Gov. RickScott has ordered flags at half-staff in memory of St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Capt. CharlesScavuzzo, the Governor’s Office said Thursday night.
Flags will be flown at half-staff at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, Port St. Lucie City Hall and the County Administration Building in Fort Pierce from sunrise to sunset on Friday.
Scavuzzo, 49, died suddenly at his Port St. Lucie home last Friday, according to his obituary.
Scavuzzo commanded the Criminal Investigations Division of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and was in law enforcement for over 28 years.
He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Tonya; children Sydney, Nicholas, and Lyndsey; his mother Ethel; and siblings Lori and Robert Quist of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“My wife, Ann, and I are saddened by the passing of Capt. Scavuzzo, a father, husband and law enforcement officer with more than two decades of service protecting Florida’s families and communities,” Scott said in a statement. “We honor him and all law enforcement officers for their service.”
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, and with Hurricane Maria now churning the Atlantic, Florida lawmakers are forming or calling for blue-ribbon panels to improve the state’s readiness to deal with monster storms.
Separately, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, asked Gov. Rick Scott “to form a commission to review the disaster preparedness, response, and recovery of state and local entities involved in Hurricane Irma efforts, as well as critical infrastructure institutions such as public utilities and medical facilities.”
The calls come after Hurricane Irma ravaged the state last week, causing at least $2 billion in damage tallied so far. Evacuees were hampered by gasoline shortages, and eight South Florida nursing home residents died after their air conditioning went out.
Money will be tight this year as the Legislature’s chief economist already warned legislators that next year’s relatively tiny state budget surplus will be erased because of costs from Irma.
In the House, Corcoran wants members to set aside “business as usual,” suggesting that filing local spending projects will be frowned upon, at least officially, during the 2018 Legislative Session.
“We spend a significant portion of money”—more than $630 million this year—”on what are considered‘pork’ projects,” he said at a Tuesday news conference in the Capitol. “If we took just some of those funds … you’re going to see us make tremendous (progress) toward hurricane hardening throughout our state.
“There is not one single (pork) project … that is worth the health and safety of Floridians,” he added.
But Senate President Joe Negron quickly shot down any self-imposed ban on hometown spending. He told the Tampa Bay Times that senators are “in the best position to know what projects are most important.”
“Let’s keep our constitutional roles straight,” he added. “The Legislature is the appropriating body. The Legislature should always have the prerogative and flexibility to write the budget.”
Among some of the ideas floated by Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican and possible 2018 candidate for governor: Creating a state gasoline reserve, looking at tree management policies, and better coordinating the flow of highway traffic before and after a storm. They would go into a “5- or 10-year plan.”
But when asked whether the panel would look hard at the possibility of human-caused climate change affecting hurricane severity or frequency, Corcoran punted.
“I think that what we should be doing is asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to protect the people of this state in the best way possible?’ ” he said, referring to conflicting government studies on global warming. “… The No. 1 function of government is to protect its citizens.”
Brandes, in a press release, thanked Gov. Scott, “emergency management officials, and our first responders,” but said “it is important that we have the appropriate oversight in place to stretch every relief dollar to the maximum benefit of Floridians.”
The commission he suggests would “review after-action reports created by state and local emergency operations centers, utilities, state agencies, medical facilities, and other critical service providers in order to evaluate and oversee recovery projects.
“The commission would ensure that state and county needs are met in a manner that best leverages disaster relief dollars. Additionally, it would make certain that the assessments of the recovery actions taken by both public and private entities become best practices to prepare for future events,” referring to similar oversight commissions for 2010’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.
Later Tuesday, the House released the membership list for the special panel, which will be chaired by Miami-Dade’s JeanetteNuñez, the House’s Speaker pro tempore. House Republican Leader RayRodrigues of Estero will be vice chair.
In alphabetical order: Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican; Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat; Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican; Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican; Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican; Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat; Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican; Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican; Kristin Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat; Larry Lee Jr., a Port St. Lucie Democrat; Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat; Elizabeth Porter, a Lake City Republican; HollyRaschein, a Key Largo Republican; PaulRenner, a Palm Coast Republican; SeanShaw, a Tampa Democrat; ChrisSprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican; RichardStark, a Weston Democrat; CyndiStevenson, a St. Johns Republican; and JayTrumbull, a Panama City Republican.
Florida native and country music artist Jake Owen is helping relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Irma, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday.
“Jake reached out to the governor to find out the best way to help people in his home state who have been affected by Hurricane Irma,” according to a press release.
“The result is a campaign called ‘Bring Back the Sunshine’ where 100 percent of funds raised will help victims in the Sunshine State. Funds will go toward disaster-related response and recovery through the Florida Disaster Fund,” Florida’s official private fund for disaster relief.
“We are thrilled that Jake Owen is lending a helping hand to Floridians in need,” Scott said. “As a native Floridian, Jake’s generosity and support is especially meaningful as our state continues the recovery process.”
Here are excerpts from the rest of the release:
“I want to help my fellow Floridians any way I can and there is so much work to be done right now,” says Owen … After he spoke to Gov. Scott, he reached out to his fans first via social media in a live video post that included a call to action.
“Please TEXT the word SUNSHINE to 20222 to make a $10 donation. All of your money goes DIRECTLY to the people who need it the most. Florida thrives on tourism and people visiting our state. We aren’t just rebuilding homes. Together, we are rebuilding jobs, schools, infrastructure … we are rebuilding LIVES.”
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. 100% of funds raised will go toward disaster-related response and recovery; there are no overhead costs. Donations to the Florida Disaster Fund are made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation, 501(c)(3) charitable organization and are tax deductible.
The Florida Disaster Fund distributes funds to service organizations that will serve individuals within their communities with disaster response and recovery. Individuals seeking financial assistance should register with FEMA at 800-621-FEMA or www.disasterassistance.gov.
To donate by check, include “Florida Disaster Fund” in the memo line:
Please make check out to the Volunteer Florida Foundation and mail to: Volunteer Florida Foundation Attn: Florida Disaster Fund 3800 Esplanade Way – Suite 180 Tallahassee, FL 32311
“Let me be clear – debris removal is a function handled and directed at the local level and following a storm like Irma, it is my expectation that every county immediately and aggressively begins work to clear debris in its communities,” he said. “That is what Florida families and businesses expect.”
Plans turned in “will be posted publicly on the Division’s website,” according to a press release. “All plans must include an estimated date of completion. Any county that plans to request reimbursement for debris removal following Hurricane Irma must submit a plan.”
Scott added: “Every county should already have a debris clean-up plan in place as part of its emergency response plan and it should already be executed. Any county experiencing issues with the vendors involved in debris clean-up should immediately execute an emergency procurement to get a different vendor.
“Today, more than 370,000 homes and businesses in Florida are still without power and while utility companies are working non-stop to turn the lights on, the presence of debris can hinder work and delay restoration which is unacceptable,” he said.
“Within seven hours of the storm leaving the state, the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) had cleared all major interstates and turnpikes. DOT has been working around the clock to clear all state and many local roads and assist in recovery efforts. As we all work to recover from Irma, the state stands ready to assist communities in any way possible.”
The former state representative, a Melbourne Republican, was appointed Friday night by Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the Florida Public Service Commission. Workman replaces Ronald Brisé, who had sought a third term on the board.
Scott also re-appointed Art Graham to the commission and filled the seat left open by the departure of Jimmy Patronis with Gary Clark, the Department of Environment Protection‘s deputy secretary of land and recreation.
Patronis left the panel when Scott appointed him in June to take over as the state’s Chief Financial Officer, replacing JeffAtwater, who took a similar job at Florida Atlantic University.
Workman, a well-liked former chairman of House Rules Committee, lost a bruising primary battle in 2016 to fellow Republican Debbie Mayfield for Senate District 17.
Early in his legislative career, Workman garnered dubious national attention for attempting to repeal part of state law that prohibits recreational activities that exploit people with dwarfism—an issue involving a ban on so-called “dwarf tossing.”
But he went on to earn a place in House leadership and oversaw that chamber’s version of a $500 million cut to taxes and fees in 2014. The package featured a rollback in vehicle registration fees.
Workman now is the director of business development at Keiser University. His term, along with that of Graham’s, will run through Jan. 1, 2022. Clark will serve out the rest of Patronis’ term to Jan. 1, 2019.
Brisé and Graham were initially appointed in 2010 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist and were reappointed four years later by Scott. The two also served as chairs of the commission.
Other nominees sent to the governor include Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who served in the House 2004-2012; and former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican who once chaired the House Utilities & Telecommunications Committee.
Littlefield is a past PSC member himself, having been put on the commission by former Gov. JebBush in 2006. Cristreplaced him the following year.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.
Democratic candidates for governor are hitting Gov. Rick Scott and others hard in the wake of eight deaths in a South Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning as Hurricane Irma hit the state.
But Scott’s office defended the governor’s actions, saying the facility never reported “that conditions had become dangerous.”
A criminal investigation by Broward County law enforcement in underway into the deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, including whether they were heat-related or from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called for an independent investigation, slamming Scott for giving out “a special priority phone line – then fail(ing) to act when they received distress calls.”
“I am calling for a full independent investigation into this matter,” Gillum said in a statement. “The investigators must have full access to all public records and transcripts of communications, meetings, and conference calls between the Governor, his Office, and healthcare facilities in preparing for Hurricane Irma.
“In Tallahassee, we learned after Hurricane Hermine that communication is vital between first responders, government, and our most vulnerable populations,” Gillum added. “This year we took the proper steps of assigning utility workers as direct points of contact with nursing homes and other urgent care facilities, and we prioritized their power restoration during Irma.”
Former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham also issued a statement that she had filed a public records request “for all call logs, text messages, and voicemails to a private emergency phone number Rick Scott distributed to healthcare providers.”
Scott, a Naples Republican, was formerly head of a for-profit hospital chain.
“There must be an immediate, independent investigation into reports Gov. Scott distributed a private line to healthcare providers and then ignored pleas for help,” Graham said. “It is 100 percent the governor’s responsibility to do everything in his power protect every Floridian.”
But Scott spokesman John Tupps said in an email “every call made to the Governor from facility management was referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned.”
“At no time did the facility report that conditions had become dangerous or that the health and safety of their patients was at risk,” he said. “In fact, on Monday, Department of Health staff advised this facility to call 911 if they had any reason to believe that their patients were not safe.”
The office also provided background material that the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills “reported into the state’s facility status monitoring database 17 times since Thursday, Sept. 7. Throughout the course of these reports, the facility never requested any assistance or reported the need for evacuations.”
Until 1:30 p.m. this Tuesday, “the facility reported that they had full power, that heating, cooling systems and generator systems were operational and they had adequate fuel.”
By 5 p.m. that same day, “the facility reported that they had partial power, but that their heating and cooling systems and generator were operational. They did not request anything beyond help with FPL,” referring to Florida Power & Light.
Then on 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, “the facility (again) reported that they had partial power, the generator was operational and they had adequate fuel supply. At that time, they reported their heating and cooling systems were not operational.”
“Let’s be clear—this facility is located across the street from one of Florida’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and had fully operating facilities,” the statement said. “The tragic and senseless loss at Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center is the subject of a criminal homicide investigation by law enforcement.”
In an interview with FloridaPolitics.com earlier Friday, Winter Park businessman Chris King lashed out over what he described as longtime state neglect of senior housing concerns.
“The Broward tragedy I think is another example exposing what I hope I’m getting across throughout the state, which is for a very long time there’s been very little leadership on housing and on aging issues,” King said.
“My concern is less on what happened in Broward and more the decision making that created that environment, and why we’re still not out of the woods in the larger issues of housing and aging, and why the state is in an absolute crisis,” he added.
Scott is term-limited as governor next year but is said to be considering a run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
A South Florida senator has filed the first bill in response to the deaths of eight nursing home residents this week after Hurricane Irma knocked out their air conditioning.
Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, filed the measure (SB 284) on Friday afternoon.
Among other things, it would require the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) “to determine compliance with standards for electricity and emergency power sources during the routine inspection of a licensed nursing home facility.”
Hollywood Police Chief TomSanchez has said investigators believe the deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, adding that a criminal investigation is underway, according to the Associated Press. The chief said authorities have not ruled anything out in the deaths, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.
Book’s bill also would require “a licensed nursing home facility to have adequate electrical equipment, an emergency power source, and a supply of fuel.” Book, elected last year, is also the Senate’s Democratic Leader pro tempore.
“The loss of eight lives at Hollywood Hills was completely preventable, and that is what is so heartbreaking about this situation,” Book said Friday night in a statement. “One of the residents who perished (was) 99 years old – but because of air conditioning failure and human negligence in the days following a storm, this very special life was lost.
“We can prevent these things – which never should have happened in the first place – from happening again, and we must, for the sake of our senior citizens and their families,” she added.
Earlier this week, Gov. Rick Scott directed AHCA to block the Hollywood facility from receiving Medicaid payments.
It “was responsible to provide patients a safe environment and they failed to do so,” Scott’s office said in a statement. “The state has had multiple points of contact with this facility prior to the tragedy, and at no time did the facility communicate any imminent threats to their patients’ life or safety.”
The Florida Health Care Association, an advocacy group for long term care providers, Thursday called the Broward County deaths an “isolated incident” and “not representative of the larger long term care profession in Florida.”
But Senate President pro tempore Anitere Flores, a Miami-Dade Republican, told reporters in Tallahassee Friday that she expects criminal charges to be filed.
“I think someone, more than someone, is going to go to jail over this,” said Flores, speaking after a Legislative Budget Commission meeting.
State officials said later Friday they were calling facilities and personally conducting “wellness checks” in homes that couldn’t be reached by phone.
“Hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities in Florida are required to have emergency operation plans,” the Department of Health said in a news release. “Requirements vary by facility type, but are all based in statute and rule.” A complete list is here.
As of Friday afternoon, 34 nursing homes were on generator power, 669 had electricity restored, 10 reported being closed and 40 reported post-storm evacuations, the department and AHCA said.
Of assisted living facilities, 193 were on generators, 1,978 had power, 182 reported being closed and 177 reported post-storm evacuations.
The lower Florida Keys were hammered in special ways by Hurricane Irma and remain closed to residents, visitors and even more volunteer cleanup workers as authorities try to get them livable, officials said Friday.
An estimated 65 percent of the housing was damaged to the point of being uninhabitable, according to authorities, but residents will not be allowed to cross the bridges to get back in to find out for themselves for the time being.
Water, sewer, electricity and housing stock are in short supply throughout the Keys, particularly in the lower Keys, official said during a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and other local, state and federal disaster response authorities in Marathon. The main port is closed, and numerous boats and other vessels are adrift, clogging channels.
The Florida Department of Transportation has finished its inspections of all 26 bridges leading into the Keys and found them sound and safe. But that’s no longer the overriding issue.
Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, various other state and federal agencies, even the U.S. Navy, are on the scene. And they’ve pretty much filled every available hotel and motel room, said Martin Senterfitt, Monroe County’s director of emergency management.
That means authorities even are turning away some volunteer relief workers, because there’s no place to put them.
“As much as we want help, as much as we need help, we have to moderate that,” Senterfitt said.
And, he added, the Keys will remain closed until there is confidence residents and others will not come in to find no where to stay, nothing to drink, and no other services.
“Do they have the ability to boil water? Do they have the ability to flush a toilet? It’s that basic,” he said.
Many of the damaged homes appear to have only roof damage, but enough to keep them from being occupied. Yet FEMA and the Florida Division of Emergency Management have challenges in setting up temporary housing, because there is so limited available open land.
The main waterline survived, but most of the feeder lines into the islands were damaged, and they’re being inspected and repaired, but the process is time consuming, officials said.
The sewer lines appear to be fine, but most operate with pumps and lift stations, and with no electricity, most are not operating.
“The biggest need after we get water, power and fuel back, for the Keys, is housing,” Scott said.
Once the gates are opened and everyone is allowed back, a second wave of crisis is expected as each resident and business owner discovers his or her challenges, Senterfitt said
“It’s going to be a little bit different lifestyle for a long time,” he said.
Scott and other state and federal officials assured all attention possible is being focused on recovery in the Keys, which the governor said presents unique challenges.
“I think everybody’s goal is to get everybody back in the Keys the first day we can,” Scott said. “The day everybody can come back and enjoy the Keys again will be a good day for the state.
“The people evacuated out of the Keys, they want to get back. But the most important thing is to keep everybody safe,” Scott said.
Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor Hardee County Sheriff’s Deputy Julie Ann Bridges and Florida Department of Corrections Sgt. Joseph Ossman.
The two were killed Sunday in a two-car head-on collision. Bridges was on her way home after helping at a local hurricane shelter, reports said. Ossman was headed to work at a state prison.
The AP reported that officials said the area was affected by wind and rain from Hurricane Irma when the crash happened, but the official cause was under investigation.
Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office, the Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green, the Florida Department of Corrections headquarters in Tallahassee, the Hardee County Courthouse, and Wauchula City Hall from sunrise to sunset this Saturday.
“I am heartbroken to learn of the loss of these two individuals,” Scott said in a statement.
“Our law enforcement and correctional officers work every day to keep Floridians safe. It is because of their work we are able to live in a state where people can raise their families safely. My heart goes out to their families and the entire law enforcement and correctional officer community.”
After eight South Florida nursing home residents died when Hurricane Irma knocked out their power, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday directed the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to block the facility from receiving Medicaid payments.
Hollywood Police Chief TomSanchez said investigators believe the deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, adding that a criminal investigation is underway.
The chief said authorities have not ruled anything out in the deaths, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.
“This facility was responsible to provide their patients a safe environment and they failed to do so,” Scott’s office said in a statement. “The state has had multiple points of contact with this facility prior to the tragedy, and at no time did the facility communicate any imminent threats to their patients’ life or safety.”
The home “is currently undergoing a criminal investigation from the local authorities, and open investigations from both AHCA and DCF (Department of Children and Families). It is clear that this facility cannot be responsible for Florida’s vulnerable patients, and therefore the state will stop them from providing care.”
All of the center’s patients and residents have been evacuated, the release said.
The Associated Press contributed to this post, republished with permission.