B.K. Roberts Hall no more?
Lawmakers will consider removing the name of Florida State University’s main law school building.
A Senate Education Committee bill (SPB 7076) filed this week would allow the school to strip the name of the late Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice B.K. Roberts from the edifice.
FSU President John Thrasher is seeking to rename the building following a university panel’s finding that Roberts wrote a pro-segregation opinion during his tenure. The change requires legislative approval because lawmakers had designated the name in state law in 1973.
In a prepared statement, University spokeswoman Browning Brooks said FSU supports the legislation.
“We are grateful the Legislature has been receptive to the concept of allowing universities to have the responsibility for naming campus buildings,” Brooks said. “We support the Senate bill and look forward to working with the House and Senate.”
Roberts wrote the state Supreme Court’s 1957 majority opinion to deny law school admission to African-American student Virgil Hawkins.
The opinion is considered a pro-segregation action that defines a “more troublesome legacy” than his “instrumental role” in spawning the university’s law school, Thrasher wrote last year.
Thrasher, a Republican former House Speaker and a former state Senator, created a special panel to examine university namings and statutes following the racially charged, violent riots in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
That panel, among other things, recommended renaming the law school building.
Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said ahead of the 2019 Legislative Session that he supports “a framework for universities to do their naming and having flexibility, instead of having the Legislature micromanage that issue.”
The legislation filed this week would also direct the State University System Board of Governors to create a uniform process for other universities seeking in the future to name or rename buildings.
The same bill, however, asks lawmakers to respect Thrasher’s recommendation and the panel’s findings.
The language reads: “The Legislature recognizes the university’s transparent, collaborative and thorough review process, which resulted in the recommendation that precipitated this repeal, and further intends that the university is solely responsible for faithful implementation of the panel’s recommendations regarding this issue.”
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:
State of the State — Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking lawmakers to adopt his “bold” approach to governance. During his first State of the State Address at the start of the 2019 Legislative Session, DeSantis recapped his busy first two months in office and asked lawmakers to follow through on the proposals and spending plan he’s recommended they pursue. “Be bold in championing economic opportunity, be bold in protecting Florida’s environment, be bold in improving education, be bold in defending the safety of our communities, be bold because while perfection is not attainable, if we aim high we can achieve excellence,” he said. DeSantis spoke of his environmental plan, including a $625 million for Everglades restoration and resource protection. The Republican Governor also touched on Hurricane Michael recovery, health care, and education reforms. DeSantis also took time during the speech to reiterate his support for a ban on sanctuary cities, coined for local governments who do not cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Oliva, Galvano set Session tone — Chamber leaders offered different perspectives during remarks given at the start of the Legislative Session. Senate President Galvano urged collaboration and statesmanship. “If we as a Senate do not feel a bill is right, or ready, let us be willing to step back, rethink and regroup,” Galvano said. “Most importantly, if necessary, let us have the discipline to be willing to walk away.” House Speaker José Oliva, meanwhile, took the opportunity to express his support for sweeping health care reforms. “Floridians are depending on us to remedy this crisis,” Oliva said, according to prepared remarks. “That is why this year we will pass comprehensive health care reform. No single policy will be the solution. A truly comprehensive approach is what is required.”
Marijuana momentum — The Florida Senate this week overwhelmingly approved its version of a repeal on the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana. The legislation would allow patients to obtain a 35-day supply of the medicine, but no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana per prescription, with some exceptions. It also would allow only minors with terminal conditions to smoke the plant. Lawmakers are rapidly working to repeal the ban. DeSantis during his first few weeks in office told the Legislature that he wanted a bill dropping the smoking ban by March 15. Otherwise, he’d discontinue an appeal to a lower-court ruling that found the ban unconstitutional. The House is expected to consider the Senate’s version of the repeal during Week 2 of the Legislative Session. On the subject of marijuana, Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried may soon begin sending cease and desist letters to retailers selling CBD products.
Senators unveil Michael relief — Northwest Florida state Sens. Bill Montford, Doug Broxson and George Gainer will be pushing a $315 million loan proposal to primarily help governments affected by Hurricane Michael. The near-Category 5 storm touched down on Mexico Beach Oct. 10. The bill (SB 1610) would use $300 million to create the Public Facilities Hurricane Restoration Cash Flow Loan Program. The Department of Economic Opportunity would administer loans in that program to counties, cities and school boards. Another $15 million would be spent on loans to Florida’s timber industry, the crop suffered the most financial damage from the storm.
Florida First Step gets traction — A sweeping criminal justice package aimed at reducing the prison population and corrections spending won unanimous support this week in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The legislation, known as the Florida First Step Act, is modeled after federal changes passed and signed into law by President Donald Trump last year. The measure would allow judges to downward depart from mandatory minimums when sentencing certain nonviolent drug traffickers. It would also among other things lessen penalties for some violations of probation and would create programs to help returning citizens. The bill (CS/SB 642) is sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican.
Moody to curb robocalls
Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody joined 53 other attorneys general this week in support of federal legislation targeting illegal robocalls and spoofing.
The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence, or TRACED, ACT “will require voice service providers to participate in a call authentication framework to help block unwanted calls,” a news release from Moody’s office said.
The legislation is sponsored by Republican U.S. John Thune, of South Dakota and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, of Massachusetts.
“The State AGs are on the front lines of enforcing do-not-call laws and helping consumers who are harassed and scammed by unwanted telemarketing calls and robocalls,” the letter reads. “Robocalls and telemarketing calls are currently the No. 1 source of consumer complaints at many of our offices, as well as at both the [Federal Communications Commission] and the Federal Trade Commission.]”
Fried checks for skimmers
It’s not every day someone holds a media availability at a gas station in Tallahassee.
At the pump earlier this week, Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Fried highlighted the concerning issue of credit card fraud. Fried, flanked by workers from Ag’s Division of Consumer Services, checked for skimmers, or small devices that steal card information.
Skimmers are a growing problem. Concentrated in South Florida, skimmers first began to appear in 2015. Fried’s Bureau of Standards has removed 2,400 skimmers since then.
“If you install these illegal skimmers on gas pumps in Florida, we will investigate, you will be caught, and you will be prosecuted,” Fried said.
“Our Department’s law enforcement professionals are working hard to thwart these criminals every day, our inspectors are checking thousands of gas pumps daily for these devices, and our new task force will bring our state’s best together to attack this problem head-on.”
Fried’s pump check occurred during National Consumer Protection Week. At the news conference, Fried also noted legislation (SB 1652 and HB 1239) that would create a task force specifically dedicated to addressing skimmers.
Instagram of the week
Moskowitz highlights successes
Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz is having a busy start to his agency tenure, not unlike his boss DeSantis.
The former Democratic lawmaker commended DeSantis’ “bold leadership” following his State of the State address earlier this week. Moskowitz then pointed to his actions so far in office, which primarily related to Hurricane Michael relief.
“Since Day One of the Governor’s administration, this agency has remained laser-focused on finding ways to support recovering communities and helping to get funding out the door as quickly as possible,” Moskowitz said in a statement.
Working in unison with DeSantis, DEM has secured wins such as getting President Donald Trump to extend the federal cost-share program for debris removal and emergency protective services. DEM also has issued a $2.4 million public assistance payment to Mexico Beach, where Hurricane Michael made landfall.
“I look forward to continuing to work closely with Gov. DeSantis and local governments throughout the state to ensure that Florida not only completely recovers from past storms, but is prepared for potential future disasters,” Moskowitz said.
Move the capital? Here we go again
Another effort to move the capital out of Tallahassee was introduced in the Legislature this week.
The bill by Sen. Kevin Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat, would require “the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) to conduct a study regarding the relocation of the state capital” to Orlando and “submit a report to the Legislature” by 2020.
Last year, Rep. Bill Hager, a Delray Beach Republican (what is it with these Palm Beach County legislators?), filed a bill to move the seat of state government to the Orlando area.
And another proposal filed with the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission would have included an amendment to relocate the capital. Both efforts went nowhere.
Rader’s bill would call for consideration of “ease of travel to the state capital for members of the public” and “total cost of travel to and from the state capital for members of the Legislature.”
Also, he wants to know how much it would cost to replace the “the State Capitol Building; the Supreme Court; the offices of the Gov., Lieutenant Governor and the Cabinet; and the legislative branch of state government (in) the City of Orlando.”
The late lawmaker Lee Weissenborn, a Miami Democrat, most famously tried to move the capital in 1967. He too proposed a study on moving to Orlando.
As the late Tallahassee Democrat columnist Gerald Ensley explained, “The powerful Tallahassee legislator Mallory Horne, the only person in history to serve as Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, kept that proposal from coming to a vote.”
As Weissenborn might say: “Good luck with that, Kevin.”
FCV wants comprehensive environmental approach
Water and land conservation, climate change, fracking, water quality, and voting all made the cut for Florida Conservation Voters priority list this Session.
The group is supporting legislation like state Sen. Linda Stewart’s Florida Forever bill (SB 944), which would create a permanent spending figure on the state’s premier land-acquisition program.
The group also notes that it supports fracking bans proposed by state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, state Sen. Montford and Stewart.
In a news release highlighting legislation supported by the environmentally focused group, executive director Aliki Moncrief encouraged active participation in the lawmaking process to help realize better results for the environment.
“Call your state Representative and Senator today,” Moncrief said. “Ask them to tell you what they plan to do to ensure a better quality of life for our children and stronger protections for our environment.”
ACLU chimes in on solitary confinement bill
Legislation moving through the Florida Senate would generally ban placing youth offenders in solitary confinement.
After the bill (SB 624) picked up support from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union applauded members for backing the measure. Kirk Bailey, political director of ACLU Florida, called the practice “cruel” and “costly.”
“It is beyond time for Florida to end this cruel, counterproductive practice,” Bailey said. “Teens held in isolation have an increased risk of suicide, aggression and hallucinations.”
Bailey also encouraged House members to take up a similar bill. In the Senate, the measure is sponsored by Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat.
The Florida Bar change helps first military spouse
The Florida Supreme Court recently approved a change to Florida Bar admissions that removes a major barrier for spouses of military personnel.
Now, lawyers in different whose spouses are active-duty military members in Florida can practice law for up to five years without taking the Florida Bar exam. But the lawyers must meet certain conditions outlined in the rule.
Bailey L. McGowan became a Florida Bar member in late January, the first military spouse admitted under the new rule.
“I was ecstatic for the opportunity to practice law without having to take another bar for a state that we, unfortunately, won’t be living in forever,” McGowan said. “This rule enables military spouses to give back to their communities and families while also ensuring the integrity of The Florida Bar.”
To view a Florida Bar video explaining the change, click on the image below:
Charitable clinic impact adds up
More than 229,000 Floridians in need obtained vital health care services last year from the 95 nonprofit community-based clinics represented by the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (FAFCC).
That’s according to a new report from the association that shows the clinics also offered more than $100 million in medical services. In total, the clinics prescribed 183,139 medications during the past year.
Rev. Michael Daily, chair of FAFCC, said the services “wouldn’t be possible without the support we get from the Florida Legislature.”
“The return on investment of taxpayer dollars is astronomical and saves and improves the lives of hundreds of thousands of Floridians,” Daily said.
The Legislature last year funded $9.5 million worth of competitive grants. Administered by the Florida Department of Health, the grants went directly to the clinics, which serve 53 of Florida’s 67 counties.
FSU faculty member appointed to national welfare board
The director of the Florida Institute for Child Welfare at Florida State University will now consult and advise child welfare professionals across the country.
The University announced this week that Jessica Pryce would serve on the advisory board of the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute.
“Serving on the advisory board will be a wonderful opportunity to engage with other leaders from around the country while being at the forefront of workforce innovation,” Pryce said.
The Administration for Children and Families and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Serviceshe funds the board.
As a member, Pryce is among other things expected to aid in program design for curriculum modifications.
FSU Moot Court wins big
Two second-year Florida State University law school students recently won first place at the 2019 William B. Bryant-Luke C. Moore Civil Rights Moot Court Competition.
Carlos Gomez, from Tampa and Ryan Nicholas, of Gainesville, helped FSU best competitors from law schools at Georgetown, University of North Carolina, University of Virginia and William & Mary.
It marks the second time in three years FSU has won the competition, held this year at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.
Rima Nathan, a 3L, was named the competition’s best orator. Coaching Gomez and Nicholas are FSU alumnus Karla Ellis, who practices in Tallahassee, and Jennifer LaVia, a clinical professor at FSU Law’s Veterans Legal Clinic.
The Florida State University College of Law Moot Court Team has won first place in the 2019 William B. Bryant-Luke C. Moore Civil Rights Moot Court Competition.
“Congratulations to our talented student advocates and their dedicated coaches,” said Dean Erin O’Connor. “This victory is another example of how Florida State law students excel on the national stage!”
Big Bend to … Aruba?
United Way of the Big Bend (UWBB) is raising money for a good cause by offering the chance to win a five-day stay in Aruba.
The charitable organization will raffle up to 400 tickets at $50 apiece. The tropical vacation is valued at $4,000.
One winner will be selected Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, located on Eagle Beach — the widest on the island.
The fundraiser will help UWBB finish out its 2018-19 campaign. A winner will be announced on March 14.
Tally program incentivizes development
Private investors who want to invest in economically distressed areas can potentially earn tax benefits.
A workshop next week will explain how Tallahassee and Leon investors stand to benefit from the program.
The event, created through a partnership between the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality and Madison Street Strategies, will provide details on investing in “Opportunity Zones,” or economically blighted areas.
“Participants will learn about the vision for Tallahassee-Leon County’s eight Opportunity Zones and what local businesses, developers and investors can do to increase economic development for the community through investments in Opportunity Zones,” a news release said.
Expected are more than 100 local leaders, developers, investors and small-business owners. The event takes place March 14 at Bricks & Brass, a new event venue near Four Points by Sheraton.
Parking out, pot in?
If at first you can’t build a five-story parking deck in Midtown; try, try to build a marijuana mega-dispensary instead.
The MedMen medical marijuana company now wants to build a retail site on the corner in midtown Tallahassee where neighbors shot down a plan to build a garage with retail space.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported the company’s interest this week.
“Gardiner & Theobold, a property consultant and construction firm representing MedMen, contacted the city of Tallahassee last year and was informed the business would be allowed at the 1126 Thomasville Road location,” the paper reported.
The EMO Family Trust owns the parcel. A representative did not respond to the paper’s questions about the proposed project.