Florida Government News for November 2020

November news centered on the elections, the coronavirus, and Florida’s upcoming 2021 legislative session.

The Elections

I wrote about the winners and losers in the November Elections a few weeks ago. Now, looking a bit more analytically, here are some things Florida voters should know.

More than half of Florida’s 67 counties swung farther to the right, allowing President Trump to win the state with a margin nearly three times what he had four years ago. Trump did unexpectedly well in precincts with a majority Hispanic population, particularly Cuban-American communities of Miami-Dade County.

“Conservatives trounced Democrats in nearly every contested race up and down the ticket,” wrote Politico Florida, “flipping two Miami-Dade congressional seats, gaining five seats in the Florida House, taking one seat in the Florida Senate and strengthening their hold on power going into a crucial redistricting year in 2021,” wrote McGuireWoods Consulting.

Of concern is the fact that candidates for three Florida Senate seats did no campaigning or fundraising, had no issue platforms, and made no effort to get votes. It is suggested that their presence in the races was intended to syphon votes from Democratic candidates.

One of the three cases involved what was expected to be a close race for the District 37 Senate seat between Democrat incumbent José Javier Rodríguez and Ileana Garcia, a well-funded Republican challenger who had worked for President Trump’s campaign. After a manual recount, Garcia won by just 34 votes.

This is the post-election partisan makeup of Florida voters’ representatives in the U.S. Congress and Florida Legislature:

OfficeRepublicansDemocratsLegislative Body
U.S. Senate20100 U.S. Senators
U.S. House1611435 U.S. Representatives
State Senate241640 State Senators
State House7842120 State Representatives



Through November 28, the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard reported 18,500 resident deaths and 236 non-resident deaths, an increase of 1,852 and 30 deaths, respectively, from what I reported in my October post.

Florida averaged 7,453 resident cases of COVID-19 per day for the two weeks ended 11/28/20, more than twice the 3,499 average daily cases for the two weeks ended 10/28/20. The average positivity rate of people tested per day for the same period this month was 7.39 percent, compared to 5.17 percent for the same period last month.

As the number of cases and deaths in Florida rose throughout the month, questions continued about the state’s transparency and the accuracy of the data being shared. On November 6, the chief public information officer for the Florida Department of Health resigned, declining to say why, and all messaging was ordered to go through the governor’s office for approval. State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees hasn’t been seen publicly in months, and the governor’s failure to appear publicly to answer questions was repeatedly noted.


This month, the state’s preliminary vaccine distribution plan was rolled out.


News from Tallahassee

State Government: Legislative Branch

2021 Legislative Session

The 2021 regular legislative session will not convene until March 2, but the Legislature held one-day organization sessions on November 17. Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, became Speaker of the Florida House and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, became President of the Senate. Both will serve in those roles for the next two years.

From Speaker Sprowls’ opening remarks:

Chris Sprowls
  • “ … while I certainly cannot stop anyone from having a tantrum on Twitter, please know that there will be no place for that kind of Washington, D.C.-style conduct inside this chamber or in this House.”
  • “I expect much of this session will be spent dealing with the fallout of the virus and modernizing our laws and plans to ensure we are prepared for future pandemics.”
  • “We need to bring the same long-range planning and strategic discipline to our environmental programs that we bring to our transportation work plan.”
  • “Poor prenatal care can result in poor health outcomes for infants, which can, in turn, impact their development. Every baby should have the opportunity to be born healthy.”
  • “[W]e can do something to fix the child welfare system, to raise the quality of caseworkers, to encourage adoption, and to create support systems for older kids in foster care.”
  • “[J]oin me in launching our New Worlds Initiative, where the State of Florida will partner with private donors to put books in the homes of every struggling reader or low-income child from grades K-5.”
  • “We need to be the first state in the country to insist that workforce programs meet actual outcome standards [and integrate] all of our workforce programs into one unified system.”
  • “[W]hile our public universities should offer a full range of degree options, it does not follow that the state should subsidize all degrees to the same degree.”

From President Simpson’s opening remarks:

Wilton Simpson
  • “We cannot fix our situation by simply spending down our savings account. We need to make structural changes to the budget.”
  • “There will be things that we did in times of plenty that need to be eliminated in these times of lean. That does not mean all we will do is cut the budget these next two years. There will be places where we need to make investments — like our Northern Everglades, our springs, our most vulnerable children, and our state infrastructure. To do our job right we need to be thoughtful, strategic, and long-term in our vision.”

Neither leader has expressed interest in calling a special session to address the pandemic before the legislative session officially begins March 2. Sprowls, however, announced creation of a 12-member Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee (PPEC) to coordinate the state’s pandemic response.

In other news about the 2021 session:

State Government: Executive Branch


Continuing his pledge from September to “crack down on violent and disorderly assemblies” in response to police brutality protests after the death of George Floyd:

Acting on a 2018 DeSantis priority, the Legislature in 2019 passed a law directing the state to develop a Canadian prescription-drug importation program for certain pharmaceuticals. Now:

Although the state constitution requires the Legislature to approve state spending, DeSantis has been able to use CARES Act funds and other federal money to respond to the coronavirus without legislative oversight due to the state of emergency he declared and extended through Jan. 3.

Attorney General

Chief Financial Officer

Commissioner of Agriculture

State Government: Judicial Branch

M-CORES Toll Road Project

The three proposed M-CORES toll roads have been controversial since the beginning. In November:

Florida’s U.S. Senators are Marco Rubio and Rick Scott

That’s it for Florida government news for November!

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