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

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

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

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Florida Court Rules Against FDLE in Firearm Case

Black revolver with ammo

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

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

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

Gov. Ron DeSantis giving a speech

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

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

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Florida Democratic Lawmakers File Bills Supporting Abortion Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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Report Shows Lowest Florida Jobless Claims Since Before the Pandemic

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

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

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University of Florida President Supports Testimony by Political Science Professors

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

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

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Governor DeSantis Appoints Democrat, Republican to Broward County Commission

During a press conference in Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced his appointment of Democrat Jared Moskowitz and Republican Torey Alston for two Broward County commission seats.

Moskowitz, the former Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), and Alston, the current Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), look to replace the seats that were opened due to Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief resigning in order to run for Congress.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Proposal for $1 Billion in Gas Tax Relief

Ron DeSantis proposing that the Florida legislature provide more than $1 billion in gas tax relief to help Florida families save at the pump.

Amid the rising cost people across the country are paying at the pump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Monday his proposal for $1 billion in gas tax relief, which will be discussed by state lawmakers during the legislative session of 2022.

According to DeSantis Office, if approved, the proposal – or as stated, “gas tax holiday” – would save up to $200 on average per family.

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Investigation Reveals Florida Democrats Used Dark-Money Organization to Support Candidates

A statewide investigation that made its way into an alleged scheme by Republican state Senator Frank Artile to influence a Miami-Dade County election in 2020, revealed that a dark-money organization was used by Florida Democrats to pay for “sham candidate mailers.”

In an attempt to make gains against a Republican-controlled Florida Senate, Josh Weierbach, the executive director of a progressive group called Florida Watch Inc., had $115,000 on hand leading up to the 2020 election that he wanted to use in support for Senate Democratic candidates, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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State and Federal Policies Seek to Expand Broadband Access in Florida

Expanded infrastructure for enhanced broadband internet could be coming to Florida as state lawmakers and the Florida Internet and Television (FIT) addressed new state and federal policies Thursday that aim to provide internet access to more Floridians. 

Following Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act being signed on Monday, which allocated $42.5 billion for broadband with at least $100 million of that going to Florida.

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Florida Senator Joe Gruters Proposes Bill to Establish Incentives for Film Industry

Senator and Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Joe Gruters, proposed a bill (SB 956) Tuesday that would offer financial incentives for the film industry to shoot, and produce, movies, television, and digital media projects within the state.

As the bill states, it looks to create the “Targeted High Wage Production Program” within the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which will be under the supervision of the state’s Commissioner of Film and Entertainment.

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Florida Democrats Propose Bill Regulating Ammunition Purchases

A new gun control proposal by Democratic lawmakers in Florida looks to require a background check each time an individual purchases or transfers ammunition.

The legislation, SB 334 and HB 181, is an attempt to tackle a “loophole” in Florida Statutes that only requires a background check before the purchase of a firearm and does not require any further review.

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Visit Florida Reports Tourism Numbers Up in Third Quarter

People on the beach during daytime

Recent data released by Visit Florida regarding the third quarter of 2021 saw the number of U.S. travelers to Florida exceed the numbers from the same three-month period in 2020, and in 2019, while international travelers slowly make their way back to the state.

The number of domestic travelers in quarter three of 2021 was 31.204 million, 55.3% more than quarter three of 2020. With other countries loosening their COVID-19 border policies, the number of overseas and Canadian travelers was 1.226 million and 85,000, respectively, which toppled 2020 quarter three data by 604.1% and 512.3%, respectively.

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Florida Governor DeSantis Announces Request for $25 Million to Repair Freedom Tower Amid Cuban Protests

Ron DeSantis announcing repairs for Freedom Tower

Four months after the island-wide Cuban protests in July, new protests brought together by the Assembly of Cuban Resistance on Monday encouraged Nicaraguan and Venezuelan exiles in South Florida to join in on pro-democracy demonstrations.

The same day, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a request for $25 million to repair the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami that was the main location for processing and documenting Cuban refugees escaping to Miami during the Cold War. The Freedom Tower now serves as a museum and offices for Miami Dade College.

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Campaign Finance Reports Shows DeSantis with $62.6 Million, Huge Advantage

Ron DeSantis

After formally announcing his re-election campaign last Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ campaign finance report was released Wednesday that showed that his committee – Friends of Ron DeSantis – raised $4.66 million in October and had $62.6 million in cash on hand.

Filed with the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections, campaign finance data for all gubernatorial candidates in 2022 shows the already massive gap between them and Governor DeSantis is continuing to grow as DeSantis’ newly announced campaign account provides another source for fundraising.

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Mayor Lenny Curry’s Proposal to Remove Confederate Monument Defeated by Jacksonville City Council

Much to his dismay, a piece of legislation proposed by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to remove a Confederate monument in Springfield Park was withdrawn Tuesday evening by the Jacksonville City Council in a 12 to 6 vote.

Curry’s proposal to remove the Tribute to the Women of the Confederacy Monument would have would cost $1.3 million.

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Moms for Liberty Files Lawsuit Against Brevard County School Board

A chapter in Brevard County of a conservative group titled, Moms for Liberty, has filed a lawsuit against the county’s school board for implementing a public participation policy that they feel is being used to limit free speech and discriminate against speakers with opposing views.

The public participation policy is said to prohibit speakers from making comments that are “personally directed,” “abusive,” or “obscene;” while the Board Chair, Misty Belford, enforces the policy so that speakers can only address her or the Board as a whole, rather than letting speakers talk directly to or about a specific board member.

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Former Cuban Child TV Star and Political Refugee Launches ‘ADN América,’ a Nationwide News Organization for Hispanics and Latinos

Gelet Fragela

Former Cuban child TV star and political refugee, Gelet Fragela, launched a brand-new, bilingual news organization for Hispanic-Americans on Monday, titled ADN América.

The organization will focus on providing the Hispanic-American market with real-time breaking news, in-depth analysis, and political reporting amid the “growing electoral influence among Hispanics across the country.”

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Jacksonville Murder Case Involving Immigrant Creates Further Criticism of Biden’s Border Policy

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Region IV Emergency Operations Center (EOC) personnel supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partners monitor final preparations for Hurricane Dorian. CBP Air and Marine Operations aircrews, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) teams from Region IV are ready to deploy as needed for Hurricane Dorian response efforts. CBP Region IV is working closely with a far-reaching network of FEMA partners and local officials. CBP Region IV provides communications and coordination for all CBP surface, land and air assets in Region IV which includes Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands during major disasters and national emergencies.

The murder of a Jacksonville man has further stirred Governor DeSantis’ criticism of the Biden Administration’s border policies as news arose that the suspect of the crime was an immigrant who had faked his identity in order to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to a report by News4Jax, 24-year-old Yery Medina Ulloa from Honduras – who pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder on Thursday – posed as a teenager at the border so that he could pass as an unaccompanied minor. However, federal officials have yet to comment on how Ulloa got to Florida.

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Everglades Oil Drilling Proposal Denied by Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Aerial view of an oil drilling site

A proposal to dig exploratory oil wells in the Florida Everglades was denied Friday by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The DEP’s decision to reject the proposal by Trend Exploration of north Fort Myers, is due to the concerns that oil drilling will negatively affect surrounding water supplies and natural habitats for endangered species such as the Florida panther.

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Tenure Proposal Raises Concerns with Florida’s Public Universities

A proposal that threatens employment protections for tenured professors is becoming a concern as it circulates throughout Florida’s public universities. 

If the proposal is approved, it would make the process of dismissing veteran faculty members easier by establishing a “comprehensive review process” for professors every five years that ultimately puts their employment in the hands of a university provost.

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September General Revenue in Florida Exceeds Economic Forecasts

Florida’s general revenue collections in the month of September were $442.2 million, or 15.7%, more than what economist for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) expected in their predictions made at the General Revenue Estimating Conference in August.

The estimated total for general revenue in September was $2.809 billion, while the actual total was $3.251 billion. Additionally, September was the 14th consecutive month that the state of Florida recorded more than what the EDR predicted.

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Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis Demands Refunds Amid Biden’s Border Settlements

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, gave an ultimatum to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday, demanding the Department of Justice to refund Floridians’ income taxes if they are used to pay out potential settlements to immigrant family members who were separated at the border.

As the $450,000-per-person settlements could amount to almost a billion dollars, Patronis’ proposal calls on the federal government to “not subsidize or incentivize illegal immigration.”

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Publix Announces Increase in Stock Price and Sales for 2021’s Third Quarter

Publix, an employee-owned and Florida-based grocery chain, announced an increase in its stock price and noted that year-to-year third quarter numbers show an increase in sales, but a decrease in profit compared to 2020.

The announcement comes almost a month after the company announced in early October a plan to hire 30,000 new employees before the end of the year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Biden Administration Warns Florida About Penalties for Mask Mandates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph A. Ladapo, MD, PhD

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

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

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Governor DeSantis Comments on Florida’s Job Growth in September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Families of School Shooting Victims Reach $25 Million Settlement

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

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

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

Tennessee Star

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

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

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The James Madison Institute Releases Priorities for 2022 Legislative Session

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

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

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Sarasota County School Board Removes Black Lives Matter Reference

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

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

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

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

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

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Florida Bankers Outraged over New Biden IRS Proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person putting mail-in ballot in ballot return box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell Announces Resignation

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

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

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Florida Senate President Proposes Prison Shutdowns

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

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

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

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Trump Addresses Potential Match-up with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

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

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

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Visit Florida to Ask Florida Legislature for $75 Million

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

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

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