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The Florida Roundup
The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our host, WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami.

DeSantis Threatens Vaccine Mandate Fines, The End Of Standardized Testing?, And An All-Civilian Space Trip

Space station over Earth

On this week's "The Florida Roundup," we talk about how Gov. DeSantis wants to end city and county vaccine mandates and the Florida Standards Assessment; a lawsuit seeks more transparency from the state in releasing COVID-19 data; and an all-civilian space crew.

This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis leveled a new threat against Florida cities and counties.

The governor said any Florida municipality that requires its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be fined $5,000 per infraction.

Local governments around the state, like Tampa and Orange County, have plans to require employees to get vaccinated.

At a news conference Monday, DeSantis said he feels it's wrong that first responders and other government employees could get fired for not getting the vaccine.

"People that have put in ten, 15, 20 years and now they're just going to get cast aside by some onerous mandate? That is wrong, and so we let it be known today, we're going to be enforcing Florida law against that," DeSantis said.

The law in question bans private businesses — and government agencies — from requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination.

DeSantis’ plan to fine municipalities could cost them millions.

Orange County already has a vaccine requirement. Mayor Jerry Demings announced a mandate that all Orange County employees must be partially vaccinated by Sept. 30, and fully inoculated by the end of October.

“We reviewed the alleged statutory authority that the governor cites on the Senate Bill ... that was passed by the Florida Legislature and we do not believe that the current law is applicable in this instance,” said Demings. “Our county attorney's office has reviewed it and believes that we are on solid ground to be able to do what we have done here as an employer to require our employees on both federal and state law to be mandated to receive the vaccine.”

A State Rep. Takes Legal Action For More COVID Data 

A coalition of local and national media organizations has joined a lawsuit against the DeSantis administration that seeks more transparency from the state in releasing COVID-19 data.

The outlets asking to join the complaint include the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and more.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando, filed the lawsuit.

Smith said he realized there were gaps in the information when school districts sought county level information on pediatric COVID hospitalizations as schools prepared to open for the new academic year, but could not get the information they needed.

The realization prompted him to file a lawsuit against the state. He said Floridians have a right to access information about COVID hospitalizations and deaths in real time.

“What started all of this was, of course, the need to get local data as it related to forming smart and science-based school mitigation plans here in Orange County,” said Smith. “What the governor is doing by continuing to refuse public records is he's suppressing the severity of the crisis — if we can't see the specific details about how COVID is being transmitted in our area, then how can we put together a plan to be able to respond? There's basic information that we don't have now.”

The Future Of Standardized Testing In Florida

Standardized tests may be on the way out in Florida classrooms.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed new legislation that could do away with annual testing in Florida public schools.

Under the proposal, this current school year would be the last one for the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSAs.

DeSantis made the announcement Tuesday.

Schools would replace FSA testing with a system of progress monitoring that already occurs during the school year.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush implemented standardized testing in Florida two decades ago. The argument then was that the exams help to improve the education system.

Orlando Sentinel education reporter Leslie Postal said teachers in the state have been using progress monitoring for quite some time.

“I think the big question in all this is, just because you get rid of the FSA and replace it with these smaller tests, what about all the high stakes? And they haven't really answered that,” said Postal. “I mean, keep in mind, in Florida, testing is tied to promotion to fourth grade, high school graduation, teacher evaluations, school grades. And so I think there is some worry that if you're still tying all that to progress monitoring instead of an end of the year test, you haven't really fully solved what a lot of critics most worry about.”

All-Civilian Flight Crew Launched Into Space

All eyes were on a historic space mission that launched from Kennedy Space Center.

The private aerospace company SpaceX sent an all-civilian crew into orbit as part of the Inspiration4 mission.

The crew will spend three days in space aboard the Crew Dragon capsule. The mission was made possible with help from NASA and the launch marks a new chapter for commercial space travel.

SpaceX was started two decades ago, by billionaire Elon Musk. Brendan Byrne, WMFE’s space reporter, said the company was founded to help make humans an "interplanetary species."

"So the Crew Dragon capsule that the Inspiration4 crew are in, that was built for NASA to help get astronauts to the International Space Station,” Byrne said. “But it's also designed to get regular people like this crew into space and to learn about how regular human beings behave and how they react to being in space.”

Byrne said there are more SpaceX projects in the works.

“They're also building a massive rocket in Texas that's going to be used to take humans to the surface of the moon and eventually take SpaceX and passengers to Mars,” Byrne said. “So everything that they do is towards this goal of getting people onto other planets.”

The Inspiration4 crew is projected to return to Earth and land off the Florida Coast Saturday.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.