Sunburn — The morning learn of what’s sizzling in Florida politics — 9.10.21
Florida Politics broke the news late Tuesday night: The Florida Realtors have abandoned their 2022 ballot initiative to create more affordable housing.
The announcement sent shockwaves through Tallahassee and beyond. After all, the Realtors had already put over $13 million into the political committee backing the effort.
Sources familiar with the Realtors’ decision-making process said the group ultimately did not have the stomach to go head-to-head with Republican legislative leadership who had openly criticized the effort as a “self-serving, special interest agenda.”
But that wasn’t the only factor.
It is no secret that getting citizen-led initiatives on the ballot — let alone getting them passed — has become increasingly more difficult in Florida in recent election cycles. We can thank the Florida Legislature for this cold, hard truth for having passed election laws that, among other things, make it a first-degree misdemeanor to pay petition gatherers by the signature.
Why is that significant?
Because to get on the 2022 ballot in Florida, initiative-backers will have to submit 891,589 valid signatures to the state by Feb. 1 — that’s up from the 766,200 signatures it took to get on the 2020 ballot.
To put in perspective just how critical that 125,000 increase might be, prominent Orlando attorney John Morgan spent millions last election cycle to successfully get his Minimum Wage initiative on the ballot but was only able to do so with a cushion of just over 4,000 signatures.
Which brings me back to the Florida Realtors.
Before pulling the plug on their petition effort they had only collected 222,000 signatures, and of those about 67,000, or 7%, had been verified by supervisors of elections. In a COVID environment where face-to-face contact with strangers is not ideal, it is fair to say they had a tough row to hoe to successfully get on the ballot and ultimately decided to pull the plug and take a different approach.
That should serve as a cautionary sign to the remaining two ballot initiatives being steered by gaming entities such as Las Vegas Sands and Draft Kings and Fan Duel.
There is no question that both are being led by some of the brightest political minds in Florida politics. I’m also rooting for them to get on the ballot.
Each proposal has an angle that could make signing a petition an easy sell — the sports betting amendment is smartly framed as a way to boost education funding, similar to the Florida Lottery; the casino amendment promises a destination resort that could juice a tourism industry that’s been hobbled by the pandemic.
Still, the talented rosters behind those campaigns know making the ballot is not a given.
The Seminole Tribe is taking to the airwaves to tout the new Compact.
And the margin for error they did have was made slimmer this week after the Seminole Tribe of Florida announced a multi-million dollar TV blitz touting the benefits of the new Gaming Compact, which has now cleared all regulatory hurdles and is officially the law of the land.
Surely part of the Tribe’s intent was to educate the public but there is little doubt the advertising offensive is also intended to add to the confusion when Floridians are asked to sign their name to a petition outside of a Publix.
So, will we see any citizen-led measures on the 2022 ballot? The collapse of the Realtors’ initiative didn’t help the odds.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@POTUS: I’m instructing the Department of Labor to require all employers with 100+ employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated — or show a negative test at least once a week. Some of the biggest companies have already required this: United, Disney, Tyson, and Fox News.
—@SenRickScott: The Biden admin is filled with career bureaucrats & academic elites – people who have no idea what it means to run a business or create a job. This is what you get electing people who support socialism. They want government controlling, compelling & mandating what people do.
—@JlianZelizer: Today’s speech suggests that @is coming to terms with the modern GOP, not unlike former @ in his confrontation with the Tea Party. The new policies are a major shift away from the reliance on persuasion and toward the deployment of federal power to contain Covid.
—@ryban10001: In my message-factory mind I love the combo of anti-establishment populism combined with the takedown of knee-jerk 1970s state-driven solution politics
Find a vaccine near you at: https://t.co/xFHTuPb9Ch pic.twitter.com/ayTiSGp7Y6
— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) September 8, 2021
—@Kylamb8: No one has the magic formula to get rid of the virus. That’s really the point. The ones that are most successful aren’t successful in that they achieved much better results, it’s that they haven’t achieved worse results while doubling down on pointless, disastrous policies.
Ron DeSantis and Ashley Moody’s record losing streak this year:
❌ Vaccine Passports Ban for Cruises
❌ Limiting Direct Democracy
❌ School Mask Mandates (x2)
❌ HB 1
❌ The confidence of Floridians
— Sean Shaw (@SShawFL) September 9, 2021
—@ShevrinJones: Watching videos of parents encouraging their children to break the rules and to be disrespectful to adults, defying mask mandates in schools is a clear window into why so many children have no respect for adults and/or authority, because they are learning it at home.
—@JossieBarroso: Two things on Monday: 1) @has a big announcement. 2) @ reveals their 2022 best colleges rankings.
— DAYS UNTIL —
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 4; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 4; Apple launch event for new iPhones — 4; Alabama at UF — 8; Dolphins home opener — 9; Jaguars home opener — 9; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 10; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 20; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 21; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 21; MLB regular season ends — 22; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 23; World Series Game 1 — 36; ‘Dune’ premieres — 40; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 47; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 47; Georgia at UF — 50; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 53; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 53; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 56; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 56; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 58; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 59; Miami at FSU — 64; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 69; FSU vs. UF — 78; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 82; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 91; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 98; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 103; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 106; NFL season ends — 121; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 123; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 123; NFL playoffs begin — 127; Super Bowl LVI — 156; Daytona 500 — 163; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 196; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 240; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 259; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 265; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 301; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 313; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 392; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 427.
— TOP STORY —
“Florida schools can mandate masks after judge blocks Ron DeSantis ban” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — A Florida judge Wednesday blocked DeSantis’ ban on mandatory masks at schools from remaining in effect while he appeals an earlier ruling that struck down his order. Circuit Judge John Cooper approved a request by lawyers for parents suing DeSantis over masks, endorsing their position that keeping the ban in place would create a potential health risk in schools. Throwing out the automatic stay of his earlier order is unusual, Cooper conceded. But he added, “We’re not in normal times. We’re in a pandemic.”
While not mentioning DeSantis by name, Biden vows to protect school officials who defy governors by requiring students wear masks. “If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I will use my powers as president to get them out of the way,” Biden says.
— Skyler Swisher (@SkylerSwisher) September 9, 2021
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: 1,296 more deaths. Hospitalizations continue to trend downward” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida on Thursday reported 12,386 more COVID-19 cases and 1,296 additional deaths to the CDC. All but 19 of the newly reported deaths, about 99%, occurred since Aug. 11. About 60% of the newly reported died in the past two weeks, the analysis showed. The majority of deaths happened during Florida’s latest surge in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the delta variant. In the past seven days, on average, the state has added 338 deaths and 14,276 cases each day. The jump in the number of reported cases and deaths is due to the newest way deaths and cases are counted.
“Now that COVID-19 cases peaked, the question remains: When will so many Floridians stop dying of the virus?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining but it could take weeks before a drop-off in deaths from the virus occurs. One public health researcher suggests the state’s death count could reach as high as 56,000 people before the impact of the delta variant subsides. The COVID-19 death toll climbed to nearly 47,000 over the past week. Because of a lag, Florida’s daily death counts this week reflect the aftermath of record hospitalizations seen two to three weeks ago. The daily count has been higher than during any point in the pandemic. Over the last seven days, an average of nearly 345 more people per day have succumbed to the virus.
“State workers scared over COVID, say Florida agencies have no plan to protect them” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A summer COVID surge that’s produced a record number of infections in Leon County has led Tallahassee’s three state lawmakers to go to DeSantis. They’re asking him to reinstate a telework option for state workers, and to provide clarity to state agency heads about COVID-related work rules, procedures, and protocols. “I’m not sure if there are any real protocols,” one lawmaker said.
Kelly Skidmore called on the Governor to end the “political games.” Image via Colin Hackley.
“Kelly Skidmore joins doctors in dumping on Gov. DeSantis’ COVID-19 leadership” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A group of doctors from across the state joined members of the Florida Democratic Party Thursday to rip DeSantis’ COVID-19 policies as the state comes off its worst outbreak since the pandemic began last year. Democratic Rep. Skidmore joined three doctors Thursday for a virtual news conference criticizing DeSantis, as well as Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, for the GOP’s leadership in the state. Both DeSantis and Rubio are up for reelection next year. “This is the kind of crisis that requires strong leadership and an end to the political games we’ve been seeing playing out through the past year-and-a-half,” Skidmore said, before highlighting a list of policy proposals which have been used to contain diseases in the past.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“BayCare will mandate COVID-19 vaccine for its workers, following new federal rules” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Southwest Florida’s biggest health care provider said Thursday it will follow new federal rules and mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees. BayCare, which runs 14 acute-care hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, has about 28,000 employees. The company recently reported that about 45 percent of its workers are unvaccinated. The announcement comes as President Joe Biden on Thursday instructed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in most health care settings. It would apply to about 17 million health care workers in hospitals and other facilities that receive federal funding for medical care.
“Nearly 300 dead: Delta surge makes August Orange County’s deadliest month of the pandemic” via Ryan Gillespie and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Nearly 200 Orange County residents have been reported dead with COVID-19 over the past 10 days, making August the deadliest month in the county during the 17-month pandemic. In all, 293 people died with COVID-19 in August, with more likely to be added to the toll in the coming days and weeks due to reporting delays. Already, deaths reported have well surpassed the previous high of 229 in January. “We’re now facing the consequences of the high wave [of infections] we had a couple of weeks ago,” said Dr. Raul Pino, the local state health officer in Orange County.
“AdventHealth moves down to yellow status, further loosening restrictions as COVID-19 infections decline” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — AdventHealth Central Florida moves from red to yellow status Thursday, but this wave’s strain on the hospital system isn’t over. More surgeries can resume and the hospital is now at 75-80% of normal operational activity, said Dr. Sanjay Pattani, medical director for AdventHealth Mission Control. “We’re seeing our ability to free up resources that we had to mobilize initially, to go back to taking care of patients in other directions,” Pattani said. Yet the hospital system is still struggling to care for its many unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. Hospital staff are drained, said Dr. Eduardo Oliveira, executive medical director for critical care services for AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division.
“Less than 1 percent of student body opts out of masks in first week of Duval Schools’ new policy” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Duval County Public Schools’ new mask mandate has cut down significantly on the number of students who have opted out of wearing a face covering on campus within the first week of enforcement, new numbers show. 206 medical opt-outs have been filed by families and granted out of the nearly 104,000 brick-and-mortar students. Students attending Duval Virtual Instruction Academy or a charter school within Duval County are not counted in this figure. Separately, six of Duval County’s nearly 21,000 charter school students have returned opt-out paperwork, though charter schools are not required to honor the district’s mask mandate and COVID-19 policies vary by school.
Duval’s mask mandate was met with only a handful of opt-outs. Image via AP.
“Masks in class: Hillsborough County School Board votes to extend mask mandate to Oct. 15” via Beth Rousseau of WFLA — Members of the Hillsborough County School Board are expected to discuss extending the district’s mask mandate during their meeting Thursday afternoon. Last month, the board voted 5-2 to mandate masks for all students and staff amid rising COVID-19 cases among students and staff, despite Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools. Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled last month that local school boards can impose mask mandates to curb the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, Cooper said schools can keep their mask mandates in place while the state appeals the decision.
“‘Delta variant is no joke.’ Palm Beach County School District unveils COVID-19 mitigation strategies” via Jennifer Sangalang and Holly Baltz of the Palm Beach Post — What are the COVID-19 mitigation strategies for the Palm Beach County School District, the county’s largest workforce of more than 22,000? Claudia Shea, director of communications for the school district, and Dr. Belma Andric, chief medical officer of the county’s health care district, addressed COVID-19 prevention tips Wednesday in a livestream on the school district’s social networks. The event was to be co-hosted by district Chief of Staff Jay Boggess, but Shea was substituted Wednesday afternoon. In the video, Andric and Shea discussed the health district’s drive-through COVID-19 rapid testing sites, with Andric advocating people eligible get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Parents’ rights groups takes aim at Indian River superintendent, 3 School Board members” via Sommer Brugal of TC Palm — A parents group is organizing to remove the school superintendent and three School Board members for voting in favor of a mask mandate for pre-K-8 students. The effort — which includes a GoFund Me page and a petition — calls on DeSantis to remove Superintendent David Moore, board Chairperson Brian Barefoot and board members Peggy Jones and Mara Schiff. It claims the mask policy violates DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates; the Parents Bill of Rights passed by the Legislature; and the state Department of Health’s emergency ruling that allows mandatory mask policies as long as parents or guardians can opt-out their students.
“Tampa General has put her kidney transplant on hold; she blames the unvaccinated” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Carol Johnson has battled Type 1 diabetes since she was 12. Three years ago, her kidney function deteriorated to the point where she qualified for Tampa General Hospital’s donor list. In May, she was placed on regular dialysis, a sign of impending kidney failure. So Johnson, 67, was thrilled in early August when her brother was approved as a donor. That should have meant surgery within weeks, she said. But then she learned her operation was indefinitely on hold because the hospital had suspended elective surgeries due to a surge of COVID-19 patients. The longer she is on dialysis, the less the chance of success for her surgery. She is angry about all the people who ignored calls for them to get the vaccine, which is provided for free.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Wilton Simpson strips Lauren Book of key committee chair” via Christine Sexton of Florida Politics — Simpson on Thursday removed Democratic Sen. Lauren Book as chair of a key committee that could consider legislation that would further restrict abortion in Florida. Book has recently been critical of plans by Simpson and other Republicans to consider abortion bans similar to the one enacted by Texas. Book had been the head of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee since the 2018 Legislative Session. Simpson replaced her with Sen. Ileana Garcia. In a memo to senators Thursday, Simspson said he stripped Book of her committee chair because she also serves as Senate Minority Leader, a post that requires a time commitment.
Chris Sprowls commissions study to determine possible pitfalls facing Florida — In April, House Speaker Chris Sprowls greenlit a $2 million risk assessment study to determine what could cause the next financial disaster in Florida. As reported by Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida, the “profile of the state’s biggest risks” is being prepared by Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory firm, which will survey state agencies and private businesses to suss out potential future challenges. The final report will also include an overview of past financial crises in the state and rate the state’s “vulnerability to shocks.” Sprowls said, “From a government perspective, this is our desire to say ‘let’s get ahead of that problem’ … Even if they aren’t the problems on the nightly news, they are wildly important to the state of Florida.”
“Is PIP repeal headed for a comeback?” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida’s oft-criticized no-fault automobile insurance program remains intact after DeSantis this summer vetoed a bill that would have scrapped the requirement that drivers buy what’s called “personal injury protection” insurance. But speculation that legislation targeting auto insurance could be resurrected during the 2022 Session increased this week after Sprowls named Rep. Erin Grall, primary sponsor of the PIP repeal bill in the House, chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. Sprowls, however, on Wednesday downplayed any notion that Grall’s appointment as Judiciary Committee Chair shows an increased interest in the issue and added that no decision had been made as of yet.
Rep. Erin Grall spearheaded the no-fault repeal effort last Session.
“Sprowls taps Erin Grall to take the lead on abortion legislation” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Sprowls said this week that Rep. Grall, a Republican lawyer from Vero Beach, will take the lead on anti-abortion legislation for the 2022 Legislative Session. Sprowls has not said whether his chamber will move legislation modeled after a Texas law prohibiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks of pregnancy, or, instead, advance some other proposal such as banning women from obtaining abortions because their fetuses will have a disability or a potential disability. The House on April 23 passed Grall’s HB 1221, the so-called disability abortion bill. The vote drew praise from the Susan B Anthony List, a national anti-abortion group. Ultimately, though, the bill died after Sen. Lauren Book refused to consider the Senate counterpart.
“Janet Cruz, Fentrice Driskell want voters to choose Education Commissioner” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Cruz and Rep. Driskell are filing legislation that would change the state’s Education Commissioner from an appointed position to one chosen by voters. “Voters currently have no direct influence on state education policy, and this bill seeks to put an end to that,” Cruz said at a press conference announcing the bill Thursday in her Tampa district. “You should remove personal agendas from the selection process.” The proposal comes in response to current Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s override on school district masking policies. Corcoran backs Ron DeSantis’ order banning school mask mandates. Democrats like Cruz have pointed to the mandate ban as cause for widespread cases of COVID-19 in schools, especially as the more contagious delta variant continues to surge.
“‘We will replace you’: Republican members of Pinellas County Delegation face pressure for Special Session” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Republican members of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation faced scrutiny Thursday morning from a slew of conservative commenters calling for a Special Session to ban mask and vaccine mandates. The commenters, many from the county’s Community Patriots group, pointed their criticisms toward conservative members of the delegation during the delegation meeting. The speakers urged lawmakers to call a Special Session in support of a bill (HB 75) filed by Howey-in-the-Hills Rep. Anthony Sabatini that seeks to ban COVID-19-related mandates, like those requiring vaccines or masks.
Happening today — The Hillsborough County legislative delegation will meet online: Sens. Janet Cruz, Darryl Rouson, Danny Burgess, Jim Boyd, Reps. Mike Beltran, Lawrence McClure, Andrew Learned, Jackie Toledo, Dianne Hart, Susan Valdes, Fentrice Driskell, Traci Koster and Michele Rayner, 9:30 a.m. Livestreaming on The Florida Channel.
Leader Mayfield has called a meeting of the Republican Caucus to be held on October 19, 2021, at 3:00 p.m., in the Senate Chamber, for the purpose of selecting Senator Kathleen Passidomo as the President-Designate for the 2022-24 Legislative Term. https://t.co/Xmp4XJbBXd pic.twitter.com/AIXDeOpLtb
— Florida Senate (@FLSenate) September 9, 2021
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Emily Buckley, Dean Mead: Charter Schools USA
Marty Fiorentino, Davis Bean, Melissa Braude, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Flagler College, Mental Health Resource Center
Emily Fisher: Florida Ports Council
Lori Killinger, Kasey Lewis, Chris Lyon, Lewis Longman & Walker: AgLogic Chemical
Dennis Moore: Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office
Will Rodriguez, Corcoran Partners: Merlin Law Group, Women of Tomorrow
— STATEWIDE —
“Federal judge blocks key portion of anti-riot law, targets DeSantis and three sheriffs” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — A federal judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of a key portion of Florida’s so-called anti-riot law, saying it is too vague and “encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” The definition of what constitutes a riot under current state law is “vague to the point of unconstitutionality,” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in his preliminary injunction order. Walker said the court is not “striking the definition of ‘riot’ from Florida Statutes” not is it “enjoining all law enforcement agencies across the state from enforcing this specific law.” Instead, the court is blocking DeSantis and three Florida sheriffs from enforcing the state’s law against “rioting” as defined in current statute.
Judge Mark Walker says the “anti-riot” law is unconstitutional.
“DeSantis commends 9/11 responders, rebukes calls to defund police” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — With the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attack days away, DeSantis on Thursday highlighted the actions of police and vowed to defend them from calls to defund law enforcement. Speaking in DeFuniak Springs, the Republican Governor lauded the heroics of on-scene responders and described the fateful day among the most “significant” in American history. Emergency workers, he emphasized, put themselves at great risk. “They’re running into the building,” DeSantis said of the 110-story World Trade Center. “They’re taking people out. They’re going higher up to get more people out, knowing, in all likelihood, that they were not going to make it out themselves.”
“DeSantis makes $1.1M job, infrastructure push in Walton County” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida is investing $1.1 million in Walton County for infrastructure and economic growth to bring high-paying job opportunities to the Panhandle. DeSantis and the Department of Economic Opportunity on Thursday announced a $500,000 distribution from the Job Growth Grant Fund for roadway, water and sewer infrastructure improvements at an upcoming business park outside DeFuniak Springs. The second, $625,000 portion comes from the Rural Infrastructure Fund to expand broadband access in the country. Both grants are efforts to build and retain businesses in the Panhandle county. “We know Walton County’s a good place to be, anyways,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis finds a friendly reception during DeFuniak newser but no hard questions” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — If the Governor holds a news conference and doesn’t take questions from the press, is it really a news conference? Not particularly, judging by an appearance DeSantis staged Thursday in DeFuniak Springs. The Governor’s Office definitely invited reporters, having issued a press release announcing the event and specifying when they should arrive to set up. But after the governor concluded his remarks and asked for questions, the ensuing back-and-forth seemed to involve local officials who heaped praise on DeSantis, not news gatherers seeking policy details. “You’ve done something that I’ve tried for 41 years to do, and that’s to turn my daughter from a liberal Democrat to a Republican,” one man told the Governor.
“After state docked pay from board, Broward pushes DeSantis to stop sitting on billions for schools” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — While state education officials withheld the salaries of Broward County School Board members because of strict mask mandates, the school district has called on DeSantis to distribute billions in federal relief funds to help schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter addressed to the governor, Broward Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and Board Chair Rosalind Osgood said that Broward schools are “entering into the second year of the pandemic and continue to have the need for stimulus dollars to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our students and staff.”
“Army Corps foresees no construction delays following Everglades restoration lawsuit” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Drew Bartlett, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), told the SFWMD Governing Board Thursday there are no indications a recent lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will delay construction projects related to Everglades restoration. “We are counting on them to build these projects,” Bartlett said. “I have had conversations with the Corps. They assure me they are not delaying any projects associated with (CEPP).” Last month, several farming organizations sued the Corps, alleging the planning process for a portion of the Comprehensive Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) did not comply with federal law.
The Florida Coral Rescue Center could be key to saving the reef. Image via SeaWorld.
“Rescuers race to save Florida’s corals while federal government plan more dredging” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — The corals in the Orlando room have colorful names: Green Star, Yellow Finger, Knobby Brain, and Rough Cactus. The list makes for a cutie-pie passenger manifest for a modern-day Noah’s ark. Each of these corals was transplanted here, to what’s been dubbed the Florida Coral Rescue Center, from North America’s only coral barrier reef, which stretches for about 360 miles along Florida’s southeast coast. The goal: Save their lives so that someday, no one knows when, they or their offspring can be put back where they normally live. They needed a rescue because, since 2014, a disease called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease has been rampaging through the reef like, and I do not make this comparison lightly, COVID-19 through Florida’s mass of vaccination-averse citizens.
“State delays new five-year EBT contract two months” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Department of Children and Families has pushed back its timeline to pick a new vendor for Electronic Benefit Transfer services, which serves 2.2 million people who rely on a number of different food and cash assistance programs operated by the state and federal government. Documents posted to the agency’s website Wednesday indicate the Department of Children and Families wants to complete its negotiations with the qualified vendors and have the new five-year contract awarded by Feb. 7, 2023, about two-months later than the state’s original plan. The invitation to negotiate, or ITN, authorizes the Department of Children and Families to contract with more than one vendor to supply the EBT services. The pushed-back deadline means interested vendors have until Oct. 15 to respond to the ITN.
— 2022 —
DeSantis to headline Nebraska Steak Fry — DeSantis will be among a trio of potential 2024 GOP presidential contenders headlining the annual Nebraska Steak Fry next week. The annual event, held by Ricketts, celebrates the state’s agriculture industry. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are also on the guest list. If Donald Trump does not run in 2024, both men — along with DeSantis — are among the top-tier potential candidates in early Republican presidential primary polls. The event will be held Sept. 12 at Arbor Lodge Historical Park in Nebraska City.
Ron DeSantis says the 2024 rumors are “nonsense” but he’s mingling with other potential presidential contenders. Image via AP.
“Nikki Fried tries to take on DeSantis’ job as Governor in first months of campaign” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The Agriculture Commissioner is the only Democrat on the Florida Cabinet in charge of an agency with 3,700 employees that not only oversees the agriculture industry but inspects grocery stores and roller coasters and issues gun permits. But in recent weeks she started highlighting COVID-19 statistics, and on Sept. 1 she called for a moment of silence for Florida’s nearly 47,000 dead COVID-19 victims, an act of commemoration typically only made by the Governor. She says she believes it’s needed in the face of DeSantis’ moves to ban mask mandates by local governments, vaccine passports by business and to push treatments more vocally than vaccines. She has suggested DeSantis cares more about a potential 2024 presidential bid than combating the pandemic.
Save the date:
—“4 Pinellas County mayors back Ben Diamond for CD 13” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics
“Reggie Gaffney nears $300K raised for Senate bid” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Gaffney continued in August to consolidate support for his run for state Senate. Gaffney, a Democrat who seeks to succeed term limited Sen. Audrey Gibson in Senate District 6, neared $300,000 raised after just a month and a half in the race. He has $219,250 in his Friends of Reggie Gaffney political committee and another $67,330 in his campaign account. The bulk of Gaffney’s August fundraising went to the political committee for a second straight month, with donors giving $67,500 to that account. Developers and real estate concerns gave heavily to Friends of Reggie Gaffney, with Dream Finder Homes pacing all donors with $25,000 contributed.
“Daniel Sotelo campaign crosses $125K mark for open HD 118 race” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sotelo added about $15,500 in August toward his bid for the Florida House District 118 seat Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez plans to vacate for a Miami-Dade Commission seat next year. Last month’s haul, comprised of 16 individual donations of $1,000 or less, edged Sotelo’s campaign past the $125,000 mark in a race where he so far is unopposed. As has been the case before, contributions to his campaign last month came exclusively from a variety of local small businesses and their proprietors. In August, they included companies offering impact window, liquor, furniture, carpentry, auto mechanic, mortgage and clothing services. Past donors included many from the construction sector or related industries.
“Dems gave $700K to dark-money group that helped Republicans win races in ‘ghost’ candidate scandal” via Jason Garcia and Annei Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The dark-money nonprofit that worked with Republican strategists last year to promote spoiler independent candidates in important state Senate races also raised more than $700,000 from organizations controlled by Democratic fundraisers. The nonprofit, Grow United Inc., which is based out of a UPS Store in Denver, provided more than half a million dollars last fall that Republican strategists used to advertise little-known independent candidates who did no campaigning of their own in three key Senate elections, one in Central Florida and two in South Florida.
— CORONA NATION —
“Joe Biden plans COVID-19 vaccine mandate for 80 million private sector employees” via Axios — More than 80 million Americans working in the private sector will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or produce a negative test result at least once a week, a senior Biden administration official said. The new rule, to be developed by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), underscores the Biden administration’s ramped up efforts to control the virus as cases and hospitalizations largely driven by the Delta variant surge nationwide. OSHA is developing the rule that will require vaccinations or once a week testing for companies with more than 100 employees, set to be implemented in the coming weeks, per the White House official.
“Biden expresses frustration over the unvaccinated, says ‘a distinct minority’ is keeping the U.S. from overcoming the coronavirus” via Annie Linskey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Seung Min Kim and Lisa Rein of The Washington Post — President Biden announced sweeping new vaccine mandates Thursday that will affect tens of millions of Americans, ordering all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be inoculated or face weekly testing. Biden also said he was requiring all health facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to vaccinate their workforces, which the White House believes will impact 50,000 locations. And the president announced he would sign an executive order that would require all federal employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in an effort to create a model he hopes state governments and private companies will adopt.
“Biden requiring federal workers to get COVID-19 shot” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — President Biden is toughening COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and contractors as he aims to boost vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery. Just weeks after he mandated that federal workers get shots or face rigorous testing and masking protocols, Biden will sign a new executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government, with no option to test out. The word comes ahead of the president’s speech Thursday afternoon outlining a six-pronged plan to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases.
Joe Biden to federal workers: No jab, no job. Image via AP.
“U.S. states with low vaccination rates see sharp spikes in children with COVID-19.” via The New York Times — The number of children admitted to the hospital in the United States with COVID-19 has risen to the highest levels reported to date. Nearly 30,000 of them entered hospitals in August. Pediatric hospitalizations, driven by a record rise in coronavirus infections among children, have swelled, overwhelming children’s hospitals and intensive care units in states like Louisiana and Texas. During the summer surge, the hospitalization rate was about 10 times as high in unvaccinated adolescents as in those who were vaccinated. Data on hospitalizations among children of different ages is limited.
“Los Angeles school district mandates COVID-19 vaccines for students 12 and older” via Ivana Saric of Axios — The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education approved a measure Thursday mandating eligible students in the nation’s second-biggest school district to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It’s the first major school district to require vaccines for students, a move that may set a precedent for school districts across the country to follow. The school district, which has seen a number of legal challenges to its other COVID-19 mitigation measures, will likely face more litigation over the mandate. Students 12 years and older have been eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines in Los Angeles for several months, but many have not.
“GOP West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is done with all that nonsense on vaccines” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — If the coronavirus could be cured by a mixture of folksiness and exasperation, West Virginia Gov. Justice would be in line for a Nobel Prize. Many of Justice’s GOP colleagues have trodden gently around promoting the vaccines. And then there’s Justice, the governor of the second-Trumpiest state in the country. As the team at the Recount has documented, he has made clear over the past six months-plus that he has no time for all that nonsense. Back in February, he assailed long-term care workers who declined the vaccine. “When you turn your back and say, ‘Nope, I’m not doing that,’ all you’re doing is entering the death drawing,” Justice said.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Weekly jobless claims post sharp drop to 310,000, another new pandemic low” via Jeff Cox of CNBC — First-time filings for unemployment claims in the U.S. dropped to 310,000 last week, easily the lowest of the COVID-19 era and a significant step toward the pre-pandemic normal, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Claims had been expected to total 335,000 for the week ended Sept. 4, according to economists surveyed by Dow Jones. Claims may have been still lower except for a substantial bump in Louisiana, which was hammered by Hurricane Ida and still has nearly 250,000 homes and businesses without power. Initial filings had been trending around 215,000 prior to when the pandemic was declared in March 2020. A year ago at this time, weekly claims averaged 881,000.
“Airlines say rise in COVID-19 cases is hurting ticket sales” via The Associated Press — Several leading U.S. airlines warned Thursday that the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant is hurting their bookings and further delaying a recovery for the travel industry. American Airlines said a slowdown that started in August has continued into September, and the airline further lowered its outlook for third-quarter revenue. United Airlines said its flying and revenue are both weaker than previously expected, and it is cutting its schedule for later this year to match the lower demand. Delta Air Lines said it still expects to post an adjusted pretax profit for the third quarter, but revenue will be toward the lower end of its previous forecast.
After rocky 2020, airlines say more turbulence is ahead.
— MORE CORONA —
“Results of NIH studies on mixing vaccines expected to start coming in late September” via Lenny Bernstein and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — NIH researchers plan to begin issuing in late September the results of research on the safety and effectiveness of mixing coronavirus vaccines for booster shots, with final results of all nine studies not available until late October. The impact of the Pfizer vaccine as a booster will be the focus of the last three studies underway. That means consumers already inoculated with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t have information on using Pfizer’s version as a booster until late next month. Pfizer is in line to be the first brand approved as a booster by the FDA. Approval could accelerate the trend of people who originally received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines seeking Pfizer boosters.
“When was the first U.S. COVID-19 death? CDC investigates 4 early cases” via Benjamin Mueller of The New York Times — Late last year, the federal government’s chief statistician on death received word about a tantalizing discovery: Someone had died from COVID-19 in January 2020, a death certificate said, a revelation that would have sped up the timeline of the virus’s spread in the United States by several weeks. That death was ultimately not what it seemed. The person who certified it had meant June 2020, not January. But that blip on the radar screen of Robert Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at a branch of the CDC, helped to kick off a quiet, yearlong campaign at the agency to check and recheck the country’s first suspected COVID-19-related deaths in the uncertain days of early 2020.
— 20 YEARS —
“Joe Biden to travel to all three 9/11 sites for 20th anniversary of attacks” via Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post — Biden will travel to New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at all three sites where they occurred. Biden will be accompanied by first lady Jill Biden when he visits Lower Manhattan in New York City; Shanksville, Pa.; and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., where planes crashed after terrorists hijacked them Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. Vice President Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff will travel to Shanksville for a separate event, then join the Bidens at the Pentagon, the White House said.
“A profound memorial in Shanksville” via Bronwen Latimer of The Washington Post — The memorial for those who died on Flight 93 began with one memento pinned to the chain-link fence meant to keep people away from the crash site. Soon the fence was covered in photos and hats and flowers. By the 10th anniversary, the landscape had been transformed with walls of marble and groves of sugar maples and hemlock, long winding pathways and Queen Anne’s lace. A visitor could hear the voice of each passenger or crew member, see a name etched in perpetuity. This week, 40 different wind chimes inside the Tower of Voices, built 93 feet high, will play in the summer breeze.
“They weren’t born yet when their dads died on 9/11. The loss shaped their lives.” via Brittany Shammas and Michael S. Rosenwald of The Wall Street Journal —The first time she remembers having to make a Father’s Day card at school, Robin Ornedo was in first grade. As a teacher explained the assignment — folding construction paper to resemble a man’s shirt and tie — the 6-year-old felt a sadness creeping in. She knew her dad was gone, lost in what she only vaguely understood as some sort of accident. For a moment, Robin sat wondering what to do. Then she remembered something her mom always told her: that it was okay to talk to her dad as if he was still there with them. That in a way, he was still there. “I pretended my dad was alive,” Robin recalled recently, “just so I wouldn’t feel left out.”
Saturday marks 20 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“Watching 9/11 taught me, a refugee, the visceral lessons of Americanness” via Roya Hakakian of The Washingtin Post — On Sept. 11, 2001, I watched through tears as ash fell over the city that had so unceremoniously taken me in as a refugee 15 years earlier. Like all Americans, I was mourning the dead, the pierced skyline, the bereft mood of a people whom I had never seen bereft. But I was also mourning a loss of my own, the loss of the impenetrable fortress I thought I had entered when I arrived in the United States. The blare of sirens drowned all other sounds. The sidewalks that had teemed with passersby were deserted. Suddenly New York City began to feel like the Tehran I had fled. But while most Americans feared what evil might follow next, I feared that my adopted city might succumb to the same reign of grief my birth city had.
“The mystery of 9/11 and dementia” via Patrick Hruby of The Washington Post — Twenty years after 9/11, Ground Zero first responders are suffering from abnormally high rates of cognitive impairment, with some individuals in their 50s experiencing deficiencies that typically manifest when people are in their 70s — if at all. “That is the most extraordinary thing with these cognitive issues, and what blows me away,” says Benjamin Luft, director of Stony Brook University’s World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program. “You don’t expect this to occur in your 50s, because it doesn’t occur. And a lot of these people are in their early 50s.” Although not all cases are severe, the number of responders showing memory loss and other signs of impairment has been rising over time. Scientists and doctors are now asking: Is 9/11 to blame?
“9/11 was a test. The books of the last two decades show how America failed.” via Carlos Lozada of the Washington Post — Rather than exemplify the nation’s highest values, the official response to 9/11 unleashed some of its worst qualities: deception, brutality, arrogance, ignorance, delusion, overreach and carelessness. The sprawling literature to emerge over the past two decades revealed the heroism and confusion of the early response, chronicled the battles in and about Afghanistan and Iraq, and uncovered the excesses of the war on terror. Reading a collection of such books today is like watching an old movie that feels more anguishing and frustrating than you remember. Anguish from knowing how the tale will unfold; frustration from realizing that this was hardly the only possible outcome.
“The 9/11 attacks changed the way sports networks broadcast games” via Ben Strauss of The Washington Post — The days and years after 9/11 changed the way sports media broadcast games. Almost immediately, teams and leagues and, by default, the networks that aired their games entered a new era in which those games were infused with a certain type of patriotism: military-jet flyovers, field-sized flags, the singing of “God Bless America.” That sentiment endured even as post-9/11 unity evolved more fully to an effort to market the wars. In addition to daily renditions in baseball stadiums of “God Bless America,” there were international trips from national sports networks to war zones. In 2004, after the invasion of Iraq, “SportsCenter” visited Kuwait and filmed episodes there.
“9/11 ceremonies, events in Broward and Palm Beach to honor victims and heroes” via Brett Shweky and Kari Barnett of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11, cities across South Florida are honoring and remembering the victims and heroes in the terrorist attacks. The community is invited by cities, police departments and organizations to come together at ceremonies, exhibits and other activities in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The city of Boynton Beach will commemorate 9/11 at The Amphitheater at Centennial Park in Downtown Boynton, 120 E. Ocean Ave., for its Remembrance Ceremony from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11. Continuing its tradition of honoring the victims of 9/11, the city of Coral Springs will have its annual ceremony at the Northwest Regional Library, 3151 N. University Drive, at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.
“‘A very sad, somber time’: Palm Beach couple reflects on 9/11 ahead of 20th anniversary” via Jodie Wagner of Palm Beach Daily News — When terror struck New York City 20 years ago on Saturday, Dana Koch and his future wife, Jessica, were going about their daily routines. Jessica, an attorney, was at work in her Midtown Manhattan law firm on Sept. 11, 2001. Dana, a transplanted Palm Beacher, was at home in his Upper West Side apartment. Like so many others on that tragic day, they watched in horror as the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed into heaps of rubble not long after planes piloted by terrorists crashed into them.
“Looking back at Sarasota’s chilling, unusual connections to the 9/11 attacks” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The hijackers ate in our restaurants, shopped in our stores and learned to fly planes into buildings here. President George W. Bush read to schoolchildren here as the horror of their actions was relayed to him in a whisper. A mysterious family from Saudi Arabia with ties to the terrorists lived in a gated community here. Aside from New York City and Washington, D.C., perhaps no other place in the nation has more important connections to the events of Sept. 11, 2001 than Sarasota County.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Look who’s backing Joe Biden’s foreign policy: The Kochs” via Eliana Johnson of POLITICO — In the days following the fall of Kabul and the collapse of the Afghan government, the Biden administration found itself locking arms with a group that’s long been radioactive in the Democratic Party: the Kochs. Rewind a decade, and the billionaire Koch brothers were the bête noire of the Obama administration, singled out by the president and his allies — including then-Vice President Biden — as a singularly destructive force in American politics. But as chaos enveloped Afghanistan over the past few weeks, foreign policy experts housed at think tanks and organizations funded by the isolationist-leaning Koch network were among the loudest — and loneliest — voices in Washington who applauded the President’s withdrawal from the country.
The Koch network and Joe Biden agree on Afghanistan. Politics makes strange bedfellows.
“Biden cans Donald Trump military academy holdovers” via Lachlan Markay of Axios — Critics say President Biden’s moves to clean house at America’s military service academies creates a precedent that politicizes a traditionally nonpartisan — if patronage-heavy — system. The White House’s personnel office today sent letters to all six members of each of the three service academy visitors boards — overseeing West Point, Annapolis and the U.S. Air Force Academy — demanding they resign by 6 p.m. or face termination. Some refused and said they’d consider legal action. Appointees to those academies’ visitors boards are generally permitted to serve out their terms regardless of their political affiliations even after a new president takes office.
“White House pulling nomination of ATF chief amid pushback over gun-control advocacy” via Seung Min Kim and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — The White House is planning to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this week amid bipartisan pushback over his gun control advocacy. Biden nominated Chipman, who worked at ATF for more than two decades before joining the gun control group led by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in April as part of a larger effort to curb gun violence. But his nomination faced unified opposition from Republican senators as well as concerns from a handful of Senate Democrats from states friendly to gun rights. White House officials are trying to find another role in the administration for Chipman, said the people familiar with the matter.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“The looming chaos of Donald Trump 2024” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — There is nothing substantively different about what Trump is now than what he was in 2015. But there have been significant changes that surround Trump, changes that overlap with one another. The first is that his voice has lost volume. The other is that Trump now also has a much larger, much more energetic base of support relative to 2016. But there are valid motivations for him to declare sooner rather than later that may set him on a trajectory from which he doesn’t ultimately swerve.
“Trump and son to call exhibition boxing match at Hard Rock Casino” via Jason Dill of the Miami Herald — After the world saw the boxing return of Mike Tyson in an exhibition match with Roy Jones Jr. last year, Tyson’s former rival and heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, 58, is following suit at Miami’s Hard Rock Casino on Saturday. And there’s a twist. Former President Trump is scheduled to be a ringside commentator of the exhibition boxing card alongside his son, Donald Trump Jr., according to The Associated Press. ESPN reported the commentary will be an alternate, “gamecast,” feed of the event with longtime HBO boxing play-by-play commentator Jim Lampley calling the main telecast. The event takes place Saturday at 7 p.m., which is the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The most dangerous Trump exposé” via Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen of Axios — Former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham has quietly written a top-secret memoir of her four years in Trump’s White House, and a publishing source says she’ll reveal “surprising new scandals.” The book — “I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw in The Trump White House” — will be published Oct. 5 by Harper Collins. A former West Wing colleague of Grisham’s tells Axios: “When I heard this, all I could think about was Stephanie surrounded by a lake of gasoline, striking a match with a grin on her face.”
Here’s a sound bite for you: Bring it. pic.twitter.com/VmET1JUs12
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) September 9, 2021
— CRISIS —
“Nancy Pelosi says participants in Sept. 18 Capitol rally are ‘coming back to praise the people who were out to kill’ on Jan. 6” via Felicia Sonmez and Ellie Silverman of The Washington Post — Pelosi sharply condemned those who are planning to take part in a Sept. 18 rally outside the U.S. Capitol, accusing them of “coming back to praise the people who were out to kill” during the Jan. 6 attack by a pro-Trump mob. In response to a question at her weekly news conference, Pelosi said the House Administration Committee is holding briefings related to the upcoming rally and that she will make an announcement on the topic soon. Supporters of former president Trump are planning to rally outside the Capitol to argue that the hundreds of people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection are political prisoners, an assertion that has exploded beyond far-right rallying cries and into mainstream conservatism.
“The Capitol Police said Jan. 6 unrest on Capitol grounds would be ‘highly improbable’” via Jason Leopold of Buzzfeed — The chief of the Capitol Police and its top intelligence officer personally approved permits for six demonstrations to be held on Jan. 6, 2021. Capitol Police documented concerns that organizers had attempted to conceal their affiliation with Ali Alexander, the right-wing activist behind the group Stop the Steal. Despite concerns, and COVID-19 policies that capped demonstrations at 50 people each, the Capitol Police force’s intelligence assessment said there were “no plans for participants to enter the buildings” and noted “no adverse intelligence related to the upcoming event.” It assessed “the Level of Probability of acts of civil disobedience/arrests to occur” during the demonstration “as Highly Improbable.”
“Second U.S. judge questions constitutionality of lead felony charge against Oath Keepers in Capitol riot” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A second federal judge in Washington questioned whether the lead felony charge leveled by the government against Capitol riot defendants is unconstitutionally vague, as 18 Oath Keepers accused in a conspiracy case urged the court on Wednesday to toss out a count carrying one of the heaviest penalties against them. U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta asked how federal prosecutors distinguish felony conduct qualifying as “obstructing an official proceeding” of Congress, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, from misdemeanor offenses the government has charged others with, such as shouting to interrupt a congressional hearing.
“Man accused of bringing molotov cocktails, five loaded firearms to Capitol on Jan. 6 set to plead guilty” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — An Alabama man is set to plead guilty after authorities say he brought five loaded firearms and 11 molotov cocktails with napalm-like properties to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors and his defense told a judge Wednesday. Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Ala., was charged in a 17-count indictment with possessing some of the deadliest unregistered weapons and explosives found on the day of the pro-Trump riot that led to assaults on nearly 140 police officers, breached the Capitol and forced the evacuation of Congress.
“U.S. election workers get little help from law enforcement as terror threats mount” via Linda So and Jason Szep of Reuters — In an investigation that identified hundreds of incidents of intimidation and harassment of election workers and officials nationwide, Reuters found only a handful of arrests. Local police agencies said they have struggled to identify suspects who conceal their identities and to determine which threats are credible enough to prosecute. The U.S. Justice Department has acknowledged that law enforcement has not responded well to the surge in threats to election officials. “The response has been inadequate,” John Keller, a senior attorney in the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, said. Keller heads a task force created in July to investigate threats of violence to election workers and to coordinate with local and state authorities that receive most initial reports of intimidation.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“House Dems begin moving parts of Biden $3.5T domestic plans” via Alan Fram of The Associated Press — House Democrats began pushing plans for providing paid family and medical leave, easing climate change and bolstering education through House committees Thursday as they battled Republicans and among themselves over President Biden’s $3.5 trillion vision for reshaping federal priorities. Five committees worked on their slices of the 10-year proposal, early steps in what looms as a fraught autumn for Democrats hoping to enact a remarkable range of major policy changes. They face not only solid GOP opposition but internal divisions among progressives and moderates in a Congress they control so narrowly that they can afford only three House defections, none in the Senate.
“Justice Department is suing Texas over new abortion ban” via Oriana Gonzalez of Axios — The Justice Department has sued Texas over its new law banning abortions after six weeks, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in an announcement Thursday, calling the law “clearly unconstitutional.” The lawsuit comes after Garland vowed to “protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services,” adding that “[w]e will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.” The DOJ argues that Texas “adopted an unprecedented scheme ‘to insulate the State from responsibility’” by allowing private citizens to enforce the law because state officials allegedly know that the law “violates the Constitution.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Texas’ new abortion law is “clearly unconstitutional.” Image via AP.
“‘War on women’: Democratic lawmakers vow to stop Florida from adopting Texas-style abortion law” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Federal and state Democratic leaders Thursday promised a multi-pronged effort to stop Florida from going the way of Texas when it comes to abortion access. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz outlined the ways Democrats intend to fight efforts to outlaw abortion like Texas has done. The U.S. Department of Justice will be suing to stop the law, filing suit a soon as Thursday. The U.S. House of Representatives will hold a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act that would codify protections established under the nation’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. That action would supersede restrictive state laws.
“Kevin McCarthy asks Supreme Court to reverse House proxy voting rules” via Rebecca Shabad of NBC News — McCarthy is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the proxy voting rules that the House implemented because of the pandemic, a tool that Republican lawmakers have taken advantage of themselves. McCarthy said in a statement that he wants the court to reversePelosi’s “perpetual proxy voting power grab.” Proxy voting, which took effect in May 2020, allows lawmakers to cast votes remotely through another colleague so that they don’t have to physically be inside the House chamber. In August, Pelosi extended proxy voting through at least Oct. 1.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Day of reckoning: Scott Maddox sentenced to 5 years in prison in federal corruption case” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Maddox, Tallahassee’s one-time “boy mayor” and city commissioner who turned local politics into his own illegal cottage industry, was sentenced to five years in federal prison for masterminding a bribery ring at City Hall that involved prominent vendors and clients of his shady lobbying firm, Governance. His business partner, Paige Carter-Smith, who reeled in clients for Governance by delivering Maddox’s support, was sentenced to two years in prison for her role in the scheme. A third defendant, businessman John “J.T.” Burnette, who was convicted last month for arranging bribes for Maddox, will be sentenced in October.
The public trust was violated for personal gain and our entire community has suffered. The self-servings acts of a few have clouded our city for too long. Since I was elected, we have passed the most comprehensive and strongest ethics reform package in our city’s history.
— Mayor John E. Dailey (@MayorOfTLH) September 9, 2021
“Contractor for fallen Surfside condo later lost license amid fraud, negligence claims” via Sarah Blaskey, Aaron Leibowitz and Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — The construction of the doomed Champlain Towers South building in Surfside was helmed by a developer charged with tax evasion in Canada, an engineer who oversaw a bungled municipal garage in Coral Gables, and an architect who temporarily lost his license for poor designs. And for three critical months during construction, the team was joined by Alfred Weisbrod, a general contractor whose 20-year career in South Florida was pockmarked with complaints of “negligence,” “incompetency or misconduct,” and who had a propensity for abandoning projects midway through, according to court records and newly released documents from the state licensing agency.
“Miami police chief apologizes for ‘Cuban Mafia’ comment” via Amanda Batchelor of WPLG Local 10 News — Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo took to Twitter Thursday to apologize for recently stating that “It’s like the Cuban Mafia runs Miami PD.” According to a news release from the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, the comment was made on Aug. 4 during a roll call. FOP President Tommy Reyes blasted the police chief for his comment, saying it was derogatory and people of all races and ethnicities reached out to him after the comment was made. “One member even asked me, ‘Imagine if he said Black Mafia instead of Cuban Mafia,’” Reyes wrote in the news release. But Acevedo, who is a Cuban-American from Los Angeles, claimed his comment was made in jest.
Just kidding? Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo apologizes for “Cuban Mafia” comment. Image via AP.
“5 Miami Beach police officers arraigned on battery charges for rough arrests” via Saira Anwer of WPLG Local 10 News — Five Miami Beach police officers were arraigned Thursday morning and charged with misdemeanor battery for the rough arrests of two men back in July. The arraignment was virtual and the officers’ attorneys spoke on their behalf. Those now-relieved-of-duty officers who are facing charges are Jose Perez, Kevin Perez, Robert Sabater, David Rivas and Steven Serrano. According to authorities, officers were trying to stop a scooter rider for illegally parking and striking an officer before the incident occurred. Surveillance video from inside the Royal Palm Hotel shows that man, Dalonte Crudup, running into the hotel when a lieutenant confronted him in the elevator with a gun.
“11th hour demand: City manager told to find money for more firefighters” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A heated debate over higher water rates and just how many firefighters Fort Lauderdale really needs lit up what might have been a dry-as-dust budget hearing Wednesday night. The city has 380 boots on the ground, including 24 cadets in the academy, city officials say. Hiring an extra 16 firefighters would cut down on overtime but come at a cost $2 million a year. That expense did not make it into Fort Lauderdale’s $401 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. An irate Commissioner Robert McKinzie told City Manager Chris Lagerbloom to find the money.
“Showdown vote coming for the Urban Development Boundary in South Miami-Dade County” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The politics of development and the environment in Miami-Dade County could be reset Thursday as a new County Commission decides whether to let developers build warehouses on 800 acres of farmland off the Florida Turnpike. Developers pushing what would be one of the county’s largest industrial centers, with 9 million square feet of commercial space near Homestead, first need commissioners to expand Miami-Dade’s Urban Development Boundary to include the 800-acre site. That’s usually an uphill task, and commissioners last altered the “UDB” in 2013, when it was expanded to include about 500 acres in the Doral area already encircled by development.
“Special treatment or overzealous policing? City official’s release after arrest roils Riviera Beach” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — Riviera Beach Police Chief Nathan Osgood ordered that City Council Member Douglas Lawson be “unarrested” after he was detained last month for simple battery in a domestic dispute, according to a whistle-blower complaint filed by a former police captain. That former captain, Rochelet Commond, was fired by the city on Sept. 2, a day after his whistle-blower complaint was filed and two days after Commond alleged that Osgood told him to edit a probable cause affidavit describing Lawson’s arrest and the chief’s order to release him. The case has agitated the city, pitting some police officers against the department administration.
“Indian River Shores files lawsuit against Vero Beach, claims federal antitrust violations” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Indian River Shores wants a federal judge to throw out a water-service boundary line between Vero Beach and Indian River County, arguing the agreement violates federal antitrust laws. Indian River Shores filed the lawsuit Aug. 26 in U.S. District Court, claiming its residents could get better water rates and service from the Indian River County but the territory agreement prohibits the town from shopping around. The 1989 agreement between Vero Beach and the county outlines who would provide water service to what areas of the county. In addition to serving its residents, Vero Beach provides water service to Indian River Shores and the unincorporated south barrier island.
“Special treatment or overzealous policing? City official’s release after arrest roils Riviera Beach” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — Riviera Beach Police Chief Nathan Osgood ordered that City Council Member Douglas Lawson be “unarrested” after he was detained last month for simple battery in a domestic dispute, according to a whistle-blower complaint filed by a former police captain. That former captain, Rochelet Commond, was fired by the city on Sept. 2, a day after his whistle-blower complaint was filed and two days after Commond alleged that Osgood told him to edit a probable cause affidavit describing Lawson’s arrest and the chief’s order to release him. The case has agitated the city, pitting some police officers against the department administration.
“Candidates for Port St. Lucie City Council District 3 bring varied backgrounds, experience” via Olivia McKelvey of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Voters here will not only elect their next Mayor on Sept. 21, they will choose one of six candidates as their District 3 City Council Representative. Shannon Martin, District 3 Councilwoman since 2010 and the Vice Mayor, resigned in July to run for Mayor after Greg Oravec left the position to take a job in Islamorada. That triggered both special elections. The race for District 3, which covers the southwest quadrant of the city, has drawn political newcomers, candidates who have run unsuccessfully for the office and one candidate who already has held public office.
“Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ co-owner lists Palm Beach house for $55 million” via Darrell Hofheinz of Palm Beach Daily News — As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ready for Thursday’s first game of the regular NFL season, team co-owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz is kicking off a new $55 million listing for the 2-acre lakefront estate she shares with her husband in Palm Beach. The Glazer family — then led by its late patriarch, Malcolm Glazer — bought the Buccaneers for $192 million in 1995. Kassewitz is a co-owner of the defending Super Bowl champion team and heads its charitable foundation and the Glazer Vision Foundation. Kassewitz and husband Joel, a private banker, have owned the house they are selling at 854 S. County Road since 2010, when they paid $20.5 million for it, property records show.
A Super Bowl-sized house with a Super Bowl-sized price tag. Image via Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
“Orange County tourist tax tops 2019 level in July, but they’re not out of the woods yet” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Happy days returned for Orlando hoteliers in July as the county posted a record haul of tourist taxes for the month of July. The county collected $24.7 million in taxes on hotel rooms in July, $2.1 million more than had been received in July 2019, in the days before the coronavirus pandemic, and more than in any previous July, Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond reported Thursday. July continued a tourism comeback that first started in the spring and became evident by June, when Orange County nearly matched pre-pandemic levels. However, Diamond offered caution.
“Citrus County shifts stormwater revenue on the backs of taxpayers” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County commissioners saw it as the best way to pay for needed stormwater projects. Citizens who braved another day of heavy rain to attend Thursday’s public hearing, had another view. Commissioners voted 4-1 for a Municipal Services Benefit Unit, or MSBU, that will raise $4.8 million for stormwater improvements. In return, the county eliminated a special stormwater millage rate that raised about $1 million a year. But the swap was hardly even. Many homeowners who paid $2 or $3 a year under the tax are being hit with a $58.84 annual MSBU, which is based on the square footage of “impervious” surface, rooftops, driveways, parking lots, patios.
“In fight between City Hall and pension fund, billions are at stake” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, an obscure but powerful local agency that manages billions of dollars in assets, defied city attorneys last month by hiring an outside lawyer to handle its legal affairs, resurrecting long-running grudges and triggering a showdown with city officials that could have major ramifications for taxpayers. The pension fund’s decision “should scare the pants off you guys,” Jason Teal, the city’s interim general counsel, told members of the City Council finance committee late last month.
— TOP OPINION —
“After 9/11, the U.S. got almost everything wrong” via Garrett M. Graff of The Atlantic — As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I cannot escape this sad conclusion: The U.S. — as both a government and a nation — got nearly everything about our response wrong. The GWOT yielded two crucial triumphs: The core al-Qaeda group never again attacked the American homeland, and Osama bin Laden was hunted down and killed in a stunningly successful secret mission a decade after the attacks. But the U.S. defined its goals far more expansively, and by almost any other measure, the GWOT has weakened the nation — leaving Americans more afraid, less free, more morally compromised, and more alone in the world. A day that initially created an unparalleled sense of unity among Americans has become the backdrop for ever-widening political polarization.
— OPINIONS —
“We best remember 9/11 by moving beyond it” via E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post — The primary lesson we should take from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, is to be wary of lessons we think we have learned from traumatic events. Trauma can undermine the clear thinking and calm deliberation big decisions require. What we don’t need and shouldn’t want are bombastic declarations of American purpose on Sept. 11, 2021. Far better would be sober remembrances of the heroes and the fallen; realistic assessments of what it will take to protect our people; and a pledge not to remain mired in the feelings, impulses and mistakes that followed a tragic moment.
“Ending secrecy over the Saudis and 9/11? It’s about time.” via George Will for The Washington Post — After 9/11, lawyers for the families filed suits against Saudi charities and individuals but could not sue Saudi Arabia until Congress in 2016 amended (over President Barack Obama’s veto) the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. A federal court granted the lawyers limited discovery, and they subpoenaed FBI material concerning the role of Saudi officials who supported some 9/11 hijackers. When the court ordered more FBI cooperation, the material the lawyers received was covered, at FBI insistence, by a protective order preventing them from telling their clients what they know about Saudi involvement, and requiring the lawyers to file almost all court submissions under seal. “We,” says one lawyer, “have never seen this level of secrecy placed on any lawsuit.”
“A deluge of desperate ‘Team Donald Trump’ emails: ‘There is no end to them’” via Lucy Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Former President Trump must be getting desperate. Over the past few weeks he has deluged me with emails begging for money and trying to sell me various sorts of stuff that I would mostly describe as “junk.’’ He is clearly deranged. Contribute any amount, the emails repeatedly say, promising that someone will increase that by 400 or 500 percent. They don’t say who will do this. He also wants me to claim my “Official Trump Card,’’ the one with an Eagle on the front and the infamous Trump signature in the corner. They must really be desperate to think any contribution might come from me.
“Our best shot at controlling COVID-19: Data-driven mask mandates amplify protection of vaccines” via Julia Raifman, Anne Sosin, Gregg Gonsalves, Brandon D.L. Marshall, Elizabeth Samuels, Tania D. Strout of USA Today — The six New England states lead the country in achieving high vaccine coverage that reduce the severity of COVID-19. Unfortunately, rapidly growing cases and hospitalizations in New England show high levels of vaccination alone will not control the spread of delta, a COVID-19 variant that is more transmissible among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. As schools reopen and many workers return to offices, New England has seen a 700% rise in COVID-19 hospital admissions and a 1900% rise in cases since early July. The surge threatens economic recovery and has already started to close schools in the region.
“Dr. Ron DeSantis, man of science, gets the science wrong about COVID-19 vaccines” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — For a guy who claims to follow the science, DeSantis has a shaky grasp of how vaccines work. Consider his recent boneheaded statement about vaccines at a news conference last week: “It’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.” Tell that to Florida’s exhausted doctors and nurses, who have struggled to keep unvaccinated Floridians alive during this summer’s record-setting COVID-19 surge. Tell that to the thousands of spouses and children of unvaccinated Floridians who died needlessly from COVID-19.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis rounds out the week with yet another legal defeat. A federal judge temporarily blocks the controversial ‘anti-riot’ bill.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— Biden announces strict new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff.
— Tallahassee City Commissioner and Mayor Pro-Tem Jeremy Matlow weighs in during the Sunrise interview on the sweeping corruption case which landed Former Tallahassee Mayor and City Commissioner Scott Maddox five years in prison.
— DeSantis delivers big checks to Walton County for infrastructure projects, broadband, Northwest Florida Commerce Park.
— In a bonus, Sunrise Interview Margy Grant, CEO of Florida Realtors, discusses their decision to pursue a legislative solution instead of the affordable housing ballot initiative.
To listen, click on the image below:
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable focusing on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Panelists include Dan Christensen of FloridaBulldog.org and Kristin Breitweiser, the cofounder of September 11th Advocates
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion on property insurance and infrastructure oversight in Florida after the Surfside condo collapse, and what state lawmakers are considering when it comes to the safety of Florida’s aging high-rises with Citizens Property Insurance CEO Barry Gilway and Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A one-on-one conversation with St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon about the upcoming November election. The episode will also profile a USF graduate running for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Sen. Linda Stewart will discuss the Texas abortion ban, and how the framework of that legislation could be adapted by the Florida Legislature in the 2022 Legislative Session.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington of the Wounded Warrior Project, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael Fleming of The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone Jacksonville, TheFireWatch Executive Director Nick Howland and Gold Star spouse and former U.S. Army Supply Sgt. Maggie Beckerman.
— ALOE —
“Disney Cruise Line announces date for Disney Magic return to Florida” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Cruise Line will have all four of its ships sailing from the U.S. by the end of October as it announced the date for the return of Disney Magic to Florida while also planning the resumption of longer sailings on Disney Fantasy. Disney Magic will have its first sailing from PortMiami on Oct. 28 as it begins four- and five-night itineraries with stops in the Bahamas and Mexico. The line had to cancel two listed sailings on its website, and is offering those who have already paid in full the option of a refund or to book a future sailing with a cruise credit. The same approach has been made on its other ships during recent resumption of service announcements.
“UWF’s historic first on-campus football game is Saturday. Here’s what you need to know.” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — When the lights flip on and the teams run out for Saturday’s Division II college football game, history will be made at the University of West Florida. The No. 1 ranked UWF Argonauts are just days away from playing a regular season game on campus for the first time in the team’s already illustrious five-year history. UWF and the Southwest Baptist University Bearcats of Missouri will collide Saturday on Pen Air Field, a setting usually reserved for Argos practices. UWF plays its home games at Blue Wahoos Stadium, but when the Wahoos’ 2021 schedule was released last spring, there was a conflict on Sept. 11 as both the Argos and Wahoos were set to play on that date.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes, as always, to the incredibly talented Katie Ballard.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.