Florida Democrats choose Rep. Crist to challenge DeSantis
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has won the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida, putting him in position to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall in a campaign that the Republican incumbent is eyeing as the first step toward a potential White House run.
UNF poll: Fried leads Crist in Democratic governor’s primary; cost of living a top concern of Florida voters
A new poll conducted by the Public Option Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida finds gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, ahead of former Gov. Charlie Crist in the Democratic primary -- but still seven points behind Republican incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis in a race among registered voters.
Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried go head to head in debate before Florida Primary
With both claiming to be Florida Democrats’ best bet to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis in November, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried traded barbs Thursday in their only debate before next month’s primary election.
Effort begun to eradicate giant African snails in Florida
Invasive giant African land snails that can eat building plaster and stucco, consume hundreds of varieties of plants and carry diseases that affect humans have been detected once again in Florida, where officials say work has begun to eradicate the pests.
Orlando drop tower operator adjusted sensors in seat teen fell from, making ride unsafe, report shows
An independent forensic engineering firm hired in the investigation into a teen’s fatal fall from an Orlando drop tower found the operator of the thrill ride manually adjusted the sensors in the seat he was in, which made the ride unsafe.
Florida order calls Orlando FreeFall ride ‘immediate danger to public health’
Inspectors were back at the Orlando FreeFall thrill ride at Icon Park on Monday, testing it yet again and sending the ride carriage into the air, even while leaving the seats on the ground and raising only the top half of the carriage.
Forensic engineering firm hired to determine cause of fatal thrill ride fall, state says
A forensic engineering firm has been hired to assist in the investigation into the death of a 14-year-old boy who fell from an Orlando drop tower attraction last week, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said at a news conference Friday.
Fried touts infrastructure bill while Gov. DeSantis raises doubts about equity
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Tuesday touted as “a big deal” billions of dollars headed to Florida for roads, bridges, airports and expanding broadband service in rural areas as part of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill on President Joe Biden’s desk.
Governor candidate Crist calls for full marijuana legalization
Democrat Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor of Florida, said Thursday he supports full marijuana legalization in the state and wants the expungement of all existing charges and sentences for misdemeanors and third-degree felonies for marijuana possession.
Fried calls on WH to stop Florida from withholding funds from school districts with mask mandates
On Friday, Florida Agriculture Commission Fried called on the White House to continue backfilling school district budgets to make up for financial sanctions about to be imposed by the commissioner of education.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried holds moment of silence for lives lost to COVID-19
Florida Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried held a moment of silence Wednesday to pay somber respects to the nearly 45,000 Floridians who have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Fried goes after Gov. DeSantis, calls for daily COVID case numbers, more testing sites
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday morning continued her criticism of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling for the Republican governor to increase the number of testing sites in the state and bring back daily case number updates.
Fried: Kraken lawyer’s group illegally operating in Florida
Florida’s Democratic agriculture commissioner, whose office polices charities, alleged Friday that a group run by one of former President Donald Trump’s most prominent election conspiracy adherents is illegally seeking donations in the state.
Polling shows Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls have lots of ground to make up
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried this week teased a June 1 announcement for entering the race for governor and former Republican governor turned Democratic congressman Charlie Crist has already announced his bid, but early polling shows Democrats have a lot of ground to make up.
Fried, Jacksonville Democrats fire back at controversial DeSantis, GOP voting bill
After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that he and other Republicans say will lead to more secure elections, Jacksonville Democrats and a potential opponent in the upcoming governor’s race blasted the new laws, saying they amount to voter suppression.
Vice President Harris, local leaders highlight food insecurity at Jacksonville food bank
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After visiting a federal vaccination site at the Gateway Mall on Monday, the next stop for Vice President Kamala Harris was at a local food bank to highlight food insecurity and how the coronavirus relief bill aims to address the issue. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried helped facilitate a discussion between Harris and other local lawmakers about the issue during a roundtable at Feeding Northeast Florida. “The president, he says it all the time, which is: The most important thing that we can do when people are suffering is to see them, to hear them and to help them,” Harris said. “And when we think about the issue of food insecurity, let’s be clear, we are talking about hunger in Americans. Fried said that 40% of Black families and 39% of Hispanic families in Florida are experiencing chronic hunger.
Vice President Harris stops by vaccination site during Jacksonville visit
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Vice President Kamala Harris visited Jacksonville on Monday as part of the Biden administration’s “Help is Here” tour of the nation promoting the $1.9 trillion relief package. She visited the federally-run Gateway Mall vaccination site before stopping by a Northwest Jacksonville food distribution warehouse. “I’m glad to be in Jacksonville,” Harris said. “Tap away!”Jennifer Chase was getting her second shot as Harris came to the Gateway site and talked to the people getting shots. Harris visited last visited Jacksonville in October for a socially-distanced rally at the University of North Florida in advance of the November election.
Insurance, K9s and weed among Cabinet legislative priorities
The Associated Press interviewed each of the Cabinet members to discuss their 2021 legislative priorities:CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER JIMMY PATRONISOne of Patronis's top priorities reflects an issue supported by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican legislative leaders: Passing a bill to shield businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19. He said he was inspired by a California law that went into affect last year in that state. A wide ranging food insecurity bill would create a tax credit of up to $5,000 for farmers who donate food to charities. “It makes sure that we can go after those folks like guardians and other fiduciaries that are exceeding their scope and taking advantage and exploiting seniors,” Moody said.
Advocate says important to recognize victory of Florida’s clemency changes
Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet, acting as the Board of Executive Clemency, did away with the waiting periods on Wednesday. It opens the door for thousands of so-called “returning citizens” to have their rights restored. It also may wipe out a backlog of thousands of cases awaiting review. Osiris said the decision by the Clemency Board “steps in the historical stream” of the civil rights movement. “(It) is doing something that we have been fighting for, for years, so I think it is time to celebrate,” Osiris said.
End to waiting periods among sweeping changes proposed for Florida’s clemency process
Supporters of restoring Florida felons' voting rights march to an early voting precinct, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition led marches to the polls in dozens of Florida counties. The clemency board is slated to consider DeSantis’ plan on Wednesday. DeSantis defended the state law, and called the constitutional amendment a “mistake.”But Neil Volz, deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, praised DeSantis’ proposed clemency revamp. Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, has pushed DeSantis and other clemency board members to make it easier for felons to have their rights restored.
Gov. DeSantis to lower vaccination age to 60 next week
Ron DeSantis announced Monday that the state will lower the age for people to get a COVID-19 vaccine from 65 to 60 next week. “That will apply across the board at all of the state pods, all of the pharmacies, all of the different drive-thru sites that are being operated,” DeSantis said. “If you’re 60 plus, you will be able to get sign up and be able to get the vaccine.”The age change is effective March 15. The change comes as the demand from seniors is decreasing and the federal vaccination sites throughout the state continue to see a low turnout of eligible people. DeSantis also said the increased supply also makes appointments to get a vaccine at grocery stores and pharmacies easier to obtain.
Florida’s 2021 legislative session; governor’s State of the State address; UNF research polls
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On this edition of “This Week in Jacksonville,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis weighs in on what can be accomplished during Florida’s 2021 legislative session. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried shares her thoughts on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ State of the State address. And University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab Director Dr. Michael Binder explains recent poll results.
Sunshine State dims for Dems amid election losses, cash woes
Democrats hope to make deeper strides in changing their fortunes in a state that has become friendlier place for Republicans. And that was despite $100 million spent by Michael Bloomberg to help Democrats in the state. When the spending tally is complete, the last election cycle in Florida is expected to rank as among the most expensive in state history. Ad“I don’t know anybody who’s happy with investing $100 million and not winning,” said Manny Diaz, the new chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Diaz, the state party chairman, is trying to reverse the slide in its voter registration advantage over Republicans.
Florida governor faces growing claims of vaccine favoritism
Bruce Rauner, last week gave the Florida governor's campaign committee $250,000. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in calling for federal officials to probe the DeSantis administration’s vaccine distribution programs. AdDuring a Thursday news conference, DeSantis expressed no misgivings about the early vaccinations at the exclusive Key Largo community. In recent weeks, other reports have surfaced of wealthy retirement communities getting exclusive access to vaccine doses through pop-up vaccine sites. Bruce Rauner to the Florida governor's campaign committee.
‘We’ve lost loved ones, jobs and income’: Florida Democrats push back on State of the State address
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Each year following the Governor’s State of the State address, the party in the minority responds with a counter vision of where they see the state headed. While the Governor said Florida did a better job than other states when it came to its pandemic response during his State of the State address, Florida Democrats immediately responded with a different take. “We’ve lost loved ones, jobs and income,” said Rep. Andrew Learned. AdIn it, they demanded changes to the state’s unemployment system. While Democrats are voicing their objections, they don’t have the votes to stop anything the Governor and Republican-led legislature want to do.
Palm Beach County refuses to lower flags for Rush Limbaugh
(AP Photo/Julie Smith, File)FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Palm Beach County defied Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, refusing to lower its courthouse flags to half-staff in honor of the late conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh — a move that the governor's office called “petty.”The county's courthouse flags remained at full staff, ignoring Gov. He also ordered the Town of Palm Beach and the State Capitol in Tallahassee to fly their flags at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday. Officials in the Town of Palm Beach, the wealthy island enclave where Limbaugh lived for two decades, issued a statement saying its policy is to comply with governor's orders to lower the flags. Trump also lives in Palm Beach at his Mar-a-Lago club and he and Limbaugh were close friends.
Rush Limbaugh flag honors won’t be statewide
Ron DeSantis is moving ahead with plans to honor recently deceased conservative radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh by lowering flags to half-staff despite protests from some public officials who don’t see Limbaugh as worthy of the honor. A longtime resident of Palm Beach, Limbaugh, 70, died of lung cancer last Wednesday. DeSantis called Limbaugh a legend during a news conference two days later and indicated that he would direct flags to be flown at half-staff to honor him. Town of Palm Beach officials and Palm Beach County court officials didn't immediately reply to emails asking if they planned to follow the order. A year ago, President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, during his final State of the Union address.
Florida agriculture commissioner won’t lower flags to honor Limbaugh despite DeSantis order
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she is ordering state offices she controls to ignore an upcoming order to lower flags to half-staff to honor conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who died last week. “Lowering to half-staff the flag of the United States of America is a sacred honor that pays respect to fallen heroes and patriots. “Therefore, I will notify all state offices under my direction to disregard the Governor’s forthcoming order to lower flags for Mr. Limbaugh – because we will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry, and division. The statement from the commissioner marks the latest in an ongoing back-and-forth between Fried, the only Democrat elected to a statewide office, and DeSantis, a Republican. It’s expected that Fried will challenge DeSantis for governor when he is up for reelection in 2022.
DeSantis orders flags lowered to honor Rush Limbaugh
Florida will lower flags to half-staff after funeral plans are set for conservative media icon Rush Limbaugh, a Palm Beach resident who died Wednesday after a battle with cancer, Gov. “When there’s things of this magnitude, once the date of internment for Rush is announced, we’re going to be lowering the flags to half-staff,” DeSantis said during a campaign-style press event at the Hilton Palm Beach Airport in West Palm Beach. Not everyone thinks giving Limbaugh the same honor as police officers and longtime elected officials is a good idea. “@GovRonDeSantis is lowering Florida’s flags to half-staff for Rush Limbaugh. DeSantis sent out a tweet offering condolences a day after Lewis died.
FEMA to open COVID-19 vaccination site at Gateway Mall next month
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of four federally-supported vaccination stations to open in Florida next month will be at Gateway Mall on Jacksonville’s Northside, Gov. Additionally, each site will have two smaller, mobile satellite sites that will conduct 500 vaccinations per day in underserved areas. The current public vaccination site in Jacksonville run by the Florida Department of Health at Regency Square is averaging 1,000 vaccinations each day. Residents of the area were pleased to hear there’ll be a vaccination site nearby. AdAlso Friday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced that her agency is launching a bilingual vaccine education campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccination among the state’s farmworkers.
Florida lawmakers boost money for concealed weapons background checks
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawmakers shifted $4.34 million on Thursday to cover a projected deficit caused by an uptick in people applying for concealed-weapons licenses. Without comment, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, made up of House and Senate members, approved the funding request from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Licensing, which oversees permitting for concealed weapons. “This translates to an annual projected total of over 400,000 background checks to be processed through June 30, substantially above any prior fiscal year.”AdThe fiscal year began July 1 and will end June 30. The division had been authorized to spend up to $9.9 million for criminal history background checks for concealed-weapons license applicants, Poucher noted. In the two years that Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has been in office, the number of concealed-weapons licenses issued by the state has grown from 1.95 million to 2.26 million.
In Florida, first shots fired in upcoming race for governor?
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a possible prelude to Florida’s upcoming gubernatorial campaign, the state’s only Democrat holding statewide office took a shot at Gov. “This is a signal: Game on,” said Susan MacManus, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of South Florida. In her video, Fried calls it “a dark, painful time for our state" because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican Party of Florida, however, returned fire. DeSantis, Florida got it right.
Special state Capitol lighting will honor COVID-19 victims
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Capitol will be illuminated amber on Tuesday as part of the Biden-Harris inauguration’s national moment of unity and remembrance for the more than 397,000 American lives lost to COVID-19. Florida's Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried requested the capitol lighting, according to a news release from her office. State capitols and town halls across the nation are set to illuminate on Tuesday alongside the first-ever lighting display around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Poll in Washington. More than 24,136 Floridians have died from COVID-19 since the coronavirus began in March. “It’s my honor to request that Florida’s Capitol be lit in their memory, with hope for brighter days ahead,” Fried said in the news release.
Florida downplays reports of medical tourism for vaccines
State officials have moved quickly to disavow such scuttlebutt. Ron DeSantis said stories of people flying to Florida, getting vaccinated and returning home are overblown. “We are seeing lines all across the state of Florida. She praised Florida officials for allowing outsiders to get shots. This has nothing to do with where you’re from.”___Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida, and Calvan from Tallahassee, Florida.
Fried wants National Guard to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Ron DeSantis to mobilize the National Guard to help distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. In a letter to DeSantis, Fried said distribution has been characterized in media reports as “very chaotic” and that there is a lack of “clear direction” for health-care professionals on vaccination procedures. “Instead of efficient, centralized distribution management by the state of Florida, distribution has been left to hospitals and county health departments,” Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, wrote. Fried asked that health and emergency-management officials be present at a Feb. 2 state Cabinet meeting to answer questions about vaccine distribution. “The COVID vaccine supply is limited,” DeSantis said Wednesday while at a senior complex in Delray Beach where 300 residents were being inoculated.
Florida touts improved wait times for concealed carry permits
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is touting improved wait times for those seeking concealed carry permits, despite the pandemic and record applications. “The wait times were inordinately long,” said Charlie Strickland, owner of Talon Tactical Outfitters. The faster wait times come despite the ongoing pandemic and a record 305,000 applications in 2020. “We’ve modernized the department, we’ve uploaded different forms right onto our website, we’ve modernized the website for the entirety of the department. Wait times aren’t back to their pre-pandemic average of between one and 25 days, but the department is hopeful it can get back to a similar speed within three to six months.
Mask mandate gaining bipartisan support in Florida
The newest wave of infections is reigniting calls for a statewide mask mandate in Florida and the idea is now garnering bipartisan support. State Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach, has joined with Democrats who have been calling for a mandate since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Ron DeSantis to issue a statewide mask mandate back in June. Tampa’s “Choose Your Mask” campaign is pushing a flier that implies the choice between wearing a face mask or ventilator. Rep. Caruso has said he intends to push his fellow Republicans to enact a statewide mask mandate in the 2021 session, but a legislative mask mandate would have to survive the governor’s veto pen.
Hemp is lighting up Florida agriculture, state leader says
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Hemp is blazing among Florida’s agriculture inventory in the seven months since it was first allowed to be legally grown in the Sunshine State, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told business leaders Tuesday. Fried said 22,078 acres are currently licensed for hemp, nearly equal to the acreage in Florida of tomatoes, watermelon and snap peas, and double the strawberry production. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services first issued hemp cultivation permits on April 27. Industrial hemp can be used in numerous products and is different from euphoria-causing marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law. Florida lawmakers in 2019 passed a bill to take advantage of the federal farm law, creating a program to regulate cultivation of hemp.
GOP narrows Democrats’ early vote lead in Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Democrats have held a historic lead in pre-election day voting, outpacing Republican returns by hundreds of thousands, but the GOP is beginning to cut into that lead. Republicans are hoping to recreate the victory scored in Florida in 2016 with Election Day turnout at the center of the strategy. That was on Vice President Mike Pence’s mind as he spoke in Tallahassee over the weekend. And even Monday morning, the site pitched by the vice president wasn’t exactly bustling with activity and prospective voters. In 2016, Trump won Florida by just 112,911 votes, defeating Hilary Clinton by 1.2 percent of the popular vote.