Appropriations Chairman Sparks Debate About Virtual School Funding Ahead of 2022 Legislative Session

A debate about whether Florida lawmakers should change the way public schools fund virtual learning has begun as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic causing virtual school numbers to skyrocket in the past year and a half.

In an interview with the News Service of Florida, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairman, Randy Fine, expressed the concern Florida education lawmakers are facing.

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Florida Attorney Jim Lewis Has Emerged as Candidate to Challenge Attorney General Ashley Moody

After months of wondering whether Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody would face any challengers in the 2022 general election, criminal defense lawyer and Democrat, Jim Lewis of Ft. Lauderdale, has emerged to try and take down Moody.

Lewis released a statement slamming Moody for her opposition towards public health mandates amid the pandemic, as well as her position on challenging the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

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Senator Rick Scott Says He Will Not Support Herschel Walker, Other Primary Candidates

When asked about former Georgia Bulldog, Herschel Walker, running for U.S. Senate in 2022, Florida Senator Rick Scott was reluctant to express support for Walker or any other candidate for the upcoming cycle of Republican Senate primaries.

Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), stood by their decision to stay out of the upcoming primary even with situations like Walker who has gained a magnitude of support, including an endorsement from former President Donald Trump in March.

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Biden Administration Warns Florida About Penalties for Mask Mandates

After the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) proposed to ramp up punishment for school boards enforcing mask mandates, the Biden Administration warned them on Monday to “reconsider” their “threatened actions.”

On October 7th, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced his proposal to prevent school boards from receiving federal funding from the Project to Support America’s Families and Educators grant program – or “Project SAFE” – that provides funding to school districts that are financially penalized for implementing CDC guidelines such as mask mandates.

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New Hampshire Poll Shows Governor DeSantis More Favorable Than Donald Trump in 2024 Presidential Primary

A recent poll by the University of New Hampshire shows the state having Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ahead of former President Donald Trump in approval rating among 2024 GOP primary voters.

While DeSantis shies away from questions regarding his potential presidential campaign, his approval rating being higher than Trump’s in New Hampshire is pivotal given that it is the first state on the Republican primary calendar in 2024.

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Florida Surgeon General Asked to Leave Senator’s Office After Refusing to Wear Mask When Requested

Joseph A. Ladapo, MD, PhD

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo was asked to leave a meeting with Florida Senator Tina Polsky, after refusing to wear a mask in her office.

The meeting between Ladapo and Polsky was in request from the surgeon general who met with other senators who will weigh in on his confirmation in the upcoming legislative session.

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Governor DeSantis Comments on Florida’s Job Growth in September

Governor Ron DeSantis announced Friday in a press release that Florida’s job growth in September grew three times faster over the month than the rest of the nation.

According to the press release, overall for the month, Florida gained 84,500 total jobs, including nearly 73,000 private-sector jobs, which marks 17 months of private-sector job growth, increasing by 5.6% over the year.

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Governor DeSantis Backs Orange County Fire Chief Who Was Terminated Due to Vaccine Mandates

After COVID-19 vaccination requirements caused the termination of an Orange County Fire Rescue (OCFR) battalion chief on Tuesday, Governor DeSantis released a statement slamming the county and backing Chief Stephen Davis.

DeSantis talked of Davis and first responders in general, then questioned why Orange County would turn their backs on people that have given so much in the past year during the pandemic.

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Governor DeSantis Says Florida’s Ports Could Fix Supply Chain Crisis

Governor DeSantis has suggested to the Biden Administration that Florida ports are open for business amid the global supply chain crisis that has bottlenecked cargo ships in California ports.

At a press conference at Jacksonvilles’ JAXPORT on Tuesday discussing his proposal with Florida seaport executives, Governor DeSantis made it clear that Florida is prepared for increased operation and that he is determined to meet holiday demand.

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Families of School Shooting Victims Reach $25 Million Settlement

After almost four years since the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school (MSDHS) in Broward County, the school district reached a $25 million settlement on Monday with the families of 52 people who were killed, injured, or traumatized during the tragic event.

The shooting, which happened in February 2018 when an ex-student open-fired on his former classmates, resulted in 17 people who were injured, and the death of 14 students and three faculty members.

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AAA Says Gas Prices in Florida Will Continue to Rise Through Winter Months

Gas up the car

In a recent report from AAA auto club, it suggests that gas prices in Florida will continue to increase into the winter months as a result of global supply concerns over crude-oil and gasoline.

According to AAA, as of Monday, the average price per gallon of unleaded gas in Florida is $3.18 and is expected to increase to $3.20 before they expect for it to go back down. The national average gas price is $3.33.

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Sarasota County School Board Removes Black Lives Matter Reference

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been removed from the Sarasota County School district’s fifth-grade curriculum in accordance to the Florida Department of Education’s ban on critical race theory (CRT) that was passed in June.

Sarasota parents with fifth-grade students received a letter from the FDOE this week discussing the change of a “reading passage” in the students’ textbook, but did not directly mention Black Lives Matter as the subject of removal.

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The James Madison Institute Releases Priorities for 2022 Legislative Session

The James Madison Institute (JMI) released its list of legislative priorities that they want Florida lawmakers to tackle in the upcoming legislative session of 2022.

JMI’s proposed policies include the advancement of; innovation practices, education opportunities, expanded healthcare solutions, the protection of individual liberties, and the safeguarding the values of free markets, choice, and liberty in federal policy.

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Val Demings Raises More Than Marco Rubio in Q3 with $8.4 Million

After announcing her Senate campaign in early June, U.S. Representative Val Demings (D-FL-10) reported $8.4 million in campaign fundraising during the months of July, August, and September, or quarter three (Q3) of 2021.

The funds raised in Q3 almost doubles the amount she raised in quarter two (Q2) of 2021 which totaled $4.6 million.

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Florida Bankers Outraged over New Biden IRS Proposal

Florida bankers are outraged over a proposal by the Biden Administration that wants to require Americans to share sensitive banking information such as deposits, withdrawals, and where those withdrawals go.

In an extreme and effort to curb tax fraud, Biden’s proposal would require said information be reported regularly, with reports tracking expenses of $600 or more.

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Biden’s Legislative Agenda Divides Democratic Congress Members in Central Florida

President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan and $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill has caused central Florida’s three Democratic Congress members to take different sides.

U.S. Representatives Val Demings (D-FL-10) and Darren Soto (D-FL-9) have expressed support for both of Biden’s plans, while U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-7) has questioned the contents of the Build Back Better plan, as well as the process or “strategy” Democratic leaders are taking to get it passed.

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U.S. District Judge Approves Challenges to Florida Election Law

Person putting mail-in ballot in ballot return box

Challenges against the election law formerly known as SB 90 established in the 2021 legislative session in Florida, will be allowed to move forward following a 62-page order by Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida, Mark Walker, on Friday.

Some Organizations behind challenges that were approved by Walker on Friday include; The Florida Conference of the NAACP, Disability Rights Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and UnidosUS.

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Florida Board of Education Proposes Further Discipline for School Boards Enforcing Mask Mandates

Eight county school boards in Florida are to be disciplined by the State Board of Education for maintaining mask requirements for students despite DeSantis’ Executive Order 21-175 (EO 21-175) that leaves that decision to their parents.

In a conference call on Thursday, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other board members doubled-down on financial penalties set for county school board members who continue to place mask mandates in their schools.

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U.S. Senate Confirms Gwen Graham for Position in U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Senate confirmed former Florida Congresswoman and attorney, Gwen Graham, as assistant secretary of legislation and congressional affairs in the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday.

Representing the Tallahassee area and other parts of north Florida, Graham was part of the Florida House of Representatives from 2015 to 2017, and lost a bid for governor in 2018.

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Florida Supreme Court Hears Case Regarding Red-Light Cameras, Fees

After hearing arguments in a potential class-action lawsuit regarding credit card fees and red-light cameras, Florida Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical in siding with the motorist who filed the suit.

The motorist, Steven Pincus, filed the lawsuit in Miami against American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS), who Pincus says improperly charged him with a $7.90 credit card fee after paying a $158 fine for running a red light in 2018.

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Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell Announces Resignation

President and CEO of Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI), Jamal Sowell, announced that he will be stepping down at the position in late October to follow an order by the U.S. Navy Reserve to prepare for and participate in specialized military training.

Enterprise Florida is a public-private partnership of business and government leaders whose goal is to promote Florida as a premier business destination and expand the state’s economy through private-sector job creation.

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Florida Senate President Proposes Prison Shutdowns

To combat staffing shortages and high turnover rates of correctional officers in the state, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson proposed prison shutdowns in a recent interview. Simpson said that the Florida Department of Corrections should shut down prisons to save money, rather than ask for more resources from the Florida legislature. 

In the interview with The News Service of Florida, Simpson criticized the state prison system by blaming the staff shortages and high turnover rates on the “lack of vision” by state prison leaders. 

“We are not just going to write a bigger check because they think they need it. That is not going to happen. They’re going to have to do the right thing. We are not going to waste the taxpayers’ dollars,” Simpson said.

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Trump Addresses Potential Match-up with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Former U.S. President Donald Trump made comments about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ potential presidential run in 2024, suggesting that he does not believe DeSantis will be able to compete against him, and that he will most likely drop out.

Although Trump has not officially announced his campaign for 2024 and was “coy about his intentions” during an interview with Yahoo Finance, he did not shy away from discussing the hypothetical matchup with Governor DeSantis.

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Visit Florida to Ask Florida Legislature for $75 Million

Florida’s state tourism-marketing agency, Visit Florida, announced Wednesday that it plans to ask Florida lawmakers to increase the agency’s funding, and extend the expiration or “sunset” date of the agency.

At an Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting where the announcement was made, Visit Florida Chairman, Danny Gaekwad said the agency will request $75 million, and ask for its sunset date to be once again extended past its current date of October 1st, 2023.

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Florida Governor DeSantis Announces Actions to Address the ‘Biden Border Crisis’

Governor DeSantis, along with Florida Attorney General, Ashley Moody, joined together on Tuesday to announce three actions Florida is taking to address what they call the “Biden Border Crisis.”

The three actions include the Biden Border Crisis Executive Order 21-223 (EO 21-223), the appointment of Larry Keefe, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, as Public Safety Czar to carry out the order, and lastly, a lawsuit that was filed against the Biden Administration challenging its “catch and release” policy.

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Governor DeSantis Announces $300 Million Investment by Terran Orbital in Florida

Merritt Island, Florida, will be home to a $300 million investment by the company Terran Orbital for construction of its “state-of-the-art” commercial spacecraft and constellation facility, according to an announcement made by Governor DeSantis on Monday.

A press release by the Governor’s Office says that the funds for the facility will bring valuable spacecraft manufacturing opportunities and capabilities to the State of Florida by investing in new construction and equipment.

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Representative David Smith Files Bill to Expand Expungement Rights for Juveniles

David Smith

Florida House Representative, David Smith (R-FL-28), filed a bill (HB 195) Friday for the 2022 legislative session that aims to expand expungement rights for juveniles in the criminal justice system.

Rather than only allowing an expungement of criminal records for juveniles who have misdemeanor charges and a completed diversion program – which is how the law currently stands – HB 195 would broaden the law to allow juveniles who commit “specified felony offenses” defined in the bill.

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Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Announce $30 Million for Battleground States

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) announced a new $30 million initiative to help Democratic candidates in Florida, and eight other battleground states, take on their Republican opponents for the 2022 general election.

According to the press release regarding the announcement, the new initiative, known as the “Defend the Majority Program” is the largest investment in on the ground field organizing ever made by the DSCC at this point in the campaign cycle.

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U.S. Department of Education Pays Fines for Florida School Board Members

Group of young students at table, reading and wearing masks

School board members in Alachua County, who saw their salaries cut due to mandating masks in their schools against Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 21-175, were repaid Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE).

Funding for the payment comes from a new program established by the Biden Administration known as the Project to Support America’s Families and Educators grant program, or “Project SAFE.”

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Florida Lawmaker Files Abortion Bill Titled the ‘Florida Heartbeat Act’

Florida House Representative, Webster Barnaby of Deltona, filed an abortion bill (HB 167) Wednesday, titled the “Florida Heartbeat Act” that, like Texas, would ban most abortions in the state, and allow lawsuits against doctors that violate the law.

The bill would require a physician to conduct tests for, and inform a woman seeking an abortion of, the presence of a detectable fetal heartbeat. If a heartbeat is present, the bill “prohibits a physician from knowingly performing or inducing an abortion, if the physician detects a fetal heartbeat for an unborn child, or fails to conduct a test to detect a fetal heartbeat.”

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Federal Judge Blocks Parts of Law Banning Sanctuary Policies in Florida for Migrants

U.S. District Judge of Miami, Beth Bloom, made a ruling on Tuesday to block parts of Florida law that bans cities from establishing their own “sanctuary policies” that are designed to protect undocumented migrants throughout the state.

The law in question stems from a piece of legislation from 2019 known as the Federal Immigration Enforcement Act, or SB 168, that Bloom believes is “discriminatory” and violated constitutional equal-protection rights.

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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody Announces Campaign Kickoff Event

Ashley Moody

Although her political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody,  has already began fundraising, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody recently announced an event that will officially kickoff her reelection campaign for 2022.

The 90 minute event – which can be found on Eventbrite.com – will be Tuesday, September 28th, and held in the Grand Ballroom of TPepin Hospitality Centre in Tampa.

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Florida’s Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book Proposes Bill to Remove Confederate Holidays

Lauren Book

Senate Minority leader Lauren Book will once again aim to remove Confederate legal holidays in the state of Florida, after filing SB 250 on Friday for the 2022 legislative session.

SB 250 is a revised version of SB 1116 – which was denied in the 2021 legislative session – that proposed the removal of legal holidays such as the birthdays of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, as well as Confederate Memorial Day.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Sends Fundraising Email in Response to Biden Administration Handling of Monoclonal Antibody Treatments

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at a conference on the COVID-19 antibody treatments

After his administration bashed President Biden for cutting the supply of monoclonal antibody treatments (mAB’s) being sent to Florida, DeSantis sent a mass email to his supporters Thursday night to encourage them to help “fight back” by way of donation.

The email comes hours after data analyst for the Governor’s Office, Kyle Lamb, tweeted a statement from DeSantis that said, “‘We’re going to work like hell to overcome the restrictions and obstacles the HHS and Biden administration have put on us (with mABs distribution).'”

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Federal Judge Denies Motion to Block Governor DeSantis’ Ban on Mask Mandates in Schools

Judge K. Michael Moore of the First U.S. District Court of Florida, decided Wednesday to deny a motion requested by a group of south Florida parents with disabled children, to block Governor DeSantis’ ban on mandating masks in schools.

Filed in Miami, the lawsuit alleges that Executive Order 21-175 (EO 21-175) violates the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as other laws that are meant to assure the rights for students with disabilities.

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio Calls for the Termination of General Mark Milley

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to President Biden Tuesday calling for the termination of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, who Rubio claims “contemplated” leaking classified information to China, and undermined former President Trump.

Rubio’s allegations are in response to the reports made by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their upcoming book titled “Peril” that details the relationship between Milley and General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army of China.

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Governor DeSantis Announces Major Transportation Projects for Tampa’s Interstate System

Governor DeSantis along with Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin Thibuilt, joined together Monday to announce the development of three transportation projects aimed to improve “efficient, safe, and reliable” travel in Tampa’s interstate system.

According to a press release from Governor DeSantis’ office, the three projects will be enhancements to the Howard Frankland Bridge, the advancement of the Westshore Interchange, and the advancement of the I-275, I-4 Interchange.

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Republican Candidates Lead Democratic Candidates in 2022 Campaign Funding

Governor DeSantis and other Republican leaders currently lead their Democratic counterparts in campaign funding by what gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist (D-FL-13) said was an “ungodly” amount.

August finance reports for the state candidates and political committees who are fundraising for the 2022 elections were filed on Friday to the Florida Division of Elections (FDE) part of the Florida Department of State (FDS).

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Prolific Jacksonville Politician Tommy Hazouri Dies at Age 76

Tommy Hazouri, Jacksonville native and Jacksonville City Council president who had served in multiple political positions over the last 47 years, died Saturday at the age of 76 from recent complications that traced back to a lung transplant he received last year.

Prior to his most recent position as a City Council member, Hazouri began his political career by spending 12 years in the Florida House of Representatives from 1974 to 1986. In 1987 he was elected as the first Arab-American mayor in Jacksonville history, where he would serve until 1991.

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Florida Health Care Association Supports COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Healthcare Workers

Person with mask on holding COVID vaccine

The Biden Administration announced Thursday that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will require the COVID vaccine for healthcare workers at facilities that operate using Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, or that are “CMS-regulated.”

The requirement will apply to approximately 50,000 healthcare providers which include, hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, home health agencies, and any other CMS-regulated settings.

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Governor DeSantis Reappoints Arthur Graham, Andrew Fay to the Florida Public Service Commission

After deciding between six finalists for two spots on the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), Governor DeSantis decided on Wednesday to reappoint Arthur Graham and Andrew Fay, whose terms were to expire in January 2022.

Graham, of Jacksonville Beach, was first appointed to the PSC in 2010 and has served three terms as Chairman, while Fay, of Tallahassee, has served on the PSC since 2018, according to Wednesday’s announcement from Governor DeSantis Office.

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Governor DeSantis Proposes New Initiatives to Recruit and Retain Florida Law Enforcement Officers

Surrounded by law enforcement officials and other members of the Legislature on Tuesday, Governor DeSantis announced the proposal of three new initiatives designed to recruit and retain law enforcement officers in Florida.

The three proposed initiatives include, new officer signing bonuses of $5,000, the Academy Scholarship Program for the Florida Law Enforcement Academy, and out-of-state relocation support.

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U.S. House Armed Services Committee Proposes $600 Million for Military Projects in Northwest Florida

Funding for military projects out of Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, may get a boost after a bill by the U.S. House Armed Services Committee (USASC) was approved on Friday and sent to the House floor.

After applauding the passage of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a press release by Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01) – member of the USASC – says that the proposal includes a $600 million in defense spending, with $359 million being construction projects.

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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody Joins Suit Related to ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy

Ashley Moody

Florida joined a coalition with 17 other states to back an amicus brief asking the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to deny the Biden administration’s motion for a stay on the Texas Supreme Court ruling to reinstate Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs), or the “Remain in Mexico” policy, established under former President Trump.

In the brief, it states, “The border is in crisis. This Administration is increasingly and alarmingly lawless. And the States continue to suffer escalating irreparable harm as the border slips further and further away from the Administration’s control.”

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Says Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Has Decreased COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Governor DeSantis announced Thursday that the 21 monoclonal antibody treatment centers he issued last month have positively resulted in a decrease in the number of hospitalizations in Florida that surged due to the COVID-19 delta variant.

Data from the Florida Hospital Association from Wednesday showed that 14,682 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday – a decrease of 9.9% in the last seven days.

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Finalists for Florida Public Service Commission Appointments Sent to Governor DeSantis

Governor DeSantis will make two appointments to the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) out of six finalists who were sent to the Governor on Tuesday by the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council (PSCNC).

The two positions are opening due to current commission members Art Graham and Andrew Fay’s terms expiring in January 2022 – both of whom are among the six finalists and looking for reappointment.

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Florida Department of Education Will Withhold Salaries from Alachua and Broward School Boards

In an announcement made by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) on Monday, the Department said it will officially withhold monthly salaries of school boards in Alachua and Broward counties for issuing mask mandates for their students in violation of state law.

In July, Governor DeSantis signed an executive order banning school boards and districts from placing mask mandates in Florida schools, referencing the Parents’ Bill of Rights that DeSantis established in the 2021 legislative session.

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Three North Florida Prisons Close Due to Staff Shortages

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) announced the temporary closure of three prisons in North Florida on Friday, Cross City Correctional Institution (CCCI), Baker Correctional Institution (BCI), and New River Correctional Institution (NRCI).

CCCI has been closed since August 7th when it was evacuated due to flooding, while BCI and NRCI have experienced significant staffing shortages and will be closed in the coming weeks.

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Florida Has Recovered 950,000 Jobs Lost Due to the Pandemic

The state of Florida has restored more than 950,000 jobs that were lost due to the pandemic, according to Chief Economist and Director of Research for the Florida Chamber of Commerce (FCC), Dr. Jerry Parrish.

In an online presentation titled Florida By the Numbers published by the FCC, Parrish notes that the pandemic resulted in the loss of approximately 1.3 million jobs since April 2020, and that there are still 315,800 jobs to be restored in order to get back to “pre-COVID levels.”

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Florida Circuit Court Judge Hears Case Regarding CARES Act Reinstatement

Judge Layne Smith of Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit Court held a hearing Wednesday for a lawsuit filed against Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and its Secretary, Dane Eagle.

The complaint was filed on July 25th by attorneys on behalf of a group of Broward County residents in response to the $300-a-week in federal unemployment benefits – known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the ‘CARES Act’ – that were cut off in Florida on July 26th. 

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