Florida Local Officials Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination for Government Employees

Amid the rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida, government officials for Leon and Orange counties have decided to make the COVID-19 vaccination a condition for employment for their workers. 

On Wednesday, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings signed an executive order for the requirement while Leon County Administrator Vince Long notified employees through email.

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Fried Suspends Weapons Permits of Florida January 6 Protestors

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried suspended 22 concealed weapons permits for Floridians involved at the January 6 U.S. Capitol breach. The names of the permit holders were not revealed, which is in accordance with the law, but Fried offered a statement calling the January 6 incidents “treason” and “domestic terrorism.”

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DeSantis Announces $250M for Florida’s Ports

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) announced $250 million in funding for Florida’s ports to help with economic recovery as a result of decreased revenue last year.

“Not only are Florida ports a key economic driver for their surrounding communities, but also for our state as a whole,” said DeSantis. “From the cruise industry, to cargo, to supporting military operations, our ports provide nearly 1 million jobs for Floridians. This $250 million investment in our ports is a commitment to our future economic prosperity for generations to come.”

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The State University System of Florida Encourages Students to Get Vaccinated

The State University System of Florida (SUSF) released a letter to students across the state entering the 2021 fall semester, encouraging them to get the Covid-19 vaccine prior to arriving to campus in August. 

Although the letter does not require students to get vaccinated, the low vaccination rate in Florida and the rise in delta variant cases have given university Presidents the reason for concern. 

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Florida Rep. Byron Donalds Trades Barbs Chris Cuomo on Vaccine Choice

A Florida congressman joined CNN Tuesday evening to debate host Chris Cuomo on his decision not to take the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Do you feel responsible for spreading a message where [you say] ‘I’m not gonna take [the vaccine] because I don’t care what Biden wants. Byron Donald’s not gonna take it ’cause he doesn’t care what Biden wants?'” Cuomo asked Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL-19). “Do you think that’s a good message for people to hear?” 

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Warns Against Federal Mask Requirement Recommendations for Kids

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has continued his fight with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky put forward new recommendations for K-12 school systems to require masks for the upcoming school year regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC has changed its tune, once again, after COVID cases have risen over the last few weeks and the school year is fast approaching for many across the country.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Holds Roundtable with Experts to Discuss Masks in Schools

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Monday held a press conference with medical professionals, a concerned parent, a student to discuss mask mandates in schools for the upcoming school year. 

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research (NEBR), H. Cody Meissner, MD, a pediatrician and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Professor of Pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and Mark McDonald, MD, a clinical child psychiatrist, all participated in the roundtable.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Unwavering While Facing COVID Spike

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has maintained Florida will not go back into lockdown and will not implement mask mandates, however Jacksonville doctor Dr. Sunil Joshi is calling on DeSantis to order Florida back into a state of emergency.

Joshi, an immunologist, said the rise in hospitalizations should be enough to force Florida back to consider how serious the virus still is.

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Eleven Florida Mayors Sign Letter to Congress Calling for Immigration Reform

Out of 84 mayors across 28 states who signed a letter to Congress calling for immigration policy reform through budget reconciliation, 11 were from Florida with 10 being from South Florida.

We Are Home, an organization that advocates for immigration reform, created the letter part of a campaign to create “pathways to citizenship” for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, essential workers, and their families.

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Lawsuit Filed to Restore Federal Unemployment Assistance in Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis

A lawsuit against Governor DeSantis, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), and its Director Dane Eagle was filed on Sunday in attempt to bring back the $300 a week in federal unemployment assistance to Floridians. 

The federal assistance was suppose to be available through September 6th but was cut off on June 26th by DeSantis and the DEO under the “Return to Work” initiative. 

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South Florida Caravan Traveling to D.C. Seeking Help for Cuba

Vehicles on the road in Washington D.C. area

A caravan of people from South Florida are traveling to Washington D.C. to implore the U.S. government for assistance in ending the communist regime, who have controlled Cuba since 1958.

“We want support for a humanitarian intervention in our country,” Yoan David Gonzalez, a member of the caravan said. “The Castro Communist regime is letting our people die, the number of deaths from coronavirus and all the repression that has been seen in recent days is no secret to anyone.”

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Democrats Search for Candidates to Challenge Miami Republicans

Florida Senate Capitol

Just over 15 months from the 2022 midterms, Florida Democrats have yet to find candidates who could take back seats lost to Miami Republicans in 2020.

Former Congresswomen Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell who represented Florida’s 26th and 27th congressional districts, lost their South Florida seats as a result of the big Republican turnout in Florida in 2020. Former President Donald J. Trump expanded on his 2016 election margin by winning Florida by over three percentage points. 

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Governor DeSantis Receives More Criticism on Anti-Riot Law

Governor Ron DeSantis has been criticized for being hypocritical for the lack of enforcement of the “anti-riot” law against Cuban protesters who marched on multiple highways in Florida.

Given the fact that the new law made it a felony offense to block traffic while protesting, multiple African American leaders saw the lack of arrests as “selective enforcement” by DeSantis and law enforcement. 

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Nikki Fried Encourages DeSantis to Form Task Force Following Surfside Tragedy

In response to the Surfside condo collapse, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried held a press conference Friday to encourage the Legislature to update regulations for condominiums and establish a task force to examine said regulations to prevent future tragedies. 

Fried also announced the steps being taken to address consumer and homeowner complaints through Florida’s Division of Consumer Services (FDCS), as well as their dedication to weed out fraudulent charities in relation to the condo collapse. 

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Partnership Boosts Supply Chain Resiliency for Florida’s $56B Manufacturing Industry

Aerial shot of downtown Miami, Florida

According to an April-June McKinsey Global Survey poll of 60 senior supply-chain executives from across the nation, 73% encountered a shortage of suppliers – not just supplies – and 75% faced production/distribution shortfalls during the 2020 height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida’s 21,000 manufacturers – not to mention farmers, restauranteurs, hoteliers, retailers – were also affected by pandemic-induced supply disruptions, as they were by Hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Michael in 2018.

To mitigate disruption for the state’s $56 billion manufacturing industry, which employs about 400,000 Floridians, the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Space Florida and FloridaMakes have formed Connex Florida, an online database to link manufacturers connect with prospective suppliers and develop business opportunities.

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Florida Representative Anthony Sabatini Files E-Verify Bill

Florida state Representative Anthony Sabatini announced this week that he has filed a bill that will mandate the use of E-Verify by all public and private employers.

Sabatini tweeted, “JUST FILED my first Bill for the 2022 FL Legislative Session. HB 6001 will mandate the use of E-Verify in FL, requiring ALL workers prove that they are legal BEFORE they can work in our State. With 70% of all new illegals coming straight to Florida, we MUST pass this Bill!”

This is his fourth time that Sabatini has filed a bill related to E-Verify since he was elected to the Florida House in 2018.

E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify employers verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees by electronically matching information provided by employees on the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, against records available to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

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FBI Tapes in Federal Corruption Trial Casts Florida Political Players in Unflattering Light

This week’s witnesses in the federal corruption trial of J.T. Burnette, a Tallahassee businessman standing trial for federal extortion and racketeering, described the “dirty politics of getting things done” in Tallahassee.

The testimony exposed some of the true “power behind the throne” like that wielded by Burnette and his wife, Kim Rivers, CEO of the mega medical marijuana company, Trulieve, and by a former “rising star” in Florida Democratic politics, Scott Maddox.

Burnette is facing federal charges of racketeering, and extortion stemming from a multi-year FBI investigation into political corruption in Tallahassee. Government prosecutors are trying to prove Burnette arranged bribes for Maddox, through Governance Services, LLC, a lobbying firm owned by Maddox’s close friend and business partner Paige Carter-Smith.

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Appeals Court Vacates Decision Requiring Vaccines for Florida Cruise Ship Industry

Cruise ship next to dock

The U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit on Friday vacated its recent decision that allowed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention to enforce its COVID-19 safety rules related to the Florida cruise ship industry.

Just before the decision, Florida asked the United States Supreme Court to intervene and reverse the appeals court’s decision.

“I’m glad to see the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reverse its prior decision and free the cruise lines from unlawful CDC mandates, which effectively mothballed the industry for more than a year,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “The importance of this case extends beyond the cruise industry. From here on out a federal bureau will be on thin legal and constitutional ice if and when it attempts to exercise such sweeping authority that is not explicitly delineated by law.”

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Places Ben & Jerry’s on Boycott List

On Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called on the State Board of Administration (SBA) to place Ben & Jerry’s on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List as well as the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.

DeSantis called on the SBA by way of letter to show the historic relationship between Florida and the nation of Israel, and the “commitment to a swift response to those who discriminate against the Israeli people.”

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Florida Business Groups Back Equality Act

Florida businesses and business groups have thrown their weight behind the passage of the Equality Act, a bill in Congress which would extend protected civil rights status to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Among the groups joining the chorus is the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.

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U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr. Endorses Charlie Crist for Florida Governor in 2022

U.S. Representative for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, Al Lawson Jr., announced his endorsement of 2022 Gubernatorial candidate and current U.S. Representative, Charlie Crist on Thursday. 

Lawson, a Democrat, was re-elected to his third term in 2020 and has represented the 5th Congressional District in North Florida since 2017. Before Congress, Lawson represented North Florida for 28 years in the state legislature.

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Governor DeSantis Celebrates $270 Million for Literacy Initiatives in Florida

Almost a month after it was signed, HB 3, which dedicates $271 million in literacy initiatives throughout Florida, was celebrated on Thursday by Governor Ron DeSantis.

The bill created the state’s first statewide book distribution program known as “New Worlds Reading Initiative” (NWRI), which will provide and deliver free “high-quality” books to the home of elementary school students who are reading below grade level.

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Florida Governor DeSantis Praises $21 Billion Settlement to Combat Opioid Crisis

Governor Ron DeSantis praised a multi-state agreement between three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the nation, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, worth $21 billion.

DeSantis also praised a separate agreement by Johnson and Johnson who will pay $5 billion over the next nine years. The agreements will aim to settle litigation regarding the opioid crisis in not only Florida, but the nation as a whole. 

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DeSantis Says No Lockdowns or School Mask Mandates in Florida

In a press conference yesterday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took time to comment on the upcoming school year saying school mask mandates and lockdowns will not be happening in Florida.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called DeSantis’ comments “greatly concerning” and said her kids were used to wearing masks.

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Florida State Senator Joe Gruters Cleared of Sexual Harassment Allegations

Florida State senator and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Sen. Joe Gruters (R-23) has been cleared of sexual harassment allegations after reports circulated earlier this week.

Florida Politics initially reported the allegations, and POLITICO stated the allegations came from four Republican Party officials and one other source who claimed Gruters sexually harassed a male aide in January who drove Gruters home from a bar in Tallahassee during Spring’s legislative session. A complaint was immediately filed with the state.

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Hillsborough School District Renews Four Charter Schools After Fight with Florida State Department of Education

The Hillsborough County School Board announced its decision to renew charters for four charter schools after the State of Florida was threatening legal action. The school board initially opted to not renew the charters but reversed its decision this week.

Of the reasons the school board initially decided to not renew the charters was a claim that the schools were not meeting the needs of special needs students.

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With Less Border Restrictions, Canadian Tourism in Florida Could Increase

The number of international travelers coming to Florida is expected to increase after Canada loosened its COVID-19 border restrictions allowing vaccinated travelers in and out of the country. 

Policy coordinator for the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget, Holger Ciupalo, said that he expects the White House to “follow suit” with Canada and match their border policy in the next three weeks. 

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Florida’s Doctors, Patients Face New Smokable Medical Marijuana Rules

Doctors and patients in Florida may be unaware of the new rules that took effect last week for smokable medical marijuana. Patients must resign a standardized consent form, which includes a new portion that explains the dangers of smoking near oxygen tanks and notifying patients of risks to exposure to mold in the marijuana.

Physicians are now required to conduct full, in-person assessments of the a patient including family, social history, and if they are pregnant.

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Florida First District Court of Appeal Dismisses Digital Ballot Lawsuit

Eight county elections supervisors were dismissed by the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Florida from a lawsuit proposing the requirement for county elections offices to save digital copies of paper ballots during elections, also known as Digital Ballot Copies.   

The suit was filed by The Florida Democratic Party and Democratic lawmakers against Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews, and the “Supervisors”. 

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Florida’s West Coast Still Inundated with Red Tide

red tide

Red tide is continuing to linger along the western coastline of Florida, leading to hundreds of tons of dead marine life. The Florida Capital Star previously reported on the red tide surge in the Tampa Bay area around the time of Tropical Storm Elsa, but the tide has not yet abated.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has been collected over 100 samples of water around the Tampa Bay area last week and found high concentrations of Karenia brevis, a bacteria known to be prevalent during red tide surges.

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Florida Man Receives Eight Month Prison Term in First Felony Sentence from January 6 Capitol Breach

Close up of Capitol with Trump and America flag in the wind

AFlorida man, who breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6, was sentenced to eight months in prison on Monday. Paul Allard Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding – Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

Prosecutors, who asked for an 18-month sentence, argued that Hodgkins, “like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy.”

“Although you were only one member of a larger mob, you actively participated in a larger event that threatened the Capitol and democracy itself. The damage that was caused that way was way beyond a several-hour delay of the vote certification. It is a damage that will persist in this country for several decades,” said U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss of Washington, DC.

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Drug Overdoses on the Rise in Florida

Spilled pill bottle on table top with a spoon underneath

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses are on the rise in Florida. Specifically, the death toll rose by about 37 percent from 2019 to 2020 in Florida.

One of the most notable trends was the amount of synthetic opioid fentanyl in Florida, and how so many people have become dependent upon drugs to cope with the COVID pandemic and economic hardship.

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Injunction Blocking CDC Guidelines for Cruise Ship Industry Lifted by Circuit Court of Appeals

Aerial shot of several cruise ships in the ocean, clear water.

The future of Florida’s cruise ship industry remains in question after a panel of three judges for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay, or suspension, on a preliminary injunction blocking the CDC’s authority in allowing cruise ships to set sail.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday in Tampa issued the now-lifted injunction in June after siding with the state that the CDC’s guidelines overstepped its legal authority to control an entire industry.

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Governor DeSantis Celebrates the Signing of The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act

A lion with its cub

Two weeks after it was signed into law, Governor DeSantis celebrated the approval of SB 976, otherwise known as The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act.

The Act directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to promote and encourage investments towards the protection and enhancement of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. 

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Florida Department of Health Reports Spike in Covid Cases

Staff if Florida Health Department

The Florida Department of Health (FDOE) reported a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases for the week that ended July 15th, making it the second week in a row that the number of cases increased. 

The FDOE reported 45,604 new cases from July 9th to July 15th which increased the COVID-19 positivity rate from 7.8% to 11.5%. The number of COVID-19 deaths during that week was 59. 

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Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump Takes on White Teen’s Case

American Attorney Benjamin Crump

Attorney Ben Crump, based out of Tallahassee, Fla., and Rev. Al Sharpton announced they are taking up the case of Hunter Brittain, a white teenager killed by police last month in Arkansas.

Crump, “Black America’s Attorney General,” and Sharpton were invited to Brittain’s memorial service, where Sharpton gave the eulogy.

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The Dismantling of Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund Begins

Ron DeSantis

An endowment fund for health programs and education in Florida started being dismantled after HB 5011 was signed by DeSantis in June, and taken into effect on July 1st. 

HB 5011 issued the termination of the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund (LCEF) and directed the State Board of Administration to liquidate and transfer the funds into the Budget Stabilization Fund by June 30th, 2022. 

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Florida Medicaid Enrollment Tops 4.8 Million, Surpassing Forecasted Growth

Florida State Capitol

Florida’s Medicaid enrollment increased by 1% in June with 48,468 low-income residents qualifying for subsidized health care, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

As of June 30, there were 4,846,412 low-income, elderly and disabled Floridians enrolled in Medicaid, an increase of more than 730,000 since June 2020, AHCA documents in its June enrollment report.

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Marco Rubio Criticizes Black Lives Matter Statement on Cuba Crisis

Marco Rubio

Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio criticized the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization after it posted a statement on Instagram Wednesday night, blaming the U.S. government for the current and historical crisis in Cuba.

In addition to pointing fingers at the U.S., the statement also highlights its praise and support of the Communist regime in Cuba because of the country’s so-called history of protecting “Black revolutionaries.”

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Governor Ron DeSantis Joins Texas Governor Greg Abbott for Border Crisis Briefing

Governor Abbott Hosts Florida Governor DeSantis

Governor Ron DeSantis joined Governor Greg Abbott in Texas for briefing to address the current crisis that is currently happening at the border since the Biden administration lifted multiple border policies issued by former President Trump. 

Florida was the first state to provide help at the border after Governor DeSantis deployed law enforcement in June. 

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Jobless Claims Falling in Florida

Man In Suit

A new report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows jobless claims in Florida are down from the week ending on July 3. There were 6,739 jobless claims filed by July 3, down to 6,430 for the week ending on July 10.

Across the country, 360,000 new claims were filed, which is down 26,000 from the previous week. This is the lowest the country has seen its jobless claims since the start of the pandemic, indicating the recovery of the economy is slowly getting back to pre-pandemic levels.

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Governor DeSantis Questioned About Cuban Protests and Anti-Riot Law

Gov. Ron Desantis making remarks on behalf of the Cuban protests

After multiple Cuban protests across the state of Florida made their way to the streets and highways, Governor DeSantis was questioned about the protesters who were breaking the “anti-riot” law.

At a news conference on Thursday, DeSantis alluded that the Cuban protesters broke the law but were not arrested because of the peaceful nature of the protests. 

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Citizens Property Insurance Raising Rates

"For Rent" sign in window of building

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is raising their rates after its board of directors met on Wednesday. The rate increase is a result of a new state law signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and will vary across Florida, but the increase still requires approval from the Office of Insurance Regulation.

“These necessary adjustments reflect the efforts of the Florida Legislature to return Citizens to its role as a residual insurance company,” Citizens Chairman Carlos Beruff said in a press release. “Unfortunately, we have become the first choice, or only choice, in too many regions of the state.”

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Disney Moving Thousands of Jobs to Florida

The Walt Disney Company announced they are moving around 2,000 jobs from California to a new campus in Florida, which has yet to be built. It will be in Lake Nona, and the move will take approximately 18 months.

“Florida’s business-friendly climate” was one of the main reasons they decided to make the move while California’s lockdown measures have shuttered Disneyland’s doors for three months.

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BLM Questioning Enforcement of Florida’s Anti-Riot Law

Black Lives Matter activists have been asking questions about Florida’s new law, dubbed as the “anti-riot” law as a result of the many anti-communist protests taking place across Florida.

The law enhances penalties for criminals committing acts of violence during a protest as well protestors could be charged with felonies if they block roadways. A driver may also be granted immunity if they drive through protestors blocking a road.

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Florida Department of Education Adopts New Education Standards

The Florida Department of Education (DOE) adopted new education standards regarding how topics like Holocaust Education, Civics and Government, Character Education, and Substance Abuse Prevention, will be taught in schools.

In the press release on Wednesday, the DOE stated that the new standards are set to strengthen Florida’s education standards which are already “nationally recognized.”

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Governor DeSantis Sends Letter to Biden Requesting Help with Internet Access in Cuba

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday requesting the federal assiatance to aid Cuba in providing internet access to the country.

The request comes amid the protests in Cuba and some parts of the U.S. advocating for a change to the oppressive dictatorship that has been affecting Cuban citizens for decades.

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State of Florida Appeals Social Media Law Injunction

The law banning social media and big tech companies from “deplatforming” or “cancelling” political candidates on the internet was blocked by a federal judge a day before the law was to take effect.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a 31-page order on June 30th outlining his decision to approve an injunction filed by tech companies, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

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Norwegian Cruises Challenges Florida’s Vaccine Passport Ban

People boarding a cruise ship

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) has filed a lawsuit against Florida’s new law banning vaccine passports and they will abandon the state entirely if the law is not reversed.

“The result would be a devastating, unrecoverable loss for everyone—not only for NCLH’s business but also for tens of thousands of passengers, employees, and stakeholders who all benefit from NCLH resuming safe operations as planned,” the lawsuit says. “The only way NCLH could maintain its protocols and operations as currently planned is by abandoning Florida altogether.”

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75 Florida Teachers Sign Petition Vowing to Defy Critical Race Theory Ban

As The Tennessee Star reported, the Zinn Education Project,  a nonprofit that pushes social justice curriculum in schools, released a petition signed by more than 5000 teachers nationwide who vow to continue to teach Critical Race Theory, even if it’s banned in their schools. 

“Lawmakers in at least 21 states are attempting to pass legislation that would require teachers to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and oppression throughout U.S. history,” the petition says.

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