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Takeaways From Tallahassee — Emancipation Anniversary

Ashley Moody and the feds are going after the ‘common enemy.’

Friday marked 157 years since Union Brigadier General Edward M. McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee. It also marked Secretary of State Cord Byrd’s first public appearance since taking over the Department of State on Tuesday.

Cord Byrd speaks where, 157 years earlier, Black Floridians were declared free. Image via Department of State.

The 20th of May — Emancipation celebration is an annual event that takes place on the front steps of the Knott House Museum, the building where McCook was staying after he moved his forces into Tallahassee to wrest control of the capital city from the Confederacy. The John G. Riley Center & Museum and the Knott House Museum, run by the Department of State, put on the celebration each year.

Tallahassee was the last state capital returned to Union control. McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation on May 20, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln first issued the address.

“The 20th of May — Emancipation in Florida joins our community together every year to remember and honor this significant day in history,” Byrd said in a news release. “The importance of the day cannot be forgotten, and we share this commemoration in the spirit of celebration, community, history, and freedom.”

The event is part of a month-long celebration of emancipation, which includes free admission to numerous historic sites. However, the day’s festivities kicked off Friday morning with a Civil War grave decorating commemorative service. It also featured musical performances, dramatic reenactments, free lunch in Lewis Park and remarks by John G. Riley Center & Museum Executive Director Aron Myers and historian Larry Rivers.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis also issued a declaration celebrating “Emancipation Day in Florida.”

“Learning about the history of our country and the contributions of people who make our world better is the best way to help shape the future,” DeSantis wrote.

“Emancipation Day is a time to honor the contributions African Americans made, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the freedoms (we) have today in Florida and across our great nation,” he continued.

Because the Department of State prominently oversees Florida’s elections, several Democrats were frightened when they learned Byrd would be the next Secretary. Even before Byrd’s appointment, some, like Orlando Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, were already looking ahead to possible impacts to the Department of State’s other duties.

“We should all be incredibly concerned (about) who DeSantis could appoint to this important elections position. The Secretary of State also leads (Florida’s) Arts & Culture programs, among other things,” Eskamani tweeted the day before DeSantis announced the appointment.

Time will tell how Democrats react to how Byrd handles the non-partisan parts of his new job description.


Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter SchorschDrew Wilson, Renzo DowneyChristine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Congressional map reverts to DeSantis draft – An appellate court has reinstated the congressional map drawn by DeSantis’ office for now. The order also signals skepticism at Leon Circuit Judge Layne Smith’s decision to put a replacement map in place ahead of the Midterms. “Based on a preliminary review, the court has determined there is a high likelihood that the temporary injunction is unlawful, because by awarding a preliminary remedy to the appellees’ on their claim, the order ‘frustrated the status quo, rather than preserved it,’” reads an order from the 1st District Court of Appeal. Smith had ordered a map submitted by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere to replace the DeSantis map.

Property Insurance Special Session bills arrive – Legislative leaders, in tandem with the DeSantis administration, rolled out a comprehensive property insurance package that Republicans hope will stabilize a market in which insurers are collapsing, and homeowners are getting hit with major rate hikes. While some insurance experts had predicted only slight tweaks, the House and Senate bills, filed late Friday, would make sweeping changes, including setting up a temporary reinsurance fund that would rely on $2 billion in taxpayer money. But other changes call for clamping down on lawsuits filed against insurance companies while at the same time blocking insurers from refusing to renew or offer policies to homeowners with roofs that are less than 15 years old.

Census undercount possibly cost Florida a congressional seat – A new report from the U.S. Census shows Florida’s population was significantly undercounted in 2020. Although Florida received a 28th House seat, underestimating Florida’s population by well over 700,000 people could have cost the state a 29th seat for the next decade. Based on low self-response rates, six states had significant estimated undercounts: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Florida’s number of people believed to be omitted from the report was among the worst in the nation, worse than only that of Arkansas.

DeSantis targets fentanyl, signs controlled substances bill – Warning of the rising danger of fentanyl in controlled substances, DeSantis on Thursday signed a proposal to stiffen penalties on drug dealers. The measure (HB 95) will broaden a prosecutor’s ability to pursue a first-degree murder charge against a dealer if a drug overdose leads to a person’s death. However, the Republican-led Legislature did not decriminalize fentanyl test strips during ping-pong negotiations over the controlled substance bill in the waning hours of the 2022 Session. “You go to look at like certain street drugs that are considered, quote, not as lethal — if this fentanyl is in it, then all of a sudden, you’re looking at something that could take your life,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis signs residential picketing bill – Protesting on people’s lawns will soon be illegal thanks to a law signed on Monday. Residential picketing has marched into the national debate as abortion rights supporters stake out the homes of conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices over the Court’s leaked draft abortion decision. Although the Legislature passed the anti-picketing bill (HB 1571) in March, the bill signing plays into the national conversation around the First Amendment, the right to privacy and obstruction of justice. “Sending unruly mobs to private residences, like we have seen with the angry crowds in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices, is inappropriate,” DeSantis said. “This bill will provide protection to those living in residential communities and I am glad to sign it into law.”

My cup runneth over

Florida is headed toward a record $20 billion budget surplus, according to the Governor’s Office.

What would you do with $20 billion? Ron DeSantis plans to sit on it.

DeSantis on Friday told reporters that Florida continues to outperform the nation in economic success. Meanwhile, the state’s reserves will top $20 billion when the fiscal year ends June 30. Already, Florida’s revenues have exceeded the state’s pre-COVID-19 baseline estimates by $8 billion.

DeSantis repeated his suspicion that President Joe Biden’s economic policies will plunge the nation into a recession.

“By keeping our economy open, maintaining a low tax environment, and being fiscally responsible, Florida’s budget reserves have never been stronger,” DeSantis said in a news release. “While Washington, D.C., has consistently gotten things wrong, Florida has consistently done things right.”

The state has added jobs for 24 consecutive months, and the state unemployment rate has remained below the national rate for 17 consecutive months. Last month, the unemployment rate fell 0.2% to 3.0% — below the national rate of 3.6%.

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, our state continues to outpace the nation in labor force growth,” said Dane Eagle, Secretary of the Department of Economic Opportunity. “DEO is proud to support the Governor’s mission by offering unique and innovative workforce development opportunities that bolster our competitive industries.”

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.com, May 21, 2022

Republished with permission