- Adam Putnam
- Bill Nelson
- Brecht Heuchan
- Constitution Revision Commission
- Department of Children and Families
- Donald Trump
- Everything Trump Touches Dies
- Florida Public Service Commission
- Florida State University
- Jimmy Patronis
- Midtown Reader
- Pam bondi
- Rick Scott
- Rick Wilson
- Takeaways from Tallahassee
The work of the Constitution Revision Commission is under attack in the courts.
And that’s fair, according to Brecht Heuchan, who led the CRC’s drafting process.
“I’m not mad about the lawsuits,” he told us. “That’s what people do when they feel aggrieved.”
But a new effort spawned this week encouraging Floridians to opt for a blanket ‘no’ to the eight amendments set forth by the CRC isn’t as well received by the panel’s former Style and Drafting Committee chair.
“I’m struggling with charges that the ‘sky is falling’ — when it’s not falling,” Heuchan said in reference to Save My Constitution, which is also seeking to reform or even abolish the CRC in the near future.
It asserted that the panel wasn’t held accountable, and that it ‘logrolled’ amendments by bundling issues together.
While not held directly accountable to voters, he added, commissioners don’t have to fret about upsetting special interests or winning the next election. In a sense, members of the panel enjoyed a “free and liberated” niche.
On bundling, which has drawn hefty criticism, Heuchan pointed to precedence and pragmatism.
Proposals from two prior CRCs similarly lumped several issues together, he noted. In 1968, a completely new constitution went before voters in just three amendments.
Ballot fatigue is real, he added, and if the CRC opted not to bundle, voters would’ve had more than 20 amendments to review.
With lawsuits abounding, judges seem split on the practice.
A Tallahassee judge earlier this month rejected the idea that bundling is deceitful. But retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead challenged six of the eight CRC proposals on that issue alone.
One thing’s sure: Come November, the CRC’s actions — assuming they’re on the ballot — have to be “validated and embraced” by no less than 60 percent of voters, Heuchan said. Given that, he isn’t losing any sleep.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, Michael Moline, A.G. Gancarski, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Judge rules against education amendment — Circuit Judge John Cooper this week ordered Amendment 8 be removed from the ballot, opining that it “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal.” The ruling sided with a challenge brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida, alleging the education proposal is “misleading” because it did not inform voters of the impact it would have on charter schools. The provision at issue in the proposal’s 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.” The state quickly appealed the ruling, and the case passed through to the Supreme Court, which said it would hear the case soon.
FIU bridge dispute moves to feds — A federal judge will take over a case on whether the Miami Herald should have access to state records about a bridge that collapsed March 15 at Florida International University, killing six. A circuit judge sided with the Herald earlier this week and ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to release the records. But Senior U.S. District Judge William Stafford placed a stay on the ruling two days later after an attorney representing the National Transportation Safety Board moved the case to federal court. The NTSB is still conducting an investigation into the bridge collapse. FDOT cited federal law that prevented the state agency from releasing records related to NTSB’s investigation. The government is expected to file a motion Monday to quash the state ruling. Attorneys for the Herald will fight to have the case remanded back to state court.
Legislators clash with Scott’s school safety shift — Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Legislature to redirect to school districts $58 million of unused funding from a statewide school guardian program, but top legislators in both chambers disagree. After Scott submitted a request via the Department of Education to disperse the leftover money to school districts to help offset the costs of funding armed guardians or officers at every school, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and Senate President-designate Bill Galvano rejected the idea, The Associated Press reported. Before the doubtful remarks from the prospective chamber leaders, Scott said he was “confident” the Legislature would choose to disperse the money.
Early voting site ruling too late for some counties — Following Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s order that the state stop barring early voting sites on colleges, some supervisors of elections have said they won’t be able to launch campus locations ahead of the November election. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, for instance, announced that early sites will not be set up at the area’s three higher-Ed schools: Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. Likewise, Miami-Dade said it will not have early polls ready in time at Miami-Dade College and Florida International University. Meanwhile, Hillsborough, Alachua and Orange County will have early voting sites ready at the major universities in each county, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Ballots cast exceed 1.5 million — More than 1.5 million Floridians have cast ballots for Tuesday’s primary election, according to data published Friday morning by the Division of Elections. More than 1 million of those ballots were sent by mail, with Republicans returning 507,127 and Democrats casting 443,776. More than 400,000 Floridians went to the polls for early voting, with Republicans leading Democrats by more than 7,000 early voters. Nonparty affiliated voters make up about 160,000 of all ballots cast thus far. Early voting ends Saturday, although supervisors of elections have the option to offer an additional chance Sunday.
Scott adds money to battle red tide
The governor this week announced that an additional $3 million is on its way to communities on Florida’s Gulf Coast to help mitigate toxic red tide plaguing waterways.
The money is available through grants that were unlocked after Scott recently declared a state of emergency.
With the additional funding, the Department of Environmental Protection committed $750,000 to Manatee County, $190,000 to Collier County and nearly $100,000 to Sarasota County, according to Scott’s office.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support the communities and businesses impacted by red tide,” Scott said.
The Governor also highlighted coordinated efforts between the state’s tourism-marketing and jobs agencies to ensure local businesses don’t suffer economic losses as a result of this year’s red tide, which is being covered nationally.
Bondi: Close fentanyl ‘loophole’
Joining a bipartisan group of 51 other attorneys general, Attorney General Pam Bondi this week signed on to a letter pleading for congressional leadership to support the Stop Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act, or SOFA Act.
An analogue is a kind of “knockoff,” chemically similar to a drug such that it mimics its effects.
SOFA, according to Bondi’s office, “would eliminate the current loophole that keeps the federal controlled substance scheduling system ‘one step behind,’ by (using) catch-all language allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.”
Such substances are lethal when taken directly or in mixed doses. Attorneys general from every state in the union along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico signed onto the initiative, led by Wisconsin and Connecticut.
“There is little doubt that the nation’s ongoing battle against heroin and opiates is unlike any other public health emergency,” the letter reads. “It touches all corners of our society.
“States and localities are on the front line of this crisis and are a large part of winning the battle from both a law enforcement and public health perspective.”
The Week in Appointments
State Emergency Response Commission
Courtney Drummond, 49, of Havana, is a Chief Engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Steve McCoy, 43, of Tallahassee, is an Emergency Medical Services Administrator for the Department of Health. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 20 and ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Courtney Barker, 45, of Satellite Beach, is the City Manager. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Amanda Bowen, 32, of Tallahassee, is the Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of Florida. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Greg Blose II, 38, of Tallahassee, is the Board of Governors Program Director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Bob Burleson, 69, of Tallahassee, is president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.
Children’s Board of Hillsborough County
Scott reappointed Megan Proulx Dempsey and Ed Narain. Dempsey, 42, of Tampa, is senior corporate counsel for TECO Services, Inc. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa and her law degree from Stetson University. Dempsey is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020. Narain, 41, of Tampa, is director of external affairs for AT&T. He is a former State Representative and serves on the Board of Trustees for Saint Leo University. Narain received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Saint Leo University and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. He is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020.
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission
Scott made three reappointments and one appointment to the Commission. Chief Jeffrey Pearson, 49, of Satellite Beach, is the Chief of Police of the Satellite Beach Police Department. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. Sheriff Tommy Ford, 49, of Lynn Haven, is the sheriff of Bay County. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. William Harriss, 67, of St. Augustine, is the former city manager of St. Augustine. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2021. Chief Cristian “Sean” Hemmingway, 50, of Cooper City, is the Police Chief of Bay Harbor Islands Police Department. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2019.
DEP opens Franklin Co. boat ramp
The Indian Creek boat ramp is now open for public use, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced this week.
Stationed on Franklin County’s Indian Creek, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees selected the ramp as a restoration project to help mend services injured or lost following the 2010 BP oil spill.
Engineering and construction costs that helped revitalize the existing ramp totaled approximately $629,000. New changes include a “deeper boat ramp, aluminum access gangway and floating dock, replacement of existing bulkhead with steel sheet piling and concrete cap, safety fencing, ADA parking space, and improved parking for vehicles and boat trailers,” according to DEP.
DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said those changes should “provide increased public access and recreational opportunities” for Franklin County boaters. The agency partnered with the county to complete the project.
“The department is always looking for opportunities to partner with local communities on projects to enhance the use and enjoyment of Florida’s coastal resources,” Valenstein said.
Irma losses mount
Insured losses from Hurricane Irma have surpassed $10.4 billion, according to new data released by the Office of Insurance Regulation.
Florida insurers have fielded 997,237 residential and commercial policy claims, 91.7 percent of which have been closed.
Miami-Dade County produced the largest number of claims, at 126,994. Next was Collier County, with 91,980; Broward, with 82,251; Lee, with 81,933; and Orange, with 75,495.
The office plans to ask insurance companies to report loss data again Oct. 15, and will decide at that point whether to close the books on the storm, which hit Florida on Sept. 10 last year.
Irma costs add up for Cat Fund
Hurricane Irma-related claims against the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund could hit $2.5 billion, according to the latest estimate.
That’s up from $2.4 billion the last time the fund projected its losses.
Anne Bert, the fund’s chief operating officer, released the update during a telephone conference call. The fund provides ‘reinsurance’ to Florida’s residential property insurers. Reinsurance is basically insurance for insurers, also called stop-loss insurance.
“This estimate will get updated as we receive additional loss reports from our participating company,” Bert told the fund’s advisory council. “Companies are reporting as they should, and all that is going very well.”
Irma had produced more than $9.7 billion in residential and commercial property insurance claims as of June 12, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation. The office is expected to update that figure based on responses from a data call it issued to insurance companies Aug. 10.
Instagram of the Week
PSC reduces TECO bills
Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) monthly residential customer bills will be reduced because of the Public Service Commission’s approval this week of savings from the U.S. Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.
What TECO would have paid in corporate income taxes will instead be used to reduce rates, offsetting an expected increase resulting from previously incurred storm restoration costs.
The utility’s annual revenue requirement will be reduced by $102.7 million, or 9 percent. Residential customers will see a savings of “$6.50 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours,” the PSC said.
“We want customers to benefit from the federal tax reductions,” Commissioner Julie Brown said in a statement. “Our action today is truly monumental in nature, and with our approval, we’re glad TECO customers will see lower electric bills.”
Tampa Electric serves about 750,000 customers in west Central Florida.
Lineworker Appreciation Day
Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day is Sunday, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) wants to celebrate “the great men and women who work hard every day to construct, operate, and maintain the electric system that keeps Florida running.”
“We count on electricity, so when the power goes out, we want it restored as quickly as possible,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said in a statement. “Lineworkers are invaluable, working all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to restore power and return lives to normal.”
When needed, they “selflessly leave their families to travel to other parts of the country to help restore power to homes and businesses struggling after a storm.”
Even on average days, lineworkers work with high voltage electric lines as they dangle high above the ground in harnesses. Collectively, lineworkers maintain the nation’s more than 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines.
Lawmakers created Lineworker Appreciation Day in 2012. Follow @floridapsc to find PSC Commissioners’ #ThankALineman tweets.
Lawmakers honored for ‘home rule’ support
In the perennial legislative war over local control, there were three standouts in 2018: Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Rep. Bobby DuBose and Rep. Mel Ponder.
The Florida League of Cities honored each with ‘Defender of Home Rule’ awards for their actions to maintain control at the local level and fight against pre-emptive measures, which kick decision-making powers up to the state.
The League advocates for local control, or home rule, and reserves its Defender of Home Rule designations for legislators “who consistently voted and advocated on behalf of Florida’s cities and the right to local self-government.”
“I truly believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life in the community they represent,” said Sen. Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, in accepting the honor.
Dubose, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat and former city commissioner, cited his local government experience in accepting the award. “I understand the importance of Home Rule and will continue to fight for it,” Dubose said.
“I put great value on Home Rule,” Ponder, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and former city mayor, said. “I personally believe that every city and community has significance, and honoring that heritage is very important to me.”
Florida the ‘freest’ state
After free-market think tank CATO Institute ranked Florida the freest state in the union, the like-minded group Americans for Prosperity-Florida said it won’t rest on its laurels with the good news.
“We will continue advocating policies that will make Florida the best place to live, work and raise a family,” AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson said in a statement. “This study should serve as our collective challenge to preserve our freedom in Florida and push back on policy threats that might knock us off.”
The CATO rankings put the Sunshine State 1st in overall freedom, as well as 1st in fiscal policy, and economic freedom and 2nd in education policy.
AFP-FL said that the rankings could not have come without cooperation from state lawmakers who’ve championed and passed free-market policies.
“A special recognition goes out to Florida lawmakers that have put policy over politics, improving lives over the status quo, and for their commitment to preserving and expanding our freedoms in the Sunshine State,” Hudson said.
Florida 2030 drafts a path
Florida 2030, an ongoing three-year research project, released preliminary recommendations to improve the quality of life and places as Florida continues to grow.
Among the recommendations: Florida needs to add 1.7 million net new jobs by 2030; prepare its workforce to take advantage of global consumer demand; and adapt to shifting skills and accompanying training. That’s because Florida is experiencing “generational changes” and that the “nature of work in Florida is changing.”
“Florida 2030 provides a comprehensive look at what Florida needs to get right in order to become and remain a place marked by global competitiveness, prosperity and high-paying jobs, and vibrant and sustainable communities,” said Tony Carvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “Florida’s future will face challenges, but it also means we have unique opportunities to succeed.”
The findings, while preliminary, will be expanded upon when the foundation releases its full report at the 2018 Future of Florida Forum, Sept. 26-27 in Orlando.
Hollywood Reporter: FSU film school among best
Those looking to break into the film industry should consider Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts, according to the entertainment industry’s media powerhouse, The Hollywood Reporter.
The Reporter recently put the school at No. 19 on its annual list of Top 25 Film Schools, noting the achievements of Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins, a 2003 graduate of the program, along with other successful alumni.
Jenkins snagged the Academy’s 2017 Best Picture Award for his drama, “Moonlight.”
“Measures of success like industry placement, award-winning student films and alumni accomplishments consistently demonstrate the excellence of our programs,” said Reb Braddock, dean of the College of Motion Picture Arts. “It’s always rewarding to be recognized by outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety for what we already know: Our faculty, students and alumni are outstanding.”
The film school pointed to its other recent successes: 97 percent of graduates find relevant work within a year of leaving. It’s also the only film school in the nation to completely fund student projects.
Sweetening the deal for students is a 5:1 student-faculty ratio, meaning student filmmakers are apt to find several one-on-one mentors.
“You really get the sense that the school is preparing you in every aspect for the industry,” said Zoe DeLeon, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting and playwriting in 2018.
FSU’s housing for student entrepreneurs
Florida State will house a group of prospective entrepreneurs in a new living-learning community this fall.
Stationed at Deviney Hall, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Learning Community is designed to expose students to available resources and information to help plan their time through FSU’s entrepreneur-focused curriculum.
The community is linked to FSU’s Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, which recently opened a location downtown.
“We are thrilled to be able to have a pipeline,” said Susan Fiorito, director of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to get students who are freshmen to think about their passion and to talk to other entrepreneurs about the variety of options that are available to them.”
The idea was welcomed by incoming students: The program had just 36 openings but received 127 applications.
Tallahassee Senior Center marks 40 years
Next week, Tallahassee Senior Services will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Tallahassee Senior Center, which is in the old Armory building at 1400 N. Monroe St.
To mark the occasion, there will be a program and open house Tuesday, Aug. 28, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. During this time, guests can glimpse the evolution of the Senior Center, fellowship with center participants and learn more about active aging opportunities.
“In our constantly changing community, one thing has remained the same since 1978 — the Tallahassee Senior Center continues to be a haven for Tallahassee’s active aging population,” City Commissioner Gil Ziffer said.
“Since opening, the Senior Center has welcomed countless adults through its doors, providing a place to connect and thrive. Celebrating 40 years is truly a testament to the value and worth that our Senior Services division brings to our community.”
For more information on the anniversary celebration, visit www.TallahasseeSeniorFoundation.org.