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Staff Reports


Dorothy Hukill files ‘college competitiveness’ bill

Sen. Dorothy Hukill has filed a bill to “support the over 800,000 full- and part-time students of Florida’s nationally-recognized college system,” she said in a Wednesday press release.

Her legislation (SB 540), known as the “Community College Competitiveness Act of 2018,” would “expand credit transfer options … , requir(e) student and faculty representation on the new state coordinating board of the community college system, and expand strategic academic advising to help students save time and money.”

“As a former teacher, I have seen firsthand how each component of our education system provides a valuable experience for our students as they learn the skills needed for a successful career,” the Port Orange Republican said in a statement. “For this reason, in developing this legislation, we worked to incorporate feedback from our state colleges regarding their unique strategies for student success.”

Her legislation “seeks to further elevate Florida’s nationally-ranked community colleges through a renewed focus on student success that will lead to on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials that prepare students for jobs in communities across our state,” she added.

Here are excerpts from the rest of the release:

“Florida’s 2+2 college-to-university program has earned a national reputation as a model for success in higher education. With a distinct mission, separate from the role of our K-12 and state university systems, Florida’s community colleges are vital to Florida’s K-20 public education system,” said Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

“An independent coordinating board will ensure this critical component of our state’s education and economic development infrastructure retains its dedicated local focus while elevating the statewide leadership presence needed to continue to meet the needs of growing local and regional economies throughout Florida,” he added.

The bill elevates the organizational prominence and affirms the distinct leadership significance of the Florida Community College System and the essential role local community colleges play in improving the quality of life and economic well-being of the state and its residents.

It restructures state-level governance of Florida’s community college system under a state coordinating board uniquely dedicated to the advocacy and advancement of the economic, community, and professional advancement goals of Florida’s 28 community colleges.

It also restores a “State Board of Community Colleges” (SBCC) to oversee and coordinate the FCCS (local college boards of trustees retain current local autonomy and local governing authority), and shifts state-level responsibilities regarding Florida community colleges from the State Board of Education to the SBCC.

Help may be on the way for hearing impaired drivers stopped by cops

A new bill filed by state Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat, may go a long way toward helping law enforcement handle traffic stops involving the hearing impaired.

HB 135 would allow drivers to voluntarily indicate hearing impairment on their vehicle tag applications.

That information would be included in the Florida Crime Information Center and the Driver and Vehicle Information Database, making law enforcement aware before interacting with a driver who can’t hear them.

“One of my constituents, a TPD officer, brought this situation to my attention out of concern for his hearing impaired son,” Ausley noted Wednesday.

“Eliminating potential confusion during a traffic stop helps protect both the officer and the driver. This is about providing law enforcement officers the tools they need to protect all Floridians safely,” Ausley added.

Since last August, there have been at least two incidents nationally of officers killing hearing-impaired drivers.

The New York Daily News reported in 2016 that a deaf man in North Carolina was killed after a speeding violation; his attempts to use sign language to communicate with officers were for naught.

US News reported in September that a deaf man holding a metal pipe was killed by officers in his front yard in Oklahoma.

St. Petersburg Democrat Daryl Rouson will carry the Senate companion bill, SB 290,

Rick Scott launches $2M ad buy: Report

POLITICO reports that Gov. Rick Scott is opening a front in the 2018 ad war against likely Senate opponent Bill Nelson — and the Republican’s political committee, “Let’s Get to Work,” is buying nearly $2 million of ammo.

Per POLITICO, the first ad covers “Hurricane Irma recovery, his call for Congress to fund fixes to the Lake Okeechobee dike and how he’s trying to make future tax increases in Florida more difficult.”

With roughly $2.8 million on hand, the buy allows Scott’s committee to frame recent accomplishments for low-information voters, burnishing his positives ahead of a race against Sen. Nelson, which one recent poll from the University of North Florida paints as vulnerable.

Scott’s approval numbers, in what is a sharp contrast to much of the Republican governor’s tenure, look impressive at 59 percent approval — including 40 percent of Democrats.

Scott’s surge in the polls coincides, per the UNF poll, with an erosion in Nelson’s name identification.

“The one major concern for Democrats has to be the public’s lack of awareness of Nelson. When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem,” observed UNF polling director Michael Binder.

Nelson seems to be the invisible man in this poll, with 35 percent approval, 15 percent disapproval, and a full 49 percent with no opinion — making him potentially easy prey for a Republican opponent and associated political committees.

The choice of Hurricane Irma recovery for branding is also significant.

A recent Mason-Dixon poll saw 66 percent of Floridians rate Scott’s Irma response as “excellent” or “good.” And a Florida Chamber poll saw 91 percent approval of Scott’s Irma response.

With Scott’s numbers on the uptick and Nelson seemingly adrift, there may be no better time for Scott to deploy committee resources.

History tells us he will replenish the coffers soon enough. Meanwhile, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman David Bergstein asserted that the Scott ad buy was in fact “damage control [for] himself [and] his brand” after “the tragic deaths of 14 seniors at the Hollywood Hills facility.

“For Floridians who are still struggling with the expensive and horrific impact of Scott’s failure to prepare and respond to this disaster,” Bergstein added, “his ad campaign is tone deaf and another reminder that he is only ever looking out for himself.”

Personnel note: Kerry Peluso joins FSU’s research arm

Kerry Peluso has been named the new assistant vice president for research administration and finance to oversee the financial operations of Florida State University’s research enterprise, the university announced Wednesday.

Peluso will start Dec. 11.


She will succeed Associate Vice President for Research Olivia Pope, who is retiring after 24 years at Florida State, “where she oversaw unparalleled growth of research while also putting in place research compliance and reporting requirements,” a press release said.

Peluso now serves as associate vice president for research administration at Emory University where she oversees the offices that assist faculty with grant applications for public dollars and the management of the administrative requirements associated with those grants and contracts.

She also oversees the development and implementation of research administration policies related to compliance, training, communication, reporting and research administration performance metrics, the release said.

At Florida State, she will oversee the research budget and manage fiscal matters involving the Office of Research. She will assist Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander in developing policies and procedures related to research and oversee the Sponsored Research Administration.

“We are very excited to have an administrator of Kerry’s caliber joining our team at FSU,” Ostrander said. “Her extensive background in compliance, training and research administration performance metrics will be an excellent asset to the university as we continue to build our research portfolio.”

Peluso added: “I have been highly impressed by FSU’s accomplishments and commitment to research as well as the talented team who administratively supports this research. I look forward to joining this team and working together to ensure that our researchers receive the best support possible.”

She also has served as director of Post-Award Financial Administration at the University of Pennsylvania and senior accounting manager at Rutgers University in the Division of Grant and Contract Accounting. At both Emory University and the University of Pennsylvania, she led the development of research administration certification educational programs.

Peluso is a certified public accountant and holds a master’s in business administration from Rutgers University.

Rick Scott names 8 to CareerSource Florida Board

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday evening announced five reappointments and three appointments to the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors:

— Rick Matthews, of Viera, is the vice president of global operations of Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— William Johnson, of Tampa, was the former Vice President of finance shared services at Coca-Cola Refreshments. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— Elisha Gonzalez Bonnewitz, of Winter Park, is the government and community relations manager for Duke Energy. She is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— Rose Conry, of Jacksonville, is the CEO of Stafftime. She is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending July 6, 2019.

— Tim Center, of Tallahassee, is the founder of Centerfield Strategy and the CEO of Capital Area Community Action Agency. He is reappointed for a term beginningOctober 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2020.

— Stephanie Smith, of Miami, is the senior public policy manager at Uber Technologies. She is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning October 24, 2017and ending October 24, 2020.

— Camille Lee-Johnson, of Atlantic Beach, is the chief operating officer at Lee Wesley and Associates. She is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginningOctober 24, 2017 and ending October 24, 2020.

— Tony McGee, of Orlando, is the CEO of HNM Global Logistics. He is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending October 24, 2020.

Matt Caldwell locks up more legislative endorsements

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican running for Commissioner of Agriculture, announced endorsements of returning GOP House members from Northeast Florida.

It’s the third wave of legislative endorsements announced by the campaign.

The news follows unanimous support of House members from the Panhandle and Southwest Florida delegations, the campaign said.

“I will continue to work hard to earn the trust and support of voters across the Sunshine State, who deserve a Commissioner that has the leadership and policy experience to lead in Tallahassee on day one,” Caldwell said in a statement.

Those in the latest round are Reps. Cord ByrdTravis CummingsJason FischerBobby PaynePaul RennerCyndi Stevenson, and Clay Yarborough.

Current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican, is term-limited next year.

Caldwell faces state Sen. Denise Grimsley, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, and Paul Paulson in the GOP primary. R. David Walker has filed to run as a Democrat.

Flags at half-staff for former Jax Rep. Jim Tullis

Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags at half-staff to honor former state Rep. James F. “Jim” Tullis, who died Saturday.

Tullis represented District 17, which included Jacksonville, in the Florida House of Representatives for one term between 1999 and 2000.

He graduated with a degree in business and economics from Jacksonville University in 1965, and he was an independent insurance agent and a former city council president.

Tullis also served 13 years in the U.S. Army Special Forces Reserves.

Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Duval County Courthouse, Jacksonville City Hall, and the state Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Thursday. 

About face: Chris Burke endorses Nick DiCeglie for HD 66

In an apparent change of heart, Seminole Vice Mayor Chris Burke has endorsed Nick DiCeglie for the Florida House District 66 seat, the campaign announced Wednesday.

In July, before DiCeglie jumped into the race, Burke had endorsed fellow Republican Berny Jacques, a former prosecutor.

“I have known Nick for many years as an excellent family man, successful small business owner and person genuinely concerned for the success of our community,” Burke said in a statement. “Nick will bring a level of awareness and experience to the House that will be an immediate benefit to Pinellas County.

“His dedication to the Republican Party in Pinellas has been apparent and he has been instrumental in advancing the interests of the Party here at home,” Burke added. “His selection as (a Presidential) Elector for the State of Florida makes his commitment even more evident.”

DiCeglie said he was “honored” to have Burke’s support.

“I’ve known Vice Mayor Burke for 17 years and I can tell you, he is the definition of a decorated public servant – having honorably served our country abroad at war and currently here at home as a Councilman and police officer,” he said.

“He has continually proven his leadership and dedication to serving others and I look forward to working with him to keep our neighborhoods safe and ensure our community remains a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Burke, a Massachusetts native, moved to Pinellas County in 1979, graduated from Seminole High School in 1982 and later graduated magna cum laude from both St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida with a history degree, according to a news release.

“He is a decorated U.S. Army and Gulf War Veteran and was nominated for the Bronze Star during the first Gulf War,” it said. “Burke has served on City Council for Seminole since 2012 where he currently serves as Vice Mayor. He has two daughters in college and attends St. Jerome Catholic Church.”

DiCeglie, a Long Island native, has been active with the Pinellas Republican Party since 2009, and its chair since 2014. He’s the co-owner of Solar Sanitation, a solid waste collection company serving Pinellas residents since 1980.

The current seat holder, Republican Larry Ahern, is term-limited.

Florida Disaster Fund grants awarded

Gov. Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida on Wednesday announced the first round of Florida Disaster Fund grant awards for organizations providing disaster relief following Hurricane Irma, according to a press release.

Each recipient organization is receiving $25,000 for disaster response activities. 

Examples include financial assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities; food, clothing and replacement of household items; sheltering for those who have experienced loss of their homes; individual case management; crisis intervention counseling and hotline services to assist those experiencing psychological distress; assistance for displaced families with pets; muck-out for flooded homes, and removal of dangerous debris.

The awards go to:

Branches, Inc. – Miami-Dade County: Branches, Inc. will provide food distribution, case work services, and financial assistance, as well as help with applications for disaster assistance programs. They will also provide assistance, space, and opportunities for program partners to offer services, and will provide financial education and coaching about services provided by Branches, Inc., the United Way Center for Financial Stability, and other service providers.

Centro Campesino – Miami-Dade County: Centro Campesino will provide food and water, financial assistance, and case work services.

Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations – Collier County: Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations will provide support for distribution of food and water, help with financial assistance, and provide case work services for migrant populations.

Crisis Clean-up – Statewide: Crisis Clean-Up will connect relief organizations and volunteers with the nearly 10,000 work orders and requests for assistance that have been submitted by Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma via their online database software.

Crossroads Alliance – Statewide: Crossroads Alliance will provide ice, water, supplemental groceries, personal care items, and other necessities, manage distribution sites, and coordinate volunteers to distribute goods.

Farm Share – Miami-Dade County: Farm Share will package and distribute food to those in need. They will also advocate for residents applying for federal relief and assistance.

Florida Baptist Disaster Relief – Statewide: Florida Baptist Disaster Relief will provide feeding services, clean-up and debris removal services, and around-the-clock care for children of emergency personnel.

Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response – Statewide: Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response will help connect lost animals with their families and non-kill shelters. They will also provide comfort dogs at shelters, disaster recovery centers, and emergency operations centers.

Habitat for Humanity of Florida – Statewide: Habitat for Humanity of Florida will provide low-cost housing solutions in the Florida Keys, work with residents to find alternative solutions for ineligible Habitat programs, assist existing Habitat homeowners with disaster repairs, and coordinate volunteers in building programs.

Heart of Florida United Way – Orange County: The Heart of Florid United Way will provide information and assistance to clients and callers through United Way 2-1-1, help clients apply for FEMA assistance, and provide services such as direct case management, client assessment, case planning, and financial assistance.

International Orthodox Christian Charities – Northeast Florida: International Orthodox Christian Charities will facilitate food and water distribution, provide cleanup buckets and hygiene kits, and provide home muck-outs, repair, and rebuilding. IOCC will also provide tarping for roofs and partner with Volunteer Florida AmeriCorps partners to utilize spontaneous volunteers unaffiliated with disaster relief organizations.

Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery – Lake and Sumter counties: Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery will provide case management services as an advocate for residents in Lake and Sumter Counties.

Mennonite Disaster Service – Statewide: Mennonite Disaster Service will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma. They will also provide cleanup and debris removal services.

Metropolitan Ministries – Hillsborough and Pasco counties: Metropolitan Ministries will provide financial assistance, shelter, and transportation for displaced and homeless families. They will also provide necessary items such as food, water, and diapers.

NAACP – Statewide: The NAACP will provide advocacy services, help with appeal letters, and assist with applications for federal assistance.

NECHAMA – Statewide: NECHAMA will provide cleanup and debris removal services and will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma.

Neighbors 4 Neighbors – Miami-Dade County: Neighbors 4 Neighbors will provide food, shelter, clothing and financial assistance, connect residents to local programs for disaster recovery assistance, and provide advocacy services for residents.

Peacemaker’s Family Center – Miami-Dade County: Peacemaker’s Family Center will provide case management services and will support urgent human needs.

Rebuilding Together – Statewide: Rebuilding Together will assist with debris removal, tarping, and muck out services to low-income residents, repair minor disaster damage, and assist homeowners to preserve home ownership and revitalize neighborhoods.

Feeding Florida – Statewide: Feeding Florida will support local feeding operations in impacted areas, including staging food and food banks.

Save the Children – Statewide: Save the Children will provide child care services in shelters and disaster recovery centers, advocate for children, and help access non-disaster federal program s for survivors on behalf of children.

Star of the Sea Outreach Mission – Monroe County: Star of the Sea Outreach Mission will operate food pantries in the Florida Keys where they will sort, warehouse, and distribute unsolicited donated goods. They will also provide case work services and local transportation for residents.

Team Rubicon – Statewide: Team Rubicon will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma. They will also provide cleanup and debris removal services.

The Humane Society of the United States – Statewide: The Humane Society of the United States will provide non-skill shelter services for lost pets, reconnect them with owners whenever possible, and place animals up for adoption.

The Salvation Army – Statewide: The Salvation Army will assist with warehousing and distribution of donated goods, coordinate with local offices to identify unmet needs, and provide a Salvation Army designated Volunteer and Donations Hotline as needed for current disaster services information.

Tool Bank Disaster Services – Statewide: Tool Bank Disaster Services will mobilize to disaster locations with semi-trailers of tools and will provide lending or specialized tools for voluntary agencies.

United Way of Brevard County – Brevard County: The United Way of Brevard County will provide debris removal, tarping, muck outs, and case work services. They will also provide supplies needed for response and recovery efforts and shelter to low-income residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Irma.

United Way of Broward County- Broward Cares – Broward County: The United Way of Broward County – Broward Cares will coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Central Florida – Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties: The United Way of Central Florida will with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Charlotte County – Charlotte County: The United Way of Charlotte County will provide water and snacks as well as funds for food, housing, gas, and other needs. They will also help complete FEMA assistance request and will support their partner agency, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Charlotte County, who are engaged in response activities.

United Way of Collier County – Collier County: The United Way of Collier County will help residents complete FEMA applications, launch short and long-term direct assistance programs for impacted residents, and support partner agencies, volunteer projects, and case work services. They will also help run the United Way 2-1-1 information and referral helpline as well as the Volunteer Collier community-wide volunteer center.

United Way of the Florida Keys – Monroe County: The United Way of the Florida Keys will distribute direct relief supplies and provide food distribution, medical assistance, child care, and case management services. They will also issue emergency mini-grants to local non-profit partners, create a disaster response team and coordinate volunteers to assist and direct affected residents to appropriate relief organizations for help, and will assist in distributing other supplies and emergency gift cards to residents in need.

United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties – Lake and Sumter counties: The United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties will provide tree removal services and assist residents with rent and utility, prescription medications, food, minor home repairs, and lost wages. They will also assist with other United Way 2-1-1 services.

United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee – Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties: The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee will facilitate debris removal services, coordinate and distribute supplies, provide support for urgent human needs such as food and shelter, provide public information outreach events, and support partner agencies engaged in hurricane recovery activities. They will also recruit, train, and place volunteers, purchase supplies needed for volunteer projects, and help operate the United Way 2-1-1 hotline.

United Way of Miami-Dade – Helping Hands – Miami-Dade County: United Way of Miami-Dade – Helping Hands will distribute meals ready to eat (MREs) and hygiene kits to shelters and assisted living facilities, provide financial assistance, and assist Miami-Dade County’s Emergency Operations Center. They will also recruit and place volunteers in disaster relief efforts, including medically-trained volunteers for the Florida Department of Health.

United Way of North Central Florida – Alachua, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy, Union counties: Coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Palm Beach County – Palm Beach County: The United Way of Palm Beach County will serve as the focal point to which all volunteers report, where their skills are verified, and from which they are reassigned to areas where they are needed. They will also coordinate staff and equip different distribution points throughout the county with volunteers, organize, inventory, package, and redistribute all donations arriving in the county, and support local non-profit organizations engaged is hurricane response activities.

United Way of NE FL – Duval, Nassau, Putman, and Clay counties: The United Way of NE FL will help provide debris removal services and other necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothing, utilities, and housing to residents in need. Additionally, they will support area nonprofits to deliver services to those in need and will help operate the United Way 2-1-1 for the Northeast Florida region.

United Way of Suncoast – Desoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties: The United Way of Suncoast will staff shelters with volunteers, help manage both affiliated and non-affiliated volunteers through the Volunteer Reception Centers, and will invest in community partners to help those affected by the hurricane.

United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties – Volusia and Flagler counties: Coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

Scott activated the Florida Disaster Fund last month to provide financial support to organizations serving those impacted by Hurricane Irma. The Florida Disaster Fund is the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities. 


Constitution Revision Commission

Florida Bar aims to engage Floridians in constitutional review

With most Floridians not knowing what the Constitution Revision Commission is or does, The Florida Bar is trying to change that.

The Bar launched “Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts,” a statewide public education program to fill the void in Floridians’ awareness of constitution revision and engage Floridians in this critical process, according to a news release.

“Florida’s constitution determines how much power we the citizens give to our state government and what form that takes,” said Michael J. Higer, president of The Florida Bar. “It is therefore important that we all tune in, stay informed and educated as to any process to amend Florida’s Constitution.

“It is critical we stay engaged to make sure that we exercise great caution as to any proposed amendment.”

Here’s the rest of the release:

A recent independent survey by Breakthrough Research found that 8 in 10 Floridians had never even heard of the Constitution Revision Commission.

Of the few who had heard of the CRC, 1 in 3 wrongly identified its role, which spurred the Bar to create the Protect Florida Democracy public education program. The survey collected responses from a representative sample of about 800 Florida voters.

While 44 percent of voters surveyed identified the Florida Constitution as “the people’s contract with their government,” the survey revealed confusion about the roles of the branches of government, with 71 percent failing to identify the executive branch as the branch that carries out and enforces laws (57 percent said judicial, 10 percent said legislative, and 4 percent said they didn’t know).

“As citizens consider the merits of proposed constitutional amendments, they should think about any unintended consequences. Maintaining the equality of our three branches of government, including the judiciary, is fundamental and sacrosanct. This is a bedrock principle that safeguards us all,” Higer said. “The Bar’s Protect Florida Democracy initiative is an important educational effort to help every citizen understand that the constitution should not be amended without careful thought.”

The survey does indicate that Floridians understand the importance of the separation of powers. A total of 93 percent said they consider the separation of powers very important and 96 percent expressed concern about any attempt to give one branch of government more power than another.

The Bar intends to engage Floridians in Protect Florida Democracy through an informational website, weekly newsletter, statewide speakers bureau and engaging social media campaign.

Besides educating the public, the Bar also has created a special committee to provide technical legal assistance to the CRC upon request.

The CRC meets every 20 years to review and revise the Florida Constitution. It is the only method by which amendments affecting the full scope of Florida’s Constitution may be put on the General Election ballot without review by the legislative, judicial or executive branches.

The commission convened in May and traveled the state on a listening tour to hear residents’ thoughts and ideas about proposals to revise the Florida Constitution. All proposed amendments by the CRC are due to be filed by May 10, 2018. Protect Florida Democracy will remain active throughout the duration of this period, providing information and updates to Florida residents.

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