Crowd on the right
If anyone doubted the necessity of a weekly political newsletter focusing solely on Northeast Florida, this week shows why Bold is essential reading.
Given the big money floating around early in the 2022 (and 2023) campaign cycles, it proves there are more than enough substantial investments and high stakes.
While Democrats outnumber Republicans in Duval County, it’s the Republican Party making big moves in mayoral fundraising.
The only filed candidate, City Council Member Matt Carlucci, raised $400,000 in February in new money to his Next Generation Jax political committee. He did reasonably well in hard cash, with just over $132,000 on hand — over half a million total — but still behind a prospective candidate.
With $305,000 for February, Daniel Davis topped $2 million raised for his Building a Better Economy political committee, a long-standing account revived recently with the Chamber leader poised to run for Mayor, finally. The Davis committee has over $1.6 million on hand.
Davis has not opened a campaign account yet.
Meanwhile, a third Republican looks to file: Al Ferraro, a second-term member of the City Council. He looks to differentiate himself from Chamber Republican Davis and arguable RINO Carlucci in the “social conservative” lane.
Ferraro is strong in parts of the Northside and Arlington; in terms of pure money spent per vote, he might have the best numbers. However, Ferraro has a ceiling; his most significant potential is being a spoiler in the Republican path to the runoff.
Democrats, you say? Not yet.
But if one should file, it’ll show progress over 2019, right?
The Florida Senate is poised to advance a Sen. Travis Hutson bill loosening requirements for the craft distillery sector.
Hutson’s SB 46, which (according to him) “attempts to put our craft distilleries on the same playing field nationally as other states,” heads to the Senate Special Order Calendar Friday.
Hutson’s bill hikes the annual production limit at craft distilleries from 75,000 to 250,000 gallons. It would also give distilleries in entertainment venues, such as wedding and concert venues, greater flexibility to dress up their drinks to effectively act as a bar.
In July 2026, the bill would also require recipes to include at least one Florida-grown agricultural product. And by that date, 60% of the drink must be distilled in the Sunshine State.
For destination entertainment venues, the bill outlines a particular set of requirements for a business to qualify. Among those requirements are that qualifying venues must be adjacent to bicycle or pedestrian trails and mass transit routes.
A Sen. Jennifer Bradley measure to severely restrict Floridians’ ability to make anonymous code complaints moves in the Senate, with a stop in the Rules Committee Friday morning — its last before the Senate floor.
SB 60 does allow anonymous complaints when there is a threat of imminent destruction of natural resources or threat to health, welfare, and safety. Otherwise, the complainant’s name would have to accompany the claim before any investigation can begin.
The bill may be a cost-saver for local governments.
“Local governments may experience a reduction in complaints filed due to individuals not wanting to provide personal identifying information. Thus, this may lead to fewer resources … utilized by local code enforcement,” asserted a committee analysis of the bill.
Must be the money
The Senate District 4 race is shaping up to be an expensive affair.
Rep. Jason Fischer is still the clubhouse leader, with well over $900,000 banked between his campaign account and his political committee. But Rep. Clay Yarborough is making a strong play, with over $400,000 on hand when the 2021 Legislative Session started, forcing lawmakers to put their fundraising efforts on hold.
Rep. Cord Byrd, the third legislator looking to make the leap, has not reported fundraising as of this writing. But he has some ground to make up.
Ultimately, there may be relatively little daylight in how these men would vote on any of the issues the Senate might consider. But what’s clear is that even in a House where they have some pull in their fifth years, they can’t pass up the chance to move up.
A bill from Rep. Wyman Duggan cracking down on bad teachers was moved to its first committee in the House this week.
The House finally added HB 131 to the Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee.
HB 131, substantially the same bill as in previous sessions, would set up a “disqualification list” of school employees fired for bad behavior. This list would foreclose the potential of those employees moving to other schools where there’s a chance to repeat the action.
In 2018, Duggan first considered filing this while campaigning during his first run for House District 15, as a voter told him of a situation where a troublesome school employee had issues at his previous stop. If that safeguard was in place, a statewide clearinghouse might have averted a repeat action.
The bill targets those “permanently denied an educator certificate or whose educator certificate has been permanently revoked.” Those banned from owning private schools would be on a blacklist maintained by the Department of Education, as well.
The same goes for teachers and staff terminated or resigned due to sexual misconduct with a student.
Guns & God
Byrd’s bill covers the “safety of religious institutions,” allowing concealed weapon permit holders to carry in “property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a church, a synagogue, or any other religious institution unless the church, synagogue, or other religious institution has a posted policy.”
Every year, the legislation surfaces each Session, despite being derailed by the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The shooting led legislators — and then-Gov. Rick Scott — to roll back gun rights, such as banning people under 21 from buying assault weapons.
If it passes muster here, the Judiciary Committee lies ahead.
The House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee is poised to take up a Rep. Clay Yarborough bill to compel schools to address some tough subjects they are not now required to handle.
HB 519 would amend current statutory requirements to include instruction on child sexual abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.
Yarborough said that “constituents and community groups” have raised a “need for additional prevention efforts and greater awareness related to signs of child sexual abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.”
Nevertheless, it has a long road ahead in 2021
Ahead of this one, the bill has three committee stops, meaning that the stars need to align before it hits the House floor.
Next stops are the Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, and Education & Employment Committee.
There is in fact a Senate companion currently, carried by Sen. Aaron Bean.
Rep. Angie Nixon seeks money for a COVID-19 project, and the first-term Democrat may have a hook for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
HB 3389 sets aside $750,000 for Agape Health Services and its “behavioral health response” to the coronavirus. The bill is on the Appropriations Committee schedule.
Agape is the company of former Rep. Mia Jones; Nixon was once her staffer.
According to the appropriations request: “The allocation of these funds will help to increase the number of uninsured and medically underserved patients that can be seen in our program. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession has negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. This program will minimize service gaps for youth and adult population who may suffer from a variety of mental health issues.”
A few weeks back, DeSantis even appeared at a Jacksonville event associated with Agape Health, a vaccination highlight at Edward Waters College. Under fire for alleged vaccine favoritism for a couple of pods seemingly tailored to the donor class, the Governor could score some points by ensuring Agape gets the necessary funds.
To watch a video of the Agape event, click on the image below:
New Flagler+ VP
Flagler Health+ is naming David Rice, M.D., as executive vice president and chief physician executive. Rice is replacing Miguel Machado, M.D., retires as of September.
According to a news release, Dr. Rice will oversee Flagler+ clinical quality, patient safety, performance improvement, infection prevention, medical affairs, and related functions. He will lead efforts to maintain the organization’s high reliability, working with medical staff, First Coast Health Alliance and others.
Dr. Rice brings more than a decade of executive-level leadership in advancing the quality, safety and efficiency of medical services. He most recently served as the senior vice president, system chief medical officer and chief quality officer at Baptist Health. Before that, he served as a chief quality officer of coastal community health and chief medical officer of Baptist Physician Partners.
“Dr. Rice is an accomplished, creative and dedicated physician and health care executive with a distinguished academic and professional background,” said Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett. “He brings expertise, experience and interpersonal skills to this role that are key to our continued success.”
On March 10, Flagler Health+ made history as the first health care system in Northeast Florida to treat a coronavirus patient. Since then, nearly 600 patients were treated for COVID-19 at Flagler Hospital. Now, thousands of people have been tested, and thousands vaccinated by Flagler Health+.
“We felt it was important to commemorate the anniversary of the first COVID-19 case and recognize the incredible achievements that have occurred throughout this unprecedented time,” Barrett said in a statement. “I continue to be awed by the resilience and unwavering commitment that our team has demonstrated through what many consider to be the most challenging time in our immediate history. I could not be more proud of our staff.”
A critical part of offering the best care is teamwork — clinical and nonclinical. And on this anniversary, Flagler+ recognizes the contribution of ever team member as a COVID-19 Hero by receiving a commemorative pin. Nearly 2,000 pins will be distributed to honor the resiliency, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment to patients through what proved to be a very difficult year.
St. Johns County is leading the state on senior vaccinations.
As reported by Action News Jax, the county will achieve an 80% vaccination rate for its senior population by Thursday.
County Administrator Hunter Conrad said the county vaccinated about 44,000 of the 55,000 residents aged 65 and up. Planning is the key, he added, as St. Johns County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management began planning for the site in August 2020.
”It’s run very much like a military operation and so it’s done very quick, efficiently, and very safe,” Conrad told Action News Jax. “We worked each week to become more efficient to be able to get shots in arms as quickly and safely as possible. As we continue to do that, we request from the state ‘hey we can do more.’”
There’s more transportation help offered to Jacksonville residents seeking coronavirus vaccines.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced this week it is offering new discounted transportation trips to vaccination centers in the city. The services include zTrip as a partner.
The zTrip and JTA services will provide a flat $5 rate for rides to vaccination centers in the city within 3 miles of a resident’s home. That’s a 17% discount from typical fares.
“By working with our private sector partners, we are once again offering a unique solution for those who need to get to their local vaccination sites,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford. “Our goal is to ensure anyone … eligible to receive a vaccine has safe, clean and reliable transportation options to do so.”
Residents wanting the discount rides can call zTrip at (904) 337-3103 and should also use the promotional code “VAC21” to book a reservation for a trip to a center.
“We genuinely feel that giving back to the community is essential to our survival,” said zTrip General Manager Bob Gagliardi. “These values are the foundation of our legendary reputation and the basis of an exceptionally positive working environment.”
The new discount is an addition to the JTA free trips provided through “Rides to Health.” Those rides are for seniors traveling to federal, state and local vaccination sites in Jacksonville.
The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce plans its first indoor event since the beginning of the pandemic, with a transportation panel slated for March 28. The event will run from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Sawgrass Marriott.
Marty Fiorentino, president of the Fiorentino Group, will host a discussion of regional issues and solutions, including FDOT regional head Greg Evans, Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nat Ford and Phong Ngyuen, the transportation development manager, St. Johns County Growth Management Department.
The mixer and the breakfast will be outside; the indoor panel will have distanced tables with no more than five people each. And per Marriott policy, masks are required when not eating or drinking.
In-person and virtual attendance options are available at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce website: www.sjcchamber.com, click on Events.
The in-person registration fee for Chamber members at the Economic Development Council level is $50; $70 for other Chamber members; a guests’ fee is $85. The virtual event costs $20.
Jacksonville is hitting the beach in the name of animal adoptions this month.
The Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services will hold an animal adoption set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 21, at Latham Plaza in Jacksonville Beach. Dogs and cats will be available for free adoptions during the event sponsored by Petco Foundation.
Organizers say the coastal event provides a rare opportunity for Beaches residents to participate in animal adoptions, something usually are far inland in the Jacksonville area.
“We are excited to find forever homes for pets at this fun event at the beach,” said ACPS Division Chief Jennifer Walter. “Our shelter is located in the Brooklyn area of Riverside, so many adopters from the beaches do not get the opportunity to see the wide variety of loving pets we have for adoption at ACPS.”
Multiple animal organizations are taking part in the event, including Jacksonville Humane Society, Jacksonville Beach Animal Control, Neptune Beach Animal Control and Neptune Beach Animal Control.
The event will offer a festive atmosphere, with multiple booths, food and business trucks from About Time Creamery, Central Bank, Chubby Burrito, Friends of Jacksonville Animals, Pet Wants, CBD Vets, Yum Yum and Pet Supermarket.
Masks and social distancing are required.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking more legit and potential laden with every passing week, a shocking thing to say about a team so bad last year that people wondered at times if they were trying to lose.
With nearly $85 million in cap room headed into this week, the decision to franchise tackle Cam Robinson was easy. The odds are good that they can stock up on more line depth during the second wave of free agency, or even sooner.
Wide receiver is in play also.
Considering Kenny Golladay from the Lions, you’d have a three-set with DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault that could give opponents fits.
Meyer said at a news conference this week that while the team has some “good receivers,” his staff is “not finished with the room.”
“We’re searching for the big-play hit at the receiver position.”
Trevor Lawrence is coming to town, of course. But the Jags like Jake Luton and Gardner Minshew, says GM Trent Baalke, so it appears that a veteran QB may not be en route.