Brian Pitts, a perennial presence in the halls of the Legislature, has readied 11 bill proposals ahead of the 2019 Legislative Session.
They cover a wide range of topics: Education, ethics, civil and criminal justice, and judicial reform. Pitts’ nonprofit Justice-2-Jesus this year is taking on a “controversial and aggressive bill package,” according to his website.
The proposals, all of which are sweeping, are available for “members to consider for sponsorship or amendments in existing bills which are filed.”
Some bills — as expected — are rife with hot-button ideas.
The education package if adopted in its entirety would require bible study and a brief meditation period. In high school, students would undergo a comprehensive “history of sex,” relating to “procreation versus recreation behaviors.”
Subjects would include the Comstock Act, the Hays Code, Margaret Sanger, the libido age, the “Kinsey Reports,” Hugh Hefner, the gay rights movement, and “Kama Sutra.”
Why? To also understand the “dangers, excesses, diseases, medicinals and protections which resulted during each period,” according to the proposed legislation.
But not all of Pitts’ ideas would spark contention.
Also included in the advocate’s education-reform bill: Provisions for a balanced curriculum including home economics, beefed up civics lessons and interpersonal conflict resolution training.
Increased accountability for jail inspections, clarifications on public meeting laws and codification of powers and duties of lawmakers are among Pitts’ other proposed changes to statutes and the Constitution.
With less than 50 days before Election Day, it’s hard to think about anything other than candidates and campaigns. But it’s comforting knowing people like Pitts already are looking ahead.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Judicial vacancies draw more legal action — Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida, groups that had previously challenged Gov. Rick Scott’s authority to nominate three new state Supreme Court justices on his last day in office, have again filed legal action on the matter. This time, the groups are asking Scott to prove he has the authority to convene the Judicial Nominating Commission, which he already has done. Scott also imposed a Nov. 10 deadline for the panel to finalize three to six selections for the upcoming vacancies. The groups argue that action is outside of his constitutionally delegated powers. Shortly after the writ of quo warranto was filed, the Supreme Court asked Scott to respond. In a statement to the press, Scott’s office called the new legal action “politically-motivated.”
Scott touts more than 1.6M jobs created — Florida businesses created 1,615,500 new jobs since December 2010, a month before Gov. Scott first took office, according to new data released by the state. The Governor announced the latest economic indicators Friday at Promise in Brevard, an assisted living community for young adults with special needs. Scott called the total jobs created a “milestone” in a prepared statement. He added: “Floridians should be proud of this accomplishment and the entire nation should take note: By cutting taxes and creating a positive environment for business, we’ve grown our economy.” In the same period, the unemployment rate fell from 10.8 percent to 3.7 percent, according to the state. That rate has outpaced the nation under Scott’s tenure.
State continues battling red tide — There were several developments this week in the state’s ongoing conflict with red tide, the annually occurring algae outbreak that’s caused massive fish and sea mammal kills on Florida’s Gulf Coast this year. Gov. Scott, who declared the outbreak a state emergency earlier this summer, doled out another $4 million to local communities to help curb red tide. So far, the Department of Environmental Protection has spent $13 million to fight the toxic algae. Scott also announced a partnership formed this week between researchers and scientists from DEP and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida. They’ll study the potential effectiveness of clay in battling the K. Brevis organism.
Brief filed in ‘bundling’ dispute — A challenge to three measures on the November ballot was spelled out in a 50-page brief filed with the state Supreme Court this week. Attorney Joseph Little, who represents retired Justice Harry Lee Anstead and another plaintiff in the lawsuit, claims the First Amendment “protects Florida voters from being forced to vote against their choices,” according to the News Service of Florida. At stake are three proposed amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, an appointed panel that meets every 20 years to revise the state’s governing document. Anstead and co-plaintiff Robert Barnas argue the amendments improperly “bundle” unrelated issues together. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers agreed when she blocked the amendments. The case passed through to the Supreme Court, which hasn’t indicated whether it will hold oral argument.
House Republicans pen support for Kavanaugh — Most Republicans in the state House this week signed off on a letter encouraging the U.S. Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, the nominee of President Donald Trump. Kavanaugh had been primed for confirmation until recent allegations of sexual assault were levied against him. The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, claims the incident occurred at a party while the two were in high school during the 1980s. There’s no mention of this allegation in the letter written by the GOP members of the Florida House, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nuñez and House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues. “If Judge Kavanaugh — with the combination of academic, professional, and personal achievements and successes — is not qualified to sit on the highest court in our land, then no one is,” reads the letter.
Scott: Plant City company to create jobs
MLMC Florida, an alternative-fuels technology manufacturer, will open its doors in Plant City, Gov. Scott announced this week.
It’s expected to create 45 new jobs from production to sales and logistics, according to the Governor’s Office.
“Every new job is an opportunity for a Florida family to succeed in our state,” Scott said. “I’m proud to announce more job growth in Plant City, and I will never stop fighting to make sure that Florida continues to outpace the nation for job creation.”
The approximately 103,000 square-foot operation will work to turn waste — like Styrofoam, plastic films and wood materials — into clean fuel.
Last week, Scott announced that Beast Code LLC, a software company, opted to expand in Fort Walton Beach. With the increase in operations came another 40 jobs.
Four nominated for Ag. Hall of Fame
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced this week a short list of inductees into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Don Bennink, Richard Gaskalla, Sam Killebrew and Mike Stuart will be honored at an induction ceremony at the Florida State Fair’s Agricultural Hall of Fame banquet on Feb. 12, according to Putnam’s office.
“Agriculture is Florida’s oldest industry, and it continues to support our state’s economy thanks to the leaders who continue to grow, streamline and modernize the industry,” Putnam said. “I am honored to name the newest members of the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame to honor their outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.”
Each of the inductees is being recognized for their contributions to agriculture. Bennink’s career is distinguished because of his spearheading of genetic research and practices to advance dairy farming. Gaskalla for more than four decades worked to defend Florida’s crops from invasive pests and diseases.
In the 1950s, Killebrew patented a fertilizer hauler, known as “Killebrew.” His son, also named Sam, now serves in the Florida House. Stuart’s long career is marked by contributions to help streamline the produce trade.
Blount named 2018 Agriculture Woman of the Year
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam this week announced that Dr. Ann Blount has been named the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture.
Blount has dedicated her career to researching and implementing innovative techniques to improve fall forage production in Florida’s southern coastal areas. The award, now in its 34th year, recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Crop Ecology from Texas A&M University. She continued her education at the University of Florida, where she earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics.
Blount has since spearheaded research of breeding efforts on physiological aspects of fall forage, specifically: developing improved bahiagrass, evaluating new perennial peanut varieties, and enhancing small grains and ryegrasses.
She joined the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 1988, and she currently serves as an extension specialist and professor of forage breeding and genetics for the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, about 25 miles west of Tallahassee.
Blount has made significant contributions to the agriculture industry, such as six plant patents and plant variety protections, as well as 76 cultivars and germplasm releases and forages.
The Woman of the Year in Agriculture award is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority, and the award will be presented during the 2019 Florida State Fair in Tampa.
Instagram of the Week
The week in appointments
Lee County Sheriff
On Friday, Gov. Scott tapped Carmine Marceno Jr., the current undersheriff in Lee County, to take over for Mike Scott, who retires effective Monday. “Sheriff Mike Scott has been dedicated to serving the people of Lee County for the past 30 years,” Scott said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service … With Undersheriff Marceno having nearly 20 years of law enforcement experience and having worked closely with Sheriff Scott, I am confident that he will work every day to protect and serve Lee County.” The 46-year-old Marceno, of Fort Myers, has been with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office since 2013. He received a U.S. Department of Justice Graduation Certificate from the FBI National Academy, the governor’s news release said.
Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority
Scott reappointed Shaun Oxtal for a term ending July 2022. Oxtal, 31, is the managing director of Capright. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University.
Mid-Bay Bridge Authority
Scott reappointed Gordon Fornell, James Neilson, Jr., and Dewey Destin to the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority. Appointed for first terms are T. Patterson Maney and Victoria Harper. Fornell, 82, is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General. His term expires June 30, 2020. Destin, 33, is a former attorney and current council member for the City of Destin. His term expires June 30, 2021. Nelson, 81, is a retired Army Reserve Staff Sergeant. His term expires June 30, 2019. Maney, 70, is a retired Okaloosa judicial officer. His term expires June 30, 2019. Harker, 51, is a former special FBI agent. Her term ends June 30, 2021.
Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation
Scott reappointed Scot LaFerté, 53 and Bridget Pallango, 68, to The Able Trust board. Both terms expire Sept. 30, 2020. LaFerté is the senior vice president of human resources at Universal Orlando Resort. Pallango is the senior vice president of Goodwill Industries.
State launches rail-safety initiative
The Florida Department of Transportation is launching a locomotive-focused safety initiative. Be Rail Smart aims to reduce the number of railroad track incidents, according to FDOT.
News of the campaign is concurrent with National Rail Safety week, set to begin Sept. 23. The campaign also comes at a time when rail safety concerns are in the fore. Brightline’s high-speed trains have been involved in multiple fatalities as of late.
Campaign materials include a series of videos that are locally focused and tailored to different age groups. FDOT recommends sharing “What not to do on the tracks” with new drivers; “A race you won’t win” with young adults; “The Mile” with kids and teenagers; and “My Baby,” “Hide and Seek,” and “From a mile away” with adults.
Additionally, banners and brochures will be available at Tri-Rail stations Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties throughout this week.
Watch an example campaign video below:
Enterprise Florida, manufacturers join forces
The state’s jobs incentives agency is teaming up with manufacturers to help increase international appeal of goods produced in the Sunshine State.
In an agreement reached between Enterprise Florida and the Manufacturers Association of Florida, members of MAF are permitted to apply for the public-private agency’s export diversification grants.
Enterprise Florida also says it will give priority to member manufacturers wishing to attend overseas trade missions and exhibitions.
Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and development at Enterprise Florida, said the partnership “can strengthen Florida’s manufacturing sector and grow Florida’s export economy.”
“Their programs and grants are superior and bring a level of competitiveness to our state that is unmatched,” said MAF President Al Stimac. “MAF recognizes the vital role Enterprise Florida holds in our industry, and we value the successful partnership between our organizations.”
According to Enterprise Florida, the Sunshine State ranks among the nation’s top 10 manufacturing states. More than 360,000 people work in such industries throughout Florida.
Able Trust names Galvano ‘Legislator of the Year’
Kicking off Disability Employment Awareness Month in Orlando this week, The Able Trust presented its 2018 Ability Awards. And incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, was recognized by the nonprofit as ‘Legislator of the Year.’
Sue Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust, said Galvano has been a steward to the organization. She also noted Galvano’s “stance on school safety during the 2018 Legislative Session, of which he was a leader, affects all students, including those with disabilities, and we applaud him for his tireless work.”
“The Able Trust’s work connecting job seekers with businesses through community organizations has resulted in the employment of thousands of people with disabilities,” Galvano said. “I have known The Able Trust for many years and have long supported its successful efforts to make sure people with disabilities are a part of Florida’s workforce.”
Davis to host Duval baby shower
Expecting mothers in Duval County take notice: State Rep. Tracie Davis and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Magnolia Project are hosting a community baby shower on Saturday in Duval County.
The event is open to all expecting mothers and mothers of newborns under two months old who live in the 32202, -04, -06, -08, -09, -19 and -54 ZIP codes.
It will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and smoothies will be available.
Davis’ office says the goal of the event is to help women identify helpful tools for raising a happy and healthy infant. Breastfeeding, safe sleep, nutrition and yoga classes will be offered.
“Bringing our community together to provide our new and expectant mothers with the tools they need to care for their children is invaluable,” said Davis.
“For the second year in a row, it has been my pleasure to surround these families with the love, opportunity, and encouragement that is key to establishing a bright future for all our children.”
FHCA execs receive ‘gold standard’
Florida Health Care Association executives Bob Asztalos and Tom Parker have earned the Designated Professional Lobbyist certification from the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists.
In the Sunshine State, the designation is regarded as the gold standard for professionals who navigate the contours of the legislative process for their clients.
Asztalos, FHCA’s chief lobbyist, is a veteran influencer in the health care industry. He’s advocated on related issues since 1985 and also serves as the chief emergency coordinator at FHCA.
Parker, FHCA director of reimbursement, acts as a liaison between FHCA and the state Legislature. He also coordinates with the state Agency for Health Care Administration, Department of Elder Affairs and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Goodbye Alachua … hello Orlando
That’s where the future lies for the Florida Citrus, Business & Industries Fund, a workers’ compensation carrier with more than 7,000 policyholders.
The corporate HQ move follows the decision to bring all marketing and underwriting work in-house, which the company says will boost efficiency. It means adding another two dozen jobs, with more expected in the years ahead.
“FCBI has always focused on serving small businesses that form the backbone of Florida’s economy,” chief executive officer Debra Ruedisili said. “We are a Florida-grown, Florida-focused company, that deeply cares about this state, its people and its economic health.”
The company has operated for more than 40 years, many of them under the FUBA Workers’ Comp brand.
The company originally focused on the citrus industry, but today covers retailers, construction companies, artisan contractors and service providers. It claims $102 million in assets, and boosted its policyholder surplus from $25 million to $35 million between 2017 and 2018.
Two fails for tort reformers
The Florida Justice Reform Institute struck out in two at-bats before the Florida Supreme Court, both on the same day, and both involving appeals from the 4th District Court of Appeal.
The institute filed friend-of-the-court briefs in both cases.
In both cases, institute President William Large argues, the court overstepped its jurisdiction by saying the intermediate appeals court in West Palm Beach had misread high court precedents when it really hadn’t.
The court voted, 5-1, to reinstate an $18.5 million judgment against R.J. Reynolds for the daughter of a woman who died of lung cancer. The court concluded the daughter’s financial independence of her mother didn’t soften her pain and suffering.
The justices also voted, 4-3, to reinstate an $8.5 million bad-faith claim against Geico General Insurance Co. in favor of a policyholder who argued a claims adjuster botched negotiations with the family of a deceased motorcyclist.
“Our constitution gives the Florida Supreme Court limited authority of discretionary review,” Large said of the first ruling.
“Without an express and direct conflict between appellate decisions on the same question of law, the court’s decision to take up this case exceeded that authority. Their actions risk depriving litigants of the finality that the district courts of appeal are meant to bring.”
FSU finds new alumni president
The search for a new alumni relations head at Florida State University is over.
FSU this week named Julie Cheney the new president and CEO of the university’s Alumni Association. Cheney succeeds Scott Atwell, who had served up until May. Cheney will officially assume the role in November.
“Florida State alumni are passionate, and their involvement is key to advancing the mission and vision of our university,” Cheney said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Cheney is a veteran of alumni relations. She’s formerly worked in related positions at the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina. In Tallahassee, she’ll be responsible for connecting more than 349,000 alumni with the university, while also increasing membership, managing the association’s finances and overseeing a 23-person staff.
“Julie Cheney’s broad experience in the many aspects of alumni relations will allow her to hit the ground running with an excellent understanding of best practices,” said Tom Jennings, vice president for University Advancement.
Study: Polarization could be good
Candidates who tout extreme positions on issues like immigration and abortion could be a better fit for their constituents, a new study from researchers at Florida State University suggests.
The researchers surveyed participants to determine how ideologically conservative or liberal each were. They assessed levels of agreement to statements like, “Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.”
At a later date, the same subjects were presented with two hypothetical candidates. After reading through each candidate’s platform, the participants were asked which candidate they prefer. Another test presented to the subjects candidates who “matched” each participant ideologically, but strayed on the issues.
The result: Overarching ideological differences didn’t matter. The candidates’ preferences were largely tied to single issues, ones that are often polarizing.
“There’s a long strand of psychology and political behavior research that suggests citizens don’t really think ideologically, that they don’t evaluate candidates based on how liberal or conservative they are,” said researcher Dough Ahler, who is an assistant professor of political science at FSU. “When it comes to policy, what really matters are the individual issues.”
Goad appointed City Manager
Tallahassee city commissioners this week appointed Reese Goad to permanently fill the position of City Manager.
Goad, who had been interim city manager, was credited with making gains in crime reduction during his brief tenure. He assumed the role after former City Manager Rick Fernandez stepped down in the wake of allegations of accepting gifts in his official capacity.
“With the Commission’s support, I am prepared to lead this organization into the future with a commitment to financial stability, high-quality service delivery and an unequivocal standard of ethical decision making,” Goad said in a statement.
As the city’s manager, Goad is responsible for making sure the everyday functions of the city go smoothly. He reports directly to the Tallahassee City Commission and oversees approximately 3,000 city workers. He’ll also work with an annual budget of around $900 million.