Gov. Rick Scott – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: A little gun sanity finally comes to Florida

There are two reasons to feel at least a little bit good about what the Florida Legislature just did in the name of gun sanity.

First, families of the 17 victims in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland supported the compromise bill calling for age and other restrictions on gun sales in Florida.

And second, the National Rifle Association hates the bill. Despite efforts by no less than NRA Grand Dame Marion Hammer to scuttle it, the measure passed.

That’s good enough for me, even though I hate the idea of allowing so-called volunteer armed marshals in schools. But districts can follow the lead of Hillsborough County, eighth-largest in the country, and opt out.

In perhaps the strangest twist of all, Gov. Rick Scott is being coy about whether he will veto the measure because he, too, opposes the marshal plan. I’m thinking his A-plus rating from NRA might be in trouble as we cue music from Hamilton – the world turned upside down.

And to think it only took a high school slaughter on Valentine’s Day to get lawmakers to finally say hey, maybe we ought to do something to pump the brakes on NRA platform that seems to want a Glock in every hand and an AR-15 within easy reach.

By that standard, the House, in passing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act by a 67-50 margin after eight hours of contentious debate, practically threw a pie in the NRA’s face.

No one got everything they sought, which I suppose is the definition of compromise.

Gun opponents didn’t get the outright ban on assault weapon sales that they wanted or reductions in magazine sizes, but there is more money for mental health treatment, beefed up school security and the minimum age to buy such a gun was raised to 21 from its current 18 – assuming Scott signs the bill.

That might have kept the murder weapon out of the hands of confessed Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz, who is 19 and legally bought the gun used in the massacre. But it wouldn’t have stopped Pulse nightclub murderer Omar Mateen, who was 29 when he went on a rampage that left 49 people dead.

Baby steps, I guess.

The sale of bump stocks will be illegal under this bill. The bill also imposes a 3-day waiting period for someone to buy a gun. In an absurd gambit, the NRA called this punishment on “law-abiding citizens for the actions of a mentally deranged criminal.”

Note to NRA: Until he marched into Douglas High School and started shooting his legally purchased weapon, Cruz was a law-abiding citizen .

Like I said, there are some things to like about this bill and more than a little not to like. That’s why some, including the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, are calling on Scott to veto the measure, and then bring lawmakers back in special session and craft something meatier.

There is some merit to that idea and imagine what kind of juice it would give to Scott’s presumed run for the U.S. Senate. Scott could frame himself as willing to stand up to the NRA and besides, what are you gun lovers gonna do? Vote for Bill Nelson?

But I go back to where this column started with the debate on gun sanity.

Families of the Parkland victims support this bill.

The NRA hates it.

To me, that says lawmakers finally did the right thing.

Resign-to-run bill heads to Rick Scott’s desk

A bill that would require public office holders to resign before running for federal office could soon become law.

The House passed the legislation (SB 186) late Wednesday night, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk for approval.

The bill would require elected Florida officials to resign from their offices, effective no later than the day before the federal office they seek would start.

The resign-to-run requirement only applies to officials seeking a federal term that would overlap with their current term.

Florida law already provides the same requirement for officeholders seeking other elected local or state seats.

The rule used to apply to federal seats, but in 2007 GOP lawmakers modified the rule to allow then-Gov. Charlie Crist to run for vice president without giving up the governor’s mansion.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson, passed the Senate in January with the approval of just four Democrats. Similarly, most House Democrats voted against the bill Wednesday night. It ultimately passed with 87 yeas and 27 nays.

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Florida Politics’ Drew Wilson contributed reporting.

Colin Hackley

Rick Scott says he’ll sign first responders’ benefits bill

Gov. Rick Scott said he will sign a measure to expand workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who suffer job-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

Scott made the announcement early Wednesday at a “Ringing of the Bell” ceremony for Florida’s fallen firefighters at The Capitol.

The legislation (SB 376) is a priority of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, also the state’s Fire Marshal. Patronis and Scott, both Republicans, are political allies.

“Gov. Scott’s announcement today shows his continued leadership and commitment to this community,” Patronis said in a statement.

PTSD is a hidden killer among our first responders,” he added. “It’s critical that we do everything possible to ensure first responders are not alone as they cope with the horrific images they see daily. Today was not only a day to honor those we have lost, but to celebrate the lives we could save.”

Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, carried the bill in the Senate; Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue captain, sponsored the House version (HB 227).

The Florida League of Cities had dropped its opposition to the proposal. Because cities and counties in Florida employ almost all first responders, they will incur almost all of the costs of the benefit.

Bill to help first responders heads to Rick Scott

A measure to expand workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who suffer job-related post-traumatic stress disorder has passed the Legislature unanimously and now heads to Gov. Rick Scott.

A spokesman on Monday said the governor will “review the legislation” when received, but would not commit to Scott’s approval.

The legislation is a priority of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, also the state’s Fire Marshal. Patronis and Scott, both Republicans, are political allies.

“The Governor’s Office has been very supportive,” Patronis told Florida Politics Monday night. “I think they are just erring on the side of caution. I talked to the governor earlier today … he is passionately fighting for a lot of issues.”

The House passed the Senate’s version of the measure (SB 376) on a 114-0 vote earlier in the day, sending the legislation to his desk. The Senate on Saturday had unanimously passed its bill.

Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, carried the bill in the Senate; Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue captain, sponsored the House version (HB 227).

Rep. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican, gave an emotional speech about David Dangerfield, a 48-year-old Indian River County Fire Rescue battalion chief who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2016.

“Before his death, Dangerfield made a Facebook post about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder as a firefighter,” TCPalm reported. “He encouraged others to get help if they need it and for the people around them to be supportive.”

The issue has been one of “life or death,” Patronis said earlier Monday in a statement. “Our firefighters are attempting suicide at a rate five times higher than the general population, and they are thinking about suicide at a rate nine times higher than the general population.

“We’ve heard horrific stories about loss of life, and the impact tragedy has on our first responders and their families,” he added. “First responders show up for us every day, without hesitation or questioning our politics, and today Florida showed up for them.

“Last year four states, including Texas, increased mental health benefits for first responders. I’m proud we can now add Florida to that list,” Patronis said. “To those who refused to support this measure from the beginning: We got it done without you.”

The Florida League of Cities dropped its opposition to the proposal. Because cities and counties in Florida employ almost all first responders, they will incur almost all of the costs of the benefit.

State loses $18 million for disabled students after failing to implement federal law

Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration last year was unable to spend $18 million in federal funding to help mentally and physically disabled students after it failed to fully implement a federally-mandated system on time.

“Unfortunately for the students, the planning took too long and wasn’t collaborative in nature,” said Heather Beaven, the CEO for the Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates.

Beaven has been working to get some of those dollars for her organization, which helps disabled students transition into the workforce or college — the goal of the state-federal program.

But when determining who is to blame for the state allowing millions of dollars to fall through the cracks last fiscal year, it depends on who you talk to.

Vendors say the blame is on an “ill-thought-out process” and a “sloppy rollout” of the program; state education officials say the problem was a lack of qualified vendors and professionals.

“The first fiscal year that we got the money, for as many eligible candidates that we had, there weren’t enough vendors and professionals to spend money on,” said Meghan Collins, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education.

Collins said she is “confident” the department will be able to use the federal money this fiscal year because it has done more outreach and there are now more vendors who have the credentials and training to partner with.

Susanne Homant, the president and CEO for The Able Trust, a public-private foundation established by the Florida Legislature, said her organization helped about 1,600 disabled students enter the workforce last academic year, without going through the program. She cited compatibility issues.

“We are trying to match what we are doing to the [federal] program to create the flow of those dollars,” Homant said.

Beaven echoed that one of the biggest problems in getting funds is that the state’s requirements do not always mirror what goes on in the student’s life.

“We will be here when the Department of Education finally realizes that what they created in a boardroom doesn’t square with the realities of the classroom,” said Beaven.

The program is designed to provide students ages 14-21 who are mentally or physically disabled with services that can help them transition into the workforce or to college. Mental disabilities that would meet the criteria include depression, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Once admitted into the program, youths participate in work-based learning experiences, like internships, self-advocacy training and career exploration counseling to sharpen their skills as they seek employment.

“The intent of the law is phenomenal, but states being able to get things in place 100 percent takes a little bit of time,” said Allison Flanagan, the division director for the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which runs the program.

Since 2015, when Congress passed the federal law known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, 63 out of the 74 school districts in the state have a system in place to refer qualifying students to the program.

“We have made strides and am proud of what we are doing, but there is always room for improvement,” Flanagan added.

Judge sets trial for medical marijuana ‘no smoke’ case

A Tallahassee judge has set a one-day trial for May 16 in the legal effort to overturn the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana.

But in her order, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said she will first hear the state’s motion for summary judgment at 10 o’clock that morning; summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial.

If it does proceed to trial, Gievers will hear the case without a jury. Her order was filed last Friday.

The suit is backed by John Morgan, the Orlando attorney and entrepreneur known for his ubiquitous Morgan & Morgan law firm advertisements.

He championed passage of the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by voters in 2016.

Last year, lawmakers approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an implementing bill (SB 8-A) for the amendment that does not allow marijuana to be smoked.

The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the smoking ban runs counter to the amendment’s language, which itself does not expressly say medicinal cannabis can be smoked. The suit is against the Department of Health, which regulates medical marijuana.

House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero, who sponsored the implementing bill, has said “we don’t believe you smoke medicine.” Edibles and “vaping” are permitted, however.

Attorney Jon Mills, arguing against the ban at a January court hearing, said the amendment’s definition of marijuana includes the smokeable kind.

Tax supermajority proposal heads to voters for approval

Despite concerns raised by Senate Democrats that it would “tie the hands” of future legislators facing emergencies, the Florida Senate passed a measure Monday that would make it harder for the Legislature to increase taxes and fees in the future.

“This can tie the hands of future legislators in difficult times,” said Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez in reference to the costs that climate change and rising sea levels could bring in the coming years.

The legislation would mandate a two-thirds vote in both chambers before any tax and fee hike can be imposed on Floridians. Because the change would amend the Florida Constitution, it will need 60-percent voter-approval to take effect. They will vote on it in November.

“It’s the people’s money, not ours. Yes, two-thirds is hard to get. It should be hard to raise taxes because it is the people’s money, not ours,” Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley said.

The upper chamber pushed through the proposal on a 25-13 vote, with three Democrats — Sens. Lauren Book, Linda Stewart and Bobby Powell — voting with Republicans. Republican Sen. Tom Lee voted with Democrats.

The proposal has been a big priority of Gov. Rick Scott, who has also tried to push the supermajority vote mandate through the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

Upon passage of the bill, Scott praised the Legislature.

“We have cut taxes more than 80 times since I’ve been in office because we know that Florida families and businesses succeed when we put their tax dollars back in their pockets,” the governor said.

“I look forward to this important amendment being on the ballot to protect families from unfair tax increases.

The Senate had originally been at odds with the House and Scott by proposing a three-fifths vote to pass tax increases, but later took the House version of the bill.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Ethics reform in peril

There is “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment in the Legislature, leaders say, but an ethics reform package that would create new rules and penalties for sexual harassment may not become law this year.

The Florida House unanimously passed the proposal this week, but Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley is blocking the bill in the Senate because he wants to discuss the issue in more detail.

Dennis Baxley is blocking new sexual harassment policies, calling for more discussion ‘in detail.’

“I think we need more time and contemplation of what to do with this issue because it is so sensitive,” Baxley said. “I don’t want to rush on something that serious.”

The proposals were filed with the Legislature right before the start of the 2018 legislative session after back-to-back sex scandals rocked the state Capitol — the most prominent ones in the Senate.

The bills filed in the Legislature had the early backing of Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who said the legislation passed in the House is “the strongest in the nation.”

If approved, HB 7007 would require Florida government agencies to set new policies preventing, prohibiting and punishing sexual harassment, which includes language that would keep the identities of accusers confidential to protect them from retaliation.

Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat leading the effort in the Senate, added language to her bill that incorporates any type of sexual contact — whether engaging in it or directing others to do it — into the state’s gift ban.

Baxley said he is concerned the bill would affect too many people in the state and that there is too little time to discuss the consequences.

“When you address all employees in the state, that is a lot of people you are affecting, and I wanted to be more cautious when dealing with that,” Baxley said.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Senate calls rare Saturday Session — In a rare move, the Senate will meet Saturday to consider school safety legislation. With the Session clock ticking down, Senate President Negron announced the weekend sitting Friday morning in a memo to fellow senators. The 2018 Legislative Session is scheduled to end Friday. A floor session is planned for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. to hear the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

Budget conference kicks off The House and Senate formally kicked off final budget negotiations this week and on Friday all unresolved issues were bumped to Budget Chairs Rob Bradley and Carlos Trujillo. If they don’t resolve the issues in question before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, those items will go to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to decide. Still in question is how to fully fund the school safety initiatives. Other lingering issues include a $172 million difference over Florida Forever funding and $4 million over private prison operations.

Gaming bills brought back to life — With a week left in session, the House and the Senate heard their gambling proposals on Friday. A strike-all amendment has been OK’d on the Senate’s legislation (SB 840) which is ready for the floor. Later Friday and the House bill (HB 7067) was discussed and rolled to third reading. Senate President-designate Bill Galvano has said he hopes to get the bills into conference next week. The two chambers—as is usually the case in gambling—are still far apart on policy. That includes differences on one provision that authorizes slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties where voters previously OK’d them in local referendums. That was added to the Senate bill Friday; it’s not in the House’s bill.

Scott makes rare plea to Legislature — In a rare political move, Gov. Scott and the father of a 14-year-old Parkland shooting victim jointly addressed the House and Senate floors Thursday and asked legislators to set aside differences and ensure schools are safe sans armed teachers. “I want to make sure there is law enforcement in our schools,” Scott told reporters upon exiting the chambers. “I don’t believe in arming teachers.” While talking to each chamber, Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was gunned down on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told legislators he is in support of the governor’s proposal, which does not include arming teachers. Petty said he supports Scott’s proposal without the assault weapon ban because he wants action now.

Omnibus education bill gets bigger — The Florida Senate sent House Speaker Richard Corcoran back his priority education bill with a bunch more language added into it on Friday. The Senate included a provision that would make financial literacy courses a high school graduation requirement and increase the amount someone can give to the Hope Scholarship program meant to give vouchers to bullied students. Negotiations happened behind closed doors, according to the Times/Herald. HB 7055 will now go back to the Florida House for final approval before it can go to Gov. Scott.

Scott urged to veto crisis pregnancy center bill

More than a dozen organizations including Planned Parenthood signed on to a letter this week urging Gov. Scott to veto HB 41, which was passed by the Legislature in early February.

The bill, sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo, would require the Department of Health to work with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network to up the availability of pregnancy and wellness care by subcontracting out to centers that “solely promote and support childbirth.”

Jackie Toledo (l) is behind a crisis pregnancy bill that Planned Parenthood wants to be vetoed.

“This bill attempts to establish Pregnancy Support Services (also referred to as Crisis Pregnancy Centers or CPC’s) as legitimate wellness centers and codify permanent taxpayer funding for what are in reality, fake women’s health centers,” the letter says.

“These anti-abortion, often faith-based centers are not required to be staffed by licensed, qualified medical personnel. Furthermore, CPCs have a documented history of imitating legitimate women’s health clinics, falsely posing as medical providers, and purposely leading women away from accessing the full range of reproductive health care services.”

The following organizations signed onto the letter: Broward County National Organization for Women, Broward Women’s Emergency Fund, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health, Florida NOW, League of Women Voters of Florida, National Abortion Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Organize Florida, Pro-Choice Coalition of Broward County, Progress Florida and the Space Coast Progressive Alliance.

Cabinet considering $660K conservation plan for Spanish mission site

Gov. Scott and the Cabinet will decide next week whether to shell out $660,060 to conserve a Madison County site that is home to a 15th-century Spanish mission.

The plan would have the state purchase a conservation easement on the property, owned by R.N. and Charlene Koblegard, which allows the land to continue being used for certain activities, such as agriculture, but blocks new development.

The Koblegard project is part of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural & Family Lands Protection Program. According to the meeting agenda, the project’s approval would mark 42,276 acres preserved under the RFLPP.

The 772-acre site is situated on the south of Interstate 10 on the southern edge of Sampala Lake. The Spanish mission, San Pedro y San Pablo de Protohiriba, is one five missions established by the Spanish in the 1600s.

The week in appointments

Florida Real Estate Appraisal BoardDawn Warren is a property manager for Altamonte Heights Condos and Lake Tyler Condos and will succeed Tamara McKee.

He will serve a term ending Oct. 31, 2020, and is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority Toni Appell of Marathon, is a retired paraprofessional for the Monroe County School District, is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.

David Ritz, of Key Largo, is the president of Ocean Reef Community Association and is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.

Robert Dean, of Key West, is the owner of Dean Lopez Funeral Home and is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.

All three appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

DOH doles out $16 million to research smoking-related diseases

The Florida Department of Health announced this week that it is handing out $16.2 million to fund 20 research projects focused on developing treatments and cures for cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

The money was awarded through the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program. DOH said the selections were made based on “rigorous peer review” and the application process included 224 researchers seeking funding.

Florida Department of Health is coughing up $16.2 million for smoking-related disease research.

“Florida is at the forefront of cancer research and innovation, and I am proud to announce the recipients of more than $16.2 million for cancer research grants,” Gov. Scott said. “These 20 new projects will assist Florida’s world-class researchers in discovering more about how to prevent and treat these terrible diseases. Cancer impacts so many lives, and I am proud of the work of our incredible research institutes as we fight to find a cure.”

The University of Miami topped the list with $5.5 million in grants for seven projects plus another $57,000 for a joint project with the Miami Veterans Affairs. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute followed with $4.5 million for five projects. UF will receive $3 million for three projects; UCF, USF and the Mayo Clinic will each get a single project funded at $815,000; and FAU will receive $708,000 for one project.

FWC law enforcement division reaccredited

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said this week that its Division of Law Enforcement was reaccredited.

“The FWC Division of Law Enforcement continues to maintain the highest standards of credibility, effectiveness and professionalism,” FWC director Eric Sutton said. “Our staff worked diligently to uphold these important standards each and every day. Reaccreditation by the Commission validates the hard work they do, and provides a strong vote of confidence in their ability to protect the public and conserve Florida’s natural resources.”

The division has held accreditation through the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation since 2009 and has now gone through the reaccreditation process four times.

Florida Wildlife Commission director Eric Sutton.

Accredited law enforcement agencies must consistently meet or exceed 240 prescribed standards over a three-year period to maintain their status.

“Accreditation is a voluntary but important process intended to hold an agency to a higher level of accountability by an external source,” said Col. Curtis Brown, who heads up the division. “We are very pleased with the CFA’s determination that reaccreditation of the Division was earned.”

Florida Lottery celebrates 30 years

It’s been 30 years since the Florida Lottery began and it’s celebrating the milestone with a heap of new scratch-off games.

At the $30 level is “FLORIDA 100X THE CASH,” which features eight top prizes of $15 million. The Florida Lottery said 100X was only the second $30 game it’s put out.

Florida Lottery marks three decades of cash prizes.

The $5 game, “MONEY MACHINE,” features 16 top prizes of $250,000 and over $58 million in total cash prizes; the $2 game, “$30,000 LUCKY WIN,” has a total prize pool of $32 million; and for a buck, players can pick up “TRIPLE PAYOUT” which features 84 $3,000 prizes and a total prize pool of $12 million.

The lotto said the new games would start hitting retailers by the end of the week.

Voters approved the constitutional amendment creating the lottery in November 1986 by a 2-to-1 margin. The Florida Lottery started operating a little over a year later in January 1988.

Reinsurance surcharge repeal advances in Senate

Legislation to repeal a reinsurance surcharge on consumers is advancing in the Florida Senate. St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes’ SB 1454 has cleared the Banking and Insurance Committee and is headed for the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

“This is a welcomed development for Florida’s insurance consumers,” said Jay Neal, President and CEO of FAIR, The Florida Association for Insurance Reform. “This bill would offer a significant 8 percent to 10 percent rate reduction for homeowner’s insurance consumers.”

The surtax was designed to replenish the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund following bad storm seasons in 2004 and 2005, but the account now has enough money to cover similar losses twice over.

Senate celebrates Military Appreciation and National Guard Day

The Florida Senate considered a string of bills helping active duty military, veterans and their families this week in honor of Military Appreciation and National Guard Day at the Capitol.

“My Senate colleagues and I are committed to enacting policies that keep Florida the No. 1 state for active duty members of our armed forces, veterans and their families,” said Senate President Negron. “The legislation we discussed today sends a clear message that Florida is truly the Welcome Home State.”

Audrey Gibson is honoring the Florida National Guard for their service during last year’s hurricane season.

Among the bills heard by the chamber were SB 100, which waves driver’s license fees for veterans; SB 460, which allows Florida colleges to waive fees for students who are active duty military and using military tuition assistance; SB 440, which would establish the Florida Veterans Care Program, an alternative to Veterans Affairs; and SB 330, which would rename a portion of State Road 10 in Walton County as the “Lieutenant Ewart T. Sconiers Highway.”

Also on the docket was a resolution by Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson to honor the Florida National Guard for their service during the 2017 hurricane season.

“When Floridians are facing some of the most challenging times, the Florida National Guard is at its best springing into action at a moment’s notice to help Floridians in need,” she said. “We are so grateful for their courageous service to our state during the recent hurricane season.”

Coastal management bill clears Senate

A bill aimed at helping preserve and maintain Florida coasts cleared the Senate this week with a unanimous vote.

SB 174, by Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill, revises the criteria used to help the Florida Department of Environmental Protection prioritize coastal restoration projects based on need and importance.

Dorothy Hukill is pushing coastal preservation. 

“This is a bill for all Floridians, and the millions of visitors to our state annually, to preserve and maintain our state’s most unique, natural assets — our beaches,” Hukill said. “Coastal management is beneficial for conservation, recreation and tourism.

“I would like to thank my Senate colleagues and all of the support we’ve received from around the state. This legislation will ensure that our beautiful state and its unique natural resources are properly maintained and protected.”

SB 174 now moves to the House where a similar bill, HB 7063, is also prepped for a floor vote.

Loomis named FTC member of the year

The Florida Technology Council this week presented ISF CEO Cyndy Loomis with its “2018 FTC Member of the Year” award.

“I’m honored to receive the FTC Member of the Year Award, and I’m proud to advance FTC’s mission to champion the priorities of the technology industry in the State of Florida to our state government leaders,” Loomis said.

Florida Technology Council Member of the Year Cyndy Loomis.

In addition to running the Jacksonville-based software company, Loomis has served as the FTC board chair since 2016.

The award was presented by James Taylor, the executive director of the tech company trade association, at the FTC Legislative Reception in Tallahassee.

FTC said Loomis was “recognized specifically for her outstanding service in driving the effectiveness, reach, and membership growth of the Council.” A half-dozen others were presented with awards at the event.

Applications open for AmeriCorps funding

Volunteer Florida this week announced the 2018-19 criteria for getting proposals funded through AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps funding is granted to address critical community needs including education, disaster services, economic opportunity, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.

Sample activities include tutoring and mentoring youth, response to local disasters, restoring natural habitats and job training/placement. AmeriCorps members also mobilize community volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the organizations where they serve.

Funding requests can be sent in through April 5. Those who have a proposal but don’t know the ins and outs of the application process can log in to the “AmeriCorps Budget 101 Webinar” March 15. Technical assistance conference calls are also available for new and continuing applicants.

To register for a call or the webinar, fill out the RSVP form online. More information on the formula funding rules is available through the Volunteer Florida website.

Detzner announces March of Museums round two

Secretary of State Ken Detzner kicked off the new month by announcing the second annual “March of Museums,” a celebration of the variety and versatility of Florida’s museums.

“As Florida’s Chief Cultural Officer, I am proud of the success of last year’s ‘March of Museums’ and I am excited to expand this initiative statewide Detzner said. “From art to animals, from sports to science, and from history to horticulture, Florida has an incredible array of museums that encourage exploration and learning.”

Secretary of State Ken Detzner kicks off the ‘March of Museums.’

The Department of State encouraged Floridians — and visitors — to use “March of Museums” as an opportunity to spend some time at a Florida museum, whether nearby or off the beaten path.

To help facilitate, the department is hosting a website that lists museums by region and highlights the mission and collections of the institutions, as well the events each is holding this month.

Instagram of the Week

Volunteer Florida, Uber collect 3,540 items for #SuitsForSession

Volunteer Florida and Uber said the third annual #SuitsForSession at the Capitol collected 3,540 donations of professional attire for job-seekers statewide. Also, Uber drivers picked up items across Leon County for free this past Tuesday.

Here are the highlights:

— Number of suits collected: 373 (237 women’s, 136 men’s).

— Number of women’s items collected: 2,270.

— Number of men’s items collected: 743.

— Other items (shoes, belts, etc.) collected: 527.

— Number of bags of clothing donated through the Uber app: 27.

— Number of participating organizations that collected clothing: 26.

Volunteer Florida CEO Vivian Myrtetus said in a statement, “The people of Tallahassee matched these donations by bringing and sending in their own business apparel. Uber has been a tremendous partner to Volunteer Florida and we are so thankful for their participation in another successful year of #SuitsForSession.”

Added Senate Republican Leader Wilton Simpson, “It was great participating in another #SuitsForSession clothing drive. My staff and I are always proud to support this service project that helps job seekers throughout our state.”

Donated items will be delivered to Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America (statewide locations), and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program in Tallahassee throughout the coming days.

Capitol halls lined with Florida student art

The lower level of the Florida Capitol got a bit of a makeover this week as it began hosting the second annual Art in the Capitol Competition.

The competition, hosted jointly by the Department of Management Services and Department of Education, is aimed at encouraging middle school students to try their hand at art. The only rules are the art has to be 2D and original.

Then-Florida DMS Secretary Chad Poppell views the 2017 Art in the Capitol Competition artwork with Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

“As the custodian of the Capitol complex, DMS is proud to host this event and share these inspiring works with Capitol visitors,” said DMS Secretary Erin Rock. “These are our future leaders, and that is what makes it such a joy to be able to get a glimpse at the soul and spirit of these kids through their art.”

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart added that the competition wonderful way to recognize Florida students’ creativity.

Making it to the walls this year were 35 middle schoolers, each of whom was paired up with a lawmaker to sponsor the artwork. The artwork is viewable online via the Art in the Capital webpage.

Tallahassee airport aces FAA inspection

Tallahassee International Airport said it landed a perfect score during its annual Federal Aviation Administration airport certification and safety inspection.

“The Airport is extremely proud of this accomplishment and remains committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety and security for our patrons, visitors and tenants,” said David Pollard, interim director of aviation at TLH.

Tallahassee International is aces with the FAA.

All airports that offer commercial service go through the test yearly. The multiday inspection covers everything from airport safety to firefighting to the markings on the tarmac.

TLH said acing the FAA inspection is icing on the cake after a string of victories over the past month, including the maiden flight of between TLH and Reagan Washington Airport in D.C. and the successful opening of a Transportation Security Administration pre-check enrollment center.

Now for Capitol Directions:

Ron DeSantis calls Parkland massacre a failure of FBI, sheriff; denounces state gun proposals

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis on Thursday denounced Florida Legislature efforts to tighten gun restrictions and said the mass shooting two weeks ago at the Parkland high school should be seen as “a catastrophic failure” by the Broward County sheriff and the FBI.

DeSantis, a congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, has made similar comments in television appearances on Fox News in the past two weeks, but otherwise has been largely silent within Florida about his response to the massacre, drawing heat from other gubernatorial candidates, particularly Democrats. On Thursday he broke that, taking a hard line against any gun measures, and condemning those being considered now in the Florida Legislature.

He also called for the resignation of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for not having responded to numerous reports, prior to the Feb. 14 mass shooting, that suggested Nikolas Cruz was dangerous; and for the firing of anyone in the FBI who might have failed to pick up in advance on the shooter’s intentions.

And while DeSantis called on the Florida Legislature to back off proposed gun restrictions, presumably such as one to raise the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21, he was not specific in his statement.

DeSantis said he supported much in Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed school safety package to “harden schools” and also supports one idea Scott rejected: arming teachers. He also said the state should enlist the help of veterans and law enforcement officers to help protect schools.

DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow in the contest for the Aug. 28 Florida primary nomination to run for Governor. The leading Democrats are former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park developer Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, DeSantis contended, was the result of law enforcement failures and mental illness, and should be addressed as such.

“Given that the issues of bureaucratic incompetence, school safety and mental health demand immediate attention, I’m disappointed that the Florida Legislature is rushing to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens,” DeSantis said in his statement.

“When dealing with a right that is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, blanket restrictions that diminish individual rights are suspect. Better to focus on denying firearms to dangerous individuals, which avoids infringing on constitutional rights and is also more likely to be effective. The goal should be to keep our students safe, bring accountability to the officials and institutions that failed, and protect the rights of Floridians,” DeSantis continued.

Chris King decries loopholes in gun laws, urges special session

Declaring that Florida lawmakers are failing to respond to post-Parkland calls to address guns, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King said Wednesday that the people of Florida deserve a special session.

King, a Winter Park businessman, advocated for a ban on military-style assault weapons and comprehensive background checks on gun purchases, and contended that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and others responding to the Feb. 15 massacre deserve action on such measures, rather than the “too little, too late” they’re being offered.

He was discussing the scene Monday when a chaotic and emotional two-hour debate at the Senate Rules Committee resulted in dozens of gun control advocates leaving disappointed after senators voted down a ban on assault weapons.

Republicans are pursuing instead packages that would address increasing the purchase age for guns to 21, expanding background checks to all weapons, and, in Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposal, spending up to $500 million on programs ranging from mental health services to tightening school security. But King cited a report by the Tampa Bay Times that suggests even those measures leave loopholes open.

“If our lawmakers fail to pass comprehensive gun safety legislation, they will owe the Stoneman Douglas students and people of Florida a special session to enact real solutions to ban assault weapons and close the loopholes in our gun laws,” King said in a news release issued Wednesday. “The proposals offered by Gov.  Scott and Florida Republicans are too little, too late – their plans have gaping loopholes that would still allow dangerous people to get their hands on deadly weapons.

“Otherwise,” he added, “Florida Republicans will prove themselves as the party of ‘proud NRA sell-outs’ once and for all.”

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary in the governor’s contest. The leading Republicans are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Graham released a similar statement last week, urging a special session.

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