Get ready for an espresso shot of Florida politics and policy.
Good Tuesday morning.
The Hard Rock Sportsbook app is live. Months after the Compact was signed by the Governor, OK’d by the Legislature, and approved by the feds, Floridians can now place bets.
While there was little fanfare leading up to the app launch — it was more of a soft opening — it is undoubtedly seeing plenty of action already. It works anywhere a smartphone does, meaning some bets, as Republican Rep. Randy Fine predicted, are likely placed from bathtubs.
But If politics were a sport (one you could bet on, that is), the app would be in for quite a stress test.
On the same day Hard Rock Sportsbook went live, the Seminole Tribe of Florida upped the ante in its campaign to convince Florida voters that the outside forces pushing for a wide-open sports betting market and a couple more casinos have a nefarious end goal — siphoning Floridians’ money and wiring it back to the Las Vegas Strip.
“Watch out, Florida. Out-of-state gambling companies want us to sign petitions to turn Florida into another Las Vegas while taking our money out of state. They know it could cost Florida billions and stop a popular law that puts us in control. They’ve got some nerve,” a string of everyday Floridians say in a new video ad produced by the Tribe.
“Don’t sign these gambling petitions. Because we already have a plan that’s working for us. … We’ll show these outsiders Florida’s not for sale.”
The spot directs viewers to a new website, WatchOutFlorida.com, that further explains the Tribe’s talking points and asks visitors to add their names “to the list of Floridians opposing the gambling amendments.”
But political committee Florida Education Champions, backed by sports betting juggernauts DraftKings and FanDuel, had a ready-to-go retort in defense of their initiative. An ad extols their proposal for redirecting sports betting taxes to education.
“Everyone loves a win-win, and if you’re a fan of sports betting, you can win-win, too. Billions of dollars for education, legal sports betting for you. We’re Florida Education Champions, and our petition brings legal sports betting to Florida and gives all the tax revenue to public education. That’s a win for you and our kids,” the ad’s star says.
It closes by urging voters to “be a champion for education” by texting 888-922-2240 to get and sign the petition.
They face a tight deadline to make the ballot, with about 223,000 valid petition signatures and another 669,000 left to deliver to county Supervisors of Elections, who likely need those in hand by the end of the year to meet deadlines for the 2022 election.
To watch the Seminole Tribe ad, click on the image below:
Breaking overnight — “State web portal goes offline” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The official web portal for Florida, including Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ homepage, has been down since Friday. A notice on state webpages like myflorida.com and flgov.com said the site is “currently under maintenance.” It is not the first time state websites have gone down. The voter registration portal crashed on the deadline to register to vote ahead of the November 2020 election.
#FlaPol After Dark listeners knew it first — Steve Contorno heads to CNN — Contorno is leaving his post as the Tampa Bay Times’ political editor to join CNN as a reporter covering politics in the Sunshine State. Contorno started his political career covering Illinois politics for the Chicago Sun-Times and later held positions covering the political scenes in Wisconsin, Virginia and Washington, D.C. He came to Florida in 2015. “Looking forward to covering this crazy & consequential state for CNN,” he tweeted Monday. “I’ll be based in the Tampa area, but will be crisscrossing Florida to report on our politics, power & people.”
Personnel note: Doug Wheeler launches solo public affairs shop — After leading the Florida Ports Council as president and CEO for more than 10 years, Wheeler has launched a full-service public affairs firm. D. Wheeler Strategies will provide its clientele with strategic consulting services in the areas of local, state and federal government affairs, brand and business development, communications, and organizational management. The new venture will see Wheeler leverage his broad business-based network and strong ties to transportation and infrastructure, international trade and development, and economic development to provide client success. At FPC, Wheeler helped generate unprecedented growth for Florida’s seaports, overseeing efforts that resulted in record funding and brought billions of state and federal investments to key port projects across the state. His resume also includes political and government affairs work for the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Builders and Contractors.
Save the date — Florida Internet & Television presents FITCon 2021, a two-day virtual event scheduled for Nov. 18-19. Now in its fifth year, FITCon brings together industry leaders for updates on state and federal legislative policy impacting internet providers and cable companies. On the second day, I get to pull out my crystal ball for what is on the horizon in the 2022 election cycle, followed by a Q&A on the upcoming Legislative Session and how it will affect political races statewide.
Registration is open now; please visit eventbrite.com/e/5th-annual-fitcon.
Here are some other items that caught my attention:
— Most Americans will trust 2024 election results, but not most Republicans: An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marxist National Poll found that 62% of Americans will accept the 2024 results, even if their candidate doesn’t win. But that majority is buoyed by Democrats, of whom 82% say they’ll trust results. Only 33% of Republicans said the same. Meanwhile, 81% of Americans believe there is a “serious threat” to democracy afoot, with 89% of Republicans smelling trouble, 79% of Democrats, and 80% of independents. But who’s the biggest threat? That depends on who you ask — 42% say Democrats are the biggest threat to democracy, 41% say Republicans, and 8% say both major parties are to blame.
— In CD 20, only one Special Election really matters: Tuesday’s Democratic Primary in Florida’s 20th Congressional District will almost certainly decide who will replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose death earlier this year prompted a Special Election. The late Democrat held the district since 1992 until he lost a cancer battle this summer. Now, 11 candidates are running in the Democratic Primary. An analysis from MCI Maps breaks down each candidate, the winner of whom will be the heavy favorite in the General Election. Candidates from central Broward County, MCI notes, might have an edge hailing from the district’s voting powerhouse. Those include Sen. Perry Thurston, Rep. Bobby Dubose and Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. But don’t count out County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, from south Broward, or Rep. Omari Hardy and former Rep. Priscilla Taylor from Palm Beach, nor Sheila Cherifilus-McCormick, who doesn’t have a geographic base.
— New Census privacy method could leave people, homes uncounted: Differential privacy is the culprit. That’s the practice of intentionally adding errors to census data to avoid revealing participants’ identities. It prevents would-be data miners from matching census data to other publicly available information to identify people. The Census Bureau says it’s necessary to protect privacy, but, at least on paper, it’s causing people to vanish from counts. Critics of the measure, such as city officials and demographers, worry that the process is too far removed from reality. The result could cause flawed data, particularly among racial demographics, used to draw new political districts. Read the AP’s reporting on this conundrum here.
— You said the word!: After 20 months of COVID-19 craziness, we’ve all heard the word — “vax.” It became so pervasive this year, Oxford named it the 2021 Word of the Year. And it’s little wonder. Why say “vaccine” when you could sound much more hip by making it “vax.” As The New York Times notes, vax outperformed other fun vaccine euphemisms, such as “jab,” “shot,” and the hilarious “Fauci ouchie.” But the proof is in the data. According to Oxford, the term “vax” was used 72 times more often in September 2021 than a year earlier.
— Is Santa usurping Halloween?: “Christmas creep,” as retailers call it, has been happening for years, but this year it might have taken over even Halloween. As The New York Times reports, retailers nationwide have expedited the Christmas season “weeks, even months, earlier than last year.” So while stores had the requisite plastic pumpkins, they might not have been quite as noticeable as, say, a winter freaking wonderland. Britney Spears is on board. She put her tree up on Oct. 15, more than two weeks before Halloween. Maybe next year, we’ll add candy canes to our Halloween treat bags.
— Peppermint, YASS: Speaking of Christmas elbowing its way into fall holidays. Chick-fil-A’s Peppermint Chip Milkshake is returning to the famous chicken sandwich joint’s menu, according to Fox 13. The fast-food chain started serving the shakes Monday and will be available for a limited time. The shake combines Chick-fil-A’s “Icedream” product with pieces of peppermint bark, topped with whipped cream, and finished off with a cherry on top. Move over, pumpkin spice lattes.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@SteveLemongello: In basically every one of NJ and VA’s dumb odd-year elections for the last two decades, the Party that just won the White House lost the governorship. It didn’t really mean anything!
—@RepValDemings: It’s inexcusable to not include our plan to bring down prescription drug prices in #BuildBackBetter. Floridians pay far too much for their medicine. It’s outrageous, and we need to act.
Important to note that some of the kids have still yet to be reunited with their parents. How much is literally losing your child at the hands of the federal government worth? https://t.co/lPxYuPqdyQ
— Danny Rivero (@TooMuchMe) November 1, 2021
—@RichardCorcoran: In light of the First DCA’s opinion declaring the Duval and Alachua County school districts’ forced masking policies in violation of state law, I’m officially putting the districts on notice: immediately come into compliance or face the consequences.
—@RepLoisFrankel: As we celebrate Florida passing 1 million #COVID19 vaccine boosters, we also mourn the tens of thousands of lives we have lost to this preventable disease.
International Plaza in Tampa has declared it’s Christmas time pic.twitter.com/RJMiHlZFf8
— Tim Wronka (@TimWronka) November 1, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 3; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 3; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 4; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 6; U.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers — 6; Miami at FSU — 9; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 12; Special Session on vaccine mandates begins — 13; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 16; FSU vs. UF — 25; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 29; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 35; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 38; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 45; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 50; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 57; CES 2022 begins — 64; NFL season ends — 68; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 70; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 70; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 70; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 71; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 73; NFL playoffs begin — 74; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 94; Super Bowl LVI — 103; Daytona 500 — 110; St. Pete Grand Prix — 117; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 123; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 186; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 206; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 212; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 248; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 260; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 339; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 367; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 374; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 409; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 472; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 626. ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 717; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 997.
“Alcee Hastings’ death left large shoes to fill. His likely successor will emerge Tuesday.” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, formerly held by Hastings, won’t be officially filled until the Special General Election on Jan. 11. But Tuesday night’s Primary Election could be seen as the de facto end of the race, as the Democratic nominee will be heavily favored in the left-leaning district. It’s anything but clear who voters will select in the 11-person Democratic Primary. In a packed field during a likely low-turnout election, anything can happen. Five elected officials all resigned their respective positions to compete in the CD 20 Democratic Primary. The race stands out not just for the fact that it’s a rare Special Election for one of Florida’s 27 congressional seats. Hastings was Florida’s longest-serving member of Congress at the time of his death and was seen as a trailblazer in the Black community.
—”Who will pick up the mantle?” via Tiffani Knowles of The Miami Times
“Voters respond to fiercely fought South Florida congressional race with meager turnout” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida is about to send a new member of Congress to Washington, D.C, and voters are responding by … not voting. By the time in-person early voting ended Sunday, the total turnout for early voting and vote-by-mail in the Democratic primary was 11.3%. Primary day is Tuesday. The Broward-Palm Beach County 20th Congressional District is so Democratic that the primary winner is virtually guaranteed to become the ultimate winner, filling the vacancy created by the death of Hastings. Four out of five votes cast so far in the Congressional Primary have been mail ballots.
“Candidates in Miami-Dade’s low-turnout local elections hustle for every last vote” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — With early voting concluded and no time left to postmark a mail-in ballot, all eyes in Miami-Dade County’s local races were trained Monday on voters who had yet to cast a ballot in what is turning out to be another low-turnout, off-year municipal election. Even after a weekend push at the polls, turnout heading into Tuesday’s Election Day was still paltry. With elections in Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Homestead, Sunny Isles Beach and Biscayne Gardens, and 443,718 eligible voters across all races, combined turnout was at just 11.17% early Monday evening.
“Miami Mayor seeks reelection as he eyes national profile” via The Associated Press — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is hoping to easily secure a second term Tuesday, with his reelection campaign showing he can raise millions as he seeks to elevate his profile at a national level. Suarez gained name recognition for launching an effort to lure technology investors to the city at the beginning of the year. Suarez is not ruling out White House aspirations. He says the pandemic and social media elevated the roles and profile of “national mayors,” making them stronger contenders for the presidency. Next year, Suarez will become president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, giving him a bigger platform.
—“Read before you vote: Candidates and races for the upcoming elections in Miami-Dade” via the Miami Herald
“Dan Gelber battled crime, COVID-19 and chaos on South Beach; now he’s seeking final term as Mayor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has seen a lot since securing his second mayoral term unopposed in 2019. On Tuesday, he’ll be looking for a third and final term leading the South Florida tourist mecca. This time, he faces several opponents. Four candidates are running to oust Gelber, who has run the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and overseen a contested debate surrounding the city’s nightlife. Also competing in the contest are Realtor Jean Marie Echemendia, businessman Ronnie Eith, innkeeper Carlos Enrique Gutierrez, and Gus Manessis, who works for a condo management company. Gelber indeed has the most seasoned political chops of the five candidates. Paired with a healthy fundraising lead, Gelber is the favorite to emerge from the crowded field Tuesday.
Assignment editors — Gelber will watch election results, joined by family and supporters, 7:15 p.m., location with RSVP to Christian Ulvert via [email protected] or (305) 336-3631.
“Party’s over? Miami Beach voters to decide on earlier alcohol cutoff time” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami Beach residents will vote on a referendum Tuesday that would require bars to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. Bars in South Beach currently serve drinks until 5 a.m. The debate over how late the liquor should flow has persisted throughout the year and could impact the city’s mayoral election as well. Tuesday’s referendum is a nonbinding straw ballot item meant to gauge resident support for moving the last call time up by three hours. But multiple members of the City Commission have said they would honor the voters’ decision and approve an ordinance should voters endorse the change.
—”Eight candidates, some very familiar to voters, vie for two Miami Beach Commission seats” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
Update: On the eve of Election Day, Trump puts out another statement through his PAC supporting Steve Bovo for Hialeah mayor.
— Aaron Leibowitz (@aaron_leib) November 1, 2021
“Central Florida voters head to the polls Tuesday” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Voters across Central Florida will head to the polls Tuesday with seats on city councils up for grabs in Orlando, Oviedo, Mount Dora, and elsewhere across the region. Of three races in Orlando, only one is guaranteed to be decided Tuesday, and that’s in District 5, covering downtown Orlando, Parramore, and West Lakes, where Shaniqua Rose is taking on incumbent Regina Hill. Runoffs may be needed in Districts 1 and 3 if a candidate doesn’t receive 50% plus 1 of the vote totals. District 1 incumbent Jim Gray faces Sunshine Grund and Bill Moore to represent parts of Conway and all of Lake Nona. While District 3 incumbent Robert Stuart is challenged by Nicolette Springer and Samuel Chambers for the seat representing College Park, Audubon Park, Rosemont and Baldwin Park. Voters will also choose among candidates in St. Cloud, Groveland, Tavares, Montverde, Lady Lake, and Lake Mary.
—”Orlando City Commissioner Robert Stuart faces tough challenge from Nicolette Springer” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
—”Orlando City Commissioners trying to keep the band together” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
“Voters in Lakeland, Winter Haven, Fort Meade will go to polls Tuesday” via Paul Nutcher of The Lakeland Ledger — The faceoff for Lakeland Mayor is between incumbent Mayor Bill Mutz and challenger Saga Stevin. In the City Commission District C Southwest race, challenger Allyson “Al” Lewis faces incumbent Sara Roberts McCarley. And for District D Southeast, voters will choose between Mike Musick and Shandale Terrell. Voters will be asked if they want to change the Lakeland City Charter regarding filling future vacancies. A second charter amendment on the ballot deals with appointments for City Attorney and City Manager. In Fort Meade, voters will decide between Ashlee Dishong, Herlinda Resendez and Jim “Possum” Schaill for City Commissioner Seat 1 and between Barbara Arnold and Samuel Berrien for the at-large City Commission Seat 5. In Winter Haven, there is a contest for City Commission Seat 5 between Matthew Logan Crowley and James H. “J.P.” Powell.
“Bill Mutz faces far-right political newcomer in Lakeland mayoral race” via Daniel Figueroa IV of Florida Politics — Lakeland’s mayoral race should be about pressing issues facing the city. But instead, the race has become a forced test of ideological divides as incumbent Mayor Mutz looks to continue his “still all in for ALL of Lakeland” promise against political newcomer Saga Stevin. Stevin has expressed extremist views, many aligned with fanatical Donald Trump supporters and the internet conspiracy QAnon. She’s criticized Mutz for moving a Confederate monument from one of the city’s keystone parks and claimed in debates that billionaire George Soros is somehow influencing politics in Lakeland. Despite those views, she’s been endorsed by police and firefighter unions in Lakeland. Stevin and Mutz will likely split the Republican vote. But Mutz has the better chance of earning votes from the city’s Democrats.
“Oviedo mayoral candidates often asked: ‘Where do you stand on Seminole’s rural boundary?’” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — As Oviedo voters head to City Hall on Saturday to cast early ballots to elect a mayor, one of the increasingly contentious issues in the candidates’ campaigns is about a topic not even within the city. Do they support the strict development restrictions within Seminole County’s rural boundary? Her opponents Kevin Hipes and Abe Lopez also have had residents and debate moderators question their stance on the development-restricted area, which covers nearly one-third of Seminole. And all three candidates have repeatedly said they strongly support protecting the boundary. Conservationists say it’s probably one of the most important issues facing Oviedo in recent memory, as development pressure to build within that rural boundary is expected to increase in the coming years.
“Decision day is at hand for Ken Welch and Robert Blackmon” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics —The latest survey by St. Pete Polls gave Welch a commanding 16-point lead, which could send a mistaken message to many voters that they don’t need to show up because the race is over. Would Blackmon supporters look at the polls and decide to take the dog on a walk instead of voting? Maybe. But could Welch backers figure it’s in the bag and get busy doing other things, forgetting to vote? It could happen. Probably won’t, though. As of Monday afternoon, turnout was at more than 19%. Of the mail ballots already returned, nearly 19,000 came from Democrats, compared to about 10,000 Republicans. The X-factor (maybe) is the more than 5,000 voters with no party affiliation who have already voted.
—”Everything you need to know about Tuesday’s St. Petersburg municipal election” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times
—”Lisset Hanewicz, Tom Mullins race for District 4 amid hefty funding, partisan overtones” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
”Red tide, building height heat up Venice races” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — With two seats on the City Council up for a vote, the races this year will play a role in finalizing land development regulations, setting taxes and charting the coastal community’s long-term future. And with no other candidate-focused elections in Sarasota County this fall, it has attracted political attention from the major parties. Incumbent City Council member Helen Moore faces a challenge from fellow real estate agent Sandy Sibley. Meanwhile, James Boldt, Jennifer Lewis and Chris Simmons are facing off for the open Seat 4 spot.
Assignment editors — Former Republican Rep. JC Planas, Pastor Herman Yant and members of the anti-corruption organization RepresentUS are hosting an Election Day polling event with Gerry’s Partisan Pizza Truck, part of a two-week food truck tour of critical states where lawmakers are in charge of the redistricting process, 10:30 a.m., Central Christian Church, 250 SW Ivanhoe Blvd., Orlando.
— ALL EYES ON VIRGINIA —
“Virginia went big for Joe Biden, but on eve of another pivotal election, many voters say Democrats have not delivered for them” via Cleve R. Wootson Jr. of The Washington Post — A year ago, Biden won Virginia by 10 percentage points, riding a wave of antipathy toward Trump to place the commonwealth solidly into the Democratic column. But with the eyes of the political world back on Virginia for statewide elections on Tuesday, Biden’s sinking popularity has emerged as a key factor dragging down hopes of another party victory and making the state look, once again, more like a battleground than a Democratic stronghold. Interviews with nearly two dozen voters found a profound sense of frustration that people haven’t seen benefits of Democratic control trickle into their lives or their wallets.
“Virginia Governor’s race a tossup as Election Day nears, Post-Schar School poll finds” via Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, Karina Elwood, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin of The Washington Post — Virginia’s race for Governor is a tossup as Tuesday’s election draws near, with 49% of likely voters favoring Democrat Terry McAuliffe and 48% favoring Republican Glenn Youngkin, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll. The result is little changed from last month, when a Post-Schar School poll measured the race at 50% McAuliffe to 47% Youngkin — although the Democrat’s six percentage-point edge among all registered voters in September has narrowed to three points in the new poll, at 47% for McAuliffe to 44% for Youngkin. Youngkin is fueled by an 18-point advantage among independent likely voters, up from an eight-point advantage last month — a significant swing in a group that could determine the election’s outcome.
“The county that could decide Virginia’s Governor race” via Cuneyt Dil and Margaret Talev of Axios — Loudoun County, about 40 miles outside D.C., reflects national and state demographic trends. And it’s ground zero for cultural battles that have given Youngkin last-mile momentum against McAuliffe. Loudoun captured the national spotlight over controversies in its public school system, with Fox News showing heated school board fights over masks and instruction on race. Republicans believe that has helped Youngkin — once the underdog and now neck and neck with McAuliffe, a former Virginia Governor — chip away at the blue wall. Even if Youngkin wins the race, he’ll probably lose Loudoun. But insiders are watching how much he can reverse the big gains Dems have made in the county in the past three major elections.
“Last-ditch fight for Black votes could swing Virginia” via Elena Schneider and Maya King of POLITICO — Mailers attacking McAuliffe for being “on the side of abusive police officers” are popping up in Virginia voters’ mailboxes, urging support for third-party hopeful Princess Blanding. In interviews with POLITICO, more than a dozen top Democrats involved in the Virginia campaign expressed concern that Black support for McAuliffe is weaker and less enthusiastic than it could be in a razor-thin race in a blue-trending state. It appears Republicans are trying to take advantage. The anti-McAuliffe mailers are paid for by Our First Principles Fund, a nonprofit group whose only previous known spending came during the fight for the Virginia GOP’s gubernatorial nomination when the group spent six figures attacking one of Youngkin’s Primary opponents.
“Republican voters cut Glenn Youngkin some slack as he walks tightrope on Donald Trump” via Dan Merica and Eric Bradner of CNN — Trump, despite not traveling to Virginia to stump for Youngkin, has been an overriding presence in the race, with McAuliffe attempting to tie his opponent to a man who lost the commonwealth by 10% in 2020. Youngkin has responded by trying to walk a fine line with the former President: He has gladly accepted Trump’s endorsement numerous times, but he has also kept him at arm’s length in the close of the campaign. For Democrats, the dueling campaign strategies have turned the Virginia race into a referendum on the potency of Trump as a former President. But for many in Youngkin’s camp, the opportunity to defeat Democrats in Virginia far outweighs any questions they have about Trump’s lack of a presence in the race.
“As Glenn Youngkin tries to finesse Trump, Terry McAuliffe conjures his comeback” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — In the final hours of campaigning on Monday to become Virginia’s next Governor, it was Youngkin offering an optimistic vision for the future while McAuliffe delivered harsh warnings about ghosts of the past. Youngkin was aiming to redefine how Republicans could win elections with Trump out of the White House. Youngkin, a former private equity executive, embraced Trump during the Primary contest this year but spent the months since winning the Republican nomination keeping a rhetorical distance. McAuliffe, crisscrossing the state in another plane, hammered away at the Trump-Youngkin connection, as he has for weeks. During his closing rally, in the parking lot of a Fairfax brewery, McAuliffe said Trump’s name 13 times in his 15-minute speech, repeatedly tying him to Youngkin.
—“On election eve, Trump touts ties with Youngkin” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO
“Before recent Democratic gains, Virginia went from blue to red and back again” via Daniela Santamariña and Zach Levitt of The Washington Post — The last time Virginia voters selected a governor, a year after Trump was elected President, Democrat Ralph Northam posted large margins in rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, netting a decisive victory over Republican Ed Gillespie. Republican Youngkin seeks to reverse the recent trend toward Democrats in one of America’s most contested states. Virginia Republicans have faced a growing challenge in the past decade as urban and suburban areas have grown and diversified, especially in Northern Virginia. Trump faced backlash from voters in those areas during his term. McAuliffe and his allies have tied Youngkin to the former President, who endorsed him in May.
“What the Virginia Governor’s race could tell us about the battle for control of Congress in 2022” via Melanie Mason and Jenny Jarvie of the Los Angeles Times — Virginia routinely gets outsize attention for its Governor races; the contests come in the otherwise quiet year after a presidential election, and the national political press corps is largely concentrated in neighboring Washington. For decades, the results have foreshadowed the political climate for the midterms; Republican Bob McDonnell’s win in 2009, for example, presaged major GOP gains during the tea party wave the following year, while current Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s win hinted at his Party’s strong performance in 2018. Precedent is not on McAuliffe’s side. Virginians tend to pick governors who come from the opposite political Party as the President; the only person to defy that trend was McAuliffe in 2013, who eked out a victory while Barack Obama occupied the White House.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“UF’s accreditor will investigate denial of professors’ voting-rights testimony” via Lindsay Ellis of The Chronicle of Higher Education — UF’s accreditor plans to investigate the flagship campus over the revelation that administrators denied three professors’ requests to serve as paid experts in a voting-rights lawsuit. Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, said the accreditor would follow its policy on investigating unsolicited information. Under those rules, accreditors can dig into campus happenings between review cycles if they learn of potential “significant issues of compliance.” Accreditation is needed for colleges to receive federal student aid.
UF launching task force to examine conflict of interest rules — University of Florida President Kent Fuchs and Provost Joe Glover sent a memo to UF students and staff Monday evening announcing they will appoint a task force to reexamine the institution’s conflict of interest rules. The announcement comes after three political science professors were blocked from serving as expert witnesses for the plaintiffs challenging the elections law passed earlier this year. Fuchs and Glover wrote that UF “stands firmly behind its commitment to uphold our most sacred right as Americans — the right to free speech — and to faculty members’ right to academic freedom.” They said the new task force would examine the existing policy for “consistency and fidelity.” However, the statement noted that faculty are only blocked from providing paid testimony. They added, “if the professors wish to testify pro bono on their own time without using university resources, they are free to do so.”
“Why did Florida ban state professors from challenging Ron DeSantis’s voting law?” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — The University of Florida has barred three professors from serving as expert witnesses in a lawsuit against the voter suppression measure. This story is about to get worse for the university: The Democratic members of Congress from Florida are set to come out sharply against the decision, I’m told, and depending on how things go, this could result in congressional hearings. This will ratchet up the stakes in this battle and draw more national scrutiny to a move that experts have denounced as a startling and inexplicable attack on academic freedom. The big unknown here is how this is supposed to be harming the university’s interests.
“Leading House Dem: Republicans will scale back DeSantis’ vaccine mandate ban” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne thinks the Legislature will scale back DeSantis‘ proposal to prevent businesses and government entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees. Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have equivocated, saying they intend to support businesses and Floridians against Biden’s “illegal and unconstitutional” vaccine mandate without saying they will pass state laws preventing vaccine mandates. The Republican-led Legislature has frequently backed business, but some influential corporations like Disney have implemented vaccine policies that run contrary to DeSantis’ anti-mandate proposal.
“Ahead of Senate vote, will Joseph Ladapo mask confrontation matter to Tampa Bay?” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Ladapo ruffled feathers again when meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky, ahead of his confirmation vote when the Legislature convenes in January for Session. In the time since, some Florida politicians have said they will not vote to confirm Ladapo, like Sen. Randolph Bracy. But in Tampa Bay, lawmakers, even Democrats, are sounding more reserved. It was a rookie mistake, said Sen. Jeff Brandes, but not an unforgivable one. “I think it’s predominantly been hashed out,” Brandes said. “It’s not an issue for me in my office.”
“Chip LaMarca pitches measure to broaden Florida KidCare access” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A South Florida lawmaker is proposing legislation that would increase a child’s access to health care. The measure (HB 419) would expand access to Florida KidCare by doubling the current income cutoff limit to 400% of the federal poverty line. Florida KidCare is the state-provided health and dental insurance program. Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca is the bill sponsor. A former member of the Florida Healthy Kids Boards of Directors, LaMarca noted one in 13 children in Florida is uninsured. “Florida leads the nation in job creation and economic opportunity, and we must also lead on access to affordable health care for our kids,” LaMarca said.
“House Democrats demand public input mechanism for redistricting” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — House Democrats say it’s imperative the once-a-decade process of redrawing Florida’s political boundaries becomes more open to the public. At a news conference Monday, the minority caucus stressed the urgency of access. “This is the public opportunity to draw back the curtain and see how the sausage is made,” said Rep. Dan Daley, ranking member of the House Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee. It’s a matter Democratic members have raised repeatedly ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session. But Republican leadership in both the House and Senate have said the COVID-19 pandemic makes a tour of cities and communities similar to what happened a decade ago unfeasible this year.
“Annette Taddeo, Carlos Guillermo Smith refile bills for tax-free Small Business Saturday” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A proposal to give Florida shoppers a tax break and boost traffic at local businesses during the holiday season is back with minor tweaks that may help it succeed where it failed last year. Sen. Taddeo filed a bill (SB 712) to allow businesses that remit less than $100,000 a year in annual taxes to the Department of Revenue to participate in a “tax holiday” next November. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith filed its twin (HB 439) in the House. The holiday, known as “Small Business Saturday,” would occur Nov. 26, 2022. On that day, participating businesses that open by Jan. 8, 2022, would be able to forgo collecting the state’s 6% sales tax on any item “of tangible personal property” selling for $500 or less.
Leg. Cmte. Schedule:
—The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 434 from Chair Ed Hooper to extend VISIT FLORIDA until Oct. 1, 2031, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
—The House Education and Employment Committee meets for an update from the New Worlds Reading Initiative, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
—The House Judiciary Committee meets for an update on civil lawsuit calculations, 9 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
—The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets for an update on the state’s behavioral health system, 12:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
—The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 260 from Chair Jason Pizzo to rename the Criminal Punishment Code as the Criminal Public Safety Code, 12:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Education Committee meets to consider SB 268 from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. to proclaim each Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day,” 12:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The House Health and Human Services Committee meets for an update from the Agency for Health Care Administration, 2 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.
— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets for updates from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements, 3:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 170 from Polsky for a public-records exemption for lottery winners of $250,000 or more, 3:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The House Redistricting Committee meets for an update on redistricting law, 4 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
Assignment editors — NBA legend Magic Johnson joins Simply Healthcare and Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris to discuss mental health in children and teens, 10:15 a.m. media setup; event begins 10:30 a.m., Old Senate Chamber, Florida’s Historic Capitol.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Florida Agencies Serving the Blind
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida COVID-19 update: 1,694 cases added and fewer people in the hospital” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 1,694 more COVID-19 cases and no new deaths as the global death toll topped 5 million. The Florida Department of Health usually backfills data on Mondays and Thursdays, but it’s unclear whether that occurred Monday since the death toll didn’t change. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,650,637 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 59,497 deaths. On average, the state has added 81 deaths and 1,622 cases per day in the past seven days.
“How does Florida rank on COVID-19? The best? The worst? Well, neither. But we aren’t great” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — This past week, DeSantis claimed Florida had the lowest COVID-19 case count in America and credited himself with making that happen. Yet, just a few weeks ago, Florida was widely reported as one of the worst states in America regarding COVID-19 cases. Florida still ranks in the worst 10 states for both COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita for the entire pandemic. Records show Florida has the ninth highest per capita case count since the pandemic began, 22% higher than the national average. And the 10th highest per capita death rate, 20% higher than the national average.
Richard Corcoran warns defiant school boards after 1DCA opinion — Education Commissioner Corcoran used a recent opinion from Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals to prod school districts with mask mandates to fall in line with state rules banning mask mandates or face the full wrath of the state education department. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, Corcoran said Monday that he was “officially putting the districts on notice: immediately come into compliance or face the consequences.” Though 1DCA opinion was scathing toward the Alachua and Duval school boards, it was not a ruling in the case, which was brought forward by parents seeking to force school boards to comply with the state’s mask mandate ban. An administrative court ruling on the mandate ban is expected in the next two weeks.
“Miami-Dade school district relaxes masks for high school, middle school students” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Parents of Miami-Dade County public high school and middle school students can opt their children out of the district’s mask mandate. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced at a news conference in downtown Miami Monday afternoon. It is effective immediately. Elementary school students and students in kindergarten through eighth grade schools are not subject to the protocol relaxation, but they could be within weeks if COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to plummet in South Florida, Carvalho said. Working with its medical task force, the school district has relied on a critical set of metrics, including COVID-19 cases and percent positivity rates in Miami-Dade, in deciding COVID-19 protocols, including masks.
“Pensacola and Escambia County will stop reporting COVID-19 hospitalizations as cases drop” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — The city of Pensacola and Escambia County will no longer report daily COVID-19 hospitalization data as the number of local cases has remained low enough that hospital officials no longer deem it necessary. However, officials have said that if hospitalizations increase again to more than 50 hospitalizations per day, the practice of updating those numbers is likely to return. “We are pleased to see a significant and consistent decline in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Baptist and in other hospitals in the community,” said Baptist Hospital spokeswoman Kathy Bowers. As of Monday, the three hospitals were treating a total of 36 COVID-19 patients.
— 2022 —
“COVID-19’s campaign trail vanishing act” via David Siders of POLITICO — While the pandemic is nowhere near over, COVID-19 is fading as an issue that animates voters. It’s evident from recent polls in the off-year New Jersey and Virginia elections, where pre-pandemic concerns like taxes, the economy, and schools now rank as the top voter priorities. Strategists of both parties are advising candidates to shift their focus ahead of the midterm elections in 2022. Already, political advertising related to the pandemic has fallen off sharply from earlier this year. “Everybody’s just ready to move on,” said Julie Roginsky, a former top adviser to New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
“Frustrated Democratic donors threaten to hold back midterm donations over infighting in Congress, tight Virginia race” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — Several major Democratic donors have warned leaders in Congress that they may hold back on donations for next year’s midterm elections unless the Party can come together and get some big wins. Financiers have said behind the scenes that they are frustrated with lawmakers who have yet to pass Biden’s sprawling economic agenda. Donors have also described their frustration with the gubernatorial race in Virginia, where Democratic power player and former Gov. McAuliffe is running neck and neck with Youngkin, a wealthy former CEO of the Carlyle Group.
“Young people are over Democrats — and Republicans — new data show: What that means for 2022” via Noah Pransky of NBC LX — New data obtained by NBCLX reveals turnout among voters aged 18-29 fell by nearly half for California’s September recall election, compared to the 2020 presidential election 10 months earlier. Gen Z-ers, voters more likely than any other generation to support Democratic candidates, are also now the voters most likely to say they no longer support Biden and other established Democrat leaders. The research suggests the Democrats’ threats aren’t necessarily Republican gains; the GOP fails to connect with young voters. If there’s any constant in American politics, it’s that voters tend to have short memories. Democrats hope that fact — and the passage of the President’s Build Back Better plan — will together reengage young voters ahead of the 2022 midterms and turn unfavorable polling numbers into favorables.
“‘The best-case scenario here is no one cared’: Evan Jenne blasts decision on legislative Special Election dates” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jenne, the House Democratic Co-Leader, is hammering DeSantis after DeSantis announced Special Election dates which could leave three seats in the Legislature unfilled next Session. Those elections will decide successors for Sen. Perry Thurston and Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy. All three of those Democratic lawmakers were forced to resign their respective seats to pursue the open seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District. All three represent strongly left-leaning districts. DeSantis set the Special Primary Elections for Senate District 33 and House Districts 88 and 94 for Jan. 11. If a Special General Election is necessary, that would be held on March 8.
“Orlando firefighters union backs Kamia Brown for Senate” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Brown has picked up the endorsement of the Orlando Professional Firefighters labor union in her quest to be elected to Senate District 11. Brown on Monday announced the backing of the firefighter’s union, Local 1365 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, adding to a list of Democratic lawmakers who joined her campaign last month. Brown faces Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson in a 2022 Democratic Primary battle for the seat. The position is opening because Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy is running for Congress instead of reelection. Senate District 11 covers western Orange County. There are no Republican or independent candidates yet. Local 1365 represents 560 members of the Orlando Fire Department.
“Two groups behind Navarre incorporation effort continue push to get on 2022 ballot” via Alex Miller of the Pensacola News Journal — Two groups pushing to incorporate Navarre are moving forward with separate efforts after state Rep. Jayer Williamson refused to back down on his requirement that the incorporation effort earns at least 60% of the vote in a nonbinding referendum. Williamson called that threshold “nonnegotiable” last week at a legislative delegation meeting as Preserve Navarre founder Wes Siler argued there was no requirement in the state constitution that his group needed to reach that level. This latest push to turn the unincorporated Navarre community in Santa Rosa County into its own city comes after several failed attempts in recent years.
— CORONA NATION —
“Anthony Fauci encourages COVID-19 boosters, says pandemic is a ‘mixed bag’ entering the holidays” via Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — Fauci, chief medical adviser to Biden, said the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is a “mixed bag” entering the holiday season and that Americans should get their vaccine booster shots as soon as they are eligible. Over 64 million U.S. adults are not vaccinated, and the Biden administration is preparing for significant resistance from parents as vaccines become available to children ages 5 to 11 this week. Although he plans to stay in Washington and have family visit, Fauci said he would have “no problem” getting on an airplane to travel.
“C.D.C. plagued by confusing messaging, critics say” via Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo News — On Oct. 22, Fauci, the top medical adviser to Biden, sat for a CNN interview that touched on coronavirus booster shots. The program host, John Berman, asked Fauci if people should seek out booster shots of the same brand of vaccine they’d initially received. “It’s generally recommended that you get the booster that is the original regimen that you got in the first place,” Fauci said. He conceded that mixing different types of vaccines was allowable but reiterated that brand loyalty was best. He had, in fact, added that there was no danger in mixing vaccine types, but a casual observer might have been led to believe that the federal government didn’t know its own plan.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
What Alix Miller is reading — “More cargo at Florida ports? Truck driver shortage could bring challenges” via Paul Nutcher of The Ledger — Florida ports have the cargo capacity, but a shortage of truck drivers could create a logistics challenge throughout Florida. Last week, after Gov. DeSantis made statements publicly about port capacity in the Sunshine State, industry insiders said that a decadelong truck driver shortage could bottleneck freight at Florida’s ports just as cargo ships anchored off the Pacific coast are now waiting to be emptied. Tra Williams, owner and CEO of FleetForce Driving School in Winter Haven, welcomed the Governor’s comments but said more cargo would likely highlight the need to train more drivers.
— MORE CORONA —
“NYC puts 9,000 workers on unpaid leave as vaccine mandate kicks in” via Erin Durkin of POLITICO — New York City placed 9,000 city workers on leave without pay Monday as its coronavirus vaccine mandate for the public workforce kicked in. The requirement ordered by Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the most aggressive in the nation, has pushed the vaccination rate among all city workers to 91%. But at least 21,000 city workers covered by the mandate remain unvaccinated: 9,000 who have now been barred from working, and another 12,000 who have applied for religious or medical exemptions. The latter group is being allowed to work until decisions on those exemptions are made in the coming days. The total city workforce is roughly 378,000.
“Maryland man pleads guilty to operating fake Moderna website, charging people to buy advance vaccines” via Andrea Salcedo of The Washington Post — The website was almost identical. When a user loaded the homepage, Moderna’s name and logo were displayed at the top of the site, along with a tab explaining how mRNA technology works. Some visiting the page would have been convinced that it was Moderna’s official website. On Friday, Odunayo “Baba” Oluwalade, one of three men accused of using the fake website to sell coronavirus vaccines at $30 per dose, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud conspiracy in connection with the scheme.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden cites ‘overwhelming obligations’ of U.S. on climate” via Ellen Knickmeyer, Zeke Miller, and Josh Boak of The Associated Press — In a markedly more humble tone for a U.S. leader, Biden acknowledged at a U.N. summit Monday that the United States and other energy-gulping developed nations bear much of the responsibility for climate change, and said actions taken this decade to contain global warming will be decisive in preventing future generations from suffering. “None of us can escape the worst that is yet to come if we fail to seize this moment,” Biden declared. The President treated the already visible crisis for the planet as a unique opportunity to reinvent the global economy. He sought to portray the enormous costs of limiting emissions as a chance to create jobs by transitioning to renewable energy and electric automobiles.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Joe Manchin says he won’t be pressured into reconciliation vote” via Andrew Solender of Axios — Sen. Manchin said he won’t be pressured into supporting a $1.75 trillion expansion of the nation’s social safety net and urged House progressives to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in the interim. Manchin’s declarations show Democrats are no closer to passing the two bills that House leaders had hoped to move this week, and Biden has said will define his presidency. House progressives fear Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will gut the reconciliation bill. Manchin said he has concerns about the bigger bill’s effect on inflation and increasing the federal debt, so he wants more time to study its specifics and determine their precise cost.
“Democrats scramble to get a drug-price compromise, but wait on Kyrsten Sinema” via Rachel Roubein, Dan Diamond, Tony Romm and Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — Congressional Democrats are scrambling to work out a drug-price compromise that would cap seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for medicine and lower the price of insulin, with negotiators working through the weekend and Monday to convince key holdouts like Sen. Sinema. “The moment is now. We must deliver on our promise to lower the amount of money our constituents pay for prescription drugs,” Rep. Angie Craig and 14 colleagues representing competitive districts wrote to House leadership on Sunday. But the deal has yet to win support from Sinema, Rep. Scott Peters and a handful of other congressional moderates who objected to the more sweeping overhaul advanced by Democrats earlier this year.
“Nearly 4 in 10 who say election was stolen from Trump say violence might be needed to save America” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — During the 2016 campaign, Trump warned of the dangers of a small, radicalized portion of the country resorting to what it viewed as justified violence. In pushing his proposal to ban all Muslim immigrants, Trump cited polling from a like-minded immigration group. A poll is the latest to show that, even after the tumultuous events of Jan. 6, a large number of Republicans, 3 in 10, believe violence might be justified “to save our country.” What this poll adds to the dialogue is how much that overlaps with belief about a stolen election. Among those who believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, support for justified violence rises to 39%.
“The Supreme Court hints that it may allow a challenge to the Texas abortion law.” via Adam Liptak of The New York Times — After almost three hours of lively arguments, a majority of the justices seemed inclined to allow abortion providers; but perhaps not the Biden administration, to pursue a challenge to a Texas law that has sharply curtailed abortions in the state. That would represent an important shift from a 5-to-4 ruling in September that allowed the law to go into effect. Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who were in the majority in that ruling, asked questions suggesting that they thought the novel structure of the Texas law justified allowing the providers to challenge it. Justice Kavanaugh said that might amount to closing a loophole. Justice Barrett noted the law was structured to prevent the providers from presenting a “full constitutional defense.”
— CRISIS —
Absolute must-read — “Bloodshed” via Jacqueline Alemany, Hannah Allam, Devlin Barrett, Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, et al. of The Washington Post — Trump had just returned to the White House from his rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 when he retired to his private dining room just off the Oval Office, flipped on the massive flat-screen television and took in the show. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, thousands of his supporters were wearing his red caps, waving his blue flags, and chanting his name. The Capitol was under siege and the President, glued to the television, did nothing. For 187 minutes, Trump resisted entreaties to intervene from advisers, allies and his elder daughter, as well as lawmakers under attack.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Trump is now the odds-on favorite to be President in 2025” via Tim Miller of The Bulwark — The twice-impeached, disgraced loser who was schlonged in the 2020 election, tried to stay in power against the will of the people, and then came 10 cowardly Republican Senators away from being disqualified from ever running for office again, is now more likely than any other person in the world to take the next oath of office on the Capitol steps on Jan. 20, 2025. How is that for some weird s — t? Now I’m sure some will roll their eyes when this headline comes across the Twitter feed. But this ain’t about my compulsions. It’s the actual, real-world reality being presented by those who have the most skin in the game.
— STATEWIDE —
“More time to choose, more money to educate, could mean more enrollment in Obamacare in 2022” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Monday marked the start of open enrollment for 2022 health insurance coverage in the federal health insurance exchange under a law often referred to as Obamacare. The 2022 open enrollment runs for a 10-week period, from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, giving residents more time to choose a plan than they had last year when open enrollment was limited to six weeks. More money is also being directed at so-called “navigators” to help people enroll in the federal health insurance exchange. Florida Covering Kids and Families at the University of South Florida received an $11.9 million grant from the Biden administration earlier this year to increase outreach programs and enrollment in the federal health insurance exchange.
“Nursing homes ponder staffing mandates as direct care costs increase” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Nursing home staffing requirements could be on the table in the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session, according to the state’s leading nursing home association. Florida Health Care Association Chief Executive Officer Emmett Reed said a workforce shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic had increased direct care costs at Florida nursing homes by $300 million over the last year. That’s not to say, though, that the Association will be asking for a $300 million increase in funding from the Legislature, Reed said. The FHCA will be meeting with its members next week to finalize its legislative budget proposal and upcoming Medicaid funding requests. Reed said the group may not ask for the full $300 million, which would result in a $19 increase in Medicaid reimbursement per day per patient.
“Seniors are using marijuana more than ever before” via Hannah Critchfield of the Tampa Bay Times — Marijuana use is on the rise among older adults. Last year, the proportion of adults 65 or older who reported recent cannabis use jumped by 18%, according to the 2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health released last week, rising from 5.1% in 2019 to 6% in 2020. The spike comes on the heels of a steady trend of increased cannabis use among seniors over the last five years. What’s more, in 2020, more older adults also reported using marijuana sometime in their lifetime, a jump from roughly 32% to 36%, signaling a possible cultural shift in older adults’ willingness to open up about past tokes.
“U.S. Judge Robin Rosenberg should have pulled out of FPL case due to husband’s stock buy, court says” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — David “Jack” Wilkinson always suspected something was amiss when a federal judge threw out his 2017 lawsuit, seeking overtime pay from Juno Beach-based utility giant NextEra Energy. “It felt like there had to be something that influenced the outcome,” Wilkinson said. Last month, the engineer who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, received a letter that confirmed his suspicions. Wilkinson learned that U.S. District Judge Rosenberg violated judicial rules by not stepping down from his case. In Wilkinson’s case, Rosenberg’s failure to step down and another involving NextEra Energy also violated the law.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Broward school district announces national search for permanent superintendent” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Broward County Public Schools announced Monday that it is launching a national search for a permanent superintendent to replace Robert Runcie, who resigned after his statewide grand jury indictment in April. In July, the School Board hired Vickie Cartwright to serve as an interim superintendent, but there was a stipulation she would not be a permanent hire. That changed when the School Board voted last week to let her apply for the job. Cartwright’s annual salary is $275,000. The choice over the summer was between Cartwright and Robert Schiller. Schiller made a career as an interim executive in the public and private sectors. He transitioned several large urban school districts in their search for a permanent superintendent.
“Eckerd Connects fired from child welfare services in Pinellas, Pasco” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris decided to terminate the state’s contract with Eckerd Connects to provide child services in Pinellas and Pasco counties when it expires at the end of the year, according to Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson. That contract was worth $80 million in 2021. In response, Eckerd Connects has told the state it will also walk away from an $87 million contract to provide child welfare services in Hillsborough County, a contract it has held since 2012. Simpson said the decision reflected frustration at the performance of Eckerd Connects, which has faced criticism for a handful of high-profile deaths of children in foster care under their watch. He said their performance did not measure up when compared to other lead foster agencies across the state.
“178 entities are seeking $74.9 million in county COVID-19 relief money. There’s a problem.” via Dustin Wyatt of The Lakeland Ledger — The Polk County Commission will decide Tuesday what to do with the county’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief money. But it’s clear going into the meeting that they won’t be able to help every business and nonprofit that’s requested a share of the funding. After the Commission agreed to put $82 million of its $140 million in American Rescue Plan funding toward infrastructure projects such as roads and facilities, the county has $10.5 million still available for social and health needs. Meanwhile, 178 local entities have submitted applications to the county with requests totaling $74.9 million. Where the money goes will likely be determined when the Commission gathers for a workshop scheduled to start immediately following the regularly scheduled 9 a.m. board meeting at the county administration complex in Bartow.
“Lakeland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Cory Skeates resigns” via Maya Lora of The Lakeland Ledger — On Friday, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce announced that its president and CEO, Skeates, has resigned from his post. In a news release, the Chamber’s executive committee said it had accepted Skeates’ resignation, effective Oct. 29. Skeates led the organization for six years and was previously president and CEO of the Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce, according to the news release. Skeates said in a text message that he had “nothing to add beyond what was in the news release.” The news release states Skeates resigned following conversations between himself and the executive committee “related to fully realizing the Lakeland Chamber’s mission and vision” and that Skeates resigned “to allow a change in leadership in the best interest of the Chamber.”
— TOP OPINION —
“Learning is for commie-pinko wokesters, and we don’t need any of it around here” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — Unlike these school boards, Florida’s surgeon general nominee has his head on straight. Sure, there are all these so-called studies that show getting the vax and wearing a mask cut down on COVID-19 transmission, but our governor’s doc told us just what we wanted to hear: 1. Vaccines are “nothing special”; 2. Why not take hydroxychloroquine or horse de-wormer? What have you got to lose? 3. Masks are a communist plot. That brave Dr. Ladapo showed fuss-bunny Democrat Sen. Polsky who was boss, refusing to mask up in her office, even though she has cancer and is undergoing radiotherapy. Hey, lady: Our freedoms are more important than your compromised immune system.
— OPINIONS —
“Take the win, Democrats, and don’t look back” via E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post — Celebrate victory. Explain what you’ve achieved. Defend it from attack. Change the public conversation in your favor. Build on success to make more progress. And for God’s sake, don’t moan about what might have been. Biden and Democrats in Congress are on the cusp of ending their long journey through legislative hell by enacting a remarkable list of practical, progressive programs. This will confront them with a choice. They can follow the well-tested rules for champions of social change. Or they can repeat past mistakes by letting their opponents define what they have done and complain about the things left undone.
“Roe is as good as gone. It’s time for a new strategy.” via Kathryn Kolbert and Julie F. Kay of The New York Times — For the first time in a generation, the Supreme Court appears likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. The end of Roe need not herald the end of an era of reproductive freedom. It may instead launch a new strategy that protects the fundamental human right to decide whether to have children and raise them in safety and dignity. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two separate cases challenging the new Texas law effectively banning abortion. The more direct nationwide threat to Roe, however, comes in December in a case challenging a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.
“Media ignore Florida COVID-19 recovery” via Dave Seminara of The Wall Street Journal — Florida went from having the country’s highest rate of COVID-19 infections to the lowest in about two months. Does the turnaround illustrate that infection rates are cyclical and often affected by weather? Is Florida’s infection rate lower than in states with significantly higher vaccination rates and mandates? I don’t know the answers to those questions, in part because journalists are less interested in asking them than in bashing DeSantis. An Oct. 25 New York Times article on declining COVID-19 cases nationwide failed to mention Florida, the state with the country’s most dramatic improvement. Instead, the paper’s David Leonhardt emphasized that Republicans have lower vaccination rates than Democrats. I support DeSantis’s approach because we can’t live in fear forever, and it’s wrong to force our children to do so.
“A choice for the University of Florida: Academic freedom or government stooge” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Rest in peace, academic freedom, because the University of Florida has decided faculty members may speak their minds only when it’s in the best interests of the Gators and the governor. In effect, that means no university-sanctioned criticism of state government, its laws, or the GOP leaders who make them. The decision may be unprecedented, and it represents an about-face for a university that in 2018 cleared a professor to work on previous election lawsuits. Ironically, one of those was a lawsuit that challenged the state’s unconstitutional ban on early voting sites at state university campuses.
“UF’s big mistake on academic freedom” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — By any reasonable definition, “academic freedom” should mean that UF professors could testify in a voting rights court case in which they are, quite literally, experts. But UF is trying to bar political science Daniel Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Austin from testifying against SB 90, which puts new restrictions on in-person and mail-in voting. What is UF’s official reason? “Outside activities that may pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida,’’ wrote the dean of UF’s college of arts and sciences. In other words, if it’s bad for the Governor, it’s bad for UF? That is a horrible line of thinking. And it’s a new one for UF.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Miami-Dade Public School District is relaxing mask mandates as the state heats up the threats.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Amid Republican infighting, a Democrat comes to the defense of House Speaker Sprowls.
— And calls continue to mount against the University of Florida administration’s stance over a voting rights case, including a boycott over what’s being described as “benign racism.”
— Today’s Sunrise Interview is with Chuck Hobbs, the publisher of the Hobbservation Point Newsletter. He issued an open letter to his alma mater, the University of Florida, calling on the administration to reverse what he calls its tone-deaf stance barring its professors from testifying in a voting rights case — which challenges SB 90.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Oh great, another cranky column about baseball games taking too long” via Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal — Reading this lousy sports column will take three hours and 57 or so minutes less time than Sunday’s Game 5 of the World Series. That game lasted the routine nine innings. And took a whopping four hours. Now granted, this column is probably about 1/200th as interesting as watching the Astros and Braves play nine. Baseball’s gotta speed it up. While it’s easy to dismiss the moaning about long games as the same old anti-baseball cranks yelling at clouds, a wise business would see an opportunity. This Series is a huge moment for Braves fans and Astros fans, but a wider audience is always going to be good for the brand.
“The first trailer for ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ takes ‘Star Wars’ fans into the galactic underworld” via Ethan Alter of Yahoo Entertainment — Straight outta the Sarlacc, here comes the first trailer for The Book of Boba Fett; the latest Disney+ Star Wars series and the first live-action star vehicle for the titular bounty hunter in his four-decade existence. It’s an upgrade that’s been a long time coming for a divisive character who made his first appearance in 1978’s infamously awful Star Wars Holiday Special, followed by a notoriously lame death in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, not to mention a potential mid-2010s spinoff movie that was thrown in the garbage compactor. The Book of Boba Fett trailer indicates that Boba’s still got some ‘splainin’ to do to the rest of Tatooine’s criminal underworld about his sudden career transition.
“Universal: Mannheim Steamroller coming back; Grinchmas show on the move” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando has revealed additional details about its festivities for the upcoming holiday season, including the return of Mannheim Steamroller concerts and a new location for its Grinchmas stage show. Mannheim Steamroller, a Christmas-music supergroup, will be in concert at Universal Studios’ Music Plaza on Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12. It’s included in regular park admission. The concerts were absent from Universal’s holiday lineup as a pandemic precaution last year. The “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular Show” is moving into the space previously occupied by Blue Man Group. Universal’s holiday celebrations kick off on Nov. 13.
“Tampa, Orlando and Miami restaurants can now earn Michelin stars” via Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — As part of a new partnership between The Michelin Guide and state tourism marketing agency VISIT FLORIDA, Michelin inspectors will start visiting restaurants in Tampa, Orlando and Miami and announce a guide sometime in 2022. The guide, arguably the world’s most well-known and respected restaurant ratings system, has never included Florida before. For Florida restaurants, this is big news. For Tampa restaurants, it’s really big news. But for other Tampa Bay area restaurants, the news is bittersweet. The guide doesn’t apply to the whole Tampa Bay region — just the city of Tampa. That means restaurants in other culinary hot spots, like St. Petersburg and Dunedin, won’t be awarded stars at this time.
“Why McDonald’s looks sleek and boring now” via Steven T. Wright of Vox — If you’ve ever had a hankering for a Big Mac in Orlando, Florida, there’s a good chance that you wandered into a very special McDonald’s. With its hideous red-and-yellow checkerboard exterior and its neon-lit french fry monolith, the so-called “World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s” bears down on innocent customers like a monument to bad taste. The muted colors, large glass windows, and overall boxy appearance of a modern McDonald’s are forgettable and a far cry from the garish red-and-yellow buildings that many recall from their childhood. At the same time, this standardization might make good business sense for a style of dining that is sometimes seen as out of fashion or simply outmoded; some in the industry wonder if the company has lost something in the process of turning its back on its McDonaldland origins.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Sheila Martin.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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