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The nation in brief: Florida bills bans elementary sex ed

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | March 19, 2023 at 4:13 a.m.
FILE - Deteriorated U.S. and Puerto Rico flags fly on a roof eight months after the passing of Hurricane Maria in the Barrio Jacana Piedra Blanca area of Yabucoa, a town where many continue without power in Puerto Rico, May 16, 2018. Puerto Rico started in 2022 permanent repairs on an aging power grid razed by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that struck the island in September 2017. Since then, power outages have become a common occurrence, disrupting daily life. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

Florida bills bans elementary sex ed

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Legislation moving in the Florida House would ban discussion of menstrual cycles and other human sexuality topics in elementary grades.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Stan McClain would restrict public school instruction on human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and related topics to grades 6 through 12.

"So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in 5th grade or 4th grade, will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?" asked Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Democrat who taught in public schools and noted that girls as young as 10 can begin having periods.

"It would," McClain said.

The GOP-backed legislation cleared the House Education Quality Subcommittee last week on a 13-5 vote, mainly along party lines. It would also allow parents to object to books and other materials their children are exposed to, require schools to teach that a person's sexual identity is determined biologically at birth and set up more scrutiny of certain educational materials by the state Department of Education.

McClain said the intent is to bring uniformity to sex education across Florida's 67 school districts and provide more pathways for parents to object to books or other materials they find inappropriate for younger children.

Intrusion locks down California base

CORONADO, Calif. -- A California military base was put on lockdown after a vehicle went through the main gate without stopping, a military spokesperson said.

Naval Base Coronado spokesperson Kevin Dixon said the "gate runner" was taken into custody by base guards Friday night at Naval Air Station North Island, one of eight U.S. military installations that make up Coronado.

Early Saturday, Coronado reported: "The main gate at Naval Air Station North Island is currently closed due to a security incident. Please stay away from the main gate while security conducts its investigation."

The Coronado Police Department was investigating along with military police.

Opinion sought on judge's removal

NEW ORLEANS -- A Louisiana judge presiding over a case related to recall efforts against New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell wants another judge to decide whether she should be removed from the case after a newspaper revealed that she herself signed the recall petition.

New Orleans Civil District Court Judge Jennifer Medley this month approved a lawsuit settlement that significantly lowered the number of signatures needed to force a recall election. Later, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, after suing to obtain the names of the petition signers, revealed that Medley had signed in December.

That led to a motion filed last week to have Medley recused from further proceedings in the suit.

Medley refused to recuse herself Friday. Instead, she said she would ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to decide the matter.

Meanwhile, Cantrell and one of her supporters have filed lawsuits challenging the agreement that Medley approved.

Recall efforts began in August, less than a year after Cantrell, the first woman to serve as New Orleans mayor, began her second term. She was reelected easily in 2021 but has since faced numerous problems including stubborn violent crime, fitful progress on major street projects and unreliable garbage collection.

Questions also have been raised about Cantrell's travel expenses and use of a city-owned apartment, as well as the use of public money to send a mailer to city residents touting her accomplishments.

U.S. sends Puerto Rico power generators

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico's governor said the U.S. government has shipped three mega generators to the island to help stabilize the U.S. territory's rickety electric grid and minimize continuing outages.

The generators will add 150 megawatts of power, and additional generators that the U.S. is expected to ship soon will supply another 250 megawatts, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said Friday.

Officials said crews will install the generators before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season June 1.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying for 90% of the project and Puerto Rico's government the remaining 10%, but the total cost is unknown because it depends on how long the generators operate.

Puerto Rico only recently started permanent repairs on an aging power grid razed by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that struck the island in 2017. Since then, power outages have become a common occurrence, disrupting daily life for 3.2 million people.

The federal government has allocated $12 billion -- most of it for the grid reconstruction -- but only 18 permanent projects totaling $88 million have been completed, according to the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New Economy.

"At this pace, it would take over 100 years to complete the reconstruction of the Puerto Rico electric grid," the center said last week.

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