Good Friday morning from POLITICO Florida’s alternative Miami home office, POLITICO Magazine’s Mike Grunwald’s house. He has power. I don’t. The air-conditioned choice was obvious. Today, both Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio are in the Florida Keys, where Hurricane Irma made landfall five days and one hot eternity ago. The power, phone and water/sewer systems are still barely functioning. Residents south of mile marker 74 haven’t been allowed in. But, as noted yesterday, that’s a risky decision. Now that a Publix opened in Key West, which is relatively unscathed compared to hard-hit Big Pine Key, it might not be long until life at Mile Zero returns to abnormal.
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DEATH TOLL — “Irma’s official death toll rises to 26 in Florida,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas: “The number of casualties is destined to grow as the total confirmed by county medical examiners, and reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, does not include the eight elders who died this week when their Broward nursing home became an oven, or the eight reported dead in the Keys, when winds hacksawed through their islands.” Read more
AFTER GOOD BILLS DIE, SENIORS DIE — “After Wilma, bills were pushed to ensure nursing homes had emergency AC. Opponents killed them,” by Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller and Mary Ellen Klas: “In the aftermath of 2005’s destructive Hurricane Wilma, Florida lawmakers approved laws to protect motorists at risk of getting stranded on the interstate, and residents of new highrises who can’t climb stairs. Proposed at the same time: a bill that would have required some nursing homes to have generators to protect frail elders from the ravages of heat and dehydration. That bill died. Cause of death: industry opposition and government miserliness. The initial idea in the 2006 session was to require all nursing homes to install generators capable of cooling and running their facilities. That went nowhere as the powerful long-term care industry objected to the price tag. A compromise bill would have set aside about $57 million to reimburse half the cost for some nursing homes that were willing to install full-service generators — and accept residents from other homes who were being evacuated. The legislation was derailed in the Senate.”Read more
— “Nursing home to fight state ban on new admissions following 8 deaths,” by POLITICO Florida’s Christine Sexton: Read more
— “Nursing home deaths: Hollywood police have search warrant, say all eight people died Wednesday,” by the Sun Sentinel’s Paula McMahon, Susannah Bryan and Erika Pesantes: Read more
COOLER THAN A NURSING HOME? — “Even the dead have to wait for power as funeral homes struggle without the basics,” by Miami Herald’s Alex Harris and Howard Cohen: “Donald Van Orsdel is very glad he bought a generator after Hurricane Wilma. When Irma tore through South Florida this weekend, he knew he could count on the industrial size behemoth to power the downtown office of his funeral home, including its refrigeration service and crematoriums. It worked better than the $800 of dry ice he used after Andrew left his business, the oldest family-owned funeral home in Miami, without power for days. On Wednesday, power was restored at all three Van Orsdel Funeral Homes locations — ‘praise the Lord’ — and Van Orsdel was busy cleaning up smashed trees. But that’s not the case for dozens of funeral homes across the county, or many of the cemeteries. Calls to many local funeral homes went to voice mail, answering services or just rang endlessly as the area deals with widespread power outages. Families postponed funerals and left their recently deceased loved ones in hospitals while they wait for life post-hurricane to return to normal.” Read more
STILL COOL ON GLOBAL WARMING — “Florida governor remains unsure about climate change after Hurricane Irma,” by POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo: Gov. Rick Scott is again weathering criticism over global warming in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and won’t say if he believes man-made climate change is real. “Clearly our environment changes all the time, and whether that’s cycles we’re going through or whether that’s man-made, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one it is,” Scott said after twice touring the storm-ravaged Florida Keys this week. “But I can tell you this: We ought to go solve problems. I know we have beach renourishment issues. I know we have flood-mitigation issues.” In not taking a position on climate change, Scott’s views and responses to questions about climate change have remained markedly steady for years. The only major difference, for instance, between his comments Wednesday evening to reporters and his statements before his 2014 reelection is that he no longer says, “I’m not a scientist.” Read more
RUN RICK RUN — “Trump pushes Rick Scott to run for Senate during Irma recovery visit,” by POLITICO’s Nolan D. McCaskill: Read more
HINTERLAND IS HURTING — “Hurricane Irma: Everglades City residents struggle with housing, plumbing problems,” by Alexandra Glorioso and Brett Murphy: “Residents struggling with limited resources in Everglades City after Hurricane Irma could soon have a bathroom problem. Houses connected to the city’s sewer system need electricity to flush their toilets. So, even if the city gets its sewage up and running, their pipes will soon clog. ‘I’ve got to get more Port-a-Potties in here,’ said Everglades City Clerk Dottie Joiner. So far, Collier County has delivered five for the area that serves 1,500 people.” Read more
— “Hurricane Irma: Relief slow to come to Collier displaced who need it most,” by Naples Daily News’ Maria Perez, Alexandra Glorioso, Brett Murphy: Read more
POOR MAN FEEL IT — “Irma pushes Florida’s poor closer to the edge of ruin,” by AP’s Jay Reeves: Read more
RED CROSS BLACK EYE — “For Red Cross, hurricanes bring both donations and criticism,” by AP’s David Crary: “To date, combined donations to the Red Cross for hurricanes Harvey and Irma have topped $300 million. … Yet even in the early stages of the response to Harvey in Texas, a NoRedCross hashtag circulated widely on Twitter. Some prominent journalists wrote articles suggesting that people should not donate to the organization. The New York Times, in an editorial, urged prospective donors to be skeptical. “Its record on large-scale operations is spotty,’ said the editorial, asserting that ‘there has been less accountability than Americans might expect emanating from its grand marble headquarters in Washington.’ The criticism has been stinging to Red Cross volunteers, many of whom have taken to social media to rebut the negative commentary.” Read more
THE OTHER RED AND BLACK — “With Irma gone, most South Florida casinos are ready to roll,” by South Florida’s David Raterman: Read more
— “For those in the service sector, Hurricane Irma hits especially hard: Expense and no pay,” by Florida Today’s Wayne T. Price and Dave Berman: Read more
MONSTER STORY — “Life and death of Irma: 2 weeks of fury and devastation end,” by AP’s Seth Borenstein: “Irma, which flattened some Caribbean islands and enveloped nearly all of Florida in its fury, no longer exists. The open Atlantic’s most powerful hurricane on record finally sputtered out as an ordinary rainstorm over Ohio and Indiana. Irma’s confirmed death toll is 61 and still rising, 38 in the Caribbean and 23 in the United States. In the U.S. alone, nearly 7 million people were told to evacuate, and 13 million Floridians were left without power in hot steamy weather. This storm grew so immensely powerful over warmer-than-normal Atlantic water that it devastated the first islands in its path. Its gargantuan size — two Hurricane Andrews could fit inside it — spread so much fear that people all over the Florida peninsula upended their lives to flee.” Read more
REAL MONSTER STORY — “Escape from the jaws of death! Terrifying moment alligator pops up just inches from dog swimming in Hurricane Irma floodwaters,” by The Daily Mail’s Joe Sheppard: “A curious dog narrowly escaped the jaws of death when an alligator popped up next to him as he swam in floodwaters caused by Hurricane Irma. Corina Cox, 37, was evacuated from her home in Kissimmee, Florida, after the storm hit and had taken her dog, Pokey, to stretch his legs and enjoy a swim in the storm waters. But they did not know that a hungry alligator was looking for its next meal in the area. Ms. Cox said: ‘I was looking through my phone directly at Pokey and not watching my surroundings at all. ‘It looks like Pokey saw it and jumped out to see what it was, it must have startled the alligator.’ Pokey makes his way into the water before the alligator can be seen appearing above the surface just inches away from the pup.” Read more
BUBBLE, BUBBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE … — “Will Hurricane Irma slow Tampa Bay’s booming real estate market?” by The Tampa Bay Times’ Susan Taylor Martin: “Expecting the worst from Hurricane Irma, Tampa real estate agent Jeff Shelton fled to Atlanta where wind-whipped trees toppled onto two rental properties he owns. Back in Florida, his house and beachfront condo both survived Irma unscathed. That’s the kind of story he’s happy to share with clients. … Even in its weakened state, Irma caused plenty of misery in the Tampa Bay area. But the Category 3 winds and epic storm surge never materialized, sparing most homes major damage and easing fears that the area’s real estate market could face a calamitous setback just it was enjoying such a strong rebound from the housing crash. So far, Irma’s main impact appears to be some delayed closings and reinspections of homes under contract.” Read more
… IRMA RUNDOWN …
MERICA! — “Hurricane Irma: Bald eagle nest on Marco Island survives storm,” by Naples Daily News’ Lisa Conley: Read more
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS — “Dealer faces fines, jail time after parking cars in public garage during Irma,” by Palm Beach Post’s Ryan DiPentima:Read more
DID HE HAVE A TRUMP MASK? — “Feds arrest Secret Service imposter trying to sneak into Palm Beach,” by Palm Beach Daily News’ Darrell Hofheinz:Read more
BITTER HARVEST — “After Irma: Florida agriculture losses widespread, billions in damage,” by Palm Beach Post’s Susan Salisbury: Read more
TURTLE TOLL — “Irma washes away many turtle nests, much sand in Indian River County,” by TC Palm’s Elliott Jones: Read more
SOME SHOULDN’T — “Torres: So, should we really be living in Florida?” by Florida Today’s John A. Torres: Read more
NOT SO FAST!(?)— “FPL promises your power will be back by Sunday night — with one catch,” by Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez: Read more
SO MUCH WORSE — “Hurricane Irma devastation outstrips Matthew by a factor of three,” by Florida Today’s Dave Berman: Read more
IT USUALLY DOES — “Hurricane, tornadoes, nor’easter made for a destructive combination,” by St. Augustine Record’s Jared Keever: Read more
RECOVERY MENACE — “Hurricane Irma’s rains will mean more mosquitoes,” by the Orlando Sentinel’s Martin E. Comas: Read more
UNLEADED ANGER — “Irma aftermath: Line jumping at gas station leads to charge of battery,” by Ocala StarBanner: Read more
SOUTHERNMOST SEARCH — “Before and after Hurricane Irma: What happened to our favorite Florida Keys landmarks?” by the Sun Sentinel’s Michael Mayo, Rod Stafford Hagwood, Phillip Valys, and Mike Clary: Read more
GAS IT UP! — “EPA allows Duke Energy trucks to use higher sulfur fuel,” by POLITICO Florida’s Bruce Ritchie: Read more.
… NON-IRMA NEWS …
CHEDDAR — “Disney tops list of biggest Florida political donors in August,” by POLITICO Florida’s Brendan Cheney: “Disney was once again the biggest donor to state political committees and candidates in August, giving $720,000. Disney was also the biggest donor in April and July and the second-biggest donor in June. Disney gave $600,000 to Voters in Charge, $50,000 to Voice of Florida Business PAC (connected to the Associated Industries of Florida), $40,000 to Innovate Florida (associated with state Sen. Bill Galvano) and $25,000 to Florida Grown, the PAC associated with agriculture commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam. Read more
ABOUT THOSE PLANE TRIPS — “Menendez trial: Prosecutors question timing of flight reimbursements,” by POLITICO New Jersey’s Matt Friedman:“U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez did not reimburse his friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, for two round-trip flights on his private jet until a reporter started asking questions, according to testimony presented in federal court on Thursday. “Did Sen. Menendez take that trip with Dr. Melgen, and has he accepted the use of the doctor’s jet?” Kane wrote to Menendez’s communications director, Tricia Enright. “In which case, if he has, does he have a letter from the ethics committee okaying his gift from Dr. Melgen, and will this be reported on his financial disclosure form?” Read more
LESS OBAMACARE BUCKS — “Florida gets $6.6M for Obamacare navigators, a drop in funding compared to 2016,” by POLITICO Florida’s Christine Sexton: The Trump administration awarded Florida $6.62 million in grants to spend on navigators to help enroll Floridians in Obamacare plans, a far lower amount than what was awarded in the previous year. Nationally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will distribute $37 million to navigators to help enrollment in the Affordable Care Act. That’s roughly a 40 percent reduction from this year, to nearly 100 organizations across the country, according to a spreadsheet of awards obtained by POLITICO. The lion’s share of Florida’s funding, or $4.9 million, is directed to Florida Covering Kids & Families. Based at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, it works to promote access to health insurance and provides materials and applications to help families get health coverage. Statewide, the CMS last year gave nearly $10 million. Read more.
POISED FOR BATTLE — “‘Best and Brightest’ program discriminates, teachers union asserts in lawsuit,” by POLITICO Florida’s Daniel Ducassi: The Florida Education Association is challenging in court the state’s “Best and Brightest” program that monetarily rewards teachers with high scores on college entrance exams. The 58-page lawsuit asserts the score requirement “has an illegal disparate impact on teachers based on their age and on teachers based on their black and Hispanic race.” The lawsuit, filed in federal court Wednesday by FEA, along with seven black and Hispanic teachers, seeks class-action status. It names as defendants the Florida Department of Education and every school district in the state. Read more
WORD GAMES — “The White House is against ‘amnesty,’ but won’t say what that means,” by POLITICO’s Matt Nussbaum: “We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty,” President Donald Trump said Thursday, as he batted back reports that he’d struck a deal with Democrats on undocumented immigrants. “We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.” The problem? Allowing people who came to the U.S. without papers to stay is precisely what many conservatives commonly mean when they say “amnesty.” But it’s unclear how, exactly, this White House defines “amnesty” — though it was very clear that Trump wanted to get away from the A-word as quickly as possible. Read more
— Trump die-hards divided over DACA deal. Read more
— Univision says it will lobby hard on DACA. Read more
— “Feds actively considering delaying DACA deadline,” by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein: Read more.
THE STONE ZONE — Roger Stone says he’ll testify this month in House Russia probe. Read more
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