State of Play

News from state government and around Florida

Monday, June 14, 2021

Rayner to announce run for House seat; New HIV diagnoses in Florida tops U.S.; State needs clean water constitutional amendment

  • State Rep. Michele Rayner, a civil rights attorney and the first openly Black LGBTQ woman elected to the legislature last year, is running for the House seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, reports Politico. She plans to announce her intention Monday and joins fellow Democrats, state Rep. Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg and Eric Lynn. Crist, a Democrat, is running for governor again.

  • Florida leads the nation in the total number of new diagnoses of HIV and has the third-highest rate of new cases in the U.S. when adjusted for population, reports Axios Tampa Bay. While the annual number and rate of HIV diagnoses declined across the nation and the state from 2015-2019, the state's diagnoses per 100,000 residents is almost twice the national rate. Reducing HIV transmission is a top state health department priority. 

  • Florida needs a constitutional amendment similar to Orange County's Right to Clean Water/Rights of Nature Charter Amendment that guarantees clean water for all residents, writes Joseph Bonasia, vice-chair of the Florida Rights of Nature Network in a News-Press opinion piece. The legal system is tilted to corporations that use water and pollute the environment resulting in algal blooms, fish kills and other issues. "Fighting effectively means granting rights to nature and the right to clean water to all Floridians."


Friday, June 11, 2021

Property insurance bill to be signed; NetChoice outlines suit against social media law; DeSantis fundraises off of critical race theory

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign a bill into law that addresses property insurance costs and roofing contractor practices, but he said more needs to be done to limit excessive litigation and improve the insurance market, reports the Insurance Journal. The governor wants to see “manageable premiums” and a “stronger private insurance market.” 

  • Although a new state law purports to protect citizen's free speech online, it will actually restrict it, writes NetChoice general counsel Carl Szabo, in a Tallahassee Democrat op-ed. Washington, D.C.-based groups NetChoice and Computer and Communications Industry Association are suing the state over the law. "We could not stand idly by as the government requires private parties to host speech that goes against their chosen guidelines, potentially ruining that service for users and businesses alike."

  • DeSantis immediately fundraised off of the Florida Board of Education ban Thursday of "critical race theory" from being taught in schools statewide, reports Florida Politics. "Within hours of the vote in favor of the new guidelines, DeSantis’ political committee attempted to monetize the Governor’s latest victory over what an email solicitation calls 'cultural Marxism.'" The pitch says: "I will NOT allow this Cultural Marxism to Gain a Foothold in Florida Schools".


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Florida woman says she captured small dinosaur on video; Wages in Florida lag other states; Use of citrus pesticide overturned

  • A Palm Coast woman insists that she saw in April a small dinosaur running through her yard, an image that was caught on her security camera, reports Fox News. "Any animal we can come up with that would be 'walking' at 3:40 in the morning, wouldn't walk this way," Cristina Ryan told FOX 35 in April. "Maybe I've watched 'Jurassic Park' too many times, but I see a raptor or other small dinosaur."

  • Despite the state's economic growth, wages in Florida lag other states, reports WFIT. "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average weekly wages in Florida’s 25 largest counties were below the national average of $1,173 in the third quarter of 2020." The disparity is especially bad for tourism workers. 

  • The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned the Environmental Protection Agency's January approval of the pesticide aldicarb that targets a disease that is destroying Florida's citrus crops, reports the News Service of Florida. The reversal was a victory for environmental and farmworker groups, which sued the pesticide's use, citing that the health of workers and wildlife would be affected. 


Daniel Cheung

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Florida not reporting daily Covid numbers; State proposed rainy-day fund nixed; GOP starting anti-transgender culture war

  • Florida will no longer report daily daily Covid-19 vaccinations and deaths, reports CNBC. “Florida is transitioning into the next phase of the COVID-19 response,” the Florida Department of Health wrote in an emailed statement Monday. “As vaccinations increase and new case positivity rate decreases, [FDOT] has moved to a weekly reporting schedule.” Alabama also moved to a weekly schedule.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill that would've created a reserve fund to use during hurricanes and other emergencies using federal funds, reports Florida Politics. The bill aimed to create a $1 billion rainy-day fund with federal relief dollars but new federal guidance prohibited use of such money for future needs. While Republicans said it would enable the governor to respond to emergencies more quickly, Democrats feared it would become a slush fund.

  • Republicans across the U.S. are pushing for anti-transgender legislation to create a culture war to advance their agenda and remain in power, writes Julie Allen, senior fellow in the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, in a WBUR commentary. In states like Florida where DeSantis signed a new law preventing transgender girls from competing in high school sports, "he could not point to a single example in his own state of a transgender girl competing against a cisgender girl in high school sports."


Dmitri Karastelev

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Judge to hear Thursday state lawsuit over cruises; Manatees dying at precipitous rate; Some school districts still fear spending cuts

  • A federal judge will hear arguments Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Florida against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the agency's regulation over cruise ships to restart, reports WMFE. The CDC is trying to require "cruise companies to have practice sails to prove they can control" Covid-19 or the companies can require their staff and passengers to show proof of vaccination. The state argues the CDC doesn't have such authority.

  • Two and a half times more manatees have apparently died this year, so far, over last year, and federal officials are investigating the situation, which has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event, reports First Coast News. State data shows that more than 760 manatees have died this year, which experts believe is mainly due to starvation. "Years of decreased seagrasses in the Intracoastal, we are certainly concerned about next winter," said Craig Miller, curator of mammals at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. 

  • While Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the largest public education budget in Florida's history, many school district officials across the state are still worried they'll have to make spending cuts, reports the Tampa Bay Times in a roundup of education news from across the state. For instance, Brevard County officials expect a $16 million shortfall. On a high note, the state exceeded tax revenue projections in April.


Monday, June 7, 2021

Transgender athletes say new law's impact hurts; DeSantis targeting local GOP school board candidates; Jacksonville school district to rename 9 schools

  • For transgender athletes, Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a bill that bans them from participating in girls’ and women’s sports is "heartbreaking," reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. While the law's supporters says it will ensure fairness, the affected athletes say "it will hurt all athletes, whether they’re transgender, cisgender or intersex ... The law does not include language about transgender or intersex athletes, and leaves room for anyone to accuse any athlete of being too masculine, too strong, too fast, or just not feminine enough."

  • Gov. DeSantis say his "political apparatus" will target Republican school board candidates who oppose his educational reforms, reports Florida Politics. In a Fox News program, he said they would not support any candidate that supports critical race theory or mask mandates for school children. The story notes school board races are nonpartisan. The State Board of Education will meet Thursday in Jacksonville "to vote on a proposal that attacks Critical Race Theory and other deconstructions of traditional civics curricula."

  • The Duval Country School Board in Jacksonville will rename six schools with Confederate ties and three with connections to the marginalization of Indigenous people, reports Florida Times-Union. The move, which goes into effect Aug. 3, comes a year after it was first proposed and aligns with the superintendent's recommendations and community input.


Friday, June 4, 2021

FL Covid deaths near 38,000; Shopping with others can cost you; Annual Python hunt to start

  • Florida's number of deaths from Covid-19 nears 38,000 as of June 3, reports the Tampa Bay Times (subscription required). From May 28 to June 3, there were 11,387 infections (2,329,867 total since March 1, 2020) and 258 deaths (37,717 total to date). "Of the roughly 10.4 million people who have received a vaccine in the state, about 8.4 million have completed a vaccine series."

  • A University of Florida study shows that shopping with family could cost a person more, reports WFTS Tampa Bay. "Researchers looked into what and who affect people’s decisions, finding that the shopping response depends on who is shopping with you and takes into account a variety of factors like gender and age." The likelihood of impulsive shopping is higher when shopping with someone especially if they're close to you.

  • Florida's annual hunt for Burmese pythons, an invasive species that devours the state's native mammals and birds, will run from July 9-18, reports The Associated Press. Prizes, which were announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday, are $2,500 prize for catching the most pythons and $1,500 for the longest. Pythons can grow up to 20 feet and 200 pounds.


Credit: Brian McGowan

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Fried to announce gubernatorial run; Music promoter offers incentive to get vaccinated; Jobless benefits being lost jeopardizes peoples' rents

  • Florida Agriculture Commissioner is expected to announce a run for governor Tuesday, reports Fried, the only Democrat elected statewide, tweeted a video May 12, saying that she would make the announcement June 1. Rep. Charlie Crist already said he's running against Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • To get more people vaccinated, a Florida promoter said those vaccinated would be charged $18 to see acts Teenage Bottlerocket, MakeWar and Rutterkin while unvaccinated people would be charged $999.99, reports Louder. Promoter Paul Williams said he wants young people to take the vaccine seriously. "To care about people being safe is very bad apparently," he said. "You can buy a full-price ticket and you'll be treated like everyone else."

  • About 4.1 million people will see their federal pandemic unemployment benefits end in coming weeks in at least 24 Republican-led states, including Florida, reports CNN. The story features Orlando resident Lindsey Bates, a fully vaccinated restaurant server who has been looking for a full-time job and will lose $300 in pandemic benefits that could make it hard to pay her rent for her and her son.


Credit: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Friday, May 28, 2021

FL marijuana licensing rules upheld; Tech industry sues over new regulation; Critical race theory under assault

  • The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that state rules for licensing medical marijuana businesses don't violate the state's constitution, turning back a lawsuit by Tampa-based medical marijuana company Florigrown, reports News Channel 8. Florigrown sued over the state's 2017 law, saying it was unconstitutional and arbitrary and that it gave the state the choice to pick winners and losers rather than let the market decide.

  • Two tech industry groups -- NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association -- have sued Florida over a new law that imposes penalties for social media companies for banning any state political candidates, reports the The Verge. The industry groups are asking a court to prevent the law from taking effect, calling it unconstitutional and in violation of current federal law.

  • While critical race theory acknowledges "the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color," conservatives feel like its an attack, writes journalist Diane Roberts in a Florida Phoenix commentary. "They want to hear that America is virtuous and always has been. Anything that might suggest white people have done wrong seems to render them paralyzed with denial," she adds.


Credit: CRYSTALWEED Cannabis

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Properly using generators; GOP targets critical race theory; FL's anti-social media stance will fall

  • As people prepare for the 2021 hurricane season by buying generators, experts warn about how to properly use the equipment by getting a key safety feature, reports News 4 Jax. "The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that from 2005 to 2017, more than 900 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning while using portable generators." Some new generators have a sensor that automatically shuts off the device if the gas builds to dangerous levels in an enclosed area.

  • Republican officials in at least nine states, including Florida, are trying to limit students' exposure to critical race theory, which links racial discrimination to the nation's legal and other systems, reports Axios Tampa Bay. Conservative activists want less talk about racism and more on patriotism. Gov. Ron DeSantis again "pledged to stamp out critical race theory in Florida classrooms — noting that while the Board of Education will take up the issue soon, the buck stops with him and the Legislature."

  • Florida's new law pushed by DeSantis to penalize social media companies that kick political candidates off their platforms will be thrown out for being unconstitutional, writes former journalist Bill Cotterell in an opinion piece for the Tallahassee Democrat. Cotterell writes DeSantis, who pushed the law because former President Trump was banned from Twitter, knows case precedent will scuttle the new law.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

New York, fuh·ged·da·boud·it; Immigration protections sought; Ayala, Bracy vie for Demings' seat

  • More than 33,000 New Yorkers switched their driver's licenses for Florida ones from September 2020 to March 2021, reports The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles statistics indicate a 32-percent increase from the same period during the prior year. The top destinations are Palm Beach (14,045 New Yorkers); Broward (8,422) and Miami-Dade (8,033).

  • Central Florida leaders are pressuring Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to pass bipartisan legislation that would provide more security to the 490,000 immigrants living in the area, reports Axios Tampa Bay. "Business, political and religious leaders are warning of a post-pandemic worker shortage in industries such as agriculture and hospitality, and they're urging across-the-aisle cooperation."

  • Several Florida Democratic officials have said they will vie for Rep. Val Demings' congressional seat with the expectation that she will challenge Rubio for his Senate seat next year. Politico reports that former state prosecutor Aramis Ayala will throw her hat into the ring along with state Sen. Randolph Bracy who recently said he will run for Demings seat. Congressional District 10 is a considered a safe Democratic seat.


Credit: Aybil Goker

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Florida regulates social media; Good news about Piney Point; Jobless benefits cut early

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law penalties against social media companies that permanently bar political candidates in the state, a move made as a result of Twitter banning former President Trump in January, reports The New York Times (subscription required). DeSantis said Floridians would be “guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites,” but the measure is likely to face a constitutional challenge.

  • Initial findings of the wastewater discharge from the Piney Point fertilizer plant show that it did not have a widespread impact on Tampa Bay, reports ABC 7 WWSB. University of South Florida scientists, who are looking for trace metals that could affect marine life, say winds and currents are dispersing "the concentration of problematic nutrients." It will still take months to analyze all the data.

  • Starting in late June, Florida will end the extra $300 per week in federal jobless benefits to Floridians, reports WUSF Public Media. Unemployed residents were supposed to receive the money through Sept. 6 but the state said it wants to move them to work. About 487,000 residents were jobless in April. Florida became the 22nd state cut the federal pandemic-related benefits early. Most are Republican-controlled states.


Credit: William Krause

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