Rick Scott – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Rick Scott doles out $22 million from job growth grant fund

On a day when most of the attention of Florida political watchers is on the debate in the Florida House on school safety measures, Gov. Rick Scott rolled out $22 million from the Job Growth Grant Fund.

The $85 million fund has now dispersed $57 million.

“I’m proud to announce the nearly $22 million in awards for 11 Florida Job Growth Grant Fund projects across the state. The $85 million Florida Job Growth Grand Fund was established last year with the help of the Florida Legislature to help Florida aggressively fight to be the best destination for businesses to succeed. These projects will help meet infrastructure and workforce training needs across the state in order to promote economic development. These projects are also slated to add more than 18,600 jobs for Florida families. I look forward to the completion of these projects,” Scott asserted.

The biggest spend: $5.8 million to build the “NEO City Gateway Road” in Osceola County, connecting U.S. 192 to two roads into a 500 acre master planned technology district.

“Access to NeoCity is at the heart of this infrastructure project, and making it connected, functional and appealing is fundamental to its long-term success. Creating high-profile roadways that provide connections to our existing transportation network will have an immediate impact in attracting new partners to our project,” remarked Fred Hawkins Jr., Chairman of the Osceola Board of County Commissioners.

Pensacola also scored, via $4 million for airport infrastructure improvements. Mayor Ashton Hayward touted the money as “another win enhancing our global presence along the I-10 Aerospace Corridor.”

Additional spending to local and regional governments included $1.987 million to Marianna to extend the runway at Marianna Airport Commerce Park to 6,000 feet. Titusville got $1.06 million for a new water main in the southern industrial district. Volusia got $1,961 million to extend County Road 4009. And Sumter County got $838,000 for water infrastructure upgrades along County Road 470.

Broward College got $3.187 million for a workforce training program, which College President J. David Armstrong says “will be used to train workers and grow jobs in the skilled workforce areas of aviation, advanced manufacturing, and information technology.”

Other colleges came out ahead as well. St. Petersburg College got $1,596,858 to create the Mechatronics and Electromechanical Technician training program, billed as “an accelerated, innovative, responsive and competency-based technical workforce program that meets the advanced manufacturing industry’s skill requirements.”

Big Bend Technical College got $100,000 to open a Diesel Maintenance Technician Program and a Diesel System Technical 1 Program. Valencia College received $1,320,000 to start the Advanced Manufacturing and Distribution Logistics project. And Chipola College got $76,240 for new welding equipment.

St. Pete College awarded $1.6M state grant for technical workforce program

St. Petersburg College was one of 11 recipients of nearly $22 million in Florida Job Growth Grant Funds awarded Tuesday by Gov. Rick Scott.

SPC received more than $1.5 million for a new mechatronics training program, partnering with several regional businesses to meet demands for workers having automation and troubleshooting skills.

“This initiative is a prime example of the Governor’s vision and dedication to workforce programs that drive our state and local economies and the College’s commitment to collaborative, high-impact educational programs that strengthen our communities,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams.

The college officially received $1,596,858 to create the Mechatronics and Electromechanical Technician training program, which the Governor’s office called an “accelerated, innovative, responsive and competency-based technical workforce program that meets the advanced manufacturing industry’s skill requirements.”

The money is part of the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, established by Scott and the Legislature last year. It provides $85 million for improving the state’s public infrastructure and enhancing workforce training.

So far, 21 communities statewide have received more than $57 million from the Fund. 

“These projects are also slated to add more than 18,600 jobs for Florida families,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to the completion of these projects.”

Capitol reax: Nursing homes, first responders, arming teachers, busting unions

After going back and forth with similar bills, the Legislature cleared a proposal Monday that would require nursing homes to have backup generators on site to keep the air conditioning running during power outages.

The bill, HB 7099, is a priority of Gov. Rick Scott, who issued a similar requirement via an emergency rule following a dozen heat-related deaths at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma.

Upon the bill’s passage, Florida Health Care Association Executive Director Emmett Reed issued the following statement:

“FHCA applauds Florida lawmakers for passing legislation that prioritizes the care and comfort of the residents in our state’s nursing homes. The Legislature’s ratification of the nursing home generator rule is another important step to ensuring Florida remains a leader when it comes to taking care of our seniors, especially during disasters. We appreciate the Legislature, Governor Scott and the Agency for Health Care Administration for allowing us to be part of the discussion and considering our recommendations as this rule was developed. Our priority has always been to strengthen emergency procedures so the focus remains on the well-being of residents and the emergency planning that ensures their safety. We look forward to the Governor signing this legislation into law.”

Also on Monday, lawmakers sent a bill that would expand workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who suffer job-related post-traumatic stress disorder to Scott’s desk.

A spokesman said the governor will “review the legislation” when received, but would not commit to Scott’s approval. If CFO Jimmy Patronis has any sway, however, SB 376 will get Scott’s signature.

Patronis said the following after the bill cleared both chambers with unanimous votes:

“From day one this has been a life or death issue. Our firefighters are attempting suicide at a rate FIVE TIMES HIGHER than the general population, and they are thinking about suicide at a rate NINE TIMES HIGHER than the general population. We’ve heard horrific stories about loss of life, and the impact tragedy has on our first responders and their families.

“First responders show up for us every day, without hesitation or questioning our politics, and today Florida showed up for them. Last year four states, including Texas, increased mental health benefits for first responders. I’m proud we can now add Florida to that list.

“To those who refused to support this measure from the beginning: we got it done without you.

“Thank you to Senate President Joe Negron, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Lauren Book, Rep. Matt Willhite, and all of the co-sponsors in both chambers.”

By early evening, the final vote hadn’t come down for the school safety package pieced together in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, but the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence put out a final statement against certain provisions in the bill.

One such measure – the arming of teachers – was watered down in the Senate bill Monday afternoon.

Coalition co-chairs Patricia Brigham and Andy Pelosi, as well as League of Women Voters of Florida President Pamela Goodman, put out the following statement ahead the vote Monday evening:

“As the Senate is poised to vote on SB 7026 (School Safety Bill), we remain opposed to any policy that will arm administrators, teachers, or staff as a way to defend against a mass shooting. While SB 7026 does contain certain important provisions, arming people in our schools that are not School Resource Officers (SROs), whose ONLY job is to protect the school, will not properly protect our schools and will ultimately cost more money in the long run.

“We call on the Senate to strip any plan that will arm administrators, teachers, or staff before sending a bill to the House. If the Senate fails to act as we have outlined, we call on the House to fully debate SB 7026 and fully remove provisions arming teachers, administrators, or staff.

“The issues are too grave and the stakes too high not to fully debate all issues related to school safety in Florida.”

The other K-12 package moving through the Legislature Monday was House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s favored bill, HB 7055. It got approval from the Senate with a 20-17 vote, and the House sent it to the Governor’s desk with a 74-39 vote.

While many teachers have negative things to say about the “union-busting” provisions in the bill, its passage earned praise from Americans for Prosperity-Florida. AFP-FL Director Chris Hudson put out the following statement Monday:

“This bill is a win-win. It stands up for the rights of teachers who don’t want their money going to a union they don’t support and provides Florida’s kids with a better education options. We commend the Senate for passing this bill, and hope the House send it to the Governor for his signature as soon as possible.

“Our activists have worked tirelessly to engage with citizens and lawmakers about the importance of passing these measures into law. Their hard work every session continues to inspire positive outcomes throughout our legislative process.”

House, Senate sign off on nursing home generators

Nursing homes will be required to have generators and 72-hour fuel supplies onsite by July 1, under a rule issued by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration and approved Monday by the Legislature.

The House unanimously approved a measure (HB 7099) that ratified the rule, and the Senate followed suit later in the day.

The chambers still differ, though, on whether to impose similar backup power mandates on assisted living facilities, which were included in a different rule. Ratifying the pair of rules has been a top priority for Scott’s administration during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Our position has not changed — assisted living facilities need to be included,” said Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for the Governor, adding that “we are continuing to work with the Florida Legislature to make sure this gets done.”

The rule requires nursing homes to have backup power capability and adequate fuel supplies to maintain safety systems and equipment needed to maintain indoor air temperatures for 96 hours after a loss of electricity. According to the state, the rule will increase costs by more than $121 million in the next five years.

The Agency for Health Care Administration issued the rule after earlier imposing emergency rules that drew concerns from health-care facilities. The rules followed the deaths of residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County after Hurricane Irma. The storm knocked out the nursing home’s air-conditioning system, which led to sweltering conditions.

The emergency rules were challenged by a trio of long-term care associations and were subsequently invalidated by a state administrative law judge.

The state appealed the decision and continued to enforce the emergency rules, and Schenone said, “hundreds” of nursing homes and ALFs are complying.

The permanent rule ratified Monday came after negotiations between the Scott administration and long-term care facilities. The permanent rule does not require generators to be installed, which opens the possibility of portable units.

Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of the industry group LeadingAge Florida, said the nursing-home rule puts in place what his association and others had worked on with the Scott administration and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior since Hurricane Irma. Bahmer, whose association successfully challenged the emergency rules, said he was pleased with the legislative ratification.

“It achieves the goal we have pursued since last fall — helping to ensure that seniors are safe during and after an emergency, while providing the flexibility that is necessary for it to be effective in a state as large as Florida,” Bahmer said in an email.

Bahmer, whose association also represents assisted living facilities, said he hopes the House has a change of heart about ratifying the ALF rule.

House Health & Human Services Chairman Travis Cummings, a Fleming Island Republican, has repeatedly said he has concerns with ratifying the ALF rule because of the costs and said his concerns were “shared by others.” The backup generator mandate is expected to increase regulatory costs for roughly 3,000 assisted living facilities by about $243 million over the next five years.

To abate the House’s concerns with the regulatory increases for ALFs, the Senate during budget negotiations suggested creating a program that would allow facilities to get upward of $1,000 from the state to help offset the costs.

With the annual Legislative Session scheduled to end Friday, long-term care providers remained hopeful Monday that the House will agree to ratify the ALF rule.

LeadingAge Florida’s Bahmer said the ALF rule “offers clarity for providers, which is important in terms of helping ensure that the rule can be consistently implemented across the state.”

Senate, House remain split on generator rules

With less than a week left in the Legislative Session, the Senate and House continued to have differences Monday about ratifying a pair of high-profile rules that are a priority of Gov. Rick Scott.

The Senate on Monday voted 37-0 to pass a bill (SB 7028) that would ratify a rule requiring assisted living facilities to have backup electrical generators that can help keep buildings cool. The rule is projected to cost roughly $243 million for the 3,000 assisted living facilities in the state to comply. The Senate, however, deferred action on a bill (SB 7030) that would ratify a similar generator rule for nursing homes.

The House, meanwhile, voted 113-0 to pass a bill (HB 7099) that would ratify the proposed nursing home rule. The House has not introduced legislation to ratify the rule for assisted living facilities because of concerns about the steep price tag.

The 60-day Legislative Session is scheduled to end Friday.

Scott’s administration initially issued backup-power requirements through an emergency rule following the deaths of residents at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a Broward County nursing home whose air-conditioning system was knocked out by Hurricane Irma.

Lawmakers reject money for clemency backlog

Despite a federal court ruling that Florida’s clemency process is unconstitutional, state lawmakers refused Sunday to provide funding to address a backlog of former felons seeking to have voting rights restored.

After House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo and Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley reached the agreement, members of the Legislature’s black caucus objected and said they would continue to press the issue with legislative leaders.

“I’m very concerned,” said Sen. Darryl Rouson citing the federal court ruling last month that found Florida’s process for restoring voting and other civil rights to ex-felons was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

The clemency review process, which is administered by the Florida Commission on Offender Review, had a backlog of 10,377 cases as of Oct. 1. Applications, under state policy, cannot be filed until five to seven years after a felon has served his or her sentence, including completing terms of probation and restitution.

Once an application is filed, it can take years for it to be processed, with one application, as of last October, pending for more than nine years.

Rouson has been a major proponent of finding more money for the Commission on Offender Review to hire temporary workers who could help speed up background investigations and allow more applications for clemency to be processed.

“This money would help get hearings and decisions for people and unlock and unjam the backlog,” Rouson said.

Sen. Audrey Gibson also urged legislative leaders to support some additional funding for the clemency reviews, saying it would “help people get their lives back to normal and being productive citizens in their communities.”

The Senate began negotiations with the House by offering $750,000 in additional funding for the clemency reviews. It reduced the offer to $250,000 on Friday. But the House never budged from its position of no additional funding.

After agreeing with the House position, Bradley said the concerns raised by Rouson and Gibson will be taken “under advisement,” meaning it may ultimately be up to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to settle the issue.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued the ruling about the clemency process on Feb. 1, focusing on the arbitrariness of the system and saying it violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, however, has defended the system, and it remains unclear how Walker might order the process to change.

House and Senate leaders are negotiating numerous budget issues as they try to finalize a spending plan in time to end the Legislative Session Friday. The budget will take effect July 1.

In another Sunday agreement, lawmakers agreed to spend $14.4 million in 2018-2019 on treating prisoners with hepatitis C, an infectious disease that may be impacting as many as one out of every five state prisoners.

Previously, lawmakers agreed to spend another $21 million this year fighting the disease in the prison system. Treatment can cost as much as $37,000 for a 12-week regimen.

The infectious-disease funding is one of several costly prison initiatives, which are expected to total roughly $100 million in the new budget, where state officials are responding to court settlements over the treatment of prisoners for mental health, diseases and disabilities.

On Sunday, the House backed off its opposition to spending $7.5 million on Vivitrol, a treatment that helps people in community-based programs deal with opioid and alcohol addictions. The money is part of the state court-system budget.

In addition, lawmakers agreed to spend $250,000 in the state courts’ budget on developing a texting system that would provide court-appearance alerts and other court-related information to people with court cases.

House and Senate members also continued the process of eliminating budget projects, which they predicted would happen as lawmakers scramble to find $400 million for a school-safety package, following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Parkland high school.

As a sign of the scope of the cuts, Trujillo and Bradley agreed to eliminate $400,000 for the renovation of the Gilchrist County jail, which is in Bradley’s sprawling North Florida district.

However, lawmakers agreed on spending $4.3 million on the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Research and Education, a forensic research and training facility in Pasco County. The project, which received more than $4 million last year as part of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement budget, is important to Corcoran, the House speaker, and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who is in line to become Senate president after the 2020 elections.

Hurricane housing programs axed from budget

State funding is absent for affordable housing programs tailored to those affected by last year’s hurricanes.

The reason? Unforeseen constraints created by a high-profile $400 million school safety and mental health proposal designed to prevent another school shooting.

Budget chiefs Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Carlos Trujillo told Florida Politics on Saturday evening that the Legislature’s budget will not fund the Hurricane Housing Recovery Program (HHRP) and the Rental Recovery Loan Program (RRLP). Instead, dollars dedicated to affordable housing will go to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL).

“We have limited funds,” Bradley said. “Post-Parkland, everybody is taking a haircut. We agreed that SHIP and SAIL are going to be our focus when it comes to affordable housing.”

The cut to HHRP and LLRP walks back on the intentions of the House and Senate when they first passed their budgets — which happened weeks before the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In its chamber-backed spending plan, the House appropriated $45 million and $64 million for HHRP and LLRP, respectively. The House initially did not fund SHIP and SAIL, instead sweeping $182 million from the affordable housing funding source, known as the Sadowski Trust.

The Senate had prioritized funding this year for all four affordable housing programs. Its first budget appropriated $30 million to HHRP and $60 million to LLRP, along with a little more than $104 million each to SHIP and SAIL. The Senate’s first spending plan did not propose any Sadowski sweeps.

The Legislature now intends to dole out just $109 million on affordable housing through SHIP and SAIL. The Sadowski Trust is expected to have an estimated $308 million to $322 million for the upcoming fiscal year. Close to $200 million from the trust will be spent on other projects.

HHRP and LLRP were spawned in the Legislature following the 2004 Hurricane season, when Gov. Jeb Bush and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings requested $98 million for HHRP and $177 million for RRLP.

The two programs mimicked SHIP and SAIL, but specified that the money be spent on projects to house those who lost their homes in hurricanes. Both were never codified by statutes and eventually were removed from the budget.

Rep. Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican, filed HB 987 this Session to breathe life back into the hurricane housing programs. The popular measure passed the House last week. A similar bill (SB 1328) is up for consideration in the Senate and had widespread support in committees.

The bills include a reactivating clause, meaning the programs could be funded when future hurricanes hit the state. According to Trujillo, that provision can still be signed into law — even if the hurricane housing programs aren’t funded this year. 

Gov. Rick Scott asked the Legislature in November to appropriate $65 million to HHRP and $25 to RRLP as part of a $100 million Hurricane Irma affordable housing relief package

But again, that was before Parkland.

The Legislature’s budget will be finalized Tuesday for a vote on Friday.

Post-Parkland Senate bill primed for floor vote

The Florida Senate took the better part of eight hours during a rare Saturday session to work through 128 amendments — only one of which passed the floor — on a single bill.

And even with the amendment’s approval, partisan spirits haven’t changed on the proposal designed to address issues unearthed in the wake of the recent school shooting in Broward County.

Dubbed the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” or SB 7026, the sweeping proposal provides for stricter gun control laws, including a three-day waiting period to buy any firearm, and a new age limit — 21 (up from 18) —  for firearms purchases, along with an all-out ban on bump stocks.

It also creates a commission to make recommendations on school safety and invests millions in mental-health and school safety initiatives, which include a program that would train and arm teachers on a voluntary basis.

Of course, not everyone is happy.

Democrats, along with Parkland survivors and victims’ families have criticized the proposal for its lack of an assault-weapons ban. The charged Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was equipped with an assault rifle when he killed 17 people at the school on Feb. 14. Gov. Rick Scott also has come out strongly against the idea of arming teachers.

These points of criticism set the stage for the Senate’s eight-hour floor session on Saturday. Members of both parties filed hundreds of amendments, withdrawing some and heavily debating others. Arguments over an outright ban on assault weapons took an entire hour in the chamber. Other Democratic-backed amendments lent to lengthy discussions, but the Senate refrained from adopting anything that would fundamentally change the legislation. 

At one point, Democrats experienced something particularly Sisyphean. Senate President Joe Negron had approved through a voice vote the adoption of an amendment providing a two-year moratorium on assault weapons sales. After a few minutes, a motion to reconsider brought the language to a failing board vote.

Pro-gun Republicans filed their fair share of amendments, too.

Sen. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs argued for an amendment that would’ve changed the firearms age requirement to only apply to assault weapons sales. In other words, the age limit for purchasing rifles would remain at its current level, 18. 

“It’s a rational solution to a significant problem,” Simmons said. He said he feared that raising the age limit on gun purchases could bring constitutional challenges in court.

Galvano, who sponsored the strike-all amendment approved by the chamber on Saturday, often had to explain to members that law enforcement would iron out the details of the plan to arm teachers. At one point it was asked whether teachers would be able to carry assault rifles and display them in classrooms, to which Galvano said would be up to the sheriff’s design of the plan.

“The sheriffs will describe the protocols,” Galvano said. Referencing the possibility of teachers having assault rifles, he added: “That’s, in my opinion, a far-fetched hypothetical.” He said someone from the Office of School Safety likely would not approve such a policy, as they can exert judgment on program designs.

The Senate will vote on SB 7026 on Monday. 

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Ethics reform in peril

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott urged to veto crisis pregnancy center bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cabinet considering $660K conservation plan for Spanish mission site

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

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

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

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

The week in appointments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FWC law enforcement division reaccredited

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

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

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

Florida Wildlife Commission director Eric Sutton.

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

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

Florida Lottery celebrates 30 years

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

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

Florida Lottery marks three decades of cash prizes.

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

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

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

Reinsurance surcharge repeal advances in Senate

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

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

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

Senate celebrates Military Appreciation and National Guard Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coastal management bill clears Senate

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

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

Dorothy Hukill is pushing coastal preservation. 

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

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

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

Loomis named FTC member of the year

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

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

Florida Technology Council Member of the Year Cyndy Loomis.

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

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

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

Applications open for AmeriCorps funding

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

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

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

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

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

Detzner announces March of Museums round two

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram of the Week

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

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

Here are the highlights:

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

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

— Number of men’s items collected: 743.

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

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

— Number of participating organizations that collected clothing: 26.

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

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

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

Capitol halls lined with Florida student art

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tallahassee airport aces FAA inspection

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

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

Tallahassee International is aces with the FAA.

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

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

Now for Capitol Directions:

Democrats’ Orlando billboard proclaims ‘Rick Scott did nothing’ after Pulse

Democrats have launched billboards in Orlando and Tallahassee that declare that Gov. Rick Scott did nothing to address gun safety following the June 12, 2016, Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

The Florida Democratic Party has leased two billboards, and the one in Orlando went live Friday. The message charges that the Republican governor’s commitment to addressing gun violence since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lacked in the days following the Pulse mass shooting.

Specifically, the 612 days that transpired between the two tragedies.

The Democrats’ message is one of several in rotation on that particular digital billboard in Orlando. It cites an editorial published in the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida and presents this message to drivers heading westbound on Colonial Drive toward downtown Orlando:



–The Sun Sentinel”

The billboard faces the route downtown from one of Orlando’s largest Hispanic communities, Azalea Park. Many of the 49 people murdered at Pulse were Hispanic as the mass murder occurred during the popular nightclub’s Latino night. That east-side community was particularly hard hit.

The Tallahassee billboard will go up at Magnolia Road and Mahan Drive, facing inbound traffic, and go live on Sunday.

“Rick Scott’s long record of opposing common-sense gun safety measures shows exactly who he is: a self-serving politician who says one thing and does the opposite — while Floridians pay the price,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Penalosa said in a news release announcing the billboards.

“He broke his promise and did nothing to make Floridians safer from gun violence after the Pulse tragedy because he was more concerned about looking out for his political interests and the agenda of his gun lobby backers. Now he’s ignoring the clear calls from Parkland students and gun safety advocates by refusing to back an assault weapons ban.“

The Sun-Sentinel editorial that the billboard cited criticized Scott and President Donald Trump‘s responses to the Parkland shooting, as well as Scott for refusing to consider a ban on assault weapons in the wake of the Pulse shooting.

It didn’t explicitly refer to the period between Pulse and Parkland or enumerate the days.

The editorial stated: “After Sandy Hook, Pulse, the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting or any other mass shooting, Scott did nothing on guns or school safety.”

Scott’s office responded Friday with the following statement: “Following the terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, Governor Scott proposed and took action on ways to make our state safer against threats of terrorism. The Governor proposed and then signed $5.8 million for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to add 46 counterterrorism agents to the Terrorism Task Forces. This year, the Governor also proposed $1.3 million to the FDLE for incident command vehicles and emergency ordinance disposal vehicles to strengthen counterterrorism and intelligence efforts.”

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