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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Casting call

There’s no catch: Floridians and tourists without fishing licenses can bait the Sunshine State’s salt waters today and tomorrow, allowing novice to expert anglers to grab their poles and try their luck without the usual cost.

For folks in Tallahassee, that could mean a few free casts into waters near the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Apalachee Bay.

Floridians can enjoy license-free fishing this weekend.

The weekend marks two of just four days out of the year when citizens can fish salt waters for free, according to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (two freshwater days will take place next weekend).

Fitting, then, that it also marks the start of National Fishing and Boating Week. According to advocacy group Keep Florida Fishing, the weeklong celebration is an annual reminder of how critical fishing and boating industries are to Florida and the nation as a whole.

“We thank Gov. [RickScott and the FWC for supporting license-free fishing days as well as their ongoing support for Florida’s fishing and boating communities,” said Gary Jennings, Director of Keep Florida Fishing.

Keep Florida Fishing is affiliated with the American Sportfishing Association. That group’s Florida fisheries policy director, Kellie Ralston, works out of the capital and encouraged citizens to take advantage of the license-free days.

“With opportunities to fish even if you don’t have a license, National Fishing and Boating Week is the perfect opportunity for anglers of all skill levels to invite family and friends to join them on the water and share their love for fishing, boating and Florida’s natural resources.”

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

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

Alberto touches down in Florida — Accompanied by bands of rain across the state, Subtropical Storm Alberto made a Memorial Day afternoon landfall near Laguna Beach, according to The Weather Channel. The Saturday prior, before the first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season even came close to the Panhandle, Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency, issuing mandatory evacuations for barrier islands in Franklin County and a few voluntary evacuations nearby. The Weather Channel estimates Alberto brought 8.69 inches near Okeechobee; 4.37 inches in Key West; 3.71 inches in Miami and Fort Lauderdale; and 3.61 inches in Destin/Ft. Walton Beach. The storm prefaced the 2018 hurricane season, which officially began Friday, and served as a reminder for Floridians to partake in the disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday, set for Friday through Thursday.

State financial regulator resigns — The head of the state Office of Financial Regulation, Drew Breakspear, resigned amid pressure from his superior, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. POLITICO Florida reported Thursday that a review of public records indicated the turmoil “came amid fights with scorned companies and high-profile securities traders who lobbied Patronis after disagreements with Breakspear’s office.” As well, an internal sexual harassment investigation reportedly led Patronis to write a public letter to Breakspear telling him he “no longer has confidence in [Breakspear’s] ability to lead” earlier this month, sources said. According to public records released this week, OFR conducted an investigation into an incident involving a male worker inappropriately touching a female co-worker’s breast, but could not substantiate sexual harassment had occurred. The results of the investigation were given to OFR Deputy Commissioner Pamela Epting, who reports to Breakspear.

Fight over smokable pot continues — Jon Mills, a lawyer representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the state’s medical marijuana smoking ban, which was struck down more than a week ago by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, has asked Gievers to lift the automatic delay of her ruling. In other words, Mills wants patients to have the right to smoke now. Gievers had ruled the ban “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016. The state immediately responded with an appeal. John Morgan, the ubiquitous trial attorney from Orlando, held a high-profile news conference Tuesday calling on Gov. Scott to drop the appeal. Morgan told reporters: “ … I really believe that Gov. Scott is playing with political wildfire for something that he does not have to do.”

Date set for felon rights appeal — Oral arguments over whether Florida’s clemency process is constitutional will be heard July 25 by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker declared unconstitutional the state’s method of restoring voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences. The state appealed the decision in April. Meanwhile, a related amendment awaits voters on the November ballot. If approved by at least 60 percent, voting rights would automatically be restored to felons who’ve completed their sentences, barring murderers and sex offenders.

Teachers union ranks legislators — The Florida Education Association unveiled this week a two-year composite grade (A to F) for lawmakers in the Legislature. Most Republicans received F’s and most Democrats received grades higher than a C. Both Richard Corcoran, the House Speaker and Joe Negron, the Senate President, received F grades. Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat, surprisingly was given a C+ rating. “Nobody could get higher than a C if they voted for 7055,” Joanne McCall, the FEA’s president, told the Tallahassee Democrat. HB 7055 was a controversial education package that included union decertification measures. Montford, a former superintendent and ally of FEA, defended his actions and said he had to support the package because other measures he supported were logrolled into it.

Scott doles out $10 million in job-related awards

As he approaches his last few months as governor, Scott is following through with one of his pet projects: The Job Growth Grant Fund.

Spawned in 2017 by the Legislature and Scott, the fund provides $85 million for improving public infrastructure and enhancing workforce training in the state. The governor this week announced an award batch worth $10 million, bringing the grand total to $70 million distributed since the incentive program’s creation. The project has for two years now been appropriated $85 million in state funding.

Rick Scott doles out millions in cash for Florida businesses.

According to the Governor’s Office, awards of varying amounts will be given to Eastern Florida State College for “training and certificate programs;” Baker County for “an access road to the Woodstock Industrial Park;” St. Johns River State College “to expand an advanced manufacturing and robotics training program;” Florida Gateway College “to enhance current workforce training programs;” Charlotte County “for Piper Road Extension and infrastructure improvements;” and Florida State College at Jacksonville “to enhance the Northeast Florida Advanced Manufacturing & Logistic Job Growth program.”

Administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity, more than 246 proposals were reviewed by the agency alongside Enterprise Florida. Ultimately, however, Scott chose the proposals based on expected return on investment and ability to meet the demand for workforce needs.

“Florida’s economic growth is continuing to outpace the nation because of our nonstop focus on creating jobs in every corner of our state,” Scott said in a statement. “When we created Florida’s Job Growth Grant Fund, we knew that this targeted and transparent approach would pay huge dividends for local communities.”

Scott heralds Wyndham Destinations relocation

Scott also announced this week that publicly traded timeshare company Wyndham Destinations is moving its HQ to Orlando and bringing along 200 jobs.

Scott, running for U.S. Senate, said that “by cutting taxes and creating an environment where our private sector can grow, we have made it easier for major businesses to move their operations to Florida. Wyndham Destinations made a great choice by picking Orlando for their headquarters.”

Rick Scott celebrates Wyndham Destinations relocation to Orlando.

The governor’s release said the move came about through “strong partnerships” with Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and others, including the city of Orlando, Orange County and the state, which greased the wheel with economic incentives.

Along with the “200 new high wage jobs,” Wyndham has committed to making $7.5 million in capital investments in the Orlando area.

Putnam: Floridians should begin hurricane prep now

Following predictions of an active hurricane season for the Sunshine State and early cyclone activity as shown by Subtropical Storm Alberto, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam reminded Floridians this week to prepare for the storm season that began Friday.

“As Floridians, we understand the threat of hurricane season all too well,” Putnam said. “It’s imperative that Floridians have a plan in place to protect their families, homes and businesses this hurricane season.”

Adam Putnam: The time for hurricane prep is now.

Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, gave three big tips: Have a plan, prepare a kit and stay informed.

A news release from his office says, “Supplies should also include: cash, blankets and sleeping bags, first-aid kits, battery-powered radios, flashlights and extra batteries, clothing, necessary medications, pet care, a list of important phone numbers and important documents stored in waterproof containers.”

His department in times of emergency provides necessary food and water to affected areas and helps protect animals and pets. Putnam also oversees the Florida Forest Service, which is responsible for incident management and helps in debris removal.

Added Putnam: “Floridians should take advantage of the hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday that begins June 1.”

PIFF Counts Down Insurance Tips for Hurricane Season

3, 2, 1 … Hurricane Season is upon us. As Floridians think about evacuation routes and supplies, the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF) is reminding consumers to think about insurance as well. The group recently counted down steps to help protect assets when disaster strikes.

PIFF’s Top 10 for hurricane season.

“Always start with a plan to protect your loved ones,” said Samantha Sexton, VP of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for PIFF. “Also think about your insurance. It’s important to understand what coverage you have, and whether it’s enough for your assets. Know what your windstorm deductible is, so you are prepared in case you have to cover that out-of-pocket cost.” More on PIFF’s top 10 at piff.net/hurricanes.

The Week in Appointments

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida

Tampa Bay businessman and civic leader Paul E. Avery was appointed to a three-year term on the board of directors of the nonprofit Foundation, dedicated to supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). He brings a long history of volunteer nonprofit service, including chair of the board of directors of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance and past chair of Take Stock in Children, Inc. Other organizations he’s been involved with include The Great Outdoors Conservancy, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Hillsborough Education Foundation, Tampa Bay Watch and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Avery is president and CEO of World of Beer Franchising, Inc. and has been CEO and principal of Avery Management Group since February 2010.

State boards

Stephen Douglas, 36, of Lake City, was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Lake Shore Hospital Authority for a term ending July 20, 2020.

Patrick Labrada, 65, of Key West and Aaron Castillo, 55, of Key West, were appointed to the Monroe County Housing Authority for terms ending Oct. 30, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021, respectively.

Eric Schreck, 51, of Winter Springs and Charles Hart, 43, of Sanford, were appointed to the Seminole County Housing Authority. Schreck will serve Sept. 7, 2021. Hart will serve until Sept. 7, 2019.

Alvaro Hernandez, 46, of Odessa and John Finnerty, 71, of Dade City, were appointed to the Pasco County Housing Authority. Hernandez will serve until Sept. 12, 2019. Finnerty will serve to Aug. 30, 2018.

Mark Anderson, 47, of Tallahassee, was appointed to the Northwest Florida Regional Housing Authority for a term ending May 8, 2021.

Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Charlotte Flynt, 72, of Miramar Beach and Lori Kelley, 51, of Fort Walton Beach, were reappointed to terms ending May 31, 2022. Reynolds Henderson, 41, of Santa Rosa Beach, was appointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Susan Amat, 44, of Miami, succeeds Daniel Diaz-Leyva for a term ending May 31, 2022. Ben Leon, 50, of Coral Gables, was reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board

Charles Keith and Al Alexander were reappointed this week to the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board. Both will serve terms beginning June 1, 2018, and ending March 1, 2022. Keith, 65, of Lake City, is the president of American Pawn Brokers. Alexander, 68, of Madison, is a part-time contractor for the Forestry Company.

Instagram of the week

Revenue clarifies tax-free disaster preparedness holidays

Friday marked the beginning of a weeklong sales-tax holiday on qualifying items related to disaster preparedness.

The state’s tax-overseeing agency, however, is reminding Floridians that there are stipulations to the break period. A DOR spokeswoman noted in an email that “the sales tax holiday does not apply to the rental or repair of (certain) items.

Florida’s tax-free hurricane preparation holiday begins.

“Additionally, the sales tax holiday does not apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport.”

Revenue also provided literature laying out what items will be exempt during the tax break. They range from ice ($10 or less) to portable generators ($750 or less). Individuals and businesses wanting to share information on the tax holiday can visit Revenue’s website for pre-made, shareable materials.

This year’s disaster prep period was crafted by the Legislature as the state was still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. Lawmakers extended the 2018 break to more than twice as long as last year’s.

Everglades National Park, FWC expand python removal efforts

Everglades National Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are partnering to expand efforts to remove Burmese pythons from within the park.

The partnership will expand the park’s Python Removal Authorized Agent Program by allowing paid FWC contractors to remove pythons in Everglades National Park. The expansion will triple the maximum allowed number of participants in the park from 40 to 120, allow FWC contractors to use firearms or other humane methods to euthanize pythons in the wild and qualify additional trained personnel to live capture and turn in pythons.

Florida FWC continues its campaign to rid the Everglades of Burmese pythons.

The terms of the agreement could allow FWC contractors to engage in python removals in the park, potentially as early as July 2018.

Burmese pythons pose a significant threat to the Everglades ecosystem. Along with State, Federal, Tribal and local partners, Everglades National Park and the FWC have invested millions of dollars and countless hours in developing and testing ways to remove pythons from the Everglades.

“While hunting remains prohibited by law in Everglades National Park,” said Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos, “we believe the expansion of the program to include allowing FWC contractors to remove pythons in the park will be welcomed by concerned citizens that want to play a role in helping with this significant problem.”

James Madison Institute lauds ‘Right to Try’ legislation

The Trump administration drew support this week from a free-market think tank nestled in the capital for signing legislation making experimental medicines and treatment options available to terminally ill patients.

“On this historic occasion, we would like to thank President Donald Trump, the leadership in Congress, and the thousands of stakeholders who have labored for years to make ‘Right to Try’ a reality,” James Madison Institute (JMI) CEO and President Bob McClure said in a statement.

Donald Trump receives kudos for signing the Right to Try Act.

According to the White House, the bill specifically “amends Federal law to allow certain unapproved, experimental drugs to be administered to terminally ill patients who have exhausted all approved treatment options and are unable to participate in clinical drug trials.”

McClure said JMI worked diligently with those involved in the process to get the bill to the president’s desk.

“As a result of this groundbreaking legislation, Americans will now have the opportunity and freedom to choose medical options that they otherwise would not have,” McClure continued. “It is a testament to the commitment of the president and the Congress that we can count this as a win for free-market health care.”

AAA study: More Floridians prepping for hurricane season

Back-to-back active hurricane seasons in 2016 and 2017 seem to have been a wake-up call for Florida residents, according to a recent AAA Consumer Pulse™ survey. It shows 81 percent of residents are making advanced preparations for hurricane season. That’s a 23 percent increase from 2016.

Based on AAA findings, if a named storm were to cause an evacuation, the majority of Floridians would heed the official warning and leave their homes.

However, of those who would evacuate, more than half (62 percent) say they would only leave for a category three hurricane or greater.

“Major hurricanes like Harvey and Irma seem to be making residents more aware of the dangers of hurricane season and the need to make advanced preparations,” said Bobby Futch, vice president of Insurance Claims for AAA-The Auto Club Group.

“Storm preparations should include having a storm kit, evacuation plan and proper insurance coverage, which includes flood insurance,” he added.

Hurricane season runs from June 1-Nov. 30 and experts are forecasting a very active year, with 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and as many as three major hurricanes (i.e., category 3 or higher).

ExcelinEd promotes Khan Academy Teacher Training

An education think tank founded by Jeb Bush is spreading the word about online training platform Khan Academy.

ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque touted a free 60-minute lesson for teachers and their students that serves as a primer for how they can get the most out of the educational resources available on the vast video lesson repository.

Khan Academy founder Salman Kahn.

“It’s exciting to see opportunities for course access continue to expand and strengthen. Please join me in sharing this new resource with your networks,” Levesque said.

Khan Academy Teacher Training covers how to use the platform for in-class practice, homework, review and test prep. It includes a suite of teacher-focused features.

Educators who complete the training also have a chance to win a trip to Khan Academy HQ.

Plaintiffs seek quick end to Amendment 1 lawsuit

A Tallahassee judge will hear argument later this month for a motion in a three-year-old lawsuit over how the state funds environmental conservation.

Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Charles Dodson will hear a motion for “partial summary judgment” June 15, court dockets show. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial. Partial summary judgments resolve one or more issues, but not the whole case.

The motion was filed by David Guest, attorney for the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and other plaintiffs on 2014’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The constitutional change, passed by nearly 75 percent of voters, mandates state spending for land and water conservation.

But environmental advocacy groups filed suit in Leon County in 2015. The plaintiffs say lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

For example, Guest’s motion says “the primary function of the (Florida Forest Service) is to fight and prevent fires on private lands and to promote forestry and prescribed burning on private lands. However, the Legislature appropriated $57.6 million of funds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the FFS for salaries, expenses and operating costs,” three times as much as what it reported in expenditures.

Dodson previously set a weeklong bench trial in Tallahassee for July 23-27, records show.

Cate scores appearance on Fox talking Roseanne

Kevin Cate, the Tallahassee-based ‘communications savant,’ had been booked on Fox News this past week to talk about health care, he said in his occasional newsletter.

“Then something else — then something else — and finally, five minutes before airtime — Roseanne,” he wrote.

Kevin Cate gets blindsided by Rosanne on Fox News.

As ABC News explained: Roseanne “came under fire shortly after she posted an offensive tweet early Tuesday morning targeting Valerie Jarrett, a former top adviser in the administration of President Barack Obama. In the tweet, Barr wrote that Jarrett, an African-American born in Iran, was the product of the Muslim Brotherhood and ‘Planet of the Apes.’ “

ABC, owned by Disney, quickly canceled her rebooted sitcom even though she had apologized for the tweet, which they called “abhorrent” and “repugnant.”

Cate appeared on “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino,” and was billed as “a former Obama Florida campaign spokesman.”

“You have to give credit to ABC,” Cate told Perino. “This was a show that was making them money and a lot of people watched it.”

Cate said later in his newsletter: “It’s high-stakes (on FNC the president is watching!?!) and kinda weird. And it’s fun to hear from old friends who randomly see you on TV and send you pictures from gyms … I can’t believe how many of my friends work out at 2 p.m. Or at all.”

There are some downsides, though: “Like RIP my Twitter timeline.”

Food banks prep for hurricanes

Feeding Florida and its statewide network of food banks are gearing up for the 2018 hurricane season.

Just last week, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida assembled 1,000 disaster relief packs with the help of 100 volunteers ahead of what’s expected to be an active storm season. Each pack can meet a family’s nutritional needs for three days — even without power.

Citing the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, a source affiliated with Feeding Florida said the “need to prepare in advance has never been more critical.”

The Second Harvest of the Big Bend, which would cater to Leon County and surrounding areas in the event of an emergency, has 41,000 square feet of storage space, making it the largest warehouse overseen by Feeding Florida north of Orlando.

In total, the Big Bend group has distributed more than 250,000 pounds of emergency food and water to folks in 11 North Florida counties.

A food packaging event for the group will take place today at Godby High School in Leon County. For more information, visit the Second Harvest of the Big Bend’s website.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

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