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 50; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 56; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 64; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 70; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 79; NFL regular season begins — 86; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 91; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 97; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 101; ‘Dune’ premieres — 108; MLB regular season ends — 110; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 115; World Series Game 1 — 134; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 140; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 140; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 143; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 157; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 164; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 178; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 188; NFL season ends — 208; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 210; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 210; NFL playoffs begin — 214; Super Bowl LVI — 243; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 283; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 325; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 352; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 388; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 479; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 514.
“Ron DeSantis signs legislation sought by Florida Jewish leaders, blisters U.N.” via John Kennedy of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis signed into law Monday measures sought by Florida Jewish leaders, a moment of silence requirement at schools and another advancing a volunteer ambulance service used by conservative Jewish communities. DeSantis, up for reelection next year, reminded those attending the bill signings at an Orthodox synagogue and community center in the Miami area of his 2019 trade mission to Israel and earlier endorsement of legislation aimed at fighting antisemitism in Florida schools. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez touted him as “the most pro-Israel Governor in all of America.” Rep. Randy Fine, who sponsored the measure (HB 529), said it will give students time for reflection, with teachers prohibited from making any suggestions about using the moment.
— 2022 —
“Another poll shows Charlie Crist leading Nikki Fried by double digits” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Political Matrix/Listener Group released survey results Monday showing Crist leading the race with nearly 41% support to Fried’s almost 31%. A remaining 29% remain undecided. The just over 10 percentage point lead is commanding, and it’s outside the poll’s 4.5% margin of error. Yet, it’s more modest than what other polling indicates. But of note, the poll also shows Crist faring better among what should be Fried’s natural base: women. Among women surveyed, Crist leads with more than 43% of the vote to Fried’s just over 28%. The poll also found Crist dominating among Black voters, where he leads with nearly 40% to Fried 26%.
“Fried: DeSantis seeks ‘race war’ with critical race theory ban” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Fried, appearing on WJCT-FM’s “First Coast Connect,” was answering a listener question about the recently instituted Board of Education ban on teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project, when she made the comment critical of the recent rule change. “This is another opportunity for the Governor to create a race war and cultural war, inside of our state,” Fried told host Melissa Ross. “I want everybody to rest assured. First of all, critical race theory is the new boogeyman of the Republican Party. It’s not something that’s taught in the state of Florida,” Fried noted. “But we need to let our teachers do their jobs, and that’s teach.”
“Fried’s campaign site was liberal in English, moderate in Spanish until she was questioned” via Adrian Carrasquillo of Newsweek — Fried … touts being an advocate for criminal justice reform, taking on the NRA, and fighting to protect the environment. But as of Friday, all of that was missing from her Spanish-language website. Asked about the discrepancy by Newsweek, Fried’s team quickly added the language in Spanish and fleshed out her biography on the page within two hours of the initial request for comment.
“Marco Rubio-Val Demings 2022 showdown could become most expensive Senate race ever” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — A day after she launched a much-anticipated 2022 Democratic challenge against Sen. Rubio of Florida, Rep. Demings spotlighted a surge in fundraising. Sources close to Deming’s campaign said Orlando’s first female police chief-turned-congresswoman hauled in roughly $1 million in the day after she declared her Senate candidacy. “The outpouring of support I’ve received in the past few days has been humbling,” she said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Demings tweeted on Friday. Democrats touted that the fundraising figure was an early sign of Demings’ momentum.
“Rubio’s play for anti-China vote” via Lachlan Markay of Axios — Rubio is making a play for China hawks in Florida as he braces for a competitive re-election fight next year, records show. Why it matters: Hostility toward communism drove a significant number of Latino voters in Florida into the Republican column in 2020. The Rubio campaign’s focus on China can capitalize on that trend and a wider — and widening — American mistrust of Beijing. What’s new: Rubio allies have spent the past year quietly building a list of voters motivated by anti-China sentiment. Now his campaign is openly hitting up their inboxes. Rubio campaign emails with subject lines such as, ‘Dems <3 China,’ and, ‘Is it time to stand up to Communist China?’ have started going out to a list maintained by a nonprofit group called Stand Up to China.
“Civil rights attorney and legislator Michele Rayner to run for Crist’s seat” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Her decision to run places an up-and-coming progressive candidate into what will be a highly competitive primary. Rayner said she is running for Congress as part of an effort to hold on to a Democratic-held seat and to put herself in a place where she can “best serve” her community. “Public service has been at the center of every decision I make,” Rayner said. “What we know about Tallahassee is that’s it’s very broken, and it’s been broken for a very long time. … My whole life has been about my public service. … It comes down to where I can do the most good.”
To watch her announcement video, click on the image below:
“Anna Paulina Luna launches measured ad, ‘Ditch’” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Luna launched a new digital ad Monday in her race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The 60-second digital ad, titled “Ditch,” walks viewers through a brief story of Luna’s life. It begins with a clarion call to conservatives. “My mom chose life over abortion and decided to have me,” she says in the ad. Yet the ad takes a markedly different tone than many in Luna’s previous bid for the seat last year against incumbent Crist. Running against an incumbent last cycle, Luna’s paid media was often full of obvious conservative imagery, with guns and muscle cars. Instead of donning military fatigues, a nod to her service in the U.S. Air Force, loaded up with guns, Luna narrates the ad in a red blouse and tells a story sure to pull at anyone’s heartstrings, regardless of party affiliation.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
“Luna says potential political opponents conspired to kill her” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Luna has obtained a stalking injunction against William Braddock, a St. Petersburg resident who plans to register as a Republican candidate for the congressional seat. In her petition for an injunction, Luna says she “received information yesterday (at midnight) regarding a plan (with a timeline) to murder me made by William Braddock in an effort to prevent me from winning the election for FL-13,” Luna wrote. The injunction also claims Braddock is working alongside her “political opponents,” Matt Tito and Amanda Makki. Braddock said he doesn’t even have Luna’s number and has only been around her in person once. “This woman is off her rocker, and she does not need to be representing anyone,” Braddock said.
“Orlando state Rep. Kamia Brown to run for state Senate to succeed Randolph Bracy” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The reshuffling of Central Florida politics following U.S. Rep. Val Demings’ run for U.S. Senate continues, with state Rep. Brown filing to run for state Senate. Brown is running in the district currently represented by state Sen. Bracy, who is vacating his seat to run for Congress to succeed Demings. In her third term as a state representative, Brown is currently the only candidate filed to run in Senate District 11. Bracy will face former state attorney Aramis Ayala and civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson in the Democratic congressional primary in Demings’ district. Orlando City Commissioner Bakari Burns is also considering a run.
“Brenda Priestly Jackson eyes at-large Council seat, while Kimberly Daniels files for District 10” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — After considering a run for Mayor, Jacksonville City Council member Priestly Jackson said Monday she will seek election in 2023 to an at-large Council seat, a plan that brought former state lawmaker and self-proclaimed “demon buster” Daniels into what has suddenly become a wide-open race for District 10. Priestly Jackson won the District 10 Council election in 2019 and could have sought a second term in that seat, so a run by her for an at-large seat turns District 10 into a competitive contest in 2023. Daniels, who has called herself a demon buster through her ministry, is returning to the political scene after losing a reelection bid to the state House in 2020.
“Naples Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison running for reelection in 2022” via Omar Rodriguez Ortiz of the Naples Daily News — Hutchison is running for reelection to the Naples City Council, he announced Friday. Hutchison also filed a form last month designating a campaign treasurer and bank account for the election in February 2022. The Councilman was elected in 2018 along with Councilwoman Linda Penniman and Councilman Gary Price. City of Naples elections are nonpartisan, and Council members are elected at large. The top three vote-getters are elected to Council seats. In the 2018 election, Hutchison received 2,376 votes, or 25.9% of the votes, making him the third out of four candidates to receive the most votes.
“Realtors back affordable housing ballot proposal” via News Service of Florida — After years of battles about lawmakers using affordable housing money for other purposes, Florida Realtors is backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would dedicate tax dollars for housing programs. The Florida Department of State on Friday gave initial approval to the proposal by a political committee known as Floridians for Housing. Florida Realtors has provided $5 million to the political committee since March 31, finance reports show. The proposed constitutional amendment would dedicate 25% of documentary-stamp tax revenues to affordable housing programs. “Funds may be expended only to address affordable housing access and availability, including funding of programs addressing new construction, down payment and closing cost assistance, rehabilitation and financing for affordable housing development,” a ballot summary of the proposal says.
“Elections law draws another challenge” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — A case filed Monday in federal court alleges that part of the new elections law placing requirements on voter-registration organizations is unconstitutional. Filed on behalf of the groups HeadCount and the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters Corp., the latest case is narrowly tailored to one section of the law that involves what are known as third-party voter-registration organizations. The law, in part, requires the organizations to inform voter-registration applicants that the organizations might not meet legal deadlines for delivering forms to elections officials. Also, the organizations are required to tell applicants how to register online. The challenge, filed in federal district court in Tallahassee, contends the law (SB 90) requires a “misleading warning” and violates First Amendment rights.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis: Antisemitism in other states is driving people to Florida” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis suggested that anti-Semitism is the latest issue prompting Americans to pack their bags and head to Florida. “When you look at some of these other states, they’re driving people away,” DeSantis said. “Bad taxes, bad lockdowns, and all these other things. I’ll tell you, in some of these states, anti-Semitism is out of control, and it’s driving people to come to Florida.” The Republican Governor’s remarks come as elected leaders grapple with the nationwide surge of antisemitic attacks sparked by escalating tensions between Israel and Palestine. In recent weeks, numerous hate crimes against American Jews have been carried out in cities including Los Angeles and New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed state police to increase patrols in Jewish neighborhoods.
—“DeSantis bemoans ‘corrupt’ U.N. in speech backing Israel” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics
“Bill honoring Kristin Jacobs goes to Governor” via News Service of Florida — A proposal to name a coral reef system after the late state Rep. Jacobs, a Broward County Democrat and leader on environmental issues, has gone to DeSantis. HB 217 would designate the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area as the Kristin Jacobs Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area. Jacobs died of cancer in April 2020. The conservation area sits off Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, running from the northern boundary of Biscayne National Park to the St. Lucie Inlet. Under the bill, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would erect markers designating the area in honor of Jacobs. DeSantis will have 15 days to act on the bill.
“Civics education overhaul lands on Gov’s desk” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Civics curriculum in Florida will receive an overhaul if DeSantis signs two bills now sitting on his desk. DeSantis has said he wants more civics education for Florida students. He already rolled out the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative in March at a news conference in Naples. That program will make Florida “the national leader in civics education” and “get politicization out of the curriculum.” DeSantis has made it clear he does not support critical race theory being a part of the civics education curriculum in Florida. DeSantis supported a measure approved by the state Board of Education stipulating that American history is to be defined “largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”
“Purple Alert bill lands on DeSantis’ desk” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill that would create an alert system to help locate missing individuals with cognitive disabilities landed Monday on DeSantis’ desk. Sponsored by Sen. Lori Berman, the bill (SB 184) would establish a Purple Alert system under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The Purple Alert system would dispatch alerts for a missing adult who is in danger and has a mental or cognitive disability, a brain injury, or another physical, mental or emotional disability. The bill passed nearly unanimously in both chambers. Wandering can be a danger to a person with limited cognitive abilities. About 12% to 60% of individuals with a cognitive disability wander, and about 5% of wandering instances result in physical harm.
“Auto insurance flexibility bill hits DeSantis’ desk” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers have presented DeSantis a bill to allow auto insurance policyholders to fully exclude members of their household from their policy. Currently, the Office of Insurance Regulation requires that insurers provide the minimum coverage even for drivers explicitly excluded from the policy. Under Sen. Ed Hooper‘s proposal (SB 420), policyholders could completely exclude a driver, such as a reckless teenager, from their policy to keep their premiums down or get maintain coverage. The excluded driver would need to have their own car and own policy to keep driving. In effect, policyholders could compartmentalize their high-risk family members into coverage from “substandard” carriers.
“DeSantis reappoints three to Enterprise Florida Board of Directors” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Monday reappointed three to the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors: Sonya Deen Hartley, Scott Ross and Cody Khan. Deen Hartley is vice president of government relations for JM Family Enterprises. Previously, she was a senior director with Diageo. Ross is a partner at Capital City Consulting and a former deputy secretary at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He served on the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission for the 115h Congress. Khan is a hospitality industry executive. He is the chairman and CEO of Oasis Resorts, the vice chairman of Hilton Inc. and president and CEO of Holiday Golf Course.
Happening today — The Florida Public Service Commission meets to discuss proposed “decommissioning” costs if Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear plants are shut down, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee. Online link here.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis’ much-touted Florida E-Verify immigration law snares no one” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Private employers in Florida have been required to use E-Verify, a federal system for checking the legal status of a potential hire, since the start of the year. But there have been no complaints made to the state agency in charge of enforcing the law in the five and a half months it’s been in effect. A Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman said there had been no complaints and no enforcement measures taken against any employers since the provisions affecting private businesses took effect on Jan. 1.
“Shevrin Jones says Governor, GOP ‘ginning up faux outrage’ over critical race theory” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones is calling out Republicans for leading a push to block critical race theory from being taught in Florida. The theory teaches that racism is ingrained in certain political and social structures, and the effects of those systems persist in America. Republicans argue it promotes hatred of White people who have benefited from the systems the theory decries. DeSantis has backed calls to ban the theory from being taught in public schools, though it’s typically taught at a college or graduate level and not typically under the name “critical race theory.” Republicans say they’re worried portions of the theory could trickle down to K-12 education and promote racial divisiveness. Jones argued they were simply concocting a new culture war.
I just confronted @GovRonDeSantis on him banning teachers from teaching about racism in schools. He is playing political games with our freedom of speech and it’s up to us to confront him and defend our freedom from authoritarians like Desantis. pic.twitter.com/y4xJHDJ7ak
— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) June 14, 2021
“Randolph Bracy, Geraldine Thompson defend critical race theory” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Want to know why critical race theory education is important? Bracy and Thompson challenged those wondering Monday to visit the Wells’Built Museum in Orlando or some other Florida museum of African American history and culture. Look closely at old photographs and artifacts. “Last week, the State Board of Education passed a resolution prohibiting instruction on critical race theory. And that is to minimize and actually to disregard the role and the impact that race has had in our society,” Thompson said. Bracy said he worked with Senate President Wilton Simpson and drew consultation from Thompson to get the money into the budget to spread federal relief from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic stimulus into African American arts and culture.
“State asks for more time on potential Medicaid boost” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — The DeSantis’ administration is asking the federal government for additional time “to consider the potential impacts” of drawing down hundreds of millions of dollars in additional federal Medicaid money for home- and community-based services. In an email to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Karen Williams of the state Medicaid office said Florida wants a 30-day extension, which would give the state until July 12 to submit a plan to the federal government. The American Rescue Plan Act, a stimulus package signed in March by Biden, included provisions that allow states to tap into additional federal Medicaid funding for several different groups and services, some of which Florida has taken advantage of, and others not.
Happening today — A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal will take up a lawsuit by the growth-management group 1000 Friends of Florida, targets part of a 2019 law dealing with attorney fees in disputes about whether local development orders are consistent with comprehensive growth-management plans, 2 p.m. Watch online here.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Rural COVID-19 vaccinations lag” via The News Service of Florida — COVID-19 vaccination rates lag in vast swaths of rural Florida compared to the rest of the state, a pattern that also has been seen in other areas of the country, a new report shows. The report, released Friday by the state Department of Health, said 55% of people in Florida ages 12 and older had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But in 23 of the state’s 67 counties, the rates were below 40%. The CDC report pointed to issues such as rural residents having to travel farther for vaccinations and cited vaccine “hesitancy” in rural areas that is a “major barrier that public health practitioners, health care providers, and local partners need to address to achieve vaccination equity.”
“Armed at Disney World: More tourists caught with concealed guns during the pandemic” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Planning to go to a firing range later, Mustafa Alameen, an Iraqi immigrant, said he forgot he had 100 rounds of ammunition and a handgun in an otherwise empty stroller when he arrived at Disney Springs this year. The 21-year-old stepped through the security detector, and when an alarm went off, he realized his mistake. But it was too late, and he was arrested. Disney World, the biggest theme park resort on the planet, has seen a spike of people arrested and charged with carrying concealed firearms over the past year, despite being closed for months and operating at reduced capacity because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
— CORONA NATION —
“Positive COVID-19 tests fall to lowest recorded rate” via Brianna Abbott of The Wall Street Journal — The proportion of COVID-19 laboratory tests that are coming back positive is at the lowest recorded point since the pandemic took hold in the U.S., a sign of progress as the country moves ahead with reopening. Laboratories processed more than 677,000 laboratory-based COVID-19 tests a day on average during the week ended June 3, down from the peak of more than two million during the fall and winter, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 2% of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive, compared with more than 13% during the height of the winter surge, according to Johns Hopkins University, which compiles COVID-19 testing and case data in the U.S.
“‘Delta’ likely to become dominant coronavirus variant in U.S., former FDA official said” via Katie Camero of the Miami Herald — The “Delta” coronavirus variant first discovered in India is raising some concerns in the U.S. as the number of infections caused by it doubles every week, according to former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Gottlieb said Delta is “probably” going to become the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S., making up about 10% of current infections and posing greater risks to communities with low vaccination rates. Emerging evidence from other countries shows Delta is more contagious, increases disease severity such as risks of hospitalization, and is associated with a “modest” decrease in antibody activity in previously infected and vaccinated people.
“Coronavirus infections dropping where people are vaccinated, rising where they are not” via Dan Keating, Naema Ahmed, Fenit Nirappil, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post — States with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates, The Post found. Poorly vaccinated communities have not been reporting catastrophic conditions. Instead, they are usually seeing new infections holding steady or increasing without overwhelming local hospitals. As recently as 10 days ago, vaccination rates did not predict a difference in coronavirus cases, but immunization rates have diverged, and case counts in the highly vaccinated states are dropping quickly. Vaccination is not always even within each state, and The Post found the connection between vaccine shots and coronavirus cases at the local level comparing more than 100 counties with low vaccination rates (fewer than 20% of residents vaccinated) and more than 700 with high vaccination rates (at least 40% vaccinated).
“Anti-vax groups rack up victories against COVID-19 push” via Lauren Gardner of POLITICO — The partisan divide over the country’s pandemic response has reinvigorated the anti-vaccine movement nationwide, with mostly Republican lawmakers in nearly 40 states backing bills to restrict COVID-19 vaccine mandates or vaccine passports. Anti-vaccine fervor that was previously concentrated in specific communities spread more widely during the pandemic as the U.S. government urged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. As a result, at least six states have enacted legislation to limit COVID-19 shot mandates, giving vaccine opponents some of their most prominent victories in recent memory.
“Vermont becomes first state to reach 80% vaccine threshold” via Erin Doherty of Axios — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday that 80% of its eligible population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vermont is the first state in the country to reach that threshold. As a result, Scott said he is removing all COVID-19 restrictions. Vermont has led in vaccinations nationwide, and cases have been declining steadily in the state. As of June 14, Vermont’s 14-day change in cases had declined by 34%, and hospitalizations were down by 78%. In addition, 70% of adults in 12 U.S. states have received at least one shot as of June 2. Overall, 64.4% of Americans nationwide have received at least one dose.
“How the virus unraveled Hispanic American families” via Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — Hispanic American communities have been pummeled by a higher rate of infections than any other racial or ethnic group and have experienced hospitalizations and deaths at rates exceeded only by those among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. But new research shows the coronavirus has also attacked Hispanic Americans in an especially insidious way: They were younger when they died. They are much more likely than White Americans to have died of COVID-19 before age 65, often in the prime of life and at the height of their productive years. A recent study of California deaths found that Hispanic Americans aged 20 to 54 were 8.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than White Americans in that age range.
“America giddy with post-pandemic normalcy: Baseball, church, proms, weddings, vacation getaways” via Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times — Tuxedo rentals at Men’s Wearhouse are nearing 2019 levels after hardly any event business in February, Sam’s Club is selling more party supplies, and librarians are “practically giddy” seeing children come for story time. A lot of the talk of post-lockdown life is about big-ticket pleasures. Americans are filling ballparks, Broadway is staging a September comeback and travel agents are booking dream vacations. Other signals that everyday life is returning are quieter — even mundane. Jiffy Lube said more vehicles are coming through its service bays as Americans get back on the road. IWSR Drinks Market Analysis says the alcohol beverage market is projected to grow in volume by 2.9% by the end of 2021.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Rural farmworkers who struggled to get unemployment benefits say CONNECT is not equitable for all” via Heather Leigh of ABC Action News — By now, many are well aware of how difficult it can be to get unemployment benefits in Florida. But farmers that live in rural parts of the state say they have had an even more difficult time and don’t believe access to the site is equitable for all. As COVID-19 took over 2020, farming was a dangerous job to be in, according to Roberto Cruz, the Farmworker Advocacy Director at Florida Rural Legal Services. “Once they lose their employment, they not only lose their employment for themselves but for their whole family,” he said. And homelessness became a real threat for many, according to Cruz. Yet, gaining access to the system proved incredibly difficult.
“Struggling to pay rent because of COVID-19? Here’s how to apply for aid in Miami-Dade” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade residents struggling to pay rent during the pandemic can now apply for the county’s emergency rental assistance program. Applications became available again at 9 a.m. June 14. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. on June 25. Tenants apply for the relief and, if approved, the rent payment will be mailed directly to their landlords. Landlords can also refer their tenants to the program. Caseworkers hired by the county will contact the renters to start the application process. The program has already helped nearly 1,600 families with an average award of $7,500, totaling nearly $12 million in relief since March.
— MORE CORONA —
“Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine is 90% effective, study finds” via Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — Novavax, a Maryland biotechnology company that endured delays in developing a coronavirus vaccine, revealed results showing that the world is close to having another shot that prevents illness and death, stops virus variants and proves easy to store. The two-shot regimen was 90% effective at preventing people from falling ill in a 30,000-person trial conducted when variants had begun to complicate the pandemic in the United States and Mexico. Vaccinated people were completely protected against severe and even moderate cases of illness. There were no cases of hospitalization or death among people who received the vaccine. The shots also may be the most tolerable yet tested.
“NYC to throw ticker-tape parade in July to celebrate health care heroes, essential workers” via Marta Zielinska and Steve Burns of WCBS NewsRadio 880 — Mayor Bill de Blasio is following through on a promise he made last year to celebrate the city’s health care heroes and essential workers with a ticker-tape parade. The event honoring New York City’s “hometown heroes” will be held at 11 a.m. July 7 in the Canyon of Heroes. The parade will kick off in Battery Park and end with a ceremony in City Hall Park. “This year that we’ve been through, it has literally been the greatest crisis in the history of New York City. We were knocked down, but we got back up, and that’s something to celebrate about this city,” de Blasio said at his daily briefing Monday.
“Temp checks, digital menus and ‘touchless’ mustard: The maddening persistence of ‘hygiene theater’” via Marc Fisher of The Washington Post — At an ice cream shop in Rockville, gloved servers scoop the frozen treat into cups, but a sign taped to the front window says “No cones: COVID.” At McDonald’s outlets along I-95 in Virginia, yellow police-style tape cordons off self-serve beverage stations. And at Nationals Park, baseball fans use a QR code and digital menu rather than ordering directly from the person who hands them their hot dog. None of these precautions provide meaningful protection against the spread of the coronavirus, safety experts say. Instead, they are examples of what critics call “hygiene theater.” As the COVID-19 death rate plummets and vaccinations soar, the persistence of these practices is frustrating folks who argue that their vaccinated status should free them from such restrictions.
“Man gets 10-year sentence for attacking and coughing on person who asked him to pull up mask” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — Shane Wayne Michael was approached by a patron and asked what’s become a familiar question during the coronavirus pandemic: Can you pull your mask over your nose? Police say that what happened next was a parking-lot fight in which Michael attacked Mark Dinning’s eyes and genitals. Dinning told authorities that Michael then pulled down his mask and began to cough and spit in his face. Michael’s sentence is among the sternest yet nationwide related to an argument over face coverings since the start of the pandemic.
What Cory Tilley is reading — “National parks are overcrowded and closing their gates” via Allison Pohle — Southeast Utah is among the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S., with two national parks and millions of undeveloped acres. But visitors are increasingly spending more time sitting in their cars as they wait to access the vast outdoors. “Anywhere you go, there’s going to be a line,” said Libby Preslock, who on a recent Thursday arrived at Arches National Park at 9 a.m. only to find that it was full and signs encouraged visitors to come back in three to five hours. She then headed to the area’s other national park, Canyonlands, where she waited about half an hour to get inside.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden nominated as many minority women to be judges in four months as Donald Trump had confirmed in four years” via Adrian Blanco of The Washington Post — President Biden and the Democrat-led Senate have moved quickly to boost minority and female representation on the federal courts following Trump’s four-year push to remake the judiciary, in which he nominated a large share of White, male justices. Biden’s early judicial slate represents a departure from his recent predecessors; his initial picks are more diverse, and Biden rolled out more nominations earlier in his presidency than others. As part of his call for a more diverse judiciary, Biden pledged to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“‘Full of s—‘: Candidates warned not to fake Trump endorsement” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Lynda Blanchard donated nearly $1 million to pro-Trump political committees, served as his ambassador to Slovenia, and launched her Alabama Senate campaign with a video spotlighting her Trump bumper sticker-adorned pickup truck. But the former President was annoyed after hearing from donors that Blanchard was hyping her connections to Trump and giving them the impression she had his backing. Trump, who was widely believed to be leaning toward Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican and a longtime ally who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the deadly Capitol riot, vented to his advisers that he barely knew Blanchard.
“Republicans who voted for impeachment face barrage of pro-Trump primary challengers” via Tyler Olsen of Fox News — Nine of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are already facing primary challenges, and some of them may have a very hard time holding on to their seats. Trump vows to work against those Republicans as they run for reelection in 2022 and has already endorsed one primary challenger and signaled more to come. “Get rid of them all,” Trump said of the Republicans who voted to impeach him. Liz Cheney, at the urging of Trump and his allies, was eventually deposed from her leadership post but still faces a horde of at least eight primary challengers aiming to remove her from office. Rep. Tom Rice is also facing a bevy of pro-Trump Republicans gunning for his job.
“The wreckage Trump left behind” via Tom McTague of The Atlantic — Everywhere you looked, you could see the unresolved questions of the past few years, as presidents and prime ministers reacted to the problems thrown up, exacerbated, or actively caused by Trump. All agreed that they wanted to move on from the instability of his tenure, but they seemed divided and unclear about how never mind what the new era should look like. With Biden’s congressional majority in doubt and Trump’s future intentions uncertain, Europe retains a latent fear that the U.S. is merely between eruptions, not recovering from one. Amanda Sloat, Biden’s adviser on European affairs who traveled with him to Cornwall, said the “overarching theme” of the summit was the rise of China.
— CRISIS —
“Couple pleads guilty to misdemeanor charge in Capitol attack” via Alan Feuer of The New York Times — A married couple from Virginia who illegally entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 with a protest sign questioning coronavirus vaccines pleaded guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, becoming the first two people charged with minor crimes to accept responsibility for their role in the assault on the building that day. Under an agreement with the government, the couple could be sentenced to as little as no prison time to six months in prison, a range that could serve as a bellwether for more than 200 other defendants facing only misdemeanor charges. Prosecutors did not make a sentencing recommendation for the Bustles, who also agreed to each pay $500 in restitution, their small part in defraying the estimated $1.4 million in damage inflicted on the Capitol.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Supreme Court rejects retroactive sentence reductions for small amounts of crack cocaine” via John Fritze of USA Today — The Supreme Court ruled against a Florida man who sought to have his sentence for a low-level drug crime reduced, holding that a bipartisan push in Congress in 2018 to ease such punishments didn’t address his circumstances. Though the question in the case was narrow, it arrived as bipartisan majorities in Congress have sought to rethink long sentences for relatively small amounts of drugs. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the court. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a concurring opinion in which she agreed with most of the court’s reasoning but described the outcome as “no small injustice” and encouraged Congress to change the law to address similar situations.
—”Supreme Court effectively delays challenge to Harvard affirmative action policies for several months” via Joan Biskupic of CNN
—”High court rejects 2 Virginia White nationalist rally cases” via The Associated Press
—”U.S. Supreme Court revives LinkedIn bid to shield personal data” via Andrew Chung of Reuters
“Kat Cammack labels U.S. universities ‘indoctrination camps’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Cammack labeled America’s college campuses “indoctrination camps” on Monday. The Gainesville Republican appeared with U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, where the two announced they will co-chair the Congressional Campus Free Speech Caucus. The House organization intends to work in concert with Young America’s Foundation to spotlight bias at institutions of higher education. “Let’s be honest, our college campuses these days, these aren’t higher education institutions,” Cammack said. “These are indoctrination camps.” While the group outwardly says it will advocate for the free speech rights of conservatives, Cammack focused during the national interview just as much on the expression of ideas she disagreed with as she did about preserving the right for students to exercise their own rights.
“Vern Buchanan urges ‘endangered’ status for manatees” via News Service of Florida — Four years after federal wildlife officials reclassified manatees from endangered to threatened, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan called Monday for a reversal of the decision. In a letter to Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Buchanan said a “staggering” 761 manatees had died this year, a pace that would exceed a previous record of 804 deaths in 2018. “Manatees are beloved, iconic mammals in Florida, and we should be doing everything in our power to protect them and ensure their continued survival,” Buchanan wrote in the letter. The Fish and Wildlife Service announced in March 2017 that it was “downlisting” manatees from endangered to threatened, citing increases in manatee populations and improvements in habitats.
“Serious dough for Scott Franklin” via Dave Levinthal, Warren Rojas and Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider — U.S. Rep. Franklin took care of some financial housekeeping last month that earned him a small fortune. According to his most recent disclosures, the Florida Republican and former insurance executive unloaded up to $165 million worth of shares in various companies on May 25. The sell-off, which was conducted via joint accounts and personal retirement holdings, included liquidating up to $10 million worth of shares in the commercial drugmaker Viatris; discarding $26 million to $55 million worth of shares in the financial-services firm Discover; and shedding $35 million to $100 million worth of stock in the telecommunications hub AT&T.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene misinformation show headed to Hillsborough” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — In August, Congresswoman Greene is the featured spreader of misinformation at the Hillsborough County GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner. This is not a joke, although I wish it were. She will really speak at a dinner that honors the man who freed the slaves. Try not to throw up in your mouth. Like her buddy Matt Gaetz, Greene is a lie-spewing narcissist, but there’s gold in those fibs. She raised an eyebrow-raising $3.2 million in the first quarter of 2021. Maybe it was her whacked-out conspiracy theories and support for online comments encouraging violence against Democratic officials before taking office.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Tampa City Council, Mayor’s office near compromise on police oversight board” via Matthew Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — Several Tampa City Council members said Monday that they’re open to compromise with Mayor Jane Castor’s administration on appointments to the city’s police oversight board. The Council voted in February to give themselves control over seven appointments, taking majority control away from the Mayor. But that plan hit a legal roadblock: According to City Attorney Gina Grimes, any changes had to be approved by Castor. At Monday’s meeting, John Bennett, Castor’s chief of staff, said that the Mayor’s administration supported a 5-5-1 split and would be open to the Council nominating the last member. And Council members said they’re ready to move on from the debate.
“Duval Health Department awarded $6.5 million from CDC to address disparities” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — The Duval County Health Department is one of just three Florida agencies announced to receive a major funding allotment from the CDC to address COVID-19-related health disparities. The $6.549 million award is part of a $2.25 billion nationwide investment that seeks to advance health equity by expanding state and local health department capacity and services. The grants are funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and included funding for the Florida Department of Health at $34.9 million and the Miami-Dade County Department of Health at $28 million. Duval Health Department officials did not respond to inquiries regarding what the $6.5 million will be used locally or why they were chosen.
“Following death of Councilman, St. Cloud City Council to discuss setting special election” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — After the death of a member of its City Council, St. Cloud will schedule a special election “as soon as practical” to fill the seat. Charles “Chuck” Cooper died over the weekend, the city announced Saturday. Cooper was 72. He was first elected to the Council in 1985 and served off and on since, including being reelected last year to the board with about 52% of the vote. In an announcement, City Manager Bill Sturgeon lauded his passion for the city. The Council is likely to discuss the timing of a special election at its next meeting, June 24.
“City, media urge justices to hear ‘Marsy’s Law’ case” via News Service of Florida — The city of Tallahassee and news media organizations filed briefs Monday arguing that the Florida Supreme Court should take up a legal battle about whether a 2018 constitutional amendment known as “Marsy’s Law” can shield the identities of police officers. The briefs came after the 1st District Court of Appeal in April sided with two Tallahassee police officers who invoked Marsy’s Law to prevent their identities from being released after use-of-force shooting incidents. Marsy’s Law is designed to bolster crime victims’ rights, and the officers argued they were victims in the incidents. Attorneys for the officers have not yet filed briefs. It is unclear when the Supreme Court will decide whether to take up the case.
“Leon Co. School Board member Alva Striplin will leave Children’s Services Council” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — Striplin, a Leon County School Board member, says she’s stepping down from the appointed board of the new Children’s Services Council. She also will be leaving her job as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend to accept a position at the Florida State University College of Law. However, she will remain on the school board. “This is not a decision I take lightly,” Striplin said. In April, Striplin said she was “very excited and honored” to serve on the Council in an interview. Striplin has long been outspoken about Tallahassee’s racial divides and added that she hoped to address those disparities on the CSC, which will address problems facing local children.
“Holy Boynton Beach! Who is the Caped Crusader keeping an eye out for city residents?” via Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post — For about the past 10 months, Batman has been patrolling the streets of Boynton Beach. Late-night sightings of the Caped Crusader have been all the rage on social media, drawing hundreds of comments on Facebook pages devoted to the city. Boynton’s Batman is a 22-year-old city resident with an affinity for superheroes, especially the protector of Gotham City. For safety reasons, he said he prefers to keep his identity private. At least a couple of times a week, he puts on 30 pounds of equipment and spends up to six hours cruising the vicinity of Congress Avenue.
— TOP OPINION —
“Anthony Rodriguez: Kendall Parkway is a net benefit to the environment, Everglades” via Florida Politics — The Kendall Parkway is the Gold Standard of multi-modal transportation because it provides mobility options for all. That is why the Florida Legislature passed legislation to expressly designate this transportation corridor as a top priority. As for the alleged impacts on our natural environment, the Kendall Parkway satisfies all applicable agricultural regulations and provides net benefits to the Everglades. In fact, after decades of waiting for the feds and state to begin Everglades Restoration in this region, the county will help by acquiring over 1,000 acres that are needed for CERP. As to its economic benefits, the Kendall Parkway is a “no-brainer” that will fuel South Florida’s economy.
— OPINIONS —
“Florida GOP comes up with a doozy of an excuse for banning vaccine passports on cruises” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Here’s the latest cynical ploy Florida’s GOP lawmakers have come up with to explain their shortsighted and irresponsible battle with the cruise industry over vaccine passports: We were only trying to protect minorities. That’s what the House sponsor of the measure, Republican Rep. Tom Leek said as he tried to justify the state ban that has thrown the cruising industry into limbo. Leek explained that he and other House Republicans think that requiring vaccinations would be unfair to minority populations because a higher percentage of White people have been vaccinated than Black or Hispanic people. Therefore, he said, requiring vaccines of people who get on board ships amounts to discrimination.
“A Supreme Court ruling means a rare win for public records rights in Florida” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The Florida Supreme Court has handed down an important; but increasingly rare, open records win that’s going to mean faster access to information not just for the state’s press corps but for all Floridians. The court last week finalized a new rule that no longer requires clerks of courts across Florida to be responsible for redacting confidential information from civil court documents. That responsibility used to fall, as it should, on those who file the documents, not those who store them. The Florida Bar correctly argued that the new rule “removes a burden from clerks and may also help remind all filers of their obligations to ensure what they file does not contain confidential or protected information.”
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Another promising young lawmaker has decided to get out of town. Rayner-Goolsby made history last year when she became the first openly LGBTQ+ Black woman elected to the state Legislature. Rayner is running for a congressional seat in Saint Petersburg being vacated by fellow Democrat Crist.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Gov. DeSantis travels to a Jewish School in Surfside to sign a bill mandating a moment of silence at the start of every day in public schools. It’s a not-so-subtle effort to put prayer back in the classroom.
— DeSantis was also heckled by a free speech demonstrator who was hustled from the building by several officers before he could say much.
— Attorney General Ashley Moody is thanking law enforcement officers; she traveled to the bustling metropolis of Perry in Taylor County as part of her “Thin Line Tribute.”
— And finally, a Florida Man was busted not for a gun … but the Samurai sword.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
What Michelle Schorsch is reading — “Thinner mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies” via Dee-Ann Durbin of The Associated Press — The Girl Scouts have an unusual problem this year: 15 million boxes of unsold cookies. The 109-year-old organization says the coronavirus, not thinner demand for Thin Mints, is the main culprit. Many troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. “This is unfortunate, but given this is a girl-driven program and the majority of cookies are sold in-person, it was to be expected,” said Kelly Parisi, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA. The impact will be felt by local Councils and troops, who depend on the cookie sales to fund programming, travel, camps and other activities. The Council is now encouraging people to buy boxes online through its Hometown Heroes program, which distributes cookies to health care workers, firefighters and others.
“Indian River State College to house new USA Diving headquarters” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A world-class diving facility is coming to Indian River State College’s Fort Pierce campus under a new partnership between the school and USA Diving. The facility plans were announced Friday during the 2020 Olympic Team Trials-Diving in Indianapolis. On hand were USAD President Lee Michaud, USAD Board Chair Dave Gascon, and IRSC President Timothy Moore. “Partnering with Indian River State College advances our purpose meaningfully and significantly. IRSC has a storied swimming and diving franchise and an unrivaled commitment to developing student-athletes in the sport,” Michaud said.
“Universal plans to open Epic Universe in ‘a couple of years’ — but no mention of Harry Potter” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Epic Universe will be the largest U.S. theme park in Universal’s portfolio, with attractions tapping into the intellectual property from Nintendo and the movie studios responsible for “Shrek” and the “Minions,” a company executive said Monday. Jeff Shell singled out the attractions based on “some of the Illumination and DreamWorks content but especially Nintendo,” although he didn’t provide further details on which characters from the films might appear. Theme park fans were quick to point out on social media that Shell didn’t bring up Harry Potter or its Fantastic Beasts spinoff. Shell said Epic Universe is opening “in a couple of years” near the Orange County Convention Center.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
A happy belated birthday to super-smart guy Drew Piers of Sachs Media. Celebrating today are Rep. Traci Koster, Ivette Faulkner of The Florida Chamber of Commerce, and lobbyist Travis Moore.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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