Takeaways from Tallahassee — Beer me

Tallahassee skyline
What could be better than beer for a good cause?

What could be better than beer for a good cause?

The inaugural Tallahassee Beer Festival, featuring more than 50 breweries and home brewers, happens today, 2-5 p.m., at The Pavilion at the Centre of Tallahassee (formerly Tallahassee Mall).

Proceeds will benefit a slew of participating local nonprofits including Big Brothers Big Sisters of The Big Bend, Capital Area Community Action Agency, Capital City Youth Services, Elder Care Services, Legal Aid Foundation of Tallahassee, Legal Services Of North Florida, and many more.

Beer me: Featuring some of the area’s premier brewers, the Tallahassee Beer Festival comes to The Pavilion at The Centre of Tallahassee.

Attendees will be able to sample more than 100 different beers, including ciders and homebrews. Regional favorites including Proof Brewing, DEEP Brewing, Grasslands Brewing, Ology Brewing and Lake Tribe Brewing, all of whom will be on-hand.

The festival was initially set for October, but Hurricane Michael threw a monkey wrench in that plan.

“Canceling our original date last October to help with hurricane recovery was the only choice, and we are incredibly thankful to the venue, sponsors, distributors, breweries, and existing ticket holders for supporting that decision,” festival founder Ben Graybar said.

“Originally we thought the Tallahassee Beer Festival would stand out for the array of brews we’re offering for tasting, but what we’ve come to realize is that this event is going to be truly special due to the unbelievable community that has supported it.”

Tickets for the event are $10 for designated drivers and $40 for general admission; get ‘em online at TLHBeerFestival.com/tickets.

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

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

Take 5

Ertel quits — Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel resigned this week after photographs surfaced of him appearing in blackface in 2005. The Tallahassee Democrat reported that Ertel had posed as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a private Halloween party 14 years ago. The Democrat said it had shared the photos Thursday with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office, which had not previously seen them. “There’s nothing I can say,” Ertel told the Democrat. DeSantis accepted Ertel’s resignation and called the debacle “unfortunate” during a media briefing afterward. Currently, Department of State Chief of Staff Jennifer Kennedy is serving as Ertel’s interim replacement.

DeSantis snags Trump cost share — Gov. DeSantis this week announced that the federal government will share 100 percent of Hurricane Michael debris removal and other emergency expense costs for 45 days. DeSantis announced the news during a media briefing in Marianna, situated within the October storm’s path. DeSantis framed the news as a success linked to his relationship with President Donald Trump. “This much needed additional reimbursement assistance will vastly help Florida families in the Panhandle,” DeSantis said. “We are fortunate to have such a strong ally in the White House and we will never stop fighting to help all affected communities recover and rebuild stronger than ever.”

DeSantis appoints third justice — Carlos Muñiz fills the final Florida Supreme Court vacancy. Gov. DeSantis this week selected Muñiz — a top aide to both former Gov. Jeb Bush and former Attorney General Pam Bondi — to fill the only remaining open spot on the high court. Muñiz most recently has been the general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education under secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump, and was one of the two non-judge finalists nominated by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) out of 59 applicants. “Pam Bondi says, ‘off the charts brilliant.’ She sings his praises,” DeSantis told reporters. “The other thing is, he really understands the separation of powers. He understands the proper role of the courts.”

Legislature eyes criminal justice changes — Just one month after Trump signed the First Step Act into law, Florida lawmakers are looking to pass their own version of a criminal justice overhaul. State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, announced this week that lawmakers will soon launch a Florida version of the federal First Step Act. The Florida First Step Act could include measures that would create more diversion opportunities, Brandes told reporters. Related bills could also seek to offer more judicial discretion and opportunities to re-sentence already incarcerated individuals. Brandes already has filed the first part of the package: A bill that would allow judges to downward depart from mandatory minimums for certain nonviolent drug traffickers.

Veterans’ Affairs pick confirmed — On Thursday, Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet unanimously approved former state Rep. Danny Burgess to be Executive Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Burgess, a Captain and Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve, intends to push for some veteran-related measures that he supported as a lawmaker, such as streamlining the occupational-licensing process for veterans and addressing homeless veterans. “I had not really known him that well,” DeSantis said after the vote, held during a conference call. “When you meet him, he’s just a good guy with a great heart. Great work ethic, a lot of energy. I think he’s going to do a really good job for Florida’s veterans.”

Shining a light on Michael

Gov. DeSantis appears to understand that with great power comes great responsibility.

During a media briefing in Marianna this past week, DeSantis exhibited a bit of self-awareness of his power to dominate headlines. And he’s using that influence to spread awareness of Hurricane Michael — “to shine a light so that people remember not only that this happened but really how bad the storm was.”

To the rescue: In Marianna this week, Ron DeSantis announces extra hurricane relief from Donald Trump. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat.

At least part of the reason DeSantis keeps heading back to the impacted areas is that he believes it’s getting lost in the news cycle.

“There’s news stories every day, every hour and people forget about things that happen,” DeSantis said. “And in particular I think the Panhandle and our state tends to get less coverage than some of the other places.”

Fried talks land-acquisition amendment

Voters approved Amendment 1 in 2014, guaranteeing that a particular portion of state revenues would be spent on land acquisition. But years later, sticking points and a high-profile lawsuit remain.

Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, when asked this week whether she believed the state has implemented the amendment properly, pointed to the negative.

Needs improvement: Implementing Amendment 1 land acquisition could ‘be improved upon,’ says Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

“I think there’s definitely things that need to be improved upon,” Fried told reporters during a brief media availability. She said that some of the guaranteed dollars spent on administrative costs should instead be used for land purchases.

“The point of Amendment 1 is to make sure that we had opportunities and finances to preserve our waters and our lands here,” Fried added.

“And I want to make sure that is done. That’s been a priority in my administration because if we don’t preserve our land and we start building on it, then we can’t ever go back.”

Patronis sounds off on Balfour Beatty

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is upset with a military living real estate group serving Tyndall Air Force Base.

According to a news release, Patronis, a Republican elected to the office last year, has been unsuccessful in attempts to receive “clarity regarding the status of repairs to over 600 Balfour Beatty Communities base houses damaged by Hurricane Michael.”

‘Appalling’: Jimmy Patronis blasts the Balfour Betty real estate group for failing to provide ‘safe and quality housing’ for families at Tyndall Air Force Base. Image via the Panama City News-Herald.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that Balfour Beatty Communities has essentially forfeited their commitment to provide safe and quality housing at Tyndall Air Force Base in the wake of Hurricane Michael,” Patronis said. “As our brave military members piece together their lives while serving our nation, I expect Balfour Beatty to begin repairs immediately on their properties or be held in breach of contract.”

Nearby Republican state Sen. George Gainer said: “Families and military members at Tyndall deserve access to housing now.”

Area state Rep. Jay Trumbull added: “It is appalling that Balfour Beatty is not stepping up to the plate when it comes to Hurricane Michael recovery at Tyndall Air Force Base.”

Breaking up ‘cartels’

When Gov. DeSantis gave legislators an ultimatum on medical marijuana, he made a point of criticizing what he described as a “cartel” system of administering the drug.

Sen. Brandes told us this week what that might’ve meant: “My belief is that [DeSantis] was referencing the fact that Florida has set up a system where only a handful of people can be in the business.”

Ron DeSantis calls the state’s administration of medical marijuana a ‘cartels system,’ vowing to break up restrictions put on by lawmakers in 2017. Image via Joey Roulette.

“For generations, the guys with guns have gone after the drug cartels, now the guys with guns in law enforcement defend the drug cartels that we’ve created,” Brandes added.

“We’ve created a handful of small groups that have these medical-marijuana licenses and nobody else in Florida can get one, except through this process … this crazy process the Legislature set up.”

So, what’s the solution? Brandes said he’ll soon file a bill that would “break up” restrictions implemented by the Legislature in 2017.

“We should allow people to be growers if they’re good at growing, processors if they’re good at processing and retailers if they’re good at retailing,” Brandes said, referring to the medical marijuana industry.

“If they want to be in all three, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t allow them to be in all three.”

Instagram of the Week

Mark Inch backs feminine hygiene bill

Gov. DeSantis’ pick to lead the Florida Department of Corrections already is up on legislation that would reform the criminal justice system.

DOC Secretary Mark Inch will be supporting a bill (HB 49) that in part would provide feminine hygiene products to imprisoned women at no cost to them.

That’s according to the measure’s sponsor, state Rep. Shevrin Jones. The West Park Democrat had posted a video to Twitter sharing the news.

To view the video, click on the image below:

The bill, titled “Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act,” is being carried across chambers by state Sen. Jason Pizzo.

“A correctional facility shall make available health care products to each woman incarcerated in the facility at no cost to the woman in a quantity that is appropriate to the needs of the woman without a medical referral,” reads text from the measure.

“I ask that you continue to follow the progress of this bill,” Jones said, addressing constituents in South Florida.

Galvano picks special master for suspensions

Former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette will serve as special master for any suspension hearings requested by the three elected officials Gov. DeSantis has removed from office.

Senate President Bill Galvano picked Goodlette, calling him in a memo to chamber colleagues “a person of tremendous integrity who will carefully evaluate the facts of the case and provide a fair and impartial evaluation for our consideration.”

‘Tremendous integrity’: Bill Galvano tapped former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette as special master to preside over suspension hearings. Image via the Naples Daily News.

DeSantis as of this week has suspended three elected officials: Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, and Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.

So far, only Jackson has requested a “to exercise her right” to a Senate hearing on the suspension.

Added Galvano: “Should either Sheriff Israel or Supervisor Bucher formally request a hearing, my intention is to appoint Rep. Goodlette as Special Master regarding those suspensions as well.”

Lawmakers eye Amendment 11

State Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, says he is working on language to implement a recent amendment to the state’s constitution — and it could pave the way for landmark criminal justice reforms.

Amendment 11, approved by voters in November, in part clarified the Legislature’s authority to apply criminal sentencing reforms retroactively.

Darryl Rouson seeks to implement Amendment 11, opening the door to significant criminal justice reform.

More specifically, it repealed the “Savings Clause,” which had previously prohibited the Florida Legislature from applying reduced sentencing requirements and other criminal law changes to people who committed crimes before the new rules went into effect.

“I’m now working on language and I hope this committee will get behind it for [Amendment 11] implementation,” Rouson said during a committee this week. “It could be part of the whole scheme of sentencing reform.”

Smile: Bills seek to expand access to dental care

Republicans in the state House and Senate will file legislation this year that, if passed, would give Floridians more dental care opportunities.

Sen. Brandes and Orlando state Rep. Rene Plasencia will file legislation this Session that would authorize dental therapists to work in the state. The two lawmakers are supported by South Florida state Rep. Juan FernandezBarquin.

Healthier teeth: South Florida Republican Juan Fernandez-Barquin wants to expand dental health opportunities in the state.

The news came this week during a Capitol news conference hosted by Floridians for Dental Access.

Chiming in with some policy reasoning is The James Madison Institute, or JMI. The free-market-minded think tank characterized the legislation as a pathway for a more access-friendly approach to dental care.

Sal Nuzzo, VP of policy at JMI, called the bills a “patient-centered” solution.

“Ultimately, authorizing dental therapists in Florida is a market-oriented approach that would allow professionals to practice to the level of their training and meet critical needs for Floridians,” Nuzzo said.

Plakon files pro-work bill for incarcerated

State Rep. Scott Plakon filed legislation this week that would help prisoners get jobs after re-entry.

The bill (HB 397) removes licensing barriers for ex-cons in several occupations.

Work as rehab: Scott Plakon is pushing new legislation to help former prisoners find work by removing licensing barriers for ex-cons in a number of occupations.

“By providing individuals who are trying to rebuild their lives with much-needed clarity about how to show they are rehabilitated and ready to successfully re-enter the workforce, this bill will empower Floridians with a fresh start after incarceration,” reads a news release from Plakon’s office.

“I believe in the power of work to change lives,” Plakon said. “And no one could benefit more from a fresh start on life than rehabilitated individuals who are willing to put in the work. HB 397 will help more Floridians find meaningful work that can keep them from re-offending and help them contribute to our society and our economy.”

A similar bill (SB 334) is being carried across chambers by Sen. Brandes.

Pot on the private side

Given the Governor’s recent comments, we’re expecting lawmakers this Session to rewrite the state law governing the use of medical marijuana. Taylor Biehl, a lobbyist at Capital Alliance Group and policy director at the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida (MMBA), muses on the impact that the 2019 Legislative Session could have on the medicinal cannabis enterprise.

Florida Politics: How would dropping the smoking ban affect the medical marijuana industry?

Biehl: It would provide patients an alternative route of administration that may be, depending upon the condition, more effective and/or better tolerated. And of course, it would also provide more flexibility to Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) from a product development perspective.

A friendlier year: statements by Ron DeSantis indicate a general interest in expanding the medical marijuana Business, making it more available and affordable.

FP: Given the latest developments, does 2019 look like a friendlier year for medical marijuana enterprise compared to years past?

Biehl: Recent statements from Gov. DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, and legislative leadership indicate a genuine interest in expanding the business to make more licenses and products available so that they are affordable and accessible.

FP: What medical marijuana reforms does MMBA expect to support this Session?

Biehl: We support the following reforms, among others: Expanding access and affordability to patients; freeing up the Department of Health to allow for the existing seven MMTC license slots to be issued without further delay; allowing a reasonable number of additional MMTC licenses in order to facilitate increasing demand and product availability; making zoning for MMTC dispensaries across Florida’s municipal and county governments more permissive; and continued research to better understand efficacy and tolerability for patients.

Welcoming new justices

Though all three new justices to the Florida Supreme Court have sworn in and started work, there remains the traditional ceremony to formally welcome them.

It’s called an investiture, in which a new judge is (ceremonially) sworn in and puts on the robe. “In its original meaning, an investiture was the clothing of a new officeholder in garments that symbolized power,” according to Merriam-Webster.

Here comes the judge: The last Supreme Court investiture was justice Allan Lawson in 2017, a standing-room-only event. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat.

When asked about investitures for new Justices Barbara Lagoa, Robert Luck and Muñiz, court spokesman Craig Waters earlier this week said plans had not yet been firmed up but to look for an announcement.

It’s not clear whether the court could handle a combined investiture for all three.

The last one, in April 2017 for Justice Alan Lawson, turned out to be a standing room only event that packed the courtroom with former lawmakers, active judges, retired justices and legal luminaries from all over the state.

Lawson was appointed in December 2016, so there was a lag of some months before his investiture.

“For the first time in its history, a ‘Judicial Processional’ of more than 50 black-robed judges from throughout Florida will be formally seated in the Tallahassee courtroom by the Supreme Court Marshal,” according to a news release issued before that ceremony.

“Overflow crowds are expected,” it added. (And boy, were there.)

Hey, take it easy

Floridians left more than 37 million vacation days on the table last year, according to the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations.

That makes Florida among the top five states for unused vacation days. ADMO points to “planning” as a potential remedy.

Trippin’: Tuesday is National Plan for Vacation Day, the best way to make sure vacation days actually get used.

National Plan for Vacation Day is on Tuesday, and ADMO says it’s the best way to guarantee vacation days get used.

“By committing to planning on Jan. 29, you reap the benefits of taking a break while giving yourself something to look forward to,” Jennifer Fennell of ADMO said in a prepared statement.

Out-of-state visitation, some of which stems from Americans using their vacation days, helps keep the economy churning, ADMO notes. Such visitors generated nearly $5.5 billion in local tax revenue in 2016, according to VISIT FLORIDA.

FSU documentary spotlights ‘bionic woman’

A Florida State University film student has won a prestigious award from the Television Academy Foundation for his documentary about a Florida woman who lives with a bionic arm and considers herself a human cyborg.

Chris Violette, a junior in the College of Motion Picture Arts, was named the winner of the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship — a $10,000 cash award presented to one student nationwide as part of the annual College Television Awards.

Chris Violette, a junior in FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts, was recognized by the Television Academy Foundation for his documentary ‘Woman of Steel.’ Image via Chris Violette/FSU.

Violette produced and directed an eight-minute documentary, “Woman of Steel,” featuring Ashley Mae Sherman of Seminole County.

Sherman, born without the lower half of her right arm, now uses a prosthetic limb that looks like a natural hand. It operates with motorized fingers that bend at the joints and are able to grasp objects with varying amounts of pressure.

Violette’s short film poignantly illustrates the challenges and outright bullying Sherman experienced growing up, as well as her victories.

“(Children) would go on the playground and when I would go with them, they would always leave the playground,” Sherman recalled in the film. “There was a guy who I had a crush on who told me he would date me if I had another hand.”

Now she sees herself as a confident role model who hopes to inspire others.

“If one limb-different kid can see me … scuba diving or horseback riding … that means the world to me,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be born any other way, honestly. Having a limb difference has helped my life for the greater good. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Violette will be honored at an awards ceremony in North Hollywood, California, on March 16.

—by Dave Heller, University Communications

Proof packs for South Monroe

Tallahassee suds lovers enjoyed their last taste at Proof Brewing Company’s Railroad Square location Friday night.

The iconic brewery will be closed for a week, reopening for a soft launch on Feb. 1 at a new facility near the redevelopment of South Monroe.

Proof Brewing Company is taking a brief hiatus to move to its new facility on South Monroe.

“From day one, our intention has been to give Tallahassee the most outstanding beer possible. Through the dedication of our team and the evolution of growth, that is now a reality,” Proof founders Byron and Angela Burroughs said.

“This growth ultimately means a higher quality of life and improved work conditions for our entire team as well as offering all of Tallahassee a welcoming and relaxing space to enjoy world-class beer.”

The new location — once home to a Coca-Cola bottling plant — will offer guests an 8,000 square-foot beer garden. As well, “a larger tasting room will feature a full bar pouring 24 beer taps, wine, house sangria and handcrafted cocktails,” according to a news release from Proof.

A new restaurant, “Proper,” will be opened on-site. Proof is providing food service through a partnership with Canopy Road Cafe and Merv’s owner Brad Buckenheimer, along with executive chef Viet Vu of Izzy’s, Arepana and Mobi Food Truck.

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