Takeaways from Tallahassee — Military friendly

Blue Tally Takeaways (2)
Florida gets even friendlier to veterans and members of the military.

Military friendlier

Gov. Ron DeSantis gave another boost to Florida’s military community this week, marking the Republican Governor’s latest effort to fortify Florida as the most military-friendly state in the nation. 

On Tuesday, DeSantis directed CareerSource Florida to invest $7 million into career training and support services for military veterans and spouses. 

The funding is a slice of the roughly $29 million in federal funds CareerSource Florida approved to improve career opportunities for Floridians through training and education. 

“Florida is the most military-friendly state in the nation, and I’m proud to say that in Florida, we support those who have served this country,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Today, I am using my authority as Governor to direct $7 million to help military veterans and their spouses find employment in our state, especially those who are homeless or disabled. We will continue to invest in these heroes and make sure they have every opportunity to succeed in Florida.”

Ron DeSantis gives another boost to the military community, making Florida the most veteran-friendly state. Image via ClickOrlando.

Under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Governors may allocate 15% of federal funds to innovative economic opportunity projects. DeSantis’ directive will focus on veterans with employment challenges such as homelessness or service-related disabilities.

In all, the state’s workforce system budget includes more than $237 million for the CareerSource Florida network, spanning across the Department of Economic Opportunity and 24 local workforce development boards.

“This funding aligns with Gov. DeSantis’ priority of helping Floridians find employment and economic prosperity as many individuals are now returning to the workforce,” said Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Dane Eagle, a member of the CareerSource Florida Board. “We look forward to working with our partners, CareerSource Florida and the Florida Department of Education, to help support fellow Floridians in finding new opportunities and to strengthen our state’s workforce.”

Among other priorities, the Governor also directed funds toward at-risk Floridians receiving public assistance, rural workforce initiatives, and low-income adults and youth pursuing training in IT-related fields. 

“As Florida’s economy continues its robust recovery, we will work together to ensure our neighbors who are still struggling have the education, training, and services needed to support themselves and their families,” said CareerSource Florida President and CEO Michelle Dennard

Notably, the directive is DeSantis’ latest move to support Florida’s veteran community.

In early June, the Republican Governor signed three military benefit bills and acclaimed Florida as the most military-friendly state in the nation. 

The bills bolster educational and career opportunities for Florida’s more than 1.5 million veterans and active-duty service members.

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:

Florida wins first blow in CDC cruise fight — A federal court temporarily dislodged the CDC’s COVID-19 sailing restrictions on cruise lines. The federal judge issued an order giving the CDC two weeks to develop an alternative plan before the court knocks down the current restrictions to a “nonbinding” advisory on July 18. Attorney General Ashley Moody claimed victory for hardworking Floridians in the cruise industry. “The federal government does not, nor should it ever, have the authority to single out and lockdown an entire industry indefinitely,” she said. “I am excited to see the cruise industry get sailing again and proud to stand with Gov. Ron DeSantis against illegal federal overreach and draconian lockdown measures.”

DeSantis sends cops to U.S.-Mexico border — Florida will send law enforcement to curb illegal immigration at the nation’s southern border, but the details aren’t known yet. Gov. DeSantis said the state was answering the call from Texas and Arizona’s Governors to send support when the federal government won’t. Republicans have maligned President Joe Biden‘s immigration policies. And while Florida is more than 1,000 miles from the Mexican border, DeSantis said Biden’s policies have increased crime in the Sunshine State. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is vying to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, attacked the move as a made-up crisis.

Florida waives pandemic fines and fees — again — At this week’s clemency meeting, DeSantis proposed relieving COVID-19 penalties on businesses, doubling down on the Governor’s past executive orders to that end. After that motion, DeSantis pardoned a couple facing charges over refusing to enforce a mask ordinance at the gym they owned in Broward County. Fried, the Cabinet and Executive Clemency Board’s lone Democrat, opposed the motion. “I voted today to uphold our laws, while our so-called pro-law enforcement Governor is actively encouraging people to break the law with politically motivated stunts like this. We’ve seen what happens when rogue citizens are empowered by misguided leaders,” Fried said in a statement.

DeSantis signs moments of silence bill — Florida law will require public schools to hold a one- to two-minute moment of silence at the start of each day beginning next year. Proponents stressed that it is a secular measure, giving children a chance to stop and reflect. But DeSantis hosted the bill signing at a synagogue in South Florida and used the moment to attack the United Nations and other states as antisemitic. Using moments of silence to promote prayer is unconstitutional. “The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful, I’m sorry our founding fathers did not do that,” DeSantis said.

Elections supervisors question voting bill — County election supervisors struggle to wrap their heads around SB 90, Florida’s controversial election law. The supervisors were convened for a conference in Tampa this week. Meanwhile, more groups are challenging the legality of the measure. Both Republican and Democratic supervisors questioned the bill. “We’re all still struggling with how vague some of the new things put into law are,” Okaloosa County Supervisor Paul Lux told the Tampa Bay Times. Several vented their frustrations to Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who didn’t acknowledge the bill in her speech. Supervisors could face $25,000 fines for failing to implement new dropbox restrictions.

Thin Line

This week, Attorney General Moody traveled to the Perry Police Department to show support and appreciation for local law enforcement.

The trip is part of Moody’s Thin Tribute initiative, which honors law enforcement officers throughout the state.

“It is always a pleasure to spend time with Floridians who choose a life of service to their community as law enforcement officers,” Moody said. “These courageous individuals work so hard to protect their communities, and it is important, now more than ever, to lift them up and give them our undivided support.”

Notably, the initiative comes as line-of-duty deaths are on the rise. Rather than COVID-19, violent acts are now the leading cause of death in Florida for law enforcement officers. 

Florida is among the deadliest states in the nation for felonious acts against law enforcement officers.

As the wife of a law enforcement officer, I understand the sacrifice and commitment required of those who wear the badge, and I will always stand up for the front-line officers who work, day in and day out, to help us build a Stronger, Safer Florida,” Moody said. 

More information about the Thin Line Tribute can be found online. 

To watch a video of the event, click on the image below:

Bicentennial

Sheriffs in Florida are celebrating the 200th anniversary of their office.

Attorney General Moody presented a Florida Cabinet resolution commemorating 200 years of Florida Sheriffs.

Florida Sheriffs Association President Sheriff Bobby Schultz, FSA Vice President Sheriff Bobby McCallum and FSA Executive Director Steve Casey attended Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting to accept the resolution — passed unanimously by DeSantis and the rest of the Florida Cabinet.

“Over the past two centuries, Florida Sheriffs have worked to uphold the rule of law and protect Floridians while improving our state through unparalleled civic engagement, breaking cycles of crime and changing the lives of troubled youth,” Moody said in a written statement.

Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet announce a resolution to recognize 200 years of Florida Sheriffs.

Florida Military Commissioner, Gov. Andrew Jackson, established the first Florida Office of the Sheriff in 1821 by appointing Sheriffs to Florida’s first two counties. Jackson appointed Henri Piere as Sheriff of Escambia County and James Hannan as Sheriff of St. John’s County.

In 1885, the state of Florida authorized the Office of the Sheriff in the Florida Constitution. Over the next 100 years, Florida established 67 counties throughout the state, each including a Sheriff’s office.

“What began as an appointed position in 1821 soon became a vital office safeguarding the lives and property of Floridians,” Moody said in her statement.

Schultz thanked the Cabinet for recognizing the work and history of Florida’s sheriffs.

“Much like the great State of Florida, the Office of Sheriff has grown and evolved over the last 200 years. Today, sheriffs work tirelessly every day to serve and protect our communities. Thank you, General Moody, Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet for honoring this historic anniversary,” Schultz said in a written statement.

The official anniversary of the Florida Sheriff’s Office is observed on June 21, but this year the bicentennial is being celebrated all year long. 

Veteran of the Month

Agriculture Commissioner Fried named Staff Sergeant Edwin Rivera this week as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Veteran of the Month. 

A Fort Walton Beach native, Rivera served as an Information Manager in the Air Force, overseeing troop award packages and performance review reports. He also served abroad in Saudi Arabia and Honduras.

Congratulations to Staff Sergeant Edwin Rivera, Florida’s Veteran of the month.

Over his career, Rivera earned several awards, including the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. 

“We’re proud of Sergeant Rivera’s military service in the Air Force, his work with veterans treatment courts, and his efforts to help justice-involved veterans return to being productive members of their communities,” Fried said. “His work helping fellow veterans who are getting their lives back on the right track is inspiring. On behalf of the State of Florida, I thank Sergeant Rivera for his service to our state, our nation, and our proud veteran’s community.”

Rivera now serves as a Veterans Treatment Coordinator for Okaloosa County Court Services, working as a liaison between the court, treatment providers, the Veterans Affairs, and veterans.

He holds two associate degrees and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Project Management from Northwest Florida State College.

Rescue rangers

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis traveled to Orlando this week to urge Floridians to prepare for the next hurricane. 

Speaking alongside an urban search and rescue team, Patronis highlighted the importance of readiness and the rescue team’s capabilities.

“I am extremely grateful to the dedicated men and women of the US&R Task Force 4, who train year-round to protect Floridians when a disaster strikes,” Patronis said. “This dedicated team of first responders run toward a storm to save families in the aftermath of a hurricane.”

Jimmy Patronis joins search and rescue crews to urge Floridians to be prepared for a storm.

Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) Florida Task Force 4 is among eight highly trained US&R teams located around the state. 

Together, the team and Patronis noted that experts predict an above-normal hurricane season with three to five major hurricanes.

“It is critical that residents heed all warnings from local authorities and take the proper precautions to stay safe before, during, and after a storm,” Patronis said. “As we’ve seen in the past, hurricanes can form and strengthen quickly, leaving little time to prepare and evacuate.”

Several lawmakers, including Reps. David Smith and Elizabeth Fetterhoff attend the event alongside Orlando Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale

“As Floridians, we know that storms can develop quickly and our dedicated first responders are boots on the ground when a storm hits,” Barksdale said.

H.E.R.O.E.S

At this week’s Cabinet meeting, Patronis presented an Indian River firefighter with an award and a resolution for distinguished service. 

The firefighter, Lieutenant Dustin Hawkins, is the latest first responder to receive the CFO’s H.E.R.O.E.S. award.

The award is for first responders who go above and beyond to protect others. 

“I take great pride in my role of honoring first responders for their courage,” Patronis said. “In addition to Dustin’s dedication as a firefighter, he goes above and beyond to make sure his colleagues are also protected by focusing on firefighter cancer prevention and their mental health.”

Jimmy Patronis and Florida Cabinet recognize Dustin Hawkins, the latest first responder to receive the CFO’s H.E.R.O.E.S. award.

The resolution notes Hawkins’ two decades of service and personal sacrifice with the department’s dive team.

In 2014, Hawkins suffered severe burns while responding to a ship fire. The ensuing physical and emotional rehabilitation turned into a defining moment for Hawkins, the resolution says, leading him to champion mental health within the mental health community. 

“Dustin is largely responsible for the development and recent implementation of the Redline Rescue Program, which is an online portal that matches First Responders in crisis with trained mental health professionals,” the resolution says. 

In addition to firefighting duties, Hawkins serves as director of the Florida Firefighters Safety and Health Collaborative.

The collaborative focuses on cancer prevention and mental health. 

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Enterprise Florida Board of Directors — DeSantis reappointed Sonya Deen Hartley, Scott Ross and Cody Khan to the EFI board. Hartley, of Tallahassee, is VP of government relations for JM Family Enterprises. Previously, she was a senior director with Diageo. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications and public administration from FSU. Ross, of Tallahassee, is a Partner at Capital City Consulting and former deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from FSU and his law degree from Nova Southeastern University. Khan, of Panama City, is chairman and CEO of Oasis Resorts, vice chairman of Hilton and president and CEO of Holiday Golf Course. Khan holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics and a master’s degree in economics. 

University of West Florida Board of Trustees — DeSantis has appointed Dr. Paul Hsu to another term on 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 is also the chairman of the Crestview Technology Air Park. He has been involved with the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council, Emerald Coast Military Affairs Council and the HSU Educational Foundation. Hsu earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Taiwan, his master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Central Missouri, and his Ph.D. in engineering management from LaSalle University. 

Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees DeSantis named Aakash Patel to the Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees. The Tampa resident is the founder and president of Elevate Inc. Previously, he served as director of business development for Chamber.com. Patel is chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, a member of the Tampa Bay Chamber Board of Directors and served on the Super Bowl LV Host Committee. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from FSU.

Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Ismare Monreal and former Rep. Michael Bileca to the Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees. Monreal, of Miami, is the interim VP and dean of students at Johnson and Wales University. She has volunteered with the United Way of Miami-Dade, Archdiocese of Miami Marriage and Family Ministry, and A Safe Haven for Newborns. Monreal earned her associate degree from Miami Dade College, a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix. Bileca, also of Miami, is the executive director of the Dennis Bileca Institute for Character and Excellence. He is the current chair of the Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees and previously served eight years in the state House. Bileca earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Tulane University and his MBA from Northwestern University.

Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission — DeSantis appointed Michael Kessie and James Sewell to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. Kessie, of Bradenton, is the New College of Florida Police Department’s Chief of Police and member of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Professionals. Sewell, of St. Petersburg, is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He is a member of the Florida Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. in criminology from Florida State University.

Criminal and Juvenile Justice Information Systems CouncilCharles Broadway was named to the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Information Systems Council by DeSantis this week. Broadway, of Groveland, is the Clermont Police Department’s Chief of Police. Previously, he was a special agent supervisor with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Broadway is a member of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, West Central Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Board of Directors. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from St. John’s University. 

Florida State Boxing Commission — The Governor has reappointed Dr. Anup Patel to the commission. Patel is a surgeon at Orlando Hand Surgery Associates and a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with the Orlando Plastic Surgery Institute. He is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Patel earned bachelor’s degrees in economics, biochemistry and molecular genetics from the University of Florida, his master’s degree in business administration from the Yale University School of Management, and his medical degree from the Yale University School of Medicine.

Florida Building CommissionW. Grey Marker II, Michael Bourré and Paul Jones were reappointed to the Florida Building Commission. Marker, of Fort Lauderdale, is CEO of Marker Construction Group, a general contracting and construction management firm based in South Florida. He earned his bachelor’s degree in building construction from UF. Bourré, of Fleming Island, is the President of Bourré Construction Group and the Florida Home Builders Association. He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and UF graduate. Jones, of Jacksonville, is the president and CEO of W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor. He also earned his building construction degree from UF.

 

Pay up

A new measure (SB 1532) will update state law regarding Title IV-D child support cases, where a parent needs assistance to force another parent to pay child support.

Sen. Lauren Book is the bill’s sponsor. DeSantis signed the legislation Wednesday. The measure makes changes to how payments are made and how those child support orders are enforced.

If the Department of Revenue has “begun providing Title IV-D services in a case with an existing support order,” the bill requires depositories to create a case in the Clerk of Court Child Support Enforcement Collection System and set up appropriate payment accounts, even if the parent has not yet been delinquent in payments, among other reforms.

Book explained some of the measure’s goals in a Thursday statement following its signing.

Bills signed by Ron DeSantis this week include Lauren Book’s proposal to tighten up the collection of child support.

“At a time when so many Floridians are forced to pick and choose what they can afford on a daily basis, this bill — now Florida law — ensures that contract and gig workers are paying their fair share of child support and that individuals who are incarcerated for crimes against their child or co-parent are classified as willfully unemployed to ensure they’re not off the hook for payment,” Book said.

The legislation also attempts to better educate parents of children with special needs when they file for divorce.

Parents of minor children must take the four-hour Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course, which explains the effects of divorce on children. Book’s bill required parents of children with special needs to take a course tailored to discuss the impact on children “who have special needs or emotional concerns.” A judge may also mandate that those parents attend additional courses to help them navigate the divorce.

“When parents get a divorce, it is a hard thing for any child to go through — let alone a child with special needs,” Book added.

“This legislation will help make sure parents have the information and resources they need to support their special needs children through the changes their family is going through so that everyone can come out stronger on the other side.”

The measure will go into effect on Oct. 1.

Helping the vulnerable

The state of Florida has a new law to help some of its most vulnerable residents.

As many as 4.9 million — or 28% — of Floridians are living with a disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a population that’s underserved, Tallahassee Rep. Allison Tant said. She knows this firsthand because her son, Jeremy, is disabled.

Tant leaned on her real-life experience this past Session to pass legislation, signed by DeSantis Wednesday, that helps families like hers.

“Nobody has walked down this path in that chamber but me. And so, if I don’t speak up and talk about it, then nobody will understand,” Tant said.

Allison Tant’s bill will provide families of children with disabilities a roadmap to necessary services.

The new law directs the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to create a roadmap of state resources for families of people with developmental disabilities and requires that roadmap to be given to every family with a developmentally disabled person, regardless of whether they’re eligible for services or not. The roadmap covers resources from birth to when a caregiver is no longer present.

“This bill was based upon my own life experiences and stumbling upon these resources by happenstance for my son. That was something no other family should have to figure out alone. By providing information on existing resources, this new law will make a big difference for so many families in the state of Florida,” Tant said in a written statement after DeSantis signed the bill.

Sen. Annette Taddeo sponsored the legislation in the upper chamber. 

“The current generation of people with developmental disabilities is the first to routinely outlive their parents’ life spans and ability to provide for them. SB 714 helps families understand what they need to do to help their loved ones become as independent as possible, as well as plan for the eventuality when a caregiver is no longer present. This should be done by every family with a loved one with disabilities regardless of med waiver status. I am proud to have joined forces with Rep. Allison Tant for this initiative,” Taddeo said.

Fallen officers

House Speaker Chris Sprowls thanked lawmakers for putting together SB 1716, which honors three recently fallen law enforcement officers from the Tampa Bay area.

DeSantis signed that measure into law Friday, naming three highways in the area after the officers.

In February, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael J. Magli was tragically hit by a drunken driver while laying “stop sticks” on the road to prevent the driver from going further and endangering lives.

Hillsborough County Sergeant Brian LaVigne was fatally killed in January while responding to a disturbance call when a suspect rammed his patrol car with his vehicle while fleeing a scene.

Chris Latvala was instrumental in a newly signed bill to honor three recently fallen law enforcement officers from the Tampa Bay area.

Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen was killed in March when he purposely drove his patrol car into the car of a wrong-way drunken driver in an attempt to stop him from colliding with other vehicles.

“Deputy Magli, Sergeant LaVigne, and Officer Madsen’s final acts were to save lives in the communities they loved,” Sprowls said. “While no law can replace nor any honorific soothe the loss of life in the hearts of those who loved them, I hope that the naming of these roads may provide comfort to their families that the memory of these heroes will live on long after their time on earth.”

Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Chris Latvala sponsored the measure.

The 411 on 211

Parkland Rep. Christine Hunschofsky wants to call attention to resources in her district. She is hosting an online town hall to let residents know about three agencies for resources in Broward County.

Charlotte Mather-Taylor, Executive Director of the Area Agency on Aging of Broward County, will speak. Her organization develops, coordinates, and evaluates programs, funds services, and is the prime advocate for Broward County residents 60 years of age and older. 

Children’s Services Council of Broward County (CSC) will be represented at the meeting by its President and CEO Cindy Arenberg Seltzer. The CSC funds nearly one hundred programs that serve children and families, advocates for policies that protect children, and provides leadership across the child-serving community. 

In an online town hall, Christine Hunschofsky will spotlight services available to Broward County residents. Image via Colin Hackley.

A Community Outreach Specialist from crisis hotline Broward 2-1-1 will speak at the town hall. Gail Moore, is expected to tell people about the helpline that provides people with crisis, health, and human services support and connects them to resources in our community.

Following the presentations, there will be limited time for questions.

The meeting will take place on Zoom at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22. Attendees must register in advance.

Beautification champion

Keep Florida Beautiful has awarded Rep. Jackie Toledo with its inaugural KFB Legislative Champion Award for supporting environmental protection and beautification.

The organization said Toledo showed no hesitation in championing their priorities this recent Session.

“Living in a coastal community like Tampa reinforces the importance of taking care of our environment,” Toledo said. “It means so much to me to receive this honor and even more so because of my commitment to preserving our beautiful state for the future of all our children.”

Jackie Toledo is recognized for her work to keep Florida beautiful.

Keep Florida Beautiful Executive Director Savanna Christy said support at the state level is critically important to the organization and its 40 local affiliates and directly benefits communities. Some of those include litter removal, new environmental protection programs, recycling education, youth engagement and beautification projects.

“It takes a village to improve, protect and conserve Florida environments to ensure that our communities are clean, green and beautiful places to live, work and play — and the leadership of environmental stewards such as Rep. Jackie Toledo is essential to the effort,” the organization said.

KFB is a nonprofit organization and state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. It engages with more than 200,000 volunteers to remove litter from Florida roads and participate in other beautification programs. KFB receives funding from the FDOT’s DRIVE IT HOME — Keep Our Paradise Litter-Free Campaign to complete successful events across the state.

Award-winning roads

The Department of Transportation seven Outstanding Project Awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida.

Each year, the group recognizes member firms and their transportation accomplishments. FDOT’s Central Office, Districts and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise routinely submit projects for consideration.

“Despite the past year’s challenges, FDOT has continued to deliver significant roadway options and solutions to Florida motorists and taxpayers through collaborative innovations. When we leverage partnerships and expand options for Floridians, we improve the quality of life for the community,” Secretary Kevin Thibault said. “I applaud our teams for these distinctive awards as they are a direct reflection of FDOT’s commitment to providing safe and reliable infrastructure for Floridians for years to come.”

The I-95 Interchange at Ellis Road/St. Johns Heritage Parkway project in Palm Bay was named this year’s Outstanding Major Project.

In Port St. Lucie, the Crosstown Parkway Extension earned Outstanding Design-Build.

In Winter Haven, widening and realignment at SR 542 from 1st Street to Buckeye Loop Road received Outstanding Roadway Project.

The Howell Drive/Ribault River Bridge project in Jacksonville received Outstanding Bridge Project.

The Tampa Interstate Study Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement received Outstanding PD&E/Planning Project.

In Duval County, the SR A1A at Fort George Inlet Park project addressed the safety concerns regarding low-flying seagulls and received Outstanding Environmental Project.

Finally, the Lake-Wekiva Trail AMG Project in Lake County received Outstanding Special Project.

Tag that tegu 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) uses tags to keep tabs on invasive reptiles in the state.

FWC is holding Tag Your Reptile Day events throughout the state to offer pet owners an opportunity to have their pet green iguanas or tegus microchipped for free to help people come into compliance with new rules.

The new rules took effect April 29 and specifically address 16 high-risk invasive reptiles, including pythons, tegus and green iguanas that “pose a threat to Florida’s ecology, economy, and human health and safety,” FWC stated in a news release.

If you own a tagu, it’s time to Tag Your Reptile!

Under the new rules, only high-risk invasive reptiles possessed before April 29, 2021, are allowed permits for personal possession. No new pets of these species may be acquired after the rules take effect.

Owners of any animals kept under this permit are responsible for making sure they mark pets with a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag, otherwise known as a microchip.

The next Tag Your Reptile Day will be held on June 26 at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in the Stiles-Nicholson Education Center in West Palm Beach.

Senior Summit

The Department of Elder Affairs recently hosted this year’s Senior Summit.

The annual event, virtual this year, welcomed nearly 400 elders and advocates to honor seniors and highlight entertainment, celebrations, and stories across the Sunshine State.

“DOEA and the Aging Network came together to present a remarkable virtual Senior Summit event,” said Secretary Richard Prudom. “Florida continues to put Seniors First and show the nation our seniors are resilient. One of the Department’s most important goals is to honor and celebrate our elders, and the Senior Summit is the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Prudom co-hosted the event with Feeding Florida Executive Director Robin Safley. Speakers included Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who discussed the importance of vaccinations; Florida Alzheimer’s Association Vice President Michelle Branham, who highlighted Project: VITAL; and AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson, who shared the impact of livable communities statewide.

Also at the event was the Department of Elder Affairs’ Restaurant Meal Initiative, which highlighted Padrino’s Cuban Restaurant and Offerdahl’s Off-the-Grill to serve the state’s elderly.

And the event’s hit was 2020 Ms. Senior Florida Edina McGrath, a 94-year-old tap dancer who dazzled attendees with her routine.

To watch scenes from the Senior Summit, click on the image below:

Gap Map

The Florida Chamber Foundation hopes to slash childhood poverty by half and get 100% of third-graders reading at grade level by 2030.

The Florida Gap Map is a major tool in its arsenal. The Gap Map visualizes data on reading rates down to the school level, and poverty rates down to the ZIP code.

When it launched in September 2020, the project’s poverty data included all Florida children under 18. It still does, but this week the Florida Chamber gave users the ability to drill down further and see childhood poverty rates and numbers by ZIP code for Florida’s under 12-year-old population.

“Equity gaps exist in Florida, and Florida’s global competitiveness depends on a world-class education system,” Florida Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Mark Wilson said. “With continuous advancements to this first-in-the-nation interactive tool, the Florida Gap Map provides a more detailed view of where we can track childhood poverty and educational gaps, and additionally a more detailed view of where the Florida Chamber Foundation, its partners and the Florida business community can unite to implement solutions.”

The data shows that over half of Florida’s 829,342 children in poverty live in just 15% of Florida’s 983 ZIP codes. By adding data on the under-12 population, the business community will better focus its efforts to combat childhood poverty.

The Florida Gap Map is viewable by anyone. Those who wish to help the Chamber in its efforts can reach out to Florida Chamber Foundation Equality of Opportunity leader Kyle Baltuch via [email protected]

To learn more about how the Chamber is addressing the reading gap, click on the image below:

Search & rescue

Engineer organizations are thanking the Governor for signing legislation to ensure Florida has search and rescue first responders.

DeSantis signed SB 1060 into law Thursday. The measure will extend liability protections to urban search and rescue structures specialists, joining 25 other states that have already done that.

“With hurricane season upon us, this new law will help ensure Florida has enough structures specialists during declared disasters to help first responders safely enter and navigate collapsed buildings to rescue victims,” said Allen Douglas, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida and the Florida Engineering Society.

Structures specialists sometimes volunteer their services during declared disasters to help rescue crews to move or shore up debris to rescue victims in and around collapsed structures. However, due to Florida’s highly litigious environment, the number of professionals volunteering their services has dramatically diminished.

Florida’s urban search and rescue structures specialists now enjoy extended liability protections.

Additionally, hurricane season is becoming more intense and hurricanes more frequent with climate change, and the job is getting more dangerous, specialists say.

“It’s important for Florida to be proactive and ensure that we have the Urban Search and Rescue Structures Specialists needed to aid and protect first responders entering collapsed structures in search of life. It’s just common sense,” said Jonathan W. Milton, President of Milton Engineering Consultants in Stuart.

According to the organizations, since 2017, the number of professional engineers volunteering their services to aid first responder crews in rescuing victims from collapsed structures has dropped by 60%. That’s partly because of the state’s highly litigious environment.

“Urban Search and Rescue is a dangerous undertaking that’s conducted in buildings that are fully or partially collapsed. First responders are exposed to greater dangers when they don’t have an engineer helping them determine the least hazardous means of entry into a collapsed building. They shouldn’t be placed in greater danger than they already are,” said Andrew Schrader, founder of Recon Response Engineering in St. Petersburg.

Child welfare funding

Florida Institute for Child Welfare will receive $10 million in recurring funding from the state budget.

The institute, part of the Florida State University College of Social Work, will help fund asks the Legislature has made over the past two sessions, including Senate President Wilton Simpson‘s priority measure SB 80. Additionally, it will help develop and implement a statewide professional development network to provide ongoing and accessible support for child welfare professionals.

“The continued support of the Legislature and Gov. DeSantis ensures the Florida Institute for Child Welfare can carry on its mission to care for the children of Florida and scale up those efforts with the recent appropriation,” said Jim Clark, dean and professor in the FSU College of Social Work.

Dean Jim Clark is cheering additional state money for the Florida State University College of Social Work child welfare project.

The Legislature established the institute in 2014 to promote safety, permanency and well-being among children and families in the child welfare system.

The extra funding will radically expand the institute’s scope, it says.

“We are looking forward to reshaping and re-imagining the Institute and co-creating a new vision for the work ahead,” said Jessica Pryce, director of the Florida Institute for Child Welfare. “Efforts to execute legislative mandates will be prioritized.”

Capitol Directions

 

Staff Reports


One comment

  • Tom

    June 19, 2021 at 6:45 am

    Well I count at least 4 major wins by America’s Governor this past week. Wow, it’s a technical knockout if a match. Capped by the late Friday ruling by the federal judge challenging CDC in favor for Florida. State Unemployment will tick down even further due to this effort. A Governor on behalf of the people.

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