Florida State Wide
The 2021 Legislative Session (and the ensuing Special Session on Gaming) has concluded. It feels good to be back in Senate District 12 with my family and friends. Thanks to Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Governor Ron DeSantis, we accomplished much and we are very proud of the strong position that Florida is in for the future. For the next two or three columns, we will highlight some of the work we did as a body, on behalf of the citizens of Florida. This month, we will report on the budget.
A quick note: In the last two columns, we have highlighted extensively our elections integrity bill and we are excited to report that the bill was approved by the legislature and signed by the Governor.
The legislature approved a $101.5 billion balanced budget that leaves $6 billion in state reserves, while making key investments in infrastructure, child welfare, and increasing the state employee minimum wage. The budget also included bonuses to our hardworking state and local first responders, teachers, and childcare providers, and nearly $1 billion will be provided to reimburse health care employees and emergency responders for childcare expenses incurred during the pandemic. Continue reading
In 2015, Edward Caniglia and his wife had an argument at their home Rhode Island. During the argument, Caniglia retrieved an unloaded gun from their bedroom. Mrs. Caniglia left. , Mrs. Caniglia called the police the next day to request a wellness check on her husband. At the home, the sergeant determined that Caniglia was in imminent danger to himself and to others. The police requested that Caniglia go to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Caniglia agreed based on a promise from police that they would not confiscate his guns. The sergeant seized firearms and ammunition from the home. Some time later, Caniglia attempted to get his firearms back from the police department on several occasions. His requests were denied. Caniglia filed suit in district court against the police department and city officials, alleging violations to the U.S. Constitution and to state law. The firearms were returned to Caniglia. The district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the U.S. Court of appeal for the 1st Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody is enlisting more Floridians in the fight to end human trafficking. Attorney General Moody made the announcement today in Sarasota County that all of PGT Innovations will receive anti-human trafficking training through the Highway Heroes campaign. PGT Innovations is the largest private-sector employer in Sarasota County and enlisting the company in the campaign will add more Truckers Against Trafficking certified commercial driver license holders on Florida roadways.
Highway Heroes is a multifaceted outreach campaign including specialized training, awareness materials mailed directly to CDL holders and a website with resources to educate drivers how to identify victims and report suspected human trafficking. The campaign started in October 2020 through a partnership between the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Continue reading
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office today arrested the owner of a home and community-based service provider for more than $50,000 in Medicaid fraud. Quantara Clarke, 49, is the owner of Golden Angels Professional Services, LLC in Gadsden County and allegedly over-billed Medicaid for services not provided. The investigation also revealed that Clarke, on multiple occasions, did not provide quality care or one-on-one support to patients.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “This defendant is expected to provide daily support services that are essential for vulnerable patients and are meant to make their lives easier. Not only did she bilk the Medicaid program for services that were physically not possible to provide, she overstated the quality of care and, in some instances, scared her patients. That is unacceptable and my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit won’t stand for it.” Continue reading
By the time you read this, the Florida Legislature (barring unforeseen events) will have completed the 2021 Legislative Session. Under the leadership of Senate President Wilton Simpson and our Governor Ron DeSantis we have accomplished a lot and we have much to be grateful for in the great state of Florida. Your Senator’s role this year in steering the Ethics and Election Committee was great experience and the team that we have put together to work on those issues are world-class. We will highlight some of that work for you in today’s column. Continue reading
A new program offered by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation provides veteran caregivers with trained professionals to perform daily tasks, including housekeeping, meal preparation, grocery shopping, and grooming.
Military caregivers nationwide can apply for 24 hours of services free through the Foundation’s website hiddenheroes.org/respite. The number of available hours is limited, so caregivers are urged to apply right away.
“Military caregivers have always struggled with the enormous responsibility on their shoulders, but the risks and restrictions of COVID-19 have sent rates of caregiver burnout, depression and isolation soaring,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “We developed this emergency assistance program to give America’s hidden heroes the precious time they need to rest, relax and recharge.” Continue reading
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody is taking action against Google for multiple violations of federal and state antitrust and consumer protection laws—including anticompetitive conduct, exclusionary practices, and false and deceptive misrepresentations in connection with its role in the multitrillion-dollar online-display advertising industry. Google also made false and deceptive misrepresentations to consumers regarding Google’s privacy practices. Google’s monopolization of online-display advertising involves an anticompetitive agreement with Facebook, making misrepresentations to users and customers, and suppressing competition. Attorney General Moody is joined by a bipartisan multistate coalition of 14 other state attorneys general in the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “For far too long, Google has used its size and position as one of the largest tech giants in the world to manipulate and unfairly monopolize the marketplace. The core of American economic success lies on our foundation of capitalism and a free, fair and competitive marketplace.
“Google knowingly and willingly monopolized the products and services used by advertisers in online-display advertising. The company also engaged in false and deceptive acts while buying and selling the online-display ads. Through their monopolization and deceptive acts, Google greatly decreased other publishers’ ability to monetize their content while simultaneously increasing costs to advertisers. Most of all, Google harmed consumers, including the millions of Floridians who use the search engine daily.” Continue reading
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody today issued a Consumer Alert warning Floridians of the possibility of a resurgence in stimulus payment scams as another round of direct payments from the federal government head to Florida. As part of a massive COVID-19 relief package, direct payments from the Internal Revenue Service are headed to the bank accounts and mailboxes of millions of Floridians—creating the potential for new stimulus payment scams. Anytime a government benefit or program rolls out, scammers will try to exploit the situation for their own benefit.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “With many Americans set to receive direct payments from the federal government, we expect scammers will devise schemes to exploit the massive spending to trick recipients into parting with personal or financial information. Be smart. Seek out trusted sources of information about when your payment will be received and never respond to solicitations asking you to provide personal information or payment to receive a stimulus check.”
Floridians expecting stimulus payments should know:
The IRS will never call a consumer directly, nor will the IRS send unsolicited emails, texts or social media messages;
Recipients will not be required to make a purchase to receive a stimulus check;
Offers advertising expedited delivery of the stimulus payment for a fee are suspicious and can be scams; and
Solicitations asking receivers to click a link or provide sensitive information are probably scams. Continue reading
This is the last column of the 2021 Legislative Session and by next month we will be ready to report on what all transpired during our time in Tallahassee. This session may be one of the most impactful years we’ve had in the Florida Senate. Even though we’ve filed less bills than previous years, the substance of the few that we have are some really big lifts. Here’s an update on some of those.
SB 90, a bill filed by your Senator, addresses a number of issues related to election administration and vote-by-mail. Simply put, we’re looking to eliminate potentially weak areas of our voting process and ensure Florida’s citizens that it will be easy to vote, but very hard to cheat. One provision in SB 90 addresses ballot harvesting so that no person may possess a ballot other than his or her own and those of immediate family members. We are eliminating the use of drop boxes so that the ballot harvesting prohibition can be enforced and to prevent bad actors from having the opportunity to spoil ballots. The second largest provision in the bill expands the timeframe for canvassing vote-by-mail ballots, providing that one vote-by-mail ballot request is good for all elections through the next regularly scheduled general election. Current law states that one request is good for all elections through the next two general elections. This change is necessary to provide voters with more flexibility to decide which method of voting they want to utilize, instead of being locked in for two cycles. Continue reading
Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $4.6 million in awards to communities in Northwest Florida that were impacted by Hurricane Michael through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF). In 2020, the Florida Legislature created a special appropriation for RIF projects in Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington Counties. These funds were appropriated to bolster infrastructure and promote economic development in these rural communities.
“My administration remains committed to areas still recovering from past storms,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “This $4.5 million will go a long way toward giving some of the rural areas affected by Hurricane Michael the extra boost they need to attract investment and improve their economies.”
The Rural Infrastructure Fund is administered by DEO and provides funding to facilitate the planning, preparing, and financing of infrastructure projects in rural communities. Improving current infrastructure encourages job creation, capital investment, and the strengthening and diversification of rural economies through the promotion of tourism, trade, and economic development.
“I extend my appreciation to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their continued commitment to assist Northwest Florida communities impacted by Hurricane Michael through the special appropriation of Rural Infrastructure Funds,” said Dane Eagle, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We look forward to working with these rural communities to help foster economic development and infrastructure projects in this region.” Continue reading