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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Hearing ‘Maura’s Voice’

Maura Binkley’s mother and father are making sure that their daughter will not be forgotten.

Maura Binkley’s mother and father are making sure that their daughter will not be forgotten, and her death was not in vain.

The 21-year-old Florida State student was one of two women, along with FSU faculty member Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, slain in November during a shooting at the Tallahassee Hot Yoga studio. Six others were wounded.

Maura Binkley was killed when a gunman opened fire at Hot Yoga Tallahassee on Thomasville Road. Her parents are making sure their daughter still has a voice.

Maura’s parents, Jeff and Margaret Binkley, established the Maura’s Voice Research Fund “in memory of a young woman who dedicated her life to serving others.”

Maura’s Voice “will serve to … deepen the scientific understanding of, and the effective responses to, the epidemic of gun violence in America,” a news release said. The organization “will champion a unique and robust focus on researching and responding to the complex causes and effects of firearm violence.”

Through the FSU College of Social Work, Maura’s Voice will build upon current research with a targeted focus on firearm violence, particularly the interacting phenomena of gun violence and behavioral health.

On what would have been Maura’s 22nd birthday, policymakers, leadership from Florida State University, the Tallahassee community, and friends and family of Maura Binkley will join in celebrating the organization’s launch, and moving “toward a future where everyone can feel, and truly be, safe.”

Expected to attend are Tallahassee-area state Sen. Bill Montford; FSU President John Thrasher; Audrey Benson, Maura’s lifelong best friend; Jeff Binkley, and Dr. Jim Clark, Dean of the College of Social Work, who will lead the Maura’s Voice research.

That’s at 10 a.m. Monday, on the steps of the Old Capitol facing Monroe Street. In the event of rain, the news conference will take place in the Capitol Rotunda.

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

DeSantis encourages ICE cooperation — Gov. DeSantis is backing local law enforcement’s participation in the 287(g) immigration enforcement program. The federal program is an agreement between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement groups. A news release from the Governor’s office said 287(g) “allows personnel of the respective sheriff’s office to be selected, trained and approved by ICE to perform certain functions as a Designated Immigration Officer within the detention facility of the local law enforcement agency.” DeSantis made the announcement this week in Hernando. “We take our responsibility to protect our citizens, foster safe communities and uphold the rule of law very seriously,” he said.

Oliva’s abortion remarks prompt criticism, apology — Speaker Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, drew backlash this week after using the term “host body” to describe pregnant women. “There’s a host body, and that host body has to have a certain amount of rights,” Oliva told reporter Jim DeFede, “because at the end of the day it is that body that carries this entire other body to term. But there is an additional life there.” Florida Democrats and others were quick to criticize Oliva. Oliva responded shortly with an apology, clarifying his phrasing. “In a recent interview where the very controversial topic of abortion was raised, I used the term ‘host’ to describe a pregnant woman. It was an attempt to use terminology found in medical ethics writings with the purpose of keeping the discussion dispassionate,” he said. “The reaction undoubtedly shows it had the exact opposite effect. I apologize for having caused offense; my aim was the contrary.”

Education leader prioritizes classroom spending — Senate Education Chair Manny Diaz Jr., a Hialeah Republican, filed a bill this week that would require spending a minimum percentage of certain funds on classrooms and teachers. The measure (SB 1434) creates a clause that would direct to teachers and classrooms 80 percent of the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) dollars received by each district. The bill lists teacher salaries and bonuses, supplies, technology and tutoring as would-be line items for the dedicated FEFP money. Gov. Ron DeSantis during his campaign September unveiled an education proposal that included a similar 80 percent floor. “This will ensure no taxpayer money is wasted on bureaucracy and bloat and will put more money where it matters most: with students and teachers,” read DeSantis’ education proposal.

Lawmakers file long shot pot bill — Democratic state Reps. Michael Grieco and Carlos Guillermo Smith filed legislation this week that would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults. Smith’s bill would exempt personal possession and use of small amounts by people age 21 or older. Grieco’s bill would create licensing fees for marijuana businesses and an excise tax equal to $50 per ounce. The House, led by Republican Speaker José Oliva, is unlikely to act on the legislation.

Lawmakers eye Parkland cop’s pension — A bill filed by state Rep. Spencer Roach would strip former Broward Deputy Scot Peterson of his $105,000 annual pension. Peterson, the officer on campus during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, resigned after public criticism. Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican, said the school resource officer was so “derelict in his duties” he should not live off taxpayer dollars anymore. State Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, has filed companion legislation in the Senate. “It’s just about trying to do what’s right for communities and families that are hurting,” Gruters said. “I think about my own kids and how terrible the situation is.”

DeSantis’ chill approach to pot bill

Gov. DeSantis doesn’t want to wade into the minutiae of the Legislature’s planned repeal of the state’s medical marijuana smoking ban.

“To me, it’s less a policy issue than a constitutional issue,” DeSantis told reporters this week when asked about the House’s legislation that is primed for a floor vote. He said that he’d sign legislation so long as it’s “not going to be something that the courts are going to overturn.”

Ron DeSantis told legislators to revise the medical marijuana implementation bill to include smokable cannabis. The Governor now suggests he does not have to agree with every ‘nook and cranny’ of what they present. Image via the Miami Herald.

The new Republican Governor earlier this year directed the Legislature to revise the law, allowing for smokable marijuana. He threatened to abandon a challenge to a lower-court ruling that found the smoking ban unconstitutional if lawmakers don’t send him a bill by March 15.

“I’m willing to sign things if I can have good faith that it’s implementing the will of the voters in a fair way,” DeSantis said, adding that he may not “agree philosophically on every little nook and cranny.”

DeSantis said he hadn’t seen the House proposal (HB 7015). The House version bars minors from smoking, while the Senate’s would allow that delivery method if two doctors agree it’s best for the minor patient.

Nocco picked for anti-trafficking group

Attorney General Ashley Moody this week named Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. She chairs the 15-member council that met for the first time this year Friday in Tallahassee.

“Sheriff Nocco is a hands-on lawman who tirelessly fights human trafficking in Pasco County,” she said in a statement. “His experience and expertise will be a great asset to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking as we look for new ways to end this atrocious crime and help survivors heal.”

Hands-on: Attorney General Ashley Moody is naming Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco to her human-trafficking panel, calling him a ‘great asset.’

The Council’s duties include developing recommendations for safe houses and safe foster homes, advising on apprehending and prosecuting traffickers and working with the Department of Children and Families to create and maintain an inventory of human trafficking programs and services in our state.

Members of the council include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators, as well as experts in the fields of health, education and social services. The meeting will be streamed live by The Florida Channel.

For more information about the council, click here.

K-9 key in arson arrest

Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis credited his office’s “highly trained dogs” with the recent arrest of an alleged arsonist.

Derrick Eady faces one count of arson of an occupied structure and could face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.

Accelerant detection K-9 Ginger alerted Springfield police to Eady’s gloves, wristband and shoes after Eady consented to a search from Ginger. Eady had been on the scene at the time police responded to the structure fire at stake.

All in a day’s work: K-9 officer Ginger was instrumental in the recent arrest of an alleged arsonist by confirming the presence of an ‘ignitable liquid accelerant.’

“K-9 Ginger positively confirmed the presence of an ignitable liquid accelerant and alerted detectives to the suspected area of origin,” read a news release from Patronis’ office.

“My office’s highly trained dogs complete intensive training and are key in assisting our arson detectives and local law enforcement across the state,” said Patronis, also the State Fire Marshal. “Arson is a dangerous crime which can be both costly and deadly. Bringing those to justice who intentionally set fires is all in a day’s work for our canines.”

Instagram of the Week

Tourism promoted in Hurricane Michael areas

VISIT FLORIDA announced this week that more than $850,000 is going to communities affected by Hurricane Michael to promote tourism in their area.

Grants went to the Panama City Community Development Council, the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Tourism Development Councils of Gulf, Jackson and Washington counties.

Tourism recovery: VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young’s mission is helping boost local tourism in communities that need it the most, particularly those affected by Hurricane Michael. And finding great coffee, too. Image via Facebook.

The funding was requested by these local tourism development boards and will benefit their targeted marketing efforts as they continue to rebuild and recover from Hurricane Michael.

“Part of VISIT FLORIDA’s mission is to help our communities when they need it the most. We are glad to provide this important funding to our local partners because they clearly understand what it takes to bring visitors back to their communities,” VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young said.

“Our organization will continue to find ways to support the Panhandle’s recovery from Michael, and we appreciate Gov. DeSantis’ leadership in the recovery efforts.”

SGI State Park reopened

After taking a beating from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Park Service finally reopened St. George Island State Park for day use.

The park is a favorite day trip for many Tallahasseeans, especially those that don’t have a second home or can afford to rent on the island.

Now open: Four months after Hurricane Michael, St. George Island State Park — a favorite for many Tallahasseeans — has finally reopened for day use.

“The park, which experienced significant damage from flooding and storm surge, is a favorite destination for beachgoers, bird-watchers, year-round fishing, spectacular Gulf sunsets and the best stargazing in the Panhandle,” a news release said.

“With the park’s reopening, visitors can once again enjoy this amazing natural resource.”

‘March of Museums’

The third annual “March of Museums” kicks off Friday. The statewide initiative, led by the Florida Department of State throughout March, celebrates Florida’s museums.

“Florida’s museums enhance the quality of life in our state by providing opportunities for learning and cultural enrichment as well as serving as important economic drivers,” said Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

The Call-Collins House at The Grove is one of 160 museums participating in the 2019 #MarchOfMuseums, promoting learning and culture across Florida.

“With more than 160 participating museums, I encourage all Floridians to plan their own March of Museums by visiting and supporting the museums in their area and throughout the state this month.”

In Tallahassee, that includes several stops, such as The John Gilmore Riley Museum for African-American History and Culture, and The Grove, former home of the late Gov. LeRoy Collins.

Visitors are encouraged to use #MarchofMuseums to share pictures from their museum visits on social media. To learn more, follow on Facebook or Twitter @MarchofMuseums or visit

‘Suits for Session’

Volunteer Florida said it would continue a tradition of service by hosting the fourth annual “Suits for Session” service project at the Capitol Thursday, April 11.

VF, along with the Uber ride-hailing service, will be collecting new or gently-worn business attire, then donate them to “organizations in the Florida Panhandle that are supporting individuals re-entering the workforce after Hurricane Michael.”

Uber and Volunteer Florida will continue its tradition of service with the 4th-annual ‘Suits for Session,’ which takes special meaning in 2019 for those individuals re-entering the workforce after Hurricane Michael.

Legislators and staff, state employees and other professionals are asked to donate items (including shoes, belts and ties) at the Capitol, or they can have an Uber driver pick them up that day.

Information on drop-off locations and an announcement of recipient organizations will be made soon, the agency said.

‘Impact Florida’ launches

With an eye on improving the quality of teaching in Florida classrooms, the new organization Impact Florida this week launched its efforts to “empower education leaders to recognize, support, and scale excellent teaching practices so all children can realize success in life.”

The group started by hosting an education summit, “Bridging the Opportunity Gap in Classrooms,” in Orlando. More than 135 people from 13 school districts and 20 education organizations attended.

Learning success: Mandy Clark is the executive director of Impact Florida, a new organization with the goal of improving the quality of teaching and empowering education leaders to help all students realize success.

These school districts represent over 1 million students in Florida — 42 percent of the total student population.

“What happens in the classroom is at the heart of our vision,” said Mandy Clark, executive director of Impact Florida. “We have tremendous respect for the effort students and teachers put in day in and day out.

“We want to help leaders know how to best support teachers in every Florida classroom, every day, to ensure students receive instruction that prepares them to succeed in life after their K-12 career.”

For more information, head to

NFIB’s ambitious Session

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is again prioritizing cutting the business rent tax for small enterprise owners.

A news release highlighting NFIB’s 2018 Legislative Session priorities said the tax is currently at 5.7 percent. Florida is the only state to tax businesses on commercial space leases, the statement said.

National Federation of Independent Businesses Florida executive director Bill Herrle is touting an ambitious agenda for the 2019 Session.

“Florida’s economy is soaring, but there’s growing anxiety about how long the good times will last,” said Bill Herrle, NFIB’s executive director in Florida. “Small-business owners have played a major role in building and sustaining this historic economic climate, but we need to continue to invest in small business to prevent labor costs and friction costs from hampering their growth.”

NFIB also will support any proposal requiring plaintiffs in lawsuits to disclose third-party financiers. The business group also supports a cap for attorneys’ fees and skills training improvements.

The group’s full legislative agenda is here. The 60-day Session begins on Tuesday.

FSU hosts ‘father of environmental justice’

The university will host a talk by a scholar and author — Robert Bullard, distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University — often described as “The Father of Environmental Justice.”

Environmental justice: FSU is hosting a talk with Dr. Robert Bullard, a scholar and activist who is widely considered the father of environmental justice. Image via Greenpeace USA.

He’ll speak on “Building Just and Sustainable Communities in the Era of Climate Change.” His remarks will reflect his dedication to and passion for the intersectionality of social justice, the environment, human health, racial equity, and urban planning.

Bullard is the co-founder of the HBCU Climate Change Consortium and an award-winning author of 18 books on race, equity and environmental justice. He emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary collaboration and civic engagement in our communities for equitable solutions.

The lecture, free and open to the public, will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m., in the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall, 222 S. Copeland St., Tallahassee.

The first 100 FSU students will receive a free copy of “The Wrong Complexion for Protection,” the acclaimed 2012 book by Bullard and Beverly Wright, founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

City honors civil rights legend

City of Tallahassee officials and family members of the late Rev. Charles Kenzie “C.K.” Steele gathered this week to dedicate the city’s portion of Orange Avenue as “C.K. Steele Memorial Highway.”

A dedication event took place near the intersection of Orange Avenue and Blair Stone Road, with an unveiling of the newly designated highway marker.

Honored: Tallahassee officials and family members gathered this week to celebrate the life of the late civil rights legend Rev. Charles ‘C.K.’ Steele by dedicating a portion of Orange Avenue in his honor.

The downtown bus terminal, C.K. Steele Plaza, was named after him in the 1980s.

The City Commission officially designated its segment of Orange Avenue, from Blair Stone Road to Southwood Plantation Road, as C.K. Steele Memorial Highway with a proclamation in January. Parts of the roadway managed by the State of Florida and Leon County also carry this designation.

“Throughout his life, the Rev. Steele was an unrelenting advocate for civil rights in Tallahassee,” Mayor John Dailey said.

“How appropriate that we gather together during African-American History Month to unveil the dedication marker recognizing C.K. Steele Memorial Highway, further honoring his efforts that greatly impacted our community.”

Local seniors ‘go for the gold’

The 10th annual Capital City Senior Games are this weekend, with nearly 500 local seniors competing in archery, bag toss, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, pickleball, powerlifting, racquetball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, water aerobics and a one-mile fun run/walk.

To view a video with more information about this year’s Senior Games, click on the image below:

In Olympic fashion, the lighting of a torch will mark the start of this year’s games. The Torch Run takes place today at 9 a.m., at the Godby High School track, 1717 W. Tharpe St.

City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox will light the ceremonial torch which competing athletes will carry around the track.

The one-mile fun run/walk and track and field competitions will take place immediately after the Torch Run. For details, go to

Toss it: “National Old Stuff Day!”

March 2 is National Old Stuff Day.

And Leon County government knows just the place to celebrate: The Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection, which happens today, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road.

Just toss it! Today is National Old Stuff Day, where we should all just ‘let it go.’

If you can’t find a new life for old household items, recycle them. Citizens may bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to their electronics.

Some items accepted include aerosols, fluorescent bulbs, oven and drain cleaners, floor-care products, ammonia, metal and furniture polish, motor oil, gasoline, fuel oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid, paint, stains, mercury thermometers, batteries of all types, phones, printers and ink cartridges, computers, fax machines, CDs, VHS tapes, cassettes and televisions (but only one large-screen television per vehicle).

For a full list of accepted items and more information about the event, click here.

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