Bill Allowing Religious Institutions to Stay Open During States of Emergency Gets Bipartisan Support

Bill Allowing Religious Institutions to Stay Open During States of Emergency Gets Bipartisan Support

After passing through two different committees in the Florida Senate, a bill (SB 254) giving religious institutions the right to stay open during a state of emergency has been put on the calendar to be considered by the entire Senate.

Introduced by Republican Senators, Keith Perry of Gainesville and Jason Brodeur of Lake Mary, SB 254 was approved by the Senate Rules Committee Thursday who voted 14 to 2, and was unanimously approved by the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee in November.

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Florida House Committee Approves Two Bills Involving Lobbying Restrictions

Florida House Committee Approves Two Bills Involving Lobbying Restrictions

Two bills (HB 7001 and HB 7003) that further restrict public officials from lobbying after leaving office were unanimously voted yes upon by the Florida House State Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Both bills, backed by Representative Traci Koster of Tampa, were filed to implement Amendment 12 from 2018 that prohibits lobbying by certain public officers during public service and for a six-year period following vacation of public office – instead of a two-year period as the law previously stated.

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Republican and Democratic Lawmakers File Multiple Firearm Related Bills for 2022 Florida Legislative Session

Republican and Democratic Lawmakers File Multiple Firearm Related Bills for 2022 Florida Legislative Session

As the 2022 legislative session in Florida began on Tuesday, proposals from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers regarding gun rights for Floridians prepare to face off; as one side promotes increased gun safety, while the other promotes loosening gun restrictions that are already in place.

The proposals by Democrats range from safe storage laws, the ban of “ghosts guns,” and a law that would require a background check each time an individual purchases or transfers ammunition.

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Charlie Crist Campaign Reports $3.8 Million Cash-on-Hand

Charlie Crist Campaign Reports $3.8 Million Cash-on-Hand

The campaign for U.S. Representative and Democratic candidate in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial race Charlie Crist announced $670,000 raised in December to round out 2021 and make his starting cash on hand for 2022, $3.8 million.

December fundraising numbers for Crist’s campaign were initially reported by Florida Politics on Tuesday, prior to official numbers being released by the Florida Elections Commission (FEC) late Monday. The actual number was $670,833.25.

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Florida Governor DeSantis Suspends Two Sumter County Commissioners Charged with Perjury

Florida Governor DeSantis Suspends Two Sumter County Commissioners Charged with Perjury

Weeks after being arrested and charged with perjury, two Republican county commissioners in Sumter County were suspended from office Thursday by Governor Ron DeSantis in the first two executive orders of 2022 (EO 22-01 and EO 22-02).

Until their cases are settled, Governor DeSantis ordered the immediate suspension of commissioners Oren Miller of District 5, and Gary Robert Search of District 1, who were arrested on December 15th and charged for lying during an investigation into possible violations of Florida’s Sunshine Law.

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Florida Lawmakers Propose Bills That Would Limit Subjects for Citizen Ballot Initiatives

Florida Lawmakers Propose Bills That Would Limit Subjects for Citizen Ballot Initiatives

In an effort to limit ballot initiatives brought on by the citizens, two Republican lawmakers in Florida, Senator Jason Brodeur and Representative Mike Beltran, filed identical bills (SJR 1412 and HJR 1127) that would restrict certain subjects in which citizens could issue the ballot initiative process for.

The two bills will be considered during the upcoming legislative session that begins January 11th, and are the latest attempts by Republicans to make the citizen initiative process harder in the state of Florida.

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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody Addresses Organized Retail Thefts

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody Addresses Organized Retail Thefts

A week before the 2022 legislative session in Florida begins, Attorney General, Ashley Moody – at a news conference with other state officials on Tuesday – doubled down on her stance regarding the crackdown on organized retail thefts that have been on the rise across the nation and now here in Florida.

During the news conference, Moody once again emphasized her proposal for a statewide task force and inter-jurisdictional database known as the Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange, or FORCE, that she had previously announced on December 2nd.

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Florida Unemployment Claims Lowest Since December 2019

Florida Unemployment Claims Lowest Since December 2019

Despite the surge in the new COVID-19 Omicron variant that is especially prominent in Florida, the number of new unemployment claims during the week that ended on December 25th was the lowest since before the pandemic during the same time period in 2019.

According to a news release by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) on Thursday, the number of initial unemployment claims in Florida for that week was only 3,982 – down 1,178 from 5,160 the week before.

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Amid Omicron Surge, Broward and Miami-Dade School Boards to Enforce Adult Mask Mandates

Amid Omicron Surge, Broward and Miami-Dade School Boards to Enforce Adult Mask Mandates

As students return from winter break, two South Florida school boards have decided to reinforce mask mandates amid the recent surge in COVID-19 Omicron variant cases.

Given that the two counties account for almost 61% of the new cases – reported by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) for the week of December 17th through the 23rd – Miami-Dade and Broward County school boards have announced plans to enforce an adult-only mask mandate for employees, volunteers, visitors, vendors, and contractors who are indoors at any District school or facility.

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Palm Beach Smash and Grab Robbery Nets $1 Million in Merchandise

Palm Beach Smash and Grab Robbery Nets $1 Million in Merchandise

On Christmas Eve, almost $1 million in handbags were stolen in a smash and grab robbery of luxury bag store Only Authentics in Palm Beach, Florida – a little more than two weeks after thieves initially stole close to $500,000 worth of bags, totaling almost $1.5 million.

The two robberies come even after Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the state’s plan on December 2nd to help prevent such crimes through the creation of a statewide task force and database known as the Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange, or FORCE.

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Florida Power and Light Rate Increase Appealed by ‘Floridians Against Increasing Rates’

Florida Power and Light Rate Increase Appealed by ‘Floridians Against Increasing Rates’

An appeal to a settlement approved by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) – that would allow Florida Power and Light (FPL) to increase its utility rates in January 2022 and 2023 – was filed Monday to the Florida Supreme Court by a non-profit advocacy group known as Floridians Against Increasing Rates, or FAIR.

The rate increases are part of a four-year plan that would raise the base rates by $692 million in 2022, $560 million in 2023, and a Solar Base Rate Adjustment (SoBRA) allocated to pay for, install, and operate solar energy fields in 2024 and 2025.

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Florida Lawmakers Propose Bills to Allow Criminal Offenders to Opt for Military Service

Florida Lawmakers Propose Bills to Allow Criminal Offenders to Opt for Military Service

In an attempt to create an alternative to prison time for low-level offenders, Florida lawmakers proposed identical bills (SB 1356 and HB 187) last week that would allow said offenders to enlist in military service rather than incarceration.

The option to enlist in lieu of going to prison is only eligible for first-time criminal offenders who are ages 25 or younger, whose primary offense is a misdemeanor, and whose sentencing for imprisonment is no more than four years.

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Bill Proposed to Exempt Voter Registration Data From Florida’s Public Records Laws

Bill Proposed to Exempt Voter Registration Data From Florida’s Public Records Laws

A bill that aims to exempt additional voter registration data from Florida’s public records laws was introduced Sunday by State Representative Cyndi Stevenson of St. Augustine.

In addition to data such as a voter’s social security number and address that were already exempt, Stevenson’s bill (HB 983) looks to shield the public from a voter’s date of birth, telephone number, e-mail address, and party affiliation.

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DeSantis Announces Three Appointments to Florida Gaming Control Commission

DeSantis Announces Three Appointments to Florida Gaming Control Commission

Ahead of the turn of the new year and the 2022 legislative session that begins on January 11th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced his appointments for the first three of five seats in the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) on Wednesday.

The three appointments include Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Julie Imanuel Brown, Chief of Staff at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Michael Yaworksy, and Founder and President of Drago Professional Consultants, Charles Drago.

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Florida Joins Multi-State Lawsuit Challenging Vaccine Mandate for Head Start

Florida Joins Multi-State Lawsuit Challenging Vaccine Mandate for Head Start

Challenging a rule from the Biden Administration that would require COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees at a preschool program known as Head Start, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody joined 23 other states to express an objection to the mandates.

Head Start is a free preschool program for students three to four-year-old in low-income families, that is funded by the federal Head Start program. The vaccine mandate would require all employees of schools that operate under Head Start to be vaccinated, as well as require mask mandates for children ages two and up.

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More Headlines…

Florida Is Second Behind Texas in Population Growth from 2020 to 2021

While the nation recorded a historically low population growth rate from 2020 to 2021, the state of Florida had the second highest population increase in the U.S. behind Texas, according to a report on Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB).

Following Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts during the pandemic to keep Florida relatively open compared to most other states, from July 1st, 2020, to July 1st, 2021, the census report showed that the state’s population grew by 211,196, making the total population 21,781,128.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Takes Action Against China and ‘Woke Corporations’

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, along with the state’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Ashley Moody, held a meeting Monday of the State Board of Administration (SBA) to “take action against communist China and woke corporations.”

As stated in a press release by the Governor’s Office, the meeting was an attempt t0, “revoke all proxy voting authority that has been given to outside fund managers, to clarify the state’s expectation that all fund managers should act solely in the financial interest of the state’s funds, and to conduct a survey of all of the investments of the Florida Retirement System to determine how many assets the state has in Chinese companies.”

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DeSantis Responds to Recent Spike of Omicron Cases in Florida

After more than three months of COVID-19 cases declining weekly since the summer spike in Florida, the holiday season welcomed in a new spike in cases due to the new Omicron variant that began Thanksgiving Day weekend and has boomed into the month of December.

According to the weekly COVID-19 case report provided by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), the 13-week continuous decline of weekly cases ended on the weekend of November 26th through December 2nd, and recorded 10,875 new cases – a 1,234 increase from the previous week that recorded 9,641.

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Florida Department of Health to Accept Applications from African American Farmers for Medical Marijuana Licenses

Almost six months after the Florida Supreme Court upheld a law that designated a single medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC) license for an African American farmer with business ties in the state, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) issued rules for the licensing process on Thursday.

Eligible applicants for $50 million MMTC license are African American farmers who were litigants in the Pigford vs. Glickman lawsuit from 1999 that successfully ruled the U.S. Department of Agriculture of discriminating against African American farmers when allocating farm loans and other financial assistance from 1981-1996.

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Florida Governor DeSantis Campaign Finance Report Shows over $4.5 Million Raised in November

As campaign finance reports for November were filed by 2022 gubernatorial candidates and officially released by the Florida Division of Elections on Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis’ campaign finance report showed that his political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, raised $4,593,936.

DeSantis, who had been fundraising for his campaign well before his official campaign announcement, now has $67 million in cash on hand from a variety of contributors who donated from as low as $1, to as high as $500,000 in November.

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Charlie Crist Campaign Releases Finance Report for November

Campaign fundraising for U.S. Representative and Democratic candidate in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial race, Charlie Crist, has amassed $5 million raised since his campaign announcement in early May.

Crist’s campaign, and political committee, Friends of Charlie Crist, announced Wednesday that there was more than $607,000 raised in the month of November, which ultimately led to the $5 million fundraising landmark.

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AAA Says Florida Gas Prices Could Drop Below $3 in the Coming Weeks

Motorists in Florida could see gas prices return to under $3 a gallon in the coming weeks, as officials from the American Automobile Association (AAA) say concerns over the surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant will likely halt demand for fuel.

According to AAA, the price at the pump has continued to drop after reaching its 2021 peak four weeks ago in November, where the average price per gallon was almost $4. In the weeks since, the average price per gallon dropped 21%.

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After 23 Years, a New Proposal Calls for Partisan School Board Elections

 After 23 years since legislation from 1998 shifted Florida school boards to be nonpartisan, Florida Senator Joe Gruters on Tuesday proposed a bill to reverse course and make school board elections partisan again.

Gruters, a Republican from Sarasota, filed the bill SJR 244, which was approved by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and is awaiting further review.

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Governor DeSantis Proposes $100 Million for Military Budget and the Florida State Guard

Florida’s military budget could receive more than $100 million in funding as Governor Ron DeSantis announced multiple proposals on Thursday that aim to support Florida’s National Guard, and establish a “civilian volunteer force,” known as the “Florida State Guard.”

According to the Governor’s Office, his proposals would further support the National Guard in giving them extras hands in helping with state-specific emergencies such as natural disasters.

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Florida Court Rules Against FDLE in Firearm Case

A three-judge panel in the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Wednesday, in a case regarding an individual who was denied the purchase of a firearm by the Department based off an unapproved background check.

The background check in question was issued through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which FDLE states denied Leonardo Lynch the purchase of a gun because he had a record of mental incompetency or a court-ordered substance abuse treatment – both of which Lynch denied.

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Florida Democratic Lawmakers File Bills Supporting Abortion Rights

Months after a Florida House Representative Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) filed an anti-abortion bill (HB 167) in September, which would ban the procedure after fetal heartbeat, Democrats in the Florida legislature filed identical bills in both the House and Senate that would establish a woman’s right to an abortion.

Representative Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg, and Senator Lori Berman of Lantana, filed HB 709 and SB 1036, respectively, known as “Reproductive Health Care Rights.”

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Florida Democrats Oppose Biden’s Decision to Remove FARC from Terrorist List

After the Biden Administration announced its plan to remove a Colombian rebel group known as FARC from the list of foreign terrorist organizations, an outcry of opposition in South Florida and state Democrats soon followed.

Amongst the outcry were some of the state’s top Democratic elected officials, researchers, and activists who also expressed how Biden’s decision failed to take into account the estimated 150,000 Columbian American voters, as well as the other Hispanic or Latino American voters in Florida who experienced the violence in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

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Report Shows Lowest Florida Jobless Claims Since Before the Pandemic

The four-week average number of Florida jobless claims reached its lowest mark since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor (USDL) released the information on Wednesday.

The data reflected 5,343 first-time unemployment claims filed in Florida during the week that ended Nov. 20, which dropped the four-week average to 6,045 claims.

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University of Florida President Supports Testimony by Political Science Professors

After months of back and forth between University of Florida (UF) and three of its political-science professors who were blocked from participating in a high profile lawsuit against Florida’s new election law, UF President Kent Fuchs approved a report Tuesday that called for that decision to be reversed.

In a separate report sent to an accrediting organization, UF denied that its Board of Trustees or any outside forces influenced their previous decision to prevent professors, Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith, from testifying against the law that was approved by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during the 2021 legislative session that ended in April.

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