Last Call for 12.7.21 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Omicron has arrived in Florida

The Department of Health and a Tampa hospital each announced positive test results for the new COVID-19 variant which was first identified in South Africa last month. It first arrived in the U.S. on Dec. 1.

One of the Florida cases was found at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa. The person infected with the virus had recently traveled outside of the country and has mild symptoms.

The other, in St. Lucie County, was confirmed by DOH. Department officials said they sent a sample to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, and it has since been confirmed as omicron.

“The Department quickly identified a presumptive case of the Omicron variant in Florida. Our teams conducted contact tracing to identify possible exposures and advise on necessary isolation and quarantine protocols,” said Weesam Khoury, a spokesperson for DOH.

Khoury confirmed that the Tampa case and St. Lucie cases were separate individuals.

Initial research indicates omicron is more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants and experts expect it will quickly supplant the delta variant as the dominant strain of the virus in some parts of the world.

However, omicron cases have so far been milder than delta, which took Florida by storm during the summer months.

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The Florida Public Service Commission approved a rate adjustment requested by Florida Power & Light Company to account for rising natural gas prices.

The adjustment, approved Tuesday, will see the average residential FPL customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity — an industry-standard measurement for rate adjustments — pay an extra $6.82 on their monthly bill, which will rise from $113.85 to $120.67.

PSC noted that residential customers in the FPL Northwest Service Territory 1,000 kWh will see their bills rise from $148.78 to $155.61 per month, a $6.83 increase.

The rate increase will kick in next month.

“Rising fuel prices are affecting electricity generation costs. Since projecting its annual fuel costs, FPL has seen more than a 10% cost increase,” PSC Chair Gary Clark said. “The PSC’s cost recovery rule ensures that utility fuel costs are timely monitored, so the PSC can better protect ratepayers now from even further volatility in fuel charges.”

Mid-course corrections are used when a utility’s costs increase or decrease significantly within a calendar year. Utilities must inform PSC when they expect a change in costs of greater than 10% in either direction.

PSC previously approved fuel cost-related rate increases for Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Company, and the Florida Public Utilities Company. Under those adjustments, 1,000 kWh residential customers will pay an extra $8.75, $2.84, and $0.13, respectively.

Evening Reads

First presumptive case of omicron COVID-19 variant hits Florida” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Stuck at port for 54 days: How one ship’s delays hurt small businesses” via Stephanie Stamm, Ruth Simon, Austen Hufford and Inti Pacheco of The Wall Street Journal

DCF, Gov. Ron DeSantis respond to Nikki Fried letter on unused rental aid, release plan for remaining funds” via Daniel Figueroa IV of Florida Politics

Why are we still isolating vaccinated people for 10 days?” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic

Amid push to vaccinate children, other challenges deluge pediatricians” via Noah Weiland of The New York Times

DeSantis burns ‘global warming’ talk, yet pitches $276M in environmental spending” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

Voters approved nonpartisan school boards some 20 years ago, but GOP lawmakers want that to change” via Danielle J. Brown of the Florida Phoenix

‘Let these folks breathe’: Gov. DeSantis urges businesses to unmask employees” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Did Democrats blow it on Roe v. Wade?” via Andrew Prokop of Vox

CNN’s Chris Cuomo mess: Behind Jeff Zucker’s difficult decisions” via Alex Weprin of The Hollywood Reporter

Millions filed in appropriation requests for Tampa Bay veterans” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Tallahassee candidate, FSU officials spar over $20M stadium Blueprint request” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics

Dale Holness, still appealing CD 20 loss, files for 2022 rematch” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

Republicans surge in Jacksonville City Council Special Election turnout battle” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

“In Florida, we won’t let them lock you down; we won’t let them restrict you; we’re not gonna let them impose mandates; we’re not gonna let them close the schools. We are going to protect your freedom to make your decisions.” — Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying the arrival of omicron won’t impact his COVID-19 approach.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Ron Brackett, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, and Tristan Wood.

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