Bloomberg awards Orlando $2.5 million to combat climate change: Michael Bloomberg's American Cities Initiative announced last week that Orlando is among 25 cities to receive $2.5 million to help combat climate change. The grant is a $70 million program designed to catalyze efforts to promote a sustainable future for residents and help deliver on the America's Pledge initiative to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement. Resources include a philanthropy-funded team member to facilitate the development and passage of impactful policies, training for senior leadership to assist with the implementation of proposed climate plans, and citizen engagement support.
Groveland Four unanimously pardoned by clemency board: Four African American men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lake County were unanimously pardoned last week by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the executive clemency board. Seventy years ago, Norma Padgett accused Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas of sexually assaulting her in Groveland. However, medical records released by the FBI decades later showed no physical signs Padgett was assaulted. Thomas was hunted and killed by a posse, while the others were tortured in the basement under the jail. Greenlee was given life in prison; Shepherd and Irvin were sentenced to death. All four men are dead, while Padgett, still alive, stands by her accusation.
Ron DeSantis excludes LGBTQ protections from anti-discrimination order: The order pledges that the DeSantis administration will prohibit discrimination in employment based on "age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability" for government employees and contractors, though it doesn't include "sexual orientation" or "gender identity" among the protections. Since the Pulse shooting, LGBTQ advocates have pleaded with the former governor to sign an order protecting employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Florida civil rights laws don't explicitly protect queer and trans communities from discrimination; it's legal to deny LGBTQ people housing, service and employment.
1.5 million former felons can now register to vote in Florida: Passed in November, Amendment 4 automatically restores the voting rights of people convicted of felonies who've completed their sentences, excluding those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. Florida was previously one of only three states in the country that didn't automatically restore former felons' voting rights. Despite the clear language in Amendment 4, some Florida lawmakers are still debating the implementation of the law; in December, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said the constitutional amendment shouldn't go into effect until after state lawmakers pass a law laying out how to implement it. Some county supervisors of elections say they will register eligible former felons as per normal until they receive specific direction from either the Division of Elections or the Legislature.
DeSantis signs executive order calling for $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration, toxic algae task force: The order promises state participation in the FWC's Harmful Algae Bloom Task Force to expedite the study of red tide's causes and impacts on the environment and human health and creates an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency. It also instructs the South Florida Water Management District to begin the next phase of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve the project in line with the state's schedule.