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FL signs bill banning social media for children under 14; legal challenges expected

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Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday in one of the first social media bans for minors. “The new law will take effect January 1st of next year, and will ban social media accounts for children under 14 and require parental permission for 14- and 15-year-olds. It was slightly watered down from a proposal DeSantis vetoed earlier this month, a week before the annual legislative session ended” reports the Associated Press.

The bill DeSantis vetoed would have banned minors under 16 from popular social media platforms regardless of parental consent. “But before the veto, he worked out compromise language with Renner to alleviate the governor’s concerns and the Legislature sent DeSantis a second bill” adds the AP.

The new law is expected to face legal challenges, as with several states which have considered similar legislation. In Arkansas, a federal judge in August blocked enforcement of a law that required parental consent for minors to create new social media accounts.

“A child in their brain development doesn’t have the ability to know that they’re being sucked into these addictive technologies and to see the harm and step away from it, and because of that we have to step in for them,” stated Republican Speaker Paul Renner said at the bill-signing ceremony held at a Jacksonville school.

The AP notes that both Renner and DeSantis expect legal challenges. Renner said he expects social media companies to “sue the second after this is signed. But you know what? We’re going to beat them. We’re going to beat them and we’re never, ever going to stop.”

DeSantis also acknowledged the law will be challenged on First Amendment issues, and bemoaned the fact the “Stop Woke Act” he signed into law two years ago was recently struck down by an appeals court with a majority of Republican-appointed judges. They ruled it violated free speech rights by banning private business from including discussions about racial inequality in employee training, according to the AP.

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Report: Denver area migrants cost $340 million to shelter, educate

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A report by the free-market Common Sense Institute found the more than 42,000 migrants who have arrived in Denver over the last year and a half have cost the region as much as $340 million. The city of Denver, local school districts, and the region’s health-care system have spent between $216 million and $340 million combined to shelter, feed, clothe, and educate the migrants, and to provide them with emergency medical care.

National Review explains the report builds off a previous report from March that conservatively found that the migrants had cost the region at least $170 million. “Costs are never localized,” said DJ Summers, the institute’s research director. “They expand outward.”

Democratic leaders are being blamed for their welcoming posture toward immigrants generally, and their sanctuary-city policies, which curtail law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Since late December 2022, at least 42,269 migrants — or “newcomers” as Denver leaders call them — have arrived in the city, adds National Review.

The Common Sense Institute report found that the migrant crisis has also hit local emergency rooms hard with extensive expenses. Since December 2022, migrants have made more than 16,000 visits to metro emergency departments. At an estimated cost of about $3,000 per visit, that has resulted in nearly $48 million in uncompensated care.

Summers said those costs are “stressing existing health care organizations,” but they also indirectly hit residents in their pocketbooks through increased insurance prices.

Metro school districts have endured the biggest financial hit — estimated between $98 million and $222 million — according to the Common Sense Institute report. The large range in costs is due to the difficulties researchers had identifying exactly how many new foreign students are tied to the migrant crisis.

The researchers found that since December 2022, 15,725 foreign students have enrolled in local schools. Of those, 6,929 have come from the five countries most closely identified with the migrant crisis — Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

On average, it costs a little over $14,000 to educate a student for a year in a Denver-area public school, but Summers said migrant students likely cost more.

“They have transportation needs that are different, they have acculturation needs that are going to be different, language assistance needs that are going to be different,” he said. “Many of them might need to get up to speed in curriculum. They might need outside tutoring.”

Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers approved $24 million in state funding to help school districts statewide plug budget holes related to the migrant students.

Summers said the updated Common Sense Institute tally is likely still missing some costs related to the ongoing migrant crisis.

“There are definitely additional costs. We just don’t have a great way to measure them just yet,” he said, noting legal fees, crime, and unreported business and nonprofit expenses.

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