Takeaways from Tallahassee — Pride Month showdown

Blue Tally Takeaways (1)
LGBTQ rights have come a long way. Is there further to go?

Pride time

National Pride Month began this week, and Democrats in Florida didn’t miss the opportunity to express support for the LGBTQ community.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Díaz called Pride Month a time to celebrate diversity and progress.

“Fifty-three years after the Stonewall Riots began a new era in the fight for civil rights, the LGBTQI+ community has made great strides to achieve equality and fairness,” Díaz said in a news release.

Anna Eskamani and fellow Democrats say they stand with the LGBTQ community. Image via Twitter.

Top Democratic officials also took a moment Wednesday, the start of Pride Month, to criticize Gov. Ron DeSantis and recent policies such as the Parental Rights in Education law, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“Too many face discrimination in the workplace, lack of access to inclusive health care services, and harassment for who they are or for whom they love,” Díaz continued. “Florida needs leaders in the House, Senate, and Governor’s mansion who are committed to protecting LGBTQI+ rights. Instead, Governor DeSantis and conservative lawmakers continue to advance efforts to discriminate against and stigmatize these communities, including the appalling ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation.”

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who hopes to face off against DeSantis in November, in her own news release said the Republican-led Legislature spent the 2022 Session attacking progress.

“This Legislative Session, we saw an unrelenting attack on the rights and dignity of queer Floridians,” Fried said. “From passing the hateful, discriminatory, and unconstitutional ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and ‘Stop WOKE’ bills to the Governor’s taxpayer-funded communications office perpetrating homophobic conspiracy theories that gay members of the Legislature are ‘groomers,’ it’s so important that we come together this month to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and defend their rights. Such hate and discrimination have no place in the Sunshine State, and we will never stop fighting for equality and freedom.”

However, Democrats’ attacks weren’t limited to Wednesday. The following day, the DeSantis administration moved to exclude gender affirming health care from Medicaid coverage and doubled down on its opposition to providing gender affirming care to children. Then when it came to the budget, DeSantis vetoed support for housing for LGBTQ youth who are at risk of being homeless.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate, criticized DeSantis for the actions regarding gender affirming care.

“Today’s report is yet another painful example of our authoritarian bully governor abusing his power and inserting himself into your doctor’s office if he doesn’t like you, doesn’t agree with you, or doesn’t understand you. Free state, indeed,” Crist said in a news release.

In turn, Republican officials resisted displays of LGBTQ support from Democrats and companies. DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw tweeted multiple critiques of sports teams, companies and institutions — including the U.S. Marine Corps and NASCAR — that made social media posts recognizing the LGBTQ community.

“It’s so weird. I don’t think most gay people demand corporations to put pride flags on everything. What they demanded was to be treated equally under the law, which is completely justified. But now that’s the case, this pandering is extremely cringe,” Pushaw tweeted.

___

Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Gov. DeSantis signs budget, vetoes $3.1B — DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion in spending Thursday as he signed the 2023 fiscal year budget, which still leaves $109.9 billion in place, with increases in nearly every facet of the budget. Federal COVID-19 recovery funds, a swiftly rebounding economy and inflation that has boosted the cost of goods — and therefore sales taxes — helped swell the state’s coffers. That led lawmakers, prodded by DeSantis, to give raises to teachers, prison guards and law enforcement officers. The whopping $3.1 billion veto list includes the $1 billion fund the Legislature set up to pay for additional costs state agencies incur next year due to inflation.

SCOFLA won’t touch congressional map before Midterms — The court announced on Thursday it has denied a request for a new hearing on redistricting. That means the final voice on the matter before the 2022 elections will be Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal, which last month stayed a circuit court decision to replace the map. That means the map designed and signed by DeSantis will govern the 2022 elections. A lawsuit alleging the map violates the Fair Districts amendment to Florida’s Constitution by diminishing the ability of Black constituents to elect a Representative of their choice remains ongoing, but any impact will likely have to wait for a full trial to unfold, something that could take years.

DeSantis administration targets LGBTQ issues — Thursday also marked a major day for the DeSantis administration regarding LGBTQ issues. The administration announced it would push a new policy to specifically exclude gender affirming health care from Medicaid coverage. Medicaid Director Tom Wallace issued a report concluding that the gender affirming health care was experimental, a label that precludes it from being a Medicaid covered service. If successful, Florida will join eight other states that have banned Medicaid coverage of gender affirming health care. Moreover, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo sent a letter to members of the Florida Board of Medicine reiterating his recommendations against providing gender affirming care for children. DeSantis also vetoed $500,000 for the Zebra Coalition, which provides housing to LGBTQ youth who are at risk of being homeless.

Abortion rights groups challenge new ban — Abortion rights groups on Wednesday filed a suit to halt Florida’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, which is set to take effect in a month. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed the lawsuit in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood affiliates, other women’s health centers and other abortion rights advocates. The law contains no exceptions for rape or incest, but does provide an exception if it is necessary to save a pregnant person’s life. “This law blatantly rejects Floridians’ need for essential abortion care and their strong support for the right to get an abortion,” ACLU of Florida Legal Director Daniel Tilley said in a news release.

Special Olympics International vaccine mandate lifted after DeSantis push — Special Olympics International will no longer require participants in the USA Games to be vaccinated against COVID-19, DeSantis announced Friday. The news comes two days before the scheduled beginning of the eight-day event in Orlando. DeSantis said his administration has been fighting Special Olympics International for six months. The state threatened the organization with a $27.5 million fine if it imposed the requirement, which DeSantis said violated a ban on vaccine passports signed last year. “We’ve never seen something wielded like this vaccine to try to marginalize disfavored people to try to deny people full freedom and full rights,” he said. “We don’t want to fight. We want to play,” Special Olympics International wrote in a release.

Part of history

Who’s ready to be a part of history?

DeSantis is taking names of people who want to lead the rebirth of the Florida State Guard. On the eve of hurricane season, DeSantis’ office raised the storm signal flag, calling for applicants for Director of the State Guard.

The State Guard was founded as a World War II-era volunteer force but has been defunct since the 1940s. After DeSantis announced in December that he wanted a dedicated emergency force that doesn’t answer to the federal government, the Legislature reauthorized it in the coming fiscal year’s budget at $10 million.

DeSantis’ office says, “Protect Florida, defend freedom.” Image via WEAR.

“If you love the state of Florida, have a desire to help your community, and have skills beneficial to protect the state from a disaster, we encourage you to apply to join the FLSG,” according to a news release.

Based in St. Augustine, the position will be part-time and pay a $400 to $500 stipend per day. In addition to working as a team and meeting physical, tactical and scheduling requirements, the Governor’s Office asks that applicants be “ready to be a part of history.”

The Governor’s Office says the ideal candidate has experience in military-style operations, emergency management, leadership and problem-solving.

Unlike the Florida National Guard, the State Guard would answer solely to the Governor without federal deployments, federal missions or federal funding. That means the State Guard won’t be subject to the National Guard’s vaccination requirement.

“If we had our own state guard that didn’t report to the Feds and was not obligated to follow those mandates in the first place, then these people wouldn’t even have to worry about getting kicked out,” DeSantis said Thursday.

Far out art

A pair of Broward County young artists will have their art  flown into space on an upcoming SpaceX mission after being named the Grand Prize Winners of the  Spring 2022 Florida Space Art Contest.

Gator Run Elementary School first grader Jiacheng Yu and Maplewood Elementary School fifth grader Kylie Lopez edged out about 2,500 other artists who participated in the art competition for elementary school students. The budding artists were asked to draw from the theme “Florida is the Place for Space: Celebrating Florida’s Contributions to Space Travel and Exploration.”

Jiacheng Yu’s winning artwork.

Art entries were submitted to the  Department of State. Staff in the Division of Arts and Culture whittled down from 2,500 to 60 the number of entries for the Lieutenant Governor to review.

“I applaud our two grand prize winners. Their stellar works of art exemplifies why Florida is the place for space,” Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez said. “We are excited for students to enjoy their prize this summer, and we look forward to honoring all of the winners of the contest at a future event.”

And Kylie Lopez’s winning artwork.

In addition to the two grand prize winners, Nuñez announced two finalists whose artwork also was recognized: Amelie Lopez, a Tuesca kindergarten student at Dolphin Bay Elementary School in Broward County; Heidi Wang, kindergarten student at Joan Walker Elementary School in Seminole County; Katherine Robidoux, second grade student at Westside Elementary School in Brevard County; Gabriele Priestman, second grade student at Hollywood Central Elementary School in Broward County; Ava Potvin, third grade student at A.D. Henderson University School in Palm Beach County; Paul Ladas, fourth grade student at Palmer Catholic Academy in St. Johns County; Ronak Arya, fourth grade student at Somerset Academy South Campus in Broward County; and Moana Jean, fifth grade student at Odyssey Preparatory Academy in Brevard County.

Preaching prep

On the first day of hurricane season, Fried issued a list of tips to help consumers prepare for storms and avoid the scams that come after them.

“For Floridians, the threat of storms is nothing new. While we always hope for the best, we must all prepare for the worst and not become complacent as we enter the 2022 storm season,” Fried said in a news release. “With the potential of an above-average hurricane season, please take the time to make a plan for yourself and your family before potential threats arise and protect against potential natural disaster-related scams after any storms.”

Keeping half a tank of gas is just one of Nikki Fried’s tips. Image via AP.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which Fried oversees, recommends consumers keep all of their vehicles filled with at least a half tank of gas throughout hurricane season and that they keep one car full once the earliest predictions indicate a storm may threaten the state.

Pre-purchased fuel can last about six months and can be kept fresh with a fuel stabilizer. It should only be stored in containers meant to hold fuel — not milk jugs or open-top containers.

Fried and FDACS also warned consumers to be wary of any contractors who promise quick repairs or cleanup work in the immediate aftermath of a storm.

Consumers should do their due diligence by asking for IDs, licenses, proof of insurance, and references. The department urges Floridians not to pay for any repairs or cleanup work in cash.

Imposter scams are also common after natural disasters. Though there are several varieties, they often work in the same way — a scammer pretends to be someone trustworthy and tries to convince their mark to send them money or personal information. This may include posing as a government official, inspector, or utility worker and attempting to convince consumers that immediate work is required.

Immigration standoff

Attorney General Ashley Moody is flagging for U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland what she calls false statements from officials from President Joe Biden’s administration to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a letter sent last week, Moody said Garland’s Department of Justice claimed in its Biden v. Texas arguments that it is longstanding federal policy to use detention capacity as a basis to release detained immigrants who are in the country illegally. However, Moody cited Department of Homeland Security memos from 2014 and 2015 that said the opposite.

Ashley Moody is basically running her own PolitiFact operation. Image via Colin Hackley.

“It seems there is no limit to what Biden officials will say or do in the furtherance of unlawful policies designed to destroy our southern border and weaken our national security,” Moody wrote.

This marks the second time Moody has flagged Biden administration official claims this year. Following the congressional testimony of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claiming the Biden administration’s border policies aren’t contributing to the influx of migrants, Moody highlighted an internal document contrary to the claim.

“If the Biden administration is willing to mislead co-equal branches of our U.S. government, what aren’t they willing to say to the American public?” Moody continued.

Moody’s push also comes as DeSantis looks to revamp his attack on Biden immigration policies. The Governor approved $12 million in the budget to send immigrants who are in the country illegally to other states. Plus, DeSantis expects to sign a bill in the next couple weeks that will cut ties with businesses who help the federal government bring those immigrants to Florida in the first place.

The money man

More than $36 million in unclaimed property was returned to Florida residents last month, Chief  Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced this week.

Patronis’ office returned $10.7 million in unclaimed property to Miami residents, $7.3 million to West Palm Beach residents and $6 million to Tampa Bay-area residents.

Jimmy Patronis says it’s your money, come and get it.

As of May, the Division of Unclaimed Property has returned more than $368 million to Florida residents this fiscal year, which Patronis’ office says is a record breaking amount. Since Patronis took office in 2017, more than $1.6 billion in unclaimed property has been returned to Florida citizens.

“I have made it my mission as Florida’s CFO to return every last cent back to Floridians and my Unclaimed Property team works hard every day to ensure that happens,” Patronis said in a news release. “There is still more than $2 billion just waiting to be claimed and it only takes a few minutes to search with absolutely no cost to you. Now is the perfect time to search our website and discover if there are any unclaimed treasures in your name.”

Residents in other cities also received property returns in May. Orlando residents received $5.4 million, people living in the Fort Myers-Naples area received $3.4 million and Jacksonville residents received $1.4 million.

Tallahassee, Pensacola, Panama City and Gainesville residents also received $840,600, $470,300, $382,700 and $374,900, respectively.

Instagram of the week

The Week in Appointments

Suwannee River Water Management District — DeSantis reappointed Charles Keith and Larry Sessionsto the SRWMD on Friday. Keith is the President and owner of American Pawn Brokers and is a member of the Masonic Lodge No. 114, Elks Lodge No. 893 and the Egypt Temple Shrine. He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Armstrong State University. Sessions is the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority Administrator. He is a U.S. Army veteran and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with an engineering degree.

St. Johns River Water Management District Cole Oliver and Janet Price were reappointed to SJRWMD by the Governor. Oliver is an attorney and partner with the Rossway Swan law firm. He serves on the boards of Cypress Trust, Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, and the East Coast Zoological Society. Oliver earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Washington and Lee University, his master’s degree in finance from Louisiana State University, and his law degree from the University of Florida. Price is a senior manager of environmental affairs at Rayonier, a former Chairperson of the Water and Aquatic Biology Committee, and a former member of the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement board. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Alabama and her master’s degree in biology from the University of Alabama.

South Florida Water Management District — DeSantis reappointed Ron Bergeron and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch to the SFWMD board. Bergeron is President of Bergeron Land Development and Bergeron Properties and Investments. He is also the Founder of the Bergeron Everglades Museum and Wildlife Foundation. Bergeron is a member of the Everglades Coalition, the Florida Sportsmen Conservation Association, and a Governing Board member on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Thurlow-Lippisch a referral agent with Lifestyle Realty Group. She is a volunteer administrator of the River Kidz Organization and a member of the Guardians of Martin County and the Rivers Coalition. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, and German from UF and her master’s degree in curriculum and development from the University of West Florida.

Northwest Florida Water Management District — DeSantis appointed Ted Everett and reappointed Nick Patronis and George Roberts to the NWFWMD. Everett is the Executive Director of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. He serves as the Chairman for Opportunity Florida and as a board member for Northwest Florida Community Hospital. Everett earned his associate degree in forestry from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Augusta University. Patronis is an owner of Captain Anderson’s Restaurant and Waterfront Market. He has served on the boards of the Life Management Center of Northwest Florida, the Florida Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association. Patronis attended Gulf Coast State College. Roberts is the Vice President of Roberts and Roberts. He is a former member of the Development Board of Directors for Florida State University Panama City Campus and a current member of the Florida Transportation Builders Association Board of Directors.

Southwest Florida Water Management District — The Governor reappointed Ed Armstrong III and William Hogarth to the SWFWMD. Armstrong is a Shareholder with Hill Ward Henderson and a member of the American Bar Association and the Florida Bar Association. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Maryland and his law degree from Vanderbilt University. Hogarth is the former Director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography at the University of South Florida. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from the University of Richmond and his doctorate in marine fisheries from North Carolina State University.

Lake County School Board — DeSantis appointed Tyler Brandeburg to the board. Brandeburg, of Leesburg, is a Commercial Insurance Advisor for Brown and Brown. He volunteers with the Educational Foundation of Lake County and is a member of the Leadership Lake County Class of 2019. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from UF.

Byrd: No worries here

Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the state’s election supervisors insist that the state’s voters do not have to worry about potential cybersecurity threats, an ever-present danger ever since Russians were able to successfully hack into the voter registration systems of at least two Florida counties during the 2016 election.

A federal agency that deals with cybersecurity threats on Friday issued an advisory on a type of voting system manufactured by Dominion.

Paper is king, says Cord Byrd. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

In a joint statement, Byrd and supervisors pointed out that the report referenced a type of voting system which was not used in Florida in 2020 or during any prior election cycle.

“Florida’s voters can be confident in the integrity of Florida’s elections system,” Byrd said. “Florida law is very clear, the paper ballot is the best evidence of a voter’s intent. We recognize that Florida’s robust election laws and procedures are the cornerstone to ensuring efficient, accurate elections and boosting voter confidence about elections administration in our state.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said it had discovered “vulnerabilities” in versions of Dominion Voting Systems Democracy Suite ImageCastX. Eighteen counties in the state use voting systems that are manufactured by Dominion.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, who is also president of the statewide association that represents supervisors, said safeguards in place in the state “protect the voice of our voters.” He added that “the vulnerabilities detailed in the report are analogous to leaving your car unlocked with the keys on the front seat and then being surprised that someone might be able to steal it.”

Housing RAP

The Office of Insurance Regulation recently announced rules following the property insurance Special Insurance, including rules related to the new Reinsurance Assistance to Policyholders (RAP) Program.

The Legislature’s main property insurance measure (SB 2D), which DeSantis signed into law last month, made many changes in an attempt to stabilize Florida’s property insurance market. Among them, it established the RAP Program, which will provide a $2 billion reimbursement layer of reinsurance for hurricane losses directly below the mandatory layer of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

Commissioner David Altmaier’s OIR is taking action with the new law.

OIR also issued a notice regarding rate filing for the RAP Program.

“SB 2D requires an insurer that participates in the RAP program for the 2022-2023 contract year to reduce its rates by making a rate filing or amending a pending rate filing with the OIR no later than June 30, 2022, to reflect the cost savings realized by participating in the RAP program,” according to OIR.

“An insurer that defers using the RAP program until the 2023 contract year must reduce rates to reflect the cost savings realized by participating in the program in a rate filing submitted to the OIR no later than May 1, 2023. The insurer shall make no other changes to its rates in the filing.”

Book’s budget wins

Some Democratic lawmakers had little positive to say after DeSantis signed the 2022-23 state budget, but Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book was able to secure millions for her South Florida district and get it past the Governor’s veto pen.

“I was proud to fight to bring home more than $20 million in funding for Broward County,” said Book, whose district will receive funding for water quality projects, health care initiatives and others.

Lauren Book sneaks some past Ron DeSantis. Image via Colin Hackley.

Book also touted $23 million in funding for the Nurse-Family Partnership project, and a new program to guide women with cancer diagnoses through treatment and/or survivorship. However, her top accomplishment was in the tax cut bill.

“I was proud to pass one of my longstanding priorities in the 2022 tax package: the removal of the sales tax on diapers even if only for a year, we believe this paves the way to a permanent exemption and we will go back to pursue the exemption on adult incontinence products as well,” she said.

“While this will truly help families across the state, the agreement only includes infant diapers for one year and I will continue to advocate for a permanent exemption on all diapers, including adult incontinence products, next Session.”

The peanut gallery

Other Democrats had a harder time finding a silver lining, and several of them issued statements blasting DeSantis for his liberal use of the veto pen.

Sen. Shevrin Jones said the $3.1 billion that DeSantis excised from the budget shows “the Governor is more focused on scoring political points in an election year than actually improving people’s lives.

Democrats like Shev Jones weren’t as lucky as Book. Image via Colin Hackley.

“From traffic to workforce development to public safety, Gov. DeSantis vetoed critical needs in our communities that will result in less safe and less economically secure families across the state.”

While Gainesville Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson said she was pleased that appropriations for the Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Facility and Willie Mae Stokes Community Center were preserved, but that she was “deeply disappointed” that other local requests she worked on were vetoed.

The nixed requests included restoration projects for McIntosh Hall and the Gainesville Woman’s Club Restoration as well as funding for the City of Gainesville Paramedic Program.

“While he is happy to take resources from the federal government and the American Rescue Plan, he continues to use the funds for unintended purposes all while attacking President Joe Biden,” she said of DeSantis. “Partisan politics should not supersede the responsibility of our state government to ensure the safety and well-being of Floridians.”

Wear Orange

Tampa Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz is requesting a Special Session on gun violence.

In a letter to Byrd, Cruz requested lawmakers hold a third Special Session this year, this time to address the recent rash of gun violence across the nation.

“It is imperative that we take common sense steps to address this epidemic of gun violence that has led to atrocities in places like Parkland, FL, Buffalo, NY, and most recently in Uvalde, TX,” Cruz wrote.

“We should address these issues with legislation regulating high capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal background checks, and expanding red flag laws. Without concrete action, we will see continued violence, which will be devastating consequences for the people we serve in Tallahassee.”

Wear Orange is particularly poignant this year. Image via Annette Taddeo.

This weekend, advocates against gun violence are asking people to wear orange to honor victims, survivors and their loved ones. Fried is lighting the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Mayo Building orange between Friday and Sunday in their honor.

“Today, as we remember all those we have lost, we need more than words. We demand action from our legislators on the federal, state, and local levels to take meaningful action to address this plague in our country, creating a future where everyone can thrive without fear of gun violence,” Fried said.

Advocates also reacted to a recent raffle at James Madison Preparatory High School in Madison, which included handguns and semi-automatic rifles.

“The ‘2022 Outdoor May Madness’ fundraiser at the James Madison Preparatory High School was aptly named, as it was indeed ‘madness,’” Prevent Gun Violence Florida Board President Patti Brigham said in a statement. “The fact that a high school would hawk firearms, with one of the rafflers claiming, ‘Every country boy needs (a revolver) under the front seat of his truck … I hope that’s legal,’ was not only irresponsible, but reckless.”

2nd Harvest famine

Included within DeSantis’ veto list was $1 million for Second Harvest of the Big Bend to expand its outreach.

The food bank serves 11 counties in North Florida. But Sen. Loranne Ausley and Rep. Allison Tant dreamed bigger and sponsored a project to expand their coverage. The plan would have helped distribute an additional 1.2 million meals and develop a six-acre educational and agricultural center.

Second Harvest goes from $300,000 to nothing. Image via Twitter.

Last year, ahead of the current fiscal year, DeSantis OK’d $300,000 for the program.

“I was disappointed to see the ($1 million) in funds for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend on the Governor’s veto list,” Tant, a Tallahassee Democrat, said in a statement. “At a time when Floridians are experiencing tough times and are facing an affordability crisis, vetoing funds to support food insecurity is wrong and goes against what Floridians need. During the height of the pandemic, the only meals many individuals in Leon and surrounding counties received were from Second Harvest.”

“The state’s poorest and most food insecure zip code is Leon’s 32304,” Tant continued. “Second Harvest has worked to expand their footprint and the number of individuals they need to serve has only grown. These funds would have been used to expand their reach into even more counties and would have created new partnerships with community organizations in rural counties.”

Everglades green

The Everglades Foundation is praising DeSantis for exceeding his four-year commitment to spend more than $2.5 billion on the Everglades and the environment.

This year, DeSantis approved $500 million for the Everglades, including $352.6 million for the state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan that includes the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project. The funds helped push the state beyond his goal with his fourth budget signed as Governor.

SFWMD began construction at the EAA project ahead of schedule and will complete it next year. Image via SFWMD.

In a news release, Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said Florida’s environment is intrinsically linked to its economy.

“It’s clear that our state and its leaders understand the link between Florida’s economy and the environment, and this budget signed by the Governor continues to preserve and protect our Everglades, a central part of our state’s water-based and tourism economy,” Eikenberg said.

The project, administered by the South Florida Water Management District, includes a treatment wetland that will clean water and a reservoir that will store excess water from Lake Okeechobee.

“This Legislative Session was an opportunity to continue our momentum on the EAA Reservoir — a fundamental component of restoring the natural flow of water from Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades to the Florida Keys — and resulted in the funding needed to continue to drive this project forward.”

Double time TEMPO

It’s not just officials at the state level who are celebrating their victories in the budget.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey highlighted the capital city’s expected receipt of $500,000 in Department of Juvenile Justice funding to support its youth program, Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity (TEMPO). That’s twice what the state offered Tallahassee for the program last year.

John Dailey says TEMPO is nationally recognized. Image via Facebook.

TEMPO provides a path for disconnected youth to connect with essential services that enable educational opportunities, workforce training and job placement. It targets youth aged 16-24 who are out of school and out of work. Additionally, TEMPO launched a generational poverty stop-gap initiative in 2020 that allows family members of participants to attain their GED diploma, regardless of age.

“Since we launched the TEMPO program in 2017, the City has engaged more than 1,900 local youths,” Dailey said in a news release. “Through their continuing success, TEMPO alumni are showcasing the positive trajectory the program provides with a zero percent recidivism rate, more than 400 now employed and 297 enrolled in higher education.”

In June 2021, TEMPO graduated its largest GED cohort of 70 students, and this month, more than 80 will graduate from the program with their GED diploma or workforce credential attainment licenses or certificates.

“TEMPO has been described as ‘a lifeline’ by many of the participants,” said Kimball Thomas, Tallahassee’s director of Housing and Community Resilience. “Each day through this program, we are reaching a target demographic that represents, according to data, Tallahassee’s largest potential gun violence victims and offender pools.”

Capitol Directions

Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — DeSantis’ court locked in DeSantis’ map. DeSantis’ Legislature cheered DeSantis’ budget.

Florida Republicans — Up arrow — Florida’s 2022 elections: The biggest bloodbath since Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining.’

Al Lawson — Down arrow — To paraphrase Vegas Vacation: Give DeSantis half the money you would have spent on your campaign, he’ll kick you in the nuts and call it a day.

The budget — Crossways arrow — What’s black, white and red all over?

Simpson & Sprowls — Down arrow — Are they socialists? Because they just got publicly owned.

Kelli Stargel — Down arrow — Did she send DeSantis a box of rainbow cookies or something?

Jimmy Patronis — Up arrow — He keeps trying to make ‘Year of the US&R’ a thing. Looks like he succeeded.

Randy Fine — Down arrow — The next time he threatens school funding, just ignore him. That’s what the Governor does.

State workers — Up arrow — It doesn’t keep pace with inflation, but a 5% raise ain’t nothing.

CCW applicants — Down arrow — Unless FDACS loses its NICS password again, you’re going to have to wait a bit.

Everglades — Up arrow — The river of grass got a pass on the veto list.

FIU — Down arrow — Move over, fifth graders, FIU students need to sell candy bars to fund their Washington trips, too.

USF St. Pete — Down arrow — We hear their new environmental and oceanographic research building will be right next to the Bernie McCabe Courthouse.

Mental health — Up arrow — Either the Governor ran out of red ink, or he actually cared enough to spare behavioral health funding.

FSU College of Medicine — Up arrow — The Governor OK’d a nine-figure academic health center. And it’s not in Pasco.

Pasco County — Down arrow — Look, you’re just not research mecca material … or Spring Training material … or sewage treatment plant material … or road project material.

Tampa Bay Rays — Down arrow — They may be 3-1 against the Sox and 2-2 against the Yankees, but they’re winless against AFP-FL.

Florida TaxWatch — Up arrow — The deadliest day for turkeys isn’t Thanksgiving. Not in Florida, at least.

DOC — Down arrow — Critical need? Nah.

Public radio stations — Up arrow — Imagine the pledge drive from UHF, but the fire hose is an HVAC system spraying phone bankers with R-134a.

LGBTQ community — Down arrow — Another gut punch from the DeSantis administration. Good luck getting ‘Don’t say Medicaid reimbursement’ to trend on Twitter.

Poor women — Down arrow — You’re stuck with the jagged little pill, assuming you can afford it.

Mike Williams — Down arrow — Nassau is the only county in Florida with two elected Sheriffs, for another week.

Kurt Browning — Up arrow — After 42 years, he’s bringing his political career to an end. It hasn’t always been smooth but there is no doubt he has a servant’s heart.

The Queen — Crown — Incumbency has its perks. Happy 70th Jubilee.

Staff Reports



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