Takeaways from Tallahassee — What’s up with the opioid probe?

opioid crisis

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez wants to know if the state will take any independent action against drug companies for their role in the state’s opioid epidemic.

“As we all know, this is now, and has been for some time, a full-blown public health crisis, and there is no time to waste,” Rodriguez wrote to Attorney General Pam Bondi Friday.

Last year, Bondi announced a multistate investigation to look into potentially unlawful practices in the distribution, marketing, and sale of opioids, but no update has been given to the public yet.

Jose Javier Rodriguez is calling for independent action against drug companies for their role in the state’s opioid epidemic.

Bondi’s office said it has “publicly announced that our investigation includes: written requests for documents and information, known as civil investigative demands or subpoenas.”

But Rodriguez, a Miami-Dade Democrat, wants to know if the office has received responses from drug companies.

“More specifically,” he said, “I would like to know whether your office has taken any steps outside of the multistate investigation to determine if whether these drug companies should be held liable for their role in the opioid crisis.”

The latest numbers show that in 2016 there was a 35 percent jump in opioid-related deaths from the previous year.

Legislators are considering options this Session to stop the spread of drug addiction and patients’ dependence on prescription medicines that could lead to the use of deadly drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

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:

Trump, Scott on drilling — Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson both opposed President Donald Trump’s Interior Department plan to potentially open up Florida to offshore oil drilling. Scott, a close ally to Trump, is widely expected to run against Nelson, a Democrat, to take away his Senate seat in 2018. After Trump unveiled his plan to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters, including Florida, Scott said his “top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration’s goal wasn’t to cross Gov. Scott, and in essence, that they should agree to disagree.

DeSantis is officially in — Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis has entered the crowded Florida Governor’s race, and he comes in with the endorsement of President Donald Trump and millions of dollars in his pocket. He announced the decision Friday and said he wants to “drain the swamp in Tallahassee. While the move was not unexpected, his rivals in the governor’s race were quick to attack him. Adam Putnam called him a “typical Washington politician who is focused on nothing more than his next promotion.” Democrats clenched to his close ties to Trump with Andrew Gillum saying he is now “even more determined to spend 2018 fighting against the Trump agenda & standing up for Florida’s working families.”

Jeb! endorses Jimmy — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who is running for a second term, picked up the endorsement of former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush. The former Republican House member was appointed by Gov. Scott as CFO in June, and as he readies for another term, he is likely to face Sen. Tom Lee in the Republican primary. While Lee has said he will run for CFO, he has not yet filed the paperwork. It is not the first time Lee has had similar aspirations. If we take a look back at the archives, Lee ran a failed campaign in 2006 to be CFO, when Bush was governor. Back then, Lee reeled in the endorsement of Bush.

Hammer’s request of Latvala — It’s been a couple of weeks since Sen. Jack Latvala resigned amid sexual harassment and quid quo pro allegations. And now, a prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist has asked him to give at least $1 million in his leftover campaign funds to children with disabilities. Marion Hammer wrote a lengthy open letter to Latvala asking him to make a “profound difference” and donate some of the money he raised in his bid for governor to the Dyslexia Research Institution, for which she volunteers. POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon reported that there is a growing fear among Florida politicos that Latvala could “use millions of dollars in remaining campaign funds to attack political foes that he believed orchestrated his ouster.” When Latvala resigned, he blamed unnamed “political adversaries” for booting him out of office.

Strapped for cash — The Florida Democratic Party has been scrambling to raise money, after two fresh-off expensive wins. But entering into a busy election year with several high-profile, contentious races on the horizon, including the governor’s race and a few statehouse races, the party has approximately $414,000 in the bank. To raise more money, newly-elected Chair Terrie Rizzo has asked county-level leaders to contribute cash for eight regional positions and her financial team has also requested Democrats across the state to pitch in. In a 21-day fundraising effort, Rizzo’s team pulled in $253,000 before the year’s end — more than half the cash it has on hand.

Gov. Scott continues effort to aid Puerto Ricans

Gov. Scott gave an update this week on how the state is helping the thousands of hurricane-displaced Puerto Ricans.

Since the island was walloped three months ago, the governor’s office estimated about 297,000 people have traveled to Florida from Puerto Rico. While it is unclear how many of those have stayed in the state, school districts give an indication.

Florida schools have seen a spike in enrollment since the hurricane season. Scott’s office reports that more than 11,200 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island have enrolled since Oct. 3, 2017.

The governor’s office also reported that about 500 law-enforcement officers have been deployed on security missions to the island and that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle relief center at the Orlando International Airport has assisted more than 10,700 people seeking driver’s licenses, ID card, and other vehicle-related services.

Scott, DOH announce $5 million in grants for Alzheimer’s research

Gov. Scott and the Florida Department of Health announced this week a list of Alzheimer’s disease research projects that will receive a combined $5 million in grants through the Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program.

“These grants support research programs across the state that are looking to find new treatments and preventions that give hope to finding a cure for this heartbreaking disease,” Scott said. “We are proud to build on our commitment to the many individuals and families who have been affected by Alzheimer’s and look forward to seeing the continued success of Florida’s world-class research community.”

Florida Department of Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

Secretary of Health Celeste Philip thanked Scott and the Legislature for their part in keeping state money flowing to the grant program, and commended the board that oversaw the selection process for picking “high-impact projects that represent our state’s agenda of prevention, recognition, treatment and family support.”

The grant money will primarily fund research studies at Florida universities, though the Mayo Clinic and the Mount Sinai Medical Center will also receive funds. The projects were selected through a competitive process open to all researchers in the state.

The University of Miami will pull down the most significant chunk, about $1.18 million, to fund a half dozen projects. UF will receive about $940,000, followed by USF at $821,000 and UCF at just under $500,000. Other schools across the Sunshine State are set to get smaller grant awards.

Instagram of the week

Second camp opens for wounded veterans

Peace River Camp, a camp solely for disabled veterans, celebrated its grand opening this week with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The new camp, which includes on-site sleeping facilities, a screened-in kitchen, fire pit, dining area and restrooms, is located within the Peace River State Forest in DeSoto County. It joins Camp Prairie, near Lake Wales, as the state’s second camp solely for wounded veterans.

Adam Putnam opens the second camp dedicated to providing free outdoor, recreational opportunities to wounded veterans who participate in Operation Outdoor Freedom.

Both facilities are part of the “Operation Outdoor Freedom” initiative championed by Putnam and helped along by private donations.

In addition to the camps, the program provides wounded veterans with opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities ranging from guided alligator hunts to kayaking at no cost. Such events are held on state forests, private lands and along the coasts.

In order to use the Operation Outdoor Freedom camps or go along on the excursions, veterans must be honorably discharged with either a service-connected disability rating of at least 30 percent, or be the recipient of a Purple Heart.

This week in appointments

Gov. Scott this week announced the following appointments and reappointments:

— Kelvin Lawson and Dr. Matthew Carter to the Florida A&M University board of trustees

Lawson, 54, of Jacksonville, is a vice president at Acosta Sales and Marketing. He previously served as the director of national accounts for Johnson and Johnson. He is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending Jan. 6, 2021.

Carter, 65, of Tallahassee, is an attorney and business consultant on energy, economic development, and education with Carter and Associates. He is an Army veteran and previously served as a member of the Board of Governors of the State University System. Carter is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 6 and ending Jan. 6, 2023.

These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Blake Gable to the Florida Gulf Coast University board of trustees

Gable, 46, of Naples, is chief executive officer of Barron Collier Companies. He has served as a board member of the Immokalee Foundation and as a trustee of the Greater Naples YMCA. Gable is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 6 and ending Jan. 6, 2023. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Dr. Athena Randolph and Kathryn McInnis to the Florida Gateway College District board of trustees

Randolph, 60, of Lake City, is co-owner of Randolph Medical Practices. Randolph is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2019.

McInnis, 71, of Old Town, is a retired occupational specialist for the Dixie County School Board. She is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

These appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Kevin Madok to the Florida Keys Community College District board of trustees

Madok, 55, of Big Pine Key, is clerk of courts for Monroe County. Madok is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2020. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Four to the Lake-Sumter State College District board of trustees

Bryn Blaise, 29, of the Villages, is the construction manager for the Villages Commercial Property Management. Blaise is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2019.

Bret Jones, 38, of Clermont, is the principal attorney and owner of the Law Offices of Bret Jones, P.A. He is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

Marcia Butler, 73, of the Villages, previously taught in the Pinellas County school system. Butler is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

Tim Morris, 59, of Leesburg, is the vice president of Ernie Morris Enterprises, Inc. Morris is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending May 31, 2021.

These appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Dr. Daniel Calvo to the Board of Occupational Therapy

Calvo, 40, of Lakeland, is the regional consultant of clinical services for Accelerated Care Plus. He is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 5 and ending Oct. 31, 2021. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

FDACS recovered $148K for consumers last month

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it recovered more than $148,444 last month for consumers scammed out of their money by Grinchy businesses.

The department received about 2,500 complaints in December, which led to 150 new investigations and 19 arrests. The agency also tacked on another 11,744 telephone numbers to Florida’s Do Not Call List.

Businesses on the naughty list last month included moving companies, vehicle repair shops, pawnshops, health studios, telemarketers, travel sellers and others.

Consumers who believe a business has bilked them out of their money or have suspicions that fraud has taken place can contact the department’s hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA, or 1-800-FL-AYUDA for Spanish speakers.

Florida Health announces radon-themed contest winners

In celebration of National Radon Action Month, Florida Department of Health is announcing the winners of the 2018 Florida Radon Poster and Video Contest.

The contest was launched as an opportunity for students to educate communities about the dangers of radon, the top cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second-leading cause of all lung cancer.

“I want to congratulate the contest winners and thank all of the students who entered this year to help raise awareness of radon,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Philip.

Here is the full list of the winners and their award-winning videos and posters. Each first-place winner now advances to the national contest.

DOH, USDA team up to promote kids’ food program

The Florida Department of Health announced this week that it would work alongside the USDA to expand a program that reimburses child care providers that provide nutritious meals.

“Building lifelong healthy habits starts in childhood,” said Secretary of Health Philip. “The Child Care Food Program promotes healthy habits by exposing young children to nutritious foods to help them make healthy food choices. We encourage parents seeking child care in Florida to enroll their children in facilities that participate in this program.”

The Child Care Food Program is offered at child care centers, family day care homes, after-school programs, homeless shelters and some emergency shelters. DOH keeps an up-to-date list of participating facilities on its website.

Kids in Head Start and children from households receiving Food Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits are automatically eligible to receive free meals benefits at participating facilities.

Tom Lee files ‘fiscal transparency’ bill

Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican, introduced a bill this week that would expand the scope of the Legislative Auditing Committee review to include compliance with transparency requirements.

Under the bill, the reporting requirements for specific local government economic development incentives would be revised. It would also require local government to post certain property tax information and history on their websites.

Tom Lee calls for more fiscal transparency for ‘for specific local government economic development incentives.’ 

A similar bill in the House championed by state Rep. Colleen Burton has been prioritized in the chamber and is set for a vote on week one of Session.

Burton’s bill requires local government to post certain voting record information on websites and property

Currently, local governments are required to have a CPA conduct an annual financial audit if the Auditor General has not already scheduled a review.

Robert Asencio bill aims to keep jobs in Florida

A proposal filed by Miami Democrat Asencio would cut state-backed benefits for Florida businesses that shift focus from the Sunshine State.

Under HB 1171, any company that plans to move 30 percent or more of their business out of Florida would have to give a six-month notice to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and would become ineligible to receive grants, state-guaranteed loans, or tax benefits for five years.

Robert Asencio seeks to cut state benefits for Florida businesses that shift focus from the Sunshine State.

“We have a duty to do everything we can to help Florida’s working families. So, it makes no sense that these companies, who up and leave Florida, damaging our families, communities and our economy as a whole, would be eligible for grants, loans, or tax benefits backed by the state,” Asencio said. “It’s time we invest in the local businesses who intend to stay in our state and ensure that no companies who are here for the short term take advantage of Florida’s resources.”

The bill would put companies eyeing an out-of-state move on a public list, and businesses that try and skirt the law by not reporting their intentions to DBPR would face fines of up to $10,000 a day unless they have a good excuse for skipping town.

Bills filed to help seniors ‘age in place’

A bipartisan effort seeks to “exempt the sales tax on home improvements that help seniors age in place,” according to a news release.

Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, filed the legislation (HB 1123, SB 1448).

“The tax-exempt items would include bed transfer handles, handrails, bed rails and grab bars, stair lifts, shower seats and furniture recliners, all of which make homes safer for seniors and allow elderly adults to retain more independence,” the release says.

Passidomo said her district “is home to many seniors who are fiercely independent and want to remain in their homes as long as possible. These exemptions will help them to do just that.”

Berman added: “By helping the elderly to afford equipment that allows them to remain in their homes, we’re helping them maintain dignity, self-sufficiency and their overall well-being.”

The Florida Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans both have endorsed the bill.

ACLU: Stop ‘cruel anti-immigrant’ measure

Saying that the ‘sanctuary city’ bill prioritized by the Florida House is about “codifying racial profiling into law,” ACLU officials are asking supports to tell their representatives to oppose the bill.

“We have to keep the pressure on if we’re going to beat this terrible bill,” the ACLU’s email blast read. “Tell your representatives to protect Florida communities.”

Proponents of HB 9, which will head to the floor for a vote on week one of the 2018 Session, say the bill is about following the rule of law and about public safety.

The ACLU says it is about “putting a target on the back of people of color across Florida.”

This bill will drive victims and witnesses into the shadows, corrode community trust in law enforcement, drain valuable law enforcement resources, and make Florida less safe, according to the ACLU.

FFRW announced 2018 legislative priorities

The Florida Federation of Republican Women advocacy group has released its picks for the 2018 Session and are asking women to help promote their agenda.

Among their stances this year are opposing the “sanctuary city” ban bill — one that is prioritized by the House — supporting bills that help prevent human trafficking and educate students about the signs of such crimes as well as giving more aid to homeless veterans.

Politics is women’s work.

The group is also supporting two measures that ban a person from lobbying a community redevelopment agency until he or she has registered as a lobbyist with the agency, and making texting while driving a primary offense under state law.

The organization consists of thousands of women who have supported and worked for candidates they believe “will represent the interests of women through responsible governmental policies.”

Solar groups back bill to put up panels in the Keys

The Solar Energy Industries Association and Vote Solar came out in support of a bill filed this week that would fund a pilot program to showcase how a combo of solar power and energy storage can keep critical facilities online during natural disasters.

HB 1133, sponsored by Monroe County Republican Rep. Holly Raschein, would deck out critical facilities in the Florida Keys with on-site solar generation and storage so they can make it through major grid outages without a lengthy downtime.

Holly Raschein is promoting on-site solar for critical facilities in the Florida Keys.

“As we’ve recently experienced firsthand with Hurricane Irma, there’s nothing more crucial in the wake of a disaster than power. On-site solar energy storage systems are a forward-thinking solution to improving the security of energy supply at critical local facilities,” Raschein said. “Given that Florida is the Sunshine State, it only makes sense to tap into this resource when planning for stronger communities that are more resilient in recovering from a disaster.”

Solar groups agree, with SEIA CEO Abigail Hopper calling the bill “a crucial step in preparing Florida for future emergencies.”

“Making sure our first responders and critical facilities have the power they need to deliver lifesaving services during emergencies should be a top priority for any state, and solar plus storage is the easiest and most effective solution,” she said. “This pilot program will demonstrate the effectiveness of solar and storage in maintaining grid resilience and help lawmakers implement this strategy on a larger scale.”

PIFF releases its 2018 legislative priorities

The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida has released its annual list of legislative priorities and this year some of those include addressing the costs of any repeal of the motor-vehicle no-fault law, a bill that Uber is supporting.

PIFF says that repealing the no-fault law would have to include reasonable reforms to the state’s third-party “bad faith” law. It also wants to see legislators preserve a “proven, transparent and performance-based premium tax credit.”

The organization is in support legislation that eliminates the Assignment of Benefits, which PIFF says is the cause for homeowners’ premium increases in the state.

“In 2018, we believe the key priority should be to meaningfully address assignment of benefits (AOB) reform in a way that reduces fraud and abuse, and thereby reduces costs,” said Michael Carlson, the president of PIFF.

Senator praises undefeated UCF Knights

After an undefeated season and a Peach Bowl championship title, Sen. Linda Stewart congratulated the student-athletes that make up the University of Central Florida Knights.

“UCF has demonstrated to the entire nation that our undefeated hometown team is No. 1 with a 13-0 perfect season,” Stewart said. “I am proud of the incredible performance by our true national champions, the undefeated UCF Knights. Charge on!”

Gas prices highest in three years

Motorists in the state saw the highest prices in the last three years, averaging 3 cents more per gallon than the year before.

The highest average price for gasoline in the state last year was $2.73, 6 cents more than the national average. Prices were at their peak early in September and at their lowest in July.

“Gas prices normally decline during January and February, as gasoline demand hits the lowest levels of the year,” said Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA.

Florida gas prices are some of the most expensive in the Southeastern part of the country. Within the state, the cost for fuel spikes in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Gas is least expensive in Jacksonville, The Villages and Orlando.

Oil analysts believe the market is somewhat inflated due to geopolitical tensions and supply concerns, Jenkins said.

FSU Sport Management program ranked No. 1 in nation

The Florida State University has the top sports management program in the nation, according to the independent online publication College Choice.

The master’s degree program in Sport Management at the university was graded on five key data points to receive the honor. That includes quality, reputation, affordability, value and student satisfaction.

FSU was named top sports management program in the nation.

“We are incredibly proud of the recognition our program has received,” said Jeffrey James, professor and chair of the Department of Sport Management. “This achievement is a reflection of our outstanding faculty, staff and students, and we aim to keep this momentum going.”

The program, housed in FSU’s College of Education, gives students a lesson plan that includes courses on sports marketing, sports and the media, legal issues in sports as well as a service-learning program.

Florida State continues rise in Kiplinger’s ‘Best College Values’

There’s more bang for your buck at Florida State University, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, a money-focused publication that annually ranks colleges by best values.

The rankings reflect an educational return on investment. The investment is the cost of attendance.

Kiplinger ranks schools in different categories. One of the most noticeable rankings for FSU is its No. 4 status among public colleges in best value for out-of-state students.

For in-state tuition at public institutions, FSU climbed to the No. 14 spot. It landed at No. 63 across both public and private colleges. The University of Florida grabbed the No. 32 spot overall. Both institutions are well ahead of the next Florida university on the list: The University of South Florida at No. 115.

“Florida State University’s commitment to academic excellence and student success is the driving force behind our continuing rise in Kiplinger’s rankings,” said Sally McRorie, who is provost and vice president for academic affairs at FSU. “Our laser focus on high achievement serves our students well during their studies and after graduation.”

Kiplinger’s system has caught the eye of the Florida Board of Governors, too. The BOG considers the rankings when determining pre-eminence for universities.

Out with the old, in with the new

What better way to bring in the New Year than to get rid of outdated electronics and hazardous household waste?

The Leon County Solid Waste Management Division will hold the next Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection Saturday, Jan. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road.

Citizens can bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to their electronics, with some provisos:

— Only one large-screen television per vehicle will be accepted.

— Propane tanks must weigh less than 40 pounds.

— There is a limit of one tire per participant.

— There is also a limit of 25 fluorescent tubes per vehicle at the collection event.

— Medical sharps, medicines and radioactive waste cannot be accepted.

— Bulky wastes such as appliances (refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc.), and furniture, yard waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage and Styrofoam cannot be accepted.

The event is free for residents, but businesses and other agencies still must call (850) 606-1816 to make an appointment, Monday through Friday, to drop off their items at the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Some fees will apply.

And residents can always visit the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center during normal business hours, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (850) 606-1803 or go to LeonCountyFL.gov/HHW/collection for the complete collection schedule and safe packing guide.

Leon County opens Northeast Trail

The county will host a ‘grand opening’ of a multiuse-use trail Monday, Jan. 8, at 2:30 p.m.

Located at the intersection of Thomasville Road (U.S. 319) and Proctor Road, the two-mile trail will be open to hikers, bikers and runners. It’s the newest addition to Leon County’s trail system.

At the grand opening, County representatives will be joined by Tallahassee Mountain Bike Association, Gulf Winds Track Club and Chiles High School Cross Country Team. To find other Leon County recreation facilities, visit LeonCountyFL.gov/Parks.

City of Tallahassee OKs settlement in public record suit

A landmark settlement agreement with the Tallahassee Democrat was approved this week in a lawsuit alleging public records law violations when the paper requested text messages.

The paper reported that the City Commission unanimously approved the settlement after it admitted it violated the Florida Public Records Act when it failed to produce text messages of former City Manager Rick Fernandez.

Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez is at the center of a landmark public records lawsuit settlement.

Fernandez “got four tickets worth $2,000 for a lobbyist’s box office seats to a Florida State University football game that he previously denied receiving,” the paper has reported. Text messages eventually surfaced showing an exchange about the tickets between Fernandez and the lobbyist.

The suit promoted a series of new city policies and procedures related to the retention and production of text messages. It also revised its use cellphones for city business following the case.

City Commissioner Gil Ziffer thanked the Democrat for bringing the issue to the public’s attention, adding that the city needs “to set an example.” Ziffer, who is running to be Tallahassee’s next mayor, said the city needs to be more diligent about preserving text messages and that he plans to make it a priority this year.

Tallahassee family receives free car from Recycled Rides Program

Universal Collision Center in Tallahassee recently partnered with MetLife Insurance, Brehon Family Services, and the National Auto Body Council to present a local family with a much-needed lift. Kelsey and Dante Boyer received the keys to a fully-restored 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Boyers were identified by Brehon through their participation in the Healthy Families program.

“Many of us take transportation for granted but would be unable to live our daily lives without it. It’s been a tremendous honor to support a deserving local family by helping them obtain a safe, reliable vehicle. We hope this is just the first of many families we can put on the road,” said Universal Collision Center’s Sheryl Driggers.

The Boyer family and Universal Collision Center technicians who volunteered their time and talents to restore the 2014 Jeep Cherokee donated to the family.

Recycled Rides is a community action initiative where members of the National Auto Body Council, insurance companies and collision repairers partner with local non–profit organizations to provide deserving individuals and families with the gift of a fully-restored vehicle. Since the program’s inception in 2007, the National Auto Body Council donated more than 1,000 vehicles.

Universal Collision Center brought the Recycled Rides program to Tallahassee, joining with the Brehon Family Services organization to select a family in need. Universal Collision obtained the vehicle from MetLife Insurance Company. As part of the Recycled Rides effort, Universal Collision technicians voluntarily repaired the vehicle involved in the event.

“This incredible gift is life-changing,” said Jackie Malone, executive director of Brehon Family Services. “It’s so exciting when businesses find creative ways to support families in our community. The Boyer family now has easier access to work, education, child care, health care and other daily necessities. We are so grateful to Universal Collision Center, MetLife Insurance and the National Auto Body Council for their generosity.”

The Boyers participate in Healthy Families Gadsden/Leon, a voluntary family support and coaching program that helps parents provide the safe and stable environments children need for healthy growth and development.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:


Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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