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Florida Legislature

  • The Florida Board of Education, next week, will consider taking action against 11 Public School Districts with mask mandates that are out of compliance with state rules and an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.Sarasota School Board members, next week, will vote on whether to repeal the district’s mask policy.A federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for hospitals is coming in October. Today marks the deadline for NCH employees to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Lee Health are not imposing a staff vaccine mandate in advance of the federal mandate.Nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Lee Health hospitals have been in the past two months amid the summer pandemic surge driven by the delta variant.A new report projects Florida will have a shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2035.With weekly unemployment claims rolling in at pre-pandemic numbers, state leaders say they remain optimistic about seeing results from a summer push to get people back into the labor force.Republican state lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would exempt religious institutions from emergency orders.Florida families with children are now set to receive more than $1 billion in federal pandemic relief funds through a program created by Congress last year to assist children who lost access to free and reduced-price school meals when instruction shifted from in-person to virtual.
  • Governor Ron DeSantis has appealed a Leon County Circuit Court Judge’s ruling striking down his executive order barring school districts from imposing student mask mandates.Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran sent a letter, last week, threatening to withhold state funding from the Lee County School district due to its mask-wearing policy for students, which only allows students to opt-out with a doctor’s note.The Florida Department of Health, last month, changed the way it reports the number of deaths from COVID-19 to a method that misleads people into believe there's been a decline in deaths.The Orlando Utilities Commission is reminding customers to conserve water as an unprecedented surge in the coronavirus causes a shortage of liquid oxygen. Two weeks after making the request, the utility says customers are saving on water, but not enough.With Florida legislative committee meetings starting later this month in advance of the 2022 annual law-making session, the state Senate is not planning to limit public access as Florida continues battling the COVID-19 pandemic.The Carnival Cruise Line plans to require proof of vaccination for passengers when cruises resume from some Florida ports in November.Federal COVID rental assistance relief funds in Sarasota and Manatee County have been slow to reach residents in need.
  • During the 2021 Annual Florida Legislative Session, state lawmakers passed a pair of bills aimed at expanding protections for landowners. The measures, currently awaiting Governor Ron DeSantis’ signature, authorize property owners to file lawsuits against government entities over local land-use regulations, even if the property owners have no formal development plans that would be impacted.Smart-growth advocacy organizations like 1,000 Friends of Florida say the bills could serve as a weaponization of the Bert Harris Act that could prevent local governments from imposing smart-growth regulations that would undermine the state’s coastal resiliency efforts.We'll take a closer look and explore the current state of toxic red tide and blue-green algae blooms in Southwest Florida.
  • State lawmakers ended Florida’s 2021 annual legislative session, Friday, after passing a record $101.5 billion budget. Much of Governor Ron DeSantis’ priority measures did pass. We’ll get a closer analysis of what passed, what didn’t and what it all means for Floridians going forward are Florida Gulf Coast University Political Science professors Peter Bergerson, Ph.D., and Roger Green, Ph.D.
  • We are all connected by the environment we share. The Earth is our home. This is the space where we share the environmental stories that caught our attention this week, in Florida and beyond.
  • Florida health officials reported 5,271 new COVID-19 cases and 46 deaths Tuesday for a total of more than 2.2 million infections and more than 35,600 fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic. The Florida Division of Emergency Management reports that as of Tuesday morning, more than 8.6 million people in the state have received a vaccine including more than 2.7 million who have received a first dose and more than 5.8 million who have completed the series.People seeking vaccine doses at federally-supported clinics in Florida, Monday, were about evenly split between the two-dose Pfizer vaccine and the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This comes after a pause on use of the J&J vaccine was lifted. Federal regulators ordered the temporary halt on administration of the J&J vaccine over very rare instances of people developing blood clots.State legislators are united in an effort to improve the website people use to apply for unemployment benefits after the site crashed last spring as it was inundated with people seeking benefits at the start of the pandemic. However, in the final days of the annual legislative session, lawmakers remain divided over a proposal to increase the maximum weekly unemployment benefit from $275 to $375.Members of a Southwest Florida family accused of selling a toxic industrial bleach as a cure for the coronavirus through their church, have been indicted on federal charges. Last year a federal judge ordered Mark Grenon and his sons to stop selling the substance through Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, but they continued selling it anyway.
  • State health officials reported 1,613 new COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths on Monday. So far, more than 7.2 million people in Florida have been vaccinated including more than 2.8 million who have received a first dose and more than 4.4 million people who have completed the series.Governor Ron DeSantis is railing against YouTube and Google and accusing the tech giant of censorship for removing a video of a COVID-19 discussion he had with scientists who oppose government lockdowns, school closures and mask wearing.Florida is suing the Biden administration and the CDC to let cruise ships sail again after being shut down for more than a year during the COVID-19 pandemic.The Florida Education Association is seeking clarity on recently adopted exemptions to testing requirements for this school year.Public school districts in Southwest Florida plan to scale back their distance learning options for students returning to school in the fall.A bill to make pandemic-induced expansions on the use of telemedicine permanent continues advancing in the state legislature.FEMA is now offering financial assistance to help cover the cost of funerals for those who have died of COVID-19.Lee County Commissioners stopped manning toll booths to collect bridge tolls on the outset of the pandemic and now they’re considering making that change permanent. They’re also considering a proposed increase in bridge tolls paid by motorists.A Florida woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail, last week, for deliberately coughing on a cancer patient during a dispute, last year, that was caught on a video that went viral.
  • U.S. Rep. Cathy Castor, D-Tampa, and healthcare advocates held a media conference Monday to highlight a long-shot effort in the Florida House to expand Medicaid through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
  • State Health officials reported 3.406 new COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths Monday. Nearly 6.4 million people in Florida have been vaccinated including nearly 2.7 million who have received a first dose and nearly 3.7 million who have completed the series.As of Monday, all adults 18 and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Sixteen and 17-year-olds also became eligible for the vaccine, Monday, but teenagers are restricted to the Pfizer version of the vaccine and must have parental consent.Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order, Friday, banning businesses from using vaccine passports to require people to prove they’ve been vaccinated in order to receive services.The Florida Legislature is taking up budget proposals this week and how to use Florida’s share of federal funds stemming from the American Rescue Plan remains a point of contention in budget negotiations.Lawmakers in the state House and Senate are considering several pieces of legislation to limit local-government emergency orders, create a personal-protective equipment stockpile and establish an Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund for use by the governor.Sarasota city commissioners are taking steps to reinstate a mandatory mask ordinance amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • State health officials reported 5,294 new COVID-19 cases and 87 deaths on Wednesday. So far, more than 5.8 million people in Florida have received a vaccine including more than 2.5 million people who have received a first dose and more than 3.3 million who have either completed the two-shot series or received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.Vaccine eligibility in Florida will expand next Monday, April 5, to include anyone 18 and older. Sixteen and 17-year-olds will be eligible, Monday, for the Pfizer vaccine with parental consent.Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’ll take emergency action to prevent government or businesses from requiring the vaccine or a vaccine passport system. Meanwhile, the Biden administration says it will not issue a federal mandate requiring proof of inoculation. The White House will be letting private companies handle the logistics for vaccine passports.Farmworkers in Homestead spoke with Miami-Dade officials this week as they push for vaccine access. Time is short before changes in the growing season prompt migrant farmworkers in Florida travel elsewhere.Attorneys general from 13 states, including Florida, have filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration over a provision in the federal stimulus that bars state governments from using the relief funds to offset tax cuts.Gov. DeSantis announced Wednesday that principals and teachers at Florida's K-12 public schools will receive $1,000 bonuses similar to the $1,000 bonuses he announced two weeks ago for first responders.