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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Citizens Property Insurance Raising Rates

"For Rent" sign in window of building

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is raising their rates after its board of directors met on Wednesday. The rate increase is a result of a new state law signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and will vary across Florida, but the increase still requires approval from the Office of Insurance Regulation.

“These necessary adjustments reflect the efforts of the Florida Legislature to return Citizens to its role as a residual insurance company,” Citizens Chairman Carlos Beruff said in a press release. “Unfortunately, we have become the first choice, or only choice, in too many regions of the state.”

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Florida Chamber Releases Report Card for Lawmakers

Last week, the Florida Chamber of Commerce released their annual Legislative Report Card which reviews Florida’s lawmakers’ efforts during the legislative session and tabulates corresponding grade. The lawmakers’ grades are determined by alignment to Florida Chamber priorities and Where We Stand, another annual publication detailing the policy positions of the Florida Chamber heading into each legislative session.

For the 2021 Legislative Session, 88 lawmakers earned an “A” and 39 earned failing grades.

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Florida Democrats Prepping for 2022 Challenges

Stephanie Murphy, Nikki Fried and Val Demings

Republicans have dominated Florida Democrats for nearly 30 years, where currently only one statewide elected post is occupied by a Democrat: Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. With Fried all but officially running against Governor Ron DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-FL-10) challenging Sen. Marco Rubio for his Senate seat in 2022, Florida Democrats are having to rearrange who is going to be running for open positions and the potential political losses those candidates could face.

If Fried continues on her current trajectory for a likely gubernatorial bid, Democrats might lose the only statewide post they have. Fried won in 2018, weeks after Hurricane Michael devastated the agriculture-rich areas of the Florida Panhandle, which saw diminished Republican Panhandle voter turnout compared to the rest of the state. Fried won the race narrowly by approximately 6,000 votes.

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National Republican Groups Joining Fight to Defend Florida’s Election Law

people voting

The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are joining the fight to defend the recently signed election law in Florida. The two organizations filed motions to intervene in two lawsuits against the law.

The law, known as SB 90 while in the Florida Legislature, is designed to curb the chances of fraudulent elections in Florida, but critics immediately called it “Jim Crow” tactics. Civil rights groups immediately filed lawsuits against it calling it a “backlash to Black voters.”

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Florida Voting Law Implements Grand Jury Recommendations

Ron DeSantis

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 90 into law. The bill, addressing elections, has been derided as a “Jim Crow” tactic and characterized as voter suppression by political opponents. However, in 2012, a grand jury taking part in an election fraud case in Miami-Dade County provided a list of recommendations to lawmakers to crack down on absentee ballot-related voter fraud. A number of those grand jury recommendations were included in SB 90.

DeSantis has praised the bill saying Florida has some of the “strongest election integrity measures” in the country.

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Nikki Fried Announces ‘Something New’ for June 1

Earlier this week, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried released a video where she is planning on making a major announcement, and “something new” is coming on June 1.
In the video, clips of Fried tout her resume as the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida as well as rumors of her being an early frontrunner to challenge Governor Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial race in 2022.

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Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis Announces Reelection Bid

Jimmy Patronis

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced his reelection bid for 2022. Patronis made the announcement by posting a video entitled “Let’s Keep Florida Open,” where he touted his work to get Florida’s economy back open after the COVID pandemic. Patronis and his family own the famous Capt. Anderson’s restaurant in Panama City, a point he made in the video while highlighting the work his family did to provide all they could for the families they employed during the pandemic.

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Florida’s Transgender Athlete Ban Resurrected

Florida Republicans resurrected a ban on transgender women from competing in women’s sports and attached it to a bill related to charter schools. Last week, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-22) said her bill, which would’ve banned transgendered athletes from women’s sports, was unlikely to  move forward due to constitutional requirements to balance the budget.

However, Stargel did not resurrect the bill, but Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R-55), added the ban as an amendment to SB 1028. Stargel did voice her support for Tuck’s amendment.

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Florida House Passes Bipartisan Police Reform Bill

The Florida House passed HB 7051 unanimously, a police reform bill, designed to be a bipartisan, compromise piece of legislation satisfying the requests of conservatives as well as social justice advocates.

One of the main staples of the bill is amending current use-of-force protocol for law enforcement officers. Each police force and law enforcement agency in the state will now be required to have a use-of-force standard. This would, in essence, create a statewide minimum standard, including methods to de-escalate situations. Chokeholds are banned unless the officer “perceives an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death.” If another officer is witnessing excessive use of force, they will now be required to intervene.

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Florida Legislature Hearing Bills to Curb Foreign Influence

Florida House Chamber

The Florida Legislature is working through two pieces of legislation aimed at curbing foreign influence in Florida’s colleges and universities, primarily research institutions.

The Florida House has already passed HB 7017 unanimously and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The bill will require state agencies and political subdivisions to disclose foreign grants and donations of over $50,000 or more to the state. Also, all donations of any size will be required to be reported from seven hostile nations. Among those nations deemed hostile are: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela.

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Parental Bill of Rights Legislation Heads to DeSantis’ Desk

The Florida Legislature passed a bill instituting a “parental bill of rights” and sent it to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis.

The bill, HB 241, worked its way through the Florida House and then passed through the Florida Senate on Thursday. It was passed on a nearly party-line vote, with Sen. Lauren Book (D-32), the lone Democrat, siding with Republicans and voting to approve the bill.

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Florida Anti-Riot Law Facing Court Challenge

Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1, known as the “anti-riot bill” on Monday, and is now facing a constitutional challenge. The challenge was filed Wednesday and the civil rights attorneys behind the challenge are saying the new laws unconstitutionally “seek to arrest the peaceful expression of free speech.”

The bill is designed to enhance penalties for criminals committing acts of violence during riots.

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Florida House Hearing Police Reform Bill

The Florida House is taking up a bipartisan, compromise police reform bill today. The bill would increase the amount of training for law enforcement officers and correctional officers.

The bill, HB 7051, has been a product of House Republican leadership, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and key voices within law enforcement to try and limit the use of chokeholds only under instances when on-site officers perceive immediate threats of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or other people. It would also require other officers to intervene when they witness other officers using excessive force.

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Sen. Lauren Book to Lead Florida Senate Democrats4

Sen. Lauren Book (D-32) has been tabbed as the new leader of the Florida Senate Democrats. Sen. Perry Thurston (D-33), a high ranking Senate Democrat, announced his intentions to run in the special election for the late-Alcee Hastings’ seat in Congress, making the way for Book to be heir-apparent.

Book, 36, has served in the Florida Senate since 2016 when she ran unopposed for the Senate’s 32nd district.

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DeSantis Signs E-Fairness Bill

Just before midnight Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 50 instituting sales tax requirements for online retailers, into law. 

The bill requires out-of-state online retailers to collect and report sales taxes on purchases made by Floridians. The tax will bring in an estimated $1 billion in revenue, as well as limit taxes paid by Floridians and Florida businesses.

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Florida Legislature Hearing Elections Reform Bills

Dennis Baxley

The Florida House is hearing an elections reform package and the Florida Senate is hearing a bill amending Florida’s election law related to ballot drop-boxes and absentee ballot signature verification.

Sen. Dennis Baxley’s (R-12) SB 90 passed the Senate Rules Committee by a 10-7 vote, and Baxley said the bill is well-intentioned designed to protect Florida’s voters and the integrity of Florida’s elections.

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Transgender Bill Likely Dead in Florida Legislature

A bill creating limited access for transgender women competing in women’s sports is likely dead according to its sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-22).
Stargel released the statement yesterday after she postponed her bill in its final committee stop saying she is having to direct her attention to Florida’s constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

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