It’s Earth Day, but in Florida it’s culture war week.
The week began with what was supposed to be a special session to simply approve a redistricting map of Congress.
By the way, Congressional maps are supposed to be drawn by the Florida Legislature. And they were until Governor Ron DeSantis tossed the lawmakers’ cards in the trash in favor of his own.
Black leaders blasted DeSantis’ borders in an effort to break up districts represented by black Democrats. And one group said it would ask 2.5 million Floridians to call on their lawmakers to reject DeSantis’ redistricting plan.
DeSantis has finally made it across the border — which will bolster Republican representation in Congress — so it’s a win-win for the governor and the Florida GOP.
And even though the DeSantis card would pit these two Southwest Florida GOP congressional incumbents against each other as rivals, they can still avoid facing each other.
So it was a win-win.
But the special session and debate about districts and race were quickly overshadowed by DeSantis’ pursuit of two culture war fronts in his war against all that was “woke” — or aware of racial injustice.
As a Flagler College history professor explained in a lecture in Titusville, critical race theory is a way to make sense of the history of law and the courts in light of the ugly and ingrained racial past. of the nation.
But, this week, it was not about racial teaching in history class, but rather in math class in Florida.
The DeSantis Theorem: Math Books + CRT = Alarm Clock in Schools
In Pensacola, DeSantis served notice to “wake up” school board members for re-election this year, but the real wake-up call in schools has focused on removing math textbooks from classrooms.
The action followed a decision by the Florida Department of Education to reject nearly half of math textbooks due to concerns from publishers seeking to “indoctrinate” students.
In very many cases, textbooks were withdrawn from use because they made reference to critical race theory or social-emotional learning. It started a stampede across the state as school districts pulled books and looked for alternatives.
In Escambia County, the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth choice math textbooks were included on a list of more than 50 textbooks rejected by the state.
Alachua County Public Schools removed at least seven math textbooks from use after landing on the state’s do-not-use list.
In southwest Florida, school officials in Lee and Collier counties have removed more than 50 math textbooks rejected by state officials.
Besides the immediate crisis of teaching math without the help of books, school districts in Florida must find replacements for the next school year. DeSantis’ choice for education commissioner, a senator from Miami, will play a major role in that effort.
Oddly enough, this publisher’s textbooks appear to be the only ones approved by DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education for K-5 math.
GOP denounces cancellation of culture, but it rushed to cancel the tax district of Disney
The special session on congressional districts had not been announced when the agenda crossed the mission to add a measure of revenge against a particular company: the governor announced that lawmakers would also punish Walt Disney World for having criticized the so-called “don’t say ‘gay’ law”.
Specifically, Florida lawmakers are reportedly stripping Disney of its legal self-government privileges because the company has spoken out against so-called parental rights in the Education Act.
State Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican from Brevard County, summed up the Florida GOP’s view by saying the legislature would remind Disney that he is a “guest” in the state.
It was not an empty threat as the Florida Senate joined in overturning the Disney Company’s special tax district of Reedy Creek.
It’s unclear what impact the fight will have on Disney consumers, as Central Florida theme parks continue to be packed and the company’s brand is immensely popular.
But the message was clear to the rest of the Florida business community: Don’t cross DeSantis or face immediate retaliation.
And while DeSantis berated Disney, Florida officials continued their press on transgender politics. State health department guidelines now oppose puberty-blocking drugs for transgender youth.
But at the grassroots, Floridians are finding ways to accommodate the clashes between culture and war more fruitfully.
An Olympic gold medalist working in Jacksonville is calling for a different approach to how transgender competitors fit into American sports. And this high school has come up with a gender-neutral prom court title.
Another special session? DeSantis eyes insurance as housing costs also soar
The culture war battles have played out, DeSantis is turning his attention to a broader crisis in Florida – home and property insurance – with another special session in May.
The loss of insurance coverage isn’t the only thorny housing issue in the state, where home prices and rental rates are skyrocketing.
Yet affordable housing legislation was among the bills on the regular session’s list of unfinished business.
Housing costs are not on the governor’s political agenda, but local governments are looking for ways to solve the conundrum that is sprouting up like mushrooms.
Manatee County, for example, is taking action to address the need for affordable housing to prevent homelessness.
Sarasota officials are reviewing zoning rules to see if they can create space, literally, for affordable housing.
And this house builder offers lotteries for available and affordable land for houses.
The housing mess has given Democratic gubernatorial candidates a hard time, including Nikki Fried, who spoke of the need for affordable roofs for families during campaign stops in North Florida. Charlie Crist advocated for his housing proposals in Fort Pierce.
Judge threw out mask rules as COVID variant cases rise
State hospitalizations for COVID hit a new low, but new cases rose to the highest 7-day average since March, driven by the BA.2 subvariant.
The big coronavirus news in Florida and around the country this week was the overturning of the federal mask mandate on public transportation by a federal judge in Tampa, who ruled the edict was beyond the authority of U.S. law enforcement officials. health.
The judge, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, was appointed by former President Trump and has a colorful political and judicial background.
Nonetheless, signs of the pandemic ebbing were visible elsewhere in Florida. In Venice, authorities closed a drive-through COVID testing site.
What do Matt Gaetz, Ilhan Omar and the Mayor of Gainesville have in common?
It was a week when threats of political violence were dealt with across the state.
A California man has pleaded guilty in federal court to uttering threats against US Representative Matt Gaetz and members of his family.
Another individual was arrested for threatening Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe.
And a Sarasota County man has pleaded guilty to sending email death threats against U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, a member of “Squad.”
Earth Day: An Assessment of the Florida Environment
We mentioned it was Earth Day, so here’s a roundup of the week’s environmental news.
Mangroves in a southwest Florida beach town suffered a loss when a lawsuit filed by neighbors concerned about the removal of mangroves was denied.
Watchdogs at a Brevard lagoon are raising suspicion over a missing 2020 audit amid a ‘bizarre’ pushback.
Good news came from these “beams of light” on manatees, who are starving in large numbers. And vets were able to treat this badly spotted eagle ray that was pulled from the Indian River Lagoon.
You want to know more ? Listen to the Inside Florida Politics podcast now.
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