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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Get Ready, Florida!

 By Peter Schorsch    

Get Ready, Florida!

The lockdown era may be over, but hurricane season is just beginning.

Anything short of a direct hit won’t get most of us out of bed. The blasé attitude is as much a part of being Floridian as Pub subs and jorts. But this year, the lack of preparation is disturbingly high.

A new survey conducted by “Get Ready, Florida!” found that just 21% of Floridians say they are better prepared for hurricane season this year than last. In mid-2020, at the height of the pandemic, 51% said they were more prepared for hurricane season than they had been in prior years.

At the same time, the number of Floridians who say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned heading into storm season has fallen by double digits, from 73% to 62%. About 8% of those polled said they were “not concerned at all,” which is double the number who said the same last year.

Also, the number of Floridians concerned about the impact on first responders dropped by half, from 62% to 31%.

“A year ago, everyone was already hunkered down at home, with as many emergency supplies as they could stock up as a safeguard against COVID-19 shortages,” said Craig Fugate, former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and a consultant to the Get Ready, Florida! Initiative. “With so much reopening now, people seem more interested in getting life back to normal and less focused on hurricane preparation — and that will be a major problem if and when a powerful storm hits.”

Get Ready, Florida! is a long-running statewide public education initiative produced by Sachs Media in cooperation with the nonprofit FAIR Foundation. The initiative serves to help Floridians plan, prepare, and respond to the threat of hurricanes and tropical storms during the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season.

The initiative said the numbers were concerning, especially since Florida is the most hurricane-vulnerable state in the country.

“Floridians are excited about the progress against COVID and ready to get back to normal activities, but this is no time to ignore the very real threat that hurricanes pose to our state,” FAIR CEO Jay Neal said. “People should be updating their hurricane plans, stock up on supplies, and do everything they can to get ready.”

While reopening and getting back to normal is exciting, putting off storm prep could quickly put Floridians back in dire straits if a storm were to hit.

Experts say families should have enough supplies — including food, water, medicine, shelter — to survive on their own for at least three days. Preparation can be daunting, but luckily the Florida Division of Emergency Management has prepared a simple checklist of what you’ll need to grab at the store — and if you knock it out this week, you’ll save a little cash thanks to the annual disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday.

The Get Ready, Florida! survey of 1,000 Florida voters was conducted May 5-17.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Haley Brown and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

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

DeSantis signs tech bill, draws lawsuit — Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed the social media de-platforming bill into law, and tech interests have already launched a lawsuit against the measure. Many Republicans say social media platforms disproportionately and unfairly target conservatives, handing them bans and other disciplinary actions. “When you de-platform the President of the United States, but you let Ayatollah (AliKhamenei talk about killing Jews, that is wrong,” DeSantis said. Proponents say they want to protect Floridians’ First Amendment rights, but two D.C.-based tech associations say it unconstitutionally compels platforms to host speech they oppose. Furthermore, if social media can’t police what people post, they fear sites could become unpleasant, driving users away.

Gaming bills signed, Compact on to feds — DeSantis also signed four gaming bills Friday, including the bill preparing the Seminole Gaming Compact for federal approval. The Compact awaits the U.S. Department of the Interior’s approval. It would expand the Tribe’s gaming authorization to craps, roulette and fantasy sports contests. Two bills create a law enforcement agency overseeing gambling. Rep. Dan Daley, the son of a standardbred horseman, unsuccessfully lobbied DeSantis to veto a bill easing pari-mutuel regulations over fears it would irreparably hurt the dwindling standardbred horse racing business. Anti-gambling groups plan to sue over the fantasy sports measure, which they say requires the public’s vote of approval.

DeSantis’ budget decision approaches — DeSantis hopes to sign the $101.5 billion budget in the next couple of weeks. Already, he’s started traveling the state to tout budget wins, including bonuses for teachers, principals, first responders, and another tranche of cash to continue raising the minimum base pay for teachers. “We still have a lot of provisions we need to go through. We’re working on it,” DeSantis said. Florida TaxWatch also released its annual report on budget turkeys, line items they say lawmakers didn’t fully scrutinize. The fiscal watchdogs flagged 116 projects totaling $157.5 million, up from $136.3 million across 180 turkeys last year.

Transgender athletes bill on deck — The next big-ticket item, a bill banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams, is on DeSantis’ desk. Republicans necro’d that measure in the final week of Session when it seemed all but dead. Florida’s pocketbook could also be hanging in the balance if he signs it. Statements from the NCAA indicated the collegiate sports organization could keep its lucrative championships out of Florida’s stadiums if the ban becomes law. The NCAA has taken similar action before. It moved a championship out of North Carolina in 2016 after that state restricted bathroom access for transgender people.

DEP Secretary Valenstein plans departure — Secretary Noah Valenstein will step down as the state’s top environmental official next month, according to a resignation letter that surfaced this week. He specified no plans for the future but expressed interest in serving the environmental community and his excitement in the environmental future. Former Gov. Rick Scott initially appointed Valenstein DEP Secretary in 2017, and DeSantis kept him on when he took office in 2019. Valenstein was also doubling as the state’s Chief Resilience Officer on an extended temporary basis. He took on the dual role in March 2020 after the state’s first CRO left for the Trump administration.FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.comMay 29, 2021

Republished with permission