Civil rights lawyer Cecile Scoon has been elected to lead the League of Women Voters of Florida.
Scoon’s election marks the first time a Black woman has been elected to the top post at LWVF. The Harvard and University of Virginia Law graduate has served as the organization’s 1st Vice President since 2018.
She succeeds exiting president Patricia Brigham, who has held the position for the past three years.
“Voting is the basic building block of our prized democracy. During our state convention, the League demonstrated how democracy should work when our grassroots members voted for new leadership. In doing this, League members repudiated times in the 1920s and later in the 1960s when white League members were not as welcoming to Black women.” Scoon said.
“My election was a rejection of that troubling past and an embracement of diversity, equity and inclusivity. I love the League because it is primarily a group of powerful women standing up for the rights of all. I look forward to this journey as we work to meet the many challenges of our time.”
Scoon’s 36-year law career began as an assistant staff judge advocate for the U.S. Air Force. She now serves as an owner and managing principal of Peters & Scoon Attorneys at Law in Panama City.
She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which touts other notable members such as Vice President Kamala Harris and former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince. Scoon has previously held leadership positions within her local chapter of the League of Women Voters and is a life member of the Bay County Branch of the NAACP.
Scoon was elected alongside a slate of officers and directors on June 5, during the organization’s 38th biennial state convention.
The League also announced the election of Marisol Zenteno as 1st Vice President, Shawn Bartelt as 2nd Vice President, Patricia Drago as Secretary, and Mark Songer as Treasurer. Elected directors include Jennifer Adams, Jonathan Hackley, Danielle Irwin, Dr. Julie Kessel and Maegen Pierce.
In other notes:
🏻♂️ — Sedition hunters: One would assume it’s top-level investigators with fancy federal bureaus sniffing out those who perpetrated the ugliest parts of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. But in some cases, it’s amateurs, or what Bloomberg describes in a must-read profile as sedition hunters, who are using the internet to track down and identify rioters. And in some cases, their hobby sleuthing leads to federal charges. Bust out your magnifying glass and read more here.
— Primaries to watch from afar: All eyes are on Florida races in 2022, but two states are holding gubernatorial Primary Elections today in races FiveThirtyEight is watching. Virginia and New Jersey both went for President Joe Biden last year, and both have Democratic Governors, but Republicans are eyeing the states’ Governors’ mansions this cycle. Find out how the GOP could make inroads in the blue states here.
— Democratic report offers dire warning: Several prominent Democratic advocacy groups put together a soul-searching report finding the party risks losing Black, Hispanic and Asian American support unless they do a better job presenting a positive economic agenda and countering Republican misinformation. The report warns 2022 may not find the nationwide successes seen in the 2020 election, which had Donald Trump on the ballot if they don’t reevaluate their messaging and voter outreach. Read more about the report, obtained by The New York Times, here.
— With her campaign finance blunder, Nikki Fried hands the GOP a gift that will keep on giving: When Fried updated her financial disclosure reports to show $350,000 in previously unreported lobbying income, she provided a headline that allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis will pounce on for months to come. Joe Henderson ponders just how catastrophic the error could be for Fried as she heads into her gubernatorial campaign, even if it was just an honest mistake.
— Five questions for Seminole Gaming Chair Jim Allen: The Tribe has been working on a deal for at least five years, negotiations that span two Governors. Now they might finally find success with a 30-year gaming compact that will expand the Tribe’s gaming footprint in the state while providing billions in revenue for the state. The News Service of Florida sat down with Allen to discuss the deal, pending federal approval, including how it finally got done and what it means for sports betting in the state. Read more here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealJacobPerry: In the past week, @ has spoken about China, censorship, Dr. (Anthony) Fauci, vaccine passports and Rebekah Jones. Know what he hasn’t mentioned one single time? The mass shootings taking place in South Florida.
—@NateMonroeTU: I’m genuinely curious to see how this effort to turn Ronald DeSantis — a nasally, prickly introvert — into a “rock star” will work in front of a national audience, rather than the Very Online right-wing fever swamps.
—@AnthonySabatini: Psycho Rebekah Jones should NOT have been banned on Twitter. No one should be banned from today’s public square
This headline makes it look like she’s a noble person who merely opposed the Gov, when in fact the truth is much, much different. Ahh, but the writers don’t write the headlines is always a nice excuse – as if some rando waltzed into the newsroom and wrote it #FlaPol https://t.co/QoqBPlAq0r
— Tre’ Evers (@everstre) June 7, 2021
— Ben Albritton (@Sen_Albritton) June 7, 2021
— Sara Morrison (@SaraMorrison) June 7, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 1; E3 2021 begins — 4; Father’s Day — 12; Microsoft reveals major Windows update — 16; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 17; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 23; Fourth of July — 26; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 31; MLB All-Star Game — 35; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 45; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 49; the NBA Draft — 55; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 57; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 63; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 77; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 87; NFL regular season begins — 93; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 98; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 104; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 108; ‘Dune’ premieres — 115; MLB regular season ends — 117; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 122; World Series Game 1 — 141; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 147; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 148; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 150; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 164; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 171; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 185; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 195; NFL season ends — 215; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 217; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 217; NFL playoffs begin — 221; Super Bowl LVI — 250; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 290; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 332; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 359; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 395; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 486; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 521.
— TOP STORY —
“‘Let’s conspire’: Hundreds of Scott Maddox texts emerge in Tallahassee public corruption case” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Hundreds of private conversations between former City Commissioner Maddox, members of his one-time inner circle, and a who’s-who of movers and shakers inadvertently surfaced as part of the federal government’s public corruption case against him and his co-defendants. The communications, including text messages and secretly recorded talks with undercover FBI agents, provide an unvarnished look into behind-the-scenes machinations that preceded charges against Maddox, Paige Carter-Smith and businessman John “J.T.” Burnette. Appearing in the texts are former Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum; Burnette’s wife, Kim Rivers, now CEO of medical marijuana powerhouse Trulieve; and prominent local lobbyists and consultants, including Adam Corey, Drew Jones and Sean Pittman. None have been accused of wrongdoing in the FBI probe.
— 2022 —
“Marco Rubio argues likely 2022 Democratic challenger Val Demings ‘has voted for socialist things’” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — The two-term conservative lawmaker, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, took aim at Demings for voting 94% of the time with “the Squad” and 100% of the time with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Asked about Demings, Rubio dismissed any description of her as a moderate. “None of them will admit to being a socialist. She probably won’t. But she certainly has voted for socialist things,” Rubio argued. “How can you vote with ‘the Squad’ 94% of the time and argue that you’re not an honorary member of that group? How can you vote with Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time and argue that you’re not a far-left, liberal extremist? So she’ll have to answer to that.”
“Cuba activist Al Fox explores challenging Rubio for U.S. Senate seat” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Fox has been an advocate for reestablishing relationships with Cuba for the past two decades as the president of the nonprofit he founded, Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. On Monday, the Democrat announced he’s forming an exploratory committee for the 2022 Senate race. Fox said he had been mulling a run for the past year, but the Jan. 6 Capitol riot changed things for him. He had known one of the Capitol police officers who committed suicide, Howard Liebengood, since Liebengood was 10 years old, Fox said. Fox previously ran for U.S. Congress in 2006, eventually losing to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
“Donald Trump: ‘I was at the beginning of Ron DeSantis’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Trump praised DeSantis, while also taking credit for the Governor’s political ascent and stopping short again of promising DeSantis the number two spot on a prospective presidential ticket in 2024. “I was at the beginning of Ron. I was the first one to endorse him,” Trump made the comments during an interview on the Fox Business Network’s “Varney and Co.,” after extolling Florida’s pandemic response under DeSantis. Host Stuart Varney, a veteran broadcaster familiar with working Trump interviews, pressed Trump on whether DeSantis would meet muster as a running mate. However, the former President was too cagey to commit when asked if he would “consider” running with Florida’s Governor.
DeSantis launches aggressive fundraising tour — As his 2024 stock rises, DeSantis is heading out of state to add more cash to the pile for his 2022 reelection bid. The GOP Governor is heading to California on Thursday for a fundraiser in San Diego and from there he’ll skip around SoCal a bit before heading to Las Vegas where Adam Laxalt, the state’s former Attorney General, is hosting an event with high-dollar donors. The schedule is reminiscent of George W. Bush’s cross-country tour during his 1998 reelection campaign for Texas Governor. “DeSantis is very smart to use his reelection and his national ascendancy to travel the country, raising money and building a network that could serve him well in 2022 and beyond,” said Scott Jennings, a former adviser to Bush.
“‘Lying from the get-go’: Nikki Fried fundraising pitch slams GOP ‘witch hunt’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Fried is turning controversy into cash, with a fundraising pitch slamming inquiries into her finances as a “witch hunt” after recently amended financial disclosures from years gone by. Fried’s campaign for Governor sent out a blistering fundraising appeal Monday: “Lying from the get-go.” That missive offered her view of the GOP reaction to her campaign launch last week. “Now, Ron DeSantis and the Florida GOP are using state resources to attack Nikki, launching a witch hunt against her and her former company,” the “Team Nikki” email contends. The “witch hunt” allegation comes after revelations that Fried failed to disclose more than $350,000 in lobbying income, only fixing the mistake upon launch of her long-awaited campaign for Governor.
Democrats lack top-tier candidates for Cabinet posts — Florida Democrats have yet to land a solid candidate for any of the three state Cabinet posts on the ballot next year, and the few potential AAA recruits that have been recruited have passed on the opportunity, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. With two incumbents and Senate President Wilton Simpson potentially running for Agriculture Commissioner, Republicans have a formidable lineup going into a cycle expected to favor the GOP. “We’ve had some really good Cabinet candidates in the last 15 years, but it’s almost radio silence this year,” said Beth Matuga, a veteran Democratic consultant. “It’s a tough sell, and that’s why I think a lot of potential candidates look at it and think, ‘the juice is not worth the squeeze.’”
“Eyeing redistricting, Anthony Sabatini hopes to run for Congress in District 7” via Joe Byrnes of WMFE — Sabatini is no longer challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster in 2022. Instead, Sabatini hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, the Democrat representing Seminole and northeast Orange counties. Sabatini has filed paperwork to run in Congressional District 7, as have two other Republicans. The pro-Trump politician is basing the decision on a map showing what the districts might be after the Legislature redraws them next year. On Twitter, Sabatini says this would pit his campaign against a, quote, “America-Last, corrupt Democrat.” The unfounded insult is par for the course with Sabatini. His latest tweets, for example, say infectious disease expert Dr. Fauci should go to prison for life.
“Democrat Perry Gregg files to run in CD 8” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gregg, a professional tennis coach and co-developer of several mobile device credit card patents, has filed to run for Congress in Florida’s 8th Congressional District. Yet Gregg also reportedly has indicated he might be sitting out this election cycle. Gregg, 60, of Cocoa, has filed for a chance to take on Republican Rep. Bill Posey in a Space Coast-based district that Republicans have owned for generations. Gregg initially filed to run in February, then reportedly indicated to Brevard Democratic Party officials that he was suspending his effort in favor of a possible future campaign.
“Chris Sprowls committee tops $158K” via News Service of Florida — A political committee chaired by House Speaker Sprowls raised more than $158,000 in May, with a large part of the money coming from Northeast Florida, according to a newly filed finance report. The committee Floridians for Economic Freedom raised $158,350 and had about $1.4 million on hand as of May 31. The largest contributions during the month were $25,000 from Penn National Gaming and $25,000 from a PAC linked to Florida Workers’ Advocates. But the committee also received numerous smaller contributions from donors in Jacksonville and other parts of Northeast Florida. That included $36,500 from donors with Jacksonville or Jacksonville Beach addresses and $17,350 from donors with St. Augustine, Saint Johns or Ponte Vedra Beach addresses.
“Sprowls endorses Adam Anderson as his successor in HD 65” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Sprowls is naming his preferred successor. Sprowls endorsed Anderson in House District 65, he announced Monday. Anderson, a local business owner, filed to run for the seat in 2022 on Thursday, with Sprowls facing term limits. He was the first Republican to throw his name in the hat. “I’m proud to stand with Adam Anderson in his bid to represent North Pinellas in the Florida House. Adam is a conservative leader we can count on to stand up for our values, keep Florida moving in the right direction, and lead with courage and conviction,” Sprowls said. After working in wealth management for American Express Financial Advisors, later Ameriprise Financial, Anderson founded MRA Capital Partners.
“Berny Jacques raises $14K in May for HD 66 race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Seminole Republican Jacques raised more than $14,000 in his second month since launching his campaign for House District 66. Jacques, a former prosecutor and former conservative analyst for Bay News 9, reported raising $14,127 in May for his campaign. Jacques’ associated political committee, Florida Values Coalition, did not report any fundraising for the past month. Jacques’ opponent St. Petersburg Republican Alen Tomczak, who entered the race in early March, has not yet reported May finance numbers, which are due this Thursday. Tomczak works as a technical lead at Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base.
“Organizers say getting initiatives to expand voting on Florida ballot won’t be easy, but worth the effort” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — Organizers behind the drive to place three separate citizen ballot initiatives on the 2022 ballot that would expand voter registration efforts say that they’re not naive about the formidable challenges ahead of them, but contend that they’ll have the financial resources to make it happen. “Democracy’s worth it,” says Sean Shaw, chairman of the group People Over Profits. “What else is worth this hard effort we’re going to do?” he says. “This is a $15-$20 million effort. This is going to require tons of signatures. You get the signatures, you’ve still got to go before the Supreme Court and hope they don’t kill it.”
— DATELINE TALLY —
—”All eyes on Ron DeSantis” via Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner
“DeSantis joins GOP base in attacking China” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — DeSantis on Monday railed against the Chinese government and the possible origins of COVID-19, playing on issues at the forefront of the conservative base. DeSantis lashed out at China during an event Monday in Miami, where he signed into law a measure targeting undue foreign influence in Florida’s government and education system, a bill the Republican governor said are namely efforts to “start fighting back” against China. As a future Republican presidential contender, DeSantis said academia in the U.S. is “permeated” by outside sources. He spoke at a podium embellished with a “Stop CCP influence” sign. CCP is an abbreviation for the Chinese Communist Party.
—“DeSantis signs Speaker-priority foreign influence bills” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics
“‘A big bipartisan win’: Andrew Learned reacts to DeSantis signing Purple Star School bill” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Learned is rejoicing in DeSantis’ recent signing of legislation that seeks to help military families across the state navigate schooling. “This is a big bipartisan win,” Learned told Florida Politics. “I’m super proud to get one all the way through the process in my first year — that’s not something that most freshmen Democrats get done.” The bipartisan bill (HB 429), sponsored by Learned and Rep. Patt Maney, establishes the Purple Star Program, which helps schools respond to educational and social-emotional challenges military-connected children face during transitions to a new school. DeSantis signed the bill, along with a slew of veteran-related bills, into law Friday.
Happening today — The VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors will review the agency’s upcoming budget, 2 p.m. The Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa, 3793 N.E. Ocean Blvd., Jensen Beach.
“‘Job Growth’ fund ready for proposals” via News Service of Florida — The Department of Economic Opportunity on Monday tweeted that it is accepting project proposals for the Job Growth Grant Fund. “The grants will assist communities in funding workforce training and public infrastructure projects to support growth and employment in Florida,” the department tweeted Monday. The program was included in a $100 billion budget that DeSantis signed last week for the fiscal year that will start July 1. In all, more than $74 million is available for the program, with lawmakers putting $50 million into the budget and DeSantis also able to tap $24.4 million left unspent from 2019.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Brady Benford, Bradley Burleson, Todd Josko, Ballard Partners: DBL Ventures, Florida Protected Reserve Funds
Christopher Carmody, GrayRobinson: Kirenaga Management Group
Fred Karlinsky, Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: Attune Insurance Services
Mark Kruse, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Habitat for Humanity of Florida
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida’s education budget is the largest ever. Why do districts fear cuts?” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — When he signed Florida’s 2022 budget last week, DeSantis declared the state had never spent more on education. He touted the $22.8 billion funding package as one that would boost teacher pay, mental health services, school safety and more. School district financial planners did not share in the enthusiasm. While the numbers look good on paper, they said, the added money won’t make a significant positive impact on local public schools. The districts’ biggest concern is the state’s creation of a $464 million budget item called the “student reserve allocation.” It’s also expected to cover the costs of up to 60,000 additional students receiving state vouchers to pay for private school.
“DeSantis attacks ‘critical race theory’ as state looks to change teaching guidelines” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — DeSantis is sowing division in Florida’s education system as he targets the concept of critical race theory in the classroom and on the campaign trail, an effort that educators and Democrats, many of them Black, view as a political attempt to “whitewash” and suppress discussions about race. For several months, leading up to the governor’s reelection bid in 2022 and what many believe is a future run for the White House, DeSantis has latched onto a trend coursing through national conservative politics and directed his ire toward the theory because he says it is an attempt to indoctrinate children against the United States. The State Board of Education is set to consider a rule that would place strict guidelines on the way teachers deliver U.S. history lessons.
“State “listening tours” for proposed standards in civics and other subjects are a big disappointment so far” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — Lare Allen, president of the Osceola County Education Association, went to one of the three “listening tour” stops in Central Florida last week, hoping to observe discussions on proposed new standards in K-12 civics and other subjects. But what he found was about 15 people in attendance. The Department of Education presented a PowerPoint. Only three people provided public comments. Some Floridians have found it difficult to access the tour stops, because the events were not well communicated to the public and there’s been no public video or audio record of the meetings for average Floridians to see. So while the department says it encourages public input, the few stops, sparse attendance, and lack of audio or video recordings limit the public from participating in discussions.
“FPL rate hearings slated” via News Service of Florida — The state Public Service Commission has scheduled a dozen online hearings from June 21 to July 2, according to a notice posted on the Commission website. FPL in March filed a four-year rate proposal, which needs Commission approval. The proposal calls for a $1.1 billion increase in base-rate revenues in 2022 and a $607 million increase in 2023. It also calls for a $140 million increase in 2024 and a $140 million increase in 2025 to pay for solar-energy projects. The proposal also is designed to continue carrying out FPL’s merger with Northwest Florida’s Gulf Power, which formally took effect Jan. 1.
“Ex-Sunland leader alleges privacy violation” via News Service of Florida — A former superintendent of the Sunland state facility for people with developmental disabilities has filed a lawsuit against the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, alleging that her personal medical information was improperly disclosed. Geraldine Williams filed the lawsuit last week in Leon County circuit court and is seeking more than $100,000 in damages. The lawsuit alleges that Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer publicly questioned Williams in 2018 and 2019 about a medical condition and treatment, including during conference calls with other people. The lawsuit does not explain the medical condition or the reasons for the alleged disclosure. But it contends that Williams’ privacy rights were violated and that the disclosures violated a federal law known as HIPAA.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Rebekah Jones’ Twitter account suspended, citing ‘platform manipulation,’ ‘spam’” via Dana Cassidy and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Jones, who formerly maintained Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard but was fired last year as she raised concerns about transparency, was suspended Monday from Twitter for “platform manipulation and spam.” The suspension comes after Jones repeatedly shared a recent Miami Herald article about law enforcement officers raiding her home, her observations during her time at the Florida Department of Health and more. Twitter notified Jones that it received an appeal from her regarding the state of her account, according to a screenshot that Jones sent to the Herald. Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, said on her personal Twitter account the action by Twitter was “long overdue.”
“Judge set to hear arguments in cruise ship fight” via The News Service of Florida — A federal judge will hear arguments Thursday in Florida’s bid to block federal restrictions on cruise ships during the COVID-19 pandemic, while U.S. Department of Justice attorneys point to a return to cruising by midsummer. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday will hold a hearing in Tampa on Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction against restrictions imposed by the CDC. The hearing will come after the two sides reached an impasse in mediation aimed at settling the dispute. The hearing also will come after the industry giant Royal Caribbean announced Friday that it plans to begin sailing from Florida ports in July and August. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys filed a brief Monday that said, in part, recent developments “further undermine” the state’s arguments that an injunction is needed.
—“Carnival Cruise Line will require COVID-19 vaccine for first cruises in US waters in July” via Morgan Hines of USA Today
“COVID-19 wards are emptying out in South Florida. Doctors say it’s proof vaccines work” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — At the height of Florida’s summer COVID-19 surge, there were more than 2,000 people hospitalized with the novel illness in the epicenter of Miami-Dade County. Now, with 1.2 million people in the county fully vaccinated, that number has dropped to below 300 for the first time since mid-October. The plummet comes as hospital COVID-19 units are emptying across the state, where fewer than 1,800 people are being treated for the disease statewide, compared to the late July height of about 9,500.
— CORONA NATION —
“Vaccination rates fall off, imperiling Joe Biden’s July Fourth goal” via The Washington Post — Plummeting vaccination rates have turned what officials hoped would be the “last mile” of the coronavirus immunization campaign into a marathon, threatening Biden’s goal of getting shots to at least 70% of adults by July 4. The United States is averaging fewer than 1 million shots per day, a decline of more than two-thirds from the peak of 3.4 million in April, according to The Washington Post’s seven-day analysis, even though all adults and children over age 12 are now eligible.
“Biden’s vaccine push fails to gain traction with African Americans” via Adam Cancryn of POLITICO — The Biden administration knew the key to a successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign would be reaching the most vulnerable populations. But more than five months in, even a blueprint that’s worked with other ethnic and racial groups isn’t doing enough to win over Black Americans. Less than a quarter of Black Americans had received their first COVID-19 shot as of June 3, amid a weekslong stagnation that has defied the government’s ramped-up effort to accelerate vaccinations and reach the nation’s most vulnerable communities. The slowdown has put Black Americans behind the pace set over the past month by other racial and ethnic groups tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The South may see a COVID-19 surge this summer as vaccination rates lag” via Jesus Jiménez of The New York Times — In 15 states — including Arkansas, the Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana — about half of adults or fewer have received a dose. In two states, Alabama and Mississippi, it would take about a year to get one dose to 70% of the population at the current pace of distribution. If there is a summer surge across the South, experts believe it won’t be as grave as last summer’s because at least some people are vaccinated and treatments have improved. But memories of last summer, when cases rose quickly after some Southern states rushed to reopen, are still fresh. Younger people, who are less likely to be vaccinated, will be the most vulnerable during any surge this summer.
“Some U.S. hospitals mark first time being COVID-19-free. Others still see surge of patients” via Christina Maxouris of CNN — More than 22,400 Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19 nationwide, according to data from the Department of Health & Human Services. That’s more than an 83% decrease from the country’s peak in early January when more than 136,000 Americans were hospitalized with the virus. But with uneven vaccination rates across the US, some hospitals are still struggling amid recent upticks in COVID-19 patients, almost all of whom are unvaccinated, and worry about another surge fueled by summer gatherings. Parts of the country have reported their COVID-19 patients have skewed younger, to crowds that aren’t vaccinated.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Norwegian Cruise Line plans Florida sailings, stands by vaccine requirement” via The Associated Press — Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced plans to set sail from two Florida ports requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 despite state legislation banning businesses from asking for proof. Norwegian announced sailings from New York, Los Angeles, Port Canaveral and Miami. The cruise lines’ plans appear to be at odds with the new state law. The sailings are contingent on obtaining a certificate from the CDC, and it remains unclear how the plans can be reconciled with Florida law. Norwegian said in a statement that it is in contact with DeSantis‘ office on the requirements.
— MORE CORONA —
“Scientists begin to unravel the mysteries of the coronavirus and brains” via Ben Guarino and Frances Stead Sellers of The Washington Post — Many COVID-19 patients reported visual and auditory disturbances, vertigo and tingling sensations, among other perplexing symptoms. Some remain convinced after even a mild bout of the coronavirus of persistent “brain fog.” Viruses that invade the brain are tough to eradicate because a barrier protects the brain from the rest of the body. Once viruses enter the brain, the organ can become a refuge for stowaways. Autopsies of the sickest COVID-19 patients have revealed clotting in the brain and other signs of acute damage. They offered little evidence the virus attacks the organ directly. Beyond that, many other neurological details of COVID-19 remain unknown.
“New York City plans a Central Park mega-concert to celebrate reopening” via Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Ben Sisario of The Seattle Times — Brunch crowds are back. Rush-hour traffic is back. Tourists in horse-drawn carriages are back. But the best proof that New York City has returned to its full glory may be a mega-concert in the green expanse of Central Park. Seeking a grand symbol of New York’s revitalization after a brutal pandemic year, Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning a large-scale performance by multiple acts and has called on Clive Davis, the 89-year-old producer and music industry eminence, to pull it together. The show, tentatively set for Aug. 21, is still coming together, with no artists confirmed, though Davis said he is aiming for eight “iconic” stars to perform a three-hour show for 60,000 attendees and a worldwide television audience.
What Gus Corbella is reading — “Can Americans travel to Spain? Yes, if you’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine” via The Associated Press — Spain jump-started its summer tourism season on Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well as European visitors who can prove they are not infected with the coronavirus. It also reopened its ports to cruise ship stops. Vaccinated Americans may travel from the U.S. to Spain if they present a QR code from the Spain Travel Health portal and a vaccination certificate proving they were vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival. U.S. children under age 6 don’t need any special requirements to enter the country with their vaccinated parents. However, children aged 6 and up will need their own vaccination certificate or negative results from a COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours before arriving in Spain. Alternately, a medical certificate showing recovery from COVID-19 would also be accepted.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden embraces symbolism, but substance on some issues proves more difficult” via Tyler Pager and Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — President Biden launched his 2020 campaign with a video response to the deadly White supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Last week, Biden visited Tulsa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the racial violence that left 35 blocks of the city’s “Black Wall Street” burned to the ground and as many as 300 Black Americans dead. Biden’s early months in office also have revealed the difficulties in matching symbolism with substance. Biden has few tangible accomplishments to point to aside from a handful of executive orders, as well as legislation combating Asian American hate crimes.
“Biden’s agenda takes on steep GOP resistance in Senate” via Lindsay Wise of The Wall Street Journal — Many of President Biden’s priorities are in danger of stalling as the Senate returns on Monday, with measures on voting, infrastructure, and other issues facing firm Republican resistance and opposition from a handful of centrist Democrats. The difficulties Democrats face moving ahead in the evenly divided Senate became clearer Sunday when a pivotal centrist, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said he wouldn’t support the key voting-rules bill that Republicans have already opposed. The Senate’s June work period “will be extremely challenging” and “will test our resolve as a Congress and a conference,” warned Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Biden’s foreign policy: Reverse the Donald Trump agenda but hit one similar note” via Anita Kumar of POLITICO — Biden now faces enormous scrutiny from world leaders eager to see how he will approach international issues as president in part because of the lack of emphasis on it during his first four-and-a-half months in office. In office, he has struck some similar notes as his predecessor, Trump, including support for a firm withdrawal from Afghanistan. Still, during his upcoming trip, he will try to portray his vision as the opposite of Trump’s America First foreign policy that dramatically disrupted long-standing alliances and actively undermined the U.S.’s leadership role. Biden will have to balance the desire to emphasize domestic priorities when America’s global preeminence seems threatened like never before.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly plan to kick off tour of arena shows at BB&T Center in Sunrise” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — One of then-President Trump’s last big, mass rallies before the coronavirus pandemic was at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, in November 2019. The former President is teaming up with O’Reilly for a series of four conversations in December. The first date, a public relations firm announced Monday, is Dec. 11 at the Sunrise arena. Like all big arena shows, the tickets go on sale six months in advance. The description of the Trump-O’Reilly conversations, which organizers are calling “The History Tour,” says Trump “will provide a never-before-heard inside view of his administration, which will be historical in and of itself.”
“How the national push by Trump allies to audit 2020 ballots started quietly in Pennsylvania” via Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — Biden’s presidential victory in Pennsylvania had been certified for weeks when officials in some Republican-leaning counties began receiving strange phone calls from GOP state senators in late December. The lawmakers, who had been publicly questioning Biden’s win, had a request: Would the counties agree to a voluntary audit of their ballots? The push to conduct unofficial election audits in multiple counties, described in interviews and emails obtained by The Washington Post, served as a last-ditch effort by allies of former President Trump to undercut Biden’s win after failing in the courts and the state legislature. The previously unreported lobbying foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities across the country.
“Poll: 51% of Americans support Donald Trump’s 2-year Facebook ban” via Maya Ward of POLITICO — While the majority of Americans have heard about former President Trump’s Facebook suspension, just over half support the platform’s two-year ban. 71% of voters have heard “a lot” or “some” about Trump’s suspension from the social media platform, while 51% of Americans strongly or somewhat support Facebook’s move. The responses were largely divided along partisan lines. While just 15% of Republican voters were in favor of the suspension, support for Trump’s temporary ban was high among Democrats at 86%. Independent voters were a mixed bag, with 46% supporting the suspension, and 40% opposing it.
— CRISIS —
“No. 2 Capitol Police official resigns amid turmoil at department” via Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Chad Thomas, the No. 2 Capitol Police official overseeing most of its uniformed officers, resigned from his position Monday as the department attempts to chart a path forward after the Jan. 6 insurrection. His departure comes as watchdogs urge the department to shift its posture from that of a police force to more of an intelligence-gathering and protective agency for members of Congress and as rank-and-file officers express frustration with the current leadership. Rank-and-file officers have expressed their dissatisfaction with top Capitol Police leadership, including Thomas and acting chief Yogananda Pittman. In a February union ballot, 96% of voting officers gave Thomas a vote of no confidence and 92% rebuked Pittman.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Marco Rubio may still want to be President one day. He’s content to wait out Trump.” via Allan Smith of NBC News — Backers and critics agree that the Trump era was transformative for Rubio, who once thought he wouldn’t last long in the Senate. “If you look at the last four-plus years, it’s been radically different from what he’s accomplished,” a senior adviser said, adding that Rubio’s change of heart about the Senate as an institution is “directly tied to his success.” He hasn’t stopped thinking about the White House for himself — or of himself as the Republican with the transformative vision for a party that has centered some of the cultural, economic and foreign policy issues he seeks to champion.
“How two new Republicans want to reshape the GOP’s immigration agenda” via Olivia Beavers of POLITICO — Two members of the Republican House freshman class are swimming against the Trumpian tide to try to steer their party toward a more welcoming immigration strategy. Reps. María Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez are somewhat lonely voices in the GOP, in part because the migration influx soon after Biden took office gave Republicans an opening to paint Democrats as soft on the border. But the Miami Republicans are promoting separate frameworks to overhaul the nation’s flawed immigration system that could help their party build on the surprising inroads Trump made with Latino voters last fall.
“Manchin’s opposition clouds future of Dems’ elections bill” via The Associated Press — A key Democratic senator says he will not vote for the largest overhaul of U.S. election law in at least a generation, leaving no plausible path forward for legislation that his party and the White House have portrayed as crucial for protecting access to the ballot. “Voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,″ Sen. Manchin wrote in a newspaper. He wrote that failure to bring together both parties on voting legislation would “risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.” The bill would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system.
“Supreme Court rules against immigrants with temporary status” via Mark Sherman of The Associated Press — A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that thousands of people living in the U.S. for humanitarian reasons are ineligible to apply to become permanent residents. Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that federal immigration law prohibits people who entered the country illegally and now have Temporary Protected Status from seeking “green cards” to remain in the country permanently. The designation applies to people who come from countries ravaged by war or disaster. It protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally. There are 400,000 people from 12 countries with TPS status.
“Supreme Court: Many Haitians, Central Americans with TPS won’t be able to get green cards” via Jacqueline Charles and Monique O. Madan of the Miami Herald — Thousands of immigrants from Haiti, Central America and elsewhere with temporary immigration status in the United States will not be able to become green card holders, or permanent U.S. residents, if they entered the country illegally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. Immigration advocates say the impact of the Court’s decision varies from community to community and puts pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform so that immigrants can stop living in legal limbo. The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would provide a path to legal residency and citizenship for immigrants with TPS. But the legislation, known as HR6, faces a tough road to approval.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Police arrest 3 teens linked to gang feud, mass shooting outside a Kendall hookah bar” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Police detectives have arrested three teens who are believed to be part of the South Miami-Dade gang feud that led to a mass shooting at a Kendall graduation party. The three teens are not charged with the drive-by shooting outside a hookah bar early Sunday that killed a state corrections officer. Instead, they are being charged with a shooting that happened minutes later. They “willfully and purposefully pursued” a Nissan Altima that belonged to people who had been at the graduation party and opened fire. The driver of the Altima suffered leg wounds and is in stable condition at Jackson South Memorial. Miami-Dade police found the teens at their home and they confessed “to shooting indiscriminately at the Nissan Altima while unprovoked.”
“Clearwater explores adopting ranked-choice voting system” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — When City Council member Mark Bunker ran for office last year on a platform of standing up to the Church of Scientology, he said he didn’t expect support, or donations, from the business community and unions. With a modest campaign budget, he beat four opponents with 27% of ballots cast, all that he needed in Clearwater’s winner-take-all plurality system. As the City ponders a change to its election system, Bunker said the existing structure allows candidates like himself to have a voice. Earlier this year, Council member Hoyt Hamilton proposed the City move to a majority-win structure.
“Raymond Adderly grew up fast after his dad’s murder. Now, at 17, he’s running for Broward School Board” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Adderly will likely be the youngest candidate competing for a Broward County School Board seat this cycle. But he says he has been on a path toward public office since a tragedy over a decade ago. “Yes, I am a student. Yes, I am 17,” Adderly told Florida Politics during a conversation about his campaign. “But what really happened to me that triggered this passion for activism, this passion for helping others, is the fact that when I was 7 years old, I watched a home invasion turn into a murder.” That murder claimed the life of Adderly’s father, Raymond Adderly Jr. The elder Adderly was a friend of the rapper Rick Ross and was an aspiring rapper himself.
“Esmond Scott lands in Miami Shores” via Mark Sell of the Biscayne Times — Scott replaces Tom Benton who retired in May after 22 years as a manager and nearly half a century of service to the village, from teenage golf course worker to public works director to manager. Benton announced his retirement before the newly-elected council’s first meeting on May 4. At that meeting, the council signaled disapproval of Police Chief Kevin Lystad’s outside work and said they would forward the query to the Ethics Commission. Lystad resigned shortly thereafter. As the city searches for a permanent manager, Scott faces three major priorities: shepherding through the village’s 2021-22 budget, now at $20 million; hiring a new police chief, and determining the best use for the $4 million the village is receiving through the American Rescue Plan.
“Pam Childers: Commissioner overheard making ‘offensive’ sexist comments about county clerk” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County Clerk and Comptroller Childers sent an email Sunday night accusing Commissioner Lumon May of making a sexist comment about her in a closed-door exchange with Commissioners Steven Barry and Jeff Bergosh. “‘I’m f**king pissed, that bitch shouldn’t have said that,’” the email quotes May as saying following Thursday night’s Escambia County Commission meeting. Bergosh, the only Commissioner to respond to the News Journal on Monday, denies being involved in any conversation disparaging Childers. The remarks allegedly came following a meeting where Commissioners held off on moving forward with a proposal from Barry to back-pay Commissioners and senior-level staff for a retirement program they say they weren’t told about.
“Jaguars donate JV and varsity uniforms to Confederate schools being renamed — here’s what we know” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville Jaguars will cover about $224,143 worth of Duval Schools’ incoming school renaming expenses by donating team uniforms to the six schools undergoing changes. The schools benefiting from the donation are J.E.B. Stuart Middle which is becoming Westside Middle, Jefferson Davis Middle which is becoming Charger Academy, Kirby Smith Middle, becoming Springfield Middle, and Robert E. Lee High, which is becoming Riverside High. “The Jaguars are committed to supporting after-school athletics and are honored to provide new uniforms for students to wear proudly this fall and beyond,” a spokesperson said in a statement emailed to the Times-Union. The donation will not include away band, JROTC, or team away uniforms.
— TOP OPINION —
“Three paths to containing Trump” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — Last fall and winter, the President of the United States attempted, with ineffectual strategy but violent consequences, to pressure Republicans to overturn an election that he quite clearly lost. Now he reportedly believes that swing-state “audits” will somehow reinstall him in the White House by the end of summer. Non-Trumpist Republicans should be speaking out constantly, in the model of Liz Cheney, against the threat Trump poses to democracy. Whereas if responsible Republican officeholders ignore him, they can hope to outlast him, and even if he retakes the nomination, they will still be there.
— OPINIONS —
“Marsy’s Law leads to ridiculous, dangerous secret-keeping in Florida” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — On its face, “Marsy’s Law” sounded splendid: Empower victims and protect their privacy. Except it was never really that simple. And now we’re seeing proof all over Florida. In Tallahassee, two cops shot and killed two different men, and the city has refused to reveal the officers’ identities, saying the officers were the victims. So who’s responsible for all this? Many of you. Sorry to cast blame so widely. But it’s true. About 62% of Floridians voted for this feel-good-sounding amendment. Some of you might be thinking: Well, how were we supposed to know this other stuff might happen? Because lots of smart people warned you. Legal groups. Watchdog groups. Republican groups. Democratic groups. Pretty much every major newspaper in the state.
“Ashley Moody’s objections to DNA testing don’t serve justice” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — One would hope that every last doubt would be resolved before someone is killed in the guise of justice, especially when a DNA test is feasible. But no, Florida has its rules, and Moody is the enforcer. The better-known inmate is Tommy Ziegler, 75, whose dubious conviction has been publicized nationally. He owned a Winter Garden furniture store where his wife, her parents and another person were found slain on Christmas Eve 1975. Police in his case pursued no contrary leads, rejecting Ziegler’s claim of an attack by an intruder. Moody’s office is asking a judge to block the testing in both cases. The state has argued that advanced DNA testing wouldn’t exonerate the men even if the results were what the prisoners’ lawyers expect. But that shouldn’t matter.
“A wing of Florida’s anti-abortion crowd torpedoes a program to decrease abortions” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Contraception cuts down on abortions. So the idea of putting $2 million in state funds toward increasing access to long-acting contraception for low-income girls and women seemed like the kind of program that everybody could favor, whatever their views on abortion. Senate President Wilton Simpson, an anti-abortion Republican, pushed the idea during the recent Legislative Session. “I am a pro-life Senator. This actually prevents a lot of abortions from happening,” he said. None of this apparently matters to a wing of the anti-abortion crowd. The Catholic Conference urged DeSantis to veto the $2 million, and the governor obliged last week. Make no mistake, the veto of this sensible idea will add to the number of abortions needed in Florida.
“Legislators aren’t doing enough to protect Florida from climate change” via Christian Wagley of the Pensacola News Journal — Florida is dealing with tremendous impacts from climate change, as hotter temperatures stress agricultural crops and natural systems, drive more frequent large hurricanes and intense rainstorms and flood our coastline. In the recently-completed session of the Florida Legislature, the majority Republican delegation chose only to treat the symptoms of climate change rather than to address the cause, continuing to hinder the expansion of renewable energy while favoring corporations over citizens. A bill that would have allowed school districts and local governments to access innovative financing to install solar panels on their buildings went nowhere. Not only did the Legislature not act to treat the cause of climate change, they did the opposite: They worked to protect the oil and natural gas industries that are causing the problem.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida is taking a stand against the Chinese Communist Party. The Governor signed a bill to keep communist cash out of Florida research.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Gov. Ron DeSantis also signed a bill creating a new law prohibiting the theft of trade secrets from Florida companies and institutions. That’s the sort of thing the feds usually prosecute, but the House Speaker says Florida Man deserves a shot at them.
— Road trip! Congressman and candidate for Governor Charlie Crist is spending the next four days in a statewide voting-rights tour.
— Later this week, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff visits Tallahassee to encourage more people to get vaccinated. Is it wrong to call him Mr. Kamala Harris?
— More than 80 years after it was founded, the League of Women of Florida finally has a Black president. Scoon is a civil rights lawyer and former JAG officer who ended up in Panama City — the Redneck Riviera — courtesy of the U.S. Air Force. Scoon is our guest on today’s Sunrise Interview.
— And finally, the stories of a Florida Man and a Florida Woman who are both in deep kimchi.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“‘America’s North Korea.’ TV host Jimmy Kimmel gets ripped for his joke about Florida” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Kimmel ripped the Sunshine State during his monologue that mentioned DeSantis’ recently announced “2021 Python Challenge,” in which wranglers win prizes for capturing invasive snakes in the Everglades. “In America’s North Korea, the Sunshine State, from time to time, we enjoy taking a look at what’s going on, and tonight we are doing it again in a DeSantis edition of ‘This Week in Florida,’ ” Kimmel ribbed while tropical music plays and a fake postcard flashes across the screen. People on Twitter called out Kimmel’s questionable satire and jumped to Florida’s defense. “Imagine if I care about what this guy thinks about my state,” wrote one.
“AAA predicts a busy summer travel season to Florida and beyond” via Danielle Prieur of WMFE — Mark Jenkins of AAA says flights across the U.S. were up by 14% over the six-day holiday weekend compared with Memorial Day 2020. He says Americans are finding cheaper flights, including first-class tickets for that European vacation they’ve been planning. “What that means is that people can take that dream vacation at a more affordable rate. If they would normally really dream of sitting first class on a flight overseas this could be that opportunity for them to do that.” Jenkins says with such a strong demand for air travel, he expects to see airlines releasing more flights in the coming year. And he says that could drive down the price of flights to popular tourist destinations like Orlando even more. Demand for cruises out of Florida is also rising. Many ships are already fully booked in 2022.
“Florida gas prices forecast to rise by as much as 10 cents this week” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — Prices at the pump could bounce up 5 to 10 cents this week at Florida gasoline stations, according to a forecast by AAA — the Auto Club. AAA reported that gas prices are believed to be facing upward pressure this week as optimism about rising fuel demand sent crude oil prices to multiyear highs. “Rising crude oil and gasoline futures could drag retail gasoline prices higher this week,” said Jenkins. AAA also expressed a concern that fuel supplies “will not be able to keep pace.” Florida’s average price is at $2.85 — 2 cents less than it was the previous week.
“Amazon is about to share your internet connection with neighbors.” via Geoffrey A. Fowler of The Washington Post — Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras have the ability to make a new kind of wireless network called Sidewalk that shares a slice of your home internet connection with your neighbors’ devices. And on Tuesday, Amazon is switching Sidewalk on for everyone. Sidewalk raises more red flags than a marching band parade: Is it secure enough to be activated in so many homes? And why didn’t Amazon ask us to opt-in before activating a capability lying dormant in our devices? I recommend you opt-out of Sidewalk, too, until we get much better answers to these questions.
“Tampa Bay’s first Shake Shack opens to enthusiastic fans” via Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — On Monday, the Tampa Bay area’s first Shake Shack opened at Midtown Tampa. Though Monday’s opening marked the restaurant chain’s Tampa Bay debut, 15 locations of the popular burger and shake chain spread around Florida (until now, the closest was in Sarasota, at the Mall at University Town Center). It was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings at Midtown Tampa, the massive mixed-use development and entertainment complex on the southeast corner of N Dale Mabry Highway and Interstate 275. By the time Shake Shack’s doors opened around 11 a.m. Monday, the line had stretched to more than 50 people, with a queue wrapping around the building and down W Cypress Street.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to (yes, this is a repeat from last year, but it’s still true) two very intelligent, decent men, Chris Hand (who pens the occasional op-ed for #FlaPol) and Brad Miller, the executive director of PSTA. Also celebrating today is Rep. Kevin Chambliss.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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