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March 8, 2021

Florida’s CONNECT unemployment benefits system failed to connect to much of anything in the early days of the pandemic. That left millions of newly laid-off Floridians in the cold. That company that built it, Deloitte, has worked to distance itself from the system and is part of a lawsuit against the state. Now a new state audit reveals the problems go deeper than previously thought. Lynn Hatter reports the audit is adding more pressure for lawmakers to revamp the system.

As stand-alone emergency rooms crop up across Florida, they’re causing confusion. And in some cases saddling families with much larger bills than they expected. Regan McCarthy reports Florida lawmakers are considering a proposal to improve price transparency at the facilities.

Florida lawmakers are considering a 100-million dollar-a-year proposal to fund projects aimed at helping local governments deal with sea level rise and flooding. Robbie Gaffney reports this is part of a larger package meant to boost the state’s resiliency against climate change.

If you wanted to see the Florida Legislature seriously at work and could follow only one legislator, one person worth watching is Senator Jeff Brandes. The Republican from St. Petersburg is entering his final two-years due to term limits. And as usual, he’s pushing for change in many areas. He opposes Florida’s strict prison sentencing laws with their mandatory minimums. He wants to legalize recreational use of marijuana for people over the age of 21. He wants to allow online gambling on sports. And he’s leading an effort to give liability protections to businesses and nursing homes from COVID-19 lawsuits. Steve Bousquet sat down with Brandes for a talk about his priorities. Brandes will leave the Senate after the 2022 Session. He does not plan to run for another political office and he says he would like to focus his efforts on criminal justice reform.

Legislatures are pushing bills that would bring personal stories of people who fled communist regimes to civics education classrooms across the state. Valerie Crowder spoke with Florida State University Political Science Professor Carol Weissert about the proposal.