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March 2, 2021

The Florida Legislative Session is underway. But in stark contrast to previous years, the opening took place in a largely-deserted state Capitol amid unprecedented restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Steve Bousquet reports on the unusual atmosphere in the halls of state government.

Governor Ron DeSantis spends much of his State-of-the-State address touting Florida’s COVID-19 response. That view, and his legislative priorities for the session, are not shared by the legislature’s Democratic leadership and progressive civilians.

Reinvigorating the economy during the pandemic was the focus of State Senator Wilton Simpson’s opening address to fellow lawmakers. As Valerie Crowder reports, coronavirus liability protections, minimum wage increases for blue-collar workers and balancing the budget were highlighted in Simpson’s speech.

Florida’s legislative leaders appear to be in agreement when it comes to key policy issues they want done. Among them, an effort cracking down on violent protests, more money to combat climate change and quickly passing bills to protect businesses and healthcare providers from COVID-19 related lawsuits. Lynn Hatter reports House Speaker Chris Sprowls captured most of it through quick, but brief, remarks to his chamber on opening day.

A series of proposals this session would elevate penalties for those who commit crimes against someone based on their profession, gender, gender identity, or disability. It’s part of an effort to protect certain groups of people. But some lawmakers don’t think these measures will actually deter crime. We get more on that story from Robbie Gaffney.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, there have been few silver linings. But health experts say one good thing the pandemic has caused is an expansion of telehealth. Regan McCarthy reports Florida lawmakers are looking into a bill to make sure that expansion stays in place. But some advocates point out there are a few important things missing from that plan.