COVID clashes; Ladapo’s confirmation; culture wars; legislative bills; university leadership
Gov. Ron DeSantis continues his criticisms of the White House, as cultural issues dominate committee hearings in Florida's legislature.
The friction between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Biden administration flared up again this week over COVID-19.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration pulled the emergency authorization for two monoclonal antibody treatments against the virus after new data showed they were not effective against the omicron variant of the virus. Gov. DeSantis wasted no time in blasting the decision, calling it “disgusting.” On Tuesday, DeSantis continued criticizing the decision.
Monoclonal antibody sites to treat COVID-19 throughout Florida are closed until further notice due to the FDA decision regarding the drugs from Eli Lilly and Regeneron. The governor has been a vocal and frequent proponent of monoclonal therapies.
Dr. Bernard Ashby is also is a supporter of early COVID treatments. He’s a state leader at the Committee to Protect Health Care, but Ashby says the governor should use the monoclonal sites for drugs that work against omicron instead of closing them.
Dr. Dwight Reynolds said Regeneron did work for his patients. He’s an emergency medicine doctor based in Coral Springs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the omicron variant is responsible for almost every coronavirus case in Florida.
Some Florida Senate Democrats skipped this week’s committee vote for the governor’s surgeon general nominee, Dr. Joseph Ladapo. As the state’s top public health officer, he has been a controversial pick over his views on pandemic protocols. He does not support vaccine or mask requirements and has been critical of widespread testing.
During the committee hearing this week on his nomination, Democrat Minority Leader Lauren Book asked Ladapo five times whether COVID-19 vaccines effectively stop the virus, asking him to answer yes or no. When he did not give a declarative answer, Book announced the committee Democrats would leave the hearing.
The national anthem at sporting events and books in school libraries are among the cultural issues the Republican-dominated state Legislature took up in the last week, including an elections police force, a state militia, workplace training programs and parents rights in public education.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday took a first step toward ramping up scrutiny of the way public schools’ library books and classroom materials are chosen. Senate Education Chairman Joe Gruters says his measure would require elementary schools to publish to their websites all books and materials in their libraries or part of class reading lists.
Democratic Sen. Lori Berman cautioned lawmakers on the panel against opening the door to what she described as censorship.
A separate bill limits classroom discussions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. And there’s another speech-focused bill making its rounds in Tallahassee.
The bill will require professional sports teams to agree they’ll play the national anthem before games if they want to receive state or local government funding. Rep. Mike Giallombardo says it is about patriotism. Rep. Dan Daley is against the requirement, saying it would have the opposite effect.
Four Florida public universities are looking for new leaders. The presidents of the University of North Florida, South Florida, Florida International University and the University of Florida have left or have announced they’re leaving.
The top jobs come as lawmakers are moving forward with a bill to make the process of finding and selecting new university leaders more secret. The Senate Rules Committee approved a bill that would keep confidential names and other information to identify applicants. Only details on finalists would be disclosed at the tail end of searches.
Bill sponsor Jeff Brandes argues that his legislation is geared toward attracting the broadest pool of applicants to the top jobs at colleges and universities. Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer worries that keeping candidates’ identities secret would open presidential searches to potential corruption.
- Gary Fineout, politics and state reporter with POLITICO Florida.
- Kirby Wilson, Tallahassee correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times.
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