State of Play
News from state government and around Florida
Friday, November 19, 2021
Florida businesses face a potential problem over federal vaccine mandate; 2,000+ Covid cases, zero deaths reported Wednesday; State could get up to $1.2B to expand internet access
The Tallahassee Democrat provides a rundown of the four anti-mask/anti-vaccine mandate bills the Florida Legislature passed and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Thursday. Regarding one of the more problematic laws, it says Florida businesses will face a conundrum and fines and penalties from the federal government or state if it either bucks or follows the vaccine mandate. The business community has remained largely silent on the issbue.
Florida reported 2,053 Covid-19 cases and no new deaths on Wednesday, reports the Miami Herald. "The Florida Department of Health will most likely add more deaths to Wednesday’s total, increasing it from zero. The state has done this in the past when it has added cases and deaths to previous days during the pandemic. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,676,634 confirmed COVID cases and 60,846 deaths.
State lawmakers have laid a foundation to help expand broadband service with an expected increase in federal funding, reports Florida Politics. "The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed into law on Monday, sets aside $42.5 billion for broadband. At least $100 million of the fund is reserved for Florida broadband, but estimates suggest the state could receive as much as $1.2 billion."
Thursday, November 18, 2021
FL Legislatrue passes measures against mask and vaccine mandates; Surfside condo collapse triggered by construction next door; Flagler school board member wants arrest over LGBT book
"Almost entirely along party lines, [Florida] Republicans passed four bills on Wednesday to curtail mask and vaccine mandates, the culmination of a three-day special legislative session that [Gov. Ron] DeSantis called so swiftly it caught even Republican leaders by surprise. The session was urgently needed to combat federal government overreach, Mr. DeSantis argued," reports the New York Times.
"Construction of a luxury building next door triggered the collapse of an already fragile [Surfside] Florida condominium that killed 98 people in June, according to a new lawsuit," reports CBS News. "The lawsuit, filed late Tuesday on behalf of Champlain Towers South victims and family members, contends that work on the adjacent Eighty Seven Park tower damaged and destabilized a building in dire need of major structural repair."
"A school board member in Florida wants someone to be criminally prosecuted for allowing a young-adult memoir for Black queer boys on school library shelves," reports CNN. "Jill Woolbright, a member of the Flagler County School Board, filed a report with the county's sheriff's office last week claiming that having the book "All Boys Aren't Blue" by author George M. Johnson in the district's libraries is a crime."
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
FL reports 1,552 Covid cases, 1 death on Monday; 60 undocumented, unaccompanied minors forced from Sarasota shelter; Tourism to state in Q3 eclipses numbers from last year
Florida reported 1,552 Covid-19 cases and one new death Monday, reports the Miami Herald. In total, the state has recorded at least 3,673,033 confirmed cases and 60,846 deaths. "In the past seven days, on average, the state has added 61 deaths and 1,439 cases per day, according to Herald calculations of CDC data. It is unclear when these newly reported deaths occurred."
Sixty unaccompanied children, half under the age of 13, who are undocumented and under a federal refugee resettlement program were forced out of a federally funded facility in Sarasota because its state license expired, reports ABC Action News. The state has yet to renew the license and the Lutheran Services had no choice but to remove the children. Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to stop undocumented immigrants from entering.
The Florida tourism industry seems to have rebounded, reports Spectrum News 13. From July to September, or Q3, shows that more than 32 million visitors came to Florida, a more than 60% increase from the same period in 2020, Visit Florida shows. The Q3 data is also 0.3% higher than 2019, which makes it the first quarter to exceed pre-pandemic levels. Domestic visitors accounted for 96% of that total.
Fusion Medical Animation/Unsplash
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
1,000 manatees have died this year in Florida; Central Florida public schools are losing teachers in droves; FL bill to fight vaccine mandate may cost up to $6M for enforcement
One thousand manatees have died in Florida this year, easily eclipsing the previous record of 813 who died in 2013, reports Axios Tampa Bay. "Ground zero for manatee deaths appears to be the depleted winter feeding grounds in the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast ... and as winter sets in and manatees return to warmer waters, still lacking life-giving seagrass, it could get even worse."
Teacher resignations in Central Florida public school districts "are on the rise, numbers which we found publicly displayed on many local school board agendas or received from a district’s human resources division," reports ClickOrlando.com. "Orange County Public Schools saw an 32% increase in teacher resignations with 1,536 teachers resigning in 2020-2021 compared to the 1,168 teachers who resigned" in the prior year.
The state Legislature's special session to fight vaccine mandates will cost $6 million if a bill passes that would enforce a mandate ban and create a new statewide occupational safety agency, reports News Channel 8. Some Democrats question GOP seriousness. “Florida’s largest employers went forward with their vaccine requirement and all of those workers are now vaccinated. So this is all a stunt,” said state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.
Monday, November 15, 2021
FL Legislature starts special anti-vaccine mandate session; 13K people serving life without parole in state; $100M fed funds earmarked for broadband in state
Florida lawmakers start a special legislative session Monday to pass a law fining businesses and hospitals that comply with a federal mandate to get the country's workforce vaccinated, reports CNN. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called for the session, has made it a priority to fight pandemic policies, "even as deaths and hospitalizations surged in his state during the summer." He has also vowed to punish businesses that side with the feds.
More than 13,600 people are serving life without parole in Florida — almost a quarter of the nationwide total — and housing the for-life population cost the state $330 million last year, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project and the Tampa Bay Times. Part of the reason Florida’s numbers are so high is that it went further than any other state in 1997 by passing an unusual “two strikes” law.
At least $100 million in the recently passed federal infrastructure package is earmarked to Florida to help people connect to high-speed internet service, reports WFSU. "Thirteen percent — or 707,000 — of the state’s residents lack an internet subscription, according to a White House fact sheet." However, DeSantis described it as “pork-barrel spending” and also questioned if the state would get its fair share of the funding.
Friday, November 12, 2021
Florida pre-orders only 90,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses for kids; State prisons facing critical staffing shortage endangering safety; UF appeals ruling that could allow class-action lawsuit on fee refunds
While Texas pre-ordered 1 million child-sized doses of the Pfizer vaccine to fight Covid-19, Florida only ordered 90,000, enough to to fully vaccinate 3 percent of the state's 1.7 million children ages 5 to 11, reports the Tampa Bay Times. However, some private providers order doses directly from the federal government. It means CVS or Publix doesn't have to draw its supply from the 90,000 doses ordered by the state.
The safety of officers and inmates in Florida’s state prisons and the public are threatened by a critical staffing shortage, reports ABC Action News. It says the crisis is costing taxpayers millions in overtime and reducing programs to educate and train inmates. It may also result in a mass release. Of 18,000 security positions in the Florida Department of Corrections, more than 5,500 are vacant, or more than 30%.
The University of Florida is appealing a case after a circuit court judge refused o dismiss a potential class-action lawsuit demanding the school refund fees to students forced to learn remotely in 2020, reports the Gainesville Sun. Anthony Rojas, who was a UF graduate student in spring and summer 2020, sued in April seeks pro-rated refunds of activity fees, transportation fees and athletics fees, but not tuition.
Thursday, November 11, 2021
Central Florida rents have skyrocketed in the last quarter; FL touts low Covid infection rates but it was hammered over the summer; Broward sheriff's office lost 9 employees to Covid
Real estate data analysis firm CoStar Group shows that rental apartments across Central Florida are increasing faster that many other places around the country, reports WESH 2 News. Rates dropped during the pandemic, but in the second quarter of 2021 they rose 13% percent. Last quarter, they were up 21.5%, more than double the national average.
While the GOP is touting that Florida's Covid infection rate is lower than California's, the Washington Post's Philip Bump writes that Florida was still hammered by the virus over the summer. "On 56 percent of days since March 1, 2020, Florida has seen more cases per resident than the country overall. California’s rate of new infections has been higher than the country’s only about a quarter of the time. On 76 percent of days, Florida’s rate of new infections has been higher than California," he writes.
Nine employees, ranging in age from 39 to 72, of the Broward County Sheriff's Office have died of Covid-19, reports the Hill newspaper. At a memorial service, Sheriff Gregory Tony said more than half of the department's 5,600 employees had been exposed and more than 30 percent had contracted the virus. An analysis shows Covid is responsible for more than 66 percent of all law enforcement deaths in the line of duty across the U.S.
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Supply chain impacting distribution at food banks; PAC backing pot rec use gets sizable donation; Miami and Broward school districts relax mask mandate
Supply chain issues are affecting the ability of food banks like Feeding Northeast Florida to distribute food to the hungry, reports Action Jax News. “We’re still getting food, we’re still able to distribute food to people in need, but the mix of food that we’re getting is very different,” said Sarah Hall with Feeding Northeast Florida. It's getting fewer common items from grocery stores and more fresh produce from local farms.
A political committee, backing a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana use, raised $307,522 in October, with $250,000 coming from the medical-marijuana company Trulieve, reports News Service of Florida. It is proposing a ballot initiative allowing people 21 or older to grow and use marijuana and prevent lawmakers from limiting percentage of euphoria-inducing THC in marijuana.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Broward County School Board announced Tuesday that K-8 students and staff no longer are required to to wear face coverings, though it's still strongly encouraged, reports CNN. Broward has already made the change, while Miami's goes into effect Friday. The districts were among eight that imposed mask mandates, despite Gov. Ron DeSantis threatening to cut school funding.
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
FL gets billions in dollars for infrastructure improvements; Covid deaths surpass 60,000 in FL; Special legislative session next week will oppose Covid mask, vaccine mandates
Within the $2 trillion infrastructure bill passed last week by Congress, Florida will get money earmarked to help a lot of repairs, reports CBS 4 Miami. They include: $13.1 billion dollars for highways, $1.2 billion for airports, $245 million for bridges, $198 million to expand electric-vehicle charging stations and $100 million for high-speed internet service. Here's a more detailed rundown.
Florida on Monday reported 1,927 Covid-19 cases and 221 deaths, reports the Miami Herald. In total, the state has recorded at least 3,661,182 confirmed cases and 60,418 deaths. Of the deaths, about 87% occurred over the past 28 days and about 38% in the last two weeks. In the past seven days, on average, the state has added 132 deaths and 1,506 cases per day.
The Florida House and Senate unveiled proposals opposing Covid-19 vaccine and mask requirements for a special legislative session starting Nov. 15, reports News Service of Florida. The proposals would ensure workers get exemptions from employer-required vaccinations, prevent government employers from requiring workers to be vaccinated against Covid and withdraw from OSHA oversight, among other actions.
Monday, November 8, 2021
FL's Covid-19 overall rate still very high; State legislation would mandate teaching Asian American history; Court uphold DeSantis mask-mandate ban
Florida's Covid-19 case rate is higher than the national rate and 10th highest among states, despite claims by Gov. Ron DeSantis and others that the state has successfully handled the pandemic, reports FactCheck.org. While Florida's daily case rate is now low -- 7 per 100,000 people over seven-day moving average -- the overall one is very high -- more than 17,000 per 100,000 people.
Amid a surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans, two Democratic bills would require Florida public schools to teach about their communities’ immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity, culture and contributions, reports The Gainesville Sun. The bills are "intended to better represent understanding of Asian American & Pacific Islanders in statewide lesson plans in American history."
DeSantis is within his rights to issue a ban on mask mandates, a judge ruled Friday, reports Axios. The challenge "failed to prove that the ban 'is an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.'" Sides have clashed since the ban was passed by law earlier this year. "Florida officials have started to withhold district funding and dock school board salaries in retaliation against school districts that defy the ban."
Friday, November 5, 2021
More than 100 businesses, cities and schools defy FL's ban on vaccine mandates; FL joins lawsuit to block OSHA-issued vaccine mandate rules; FL Dems mull how to county inmates in redistricting
More than 100 Florida businesses, cities and schools have defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban against imposing vaccine mandates, risking $5,000 per violation, reports The Hill newspaper. The Florida Department of Health is investigating the potential violators that include AT&T, Live Nation, Royal Caribbean cruise line, Starbucks, Disney Cruise line and Northrop Grumman. Anyone can file a complaint about a business.
Florida will join Georgia and Alabama in a lawsuit to block OSHA vaccine mandate rules issued Thursday, reports WESH 2. "Individuals should make informed choices about their own health care. They shouldn't have to be coerced into getting a jab. In this situation, you're gonna have people, they'll have to choose, do you get fired from your job?” said DeSantis. About 60,000 Floridians have died from Covid-19, so far.
As redistricting continues, Democratic lawmakers in the state are raising the question of whether prisoners should be counted as residents in a county where they're serving time or back in their home counties, reports Axios Tampa Bay. The Census Bureau has counted inmates in their prison facilty's location, but that may reward rural areas with more power housing a population that can't vote. Florida has 149,000 inmates.
Thursday, November 4, 2021
DeSantis wants law enforcement agency to probe election crimes; Protestors rally at state capitol against vaccine mandates; New potentially faster-spreading Delta strain found in FL, 7 other states
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he plans to create a statewide law enforcement agency to investigate election crimes as part of several voting measures that will be considered in next year's legislative session, reports Axios. The governor held a Wednesday news conference making "baseless claims" about voter fraud "without citing evidence and despite the fact that such instances are rare in the U.S."
Several hundred people rallied Wednesday outside the state capitol in Tallahassee to protest vaccine mandates, reports News Channel 8. "The protestors want the state legislature to ban all vaccine mandates both public and private, but Republicans have expressed hesitations about interfering with private employers." Only one lawmaker, GOP Rep. Anthony Sabatini, showed up to support the protestors.
A potentially faster-spreading strain of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has been found in Florida and seven other states, reports CBS. "Labs in California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington state, plus the District of Columbia, have so far spotted at least one case of AY.4.2." But there's no evidence it causes a more severe illness and current vaccines remain effective.
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