Interim Meetings This Week in Preparation for Florida’s 2023 Legislative Session

Florida Senate and House committees are having interim meetings this week to kick off the new legislative session for 2023, and several new committees will be meeting for the first time – and chaired by freshman Republicans.

Originally, the interim meetings were set to take place from Dec. 12-16, but were postponed and instead replaced with a special session. Lawmakers took the opportunity during that special session to address the growing issue of property insurance costs in Florida, as well as recovery after Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole ripped through the Sunshine State in September 2022.

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2022 Saw More California Businesses Relocate to Florida

Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s invitation to Floridians to move to California ahead of the November election, California businesses continue to leave, and increasingly to Florida.

While their top relocation destination is overwhelmingly Texas, several major companies have relocated to Florida since Newsom’s been in office.

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Florida Considers Lowering Abortion Ban from 15 Weeks to 12 Weeks

Changes could be coming to Florida’s abortion laws after the incoming senate president, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, said she would like to see Florida’s abortion ban go from 15 weeks’ gestation to 12 weeks’ gestation.

The state of Florida banned abortion in 1900, but that ban was overturned in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Roe v. Wade case. That ruling itself was overturned by the Supreme Court in June. Anticipating that decision, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to ban abortions from 15 weeks’ gestation, with the law making no exceptions for cases pertaining to rape and incest.

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Florida Investigates Christmas-Themed Drag Show for ‘All Ages’

On Tuesday, Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) announced that it would launch an investigation into a performing arts center that hosted a drag show targeted towards little children.

As reported by the Daily Caller, the investigation is focusing on the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, which hosted the “Drag Queen Christmas” event the day after Christmas; advertisements for the event have since been removed from the center’s website, but archived versions remain available on the Internet.

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Florida Finishing 2022 with Record $22 Billion Surplus

The state of Florida is reporting a $21.8 billion surplus in 2022, the highest in state history. The state also decreased its debt by $1.3 billion this year, according to a newly published State Debt Report from the State of Florida Division of Bond Finance.

According to the report, Florida decreased its debt by $1.3 billion, increased its revenues by 17% ($8.5 billion), and maintained its AAA bond rating primarily because of its strong growing economy.

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Florida Unemployment Rate Lowest in 10 Largest States

Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.6% in November, the lowest of the 10 largest states in the U.S. and 1.1 percentage points lower than the national rate. It was also the 24th consecutive month that Florida’s unemployment rate remained below the national rate.

In November, Florida continued to exceed the national job growth rate for the 20th consecutive month; its employers have added jobs for 31 consecutive months.

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Commentary: Republicans Can Thank the Federal Government’s Bungled 2020 Census for Their Razor-Thin House Majority

Republicans will soon take control of the House of Representatives, but with a margin so narrow it may prove difficult to achieve their legislative and oversight objectives. That margin might have been larger, were it not for egregious errors made by the U.S. Census Bureau in the 2020 census.

Come January, House membership will consist of 213 Democrats and 222 Republicans. A party must hold 218 of those seats to control the House. Thus, Republicans will have only a four-seat majority. That extremely narrow majority means that GOP leadership can lose any vote on any issue if only four Republicans defect and the Democrats stay united in opposition.

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Florida State Rep. Eskamani Files Bill to Get Rid of Diaper Sales Tax

A bill has been refiled that could permanently nix Florida’s sales tax from diapers and adult incontinence products.

Florida state Rep. Anna V. Eskamani filed House Bill 29, a continuation of an already existing sales tax exemption for children’s diapers, that are tax-free until June 30, 2023. If passed, the exemption would be expanded to also help reduce the cost for the elderly, their families, and those who use adult diapers and other incontinence products.

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Florida Leads Nation in Parent-Led Education

Florida ranked first in the United States for parental involvement in education, according to the Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power Index.

The index is released annually and measures the policies that exist in each state. Those policies are ranked by whether they allowed parental choice in what their child’s education would be, and if the needs of the student and their families were considered first.

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Florida Mulls Undoing Law That Revoked Disney’s Self Governing After ‘Woke’ Feud with DeSantis

Florida lawmakers are reportedly working to reverse a law that stripped Disney of its special tax status in the state after its then-CEO criticized a state law on gender classes in public schools.

The possible change, first reported by the Financial Times, follows Disney replacing CEO Bob Chapek who was in a feud with GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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Speaker Renner: Florida Could Consider Increasing Unemployment Benefits, but Shouldn’t Be by Too Much

When Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March to begin their 2023 legislative session, one topic that could be up for consideration is the state’s unemployment benefits.

Florida’s current maximum unemployment benefit is $275 per week, the second-lowest in the U.S. Florida has kept it at this mark for 23 years.

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Florida Takes $2 Billion Away from BlackRock Due to Firm’s Activist Investing Standards

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced Thursday that the state will begin pulling over $2 billion in assets from large investment manager BlackRock because of the firm’s environmentally and socially motivated investing standards.

Patronis said that BlackRock is choosing to use its money to pursue its ideology rather than secure profits for its clients, according to a press release. Florida’s State Treasury will begin to remove roughly $1.43 billion worth of long-term securities from BlackRock’s control as well as approximately $600 million worth of short-term investments managed by the firm.

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Florida Continues 30-Month Job Creation Streak, Record Low Unemployment

Job gains have continued in Florida for 30 consecutive months, new labor data shows.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted total nonagricultural employment was 9,542,500 in October 2022, an increase of 36,400 jobs over the month. The Sunshine State gained 457,400 jobs over the year, an increase of 5%, higher than the national rate of 3.6% over the year.

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Florida Set to Receive Part of a Nearly $400 Million Settlement from Google over Location-Tracking Probe

Google agreed to a $391.5 million settlement with 40 states after an investigation found that the tech giant participated in questionable location-tracking practices, state attorneys general announced Monday.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called it a “historic win for consumers.”

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Florida Ranks First in U.S. for Attracting and Developing Skilled Workforce

Florida ranks first in the U.S. for attracting and developing a skilled workforce, according to Lightcast’s seventh-annual Talent Attraction Scorecard.

Florida ranked first overall in education attainment, jobs, skilled jobs, migration in 2020, competitive effect, and skilled job openings.

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DeSantis-Endorsed School Board Candidates Win in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, won reelection by almost 20 points, and all six of the school board candidates he endorsed have prevailed Tuesday. DeSantis had previously endorsed 24 candidates in school board races, all of whom won.

While school board races are historically nonpartisan, parents’ outrage over critical race theory, transgender activism, and COVID-19 lockdowns in schools have galvanized a parental rights movement that Republicans largely support and Democrats largely oppose. The parents rights group Moms for Liberty also endorsed many of the candidates DeSantis backed.

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Florida Hispanic Students Rank First Nationwide in Reading

Florida’s highest-ever 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress rankings indicate that the state’s students are “well ahead of their peers, especially with younger and educationally at-risk students who were harmed the most from distance learning in other states,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said when announcing the ranking. 

“We insisted on keeping schools open and guaranteed in-person learning in 2020 because we knew there would be widespread harm to our students if students were locked out,” he said, adding that the results “once again prove that we made the right decision.” 

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Democrat Blows Whistle on Alleged Ballot-Harvesting Scheme, Florida Opens Criminal Probe

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new election crimes unit has recommended state police open a full criminal investigation into a Democrat whistleblower’s detailed complaint of a long-running, widespread ballot harvesting operation in the African-American communities in politically important central Florida.

Former Orange County Commissioner candidate Cynthia Harris filed a sworn affidavit in late August with the Secretary of State’s office alleging that illegal operations to collect third-party ballots have been going on for years in the Orlando area where voting activists are paid $10 for each ballot they collect.

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Florida AG Moody Launches 2022 Human Trafficking Summit, Registration Still Open

A Florida-led virtual 2022 Human Trafficking Summit launched Tuesday nationwide, engaging experts from across the country to collaborate on ways to more effectively combat human trafficking. More than 2,300 attendees registered and registration remains open at HumanTraffickingSummit.com.

The summit provides over 16 hours of educational content, which will remain accessible online through March 2023.

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Out-of-State Police Officers Keep Moving to Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program is continuing to pay off as more law enforcement officers relocate to Florida from other states.

On Friday, Gov. DeSantis delivered $5,000 bonuses to six new recruits in the Cape Coral Police Department in Lee County. Two relocated from New York; one relocated from Maryland, one relocated from Georgia, and two are new to the profession.

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Marco Rubio Commentary: The Things Florida Needs to Recover from Hurricane Ian

A few years ago, while visiting the National Hurricane Center, I asked the staff to describe a worst-case weather scenario for Florida. They described a high-category hurricane stalling off the coast and pummeling the western side of the state with storm surge. In other words, they described Hurricane Ian.

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Florida to Continue Flying Noncitizens in U.S. Illegally North

Florida will continue transporting foreign nationals in the U.S. illegally north for at least another eight months, according to a state contract and purchase orders reviewed and first reported by the Sun Sentinel.

They are being transported by Vertol Systems Co., a comprehensive transportation service provider, which was granted a contract by the Florida Department of Transportation. Transportation services are to continue through June 30, 2023, according to the contract.

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Florida Faces Multiple Hurdles to Be Ready for Midterms as Result of Hurricane Ian Destruction

Florida officials are facing multiple hurdles with midterm election voting – now less than six weeks away – as a result of the damage inflicted last week by Hurricane Ian. 

Challenges include a lack of functional polling sites, a potential shortage of poll workers, and the deadline for the state to send vote-by-mail ballots being Thursday – while the Postal Service hasn’t resumed service in some of the hardest-hit areas, according to Politico.

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Star News Reporter Goes Inside the Destruction of Hurricane Ian

ROTONDA WEST, Florida – More than 36 hours after the devastating Category 4 Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida, a Star News Network reporter trekked to the rural town of Rotonda West to do a wellness check on his parents, who live in the sprawling community. 

The deed restricted community of Rotonda West, located in Charlotte County, spent approximately eight hours inside the eyewall of Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, as the storm moved slowly northeast towards Orlando and later Jacksonville. 

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DeSantis Responds to Critics of Martha’s Vineyard Migrant Flights

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida took on critics attacking him over flying illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, during a Monday night Fox News appearance.

“Sean, it’s really frustrating. You have been covering this,” DeSantis told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “Millions of people since Biden has been president illegally coming across the southern border. Did they freak out about that? No. You had migrants die in the Rio Grande, you had 50 die in Texas in a trailer because they were neglected. Was there a freak out? No, there wasn’t.”

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Report: NYC Wants to Relocate Migrants Bused in from Texas to Florida

New York City officials are thinking about flying illegal immigrants out of the Big Apple to Florida after officials in Texas bussed 11,000 border crossers to the sanctuary city, the Daily Mail reported on Friday.

Manuel Castro, NYC’s Commissioner of Immigration Affairs, said that most of the migrants are from Venezuela, and they want to go to the Sunshine State because it has a large community of Venezuelans.

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Florida Begins Flying Illegal Immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard

The state of Florida has begun flying foreign nationals who entered the U.S. illegally at the southern border – and were transported by the Biden administration to Florida – north to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Delaware, New York and California are likely next, according to statements made by Gov. Ron DeSantis and his staff.

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Poll: Most Americans Would Rather Live in Florida than California

American voters prefer Florida to California by a three to two margin, a new poll from WPA Intelligence found.

When asked where they would prefer to live, 61% of registered voters said they would rather live in Florida and 39% chose California, the poll, conducted Aug. 22-25, found. Independents and Republicans showed an even stronger preference for Florida, while Democrats preferred California.

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Lawsuit Challenges Florida Medicaid’s Exclusion of Transgenderism

On Wednesday, a federal lawsuit was filed against the state of Florida over a recently-enacted policy that orders the state’s Medicaid program to prohibit the funding of gender-altering procedures.

According to NPR, the suit was filed in the Northern District of Florida by a coalition of far-left groups allegedly representing four Florida Medicaid recipients, who claim to be either “transgender” or to be the parents of “transgender” children.

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New Florida Legislative Proposal Saves Toll Drivers 50 Percent in Savings

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new proposal for the legislature to consider next year to give toll road commuters a 50% discount.

Under the new plan, drivers who use toll transponders like SunPass and E-PASS and have 40 or more transactions a month would receive a 50% credit on their monthly bills. The proposal would benefit about 750,000 Floridians and save the average commuter $550 a year, according to estimates.

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Florida and Arizona Top-Ranked States in Heritage Foundation’s Education Freedom Report Card

The Heritage Foundation ranked Florida, followed by Arizona, as the states that most empower parents in their children’s education and support education freedom.

On Friday Heritage published its first Education Freedom Report Card which provides measures of the concept in four categories: school choice, academic transparency, regulation freedom, and spending.

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Florida Grants over $125 Million to Counties to Purchase Electric Buses

Florida is expanding its purchase of electric transit and school buses statewide through funding made available from a national 2016-era EPA Volkswagen settlement.

Of the state’s $166 million allotment, more than $68 million was awarded to 13 counties to purchase electric transit buses. More than $57 million was awarded to purchase 218 electric school buses in seven counties.

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Florida Sues FDA over Prescription Drug Program

The state of Florida is suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over claims its review of the state’s Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program has taken more than 630 days.

“Florida has been ready to deliver cheaper prescription drugs to those that need them for nearly two years,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a  Wednesday news conference announcing the lawsuit with Attorney General Ashley Moody. “The lack of transparency by the Biden administration during the approval process, and failure to provide records on the importation proposal, is costing Floridians who are facing rising prices across the board due to inflation. Florida is confident in our importation model, and we continue to look for more ways to lower drug costs for Floridians while the FDA delays approval of this importation proposal.”

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Florida GOP Office Vandalized After Biden Refers to Republicans as Fascists

A Seminole County GOP office in Florida was vandalized after President Joe Biden referred to voters who support President Donald Trump as “fascists” and after Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist called DeSantis supporters “hateful.”

Republican Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel posted an image of the office that was vandalized, which shows the outside window spray-painted with graffiti stating, “Eat [expletive] fascists” with an A symbol referring to the violent fascist organization, Antifa.

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Florida Invests over $56 Million in Additional Land Conservation Efforts

The Florida Cabinet approved spending more than $56 million on seven parcels of land totaling 19,897 acres within the Florida Wildlife Corridor for acquisition or conservation easement made possible by the state’s Florida Forever Program and Department of Agriculture’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

The overwhelming majority of the properties, more than 98%, are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a mix of native and working lands that provide habitat for key Florida species including the Florida panther, Florida black bear, swallow-tailed kite, and gopher tortoise, among others.

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Conservatives Sweep School Board Races Across Florida

School boards in five Florida counties flipped to be conservative majorities on Tuesday with help from Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ endorsements.

Miami-Dade County, Sarasota County, Duval County, Martin County and Clay County held their school board elections on Aug. 23. The conservative school board candidates in the five counties won their races, resulting in a flip in the majority of the school boards.

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Former Republican Governor Wins Florida Democratic Primary

Former Republican governor and current Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida has defeated Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to PBS News.

Crist won with 60.2% of the vote, as of 8 p.m. EST according to PBS, citing reporting from The Associated Press. Crist is now slated to face off as the Democratic candidate against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, alongside a slate of minor third party and write-in candidates, in the Nov. 8 general election.

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Pro-Transgender Groups to Sue Florida over Medicaid Ban on Gender-Altering Procedures

In Florida, a coalition of far-left groups is preparing to sue the state government over a directive that orders the state’s Medicaid regulator to ban coverage of so-called “gender-affirming” procedures.

According to Politico, the Southern Legal Counsel’s Transgender Rights Initiative announced on Wednesday their plans to file their case in federal court, where they will seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the ban from going into effect.

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Commentary: The Real Job Crisis in Florida

The real crisis in the U.S. labor market is not, as we keep hearing, that there are not enough people who can work. The real crisis is all the working-age people on the sidelines, not even looking for a job. Yes, the unemployment rate is low, but that statistic covers only people who have looked for a job in the last four weeks. The labor force participation rate, which measures the share of working-age people working or at least looking for work, shows a long-term decline, especially for men without a college degree. This is especially true in states like Florida. When able-bodied men are not even looking for work, a host of social problems ensue — from crime, to drug addiction, to family breakdown. 

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Florida’s Brevard County School District Claims It Cut Its Budget, but That’s Not What the Numbers Say

The superintendent of a Florida school district and a spokesperson both said the district has cut its operating expenses due to a drop in the budget.

Superintendent Mark Mullins of Brevard Public Schools said the operating expenses for the district had been cut for the sixth consecutive year by more than $3.5 million. 

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New Civics Initiative Launches in Florida Targeting Potential Minority Voters

A new civics initiative launched Thursday in Miami-Dade County in Florida targeting potential minority voters.

The Republican National Committee launched the initiative at its Hispanic Community Center in Doral, Florida, Thursday. It’s designed to help future voters learn more about American history and help lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or green card holders, prepare for the civics portion of their naturalization test.

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DeSantis, Newsom Trade Jabs

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) have traded jabs over the last couple of weeks, most recently culminating in Newsom pushing back against DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw.

Pushaw said that opponents to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill were “groomers,” to which Newsom took offense.

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17 States File Legal Brief in Support of Florida Law Banning Sanctuary Cities

Seventeen Republican attorneys general have filed an amicus brief with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a Florida law banning sanctuary cities.

The brief was filed by the attorneys general of Alabama and Georgia, Steve Marshall and Christopher Carr. Joining them were the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

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DeSantis Signs Bill into Law Increasing Penalties for Illegally Selling, Distributing Opioids in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that increases penalties for those who illegally sell and distribute opioids in Florida. It expands on a statewide strategy launched in 2019 to combat the opioid epidemic through education, treatment, prevention, recovery and law enforcement efforts.

“Floridians of all walks of life have witnessed the destruction caused by the opioid epidemic across our state,” DeSantis said. “While the Biden administration has failed to stop the flow of dangerous drugs, including fentanyl, across our southern border, we are taking action in Florida to lower both the demand and the supply of illicit and illegal drugs.”

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Commentary: Demons Have Captured the Naples United Church of Christ

It is hard to imagine how, other than through demonic influence, a Christian church and its pastor could come to be the force behind an effort to use the church and the public schools to recruit young people between the ages of 12 and 18 into a homosexual and transgender “pride conference.”

Florida’s Voice reported the event will feature a “drag show” as an “exploration of LGBTQ-related issues facing today’s youth.” Attendees are asked to enter their pronouns and the name of their school.

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