Gwen Graham – Page 6 – Florida Politics
Philip Levine

Philip Levine stakes I-4 presence with Central Florida coordinator

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has staked his presence in the I-4 corridor with the announced hiring Wednesday of Jonathan Santiago as his Central Florida regional coordinator.

Santiago has worked as a Central Florida regional organizer on the last two statewide operations for Hillary For America’s 2016 Florida team and the Crist for Governor campaign in 2014.

“Jonathan is a veteran of Central Florida politics whose organizing and grassroots knowledge will enforce the campaign’s mission to reach voters in every community across the state,” Levine’s Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name stated in a news release. “We’re excited to expand our team with dynamic young talent that will allow the campaign to build momentum and continue its strategy of engaging with voters in all of Florida’s 67 counties.”

The move by Levine, who is based in Miami, comes as Democratic rivals Chris King and Gwen Graham established their campaign headquarters in Orlando, the critical Democratic fulcrum in the always-critical I-4 Corridor. Fourth Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum also staked his own presence Tuesday night with a downtown rally featuring a rousing introduction from state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, the Orlando Democrat who chairs the state Legislative Progressive Caucus.

“I am fired up and ready to get to work to elect Mayor Philip Levine as our next Democratic governor of Florida because his record shows someone who will fight for all communities, including mine,” Santiago stated in the release.  “We saw firsthand last year how Mayor Levine stepped in to help mobilize relief efforts for Puerto Ricans and took on Donald Trump when his administration failed to act swiftly. There is no doubt that the people are ready for change in the Governor’s mansion in 2018 and I am ready to put in the elbow grease and work hard to elect someone who will govern in a way that truly reflects the values of our diverse communities across our state.”

Opening his new campaign HQ, Chris King declares ‘The contest is only beginning’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King opened his new campaign headquarters in Orlando Tuesday with a declaration he has only found his stride since the response to the Parkland tragedy

King also vowed the campaign has only just begun.

“I feel like in the last three or four months we’ve found our stride,” King told a gathering of supporters helping him open his new office with a bash Tuesday night, walking distance from his company’s retirement center where he began his campaign a year and a week ago.

The office is within rock-throwing distance of the Orlando headquarters for rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham in the Mills 50 District on East Colonial Drive in Orlando.

On Tuesday King wasn’t throwing any rocks, except perhaps at Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis. But he knows that a year after he announced his candidacy at the Hillcrest Hampton House he remains in solid fourth place among Democratic candidates behind Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“I would argue we’re in the preseason right now,” King said. “Everybody is about to start paying attention … My challenge is to make sure they know me, and they are going to see me in all the major markets very soon.”

King said that the Parkland tragedy, and his and his campaign’s participation in subsequent rallies and marches, have instilled an urgency, and sharpened his messages about being the Democrat who can talk about business success, faith and family values with any Republican candidate. And, he said, it’s beginning to show up in the bank account, as his March fundraising topped those of Graham or Gillum.

“I think I’ve really found my voice. I think what happened in Parkland really helped me clarify how I catch more fire and respond,” King told reporters after greeting supporters. “I think I’ve always been right on the issues and brought a fresh perspective. But I think there’s of a sense of urgency that I feel and greater confidence that we are really in a righteous cause right now.”

King is planning to speak at The Everglades Trust Thursday and used that as an example. Last year he swore off Big Sugar money for his campaign, and on Tuesday he said he intends to push hard for restoration, and for dealing with climate change with urgency.

“I feel like I have been the only one, up until the last few weeks, that has really approached the environment like I have,” he said.

He’s counting on expressing that urgency in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial debates, starting with one next week in Tampa.

“I talk about the fact that when you’re from Orlando, you talk about what the survivors of Pulse want from the next governor of Florida, and what the students of Parkland want. I would argue that we do a disservice to this moment in Florida if we make it only about guns and gun safety. I believe I am on the right side of all the big gun safety issues. But to me, it’s about so much more. To me, it’s about the students, the survivors saying, ‘We want a higher and better politics in the state of Florida. We want to hold both parties, both parties feet to the fire when it comes to doing big things.

“I think they’re saying they want aspirational politics. They want politics that lift us up, encourages us, gives hope that we can do big things,” King said.

Andrew Gillum calls for bringing along ‘people in the gap’

Andrew Gillum threw down the progressive populist gauntlet Tuesday evening in Orlando, reminding an audience that he’s the only non-millionaire Democrat in the Governor’s race and contending he’s the only one who can convince “people in the gap” to turn out to vote.

Appearing at an organization kick-off rally held at The Abbey, a popular Democratic watering hole in downtown Orlando, Gillum discerned himself as the only non-millionaire among major Democratic candidates including former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. He then chipped at their commitments to progressive Democratic ideals. He mocked Levine as someone who can “just write checks” to fund a campaign, and Graham for having a “famous family.”

“What is at stake are the people in the gap, the people who lose when we lose elections,” Gillum said.

In the end, Gillum charged, his Democratic rivals are not the kind of candidates who can inspire the large numbers of disillusioned Democratic voters to turn out to vote.

“They are not join got turn out for nothin’. They are not going to turn out if the Democrat is not discernible from the Republican,” Gillum said.

And the only way to do that, he added, is to convince voters that they and their concerns will go to Tallahassee with the candidate.

All the while Gillum painted himself as the fighter from the tough neighborhood who believes it’s important to try to help bring everyone from the neighborhood with him.

He pushed hard on issues beginning with standard Democratic positions on gun law reforms, environmental protection, public education funding and wages, then dove deeper, urging not just rights restorations for felons but abolishing hiring practices that prevent felons from ever getting second-chance jobs, pushing to ban jobs discrimination against gay employees, urging criminal justice reform, and demanding the state “treat health care like the right it is.”

“When you elect me you are going to have a partner but more importantly you are going to have a fighter,” he said.

Welcoming the troops home: Latest Gwen Graham ‘workday’ at USO in Pensacola

Gwen Graham brought her campaign to the western portion of the Panhandle on Tuesday to welcome home returning service members. 

It marked the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s 55th ‘workday,’ a Graham-family tradition first set out by her father, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. 

“Florida should welcome and support all those who are serving our country in uniform today and the 1.5 million veterans who call our state home,” Graham said in a prepared statement.

Alongside United Service Organizations, a nonprofit tailored to help America’s military service members, Graham greeted troops, staffed the information desk, and helped prepare care packages at Pensacola International Airport.

Detailing the importance of USO’s work, USO area supervisor Nicole Boonmast said: “I’m glad that Gwen had the opportunity to learn about our services and see what we do here today.”

During her tenure in Congress, Graham served on the House Armed Services Committee. Her first bill, the Veterans, Education, Training Act, laid out a plan to bring personal care coordinators to returning vets to aid them through their injuries and help them navigate through government protocols. A press release from Graham’s campaign said her efforts pressured the government into providing more recovery coordinators. The Graham camp also cited other pro-military actions in Congress, including launching a program to encourage businesses to hire more veterans, honoring soldiers with overdue medals, and returning $2.5 million to vets and their families.

If elected, Graham said she will “always work for our service members and the military bases across our state.”

Graham will face former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando Businessman Chris King in the August 28 primary. Republican candidates include U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate set for WTVT in Tampa

All four leading Democratic candidates for governor will be appearing in a debate hosted and broadcast by WTVT in Tampa next week, the station confirmed Tuesday.

WTVT, part of the FOX Television Stations network, will host the half-hour forum at 6:30 p.m. on April 18 featuring  Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and businessman Chris King, the station’s general Manager Jeff Maloney announced in a news release Tuesday. The candidates themselves revealed their commitments to the debate last month, though details were yet to be worked out.

The four Democrats will be asked to cover topics important to the Tampa community, such as school safety, crime, mental health services, and hurricane preparedness, according to a release from the station.

Maloney stated, “This debate will be an opportunity for voters to see and hear the candidates in an unfiltered environment, on the station that has been a leader in political coverage in Florida.”

Andrew Gillum gets ‘Moms Demand Action’ seal

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has become the second Democratic candidate for governor to announce that he has received the “gun sense candidate” distinction from the national gun law reform group Moms Demand Action.

“I’m deeply honored to receive the Moms Demand Action Candidate Distinction. I’ve beaten the gun lobby twice in Tallahassee, and when I’m Governor we’re finally going to pass the common sense gun safety laws that will keep our families and communities safe,” Gillum stated in a news release.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012, is part of the larger network of gun-violence prevention organizations in the Everytown for Gun Safety network.

The group now has given its seal of approval to Gillum and his Democratic primary opponent Gwen Graham. Also in the Democratic primary field are former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. All four been strongly outspoken in their calls for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for universal background checks, among other gun law reform pledges.

The quartet of Democrats’ gun reform positions are in sharp contrast with the pro-2nd Amendment positions held by the leading Republicans in the race, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Chris King

Chris King adds $610K in March to his gubernatorial campaign account

Orlando-area businessman Chris King added nearly $610,000 for his gubernatorial campaign in March.

The total puts King at $4.1 million in total fundraising between his campaign and political committee since he entered the race in March 2017. An announcement said the two accounts combined to more than $2.1 million on hand heading into April.

“Democrats want a real progressive who rejects conventional politics and Chris continues to impress voters across Florida as he introduces himself to the electorate,” said Omar Khan, senior adviser to King’s campaign.

“As other candidates from the political establishment struggle to break through to the voters, Chris is amassing the resources that any candidate will need to compete in this wide-open race.”

The campaign also announced it will open a new campaign HQ in Orlando on Tuesday.

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former congresswoman Gwen Graham and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Democratic Primary.

Of the four, only Levine outperformed King for the reporting period, though his $1 million total for March was bolstered by $470,000 in self-funding. Graham came in a close third behind King with about $600,000 raised, while Gillum raised $336,000 for the month.

Overall, Levine holds the top spot in the primary race with approximately $11 million raised, followed by Graham with $6.4 million, King at $4.1 million and Gillum at $2.6 million.

On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is running against Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the primary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is likely to join the primary race in the coming weeks.

Putnam leads the overall field by several million dollars, including $1.77 million in committee money raised last month.

Email insight: Gwen Graham slams Rick Scott’s ‘polluted past’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham said Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of the controversial water bill known as “toilet-to-tap” does little to change Scott’s record on the environment.

The attack comes just days before Scott is expected to announce he will run for U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson in the fall. Scott, who is termed out as governor, has been mentioned as a likely candidate in the race for more than a year.

“Protecting Florida’s clean land and water used to be a bipartisan cause — but under Governor Rick Scott, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection has become the Department of Environmental Pollution. One veto, three days before announcing a campaign, won’t cover up his 8 years of polluting our waters,” Graham said in a Friday email.

The barb is the latest in a string sent out by the Graham campaign. Another recent campaign email attacked Scott on education funding.

Graham also listed off several more times she’s been critical of the Scott administration’s environmental policy.

She pointed to the administration’s role in covering up a toxic sinkhole,  decision to lower water-quality standards, and called the governor out for politicizing the state’s water management districts.

“Rick Scott wants to go to Washington to help Donald Trump dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, just as he destroyed environmental protections here in Florida,” Graham said. “Floridians are going to stop him in November. And, as governor, I will protect our state’s clean water, tell special interests to get lost, and ensure our children and grandchildren can enjoy Florida’s natural treasures for years to come.”

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Weather affects ‘Springtime’

Predictions of bad weather are befouling plans for the annual Springtime Tallahassee festivities in the capital.

Organizers on Friday canceled the Jubilee in the Park, which usually features arts and crafts booths from hundreds of vendors, and rescheduled the parade for 10 a.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported late Friday.

The National Weather Service was forecasting “showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m.,” adding that “some of the storms could be severe.”

Before the bad weather reports, city officials had been expecting a crowd of more than 150,000 to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary.

It’s Springtime Tallahassee again.

The celebration will affect traffic, a news release said. Below are the planned road closures for Saturday:

6:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Staging Area

— First Avenue eastbound at Duval Street.

— Thomasville Road between Monroe Street and Seventh Avenue.

— Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues between Adams Street and Thomasville Road.

6:30-10:30 a.m. for Springtime Tallahassee 10K (if it still goes on as planned)

— Monroe Street between Apalachee Parkway and Seventh Avenue.

— Call Street, Franklin Boulevard, Lafayette Street and various roads surrounding the Capital City Country Club and within the Myers Park and Woodland Drive neighborhoods will have staggered closures during the race.

9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Route

— Monroe Street between Gaines Street and Seventh Avenue.

— Jefferson Street, College Avenue, Park Avenue, Call Street, Virginia Street, Carolina Street, Georgia Street, Brevard Street and Tennessee Street between Adams Street and Calhoun Street.

— Madison Street between Macomb Street and Monroe Street.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew WilsonDanny McAuliffeJim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

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

State appeals ex-felon order — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are appealing U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling that the state must devise a new system for restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Attorney General Pam Bondi has promised to continue to appeal Walker’s order to the highest court. Walker permanently blocked the state’s clemency system in March calling it “fatally flawed.” He then gave Scott and the Cabinet a monthlong deadline to revamp the system. Scott’s office contends that felon voting rights restoration should be determined by elected officials. Florida is one of few states that disenfranchise felons after they’ve completed their sentences and is home to roughly 1.5 million ex-cons whose voting rights are pending.

CRC ‘style’ committee wraps — The influential Style & Drafting Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission has drafted and approved 12 ballot items for consideration of the full commission. To appear on the ballot in November, each proposed amendment must win the approval of 22 members of the 37-person panel. The 12 items are a consolidation of 24 proposals that met the initial approval of the CRC. Six proposals were not combined with others, including four that did not meet the 22-vote threshold in the preliminary approval phase. Five other amendments already have reached the ballot, meaning Floridians could potentially consider 17 amendments in the general election. Sixty-percent voter approval is required for each to pass.

Leaders pressure feds for farm aid — Gov. Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have recently ramped up efforts to get much-needed funding distributed to Florida farmers affected by Hurricane Irma. Tailing off Scott’s and Putnam’s talks with the federal government, Rubio and Nelson joined other senators in penning a letter this week to encourage timely distribution of a $2.3 billion disaster-relief package signed by President Donald Trump in February. The letter was addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s office announced this week that sign-up and eligibility information should be available to affected farmers in the coming weeks. In total, it’s estimated that Hurricane Irma caused a $2.5 billion loss to Florida agriculture.

Gaming special session uncertain — Legislative leaders this week began zeroing in on a possible date for a special session to iron out gambling issues left unresolved during the 2018 Legislative Session — but the overtime might not be necessary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran alerted the possible need to reconvene legislators because of the potential loss of gambling revenue from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. However, the Tribe this week said it will continue paying its share to the state, which totaled a little more than $290 million last year. No Casinos, an anti-gambling organization, is asserting that the Tribe’s commitment should end further talks of a special session.

Scott ramps up exposure — Ahead of his widely expected entrance into the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Scott is appearing across the state for public bill signings. Scott this week visited Ponce Inlet to ceremoniously sign Ponce’s Law. The bill was crafted following the death of a nine-month-old Labrador, Ponce, in Ponce Inlet last year. The dog’s owner, Travis Archer, allegedly beat the animal to death, but under Florida’s current animal cruelty laws, Archer does not face a mandatory prison sentence if convicted. Ponce’s Law bumps animal cruelty to a level 5 offense up from level 3, meaning convicted offenders are more likely to serve prison time. The Governor also signed a bill in Orlando that prohibits the state from doing business with Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime and a bill at Fort Walton-based software company Bit-Wizards that is expected to benefit military, veterans, and their families.

Scott touts Florida building codes

Florida took the top spot in a recent report ranking the residential building codes of hurricane-prone states, much to the delight of Gov. Scott.

“In Florida, we know how important it is to be prepared for hurricanes while doing everything possible to keep families safe. Florida’s building codes have consistently ranked among the strongest in the nation and I’m proud that we have now been ranked first for building code strength by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety,” Scott said.

DBPR Secretary Jonathan Zachem.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Jonathan Zachem also praised the ranking, adding that “the importance of effective, well-enforced building codes was demonstrated in our state during the 2017 hurricane season. I’m extremely pleased that the state of Florida was ranked first in this landmark report.”

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety report gave Florida’s codes a score of 95 out of 100, an improvement of one point over its score in the last iteration of the report, released in 2015. The bump was enough to move Florida past Virginia, which topped the rankings three years ago.

Scott vetoes ‘toilet-to-tap’

Clearing the final batch of bills off his desk this week, Gov. Scott vetoed a measure that would have, in part, encouraged the use of purified reclaimed water to replenish the aquifer — a provision that has led environmental groups to dub the measure the “toilet-to-tap” bill.

Citing potential creation of “confusion in our water quality and aquifer protection regulatory structure,” Scott said the “worthwhile provisions” in the bill do not outweigh his concerns of “protecting Florida’s aquifer.”

Rick Scott flushed Bobby Payne’s ‘toilet-to-tap’ proposal.

“Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

The bill, HB 1149, was ushered by Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who along with WateReuse argued that critics of the legislation overlooked that there is no such thing as “new water.”

Those against the measure, which included the lobbying force of the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, claimed it was tailored to benefit development interests.

The bill cleared the House with an 86-21 vote and the Senate with a 27-10 vote in the final week of the 2018 Legislative Session.

The week in appointments

Board of Optometry — Dr. David Rouse, of Cooper City, is an optometrist with Rouse Family Eyecare. He succeeds Dr. Tamara Mule and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2021. Dr. Katie Spear, of Pensacola, is a practicing optometrist. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2018. Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees — Darcy Davis, of Palm Beach Gardens, is the chief executive officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. She received her bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and her master’s degree from Troy State University. Davis succeeds Charles Cross Jr. and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors — Marc Dunbar, of Tallahassee, is a partner at national law firm Jones Walker. He was appointed by CFO Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Scott also appointed Dunbar to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, where he served from 2015 to 2018. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law. Dunbar succeeds Don Glisson and his term begins immediately, expiring on July 31, 2019.

Graham welcomes ‘overdue’ opioid suit

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham offered some tepid praise for Attorney General Bondi’s decision to go after pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.

“After months of inaction and years of sticking her head in the sand — I am glad that Pam Bondi is finally heeding my call to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable,” the former congresswoman said Friday.

Gwen Graham gives weak praise to Pam Bondi for her opioid lawsuit.

“As governor, I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic. I will ensure that this case gets the proper support and resources — building a legal dream team like Governor Lawton Chiles and Bob Butterworth did to take down tobacco.”

Bondi announced the decision this week, saying it was important Florida file its own case rather than join another. She did not give a timetable for filing the suit.

League lauds lawmakers

The Florida League of Cities this week gave awards to 20 lawmakers in recognition of their “tireless efforts” to protect home rule.

“On behalf of Florida’s 412 cities and thousands of municipal officials, both elected and appointed, the Florida League of Cities and its advocacy team are proud to recognize these Home Rule advocates for their continued support,” said Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley.

Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley pumps up for legislative wins.

“We believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life of the citizens they have been elected to represent. These hardworking legislators continually supported that ideal, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.”

Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose and Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder were named “defenders of home rule,” while the remaining lawmakers received appreciation awards.

The following lawmakers received Legislative Appreciation Awards: Sens. Daphne CampbellGeorge GainerBobby PowellJose Javier RodriguezDarryl RousonWilton SimpsonLinda Stewart, and Perry Thurston as well as Reps. Joe GellerKristin JacobsEvan JenneSam KillebrewLarry LeeRobert “Bobby O” OlszewskiPaul RennerRichard Stark, and Wengay “Newt” Newton.

Shaw highlights failing grade from Florida Chamber

With an ironic spin and almost certainly in jest, Democratic state House Rep. Sean Shaw via Twitter touted an F grade on his Legislative Report Card from the Florida Chamber.

Over an image of his poor mark, Shaw tweeted, “Incredibly excited to be recognized as the top consumer advocate & fighter for workers this year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce!”

Sean Shaw is all smiles over his ‘F’ grade from the Florida Chamber.

The Chamber released its annual rankings on Thursday. Each year the pro-business group arrives at scores for lawmakers after tabulating their votes on measures expected to make Florida a more competitive marketplace.

Shaw, who’s vying for the Attorney General seat this year, interpreted his grade as meaning he’s on the side of consumers and workers, rather than job creators.

Republican state legislators performed well in the eyes of the Chamber. Of the 15 “Distinguished Advocates,” recognized this Session, just one is a Democrat: St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond. He was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment — but he earned a C overall.

Pharmacy panel suggests unifying legislative efforts

A panel charged with overseeing pharmacy professionals went a bit off script this week when its chair suggested that there should be more of a “concerted effort” for pharmacist-backed legislative initiatives.

“If we’re really interested in moving things through the Legislature, I honestly think that there has to be a better process to achieve a consensus,” said Jeenu Philip, chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy. He said it seems like legislators hear one thing from a pharmacist or association, and the opposite from a different pharmacist.

Jeenu Philip (left) is chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy.

In recapping pharmacy-related bills, Philip spoke a bit about legislation that would’ve provided patients more access to flu remedies. Sponsored this year by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, the bills (SB 524 and HB 431) would have let some pharmacies, under the guidance of a physician, test for and treat influenza.

Both pieces of legislation died in committee, something Philip questioned given the severity and uptick of recent influenza cases.

“In light of the past flu season, if there was any year that this bill should’ve passed, this was the year,” Philip said.

Volunteers spotlighted during April

The start of April may bring pranks for some, but for the state, it marks the start of Volunteer Month — and this year, it’s no joke.

Volunteer Florida, the lead service agency in the Sunshine State, is highlighting a Floridian volunteer every day this month as part of its newly launched #VF30in30 initiative.

In announcing the outreach campaign, Gov. Scott pointed to the public’s altruistic efforts to help the state bounce back from Hurricane Irma.

“I’m glad to recognize the service of volunteers across Florida who dedicate their time to make a difference in their communities,” Scott said in a statement. “Floridians dedicated millions of hours during last year’s devastating hurricane season, and we are proud to honor them in April.”

Each day a new volunteer is spotlighted by Volunteer Florida. Kicking off the month was Steve O’Brien, a legendary history teacher in Miami who founded Castaways Against Cancer. The organization raises money each month by kayaking 160 miles from Miami to Key West.

Florida Council of 100 releases educational ‘beacons’

In an ongoing education-focused project tailored to “light the way” for America’s future, the Florida Council of 100 unveiled a research-backed set of values for grades 4-8 over the next 25 years.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan group comprised of business, civic, and academic leaders is throwing its weight behind four pivotal topics, or ‘beacons’: nurturing adolescents’ academic growth, personalizing education to meet the unique needs of each adolescent student; minimizing the disruption caused by school transitions; and making the school like a second family.

Miami’s Kingdom Academy is a model for value-based education.

“Adolescent students are unique — physically, intellectually, morally, psychologically, and especially social-emotionally,” said David Dyer, project leader and former chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee. “It takes a special kind of teacher to successfully reach these kids.”

The value-based approach intended for schools to model is the result of a culmination of studies, which included touring successful schools such as Miami’s inner-city Kingdom Academy, where fourth-grade students are learning how to budget, apply for jobs and maintain a bank account.

John Kirtley, chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee, noted that student success often declines in middle grades. “To reverse this, it is vital that we tailor instruction to the special needs of each adolescent, providing them with a portfolio of educational options,” Kirtley said.

Desloge tours areas still recovering from Irma, Maria

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge was among a small delegation of National Association of Counties (NACo) leaders who recently toured parts of Florida and Puerto Rico ravaged by some of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history.

The delegation visited communities in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico that experienced loss of life, property and critical infrastructure as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge.

“It’s important that we learn from one another and strengthen our capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” said Desloge, also Immediate Past President of NACo. “There is no higher priority than keeping our residents safe, especially in the face of devastating natural disasters.”

As communities across the country continue recovering from the historic 2017 hurricane season, NACo continues to work with local governments to ensure critical funding and assistance to help communities rebuild. As immediate past President, Desloge serves on the NACo Executive Committee and represents more than 3,000 countries across the nation.

NSF re-ups MagLab grant

The National Science Foundation is renewing its support for the FSU-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory — the world’s most powerful magnet lab — with a $184 million grant.

The funding will head to National MagLab facilities over the next five years, bringing NSF’s total investment in the project to $867 million. In addition to the lab HQ at FSU, satellite facilities at the UF and Los Alamos National Laboratory will also get some support.

National Science Foundation Director France Córdova tours the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, just before it re-upped with a new $184M grant.

“This announcement means that the world’s most prestigious magnet lab will remain headquartered right here at FSU in Tallahassee, anchoring our university’s pre-eminent science and research efforts and facilitating discoveries that could change our world,” said Gary Ostrander, FSU VP of research.

Anne Kinney, an NSF assistant director, added that the foundation “is proud to support a facility that has broken — and holds — many world records in magnet technology.”

MagLab’s unique instruments include the world’s strongest continuous high-field magnet, which produces a magnetic field 2 million times stronger than the Earth’s. More than 1,700 researchers a year use MagLab to advance their research.

FSU Great Give sets records

The Great Give, Florida State University’s 36-hour online giving campaign, recorded its most successful campaign to date, raising $413,147 for academic programs, student activities and scholarships, the school said this week.

The 7th annual event, which took place March 22-23, drew support from 3,376 donors, including 1,791 Florida State alumni.

FSU sets records with the 7th annual Great Give.

“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support that was displayed during this year’s Great Give,” said Robyn Bertram, donor engagement officer for the Florida State University Foundation Office of Annual Giving. “This event has grown consistently since its inception, and the incredible response we received demonstrates a shared dedication toward advancing our university.”

Throughout the campaign, 12 incentive challenges totaling more than $23,000 fostered a friendly competition among FSU’s donors to give back and boost their chosen project’s chances to receive cash prizes. Departments and units could win incentives for meeting specific criteria such as most donors during a certain time period.

The FSU Marching Chiefs took the $7,500 grand prize with the most alumni donors (299) during the 36-hour campaign. The Student Veterans Center, Home Stretch Microgrants and the colleges of Music, Education and Communication & Information also claimed incentive wins.

Donors may still make a gift to Florida State by visiting or calling (850) 644-6000.

Tallahassee dubbed ‘Solar Star’

A new national report shows that the Sunshine State’s capital city is making good use of one its most prevalent resources.

Environment Florida released this week a new report, “Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America,” that highlights Tallahassee as a leading “Solar Star” for its commitment to harnessing the sun’s energy.

Tallahassee is becoming a ‘solar star.’

In terms of megawatts of solar energy per capita, the capital city edged ahead of Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando.

“Tallahassee stands out as an example for other cities to follow in Florida and throughout the South. The city is listening to local customers like me who want solar energy in their homes and their communities, and it’s giving different types of solar room to grow,” said Scott Thomasson, the southeast director with Vote Solar.

The ranking stems in large part from the 28-megawatt solar farm contracted by the city. The Tallahassee Solar program provided 20,000 slots for businesses and residents to purchase solar electricity at a fixed rate for the next 20 years.

“Cities like Tallahassee are leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida Research & Policy Center.

Tallahassee Earth Day plans

Tallahassee announced a list of planned activities this week to celebrate “Earth Month,” most of which will be held when Earth Day hits on April 22.

“As we observe Earth Month in the City of Tallahassee, I encourage everyone in our community to make the commitment to reduce our negative impacts on the environment,” Mayor Andrew Gillum said. “If we are all more environmentally-conscious, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a clean, healthy community to grow up in.”

Tallahassee Earth Day celebrations include the ‘In-Home Longest Table,’ a series of simultaneous events hosting 6 to 8 people each.

Planned events include “Cash for Trash,” where those with bulky items, electronic waste, paint, or batteries can drop it off at the Solid Waste Services facility, located at 2727 Municipal Way for a $5 credit on their utility bill.

The docket also includes the city’s Earth Day celebration to be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility, and the “In-Home Edition of Longest Table,” where at 6 p.m. over 100 dinners, each including six to eight guests, will take place simultaneously in homes, restaurants and public spaces throughout the community.

RSVP to the Longest Table by calling 891-8728 or visiting

Old Capitol to go purple for Victims’ Rights Week

In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 8-14, Marsy’s Law for Florida will light Florida’s Historic Capitol in purple lights all week “as a reminder that victims should be entitled to equal rights and protections under the law.”

Florida’s old Capitol building goes purple for victims rights.

Marsy’s Law for Florida is “an effort to place clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in Florida’s constitution,” the group said.

The old Capitol is at 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Philip Levine match helps boost his campaign by another $1 million in March

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine‘s campaign and political committee took in just over $1 million in March, including about $535,000 from contributors and $470,000 he put in himself as a match, his campaign announced Thursday.

The million-dollar month keeps the Levine campaign pacing ahead of other Democrats who don’t have the luxury of self-funding their campaigns, as former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham’s campaign announced it collected about $600,000 in March, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s reported $336,000. The campaign of the fourth major Democrat, Chris King, has not yet announced March fundraising numbers.

There also has been no word yet on the March campaign finance activity of the two leading Republicans, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The seven-figure month for Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, also feeds a hungry campaign that had spent more than $4 million on television advertising this winter while the other candidates have bided time.

There was no word on how much the campaign and the political committee had left in the bank at the end of March. Official reports for March have not yet been posted by the Florida Division of Elections.

In March Levine’s official campaign took in $235,000 from contributors and Levine added $470,000 from his own pocket. His independent political committee All About Florida drew about $300,000 in donations.

“This month, our campaign’s momentum continues to build, now leading our competitors in both polling and fundraising, because Floridians are ready for a new, exciting progressive vision for our future,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to the campaign, stated in a news release. “As Mayor Levine tours the state of Florida, meeting directly with voters in every county, our campaign is raising the resources necessary to take his message for Florida’s future on airwaves, on the ground, and to the living rooms of Florida’s families.”

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