Takeaways from Tallahassee — Clean and clear

Blue Tally Takeaways (2)
Randy Fine wants to make it 'easier and cheaper for property owners who want to do the right thing.'

Clean and clear

Rep. Randy Fine has a bill that would kill two birds with one stone.

HB 387 would help improve water quality by allowing property owners to take out loans through the Property Assessed Clean Energy program for environmental mitigation projects such as septic-to-sewer conversions or advanced on-site wastewater treatment systems.

The Property Assessed Clean Energy program, better known as PACE, is a financing vehicle that allows consumers to pay back the upgrades’ cost through assessments on their property tax bill. As the name implies, the program is mostly geared toward energy efficiency upgrades such as solar panel installation, though storm hardening projects also qualify.

“Everyone in Brevard County wants a clean Indian River Lagoon, but for years, my constituents have told me they don’t simply have thousands of dollars laying around to connect their home to a sewer line or upgrade their septic tank. HB 387 will allow those consumers to obtain special, secured loans, often at discounted interest rates, to help them finance these critical projects, which will benefit every one of us,” the Palm Bay Republican said.

A new bill from Randy Fine is keeping up the PACE. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat/Tori Lynn Schneider.

“During my four years in the Legislature, I have brought home millions in state funding for lagoon improvements, freed up tens of millions of dollars in available local financing, and dramatically increased the penalties on local politicians who dump millions of gallons of raw sewage into our waterways. This bill represents the next step in that journey to save our precious lagoon by making it easier and cheaper for property owners who want to do the right thing.”

While PACE funding has helped many Floridians improve their homes and reduce their carbon footprint, it hasn’t gone without criticism.

The chief complaint is a lack of financial literacy among borrowers, not through any fault of their own — the financing is simply different from car, home or other loan types that consumers are more familiar with. The lack of understanding has resulted in some borrowers getting a rude awakening when their tax bill arrives.

Fine’s bill addresses that with a suite of consumer protections.

The front-facing protections include standardized financial disclosures that clearly spell out payment terms, require lenders to get oral confirmation that the borrower understands the terms, and mandates a product completion certificate before money changes hands.

The bill would also give borrowers three days to back out of the deal, similar to the rescission rights for other major purchases.

On the lender side, PACE administrators must develop criteria showing borrowers can afford the financing, do their due diligence before approving contractors, and ban sales agents from making any misleading statements.

Though the list of regulations is long, the bill debuted with strong support from Ygrene Energy Fund — one of the major players in PACE financing.

“This legislation will significantly improve an already tremendously successful policy to ensure its lasting impact and availability for years to come. It ensures PACE remains a strong, viable program by further protecting consumers, safeguarding properties, and giving homeowners peace of mind when making essential property upgrades. We look forward to continuing our important work with the Florida Legislature,” Ygrene CEO Jim Reinhart said.

The bill also jibes with Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ shared vision on environmental policy. The presiding officers took a strong stance on combating sea-level rise and protecting Florida’s coastline in a joint op-ed last year.

Their message: “Through careful planning and strong partnerships, Florida can be a national example of resilient communities, where water remains an engine that drives our state’s prosperity and the only things the rising tide does is to lift all boats.”

By coupling accessible financing with consumer protections, Fine’s bill has the potential to be such a partnership.

___

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.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

DeSantis pulls National Guard from D.C. — After national outcry over reports that National Guard soldiers in Washington, D.C., were forced to rest the night in a parking garage after protecting the U.S. Capitol, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Florida’s Guardsmen to return home. The Governor announced Friday morning that he had ordered the state’s Adjutant General to bring those soldiers home the night before. Those forces were sent to the nation’s capital in response to security concerns surrounding President Joe Biden‘s inauguration. “These folks are soldiers, not Nancy Pelosi‘s servants,” DeSantis said on Fox News Friday. “This is a half-cocked mission at this point, and the appropriate thing is to bring them home.” 

‘Vaccine tourism’ advisory — Surgeon General Scott Rivkees issued a public health advisory Thursday to curb “vaccine tourism.” Reports surfaced this month of visitors jumping in line to get vaccinated in Florida. Under Rivkees’ notice, the Department of Health asks COVID-19 vaccine providers to ensure that recipients are Florida residents or seasonal residents. Non-Floridians in the state to offer health care services may also receive the vaccine. The advisory is the state’s most concrete effort yet to stop non-Floridians, and even non-Americans, from traveling to the Sunshine State to get a shot. Florida has also taken heat from the public for allowing snowbirds to get vaccinated. But those part-time residents own homes, pay taxes and go to doctors in the Sunshine State, DeSantis argues.

Capitol Complex bomb threat — The Tallahassee Police Department on Thursday arrested a man in connection with a bomb threat made against the Florida Capitol Complex. Mark Wayne Clark, 61, faces charges including making a false bomb threat in reference to state-owned property. Police made contact with the man at a nearby sports bar, Corner Pocket. The Capitol Complex closed around 3 a.m. when the bomb threat was made. Law enforcement and police K9s cleared the building around 6:15 a.m., but the Capitol remained closed till 9 a.m. out of an “abundance of caution.” The bomb threat capped off a week of fears over possible threats at the Capitol. A week ago, federal authorities arrested an Army veteran who they say plotted to confront Capitol protesters with a firearm.

Jones turns herself inRebekah Jones, the fired Department of Health data expert and DeSantis critic, turned herself in Sunday to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office after issuing an arrest warrant for her. Officers charged Jones “with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices.” Before turning herself in, Jones tweeted that Jones said the Department of Law Enforcement found no evidence of her sending messages to DOH staff telling them to “speak out.” After driving to Tallahassee from her new home in Washington, D.C., Jones tested positive for COVID-19 when officers booked her into jail.

Díaz aims to simplify scholarships — Sen. Manny Díaz filed a bill Thursday to merge five scholarship programs into two while adding flexible spending options. SB 48, an effort to help families navigate the state’s web of education programs, has Senate President Simpson‘s support. The legislation would transfer students currently receiving scholarships through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the Hope Scholarship program to the Family Empowerment Scholarship and sunset the 20-year-old tax credit scholarship. It also would merge the McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities and the Gardiner Scholarship Program, creating a new program for students with unique abilities called the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship Program.

Coronavirus numbers

Positive cases:

— 1,597,849 FL residents (+77,905 since Jan. 15)

— 29,754 Non-FL residents (+1,631 since Jan. 15)

Origin:

— 13,319 Travel related

— 597,717 Contact with a confirmed case

— 18,083 Both

— 968,730 Under investigation

Hospitalizations:

— 69,735 in FL

Deaths:

— 25,405 in FL

Irma recovery

The Department of Economic Opportunity is awarding $100 million to communities hit in 2017 by Hurricane Irma to make them more resilient to future storms.

Gov. DeSantis announced the awards, paid through DEO’s Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair Program, in Key Largo Friday. Irma made landfall in the Keys and was the strongest storm to hit the continental United States since Hurricane Katrina.

Rebuild Florida also offered $100 million for the same purpose last year.

Ron DeSantis announces an additional $100 million to fund infrastructure restoration and improvement projects to communities impacted by Hurricane Irma.

“This is a long-term deal,” DeSantis told reporters. “You still have places that are recovering from Irma. I have places that are recovering from Michael, which happened the next year. But we’ve got to build back stronger than before. That’s what this investment is all about.”

Of the $100 million, $16.7 million will be spent in Monroe County. $10.4 million will help the county combat flooding and sea-level rise, $5 million will help Key West improve wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and $1.3 million will help Key Largo protect homes against storm surge.

DEO Executive Director Dane Eagle said the Governor challenged him to move the funds, which came from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program, into communities as quickly as possible.

“These are taxpayer dollars,” Eagle said. “It does no good sitting in government coffers. Get them back into communities where they’re going to assist the residents.”

Survivor honored

This week, Attorney General Ashley Moody presented a state resolution to a Floridian who survived human trafficking.

The resolution, which recognizes January in Florida as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, was given to Chanel Dionne.

Dionne is a Jacksonville victim advocate. Moody recognized Dionne’s “tireless effort” to provide housing for young women at-risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Chanel was not broken by her experiences, but instead turned them into an empowering message for all victims and survivors of this heinous act of evil — letting them know that they are strong and courageous, and that they have an army of people in their corner fighting for them,” Moody said.

Ashley Moody honors Chanel Dionne, a survivor and advocate in the fight against human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a top-of-mind concern for Moody. Moody and law enforcement recently increased their effort to combat human trafficking ahead of Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7.

Those efforts have not gone unnoticed, Dionne said.

“As we continue to raise awareness during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I would like to thank the AG’s office for its continued commitment to assist in eradicating human trafficking here in Florida,” Dionne said. “I am honored to accept this resolution and will continue my work in the fight against human trafficking.”

If you suspect or witness an instance of human trafficking, contact local law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.

Cleaner future

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried this week celebrated a court decision that struck down the Trump administration rollback of climate change rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled unanimously against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, which constrains regulations on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

It ordered the EPA to rewrite rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, which were weakened by Trump’s repeal of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Nikki Fried celebrates the end of Donald Trump’s rollback of climate change rules.

“For four years, the Trump Administration has pursued a deregulation spree that has damaged our environment, worsened climate change, and risked public health — and on the President’s last day in office, that anti-environment binge has finally ended,” Fried said.

“Our climate is interconnected, and no state is more vulnerable to climate change than Florida. Our approaches to addressing the climate crisis must also be interconnected, including greenhouse gases from power plants. I thank the federal court for ruling that climate pollution from power plants can be appropriately limited while encouraging American energy independence.”

Fried cited statistics showing that the rollback would cause the U.S. to emit an additional 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases between 2020 and 2035. She noted that fossil fuel power plants generate 85% of Florida’s electricity.

‘Veteran of the Month’

Fried recognized David Madeux this week as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Veteran of the Month.

Maduex is a U.S. Army veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division. As a Supply Sergeant, his duties included tracking and maintaining his unit’s equipment.

Maduex deployed once to Afghanistan and served three tours in Iraq, where he experienced combat. He’s earned numerous military awards, including the Army Combat Action Badge.

Congratulations to David Madeux, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Veteran of the Month.

“It’s my privilege to recognize Staff Sergeant David Madeux for his selfless service and dedication to addressing food insecurity for Central Florida veterans,” Fried said.

Maduex now interns in Orlando with Soldiers’ Angels. In that role, he acts as a Veterans Affairs site coordinator and organizes veteran support events.

The events include a monthly food bank that provides food assistance to more than 250 veterans at no cost.

“We are proud of Staff Sergeant Madeux’s service to our nation and contributions to our state, including his efforts to provide our Armed Forces heroes in need with food assistance during these challenging times,” Fried added.

Maduex earned an Associate of Arts degree in Business from Valencia College. He is working toward a Bachelor of Arts in Business.

‘Health Care Heroes’

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis traveled to various hospitals this week to advocate for Florida health care workers’ COVID-19 liability protections.

The “Supporting Our Health Care Heroes” events featured lawmakers, health care executives and front-line medical workers.

Together, they emphasized the need for protection.

Jimmy Patronis says Florida’s ‘health care heroes’ need additional protections.

“These front-line heroes have been working long hours and maintaining stringent health safety processes to protect our seniors,” Patronis said at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers. “They have fought through PPE shortages, and put their own lives on the line to protect our friends, family and loved ones from this serious virus. That is why we must step up and protect them as they have worked to protect us.”

Protection advocates contend legislation is needed to protect well-intentioned health care workers from frivolous, cash-grabbing lawsuits.

Critics, meanwhile, argue sufficient protections are already in place. They fear raising the legal bar for negligence may ultimately harm consumers.

Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary Mayhew is among those calling for protections.

“With a novel virus never before seen, guidance and best practices have changed and evolved as we all learn more about the virus on an almost daily basis,” Mayhew said. “Our health care providers need liability protections to guard against unfounded lawsuits that seek to take advantage of an ever-changing situation.”

The Florida Legislature will take up liability protections during the Florida Legislative Session on March 2.

Instagram of the week

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Jimmy Patronis (@jpatronis)

The week in appointments

Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Barbara Feingold and Daniel Cane to the FAU Board of Trustees. Feingold, of Delray Beach, is the senior vice president of North America Dental’s managed care and a former member of the State Board of Education. She graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Montclair State College. Cane, of Boca Raton, is the CEO of Modernizing Medicine, a health care software company. He is a former vice-chair of the FAU Board of Trustees. He earned his bachelor’s degree in applied economics from Cornell University.

Florida Housing Finance Corporation Board of Directors DeSantis appointed Dev Motwani to the FHFC Board. Motwani, of Fort Lauderdale, is president and CEO of Merrimac Ventures, a real estate development firm. He is involved with the Young Presidents Organization, Broward Workshop, Orange Bowl Committee, Broward Center for the Performing Arts Foundation, Broward College Foundation, Florida Council of 100 and the Community Foundation of Broward. Motwani earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and public policy from Duke University and his master’s degree in real estate development from Columbia University.

Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board — DeSantis named three to the board this week. Janet Rabin, of Cape Coral, is team lead for Collateral Valuations at NewRez. She has been involved with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the Association of Real Estate Research Professionals and has served on the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board since 2016. Herbert Jourdan, of Ocala, is an appraiser and president of Spectrum Valuation. Jourdan served as a member of The Appraisal Foundation Board of Trustees and is a past president of the Central Florida Chapter of the Appraisal Institute. He earned his bachelor’s degree in real estate and finance from Indiana University. Shawn Wilson, of Lakeland, is the owner of Compass Real Estate Consulting. He was involved with The Appraisal Foundation, Appraisal Institute, Association of Eminent Domain Professionals, International Association of Assessing Officers, and the International Right of Way Association. Wilson earned an associate degree from Valencia College.

Florida Real Estate Commission The Governor appointed Patricia “Patti” Ketcham, Renee Butler, Patricia Fitzgerald, Randy Schwartz and Richard Barbara to the Florida Real Estate Commission. Ketcham, of Tallahassee, is a licensed real estate broker and owner of the Ketcham Realty Group. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. Butler, of Winter Haven, is a licensed real estate broker and president and owner of The Butler Team at Brokers Realty of Central Florida. Butler studied at Polk State College and Florida Southern College. Fitzgerald, of Jupiter, is a licensed real estate broker and manager of Illustrated Properties. She studied at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Schwartz, of Winter Springs, is an attorney and former general counsel for the Florida Association of Realtors. Schwartz earned his law degree from the University of Florida. Barbara, of Coral Gables, is an attorney specializing in real estate, general civil and commercial litigation. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida International University and his law degree from Stetson University.

Florida Regional Transportation Authority Governing Board — DeSantis named James Scott, Robert Sendler and Carlos Penin to the SFRTA Governing Board. Scott, of Fort Lauderdale, is chairman and a founding director of Tripp Scott and a Senate President. He served in and received an honorable discharge from the United States Coast Guard, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. He earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Kentucky. Sendler, of Jupiter, is VP and chief litigation counsel for NextEra Energy and a former Assistant State’s Attorney for Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit. Sendler earned his undergraduate degree in international affairs from Florida State University and his law degree from Stetson University. Penin, of Coral Gables, is an engineer and president of C.A.P. Government. He is a former board member of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and was involved with the Florida Engineering Society, American Council of Engineering Companies, and several other organizations. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and construction management from UF and his master’s degree in environmental and urban systems from FIU.

6th Judicial Circuit — DeSantis appointed Bruce L. Bartlett as State Attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit. Bartlett, who currently serves as Chief Assistant State Attorney, replaces the late Bernie McCabe, who died on Jan. 1 after serving as state attorney since 1992.

Even more appointments

Senate President Simpson announced 18 appointments this week to various state, regional and national boards and councils.

“It is an honor to have many of my fellow Senators, as well as leaders in our communities and state, serve in these important capacities,” Simpson said. “I have full confidence that they will diligently and effectively represent the Florida Senate and the state of Florida.”

Wilton Simpson announces a wave of appointments. Image via Colin Hackley.

The appointments are below:

— Sen. Ben Albritton as Vice-Chair, Sen. Jim Boyd, and Sen. Audrey Gibson to the Public Service Commission Nominating Council.

— Albritton and Sen. Ray Rodrigues to the Industrial Hemp Advisory Council.

— Albritton and Rodrigues to the Industrial Hemp Advisory Council.

— Sen. Darryl Rouson to the Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council.

— Sen. Aaron Bean to the Cancer Control & Research Advisory Council.

— Sen. Jeff Brandes to the Southern States Energy Board (Florida Members), At-Large Member.

— Sen. Jason Pizzo to the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice.

— Sen. Joe Gruters and Sen. Shevrin Jones to the Education Commission of the States.

— Sen. Ed Hooper to the Southeastern Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact Advisory Committee.

— Sen. Keith Perry to the Florida High School Athletic Associations Public Liaison Advisory Committee.

— Sen. Dennis Baxley to the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.

— Dr. Tushar Patel to the Biomedical Research Advisory Council.

Patricia Williams and LaVon Davis to the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

Gay panic defense

Sen. Lauren Book has filed legislation to eliminate the “gay/trans panic defense” as a legal defense for assault and deadly attacks against LGBTQ individuals.

SB 718 would prevent the defense from asking a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression caused the defendant to “panic” and react violently.

Lauren Book is working to get rid of the questionable ‘gay/trans panic’ defense. Image via Colin Hackley.

“It is discriminatory and unacceptable for LGBTQIA+ individuals to be held responsible for their own assaults or even murders on the grounds of simply being themselves,” Book said. “The current state of the law which allows someone to essentially assault another person simply based on sexual or gender identity cannot stand — the use of a ‘panic’ defense is essentially doing legal gymnastics to defend a hate crime.”

The American Bar Association in 2013 called on states to take legislative action to end the use of “panic defenses.” If Book’s bill were signed into law, Florida would join 11 other states with “panic defense” bans.

Legal defense teams continue to use the strategy despite the American Psychological Association removing “gay panic disorder” from its list of psychological disorders in 1973. Analysis has shown that in about one-third of cases, charges are reduced for defendants who use the “panic defense,” Book said.

Feeding families

Sen. Randolph Bracy is holding a Farm Share event Saturday to distribute food to needy families in his district.

It will be held at 800 N Wells Street in Apopka from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or until supplies are exhausted. Organizers expect there will be enough food for about 500 families.

The distribution will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Recipients should drive up, park and pop their trunk. Only cars will be served — no walk-ups allowed.

On Saturday, Randolph Bracy is hosting a Farm Share drive-thru food event.

The food distribution is a partnership between his office, Farm Share, Feed the Need FL, Apopka High School PTSA, Apopka Area Concern Citizens Council, Careplus, Dedicated Senior Medical Center and FRRC.

Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat, has held several food distribution events during the pandemic, which spiked unemployment and food insecurity across the state, especially in Central Florida, where tourism is a top economic driver.

Farm Share, too, has worked overtime during the pandemic, partnering with Bracy and dozens of other lawmakers to host food distribution events. The 30-year-old nonprofit distributed more than 101 million pounds of food to more than 18 million households residing in all of Florida’s 67 counties in 2020.

For more information on the event, drop Bracy’s office a line at 407-297-2045

Expanding health care

Sen. Jones and Rep. Nicholas Duran have filed bills expanding health care access for low-income Floridians.

SB 698 and HB 341 would increase affordability and access for nearly 850,000 Floridians, both lawmakers say. Floridians could save between $198.9 million annually to $385 million over five years. 

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed health care services and funding to the forefront, even as lawmakers begin discussing how to limit the state’s spending during the revenue shortfall.

Nicholas Duran is seeking to expand access to affordable health care to nearly 850K low-income Floridians.

“Rather than cutting critical services in the midst of a public health crisis, we must make smart investments in our people because it’s the fiscally, and morally, responsible thing to do,” Jones said. “The pandemic has shone a spotlight on why health care and treatment shouldn’t be tethered to employment status.”

The bills would also draw down $14.3 billion in federal dollars by 2024.

“Drawing down new federal Medicaid funds will be one of the fastest, proven-effective ways to deliver fiscal relief to Florida’s economy during this economic downturn,” Duran said. “The new federal dollars will directly impact the health care care community, its vendors and its employees, but its economic ripples will go beyond the health care sector indirectly impacting small businesses, restaurants, gyms, personal and business services, and state and local governments.”

Reel in prizes

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is partnering with the Friends of Lake Apopka to host the inaugural Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge.

The contest, which runs from Jan. 15 to May 31, offers anglers the chance to catch a tagged fish in Lake Apopka and return the tag to the FWC for a prize from FOLA. The fish challenge is also a study to see if the competition elicits changes on Lake Apopka.

FWC tagged 501 fish in various species, such as black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish and largemouth bass.

Catch a tagged fish in Lake Apopka, and you may win a prize from the FWC.

Recently, biologists netted a sizable largemouth bass and gave it a unique tag (FOLA #091) next to its dorsal fin. They dubbed the fish “Jim Thomas” after the legendary Winter Garden environmentalist who founded FOLA in 1991 and then returned it to swim around in the 30,000-acre Lake Apopka, Florida’s fourth-largest lake.

The angler who catches Jim Thomas during the contest period and returns the tag to the FWC will be awarded a $2,500 prize from FOLA and, if the angler submits the catch to the TrophyCatch program, will win an additional $2,500, bringing the total prize to $5,000.

The angler who submits the largest TrophyCatch-approved bass from Lake Apopka, not including Jim Thomas, will also win an additional $500 in Bass Pro Shops gift cards.

To report a tag, call 352-406-7879. For full contest rules, a complete list of prizes, and more information about the Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge, visit FOLA’s website.

Make it simple

A national education organization urges lawmakers to pass a proposal that seeks to “simplify” Florida education choice programs.

The bill, SB 48, would, among other pursuits, take multiple K-12 scholarship programs and combine them into two.

The organization — yes. every kid. — contends the bill would expand access and make the process easier.

Manny Diaz Jr. wants to simplify, clarify and expand the state’s low-income school scholarship program.

“If we’ve learned anything from the learning disruptions that families, students and educators have faced in the last year, it is the need to lean in and embrace student-centric solutions that celebrate the diversity of our student population,” said Executive Director Andrew Clark.

By design, the bill would merge the McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities and the Gardiner Scholarship Program, creating a new program for students with unique abilities called the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship Program.

SB 48 would also transfer students currently receiving scholarships through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the Hope Scholarship program to the Family Empowerment Scholarship.

Sen. Diaz of Hialeah is the bill sponsor.

“We applaud Sen. Manny Diaz for his leadership and urge the Florida Legislature to embrace this bold and positive reform for students and families,” Clark added.

More details about SB 48 are online.

‘Truckers Against Trafficking’

Truckers Against Trafficking says the Florida Trucking Association is a champion in the fight against human trafficking.

The nonprofit this week unveiled the winners of the 2021 Truckers Against Trafficking Champion Award. The Florida Trucking Association won in the Association Category.

“Florida Trucking Association has been one of our staunchest supporters in the fight against human trafficking, taking this issue on as their own and making it a priority,” TAT Deputy Director Kylla Lanier said. “Through every avenue available to them, they have leveraged their influence on TAT’s behalf to help build an army of eyes and ears on our roadways to recognize and report this crime. I am beyond proud to present this much deserved TAT Champion Award to FTA.”

Truckers are doing the heavy lifting in the fight against human trafficking. Image via Facebook.

Human trafficking is a crime on a global scale, and combating it takes diligence from police, prosecutors, everyday people — and truckers, who pull more than their share of the weight when it comes to spotting victims and alerting the authorities.

Attorney General Moody and Florida Highway Patrol Director Terry Rhodes have been banking on truckers as they look to root out traffickers and help their victims ahead of the Super Bowl, which often brings a spike in trafficking.

In Moody’s opinion, FTA’s award was well deserved: “Florida Trucking Association continues to go above and beyond to support our mission to end human trafficking in our state,” she said.

FTA president and CEO Ken Armstrong said the association is honored to accept the TAT award, which educates professional drivers of all types on how to spot and stop human trafficking.

Safety is the number one priority for our members — ensuring motorists are safe on our roads, and the most vulnerable are protected,” Armstrong said. “We are proud of the leadership role FTA and professional commercial truck drivers play in spotting and reporting victims of human trafficking.”

Remembering Ocoee

Florida A&M University Associate Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate College David Jackson Jr. has been appointed to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ocoee Election Day Riots Historical Review and Dedication Committee. 

A history professor, Jackson has written and published books on African Americans in Florida and the violence that took place during the Jim Crow era. 

“The purpose of the Committee is to ensure that the victims of the Ocoee Election Day Riots are recognized, so what we are going to do on this committee is evaluate different historical records related to the Ocoee Election Day riots,” Jackson said. “We’re also going to look at ways of memorializing both the victims and survivors of the massacre that took place in 1920.” 

Florida A&M University Associate Provost David Jackson Jr. is in charge of the effort to honor the victims of the Ocoee Election Day Massacre. Image via FAMU.

The 1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre was one of the single bloodiest days in American Election Day history. Before the November election in 1920, a White posse went after two Black men who were recording the names of Black people denied the right to vote. The mob lynched one of the Black men and fire to all Black-owned buildings in northern Ocoee.

Jackson said the Black population in Ocoee dwindled to below 1% after originally being over 40%.

“Because of the threat of Black political participation, White people became very anxious on top of other things, like women gaining the right to vote, and all of the factors converged to culminate in the massacre that occurred in Ocoee,” Jackson said. 

“The notion of Black people being involved in the political process, especially when their votes can prove determinative, elicits this sort of violent, yet reprehensible, response from certain groups of Whites, and even today, we should remain cognizant of that fact.” 

Green degree

Florida State University is launching an online master’s program in sustainability.

According to Mark McNees, faculty adviser to the program and social entrepreneur in residence at the college, the program, housed in the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship, will offer graduates an opportunity to learn sustainable practices and good corporate governance. 

“This is one of the fastest-growing aspects of corporate America,” he said. “Through millennials and young people, we see that a company’s pollution, its supply chain, whether it’s committed to ethical trade, are all part of how it’s viewed and all factor into how successful a company is.”

The Master of Science in Entrepreneurship, Social and Sustainable Enterprises is an interdisciplinary program combining entrepreneurial studies with earth, ocean and atmospheric science. 

Susan Fiorito, dean of the Moran College, said the new major will be the fourth offered at the college and keeps FSU at the fore of entrepreneurial education. 

Susan Fiorito, director of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, is touting a new sustainability master’s degree program. Image via FSU.

“Championing green logistics and sustainable practices are a big part of all our programs, so we are well suited to do this,” she said. “We are fortunate to have the support of FSU, as well as the Jim Moran Foundation and Mrs. Jan Moran, to look into areas that might be unique and to be able to pursue them.” 

Fiorito said that pursuit would continue, as the college is working on adding a doctoral program to its degree offerings.

Corona Directions

Staff Reports



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704