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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.16.21


Good Thursday morning.

They said ‘I do’ — A top-of-Sunburn congratulations to Kelsey Swithers and Patrick Deasy, the longtime couple who got married yesterday in Tallahassee. Swithers works as a senior member of Bascom Communications; Deasy owns Active Movement, a CrossFit gym in Tallahassee popular with many members of The Process. All the best to the happy couple!

Congrats to the newlyweds!


The pandemic has had some strange side effects on American politics. Among the strangest: “My body, my choice” is now a rallying cry for Republicans.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and supporters — especially the crowd fawning over his anti-mandate crusade — have co-opted the abortion rights slogan to describe the unenviable plight of those who can’t bear the thought of receiving one of three safe, effective, and potentially pandemic-ending shots.

How ironic that the GOP embrace of “my body, my choice” comes as abortion rights advocates shout it with renewed zeal. After the Supreme Court failed to act on a Texas law that effectively bans abortions, they fear Florida could be the next domino to fall.

It’s not all paranoia. Top state lawmakers, including the Senate President, have said the legislation is in the works.

On Thursday, the Florida Democratic Party launched the first salvo regarding abortion rights with a digital ad highlighting the “hypocrisy” of Republicans’ anti-abortion stance on vaccines as they plot to interfere with women’s reproductive rights.

The ad opens with a line from DeSantis: “We’re a free state. People are going to be free to choose, to make their own decisions about themselves, about their families.”

It continues, with sound bites from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, various news anchors and others. Later in the ad, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book promises that any attempt to import a Texas-style abortion law to the Sunshine State will be met with “fierce, fierce, fierce opposition.”

“We will do everything in our power to stop it from happening,” she says.

In an accompanying news release, FDP Executive Director Marcus Dixons said the party “has a clever message for Floridians — we will fight for women’s rights today, tomorrow, and always.”

He adds: “The Republican’s deeds and hypocrisy will be exposed, and voters will be reminded of their actions through 2022.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Lincoln Project drags ‘worst Governor’ DeSantis in new ad” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The video starts with some file news footage from the peak of the Florida COVID-19 resurgence, with descriptions of a state in “crisis,” the “hotbed of the pandemic.” “Where’s Ron DeSantis,” a crisp female voice asks, “Laughing it up in New Jersey, raising money for himself.” “He ran as a mini-me Trump. Now he’s trying to prove he’s more Trump than Trump and doesn’t care how many Floridians have to die,” the voice-over continues. “Ron DeSantis: the worst Governor in America.” Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson said, “DeSantis is working hard to ensure he wins the America’s Next Top Trump reality show for the 2024 presidential contest, no matter how many Floridians suffer from his reckless COVID policies.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

The worst governor in America. pic.twitter.com/nBXFMV4jIe

— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) September 15, 2021


The Meenan Law Firm expanding its government affairs team, bringing on Daniel Olson as a government consultant.

“Dan brings a wealth of Executive Branch experience to our team,” managing shareholder Tim Meenan said. “We are excited by the breadth of his background and expertise, which will be a tremendous benefit to our clients.”

Before entering the private sector, Olson spent 14 years working in state government and public-private partnerships, most recently as Director of Government Affairs for Attorney General Ashley Moody.

In that role, he developed policy positions and championed legislative and budget priorities focused on opioid abatement and litigation issues, racketeering and elder fraud. He also oversaw the Cabinet Affairs office and advised the Attorney General on multiple high-profile issues.

Daniel Olson brings a wealth of Executive Branch experience to Meehan.

Olson has been involved in the public policy arena for over a decade, specializing in Florida state Attorney General issues, professional regulation and licensing, alcohol, gaming, lottery, tobacco, tourism, procurement, and Cabinet Affairs. He has lobbying experience in the executive and legislative branches and has spent years advancing policy initiatives for two Governors and multiple agencies.

Olson earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics and master’s degree in public administration from Florida State University.

He has served in multiple leadership roles throughout his time in government, including as the Chief Operating Officer at VISIT FLORIDA, the Chief of Staff at the Florida Lottery, and the Director of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

“We are proud to have Dan join our government relations team and employ his legislative and executive branch skills on behalf of our growing client roster,” said Joy Ryan, shareholder and head of Meenan’s Legislative Practice Area. “His experience at the highest levels of Florida’s state government will be an incredible asset to our firm.”


@POTUS: The vaccine requirements under my COVID plan will cover one hundred million workers. Today, I met with businesses that are leading the way. Because vaccine requirements keep businesses open and workers safe.

Tweet, tweet:

This year the FL House put Iran & China on a list of nations of concern, demanding greater scrutiny & vetting of foreign ties at our universities. The atrocities these nations will commit with our IP, research & your genetic material may seem farfetched, but the threat is real. https://t.co/zHC9GLzu6M

— Chris Sprowls (@ChrisSprowls) September 15, 2021

@mstratford: News — Federal judge in Florida rules in favor of @RonDeSantisFL, declines to block the state’s ban on school mask mandates. It bucks the trend of two other federal courts that recently halted the same policies in Iowa & Tennessee.

@jeffschweers: Florida news organizations file motion to intervene in @CarlosGSmith public records lawsuit against @HealthyFla — state objects! Leon Circuit Judge (John) Cooper will hear from both sides Monday at pretrial hearing.

@ryanstruyk: U.S. vaccinated by religion via new Pew poll:

90% atheist

86% Hispanic Catholic

84% agnostic

79% White Catholic

73% White mainline protestant

70% Black protestant

57% White evangelical protestant

@AGGancarski: You just know when someone pops out the “so many people are living in fear” that it’s going to be nothing but dulcet tones, Zen koans and good vibes for the whole three minutes of their public comment.

—@nicholaswu12: Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) says she can’t vote for the reconciliation package “at this early stage” but remains “optimistic that the comprehensive reconciliation package will be appropriately targeted and fiscally responsible …”

Tweet, tweet:

Watching the @inspiration4x from the front yard with my sons.@SpaceX #Launch pic.twitter.com/SQdU6L52wA

— Christopher Heath (@CHeathWFTV) September 16, 2021

Tweet, tweet:

I think about these two and a half pages from Norm Macdonald’s book constantly. When I reviewed it, I wrote that they would “make for a fine eulogy”—and I swear I didn’t mean anything by it. But they do. pic.twitter.com/vxLRAd2OeP

— Sean O’Neal (@seanoneal) September 14, 2021


Alabama at UF — 2; Dolphins home opener — 3; Jaguars home opener — 3; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 4; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 14; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 15; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 15; MLB regular season ends — 17; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 22; ‘Dune’ premieres — 36; World Series Game 1 — 40; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 41; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 41; Georgia at UF — 44; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 47; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 47; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 50; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 50; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 52; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 53; Miami at FSU — 58; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 63; FSU vs. UF — 72; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 76; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 85; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 92; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 97; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 100; NFL season ends — 115; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 117; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 117; NFL playoffs begin — 121; Super Bowl LVI — 150; Daytona 500 — 157; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 190; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 234; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 253; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 259; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 295; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 307; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 386; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 421.


Slow business travel to deliver $5.3B hit to Florida tourism” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida’s hospitality industry expects to see a $5.3-billion loss in business travel this year. The group estimates business trips to Florida will be down 61% this year compared to 2019, before the pandemic crippled the state’s economy. But the projections are better than the 66% drop in business travel nationwide. That shows business travel, traditionally the largest revenue-generator for the industry, will produce less than $30.3 billion in 2021, down from more than $89.5 billion in 2019, the most recent year unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report includes state-by-state breakdowns and estimates Florida will bring in $3.46 from business travel this year.

COVID-19 deals a multibillion-dollar blow to Florida tourism. Image via AP.


Ron DeSantis flirts with the anti-vaccine crowd” via Marc Caputo and Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis isn’t anti-vaccine. But he has started standing shoulder-to-shoulder those who are. The Florida Governor’s clear and unadulterated public messaging about the need for vaccines has become more diluted in recent months, culminating with a news conference he held this week to bash President Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandate plan and threaten to fine cities and counties that impose their own mandates. The event in the small Florida town of Newberry featured two anti-vaccine workers, one of whom falsely claimed he wouldn’t get a shot because it “changes your RNA.” DeSantis at the time said nothing about the misinformation, a standard anti-vaccine talking point, and subsequently refused to say why he didn’t correct the falsehood.

Ron DeSantis is inching up to anti-vax territory.

Federal judge says parents of students with disabilities must work through schools on masks” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A federal judge in Miami declined to block DeSantis’ ban on public school mask mandates, saying the parents of students with disabilities who sued the Governor had not exhausted all remedies at their schools to accommodate their children’s needs before bringing the case to court. The 12 parents, whose children go to school in eight school districts across the state, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, had argued that their children, due to health conditions, were at particular risk of becoming ill or dying from COVID-19 if any of their peers attend school in-person without facial coverings.

Fact-checking DeSantis on COVID-19 natural immunity” via Jon Greenberg of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis is pushing back against vaccine mandates, particularly for people who already have been infected. During a stop in Gainesville, DeSantis accused city officials of threatening to “destroy” city workers’ jobs. The Gainesville City Commission has given employees until Oct. 31 to get fully vaccinated. At an Aug. 5 meeting, the city attorney seemed to take a hard line, saying, “You have a choice. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, then your choice is to seek employment elsewhere.” DeSantis said mandates ignore the natural immunity many first responders gained from getting the disease earlier in the pandemic.

The reversals have begun: Some school districts backtrack on opt-out mask policies” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — At least two school districts, Volusia and Lee, that previously adopted strict mask mandates have recently decided to allow parents to opt their students out of the policy for any reason. Another district, Indian River, has approved a change, a hybrid approach that would require masks only at certain times when COVID-19 surges in isolated schools. The policy turnarounds follow a recent court win for state education officials and the DeSantis administration and concerns about certain local boards potentially losing pay because of mask policies that do not include a parental opt-out. Earlier, those districts adopted a medical opt-out only if families wanted to forego mask-wearing for their children at school.

Thousands of students are kept home every day for COVID-19 concerns. More on-campus testing could be the answer.” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As Florida continues to grapple with COVID-19, schools are keeping thousands of students home daily to avoid potential outbreaks even though most of those kids end up testing negative for the disease. One potential solution under consideration: more COVID-19 testing at schools. Dr. Alina Alonso, the state health department director for Palm Beach County, said health officials are in preliminary talks to increase school testing capacity. Aside from getting vaccinated, she said, that would be a key to maintaining a more regular schooling experience. “The biggest problem right now is how many children we’re having to quarantine (daily),” Alonso said.

News giants join Carlos Guillermo Smith lawsuit vs. Florida Dept. of Health for COVID-19 data” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — An alliance of media companies has filed to join Rep. Guillermo Smith’s lawsuit against the state Department of Health and outgoing Surgeon General Scott Rivkees for the agency’s refusal to release previously public COVID-19 information. In a motion filed Wednesday afternoon, eight news organizations and the charitable First Amendment Foundation filed to intervene as plaintiffs. They jointly referred to themselves as the “News Media” in the motion. “The legal issues raised by this litigation mirror those confronted by the News Media in seeking similar public records information from the Defendants that Plaintiffs seek here,” the motion said.

Carlos Guillermo Smith gets some big-time backup in his public records lawsuit.

“Inequities in Florida’s vaccine distribution persist for some” via Stephanie Colombini and Kerry Sheridan of WUSF — More than nine months after coronavirus vaccines were made available, inequities in Florida’s distribution process are still affecting some populations. Though most people who haven’t been vaccinated are white, vaccination rates among Black Floridians are still far behind their white and Hispanic counterparts. The state reports 49% of white people in Florida are vaccinated, compared with 31% of Black people. And data from the Florida Department of Health shows just 9% of all vaccines delivered in Florida have gone to Black people, though they make up about 17% of the population. But the data isn’t entirely complete. Both race and ethnicity information were missing for 13% of those who received a vaccination in Florida.


‘Tell all of our family to get vaccinated’: COVID-19 kills 6 members of Glades family in three weeks” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — For months, Lisa Wilson went from door to door in Belle Glade, trying to convince people to get the coronavirus vaccine. Wilson, a longtime aide to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, persuaded pastors to preach about the need to get shots. Her husband, Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, was one of the first in the western farming community to roll up his sleeve, hoping others would follow his example. But despite Wilson’s insistence that the shots would save lives, some members of her own family ignored her. In the last three weeks, six of them died from complications of COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines needed for younger children, South Florida doctors say” via Hatzel Vela of WPLG Local 10 News — Pfizer says it expects to file safety and efficacy data for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in early October and for those as young as 6 months old in the weeks after. Doctors say it is a critical next step in protecting against the virus. “We have seen very, very sick patients, pediatric patients, in our hospital,” said Dr. Hanadys Ale, a pediatric immunologist at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, where on Wednesday, they had 15 patients fighting COVID-19. “If we can save one child (from) not getting severe COVID and not succumbing to COVID, I think we have done something positive, something important.”

Hanadys Ale urges COVID-19 vaccines for children. Screen shot via Local10.com.

Impatience with Miami-Dade COVID-19 relief for water bills almost sinks Daniella Levine Cava budget” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Commissioners almost upended Mayor Levine Cava’s 2022 budget proposal early Wednesday morning over a dispute involving the county’s freeze on water service cutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a lopsided vote that caught Levine Cava and her deputies off guard, Commissioners rejected her proposed 3.7% combined increase in water and wastewater fees as the first budget hearing of her administration was nearing an end. Only four of the 13 Commissioners — Keon Hardemon, Oliver Gilbert, Eileen Higgins and Jean Monestime — voted for the fee increases. Several board members objected to creating higher water bills for residents when Miami-Dade has tolerated $25 million in overdue water bills.

Broward’s unvaccinated employees to lose $20 per paycheck. Vaccinated will get $500, Mayor says.” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County employees who have not been vaccinated will pay a $20 surcharge every two-week pay period and will have to get tested for COVID-19 every week. Employees who can provide proof of vaccinations will get a $500 reward under the plan, the details of which are still being worked out. A spokesman said that Palm Beach County has an incentive program that offers employees a $25 gift card but no mandate. “No penalty. No testing requirements. Everyone is screened every day. Of course, always subject to change,” he added.

Indian River School District will mandate masks only at schools with higher COVID-19 case counts” via Sommer Brugal and Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Students at schools with minimal COVID-19 cases soon will be exempted from wearing masks. Late Tuesday, the School Board approved a tiered approach to mask requirements based on the percentage of students and staff testing positive for the coronavirus. “We were able to come up with something that can work for our district,” said Board member Teri Barenborg. The 3-2 approval came after almost four hours of debate and public input. Board members Peggy Jones and Jacqueline Rosario voted no. The new system goes into effect Monday for elementary and middle schools, and Sept. 29 for high schools. Jones and board member Mara Schiff objected to the timetable, advocating for all schools to implement the changes in two weeks.


DeSantis announces $3.4M to support military installations” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will award $3.4 million to support various military projects at defense installations across the state, DeSantis announced Wednesday. The bulk of the funding will go toward North Florida installations, including the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport. Clay County, where Camp Blanding is located, will receive roughly $865,000 for facility maintenance and future development, including expanding a buffer area around the base. The City of Jacksonville, meanwhile, will receive two separate grants: $450,000 for NAS Jax and $90,000 for NS Mayport.

Ron DeSantis announces $3.4 million in grants to communities throughout Florida for military installations.

Florida Cabinet leaves DEP pick unaddressed” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Despite repeated protests from Nikki Fried, the Florida Cabinet will not vote on the appointment of a new secretary to the state’s lead environmental agency. DeSantis, in August, appointed Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton as Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection without the consideration of the Cabinet. The move, Fried charges, is unlawful. “As I reminded the Governor in June, he lacks the legal authority to unilaterally make this appointment,“ Fried said in a late August news release. “State law is very clear — it requires the unanimous approval of the Cabinet, in addition to confirmation by the Florida Senate.” DeSantis appointed Hamilton after the resignation of former DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.

DCF recommends using American Rescue Plan money for enhanced child abuse prevention” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Department of Children and Families released a legislative budget request for the fiscal year 2022-2023 that recommends using American Rescue Plan dollars to beef up the state’s child abuse prevention services. In its 2022-2023 legislative budget request, DCF asks for $1,585,687 to hire 18 people who will work on multidisciplinary teams meant to connect families in crisis to resources. It also asked for $3,056,194 to hire 40 people and establish a new hotline to help “pre-crisis” families. The funding is not recurring, and the Agency’s budget doesn’t address how the State would continue funding the enhancements to its child abuse prevention efforts beyond the state fiscal year 2022-2023.


“Legislators remain silent about repairing Florida’s tarnished redistricting process” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — When Florida legislators launch the once-a-decade redrawing of state legislative and congressional district boundaries next week, they will face new obstacles that include a compressed schedule because of a delay in the census process and restoring public trust after a court’s conclusion that the last process was secretly and illegally “hijacked” by Republican political operatives 10 years ago. But despite the hurdles, Florida GOP leaders have held no public hearings, will give no media interviews, and have not responded to requests from voters’ groups that they conduct a transparent process devoid of influence from secretive political operators.

DeSantis orders flags at half-staff in honor of Jacksonville ‘champion’ Tommy Hazouri” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — DeSantis issued the order in a memo that highlighted Hazouri‘s political career as a state House member from 1974 to 1986. He wrote Hazouri “will be remembered as a mentor, friend, and a champion for Jacksonville.” The flags will fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Thursday, the same day a funeral service is planned for Hazouri at 10 a.m. at Mandarin Presbyterian Church.

Tommy Hazouri with A.G. Gancarski. Image via Jimmy Midyette.

Jimmy Patronis names Steven Herrig to NICA Board — CFO Patronis on Thursday appointed Herrig to the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA) Board of Directors, representing casualty insurers, for a term ending Aug. 31, 2023. Herrig is the CEO and chairman of SUNZ Insurance Company and the founder and former CEO of Progressive Employer Services. The appointment comes after a new law passed in the 2021 Legislative Session expanded the board from five to seven members. “As CFO, I am committed to improving the lives of the kids and families in the NICA program and ensuring they receive the service and benefits they deserve,” Patronis said, adding that Herrig’s “background and expertise will be a tremendous asset” to the board.

Joe Gruters, Randy Fine spark up beach smoking ban for 2022 Session” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Will 2022 be the year when Florida headline writers retire all butts on beaches puns? Sen. Gruters hopes so. The Sarasota Republican, for the fourth consecutive Session, filed legislation (SB 224) to allow a prohibition of smoking at parks, including beaches. Like legislation filed last year that died after clearing two Senate committees, his bill would empower local governments to pass local rules. Rep. Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, filed a companion bill (HB 105) in the House, where the bill only cleared one stop in the 2021 Session. Gruters, who has worked closely with Fine on other environmental legislation, feels happy working with the Representative again, he said.

Joe Gruters wants to get butts off the beach.

Happening today — The Martin County legislative delegation meets: Sen. Gayle Harrell; Reps. John Snyder and Toby Overdorf, 9 a.m., Indian River State College, Chastain Campus, Wolf Technology Center, 2400 S.E. Salerno Road, Stuart.

Gunshine State falls behind? Effort to make Florida next constitutional carry state returns” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Pro-gun groups and Rep. Anthony Sabatini are bringing the “constitutional carry” debate back to the table for the upcoming Legislative Session. Sabatini filed legislation (HB 103) to remove requirements that people obtain concealed carry permits to carry a firearm legally. Constitutional carry laws allow law-abiding citizens to practice open and concealed carry. Florida has whimsically been given the nickname “The Gunshine State” for its residents’ affinity for concealed carry permits. Of the state’s 21.5 million residents as of 2020, nearly 2.4 million civilians have concealed carry permits as of the end of August.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Robert Beck, Marti Coley, PinPoint Results: Gartner Consulting, KinderVision/The Greatest Save

David Browning, Edgar Castro, Mary DeLoach, The Southern Group: Royal Caribbean Group

Diego Echeverri: Secure Democracy

Sha’Ron James, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Neighborhood Medical Center

Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Anita Berry, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Neighborly Care Network

Adam Potts, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Advanced Energy Economy, City of Milton, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Sheriffs Association, Lutheran Services Florida, Walton County Sheriff’s Office

Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Media Choice

Jonathan Setzer, Florida Alliance Consulting: alternative claims management

— 2022 —

Take these numbers with a lot of salt —Poll finds Charlie Crist still leading DeSantis, voters backing vax mandates” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A polling outfit in the Panhandle has consistently shown Crist leading DeSantis in the Governor’s race. The latest results may indicate the reason. The latest survey from The Political Matrix/The Listener Group finds voters want local controls regarding pandemic response. It also shows people aren’t happy with DeSantis as he supersedes local policymaking. Of note, this poll has consistently registered strong support for Crist, and the latest polling is no different. If an election were held today pitting Crist, a St. Petersburg Congressman and former Governor, against the incumbent, he would take 55% of the vote to DeSantis’ 45%. The 10-percentage-point margin falls well outside the poll’s 3.1% margin of error.

Charlie Crist is in the lead, if you can handle the salt.

Nikki Fried hits Ron DeSantis anew over not grabbing federal aid for hungry children” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Fried said she’s willing to fill out the application for DeSantis so that $820 million in federal pandemic food aid could get to 2.1 million Florida children in low-income homes. All he has to do is submit, she said. Fried urged Floridians to call the Governor’s office to ask DeSantis to apply for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer money during a roundtable discussion she led with Orlando Rep. Anna Eskamani and advocates for hunger relief. Florida is the only state that has not applied, Fried said.

Assignment editors — RepresentUS, a national movement of independents, progressives, and conservatives, will host a Zoom news conference to share its latest statewide polling results ahead of the state’s redistricting process, 10 a.m. Register here.

Save the date:

Matt Willhite donates to 10 Palm Beach charities as he spends down House campaign account” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Willhite is sending $5,000 to charities in Palm Beach County as part of an effort to wind down his old House campaign account while he seeks a seat on the Palm Beach County Commission. Willhite is sending 10 separate donations of $500 each to charities across District 6, where he is running to succeed outgoing Commissioner Melissa McKinlay. McKinlay is blocked from running again due to term limits. District 6 includes the communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. Willhite presented those checks in a series of ceremonies across the county. “These charities are certainly in need of support, and I’m glad to be able to help them,” Willhite said in a statement to Florida Politics.

Jupiter Mayor Todd Wodraska won’t seek reelection; Council member announces run to replace him” via Katherine Kokal of The Palm Beach Post — Wodraska announced to business leaders Wednesday morning that he won’t seek reelection in March. Council member Ilan Kaufer confirmed his plans to run for the town’s top elected office to The Palm Beach Post. “This is kind of the worst-kept secret in town,” Wodraska said at the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mayor’s Breakfast. “This is not a surprise to many people, but it is my formal announcement.” Jupiter’s mayoral election is scheduled for March 8. The candidate’s qualifying period begins at noon Nov. 2 and ends at noon Nov. 16. Wodraska has served two terms as Mayor.


The pandemic marks another grim milestone: 1 in 500 Americans have died of COVID-19” via Dan Keating and Akilah Johnson of The Washington Post — The goal of testing, mask-wearing, keeping 6 feet apart, and limiting gatherings was to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus until a vaccine could stamp it out. The vaccines came, but not enough people had been immunized, and the triumph of science waned as mass death and disease remain. The result: As the nation’s COVID-19 death toll exceeded 663,000 this week, it meant roughly 1 in every 500 Americans had succumbed to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Joe Biden meets with business leaders of Disney, others on COVID-19 mandates” via The Associated Press — Biden was meeting Wednesday with the CEOs of Walt Disney and Columbia Sportswear, and other business executives and leaders to discuss his recently announced vaccine requirement for companies that employ at least 100 people. The White House meeting comes less than a week after Biden announced that the Labor Department is working to require businesses with 100 or more employees to order those workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or show a negative test result at least weekly. Some 100 million workers would be subject to the requirement, Biden said. The Labor Department is working to issue an emergency rule to implement the mandate.

Joe Biden lays his COVID-19 mandate cards on the table for Disney and other industry leaders. Image via AP.

FDA sounds skeptical note on Pfizer booster shot ahead of key vote” via Lauren Gardner of POLITICO — The FDA refrained from endorsing a COVID-19 booster shot from Pfizer and BioNTech in an analysis posted Wednesday ahead of a crucial advisory committee meeting. The agency appeared skeptical about the companies’ assertion that an apparent drop in immune protection conferred by their COVID-19 vaccine is likely due to the passage of time rather than the emergence of the hyper-contagious Delta variant. FDA said observational studies don’t unanimously support the suggestion that the shot’s efficacy declines over time, while data overall show that all three vaccines authorized or licensed in the U.S. still protect against severe disease and death.


“COVID-19 workers comp claims mount, losses vague” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida insurance officials want to know the impact COVID-19 has had on workers’ compensation insurance, but the National Council on Compensation Insurance can’t provide answers. Correspondence between the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and the NCCI, which files proposed rates for workers’ compensation insurance carriers, shows that approximately $34.2 million in reported losses and legal costs have been reported to the NCCI as a result of COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claims. But in a letter to state actuary Greg Jaynes, NCCI State Relations Executive Dawn Ingham says the $34.2 million in claims should be “viewed as a starting point” for COVID-19 losses.


“White House considered requiring vaccines for international air travelers” via Annie Linskey and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — As White House officials rushed to shape last week’s sweeping new vaccine mandates, they debated the idea of requiring international air travelers to be vaccinated before boarding a plane, as part of a larger effort to persuade more Americans to get immunized, according to two people familiar with the plans. According to an administration official, some aides argued that other countries already require vaccinations to fly and that the United States should join their ranks. But others said mandates work best when they require people to prove they are immunized only once — like at work — rather than repeatedly, like every time they board a plane.

Joe Biden considers requiring vaccines before boarding an international flight. Image via AP.

Cuba starts vaccinating 2-year-olds, as COVID-19 cases spike among children on the island” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Thousands of COVID-19 infections and at least 11 deaths among infants, small children and adolescents in Cuba prompted authorities to start vaccinating children as young as age 2 this week, relying on limited clinical data on the efficacy of a local product tested on 350 minors. “The number of coronavirus infections happening in Cuba in recent months in the pediatric population is alarming,” said Health Minister José Angel Portal Miranda in an op-ed published in the official government news site Cubadebate. No COVID-19-related child deaths were reported in 2020, but at least 12 children have died this year, including three two-month-old babies.

Conservative radio host who spurned vaccines, mocked AIDS patients dies of COVID-19” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — For years, Bob Enyart used his conservative media platform in Denver to mock those who died of AIDS by name or call for women who receive abortions to face the death penalty. Enyart’s case pushed for boycotting vaccination because of the debunked claim that the vaccines were developed using aborted fetal cells. But weeks after he and his wife, Cheryl, tested positive for the virus after being unvaccinated, Enyart died of COVID-19, his radio co-host announced Monday. Enyart was 62.

New Hampshire lawmaker switches parties, joining Democrats because of GOP views on vaccines and masks” via Caroline Anders of The Washington Post — A New Hampshire state representative “reluctantly” switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic on Tuesday, citing state Republicans’ opposition to masks and coronavirus vaccines. Rep. William Marsh said party extremists are edging out moderates like him; he had planned quietly to retire but felt his hand was forced by what he called Republicans’ refusal to take reasonable health precautions. “Politics, I’m afraid, is a team sport,” he said. “You’ve got to work with other people, and if nobody’s interested in what you have to say, you might as well go home.” Marsh’s announcement comes as the nation faces a new surge of coronavirus cases fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant.


“Biden urges climate action: ‘We don’t have much more than 10 years’” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Jim Tankersley — Biden warned on Tuesday that the United States had only a decade left to confront a global climate crisis, using his second day touring a wildfire-ravaged West to try to rally the public, and congressional Democrats, to support measures that his administration hopes will reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Biden’s stops this week in Colorado; Boise, Idaho; and Long Beach and the Sacramento area in California amounted to more than an opportunity to call attention to the severe destruction of wildfires and other natural disasters that have been exacerbated by climate change. The visits were a last-ditch opportunity to sell the importance of measures aimed at mitigating climate change.

Joe Biden says 10 years is too late for climate change. Image via AP.

Biden announces defense deal with Australia in a bid to counter China” via David E. Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times — The Biden administration took a major step on Wednesday in challenging China’s broad territorial claims in the Pacific, announcing that the United States and Britain would help Australia to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western presence in the region. If the plan comes to fruition, Australia may begin conducting routine patrols that could move through areas of the South China Sea that Beijing claims as its exclusive zone and range as far north as Taiwan. The announcement, made by Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, is a major step for Australia, which until recent years, has been hesitant to push back directly at core Chinese interests.

Biden comes to Mark Milley’s defense after revelation top general, fearing Donald Trump, conferred with China to avert war” via Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner of The Washington Post — Biden on Wednesday threw his full support behind the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, who has come under fire after a new book revealed he privately conferred with his Chinese counterpart to avert armed conflict late in the Trump administration. “I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden told reporters at the White House, following calls to remove Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Biden’s declaration, coinciding with efforts by the chief spokespersons for the White House and the Pentagon to stage a similar defense of the embattled general, effectively ends speculation that Milley’s assignment may be cut short. But the controversy surrounding his fitness for the job rages on — and thus far is falling mostly along party lines.

Pope weighs in on calls to deny communion to Biden over abortion” via Elisabetta Povoledo, Richard Pérez-Peña and Ruth Graham — Pope Francis weighed in on Wednesday on a debate roiling the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, where conservative bishops are pushing for guidelines that would deny communion to politicians, like Biden, who support abortion rights. “I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” Francis said, though he added that he did not know of any instance when such a politician had come to him for communion. Bishops, the Pope said, should be pastors, not politicians.


“All of this to keep Trump from getting upset” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — We’ve spent so long coloring in the details of Trump’s response to the election that we can lose sight of just how utterly bereft of validity it is. Trump tried to undermine the results of the 2016 election before it happened, and then tried to undermine the results in states that voted against him that year because he lost the popular vote, and then tried to undermine the 2020 election all that year, and then quickly tried to claim he won in the hours after it concluded. Trump has consistently been dishonest and deflected about the election results not because they threaten his power but because they threaten his esteem.

This mess was all to pacify Donald Trump. Image via AP.

The Big Lie is (unfortunately) winning” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — It is 100% true that Biden won the 2020 election. And that Trump lost it. Unfortunately, in recent months, the Big Lie — that Trump somehow was defrauded out of the election — has gained increasing amounts of traction, according to a new CNN poll. In January, 59% said they have confidence that elections in this country reflect the people’s will, while 40% said they lacked that confidence. Today? A majority of Americans — 52% — say they do not have confidence that elections reflect the people’s will, while 48% say they do. That’s hardly the only data point in the poll that suggests Trump’s Big Lie is working.

Trump was fixated on the Navy’s new supercarrier and ranted to military leaders that the ship ‘just doesn’t look right’” via Sonam Sheth, Ryan Pickrell of Yahoo News — According to a new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Trump was fixated on the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and regularly expressed dissatisfaction with the ship’s high cost of more than $13 billion, the weapons elevators, the catapults, and the placement of the flight command center, known as the ship’s “island,” on the flight deck. In one meeting with military leaders, Trump reminded them that he had been in the construction business. “I know about elevators,” he told them, according to the book. “If water gets on them,” elevators on the ship could malfunction, he said.

“Trump aides aim to build GOP opposition to Afghan refugees” via Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — As tens of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban arrive in the U.S., a handful of former Trump administration officials are working to turn Republicans against them. The former officials are writing position papers, appearing on conservative television outlets and meeting privately with GOP lawmakers — all to turn the collapse of Afghanistan into another opportunity to push a hard-line immigration agenda. “It is a collaboration based on mutual conviction,” said Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s most conservative immigration policies and among those engaged on the issue. “My emphasis has been in talking to members of Congress to build support for opposing the Biden administration’s overall refugee plans.”


“Nancy Pelosi told top General that Trump should have been ‘arrested on the spot’ for inciting Capitol insurrection, new book says” via Dan Mangan of CNBC — Pelosi told the top U.S. Army General that then-President Trump was a “dictator” who “should have been arrested on the spot” after what she called his coup attempt to remain in the White House by inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, a new book reveals. Pelosi also said during a phone call in January with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Milley that “the Republicans have blood on their hands” for enabling Trump’s delusions about his ability to retain the presidency, the book says. “But it is a sad state of affairs for our country that we’ve been taken over by a dictator who used force against another branch of government,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, told Milley.

During the Jan. 6 riots, Nancy Pelosi wanted Donald Trump arrested on the spot.

Claims that Milley made ‘secret’ calls to Chinese leaders exaggerated, sources say” via Lara Seligman and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — Claims in an upcoming book that a frantic Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Milley made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart are greatly exaggerated. A forthcoming book claims that Milley grew concerned about Trump’s instability and the possibility that he might spark a war with China, prompting him to arrange a pair of secret phone calls with Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army. The first was on Oct. 30, just four days before the presidential election, and the second was on Jan. 8, two days after a mob of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol.

“New details undermine Mike Pence’s supposed ‘hero’ turn on Jan. 6” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The narrative wrote itself. Then-Vice President Pence, who had loyally and often obsequiously stuck by Trump through thick and thin, suddenly bucked him when his presidency was on the line. Trump wanted Pence to help overturn the results of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, but Pence refused — even as rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol called for his hanging — all while professing to do so out of principle and loyalty to the Constitution. He was hailed even by some of the administration’s critics as an unlikely hero, the savior of the republic and more. The reality, we’re now finding out, is far from so neat and tidy.


Marco Rubio accuses Milley of being leak on his own ‘treacherous’ action” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rubio said Wednesday he believes Milley was the leak on reports about his own actions to reassure China about peace and said if the reports are true, Milley should be fired and face “military justice.” Speaking into his phone camera for one of his trademark bunker videos released on social media, Rubio said reports about Milley in the upcoming book “Peril” strike him as treacherous, dangerous, and unconstitutional. “Gen. Milley needs to answer questions about it, because if it’s true, he should be fired. He should be fired, and he should have to face military justice,” Rubio said.

Tweet, tweet:

If Gen.Milley calling his Chinese counterpart was just a normal & regular communication then why are those calls now newsworthy?

If the account of those calls in a new book is accurate these calls were neither regular nor heroic.

They were treacherous and dangerous. pic.twitter.com/7SCD6llO5a

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 15, 2021

New ad urges Stephanie Murphy to vote against spending bill — Club for Growth launched an ad campaign in Florida’s 7th Congressional District pushing for Murphy to vote against the spending plan put forward by congressional Democrats. Club for Growth describes the plan as “out-of-control spending.” The TV flight starts Thursday and runs for one week. Club for Growth President David McIntosh said, “Washington is out of touch with America. Democrats and even some Republicans need to realize that their constituents will roundly reject the out-of-control spending and $3 trillion increase in taxes.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Murphy declares opposition to Biden’s budget as drafted” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Murphy, one of the most influential moderate Democrats in the House, announced Wednesday she cannot support Biden‘s cornerstone $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act as it is now written. Murphy, of Winter Park, said in a news release issued late Wednesday that she liked much of the bill, including the “historic provisions to combat the existential threat of climate change.” But, she added, “there are spending and tax provisions that give me pause.” She did not offer specifics in the news release.

Assignment editors — Congressman Crist will host an event to highlight a new $34-million transit center in downtown Clearwater to replace the current outdated facility at Park Street. Joining Crist is FDOT District 7 Secretary David Gwynn, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, Clearwater City Council member David Allbritton and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller, 10 a.m., 710 Court Street, Clearwater.


After Surfside collapse, condo dwellers who shirk fixes may reap a redevelopment windfall” via Andres Viglucci and Allie Pitchon of the Miami Herald — Faced with a deadline to make major repairs, and resistance from residents unwilling or unable to pay spiraling maintenance bills, the majority of condo board members at Miami Beach’s aging La Costa tower elected to take the easiest way out: They punted. Year after year, former residents and board members say, the La Costa board majority — with practically no financial reserves and little will to raise millions of dollars for seriously overdue repairs — authorized only minimal patchwork while long-standing and severe structural, concrete and electrical deficiencies visibly worsened. One former board member says the city of Miami Beach was content to look the other way.

Pharmacist couple who was living the beach life dream in Surfside died in the collapse” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — For Raymond and Mercedes Urgelles, moving to Surfside from West Kendall was the beginning of a dream life on the beach: expansive ocean views from their living room, waking up to the sunrise every day, taking a dip in the sea before heading to work for the last few years before retirement. Cuban-born Urgelles and his Puerto Rican wife were both pharmacists. They had sent their two children, Daniel and Jennifer, off to college and by 2015 were young empty nesters with a whole new life ahead of them. They put their large house in the suburbs up for sale and set out to find an oceanfront two-bedroom condo that would be perfect for their next chapter.

Raymond and Mercedes Urgelles loved living by the beach and perished at Surfside. Image via Facebook.

From parks to pumps to housing, Miami approves spending plan for $137M in federal aid” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami Commissioners will use millions in federal aid to fund senior meals, housing projects, and job training programs under a plan to spend $137.6 million provided by Washington through the American Rescue Plan. Commissioners unanimously voted Monday to spend $23.9 million directly on those programs. They chose to absorb the remaining $113.7 million into city coffers to offset the costs of dozens of city projects ranging from anti-flooding pumps, parks upgrades, parades, tech initiatives pushed by Mayor Francis Suarez and homeless assistance programs. The spending plan creates a budget for the city’s entire allocation from the American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress to help offset the financial consequences of the pandemic.

Ex-UM professor charged with shipping genetic equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Since early this year, federal investigators have been building a case against a former University of Miami assistant professor suspected of doing business with Iran and violating U.S. sanctions against the Persian Gulf country. Scientist Mohammad Faghihi almost slipped away at Miami International Airport, authorities say. “He was literally about to board a plane on Monday when he was arrested,” federal prosecutor Michael Thakur said Wednesday at a court hearing, seeking Faghihi’s detention based on being a flight risk to his home country, Iran. Faghihi, 52, was arrested on conspiracy and related charges stemming from allegations that he shipped genetic sequencing equipment to the Iranian military without a required license from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

How did 9/11 change the classroom? Miami teachers reflect on how they’ve adapted” via Kalia Richardson of the Miami Herald — Dannielle Boyer began her first day of teaching on Sept. 11, 2001. The 24-year-old walked into her 8:30 a.m. Westview Middle school classroom with her “First Days of School” handbook, a gift from her aunt, and her Delta Sigma Theta bag swung over her shoulder. The night before, she deep-conditioned her hair and picked out a pair of black slacks and a high neckline blouse. She rehearsed how to greet her students, how to make them feel welcome. She did not anticipate the PA announcement interrupting her sixth grade class. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

Minority-owned businesses in Miami have a new business center with free resources” via Anna Jean Kaiser of the Miami Herald — The federal government’s Minority Business Development Agency is giving nearly $5 million for a Miami-based MBDA Business Center that will be operated by M. Gill & Associates, a Miami consultant firm that has focused on empowering businesses run by people of color and women in South Florida for over 30 years. The center will offer a short course in business management, which will be taught by instructors from Miami Dade College and will focus on operational efficiencies, financial management and emerging technology like cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, best practices and social media marketing. After completing the course, minority business owners have access to free consulting on business development, export market plans and mentorship.

Jury selection in accused Stoneman Douglas shooter’s jailhouse battery trial may not begin in a courtroom” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — No courtroom will be big enough to hold the number of jurors that will need to be considered for the jailhouse battery trial of the man also accused of carrying out the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a Broward judge said Wednesday. Unveiling her vision for the start of the first trial of Nikolas Cruz, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer told prosecutors and defense lawyers that instead of calling jurors from the main assembly room to her courtroom when the time comes, she’s planning to do the opposite. “We can utilize the jury room for the initial screening of jurors,” she said. “We would plan to use all the jurors called in on those days.”

Collier and Lee counties team up to oppose Army Corps plan for Lake Okeechobee releases” via Jake Allen of the Naples Daily News — Collier County is teaming up with Lee County to push back against an Army Corps of Engineers plan that would change how much and where water from Lake Okeechobee is released. The Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, otherwise known as LOSOM, is reviewed by the Army Corps every seven to 10 years. The new plan is set to be finalized in November. County officials in Southwest Florida have said that the new plan will send an inequitable amount of water from the lake toward the west coast via the Caloosahatchee River, which empties into an estuary in Lee County.

Facing rising ambulance costs, Citrus County to take over EMS Oct. 1” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County ambulance service will return to County Commission oversight for the first time in over 30 years after Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to take control Oct. 1 of Nature Coast EMS. The vote came on a day when Nature Coast, the nonprofit ambulance provider in Citrus County for 21 years, sought to increase its annual subsidy from the contracted amount of $858,519 to $1.6 million. Nature Coast officials said the increase was necessary to cover rising labor costs; the agency is losing paramedics and emergency medical technicians to neighboring counties that pay more.

Citrus County is taking over ambulance service from Nature Coast EMS Image via Twitter.

New airline to fly from Palm Beach International Airport to Connecticut” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — A new airline will start service to Connecticut this December, Palm Beach International Airport officials said in a statement Wednesday. Avelo Airlines will offer nonstop service to New Haven’s Tweed-New Haven Airport, or HVN, beginning Dec. 16, 2021. One-way fares start as low as $59. “The announcement of new nonstop New Haven service is so exciting for travelers looking for an easy airport experience in both their departing and arriving cities,” said Laura Beebe, director of airports for Palm Beach County, in the statement. “We are thrilled to welcome Avelo to PBI, and we are confident this new partnership will be a great success.”


Good for the Governor: Canceling FSAs is the right decision” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — We’ve spent much time criticizing the Governor at the Sun-Sentinel editorial board. We hardly knew how to treat the news when DeSantis announced Tuesday that he would seek to end the Florida Standards Assessment, the annual tests that have become the be-all, end-all for Florida schools, playing an outsized role in determining school quality and funding. We weren’t the only ones caught in this conundrum. Reaction was swift and positive from the Florida Education Association and some of the most liberal members of the Legislature.


Awful new revelations about Trump and Jan. 6 show Mike Pence is no hero” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — Ever since Pence announced on Jan. 6 that he lacked the power to help Trump overturn the 2020 election in Congress, it’s been widely suggested that the Vice President was one of the few heroes in this ugly tale. But new revelations in the forthcoming book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa cast doubt on this account. And the new details also hint at lines of inquiry about Jan. 6 that will shape aspects of the House select committee’s examination of those events. We know Pence told his security detail that he adamantly would not allow himself to be removed from the Capitol as the violence raged. Trump sent the mob to terrorize Pence.

James Baiardi: To solve Florida correctional staff crisis, pay parity must happen now” via Florida Politics — On top of facing inmates every day, coupled with the threat of COVID-19, our brave men and women were forced to work an exhausting amount of overtime as the result of the staffing shortages. The staffing shortage, marked by some 5,000 vacant positions, has made our prisons extremely unsafe for everyone. These shortages directly result from a problem that began when prior legislatures failed to properly fund yearly pay raises for state correctional officers. During that time, other law enforcement agencies and county correction departments raised the pay and benefits, while state correctional officers fell behind. It’s time for Florida legislators and DeSantis to say yes to a significant pay raise for all correctional officers.


Rep. Fine is filing a bill to ban the teachings of how racism has affected life throughout history and today.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— When it comes to making COVID-19 data public, open government groups are saying the Sunshine State has gone dark, when compared to the rest of the country.

— Lying in state, former Florida Chief Justice Stephen Grimes is remembered.

Michael Barfield, Director of Public Access at the Florida Center for Government Accountability, talks about their ongoing lawsuit to get the state of Florida, particularly the Department of Health, to resume sharing critical COVID-19 data.

— Agriculture Commissioner Fried continues her weekly COVID-19 briefing.

— And the Lincoln Project is launching another attack ad against Gov. DeSantis.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

All-civilian Inspiration4 launches on three-day mission in orbit” via Miriam Kramer of Axios — SpaceX’s all-civilian Inspiration4 mission made history when it launched into orbit. It’s the first time a crew of amateurs has launched to orbit without a professional astronaut onboard. The mission also signals the start of a new era in space — one defined by an industry pushing to launch many more private people to orbit in the coming years. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Inspiration4 crew members launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8:02 p.m. ET. Jared Isaacman, Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux and Chris Sembroski will now live in their Dragon capsule in orbit for the next three days, before coming in for a splashdown somewhere off the Florida coast.

To watch the launch, click on the image below:

Universal lights up Horror Nights with new stage show” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — “Halloween Nightmare Fuel,” the new stage show at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, features playing with fire, daring aerial acts, and mysterious disappearances. For one thing, there are unusual fiery elements tossed about by performers. And then there are high-energy, intense dancers in costumes that are just north of Scantytown. Aerialists work with sometimes-on-fire equipment. The “Fuel” storyline revolves around a guy caught up in his own nightmare, and there’s room in the audience for individual interpretation. The lead character also has mind-boggling tricks up his sleeve, although creator Jason Horne calls them “illusions.” Then more dancing, flames and blaring music.

Royal Caribbean to debut world’s largest cruise ship in Florida instead of China” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida has been the first home for each of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels since Oasis of the Seas debuted in 2008 but was set to lose out to China for the fifth ship in the class, Wonder of the Seas. But the cruise line announced some changes that will bring the ship to the Sunshine State early next year. What will inherit the title as the world’s largest cruise ship will sail out of Fort Lauderdale beginning March 4, 2022, for two months of Caribbean voyages before shifting to Europe for a summer sailing season, and then eventually making its way to China.


Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Murphy, former congressional candidate Alan Cohn, WFTV’s Chris Heath, Ghada Skaff Lieser, Wayne Mineo, former Rep. David Rivera, our friend Paul Seago, and Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.


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

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