Axios Tampa Bay

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Itโ€™s Friday, and we're thankful you're here.

โ›ˆ Showers and thunderstorms, with a high of 83. Bring your umbrella.

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Today's newsletter is 921 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Florida's surge in national import

Florida from space.
The Florida peninsula as photographed by a Space Shuttle Discovery crew member in April 1990. Photo: HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In the last century, Florida has changed from a mosquito-choked final frontier where nobody wanted to live into the most politically and culturally important state in the country.

  • That's the top-line argument from Alexandra Suich Bass, senior correspondent at The Economist, who analyzed Florida from different angles, including the economy, public policy, migration, politics and the environment.

The big picture: Thanks to the pesticide DDT and air conditioning, millions have moved here since WWII, and Florida's demographics better reflect America at large than most other big states. So the Sunshine State offers lessons:

  • It is a window into the wider challenges facing America. Florida has long had a big chunk of seniors and Hispanics, and trends show Americans are getting both older and more diverse.
  • Florida, by far America's largest swing state, has started to drive the national conversation economically and politically as the population swells.

What they're saying: While progressives look west to California for ideas, Florida has "challenged California to be America's cultural and demographic touchstone," writes the historian Gary Mormino in his forthcoming book "Dreams in the New Century."

State of play: Population growth has slowed across the country, but Florida's has boomed, passing New York as America's third-most-populous state (after California and Texas), with 22 million residents.

  • It's seen as both a tax- and regulation-light paradise and a cautionary tale of get-rich-quick at a cost.
  • Example: The collapse last year of a cheaply-built condominium tower in Surfside, which killed 98 people.ย 

What's next: Florida's lax COVID-19 regulations have increased the state's appeal, Suich Bass writes.ย 

  • "By opposing mask requirements and vaccine mandates and making schools stay open, [Gov. Ron] DeSantis has positioned Florida as what he calls the 'freest state in these United States.'"ย 

Why it matters: Because there's no personal income tax, 82% of the state's revenue comes from transaction taxes like sales and excise tax, so the state needs people to continue to move here and to visit, Suich Bass reports.

Yes, but: We have been a boom-and-bust state, riding huge waves of prosperity, but also suffering again and again when hurricanes strike and halt growth.

  • Though, as Florida's economy diversifies, the next busts might not be so bad.ย 
  • Still, critics say the lowest wages must rise for Florida to continue to bring workers in.

Worthy of your time

2. LGBTQ group sues DeSantis over "Don't Say Gay"

Illustration of a rainbow-colored gavel.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

LGBTQ advocates filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging Florida's controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill โ€” also known as the "Don't Say Gay" law โ€” Axios' Ivana Saric reports.

Why it matters: This is the first federal challenge to the law, which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.

The big picture: The lawsuit, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of Equality Florida, contends that the new law violates students' First Amendment and other constitutional rights.

What we're watching: Disney has gotten flack on both sides of the debate for initially not speaking out against the bill, and for now saying the company will help repeal the law.

  • At the bill's signing, DeSantis said that no matter what kind of pressure he gets from activists, the media or companies like Disney, he's "not backing down."

3. The Pulp: Where you seed, I will follow

Illustration of three oranges, one full, one cut in half, and another half that has been squeezed.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios
  • The Frog Pond, "one of the best breakfasts on the beach," opens in Downtown St. Pete on Monday. (ilovetheburg)
  • Orlando Gudes stepped down as Tampa City Council chair after a report in which a former employee claimed he created a hostile work environment through abrasive sexual comments. (Creative Loafing)
  • Bruce Arians will be joining the Buccaneers Ring of Honor. (Fox 13)
Quote Du Jour
"At some point, when the Florida Legislature passes law after law disproportionately burdening Black voters, this Court can no longer accept that the effect is incidental."
โ€” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who ruled Thursday that multiple parts of a voting law signed by DeSantis last year are unconstitutional.

4. Y'all, donโ€™t freak out

a coyote with mange
A less disturbing coyote than the one going around on Twitter. Photo: FWC

๐Ÿ‘‹ Selene here. I was scrolling through Twitter and saw this extremely horrifying animal someone claimed to have spotted in Tampa.

Don't worry: Despite what some people have theorized, this is not likely to be a dog. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tells me it's probably a coyote with an advanced case of mange.

  • Mange is caused by mites that burrow under the skin, causing the animal to scratch and leading to hair loss. It can also cause other infections due to open sores from scratching.

Be smart: If you see an animal like this, FWC recommends trying to scare it away, and keeping food and trash around your home secured.

  • You don't need to report coyote sightings. But any animals that are behaving strangely or aggressively should be reported to FWC's Southwest Regional Office by calling 863-648-3200.

Fresh openings from the job board

๐Ÿ’ผ New job, new me. Check out the latest job openings.

1. Business Development Manager - Solution Sales at SystemSoft Technologies.

2. Director Ecommerce Operations at Ashley Furniture.

3. Director, Technology at Kobie.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a Job.

5. Things to do this weekend

A yorkie dressed up as a flamingo
A Pet Walk 2021 costume contest contender. Photo: SPCA Tampa Bay

๐ŸŽ‰ The City of South Pasadena Block Party: Live music, food, fun for kids, a car show and boat display.

  • Bay View Park, Saturday from 11am-3pm. Free!

๐Ÿฆฎ The SPCA Pet Walk: Bring your pup for a walk along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg. Don't forget to dress them up for the pet costume contest!

  • Registration starts at 8:30am Saturday. Costume contest starts at 9am and the walk starts at 10am from Bayshore Drive to Demens Landing Park. Free! โ€” but you get a shirt if you donate $25 or more. Pet contest is $15 day-of.

๐Ÿฟ Sarasota Film Festival kicks off this weekend with a mix of in-person and virtual screenings of narrative, documentary and short films.

๐Ÿ“บ Selene is watching "Thelma" and eating Flippers pizza. ๐Ÿ•

๐Ÿด Ben is excited to eat at The Grey in Savannah in the next few weeks. ๐Ÿ‘

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