Presented by CVS Health
Hello and welcome to Thursday.
The daily rundown — Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the number of Florida coronavirus cases increased by 4,599 (0.2 percent), to 1,989,024; active hospitalizations went down by 45 (nearly 1.5 percent), to 3,007; deaths rose by 55 (nearly 0.2 percent), to 32,504; 4,464,035 Floridians have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Here we go again — Another year, another bet that a major gambling bill can make it through the Florida Legislature.
Behind the scenes — This time most of the action has taken place out of sight, in “mansions” and “yachts” as casino gambling critic Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber put it during a city commission meeting on Wednesday. There’s misdirection going on (Who’s the lead on this? Gov. Ron DeSantis? Senate President Wilton Simpson?). And there have some surprise cameos, including Super Bowl MVP and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, according to the Miami Herald.
Here’s what we know — DeSantis will meet this morning with representatives and owners of the long-established gambling facilities (think former dog tracks). The governor previously met with representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, who operate the well-known Hard Rock casinos. There is plenty of buzz about a bill (or bills) that may finally address everything from a new compact with the tribe (which is no longer paying the state) to dealing with sports betting, and maybe letting places like the famed Miami Beach Fontainebleau Hotel get a casino license moved to its premises from another location.
The odds — This game has been played before and in recent years it has all folded in the end as competing interests — and gambling opponents — have been unable to coming up with a winning hand. Even among gambling lobbyists, there is plenty of skepticism that this year turn out any differently. Others, however, keep saying that Simpson and the Florida Senate are about to pop out a bill at any moment. (As an aside, Simpson said right before session there wouldn’t be any legislative surprises from him.) Maybe someone should start a pool on what will happen.
— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis is scheduled to be in Tallahassee.
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SELLING IT — “Tom Brady and a superyacht: How a mogul pitched Florida leaders on Miami Beach casino,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas, Sarah Blaskey and Nicholas Nehamas: “It wasn’t the first time [House Speaker Chris] Sprowls had met [Tom] Brady on [Jeffrey] Soffer’s 311-foot Madsummer, a state-of-the-art vessel roughly as long as a football field. Five months earlier, Soffer had hosted a fundraiser and dinner for Sprowls on the boat and introduced him to Brady and his wife, Gisele Bündchen. Soffer used that opportunity to make a pitch. Details were offered behind closed doors, but the idea was simple: Pass legislation to allow Soffer to move a gambling permit from his Hallandale Beach-based Big Easy Casino to the sumptuous Fontainebleau Resort in Miami Beach, which his family has owned since 2005.”
GET TOGETHER — “Amid yet another gambling push, DeSantis to meet with Florida’s gaming industry,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to meet Thursday with top officials and owners of the state’s various gaming interests amid an ongoing behind-the-scenes effort to forge together an elusive deal on gambling legislation. DeSantis decided to sit down in Tallahassee with various owners of Florida gambling facilities after meeting recently with representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, who control the state’s most well-known and largest casinos and compete with the parimutuels, many of which are former dog racing tracks. Several lobbyists who represent gambling interests confirmed the “no lobbyists” meeting scheduled to take place.
ALSO WANTING IN ON THE ACTION? — “Trump’s Florida resort touted as potential gambling destination,” by Jonathan O’Connell and Josh Dawsey: “Former president Donald Trump’s son Eric, who runs the family’s private company, touted the potential of transforming their Doral golf resort into a gambling destination amid a quiet push among Florida Republicans to legalize casinos in areas of the state that have long opposed them. Although Republican legislative leaders have not yet submitted a bill, word of a proposal has spread widely enough that both supporters and opponents already are gearing up for a fight that they say could be more intense than in previous years due to Trump’s potential interest and his close relationship with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).”
And there’s still more — Added to all of this intrigue is the fact that Miriam Adelson, widow of the late casino mogul and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, was in Tallahassee this week. Playbook heard that Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez met with Miriam Adelson, while Florida Politics’ Peter Schorsch had multiple sources tell him that Adelson may have also met with legislative leaders, DeSantis and top Cabinet officials. (Yes, the governor’s office was asked. No, an answer wasn’t given.) Worth noting: Adelson is a backer of conservative Republicans and it’s certainly possible her presence may not be linked to the gambling talks.
NOW MOVING — “Florida House committee backs bill barring transgender athletes from girls’ sports,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: Lawmakers in the Florida House endorsed a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit transgender athletes from playing girls’ sports, joining scores of other conservative states taking up similar legislation that critics argue is “cruel” to vulnerable students. A House education subcommittee voted 13-4 to advance FL HB 1475 (21R), a proposal that would clarify that female sports teams are specifically for “biological” women and girls while also creating a path for handling gender disputes by requiring a medical professional to verify a student’s sex. Most Democrats on the panel joined LGTBQ advocates in opposing the legislation they said would “marginalize and demonize the transgender community.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BASE — “DeSantis calls for $3,000 bonuses for Florida teachers who complete civics education training,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello and Leslie Postal: “Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing a $3,000 bonus for Florida teachers, but only if they complete training and certification for ‘the Florida civic seal of excellence,’ a new civics education program. DeSantis also wants graduating high schoolers to pass a civics test similar to what aspiring U.S. citizens take, part of a $106 million proposal for this year’s budget. But he indicated his version of civics education would be what he described as ‘foundational concepts,’ and he slammed critical race theory as ‘teaching kids to hate their country and hate each other.’ The proposal is the latest DeSantis initiative that appears aimed squarely at pleasing conservatives in advance of not only his 2022 reelection campaign but also a potential 2024 Republican bid for president.”
WORTH NOTING — “DeSantis wants Bright Futures scholarships ‘fully funded,’” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday sounded skeptical of the major student financial aid — and Bright Futures — overhaul proposed by Senate Republicans. Admitting he was unsure of the exact details in the legislation, the Republican governor said he wants Bright Futures “fully funded” as the Legislature considers a bill to potentially tie the scholarships to degrees that produce jobs. DeSantis has been adamant about keeping tuition low, and student debt in check, during the Covid-19 pandemic. “I’ve made very clear I think Bright Futures is something Florida families have relied upon, and something that I support” DeSantis said at an event in Naples. “I fully funded it in my budget, and we hope that the Legislature follows suit with that.”
EVERY WORD MEANS NO — “Florida unlikely to expand Medicaid for 800,000 residents, despite offer of more federal money,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer: “Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida legislative leaders still aren’t interested in expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, despite the federal government’s offer to defray the cost to the state for two years as part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package signed by President Biden last week. Democrats and advocates who’ve pushed for expansion say there’s no excuse not to offer coverage to 800,000 more Floridians now that the cost to the state would be less.”
— “Praying for a win: Florida bill would OK it in school sports,” by The Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington
— “Florida will seek waiver from some federal school testing rules,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Leslie Postal
— “Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters leaves Capitol for home after COVID-19 contact,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s John Kennedy
— “Despite steady stream of protesting teachers, Senate panel approves union dues bill,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s James Call
— “House panel OKs bill to curb Chinese influence,” by Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey
— “Randolph Bracy’s Juneteenth bill gets pushback from historians,” by Florida Politics’ Haley Brown
THE ARTILES FILES — “Police raid home of former GOP lawmaker who bragged about planting no-party candidate,” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos, Samantha J. Gross and David Ovalle: “The latest shoe to drop in a long-brewing Florida political scandal came crashing down Wednesday when authorities raided the Palmetto Bay house of former Republican state senator Frank Artiles. Artiles is believed to be tied to a state investigation involving a sham no-party candidate who likely swayed the outcome of a key 2020 Miami-Dade state Senate race.”
Response — “Artiles’ defense lawyer, Greg Chonillo, said late Wednesday that his client has been ‘fully cooperative’ with prosecutors, and has provided documents and other evidence to investigators. ‘As you can understand, the ongoing criminal investigation limits us in what we can say,’ said Chonillo, who would not say if he expects Artiles to be charged or when. ‘If this matter is going to be litigated in court, we shall defend him in court — and not in the media,’ Chonillo said.”
STILL IN THE RUNNING? — “Top 5 Republican presidential contenders, and 2 on the way out,” by Keith Naughton, opinion contributor for The Hill: “#2 Marco Rubio: The senator from Florida had a pretty good four years. He mostly stayed out of Trump’s firing line, made no significant gaffes, and kept a solid conservative voting record. By laying low, he is not readily identified with Trump’s various outbursts and the post-election mess. As a first-time presidential candidate in 2016 he acquitted himself well. GOP voters tend to go with known commodities. Since 1944 Republicans have only nominated a handful of first-timer presidential candidates. And experience counts for a lot in national politics. Should Trump not run, Rubio is in prime position to re-activate his network from 2016 and present himself as a relatively unscathed candidate.”
NOT AVAILABLE — “Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipments halted in Florida for several weeks, DeSantis says,” by Sun Sentinel’s Cindy Krischer Goodman: “If you are hunting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Florida, you will be disappointed. At a news conference Wednesday in Palm Harbor, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will not get a new shipment of the single-shot vaccine for several weeks. ‘As we get more allocated for Johnson & Johnson we will let everyone know,’ DeSantis said Wednesday. ‘If you’ve been waiting and you have an opportunity to get Pfizer or Moderna I’d recommend getting it because I can’t guarantee you J&J is going to be available in the next week or the week after.’”
PAPERWORK — “With Florida requiring doctor’s note for many, pace of COVID vaccination slows in Miami,” by Miami Herald’s Ben Conarck and Devoun Cetoute: “In Florida’s most populous county of Miami-Dade, the pace of COVID vaccination has slowed, with state-run mega-sites following a strict rule book enforced by armed police or other security officers at the entrance. Throughout March, vaccine supply has increased but strict age minimums issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis have lingered, except for medically vulnerable people, who are required to have a physician to sign off to qualify for a shot.”
THE NEW NORMAL — “Coronavirus changed Florida society. These bills would make those changes permanent,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Kirby Wilson: “As lawmakers gather in Tallahassee, some of those convenient policy changes could be here to stay. Bills making their way through the Legislature would allow Floridians to continue to get alcoholic drinks delivered from restaurants. Other legislation would expand access to telemedicine — even for pets. And yet another proposal would give students greater flexibility to learn virtually. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention and sometimes, desperation is the mother of invention,’ said Samantha Padgett, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s general counsel.”
— “Vaccinating theme park workers would give boost to Central Florida economy, experts say,” by WFTV’s Lauren Seabrook and Adam Poulisse
GAETZ, STEUBE VOTED NO — “House approves awarding Congressional Gold Medal to Capitol Police for Jan. 6 response,” by POLITICO’s Benjamin Din and Nick Niedzwiadek: The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to award the U.S. Capitol Police with Congress’ highest honor for its service during the Jan. 6 riot, despite Republican jockeying to soften the language in the bill. The bill passed by the House, on a vote of 413 to 12, would authorize creation of three medals — one each for display at Capitol Police headquarters, the capital city’s Metropolitan Police Department headquarters and by the Smithsonian — as well as duplicates of the award. It now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.
Rebranding what happened on Jan. 6? — Earlier Wednesday, some Republicans expressed unhappiness over the bill’s language, which described the Capitol as “the temple of our American Democracy” and labeled the attackers as “a mob of insurrectionists.” Rep. Greg Steube voted against the measure. A competing bill circulated by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) named the fallen officers but made no mention of Jan. 6 or the Capitol attack, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO. After the vote, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said the bill that passed was “offensive” because it included “these editorial comments about the Jan. 6 sequence of events.” He added that he didn’t like the fact that it included an exhibit at the Smithsonian.
THE MAN IN MAR-A-LAGO — “Trump set to do at least 12 book interviews in the coming weeks,” by POLITICO’s Meridith McGraw and Gabby Orr: Get ready for the Donald Trump book barrage. The former president is scheduled to sit for a dozen interviews in the coming weeks with authors examining his presidency, some of whom are penning sequels to books they published during Trump’s time in office, according to four people familiar with his plans. The sheer number of book interviews is so massive that some in his orbit worry he may be doing too many and hurting his ability to monetize his own recollections for a book of his own, should he choose to write one.
MEAN SEASON — “Bye Alpha, Eta: Greek alphabet ditched for hurricane names,” by The Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein: “With named storms coming earlier and more often in warmer waters, the Atlantic hurricane season is going through some changes with meteorologists ditching the Greek alphabet during busy years. But the Atlantic hurricane season will start this year on June 1 as traditionally scheduled, despite meteorologists discussing the idea of moving it to May 15. A special World Meteorological Organization committee Wednesday ended the use of Greek letters when the Atlantic runs out of the 21 names for the year, saying the practice was confusing and put too much focus on the Greek letter and not on the dangerous storm it represented.”
‘THIS WAS NOT A LIMO SERVICE’ — “Pilot who helped Maduro allies evade US sanctions sentenced,” by The Associated Press’ Joshua Goodman: “A Miami-based pilot who arranged chartered flights to Russia and elsewhere for top allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been sentenced to more than four years in prison. Venezuelan-born Victor Mones pled guilty in January in Manhattan federal court to the charges of breaking U.S. sanctions against his two top clients: former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami and his alleged front man, businessman Samark Lopez, both of whom were designated narcotics kingpins in 2017.”
— “Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry set to roll out ‘Jobs for Jax’ program financed by gas tax,” by Florida Times-Union’s David Bauerlein
— “Largo man accused in Capitol police attack,” by Tampa Bay Times Dan Sullivan
— “FSU homecoming activities to include drive-thru parade, new name for ‘Pow Wow,’” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Byron Dobson: The “Pow Wow” name is no more. “Florida State University on Wednesday released plans for its Homecoming Week celebrations that include two notable changes in long-held traditions. This year’s homecoming theme is ‘Linked by Legacy’ and events run from Monday, April 5 through Sunday, April 11. The popular student pep rally, known as ‘Pow Wow,’ is now billed as ‘Homecoming Live.’ Originated in 1948, since 1965 it’s featured top recording artists and comedians, including Stephen Colbert in 2006 and Jimmy Fallon two years later.”
BIRTHDAYS: Mizell Stewart III, VP News Performance, Talent and Partnerships for Gannett/USA Today Network … Step Up for Students’ Ron Matus … Former Florida Education Association President Andy Ford
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