Florida

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Polk County Sheriffs Arrest Several Disney World Employees in Child Sex Sting

Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s office, in conjunction with several other law enforcement entities, ran a sting operation to catch child sex predators between July 27 and August 1.

Dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” law enforcement posed as 13 and 14-year-old girls online, and made contact with several suspect online. When the suspects attempted to meet up with the “girls,” they were taken into custody. 

Florida Rep. Byron Donalds Trades Barbs Chris Cuomo on Vaccine Choice

A Florida congressman joined CNN Tuesday evening to debate host Chris Cuomo on his decision not to take the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Do you feel responsible for spreading a message where [you say] ‘I’m not gonna take [the vaccine] because I don’t care what Biden wants. Byron Donald’s not gonna take it ’cause he doesn’t care what Biden wants?'” Cuomo asked Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL-19). “Do you think that’s a good message for people to hear?” 

Florida Gov. DeSantis Holds Roundtable with Experts to Discuss Masks in Schools

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Monday held a press conference with medical professionals, a concerned parent, a student to discuss mask mandates in schools for the upcoming school year. 

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research (NEBR), H. Cody Meissner, MD, a pediatrician and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Professor of Pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and Mark McDonald, MD, a clinical child psychiatrist, all participated in the roundtable.

75 Florida Teachers Sign Petition Vowing to Defy Critical Race Theory Ban

As The Tennessee Star reported, the Zinn Education Project,  a nonprofit that pushes social justice curriculum in schools, released a petition signed by more than 5000 teachers nationwide who vow to continue to teach Critical Race Theory, even if it’s banned in their schools. 

“Lawmakers in at least 21 states are attempting to pass legislation that would require teachers to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and oppression throughout U.S. history,” the petition says.

Nikki Fried Denies Cannabis Conflict of Interest

After a scathing report from The Orlando Sentinel tying Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried to the cannabis industry, the gubernatorial candidate has denied that there is any conflict of interest. 

“One of the sources of her income increase is from Ignite Florida, a consulting firm where she is sole proprietor and lobbies the marijuana industry. Specifically, she amended a 2018 financial statement on May 28 indicating she received $351,480 from the firm. Previously, she had to amend the same 2018 statements on January 30, 2020 saying she received $72,000 in 2018 income,” The Florida Capital Star reported. 

Florida Will Not Vote on Marijuana Legalization in 2022

The Florida Supreme Court Thursday struck down a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have put marijuana legalization up for a vote in 2022. 

The Court ruled that the language proposed for the ballot did not match the language in the amendment itself. 

Southern Poverty Law Center Files Latest Lawsuit Against Florida’s New Election Law

A far-left legal nonprofit has filed the latest lawsuit against the state of Florida over its new election integrity measures. 

“The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the groups HeadCount and the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters Corp., is the fourth challenge to the law, which was passed in April by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Orlando Weekly reported. 

DeSantis Social Media Warrior Triggers Florida Media Outlets

The Press Secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) tussled Monday and Tuesday with two prominent Florida news media outlets, accusing them of political bias.

Of [South Florida Sun Sentinel]’s last 10,000 Tweets, ONE (1) was positive about [Gov. Ron DeSantis]. And it was a Letter to the Editor. Not written by Sun Sentinel staff. This is absolutely incredible. And they will still say the bias is all in our imaginations,” Christina Pushaw said, citing an account called District AI that claims to be run by an artificial intelligence engineer. 

Florida Rep. Crist Proposes Gun Control Measures on Campaign Trial

The former Republican governor of Florida turned Democrat congressman, who is once again mounting a gubernatorial bid, made his case for gun control during a Friday campaign appearance. 

“One of the most common-sense things that we can do is ban assault weapons,” Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL-13) said in Miami Beach. “It is hard for me to imagine why we already don’t do that.” 

Florida Black Republican Hasn’t Been Allowed to Join Congressional Black Caucus

A Florida Black Republican congressman blasted the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in an interview with CNN, calling the group “off-putting” for ignoring his request for membership.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL-19) said he has “not really heard much from the CBC” since he attempted to join the group, and that nobody on the caucus has reached out to him to explain anything.

DeSantis Wants Bill Banning Chemical Castration of Minors

In a Monday interview with Daily Caller, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) continued to bolster his chops as a social conservative, saying he would happily sign a bill preventing doctors from prescribing sex-changing hormone treatments to children. 

“I’m very much opposed to chemical castration of minors, I honestly didn’t know this existed until a few years ago,” DeSantis said during the interview. “That would be something I would sign for sure.” 

Val Demings Officially Launches Senate Campaign Against Rubio

Rep. Val Demings (D-FL-10) announced Wednesday her intention to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“When you grow up in the South poor, black, and female, you have to have faith in progress and opportunity,” Demings said in a campaign launch video

DeSantis Vows Local Action Against Critical Race Theory

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) joined appeared Saturday night on “Unfiltered,” conservative commentator Dan Bongino’s new Fox News show, where he vowed to take local action against Critical Race Theory. 

“We’re not going to support any Republican candidate for school board who supports Critical Race Theory in all 67 counties or supports mandatory masking of school children,” he said in the segment. 

Royal Caribbean Summer Cruises Will Not Require Vaccination

Miami-based Royal Caribbean, one of America’s largest cruise lines, will resume operations in July, and will not fight the state of Florida on its new law banning vaccine passports. 

Instead, the cruise vacation company recommends that its passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19. 

DeSantis Press Secretary: Governor Has ‘Earned’ National Spotlight

In response to an Associated Press story that describes Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as “seizing” the national spotlight, his Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told the Florida Capital Star that the governor has earned his newfound respect among Republicans nationwide. 

“Governor DeSantis has earned the national stage by demonstrating real leadership. For elected officials facing a crisis like COVID-19, it’s tempting to abdicate decision-making power to unelected bureaucrats in public health,” Pushaw said. “Governor DeSantis did the opposite. He sought out expertise from health professionals and scientists, he did his own research, and most importantly, he made decisions that were harshly criticized sometimes, but more than a year on, the data has proven that his approach was the right one.”

Miami Beach Mayor Asks Feds to Kill Gambling Compact

In a Thursday letter to Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber asked the federal government to reject the newly-signed gambling compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Indian tribe. 

“I support the goals of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (’IGRA’), namely, to provide Native American tribes with a pathway to greater independence and economic vitality. But the Florida Compact you are considering was not crafted in pursuit of those goals,” Gelber wrote in the letter. 

DeSantis Slams Nikki Fried After She Enters Race for Governor

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) slammed Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried at press conference Wednesday in New Smyrna Beach, after Fried announced that she is running against DeSantis.

“Nikki Fried has done nothing in office. She does nothing,” DeSantis said. “All she does is emote on social media, virtue signal to small dollar donors in California and New York. She put her face, spent millions of dollars to put her face on every gas pump across this state, purely to boost her own image at your expense as a taxpayer.”

DeSantis Signs Record $101.5 Billion Budget

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Wednesday signed into law Florida’s 2021-2022 budget bill, which he calls the Florida Leads budget.

The whopping $101.5 billion budget is the largest in state history, but the tax burden per individual Floridian is the lowest in the country, according to DeSantis.

Defiant DeSantis Signs Bill That Bans Transgender Girls from Girls Sports

A defiant Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday signed a bill banning transgender girls – biological boys – from competing in girls sports. 

“At a bill signing event at the Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, DeSantis touted the ban as a way to protect the integrity of women’s and girls’ sports,” Tampa Bay Times reported, describing the bill as “controversial.”

Nikki Fried Bashes ‘Rigged’ System, Announces Gubernatorial Run

After months of testing the waters and teasing a run for governor, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner has officially launched her bid to take on incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). 

Fried announced the run Tuesday afternoon, posting a video to her official Twitter account.

DeSantis Seeks Approval of Importation of Canadian Prescription Drugs

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is asking the Biden administration to approve a plan that would allow for the importation of FDA-approved Canadian drugs to the Sunshine State, which would lower costs, according to the governor. 

“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis called on the Biden Administration and leadership at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to approve Florida’s Section 804 Importation Proposal (SIP) for Florida’s Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program,” a Friday press release said

Big Tech Lobbyists Sue DeSantis over New Regulations

A pair of Big Tech lobbying groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, have filed a lawsuit against Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state officials, after DeSantis signed into law a bill that regulates Big Tech’s censorship abilities earlier this week. 

“Americans everywhere should oppose Florida’s attempt to run roughshod over the First Amendment rights of private online businesses,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice said, according to POLITICO. “By weakening the First Amendment rights of some, Florida weakens the First Amendment rights of all.”

Florida Delivers Record $765 Million Budget for Teachers

Working with the legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) delivered a record-setting $765 million budget for teachers in the Sunshine State.

“These investments include $550 million to continue elevating minimum teacher salaries, as well as $215 million to provide all of Florida’s eligible public school principals and teachers with $1,000 disaster relief payments,” a press release from the governor’s office said.

FSU Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Former Student Senate President Jack Denton

Florida State University has settled a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of Jack Denton, the former Student Senate President who was removed from his role for criticizing Black Lives Matter. 

After the death of George Floyd, Denton advised fellow students in a Catholic group chat not to donate to Black Lives Matter, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or Reclaim the Block, leftist organizations who support anti-Catholic teachings. 

Florida Ends Federal Pandemic Unemployment Benefits

Amid an ongoing labor shortage that has hit the service industry particularly hard, Florida has become the twenty-third state to reject the federal government’s supplemental $300 per week in COVID-19 unemployment benefits. 

“Florida will end its participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, the $300 per week supplemental FPUC payment, effective June 26, 2021, as part of DEO’s ‘Return to Work’ initiative,” the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) said in a Monday press release. 

DeSantis Vows More Action Against Critical Race Theory

After a teacher in Duval County was fired for violating the ban on Critical Race Theory in the classroom, Florida’s governor has promised even more action against the practice.

“If we have to play whack a mole all over the state stopping this critical race theory, we will do it,” DeSantis said in a Friday press conference. “You can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.”

Two New Names on Subpoena List in Gaetz-Tied Sex Trafficking Probe

The names of two new men connected to the alleged underage sex trafficking case involving Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01) have been released.

One of them is a friend and former employee of Joel Greenberg, the Gaetz associate at the center of the case who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and other crimes earlier this week. 

Florida House Democrats Elect New Leaders

Florida’s House Democrats have elected new leaders, each to serve a two year term beginning after the 2022 and 2024 elections. 

“Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, and Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, will be the next two leaders of Florida House Democrats. The House Democratic caucus on Wednesday elected Alexander to serve as its leader for a two-year period starting after the 2022 elections,” according to The Tallahassee Democrat. “The caucus chose Driskell to serve as leader for the two-year period starting after the 2024 elections.”

Jeb Bush Comes Out Against Florida Gambling Pact

As the Florida Legislature reconvened in Tallahassee Monday for a special session to iron out the details of the state’s new gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, one former Republican Governor spoke out against the deal.

“South Florida is on a roll!” failed 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush said in a statement. “Our great quality of life and an incredible surge of job creators to our region have put us on a path for rising income and prosperity for many more of our neighbors. At the time when our economy is poised for an unprecedented takeoff after taking a hit from the pandemic, now is not the time to expand casino gambling which will benefit a handful at the expense of many.”

Major Florida Companies Drop Mask Mandates After CDC Announcement

After an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 are free to gather without masks, several Florida staples have announced they will not require customers to wear masks this summer. 

“Visitors won’t have to wear face masks outdoors at any of Central Florida’s major theme parks, as Universal Orlando, Disney World and SeaWorld relaxed the COVID-19 rule effective Saturday, sparking a mixed reaction among some fans,” The Orlando Sentinel reported Saturday. 

Report: Feds Expect Plea Deal from Matt Gaetz ‘Wingman’ in Sex Trafficking Case

Citing “multiple people familiar with the situation,” POLITICO reported that Joel Greenberg, a close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01), will plead guilty in an Orlando federal court Monday to charges related to the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl, in exchange for a lenient sentence. 

Greenberg, a friend of Gaetz whom the congressman described as his “wingman,” could provide evidence to federal investigators in a separate case against Gaetz, according to the report. 

DeSantis to Pardon Floridians Who Defied COVID Rules, Says He Will Grant Clemency

In a Wednesday appearance on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that he will pardon and grant clemency to those facing legal battles for breaking mask mandates and social distancing orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis joined Laura Ingraham along with Michael and Jillian Carnevale, who own a gym in Broward County. Last summer, the pair became a target of the Broward County authorities, according to a GoFundMe  for their legal bills. They were both arrested and their business was shut down when they refused to comply with the county’s mask mandate. 

Florida Enters State of Emergency Amid Gas Shortage

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Tuesday evening declared a state of emergency and activated the Florida National Guard amid a gas shortage that is wreaking havoc along the eastern seaboard. 

The order, which directs state officials to work with the federal government and loosens restrictions for truckers from out of state to bring gasoline into Florida, is in effect after a group of hackers called DarkSide executed a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline. 

DeSantis Fills Vacant Seat on Florida Public Service Commission

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Monday announced his appointment to fill the vacant seat on the five-member panel of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). 

Attorney Gabriella Passidomo, daughter of state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) was selected, according to POLITICO. The elder Passidomo is the Senate president-elect in 2022. 

Florida Takes Feds to Court Over Cruise Ship Restrictions

The state of Florida will argue before a federal judge Wednesday that the federal government should not be allowed to interfere with the cruise ship industry, which seeks to get back on its feet after the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns. 

“Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, filed the lawsuit last month challenging restrictions imposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pointing to the economic impact on the state,” according to a CBS Miami report. “Moody’s office is seeking a preliminary injunction based, in part, on arguments that the CDC overstepped its legal authority in imposing the restrictions.”

Conviction of Disgraced Florida Democrat Overturned on Appeal

A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida Thursday won an appeal of her 2017 conviction for corruption, according to several reports. 

Former Democrat Rep. Corrine Brown, who represented Florida’s Fifth and Third Congressional Districts over a period of nearly 25 years, had her conviction overturned after the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the District Court wrongly dismissed a juror after learning that the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty of the crimes. 

Florida Universities Set to Return to Pre-COVID Norms in Fall

During the fall semester, Florida’s 12 public universities are set to return to normal, after a full school year of COVID-19 disruptions. 

“An early evening news release signed by Syd Kitson, chairman of the university system’s Board of Governors, and Marshall Criser, chancellor of the system, said the 12 public universities ‘expect to increase classroom occupancy to pre-COVID capacity by the 2021-22 academic year and return to pre-COVID operations. Further, we anticipate returning to full in-person participation in athletic and social activities on our campuses, including fan participation in stadiums and arenas,'” News Service of Florida reported.  

Police Protection Under Marsy’s Law Heads to Florida Supreme Court

A lawsuit filed by two police officers after separate use-of-force incidents claiming that they are entitled to protection under Florida’s recently-adopted Marsy’s Law Constitutional amendment will head to the state Supreme Court for a decision. 

“A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal last month sided with two Tallahassee police officers, who argued that, as victims, they were entitled to privacy protections included in Marsy’s Law,” WFSU reported. 

Florida Democrats Criticize DeSantis for Banning Mask Mandates

Despite the fact that every American over the age of 15 is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Florida’s Democrats are not ready to return to normal. 

Instead, they are bashing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who Monday signed an executive order banning local governments from requiring mask mandates.

GOP Turns Fundraising Focus to Florida, Rakes in Big Bucks

Recently, multiple reports have chronicled how Florida has been a hotbed for GOP fundraising efforts ahead of the 2022 election cycle. 

“Florida, with its deep bench of wealthy GOP donors, has become central to House Republicans’ early playbook for reclaiming the majority,” POLITICO reported at the end of April. “… Florida is a fundraising goldmine. It is, afterall [sic], where wealthy donors – and TV personalities – flock to homes in Palm Beach, Naples, Boca Grande and other high-income areas.”

Florida Legislature Passes $101.5 Billion Budget

Friday marked the last day of the legislative session, and the state legislature agreed upon a record-setting budget bill. 

“State lawmakers on Friday signed off on a record $101.5 billion on the state budget that has left both Republicans and Democrats happy — mostly,” The Tampa Bay Times reported. 

Florida Legislature Passes Voter ID Law

On the second-to-last day of the legislative session, the Republican-controlled Florida state Senate Thursday passed a new law aimed at election integrity. 

After SB 90 passed the Florida House Wednesday with a vote of 77-40, it did the same in the Senate Thursday by a vote of 23-17. It was passed mostly along partisan lines, with one Republican state Senator, Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, breaking with his party and voting against the measure. 

Report: Former Florida Governor Crist Considering Run Against DeSantis

Rumors are swirling that Florida’s 44th Governor, then a Republican, might enter the 2022 gubernatorial race, this time as a Democrat. 

“U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has opened a political committee named ‘Friends of Charlie Crist,’ which would allow him to start raising money for a 2022 state-level election,” one recent report said. 

Florida House Passes Bill Banning Vaccine Passports

The Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives Wednesday passed a bill would ban “vaccine passports.”

SB 2006 passed by a vote of 76-40 in the House. It now heads back to the Florida Senate after the House added an amendment. 

School Choice Voucher Bill Headed to DeSantis’ Desk After Passing Florida Senate

The Florida Senate Monday passed a bill that would provide $200 million in state funds for school choice voucher programs, sending the bill to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

As reported by The Florida Capital Star last week, the Florida House passed HB 7045 by a margin of 79-36, with four Democrats joining the Republican majority. The voucher program will allow 60,000 more students in Florida to attend an alternative to public school, usually in low-income areas. 

Florida Restaurants Face Labor Shortage as COVID Unemployment Benefits Flow

The federal government is standing in the way of Florida restaurants that are in desperate need of employees as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, and Floridians look to dine out. 

“The biggest challenge out there is the federal government and the state government are going to continue with this unemployment, because that is truly creating the incentive to not work right now,” said Bill Casper, who owns 60 McDonald’s restaurants in the Tampa area. “And, how do you blame somebody? You can make more money on unemployment—and so, we’ve got to be at least above that.”

DeSantis Cuts Deal with Seminole Tribe to Bring Sports Betting to Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to reach an agreement with the Seminole Tribe to bring sports betting to the Sunshine State, as well as expanding current gambling rules.

“The broad parameters of the deal — as confirmed by multiple sources — are that the Seminole Tribe would control sports betting in the state and would offer it at their casinos, including the Hard Rock locations in Hollywood and Tampa,” according to POLITICO. “But sports betting would also be allowed at existing tracks and other poker rooms around the state where the tribe and other gambling operators would split the revenue generated.”

Focus Shifts to Accountability as Florida House Votes to Expand School Choice Program

A bill that was both supported and opposed on the grounds of accountability passed the Florida House Wednesday. 

HB 7045, which will combine two school choice voucher programs and expand eligibility for parents too choose where their children go to school, passed by a vote of 79-36. It will expand Florida’s voucher program to enroll 60,000 more students. 

Broward County Schools Superintendent Arrested on Perjury Charge

The superintendent of the Broward County School District has been arrested and charged with perjury, according to several reports. 

“Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie was arrested Wednesday morning by Florida’s top law enforcement agency, according to records,” The Sun-Sentinel reported. “The sole charge is listed as perjury in an official proceeding.”