Florida Politics News for May 2020

In this post: Coronavirus update. Ex-felons win voting rights lawsuit; state appeals. State seeks to scuttle absentee-ballot case, resists efforts to make voting safer. For this and more Florida politics news, read on …

News from Tallahassee

Coronavirus Update

Why Florida Failed Those it Failed

Florida politics news - new coronavirus cases by day
New Cases by Day – 30 Days to 5/30/20
Florida COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard

Officials for years warned that Florida was ill-equipped to respond to outbreaks, citing their concerns in state reports in 2010 and 2011, in a 2019 study by top health officers and in multiple budget requests over the course of a decade. But the warnings did not make it to the Legislature where they could have been openly debated.

Unlike other states, which mandated diagnostic coronavirus tests of all residents and staff at homes with frail elders because of evidence that staff without symptoms were becoming lethal carriers:

After failing to promptly identify outbreaks in elder care facilities, the state had to scramble to stem the tide of cases and deaths:

About 85% of Florida’s COVID-19 deaths have been among those 65 and older, and nearly half have been connected with long-term care facilities.

And as the month was coming to an end:

Reopening the State

For a summary of the Governor’s executive orders governing reopening the state, visit https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/plan-for-floridas-recovery/.

Effects on Upcoming Elections

In early May, a Democratic super PAC sued Gov. DeSantis and other state officials, challenging voting laws it argues could limit voter turnout this fall. The lawsuit joins an ongoing legal battle over voting in a key swing state.

As of May 13, Florida was one of just four states that had yet to accept federal funds to help it prepare for elections during the coronavirus pandemic.

Uncertainty over the health risks of voting in August and November led three citizens to sue to have every registered voter in Florida get a mail-in ballot and have the state pay the return postage. The suit has been assigned to a judge, but no hearing has been set.

In response:

And state officials are pushing back:

Meanwhile Florida elections supervisors are urging voters to request mail-in ballots.

Coronavirus Testing

According to floridahealthcovid19.gov, you should call your health care provider or county health department if you think you need a COVID-19 test. Find state-supported drive-thru testing sites at https://floridadisaster.org/covid19/testing-sites/.

Can the Data be Trusted?

Unemployment and the State’s Still-Troubled System

As of May 29, 82 percent of the state’s two million confirmed unique unemployment claims submitted had been processed, according to its Claims Dashboard. That shows a significant improvement in the system that processes the state’s unemployment claims from what I shared last month, when less than half of the almost one million confirmed unique claims had been paid. During the month:

A second federal relief fund has been rolled into Florida’s aid programs, giving the state two pots of money in addition to its own from which to provide unemployment insurance benefits for Floridians.

Under a 2011 Florida law, the maximum duration of jobless benefits is tied to the unemployment rate. At least until the first possible adjustment in October, those getting benefits now will only receive 12 weeks of state-paid benefits at most, even as the jobless rate is expected to skyrocket before then.



2020 Legislative Session (continued)

The legislative session officially ended on March 19, but Gov. DeSantis has until June 30 to sign the 2020-21 budget.

Legislative approval is needed to use any of the state’s $4 billion in reserves to make up for revenue losses or to make substantial cuts to the spending plan. To date:

By month’s end, there were 165 regular session bills that have yet to be sent to the Governor’s desk, which he must act upon by July 1.

Voter Registration for Former Felons

Nearly a year after the Florida Legislature passed the law that requires people with felony convictions to pay all outstanding court debts in order to be eligible to vote, and two years after voters approved Amendment 4 to the state constitution aiming to end the lifetime ban on voting for most ex-felons:

The judge asserted that requiring people with felony convictions to pay off costs and fees, which are separate from restitution paid to victims or fines ordered by a court, violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on poll taxes. As a result, the vast majority of more than 770,000 Florida felons who have outstanding financial obligations will be eligible to vote without taking any action.

But the legal battle is far from over.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta could temporarily stop the judge’s order or overturn it entirely. Attorneys on both sides expect the case to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Florida elections officials are moving ahead to comply with the order:

Environment & Growth

Health, Safety & Welfare

Law, Justice & the Courts

Gov. DeSantis’ Judicial Appointments

Two Floridians from minority communities, both members of an influential conservative legal group, are Ron DeSantis’s latest picks for the state Supreme Court

After appointing two Florida Supreme Court justices, Governor DeSantis will have the opportunity to fill two vacancies in the District Appellate Courts:

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


Senator Rubio:

Senator Scott:

Domestic Affairs

Foreign Affairs

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