Voters should not be given a chance to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment expanding rights for crime victims because the ballot language is misleading, lawyers opposing the measure told a Tallahassee judge Friday.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers heard arguments on whether Amendment 6, approved by the Constitution Commission Revision, should remain on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot. The proposal would expand rights for crime victims, would raise the retirement age for judges and would change the way laws and rules are interpreted in judicial proceedings.
“However, in actuality, Amendment 6 does much, much more. Amendment 6, among other things, restricts the constitutional rights of those accused of crimes,” said Mark Herron, an attorney representing Naples defense lawyer Lee Hollander and the Florida League of Women Voters, who filed the legal challenge.
Herron said the ballot language does not inform voters of the full impact of the measure, including changes affecting the right to a speedy trial and the appeals process for criminal defendants.
“The summary and title, on the whole, fail to give voters information regarding the true scope of the amendment and its chief purposes by entirely omitting several significant changes made by the amendment,” Herron told Gievers.
But Barry Richard, a lawyer representing Marsy’s Law of Florida, said there are no constitutional rights “that are being eliminated by this amendment,” which he said advances a new set of rights for victims of crime.
Richard said for a court to remove an amendment from the ballot; it must find something “material” was left out of the ballot summary. If there are no rights being eliminated, then the challenge falls short of that legal standard, according to Richard.
He said the criminal defendant’s right to a speedy trial, protected by both the state and federal Constitutions, would not be changed by the proposal. But the amendment would give “a concomitant right to the same speedy trial” to crime victims, Richard said.
A key argument in the challenge is that the proposed amendment would eliminate a phrase in the Florida Constitution that outlines rights for crime victims but says they are established “to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”
Herron said Amendment 6 is fatally flawed because the ballot summary is “entirely silent” on the elimination of that phrase, which he characterized as an existing “fundamental” constitutional right for criminal defendants.
But Richard said the challengers are relying on a “partial clause” that would be replaced by the new rights language outlined in the proposed amendment.
“That’s not a free-standing phrase. It does not create a free-standing right in the Florida Constitution,” Richard said.
As another problem, Herron cited the ballot summary’s failure to mention that corporations and “other business entities” may be able to classify themselves as crime victims, if the amendment is adopted by voters.
Richard acknowledged it was unclear from the text of the amendment whether corporations could claim that right. But he said that was an “ambiguity” that would have to be resolved “in a different courtroom, in a different time” and should not be part of the ballot challenge.
Gievers closely questioned a lawyer from Attorney General Pam Bondi’ s office about whether the ballot title or summary “tells voters what the effect on the existing criminal justice system would be from the standpoint of the criminal defendants.”
Senior Assistant Attorney General Karen Brodeen told Gievers the summary does not contain that information because there would be no impact on the rights of criminal defendants.
“I don’t think that’s a valid argument. I don’t think there’s going to be any effect,” Brodeen said.
In addition to the challenge raised by Herron’s clients, a separate lawsuit, filed by Plantation Key resident Amy Knowles, is also asking the court to remove Amendment 6 from the November ballot. Gievers heard arguments in both cases Friday.
The major portion of the proposed amendment would expand existing rights for crime victims, while adding nine new rights in the state Constitution. The new rights for crime victims impact a number of areas, including setting bail, pretrial releases, restitution and the disclosure of information.
The proposal, known as “Marsy’s Law,” is part of a broader national movement stemming from the 1983 death of a California woman, Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend.
In addition to the crime victims’ proposal, Amendment 6 would also raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 years to 75. And it would eliminate an existing legal standard that requires a deferment to governmental agencies in the interpretation of laws and rules in judicial proceedings.
Gievers’ decision is likely to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which is already reviewing six of the eight constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.
In total, there are 13 proposed state constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot. Each amendment must win support from at least 60 percent of the voters in order to be enacted.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
Though Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam faces a sizable deficit in our latest poll of the GOP Governor’s race against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, sources familiar with the campaign’s thinking relate that Putnam has a short list of five potential Lt. Gov. picks, all of whom are Republican women.
Topping the list: Attorney General Pam Bondi, one of Putnam’s highest-profile endorsers.
The two Cabinet members are natural allies, demographically, politically and temperamentally aligned, with long records of service that Florida Republicans admire.
Bondi endorsed her “dear friend” Putnam, then cut an ad for him, and will be in the Jacksonville market with Putnam, looking very much like a running mate at a Monday rally at the local Fraternal Order of Police.
Both Bondi and Putnam are very much aligned with the law enforcement community.
Bondi offers another unique value add: the unequivocal approval of Pres. Donald Trump, offering a bridge if Putnam should beat the President’s endorsed candidate.
Kendall Republican Jeanette Núñez is also under consideration. The 46-year-old Kendall Republican is termed out of the House and has already launched a 2020 state Senate campaign.
Núñez would help shore up Putnam’s support in the Miami area, where per our polling, DeSantis is up over 70 percent with primary voters.
Sen. Dana Young of Hillsborough County is also under consideration, per our information.
“Adam certainly thrives on state issues and that’s what this election is about,” said state Sen. Dana Young of Tampa. “I really enjoyed when Adam welcomed the moderators to Florida and welcomed his opponent to Florida.”
Also under consideration: Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.
Putnam has campaigned heavily on the need for more workforce education, arguing that vocational training would fill skills gaps and fill needs throughout the state that aren’t necessarily fulfilled by liberal arts degrees.
Erika Donalds, a Collier School Board member and the wife of state Rep. Byron Donalds, is a school choice advocate.
As a member of the Constitutional Revision Commission, Donalds pushed to get Amendment 8 on the ballot, which would impose statewide school board term limits. That Amendment is currently being challenged in court.
RickWilson, the Tallahassee-based Republican operative whose moonshot to the spotlight accompanied his unwithering criticism of President DonaldTrump, came home this week.
His landing spot: The capital city’s Midtown Reader bookstore, to read from and discuss his new best-selling book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies.”
“This process started a little bit as catharsis,” Wilson told the large crowd. “I started out writing this book in a moment when I was frustrated with my own party for letting this creature take office and with the failures of leadership.”
Initially, Wilson planned to take a “fairly academic” approach to write the book, but decided he’d rather “have some fun with it.” While there’s plenty of “Wilson-style humor,” his new work is balanced by “serious thought about the future of the country and the party,” he said.
He read a bit of prose aloud to the audience from a chapter that took umbrage with Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.” In the segment, Wilson points to a turnover problem and early failures of the administration exacerbated by what he views as the President’s inability to make employment decisions independent from his connections to the private sector.
“Trump’s administration provides all the things you expect: Banality, incompetence, a stunning lack of policy knowledge and a slurry of people dragged from Trump’s business world who couldn’t manage a Waffle House,” Wilson read.
Afterward, he fielded questions – both from Republicans and Democrats – and covered a wide-ranging list of concerns from the audience, giving humorous replies almost always, although they were rooted in truths about the state of American politics.
Prefacing his discussion was news from the previous night that the book would top The New York Times best-sellers list for Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction.
While “blown away” by the reception, Wilson showed a sense of self-awareness of his media niche. A longtime GOP ad man and strategist, he’s staked claim to a unique pedestal from which to criticize a Republican President.
He’s captured an online following that on Twitter is edging toward the 400,000 mark, and noted the book’s success came without a network like “Fox News” promoting it day and night.
“If nothing else, I got hustle,” he confessed.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, MichaelMoline and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State presses Bill Nelson to back hacking claim – Secretary of State KenDetzner penned a letter this week to Sen. Nelson asking the longtime Florida lawmaker to substantiate his public comments that Russians had “penetrated” some Florida voting systems ahead of the 2018 midterm election. Nelson told a Tampa Bay Times reporter two weeks ago, “The Russians are in Florida’s election records” but did not provide any more details. Since then, both Gov. RickScott and Detzner have publicly sought more information on the alleged hackings. Detzner wrote to U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr asking for additional information before writing personally to Nelson. Scott, who’s attempting to unseat Nelson this fall, said Friday in St. Augustine that Nelson “needs to come clean.” He added, “Did they release classified information? And how did he have access to it? He doesn’t have the right to it; he’s not on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Or did he just completely make it up?”
Former justice challenges six amendments – Six of the eight constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission were challenged this week by retired state Supreme Court Justice HarryLeeAnstead. Anstead, who served on the Supreme Court 1994-2009, believes the contested amendments violate voters’ First Amendment rights since each one “bundles independent and unrelated proposals in a single ballot question.” The petition argues that the bundling “requires a voter to vote ‘yes’ for a proposal that the voter opposes in order to vote ‘yes’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter supports, and to vote ‘no’ for a proposal the voter supports in order to vote ‘no’ for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter opposes.” Amendments 6,7,8,9,10 and 11 are named in the petition. The lawsuit names Secretary of State Detzner as a defendant.
Unemployment lowest since 2007 – At a St. Augustine appearance on Friday, Gov. Scott said the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.7 percent, the lowest recorded since April 2007. In a news release announcing the healthy economic indicator, Scott linked the employment level to the number of jobs — 1,595,000 — created since December 2010, one month before he took office. “Our soaring economy has allowed us to make investments in areas that matter to families, like education, transportation and protecting our environment,” Scott said. “That’s why Florida continues to outpace the nation in job growth and is the best state to find a job and raise a family.” According to state records, Florida created over 211,400 new private-sector jobs over the past year. The Sunshine State’s job growth rate has outpaced the nation’s for 75 of the last 76 months, with the outlier coinciding with Hurricane Irma.
State highlights debt reduction – Florida has eliminated more than $7 billion worth of debt, according to the state Division of Bond Finance. The decline, called a “sea change,” was spotlighted during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet this week in Tallahassee. Division of Bond Finance Director BenWatkins credited Gov. Scott with pursuing an “unprecedented” policy of limited state borrowing, reports LloydDunkelberger for the News Service of Florida. Watkins also highlighted how three major credit ratings groups had doled Florida a ‘triple-A’ rating. “The good news is it recognizes the strength of the state, the management of the state, the financial position and policies of the state, which translates into lower borrowing costs for the state,” Watkins told Scott. “It is, in effect, a validation from the rating agencies that we are doing the right thing.”
Revenue forecast remains steady – State lawmakers can expect to have a little more than $32 billion when they return to Tallahassee to craft the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, according to economists with the Revenue Estimating Conference. The panel met this week and reviewed details of revenue collected from state sales, documentary stamp, beverage, pari-mutuel, insurance premium, severance and corporate income taxes, along with other contributors to the General Revenue Fund. “It’s going to be a very stable picture for the Legislature, with no big changes,” said AmyBaker, coordinator for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research and the Legislature’s chief economist.
Scott recognizes entrepreneurs
During one of his last remaining Cabinet meetings, Gov. Scott took the time to acknowledge two promising small business ventures going on in the state.
JasonKelloway, owner of Social Grounds Coffee Company in Jacksonville, received the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award. A formerly homeless veteran, Kelloway launched the business with the goal of helping veterans get back on their feet. Each purchase goes to helping employ and empower vets.
“Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, and it’s great to see veteran-owned companies succeed in Florida,” Scott said. In July, he poured coffee from the Jacksonville shop for troops in Kuwait.
MadisonSetliff, a 23-year-old Tallahassee businesswoman, received the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award for her midtown clothing boutique, Sparkle by Madison.
“I am so honored to receive the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award,” Setliff said. “It’s wonderful to be able to not only own my business but also to be able to share my passion for fashion and style with young women in Tallahassee.”
Unclaimed treasure hunt
Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis is marking the start of the school year by reminding Floridians that the state might be holding unclaimed property that they’re entitled to recover.
The state devotes any proceeds from abandoned bank accounts, jewelry, coins, or other valuables to public schools.
However, there’s no time limit for claiming such property — the state is obliged to pay legitimate claims.
Patronis said the “Back to School” unclaimed property initiative includes more than 4,600 accounts — including one worth more than $135,000.
Patronis has returned $361 million in unclaimed property since taking office last year.
Patronis issued a consumer alert against scam artists trying to take advantage of Facebook’s new financial services offerings.
The platform is allowing financial services companies to use its Messenger app to handle credit card transactions, checking accounts and more. Criminals are cloning Facebook accounts for people’s friends and family to steal this sort of personal information.
Here’s Patronis’ advice:
— Watch out for subtle anomalies in the names of people who try to contact you. A random space or capitalization might be a tipoff.
— If an account looks fake, don’t accept the message.
— Report and block fake accounts right away.
— Keep up with Facebook’s updates on its efforts to detect senders’ locations and identify fake accounts.
— Notify your financial institution if your account is compromised or you think it’s been.
“There are as many as 13 million active Facebook users in Florida, and anyone can fall victim to this latest scam,” Patronis said. “These are not your friends; they are criminals actively looking to steal your personal information and your identity.”
James R. Baxley, a Lake County Judge, fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Mark A. Nacke. A two-time graduate of the University of Florida, Baxley, 49, previously was a partner at Hatfield and Baxley P.A.
17th Circuit Court
Nickolas Hunter Davis, 37, of Fort Lauderdale, is an Assistant Statewide Prosecutor for the Office of the Attorney General and previously served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from The University of South Carolina and his law degree from Washington and Lee University. Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge MerrileeEhrlich.
Peter Holden, 57, of Fort Lauderdale, has served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit since 1989. He received his bachelor’s degree from Nichols College and his law degree from Nova Law School. Holden fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Lisa M. Porter.
Polk County Court
HopePattey, 47, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit and fills the vacancy created by the promotion of Judge Gerald P. Hill II. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Pattey went on to receive her law degree from Florida State University College of Law. She is 47 years old.
Sarasota County Court
Scott appointed Dana Moss, 47, of Lakewood Ranch. She is a felony division chief for the 12th Circuit Public Defender’s Office. Moss previously served as a police officer. She received her bachelor’s degree from Penn State University and her law degree from Florida Coastal Law School. Moss fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge JudyGoldman.
Tallahassee Community College District Board of Trustees
Gov. RickScott reappointed Eugene Lamb, Jr. The 71-year-old, of Midway, is retired from working in the Tallahassee area as a teacher for 30 years and also served on the Gadsden County Commission for eight years. Lamb’s new term ends May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Early Learning Coalition of Orange County
Scott appointed Linda Shaughnessy, 60, of Orlando, an accountant at St. James Cathedral School. She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Loyola University. Shaughnessy succeeds LindaGonzalez for a term ending April 30, 2021.
Honoring a ‘Champion of Service’
SamRogers, a Tallahassee-based, longtime community volunteer, was presented this week with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award during a Florida Cabinet meeting.
Bestowing Rogers with the honor were Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO David Mica, Jr. Volunteer Florida is the state’s service agency.
Rogers has mentored two first-grade students every year for almost two decades, helping them hone their reading skills and introducing them to art and culture. He is credited with being instrumental in partnering Kate Sullivan Elementary School with Trinity Methodist Church.
“Sam is extremely deserving of the Champion of Service Award,” Mica said. “As a direct result of his mentorship, local students are succeeding in school, developing valuable life skills and becoming well-rounded individuals – ensuring a bright future for both Tallahassee and the State of Florida.”
Added Scott: “Sam’s longstanding commitment to his community inspires those around him and helps make our state the best place to live in the country.
Gator gigging time
Alligator hunting season is here again, through Nov. 1.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued more than 7,500 permits, including an additional 1,313 countywide permits, this year.
The hunt is part of the commission’s program to control the population Florida’s official state reptile, now estimated at 1.3 million. The alligator was among the species on the endangered list when first issued in 1967. Its numbers had recovered to the point that Florida removed it from the list in 1987.
Last year’s hunt produced 6,261 carcasses averaging 8 feet, 3 inches in length.
The commission also operates a nuisance alligator program — you can call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) to contact a state-sanctioned trapper to capture gators that pose risks to people or pets.
Good news for Doctors Lake
Sen. RobBradley and Rep. TravisCummings, both of northeast Florida, this week announced money is ready to back essential water projects in Clay County.
On Wednesday, the two Republican lawmakers told residents that funding is on the way for a series of projects targeting water quality in Doctors Lake, a tributary of the nearby St. Johns River.
The money will be used to transition lakeside homeowners from septic to sewer systems, replace old septic tanks, and begin the Doctors Lake Enhanced Effluent Treatment Project, expected to eventually treat a minimum of 2 million gallons of water per day.
“We can work together to improve Doctors Lake, so Clay County residents may enjoy our precious natural resources for generations to come,” Cummings said.
Dr. AnnShortelle, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, added: “These proposed projects focus efforts on Doctors Lake, which has experienced water quality concerns for decades … As always, we look to the science to guide us in making sound decisions about project opportunities.”
Greenberg Traurig’s ‘Best Lawyers’
The 2019 edition of “Best Lawyers in America” is out, and Greenberg Traurig has a lot to celebrate.
The firm had 133 of its attorneys make the cut and was named the top firm in four Sunshine State markets: Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tallahassee.
In addition to a “Best Lawyers” top pick for those seeking counsel in the capital, Greenberg Traurig was honored as a “Top Listed” firm in seven practice areas, including Government Relations — not only does the international firm routinely make the top-5 in Florida lobbying pay, but it’s among the top-quality outlets, too.
The good news didn’t stop there. Among the 133 Greenberg Traurig lawyers singled out by the publication for their quality work were a dozen who earned the top-flight “attorney of the year” distinction in their practice areas.
The honor roll: Cesar Alvarez, International Trade and Finance Law; Hilarie Bass, Litigation-Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy); Bridget Berry, Employment Law-Management; Mark Bideau, Litigation – Securities Litigation-Labor & Employment; MarkBloom, Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Michael Cherniga, Health Care Law; Lucia Dougherty, Administrative/Regulatory Law; Glenn Goldstein, Litigation-Banking and Finance; Barbara Hall, Government Relations Practice; Gregory Herbert, Litigation-Intellectual Property; Richard McCrea Jr., Litigation-Labor and Employment; and David Peck, Health Care Law.
AOB abuse alert
A business coalition is continuing its public relations offensive against assignment-of-benefits abuse by launching an interactive guide warning consumers of these contracts’ pitfalls.
The Consumer Protection Coalition’s Tips to Avoid Contractor Fraud & Abuse website warns against “deceptive” tactics including high-pressure sales, contracts with blank spaces, and offers to rebate the deductible so the repairs are free.
Also, there are links detailing how to verify property damage and check contractor references and get a written contract, and warning against paying up front.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce helped to organize the coalition.
“Peak hurricane season is here – the time when most major storms hit and the threat of AOB abuse increases,” said coalition member LoganMcFaddin, regional manager for the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America. “To prevent this type of abuse from happening now and in the future, consumer awareness is critical.
LeadingAge Florida recognized
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) recognized LeadingAge Florida members for “heroic efforts to care for Florida seniors in the days following Hurricane Irma.”
LeadingAge received a Silver Power Award for “Project Lifeline: Caring for Seniors in the Aftermath of Irma.” The project chronicles nine LeadingAge Florida members that delivered food, water and other supplies to communities of seniors impacted by the hurricane.
“Many times, during the past year, I have been asked how our members dealt with Hurricane Irma and its aftermath,” said SteveBahmer, LeadingAge Florida president and CEO. “There are a number of ways to answer that question, but the word that always jumps to the front of my mind is ‘character.’”
“This award isn’t ours. It’s our members,” he added. “It’s a national testimonial to the values of our Association, and to the power and depth of our members’ mission to care for older adults.”
From providing food, water and ice, in some cases diverting their own resources to help others, to filling vans and buses with various supplies and delivering them to troubled communities, LeadingAge Florida members quickly helped in whatever way they could, regardless of the provider community in need or its location.
The Able Trust backs training
Easterseals Florida, which provides services for children and adults with disabilities and their families, received a $60,000 grant this week from The Able Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Floridians with disabilities find employment.
The money will be used to support Easterseals’ STRIVE program, short for Skills Training Results in Vocational Employment.
At the Igoe-Amar Center in West Palm Beach, STRIVE participants will receive curriculum over the course of 12 weeks, consisting of 30 hours split between the classroom and an on-site “hotel simulation room.”
“Supporting the Easterseals Florida and programs like the STRIVE in Hospitality Program are vital to helping people with disabilities find successful employment,” said Dr. SusanneHomant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “They not only help those who use the program, but also the surrounding communities by providing area businesses with quality employees.”
“As Easterseals approaches 100 years of changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities, we look to the future and how we can continue to grow services for the community,” added SueVentura, president and CEO of Easterseals Florida.
FSU launches student resilience tool
In an effort to help students adjust to the university, improve mental health and lower stress, Florida State University will launch the Student Resilience Project.
“Florida State University recognizes that some incoming students have experienced significant family or community stress,” said KarenOehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies. “Unmanaged stress responses can interfere with student success in college and cause long-term negative consequences.”
The soft launch for the online trauma resilience tool was Aug. 1, but by this fall, the Institute for Family Violence Studies at the FSU College of Social Work expects to fully launch the training.
The training uses animated instructions and videos reminiscent of TED Talks, according to the university. Each module teaches resilience and coping skills students may need for there time away from home. The university will welcome some 6,000 freshmen this fall.
“FSU recognizes the need to provide more tools to respond to the increasing mental health needs of our students,” said SallyMcRorie, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “The project is open and frank about mental health topics our students may face and is intended to destigmatize and encourage seeking help.”
Seminole Sensation Week is back
An annual tradition tailored to promote student involvement at Florida State University begins this Wednesday, as the institution welcomes students back to campus for fall semester.
Known as Seminole Sensation Week, the university will host a weeklong series of events that help introduce students to an array of organizations and opportunities available outside of the classroom.
“Seminole Sensation Week is a campus tradition that creates moments for students to make connections and get involved at FSU,” said LoriVaughn, interim director for Student Activities. “Becoming part of our campus community helps students succeed in their classes and beyond.”
New Student Convocation, the marquee event, is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. There, widely respected nuclear physicist and FSU faculty member MarkRiley will deliver the convocation address.
As is tradition, the President’s Welcome, hosted each year by FSU President JohnThrasher, will take place after the convocation. The seven-day schedule of events can be found here.
Island View Park completed
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Franklin County, and The Trust for Public Land this week announced the completion of Island View Park, providing “improved public access to the beautiful coastal resources of this region.”
Island View Park is a 7-acre tract in Franklin County, about 1 mile east of the city of Carrabelle, with almost 900 feet fronting St. George Sound. The park includes a boardwalk with viewing areas, extensive landscaping with native trees and plants, two long fishing piers, shoreline access for paddle craft, and a central plaza with an information kiosk.
Funding for park amenities, along with 10 years of operation and maintenance funds for the county ($2.6 million), came from an agreement with British Petroleum to conduct restoration projects to address injuries resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to enhance the public’s access to surrounding natural resources and increase recreational opportunities.
Additional funding for the Park was also provided by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This project will enhance and increase the public’s use and enjoyment of the natural resources that were severely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred April 20, 2010.
RachelNordby, who’s been a deputy solicitor general for Attorney General PamBondi, is heading to the Shutts & Bowen law firm as a partner in the Tallahassee office, the firm announced Friday.
Nordby, who starts Sept. 10, will be vice chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group.
Her hire follows another recent high-profile addition from state government: BenGibson, a former deputy general counsel to Gov. RickScott, joined the firm as a partner in its Business Litigation Practice Group in Tallahassee.
“Shutts & Bowen is Florida’s oldest statewide law firm, founded in 1910 when HenryFlagler recruited his favorite lawyer, FrankShutts, to relocate to Miami and handle legal affairs for his railroad and resort hotels,” said JasonGonzalez, managing partner of the Tallahassee office.
“With the hiring of Rachel Nordby and Ben Gibson, we are carrying on Flagler’s tradition of recruiting the best legal talent in Florida.”
Nordby, a 2008 graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, is married to DanielNordby, currently general counsel to Scott — and a former Shutts partner. As general counsel, he’s Scott’s top legal advisor holds great sway over who Scott taps for judicial appointments.
Gonzalez himself is a former general counsel to the Republican Party of Florida and to Gov. CharlieCrist, whom he advised on four state Supreme Court appointments: Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, and James E.C. Perry.
“I hired Dan Nordby, Rachel Nordby and Ben Gibson as my law clerks when they were in law school over a decade ago,” Gonzalez said.
“Rachel and Dan have become hands-down the most talented husband and wife lawyer duo in this state,” he added. “Just look at the cases they have won at the highest courts and the clients they have been representing (the governor and attorney general). It’s an amazing record of winning.”
To name a few, those cases include successful defenses of Florida’s teacher evaluation policies, the state’s fuel tax policy (challenged by the Seminole Tribe of Florida), and the Communications Services Tax and Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Gonzalez said.
Rachel Nordby was less successful on another high-profile case this year: She was on the team of lawyers that lost a challenge organized by Orlando attorney JohnMorgan of the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana. That decision is now under appeal, however.
Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw added an endorsement Thursday from Florida Conservation Voters, a non-partisan environmental group that works to elect public officials who will protect Florida’s conservation lands.
“Sean Shaw has dedicated his professional career to standing up to powerful special interests on behalf of the people of Florida,” said FCV executive director Aliki Moncrief. “He understands the devastating impact climate change and sea level rise are already having on our economy and communities, and he won’t be shy about holding polluters accountable for undermining environmental protections.
“Florida Conservation Voters is proud to support Sean Shaw to be Florida’s next Attorney General,” she concluded.
Shaw, a Democrat, is currently in his first term representing Tampa-based House District 61 and previously worked as the state’s insurance consumer advocate under former CFO Alex Sink. He faces Odessa lawyer Ryan Torrens in the Democratic primary to succeed term-limited Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.
“Fighting for our environment will be one of my top priorities as Attorney General. The algae blooms and red tide that we’re seeing on beaches all across this states aren’t just bad for our ecosystems, they’re bad for our economy,” Shaw said. “The rising sea levels and increasingly powerful hurricanes are a threat to this states very existence.
“We cannot sit idly by and allow corporations to destroy one of, if not the, most unique ecosystems in the world. Scientist agree climate change is real and I agree with science. As Attorney General, I will strictly enforce our environmental laws, prosecute corporate polluters and protect our lands, waters, and beaches,” he concluded.
Recent weeks have seen the primary race turn negative, with Shaw filing a lawsuit to get Torrens kicked off the ballot over what Shaw believes was an “illegal campaign contribution.” Torrens said the finance report “mistake” was really a loan and has since sued Shaw for libel, saying Shaw injured his “reputation in the legal profession and as a candidate for public office.”
As it stands, Shaw has vastly outraised his primary foe with more than $1.15 million in receipts for his campaign and political committee, Sean Shaw for Florida, and about $677,000 on hand as of Aug. 3. Torrens, meanwhile, has raised nearly $140,000 including loans and has less than $5,000 in the bank.
The winner of the Aug. 28 primary election will move on to the general election, where he’ll face the winner of the GOP contest between Pensacola state Rep. Frank White and former circuit court judge Ashley Moody.
Both Republicans have posted much higher fundraising tallies than their Democratic counterparts, with Moody having raised $3.86 million with $1.43 million banked on Aug. 3 and White raising $4.64 million — $2.77 million of it self-funding — with $1.18 million at the ready at last check-in.
The Florida Cabinet is moving forward with the purchase of a large parcel of land in Highlands County to ensure its preservation.
On Tuesday, Gov. RickScott and Cabinet members Attorney General PamBondi, Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis and Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam authorized the $5,528,250 buy of the specified 2,457 acres of ranchland, known as the Sandy Gully property.
Funding from the state Rural and Family Lands Protection program will be used to cover the cost of the purchase. Known as a conservation easement, the buy allows agricultural operations to continue on the Sandy Gully property but restricts future development. A potential federal grant totaling $3,312,500 could help offset that cost.
Sandy Gully is a cow/calf operation. Hay and timber production are secondary operations. A former dairy farm, it shifted focus to cattle in 2002, and now run anywhere from 650 to 700 heads of cattle, according to documents from the Department of Environmental Protection.
Species of black bear and gopher tortoise — both considered rare — have been present on the property. In the past, the owners of the land also have identified sightings of sandhill cranes, bald eagles, Sherman’s fox squirrels, eastern indigo snakes, gopher tortoises and Florida panthers.
Justifying the purchase, the state believes the property could serve as a pathway for animals in between two nearby parks.
“What’s really key about [Sandy Gully] is it’s sandwiched between the Highlands County Sun N Lake Preserve and the Highlands Hammock State Park,” DEP Secretary NoahValenstein noted to the Cabinet. “[The land] will be a pretty good corridor for the wildlife that moves along the ranch.”
As well, the Sandy Gully property is integral to some of the area’s wetland systems, according to DEP documents.
Valenstein noted to the Cabinet that the state has purchased 46 conservation easements with the addition of Sandy Gully. In total, 53,121 acres have now been preserved under the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program since its creation in 2001.
White’s handful of sheriff backers were used to the same effect in the new spot.
“Florida Sheriffs agree that for Attorney General, Frank White has the conservative record we can trust,” a narrator says before three county sheriffs — Escambia Sheriff David Morgan, Okaloosa Sheriff Larry Ashley and Santa Rosa Sheriff Bob Johnson — split the next three lines of the script.
“That’s why Frank White stood with President [Donald] Trump against illegal immigration and voted to outlaw sanctuary cities in Florida. And why Frank has the highest NRA A+ rating for defending the Second Amendment. Frank White has worked with us in law enforcement to increase penalties on child predators and strengthen the death penalty,” the sheriffs say.
“Frank White. Tough. Effective. Conservative. For Attorney General,” the narrator says in closing.
The ad is the latest in a string of ads the White campaign has released since early June, when he kicked off an 80-day advertising plan with a $1 million ad buy well before the “lowest unit rate” rule kicked in 45 days out from Aug. 28 primary election.
If polls are any indication, White’s strategy is paying off. A recent measure from St. Pete Pollsshows him with a double-digit lead over Moody among likely Republican primary voters, and his lead is similarly high among each slice of the GOP electorate barring Hispanic Republicans and those living in South Florida.
Still, two weeks are left, and Moody’s campaign has shown no signs of slowing down.
For the week of July 28 through Aug. 3, she added another $233,630 between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, while White tacked on $106,000 between his campaign accounts and United Conservativespolitical committee.
As it stands, Moody has brought in more than $3.86 million between the two accounts and had $1.43 million in the bank on Aug. 3. White, who has put $2.77 million of his own money behind his bid and has received at least $400,000 from his family, has a to-date total of 4.64 million with $1.18 million at the ready.
The winner of the Aug. 28 primary election will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in November. A pair of polls, now somewhat stale, showed Shaw with an edge no matter which Republican he faces on Election Day.
For his part, Shaw showed $115,885 received in his new report. He has now raised more than $1.15 million since entering the race early this year and had $676,795 in the bank on Aug. 3.
The Leon County School District suffered a bruising defeat this week when an appeal panel unanimously recommended the state overturn the county’s decision to block a new charter school from setting up shop in the county.
The Charter School Appeal Commission, composed evenly of traditional public and charter school representatives, recommended the State Board of Education reject the county board’s previous denial of Tallahassee Classical School. The proposed charter now has the green light to operate.
The School Board blocked the proposed charter earlier this year, fearing the school would further exacerbate the issue of segregated student populations in the county.
But the appellate panel found that the district did not provide enough substantial evidence to turn down Tallahassee Classical.
The county initially argued the proposed charter’s plans for student recruitment — particularly for enrolling students with disabilities and getting a student body representative of the district’s demographics — along with its tentative transportation plan were not suitable.
But the panel unanimously agreed that each concern raised by the county was not well-founded, essentially determining the school board’s concerns were baseless. Tallahassee Classical has contended that the board blocked the school for political reasons.
In a brief interview after the hearing, Leon Superintendent RockyHanna told Florida Politics the district’s initial rejection of Tallahassee Classical likely raised awareness of the issue of segregation, if nothing else.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t fighting for traditional public schools, and I always will,” Hanna said. Adding that if — or when — the school begins operating in the county, he said the district will “welcome (it) into our community.”
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, MichaelMoline and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State seeks to substantiate ‘hacking’ claim — After Democratic U.S. Sen. BillNelson told reporters this week that Russian operatives have “penetrated” election systems in Florida, Secretary of State KenDetzner penned a letter to Sen. RichardBurr, chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, requesting knowledge of the alleged hackings. Nelson, when speaking with a Tampa Bay Times reporter, said his knowledge of the hacks stemmed from the committee. In the letter, Detzner wrote that the state has no current information supporting Nelson’s claim. Counties this week finalized submissions requesting federal election security grants to beef up election systems. The awards were approved by the state Joint Legislative Budget Commission and Gov. RickScott in July.
Judge strikes parts of pot law — A Tallahassee judge ruled this week that major provisions in a 2017 law implementing medical marijuana are unconstitutional. Leon County Circuit Judge CharlesDodson struck the law’s following requirements: Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers grow, process and sell own marijuana; limits on the number of marijuana providers that can be licensed by the state; and special categories of licenses. The challenge, raised by Florigrown, a company that was denied the chance to become a treatment center, sought a request for a temporary injunction, although that was denied. “The denial of the request for a temporary injunction will allow the department to continue to work to implement the law so Floridians can have safe access to this medicine,” said Department of Health spokesman BradDalton. State Sen. RobBradley, the budget chief and chief architect of the law, said, “I’m confident that our appellate courts will uphold (its) constitutionality.”
Supreme Court to weigh dog racing ban — The Supreme Court unanimously agreed to consider whether a proposed amendment to end greyhound racing can appear on the ballot in November. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys opposing the ban, argues the proposal, known as Amendment 13, should be kept off the ballot because it would be misleading to voters. In July, a Tallahassee judge sided with the attorneys. The state appealed the lower court ruling last week, and both parties requested an appellate court allow the case to ‘pass through’ to Supreme Court consideration, noting that time was of the essence: Mail-in ballots must, by law, be sent to voters by Sept. 22. An appellate court agreed this week to allow the Supreme Court to take up the case, and the high court accepted it a day later. Justices have scheduled arguments for Aug. 29.
Early voting ballots mount — Just more than half a million Floridians already have voted ahead of the Aug. 28 primary election, and Republicans appear to be leading the pack. Of the 510,155 ballots returned by Friday morning, 238,051 came from registered Republicans, with Democrats returning 198,631, according to data published by the state Division of Elections. Independent voters returned 71,507 as of the same date and voters belonging to other parties sent back 1,966 ballots. In total, 925,192 have been mailed out to Democrats, 836,223 to Republicans, 446,124 to independents and 9,965 to third-party voters.
‘Stand Your Ground’ session fails — A Democratic push to reconvene the Legislature to workshop Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law fell short this week after not gaining enough support between members of the state House and Senate. The call for a special session was sparked by the shooting death of MarkeisMcGlockton in the parking lot of a Clearwater convenience store. Pinellas County law enforcement did not pursue charges against the shooter, saying he acted within the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. Democratic members called for lawmakers to be polled on whether they should return to Tallahassee to revisit the controversial law. Although lawmakers had until noon Friday to vote on the special session, it became clear that the three-fifths support threshold could not be met Thursday. Republicans overwhelmingly opted not to return to the capital city. Between the state House and Senate, 77 members voted against the idea, with 48 voting in support. Thirty-one members did not respond to the poll, nor confirm receipt, according to data recorded by the Florida Department of State.
Scott tours algae-plagued area; offers more aid
Gov. Scott toured the St. Lucie River Friday, following-up immediately afterward by announcing an additional $700,000 is coming to help Martin County handle an ongoing toxic algae outbreak.
According to the Governor’s office, that money is coming from a $3 million grant approved after he declared a state emergency over the algae crisis in July.
Scott was joined on his tour by retiring state Senate President JoeNegron, of Stuart. Last month, the Governor toured the algae-affected Caloosahatchee River on the west coast of the state.
Earlier this week, Scott announced an additional $400,000 would be heading to Lee County to clean up impacts related to red tide, for $1.1 million in grant funding.
“I am using my executive authority to provide additional funding to allow communities in Lee County to better clean our waterways,” Scott said in announcing the money for Lee. “We will continue to implement real solutions to help our local communities deal with both the algal issues caused by federal water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and this year’s red tide bloom. I encourage more local governments to apply for this important funding.”
New state land honors veterans
Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam is expressing the state’s gratitude toward wounded vets with a large chunk of state land that will bear the name “Purple Heart Tract.”
Putnam made the announcement Tuesday, which was National Purple Heart Day. The tract is a 4,500-acre portion of the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest.
“As Americans, the brave men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces have secured our freedom and liberty,” Putnam said.
“More than 1.9 million service members have been wounded or died defending our country, and this Purple Heart Tract is one way we can appreciate our nation’s heroes and honor them in perpetuity.”
The tract is designated as part of the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s trail program. Established in 1992, the program seeks to honor award recipients with transportation routes and monuments.
The news accompanied Putnam’s hosting of the second-annual Operation Outdoor Freedom Purple Heart Day event at Camp Prairie. The camp provides “guided hunts, fishing trips, canoe tours and other outdoor recreational activities free of charge.”
Scam targets Florida Blue customers
Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis is warning Floridians of a current telemarketing scam that appears to be disproportionately targeting seniors covered under Florida Blue.
According to a news release, Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers nationally have filed several complaints about scammers peddling “experimental pain relief cream” instead of pain medication.
The callers are allegedly prompting consumers to hand over information about their identity. In some cases, the scammers also are attempting to fraudulently charge Blue Cross and Blue Shield for their “bogus” creams, according to Patronis’ office.
“Florida residents are most likely to report being the target of fraud and identity theft,” Patronis said in a statement. “Anyone that provides prescription medication to you without a medical doctor directly involved in your personal care is committing fraud.
“Preying on seniors and some of our most vulnerable population is shameful, and we must do everything possible to warn Floridians about this scam.”
The state Constitution Revision Commission this spring decided to put a proposal on the November ballot that would impose eight-year term limits on school-board members and would require the Legislature to take steps to better promote civic literacy in schools.
Sounds simple enough.
But next week, Tallahassee Circuit Judge JohnCooper will hear arguments about whether he should block the proposal, known as Amendment 8, from going on the ballot because of a dispute about another part of the measure.
The League of Women Voters of Florida filed a lawsuit seeking to block Amendment 8. The group contends ballot language doesn’t adequately inform voters that one part of the proposed constitutional amendment is designed to open the door to more charter schools in the state.
The growth of charter schools, which are public schools typically operated by private groups or companies, has spawned numerous political and legal battles in recent years.
But Constitution Revision Commission member ErikaDonalds, a Collier County school board member, defended the proposal during a debate in April. She said the revision would allow the Legislature to offer more educational choices, such as charter schools, to students and their families.
“The Legislature should not be encumbered by unfair and antiquated constitutional language that has been used to block parental choice and protect the education monopoly,” she said.
Cooper is scheduled to hear arguments on Friday.
School lunch guidelines announced
Income eligibility standards for free and discounted school lunches for the upcoming school year have been released.
Announced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services this week, the federal income guidelines apply to the entire country and are valid until June 30, 2019.
The matrix is ordered by income and household size. For example, to be eligible for reduced-price school meals, a household of four could not have a yearly income of more than $46,435. For free meals, the same size household’s income cannot exceed $32,630.
According to FDACS, each school should have a copy available to go over with interested parties. The guidelines also can be found here.
State encourages Floridians to review coverage — before it’s too late
Florida Insurance Commissioner DavidAltmaier and CFO Patronis are reminding citizens to double-check their insurance policies as the peak of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season approaches.
“We are almost 30 days from the one-year mark since Irma, and this should serve as a reminder that flood policies typically take 30 days to take effect,” Patronis said. “Now is the time to review your current insurance policy and get flood insurance if you don’t have it.
“Remember, flooding isn’t just a coastal concern but a statewide issue.”
Patronis has been working with OIR to expand private flood insurance. Between June 2017 and March, eligible private flood insurance providers in Florida increased from 20 to 26, a 30 percent jump from the previous reporting period, according to OIR.
Saying “complacency is not an option,” Altmaier advised: “Floridians must review their insurance policies, understand their coverages, and make the necessary adjustments to ensure they are adequately covered.”
State recognizes Main Street Bartow
Secretary of State KenDetzner announced this week that Main Street Bartow in Polk County is the August 2018 Florida Main Street Community of the Month.
The Florida Main Street Program, administered by the Division of Historical Resources under the Florida Department of State, encourages economic development via historic preservation initiatives that facilitate the revitalization of Florida’s downtowns.
Communities that participate in the program are eligible to receive the designation, which recognizes development achievements.
“Main Street Bartow is an exemplary program,” said Secretary Detzner. “With one of the longest standing Main Street programs in Florida, downtown Bartow continues to thrive with constant growth, investment and additional businesses moving to the area.”
“There is a lot happening in our downtown,” said Bartow Main Street Executive Director LindaHolcomb. “More new businesses have moved in recently, and several are in the process. We have also seen an increase in attendance at our downtown events.”
Teacher rally set for next Sunday
As K-12 educators across the state gear up for incoming students, two South Florida lawmakers will host them and interested parties at the Red for Education Teacher Rally Aug. 19, the Sunday before the first day of the 2018-2019 school year in Miami-Dade County.
Announced in June by Rep. ShevrinJones, a West Park Democrat, and Miami Democratic Rep. NicholasDuran, the rally is set to take place at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center in Miami Gardens.
A number of politicians are expected to attend, including all five Democratic candidates for governor: GwenGraham, JeffGreene, AndrewGillum, ChrisKing and PhilipLevine.
In announcing the event in June, Rep. Duran said: “In our fight to improve Florida’s education system, it is essential that we provide a venue where teachers, students, parents, and the rest of the community can gather together to request better efforts to ensure our public schools are equipped with the adequate resources to provide high-quality education for all our children.” \
“Our schools are being starved out by these poorly thought out mandates and dangerous funding levels,” said Rep. Jones. “We will not continue to tolerate this blatant disregard for the growing needs of Florida’s schools.”
Howard to lead FMA
The Florida Medical Association has installed Dr. CoreyL. Howard as its 142nd president.
Howard, the founder of Howard Health & Wellness in Naples, has been active in leadership at FMA since 2007. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and is board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology.
“We congratulate Dr. Howard as he takes the helm as President of the Florida Medical Association,” said FMA CEO TimothyJ. Stapleton. “His strong leadership and demonstrated advocacy for our physicians, patients and issues will further strengthen the FMA as Florida’s premier voice of medicine.”
FMA, which acts as the advocacy arm for physicians and medical professionals in the Sunshine State, boasts “more than 22,000 members on issues of legislation and regulatory affairs, medical economics and education, public health, and ethical and legal issues,” according to its website.
Howard officially assumed the presidential post last week during FMA’s annual meeting at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. Dr. Ronald F. Giffler is president-elect and will assume Howard’s position next year.
Reminder: Crab trap closures underway
The first of two scheduled 10-day blue crab trap closures in August began Friday.
That means recreational and commercial blue crab traps should be removed from specified state waters along Florida’s Atlantic coast.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, those waters include “Brevard through Palm Beach counties from Aug. 10-19, and from all state waters from the Georgia-Florida line through Volusia County Aug. 20-29.”
The St. Johns River system waters are excluded in both of these closures.
FWC conducts these closures to “identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water,” according to the agency. Closure lengths are subject to change.
Lost or abandoned crab traps are dangerous to underwater ecosystems because they can continue to trap — and kill — fish and crabs when gone unchecked. They can also damage habitats and interfere with boating traffic. While the closures are ongoing, fisherman can still collect crabs “with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps,” according to FWC.
FSU Student Bar wins top award
For the seventh time since 2008 and the second consecutive year, the Florida State University College of Law Student Bar Association (SBA) received the National Achievement Award from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Law Student Division.
The award, honoring the best SBA in the nation, is also known as the SBA of the Year Award and was presented at the ABA annual meeting in Chicago.
“It recognizes the efforts of an SBA organization to create a better environment for law students and a more positive image of the legal profession,” a news release said. “Top law schools from around the nation competed for the award.”
During the 2017-2018 academic year, SBA’s programming included a Mental Health Week, a Diversity Week and a panel discussion on alcohol awareness to provide information on resources available to law students and lawyers.
Students were also able to network with attorneys and judges and to give back to the community through SBA events, such as the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, raising more than $1,600 to benefit the American Cancer Society.
“We are thrilled that the work of our Student Bar Association has again been recognized at the national level,” said Dean Erin O’Connor.
Social media campaign honors lineworkers
To celebrate Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day (Aug. 26), the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) and Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) will recognize lineworkers from around the state this month in a new social media campaign called “Celebrating our Hometown Heroes.”
Photos and biographical information about lineworkers from Florida’s 34 public power communities will be featured on both organizations’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the campaign by sharing the “Celebrating our Hometown Heroes” graphics, creating their own social media posts about their experiences with lineworkers and using the hashtags #ThankALineman, #LineLife and #LineworkerAppreciationDay.
“Lineworkers are the front lines of reliability,” said JacobWilliams, FMPA General Manager and CEO. “The work they do requires incredible skill, focus and commitment to safety. We created this campaign to show how much we appreciate the work they do.”
Public power lineworkers not only serve their own communities but have volunteered to serve others across the state and country.
“Hurricane Maria was incredibly destructive, leaving Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands almost completely without power for months,” said AmyZubaly, FMEA Executive Director.
“Our lineworkers immediately answered the call for help, traveling to the Caribbean to assist, many of whom stayed for months at a time and were away from their families during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s this kind of selflessness and sense of duty that our lineworkers exhibit every day on the job.”
Call before you dig
Happy National 811 Day! On Aug. 11, regulators at the Florida Public Service Commission are reminding everyone to call 8-1-1 before digging any holes in the ground, to avoid damaging buried power or gas lines.
More than 20 million miles of utility lines are buried underground nationally, and digs can cause damage practically everywhere, ranging from backyards to major construction sites, PSC Chairman Art Graham warned.
In fact, it happens every six minutes.
“Calling 811 has the potential to reduce frustrating service outages while saving time, money, and, most importantly, lives,” Graham said. “No matter how large or small the project, we urge you to call 8-1-1 first.”
Solar company wins PSC’s OK
A second solar energy company has won Public Service Commission approval to offer equipment leases to customers in Florida.
The commission concluded that Vivint Solar Developer LLC’s 20-year, fixed-payment, residential solar equipment lease does not constitute not a retail sale of electricity.
In other words, the company doesn’t qualify as a public utility, subject to PSC oversight.
“As solar becomes more affordable and therefore more attractive to residential customers, the PSC supports ways to continue to ‘prime the pump’ for renewable energy adoption,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said. “This (decision) helps provide more residential solar options for Florida’s ratepayers.”
Sunrun Inc. secured a similar PSC clearance in April.
Some content this week provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.
At a time when we can’t seem to agree on anything, there is still an issue that unites Democrats and Republicans: protecting dogs. We are proud to join the many community leaders across the state who support Amendment 13, a humane proposal to phase out greyhound racing.
As a state, we have a proud tradition of leading on animal welfare issues. Our first anti-cruelty law was adopted more than a century ago in 1889, but today we are lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to cruelty inflicted on greyhounds. Commercial dog racing is illegal in 40 states but continues at 11 racetracks across Florida.
At these racetracks, thousands of greyhounds endure lives of confinement, kept in rows of stacked metal cages. They are caged for 20 to 23 hours a day, with only carpet remnants or shredded paper for bedding. When let out of their cages to race, the dogs run the risk of serious injury and death. According to state records, 483 greyhounds have died at Florida tracks since officials began maintaining death data in 2013. These are young dogs that die unnecessarily for a money-losing industry that only exists because of a state mandate that other types of gambling must be coupled with dog racing.
Floridians have already voted with their pocketbooks, and clearly want greyhound racing to end. Gambling on dog races has fallen dramatically in recent years, and racetracks are collectively losing more than $30 million annually on this Depression-era relic. Taxpayers are also getting the short end of the stick. According to a report done for the legislature by Spectrum Gaming, the state is losing as much as $3.3 million annually on dog racing because regulatory costs exceed revenues.
Yet thousands of dogs continue to live in cages in this moribund industry. They die on the track and test positive for serious drugs, including cocaine, all so a handful of greyhound breeders can benefit from a state mandate that puts profits ahead of animal welfare.
This isn’t a complicated issue. Dogs are members of our families, and the racing industry treats greyhounds in a way we should never treat our best friends. Tolerating this cruelty not only causes harm to gentle greyhounds, it also reflects on us. We’re better than that, and it’s time for dog racing to be relegated to the history books.
One ray of hope is the diverse coalition fighting to help greyhounds. Amendment 13 has been endorsed by a vast cross-section of our state’s civic life, including animal welfare groups, animal shelters, animal rescue and adoption groups, veterinarians, dog clubs, current and former elected officials, candidates for office, editorial boards and news organizations, civic organizations, local businesses, environmental groups and churches. Every day, new community leaders join this chorus of support.
No other active issue is supported by the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, the Florida Federation of Republican Women, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Democratic State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.
Let’s celebrate this common ground by coming together to vote yes for the dogs on Amendment 13. With our vote, we can help thousands of greyhounds, and once again take the lead on animal welfare.
Jean Gonzalez Wingo is first vice president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women. Lisa Murano is secretary of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida.
Gov. RickScott and the Florida Cabinet are moving back a decision on hiring a new top financial regulator.
Scott and the Cabinet had been expected to make a pick during a meeting next week, but KristinOlson, Scott’s Cabinet aide, said Wednesday that the Governor’s Office continues to review applicants for the job of commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation — and another position as inspector general of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
“Our office needed more time to review those candidates, so they’ll be on the next Cabinet agenda,” Olson said.
The Cabinet meets only two more times this year after next Tuesday’s meeting: Sept. 11 and Dec. 4.
Scott and the Cabinet — Attorney General PamBondi, Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam and Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis — in June agreed to name Pam Epting as acting commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation and to reopen the application process after interviewing five applicants.
An additional 20 applications were submitted following the June meeting. Epting, who was deputy commissioner of the office, had her pay raised by $10,000 to $135,000 with the acting title.
She is not among the applicants to replace former Commissioner DrewBreakspear, who resigned under pressure from Patronis. He claimed there was a “lack of cooperation, responsiveness and communication” from the office under Breakspear.
Scott, Bondi and Putnam will leave their current offices in January, while Patronis is running in the November election to remain as CFO.
Putnam is running for governor, while Scott is running for U.S. Senate. Bondi can’t seek re-election due to term limits and isn’t seeking another office.
Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida