The Legislature began its 2021 sixty-day session on Tuesday, March 2nd. The first four weeks have been busy for the members as they consider bills in committee meetings; albeit, it has been strange with the general public having limited access to the Capitol Complex.
Governor Ron DeSantis issued an Executive Order on March 15th to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include Floridians aged 60 years and older and then, another order on March 22nd making 50-year-olds eligible. Forty year-olds will be authorized beginning March 29th and any adult over the age of 18 starting April 5th. Floridians can go to one of 1,600 pharmacies throughout the state at Publix, CVS, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Walgreens. In Orlando, people 40 and up can receive the vaccine at the convention center. And, Manatee County is joining Sarasota in preparing to allow any adult to be vaccinated.
The Governor also signed an Executive Order waiving all fines issued to people and businesses found violating local governments’ COVID-19 restrictions. The order cancels local fines imposed between March 1, 2020 and March 10, 2021, but does not apply to those owed for violating state orders nor to fines issued to hospitals, assisted living facilities or healthcare providers.
The Governor offered a $4.1 billion spending plan to House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater) and Senate Wilton President Simpson (R-Spring Hill) for the current and next fiscal years. These funds are a portion of the total $9-10 billion in American Rescue Funds received by Florida. His proposal includes boosting tourism marketing efforts, recruiting new Florida National Guard members, funding more behavioral health initiatives, adding to the reserves, allocating one-time payments of $1,000 to emergency first responders ($208 million total) and an additional one billion dollars more for resiliency projects.