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Good morning!

It's Tuesday, November 16th. Clear sky, with a high of about 72.

Later in this newsletter, opinion columnist Nikesha Elise Williams on the message she says City Council sent to Black children. But first…

Florida’s special lawmaking session is underway to try to limit government and business pandemic response


At the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida lawmakers are in Tallahassee this week to take up a slate of bills that push back against the federal government’s vaccine mandates and limit local governments’ authority to require COVID-19 immunizations.

In announcing the special legislative session, DeSantis said, “When the vaccines first came out, we worked very hard to provide it, particularly to our elderly, but we said from day one: we will make it available for all, but we will mandate it on none because ultimately we want individuals to make the determinations about what is right for them.”

Bills up for consideration would require businesses to allow for religious, medical, and other types of exemptions if they want to require their employees be vaccinated — in some cases, potentially fining businesses that comply with the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate.

Local governments would be banned from requiring vaccination.

Another bill would establish a state-run agency to regulate safety in the workplace. Right now, Florida businesses are regulated by the federal OSHA. The state would need to get approval from OSHA to run its own program, a process that would take years to accomplish and hasn’t been done by any state in decades. 

The proposals come after OSHA issued a rule this month that would require tens of millions of workers nationwide to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or be regularly tested and wear masks, by Jan. 4. Florida is challenging the rule in federal court. 

Lawmakers will also consider a bill that would strip the state surgeon general of being able to mandate vaccinations during public-health crises. 

What do you think about the special legislative session? Reply to this email with your comments, and you may see them included in a future edition of the Jacksonville Today newsletter. 

In other news…

VOTING BY MAIL: More than 15,000 people have already voted in the special election to fill the City Council At-Large District 3 seat vacated by the late Tommy Hazouri. That’s out of about 92,000 ballots sent so far to Jacksonville voters, according to Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan. Voters can request a mail ballot be sent to them through Nov. 27, 10 days before the Dec. 7 election.

Initial mail ballots, those sent out based on previous requests, numbered around 80,000 for the special election. Hogan says his office sent out 138,000 initial mail ballots for the 2020 presidential election — meaning there was a drop-off of about 58,000 automatically sent mail ballots this time, enough voters to fill nearly four VyStar Veterans Memorial Arenas. (WJCT News)

Brendan Rivers, WJCT News

RIVER EDUCATION: Jacksonville University and the Jacksonville Port Authority are collaborating on a new initiative called Connected aimed at teaching the public how essential the St. Johns River is to both the environment and the local economy. JU’s Marine Science Research Institute will provide scientific expertise and educational resources to local schools and community groups. (WJCT News)


FIREHOUSE SUBS: Firehouse Subs, the Jacksonville-based restaurant chain founded by Jacksonville firefighters more than 25 years ago, is set to be acquired by the parent company of Burger King — another restaurant chain that was founded in Jacksonville — in a $1 billion deal. Projected growth because of the deal is expected to allow Firehouse Subs, through its Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, to continue its mission of providing lifesaving equipment to first responders. (The Florida Times-Union, The Coastal)

And a little bit of joy...
Screenshot of the Jacksonville Humane Society's website

The Jacksonville Humane Society says its November Pet of the Month, Gumdrop, has been adopted, and we here at Jacksonville Today think that is excellent news. JHS describes Gumdrop as a calm and curious pup with a “perma-wink” and major social media influencer potential. 

What are we teaching our children?

By Nikesha Elise Williams

City Council has withdrawn the Confederate monument legislation and may never take it up again —  an act of cowardice that took place last week in an open forum where no one seemed the least bit dismayed or even ashamed. As it happened, I wondered, What are we teaching our children? 

Recently, on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, my fellow roundtable panelist and Jax Today columnist A.G. Gancarski suggested that this generation of children won’t understand what these monuments mean anyway. I disagreed then as I disagree now. 

Just because our education system does not teach the full truth of the atrocities of American history does not mean that some children won’t learn about them. Race predicates that Black and brown children learn about the worst of America so that they have some context to apply to the inevitable racism they will face in their life. 

Read the rest of the column on

One more exciting piece of news before we sign off for this morning: 

We’re delighted to announce a new opinion columnist joining the Jacksonville Today roster: former state Senator and current Chairman of the St. Johns River Water Management District Board Rob Bradley.

A Republican, Bradley represented North Florida in the Florida Senate from 2012-2020, serving as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations from 2017-2020, where he crafted three state budgets. He’s also married to current state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island. 

Beginning this Thursday, look for Bradley’s Northeast Florida take on what’s going on in Tallahassee, only here in the Jacksonville Today newsletter.  


Until tomorrow,

Sydney and Jessica

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