With a group of firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and nurses holding red "Freedom Has a Home Here" signs and yellow "Don’t Tread on Florida" signs with alligators, Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday asked for a special legislative session to fight COVID vaccine mandates. “We’re here to announce that we need to take action to protect Florida jobs,” DeSantis said at a news conference outside the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office hangar at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. Attorney General Ashley Moody and Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Joseph Ladapo were by his side. Other speakers included a battalion fire chief who lost his job over his agency's COVID policy, an airline employee who faced being fired, and a registered nurse whose license was threatened over her refusal to comply by reporting her vaccine status.
Florida on Thursday reported 465 more deaths and 2,262 additional COVID-19 cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data. All but 63 of the newly reported deaths — about 86% — occurred since Sept. 23, according to the Herald analysis. About 54% of the newly reported have died in the past two weeks, the analysis showed. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,633,097 confirmed COVID cases and 58,608 deaths. In the past seven days, the state has added, on average, 186 deaths and 2,207 cases per day, according to Herald calculations of CDC data.
In an annual rite of legislation, the Florida Senate is preparing again to consider making regulation of vacation rental homes and their marketing platforms a statewide process. This year’s most likely main legislative vehicles are Republican Sen. Danny Burgess‘ Senate Bill 512 and Republican Rep. Jason Fischer‘s House Bill 325. They are much like the final version of last year’s effort — which made it further through the Legislative Process than most efforts in previous years — but it still died in the Session’s closing days. This year’s effort likely draws the same largely nonpartisan political battle lines between proponents of the 21st century disruptive lodging business best known through the marketing platforms Airbnb and VRBO, and those who see the vacation homes, apartments, condos and rental rooms as mini-hotels slipped into residential neighborhoods, which can be, at their worst, spring breakers’ party centrals.
Two Democratic lawmakers are returning to a years-long effort to allow local governments to ban single-use plastics. Florida law currently states that “no local government, local governmental agency, or state government agency may enact any rule, regulation, or ordinance regarding use, disposition, sale, prohibition, restriction, or tax of such auxiliary containers, wrappings, or disposable plastic bags.” That provision blocks cities and counties from barring those plastics, even if such a move would be supported by local residents. “By removing this language we give home rule back to cities and counties allowing them to decide what best fits their needs,” Stewart said in a Thursday statement supporting the legislation. “Coastal or lakefront communities may wish to ban these containers to reduce pollution that negatively affects other sectors of their economies such as tourism.”
Florida lawmakers will have $7.3 billion in unallocated general revenues to spend when they begin their 60-day 2022 legislative session on Jan. 11. That’s good news, the Florida House’s budget chief said Tuesday, especially when compared to what state legislatures were looking at this time last year. But, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, stressed that with billions of federal pandemic assistance and stimulus money in state coffers, or headed soon to Tallahassee, fiscal prudence will define Florida’s approach. “Compared to last year, we’re in a much better position than we were when we were having December committee meetings about looking at a $3 billion shortfall, and this year we’ve got some significant reserves,” Trumbull told the House panel, which assembled in Tallahassee for its first pre-session, cautioning against funding programs that induce recurring expenses.
4 CBS Miami
A Republican senator wants to set aside $20 million a year to help protect the environment in the Florida Keys. Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, a Doral Republican whose district includes the Keys, filed the proposal (SB 602) for consideration during the 2022 legislative session, which will start in January. The bill would set aside $20 million annually from what is known as the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The money could be used, in part, for entering into agreements with local governments “to promote the protection or restoration of Florida Bay, the Florida Keys, and nearshore marine ecosystems, including coral reefs,” according to the bill. Also, money could be used to acquire land within what is known as the Florida Keys Area of Critical State Concern. State law already sets aside money from the trust fund for such things as Everglades and springs projects.