Top stories: Governor Ron DeSantis signed a record $91 billion budget and a controversial guns-in-classrooms bill. Florida won’t aid the 2020 Census count. Cheaper prescription drugs from Canada could be heading Florida’s way. Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering doesn’t directly affect Florida.
For those stories and more news for Collier voters, read on.
But first, here are two pieces that, while expressing editorial opinions, provide terrific historical background on important issues relevant to Florida voters:
- On environment, Florida Legislature refuses to close the barn door. Lawmakers came away from this spring’s session congratulating themselves on the heroic job they did in defense of Florida’s environment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t true. Florida Phoenix
- Editorial: DeSantis crosses line to appoint conservative judge. A humorist once defined the noun “judge” as “a lawyer who knew the governor.” Before the voters elected Reubin Askew in 1970, that was usually true in Florida, regardless of whether the lawyer was competent or even honest. South Florida Sun Sentinel
- DeSantis approves $91 billion budget, vetoes $133 million in local projects. Full Story
- DeSantis’ vetoes hit Southwest Florida higher education, public safety. Full Story
- List of vetoed projects. Full Story
- DeSantis signs largest environmental budget in Florida’s history. It includes over $625 million for protection and restoration of the Everglades and protection of water resources for FY 2019-2020. Full Story
- DeSantis signs bill transferring environmental enforcement to DEP from FWC. “DEP’s mission is to protect Florida’s natural resources,” he told reporters. “In terms of unity of effort and focus, this will be more effective.” Full Story; HB 5401
- DeSantis signs Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development initiative. The partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory will develop technologies and approaches to control and mitigate red tide and its impacts. Full Story
- Following up: Last month, we reported that 44 groups and former governor Bob Graham had asked DeSantis to veto a community development and housing bill (HB 7103), citing threat to the Everglades. The governor signed the bill; read 1000 Friends of Florida statement here.
Voting & Elections
- DeSantis announces more money for election security to protect against hacking. He will reroute $2.3 million in federal cybersecurity grant funds that remained unused following the 2018 election cycle. Full Story
- DeSantis signs bill to restore felon voting rights; civil rights groups sue. Controversial legislation restores voting rights to felons but also narrows the field of felons who can now vote. The governor’s action, related to the passage of Constitutional Amendment 4 last fall, has already sparked a federal lawsuit. Full Story; HB 7066
- Citizenship question or not, state will not aid 2020 Census count. DeSantis rejects suggestion that he create a Census Statewide Count Committee, as several other states have done. Full Story
- DeSantis: Let’s hold separate elections to decide constitutional amendments. That could drive down voter participation in amendment drives, if historical precedent stands. Full Story
- Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering doesn’t directly affect Florida. Unlike some other states, the Florida Constitution already has written rules prohibiting any redistricting maps “drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.” Full Story
Health Care & Social Services
- Cheaper prescription drugs from Canada could be heading Florida’s way, but it’s not a done deal. While efforts to kill the legislation in Florida were unsuccessful, pharmaceutical interests have vowed to lobby against the plan in Washington, D.C. Full Story
- DeSantis vetoes two fee-creation bills, saying the fees would undercut efforts to provide Floridians access to more affordable health care. Full Story; HB 7067; HB 7073
- New Florida health insurance program signed into law. The “Patient Savings Act” encourages insurers to offer “shared savings incentive” programs. Full Story; HB 1113
- DeSantis signs law allowing expansion of questionable health insurance policies. Exclusions could include pre-existing conditions, mental health services, prescription drugs or maternity care. Full Story; SB 322
- Florida drops in latest rankings of children’s well-being. While the number of children covered by health insurance had increased from 2010 to 2016, that trend started to reverse in 2017. Full Story; Annie E. Casey Foundation Report
- DeSantis signs controversial bill arming teachers in public schools.School districts can choose to opt-in to the so-called “Guardian program,” which allows teachers and other staff to volunteer to carry a gun on campus after getting screened and trained by a sheriff’s office. Full Story; HB 7030
- Lawsuits against Florida’s new school voucher not a matter of if, but of when. Likely plaintiffs include the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Education Association, joined by national groups such as the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Full Story
- Getting that Florida Bright Futures scholarship just got a little harder. A new law raises qualifying test scores for students graduating in the spring of 2021 and beyond. Full Story; SB 190
- Florida rates high in funding equity, low on spending in new Education Week report. The state doesn’t spend a lot on education compared to other states, but of that amount, it spreads it fairly. Full Story
- Florida occupational license reform gaining traction. The state Real Estate Commission approved a 50-percent reduction in biennial renewal fees, saving 200,000 state-licensed real estate professionals about $8.8 million in their cost of doing business through 2023. Full Story
- American, Israeli companies perfecting radiation vest for astronauts in deep space. A partnership between NASA, a Florida-based company and an Israeli company is one of several emerging from the recent business development mission Gov. DeSantis led in Israel. Full Story
- Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) recognizes Rep. Bob Rommel and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo. It applauded Rommel for “his committed work to legislate reform of AOB” (Assignment of Benefits) and Passidomo for a 100% voting record for the group’s 2019 session priorities. Full Story
The Florida Cabinet
- Attorney General Ashley Moody wants state Supreme Court to reconsider death penalty decisions.
- Moody will be able to use patient records in lawsuit against drug companies
- Moody embarks on fact-gathering mission about dramatic increase in teen vaping.
- Moody, Uber aim to stop trafficking ahead of super Bowl LIV
- Moody launches NO SCAM price gouging app for hurricane season.
Commissioner of Agriculture
- Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried doesn’t walk in the “same boots” as her predecessors.
- Fried investigating Florida vet’s hot-button charity, ‘We Build the Wall’.
- Fried: Florida politicians must not back new USMCA trade deal with Mexico without protections for Florida farmers.
Chief Financial Officer
- Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis offers financial safety tips after Quest Diagnostics data breach.
- Citizens Insurance reduces rate hikes following passage of a new “assignment of benefits” law.
The Florida Court System
- Court rules against environmentalist in ‘malice’ case. In a case watched by environmental and First Amendment groups, a state appeals court upheld a $4.4 million verdict against a prominent South Florida environmentalist who fought a project that … Full Story
- Appeals court weighs major education law in Florida. One of the major issues in the case is the 2017 law’s authorization of “schools of hope,” a new type of charter school aimed at areas where children have been served by traditional public schools that are low performing. Full Story
More State News
- DeSantis signs repeal of blind trust law that his predecessor Rick Scott used to shield wealth.
- DeSantis’s ‘sanctuary city’ ban bill-signing morphs into Trump Rally.
- DeSantis creates commission to celebrate 100 years of women’s right to vote.
- Bob Rommel named to Florida Advisory Committee of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, an advocacy group.
News from Congress
Rep. Francis Rooney
- Military-minded Francis Rooney pushes harder to ban drilling in the Eastern Gulf.
- Rooney: Time to end renewable fuel standard mandate, cut down on ethanol
- Rooney introduces bill to ensure federal monitoring of harmful algal blooms continues even in event of federal shutdown.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
- Diaz-Balart joins Democrats in vote to grant amnesty to 2.1 million non-citizens.
- Diaz-Balart joins majority as House votes to block funding for transgender military ban.
Sen. Marco Rubio
- Rubio: Here are my plans to make college affordable.
- Rubio’s FEMA reform heads to Senate floor.
- Rubio, Cantwell bring out Women and Minority Equity Investment Act.