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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.25.21


Good Wednesday morning.

The preelection polls got this one right.

As expected, Ken Welch and City Council member Robert Blackmon finished one-two in the St. Pete Mayoral Primary and will advance to the General Election in November.

St. Pete Polls predicted this outcome for several weeks as Blackmon moved solidly ahead of Councilperson Darden Rice into second place in the nine-candidate field.

The top two finishers qualify for the General Election.

St. Pete Polls called it: Robert Blackmon and Ken Welch advance to the General.

Rice took heavy criticism after a mailer that linked Welch to former President Donald Trump. She dropped dramatically in the polls after that mailer and never recovered.

The primary result ensures that the November election will ensure a first for St. Petersburg.

Welch would be the city’s first Black Mayor, while Blackmon would be St. Pete’s first Millennial Mayor.

There were other races of interest.

In City Council District 1, Bobbie Shay Lee narrowly defeated Copley Gerdes by 16 votes — 2,263 to 2,247 — in the four-candidate field. They will square off in the November General Election.

In District 4, Lisset Hanewicz and Tom Mullins will oppose each other in November.

Voters will choose between Richie Floyd and Jeff Danner in District 8.


For the first time since Category 5 Hurricane Michael, the Florida Ports Council and Florida Seaports Transportation and Economic Development Council will hold their statewide annual meeting in Panama City today and Thursday.

Port directors from Florida’s 15 seaports, along with leaders from Florida’s Departments of Environmental Protection, Transportation and Economic Opportunity, and elected leaders from the state House and Senate, will join the meeting to discuss headwinds like COVID-19 impacting ports and tail wind opportunities to navigate beyond the pandemic.

Florida’s seaports lost an estimated 169,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion in economic activity through 2020. Florida Ports Council President and CEO Michael Rubin will present conference attendees with a state-of-Florida’s seaports update. Rep. Jay Trumbull, chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, will deliver Wednesday’s keynote luncheon speech.

With support from the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s seaports recently received critical pandemic relief funding to help mitigate the ongoing economic impacts seaports experienced throughout the pandemic. During the conference, the Florida Ports Council will honor several lawmakers, including Trumbull, Rep. Michelle Salzman and Sen. George Gainer, with the Seaport Champion Award.

Seaport leaders will also have an opportunity to see the community’s post-hurricane rebuild progress. They’ll tour Port Panama City to see firsthand the tremendous growth of the regional seaport.


Noah Valenstein has been tapped to serve as the first presidential fellow at The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Valenstein is the immediate past Secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which he held for four years. During the end of his time at DEP, he also served as Florida’s Chief Resiliency Officer. He is also a former executive director of the Suwanee River Water Management District.

Congrats to Noah Valenstein on his new gig at Florida Gulf Coast University.

“When Noah left the DEP, we saw a wonderful opportunity to include him as part of our team in The Water School,” said Greg Tolley, Ph.D. executive director of The Water School at FGCU. “Noah’s experience serving two consecutive governors as the secretary of DEP will help us advance the agenda of The Water School across the state. He will also help us focus our efforts on issues related to water policy.”

FGCU announced the appointment Wednesday, though his tenure began Aug. 7.

“Since it was announced two-and-a-half years ago, The Water School at FGCU has worked to find solutions to our state’s water issues,” said Valenstein. “I’ve watched this program come into its own over the last few years, and I want to be part of the good work happening here.”


Ashley Clark is the new Chief Operations Officer at Allegiant Strategies Group, the firm announced Wednesday.

“Ashley has an incredible eye for detail, is extremely organized, forward-thinking, and her collaborative approach to solving challenges is unparalleled. She will be managing all operations of the firm, as well as strategy on other business and investment ventures,” said David Clark, founder and managing partner of Allegiant Strategies Group.

Ashley Clark moves over to a new role at Allegiant Strategies Group.

Clark comes to the firm from the Public Service Commission, where she spent the past two years serving as Inspector General. In that role, she managed the Internal Audit and Investigations programs within the OIG. Clark led several audits, most notably relating to telework compliance resulting from COVID-19 and another relating to safety grant funds received from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

BillieAnne Gay, a skilled communicator with extensive government relations and public policy experience, is joining HCA Healthcare as its new Government Affairs Manager in Tallahassee.

In her most recent position as Director of Advocacy and Legislative Services for the Florida School Boards Association, Gay represented Florida’s elected school boards before legislative and executive branches. She oversaw the association’s communications activities, including website updates, media outreach, and heightened social media presence and engagement.

BillieAnne Gay takes her considerable talents to HCA Healthcare.

Gay holds a Designated Professional Lobbyist (DPL) designation and has served in leadership positions, including secretary of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists (FAPL) Foundation Board and as an Executive Board member for the Florida Association for the Education of Young Children (FLAEYC).

In her new role, Gay will be involved with HCA Healthcare’s state-level legislative activities and Good Government Group employee advocacy program, which supports nearly 50,000 employees across 50 hospitals with opportunities to get involved with health policy issues.

Gay earned a master’s in education leadership from the University of West Florida after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. She also holds multiple teaching certifications and an Education Leadership certification.


—@KenDilanianNBC: (Abdul Ghani) Baradar was once captured and jailed with the CIA’s help. Yesterday he sat across the table from CIA Director William Burns as the de facto leader of the victorious Taliban.

@GovKristiNoem: If @joebiden illegally mandates vaccines, I will take every action available under the law to protect South Dakotans from the federal government.

@oneunderscore_: That’s a thing I don’t get about the messaging on vaccines: People keep saying “talk to your doctor” about it. A lot of people don’t have primary care doctors! Especially dudes under 35, who are the people not taking the vaccine. No wonder they’re going to Dr. Facebook MD.

@JohnLegend: Don’t DeSantis our California. Reject the ridiculous recall. Vote No and return your ballot by 9/14.

Tweet, tweet:

Jerry Jones on why he’s so adamant about COVID-19 vaccine: “Everyone has a right to make their own decisions regarding their health & their body…until your decision as to yourself impacts negatively many others.

“We have got to check ‘I’ at the door & go forward with ‘we’.” pic.twitter.com/82CHEwxbDd

— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) August 24, 2021

@MobileMort: I probably shouldn’t be surprised anymore when I enter a business in Florida to find no staff or customers wearing a mask or distancing. But somehow, it still shocks me, given the exceptional scale of the tragedy ongoing in our state. Even now, I still find it stunning.

@Gangrey: Hell is a school board meeting on mandatory masks.

Tweet, tweet:

Congrats Joe for capturing the year 2021 in a single photograph. (Attn: @PulitzerPrizes) https://t.co/TNo8K7DTdf

— David Selig (@DaveSelig) August 24, 2021

@SShawFl: Congratulations to my fraternity brother and friend, @KenWelch! Tonight is a big win for the future of St. Pete. #PartnersInProgress

@NoahPransky: Only 51% of travelers in 2021 think you’re supposed to let the row in front of you off the plane before you rush to the front. I miss 2019.

@SimonCHolland: The pumpkin spice latte is back at Starbucks if y’all want to go ahead and start playing Christmas music.


Boise vs. UCF — 8; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 9; Notre Dame at FSU — 11; NFL regular season begins — 15; Bucs home opener — 15; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 20; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 20; Alabama at UF — 24; Dolphins home opener — 25; Jaguars home opener — 25; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 26; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 37; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 37; MLB regular season ends — 38; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 42; World Series Game 1 — 55; ‘Dune’ premieres — 58; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 63; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 63; Georgia at UF — 66; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 69; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 69; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 72; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 74; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 75; Miami at FSU — 80; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 85; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 86; FSU vs. UF — 94; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 98; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 107; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 114; NFL season ends — 137; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 139; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 139; NFL playoffs begin — 143; Super Bowl LVI — 172; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 212; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 256; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 281; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 317; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 329; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 408; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 443.


Florida hasn’t asked for $820 million in federal food assistance for children” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis’ administration has not yet applied for up to $820 million in food assistance to more than 2 million Florida children, raising concerns from food assistance groups and others who note that child hunger remains a significant problem. The federal program, called the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, was created last year to help feed children who missed meals because they weren’t attending schools in person during the pandemic. The program deposits money to a card for families of children who qualify for free or reduced meals at their school.

Ron DeSantis is leaving nearly $1 billion in federal pandemic food aid on the table. Image via CNN.


“Florida COVID-19 update: 21,208 more cases reported, six new deaths” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 21,208 more COVID-19 cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, according to Herald calculations of CDC data. The state also reported six new deaths the day before. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,103,941 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide and 42,722 deaths. As of the Tuesday report, 11,102,484 eligible Floridians — 51.7% of the state’s population — had completed the two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or have completed Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine. There were 17,088 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida on Tuesday, according to data reported from 233 Florida hospitals. That is 55 fewer patients than Monday’s COVID-19 patient population.

Florida sees another big COVID-19 day. Image via AP.

Florida’s deadliest time for COVID-19 is right now” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — This month, Florida is seeing its deadliest days yet of the COVID-19 pandemic. At no time in the coronavirus pandemic has Florida recorded more deaths attributed to COVID-19 than last week. And trend lines are skyrocketing. The state’s official death toll rose 1,486 in last Friday’s weekly COVID-19 report from the Florida Department of Health. That one-week increase was by far the single-biggest weekly increase since the Sunshine State’s first COVID-19 fatalities were confirmed in March 2020.

Poll: 61% of Floridians think COVID-19 surge was preventable; many give Ron DeSantis low marks” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis’ move to withhold salaries of school leaders for mandating masks for students is a “bad idea” to 69% of Floridians and a “good idea” to 25%, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll. Most people also disagree with another DeSantis move: banning local governments from imposing mask mandates. The poll found more than two-thirds of Florida adults think local officials should be able to require masks in indoor public spaces. The poll found that 61% of Floridians think the rise in cases in the past few weeks was preventable, 63% are concerned about the delta variant, 59% say the spread of COVID-19 in the state is out of control, 73% say it is a serious current problem.

DeSantis adviser takes (virtual) stand in lawsuit testing school masks policy” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Lawyers for the DeSantis administration spent much of Tuesday afternoon trying to undermine the credibility of its key witness in the state court lawsuit challenging the governor’s policy against mask mandates for children in public schools. The witness is Jay Bhattacharya, a researcher specializing in the economics of medicine at Stanford University. He is not an immunologist or epidemiologist but says he has studied COVID-19 closely since the disease emerged early last year. DeSantis has built his policy, giving parents a veto over whether their children must wear masks against COVID-19 transmission inside school buildings, around the opinions of Bhattacharya and people like him who buck the conventional wisdom on COVID-19.

DeSantis chose not to be the hero on schools, masks and safety” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis is where he likes to be, at war with perceived political enemies. At the moment, it’s a familiar foe, school districts that DeSantis can’t control. Few fights better symbolize his preference for reckless showmanship over governing. Yet as DeSantis’ attorney argues against the power of local districts to make decisions about masks, the irony is how easily the governor could have been the hero on education during the pandemic. He could have helped the state. He could have helped himself. Doing so, however, would have meant offending the anti-science zealots who underlie the current Republican Party.

The FDA approved a coronavirus vaccine. Will Florida step up its game?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — As the FDA approved the coronavirus shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for everyone older than 16, Biden said anyone worried about the dangers of what they perceived to be an experimental medication could set those fears aside. But in Florida, significant barriers remain in the way of mandatory vaccination. Employers can legally mandate shots to employees, but key industry sectors have been hesitant to do so. Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, wrote in an email that the FDA’s approval did not change the Governor’s thinking on mandatory vaccination.

Sheriff Grady Judd: ‘Don’t listen to the politicians; get your vaccine‘” via Ken Suarez of Fox 13 — When Polk County Sheriff Judd has something to say, he never pulls any punches, especially on something as important as COVID-19. His agency just lost one of their own to the virus. Veteran deputy Christopher Broadhead, a father of five, succumbed to COVID-19 after being hospitalized for weeks. “My wife and I got the vaccination on Day One when we were eligible,” he said. “Listen to the doctors, don’t listen to the politicians; get your vaccine,” he continued.

After losing one of his officers, Grady Judd urges Floridians to get the shot.

‘Who is going to help me?’: How a Florida team brings health care to this community” via Janine Zeitlin of USA Today — Delivering food is one way health workers connect with sick residents in the immigrant-rich agricultural community of Immokalee, Florida, which was ravaged by COVID-19 last year. It creates an opening to see them in person. Osman Lopez Hernandez has found residents will say they’re OK even if they’re not. Another route to building trust is guiding residents through systems they may be wary of to get the support they need. Doctors Without Borders departed after a few months and left the job in local hands. Healthcare Network secured a $1.2-million federal grant to start the team and deliver grassroots outreach unlike the local clinic had ever provided.

Disney, Royal Caribbean add vaccine requirements to cruises” via Christie Zizo of Bay News 9 — Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise lines became the latest this week to make COVID-19 vaccine a requirement to board a ship. Disney Cruise Lines changed its policy on its website Tuesday. For cruises starting Sept. 3 that include a stop in The Bahamas, guests ages 12 and older must be fully vaccinated 14 days before leaving on the ship. Guests must also provide proof of vaccination before leaving. Guests under 12 must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken between five days and 24 hours before the sail date. The policy change coincides with The Bahamas government’s order requiring all cruise ships to provide crew and passenger manifests showing everyone is fully vaccinated before entering port.


Broward Health warns of ‘catastrophic scenarios’ for pregnant women with COVID-19” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A sharp increase in pregnant patients with COVID-19 has alarmed doctors at Broward Health, who held a news conference Tuesday to urge pregnant women to get vaccinated. One woman died in the past week at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, the first death among pregnant COVID-19 patients at the four-hospital system. Other pregnant COVID-19 patients have experienced difficulty breathing and complications in childbirth. The vast majority has been unvaccinated. During past waves of the disease, one pregnant COVID-19 patient would show up every three or five days, said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s interim chief medical officer. Now they’re admitting three to five pregnant COVID-19 patients per day.

COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for pregnant women. Image via AP.

Broward schools stick by mask mandate and accuse Florida of breaking the law” via Brooke Batinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County’s School Board officially told the state Tuesday that it won’t back down on its mask mandate in schools because it has a responsibility to keep children safe. The State Board of Education’s demand that the school district must stand down or face penalties is against the law and infringes on the School Board’s legal authority to run the district, the School Board argued. The School Board also argued that parents don’t have an unlimited right to send their kids to school without a mask, because it would infringe on the rights of other parents who want their children to be safe. The state had given Broward schools until Tuesday to lift their mandate.

Orange schools to mandate masks for 60 days starting Monday” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orange school board did not vote on the issue but a majority told Superintendent Barbara Jenkins they wanted her to issue a mask mandate and agreed with her suggestion that it be in place until Oct. 30. The Orange board is now at least the ninth Florida school district to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration’s ban on mask mandates in public schools. Orange board members also said they wanted to challenge the legality of his ban — put in force by a Florida Department of Health rule — and could join with the Broward County School Board in that fight.

Baldwin Middle-High School shifting to remote learning due to COVID-19 impact” via News 4 Jax — Due to the number of positive COVID-19 cases at Baldwin Middle-High School and resulting close-contacts exceeding the 20% threshold, Duval County Public Schools on Tuesday said the school will shift to online learning beginning Wednesday. “Students should not come to the school between Aug. 25 and Aug. 31. Instead, students should log on to their first-period class through Microsoft Teams at the normal first-period time of 7:15 a.m.,” Baldwin Middle-High said on its website. Should students need their laptops or other technology from the school for online instruction, parents should contact the school Wednesday. Curbside meal service will be available on weekdays during the building closure.

Palm Beach County school mask mandate should be fully enforced by next week, district says” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County public schools’ new mask mandate will not be fully implemented for at least a few more days, school district leaders say, as administrators continue reaching out to mask-averse parents and students before intervening. Principals have been directed to communicate directly with students and parents who oppose facial coverings as a first step in imposing the mask requirement, which took effect Monday.

Pinellas School Board rejects change to student mask rule” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday cut short any further discussion of a mask mandate for students and staff, narrowly rejecting a proposal to meet on the topic. The vote put Pinellas on a different path from other large districts around the state, including neighboring Hillsborough County, who have recently voted to challenge the state’s ban on school mask mandates.

Student quarantines top 7,000 in Central Florida as Orange board plans mask discussion” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — More than 7,000 Central Florida public school students must do schoolwork at home this week because of exposure to the coronavirus, a figure that includes the entire sixth grade at one Lake County school and a 1,600-student school in Osceola County. With schools open, the contagious delta variant that has led to a surge of COVID-19 cases in the region has done the same on campuses, with students cases far outpacing what happened last school year. “It’s a shock,” said Principal Linda Bartberger of Round Lake Charter, a pre-K-to-eighth-grade school in Mount Dora that last year did not have any COVID-19 cases until weeks into the school year.

TMH releases new COVID-19 data showing three deaths; hospitalizations remain at record high” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — As local COVID-19-related hospitalizations remain at Monday’s record number of 251, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare began releasing more data on its new admissions and deaths. On Monday, three COVID-19-positive TMH patients died, and 12 new patients were admitted, according to its new daily snapshot statistics. Additionally, there are 125 COVID-19 patients, 106 of whom are unvaccinated, in the hospital, with 45 appearing under the “critically ill” criteria, meaning they “require intensive care,” according to TMH spokesperson Danielle Buchanan.

—”Leon cancels game, NFC suspends practice due to COVID-19 cases, exposure” via Jack Williams of the Tallahassee Democrat

Hundreds of Bay County students and staff under COVID-19 quarantine after two weeks of school” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News Herald — According to Bay District Schools statistics, as of Friday, a total of 587 students and staff were under quarantine after the report of 114 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the school system. Of the people quarantining, 312 were reported directly by the school district, while the rest are self-reported because they had close contact with a family member or someone outside of school with COVID-19. Lyndsey Jackson, the supervisory school nurse for BDS, said that for the most part, there hadn’t been an interruption in operations in the school district despite a large number of quarantines. She also said there hadn’t been a huge distinction on what grade levels have been affected by COVID-19 — it has been pretty even.

Volusia-Flagler schools report 500 more cases of COVID-19 in first weeks over last year” via Nikki Ross and Cassidy Alexander of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Year two of school in Volusia and Flagler counties amid the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in hundreds more cases of COVID-19 during the first week than were reported last year. The spike is emblematic of how the coronavirus pandemic has changed, and is in many ways more dangerous, for children since the pandemic began more than 18 months ago. Volusia County schools reported 358 COVID-19 cases among students and staff during the first week of school, 18 times the 20 cases reported the same time last year.

Judge: Masks mandated for anyone visiting Brevard’s courthouses as COVID-19 surges” via J.D. Gallop of Florida Today — The surge in COVID-19 cases moved the 18th Judicial Circuit chief judge to issue an administrative order re-implementing a mask mandate for all visitors entering Brevard’s court facilities. Brevard-Seminole Chief Judge Jessica Recksiedler issued the order last week following a judicial meeting and after getting input from jurists in both counties. It took effect Friday. Seminole County judges, however, voted to exclude their county from the order because COVID-19 has not grown as prevalent in the courthouses there as it has in Brevard, where hospitals are coping with large numbers of cases.

Schools, courts, and other businesses are increasingly mandating masks. Image via Reuters.

Some AdventHealth hospitals suspend elective procedures amid surge in COVID-19 cases” via WFLA — AdventHealth North Pinellas announced Tuesday it will stop all elective procedures that are not time-sensitive urgent or emergent. This decision allows the hospital to further plan for the increased need for hospital beds, resources, and advocate for patients and team members. Patients will be notified if their procedure will be canceled. Last week, AdventHealth Carrollwood, AdventHealth Dade City, AdventHealth Sebring, AdventHealth Zephyrhills paused non-time-sensitive and nonemergent procedures. All AdventHealth West Florida Division hospital locations will continue with time-sensitive urgent and emergent surgeries and procedures as scheduled.

Largest Walt Disney World union agrees to vaccination mandate” via Ryan Parker of The Hollywood Reporter — Members of the Service Trades Council Union, which represents 30,000 workers at the Florida theme park resort in the area of hotels, shops, attractions, and food and beverage, are now required to show proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 22, according to the agreement. Any union member who refuses the vaccination without proof of a medical exemption or “sincerely” held religious belief will lose their job. However, they will “retain a positive rehire status,” the document states. Actors’ Equity Association, the union which represents Disney World performers, also reportedly agreed to vaccination terms. Disney World will host on-site vaccination areas for employees.

UCF’s Gus Malzahn: Knights’ COVID-19 vaccination rate improving” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — UCF coach Gus Malzahn said that close to 70% of the team was vaccinated back on Aug. 13 and the first-year coach said those overall numbers have improved in recent weeks although he wouldn’t go into specifics as to how many of his players have received the COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s improved,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “I can’t sit here and tell you today exactly what the percent is, but I’d say probably much improved.” Malzahn added that the program continues to educate players on the benefits of vaccination. “We’re constantly trying to educate our guys,” he added. “I mean, they’re going to make their decisions, but we’re going to educate our guys, and I think so far we’ve handled it well.”


State forecasts $2.6 billion bump in general revenue” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Revenue Estimating Conference updated its forecast Tuesday to reflect a $2.6 billion bump in state general revenue taxes over the current and upcoming fiscal year. The fiscal boost is most evident in two categories: sales tax and corporate income tax. Sales tax revenue is expected to increase by more than $1.3 billion in FY 2021-22 and $668.5 million in FY 2022-23. Despite the expected increase, state economists noted a potential caveat. The second-largest increase is expected in corporate income tax. Economists increased the forecast by $307.2 million in FY 2021-22 and $536.0 million in FY 2022-23.

Sales taxes are helping boost Florida’s revenue estimates. Image via AP.

Happening today — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will meet to discuss new rules on springs protection zones, 5:30 p.m., Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 South Meridian St., Tallahassee.

Lawsuit claims Florida failed to craft criminal database” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — A lawsuit filed Tuesday claims Florida officials failed to comply with a new law requiring the creation of a public database tracking how justice is delivered across the state — which advocates say is key toward exposing racial disparities in criminal sentencing. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued in Broward County Circuit Court, naming as defendants the county’s clerk of court and sheriff, along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Corrections Department. The organization contends that government agencies have been slow to roll out the database.


Shevrin Jones to file bill protecting imprisoned pregnant women after baby dies in Alachua jail cell” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones says in light of a newborn dying earlier this month inside an Alachua County jail, he’ll refile a measure protecting pregnant women who are arrested. Erica Thompson says she screamed for staff to help as she gave birth to the infant at just six months. Thompson says when she was arrested, she told jail staff she felt contractions. “When I said that, I felt like all bets were off, everybody needs to be coming in here trying to check on me and see what’s going on,” she told CBS 4. Thompson said she gave birth alone in her cell. Her child was transferred to the hospital alive, but later died.

After a baby died behind bars, Shevrin Jones files a bill to protect pregnant women.

Anthony Sabatini files bill to ban vaccine mandates” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Rep. Sabatini filed a bill Tuesday to repeal state laws allowing for mandatory vaccinations during a state of emergency. Sabatini has previously called for a special session to ban all vaccination and mask mandates by local governments and businesses, but GOP legislative leaders haven’t opted to return to the Capitol for that. DeSantis pushed for and signed into law SB 2006 earlier this year, which bans businesses from requiring so-called “vaccine passports,” or proof of vaccination from customers before receiving goods or services.

Happening today — House Appropriations Chairman Jay Trumbull will speak at the two-day Florida Ports Council meeting; event starts at 7:30 a.m., speech at 11:45 a.m., Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort, 4114 Jan Cooley Dr., Panama City Beach.

Happening today — Rep. Spencer Roach will appear at a meeting of the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida, noon, Broadway Palm, 1380 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.

Happening today — The Broward County delegation holds a public meeting, 6:30 p.m., Junior Achievement of South Florida, JA World Huizenga Center at the Lillian S. Wells Pavilion, 1130 Coconut Creek Boulevard, Coconut Creek. RSVP to [email protected] A link will be supplied for online viewing.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jared Brooks: 17th Judicial Circuit State Attorney

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: City of DeBary

Richard McCullough: Florida State University

Jared Rosenstein, Capital City Consulting: CDR Maguire

Daniel Sohn, Floridian Group: Family In Distress

Katie Webb, Amanda Fraser, Colodny Fass: American Diabetes Association

— 2022 —

DeSantis fundraises off ‘was it worth it?’ letter to Associated Press” via Renzo Downey of Florida — A new fundraising pitch for DeSantis‘ reelection committee features his war of words with The Associated Press. An email sent Tuesday to DeSantis supporters, with a subject line “Was It Worth It, AP?” alluded to the Governor’s letter to the national news wire Monday. The Governor sent the letter after Twitter suspended his press secretary for what the AP called “abusive behavior,” leading to threats against reporter Brendan Farrington. Twitter locked press secretary Pushaw’s account for 12 hours beginning Friday night. The suspension came after Pushaw encouraged her nearly 22,000 followers to harass Farrington, who published a story last week about a top DeSantis donor’s link to a hedge fund.

Ron DeSantis uses the AP kerfuffle as a money pitch. Image via AP.

DeSantis’s anti-mask mania is deeply unpopular. Democrats must jump on that.” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — We now have a quality poll that seeks to probe public opinion on the great mask debate in Florida in a lot of fine-grained detail. And the conclusion is clear: Anti-mask derangement is losing the argument. Badly. Which hints at a big opening for Biden and Democrats. Florida, of course, is ground zero in the mask wars, to a degree unsurpassed by any state, with the possible exception of Texas. A plurality of Florida residents believe DeSantis is hurting efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state, 46% to 41%.

As more school districts join mask rebellion, Nikki Fried calls on DeSantis to cancel mask mandate prohibition” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Fried called on DeSantis Tuesday morning to cancel his executive order blocking schools from requiring students to mask up in school. “Governor, enough is enough,” she said. Pushaw said there would be no comment on Fried’s call. The move comes as seven school districts, and possibly an eighth, are now in open rebellion, passing requirements for all children to come to school with masks unless they have a documented medical reason for not wearing one from a doctor. By contrast, unvaccinated seniors in Britain, Spain and Canada are relatively rare.

Marco Rubio attack ad likens Val Demings to the ‘socialist Squad’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rubio has released a new video slamming the voting record of Democratic U.S. Rep. Demings, who is running to unseat him next year. The campaign ad, which went public Tuesday on Rubio’s YouTube page, comes only days after Florida Politics published the results of a poll showing Rubio holds just a 2-percentage-point lead over Demings. In the 30-second video, Rubio’s campaign likens Demings, a former Orlando Police Department Chief, to one of the so-called “Squad,” a group of four Democratic Representatives known for being among the most progressive members of Congress. The name refers to U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio — Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

No-party candidate in Miami election fraud case takes plea deal, apologizes to voters” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Alexis Rodriguez, who was paid more than $40,000 by former Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles to run as a no-party candidate in the key Senate District 37 race, pleaded guilty to two felony charges: conspiracy to accept or make campaign contributions above legal limits and accepting and making those excess campaign contributions. Investigators say Rodriguez ran to “confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent,” a Democrat who shares the same surname and ultimately lost his seat by just 32 votes. Artiles, who has also been charged, has pleaded not guilty. Rodriguez will serve three years probation, including one year on house arrest with a GPS monitor in exchange for his guilty plea.


Pandemic reemerges as Americans’ top concern, poll shows” via Derek Hawkins, Bryan Pietsch and Adela Suliman of The Washington Post — The coronavirus pandemic has reemerged as Americans’ top concern as the ferocious delta variant rips across the country. Twenty-six percent of Americans ranked the pandemic as the most important problem facing the United States, higher than other pressing issues such as the government, immigration, the economy and race relations. The number has more than tripled since June, when just 8% of Americans said the virus was their top concern. Federal health officials are optimistic that a large swath of vaccine-hesitant Americans will be swayed by the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and by resulting mandates in the public and private sectors.

COVID-19 takes the top spot as America’s biggest fear. Image via AP.

—”Hawaii Gov. David Ige urges tourists to stay home amid COVID-19 surge: ‘Now is not the time to visit the islands’” via Dawn Gilbertson of USA Today

—“Texas town closed due to COVID-19: In Iraan, nearly half its people hit by COVID-19” via Scott Gleason of USA Today

Many older Americans still aren’t vaccinated, making the delta wave deadlier” via Josh Holder and Amy Schoenfeld Walker The New York Times — The United States has a far higher share of seniors without full vaccine protection than many other wealthy countries, a key risk factor driving serious COVID-19 illness and death. As the delta variant has torn across the country, America’s pace of vaccinations has sped up after months of relative stagnation, and full federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine could extend that momentum. Just over half of Americans are now fully vaccinated. But national averages mask the high rate of older Americans who remain deeply vulnerable. Older people still account for most COVID-19 deaths, and in many counties, especially in the South and Mountain West, seniors without full vaccination make up more than 10% of the total population.

NIH director: Vaccine approval for kids unlikely before late 2021” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — One of the federal government’s top public health experts on Tuesday predicted it is unlikely children under the age of 12 will be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine before late 2021, contradicting the speedier timelines offered by other Biden administration officials. Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are currently studying the shot’s safety and efficacy in younger children and infants. Pfizer is expected to deliver the results of its trials for 5-11-year-olds to the FDA sometime in September. But Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, suggested it could take months after receiving that data for the regulatory agency to grant an emergency authorization to Pfizer’s vaccine for use among children under 12.


Joe Biden and the Fed wanted a hot economy. There’s risk of getting burned.” via Neil Irwin of The New York Times — There is a big idea in economic policy that has become ascendant in recent years: Great things can be achieved for American workers if the economy is allowed to run hot. The notion of creating a “high-pressure” economy is that government should be willing to risk a bit of inflation in the near-term to achieve conditions that will over the long run lift people out of poverty, prevent the scars of recessions from becoming permanent, and make the nation’s economic potential stronger. The results so far show that pushing the economic accelerator to the floor has trade-offs, specifically the combination of trillions in federal spending with interest rates held near zero. But consumer prices have been rising faster than average wages.

America’s economy is heating up. But will it boil over? Image via AP.

Florida sending out more stimulus checks, see who qualifies and how much they’ll get” via Darcie Loreno of WFLA — While it seems as if the chance for all Americans to get a fourth stimulus check is growing dim, some states are doling out their own payments for certain residents. Teachers, first responders, or families in need will get additional checks or bonuses thanks to allocations in their state’s budget and other initiatives. The list includes California, Florida, New Mexico and Tennessee. The White House and leaders in Congress have not given any indication that a fourth payment will be approved, and there’s been little other movement aside from online petitions and letters from lawmakers to Biden.

Happening today — Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith will hold an online hearing in a challenge to the DeSantis administration’s plan to cut off federal unemployment money for Floridians, 9 a.m. Livestreamed on the court’s YouTube channel.

AAA: Lower gasoline prices in Florida linked to spread of COVID-19” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Floridians can expect gasoline prices to continue their decline if the delta variant of the coronavirus continues its surge throughout the U.S. Prices at the pump in the Sunshine State dropped another 3 cents in the past week. The average price in Florida is now $2.98 a gallon. The decline was in response to a 10% drop in domestic crude oil prices last week, $6 less a barrel than the previous week, and another 24 cent decline in gasoline futures. Current market prices are the lowest they’ve been since April, when the average price was $2.80 a gallon.


CDC study shows unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19” via Berkeley Lovelace, Jr. of CNBC — Unvaccinated people are about 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated, according to a study released Tuesday by the CDC. The new study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also found that unvaccinated people were nearly five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than people who got the shots. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday the data shows that “if you are not yet vaccinated, you are among those at highest risk.”

The coronavirus could get worse” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — Delta, the hyper-contagious variant that has swept the globe in recent months, is undoubtedly one of the virus’s most daring moves to date. This variant is the product of unfettered transmission and will thrive further on it; if allowed, delta could morph into something even more formidable. We can’t precisely predict what worse will look like. Delta could continue to ratchet up its rate of spread, or it could be ousted by another super-infectious variant. But the speed that has powered delta’s transmission for months probably can’t sustain SARS-CoV-2 forever. Humanity’s collective immunity to the virus is growing, which means the next variants we encounter might be better off taking a tack that relies a lot more on stealth.

COVID-19 delta is bad, but the next one could be a lot worse. Image via Reuters.

Republicans keep hiding behind White Democrats to shift vaccine hesitancy blame onto Blacks” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Republicans are (probably subconsciously) trying to use the fact that most Republicans are White to imply that most Whites are Republican, which isn’t true. The reality is that Black vaccination rates do reflect a greater hesitancy than Whites overall, but Blacks are less hesitant than White Republicans, the focal point of the aforementioned criticism. If we look at the number of states where each group is over- or underrepresented, we see that the Black population is underrepresented in red and blue states.

The vaccine scientist spreading vaccine misinformation” via Tom Bartlett of The Atlantic — Wherever he appears, Robert Malone is billed as the inventor of mRNA vaccines. It’s in his Twitter bio. If that’s true — or, more to the point, if Malone believes it to be true — then you might expect him to be championing a very different message. According to one recent study, the innovation for which he claims to be responsible has already saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S. alone; there’s talk that it may soon lead to a round of Nobel Prizes. It’s the kind of validation that few scientists in history have ever received. Yet, instead of taking a victory lap, Malone has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of his own alleged accomplishment.

Asian American leaders fear COVID-19 origin report could fuel more bigotry and violence” via Nicole Chavez of CNN — Asian American leaders are concerned that a report on the origins of the COVID-19 virus expected to be released this week by the Biden administration will be used to “legitimize racist language” and lead to more anti-Asian violence across the country. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people in the United States have been victims of anti-Asian incidents, from verbal abuse to physical attacks. A year later, Asian American advocates fear that even more women, children and seniors will be at risk as the nation slowly returns to schools, workplaces and outdoor activities this fall.

Should you avoid a cruise? CDC says these groups should stay off, even if COVID-19 vaccinated” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — The latest COVID-19 surge has prompted the CDC to update its advice about cruises to “recommend travelers who are at increased risk for severe illness avoid cruise ship travel, regardless of vaccination status.” The CDC’s definition of “increased risk” includes people 65 or older, and people with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung diseases, dementia, diabetes, HIV, heart conditions, weakened immune system, pregnancy, sickle cell anemia, blood or organ transplant recipients. The advice also includes people who have had a stroke or substance abuse disorders. And the CDC also recommends those who aren’t fully vaccinated stay away from cruises, on which the CDC rates the COVID-19 threat as “High.”

There are some people who should not take a cruise, no matter what. Image via AP.

Carnival passenger who tested positive for coronavirus on cruise dies” via Lateshia Beachum and Hannah Sampson of The Washington Post — Marilyn Tackett, a 77-year-old woman from Oklahoma, died this month after contracting the coronavirus. She was among the 27 reported positive cases aboard the Carnival Vista, one of the highest number of publicly recorded cases on a ship sailing from the U.S. since cruises restarted this summer. All 27 people who tested positive were vaccinated, according to health authorities in Belize, one of the ship’s destinations. Since June, passengers and crew on multiple ships leaving the U.S. or Caribbean have tested positive for the virus, but most cases have been mild or asymptomatic. Cruise lines are sailing with the vast majority of passengers vaccinated to avoid the outbreaks and deaths that grounded the industry early last year.


Americans’ harsh judgment on Afghanistan costs Biden’s approval, down to 41%” via Susan Page, Matthew Brown and Mabinty Quarshie of USA Today — After two decades of combat, Americans by more than 2-1 say the war in Afghanistan, launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, wasn’t worth it. In a new poll, 3 of 4 predict the Taliban-led country will once again become a haven for terrorists targeting the United States. For Biden, the cost of the war’s chaotic end has been steep. His overall job approval rating now stands at 41% who approve versus 55% who disapprove, a big drop in the closely watched barometer of political health. Until last week, national polls generally showed his approval rating above 50%. Only 32% of independents say he’s doing a good job.

The Afghanistan pullout is helping Joe Biden’s popularity take a dive. Image via AP.

Biden pushes to complete Afghan evacuation by Aug. 31 — but orders backup plan” via Sean Sullivan, Anne Gearan, Dan Lamothe and John Hudson of The Washington Post — Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed his intent to complete the U.S. evacuation mission in Afghanistan by Aug. 31, but he also ordered contingency plans if that cannot be accomplished — a position that stoked a new round of outrage and confusion about the country’s exit from a two-decade war. The result was looming uncertainty over whether the U.S. would finalize its exit within a week, as Biden wants, as well as intensifying anger from would-be Afghan refugees, U.S. allies worried about getting their own personnel out of the country, and veterans concerned about the fate of those who helped the war effort. “The sooner we can finish, the better,” Biden said. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”

Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted, and that could spell trouble for Democrats in Congress” via Christina Wilkie of CNBC — Biden’s poll numbers have slipped to their lowest point of his presidency, and much of it has to do with COVID-19 and Afghanistan. The frenzied U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan appears to have shaken voters’ faith in his promise to bring competence and a steady hand back to the White House. Americans across the political spectrum are horrified by images of desperate mobs trying to get to the Kabul airport and flee the country. The president began the month with an average job approval rating of 51.5%, down from 54% at the start of May. By Tuesday, Biden’s average approval rating had fallen to 47%.

How Biden will meet America’s 2030 Paris agreement goal” via Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic — In April, Biden set a goal: The U.S. would cut its greenhouse-gas pollution by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. But how the Biden administration planned to turn those plans into concrete greenhouse-gas reductions and meet its own 2030 target, it didn’t say. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will soon release an analysis showing that the budget-reconciliation bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill will combine to reduce U.S. emissions by 40% from 2005 levels. The most important policies for emissions reductions are the Clean Electricity Payment Program, which would compensate utilities for switching to zero-carbon electricity, and an overhaul of the clean-energy tax credits. Consumer rebates for zero-emissions vehicles, a new agriculture-conservation program, and a fee on methane leaks from the oil and gas sector would also contribute.

Supreme Court allows revival of Donald Trump-Era ‘remain in Mexico’ asylum policy” via Adam Liptak of The New York Times — The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to block a ruling from a federal judge in Texas requiring the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era immigration program that forces asylum-seekers arriving at the southwestern border to await approval in Mexico. The court’s brief unsigned order said that the administration had appeared to act arbitrarily and capriciously in rescinding the program, citing a decision last year refusing to let the Trump administration rescind the Obama-era program protecting the young immigrants known as Dreamers. The court’s three more liberal members said they would have granted a stay of the trial judge’s ruling. They did not give reasons. The case will now be heard by an appeals court and may return to the Supreme Court.“

Donald Trump’s ‘stay in Mexico’ policy must stay in place, SCOTUS says.

Kamala Harris pushes ahead with Vietnam trip despite possible Havana syndrome incident” via Tarini Parti and Feliz Solomon of The Wall Street Journal — Vice President Harris temporarily delayed a flight from Singapore to Vietnam on Tuesday after her office was made aware of what the State Department called a “possible anomalous health incident” in Hanoi. Government officials have used that language to describe what is more commonly called Havana Syndrome, a series of unexplained medical symptoms first experienced by State Department personnel stationed in Cuba beginning in late 2016. After an assessment, the decision was made to continue the trip, the State Department said. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. had no intelligence that Harris was a target of the incident.


How Trumpian politics stoke the coronavirus pandemic” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Trump has fought hard to take more credit than he’s due for the genesis of the vaccines and would be happy to see them widely embraced so that he could amplify those claims. But, at the same time, his political success was a function of following what the base, generally as manifested on Fox News or right-wing websites, wanted. Hence the quick backtrack at his rally to acquiesce to what the loud voices wanted, if not the actual majority.

Donald Trump’s politics let the loudest voices guide the pandemic response. Image via AP.

In latest bow to Trump, GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to launch hearings on 2020 vote” via Elise Viebeck of The Washington Post — Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to formally launch hearings as part of an investigation into the 2020 vote in the state, the latest GOP-backed effort to revisit an election that Trump has falsely claimed was fraudulent. State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said this week that lawmakers are pursuing a “full forensic investigation” of the election to examine ballots and voter rolls. “I don’t necessarily have faith in the results,” he told conservative media personality Wendy Bell in an interview livestreamed on Facebook on Monday. “I think that there were many problems in our election that we need to get to the bottom of.” Corman said the hearings could begin as soon as this week.

Trump ally Herschel Walker is running for U.S. Senate in Georgia” via Stephen Fowler of NPR — Walker, a former University of Georgia football standout and a friend and ally of Trump, is running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, setting up a high-profile Republican primary next year in the crucial battleground state. Walker enters a growing field seeking to unseat Democrat Raphael Warnock, Georgia’s first Black Senator, with strong encouragement from Trump, who has been fixated on Georgia politics since narrowly losing the state’s 16 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election. Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and a Wrightsville, Georgia, native, has long lived in Texas after a professional football career that ended in Dallas, but he changed his voter registration last week to an Atlanta house owned by his wife, Julie Blanchard.


Jan. 6 investigation will seek phone records related to attack, including lawmakers” via Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will seek electronic communications records related to the attack, including from members of Congress, the panel’s chair said Monday. Select Committee Chair Bennie Thompson told reporters his panel would be sending letters to telecommunications companies and social media companies, requesting they preserve relevant documents. Thompson confirmed that members of Congress could be included in the records requests and that there were “several hundred” people the committee sought to contact as part of the wide-ranging probe.

Bennie Thompson is considering pulling fellow lawmakers into the Jan. 6 probe. Image via AP.

Man charged in Jan. 6 assault of news photographer” via Mychael Schnell of The Hill — Benjamen Scott Burlew, 41, was charged with assault in special territorial jurisdiction and acts of physical violence on restricted grounds for his actions at the Capitol complex on Jan. 6. According to federal prosecutors, Burlew engaged in the physical assault of a credentialed photographer for The Associated Press. Video captured at the scene showed that Burlew “aggressively confronted” a photographer and then, with other individuals, “grabbed the photographer and pushed him, then shoved and dragged him parallel to the stairs,” according to his indictment. Burlew had another encounter with the photographer later in the day. When the journalist was “backed up against a low stone wall,” Burlew threw him over the wall to the west lawn of the Capitol.

Judge questions DOJ’s media policy in Capitol riot case against Infowars host” via Aruna Viswanatha and Rebecca Ballhaus of The Wall Street Journal — Attorney General Merrick Garland’s move last month to limit Justice Department probes of journalists is facing an early test from an unlikely source: a federal judge overseeing a criminal case against a talk-show host on Infowars. In an order made public Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui said prosecutors refused to answer on the record whether they had complied with the department’s updated media policy when seeking a warrant to arrest the talk-show host, Owen Shroyer, for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors had provided enough evidence to warrant Shroyer’s being put on criminal trial, Faruqui wrote, but they wouldn’t lay out their reasons for determining that Shroyer wasn’t a member of the news media.


House passes $3.5T Biden blueprint after deal with moderates” via Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking of The Associated Press — Striking a deal with moderates, House Democratic leaders muscled Biden’s multitrillion-dollar budget blueprint over a key hurdle Tuesday, ending a risky standoff and putting the party’s domestic infrastructure agenda back on track. The 220-212 vote was a first move toward drafting Biden’s $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan this fall, and the narrow outcome, in the face of unanimous Republican opposition, signaled the power a few voices have to alter the debate and the challenges ahead still threatening to upend the President’s agenda. From the White House, Biden praised the outcome as “a step closer to truly investing in the American people.” He said at a news conference that he had called to congratulate House leaders for the work.

Nancy Pelosi gets the job done. Image via AP.

Two Congress members make unauthorized trip to Kabul amid evacuation efforts” via Annie Linskey, Tyler Pager, John Hudson and Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — The visit by Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton and Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Meijer — which was not approved as part of the normal process for congressional fact-finding trips — served as a distraction for military and civilian staffers attempting to carry out frenzied rescue efforts, according to two people familiar with the trip who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the matter. It is not clear how the lawmakers, both of whom served in Iraq before being elected to Congress, first entered Afghanistan. Moulton’s office did not confirm the trip until the plane evacuating the members of Congress left Afghanistan’s airspace. Meijer’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

GOP will use defense bill to highlight Afghanistan chaos” via Mark Satter of Roll Call — A group of House GOP party leaders and veterans of the Afghanistan War on Tuesday hammered Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal and said they’d use next week’s House Armed Services Committee markup of defense authorization legislation to keep up the pressure. In a news conference outside of The Capitol, the lawmakers accused Biden of “leaving Americans behind enemy lines” in Afghanistan and called his refusal to extend his Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces a mistake. According to the White House, the U.S. has evacuated about 37,000 people from Afghanistan since Kabul fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15. But the administration has declined to say exactly how many Americans might still be in Afghanistan.

House passes a voting rights bill, but a GOP blockade awaits in the Senate” via Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — The House voted on Tuesday to restore federal oversight of state election laws under the 1965 Voting Rights Act and expand its reach, as Democrats moved to strengthen a crowning legislative achievement of the civil rights era amid a renewed national fight over access to the ballot box. The legislation, named after Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon who died last year, is a linchpin of the party’s strategy to combat voting restrictions in Republican-led states. But stiff Republican opposition awaits in the Senate, where a likely filibuster threatens to sink it before it can reach Biden’s desk. In the meantime, more than a dozen G.O.P.-led states have already enacted more than 30 laws this year making it harder to vote.

Restaurants plead with Congress for more help” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The delta variant-driven summer surge of COVID-19 is starting again to discourage people from going out to eat, leaving restaurants very concerned and pleading for more help from Congress. “We concluded that a majority of consumers have changed their dining behavior in a manner that is beginning to put acute pressure back on the restaurant industry,” National Restaurant Association Executive Vice President Sean Kennedy wrote in a letter Tuesday to congressional leaders. Dozens of state restaurant associations, including the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, co-signed the letter seeking another round of relief money.

NRA cancels annual meeting in Texas due to COVID-19 concerns” via The Associated Press — The National Rifle Association announced Tuesday it canceled its annual meeting, which had been set to be held next month in Houston, due to concerns over COVID-19. After analyzing relevant data regarding COVID-19 in Harris County, where Houston is located, the organization said it made the decision. “The NRA’s top priority is ensuring the health and well-being of our members, staff, sponsors, and supporters. We are mindful that NRA Annual Meeting patrons will return home to family, friends and co-workers from all over the country, so any impacts from the virus could have broader implications. Those are among the reasons why we decided to cancel our 2021 event,” the NRA said in a statement.


Copley Gerdes, Bobbie Shay Lee head to runoff in tight City Council D1 race” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Financial planner Gerdes and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader Lee are heading to a runoff after finishing in the top two spots. Gerdes and Lee ended neck and neck, both at 34% of the vote. The two will head to the Nov. 2 General Election to decide Blackmon’s successor. Two candidates missed the cut — retired dentist Ed Carlson and lawyer John Hornbeck. Carlson brought in 20% of the vote, while Hornbeck, a second-time candidate for the seat, brought in just 13%. As the top fundraiser in the field, Gerdes was the perceived front-runner, with mounting endorsements and a family legacy. His dad, Charlie Gerdes, held the seat for eight years until forced out by term limits. Blackmon succeeded him.

As expected, Copley Gerdes advances to the General Election.

Lisset Hanewicz, Tom Mullins advance to General Election in District 4 race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Former prosecutor Hanewicz and Raymond James executive Mullins will go head-to-head after advancing in the Primary for the District 4 seat on the St. Pete City Council. Hanewicz garnered 44.82% of the vote, and Mullins took 22.76%, with 42 of 92 precincts reporting. Now, the two will face off in the city’s General Election on Nov. 2. Following the top two vote-getters was bartender Clifford Hobbs III, who received 14.22% of the vote. Tech entrepreneur Jarib Figueredo and private equity consultant Doug O’Dowd each received 10% or less of the vote. Candidates are running to replace Rice, who is leaving office because of term limits and running for Mayor.

Richie Floyd, Jeff Danner to faceoff in District 8 Council race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Local teacher Floyd and former City Council member Danner will face off in November after advancing in the St. Petersburg City Council District 8 Primary. Floyd got the largest chunk of the vote at 51%, followed by Danner, who collected 27%. The two are set to compete in the November 2 General Election. Although Floyd received 50%, City Council candidates must be voted on citywide, meaning the two candidates receiving the most votes in the Primary will be automatically placed on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot to be voted on at large. The candidates are running to replace District 8 City Council member Amy Foster, leaving office due to term limits.

JSO Chief T.K. Waters becomes fourth candidate in race for Jacksonville Sheriff” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters has filed, joining special events chief (and fellow Republican) Mathew Nemeth and two Democrats, Assistant Chief Lakesha Burton and Duval County School Police Assistant Chief Wayne Clark. A familiar and very tall (6-foot, 5-inch) figure at Sheriff’s Office news conferences, the 51-year-old Waters seeks the job now held by Sheriff Mike Williams, who is term-limited. He’s seeking it, he says, because he has devoted 30 years to law enforcement and wants everyone to see him as a man with integrity who will “always try to do the right thing in spite of any challenges that come up.” Waters began his career as a corrections officer in 1991 and transferred to patrol in 1993.

Great reporting here — “Inside the J.T. Burnette jury deliberations: Juror points to smoking gun, case shortcomings” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Nick Erlandson, a state employee who served as Juror No. 4, said the tapes were key in “building that narrative” about Burnette’s involvement with undercover FBI agents masquerading as developers in search of local officials to bribe. Burnette took the stand for three days to try to explain himself. But Erlandson said his “measured and coached” testimony was not as believable as the recordings, which were played repeatedly in the courtroom. “That was definitely the most damning,” the juror said. “I put more stock in the recordings when he didn’t know he was he was being taped — when it wasn’t sort of a rehearsed speech.”

Tommy Hazouri hospitalized with lung transplant complications” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A Jacksonville political legend is hospitalized yet again, attempting to recover from complications related to lung transplant surgery. Jacksonville City Council member Hazouri is at the Mayo Clinic. “Longtime beloved Councilman Tommy Hazouri has been hospitalized due to complications from his lung transplant surgery last year. While he is being treated at The Mayo Clinic, the Hazouri family asks that you keep Tommy in your prayers and that their privacy be respected during this time,” reads the full statement.

Condo living could be more costly in the post-collapse world” via Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — One thing has become clear since the fall of the Champlain Towers South condo: many condos are falling apart, often because owners don’t want to spend the money to maintain them. Soon, they might have no choice but to pay. On Monday, a Broward County task force agreed, informally, to recommend a change in state law that would make it harder for condos to waive the proper funding of reserves and to require more frequent inspections for coastal condos. The changes, if adopted by the state, could make condo living move expensive, but safer.

UF, West Palm and Palm Beach County in talks to bring graduate school presence to downtown” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — The mayors of Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach revealed Tuesday that they’ve been in talks with the University of Florida about the school establishing a local graduate program presence near downtown. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said the City Commission will discuss the topic and vote on the idea on Monday. County Mayor Dave Kerner said the County Commission will follow suit on Tuesday. UF President Kent Fuchs is scheduled to attend both meetings, the mayors said. The precise nature of UF’s presence in Palm Beach County has not been spelled out, and both Mayors said the university could consider other places for expansion.

With opioid overdoses ‘skyrocketing,’ Seminole sheriff calls for awareness, widespread use of Narcan” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — Drug overdoses, including fatal ones, have been “skyrocketing” in Seminole County during the first half of the year, a concerning trend that Sheriff Dennis Lemma hopes to begin to combat with better substance abuse awareness and education about how to use lifesaving techniques. Lemma said Tuesday the county had recorded more than 540 overdoses since Jan. 1, an almost 30% increase over the same time period last year, when the region experienced what at the time was a record-high number of overdoses, largely attributed to the isolation and increased anxiety from the pandemic.

Ex-Gulf Breeze Mayor Ed Gray sentenced to prison for secretly recording teen boys in shower” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Gray has been sentenced to five years in state prison for secretly recording teenage boys undressing at his home and tracking some of the boys’ movements. Circuit Judge Clifton Drake handed down the sentence Tuesday at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse. In addition to the five-year prison sentence, Gray also was sentenced to two years of community control — during which time he essentially will be under house arrest — and then an additional three years of probation. Gray pleaded no contest July 6 to 11 charges in the case, including eight counts of video voyeurism, one count of illegal interception of communications, one count of illegally installing a tracking device, and one count of stalking.

Ew: Ed Gray gets five years for secretly recording teenage boys undressing.

Federal judge tosses cornerstone conspiracy charge in case against former Lynn Haven Mayor” via Tom McLaughlin of the Panama City News Herald — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker has thrown out a conspiracy theory federal prosecutors had used to tie former Mayor Margo Anderson, along with a former city commissioner, city attorney and prominent businessman, to a scheme to defraud Lynn Haven out of millions of dollars. Walker wrote in his ruling that while he saw clear intent to conspire in three of five “projects” he looked at to determine whether conspiracy allegations held up against the group, in two others he did not, and due to that, he could find no alternative but to toss the entire charge. “It is simply not possible to disentangle the allegations,” Walker said.

Two trucking companies hit with $1 billion verdict in death of Jacksonville teenager Connor Dzion” via Katherine Lewin of The Florida Times-Union — Dzion had only attended two weeks of classes at the University of North Florida in 2017 when a distracted semi-truck driver slammed into a line of cars on Sept. 4. Dzion had been in standstill traffic for over an hour on Interstate 95 near Yulee because another semi-truck driver had flipped his vehicle ahead of him, blocking movement on the highway. On Aug. 20, after just five days of testimony and four hours of deliberation, the Nassau County jury handed down a verdict of over $100 million to the Jacksonville teenager’s parents for pain and suffering and $900 million in punitive damages against AJD Business Services Inc., the company whose truck driver had crashed ahead of Dzion and stalled traffic.

Wrongfully convicted Tampa man is going free now after 31 years in prison” via Laura Cassel of Florida Phoenix — A man imprisoned for 31 years was ordered freed Monday after investigators and a judge agreed that he was wrongfully convicted of armed burglary and armed robbery in 1990. Tony Hopps, now 56, had a solid but uninvestigated alibi that should have eliminated him as a suspect in the crime. The unit’s lead attorney, Teresa Hall, concluded the state could “no longer stand by the convictions,” which were based on flawed identifications by the two elderly victims during an improper photo lineup. Hall determined that Hopps, 25 at the time of the crime, did not match the description of the perpetrator provided by the victims and that evidence supporting his claim of innocence went disregarded.


Exploring the no-mask mandate at the mask-choice rally in Palm Beach Gardens” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — It’s sad to think that America’s origin story has devolved into today’s ultra-comforted, imaginary armchair “patriots” feeling righteous while waving flags, quoting Ben Franklin as if to validate their foolishness, sending their kids off to spread infection and complaining about a “dreaded jab” that’s overwhelmingly effective in stopping the spread of a deadly virus.


The tinhorn tyrant in Tallahassee should take a lesson from history” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It is a profoundly confusing lesson that the Florida government is teaching its people under the ominous cloud of a resurgent, lethal pandemic. On one hand, there is the luminous example of the devotion to duty and, yes, the heroism of school officials in Broward, Palm Beach and six other counties who are defying the wrath of a Tallahassee tyrant in order to better protect their children from COVID-19, which has already killed more than 42,000 Floridians.

Florida couple with fake vaccine cards in Hawaii embody Florida during COVID-19 pandemic” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — Enzo Dalmazzo and his wife, of Miami Beach, were simply practicing their pursuit of happiness in the form of a Hawaiian vacation with their two young children, both under the age of 6. But in the antifa state of Hawaii, there’s something called “The Safe Travel Program,” which requires a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated travelers. Sure, the Dalmazzo parents could have (a) gotten themselves vaccinated, or (b) gotten tested before they traveled. But they picked (c) getting fake vaccination cards for themselves. And because they were thoughtful parents, they got fake vaccination cards for their too-young-to-be-vaccinated children, too. I call that being a caring parent, Florida-style.

DeSantis fighting the COVID-19 war. Why vaccines and antibody treatments are important” via Jimmy Patronis for The Florida Times-Union — I am reminded of the many similarities between our standard procedures in emergency operations and DeSantis’ ongoing war against the COVID-19 virus in Florida. We have COVID-19 vaccines that people can take long before they encounter the virus. Talking to a doctor about whether the vaccine is right for you would be just like taking steps to prepare your home and belongings before a storm. Now, thanks to a big push from DeSantis, we also have monoclonal antibody treatments for people who become infected with the virus. This is analogous to pulling people from floodwaters in the wake of a hurricane.


It’s the third and final day of the trial over mask mandates in public schools. But the state’s chief witness — Dr. Bhattacharya — says masks didn’t stop COVID-19 last year and won’t stop it now.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The entire sixth grade at Round Lake Charter School in Mount Dora goes into quarantine.

— Agriculture Commissioner Fried says the COVID-19 numbers aren’t getting any better.

— The COVID-19 crisis is so bad in Sarasota now that one hospital rented a refrigerated truck to serve as a temporary morgue.

— In political news, the ghost candidate who ran as a spoiler in a Senate race has pleaded guilty to two felonies and will testify against Artiles, the ex-lawmaker and GOP strategist who paid him to run as an independent.

— And finally, two Florida person stories: One is a nurse who went drunken driving and hit a rehab facility; the other is a Florida couple busted for drugs in matching Simpson’s T-shirts.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Spider-Man 3: No Way Home trailer unleashes Marvel multiverse (and Doctor Octopus)” via Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, Jennifer Bisset of CNET — After months of speculation, rumors, and even a leak, finally the first trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home is here. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (and Sony) have exploded the multiverse for the third Tom Holland Spidey flick. Yes, that’s Alfred Molina in the final scene bringing back heavily armed villain Doctor Octopus for the first time since 2004’s Spider-Man 2, and is that a hint at the Green Goblin too? Check out the trailer below featuring Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) stepping into Tony Stark‘s shoes as Peter Parker‘s mentor, casting an ill-advised spell on the MCU.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

What Wilton Simpson is readingInstagram stars make farm life look delightful — minus the manure” via Rory Satran of The Wall Street Journal — A rural aesthetic was already on the rise in 2020, known as “cottagecore.” Picture Gen-Z fans of Taylor Swift emulating the singer by taking walks in the forest in hand-knit cardigans. When even city dwellers found themselves at home during COVID-19 lockdowns, it rose to greater heights and became “farmcore.” It provided an appealing road map to self-sufficiency for those new to bread baking, gardening, and home schooling kids. Those artfully composed baskets of eggs are a hallmark, plus hanging hams and kitchens lined with copper pans. And then there’s the cow manure. That particular chore doesn’t make it to Instagram.


Best wishes to POLITICO Florida’s Gary Fineout, former Tallahassee Democrat Publisher Skip Foster, Joshua Hicks, John Lux of Film Florida, and Phillip Singleton.


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

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