The Perfect Enemy | Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.3.22
August 11, 2022

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.3.22

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.3.22  Florida Politics

Read Time:43 Minute

Good Wednesday morning.

⚖️😭⚖️ — It is said in the world of law that if you have the facts on your side, you should pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither, pound the table. Barbara Sharief recently filed a defamation lawsuit against Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book … and it’s a whole lot of table banging.

🚪🚪🚪— The Capitolist has been taking heat and publisher Brian Burgess has responded in about the worst way possible, shredding any chance he can right the ship. He has one last choice to make: allow the dumpster fire to continue or shut it down.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SamJMintz: (Donald) Trump endorsing “Eric” when there are two Erics in the race, and them both claiming the endorsement, is 1000% a Veep plot line

@SenRickScott: I just visited Taiwan to meet with President @iingwen & @SpeakerPelosi is absolutely right to do the same. The threats just made by @AmbQinGang are unacceptable. Any escalation will be the fault of Communist China alone, but the U.S. will not ignore aggression.

@SContorno: Fundraising email from FL Gov. (Ron) DeSantis, who has shattered records, has more than $120m on hand & recently received a $10m donation: “I wish I had better news. We just crossed the line for less than 100 days until the election and our fundraising numbers were not what we hoped.”

Tweet, tweet:

@GenSanchezz: I’m so glad my former boss, Brian Burgess, is comfortable enough calling not only his own employees “clown reporters,” but the hundreds of other hard workers in Florida.

@Fineout: OK, it’s a sports boom …. but that’s a boom…

— DAYS UNTIL —

The 10-day Florida Python Challenge kicks off — 2; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 6; Early voting begins for Primaries — 10; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon2022, begins — 14; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 15; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 18; 2022 Florida Primary — 20; launch window opens for NASA to launch the Artemis I — 25; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 28; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 28; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 30; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 36; 2022 Emmys — 40; JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 43; final season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 43; vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 64; Deadline to register for General Election — 68; 22-23 NHL season begins — 69; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 83; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 83; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 84; Early voting begins for General Election — 87; 2022 General Election — 97; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 100; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 100; FITCon 2022 begins — 106; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 106; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 110; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 110; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 111; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 119; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 119; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 135; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 198; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 216; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 233; 2023 Session Sine Die — 275; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 275; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 303; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 352; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 457; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 471; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 604; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 723; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 723; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 828; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 1,003.

— TOP STORY —

Demotech downgrades three Florida insurers” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — One week after Demotech President Joseph Petrelli declared his ratings agency wouldn’t change ratings for 17 Florida insurers it had warned of an imminent downgrade, it downgraded one company and withdrew its rating for two others. Demotech changed the rating for United Property & Casualty Insurance Co. from “A,” meaning “exceptional,” to an “M” rating, meaning “moderate.” Demotech also withdrew their “A” ratings for Weston Property & Casualty Insurance Co. and FedNat Insurance Co. and didn’t replace them with a new rating.

The update, which happened Monday, is the latest twist in Florida’s beleaguered property insurance market, which has seen four companies put into receivership. Dozens more refuse to write new business, and many others have canceled existing customers.

Insurer downgrades have Jimmy Patronis outraged.

Florida lawmakers attempted to shore up the system in May when they passed a bill in Special Session setting up a $2 billion taxpayer-funded reinsurance pot, to be used by domestic insurers struggling to place reinsurance in the private market.

The new law also aims to cut down on litigation expenses and frivolous roof claims, but Petrelli has been concerned the new law wasn’t enough to prevent more companies from sliding into financial troubles. On July 19, Demotech informed at least 17 companies they would be downgraded the following week.

That sparked a blistering response from Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who blasted the move, saying Petrelli wasn’t taking into account the new law or updated information provided by the insurers.

— 2022 —

Ron DeSantis hits back at invite to come on “The View” by emailing show a list of times they’ve bashed him” via Zachary Leeman of Mediaite — DeSantis being invited on “The View” may be a tad surprising considering how much criticism the Republican has received from the hosts, and his office shared in the shock. In a response email posted by Griffin to the show, the Press Secretary provided a convenient rundown of some of the negative things said about DeSantis. “Which of the below statements from the hosts of The View do you recommend our team consider when deciding if the interview will be a genuine pursuit of the truth? Or worth the time?” Deputy Press Secretary Bryan Griffin wrote before highlighting statements about DeSantis from the show.

Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried put more cash into TV adsCrist’s gubernatorial campaign has pumped another $37,320 into TV ads. According to AdImpact, the new reservation covers broadcast ads that will air Friday through Monday in the Jacksonville, Tampa and West Palm Beach media markets. Fried’s political committee, Florida Consumers First, also made a new media buy Tuesday, spending $181,275 for broadcast ads that will run today through Monday. The buy directs $74,025 to the Miami media market and $107,250 to the Orlando media market.

Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist hit the airwaves with more ad buys.

Democratic Gubernatorial Primary enters bitter phase Crist recently hammered Fried with a mailer describing her as a “Republican lobbyist for big tobacco and insurance companies” and noting her previous friendship with Rep. Matt Gaetz. Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reported that the mailer is the latest attack in an increasingly negative Primary battle. Fried has been attacking Crist for months over his record on abortion rights and same-sex marriage. On the mailer, Crist spokesperson Sam Ramirez said, “We’re responding in kind to make sure voters know Charlie is 100% pro-choice and that Fried has a very troubling record of supporting Republicans for higher office, along with a personal relationship with Matt Gaetz that should give everyone pause.”

It’s getting nasty out there.

Analysis: How 3 Florida Democratic Attorney General candidates aim to unseat Ashley Moody” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida’s Attorney General can decide whether to defend or challenge abortion restrictions. The office also issues formal legal opinions at the request of public officials on questions relating to state law, such as the Parental Rights in Education bill (‘Don’t Say Gay’) and the Stop WOKE Act, approved this year by the Florida Legislature. Democratic Attorney General candidates Aramis Ayala, Daniel Uhlfelder and Jim Lewis say they were offended personally and professionally by Moody’s silence while those bills and a 15-week abortion ban were debated and by her decision to defend them when opponents mounted legal challenges. They argue instead of defending the constitution, Moody serves as DeSantis’ personal attorney in defending unconstitutional initiatives that strip Floridians of privacy and voting rights.

Assignment editors — Uhlfelder had traveled the state dressed as the Grim Reaper to protest DeSantis’ COVID-19 policies. Now, as a candidate for Florida Attorney General, the outfit is coming out of retirement. The “Killed at the Pump Reaper Tour” kicks off, 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, Shell, 3433 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee. RSVP to Josh Rosenbaum at (401) 649-0485 or [email protected]

Daniel Uhlfelder dusts off the ‘Grim Reaper’ costume.

— 2022: CONG —

PAC drops $113K on CD 4 ads — A political committee known as American Dream Federal Action has made a $112,500 ad buy in the race for Florida’s 4th Congressional District. The ads will run today through Tuesday on broadcast networks in the Jacksonville media market. The political committee has not yet filed a 48-hour notice with the Federal Election Commission indicating who the ads support, though the leading candidate in the race is state Sen. Aaron Bean.

PAC places $294K ad buy backing Maxwell Frost — Political committee Protect Our Future has spent $293,824 on broadcast ads in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Protect Our Future, founded earlier this year, seeks to help elect Democratic candidates across the country who are committed to addressing the prevention of future pandemics. In May, it endorsed Frost in the CD 10 contest. Its ad buy began Tuesday and runs through Monday on broadcast networks in the Orlando media market.

Maxwell Frost gets a six-figure backup.

Jeff Boone seeking ‘supply-side Democrat’ path in crowded CD 10 Primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With two former members of Congress, a popular state Senator, a relentless Gen-Z activist, and five other Democratic Primary Election opponents, Democrat Boone is taking the supply-side economics path in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Boone, of Orlando, is a financial executive, a former Wall Street banker, and a lifetime community volunteer and youth sports coach. Before coming to Orlando in 2000, he cut his teeth in New York City politics, serving as a mayoral appointee on the Manhattan Community Planning Board.

Randolph Bracy proposes taxing out-of-state housing investors” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With too many Floridians squeezed out of housing by soaring rents and a short supply of affordable housing stock, state Sen. Bracy is proposing a tax on out-of-state housing investors. Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat finishing his tenure in the state Senate and running for Congress, isn’t pitching his idea for either of those branches. Rather, he laid it on the doorstep of the Orange County Commission, a body struggling to respond to one of the state’s worst affordable housing crises.

Pinellas County GOP releases straw poll on upcoming Primaries” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Former prosecutor Kevin Hayslett is topping Anna Paulina Luna for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, according to a Pinellas County GOP straw poll conducted Sunday at a candidate showcase picnic. The local party would not release specific numbers from the survey but did share with Florida Politics the names of the candidates who polled highest in each race. The straw poll surveyed respondents on Republican Primary races in Pinellas County. In CD 13, Hayslett took the lead among a crowded Republican field, including 2020 GOP nominee Luna, Republican strategist Amanda Makki, Moneer Kheireddine and businesswoman Christine Quinn.

Kevin Hayslett ekes out the lead in a Pinellas GOP straw poll. Image via Facebook.

Former state elections secretary Laurel Lee leads in Tampa Bay-Central FL congressional race” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Former Florida Secretary of State Lee buffs up her pro-law enforcement credentials in a new ad in her campaign for a congressional seat in the Tampa Bay and Central Florida region, as a poll placed her as a heavy favorite for the GOP nomination. In the St. Pete Polls survey, 44% of likely voters in the Primary supported Lee against state Senate Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel at 16% and state Rep. Jackie Toledo at 11%. A separate Florida Influencer Poll, affiliated with the Florida Politics news site, showed Lee, an attorney and former judge, favored by 61% of what Florida Politics described as “a sample of political experts and insiders” for Congressional District 15.

— MORE 2022 —

Corey Simon releases first ad in SD 3 — Republican Simon, a former All-American defensive tackle and graduate of Florida State University, is releasing his first TV spot in his campaign for Senate District 3. The ad, titled “Before,” introduces viewers to who Simon was “before he won a national championship or wore a Super Bowl ring.” It highlights his upbringing, with Simon saying, “I had every chance to make bad choices, and I might have made them if it weren’t for good people with nothing to gain who bet on me anyway.” The ad begins airing today across the Tallahassee-based district.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

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—“State Rep. Tracie Davis, City Council vet Reggie Gaffney meet in Jacksonville’s Senate District 5 Primary” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union

—“Choose accomplishment over intolerance in Florida Senate District 34” via the Miami Herald editorial board

Florida Leadership Council endorses Lauren Book for re-election — The Florida Leadership Council is endorsing Senate Democratic Leader Book in the race for Senate District 35. FLC is a group of influential Florida leaders. Its membership includes former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who serves as Chair, as well as Broward County Commissioner and former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, former Education Commissioner Betty Castor and former House Speaker Jon Mills, among others. “Over the course of her time in office, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book has shown an ability to lead her community, her Caucus Members, and the Florida Senate forward – navigating through fiercely partisan political waters in order to get things done for everyday Floridians, like passing bipartisan gun safety laws and expanding access to health care,” Butterworth said.

Top candidates in HD 8 each top $70K in money added this cycle” via Aimee Sachs of Florida Politics — With just three weeks to go before the Primary Election, the race to replace outgoing Rep. Ramon Alexander in House District 8 is heating up, with two of the top Democratic candidates surpassing the $70,000 mark since entering the race. Both candidates’ totals were buoyed by loans, however. Tallahassee lawyer Hubert Brown collected more than $36,000 from July 2 to July 22, including more than $19,000 in loans. He added more than $74,000 overall, counting those loans. Brown’s campaign gave more than $50,000 to Resonance Campaigns LLC for advertising and yard signs on July 8.

—“The Collective PAC backs Tiffany Hughes in HD 39” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Internal poll shows Pat Gerard with 6-point lead against Brian Scott” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Pinellas County Commissioner Gerard leads potential GOP opponent Scott by 6 points, according to a new internal poll commissioned by the incumbent’s affiliated political committee, Friends of Pat Gerard. The poll found Gerard taking 51% of the vote, and Scott taking 45%. Another 4% are undecided. As expected, the poll found that Gerard has staunch support from Democratic voters (92%) and leads by +14 (54-40) among third-party/nonpartisan voters, including +27 among third-party/nonpartisan women. The poll also found that Pinellas County voters are ready to support incumbents; 56% said they are positive “about the way things are going in Pinellas County these days.”

Transit union backs Danielle Cohen Higgins, Juan Carlos Bermudez for Miami-Dade Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The largest union representing public transit employees in Miami-Dade is backing incumbent County Commissioner Cohen Higgins and Doral Mayor Bermudez, who is running to serve on the dais alongside her. Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 291 supports Cohen Higgins and Bermudez, who join 15 other local, state and federal candidates from Miami-Dade seeking to win or hold elected office. The endorsements come just over a week after Miami-Dade announced cuts to its Metrorail service and follow a series of delays in implementing an overhaul to the county Metrobus system called the “Better Bus Network.”

Mike Rahn’s ex-wife endorses him after mailer asserts he’s a delinquent dad” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A committee backing Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia attacked her GOP Primary opponent over alimony and child support. But Rahn’s ex-wife said he always honored his commitments as a father — and even endorsed his candidacy. “Although our marriage did not work out, I respect Mike, and I appreciate the way he has fathered our children,” said ex-wife Sharon Jobe. “I would vote for Mike and encourage everyone in Manatee who can to do the same.” Servia, asked for comment, pointed to court filings which, in addition to confirming Rahn’s and Jobe’s incomes at the time, showed Rahn argued against a need to pay alimony. The order makes clear payments should stop when their two children reach adulthood.

To watch the spot, click on the image below:

St. Petersburg may vote in November on the Dalí, biz tax breaks, election cycles” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — City residents may have questions on the November ballot after all. On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council will consider whether to submit four questions for the November ballot to the Supervisor of Elections by the Aug. 16 deadline. They would ask the public for permission to expand the waterfront Dalí museum, revive a business property tax exemption that narrowly failed last year and reschedule municipal elections to even-numbered years in line with state and national elections.

— STATEWIDE —

Five more faith-based lawsuits filed to overturn Florida’s 15-week abortion ban” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Seven faith leaders from South Florida and Tampa are suing elected attorneys across the state, from Attorney General Moody to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle of Miami-Dade County, over Florida’s new ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Clergy from diverse religious practices, including Reform Judaism, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Unitarianism, and the United Church of Christ, filed five lawsuits Monday with the 11th Judicial Circuit. All are contending that the ban (HB 5) violates constitutionally established rights to free speech, religious exercise and the separation of church and state.

Florida COVID-19 weekly update: Hospital patients increase as new case trends stagnate” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — What is the COVID-19 situation like in Florida? In the past seven days, the state has added 10,104 cases and 64 deaths per day, on average, according to Miami Herald calculations of data published by the CDC. Over the past three weeks, on average, 27 fewer cases were logged each day in Florida, showing stagnation in new cases. As of Tuesday, August 2, more than 14,581,000 people are fully vaccinated in Florida. The state has logged at least 6,825,453 cases and 77,735 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

COVID-19 cases hold steady while hospitalizations tick up. Image via AP.

Florida officials call for more armed ‘Guardians’ in schools — Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri are urging Florida schools to allow employees to carry guns on campus, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. About two-thirds of the state’s county school districts have joined the “Guardian” program to allow armed staff. Diaz and Gualtieri, who chairs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, “the proof is in the pudding” in reference to the program’s effectiveness. “Show us where the guardians have done something wrong, where the guardian program hasn’t worked,” Gualtieri said Tuesday.

Inside Florida’s citrus groves, where growers are working to solve devastating disease and a climate-related shortage to save America’s oranges” via Ayelet Sheffey of Business Insider — Every two weeks, workers at Dan Richey’s Florida orange groves douse the trees in clay. The reason: The Florida orange crop yield has gone down — and prices have gone up — as the Asian citrus psyllid has invaded the peninsula, causing a disease without a cure that kills citrus plants once they’re infected, known as citrus greening. But as Richey said, bugs can’t see the red clay in this pilot program funded by Coca-Cola, which renders the trees invisible to the pests. “We got a food crisis that’s going to happen here,” said Richey, the president and CEO of Riverfront Packing Company in central Florida.

A three-prong strategy for a better education for all” via Patricia Levesque of Education Next — There’s a fierce determination among elected officials and education leaders to return our schools to normal. First, fix the existing system. It’s important to improve today’s public systems, which serve most students educated in traditional schools. Second, create alternatives to the current system to expand options for all families. Educational opportunity acknowledges every child’s uniqueness, rooted in the belief that all students are deserving of access to the option that best meets their needs. Third, reimagine the system. The future of education requires work today that can pave the way to new learning models.

— D.C. MATTERS —

How Joe Biden and his team decided to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist” via Kevin Liptak of CNN — Before he gave the order to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, Biden wanted to intimately understand where the al-Qaida leader was hiding. The U.S. drone strike that killed Zawahiri on his balcony in downtown Kabul was the product of months of highly secret planning by Biden and a tight circle of his senior advisers. Among the preparations was a small-scale model of Zawahiri’s safe house, constructed by intelligence officials and placed inside the White House Situation Room for Biden to examine as he debated his options. For Biden, the opportunity to take out the world’s most wanted terrorist was fraught with the risk of accidentally killing civilians in the Afghan capital.

For decades, Ayman al-Zawahiri, killed this week in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan, served as the leading ideologue behind the global terror network.

White House retrofits infrastructure bill to better help poor communities” via Glenn Thrush of The New York Times — The Biden administration is starting a new initiative this week to ensure that the poorest communities in the United States have access to billions of dollars in funding from the infrastructure bill to replace their crumbling wastewater, drinking water and stormwater systems. It represents a midcourse adjustment on the signature achievement of Biden’s administration, to speed up assistance to local governments that lack the staffing and know-how to apply for $55 billion in funding for water projects tucked into the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed in November.

Senators unveil bipartisan abortion access bill; measure unlikely to pass” via Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post — A bipartisan group of Senators has unveiled compromise legislation to guarantee federal access to abortion, an effort to codify abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it is unlikely to gain enough Republican support. The legislation is an attempt to create a middle ground on an issue that is largely pitting anti-abortion Republicans against pro-abortion rights Democrats. The compromise legislation unveiled Monday ensures federal abortion rights up to viability and allows post-viability abortion when the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

Marco Rubio urges FBI to investigate Cuba’s ties to U.S.-based anti-embargo group Bridges of Love” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — U.S. Sen. Rubio is urging the FBI to open an “immediate” investigation into a U.S. anti-embargo group whose members recently met Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel, claiming that they are acting as unregistered foreign agents of the Cuban government. In a letter, Rubio urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate the members and activities of Puentes de Amor, Bridges of Love, stressing the group has “well-known associations with the Cuban regime.”

Rubio’s brother gets high-ranking job at Florida DCF in latest government post” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — The same year Rubio took a seat in the U.S. Senate, his older brother Mario made his own run in 2011 for a place on Jacksonville City Council. The Rubio name only went so far at the ballot box. Mario Rubio’s campaign ended in defeat, his second loss after falling short in a 2008 bid for the state Legislature. But in the decade since his attempt for City Council, he’s charted his rise in government through a string of appointed posts at Jacksonville City Hall and state government. At an age when many have retired, Rubio’s latest job is at the state Department of Children and Families, where he has worked since March as Deputy Assistant Secretary.

— JAN. 6 —

Phones of top Pentagon officials were wiped of Jan. 6 messages” via Karoun Demirjian and Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — Court records published on the website of the watchdog group American Oversight indicate that the Pentagon “wiped” the government-issued phones of senior Defense Department and Army officials who were in charge of mobilizing the National Guard to respond to the Capitol attack, including then-acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. The erasing apparently was done in keeping with Defense Department and Army policy for departing employees, according to filings that state: “the text messages were not preserved.” The admission comes as a blow not just to American Oversight’s efforts to unearth critical communications regarding the attack, but also to the House’s Jan. 6 special committee, which had asked Pentagon leaders to preserve and share all documents related to the riot.

Democrats call for new Homeland Security watchdog, suggest cover-up over Jan. 6 texts” via Quinn Owen of ABC News — U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Bennie Thompson, who chair the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees, renewed calls for Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to step away from the watchdog’s investigation. Last month, Cuffari told Congress that the U.S. Secret Service had deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and 6 and that record reviews by DHS attorneys were causing monthslong delays. House Democrats said the Inspector General may have abandoned plans to collect the texts from the Secret Service more than a year ago and did not report the issues until recently. They requested interviews with Cuffari’s staff and internal documents from the office.

Bennie Thompson suggests there might be a cover-up in the U.S. Secret Service.

Judge dismisses Donald Trump’s ‘immunity’ claim in Jan. 6 lawsuits” via Dareh Gregorian and Daniel Barnes of Yahoo News — A federal judge on Tuesday denied Trump’s bid to dismiss three lawsuits brought by police officers injured in the Jan. 6 riot, rejecting his assertion that he is “absolutely immune” from the claims. The lawsuits, brought on behalf of four U.S. Capitol Police officers, seek to hold Trump liable for emotional and physical injuries they sustained when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and disrupted the electoral vote count. The judge noted that he had rejected similar arguments by Trump in other Jan. 6 lawsuits this year. “The court does so again,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta wrote in his brief ruling.

Congress passes bill, inspired by Jan. 6, recognizing officer PTSD, suicides” via Meagan Flynn of The Washington Post — Inspired by the mental health toll that the Capitol riot took on first responders, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that creates a pathway for families of officers who die by suicide to access death benefits. The unanimous passage of the Public Safety Officer Support Act means it now heads to Biden’s desk, following prolonged advocacy by the partners of multiple officers who were on duty at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 assault and died by suicide in the aftermath. The bill also would amend the federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program to make it easier for officers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder linked to their work to access disability benefits.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Trump faces questions about his net worth in interview he tried to avoid” via Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum of The New York Times — For decades, Trump has boasted with impunity about a subject close to his heart and ego: his net worth. But now, Trump will face questions under oath about that pattern of embellishment in an investigation that may shape the future of his family real estate business. The former President and his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, are expected to be questioned later this month by the New York State Attorney General’s office, which has been conducting a civil investigation into whether he and his company fraudulently inflated the value of his assets. His son, Donald Trump Jr., was interviewed last week, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Trump meets with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán” via Brad Dress of The Hill — Trump on Tuesday met with Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán, a far-right nationalist and a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Trump wrote on his social networking platform Truth Social that he and Orbán “discussed many interesting topics” and celebrated the Hungarian prime minister’s election victory in April. Orbán, seen as an autocratic leader by many, was snubbed last year by Biden, who declined to invite the European leader to a democracy summit he hosted. More recently, Orbán faced backlash for saying countries with a large share of migrants were “no longer nations” but a “conglomeration of peoples.”

Donald Trump meets with Viktor Orbán, another far-right authoritarian. Image via CNN.

Trump had the chance to kill al-Qaeda leader but didn’t because he didn’t recognize the name, report says” via Sophia Ankel of Business Insider — al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Biden announced Monday. His death, which many world leaders have praised, is the most significant blow to ai-Qaeda since its founder, Osama bin Laden, was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011. But plans for al-Zawahiri’s execution could have been conducted far earlier. Intelligence officials repeatedly briefed Trump about senior terrorist figures the CIA wanted to track down and kill, mentioning al-Zawahiri. Two people familiar with the briefings told NBC News that Trump chose not to pursue al-Zawahiri because he didn’t recognize his name and instead suggested targeting bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

‘All you see is a broken family.’ Parkland victims’ families tell jurors about how mass shooting ripped apart their lives” via Rafael Olmeda and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The deepest wounds of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School don’t show up on surveillance video, crime scene photos or autopsy pictures of the 17 who were slain. They are written on the faces of the family they left behind. Those family members continued to tell jurors their stories as the penalty phase trial of the Parkland shooter continued in a Broward County courtroom. The victims were remembered as “best friends” of their parents, as aspiring lawyers and athletes, as the generation that was going to change the world.

Charge dropped in slap case involving lobbyist, Miami Commissioner at Gables steakhouse” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The case of the slap heard around Miami ended on Tuesday when state prosecutors quietly dropped a lone charge of battery against a well-known Coral Gables lobbyist. Six months ago, Carlos J. Giménez, son of U.S. Congressman Carlos Giménez, sent tongues wagging after wandering up on Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla and slapping his head with an open palm as the Commissioner was seated at an outdoor table at Morton’s Steakhouse during the busy lunch hour. Besides becoming water cooler fodder, the incident created quite the scene in Coral Gables, with Gimenez and a Miami cop spilling to the ground, patrons leaving their seats and taking pictures, and dozens of Coral Gables cops rushing to the scene.

Carlos J. Giménez is off the hook.

Broward school district spends $100,000 on conference at Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — About 180 Broward school administrators traveled to Naples for a recent three-day retreat at the luxury Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, costing taxpayers an estimated $100,000. The school district is reimbursing principals and assistant principals $259 per night for two nights at the five-star Ritz-Carlton, the host hotel for the Broward Principals and Assistants Association 2022 Leadership Retreat, District spokesperson John Sullivan said. It’s a practice that has happened for seven or eight years, officials said.

Some voters say they got wrong ballots for Primary Elections. Updated forms are on the way.” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Debby Eisinger, who previously served as Cooper City Mayor, is currently a Fort Lauderdale resident and said she was one of the people who received an incorrect ballot. “It was mailed to my residence, but I knew it wasn’t the right precinct,” Eisinger said. “I knew who the candidates were where I live. I went on to my computer and pulled up my voter-registration information, and it opened the sample ballot to sure enough prove that what I received in the mail was not correct.”

Broward Sheriff: Fragmented 911 system would send MSD calls to wrong agency” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Conditions that contributed to 58 minutes of chaos at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School still exist today, a school safety panel heard Tuesday. Four and a half years after the tragedy that left 17 people dead at the Parkland school, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said the way things are now, Coral Springs police would be on the other end of the line if an MSD student called 911 to report an emergency. The fact that Coral Springs has its emergency 911 system that requires transferring calls to Broward County’s 911 system is believed to have been a key reason precious minutes were lost in getting help to the wounded at the scene of Florida’s worst school shooting.

Stephen Ross NFL cheating scandal a new low for failed owner who embarrasses Miami Dolphins” via Greg Cote of the Miami Herald — It would be a Herculean task; no, impossible. Better you should be asked to locate a particular grain of sand on Miami Beach. But if you had to find something good to say today about Ross, the shamed, scandalized, found-guilty owner of the Miami Dolphins, you might at least say, what … that he sure did want to win pretty badly? Points for gumption, at least. Aimed high. Ross not only cheated, he cheated badly, unsuccessfully, with no guile whatsoever, but as clumsily ham-handed as an amateur thief smiling at the security camera. He wanted to win something awful, and did something awful to get there, and got caught.

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

What Blaise Ingoglia is reading — “Judge halts Hernando School Board push for November sales tax referendum” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A Hernando County judge handed the School Board a setback Friday in its effort to get a sales tax referendum before voters on Nov. 8. Circuit Judge Lawrence Semento issued an order stopping the board’s lawsuit that seeks to force the County Commission to place the item on the ballot. Semento said the sides did not participate in state-mandated negotiations before turning to the court. School district officials have argued that going through that process would have the effect of killing the referendum in 2022 because it would take too long. County Commissioners have said they would put the question on the 2024 ballot.

Commissioner explains vote in contentious Citrus County land-use case” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — A Citrus County Commissioner is taking the unusual step of sending email letters to angry residents of a community to explain her vote on a heated land-use decision that didn’t go their way. In an email with the subject line “An open letter to those whom I have disappointed you with my vote re: Meadowcrest,” Commissioner Holly Davis describes why she was one of three votes to support an affordable-housing apartment complex within their community. “I have been told by many in Meadowcrest, ‘You don’t listen!’” she wrote in an email sent to at least 40 people.

Holly Davis faces angry constituents.

Did a Florida lawyer use PPP loan money to help cover a $288,000 trust account shortage?” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — An Orlando attorney’s emergency suspension goes into effect Aug. 13 after a Florida Bar audit of 2018-2022 said he had a trust account shortage that reached $288,852. Also, the Bar says money movement between accounts indicates Bradley Laurent used some of the COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program loan money he received to shore up his trust account. Laurent argued in a March application for disciplinary revocation, which he pulled in April, that “no client has complained or suffered any harm.”

Russia wants to mar U.S. elections. Why target St. Petersburg’s Uhurus?” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — It shook up local political circles when the FBI last week searched the St. Petersburg headquarters of the Uhuru Movement over alleged ties to a Russian campaign to interfere in U.S. elections. Why would Russia, a nation of 144 million, care who wins a mayor’s race or a seat on the City Council in a Florida city of 260,000? Why would Russia throw its weight behind the Uhurus, a relatively small socialist organization arguably as known for selling homemade pies as for campaigning against racism? But scale back, experts say, and the connection makes more sense. In some ways, it’s ripped straight from the Russian disinformation playbook.

— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —

School shooter training for students and deputies in Fort Myers” via Michael Hudak and Paul Dolan of WINK — Kids and deputies at a school in Lee County were training to be prepared in the case of a deadly shooting on Tuesday. An active shooter training involving real kids at South Fort Myers High. Deputies and school resource officers ran into schools past real screaming kids pretending to be shot. Screaming students scattered across the school with guns going off in a classroom is something students need to know how to effectively handle in 2022. “Unfortunately, you turn your TV on everywhere and you see, Texas you see these tragedies, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way,” said Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno. “How you train is how you perform.”

The way things are today.

Englewood Water rate hike for upcoming budget” via Steve Reilly of the Englewood Sun — The Englewood Water District supervisors will be asked to adopt a 2022-23 budget Thursday. With the adoption of the budget, the elected supervisors will also be asked to adopt a 5% hike to water, sewer and other usage rates. The rate increase is the second 5% hike in two years. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, District officials forgo any rate increases in the 2020 fiscal year. “Everything increased,” District Administrator Ray Burroughs said. “Even though we’re raising rates, we are still among the lowest rates of local utilities. We are proud to keep our rates low.”

Naples man, 30, arrested on more than a dozen illegal wildlife possession counts” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Naples Daily News — A Naples man faces multiple illegal wildlife possession counts after deputies with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office found him with deer he had driven from Ohio and migratory birds, as well as Canada geese. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation arrested Ariam Rodriguez Diaz on July 22 during a routine law enforcement patrol. FWC officials released photographs linked to the probe on Tuesday. An FWC officer responded to Rodriguez Diaz’s residence at the 2800 block of 38th Avenue South when the agency received a call from the sheriff’s office and Emergency Medical Services regarding an individual in possession of two live whitetail deer.

Beaches reopen in Venice, Sarasota County” via the North Port Sun — No swim advisories for Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard Beach and Bird Key/Ringling Causeway have been lifted, authorities stated Tuesday night. “Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County officials received testing results today that were at a satisfactory level for enterococcus bacteria meeting both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state recreational water standards,” Sarasota County officials stated in a news release. The beaches, along with several others in Sarasota, Lee and Manatee counties, were closed last week due to the amount of enterococcus found in tests.

— MORE LOCAL: N. FLORIDA —

FPL has a secret bar used by lawmakers and lobbyists in Tallahassee, report says” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Politically powerful Florida Power & Light has a secret bar at its Tallahassee offices that’s frequented by lobbyists and lawmakers. FPL denies any wrongdoing by its employees and any role in covertly monitoring the journalist. Joe Perkins, Matrix’s founder, has blamed “rogue” now-former employees for any misdeeds. The report said that FPL’s bar, with a separate lounge and outdoor patio, is behind shutters on the third floor of its downtown Tallahassee offices, with no outward sign it’s owned by the company.

Proposal would put $3M in pandemic relief funds toward utility bill assistance, nonprofit grants” via Hannah Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union — Council member Reggie Gaffney announced his intent on Monday to reallocate $3 million in previously reserved federal funding. Two-thirds of the money would go toward helping Jacksonville homeowners and renters pay outstanding JEA utility bills. The last million would continue Gaffney’s previous goal of giving grant money to nonprofits with the potential to reduce the city’s crime rate. “We are in a recession right now, and I want to tell you all that help is coming,” Gaffney said during the news conference, standing in the City Hall atrium. “This probably isn’t going to solve everybody’s problems, but this is a start.”

Reggie Gaffney calls for millions in COVID-19 cash to be used for rental assistance.

FAMU footprint expands: University spends $14 million to buy student housing near campus” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M University trustees Tuesday gave the go-ahead to spend up to $14 million to buy property near campus for additional student housing. The money is coming from funding the university previously received from the federal government. The purchase will include three developed apartment properties, Twelve-Twenty, Paces and Lighthouse, with a total of 118 beds. They are all part of the Brooklyn Yard community, bordered by Eugenia Street, Conklin Street off FAMU Way and Rattler View Court. In addition to the three occupied properties, the deal also includes 1.3 acres of undeveloped land nearby, where a 128-bed housing unit will be built.

Holley-Navarre Water System is investigating its CEO. What we know about his background” via Alex Miller of the Pensacola News Journal — The Holley-Navarre Water System announced Friday it was launching a third-party investigation to review concerns about the background of the utility’s CEO Dallas Peavey. Residents in the Navarre community have been raising alarms for weeks about Peavey’s background, culminating last week with a Navarre citizens group, Preserve Navarre, publicly disseminated documents listing purported criminal charges against Peavey. A judgment was filed in 2010 against Peavey. The indictment includes three felony theft charges. He pleaded guilty to all charges and was placed on a term of supervision for five years.

County Commission, legislators oppose Gainesville’s exclusionary zoning plan” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — Opposition to a proposal to eliminate exclusionary single-family zoning in Gainesville continues to grow as the first public hearing on the change in the law is scheduled for Thursday. Republican state legislators representing Alachua County have asked a state agency to delay the city’s implementation of a proposed new law that would eliminate exclusionary single-family zoning and allow multi-family units to be built. In the meantime, the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee on July 12 voted unanimously to urge the commission not to move ahead with the zoning change.

First unionized Starbucks in Jacksonville goes on strike, demanding $15 an hour minimum wage” via Alexandria Mansfield of The Florida Times-Union — The first unionized Starbucks store in Jacksonville went on strike Monday, delaying the store’s usual open time. Mason Boykin, Starbucks shift supervisor and union organizer at the Ricky Drive store, said employees showed up at 4:30 a.m., their usual time to open the store by 5 a.m., and immediately began the strike. “We never opened the doors,” Boykin said. Boykin said the workers were on strike to demand they receive the $15 an hour minimum pay increase which began at all non-unionized stores on Monday. The other stores were told they wouldn’t receive the raise until Aug. 29.

— TOP OPINION —

Nancy Pelosi takes a stand” via David French of The Dispatch — There is an admirable consistency to Pelosi’s long opposition to the communist Chinese regime. Thirty-one years ago, Pelosi stood alongside representatives Ben Jones and John Miller in the heart of Tiananmen Square and unfurled a banner that read, “To those who died for Democracy in China.” Police responded immediately, “roughing up” journalists who covered the moment and chasing Pelosi and her colleagues out of the square.

She has confronted Chinese leaders directly about the plight of political prisoners. She has opposed Chinese efforts to host the Olympic Games. She has taken House members to Tibet. And today she became the highest-ranking U.S. politician to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich visited in 1997. And she did it in spite of explicit Chinese threats against her flight, in spite of explicit Chinese warnings of military escalation, and in spite of administration misgivings.

We are witnessing an important moment, for important reasons that go beyond Pelosi’s visit.

— OPINIONS —

Extremism already exists in City Hall, as Jeremy Matlow demonstrates” via Jared Willis of the Tallahassee Democrat — City Commissioner Matlow recently wrote an op-ed talking about how voters should reject extremism in our local elections. I could not agree more. Pointing to his opponent’s former support of Republican figures (in a non-partisan local race), Matlow seems to imply — while insisting “this isn’t about [political] party” — that his opponent would bring these supposedly “extremist” views to the Commission, preventing him from addressing issues on the Southside, Killearn, and Summerbrooke. I would argue that we already have that issue on the Commission.

DeSantis gets $3 million tax dollars to fund his campaign. End welfare for politicians” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis has collected more campaign cash than any candidate in Florida history, around $130 million from special interests, out-of-state billionaires and average Floridians. Some of his donors have given him checks as big as $5 million and $10 million a pop. Yet last week, DeSantis also took more than $3 million from a taxpayer-funded welfare program for supposedly needy politicians who eschew big-money donors. DeSantis will now add your money to his already deep-pocketed campaign to fund his attack ads, mailers or anything else he wants.

DeSantis sinks lower and lower. What a drag. via Randy Schulz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As the costs of housing and insurance soar in Florida, the Governor continues to focus on imagined problems. Such as drag shows with children present. DeSantis’ response to the entertainment at R House Restaurant in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood was a typical mix of low-grade farce and hypocrisy from the state’s petty tyrant. As he campaigns against Biden more than Crist and Fried, the Governor shows what a DeSantis presidency would look like — trashy style over substance. At the Hard Rock, DeSantis snarked that Biden is “stumbling.” In the polls for now, yes. But Biden wants to protect the country from climate change and Putin. DeSantis wants to protect Florida from drag brunches.

Biden might be the Democrats’ worst possible nominee (except for all the others)” via Max Boot of The Washington Post — Where Biden has really failed is not in policy but in communication. The problem is not that he is 79 years old. The problem is that he spent 36 of those years in the Senate. Voters are barely aware of all the Democrats’ legislative achievements. Biden has made less effective use of the bully pulpit than any President since George H.W. Bush, and we know what happened to him in 1992. Yet for all Biden’s manifest weaknesses it is far from clear that the Democrats have any better alternative. Biden won the nomination in 2020 not because he excited anyone but because he was seen as the least bad option. That might still be true.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

‘Atlanta’ releases final-season trailer” via Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter — The final season of Atlanta is coming back home. The show’s fourth season returns to its namesake city after a third installment set in Europe. It’s set to premiere Sept. 15 on FX and released a full trailer that calls back to past moments in the series, including kids bugging Earn to buy water from them. Donald Glover, the show’s creator, showrunner and star, told reporters Tuesday that season four is the “most grounded” run of the show that has frequently detoured into the weird.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

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Jake Gyllenhaal-led ‘Road House’ remake a go at Amazon” via Mia Galuppo of The Hollywood Reporter — Gyllenhaal has rounded out his “Road House.” Gyllenhaal will star in a remake of the 1989 Patrick Swayze cult classic, playing a former UFC fighter who takes a job as a bouncer at a rough-and-tumble roadhouse in the Florida Keys, but, according to the logline, “soon discovers that not everything is what it seems in this tropical paradise.” Doug Liman will direct the film from a script by “The Nice Guys” writer Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry. Road House will get a streaming release on Prime Video.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Jay Caruso, Cody Farrill, Chief of Staff for the Agency for Health Care Administration, Ryan Matthews of GrayRobinson, and Nancy Smith.

___

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


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