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Takeaways from Tallahassee — 35 years, and counting

For 35 years, Pace Center for Girls offers a bright side for at-risk girls, with education and social services.

35 years, and counting

For a teenage girl who has had a run-in with the law, or lives in poverty, or skips school, or has been the victim of abuse, or has a less-than-ideal home, the future can look pretty bleak.

But for 35 years, Pace Center for Girls offers a bright side, helping equip at-risk girls with the education and social services they need to overcome their lives’ challenges and become successful women.

Pace Center for Girls has been helping at-risk Florida youths for 35 years.

“When they come to us, they get the academic help that they need, but they also get social-emotional therapy that we’re very able to handle,” said Jodi Stevens, Pace’s director of government affairs. “What makes PACE so great is that not only do we work with a girl, but we work with family because they still go home to their environment every single night.”

The successes aren’t just anecdotal. Pace relies on statistical evidence to prove that the teen girls who participate in the program are living improved lives. For example, Pace nearly doubles the likelihood that girls will be on track to graduate from high school compared to girls with the same risk factors who did not attend Pace. Before enrolling at Pace, nearly two out of three participants had been suspended or expelled from school. After leaving the program, nearly 90% are in higher education or employed. And while nearly a quarter of the girls come to Pace with a prior criminal charge, 95% do not have any involvement with the criminal justice system one year after leaving the program.

Pace was founded in 1985 by Vicki Burke with a class of 10 girls in Jacksonville. The program now has 22 locations serving more than 3,200 middle- and high school-aged girls across Florida and in Macon, Georgia.

In addition to its day school program, Pace also provides social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health counseling services for girls in traditional public schools in 12 Florida counties through Pace Reach Program Services.

“As we celebrate 35 years of changing the life trajectory of girls in Florida, our strong partnership with the State of Florida and Department of Juvenile Justice has ensured that more than 40,000 girls across the state have had the opportunity to find their voice and achieve their potential,” said Mary Marx, president and CEO of Pace Center for Girls.

Pace currently receives about 70% of its funding through the state, with the other 30% supplied through fundraising and support from municipal sources.

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

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

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Take 5

Domestic Violence stripped of exclusive deal — The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Chief Financial Officer Patricia Duarte and Chief Operating Officer Sandra Barnett both admitted the more than $7 million in compensation former CEO Tiffany Carr received over three years was excessive. In addition to hundreds of days of paid time off, which the coalition treated akin to bonuses, Carr was paid $761,000 annually. Revelations came as Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation stripping the coalition of its position as the Department of Children and Families’ sole provider of domestic violence services.

University mergers steamroll ahead — The House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of Higher Education Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine’s bill (HB 7087) consolidating New College of Florida and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. House and Senate leadership expressed confidence folding the state’s smallest universities into one of the state’s flagship universities will save the state money, despite no study showing specific cost savings. No testimony has been taken in favor of the bill, and no Senate version of the legislation exists.

Tracking coronavirus from Florida — DeSantis met Friday with Vice President Mike Pence in West Palm Beach to discuss efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak. There remain no confirmed cases in Florida. But there have been reports of patients being tested. Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, in a news conference this week, wouldn’t say how many people in Florida have been tested for the disease, how many people are self-isolating in case they show symptoms and areas in the state those people are located. He said that’s per state privacy laws, though Democratic lawmakers have criticized that interpretation of the statute.

House committee moves E-Verify — For the first time ever, a House committee advanced legislation to require Florida businesses to verify employment eligibility for workers. The Commerce committee in a largely party-line vote advanced requirements over concerns of immigrant advocates and certain industry leaders. Rep. Cord Byrd’s bill (HB 1265) would require either use of the federal E-Verify database or, in some cases, use of the I-9 verification system. But critics say this could threaten the livelihood of immigrant families. Business interests in agriculture, hospitality, and construction all say such requirements could plunge Florida into a recession.

Ron DeSantis appeals Amendment 4 ruling — The Governor’s administration asked an appellate court to revisit a three-judge panel’s decision that the state cannot prevent felons from voting who have not paid all financial restitution, including court-ordered fees and fines. A 33-page motion filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals requests an “en banc” hearing, and suggests three three-judge panel wrongly applied “heightened scrutiny” instead of “rational-basis review.” The panel upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in October that a law passed the Legislature and signed by DeSantis last year was unconstitutional.

Training cash

DeSantis is shipping $14 million in workforce training cash to programs spanning the Keys up to Central Florida.

The money is heading to local workforce development boards, schools, colleges and universities in communities impacted by Hurricane Irma. The funds come out of a pot of money managed by the Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Homes, businesses and communities across the state are still recovering from Hurricane Irma. The Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program provides opportunities for Floridians to gain the skills they need to help rebuild their communities,” DeSantis said

“The award recipients will help individuals across the state not only learn skills they need to repair homes and infrastructure but create a new life for themselves and their families.”

Seven entities are getting checks ranging in size from $1.46 million to $2.65 million.

The list: CareerSource Brevard, The College of the Florida Keys, Florida International University, Florida State College at Jacksonville, the Hendry County School District, Indian River State College and Valencia College.

The programs are centered on construction industry training — trades targeted include roofing, masonry, carpentry, concrete finishing, plumbing, HVAC, electricity, heavy equipment operations, carpet laying, window installation, plastering, welding, among others.

DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson said his agency is “excited to partner” with the trade education programs, highlighting benefits beyond Hurricane Irma recovery.

“Under Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, we are focused on enhancing the state’s efforts to train Floridians in construction fields,” he said.

“By providing individuals enhanced training in the construction fields, we will have a larger workforce available to help rebuild our state faster and more resilient to future storms, as well as provide these Floridian’s opportunities for success.”

‘Back the Blue’

This week marked the anniversary of the “Back the Blue” campaign, and Attorney General Ashley Moody used the milestone to look back at winners past the initiative’s success.

Her office released a video this week looking back on past recipients of the award, which honors law enforcement officers, citizens, and organizations that go above and beyond to support law enforcement.

Highlights include the inaugural recipient, a 10-year-old-boy from Winter Springs who runs a mile for every law enforcement officer lost in the line of duty. Also getting a shoutout: Tallahassee police officer Sean Wyman, who snagged the award after co-authoring a book focused on supporting first responders’ mental health.

The award isn’t exclusive to humans, either. Among the nearly two-dozen Back the Blue recipients were a pair of K-9s — Copper and Zinc — who helped rescue a 3-year-old-boy who went missing in a wooded area.

“Supporting our law enforcement is extremely important to me, and one of my favorite parts of serving as Florida’s Attorney General is the daily partnerships with all of our great law enforcement agencies,” Moody said.

“Over the past year of presenting Back the Blue Awards, I have met extraordinary people that represent our law enforcement community with the highest regards, as well as, organizations and citizens exemplifying unwavering support for our law enforcement agencies. I love presenting these awards, and I can’t wait to honor many, many more Floridians in the future.”

To view the video, click on the image below:

Consumer protection

A bill that would cut down insurance claims delays, especially following a storm, cleared its final Senate committee and is headed for the chamber floor.

CFO Jimmy Patronis is enthused.

Since opening day, Patronis has listed SB 1492 as one of his top priorities for the 2020 Legislative Session. The House companion, HB 1137, is also prepped for a floor vote.

Jimmy Patronis is enthusiastic about one of his top priorities, a bill that protects consumers by cutting down on insurance claims. 

“The Consumer Protection Act passed its final committee and is headed to the Senate floor. This bill sends a message to insurance companies and public adjusters that if you’re going to operate in the State of Florida, you must do what’s right by your customers,” Patronis said. “I thank our bill sponsors, Chair Tom Wright and Chair Chuck Clemons, for their support in this vital legislation.”

The bills would change a number of insurance rules, top among them is a requirement that insurance companies settle claims in 90 days.

Other provisions in the proposal would crack down on unlicensed insurance agents and block insurance companies from mentioning Medicare if their products aren’t related to the program.

The bills also require insurers to send policyholders an annual “Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights,” outlining the hurricane coverage included in a policy, including the hurricane deductible and the coverages and exclusions.

Patronis has championed the measure in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which was plagued with claims delays.

Instagram of the Week

Tremendous contributions

First Lady Casey DeSantis extolled the “tremendous contributions of African Americans to our rich cultural heritage” this week, honoring Black History Month student contest winners and Excellence in Education Award recipients.

 The winners of the contest were honored at the Governor’s Mansion, and a number of members of the executive branch lauded the winners.

Ron DeSantis congratulates students and educators who participated in the Art, Essay, and Excellence in Education Awards as part of Black History Month.

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran lauded “these students and educators for going above and beyond to recognize the countless African Americans who have and continue to contribute greatly to our state and nation.”

Corcoran went on to say his department was committed to school choice for “every student, no matter their age or demographic.”

“During Black History Month,” said Secretary of State Laurel Lee, “we reflect and honor the contributions of this community of strong, resilient individuals who have enriched and continue to enhance the lives of Floridians, for which we are grateful.”

“February’s Black History Month gives us an opportunity to showcase the contributions of African Americans both nationally and right here in Florida who have impacted our state for the better,” said Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell.

Aidan Patel, Jaylen McCall, and Amarachi Ujagbor were honored for student essays about educator Mary McLeod Bethune, Black Seminole Chief John Horse, and Dr. Charles Drew.

Kristian Stinson and Kana Reynolds were honored for artistic tributes to humanitarian Eartha Mary Magdalene White and obstetrician Dr. James Sistrunk.

Honored for excellence in education, meanwhile, were veteran educational professionals Ataaba Patterson, Jennifer Shea and Roberto Fernandez III.

Veteran trooper promoted

Florida Highway Patrol Director Gene Spaulding named a new Chief of Public Affairs this week: Lt. Pete Bergstresser.

Bergstresser has worked at FHP for more than two decades, most recently serving as the Troop D, Sub-District Lieutenant for Osceola and Orange counties.

“With Captain Bergstresser’s years of experience, professionalism and service to our great state, I am confident he will excel in this new role and continue to serve as an asset to our agency and its mission,” Spaulding said.

Bergstresser joined FHP in 1996 and was a member of the 90th Recruit Class. He has served the residents and visitors of Florida in Troops F, D, and K. He has worked in the Traffic Homicide Investigation section investigating fatal traffic crashes and highway-related homicides.

He is an alumnus of Valencia Community College and Florida Southern College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Bergstresser’s résumé also includes the successful completion of the Command Officer’s Development Course (CODC) in Clermont, Florida, a continuing education curriculum for law enforcement managers.

He started his new job Friday.

Save the date

Veterans Florida announced its 2020 two-day expo will take place early June at the Orlando Hilton.

The Tallahassee-based nonprofit to help military veterans transition to civilian life strives to connect veterans to job opportunities, state and local resources, and a network of fellow veterans. This year’s expo’s focus will be franchising opportunities.

“Our goal each year is to bring (veterans and their families) all together to one place so veterans can see and take advantage of all Florida offers,” said Veterans Florida executive director Joe Marino.

Veterans Florida will hold a two-day expo in June.

The career fair Friday, June 5, will connect veteran-friendly employers to job seekers. And Veterans Florida staff will be available to provide on-site resume reviews, interview assistance and general career advice.

Battle of the Pitches is slated for Saturday, June 6, and will pit veteran entrepreneurs from across Florida in a competition to win awards for their businesses.

Marino, a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer, said the organization will soon announce speakers and prospective franchises.

State and local benefits and resource providers will be exhibiting and on hand for both days.

General attendance to the expo, sponsored by Bank of America, is free and open to veterans, active duty, guard, reservists and their families.

Power wheels

The Department of Management Services (DMS) recently unveiled the first electric vehicle charging station, installed at the Capitol complex last week.

The publicly-available ChargePoint station is located on the south end of the Capitol’s Knott Building along Madison Street. That “pilot” station is the latest in the expanding network of electric vehicle charging stations.

A new, publicly available ChargePoint station is located on the south end of the Capitol’s Knott Building.

“Under Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, our agency has actively sought out new opportunities to leverage technology to improve service to our customers,” DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter said. “The installation of the first electric vehicle charging station at the Florida Capitol is an example of our commitment to implementing innovative solutions to meet the demands of the future.”

Through their app, drivers can reserve a charging time — no more than two hours per day per vehicle — and track their vehicle’s charge.

“The use of electric vehicles in Florida and across the nation continues to grow, and the department will continue to work with partners, like ChargePoint, to expand the infrastructure available for electric vehicles,” said Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault.

The Capitol’s station is compatible with most battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. ChargePoint has more than 2,300 charging stations across the state, said ChargePoint vice president Anne Smart.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the state to accelerate the expansion of vital (electric vehicle) charging infrastructure, reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions and creating new opportunities for economic growth,” she said.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and Tampa Democratic Rep. Jackie Toledo noted the alternative parking option is another step toward expanding electric vehicle infrastructure in the Sunshine State.

“Providing this service at the Florida Capitol reflects our dedication to planning for the future of transportation in our state,” Brandes said.

Soft-shell shufti

Coronavirus isn’t the only virus Florida researchers are looking into.

The Florida freshwater turtle population has been struggling with a viral disease for a couple of years now, and it has started to spread.

See a sick softshell turtle? There’s an app for that. Image via Bay News 9.

After taking root in the St. Johns River watershed in 2018, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says reports of sick softshell turtles and cooters are starting to flow in from lakes surrounding Orlando, Lakeland and Lake Wales.

FWC is getting assistance from wildlife rehabilitation centers across the state, but now it’s looking for some help from the public.

Floridians can pitch in by reporting sick or dead turtle sightings, either through the FWC Reporter app or the FWC’s dedicated Turtle Hotline — 352-339-8597. App users can go the extra mile by snapping a photo, which helps researchers determine the species and condition of the turtle.

A turtle may be sick if it’s at the water’s edge with its neck stretched out on the ground; the turtle is reluctant to move when approached, and the turtle’s eyes are swollen or remain closed.

FWC says helpers shouldn’t touch or move turtles, even if they seem healthy. Doing so will only advance the virus’ spread.

And, for those who need to hear it: Do not eat turtles that appear sick or unhealthy. Researchers have enough going on as it is.

Overtime?

Yet again, one of the Legislature’s two budget chairs from Clay County is pessimistic that Sine Die will fall Friday the 13th this year as scheduled.

House Appropriations Chair Travis Cummings noted that “we are very early in allocation discussions with our Senate partners.”

Travis Cummings is concerned that Session will not end as expected — on Friday the 13th.

Last year, he envisioned an extension … it ended up being just a day. But time is running short, and major issues remain unresolved.

That would include bones of contention like VISIT FLORIDA, which the House wants to cut entirely. And big differences on the budget to acquire environmentally sensitive land (the House proposes $20 million, less than a six of the Senate’s $125 million). And affordable housing money also, where the Senate proposes $387 million and the House just $144 million.

“No agreements have occurred in those areas,” Cummings said.

“Without allocations,” he added, “we cannot begin budget conference. There is still time, but every day is crucial at this point.”

The takeaway?

“If we don’t have allocations done in the next few days, we would have to extend Session.”

Bonus Instagram of the day

 

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Hanging with the intern.

A post shared by Chris Latvala (@chris.latvala) on

Tip of the cap

It’s back for 2020: a proposal for a 10% THC cap on medical marijuana.

This one would only apply to patients under 21 years old … for now.

Senate Health Policy Chair Gayle Harrell filed an amendment to SB 230, a health policy chair that previously had nothing to do with doctor-recommended cannabis.

Surprise! Gayle Harrell tacked onto a previously unrelated bill a 10% THC cap on medical marijuana.

However, it does now. Unless a patient is terminally ill or a physician can substantiate the case for higher THC strains (the vast majority of what patients buy retail), those patients will be limited to 10% THC.

They are allotted 2.5 ounces of smokable product every 35 days, and that won’t change, meaning that the THC cap proposal would limit available dosages by default.

The language does not restrict concentrates, a high-margin sector for stores, to 10% THC. Concentrates have been known to approach 100% THC, though 80% — 90 % is more the conventional range.

A cap was floated in 2019 but didn’t get over. Could 2020 be the year?

Age of arrest

Orlando police released bodycam footage this week showing 6-year-old Kaia Rolle’s arrest by two officers who cuffed her with zip ties.

Sen. Randolph Bracy, dismayed by the video, says cases like Rolle’s are why he filed legislation prohibiting a young child’s arrest. Twenty-three states have a minimum age for arrest, and SB 578, filed months ahead of Session, would set Florida’s minimum at 12 years old.

“It is shocking that no existing law prevented this unnecessary response to childhood misbehavior,” Bracy said. “No 6-year-old should be handcuffed and taken away from school in the back of a police car.”

An Orlando police officer is seen arresting 6-year-old Kaia Rolle.

The bill has yet been scheduled for a hearing in committee. Neither has Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani’s identical version (HB 949).

But with two weeks of Session remaining, the outlook of either chamber passing the legislation — even if the footage catalyzes action — looks bleak. Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, Senate Criminal Justice Committee’s Chair, said his committee and others wouldn’t meet again.

Police arrested Rolle on misdemeanor battery charges after she allegedly acted out in her Orlando classroom in September. The footage, released by her family, shows Rolle pleading through tears to not be arrested.

“It was heartbreaking to watch this young 6-year old girl pleading for help and asking for a second chance as she was being arrested,” Bracy said. “The trauma this caused Kaia and her family is something nobody should ever have to go through.”

The measure is one of several criminal justice reforms the Ocoee Democrat has promoted. He filed the bill in October.

Ocoee riots

Legislation to more Floridians aware of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots passed its final committee this week.

The bill (SB 1262), sponsored by Sen. Bracy, would direct the Education commissioner’s African American History Task Force to recommend ways that history can be taught in schools. The amended version takes out the descendants’ compensation fund and removes the requirement that the Department of Economic Opportunity prioritizes applications from black businesses in areas directly impacted by the violence.

Randolph Bracy’s bill to memorialize the Ocoee Election Day massacre is one step close to passage.

The legislation would also direct the Secretary of State’s office to find ways the Museum of Florida History and other national museums could highlight that violent Ocoee history. And it would order the Secretary of Environmental Protection to see if state parks could be named after some of the victims. It would also encourage school boards to consider naming buildings after the Ocoee victims.

The violence started before the November election in 1920 because the Ku Klux Klan Grand Master of Florida sent a threatening letter to a politician who was registering African Americans to vote. A white posse went after two black men who were recording the names of black people who had been denied the right to vote. The mob lynched one of the black men; the other had fled the area. The white mob set fire to all black-owned buildings in northern Ocoee. Between three and 60 African Americans reportedly died from the violence and the remaining black residents fled.

Fair housing

The House is set to vote on legislation allowing victims of housing discrimination to file a lawsuit without having to exhaust their remedies through the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

The bill (HB 175), sponsored by Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week without opposition. Its Senate companion (SB 374) is ready for a vote in the Senate.

Davis’s bill would let victims file a lawsuit at any time, regardless of filing a complaint or its status.

Rep. Tracie Davis’ bill to allow victims of housing discrimination file lawsuits at any time is moving along. 

Under the Florida Fair Housing Act, someone has one year after the alleged discriminatory housing practice to file a complaint with the Commission. The Commission has 100 days to issue a determination, resolve it, or get voluntary compliance to correct the practice. If the Commission can’t get voluntary compliance within 180 days, the victim can file a lawsuit. The federal Fair Housing Act allows complainants to file a lawsuit at any time.

But a 2004 appeals court decision used by Florida state courts requires victims to file a complaint with the Commission to proceed with lawsuits. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that’s inconsistent with federal law and is threatening to suspend the Commission.

“It is imperative for this bill to pass both chambers this year,” Davis said. “It’s our job to fix this compliance issue to ensure that housing rights and protections for Florida residents are not diminished.”

Of Russians and ransoms

Cyber Florida hosted events in Tallahassee and Ocala this month to raise awareness of security threats.

AG Moody spoke Feb. 11 at an event co-sponsored by Marion County Clerk of Court David R. Ellspermann. The Cabinet member stressed how ransomware hacks had threatened local government.

“Last year, several cities and at least one Florida school district were held hostage by cybercriminals,” Moody said. “These attacks on our cities are expensive and divert the government’s focus away from serving its citizens, and these workshops will help local leaders across Florida implement procedures to prevent, respond to and recover from cyberattacks.”

Secretary of State Laurel Lee speaks at an event to help towns and counties prepare for growing cyberthreats.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Laurel Lee attended an event hosted by Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and focused on election security.

“The Department collaborated with federal, state, and local partners to implement an initiative that established a consistent baseline of security across the state,” she said.

“This collaboration represents an unprecedented cooperative partnership with counties to do even more to secure and protect the integrity of Florida’s elections. We now have statewide visibility on our elections infrastructure and are providing hands-on support to all 67 counties. No Florida county will ever again stand alone against cyber threats.”

Cyber Florida Mike McConnell and Pensacola City Administrator Keith Wilkins, one of the cities to suffer a ransomware attack, shared the stage with Lee.

Chief Information Security Officer Thomas Vaughn also led a program with other officials that included a simulated cyberattack led by the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs Director Ron Sanders.

“Municipal and county governments are targets because cybercriminals know they have limited financial and human resources to devote to cybersecurity,” McConnell said, “and these workshops are intended to make Florida local government leaders aware of the threats they face as well as the vital role that each of their employees plays in protecting their systems from cyberattacks. In many instances, applying basic cyber hygiene is all that’s needed to reduce cybercriminals’ chances of success significantly.”

Shortage study

A recent study by the James Madison Institute (JMI) found a shortage of thousands of health care professionals in Florida expected to triple in the next decade.

Florida’s short 1,636 primary care physicians, according to the report by JMI’s vice president Sal Nuzzo and adjunct scholar Vittorio Nastasi. That count will double by 2025 and reach as high as 4,671 by 2030 in its projections.

JMI’s Sal Nuzzo says that Florida is short more than 1,600 primary care physicians; that number will double in five years.

The current state of health care leaves more than 6 million people across 282 areas with health-professional shortages. There, the existing physician workforce meets 21.4% of the need.

“The fact that Florida faces an existing and growing shortage in health care across the board is not disputed,” Nuzzo said. With a population growing by close to 1,000 every single day, we will only feel the pinch more as we delay addressing it.”

He and Nastasi, also a policy analyst for the Reason Foundation, called for an array of reforms and patient-centered, market-driven approaches to lower costs and improve overall health.

The Sunshine State’s aging demographics contribute to the challenge. As the state’s population grows by a thousand each day, individuals over 65 will be the fastest-growing demographic.

“As Florida’s population continues to grow and age, the supply of physicians will be unable to meet demand,” Nastasi said. “No single policy alone can alleviate the growing shortage.”

Free tax help

Students from Florida A&M University College of Law will be making Tax Day a little easier for some Orlando residents.

The school announced the program to help those who need help filling out their 1040s, free of charge.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is geared toward people who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own returns.

FAMU Law professor Darryll Jones is supervising students who are offering free tax prep to families.

No need to worry about fuzzy math, either. VITA volunteers are certified by the IRS to provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

Also, FAMU Law professor Darryll Jones, who has an LLM in tax law, is supervising the VITA volunteers.

They get something out of it, too: valuable, practical experience.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our students to give back to the community,” said Jones. “The students who are participating in the VITA program are trained, certified, and ready to assist with tax preparations.”

The initiative is a partnership between FAMU Law, the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation, and the United Way of Central Florida.

Kickin’ it

Lobbyists and executive office staffers will face off Sunday for the 2020 Legislative Kickball championship and some good ol’ camaraderie.

The undefeated lobbyist squad is the favorite to secure the championship against the 3-1 executive team. Their one loss came at the hands of “lobbyists and special interests” in the first week of the season.

“So far, the luck has been on our side, and I probably should have bought a Powerball ticket with that luck, but I have not,” said Jim Magill of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

Are you ready for some kickball?

But executive captain and CFO’s office staffer Caleb Spencer said some recent acquisitions level the odds for the underdogs.

“They’ve just helped strengthen us up on the infield when it comes to fielding. We’ve got an incredible third baseman now and just some really strong batters,” he said.

University of Florida legislative assistant Victoria Price also predicts a close match. Despite picking up some veteran players, last-minute amendments or surprise committee bills could pull some players from the lobbyists’ bench.

“You never know what might be thrown on your plate with policy bills at the point that they are in Session,” she said.

Magill, a 14-year veteran of the game, says he was selected team captain because he brings the cooler. Of course, each team brings their own coolers to avoid ethics violations.

And no one admitted to any sports betting or foul play, so don’t expect a Black Sox Scandal. In fact, lobbyists agreed to add two frames last week to give the winless Senate staffers a chance at a comeback, a sign of true sportsmanship.

“The whole goal is to go out, have a good time and make some friends,” Magill said.

The Senate squad were champions last year, apparently victims of a bad offseason free agency period.

Teams will play at least seven innings at 4 p.m. at Winthrop Park Sunday. House staffers, with a 1-3 record, will play their counterparts from across the rotunda for the loser’s bracket.

Capitol Directions

 

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