In every Session, there are clear winners and losers, while others prove more elusive to pin down.
Once again, Florida Politics is assembling an (arguably) comprehensive look at who walked away from Sine Die 2021 victorious, who tanked, and who landed somewhere in between.
Of course, there is the one bill lawmakers must pass: Florida’s upcoming state budget.
Crafted in the ever-present shadow of COVID-19, a budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022 came with a new wrinkle — the state’s slice of a massive federal relief pie. Who does it help, or maybe hurt?
That said, we are asking you — our loyal Sunburn readers — for your input.
From lawmakers, newsmakers, state workers, and budget writers to lobbyists, advocates, and staff (and maybe a reporter or two), which person, group, or issue earned a coveted spot on the list of “Winners and Losers for the 2021 Legislative Session?”
A few off-the-beaten-path choices are certainly welcome.
Send your suggestions to [email protected] for consideration.
It’s officially official — Democratic Leader-Designate Sen. Perry Thurston is entering the race to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.
Thurston will be joining a growing list of candidates seeking to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District, determined in a Special Election.
“Congressman Hastings was a mentor, friend and fraternity brother and his fight for our community will forever be missed,” Thurston said in a news release. “The residents of District 20 deserve to have a proven Democrat in Congress that will continue the fight for social and racial justice, income inequality, safer neighborhoods, strong public schools, and access to health care.”
Perry Thurston goes all-in for the CD 20 race. Image via Colin Hackley.
Thurston was first elected to the Florida House in 2006 and was chosen to be the House Democratic Leader in his final House term. In 2016, he was elected to the Senate and currently serves as the Senate Democratic Leader-Designate.
Florida law gives Gov. Ron DeSantis the authority to set a date and time for the Primary and General Election contests. Recent congressional vacancies show that filling Hastings’ seat could occur by this summer, though DeSantis is not bound by any specific timeline.
Those in the race currently include Broward Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, as well as former CD 20 candidate Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. Matt Boswell and Marlon Onias have jumped in as Democrats as well. Republican candidate Greg Musselwhite says he’ll also seek the job.
The district leans heavily Democratic. Hastings won 79% of the vote in 2020. According to an analysis by MCI Maps, Democrat Joe Biden won 77% of the CD 20 vote in the last cycle. In 2016, then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won just under 80%.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Made a surprise visit to Lakeland’s South McKeel Academy to meet Addison Hill, a third grader who wrote me a letter outlining three wishes — one of which was to meet me. I also spent some time visiting with her classmates and answering their questions. Smart kids! pic.twitter.com/sNajqSfFxB
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 16, 2021
—@Mdixon55: Reminder: Despite assurance of “transparency” we still have no idea how the Florida Legislature wants to spend $10 billion in federal pandemic cash. We are in final budget talks. And, no, that vague back of the bill description in the House does not count
—@AnnaForFlorida: House & Senate are split on spending $36M on unemployment backlog OR modernizing unemployment system. We need more @FLDEO staff to process claims but a new website will help w/backlog too. Many issues are bcuz trash website. TY @JayerWilliamson for your leadership on this!
—@JayerWilliamson: One of the best things about #budgetconference is going to the “dress shirts I rarely wear because I don’t have a tie that matches up well” section of the closet. #itsthelittlethings #Budget2021 #Florida #flhouse
—@KirbyWTweets: The Florida House Health and Human Services Committee meets tomorrow. The House’s medical marijuana THC cap bill’s third committee stop: Health and Human Services. Not on Monday’s agenda: The House’s medical marijuana THC cap bill.
—@debbie_mayfield: Thank you to the members & staff of the @FLSenate who worked to make week 7 of #session2021 successful! We are almost to the finish line.
Who had “Woke Pat Robertson” on their 2021 bingo card? pic.twitter.com/nCYlQsma3O
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) April 15, 2021
Happy budget conference, y’all pic.twitter.com/C3Hsbi79Mo
— john learn (@johnlearn5) April 17, 2021
I was so happy that Jess brought Jake and Dash over to visit me this weekend! As we work through budget negotiations, having my family come visit me in Tallahassee was so much fun. pic.twitter.com/gIaR4ZvarF
— Alex Andrade (@RAlexAndradeFL) April 18, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Apple’s new hardware event — 1; Disneyland to open — 11; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 13; Mother’s Day — 20; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 21; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 39; Memorial Day — 42; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 45; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 53; Father’s Day — 62; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 67; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 74; 4th of July — 76; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 80; MLB All-Star Game — 85; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 95; The NBA Draft — 101; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 103; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 109; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 127; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 37; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 158; ‘Dune’ premieres — 165; MLB regular season ends — 167; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 173; World Series Game 1 — 190; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 197; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 200; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 221; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 232; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 239; Super Bowl LVI — 300; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 340; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 382; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 445; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 536; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 571.
— GAETZGATE —
“Matt Gaetz ex-girlfriend feared alleged sex-trafficking victim taped call for feds” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Gaetz’s former girlfriend has told friends she’s worried that the woman who is key to the federal government’s sex-crimes investigation tried to get her to incriminate the Florida lawmaker on a recorded call. The revelation raises the possibility that federal prosecutors have two top cooperating witnesses: the woman who was an alleged sex-trafficking victim when a minor and the Gaetz associate was already indicted for that crime. Until now, there were signs the alleged sex-trafficking victim was not cooperating with federal authorities. In August, before Greenberg’s sex-trafficking indictment, Greenberg said in a WhatsApp chat with another friend that he was paying for her attorney at the time and that she was resistant to cooperating with investigators.
“How ‘Papa Gaetz’ tells you everything you need to know about Gaetz” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Even as a federal investigation looms over Gaetz, the wealthy 73-year-old Don Gaetz still holds considerable sway in the region. Matt Gaetz’s political trail was not just preceded but heavily influenced by his father, a Republican multimillionaire businessman who had a reputation for rhetorical flourishes and drag-out political fights. Don Gaetz all but paved his son’s way into Florida’s political world, and some suggest that his father’s stature and influence is even helping his son as he faces a probe into potential sex trafficking. “Don has a lot of power and friends in Florida politics,” one Florida political operative said. “There are a lot of people who owe him favors. They are repaying those favors by staying silent about his son.”
Matt Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, seems to be running interference for his son. Image via AP.
“Gaetz and Ron DeSantis: A friendship that may become a liability” via The Associated Press — Gaetz served as an informal political adviser to DeSantis. But as DeSantis became a more seasoned political player, the people said, the bond changed. While the Governor and the Congressman were close politically, they were in very different places in their personal lives. DeSantis was married with young children. Gaetz was single. Modest signs of tension began to emerge as DeSantis settled into the Governor’s office. One issue was Gaetz’s habit of showing up at Republican political events, often with different women, dressed as if they were going out to a nightclub. Critics suggested privately that Gaetz was acting like a “frat boy.” DeSantis’ wife, Casey DeSantis, one of the Governor’s closest political advisers, was cooling to Gaetz as well.
“How medical marijuana, powerful allies fueled rise of Orlando doctor now embroiled in Gaetz sex scandal” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — In May 2014, just before the Florida Legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana law, then-state House Reps. Gaetz and Jason Brodeur teamed up to add a provision to the bill forcing any company that wanted to grow and sell cannabis in Florida to also hire a physician as medical director. One week later, one of their friends, Orlando hand doctor Jason Pirozzolo started a new consulting business providing medical directors to cannabis companies. Pirozzolo allegedly paid for young female escorts to accompany his party on a trip to the Bahamas that included Gaetz.
Jason Brodeur is tangled in Matt Gaetz’s troubles, going back to when the two were serving in the Florida House. Image via Colin Hackley.
“‘Sexism is alive and well.’ Gaetz’s scandal puts a new spotlight on Florida’s male-dominated capital culture” via Skylar Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State Rep. Anna Eskamani has been urging women involved in Florida’s male-dominated political process to not hold back in exposing offensive behavior that may have been kept secret in the past. Just three years ago, a Senate investigator called for an overhaul of the Capitol’s culture amid allegations that a powerful budget chairman traded his votes for sexual favors. Yet the issue faded, and reforms failed to pass. The Gaetz scandal put Tallahassee in the national spotlight for a long-rumored sex game, where state lawmakers scored points for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists and other lawmakers. A political rival publicly accused Gaetz last year of creating the sex game.
— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —
“Controversial anti-protest bill heads to Governor’s desk” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — Republican lawmakers handed DeSantis one of his top legislative priorities Thursday, with the Florida Senate giving final passage to a contentious law-and-order measure spawned by nationwide protests after last year’s death of George Floyd. The sweeping proposal, titled “Combating Public Disorder,” would create a new crime of “mob intimidation,” enhance penalties for riot-related looting and violence and create an affirmative defense for individuals who injure or kill violent protesters. The Senate devoted nearly three hours Thursday to an emotionally charged debate on the measure (HB 1), with a single Republican ultimately crossing party lines and joining Democrats in voting against the bill.
The contentious anti-protest bill heads to Ron DeSantis’ desk.
“Lawmakers to consider DeSantis’ teacher, first responder $1,000 bonus” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers will consider DeSantis‘ proposals to give bonus checks to first responders and teachers. The Governor announced those priorities last month after Biden signed off on the American Rescue Plan, expected to send more than $10 billion in relief funds to the state coffers. But the House and Senate didn’t announce specifics on how they plan to use those relief funds when they unveiled their budget proposals earlier this month. Moreover, the $1,000 bonus checks weren’t included in their spending plans. House and Senate budgeters began meeting this weekend in conferences to hammer out plans to allocate $36.2 billion in general revenue expenditures. Trumbull added that the bonus checks would be a part of that process.
“Education budgeters kick the can on federal relief, which could include teacher bonuses” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The latest budget offer from the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee doesn’t include the Governor’s request for $1,000 teacher bonuses because lawmakers are saving American Rescue Plan funding considerations for the next phase of budget talks. However, Chair Randy Fine on Sunday appeared to suggest the bonuses were unnecessary with the $500 million in pay raises the Legislature put forward last year and the additional $50 million DeSantis and the House proposed for the coming fiscal year. Sprowls‘ office clarified Fine’s comments after the meeting. A spokesperson for the Speaker’s office said Fine was referring to the distinction between general revenue and federal relief and that bonus checks will be a part of final talks.
“Florida could see $1.5B for affordable housing” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida could expect to see around $1.5 billion for affordable housing in the coming fiscal year. The House and Senate have agreed to boost state affordable housing dollars north of $200 million. And with incoming federal funds, the total level for affordable housing could approach that $1.5 billion mark, according to House infrastructure budget chief Jayer Williamson. Florida can expect to initially get between $600 million to $800 million on affordable housing, he said. Florida also tends to get additional federal funds on top of that when other states decline funding. Lawmakers had initially agreed to provide $141 million in state funds for affordable housing based on a deal to consistently split documentary stamp tax dollars from year to year.
“Details of $10 billion federal relief funds expected next week” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — During a kickoff for budget conferencing, finance chairs from both chambers say a line-item list of federal Coronavirus relief spending should not be expected this weekend. Florida is expected to receive $9 billion to $10 billion from the $1.9 trillion relief package that Biden signed in early March. Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull, speaking at a news conference Friday evening, put off details about how the federal funding would be spent. “You’ll be able to see a comprehensive list when we have that certified, and it rolls out just like we roll out many of the other things,” Stargel said. Stargel said to expect more detail early next week.
“Senate, House budgets differ on unemployment benefits, workforce revamp” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — The Senate may be squeezing the House on priority legislation from Speaker Chris Sprowls to force a compromise on unemployment benefits. A revamp of the state’s consumer-facing workforce programs was a feature of Sprowls’ agenda and the House passed the bills with fanfare this week. But in the Senate’s first budget offer in the Senate TED Appropriations Subcommittee, there is no money allocated for that item. Instead, the Senate has $60 million allocated for unemployment benefits, which the House leaves out. Sen. George Gainer, Senate budget chief for that committee, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said he thinks the Senate could use the discrepancy as leverage.
House budget includes $464M school voucher expansion — The House’s $22.8 billion K-12 spending plan includes a $464 million line item that would expand school choice, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. At first, the House budget included $334 million for schools to use if the so-called missing students returned, but that funding has since been directed to school choice initiatives. Overall, the House plan would increase per-pupil funding by $170 over the current year budget. That includes a $61 increase in the base student allocation. Those dollars are more flexible and can be used for things such as teacher pay raises. The Senate budget would mostly keep school funding at current-year levels and sets aside $350 million for missing students.
“Bright Futures book stipend on budget chopping block” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Book stipends provided by the Bright Futures Scholarship program are under the gun as part of the House and Senate budget proposals. Students currently receive $600 a year for textbooks under the merit-based scholarship. This year, however, both Chambers are in lockstep on the cuts. “We’re subsidizing textbook companies by just giving them straight dollars that goes from the student directly to the publishers for textbooks that many people know are highly overpriced,” said Rep. Rene Plasencia. Standing alongside Sen. Doug Broxson, Plasencia said the move is part of a larger plan to lower textbook costs by nudging students into the less expensive digital textbook arena.
“Student government leaders urge DeSantis to preserve textbook stipend” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Student body presidents from across Florida’s university system penned a letter to DeSantis urging him to keep the current textbook stipend provided by Bright Futures. The letter, signed by student leaders at Florida’s 12 public universities, comes in response to House and Senate budget proposals slashing the roughly $37 million line item for the stipend. Currently, Florida Academic Scholars receive $600 per year to help offset textbooks and other expenses, $300 in the fall and $300 in the spring. The Academic Scholars award is the highest tier of Bright Futures scholarships, given to students who graduate high school with a least a 3.5 GPA, 1330 SAT or 29 ACT score, and 100 hours of community service. The university presidents say this stipend is needed for students, who worked hard to earn the scholarship.
University of Florida students paint a mural urging lawmakers to keep the Bright Futures scholarship program intact. Image via WCJB.
“Senate, House come together on budget for correctional officers shift change” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — As the state braces for an influx of prisoners from pandemic-related court delays, correctional officer staffing issues take on increasing importance during budget negotiations. Lawmakers mentioned two ways to fix the state’s understaffed correctional facilities: shift changes and pay raises. In budget conference negotiations, shift changes are funded, but pay raises are not. But yet-to-be-allocated federal relief funds could make up the difference. The Senate joined the House on a budget allocation to reduce shift lengths of the state’s correctional officers from 12-hour shifts to 8.5-hour shifts. The announcement came during the Senate’s first offer at the budget conference for the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Saturday.
“House, Senate continue prison consolidation standoff” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House and Senate remained mostly divided Sunday on a proposal to consolidate state prisons. There are signs, though, that the Senate’s consolidation plan is beginning to give way. Originally, the Senate called for the closure of one 1,500-bed prison by the end of the year. Their proposal also called for a study to determine various implications, including prison age, facility maintenance needs, staffing, and the impact of a closure on a local community’s economy. But under the latest Senate offer, they removed the year-end deadline and relaxed the consolidation-seeking language. Additionally, the Senate’s latest offer adds language to give a 3% pay increase for security service employees such as correctional officers.
Senate and House still far apart on Medicaid postpartum extension — The Senate on Sunday night offered less than half what the House has requested for House Speaker Sprowls’ plan to extend Medicaid benefits for new mothers from 60 days to one year, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. The Senate’s first offer included $96 million to extend the coverage to six months, which is well below the $240 million sought by the House. The lack of funding for Sprowls priority comes despite the Senate reversing course on most other cuts in the health care budget. If left unresolved, the low funding could also put some of Senate President Wilton Simpson’s health care budget priorities on the chopping block.
“Mental health budget largely restored in latest Senate offer” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Federal funding and the additional $2 billion in estimated general revenue Florida is expected to see this year and next are helping patch gaps Senators recommended for health care expenditures, including in behavioral health care. Among reductions restored in the budget are funding for crisis assessment teams. The Senate is also canceling the plan to cut project funding across the health care board by 10%. The Senate had gone that route in an attempt to even out the hurt instead of cutting individual projects outright. However, most of the state’s mental health services are funded through individual projects rather than recurring revenue.
“Did Senate offer on SLERS jump the current procurement process at DMS?” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate budget on Saturday went from scratching out funding for a police radio system to greatly expanding it, and possibly making the competitive bid process to upgrade it anything but competitive. The current year budget included about $21.6 million in contract payments for the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, but the Senate initially removed that funding in its 2021-22 budget proposal. On Saturday, the Senate reinserted SLERS contract funding in its first offer for the Agriculture, Environment and General Government budget conference. The offer sets contract payments at $19 million, $1.5 million more than the House offer. But the offer also includes another $17.5 million in previously unseen SLERS funding spread across three line items.
“Lawmakers hit pause on FDOT software modernization project” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Lawmakers are hitting the pause button on a major technology initiative at the Florida Department of Transportation, originally scheduled to go live on July 1. The Work Program Integration Initiative, or WPII, aims to rework the business processes used to develop the five-year, $40 billion work program “to improve the way revenue is converted into infrastructure by the Florida Department of Transportation.” The initiative focuses on updating the financial management technology FDOT uses for cash flow analysis, budgetary impact, transaction allocations, performance reporting, and project scheduling. The modernization effort began in 2010 and has been specifically funded in the state budget since 2013, with ongoing funding ever since.
“Senate, House differ on pandemic funding for backlogged court system” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A backlog of pending court cases due to the pandemic could affect Florida’s court system for years. The courts requested millions of dollars in funding to address the problem, but the House and Senate haven’t come to an agreement on how much to spend on the issue in their budget talks. House and Senate budget committees for criminal justice met Sunday after a new offer was sent over for the House. The offer marks the first change in budget positions for the lower chamber since budget conferences kicked off Friday. The Senate offers $9.4 million for a Trial Court Pandemic Recovery plan. The House offered $6.2 million, which is up from its initial proposed budget that put zero dollars toward the plan.
“Senate agrees to preserve Space Florida funding” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senate budget leaders have agreed to preserve funding for Space Florida at its usual level. Ahead of the budget conference, the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee and Chair Gainer had only offered $3 million, half what Space Florida has received in recent years. But with the first return offer of the budget conference, the Senate agreed to preserve the aerospace economic development agency’s funding at $6 million, as the House wanted. The Senate also proposed dropping trust fund allocations to Space Florida from $12.5 million to $11.25 million, but negotiators canceled that reduction. The agency will receive its usual funding from the State Economic Enhancement and Development Trust Fund.
“Senate offers $250K cut for Florida Holocaust Museum” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The House’s proposed budget stuck to lawmaker’s requests for $750,000 in nonrecurring funding for the St. Petersburg Holocaust Museum. In sticking to its original proposal, the Senate is only offering $500,000, according to its first TED budget offer. In requests filed by Sen. Ed Hooper (SF 1242) and Rep. Nick DiCeglie (HB 2227) each asks the state for $750,000 directed to the Holocaust Museum. If the Senate offer is accepted, then the original request will take a $250,000 cut. The anticipated $750,000 from the state was calculated to account for about 32.6% of the museum’s total funding. According to the request, another 0.7% came from local government, and 66.7%, or $1.54 million, coming from private donors.
Ed Hooper and Nick DiCeglie each asked for money for the Florida Holocaust Museum. The House stuck with the ask; the Senate came up short.
Lawmakers consider $10M for Miami fish farm — The Legislature is considering a $10 million tax break for a Norwegian aquaculture company expanding its footprint in Miami. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO, the tax break talks come after the company, Atlantic Sapphire, started doling out political contributions to state lawmakers last year. The donations included a $10,000 check to a political committee run by Miami Republican Rep. Brian Avila. The company is seeking a property tax exemption for the value of its equipment. State economists say it would reduce state revenues by $9.9 million a year, making it the second-largest item in the tax cut package behind only the back-to-school tax holiday.
“Let the sunshine in: Florida lawmakers want slat-free windows for state Capitol” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Windows at the Florida Capitol will sport a fresh new look if DeSantis goes along with the $95 billion-plus budget proposal the House and Senate are working out. Both chambers currently include money to replace all the windows of the main building, House and Senate office buildings, and the nearby Knott Building. According to the Department of Management Services, the plan is to remove the grates that screen the windows and not replace them. DMS, the state’s real estate manager, says as many as 1,656 windows were considered in estimations for the window replacement project; lawmakers think $17.5 million will cover the cost. The money is part of an overall $36 million project to upgrade the Capitol complex’s 44-year-old heating, cooling and ventilation system.
“Nursing home group urges lawmakers to keep them a priority in budget conferences” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida Health Care Association is asking lawmakers to continue investing in the state’s elderly. “We understand that there are tough decisions to be made, but nursing center residents need our state leaders to continue making them a priority,” FHCA CEO Emmett Reed said. “We urge legislators to make the right decision — protect the health and well-being of our residents, the Greatest Generation, and keep Medicaid funding for Florida nursing centers intact.” Lawmakers are looking at $1.3 billion less general revenue for the current and coming fiscal years combined than pre-pandemic estimates indicated. However, the health care section of general revenue spending allocated for the coming fiscal year will be worth $12.4 billion, up from $10.6 billion last year.
— TALLY 2 —
“DeSantis says he doesn’t favor raising unemployment benefits” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — DeSantis said Friday he doesn’t favor raising Florida’s unemployment benefits, which are some of the nation’s lowest, but is focused instead on getting people back to work. At an event in Lakeland, the Republican Governor also urged people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and said employers need workers to get back to a semblance of normalcy. “Increase benefits? Look, no, I think we are getting people back to work,” DeSantis said. The Governor’s comments come as the state Senate moves a bill sponsored by Sen. Brodeur that would increase maximum benefits from $275 a week to $375 a week and boost the duration of benefits from 12 weeks to 14 weeks.
Ron DeSantis is no fan of raising unemployment benefits. Image via AP.
“Bipartisan police reform bill fast-tracked to House floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Over the course of one week, lawmakers have prepared a bill to prevent excessive use of force by police officers for consideration on the House floor. Despite the quick turnaround on the legislation, which wasn’t submitted until Tuesday, the bill (HB 7051) is the product of months of negotiations between House leadership, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus and stakeholders like law enforcement. After a unanimous vote in the Appropriations Committee Friday, the bill is ready for consideration by the full House next week. Proponents say the bipartisan measure would help restore public trust in the police.
“Auto insurance exclusions bill ready for Senate floor” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Clearwater Sen. Hooper wants to give drivers more options to keep their auto insurance costs down. All members of the Senate Rules Committee supported the bill, and it’s now ready for the Senate floor. The bill (SB 420) would change a law that requires auto owners to obtain minimum insurance coverage for all driving-age individuals in a household. Under Hooper‘s proposal, policyholders could exclude a driver from their policy to keep their premiums down or maintain coverage. The excluded driver would need to have their own car and own policy to keep driving. Hooper’s running example has been excluding a reckless teenager from a family’s insurance policy.
“Florida Legislature backtracks on massive toll roads plan, is set to scrap much of it” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — State lawmakers appear prepared to dismantle the controversial road projects that would have built more than 300 miles of new toll roads across rural parts of Florida. A House committee Friday advanced with little discussion a bill that would repeal the project, setting up for a floor vote, the last stop before making it to DeSantis’ desk. The bill has already passed the Senate. Senate Bill 100 would repeal the unusual, and controversial, road plan passed by lawmakers just two years ago; but keep some parts alive. Lawmakers approved the 2019 projects without any study showing such a need and absent a prior identification as a priority by state transportation and local officials.
“Florida GOP choosing tax breaks for three-martini lunches over better health care” via Alex Sink for the Orlando Sentinel — Ever heard of a “three-martini lunch tax break?” If you haven’t, you need to read Gray Rohrer’s April 14 story (”Florida Senate eyes corporate tax cuts”) in the Orlando Sentinel about the Florida Senate’s plan to cut corporate taxes while reducing spending on our hospitals and universities. The proposal would make it so when big corporate CEOs meet at the club for lunch, and maybe a few martinis, instead of only being able to write off 50% of their meal they could write off 100%. While Republican politicians would like you to believe they’re looking out for mom-and-pop businesses, the truth is these tax breaks would only apply to the top 1% of Florida corporations.
“Pelvic exam consent ‘glitch bill’ ready for Senate, House floor” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A Senate panel agreed to walk back parts of a pelvic exam consent law passed last year and deemed overbroad by doctors. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lauren Book, called the legislation a “glitch bill.” “What it does is to ensure that the implementation of last year’s historic patient consent bill is aligned with our legislative intent,” Book explained. The Senate Rules Committee agreed Friday and voted in favor of the bill 17-0. It is now ready for the Senate floor. Companion House legislation (HB 361) is ready for the floor. As approved by lawmakers last Session and signed by the Governor, the original bill caused some confusion. Doctors said the bill was too vague and expressed concern consent would be required for checking infants for diaper rashes or other procedures not meant to be covered.
“Ray Rodrigues promises to improve legal notices bill after bipartisan concerns” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legal notices could soon move online, ending a long-standing requirement that they appear in print newspapers. By a 5-3 party-line vote, the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee approved a bill (SB 402) granting cities and counties more flexibility on where they could post public notices. Rodrigues, the bill’s sponsor, promised to improve the bill over the weekend after bipartisan concerns over its existing language. Legal notices are public alerts on fiscal and other matters for cities, counties, school districts and special taxing districts. They cover infrastructure plans, changes in land use, and other ordinances. In current law, legal notices can only go in printed newspapers that meet certain requirements, like having a periodical permit from the U.S. Postal Service. Rodrigues called that a statutory monopoly.
“Historians still aren’t cutting Randolph Bracy a break on Juneteenth bill” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Sen. Bracy’s Juneteenth bill is meant to honor Black history, but historians aren’t having it. There were no racist undertones in opposition to Bracy’s bill, though there had been in a past committee meeting. During the Senate Rules Committee meeting Friday, the bill passed despite a parade of people speaking in opposition, all of them offended at the date selected to celebrate emancipation in Florida. Juneteenth Day commemorates the end of slavery and is observed by 47 states on June 19. Bracy’s bill (SB 490) would designate June 19 as the legal Juneteenth Day holiday in Florida. But the path to emancipation was staggered across the nation. June 19 is the day emancipation was announced in Texas and is commonly used to celebrate emancipation across the nation.
“Florida House passes bills to expunge eviction records, which can have long-term effects” via Angie DiMichele of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — House Bill 1195, sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis, and linked House Bill 1193 would exempt information from public court records of eviction proceedings and expunge the records starting July 1. In presenting the bill to various committees, Aloupis cites studies of evictions complicating the ability to find affordable and livable housing, and that this bill would create an opportunity for a renter to have an eviction sealed based on terms laid out in the bill and agreement with the landlord. Excluded from protection under this bill are people who have had a judgment against them in two or more eviction proceedings in a year and people who have had a judgment against them in three or more eviction proceedings in a two-year period.
“Democrats push Florida GOP leaders to spend more stimulus cash on people than projects” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Instead of using the one-time cash to ease financial losses suffered by Floridians and many businesses during the COVID-19 year, lawmakers so far are looking to put the biggest share of money into road repairs, building maintenance and sewer and water projects. They’ll also build up state reserves to the $5 billion level. And a new $1 billion fund for emergency response — basically another reserve. “We’re spending more money on deferred maintenance for leaky state buildings than we are on direct relief for the millions of Floridians pushed into poverty due to COVID-19,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith. “There’s no direct relief for businesses. Affordable housing has been defunded. We need to do much better than that.”
Carlos Guillermo Smith says federal relief money should help people first. Image via Colin Hackley.
“They just don’t make state Senators like they used to” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In today’s Senate, there’s no suspense before a key vote as there was for decades. In the Capitol’s desolate hallways, they have a name for it: “Houseification.” Like the House, the Republican-controlled Senate is a tightly managed and highly disciplined place where dissent is discouraged or punished. The collegial spirit is still there. The fighting spirit? Not so much. Senators once relished breaking from their leaders on abortion, education or guns. For most, it was a vote of conscience, and it was smart politics.
“Florida Capitol renovations include outdoor elevators — but dry dolphin fountain for two years” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The pod of sculpted dolphins frolicking in a fountain on the Capitol’s west plaza will be dry for the next two years as part of $38 million worth of outside renovations. Known as Waller Park, which runs the length of Duval Street from Madison to Pensacola Street, the plaza will have more shade and provide an easier path to the Capitol’s entrance. The redesign places The Great Seal of the state of Florida squarely in front of the Capitol doors, an area where rallies and demonstrations often occur. Work on renovations had begun four years ago but was delayed when structural defects in the parking garages under the Senate and House office buildings, north and south of the park, became known.
“Frank Artiles, Alexis Pedro Rodriguez plead not guilty on charges related to no-party candidate scheme” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — State Sen. Artiles pleaded not guilty and asked for a jury trial Friday in a high-profile public corruption case that will play out in the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami. Artiles, whose lawyers had submitted his written plea ahead of time, is facing several felony charges for allegedly recruiting and paying Rodriguez, an auto-parts dealer and longtime acquaintance, to run as a no-party candidate in Miami-Dade’s Senate District 37 race. The goal of the scheme, prosecutors allege, was to “confuse voters and influence the outcome” of the race to ultimately represent a large swath of Miami-Dade that includes downtown Miami, Coral Gables and Pinecrest.
— LEG. SKED —
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets to consider confirming dozens of appointees to state jobs and boards, 8:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Appropriations Committee meets to consider several bills, including SB 7072, from Sen. Rodrigues, to crack down on social-media companies that block users from their platforms, 10 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to set the special-order calendar, 15 minutes after the Appropriations Committee meeting, Room 401, Senate Office Building.
The House Commerce Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Health & Human Services Committee meets, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee meets, 1 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House Education and Employment Committee meets, 2:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Judiciary Committee meets, 2:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House State Affairs Committee meets, 2:30 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Rules Committee meets, 6 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will join the Florida House Democratic Caucus, including Co-Leader Evan Jenne, Policy Chair Rep. Fentrice Driskell, and Rep. Tracie Davis, for their weekly media availability, 10 a.m., available at this link and on The Florida Channel.
— 2022 —
“Fake news? DeSantis event not what right-wing broadcaster billed” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — One conservative media outlet reported DeSantis would “kickoff” his reelection campaign Friday. But the event fell well short of that billing. DeSantis wasn’t even there. Right Side Broadcasting Network promoted “LIVE: FL Gov. Ron DeSantis Re-Election Campaign Kickoff in West Palm Beach — 4/16/21” for Friday afternoon. The timing was interesting, during the stretch run of the Legislative Session. Toward the end of two hours of broadcasting, one of the hosts said that DeSantis would not be speaking after all. “There’s a little confusion. Gov. DeSantis is not going to be here speaking,” she said, with the Governor in Tallahassee. No special guest — certainly not Trump. “Trump isn’t coming, sorry guys,” said another host as he wrapped.
“Greg Steube raises another six figures for reelection to safe red seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Steube raised another six figures for his reelection campaign and closed the first quarter with $375,564 cash on hand. The Sarasota Republican, in the first three months of 2021, collected $117,008 in contributions. Running in a deep-red district with token Democratic opposition, he likely won’t need to spend much of that. Notably, Allen Ellison, Steube’s Democratic opponent in 2018 and 2020, has filed as a U.S. Senate candidate this year. The Greg Steube Victory Fund separately raised $39,004 in the first three months of the year and sent $34,891 of that to Steube’s reelection campaign.
Greg Steube banks big in a reliably red district. Image via Facebook.
“Byron Donalds already sitting on $500K for first reelection campaign” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Donalds has nearly $500,000 on hand for his 2022 campaign, his first reelection bid. Donalds clocked a solid first quarter since being sworn into Congress, finance reports show. In the first three months of 2021, Donalds raised $365,952, according to his quarterly report with the Federal Election Commission. But, he’s spending at a rapid clip as well, disbursing $347,431 over the three-month period. Still, he closed the reporting period with $499,416, or about $18,521 more than when he started the year. And for the moment, that’s probably more than he needs in an R+12 district. His only opponent thus far, Democrat Cindy Banyai, reported $12,692 through the end of March.
“Like AOC, could South Florida’s young, progressive Omari Hardy end up in Congress — or higher?” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hardy has forcefully challenged two of the most powerful interests in Florida, DeSantis and the sugar industry. He was the protagonist in a video that generated millions of views when it went viral. He’s been mentioned in The New York Times and The Washington Post and has been seen on “60 Minutes.” And he has amassed more Twitter followers than most members of Congress. All at age 31, as a relative newcomer to politics. Hardy’s priorities, style and confidence have some supporters, and critics, wondering if he’ll attempt to upend the establishment order even more than he’s already done, by running for Congress to fill the seat left vacant by the April 6 death of the late U.S. Rep. Hastings.
“Broward elections chief pitches special election dates; now it’s DeSantis’ turn” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County’s supervisor of elections made a personal pitch for a special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Hastings, and proposes specific dates to help DeSantis make up his mind. Seizing the initiative, Supervisor Joe Scott was in Tallahassee Thursday, where he met with DeSantis’ chief elections official, Secretary of State Laurel Lee. During a 45-minute meeting in Lee’s office, Scott suggested the primary election in Florida’s 20th Congressional District be held on Nov. 2, with the general election to follow on Jan. 11, 2022. The solidly Democratic district covers parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“Mike Haridopolos’ zombie campaign fund continues to donate” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — For more than eight years since ending his tenure as Senate President, Haridopolos has been using a zombie federal campaign fund to support his political interests while also serving as a legislative lobbyist. Haridopolos filed to run for the U.S. Senate in early 2011, at a time when incumbent Marco Rubio was running for President. By August, Haridopolos had raised more than $3.5 million. The $3.5 million his federal campaign committee Friends of Mike H collected while Haridopolos was a federal candidate has since become a kitty for his support for other Republican candidates and Republican political committees. Records show it has donated about $464,000 to various Florida campaigns and political committees and about $602,000 to federal campaigns and committees.
— STATEWIDE —
“Failure at Piney Point: Florida let environmental risk fester despite warnings” via Bethany Barnes, Christopher O’Donnell and Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — As early as 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was predicting possible disaster at the old Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County if a plan to use the site for dredging went forward. The “worst-case scenario,” the Army Corps cautioned, would be a tear in the plastic liner that engineers were counting on to hold back water perched atop dangerous waste material. Army Corps officials warned the Manatee County Port Authority, which was counting on the increase in business. They warned the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which stood to show it could transform a costly mess into an asset. And those warnings reached HRK Holdings, the private company that bought the site and planned to make millions from storing dredge material.
“Has Florida red tide returned? Elevated levels reported along Sarasota County beaches” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Red tide has reemerged in Sarasota County, but at very low levels, according to the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County. Water samples collected on Monday and reports of respiratory irritation prompted health officials to place signs at some area beaches from North Jetty to Longboat Key late this week. Experts believe that current conditions were not prompted by polluted water discharged from Piney Point in Manatee County earlier this month. Rather, the bloom appears to have emerged from Charlotte and Lee County starting in December. Winds from the south have pushed the bloom northward to Sarasota County.
Florida’s red tide may be making a comeback. Image via ABC News.
“Florida Tech powers ‘Silicon Valley of Space’” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Brevard County is the Silicon Valley of space, home to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station; Brevard has also steadily deepened its roster of top aerospace and technology companies are planning and demonstrating the future of space, aviation and technology from their facilities across the Space Coast. Amid this high-tech business hub is a major outlet: Florida Institute of Technology. Florida Tech has been named a Tier One Best National University by U.S. News & World Report for 11 consecutive years. According to Intelligent.com, it ranks among the top four universities in Florida according to Intelligent.com, and among the Top 50 southern universities and second among all private universities in Florida by The Wall Street Journal.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Sunday Florida COVID-19 update: 6,834 new cases with current hospitalizations on the rise” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — The Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 6,834 new confirmed cases, the most on a Sunday since January, and 35 deaths. Also, one of the most reliable indicators of spread in a community, current hospitalizations, has risen by 16.2% over the last two weeks. Sunday is usually the day with the lowest case numbers and death toll because data tends to be collected and entered at a lower rate on the weekends. This Sunday’s report was the highest since Jan. 31’s 7,788. The state reported 35 deaths, all of whom were Florida residents. For the pandemic, Florida reports 2,168,901 cases, 34,439 resident deaths and 35,109 total deaths.
“Hospitalizations plunge among Florida seniors, as COVID-19 immunity takes hold” via David Fleshler and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The number of Florida seniors entering the hospital for COVID-19 dropped sharply over the past month, an indication that the vaccination campaign begun in December has been effective in protecting the group most vulnerable to the disease. Hospitals have registered a 46% drop in admissions for COVID-19 patients aged 70 or over since mid-February, an encouraging sign in the fight against the pandemic. And since COVID-19 deaths are typically preceded by hospitalizations, the drop is an indication that the death rate may continue to fall.
“‘Who governs?’: DeSantis further laments CDC’s no-sail order” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis lobbed his latest attack against the CDC on Friday, this time doubling down on his assertion that the administrative agency’s no-sail order is an act of gross government overreach. The Republican Governor’s criticism comes roughly a week after Florida filed a lawsuit against the federal government contending the no-sail order levied against cruise ships is unlawful. Florida is a major pillar in the country’s cruise industry, hosting a handful of the globe’s busiest ports and attracting millions of passengers in an average year. When at full steam, the industry accounts for billions of dollars and thousands of jobs in Florida.
Ron DeSantis is doubling down on the CDC’s no-sail order, calling it ‘gross government overreach.’ Image via Travel + Leisure.
“Following Spring Break, Florida’s COVID-19 variant cases explode” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — One month after the peak of Florida’s Spring Break, the number of residents infected with more infectious mutated strains of COVID-19 has exploded, rising sixfold since mid-March and leaving 122 people hospitalized. The information, disclosed in response to a lawsuit by the Orlando Sentinel against the Florida Department of Health, shows the total as of Thursday reached 5,177 cases involving five “variants of concern,” a designation from the U.S. CDC for mutations that make the virus more transmissible, deadly or resistant to treatment and current vaccines.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“’We never ran from it.’ COVID-19 left emotional scars on South Florida’s health care heroes” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — They worked grueling shifts, managing a complex, heavy and often hopeless caseload with the most critically ill patients. Because of unprecedented prohibitions of visitors, nurses bore an additional and exhausting burden of connecting frightened patients with desperate loved ones, often comforting the dying with a compassionate touch. Death comes with the calling of a medical career, but the random, rapid strike of COVID-19 hit health care workers hard. “We’ve been changed by the pandemic,” said Martine Aerts, a nurse at Jackson. “We suffer a little PTSD in that this was not normal or acceptable and never will be. COVID-19 is a psychological virus as well. It plays with everybody’s mind. Your mind goes a mile a minute filled with fear and uncertainty.”
“The new normal” via Jim Abbott of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — A year after Volusia County’s tourism industry took its most devastating hit from the coronavirus pandemic, visitors are flocking again to the World’s Most Famous Beach. Motivated by the availability of vaccines and stimulus money, as well as raging cases of cabin fever, they have converged in recent weeks on hotel lobbies and beaches, a welcome scene reminiscent of bygone “normal” times. Yet the pandemic still lingers — with case numbers rising in recent weeks and new unpredictable variance in the mix. And its impact is expected to have a long-lasting impact on the hotel industry here and nationwide, resulting in new ways to do business that could last even after the COVID-19 threat has passed.
Volusia County’s tourism industry is on the rebound, but it’s forced to embrace a new normal.
“Escambia County schools plan to stop remote learning, mask mandate in 2021-2022” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal — The Escambia County School District has a message for parents next school year will look different. The district is doing away with remote learning for summer school and the 2021-2022 school year. The remote option was authorized under an emergency order from the state for this school year, but there’s a concern many remote learners are falling behind their in-person counterparts. The school board, along with Superintendent Tim Smith, discussed both remote learning and mask mandates during a workshop Thursday afternoon. The district also plans to do away with its mask mandate after this school year.
“Tallahassee Classical charter school splits with Leon Schools over COVID-19 mask policy” via C.D. Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Public charter school Tallahassee Classical has announced it will split with Leon County Schools over requiring COVID-19 face masks in the fall. The announcement came Friday in an email, in which it applauded a recent memo sent from Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to all school districts in the state saying districts should not require face coverings next school year. Administrators said the charter school “will always err on the side of liberty and free will.” In the Wednesday memo, Corcoran called the masks a “personal choice” for families.
“’We’re kind of invisible;’ Forgotten Orlando convention workers remain jobless” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — While the theme parks are open and busy again, one force is still largely unemployed: The workers of Orlando’s multibillion-dollar convention industry. Union jobs had paid better than the low wages so often tied to Orlando’s tourism industry, elevating them into the middle class. But for the last year, those jobs have mostly vanished. “It has been a tremendous hit to our workers in our industry,” said Mark Hardter, the executive officer who runs IATSE Local 835, which represents about 1,800 workers and has about 100 contracts within the industry to provide labor for events. Many hold onto hope that their nightmarish year is over and the major meetings and convention shows will return in the next few months.
“A yearlong battle at Lee Health: Hundreds of employees got COVID-19; at least 3 died” via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press — Nearly 850 employees of Lee Health have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, infections that ultimately resulted in at least three deaths and untold hospitalizations of medical and support staffers, records show. Administrators of the public health system say all but 53 of 845 cases resulted from contacts with infected people outside their hospitals and clinics. None of the three known deaths were work-related. They also sought to downplay the severity of the overall infection figures, noting that Lee Health is a large organization with workers that interacted with tens of thousands of patients in 2020. Among them were more than 5,700 COVID-19 patients discharged from its hospitals since the start of the pandemic.
— CORONA NATION —
“Nearly half of U.S. adults have gotten at least 1 vaccine dose” via Adrianna Rodriguez and Kaanita Iyer of USA Today — The U.S. has reported 30% of adults are fully vaccinated, and nearly 50% of the U.S. adult population has received at least one vaccine dose. But herd immunity could require the number of fully vaccinated adults to be as high as 85%, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. With cases also on the rise, more contagious variants are making up about half of all infections in the country, leading the White House COVID-19 advisory board on Friday to stress the need for more people to get vaccinated.
While the rate of vaccination is improving, Anthony Fauci says herd immunity is not yet within reach.
“The mRNA vaccines are looking better and better” via Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic — When the United States was investing in vaccine technologies at the beginning of the pandemic, the long shot vaccines were based on the use of mRNA, the newest and most unproven technology. With more than 180 million doses administered in the U.S, the mRNA vaccines have proved astonishingly effective and extremely safe. The unusual blood clots have not appeared with Pfizer’s or Moderna’s mRNA technology. A year later, the risky bet definitely looks like a good one.
“The U.S. has paused its use of J&J’s COVID-19 shot. How will that impact vaccine equity?” via Nada Hassanein of USA Today — Public health experts worry that the pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will hinder efforts to reach marginalized, vulnerable populations, including communities of color. The one-and-done nature of the J&J COVID-19 shot, and less stringent storage requirements, made it ideal for homebound people, those in underserved neighborhoods and rural, remote areas with limited health care access. The pause alone may contribute to vaccine hesitancy, particularly in communities of color that have been hit hardest by COVID-19.
“Least vaccinated U.S. counties have something in common: Trump voters” via Danielle Ivory, Lauren Leatherby and Robert Gebeloff of The New York Times — About 31% of adults in the United States have now been fully vaccinated. Scientists have estimated that 70 to 90% of the total population must acquire resistance to the virus to reach herd immunity. But in hundreds of counties around the country, vaccination rates are low, with some even languishing in the teens. The disparity in vaccination rates has so far mainly broken down along political lines. Both willingness to receive a vaccine and actual vaccination rates to date were lower, on average, in counties where most residents voted to re-elect former Trump in 2020. The phenomenon has left some places with a shortage of supply and others with a glut.
— MORE CORONA —
“The blood-clot problem is multiplying” via Roxanne Khamsi of The Atlantic — Last week, the European Medicines Agency, which regulates medicines in the European Union, concluded that the unusual clotting events were indeed a side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine; by that point, more than 220 cases of dangerous blood abnormalities had been identified. Only half a dozen cases have been documented so far among Americans vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and a causal link has not yet been established. But the latest news suggests that the scope of this problem might be changing. Scientists will have to figure out the biology behind this rare blood condition: what exactly causes it; when and why it happens. While the evidence available so far is fairly limited, some useful theories have emerged.
“The COVID-19 plasma boom is over. What did we learn from it?” via Katie Thomas and Noah Weiland of The New York Times — A year ago, when Americans were dying of COVID-19 at an alarming rate, the federal government made a big bet on plasma. No one knew if the treatment would work, but it seemed biologically plausible and safe. All told, more than 722,000 units of plasma were distributed to hospitals thanks to the federal program, which ends this month. Because the government gave plasma to so many patients outside of a controlled clinical trial, it took a long time to measure its effectiveness. Eventually, studies did emerge to suggest that under the right conditions, plasma might help. But enough evidence has now accumulated to show that the country’s broad, costly plasma campaign had little effect.
Plasma therapy helped a little but was too expensive to have much of an effect. Image via Science Magazine.
“Women report more side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine than men. Health experts explain why.” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — Among nearly 7,000 reports processed through the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System from Dec. 14 to Jan. 13, more than 79% of them came from women. The most frequently reported side effects were headache, fatigue and dizziness. Health experts say it may result from biological differences, inconsistent reporting by men, and gender bias in clinical trials. Although there are no data comparing men’s and women’s immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine, researchers from a 2019 study found women developed greater cytokine and antibody responses compared with men after getting the flu vaccine.
“J&J privately asked rival COVID-19 vaccine makers to probe clotting risks” via Jenny Strasburg, Jared Hopkins and Peter Loftus of The Wall Street Journal — Johnson & Johnson privately reached out to COVID-19 vaccine rivals to ask them to join an effort to study the risks of blood clots and speak with one voice about safety, but Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. declined. As concerns mounted last week over rare cases of blood clots, J&J asked AstraZeneca PLC as well as Pfizer and Moderna to join its efforts looking into the reports, people familiar with the matter said. J&J, through emails and phone calls, also sought to build an informal alliance to communicate the benefits and risks of the shots and address any concerns raised among the public by the blood-clot cases, some of the people said.
“The danger of a ‘dudes only’ vaccine” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — On Tuesday, the CDC and FDA advised halting the vaccine’s nationwide rollout to investigate six cases of a rare blood-clotting disorder that’s occurred in people within about two weeks of receiving the vaccine, all of them women under the age of 50. Experts raised the possibility of limiting its future use to males, reserving Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, as some have unfortunately put it, for Johnson’s alone. That idea, crude though it may be, has something to it. The demographic pattern that’s emerged is striking, and many of the experts I talked with this week told me they suspect that, if the vaccine is ultimately linked to these clots, the relationship will come with a clear-cut sex or gender difference too.
“As mask mandates end, Oregon bucks trend with permanent rule” via Sara Cline of The Associated Press — As states around the country lift COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon is poised to go the opposite direction and many residents are fuming about it. A top health official is considering indefinitely extending rules requiring masks and social distancing in all businesses in the state. The proposal would keep the rules in place until they are “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.” Michael Wood, the administrator of the state’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health, said the move is necessary to address a technicality in state law that requires a “permanent” rule to keep current restrictions from expiring.
Oregon residents are upset about a proposed rule to make mask mandates permanent. Image via AP.
“Everything has been terrible — and that deepens the good, transformative moment of getting vaccinated” via Katherine Miller of BuzzFeed — Here we arrive at this instant, mundane act of receiving a shot in the face of the grim past and present. But it’s way more than that, obviously. In 10 seconds, it’s the intersection of something deep in your heart that only you can know, with the literal interior transformation of developing protections against the virus, with the true interconnected nature of society. The nature of the thing, though, is that it’s brief and anticlimactic to get a shot, and the joint protect-yourself-protect-others venture is invisible as each person clicks into place to someday end the terrible thing that’s happened.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“White House announces $1.7B for genomic sequencing” via Elinor Aspegren, Kaanita Iyer, Doyle Rice of USA Today — The White House announced plans Friday to invest $1.7 billion in genomic sequencing – the process of mapping a virus’ genetic code – to help states detect and curb the spread of COVID-19 variants. According to a White House fact sheet, the funding comes from President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion relief package and will be used to collect COVID-19 samples, sequence the virus, and share data. The first portion of the funding will be allocated in early May through the CDC. According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the money will be used toward collecting COVID-19 samples, sequencing the virus, and sharing subsequent data.
Joe Biden announces nearly $2 billion will go to genome testing the COVID-19 virus. Image via AP.
“Border fiasco spurs a blame game inside Joe Biden world” via Adam Cancryn, Anita Kumar, and Sabrina Rodriguez of POLITICO — Top White House officials have grown increasingly frustrated with Health Secretary Xavier Becerra over his department’s sluggish effort to house thousands of unaccompanied minors, as the administration grapples with a record number of children crossing the southern border. The dissatisfaction with Becerra centers on complaints he’s been slow to take charge of the response since his confirmation on March 18. A month into Becerra’s tenure, officials working on the issue have privately questioned his preparedness for managing such a sprawling emergency and his willingness to take ownership of a historically intractable and politically divisive problem.
“Biden nominates former Congresswoman Gwen Graham for assistant secretary of education” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Graham has been tapped by Biden to a key advisory position in the Department of Education. A political force in her own right with a penchant for hugging, Graham was one of eight nominees for key administrative posts announced by the White House Friday. Provided the Senate confirms her nomination, Graham will become Assistant Secretary of Education for Legislation and Congressional Relations at the Department of Education. Political insiders had long expected she would be nominated for a position in the Biden administration, given her family’s long ties to Biden and her campaign work on his behalf.
“Biden should remember that he once called court-packing a ‘bonehead idea’” via Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post — In 1983, then-Sen. Biden called “court-packing” a “bonehead idea” and warned in 2019 during a presidential primary debate that restructuring the Supreme Court by adding more justices would destroy “any credibility the court has at all.” Now, it seems, Biden has developed a fondness for boneheaded notions. Last week, he named a big bipartisan commission to study the future of the court. A few days later, Democrats in the House and Senate announced a forthcoming bill to add four more justices to the high bench.
“NSA official installed as Donald Trump left office resigns after he was sidelined” via Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post — Michael Ellis, a former Republican political operative, resigned Friday as the National Security Agency’s top lawyer, having been sidelined for three months after Biden took office. The NSA director, Gen. Paul Nakasone, had placed Ellis on administrative leave the day Trump left the White House, just as Ellis was taking up the position. The reasons: a pending Pentagon inspector general probe and a security inquiry into Ellis’s handling of classified information. Nakasone had agreed to install Ellis as general counsel just days earlier under orders from Trump’s acting defense secretary. The role does not require Senate confirmation.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“DeSantis, Rick Scott attends fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Scott joined hundreds of Republicans Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago for the Palm Beach County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner. The location at Trump’s Palm Beach estate shows that the former President remains an influential force in Florida politics. Although Trump lost nationally, he improved his margin of victory in Florida in 2020. That’s producing optimism among Republicans that DeSantis and Rubio will cruise to victory in next year’s election.
Ron DeSantis gets some face time with The Big Guy.
“DOJ defense in Donald Trump defamation suit is ‘dangerous’” via Jennifer Peltz of The Associated Press — The U.S. Justice Department made a “wrong and dangerous” argument in seeking to defend Trump against a former advice columnist’s claim that he defamed her when he denied her allegation of rape, her lawyers have told a court. During Trump’s presidency, the Justice Department sought to make the United States, not him personally, the defendant in E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit, a move that would put U.S. taxpayers on the hook if she got a payout in the case. The Justice Department has argued that the statements he made about Carroll, including that she was “totally lying” to sell a memoir and that “she’s not my type,” fell within the scope of his job as President.
“RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel comes under pressure to show more independence from Trump” via Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Amid the din of clanking glasses and cheering at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club on April 10, the former President ribbed McDaniel, the Republican Party chairwoman, about her relationship with the GOP’s potential 2024 White House contenders. “She has to be neutral,” he said before pausing and adding: “She’s supposed to be neutral.” McDaniel interjected, yelling back to the stage: “I said you’re my President!” referring to her introduction of Trump earlier that night. Some of the RNC’s 168 committee members want to see the Party create at least a modicum of distance from Trump.
“Justice Department sues Roger Stone over $2M in unpaid taxes” via Michael Balsamo of The Associated Press — The Justice Department sued Stone on Friday, accusing the conservative provocateur and his wife of failing to pay nearly $2 million in income tax. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It alleges the couple underpaid their income tax by more than $1.5 million from 2007 until 2011 and separately alleges Stone also owes more than $400,000 for not fully paying his tax bill in 2018. The suit alleges that the couple used a commercial entity known as Drake Ventures to “shield their personal income from enforced collection” and to fund a “lavish lifestyle.” Stone, a longtime confidant of the former President’s, calls the lawsuit “politically motivated.”
Roger Stone gets sued, again. Image via AP.
“How Kash Patel rose from obscure Hill staffer to key operative in Trump’s battle with the intelligence community” via David Ignatius of The Washington Post — In the Trump administration’s four-year battle with the intelligence community, a recurring character was a brash lawyer named Patel. Patel repeatedly pressed intelligence agencies to release secrets that, in his view, showed that the President was being persecuted unfairly by critics. Ironically, he is now facing Justice Department investigation for possible improper disclosure of classified information. The saga of his battles with the intelligence bureaucracy shows how the last administration empowered its lieutenants to challenge what it saw as the deep state.
— CRISIS —
“Some Jan. 6 defendants try to use journalism as riot defense” via The Associated Press — The Donald Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in January created a trove of self-incriminating evidence, thoroughly documenting their actions and words in videos and social media posts. Now some of the camera-toting people in the crowd are claiming they were only there to record history as journalists, not to join a deadly insurrection. It’s unlikely that any of the self-proclaimed journalists can mount a viable defense on the First Amendment’s free speech grounds, experts say. They would face long odds if video captured them acting more like rioters than impartial observers. At least eight defendants charged in the Jan. 6 riot identified themselves as journalists or documentary filmmakers.
Some of The Capitol rioters claim to be ‘journalists.’ Image via AP.
“Trump’s grip on GOP looms as support falters for independent probe of Capitol riot” via Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced late last week that she had drafted a fresh proposal for an outside commission to examine what caused the deadly riot. But in a sign of how delicate the political climate has become, she has yet to share her recommendations with Republican leaders, who shot down her initial approach. House investigations have been slow to get off the ground, however, as political interests steadily overtake lawmakers’ appetite to push for accountability. Many rank-and-file Republicans have been forced to walk a political tightrope, as a majority still believe the election was stolen from Trump.
“A riot is the language of the unheard” via Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Tampa Bay Times — Police “mistakes,” not to mention miscalculations, fatal assumptions and acts of nonchalant cruelty, happen with disproportionate frequency to African-American people and go routinely unpunished when they do. And for all the hue and cry they raise if a Walmart is torched, conservative observers seem never to notice or care. But this is rioting, too: the shattering of lives, the wailing of mothers, the looting of families, and the burning of potential, of everything that man or woman could have been. Again and again and again and again and again. And again.
“Fundraising surged for Republicans who sought to overturn the election” via Luke Broadwater, Catie Edmondson and Rachel Shorey of The New York Times — Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who led the challenges to Biden’s victory in their chamber, each brought in more than $3 million in campaign donations in the three months that followed the Jan. 6 attack. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who called the rampage a “1776 moment” and was later stripped of committee assignments for endorsing political violence, raised $3.2 million — more than the individual campaign of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, and nearly every other member of House leadership. The latest Federal Election Commission disclosures illustrate how the leaders of the effort to overturn Biden’s electoral victory have capitalized on the outrage of their supporters to collect huge sums of campaign cash.
“Heavy metal guitarist with Tampa ties is first suspect to plead guilty in Capitol riot” via The Associated Press — Jon Ryan Schaffer, the frontman of the band Iced Earth, which formed in Tampa in the 1980s, has agreed to cooperate with investigators in hopes of getting a lighter sentence, and the Justice Department will consider putting Schaffer in the federal witness security program, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said. This signals that federal prosecutors see him as a valuable cooperator as they continue to investigate the militia groups and other extremists involved in the insurrection on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify Biden’s electoral win.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Congressional Democrats push DeSantis to set Special Election for Alcee Hastings’ seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic members of the Florida congressional delegation are pressing DeSantis to set up a Special Election to replace their late colleague, U.S. Rep. Hastings. Hastings died last week following a cancer battle. Though Hastings’ seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District is a federal office, DeSantis has the authority to set the date and time for the Special Election filling such a vacancy. That goes for the respective Party primary elections as well as the General Election. “There are 800,00 people in his district who do not, now, have representation,” said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel on a Zoom conference call Friday.
Lois Frankel urges Ron DeSantis to call for a Special Election quickly to fill Alcee Hastings’ seat. Image via Facebook.
“The GOP-big business divorce goes deeper than you think” via Zack Stanton of POLITICO — Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a legendary business professor and associate dean at the Yale School of Management, has watched this split grow in recent years, and has heard it from CEOs he knows and works with. In the eyes of major corporations, issues like voting rights, immigration, and transgender-inclusive restrooms have an economic impact, too. The millions of people alienated by those fights aren’t just their future customers, many of whom expect to support brands they believe in, they’re the companies’ employees.
“Merrick Garland rolls back Trump-era restrictions on forcing local police reforms” via David Nakamura of The Washington Post — Garland rescinded a Trump-era near-ban on the Justice Department’s use of consent decrees to force the restructuring of local law enforcement agencies, signaling a push from the Biden administration to resume use of the tactic amid a continued outcry from liberal groups about abusive policing. Garland said he would rescind the 2018 order from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that aimed to drastically limit the use of the settlement agreements with local police agencies. Under Garland’s memo, Justice Department lawyers leading the litigation, including the assistant attorneys general or U.S. attorneys, will be authorized to approve the consent decrees.
Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and María Elvira Salazar will hold a news conference to unveil a legislative project to reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program, 10 a.m., Miami International Airport, Concourse F Consular Lounge, Departure Level, near Door 14 (to the right of the TSA Checkpoint).
— LOCAL NOTES —
“FBI probed Palm Beach County clerk’s office in collections-agency bribery case” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — Former Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock’s dealings with a debt-collection agency magnate became part of a federal corruption investigation 2½ years ago, prompting the longtime clerk to hire two law firms. Bock and her office were investigated by FBI agents and scrutinized by federal prosecutors in 2018 and 2019 as authorities explored Penn Credit owner Donald Donagher’s dealings with clerks of court in at least two states. The clerk’s office paid a law firm $45,173 to handle the FBI’s subpoenas and inquiries and another $23,534 for a criminal defense attorney for Bock as the investigation continued.
The feds are on to Sharon Bock. Image via Law.com.
“Piney Point funding removed in budget conference, but don’t fret” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate has agreed to remove $3 million in Piney Point cleanup funding from its latest round of budget talks. But that’s a formality to enable the state to use federal relief funds for it. Earlier this month, the Senate approved a last-minute, $3 million spending request from Bradenton Sen. Jim Boyd to combat the developing crisis. Simpson endorsed that plan. From the get-go, the plan was to use the American Rescue Plan, the recently approved federal relief package. Budget negotiators have shifted funds to accommodate for the anticipated $10 million coming from the federal relief, but none of those funds have been slotted in yet.
“Pat Neal’s campaign contributions to pay for renaming of Moccasin Wallow Road in Parrish” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — If Hidden Valley Ranch wasn’t already the name of a salad dressing, then surely Neal would have used it for a real estate development by now. Seriously, how many more Arbor Grandes and Serenity Creeks can they build? These aren’t the names of upscale communities; they’re something that should be poured on lettuce or wiped off chins. Now Moccasin Wallow, there’s a real name, perfect for a road, even better for a community, all fangs, all Florida, and that is precisely why its days are all but over. There are nearly 5,000 people who have signed a petition against Neal’s desire to rename Moccasin Wallow Road in Parrish. It has been around since the 1960s, when “there was nothing there but vegetable fields, dairy and livestock farms, nurseries and tropical fish farms,” the petition states.
“‘A nightmare waiting to happen’: Walton continues effort against stand-on scooter rentals” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Continuing a preemptive effort to keep stand-on electric rental scooters off the streets of Walton County, County Commissioners agreed Tuesday unanimously to hold a public hearing on another 270-day extension of a moratorium on any rental of “micromobility devices.” The public hearing will be held during the Commission’s next regular meeting that starts at 9 a.m. April 27 at the South Walton County Courthouse Annex, 31 Coastal Centre Blvd. in Santa Rosa Beach. Consideration of extending the moratorium will come just three days before the current 270-day moratorium is set to expire.
— TOP OPINION —
“DeSantis is the Republican autopsy” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — Just because there hasn’t been a formal reckoning, thick with focus groups and bullet points, doesn’t mean that GOP elites don’t have a theory of how to fix their party’s problems. This time, the theory is less a message than a man: the Governor of Florida, DeSantis. The enthusiasm for DeSantis is his handling of the pandemic, and the media’s attempted manhandling of him. DeSantis has a good narrative for the COVID-19 era — but his goes deeper than just the pandemic and its battles. The state has been an object lesson in the adaptability of the Republican Party in the face of demographic trends that were supposed to spell its doom.
— OPINIONS —
“Get police out of the business of traffic stops” via TJ Grayson and James Forman Jr. for The Washington Post — Rather than continuing to allow weaponized police officers with a tradition of anti-Black violence to enforce traffic laws, we should create dedicated traffic agencies whose sole mission is road safety. As University of Arkansas law professor Jordan Blair Woods argues in a forthcoming Stanford Law Review article, new traffic safety agencies, staffed by unarmed employees, could enforce routine traffic laws with less violence and damage to communities of color. Police involvement would be limited to dangerous situations. These traffic safety agencies should rely on automation, including speed and red-light cameras. Although we must remain vigilant to ensure that these machines aren’t disproportionately placed in Black neighborhoods, at least we know cameras don’t demean, pepper spray, or kill.
“Florida hurts distraught parents with brain-injured babies. Lawmakers have two weeks to fix it” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Most Floridians only find out about an obscure state program called the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, in the terrible moment when they learn their newborn has suffered catastrophic brain damage due to oxygen deprivation during delivery. The five-member NICA board includes insurance representatives, doctors and hospitals; but it has never had a NICA parent on it. Then there’s the way NICA processes claims, insisting it is the “payer of last resort” and shifting costs to Medicaid.
“Legislature should affirm rule of law, allow FSU law school name change” via Harley Herman for the Tallahassee Democrat — After extensive review, FSU correctly concluded the building where future lawyers attend classes cannot continue to be named for the Florida Supreme Court Justice who twice violated his oath of office by refusing to comply with orders of the U.S. Supreme Court to admit Black students to Florida’s universities. House leaders apparently believe judges who disobey the law should be honored. FSU also decided that the better of moments of B.K. Roberts’ career will receive other forms of recognition at the law school. This is a balanced decision.
“Luis Mosquera: A champion for patients, providers in Florida health care” via Florida Politics — Meeting patient needs is the top priority for health care providers; they deserve a champion who understands all the business-side nuances. For the providers and their patients, we are that champion. Health Network One is a leader in managed care, pioneering approaches that ensure the best outcomes for Florida’s Medicaid recipients, especially children, by preserving a system of care that keeps patients and providers at the center of everything we do. Constant review and analysis drive our success to ensure care delivery, innovative alternative payment programs and essential cost-savings for the long-term viability of Medicaid in Florida while continuing to advocate for our provider network, constantly drawing inspiration from the passion with which they advocate for their patients.
“Barry Gilway: What has happened to the Florida property insurance market?” via Florida Politics — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reviewed 750 insurance companies from around the country. Florida accounted for only 8% of all claims filed nationwide in 2019, but nearly 76% of all lawsuits. That number is not only mind-blowing but clearly unsustainable unless Floridians accept the level of rate increase we are seeing today. While the data is incredible, it is not unexpected. Florida domestic insurance companies posted a $1.6 billion operating loss in 2020, the latest of four progressively unprofitable years. While storm activity played a part in last year’s losses, remember that no major storms hit Florida in 2020. Instead, the major reason for these unsustainable losses is excessive and abusive litigation on a scale that exists nowhere else in the country.
“Patricia Levesque: Sprowls creating smarter plan for workforce development” via Florida Politics — A proposal championed by Sprowls would refocus our state’s workforce programs to align education and training opportunities with higher-paying, higher-skill jobs that Floridians want and that employers need to fill. House Bill 1507 focuses the state’s workforce development system on the jobseeker and create better, more efficient opportunities for students and workers to gain the skills they need for higher-quality and higher-wage, in-demand jobs. The legislation begins a holistic approach to reforming Florida’s workforce system, making workforce development a priority and streamlining workforce programs within Florida’s commerce and workforce agencies. Better yet, it empowers Floridians by using data and analytics to provide more detailed guidance on what skills and training are best positioned to lead to a good-paying, fulfilling career.
“Tom Garcia: Power Florida forward” via Florida Politics — One of our greatest accomplishments to strengthen America’s national security has been growing our energy independence. And we have natural gas to thank for that. Natural gas is America’s most abundant energy source. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there is enough supply of natural gas to meet the needs of the world for 250 years. Yet, environmental activists want to reverse the progress we’ve made. Across the state and all around the nation, they’re pursuing bans on natural gas. I support House Bill 919 by Rep. Josie Tomkow and Senate Bill 1128 by Sen. Travis Huston. American-made natural gas is crucial not only to our state, our homes and our business but to our national security.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
A select group of state lawmakers spent the weekend trying to work out the difference between the House and Senate budgets. Think of it as a high-stakes version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” And if you’re a teacher waiting on that thousand-dollar bonus suggested by the Governor, you may already be a loser.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Once again, Gov. DeSantis is dismissing the medical experts when it comes to COVID-19. While the CDC says vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask, DeSantis claims it’s unnecessary.
— But Dr. Fauci says there’s a reason to keep your mask on, even after you’ve been vaccinated.
— DeSantis also has problems with the way the feds have handled the pause on the J&J’s vaccine to investigate links to a rare form of blood clots. Fauci says the pause could end by the end of the week.
— Florida’s economic recovery may have hit the pause button in March as the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.7%.
— Florida added more than 30,000 new jobs in March … and 40,000 people joined the labor pool.
— And finally, a Florida Man tried to escape from a hospital after police took him there to remove a cellphone from his butt.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Americans are ready for a vacation, and timeshares have helped owners safely enjoy theirs” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — According to a recent Destination Analysts’ weekly travel sentiment survey, three in five Americans are ready to travel, an all-time high for the survey. Another 56% say they’re “excited” to travel and that number rises to 62% for leisure travel. A full 35% said they’ve already started planning their next vacation. So, how can tourists scratch that travel itch with as little risk as possible? Timeshares can play a vital role in reviving tourism without reviving the pandemic. Unlike some other accommodations, timeshares are uniquely positioned with accommodations that provide for social distancing and show a commitment to extraordinary cleaning and safety measures, and timeshare resorts have been able to ensure that owners are able to safely enjoy their vacations.
“The Oscars are a week away, but how many will watch?” via Nicole Sperling and Brooks Barnes of The New York Times — As Hollywood prepares for a coronavirus-delayed Academy Awards telecast on April 25, it is faced with the ultimate doomsday scenario: that the viewing public is ready to toss its premier showcase into the entertainment dustbin. At a time when the traditional film industry is fighting for its primacy at the center of American culture — with at-home entertainment soaring in popularity and pandemic-battered theater chains closing — a collective shrug for the Oscars would send Hollywood deeper into an identity crisis. And a shrug certainly could happen. Research firm Guts + Data said last month that only 18% of active film watchers (in theaters or at home) had heard of “Mank,” the Netflix film leading the Oscar race with 10 nominations.
Will this year’s Oscars be the death knell of the venerable awards show?
“Disney Wish: what we know about the newest cruise ship” via Tim Walters of Florida Today — Will there be a theme? It has a Cinderella theme, including a statue of the Disney princess in the main entry area. According to Disney’s website, the Wish is “inspired by the beauty of a fairy-tale castle, the Grand Hall makes a bold welcoming statement. It is an idyllic setting for Cinderella, whose timeless story is the perfect example of magic transforming wishes into dreams and dreams into reality — very fitting for a vessel named the Disney Wish, don’t you think?” At the stern, in keeping with Disney tradition, a character is seen painting on the name of the ship. Aboard Disney Wish, it will be Rapunzel from Disney’s “Tangled.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Rep. Colleen Burton, our friend Towson Fraser, Jennifer Motsinger of the Tampa Bay Builders, and one of St. Pete’s best, Rob Kapusta. Happy Q-irthday to Rep. Cord Byrd.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.