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Jeff Vasilinda becomes the Vasilinda Family’s first published author!

State Denied Extra Time to Develop Defense of Big Tech Censorship Law

June 11th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

A federal judge has rejected the state’s request for more time to defend the new social media censorship law, which takes effect July 1st.

The law carries penalties as high as $250,000 a day for deplatforming political candidates.

In hopes of getting more time to develop a defense, the state said it would delay enforcement until August 1st.

NetChoice Vice President Carl Szabo said the state should not have been caught off guard by the lawsuit.

“The state knew time and time again they were going to be tested on this lawsuit,” said Szabo. “Everything they’re complaining about they’ve known for months.”

He added the deal proposed by the state didn’t offer much, if any, protection to social media companies.

“The state may delay enforcement, that doesn’t mean they’ll delay accruing the penalties for future enforcement,” said Szabo.

The state’s deal also would have done nothing to prevent a flood of civil litigation from individual users, who under the law, are allowed to sue if they believe they’re wrongly de-platformed.

“So in short, the state was not offering much and the burdens that the bill creates would still have persisted for our members,”,” said Matthew Schrues, President of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. “The only meaningful relief that we can get at this point is a prompt ruling on the merits that this statute is unconstitutional.”

The judge agreed with the tech companies and denied the state’s request.

Szabo said he’s confident the law will never see the light of day.

“It doesn’t take a rock star to know that this law is unconstitutional and flies in the face of the First Amendment. The state just can’t come down on a private industry and tell them that they have to say something that the state wants you to say,” said Szabo.

A hearing on the tech companies’ request to block the law from taking effect is set for June 28th.

A ruling is expected before the law’s July 1st implementation date.

While the tech companies said they’re confident they will ultimately prevail, we were also told they fully expect the case will drag out to the appellate level and potentially the US Supreme Court.

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Governor to Sign Insurance Reform, Rates Still Expected to Rise

June 10th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

The Governor has said he will put pen to paper on a new law that aims to address skyrocketing homeowners insurance rates by reducing litigation, but part of the deal also allows Florida’s insurer of last resort to raise rates year over year at a higher pace than in the past.

Citizens Insurance offers coverage to Floridians who can’t find or afford private coverage.

Roughly 5,000 Floridians are flocking to Citizens each week.

“That type of growth is unsustainable,” said Michael Peltier, a spokesperson for Citizens.

That’s why lawmakers decided to allow the company to go beyond its current 10 percent annual rate increase cap in this year’s insurance reform bill.

The cap on Citizens’ annual rate increases will grow by one percent each year, until reaching a max of 15 percent in 2026.

“It’s going to allow us to close that gap in some cases with private carriers so that more customers can find their insurance in the private market,” said Peltier.

The legislation also includes numerous changes to the claims process, in an effort to reduce litigation costs, which insurance companies blame from driving exorbitant rate increases.

When approved by the Governor, claimants will have to pay their own attorneys fees if they settle a claim for less than 20 percent above the insurer’s initial offer.

If the settlement is between 20 and 50 percent higher the insurer will have to cover a portion of the claimant’s attorneys fees.

If it’s above 50 percent, the insurer will have to pay all attorneys fees.

The bill also prohibits solicitation by contractors, who have often offered gifts to homeowners in exchange for the ability to inspect roofs and make claims with insurance companies.

But even with all of the litigation reform in the bill, rates are still expected to rise in the near future for both Citizens and private policy holders.

Democratic State Senator Gary Farmer argues because efforts to guarantee rate reductions in the bill were rejected, the reforms only stand to benefit insurance companies.

“All it’s going to do is enable insurance companies to be more bold and aggressive in denying and underpaying claims,” said Farmer.

But State Senator Jeff Brandes, who co-sponsored the legislation, believes in the long run, the reforms in the bill will prevent what otherwise result in a catastrophe.

“In absence of this bill passing you could see rates double within the next two to three years. Rate increases of 30 or 40 percent are going to become common over the next two years if we do nothing,” said Brandes.

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Second Gentleman’s Vaccine Tour

June 10th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s Capital City was the first stop on a nationwide tour by the Vice President’s husband.

The goal is to increase the national vaccination rate to 70 percent by the fourth of July.

The Second Gentleman’s motorcade arrived at a state health department office in a predominately African American neighborhood.

Statewide just 20 of the Black population has gotten a shot.

“Going to the sporting events and the weddings and all the things people want to do this summer and get back to school in the fall and going back to movie theaters. They are not going to be able to do that unless we hit those numbers, 70 percent plus,” said Douglas Emhoff, Second Gentleman of the United States.

In the audience, 16-year-old Maya Waymon, who volunteered for a shot.

“The concerns of my generation is the side effects and just not being sure how it’s going to effect us as young individuals,” said Waymon.

Vaccine hesitancy is far more common among African Americans than other populations.

“The vaccinations are working, they are safe, they are free,” said Emhoff.

And if getting back to normal and staying safe aren’t reason enough to get a shot:

“There are incentives. There’s free beer,” said Emhoff.

Right now, Florida’s vaccination rate stands at 53 percent for those 12 and older.

Afterwards there was a quick tour of a mobile vaccine unit and questions.

Emhoff was asked if free beer was really enough to incentivize those hesitant to get the vaccine.

“It can’t hurt. It can’t hurt. Vaccines.gov and incentives,” said Emhoff.

We asked how many more stops on the tour between there would be between now and July 4th.

We were told the details were still being worked out.

Then we asked where is the next stop.

We were told that’s still to be determined.

So far a total of 10.1 million Floridians have had at least one shot.

More than 3.7 million more shots are needed to reach the President’s goal of 70 percent.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Teachers Union Pushes Back Against New Education Rule

June 9th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

A proposed rule change by the Florida Department of Education is aimed at weeding out inaccurate accounts of American history and historical events from the classroom.

It also prohibits teachers from persuading or indoctrinating students into particular viewpoints inconsistent with state standards.

But the Florida Education Association is fighting the change and proposing their own language.

The proposed rule requires topics to be taught factually and objectively, and prohibits the suppression or distortion of historical events such as the holocaust.

The Florida Education Association argues the rule should include other historical topics as well, including slavery, the Civil War, the civil rights movement, the Trail of Tears and contributions of African Americans, Hispanic people and women to the United States.

“We should talk about every aspect of our history. We should learn from the mistakes that we have made and will make in the future as a country,” said FEA President Andrew Spar.

The rule also would prohibit teachers from ‘indoctrinating’ students to adopt viewpoints at odds with state standards.

FEA calls it offensive and is requesting the word ‘indoctrinate’ be removed.

“To say that they’re indoctrinating students. They don’t do that. That’s just simply not fact based,” said Spar.

But Dr. Edwin Moore, Former President of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida told us he doesn’t see a problem with the proposed rule.

“By asking that it be removed, it’s almost just like they’re endorsing the act of indoctrination,” said Moore.

The rule change comes in response to recent comments made by the Governor and Education Commissioner condemning critical race theory, a controversial ideology that asserts America’s laws and legal institutions are inherently racist.

Moore said the ideology ignores how far America has come since its founding.

“There are some boils, I guess, on the side of the history of America, but we’ve always tried to correct those,” said Moore.

But FEA points out, critical race theory is not part of Florida’s curriculum.

“This is a political event; a political stunt,” said Spar.

The Board of Education is set to consider and vote on the rule change Thursday.

We reached out to the Department of Education for comment on this story, but did not hear back.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

State Shifting COVID Response

June 9th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida is changing how it reports new COVID cases from daily to weekly reports, calling it a transition from an emergency response to a more traditional public health response.

Florida saw 11,000 new COVID cases in the week ending June 3rd, down from 43,000 the week of April 9th.

“The response has worked, is working,” said Dr. Shamarial Roberson, Florida’s Deputy Secretary for Health.

Florida’s COVID vaccination rate is at 53 percent.

State data tells the story of the vaccines success.

As more people have become vaccinated, infections have fallen.

“As cases have fallen, vaccine rates have gone up,” said Roberson.

County vaccination rates range from a high of 67 percent in Sumpter County, home of the Villages, to a low of 27 percent in rural Baker and Union counties.

“That’s irrelevant,” said Roberson.

The state is also pushing back on claims of data manipulation by Whistleblower Rebecca Jones without mentioning her by name.

“We have a very robust system. The integrity of our data is good. There’s no information that’s being withheld from the public,” said Roberson.

After a year of being at its highest activation level, a level one, the state’s emergency operations center has now been downgraded to a level two.

Despite the end of a 24/7 emergency response, the state says it is not lowering its guard.

“We have data where we are looking at emergency departments. We have algorithms where we are detecting anything that may be unusual in ER’s, even outside of COVID-19 in those emergency rooms,” said Roberson.

While the state is ending daily reporting to the public, it will continue to report daily case information to the CDC.

We reached out to whistleblower Rebekah Jones for comment and she did not return our text.

Her lawyer told us the whistleblower complaint is being delayed, as Jones faces criminal charges for improperly posting on a secure state computer system after being fired.

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Crist Promotes Voting Rights in Capital City

June 9th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Congressman and Gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist made the third stop of his voting rights tour in the State Capitol Wednesday, holding a roundtable at the local NAACP headquarters.

The group is suing the state over a recently signed bill restricting drop off boxes and making it more difficult for someone to return multiple ballots.

Crist said while changes to the legislation make it less onerous, he believes it will be a major issue of the campaign.

“When you make it hard for my 89-year-old father or my 86-year-old mother to mail in ballots, I think its anti-senior because of that. I think it just makes it difficult not having as many drop boxes in minority areas of Florida. That’s not right either. I mean, just because it’s a little bit better than what horrible was, it’s still pretty darn bad and it’s not what Floridians want, and they deserve better,” said Crist.

The case is pending in a Federal Court in Tallahassee.

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Debate Continues As No Fault Repeal Awaits Governor’s Signature

June 8th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Florida’s no fault auto insurance law is on the chopping block as legislation that would repeal the decades-old law awaits the Governor’s signature.

Florida’s no fault law currently requires drivers to carry at least $10,000 of personal injury protection coverage.

“Honesty that dollar amount is gone the second you walk through the emergency room door,” said State Senator Danny Burgess, who sponsored the repeal in the Florida Senate.

Burgess argued his legislation, which would now require drivers to carry $25,000 of bodily injury coverage, will lower rates by five to six percent on average and provide better coverage.

But Logan McFaddin with the American Property Casualty Insurance Association said the change could raise rates by $860 a year for the 40 percent of motorists currently holding the minimum coverage.

As it stands, one out of five Floridians don’t have auto insurance at all.

“We don’t want the people that can afford it the least getting hit the hardest and then potentially becoming uninsured,” said McFaddin.

Burgess said because the new system includes measures to reduce fraud, it will ultimately lead to lower rates.

“The holy grail of TORT reform is bad faith reform. We have some meaningful things in this bill that are going to further reduce costs,” said Burgess.

But McFaddin believes it will do exactly the opposite.

“The definitions in the bill do provide a lot more ambiguity and in the legal system that opens the doors for more lawsuits,” said McFaddin.

Now the Governor is faced with the difficult task of sifting through the countervailing narratives and deciding whether repealing the 50-year-old law will truly lead to savings or rate hikes.

We reached out to the Governor’s Office for insight on the Governor’s position on the no fault repeal, but did not hear back in time for this story.

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association told us Floridians have sent the Governor more than 35,000 letters calling for a veto.

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Zeigler DNA Testing Raising Questions

June 8th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

July 19th, will mark the 45th anniversary of a man’s arrival on death row, who since the beginning has claimed his innocence in the killing his wife and her family.

The State Attorney in Orlando, where the crime occurred, has agreed to new DNA testing, but the Florida Attorney General is calling foul.

No one has been on Florida’s death row longer than Tommy Zeigler.

“I didn’t fire a weapon that night,” said Zeigler in an October 2000 interview.

For decades Zeigler has sought to have clothing and other evidence tested for DNA he claims will prove his innocence in the 1975 Christmas Eve slayings of his wife, her parents and a handyman at his furniture store.

“There’s a drop of blood on my wife’s blouse that they say is mine. That I stood over her and dripped blood. That is not my blood,” said Zeigler.

The jury in the case was uncertain, voting 7-5 for life in prison.

That was overruled by the judge who sentenced Zeigler to death.

The State Attorney in Orlando recently agreed to allow the DNA testing at Zeigler’s expense, but Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is arguing the agreement doesn’t follow standards in state law.

She also has said previous testing in the early 2000’s didn’t prove anything and that not finding Zeigler’s DNA doesn’t make him innocent.

“The evidence I think would be compelling,” said Zeigler’s attorney Terry Hadley.

Hadley said he believes advances in DNA will prove Zeigler didn’t do it.

“Suppose I am wrong and everybody who believes in Tommy Zeigler are wrong, and he’s proved guilty. The state can rest, they’ve done their job. On the other hand, if it proves him innocent and it exonerates him, we’re not going to execute an innocent man,” said Hadley.

In his more than four decades on Death Row, Tommy Zeigler has survived two death warrants and most recently COVID.

We requested to speak to the Attorney General, but her office told us she was not available.

No hearing has been set yet in the DNA testing issue.

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Nikki Fried Faces Ethics Complaints

June 7th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Agriculture Commissioner and Gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried has come under fire for amending her financial disclosure forms to report more than a quarter million more in income than originally filed with the state.

A finding of probable cause could subject Fried to discipline, but she has called the complaints a witch hunt.

In 2018, Fried reported a net worth of just over $271,000.

Also reported, $84,000 in income from her lobbying firm, Ignite Florida.

Fast forward to June 30th of last year, and Fried reported a net worth of just under $1.1 million.

Amendments filed on May 28th this year show her lobby firm income was not $84,000 , but $35,000.

The Republican Party of Florida’s Evan Power has filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

“She’s under the obligation as a public official to disclose where she got it, where she got her income, how she paid for her house, how she’s financed all that. And she didn’t do it in a timely manner in violation of our ethical code,” said Power.

State GOP Chairman Joe Gruters has also sent a letter to House and Senate Committee chairs questioning the payments to Fried’s lobbying firm and asking for an investigation.

Fried has been a constant thorn in the side of Governor Ron DeSantis, but now ironically under state law, if the Ethics Commission recommends any penalties, it will be up to the Governor to invoke them.

Ben Wilcox of Integrity Florida would not comment directly on the Fried matter, but calls financial reporting essential.

“The public deserves to know if a public official is profiting personally from their public service,” said Wilcox.

Fried, in a statement, called the complaints a witch hunt, said she has been transparent and said she is trying to break the system that keeps special interests in control.

Under Florida law, ethics complaints are secret until they are proven or disproven.

They can also be released if the person who received the complaint agrees in writing that it is okay to make it public.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Big Tech Censorship Bill Could Be Blocked Before it Goes into Effect

June 7th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Florida’s new law against social media censorship could be blocked before it even goes into effect.

NetChoice, the group suing on behalf of internet giants, has asked a federal judge to put the law on hold as their lawsuit moves through the courts.

NetChoice hopes a federal judge will stop the social media censorship law before its July 1st effective date.

“This is government-compelled speech,” said NetChoice Vice President and General Council Carl Zsabo.

Zsabo argued tech companies would immediately lose advertisers and users if they are stripped of the ability to police their platforms.

“Look at some of the boycotts you saw in the past when there was abhorrent content running alongside advertisers’ products,” said Zsabo.

The issue at the heart of the case is whether tech companies’ first amendment rights are infringed by the new state law.

“Government can’t come in and tell your network what type of news to cover, what types of stories to promote,” said Zsabo. “And likewise it can’t come in and tell private businesses like Facebook, YouTube, Etsy or Reddit the type of content that they have to host.”

The Governor and other Republicans have made the case inconsistent Big Tech censorship is infringing on free speech rights of Floridians.

“We want them to treat Floridians equally and give all of our Florida citizens the opportunity to participate in the new virtual public square,” said bill sponsor State Senator Ray Rodriguez in a May interview.

The Governor’s Office declined to comment specifically on the pending lawsuit, but sent us a statement on the law itself saying in part: “It is recognized that government has a role in protecting consumers against discrimination and deceptive/unfair trade practices, and this law is within that authority to rein in a powerful entity that oversteps individuals’ free speech rights.”

Zsabo acknowledged the difficulty tech giants face when attempting to evenly apply their community standards.

He also empathized with the frustration felt by conservatives on the issue, but said if a user is wrongly deplatformed even without the new state law, the state Attorney General already has the ability to sue on their behalf.

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Red Shirt Kindergartners Expected this Fall

June 4th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida lawmakers have set aside nearly half a billion dollars in preparation for the potential return of tens of thousands of students who never showed up for school in the first year of the pandemic, but finding teachers for them is expected to be a challenge.

Florida’s economists estimate more than 87,000 students who were expected didn’t show for classes last fall.

School districts have worked to find them.

“Parents who were going to put their children in kindergarten this school year, may have chosen to just wait a year,” said Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Andrea Messina.

Those absent student have been given a nickname.

“They’re calling them red shirt kindergartners, I don’t know if you have heard that term, and so what we’re expecting is that in the fall we’re going to see a much larger kindergarten class than we would have seen here to for,” said Messina.

To handle the expected influx this year, state lawmakers put more than $400 million in the budget should they show.

But the Florida Education Association warns the influx will make an already short staffing problem worse.

“We expect not only a massive teacher shortage, but a bus driver shortage, cafeteria worker shortage, paraprofessional shortage, throughout our schools,” said FEA President Andrew Spar.

School districts are going to face the challenges resulting from the new and missing students showing up for the next decade.

“So, schools are going to have to staff up at the kindergarten level, but next year and the year after, it will be the first grade level, the second grade level,” said Messina.

On the upside, two years of cash to increase starting teachers salaries makes freshmen Florida teachers the highest paid in the nation, but pay for veteran teachers only moved up one notch from 49th to 48th nationally.

On top of the kids who stayed home last year, more than 900 people a day are moving to Florida, adding even more first time students.

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‘Swatting’ Crackdown Awaiting Governor’s Signature

June 4th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Perpetrators of a potentially deadly prank known as ‘swatting’ will face stiffer penalties if the Governor approves a bill currently awaiting his signature.

Swatting is when a person falsely calls in a threat to law enforcement to get them to raid another person’s home.

In December of 2018 Wichita Police received a call from a man claiming to have killed his father and holding the rest of his family hostage.

They arrived at the home of Andrew Fintch, who was shot and killed by police as he came out of his front door.

But Fintch hadn’t committed a crime.

Instead, he was the victim of a so-called prank known as swatting.

“I don’t know what the intentions were or the mindset of those that kind of began this, if you will, phenomenon. But certainly they didn’t think through the ultimate potential repercussions. And in some cases people have died,” said State Senator Jim Boyd, who sponsored legislation to crack down on swatting in the 2021 Florida Legislative Session.

Swatting began in the online gaming community.

Generally, a person broadcasting their gameplay has their address leaked and someone calls in a threat, sending police to their residence.

Oftentimes the ensuing police raid on the unwitting streamer is captured on video.

But gamers aren’t the only targets of swatting.

Celebrities including Ashton Kutcher, Tom Cruise, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, and Clint Eastwood have also been victims of swatting incidents.

“We are seeing it become more prevalent,” said Fellsmere Police Chief Keith Touchberry.

Touchberry also works with the Florida Police Chiefs Association, which brought the issue to the attention of the State Legislature, and asked lawmakers to increase penalties for those who commit the crime.

“False reports to the police are happening all across the nation that are resulting in death or serious bodily injury to innocent people, putting officer’s lives in jeopardy and putting public safety in general in jeopardy,” said Touchberry.

If the Governor signs the bill, swatters would face five to 15 years in prison, depending on the cost incurred by law enforcement and whether the incident resulted in bodily harm or death.

“The penalties that we put in place will be a deterrent to this crime and hopefully save resources and save lives,” said Boyd.

The Governor has until June 18th to act on the legislation.

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Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund Terminated

June 3rd, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Former Governor Lawton Chiles fought the tobacco industry and won, getting a multi-billion dollar settlement in the mid 1990s that still continues to bring money into the state coffers to this day.

But a new state law terminates the fund tobacco companies send hundreds of millions of dollars to every year.

https://youtu.be/KrC4FMvW_j0

When then Governor Lawton Chiles signed a bill allowing the state to sue tobacco companies over the money it was spending on poor sick patients, he was told he was wasting his time.

“It’s time for those responsible to pay back,” said Governor Chiles in May of 1994.

But he was successful, winning billions.

All 49 other states soon followed his lead.

Fast forward 27 years and lawmakers this year terminated the fund.

The tobacco settlement money will continue flowing into anti-smoking programs, but there will no longer be a fund named for the former Governor.

Lawmakers justified the move arguing by putting all the state’s extra cash into one fund, the state’s bond rating would improve.

“Putting those funds into our budget stabilization,” said State Senator Kelli Stargel, presenting the bill on the floor on the final day of the 2021 Florida Legislative Session.

But the move brought an outcry from Democrats who felt their icon was being sullied.

“This tarnishes the legacy that has been there for our children,” said State Senator Gary Farmer.

“You know, it’s just not right. It’s not right,” said State Senator Loranne Ausley.

A dozen senators voted no.

Key Republicans have said they are going to find a way to continue honoring the former Governor.

For the time being, the late-Governor’s family has said don’t bother.

“I’m really glad he’s not around to see it, I’ll tell you the truth,” said Governor Chiles’ son, Lawton Chiles II. “He’s honored in the hearts of Florida’s people. What he did and the way he served, the way the he cared about average people and the way he fought for them, that’s the honor.”

Since the session ended just over a month ago, we’ve been told by Senator Stargel that there’s been no discussion on how the forward-thinking Governor will be honored in the future.

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Labor Unions Urge Governor to Reverse Course on Federal Unemployment Cutoff

June 3rd, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Florida is one of more than two dozen states planning to end federal unemployment benefits ahead of schedule.

Labor groups are hoping to convince the Governor to reverse course on the issue, arguing it will hurt the most vulnerable Floridians.

Floridians receiving $300 a week federal unemployment checks have just three more weeks before the benefits expire.

The Florida AFL-CIO said more than 116,000 Floridians will be impacted.

“There are a lot of people out there who need help and need saving,” said Rich Templin with the Florida AFL-CIO.

Jim Ricer, who suffers from a long list of medical ailments said he’s been unable to find a job despite searching for one in a virtual press conference Thursday.

“We are humans. We are not just numbers,” said Ricer.

Florida’s state unemployment benefits max out at $275 a week.

Lawmakers attempted to raise that by $100 this past legislative session, but it failed to pass the House after the Governor expressed his opposition.

Unions argue, like Ricer, most Floridians currently receiving unemployment are no longer getting benefits from the state, only from the federal government.

“So we’re being told that workers are not seeking employment because they want to sit at home eating bonbons for less than the minimum wage,” said Templin.

State data shows there are more than 460,000 available jobs in the Florida and only 150,000 Floridians looking for work.

“So if we’re talking about a worker shortage, this is much more complicated and much more nuanced than folks receiving unemployment benefits,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani.

Eskamani argued the jobs available either don’t align with the skills of those who remain unemployed or aren’t offering competitive salaries.

“It is a buyer’s market. You know, workers are the ones who are in demand so they get to decide where they want to go,” said Eskamani.

The unions have launched an online campaign and petition in hopes of swaying the Governor to keep the federal checks until their set expiration on September 6th.

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Florida Supreme Court Considers Case that Could Make it Harder to Sue Tobacco Companies

June 2nd, 2021 by Jake Stofan

A case before the Florida Supreme Court could make it harder for Floridian’s to sue tobacco companies for damages.

The case centers around whether smokers have to point to a specific misleading statement that led them to believe smoking was safe and whether findings from a previous class action lawsuit can be used in other cases.

John Price started smoking at 12 years old and died from a lung disease in 2010 at the age of 74.

“Had John Price known the truth, would he have acted differently?” Said attorney Celene Humphries, who is representing the Price Estate.

Humphries claims Price’s death was the result of a conspiracy to conceal information about the dangers of smoking by R.J. Reynolds.

“The cigarette companies actively suppressed scientific studies on the truth,” said Humphries.

But an Appellate Court overturned an initial ruling in favor of the Price Estate, arguing the plaintiffs failed to point to a specific statement that mislead Price.

The Price Estate’s attorney argued while there wasn’t a specific statement that misled him, his smoking behavior shows he was influenced by tobacco company misinformation campaigns.

“When the defendants marketed filters, filtered cigarettes, as safer, which they’re not, they’re more harmful, he responded. He followed their recommendation,” said Humphries.

R.J. Reynolds is not only asking the Florida Supreme Court to uphold the Appellate Court decision, but also reverse a 2006 ruling that established findings on the dangers of smoking and misinformation efforts of cigarette makers.

“Our jury had to assume all of that conclusively and we couldn’t dispute it,” said R.J. Reynolds attorney Michael Carvin.

The now entirely Republican-appointed court has shown a willingness to divert from previous court precedents.

If it does so in this case, thousands of pending tobacco lawsuits could be impacted.

The lower court initially awarded the Price Estate $6.4 million in damages, but this case’s potential impact on tobacco companies’ wallets is likely in the hundreds of millions.

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