After a puppy was beaten to death in Volusia County earlier this year, the fight to give animal abusers harsher penalties is gaining momentum at the state Capitol.
And if passed, those who are convicted could be banned from owning or contacting animals.
It all began in April when neighbors heard a racket coming from inside a Ponce Inlet home, where Travis Archer, the owner of Ponce, a black 9-month-old Labrador retriever, lived.
Upon entering the home, police found the dog dead in the backyard. According to a Daytona Beach News-Journal report, Archer said the dog “tore up his house” and that he had hit it several times to discipline it.
Travis was charged with animal cruelty, which means he technically could face up to five years in prison if convicted. But because he has no prior convictions, there is no mandated prison time under the current law.
The case sparked outrage locally, prompting animal rights advocates to push for more severe sanctions that would make it more likely for animal abusers to serve time behind bars. This week the push for that began at the state level with a bill (HB 473) filed by Rep. Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican.
While the proposal, called “Ponce’s Law,” would make it more likely for those convicted of animal abuse to serve time, it still does not guarantee it. It will all depend on the person’s criminal background and a judge’s discretion. Under the bill, judges would be allowed to use their discretion to determine whether someone found guilty of these crimes should be banned from owning or even coming into contact with an animal.
It’s hard to imagine banning a convicted animal abuser from a dog park, but that could be the result.
“The horrific event that took place in Ponce Inlet will remain a somber reminder of the evil inflicted upon animals across our state,” Leek said in a statement.
The effort is being spearheaded by Ponce Inlet’s Chief of Police Frank Fabrizio, the ASPCA, the Halifax Humane Society in Volusia County and Debbie Darino, who launched a “Justice for Ponce” petition proposing an amendment to current state animal cruelty laws. The petition garnered nearly 75,000 signatures.
Darino is also the founder of a closed Facebook page, Justice for Ponce. If the posts on Facebook are any indication, people should expect colorful banners with Ponce’s face and the hashtag #DogsLivesMatter to pop up as the measure moves ahead.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim Rosica, Ana Ceballos, Andrew Wilson, Scott Powers, Danny McAuliffe and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Scott teases budget details — Gov. Rick Scott didn’t debut a state budget this week as he usually does at the annual Associated Press Legislative Session planning session. But he did release some details, such as $1.7 billion in requested environmental funding, including $355 million for the Everglades, $100 million for beach restoration, and $50 million for state parks. He also wants $50 million for repairs to the dike at Lake Okeechobee. And he’ll build in $10 million for additional Department of Children and Families abuse investigators and $198 million for statewide adoption subsidies.
Latvala warns of austerity — Contra Scott, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala told the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists this week said it was going to be a very tough budget year for a whole host of spending categories. The Clearwater Republican went as far as saying his fellow Senators should think twice before filing spending requests if they’ve been vetoed before in the last three years. Lawmakers also shouldn’t try tucking projects in university funding, as that is where “suspicious stuff” has been found, he added. Funding toward Hurricane Irma repairs or storm-hardening projects will fare much better, he advised.
Negron plays defense — In the wake of a sex scandal that rattled the state Capitol involving Senator Jeff Clemens and his extramarital affair with a lobbyist, Senate President Joe Negron defended the process in which sexual harassment complaints are reported in the Senate. He spoke at this week’s AP Day. While Negron reiterated there is “zero tolerance” for misconduct or sexual harassment in the Senate and that he has seen very “respectful treatment” among staff members, a recent policy change in the Senate came under fire. The policy adjustment sought to change how sexual harassment is reported in the chamber and some scrutinized it because it would have made it harder to file complaints.
John Morgan’s pot “poll” — Trial lawyer, outspoken medical marijuana advocate and potential gubernatorial candidate John Morgan played agent provocateur on Twitter this week. In a rapid series of tweets fired at each of the major gubernatorial candidates, Morgan sought their public comment on their individual stance on the legalization of marijuana. They garnered a bit of engagement, allowing Morgan to draw attention to himself as he probed a gubernatorial field that now boasts four leading Democratic candidates and two major Republicans.
Voting amendment gains speed — The main backer of a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences says his group now has collected over 750,000 signatures. Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, also said Wednesday that he’s confident the amendment will have a million signatures by year’s end. The Division of Elections website showed over 300,000 signatures for citizen ballot initiative known as “The Voting Restoration Amendment.” Initiatives need 766,200 valid signatures for ballot placement.
Jimmy Patronis, Kionne McGhee co-host Miami Insurance Forum
Chief Financial Officer Patronis, a Republican, and state Rep. McGhee, a Democrat, will host a community insurance forum in Miami today.
DFS insurance specialists will join teams from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to assist Miami area residents with insurance concerns and complaints.
Residents can speak one-on-one with insurance specialists to gain assistance with the filing of Hurricane Irma insurance claims, help with pending claims, or general insurance advice. They can also file a complaint regarding an existing claim and report suspected insurance fraud.
The forum will be 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Bethel Church — Richmond Heights, 14440 Lincoln Boulevard, Miami. Participants are encouraged to bring copies of their insurance policies.
Adam Putnam announces leadership awards
Agriculture Commissioner Putnam this week recognized farmers and ranchers this week who use innovative technology and methods used in the state’s $130 billion agriculture industry.
This year’s recipients of the Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award were Brad and Meghan Austin and Dale and Cindy Eade of Cindale Farms in Marianna; Greg Davis of Speedling Incorporated in Ruskin; and Brittany Lee of Florida Blue Farm, Inc. in Waldo.
The annual award is meant to honor the state’s growers and ranched committed to preserving Florida’s resources which help provide agricultural products.
Denise Grimsley named Legislator of the Year
State Sen. Grimsley, a Lake Placid Republican, this week received the 2017 Florida Farm Bureau ‘Legislator of the Year’ award at the association’s annual meeting.
“As chair of the Senate Agriculture Community, I look forward to working this coming session with the Florida Farm Bureau to help our farming community recover the terrible damage wrought by Hurricane Irma,” Grimsley said in a statement.
“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, and it is my hope the Legislature will come together to support Florida farmers.”
She was given the award “for championing a variety of agriculture-related bills and appropriations during the 2017 Legislative Session, including funding for the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, support for the pollution notification law, support for overturning vetoes of funding for IFAS and 4-H, and her sponsorship of Senate Bill 600, which promotes economic opportunity in rural communities,” according to a release.
Sharon Pritchett holds hurricane workshop
State Rep. Pritchett, a Miami Gardens Democrat, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan are hosting a “Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery” workshop for constituents today.
“It’s critical for Floridians to be informed on the best practices to plan for and recover from storms” such as Hurricane Irma, Pritchett said in a release.
“I look forward to working with the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management and County Commissioner Jordan to ensure our constituents have the knowledge they need to be prepared for and take the necessary actions to recover from Irma.”
Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management will be on-site to help provide important hurricane information. A continental breakfast will also be provided.
The event is 9 a.m.— noon, Greater New Bethel Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 17025 NW 22nd Ave., Miami Gardens.
Daphne Campbell: Ease licensing for foreign docs
A bill filed by Miami Democratic Sen. Campbell this week looks to attack Florida’s physician shortage by making it easier for physicians trained abroad to set up shop in the Sunshine State.
“By 2025, the shortage of physicians in Florida is expected to grow to 7,000, according to the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida,” said Campbell. “We can either bury our heads in the sand, or tap into the rich availability of internationally trained physicians to shore up medical care for Florida’s growing number of senior residents.”
SB 636 would allow MDs trained abroad to get a limited license to practice medicine in Florida so long as the med school they attended is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools, they have three years experience and don’t have a legal or professional rap sheet.
“This legislation would broaden the pool of trained physicians available to dispense medical aid for the growing number of people who need their help,” Campbell said. “By tapping internationally-trained doctors, we not only stop the shortage of medical doctors from occurring, but we provide a pathway for these individuals to join our communities and contribute to Florida’s prosperity.”
The House companion bill was originally set to be sponsored by Daisy Baez, who resigned from office this week. Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz will sponsor the bill in her place.
Instagram of the Week
Ben Diamond wants discretion in sentencing
St. Pete Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond filed a bill this week that would give Florida judges a “safety valve” to bypass harsh mandatory minimum sentences in drug crime cases if they deem it appropriate.
“We need to bring smart reforms to our criminal justice system in Florida, and this bill is an important part of that effort,” Diamond said. “We are incarcerating an extraordinary number of people in this state for nonviolent drug offenses. Our prison population has exploded. We are spending millions of dollars to incarcerate people under our mandatory minimum sentencing laws. But these laws are not actually deterring the use or sale of drugs, or making our communities safer. It’s time we take a different approach to these problems.”
Judges wouldn’t be able to completely ditch the “mandatory” part of minimum sentencing laws unless they determine it’s a first-time drug crime, has nothing to do with a “criminal enterprise” and that they’re a nonviolent offender.
The proposal picked up some support across the aisle via fellow St. Petersburg lawmaker Jeff Brandes, a Republican, who has filed a similar measure in the Senate.
“If we are going to spend resources, let’s spend them in the right place,” Brandes told Florida Politics. “Many states are going in this direction because they can’t incarcerate their way to sobriety, what it proven is medically-assisted treatment with counseling.”
Diamond thanked Brandes for his “leadership and support” and said he was “proud to take a lead on this bipartisan effort to bring meaningful criminal justice reform to Florida.”
“By allowing our judges to have the discretion to impose an appropriate sentence for each case, we can save money and make our communities safer,” he said.
Bob Grammig elected Florida Chamber Board chair
Grammig, partner and leader of the firm-wide corporate, M&A and securities practice at the Holland & Knight law firm, this week was elected the 2017-18 chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.
His “leadership in Florida’s business community has been instrumental to ensuring a strong business climate for job creators,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber.
“Bob is an advocate for free-enterprise and believes a competitive workforce, and strong global ties will help ensure Florida’s diverse communities can unite under an integrated business agenda.”
Grammig has been with the Tampa office of Holland & Knight for over 35 years. He attended high school in Melbourne and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
He serves as a director of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and a member of the leadership committee of the Florida Chapter of the German American Chamber of Commerce. Grammig also was general counsel to the 2012 Host Committee for the Republican National Convention.
He replaces outgoing board chair Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners. Kitson’s term ended Oct. 31.
DCF requests additional resources in fed food program
The Department of Children and Families said this week that it has requested additional flexibility and resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture when it comes to administering the federal food program (DSNAP) in the state.
In response to Hurricane Irma, DCF has distributed more than $1.2 billion in federal disaster food assistance through the federal food program. As of Oct. 26, the department has processed more than 937,000 DSNAP applications, which is expected to help more than 7.2 million Floridians as they continue to recover from the storm.
“I’m proud of the effort our staff has made, with half of the agency contributing to this operation. These efforts will continue when we return to Miami-Dade and Broward counties next week to again serve families in these communities,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said.
DSNAP operations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been scheduled for Nov. 7-9.
The week in appointments
Four tapped for JNCs — Gov. Scott this week announced four appointments to four Judicial Nominating Commissions. When a judicial vacancy occurs that must be filled by appointment, a JNC “submit(s) three to six names of the most highly qualified applicants to the Governor, who must make a final selection from the list.”
Second District Court of Appeal Judicial Nomination Commission: Richard E. Fee, of Tampa, is the managing partner at Fee & Jeffries, P.A. He succeeds Thomas A. Dart and is appointed for a term ending July 1, 2020.
Fifth District Court of Appeal Judicial Nomination Commission: Paetra Brownlee, of Winter Park, is an attorney with Charles M. Greene, P.A. She succeeds Lee Schmudde and is appointed for a term ending July 1, 2019.
Second Circuit Judicial Nomination Commission: Peter Penrod, of Tallahassee, is the general counsel at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. He succeeds J. Andrew Atkinson and is appointed for a term ending July 1, 2020.
Sixth Circuit Judicial Nomination Commission: Lee L. Haas, of Clearwater, is a shareholder at Haas & Castillo, P.A. He succeeds Kim L. Kaszuba and is appointed for a term ending July 1, 2020.
Randall Reid reappointed to HCC board — Reid, 59, of Tampa, was reappointed to the Hillsborough Community College District Board of trustees.
He is vice president of business development for J.E. Dunn Construction. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Florida. Reid is reappointed for a term beginning Nov. 2 and ending May 31, 2021.
This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Sarah Dougherty named to Daytona State board — Scott tapped Dougherty, 40, of Edgewater, to the Daytona State College District board of trustees. Dougherty is the co-owner of Dougherty Manufacturing.
She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Elon University. Dougherty is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning Nov. 2 and ending May 31, 2021.
The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
David Rich named Gulf County commissioner — Scott announced Rich’s appointment to the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners.
The 45-year-old, of Wewahitchka, is the store manager of Rich’s IGA Supermarket, a family-owned business.
Rich is a former member of the board of directors of the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce and has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Florida State University.
He is appointed to fill the vacant seat previously held by the late Commissioner Freddie Whitfield for a term beginning Nov. 2 and ending Jan. 2, 2019.
Iris Gonzalez stays on FLVS board — The governor reappointed Gonzalez to the Florida Virtual School board of trustees.
Gonzalez, 41, of Tierra Verde, is the senior manager of state government affairs at Charter Communications. She previously served as the director of multicultural relations for the Bright House Network.
Gonzalez is reappointed for a term beginning Nov. 2 and ending Sept. 10, 2020.
Patrick Farrell, Steve Newman named to Port St. Joe Port Authority — Farrell, 51, of Port Saint Joe, is the owner of Gulf Coast Property Services. He received his bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University. Farrell fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Nov. 2 and ending July 27, 2021.
Newman, 52, of Port Saint Joe, is the owner of Big Fish Construction, LLC. He received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Georgia. Newman succeeds Carl Raffield and is appointed for a term beginning Nov. 2 and ending July 20, 2021.
Florida manatees on the move
People who remember in November to watch out for manatees as they begin migrating to warmer waters are making a difference in the species’ survival, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Seasonal manatee protection zones go into effect Nov. 15. Though some signs identifying manatee zones may have been damaged by Hurricane Irma, information on manatee zone locations is also available online.
Earlier this year, the Florida manatee was reclassified from endangered to a threatened status, under the federal Endangered Species Act, in a decision announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“People’s efforts to help Florida manatees are working,” said Carol Knox, who leads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Imperiled Species Management Section.
“Let’s celebrate the fact that conservation actions are making a difference and manatees are no longer endangered (but it’s) important to remain vigilant,” Knox added. “Let’s keep up the efforts that are helping with manatee recovery.”
The commission asks boaters to watch for these large aquatic mammals, and keep a lookout for the circular “footprints” they leave on the surface of the water. Slow down when boating, follow posted manatee zones, and always observe manatees from a distance to limit disturbance.
To report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees, call 888-404-FWCC (3922), dial *FWC on your cellphone, or text [email protected].
Leon County, American Legion to honor veterans
Leon County announced a partnership with the American Legion Sauls-Bridges Post 13 to host the “Operation Thank You” Veterans Day Breakfast today, 6:30-9 a.m.
At 8 a.m., a ceremony will be held to honor all veterans and “remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” a release said.
The breakfast will take place at the American Legion located at 229 Lake Ella Drive. County commissioners, staff, American Legion members and volunteers will be on hand to serve breakfast to veterans.
Each veteran who attends will receive an Operation Thank You Commemorative Challenge Coin and Leon County proclamation. The event is free and open to the public.
Tallahassee offers “Adopt A Tree” Program
To help ensure this Tree City USA’s urban forest remains intact, the City of Tallahassee is once again offering free trees to eligible homeowners within the city limits. Residents can apply to receive one or two trees through the City’s popular Adopt A Tree program. Applications and tree adoption information are available online at Talgov.com.
“Creating an environmentally friendly community requires a holistic effort, from protecting our natural resources to replanting activities, like Adopt A Tree,” City Commissioner Nancy Miller said. “This program provides a simple way for homeowners to help add to our beautiful tree canopy.”
City staff will assist the homeowner with tree placement and take care of the installation. In return, the City requests the homeowner takes on the responsibility of appropriate watering during a one-year establishment period.
In previous years, the City was limited to installing the trees within the right of way, which was usually 10 to 20 feet from the curb. The program has expanded this year to increase the planting area available for installation. Trees can now be planted anywhere in the yard, up to 100 feet from the centerline of the roadway.
Details on each kind of tree are included on the website, and tree planting will begin mid-January. Trees are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. To adopt a tree from the City, simply visit Talgov.com and complete the online application. You may also call 891-5300.
Tallahassee’s ‘Longest Table’ this Sunday
More than 1,000 people are expected Sunday to sit down at “The Longest Table” for a meal and meaningful conversation along Tallahassee’s Duval Street.
This initiative, which began three years ago, seeks to bring together residents from diverse backgrounds with the goal of building and strengthening relationships to improve the quality of life in the capital.
The Longest Table will span 1,000 feet down Duval, between Jefferson and West Madison streets.
Dinner will be provided by locally owned caterers and will be free of charge. Also, free parking will be available in Kleman Plaza, located at 306 S. Duval St.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions: