Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News
Index of Stories 2020-2019

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Florida News 2020 (scroll down)

Governor DeSantic watches folks get vaccinated at UF HealthGovernor DeSantis: CDC's COVID-19 Vaccine Priorities a "Huge Mistake"

Florida Whistleblower outside her front door with hands up.FL Whistleblower Rebekah Jones Sues, Claims Seizure of Computer Equipment Was "Retaliation"

M-CORES Slammed: A "Boondoggle" In Top 7 Destructive Road Projects In U.S.

Pandemic Intensifies Food, Housing Struggles for Florida Families


Raid On Home of Rebekah Jones, Former FL DOH Data Scientist Spurs Calls for Investigation

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran at Boggy Creek elementary schoolFlorida Schools to Stay Open, State Will Fully Fund On-line Learning During Pandemic

Photo of woman on beach. Copy: Florida Legislature EEC predicts tourism rebound in mid-2020. Others, not so fastFlorida Legislative Economists Project Mid-2021 Turnaround For Florida's $90B Tourism Industry

Obamacare Open Enrollment: Navigator Help Is Available Now

Jim Poole, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Director (2010)Columbia County Econ Development
Plum Creek Mega Industrial Site:
14 Years Later – Still No Utility Plan

FL Channel screen shot of DeSantis. Copy reads election 2020, FLorida Repubicans deliverDemocratic Momentum Fails to Materialize, DeSantis & Republicans Deliver

Florida TaxWatch pie chart comparing state and local taxesFlorida TaxWatch: Growing Disparity in State and Local Taxes

FDOT District I Secretary, LK NandamM-CORES: SWC Corridor Taskforce Rolls Back FDOT's Vision of Consensus

Deep-Sea Coral Hotspots Get New Protections in Gulf

Photo of Florida Panthers with copy: M-CORES: It could be the end of the florida panther and a whole lot more. 25 billion of new toll roads. Is that what Florida really wants?M-CORES: 93% of the Public Against, Rural Florida at Risk, FDOT On-The-Spot

After DeSantis Veto, LEAP Tampa Bay Keeps College Completion Program Alive

Florida: More Uninsured Children Than California, 55,000 Added to FL's Uninsured Since 2016

Mother and Child in black and white with copy: Florida, among the top states in the nation in uninsured childresFlorida's Uninsured Children: 33% Above the National Average

girl with orange binoculars: text is floirda minimum wage constitutional amendment poised to passFlorida Minimum Wage Constitutional Amendment Poised to Pass

Pressure Mounts for Climate Question During Presidential Debates

Third Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Mark E. Feagle Keeping Safety First During Continuing Pandemic

Port of MiamiFlorida State Tax Collections Down by Billions, But Some Exceed Revised Projections

President Trump and Governor DeSantisGov. DeSantis Requests State AG Investigation Into Bloomberg’s Felon Voter Registration Drive

Mike Bloomberg with quote: "The right to vote is fundamental to or democracyBloomberg Raises $20M to Register 31,000 Florida Felons to Vote

Florida, 4th Highest Alzheimer's Rate in Country – New Tools Available for Alzheimer's Battle

Florida Solar Power:  16,000 Urge PSC Not to Change Solar Rules – Utilities Lobby for Change

Florida Governor: Billions in Federal CARES Act Funds Received - Zero Transparency

Surgeons looking at patient with copy: Florida HealthcareAnalysis: Florida's Healthcare System Among the Nation's Worst

Saint Leo University Named as Best Value in South for 2021 by U.S. News & World Reports

Senate President Bill Galvano at the opening day of M-CORESM-CORES Coming to Columbia County. Hotel Mogul Worried About Economic Impact to Local Economy

FWC Announces a New Way to Report Gopher Tortoise Sightings: "You Can Help Conserver One of the Oldest Creatures on the Planet"

Leon Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson Restores Florida School Boards’ Reopening Authority

Yellow school busState Appeals School Reopening Ruling: Florida School Districts in Limbo

Struck Down:  Order Requiring Schools to Reopen Classrooms or Be Denied Funding

FL Constitution Guarantees a “Safe” and “Secure” Public Education – Judges Ruling On-Tap

President Trump Signs Executive Orders Extending Unemployment Benefits – More

Florida Lawsuits  Challenging Local Mask  Mandates Not Flying in Court

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees being led out of a presss conference after failing to tow the company line.As the Coronavirus Ravaged FL, Gov. Ron DeSantis Sidelined Scientists and Followed Trump

John Lewis Passed:  America Mourns a Titan

stethoscope and  covid man: 607,000 newly uninsured; 3.1 mil adults without health insuranceFlorida: 607,000 Newly Uninsured; 3.1 Mil Adults Without Health Insurance

Despite Legal Challenges, Local Mandatory Mask Orders Sweeping Florida

Florida Dems:  Special Session Needed to Distribute Federal Coronavirus Assistance

Rebekah Jones, Fired GIS Scientist, Filing Whistleblower Complaint Against Florida

Hand gun with copy: [Florida] nation's highest concealed-weapons-licenses-per-capitaRenewed Wave of Firearms Purchases By Floridians

Models Confirm Florida Coronavirus Resurgence, Warn of Catastrophic Consequences

Florida Sunset wth copy: Florida - trouble in paradise, coronavirus spikeGov. DeSantis: Surging Coronavirus Cases Fueled by 'High Risk' Floridians, FL Deaths Nearing 3,000

New Yorker Cover of George Floyd

Florida Seeks Expedited Full Fed Court Hearing in Appeal of Fed Judge Giving Felons Right to Vote

George Floyd memorial wall muralAmid Little Recent Violence, FL Cities Prepare for Thursday After George Floyd’s Memorial Service

Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida's 2019 Felon "Pay to Vote" Law

FL Coronavirus Dashboard Mngr: Said She Was Fired for Refusing to "Manually Change Data"

Florida Tourism Industry On the Ropes, But an Uptick in Interest

Governor OKs Big Box Pharmacists to Conduct Diagnostic Coronavirus Testing

Florida's Phase One Reopening Lifts Stay-At-Home Order, Reopens Businesses in 'Safe-Smart-Steps'

Coronavirus Spike Clouds Florida's Reopening Plans: Positive Results at about 10% on Thursday

Universal globeFlorida Businesses Fear Lawsuits When Allowed to Reopen: How to Screen Workers and Guests?

Federal Aid May Come Too Late to Save 1 Million Florida Small Business Jobs

Florida's Unemployment Policy Questions Need to be Addressed: Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez

Florida May Fall $10B Short Funding $92.3B Budget

Keeping Coronavirus Out of the Courts: Chief Justice Extends Emergency Order Through May

"You Do the Crime, You Do the Time," Class Action Could Restore Voting Rights

Florida Stay-At-Home Order Exempts Religious Services, Raising Concern As Easter Nears

cruise ship with image of Covidman on bowGov Changes Mind: Sea-Stranded Cruise Ships Find ‘Port of Last Resort’ in Ft. Lauderdale

President Trump - COVID-19: "The Surge is Coming," Urges Adherence to Federal Guidelines

COVID-19: FL 3rd In Adults at Risk Due to Age, 1st in Uninsured out of Top 25 States – Columbia Cnty at Risk

President TrumpThe President On Record Unemployment Numbers: U.S. has to "get back to work"

Coronavirus Recession: Seven of the Nation's 10 Most Impacted Counties in Florida

Photo of bullets with copy: Floirda ammunition sales rationedIn Florida the “Gunshine State,” Gun Sales So Brisk Ammunition Being Rationed

Florida School Safety Bill – Other Education Measures Left To Wither

Florida Lawmakers Must Return to Tallahassee to Adopt $92.3 Billion Budget

Coronavirus: 142,000 cases world wideCOVID-19: A National Emergency and a Weekend At Home

House OKs DNA Evidence Bill, Sentence Reform & College Athlete Pay – Snagged

$1.5 Billion Apart, FL Legislature May Be Going Into Overtime to Settle Differences

Florida E-Verify Headed for Florida Senate/House Votes: Could Affect Food Prices

Corona Virus (COVID-19) In Florida

Citizen-Initiated Constitutional Amendments: Florida Senate Wants More Restrictions

Florida Senate Bill Would Set $100 mil Annual Florida Forever Funding Floor

RiverFest 10th Anniversary Celebrates-Educates about the Santa Fe River & Environment

Photo of woman relaxing on dock on inland waterwayFlorida Clean Waterways Act: Calm Water Illusive

Photo of crashing waves with copy: after recent hurricanes, some homeowners may see insurance rate hikes as high as 55%Extraordinarily High Property Insurance Rate Hikes On-Tap for Some Florida Homeowners

Florida Senate - House Set to Exchange Proposed Budgets

Columbia County Florida - 2nd Amendment Sanctuary on a background of gunsColumbia County Joins 2nd Amdt. Sanctuaries - Sheriff Hunter Silent on Raising Arms Against Feds

FL Legislature:  Proposed Wastewater Grant Program Addresses Aging Infrastructure

Photo of busy airport. Copy: Florida, third in the nation in cases of sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors.Super Bowl First Test of Florida’s New Defense Against Human Trafficking

Erin Grall, Florida Representative (R)Florida ‘Parents' Bill of Rights’ Bill Breezes Past First Hearing

Graphic: showing the words Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with line art of a school book, an apple, and a handgunFlorida’s Armed School "Guardian" Program Gets Safeguards In Proposed Senate Bill

Florida's Proposed First-In-Nation Water Excise Tax Bottled Up By Legal - Procedural Questions

FL Constitutional Amendment Process: Republicans Looking for Restrictions

Bradley's Bill Allowing Discretion in 'Low-Level' Drug Offender Sentences Heads to Senate Floor

pregnancy-testParental Consent Abortion Bill Advances in Florida Senate Judiciary Committee

Valdosta's 7.5 Million Gallon Raw Sewage Spill:  For 7 days, like an unseen oil spill

Bill Montford: Florida State Senator7.5 Mil Gal of Raw Sewage Headed Into N. FL From Valdosta – FL Sen. Bill Montford Wants Answers

FL Panther Threatened by Deadly Road Projects - Sierra Club & Envir. Federation of SW Florida Sue

Florida News 2019 (scroll down)

Miami, Floria at sunriseYear-End Review: Top 2019 Am Boomtowns in CO, Texas, S. Carolina - Miami, FL Number 4

Everglades Restoration: $200 million surprise in Trump's $1.4 trillion federal budget

Florida DEP Approves More Onshore Oil-Drilling Conservation Groups & Others Not Happy

Florida Supremes Send 'Fight For $15' Minimum Wage Amendment to the Ballot

legal notices with headline: Newspaper Legal Notice Monopoly Headed to LegislatureLegislation Filed: FL Newspaper Legal Notice Monopoly On the Line - Counties Would Save

Image of President Trump with headline: impeachedU.S. House Votes to Impeach President Trump on Two Counts

Fort White Town CouncilFort White Backs Off Vote In Opposition of Seven Springs - Nestle Permit Renewal

Fort White Town Hall - standing room onySeven Springs – Nestle – Environmentalists: Does Everyone Want the Same Thing for the Santa Fe?

M-CORES: New Coalition 'No Roads To Ruin' Sends Message to Gov. - Toll Roads Must be Stopped

Piston in handBill Would Require Conceal-Carry Applicants to Receive Training, Finger Prints Retained

supermarket isle with fully stocked shelvesCost For Turkey Dinner in FL Lowest Since 2010: Only 8 Cents of Every Dollar Goes to Farmers

Endangered Species Sensitive to Climate Change Lack Protection

solar pannels at sunrise with copy: Florida's energy companies - do they want energy efficiency?Florida Groups Urge Utility Regulators to Boost Energy Efficiency

FL's Saint Leo University Ranked No. 1 in U.S. in Best for Vets Colleges 2020

stethoscoptWithout Medicaid Expansion, Florida Sees Increase in Uninsured Children

$15 minimum wage will be on 2020 Florida ballot with picture of 5 and ten dollar billsMinimum Wage Proposal First to Qualify for Florida's 2020 Ballot

Florida Ex-Felon Voting Rights Remain in Limbo With Amendment 4 Fed. Ct. Ruling

woman smokingFL Poll Confirms Support for 2020 Measures Legalizing Marijuana – But Which One?

First Amendment Foundation Chooses New President to Succeed Legend Barbara Peterson

Scott Israel with text: Florida Senate To Vote On Removing SheriffFlorida Senate To Vote On Removing Sheriff In Precedent-Setting Special Session

Graphic showing how much SPOLST public funding, $150,145,207 was raised by ValdostaValdosta Wastewater Spills Floating Into Florida – Barring an Act of God – A Thing of the Past

Florida Senator Lauren Book Withdraws Bill Seeking to end Religious Exemptions for Vaccines

Senator Rob Bradley and Representative Chuck Brannon during a light moment at the legislative delegationColumbia Cnty's Legislative Delegation Hears From Its Elected/Appointed Officials and Citizens

Lead Graphic: Photo of Matt Hersom, Newberry City Commissioner.NCFRPC Chair, Robert Wilford, Ends Long Tradition of Allowing Public Questions of Guest Speakers

Board members left to right: Charlie Keith, Chairperson Virginia Johns, Virginia SanchezGovernor DeSantis Left SRWMD Holding the Bag: Dept. of Revenue Ran Cover for the Governor 

Suncoast Extension Arrives at TDC: Chamber Director Looking for 'Money' for Study – Sort Of

Last hours of the Deepwater HorizonIs Florida Protected from Offshore Drilling?

County 5 Honor Florida State Trooper George A. "Andy" Brown, III: Killed in the Line of Duty

Governor Declares State of Emergency, Urges Floridians to Prepare for Hurricane Dorian

Lead graphic: Hepatitis A is serious busines. Blackboard written over and over again, "I must wash my hands."Hepatitis A: FL Dept of Health Elevates Hep-A from an Advisory to Public Health Emergency

Pre-Filed 2020 Florida Legislation Decriminalizes Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana

Assualt RifleDeSantis Administration Argues to Block "Assault Weapon Ban" 2020 Const. Amdt.

Photo of an iron fist with Commissioner Tim Murphy's face in the fistNo Questions Allowed: Commissioner Tim Murphy Suspends Rules for Florida Gateway College Brass

Tips: Preparing Youngsters for School

Photo of Florida Panther with copy: Proposed federal law has bipartisan support in house. Would help protect endangered Florida wildlifeNew Bill Could Help Protect Florida's At-Risk Wildlife

Suncoast Expansion Nixed by the Next Generation After NCFRPC Executive Com. Nixes Discussion

FL Attorney General Launches "No Scam" App – Price Gougers Can Be Reported in Real Time

Texting While Driving: Enforcement Begins Today on Florida's New Law

Florida's 'Forgotten Coast' Really Forgotten

Lake City Finally Admits to Cyber Ransom, FL League of Cities to Pay Approx $474,000

A Decade After the Deepwater Horizon Spill, Deep Sea Corals Win Protection

Photo of house with foreclosure sign in front. Headline of photo reads, Nationwide foreclosures down - florida upForeclosures Down Nationwide, But Not In Florida

FGC President Lawrence Barrett eats in the cateteria off clean plates, but doesn't think the kitchen help should earn a living wage. Neither does the governor's board. Addittional copy reads: No raises for these folks. Food service: dishwasher $8.25, chashier $9.00, cook $10.50FGC $22 mil Budget Presentation a Bust: Staff Gets Raises - Kitchen Workers Get 'Zero-Zip-Nada'

Florida Gateway College Mystery. Who is in chargeFlorida Gateway College President Off to Alaska – Who Is In Charge? Nobody's Talking

Photo: Lake Okeechobee. Copy: Lake Okeechobee - green slime on the way, feds suedLake Okeechobee: Toxic Algae Blooming, Feds Sued

Image: St Augistine National Cemetary; copy: Representative James Grant, Republican Tampa: "A direct democracy is for other places - not Florida."Citizen Initiative Advocates Lobby Governor To Veto 'Anti-Democratic' Citizen Petition Bill

left: Donovan Preedon; right: Austin BagbyChampions of Science Add Value to Florida Gateway College Board Meeting

Photo of board workshopFGC Budget Prelude: May 14 Workshop Was In Good Measure Unintelligible, Budget: $21,805,664

Ocean Beach, FL with hurricane rolling inDisaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday May 31 through June 6: What You Need to Know

Florida Cabinet Meets in Jerusalem

flattened globe showing route between Florida & IsraelFL-Israel: Trade Between Sunshine State & Jewish State Booming

SB 7068 - Toll Road Bill, A Hot Topic at Planning Council: Opposition is Out of the Gate Early

Without Medicaid Expansion Florida Lags in Maternal Health

Photo of turnpike traffic at night. Copy reads: Governor signs toll road bill. FL Chamber thrilled, Sierra Club FL declares warOpponents of FL Turnpike Bill Vow 'War on Toll Roads to Nowhere'

jumping sturgeonSturgeon Returning to the Suwannee & Jumping

picture of shadow computer hacker of digital background and flattened world globe with the words across image: Florida HackedTwo Florida Counties Hacked Before 2016 Election: State Agents Knew It

turnpike at night with headline: Florida's toll road plan on Gov's desk: hotbed of contentionFor Whom the FL Road Bill Tolls: Gov Pressured to Veto/Sign Turnpike Plan

FL Elections Officials Puzzled by 11th Hour Petition Changes in House Bill 5

Lake City Assistant City Manager: City on the Move, Position to be Advertised Shortly

North Florida Blooms With Color

ICE agent arresting someoneNew ICE Warrant Program Seeks to Expand Local Role Enforcing Immigration Policy

Florida adopts 9.1 billion dollar budgetFL Legislature Concludes Session With Sat. Adoption of $91.1 Billion Budget

From trusts to the general fund - Florida Legislators balance the budget: image of money floating downFlorida Legislature Budget Balancing: In Trusts Do They Trust

classroom blackboard: floirda school vouchers, headed back to the florida supremesFlorida OKs Publicly Subsidized School Voucher Plan: Defies 2006 FL Supreme Court Ruling

Florida's Parental Consent Abortion Bill Stalls

ballot iniatives: republicans tightening up the rulesFlorida House OK's Restrictions on Petition Gathering for Ballot Measures

FL state flag with  copy: no sanctuary cities here, but just in caseFL House Adopts DeSantis-Sanctioned 'Sanctuary City' Bill

FL Senate OK's 'Guardian' Expansion, Likely Ensuring Adoption of Armed Teachers

Florida Gov't in the Sunshine Under AttackMore Secrecy Than Sunshine: Lawmakers Push for Exemptions to Public Records/Open Meeting Laws

Federal Off-Shore Drilling Plan May Include Waters off the Florida Coast

Financial Impact Conference: Proposed FL minimum-wage hike won’t reduce Medicaid rolls

Florida Finding a Few More Families for Young Foster Kids

"Tools of the Devil," FL Bill Banning Red-Light Cameras Yellow-Flagged

Amending Florida's Constitution - Under AttackCitizen Constitutional Initiatives Under Attack by Florida Legislature

Census Prep Begins Targeting Underserved Areas

FL Senate Tpk Building Bill Gains House  On-Ramp: Small Cnty Road Funding to Take Hit

Florida Voters Restored Ex-Felon's Voting Rights, But Did They Mean to Include a 'Poll Tax'?

Florida Bills Allowing Armed Volunteers, Teachers Advanced Last Week

Suwannee-River-graphicNorth FL's "Red Tide" - Sewage Floating South From GA into the Suwannee River in N. Florida

moneySubcommittee Chairs Axe Visit FL & Enterprise FL, Fund Gov's Environmental Projects

spiny lobster under a rockFWC, Office of Statewide Prosecutor Charge 3 for Exploiting S. FL  Spiny Lobster: Multiple Felonies

Graphic showing a Werner "We Keep America Moving" tractor-trailerEcon Dev: Werner Enterprises, a Billion Dollar Co. Coming to I-10 – US441 with New Facility

FL Exceeds "Million Pollinator Garden Challenge" Goal

image of bat with copy: it's bat maternity seasonBat Maternity Season Begins April 15

Bible StudyFL House Subcommittee OK's 'Study of Bible' Bill Despite Fears of Evangelizing

Hindus Urge Florida Legislators to Include Vedas in FL House "Study of the Bible Bill"

Columbia County, trial horse for FSA's percent based budgeting scheme exterminated. Sheriff Mark Hunter gave it his best shot.Sheriff Mark Hunter's Percent Based Budgeting Deal with the County 5 – Officially Exterminated

Tim Murphy sitting at table, gesturingCounty Economic Development Advisory Board  Murphy Looking for Regional Summit

DeSantis on Education: Senate School Choice Proposals May End Honeymoon With Democrats

Florida bill: 'Recreationalize' marijuana to dodge labyrinth of litigation, regulation

Florida State Parks Foundation, St Andrews ParkSenator Rob Bradley: First Florida State Parks Champion of the Year

Some 2017 Congressional Art Competition winners2019 Congressional High School Art Competition Entries Accepted Through April 29

Middle & Lower Suw River Task Force On Tap In LC: Fighting Pollution From Valdosta, GA

Governor Ron DeSantisDeSantis Rescinds 169 More of Scott’s Midnight Appointments: Total Nixed - 214

Area students at FPL solar farmFPL Officially Unveils Columbia County's First Solar Power Plant

Senate Subcommittee OKs Proposal to Dissolve All Local Business Regulations

Confederate soldiers with headline: Funding Battle Continued at FGCOlustee Battle Festival: Funding Battle Continued at Florida Gateway College – Next Action Unclear

Foster-Care Placement Instability
Some Children: up to 35 homes in 2 years

MIAMI - The goal for the thousands of children in Florida's foster care program is to find forever homes. But a new tracking system developed at the University of Miami shows the dream for many children is short-lived. 

Denisha Moody and Atterria CrayFlorida Gateway College Celebrates Black History Month

I-75 U.S. 90 interchangeHotel Owners Complain About Homeless Under the I-75 at U.S. 90 – FDOT to Step In

Columbia County, County JailComprehensive 'Florida First Step Act' Could Supplant Many Already-Filed Justice Reform Bills

St Leo Univ Named as Top 10 Military Friendly School - Ranked 7th in Nation

Battle of Olustee Festival:  Revisionist History Where Black Lives Didn't & Still Don't Matter

North Florida leaders agree to find a solution to pollutionNorth FL Leaders To Reach Out to Valdosta to Find a Solution to Raw Sewage Spills Floating Into N FL

Gov DeSantis Tilts FL Supreme Court to the Right

The Lake City Reporter: Keeping the Olustee Myth Alive – A New Twist on Letters to the Editor

Sen Bradley & Rep Brannan Came to Columbia Cnty, Everyday Citizens Voiced Their Concerns

Columbia County Legislative Delegation Hearing Today at 1PM: You can make your voice heard

Melissa Olin: 3d Circuit's Newest Judge
A Woman Who is Ready for the Hard Work Ahead

FL Gateway Col Bd Unanimously Votes to End Support for Olustee Battle Festival

Dist 10's Brannon Sworn In -  Dist Sec Hartley Appears Before the Cnty 5