Monday's Daily Pulse
What you need to know about Florida today
Florida Legislature convenes with many pandemic changes, familiar agenda
Florida’s 40 senators and 120 representatives will convene Tuesday in Tallahassee for one of the strangest legislative sessions in the Capitol’s history. Lobbyists won’t be roaming the halls, seeking out lawmakers to cajole and persuade. The public won’t be packed into committee rooms to protest controversial bills. Most (not all) will be wearing masks. But while the surroundings will be different, the agenda, advanced by the Republicans who control the Legislature, might not be. More from the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.
DeSantis expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to high-risk people under 65 at pharmacies, doctors’ offices
Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility late last week to allow Floridians younger than 65 who have high-risk medical conditions to get the injections at doctors’ offices and pharmacies. The governor signed an executive order late Friday that allows physicians, nurses and pharmacists to vaccinate people who “they deem extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.” Previously, vaccines had only been available to people with “high risk” conditions through hospitals, which were left to determine for themselves which conditions and patients qualified. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
NOAA may move Atlantic hurricane season start date to May 15
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering moving the Atlantic hurricane season start day from June 1 up to May 15, according to a statement from the National Hurricane Center. While the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season will still begin June 1, various branches of NOAA will come together to discuss changing the calendar for future seasons. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
Bipartisan bills call for $100 million annual Florida Forever funding floor
Companion bills sponsored by a Senate Democrat and a House Republican seek to mandate the Legislature annually dedicate at least $100 million to Florida Forever, the state’s environmentally sensitive land acquisition trust fund. The bills seek to establish an annual $100 million base Florida Forever allocation, prohibit Land Acquisition Trust Fund money from being used to support direct, technology and information services by state agencies, and extend Florida Forever bonds by 14 years to 2054. [Source: The Center Square]
Florida just banned iguanas, tegu lizards and Burmese pythons. What other species?
Florida is banning the sale, ownership and breeding of 16 invasive reptiles, including green iguanas, several python species and tegus. However, anyone who currently owns a pet iguana or tegu won’t have to give their scaly critter away. The new changes, which were approved Thursday, will be phased in over the coming months, with the toughest measure — a total ban on commercial breeding in Florida of tegus, iguanas and prohibited snakes — set to go into effect June 2024. The rules also ban importation of these species. [Source: Miami Herald]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Orlando hotel occupancy hits 50%, but full recovery still years off, experts say
As the weather warms up, tourists from the snowy parts of the country are refilling Orlando hotel rooms. But for an industry decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts say the full recovery is still years away. “It was always our prediction that as things thawed out in winter, individual leisure travel would return,” said Jan Freitag, senior VP for data analysts STR.
› Al Maroone, who built an auto empire in South Florida, dies at 98
He built his auto empire from the ground up, and was a household name in South Florida for decades thanks to his catchy car commercials set to the “Ghostbusters” theme music. Albert E. Maroone died Feb. 17 at 98. The famed auto magnate was the “embodiment of the American dream” in his family’s eyes — a “classic rags to riches story,” says his son Mike Maroone, 57.
› More water parks set to reopen, including Volcano Bay, Blizzard Beach
A great thing about living in Florida is that we can talk about water parks in February with straight faces. This winter has been different because more of these attractions closed for an extended time, yet another fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. But a few are about to stick their proverbial toes in again. In the coming days, Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay, Walt Disney World’s Blizzard Beach and Adventure Island, the water park next to Busch Gardens in Tampa, will reopen to the public.
› After 85 years of building Miami’s Black middle class, longshoremen face biggest crisis yet
Since its founding 85 years ago, the local longshoremen’s union has provided a dependable avenue to the middle class for Black Miamians willing do the mostly invisible, grueling work that makes PortMiami run. Over the decades, the group has weathered segregation and automation, growing to nearly 800 members strong. Now facing a once-in-a-century pandemic, the longshoremen hope the ships return soon so they can get back to work.
In a challenging pandemic year, University of Florida researchers contributed to the state with a record-breaking $900.7 million in funding, while research at UF Innovate and Sid Martin Biotech boosted the local economy by way of new jobs, invention disclosures and licenses and options. Check out the numbers that have made an incredible economic impact.
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