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House Bill 7B; Amtrak service in Florida; “Connected” initiative; Caring Awards; What’s Good Wednesday

The Florida Legislature
The News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis called lawmakers into a special session to prevent COVID-19 vaccination requirements in private workplaces, including health care facilities.

House Bill 7B, proposed by Rep, Alex Andrade, would outlaw vaccine mandates during a public health emergency. The bill clashes with a federal rule that calls for millions of workers to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or submit to weekly COVID testing.

The Republican-controlled Florida House is also expected to pass a bill today that could be a first step toward the state’s moving away from oversight by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and establishing its own workplace safety agency.

Guest: Dr. Jeff Goldhagen, professor and chief of the Division of Community and Societal Pediatrics at UF College of Medicine, Jacksonville; former director of the Duval County Health Department.

Amtrak service in Florida

President Joe Biden signed his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan on Monday. The plan included billions of dollars for passenger and freight rail, some of which is allocated to Florida to improve Amtrak service.

Guest: Bill Delaney, co-owner of The Jaxson Mag.

“Connected” initiative

Jacksonville University announced a new partnership with JAXPORT called the “Connected” initiative, focused on the health of the St. Johns River. Their survey results show First Coast residents value healthy waterways.


  • Dr. Ray Oldakowski, professor of geography and principal investigator for Public Policy Institute polling.
  • Dr. Melinda Simmons, assistant professor of marine science, leader of engagement efforts for the “Connected” initiative.

Caring Awards

WeCareJax works to improve access to medical care, especially for low-income and uninsured patients. They are honoring local health care heroes by holding their Caring Awards for the first time since 2019.

This awards ceremony focuses on the medical professionals who gave their time and talent to help low-income or uninsured patients facing serious health challenges during the pandemic.

Guest: Angela Strain, executive director of WeCare Jax.

What’s Good Wednesday

  • The 5th annual Nights of Pints kicks off this Friday and runs through Jan. 31 at four St. Augustine breweries: Old Coast Ales, Bog Brewing Company, Dog Rose Brewing Company and Ancient City Brewing. The event coincides with the City of St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights. The event was started in 2017 by the breweries to give back to nonprofit organizations in the area while enjoying the festivities during the Nights of Lights.
  • In partnership with The Florida Theatre, the Museum of Science & History will present An Evening with Neil deGrasse Tyson tomorrow night. The renowned astrophysicist, author and TV host will entertain audiences with what popular science movies and television shows got wrong and what they got right.
  • A new offshore scuba diving and fishing destination, approximately 28 miles off the Atlantic coast of the Mayport area of Jacksonville, has been created by intentionally sinking two large ships to create artificial reefs. This unique vessel recycling effort provides extended, alternate lives for the vessels while benefiting the ocean environment and creating a recreational attraction. The project was led by Joe Kistel, the underwater cinematographer at Kistel Media.
  • The public is invited to participate in the University of North Florida Sculpture Program’s Iron Pour event on campus this Saturday. UNF students are going to pour molten iron onto sand blocks to cast images in a stunning artistic demonstration. Participants with no prior experience can create an iron piece by making a scratchblock in sand and casting it in iron. Small scratchblocks cost $10 and large ones are $15. Complimentary parking will be available in Parking Lots 9 and 10 at UNF. This kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday at UNF’s Sculpture yard behind the UNF annex.
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Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.