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Takeaways from Tallahassee — When it matters most

With a new statewide gig at a regulatory agency, state Rep. Halsey Beshears is expected to soon vacate his House District 7 seat.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for Beshears. But we’re hoping it’s not bad news for the constituents of the sprawling, 10-county district stretches across most of the counties hit hardest by Hurricane Michael.

Beshears, a Monticello Republican, will have to vacate his seat before a special election is announced to replace him.

The race to replace Monticello Republican Halsey Beshears has begun, with a special election expected to be announced soon.

The two candidates that said this week they’ll compete in that race also hope the wheels move sooner rather than later, for the sake of constituents having representation before and during the 2019 Legislative Session.

There are rumors that a special election could be announced in a matter of days. But a spokesperson with Gov. Rick Scott’s office only said they’d keep us updated and didn’t offer an estimated time frame.

In the meantime, we’re hoping nearby legislators pick up the slack.

The good news across chambers: Hurricane Michael relief appears to be one of Democratic state Sen. Bill Montford’s top priorities. His territory tracks along similar boundaries across the Big Bend and Panhandle.

And Montford implored colleagues last month to convene a special session to iron out relief for the counties hit by the powerful October cyclone.

We’ll be watching for any special election movements next week, so stay tuned.

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:

Take 5

Beshears tapped for DBPR — Pending state Senate confirmation, Beshears will be the next Secretary of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Governor-elect Ron DeSantis announced the anticipated hire of Beshears this week. “Throughout his distinguished career, Halsey has been a champion for deregulation and, under his leadership, this agency will become the focal driver that will make Florida a premier destination for entrepreneurs and companies seeking to relocate.” The state agency gig is close to home for the lawmaker from Monticello, just 25 miles from Tallahassee. Beshears was first elected the state House in 2012. He’s been re-elected subsequently and ran unopposed in 2018. Two Republican candidates, Mike Watkins and Jason Shoaf, already have expressed their intent to replace Beshears in the expected special election for Beshears’ House District 7 seat.

Sowell recommended for EFI — DeSantis this week recommended Jamal Sowell to be the next head of Enterprise Florida, Inc., a public-private partnership aimed at jobs and economic development throughout the state. Sowell served as chief of staff for Port Tampa Bay. Sowell “has successfully helped to lead and grow the Port of Tampa Bay — one of the largest economic engines in the region,” DeSantis said in announcing the recommendation. Sowell is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan and achieving the rank of Captain. If confirmed, he would replace Mike Grissom, now the interim EFI CEO. Grissom took the place of Pete Antonacci, appointed by outgoing Gov. Scott to serve as the Broward County Supervisor of Elections.

Lawson tapped to lead DEO — A veteran of Gov. Scott’s administration will lead the state’s jobs agency under DeSantis reign. DeSantis picked Ken Lawson to serve as the next Executive Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity this week. Lawson will replace outgoing DEO chief Cissy Proctor, who will resign on Scott’s last day in office, Jan. 8. “I have no doubt Ken will continue his tradition of outstanding leadership at the Department of Economic Opportunity and help the state continue to be an economic powerhouse, bringing new businesses to Florida and creating jobs for Floridians,” DeSantis said in a news release announcing the Lawson hire. Lawson is now president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism agency, and was Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation before that.

Galvano won’t act on Snipes — State Senate President Bill Galvano this week said the upper chamber will not follow through on Gov. Scott’s suspension of Snipes, the troubled former Broward County Supervisor of Elections. The Bradenton Republican lawmaker suggested the chamber would not have enough time to complete an investigation to permanently strip Snipes of her office. Gov. Scott suspended Snipes from office last month after Snipes announced she would resign from office Jan. 4. Scott’s suspension prompted Snipes to withdraw her resignation and challenge Scott’s suspension. But Senate General Counsel Jeremiah Hawkes determined Snipes could not rescind her resignation as planned. The “Senate Rules require an inquiry or investigation” before the body decides to act on a suspension, Galvano wrote in a memo to senators. “We are presented with a situation where Dr. Snipes’ unconditional resignation will take effect Jan. 4, well before the Senate can complete a full investigation into the serious assertions made in the Governor’s Executive Order.”

Corcoran appointment on agenda — The State Board of Education will determine Monday whether former House Speaker Richard Corcoran will be the state’s next Education Commissioner. The rule-making authority tied to the Department of Education will meet at 10 a.m. in Room LL03 of the Capitol. Consideration of Corcoran, the only candidate on the table, is the last item on the agenda. The Board is comprised of seven gubernatorial appointees who serve staggered four-year terms. Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who was term-limited in 2018, is a school-choice advocate. Board Chair Marva Johnson this week told us that Corcoran is a “very strong candidate and I’m happy to have the opportunity to consider him.”

Disaster Fund grants awarded

Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida this week announced the first round of Florida Disaster Fund grants that will be awarded to 17 organizations engaged in Hurricane Michael response and recovery efforts.

Recipients include Hearts & Hands Disaster Recovery, Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network, and Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend.

Help is on the way for Big Bend victims of Hurricane Michael, in the form of disaster fund grants.

Each organization will receive $25,000 to assist with urgent activities, such as tarping and roof repairs, as well as long-term rebuilding, according to a news release.

“The Florida Disaster Fund was designed specifically to give community organizations the ability to help families after disasters, allowing Floridians to concentrate on recovery,” Scott said in a statement.

“We are grateful for the generous donors — individuals, groups and corporations — who continue to make that possible. We will never stop working to help families recover from Hurricane Michael.”

The Florida Disaster Fund, administered by the Volunteer Florida Foundation, is the state’s official fund for aiding communities after disasters.

The full list and other information are here.

Good news for state investments

S&P Global Ratings this week bumped up the fund credit quality rating of the Florida Treasury Investment Pool to ‘AA-f’ from ‘A+f.’

That’s a good sign of the state’s “fiscal responsibility and strong asset management,” according to Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

Jimmy Patronis is touting Florida’s ‘fiscal responsibility,’ after the state got a bump in its fund credit quality rating.

“Even more importantly, our elevated credit rating put us in a stronger position to manage your taxpayer dollars,” added Patronis in a news release this week. “Better returns on our investments can keep taxes low and you can keep more of your money.”

The Treasury Investment Pool, valued at $24 billion, is comprised of money collected by agencies through fees and taxes. The state uses the fund to operate and pay contracted vendors.

Patronis, recently elected for a four-year term, said he’ll continue to diversify investments “smartly and responsibly.” The CFO, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2017, noted a recent partnership with Israel to invest $40 million in the foreign country’s bonds.

“We must do everything possible to provide Floridians with a strong return on investment so we can build a better, stronger Florida,” added Patronis.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Gov. Scott issued six judicial appointments this week:

3rd District Court of Appeal — Eric Hendon will replace retired Judge Richard Suarez. This is Scott’s first-ever appointment of an African-American to be an appellate judge. Hendon, 62, lives in North Bay Village. Bronwyn Miller, 46, will replace retired Judge Leslie Rothenberg. Both Miller and Hendon are 11th Circuit Court judges. Hendon received both his bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Florida. Miller received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and her law degree from the University of Miami.

18th Circuit CourtRobert Segal, the General Magistrate for Brevard County replaces Judge John Harris, who was appointed to 5th District Court of Appeal in July. The 50-year-old graduated with a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and received his Juris Doctorate from Vermont Law School.

13th Circuit Court — Lawrence Larry Lefler replaces resigned Judge Claudia Isom. Lefler, 49, is a Hillsborough County Court Judge. He received his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and his law degree from Texas Southern University.

Lake County CourtCary Rada, 50, fills in for Judge James Baxley, who was appointed to the 5th Circuit in August. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University and his law degree from Stetson University.

Polk County Court — David E. Stamey, Jr., replaces resigned Judge Robert Williams. Stamey, 48, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University.

Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority — Scott reappointed Michael Millett for a term that will end Sept. 1, 2020. Millett, 38, is an attorney with Raymond James Financial in Tampa. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

FWC approves guidelines for threatened species

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) this week OK’d Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines for nine of the more than 50 species in the agency’s Imperiled Species Management Plan.

The Florida bog frog, crystal darter, Sherman’s short-tailed shrew, Georgia blind salamander, Southern tessellated darter and four species of wading birds — the little blue heron, tricolored heron, reddish egret and roseate spoonbill — will “benefit from the new species guidelines,” the agency said in a news release.

The Florida bog frog is one of nine endangered species approved for FWC protection.

Species guidelines are designed to be a tool for landowners, consultants, agency partners and other interested parties on how to conserve these species,” it said.

“The guidelines offer options for avoidance, minimization and mitigation of take for the nine state-designated threatened species. They provide species-specific information on key issues relevant to real-world conservation.”

For an overview of how Florida conserves imperiled species, go to MyFWC.com/Imperiled.

Juvenile arrest rate continues to fall

Minor arrests were down again during 2017-2018, continuing a multiyear trend of fewer arrests.

According to a report released this week from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, juvenile felony arrests dropped 10 percent over the last fiscal year. Overall youth arrests dropped eight percent through the same period.

Collaboration, dedication and ‘helping young people turn their lives around’ is behind the drop in juvenile arrests, says DJJ Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann.

“The decreases we are seeing in juvenile arrests are due to the collaborative efforts of our dedicated DJJ staff, law enforcement partners and community stakeholders,” DJJ Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann said. “Helping young people turn around their lives for the better is what we all strive for every day, and we remain focused on investing in our youth and helping them achieve a brighter future.”

Other highlights of the report include significant decreases in theft arrests, most notably a 42 percent decrease in arrests for stolen property.

Orange and Miami-Dade counties experienced the largest drops in arrests, at 19 and 16 percent respectively.

Florida education license plate makeover

The Support Education specialty license plate has a new look after more than 25 years on Florida highways.

The Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, or CFEF, recently unveiled the new design. Since its debut in 1994, plate purchases have raised more than $13 million for education services across the state.

The new Florida education license plate.

“The new design promotes the importance of education in the Sunshine State and is among only a few specialty tags in Florida where the money goes directly back into the county where the tag was purchased or renewed,” reads a news release from CFEF.

“The Support Education specialty tag is a powerful way for citizens to demonstrate their commitment to our public schools and provide needed, local support for teachers and students,” said Mary Chance, president of the CFEF. “We are so excited to debut the new design and hope more Florida drivers will support their local teachers and students with the purchase or renewal of the Support Education license tag.”

The Support Education specialty license plate costs $25 annually. The new tag is available for purchase at local tax collector’s offices and online here.

Wakulla Springs named State Geological Site

The Department of Environmental Protection is hosting a State Geological Site designation ceremony at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.

That’s Thursday, Dec. 20, 2 p.m., with a guided tour at 2:30 p.m.

State Geological Sites are areas the Florida Geological Survey has determined to be “significant to the scientific study and public understanding of geological history in Florida,” a news release explained.

The state’s newest geological site, offering an experience to learn about ‘past and present culture.’

And the sites “provide opportunities to experience and learn about a site’s geological features, its connection to the local ecosystem and significance in past and present culture.”

The extensive cave system beneath Wakulla Springs “extends more than 32 miles and serves as a network of conduits that supply the more than 250 million gallons of water per day that discharges from the spring.”

The park is located at 465 Wakulla Park Drive, in Wakulla County. Space is limited, so reserve a spot by emailing Sarah.Erb@FloridaDEP.gov.

Richard Stark plans next step

As he begins his final term in the Florida House, Richard Stark already is plotting his political future. It looks like it will include running for Mayor of Weston.

The Democratic lawmaker discussed his plans during a brief interview in a Capitol hallway.

Richard Stark looks beyond his final term in the Florida House, possibly toward Weston Mayor.

The 30-year Weston resident had hoped his first foray into elective politics would involve a seat on the city commission. But that would have required taking on political allies. Instead, he ran for the House in 2012 and won subsequent re-election.

Don’t call the Florida House a consolation prize, Stark insisted.

“I wanted to run for state or federal office when I was in sixth grade. I’d like to run for Senate — but there isn’t a Senate seat for me to run for. But I’ve wanted to serve the City of Weston for a long time as a public official.”

Stark’s goals if elected include keeping city government lean: “Maybe we could be a little more business-friendly in some respects, but I think they do a pretty good job.”

Then, too, he’d like to bridge the divide between Anglos and the growing Latin community. “Might need a little sprucing up in the unity, because right now the two communities sometimes are a little bit afraid of each other,” Stark said.

Panhandle schools get classroom, library relief money

The Florida Education Foundation this week awarded more than $28,000 to the nine North Florida school districts that were hit hardest by Hurricane Michael earlier this year.

The literacy grant will allow the districts to replenish libraries and classrooms. Division of Public Schools Chancellor Hershel Lyons presented the check to Bay District Schools, Gadsden Education Foundation, Holmes County School District and Jackson County School District.

Public Schools Chancellor Hershel Lyons reading to students at Lucille Moore Elementary School in Bay County. (Image via Florida Education Foundation.)

Wells Fargo and independent bookstores are credited with helping to provide the funds.

The Re-book to Re-build: Hurricane Relief fundraiser, through which participating booksellers directed a portion of book sales proceeds to the effort, provided some of the funding for the Panhandle schools districts.

“I appreciate the participating bookstores and all of the donors’ generous contributions in making sure Florida’s students who were hit hardest by Hurricane Michael receive the resources necessary to succeed,” Lyons said in a prepared statement.

Hurricane Michael aid deadline extended

Hurricane Michael survivors in Florida now have until Monday, Dec. 17, to register for disaster assistance.

Homeowners and renters may be eligible for assistance, including grants to cover basic repairs to make their homes habitable, funds to cover disaster-related personal property losses, and various forms of temporary housing assistance.

Hurricane Michael victims get just a little more time to file assistance claims with FEMA.

Visit DisasterAssistance.gov to register online or call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585).

Monday also is the deadline to apply for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA disaster loans are the largest source of federal disaster funds for homeowners, renters and businesses.

Survivors can submit their SBA loan application online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. For more information, visit sba.gov/disaster or contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call (800) 877-8339.

Disaster survivors who need help with the registration process can visit any disaster recovery center to speak face to face with representatives from FEMA, SBA, HUD and other agencies. To locate the nearest center, visit FEMA.gov/DRC or call the FEMA helpline.

Survivors who miss the registration deadline of Dec. 17 must provide written justification before their registration can be processed. The letter must include details on the extenuating circumstances that prevented them from applying on time.

For more on Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Michael, visit FloridaDisaster.org and FEMA.gov/Disaster/4399.

PSC approves new wastewater rate after Michael

Some utility customers affected by Hurricane Michael could see their monthly service rate for wastewater service fall.

The Public Service Commission recently approved a “standby charge” for customers unable to utilize service from ESAD Enterprises, Inc.’s d/b/a Beaches Sewer System, or Beaches.

Beaches is a Class C wastewater-only utility operating in Gulf County, serving 316 residential and four general service customers. A temporary, monthly standby charge of $11.79 now will be offered to the customers who cannot use the service. That’s down from the typical rate of $43.03.

“We approved the standby charge so Beaches can maintain a stable revenue stream and operate at a safe and reliable level, while also aiding customers directly hurt by Hurricane Michael’s devastation,” said Commissioner Gary Clark.

PSC is requiring Beaches notice its customer base of the new charge.

Environmental groups confront DeSantis

Florida Conservation Voters and Environment Florida this week delivered a letter to DeSantis urging the Gov.-elect’s future administration to acknowledge the threat of climate change.

FCV Executive Director Aliki Moncrief said DeSantis has a “unique opportunity to reorient Florida to face the growing issues associated with climate change and sea-level rise.”

‘Running out of time’: FCV Executive Director Aliki Moncrief is calling on Ron DeSantis to act quickly on climate change.

“This is a nonpartisan issue that affects all Floridians,” added Moncrief. “The Governor-elect has no choice but to make climate action a top priority. We are running out of time.”

The letter also requests DeSantis consider implementing climate change monitoring and protection; appointing scientists to water protection boards; making polluters pay more, and establishing a fund for future resiliency projects.

Florida Conservation Voters and Environment Florida delivered the letter on behalf of a coalition of organizations committed to climate change action, including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the CLEO Institute and the Sierra Club.

Bar seeks to fill special appointments

The Florida Bar is seeking applicants for:

Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund Board of Governors: One lawyer to serve a four-year term commencing July 1, 2019. The purpose of the board is to supervise the operations of the FPCF, which provides excess medical malpractice coverage to Florida health care providers.

Statewide Nominating Commission for Judges of Compensation Claims: Three lawyers from the territorial jurisdictions of the 1st, 3rd and 5th state appellate districts to serve four-year terms commencing July 2, 2019.

All applicants must be members of The Florida Bar who are engaged in the practice of law. No attorney who appears before any judge of compensation claims more than four times a year is eligible to serve on the commission.

Commissioners also are not eligible for state judicial vacancies filled by the Judicial Nominating Commission on which they sit for two years following the expiration of their term. Commissioners are subject to financial disclosure. Meetings and deliberations are open to the public.

Lawyers interested in applying for these vacancies may download the Application for Special Appointment from the Bar’s website or call (850) 561-5667 to obtain the form.

Completed applications must be received by the Executive Director, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300 or submitted via email to specialapptapp@floridabar.org no later than the close of business Friday, Feb. 15.

Resumes will not be accepted in lieu of the required application. The Board of Governors will review all applications and may request telephone or personal interviews.

Registration open for Winter hoops

Registration is open for the City of Tallahassee’s 2019 Winter Adult Basketball League. The six-week, 12-game season begins the week of Jan. 14, 2019. Games will be held in the Lincoln Neighborhood Center and Walker-Ford Community Center gymnasiums.

The team registration fee is $395 for the 12-game season. Teams may register online at Talgov.com/Parks or in person at the Parks and Rec main office, 912 Myers Park Drive.

Tallahassee’s winter adult basketball league is open for registration. (Image via Elegance Davis)

Registration ends Jan. 5, 2019. Teams wanting to register a team after that will be charged a $10 late fee. Late registration takes place Jan. 8-9. Jan. 9 is the deadline for all registration for the league.

Teams will be separated into divisions based on the level of competitiveness. Divisions include Competitive, Somewhat Competitive and Recreational. This means that whether you have players who are completely new to the game or players who wanted to go pro, there is a division for you.

Each team can carry as many players as they want on the roster, but all players must be 18.

If you are a player wanting to get on a team, please email your name and phone number to Janet.Lucas@Talgov.com. For additional information on this and other adult league offerings, please contact email Lucas, call her at 891-3835 or visit Talgov.com.

Capitol Directions

Written By

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.

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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

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