Takeaways from Tallahassee — Hemp on horizon?
The state has great expectations for its hemp program, approved in 2019.


There appears to be a concerted effort between the state and federal government toward making industrial hemp a mainstream commodity.

At the end of June, the U.S. Senate passed the 2018 Farm Bill by an 86-11 vote. Among the provisions: language removing hemp, a cannabis plant material with low levels of THC, from the federal list of controlled substances, along with language validating state-backed plans for hemp programs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell championed the measure.

Mitch McConnell helped pass a Farm Bill that could promote hemp as a mainstream crop.

Meanwhile, Florida is making further progress with an industrial hemp pilot program. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has adopted rules implementing a 2017 law that allows the two Florida land grant universities — University of Florida and Florida A&M University — to develop public-private partnerships to produce hemp, analyze results and report back to the Legislature.

State Rep. Ralph Massullo and state Sen. Bill Montford brought forth the legislation. Dr. Jeffrey Sharkey and Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida helped author and support it.

While state lawmakers will have to review the results of the pilot program to determine whether hemp is a good fit for the Sunshine State, Biehl is optimistic and expects it to be a “new cash crop.”

“There are tons of ancillary products derived from hemp — whether in your shampoo or cosmetic lotions to CBD-oil and industrial products,” Biehl wrote to us in an email.

The hemp provision is not currently present in the House’s farm bill. However, Bloomberg Government reports that a conference committee should convene to iron out the difference soon.

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

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

Take 5

Algal blooms become state emergency — Following reports of widespread toxic blue-green algae in South Florida, Gov. Rick Scott this week issued an emergency order in Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties to combat the crisis. “Our state is once again facing a crisis from water releases controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “This has prompted me to issue an emergency declaration, so our state agencies can do everything in their power to minimize the harmful impacts these releases are having on our communities.” The emergency order brings summons state agencies to dedicate efforts toward mitigating the algal blooms. After Scott’s action, the White House Office of Management and Budget approved $1.6 billion worth of funding to complete the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, which is expected to lessen the amount of toxic water discharged from Lake Okeechobee. The dollars still need U.S. Senate approval. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharging water Friday from Lake Okeechobee after halting releases June 30.

Lawsuit targets education amendment — The League of Women Voters of Florida is challenging a proposed constitutional amendment on the basis that its ballot language is misleading. Amendment 8, as it will appear on the ballot, fails “to inform voters of the chief purpose of the revision, and are affirmatively misleading as to (its) true purpose and effect,” alleges the suit. Specifically, the language omits necessary details of a section of the amendment that would allow charter schools to open without local school board approval, the League claims. The current ballot summary reads, “The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.” But League President Patricia M. Brigham says the “language is blatantly, and unconstitutionally, misleading.” The amendment was placed on the ballot via the 2017 Constitution Revision Commission. It will need 60 percent voter approval in November to pass.

Parkland panel meets again — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, spawned by the Legislature following the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, met again this week continuing its fact-finding quest to determine what measures the state can take to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. The panel, which includes lawmakers, law enforcement, agency heads and citizens, turned its attention toward a pre-arrest diversion program in Broward County. The commissioners criticized the PROMISE program, in which the confessed shooter was once enrolled, for tallying offenses on a year-by-year basis. Pinellas County Sheriff and panel chair Bob Gualtieri called that aspect “unique” and members agreed it should change. Gualtieri also addressed the lack of uniformity in 911 communication systems and suggested consolidating them in the future.

Scott halts new beach law — Scott is directing state agencies to not restrict access to public beaches. His order follows reports this week that two women were told by law enforcement to leave a Walton County beach considered private property under a new law that took effect July 1. Scott signed HB 631 into law declaring that the legislation would not further restrict public access to beaches, but Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson told media earlier this week that in his county the new law meant residents could not be in backyard beaches without permission. “Unfortunately, the legislation has now created considerable confusion, and some have even interpreted it as restricting beach access,” Scott said of the new law he signed in March. He directed the state Department of Environmental Protection “to do everything in their power to advocate to keep our beaches open and public.” He added: “Also, I am putting a moratorium on any new state regulation that could inhibit public beach access and also urging local government officials to take similar steps to protect Floridians’ access to the beach.”

Gloomy citrus season wraps — The final citrus production forecasts for the state mark an end to one of the worst seasons in recent decades. The United States Department of Agriculture released its last forecast for the year Thursday, estimating Florida growers should finish the harvest with just under 45 million boxes of oranges. Before Hurricane Irma’s September landfall, Florida growers were on track to harvest 75 million boxes, according to private estimates. The final numbers reflect 30 million fewer boxes than those early estimates. Each box weighs 90 pounds. The storm flooded groves, devastated trees and damaged irrigation systems. Shortly after the storm swept through the state, authorities said its path “could not have been more lethal” to Florida’s citrus industry. Roughly $2.36 billion worth of federal remedy is expected to be made available to farmers in the coming months.

Scott honors 99-year-old WWII veteran

Gov. Scott this week presented the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal to Sidney Walton at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee.

Walton, 99, is one of the country’s oldest WWII vets. He enlisted in the Army in 1941 — just nine months before Japan’s strike on Pearl Harbor. He served five years in the service and then went on to study geology at Virginia Tech and later taught at Duke and NC State universities.

Walton’s visit with Scott is part of his No Regrets Tour that began in April. He intends to meet every state’s governor before his 100th birthday (Feb. 11, 2019).

Sydney Walton visits with Rick Scott as part of his No Regrets Tour, meeting with every U.S. governor before he reaches age 100.

According to the tour’s website, Walton missed a chance to meet with the last remaining Civil War veterans before joining the Army.

“It was a missed opportunity that he has regretted his entire life,” reads the copy on the website.

So far Walton has met with 12 governors. Scott has awarded nearly 15,000 veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal.

State faults ‘excessive speed’ for roller coaster crash

A recent roller coaster crash in Daytona Beach was the result of operator error, according to an investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The agency declared this week that “excessive speed” caused by the operator of the Sand Blaster Roller Coaster led to the June 14 derailment of the ride that left 6 injured.

Excessive speed, operator error, were factors in the derailment of a Daytona roller coaster.

“Operator error caused the Sand Blaster Roller Coaster derailment, which injured multiple people. We’ve issued subpoenas to obtain more information from the ride operator, and we will hold fully accountable those responsible,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said in a prepared statement.

Putnam’s agency has issued subpoenas for additional records needed to conclude the investigation. The ride is shut down and “will remain out of operation indefinitely,” according to FDACS.

The findings were the result of a preliminary investigation into the incident and included details from a third-party engineer’s report.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Jacksonville City Council

Scott appointed Terrance Freeman and Ju’Coby Pittman. Freeman will serve during the suspension of City Councilmember Reginald Brown and Pittman will serve during the suspension of City Councilmember Katrina Brown, both appointments beginning July 10. Freeman, 43, of Jacksonville, is the regional director at Ygrene Energy Fund. Pittman, 54, of Jacksonville, is the president of Clara White Mission, Inc.

Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board

Scott appointed Scott Wiggins, and reappointed Ed Armstrong and Jeffrey Adams. Wiggins, 54, of Tampa, is a civil engineer and former investment banker. He succeeds Michael Babb and will serve a term through March 1, 2022. Armstrong, 61, of Dunedin, is an attorney with Hill Ward Henderson P.A. He is reappointed to serve a term ending March 1, 2022. Adams, 59, of St. Petersburg, is an attorney with Abbey Adams Byelick & Mueller, LLP. He is reappointed to serve a term ending March 1, 2022. The moves are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Union County Court

Scott appointed Mitchell D. Bishop. Bishop, 36, of St. Augustine, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit and a Judge Advocate for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. A graduate of Union County High School, he received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and his law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law. Bishop fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Robert Bo Bayer.

Florida Prepaid College Board

Scott reappointed James Rasmussen. Rasmussen, 66, of Tallahassee, is the retired chief executive officer and president of SunTrust Bank South Florida. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bradley University and his graduate degree from Rutgers University. Rasmussen is reappointed to serve a term through June 30, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees

Scott appointed Dan Leben. Leben, 46, of Key Largo, is the owner of SmartScript Pharmacy. He received his bachelor’s degree from Marquette University. Leben succeeds Robert Stoky and will serve a term through May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Seminole State College District Board of Trustees

Scott appointed Daniel O’Keefe. O’Keefe, 62, of Longwood, is the Orlando Office Managing Partner at Moore Stephens Lovelace, P.A. He received his bachelor’s degree from Canisius College and his master’s degree from Florida State University. O’Keefe succeeds Wendy Brandon and will serve a term through May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Leadership changes hands at VISIT FLORIDA board

The new fiscal year brings with it a new board chair overseeing the state’s premier tourism-marketing agency.

Lino Maldonado has assumed the role of chair of the 2018-2019 VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. She is the vice president of operations, growth and innovation for Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America.

Lino Maldonado (left) is being tapped to lead the VISIT FLORIDA board.

“Florida’s diverse tourism industry is well represented by those serving on our board and committees,” Maldonado said. “I look forward to working alongside my colleagues and the VISIT FLORIDA staff to ensure VISIT FLORIDA continues to serve as a catalyst for maximizing the tourism industry’s efforts to attract visitors from around the globe.”

Outgoing Chair Maryann Ferenc pointed to the successes of VISIT FLORIDA under her guard. Among them: securing $76 million in funding from the state during the 2018 Legislative Session, launching an affordable marketing cooperative, and setting tourism records in the Sunshine State.

“I believe we have positioned ourselves for the next great steps in our transformation,” Ferenc said.

Added VISIT FLORIDA CEO and President Ken Lawson: “As we move into a new year, I cannot think of a better successor than Lino Maldonado.”

DEM honored for Geographic Information Systems

ESRI, the global leader in “spatial analytics,” presented the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) with its Special Achievement in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Award (SAG) July 11 at the annual ESRI User Conference.

Florida’s emergency management system earned special recognition at the ESRI User Conference.

Selected from over 300,000 eligible candidates, FDEM received the award for its innovative application of mapping and data analytics in the field of Emergency Management.

“FDEM is a national leader in Emergency Management and that leadership includes our use of data and analytics to enhance our operational capabilities,” Director Wes Maul said. “I am proud of the hard work that this award represents and I am excited for our team to continue leveraging GIS technology as we accomplish our most critical missions.”

FDEM provided GIS leadership in preparation and response to Hurricane Irma. During the response, FDEM’s Web GIS preparedness resulted in the ability to rapidly launch more than 60 mission critical applications.

FDEM was one of over 180 organizations in areas such as commercial industry, defense, transportation, nonprofit work, telecommunications, and government to receive a SAG Award.

Florida Bar breaks down judicial races

Want to know more about the local judicial candidates who will appear on your ballot in August? Wondering what Florida’s lawyers think about the appeals court judges facing a merit retention vote?

Online and in print, The Florida Bar provides a wealth of information as part of its initiative to educate Florida’s voters about judicial elections. Detailed information on more than 100 county and circuit court judicial candidates is available now on The Florida Bar’s website.

The Florida Bar hands down decisions on judicial races across the state.

The opportunity to submit a judicial candidate voluntary self-disclosure statement was offered to all candidates for contested county and circuit seats. The 10-page statements give voters basic biographical information, legal experience and community work as well as a short essay on why candidates feel they would be good judges.

The Bar also has printed 100,000 copies of the “Guide for Florida Voters,” which is available at supervisors of elections offices throughout the state and at many public libraries. It also is available to civic groups upon request; email [email protected].

The Bar’s “The Vote’s in Your Court” webpage is a go-to source for information on judicial merit retention. There, voters will find the “Guide for Florida Voters” (soon to be posted in Spanish as well), which answers many questions voters might have about merit retention.

There also are links to the Code of Judicial Conduct and biographies of the appeals court judges and one Supreme Court justice up for merit retention votes. A merit retention poll of Bar members will be completed in early September.

Election dates this year are Aug. 28 and Nov. 6. All county and circuit judicial races appear on the primary ballot, with runoffs in November. The merit retention vote is in November.

2018 Healthy Community Champions announced

The Florida Department of Health this week recognized 46 communities as 2018 Healthy Community Champions, those that “have implemented a variety of policies that have been shown to increase physical activity and improve nutrition.”

Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said: “Their efforts to implement policies that empower residents and visitors to improve their health are an important part of creating healthy environments throughout Florida.”

Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip names 2018 ‘healthy champions.’

The Healthy Community Champions highlight local governments that have focused on improving the “built environment.”

The department defines a built environment as the places where people live, work and play (e.g., homes, buildings, streets, open spaces and infrastructure), food environments (e.g., supermarkets, corner stores, farmers markets and food pantries), and other environmental influences (e.g., indoor/outdoor air and water quality, noise pollution and environmental toxins).

That can influence residents’ physical, nutritional, and mental health within their community through policies designed to provide adequate access to physical activity opportunities, adequate access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate foods, access to health care and a reduction or elimination of environmental health risks to the community.

The 2018 Healthy Community Champions are listed here.

Audubon: Everglades progress ‘great news’

Environmentalists are cheering the White House Office of Budget Management’s approval of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir, announced this week.

Among those in support is Audubon Florida, which has held a keen interest in the preservation of the Everglades.

“This is great news. With guacamole-thick algae plaguing waterways in America’s Everglades, Florida cannot afford any delays in advancing this critical Everglades restoration project,” said Celeste De Palma, Audubon’s director of Everglades policy.

Despite ‘avocado algae,’ restoration of the Florida Everglades is progressing.

De Palma said thousands of advocates called on behalf of Audubon to urge the Trump administration to approve the plan. She praised Gov. Scott, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and Congressmen Brian Mast, Ron DeSantis and Francis Rooney. “They were instrumental in ensuring this project kept moving forward,” De Palma said.

Per Audubon: “The selected plan for the EAA Reservoir will reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries by 56 percent and cut the recurrence of discharge events by 63 percent. The project will also deliver an annual average of 120 billion gallons of clean water to the parched Everglades National Park and Florida Bay and significantly increase much-needed freshwater flows to the south during the dry season.”

The organization plans to remain an active supporting voice for the plan as the Senate takes up a vote on its version of the bill sometime this month.

Thrasher to decide on FSU namings, recognitions

Recommendations by a Florida State University panel to rename the main law school building, remove and curate a statue commemorating Francis Eppes, and rename a building honoring Eppes’ name now awaits action from university President John Thrasher.

“I want to thank the members of the panel for their time and efforts on these matters,” said Thrasher, who spawned the panel following last year’s riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked by controversy over monuments glorifying the Confederacy. “Their work is important to the university, and I appreciate their willingness to research and make recommendations on these issues. I will review the report and carefully consider the panel’s recommendations.”

Francis Eppes may soon be persona non grata on campus.

Thrasher can accept, modify or decline the recommendations. The panel met nine times throughout the last academic year.

The 15-member committee determined Eppes, a former mayor of Tallahassee and grandson of Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves and is not credited with the founding of the seminary that eventually led to the university’s formation.

“Eppes should still be recognized, but in a manner that is consistent with an accurate representation of his contributions,” reads the panel’s report.

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice B.K. Roberts wrote the state Supreme Court’s 1957 majority opinion to deny law school admission to an African-American student, Virgil Hawkins. The panel recommends renaming the law school building currently bestowed with Roberts’ name, and that a contextualized recognition of Roberts be placed somewhere else within the school.

FSU prof teaches civil rights history

A Florida State University professor is leading an effort to bring to life and celebrate the powerful contributions of 1960s civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, while empowering youth through the art of filmmaking.

Davis W. Houck, FSU’s Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Rhetorical Studies in the College of Communication and Information, helped conduct a workshop with high school teachers in the Mississippi Delta to develop a K-12 “Find Your Voice” curriculum about the life of Hamer.

Legendary 1960s civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

In addition, FSU School of Communication doctoral student Pablo Correa and alumnus Joseph Davenport taught a college-level media production course, “Find Your Voice Young Filmmakers Workshop,” to high school students.

“The Mississippi Delta has given me and my students so much. The filmmakers workshop and the ‘Find Your Voice’ curriculum are ways to give back to this unique part of the world,” Houck said. “Fannie Lou Hamer was born, raised and lived in the Delta. Teaching her story in a film and in schools provides a strong voice of resistance in today’s hard and perilous times.”

Houck collaborated on the “Find Your Voice” project with Maegan Parker Brooks, an assistant professor at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. They worked with seven teachers in Mississippi to design a K-12 curriculum that boosts students’ interest in the life of Fannie Lou Hamer. The professors will debut these lesson plans in October to celebrate what would have been Hamer’s 101st birthday.

The “Find Your Voice Young Filmmakers Workshop” taught by Correa and Davenport included 16 high school students from the Delta, including several from Gentry High School, which hosted the program in Indianola, Mississippi. The five-week workshop introduced students to all aspects of filmmaking, including composition, shooting, lighting, sound and editing.

Workshop participants tapped into those creative ideas during the course and produced their own documentaries. Their films will be shown during a public screening Saturday, July 14, at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola.

— Contributed by Dave Heller

Dedman School honors Bucs executive

Florida State University’s Dedman School of Hospitality has named Brian A. Ford Jr., the chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as its 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

Ford received a bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration from FSU in 1989.

As the Buccaneers COO, Ford oversees the organization’s day-to-day business operations and community involvement. He works with owners to ensure the football team offers fans the highest quality experience.

Under his leadership, the Bucs have consistently earned top honors among NFL teams for customer service, frequently ranking No. 1 in the league’s annual ‘Voice of the Fan’ report.

Ford began his career with the Buccaneers in 2006. During his tenure, he has guided a $160 million renovation of Raymond James Stadium and the construction of a 100,000-square-foot indoor practice facility.

He will be honored during the school’s awards dinner Oct. 18.

Connect with Leon County ‘hotspots’

Leon County is providing residents with access to the internet by making mobile Wi-Fi hotspots available at any county library for check out, free of charge.

The hotspots will let patrons access high-speed internet service at home or on-the-go. The devices also will make it easy to browse the library’s online catalog, place a book on hold, or simply browse the internet and stay connected on social media.

LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library is a hot spot for hotspots.

In addition to browsing and selecting book options for check out, patrons may use the hotspots to download many of the library’s downloadable media options.

“The mobile hotspots address the changing needs of the community, providing access to dozens of online databases for research of all kinds with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger,” a news release said.

Mobile hotspots can be checked out for two weeks at a time to anyone with a Leon County library card and will provide up to 500mb of data per day. The devices are available at the Leroy Collins Leon County Main Library and all six branch library locations.

For more information or to place a hotspot on hold, visit www.LeonCountyLibrary.org.

ISF named Tallahassee family-friendly

For the second year in a row, ISF has been named a “Family Friendly Workplace” by the Family Friendly Workplace Task Force, which includes 31 members representing a variety of Tallahassee-area organizations diverse in both size and industry.

ISF is once again named one of Tallahassee’s ‘family-friendly workplaces.’

ISF is a Florida-based business with offices in Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Florida and Austin, Texas, providing information technology strategy and development with a focus on state government clients.

“Work-life balance is a vital factor of individual and family health, and ISF fosters this key value in support of our employees,” the company said in a news release.

“Our employee-focused culture with competitive compensation, opportunities for profit and merit-based bonuses, and our attention to employee career growth help to create an environment of sustainable productivity and professional growth.

“Our staff retention rates are more than twice the average for the information technology industry, and we are pleased to be recognized as a leader in family-friendly best practices and policies by this distinguished group.”

 ‘Pizza Pub’ coming to downtown

The Deck Pizza Pub will be unlike anything else in Tallahassee.

The owner of downtown’s Metro Deli told the Tallahassee Democrat Friday he’s opening “The Deck Pizza Pub” in the space that formerly housed The Southern Public House.


“This style of pizza that’s going to come out of that oven is going to be different from anything in Tallahassee,” owner Rob Bazemore told the Democrat, saying his pizza will be more “traditional.”

The College Avenue location also was briefly home to the Tucker Duke’s eatery, and before that was the longtime locale of Po Boy’s Creole Cafe.

Bazemore said he hopes to open by mid-August, adding that the deck will be an outdoor entertainment area for live music.

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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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