Don’t miss your first look at stories driving today’s agenda in Florida politics.
Good Friday morning.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we ask our loyal Sunburn fans — particularly those in The Process — to let us know what you’re grateful for this year. We will publish the comments in our Tuesday edition — the last one for the holiday week. Please send your emails to [email protected].
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Spotted — At a fundraiser for Attorney General Ashley Moody in Palmetto: Bill and Julie Galvano, Fiona McFarland, Will Robinson, Jack Brill, Ed Brodsky, George Cruz, Mark Flanagan, Jayne Kocher, and Gary Kompothecras.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 18, 2021
—@USCBO: CBO estimates that the funding for tax enforcement activities provided by H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act, would increase outlays by $80 billion and revenues by $207 billion, thus decreasing the deficit by $127 billion, through 2031.
Absolute 🔥🔥🔥 from America’s Governor, Ron DeSAVAGE @GovRonDeSantis
Watch this. Believe me. pic.twitter.com/HZTE4DArnt
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) November 18, 2021
—@Debbie_Mayfield: Thank you, @GovRonDeSantis, for signing the most pro-freedom, anti-mandate action taken by any state in the nation. Florida will NOT back down in fighting against an administration that has made clear they do not care about individual or parents’ rights. We have #keptFloridafree
—@Annette_Taddeo: At his news conference today, @GovRonDeSantis did nothing but spread dangerous misinformation about the pandemic — choosing once again to ignore science and appease primary voters in Iowa for his future political ambitions.
—@AndrewLearned: If the Governor really cared about #Brandon‘s families he wouldn’t be imposing a COVID TAX on our small businesses and health care heroes … I’d remind the Governor that divisive childish politics is what lost him and former President (Donald) Trump Brandon last November for the first time in more than 25 years.
—@cyndibrillhart: I really am dumbfounded by the people who post laughing emojis in response to someone being sick with Covid and seem to attack anyone who suggests avoiding the virus. So they think human suffering is humorous and they want people to get sick? We truly are doomed.
—@AlexTDaugherty: Excited to say I’m joining @politico to helm the Morning Transportation newsletter and report on infrastructure, supply chains and all sorts of transportation issues. I begin my new beat after the Thanksgiving holiday.
—@Photoriphy: An announcement Tuesday, December 7th will be my last day at @TDOnline. It has been an honor and a privilege to have a front-row seat to all things Tallahassee for the past three years.
—@MorningMoneyBen: if you are selling me a 30 lobster roll, I better watch you extract the lobster from the sea, make the roll in front of me, bib me up, hand feed it to me and then give me a nice neck and back rub.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 5; FSU vs. UF — 8; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 12; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 18; ‘Sex and the City’ revival premieres — 20; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 21; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 21; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 35; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 40; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 46; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 46; CES 2022 begins — 47; NFL season ends — 51; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 53; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 53; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 53; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 53; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 54; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 56; NFL playoffs begin — 57; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 77; Super Bowl LVI — 86; Daytona 500 — 93; CPAC begins — 97; St. Pete Grand Prix — 98; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 104; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 171; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 192; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 196; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 232; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 243; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 322; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 357; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 360; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 392; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 455; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 616. ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 700; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 980.
“Ron DeSantis signs anti-vax mandates bills into law even as some supporters grumble” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Workers in Florida have new protections against being fired for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine after DeSantis signed a quartet of bills Thursday that put new restrictions on vaccine mandates by employers. The new laws are deemed a political victory by DeSantis, but they fall short of what he originally pushed lawmakers to pass and what supporters who testified in committee hearings wanted. Democrats criticized the Special Session DeSantis called to pass the bills, calling it “political theater” designed to help DeSantis’ re-election next year and set him up for a run for the presidency in 2024.
—”Florida lawmakers wrap up Special Session called by DeSantis to blunt Joe Biden on vaccines” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network
— SPECIAL SESSION —
“DeSantis questioned if bill signing in Brandon, Florida was troll on Biden administration” via WFLA — DeSantis’ decision to sign four anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate bills in Brandon, Florida drew questions from reporters Thursday afternoon. The Governor was asked whether his choice to hold Thursday’s news conference at Brandon Honda was a troll on the Biden administration, referring to the meme phrase popularized on social media criticizing President Joe Biden. With a smirk on his face, DeSantis replied, “I think that Brandon, Florida is a great American city. I think the people here are fantastic.” Cheers of “let’s go Brandon” erupted from the crowd of attendees. DeSantis drew similar cheers at an event earlier this month when he referred to Biden’s administration as “the Brandon administration.”
“Linda Stewart defends making vaccine mandate probes secret, citing input from Disney, Tampa Bay Bucs” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Stewart said Thursday she spoke with representatives of The Walt Disney Co., Florida Power & Light, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before casting a controversial vote to exempt from public disclosure the names of businesses being investigated for imposing vaccine mandates. Stewart’s vote is drawing fire from her own Party for not siding with most Democrats on the one bill they had leverage over Republicans in this week’s Special Session. But Stewart said she wanted to protect businesses from being publicly named over investigations that might be based on frivolous complaints from “anti-vaxxers.”
“Where were all the missing Senate Dems during the caucus meeting earlier this week?” via Issac Morgan of Florida Politics — Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book was not in attendance Wednesday at a caucus meeting with colleagues. She also was gone when Senators debated and voted on Special Session legislation in the Florida Senate chamber that evening. It’s still not entirely clear why so many Senate Democrats failed to attend a caucus meeting earlier in the day. But Book was marked as “excused” during the Special Session in the Senate chamber Wednesday evening, according to legislative records, when members voted on key initiatives that Republicans approved related to COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates.
—”How did Tampa Bay lawmakers vote on vaccine mandate bills?” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Wilton Simpson to Army Corps: Make sure state has a say in Lake O water allocation” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Senate President Simpson is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to adopt clear language allowing Florida to maintain some control of the Lake Okeechobee water supply as the Corps works to finalize language for the lake’s new regulation schedule. Simpson, who is running in 2022 to become the state’s next Agriculture Commissioner, wrote a letter Wednesday to Col. James Booth, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District. That letter was sent one day after the Corps released its optimal model run Tuesday. That model lays out the Corps’ main priorities in the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). The Corps is set to spell out the manual’s language by December, and Simpson wants to make sure the state still has a say.
“Anthony Rodriguez bill would require American iron and steel in public works projects” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Taking cues from an almost 89-year-old federal procurement law and a prominent Florida county, Rep. Rodriguez has filed a bill calling for iron and steel used in future state infrastructure contracts to be American-made. Rodriguez this week filed HB 619, which would require Florida at large and government entities throughout the state to use iron and steel products produced in the United States. The new rule, if enacted, would become effective on July 1, 2022. It would apply to most types of projects, including construction, maintenance, repair, renovation and remodeling of buildings, roads, streets, sewers, storm drains, water systems and utilities, among other things.
“Hospital executive says COVID-19 liability protections need to be extended” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A top executive at one of the state’s largest hospitals says extending COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers is a top priority for the 2022 Legislative Session that begins in January. “We need to be protected just like we protected the citizens of this great state,” said Tampa General Hospital President and CEO John Couris. The COVID-19 liability protections for nursing homes, hospitals, and physicians that lawmakers passed earlier this year expire in March 2022. That means to remain in effect, lawmakers need to pass additional legislation. The COVID-19 liability protections for general businesses, though, remain in effect.
“Lobbying compensation: Johnston & Stewart nets $730K in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Named partners Jeff Johnston and Amanda Stewart launched the firm two years ago, and alongside lobbyist Anita Berry they have since built a portfolio of nearly 50 clients. Reports for the quarter ending Sept. 30 show those principals shipped the firm at least $500,000 for help in the Legislature and another $230,000 for executive branch lobbying. Johnston & Stewart’s most lucrative Q3 contract was with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which paid $60,000 overall — $45,000 on the legislative report and another $15,000 in the executive. Two other Tampa Bay-area interests, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and TECO Energy, occupied the firm’s report’s No. 2 and No. 3 spots.
“Lobbying compensation: Rubin Turnbull & Associates banked $1.6M in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Founder Bill Rubin, managing partner Heather Turnbull and lobbyists Melissa Akeson, Erica Chanti, Jacqui Carmona, Jodi Davidson, Christopher Finkbeiner, Zach Hubbard and Matthew Sacco handled the needs of 87 clients, pulling down $791,000 in the Legislature and $871,000 in the executive branch. HCA Healthcare was the anchor client, cutting a $56,000 check for legislative lobbying and matching it in the executive branch. The health care industry is one of the top moneymakers for Rubin Turnbull. In addition to HCA, the firm reps two massive health insurers: Aetna and Molina Healthcare. The second-largest contracts in Rubin Turnbull’s portfolio are with sugar company Florida Crystals and The Richman Group of Florida, a top-10 apartment rental company. Both showed up with $35,000 on each report, or $70,000 total.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Fresh-Med
Louis Betz, Louis Betz & Associates: Triad Drones
Amy Bisceglia, AB Governmental Affairs: Claude Pepper Foundation
Barney Bishop, Barney Bishop Consulting: Project LIFT
Laura Boehmer, David Browning, Rachel Cone, Mercer Fearington, Clark Smith, The Southern Group: City of Palm Coast, Emerald Coast Striping
Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Captiva Erosion Prevention District
Gerard O’Rourke, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Village of Key Biscayne
William Wilson, Wilson Group Consulting: Airbnb
Sharonda Wright-Placide, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: City of Fort Lauderdale
“Florida lawsuit over DeSantis cutting off $300 federal unemployment benefits is still alive” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — A lawsuit challenging DeSantis’ decision to cut off federal unemployment payments early is still alive, although it’s unclear how likely it is to recoup any money for out-of-work Floridians who lost out on benefits. A group of attorneys filed the lawsuit in July in hopes of forcing DeSantis to reinstate the program, and months ago, a Leon County circuit court judge denied their request for an emergency injunction and said the Governor had the legal right to halt the $300 payments. But a judge has yet to rule on the lawsuit itself. At stake are thousands of dollars in federal jobless benefits from the weeks in between when DeSantis pulled the plug on the program on June 26 to the Sept. 6 expiration date Congress set.
“Florida files legal challenge to Medicare, Medicaid vaccine rule” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida is asking a judge to block a vaccine mandate from the Biden administration that calls on health care providers reliant on millions in federal aid to impose mandates for their employees. The state filed its legal challenge late Wednesday in a federal court in Pensacola, the same day the Florida Legislature passed a quartet of bills designed to blunt vaccine mandates placed on private companies. “For a myriad of reasons, many health care workers in Florida will refuse the vaccine and be forced into unemployment, triggering a cascade of harmful effects across the state,” Moody wrote in her filing. If the court does not issue a preliminary injunction banning the mandate by Dec. 6, Moody’s office asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order.
“Congressional subcommittee launches investigation into free speech violations at UF” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — A House subcommittee launched an investigation Thursday into whether the University of Florida is violating professors’ First Amendment rights and their academic freedom, sending a letter demanding records related to the university’s conflict-of-interest policy. In the 10-page letter dated Nov. 18 and addressed to UF President Kent Fuchs, two Democrats expressed “deep concern” that UF is “censoring its faculty based on viewpoint.” Rep. Jamie Raskin is chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which will direct the inquiry.
“The Florida DOT’s latest ‘Billionaire Boulevard’ plan has rural Florida outraged” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — I am talking about the Northern Turnpike Extension, which is supposed to branch off from the Florida Turnpike in Wildwood and head north toward some as-yet-unnamed terminus. At least two of the potential routes show it cutting through Levy County. The Levy County routes steamroll right through the longleaf pine flatwoods and swamps of the 58,000-acre Goethe State Forest, as well as smashing a hole in the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross-Florida Greenway, a currently unbroken 110-mile linear park that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. “They’re trying to sneak this in through the back door!” said Robbie Blake, a 75-year-old Levy County activist.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: 2,053 new cases added to toll, hospitalizations on the decline” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 2,053 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths on Wednesday. The Florida Department of Health will most likely add more deaths to Wednesday’s total, increasing it from zero. The state has done this in the past when it has added cases and deaths to previous days during the pandemic. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,676,634 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 60,846 deaths. On average, the state has added 61 deaths and 1,397 cases per day in the past seven days. There were 1,388 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients decreased by 27 from Wednesday’s report.
“Scott Rivkees, former Florida Surgeon General, leaving the University of Florida” via Jeffrey Schweers and Danielle Ivanov of USA Today Network — Dr. Rivkees, the embattled former Florida surgeon general who was kept out of the public eye for more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic for recommending people wear masks until a vaccine was developed, is leaving the University of Florida. Rivkees, who also has been a professor of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine, told the school on Oct. 15 that he was resigning his post effective Jan. 31, 2022, UF Health spokesman Ken Garcia confirmed. The development comes a little over four months after he stepped down as Surgeon General and head of the Florida Department of Health on Sept. 20.
“Incentives boosted hospital staff vaccination rates in South Florida. Mandates did more” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — With a Jan. 4 deadline looming for medical providers to abide by new federal rules and fully vaccinate their workers against COVID-19, many of South Florida’s largest hospitals are reporting that they have achieved staff vaccination rates of 80% or higher using policies that strongly encourage the shots but do not make them a condition of employment. Still, the few South Florida hospitals that did announce a vaccine mandate have achieved even higher coverage rates of 90% or more of their employees while losing a small fraction of workers. Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s public hospital network, adopted a carrot-and-stick approach to raising the vaccination rate among its more than 13,000 employees.
“Most Baptist Health, Ascension St. Vincent’s staff comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandate” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — About 95% of Baptist Health’s Jacksonville-area staff either received the COVID-19 vaccine or a medical or religious exemption by the health system’s Monday deadline, hospital officials said. According to a Baptist statement, employees who did not meet the deadline “have a window of 30 days” to be vaccinated or obtain an exemption, and “will not be scheduled to work” during that time. “Their employment status will remain unchanged to give team members a final opportunity to meet the requirement,” according to the statement. When the mandate was announced, Baptist said staff who were not vaccinated or had an approved exemption would ultimately “face the prospect of having privileges suspended or being placed on unpaid leave.”
“Universal drops face mask requirement for vaccinated employees” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando will no longer require fully vaccinated employees to wear face coverings at its parks starting Wednesday. Previously, Universal required all employees to wear masks indoors in public areas regardless of their vaccination status. Previously, Universal required all employees to wear masks indoors in public areas regardless of their vaccination status. A post on Universal Orlando’s employee website said the change was due to the lower community positivity rate of COVID-19. Employees can still choose to wear face coverings if they want.
“Bucs’ Antonio Brown accused of obtaining fake vaccine card” via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times — Bucs receiver Brown obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card so he could avoid NFL protocols, according to his former live-in chef. Brown’s girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, told Los Angeles chef Steven Ruiz in a text message on July 2 that Brown was willing to pay $500 if he could get a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card. “Can you get the COVID cards?” Moreau texted Ruiz on July 2, according to a screengrab he provided to the Tampa Bay Times. “I can try,” Ruiz responded. “JNJ shot. Ab said he would give you $500,” Moreau texted. Brown wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine card, Ruiz alleged, because it’s the only one that consists of a single shot and would require less paperwork.
— 2022 —
“First redistricting round tilts Democrat-held Leon County Senate seat more to the right” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Democratic state Sen. Loranne Ausley is going to have to campaign a little harder when she runs for re-election next year, providing that newly redrawn state senate districts stay that way. As expected, the eastern boundary of Senate District 3, which includes Leon and 10 other Big Bend counties, was nudged eastward to pick up the 50,000-plus votes needed to meet the new standard size for state senate districts. All four preliminary drafts show District 3 losing a part of Calhoun County, made up largely of Black Democrats, to District 2 to the west and gaining several Republican-rich sections of rural Suwannee, Gilchrist and Dixie counties.
“Big business-linked group gave more than $1 million to dark-money entity promoting ‘ghost’ candidates” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — An organization closely linked to one of Florida’s biggest business-lobbying groups gave more than $1 million last year to the dark-money nonprofit at the center of Florida’s “ghost” candidate scandal. In a tax return filed this week with the Internal Revenue Service, the Tallahassee-based nonprofit called “Let’s Preserve the American Dream Inc.” reported that it gave $1.15 million in 2020 to “Grow United Inc.,” another nonprofit that in turn provided more than half a million dollars used by Republican strategists to promote obscure independent candidates in three key Senate races. Both groups are dark-money nonprofits that do not reveal their donors.
— CORONA NATION —
“Nearly one-third of health care workers in U.S. hospitals are still not vaccinated against COVID-19, CDC study finds, as vaccine mandate looms” via Robert Hart of Forbes — As of September 15, 70% of health care workers were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC study of more than 3 million personnel across more than 2,000 U.S. hospitals published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The researchers found rates varied based on the type of hospital, with the highest vaccination rates found in children’s hospitals, where 77% of workers have both doses. Critical access hospitals had the lowest vaccination rate, with 64% of workers fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates also differed by location, with health care staff in metropolitan counties (71%) having higher vaccination rates than those in rural counties (65%).
“‘Functionally paralyzed.’ COVID-19 ICU patients and their long, painful road to recovery” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — At least 70% of all critically ill patients who leave an ICU, particularly those who were mechanically ventilated, develop post-intensive care syndrome, said Dr. Samuel Hammerman, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Select Medical, which operates 14 Florida hospitals. PICS is a condition characterized by long-term muscle weakness, psychological effects like anxiety and depression, and cognitive disorganization that can linger for a year or more. COVID-19 compounds this syndrome, Hammerman said. Patients can spend weeks ventilated in the ICU under extra sedation because of severe lung damage. Moreover, he said the coronavirus can harm their autonomic nervous system, brain, heart, kidneys and other organs, at the same time they’re suffering from chronic low blood-oxygen levels.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“U.S. jobless claims drop seventh straight week to 268,000” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell for the seventh straight week to a pandemic low of 268,000. U.S. jobless claims dipped by 1,000 last week from the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The applications for unemployment aid are a proxy for layoffs, and their steady decline this year reflects the labor market’s strong recovery from last year’s brief but intense coronavirus recession. The four-week average of claims, which smooths week-to-week volatility, also fell to a pandemic low just below 273,000. Jobless claims have been edging lower, toward their pre-pandemic level of around 220,000 a week. Overall, 2.1 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment checks the week that ended Nov. 6, down by 129,000 from the week before.
”Inflation’s wrath hits home: Families struggle to cope amid surging child care costs” via Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy of USA Today — The rising U.S. inflation rate, which hit a three-decade high in October, up by 6.2% from a year ago, has consumers paying more for everything from rent, energy, and food. While the pandemic-fueled worker shortage has affected all industries, the child care sector lost 36% of its workforce as centers closed due to low enrollment, getting workers back has been challenging. About 80% of the child care providers reported experiencing staffing shortages in a June survey conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In Idaho, 91% of the centers reported worker shortages.
Don’t believe Joe Biden’s latest sales pitch. pic.twitter.com/tWfrVlRAsM
— Senate Republicans (@SenateGOP) November 15, 2021
— MORE CORONA —
“First known COVID-19 case was vendor at Wuhan market, scientist claims” via Carl Zimmer, Benjamin Mueller and Chris Buckley of The New York Times — A scientist who has pored over public accounts of early COVID-19 cases in China reported on Thursday that an influential World Health Organization inquiry had most likely gotten the early chronology of the pandemic wrong. The new analysis suggests that the first known patient sickened with the coronavirus was a vendor in a large Wuhan animal market, not an accountant who lived many miles from it. The scientist, Michael Worobey, a leading expert in tracing the evolution of viruses at the University of Arizona, came upon timeline discrepancies by combing through what had already been made public in medical journals, as well as video interviews in a Chinese news outlet with people believed to have the first two documented infections.
“Jamaica to drop quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers staying outside the ‘resilient corridor’” via Bailey Schulz of USA Today — Jamaica is broadening the areas fully-vaccinated travelers can visit without quarantine. Starting Thursday, the island country is dropping its quarantine requirement for fully-vaccinated travelers staying outside the country’s “resilient corridor” who meet specific pre-arrival testing requirements. According to the Jamaica Tourist Board, the changes do not affect visitors staying in Jamaica’s “resilient corridor” areas, which follow “a rigorous set of COVID-19 protocols,” according to the Jamaica Tourist Board. The corridor was developed for tourism and segments along the northern and southern coasts. Under the current entry rules, travelers to the island face up to 14 days of quarantine if they stay outside the resilient corridor.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden meets with Canadian and Mexican leaders, attempting a reset” via Ashley Parker, Kevin Sieff and Amanda Coletta of The Washington Post — Biden met Thursday with the leaders of America’s neighbors to the north and south amid much praise on all sides, part of the President’s ongoing effort to rebuild relations with allies after a Trump administration that was often at odds with the nation’s longtime partners. But the pleasantries belied the more complicated reality that while Canada and Mexico welcome Biden’s friendlier tone, major points of contention remain, including over U.S. immigration policies and the country’s approach to trade, both flashpoints under Trump, as well as disputes over climate change.
“U.S. is ‘considering’ diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, Biden says” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times — Biden said on Thursday that the United States was considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, as pressure grows to hold China accountable for human rights abuses. A boycott would mean that government officials would not attend the Games, which are slated to begin in February, though it would not prevent U.S. athletes from competing. As he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada at the White House, Biden responded to a reporter’s question about the potential for a diplomatic boycott by saying it was “something we are considering.” The comment came days after a virtual meeting between Biden and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, that was meant to prevent increasing tensions from turning into a broader conflict.
“Biden’s Supreme Court Commission shows interest in term limits for justices” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — The most complete look yet at the ongoing work of Biden’s Supreme Court commission showed its continuing interest in imposing terms limits on justices, while also noting “profound disagreement among commissioners” over whether court expansion would be wise. Ahead of a public meeting on Friday, the bipartisan panel of legal experts released on Thursday a set of “discussion materials” that amount to draft chapters for its final report to Biden next month. Their release is the latest development in the complex and politically sensitive debate over whether to seek fundamental changes to the Supreme Court.
“Biden officials to propose road ban on much of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest” via Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post — For two decades, Republicans and Democrats have fought over whether to ban roads on more than 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Now, the Biden administration aims to settle the question once and for all. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will propose reinstating a Bill Clinton-era rule to ban logging and road-building in more than half of North America’s largest temperate rainforest, the department confirmed. The restrictions had managed to stay in place for years because of a series of court battles, but the Trump administration wiped them out last fall. “Restoring the Tongass’ roadless protections supports the advancement of economic, ecologic, and cultural sustainability in Southeast Alaska in a manner that is guided by local voices,” Vilsack said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Dems race to pass social spending plan with major hurdles cleared” via Heather Caygle, Nicholas Wu, and Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — The House is charging ahead with a vote on Biden’s expansive social spending bill, set to vote Thursday evening after months of false starts on Democrats’ biggest agenda item. The vote timing is seen by some as a bit of a Thanksgiving miracle, given many Democrats started the day doubting that the legislation would be finished in time for a vote Thursday. But two signoffs came late in the day, with key moderate holdouts privately sounding optimistic, allowing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team to plow ahead earlier than some in the caucus expected.
“Nurse staffing agencies are overcharging hospitals, pocketing profits, U.S. lawmakers say as they call for White House probe” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Nurse staffing agencies are charging three or more times their pre-pandemic rates and taking 40% or more for their profit, say U.S. lawmakers who are calling on the White House to investigate. No Florida lawmakers have yet to sign on to a Nov. 15 letter that four elected officials from California, Arizona, West Virginia and Louisiana sent to the COVID-19 response team coordinator at the White House seeking a probe. According to the Florida Hospital Association, nearly every hospital in Florida has used staffing agencies that provide temporary and travel nurses to help with the surge of COVID-19 patients and spell exhausted hospital staff.
— CRISIS —
“Pentagon Inspector General raises questions about former D.C. Guard commander’s Jan. 6 account” via Dan Lamothe and Paul Sonne of The Washington Post — D.C. National Guard’s commanding general was directed twice by Pentagon leadership to send in troops as violence engulfed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy first notified Maj. Gen. William Walker by phone at 4:35 p.m. that Walker was authorized to send troops to Capitol Hill, and then called the general again “to reissue the deployment order” about 30 minutes after McCarthy “originally conveyed it,” an unidentified Army witness told investigators with the independent Defense Department Inspector General. The investigation’s findings bring new scrutiny to Walker, who earlier this year was lauded for his candor in publicly recounting how dysfunction at the Pentagon stalled the National Guard’s response.
“Insurrectionists are finally receiving justice. But the GOP is more unhinged than ever.” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — Penalties for the crimes committed that day are needed to send a message to purveyors of the Jan. 6 whitewash. District Judge Royce Lamberth handed out a punishment at the low end of the sentencing guidelines. But his message was clear: “What you did was terrible. You made yourself the epitome of the riot.” The prosecutor’s sentencing memo should also compel prosecution to the full extent of the law of those who set the wheels of the insurrection in motion. Given that Trump and most of the Party he still leads around by the nose deny the violent nature of the insurrection, criminal investigation and prosecution must ensue for everyone involved to the extent that facts and the law allow.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Rupert Murdoch says Donald Trump should move on: ‘The past is the past’” via Adela Suliman of The Washington Post — Murdoch is publicly rebuking Trump, telling him to get over the past and to focus on the future. Trump should move on, billionaire Murdoch, 90, said Wednesday during News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting. The two powerful men, who each command large audiences, have had a tumultuous professional relationship. It’s unclear whether Murdoch’s comments about the past are a tacit nudge for Trump to look to his own future or the Republican Party’s more broadly. Trump has not yet ruled out running for President in 2024. He may also be more reliant on traditional media as he remains locked out of most social media platforms.
—”Poll: If Trump doesn’t run in 2024, Arizona Republicans want DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Bryan Ávila adds nearly $114K in October for Miami-Dade County Commission bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Ávila continues to pull in plenty of cash in his Miami-Dade County Commission bid, adding nearly $114,000 in October alone. Ávila’s opponent in the District 6 contest, Ibis Valdés, has raised just over $63,000 in her five full months as a candidate. She added less than $3,500 in October. Fighting for Florida’s Families, Ávila’s political committee, netted nearly $89,000 last month. That includes three separate $10,000 donations from the health care company Wellpath, the real estate company Bayfront 2011 Development, and A Stronger Florida, a political committee tied to the consulting firm Rubin, Turnbull & Associates. The health care industry contributed plenty of other cash to Ávila as well.
—“Marleine Bastien adds $14K in 6-way District 2 Miami-Dade Commission race” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
—”Juan Carlos Bermudez rakes in $52K for unopposed Miami-Dade County Commission bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
—”Anthony Rodriguez raises whopping $151K in October for Miami-Dade County Commission bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
“Miami Commissioners order motorized scooters taken off city streets immediately” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami has ordered motorized scooter operators to take their machines off the city’s streets by midnight. Commissioners on Thursday voted to end a multiyear pilot program that allowed several companies to place dockless electric scooters in the city’s urban core. Since 2018, riders have been able to use mobile phone apps to rent scooters. Vendors were ordered to pick up their scooters immediately Thursday. Transit advocates have touted the scooters as an effective solution for people to travel the last mile between transit stops and their destinations. Critics consider the scooters a dangerous nuisance that litters sidewalks.
“Naples City Council moves to include ‘gender-inclusive language’ in city charter” via Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of the Naples Daily News — The charter of the city of Naples uses gender-specific pronouns such as “he,” “his,” and “his or her” to refer to the mayor and the city manager, but it might soon be a thing of the past. On Wednesday, City Council voted 6-0 to direct staff to revise and bring for a vote on an unspecified date an ordinance that would remove “gender-specific language” from the charter and replace it with “gender-inclusive language.” Mayor Teresa Heitmann was absent during the discussion of the agenda item. City Council turned down the option of putting the proposed ordinance on the municipal ballot on Feb. 1, as originally proposed by city staff, in place of an exception to state law that mandates charter amendments be approved via referendum.
“Tallahassee Police Department pauses new crime alert policy after backlash” via the Tallahassee Democrat and WCTV — Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell is putting the department’s new “incident alert” guidelines on pause as the agency plans more discussions with local media outlets. The guidelines were released Tuesday, Nov. 9, and immediately led to questions about what crime information is shared with the public, how it’s shared and when it’s shared. During a meeting with members of the media at TPD headquarters, the chief said the crafting and release of the guidelines, which were said to be “effective immediately,” did not follow department processes and protocols.
— TOP OPINION —
“Sean Patrick Maloney’s midterm messaging mistake” via Karl Rove for The Wall Street Journal — Maloney represents an upstate New York district and chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Between a strong GOP showing in New Jersey and election losses in Virginia, he had a rough November and things will get a lot worse next year, as Republicans will almost certainly take the House. Democrats counting on the infrastructure bill to save them should realize that about $650 billion of its spending is for existing programs like the Interstate Highway Trust Fund, which has been reauthorized every five years since 1956. Doing what everyone already counts on won’t earn Democrats Brownie points.
— OPINIONS —
“Three days in Tallahassee we could easily have lived without” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It was brief, three days. The plot was predictable. It played to a near-empty house with as little dissent and disagreement as possible, just the way DeSantis likes it. At this week’s Special Session of the Florida Legislature, every Republican, and too many Democrats, became handmaidens of the Governor’s escalation of public health risks by restricting vaccine and mask mandates in a state where nearly 61,000 people have died of COVID-19. This rush job by DeSantis and fellow Republicans had two missions: to demonize Biden’s federal vaccine mandate and promote DeSantis as the nation’s No. 1 vaccine critic. The result pushes Florida further to the extreme edge of anti-vaccine hysteria.
“What good are Florida Democrats if they won’t even support the Sunshine Law? Not much.” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The exemption applies to employees who file complaints alleging that their employers violated a law Florida legislators passed Wednesday. The law restricts how companies impose vaccine mandates and force them to grant exemptions to people who don’t want to take a vaccine. Florida’s Constitution requires a two-thirds affirmative vote to create such an exemption to the state’s public records requirements. Democrats might be outnumbered in both the House and the Senate, but they still have the strength of numbers to protect Floridians’ right to know. But once again, Florida’s elected Democrats, who rarely fail to disappoint, didn’t have the backbone to pull one of the few levers of power they still have left.
“Lecherous professors are a bad look for Florida State University” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — No one needs a Ph.D. to appreciate that professors shouldn’t sleep with undergraduate students. They shouldn’t make romantic passes at their current students, and they shouldn’t send anyone unwanted sexually explicit notes. Unfortunately, those lessons obviously need relearning, given three recently unearthed investigations out of Florida State University. The university fired one professor, suspended another who later resigned, and allowed a third to remain on the job after determining they committed sexual misconduct in separate incidents with students. FSU permits such relationships as long as the professor has no supervision or authority over the student, including awarding grades. The university would be wise to tighten those rules.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
On today’s Sunrise:
— DeSantis signs bills limiting vaccine mandates, but his war with the Biden administration isn’t over yet, as Attorney General Moody launches yet another lawsuit.
To listen, click on the image below:
— WEEKEND TV —
Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch, Republican consultant Anthony Pedicini and Democratic consultant Reggie Cardozo.
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics, along with other local issues.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Tampa Bay Times Clearwater reporter Tracey McManus, South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist/reporter Steve Bousquet, 2021 Report Card for Florida’s Infrastructure Chair Kathi Ruvarac, and Dr. Omar Rashid, an incoming member of ACS CAN Board of Directors.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: An examination of the state of food security in Florida and what can be done to ensure families have access to nutritional food and are not going hungry. Joining Walker are Gina Driscoll, St. Petersburg City Council District 6; Thomas Mantz, president and CEO of Feeding Tampa; and Tim Marks, president and CEO of Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete and Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A special hourlong edition on Florida’s three-day Special Session on COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Spectrum Bay News 9 anchor Holly Gregory will speak one-on-one with Senate President Simpson; House Speaker Chris Sprowls; Sens. Jeff Brandes, Janet Cruz and Darryl Rouson; Reps. Fentrice Driskell and Michele Rayner.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Steve Vancore will talk with News Service of Florida political reporter Dara Kam.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Sens. Aaron Bean and Audrey Gibson; Jacksonville City Council candidates Tracye Polson and Nick Howland.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): New Broward Mayor Michael Udine.
— ALOE —
“Officials expect U.S. travel for Thanksgiving to approach pre-pandemic levels” via Eduardo Medina of The New York Times — The Transportation Security Administration is preparing to handle about 20 million air passengers this Thanksgiving season. “We are staffed and prepared for the holiday travelers,” David Pekoske, the TSA administrator, said in a statement. The large volume of travelers expected comes as inoculation rates across the U.S. had risen, allowing many families to gather safely for the first time since 2019 when TSA screened 26 million people. The uptick also signals a willingness by people to resume customary holiday travel. While the travel volume is not expected to reach 2019 levels this year, the agency said it could be higher in the time leading up to Thanksgiving.
“Madonna’s former Miami home is being sold for $32 million — by a dog” via Dan Avery of Agricultural Digest — You might think you spoil your pet, but when German countess Karlotta Liebenstein died in 1992, she left a staggering $80 million-plus inheritance to her German Shepard, Gunther III. Since then, Gunther and his progeny have enjoyed the high life — and a diverse portfolio of luxury real estate holdings, including a Miami mansion once owned by Madonna. The Material Girl sold the nine-bedroom, 8,400-square-foot Tuscan-style villa at 3029 Brickell Avenue to Gunther IV for $7.5 million in 2000. And now his grandson has put the luxury waterfront property on the market for $31.75 million. Gunther’s primary residence is in Tuscany (of course), but, when he’s in town, he sleeps in Madonna’s former master bedroom, nestled in a custom Italian red-velvet round bed overlooking Biscayne Bay.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Pedicini, Laila Aziz, Jon Coley of Capitol Resources, Karen Moore, and one of St. Pete’s best, Sara Stonecipher.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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