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Felons could still vote in Florida, parental-consent passes, Econ River gators and more news you might have missed

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Ahead of 2020 election, DeSantis asks court to prevent many felons from voting: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked an appeals court last week to continue preventing felons from voting while the state appeals a federal judge's finding that a law requiring indigent felons to pay "legal financial obligations" to be eligible to vote is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District judge's ruling that the state cannot deny the right to vote to felons who are "genuinely unable to pay" court-ordered financial obligations, such as fees, fines and restitution. DeSantis wants the full appeals court to review the case. In a brief, his lawyers wrote that "a majority of the active judges on this court will likely agree to hear" and overturn the three-judge panel.

Florida's parental-consent abortion bill heads to likely signature by DeSantis: Minors who seek abortions would be required to obtain parental consent or convince judges to waive the requirement under a bill that received final legislative approval and has the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The House voted 75-43 in favor of the bill and then the Senate voted 23-17 to pass the bill (SB 404) on Feb. 6. Laura Goodhue, Planned Parenthood of Florida PAC campaign manager, issued a statement following the vote accusing Republicans of playing politics in an election year and vowing to mobilize what she called an "unprecedented campaign to register, educate and turn out Floridians who will vote to hold these politicians accountable."

Orlando's state attorney and public defender partner with Morgan firm to start bail fund for poor people: As a way to help poor people who have committed nonviolent offenses pay bail, the offices of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala and 9th Judicial Circuit Public Defender Bob Wesley announced last week the creation of the Community Bail Fund, in partnership with the Morgan & Morgan law firm. The firm said it would match the first $250,000 raised for the fund. "The cash bail system has created a structure where people of means are treated fairly and [the] poor are unduly penalized for their circumstances," said Ayala.

Seminole County alligator sinks inflatable kayak, stranding two boaters: Two kayakers on the Econlockhatchee River had their inflatable kayak sunk by an alligator last week, stranding them on the river bank until they were rescued by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office. The kayakers told deputies the inflatable kayak hit something and began to deflate. Rescue crews arrived by helicopter to find and retrieve the kayakers along the Econ River, which, at 55 miles long, is the longest in Florida. Seminole County Sheriff's Office also warns anyone who spends time on the river to beware of alligators.

Flu is a bigger worry for Florida than coronavirus: The flu remains a far deadlier illness to worry about in Florida than the coronavirus, state lawmakers were told last week. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received reports of more than 31 million cases of influenza or influenza-type illnesses nationally between October and the first two weeks of February, Tampa General Hospital physician and University of South Florida faculty member John Sinnott told members of the Senate Health Policy Committee. More than 350,000 people have been hospitalized and there have been more than 25,000 deaths. Meanwhile, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, was first reported in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31. The World Health Organization reported 73,424 cases of the virus and 1,873 deaths as of last week.

This story appears in the Feb. 26, 2020, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.

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