Last update: 2024-02-27 23:15:51


The Dawn of the "DeSantis Dollar": A Stealth Path to Florida's CBDC Nightmare

Welcome to 'Capitol T,' where the brew is strong, the leaves are loose, and the gossip flows as freely as the waters of the Okeechobee. So grab your mug and settle in - it's time to spill the Tea on what's happening in Tallahassee.

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The Dawn of the "DeSantis Dollar": A Stealth Path to Florida's CBDC Nightmare

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News around the USA

Tourism and Economy

Why this company moved its HQ to build a 'Chewy for caregivers' in South Florida

Carewell, an e-commerce company that provides products for caregivers of aging parents and relatives, was founded in Miami in 2017 and later moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. After securing $24.7 million in funding and seeing success with Florida-based investors, the company has decided to relocate its headquarters back to South Florida. The move aligns with Florida's significant senior population and the company's focus on expanding its range of caregiving products. Inspired by the success of Chewy, Carewell aims to provide a one-stop shop for caregivers, offering fast shipping, low prices, and 24/7 customer support. The company plans to hire local talent in Florida, where it is currently searching for a permanent base. As the demand for caregivers in the U.S. is expected to increase, Carewell is also looking to expand its product range to include items for expectant and new mothers.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2024/02/26/carewell-launched-miami-headquarters-caregivers.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Miami, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 22:52:50

Miami-Dade ranks as second-best performing hotel market in U.S., report says

Miami-Dade County secured the second position in the United States for hotel stays during January, with a 3.9% year-over-year increase in hotel occupancy to 78.5%. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau reported that room rates in the county remained stable at $251.27, and revenue per available room rose by 3.9% to $197.22. The county hosted events such as the Miami International Boat Show and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, contributing to the high hotel occupancy. With ongoing efforts to promote and plan for upcoming travel seasons, including the Easter holidays, Miami-Dade has maintained its ranking among the top U.S. hotel markets.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2024/02/26/miami-dade-2nd-top-performing-market-hotel-stays.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Miami, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 22:44:29

Ellianos Coffee to add Middleburg location

Ellianos Coffee, a drive-thru specialty coffee brand operating in the Southeast, has announced its expansion into Clay County, with a new location set to open at 2578 County Road 220 in Middleburg. Founded in 2002, the company currently operates 49 stores and has over 150 more in various stages of development. The brand offers a menu featuring specialty coffee drinks, fruit smoothies, Red Bull rushes, teas, shakes, and breakfast options. In 2023, Ellianos experienced significant growth with expansion in Florida and Georgia and is now seeking franchisees in Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2024/02/26/ellianos-coffee-middleburg.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Middleburg, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 19:57:37

Lennar CEO discusses housing shortage and more at University of Miami real estate conference

Top executives of Lennar Corp. and Invitation Homes suggested addressing the national housing shortage through technology, partnerships, and single-family rentals during the University of Miami's 2024 Real Estate Impact Conference. Stuart Miller, Lennar Corp.'s executive chairman, emphasized the pressing need to meet the demand for affordable housing. He discussed the build-to-rent model as a means of creating more attainable housing and mentioned the company's involvement in producing 3D homes in Texas and acquiring a startup that produces prefabricated homes. Dallas B. Tanner, CEO of Invitation Homes, highlighted the company's expansion plans and focus on building houses at a price point that makes sense for both developers/landlords and renters. Both companies expressed interest in using new technology to build more cost-effectively and sustainably, including modular home building. In addition, they mentioned the positive impact of the Live Local Act in encouraging the development of affordable rentals in South Florida. The scarcity of affordable land in South Florida has led developers to explore opportunities in areas previously used for agriculture, and both companies are actively involved in building homes in South Miami-Dade and exploring opportunities across the region. Overall, both companies are actively seeking solutions to the national housing shortage through innovative approaches and strategic partnerships in various areas of South Florida.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2024/02/24/housing-market-lennar-invitation-homes-um-panel.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Miami, United States
Published: 2024-02-24 12:42:30

Restaurant roundup: Miami restaurant wins SOBEWFF Burger Bash, plus 6 new eateries opening in South Florida

Miami-based fast casual restaurant Pincho won the Heinz People's Choice Award at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash event on Feb. 22, marking its third win. The winning dish was the Jalapeño Delight Burger. Other Miami restaurants present at the event included Motek, Apocalypse BBQ, Skinny Louie, and the pop-up Cowy Burger, which won the event’s Very Best Burger Award. In addition to this, several new restaurants opened in Miami, including Mastro’s Ocean Club, La Màrtola, Peking Duck House, Pasta, and Piegari Ristorante. Miami-based hospitality group Noble 33 is set to open Sparrow Italia and Casa Madera, at Wynwood's Moxy Hotel, offering modern Italian and coastal Mexican cuisine, respectively.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2024/02/23/sobewff-burger-bash-winner-restaurant-openings.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Miami, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 20:49:05

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Local Elections

Donald Bowens lands all star endorsements in St. Pete City Council bid

Donald Bowens, a candidate for the open District 7 seat on the St. Petersburg City Council, has received endorsements from several prominent figures, including current and former City Council members, former professional athletes, and community leaders. The endorsements highlight Bowens' potential as a leader and his commitment to listening to constituents and addressing key issues such as economic opportunity, affordable housing, and youth programs. Bowens has a background in health care management and has emphasized his dedication to serving the community. He faces competition from former City Council member Wengay Newton and restaurateur Daniel Soronen in the upcoming election.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661671-donald-bowens-lands-all-star-endorsements-in-st-pete-city-council-bid/
Location: St. Petersburg, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 22:40:35

Fatigue and frustration as final do-over mayoral election looms in Connecticut's largest city

The mayoral primary in Bridgeport, Connecticut has been mired in controversy for the past four months due to allegations of ballot stuffing, leading to multiple primaries and a general election that did not count. The incumbent mayor, Joseph Ganim, faced legal challenges from his main challenger, John Gomes, resulting in a protracted and unprecedented electoral process. The ongoing scandal has garnered national attention and raised concerns about the security of elections. Despite voter fatigue and disenfranchisement, the lack of accountability has perpetuated cynicism among residents. Ganim has secured key endorsements for another term, while some residents express hope for positive change after the tumultuous electoral saga.

Link: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/politics/2024/02/25/fatigue-and-frustration-as-final-do-over-mayoral-election-looms-in-connecticuts-largest-city/
Location: Bridgeport, United States
Published: 2024-02-25 05:01:35

Fatigue and frustration as final do-over mayoral election looms in Connecticut's largest city

A prolonged and contentious mayoral election saga in Bridgeport, Connecticut has left many voters frustrated and fatigued. The controversy stems from allegations of ballot stuffing, leading to the nullification of two primaries and a general election. The incumbent mayor, Joseph Ganim, who previously served prison time for corruption, has denied knowledge of the alleged ballot manipulation and has called for statewide election reforms. The situation has been further complicated by video evidence. Despite this, voter turnout has remained relatively steady but low, with some residents expressing apathy and disenfranchisement due to the lack of accountability. Meanwhile, Ganim has garnered key endorsements in the run-up to the election, and the challenger, John Gomes, is running as an independent in the upcoming mayoral race. The protracted election controversy has ignited debates about the security of U.S. elections, while some hope that the ongoing saga will prompt positive changes for future elections in Bridgeport.

Link: https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2024/02/25/fatigue-and-frustration-as-final-do-over-mayoral-election-looms-in-connecticuts-largest-city/
Location: Bridgeport, United States
Published: 2024-02-25 05:01:35

Analysis: Cindy Lerner has ‘uphill but achievable path’ to unseat Miami-Dade Commission incumbent in Primary

Former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner is projected to pose a significant challenge to incumbent Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado in the upcoming August election, as per MCI Maps' Matt Isbell. The district is considered to be highly competitive, with Democrats holding a numerical advantage over Republicans. Lerner, a Democrat, will face off against Regalado, a Republican, as well as Richard Praschnik. Despite Regalado's larger campaign funds, Lerner's strong progressive platform and the district's Democratic-leaning voter composition make her a formidable contender. The upcoming election is expected to draw high voter turnout, and Isbell suggests that Lerner has a realistic chance of defeating the incumbent or at least forcing a November runoff.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661312-analysis-cindy-lerner-has-uphill-but-achievable-path-to-unseat-miami-dade-commission-incumbent-in-primary/
Location: Miami, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 22:55:19

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Bills and Laws

School chaplain bill clears final Senate committee, will head to floor

A bill allowing schools to have volunteer chaplains, SB 1044, advanced in the Senate Rules Committee and will move to the Senate floor. The measure would permit chaplains to provide supports and services to students with parental consent and district approval. Opposition from groups such as the League of Women Voters and concerns about non-traditional religions being represented in schools was voiced. The House also passed a similar bill, HB 931, which faced Democratic resistance. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kim Daniels, rebuffed criticism in a debate, emphasizing her religious practices and commitment to not imposing beliefs on others.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661625-chaplain-senate/
Location: None
Published: 2024-02-26 22:16:31

‘Personhood’ bill hits resistance amid IVF, abortion concerns

A bill in Florida that critics feared would criminalize legal abortions and impact in vitro fertilization failed to advance as it was postponed at its final committee stop, effectively halting its progress with two weeks left in the Regular Session. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Erin Grall, requested the postponement, citing the need to address remaining questions and concerns. The bill's House version is ready for a floor vote, but the Senate would require a special committee hearing to bring it to the floor. Critics, particularly Democrats and abortion rights advocates, had worried that the bill's personhood provision could threaten doctors performing abortions and have implications for IVF procedures. Their concerns were exacerbated by a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that recognized embryos as people under the state's constitution, leading IVF clinics to halt procedures, potentially impacting prospective parents financially and emotionally. Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book expressed ongoing apprehension about the bill's personhood aspect, despite amendments aimed at protecting women and doctors involved in legal abortions from lawsuits.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661659-personhood-bill-hits-resistance-amid-ivf-abortion-concerns/
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 20:49:44

Controversial defamation bill dead in the Senate — again

The Florida Senate will not consider a controversial defamation bill, despite it receiving some support in the House. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo's office indicated a lack of interest in the bill and stated that there are no plans to take it up. The Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Jason Brodeur also faced obstacles and did not make it onto the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee's final agenda. The bill sparked outrage from media outlets and conservative personalities, who argued that it could endanger free speech and disproportionately impact conservative voices. Gov. Ron DeSantis had called for changes to Florida's defamation laws, but the bill faced significant opposition across the political spectrum. Despite the pushback, bill sponsor Rep. Alex Andrade remains optimistic about its future.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661639-controversial-defamation-bill-dead-in-the-senate-again/
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 19:34:00

Florida bill banning social media for minors under 16 heads to DeSantis' desk

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has received a bill aimed at restricting children from using social media platforms and has until March 1 to decide whether to sign it into law. The bill, known as HB 1, aims to prevent minors under 16 from creating social media accounts, requires platforms to terminate existing accounts held by minors, and allows parents to request the termination of their children's accounts. DeSantis has expressed concerns about the bill, particularly regarding parental rights, and is considering the changes made to the bill before making a decision. Opponents argue that parents should have the autonomy to decide whether their children use social media and claim that the bill is unconstitutional, while supporters dispute these arguments.

Link: https://www.orlandoweekly.com/news/florida-bill-banning-social-media-for-minors-under-16-heads-to-desantis-desk-36274038
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 12:31:00

Lincoln’s Ghost: Now available in hardcover

The book "Lincoln’s Ghost: Our Haunted Presidency" compiles over two hundred years of ghost stories associated with American presidents. It combines history, humor, speculation, and campfire-style ghost stories, appealing to those interested in presidential history. The American public's fascination with the supernatural and reverence for the presidency creates a compelling blend, with stories ranging from Lincoln's ghost in the White House to tales of Jackson haunting his wife's grave. The book underscores the idea that even presidents are subject to the human condition.

Link: https://thefloridasqueeze.com/2024/02/26/lincolns-ghost-now-available-in-hardcover/
Location: Washington, D.C., United States
Published: 2024-02-26 12:29:00

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Judicial and Legal Affairs

Political consultant behind fake Biden robocalls says he was trying to highlight a need for AI rules

Steve Kramer, a political consultant, has acknowledged his involvement in a robocall mimicking President Joe Biden's voice in an effort to raise awareness about the potential misuse of artificial intelligence. The calls, sent to New Hampshire voters ahead of the primary, falsely suggested that voting in the primary would preclude voters from casting a ballot in November. Kramer defended his actions, asserting that his primary goal was to highlight the dangers of artificial intelligence in political campaigns. While New Hampshire authorities are investigating the calls as a potential violation of voter suppression laws, Kramer maintains that his intention was not to suppress turnout. He has been subpoenaed by the Federal Communications Commission and plans to cooperate with the investigation. Despite bipartisan efforts in Congress to regulate AI in political campaigns, no federal legislation has been passed. In response to this incident, the FCC has banned robocalls containing AI-generated voices and major tech companies have pledged to adopt precautions to prevent AI tools from disrupting elections. Kramer expressed a desire for immediate action across regulatory bodies and social platforms, emphasizing his commitment to doing the right thing.

Link: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/politics/2024/02/26/political-consultant-behind-fake-biden-robocalls-says-he-was-trying-to-highlight-a-need-for-ai-rules/
Location: New Hampshire, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 22:05:14

Political consultant behind fake Biden robocalls says he was trying to highlight a need for AI rules

Political consultant Steve Kramer has revealed that he orchestrated a robocall mimicking President Joe Biden's voice to raise awareness about the potential misuse of artificial intelligence and did not intend to influence the outcome of the New Hampshire primary. Despite facing an investigation for potential voter suppression, Kramer insists that his aim was to draw attention to the harmful effects of AI in political campaigns. He claims to have acted independently and without the knowledge of the companies involved in transmitting the calls. Kramer, a firm owner with extensive campaign experience, expressed frustration with the slow regulation of AI and has called for immediate action from regulatory bodies and social platforms. The use of AI in elections has raised concerns about misinformation, prompting bipartisan efforts in Congress to regulate AI in political campaigns. Since the incident, the FCC has prohibited AI-generated robocalls, and major tech companies have agreed to adopt precautions to prevent the disruptive use of AI tools in elections.

Link: https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2024/02/26/political-consultant-behind-fake-biden-robocalls-says-he-was-trying-to-highlight-a-need-for-ai-rules/
Location: New Hampshire, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 22:05:14

FTC sues to block Kroger's planned $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a lawsuit to block Kroger Co.'s $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons Cos. Inc., stating that the merger would eliminate competition, leading to higher prices for groceries and other essential household items. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Oregon, has the support of a bipartisan group of nine attorneys general. The FTC claims that the proposed divestiture plan to sell stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers is inadequate and would not maintain a competitive marketplace. Kroger has argued that the merger would benefit customers, employees, and communities. Both sides are expected to present their arguments in court, with the process potentially taking a year or more.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2024/02/26/ftc-sues-to-block-kroger-acquisition-of-albertsons.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Portland, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 20:04:24

Manhattan DA asks judge for a gag order in Trump’s hush-money case ahead of next month’s trial

Prosecutors in the New York hush-money criminal case against Donald Trump have requested a gag order to prevent him from making public statements that could interfere with the trial. They cited Trump's history of making inflammatory remarks about individuals involved in his legal cases. The gag order would specifically prohibit comments about potential witnesses and jurors, as well as statements intended to harass court staff and the prosecution team. The request does not include barring Trump from commenting about the Manhattan district attorney. The judge has not yet ruled on the request, and Trump's legal team is expected to respond in court. Trump is already subject to a gag order in a separate federal case in Washington.

Link: https://wsvn.com/news/politics/manhattan-da-asks-judge-for-a-gag-order-in-trumps-hush-money-case-ahead-of-next-months-trial/
Location: New York City, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 19:49:20

Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Bidens to remain jailed while he awaits trial, judge rules

Former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, charged with fabricating a bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden's family, has been ordered to remain in custody while awaiting trial by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II in Los Angeles. The judge cited concerns that Smirnov, who claims ties to Russian intelligence, could flee the country. Smirnov pleaded not guilty to charges of falsely claiming that executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid the Bidens $5 million each in 2015. Prosecutors raised the issue of Smirnov's extensive contact with Russian intelligence officials and his alleged plans to travel overseas after his arrest, arguing that he could not be trusted if released. Smirnov's attorneys highlighted his lack of criminal history and strong ties to the U.S., including a significant other in Las Vegas. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency petition by Smirnov's lawyers, and the case remains with Judge Wright. The allegations by Smirnov have been central to Republican efforts to investigate the Bidens, but no evidence has emerged of corruption or bribery by Joe Biden.

Link: https://wsvn.com/news/politics/ex-fbi-informant-charged-with-lying-about-bidens-to-remain-jailed-while-he-awaits-trial-judge-rules/
Location: Los Angeles, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 18:46:18

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Federal Elections in Florida

Biden, Trump plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are set to visit the U.S-Mexico border in Texas on Thursday, aiming to capitalize on the immigration issue for their respective political agendas in anticipation of a potential campaign rematch. Biden will travel to Brownsville, Texas, to meet with border agents and discuss the need for bipartisan legislation, marking his second visit to the border as president. Meanwhile, Trump plans to visit Eagle Pass, Texas, echoing his anti-immigrant rhetoric and criticizing Biden’s handling of the immigration crisis. Both trips underline the significance of the immigration issue in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential race. The border region has been experiencing a surge in illegal crossings, attributed to various factors such as climate change, conflict in other nations, and economic conditions. The Biden administration has been endeavoring to combine border enforcement with increased legal pathways for migrants, but the capacity of the immigration system has been overwhelmed by the influx. The failure of recent congressional talks to address the border situation has prompted Biden to consider executive actions to deter migrants from entering the U.S, potentially invoking broad presidential authorities outlined in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Trump’s campaign contends that Biden’s planned visit is a defensive move in response to the immigration crisis, while Biden’s camp points to the Republican opposition to a bipartisan border funding bill as the main obstacle to legislative progress. Both candidates are reportedly focusing on immigration as a priority in their respective campaigns, with Trump highlighting the challenges caused by the influx of migrants and Biden emphasizing the need for bipartisan legislation to address the border situation.

Link: https://www.wptv.com/news/political/biden-trump-plan-trips-to-the-mexico-border-thursday
Location: Brownsville, Texas
Published: 2024-02-26 21:56:26

Republicans say Georgia student's killing shows Biden's migration policies have failed

A 22-year-old nursing student, Laken Riley, was killed in a violent act, leading to blame placed on President Joe Biden's immigration policies by Republicans, including former President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp. The accused, Jose Ibarra, is a Venezuelan citizen who unlawfully entered the U.S. in September 2022. Riley's death drew a large gathering for a vigil and raised concerns about safety on campus. Trump reiterated his promise to deport migrants if reelected, while the White House extended condolences to Riley's family and referred to ICE and local law enforcement for inquiries. The incident has fueled political debates, with Republicans emphasizing immigration enforcement, while Democrats have criticized the response as xenophobic. However, studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to be involved in violent crime than native-born citizens. Kemp's focus on immigration may support his political aspirations, potentially aiding him in future elections.

Link: https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2024/02/26/republicans-say-georgia-students-killing-shows-bidens-migration-policies-have-failed/
Location: Athens, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 21:27:11

Biden and Trump are making dueling trips to the Mexico border in Texas on Thursday, AP sources say

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both planning trips to the Mexican border in Texas, highlighting the significance of immigration as a key issue in the 2024 presidential race. Biden will visit Brownsville to discuss the need for bipartisan legislation, while Trump will head to Eagle Pass. The increasing number of people illegally crossing the border has been attributed to various factors including climate change, economic reasons, and cartels profiting from migration. The Biden administration has been aiming to address the issue through a mix of border crackdowns and creating legal pathways for migrants. However, the current immigration system's capacity has been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants. Biden and Trump have engaged in a war of words, with Biden accusing Republicans of abandoning the bipartisan border deal, and Trump criticizing Biden's handling of the immigration crisis. Meanwhile, the failed border bill has led the Department of Homeland Security to reassess its priorities and consider budget reallocations, including potentially reducing detention beds and deportation flights. Both presidents are using the issue of immigration to gain political advantage in the upcoming elections.

Link: https://www.bostonherald.com/2024/02/26/biden-and-trump-are-making-dueling-trips-to-the-mexico-border-in-texas-on-thursday-ap-sources-say-2/
Location: Brownsville, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 20:26:15

Trump as the candidate of stability? That’s how many voters now see it

In a time of political and economic uncertainty, recent polls suggest that voters are looking for stability and are divided on whether President Joe Biden can provide it. Despite concerns about several challenges, including inflation, migration, and lingering pandemic effects, there is uncertainty about who can restore stability. A new poll indicates that voters are split on whether former President Donald Trump or Biden could bring more stability to the country. The issue of stability also ties into voter concerns about leadership and fear of chaos. While Democrats are aware of the challenge, they are divided on potential strategies. Additionally, the upcoming election may be determined by low-information swing voters who prioritize their personal experiences and perceptions of past economic prosperity and social issues. The election's outcome could hinge on which image – of stability or extremism – resonates more with these voters.

Link: https://www.bostonherald.com/2024/02/26/trump-as-the-candidate-of-stability-thats-how-many-voters-now-see-it/
Location: Washington D.C., United States
Published: 2024-02-26 19:50:41

Billionaire GOP donors pivot to Congress after Haley’s run fades

The Republican donor class initially considered Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley as potential candidates for the 2024 election, but with Donald Trump's strong performance in the South Carolina GOP primary, traditional donors are now facing limitations in exerting their influence. This has led them to redirect their support to state-level races instead of backing Haley, as Trump's momentum has dominated the Republican field. Haley has received substantial financial support but faces a cash crunch with some major donors withdrawing support. Despite this, she remains committed to her candidacy, aiming to perform well in the upcoming Super Tuesday elections and presenting herself as a viable alternative to Trump.

Link: https://www.bostonherald.com/2024/02/26/billionaire-gop-donors-pivot-to-congress-after-haleys-run-fades/
Location: None
Published: 2024-02-26 19:37:01

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State Government

Millions of small businesses have a new reporting requirement. Here's what to know.

A new requirement for small businesses to file ownership information with the government, known as Beneficial Ownership Information reports, has been deemed easy by most who have completed it, according to a survey by Small Business Majority. Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have until 2025 to file this information with the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. While some studies indicate a lack of awareness among small-business owners about the new requirement, proponents argue that it is essential for combatting criminal activities such as money laundering and funding terrorist networks. Despite opposition and a lawsuit from the National Small Business Association, advocates believe that the law will withstand judicial scrutiny and play a crucial role in helping law enforcement crackdown on criminal enterprises.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/news/2024/02/26/cta-corporate-transparency-act-small-business.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: None
Published: 2024-02-26 21:47:17

Republicans say Georgia student's killing shows Biden's migration policies have failed

A nursing student, Laken Riley, was killed in a violent act, which has sparked a debate on immigration policies and the impact on public safety. Former President Donald Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp blamed President Joe Biden's immigration policies for the killing. The accused, Jose Ibarra, a Venezuelan citizen, is said to have unlawfully entered the U.S. in 2022. The incident has triggered emotional gatherings, including a vigil, and political statements. The White House offered condolences and referred inquiries to ICE and local law enforcement. The situation has become part of the immigration debate, with some criticizing the Republican response and the portrayal of migrants as criminals. Amidst this, studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to be involved in violent crimes compared to native-born citizens. The incident has also raised attention to the immigration issue in the political landscape, potentially influencing future elections and the stance of political leaders on immigration policies.

Link: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/politics/2024/02/26/republicans-say-georgia-students-killing-shows-bidens-migration-policies-have-failed/
Location: Atlanta, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 21:27:11

SpaceX, NASA prep for Crew-8 launch to space station from Florida coast

SpaceX and NASA are preparing for a crewed launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from Florida's Space Coast. The Crew-8 mission will use SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket to transport the crew to the ISS. The mission aims to conduct scientific experiments and technology demonstrations while on board the ISS, with a focus on research to aid in human exploration beyond Earth's orbit. The Dragon spacecraft, named "Endeavour," was previously used for other ISS missions. The first stage booster is expected to land at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The launch will be streamed live by News 6.

Link: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/space-news/2024/02/26/spacex-nasa-prep-for-crew-8-launch-to-space-station-from-florida-coast/
Location: Cape Canaveral, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 20:24:59

Embracing Legacy, Leading the Charge

In honor of Black History Month, the University of Central Florida (UCF) celebrated the contributions and legacies of African Americans, highlighting notable individuals within its community who are embracing their Black heritage and making positive impacts. Among them, Toshami Calvin, representing Jamaica as the 2022 Miss Universe Jamaica winner, has been using her platform to raise awareness for autism. Pegasus Professor Peter Delfyett, a leader in optics and photonics engineering at UCF, has made significant contributions to scientific knowledge, including 45 patents. Shaquem Griffin overcame physical challenges to become a star football player at UCF and was the only known one-handed player in NFL history. Xavier Henderson, a UCF graduate, is now a senior systems engineer at Lockheed Martin and chief technical officer of a water sustainability company, Hydronomy Inc. Sisters Natacha and Sabrina Jérôme, both UCF alumni, have been recognized for their accomplishments, with Natacha making strides in the business world at PepsiCo and Sabrina excelling in multicultural affairs and social advocacy. Derreasha Jones, a UCF graduate, has preserved the legacy of John T. Washington, one of the university's first Black faculty members. Konya Plummer, a UCF graduate, made history by becoming the youngest captain at the 2019 FIFA World Cup and leading Jamaica to qualify for the tournament. Timanni Walker, a UCF advertising and public relations graduate, is now a strategy director at a New York City advertising agency and has also created her own women's suiting company, Always in Pursuit, reflecting her Caribbean heritage.

Link: https://www.ucf.edu/news/embracing-legacy-leading-the-charge/
Location: Orlando, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 18:10:57

Moms for Liberty co-founder backed for Florida ethics panel, despite heavy opposition

Tina Descovich, a co-founder of the conservative group Moms for Liberty, faced opposition from Democrats in her bid to be confirmed as a member of the state Commission on Ethics. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, with all three panel Democrats dissenting, backed her confirmation, but she still needs approval from the full Senate. Descovich, a former Brevard County School Board member, has been heavily involved in Moms for Liberty's efforts to address what they view as indoctrination in public schools and inappropriate school-library content. Democrats questioned potential conflicts of interest arising from her advocacy work and connections to high-ranking government officials. Descovich denied any conflict and clarified Moms for Liberty's endorsement process for school board candidates. She also confirmed her attendance at a meeting with Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., but denied influencing the governor's choices. Senator Debbie Mayfield defended Descovich, expressing confidence in her ability to serve in both capacities effectively.

Link: https://www.orlandoweekly.com/news/moms-for-liberty-co-founder-backed-for-florida-ethics-panel-despite-heavy-opposition-from-democrats-36275145
Location: Brevard County, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 16:17:00

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State Elections

Primary apathy in Michigan: Democrats, GOP struggle as supporters mull whether to even vote

In Michigan, there is a lack of enthusiasm among voters ahead of the upcoming primary elections, with concerns about low turnout and difficulties in generating excitement for the presidential race. Both major parties see Michigan as a crucial state for winning the White House in 2024. Despite early voting hitting over 1 million people, there seems to be a prevailing sense of apathy and uncertainty among voters. Young Michigan voters, who previously showed high turnout rates, appear to be less enthusiastic this time around. Both Democrats and Republicans are grappling with generating voter enthusiasm. The article indicates that President Biden's campaign is facing an enthusiasm problem, with top surrogates, such as Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, being deployed to Michigan to address this issue. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump's loyal core of supporters does not guarantee wins, especially considering his narrow victory in 2016 and subsequent loss in 2020. The article points out that Trump is attempting to broaden his appeal to voters disillusioned with Biden and the Democrats but also highlights challenges such as party factionalism and the potential impact of economic sentiments on voter mood. Additionally, concerns are raised about the lack of enthusiasm among Black voters, traditionally a Democratic stronghold, in Detroit. Despite the prevailing apathy, community leaders are working to educate and inform voters in the hope of increasing voter energy and participation. It is emphasized that this effort is crucial in countering voter apathy and low turnout.

Link: https://www.bostonherald.com/2024/02/26/primary-apathy-in-michigan-democrats-gop-struggle-as-supporters-mull-whether-to-even-vote/
Location: Detroit, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 21:41:04

What to expect in Michigan's presidential primary

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are facing opponents in the Michigan primary on Tuesday. Biden's challenge comes from Rep. Dean Phillips, while Trump faces former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Complications arise due to factors such as Arab American and progressive activists urging voters to cast ballots for "uncommitted" in protest of Biden's support for Israel. The Republican primary presents a similarly complex situation, with a dispute within the Michigan Republican Party leading to rival events to allocate delegates. Michigan's primary, with polls closing at 8 p.m. local time, is the first step in awarding delegates to the presidential candidates. The Republican and Democratic parties are the only contests on the ballot. Any registered voter in Michigan can participate in either primary, and candidates must meet certain thresholds to qualify for delegates. Both Biden and Trump are expected to win in Michigan, with Biden likely to win delegates if the "uncommitted" campaign reaches the 15% vote threshold. On the Republican side, Haley's performance in South Carolina's primary is crucial for her campaign's viability. Michigan has seen an increase in early voting, with nearly 1,006,000 votes cast before Election Day in the 2024 presidential primaries. Vote-counting typically takes several hours, with results reported shortly after polls close. The Associated Press will provide coverage of both the Democratic and Republican primaries and will only declare a winner when trailing candidates cannot close the gap.

Link: https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/national-international/what-to-expect-michigans-presidential-primary/3243196/
Location: Detroit, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 16:10:10

Ronna McDaniel to step down as RNC chair next week

Ronna McDaniel will resign as the chair of the Republican National Committee on March 8, following Donald Trump's endorsement of a new leader. Her decision comes after Trump criticized the RNC for hosting primary debates he refused to participate in and insisted on a focus on voter integrity issues. McDaniel stated that she intends to allow the nominee to select a new chair and emphasized her commitment to winning the White House and electing Republicans in November.

Link: https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/26/ronna-mcdaniel-rnc-00143263
Location: None
Published: 2024-02-26 07:18:00

Andy Kim hands a third straight loss to NJ first lady Tammy Murphy in Senate primary

Andy Kim secured the Hunterdon County Democratic line, which is a significant achievement as it places him in the same column as other party-endorsed candidates in New Jersey's primary system. Kim won the county contest with 62% of the vote, showing momentum in his bid to replace indicted Sen. Bob Menendez. Despite being the state's fourth smallest county by population, Kim's win marks the third consecutive Democratic convention victory. Hunterdon offers an insight into how voters without clear connections to the candidates may react. The proposed ballot positioning changes caused controversy, with both Kim and Murphy expressing their positions. Overall, Hunterdon County's impact on the broader Democratic primary contest is limited, representing 1.2% of all Democrats in the state. In addition, Sue Altman received unanimous endorsement for the Democratic ticket in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District, which is considered one of the most competitive races in 2024.

Link: https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/25/andy-kim-tammy-murphy-primary-00143216
Location: Flemington, United States
Published: 2024-02-25 17:48:47

Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina

Former President Trump is projected to have won the South Carolina GOP primary, securing a comprehensive victory over Nikki Haley, based on an exit poll by Decision Desk HQ. This adds to Trump's previous wins over Haley in other states. The win was anticipated, with polling showing Trump leading Haley by a significant margin. With her remaining as his major challenger, questions about her viability have been raised, despite her past role as South Carolina's governor. The upcoming Super Tuesday is now in focus, while the Trump campaign anticipates winning the necessary GOP delegates by March 19.

Link: https://www.wfla.com/news/national/trump-easily-defeats-haley-in-south-carolina/
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Published: 2024-02-25 00:59:51

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Miami Politics

Dezer breaks ground 62-story tower in Sunny Isles Beach, Bentley's first branded residences (Photos)

Dezer Development has initiated the construction of Bentley Residences Miami, the first branded residences for Bentley Motors, on a 2.37-acre site in Sunny Isles Beach. The 62-story tower will consist of 216 units, with over 40% already sold. The condos boast extravagant features such as "Dezervator" car elevators, large balconies with built-in pools, and spacious living areas. The development is attracting wealthy buyers, particularly from the United States, with units priced from $5.8 million to $70 million. The project is expected to be completed by 2027 and will offer a range of exclusive amenities, including a restaurant managed by chef Todd English. The construction budget is approximately $800 million, with plans to secure a construction loan of $550-600 million.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2024/02/26/dezer-breaks-ground-on-bentley-condo-sunny-isles.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Sunny Isles Beach, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 21:30:00

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State Budget

Meet the people who help decide the largest area of the budget: Health and human services spending

The Legislature has selected Senate and House budget conferees to negotiate health care and social services spending for the next fiscal year's budget. The overall budget is expected to contain approximately $48 billion in general revenue, with health and human services receiving around $16 billion. The conferees for the Senate and House must resolve disagreements over Medicaid rate increases and nursing home reimbursement, as well as agree on the details in two implementing bills. The House is proposing a measure targeted at hospitals in Pasco and Pinellas counties, regarding a self-imposed tax designed to generate local funds for Medicaid programs. However, the Senate has rejected this proposal.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661640-meet-the-people-who-help-decide-the-largest-area-of-the-budget-health-and-human-services-spending/
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 20:26:36

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Healthcare and Public Health

New UCF-HCA REI Fellowship Is 2nd to Launch in Florida

UCF-HCA Healthcare has launched a new reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) fellowship program, the second of its kind in Florida and the 52nd in the nation. The three-year program, based at HCA Florida Osceola Hospital, aims to address the shortage of REI physicians by providing training in a community hospital setting. Fellows will gain clinical experience at The IVF Center, which is known for its reproductive medicine expertise. The program also emphasizes extensive research, with collaboration from the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences and clinical researchers from Nemours Children’s Health. The fellowship is part of the UCF-HCA consortium's 38 residencies and fellowships and is HCA's first of its kind in the nation. The program aims to inspire the next generation of physicians to improve patient outcomes and advance scientific knowledge in reproductive medicine.

Link: https://www.ucf.edu/news/new-ucf-rei-fellowship-is-2nd-in-florida/
Location: Kissimmee, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 19:09:14

Florida refuses to bar unvaccinated students from Broward school with measles outbreak

Florida’s controversial surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, has drawn criticism for his handling of an elementary school's measles outbreak. He sent a letter to parents at Manatee Bay Elementary School near Fort Lauderdale, stating that unvaccinated students’ attendance was their choice, contravening federal guidelines calling for mandatory exclusion. Critics argue that this approach endangers unvaccinated children and those with compromised immune systems. The CDC recommends excluding unvaccinated children during outbreaks, but Florida is not required to follow these recommendations. The state's deference to parental decisions has sparked criticism from medical professionals. The school district has stated that decisions regarding the mandatory exclusion of unvaccinated students rest solely with the health department. Measles is highly contagious and can pose severe health risks, particularly to unvaccinated individuals and those with compromised immune systems.

Link: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/2024/02/23/florida-refuses-to-bar-unvaccinated-students-from-school-suffering-a-measles-outbreak/
Location: Manatee Bay Elementary School, near Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Published: 2024-02-23 21:37:35

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Environmental Policy

Marine Biology PhD Student Receives National Acclaim for Project Protecting Leatherback Sea Turtles

Callie Veelenturf, a doctoral student at the University of Central Florida (UCF), has dedicated her life to environmental conservation, inspired by her childhood admiration for Jane Goodall. Recognizing the gap between environmental policy and its implementation, she founded her nonprofit, The Leatherback Project, to address threats to turtles and ocean ecosystems. Veelenturf's work has gained global recognition, earning her prestigious awards and accolades. She currently leads a team championing the conservation of marine life, contributing to the passage of Panama's Right of Nature Law 287. Her research focuses on leatherback sea turtles, aiming to address the issue of fisheries bycatch and the turtles' functionally extinct status. Veelenturf's extensive marine research and advocacy in various countries have earned her recognition, including being named a National Geographic Explorer and a Scientist with the United Nations Harmony with Nature Programme. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Integrative and Conservation Biology at UCF while conducting research in Kate Mansfield’s Marine Turtle Research Group.

Link: https://www.ucf.edu/news/marine-biology-phd-student-receives-national-acclaim-for-project-protecting-leatherback-sea-turtles/
Location: Orlando, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 16:44:18

The Viewfinder: Kind Designs uses huge 3D printer to make eco-friendly seawalls (photos)

Kind Designs, a Miami-based startup, aims to combat coastal flooding caused by rising sea levels with its 3D-printed "living seawalls" that mimic natural marine habitats like mangroves and coral reefs. These seawalls are designed to allow marine life to grow on their non-toxic structures and are embedded with sensor systems to monitor water quality. The company claims that 3D printing can reduce seawall production time by 95% compared to traditional methods, potentially making them more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Kind Designs is also experimenting with using recycled marine plastic as an alternative to steel rebar in its seawall structures. The company has received financial backing from notable investors such as Mark Cuban and has ambitious plans to expand its production to help protect coastal cities globally from sea level rise.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2024/02/23/viewfindekind-designs-3d-prints-seawalls-miami.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Miami, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 22:01:58

Can Lake Okeechobee's water levels be reduced before wet season begins?

In a recent episode of "To the Point with Michael Williams" on WPTV NewsChannel 5, the focus was on the discharge of one billion gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee to mitigate potential flooding ahead of storm season. The show featured discussions with Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, and Col. James Booth from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, addressing the challenges and concerns surrounding the water discharge. Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw also appeared on the program to discuss the shooting incident at the Gardens Mall. Bradshaw emphasized the importance of situational awareness and preparedness, citing the need to have an exit strategy in public events. The program further delved into political and environmental issues, including the slow progress in addressing Lake Okeechobee's problems, homeowners insurance concerns, and the influence of Florida's prominent political figures. Additionally, WPTV political analyst Brian Crowley addressed the delay in public release of information by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department regarding the mall shooting.

Link: https://www.wptv.com/news/political/to-the-point/can-lake-okeechobees-water-levels-be-reduced-before-wet-season-begins
Location: West Palm Beach, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 21:11:17

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Social Issues

Black History Month: The Monroe Doctrine and Slavery

The excerpt discusses the connection between the Monroe Doctrine and American slavery policy, as well as the impact on runaway slaves in Florida during the early 19th century. It highlights the historical reversal of Britain's role in facilitating the slave trade, the role of American privateers in capturing runaways, and the support of the Seminole tribe for the "saltwater railroad" to the Bahamas. It also mentions the Black Seminoles' escape to the Bahamas during the Second Seminole War.

Link: https://thefloridasqueeze.com/2024/02/26/black-history-month-the-monroe-doctrine-and-slavery/
Location: Florida, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 15:03:27

Nazis mingle openly at CPAC, spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories and finding allies

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), individuals with ties to racist extremism and Nazi ideology were observed openly mingling with attendees and promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories. In previous years, CPAC had ejected known Nazis and white supremacists, but this year these individuals encountered little resistance. Former President Donald Trump, a frequent CPAC speaker, was fined for using falsified financial statements. There is frustration among some attendees about CPAC's stronger association with Trump and his wing of the party. A viral moment at the conference featured a call for the end of democracy and a more explicitly Christian-focused government, with some attendees embracing references to the January 6, 2021, insurrection. CPAC organizers did not respond to requests for comment.

Link: https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/national-international/nazis-mingle-openly-at-cpac-spreading-antisemitic-conspiracy-theories-and-finding-allies/3242140/
Location: Washington D.C., United States
Published: 2024-02-24 22:33:16

Trump says ‘the Black people' like him because he's been ‘discriminated against' in the legal system

Former President Donald Trump claimed during a speech at the Black Conservative Federation's annual gala that Black people support him because they understand the discrimination he has faced in the legal system. He received the "Champion of Black America" award at the event and suggested his support from Black Americans stems from their understanding of corrupt systems. Trump also mentioned that Black Americans supported him by embracing merchandise featuring his mugshot. Some attendees at the event agreed with Trump's characterization of his appeal to Black voters. On the other hand, Jasmine Harris, the Black media director for the Biden campaign, criticized Trump, calling him an "anti-Black tyrant" and highlighting his history of controversial remarks and actions concerning race. Trump also made statements about Joe Biden, accusing him of being racist. Additionally, there are plans among Trump's allies to target Black voters for support in the 2024 elections.

Link: https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/national-international/trump-says-the-black-people-like-him-because-hes-been-discriminated-against-in-the-legal-system/3241847/
Location: None
Published: 2024-02-24 02:50:08

How a migrant influx is causing tensions in one of the most Hispanic cities in the U.S.

Joseliel Montilla, his family, and other recent arrivals from Cuba have settled in Hialeah, Florida, amid a surge of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. They are seeking refugee benefits from the Department of Children & Families in Hialeah. The presence of these migrants has led to tension in the majority-Cuban city, with the mayor attributing some of the city's issues, such as a lack of affordable housing, to the new arrivals. The family is joining Montilla's sister, who arrived in Hialeah two years ago and already has a living space for the recently arrived relatives.

Link: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/2024/02/23/how-a-migrant-influx-is-causing-tensions-in-one-of-the-most-hispanic-cities-in-the-u-s/
Location: Hialeah, Florida
Published: 2024-02-23 21:59:31

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Local Government

Wells Fargo workers at Apopka bank file petition to unionize

Bank workers at a Wells Fargo branch in Apopka have publicly expressed their intention to join Wells Fargo United, a union affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). This follows a similar move by a Wells Fargo branch in Daytona Beach, making them the only two unionized Wells Fargo branches in Florida. Other branches nationwide have also sought unionization, triggered by concerns about inadequate staffing, compensation, and working conditions. The organizing efforts at Wells Fargo branches are part of a larger trend within the banking industry, with just 1.7% of finance employees in the United States having union representation. However, the process has been met with resistance from Wells Fargo, which has been accused of employing union-busting tactics. The union election at the Apopka branch is scheduled for March 19.

Link: https://www.orlandoweekly.com/news/wells-fargo-workers-at-apopka-bank-file-petition-to-unionize-36272809
Location: Apopka, United States
Published: 2024-02-26 13:47:00

Blake Dowling: Chalking up a win for the good guys

Multiple cities and municipalities in Florida, including Tallahassee, Sarasota, Riveria, Stuart, Naples, Lake City, Key Biscayne, and Jacksonville Beach, have suffered cyber incidents such as spear phishing and ransomware attacks in recent years. The hackers are utilizing social engineering techniques to launch targeted email campaigns, impersonating reputable companies and deploying subtle domain name variations to deceive their targets. However, advancements in technology have provided tools to identify and block fake domains, enhancing cyber protection. Additionally, recent law enforcement efforts led to the dismantling of a major cyber gang responsible for the Lockbit ransomware, which had been a significant contributor to ransomware attacks in the U.S. The City of Jacksonville Beach recently experienced a cyber incident, likely a ransomware attack, but managed to restore operations without paying a ransom, signifying progress in the fight against cyber threats. The author encourages organizations to establish robust backup systems and employ various cyber tools to mitigate the risk of future incidents. Despite the grim narrative of past attacks, the takedown of cyber gangs and organizations refusing to pay ransom suggest that progress is being made in the ongoing cyber war.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661098-blake-dowling-chalking-up-a-win-for-the-good-guys/
Location: Jacksonville Beach, United States
Published: 2024-02-24 10:00:39

Slim Chickens and former NFL player Anthony Crowell have big plans for Jacksonville

Slim Chickens, a quick-service chain, has partnered with franchisee Kalo Holdings LLC, managed by Angelo and Kimberly Crowell, to expand its presence in the local market. The Crowells, who have a successful track record with Jersey Mike’s Subs franchises, plan to open 10 to 15 Slim Chickens stores in Tallahassee and Jacksonville. The restaurant charges a $30,000 franchise fee and 5% in royalties on gross sales. Slim Chickens aims to capitalize on the growth in the Jacksonville market and differentiate itself with a unique customer experience and a diverse menu. The franchise sees potential for significant market presence without intense competition compared to more developed markets.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2024/02/23/slim-chickens-and-anthony-crowell.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 19:56:07

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Governors Office

DeSantis staff blocked records, retaliated against those who wanted to release them, ex-FDLE officers say

Former Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) officers alleged in a court filing that staffers of Governor Ron DeSantis retaliated against those in favor of releasing records regarding taxpayer-funded travel. The lawsuit, brought by the Washington Post, challenges Florida's law shielding the governor's travel records as unconstitutional. The filing includes sworn statements from the former FDLE officers, claiming that the governor's office delayed the release of records by imposing an extra layer of review. The lawsuit revolves around a bill passed before DeSantis announced his presidential campaign, with lawmakers citing safety and security concerns. The former officers disagreed with this assertion, stating that the release of records would not threaten safety and would allow the public to understand how tax dollars are used for public services. Additionally, the filing alleges that the governor's office denied a promotion to an FDLE attorney involved in the records request, leading to claims of retaliation and subsequent terminations. The governor's office has not yet commented on the allegations, but a hearing is scheduled for April 10.

Link: https://www.wfla.com/news/florida/desantis-staff-blocked-records-retaliated-against-those-who-wanted-to-release-them-ex-fdle-officers-say/
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-24 22:34:32

Gov. DeSantis holds news conferences along Gulf coast

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held two news conferences on Friday, announcing the deployment of 76 Florida Highway Patrol personnel and 50 National Guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico border. The governor expressed gratitude for the personnel and highlighted Florida's willingness to step in where the federal government falls short. The second conference focused on Hurricane Idalia recovery efforts, with over 230 aquaculture businesses in Citrus, Dixie, and Levy counties being affected. The governor announced the allocation of funds for aquaculture recovery projects and $2.5 million for the rehabilitation of 17 lift stations in Cedar Key.

Link: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/politics/2024/02/23/gov-desantis-holds-news-conferences-along-gulf-coast/
Location: Cedar Key, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 12:41:45

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Legislative Sessions

Preachers in schools? Volunteer chaplains bill has one more Senate committee stop

The Florida House has approved a bill allowing school districts to establish volunteer chaplain programs, leaving the decision to the Senate. The legislation, SB 1044, would authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide supports, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board. It grants school districts the discretion to implement the chaplain proposal and requires them to inform parents of the chaplains' religious affiliations and obtain parental consent before chaplains interact with students. The bill, set for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee, mirrors a similar House bill, and is expected to move forward for full Senate consideration.

Link: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/661351-preachers-in-schools-volunteer-chaplains-bill-has-one-more-senate-committee-stop/
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-24 19:00:50

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Disaster Response

Florida Division of Emergency Management Issues Updates on Operation Lone Star

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that 75 Florida Highway Patrol Troopers and 50 National Guardsmen will be deployed to support efforts to protect the southern border. Since May 2023, Florida teams have made contact with nearly 150,000 undocumented migrants, originating from over 13 different countries, including countries of concern like Iran, China, and Syria. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida National Guard are currently deployed in Texas, assisting with criminal investigations related to human trafficking and drug smuggling. Additionally, the Florida Highway Patrol has been involved in various activities such as traffic stops, commercial vehicle inspections, and assisting with crashes and pursuits. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has also deployed personnel and assets to assist in border security, interdictions, and humanitarian response efforts. The Florida National Guard is set to deploy service members to the Texas border per the request for support by Governor Abbott.

Link: https://www.floridadisaster.org/news-media/news/20240223-florida-division-of-emergency-management-issues-updates-on-operation-lone-star/
Location: None
Published: 2024-02-24 11:02:04

Border Patrol releases hundreds of migrants at a bus stop after San Diego runs out of aid money

Hundreds of migrants were dropped off at a San Diego bus stop due to the early exhaustion of local funding for a reception center, highlighting the struggles the city faces in coping with the overwhelming influx of people. Border Patrol buses arrived carrying migrants from various countries, who were left to navigate their next steps with the assistance of migrant aid groups. San Diego County's allocation of $6 million in funding for migrant services ran out earlier than expected, leading to makeshift arrangements and street releases. Migrant aid groups have been providing critical support to new arrivals, but financial constraints have resulted in challenges in providing necessary services. The county faces difficulties in balancing support for migrants while addressing local issues such as homelessness and lack of healthcare. The Border Patrol has been releasing over 500,000 migrants with immigration court orders from October to January, with many individuals arriving from West Africa and Asia.

Link: https://wsvn.com/news/politics/border-patrol-releases-hundreds-of-migrants-at-a-bus-stop-after-san-diego-runs-out-of-aid-money/
Location: San Diego, United States
Published: 2024-02-24 03:35:48

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Central Florida Politics

DeSantis' Orlando visit touts Disney governing district's progress

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference in Orlando to praise the success of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, a new entity created to replace Walt Disney World's Reedy Creek Improvement District. DeSantis highlighted the district's cost savings for taxpayers and support for local businesses, particularly through the Buy Local Now procurement program. The district has also initiated an operational assessment and faces legal disputes with Disney at both state and federal levels. Disney is planning to appeal the dismissal of its First Amendment case against DeSantis and the district. Meanwhile, the district governs the land of Walt Disney World and its four local theme parks.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2024/02/23/desantis-florida-cftod-disney-district-progress.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Orlando, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 20:06:03

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Education

These are the wealthiest colleges on the First Coast

The endowments of major educational institutions on the First Coast have shown varying growth rates, with the University of North Florida experiencing an 8.1% increase, ranking behind other major Florida schools. Nationally, endowments at U.S. colleges and universities declined by 4.5% between 2021 and 2022 but increased by 32% since 2019, creating a widening gap between the wealthiest schools and others. The smaller universities in the area, including Edward Waters University, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and Flagler College, have experienced significant double-digit growth in their endowments. There are concerns over the impact of intense asset growth at elite schools and calls for more transparency around endowments and spending. Additionally, some public universities may be focusing on endowments due to state funding cuts, but there are concerns that sequestering funds in endowments may come at the expense of funding enrollment growth and instructional support.

Link: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2024/02/23/wealthiest-colleges-highest-endowments.html?ana=brss_4268
Location: Jacksonville, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 19:59:27

UCF Receives Recognition for Best Online Colleges for Veterans

UCF has been ranked No. 11 on College Consensus’ 2024 Best Online Colleges for Veterans list, adding to its recognition for excellence in online degree offerings for student-veterans. The university's supportive environment, dedicated resources, and online program options were highlighted as making it an excellent choice for military veterans pursuing a bachelor’s degree online. UCF is a Yellow Ribbon Program participant, offering financial support beyond the GI Bill, and emphasizes a veteran-friendly campus culture with services tailored to the needs of its approximately 1,400 student-veterans. The university has received previous accolades for its commitment to supporting the student-veteran community, including a Purple Heart Designation and a Silver Award on the Military Friendly Schools list.

Link: https://www.ucf.edu/news/ucf-receives-recognition-for-best-online-colleges-for-veterans/
Location: Orlando, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 16:19:19

FSU hosts 25th annual Florida Association of International Educators Conference

Florida State University hosted the 25th Annual Florida Association of International Educators (FAIE) State Conference, with over 150 educators from 54 institutions attending. The conference aimed to promote international education and exchange through various topics, including cultural exchanges and study abroad. FSU reaffirmed its commitment to providing international partnerships and educational programs. President Richard McCullough emphasized the value of cultural exchanges in his opening remarks. The FSU Center for Global Engagement (CGE) and its director, Cindy Green, were honored for their support. The CGE provides support to international students and faculty and oversees FSU's Global Exchange programs. Betty Jensen, an international student advisor at FSU, served as the conference coordinator and credited FSU and the CGE for their assistance.

Link: https://news.fsu.edu/news/fsuglobal/2024/02/23/fsu-hosts-25th-annual-florida-association-of-international-educators-conference/
Location: Tallahassee, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 15:55:54

Tech Strengthens Student Success at UCF

UCF's Student Success division is implementing various approaches to support students academically and personally. The Academic Advocates program has benefited students like senior Lais Guimaraes, who faced obstacles taking a required in-person course. Through the program, she received assistance in finding an alternative solution. UCF has also achieved a record high 98.3% return rate for first-year undergraduate students, indicating a strong commitment to student success. The university is leveraging technology, such as the Knightbot chat bot, and implementing a new Academic Success Coaching model to provide proactive and personalized support to students. Academic Advocates utilize data to identify and address obstacles, fostering a sense of community and personalized assistance for students.

Link: https://www.ucf.edu/news/tech-strengthens-student-success-at-ucf/
Location: Orlando, United States
Published: 2024-02-23 15:01:14

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