March 1, 2021
[Information provided below was taken from Peter Schorsch’s Takeaways from Tallahassee news blog dated February 27, 2021]
Vaccine eligibility to grow in March — There are no specifics yet, but Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida will expand who can receive vaccines next month. The Governor will have federally supported sites offer some shots for cops and teachers 50 and older, but he also plans to make the vaccines available to younger members of the general public. Currently, Floridians 65 and older can get a vaccine, and nearly half that age group now have at least one shot. The upcoming Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine will likely help the state move through the population faster. New age thresholds the Governor floated included 60- and 50-year-olds.
Emergency powers on the table — DeSantis wants state lawmakers to look into legislation to limit local emergency powers to prevent future lockdowns and curfews. Some Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Brandes, want to limit the Governor’s unilateral powers during an emergency. That’s not because of any mishandling on DeSantis’ part, in their mind, but because of fears that a future Governor could take the state in the wrong direction. Both the House and Senate have convened committees focused on the pandemic. Part of their scope could be to review emergency powers. Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response Chair Danny Burgess said his panel should consider the Legislature’s role in a sustained emergency.
House targets rising sea levels — House Speaker Chris Sprowls introduced a lineup of priority legislation to combat “the realities” of sea-level rise. Sprowls presented a pair of proposals sponsored by coastal-district lawmakers, including legislation that would commit $100 million per year from the state to tackle issues around the sea-level rise and mitigation efforts. Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera will sponsor the centerpiece legislation. That bill would also create statewide flooding and sea-level rise resilience plans that prioritize and fund projects submitted by local governments. Another proposal by Brandes and Rep. Linda Chaney would provide tax breaks to homeowners who voluntarily elevate their properties.
Senate eyes revamping scholarships — A Senate proposal would overhaul the state’s financial aid system to prioritize scholarships that successfully lead to jobs. Sen. Dennis Baxley is sponsoring that proposal, backed by Senate President Wilton Simpson. The slew of changes would ask the Board of Governors and the State Board of Education to create an annual list of public and private degree programs that lead directly to employment. It would also create a new scholarship for Pell Grant-eligible students in a certificate or associate degree program who still owe tuition and fees after receiving state and federal aid. The proposal would also change how Bright Futures is funded, putting that back into the budget process.
Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics, along with several other email products. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida.