Takeaways from Tallahassee — Get Ready, Florida!

Blue Tally Takeaways (1)
The blasé attitude toward storms is as much a part of being Floridian as Pub subs and jorts.

Get Ready, Florida!

The lockdown era may be over, but hurricane season is just beginning.

Anything short of a direct hit won’t get most of us out of bed. The blasé attitude is as much a part of being Floridian as Pub subs and jorts. But this year, the lack of preparation is disturbingly high.

A new survey conducted by “Get Ready, Florida!” found that just 21% of Floridians say they are better prepared for hurricane season this year than last. In mid-2020, at the height of the pandemic, 51% said they were more prepared for hurricane season than they had been in prior years.

At the same time, the number of Floridians who say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned heading into storm season has fallen by double digits, from 73% to 62%. About 8% of those polled said they were “not concerned at all,” which is double the number who said the same last year.

Also, the number of Floridians concerned about the impact on first responders dropped by half, from 62% to 31%.

“A year ago, everyone was already hunkered down at home, with as many emergency supplies as they could stock up as a safeguard against COVID-19 shortages,” said Craig Fugate, former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and a consultant to the Get Ready, Florida! Initiative. “With so much reopening now, people seem more interested in getting life back to normal and less focused on hurricane preparation — and that will be a major problem if and when a powerful storm hits.”

Craig Fugate says now that things are getting back to normal, Florida should start thinking about hurricane prep. Image via Chief National Guard/Flickr.

Get Ready, Florida! is a long-running statewide public education initiative produced by Sachs Media in cooperation with the nonprofit FAIR Foundation. The initiative serves to help Floridians plan, prepare, and respond to the threat of hurricanes and tropical storms during the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season.

The initiative said the numbers were concerning, especially since Florida is the most hurricane-vulnerable state in the country.

“Floridians are excited about the progress against COVID and ready to get back to normal activities, but this is no time to ignore the very real threat that hurricanes pose to our state,” FAIR CEO Jay Neal said. “People should be updating their hurricane plans, stock up on supplies, and do everything they can to get ready.”

While reopening and getting back to normal is exciting, putting off storm prep could quickly put Floridians back in dire straits if a storm were to hit.

Experts say families should have enough supplies — including food, water, medicine, shelter — to survive on their own for at least three days. Preparation can be daunting, but luckily the Florida Division of Emergency Management has prepared a simple checklist of what you’ll need to grab at the store — and if you knock it out this week, you’ll save a little cash thanks to the annual disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday.

The Get Ready, Florida! survey of 1,000 Florida voters was conducted May 5-17.

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

Take 5

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

DeSantis signs tech bill, draws lawsuit — Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed the social media de-platforming bill into law, and tech interests have already launched a lawsuit against the measure. Many Republicans say social media platforms disproportionately and unfairly target conservatives, handing them bans and other disciplinary actions. “When you de-platform the President of the United States, but you let Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei talk about killing Jews, that is wrong,” DeSantis said. Proponents say they want to protect Floridians’ First Amendment rights, but two D.C.-based tech associations say it unconstitutionally compels platforms to host speech they oppose. Furthermore, if social media can’t police what people post, they fear sites could become unpleasant, driving users away.

Gaming bills signed, Compact on to feds — DeSantis also signed four gaming bills Friday, including the bill preparing the Seminole Gaming Compact for federal approval. The Compact awaits the U.S. Department of the Interior’s approval. It would expand the Tribe’s gaming authorization to craps, roulette and fantasy sports contests. Two bills create a law enforcement agency overseeing gambling. Rep. Dan Daley, the son of a standardbred horseman, unsuccessfully lobbied DeSantis to veto a bill easing pari-mutuel regulations over fears it would irreparably hurt the dwindling standardbred horse racing business. Anti-gambling groups plan to sue over the fantasy sports measure, which they say requires the public’s vote of approval.

DeSantis’ budget decision approaches — DeSantis hopes to sign the $101.5 billion budget in the next couple of weeks. Already, he’s started traveling the state to tout budget wins, including bonuses for teachers, principals, first responders, and another tranche of cash to continue raising the minimum base pay for teachers. “We still have a lot of provisions we need to go through. We’re working on it,” DeSantis said. Florida TaxWatch also released its annual report on budget turkeys, line items they say lawmakers didn’t fully scrutinize. The fiscal watchdogs flagged 116 projects totaling $157.5 million, up from $136.3 million across 180 turkeys last year.

Transgender athletes bill on deck — The next big-ticket item, a bill banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams, is on DeSantis’ desk. Republicans necro’d that measure in the final week of Session when it seemed all but dead. Florida’s pocketbook could also be hanging in the balance if he signs it. Statements from the NCAA indicated the collegiate sports organization could keep its lucrative championships out of Florida’s stadiums if the ban becomes law. The NCAA has taken similar action before. It moved a championship out of North Carolina in 2016 after that state restricted bathroom access for transgender people.

DEP Secretary Valenstein plans departure — Secretary Noah Valenstein will step down as the state’s top environmental official next month, according to a resignation letter that surfaced this week. He specified no plans for the future but expressed interest in serving the environmental community and his excitement in the environmental future. Former Gov. Rick Scott initially appointed Valenstein DEP Secretary in 2017, and DeSantis kept him on when he took office in 2019. Valenstein was also doubling as the state’s Chief Resilience Officer on an extended temporary basis. He took on the dual role in March 2020 after the state’s first CRO left for the Trump administration.

Coronavirus numbers

Positive cases:

— 2,277,470 FL residents (+15,657 since May 21)

— 43,348 Non-FL residents (+301 since May 21)

Origin:

— 18,490 Travel related

— 916,492 Contact with a confirmed case

— 24,822 Both

— 1,317,666 Under investigation

Hospitalizations:

— 94,930 in FL

Deaths:

— 37,512 in FL

Vaccinations:

— 17,615,460 Doses administered

— 10,213,280 Total people vaccinated

— 2,025,402 First dose

— 785,698 Completed one-dose series (+58,186 since May 21)

— 7,402,180 Completed two-dose series (+255,490 since May 21)

Half-staff, part I

Expect flags at Florida’s government buildings to be at half-staff on Memorial Day, according to a proclamation issued by Gov. DeSantis.

Monday will mark the 153rd observance of Memorial Day.

Three years after the Civil War ended, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that the first Decoration Day — as Memorial Day was first known — should be observed on May 30, 1868. That date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The first significant observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

John Logan is credited with the first ‘Decoration Day,’ later known as Memorial Day.

Where the tradition started before it became a national event is unclear. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes that approximately 25 places claim to have originated the holiday, usually through springtime tributes to Civil War soldiers. In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, the “birthplace” of Memorial Day.

While the day for many years was intended to honor Civil War soldiers, the U.S. expanded the day to honor all veterans who died in all American wars after World War I.

Florida is home to 1.5 million veterans.

In 1971, the federal government moved the date to the last Monday in May.

DeSantis’ proclamation tells all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida to lower their flags to half-staff from sunrise until noon on May 31.

“On Memorial Day, we honor the heroes of the United States Military who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We shall never forget the selfless bravery of the men and women who laid down their lives to protect their fellow citizens. Our hearts are heavy with gratitude for their unwavering commitment to protecting this nation’s highest ideal of freedom in the face of grave danger,” DeSantis said.

Half-staff, part II

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried ordered flags at Florida Forest Service facilities to half-staff this week after a firefighting helicopter carrying four people crashed in central Florida.

The Tuesday crash near Leesburg International Airport in Central Florida killed all four onboard, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

A Black Hawk firefighting helicopter crashes outside of Leesburg, killing four. Image via NBC Miami.

“We are devastated to hear of yesterday’s firefighting helicopter crash in Leesburg,” Fried said. “On behalf of the State of Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Forest Service, we extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones and colleagues affected by this immeasurable loss. These brave souls training to protect our communities will not be forgotten.”

The helicopter, known as a Black Hawk, was on a training exercise when it crashed.

The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the crash.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy within our wildland firefighting family,” said Florida Forest Service Director Erin Albury. “These firefighters put themselves on the line to serve and protect the lives of others. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and the entire community.”

Stay safe

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis offered several safety tips to Floridians this week ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Among the recommendations, Patronis encourages Floridians to inspect their grills, ensure no leaks and keep their grill away from flammables and homes.

Floridians should also avoid boating while under the influence, Patronis added. According to the United States Coast Guard, alcohol is a significant factor in fatal boating accidents.

As Florida Fire Marshal, Jimmy Patronis wants everyone to play it safe this weekend.

“If you are hosting family and friends this holiday weekend, please keep safety in mind and don’t let an enjoyable time grilling out or boating turn tragic,” Patronis said. “By following a few safety tips, you can ensure you and your loved ones have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend.”

Patronis’ safety tips come as more than 3 million Americans prepare to travel for the holiday weekend.

Not least, Patronis encouraged Floridians to use only approved sparklers and remain alert while behind the wheel.

“Memorial Day is a time many across our state will gather to reflect on the heroism and bravery of the men and women of our armed forces who have paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our country,” Patronis said.

Memorial Day is May 31.

Pro Israel

Patronis also issued a proclamation this week to denounce the rise of antisemitic attacks across the United States.

The proclamation comes as news outlets report a flurry of antisemitic attacks over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including a high-profile attack in New York which prompted the NYPD to step up their presence in Jewish communities.

According to the proclamation, at least 26 instances of antisemitism were reported across the country since May 10.

Jimmy Patronis was quick to denounce rising antisemitism across the country.

“The Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal of the State of Florida does hereby strongly support Israel and Florida’s Jewish Community and encourages all Floridians to denounce all forms of antisemitism,” the proclamation reads.

Notably, Florida is home to the second-largest population of “Jews in the world,” the proclamation claims. Moreover, Miami-Dade County homes the nation’s third-largest Jewish community.

“Florida is committed to fighting back against this rising tide of antisemitic hate,” the proclamation adds.

In 2019, DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet traveled to Israel to recognize Jerusalem as the nation’s capital city.

The trip, the proclamation says, “reaffirmed Florida’s long legacy of support for Israel.”

A copy of the proclamation can be viewed online.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Florida’s 10th Circuit Court — DeSantis appointed Polk County Judge Lori Winstead to the 10th Circuit Court. Before becoming a county judge in 2019, Winstead was an assistant state attorney in the 10th Circuit for over 10 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College and her law degree from Barry University School of Law. Winstead fills the judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Steven Selph.

Hillsborough County Court — DeSantis appointed Logan Murphy to the court. Murphy has been a shareholder at Hill Ward Henderson since 2019 and began practicing with the firm in 2012. He has also served as a law clerk for the Honorable James D. Whittemore on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School. Murphy fills the judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Artemeus McNeil.

Board of Acupuncture — DeSantis named Amy Sear, Steffani Corey and Kristen Tipaldo to the Board of Acupuncture. Sear is a Hollywood resident and a licensed acupuncturist with Memorial Healthcare Systems. Sear earned her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and her master’s level in Oriental Medicine from the Acupressure Acupuncture Institute. Corey, who lives in Tarpon Springs, is a licensed acupuncturist and the owner of Carrington Acupuncture. She earned her bachelor’s degree in professional health sciences and master’s degree in Oriental Medicine from East West College of Natural Medicine. Tipaldo, of Gulf Breeze, is a licensed acupuncturist at Naval Hospital Pensacola. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern Connecticut State University and her master’s degree from the Florida College of Integrative Medicine.

Board of Nursing — DeSantis made eight appointments to the board. Libby Flippo, of Palm City, is the Chief Nurse Officer for Tenet Health System’s Palm Beach Health Network. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, a master’s degree in nursing leadership in health care systems from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her MBA from Florida Atlantic University. Jose Delfin Castillo, of Naples, is a CRNA at TEAMHealth and Premier Endoscopy Center. He earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from West Visayas State University, a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion, a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia from Wolford College, and a Ph.D. from Keiser University. Fidelia Roster, of Palm Coast, is vice president and Chief Care Continuum Officer at Halifax Health. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Mary of the Plain College and her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Phoenix. Jody Rain, of Parrish, is Director of the Emergency Department at Manatee Memorial Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the State College of Florida and her master’s degree in health care administration from Western Governors University. Heather Baumwald, of Fort Lauderdale, is regional sales manager at Suneva Medical. Baumwald earned her bachelor’s degree in business and communications from Florida State University. Robert Macdonald, of Seminole, is executive director of the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Foundation. He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Tennessee and his master’s degree in health administration and policy from the University of Cincinnati. Deborah Becker, of The Villages, is a member of the nursing faculty at the College of Central Florida. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Indiana University and her master’s degree in nursing education from Indiana State University. Christine Mueller, of Sunrise, is the Nursing Program Director for Keiser University. She earned her associate degree in nursing from Broward College, bachelor’s degree in nursing from Barry University, master’s degree in nursing from Florida Atlantic University and a doctor of nursing practice from Keiser University.

Board of Osteopathic Medicine — The Governor filled four seats on the Board of Osteopathic Medicine. Tiffany Sizemore, of Fort Lauderdale, is a licensed osteopathic physician and is also board certified in cardiology, internal medicine, echocardiography, and nuclear cardiology. Sizemore earned her bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from Florida Atlantic University, and her DO from Nova Southeastern University. Jorge Gadea, of Tampa, is a licensed osteopathic physician with Tampa General Medical Group. He is a five-time recipient of the Patient’s Choice Award at Tampa General and a member of their Physician Executive Committee in addition to being a member of the American Osteopathic Association. Gadea earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Florida and his DO from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. William Kirsh, of Miami, is a licensed osteopathic physician and Chief Medical Officer for Sentry Data Systems. Kirsh earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, MPH from Johns Hopkins University and his DO from Southeastern University. Valerie Jackson, of Jupiter, is the owner of Healthcare Arts Consulting. She has served on the Board of Osteopathic Medicine since 2012. Jackson earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Miami and a master’s degree in human resources management and MBA from Nova Southeastern University.

Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology — DeSantis selected Dania Lopez Ramirez and Sherry Jordan to the Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. Lopez Ramirez, of Coral Gables, is a licensed speech-language pathologist and the Owner and Director of the Miami Center for Speech-Language Pathology. Lopez Ramirez earned her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from the University of Florida and her master’s degree in communications disorders from Nova Southeastern University. Jordan, of Windemere, is a school psychologist, most recently working in Orange County Public Schools. She has served on the Florida Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology since 2017 and volunteers with Cochlear Americas. Jordan earned her master’s degree in school psychology from the University at Albany.

Rural broadband

Sen. Lorrane Ausley will serve as co-chair of NewDEAL Forum’s Broadband Task Force, the group announced this week.

The newly minted task force aims to harmonize state and local officials with nonprofit and private sector policy experts.

As co-chair, the Democratic lawmaker will serve alongside Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and San Jose, California, Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Together, the trio aims to identify barriers to affordable, high-speed internet.

Loranne Ausley is on a new panel to lift barriers to affordable, high-speed rural broadband.

“Florida’s rural broadband limitations are neither new nor unique. But more than a year into a pandemic that’s made the deficiencies all-the-more critical, many remote Florida communities are still without reliable internet access,” Ausley said. “I am honored to co-chair the Task Force and work with my colleagues across the country to find solutions and partnerships that address these issues and the ongoing digital divide.”

Ausley represents Senate District 3, a primarily rural area including Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla counties in North Florida.

She’s long championed rural broadband expansion during her time in the Legislature.

“Now is the time to take everything we have learned during this pandemic, share best practices and lessons learned, and leverage resources to finally close the digital divide in our urban and rural communities and ensure broadband for all — starting right here in North Florida!” Ausley said.

Noah’s arc

Patronis praised Valenstein this week after the news broke that he’d step down in June.

“Florida has environmental beauty like no other state in the country, and the last four years, we have had an equally extraordinary leader in Secretary Noah Valenstein at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” Patronis said. “I commend him for his service and know he will be a rock star in his next role.”

In his resignation letter, Valenstein gave a nod to several of the agency’s accomplishments since DeSantis took office. He noted efforts to improve Florida’s coastal resiliency to climate change, land acquisition through Florida Forever, creating the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, and legislation passed to protect the state’s waterways.

Noah Valenstein is being remembered fondly as he steps down from the DEP.

DEP Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation Shawn Hamilton will be the department’s interim secretary.“

“As Gov. DeSantis continues to make protecting our environment a top priority, I look forward to partnering with him and Shawn Hamilton on many more great projects for our state,” Patronis added.

During his tenure, Valenstein received praise from environmental groups that weren’t afraid to attack the Governor’s office.

Before DEP, Valenstein served as the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District. His education background includes an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. He also holds a law degree from Florida State University.

Valenstein had previously served as Scott‘s environmental policy coordinator before Scott in May 2017 appointed him to lead DEP.

Lotto gives big 

The Florida Lottery celebrated a milestone this week, providing more than $2 billion in contributions to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund during the 2020 — 2021 fiscal year.

The accomplishment marks the largest single-year contribution in the lottery’s 33-year history, a record fueled by a 23% increase in lotto sales compared to last year.

Florida Lottery hits a big milestone.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Lottery, but more importantly, for students and schools in our great state,” said Florida Lottery Secretary John F. Davis. “For the past three decades, the Lottery’s core focus has been to maximize revenues for the enhancement of education in Florida, and this year is certainly one for the record books, marking our largest contribution yet!”

The record education contributions are just one of several records for the Florida Lottery. In February, the Lottery set a national single-week Scratch-Off sales record of $193.5 million.

Lotto officials credit Billion Dollar Gold Rush Supreme, a new $30 Scratch-Off ticket, for the achievement.

“This historic milestone would not have been possible without the support of our loyal players, committed retail and vendor partners, and hardworking employees,” the agency said.

Founded in 1988, the Lottery has provided more than $1 billion a year to education in the last 19 years.

Viva Mexico

VISIT FLORIDA is sending a team to Mexico City to promote international travel during the pandemic.

Some lawmakers have questioned the need for the state’s tourism marketing arm in the past, but in this Session, legislative leaders resoundingly backed the agency. There was little fight over its funding, too, $50 million for the coming year.

“As borders start to reopen, we will be conducting in-person meetings in these markets with the goal of not just rebuilding our international market share, but growing it,” VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young told the News Service of Florida.

Dana Young and VISIT FLORIDA are off to Mexico City to drum up the tourism business.

Staff members will meet with “top-tier tour operators, online travel agencies, airlines and trade media” during the trip, Young said. VISIT FLORIDA also is planning a similar excursion to the United Kingdom in July or August.

The agency recently reported that overseas travel was down 74.4% in the first quarter of 2021 from 2020, after falling 70.4% for 2020 from 2019.

Young said a goal for the agency is to do better than a state economist’s projection that the Florida tourism sector will not make a full recovery until 2024.

“Our goal is to beat that,” Young said. “And we believe that the numbers that we’re starting to see and the data that we’re seeing, and the trends that we’re seeing, could have us solidly on track to do so.”

Fast lane

Florida’s SunPass toll system has joined forces with East Coast’s favorite E-ZPass to create a smooth and fast toll experience for the millions of east coasters that flood the state each year.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) is now accepting E-ZPass, which will bring interoperability to toll highway customers on the East Coast and as far west as Illinois.

There are 35-member toll agencies in the 19 state E-ZPass region.

FTE will also launch a SunPass Pro, a new transponder the works with E-ZPass tolls. The SunPass PRO will cost $14.95, plus tax, and offers customers benefits, including parking at most international airports in Florida and the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, with more locations to come.

E-ZPass will make Florida highways even less stressful.

In a news release, the Florida Department of Transportation called it a “major milestone.”

“Florida continues to leverage technology and deploy innovative solutions that improve safety and reduce congestion across the state’s transportation system,” Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said. “Florida’s partnership with E-ZPass is the next critical step toward national interoperability creating seamless transportation options for Florida residents and visitors alike.”

E-ZPass Group Executive Director PJ Wilkins congratulated FDOT and FTE on the expansion.

“Our customers have long sought a solution where they can utilize a single toll account for their travels up and down the coast. Today’s announcement fulfills a commitment to each of our customers and provides a seamless travel experience. Our congratulations to FDOT and FTE on making this a reality,” he said.

What’s home to you?

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation has selected 40 winners in an art contest asking kids what home means to them.

The contest aimed to increase awareness of the importance of having a safe and affordable place to call home in the lead-up to National Homeownership Month in June. The artworks will be prominently displayed in the Florida Housing building next month.

A sample of the winners in the Florida Housing Finance Corporation art competition.

“As the state’s housing finance agency, we recognize the significance of having a place to call home and our goal has always been to provide every Floridian with that opportunity,” Executive Director of Florida Housing Finance Corporation Executive Director Trey Price. “We hope this fun initiative emphasizes the continued need for quality, affordable housing in Florida and the significant role that this can play in a child’s life.”

An internal review committee selected the winners from 200 submissions, all from Floridians ages 5 to 18, showcasing what they notice most about their home life.

The winning artwork showcased various heartwarming scenes: children spending quality time with their family, engaging in fun activities, or simply a picture of what their actual home looks like. A full slideshow featuring all of the winners is available on Florida Housing’s website.

Reef restoration

After nearly four years, the Florida Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration effort completed its first phase of artificial reef construction in Northwest Florida this week.

The restoration project comes after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which gushed more than 134 million gallons of oil into the ocean over three months.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, the amount spilled translates to the volume of over 200 Olympic swimming pools.

A new reef is created in Northwest Florida waters.

“The goal of this project was to replace lost recreational opportunities caused by the DWH oil spill by creating new high-quality reef habitats, enhanced reef fish variety and abundance, and sustainable fishing and diving opportunities for residents and visitors to northwest Florida,” the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a news release.

In all, over 3,600 artificial reefs were deployed in state waters between Pensacola and Mexico Beach.

Moving forward, FWC said, officials will extend the restoration process into federal waters.

“The addition of these artificial reefs provides new locations for anglers and divers to visit and a better overall fishing and diving experience, partially restoring some of the fishing and diving impacts experienced across northwest Florida during the oil spill,” FWC said.

Passing grades

For the first time since the Foundation for Florida’s Future began grading lawmakers on their education efforts, each lawmaker received a passing grade.

The 2021 Florida Education Report Card grades legislators on their efforts during this year’s legislative session to improve student outcomes, opportunities, and access to quality education.

Of the 160 state lawmakers, 113 earned As, 33 earned Bs, and the remaining 14 earned Cs. That’s a record achievement since the group began issuing the report cards in 2011.

Foundation for Florida’s Future Executive Director Patricia Levesque noted more bipartisan support from a strong student-centered education policy.

Patricia Levesque gives an education grade to lawmakers. This Session, they all passed.

“In a year unlike any that we have experienced, Florida’s lawmakers seized the opportunity to give families, students and jobseekers greater opportunities to succeed now and in the future,” she said.

Along with the Florida Education Report Card, the Foundation for Florida’s Future also announced its Honor Roll, which recognized 81 legislative champions who took action to pass student-centered legislation to improve the lives and educational results for Florida students and their families.

“This year’s work builds upon more than 20 years of student-centered policies that have made Florida a national leader in raising student achievement. Thanks to committed legislative leadership, the Sunshine State is poised to remain the best place in the nation to learn, work and live.”

Pass the ketchup

This week, Project Ventura named East Ridge High School a champion of the annual Project Venture Business Development Competition.

The competition challenges high school tech programs to craft a business plan proposal and create a commercial. It also helps students sharpen career skills such as teamwork, communication and critical thinking.

“The goal of the competition isn’t to develop the next Starbucks or phone app, but rather to put students into a situation where they are developing real-world applicable skills, including working in groups, delegating, timelines, written communications, problem-solving, and “Big Picture” thinking,” the news release says.

The East Ridge High School team, located in Lake County, created a condiment launcher.

“Our product is created to increase the efficiency of restaurants, school cafeterias, and more eatery-based locations. What it specializes in is bringing condiments faster to the customers; instead of walking, we coordinated a launcher to throw condiments to them.”

Notably, the High School High-Tech programs aim to offer students with disabilities the opportunity to explore careers and postsecondary options within the field.

In the 2020-2021 school year, the HSHT program served more than 1000 students with disabilities in 40 counties at 43 sites. The program also boasts a 77% continuing education rate.

To watch a demonstration, click on the image below:

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