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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Vape 2.0

A bill upping the purchasing age for vape products will return in 2021.

Rep. Jackie Toledo is vowing to bring back a bill in the next legislative session to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco or vape products from 18 to 21.

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill (SB 810) that would have increased the legal age and banned flavored vape juices until they received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

DeSantis vetoed the bill arguing it was, in part, redundant and also detrimental to smoking cessation efforts.

Federal law already increased the legal selling age. But DeSantis also said the bill could do more harm to smoking cessation efforts than good. By banning flavored vapes, more people might turn back to smoking cigarettes, which he argues is more dangerous. 

Toledo said she was disappointed in his decision and is already beginning conversations to bring back another bill that can again pass the Legislature and earn the Governor’s signature.

Rep. Jackie Toledo says a vape bill will return next Session.

“Years ago we were at the lowest percentage of traditional cigarette users in middle and high schools,” Toledo said. 

While that’s good, she points out about half of all high school students now self-report having used vape products. 

She’s committed to finding consensus to ensure kids in schools can’t access deadly chemicals that lead to addiction, which eventually has health ramifications that cost taxpayers on the health care end.

Further, DeSantis’ veto means that even though the legal purchasing age is 21 under federal law, without state law to compliment that, Florida lacks an enforcement mechanism to go after rule-breakers.

Her vape 2.0 effort will address that, one key component to limiting vape use among teens. Schools, at any given point, have plenty of seniors who are 18 years old who can purchase vape or tobacco products and pass those along to their underage peers. A 21 age minimum would reduce that access, she said. 

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

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

Take 5

Ron DeSantis court pick tossed — The Florida Supreme Court ruled the Governor must make a new choice for an appointment. DeSantis previously picked Circuit Court Judge Renatha Francis. However, Francis had not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years, a requirement for the job. Rep. Geraldine Thompson  filed a lawsuit challenging the appointment. A judgment originally agreed with Thompson that the choice had been improper, but said the lawsuit didn’t suggest an appropriate cure, but then allowed Thompson to amend her suit. Now, DeSantis must appoint a qualified individual to the court no later than Monday. Justices ruled unanimously.

Economists project $2.7 billion shortfall — State legislative budget chiefs predicted short-term challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic will spark a recession and fewer dollars in the 2021-’22 budget. Amy Baker, coordinator of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, told the Joint Legislative Budget Commission funding gaps will continue in the following years. She did suggest the state could see a potentially quick recovery for most sectors of the economy, excluding tourism, so long as a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available before the July start of the new fiscal year. The forecast will be what restricts legislative budget decisions.

DEO handling federal unemployment benefits — The Department of Economic Opportunity announced the state is now technologically able to begin paying Federal Lost Wages Assistance program benefits, which will offer an additional $300 each week to eligible Floridians currently receiving unemployment. To qualify for the federal boost, claimants must currently be receiving at least $100 weekly in an approved Reemployment Assistance program. Claimants must also be able to certify they are unemployed or partially unemployed because of COVID-19. Eligible Floridians will receive the additional dollars without any secondary applications, similar to the COVID-19 stimulus checks. Benefits will be retroactive to Aug. 1.

Bars, breweries reopening at half capacity — The Department of Business and Professional Regulation will allow bars to reopen at 50% capacity beginning Monday. DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears signed an executive order rescinding restrictions the department placed on bars three weeks after reopening them in June. In the new order, the Secretary writes that the state’s COVID-19 response efforts are now “negatively impacted” by continued restrictions. Alcohol vendors may operate at 50% capacity, allow bar service to seated patrons, and permit outdoor seating and service with appropriate social distancing, according to the order.

South Florida counties enter Phase Two — Gov. DeSantis approved Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties moving into the same stage of reopening as most of Florida. Palm Beach earned the green light on Sept. 3, then the other two counties got a go-ahead on Friday. The shift means several entertainment options reopening, such as bowling alleys, movie theaters and museums. The reopening of bars won’t immediately apply. South Florida remains the epicenter for coronavirus cases in the state. The three densely-populated counties were hit hard in June and July after the first reopening effort. The Governor cited his desire to allow South Florida schools to reopen in-person learning as the primary driver for the move.

Coronavirus Numbers

Positive cases

— 650,922 FL residents (+17,862 since Sept. 4)

— 7,459 Non-FL residents (+308 since Sept. 4)

Origin:

— 5,082 Travel related

— 225,317 Contact with a confirmed case

— 5,400 Both

— 415,123 Under investigation

Hospitalizations

— 41,021 in FL

Deaths

— 12,658 in FL

Prevents

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed on to a proclamation observing September 2020 as Florida Veteran Suicide Prevention Month.

The proclamation is Florida’s version of a nationwide veteran suicide prevention effort that originated in March 2019 with an executive order from President Donald Trump detailing “The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide,” or simply “PREVENTS.”

September is Florida Veteran Suicide Prevention Month.

In conjunction with PREVENTS, Florida accepted the “Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and their Families,” a national call to action asking states to embark on a process of collaborating, planning and implementing suicide prevention best practices and policies for service members, veterans and their families.

In a press release, the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs states, “PREVENTS seeks to change the culture surrounding mental health and suicide prevention through enhanced community integration, prioritized research activities and implementation strategies that emphasize improved overall health and well-being.”

The program cites a commitment to a “holistic, all-hands-on-deck approach” to suicide prevention. Further details on the specifics of the PREVENTS program are forthcoming.

Fresh twist

Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a consumer alert warning citizens about a fresh twist on an old scam.

For years, swindlers looking to make a quick buck have targeted parents and grandparents with phone calls claiming their loved ones are under arrest and in need of immediate bail payments. Imposters are now using the COVID-19 health crisis to add further urgency — claiming payment must be made immediately over the phone in order to reduce person-to-person contact.

“Imposter scams are the perfect vehicle to leverage the fear of COVID-19. The added concern of the health risks raised by the scammers in their fake calls only makes an already stressful situation — the supposed arrest of a loved one — even more alarming,” Moody said.

“It’s despicable, but sadly effective. If you get one of these calls, hang up and call the relative supposedly under arrest directly. Then call law enforcement to report the scam.”

If someone calls and says a loved one has been arrested, be skeptical, Ashley Moody warns.

Floridians are advised that the scam can originate from an email or text message as well. Be wary of anyone requesting money or personal information over the phone.

The Scams at a Glance Imposter Scams brochure is available online in English and Spanish. Report any suspicious activity to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.

Since the COVID-19 emergency declaration, Moody has issued more than 20 Consumer Alerts with information about emerging scams and tips to avoid fraud. To view the latest alerts and to stay up-to-date on COVID-19-related scams, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Alert webpage.

Moratorium extended

President Trump signed a 10-year extension to a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and expansion to Florida’s Atlantic coast, Georgia, and South Carolina. Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is here to express his gratitude.

“Thank you to President Trump for fighting to protect Florida’s natural treasures and extending the moratorium on off-shore drilling for another decade. Florida’s oceans are a major driver for economic activity and worth protecting at all costs. This moratorium is also important to protecting our military training efforts in the Gulf range,” Patronis said in a statement.

Another decade without offshore drilling.

“This is a historic day,” Patronis added, “and we’re grateful for the President’s support of the Sunshine State’s natural resources.” 

Patronis also issued a special thank-you to U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio for their hard work “advocating for these vital protections to Florida’s beautiful waterways.”

Fuel industry advocates have long sought expansion to Florida’s shores. The Trump administration had previously indicated it would seek to open most of the country’s coastal waters to drilling.

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Northwest Florida Water Management District Nick Patronis and Kellie Ralston were appointed to the Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board. Patronis is the younger brother of CFO Jimmy Patronis and a part owner of Captain Anderson’s Restaurant and Waterfront Market in Panama City Beach. Ralston is the Southeast Fisheries policy director for the American Sportfishing Association.

St. Johns River Water Management District — DeSantis this week appointed Sen. Rob Bradley and Janet Price to the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board. Bradley, a Fleming Island lawyer, has been a Republican Senator for Senate District 5 since 2012 but is term limited and not seeking reelection. Price is a senior manager of environmental affairs with Rayonier Inc.

Suwannee River Water Management District — DeSantis appointed Harry Smith to the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board. Smith, of Lake City, is the vice president of feed operations for Central States Enterprises. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida.

Get the shot

With fall approaching and the nation still looking forward to a COVID-19 vaccine, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is advising that there’s no better time to take advantage of the influenza virus vaccine.

DOH said the flu vaccine is more important than ever, both to protect yourself and the people around you, and to help reduce the strain on health care systems responding to COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu vaccines each year for everyone six months and older. Vaccination prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses during the 2016-17 flu season alone, according to the CDC.

Getting vaccinated is especially important for folks vulnerable to the flu, such as pregnant women, children and adults older than 65.

The COVID-19 pandemic is no excuse to skip the flu vaccine, DOH says. Image via AP.

“Because protection from flu vaccine declines over time and flu viruses are constantly changing, yearly vaccination is best,” the DOH reports. “Flu vaccine is evaluated every year and often updated to address the viruses that will be common during an upcoming flu season.”

There is significant overlap in the habits that prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and the flu. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home, school or office.

And if you’re sick, contain those germs and stay home.

Observe and report

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) launched a new web application for Floridians to report gopher tortoise sightings.

The website will replace the Florida Gopher Tortoise mobile app, and is designed to be user-friendly and compatible with all devices. 

“We appreciate the thousands of citizen scientists who have reported gopher tortoise sightings using our original Florida Gopher Tortoise app over the years,” said Michelina Dziadzio, monitoring coordinator for the Wildlife Diversity Conservation Section of the FWC.

FWC is replacing the Florida Gopher Tortoise mobile app with a new website.

“These citizen scientists have helped the FWC enhance gopher tortoise conservation and we’re excited for their continued participation using the new web app.”

The FWC aims to furnish biologists with thorough and reliable data to promote the conservation of gopher tortoises — a protected species that occurs in all 67 Florida counties.

The tortoise is classified as a keystone species, as its burrows are used as a refuge by many other species, such as the Eastern indigo snake, the burrowing owl and the gopher frog.

Interactive maps and user-submitted photos are available throughout the website, as well as a wealth of educational information.

To report a tortoise sighting (including sick, injured or dead tortoises), visit MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise and click on “Report Gopher Tortoise Sightings.”

Drive-thru distribution

Rep. Randy Fine is adding four free food distribution events to his calendar for September and October.

The four weekly events, held in Palm Bay and in partnership with Farm Share, build on six events held in May and June.

“As my family recovers from COVID, we recognize there are still many struggling financially because of its economic effects,” Fine said. “As a result, I am so excited that I will again help provide food to thousands of Brevard families.”

Rep. Randy Fine is hosting another set of food distributions starting next week.

Fine will host the distributions beginning at 9 a.m. on four consecutive Fridays, starting Sept. 18. The events will be first-come, first-served and drive-thru only. Each car will be allowed one set of food.

The distributions will be cosponsored by Brevard County Commissioners John Tobia and Kristine Isnardi, Melbourne Vice Mayor Paul Alfrey and Satellite Beach Councilwoman Mindy Gibson. The local elected officials will personally help prepare and distribute the food.

“I am so excited that a number of my colleagues in local government are co-sponsoring the event, to not only help us get the word out to those in need, but more importantly do the literal heavy lifting of repackaging and loading the food into cars,” Fine said. “It is physically demanding, but spiritually rewarding.”

Test and treat

The comment period for new pharmacist rules is open.

Interested parties have until Oct. 1 to express support or opposition to proposed rules implementing a pair of bills passed in the 2020 Legislative Session that expand the services pharmacists may offer their customers.

The first is the so-called “test and treat” legislation, which would allow pharmacists to diagnose common conditions such as the flu and strep throat and prescribe treatments. The rules put forward by the Board of Pharmacy would require pharmacists to have protocol agreements with physicians in order to treat those conditions.

Soon, Rep. Cary Pigman’s test and treat demonstration could be commonplace at Florida pharmacies.

Also, the new rules would allow pharmacists to care for patients with certain chronic health problems, such as arthritis or Type 2 diabetes. Again, the rules would require pharmacists to have written agreements with doctors in order to treat patients.

If no challenges emerge during the three-week comment period, the Board of Pharmacy can put the rules forward for adoption.

Another three-week period would follow, meaning the rules could be put into effect by the beginning of November.

Scope of practice

The Florida Board of Nursing will start workshopping rules to allow advanced practice registered nurses to open independent practices on Oct. 9, it announced this week.

The board’s current proposal would allow for APRNs to provide “physical and mental health promotion, assessment, evaluation, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in a variety of health care settings.”

The rulemaking process for independent practice moves forward.

Expanded scope of practice has been pitched in the Legislature for years and finally made it through the Legislature in 2020 thanks to a push from exiting House Speaker José Oliva and Avon Park Republican Rep. Cary Pigman, a medical doctor who has long supported the policy.

The law, which DeSantis signed almost immediately, would allow APRNs to practice autonomously so long as they have at least 2,000 hours of supervised practice, have completed a graduate-level course in pharmacology, and have no adverse incidents on record.

The new law also sets medical malpractice coverage at $300,000 aggregate a year, and APRNs would be subject to the same reporting requirements as doctors.

Happy 80th

Goodwill Industries of North Florida is celebrating its 80th anniversary of service across North Florida.

The organization was founded in 1940. It has brought economic, environmental and educational benefits to thousands of families across a 14-county area.

“For 80 years, Goodwill Industries of North Florida has faithfully served our communities teaching the importance of hard work and connecting those with a drive and dream with the employment and educational resources they need to succeed,” said Jeanne Miller, chairwoman of the Goodwill Industries of North Florida Board.

Goodwill Industries of North Florida has been helping Floridians for 80 years.

In 2019, the organization helped place 8,000 Floridians in jobs, including 34 persons with disabilities at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Mayport Naval Station. It also assisted 100 adults in higher education, helped mentor more than 350 Duval County students and diverted 11 million pounds of landfill-destined clothing and goods that were recycled into 500,000 pounds of cardboard material.

“Whether seeking to advance their education, find a great job or career, or get the mentorship and guidance they need to take that next step forward, Goodwill is there,” said Goodwill Industries of North Florida CEO David Rey. “We look forward to the next 80 years and are proud to stand with North Florida as we all move forward together.”

In the team’s 80 years in North Florida, it has grown to 650 staff members.

“I love Goodwill because our mission and our focus are very clear – help people with barriers to employment find jobs. Period,” said Lisa Smith, the organizations’ chief human resources officer. “All of our efforts are guided by this principle. This guiding principle also helps to transform our communities’ one person, one conversation, and one job at a time.”

Welcome aboard

Capt. John Murray will be the next Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council chair.

The Canaveral Port Authority CEO will replace Amy Miller, director of the Port of Pensacola and who served as the council’s chair for the last two years, next month.

“Florida’s seaports are diverse and powerful drivers of economic prosperity in our state,” Murray said. “As gateways of commerce, now more than ever, sustaining our ability to meet today’s business challenges is vital to our competitive future.”

Canaveral Port Authority CEO John Murray is the new Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council chair.

A 40-year maritime industry veteran, Murray currently manages Port Canaveral, a world-class gateway for cruises, cargo, recreation and logistics, as well as a gateway to new frontiers, including space.

Port directors for Florida’s 15 public seaports, and representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Department of Economic Opportunity comprise the council.

Other officers elected include Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay President and CEO, as Vice-Chair; and Juan Kuryla, Port Director and CEO of PortMiami, as Secretary-Treasurer.

“First, we want to thank Amy Miller for two years of incredible leadership as our FSTED Chair. She has remained dedicated to keeping Florida seaports competitive in the global marketplace through strategic FSTED investments,” said Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council. “Now we look forward to working with another impressive slate of officers, leaning on Capt. Murray’s leadership to propel FSTED’s mission to enhance economic vitality in the state of Florida.”

New members

The Florida Chamber Safety Council announced that Matt Fisher, senior vice president at Pike Electric and Mark Ligon, vice president of safety & risk management at Vecellio Group, have joined its Advisory Board.

“We are focused on growing Florida’s economy from the 17th to the 10th largest in the world by 2030. To achieve this goal, it is critical to focus on making Florida the safest, healthiest and most sustainable state,” Florida Chamber president Mark Wilson said. “The Florida Chamber Safety Council Advisory Board is bringing together the brightest minds and best-in-class companies as an incubator for research, leadership and education. We are thrilled to continue growing this think tank with the addition of our two newest members.”

 

The Florida Chamber Safety Council Advisory Board is focused on making Florida safer, healthier and more sustainable.

Fisher, a senior vice President at Pike Electric, will be representing the Pike family of companies, a leading provider of utilities solutions to over 300 investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utilities in the United States.

Ligon represents Vecellio Group, a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated business founded in 1938 that provides a wide range of heavy/highway, mining, and energy services and products to public- and private-sector customers throughout the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States.

“As we grow the Florida Chamber Safety Council Advisory Board, our goal is to continue bringing together top professionals and thought leaders representing the various industries in Florida,” said Mark Morgan, the inaugural chair of the Florida Chamber Safety Council’s Leadership Advisory Board and senior human resources manager for corporate safety & workers’ compensation at NextEra Energy. “Through collaboration and sharing our own best practices and thinking, we will help small and medium size businesses benefit from tools, resources and training to ensure Florida becomes the national leader in workplace safety, health and sustainability.”

PPP cash flows in Big Bend

Capital City Bank has approved 2,206 loans through the Paycheck Protection Program since its launch in April.

Those loans total $190 million in funding that kept more than 25,000 jobs intact.

“In more than 125 years of business, Capital City Bank has endured wars, economic downturns and profound industry changes by focusing on what matters most: our clients, our communities, and our commitment to helping our hometowns thrive,” said Capital City Bank President Tom Barron. “Our bankers are proud to continue this long-standing tradition as we work to serve and support our clients and communities during this difficult time.”

Capital City Bank has approved $190 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

In the Big Bend area, the financial institution approved 654 small business loans totaling approximately $63.3 million.

Congress established the PPP at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through the CARES Act to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll with funds administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Applications to the program are now closed, but the bank is still providing assistance to those who took out loans.

Loan recipients included companies as varied as restaurants, dental offices, retailers, construction companies and manufacturers that were devastated by the virus and shutdown orders state and local governments issued in hopes of containing it. Nonprofit organizations were also eligible.

New scholarships

Alcohol distributor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits launched a new endowed scholarship fund at Florida A&M University.

Southern Glazer’s Against Social Injustice and Racial Inequality Endowed Scholarship Fund will grant four scholarships a year for five years to deserving candidates who have an unmet financial need.

The scholarships build upon the company’s already established relationship with FAMU and come alongside other actions taken by the company aimed at promoting racial equality.

Their recent steps include funding the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment as well as challenging racial and economic injustice. Southern Glazer’s also partnered with the Black Hospitality Initiative to advance participation and opportunities for Blacks in the Greater Miami Hospitality Industry.

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits created a new endowed scholarship fund at FAMU.

On the homefront, the company bolstered its zero-tolerance policy for any hate, harassment, or discriminatory behavior by launching a new Diversity & Inclusion Champion training course for all employees; expanding its volunteer efforts supporting organizations that promote racial equality; and upping its commitment to support Black- and minority-owned wine and spirits in its portfolio of brands. 

“It is important to our leadership team and employees that we put actions behind our words,” Southern Glazer’s CEO Wayne Chaplin said. “This is by no means the end to our journey, but represents steps toward being part of the solution to drive change and make progress toward eradicating inequality and injustice.”

New lab

Construction has officially begun on Tallahassee’s new Water Quality Laboratory, as the city aims to continue improving water utility services to its community.

“This new state-of-the-art laboratory will further ensure the City of Tallahassee’s ability to continue providing clean, reliable and safe drinking water to our community for years to come,” Mayor John Dailey said. “From robust testing to routine field maintenance to rebates on water-saving household appliances, the City works diligently to protect, provide and preserve this vital resource to the community.”

Construction is underway for Tallahassee’s new Water Quality Laboratory.

The laboratory will be located onsite at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility, replacing the original lab from 1966. The facility treats up to 26.5 million gallons of water a day. As well, 30,000 tests are performed annually to ensure the drinking water meets or surpasses state and federal drinking water standards.

Construction on the new 8,720 sq. ft. building will last up to a year, and will be overseen by CSI Contracting Inc.

The city maintains 27 deep water supply wells, eight elevated storage tanks, and more than 1,200 miles of distribution piping in order to provide high-quality drinking water directly to residents’ taps.

In a release, the city said the new Water Quality Laboratory “will ensure that the City continues providing best-in-class water services to the community.”

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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