Florida Gas Prices Hit New Record

According to AAA-The Auto Club Group, the Florida average price for gasoline reached a new record high of $4.49 per gallon on Sunday.

The latest price beats the previous record of $4.38 per gallon set back in March soon after Russia invaded Ukraine. Before this year, the record high was $4.08 per gallon, which was set back in 2008.

Florida’s average price jumped about 30 cents in the past week. The state average is now $1.60 per gallon more than a year ago. It now costs $67 for a full 15-gallon tank of gas. That’s $24 more than what drivers paid this time last year.

Based on the gasolinemiserindex.com website, Florida consumers are paying $889 more annually on gasoline when compared to spending last year. The is approximately 21% higher than the $735 the average American family is spending this year.

“Drivers are dealing with unprecedented pain at the pump and things could soon get worse before they get better,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We saw more big gains in the gasoline futures market late last week, which could trickle down to yet another 10-20 cent jump at the pump in the near future.”

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Florida Tourism Numbers Break Record in First Quarter

An analysis by Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, showed that Florida attracted a record number of tourists during the first three months of 2022. The numbers, which were released this past Friday, surpassed totals reported for similar time periods before the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the hospitality and leisure industry.

The analysis estimates that 35.982 million people traveled to Florida between the start of January and the end of March. Florida has now recorded four consecutive quarters attracting more than 30 million visitors.

“Our Q1 visitation estimates show that 2022 is shaping up to be another amazing year for Florida tourism,” said Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO. “In addition to breaking more pre-pandemic records domestically, we are seeing an exponential rebound in Orlando as well as our international numbers, which we expect to continue in the months ahead.

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Florida State Rep. Jason Shoaf Calls for Removal of Middle School Principal

Florida state Representative Jason Shoaf is calling for the removal of a Leon County middle school principal after the principal posted on Facebook that parents are “getting in our way.” Shoaf’s call for action is in response to a media report about comments in a Facebook post by Sarah Hembree, the principal of Elizabeth Cobb middle school, is located in Leon County.

On Tuesday, Tallahassee Reports published a story about the Facebook post by Hembree which stated in part, “Today I say – Parents, Quit pushing for stupid bills and getting in our way…schools are going to do what’s best for your students in spite of you..”

The “Quit pushing for stupid bills” statement appears to be a reference to the Parental Rights in Education bill that was recently signed into law by Governor DeSantis.

Hembree added that teachers “want to decide what they teach in their classroom based on the needs of the students in front of them….I am SO TIRED of being told we don’t know what we are doing or that we are messing with parents’ rights.”

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Nikki Fried Campaign Consultant Acknowledges Overwhelming Republican Electoral Advantage, Says Fried Is the Answer

Kevin Cate, the campaign consultant for Florida gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, recently noted the Republican electoral advantage facing Democrats running for statewide office. Cate previously worked on the 2014 Charlie Crist campaign and the 2018 Andrew Gillum campaign for Florida governor.

In a series of tweets, Cate provided his “perspective on the Florida Democratic primary for Governor and the general election environment.”

Cate tweeted, ” I cannot stress enough how tough of an environment the general will be.”

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Florida Surgeon General Criticizes Federal Directives Related to Treatment for Gender Dysphoria

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) provided guidance Wednesday on treating gender dysphoria for children and adolescents in response to information recently provided by the federal government.

The FDOH press release noted that “gender dysphoria is characterized by a strong, persistent cross-gender identification associated with anxiety, depression, irritability, and often a wish to live as a gender different from the one associated with the sex assigned at birth.”

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issued a statement criticizing the federal directives.

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Florida School Superintendent Uses Misleading CNN Fact-Check to Discredit Parental Rights Bill

At a recent Leon County School Board meeting, Superintendent Rocky Hanna used a misleading CNN fact-check to publicly criticize Governor DeSantis’ rationale for the Parental Rights in Education bill, while ignoring facts related to a lawsuit filed against the school district.

The CNN fact-check uses selective comments from a DeSantis press conference, related to an incident which took place at a Leon County middle school, to question the rationale for the Parental Rights in Education bill.

The incident involved the failure of school officials to notify parents about a meeting with their daughter concerning gender issues. The parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Leon County School Board.

Hanna, reading DeSantis’s comments from the CNN fact-check, said that “none of this happened, none of this is true, it is all fabricated…”

While DeSantis’s comments about the specifics of the incident were partly inaccurate, Hanna ignored facts that were consistent with the comments made by DeSantis.

What Hanna did not reveal in his comments to the school board is that school officials initiated an interview with the student as part of a  “Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Support Plan” without including the parents.

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Leon County Elementary School Teacher Criticizes Parents, Expresses Gender Identity Views

Brandy Vance, a Leon County school teacher at J. Michael Conley Elementary School at Southwood, is not happy about the Parental Rights in Education bill and she recently took to Facebook to voice her concerns.

The Parental Rights in Education bill, which was recently signed into law, contains a provision that “prohibits a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Vance posted a 220 word explanation of her position related to issue with a picture of herself dressed in LGBTQ supportive attire on Conley Elementary school grounds.

The post included below, appears to have been removed from Facebook.

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Dungy Responds to Criticism After Supporting DeSantis Fatherhood Initiative

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy responded Tuesday to critics who called him a “fraud” and a “racist apologist” after he attended a press conference where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new bill directing millions of dollars toward a fatherhood initiative.

Dungy works with the nonprofit group All Pro Dad, which provides parenting information and hosts events.

At the DeSantis press conference Dungy said, “I asked [Abe Brown], how do those young boys (19, 20, 21) get [in prison]? And he told me it’s not socio-economic, it’s not racial, it’s not education, it’s none of that. 95% of these boys did not grow up with their dad.”

Dungy also cited statistics related to fatherless children and said, “This is going to be tremendous and such a good help to fathers in Florida. This bill is so important. I want to thank all of the men and women that have been behind this. It is going to allow groups like All Pro Dad and people like those here today to do great things for our fathers here in Florida.”

Critics pounced.

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Comparative Analysis Grades Florida COVID Performance an ‘A’

A study comparing Covid outcomes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the economy, education and mortality gave nine states – including Florida – an A for their efforts.

The study was published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The authors of the study are University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan and Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

For economic performance the study used two measures: unemployment and GDP by state. Education performance was measured by the cumulative in-person instruction percentage for the complete 2020-2021 school year, with hybrid instruction weighted half. For mortality, the two measures were  COVID-associated deaths reported to the CDC and all-cause excess mortality.

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A Misleading CNN Fact-Check Is Used by Florida Statewide Media Against Gov. DeSantis

A misleading CNN fact check related to the Parental Rights in Education bill is being used by some in the Florida statewide media to promote incomplete information related to Governor DeSantis rationale for the legislation.

The fact check – which was published last week – notes that “On several occasions since signing the bill into law, DeSantis has highlighted the story of a woman named January Littlejohn, a registered Republican, who says she was not fully consulted about the school’s gender-affirming plan for her child.”

CNN uses the fact that Ms. Littleljohn initially told school officials – in an email-  “that she would not stop her child from using preferred pronouns or name of choice at school” as inconsistent with the DeSantis statement that the school did not get the mother’s consent to address the her daughter’s gender identity issues.

However, what the CNN analysis does not include is the fact that Leon County school officials went beyond Ms. Littlejohn’s initial consent-  related to pronouns and name choice – and initiated an interview with their child as part of a  “Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Support Plan.”

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Florida Rated One of the Most Dangerous States for Pedestrians

Statistics provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) show that the number of traffic crash and pedestrian fatalities have increased significantly  in 2021 when compared to 2020 and 2019. The alarming increases are consistent with national trends.

In 2021, FLHSMV reported 3,405 crash related fatalities which is 9.0% above the 3,098 reported in 2020. FLHSMV reported a 5.0% increase in 2020 and 1.2% increase in 2019.

Col. Justin Ferrara, with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office located in central Florida, said that “high-stress levels and frustration led to aggressive and unsafe driving.” “Enforcement, education, traffic-calming techniques and common sense are all areas of concentration,” Ferrara said.

Federal data from the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate traffic deaths began to increase  in 2019. NHTSA has blamed reckless driving behavior for increases during the pandemic, citing behavioral research showing that speeding and traveling without a seat belt have been higher. Before 2019, the number of fatalities had fallen for three straight years.

Ironically, while the rate of fatalities have increased in Florida, the number of crashes since 2018 has actually declined. Again, this is consistent with national trends. The latest NHTSA crash data shows that crashes have become more deadly.

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Florida Agency Plans for ‘Transportation Equity’

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) documents show that the agency has adopted policies that will give consideration to “transportation equity.” 

On January 25, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 13985, officially titled Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. It directs the federal government to revise agency policies to account for racial inequities in their implementation. As a result of this Order, on May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation published a Request for Information (RFI) on Transportation Equity Data.

These actions by the federal government – occurring just over a year ago –  have already impacted transportation planning in Florida.

For example, a policy brief distributed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Office of Policy Planning – titled “Equity Subject Brief” – describes strategies to improve transportation equity. The document notes that the  “state’s long range transportation plan – the Florida Transportation Plan (FTP) – establishes the goal of Transportation Choices that Improve Equity and Accessibility.”

This policy message has reached the district staff level.

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DeSantis Threatens Disney’s Special Governing District

Ron DeSantis

The latest escalation in the feud between Governor DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company over the Parental Rights in Education bill involves the possibility of repealing a law that gives Disney special governing privileges.

The  Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) was formed in 1967 to serve the interests of Disney by a special Act of the Florida Legislature and subsequently validated by the Florida Supreme Court.

The arrangements allow Disney to shape the park environment without government oversight.

Richard Foglesong, a Rollins College professor, told the Washington Post that “It’s legal magic. The Reedy Creek government can regulate land use, provide police and fire services, license the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, build roads, lay sewer lines, construct waste-treatment plants, carry out flood projects–even build an airport or nuclear plant, all without local or state approval.”

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DeSantis Blames Biden Administration’s Immigration Policy for Daytona Murders

In a press release on Wednesday, Governor DeSantis blamed the Biden Administration’s “dangerous immigration policies” for the recent murder of Terry and Brenda Aultman in Daytona Beach. 

The press release referenced the arrest on March 10, 2022 of Jean R. Macean, a citizen of Haiti and an illegal immigrant, who was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Investigators say the Aultmans were riding their bikes home from Bike Week earlier this month when Macean picked them at random and stabbed them to death. Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young described these killings as “one of the most vicious attacks I’ve ever seen in my 20 years.”

According to the release, the “Aultmans suffered at the hands of an illegal immigrant due to open border policies that are failing our citizens. The Biden Administration announced a new Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti last year, a reversal of the policy of the previous administration. The policy allowed Macean to stay in the country.”

DeSantis also implicated State Attorney Aramis Ayala. 

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Equality Florida Leader Says Parental Rights Bill Will ‘Criminalize Your Existence’

Nadine Smith, the Executive Director of Equality Florida, told a group of Disney executives that Florida’s governor and legislative leaders are seeking to erase and criminalize the existence of gay people through the Parental Rights in Education bill.

The video obtained by a reporter documented comments made during a meeting among Disney officials and activists that was called to address the legislation recently signed by Governor DeSantis.

Referring to the bill, Smith said the actions by the governor and legislative leaders harkened back to the 1950’s and 1960’s. She told the Disney executives that “when they can criminalize your existence and demonize who you are, the next step is to criminalize you and take your kids.”

The comments by the participants in meeting voiced no concerns related to the provisions of bill addressing parental rights and the limitations of gender identity instruction to elementary school students. Instead, the discussion focused on how Disney would promote LGBTQ causes within their programing.

Smith has previously chose to characterize DeSantis as a “coward.”

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DeSantis Not Concerned About Possible Boycotts Due to Signing ‘Anti-Grooming’ Parental Rights Bill

Not long after signing the “Anti-Grooming” Parental Rights in Education bill into law on Monday, Governor DeSantis’ office fielded questions about concerns related to possible boycotts of Florida businesses.

The legislation, which bans educators from exposing students from kindergarten to third grade (5 to 8-year-olds) to detailed lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation, was dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

But among Americans, the proposal enjoyed broad support. One poll by Politico/Morning Consult found that 52 percent of respondents agreed that young children should not be taught the sophisticated concepts underpinning gender and sexual ideologies. Only 33 percent opposed the bill, while 15 percent said they had no opinion.

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Poll: Florida Democrats Support Limits on Teaching Sexual Orientation in Schools

A new poll of Democrat voters in Florida shows that a majority of Democrats support limits on teaching sexual orientation in schools as required by the Parental Rights in Education bill.

The poll was conducted from March 17-20 for Floridians for Economic Advancement, a political committee that has supported state legislative candidates from both parties.

The poll comes amid national protests against the Parental Rights in Education bill that critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill “prohibits a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

The main focus of the poll was the Democrat gubernatorial primary. Those results indicated that shows 43% of likely Democratic Primary voters favor Charlie Crist, with 33% picking Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and 15% liking state Sen. Annette Taddeo. Only about 8% of respondents started out unsure.

However, the poll also asked about a specific provision of the Parental Rights in Education bill.

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Florida Census Data Shows Trump Counties Gained 224,000 Residents While Biden Counties Lost Population

The most recent U.S. Census data release shows that Florida counties that voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election gained 224,336 residents from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, while Florida counties that voted for Biden lost 13,140.

Late last year the U.S. Census reported that the largest net domestic migration gains from 2020 to 2021 occurred in Florida (220,890), Texas (170,307) and Arizona (93,026). The largest domestic migration losses were in California (-367,299), New York (-352,185) and Illinois (-122,460).

The latest U.S. Census report, released March 24, analyzed the population dynamics in each of the 3,143 U.S. counties.

The report shows that Florida (2) and Texas (5) have seven of  the 10 counties in the U.S. with the greatest numeric growth in population.

An analysis of Florida counties reveal that 58 counties had population growth while, nine had population declines.

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Florida Democrats Boycott Disney Due to Parental Rights Bill

Mickey and Minnie Mouse riding on a float in Magic Kingdom

First it was Governor DeSantis blasting Disney, now Florida Democrats have decided to take a shot at the mega-corporation that employees over 60,000 Floridians.

The Florida Democratic Party said Tuesday that it is moving its major fundraising event from a Disney World venue due to pressure from the LGBTQ community. The event was initially scheduled to take place on June 18.

The move comes after the Florida Democratic Party’s LGBTQ caucus called on candidates to oppose the party’s gala at Disney amid the fallout from the controversial “Parental Rights” bill.

“Scheduling Leadership Blue at Disney during Pride Month this year is nothing but tone deaf. To put it another way: FDP — read the room,” Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus President Stephen Gaskill said prior to decision to move the event. 

In addition, Disney has been faced with employee staged walkouts and social media campaigns in response to the Florida legislation.

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Florida Republicans Cool on ‘Woke’ Corporations, Let $1.2 Billion Income Tax Break Expire

During the 2022 legislative session Florida Republicans took actions to distance themselves from some of Florida’s biggest corporations – Governor DeSantis called out Disney, and the Florida Legislature let a corporate income tax break expire.

The publisher of floridapolitics.com, Peter Schorsch, tweeted that corporations “got (royally) screwed during Session.” This assessment goes against the traditional narrative that corporate political donations pad Republican campaign accounts and tax breaks and lax regulation follow.

The most public rebuke of corporate interests was on display during the controversy between Governor DeSantis and Disney CEO Bob Chapek as related to the Parental Rights in Education legislation. The controversy made headlines across the U.S. and put the two powerful executives in a very public battle.

A day after Chapek publicly condemned the bill that would ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity before fourth grade, DeSantis ripped Disney before a roomful of supporters. He called Disney a “Woke corporation” and criticized its business interests in China.”

But Chapek should not have been surprised by the DeSantis response.

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DeSantis in Standoff with Republicans Over Congressional Redistricting

Governor Ron DeSantis is in a standoff with Republican legislators over congressional redistricting plans that many think is headed to the courts. The controversy comes after a successful legislative session which rewarded DeSantis with a number of victories he can use in his campaign for reelection.

Back in January, DeSantis took the unusual step of submitting his own redistricting plan.  Governors have the authority to veto district map proposals but do not typically submit map proposals of their own.

At the time, DeSantis’ general counsel, Ryan Newman, issued a statement saying their office has “legal concerns” with the current maps under consideration at the legislature.

DeSantis has proposed a more Republican-leaning plan that would eliminate two districts held by African American Democratic representatives. DeSantis believes that one of the districts, which stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee,  is unconstitutional and should be consolidated to only include Jacksonville.

Florida State Representative Tom Leek (R-Ormond Beach) has previously noted that there is a possibility that a legal challenge could void the maps if a court finds a change in the Jacksonville -Tallahassee district has “diminished” minority voters. 

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Democrat Gubernatorial Hopeful Nikki Fried Attacks DeSantis over Plane Purchases She Once Supported

Gubernatorial candidate and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, teamed up with Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson to promote questionable claims related to Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s purchase of airplanes for executive travel.

On March 12, Wilson noted in a tweet that he had called out DeSantis for adding private jets to the state budget.

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National Company Pursuing Economic Development Opportunities with Florida Municipally Owned Airports

A national company – Burrell Diversified Investments, LLC located in Aspen, Colorado – appears to have an economic development interest in a number of municipally owned airports in Florida.

The interest in the municipally owned airports seems to be part of a statewide plan to develop an alternate distribution system for freight carriers by building out municipally owned airports.

The Mayernick Group, an established state lobbying firm, represented Burrell Diversified Investments before the Florida legislature in 2021 and 2022. In addition, The Mayernick Group registered with the City of Tallahassee to represent Burrell Diversified Investments and David Goldschmidt on January 20, 2022.

Goldschmidt is listed as the Managing Director of The Burrell Group.

Burrell Diversified Investments is also the parent company to Burrell Aviation LLC which registered with the Florida Division of Corporations on August 18, 2021. Burrell Aviation has since registered Burrell Aviation Ocala LLC (1/25/2022), Burrell Aviation Sanford LLC (3/9/2022), and Burrell Aviation Brooksville (3/9/2022)

David Pollard, director of the City of Tallahassee’s Aviation Department, has been in talks with company representatives and said that the potential investment by the group lines up with the City’s strategic priorities. The investment is related to leasing space for hanger development, cargo logistics, and maintenance related activities.

Pollard expects that an agenda item will be ready to go before the Tallahassee City Commission in late April.

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Florida’s ‘Tallahassee Democrat’ Newspaper Promoted ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Slogan Six Times More Than ‘Parental Rights in Education’

An analysis of news articles published by journalists in the Tallahassee Democrat between February 9th and March 11th show that reporters repeatedly used the term “Don’t Say Gay” slogan when writing about the Parental Rights in Education bill.

The analysis shows that the “Don’t Say Gay” term was used over 6 times more than the title of the bill, “Parental Rights in Education” in news articles.

The “Don’t Say Gay” slogan was adopted by opponents of the Parental Rights in Education bill. Supporters of the bill have argued the slogan mischaracterizes the legislation.

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DeSantis Responds to Disney CEO; Cites China Connections, Woke Corporations

Ron DeSantis

One day after the Disney CEO came against the Parental Rights in Education bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis responded with references to China and Woke corporations.

On Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek addressed the parental rights legislation at a shareholders meeting by saying,  “I know that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill. We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we felt we could be more effective working behind the scenes. …”

Chapek said in a call to Governor DeSantis he expressed his disappointment and “concern that if the legislation becomes law it could be used to target LGBTQ+ kids and families. 

Chapek also noted that Disney is “reassessing our approach to advocacy, including political giving in Florida and beyond.”

Late Thursday Gov. DeSantis told supporters in Boca Raton there is “zero” chance he’s going to reverse his position on disallowing the instruction of “transgenderism in kindergarten classrooms.”

And then DeSantis responded to Chapek’s comments

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Disney CEO Opposes ‘Anti-Grooming’ Bill, Will Meet with DeSantis

On Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek informed shareholders at the company’s annual meeting that Disney opposes the Parental Rights in Education legislation and that the actions by the Florida legislature could impact future political donations.

Critics of the bill – which passed the Senate and the House and awaits action by Governor DeSantis – have repeatedly mischaracterized provisions in the legislation while using the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker to rally opposition among progressives and the LGBTQ community.

Disney has been criticized in the national media and by elected officials in Florida.

Florida Representative Anna V. Eskamami, who represents parts of Orlando, called on “the Walt Disney Company to STOP donating to the campaigns of state lawmakers that sponsor anti-LGBTQ+bills, like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill…”

At the close of his prepared remarks to shareholders, Chapek said, “I’d like to take moment to address some concerns I’ve heard from many about the legislation impacting the LGBTQ+ community in Florida.”

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DeSantis Spokesperson Responds to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Moniker, Outrage Follows

Christina Pushaw

The spokesperson for Governor DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, responded to the “Don’t Say Gay” label with a moniker of her own and outrage ensued from LGBTQ advocates.

Pushaw tweeted that the “bill that liberals inaccurately call “Don’t Say Gay” would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill.” And added, “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8-year-old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”

The backlash was quick.

First, Joe Saunders, the political director for Equality Florida responded by mischaracterizing Pushaw’s comments.

Saunders tweeted, “@GovRonDeSantis chief spokesperson just called us all pedophiles. We’ve always known the #dontsaygaybill was a about anti-lgbtq animus. She just said the quiet part out loud. DSG is on the Senate floor Mon and students are organizing. Bring your outrage to Tallahassee #flapol.”

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Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez Responds to Biden Outreach to Venezuela Amid Rising Gas Prices

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez responded to a report Sunday that the Biden administration was beginning discussions with the government of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro related to oil imports

“Rather than making America energy-independent, Biden wants to buy oil from Maduro — yet another murderous thug. Troubling pattern from this administration as they continue to embolden our enemies,” said Nuñez.

Nuñez was born in Miami and her parents lived under the reign of Fidel Castro. She was elected as Florida’s first Hispanic female lieutenant Governor of Florida in 2018.

Nuñez was referring to a New York Times report which indicated that senior U.S. officials with the Biden administration traveled to Venezuela on Saturday to meet with the government of President Maduro. The purpose of the meeting was to step up efforts to separate Russia from its remaining international allies amid a widening standoff over Ukraine.

The meeting was also related to oil.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Responds to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Label of Parental Rights Bill

On Friday, Governor DeSantis pushed back on the media for labeling the Parental Rights in Education legislation the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

During a press conference a reporter asked DeSantis if he had any comments  “on the protests against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill?” DeSantis took the opportunity to address the use of the “Don’t Say Gay” label by the reporter.

“You call it that. I’ve not seen that in any of these bills. Where is that coming from? You’re in the news business. Does the truth matter or not? Is that in any of the bills?”, asked DeSantis.

The actual language in the Parental Rights in Education bill  “prohibits a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

However LGBTQ advocates and the legacy media have used the “Don’t Say Gay” label to repeatedly characterize the legislation.

For example, Equality Florida recently released a television advertisement “blasting” Governor DeSantis over the legislation, which the group describes as “LGBTQ censorship.”

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Florida Election Officials Prepare for Impact of New Law

Florida election officials are preparing for the impact of a new law that will require, among other things, additional information for voters currently registered. These requirements are in addition to any new requirements that may pass in the closing days of the current legislative session.

The bill under current consideration, HB 7061, sponsored by State Representative Daniel Perez (R-Miami), is headed to the House floor after passing the House Appropriations Committee in a party line vote. An amendment to the bill during the meeting made it almost identical to SB 524, which passed last Thursday.

The amendment requires supervisors of elections to maintain voter roll lists annually instead of every two years, one of DeSantis’ requests. It also removed a section requiring the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number, driver’s license or photo ID on vote-by-mail ballots. The amendment also adds a fine to organizations if a person collecting voter applications on its behalf changes someone’s party affiliation without consent. The fine is $1,000 per altered application.

A previous amendment removed additional requirements related to vote-by-mail procedures. Instead, the revised bill would direct the secretary of state to work on a plan to “prescribe the use of a Florida driver license number, Florida identification card number, Social Security number, or any part thereof to confirm the identity of each elector returning a vote-by-mail ballot.” The secretary of state would have to submit the plan by Jan. 1.

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Parent References ‘GenderBread Person’ in Public Testimony on Parental Rights in Education Bill

Students in shop class at school with safety goggles on

The Parental Rights in Education bill his headed to the Senate floor after a debate that referenced the “GenderBread Person”.

The debate featured elected officials questioning the need for a provision which regulated discussions in the classroom. The bill prohibits “instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Senator Lauren Book stated the bill was a “solution in search of problem.”

However, during the public testimony part of the meeting, a parent spoke to the committee and provided a real-world example of why she believes this provision of the bill is needed.

January Littlejohn, who is in a legal battle over the guidance provided in a LGBTQ guide used by the Leon County School district, referenced the LGBTQ guide currently providing direction to teachers and officials in Palm Beach County schools.

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Another Voter Fraud Investigation in Florida

The Gadsden County Supervisor of Elections and the Florida Department of State have initiated an investigation into possible voter fraud related to 23 voters. The investigation is reviewing the votes casts by  four sexual predators and 19 sex offenders in the 2020 Gadsden County General Election.

Voting records indicate 19 of the 23 voters under investigation were registered as Democrats. Three were registered with no party affiliation, and one was registered as a Republican. Also, public records reveal that 10 voted via absentee ballots, seven early-voted, and six voted in person.

The allegations are similar to other situations across the state. For example, The Florida Capital Star recently reported about felons voting in Leon County, which borders Gadsden County to the west.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told The Florida Capital Star that he started the process of removing seven felons from the Leon County voter registration system. Earley noted that all seven voted in the 2020 general election.

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School District Funds Paid for Employees to Attend Equality Florida Conference

Expense records indicate that school district funds were used to pay for a Leon County school district employees to attend the “All Together Now” (ATN) conference sponsored by Equality Florida.

Equality Florida is a left-wing progressive group that advocates for LGBTQ issues and was recently in the news for attacking Governor Ron DeSantis via television advertisements. The group is registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is also affiliated with the Equality Florida Action PAC . The PAC is touted as the “largest organization in Florida devoted to electing pro-equality candidates to all levels of government.”

The PAC also endorses candidates which are  overwhelmingly Democrats. For example, during the 2020 election cycle the Equality Florida PAC endorsed 14 Democrats and no Republicans in Florida U.S House races.

One of the methods used by Equality Florida to promote their mission and influence school district policy is through the “All Together Now Conference”. Equality Florida states that ATN provides “dynamic programming that includes sessions such as a superintendent’s roundtable discussion, family acceptance panels, GSA workshops, and legal expert testimonials.”

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LGBTQ Advocates Choose Florida Teachers, School Officials over Parental Involvement When Addressing Gender Issues

A proposed amendment requiring parental involvement when gender and sexuality issues arise at schools was withdrawn after LGBTQ advocates argued that informing parents would be dangerous to students.

The amendment, sponsored by Republican Representative Joe Harding, required school officials to facilitate a meeting between a student and parents to disclose child-specific information.

The amendment states that the “school principal or his or her designee shall develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within six weeks after the decision to withhold such information from the parent.”

Florida Representative Carlos Smith (D – Orlando), an outspoken LGBTQ advocate, said the amendment would “make it even more dangerous for vulnerable kids with a STATE-MANDATED outing of LGBTQ students to parents, specifically in cases of abuse, abandonment + neglect. This will have devastating consequences for our youth..”

This position – that parents should not be notified when these issues arise – has been adopted through policies in many school districts throughout Florida via LGBTQ guides. 

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Florida Measure Requiring Parental Involvement with Student Counseling Draws LGBTQ Criticism

Joe Harding

A proposed amendment to the already controversial Parental Rights in Education bill to require parental involvement on sensitive student issues has drawn more criticism from LGBTQ advocates.

The sponsor of the bill, Republican Representative Joe Harding, introduced an amendment on Friday which would require school officials to facilitate a meeting between a student and parents to disclose child-specific information.

The amendment states that the “school principal or his or her designee shall develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within 6 weeks after the decision to withhold such information from the parent.”

The six-week provision gives school officials a time frame to decide a student is facing unsupportive or abusive parents related to specific issues. If there is a determination by school officials that a student could be in danger from the parents the amendment details a course of action.

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Florida Representative Allison Tant Discusses Budget, Voting Bill, and Parental Rights in Education

On Thursday, Florida House Representative Allison Tant (District-9, Tallahassee) appeared on The Steve Stewart Show on RealTalk93.3 to discuss the 2022 Florida legislative session.

Tant’s district covers most of downtown Tallahassee and the northern Tallahassee metropolitan area. The district includes Florida State University and the Florida State Capitol.  A large college and urban population coupled with a significant number of state employees makes the district an easy win for Democrats. In 2020 Tant beat her Republican opponent by 15%.

As an elected official, Tant, who is a former chair of the Florida Democratic Party, must work with Republicans who control the Florida House. Tant noted that there are “more things that we agree on than we disagree on. It’s just that the splashy issues get all the attention.”

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Emails Show School District Officials – Funded by Taxpayers – Teamed with Equality Florida to Advocate for LGBTQ Issues

Emails from a Florida Capital Star information request show that Florida school officials in districts across the state have been recruited by Equality Florida to promote LGBTQ issues.

Equality Florida is a left-wing political group that advocates for civil rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBQT+) residents in Florida. The group has come out against the current Parental Rights in Education bill now being considered in the Florida Legislature.

The emails, covering 2016 to 2020, show how De Palazzo, the Safe & Healthy Schools director for Equality Florida, engaged one school district official form Leon County to help with Equality Florida’s mission.

In 2016, Palazzo reached out to Dr. Kathleen Rodgers and wrote “I am working and meeting in about 20 school districts and would be happy to assist your district as well in the form of direct service, meeting with teams, etc. A friendly reminder that there is no fee for service because I know that budgets are tight and for this important subject, fees could be a deterrent.”

Later emails indicate Rodgers became part of what Palazzo often referred to as a “team”

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Florida’s Absentee Ballot Proposal, Described as Racist, Less Stringent Than Other States

Florida legislators, led by Republican leaders, are considering changes (SB 524, HB 7067) to the absentee ballot verification process that has one critic calling the proposal  “a recipe for disaster” and another implying the new rules are racist.

Under current law, voters enclose completed mail-in ballots inside “secrecy” envelopes or sleeves before putting them inside another envelope to be mailed to county supervisors of elections or submitted at drop boxes manned by supervisors’ staff.

The new legislative proposals would require voters to put their double-enveloped ballots inside a third envelope and mark the last four digits of their driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, or state ID numbers – whichever number is on file with the election supervisor’s office – to be counted.

Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays, a Republican who is a former state senator, said the proposal is “a recipe for disaster.”

“Getting voters to follow instructions is not easy,” Hays told the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Feb. 1. “If you think they’re going to follow the instructions with all of these envelopes, you’ve got another thought coming.”

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Equality Florida Targets DeSantis, Parental Rights Bill in Political Ad

group of people recording a political ad

Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group, released a television advertisement on Monday “blasting” Governor DeSantis over the Parental Rights in Education Bill (SB 1834), which the group describes as “LGBTQ censorship and surveillance agenda.”

Critics of the Parental Rights in Education legislation labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and have refused to answer questions about the other provisions of the bill, focused on parental rights. These provisions require parental notification related to certain actions taken at school and “adopt procedures that reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”

The ad, shown below, refers to a provision in the Parental Rights in Education bill that “prohibits a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

The ad shows a student giving a classroom presentation.  When the student mentions she has two moms, alarms start going off in the classroom and she is asked to report to the office.

Equality Florida contends that “the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which bans discussion of LGBTQ in primary grades, would further stigmatize the LGBTQ community, chill efforts to create inclusive school environments, and isolate LGBTQ young people who are already at staggeringly higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation than their peers.”

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Florida Reporter Adopts ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Moniker for Parental Rights Bill

Ana Goñi-Lessan

Ana Goni-Lessan, a Florida education reporter with the Gannett owned Tallahassee Democrat, has adopted the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker when referencing the Parental Rights in Education bill which is working its way through the Florida Legislature.

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Net Metering Politics: Many Florida Municipal Electric Utilities Pay Less for Customer-Generated Solar Electricity

As a proposal (SB 1024) moves through the Florida Legislature that would allow investor-owned utilities to pay less for electricity generated by residential rooftop solar, critics of the legislation and of investor-owned utilities have ignored the fact that many Florida municipal-managed electric utilities are already paying residential customers less for solar generated electricity.

Under current law, solar panel owners who have excess energy generated can sell it back to investor-owned utilities at the retail rate the utilities charge other customers. However, the proposal sponsored by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley, would allow investor-owned utilities to pay a cheaper price for roof-top solar generated electricity.

The bill’s supporters claim solar customers are being subsidized by other utility customers because they rely on the underlying electric grid — and its lines, maintenance and other infrastructure costs — when the panels don’t generate enough electricity.

The issue has become partisan as Democrats attack the bill and investor-owned utilities, who are frequent campaign donors to Republican candidates.

U.S. Representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said the anti-solar legislation is just another example of how utilities rig the system against the people of Florida in favor of corporations, and “Tallahassee is marching on.” He said as governor would fight utility companies to prevent them from getting unfair rate increases and make it easier to install solar power for homeowners.

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Report: North Miami Voters Had Help with Ballots in Voting Booth

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office is looking into allegations that North Miami voters were receiving help in completing ballots in voting booths from election officials and other government employees.

The findings were first reported by the Miami Herald.

Florida law allows voters to request assistance in the voting booth if proper procedures are followed. The procedure requires voting assistants to complete a form swearing that the voter sought their help. The voters, if they have never previously asked for assistance, must fill out a separate form swearing that they requested it.

However, the concern in North Miami is with the number of people seeking assistance and those who are helping the voters. Records indicate that more than two-thirds of the assisted voters were helped by city employees or campaign workers.

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Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani Refuses to Answer Questions About Parental Rights in Education Bill

Representative Anna V. Eskamani

Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani has been a vocal critic of the the Parental Rights in Education bill, however – when given the opportunity – she refused to answer specific questions about the proposed legislation.

Eskamani told CNN that she “whole-heartedly opposes” the legislation, affirming that “it’s always appropriate to acknowledge that LGBTQ+ people and families exist, and any effort to erase them is rooted in homophobia and transphobia.”

Eskamani and other progressive leaders and organizations have labeled the proposal the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, based on a provision that prohibits a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels.

State Representative Carlos Guillermo-Smith (D-District 49), an openly LGBTQ Latino legislator, said, “We should and we are encouraging these types of conversations in our schools.”

However, the bill address a number of issues related to parental rights.

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Florida Secretary of State Responds to Voter Registration Fraud Allegations with Support for DeSantis Election Security Proposal

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee responded to the concerns of the chair of the Democratic party over alleged voter registration irregularities in Miami-Dade County by endorsing Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposal to create an Office of Election Crimes and Security.

Manual Diaz, the Chair of the Democratic Party, sent a letter to Lee on February 3 seeking an investigation into allegations that voters were unknowingly having  their voter registrations changed from Democrat to Republican. Diaz added, ” I trust that you are as alarmed as I am by these reports and will uphold you duty as Chief Elections Officer of the State of Florida by ensuring that Florida seniors are not duped or taken advantage of by third party voter registration organizations.

Secretary of State responded to Diaz’s request on Twitter by stating, “Reports like this are why the Ofc of Election Crimes & Security proposed by @GovRonDeSantis is a big step forward for protecting voters in Florida. We want to review ALL claims and ensure that those engaged in elections activity in Florida follow the law.”

The allegations were first noted by a local media outlet which reported that “more victims of third-party registrations are coming forward to report that their voter registration was altered without their permission. All of the victims were older than 65 years old, live in Miami-Dade County, and all of them were outraged when they learned they were registered as Republicans.”

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Amid Parental Rights Debate, Confidentiality Policies Vary Across Florida School Boards

Amid a debate over parental rights in education legislation (HB 1557/SB 1834), a review of policies across several Florida school boards indicates there is inconsistent guidance related to parental rights and student confidentiality.

For example, recent reports about elementary school officials in Clay County engaging in the counseling of a student without notifying parents revealed competing views about parental rights within the school district.

Clay county school officials allegedly defended their actions by invoking “confidentiality rules” to justify not including the parents in the counseling sessions.

However, a lawsuit filed notes that the Clay County Public Schools written guidance expressly contradicts the use of “confidentiality rules.” An exhibit attached to the lawsuit notes that children do not have a confidentiality right and that school officials must obtain parental consent before guaranteeing confidentiality to a child.

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Florida Hate Crime Incidents Down 23 Percent, Up 14.4 Percent in the U.S.

The 2020 FBI tracking of hate crimes show that Florida hate crime incidents have decreased 23% from 2018 to 2020 while hate crimes in the United States have increased 15.5%. In addition, the state comparison data (2019) shows that Florida ranks 47 in hate crime incidents with 0.53 incidents per 100,000 population.The national rate of hate crimes per 100,000 population is 2.4.

The five states reporting the most incidents per 100,000 population were Washington (7.1), New Mexico (6.1), Massachusetts (5.7), New Jersey (5.4) and Vermont (5.2). The five states reporting the fewest number of incidents per 100,000 population were Maryland (0.3), Iowa (0.3), Arkansas (0.3), Pennsylvania (0.3), and Florida (0.5).

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program serves as the national repository for crime data and is used to generate reliable information for use in law enforcement administration, operation, and management.

The data, which was updated and released in October 2021, shows that nationwide hate crime incidents have increased from 7,036 in 2018 to 7,103 in 2019 to 8,052 in 2020. Over the period from 2018-2020 hate crime incidents increased 14.5%.

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Erika Donalds, Former Florida School Board Member, Starts Virtual Charter School

girl with VR headset on

Erika Donalds, a former school board member and the wife of Florida U.S. Congressman Byron Donalds, recently launched a virtual charter school called Optima Classical Academy.

Erika and her husband have been active in the fight to expand the reach of charter schools. Byron Donalds, while serving in the Florida House was an enthusiastic supporter of Governor DeSantis school choice proposals.

Erika Donalds, who served as the vice chair of the Collier County School Board, is described as a “relentless advocate for charter schools and non-public education.” During her time as an elected school official she led the  conservative Florida Coalition of School Board Members and pressed for school board term limits. More recently, she started School Choice Movement, an organization aimed at paving the path for more school options for parents.

“My time on the School Board really led me to conclude that the best prescription for school reform is the free market,” said Donalds.

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Democratic Gubernatorial Hopeful Nikki Fried Calls DeSantis ‘a Fraud,’ Promotes Misinformation in Political Attack

Nikki Fried and Ron DeSantis

Florida Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried promoted false information in a political attack related to Governor DeSantis’s support for $80 million in infrastructure funds allocated to South Florida projects.

Fried, who recently compared DeSantis to Adolf Hitler, is currently facing fundraising challenges in her race against U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

DeSantis recently announced more than $80 million in awards to South Florida communities through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program. DeSantis noted that the funding received through the grant program will enhance community infrastructure, support the environment, and mitigate against damage from future storms.

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Florida Progressives Ignore Gender Issues in Public Schools, Call Parental Rights Bill Homophobia

During the debate over Florida’s Parental Rights legislation (HB 1557/ SB 1834), progressive politicians are ignoring issues in public schools and calling the proposal the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The bill addresses a number of concerns related to communications between school officials and students. The bill requires school officials to notify parents if issues arise related to a students mental, emotional physical well-being. In addition, the bill prohibits school officials from encouraging  students to withhold information.

Issues related to these provisions are currently being litigated in two separate legal cases across Florida. For example, parents are suing the Clay County Schools Board for counseling their elementary school child related to gender without their knowledge. The parents became aware of the situation when their child tried to commit suicide. School officials allegedly defended their actions by invoking “confidentiality rules” to justify not including the parents in the counseling sessions.

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Another Florida School Board Sued over Concealing Gender Identity Counseling from Parents

The Clay County School Board is being sued by parents that allege school officials hid their 12-year-old daughter’s mental health and gender identity issues for months – only informing them after the child attempted suicide in the school bathroom on two separate occasions. Clay County is located just southwest of Jacksonville.

The father said he was alerted on Jan. 5 that his daughter attempted to commit suicide on campus.

The complaint states that when the child’s parents had arrived at the school, the child was being placed into the back of a police car to be transported to a hospital for involuntary examination under Florida’s “Baker Act” law. The Baker Act allows law enforcement and certain health officials to initiate a mental health examination in the event a person is an imminent risk to herself or others based on apparent mental illness.

School officials allegedly defended their actions by invoking “confidentiality rules” to justify not including the parents in the counseling sessions.

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