Poll Shows Plurality of Floridians Support Mask Mandates

In a new poll from St. Pete Polls taken from Aug. 2nd through 3rd, 62 percent of likely Florida voters support mask mandates for schoolchildren.

The poll was conducted after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced the signing of an executive order banning mask mandates in Florida’s public schools. The order also directed the state to craft penalties and punishments for school districts who choose to ignore the state’s directive and impose a mandate regardless.

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Polk County Sheriffs Arrest Several Disney World Employees in Child Sex Sting

Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s office, in conjunction with several other law enforcement entities, ran a sting operation to catch child sex predators between July 27 and August 1.

Dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” law enforcement posed as 13 and 14-year-old girls online, and made contact with several suspect online. When the suspects attempted to meet up with the “girls,” they were taken into custody. 

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Biden, DeSantis Exchange Jabs over Handling of COVID

President Joe Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been exchanging verbal punches at one another over each other’s handling of the COVID pandemic.
Biden criticized DeSantis on Tuesday for opposing mask mandates and for vaccine passports, specifically noting DeSantis’ fight with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over vaccine passports for the cruise industry.

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Parkland Victims Could Receive $25 Million

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Florida State Sen. Joe Gruters (R-23) is filing a bill which would direct the Broward County School Board to pay out as much at $25 million to the victims and families of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

The bill would only allow for 51 people to be eligible to receive the payments, 34 survivors and 14 families of students and teachers killed.

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June General Revenue in Florida Exceeds Economic Forecasts

Florida’s Historic Capitol and Florida State Capitol

The Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) reported just under $4.1 billion in general revenue (GR) for the month of June to cap off the 2020-2021 fiscal year (FY).

On Monday, the EDR released the report that shows $975.7 million (31.2%) more than the forecasted amount of $3.124 billion, which was updated on April 6th during the EDR’s last General Revenue Estimating Conference (GREC) for the 2020-2021 FY.  

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State Says Fried’s Claims About Florida’s COVID Data Are Baseless

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has claimed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Department of Health (FDOH) is not reporting Florida’s COVID data to the CDC in a timely fashion.
Fried has since begun doing her own daily COVID briefings after DeSantis moved them to weekly occurrences.

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Cruise Industry Resumes Out of Florida

Florida’s cruise industry has been in the middle of legal battles and a resurgence in COVID cases in Florida, but the cruises have resumed for some cruise lines out of Florida.

Royal Caribbean launched a test voyage, and four of the passengers, all of which are vaccinated, have tested positive for COVID. After quarantining and tested negative, they were allowed to disembark in Freeport, Bahamas.

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Candidate in Florida Special Election Puts Millions in Campaign

Numerous candidates are vying for a Congressional seat in South Florida left vacant by the late Congressman Alcee Hastings, but only one is putting millions of her own dollars into her campaign.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, CEO of Trinity Health Care Services in Miramar, has contributed $2.3 million of her own finances into her campaign, which is $1 million more than seven other Democratic candidates have raised, combined. Cherfilus-McCormick is prepared to contribute more if need be.

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio Criticizes Media for COVID-19 Hysteria

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio criticized the media for causing “hysteria” among Americans over the new rise in COVID-19 cases that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said is the pandemic of the unvaccinated. 

According to CDC data, on Thursday and Friday of last week combined, there were almost 40,000 new cases reported in Florida, which is almost 32% of all cases that were recorded across the country during the same time.

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Federal Moratorium on Evictions Ends, Impact in Florida Unknown

A federal moratorium on evictions ended on Saturday night, giving landlords the ability to remove tenants who have not paid their rent.

In Florida, a Zillow forecast estimates that there are currently 144,220 households that rent their homes or apartments and may be at risk of getting evicted. This is 9,879 more than last month.   The analysis indicates 357,194 renter households in Florida are currently behind on rent, 48,969 less than in June.

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Governor DeSantis Calls for Reduction in Toll Rates for Garcon Point Bridge

Garcon Point Bridge

Toll rates for the Garcon Point Bridge in Milton, Florida, will be practically cut in half after Governor DeSantis directed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to reduce the rates to match FDOT facilities across the state. 

For drivers with SunPass, the rate will be reduced from $4.50 to $2.30, and for drivers paying cash, the rate will reduce from $5 to $2.75.

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Three Major Florida Corporations Change COVID-19 Policies to Match CDC Guidelines

Major Florida Corporations, Publix, Disney World, and Universal Orlando, have updated their COVID-19 policies to coordinate with the new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. 

The new CDC guidelines have reversed course due to the surge in delta variant cases across the nation, with Florida being responsible for one-fifth of those cases. 

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Florida Standards Assessments Results Show Decline in Math and English

Close up of a pencil on top of a multiple choice exam paper

The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) released the 2021 Florida Standards Assessments (FSAs) scores Thursday, which showed a decline in passing scores for students in both English and math.

 The 2021 scores are in comparison to the 2019 scores, given the fact that the FSAs were not administered in spring 2020 due to school closures at the beginning of the pandemic. 

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Governor DeSantis Signs Executive Order Banning Mask Mandates in Florida Schools

Governor DeSantis praised Florida parents’ “freedom to choose” before signing an executive order (EO 21-175) Friday, stopping Florida schools from issuing mask mandates for students.

The executive order cites HB 241, known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” that expanded upon the rights parents have regarding their children’s education, health, and upbringing. For example, the decision to not make their kids wear a mask. 

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DeSantis to Issue Executive Order over Masks in Florida Schools

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) held a conference Friday where he said he will be issuing an executive order “protecting the rights of parents” permitting them to make decisions about masking their children in this upcoming school year and banning school mask mandates.

“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures, there will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis feels Florida’s parents should be allowed to decide about masking issues for their own child’s safety.

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Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Backs Masks in Schools

Two women at table together, wearing masks

A group known as the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) representing over 2,500 pediatricians across the state released a statement Thursday backing the use of masks in schools. 

With the delta variant causing a influx of COVID-19 cases across the state, Thursday’s announcement resembles the FCAAP’s recommendations from this time last year before the 2020-2021 school year but with the inclusion of vaccination protocols.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Joins Chorus to Overturn Roe v. Wade

U.S. Supreme Court

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) called on the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to overturn the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade case legalizing abortion in a brief signed on by 10 other Republican governors, in hopes to make abortion a state issue.

The brief provides arguments for why abortion should be left to the states by citing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and how the brief says abortion is not protected by the amendment.

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Florida Local Officials Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination for Government Employees

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

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

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Fried Suspends Weapons Permits of Florida January 6 Protestors

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

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DeSantis Announces $250M for Florida’s Ports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The State University System of Florida Encourages Students to Get Vaccinated

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

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

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

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

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

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Unwavering While Facing COVID Spike

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

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

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Eleven Florida Mayors Sign Letter to Congress Calling for Immigration Reform

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

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

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

Vehicles on the road in Washington D.C. area

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

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

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Lawsuit Filed to Restore Federal Unemployment Assistance in Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis

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

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

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Democrats Search for Candidates to Challenge Miami Republicans

Florida Senate Capitol

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

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

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Governor DeSantis Receives More Criticism on Anti-Riot Law

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

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

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

Aerial shot of downtown Miami, Florida

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

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

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

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Nikki Fried Encourages DeSantis to Form Task Force Following Surfside Tragedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Appeals Court Vacates Decision Requiring Vaccines for Florida Cruise Ship Industry

Cruise ship next to dock

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

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

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

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Florida Representative Anthony Sabatini Files E-Verify Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Florida Business Groups Back Equality Act

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

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

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

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

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

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DeSantis Says No Lockdowns or School Mask Mandates in Florida

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

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

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Governor DeSantis Celebrates $270 Million for Literacy Initiatives in Florida

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

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

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Governor DeSantis Praises $21 Billion Settlement to Combat Opioid Crisis

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

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

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Florida State Senator Joe Gruters Cleared of Sexual Harassment Allegations

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

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

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With Less Border Restrictions, Canadian Tourism in Florida Could Increase

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

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

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Hillsborough School District Renews Four Charter Schools After Fight With State

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

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

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

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

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

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Florida First District Court of Appeal Dismisses Digital Ballot Lawsuit

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

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

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Florida’s West Coast Still Inundated With Red Tide

red tide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Governor DeSantis Celebrates the Signing of The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act

A lion with its cub

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

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

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