Hello and welcome to Monday.
The daily rundown — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted information that there were 23,903 new Covid-19 infections and 93 deaths reported by the state on Friday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported on its dashboard that 13,793 beds were being used in the state for Covid-19 patients.
The wave — Florida’s summer storm of litigation keeps thundering.
Siding with cruise line — A federal judge late Sunday delivered a bruising knockdown of Gov. Ron DeSantis, siding with Norwegian Cruise Lines in a lawsuit that challenged the new vaccine passport ban pushed into law by DeSantis. The decision by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams, an Obama appointee, to grant a preliminary injunction wasn’t all that unexpected given the back-and-forth that occurred during a Friday hearing.
The rationale — Williams in the end sided with attorneys from Norwegian who argued that the state provided no real justification or proof that the vaccine passport ban was needed. She also agreed with Norwegian’s assertion that the law is not really about preventing discrimination by pointing out that other cruise lines have setup other restrictions on unvaccinated passengers, including limits on where they can dine and go on the ship as well as forcing them to purchase additional insurance.
Going to the top? — This does not end the legal tug of war. The underlying lawsuit brought by Norwegian will move ahead. Additionally, Pete Patterson, the attorney representing the DeSantis administration, made it clear that the state expects the legal challenge to eventually wind up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The long line of lawsuits — Meanwhile, a new lawsuit has been filed against Florida’s attempt to block mask mandates for schools. There are still legal challenges pending over the voting rights law, the “anti-riot” law pushed by DeSantis, and the measure that attempts to go after social media companies as well as Florida’s own challenge of cruise line restrictions imposed by the CDC. And that’s not all of them. Lots of lawyers, lots of court hearings, more to come in the weeks and months ahead.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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SAILING AWAY FOR NOW — “Norwegian Cruise Line can require proof of vaccination, judge rules, but the case isn’t over yet,” by Sun Sentinel’s Austen Erblat and Brett Clarkson: “Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings can require proof of vaccines for all passengers and crews, a federal judge ruled Sunday night, granting the cruise line a preliminary injunction that prevents it from being subjected to Florida’s ban on so-called vaccine passports. The injunction would allow Norwegian, which is suing Florida to overturn the law, to enforce its policy of mandatory vaccinations for all of its passengers while its lawsuit is still before the courts.”
A DIFFERENT OPINION — “Cassidy splits with DeSantis on school mask mandates,” by POLITICO’s Shayna Greene: Sen. Bill Cassidy said Sunday he disagrees with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ opposition to mask mandates in schools. “I do disagree with Gov. DeSantis. The local officials should have control here,” the Louisiana Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Cassidy, a physician, added that “when it comes to local conditions, if my hospital is full, and my vaccination rate is low and infection rate is going crazy, we should allow local officials to make those decisions best for their community.”
CONFRONTATION COMING — “DeSantis clamps down on student mask rules as Florida breaks another Covid record,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury and Gary Fineout: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to stop school mask mandates plowed ahead on Friday despite a legal challenge from parents, with education officials enacting a rule to protect non-masked students from “COVID-19 harassment.” The developments all but ensured Florida’s battle over face coverings for K-12 students will drag out even as new Delta variant infections sweep through the state at a record-setting pace.
New rules — Florida’s Department of Health on Friday adopted an emergency rule allowing school districts to skirt rigid mask requirements for students, essentially giving kids the ability to “opt out” of any local mandates. At the same time, the state Board of Education approved a new rule that offers parents vouchers to send their children to private schools or even a different school district if they object to masks.
— “Some parents plan protest after Diocese of Venice mandates masks in schools,” by Fort Myers News-Press Michael Braun
— “PBC students now must wear masks unless parents provide a note, school district decides,” by Palm Beach Post Andrew Marra
— “Hillsborough schools reverse course: Masks required, with opt-out option,” by Tampa Bay Times Marlene Sokol
YET ANOTHER ROUND OF WH VS. DESANTIS — “Psaki: DeSantis ‘fundraising off’ anti-mask mandate,” by POLITICO’s Maeve Sheehey: On Friday, tensions continued to escalate in the press briefing room. “I will say, as a parent myself of two young children, that I want public health officials to make decisions about how to keep my kids safe, not politicians,” White House Press Secretary Jan Psaki said in response to a question about [Gov. Ron] DeSantis’ back-to-school stance. “And not only is Governor DeSantis not abiding by public health decisions,” she added, “he’s fundraising off of this.”
And DeSantis snaps back — DeSantis took time on Friday to come up with his own rebuttal to the Biden administration. He delivered a scripted response to President Joe Biden’s “Governor who” quip during a press conference in Marianna. He told reporters that “I guess I’m not surprised that Biden doesn’t remember me. I guess the question is, is what else has he forgotten. Biden’s forgotten about the crisis at our Southern border, I can tell you that. Biden has forgotten about the inflation that’s biting the budgets of families all throughout our country. Biden has forgotten about the demonstrators who are fighting for freedom down in Cuba. And Biden has even forgotten about the constitution itself as we saw with what he did with this moratorium.” He also added that “I’m the governor — who — answers to the people of Florida not to bureaucrats in Washington.”
MUM’S THE WORD — “Vern Buchanan believes vaccine helped him fight off COVID, but he’s not pushing shots,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson: “U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan credits the COVID-19 vaccine with making his recent infection less severe. ‘I think for me it made a huge difference,’ said Buchanan, who tested positive for COVID late last month and experienced mild flu-like symptoms, including fatigue and congestion in his head and chest. Yet when it comes to encouraging others to get vaccinated, the Longboat Key Republican is reluctant to urge the shots. ‘I’m not going to tell people what to do… I’m not going to go down that road,’ Buchanan said last week, adding: ‘They gotta make their own decision. It’s a personal thing.’”
— “‘Gut-wrenching’: Children making up more of Jacksoville’s surge of COVID hospitalizations,” by Florida Times-Union’s Beth Reese Cravey and Katherine Lewin
— “As more Florida kids are hospitalized for COVID, Nicklaus Children’s mandates vaccine,” by Miami Herald’s Daniel Chang
— “DeSantis’ effort to blame COVID-19 spread on migrants is short on evidence,” by Politifact’s Louis Jacobson and Miriam Valverde
— “Pinellas long-term care facility where 100+ died from COVID-19 now faces 7 lawsuits,” by Florida Politics
WATERED DOWN — “‘Landmark initiative’ or just talk? Some Florida environmentalists criticize Fried’s ‘landmark’ water quality measure,” by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: Some environmental groups are criticizing a “landmark” agriculture water quality initiative being touted by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, saying the measure falls short on details and actions to prevent algae blooms and dead fish from washing up on the state’s beaches. The environmentalists say the measure is taking too incremental an approach to the state’s water quality crisis, particularly by forcing farms to only reduce their use of fertilizer and water or control animal waste.
PLACE YOUR BETS — “Feds give Seminole Tribe approval to launch sports betting in Florida Oct. 15,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas: “Federal regulators on Friday quietly and passively allowed the gambling agreement between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe to take effect, opening the door for sports betting to begin on Oct. 15, and setting off potential battles in court and on the ballot over what direction sports betting will take in Florida. In 12-page letters to the Seminole Tribe and the state, the Department of Interior ruled that it will neither approve nor deny the compact and, ‘as a result, the Compact is considered to have been approved by operation of law to the extent that it complies with IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) and existing Federal law.’”
Not a done deal — “But while the Department of Interior’s approval was the first step, hurdles remain. A lawsuit is pending in federal court, and at least two ballot initiatives have been launched that attempt to undermine the Seminole Tribe’s monopoly on sports betting and its expansion of casino games.”
IT’S IMPORTANT NOW — “Fox’s Baier presses Scott on GOP’s support for rising spending under Trump,” by The Hill’s Joseph Choi: “[Bret] Baier, the guest host this week on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ pointed out that under the Trump administration, the national debt rose by $6.7 trillion and Republicans were largely silent. [Sen. Rick] Scott did not address the deficit under Trump, instead pointing to the work he did as governor of Florida to pay its budget deficit. When Baier pressed him further on rising deficits under Trump, Scott said, ‘I’ve been up here two years, Bret. I am working my tail off. I’m fed up with a government that can’t live within their means. Every family in this country has got to figure out how to live within their means.’”
ANOTHER TRY — “Tampa’s Castor pushes for federal program to cover those in the ‘Medicaid gap,'” by Tampa Bay Times’ William March: “U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, is taking a lead in Congress in pushing legislation that would expand Medicaid in the dozen states, including Florida, that have refused to expand the health care program for the poor under the Affordable Care Act. Castor was the lead signer of a letter last week from 34 House members, all from states that have refused Medicaid expansion, urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to establish a federal program to cover individuals and families in the ‘Medicaid gap.’”
CRIST’S JULY NUMBERS — Rep. Charlie Crist raised $507,000 for his campaign for governor in the month of July, including more than $269,000 for main campaign account — which has donation limits — and more than $237,000 for his political committee. Crist ended the month with more than $2.2 million on hand between his political committee, his campaign for governor and his former congressional campaign. The July numbers were fueled by donations coming in from more than 2,900 individuals. “I’m excited and humbled by our campaign’s grassroots momentum that just keeps growing as we show Floridians the kind of leadership that brings people together,” Crist said in a statement to Playbook.
UNSOCIAL MEDIA — “St. Pete mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon: Social media posts ‘do not reflect who I am,’” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jake Sheridan and Colleen Wright: “Mayoral candidate and City Council member Robert Blackmon said circulating screenshots of Facebook posts he appeared to make with vulgar and disparaging remarks about women, Asians and tenants ‘do not reflect who I am today, what I stand for or how I will conduct myself as St. Petersburg’s next mayor.’ The posts include several references to women as a ‘bitch’ and three generations of women, including a 3-year-old, as ‘sluts.’ They also included comments about Asian people and made light of removing tenants from a building.”
— “Charlie Crist to visit Florida’s Hispanic communities in campaign outreach tour,” by Miami Herald’s Bianca Padró Ocasio
— “Two systems, both on paths toward Caribbean, could become tropical depressions,” by Sun Sentinel’s Robin Webb, David Fleshler and Austen Erblat:
R.I.P. — “His name shall endure: Bobby Bowden took FSU from ‘nowhereland to spendor,’” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Gerald Ensley: “As it says in [Bobby] Bowden’s favorite book, the Bible: His name shall endure forever. Bobby Bowden took over a team that three years prior to his arrival went 0-11 and created a dynasty. Bowden coached Florida State from 1976 through 2009 — and took FSU football from ‘nowhereland to splendor,’ as longtime Tallahassee Democrat sports editor Bill McGrotha once termed it. Taking over a program just three years removed from an embarrassing, winless 0-11 season, Bowden fashioned a college football dynasty.”
— “Bobby Bowden to lie in honor at Florida Capitol; public service set for Tucker Civic Center,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Jim Henry
BUILDING A DISASTER — “Surfside tower was flawed from day one. Designs violated the code, likely worsened collapse,” by Miami Herald’s Sarah Blaskey, Aaron Leibowitz and Ben Conarck: “Champlain Towers South was poorly designed, even for the 1970s when the plans were originally drawn and codes were less rigorous, according to an analysis of building plans, applicable building codes and photos of the debris performed by the Miami Herald in consultation with four engineers and a general contractor. Most of the column designs were too narrow to safely accommodate the amount of reinforcing steel called for in the plans at the basement and ground floors, especially at the critical areas where the columns connected to the slab, engineers’ calculations based on the building code requirements at the time show.”
SEEKING A WAY OUT — “More Cubans try dangerous trip to US across Florida Straits,” by The Associated Press’s Andrea Rodriguez: “Zuleydis Elledias has gotten up each morning for the past two months hoping for a phone call, a message — any news on the fate of her husband and nephew, who disappeared at sea after the boat they were in capsized as they tried to reach Florida. Another half dozen families in the small town of Orlando Nodarse, 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Havana and near the port of Mariel, are living with the same uncertainty.”
By the numbers — “The U.S. Coast Guard said recently it has intercepted 595 Cubans at sea since the current fiscal year started on Oct. 1. That’s larger than any any full fiscal year since 2017 — during which the U.S. announced that even Cubans reaching U.S. shores were likely to be expelled, ending a longstanding policy of granting asylum to those who reached dry land. It’s still small in comparison with the nearly 5,400 halted at sea in 2016 or the dramatic crises of 1994-1995 and 1980, when Cuba’s government temporarily stopped trying to block departures and tens of thousands set out en masse.”
— “Two systems, both on paths toward Caribbean, could become tropical depressions,” by Sun Sentinel’s Robin Webb, David Fleshler and Austen Erblat:
BIRTHDAYS: State Rep. Keith Truenow … Emmett Reed, CEO of Florida Health Care Association … Mark Harper with the Daytona Beach News-Journal … (Was Sunday) Former State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez … Slater Bayliss, partner with The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners … (Was Saturday) Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer … Kirsten Borman Dougherty of KB Strategic Group
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