Vacation Rental Battle Lined Up for Florida Legislature

Regulation over the vacation rental industry is teed up, once again for the upcoming Florida Legislative session. Sen. Jason Fischer (R-FL-4) filed legislation to grant the regulation of vacation-rental platforms, like Airbnb or Vrbo, to the state. The bill, HB 325, would remove the regulatory power away from local municipalities.

City and county governments have fought similar legislation, saying they should be able to regulate their properties on a local level.

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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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Florida State Sen. Annette Taddeo Announces Bid for Governor

Florida State Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-FL-40) announced her bid for governor yesterday, totaling the number of Democrats in the gubernatorial race to three. Taddeo is joining her former gubernatorial running mate from 2014, Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL-13), and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary race.

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Florida Seeking Long-Term Rule on Mask Mandates, Quarantines in Schools

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is proposing a new long-term rule to ban mask mandates and enshrine its new quarantine rules for students in Florida’s public school system. Florida’s new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, signed off on the first phase of the new rules last month which said students would no longer have to quarantine if they are exposed and asymptomatic.

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DeSantis Announces $5.8 Million Grant for Glades Technical College

On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $5.8 million in Florida Job Growth Grant Funds to support the opening of  iTECH Glades Technical College in Moore Haven, a new location of Immokalee Technical College.

“When I took office, I asked DEO to focus on finding ways to support and invest in our rural communities – today, they delivered,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud to award $5.8 million through the Governor’s Job Growth Grant Fund to create a new technical college campus in Moore Haven.”

The new iTECH Glades campus in Moore Haven will serve an area that does not have any post-secondary training programs within 30 miles. The $5.8 million award will cover five years of startup costs for the technical college and will allow the campus to offer 12 career training programs. Workforce training will be offered in high-demand fields such as HVAC, diesel systems, accounting, nursing, welding and healthcare, and will be available to Floridians in Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee and Collier counties.

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Florida Middle School Teachers Encouraged Not to Share Student Conversations on Gender/Sexuality Issues with Parents

Emails show that the sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Montford Middle School – located in Tallahassee, Florida – advised a teacher that they were not obligated to share information from students related to gender/sexuality issues with their parents.

Stacy Thompson, the media specialist at Montford and GSA sponsor, was asked a question by a teacher after Thompson sought out volunteers to post “Safe Place” flags in Montford classrooms.

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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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Charlie Crist Will Legalize Recreational Marijuana If Elected

Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist (D-FL-13) said earlier this week that if he is elected governor, he vowed to legalize recreational marijuana and expunge criminals with marijuana convictions.

The announcement came as part of the unveiling of Crist’s “Justice for All” criminal justice reform plan, which also included some gun control policies. Crist said the plan is for the communities who have felt left behind by the government.

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Judge Strikes Down Vaccine Mandates in Florida

Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith has ruled against a business in Sarasota requesting to impose a vaccine mandate for its customers to enter.

The store, Bead Abode, requested that Smith grant their request for a mandate, but denied them saying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ vaccine mandate ban “assures open markets.”

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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 Commission on Ethics Seeks More Staff

The Florida Commission on Ethics (FCE) will be asking the Florida Legislature for more funding for staffing shortages as the backlog of cases continues to pile on. Commissioner Don Gaetz requested the current funding remain the same but felt the commission might need to ask for more.

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Hundreds of Doctors Criticize Florida’s Surgeon General, Call for Close Monitoring

Over 350 doctors from across Florida signed on to a letter asking the Florida Senate to scrutinize Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. The doctors took part in the effort alongside the Committee to Protect Health Care (CPHC), as they outlined numerous questions regarding Ladapo’s positions.

Ladapo, upon announcing his appointment to the position, said Florida is “done with fear” and began a process of pushing back against universal mask mandates and vaccine mandates. He was appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and some DeSantis opponents called Ladapo “an anti-masker and a vaccine skeptic.”

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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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Florida Gov. DeSantis Says ‘No’ to 2020 Election Audit

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he will not be supporting an audit, or a review, into the 2020 election in Florida.

“What we do in Florida is, there’s a pre- and post-election audit that happens automatically,” DeSantis said. “So, that has happened. It passed with flying colors in terms of how that’s going.”

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Columbus Day Sentiment Splits Florida’s Political Landscape

  Monday was the federally recognized Christopher Columbus Day, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a declaration commemorating the historical event of Columbus’ landing in the New World. “Christopher Columbus displayed courage, determination, and perseverance when he sailed the ocean blue more than 500 years ago,” DeSantis tweeted. “Happy Columbus…

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Police Discover over 30 Migrants Hiding in a Boat During Routine Traffic Stop

A Monroe County Sheriff’s officer found 32 migrants suspected of traveling to the U.S. from Cuba hiding in a boat after pulling a truck over for driving too slow in Marathon, Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Monday.

Sgt. Joel Slough conducted a routine traffic stop of a rental truck hauling a large boat and found four suspected migrants in the vehicle including three young children, according to the sheriff’s department. Law enforcement officials discovered two pregnant women and a 17-year-old along with dozens of other migrants hiding in the boat.

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Charlie Crist’s Justice Reform Efforts Show Policy Switch Since ‘Chain Gang Charlie’

Florida Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist (D-FL-13), earlier this week, announced his new campaign initiative entitled “Justice for All,” but Crist has had a back-and-forth history regarding criminal justice reform issues.

Prior to becoming a Democrat, Crist was an Independent, and before that was Florida’s one-term Republican governor from 2007-2011. He also served in the Florida Legislature as a Republican and in different executive positions during Jeb Bush’s tenure as governor.

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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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Florida Gov. DeSantis Announces $9M for Winter Haven Economic Development

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the City of Winter Haven has been awarded with $9M for road improvement at the city’s Intermodal Logistics Center. The money was awarded to the city stemming from numerous sources, including: the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and from the Florida Department of Transportation.

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Charlie Crist Announces ‘Justice for All’ Initiative Including Gun Control Policies

Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist (D-FL-13) announced a “Justice for All” initiative, which he would support and push if elected as governor. Parts of the plan would include voting rights restoration and cracking down on gun violence.

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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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‘Communist Party’ at the University of Florida Contested Student Government Elections on ‘Labor Army,’ Abolition, Critical Race Theory Platform

For the first time in school history, the Communist Party at the University of Florida ran for student government using that name during the fall 2021 election.

The party ran 12 students under its banner slated in various races. The party participated in last fall’s election under the name of the Progressive Party and announced in March its plans to “reinvent” itself. declaring its “Socialist Party” name would become “Communist Party” for the Fall 2021 Election.

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DeSantis Administration Pushes Back Against Fried’s Faulty COVID Data

Members within Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration have pushed back against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s incomplete COVID data regarding Florida’s school districts. In the effort, Fried made the claim Florida’s schools that have mask mandates have fared better than schools without mask mandates. The DeSantis administration called the data “misinformation.”  

The data Fried used stemmed from a sharable, view-only OneDrive Excel document containing week-by-week COVID data for each county’s school district. However, over half of Florida’s school districts were not included in the document.

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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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Florida Congressional Republicans Support Gun Confiscation Bill

A number of notable Florida congressional Republicans voted in favor of H.R. 4350, the National Defense Authorization Act, but included in the bill is a gun confiscation provision commonly referred to as a “Red Flag law” directed towards military members.

Within the text of the bill, gun confiscation would be permitted under a military court order and the court would be able to prevent a member of the United States armed forces from owning a firearm.

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State of Florida Submits Plan to Spend $7 Billion in Education Funds

Young boy sitting in a library, reading

The State of Florida has officially submitted its education plan to the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. DOE) outlining how the state intends to spend $7 billion in education funding stemming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Approximately $2.3 billion was being withheld from the state because the state did not apply for the money. Florida notably became the last state in the county to apply for its final third apportionment from the U.S. DOE.

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Florida Business Owners Plead Guilty to Fraud in Worker Visa Scheme

Two business owners based in Florida pleaded guilty this week after their fraudulent scheme to hire illegal workers was uncovered.

“According to court documents, Educational World Inc. (Ed World), a visa processing company based in North Point; and Larisa Khariton, 73, and Jon Clark, 71, also of North Point, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Georgia on April 8,” the Department of Justice said in a press release. “The 36-count indictment also contained allegations against Regal Hospitality Solutions LLC (RHS), a Louisiana-based staffing company, and seven current and former RHS employees.”

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Judge Could Rule on Florida’s Vaccine Passport Ban Next Week

Mask on passport Vaccination card on blue background

A Leon County circuit judge could make a ruling on the lawsuit against Florida’s vaccine passport ban as soon as late next week. The lawsuit was filed by Bead Abode Inc., a Sarasota-based craft store where attorneys for the company have argued it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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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’s New Jobless Claims Edge Down

Florida’s new jobless claims slightly dropped as the U.S. Department of Labor released new data this week. The numbers showed 7,713 new jobless claims were filed as of September 25, however the same metric is down to 6,509 as of October 2.

When the COVID-induced economic slowdown began in March and April 2020, the jobless claims were much higher, but since May 2021, the state has averaged just below 8,000 new jobless claims per week.

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Nikki Fried Defends Mask Mandates for Schools, Says DeSantis Is ‘Lying’

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is “lying” about mask mandates in Florida’s schools and claims masks have been effective in stopping the spread of COVID.

“Ron DeSantis is lying to you about masks in schools … In every single case, kids were better off in school districts that required masks than school districts that did not,” Fried said.

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Florida Community College Paying off Financial Accounts, Providing Food Credit

Tallahassee Community College (TCC) announced it will be paying off students’ financial accounts up to $6 million stemming from federal funding. Students eligible have to have been enrolled in TCC from March 2020 through this fall.

The money will be coming out of a grant from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was a part of the CARES Act legislation passed during 2020. The CARES Act was designed to provide economic relief during the slowed economy as a result of the COVID pandemic.

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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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Florida Gov. DeSantis Blasts Justice Department for Investigating Parents Like Domestic Terrorists

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he will defend Floridians after Attorney General Merrick Garland began “weaponizing” the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate supposed threats against school board members.

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Florida-Based Publix Hiring 30,000 Employees

The Florida-based grocery chain, Publix, announced they are planning to hire 30,00 employees for its stores, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities before the end of the year.

“As we continue to grow, having a dedicated team ready to meet our needs is vitally important,” said Publix vice president of human resources, Marcy Benton, in a press release. “Whether associates are new to the workforce or making a career change, Publix provides great benefits and a strong culture in which its associates build long, fulfilling careers.”

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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 School Mask Mandate Fight Heading to Appeals Court

Back to School

After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won a temporary ruling last month, the parents suing the State of Florida over its mask mandate ban filed a notice in 11th Circuit Court of Appeal to overturn the previous decision.

The attorneys said DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates violates the Americans with Disabilities Act which is designed to protect students with disabilities who are more susceptible to illness or death, specifically to COVID.

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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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Group Seeking to Legalize Marijuana by Amending the Florida Constitution

A group behind a proposed ballot initiative to Florida’s Constitution in 2022 is seeking to legalize marijuana growth for personal, recreational use. However, the plan would only afford for 18 plants grown per household.

The organization behind it, Sensible Florida, filed the ballot measure and has a long way to go before it can be validated for approval to the 2022 general election ballot.

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Leon County Government Terminates 14 Employees Due to Vaccine Mandate

At the end of Friday, October 1, 14 Leon County government employees were terminated from their positions due to non-compliance with Leon County’s vaccine mandate.

In July, Leon County Administrator Vince Long notified all Leon County government employees that vaccinations against COVID-19 would become a condition of employment with the county, citing a “resurgence” of the virus in the county. According to the communication, all County employees were required to get vaccinated by October 1.

The employee notification stated:

“Today, as vaccinations stagnate and the delta variant has created a resurgence of the COVID 19 virus with the state of Florida at its epicenter, vaccinations against COVID 19 will now become a condition of employment at Leon County Government for new and existing employees under the supervision of the County Administrator and the County Attorney.”

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Stephanie Murphy Calls Out Pelosi over Delayed Infrastructure Package Vote

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-7) has called out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) for delaying a vote on a $1.2 billion infrastructure package on the House floor. Pelosi previously made concessions to Democrat moderates, of which Murphy is often categorized since she is co-chair of the Blue-Dog Coalition, that the package was to be voted on last week.

Murphy said she is “profoundly disappointed and disillusioned” and said that some of her fellow Democrats have been using the infrastructure package to “gain ‘leverage’” over other Democrats.

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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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Florida-Based Trulieve Becomes Largest Medical Cannabis Company in the Country

Florida-based medical marijuana company Trulieve has completed the acquisition of Harvest Health & Recreation, becoming the largest medical cannabis provider in the country. Trulieve announced the beginning stages of the acquisition in May.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said the acquisition will provide a solid foundation for her company to grow.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Says Washington Dysfunction Hurting Florida Transportation Projects

In a press release on Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis called attention to the impacts congressional inaction and dysfunction are beginning to have on transportation projects in Florida.

“Yet again, the delays in Washington are impacting the lives of Floridians,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “It is unacceptable that Congress or the Biden Administration would use highway construction as a bargaining chip and leave Florida taxpayers to foot the bill. This is even more proof that the Democrats in leadership don’t want to help people, they don’t want to get anything done, they just want to follow a political agenda.”

And DeSantis is not alone in his criticism.

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Florida Lawmaker Proposes Film Industry Incentives

Florida State Rep. Dana Trabulsy (R-FL-84) has filed legislation with the intention of reviving Florida’s television, media, and film industry. Trabulsy filed HB 217 which would create the Film, Television, and Digital Media Targeted Rebate program within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).  

Companies that produce shows in Florida would be eligible for the rebate, which would cover the lesser value of either 23 percent of the total cost of the production, or $2 million.

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Florida Rep. Greg Steube Hits Out-of-the-Park Home Run During Congressional Game

U.S. Representative Greg Steube (R-FL-17) on Wednesday hit a rare, out-of-the-park home run during the annual Congressional baseball game.

The contest, which was played at the home of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Washington Nationals, allowed lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle to compete in the game.

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Appeal Court to Hear Florida Transgender Bathroom Case

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear a transgender bathroom case in February originating out of St. Johns County, Fla. The case revolves around a student at a high school, Drew Adams, who desired to use the boys’ bathroom. Adams was previously required to use a gender-neutral or girls’ bathroom, as Adams was born a biological female.

Adams identifies as a transgender male, and a 3-judge panel ruled this past July that the St. Johns County school board policy preventing Adams from using the boys’ bathroom was “arbitrary.”

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DeSantis Administration Responds to Leon County Vaccination Mandate

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) has responded to the reminder letters sent this week by Leon County Government informing employees that without proof of a COVID vaccination they would be terminated on October 4, 2021.

In response to Leon County’s communication, the letter from FDOH Division Director David Woodlief to County Administrator Vince Long seeks information about those impacted by Leon County’s vaccine mandate policy.

Specifically, FDOH is seeking the names of employees that received the letters and the names of employees who submitted documentation as proof of vaccination.

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