Monday's Daily Pulse
Special session called on reedy creek, other issues
Florida lawmakers will start a special legislative session Monday that is expected to lead to state control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which Gov. Ron DeSantis targeted last year after the Walt Disney Co. criticized a controversial education law. House and Senate leaders Friday announced plans for the special session, which also is aimed at providing additional assistance to communities hit by Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole, expanding undocumented-immigrant relocation efforts, clarifying the power of the statewide prosecutor in election-crime cases and easing restrictions on compensating college athletes. [Source: News Service of Florida]
How is Florida being impacted by COVID now? Here’s what to know.
Florida’s COVID-19 uptick this winter may have peaked without a crushing wave of hospitalizations. Statewide, the number of new hospital admissions is dropping after an early January high and is far below what Florida recorded at this time last year when the omicron variant first hit. “We definitely have (virus) activity, but of course nothing like some of the surges we’ve had in the past,” said Mary Jo Trepka, an epidemiologist at Florida International University in Miami. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
Meet the man in charge of DeSantis’ voter fraud cases
The statewide prosecutor’s office includes about 60 lawyers who work in eight offices around the state. Nick Cox said he thinks he has done well recruiting strong personnel. The best thing he can do, he said, is get out of the way “and let them practice their art.” His office has grown in recent years, with attorneys added to tackle pill mills, gaming cases and, notably, election fraud. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
State moves forward on marijuana licenses
Florida health officials will accept applications for 22 medical-marijuana licenses in late April, in a long-awaited move announced Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration. An emergency rule about the licenses generated an immediate buzz in the cannabis industry, as the number of licenses in the state will double. The rule came more than six years after Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment broadly authorizing medical marijuana and after lawmakers in 2017 approved a framework for the industry. [Source: News Service of Florida]
All of Florida is at risk of hurricanes. So why aren’t impact windows or shutters required statewide?
The recent spate of hurricanes has made clear that no one living in the state is safe from their destructive effects. And yet, a $150 million state-funded grant program that will provide up to $10,000 for home-hardening improvements isn’t available for most or all residents of 45 counties in central or northern Florida. That’s because they live outside the state’s “wind-borne debris region,” a U-shaped zone that mostly encompasses the southern part of Florida, the western Panhandle, and a narrow swath within a mile of the state’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Disney World workers reject contract offer [New York Times]
Add escalating labor tensions at Walt Disney World to the list of problems at the world’s largest entertainment company. Unions that represent about 32,000 full-time workers at Disney World — ride operators, costumed performers, housekeepers, restaurant and shop employees, bus drivers, custodians — said on Friday night that members had voted to reject Disney’s offer for a new five-year contract. Matt Hollis, president of the Service Trades Council Union, a consortium of six unions, said that 96 percent of the votes cast went against Disney.
› New Jaguars sports training facility on target to open in time for 2023 Training Camp [Florida Times-Union]
A year after construction began, work is well underway on Miller Electric Center — the new sports performance center for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The center is named for Jacksonville-based Miller Electric Company as part of a 10-year naming rights agreement with the Jaguars. The 125,000-square-foot sports performance center will house all of the team's football staff and football operations including locker rooms, training and medical facilities, office space and a draft room.
› Key tourism report shows Miami in top 5 U.S. visitor markets for local economic boost [Miami Herald]
Miami’s tourism industry more than bounced back in 2022: travel and tourism contributed $11.1 billion to Miami-Dade’s economy, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and making it the fourth-largest tourism market in the United States. That’s according to a study and report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, a global travel trade organization, and Oxford Economics. The report called Miami’s performance in the tourism sector a “heroic comeback.”
› If the Tampa Bay Rays stay in St. Petersburg, who will pay for a new ballpark? [Tampa Bay Times]
The easy part happened Monday when Mayor Ken Welch selected the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposal with global real estate developer and investor Hines to redevelop Tropicana Field and the 86 acres around it. The hard part comes now. The city of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the Rays will hash out how a potentially $1 billion, 30,000-seat, open-yet-covered ballpark plays into the overall redevelopment and how much each side is going to pay for it.
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› 25 days that shook New College: How Ron DeSantis swiftly transformed the Sarasota school [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
The 25 days between Jan. 6 and Jan. 31 are among the most momentous in New College’s 63-year history. The college was founded in 1960, but these weeks in January were akin to a new founding. In less than four weeks, the college morphed from a sleepy, though well-regarded, backwater in Florida’s public university system to a national conservative showcase, a high-profile experiment and a key political talking point for a governor who has presidential ambitions.
› Spiffy new water plant to cost Fort Lauderdale $700M. Critics say old one’s not dead, can be rebuilt [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Mounting pressure is on to replace Fiveash, the very same 1950s-era water plant the mayor once described as being held together by spit and chewing gum. Fort Lauderdale officials are on the verge of making a deal with a private company to build a new water plant that will cost $666 million and have the capacity to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The new plant would also get rid of the yellow tinge in the drinking water produced by Fiveash, Fort Lauderdale’s main water treatment plant.
› Former Central Florida science teacher Joe Acabá to lead NASA’s Astronaut Office [Orlando Sentinel]
For now, the moon is off the table for NASA astronaut and former Central Florida science teacher Joe Acabá. Instead, he will be at the head of the table as chief of the Astronaut Office. The first Hispanic to hold the prestigious post, Acabá will decide which astronauts fly where, including the first woman to land on the moon. Acabá, 55, taught science and math at Melbourne High School in Brevard County as well as Dunnellon Middle School in Marion County before being chosen in 2004 as an astronaut candidate.
› After Tyre Nichols, Tampa group pushes for police reform [Tampa Bay Times]
Since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee has been a mainstay of the Tampa social justice movement. They’ve marched for abortion rights. They’ve shown up at Tampa City Council meetings with demands for the mayor and the police department. But their calls for heightened local scrutiny of policing have gotten louder in recent weeks in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death at the hands of Memphis police officers.