DeSantis’ “Overt Power Grab” in Florida?
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried appears distraught over Rep. Tommy Gregory’s HB 1537, a measure that she and other state Democrats call a complete power grab by Gov. Ron DeSantis to take powers away from the Cabinet, but specifically her because she is the only Democrat.
The governor’s office says that the bill would “create a more efficient and effective government, which has always been central to the governor’s mission,” but Democrats aren’t buying it.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) read a statement from Commissioner Fried’s where she refers to the bill as a “harmful power grab” that solely aims to “silence the voice of a single cabinet member and would destroy the consensus that Florida’s Constitution requires.”
Rep. Smith, an unapologetic critic of DeSantis and race-hustling member of the House, called the bill an “overt power grab and consolidation of executive authority” that was “unfolding before our eyes.”
Smith added, “we now have divided government and Florida’s cabinet with one member of Florida’s cabinet representing another political party that is not the same political party,” and that his bill is aimed to “silence” Fried and punish her dissent.
Yes, but what else can you expect from Smith?
As always, Fried made this issue about her, and only her.
Forget that AG Ashley Moody and CFO Jimmy Patronis exist, this is all about her.
“This isn’t the first time @GovRonDeSantis has tried to limit my power as a member of the Florida Cabinet — and it won’t be the last.”
HB 1537 would allow DeSantis to take over control of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and the Cabinet’s oversight of agencies they oversee.
Taking Care of Grandma and Gramps
SB 1132 should sail through the Florida Senate, after all, who is going to oppose better healthcare from seniors? READ MORE
Exploiting a Tragedy
Head honcho at the Florida Democratic Party, Manny Diaz, has joined the national Democratic bandwagon demanding that Congress ban “assault weapons” or “weapons of war” after the deadly shootings in Boulder, Colorado and Atlanta Georgia.
“As our thoughts are with the families and friends of those whose lives were taken in these awful tragedies in Atlanta, Boulder, and around the country, we must also insist that this time be different. Congress must pass universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. We have lost too many lives to gun violence in America. Enough is enough.”
We get it, it’s politics. Republicans are also following the Democratic lead down at the southern border. Republican congressional leaders are pouring into the border region in Texas to witness the Biden border crisis unfold. and are making a big stink about the illegal immigration problem.
Nikki Fried @nikkifried-Cannabis is bringing our farmers & entrepreneurs together to create jobs. We’re building a new green economy here in Florida!
SpencerRoach @SpencerRoachFL-Churchgoers should feel safe knowing they are able to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights in a house of worship. I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill that protects our inalienable right to self-defense
Ben Diamond @BenDiamondFL-Agreed, @POTUS.Our state legislatures must take action as well. That’s why I’m cosponsoring a bill to ban assault weapons in FL—HB 653 by @CarlosGSmith —as well as other legislation to strengthen our gun safety laws. We must take action and save lives.
Bobby DuBose @RepBobbyDuBose-Over 25 million Americans are impacted by rare diseases, my mother was one of them. HB 1373 will establish a Rare Disease Advisory Council in FL to help provide ideas on how to improve health outcomes for individuals with rare diseases.
AFP Florida @AFPFlorida–#HB1063 on Administration of Vaccines by @RepJuanFBarquin passed the Health and Human Services Committee this morning. This great bill increases access to healthcare by allowing pharmacists to administer more vaccines to Floridians.
“Kamala Harris Tapped With New Role To Handle Biden’s Border Crisis” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – President Biden has tapped Vice President Harris to lead the administration’s efforts in developing partnerships with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries as well as dealing with “stemming” the “serious spikes” of migrants crossing the southern border, a problem he continues to blame his predecessor for the burgeoning crisis he single-handling created. “I have asked her, the VP, today, because she is the most qualified person to do it, to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border,” Biden told reporters before the White House high-level meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. Biden admitted the “serious spikes” in migrants heading to the border, saying it started with former President Donald Trump, but vowed to take ownership of the situation and handle it “humanely.” “This increase has been consequential. But the vice president has agreed, among the multiple other things I have had her leading, and I appreciate it,” he said.
“Harris Says ‘Chaotic’ Border Crisis Is ‘A Huge Problem’” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Vice President Kamala Harris admitted Wednesday that Biden Administration is facing “a huge problem,” at the southern border, saying despite their attempts in handling the recent wave of migrants, they are “frustrated” while placing the blame solely on the previous administration for the border crisis. Appearing on CBS News morning talk show, CBS This Morning host Gayle King asked the Vice President what is the Biden administration “game plan” to address the “chaotic” border crisis, saying it “doesn’t appear right now” they have one after changing “the Trump policy.” “Well, okay, look, it’s a huge problem. I’m not gonna pretend it’s not. it’s a huge problem,” Harris responded. “Are we looking at overcrowding at the border, in particular these kids? Yes. Should these kids be in the custody of HHS, the Health and Human Services instead of the Border Patrol? Yes. Should we be processing these cases faster? Yes.” This is however not going to be solved overnight,” Harris added. The vice president spoke ahead of a meeting she and Biden are scheduled to have in the White House later Wednesday afternoon with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, two departments placed to handle the border surge crisis.
“Brandes Backs SB 1132 To Take Seniors Out of Assisted Living” by The Floridian’s Jim mCcOOL – The health industry is always subject to changes through regulation, as so many Americans depend on medical institutions. In Florida, with a considerably large elderly population, both chambers of the state legislature are making great efforts to making Personal Care Attendees (PCAs), a permanent part of Florida’s long-term workforce. This move is thought to help increase the number of people at the frontlines of healthcare, and providing PCA positions could serve as a great launchpad for Floridians who aspire to be Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs).mThe Floridian reached out to State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-24), where he informed us that he will, “full support anything that keeps seniors living safely at home and out of nursing facilities as long as possible.”Brandes feels that SB 1132 will be effective, “If it improves their freedom, allows for us to live our golden years the way we choose, I’m all for it.” While this may employ more PCAs, SB 1132 also raises the bar for becoming a PCA, as the bill’s description says there will be, “a specified period if a certain training requirement is met.”
“Florida Democrats Champion Assault Weapons Ban, Support Gun-Restricting Executive Order” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – After 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa was arrested in connection to a fatal shooting in Colorado, President Joe Biden (D) expressed his desire to use an executive order to issue an assault weapons ban. He called on the Senate to issue a ban and to close any background check loopholes, arguing that these would be “common-sense steps that will save lives in the future.” In response, a number of Florida Democrats are championing the call, specifically Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) and Ted Deutch (D) took to Twitter to express their thoughts on how lawmakers should respond to the recent shootings that have occurred. Saying that “we must do more to help prevent tragedies,” Wasserman Schultz affirmed that “inaction is not an option.” “This is not a coincidence,” she expressed, adding that “assault weapons do not belong on our streets.” Listing a number of fatal shootings that have occurred across the United States, she informed her followers that details show “the tragedy in Colorado was made possible by a military-style assault weapon.” Rep. Deutch echoed her remarks, listing a number of decisions that lawmakers should come to an agreement on, which includes “universal background checks,” banning “high-capacity magazines,” implementing “red flag laws,” putting an end to “gun trafficking,” removing “weapons of war off our streets,” and putting a stop to “gun industry immunity.” Deutch urged President Biden to unilaterally act if necessary.
“Patronis Issues Statement on Consumer Data Privacy” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – H.B. 969 addresses consumer data privacy, requiring “certain businesses to provide notice to consumers about data collection & selling practices” among other privacy concerns. After the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee held a favorable hearing on the bill, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis (R) issued a statement. In hist statement, Patronis commented that “there’s nothing more valuable to a person than one’s own identity, and Floridians deserve to have control over their own personal work.” He added that elected officials “must protect Florida’s consumers from the big tech companies who look to profit from consumers private information, and that is why I have called on the Legislature to pass these critical protections.” At the beginning of the year, Patronis outlined his efforts to assist consumers is holding big tech accountable. Patronis asserted that “it’s time we recognize the reality that consumers have a property interest in the private information big tech companies are buying and selling on a daily basis.” Noting the threat that big tech companies can pose on the privacy of Americans’ lives in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, he expressed that “big tech leverages consumer data to the detriment of Floridians and the brick-and-mortar businesses that employ them.”
“Environmental Group Caught Pushing Fake News on FL Farmers” by The Floridian’s Jim McCool – Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and Calusa Waterkeeper landed themselves in hot water after publishing a false article to further their extreme anti-farming agenda. The article suggested that Florida sugarcane farmers are the cause of chronic Manatee exposure to glyphosate in Florida and Georgia, and lead to further pollution of the Okeechobee waters. The published study pushes the false idea that Lake Okeechobee is polluted by fertilizers and pesticides from fields to its south. The author essentially concludes that “[Lake Okeechobee] receives nutrient loads and other pesticides from the Everglades Agricultural Area.” However, a fact-based article released by the Fort Myers News-Press claims that farmers south of Lake Okeechobee are clearly not to blame. Scientists find that 93% of the pollution originates in the north of the lake, but exactly 0% of all water came from the Everglades agricultural area. You cannot blame the Center for Biological Diversity and Calusa Waterkeeper for writing this, they’ve been fighting against Everglade farmers since their establishment. For example, their membership to the Everglades Coalition, which includes the Everglades Foundation. The study also included an acknowledgment that its lead author received a scholarship funded by the Everglades Foundation.
“In protest to prison cuts, key Florida lawmakers try to derail criminal justice budget” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos – In a highly unusual mid-session budget fight, two key lawmakers on Wednesday openly feuded with Senate leadership and tried to derail the first draft of the chamber’s criminal justice budget. The dispute largely centered on $140 million in proposed budget cuts to the Department of Corrections that contemplates the closure of four state-run prisons, a plan that is devoid of specifics and had not been previously discussed by lawmakers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was so angered by the proposed reductions that he made a motion to vote down the entire criminal justice budget proposal. “I can’t let this go without objecting,” Brandes said. “If it was a long-term plan, maybe. But this cuts without a plan. There is no plan here. This says we are going to make the cuts and DOC, you make the plan.” The effort was backed by Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, and Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee. But it failed by one vote, and the budget cleared the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
“Prison budget cuts lead to Florida Senate drama” by Tampa Bay Times’ Cana Ceballos – In a highly unusual mid-session budget fight, two key lawmakers on Wednesday openly feuded with Senate leadership and tried to derail the first draft of the chamber’s criminal justice budget. The dispute largely centered on $140 million in proposed budget cuts to the Department of Corrections that contemplates the closure of four state-run prisons, a plan that is devoid of specifics and had not been previously discussed by lawmakers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was so angered by the proposed reductions that he made a motion to vote down the entire criminal justice budget proposal. “I can’t let this go without objecting,” Brandes said. “If it was a long-term plan, maybe. But this cuts without a plan. There is no plan here. This says we are going to make the cuts and DOC, you make the plan.” The effort was backed by Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, and Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee. But it failed by one vote, and the budget cleared the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Shortly after the meeting’s fireworks, Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, sent out a statement, saying the Senate has a “constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget in good times, and in difficult times.”
“Florida parents can now send opinion on state testing to department of education” by Click Orlando’s Jon Jankowski – Orange County Public Schools announced Florida parents can now send their opinion on state testing to the department of education. Earlier this month, OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said all public schools in the state are moving forward with administering state testing in-person in the spring. This move has been made despite many students still taking part in online classes. Parents interested in sharing their opinion on this issue may do so by emailing [email protected]. This email must be sent by March 31. Two weeks ago, several parents told News 6 they will opt their child out of the testing. Some parents who are high-risk to COVID-19 have decided to have their children participate in online learning to keep their families safe. This is also leaving some parents wondering whether their child will face repercussions if they don’t take the testing in the spring. School board members said they are anticipating many parents will opt their child out of the assessments.
“Florida House and Senate split on response to 2020 civil unrest” by News 4 Jax’ Jake Stofan – The Senate and House are split on how to respond to the civil unrest spurred by the death of George Floyd last year. The Florida House is moving full steam ahead with legislation that would raise penalties for crimes committed during a riot, but the Senate has taken a different approach, pushing a police reform bill that reflects some of the concerns raised during the civil unrest in 2020. “I think law enforcement is looking, not for bills and for policy that creates a further divide between the community and law enforcement, but things that bring us together,” said Senator Jason Pizzo. Pizzo, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, is sponsoring the policing reform package. “This is everyone’s opportunity, basically not to have short-term memories. You know again, in May and early June, everybody, both sides of the isle came out and said these atrocities need to stop, we need to improve the situation. Here’s your opportunity,” said Pizzo. It would mandate implicit bias and de-escalation training.“At the very least, let’s have a standard threshold of best practices and promulgate them statewide,” said Pizzo.
“Woman rescued from Florida storm drain, where she says she was stuck for 3 weeks” by WPTV’s Staff – A naked woman who was rescued Tuesday from a Florida storm drain told officials she had been trapped there for three weeks. Fire rescue crews in Delray Beach were called to the intersection of West Atlantic Avenue and Southwest 11th Avenue just before 9 a.m. after a report of a woman stuck in the drain. Police identified the woman as Lyndsey Jane Kennedy, 43, of Delray Beach, who they learned had been reported missing by her boyfriend on March 3. A witness told police they were parked on the corner of the street and heard Kennedy yelling for help while stuck in the drain. Once the witness saw the woman, she then called the police. Crews were able to extract Kennedy from the drain and transported her to Delray Beach Medical Center to be treated for dehydration. Delray Beach Fire Rescue spokeswoman Dani Moschella said the woman was conscious and communicating with firefighters. Kennedy told police she went for a swim on March 3 in a canal near her boyfriend’s home at the Oasis apartment complex in west Delray Beach. That’s about three miles from where Kennedy was found Tuesday. The woman said, while swimming, she came across a doorway near a shallow part of the canal, which she entered and found a tunnel. Because of her curiosity, Kennedy then followed the tunnel, which led to multiple other tunnels, causing her to become lost.
“Florida health equity bill passes through committee” by State of Reform’s Mansur Shaheen – A bill in Florida that would work to close the racial gap in maternal health outcomes passed through the Professional and Public Health Committee by a unanimous vote on Tuesday. Representative Kamia Brown filed HB 1381 on Feb. 26. The bill will revise the Florida Department of Health’s (DoH) role in the “Closing the Gap” program, directing them to take a more hands on approach. It will expand maternal telehealth access and expand training for perinatal and maternal health care workers. Brown introduced the bill to the committee on Tuesday, saying: “The goal of this bill is to improve maternal health outcomes and to promote equity. The statutory area of focus really is to decrease racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes, establish a telehealth minority alternative pilot program to expand the use of technology enabled learning and [to create] models to improve maternal health outcomes for underserved population. It is to also allow telehealth services to screen and treat common pregnancy related complications.” Closing the Gap is a state-funded grant program that provides funds to communities, faith based organizations and other organizations that work to reduce health disparities in Florida communities. The next cycle of grants will be announced in April 2021.
“DOJ: Florida Proud Boys member accused of breaching US Capitol during insurrection” by WTSP – A local “Proud Boys” member appeared before a judge Wednesday in a Tampa federal court for his alleged involvement in the U.S. Capitol insurrection. According to the Department of Justice, Paul Rae was asked by the Proud Boys, a well-known extremist group, to travel to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. There, prosecutors say there are pictures of Rae inside the Capitol building during the riot. His exact actions and what those photos captured were not immediately released. While executing a search warrant on Rae’s home, the FBI says it found seven firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Rae will be under home detention and GPS monitoring until his next court appearance on March 31. The Floridian is the latest in a growing list of people from the Tampa Bay area facing charges related to the breach. Earlier this month, a Clearwater man was accused of assaulting officers at the Capitol with both a fire extinguisher and wooden plank. A woman in Lakeland faces several charges after being accused of participating in the mob of people who stormed the building. Most notably, though, was the arrest of Adam Johnson after being identified in a viral photo carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern.
“Evidence shows Florida man planned Capitol siege, prosecutors say” by Click Orlando’s Thomas Mates / AP – Federal prosecutors are opposing a Florida man’s bid for pretrial release as he faces charges in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In their brief laying out their opposition to Kelly Meggs’ release, prosecutors show what they say is evidence of the Marion County man planning the attack with other members of the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and at least one other militia group. The court filing is the first time prosecutors have suggested that the members of the two far-right extremist groups were communicating with each other before coming to Washington. The brief shows online communications from Meggs dating back to Nov. 9. The first message calls on people ready to “join the fight” to message him directly on Facebook. The post read: “Then Do it, a lot of people here are talking ! I don’t see anybody doing ! I used to say hell yeah and let’s go . Then I did it ! Now I laugh when I see people say it . If your [sic] waiting for it to come to your street your [sic] gonna die . You aren’t trained , you don’t have any experience and you might some shooting but that’s not combat or riots. This fight is face to face, not far away. If your [sic] ready to really join the fight DM me. It if your [sic] gonna keep talking on Facebook . Remember there are people doing (expletive) !”
“Central Florida teacher fired for prescribed medical marijuana use” by WESH – The Brevard County School Board has fired a teacher for using medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor, even after she pleaded for her job in front of the board. Space Coast Junior-Senior High School teacher Allison Enright was fired because federal regulations say the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, violates the requirement for a drug-free workplace. State law allows medical marijuana use, but district policy has not been updated and does not specifically permit it. Enright disclosed her use of the drug when she received medical care for an injury from being pushed down by a student. Board members say the disclosure gave them no choice but to fire her or lose federal funding. “I want to make it clear. I do not do drugs. I don’t smoke pot. I don’t get high. I take two pills per day,” Enright told the school board. “Space Coast Junior-Senior is my home, and I want to go back. You have the ability to make that happen. Please, let me go back home.” “This is a schedule-1 drug. I do not necessarily agree that it should be. But I don’t make that law,” school board member Cheryl McDougall said. “And we are a drug-free workplace. And that’s what I have to base my decision on at this point.”
“Florida House bill would ‘dramatically ’ expand school vouchers” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jeffrey S. Solochek and Ana Ceballos – Florida’s contentious battle over school choice and vouchers got a jump start Wednesday as the state House unveiled its own version of legislation to expand the billion-dollar programs. House Republicans have many of the same goals as their Senate counterparts, who first introduced the idea of establishing education savings accounts to help families pay for private schooling and other education costs. But the 61-page House proposal, at less than half the length of the Senate plan, differed in some of its approaches on how to get to that end result. Anticipating some give and take on the concept, the Senate had stalled final action on its own bill for the past three weeks. Now, Republican leaders in both chambers are expected to hash out the differences as they reach the midpoint of this year’s 60-day legislative session. The Senate plan would merge five key school choice scholarships and make them state-funded. It would then convert them into education savings accounts that families could use to pay for children’s private schooling, therapy or even college savings. To do that, bill sponsor Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, proposed creating a trust fund to collect corporate donations and state funds that will pay for school voucher programs. The House would not go that far. It would merge two scholarships for students with disabilities — McKay and Gardiner — and make them education savings accounts.
“Florida Senate steams forward on port restrictions for cruise ships” by News Service of Florida – The Senate continued moving forward Wednesday with an effort to overturn a 2020 vote in Key West intended to limit cruise ship operations. The Senate Community Affairs Committee voted 5-3 to approve a bill (SB 426) that had been narrowed to address municipal-run ports in Key West, Pensacola, Panama City and St. Petersburg. It was amended Wednesday to prohibit past and future local referendums that alter cruise-ship operations. “We’ve tried to refine it as tightly and as specifically as possible to address the problem and protect maritime commerce,” bill sponsor Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said. Of the municipal-run ports, only Key West has cruise ship operations, though negotiations are underway to bring cruise ships to Panama City. Lobbyist Josh Aubuchon, representing the group Florida Ports for Economic Independence, said the Key West referendum didn’t ban cruise ships. “What they did was adopt reasonable limits to protect the natural environment and conserve and promote the community character of the Florida Keys,” Aubuchon said. “This bill is an attack on the private property rights of the local ports. It takes away the ability of the ports of self-governing themselves, something they’ve been able to do successfully for the past 200 years.”
“Florida Democrats Announce $2 Million 2022 Turnaround” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Although President Joe Biden (D) won the 2020 election, Democrats faced a number of defeats across the United States. In Florida, Democrats faced stunning losses in the House, and the party faced controversy after it was released that the party had accepted a PPP loan of $1 million dollars. This resulted in the party returning the loan, and the entire executive board quit after the 2020 election. However, the horizon appears to be brightening for Florida Democrats as the party has announced a $2 million turnaround. This, the party argues, allows them to “move ahead with ambitious plans to expand their operations ahead of the 2022 elections.” Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz commented that “first and foremost, you have to clean up your own house before looking outside.” This is exactly what the party has set its sights on tackling because “whatever we have done the last 10 years hasn’t worked.” However, in moving forward, Diaz expressed that “the path to victory here is building a strong Florida Democratic Party,” and to do that they intend to “invest in that party from the bottom up.” Currently, party officials detail that “they have roughly $750,000 in cash on hand between both their state and federal accounts.” Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I) financially contributed $500,000 and Mike Fernandez contributed $100,000, which is a departure from the traditional grassroots fundraising efforts that the party champions. Nonetheless, the party has raised $2 million to clear much of its debt and to help them move forward.
“Americans Support D.C. Statehood While Lawmakers are Split” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – As the nation discusses the possibility of D.C. gaining statehood, a new poll indicates that a growing number of Americans support the decision. This comes after the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on a bill that would grant D.C. statehood. In January, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is a non-voting D.C representative, reintroduced H.R. 51, a bill that, if passed, would make it possible for D.C. to have two U.S. Senators and a House Rep. Last year, in a vote of 232-180, a similar bill was passed, but it was turned down in the Republican-controlled Senate. With Democrats controlling all chambers of government, a successful push to make the District of Columbia a state could be within reach. In a poll conducted by Data for Progress and the progressive advocacy coalition Democracy for all 2021 Action, 74% of Democratic respondents approved of D.C. gaining statehood while 34% of Republicans approved. Nationally, 54% of Americans approve of the move. In the Sunshine State, Florida Democrats are also championing the idea. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) took to Twitter to express why statehood is the best choice for D.C. moving forward, noting that “the people of DC are American citizens like any other, but their problems are routinely ignored and their rights denied.” In turn, Wasserman Schultz argued that discussing this “isn’t a political issue, it’s a moral one.”
“Northwest Florida reps. back House bill allowing concealed carry at churches with schools” by WEAR’s Carolyn Cerda – Under current Florida law, religious institutions can allow gun owners to carry, but schools cannot. This means those wanting to bring a gun to church can’t if that church is attached to a school. House Bill 259 would change that. The bill’s sponsor — Pace Rep. Jayer Williamson — calls this a private property rights issue, saying churches should decide whether guns are allowed on their property. “So even if Pre-K met Monday-Friday when you carried concealed on Sunday, you would be inadvertently breaking the law, the way that it’s written now, so this just fixes that glitch,” said Williamson. Co-sponsor Michelle Salman says this bill ensures that. “It really should be minimizing opposition, because it gives institutions authority to post outside of their building that they don’t want someone carrying. It still give the power to the property owners themselves,” said Salzman. Rep. Salzman argues this bill also upholds gun rights. “Let’s face it; our churches, our synagogues, a lot of religious institutions have been under attack,” added Salzman. “There have been places where folks have shown up and just started opening fire.”
“Doctor: Florida residents previously infected with COVID-19 being diagnosed with variant cases” by WESH – Florida recently became the first state to have more than 1,000 known cases of coronavirus variants. Dr. Aileen Marty at Florida International University said there is danger for people who have already had the original COVID-19. “We have had to hospitalize here in South Florida persons who had COVID previously, mild cases that had recovered, but now have been reinfected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Florida has 1,070 variant cases, the majority of them the U.K. variant. Marty said people who have been vaccinated are safer from it because the structure of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines produce a higher quality antibody to fight the virus than what a person would get naturally. Florida has seen a large drop in cases in recent weeks, which is an encouraging sign, but the drop has also seemed to plateau lately. “We’re quite worried, we’re quite concerned that if we don’t continue to adhere to the public health guidelines of distancing, masking and hygiene, we may see another uptick,” Marty said. Florida’s focus on vaccinating seniors should mean that if there is an increase in cases, it should be less deadly.
“Florida small business pharmacies call for PBM regulations” by State of Reform’s Mansur Shaheen – Small business pharmacies are supporting legislation that would regulate Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). Barnie Bishop, a spokesman for Small Business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform, told State of Reform that the proposed regulations would help small pharmacies survive. Pharmacy Benefit Managers manage prescription drugs for health insurers. They often serve as the middleman between drug manufacturers and pharmacies, setting prices for drugs and calculating reimbursement. They are largely unregulated around the country. This allows the managers to operate unrestricted, which small pharmacies say gives them unfair advantage. Currently, PBMs are allowed to distribute drugs as they please and often favor pharmacies they own for drugs that earn higher reimbursement. This shrinks the profit margins of small business pharmacies. There are seven PBMs Managers that operate in Florida, though three major ones dominate much of the market – Caremark (operated by CVS Health), Express Scripts (Cigna) and OptumRx (United Health Group). Bishop explained that these companies’ large market share allows them to take advantage of smaller pharmacies. If nothing is done to regulate them, according to small business pharmacies, they will monopolize the market.
“Florida’s court system still struggling due to pandemic” by News 4 Jax’ Scott Johnson – The ongoing struggles for Florida’s court system are taking a toll in major ways. They’re affecting everything from how much insurance companies are paying out to child support cases — and those are just the beginning of the legal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of cases have been handled via Zoom, but there are still hundreds of thousands of cases that need to be heard from 2020. That’s affecting things like child support cases, criminal cases and insurance claims. News4Jax spoke with numerous attorneys about the issue of backlogs. That issue was also discussed in the newly released annual report by the Florida Supreme Court for 2019-20. “On July 1, 2021, an estimated one million cases beyond what would otherwise be anticipated will be pending,” reads one excerpt about the current backlog and where it’s expected to be this summer. One area where trial lawyers say this is hitting people hard is in personal injury law. News4Jax spoke with Steve Watrel, with Coker Law. He said this is making it easy for insurance companies to drag their feet knowing trials are delayed and people don’t have the resources to have lengthy court cases that stretch out years. He said one area of personal injury law being hit especially hard is nursing home abuse cases. Watrel said he’s representing clients that are simply too old to wait years on trial dates.
“Medicaid boost would give a year of postpartum care to Florida moms” by Tampa Bay Times’ Margo Snipe – New Florida mothers covered under Medicaid would receive a year of health care benefits after delivery instead of the current allowance of 60 days, under legislation announced Tuesday by House Speaker Chris Sprowls. “Today, the Florida House is making a meaningful commitment to address the disparities in health outcomes for our children and for their moms,” said Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican. “We believe that providing the access to postnatal coverage for up to one year after the birth can significantly boost health outcomes for moms and their babies and we know that healthy moms are better positioned to raise healthy and thriving children.” The postnatal period can be an especially vulnerable time, exposing mothers to a number of potential health complications. Of the approximately 700 deaths across the United States resulting from maternal health-related causes every year, one-third occur during the postpartum period, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. In Florida, the rate of maternal deaths has improved over the years, according to experts. Still, racial disparities persist. Of the 36 women who died in Florida due to pregnancy-related complications in 2018, about half were Black, according to Florida’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review data. “This problem impacts minority communities disproportionately,” state Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee, said during a news conference, where she appeared with Sprowls. Brown is sponsoring a similar bill, HB-645, along with several other proposals aimed at addressing racial disparities in maternal health care.
“Democratic Sen. Bracy hints at run for Florida governor” by Associated Press’ Brendon Farrington – State Sen. Randolph Bracy released a campaign-style video Tuesday strongly hinting that he’ll consider seeking the Democratic nomination to face Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis next year. In the video, Bracy discusses problems facing the state because of the coronavirus pandemic, says the state needs to change course and needs a governor who will work with both parties to help Florida through the crisis. He also discusses other issues facing the state, including health care, education and improving the economy. “We need to practice a new kind of politics, one that uses big ideas and bold thinking to solve problems. We need to leave behind the small fights at the Capitol and figure out how to work together to move Florida in the right direction. That’s what I want to do,” Bracy says in the video. But in a phone interview, Bracy said the video posted on his website isn’t an announcement that he’s getting in the race. “I want to be a part of the conversation in picking a leader from the Democratic Party. I think this video just explains that,” he said. “I have not committed to running.” He said it’s too early to make a decision to run. Bracy, 43, of Orlando, was elected to the House in 2012, where he served before being elected to the Senate in 2016. Despite Republicans controlling the Senate, he was picked as the first African American to serve as chair of the chamber’s Criminal Justice Committee. Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who served as a Republican governor from 2007 to 2011 and who lost a bid to return to the governor’s office as a Democrat in 2014, is also considering another run at the office.
“Deaths, violence occur during Florida spring break” by Associated Press via Tampa Bay Times – Two North Carolina men on spring break in Florida have been charged with drugging and raping a woman who later died, possibly of a drug overdose in Miami Beach, police said Tuesday. Meanwhile, in Panama City, a man has been charged with fatally shooting a teenager from Kentucky and another Florida man died when he jumped from the 23rd story of a beach resort with a parachute that did not open, authorities said. The deaths and alleged crimes come amid continuing chaos in South Beach, where police have arrested hundreds of partiers involved in violence and property destruction. Most of those involved have not been college students on spring break, but adults from Florida and out of state, authorities have said. The two men arrested in Miami Beach, Evoire Collier, 21, and Dorian Taylor, 24, have been charged with sexual battery as well as burglary with battery, theft and credit card fraud. The woman was found dead last Thursday after officers responded to “reports of an unconscious female” at a South Beach hotel, according to a police report. The men are accused of stealing the dead woman’s credit cards to help fund their South Beach vacation, the report says. Online jail records did not indicate whether the two had an attorney who could speak for them.
“Companies fleeing NY for Florida over taxes, Sen. Rick Scott says” by Fox Business’ Catie Perry – Florida is a “welcoming state” for companies fleeing high taxes and regulations, according to Sen. Rick Scott. “We make it easy for people to move,” he told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on “Varney & Co.” “That’s what’s continuing to happen in Florida.” His comments come as JetBlue becomes the latest company to consider relocating its head office to the Sunshine State when its lease ends in 2023, according to The New York Post. Scott believes New York is not the place for the airline to do business. “Cuomo and de Blasio are not going to let you prosper,” he said. “Tax increases — that’s all they do up there — make it harder to do business.” States like Texas and Florida are seeing an influx of individuals, banks and tech firms looking for more affordable, tax-friendly costs of living. The trend, which was apparent even before 2020, has accelerated amid a pandemic-induced recession, and with more jobs now being able to operate via remote. Scott went on to say Americans are “sick and tired” of the government taking their money. “When are we going to say to government … ‘We’re working our tails off for this money. And you guys want to take it all these different ways — gas taxes, death taxes, income taxes, every tax in the world’?” he asked. He added Democrat states just want “more and more of your dollars.”
“FEMA pop-ups are moving to Sweetwater, Florida City again. Second doses only” by Miami Herald’s Michelle Marchante – The federally-supported vaccination pop-ups are on the move again and will be returning to Sweetwater and Florida City Wednesday to administer second doses. Tuesday is the last day you can get your first-dose Pfizer shot at Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City and at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay. The sites will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The FEMA pop-ups will then reopen at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Ronselli Park Youth Center, 250 SW 114th Ave. in Sweetwater, and Florida City Youth Activity Center, 650 NW Fifth Ave. Only second-dose Pfizer shots will be available at the two pop-ups. The sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and appointments are not needed. You can just show up and wait in line. You will need to show your CDC vaccination card and a state-issued ID like a driver’s license to get your second shot. A reminder: You should not get your second dose prior to the date listed on your vaccination card, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No announcement has been made yet on how long the pop-ups will be in Sweetwater and Florida City before the sites move again to North Miami Beach and Miami Springs. As for the FEMA “hub” at Miami Dade College North campus, it will continue to offer first and second dose Pfizer shots until April 7. Then it will only offer second doses. The site opens every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and appointments are not needed.
“U.S. judge criticizes prosecutors over ’60 Minutes’ interview about probe into Capitol attack” by Reuters’ Jan Wolfe and Mark Hosenball – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday criticized the U.S. Justice Department for speaking to the media about the ongoing investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters. In an unusual court hearing, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said he was “surprised” by remarks prosecutor Michael Sherwin made to the CBS television program “60 Minutes,” and troubled by a New York Times article that cited anonymous Justice Department sources. “I found it troubling that sources within the Department of Justice were detailing the possibility of additional charges in a pending criminal case and an ongoing criminal investigation,” Mehta said, adding, “this case will not be tried in the media.” Mehta said the news coverage could undermine due process rights of defendants and that he would consider imposing a gag order if the pattern continues. During the hearing, a Justice Department lawyer said Sherwin’s interview with “60 Minutes” was being referred for review to an internal watchdog, who would determine if department policies were violated. Sherwin, a career prosecutor from Miami who previously served as the interim U.S. Attorney for the District Columbia, told the program that investigators have found evidence that would likely allow the government to file sedition charges against some defendants.
“Senate Democratic moderates push for minimum wage compromise” by Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine – Moderate Senate Democrats are pushing their leaders for a more modest approach to the party’s signature minimum wage hike, arguing for a compromise that can attract broader support after the defeat of a $15 hourly wage proposal. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer convened a meeting on the topic Tuesday afternoon that includes the eight Democratic caucus members who opposed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) $15 hourly wage plan earlier this month. Several of those members opposed that proposal because it eliminates the tipped wage, a lower minimum wage for restaurant workers and other employees who receive gratuities. It’s the first time Schumer held an in-person meeting with a disparate group of senators on an issue that electrifies his party’s base but divides his caucus. Sanders requested the meeting, a Democratic aide said. Given the differences between Sanders and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on the issue, attendees expected a collision between the uncompromising liberal wing of the party and the centrist wing that recently voted down one of the party’s longtime goals. But the meeting was promising, Democrats said. Manchin described it as a “wonderful conversation, and I don’t think anyone will talk to you, it was so good.” In the meeting, Manchin seemed steadfast about his support for an increase to $11 an hour, according to one attendee. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) suggested that if the wage was raised to $11 now and was indexed at a rate faster than inflation, it wouldn’t be far off from Sanders’s goal of $15 an hour by 2024.
“North Korea Fires First Missiles During Biden Presidency” by WSJ’s Vivian Salama, Nancy Youssef, and Andrew Jeong – North Korea launched several short-range missiles over the weekend, U.S. officials said, in a show of defiance against President Biden and his administration that was widely anticipated after joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. The weekend launches caused no damage and are being viewed more as a symbolic show of strength than one intended to inflict damage or hit any specific targets, according to two U.S. officials. U.S. officials declined to provide details about the short-range missile launches or even how many were launched. The launches aren’t covered by the United Nations Security Council resolutions that govern such activity and they were on the “low end” of routine activity from the North Koreans, two senior administration officials said. North Korea frequently fired off short-range missiles even as Kim Jong Un was negotiating with former President Trump and his administration on a denuclearization deal. Mr. Trump maintained that the short-range missiles weren’t a violation of the terms laid out in his discussions with Pyongyang, which ultimately failed to yield an accord. CBS News first reported the missile launches.
“Jury Seated in Derek Chauvin Trial for Killing of George Floyd” by WSJ’s Erin Ailworth and Joel Eastwood – After 11 days of questioning, lawyers Tuesday finished selecting a 15-person jury panel in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murder in the death of George Floyd. The group that will hear the case against Derek Chauvin is made up of 12 jurors and two alternates. One extra person was chosen in case one of the seated jurors needs to be excused between now and opening arguments, which are scheduled for March 29. That extra person will otherwise be dismissed, said Judge Peter Cahill. The court said the 15 were chosen from an initial jury pool of 326, with lawyers questioning more than six dozen in court over the last few weeks. Much of that questioning centered around the jurors’ answers to a multipage questionnaire that asked them to rank their opinions on Messrs. Chauvin and Floyd, as well as on Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. Some prospective jurors said they supported the message of the Black Lives Matter movement but thought the organization behind it espoused positions they saw as too extreme. Some were also supportive of Blue Lives Matter, a slogan prevalent among supporters of traditional law-enforcement methods and police officers’ role in public safety, though one juror said she didn’t realize it referred to police. The case against Mr. Chauvin is the first stemming from the May 25, 2020, death of Mr. Floyd, a Black man, which sparked protests around the country over race and police violence. Mr. Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder—unintentional, while committing a felony; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter. He has entered a plea of not guilty.
“Biden pushes House-passed gun reforms in the wake of Colorado mass shooting” by CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Jeff Zeleny – President Joe Biden on Tuesday used the latest mass shooting to offer his most vocal push for gun control since taking office, saying the deaths of 10 people at a grocery store in Colorado should jolt Washington and the nation into action. It was a message past presidents have also wielded to disappointing results. But Biden — who has a lengthy and mixed record on the issue — signaled he was ready to press for legislation even as he balances other priorities in Congress. In somber remarks from the White House State Dining Room, he said he would do everything in his power to keep Americans safe and pushed a pair of House-passed gun reforms, including a universal background checks measure and an assault weapons ban. After acknowledging there were still outstanding details to be learned about Monday’s massacre, including the shooter’s motive and weapons, Biden insisted enough was known to make an ardent call for new gun control. “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future,” he said, listing a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as strengthening the background check system by closing loopholes, as areas he would like to see Congress act. “This is not — it should not be — a partisan issue. This is an American issue,” he said. “It will save lives, American lives. We have to act.”
“Sen. Ted Cruz tells Hannity taking away guns from law-abiding citizens makes victims vulnerable” by Fox News – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, joined ‘Hannity’ to discuss calls for gun control following Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. CRUZ: There have been too damn many of these [mass shootings], and we need to stop them. But the Democrat’s proposal, every time, is always the same, which is take away guns from law-abiding citizens. That is their political agenda every single day. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t reduce crime. And, in fact, it makes it worse, because it disarms the potential victims and makes them vulnerable to criminals. If you want to stop them, the way to do that, what works, is you target the bad guys. You go after violent criminals, you go after felons, you go after fugitives, you go after those with serious mental illness. You stop them from getting guns, and when they try to illegally buy a firearm, you lock them up and you put them in jail.
“U.S. Health Officials Raise Concerns Over AstraZeneca Vaccine Data” by WSJ’s Jenny Straburg, Thomas M. Burton and Joseph Walker – AstraZeneca AZN -3.52% PLC said it would update and reissue later this week efficacy data from human trials of its Covid-19 vaccine after U.S. officials took the rare move of publicly questioning their accuracy—the latest misstep by the British drug giant as it struggles to get its shot into American arms. In an early-morning statement, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it had been informed by the independent data-monitoring board working with AstraZeneca on the U.S. trials that the drug company might have used out-of-date information in its public disclosure of the vaccine’s effectiveness. The day before, AstraZeneca released interim data from a large-scale U.S. trial that it said found its Covid-19 vaccine to be 79% effective in preventing symptomatic disease. The results served as a short-lived vote of confidence in the shot, which has been clouded by uncertainty over previous, confusing efficacy results and large-scale production problems. More recently, reported cases of rare blood clotting in Europe raised concerns about the vaccine’s safety, though European regulators found no link between the clots and the drug, and have recommended its continued use. The U.S. trials showed no link between the clotting and the vaccine, and the NIAID statement Tuesday didn’t raise questions about that finding or other safety-related issues.
“Supreme Court to discuss case that could expand Second Amendment rights” by CNN’s Ariane De Vogue – When Supreme Court justices meet behind closed doors Friday, a conference that comes three days after the country’s latest mass shooting, they are scheduled to discuss whether to add a blockbuster issue to the docket for next term: the scope of the Second Amendment. The court has largely dodged the issue since issuing two landmark opinions in 2008 and 2010, when it held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms at home for self- defense. Gun rights advocates and even some of the justices themselves have expressed frustration that the court has declined to further define the scope of the right as lower courts across the country have upheld restrictions. Three years ago, for example, Justice Clarence Thomas charged that the “Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh, after the court effectively dismissed one case last term, wrote that he hoped that the justices would vote to take up a new case “soon.” Still, last June, perhaps with the knowledge that there weren’t five votes ready to decide, the court again declined to take up several new cases. With the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, supporters of gun rights hope the justices will wade in now and experts wonder if the justices are poised to add the issue to next term’s docket.
“Boulder shooting suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa: What we know” by Fox News’ Stephanie Pagoners – More details are emerging the day after a 21-year-old identified as the alleged suspect killed 10 people, including a police officer, during a mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store this week. The suspect allegedly bought the firearm used in the attack six days earlier, and was known by former classmates to be short-tempered and paranoid, according to reports and an arrest affidavit released Tuesday. The document did not disclose where Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, from the Denver suburb of Arvada, bought the Ruger AR-556 but stated he did so on March 16. Just six days later, he allegedly shot multiple people outside the King Soopers on Table Mesa before entering the store and continuing the killing spree inside. Alissa was booked into Boulder County Jail on Tuesday after receiving treatment for a gunshot wound. He has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. Police are still investigating the motive in the attack and said they are collecting statements from him. Officials did not provide much information about the suspect, but Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said Alissa had lived “most of his life in the United States.”