Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis Announces Reelection Bid

Jimmy Patronis

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced his reelection bid for 2022. Patronis made the announcement by posting a video entitled “Let’s Keep Florida Open,” where he touted his work to get Florida’s economy back open after the COVID pandemic. Patronis and his family own the famous Capt. Anderson’s restaurant in Panama City, a point he made in the video while highlighting the work his family did to provide all they could for the families they employed during the pandemic.

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Florida Congressman Charlie Crist Announces a Run for Governor

Charlie Crist

U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist (R-13) announced he is running for governor in 2022. He is the first major Democratic opponent for Governor Ron DeSantis.

“Florida has a governor that’s only focused on his future, not yours,” said Crist in a campaign launch video.

Florida Democrats have reacted positively to Crist’s announcement, including St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman who has been a vocal opponent to DeSantis and praised Crist.

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Charlie Crist Making ‘Major Announcement’ Tuesday

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (R-13) is set to make a “major announcement” from St. Petersburg. It has been rumored he is announcing his candidacy for governor, evidenced by Crist teasing a run back in February.

In an interview with Jim DeFede on Facing South Florida, Crist said he is focused on his work in Congress, but he’s open to launching a campaign.

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Consumer Protection Bill Died in Florida Legislature

William Large

As time expired in the Florida legislative session, a consumer protection bill died. The bill, HB 969, would have given consumers more control over data collected by large companies would have required businesses in Florida to tell consumers what data has been collected and how it’ll be used.

The bill drew much opposition from the business community, and were glad to see the bill expire this session. Companies like Apple, Target, Quicken Loans, and Walt Disney Parks hired a total of 343 lobbyists to work on killing the bill.

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Nikki Fried’s Medical Marijuana Card Issued for Sleep Issues

On April 14, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried posted a video to social media displaying her medical marijuana card. In the video, Fried reminded viewers medical marijuana was passed by 71 percent of Floridians through a ballot initiative in 2016. The medical marijuana issue was a calling card for Fried’ campaign in 2018, and it has been reported Fried has a financial interest in the marijuana industry.
However, Fried followed up the clip with a 15-minute interview with Jim DeFede at Facing South Florida where she said she was approved for a medical marijuana card due to a sleeping disorder.

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Florida Legislature Sends Vaping Regulations to DeSantis

Jackie Toledo

The Florida Legislature passed SB 1080, installing new vaping regulations, sending it to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis. The bill will also raise the smoking and vaping age to 21, falling in line with federal standards.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Jackie Toldeo (R-60) said the bill is necessary to encourage Florida’s youth to stop vaping.

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Florida Surgeon General: Fully Vaccinated Should Go Maskless

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said fully vaccinated Floridians should go maskless despite the CDC’s recommendations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rivkees rescinded previous public health advisories on Thursday through a three-page advisory saying state offices should return to in-person working environments and long-term mask-wearing can cause unintended consequences.

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Florida State University Failed to Disclose Foreign Relationships, USDOE Opens Inquiry

Florida State University

Florida State University (FSU) failed to disclose foreign relationships, gifts, or contracts among university entities and now faces a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) inquiry.

In a letter obtained by the Florida Capital Star to FSU President John Thrasher on January 15, the DOE notified the university of an inquiry into potential violations of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

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Florida’s Transgender Athlete Ban Resurrected

Florida Republicans resurrected a ban on transgender women from competing in women’s sports and attached it to a bill related to charter schools. Last week, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-22) said her bill, which would’ve banned transgendered athletes from women’s sports, was unlikely to  move forward due to constitutional requirements to balance the budget.

However, Stargel did not resurrect the bill, but Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R-55), added the ban as an amendment to SB 1028. Stargel did voice her support for Tuck’s amendment.

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Florida Legislature Passes Toll Road Repeal Bill

The Florida House passed SB 100 yesterday, a repeal bill of the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program. The program was a priority of former Senate President Bill Galvano to build new toll roads as part of an infrastructure plan connecting Florida’s metro areas.

The bill will cancel the Heartland Parkway, connecting Polk and Collier counties.

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Florida Bill Allows Colleges, Universities to Sponsor Charter Schools

On Monday, the Florida Senate passed SB 1028 which would allow Florida’s colleges and universities to sponsor an unlimited number of charter schools. Under current law, colleges and universities can, through the Florida Department of Education’s approval, sponsor one school.

A state university is permitted to work with a school district to develop a charter school but can only sponsor one. Now, there is no limit to the amount of charter schools an institution can sponsor.

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Florida House Passes Bipartisan Police Reform Bill

The Florida House passed HB 7051 unanimously, a police reform bill, designed to be a bipartisan, compromise piece of legislation satisfying the requests of conservatives as well as social justice advocates.

One of the main staples of the bill is amending current use-of-force protocol for law enforcement officers. Each police force and law enforcement agency in the state will now be required to have a use-of-force standard. This would, in essence, create a statewide minimum standard, including methods to de-escalate situations. Chokeholds are banned unless the officer “perceives an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death.” If another officer is witnessing excessive use of force, they will now be required to intervene.

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Florida Lawmakers Negotiate Budget Deal

Jay Trumbull

After a week of negotiation, Florida’s lawmakers reached a deal determining spending difference for Florida’s $92.2 billion budget.

One of the largest contingents of the budget has been allocated for education. Twenty-two billion dollars of the budget is dedicated to school spending, which includes one-time $1,000 bonuses for all K-12 teachers and principals. The proposal is backed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

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Florida Congresswoman Demings Defends Ohio Officer in Fatal Shooting

Val Demings

U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings (D-FL-10) defended the police officer involved in the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant.

Demings appeared on the CBS Sunday program Face the Nation and said the officer had to make a split-second call, and the officer ended up saving a life in the process.

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Parental Bill of Rights Legislation Heads to DeSantis’ Desk

The Florida Legislature passed a bill instituting a “parental bill of rights” and sent it to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis.

The bill, HB 241, worked its way through the Florida House and then passed through the Florida Senate on Thursday. It was passed on a nearly party-line vote, with Sen. Lauren Book (D-32), the lone Democrat, siding with Republicans and voting to approve the bill.

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Current Status of the Political Scandal Surrounding Matt Gaetz

For the last month, U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL-02) has been embroiled in investigation and public scrutiny since a New York Times story broke detailing an alleged illicit relationship Gaetz had with a 17-year-old girl and being a part of sex trafficking.

Immediately, Gaetz went public about the accusation by appearing on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and flatly denied the entirety of The Times’ report and claimed the allegations are part of an extortion plot.

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Florida Legislature Hearing Bills to Curb Foreign Influence

Florida House Chamber

The Florida Legislature is working through two pieces of legislation aimed at curbing foreign influence in Florida’s colleges and universities, primarily research institutions.

The Florida House has already passed HB 7017 unanimously and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The bill will require state agencies and political subdivisions to disclose foreign grants and donations of over $50,000 or more to the state. Also, all donations of any size will be required to be reported from seven hostile nations. Among those nations deemed hostile are: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela.

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Florida Anti-Riot Law Facing Court Challenge

Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1, known as the “anti-riot bill” on Monday, and is now facing a constitutional challenge. The challenge was filed Wednesday and the civil rights attorneys behind the challenge are saying the new laws unconstitutionally “seek to arrest the peaceful expression of free speech.”

The bill is designed to enhance penalties for criminals committing acts of violence during riots.

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Florida House Hearing Police Reform Bill

The Florida House is taking up a bipartisan, compromise police reform bill today. The bill would increase the amount of training for law enforcement officers and correctional officers.

The bill, HB 7051, has been a product of House Republican leadership, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and key voices within law enforcement to try and limit the use of chokeholds only under instances when on-site officers perceive immediate threats of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or other people. It would also require other officers to intervene when they witness other officers using excessive force.

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Florida Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump Falsely Claims Columbus Shooting Victim Was Unarmed

Tallahassee-based civil rights attorney Ben Crump falsely claimed on Twitter yesterday the victim of the police-involved shooting in Columbus, OH was unarmed. As bodycam footage was released, it found the victim, a 16-year-old black female, Ma’Khia Bryant, was wielding a knife and threatening two other females.

Some on social media were outraged at the lethal use of force by the officer, including Crump who said on Twitter, “As we breathed a collective sigh of relief today, a community in Columbus felt the sting of another police shooting as @ColumbusPolice killed an unarmed 15yo Black girl named Makiyah Bryant. Another child lost! Another hashtag. #JusticeForMakiyahBryant.”

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Sen. Lauren Book to Lead Florida Senate Democrats

Sen. Lauren Book (D-32) has been tabbed as the new leader of the Florida Senate Democrats. Sen. Perry Thurston (D-33), a high ranking Senate Democrat, announced his intentions to run in the special election for the late-Alcee Hastings’ seat in Congress, making the way for Book to be heir-apparent.

Book, 36, has served in the Florida Senate since 2016 when she ran unopposed for the Senate’s 32nd district.

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Orange County Seeks to Relax Mask Mandate by June

Jerry Demings

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the municipality is putting together a plan to relax its mask mandate by as early as June.
“We are working with the department of health on a plan to phase reducing requirements of wearing facial coverings and social distancing,” Demings said. “We are reviewing how CDC requirements are evolving along with COVID infection data and a plan will be announced soon.”

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Transgender Bill Likely Dead in Florida Legislature

A bill creating limited access for transgender women competing in women’s sports is likely dead according to its sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-22).
Stargel released the statement yesterday after she postponed her bill in its final committee stop saying she is having to direct her attention to Florida’s constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

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Florida Legislature Hearing Elections Reform Bills

Dennis Baxley

The Florida House is hearing an elections reform package and the Florida Senate is hearing a bill amending Florida’s election law related to ballot drop-boxes and absentee ballot signature verification.

Sen. Dennis Baxley’s (R-12) SB 90 passed the Senate Rules Committee by a 10-7 vote, and Baxley said the bill is well-intentioned designed to protect Florida’s voters and the integrity of Florida’s elections.

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DeSantis Signs Anti-Riot Legislation

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1, known as the “anti-riot” bill into law during a press conference in Winter Haven.

Surrounding DeSantis was Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and other deputies where DeSantis said, “If you look at the breadth of this particular piece of legislation, it is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country. There’s just nothing even close.”

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DeSantis Signs E-Fairness Bill

Just before midnight Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 50 instituting sales tax requirements for online retailers, into law. 

The bill requires out-of-state online retailers to collect and report sales taxes on purchases made by Floridians. The tax will bring in an estimated $1 billion in revenue, as well as limit taxes paid by Floridians and Florida businesses.

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