RPOF Newsletter – February 18, 2022

Chairman’s Message

Florida busts through tourism records


Governor DeSantis’ determination to keep Floridians free and Florida open for business continues to pay off for the state and Americans everywhere as more people than ever are flocking to Florida for vacations. They are escaping more than just cold weather. Lockdowns, mask mandates and weariness over the endless authoritarianism in many other states makes Florida a refuge from crushing policies.

The Governor announced that 30.9 million visitors came to Florida between October and December 2021, marking the second consecutive quarter that visitation has surpassed 2019, pre-pandemic levels. That brings the overall totals for 2021 to nearly 118 million domestic visitors to our state — the highest level in state history, as residents of other states flocked to Florida as a haven from lockdown policies.

“In Florida, we put freedom first, and as a result people are choosing to vacation in our state from across the country and the world to escape lockdowns, including the politicians who advocated for those reckless policies and who are often spotted vacationing here,” Governor DeSantis said. “While tourism in other states is only just beginning to recover, Florida is at the front of the pack — now we are surpassing pre-pandemic levels and setting new visitation records. I’m thankful that VISIT FLORIDA continued to market our state throughout the past two years, and I am confident that 2022 will be another great year for Florida’s tourism industry.” 

Here are a few highlights from the report: 

  • Estimates from VISIT FLORIDA show that 29 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in the fourth quarter of 2021, reflecting a 57 percent increase from the same period in 2020, and a 7 percent increase from pre-pandemic 2019.
  • Approximately 1.5 million overseas visitors came to Florida in the fourth quarter of 2021, an increase of 198 percent from 2020, and 43 percent from the third quarter.
  • About 359,000 Canadian travelers visited Florida in the fourth quarter of 2021, nearly three times as many as in the previous quarter.
  • Latin America was the driving force of overseas visitation in 2021, with Colombia becoming the state’s No. 1 international market with a record 710,000 visitors.
  • In addition, Florida’s total hotel revenue reached its highest ever in 2021 at $17.3 billion, a 2 percent increase over 2019. 

Read more here: https://www.flgov.com/2022/02/15/florida-tourism-continues-to-surpass-pre-pandemic-levels/

For more details on the tourism numbers: https://visitflorida.app.box.com/s/yybwlayqp5ul95851p1vobhwjpsxr2cr

Story here: https://thecapitolist.com/2021-saw-the-highest-rate-of-domestic-tourism-in-state-history/



Tourist-related businesses and organizations praise the Governor

The principled, freedom-driven policies of Governor DeSantis are drawing high praise from businesses and organizations around the state, who realize that those policies set the foundation for VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing successes. 

Richard Gonzmart, fourth generation Co-Owner of Columbia Restaurant Group, said, “Florida’s food and beverage sector heavily depends on visitation to our state, so tourism’s record year in 2021 is a huge win for our industry. We sincerely appreciate everything Governor DeSantis and VISIT FLORIDA have done to generate visitors and support businesses.”

Darien Schaefer, President and CEO of Visit Pensacola, said, “Tourism in Pensacola and beyond is thriving thanks to Governor DeSantis and VISIT FLORIDA’s unwavering commitment to our industry. Their efforts have allowed us to take full advantage of the national pent-up travel demand and introduce millions of new visitors to everything our great state has to offer.” 

Philip McDaniel, CEO of St. Augustine Distillery said, “As one of Florida’s top destinations, St. Augustine runs on tourism, and VISIT FLORIDA has been crucial for boosting our visitation share this past year. We are grateful for Governor DeSantis’ support of Florida’s No. 1 industry and keeping our tourism economy strong.” 

Loretta Shaffer, Director of the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau, said, “Florida tourism’s amazing year further underscores the value of Governor DeSantis’ leadership and VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing, which has helped drive visitation to Florida’s destinations large and small. Marion County was one of Florida’s fastest growing counties for domestic visitation in 2021.”

More about what they’re saying: https://www.flgov.com/2022/02/16/what-they-are-saying-florida-tourism-industry-is-booming/ 

IMPORTANT REMINDER: You have the ability to greatly expand the beliefs and ideas of the Republican Party of Florida by sharing out Facebook and Twitter posts. Please follow and retweet us on Twitter @FloridaGOP, and like and share us on Facebook at FloridaGOP. We can win over others only if we all pitch in to reach them with our message.



Governor DeSantis denounces Biden administration denial of individual assistance for victims of SW Florida tornado

Governor DeSantis announced today that Florida will appeal the federal government’s denial of emergency aid for Southwest Florida after a series of severe storms in the early morning of January 16 generated an EF-1 tornado in Charlotte County and an EF-2 tornado in Lee County.

The victims of the disaster represent a significant elderly population, with 84 percent of the impacted population receiving Social Security Income. On January 24, Florida requested all programs under the Individual Assistance program, including the Individuals and Households program, Disaster Case Management, Crisis Counseling and Training program, Disaster Legal Services and Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management will appeal the denial due to the amount of destruction and number of displaced residents caused by the tornadoes. FDEM is also helping residents in identifying other forms of disaster assistance that may be available to help them recover.


$91 million for Panhandle communities hit by Hurricane Michael

Governor DeSantis announced more than $91 million to 14 communities across the Panhandle region to strengthen infrastructure, including improvements to wastewater and sanitary sewer, potable water and stormwater systems.


“I’ve said from the beginning that recovery from Hurricane Michael would be a long-term process,” Governor DeSantis said. “Michael has forever left a mark on Panhandle communities, but through the funding provided today, we can ensure these communities are stronger and better equipped for the future.”

“More than three years since Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle, Governor DeSantis continues to make good on his promise to support these communities with vital resources to recover from this historic storm,” Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said. “This additional $91 million in recovery funding will go a very long way in improving the infrastructure needed to support the families and businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael.”

Read more: https://www.flgov.com/2022/02/11/governor-ron-desantis-announces-over-91-million-in-funding-to-support-storm-mitigation-and-recovery-for-communities-impacted-by-hurricane-michael/


AG Moody fights to end federal contractor vaccine mandate

Continuing to fight for Floridians, Attorney General Ashley Moody is leading 17 other states in filing an amicus brief in support of the state of Georgia’s multi-state suit against President Joe Biden’s federal contractor vaccine mandate.

The suit seeks an immediate end to the unlawful requirement that federal government contractors require all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Not only are there many Florida companies that will be negatively impacted by the unlawful requirements, but the vaccination requirements intrude on Florida’s laws expressly restricting employer-vaccine mandates.

Attorney General Moody filed a similar action in October 2021 and won a preliminary injunction against the unlawful mandate. The federal government is currently appealing the state of Georgia’s case.

 “While COVID-19 infections are rapidly decreasing, President Biden is showing no signs of relenting in his pursuit of power over the personal medical decisions of Americans,” Attorney General Moody said. “As Florida’s Attorney General, I am fighting to protect Floridians from Biden’s unlawful federal overreach and I am proud to lead a multi-state effort in support of Georgia’s case to stop the unlawful vaccine mandate for federal contractors.”

Read more: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/FAD4A0728E0899E8852587EB00594996

Demings continues embrace of Carville after his violent, hate-filled rant

Fox News reports:

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., has been touting the endorsement of veteran Democratic strategist James Carville as she seeks the Democratic nomination for the Florida Senate race but is keeping quiet about his recent comments about punching “piece of sh–” unvaccinated people in the face.

Demings’ campaign has sent out fundraising emails to supporters from Carville in which he tells backers that she can “ONLY win if activists like YOU dig deep and support her every step of the way.”

“I’m neck and neck with Marco Rubio in the race that will determine Senate control, and CNN contributors like James Carville have ‘zero doubt’ that I CAN win,” she says.

Separately, Demings is scheduled to appear at a “virtual grassroots rally” next week with Carville. Carville led President Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid and infamously said, “If you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find” as an attack against one of Clinton’s accusers. 

Despite sticking close to Carville, Demings’ campaign has remained silent on controversial remarks he made during a recent podcast about punching unvaccinated people in the face.

“I wish what they’d do is pass a law to make you immune from liability if you punch some unvaccinated person right in the face, which I’d really like to do,” Carville said. “If you ask me what’s my first reaction to you if you’re not vaccinated, you don’t have any medical reason not to be, you’re a piece of s—, OK? I just want to punch you in the god—-ed face. That’s the way I look at these people.”

Senator Rubio is urging Demings to condemn Carville’s violent, hate-filled rhetoric.

Read more here: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/val-demings-campaign-james-carville-backing-comment


Florida pulling out of federal illegal immigrant minor program

The Florida Department of Children and Families is proposing a rule prohibiting the renewal of licenses for organizations that house Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC), mostly older teenagers, whom the federal government is resettling across the United States, including Florida, unless there is a cooperative agreement between the State of Florida and the federal government.

“Through its policies, the federal government has made a decision to encourage the mass smuggling of minors to the southern border without their parents,” DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris said. “No government that claimed to care for children would ever tolerate this. The federal government’s careless policies have led to this unsafe situation, and Florida will no longer be complicit in it. By ending the state’s involvement with the UAC program, the proposed rule will finally force the federal government to take full responsibility for the care and treatment of the UAC population.”

The proposed rule will not affect the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program because there is a cooperative agreement that governs the resettlement of URM. Additionally, the rule also bars existing licensees from adding to their UAC population, and requires them to conduct regular, in-person welfare checks of any UAC from their current population who are placed with sponsors in Florida.

These unaccompanied teens are often smuggled or trafficked by criminals, sometimes with the knowledge or participation of family members who are already illegally in the country. The Biden Administration’s willful refusal to faithfully enforce the nation’s immigration laws has incentivized this intolerable state of affairs. In President Biden’s first year of office, the number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border ballooned to more than 146,000, compared to approximately 33,000 in fiscal year 2020 and 80,000 in fiscal year 2019. 

Read more: https://www.myflfamilies.com/newsroom/pressreleases/2022/202200210-DCF%20Files%20Proposed%20Rule.shtml

Social Media Highlights

REMEMBER: @FloridaGOP and retweet and share. The Republican message must be spread around the state, and you are integral to making that happen.