Top stories: Florida joins
Voting & Elections
For years, Florida Supervisors of Elections have wanted the state to join the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, which makes it easier to track voter registrations across state lines and clean up voter polls of deceased voters. Membership in ERIC requires a commitment to reach out by mail to every eligible but unregistered voter in Florida. More than a year after it was authorized by the Legislature, Governor DeSantis gave the OK.
- Florida joins 29-state compact to clean up voter rolls and reach out to non-registered residents. Orlando Sentinel – 8/21/19
In November, voters overwhelmingly approved the Voting Restoration Amendment to allow people convicted of a felony who have completed their sentence to earn back the right to vote — except for those convicted of murder or felony sex offenses. Subsequently, the Governor signed a law that defined completion of a sentence to mean paying off all fines, fees or restitution owed to a victim, and the ACLU and others sued in federal court. The latest:
- Judge sets
aggressivetimetable for felon voting rights restoration lawsuits. Florida Politics – 7/6/19
- Judge withdraws from lawsuit over felon voting. Tallahassee Democrat (USA Today Network) – 7/18/19
- State asks
judgeto toss felon voting case. Sayfie Review – 8/5/19
- Judge hearing case on felons’ voting rights asks: Is Amendment 4 even constitutional? Miami-Herald – 8/15/19
- Amendment 4 panel begins work on voting rights restoration procedures. Tallahassee Democrat (USA Today Network) – 8/19/19
- Amendment 4 study: Vast majority of Florida felons still owe money while race gap persists. Tampa Bay Times – 8/21/19
- Supreme Court agrees to issue
advisoryopinion in felon voting challenge. The Center Square | Florida – 8/30/19
Also of note:
- Revamp proposal for Florida primary elections headed to Supreme Court. Orlando Sentinel – 7/30/19
- A tiny provision slipped into a new election law could block early voting sites on campuses. Florida Phoenix – 7/9/19
- ‘The damage is done’: Florida officials vow to fix problems with crackdown on petition gatherers. Tampa Bay Times – 8/30/19
- Four petition proposals halfway to qualifying for 2020 ballot, including $15 minimum wage, energy choice. The Center Square | Florida – 7/25/19
Environment & Growth
In August, Governor DeSantis appointed the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer, tasked with preparing Florida for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea level rise.
- Governor Ron DeSantis announces Dr. Julia Nesheiwat as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer. Press Release – 8/1/19
- Florida resilience officer: Climate change ‘absolutely’ means restricting development. Miami-Herald – 8/8/19
And Southwest Florida leaders are forming a compact to work together on issues that cross city and county lines: climate change, sea level rise, and storminess. “For me, it’s not a political issue. It’s a people issue. It’s a quality of life issue,” Republican Senator Kathleen Passidomo of District 28 (which includes Collier County) said.
- Putting politics aside to save our shores. NBC-2 – 7/16/19
While the Governor received praise for his pro-environment executive order in January, “widespread anxiety lingers about the blooms’ long-term health effects.”
- South Florida Water Management District expands sampling to track, prevent algae blooms. TCPalm (USA Today Network) – 8/6/19
- Where was the health department? A year after toxic algae crises, others step up to do what the state agency hasn’t. Naples Daily News (USA Today Network) – 8/16/19
- Human health heads up the agenda at blue-green algae task force meeting. Fort Myers News-Press (USA Today Network) – 8/28/19
Meanwhile, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced the agenda for her department’s upcoming Energy and Climate Summit. Previous commissioner Adam Putnam “routinely avoided discussing climate change, let alone its causes.”
- Nikki Fried takes on climate change. Florida Politics – 8/17/19
A massive multi-year road expansion program approved by the Legislature last session is officially underway. Three task forces are launching a series of hearings over the next 13 months, analyzing the cost, design and likely routes, along with the potential benefits and risks of each of the three highway plans.
- Big Florida highway expansion continues to generate big concerns. Ocala
Star Banner– 8/24/19
Also of note:
- Appeals court to decide what voters meant when they approved popular FL conservation initiative (Water and Land Conservation amendment – 2014). Florida Phoenix – 7/16/19
- Governor and Cabinet members give
go aheadfor Tampa Electric natural gas plant. Florida Phoenix – 7/25/19
- FPL seeks state approval to slash energy-efficiency goals.
Sun Sentinel– 8/12/19
- Ballot proposal spurring energy competition gets sharp scrutiny from justices. Gainesville Sun – 8/28/19
Collier County was one of twelve Florida school districts that sued the Legislature over a 2017 law (HB 7069) that created “Schools of Hope.” This month, an Appeals Court panel upheld the constitutionality of the law.
- School districts lose another round in court over law that bolsters charter schools. Tampa Bay Times – 8/29/19
In a win for traditional public schools, Judge nixes charter schools’ bid for
A new state law the Governor signed in late June mandated a look at civics, which is a middle school class with a state-required end-of-course test.
- The Legislature inserted groups tied to right-wing donors into Florida’s new law on civics education. Florida Phoenix
Education Commissioner Corcoran released a “back-to-school” reading list that was sharply criticized for its “lack of diversity of authors, characters, and themes, as well as the predominance of old titles and overall lack of relevance to today’s young readers.”
- Florida DOE posts dated, mostly white booklist. Twitter reacts. School Library Journal – 8/17/19
And in other FDOE news, the state Board of Education unanimously named a new chairman. He’s long been a controversial figure.
- Florida Board of Education chairman takes beating over past comments on evolution. Tampa Bay Times – 8/8/19
Ever since the creation of Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program, early education advocates have said the state needs to measure children’s abilities as they enter and as they leave, to determine whether their schools have helped them.
- Kindergarteners are failing in Florida, and teachers are blaming a $400 million test. WTSP-TV – 7/26/19
- New rule would put more pressure on pre-K programs to get kids ready for kindergarten. Tampa Bay Times – 8/16/19
The Department of Education began implementing the expanded school-safety law signed by the Governor last spring.
- State to track school districts with ‘guardian’ teachers. News Service of Florida via Tallahassee Democrat – 7/24/19
- Florida launches school security database with student discipline, health, social media info. Tampa Bay Times – 8/2/19
Also of note:
- Florida public schools must now teach at least 5 hours of mental health classes. Pensacola News Journal (USA Today Network) – 7/17/19
- New lawsuit alleges Florida teachers owed up to $30 million. Tampa Bay Times – 7/16/19
- New changes aim to help thousands of struggling educators pass mandatory test to teach. Action News Jax – 7/29/19
- Teacher unions suffer setback as judge sides with state on membership law. Tampa Bay Times – 8/12/19
The Budget & Economy
The stage has been set for the Legislature’s upcoming budget negotiations. State economists updated their General Revenue Fund & Financial Outlook, and it projects there will be about a half-billion less to spend in each of the next two years.
- DeSantis: Florida better prepared for recession. Sayfie Review – 8/19/19
- Chances of a Florida recession are on the rise, chamber economist says. Tampa Bay Times – 8/21/19
- Economy strong, but state two-year revenue outlook forecasts $867 million dip. The Center Square | Florida – 8/27/19
- Florida is about to give more than $500 million to big corporations. The Ledger – 8/15/19
Odds & Ends
- State regulators float new rules in hospital wars. Sayfie Review – 7/3/19
- State police reviewing CFO Jimmy Patronis for possible violation of state law. Tampa Bay Times – 7/16/19; related: Women’s group calls for ethics investigation into Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, Tampa Bay Times – 8/6/19
- Florida court reverses decision on 24-hour abortion waiting period. Orlando Sentinel – 8/1/19
- ‘Deceitful and misleading’: Florida’s attorney general slams weapons ban proposal after mass shootings. Tampa Bay Times – 8/5/19
Federal Government – Florida’s Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott
Rubio: “What other alternatives do you have to rebalance what has now been 30 years of cheating, lying, stealing and unfairness on behalf of the Chinese?”
- Republicans grow anxious about the Trump economy. Politico – 8/29/19
Scott: “Anything we raise in tariffs, we should give back to the rank and public in tax reductions,” to help address “short-term pain” Americans might be feeling.
- Rick Scott: Cut taxes if trade war with China intensifies. Florida Daily – 8/21/19
Gun Safety / Red Flag Laws
Rubio: In the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Rubio urged U.S. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, to look at a “Red Flag” bill he first introduced in March 2018.
- Marco Rubio: Red flag legislation ‘makes all the sense in the world’. Florida Daily – 8/8/19
Scott: “Depriving Americans of their constitutional right to bear arms is the ultimate goal of many on the left who exploit tragedies such as these for political gain. But that doesn’t change the fact that we must not allow people who threaten harm to themselves or others to have guns.”
- Rick Scott: I’m a gun owner and NRA member. I support red-flag laws to help stop mass shootings. Denver Post – 8/9/19
Rubio: After teaming up with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren earlier this year to bring back the “Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (Protecting JOBs) Act,” Rubio is working on another bipartisan student loan bill.
- Marco Rubio, Donna Shalala pair up on student loan payment reform. Florida Daily – 7/14/19; Rubio, Warren reintroduce
billto protect jobs for workers struggling with student loans. Press Release – 2/28/19
Scott: “What I’m trying to do is get ideas from around the state on how can we at the federal level” make college more affordable and accessible.
- Sen. Scott stops in Naples for
listeningtour on student debt. Naples Daily News (USA Today Network) – 8/16/19
Healthcare and Drugs
Rubio: After the Florida Legislature passed a bill establishing the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program, President Trump asked HHS for an implementation plan. But Rubio is “a little bit concerned that we’re all getting excited about something that Canada’s not going to allow.”
- Cheaper drugs from Canada? Not so fast. WFTV9 – 8/1/19
Scott: The former healthcare industry CEO introduced four bills in the last five months related to curbing healthcare costs.
- Former hospital CEO Rick Scott’s healthcare bills steer clear of hospitals. McClatchy DC Bureau – 8/23/19
Rubio: Real problems deserve real solutions.
- Marco Rubio calls climate change ‘a real problem’ but rejects aggressive efforts to curb emissions. Herald-Tribune – 8/19/19
That’s it for my recap of news for Florida voters about what happened in our state government in July and August, and some of what our two U.S. Senators had to say about issues of importance to them. Next up: my recap of news specific to Collier County voters.