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Takeaways from Tallahassee — 25 Years … and growing

The first week of the 2020 Legislative Session is in the books.

With a track record of success spanning 25 years, Take Stock in Children has been helping at-risk and low-income students achieve their dreams by providing scholarships, mentors and hope for the future.

Created in Fort Lauderdale, the initiative sought to give students the resources they needed to graduate from high school, go to college, and successfully transition into careers or, as Take Stock founder Dr. Don Pemberton puts it, “set their course for life.”

Take Stock utilizes Florida Prepaid’s Project STARS (Scholarship Tuition for At-Risk Students) Program to allow student participants who complete the program to earn college scholarships. With the promise of providing students mentoring and support in their middle and high school years, prepaid plans are purchased with donations from private donors that are matched dollar-for-dollar with funds provided by the Florida Legislature.

The scholarships can be used to attend state colleges, universities or technical colleges in Florida.

“We’re so pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate alongside many of our legislative champions … who have supported our program for the past quarter century and usher in a new era of Take Stock alongside them to ensure Florida’s deserving students have every opportunity to be successful in college, career and life,” said Jillian Hasner, president and CEO of Take Stock in Children during 25th anniversary events held this week. 

Spreading the good word: Take Stock in Children CEO Jillian Hasner.

Since it began in 1995 serving 500 students, the program has recruited participants in middle and high school, provided scholars with volunteer adult mentors and carefully monitored students’ academic progress.

Today, Take Stock’s network of 45 local affiliates is active in all of Florida’s 67 counties and has grown to now serve 15,000 students each year. “Take Stock’s 10,000 mentors donated 123,739 mentor sessions just this past year, ensuring our students have access to the resources to succeed,” Hasner said.

Take Stock’s stats are impressive: 34,000 students participating over the life of the program, with 97% graduating high school on time. 94% percent enter post-secondary education, with 68% completing their post-secondary education. That compares with a 17 percent state average for at-risk students in poverty.

A more recent initiative has been to continue mentoring students while attending college or technical school, to help them navigate the system and find a suitable career.

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Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson and the staff of Florida Politics.

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

Take 5

State of the State 2020 — In his second Session-launching address to the Legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis advocated for increased starting teacher pay — $47,500 at a minimum — and an improvement on Best and Brightest bonuses — with $7,500 up for grabs for teachers in low-income schools. DeSantis also promised a replacement for Common Core soon, and praised the state’s charter schools. The focus on education shows a Governor gearing up for negotiation with Republican leaders wary of his pay proposal’s $600-million price tag— and which has not been embraced by veteran teachers, who favor an overall increase in average pay.

Session Underway Again — Both chambers gaveled in for the start of the 2020 Legislative Session. In the House, Speaker José Oliva made clear his philosophical view: “Spending is not caring; solving is caring,” a phrase repeated nine times in a Tuesday speech. Meanwhile, Senate President Bill Galvano signaled to press on the other side of the Capitol that there will be heavy negotiations on teacher pay and other matters. “There’s a lot of mechanics to shore up,” he said. Democratic leaders Audrey Gibson and Kionne McGhee, meanwhile, called for serious solutions of education spending and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

Flowers adorn the desk of members in the Florida House of Representatives. Photo credit: Mary Beth Tyson.

Court says financial restitution required —  The Supreme Court of Florida handed DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature a major victory by affirming 2018’s Amendment 4 referendum does require felons to satisfy all financial obligations of their criminal sentences before they can register again to vote. The measure called for automatic restoration of voter rights upon completion of “all terms of sentence.” The High Court declared that includes all fines, fees, and restitution judges may order them to pay. Backers of Amendment 4 argued that equates to a poll tax.

Shot at gun control? — Galvano, ahead of session, urged Sen. Tom Lee to bring forward acceptable gun safety legislation to address mass shootings. This week, the Lee-chaired Infrastructure and Security Committee advanced a bill addressing sales in public spaces. It’s widely been sold as a close on the gun show loophole, though National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer in committee called it “gun control on steroids” and told Florida Politics every committee vote for the bill would hit lawmakers in the legislative scorecard. But it passed its first committee stop with a 7-0 vote (with Sen. Aaron Bean somehow not in the room.)

Florida Prepaid costs dropping — DeSantis announced price cuts for the Florida Prepaid Plan. That comes after five years of the program coming in under budget, allowing $1.3 billion in cost cuts. This should affect about 224,000 families. For 108,000 plan holders who have already paid in full, there will be a $4,700 refund coming their way that can be put in a fund for incidental costs like textbooks and dorms. A newborn can now sign on for a plan for as little as $44 a month, the lowest price offered in years.

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Military might

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the top-level findings of the 2020 Florida Military and Defense Economic Impact Study this week.

According to the report, produced by Enterprise Florida and the Florida Defense Support Task Force, the military and defense industry produces a $95 billion economic impact in the Sunshine State.

The figure marks a $10 billion increase since EFI and FDSTF published their previous study in 2018.

Beyond the dollar signs, the report showed the industry accounts for 914,787 Florida jobs — 113,040 more than it did two years ago.

“The results of this study demonstrate that maintaining and protecting military bases and industry in Florida is a win-win for both Florida and the United States,” DeSantis said.

“Florida offers unmatched conditions for training air and sea forces with access to some of the highest quality test and training ranges in the country. Florida’s military and defense industry has never been more vital to the economic success of our state.”

Also highlighting the study was EFI head Jamall Sowell, who cast it as “great news for Florida.”

“Enterprise Florida and the Florida Defense Support Task Force will continue to maintain Florida’s reputation as the most military-friendly state in the nation by strengthening our state’s support for military members and their families and ensuring our bases remain resilient.”

Further down the report, regional breakdowns show the defense industry’s impact is largest in North Florida, where it accounts for a third of the economy.

Some other developments: defense manufacturing has nearly doubled since 2015 and Florida receives the fourth largest sum of defense contracts among all states. Florida also ranks fifth in the country in the number of military personnel.

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Veterans Florida cheers Governor

Shortly after Gov. DeSantis took office, he announced a campaign aiming to combine the energy and resources of Florida’s state agencies, veteran service organizations, private partners and local communities to help veterans.

Ten months later, “Forward March” has completed its regional assessment phase and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs has issued a report identifying where the state is doing well and where it needs to improve in order to remain a desired destination for veterans.

The recommendations include increasing funding for veterans service officers to connect veterans — especially hard-to-reach ones — with the services available to them; expanding veteran-related professional licensing exemptions; and investing in training programs and incentives for employers who hire veterans.

After giving the report a look, Veterans Florida Executive Director Joe Marino praised DeSantis and FDVA Director Danny Burgess — both of whom are veterans — for a job well done.

“We thank Governor Desantis and Director Burgess for their leadership on Forward March and commitment to maintaining Florida’s status as the nation’s most veteran-friendly state,” Marino said.

“Economic stability is a key part of families’ successful transition from the military and both veterans and the State of Florida succeed when we equip them with tools to bridge the skill gap, remove barriers to professional licensing, and provide access to resources to help them pursue their goals.”

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AG to lead national committee

Attorney General Ashley Moody is a leader in the fight to end human trafficking. Literally.

This week, the National Association of Attorneys General made Florida’s top cop a co-chair of its Human Trafficking Committee.

AG Ashley Moody spoke at a press conference this week announcing a new organization to combat human trafficking.

The committee includes AGs from all U.S. states. It’s charged with defining and promoting best practices for fighting human trafficking, including awareness campaigns, law enforcement strategies, prosecution plans and partnerships with stakeholders, both public and private.

“I am honored to lead attorneys general across the nation to end human trafficking,” Moody said after snagging the post. “Human trafficking is a scourge on society and fighting to end it in Florida has been one of my top priorities since taking office. I will help lead this committee in an effort to identify new tactics and innovative approaches to end human trafficking in Florida and nationwide.”

Moody, who just wrapped up the first year of her term, has been active on several NAAG committees. She also serves as chair of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking in Florida.

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Patronis for parking

A Senate panel advanced a bill this week that would stop condominium and homeowners’ associations from restricting whether and where law enforcement officers can park their squad cars.

The dispute doesn’t have to do with law enforcement officers who are on the job but those who are pulling into their own driveways. Apparently, the police cruiser out front may as well be on sitting on concrete blocks in the eyes of some neighborhood associations.

SB 476, sponsored by Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, would stop those associations from policing the parking situation for all law enforcement, be they unit owner, a tenant, or a guest of the resident.

After the affirmative vote from the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said he hopes the measure keeps gaining traction.

“Florida’s law enforcement personnel work and live in our communities as they work every day to keep our families safe. It’s absurd that some want to hide their presence and punish these brave men and women,” he said.

“Having a marked car in a driveway is not an eyesore, it can be an effective crime deterring tool. I’m happy to see this bill unanimously passed its first committee of record, and I thank Senator Ed Hooper and Representative Chip LaMarca for their hard work in sponsoring this bill and working to keep Florida safer.”

SB 476 now heads to the Rules committee. The House companion, HB 307, has cleared two committees and is awaiting a hearing in the Commerce Committee.

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This Week in Appointments

Ninth Judicial Circuit Court — DeSantis this week appointed John Beamer to the Ninth Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola Counties. The 37-year-old Maitland resident has worked as a trial attorney at the Law Offices of Sanabria and Marsh since 2015 and is the spouse of current Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Denise Beamer. He fills the vacancy created by Judge Dan Traver’s elevation to the Fifth District Court of Appeals.

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Gig economy examined

CareerSource Florida released a report this week that delves into the Sunshine State’s growing “gig economy.”

The Study on The Gig Economy and Florida’s Workforce System is the end result of a six-month, research-driven exploration of the employment trend and it’s the first of its kind nationwide.

CareerSource Florida commissioned the study in order to better understand which demographics are choosing to work gigs rather than traditional 9-to-5s.

Drawing on national and Florida-specific data, the study identifies challenges and opportunities associated with the growing trend for both workers and industry. The state’s workforce development board uncovered data reinforcing the importance of tailoring education and training programs to the needs of the Sunshine State’s ever-evolving workforce needs.

DeSantis said the newly released study is vital to the state’s workforce goals. Workforce development has been one of the Governor’s top priorities through his first year in office.

“The emerging gig economy is constantly evolving and transforming how Floridians can make a living,” DeSantis said. “The findings of this study can help inform statewide policy and maximize prosperity for Florida’s workers and businesses.”

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Instagram of the Week

 

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Metaphor alert. Day 2 that the Florida Legislature is in town

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Grandparents’ rights

Sen. Jeff Brandes filed legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting the emotional welfare of children who have lost a parent to murder.

Brandes’ bill (SB 1886) would create a petition process for family members of the deceased parent to gain visitation with the child in cases where the surviving parent blocks it. Current law does not offer a process for family members to petition for visitation or phone calls.

Brandes’ bill was inspired in part by Dan Markel, a law professor murdered by hitmen allegedly hired by his ex-wife. Markel left behind two young sons whose paternal grandparents have been unable to visit since their father’s death in 2014 while the mother’s family, even some suspected of being involved in the murder, have had unrestricted access to the boys.

“Florida has extremely strong victim rights protections, unless those victims are the minor children of murder victims,” said Jason Solomon, a friend of Markel’s and founder of the group Justice For Dan. “In these cases, the living parent can unilaterally limit all access to the deceased parent’s family, leaving traumatized children without the full emotional support and sense of identity needed to lead healthy lives over the long-term.”

Florida lawmakers passed legislation in 2015 allowing grandparents to petition for visitation in cases where the surviving parent is convicted of a felony. This bill expands that by allowing family members to petition for visitation even if charges have not been filed. 

“We need to revise the law we already have to better match its original intent, and reopen the conversation about what it means to have the best interest of children at heart, particularly when it relates to violent crime,” Brandes said. “This is, at its core, an access to courts issue. The ability for grandparents to petition courts is no guarantee of visitation.”

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School safety bill on deck

The Senate Education Committee is set to consider a bill it introduced this week that would make a host of changes to school security rules put in place following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.

The tweaks offered in (SB 7040) would adhere to recommendations made by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission in concert with a grand jury Gov. DeSantis enlisted to investigate the shooting.

Among the changes: Sheriff’s offices would be able to enter contracts for training services under the “guardian program,” which allows the for school personnel to carry firearms on school grounds. They wouldn’t be permitted to farm out reviews, drug tests or psychological evaluations for would-be guardians, however.

The bill would also impose penalties on people who send in false leads through the state’s online school threat tipline, FortifyFL. If law enforcement can trace the false report to a person and it is found that he or she knowingly misled officers, they could be charged with a third-degree felony.

The bill would also add three more seats to the MSD Public Safety Commission, with the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker each making one selection.

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Clean break

Divorce can be messy. But Sen. Kelli Stargel at least wants the law around alimony to be focused and clean.

The Lakeland Republican this week filed an alimony “reform” bill (SB 1832) tackling a number of factors used to calculate amounts owed from one individual to their ex.

Among the changes proposed, judges won’t consider cheating a factor in setting dollar amounts. The law right now lets the court consider adultery on the part of either party to figure in the awarded alimony amounts. Stargel’s bill wipes that line out of state statute.

If she things her parental consent bill is controversial, Kelly Stargel should wait until she’s the reaction to her alimony “reform” bill.

Besides that change, a petitioner seeking alimony will have the burden of proof to establish need for the amount they’re seeking and their ex’s ability to pay that amount. That includes providing lost income because of a marriage’s end, and also recognizes that splitting a couple into two households inevitably means a certain lifestyle reduction on both individuals’ part.

Stargel’s bill also erases language in Florida Statute judging marriages as short-term (less than 7 years), long-term (greater than 17 years), or moderate length. Instead of a tiered system grading heartbreak, Stargel proposes calculating the award of a durational alimony to not exceed 50 percent of the marriage’s duration.

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Felon rights fix

Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet is vowing to press forward with legislation (HB 6007) that undoes a measure passed last year making it more onerous for felons to get their voting rights back. 

But it could be even more of an uphill road after the Florida Supreme Court Thursday delivered Gov. DeSantis and Republican lawmakers a big win in the fight over Amendment 4.

The amendment, passed with 65% support, said most felons could regain their voting rights after “completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation.” Republicans argued all terms included fines, fees and restitution when they passed an implementing bill in the 2019 Legislative Session requiring convicts to pay all financial obligations before regaining voting rights.

Critics liken it to a poll tax. The Florida Supreme Court disagrees, however. The court issued an advisory opinion ruling that fines, fees and restitution are part of “terms of a sentence.”

But Jacquet said that’s just their opinion. 

“It’s a non-binding opinion,” he said. “At the end of the day, we make the laws.”

Jacquet’s bill would redefine “terms of a sentence” to include restitution, but not court fines and fees. The change, he said, would bring Amendment 4 closer to what Floridians actually believed they were voting for.

“What the Legislature did last year is basically spit in the face of the voters,” he said. “All I’m trying to do is respect the language that Floridians voted for. More of them voted for that language than for me. So, who am I to tell them they have no right to make laws?” 

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Invasives interdiction

Stop eyeing that pet store iguana. Rep. Dan Daley filed a bill that aims to stop the sale of green iguanas and black-and-white tegus in the state of Florida.

The Coral Springs Democrat’s legislation (HB 1415) amends the list of reptiles that cannot be legally kept as pets to include both those creatures. That list already includes four species of pythons (including Burmese), Amethystine pythons (which aren’t part of the Python genus at all), green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards.

Florida law bars the possession, importation, sale, barter, trade or breeding of any lizards on the list. Nobody gets to keep any of these critters as pets unless they already had a permit to do so before July 1, 2010.

The legislative move comes as wild green iguanas pose an increasing health and ecological threat, especially in South Florida. In fact, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials last year gave the go-ahead for anyone to kill the creatures if they see them running wild; animal cruelty laws still apply.

While state law doesn’t currently stop anyone from keeping one as a pet, there is already a permitting process to sell the creatures in Florida pet stores.

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Speak for the trees

Rep. Anna Eskamani wants to give municipalities back the right to speak for the trees.

The Orlando Democrat filed legislation (HB 6077) undoing a preemption bill passed last year barring localities from enforcing tree ordinances or restricting property owners from removing the plants on their property.

Eskamani was one of 36 nay votes last year on a bill that undid local governments’ power to regulate tree removal. But that bill won approval in both chambers of the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis into law last June.

“We’ve heard from constituents in Winter Park to North Colonial Town to Belle Isle … most complaining about the new legislation, the confusion it causes, and opposition towards the state’s preemption,” Eskamani said. “We filed our repealer bill in support of our constituents and home rule.”

Just as Eskamani aims to uproot that state law, Speaker José Oliva planted seeds with tree contractors and local governments reminding them about the change in law. He issued letters to 488 local governments and 72,000 tree removal businesses reminding the bill had retroactively nixed all local ordinances.

The Miami Lakes Republican took that step as Miami officials threatened a resident with a $24,000 after he removed a nuisance tree without a permit after it lifted the family driveway.

“The House takes seriously its duty to protect the rights of Florida residents and property owners and prevent government interference with those rights,” Oliva wrote.

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Turning yellow lights red

Republican Rep. Randy Fine is sponsoring a bill that would require pedestrian-only “flashing yellow” crosswalks to be converted to full-stop red-lights when a pedestrian hits the crosswalk button.

HB 1371 would apply to all flashing yellow crosswalks, including the ones recently-installed on crosswalks on Florida Highway A1A within Fine’s Brevard County district.

The bill follows an accident where sixth-grader Sophia Nelson was hit while crossing the street at a flashing yellow crosswalk.

Rep. Randy Fine poses on the first day of the 2020 Legislative Session.

“A crosswalk is supposed to be a safe place for a pedestrian to cross the street, but as we saw in December to devastating consequence, a flashing yellow crosswalk does not work,” Fine said.

“It’s quite simple — drivers know that a red light means stop. Yellow doesn’t. So this legislation would dictate that if government is going to create dedicated pedestrian crosswalks usable upon demand, the light should flash red once the button is pushed.”

Sen. Keith Perry is sponsoring an identical bill (SB 1000) in the Senate.

“This vital piece of legislation aims to combat the life-threatening issue of pedestrian safety in midblock crosswalks,” the Gainesville Republican said.

“When every second counts, we need to do everything in our power to keep all Floridians safeguarded from the confusion that can tragically result in drivers not stopping in time. Thank you, Representative Fine for joining me in championing this much-needed bill.”

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Disability exemptions

The permanently disabled in Florida automatically get a homestead exemption as long as they live in the state. But that goes away if a household makes a fairly modest gross income.

Now Rep. Amber Mariano, a Hudson Republican, wants to drop the threshold requirement entirely. She’s filed legislation (HB 6079) deleting the income requirements from state law.

As things stand now, Florida residents who have verification of their disability from a Florida licensed physician can qualify for a $500 “disability exemption” on the assessed value of their property. That’s on top of other homestead exemptions already in place. But the gross household limit stands in the way of many getting that break.

State statute put a cap on income, but starting in 1990 began adjusting the cap upward based on Florida’s cost of living index each year. For 2020, the Florida Department of Revenue put the cap at $29,948.

Further exemptions exist for quadriplegics, the legally blind and those requiring a wheelchair to move.

Notably, a worker earning Florida’s minimum wage of $8.46 an hour and works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks of the year would earn about $17,600.

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Heart attack bill gets bipartisan support

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers wants the state’s Medicaid agency to track hospital’s heart attack response results to improve Florida’s health care. 

Dover Republican Lawrence McClure filed HB 1401 Tuesday to accompany West Palm Beach Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell’s identical SB 1598, filed last week.  

“I filed this bill because, during my lifetime, I have known family members and close friends who have suffered heart attacks and some have died,” the Senator said in a statement. 

The Agency for Health Care Administration would contract a private group to keep a response records registry using agreed-to statistics. That group would then provide AHCA with regular reports. 

Those numbers would help improve or modify the heart attack care system and ensure compliance with state and national standards. But AHCA could not penalize hospitals for reporting their results. 

The Florida Department of Health estimates that heart attacks cause 3 in 10 deaths in Florida. In 2014, there were 42,835 heart attack hospitalizations, or an average of 117 hospitalizations each day. 

McClure and Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley filed bills last session to track ST-elevation myocardial infarction heart attacks. Those bills (HB 473 and SB 260) were not heard in either chamber. 

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Toll free

House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee wants military members to get a free pass on the state’s toll roads. 

HB 1447, filed Tuesday, would exempt all active-duty military service members, not just those on official military business, from paying tolls. People with disabilities, emergency vehicles on official business and working toll agency employees, are among those also currently exempt. 

The Miami Democrat touted Florida’s preeminence as a home for retired service members during his response to Gov. DeSantis’ State of the State address Tuesday. 

“We are home to the third-largest veteran population — and considered by many to be the most veteran-friendly state — to over 1.5 million veterans who call the Sunshine State home,” McGhee said.

Kionne McGhee also helped deliver a response to Gov. DeSantis’ State of the State address.

McGhee later added, “HB 1447 will provide toll relief to our Active Duty Military Service members. As the most military friendly state, it is our responsibility to continue to find ways to live up to a standard that gives back to the men and women who protect us.”

The bill, if heard, is slated to go through the House Transportation & Infrastructure and Transportation & Tourism Appropriations subcommittees and the House State Affairs Committee. The bill would go into effect in July. 

In 2018, McGhee filed a bill (HB 649) exempting people on evacuation orders from paying tolls. That bill did not receive a hearing.

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Guns in church

Rep. Jayer Williamson wants to let houses of worship allow attendees to bring firearms when they otherwise may not. 

Florida’s concealed carry permits don’t let people carry guns to courthouses, schools, bars and other public places. Houses of worship aren’t named in the statute, but many have conjoined schools.

“Right now, if there’s a daycare facility or a school or anything like that on the side of the church, it gets caught up into a loophole there where they’re not to carry at the church as a concealed weapons permit holder,” the Pace Republican said. 

HB 1437, co-introduced with Pensacola Republican Rep. Alex Andrade, would let houses of worship choose to override the concealed carry restrictions. The bill text also stresses that its purpose is for “safety, security, personal protection, or other lawful purposes.” 

Last month, a firearms instructor cut short a fatal shooting at a Texas church by killing the shooter with a concealed firearm. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott praised the instructor as a hero, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lauded the state’s gun laws. 

“I actually had the bill in drafting before that, but that kind of solidified that unfortunately we have to think about things like that,” Williamson said. 

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Toll road plan gets business backers

A plan to expand toll roads across the state now has the backing of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Connecting Florida said the NFIB has added their name to the roster of organizations who support the infrastructure enhancements, known as M-CORES, passed by lawmakers the 2019 Legislation Session. 

“As the voice of small business in Florida, NFIB Florida is proud to join the Connecting Florida coalition in support of the M-CORES program, which will plan for Florida’s future transportation needs,” NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said.

“Florida’s population and economy are flourishing. With that growth comes the need to plan for our trade, tourism and transportation needs. NFIB Florida shares with Connecting Florida the belief that the project will provide not only efficient connectivity to interstates and other major corridors for commuters to travel, but a myriad of improvements, such as utility and communication resources and reliable broadband connectivity.”

“Further, the M-CORES project will encourage both economic competition and business development in Florida, helping to keep Florida a large economic hub and unemployment rates low in the state,” he continued. “As NFIB Florida recognizes a stronger economy helps strengthen small and independent businesses throughout the state, which is our top priority, we are proud to stand in support with the coalition.”

NFIB joins several other major groups that have already signed on to the coalition, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Ports Council, Florida Internet & Television and the Florida Trucking Association. 

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Law and Order

TPD Chief Lawrence Revell names three deputy chiefs.

Revell congratulated three deputy chiefs who will join him in his new role at the head of the department. 

Revell was officially sworn-in last week, officially ending the tumultuous job search to replace his predecessor. TPD closed applications for Deputy Police Chief on January 10. 

“As I work to build a command staff that is representative of the community we serve, each role that I fill will be critically important in helping to move TPD forward,” Revell said at the start of that period. 

Deputy Chief Jason Laursen, a Tampa native, moved to Tallahassee in 1993 and has served with TPD since 1998. He is a Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University graduate. Since 2014, he has commanded the patrol, Criminal Investigations, and High-Risk Offenders Bureaus. 

He supervised Patrol, Special Investigations and Robbery/Violent Crimes, and he was also a team commander of the tactical team. 

Prior to serving with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for 17 years, Deputy Chief Tonja Bryant-Smith served with TPD for 11. For four years, she’s served as the North Florida chapter president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. 

With FDLE, she was a narcotics agent, an inspector in the Office of Executive Investigations (Professional Standards Unit), and a special agent supervisor over the Organized Crime Squad, the Public Integrity/Economic Squad and the Counterterrorism Squad. 

Deputy Chief Maurice Holmes, a Tallahassee native, is a twenty-five-year veteran of law enforcement and is currently a Thomasville Police Department captain. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served three years of active and five years of reserve duty. 

He is the commander of the Community Relations Division where he oversees community outreach, crime prevention, and school resource officers. 

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#SolarNoles 

FSU student government senators overwhelmingly voted to call on the university to move to 100% renewable energy sources by 2050. 

In fall 2018, Environment Florida began the campus campaign to make it the first Florida university to make the pledge. The resolution, passed 35-3 with 6 abstentions, says to go green on energy by 2030 and on university transportation by 2050. 

And in April, the city adopted a similar pledge, with FSU taking a major role in the effort. 

“As a top 20 public university with its own community of more than 40,000 students, we should blaze our own trail to help improve our climate,” said FSU senior and campaign coordinator Willow Michie. “We are excited to work with the campus administration to set the university on a path to a fossil-free future.” 

That resolution next goes to FSU President John Thrasher’s desk. But students hope to catch the eye of state lawmakers a few blocks away as they meet for the first week of the 2020 Session. 

“Students are sending a message to our current representatives that tomorrow’s leaders share a vision for Florida’s future — and that future is renewable,” said Environment Florida clean energy advocate Ryann Lynn

The group previously pushed for University of Florida to take the pledge, but its campus uses a private utility company. Vanderbilt is the nearest university to do so. 

In October, FSU students held events to coincide with Environment America’s National Week of Action for 100% Renewable Campuses. Environment Florida’s FSU chapter educated its peers by hosting tables at homecoming events and through its #SolarNoles social media campaign.

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This week’s edition of 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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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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