Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.10.22

Good Thursday morning.

More often than not during this Legislative Session, Republican policy initiatives seemed like scripts from bad sci-fi movies designed to terrify and divide the electorate.

They claimed the title of family values champion by passing laws designed to make parents believe Democrats and other varlets were coming for their children.

It’s not true, of course, but Gov. Ron DeSantis and friends stuck to their game plan. They made the Session largely about parental rights against the malevolent forces that want to turn their kids into Joe Biden-loving zombies.

Every good melodrama needs villains, and DeSantis provided those. He trumped up a narrative that public schools are little more than indoctrination centers run by vile libs. Republicans equated mandatory face masks with torture, then DeSantis tried to push the false narrative that masks offer no protection against COVID-19.

He was wrong, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.

Every melodrama needs villains; Ron DeSantis was happy to supply them.

They also implied there must be something inherently morally wrong with any woman who wants a legal abortion.

A Governor with designs on the presidency turned transgender kids into a campaign prop.

At a news conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis suggested teachers are “telling kids they may be able to pick genders and all of that.”

DeSantis attended Yale and Harvard, so he should know that statement is garbage.

Republicans feel pretty good about the passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Democrats and teachers hate that idea, so Republicans believe the bill must be good.

They ignored that students walked out of class in protest in some districts around the state. I mean, shouldn’t they have a voice in this?

Republicans sold the bill as a way to protect those in kindergarten through the third grade from hearing inappropriate talk about sex and gender identity.

If the bill stopped there, it wouldn’t be a problem. I don’t think those youngest minds should be exposed to that, either.

However, that part of the bill is a misdirection play. It also requires teachers to refrain from any topic in any grade that isn’t “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

That’s a little murky, which, I suppose, is what supporters of the bill wanted.

What’s not murky is that supporters aimed this bill at the LGBTQ+ community.

That’s not just me saying that, by the way.

Christina Pushaw, who (for reasons beyond understanding) remains DeSantis’ press secretary, let that secret out with a recent tweet. She called it the “anti-groomer bill” and said if you oppose it, “you are probably a groomer, or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4- to 8-year-old children. Silence is complicity.”

Groomers are those who use a process to abuse and exploit children — yes, that happens. However, Pushaw implied anyone who supports gay rights must be a pedophile.

Pushaw later said she tweeted after hours and on her personal account. She, of course, has the First Amendment right of free speech. However, when you essentially speak for the Governor, there are no “after hours.” Your personal opinion reflects on the Governor.

Since DeSantis let it slide, I guess he agreed with her.

This appears to be a winning strategy for the Governor and his party. They create an enemy where there is none so they can slay it and brag to their voters.

The voters might love that, but history probably won’t be as kind.

___

Mitch Rubin did not want a funeral, but those who knew the longtime CEO of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association will have an opportunity to pay their respects this evening.

A visitation will be held for Rubin from 4:30—6:30 p.m. at Culley’s MeadowWood Funeral Home, 700 Timberlane Rd., in Tallahassee.

Remember the late Mitch Rubin with an investment in the future.

Rubin, who died at age 62 last weekend after an extended battle with cancer, was a fixture at FWBA and was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of beverage law. But he was also known for his steel-trap memory, incredible attention to detail, frank honesty, and unflinching kindness to everyone he encountered.

For those who cannot attend the visitation, FBWA announced earlier this week that it is working with Florida State University, where Rubin earned his law degree, to establish the Mitchell J. Rubin scholarship with a $250,000 initial gift. The organization said it will provide details on how others may donate to the scholarship fund in the coming days.

Rubin, a Miami native, is survived by four siblings: Debbie Jordan, Janice Glowacki, David Rubin and Andrea Skinner.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@EdYong209: There is still time. Two years into this, I’m not especially optimistic about our chances of learning from our mistakes or honoring our dead. But fatalism is a luxury that we can’t afford it, now, or when dealing with the variants and viruses to come.

@GovHawaii: Hawaiʻi’s indoor statewide mask mandate will expire on March 25 at 11:59 p.m. when the current emergency proclamation relating to COVID-19 ends. It’s taken the entire community to get to this point — with lowered case counts and hospitalizations.

@Redistrict: Dems have thwarted GOP gerrymanders in NC, OH, PA and WI this cycle by winning key statewide contests (judicial/gov). If sole power rested w/ legislatures, there’d be almost no constraints b/c they could perpetuate their own rule via — you guessed it — gerrymandering.

@Mkraju: How Congress legislates: Members spend months negotiating spending bill and finally release 2,741-page bill at 1:34a … House Rules sends release at 2:42a saying rule was approved in Committee … Later Wednesday morning, full House will approve $1.5T bill that members haven’t read

@HillaryClinton: Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is the latest example of the performative cruelty that defines the GOP brand today. It will only serve to hurt children and families. People who believe in freedom and equality should oppose these ugly measures at every opportunity.

@jcp717: The Florida Republican social agenda this Session was the equivalent of promoting the flat earth theory. They passed things that are in complete denial of reality. Whether it is vaccines, LGBTQ, abortion or immigration, this denial of how the world really works is just imbecilic.

@BradHerold: Just checking in on Tallahassee. Seems crazy to me there are Republicans in the Capitol who haven’t figured out it’s Ron DeSantis‘ world, and they’re just living in it. Turn on a TV.

@MDixon55: Wait around all week, then get billions of funding in dozens of pages dropped an hour before the meeting

@DeFede: 6:43 p.m. and the Senate has adjourned for the day — Ileana Garcia never showed up. We will see if she is on the Senate floor tomorrow.

@ChrisSprowls: The discovery of Edward Shackleton’s Endurance in the Antarctic is amazing. In addition to being one of the hardest ships to locate, it reignites one of the greatest leadership stories of all time & reminds us of “Shackleton’s Way.” Well done

@Braedon: Gannett sites may not be spoofing their ad inventory anymore, but the fact that they were for so long calls into question the ad-tech industry’s ability to detect mistakes and fraud in the billions of ad auctions it facilitates.

— DAYS UNTIL —

House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 13; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 13; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 15; The Oscars — 17; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 19; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 19; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 24; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 39; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 43; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 49; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 50; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 50; federal student loan payments will resume — 52; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 57; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 62; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 76; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 78; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 84; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 89; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 121; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 134; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 152; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 176; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 211; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 229; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 247; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 250; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 257; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 282; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 346; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 379; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 505; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 589; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 869.


— TOP STORY —

Facing LGBTQ+ backlash, Disney chief outlines meeting with Ron DeSantis on next steps in ‘Don’t Say Gay’ controversy” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Under pressure for not taking a stronger stance against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told shareholders the company quietly lobbied behind the scenes against the legislation but ultimately failed. “I understand our political approach, no matter how well-intentioned, didn’t quite get the job done,” Chapek said during the annual shareholders meeting as he revealed he spoke recently to DeSantis. Chapek pledged to do more, saying the company would sign a statement opposing similar legislative efforts around the country and pledged $5 million to protect LGBTQ+ rights. Chapek said he talked on the phone Wednesday with DeSantis in an “extraordinary conversation” and plans to meet in person with the Governor along with a small number of Disney cast members.

@Jason_Garcia: Reminder: The Walt Disney Co. is making ~2,000 of its employees in California either move to Florida or leave the company in exchange for $570 million in corporate tax breaks

Tweet, tweet:



— DATELINE TALLY —

From limiting race talk to election security, Ron DeSantis’ wish list advances” via John Kennedy of USA Today — The top items on a polarizing wish list sought by DeSantis advanced Wednesday in the House and Senate following hours of heated debate over his push for new limits on race discussions in schools and work, swipe at immigration and creation of an elections security office. Support from the Republican-controlled Legislature was never in doubt. But Democrats fought the bills and tried to derail them with amendments, all voted down by GOP majorities in both chambers. For example, in a party-line 77-42 vote, the House followed the Senate in agreeing to penalize airlines, bus companies, and other organizations assisting the Biden administration relocate undocumented immigrants to Florida, many of them unaccompanied minors.

The House and Senate had little difficulty giving Ron DeSantis much of what he asked.

Legislature approves immigration crackdown, handing DeSantis another win” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Republican-led Legislature has approved a proposal to further crackdown on illegal immigration, a priority for DeSantis. The measure (SB 1808), carried by Sen. Aaron Bean, would prevent transportation companies from doing business with Florida if the companies participate in programs to transport people to Florida who are in the country illegally. The Senate passed the bill along party lines last week. However, Rep. Vance Aloupis, Rep. Rene Plasencia and Rep. Andrew Learned crossed the aisle to vote “no” as the House approved the measure 77-42.

Legislature sends voting bill to DeSantis’ desk” via Lawrence Mower of Florida Politics — Fueled by their base’s concerns about voter fraud, Republicans in the Florida Legislature Wednesday approved a contentious slate of elections reforms that would create a first-of-its-kind office to investigate election crimes. The House of Representatives voted 76-41, entirely along party lines, to send Senate Bill 524 to the desk of DeSantis, who is expected to sign it. The bill makes numerous changes to the state’s election laws with a focus, proponents say, on targeting election fraud. In addition to a 25-person election crimes office, lawmakers are requiring election supervisors to clean the voter rolls each year, enhancing penalties for some election-related crimes and making various administrative changes. Nearly all the provisions would take effect this year, ahead of DeSantis’ reelection campaign this fall.

Senate readies school board term limits for vote” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate readied legislation that would impose term limits on public school boards for a vote Wednesday. But it differs from the product passed by the House last month. CS/HB 1467, introduced originally by Rep. Sam Garrison, would establish eight-year term limits for school board members newly elected or re-elected after August 2022. The bill was approved by a 78-40 party-line vote in the House on Feb. 10. Both bills grandfather current incumbents, so time served through the 2022 election would not count. However, the Senate approved an amendment in the Rules Committee that allowed for 12 consecutive years served by board members, up from the eight authorized by the House, allowing incumbents to serve through the 2034 election. The goal, said Sen. Joe Gruters, was “uniformity throughout the state.”

Senate votes to formalize response to rising seas as Democrats see missed opportunity” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — To meet the rising tide of climate change, Florida’s top officer on sea level rise could soon have a permanent place in Florida law. A year after lawmakers passed legislation to mitigate rising sea levels, the Senate unanimously followed the House with a vote to formalize the state’s lead agency and top official dealing with the issue. The measure (HB 7053), filed by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera and backed by Chris Sprowls, would codify a Statewide Office of Resiliency within the Governor’s Office and place the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) as the head of the office. That would add into law portions of DeSantis’ 2019 executive order on the environment. During his first week in office, DeSantis signed the executive order, which established the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Demi Busatta Cabrera seeks to codify the state’s resiliency office.

If new local rules hurt revenue, Florida businesses will be allowed to sue for damages” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Businesses whose revenues decline by 15% or more as a result of a local ordinance or local citizens initiative will now be allowed to sue cities and counties for damages under a measure passed by lawmakers Wednesday and sent to the Governor for approval. The proposal is one of a series of measures passed this Legislative Session in the aftermath of the COVID-19 standoffs between DeSantis and more progressive big city governments. In recent years, conservative legislators have used state law to reverse or prevent local government decisions restricting natural gas hookups, regulating vacation rentals and party houses, banning plastic drinking straws and certain sunscreens, and imposing rules on where utility companies can set up solar farms.


— BUDGET NOTES —

Budget conference: Lawmakers agree on how to spend $3.5 billion in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Construction projects at colleges, a program to install broadband internet infrastructure in rural areas, projects to protect against the impact of climate change, and land conservation programs were the main winners of a deal sealed Wednesday evening by lawmakers to spend nearly $3.5 billion in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds. Congress approved the money last year to help states cope with the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida isn’t set to receive the money until May. House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to put $558 million into higher education construction projects and $843.7 million for maintenance projects at universities and colleges. K-12 schools will receive $64.4 million in construction funds.

It’s budget crunch time.

—“Five reasons the 2022 budget was held up this Session” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics

Sprinkle list: House and Senate deliver $759M in 2022 funding add-ons” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House and Senate have released their “sprinkle lists” for the coming fiscal year, outlining spending for dozens of projects totaling more than double what lawmakers allocated last year. The sprinkle list is what Capitol insiders call the “supplemental funding” initiatives, last-minute budget items used to sweeten the pot and provide funding for some pet projects. As Jason Garcia explained in 2015 for Florida Trend: The money can be “used to sprinkle one last helping of hometown projects into the budget in order to get a budget deal done.” Leaders agreed on $759 million for local projects, like infrastructure, springs restoration, health care programs and pay raises.

After Senate agrees to restrict abortions, President Wilton Simpson puts birth control funding in budget” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Simpson on Wednesday put $2 million in funding to help low-income women obtain what’s known as long-acting reversible contraception, or birth control options that don’t have to be taken daily to work. This is the second time in as many years that Simpson, who calls himself a “pro-life Republican,” has included funding in the state budget for the issue. The LARC funding he added in the 2021 budget was vetoed by DeSantis. Simpson told reporters Wednesday night he is hopeful the passage of HB 5, which makes it illegal for a woman to have an abortion after 15 weeks gestation, may be a game-changer for the Governor this year.

Budget conference: House, Senate zoom ahead with boost to Daytona 500, gas tax cut” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — In a last-second finish, House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to insert a provision giving an estimated $6 million tax break for the Daytona 500 into the large tax cut bill. The tax cut bill also contains sales tax holidays for a variety of items, including a one-month moratorium on the state’s 25-cent gas tax, starting Oct. 1, which is estimated to save drivers $200 million. The move partially accommodates DeSantis’ original request for a $1 billion, five-month moratorium starting July 1. Top House budget writer Rep. Jay Trumbull said the start date was picked because October is the month Florida has the least number of tourists. Simpson and other legislative leaders had expressed skepticism over DeSantis’ plan, preferring to target Floridians for tax relief.

Budget conference: Community-based care change brings resources for underserved communities” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Many of Florida’s community-based care agencies scored big in budget negotiations. Multimillion-dollar jumps in funding for agencies came as lawmakers sought changes in equity in Florida’s funding formula. As early as Wednesday morning, the House and Senate were still $130 million apart in how much they would put toward community-based care. In the end, a number of specific allocations were made to agencies around the state. In the end, about $41.1 million was budgeted from the Social Services Block Grant Trust Fund for Community-Based Care lead agencies, or CBCs, for use providing child welfare services, prevention services, and adoptions. There was also $37.6 million from the Federal Grants Trust Fund for appropriate casework. Additionally, $5.7 million came from the General Revenue Fund for foster youth programs.

Sprinkle list: South Florida gets tiny fraction of last-minute statewide funding earmarks” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The House and Senate released their respective “sprinkle lists” Wednesday for fiscal 2022-23, and they amount to a lot: $759 million lawmakers can say they delivered for local projects. Of that, four counties in South Florida received just over $17 million, all but $35,000 of it from the Senate. The small proportion of money dedicated to South Florida projects did not surprise the leader of Broward County’s delegation. “We often don’t get our fair share,” Rep. Mike Gottlieb told Florida Politics. “We are a donor county, a donor region.”

Sprinkle list: Senate gives new lease on $120M for Moffitt Pasco-area development” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — After eliminating $120 million in proposed funds to improve the area around Moffitt Cancer Center’s upcoming Pasco County site, Senate negotiators have renewed that funding via the Senate sprinkle list. Senate negotiators on Thursday relented on two major infrastructure and development projects around the planned 775-acre research campus in west-central Pasco County. However, with backing from Senate President Wilton Simpson, the projects are set to make their way to DeSantis’ desk with the rest of the budget.

Budget conference: $100M to go toward northern water storage” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Legislature has agreed to budget $100 million for a storage reservoir north of Lake Okeechobee. After years of focus on reservoirs to the south of Lake Okeechobee, Senate President Wilton Simpson for the past two years has pushed for greater funding for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project to the north. Sen. Ben Albritton last week identified northern storage as one of the top things that still needed to be completed. “I’m thrilled to see further, robust investment in the project,” Albritton said. “Northern storage is a smart idea, period.” Ahead of Session, Albritton stressed a need to improve the level of water supply to the north. That’s been critical for local agriculture, an important industry to both Simpson and Albritton as professional farmers. That’s also important to residents in lakeside communities to the north of the lake.

Sprinkle list: State pours $80M into UF Health Jacksonville trauma center” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — UF Health in Jacksonville is poised to get $80 million to replace its outdated trauma center, with the project making the list of supplemental projects released by the Senate Wednesday. The Senate will allocate $25 million from its supplemental project “sprinkle list,” with another $55 million coming from the Health Care Appropriations silo for the Leon Haley Jr. Trauma Center. The new facility will be named after the former head of the hospital who died while on a family vacation last year. Those numbers are well above the asks from Jacksonville lawmakers in the budget process. Sen. Audrey Gibson requested $12 million on the Senate side, while Rep. Wyman Duggan asked for $8 million. A bipartisan effort saw the allocation grow in recent days and weeks, offering a boost to one of the most cash-strapped safety-net hospitals in the state.

Sprinkle list: Big Bend gets $47.7M for universities, over $8M in other allocations” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Big Bend universities and projects netted more than $55 million in the “sprinkle lists” released by House and Senate Wednesday. The sprinkle list is what Capitol insiders call the last-minute budget items used to sweeten the pot and provide funding for some pet projects. Each year, legislative leaders withhold some money from the budgeting process until the end, which can be used to benefit legislators’ hometown projects to help get the budget deal done. All totaled, the Senate had $511.8 million to sprinkle on projects and programs around the state beyond what is included in the 2022 state budget. The House’s sprinkle list totaled $248.3 million. The biggest allocation to the Big Bend was $27.7 million to Florida A&M University for campuswide utility infrastructure improvements.

Sprinkle list: Senate, House sprinkle some love on UCF” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Treated like a legislative redheaded stepchild the past couple of years, the University of Central Florida got some love from the Legislature Wednesday, with $20 million in operational support sprinkles. The Senate and House supplemental appropriations released Wednesday night each earmarked $10 million for UCF. One called the funds “operational enhancements,” the other, “operational support.” As a bonus, both of UCF’s appropriations would come from recurring general fund money, meaning they could be expected to repeat in 2023.

Sprinkle list: Bernie McCabe Courthouse to receive $15M” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Bernie McCabe Courthouse in Pinellas County is set to receive $15 million for overage contingency as it enters its early construction phases. The “sprinkle list” money comes after receiving $50 million from the state last year. The project, championed by Speaker Sprowls, who has lauded late state prosecutor McCabe as a mentor, is set to be located at the Sebring Building at 525 Mirror Lake Drive North. Sprowls announced that site in December. The placement of the courthouse was contested in the 2021 Legislative Session between two of the highest-ranking GOP leaders in the Florida Legislature. While Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel pushed to establish the new courthouse in her hometown district of Lakeland, the push by the Pinellas County-based Sprowls ultimately proved successful.

Sprinkle list: Lawmakers toss another $11 million toward derelict vessel removal program” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Lawmakers are planning to give another $11.7 million toward the removal of derelict vessels in Florida waterways. The Wednesday appropriation of federal COVID-19 relief dollars adds to the $8.2 million agreed on Tuesday in the state budget. In all, the $19.9 million will fund a state-offered removal program that reimburses local governments that pluck eligible vessels out of public waters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees the program. It says Florida is “plagued” with derelict and abandoned vessels.

Sprinkle list: Senate eyes $9.8M to finance raises for Florida judges” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Senate wants to give the state’s circuit and county judges a raise this year. Simpson released the upper chamber’s “sprinkle list” Wednesday. The Senate’s sprinkle list this year represents more than $500 million in funding. This year’s Senate sprinkle list includes a line item that would increase pay for circuit court judges from $160,688 to $182,060. It would also increase county judge salaries from $151,822 to $172,015. That amounts to an increase of about 13% over the current salary.

—”Sprinkle list: SWFL airports, college, social service soak up the supplemental funds” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Sprinkle list: Senate bites off $8.5M to fund dental care program for people with disabilities” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Senators have earmarked $8.5 million in yearly funding for a new statewide dental care program for people with developmental disabilities. While details of the forthcoming initiative are sparse, one expert and advocate affirmed there is a “huge need” among people with developmental and intellectual disabilities for dental services. According to The Arc of Florida interim CEO Jim DeBeaugrine, the former secretary of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and a longtime advocate, the program will do a lot of good for people in need. “This population has historically had real difficulty accessing dental care because their needs are so specific and unique, so finding people — health care professionals — who are willing to treat them has been a challenge,” he told Florida Politics. “This will be money well spent.”.

Sprinkle list: Lawmakers award $2 million to Portraits in Patriotism” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Lawmakers are providing $2 million to float Portraits of Patriotism, a new education program warning students on the dangers of communism and totalitarianism. Championed by DeSantis last year, the proposal requires the Department of Education to revamp government education, including through “Portraits in Patriotism,” a video library of first-person accounts from immigrants who lived under authoritarian regimes. It also requires a comparative discussion of political ideologies and lessons on the “evils of communism and totalitarianism.” Portraits in Patriotism include stories told by Floridians who fled communist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and more. In a 2021 interview on Fox News, DeSantis and Fox News Host Laura Ingraham touted the bill as a counterpunch against critical race theory.

Sprinkle list: Senate funds Nassau County public safety training facility” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate slotted almost $6 million toward Phase 2 construction of a public safety training facility in Nassau County, a big chunk of the $17.5 million needed. The money was secured by Bean, a Republican from Fernandina Beach. The appropriations request notes that the Northeast Florida Regional Public Safety Training Facility will serve not only first responders in Nassau County but also in surrounding areas. The $5.95 million “will allow for enhanced capabilities of officers and firefighters within Nassau County and surrounding regional agencies that are currently not present by permitting routine refresher and remedial training in the county using the actual equipment used in service and training regularly with co-workers and other agencies encountered in the field, as opposed to, mixed training units out of the county,” the funding request says.

Sprinkle list: House floats $5M toward fatherhood initiative marketing” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House proposed $5 million Wednesday to market the fatherhood initiative championed by Sprowls. The initiative (HB 7065) aims to address Florida’s “fatherhood crisis” in myriad ways. Among other provisions, it designates June as “Responsible Fatherhood Month.” It also highlights father-specific resources and allocates millions toward at-risk children and foster care services. Both The House and Senate get millions to play with near the end of budget negotiations. That money is spread across different projects in what’s known in legislative parlance as the “sprinkle list.”

Chris Sprowls’ fatherhood initiative gets seeded.

—”Sprinkle list: House allocates $2 million to report on flood controls’ condition” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

—“Sprinkle list: House pitches $500K for FLDE to buy earplugs” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

—“Sprinkle list: House delivers $500K to Clearwater Marine Aquarium manatee rehab exhibit” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—”Sprinkle list: Senate springs for Hilliard community center and hurricane shelter” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—”Sprinkle list: Senate antes up for JFRD Health and Wellness Center” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Sprinkle list: Lawmakers fund wounded veteran treatment foundation” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Lawmakers agreed Wednesday to provide $250,000 to a nonprofit specializing in the treatment of wounded veterans. Based in Pensacola, the Blue Angels Foundation supports wounded veterans by aiding their return to civilian communities. In particular, the nonprofit emphasizes several key steps — transitional housing, counseling, PTSD resolution, permanent housing, life skills, transportation, and employment. The goal, they explained in a fund request, is to eliminate veteran suicide. As a part of their support, the foundation provides wounded veterans with an average of more than 70 direct clinical treatment hours, among other services. They also provide couples therapy, family counseling and wellness training. The appropriation comes as Florida aims to distinguish itself as the “most military-friendly state” in the nation. Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess sponsored the request


— TALLY 2 —

Florida grandparents score major win, with assist from Johnston & Stewart” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Like many of us, lobbyist Jeff Johnston spent much of his childhood with his grandparents. His grandfather was from Sicily, had strong opinions, and was steadfast in his conviction that family always came first. Those beliefs took root and would come full circle to serve Johnston decades later, as he lobbied the Florida Legislature with partner Amanda Stewart. The issue: expanding the rights of Florida grandparents to connect with their grandchildren following a tragedy, an effort inspired by the 2014 murder of FSU law professor Dan Markel that left his two young children estranged from his grieving parents. Simply stated, these two have the minds, hearts, and connections to navigate the complexity of this issue. Today, the Senate unanimously passed what has become informally known as the “Markel Act.”

Jeff Johnston and Amanda Stewart give a big assist in the grandparent visitation proposal.

Heated exchanges over HB 7: ‘Are you trying to whitewash the history of African Americans?’” via Imani Thomas of Florida Phoenix — Tensions rose in the Florida Senate Wednesday, as the GOP scuttled all amendments of HB 7, another culture war bill that would limit certain conversations about racism and sexism in schools and workplaces. HB 7, described as “Individual Freedom,” posits a handful of principles that students may not be subjected to in public school classrooms. The bill, which is now being considered by the Senate, led to heated exchanges Wednesday between Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., the bill’s sponsor, and Sen. Randolph Bracy. “Are you trying to whitewash the history of African Americans with this bill making African American history optional,” Bracy said. Diaz responded that African American history is not optional.

Legislature passes bill shielding personal information in crash reports from public records requests” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Legislature passed a measure that would exempt from Florida’s open records law certain personal information contained in crash reports. The bill (SB 1614) passed the House with only Rep. Anna Eskamani voting “no.” It passed the Senate last week 35-3 and now awaits the Governor’s signature before becoming law. Currently, personal information on crash reports and traffic citations are exempt from public record laws for 60 days. Certain exemptions apply to people involved in a crash, their lawyers, insurance agents, law enforcement and members of the media. The bill extends that 60-day limit indefinitely. Information like a driver’s date of birth, driver’s license number, address excluding the five-digit ZIP code, telephone number, motor vehicle license plate number, and trailer tag number would be exempt from public record.

— MORE TALLY —

LGBTQ Floridians once hoped DeSantis could be an ally. Not anymore” via Steve Contorno of CNN Politics — In his first year as Florida governor in 2019, DeSantis paid a somber visit to the memorial for the 49 people who lost their lives when a man opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. DeSantis signed a wall with the words: “Florida will always remember these precious lives.” For Florida’s LGBTQ community, the day brought a glimmer of optimism that this new Republican leader might listen to their concerns, said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat and the state’s first openly gay Latino lawmaker. The Governor, Smith said, “appeared to be extending an olive branch to the LGBTQ community.” Far from realizing a new era of bipartisan inclusivity, Florida under DeSantis has become ground zero for the cultural clashes that have pitted the country’s LGBTQ community against GOP leaders.

For a time, Carlos Guillermo Smith had high hopes for Ron DeSantis. Fool me once ….

Charter school bills appear headed for approval” via Lisa Buie of reimaginED — A bill that would make it easier for Florida charter schools to be approved has passed both houses of the Legislature and has been sent to DeSantis for his signature. HB 225 won approval Friday when the Senate tabled its companion bill, SB 892, and adopted the House version. Sponsored by Rep. Fred Hawkins, a St. Cloud Republican, the bill would allow charter schools to be automatically renewed if the overseeing school district fails to follow proper procedure. The bill also allows for multiple charters, schools that have the same boards, to be consolidated into a single charter and requires that school districts approve or deny the request within 60 days.

Senate agrees to House terms on specialty license plate changes” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Another year brings another round of changes to the state’s specialty license plate program. The Florida Senate passed for the second time SB 364; a measure sponsored by Sen. Bean. The bill brings some changes to the program after House amendments earlier in the week. The original Bean bill sought 150 specialty plates, but legislation passed by the House allows for 135 plates. And 3,000 pre-sales will be required for all plates, including out-of-state colleges, which had been set at 4,000. The bill would begin the development process for Inter Miami CF, Safe Haven for Newborns, Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research, Learn to Fly, Florida Swims, Down Syndrome Awareness, Take Stock in Children, and Gopher Tortoise license plates. One tag authorized by the Senate will not make it, however. An amendment from Sen. Lori Berman to reinstate the Ethical Ecotourism tag in the bill failed. That was removed by the House.

Alison Tant says water experts should have been included in a bill now heading to the Governor” via Regan McCarthy of WFSU — Who should sit on local Soil and Water Conservation District boards? A bill heading to the Governor would limit that to people who have experience working in agriculture or who own or lease agricultural lands. Rep. Keith Truenow is carrying the bill in his chamber. He said it makes sense to require those elected to be involved in the profession. “On many boards, we have professionals that lead and serve, but professionals for that occupation. Putting these professionals where they need to be is the right thing to do,” Truenow said. But Rep. Tant said that ignores entire categories of people who are soil and water professionals. She said Leon County doesn’t have many large farms. It does have important water features.

— BILLS ARE DYING —

Data privacy bill dead for the 2022 Legislative Session” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A data privacy bill prioritized by House leadership is dead for the second year in a row. The Florida House last week passed the bill (HB 9) in a 103-8 vote. But enforcement issues in the bill always caused consternation in the Senate. That led to the bill dying near the end of the 2021 Legislative Session, and now meeting the second fate days out from Sine Die this year. Florida TaxWatch, in an independent analysis of the bill’s fiscal impact, estimated a potential $21 billion hit to Florida’s economy if the House bill became law. In particular, it looked at new privacy restrictions on businesses that would reduce Florida’s gross operating surplus, the total profit of private enterprise sans immediate costs and workers, by 3.9%.

Jackie Toledo’s anti-human trafficking measure dead after it’s joined with unanimously passed Senate bill” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Legislation offering protections to victims and witnesses of crimes who might be asked to testify in court received a nearly unanimous vote in both legislative chambers, but is now declared dead after the Senate bill was joined with similar legislation from the House. SB 772, sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry, set out to “protect a child, a person having an intellectual disability, or a sexual offense victim from harm or abuse that may result from giving testimony in a court proceeding or at a deposition.” Some of those protections included limiting the length and scope of a deposition, requiring a deposition to be taken with written questions, requiring a deposition to be taken in the presence of a judge or magistrate, and sealing the deposition records.

Amendments were the death of Keith Perry’s anti-trafficking bill, despite passing both chambers.

DBPR bill declared dead as Session nears final days” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A dispute between the House and Senate over whether to ban hotels from charging hourly rates and the maximum size of retail bottles of wine has doomed SB 714, a bill aimed at streamlining licensing and renewal fees for a variety of professions and industries under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Sen. Ed Hooper signaled Tuesday the measure would likely die, despite a 114-2 vote in the House to pass it. On Monday, the House tacked on several amendments to the bill the Senate was unlikely to accept. It was officially declared dead by Simpson on Wednesday, one of a quartet of bills the Senate would no longer consider. The other three are SB 398, SB 772 and SB 756.

Medicaid managed care rewrite likely dead — An effort to overhaul the state’s Medicaid managed care system is likely dead this Session, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. Senate President Wilton Simpson said Wednesday that the bill (SB 1950) was “definitely in trouble,” later adding “we’re not going to hear it.” The comments came after the bill was amended in the House that would have blocked AHCA from automatically enrolling recipients into a plan that covers more than half Medicaid recipients in a given region. The change was a priority for Rep. Sam Garrison, who had included the language in the House version of the managed care overhaul, which he sponsored.

—SKED —

— The Senate convenes for a floor Session to pass a bill carried by Rep. Bryan Ávila to combat “woke” school instructions and corporate training (HB 7) and other proposals, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

— The House convenes for a floor Session to settle outstanding issues with the Senate, including possibly considering a new drug overdose law (HB 95), carried by Scott Plakon, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.

— GOV CLUB MENU —

Hot and sour soup; Asian chopped salad; Asian cucumber salad; tropical fruit salad; trio of spring rolls; cashew chicken; beef and broccoli; stir-fried vegetables; house fried rice; sliced cake for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis announces state will provide $6.1M in wildfire relief funding” via Emma Riley of My Panhandle — DeSantis was back in the Panhandle for his third trip since the fires started. DeSantis held a news conference to announce that the state will be providing $6.1 million of funding and additional resources to help fire victims get back on their feet. The news conference was held at the Bay County Emergency Operations Center. As a result of the Adkins Avenue wildfire, two homes were total losses, and many homes were damaged. DeSantis said families and businesses that were impacted by the wildfires will be able to apply for the funding.

Ron DeSantis steps up with Panhandle wildfire aid.

Carlos Muniz chosen as new Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice” via The Associated Press — Muniz will become the next Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court after a vote Wednesday by his colleagues. The court announced in a news release that Muniz will begin his two-year term as chief justice July 1. He will replace Justice Charles Canady, who will remain on the seven-member court. Muniz, 52, was appointed to the court in January 2019 by DeSantis. Among other positions, he previously served as general counsel to former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and chief of staff to former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. He also worked for former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Downward trend in Florida citrus production continues in March USDA forecast” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reduced its overall projections for Florida orange and grapefruit production in its newly released March forecast for the full 2021-22 season. The newest forecast, released Wednesday, predicted Florida will produce 41.2 million boxes of oranges this season. That’s down from a total of 43.5 million boxes in February’s projection. The March numbers show an expected 3.9 million boxes of grapefruit, down from 4.1 million in February. The USDA’s projected number for tangerines and tangelos remained the same month to month, at 800,000 boxes. Digging deeper into the numbers, USDA analysts actually increased their expected output for Florida non-Valencia oranges month to month. Last month’s projections say at 17.5 million boxes, while the March forecast raised that number to 18.2 million boxes.

Manatee feeding operation to wind down soon in Florida after 55 tons of lettuce distributed” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An unprecedented attempt to feed starving manatees appears likely to wind down soon, as the weather warms and the marine mammals disperse and head north. About 55 tons of lettuce have been given to manatees in the Indian River Lagoon, in an attempt to get them through a winter in which their natural sources of food had declined sharply because of water pollution. At the height of the feeding program, near a power plant that attracts them with discharges of warm water, up to 800 manatees could be found near the feeding area. But this week, that number has fallen to 25 to 70 per day, Ron Mezich, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a video call Wednesday with reporters.

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— 2022 —

Charlie Crist tops $760K in Feb. — U.S. Rep. Crist raised more than $760,000 for his gubernatorial bid last month, his campaign announced in a news release. The Feb. haul extends the former Governor’s streak of posting the best finance reports among Democrats seeking to oust DeSantis in 2022. “I could not be more excited and humbled by the support of community leaders and everyday Floridians across the state who are resonating with our campaign’s message of a unified and free Florida, and joining our fight to take back our state. Our momentum continues to grow, and we have no plans to stop,” Crist said. Including the Feb. contributions, Crist has raised $7.2 million since entering the race last year.

Progressive groups target Jason Brodeur, Ileana Garcia, Nick DiCeglie in ads slamming ‘bad bills’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Several progressive groups have launched a six-figure radio ad campaign imploring several Republican state officials to vote against GOP-backed bills as the 2022 Legislative Session grinds to a close. The targets of the English and Spanish-language radio spots are Sen. Brodeur, Sen. Garcia and Rep. DiCeglie. Garcia in particular has come under fire in recent months for her comments on racism, abortion and the LGBTQ community, including as recently as Tuesday, when she asserted, “Gay is not a permanent thing. LGBTQ is not a permanent thing.”

To listen to a sample of the ads, click on the image below:

Adam Gentle campaign reports nearly $50K raised through Feb. for HD 120 bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Gentle nearly doubled the contents of his campaign strongbox in Feb. toward his bid to take House District 120, his campaign reports. Gentle, a self-described anti-corruption lawyer, raised just shy of $23,000 last month between his campaign and political committee, Adam for Democracy. That brings his total gains to almost $50,000 since he launched his campaign for HD 120 in January. He collected about $15,000 through 98 individual donations to the campaign in February. His PC added more than $8,000. On March 1, Gentle picked up an endorsement from LGBTQ Victory Fund, which bills itself as “the only national organization dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ people” to public office. If elected, Gentle would be just the eighth openly LGBTQ lawmaker to serve in the Legislature and, provided those already in office win re-election, the fourth currently serving.


— CORONA FLORIDA —

Weekly COVID-19 update: South Florida moves to low-risk levels for community transmission” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — In the past seven days, the state has added 1,671 cases and 154 deaths per day, on average, according to Miami Herald calculations of data published by the CDC. Over the past three weeks, on average, 269 fewer new cases were logged each day in Florida, showing a decrease in trends. As of Tuesday, March 8, more than 14,190,000 people are fully vaccinated in Florida. The state has logged at least 5,820,320 cases and 71,326 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020. The number of people hospitalized with COVID has also been decreasing. There were 2,033 people hospitalized in Florida, with 375 in the ICU, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report on Tuesday.

The unknown unknowns spell out bad news for Florida’s COVID-19 policies” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — A peer-reviewed Oxford University study published this week in the journal, Nature, looked at the physical changes in the brain in hundreds of study participants before and after getting COVID-19. “There is strong evidence for brain-related abnormalities in COVID-19,” the study concluded. The effects, even present in COVID-19 infected people who were not hospitalized, showed that the disease caused gray matter in the brain to shrink as much as 2% in the areas that control emotion, memory and the sense of smell, the study found. Even in cases that were classified as mild, participants demonstrate “a worsening of executive function,” resulting in a loss of focus and general brain fog.

— CORONA NATION —

‘Stealth’ omicron cases are doubling in U.S., data shows. Is it a cause for concern?” via Julia Marnin of the Miami Herald — As mask mandates lift in most states and coronavirus cases continue to drop, the “stealth” omicron subvariant, BA.2, is becoming more prevalent in the United States. But what does this mean and is it a reason to worry amid easing virus restrictions? Cases of this particular omicron subvariant, one of a few, keep popping up and have roughly doubled the past few weeks in the U.S. It now makes up 11.6% of overall virus cases as of March 5 since it began doubling as of Feb. 5. In some parts of the world, the BA.2 subvariant has replaced the original omicron strain, known as BA.1, as the most dominant even as global cases go down, the World Health Organization said in a March 8 statement.

‘Stealth’ omicron is a problem, But just how big of a problem?

Hawaii will become last state in nation to drop its mask mandate on March 26” via Celina Tebor of USA Today — After nearly two years of enforcing some of the most stringent COVID-19 guidelines in the country, Hawaii’s Governor announced Tuesday the state will drop its mask mandate on March 26, becoming the final state to drop its masking rules. At the height of the pandemic, most states had some form of mandate. All but 11 instituted mask mandates at some time. But as the national wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from the omicron variant began receding in Feb., a flurry of states acted quickly to drop their indoor mask mandates. Gov. David Ige said at a news conference that the state had reduced COVID-19 to the point where most Hawaiians would be safe without masks indoors.

Antiviral pills being rolled out, but you won’t be able to just walk up and get one” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Pharmacies were key to rolling out vaccines to millions of Americans quickly, and under a new pandemic response plan promoted by Biden, drugstores will be deployed once again to deliver a powerful tool against COVID-19, an antiviral pill that can reduce the chances of hospitalization and death by 88%. But the new initiative, called Test to Treat, will not work as easily as Biden made it sound during the State of the Union address last week. Unlike vaccines, antiviral pills require a doctor’s prescription. That means only pharmacies with an on-site clinic and doctor can test and treat patients as envisioned in the White House plan.

Who qualifies for the federal COVID-19 pill program?” via Rochelle Alleyne of ABC Action News — William Parker and the folks over at DeliveRxd pharmacy are hoping to clear up some confusion after the federal government’s “Test to Treat” program was recently announced. The goal is to get free COVID-19 treatment pills into the hands of folks who test positive. He adds that while the pills may be free, the process to get them may not. First, to qualify you likely have to get your test done at a site that offers both COVID-19 testing, and COVID-19 pill prescriptions, like DeliveRxd pharmacy. “We do have the ability to test and treat here,” said Parker. Then, you need to get an assessment done. Especially if you’re offered the COVID-19 pill called “Paxlovid,” because of several potential side effects.

Pfizer starts testing its COVID-19 pill in children” via Jared S. Hopkins of The Wall Street Journal — Pfizer Inc. has begun studying its COVID-19 pill in children under 18 years old who are at high risk of developing severe disease. The study will evaluate whether the five-day treatment Paxlovid, which is in use among people 12 years and older, can also keep children who are newly infected by the coronavirus out of the hospital, Pfizer said. The first child enrolled in the study on Monday. Pfizer expects results by the end of the year, said Annaliesa Anderson, who leads the company’s Paxlovid research. Should results from the pediatric study prove positive, the antiviral would be the first COVID-19 pill for children under 12 years and an especially important remedy for those with underlying health conditions who cannot be vaccinated or whose parents don’t want them to get shots.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Nancy Pelosi cuts COVID-19 funding out of spending bill after Democrats revolt” via Callie Patteson of the New York Post — House Speaker Pelosi pulled $15.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funding from a trillion-dollar omnibus spending measure Wednesday after Democrats revolted against the funding mechanism. Rank-and-file members had objected to the bill clawing back unspent money from previously enacted relief legislation that had been earmarked to help states and businesses cope with the pandemic. After hours of talks, Pelosi relented to lawmakers who were refusing to let the measure move forward unless the earlier funds their states were supposed to receive were protected. Pelosi told reporters that coronavirus funding would be dealt with in a separate bill that she hoped to put on the floor later Wednesday.

How travel rules are easing around the world” via Allison Pohle of The Wall Street Journal — The COVID-19 rules for travelers are changing again. But this time, they are getting easier. Countries including Ireland, Iceland and Norway have eliminated all rules related to testing and vaccination for travelers. Others, such as France and England, have eliminated pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated people entering the country. Rules vary greatly and change often. Some countries require booster shots for travelers to be considered fully vaccinated for entry, while others are dropping COVID-19 requirements completely. Travel advisers suggest looking closely at entry requirements for specific countries and destinations like Hawaii, as well as rules for indoor venues, which can vary by city or region.

Travel restrictions are loosening. Too soon? Image via AP.

Florida led U.S. in newly formed businesses in ‘21, census data shows” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The companies keep coming to South Florida, regardless, or possibly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new burst of inflation, and now, a globe-jarring war in Eastern Europe. The latest business formation numbers show that Florida accounted for 683,680 out of the 5.8 million applications for new businesses filed nationally from January 2021 to January 2022. That’s roughly 11.7%. One of the latest arrivals from out of state: ATN Corp., a maker of optics for civilian use, law enforcement, and the military, which announced Tuesday it has relocated its headquarters and manufacturing facilities from California to Doral in western Miami-Dade County.

— MORE CORONA —

Unvaccinated kids are 8 times more likely to get COVID-19, study says” via Kristi Pahr of Fatherly — If you’ve been on the fence about getting your children vaccinated against COVID-19, a new study might convince you. Researchers from Duke University found that unvaccinated students are more likely to acquire the virus than their vaccinated peers. For the study, which has been peer-reviewed and will be published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers analyzed data compiled from Aug. 1, 2021, through Nov. 21, 2021, on the COVID-19 status of over 1,100 6th-12th graders in a North Carolina private school. The team found that unvaccinated students were eight times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than vaccinated students.

Another day, another study shows vaccination is really a good thing. Image via AP.

Unvaccinated pastor removed over ‘serious disobedience’ of COVID-19 rules, Vermont bishop says” via Julia Marnin of the Miami Herald — A pastor who rejected his bishop’s directive to get vaccinated against COVID-19 can no longer preside at a church in Vermont due to “his serious disobedience and disrespect,” the bishop said. The pastor initially told the bishop he wouldn’t follow the parish’s COVID-19 policy, which required unvaccinated clergy to wear a mask and get tested for the virus every other week after it was announced in September, the National Catholic Register reported. Months later, Father Peter Williams has been removed from serving at Holy Family Parish in Springfield after he “first made this matter public,” Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington wrote in a March 8 letter. Coyne said Williams has been a pastor at the church for 19 years and he “gave him every opportunity to back off, to obey, and he refused.”

Empty stores and an exodus: Hong Kong’s COVID-19 crackdown stirs panic” via Alexandra Stevenson of The New York Times — As the government in Hong Kong struggles to contain the city’s worst COVID-19 outbreak ever, some residents have panicked. They have emptied supermarket shelves of vegetables and meat. They have raided drugstores for pain and fever medication. Tens of thousands of new omicron cases are being reported each day, and deaths have surged. The anxiety gripping Hong Kong is not just about the explosion of infections, but also about what the government will do next. Under pressure from Beijing to eliminate infections, Hong Kong officials have vowed to test all 7.4 million residents. Such an operation would require restricting people’s movements, but the government has been ambiguous about whether it would impose a lockdown, and if so, when.

This new air filter could make public transit safe from COVID-19 again” via Miriam Fauzia of The Daily Beast — We might now have another tool at our disposal to stop the spread of COVID-19 in close-quarter environments that lack decent ventilation. U.K. researchers at the University of Birmingham created a novel virus-killing filter by coating it with a widely used antiseptic called chlorhexidine gluconate (CHDG). This filter, unveiled in a new study published Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports, was shown to be effective at killing COVID-19 virus particles in less than a minute, as well as other kinds of airborne bacteria and fungi harmful to humans. It may play a valuable role not just in helping us further manage the spread of COVID-19 as the pandemic moves into being an endemic part of life, but also other airborne infections old and new alike.


— PRESIDENTIAL —

A President navigates how to ask for painful sacrifices from Americans for Ukraine” via Matt Viser of The Washington Post — Biden on Tuesday issued his most expansive warning yet that there would be a significant price for Americans to pay as a result of the war in Ukraine, one that he argued was worth the cost in the name of supporting a fledgling democracy. On a day when he announced the next escalatory step, and the one most likely to reverberate in the United States, Biden also called for further sacrifice. The remarks came at a time when Americans are experiencing the ripples of a war unfolding half a world away. Companies are disengaging from the Russian economy, shuttering their stores and pulling their products. The stock market has plunged and, in one of the most visible signs, prices at the pump have soared.

Is America willing to do what it takes to support Ukraine? We will see. Image via Spectrum News 13.

Biden heeded Republicans’ pleas to ban Russian oil. Then they pounced.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — A cynic is rarely disappointed by this Republican Party. Yet even by that standard, the current attempt to blame Biden and absolve Vladimir Putin, for the spike in gas prices is a special case. For days, Republicans called for a ban on imports of Russian oil, a move that, while the right thing to do to counter Putin’s attack against Ukraine, would cause already-high gas prices to rise even further. Biden did as Republicans wanted, and they responded by blaming his energy policies for spiking gas prices. It’s not only that the charge is bogus but that the Republican officials leveling it are sowing division at home and giving a rhetorical boost to the enemy at a perilous moment when national unity and sacrifice will be needed to prevail against Russia.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio, other Republicans put Biden in a bind over Russian oil and gas prices” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida U.S. Sen. Rubio and other Republicans have been pushing Biden to stop imports of Russian oil because of Ukraine invasion. But they’ve also blamed him for soaring gas prices that are expected to go up even higher now that’s he done it. In less than 24 hours, two tweets from Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee epitomized the GOP line: “Stop buying Russian oil, Joe Biden,” and “MAKE GAS CHEAP AGAIN.” A poll showed that 71% of respondents supported a ban on Russian oil, including 82% of Democrats and 66% of Republicans. But whether that lasts as prices go up remains to be seen.

Oily: Marco Rubio is dog-piling again on Joe Biden over Russian oil. Image via AP.

Congress weighs permanent daylight saving time in a debate as regular as clockwork” via Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — A congressional panel Wednesday debated whether to end the nation’s “spring forward” and “fall back” daylight saving policy, citing the health effects of shifting the clock twice per year. Most agreed it was about time. On Sunday, people in most parts of the United States will set their clocks ahead one hour so that darkness falls later in the day, a seasonal shift that is enforced by the federal government and will be reversed Nov. 6. But more than 40 states, including Maryland, are considering changes to end the shifting, and federal lawmakers are weighing legislation that could make daylight saving time permanent.

Matt Gaetz departs from most GOP colleagues in vote for medical treatment for troops’ exposure to toxins” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Rep. Gaetz, whose district covers Northwest Florida, recently broke with a majority of his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote in favor of a bill that would expand eligibility for medical treatment for veterans exposed to toxic materials. A similar measure is moving through the U.S. Senate, meaning that before any bill is sent to Biden for his signature, House and Senate members will have to reconcile any differences in their proposals and get the resulting legislative proposal passed in both houses of Congress. The House measure passed that chamber Thursday by a vote of 256-174, with Gaetz among only 34 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor joins Protect Our Care Florida and For Our Future for a virtual news conference to mark the anniversary of the American Rescue Plan by calling on Congress to pass legislation to make many of the law’s health care provisions permanent, 10 a.m. Register for the Zoom event here.

— CRISIS —

RNC to sue Jan. 6 committee over Salesforce subpoena” via Jonathan Swan, Lachlan Markay, and Sara Fischer of Axios — The Jan. 6 select committee has subpoenaed Salesforce, the customer relationship management giant and a major Republican National Committee vendor, for sensitive information about the RNC’s fundraising. The RNC plans to sue to stop the disclosure, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the dispute. It’s the most significant legal confrontation so far between the GOP’s official apparatus and the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The Feb. 23 subpoena shows the intensity of the panel’s efforts to link the assault with official fundraising and engagement efforts and to learn precisely who was crafting and sending emails and how they impacted supporters who read them.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Plane carrying Donald Trump made emergency landing in New Orleans after engine failure over Gulf of Mexico” via Josh Dawsey and Ian Duncan of The Washington Post — A plane carrying Trump suffered engine failure late Saturday evening over the Gulf of Mexico, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in New Orleans shortly after taking off from the city. The flight had gone approximately 75 miles after taking off from New Orleans Lakefront Airport, reaching an altitude of about 28,000 feet before turning around. As the jet came in to land, an air traffic controller told the pilot, “There will be vehicles following you down the runway.” “I appreciate it,” the pilot said. The plane belonged to a donor who lent it to Trump for the evening.

Donald Trump’s plane hits some turbulence.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Marion Co. School board will seek another 1-mill tax for vital programs” via Joe Callahan of the Ocala Star-Banner — Four of the five Marion County School Board members want to give the public a chance to vote to renew a 1-mill property tax for a third time to continue funding music, art, and physical education programs, as well as school safety. Board member Don Browning, who was appointed by DeSantis in August 2021, says it’s time to end the tax that generates about $28 million annually for special programs. It also pays for more teachers and vocational programs. Browning says revenue lost during the national recession, which began in 2008, has more than been recouped.

Library book bans, Russia investments discussed at Brevard School Board meeting” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — At a Brevard Public School Board meeting Tuesday, parents aired their concerns about books being removed from school libraries, and a school board member asked the district to ensure none of its investments include stock in Russian companies. A member of conservative parent group Moms for Liberty sent a list of books allegedly containing sexual content to School Board Chair Misty Belford over the weekend. Several other members of the public have contacted board members with worries that the district will remove books related to Black history and LGBTQ identity, or that the district will remove books their own children would benefit from reading, school board members said.

Tallahassee Commissioners end ‘sister city’ relationship with Russian city” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — The Tallahassee City Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to cancel the city’s “sister city” relationship with a Russian city in light of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Tallahassee’s sister city relationship with Krasnodar, Russia ended after a motion brought forward by Mayor John Dailey was passed. The sister city relationship is largely symbolic, intended to promote activities and exchanges that increase international trade, economic and community development, and cultural and educational opportunities. Dailey said the decision to cut the relationship was not meant as an attack on Russian citizens or the residents of Krasnodar, but to signal that the city is standing with the Ukrainian people against Putin’s regime. “I think in times like these it is important that we be unambiguous and stand on the side of democracy and freedom and against Russia’s unprovoked hostility,” Dailey said.

John Dailey breaks up with Tallahassee’s Russian sister city. Image via Facebook.

Tampa launches rental and move-in assistance program in response to ’emergency’ housing crisis” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Renters in Tampa within certain income limits can now apply for rental and move-in assistance, thanks to a new city-launched program. The program comes as rents in Tampa have risen at among the highest rate in the nation in the last year, between 24 and 28%. Real estate tracking company CoStar Group said some renters saw a rent increase of more than $300. City Council Chair Orlando Gudes has called the city’s housing situation an “emergency crisis.” Gudes joined Mayor Jane Castor and other city staff to announce the program at a news conference Wednesday.

Crucial vote for Beckham’s Inter Miami stadium complex in Miami pushed back one month” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — For the third time since February, a crucial Miami City Commission vote on the plan to build a massive soccer stadium and commercial complex on the city’s only publicly-owned golf course has been postponed. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced the postponement in a Wednesday afternoon memo. He called a new special meeting for 10 a.m. April 7 to consider the legal agreements that would allow the city to lease Melreese golf course to the owners of Inter Miami for 99 years to build a stadium, hotel, office park, shops, and a 58-acre park. In his memo, Suarez did not give a reason for pushing back the hearing.


— TOP OPINION —

Vaccines work for children. Ignore the nonsense spoken in Florida.” via The Washington Post editorial board — The final decision about whether youths should get vaccinated against the coronavirus is up to them and their parents. We think they should receive the shots; scientific evidence shows that vaccines protect young people from serious illness and death. Unfortunately, though, the message about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines has failed to reach many families. That is why the Florida surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, was irresponsible to announce that the state health department plans to formally recommend against vaccination for healthy children.

— OPINIONS —

What the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill gets wrong about Florida classrooms and kids” via Lauren Book in the Tampa Bay Times — When I taught kindergarten, I spent between seven to 10 hours a day with my students. I came to know everything about them — who liked to read, whose favorite color was blue. And I also knew who didn’t get enough to eat, who was struggling with the incarceration of a parent, who was experiencing homelessness. What I don’t remember was telling my young students, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to pick your gender yet.” Nor do I remember teaching LGBTQ+ propaganda from secret lesson plans. Or breaking Florida law by telling parents that they may not review our classroom materials or curricula. Because — despite our Governor’s insistence — it didn’t happen then, and it doesn’t happen now.

Florida’s anti-abortion law is a slap in the face to survivors like me” via Melissa Sullivan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Growing up in South Florida, I fantasized about moving to Washington, D.C., and pursuing a career in government. My trajectory seemed infinite until my political daydreams became a living nightmare. While volunteering at a state party fundraiser, I was raped. A battery of home pregnancy tests revealed a cruel truth: I was carrying the rapist’s child. Ultimately, I concluded having an abortion was the best choice for me and my future. HB 5, prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking, passed the state Legislature. Under these restrictive measures, I would have been forced to carry the rapist’s child to term in my home state. This draconian legislation is a constitutional infringement and a slap in the face of survivors of rape, incest and human trafficking.

Senate Democrats must stop rolling over for Republicans” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida elections have had disastrous consequences, putting the state in the hands of a divisive, tyrannical governor and a Legislature eager to give him almost anything he wants. Democrats are the only safeguard against the abuse of raw Republican power. But when they splinter apart and side with Republicans instead of holding tight, Democrats look weak, especially when it’s about the public’s right to know and holding the majority accountable. Repeatedly this Session, Senate Democrats let Republicans off the hook, and let their constituents down. In the latest case, the Senate voted 28 to 10 to create a public records loophole that keeps secret the identities of the companies that provide the mixture of chemicals the state uses to lethally inject death row inmates. This is a backroom drug deal at the public’s expense.


—TODAY’S SUNRISE —

A tougher immigration law has passed the House and is going to DeSantis’ desk. He’s sure to sign it. It was kind of his idea.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— Debate over the Immigration law was a battle of fact versus fiction, with Democrats saying Republican arguments about immigrants were short on facts.

— The Senate is getting into the so-called “Stop Woke” bill, with Democrats trying to make sure its origins are clear. It’s Trump.

— And, Rep. Ávila says his goodbyes … and clue us in on his “Moose” nickname.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Disney: Magic Kingdom back in parade mode with return of ‘Festival of Fantasy’” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Princesses waved, dwarfs marched, a dragon exhaled fire and all was somewhat right again for a while on Main Street, USA Wednesday as “Disney Festival of Fantasy” parade returned to Magic Kingdom. It started with a roar and ended with a shower. Visitors lined the streets of the Walt Disney World theme park a couple of hours before its 11:30 a.m. start. They cheered as the prerecorded trumpet fanfare signaled the beginning of the parade, which has been absent since mid-March 2020, and the resort’s pandemic-related shutdown.

It’s the triumphant return of Disney World’s Festival of Fantasy.

What Peter is reading — “Huge LEGO castle set rumored for 90th anniversary” via Chris Wharfe of Brick Fanatics — The LEGO Group’s 90th-anniversary set is rumored to be Lion King’s Castle, an enormous tribute to the classic 1984 set King’s Castle. Early last year, the LEGO Group launched a poll to select a classic theme as the basis for a 90th-anniversary set, to be released sometime in 2022. The initial vote saw BIONICLE, Pirates and Classic Space take the top three spots, but following backlash over splitting its subthemes into separate categories, the company also included Castle in the secondary poll to find an overall winner. The champion of that second vote has yet to be officially revealed, but it’s no secret that there’s a real appetite out there for a LEGO Castle set targeted toward adult fans. And it sounds like that’s exactly what’s on the table here.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Sen. Doug Broxson, friend and lobbyist Shawn Foster, Patrick (Booter) Imhof, and POLITICO Florida’s Arek Sarkissian.

___

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


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