Weekly roundup: an open door for “people’s affairs” | Local news
TALLAHASSEE – It’s a new year, coronavirus cases are on the rise statewide, and lawmakers are set to kick off the legislative session next week.
But don’t expect COVID-19 restrictions on the Florida Capitol.
Legislative leaders are monitoring the spike in cases, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus. But they did not plan to reimpose the public access restrictions that were used in the 2021 session, when people who wanted to speak before Senate committees could only appear via a live stream. Likewise, the House has asked lobbyists and other visitors to present identification and to withdraw passes to access meeting rooms.
In the 2022 session, which begins Tuesday, people will be allowed to walk through most of the Capitol complex and address lawmakers in person.
On December 20, Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson R-Trilby informed members in a memo that the Senate will be open to visitors throughout the 60-day session and that Senators can request social distancing and a mask in their individual offices.
“We should all be respectful and honor such requests,” added Simpson, who in October berated Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo for refusing to wear a mask while in Senator Tina Polsky’s office, D-Boca Raton, who was being treated for breast cancer.
The Senate will make the tests available to elected officials and their staff, according to Simpson’s memo.
House leaders also gave the green light for people to move freely in the booth.
“In light of the pandemic, the latest Florida House session made significant improvements to the facilities, including adding hospital grade HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters for improved air quality, many hand sanitizing stations and more, ”said House spokeswoman Jenna Sarkisian. an email. “These improvements remain in place as the 2022 legislative session approaches and Members prepare to do people’s business as they approach.”
Lawmakers will not be short of burning issues over the next two months. As examples, the Republican-controlled legislature might consider placing additional restrictions on abortions and a DeSantis plan to create a state office that would investigate election-related crimes.
Several proposals that involve fiercely contested education issues will be on the cusp, including a bill that would move school board elections from non-partisan to partisan. DeSantis also called for legislation to cement into law a ban on teaching critical race theory in Florida classrooms.
Although he was a baseball player during his college days, DeSantis laced up his running shoes this week as he tried to organize a race with the federal government to ship COVID-19 tests home. .
President Joe Biden’s administration announced a plan last month to distribute 500 million coronavirus tests to Americans. Biden said on Tuesday that a website would be launched before the end of this month to allow people to request tests to be delivered to their homes.
DeSantis, meanwhile, announced a plan to ship coronavirus test kits to facilities for the elderly, with an expected arrival over the weekend. The announcement came as Ladapo, the state’s top health official, rolled out new guidelines that discourage people from getting tested for COVID-19 if they have few risk factors and don’t have no symptoms.
“What we’re going to do first is send them (the test kits) to our nursing homes and long-term care facilities. And then beyond that, we’ll focus on senior communities, ”DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday in West Palm Beach.
The governor’s plan to deliver 1 million home tests is part of what DeSantis and Ladapo call “high value tests,” or tests that the surgeon general says could lead to changes in clinical outcomes for people. who would need treatment for COVID-19.
New testing guidelines from the state’s health department have said people aged 65 or older, chronically ill or pregnant, or who have recently been pregnant are at increased risk. The guidelines said these people should get tested “soon after symptoms appear” and should “seek early treatment with monoclonal or antiviral antibodies and seek other medical treatment if necessary.”
People who have symptoms of COVID-19 but no significant risk factors should consider getting tested after symptoms appear, according to the guidelines, but should “only seek medical treatment when necessary.”
For people without symptoms who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19, “the tests are unlikely to have clinical benefit,” according to the guidelines.
The new testing recommendations drew criticism from Democrats, some of whom accused DeSantis of trying to reduce the number of coronavirus cases by discouraging mass testing.
State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, this year’s gubernatorial candidate, criticized DeSantis “for low priority testing with the omicron explosion” across the state.
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs announced on Wednesday that he plans to step down at the end of 2022, saying he has fulfilled the commitments he made when he took over as head of the flagship university in the state.
Fuchs, 67, will work as a teacher in the school’s electrical and computer engineering department after stepping down as president.
The announcement indicates that Fuchs told UF board chairman Mori Hosseini in August that he would like to move from president to professor. He said they had agreed he would remain president until the completion of a fundraising campaign in the fall of 2022 and until a successor is appointed, which is expected by the early 2023.
However, Fuchs’ resignation notice came after the university and its administration faced controversy over the past two months over a decision to bar three political science professors from serving as expert witnesses. against the state in a lawsuit over new high-profile elections. law.
While the university ultimately overturned the decision, the controversy gained national media attention and a federal lawsuit in which six professors allege that a UF policy violates First Amendment rights. U.S. Chief District Judge Mark Walker held a hearing on Friday in the professors’ trial.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday the state is shipping around 1 million home coronavirus tests to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, with the kits due to arrive over the weekend.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It’s not something that concerns me in my job here because, quite frankly, it’s not something that most Floridians are concerned about. They are concerned about their jobs, their education, inflation, the price of gasoline, all of those things. – Governor Ron DeSantis on January 6, 2021, storming of the United States Capitol