DeSantis is back — Diaz v. Barnes for FDP chair? — Levine Cava tests positive — Will Florida see snow?  12/01/2020 12:02:00   MATT DIXON

Good Tuesday morning.

The daily rundown  Between Sunday and Monday, the number of Florida coronavirus cases increased by 6,659 (0.6 percent), to 999,319; active hospitalizations went up 100 (2.4 percent), to 4,159; deaths rose by 97 (0.5 percent), to 18,597.

Hello again: I, bureau chief Matt Dixon, am taking the reins today. Good to be back (temporarily) in the Playbook cockpit, but it has been a few months, so be gentle.

The DeSantis show returns to prime time  After nearly a month without holding any public events, Gov. Ron DeSantis emerged in Kissimmee Monday for a press conference that was equal parts education announcement and the type of Festivus-styled airing of grievances that DeSantis has built a political brand around. During the nearly hourlong event, he covered the bases: those advocating to keep schools closed were dubbed flat earthers; CNN got a shoutout for its reports on schools opening the governor said made Florida look like yokels; Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran took a swipe at one of DeSantis favorite heels, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for writing a book amid the pandemic; and teachers unions got slapped on the wrist for disagreeing with DeSantis reopening strategy.

The substance  The governor likes to swat at every fly, thats not new and itshis right as the states chief executive. So, what brought DeSantis back out into the spotlight? His administration unveiled a long-telegraphed executive order making sure K-12 campuses across Florida will be open for the rest of the school year. The order also boosts funding for two-dozen districts that have seen enrollment growth, continues to allow enrollment in online learning programs, and nudges students who have struggled with distance learning back into the classroom.

A win (so far)  Over time, DeSantis has been proven right on his early instinct to try and keep schools open. Close the bars and keep the schools open is what we say, Anthony Fauci, an occasional DeSantis target, said on ABCs This Week on Sunday.

What else?  DeSantis was also asked about a grab bag of non-school reopening questions, adding that Congress should pass an unemployment relief package. When asked if he recognized Joe Biden as president-elect as the news conference ended, he didnt respond.

 WHERES RON?  Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis

HES BACK  DeSantis dismisses lockdowns, masks mandates as coronavirus cases spread, by Palm Beach Posts Jane Musgrave: "With Florida poised to notch its 1 millionth coronavirus case, Gov. Ron DeSantis held his first press conference in four weeks on Monday to declare that mask mandates and business closures in other states are wrong-headed and he alone has plotted the right course to combat the pandemic."

BACK TO SCHOOL  Pointing to closing blunder, DeSantis says schools should bring struggling students back in-person, by USA Todays CD Davidson-Hiers: Florida public schools will remain open in 2021 and families will continue to have the option to keep students at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday. But the news came with one caveat, that parents with students who are struggling academically in remote learning situations will be notified by their school districts and the students will be required to return to in-person instruction  unless the family again actively elects to keep the student at home.

A CHANCE?  Bipartisan Senate group revive coronavirus relief talks, by POLITICOs Burgess Everett: A bipartisan group of senators is trying to jump-start stalled coronavirus stimulus talks during the lame duck, with congressional leaders still at odds over providing more relief as cases and deaths spike ahead of the coming winter. The effort is an uphill battle given the entrenched positions of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP conference and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. So whatever this collection of senators can achieve is likely to be modest, if they can accomplish anything at all.

HAVE FUN  Trump administration leaves states to grapple with how to distribute scarce vaccine, by POLITICOs Sarah Owermohle, Rachel Roubein and Zachary Brennan: The Trump administration is shunting to the states hard decisions about which Americans will get the limited early supplies of coronavirus vaccines  setting up a confusing patchwork of distribution plans that could create unequal access to the life-saving shots.

THIS MATTERS  Future of Jacksonville COVID-19 test sites up in air as federal funding set to end Dec. 30, by Florida Times-Unions David Bauerlein: The line of people showing up each day for COVID-19 tests at Regency Square mall in Jacksonville shows that even as vaccines are on the way, the virus still is spreading and sending people to seek tests so they can learn if they caught the infection. The clock is winding down on the federal funding that has paid for such test sites nationwide.

GET WELL SOON  Miami-Dades new mayor tests positive for COVID-19, starts quarantine, by Miami Heralds Douglas Hanks: "Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and is experiencing mild symptoms, according to a spokeswoman. The countys new mayor linked her diagnosis to her husband, a doctor, contracting the virus from exposure to a patient."

 State nears 1 million COVID cases, by Orlando Sentinels Richard Tribou

OUT  Scott Atlas resigns as Trumps coronavirus adviser, by POLITICOs Dan Diamond: Scott Atlas, the controversial physician who became President Donald Trump's hand-picked coronavirus adviser, resigned from the White House on Monday. "I always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence," Atlas wrote in his resignation letter, which he posted to Twitter on Monday night. A radiologist with no previous experience fighting infectious disease, Atlas joined the White House in August after TV appearances on Fox News where he decried fears about Covid-19 as overblown.

The Florida connection: Atlas had also been serving as a coronavirus adviser for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who in August did a media tour with him across the state.

DISNEY LOVE  Florida governor praises theme parks COVID-19 approach as Disneyland, California parks remain shuttered, by USA Todays Jenna Ryu: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis praised Florida theme parks' handling of the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference Monday. Disney World's Florida theme parks closed March 15 at the start of the pandemic but eventually reopened July 11 after reopenings for Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, which reopened in June.

DEAF EARS  Pensacola mayor: Governor should give local leaders more control over COVID-19 response, Pensacola News Journals Jim Little: Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson says he believes Gov. Ron DeSantis should let local leaders have more control over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic after DeSantis extended an executive order that limits local governments' enforcement of mask mandates. Speaking during a virtual press conference Monday, Robinson said he agrees with DeSantis that businesses should remain open as much as possible, but the mayor said he also thinks local governments should have more say in how emergency mask ordinances are enforced.

 Bay County sees drop in COVID-19 case rate, by Panama City News Herald

 Images of a packed concert at Orlandos Fuego Nightclub raise COVID-19 concerns as videos emerged on social media, by Orlando Sentinels Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio

COVID SESSION  Bill filed in Florida to strip state of power to require residents to get vaccinated, by Tallahassee Democrats Jeffrey Schweers: With a COVID-19 vaccine potentially weeks away from national distribution, a Florida lawmaker Monday filed a bill that would eliminate the state's power to require mandatory vaccines during a pandemic. Known for several unsuccessful lawsuits challenging local government mask mandates, GOP state Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Howey-in-the-Hills filed the legislation (HB 6003) on the first day of bill filing for the 2021 legislative session that begins March 2.

SABATINI TWO-FER  Campus carry issues re-emerging for 2021 legislative session, News Service of Florida: A long-debated proposal that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on Florida college and university campuses was filed Monday for consideration during the 2021 legislative session. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, refiled the campus carry proposal (HB 6001), which did not receive a hearing during the 2019 and 2020 sessions.

A STATE-LEVEL FIX COMING?  DeSantis urges Congress to pass unemployment relief, by POLITICOs Matt Dixon: Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday urged Congress to move quickly to pass an unemployment relief package for people left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis made his remarks to reporters Monday in Kissimmee, a central Florida city that is home to thousands of Walt Disney World workers.

FDP DRAMA BREWS  Nikki Barnes, a DNC and longtime mainstay of Florida Democratic politics, is tossing her hat in the ring to become the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Yes. Thats true. This party needs a major change," Barnes told Playbook in a text message Tuesday night. "All the money thats been invested into Florida over the last 20+ years for Democratic candidates has not changed our results. Democrats are nearly powerless and facing irrelevancy in the state. Its time for a fresh perspective, a new vision, and new leadership. Im ready to take on the challenge.

Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz last week sent strong signals that he is also running to replace FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo, who came under fire after Democrats had a dreadful 2020 election cycle. He announced last week his potential bid has the the backing of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who spent $100 million in a failed effort to beat President Donald Trump in Florida.

& The Bloomberg rollout was splashy and designed to make it seem as though the path had been cleared for Diaz, but thats not yet the case. Heres how one Florida Democratic veteran put it: Progressives (and probably black people) will need some help to get there with Diaz.

HERE WE GO  How Trumps Hill allies could take one last shot to overturn the election, by POLITICOs Kyle Cheney and Melanie Zanona: President Donald Trump's arsenal for overturning the election will soon be down to one final, desperate maneuver: pressing his Republican allies on Capitol Hill to step in and derail Joe Bidens presidency. Although the Electoral College casts the official vote for president on Dec. 14, its up to Congress to certify the results a few weeks later. And federal law gives individual members of the House and Senate power to challenge the results from the floor  a rarely used mechanism meant to be the last of all last resorts to safeguard an election.

BACK AT IT  Ron DeSantis restarts political fundraising machine, by POLITICOs Matt Dixon: Gov. Ron DeSantis is back on the fundraising circuit after a monthslong break, taking in more than $1.3 million in October and November as lawmakers prepare for the legislative session. The money has poured into Friends of Ron DeSantis, a political committee controlled by the governor that can take unlimited contributions. Between April and October, the committee spent more than it brought in, posting a negative $11,000 balance, a byproduct of some returned contributions and few new ones.

A HASTINGS PRIMARY?  Term-limited Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief has filed to run for Florida's 20th Congressional District, a seat held by longtime Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings. Sharief served on the Broward County Commission since 2010, including serving two stints as mayor. She is the countys first Black female Muslim mayor. h/t @Politics1com

CONGRATS!  Miami Herald journalists receive Open Government reporting award for Perversion of Justice, by Bianca Padró Ocasio

 The First Amendment Foundation is hosting an event with Julie K. Brown and Emily Michot to discuss their reporting that took down Jeffrey Epstein. Get tickets here.

WAVE OF ATTACKS  Cuba shuts down dialogue, blames the U.S. for protesting artists who demand more freedoms, by Miami Heralds Norma Gamez Torres: "It is a script that Cubans know well. Less than 24 hours after the Ministry of Culture reached an agreement in response to an unprecedented public protest by more than 300 young artists and intellectuals demanding freedom of expression and the release of several members of the San Isidro Movement, the Cuban government unleashed a wave of attacks against what Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel called a 'media show' and an example of U.S. meddling in the islands internal affairs."

 Cuban migrants make Florida Keys landing in a small boat, but theyre likely not staying, by Miami Heralds David Goodhue

 Federal judge moves Joel Greenbergs trail to March 2021, by Orlando Sentinels Martin E. Comas: "A federal on Monday agreed to reschedule the trial of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg to March after a request by his defense attorneys, who said they needed more time to prepare because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial was scheduled for January. Greenberg had waived his Constitutional right to a speedy trial, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg agreed to the new trial date, according to court documents."

 Handling of report on city manager by Gainesville commissioners raises questions, by Gainesville Suns Cindy Swirko: The handling of an investigative report that recommended the firing of Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman has become an issue separate from the ongoing allegations against Feldman. Commissioner David Arreola said he suspects the document was leaked by another commissioner before it became public record, a move he said is unfair to employees as well as a policy violation. However, the report may have been fair game for public distribution as soon as commissioners received it.

 Walton Grim Reaper attorney disputes beach closure appeal was frivolous, by News Service of Floridas Jim Saunders

 Hello Decemberr! Snow or no snow? Heres what we can expect from this weeks freeze, by Northwest Florida Daily News Tony Judnich: While much of Northwest Florida is experiencing widespread freezes for the first time this season, weather forecasters are not anticipating any snow to fall. Because of the anticipated very low temperatures that began Monday and will continue through Tuesday, several homeless shelters are serving as cold weather shelters.

 Man missing for 2 days found clinging to capsized boat in Florida, by NBC News Wilson Wong: "A boater who went missing in Florida for two days was found clinging to his capsized vessel far from shore early Sunday afternoon, the Coast Guard said. The Coast Guard said crew members aboard a motor vessel spotted Stuart Bee, 62, on the hull of his 32-foot Sea Ray around 11 a.m. about 86 miles away from the coast of Port Canaveral, Florida, an hour east of Orlando."

BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Rick Scott & former State Rep. Anne Mackenzie ... Tampa Bay Times' Michael Van Sickler

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