Hoping to get reappointed for another four years, state utility regulators JulieBrown and GaryClark are among the six “most qualified” applicants who will be interviewed next month for seats on the state’s Public Service Commission.
The Public Service Commission Nominating Council on Tuesday agreed to invite the two incumbent commissioners, along with candidates Anibal Taboas, Amir Liberman, Monica Rutkowski, and Gregory Hill, to interview for the $132,036-a-year positions, which Brown and Clark now hold on the five-member commission.
Interviews will be held July 17 in Orlando. The commission regulates investor-owned utilities.
The six, listed on the council’s website as the “most qualified,” were among 14 people who applied.
After interviewing the candidates, the council — chaired by Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican — will forward a short list to Gov. RickScott, who will make the final selections. The current terms of Brown and Clark expire at the end of the year.
Brown, an attorney from Tampa, has served on the Public Service Commission since January 2011. Scott reappointed her in 2014.
Clark was appointed to his seat in September to complete the term of JimmyPatronis, named by Scott to serve as Florida’s chief financial officer. He replaced Jeff Atwater, who stepped down early from his second term to work for Florida Atlantic University.
Clark previously was a deputy secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Taboas is an executive consultant with Strategic Leadership & Risk Management in Woodridge, Illinois, and a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management, according to his application. He interviewed for the commission last year.
Liberman owns Consulting. Net, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale and is a partner in Liberman Real Estate and Victoria Honey Farm, which his wife runs.
Rutkowski is an insurance regulatory compliance consultant from Tallahassee who previously was a vice president of compliance and regulatory affairs for Guy Carpenter and the SmithGroup.
Hill has been an assistant general counsel with the Department of Corrections since March 2017. Previous positions included serving as a senior attorney with the Florida Department of Financial Services.
Among those who did not advance on Tuesday were AltonDrew, an attorney from Atlanta who was a staff member at the Florida Public Service Commission for all but a short time between November 1989 and February 1998, and StevenPetty, a former chief economist for Florida TaxWatch who applied for a spot on the commission last year but failed to get an invitation to the interview process.
The PSC regulates utilities such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co.
Content has been reprinted with permission of The News Service of Florida.
In her lifelong fight against child abuse, state Senator LaurenBook has found a friend in America’s favorite pastime.
The Plantation Democrat brought together 1,000 middle and elementary school children from seven schools in the Bronx for a walk to advocate for child safety and protection Thursday.
Led by Book, the large group of children approached Yankee Stadium — the heart of the Big Apple borough — as they chanted “Whose streets? OUR streets!”
Once inside, the children were joined by Yankee’s staff and players as they paced the warning track. As most stars should be, the activists were recognized over the stadium’s PA system.
It’s the fourth time the Senator has linked the surrounding neighborhood with one of the most popular teams in baseball, proving that her influence and advocacy knows no geographical limits.
The walk followed recent fatal shootings killing two young people outside local schools. Book paralleled the spirit of Bronx youth with that of Parkland.
“These students remind me that advocacy has no age limit,” Book said. “I wish I could shield these children from violence, abuse and poverty they experience daily, but the reality is, something more powerful is going on here: a new generation is being raised up that will combat these things themselves. It’s not about me, it’s about them.”
In the Bronx, Book also teaches lessons from her “Safer, Smarter Kids” curriculum. The first of its kind program is also taught in Manhattan. As part of the walk, Book donated to a local children’s advocacy center 200 copies of her book “Lauren’s Kingdom,” which encourages children suffering abuse to speak up.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Governor disavows immigration practice — Gov. RickScott sent a letter this week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary AlexAzar calling for an end to the practice of separating migrant children from their parents when they are detained for being in the country illegally. The letter preceded President Donald Trump’s announcement later this week that he plans to end the immigration policy via an executive order. “I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families,” Scott wrote. “This practice needs to stop now.” In the letter, Scott requested HHS to notify him of unaccompanied migrant children in the state and made several inquiries regarding health care, education and social services being provided to the children. He also offered a helping hand from the state to reunite children with their parents.
Plans advance to close Broward nursing home — The state won a key victory this week in a series of legal battles with a troubled nursing home in Broward County. An appellate court upheld a state agency’s decision to suspend the operating license of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, the nursing home where authorities linked several patient deaths to negligence following a power outage caused by Hurricane Irma. Also upheld by the court were moves to suspend the facility’s participation in the Medicaid program and block Medicaid admissions. Meanwhile, the state still is battling the nursing home over whether it should be required to turn over death records of thousands of nursing home patients across the state. A circuit court judge ruled last week that the state Department of Health should provide the records for a reasonable fee. State attorneys this week filed an appeal to that ruling, reports the News Service of Florida.
Feds could join FIU bridge lawsuit — The federal government is “actively considering whether to file a statement of interest” in a Miami Herald lawsuit seeking records held by the state Department of Transportation, reported JimRosica for Florida Politics. The records requested pertain to the FIU footbridge that collapsed in March killing 6 people. The Herald and two named reporters are seeking “emails, meeting minutes and other records relating to the bridge’s design and construction” from DOT. The U.S. attorney who filed the document this week cited the involvement of a federal entity, the National Transportation Safety Board, as a rationale for potentially justifying involvement in the lawsuit. The state Department of Transportation has cited an ongoing NTSB investigation as just cause for not releasing the records sought by the Herald, as they cannot release the information without NTSB approval.
Groups push halt to early voting ban — University students who are suing over the state’s ban on early voting at college campuses filed a motion this week to halt the ban ahead of this year’s election. The motion seeks a “preliminary injunction to prevent Florida Secretary of State KenDetzner from enforcing” the ban, according to a news release. MattDixon of POLITICO Florida notes that the students who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit are supported by the Democratic-aligned Andrew Goodman Foundation, along with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups. Writes Dixon, “the groups argue the push is not political, but rather to ensure that younger voters are not treated differently.” Sponsoring the plaintiffs — made up of nine students from the University of Florida and FSU — is Priorities USA Foundation. The group’s Chairman GuyCecil said, “We’re confident that we will prevail in court when this case goes to full trial, and in the meantime urge the court to stop Secretary Detzner from suppressing the vote any further.”
Florida relevant in landmark sales tax ruling — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that’s being acclaimed by some as a move toward “leveling the playing field” between physical retails stores and online sellers could significantly affect the dollar amount of taxes remitted in the Sunshine State. Reports JimRosica for Florida Politics, “Estimates have varied on how much Florida would get if it captured taxes on its residents’ online purchases, from $200 million to more than $750 million.” The recent court ruling walks back an earlier precedent that online retailers could only be required to collect sales taxes on purchases if they had a physical presence in the state. The ruling supported a South Dakota law that required online retailers to collect sales taxes on orders from customers within the state. Currently, Floridians are required to pay sales taxes for online orders, and while large online retailers like Amazon already collect sales taxes, other smaller outlets do not, reports Axios. Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Retail Federation lauded the ruling. TaxWatch said the decision signals an opportunity for Florida to modernize its tax system, and the FRF pointed to the ruling as a chance for legislators to create equity between brick-and-mortar stores and online sellers.
Scott targets algae blooms
Amid reports of algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River and east to the St. Lucie River estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon, Gov. Scott directed the state Department of Environmental Protection to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “redirect the flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee to the south.”
“Two years ago, we saw the devastating impact of releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries which caused widespread algal blooms and led to the declaration of a state of emergency in four counties,” Scott said in a statement Wednesday. “We are taking immediate action to do everything in our power to solve this problem.”
In response to the order, reports TCPalm.com, USACE began reducing overall discharges Friday. “Some have noted that there is no storage nor not enough conveyance for the water to go to the south, and that is going to be a problem,” reports TCPalm.
In his request, Scott noted that the state has a tentative agreement with the DonaldTrump administration to expedite repairs to the federal Dike from where water needs to be discharged.
Added Scott: “Also, working with the Florida Legislature, I signed a law that accelerated the EAA reservoir to move more water south of the Lake, to help ease these discharges. But, while we continue to wait on the federal government’s action on the Dike and EAA reservoir, we are going to do all we can to protect our waterways as we enter the hot summer months in Florida.”
Bondi touts scam-targeting operation
Operation Main Street, a nationwide initiative focused on stopping scams that target small businesses, saw success in the Sunshine State.
Attorney General PamBondi announced this week that of the 24 actions taken against scammers during the initiative, four were in Florida. The following businesses caught the wrath of the Attorney General: Florida Corporate Filing Services, GNA Housekeeping, LLC, United Business Services, Inc., and US Yellow.
According to a news release from Bondi’s office, US Yellow tricked “small businesses into believing US Yellow provided free local listings with local Yellow Pages” and then charged businesses more than $1,000 a year for a listing.
For the other named scammers, Bondi’s office obtained final judgments for deceptive practices.
“Small businesses are vital to Florida’s economy, employing more than 3 million Floridians and contributing to our state’s economic strength,” Bondi said.
CrystalKinzel will fill a vacancy created by the death of DwightBrock. Her term began June 20 and will last through Nov. 13. She was the Chief Deputy Clerk of the same circuit.
Lake County Clerk of the Circuit Court
GaryCooney will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of NeilKelly. His term began June 15 and will last through Nov. 13. He was the Chief Deputy Clerk of the same circuit.
Education Dept. lauds family involvement initiatives
The Florida Department of Education this week announced the winners of its 2018 Family and Community Involvement Award, which recognizes schools for their efforts to get families and communities involved in education.
“It is my pleasure to recognize these schools with the Family and Community Involvement Award,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “As a former teacher and principal, I have seen firsthand how family and community involvement can positively impact student achievement. My congratulations to our schools for their innovation in creating meaningful programs that connect students, parents and the community.”
Winning awards fortheir initiatives were Callahan Intermediate School in Nassau County, Denn John Middle School in Osceola County, Gulf Middle School and Hudson Elementary School in Pasco County, Killearn Lakes Elementary School in Leon County, Minneola Elementary School in Lake County, Poinciana Elementary School in Monroe County, Thomas L. Sims Middle School in Santa Rosa County and Woodlands Community Middle School in Palm Beach County.
The winners will be formally recognized and invited to share their award-winning programs at the Educational Strategies and Student Engagement Institute in November.
FWC staff recognized for conservation efforts
JohnHunt, a biologist working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and FWC officer MichaelBibeau were both honored this week by the Florida Guides Association for their conservation efforts.
For his “passionate commitment” to protecting marine fisheries, Hunt received the Capt. Phil Chapman Award. He is known across the globe for scientific contributions that have been instrumental in preserving the Caribbean spiny lobster fishery.
GilMcRae, Director of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, said Hunt “embodies” the needed application of “sound science and collective problem-solving approach that relies upon strong partnerships among government, stakeholders and environmental groups.”
“Perhaps, most importantly, John is a tireless advocate for his staff within the agency,” added McRae. “He has repeatedly shown admirable dedication and commitment to his staff, serving as a model for all of us with his leadership, compassion and courage.”
For his work patrolling Pinellas County, Bibeau was honored with the Trained Eyes Coastwatchers Officer of the Year award.
“The hard work of my brothers and sisters in conservation law enforcement inspires me to do my job every day to the best of my ability,” Bibeau said.
Parks surpass prescribed-fire record
The Florida Park Service has beaten a previous record for the amount of land managed by prescribed fire in a fiscal year.
More than 80,837 acres of land have been managed via controlled burns this year. The process is extremely beneficial to the environment, and remains a safe and effective way to help woodlands; the fires are planned, set and extinguished by specialized staff.
“We are proud of Florida State Parks staff for setting a new record for protecting park habitat with prescribed fire,” said Florida State Parks Director EricDraper. “Florida is fortunate to have such dedicated people working in state parks reducing risks of wildfire and restoring natural systems.”
The risk of wildfires is mitigated through prescribed fires because the deliberate blazes can be used to target areas where dry, dead plants have accumulated. It’s an effective tool that allows park workers to clear brush out of the way. Other benefits of controlled burns include increased nutrients in soil and upticks in biodiversity.
There are 175 state parks in Florida, 67 of them have seen more than 390 prescribed fires this year.
Preliminary citrus budget gets approval
The Florida Citrus Commission approved a preliminary $17.68 million spending plan for the Florida Department of Citrus in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
That’s a $442,000 increase from last year, which ended up being one of the worst years for Florida citrus in recent history as it reeled from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
The tentative plan figures Florida citrus growers should produce 60 million boxes of oranges and 5 million boxes of grapefruit. The budget is based on a tax projection of $.07 per box of processed oranges, all grapefruit and all specialty fruit. A tax of $.05 is projected for fresh oranges.
Though the overall budget increased, international programs, scientific research, and administration components of the budget saw cuts.
The budget will not be finalized until October, after the USDA releases its initial crop forecast for the upcoming season. Florida growers are on track to produce just 44.95 million boxes of oranges this year, according to the latest USDA forecast, and citrus groves suffered extensive damage that could affect crop production for years to come.
No SunPass fines during update
Good news for drivers: there’ll be no late fees or penalties as the state updates the troubled SunPass electronic toll collection system.
“I share the frustrations with our customers over the rollout of (the updated system) and find it unacceptable,” said MikeDew, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.
“We will not be imposing late fees or penalties on SunPass accounts until the system is providing the benefits and ease of access that our customers deserve and expect.”
“The SunPass system has accumulated toll charges for customer accounts since the maintenance period began June 1,” a news release said. “In the best interest of the customer, the posting of toll charges was withheld until the website and call center systems were operating more efficiently.”
SunPass customers will continue to be charged regular tolls, however. Once the system gets a clean bill of health, fees and penalties will resume for delinquent accounts.
Lawmakers ranked on progressive positions
It’s a common practice for activist groups and interests to dole out letter grades for lawmakers based on their voting records during the previous Session.
Typically, the results fall along party lines. And a recent report card from Progress Florida was no outlier to that trend; all of the 17 lawmakers who earned an A grade are Democrats, and very few Republicans received anything but an F grade — although term-limited Republican Sen. ReneGarcia of Miami got a C.
Votes were factored into whether they expressed support for what Progress Florida dubbed “People First” positions. During 2018, votes, like supporting an assault weapons ban, or opposing the House’s education package, met the “People First” criteria.
“Floridians don’t always know where their legislators stand on key issues impacting their lives, from access to health care and environmental protection to gun safety, the economy and supporting public schools,” said Progress Florida Executive Director MarkFerrulo. “Our People First Report Card grades state lawmakers based not on what they say in a campaign mailer, but on how they actually voted on issues Floridians care about.”
Unsurprisingly, Orlando Democratic Rep. CarlosGuillermoSmith topped the group’s list. The freshman Democrat helped found and chaired the Legislative Progressive Caucus. He was joined with 100 percent scores by South Florida Democrats Sen. JoseJavierRodriguez and Rep. DavidRichardson. Each aligned with Progress Florida on every scored vote.
Chip LaMarca recognized for local commitment
As he vies for the South Florida HD 39 seat in the Legislature, Broward County Commissioner ChipLaMarca was recognized this week for his work at the local level.
The Florida Association of Counties chose LaMarca as the recipient of the 2018 President’s Commitment to Service Award — the honor is bestowed upon those who address local issues and serve alongside the association.
In accepting the honor, LaMarca emphasized home rule — which has come to be a hot topic of the Legislature as lawmakers have pre-empted powers to the state. The state has been criticized for overreaching into governing decisions usually determined at the local level.
“The Florida Association of Counties works on behalf of Florida’s 67 counties to advocate for home rule and legislation that is vital to the quality of life for all of our residents,” said LaMarca.
Florida Association of Counties President ChristopherConstance, also a Charlotte County Commissioner, said LaMarca’s “unwavering commitment to local governments exemplifies the definition of a dedicated and selfless public servant.”
If LaMarca makes it to the House in November, Constance and the counties could have another local-friendly fighter in the state House.
Utility leaders honored for service
Four public powers leaders were honored this week by the American Public Power Association (APPA) for their important work of providing electricity to the state.
Among the honorees: AmyZubaly, who is the Executive Director of Florida Municipal Electric Association, or FMEA; FredBryant, the former general counsel of FMEA and Florida Municipal Power Agency, or FMPA; ChrisGent, who is the vice president of communications for Kissimmee Utility Authority; and Michael Perri, Jr., a board member of Fort Pierce Utilities Authority.
Zubaly was awarded for her 18 active years with APPA. The association recognized her important work restoring power in Florida after Hurricane Irma, as well as her efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
Bryant was given the James D. Donovan Individual Achievement Award. It’s the second time he’s received the honor. He is credited with unmatched legal expertise in his field.
Perri, the board member, was recognized in his capacity as an elected official. APPA awarded him the honor for assisting in beneficial legislation and opposing potentially harmful bills.
FSU research: Church does little for opioid addiction
A new study conducted by researchers at Florida State University found that religious involvement has no significant effect on mothers who are misusing prescription drugs — like opioids.
Illegal drugs, however, are a different story; the researchers found that practicing religion could have an effect on prohibited substance use.
“However, religious communities are just beginning to discuss the dangers of prescription drug abuse,” explained FSU Associate Professor AmyBurdette, who spearheaded the research.
Across the slice of population studied — female mothers who were mostly single — drug abuse was low.
“That’s a bit of good news,” Burdette said. “Whether you’re talking about prescription drug misuse or illegal substance abuse, it’s somewhat rare in our sample — it’s not that most mothers are doing this.”
Still, Burdette believes the study should be taken into consideration by religious leaders.
“Our research suggests that church leaders may want to directly address the issue of prescription drug misuse as churchgoers may not view prescription drugs in the same way that they view illegal drugs,” Burdette said. “Not directly addressing the issue may lead to a high degree of moral ambiguity.”
Leon County balances budget without increasing millage rate
After tentatively coming to an agreement this week, commissioners for Leon County are touting the seventh-consecutive year in which they’ve drafted a budget without raising the millage rate.
The elected leaders of the county that houses the capital city are proposing a $262.5 million spending plan for the year ahead — a 3.46 percent increase from last year.
But that increase is accompanied by no change in the millage rate, currently set at 8.3144 mills.
A news release announcing the budget plan said it was created during “a slowly improving economy, where growth in property tax revenues and state sales tax revenues are beginning to cover the inflationary costs of government expenses without having to reduce program services.”
“While property values continue to slowly rise in our recovering economy, the County remains committed to serving our citizens while avoiding new expenses,” said Commission Chairman NickMaddox. “This balanced budget demonstrates that commitment.”
Making way for new Publix near downtown
If you travel Gaines Street often, get ready for detours.
Starting next week, there will be what the city calls ‘traffic impacts’ on the strip because of construction on the new Publix Greenwise Supermarket being built near Gaines and Railroad Avenue.
The city promises, however, that “access to area businesses and residences will be maintained at all times.”
Here’s the plan, according to a city news release:
— From next Monday through Sunday, July 1, the eastbound lane of Gaines from Railroad to Woodward Avenue will be closed. The westbound lane will remain open and detour signs will be posted.
— Starting Monday, July 2, until Thursday, July 5, the eastbound lane of Gaines from Railroad to Woodward will be closed daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
— Starting Friday, July 6 and lasting through Sunday, July 8, there will be a full road closure (both eastbound and westbound lanes closed) on Gaines in front of the site.
For more information, email DwaineStevens, the Publix Media and Community Relations Manager for the region, at Dwaine.Stevens@publix.com.
Artopia: Big Bend Cares
Artopia is a charity art fundraising event Saturday, June 23, to benefit Big Bend Cares.
Local and regional artists donate artwork for this event, which includes a few signed and numbered limited editions. With art and media including painting, sculpture, photography, arts and crafts, Artopia features both silent and a live auction at the end of the evening.
Last year, Artopia featured more than 300 pieces of original artwork, including oils, pastels, acrylics, photography, scenography, sculpture, pottery, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, mixed media and much, much more.
In addition to all of the artwork, local businesses and individuals donate gift certificates and other perks to bid on. Tickets are $25.00; event begins 7 p.m. at the Donald L Tucker Civic Center, 505 W Pensacola St.
An appellate court has shot down a trial judge’s order to make immediate her ruling that medical marijuana can be smoked in Florida.
The 1st District Court of Appeal, in a one-page order dated Monday, quashedCircuit Judge KarenGievers‘ order allowing patients to smoke.
The state’s appeal of the decision placed an automatic ‘stay,’ or hold, on the ruling pending review. Gievers’ order lifted that stay.
“The stay provided for by (the) Florida Rule(s) of Appellate Procedure … shall remain in effect pending final disposition of the merits of this appeal,” the appellate court’s Monday order said. “An opinion setting forth this Court’s reasoning will issue at a later date.”
The agency said medical marijuana is still available to patients — though not in smoking form. It regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
Meantime, attorneys for plaintiffs in the smoking case and for JoeRedner — the Tampa strip club mogul who won a decision allowing him to grow and juice his own medical marijuana — have asked the state’s Supreme Court to take over the appeals.
JohnMorgan, the Orlando attorney behind the constitutional amendment, also organized the smoking lawsuit. He has called on Republican Gov. RickScott, now running for U.S. Senate, to drop further court challenges of Gievers’ ruling.
She previously found “there is no likelihood of success” by the state on appeal.
The governor “is wasting taxpayers’ money on this frivolous appeal while veterans, cops, firefighters (with PTSD) and really sick people suffer,” Morgan said in a statement. “This callous meanness has no room in Florida. This act of cruelty will cost him the Senate seat.”
The department also reported last Friday that the state had surpassed 100,000 people with an approved medical marijuana patient identification card, but a spokesman said that would not trigger the issuance of another four licenses for marijuana providers under state law.
This time the ad accuses Nelson of going negative in his campaign — only it doesn’t address Nelson’s campaign exactly since Nelson’s campaign hasn’t actually released any negative commercials. So the commercial goes after the Democratic organizations that have been running negative ads on Nelson’s behalf and blames Nelson for them.
The new Scott 30-second ad, “Negative Nelson,” makes the leap quickly from around a long time to negative campaigning.
“When Bill Nelson was first elected, Richard Nixon was President. Yep. Nixon. A professional politician for 46 years, Nelson has learned some tricks.
“Cheap tricks, like attack your opponent regardless of the facts.”
Nelson’s campaign has not yet released any commercials criticizing Scott. In fact, the Nelson campaign has not yet released any TV commercials, only two digital videos on the Internet, neither of them about Scott.
By contrast, “Negative Nelson” follows Scott’s “Pinto,” “New Ideas,” and “Party Line,” continuing the attack themes that Nelson is a lifelong politician, someone who votes the party line, and who is out of new ideas. The ad also does not specify what the attacks or facts are.
“Now that Nelson is attacking Rick Scott, you might ask, after almost a half-century in office, why can’t Nelson find much good to say about himself? Bill Nelson. Negative. A long, long time,” the Scott ad concludes.
In his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump basically told the American people what he was going to do about immigration.
He was going to be tough. He was going to be ruthless.
Mercy was only for the weak.
He would show the world his version of America. It was a two-handed shove to the chest.
So, if you voted for him, don’t pretend you’re surprised border agents are tearing families apart and you didn’t think it would go that far.
This is the nation Gov. Rick Scott had a hand in creating during the campaign when he backed Trump at every turn.
It’s what Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam endorse every time they use Trump’s name.
This is the America religious leaders like Franklin Graham supported throughout the campaign and in the first year and a half of Trump’s presidency, even as evidence piled up daily that he was a bully-in-chief.
He tripled the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and if some of them act like jackboots, well, that’s just the Trumpian way of enforcing the law, eh?
Trump has been exactly what he promised to be. Did anyone think he was kidding during the campaign and would somehow realize he is the president of 320 million people, not just those who voted for him?
What’s unfolding over immigration is just the next logical step.
He gave people like Attorney General Jeff Sessions power, who now says separating families is OK because the Bible supports it.
Sessions has been justifiably skewered for taking that out of context, but he also ignored the instruction from Jesus in Mark 12: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
But hey, people should have seen that coming, too.
After all, Trump told students at Liberty University about a verse in “Two Corinthians” instead of 2nd Corinthians, and he told a group of evangelicals in Iowa that he had never asked God for forgiveness.
Um, the Bible kind makes it clear that seeking forgiveness is important.
Evangelicals voted him anyway in large numbers because he pandered to them. They helped create this. It’s too late for some to say they don’t like it.
None of this is an argument against immigration laws and border enforcement, but there is a way to do it without blowing families apart – and on some level, Trump and his minions know this, don’t they?
But they’re all so focused on being tough that they forget everything else.
On Sunday, Father’s Day, Fox News reported Melania Trump’s office said: “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families & hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws but also a country that governs w/heart.”
That would be nice. But that’s not what his supporters voted for. They voted for a crude brute who told them what he was going to do. They believed him.
Those were two very telling — but perhaps overlooked — questions recently surveyed by the Florida Chamber. By determining how voters feel about the state’s direction and what tops their list of priorities before they head to the ballots, the Chamber’s latest poll helps to inform guesswork ahead of the midterm election, when Florida will elect a U.S. Senator, Governor, Cabinet and a slew of other positions.
Gun issues, the chamber found, have taken a back seat compared to results of an April poll in which gun-related concerns topped the list of statewide voter priorities. Currently, “jobs and the economy” rank first, topping the list for 14 percent of voters, followed by “education” at 13 percent and “gun issues” at 10 percent.
Another telling survey item gauged whether voters believe Florida is on the right or wrong track. The question is a strong predictor of voter turnout.
At the state level, Republicans are in control. This meshed well with how Republican voters feel about the state’s direction. An overwhelming majority (roughly 76 percent) answered “right track,” while just 10 percent felt the Sunshine State is heading in the wrong direction and 11 percent were unsure.
On the other hand, 50 percent of Democratic voters answered “wrong track,” while 29 percent felt the state is headed in the right direction; 17 percent were unsure.
Meanwhile, independent voters overall had a more positive interpretation of the state’s direction than Democrats. More than half answered “right direction,” 27 percent answered “wrong direction,” and 18 percent were unsure.
In total, around 52 percent of respondents felt the state was headed in the right direction. Just 30 percent believe the state is on the wrong track; 17 percent are unsure.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Scott rebuts report on debris removal — Gov. RickScott’s administration has refuted suggestions that it steered contracts to companies to remove debris in areas especially hard-hit by Hurricane Irma. A CBS4 investigative report this week showed two companies, which submitted emergency debris removal bids at the request of the state, invoiced more than $43 million for their post-Irma services. The report claims that similar companies already under contract could’ve done the same work for $13 million. Scott responded to the report, saying the emergency services were needed: “It’s easy for these vendors to look back and say they would have shown up and completed the work for cheaper, but in the days following the storm, they were clearly overleveraged and did not have the people or equipment to fulfill their commitments. I will never let special interests get in the way of storm recovery. We sent additional resources to get the job done for a community that needed help and given a choice; I would do the same thing again.”
Putnam downplays missed background checks — Following a Florida Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam responded to questions about a Tampa Bay Times report published last week showing that an employee under his supervision failed to use a background check system (one of a few) required for some Floridians who wish to obtain a concealed-carry license. The Commissioner told reporters that “public safety was not at risk” and that none of the 291 permit holders who have since had their licenses revoked were arrested during the lapse. The initial Times report found that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) went unused for a little more than a year in 2016-17 because an employee could not log in to the system. Putnam’s office has told the public that only 365 applications would’ve required use of the NICS, because two other databases are used for most applicants. When asked how applicants got by without further review, Putnam said, “It was a thing that happens to anybody with a computer: She (referring to the former employee) emailed I.T. and said, ‘my password isn’t working.’ They emailed her back with instructions on how to fix the problem. By her own admission, she dropped the ball.”
Amendments face uphill battle — A poll conducted by the Florida Chamber shows that, as of now, only a few proposed revisions to the state’s Constitution could pass in November. Of the 13 ideas primed for the ballot, just four met the 60 percent voter approval threshold needed to pass an amendment, although many surveyed voters were “unsure” of each proposition. The amendments with enough support currently, per the poll, include: Amendment 1, which would increase the state’s homestead exemption on property taxes; Amendment 3, which would give voters sole discretion on future gambling expansion; Amendment 7, which would extend death benefits to families of military and first responders killed on duty; and Amendment 8, which would impose school board term limits and let the state establish schools without school board approval.
‘Horrible’ citrus season ends — The United States Department of Agriculture this week forecast Florida citrus production for the 2017-2018 season will be its lowest since World War II. The USDA estimates Florida is on track to wrap its season with 44.95 million boxes of oranges, its premier citrus crop. Before Hurricane Irma, a storm that authorities described as “lethal” to citrus groves, private estimates expected Florida growers to produce 75 million boxes of oranges. Each box weighs 90 pounds. “This brings a very difficult citrus season to a close,” said ShannonShepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “We look forward to a quiet, resilient season in the fall.” The silver lining for Florida farmers awaits federal action. A federally funded $2.36 billion disaster package and a $340 million block grant are expected to dramatically mitigate losses incurred by Hurricane Irma.
Troubled nursing home gets small victory — The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 12 residents died during a power outage that followed Hurricane Irma, won a small dispute in court this week after a judge ruled the state must provide requested death records to the Broward County nursing home for “a reasonable fee.” The ruling comes after the Rehabilitation Center was asked to pay $5 each for paper records of the nearly 6,000 deaths that occurred across the state at the same time, reports Michael Moline for Florida Politics. The nursing home requested the records in the hopes of establishing that its staff acted reasonably in declining to evacuate residents before Hurricane Irma swept through the state.
Cabinet reaches conservation easement milestone
With the recent approval of more than 8,300 acres purchased through a unique conservation easement program, the Florida Cabinet is touting a more than 1,000-percent increase in acres preserved under three sitting members of the Cabinet who’ve been at their posts since 2011.
Those members include Gov. RickScott, Attorney General PamBondi and Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam. Current Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis replaced the former CFO JeffAtwater, who was elected in 2011 and 2014.
The easement program, known as the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, is a cooperative between the state and local ranchers that seeks to preserve active agriculture ops and the environmental benefits they offer. On Wednesday, the Cabinet surpassed 50,000 acres of protected land through 45 easements in total since Scott and most of the Cabinet took office.
“We must continue to prioritize the conservation of our agricultural lands and world-renowned natural spaces,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, we partner with farmers and ranchers to preserve the invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment to help preserve what makes Florida such a special place to live.”
Wednesday’s approved easements include Goolsby Ranch in Highlands County, Howze Ranch in Manatee County, Sampala Lake Ranch in Madison County and Rodman Plantation in Putnam County.
Agriculture Commissioner Putnam is accepting nominations for the 2018 “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award, which recognizes women in all areas of the industry who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.
Nominations can be sent by mail to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Plaza Level 10, The Capitol, 400 S Monroe St., Tallahassee FL 32399-0800. By fax, 850-617-7744. Or email to Clay.Hollis@FreshFromFlorida.com.
More information about the “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award and past award winners can be found at FreshFromFlorida.com.
The deadline for submitting nominations is July 31.
Patronis highlights AOB abuse arrest
As lawmakers and elected officials target abuse of assignment of benefits, or AOB, Chief Financial Officer Patronis is spreading the word that those that engage in the form of insurance fraud could face severe criminal penalties.
In a news release this week, Patronis drew attention to the case of TimothyMatthewCox, who arrested earlier this month for an AOB fraud scheme that impacted 19 homeowners in eight counties across Florida and in one Texas County. Cox owns Nationwide Catastrophe Services and Restoration Response Services, which he allegedly used to pocket almost $140,000 for unfinished home repairs needed after natural disasters.
“Criminals who prey on Florida families after a hurricane or tropical storm are some of the worst we see,” Patronis said. “This type of fraud has skyrocketed and impacts all Florida consumers.”
Per the news release, the Bureau of Insurance Fraud — overseen by Patronis — found that “Cox pressured homeowners to sign an AOB contract to have damages repaired.” But, “after receiving the insurance payments, Cox’s team never started any of the work they were contracted to perform.”
And according to Patronis, Cox’ case may not be an isolated one: “With more than 100 ongoing investigations statewide, we are coming for anyone who takes advantage of our residents during vulnerable times.”
The Week in Appointments
Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority
LuzWeinberg and LeonardBoord were appointed this week to serve terms ending April 6, 2022. Weinberg, 46, of Miami, is the CEO of GlobComm, LLC, and is a graduate of Florida International University. She succeeds CliffWaters. Boord, 57, of Miami, founded Slon Capital. He currently serves on the Florida International University Board of Trustees.
Hernando County Board of County Commissioners — JohnMitten will serve during the suspension of Commissioner NicholasNicholson for a term ending Nov. 16, 2020.
Broward College District Board of Trustees
MatthewCaldwell, not to be confused with the state Representative from Lehigh Acres, will serve a term that began June 14 and ends May 31, 2022. He is the president and CEO of Florida Panthers Hockey Club. Caldwell currently serves on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club.
Women’s Hall of Fame
AdelaHernandezGonzmart, JanetPetro and LeeBirdLeavengood were inducted Thursday by Gov. Scott. Gonzmart, (1920-2001), helped manage “The Columbia” — the oldest restaurant in Florida — and was a community advocate who helped co-found the Latino Scholarship Fund at the University of South Florida. Petro, 58, has worked as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army and was the first female Deputy in the history of John F. Kennedy Space Center. Leavengood, 89, has a long history of contributing work to the University of South Florida. She championed the creation of the University of South Florida’s Division of Senior programs, now known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Center.
FDLE upgrades alert system
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it updated its AMBER and Missing Child Alert Public Notification System this week.
Using what’s called an Everbridge platform, people can now receive AMBER and Missing Child Alerts through text messages as well as email. In the coming months, citizens will also be able to sign up to receive alerts through voice calls, TDD/TTY messaging, and through mobile device apps.
To use the new system, however, they must create an Everbridge account (click here). Current subscribers will continue to receive email alerts, but to access the additional functions, an Everbridge account is needed.
Everbridge will use your email and phone numbers to send Florida AMBER and Missing Child Alert notifications only. Information will not be sold or distributed. Everbridge is used by government agencies to issue emergency alerts, like severe weather warnings, nationally and in Florida.
FWC to meet in Sarasota
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet June 19-20 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. Meetings both days are open to the public.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. and the public will be provided opportunities to speak on agenda items each day. The Commission will also provide time for public comment on subjects not on the agenda at the end of the first day. Those who wish to offer comments during this period will be asked to make sure their comments are not related to any agenda item.
Those who can’t attend can follow coverage at Twitter.com/MyFWC (@MyFWC) and join the conversation by using the #FWC2018 hashtag. Check the Florida Channel for possible live video coverage at TheFloridaChannel.org.
FWC: Don’t forget about dive flags
For some counties along the Gulf Coast, the annual quest for bay scallops begins today.
But before Floridians jump into the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants them to hoist their dive flags, which signal to nearby boaters that there are divers down below or at the surface.
“Displaying and understanding what constitutes a proper divers-down symbol are critical,” said Capt. TomShipp of FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “These safety devices are meant to alert boaters to the presence of people under the water’s surface and to give them plenty of room.”
The iconic red rectangle with a white diagonal stripe must be displayed via a flag on a vessel or a buoy in the water. Each must be at least a foot in length and width if presented from the water, and at least 20 inches by 24 inches and flown at the highest point of a vessel if used in flag form.
Vessels are instructed to stay at least 100 feet from a flag when maneuvering through rivers, channels and inlets, and at least 300 feet from a flag in open waters. Divers, unsurprisingly, are asked to remain within the same boundaries of their flag.
Scallop season begins in Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County today and lasts through Sept. 10. In Franklin, Levy, Citrus, Hernando and the Northwest portion of Taylor County, the season begins July 1 and continues through Sept. 24. Pasco County’s season starts July 20 and ends July 29, and Gulf County’s season takes place Aug. 17 through Sept. 30.
Lawmakers ask for legislative action amid background check report
Politicians across the state chimed in with criticism following a Tampa Bay Times report that showed the Florida Department of Agriculture failed to use one of a few background check tools for more than a year.
A few Democratic state legislators have taken that criticism a step further and are calling for legislative action in the wake of the report.
State Sens. LindaStewart of Orlando and KevinRader of Delray Beach penned a letter to Senate President JoeNegron requesting the creation of “a special select committee under Senate Rule 1.5 ‘to provide the measure of full transparency the public demands from their elected officials.’”
Rader, who is vice chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Department of Agriculture, said he was not made aware of the issue during the 2018 Legislative Session.
“Was it a cover-up?” Rader posited. “Was it a way to rubber stamp what they knew they had already done?”
Similarly, in the state House, Democratic Rep. JaredMoskowitz, whose district encompasses Parkland, wrote a letter to House Speaker RichardCorcoran asking him to convene the House Government Accountability Committee and the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee to address the report.
Miami Democrats chip in for new Coral Gables fire station
State Sen. JoseJavierRodriguez and state Rep. NicholasX. Duran this week presented a $1.5 million check to the City of Coral Gables for the purchase of land required to build a much-needed new fire station.
Funding for the land purchase was secured during the 2018 Legislative Session. It will help Coral Gables take the first step toward constructing a fire station in Cartagena Park. Currently, traffic congestion has limited first responders’ access to the area.
“Ensuring and supporting the public’s safety is a top priority for the City of Coral Gables. Senator Rodriguez and I are proud to support added protection measures by continuing to work closely with our municipal partners,” Duran said in a prepared statement. “Efforts to secure increased safety and expand green space is undoubtedly a win for all residents.”
Following the land purchase, the city is expected to build its fourth fire station at the park, which connects to an 11-mile bike trail along Old Cutler Road. Per a news release, “The fire station will provide necessary supervision to the area as well as enhanced safety for all visitors enjoying this regional attraction.”
Dana Young delivers check to Redefining Refuge
A Lutz-based nonprofit that advocates for sexually exploited and trafficked youth got a visit this week from Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, who arrived with a $500,000 check from the state in tow.
“Redefining Refuge fights for women and children who have been victims of sexual abuse and works to end the domestic sex trafficking of minors,” Young said. “Redefining Refuge ensures those they serve receive the specialized care they need and deserve, providing fundamental needs, such as safety, shelter, clothing and food, as well as educational, psychological or emotional support.”
Redefining Refuge founder and director Natasha Nascimento thanked Young and the Legislature for the funds, which will help the nonprofit expand its suite of services for victims.
“This appropriation will truly have a significant impact on the women and children we serve, by allowing us to further our positive contribution to the lives of human trafficking victims by equipping and empowering them to build strong foundations for their futures,” she said.
Rene Garcia wants DACA fix ASAP
Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia used his platform at the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairmen to call on Congress to pass permanent fixes for DACA, an Obama-era policy that protects from deportation young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Garcia and the BHCC said they were in support of a proposal being pitched in Congress that would provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” alongside stricter border security laws. Garcia commended CD 26 U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo for helping push that permanent fix.
“DACA has been great for the U.S. economy and recipients are estimated to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to economic growth over the next decade. Congress must take a pragmatic approach in ensuring a path for Dreamers, while also strengthening our safety and enhancing border security,” Garcia said. “Through bipartisan compromise, Congress has an opportunity to find middle ground, push politics aside, and protect not just the Dreamers, but also all people who call the United States home.”
The alternative to that proposal, preferred by hard-line House conservatives, would give Dreamers temporary protection in exchange for ending rules that allow legal immigrants to sponsor their family members entry into the U.S., a practice derogatorily referred to as “chain migration.”
FSU Medicine among most selective schools
When prospective medical students apply to Florida State University’s College of Medicine, the odds are stacked against them.
Of the 7,200 FSU med-school applicants in 2018, just 120 were admitted. That’s a 2.6 percent acceptance rate, giving FSU the third spot in U.S. News and World Report’s list of medical schools with the lowest acceptance rates. The Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and Stanford University took the top two spots, respectively.
“We’re obviously pleased to see so much interest in this medical school and our unique, community-based and patient-centered approach, but we are even more excited about what a quality pool of applicants means in terms of helping us achieve our mission,” College of Medicine Dean JohnP. Fogarty said.
Moreover, while the med school may be selective, it boasts a diverse student population. The Class of 2022 includes 69 women and 51 men, as well as 15 black students and 15 Spanish, Hispanic or Latino students.
Those numbers make it among the top 10 for enrollment of both black and Hispanic students — the only school to do so within the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Career fairs for evacuees
Nineteen local workforce boards will host a statewide, construction industry-focused job fair beginning June 12 in cities and towns across Florida. The events bring together construction and related companies seeking to hire Floridians and individuals displaced by Hurricane Maria for a variety of high-paying jobs.
“Puerto Rico evacuees, veterans, Hispanics and other job-seeking Floridians are encouraged to attend,” said JulioFuentes, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Whether an entry-level laborer or a skilled engineer, hiring companies offer paid, on-the-job training, so applicants of all experience levels are welcome to apply. Additionally, Uber is providing discounted rates to all individuals traveling to and from the career fairs using discount code CAREERSOURCEFL.
Locations holding a one-day career fair between June 12 and July 11 include Bradenton, Clearwater, Crestview, Fort Myers, Fort Pierce, Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Lake City, Lauderdale Lakes, Madison, Milton, New Port Richey, Ocala, Rockledge, Stuart, Vero Beach and West Palm Beach. For dates and locations, click here.
FSU sports get props from Scott, Cabinet
At a Cabinet meeting this week, Gov. Scott and the Cabinet celebrated the long-term success of Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin and the newly cemented legacy of the Florida State softball squad with a pair of resolutions.
The one lauding the 2018 Seminoles softball team, fresh off winning their NCAA tournament, listed off accomplishments including their “do-or-die heroics” against Louisiana State in the Super Regional and their six-game run from the elimination bracket to their sweep of the University of Washington in the championship series.
Individuals getting enshrined in the doc include WCWS Most Outstanding Player Jessie Warren, ACC Pitcher of the Year Kylee Hanson and the ACC Freshman of the Year Sydney Sherrill.
The resolution celebrating Martin recounted his first win for the ‘Noles, which came against rival Miami in 1980, before rattling off some of the most impressive stats among active NCAA baseball coaches — in his 39 seasons at the helm, FSU baseball has “won 1,987 games; scored 21,606 runs; recorded 21,623 strikeouts; hit 2,956 home runs and placed 49 former players in Major League Baseball,” the resolution said.
He also got a clap on the back for being the all-time winningest coach in NCAA baseball and having the second-best winning percentage in the record books.
Ed. Note — We misspelled the name of Collier County School Board and Constitution Revision Commission member ErikaDonalds in last week’s Capitol Directions. We regret the error.
Roughly 17 million people hold a Florida driver’s license.
Spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said FDLE agents in Tallahassee — including the agency’s Cyber Crime Squad — were working the case, which she said falls under the “active” criminal investigation exemption to the state’s public record law. Plessinger declined further comment, including how many Floridians’ personal data was misused, if any.
“Criminal investigative information shall be considered ‘active’ as long as it is related to an ongoing investigation which is continuing with a reasonable, good faith anticipation of securing an arrest or prosecution in the foreseeable future,” state law says.
The same vendor now at issue, Unisoft Communications of Miami, had previously been flagged in 2016 — about a year before the DHSMV agreed to a new contract — for posting the personal information from two individuals’ driving records, records show.
Friday’s news highlights the growing concern over the security of personal information. On the retail side alone, Business Insider reported in April that “at least 14 separate security breaches occurred (since) January 2017 … many of them caused by flaws in payment systems, either online or in stores.”
In a media availability for his U.S. Senate campaign in Jacksonville Friday, Gov. RickScott said the state “has to do everything we possibly can to make sure your personal information is always secure.” Scott oversees the DHSMV.
“That is my expectation of all state agencies,” added Scott, a Naples Republican. “I will do everything I can to make sure people’s information is secure.”
Later in the day, CFO Jimmy Patronis‘ spokeswoman issued a related statement, claiming he was a victim of driving info “identity theft” because of the Unisoft breach.
Florida Politics reported last month that, unknown to him at the time, Patronis had his driver’s license suspended for nearly a year because of an apparent glitch in how the DHSMV tracks and responds to changes in drivers’ insurance coverage.
“We are pleased to hear that the recent identity theft that targeted driving records of CFO Patronis is being criminally investigated,” spokeswoman Anna Alexopoulos Farrar said.
“Our department is working with all those who are investigating this matter to provide any information they may need. The CFO has already taken extra measures to secure his personal information from future criminal attempts to misuse it.”
In the context of state driver’s licenses, federal law defines “personal information” as “an individual’s photograph, social security number, driver identification number, name, address (but not the 5-digit ZIP code), telephone number, and medical or disability information.”
It “does not include information on vehicular accidents, driving violations, and driver’s status.”
Rep. JamieGrant, a Tampa-area Republican and tech entrepreneur, tweeted Friday: “Having had my identity stolen and my identity posted online, this is no joke.
“If a company was selling or providing personally identifiable data, … we need answers. And now.”
Having had my identity stolen and having had my identity posted on line, this is no joke. If a company was selling or providing personally identifiable data with the only validation factor being “what’s the driver’s license number?”, we need answers. And now. https://t.co/7gVDQzIcJy
DHSMV records, provided through a public records request, show that what should have been otherwise private information was made available online by Unisoft, the company that had contracted with the department, which has since pulled the plug on the deal.
A call to Unisoft President Hugo Montiel Jr. has not yet been returned.
In a statement, DHSMV spokeswoman BethFrady added that “customer safety and security is the department’s top priority.”
“At this time, the department has not granted Unisoft Communications, Inc.’s request for a corrective action plan and we are currently coordinating with (FDLE) as part of an ongoing criminal investigation,” she said. “As such, Unisoft Communications Inc.’s MOU (memorandum of agreement) for data exchange remains terminated at this time.”
Frady also downplayed concerns of a “widespread data breach,” saying the latest investigation was triggered by “a record (that) had potentially been improperly obtained.” She did not confirm that that record was Patronis’ information.
Unisoft and DHSMV inked a three-year deal last July to get “electronic access” to driver’s license and motor vehicle information, with the agreement it wouldn’t share any “unauthorized” information from the department’s database. It’s not clear for how long after that the restricted information has been available from Unisoft.
The main goal was to offer information to insurance concerns “for the purpose of underwriting and rating,” according to a May 25 letter to DHSMV from Montiel after the breach was discovered.
The day before, StephanieDuhart— DHSMV’s chief of motorist records — had told Montiel the department was “terminating” the contract because information “contain(ing) personal identifying information protected under” the federal Driver Privacy Protection Actwas found on a Unisoft website.
That info could be bought through the website by “only providing” someone’s driver’s license number, the letter said. But that would mean “someone other than themselves could easily obtain protected information,” Duhart wrote.
Duhart concluded Unisoft “does not have appropriate safeguards in place to protect and maintain the confidentiality and security of the data….”
In response, Montiel wrote back to Duhart to admit “an honest oversight on our part and we acknowledge our error.” He said he had deactivated its website, mydrivingreport.com. (Efforts to access the site received a “404 error” message on Friday.)
He also proposed several corrective measures, such as establishing an “internal control process,” all of which the department has so far turned down.
“We have been authorized … in the state for over 20 years and have had an excellent record of safeguarding sensitive data,” Montiel wrote.
But in May 2016, another DHSMV official had alerted Montiel of “personal information being displayed on the internet,” according to records released by the department. He confirmed in a letter dated the next month that “2 records were compromised” and disabled that information from appearing online.
Montiel also said his company told the affected drivers of the data breach affecting them and “secured all folders” containing drivers’ personal information to prevent it from happening again.
In another statement from DHSMV, the agency said that “customers with concerns regarding the dissemination of their information in accordance with state and federal law … may complete a complaint form and federal law allows for any injured party to sue for damages in federal court.”
The department “works with its national and state partners, including the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) to communicate learned best practices. When appropriate, the department will report suspected misuse to other states or the Department of Justice.”
Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski contributed to this post.
The state can’t charge the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills anywhere close to $30,000 to produce the records of deaths occurring statewide during and immediately following Hurricane Irma, a judge said Tuesday.
The Department of Health wanted the Broward County nursing home, where 12 people died because of sweltering conditions when the power failed, to pay $5 each for paper records of the nearly 6,000 deaths that occurred across the state at the same time.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis in Tallahassee told an attorney representing the state to produce electronic copies instead, and to charge only reasonable costs of preserving the records on a computer disk or flash drive.
“They don’t even want paper copies,” Lewis told assistant general counsel Michael Williams.
Williams argued that state law required extensive redactions of the records to shield the causes of death. However, Timothy Elliott, of Smith & Associates’ Tallahassee office, representing the nursing home, said officials routinely produce such redacted records at minimal cost.
In light of that, the state’s demand is “inherently unreasonable,” Elliott said. “There has to be a reasonable fee.”
Lewis agreed: “That would make it silly to me, and illogical, to require your department to spend all that time, and have them pay all that money, to redact something that’s not necessary and that the public can get otherwise,” he said.
“If all they want is take that information and put it on a disc, that shouldn’t take that much,” Lewis added.
Lewis also ruled that the nursing home is entitled to recover its costs in litigating its records demand against the state. He told the parties to confer on language summing up his ruling from the bench and return it for review.
The state went after the home’s license following the tragedy, but staff responded that they’d tried phoning Gov. Rick Scott and received no answer. Meanwhile, the Legislature passed a law requiring homes to acquire electric generators, but many remain out of compliance.
Lewis ordered the agency to turn over the records in April, provoking the fresh litigation over its fee demand. Earlier court documents had placed the amount at around $6,000, but the larger figure emerged during Tuesday’s hearing.
The nursing home hopes to establish that its staff acted reasonably in declining to evacuate its residents. The law firm’s Geoffrey Smith said research suggests evacuating frail elderly ahead of a natural disaster can cause more deaths than sheltering in place.
“It’s important to place the whole thing in some perspective,” Smith said. “When we get away from the sensationalism, most people would see it was pretty reasonable to do what they did.”
Gov. RickScott proclaimed Tuesday as “Pulse Remembrance Day” in recognition of the 49 people killed in the 2016 gay nightclub shooting.
Scott “is asking all Florida residents to pause for a moment of silence at 9 a.m. and is directing all state flags in Florida to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset,” the Governor’s Office said in a news release.
“I remain committed to making sure our state never forgets these brave 49 individuals, that we continue to express our profound sympathy to the families who lost loved ones during this tragic event, and always remember that Florida is resilient and will endure during times of great tragedy,” Scott said in a statement.
Besides the 49 killed, 58 were wounded in the attack. The shooter, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, was himself shot and killed by police. It was at the time the deadliest single day mass shooting in U.S. history.
First known for cuisine and later his storytelling, chef and TV star AnthonyBourdain had a knack for traveling the world and telling the world about it.
After news broke Friday that Bourdain tragically ended his own life in France, the world mourned and celebrated his work — which, we’ve learned, brought him to all the nooks and crannies of the planet, even Tallahassee.
Highlighted on Twitter by GusCorbella of Greenberg Traurig, a clip shows Bourdain speaking with a group of prospective writers at Florida State University in 2011. It’s worth watching:
“I started writing at age 44 after 28 years spent standing in kitchens,” Bourdain tells the students. “Who would want to read about the squalid life of a not-particularly-good cook? This subculture of chefs and cooks and dishwashers …”
He offered tips to the students as well: “I never read what I’ve just written if I can avoid it.” And at least one student interviewed in the clip said she was inspired by how late he began to document his experiences through prose.
Even Bourdain, who at the time had reached stardom and notoriety, walked away from the lecture with something to gain. He said the writing students at FSU were likely more serious about writing than he is, and that speaking with them was flattering.
“It just feels good,” Bourdain said. “I’m walking around thinking like, ‘Damn, I’m a writer.’ ”
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State gets election security money — The Florida Department of State received $19.2 million in federal election security money this week following pressure from county and state leaders to apply for the funding. The money is part of a $380 million package approved earlier this year by Congress to enhance election security in all 50 states. In May, supervisors of elections in Florida first raised concerns that the state had not applied for the $19.2 million set aside for it, as reported by SteveBousquet of the Tampa Bay Times. Gov. RickScott and U.S. Sens. MarcoRubio and BillNelson applied further pressure on the Department to apply for the funding before the midterm elections. The Legislature will need to unlock the funds before the Department of State can distribute money to each county’s election office.
Tourism on record track — The first three months of 2018 saw a record number of visitors come to the Sunshine State, according to Florida’s tourism-marketing agency VISIT Florida. An estimated 33.2 million visitors traveled to Florida from January through March. The previous three-month high was 30.9 million visitors. In 2017, the Legislature appropriated $76 million to VISIT Florida for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The same amount was appropriated during the 2018 Legislative Session. The public-private agency has recently led efforts to advertise Florida tourism in Canada, and the number of visitors from that country was up 2.5 percent during the last quarter.
Judge lifts stay on marijuana smoking ban — Following her ruling last month that Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional, Leon County Circuit Judge KarenGievers lifted the stay, or hold, on the ruling following the state’s immediate appeal of Gievers’ initial ruling. Gievers’ order now will come into effect Monday. But while smoking the plant for medicinal purposes will be considered legal, patients still can’t get smokable marijuana until the Department of Health finalizes new rules for Gievers’ decision. An attorney representing the state said the rule-making process could take months to complete.
Parkland panel meets again — A group charged with unearthing facts and recommending improvements to prevent another mass school shooting met again this week to review the Feb. 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The fact-finding commission, which includes lawmakers, local authorities and citizens, was included in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed in the 2018 Legislative Session. AndrewPollack, a former member of the commission, Thursday announced his resignation from the panel, citing the need to focus his efforts on electing members to the Broward County School Board. He is the father of one of the slain Parkland students. Pinellas County Sheriff BobGualtieri, who heads the commission, directed the conversation Thursday toward risk-assessment protocols that must be implemented ahead of the next school year, reports the News Service of Florida. Among them: Evidence-based youth mental health awareness and assistance curriculum, the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool, and a student crime-watch program.
Scott’s disclosure set for appeal hearing — A lawsuit challenging whether Gov. RickScott properly disclosed his wealth will now be heard by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Scott’s office argues that the issue brought forward, which claims the Governor did not fully disclose the details of his personal wealth through the use of a blind trust, should be heard by the Florida Commission on Ethics. A circuit judge ruled otherwise earlier this year, and now the appeals court will have its say on what authority will consider whether Scott properly disclosed his finances. Filed in 2017, Scott listed a net worth at $149.3 million, including a blind trust worth $130.5 million.
Puerto Rico PD gets some backup
The Puerto Rico Police Department is now home to 25 Florida Highway Patrol vehicles.
“Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, I have visited the island six times to offer guidance, assistance and support. We’ve made it a priority in Florida to aid Puerto Rico in their recovery from this devastating storm,” Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.
“I’m glad that the Florida Highway Patrol, on behalf of Floridians, has stepped up and honored a request to provide additional surplus police cruisers to the island. These 25 vehicles will assist law enforcement efforts as they work to rebuild. We will continue to do all we can to support Puerto Rico’s recovery.”
The cache of cruisers each had more than 80,000 miles of service in the Sunshine State, and had been out of circulation and awaiting surplus auction before they were donated to PRPD.
“The Florida Highway Patrol is proud to continue assisting the Puerto Rico Police Department following Hurricane Maria,” said FHP Director Gene Spaulding. “These donated vehicles are another way Florida is supporting the people of Puerto Rico in their recovery.”
Though, as the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas tweeted this week, “Oh so many questions this election year … @FLGovScott says he’s sending 25 used FHP vehicles to Puerto Rico. But his prison system struggles to have working vehicles to transport inmates. It’s received half of what it’s asked for in vehicle replacement.”
Veterans honor Putnam for outdoor initiatives
Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam was recently recognized at the Jacksonville Purple Heart State Convention.
Putnam, who also is vying for the Republican nod in the Governor’s race, was awarded the Military Order of the Purple Heart Distinguished Service Award.
During remarks at the convention, the commissioner cited his work in Operation Outdoor Freedom, which gives certain veterans the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors at no cost.
Putnam said that camps across the state have served over 3,600 veterans so far, making it the only program of its “kind, size and scope,” at least to his knowledge.
“The therapy that’s taking place in those woods and around those campfires is extraordinary. We would not be able to continue to identify and promote this program without your help,” Putnam said. “We need to be able to let every veteran know that this is an opportunity for them and a small way for the State of Florida to say thank you for your service to our great country.”
Two camps currently operate: Camp Prairie and Peace River Camp. Both are overseen by the Florida Forest Service, which Putnam oversees. Putnam also has dedicated a Purple Heart Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest.
Jimmy Patronis recognized for PTSD legislation
The Florida Professional Firefighters group this week honored Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis for helping champion a new law that gives first responders access to mental health care through the state’s workers’ compensation system.
“I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for our firefighters and other first responders. As Florida’s State Fire Marshal, I will keep fighting for those that serve and protect all of Florida. My goal is to also ensure cancer is a covered treatment, providing greater health care access to all first responders. I’m grateful that I was able to join the Florida Professional Firefighters this evening and receive this great honor,” Patronis said of the award.
Notably, the new law allows first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to receive care and treatment under workers’ comp provided by the state. First responders in Florida have suffered from PTSD as a result of their line of work. The disease has led many to take their own lives.
The CFO this week also presented more than $1 million in grant funding for firefighting equipment and facility updates across the state. The grants were awarded to Florida’s Firefighter Grant Assistance Program to Felda Volunteer Fire Department, Montura Volunteer Fire Department and Pioneer Plantation Volunteer Fire Department in the amounts of $55,414.60, and were accompanied by an additional $843,000 given to the City of LaBelle Fire Station.
“These grants will support our firefighters, improve their emergency response, and help them do their jobs safely and efficiently,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. “No matter the size of the community, fire service needs for families remain the same. Florida’s firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect our friends and family, and we must do everything to support their heroic efforts.”
Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said he was a fan of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to bring on its first-ever cryptocurrency adviser.
“The SEC’s appointment of a cryptocurrency chief is a forward-thinking and bold move. My office has been closely following cryptocurrency, and as with all emerging technology, there comes a new risk for consumers to be defrauded,” Patronis said in a news release. “With the Seminole County Tax Collector now accepting bitcoin as a form of payment and Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale ranking seventh and eighth in the top 10 bitcoin-friendly cities, it’s important we stay ahead of the game when it comes to consumer protection.”
The SEC announced the appointment of Valerie Szczepanik Tuesday. She’s tasked with overseeing how securities laws apply to emerging digital asset technologies, including cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum.
Citing the recent consumer alert his office put out on cryptocurrency scams, Patronis said he’s already directed his staff to set up a call with Szczepanik “to discuss how we can continue to protect consumers in our state.”
The week in appointments
Jennifer Alexandra Alcorta Waters will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Curtis L. Disque. The 41-year-old from Palm City is a partner at Fox, Wackeen, Dungey, Beard, Bush, Goldman, Waters, Robison, van Vonno & McCluskey, LLC. She received an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and received a J.D. at the University of Florida.
Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees
Dr. Lee Mandel fills a vacant seat for a term that began this week and ends Sept. 10, 2020. Mandel, 53, of Fort Lauderdale is a physician with the South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and Pursued medicine at the University of South Florida.
Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees
RobinSchneider, 55, of Springhill and AlHernandez, 46, of Odessa were reappointed for terms ending March 31, 2022. LeeMaggard, 31, of Zephyrhills, was reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.
New College of Florida Board of Trustees
GarinHoover, 55, of Sarasota, fills a vacant seat for a term ending Jan. 6, 2023. He is the owner of Hoover Realty and a retired attorney.
Florida seniors earn National Merit Scholarship
The National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced this week that 4,000 students nationwide had earned a college-sponsored scholarship, including 300 Florida high school seniors.
“These students’ scholarship earnings clearly demonstrate that hard work pays off, and I am immensely proud of them for representing the State of Florida so well,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “I also want to commend their educators and parents whose support and encouragement over the years have contributed to their success.”
The scholarships provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution that awarded them.
It takes some work to earn a National Merit Scholarship — to make the grade, students must apply for the scholarship in their junior year, write an essay, score well on the SAT and lock down a recommendation from a high school official.
Mel Ponder recognized as Legislator of the Year
The Florida College System Council of Presidents (COP) and the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) named Rep. MelPonder, a Destin Republican, as its 2018 Legislator of the Year.
The groups said they “recognize an exemplary legislator annually when his or her contributions during the Legislative Session significantly enhance and support the Florida College System.”
Ponder sponsored HB 75, which now allows Florida colleges to waive certain postsecondary fees, not covered by the Department of Defense, for active duty members of U.S. Armed Forces using military tuition assistance.
“This new law will further open access to college for the men and women of the military to attend Florida’s top-rated colleges in the nation,” the groups said in a statement.
Ponder will be formally presented the award at the Council of Presidents annual meeting in Tampa June 11.
Benacquisto launches local photo contest
Sen. LizbethBenacquisto is encouraging photography enthusiasts in her area to submit local pictures to be displayed to the public.
An email distributed this week from the Fort Myers Republican asks Southwest Florida photogs to snap their favorite spots and submit them by Aug. 31.
Submissions will have a chance to be displayed at the Richard H. Rush Library Gallery, as well as other areas around Lee County. The pictures also have a chance to get sent out in Benacquisto’s monthly newsletter.
Text from an email advertising the event reads, “There are beautiful places and unforgettable moments that take place across Lee County each day: Show us the ones that mean the most to you!”
Take a hunter safety class this summer
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds Floridians if they haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, now’s a good time tosign up.
Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast. And people born after May 31, 1975, must complete the FWC’s hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt alone.
If one is new to our state, these classes will make new residents aware of Florida’s hunting laws.
For those who just relocated from inside the state, the FWC says the classes are “a great way to meet other hunters. You can make some new hunting buddies or maybe even get a line on a great hunt club that’s looking for new members.”
Florida Forest Service announces Longleaf Pine program
The Florida Forest Service announced this week that the Longleaf Pine Landowner Incentive Program is now accepting applications from eligible, nonindustrial private forest landowners. Applications will be accepted through Friday, July 13.
The goal of the program is to increase the acreage of healthy Longleaf Pine ecosystems in Florida by helping nonindustrial private forest landowners make the long-term investment required to establish and maintain this valuable ecosystem.
The program offers incentive payments for completion of timber stand improvement, invasive species control, prescribed burning, planting Longleaf Pine, native plant understory establishment and mechanical underbrush treatments.
The program is offered for private lands in Florida counties located west of the Aucilla River and several counties near the Ocala National Forest.
Application forms and more information on program requirements and procedures can be found by visiting FreshFromFlorida.com or by contacting your local county forester.
DHSMV: Drive slower, stay cooler this summer
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has launched its Safe Summer Travel Campaign.
Partnering with the Florida Highway Patrol, Department of Children and Families, Department of Transportation, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA, the team offers a wide variety of advice, but all agree safety begins with easing up on the gas pedal.
“There are more travelers on Florida’s roads than ever before, so it’s critical to remember to slow down, stay cool and be safe,” DHSMV Director Terry Rhodes said.
Besides slowing down, the groups encourage prevention methods, like making sure proper child restraints are in place.
However, the first line of defense should be checking your tires, according to the DHSMV. Data recorded by the agency showed there were more than 3,306 tire-related crashes last year, resulting in 285 serious injuries.
And with the hot summer sun upon the state, the groups warn to never leave children or pets in vehicles unattended. Moreover, suspicious or aggressive behavior on the roadways can be reported by dialing *FHP (*347).
The state’s tourism marketing agency is now allowing industry partners to ‘buy into’ over 200 shared marketing opportunities and small business programs.
Developed with Miles Partnership, the cooperative marketing idea is expected to extend the marketing dollars of the 12,000 industry partners associated with the public-private marketing agency.
“Our new offerings allow all of our small, medium and large partners across the state to buy into unique opportunities that fit their needs and maximize their budgets,” VISIT FLORIDA CEO KenLawson said.
New programs include, per the agency, “nontraditional, such as a Google Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) content optimization program; North America, which includes tried and true sanctioned print and digital programs in publications such as AAA, Wall Street Journal and Golf Digest; International, which includes new Brand USA program packages; Regional, which focuses on brand development of regional parts of the state to build successful media plans; and Small Business, such as a video content production program to allow businesses to tell their own unique stories.”
News of the cooperative is timely, as it comes as businesses prep for the next fiscal year.
VISIT Florida and Miles Partnership designed the concept with the help of feedback and collaboration from industry partners at the agency’s Leadership Summit in December.
Florida Bar to hold convention in Orlando — with yoga
The Florida Bar will hold its annual convention June 13-16 in Orlando and will focus this year “on the importance of living and enjoying a balanced lifestyle.”
West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 70th president. Vero Beach attorney John M. Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect; he will become president in June 2019. The convention is being held at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.
“Living Well, Working Well: The Balanced Lawyer,” the theme of this year’s convention, emphasizes the positive effects of learning to balance family, work, health and fitness.
This will be the first time the convention offers health and wellness activities including yoga, meditation and more. Mindfulness, stress-management and integrating work-life balance are key themes the discussions and programs will focus on.
Other highlights include:
Judicial Luncheon— Held Thursday, June 14, the luncheon will feature Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice JorgeLabarga presenting “The State of the Judiciary.” Lawyer, author and mindfulness instructor JeenaCho will be the keynote speaker. Justice Labarga’s remarks (starting about 12:30 p.m.) and Cho’s presentation (starting about 1:15 p.m.) will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.
General Assembly— The centerpiece event June 15 will include installation of incoming Bar officers and Board of Governors members. Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s new president, and Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect. The entire General Assembly from 9:30 a.m.-noon will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.
50-year members — The Bar will honor 313 attorneys for 50 years of service at a special luncheon. Also honored will be 14senior counselors, who have practiced for 50 years or more but have not been members of The Florida Bar for the entire time.
Harvard faculty to lead Executive Leadership course at Florida Poly
Business executives from all over Florida are invited to participate in a one-of-a-kind leadership course developed by Harvard professors and taught at Florida Polytechnic University this Aug. 5-10.
The immersive weeklong Florida Poly Executive Leadership Courseis designed for mid-career professionals looking to improve their leadership skills. Attendees will learn how to better understand their market, execute creative change, and grow their organizations through flexible and adaptive leadership.
The course is led by Harvard professors emeritus Drs. Paul Marshall and EarlSasser to provide participants with the most advanced leadership strategies through hands-on activities, real-world case studies, group breakouts and self-reflection.
“What makes this course unique is that it is led by Harvard faculty and modeled by what people can find at Harvard,” said Florida Poly’s president, Dr. Randy K. Avent. “It’s also a resident program which brings the opportunity to build valuable relationships with leaders from other companies.”
Attendees will spend their evenings in a residence hall. The registration deadline is July 22. For more information, contact email@example.com or 863-874-8614.
AARP Florida tracks lawmakers’ votes
How state legislators voted in the 2018 Legislature on issues of interest to older Floridians can be seen with the release of AARP Florida’s 7th Annual Legislative Voting Record.
This year’s voting record contains detailed, vote-by-vote information on key legislation important to those age 50 and older.
AARP said it alerted legislators that it would consider their votes on certain proposals to be key votes for this voting record.
And because key decisions often occur at several stages during the long process of legislative consideration of a bill, the voting record tracks legislative committees’ actions as well as final votes.
The voting record provides information about legislative votes based on broad topics, such as regulated utilities, the state budget, health care and supportive services, prescription drugs, consumer protections and livable communities.
“AARP Florida’s Legislative Voting Record makes it easy to track legislators’ decisions on key issues that matter most,” AARP Florida State Director JeffJohnson said.
The complete version of the 2018 voting record can be viewed and downloaded here.
Ports group highlights promising data
A five-year mission plan released by the Florida Ports Council bears good news: Cargo and cruise activity is increasing.
The nonprofit’s strategic plan, “Connecting Commerce: The 2018-2022 Five-Year Florida Seaport Mission Plan,” provides a few insightful data points. Among them: a 4.9 percent increase in Florida’s waterborne trade, and a $4.3 billion increase in the value of containerized cargo moved.
Gov. Scott added commentary to the news, citing the state’s $1.4 billion investment in ports since December 2010 — the month before he assumed office.
“Florida’s hardworking businesses have created more than 1.5 million private sector jobs since December 2010. This job growth would not be possible without our incredible seaports,” Scott said.
Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler said continuing investments in ports will continue to contribute to economic growth.
“Now that Florida ports have the infrastructure to accommodate more cargo, we are seeing steady growth year after year in total cargo tonnage and value of cargo, as well as the number of cruise passengers,” Wheeler said.
“With $3.3 billion in capital improvements at Florida’s seaports identified over the next five years, we expect these numbers to continue to grow creating a stable economy for current Floridians and future generations.”
The Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) recognized philanthropists Sam and BettyShine this week, after their donation of “a critical tract of land, over 6,000 acres in size, to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge south of Tallahassee on the Gulf of Mexico.”
The land donated by the Shines will expand the Refuge northward to U.S. 98, “thereby protecting this environmental jewel from development and pollution,” the FWF said in a statement.
As a habitat, it will “provide a perpetual home for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida black bear and the indigo snake.” The tract’s protection also affords increased water quantity and quality to the aquifer, which helps Apalachee Bay.
“This is the latest in a long line of environmental projects involving Sam and Betty, and the Florida Wildlife Federation greatly appreciates their altruism,” said ManleyFuller, FWF president.
Capital craft brewery gearing up for move
Renovations began this week at the new South Monroe Street home of Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing Co., the city’s first craft brewery.
The move is into a 70-year-old, 34,000 square-foot former Coca-Cola bottling plant a short drive from downtown. Proof outgrew its current location, a 7,500 square-foot former warehouse in the city’s Railroad Square Art Park.
“The support and encouragement we’ve received from our community about the news of our expansion has been incredible,” it said in an email. “It’ll be here before we know it.”
The company, owned and operated by Byron and AngelaBurroughs, already has begun receiving new equipment, including 60-barrel fermenters, with more tanks slated for the future.
“Every square inch is getting positioned with something,” the email said.
“The new space will allow us to take on several fun new projects — from seasonal and year-round cans, to more barrel-aged beers.” It’s expected to be open no later than January 2019.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions: