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Florida Tackles Vaccine Distribution, Violent Protest Crackdown

Lisa Ferdinando/Department of Defense

Vaccine distribution and cracking down on protests are among the issues facing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and the Legislature on Thursday.

As the governor travels the state boasting of Florida’s “seniors-first” policy, Democratic leaders are calling for investigations into the allocation of coveted COVID-19 vaccinations Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is asking for an FBI investigation into the issue.

“I will not stand by and let our vaccines be used as political gain, and to be auctioned to the highest bidders while so many of our Floridians are suffering.”

The vaccinations have become a political punching bag after various reports that the shots have been made available to seniors in wealthy neighborhoods and have been linked with campaign contributions to DeSantis.

Speaking at a vaccination site in Crystal River earlier Thursday, DeSantis reacted to a Miami Herald article, which said a wealthy neighborhood located in the Florida Keys had received the vaccine ahead of other areas. He said the location in the Keys was run by a hospital and not the state, and defended all vaccination pods statewide.

“If you are 65 and up, I am not worried about your income bracket. I am worried about your age bracket, because it’s the age and not the income that shows the risk. So, if they were able to go into a community that is heavily senior and vaccinate people that is very, very good. So, for that article to suggest that somehow that was one of our sites that is just factually wrong.”

DeSantis also said that federally run sites at CVS pharmacies are now vaccinating all teachers and childcare workers, regardless of age. DeSantis’ state plan had required teachers to be over 50 years old to be eligible.

Meantime, at the statehouse, Republican lawmakers are pushing ahead with a controversial proposal that seeks to crack down on violent protests, and enhance penalties related to riots and injuries to police officers.

Governor DeSantis sketched out the law-and-order plan last year, following widespread protests throughout the country over racial inequities in policing and other aspects of American life.

House bill sponsor Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin says this is a public safety issue.

“If you behave lawfully and peacefully, you have nothing to worry about. But, if you participate in violence or commit a crime, you must pay a penalty, even if it’s a burden on the law-abiding tax paying residents.”

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee approved the measure in a party-line vote, after hearing from dozens of people who oppose the measure. One, Democratic State Representative Mike Gottlieb, calls the bill politically motivated.

“These enhanced penalties are not going to deter anyone, at any time, if they feel their civil liberties are being violated.”

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement 72 people were arrested in riot-related incidents last year. In 2019, there were 14 arrests and 3 convictions.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.