Florida ethics panel rejects COVID-19 announcements plan, upholds ban on free publicity or exposure

click to enlarge Photo via Ron DeSantis/FacebookThe Florida Commission on Ethics rejected a request Friday to alter the states 15-year-old lobbying gift ban, as a cable-television and internet company wanted to run public-service announcements from Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials about the COVID-19 pandemic.Commissioners voted 6-3 to maintain a ban against providing free publicity or exposure, after Charter Communications wanted to run messages from DeSantis on its Spectrum networks, which reach about 2.5 million people across Central Florida and the western Panhandle.By basically providing elected officials an opportunity to appear in professionally produced public-service announcements, its basically an opportunity to provide them with additional advertising opportunities, said Commissioner Daniel Brady, one of DeSantis five appointees to the ethics panel. And there are companies that analyze how much your name in the paper is worth, or your name on the internet is worth or your name on television.State law prevents lobbyists and organizations that hire lobbyists from providing gifts to state officials - what is known in Tallahassee as the gift ban. This is an unprecedented circumstance that, Im not being over dramatic, this is life and death stuff.Leznoff, who formerly served as the top staff member on the House Appropriations Committee, is one of two commissioners appointed by the House speaker. So I think any time there is a state of emergency, public-service announcements related to that state of emergency should be allowed for the duration of that emergency.

orlandoweekly.com

Florida's February jobless rate is already a distant memory

click to enlarge Photo via Ron DeSantis/Facebook (2019)Floridas jobless rate in February was 2.8 percent, but that doesnt reflect a coronavirus-fueled spike in claims that has overwhelmed the state unemployment-compensation system during the past two weeks.The Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday posted the February unemployment rate, which was unchanged from January. But that was based on information from a time before large and small businesses across the state started cutting back or going dark because of the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.Department Executive Director Ken Lawson said bluntly on Friday the unemployment numbers are going up.Its impacting everybody. Everything we are doing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is having an impact on businesses, Lawson said. Its causing an unprecedented level of individuals, Floridians, our friends and neighbors, applying for unemployment benefits.The newly released estimate showed 291,000 Floridians out of work in February from a labor force of 10.46 million, numbers essentially unchanged from January.On Thursday, however, the U.S. Labor Department reported 3.28 million jobless claims had been filed across the country during the week ending Sunday, with 74,313 by Floridians.The state received 5,325 unemployment applications the first week in March and 6,463 the second week. A return to a healthy, vibrant tourism industry also means jobs and revenue returned to the state.

orlandoweekly.com