Feb 9, 2022 - Podcasts

The "Don’t Say Gay" bill gains momentum in Florida

This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed his support for what critics are calling the “Don't Say Gay” bill. It could restrict LGBTQ discussion in elementary schools and allow parents to sue in some cases.

  • Plus, cryptocurrency spends big to reach 100 million people.
  • And, why a failed, vague agreement holds promise in the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Guests: Axios' Selene San Felice, Dan Primack, and Zach Basu.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Margaret Talev, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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MARGARET: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, February 9th. I’m Margaret Talev in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: Cryptocurrency spends big to reach 100 million people. Plus, why a failed, vague agreement holds promise in the Ukraine Russia crisis

But first, the so-called "Don’t-Say-Gay" bill gaining momentum in Florida is today’s One Big Thing.

This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expressed his support for what critics are calling the “Don't Say Gay” bill. It could restrict LGBTQ discussion in elementary schools. And allow parents to sue in some cases. Axios’s Selene San Felice has been reporting on this from Tampa. And it's here to explain. So Selene, what does this bill do?

SELENE SAN FELICE: This bill has been dubbed the “Don't Say Gay” bill, but it's actually called the Parental Rights and Education bill. A lot of the debate around what's happening to kids in schools has to do with what parents sign off on. This bill would say that students in any primary school level, can't talk about any sort of gender or sexual identity, and that goes for teachers. It's about 31 words in the bill, but it is the center of the debate around it.

MARGARET: There are a lot of bills that are never going anywhere that we don't write stories about or talk about. What makes this different?

SELENE: Among about 280 anti-LGBTQ bills that are in legislatures around the country right now, this one is if not the most extreme, the most popular. After Governor DeSantis gave it his blessing on Monday, the Senate Education Committee voted to approve it. And it looks like it's going to pass.

MARGARET: The governor also claims that kids in schools are being told by teachers: “don't worry, don't pick your gender yet.” What are teachers and students saying about this?

SELENE: Students from the LGBTQ community came and testified against the bill at Tuesday's Senate hearing, as well as several teachers. Some of whom said that they would quit if this bill passed.

MARGARET: What is the reaction like among parents on both sides of the debate?

SELENE: I did watch testimony of a parent who was extremely frustrated that her child was transitioning through school resources. She sued her local school board after she found out that her child's middle school formed what she called a “transgender support plan” with her child without notifying her. And then wouldn't give her any information about that plan. On the other hand, you have parents who spoke out at Tuesday's hearing asking: How can my child participate in school when they have two moms or two dads? How will they be able to participate in family projects if they can't even talk about their families?

MARGARET: Selene San Felice co-writes the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter. Thanks Selene.

SELENE: Thank you.

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios today. I'm Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo. On Sunday, The Super Bowl will include cryptocurrency ads for the first time. Some are dubbing it the “Crypto Bowl.” In a way, it's crypto's big reveal, but there are a lot of Americans, okay, me, who still don't really totally get what crypto is. So we've called on Axios’ resident crypto expert, Dan Primack, to explain. Dan, these are really expensive ads, $7 million for a 30 second spot. Who are these companies trying to reach? Are they trying to reach sports fans or like all Americans or investors? Or is this about regulators?

DAN PRIMACK: They're trying to reach you, right? The person who said you don't understand, but maybe you've got some money to invest. Maybe you invest in stocks or you buy art or do something else. Crypto is going mainstream. And you've got, for example, crypto.com just put his name on what was the Staples Center, which is where the Lakers play in L.A. And FTX also had its logo on all the Major League Baseball umpire uniforms during The World Series last year. All of this is to say, they're looking for a huge audience, right? They want that 50, 100, 200 million people who don't already invest in crypto. And sports, in particularly The Super Bowl, is that one still central meeting spot where we all watch the same thing live. And so that's what they're going for. Biggest bang for their buck.

MARGARET: So maybe a quick debrief for the uninitiated: What is crypto? Is it another form of cash? Can it be used? Who can use it?

DAN: Right now, it doesn't have much practical application. You know, early on in the idea of Bitcoin, it was, oh, you'd go to the store and you could buy your cup of coffee with Bitcoin. And to some extent, some people can do that, but it's really too volatile to have it be actually practical. And there's lots of different forms of crypto. It's not just a dollar or just Bitcoin. There's lots of different types of cryptocurrencies you can invest in and trade on all of these platforms.

MARGARET: I kind of feel like I'm an ancient person with a bag of salt who's like: Why would I use this piece of paper or this lump of gold instead of just trading salt or donkeys? Like what? How does it work and how can you…Can you hold it in your hand?

DAN: No, but you can't hold a stock certificate in your hand anymore either, right? If you buy shares of IBM or GM or Google, they don't send you anything anymore. It's all data. Crypto, is from a practical perspective, if you're trading it, same thing. You never get a physical thing, but you've got some, it's sitting in an account and it either gains in value or it goes down in value and you buy it or you sell it or you hold it forever.

MARGARET: How long until our salaries are paid in crypto? How long until our 401(k) is saved in crypto?

DAN: Hopefully a very long time, because this is incredibly volatile. You know, you're talking about, we talk about inflation, right? Which is, you know, maybe 6% year-over-year. Crypto can go up or down, particularly certain cryptocurrencies, 20% in a day. If you were getting paid in this, you might have a really good payday, and you could have a disastrous, can't-pay-the-rent payday.

MARGARET: How are these companies actually paying for these very expensive ads?

DAN: Cash. Cold, hard cash. Uh, they're not paying for these in crypto, but they are making lots of money off these crypto trades and that money often is coming in cash, right? You link these to say a bank account, or you take a certain amount of money and put it in. You're putting cash in. It's getting converted into something else, but they are making money. You know, FTX, they just raised venture capital at a $32 billion valuation. That's 32 billion U.S. dollars. And the money they raised was in U.S. dollars.

MARGARET: Dan Primack is the business editor at Axios. Thanks, Dan.

DAN: Thank you.

MARGARET: In the coming days as Western European allies and the U.S. try to de-escalate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine you can expect to hear a lot of references to “the Minsk Accords.” We asked Axios national security correspondent Zach Basu for a crash course in what they are - and why they matter.

So Zach, what are the Minsk Accords?

ZACH BASU: So the Minsk Accords were signed back in 2014 and 2015. It's actually two sets of agreements. And they basically called for a ceasefire between Ukraine and the Russian backed separatists who were, uh, waging a war, uh, in the Eastern Donbass region. They were signed under heavy military duress. Ukrainians were suffering heavy casualties on the battlefield, and then they basically signed this agreements, uh, this ceasefire in exchange for concessions to the separatists in the east. The concessions include giving these separate separatists controlled region some form of special status in exchange for, you know, Russia, withdrawing its forces and returning control of the border to Ukraine. But they haven't actually been implemented. The ceasefire never held, uh, and there've been a lot of disagreements about how Minsk should actually be interpreted.

MARGARET: If they've never been implemented, why are they being viewed as the best chance to stop a catastrophic war throughout Europe?

ZACH: Well, in some ways that sort of speaks to just how dire the situation is. I mean, over the past seven years, there hasn't really been a way to bridge the gaps between the two sides. But, you know, if there is going to be a diplomatic solution, the thinking is that it will be within this framework. But it's really contingent on Russia deciding that it's in their interest to end the war on Ukraine, which so far they have they've shown no interest in doing

MARGARET: Axios is national security reporter, Zack Basu. Thanks, Zack.

ZACH: Thanks for having me!

MARGARET: And we leave you today with this …. Some of you may have grown up with “Build-A-Bear,” the personalized teddy bear company found in malls around the US. Turns out those bears have grown up too. Just released. The “after dark” collection of stuffed bears, rabbits, frogs, and more come clad in undies or boxers - with the ultimate accessories: a bottle of wine or hard seltzer. Just another sign the pandemic has gone on way too long.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Margaret Talev - thanks for listening, we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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