Takeaways from Tallahassee — Puppy Caucus

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
Get ready for an overdose of cuteness!

Puppy Caucus

While partisans from opposite sides of the aisle might knock heads about issues, there’s one group that finds “bi-paw-tisanship” is possible when licking, ball chasing and friendly greetings are in the mix.

Say hello to the Puppy Caucus, a rollicking bunch of doggie companions to legislators and influencers that serve as ambassadors for their friends, charming even the most jaded political operatives.

If they were envious sorts, other members of the furry faction might be jealous of Briar Burgess, who, in addition to having her own Twitter handle and avatar, made a front-page, above-the-fold appearance last month in the Tallahassee Democrat.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel accompanied Sen. Danny Burgess during committee weeks, romping through the halls of the Capitol. A 5 ½-month old puppy, Briar is utterly adorable, with big expressive eyes, floppy ears and chestnut and white Blenheim coloring. Her human dad not-so-humbly declares the pup has the breed’s personality to match her pretty looks.

All hail this King Charles Spaniel affectionately named Briar.

“They are just so friendly and loving,” Burgess said of the toy spaniels, which were “bred to keep the queen’s pillows warm back in the day in England …. It’s so hard to get up in the morning because she is probably one of the best snuggle companions you could ever hope for.”

Briar is the Burgess family’s first family pet, who arrived at their Zephyrhills home via Santa for Christmas. “They have a way of calming you down and keeping you focused and centered it. If only I knew this sooner,” he said.

She’s also been an asset to Burgess as the former Representative, Mayor and executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs begins his first term as a Senator.

“What’s the old saying? ‘If you want a friend in politics, get a dog,’ right? I actually think if you want to make friends in politics, bring a dog along,” he said. “It was just so fun to see the happiness, the joy, the collegiality that just having a puppy can bring.”

Tito “like the vodka” came into Sen. Shevrin Jones’ life last August. The champagne-colored French Bulldog was set to make his Tallahassee debut during Session’s opening week, but had to cancel the trip because of tummy troubles. Jones admits to being a little anxious when the little pup finally does make his first long trip from South Florida to Tallahassee. “My biggest fear is to put him on a plane or put him in the car,” he said.

Tito does have a legislative priority — SB 650, informally known as the dog chain law, which would ban unattended tethering of dogs and cats outside. Jones is a cosponsor of the bill, which unanimously passed the Agriculture Committee this week.

Politics is in the blood of Mac, who came into the life of Corey Staniscia —legislative aide to Rep. Chip LaMarca — just a few days after the 2020 election. “My wife is a police officer. So it was kind of … ‘Now the campaign was over and COVID was still kind of around’. We said, ‘Look, it’s now or never’ and that’s when we decided to get the pup,” he said.

Mac, a “poodle/Shih Tzu mixed with some kind of yorkie” has become an honorary employee in LaMarca’s Lighthouse Point district office.

“The Representative has always been dog friendly,” Staniscia said. “Even during his County Commission days, he was known as the dog commissioner (and) passed a couple ordinances that were pro-dog.”

The 6-month-old puppy “loves new people. We don’t have much foot traffic these days, but he loves when the mail gets dropped off,” he said. “He loves to jump in on the zoom calls with the representative. The lobbyists and the residents … all get a kick out of it.

“He’s always going to take a meeting, that’s for sure,” Staniscia said of his canine companion.

Mac is short for Macaroni. “We’re an Italian family. And it’s an Italian legislative office,” he explained.

A proposal to help find a solution for K9 dogs injured in the line of duty is being worked on and won’t make it to the floor this Session, but it is one that is on Mac and LaMarca’s radar for the future.

Where legislators meet, influencers follow, and it’s no different for the puppy caucus.

Sammi, a 6-month-old corgi, is already a road warrior, trekking between the Brandon and Tallahassee’s offices of her owner, Ron Pierce, president and CEO of RSA Consulting group. Photos on Sammi’s Twitter feed (@RSApup) show her offering up a basket of blue tennis balls to Briar Burgess, in an attempt to curry favor.

Sammi knows she’s so cute, a chewed wire here and there won’t cause too much of a stir.

Between his 16-year-old son wanting a companion, the staff’s desire for an office dog and the temptations provided by his firm’s pet shop client, All About Puppies, getting Sammi was inevitable. And Pierce is beyond happy.

“She’s fantastic with people. Anybody that walks through the doors are automatic friends,” he said. “She’s so funny. The first time she meets you, she immediately runs up to you, rolls over and expects a belly rub.”

Pierce said Sammi has become a good officemate, although there is at least one issue.

“She’s chewed one wire and a couple of things here and there,” he said. “We’ll deal with it through Human Resources. Everything will be fine.”

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.

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Take 5

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

2021 Session starts off hot — The first week of the new Legislative Session is now in the books. Despite the empty halls and the lack of lobbyist chatter, the sense of urgency remains as the days tick down from 60. Florida took the right approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared in the State of the State. Much of this week’s action took place on the House side, where members passed their first two bills of the Session. Both those measures deal with legal problems lawmakers expect will come from the pandemic, making their priorities clear. On the Senate side, lawmakers prepped their priorities for the Senate floor, including online sales taxes and more.

It’s a sunny day in Florida, says Ron DeSantis.

Melinda Miguel releases CONNECT preliminary findings — Chief Inspector General Miguel placed much of the blame for the state unemployment portal’s crash last year on Deloitte Consulting in her preliminary report released Thursday. Deloitte failed to adequately load test the unemployment portal, according to the draft report, and the Department of Economic Opportunity didn’t enforce requirements in the contract. Deloitte Consulting will go before the Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response on Monday to explain its role in creating the system. DeSantis hasn’t fully read the report yet, he told reporters Friday, but expect words from the Governor next week.

House passes COVID-19 business liability bill  — The House approved liability protections for most businesses on Friday by an 83-31 vote. The bill would shield businesses, schools, nonprofits and religious institutions who make a “good faith effort” to follow government health guidelines. Republicans managed to drag a few Democrats to vote for Rep. Lawrence McClure’s bill, including seven Democrats. Two others signaled ‘yes’ after the roll call vote. Proponents conceded there are likely fewer than 100 COVID-19-related lawsuits in Florida. They argue, however, that a wave of frivolous litigation is on the horizon. “Those of us in opposition simply feel a much more balanced approach is desperately needed for all of Florida,” said House Minority Co-Leader Evan Jenne.

DeSantis fights vaccine favoritism allegations – DeSantis is denying reports that his administration gave preferential treatment to donors by directing vaccines to their communities. On Thursday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried met with the FBI after her call to investigate the vaccine rollout and Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer asked the U.S. Department of Justice to probe “potential wrongdoing” by DeSantis. The latest claims of favoritism stem from a Miami Herald report that all residents aged 65 and older at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo received vaccines in January. Meanwhile one of DeSantis’ spokespeople stressed Thursday that not all of the pop-up clinics have been in wealthy neighborhoods. 

Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives in Florida – Florida has received 175,000 doses of the J&J vaccine, the state’s shipment to cover this week and next. With the new doses, Florida has opened vaccines to teachers, law enforcement and firefighters 50 and older. DeSantis, who has been a strong proponent for J&J’s one-shot formula, announced a new vaccine POD in Winter Haven to serve Polk and neighboring counties. CVS has also decided to open vaccinations to all teachers, as allowed through the federal pharmacy program. However, Florida will stay the course on vaccinating the elderly first. Next week, DeSantis expects to announce plans to drop the age to get vaccines for the general population.

Here they come! Image via AP.

Coronavirus numbers

Positive cases

— 1,900,598 FL residents (+37,145 since Feb. 26)

— 35,609 Non-FL residents (+839 since Feb. 26)

Origin

— 15,050 Travel related

— 737,153 Contact with a confirmed case

— 20,554 Both

— 1,127,841 Under investigation

Hospitalizations

— 80,632 in FL

Deaths

— 32,093 in FL

Vaccinations

— 5,213,322 Doses administered

— 3,362,212 Total people vaccinated

— 1,509,746 First dose

— 1,852,466 Series completed (+264,439 since Feb. 26)

Consumer Protection Week

Attorney General Ashley Moody is recognizing this week in Florida as National Consumer Protection Week. 

“As COVID-19 spread, so did scams exploiting the pandemic,” Moody said. “Inevitably, as millions of Floridians started working from home to slow the spread of the virus, new schemes emerged capitalizing on fear of the virus and using the government’s response as a basis for creating new scams.”

While scammers may be capitalizing on the pandemic, swindling is nothing new. Since 2019, Moody’s office has secured more than $260 million in restitution for Floridians.

She credits the results to her consumer protection staff.

“Because of their hard work, we have recovered millions of dollars for consumers and helped prevent countless Floridians from falling victim to emerging scams by issuing Consumer Alerts as we learn of new schemes,” Moody said.

With Florida still under a state of emergency, Moody reminded Floridians that the Price Gouging Hotline is active.

She warned that current scams are getting complex.

“These schemes relied heavily on technology — using emails, texts and robocalls as tools to reach targets in order to steal consumers’ money and personal information,” Moody explained.

Scams and deceptive business practices can be reported online or by phone at 1(866) 9NO-SCAM.

Furst responders

Moody traveled to Daytona Beach this week to rally for legislation that would protect police K-9 lives.

The legislation, SB 388, would permit paramedics to treat and transport injured police dogs. 

Paramedics, under current law, are prohibited from rendering aid to K-9 crimefighters. 

“Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line daily to serve their communities and protect our safety—and their four-legged partners risk their lives protecting them,” Moody said. “Police K-9s regularly provide life-saving services, including suspect apprehension, detection and search-and-rescue missions that lead to the arrest of dangerous criminals and the safe return of missing persons. It is a dangerous job for officers and K-9s, and both are often subject to great bodily harm.”

Republican Sen. Tom Wright, the bill sponsor, joined Moody at the press conference. 

“SB 388 is a much-needed step in the right direction to ensure the safety and health of our K-9 officers,” the Volusia County lawmaker said. “A K-9 and their handler are partners, and we must ensure our laws do not get in the way of their service to our state.”

Wright’s proposal is partnered with Rep. Sam Killebrew’s house proposal. 

The bills also shield paramedics and EMTs who render aid from criminal or civil liability.

“HB 697 is a great bill for the K-9s and their handlers,” Killebrew said.

Police K-9s could soon be cleared for treatment in the line of duty. And why shouldn’t they?

Calls silenced

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services joined the Federal Trade Commission and agencies from dozens of other states to snuff out a massive tele-funding operation that bombarded consumers with robocalls.

The case alleges Associated Community Services and related defendants made more than 1.3 billion — with a B — phone calls to 67 million consumers. They netted more than $110 million through deceptive fundraising solicitations.

ACS and a number of related defendants have agreed to settle charges by the FTC and state agencies that they duped consumers into donating to charities that didn’t deliver the services they promised.

The robocall ring duped consumers out of $110 million. Stock image via Adobe.

“These unsolicited illegal calls meant to deceive and take advantage of those wishing to support homeless veterans, cancer patients, and children are abhorrent and won’t be tolerated,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said.

“Our department will continue working with state and federal partners to protect consumers from falling victim to these deceptive practices, while holding bad actors accountable for their actions.“

Fried said any Floridian who suspects a scam, telemarketing fraud, or other consumer abuse should report it through FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

Tipsheet

Fried and Sen. Jason Pizzo joined forces this week to create a consumer protection infographic.

The infographic gives privacy and consumer protection tips regarding internet and social media platforms.

“Staying safe on social media is in your hands! With news about ‘big tech’ everywhere, it’s a good time to take control of your social and digital footprint with some simple settings and tips,” Fried said. “I’m proud to partner with Sen. Pizzo to share these online consumer tools to protect your privacy, data, and free speech.”

Keep your passwords and personal information safe.

The infographic can be found online. It contains details about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram privacy settings.

Additionally, the infographic addresses WiFi passwords, network security and movie phone settings.  

“These tips and tools will actually help Floridians stay safe from so-called ‘big tech issues’,” Pizzo said. “We can protect privacy and promote free speech online by helping social media users take a few simple steps to keep their online data secure.”

In a press release, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services noted they serve as the state’s consumer protection agency.

FDCAS has handled more than 230,000 consumer complaints and provided more than 600,000 consumers with consumer protection details.

Consumer protection package

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis marked National Consumer Protection Week by highlighting the slate of legislation his office is backing in the 2021 Legislative Session.

The Consumer Protection Package is outlined in SB 1598 and HB 717. The bills include a laundry list of rule changes and fixes with consumers in mind, including a ban on fees for getting a new PIN, and a prohibition on insurance agencies using the words “Medicare” or “Medicaid” in their business name.

“As your CFO, I’ve fought every year to protect Florida consumers — this year is no different. Our 2021 Consumer Protection Legislative Package, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Chuck Clemons, aims to ensure Florida families are better informed on their rights as consumers, protects them from being nickeled and dimed by unnecessary fees, and aids in our fraud fighting efforts to shield Floridians from costly fraud and scams,” Patronis said.

Rep. Chuck Clemons is carrying the 2021 Consumer Protection Legislative Package in the House. Image via Colin Hackley.

“We have made good progress in helping curb insurance fraud by addressing Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse, but there is still much work to be done. As our state works to bounce back from the economic challenges related to the pandemic, it’s vital that we work together to support and protect consumers to ensure our economy can fully rebound.”

Patronis said the bills also “incorporate lessons learned from Hurricanes Michael and Irma” to stop bad actors from standing between homeowners and their claims. The House bill cleared its first committee this week.

Clemons said, “I’m proud to champion important measures to protect consumers from fraud and fortify our insurance markets from bad actors looking to make a quick buck. I look forward to fighting alongside CFO Patronis on these vital measures to protect Florida’s consumers and ensure a stable insurance market for Floridians.”

Instagram of the week

The Week in Appointments

Enterprise Florida Board of Directors — DeSantis announced three appointments to the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors late Monday. Sonya Deen Hartley is the vice president of government relations at JM Family Enterprises, Scott Ross is a partner at Capital City Consulting and a former Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and Cody Khan is the chairman and CEO of Oasis Resorts and the president and CEO of Holiday Golf Course. The EFI Board of Directors has 59 members, six of whom are gubernatorial appointees. Members serve four-year terms and their appointments are subject to Senate approval.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority — DeSantis appointed Craig Mateer to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. Mateer, of Orlando, is the founder and CEO of CCM Capital Group and the former CEO of Bags. He is a member of the FSU Board of Trustees and in 2014 was named the Orlando Business Journal’s CEO of the Year. He is an FSU alumnus. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority Board of Directors The Governor named John Weatherford to the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority Board of Directors. Weatherford, of Tampa, is a Managing Member at Golden Rule. He volunteers with Leadership Tampa Bay, Tampa Connection, the Association for Corporate Growth, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Abe Brown Ministries. Weatherford earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University and his banking certification from Louisiana State University.

University of West Florida Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Paul Hsu, Lewis Bear and Robert Jones to the UWF Board of Trustees. Hsu, of Shalimar, is a managing member of PSH of Okaloosa and the owner and chairman of Cyntech and Total Parts Plus. He holds a doctorate in engineering management from LaSalle University. Bear, of Gulf Breeze, is the president and CEO of the Lewis Bear Company, a wholesale distribution business in Pensacola. He has served on the UWF Foundation Board of Directors, where he was campaign chair and was recently inducted as a Foundation Fellow. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Troy University. Jones, of Westville, is the CEO of Jones-Phillips & Associates. He served in the Florida Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves for 28 years. He earned his bachelor’s from the University of Florida and graduated with Honors from the U.S Army Command & General Staff College.

Casey drafts Brady

First Lady Casey DeSantis has drafted Tom Brady to her mental health resilience message.

The First Lady unveiled her initiative, including plans for a standardized curriculum, last week to boost mental health in students with help from professional athletes.

Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion who last month helped bring the Lombardi Trophy to Tampa Bay for the first time since 2003, is perhaps the most prominent athlete in Florida and the nation (LeBron?) right now.

“If I had to identify one trait that’s been really important for me over the course of a 20-year professional career, I would say it’s perseverance,” Brady said.

Tom Brady is the latest all-star to back the First Lady’s resiliency initiative. Image via AP.

The Governor has been enthused about Brady since the Buccaneers signed him before the 2020 NFL Season. He has said Brady “bringing home the hardware” is among the premier achievements in NFL history, particularly at this point in his already storied career.

“Life’s always going to present us with incredible challenges,” Brady said. But “putting in the work and continuing to do the right thing day after day will always pay off in the end.”

More than a dozen professional sports teams and organizations in Florida are part of the First Lady’s effort to bring a message of resiliency and hope to children.

“Given the lessons I’ve learned traveling the state, we are changing the message on mental health and reframing it to resiliency and hope,” the First Lady said. “We want to empower our youth with the tools and the skillsets to be resilient by learning how to persevere through life’s challenges. We know no one is immune from adversity and hardship. It’s not whether you’ll have challenges in life but it’s about how you respond and persevere.”

No excuses

To coincide with the seasonal increase of travelers in Florida for spring break, law enforcement and traffic safety agencies are putting on a Never Drive Impaired campaign this month.

Deaths from car crashes involving driving under the influence may have fallen 33% in 2020, but the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Highway Patrol is continuing its efforts to prevent impaired driving.

“Choosing to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have serious, life-altering consequences. You can hurt yourself. You can hurt others,” FLHSMV Executive Director Terry Rhodes said. “Keep our roads, loved ones, and yourself safe by pledging to Never Drive Impaired. No excuses.”

Fewer people have been on the road in the past year because of the pandemic. The total number of impaired-driving crashes decreased by more than 16%, impaired-driving fatalities from crashes decreased by more than 33%, and impaired-driving injuries from crashes decreased by more than 26%.

“The tragedies caused by impaired drivers on our roadways haunt the families who will never have the chance to hug their loved ones again,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “If you are impaired in any capacity, don’t drive – no excuses.”

Other state agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, as well as groups like the Police Chiefs Association, the Sheriffs Association, Restaurant and Lodging Association and AAA’s The Auto Club Group, are backing the initiative.

March of Museums

For the fifth annual March of Museums, the Department of State is highlighting the ingenuity and creativity of the state’s museums during the pandemic.

March of Museums is an annual DOS initiative throughout the month to celebrate the diversity of Florida’s museums and their impact on local communities.

“During the past year, museums around the state have found new and innovative ways to handle closures, reduced visitation and other challenges,” Secretary of State Laurel Lee said. “We hope March of Museums offers museums an additional avenue to reach not only their own patrons, but people far outside their own walls and communities.”

The Department is highlighting museums across the state. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Museum of Art.

The department is hosting MarchofMuseums.com, which offers a listing and map of museums by region, highlights the mission or collections of each institution, and offers a calendar of events taking place during the month of March.

“Using technology, virtual content and more programs and resources that were once available only to locals or visitors to the area can now be accessed by people statewide and beyond,” Lee said.

The department is encouraging all visitors to use the hashtag #MarchofMuseums on social media platforms to share pictures and anecdotes from their favorite museum visit experience.

Bicycle month

DeSantis has officially recognized March as Florida Bicycle Month, and the Department of Transportation wants to highlight cycling’s transportation and recreational role.

“Whether you bike to work or school, or for recreation, everyone has a right to arrive at their destination safely,” FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault said. “While taking advantage of Florida’s unique scenery and landscape, the department encourages all bicyclists to always be aware of your surroundings, follow the rules of the road, and never ride distracted.”

More people are cycling in Florida than ever before, he added, before reiterating that FDOT is committed to reducing crashes, fatalities and serious injuries for pedestrians and cyclists. The department’s goal is to move toward zero fatalities, inline with the Complete Streets Policy and Program’s Bicycle Friendly State report card.

In the Governor’s proclamation, issued Monday, he called Florida Bicycle Month an opportunity to encourage using bicycles for transportation, recreation and exercise.

The League of American Bicyclists named Florida the nation’s 10th most bicycle-friendly state in 2019. That ranking also put Florida at first in the infrastructure and funding category, which FDOT said reflected a strong statewide commitment to building safe bicycle infrastructure. Among those expenses is the state’s commitment to spend $100 million on street lighting to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

It’s bike month, and it’s a great time for a ride … before the temperature gets out of control.

Protect waterbirds

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking members of the public to help protect waterbirds as they begin their nesting seasons.

Biologists stress that the most important thing for waterbirds during nesting season is space. When these birds are disturbed and forced to leave their nests, their eggs and chicks are left vulnerable to heat and predators.

“Small actions can make a big difference for wildlife,” said FWC Florida Shorebird Alliance Coordinator Shea Armstrong. “By taking a few steps to limit disturbance to nesting waterbirds, we can help ensure they have a successful nesting season and that they will be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

Give waterbirds some space this nesting season. FWC photo by Marc Rivadeneyra.

Many shorebird and seabird species, such as the least tern, nest directly on beaches across the state, where their eggs and chicks are well camouflaged in the sand.

Keep your distance from birds, on the beach or on the water. FWC recommends about 300 feet. Respect posted areas and stick to paths.

Don’t litter, says another rule. On top of entangling birds, feeding wildlife can attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, that can prey on shorebird eggs and chicks.

Keep pets on a leash, and only take them to pet friendly beaches.

And if you catch a bird while fishing, don’t cut the line. Reel it in, remove it, and release it.

Contract extension

Two Democrats filed legislation this week that would allow school districts to offer extended contracts to teachers who are deemed to be “highly effective” educators.

Filed by Tallahassee Sen. Loranne Ausley and Pinellas County Rep. Ben Diamond. the proposals (HB 1479 and SB 1782) would allow teachers who score “effective” or “highly effective” on annual evaluations to become eligible for a two or three-year contract.

Current law limits contracts to one-year.

The bill would let school districts offer the most effective teachers longer contracts.

“Teachers have an incredibly difficult job under normal circumstances,” Diamond said. “The pandemic has created a host of new challenges they must now contend with, while also being asked to put their health and safety on the line. They deserve our thanks, as well as our support. This bill will provide highly-effective teachers with the recognition and security they deserve in return for their invaluable service to our state.”

According to the bill, a teacher must clear their probation period to become eligible and meet select criteria.

The lawmakers suggested the proposal may help teacher recruitment and retainment.

“Teacher recruitment and retention has taken a significant hit throughout our state, especially in our rural counties and we must do what we can to allow school districts to keep and maintain effective teachers,” Ausley said.

‘Hellhole’ no more

William Large of the Florida Justice Reform Institute told the Enterprise Florida board of directors this week that the state’s legal climate is improving thanks to key court appointments by the Governor.

FJRI is an organization whose members include concerned citizens, business owners, business leaders, doctors, and lawyers who seek to adopt reforms that promote fair and equitable legal practices and avoid wasteful civil litigation.

Large told the EFI board that a critical part of attracting and expanding businesses is a legal system that promotes the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of cases, treats plaintiffs and defendants equally, and faithfully interprets laws in accordance with their plain language, leaving policymaking to the legislative branch.

Florida made it off the “Judicial Hellhole” list and DeSantis is getting credit. Image via ATR Foundation.

Large lauded DeSantis’ appointments to the Florida Supreme Court and the district courts of appeal as integral to Florida’s improving legal climate.

In 2017, Florida was designated the No. 1 “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association, in part because of the Florida Supreme Court’s “barely contained contempt” for the Legislature’s lawmaking authority. 

In removing Florida from their 2020-21 list, the association said Florida “continue[s] to make progress towards improving its legal climate in 2020 as a direct result of Governor Ron DeSantis’s thoughtful and decisive leadership.”

With the shift in the state’s judiciary, Large said, EFI can be confident that Florida is the best state in the nation for businesses, and that Florida’s steadily improving litigation climate presents a great opportunity to recruit more businesses to Florida.

Narc task force

A new task force between the Tallahassee Police Department, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigation upturned 90 pounds of cannabis in a recent investigation.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force also found a handgun and more than $7,000 in cash. That stems from a recent tip to TPD about suspected trafficking of large amounts of illegal narcotics.

Law enforcement arrested Zachary B. Kidd, 29, for trafficking in cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia after searching his home. Kidd was arrested less than six months ago, when he was found in possession of about 50 pounds of marijuana.

“The continued investigation revealed the previous arrest did not deter the suspect from his criminal activities,” according to TPD.

The Task Force found some serious poundage. Image via TPD.

The task force aims to combat the trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs in the community.

Congress established the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program in 1988 with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The Drug Enforcement Agency plays a very active role in the program nationally and has more than 1,500 authorized special agent positions dedicated to it.

To qualify for consideration as a HIDTA, an area must be the center of significant illegal drug action. State and local law enforcement must also have committed resources to addressing drug trafficking in a region where drug-related activities cause significant harm.

TPD is reminding the public to report illegal activity by calling 850-891-4200. People can also anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS.

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