Right here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend e-mail in the course of the 2021 Legislative Session — 3.21.21

Good Sunday morning, and welcome to Brunch, Florida Politics’ pop-up email running through the end of the 2021 Legislative Session. Vaccines are flowing, and we can’t wait to get back to some semblance of normalcy … like a mask-free brunch!

? — UF, FSU still alive in March Madness: The No. 4-seeded ‘Noles defeated UNC Greensboro Saturday 64-54, securing a spot in the second round against Colorado, 5th seed, on Monday. Tipoff is TBD. The No. 7-seeded Gators, meanwhile, knocked out No. 10 Virginia Tech 75-70. They next face Oral Roberts Sunday after the team upset second-seeded Ohio State. Tipoff is at 7:45 p.m.

Florida State Seminoles still have a few moves in the Big Dance.

? — TallyMadness is here: The online competition to decide who is the “best” lobbyist in Florida started Thursday afternoon. For this year’s competition, only in-house lobbyists are in the field, so the championship is really up for grabs. Cast your vote for the Round 1 matchups on FloridaPolitics.com before 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The winners will be announced in Monday’s edition of Sunburn.

???? — Winner and Loser of the Week: Check-in with Joe Henderson for the weekly rundown of who was hot and who was not. Not surprisingly, former Sen. Frank Artiles made the cut for losers. Click here to find out just how low he sunk.

? — That’s a lot of COVID-19: The Sunshine State hit a not-so-sunny milestone on Saturday, recording 2 million cases since the start of the pandemic, just over one year ago. The most recent data shows 64 new deaths attributed to the virus, including 62 Floridians and two nonresidents, as well as 192 additional hospitalizations. The virus has so far taken the lives of 33,337 individuals.

?‍? — Women in politics? Duh!: Join GOP political consultant Jennifer Lux, a former Mitt Romney, and John McCain campaign staffer, as she discusses what it’s like to be a woman in politics with noted anti-Trumper Jacob Perry Sunday evening. The discussion is live on Periscope, Facebook and YouTube Sunday at 8 p.m. Look for the hashtag #MonticelloLive. 

? — Happy birthday to a true Tampa hero, Richard Gonzmart, and soon-to-be House Speaker Paul Renner.

— Tampa COVID-19 vaccine pop-up today —

Rep. Kathy Castor will visit a COVID-19 vax spot in Tampa Sunday. The church site will aim to help members of the congregation get a shot.

When and where: Those doses will be handed out beginning at 9:30 a.m. The site is located at Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal at 5800 N Church Ave.

Who: Castor, who represents Florida’s 14 Congressional District, will be joined by church leaders in helping to drive interest in the event. Castor will also speak to the media. Castor’s release says hundreds of doses will be available Sunday.

Kathy Castor will make a visit to help promote vaccinations in Tampa.

Why: Florida has looked to continue rolling out these specialized weekend events to increase vaccine distribution. Beginning Monday, the state is also dropping the eligible age for vaccines to just 50 years old, which will likely help spur interest as well.

— Breaking Spring Break —

Spring Breakers hoping to soak up the sun in Miami Beach are out of luck. The city is closing causeways and imposing a curfew to curb partying amid ongoing challenges with the pandemic. 

Overrun: Crowds have swelled to the thousands in the city, according to City Manager Raul Aguila. In recent weeks crowds have clashed with police with occasional violence, including a deadly shooting. 

Overrun: Miami Beach has had enough of the Spring Break crowds and imposed a curfew. Image via ABC News.

The curfew: South Beach’s main strips, including Ocean Dr., Washington Ave., Collins Ave., and Española Way, will be under an 8 p.m. curfew, all but ensuring the party is over. Outdoor seating at restaurants must close by 7 p.m. Restaurants previously allowed to make food deliveries until 6 a.m., can now only stay open until midnight for deliveries. 

Causeways closed: The city will block most traffic on the eastbound lanes of the MacArthur, Julia Tuttle and Venetian causeways to keep partyers from the beach between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Limited access will be provided for beach residents, hotel guests and people who need to get to work on the MacArthur Causeway. The Venetian Causeway will be open for residents only, and the Julia Tuttle Causeway will be closed completely. 

Ocean Drive will also close to pedestrian and vehicular traffic after 8 p.m., except for hotel guests, residents headed home or employees. 

— Harris to Duval —

Vice President Harris will drop by Jacksonville Monday as part of the Joe Biden administration’s information offensive promoting the American Rescue Plan. That $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package was signed into law earlier this month.

“Help is Here”: Administration officials say the “Help is Here” tour aims to ensure Americans are aware of the benefits available to them under the plan. Harris will likely tout Democrats’ work on the legislation as well. Every Republican member of Congress voted against the proposal, citing its price tag and arguing the relief money was not targeted enough.

Kamala Harris returns Jacksonville to let Duval County know that
help is on the way.

Details coming soon: Harris’ team has not announced the precise time or location of the event as of yet. The Jax visit will be her first to Florida since the 2020 presidential campaign.

Biden, Harris and others will continue getting the message out in the days to come as eligible Americans begin seeing the benefits of the taxpayer-funded plan.

— Artiles’ latest scandal —

As if racist comments weren’t disgracing enough, the former Senator piled on last year, allegedly propping up a sham candidate to help Republicans claim a seat in his former chamber. 

What happened?: Third-party candidate Alex Rodriguez siphoned nearly 6,400 votes in a race decided by just 32 votes. That contest featured more than 216,000 votes counted in total and ended with Republican candidate Ileana Garcia defeating then-Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez.

Accusations abound: State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle on Thursday accused Artiles — who was forced to resign from the Senate in 2017 — of paying Alex Rodriguez nearly $45,000 to run as an independent candidate and “confuse voters and siphon votes” in the SD 37 race.

The arrest of Frank Artiles and Alex Rodriguez is just the latest scandal for the disgraced former Senator.

That’s what he said: “That is me, that was all me,” Artiles reportedly said as he watched José Javier Rodríguez slowly lose his grip on the seat as results poured in on Nov. 3. Artiles was attending an election night party for Republican Jason Brodeur at the time, and another person at that party said they heard Artiles make the remarks.

The name game: It’s believed that some voters may have mistakenly voted for Alex Rodriguez, thinking him to be José Javier Rodríguez, since the two candidates share the same last name. 

The charges: Artiles is charged with making excessive campaign contributions, “conspiracy” to make multiple campaign contributions over the limit, and a “false swearing in connection with voting or elections.”

Democrats are furious. They want Sen. Garcia to resign following the 2021 Legislative Session and hold a new election in Senate District 37 free of a spoiler candidate they believe robbed Dems of a rightful seat in the Senate.

— Protesting ‘anti-protest’ bill —

Organizations are speaking out against a GOP-backed bill aimed at cracking down on rioting and public disorder. But several groups opposing the measure are alleging it will curtail large legal protests as well.

Those opposed: March For Our Lives, Dream Defenders, the Florida Student Power Network, and other organizations are joining forces to host a Friday, March 26 protest against the legislation. The drive-in rally will occur at Tinker Field in Orlando at 6 p.m., with gates opening at 5.

Activists will descend on Tallahassee to protest the ‘anti-protest’ bill. Image via News4Jax.

Free food and music: Organizers will also be handing out free hot meals and groceries Friday. The event will also feature a performance from the musical group Phony Ppl.

Other groups such as United We Dream, Vets For The People, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Ministries Outreach, Orlando Democratic Socialists of America, Poder Latinx, UpNex, Florida Conservation Voters, MadSoul, Our Revolution Florida, REACH Party and QLatinx are serving as partners for Friday’s rally.

— Special Fauci ouchie —

For Faith Olivia Babis, senior public policy analyst at Disability Rights Florida, her personal health is a priority. She signed up right away after the Governor opened access to the medically vulnerable for what she calls her “#FauciOuchi, but still had a reason for anxiety whether her pharmacist would follow through.

Unarmed: Babis was born with no arms, and Florida pharmacists legally can only administer vaccines in the arm. “This has been a consistent problem in trying to get flu shots, so we’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Faith Olivia Babis is ready for her ‘Fauci ouchie.’

Hesitant staffers: Babis reports that some staff almost didn’t let her get the shot when she arrived. But the head pharmacist stepped in.

Racing thoughts: “I could see him thinking 1. Giving me a shot in my thigh was the only way to give me a shot 2. He had nowhere else to send me where I wouldn’t run into the same problem, and 3. If he didn’t let me get the vaccine, I was going to make a very big scene in the middle of the store.

Hot Shot: So the lobbyist landed the vaccine. That’s effective advocacy.

— Gunster hires political vets — 

— Two members of the Diaz de la Portilla clan are joining Gunster’s Miami office. The high-powered firm announced Miguel and Elinette Diaz de la Portilla would join as shareholders with Gunster’s Environmental and Land Use Law practice.

“Unique skills”: “With unmatched regulatory experience in local and state government, Miguel and Elinette’s industry-leading reputations stem from their deep knowledge and relentless dedication to securing results for their clients,” said Bill Perry, Gunster’s managing shareholder. “Having served in various levels of government, they bring unique skills that will bolster Gunster’s land use and government procurement practices in Miami and further differentiate our firm as the go-to resource for business owners.”

Power couple Miguel and Elinette Diaz de la Portilla are headed to Gunster.

Post-political career: Miguel Diaz de la Portilla served six years in the Florida Senate and chaired the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners. As an attorney, he’s also worked for companies and developers to secure approval for construction projects in the area.

Power couple: Miguel’s wife, Elinette, has significant lawyer chops of her own. She has more than 15 years experience in various fields such as zoning, vested right claims and environmental issues.

— Race for Resilience —

Put on your running shoes (or just walk!) in support of early childhood educators. The Florida Association for the Education of Young Children (FLAEYC) is launching a new charity initiative and you can get involved, wherever you are.

Sign up to support: FLAEYC asks individuals to walk for at least 2,021 seconds (around 34 minutes) the week of April 10-16 to show support for early childhood educators. Individuals can register at the FLAEYC website for $21 to help support the cause, then can begin walking or running next month!

​FLAEYC wants you to run where you are in its ‘Race for Resilience’ honoring Florida’s Early Childhood Educators.

The goal: “The proceeds from this race will support and expand professional development opportunities available at low or no cost to early educators, as well as support the launch of a statewide jobs board dedicated to recruiting and retaining early childhood teachers,” reads an explainer on the FLAEYC site.

The inspiration: “The impact of COVID-19 on the early childhood education field has left many of our members out of work or just barely hanging on,” said FLAEYC President Angela Tufts. “We are resilient, but we need more than just us moving together to change our trajectory. This move-a-thon is an exciting, fun and safe way to tell our story and engage the communities that rely on our teachers for their economic success.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the educational experience for many. FLAEYC leaders are hoping their event can help bring relief to those in need.

— Welcome to the world —

Today is your birthday: Rory Kate Price was born in Tallahassee this week to Tara and Trey Price, who serves as executive director of Florida Housing. She came into the world at 6 pounds 7 ounces. While both mom and baby are doing great, now at home and resting, Trey is still a little worried about winning his bracket in Round 1 of TallyMadness (which ends tonight, if you didn’t already know). Either way, congratulations and all the best to the happy, and growing, family. 

Can Trey Price be a DOUBLE winner this week?

She said yes!

A great reason to celebrate: Surrounded by family (and on his birthday, no less), entrepreneur, community leader and Elevate, Inc. founder Akash Patel and Neha Patel got engaged on Saturday at the Tampa Riverwalk. Mazel tov to the happy (and incredibly talented) couple!

She said yes!

— Brunching Out —

Chuck’s Fish, open since August, is a new downtown venue that’s bound to be a hit this legislative session. The Destin-connected restaurant snags rave reviews for its fresh Gulf fish and sushi at lunch and dinner, and now there’s Sunday brunch.

Backstory: Chuck’s gets fish from its seafood market at Harbor Docks in Destin, which has been open for 40 years. The restaurant also operates nonprofit food trucks called American Lunch that bring free meals to hard-hit communities. 

Setting: Chuck’s Fish renovated its space — previously Deck Pizza Pub, Southern Public House, Tucker Dukes and the longtime Po Boy’s Creole Cafe — and touts an outdoor patio perched above College Avenue.

What’s a Sunday Brunch without chicken and waffles? Image via Tallahassee Table.

The Menu: Chuck’s offers about 10 items for brunch, and there’s often a special on fresh fish. Top picks include the crabcake Benedict with a chipotle hollandaise sauce, perfectly crisp fried chicken with Belgian waffles, blackened shrimp and grits, lox or avocado toast and caramel apple beignets.

Drinks: Chuck’s offers four cocktail options: a Mimosa, Poinsettia (with cranberry juice and Cointreau), Bloody Mary and Frosé with rosé, vodka, elderflower and citrus.

Deets: Sunday brunch runs from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner is served from 5-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Chuck’s also offers Happy Hour from 4-6 p.m. on weekdays. The Tallahassee site is at 224 E. College Ave. is one of five locations.

Via Rochelle Koff of Tallahassee Table.

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