Demings looks to leverage new infrastructure lawNovember 24, 2021
Hello and welcome to Wednesday.
Get back — Florida Democrats are testing whether finally getting something done in Washington, D.C., can help them back home.
Two of us — Democrats — as previously cataloged — are facing a lot of headwinds in Florida going into 2022, whether it’s fundraising disadvantages, President Joe Biden’s sinking poll ratings here, or the fact that Republicans have overtaken them in voter registrations.
I’ve got a feeling — The passage of the big infrastructure law — as well as the nearly $2 trillion social spending and climate legislation sitting in the Senate — is giving them to something to campaign on, and use against their GOP rivals.
The long and winding road — Rep. Val Demings, the Orlando Democrat challenging Sen. Marco Rubio, has started publicizing the infrastructure bill while constantly pointing out how Rubio did not join with more than a dozen other GOP senators who ultimately voted for it. “There are 408 bridges and more than 3,564 miles of highway in poor condition across Florida,” she said on Twitter on Tuesday. “The Sunshine State is set to repair roads and bridges thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Marco Rubio voted against this. I voted for it.”
Don’t let me down — Demings also held events in both Apopka — including one with the town’s Republican mayor — and Orlando to highlight money included in the new law that will be used for new buses and water projects. “We couldn't do it without the federal government, and Congresswoman Demings has been a great advocate for us here in Apopka in helping us with projects we need, but can't afford,” Apopka Mayor and former GOP legislator Bryan Nelson said, according to a local news website.
Let it be — Rubio trashed this same bill back in August and said he couldn’t vote for it because it added to the national debt. His criticism of the Build Back Better Act has even been more harsh as he keeps tagging it as “socialist.” Republicans such as Rubio and Scott are eager to lash Democrats over several portions of the bill, including the part that ups the credit cap on state and local property taxes that benefits states such as New York or potential cuts to Florida hospitals. The question is whether the back-and-forth will make a difference in a year.
— WHERE'S RON? — Nothing official scheduled for Gov. DeSantis.
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SELLING IT — “Val and Jerry Demings tout Lynx bus system expansion as part of $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello: “The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last week by President Biden will pump billions into Florida’s transportation network. Now, Florida Democrats are trying to spread the word to residents about what it actually does and hoping voters will give them credit. U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, was back home Tuesday to help promote how Central Florida will benefit from the estimated $19 billion headed to Florida. Her focus was on the Central Florida Lynx bus system, which officials said will add transit stations, expand its fleet and add more electric buses, thanks to the new law.”
FRIENDS LIKE THESE — “DeSantis may need Biden to rescue $2.5B gambling deal,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: Gov. Ron DeSantis may need help from his number one adversary: President Joe Biden. A federal court ruling late Monday night scuttled a $2.5 billion dollar gambling deal DeSantis negotiated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida earlier this year. The ruling could halt sports betting in the nation’s third largest state amid questions over what can be done to salvage the endeavor. The fate of the deal could depend on whether the U.S. Department of Interior, which was responsible for approving the compact, decides to appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.
Tribe jumps in — The tribe isn’t waiting to see what the Department of Interior does and filed its own notice of appeal. Lawyers for the Seminoles also asked that Freidrich’s ruling be placed on hold while they pursue the appeal. “The tribe’s economic and sovereign interests will be irreparably injured if a stay is not issued pending resolution of the serious legal issues posed on the tribe’s appeal,” states the motion. …Marcellus Osceola Jr., chair of the Seminole Tribal Council, said in an affidavit accompanying the motion has hired more than 200 employees and spent millions expanding its operation and launching sports betting. He said the tribe has spent $25 million on sports betting so far and has already paid more than $70 million in payments to the state.
MOSKOWITZ LANDS — “DeSantis taps former emergency manager to fill Broward County Commission vacancy,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday appointed two former administration officials to vacancies on the Broward County Commission, including Jared Moskowitz, who was the state’s top emergency manager during much of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Details — The two vacancies on the commission resulted from former commissioners Barbara Sharief and Dale Holness running in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 20th Congressional District left vacant by the death of former Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings. Along with Moskowitz, who led the Division of Emergency Management from January 2018 through April, DeSantis appointed Torey Alston, the former chief of staff to his administration’s Department of Transportation. Both appointees have worked in Democratic politics, with Moskowitz previously serving in the Florida House as a Democrat while Alston had served as chief of staff to Sharief, a Democrat.
EXIT FLORIDA — “Scott Rivkees — former Florida surgeon general, COVID mask advocate — accepts job at Brown U,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s Jeffrey Schweers: “Former Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees will be heading to Brown University School of Public Health, the Rhode Island private university announced Monday. Rivkees, who was kept out of the public eye for more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic for recommending people wear masks until a vaccine was developed, will work under Ashish Jha, the school’s dean and a noted expert on the pandemic. Rivkees and two other new faculty were described in a news release as ‘new leaders bringing global and national expertise to advance the school’s work on pandemic preparedness and mis/disinformation.’”
— “Florida will again consider making college presidential search candidates secret,” by News Service of Florida
LOOK WHO DROPPED BY — “Trump says Kyle Rittenhouse visited him in Mar-a-Lago after trial," by POLITICO’s Myah Ward: Former President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Kyle Rittenhouse visited him in Mar-a-Lago after the 18-year-old was found not guilty of shooting and killing two men, and wounding a third, during an intense racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wis. Trump called Rittenhouse a “fan,” and said the 18-year-old visited him in Florida along with his mother.
ANOTHER ONE — “Florida man charged in Jan. 6 attack on US Capitol,” by The Associated Press: “A Florida man affiliated with the far-right Oath Keepers militia group was arrested Tuesday on charges related to storming the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, officials said. James Beeks, 49, of Orlando, was charged with a felony count of obstruction of Congress and a misdemeanor count of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds, according to court records. He was arrested in Milwaukee and made his initial court appearance in Wisconsin.”
— “Jan. 6 investigators subpoena Proud Boys, Oath Keepers as probe turns to domestic extremism,” by POLITICO’s Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu
— “Roger Stone, Alex Jones say they’ll likely plead the Fifth in response to Jan. 6 subpoenas,” by Newsweek’s Alexandra Hutzler
NOT SO SWEET — “DOJ sues to block U.S. Sugar merger,” by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: The U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit on Tuesday to block U.S. Sugar Corporation's acquisition of rival Imperial Sugar Co., claiming the move could drive up sugar costs in the Southeast. The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Delaware says U.S. Sugar's acquisition of Imperial, which operates a sugar refinery in Georgia, would leave wholesale customers "at the mercy of a cozy duopoly." U.S. Sugar, based in Clewiston, Fla., where its refinery is located, sells through the United Sugars Corp. By acquiring Imperial, only American Sugar Refining, which produces the Domino brand, would be left to compete, the lawsuit said.
‘WINDOW-DRESSING’ — “Professors in fight with UF over expert testimony ‘disappointed’ in new policies,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: University of Florida leaders on Tuesday approved a slate of new conflict-of-interest policies in response to a groundswell of controversy over recently blocked expert testimonies, but the moves don’t go far enough for the professors at the heart of the dispute. University of Florida President Kent Fuchs accepted and called for the immediate implementation of recommendations from a task force he called on to probe a university decision to bar multiple professors from testifying in a lawsuit against a controversial voting bill pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Not satisfied — The three university professors blocked from testifying in the voting lawsuit — Daniel Smith, Sharon Austin and Michael McDonald — rejected the proposed changes on Tuesday, claiming the moves “fail to cure the constitutional problem” at the university. The professors, along with three additional faculty members, are currently locked in a court battle with the school and are pushing back on the institution for allegedly infringing on their First Amendment rights and academic freedoms.
‘WE MUST DO THIS’ — “Adapting to climate is a winning issue for politicians — even in red states,” by POLITICO’s Debra Khan, Bruce Ritchie, Ry Rivard and E&E News’ Mike Lee: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants half a billion dollars to protect his state from the ravages of “extreme weather events.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott devoted $1.6 billion toward preparing communities for increasingly devastating hurricanes. But they still won’t say if they believe in climate change. Even if conservative politicians can’t stomach the words, they're spending money to combat the fallout hammering their states and cities. Bracing for global warming is the rare climate issue that appeals to both Republicans and Democrats, and 34 states have done some sort of climate-adaptation planning, according to Georgetown University's state policy tracker.
— "‘This is unjust’: Restaurants sue Miami Beach over crackdown on outdoor dining permits,” by Miami Herald’s Martin Vassolo
— “Florida Memorial ends 18 degree programs, announces pay cuts for more than 80 employees,” by Miami Herald’s Jimena Tavel
— “Sheriff: Grandfather killed in possible ‘stand your ground’ shooting at Navarre gas station,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Colin Warren-Hicks
— “Officials: Brian Laundrie fatally shot himself in the head,” by The Associated Press
‘WOBBLES MATTER’ — “Florida dodges bullet as another hurricane season wraps up," by News Service of Florida’s Tom Urban and Jim Turner: “For the second consecutive year, the hurricane season has exhausted a list of storm names. But with days to go before the Nov. 30 end of the season, Florida has had brushes with only three named systems — Elsa, Fred, and Mindy — that were mostly rainmakers with tropical-storm-force winds. All things considered, the state has been relatively unscathed in the highly active storm season, allowing emergency staff in Florida — who also needed to react to wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic — to continue addressing lingering impacts of past storms.”
The daily rundown — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 1,605 infections on Monday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 1,382 hospital beds were being used in the state for Covid-19 patients.
LATEST TRY — “Biden administration asks court to lift stay of vaccine-or-test rule," by POLITICO’s Rebecca Rainey: The Biden administration is asking a federal court to lift an order halting its vaccine-or-test mandate for private employers, arguing that delaying the standard could have “significant” impacts outside the workplace. “Simply put, delaying the Standard would likely cost many lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations, other serious health effects, and tremendous expenses. That is a confluence of harms of the highest order,” the government argued in a filing with the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.
Alternative approach — Attorneys for the administration also said that if the court rejects the request to lift the overall stay, it should allow the government to impose a requirement in the broader mandate that unvaccinated workers wear masks and be routinely tested for Covid-19 while the issue makes its way through the courts.
'TIS THE SEASON — “A winter COVID wave could come to Florida, but holiday precautions could help prevent one,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Ian Hodgson: “Florida’s summer delta wave is behind us — the positivity rate has been below 5 percent for seven weeks and cases have fallen to fewer than 1,600 per day. Around Tampa Bay, the positivity rate has hovered below 3 percent. But physicians and public health experts say the pandemic is far from over. COVID hot spots around the country indicate what could be coming back, said University of Florida epidemiologist Derek Cummings. Another outbreak could be driven by waning immunity, a busy holiday season and complacency.”
DESTINATION — “Florida had more summer tourists than before the pandemic, DeSantis says,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Bernadette Berdychowski: “The Sunshine State had a busy summer, despite a surge of coronavirus cases. About 32.5 million travelers visited Florida from July through September this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday. The number of tourists in the summer season exceeded 2019 by a slim 0.3 percent in comparison to the more than 37 percent drop in visitors Florida saw in 2020. This summer was the first time the state saw gains in tourism since the coronavirus was first detected in the state — and it was primarily driven by domestic travel.”
— “Tampa cigar company to restore prohibition bar that could have 10,000 bats,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Paul Guzzo: “The decrepit building at 1601 E. Columbus Dr. has undergone several name changes since it was erected more than a century ago. It was initially called the Sanchez y Haya Building. It became El Avance Restaurant during prohibition and then The Chip-In Bar throughout the 1990s. The current owner, the J.C. Newman Cigar Co., might bring back the original name once they restore the building and convert it into a cafe, cigar lounge and hotel. But for now, their employees at the cigar factory across the street from the building have their own name for it. ‘The bat cave,’ said Holden Rasmussen, who runs the factory’s museum and store.”
BIRTHDAYS: Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston … Chris Finkbeiner, vice president with Rubin, Turnbull & Associates … author and Florida State University professor Mark Winegardner … (Thursday) State Rep. Jason Fischer … former state Rep. Adam Hasner ... Jennifer Krell Davis with The Florida Bar … (Friday) Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber … Mac Stipanovich … Former CIA Director Porter Goss … (Saturday) Former state Rep. Halsey Beshears … USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy … Journalist Daniel Ducassi … (Sunday) State Rep. Omari Hardy
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