Never mind candidates on the ballot. There are a dozen constitutional amendments voters must worry about on Election Day.
In the interest of saving time and avoiding long lines at polling locations, it’s best Floridians equip themselves early with knowledge of each proposal, rather than making a gameday decision.
As the courts have told us, ballot titles and accompanying language might not be enough to make a well-informed decision. Fortunately, there are useful guides available to help voters do their due diligence.
The latest: Florida TaxWatch’s “2018 Voter Guide to Florida’s Constitutional Amendments.”
The nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog is offering an early glimpse of what voters will see Nov. 6, along with the anticipated result of each amendment, pass or fail. Also included are arguments from supporters, and conversely, criticisms from opponents.
One example: under the guide’s analysis of Amendment 13, a controversial proposal that would phase out dog racing in the state, TaxWatch notes, “Animal rights advocates say that the greyhound racing industry’s treatment of the dogs is cruel and inhumane, citing hundreds of greyhound deaths in Florida and the banning of commercial greyhound racing in 40 states.”
Opponents, on the other hand, “say the greyhounds are treated well, and that greyhound racing fully complies with American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines governing the housing, feeding and treatment of the dogs.”
“As a Florida taxpayer, I know how overwhelming 12 constitutional amendments seems when there’s already so much included on our ballot,” said TaxWatch Chairman David Mann. “It is an honor to lead an organization that is focused on the best interest of the state and dedicated to keeping taxpayers informed.”
To officially amend the state’s governing document, each amendment must obtain 60 percent approval on Election Day.
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:
Red tide reaches Atlantic Coast — Algae causing toxic red tide was confirmed this week on four beaches on Florida’s eastern shore. Following closures in Palm Beach and Miami Dade counties, Gov. Rick Scott directed the Department of Environmental Protection to offer $3 million in grants to help affected areas curb the outbreak. The money is currently available to St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Florida’s Gulf Coast has been hit particularly hard this season by the near-annually occurring Karenia brevis algae, although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently announced the outbreak in southwest Florida was weakening.
State launches priest investigation — Following a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found decades of sexual abuse by priests was covered up by church leaders, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced an investigation into Florida’s seven Catholic dioceses. “Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the church and a threat to society,” Bondi said in a statement. “I am calling on victims and anyone with information about potential abuse to please report it to my office. Victim information will be kept confidential in accordance with state law.” Assisting statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox in the investigation is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bondi encourages anyone with information about past child abuse by priests to report here.
Committee weeks set — Meetings leading up to the 2018 Legislative Session will begin in early December, according to memos released this week by leaders in the state Legislature. Organization Session will take place during the week of Thanksgiving, Nov. 20. That’s when Senate President Joe Negron will pass the gavel to Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, as will House Speaker Richard Corcoran to House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva. Legislative committees will meet the weeks of Dec. 11, Jan. 7 and 22, and Feb. 4, 11 and 18. The 2019 Legislative Session begins on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. The annual 60-day session is scheduled to end May 3.
State Sen. Dorothy Hukill passes — Hukill died Tuesday, less than a week after announcing on Facebook that she “recently experienced an aggressive recurrence” of her cancer and decided to enter hospice. She was 72. A private, invitation-only memorial service will be held for the Port Orange Republican and longtime public servant. In lieu of flowers, her family asks for donations to the Halifax Health Hospice facility in Port Orange, where “dedicated and caring staff took such wonderful care of her in these last days.” Senators and staff members are invited to pay respects from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home in Port Orange. “Dorothy was a strong and passionate advocate for her community, serving in several positions in local government and also for eight years in the Florida House before her election to the Senate in 2012,” Senate President Joe Negron said in a statement.
Judge blocks pot license process — Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this week ordered the Florida Department of Health to halt its application process for those seeking licenses to distribute medical marijuana. The order comes after Dodson in August declared significant provisions of the state’s controversial medical marijuana law unconstitutional, including limits on the number of licenses the state can issue and carve-outs for special licenses, such as for owners of former citrus processing facilities. The recent order had been sought by Florigrown, which had been denied a permit by the state. “Another two months have passed, and I do believe now we’re at the point where Florigrown will suffer irreparable harm absent the entry of a temporary injunction and that, given the public interest that can’t be more clearly stated than the public stated in the medical marijuana amendment, that allowing this process and procedures going through by the department is not in the public interest,” Dodson said Wednesday, according to the News Service of Florida.
Scott highlights new Deepwater Horizon aftermath spending
More than $291 million is on its way to protect Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gov. Scott announced this week.
The money will be for projects approved by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. In 2013, Scott reached an agreement with the Council to develop a plan for the portion of federal funding allocated to Florida following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Read the full plan here.
“The communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill have come so far since that tragic disaster, and we will never stop fighting to protect our environment and make sure families and businesses along the Gulf Coast continue to grow,” Scott said. “The approval of this funding is great news, and I look forward to continuing our good work with all of our partners to take care of Florida’s Gulf Coast.”
The RESTORE Act, passed by Congress on June 29, 2012, created the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
“This is a culmination of five years of work and cooperation with and between federal, state and local governments,” said Council Chairman Grover Robinson. “This ambitious plan implements environmental restoration projects across 23 counties from the Perdido River in my county of Escambia to Key West in Monroe County.”
Scott, Bondi attend human trafficking summit
Gov. Scott and Attorney General Bondi delivered remarks Monday to an Orlando audience deeply concerned with accomplishing one goal: eradicating human trafficking.
The 2018 Human Trafficking Summit brought together law enforcement, the legal community, educators, health care professionals, service providers and other first responders from around the state for breakout sessions focused on combating the ongoing problem.
“The Human Trafficking Summit is, and will continue to be, a valuable opportunity to bring law enforcement, activists and experts together to share ideas and build on the model we have built,” Bondi said.
During his remarks, Scott highlighted seven pieces of legislation he signed since 2012, including $6.2 million in new funding authorized in this year’s budget to provide services for victims of human trafficking.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the state is the third-highest trafficking destination in the country, with half of all victims under the age of 18.
Instagram of the Week
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Today we are honoring the life and service of Florida State Senator #DorothyHukill. Her work for this state and her support of BAC will not be forgotten. Our sincerest condolences go out to her friends, family and anyone touched by the great works of our Senator. You will be missed.
The week in appointments
Technology Advisory Council
Susan Amat, 43, of Coral Gables, is the founder and chief executive officer of Venture Hive. She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a doctoral degree from the University of Miami. Amat is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022. Allen Ginder, 51, of Jacksonville, is the Florida public sector director for Avaya. Ginder received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia. He is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022.
Lake-Sumter State College District Board of Trustees
Jennifer Hooten, 42, of Bushnell, is a teacher for Sumter School District. She received her bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University. Hooten succeeds Kelly Rice for a term ending May 31, 2022. Emily Lee, 72, of Eustis, is a retired integration specialist from Community Coalition Alliance. She received her bachelor’s degree from Southern University, and her master’s degree from Mankato State University. Lee is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Department of Elderly Affairs Advisory Council
Stacy Robello, 42, of Gulf Breeze, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care of Pensacola. She succeeds Dorothy Peoples for a term ending Sept. 30, 2020.
Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee
Dr. Ronald Lucchino, 77, of Longboat Key, is an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. He is reappointed for a term ending Feb. 13, 2022. Aileen Ruess, 60, of Fort Walton Beach, is the owner of Ace Senior Care Management. She succeeds Christine Powers for a term ending Feb. 13, 2021. Dr. Robert Glueckauf, 68, of Tallahassee, is a professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine. He succeeds Todd Golde for a term ending Feb. 13, 2022. Dr. Maria Ordóñez, 51, of Boca Raton, is the director of the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing Memory and Wellness Center. She fills a vacant seat for a term ending Feb. 13, 2021.
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind Board of Trustees
Christine Chapman, 49, of St. Augustine, is a former staffing specialist for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. She is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 13, 2021. Ralph “Terry” Hadley III, 76, of Winter Park, is an attorney and managing partner with Swann, Hadley, Stump, Dietrich & Spears PA. He is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 20, 2021. Christopher Wagner, 50, of Palm Harbor, is the chief operating officer for ZVRS and Purple Communications. He is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 19, 2020. These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Worth a thousand words: State remembers history through pictures
October is American Archives Month, and in the Sunshine State, it will be celebrated in still shots.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the campaign this week, kicking off by highlighting one of the earliest known photographs of Florida. It features an 1849 Key West daguerreotype.
The campaign, titled “Focus on Florida: Photography in the Sunshine State,” will also share the State Archives’ collection of stills, along with the history of the artmaking process.
“American Archives Month is a great time to visit Florida’s state and local archives facilities, find ourselves and our communities in historical records, and see how archives preserve and tell our stories as Floridians,” said Detzner.
The Archives will hold two open house events this month: Saturday, Oct. 13, and Tuesday, Oct. 23. Both events kick off at 9 a.m. and aim at giving “more people an opportunity to explore the Archives’ extensive publicly accessible resources for researching and preserving local and family history,” according to Detzner.
“The State Archives of Florida is hosting open house events throughout the month to give more people an opportunity to explore the Archives’ extensive publicly accessible resources for researching and preserving local and family history.”
FWC highlights red tide partnerships
Following a particularly strong outbreak of red tide this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission emphasized its continued focus on research efforts to help understand and combat the toxic, near-annually occurring algae.
By partnering with scientists at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and the Mote Marine Laboratory, a nonprofit marine research and science education institution, FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton hopes to make a dent in the red tide and help affected areas recover.
“We all know we will recover, but it is going to take our continued partnership,” Sutton said.
The public-private partnerships that have been formed include the Department of Environmental Protection.
“With the talented team we have working together, I know the next big breakthrough in how we manage red tide will come from right here in Florida,” DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said.
At USF, “a combination of buoys, underwater drones and satellites to predict the conditions conducive to development of red tide, measure where it is now, and use sophisticated computer models to predict where it’s going to go,” according to Jackie Dixon, dean of the College of Marine Science.
Ed officials recognize employers for hiring practices
Seven Tampa Bay companies were recently honored for hiring Floridians with disabilities.
The announcement coincides with Disability Employment Awareness Month and stems from an outreach initiative sponsored by the Florida Department of Education Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, or VR.
“Individuals with disabilities contribute greatly to our communities and are integral to our state’s workforce,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “Through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, we are proud to connect job seekers with disabilities to career opportunities that enable them to lead more independent lives.
Among the honorees: AMC 20 Movie Theatre, BayCare Health System, Culver’s of Zephyrhills, The Hamptons at Clearwater, K & K Glass, NASCO Aerospace and Electronics and Wawa.
VR Director Allison Flanagan noted that her division — and thanks to employers helping spearhead evolved hiring practices — nearly 5,000 individuals obtained or maintained employment last year.
“Individuals with disabilities offer a broad pool of talents and tend to stay on the job longer than employees without disabilities,” Flanagan said. “Given the opportunity, individuals with disabilities are able to show their skills, loyalty, and determination and become successful members of the community.”
Election registration deadline nears
Prospective voters take note: Oct. 9 is the last day Floridians can register to vote in the upcoming election.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the 67 county ballot offices, is reminding citizens to take action now if they intend to cast a ballot on or before Nov. 6.
“I encourage all eligible Floridians who still need to submit a voter registration application to do so by the Oct. 9 deadline,” said Detzner.
Anticipating increased demand, Detzner announced that the State Department is extending Voter Assistance Hotline hours. The hotline — 1-866-308-6739 — will be operational from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday. On Tuesday, the registration deadline, the service will be open until midnight.
To register, users will need a driver’s license or official identification card, along with the last four digits of their Social Security number. To register online, voters can visit here.
Florida accepts maternal mental health grant
The Human Resources and Services Administration is funding the development of a model for screening and treating mental health concerns of pregnant and postpartum women, the state Health Department announced.
Florida is one of just seven states to receive the federal funding. The Florida Department of Health will partner with the FSU College of Medicine and the Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative for the project.
“Good mental health before, during and after pregnancy can positively impact the health of both mother and child,” said State Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.
A risk assessment program managed by the state found that more than half of mothers in Florida experience depression after childbirth, but less than 10 percent sought or had access to professional help.
The five-year grant seeks to, among other things, “build statewide capacity in Florida to fully and competently deliver all aspects of screening, referral, engagement, and mental health consultation training to all major obstetrics practices and birth hospitals across North Florida,” according to state health officials.
Florida hospitals reach C-section milestone
Many Florida hospitals are ahead of schedule in accomplishing a nationwide goal of reducing the number of cesarean section, or C-section, operations performed on first-time mothers with low-risk pregnancies.
State health officials announced this week that 20 hospitals already have reached the federal “Healthy People 2020 Maternal and Child Health” goal.
“As part of managed care our Agency has worked with health plans and hospitals to improve birth outcomes and lower risks to both mother and baby,” said Justin Senior, Secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration. “We have seen many hospitals take on this challenge and are excited to recognize the hospitals that have met the Healthy People 2020 goal.”
A complete list of recognized hospitals can be found here.
Currently, Florida C-section rates for first-time low-risk pregnancies range from 17 percent to 61 percent, according to the state.
Book lauds investigation into sexual abuse
State Sen. Lauren Book is supporting the state’s decision to probe Florida’s seven Catholic dioceses for information regarding past and current sexual abuse by priests.
Spearheaded by Attorney General Pam Bondi, the state announced the investigation Thursday in light of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found decades of sexual abuse by priests was covered up by church leaders.
“Sadly, we know these instances are not isolated,” Book said, referencing the more than 1,000 children found to have been abused in Pennsylvania. “Attorney General Bondi has sent a clear message to any person using their position of power to exploit and manipulate children: your actions are not tolerated, and you will not get away with harming children.”
Book, herself a survivor of sexual abuse as a child and vocal advocate against abuse, encouraged individuals to come forward.
“As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know how scary it is to come forward, but I want all survivors to know that your voice matters, the guilt is not yours to carry, and you will be believed. If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual abuse, I promise it is OK to tell,” Book said.
Victim shield law tested
The state struck out on its bid to force the mother of a man accused of sexual assault — who died before he could stand trial — to take down a social media post naming the victim.
At least for now.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said officials improperly pursued the order within the framework of its criminal case against Nathaniel Green — which legally ended upon his death.
Still, the court said officials could proceed against Rebecca Green under a state law forbidding publication of sexual assault victims’ names — as long as they target her in a separate proceeding.
“The statute provides an independent basis of jurisdiction (and a supplemental grant of authority) for the circuit court to enter an order protecting a crime victim from harassment, whether the harassment occurs during the pendency of the criminal case or thereafter,” the court said. The case originated in Leon County.
Florida cancer advocate honored with national award
Heather Youmans, the lead government relations professional for the Florida chapter of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, recently received the group’s top lobbying honor.
ACS CAN, an advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, presents the award each year to a government relations professional who has worked tirelessly to promote cancer-related public policy.
During the 2017 Session, Youmans’ work was particularly successful. She helped secure more than $1.8 million in recurring appropriations for Florida’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program.
Youmans also led efforts to secure $23 million for the state’s peer-reviewed, competitive biomedical research programs, which focus on cancer and tobacco-related illnesses.
FSU ‘Policy Pub’ to focus on consolidation
What are the pros and cons of merging city and county governments?
That’s the question of the day — or evening — for those planning to attend the latest Policy Pub installment: “The pros and cons of consolidation.”
The free public forum presented by the Florida State University College of Social Sciences will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Backwoods Bistro in Tallahassee.
The discussion will be led by Sam Staley, director of FSU’s DeVoe L. Moore Center. Staley also teaches undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation and urban economics.
Specifically, Staley is expected to discuss when consolidation makes sense, and when it doesn’t.
An invite teasing the event notes, “Consolidating public services seems like a no-brainer — reduce duplication of services and labor, cut costs, increase efficiency and get better public services. But does it work in practice?”
GreenWise Market sets up shop in capital city
Good news for organically inclined Tallahasseeans: GreenWise Market, the natural and organic affiliate of Publix Supermarkets, opened up a location this week at the southwest corner of Gaines Street and Railroad Avenue.
The store boasts a variety of ooff-the-beaten-path options for the environmentally conscious consumer, including antibiotic-free meats, organic cheeses and vegan items.
“With our new-format GreenWise Market, we will offer today’s natural and specialty customer the new and interesting products they are looking for while setting the stage to provide a uniquely different shopping experience,” said Kevin Murphy, Publix senior vice president of Retail Operations. “The customers in this growing market are looking for a brand they trust, and we are confident GreenWise Market will be their specialty, natural and organic store of choice.”
In-house eats differ from those offered by traditional Publix locations. At GreenWise, patrons have the option of “fresh, handcrafted sandwiches, acai bowls, gourmet pizzas, burritos, bowls, sushi and sausage” made on location by employees, according to the grocery giant.
The store will also cater to those looking to catch a quick buzz or caffeinated jump, offering kombucha, local craft beer, wine, smoothies and locally-roasted coffee.