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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Gold medal parks

The Florida State Parks system — with 175 parks covering 800,000 acres across the state — is celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2020.

Gold medal parks

No humblebrag necessary, just straight-up bragging as the Florida State Parks Foundation shared a triple-whammy of good news at a Thursday news conference in the Capitol.

For starters, the Florida State Parks system — with 175 parks covering 800,000 acres across the state — is celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2020.

Then there’s the Gold Medal Award the parks system earned in 2019, which was on display with the three others awarded to Florida. It is the only state to win more than one of the biennial awards since the contest began in 1997.

And finally, the nonprofit presented its State Park Foundation Park Champion of the Year to Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican whose District 120 encompasses the bottom tip of Florida, including the Florida Keys.

The Florida State Parks Foundation presented Holly Raschein with its 2019 Park Champion of the Year Award.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked for $54 million to fund parks in the 2020-21 budget, current Senate and House budget allocations, at $27 million and $37 million respectively, fall far short of that mark.

As chair of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and a member of the Appropriations Committee, Raschein isn’t sweating the funding gap.

“Don’t worry, we’re going to continue to work on the budget,” she told the gathering. “I do oversee those sort of numbers.”

In her comments about receiving the award, she said her affinity for state parks — there are 11 in her district — goes beyond her legislative role.

“One of my favorite things to do with my 8-year-old son is to go to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and spend days there, whether we’re kayaking or just lounging on the beach or hiking through the trails. It truly is one of my favorite pastimes,” Raschein said. “And it’s been such a pleasure, working with the foundation and (Florida Department of Environmental Protection Director Eric) Draper and his entire team in seeing what we could do more to promote our parks.”

Foundation President Gil Ziffer also spoke of memories he’s made at state parks throughout his life as he moved around Florida, starting with high school weekends canoeing at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka, camping trips to Bahia Honda State Park and scouting trips with his two sons at Torreya State Park in Bristol.

Other speakers ticked off facts and stats about Florida’s parks: The park system generates $3 billion in revenue each year and sustains more than 48,000 jobs, said Foundation board member Lynn Cherry. She’s one of the more than 20,000 volunteers who contributed 1.3 million hours of service, valued at more than 30 million.

In addition to trails, campgrounds and swimming areas, the parks include 948 historic sites, four lighthouses, 26 museums, 10 theaters and seven horse stables, along with 100 miles of beach and 3,000 miles of roads.

But at 85 years old, parks’ infrastructure needs $1 billion worth of repair and restoration, while unprecedented natural disasters between 2016 and 2018 caused $200 million of damage at the parks, Cherry said.

To celebrate the 85th anniversary, individual parks are holding special events throughout 2020. To find one near you, visit


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

Fine requirement for felon registration blocked — The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Florida can’t require proof of financial restitution being paid before felons whose voting rights were restored can register. “Once a state provides an avenue to ending the punishment of disenfranchisement — as the voters of Florida plainly did — it must do so consonant with the principles of equal protection and it may not erect a wealth barrier absent a justification sufficient to overcome heightened scrutiny,” the ruling reads. That puts legislation lawmakers passed last year on hold, but DeSantis will seek an en banc review.

Legislature passes parental consent bill — For the first time in three decades, parental consent for youth abortion is on its way to being required by Florida law. The House approved by a 75-43 vote the Senate version of the legislation (SB 404) that would replace the current notification requirement with actual parental or guardian approval. The Florida Supreme Court struck down a similar law in 1989, but with recent appointments by DeSantis, many expect a clearer path for a statute with withstand a court challenge today. DeSantis himself said the matter deserved to be reconsidered in court.

University merger discussion evolves — As New College of Florida leadership lobbied in Tallahassee, influential voices weighed in on a proposal to fold the school into Florida State University and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. DeSantis said the University of South Florida would be a more “natural home” for New College. Meanwhile, Senate President Bill Galvano expressed a level of support for the merger for New College’s sake. The school is in his district, but he said he won’t always be around to protect it, and that it can’t continue to have 37% of its base budget come from a special funding source.

Jacquet loses ranking status — Rep. Al Jacquet stepped down as a ranking member of the Rules Committee after he used an anti-gay slur directed at one of his 2020 primary opponents. Rep. Joe Geller took over that position instead. First reported by Florida Politics, Jacquet can be heard using the term “batty boy” in a Facebook video posted to his personal page Friday. That video has still not been taken down. “Batty boy” is a slur used in the Caribbean to describe a gay person. Jacquet was born in the Caribbean country of the Netherlands Antilles.

Fried’s face off gas pumps — The Department of Agriculture has continued replacing gas pump inspection labels adorned with the face Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. New stickers still have Fried’s name and office number, but no smile. The old decals caused an uproar in the Florida Capitol, particularly in the House, which threatened to withhold more than $19 million in Department of Agriculture funding until the stickers with a photograph vanished everywhere. Notably, Agriculture Commissioners have adorned gas station inspection stickers with their own names for decades. But Fried was the first to put a color photograph of herself.

Green Cove Springs gets some green

DeSantis announced Thursday a $250,000 grant for Green Cove Springs for electrical line infrastructure upgrades.

The city’s utility department will upgrade power lines and transformers for manufacturing facility expansion during the estimated six-month project. And the city will match the state’s dollars, from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, with an additional $50,000.   

Ron DeSantis presents Green Cove Springs with a $250,000 grant for infrastructure upgrades.

“Clay County is home to several companies in the manufacturing, aerospace and defense sectors, with plenty of room to grow,” he said. “This strategic investment in public infrastructure, will help support and attract additional investment and growth for current and future businesses that call Green Cove Springs home.

CEO Jimmy Patronis and House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairs Travis Cummings and Rob Bradley joined DeSantis for the announcement. And county Chairman Gayward Hendry and City of Green Cove Springs Mayor Steven Kelley made the trek on Clay County Day to receive the award.

“Thanks to the Job Growth Grant Fund awarded to the City of Green Cove Springs, we are able to make some necessary upgrades to the electrical infrastructure and attract new and exciting growth to the area,” said Rep. Bobby Payne, the city’s House delegate.

Ken Lawson, the Department of Economic Opportunity’s executive director, lauded the economic and job growth effort. And Enterprise Florida Inc.’s (EFI) president and CEO Jamal Sowell said he could not think of a better use of the funds.

“Today’s award goes a long way toward bolstering a small town’s local infrastructure and diversifying Northeast Florida’s economy,” he said.

The state has distributed $186 million to 57 communities since the grant fund began in 2017 and is currently accepting applications.

Clone callers

A friend or relative calling you to request money in an emergency could actually be a scam.

That’s a warning from Florida Attorney General Ashely Moody. Voice cloning technology can let users make almost perfect reproductions of real people’s voices, even from recording just five seconds of that voice. The recording can then be used by scammers to call victims and pose as their friend or family members and ask for money, claiming there’s an emergency. 

“The voice on the other end of the phone is familiar and is begging for help,” Moody said. “Sadly, today, you may not always be able to trust what you hear. We all want to be there for those we love and care about, but with the emergence of new voice cloning technology, Floridians must be more vigilant than ever in watching for impostors and fraud before sharing financial or personal information.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

You don’t need to be versed in Voight-Kampff to avoid falling prey to the scam, just adhere to a few simple rules suggested by Moody’s office: include give out your social security, birth date, address or financial information without verifying the other person’s identity and verify the information the person is saying about their emergency.

If you’re still in doubt about the identity of the caller, hang up and call their contact number. 

Potential scammers can be reported to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-9NO-SCAM or visiting

FinTech footprint

Financial Technology, or FinTech, jobs have gotten a lot of attention the past couple weeks.

Earlier this month, DeSantis announced a $3.6 million initiative to create FinTech training programs at Florida State College at Jacksonville and St. Johns River State College. This week, CFO Patronis spoke on the importance of growing the FinTech field during a stop at the Career Source Florida Leaders Policy Forum.

Jimmy Patronis joined Ron DeSantis in Jacksonville for an announcement on several key initiatives that encourage financial technology (“FinTech”) companies in Florida.

“As someone who’s run a small business in Florida, I know just how beneficial it is to our communities to attract high paying, technology-focused jobs. With the continued growth of FinTech, Florida has a real opportunity to capitalize on this emerging technology, so that we can grow jobs and opportunities for families,” Patronis said.

“I want to first and foremost thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for his leadership in competing for these jobs and growing this emerging industry. With the support of Florida’s Chief Executive, Florida is well-positioned to compete for FinTech businesses who don’t need to worry about high taxes or burdensome regulations that would dry up the resources needed to hire qualified employees.

“We’re proud to partner with the Governor and the Legislature in leveraging state resources, and augmenting our practices, to create an environment of innovation for FinTech business, so these technologies can be safely deployed.”

In October 2019, CFO Patronis joined DeSantis in Jacksonville to announce a partnership in developing a regulatory sandbox where businesses could test and innovate products before maximum deployment.

The two also announced the Florida Office of Financial Regulation is part of the American Consumer Financial Innovation Network (ACFIN), which facilitates greater information sharing and coordination with federal, state, and private partners to support innovation.

Fried seeking noms

Agriculture Commissioner Fried released a video this week to put out the call for nominations for this year’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award.

The award, dished out every year since 1994, recognizes agricultural producers who demonstrate leadership in developing and implementing progressive techniques to safeguard the environment and conserve natural resources.

“The commitment of Florida’s farmers and ranchers to preserve our state’s precious natural resources ensures that our environmental and agricultural roots will thrive for future generations,” Fried said. “I encourage everyone to nominate an agricultural innovator or leader in your community whose environmental contributions are making a true difference in Florida.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Nominations must be submitted to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by Wednesday, April 1, 2020, to make the cut for this year’s award.

A committee comprised of representatives from FDACS and several other state boards and agencies will judge the nominations on several factors, including wildlife protection and habitat conservation, pesticide/nutrient management, water quality, soil and water conservation, and waste management/recycling.

Clemency changes

Fried is asking the Executive Board of Clemency to adopt proposed new clemency rules at their April 8 meeting. She is the lone Democrat on the board, which is made up of the Governor and Cabinet.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition proposes the new clemency rules. She argues they would restore the voting rights for thousands of nonviolent ex-felons. Fried has fought for the board to adopt new clemency rules for more than a year.

Nikki Fried wants to change the rules for the state Executive Board of Clemency.

“These draft rules will eliminate the current backlog of applicants seeking Restoration of Civil Rights, and will prevent a future backlog from developing,” she said in a Friday letter. “These rules are precisely the direction in which we, as the Clemency Board, should go forth.”

There’s a backlog of 10,000 clemency applicants for the restoration of civil rights. Fried said DeSantis has made it harder for former inmates to get clemency because he believes they must pay all fines, fees and restitution to be eligible to get their voting rights back.

Fried also praised the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that ruled the state can’t bar felons from voting because they haven’t paid their fines and fees.

Fried is calling on the Governor to grant Restoration of Civil Rights to the more than 600 applicants eligible without a hearing.

Power play

Fried also headed to Oakland Park this week to tout a $250,000 energy efficiency grant project.

Joining her were Mayor Matthew Sparks, City Commissioner Tim Lonergan and other local officials from within Broward County.

The grant, awarded by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Energy, was used to retrofit energy-efficient lighting at Wimberly Fields Park. In all, the city removed and replaced 186 existing lights with 78 energy-efficient LED lights and a smart control system at the park’s baseball and soccer fields.

Oakland Park Mayor Matthew Sparks is joining Nikki Fried to tout a $250K grant.

The upgrade has reduced the power draw by 127 kilowatts — 61% — which is expected to save the City of Oakland Park $819,787 over 25 years.

Fried said the success was one of many reasons the Office of Energy should stay under her control, rather than shifted to the Governor, which the Legislature proposes.

“This local project conserves energy and saves taxpayer money, and is just one example of how our Office of Energy is working well — and why it should stay in our department, its home for the last decade. In just the past year, we’ve hosted the first state-level summit to address climate change since 2008, and released the first statewide energy and climate action plan in a decade,” Fried said.

“Now that the Office of Energy is working well, some want to strip it away from our department. Let me be clear: there are no cost savings, no efficiency gains, and no good reasons to do this — just a partisan power grab. We will continue doing the good work of moving Florida forward on energy efficiency and the climate crisis.”

The Oakland Park Mayor agreed.

“I’d like to thank the Commissioner for the grant, and for our citizens as well for the money-saving portion of it. I speak for myself as a mayor, as well as other mayors who have gotten behind Commissioner Nikki Fried, to keep the Office of Energy under her control,” Sparks said. “We feel strongly about it, and as she said, there is no good reason to remove this office from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. We look forward to lighting up Oakland Park and saving money.”

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

18th Circuit Court — DeSantis appointed Michelle Naberhaus to the Eighteenth Circuit Court, which encompasses Brevard and Seminole Counties. Naberhaus, of Merritt Island, is a former attorney at Dean Mead, who currently serves as a judge on the Brevard County Court. She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge James Earp.

Death penalty

Attorneys for a death row inmate asked for the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider its January ruling that juries don’t need to unanimously recommend the death penalty for a judge to impose it in sentencing.

The high court’s ruling was a reversal from what the same court — with different justices — decided in 2016. Though the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t supersede a 2017 law passed by the Legislature, it did reinstate the death penalty sentence in a case before that law was passed.

In 2011, Mark Anthony Poole was sentenced to death after an 11-1 jury vote.

Mark Anthony Poole is asking the court to toss his death penalty conviction. Image via the Lakeland Ledger.

His attorneys say that should be tossed since the jury wasn’t instructed to consider “evolving standards of decency.”

“Current standards of decency show that jury unanimity is required to impose a sentence of death. This (Florida Supreme) Court adopted that conclusion more than three years ago,” a motion filed by the attorneys said.

“Since then, the notion that unanimity can be dispensed with when the prospect of death looms has only become more unpalatable: Today, only ‘Alabama … still permits a judge to impose the death penalty based upon a jury’s non-unanimous recommendation for death.’”

The Attorney General’s office disagrees.

“The (U.S.) Supreme Court has never held that the Eighth Amendment requires the jury’s final recommendation in a capital case to be unanimous,” her office said in response to the motion. “Florida was not required to adopt a unanimous jury recommendation requirement simply because a majority of other states have done so.”

National Engineers Week

The Department of Transportation (FDOT) joined the National Engineers Week celebration, highlighting engineers statewide.

Since 1951, transportation agencies across the country have used the week to acknowledge engineers and to raise public awareness of engineering careers. This year, the week runs from Sunday, February 16 through Saturday, February 22.

The department took to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to showcase its engineers and projects during the “EWeek” campaign.

On the FDOT YouTube channel, the agency uploaded a slideshow touting “hundreds of engineers, one FDOT.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

And in a Monday news release, the department celebrated Florida as a national leader in transportation.

“FDOT is home to some of the best and brightest engineers who are working to build Florida’s transportation system into the future,” FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault said. “Not only is this week an opportunity to recognize the men and women who serve our state each day, but it is also a great way to encourage students to explore exciting careers in the engineering field.”

The department hopes to open the first state-owned driverless vehicle testing site in the country, SunTrax, next year. Construction on that project, in partnership with Florida Polytechnic University, began in 2017.

According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, more than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies participate in the nationwide campaign.

Special shelter need

The St. Johns County School District completed a two-year shelter retrofit project that added 5,141 additional hurricane shelter spaces and 133 additional special needs hurricane shelter spaces.

The project was completed with $1.2 million in funding through the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program and the Hurricane Shelter Deficit Reduction Program.

“As a state, it is our responsibility to make sure we make every effort to keep people safe, and that includes having adequate shelter space,” said FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz.

FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz is praising the completion of additional hurricane shelter spaces in St. Johns County.

“This project addresses a need St. Johns County experienced during Hurricane Matthew, and sets an example for how we can learn from past storms to build more resilient communities.”

Officials stressed the need for sheltering special populations, in St. Johns County and elsewhere.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our residents, and we are grateful to the Governor and Division of Emergency Management for supporting their safety through this project,” said St. Johns County Administrator Hunter Conrad. “The additional spaces will allow us to provide improved protection for our special needs populations during future hurricane seasons.”

Matthew struck Florida in 2016. Since that time, officials say Florida the number of counties providing shelter space for the state’s special needs population has jumped from 21 34. In the last two years alone, more than 20,000 new shelter spaces have been added in Florida. By the end of this year, 31,000 additional shelter spaces are expected.

Where the sky is finally open

Advertisements showing a rainbow over the Colorado landscape suddenly became ubiquitous in Florida news outlets this week (including Florida Politics products). That’s because of an aggressive move by Good Business Colorado, which launched a Florida-wide campaign encouraging businesspeople here to relocate to the Centennial State.

“Come to Colorado, where we welcome your companies, your talent, and your job-seekers!” read banner ads from the Denver-based organization.

Yes, you have seen these a lot lately.

Leaders for the economic development group almost make the case that job discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers.

“A key reason for Colorado’s success is its strong workplace protections for LGBTQ employers and employees,” said Debra Brown, executive director of Good Business Colorado. “That makes it easy to recruit and retain the diverse workforce that fosters an economy that is competitive in the global marketplace.”

She also took a swipe at Florida, which for more than a decade has allowed the Florida Competitive Workforce Act to languish in a Tallahassee coffer.

“Florida’s LGBTQ business owners and workers don’t have comprehensive protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations,” Brown said. “Good Business Colorado sees this difference as an opportunity to entice Florida businesses, new graduates, job-seekers, and allies to relocate to Colorado. With the best economy and an inclusive business environment, Colorado is a great place for LGBTQ businesspeople and allies.”

That said, it may be notable the Workforce Act this week enjoyed just the slightest crack of sunlight. Sen. Victor Torres. a Kissimmee Democrat, introduced an amendment in the Senate and Tourism Committee this week regarding a women’s job protections bill that, had it passed, would effectively have advanced to longtime LGBTQ legislative priority. Ultimately, both the amendment and underlying bill were tabled.

But Committee Chair Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, praised Torres for filing the amendment, saying just raising the issue marked the first time a committee had even taken up the Workforce Act in years.

Revenue sharing

Sen. Randolph Bracy introduced an amendment to the athlete pay bill (SB 646) that would provide all college players with a slice of the cash they generate for their schools.

The Ocoee Democrat, himself a former NCAA Division I athlete, would have colleges and universities to equally compensate each student-athlete by cutting them checks equal to 10% of the ticket sales to all athletic events. It wouldn’t be a pay-as-you-go plan — the funds would come once the athlete earns their degree.

Randolph Bracy filed a bill to help student-athletes get fair compensation.

Ultimately, the revenue sharing model downvoted in the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee, which passed the overall bill in a 10-0 vote.

Still, it sparked significant debate. Bracy said it was a much-needed conversation about the inequality created by the NCAA rules and regulations which prohibit student-athletes from receiving any form of monetary compensation.

The current plan would allow athletes to profit off the use of their name, image or likeness — such as making monetized YouTube videos or signing autographs.

“The college sports industry has swelled up into a behemoth multibillion-dollar enterprise while athletes faced a mounting demand on their bodies and schedules. It is unfair for student-athletes to directly fuel the massive growth of this industry and not be compensated for it,” he said.

Bonus Instagram of the week


View this post on Instagram


Got my name sewn into new suit. #floridaman

A post shared by Steve Schale (@steveschale) on

‘Loaner’ liability

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is backing a bill by St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes that would clarify that car dealerships aren’t liable if a customer injures themselves or others by wrecking a “loaner” vehicle.

APCIA reiterated their support for the bill (SB 1738) on Wednesday after it cleared its second committee on a 4-1 vote.

“Today’s action by the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance Sen. Brandes’ Motor Vehicle Dealer’s legislation is good for Florida consumers. This public policy addresses unfair liability that is placed on motor vehicle dealers and their leasing and rental affiliates, which results in higher insurance costs that negatively impact Florida consumers,” said Logan McFaddin, APCIA’s assistant vice president of state government relations.

Jeff Brandes wants to keep car dealerships from liability if a customer wrecks or hurts someone with a loaner car.

“SB 1738 establishes that a motor vehicle dealer that provides a temporary replacement ‘loaner’ vehicle to a customer is not liable for harm to persons or property caused by the driver of the loaner. This limitation on liability only applies if there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the motor vehicle dealer or its leasing or rental affiliate.

“We look forward to seeing this bill continue to move through the process, as it is another way we can free up our overburdened court system and lower costs for Florida drivers.”

SB 1738 now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, its final committee stop before its ready for a floor vote. The House companion, HB 977 by Naples Rep. Bob Rommel, is awaiting a hearing in the State Affairs Committee, also its final stop before the chamber floor.

Park it

DeSantis signed legislation Friday, allowing police officers to park their law enforcement vehicles in residential neighborhoods.

The bill (SB 476), sponsored by Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper, would prohibit condominium, homeowners and cooperative associations from creating bylaws preventing law enforcement officers from parking their official vehicles in community areas where they would typically have a right to park. It would apply to homeowners, tenants, or guests of the homeowner.

Hooper’s legislation was prompted by reports of a Clearwater police officer who faced hundreds of dollars in fines last summer for violating an HOA rule in an East Lake Woodlands subdivision for parking her police car in her driveway. While the HOA later created an exemption for the officer, future homeowners with government-issued cars may face the same penalties.

Ron DeSantis signed Ed Hooper’s bill that allows law enforcement officers to park their vehicles at home, despite HOA rules.

The Florida Sheriffs Association supported the measure, with Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Schultz at the Session’s start saying it’s “ridiculous” that the Legislature has to step in: “You will stop crime by having a marked vehicle in these neighborhoods.”

State law says HOA’s can prohibit commercial vehicles from parking in driveways. Still, an opinion issued in 2005 by then-State Attorney Charlie Crist, a law enforcement vehicle is not considered commercial. But the HOA had also apparently banned government vehicles from parking in the community’s driveways.

Rep. Chip LaMarca carried the House companion version. Hooper’s version passed both chambers unanimously before getting the Governor’s stamp.

‘Bottom Line’

Brandes appeared on the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s “Bottom Line Friday to talk about legal fees and recidivism.

Chatting with Frank Walker, the Chamber’s vice president of government affairs, the St. Petersburg Republican outlined that contingency fee multipliers have led to higher court fees, raising premiums in the insurance industry. Brandes hopes the legislation will stop the plaintiff’s lawyers from asking for two or three times the standard attorney fee rate.

Florida’s bottom-five legal climate costs the average family $4,442 each year in lawsuit abuse, according to the Chamber.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

“(Our legislation) tries to level the playing field here and set the standard is as where it is in the rest of the 49 states and the federal standard, which is really the Scalia standard,” Brandes said. “He says these fees were never designed to be the ‘slot machines’ for the legal profession. We should go back to this rare and exceptional standard.”

And in prison reform, he believes the criminal justice system should do more to reduce recidivism rates.

“We know that the one thing that keeps most people from recommitting new crimes is the ability to get a job in their community, so what can we do in the overall job space to ensure that we’re looking to hire individuals who have a former record that we can get back in the workforce,” Brandes said.

Survivors speak

Crime survivors flooded the Capitol this week to share their stories and call for further criminal justice reforms that would not only help survivors and their families but also help rehabilitate the perpetrators of those crimes.

During the third annual Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) Survivors Speak news conference, the organization unveiled its 2020 public safety agenda, which asks for the Legislature to reprioritize its criminal justice reform efforts.

Rep. Shevrin Jones speaks alongside crime survivors at the third annual Survivors Speak press conference.

“Last year, Florida advanced important reforms to our criminal justice system with HB 7125, to better support survivors, reduce recidivism and over-incarceration, and stop cycles of crime,” said Aswad Thomas, Managing Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

“The voices of survivors from communities most harmed, who were too often ignored in the past, are being heard because they are organizing and advocating for their experiences to help shape policies that make the state safer. There is additional progress that Florida survivors are calling for this Legislative Session to prioritize prevention and rehabilitation, and establish key protections for crime victims in the aftermath of an incident.”

The group is seeking legislation that would provide crime survivors with job and housing protections; incentivize completion of rehabilitative programs, and improve probation by reducing violations and recidivism.

“As crime survivors, we want to ensure that the root causes of continued cycles of crime are addressed,” said JoLee Manning, a survivor from St. Augustine, with Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

“We need to place a greater priority on rehabilitation and reforms to the justice system that research has proved reduces recidivism and makes us safer, rather than simply continuing with wasteful spending to just warehouse people in prisons. When survivors are listened to, and communities most harmed by violence have their most vital needs met by our public policies, safety for Florida communities is advanced.”

Digital town hall

Reps. Alex Andrade and Kamia Brown will stream a bipartisan digital town hall Tuesday to connect with constituents who can’t visit in Tallahassee.

Andrade, a Republican, and Brown, a Democrat, hail not only from across the aisle but across the state. Andrade represents Pensacola while Brown’s district lands in Orange County.

Alex Andrade and Kamia Brown will stream a bipartisan digital town hall.

“It’s just providing an opportunity for us to give a perspective from both sides of the Legislature,” Brown said. “The majority of the things that we’re doing there within the Legislature are bipartisan.”

The two representatives will go live at 6 p.m. Tuesday —- 5 p.m. for those tuning in from the Panhandle.

“I love doing town halls with people who might share different perspectives or positions than my own,” Andrade said. “Unlike D.C., Republicans and Democrats get along in Tallahassee, despite our differences, and showing our constituents that aspect of public service is very encouraging.”

Andrade has joined multiple bipartisan town halls in the past at home and from the Capitol. In October, he held a digital town hall with friend and House colleague Rep. Dan Daley, a Coral Springs Democrat.

But for Brown, this will be her first such town hall, an exciting prospect for her that she hopes to continue down the line.

Both plan to highlight legislation they’ve passed or are currently working in the Session’s remaining three weeks. With the Legislature’s budgets in and headed for conferences, they hope to explain the budget processes to constituents who might not be familiar with it.

And they hope to field questions from constituents and hear more local issues. They are also accepting questions via email ahead of their Facebook stream.

Capitol Directions

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