Buffalo shooting latest example of targeted racial violence
Buffalo Supermarket Shooting Targeted Violence People pray outside the scene of Saturday's shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022. The shooting is the latest example of something that's been part of U.S. history since the beginning: targeted racial violence. The history of the United States is filled with white supremacist violence, starting from even before its official origins. Gunmen with biases against religion and sexual orientation have also carried out targeted violence: the shootings at a San Diego synagogue in 2019 and a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016. He's weary of political leaders’ promises to do more about white supremacist threats and gun violence.wftv.com
Why Orlando’s housing market is so attractive to investors
VIDEO: Why Orlando’s housing market is so attractive to investors As potential homebuyers wait for the bubble to burst, prices to come down, and inventory to expand, experts are warning that simply may not happen in Orlando. READ: Are investors driving Central Florida’s housing crisis? #housing — Redfin (@Redfin) April 27, 2022Meo lives in New York, but exclusively eyes Orlando-area properties to buy. She says in many cases, neither stand a chance against larger, corporate investors, dominating the market. READ: Rising interest rates pricing buyers out of the housing market, realtors say“It really is about rental rates,” Elias said.wftv.com
New federal report breaks down COVID-19 deaths by county during summer surge
A new report released by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services breaks down COVID-19 deaths by county in the State of Florida, the first time this data has been released to the public since the Florida Department of Health took down the daily COVID-19 dashboard in early June.
‘We need transparency’: State Rep. calls for Florida to reinstate daily COVID-19 case data
Orange County COVID test sites close early For the second day in a row, both of Orange County’s two mass COVID testing sites closed their queues early. READ: 9 things to know about the new COVID-19 delta plus variant“This is reckless,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, district 49, said. “We need leadership, we need transparency, we need data. READ: Orange County schools to require face masks for students unless parents provide note opting outThe state’s response said the information is considered confidential. READ: ‘It’s not fun’: Reba McEntire, boyfriend contract breakthrough COVID-19 cases“If I don’t have access to this crucial public health data in the middle of a pandemic, who does?” He said.wftv.com
Florida governor vetoes funding for mental health services for Pulse shooting survivors
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has sparked outrage after he cut mental health funding for services for survivors and family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting. On Wednesday, DeSantis slashed $900,000 in funding for LGBTQ programs that serve people in Central Florida.news.yahoo.com
‘Just cruel:’ Gov. DeSantis criticized for LGBTQ program vetoes
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday slashed $900,000 in funding for programs that serve LGBTQ people in Central Florida, including a program that provides mental-health services to survivors and family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting.
Florida Supreme Court upholds state medical marijuana rules
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the state’s medical marijuana distribution system. READ: Brevard County teacher challenges district’s medical marijuana use policyChristina Cusack is a Florida State University graduate who uses medical marijuana to help her with the pain of multiple sclerosis, but she says it comes at a cost. She’s one of 560,000 medical marijuana patients in Florida, a number that has grown every year since Florida voters approved the drug. “We’re starting to see people looking for alternatives to the traditional pharmaceuticals,” Dr. Henry Kirsch of the Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinic of The Villages says. The case was one of the first to make it to the Florida Supreme Court since new justices were appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.wftv.com
Florida legislators don't want you to know where they live
click to enlarge Photo courtesy MyFloridaThe Florida state capitol buildingProposals that would create a public-records exemption for information about state lawmakers are moving forward in the Florida House and Senate.The House Government Operations Subcommittee voted 12-4 on Wednesday to approve a bill (HB 1207), sponsored by Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Lithia, that would allow lawmakers to keep private information including their home addresses and telephone numbers. The bill also would allow similar information about lawmakers’ spouses and children to be exempt from public records.Supporters of the bill said lawmakers receive threats and that records exemptions already exist for information about judges, state attorneys and public defenders.“We’re just as vulnerable as they are to these threats,” Beltran said.But opponents questioned, in part, whether a records exemption for home addresses could lead to lawmakers improperly living outside of their districts without being detected. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said the bill could make it easier to have “shenanigans” about where lawmakers live.“This would just turn it into the wild, wild west,” Smith said.A similar bill (SB 1488), filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was approved by a Senate committee last week.orlandoweekly.com
Florida Legislature considers creating statewide PPE stockpile for future pandemics
Health-care workers wore garbage bags, and physicians and nurses reused their N95 masks.Gov. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, worried that the inventory might not be inclusive. She noted that in her district a coalition was put together to ensure that many minority physicians could get supplies.“The inventory is of who? Doctors offices or hospitals or nursing homes?” Gibson asked Senate bill sponsor Ben Albritton R-Wauchula. Everybody can have access to that, and it will not be limited by any factors,” he said.The bills are supported by the largest statewide physician association, the Florida Medical Association, and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association.orlandoweekly.com
Medically vulnerable Floridians struggle to get COVID-19 vaccine as doctors charge for eligibility form
ORLANDO, Fla. – While many medically vulnerable Florida residents were glad when the state expanded eligibility guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccine, they’ve since encountered confusion and obstacles while trying to get inoculated as doctors charge to fill out the required form. Tracey Johnson is medically vulnerable and said she jumped at the opportunity to get the shot. Our fellowship team called 10 local health clinics asking if they'd sign @RonDeSantisFL's government mandated form for medically vulnerable, uninsured Floridians needing the COVID 💉. “Folks can self-identify as being medically vulnerable,” he said. The push is especially important as reports surface of doctors charging a visitation fee in order to fill out the required form.
46-year-old Lakeland man receives COVID-19 vaccine after latest executive order
LAKELAND, Fla. – Doug Veal, 46, of Lakeland was able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine a day after the Florida Department of Health released the eligibility form for “extremely vulnerable” patients. The Lakeland man said he used a letter he received from his physician to obtain a vaccine from CVS. [RELATED: Florida releases eligibility form for ‘extremely vulnerable’ patients for COVID-19 vaccine]CLICK HERE FOR THE FORMAdThe 46-year-old said he is in the latest priority group for people deemed extremely vulnerable by a doctor. The prioritization requires “medically vulnerable” patients to provide a state-issued form found on the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) homepage. “The state is asking folks to fill out a specific form that was published by the Florida Department of Health.
Floridians under 65 with high-risk conditions search for hospitals to receive vaccine
Some Floridians who are eligible to receive a vaccine have said they can’t secure an appointment. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said high-risk individuals under the age of 65 should be able to receive a vaccine outside of a hospital. Ron DeSantis, Smith said people with comorbidities must receive the vaccine in a hospital. Smith said just more than 100,000 Floridians under the age of 65 with comorbidities have been vaccinated. As of Wednesday night, Orlando Health’s website said it did not have any available first dose appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Orange County priest helping Latino community get vaccinated
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The priest of a church in Azalea Park said his church received 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and he wanted to help the Latino community have access. He said this approach provides equal access to everyone, adding that not every person in the Latino community has access to technology. “We know from market research that Latinos in this market are less likely to have a computer at home,” Rodriguez said. The priest said it’s been rewarding to help connect the Latino community with the vaccine. State Rep Carlos Guillermo Smith said the goal was to make sure the Latino community has access to the vaccine but also that there is equity.
Walmart mistakenly allowed high-risk Floridians under 65 to make vaccine appointments
A Florida representative said that Walmart had mistakenly allowed people under the age of 65 with comorbidities to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. Walmart’s online portal allowed for those people to sign up, according to Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith. On Friday, Walmart will join both Winn Dixie and Publix offering the Moderna vaccine as part of the Federal Retails Pharmacy Program. “It’s extremely frustrating and sends a mixed message, but you know we don’t want these people to give up hope. Walmart is working to align our scheduling system with the specific populations the state has asked us to vaccinate under the federal retail pharmacy partnership.
Florida legislation aims to legalize cannabis for adults, review pot-related convictions
Could Florida be the next state to legalize marijuana in 2022? There are a number of related bills in both the House and Senate taking aim at how Florida handles pot-related crimes. Under House Bill 189 and Senate Bill 712, individuals with certain marijuana-related crimes would be able to petition the court to expunge their criminal history. It's past time to legalize cannabis for responsible adults, let small businesses into the industry AND use the additional revenue to offset unnecessary cuts to our public schools in the budget year!! https://t.co/ovlnsgm6Bh — Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) January 22, 2021In 2016, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana.
Florida to begin statewide appointment system for COVID-19 vaccine
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s director of emergency management said Thursday that a statewide appointment system for COVID-19 vaccinations should be ready within weeks, bringing order to the chaos marking Florida’s rollout of vaccines to its most vulnerable residents. He said a registration system could help alleviate the strain counties are now under as they deliver vaccinations. New claims for jobless benefits tripled last week in Florida as the new coronavirus continued taking its toll on the tourist-dependent state. Although some snowbirds who own homes in Florida say they have gotten vaccines while here in the Sunshine State. At some vaccination sites, seniors have had to be turned away because vaccine allotments had dried up.
Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith urges Gov DeSantis to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for K-12 educators
click image Photo courtesy Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith/FacebookUPDATED: We sent a letter urging @GovRonDeSantis to make #COVID19 vaccines IMMEDIATELY available to K-12 essential FL teachers and school district personnel 65+ currently in direct contact with students. In Orange, that's only 875 employees on the front lines in our schools! 1/4 pic.twitter.com/0vHxNWh5M9 — Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) January 12, 2021Florida House Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, on Tuesday sent a letter to Gov. "Smith pledged that he would continue fighting for vaccines to be made available to all educators and school district employees across the board. Currently in Florida , only front line health care workers, seniors 65 years of age and older, and some long-term care residents and staff are eligible for vaccinations.orlandoweekly.com
Joe Biden’s campaign hosting news conference in Orlando
(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando is among one of the stops presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign will be making in Florida on Friday to talk about the local economy and the state’s unemployment situation. The first news conference is at 9:45 a.m. in Orlando Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Eric Clinton, the president of the labor union Unite Here. Both Biden and President Donald Trump are attempting to win over voters in the crucial battleground state. While Trump had to cancel a recent Central Florida event after his COVID-19 diagnosis, Pence will be in Orlando and The Villages this weekend.
When Florida's unemployment system fails, Orlando's elected state representatives take the calls
Ron DeSantis claims that Floridians are not receiving their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments due to user error; meanwhile, Florida state representatives have been inundated with calls and emails from citizens hoping to receive help with applying for unemployment and successfully receiving their payments. We're asking Central Florida's elected state officials to weigh in, as they help constituents navigate through Florida's unprecedented unemployment crisis. She affirmed that the state "earned 25 million [dollars] in interest on the federal money, while people are waiting throughout the state needing help. "Since March 17, Thompson stated that she has received hundreds of calls from Floridians seeking assistance for payments they have yet to receive. He clearly stated that "the governor and the DEO are squarely responsible for the unemployment disaster.orlandoweekly.com
Possibility of outbreak in prisons sparks fears
TALLAHASSEE As the number of Florida corrections workers testing positive for COVID-19 grows, fears of an outbreak in the nations third-largest prison system have gripped employees, inmates and their loved ones. To prevent the spread of the virus, prison officials are telling inmates to wash their hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, as health officials recommend. Prisoners eat, take classes and engage in recreational activities with other inmates in their dormitories, corrections department officials told Smith in an email last week. Anxiety about a potential outbreak behind bars escalated late last week, when prison officials reported several employees had tested positive for COVID-19. A teacher who works at a South Florida prison said he is upset he is not allowed to prepare the packets from home.ocala.com
Coronavirus: Possibility of outbreak in prisons sparks fear
To prevent the spread of the virus, prison officials are telling inmates to wash their hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, as health officials recommend. Prisoners eat, take classes and engage in recreational activities with other inmates in their dormitories, corrections department officials told Smith in an email last week. Corrections officials say there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases within the inmate population, but it is unclear how many prisoners have been tested. Anxiety about a potential outbreak behind bars escalated late last week, when prison officials reported several employees had tested positive for COVID-19. A teacher who works at a South Florida prison said he is upset he is not allowed to prepare the packets from home.news-journalonline.com
'Shameful': Orlando state representatives hammer DeSantis on state's unemployment website
click to enlarge Photo via News Service of FloridaState Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-OrlandoGov. If you look at the unemployment claims nationwide and compare it to the financial crisis (of 2008 and 2009), it is way, way, way more significant.But Florida offers some of the lowest unemployment-compensation benefits in the country, up to $275 a week for 12 weeks. The dissemination of information to applicants is well below any sort of acceptable standard.Rep. Yes, this crisis is unprecedented. But that doesnt mean that everyday Floridians dont have their own crisis when they go on this website for support.orlandoweekly.com
Florida House Republicans are trying to merge three state universities, and we're all wondering why
The proposed merger was drafted and submitted without so much as the consent of Florida Polytechnic University, the New College of Florida or the University of Florida. "To point out the absurdity of this legislation, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith had a little fun by attaching his own amendment to the bill. In a brilliant move that trolls Fine's entire proposal, Smith's amendment calls for Polytech and New College to merge into UCF instead. "That makes NO sense, and I call BS," Smith said.He said that if they really wanted to save the state money, they would merge the two schools with UCF instead. "Another Democrat challenging the bill is Rep. Margaret Good, who oversees the New College district.orlandoweekly.com
Fifth Third Bank reverses course on voucher program to anti-LGBTQ private schools
click to enlarge Image via Google MapsFifth Third Bank said Friday it will resume contributions to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, reversing course after saying it would stop contributing over concerns about vouchers going to schools with anti-LGBTQ policies.The bank said it can support the program again, following a comprehensive review of the program and detailed conversations with management at AAA Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit organization that administers part of the program.The banks initial decision to end contributions came after aninvestigation found more than 83 religious schools that accepted vouchers for low-income students had policies explicitly barring gay students from enrolling.More than $105 million from the program, which is funded by corporations that receive state tax credits in exchange for their contributions, went to campuses with anti-LGBTQ policies last year, the Sentinels report found.Fifth Third and other businesses that halted contributions after the report have faced fierce backlash from some Florida lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, former Gov. Jeb Bush and religious leaders. School-choice advocates argued corporations were hurting low-income students, including many who are black or Hispanic, by stopping donations to the program. But state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, and Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, argued no private school that receives the scholarships should be allowed to single out and discriminate against gay students in school policies.Fifth Third said it can support the program again, while adhering to its core values, because AAA agreed to develop a roadmap to help parents navigate the school selection and application process. That would entail helping parents identify school-specific information or policies at the schools they choose for their children, the bank said in a statement.Incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor applauded Fifth Third for coming back to the table, listening to all voices and working through concerns. This decision means that thousands of underprivileged, minority students will not have to give up their dream of a better future, Sprowls tweeted on Friday.orlandoweekly.com
Religious Leaders Defend Parochial Schools Shunning of LGBTQ Students on Taxpayers Dime
Religious leaders and some black lawmakers on Tuesday escalated a fiery debate over anti-LGBTQ policies at private schools that receive state-funded scholarships, fueling discussions of religious freedom, discrimination and politics. But Smith said his goal is to ensure private schools receiving taxpayer-funded scholarships do not have written policies that discriminate against gay students or LGBTQ parents. The core of the issue is that a number of private schools with discriminatory policies toward LGBTQ students have given all private schools a bad rap. All of us at Wells Fargo highly value diversity and inclusion, and we oppose discrimination of any kind, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Gabriela Lambertus said. But there are other private schools that, unfortunately, are giving the rest of the voucher-receiving schools a bad rap, Smith, who is gay, said.flaglerlive.com
Rubio Derides as Publicity Stunt Banks Funding Halt to Vouchers Underwriting Anti-Gay Schools
Under the programs, students can use the vouchers to pay for tuition at private schools. This is why youre targeting donors of the scholarship program and hurting poor families in the process, Donalds tweeted Sunday. The debate centers on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which is a major part of the states school-choice system. The hotel chains last contribution of $150,000 provided 20 vouchers to students through the Tax Credit Scholarship program, Gibbons said. In the 2019-20 school year, there were 108,570 vouchers funded through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.flaglerlive.com
Debate rages over vouchers, LGBTQ policies
The report has sparked a heated debate among Florida state lawmakers, with some arguing private schools should not have written policies against LGBTQ students and others arguing in favor of religious freedom. This is why youre targeting donors of the scholarship program and hurting poor families in the process, Donalds tweeted Sunday. The debate centers on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which is a major part of the states school-choice system. The hotel chains last contribution of $150,000 provided 20 vouchers to students through the Tax Credit Scholarship program, Gibbons said. In the 2019-20 school year, there were 108,570 vouchers funded through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.ocala.com
Wells Fargo pulls Florida voucher donations over anti-gay school policies
In a statement to NBC News and CNBC on Wednesday evening, Wells Fargo confirmed that it would no longer participate. "We have reviewed this matter carefully and have decided to no longer support Step Up for Students," the San Francisco-based bank said of the voucher program. In a tweet to a Florida lawmaker Tuesday, Fifth Third Bank, based in Cincinnati, said it has told officials with the voucher program that it will also stop participating. "That means at least 14 percent of Florida's nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome." Last July, before the Sentinel's investigation, a columnist for the paper wrote about the voucher program.cnbc.com
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith was warned at the Vatican for holding hands with his husband
click to enlarge Photo via Carlos Guillermo Smith/FacebookJerick Mediavilla and Carlos Guillermo SmithWhile walking the resplendently hallowed grounds of Saint Peter's Square, Orlando state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says he was stopped by Vatican officials for holding hands with his husband, Jerick Mediavilla.The two were pulled aside, according to a Facebook post by Smith , and warned that their hand-holding could be punished with a fine "or worse. "Established in 1929, the Vatican is its own city-state independent of surrounding Italy. "There are places in the world where LGBTQ people are punished simply for existing. for black trans women who face increasing hate violence and whose average life expectancy is 30-35 in the Americas," said Smith on Facebook. He noted that both he and his husband were raised Catholic, raised in a religion that taught them to see themselves as shameful blemishes of creation.orlandoweekly.com
Orlando lawmakers seek funds to help Pulse shooting survivors
click to enlarge Photo via Voice of America/WikipediaTwo House Democrats want the Legislature to set aside nearly $600,000 to keep open the doors of a center that helps survivors of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Rep. Anna Eskamani, both from Orlando, filed the budget request (HB 9095) this week for the Heart of Florida United Ways resiliency center for Pulse survivors and family members.The center opened in the aftermath of the June 2016 shooting, which left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. If funding does not come from somewhere, the center will close in 2020, Smith told The News Service of Florida.The proposal filed by Smith and Eskamani is one of more than 1,550 budget requests filed by House members. Collectively, members are seeking $2.17 billion in the 2020 legislative session, which starts Jan. 14. Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, has also asked for $2 million for a Pulse memorial (HB 3615).The funds will be used to build a permanent memorial and museum honoring all affected by the June 12, 2016 tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the written request said.orlandoweekly.com
$600,000 Sought to Help Pulse Massacre Survivors
Two House Democrats want the Legislature to set aside nearly $600,000 to keep open the doors of a center that helps survivors of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Rep. Anna Eskamani, both from Orlando, filed the budget request (HB 9095) this week for the Heart of Florida United Ways resiliency center for Pulse survivors and family members. The proposal filed by Smith and Eskamani is one of more than 1,550 budget requests filed by House members. Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, has also asked for $2 million for a Pulse memorial (HB 3615). The funds will be used to build a permanent memorial and museum honoring all affected by the June 12, 2016 tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the written request said.flaglerlive.com
Florida is hiring part-time workers to combat its record hepatitis A outbreak
Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, questioned Rivkees about staff at the county health departments. Smith noted that the budget for the current fiscal year eliminated 572 positions from the state health agency. It also can be spread through sex and intravenous drug use.As of Sept. 14, Florida has had 2,540 reported cases of hepatitis A. According to the latest health department reports, there are 30 hepatitis A cases in Miami-Dade County and 15 in Broward County. I recently visited with the county health department in Miami-Dade.orlandoweekly.com
Savoy gives you a chance to get served by movers and shakers at annual Celebrity Bartender Night
click to enlargeEvent Details Celebrity Bartender Night @ Savoy Orlando 1913 N. Orange Ave. Central Orlando, FL When: Tue., Aug. 20, 6 p.m. Price: donations Events: Food & Drink MapFor the seventh year in a row, Savoy lets local celebrities get behind the stick for short bartending shifts, donating all tips to the Center. This years lineup includes DJs from XL106.7-FM, activists like Gina Duncan, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Pulses Neema Bahrami and Miss Comedy Queen Addison Taylor, among plenty of others. Hosts George Wallace and Pepe keep the crowd entertained throughout.6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20; Savoy, 1913 N. Orange Ave.; donations; savoyorlando.comorlandoweekly.com
Florida's undocumented immigrants won't have to answer census citizenship question, for now
Reasoned decision-making under the Administrative Procedure Act calls for an explanation for agency action. "Let's be clear, Roberts said that Census Bureau could have added the citizenship question if they could have provided a clear and legitimate justification for it," McDonald tweeted. The challenge Roberts put before the Trump administration is to come up with a legitimate rational to add the citizenship question. Can anyone really believe that as a great Country, we are not able the ask whether or not someone is a Citizen. Those litigation concerns were tied to the Supreme Court case.The Trump administration said it wanted to use the citizenship question on the 2020 census to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.orlandoweekly.com
Could 2019 be the year Florida passes tougher distracted driving laws?
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For years, News 6 has been Driving Change by shining a light on Florida's toothless texting and driving laws and pushing for more commonsense legislation to make our roads safer. It’s called secondary enforcement and it’s a dangerous practice that does little to ensure safety and curtail distracted driving. Year in and year out, our leaders in Tallahassee have made excuses, inevitably killing tougher texting and driving and distracted driving bills silently in committee. “Let the will of the Florida House and the Florida Senate, which was elected by Florida voters, let us have our say,” he said. The House bill had little opposition, but the Senate version died in committee.