Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.
Senate President Wilton Simpson turned down a chance to speak at Donald Trump’s rally this past weekend in Sarasota. And while his team denies it, sources close to those who helped organize the rally say he changed his plans after he learned U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz was also on the speaker’s list.
Again, Team Simpson says the reason why the Trilby Republican did not speak was that he made last-minute plans to visit the Surfside condo collapse site.
But here’s the story that’s making the rounds. No one knew scandal-mired Gaetz would show up at the Sarasota rally on Saturday and demand time on stage, including other elected officials. While Gaetz ended up with an afternoon speaking slot, Simpson didn’t want a place anywhere on the same slate of speakers.
You know the biggest reason. The Fort Walton Beach Congressman, once one of Trump’s most reliable cable news cheerleaders, remains under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking of a minor.
The thing is, Simpson likely would be more welcome on the microphone these days than Gaetz. We hear Trump didn’t exactly clamor to provide Gaetz a venue. The ex-President offered only a tepid defense of Gaetz earlier this year. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him,” was the best Team Trump could muster in a statement.
Meanwhile, Trump gave a strong endorsement to Simpson for his expected-but-as-yet-unannounced bid for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, declaring, “Wilton will never let the great people of Florida down!”
Meanwhile, friction between Simpson and Gaetz goes back further than recent legal woes. Gaetz made headlines in January when he hinted at his own run for Agriculture Commissioner.
Simpson probably made the smart decision with his plans this past weekend. He and House Speaker Chris Sprowls accompanied Gov. Ron DeSantis to the site of the Surfside condo collapse, a pressing matter that also held the Governor in South Florida instead of Sarasota.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
It’s been six months since I took this photo after the attack on our Capitol.
As a member of the 1/6 Select Committee, I’m ready to get to work to find the truth and secure our democracy. pic.twitter.com/97JT7cvITJ
— U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (@RepStephMurphy) July 6, 2021
—@ChipLaMarca: Someone once explained that when we properly fund our first responders, it’s not necessarily for a 9-5/40hr workweek. It’s for times of great crisis and catastrophe. They were right. That’s why I will always proudly stand alongside these heroes and provide everything they need.
—@RT_Dailey: The U.S. Capitol Police plans to open a regional field office in Tampa “to investigate threats to Members of Congress.” “At this time, Florida and California are where the majority of our potential threats are,” the agency told me. USCP also planning an office in San Francisco
—@harrisalexc: Remember Piney Point? Elsa will pass right by it, but DEP says the patch over the leak has been “functioning as expected.”
— Stu Ostro (@StuOstro) July 6, 2021
—@steveschale: As a Floridian, it’s always “fun” to watch the Weather Channel guys sound excited about a tropical system strengthening & getting more organized …
—@ananavarro: Whoa. The storming in my neighborhood is downright scary, right now. Don’t know how anybody — other than my husband — can sleep through this. Sounds like the Greek Titans are bowling … in my backyard. Stay safe Florida. If you’re in cone of error for #Elsa, take it seriously.
—@MaryEllenKlas: Lead prosecutor: “I know the people who were paying Frank Artiles,” and they have been notified. “They are not only aware of it, but many of them have lawyers, and I have had contact with their lawyers.”
—@BiancaJoanie: Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she got a call again from President Joe Biden again this afternoon to get an update on rescue efforts in Surfside and offer any additional federal support necessary.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 2; MLB All-Star Game — 6; Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 13; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 16; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 16; the NBA Draft — 21; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 23; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 30; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 42; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 48; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 58; NFL regular season begins — 64; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 69; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 75; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 79; ‘Dune’ premieres — 86; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 86; MLB regular season ends — 88; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 93; World Series Game 1 — 112; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 112; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 118; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 118; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 122; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 135; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 142; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 156; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 163; NFL season ends — 186; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 188; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 188; NFL playoffs begin — 192; Super Bowl LVI — 221; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 261; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 303; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 330; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 366; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 457; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 492.
“Elsa regains hurricane strength ahead of Florida landfall” via Josh Fiallo and Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Elsa regained hurricane strength on Tuesday night as it inched closer to Florida’s Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay. Forecasters initially expected Elsa to be a tropical storm when it brushed past the Tampa Bay coastline, but the hurricane center projects the storm will remain a hurricane until it makes landfall. Forecasters watched Tuesday for Elsa to make a predicted turn to the northeast, which would dictate where the storm would make landfall. DeSantis expanded a state of emergency to cover a dozen counties where Elsa was expected to make a swift passage on Wednesday, and Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state ahead of the storm.
“Elsa intensifies as it turns toward Florida coast on track for Wednesday landfall” via Kathryn Prociv and Corky Siemaszko of NBC News — Tropical Storm Elsa was barreling up the west coast of Florida Tuesday and forecasters warned it could grow into a hurricane even before it makes landfall around midnight on the northern Gulf Coast. As of 5 p.m., Elsa was packing sustained winds of 70 mph with higher gusts and hurricane warnings were in effect from Tampa Bay all the way north to the Steinhatchee River in the state’s Big Bend region. Hurricane watches for the western coast of Florida during July are rare. Going back to 2008, there is no other instance of the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay issuing a hurricane watch in July.
“Ron DeSantis extends state of emergency to Duval, additional central Florida counties” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis issued an executive order Tuesday afternoon expanding a state of emergency to several counties in central and north Florida as the state braces for Tropical Storm Elsa. DeSantis issued the original order on Saturday, which declared a state of emergency for 15 counties on the west and south coasts of the state due to the incoming tropical storm. The storm is expected to hit central and north Florida as a weak hurricane between Tuesday and Wednesday. The most recent order added Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and Union counties to the state of emergency. The order also removes the state of emergency from Franklin County.
—“As officials urge caution, some hit the beach prior to the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa” via Patricia McKnight and Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“FAMU announces storm-related closings at College of Law, some satellite locations” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — FAMU has announced closures at its College of Law and some satellite sites in anticipation of the threat of inclement weather from Tropical Storm Elsa. The FAMU College of Law building campus in Orlando closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday and will remain closed Wednesday. Classes may be held remotely during the building closure, as determined by the professor, the university said in a release. The College of Law building is expected to reopen on Thursday. The Brooksville Agricultural and Environmental Research Station also will be closed Wednesday. The Central Florida Pharmacy Practice Center offices in Tampa and Orlando will be closed Wednesday and expected to reopen Thursday. The main campus in Tallahassee will remain open.
“Schools, colleges close as storm threatens” via News Service of Florida — Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee and Monroe counties shuttered campuses for the entire day Tuesday, according to the state Department of Education. Hillsborough, Hernando and Pasco counties announced closures starting Tuesday afternoon, with plans to keep schools closed through Wednesday. Citrus, Lake and Marion counties announced school closures for Wednesday. Hillsborough Community College, New College of Florida and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota closed campuses Tuesday. St. Petersburg College and Florida SouthWestern State College shifted to online-only classes Tuesday, while the College of Central Florida announced a switch to remote operations at its Citrus County and Levy County campuses Wednesday.
“State says Tropical Storm Elsa’s rains likely won’t cause another spill at Piney Point” via Ryan Callihan and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Staff on-site have drained some of the ponds to allow room for Elsa’s rains and brought in additional generators and pumps in case the power goes out. “Water management will continue throughout the storm to ensure pond volumes stay within safe levels,” the agency wrote in a release. Manatee County officials are also confident that the situation at Piney Point is in good hands. During a Tuesday afternoon news conference, County Administrator Scott Hopes described the site as “stable.” “This is an early storm for the season, but currently, Piney Point is stable, and it has the capacity to handle the rain. They are only discharging stormwater runoff,” Hopes said.
— LATEST ON SURFSIDE —
“Surfside condo collapse: 8 more bodies recovered as workers feel Elsa’s bands” via Wendy Rhodes, Mark Woods and Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Search and rescue workers Tuesday recovered eight more bodies. Day 13 of the search of the rubble that was the Champlain Towers South was conducted through a tornado watch issued as Tropical Storm Elsa began its approach to Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast. Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava said the death toll stood at 36 confirmed dead with 109 individuals she described as “potentially unaccounted for.” It was the first time the Mayor brought up that some of the missing Champlain Tower inhabitants may not have been in the building during the collapse.
“Death toll rises in Surfside collapse as demolition opens new areas to search teams” via Douglas Hanks, Bianca Padró Ocasio and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — The successful implosion of the Champlain Towers South paved the way for rescue workers early Monday to begin scouring a previously inaccessible portion of the building. The demolition provided hope, however slim, that survivors might be hidden in voids in the massive pile of twisted concrete, metal and debris. But it also signaled that firefighters would likely begin finding more victims at an accelerated pace. Indeed, by Monday evening, county officials announced that four more bodies had been discovered in the wake of the implosion, raising the death toll to 28, with 117 still missing in what could become one of the deadliest building failures in U.S. history.
“After demolition of Surfside condo, more of the dead are being found in original rubble” via Samantha J. Gross, Joey Flechas and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — The demolition of the rest of the Surfside condo tower that partially collapsed nearly two weeks ago seems to be helping rescue workers uncover more deceased victims in the original rubble, with officials reporting Tuesday that eight more bodies have been found. The death toll is now at 36. Of those, 29 have been identified. Another 109 are unaccounted for since the partial collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo on June 24, Levine Cava said Tuesday afternoon at a news briefing. But of those still missing, Levine Cava also said there are “around 70 we can confirm were in the building at the time of collapse.”
“How the Surfside tower was imploded in just days: Hours of drilling, 128 lbs. of dynamite” via Douglas Hanks, David Ovalle and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — When Mark Loizeaux arrived in Surfside late last week, the 73-year-old explosives veteran walked into a private debate on how long to wait before demolishing the unstable remains of the Champlain Towers South tower. Miami-Dade Mayor Levine Cava told reporters a demolition would take weeks. Loizeaux and his crew said they could do it in days. “I think I can do this,” Loizeaux, CEO of Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Maryland, recalled telling county and state authorities. “I can bring down the structure with minimal impact.” Loizeaux appeared to deliver Sunday night.
“Searchers at collapse site ‘not seeing anything positive’” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Officials overseeing the search at the site of the Florida condominium collapse sounded increasingly somber Tuesday about the prospects for finding anyone alive, saying they have detected no new signs of life in the rubble as the death toll climbed to 36. Crews in yellow helmets and blue jumpsuits searched the debris for a 13th day while wind and rain from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Elsa complicated their efforts. Video released by the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department showed workers lugging pickaxes and power saws through piles of concrete rubble barbed with snapped steel rebar. Other searchers could be seen digging with gloved hands through pulverized concrete and dumping shovels of debris into large buckets.
“Funerals for victims of Surfside building collapse begin in Miami-Dade, New York” via Trent Kelly, Layron Livingston and Andrea Torres of WPLG — Grief-stricken after the Surfside building collapse, the relatives of seven victims were holding funeral services Tuesday at two Catholic churches in Miami-Dade County and a synagogue in New York City. The service for Hilda Noriega, the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega, was held Tuesday morning at St. Patrick Catholic Church, a parish in Miami Beach. She was 92. While exploring the ruins, her son and grandson, Mike Noriega, recovered a birthday card that she had received from members of her prayer group. Crews recovered her body on June 30.
“Sisters in Florida condo collapse buried in same coffin” via Terry Spencer and Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — The bodies of two young sisters pulled from the rubble of a Florida condo building, so tiny that the 4 and 10-year-olds were placed in the same casket, were buried alongside their parents Tuesday, their white coffin draped with innocent pink and purple ribbons. Lucia Guara, “Lulu bear,” loved watching “Jeopardy” with her dad, dancing and doing yoga with her mother. Her baby sister, Emma, was the princess of the family, a natural artist, who enjoyed her dad’s piggyback rides and cuddling with her mom, family member Digna Rodriguez said. The hourlong funeral was held at the family’s Catholic parish, St. Joseph, just three blocks from where the Champlain Towers South building partially collapsed, killing the Guara sisters, their parents, Marcus and Anaely Guara, and 32 others.
“‘I saved my life.’ Surfside collapse survivor visits memorial wall, mourns her neighbors” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Julieta Apfelbaum broke down before the photo of her neighbor’s smiling daughter. At the growing memorial of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, Apfelbaum on Monday night mourned the loss of Graciela Cattarossi and the three generations of her family who are still missing. Apfelbaum also lived in the building — but made it out alive. “I saved my life,” she said in Spanish. “I lost everything: my house, my belongings. I had my house full of things. I lost everything. I have nothing now.” In the early morning of June 24, Apfelbaum said she awoke to what she felt was an earthquake. Lights wouldn’t turn on, and neither would water. The hallway was dark.
“‘We have to react’: Group raises $1.5 million for Surfside families” via Rosh Lowe of WPLG — Zushie Litkowski and Svia Bension are both professionals who have zero experience in fundraising. But hours after the Champlain Towers South collapsed, they jumped into action along with a friend. “I said, ‘We have to react. We have to do something,’” Bension, 32, recalls. Litkowski, 35, had a cousin living in the building who escaped. At 3:30 that morning, they launched a fund for the Surfside families affected by the tragedy. Their efforts have led to nearly $1.5 million raised since.
“Mental health professionals called in to help first responders of Surfside collapse” via Annaliese Garcia of WPLG — After nearly two weeks, first responders have worked tirelessly for days on end to find victims at the collapse site of what was once Champlain Towers South. Due to hours of grueling work each day and their devotion as they relentlessly search for missing people, rescuers have been met with physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. “We’re here, we’re on the ground, our staff is working 12 to 15 hours a day, and we will continue to do whatever we can to support the effort,” explained Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett of their courageous efforts. This is why mental health professionals are being called in to help our heroes.
“Building collapse lawsuits seek to get answers, assign blame” via MaryClaire Dale and Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — The quest to learn why a Florida condo building collapsed has already moved to the legal system, even before rescuers finish searching for victims and possible survivors. Authorities have opened criminal and civil investigations into the collapse of the oceanfront Champlain Towers South, killing at least 32 people and leaving more than 110 missing. At least five lawsuits have been filed by Champlain Towers’ families. “The whole world wants to know what happened here,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava told a news conference Tuesday. Everyone, she said, wants to know “what could have been prevented and how we make sure it never happens again.” One lawyer involved in the litigation said the collapse raises widespread concerns about infrastructure issues and the trust put in those responsible for them.
“Work review for ex-official connected to collapsed building” via The Associated Press — The Vice Mayor of a South Florida city said Tuesday that he wants a review of all the work done by a former municipal official who assured condo board members in a nearby city that their building was in “very good shape” three years before it collapsed. Doral Vice Mayor Pete Cabrera said he plans to call a special council meeting to ask for a review of everything that has passed through the hands of Rosendo “Ross” Prieto while he worked for C.A.P. Government Inc., which provides building services for the city of Doral and other governments. “My duty as an elected official is to protect the residents of Doral, and it would be irresponsible of me not to verify any project that has passed through the hands of this ex-employee in our city,” Cabrera said.
“Forced-out condo residents in North Miami Beach don’t know when they’re coming home” via Madeleine Wright of WPLG — It’s been four days since residents packed their bags and evacuated Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach. There’s still no timeline on when they can go back home. City Manager Arthur H. Sorey III says the condo board needs to submit a report that determines the building is safe for occupancy, which will then have to be reviewed by a third party. “The timeline falls strictly on condo association’s board,” Sorey said. “We need to get to how much are these repairs going to cost that are needed? And do they have the money for those repairs?” There are two reports written by an engineer for the Crestview Towers condo association.
“Lax enforcement let South Florida Towers skirt inspections for years” via Michael LaForgia, Adam Playford and Lazaro Gamio of The New York Times — Florida’s high-rise building regulations have long been among the strictest in the nation. But after parts of Champlain Towers South tumbled down on June 24, killing at least 24 people and leaving 121 unaccounted for, evidence has mounted that those rules have been enforced unevenly by local governments, and sometimes not at all. Miami-Dade County officials said last week that they prioritized reviews of 24 multistory buildings that either had failed major structural or electrical inspections required after 40 years or had not submitted the reports in the first place.
“Experts: Surfside collapse will lead to changes in Florida’s seaside condo industry” via Alexandra Clough of the Palm Beach Post — The Surfside condominium collapse last month will mean big changes for old high-rise towers along Florida’s coast, including in Palm Beach County. Older condominium towers are expected to face greater review as buyers, insurance companies and lenders react to the unprecedented collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo on June 24. In addition, condominium associations throughout the state will face greater pressure to inspect and maintain their buildings. That could mean condo owners will have to pony up money for assessments more frequently or boost reserves to cover ongoing maintenance costs, real estate lawyers said. The effects add up to a tumultuous period in the state’s condo market for years to come, said real estate analyst Peter Zalewski.
“Aging condos are a ‘ticking time bomb’ and need more oversight” via Peter Coy of Bloomberg — It’s not just condominium buildings that are showing their age, as was the case in the deadly collapse of a condo in Surfside, Fla. The condominium form of ownership itself is under strain. Some condo buildings are even being “de-converted” to rental properties. Some economists argue that the U.S. and other countries made a mistake by going too heavily into condos and related forms of ownership, including housing co-ops and homeowner associations, in the decades after World War II. Some 73.9 million Americans lived in condos, housing co-ops, and HOAs in 2019. In theory, at least, a landlord-tenant form of ownership can be more stable because the landlord has a stronger financial interest in maximizing a building’s long-term market value than does a typical condo owner, who may be cash-strapped or hoping to sell and move before the building’s flaws become apparent.
“‘Should we sell?’ After collapse, hot Florida market faces uncertainty.” via Rick Rojas and Sophie Kasakove of The New York Times — The partial collapse on June 24 of Champlain Towers South in Surfside is threatening to shake up the scorching housing market of South Florida, where some owners and potential buyers are starting to reassess the appeal of older beachside condos and high-rise buildings. Real estate agents across the region already see ripple effects from the disaster. “No one ever asked about a 40-year recertification before,” Ines Hegedus-Garcia, a real estate agent with Avanti Way Realty in South Florida, said of the process of assessing the structural condition of buildings constructed decades ago. The disaster has revealed broader concerns about flaws in the management of similar developments and lax enforcement of some of the strictest building regulations in the country.
“Condo buyers may shun older buildings after Surfside collapse” via Amber Randall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The collapse of the Champlain condo building in Surfside could reverberate through the real estate market in South Florida for months to come, real estate experts say. The red-hot condo market could cool as buyers might hesitate to buy in older buildings, worried that the buildings have put off maintenance and that mammoth repair bills could be coming, brokers say. Sellers, meanwhile, might discover they can’t find buyers as quickly as they’d hoped — and can’t get the price they were looking for. Over time, their investments in their condos could shrink.
“Are aging high-rise condos slowly sinking in Panama City Beach? Nobody seems to know” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News Herald — There’s really no way to know if condos across Panama City Beach are slowly sinking into the sand. At least, not yet. About a week since Champlain Towers South in Surfside partially collapsed, local officials said condos in Bay County are not required to inspect height or track changes over time. While it remains unknown exactly what caused the Miami condo to crumble, some believe the collapse is linked to the building sinking about 2 millimeters per year. According to information provided by the Bay County Property Appraiser’s office, there are almost 390 active “condos” in Bay County. About 135 are high-rises built between 1965 and 2020. Almost 20 are as old or older than Champlain Towers South.
— 2022 —
“DeSantis’ political committee rakes in nearly $5.6 million in June” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Whether an increased national profile leads DeSantis to the White House someday remains speculation. But it is providing a wealth of resources for his reelection effort in 2022. The Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee in June raised $5,553,665 in donations to support DeSantis. While DeSantis technically has not filed for reelection or launched his campaign, he’s expected to seek a second term. Not filing yet means he has not raised any money to an official account, but his June contribution haul exceeds what committees for Democratic opponents Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried reported for the past two months combined. Perhaps more significant, the money came courtesy of more than 3,500 different donations to the committee and from all over the country.
—“These 13 powerful people are helping DeSantis become the biggest rising star in GOP politics and preparing him for a possible 2024 run” via Kimberly Leonard and Tom LoBianco of Business Insider
“Audrey Gibson backs Charlie Crist for Governor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Gibson is backing Crist. Gibson, a Duval County Democrat, has served in the Florida Senate since 2012, including a term as the Senate’s Democratic Leader from 2018 through 2020. Before that, Gibson served in the House for nearly a decade. “I always tell people in my district, ‘who represents you matters,’” she said in a video, adding that Crist “has an extensive background on what is the right thing to do for this state.” Gibson also credited her endorsement of Crist to his prior experience as Governor, as well as his work on education, health care and voting rights restoration. Gibson’s early endorsement of Crist over Fried is especially significant when it comes to the Jacksonville market.
“Republican Orlando Lamas adds $16K in June in bid for HD 111” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lamas raised another $16,000 in June. That would mean Lamas has raised around $70,000 in outside cash since entering the race for House District 111 in early March. Lamas has also put in more than $35,000 of his own money via a loan, but it’s unclear how far he’ll dip into that pot. Lamas’ June numbers aren’t yet available on the Division of Elections website, but his campaign put out a release Tuesday afternoon touting the June haul. “I am truly honored to have received this much early financial support from my friends and family,” Lamas said. Lamas is competing for the Republican nomination against Hialeah Council member Vivian Casals-Munoz. Casals-Munoz has also not posted her June fundraising numbers, but she showed $0 raised in May, her first full month as a candidate.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Wilton Simpson, Chris Sprowls net worths go in different directions” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — Senate President Simpson saw his net worth drop 5% as he took the leadership role in 2020, while House Speaker Sprowls’ net worth climbed, according to newly filed financial reports. According to his report filed last month, Simpson, whose businesses include a giant egg farm, is one of the wealthiest members of the Legislature with a net worth of $31.5 million as of Dec. 31. In his new report, Simpson, whose net worth was $33.39 million last year, said that his ownership of Simpson Farms in Trilby was worth $17.8 million. Sprowls posted a net worth of $504,585 as of June 24. A former prosecutor, he has seen his income grow after moving in 2016 to the private sector.
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Fried joins Rep. Dan Daley and Broward County elected officials for a news conference to call on the Florida Supreme Court to hear the legal case on the state’s firearm preemption law, 3 p.m., Coral Springs City Hall, 9500 West Sample Road, Coral Springs. The event will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/FDACS and may become virtual due to Tropical Storm Elsa. RSVP to [email protected]
“Shunning spotlight, state Senator works behind the scenes in Surfside” via Ari Odzer of NBC Miami — From the first moments after the collapse, Sen. Jason Pizzo has spent every day but one at the Champlain Towers site. Pizzo hasn’t spoken from the podium at all, not even once, preferring to work behind the scenes. Often, he says, he’s the liaison between first responders and families who are hoping to retrieve the remains of their loved ones. His Twitter feed, however, has become a source of information and updates on the search and rescue process, with the senator often posting videos and pictures he takes himself. Pizzo says his main responsibility has been helping the victims find answers. Pizzo was at a victim’s funeral Tuesday. He says even as a former prosecutor, who dealt with violence and death, he wasn’t prepared for destruction on this monumental scale.
“Prosecutors: Miami man paid sham state Senate candidate $9K on behalf of Frank Artiles” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — An acquaintance of former Republican state Sen. Artiles was unveiled on Tuesday as a new character involved in a public corruption scandal that has ensnared Artiles and a web of political organizations he did business with during the 2020 election cycle. State prosecutors said Wade Scales, a Facebook friend of Artiles, withdrew $9,000 in cash from his bank account “at the behest of Artiles” and gave it to Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, a no-party candidate who investigators allege was paid around $45,000 to enter the race in an attempt to sway the outcome of Miami-Dade’s Senate District 37 election in favor of the Republican candidate. Scales has retained an attorney, court records show. The attorney has not responded to multiple attempts seeking comment.
— STATEWIDE —
“State revenues beat expectations in May” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — The Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research on Tuesday reported May general-revenue collections came in at $3.6 billion, topping a forecast for the month by $573.8 million, or 18.9%. “Most remarkable, almost 72% of the total gain for May came from sales tax GR (general revenue),” the report said. “For context, May 2020 was the lowest sales tax collection month during the entire pandemic.” The May numbers marked the 10th consecutive month of exceeding revenue expectations as Florida recovers from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economists periodically update revenue forecasts, with the May figures measured against a forecast revised in early April. The May numbers came after revenue topped forecasts for April by $797.2 million.
“Cable group seeks to weigh in on FPL rates” via News Service of Florida — The industry group Florida Internet & Television Association filed a petition last week at the state Public Service Commission, which is expected to decide whether to approve FPL’s rate proposal this fall. The petition said that the association’s members attach lines to hundreds of thousands of FPL and Gulf Power poles and pay “tens of millions of dollars per year” for the attachments. “Together, the (Public Service) Commission’s actions in this docket will directly affect and impact each of the FIT members within the FPL and Gulf service areas,” the petition said. “Accordingly, FIT is entitled to intervene to protect its members’ substantial interests in receiving safe, adequate and reliable electric service and pole attachments at fair, just and reasonable rates.”
“For monarch butterflies, Florida’s ‘cesspool’ of infection may leave many too weak to migrate” via Krishna Sharma of the Miami Herald — Every year, swarms of majestic monarch butterflies take wing in a massive autumn migration from the northern United States to a small region near Mexico City — except for a wayward population that diverts to Florida. Why some butterflies break off toward the Sunshine State is one of the many mysteries of monarch behavior, but an emerging scientific debate revolves around thousands of South Florida enthusiasts who have planted butterfly gardens to help revive an iconic and at-risk species. Some scientists believe that the Florida diaspora, which has naturally existed for a long time, is being unnaturally coaxed into loafing year-round instead of migrating because of a widely imported tropical plant.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“COVID-19 spreading fastest among Florida’s younger children” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Children younger than 12, the only portion of the population that cannot be protected by a COVID-19 vaccine, now make up a growing share of new coronavirus cases in Florida. This young age group experienced a 52% increase in new cases for the week ending July 1 from a week earlier — rising to 1,471 cases from 968. The average increase across all age groups was 35%. Test positivity increased 46% in Florida children under 12 over the last week, the highest percentage increase of all age categories. Children, however, still represent only about 9% of new COVID-19 cases in Florida, and it’s too early to tell whether the rise will continue into future weeks.
“Cruise ship fight goes to appeals court” via Jim Saunders of The News Service of Florida — A battle between Florida and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about cruise-industry restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic went to an appeals court Tuesday, as federal-government attorneys also argued that a lower-court ruling should be put on hold. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys filed a notice of taking the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal district judge last month sided with Florida and issued a preliminary injunction against the restrictions. The Department of Justice attorneys also requested a stay of the injunction while the appeal moves forward. The injunction involves blocking a CDC “conditional sailing order,” which has set requirements for cruise-ship operators to meet before they can sail.
“Escambia County has over 370 vacant jobs. Almost half are at the new jail.” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County has more than 370 job openings — more than any other county government in Northwest Florida — but almost half those openings are because the county is trying to staff up the new county jail. Most county governments in Northwest Florida are having trouble finding workers in the tough labor market. Escambia County is the largest government in terms of both the number of workers and unfilled job openings. At the end of June, Escambia County had 2,028 budgeted positions, and 376 of those remained unfilled — a job vacancy rate of 18.5%. Corrections Director Rich Powell said the COVID-19 pandemic slowed recruiting efforts for jail staff, and economic conditions since then haven’t helped.
— CORONA NATION —
“COVID-19 protections kept other viruses at bay. Now they’re back.” via Maryn McKenna of WIRED — In the middle of June, the CDC sent out a bulletin telling epidemiologists and clinicians to be on the lookout for a respiratory syncytial virus, usually known as RSV, an infection that puts about 235,000 toddlers and senior citizens in the hospital each year. Normally, this bulletin would be no big deal. What made it odd was the timing. RSV is a winter infection. You can think of the bulletin, and the virus it flagged, like an alarm bell. We already know that the things we did to defend against COVID-19 disrupted the viral landscape over the past 16 months. Now RSV’s out-of-season return tells us that we could be headed into viral havoc this winter, and no one knows just yet how that might play out.
“These parts of the U.S. could become ‘breeding grounds’ for more COVID-19 variants, expert says” via Madeline Holcombe and Holly Yan of CNN — Progress made against COVID-19 is now being threatened by regions with low vaccination rates, health experts say. “We’re already starting to see places with low vaccination rates starting to have relatively big spikes from the Delta variant. We’ve seen this in Arkansas, Missouri, Wyoming …” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. States with below-average vaccination rates have almost triple the rate of new COVID-19 cases compared to states with above-average vaccination rates. And since vaccines are highly effective but not perfect, some health experts say they will wear masks in certain places despite being fully vaccinated. “If you’re in a low-infection, high-vaccination area, you don’t need to be wearing a mask indoors if you’re fully vaccinated,” Jha said.
“Virus cases are surging at crowded immigration detention centers in the U.S.” via Maura Turcotte of The New York Times — As their populations swell nearly to pre-pandemic levels, U.S. immigration detention centers are reporting major surges in coronavirus infections among detainees. Public health officials, noting that few detainees are vaccinated against the virus, warn that the increasingly crowded facilities can be fertile ground for outbreaks. The number of migrants being held in detention centers has nearly doubled in recent months as border apprehensions have risen, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. More than 26,000 people were in detention last week, compared with about 14,000 in April. More than 7,500 new coronavirus cases have been reported in the centers over that same period, accounting for more than 40% of all cases reported in ICE facilities since the pandemic began.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Summer could be bright for Treasure Coast hotels after record-breaking May” via Lamaur Stancil of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Visitors checked into Treasure Coast hotels in May at the highest rate for that month in the last 10 years, according to a private data company that tracks activity in the hospitality industry. That could mean summer, normally a slower tourism season in the region and Florida overall, could be busier than normal. “Our beachside hoteliers said they are still being booked and beating 2019 numbers,” said Kirk Funnell, tourism director for the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce. “People are getting vaccinated, and they’re coming back. Our summer campaign push is leading up to Labor Day.” According to STR, the three Treasure Coast counties ranged from 71.5% to 74.4% for rooms booked in May.
“Bay County airport activity soars to new heights in 2021” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News Herald — Northwest Florida International Airport (ECP) saw significant growth in activity from January to May compared to the same five months in 2019. There was a 12.72% increase year-to-date for passenger enplanements in 2021 compared to 2019, and a 40.03% increase in just May alone. There also was a 14.35% increase in passenger deplanements year-to-date in 2021 compared to 2019 and a 40.96% increase in May. “What’s really interesting is that there is a 58% increase in available seats,” said Parker McClellan, ECP’s executive director. “The airlines have recognized the market, and when you look at our total operations, there are a lot of airplanes flying in and out of here every day.”
— MORE CORONA —
“Pfizer vaccine less effective against delta infections but prevents severe illness, Israeli data show” via Dov Lieber of The Wall Street Journal — Data from Israel suggest Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine is less effective at protecting against infections caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19 but retains its potency to prevent severe illness from the highly contagious strain. The vaccine protected 64% of inoculated people from infection during an outbreak of the Delta variant, down from 94% before, according to Israel’s Health Ministry. It was 94% effective at preventing severe illness in the same period, compared with 97% before, the ministry said. The ministry said it produced the efficacy percentage of the vaccine by analyzing the number of infections among the vaccinated compared to those unvaccinated in the given period while also accounting for influential factors such as the week of infection, age and whether the person was infected in the past.
“Britain’s plan to scrap COVID-19 restrictions stirs fears” via Laura King of the Tribune News Service — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s backers have enthusiastically dubbed it “Freedom Day” — July 19, when the government is expected to lift nearly all coronavirus-related restrictions in England. But not everyone is celebrating. Britain has had one of the world’s most successful vaccine rollouts. The country, however, is confronting a huge wave of new cases, largely powered by the highly transmissible delta variant. On Tuesday, Johnson’s health minister, Sajid Javid, told the BBC that the country’s daily new caseload could nearly quadruple over the summer, potentially reaching a staggering 100,000 per day. That’s more than at the pandemic’s height.
“Angela Merkel urged to follow Britain’s lead and drop all remaining COVID-19 restrictions” via Justin Huggler of The Telegraph — Calls are growing in Germany to follow Britain’s lead and lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions within weeks. Heiko Maas, the foreign minister, on Tuesday, became the latest high-profile figure to join calls for restrictions to end as soon as all Germans have been offered the jab. “If everyone in Germany has been offered the vaccine, there is no longer any legal or political justification for any restrictions,” he said. So far, more than 55% of Germans have had one jab and nearly 40% are fully vaccinated. Germany has already lifted restrictions to a considerable extent. Current regulations vary by region, but in most areas, face masks are no longer compulsory outdoors and are only required in shops and on public transport.
“Haiti still awaiting first COVID-19 vaccines, as cases surge” via Jessica Obert of The Haitian Times — Despite a recent fourfold increase in weekly COVID-19 deaths, Haiti is still awaiting its first vaccine delivery from the international COVAX program aimed at providing equal access to coronavirus treatment worldwide. In contrast to Haiti’s slow vaccine rollout, the Dominican Republic — the other half the Caribbean island of Hispaniola — has administered doses to nearly 35% of the population. They started vaccinating on 15 February, at a time when Haiti held Carnival celebrations and eased curfews and other restrictions. Haiti is still waiting for 130,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were supposed to be delivered on June 14, part of the same program that offered the country 756,000 doses in May. The Haitian government refused that initial shipment.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“‘This was not dissent. It was disorder,’ Joe Biden says six months after Capitol insurrection” via Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — Biden marked the six months since the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, calling it “a violent and deadly assault on the people’s house, on the people’s representatives, and on the Capitol police sworn to protect them.” … “This was not dissent,” Biden said. “It was disorder. It posed an existential crisis and a test of whether our democracy could survive — a sad reminder that there is nothing guaranteed about our democracy.” While the events of Jan. 6 were shocking, Biden said, six months after the attack, “we can say unequivocally that democracy did prevail — and that we must all continue the work to protect and preserve it.”
“To try to spur shots, Biden again outlines strategies to reach those who remain unvaccinated.” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear of The New York Times — With the pace of U.S. coronavirus vaccinations relatively flat, Biden called for employers to set up clinics at work and to offer paid time off for workers as part of a renewed push to reach tens of millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated. “Please get vaccinated now — it works, it’s free, it’s never been easier,” Biden said in brief remarks. Just two days after he hosted a big White House Fourth of July celebration and declared “America is coming back together,” Mr. Biden is turning his attention to a public health conundrum: Despite his administration’s aggressive push, he has not met his self-imposed goal of having 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by now, and officials have already tried many techniques.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“What’s keeping democracy experts up most at night? An overturned election” via Benjy Sarlin of NBC News — There’s no legal avenue for Trump to reverse the 2020 results. But a half-dozen scholars who study democracy and election laws said they are increasingly worried that 2024 could be a repeat of 2020, only with a party further remade in the former President’s image and better equipped to sow disorder during the process and even potentially overturn the results. Nightmare scenarios include local or state officials refusing to certify votes, Governors and state legislatures submitting electoral votes that disagree with each other or overrule the apparent vote counts, fights over the legitimacy of judges overseeing the process, and the House and Senate disagreeing on the winner.
“The stimulus helped these Donald Trump voters pay rent and bills. But they blame it for a range of economic ills.” via Tim Craig and Lenny Bronner of The Washington Post — In Monroe County, Ohio, the most recent round of stimulus payments was the difference between getting medical treatment and not, enrolling a child in college and not. But political divisions are deep here, and Trump voters, who make up the great majority of residents, are blaming the payments for a range of ills. Many residents here also say the payments have led to a labor shortage. Although Monroe County has a 7% unemployment rate, many store owners and managers here and across the Ohio River in West Virginia say they have struggled to find workers.
“Some RNC staffers did not vote for Trump amid 2020 campaign power struggle, new book claims” via Andrew Murray of Fox News — Some Republican National Committee (RNC) officials didn’t vote for then-President Trump in last November’s election, according to a forthcoming book by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender. And excerpts from “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” that were exclusively obtained by Fox News on Tuesday, also spotlight the alleged friction between RNC chair Ronna McDaniel and Bill Stepien, who took over as Trump reelection campaign manager last summer.
— CRISIS —
“While Trump planted the seed for Jan. 6, others — including Fox News — watered it” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — The seed that led to the violence at the Capitol six months ago was planted a few hours after polls closed on Nov. 3 of last year. In the middle of the night, even as Election Day votes were still being counted, Trump tried to frame the contest in terms favorable to the idea that he would emerge victorious. Fox aired anonymous claims about explicit voter fraud, claims that were never substantiated in any credible way. Host Tucker Carlson raised claims about dead people voting — only to backtrack when a local news station spoke with several “dead” voters.
“FBI launches flurry of arrests over attacks on journalists during Capitol riot” via Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — The Justice Department has begun arresting a new category of alleged criminals, those who attacked reporters or damaged their equipment as journalists documented the violence perpetrated by Trump supporters. The first such charge came last week when Shane Jason Woods of Illinois was charged with engaging in violence on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, as well as assaulting a law enforcement officer. Authorities say Woods was caught on video knocking down a cameraman. The arrests come at a contentious moment for the Justice Department and First Amendment advocates, who have sharply criticized federal law enforcement for secretly issuing subpoenas of reporters’ phone records during the Trump administration.
“‘So, so angry’: Reporters who survived the Capitol riot are still struggling” via Cameron Joseph of Vice — John Bresnahan spent January 6 watching a pro-Trump insurrection ransack the building he’s worked in for decades. The congressional reporting veteran was in the House gallery when a colleague texted him that the Capitol’s exterior security fence had been overrun. As soon as he stepped into the hallway, he heard the roar of the crowd as they warred with police officers trying to protect the Capitol’s perimeter. It was unlike anything Bresnahan had seen in his nearly three decades on the Hill. But what stunned him most came hours later, once the rioters were dispersed. “That was the thing that surprised me most of the entire day: They’d just gone through this, and they were still fucking objecting,” Bresnahan said.
“Post-insurrection exodus from Republican Party was real, but it didn’t last” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Immediately after Trump supporters went on a rampage through the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block counting of the electoral votes that confirmed Biden’s presidential victory, people responded 1,000 miles away in South Florida. Within hours, voters began leaving the Republican Party. Within weeks, thousands of South Florida Republicans changed their voter registrations. By the beginning of March, whatever burst of Republicans were going to leave seem to have done so, and the monthly departures declined sharply.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Field office to probe threats to lawmakers” via The News Service of Florida — In a news release Tuesday titled, “After the Attack: The Future of the U.S. Capitol Police,” the agency detailed changes since Jan. 6, including boosting recruiting, training and equipment for officers. The agency is also in the process of opening its first field offices. “The new USCP field offices will be in the Tampa and San Francisco areas. At this time, Florida and California are where the majority of our potential threats are,” the agency said in an email to The News Service of Florida. The agency said launching field offices on the country’s East Coast and West Coast will benefit investigations seeking to weed out potential threats.
“Joel Greenberg asks judge to delay sentencing for 90 days” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg has asked a judge to delay his sentencing on six federal charges, citing his ongoing cooperation with authorities as part of a plea deal he struck in May. Greenberg’s sentencing is currently slated for Aug. 19. But in a motion filed Tuesday, his attorney, Fritz Scheller, asked to delay the hearing for 90 days. Scheller said his client has been cooperating with the government on an ongoing basis, having already participated in “a series of” interviews, known as proffers, with federal authorities. “Said cooperation, which could impact his ultimate sentence, cannot be completed prior to the time of his sentencing,” Scheller wrote. The government is not objecting to the sentencing delay, according to Scheller.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“8 dead in 2 months in 4 aircraft crashes in Jacksonville area as investigations continue into causes” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — Four aircraft accidents in Northeast Florida in the past two months have one thing in common — all were fatal to the pilots and passengers on board, leaving a total of eight dead. The National Transportation Safety Board’s new preliminary report for the latter June 18 crash in the St. Marys River indicates that the Cessna 150L’s engine was still on when it hit the water shortly after 11 a.m. But there is still no information on what caused the crash. Meanwhile, the agency continues its investigation into the Northeast Florida crash that killed three people early April 28 in woods west of Middleburg. The other recent fatal aircraft crashes occurred three days apart in late June.
“Habitat for Humanity set to build 12 homes in Glades in next 12 months” via Rachida Harper Skinner of the Palm Beach Post — Immelda Alouption says she thanks God for not only allowing her family to become homeowners but also for providing the hands that built their Belle Glade home from the ground up. It has almost been one year since Alouption, 19, and her family received the keys to their new house. They are just one of the hundreds of families that Habitat for Humanity Palm Beach County has helped “achieve the dream of homeownership.” Within a year, 12 more families will achieve the same goal thanks to the nonprofit that builds homes for low-income families.
“René García calls for more oversight on FTX Arena money spending” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — When the home of the Miami Heat this year became the first United States sports arena to bear the moniker of a cryptocurrency exchange, details were sparse on how Miami-Dade would spend funds from the $135 million naming rights deal. Now, an early critic of the 19-year agreement to re-christen the building as FTX Arena wants annual report cards detailing where the county’s expected $90 million cut of the money through 2040 goes. Commissioners in March approved the deal to replace long-standing arena sponsor American Airlines with two-year-old United States-based crypto exchange FTX US.
“NYC developer & Chicago firm buy Miami Worldcenter hotel, and expo site” via Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — A Miami Worldcenter site has sold for $94 million, dashing plans for the long-awaited Marriott Marquis Miami Worldcenter Hotel & Expo. MDM Group sold its five-acre parcel at 700 N. Miami Ave. on Friday to New York City developer Witkoff and Chicago-headquartered asset management firm Monroe Capital, as first reported by the South Florida Business Journal. MDM decided to scrap its plans due to COVID-19 and its impact on the meetings and convention market, according to the firm’s Vice President of Operations and Development Florencia Tabeni. The site is zoned for over 60 stories and can house a mix of residential, hospitality, and commercial uses, according to a news release from the Witkoff firm.
“Two sea turtle nests at Pensacola Beach vandalized over Fourth of July weekend” via the Pensacola News Journal — Two loggerhead sea turtle nests at Pensacola Beach were vandalized over the Fourth of July weekend, and officials are asking anyone with information about the incidents to contact authorities. According to a news release the county issued Tuesday, one nest enclosure was destroyed, and another nest showed signs of digging. The Escambia County Sea Turtle Patrol discovered both of the incidents. Despite the disturbances, the eggs appear to be unharmed, according to the county. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office were notified, but there’s little action that authorities can take without more information. Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
“Panhandle Butterfly House director, entire board ousted by Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful board” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Kevin Smith, the director of Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful, confirmed that the organization fired Panhandle Butterfly House Director Jenny Weber on June 29. Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful is the nonprofit under which the Panhandle Butterfly House operates. Weber is not paid and serves as a volunteer. “Unfortunately, there are a couple of disgruntled volunteers that have been removed,” Smith said in a statement. Weber said the Panhandle Butterfly House had been trying to amicably separate from Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful and establish itself as an independent nonprofit. Weber said Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful members are keeping both her and the now-former board out of the Panhandle Butterfly House’s computers and bank accounts, which still have about $40,000 in them.
“University of North Florida’s only woman president, Anne Hopkins, dies at age 79” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — UNF’s fourth president and only woman president in the school’s 49-year history, has died. Hopkins passed away over the weekend, UNF confirmed Tuesday through a news release. She would have celebrated her 80th birthday next month. Hopkins was born in 1941 and later attended Syracuse University, where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in political science. She began her academic career in 1968 as an assistant professor and chair of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. At UNF, Hopkins became the school’s fourth president — her term lasted from 1999 through 2002. After resigning from the top position citing health reasons, she continued to work at the school as a political-science professor.
“Alan Schreiber, former Broward public defender, dies at 77” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Former Broward Public Defender Schreiber, a one-time political powerhouse who served as friend, employer and mentor to a generation of defense lawyers, has died at 77. Family members posted news of his passing on social media Monday night, followed by a flood of tributes from courtroom allies and adversaries from his tenure. Schreiber was Public Defender from 1977 until 2005. “Larger than life, with the biggest zest for life, we vow to continue your legacy and make you proud,” said his daughter, Jennifer Pawling, on her Facebook page.
— TOP OPINION —
“Should collapsed condo residents have to pay property taxes? Absolutely not” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The letters will go out this year as they do every August, notifying property owners in Miami-Dade County of their estimated taxes. The condo owners at the collapsed and now demolished Champlain Tower South will get those notices, too — no matter that their homes have been reduced to rubble, no matter that they no longer have a mailing address, no matter, even, that they are among the missing or dead. These Truth in Millage notices simply outline proposed property taxes before they are levied, so citizens have time to weigh in with their elected officials. That means our elected leaders have time to do the right thing: they should waive property taxes for these devastated homeowners and their estates.
— OPINIONS —
“Florida universities’ new BOGO deal on STEM classes? It’s for men, mostly.” via Paul Cottle of the Tampa Bay Times — While the Strategic Planning Committee of the Florida Board of Governors was deciding which STEM majors should get the buy-one-get-one-free price break for upper-division courses, committee member Alan Levine argued that nursing should be on the list because Florida has a nursing shortage. But nursing was listed as a “Health” major instead of a “STEM” major, and the law requires the eight BOGO majors to be STEM majors. But while the nursing shortage is one good reason for the Legislature to reconsider which majors can be selected for the BOGO list, there is another strong reason. The majors that the board selected are dominated by men, and relatively few women will be able to take advantage of the BOGO price break.
“Prosecuting assaults on journalists protects our democracy” via Laurence H. Tribe, Stuart M. Gerson and Dennis Aftergut of The Washington Post — The Justice Department has begun arresting those who assaulted journalists during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — a series of actions whose importance to our democracy is hard to overstate. Newspeople are front-line defenders of our republic, much as the Capitol Police and other law enforcement officials were on Jan. 6. Without the work of both, our security and democracy are at existential risk. The Justice Department is putting a needed roadblock on the treacherous path toward autocracy — prosecuting violent acts against a free press. This is not related to whether Trump runs again for President. Indictment and conviction are the surest deterrents in accountability’s tool kit. Felony convictions, usually followed by prison time, cut down to size even the high and mighty.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Officials are trying to assess the damage from Elsa as it moves across the state. The Governor is worried about floods.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Good news on the economic front: Florida’s tax collections in May beat the official estimate by $574 million, much of which came from increased sales taxes.
— Speaking of sales taxes, this is the final day of the sales tax holiday for live events or outdoor gear.
— Gov. DeSantis may have won the first round of his fight with the feds over cruise ships, but the battle isn’t over. The Justice Department has filed a formal notice of appeal, and they’re raising questions about Florida’s new law banning vaccine passports.
— The COVID-19 crisis took a huge financial bite out of the program that provides free and reduced prices on breakfast and lunch at Florida schools.
— Agriculture Commissioner Fried says the Governor had federal money to fill the gaps in the school nutrition program but chose to spend it elsewhere. So, she bypassed him and got the money directly from the USDA.
— And finally, two Florida Man stories: A professional wrestler who needs to hire a chauffeur; and a guy who punched a 74-year-old woman at Home Depot before stabbing another associate with a screwdriver. Talk about the wrong tool for the job.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“‘Finally feels like it’s real.’ Former Chiles star Lily Williams makes Olympic cycling team” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — When the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were postponed a year ago, Williams viewed the decision as a blessing. It gave the former Chiles High athlete time to focus on her training without distractions. Williams’ commitment — and meteoric rise in the sport of cycling — was rewarded in early June when she was named to the U.S. Olympic women’s track cycling team. A familiar name in running, Williams was a four-time state champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters for the Timberwolves. Williams hasn’t returned to Tallahassee since Christmas of 2018. Unfortunately, Williams’ parents won’t attend the Tokyo Olympics due to the ban on overseas spectators. However, a watch party for the cycling events might be held in Orlando.
“Florida State offensive lineman uses NIL to bring young fan to Tallahassee” via Alison Posey of WTXL — Florida State transfer offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons transferred from Notre Dame to Florida State this spring. His first shot at using his name, image, and likeness? He started a GoFundMe to get his friend Timothy Donovan to Tallahassee when the Seminoles host Notre Dame on September 5. The two met when Gibbons was playing at Notre Dame. Donovan has several physical conditions that made getting to games the last two years difficult. After surgery this spring, Gibbons said Donovan is healthier than ever. The goal was to raise $30,000. It was met in 24 hours. Saturday night, the company reached out to Gibbons, saying they’d “love to chat and discuss how we can support your cause.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Sen. Janet Cruz and former Rep. MaryLynn Magar and Rep. Stan McClain, as well as Amy Bisceglia, the Florida Medical Association’s Tim Stapleton, Brad Herold, and the NFIB’s Tim Nungesser.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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