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A fond farewell
After a brief hiatus, Peter Schorsch and Jared Moskowitz are back with a new episode of “State of Emergency” — because, sometimes, life gets in the way. The two discuss Peter’s time off to deal with the emergency health issue of his wife, and Jared’s upcoming colonoscopy. Of course, they also play some catch-up on the top stories that broke since they last entered the studio. Listen here:
Hundreds said farewell Friday at the Florida Historic Capitol to legendary FSU football coach Bobby Bowden.
Bowden, who propelled FSU football into collegiate stardom, died Sunday at his home from pancreatic cancer. He was 91.
“I’m emotional, but God bless him and his family,” said outgoing Florida State University President John Thrasher. “He was a wonderful man.”
While many fans extended a brief and silent goodbye, others reflected on Bowden’s legacy aloud.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis praised the local hero as an on and off-the-field leader.
“You’ll never have a coach lead a college football program in national collegiate sports ever again the way he did,” Patronis said. “It just won’t ever happen.”
There’s more to Bowden’s legacy than football.
Speaking to Florida Politics, Patronis shared the story of former NFL player and Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon.
Simon, who played college football at FSU, initially committed to another university.
That decision changed, however, after Bowden made a personal promise to Simon’s mother.
“Coach Bowden told Corey’s mama: ‘I’m gonna take care of your boy,’” Patronis recalled. “That’s all it took for his mama to want Corey to be with Coach Bowden. Not only did he look out for these guys on the field, but he looked out for them professionally.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Simon to lead the service and volunteerism agency in December.
Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando also attended the homage.
Alongside family, she paid respects to Bowden and shared words of encouragement with his widow, Ann Bowden.
“I was especially interested in talking to his wife and thanking her for all the things that she did to help him make his career successful,” Stewart said. “There’s always a good woman behind a good man.”
DeSantis honored Bowden earlier this year with the first Governor’s Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award the Governor can give.
During his 44-year coaching career, Bowden amassed 377 wins — 304 of them at FSU — and a collection of Atlantic Coast Conference titles and two national championships. He is also one of a handful of college football coaches to develop two Heisman trophy winners, Charlie Ward in 1993 and Chris Weinke in 2000.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Haley Brown and the staff of Florida Politics.
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
DeSantis threatens school board salaries, then clarifies — The DeSantis administration threatened to withhold the salaries of school board members and superintendents who violate the ban on mask mandates in schools. But the administration is now clarifying that the state doesn’t control local employees’ pay. Instead, the state could sanction officials’ school districts and ask them to dock their pay voluntarily. The White House is exploring ways it could intervene if the administration follows through on its threat. School districts could possibly use the remaining American Rescue Plan dollars assigned to districts to compensate for the cuts. An emergency Department of Education meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to possibly act against Alachua and Broward counties for violating the opt-out rule.
CDC flubs Florida COVID-19 data — The CDC incorrectly reported 28,317 new cases in Florida for Sunday instead of the 15,319 the Department of Health logged. That mistake led some officials to suggest the CDC made the error intentionally. Chief Financial Officer Patronis told Fox and Friends, “I just think it goes back to just the obsession duel between the Governor and the President.” DeSantis similarly called the Biden administration obsessed with Florida, but didn’t suggest the CDC meant to misreport the data. “I don’t know what exactly happened. I don’t know what the motivation is. But as you alluded to, the White House, they’re more concerned about trying to attack me than actually dealing with the problems of the country.”
Census releases redistricting data; lawmakers promise fairness — With local level population out from the U.S. Census Bureau, the table is set for the Legislature to redraw the state’s House, Senate and congressional districts. Official census data will come next month after COVID-19 caused the delay, but legislative leaders can get a head start on analysis. Sen. Ray Rodrigues, who leads the Senate’s redistricting team, thinks a lawsuit is inevitable. Senate President Wilton Simpson asked senators to prepare accordingly. Suburbs grew over the last decade, according to the data. And Florida now has three counties with majority Hispanic populations and six in which White people are not a majority of the population.
HHS’ ventilator shipment draws questions — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent 200 ventilators to Florida this week as part of what the DeSantis administration called a routine shipment. But the timing with a spike in hospitalizations and apparent confusion from the Governor regarding a reporter’s question on the matter helped spark concerns that hospitals weren’t prepared for the load. Initially, DeSantis said Florida never asked for assistance. Still, after realizing the confusion between ventilators and respirators, as the reporter asked, the administration said the state Department of Health was only being prepared. “There is no shortage of ventilators in Florida,” DeSantis’ spokeswoman said Wednesday.
DeSantis hands out teacher, first responder bonuses — The Governor traveled the state this week to hand $1,000 checks to first responders and teachers as a thank you for their work during the pandemic. Many school districts across Florida started school this week. “When you look at it from a state standpoint — the economy, everything — COVID attacked us, and our teachers fought back,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told teachers in St. Petersburg. And in Surfside, where crews had responded to the condo collapse earlier this summer, DeSantis thanked them for responding to that tragedy and the pandemic.
The Division of Emergency Management has awarded more than $5 billion to local governments for disaster recovery since DeSantis took office.
That’s the most funding the division has paid out within less than three years of a new administration. Nearly $3 billion of that funding has been paid out within the past year.
DEM has helped fight hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, wildfires and COVID-19.
Speaking in Panama City this week, the Governor highlighted that milestone while discussing the state’s assistance for Hurricane Michael recovery after the storm hit in October 2018.
“When I took office, I instructed the Division to overhaul their recovery funding procedures to make sure we were delivering relief to communities impacted by recent disasters as quickly as possible,” DeSantis said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the incredible progress we have made in supporting recovery efforts statewide, and we remain committed to expediting recovery funding.”
Since DeSantis took office in 2019, DEM has distributed more than $3.35 billion in FEMA Public Assistance, $1.23 billion in CARES Act funding to local governments with populations under 500,000, $300 million for citrus growers, and $100 million for timber producers.
“Under Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, the Division has been able to ensure local governments have every resource available to recover from recent disasters,” FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie said. “While we have crossed an incredible milestone for disaster recovery funding, we still have work to do. As we continue to make strides in disaster recovery, the Division remains committed to empowering community stakeholders to build a resilient state.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody urges the FCC to expedite the effective date of legislation intended to crack down on robocalls.
While larger companies were required to implement the STIR/SHAKEN technology in June 2021, the act allows smaller phone companies to wait till June 2023.
The wait, Moody said, is harming residents.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Floridians have been bombarded with countless robocalls — many of them scams attempting to gather sensitive information for nefarious purposes,” Moody said.
The coalition is requesting that smaller companies implement the technology no later than June 2022.
Joining Moody are attorneys general from states including New York, California and Texas.
“It will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to stop these annoying, often illegal calls and that is why I am joining my colleagues from across the country in asking the FCC to take swift, decisive action in moving up the compliance deadline,” Moody said.
More information about the act is available online.
The coalition’s comments to the FCC are also available online.
To watch a video from Moody on additional efforts to stop illegal robocalls, click on the image below:
Isn’t that convenient?
Convenience store owner turned crime fighter? It’s an odd origin story for a superhero, but Moody encourages that narrative by enlisting convenience store owners from across Florida to help law enforcement solve crimes.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Tampa, Moody highlighted a new partnership to encourage anonymous crime reporting to the state’s crime reporting tip line **TIPS.
Stickers with information on the statewide crime-stopping program will be displayed in approximately 7,000 gas stations and convenience stores across the state. The goal is to publicize the first-of-its-kind statewide phone number, **TIPS, that sends calls to the local Crime Stoppers agency from anywhere in Florida. That phone line was created last year.
“Law enforcement cannot fight crime alone. Everyone has the ability to stop crime and save lives by anonymously reporting information to law enforcement. This is a message we hope to spread throughout Florida through our new partnership with convenience stores who are joining our efforts to help solve crimes. Floridians can report crime using **TIPS or the new Florida Crime Stoppers app. Tipsters can remain anonymous and could receive thousands of dollars for information that leads to an arrest,” read a written statement from Moody.
To organize the participation of convenience stores, Moody’s Office is partnering with the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association.
At the news conference, Moody also announced a new Florida Crime Stoppers smartphone app that allows tipsters to submit tips about unsolved crimes anonymously.
To watch a video of the announcement, click on the image below:
Do not mess with saw palmetto berries. That’s the message the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) sent to Floridians when they announced the arrest of three people caught illegally harvesting the overly-exploited plant.
The palmetto plant is listed on FDACS commercially exploited plant index. Harvesting saw palmetto berries in Florida requires a permit from FDACS.
Saw palmetto is sometimes used as a nutritional supplement because some think it has diuretic, sedative, aphrodisiac, and cough-reducing properties.
Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement investigators took a proactive approach to catch saw-palmetto-harvesting-bandits by patrolling Martin and Palm Beach counties to look for people committing crimes often associated with illegal harvest violations, such as trespassing and theft.
According to a news release from FDACS, during the enforcement initiative, three suspects were observed attempting to sell saw palmetto berries to a local buyer in Indiantown in Martin County. The local buyer was operating out of a permanently parked travel trailer used seasonally to buy palmetto berries. Officials conducted an inspection and determined that none of the three suspects had the required permit to possess or transport saw palmetto berries.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is grateful saw palmettos can grow aside safer streets now that the rule-breakers have been caught.
“I am grateful for our department’s law enforcement investigators who are working diligently every day to safeguard our state, including protecting landowners and our natural resources from illegal harvesting,” read a written statement from Fried. “With recent arrests of those illegally harvesting saw palmetto berries, we are sending a strong message that you either follow the rules and obtain an FDACS permit, or there will be serious consequences.”
Floridians in July recovered more than $43 million in unclaimed property.
Unclaimed property is a financial asset that is lost or unknown by its owners. Such assists may include dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, or abandoned safety deposit boxes.
“I’m excited to announce that in July, we returned more than $43 million in unclaimed property back to the pockets of Floridians,” Patronis said. “Since becoming CFO, I made it my mission to return every cent of unclaimed property back to its rightful owners.”
Patronis encouraged all Floridians to search for unclaimed property that may belong to them or their loved ones.
The odds, he said, are good.
“There’s an estimated one in five chance that you or a family member has money just waiting to be claimed, free-of-charge,” Patronis added. “It only takes a few minutes to search for unclaimed property, and I encourage individuals and business owners to search right now at FLTreasureHunt.gov.”
Unclaimed property returns have climbed in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic and elevated unemployment.
In July, Miami residents recovered $14.3 million, and Orlando residents recouped $6.5 million. Residents of Tampa and St. Petersburg, meanwhile, recovered $9.9 million.
The Florida Department of Financial Services is the custodian of unclaimed goods.
Instagram of the week
The week in appointments
Mid-Bay Bridge Authority — The Governor appointed James Wood Jr. to the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority on Friday. A former Destin City Council Member and U.S. Army veteran, Wood was involved with the Lions Club, Destin Chamber of Commerce, Active Retired Men of Destin, Destin Seafood Festival and the Mattie Kelly Arts Festival. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Mississippi State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Auburn University at Montgomery.
Hillsborough County Aviation Authority — DeSantis appointed Gary Harrod and Arthur “Chip” Diehl to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Harrod, of Tampa, is president and CEO of Harrod Properties and the current chair of the Aviation Authority. He is also vice-chair of the University of Tampa Board of Trustees and serves on The Bank of Tampa Board of Directors. Harrod earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Texas Tech University. Diehl, also of Tampa, is the managing director of Diehl and Associates. He served 29 years in the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 2005 as a Brigadier General. He is a member of the Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees, the Florida Defense Support Task Force, and the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance. He earned his bachelor’s degree in math from the U.S. Air Force Academy and master’s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California.
Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors — DeSantis named David Bear to the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors on Friday. The Pensacola resident is Vice President of The Lewis Bear Company, chair of the Escambia County Tourist Development Council, and vice-chair of the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance. Bear is also vice-chair of the Florida Beer Wholesaler Association, Founder and Trustee Emeritus of Art, Culture and Entertainment Inc., and a past president of the Creative Learning Academy. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Belhaven College.
Sen. Gary Farmer took another opportunity to wade into the state’s raging school mask wars. The Democrat issued a statement Thursday to support the decision made by the Broward County School Board, which is in his district, to require masks in school.
The School Board’s decision goes against DeSantis’ executive order prohibiting schools from requiring masks.
“I want to thank members of the Broward County School Board for taking the brave action that was absolutely necessary to protect our children, teachers, faculty, staff and their families from the very real threat of COVID-19. I believe that every person in our school system should strive to be an example for the students that they serve. By standing up to the bully in the Governor’s Mansion like they did today, the Broward County School Board set a shining example for our kids,” read Farmer’s statement in part.
Farmer went on to predict the governor will “lash out in anger” over the School Board’s decision “as he usually does.”
“Bully” has become a familiar swipe for Democrats to take against the Governor ever since he threatened to withhold school board members’ salaries and superintendents who defy his order. Agriculture Commissioner and Democrat-running-for-Governor-in-2022 Fried also called DeSantis a “bully on the playground” Tuesday.
Farmer also weighed in on another school mask issue after the State Board of Education passed an emergency rule to allow students to use “Hope scholarships” to transfer to a private school or another district to avoid a mask mandate.
In a letter sent to Education Commissioner Corcoran, Farmer warned the passage of that rule was unlawful. He doesn’t think it would stand up to a court challenge because the Department of Education can only adopt and develop rules passed by the legislature and needs certain justification to pass emergency rules, which Farmer said, in this instance, they don’t have.
This week, the Florida League of Cities presented Rep. Tracie Davis with the 2021 Legislative Appreciation Award.
The award is presented to lawmakers who advocate on behalf of the League and its member cities.
According to their website, the League represents more than 400 cities, towns and villages across the state.
“My belief as an elected official and servant leader is advocating for and defending the voices of the people I represent,” Davis said in a statement. “This past Legislative Session was particularly difficult because of the types of legislation introduced and passed that chip away at the ability of our local governments to make the right decisions for the communities they directly interact with.”
The League applauded Davis for battling against preemption and unfunded mandates.
They also recognized Davis’s efforts to rally fellow lawmakers around home rule and local government.
Davis, a Democrat, represents parts of Duval County.
“I will continue being a champion of home rule and will continue to do what I can to preserve decision-making at the local level,” Davis said.
As local school leaders continue to clash with the state about masks in schools, lawmakers weigh in too. One Democratic representative is taking his case to the White House.
Orlando Rep. Travaris McCurdy sent a letter to President Joe Biden Thursday, personally appealing for emergency help for the people of Florida.
“As doors swing open to a new school year, educators have been cowed by a governor and his administration’s banishment of mask mandates endorsed by the scientific community as effective prevention measures. Those bold enough to buck the Governor are now threatened with loss of school funding, including their salaries — effectively defunding public education under the guise of so-called “freedom.” There is no “freedom” in illness. There is no “freedom” when the welfare and health of our fellow citizens are held under constant threat to serve someone’s ambitions.
DeSantis signed an executive order at the end of July that threatened to cut school district budgets where mask mandates were issued.
Two school districts, Alachua and Broward, defied DeSantis’ order and are facing penalties, which will be decided in an emergency state Board of Education meeting Monday.
In the race of who can be the first Democrat to align themselves with Biden over the contentious school mask issue, Fried technically won.
Fried vowed last week to work with the White House to find a way for the federal government to pick up the tab for any funding losses schools incur as a result of mask policies that follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that advise indoor masking for all teachers and students regardless of vaccination status.
National Safe Digging Day was Wednesday. Say it isn’t so that it passed without you noticing?
With so many things in this universe to dig for, you may be wondering, what is this day about? No metaphors here. The day, established by the Public Service Commission, refers to good old-fashioned digging.
According to the Florida Public Service Commission, awareness about the dangers of digging is vital because people who just go digging around — especially large-scale digging projects — can run into some gritty situations.
To avoid potentially hazardous situations, National Digging Day draws attention to a hotline, 811, for people to call to find out about underground utilities before they start digging.
Consider these facts released by the Florida Public Service Commission:
“Every six minutes, an underground utility line is damaged because someone digs without calling 811. With more than 20 million miles of underground utilities nationwide, accidental dig-ins can occur anywhere there is a buried utility line, from a residential backyard to a major construction site. Breaking natural gas lines can result in steep fines and unexpected costs and long delays while repairs occur.”
Consider checking before you dig a societal duty in a developed nation like the U.S., where infrastructure abounds.
“The few minutes it takes to call 811 before you dig helps prevent injuries and can save you a lot of time, money, and work,” read a written statement from PSC Chairman Gary Clark. “Florida’s ‘Sunshine 811’ ensures that Floridians can dig safely and reminds us that safe digging is everyone’s responsibility.”
Plan on digging? In Florida, when you call 811, it connects you to Sunshine 811. Their operators notify your local utilities that send locaters to your dig site to mark the approximate location of buried lines with flags or paint. Diggers can also visit www.call811.com.
Health Center Week
More than 1.6 million Floridians, many uninsured, rely on Community Health Centers to access health care services they could not receive anywhere else.
DeSantis recognized their critical role in the state’s health care system by designating Aug. 8-14 as “National Health Center Week.”
“These Centers are on the front lines of every emerging health care crisis, providing testing, treatment, and vaccinations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Governor said in his proclamation. “There is an ongoing need for Community Health Centers across our state as part of Florida’s enduring commitment to quality primary health care.”
The Florida Association of Community Health Centers said the week is welcome recognition for their member clinics’ work to help Floridians access affordable, high-quality care.
Florida’s network of Community Health Centers and related facilities have a presence in every Florida county. They provide a full range of services, including primary care, chronic disease management, dental care, pediatric care, veteran care, behavioral health and pharmacy.
Since the pandemic began, they’ve stepped up to provide easy access to coronavirus testing — and later vaccines.
“Community Health Centers play a crucial role in protecting the well-being of all Floridians by providing critical health care services to vulnerable populations, and we thank Gov. DeSantis for recognizing this vital mission,” said Andrew Behrman, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers.
“Our Centers are an integral part of Florida communities and have played an instrumental role in the response to the pandemic. We’re grateful for this recognition and look forward to celebrating the hard work and resiliency of our Centers.”
Florida State’s Information Security & Privacy Office director, Joe Brigham, has won the university’s Employee of the Year Award this year.
Brigham, who President John Thrasher selected for the Max Carraway Employee of the Year Award, joined Information Technology Services at FSU in 2015. A few months later, he was named the ISPO’s program director.
The Carraway award earns him two football tickets, a $1,000 stipend, and a reserved parking space for one year.
Renisha Gibbs, an associate vice president at the university and the finance and administration chief of staff, called Brigham essential to the ISPO’s mission. That office is responsible for the security of the university’s technological resources.
“With the major shift to hybrid work and reliance on technology during the pandemic, the importance of data security cannot be underscored enough,” Gibbs said. “The university is grateful for exceptional employees like Joe Brigham who help us continue our work safely.”
The university created the Carraway award in 2008 to recognize employees who exemplify a caring attitude and provide consistent service excellence to FSU customers.
“Cybersecurity, information privacy, technology and compliance programs are inherently complex and cross-functional in nature,” Brigham said. “FSU faculty, staff, administrators and students have proved to be effective collaborators on these initiatives, offering invaluable insight, input and support that we continue to learn from and apply to our programs on a regular basis.”
Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson expects students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors when the fall semester starts later this month.
“Our expectation for the fall semester is for all of our students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated to not only protect yourselves and the people you love, but others as well, including this University. There is no reason for that not to happen,” Robinson said at a staff meeting this week.
Robinson, who last week received an above-average rating from members of the Board of Trustees, followed that up with a letter to the university community explaining those expectations, calling vaccinations and masking two tools for personal health highlighted by medical experts.
“Everyone at Florida A&M University has an obligation to the FAMU-LY to take steps to prevent further transmission of COVID-19,” Robinson said. “We are in this together, and we all have important roles in furthering our personal health and that of fellow students and colleagues.”
The FAMU School of Allied Health Sciences recently lent ventilators to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and Capital Regional Medical Center to help combat a recent surge of hospitalizations because of the delta variant.
Florida Trend has named Capital City Bank one of its “Best Companies to Work For in Florida” for 2021.
This marks the 10th year the Florida Trend has selected the bank. This year, it ranked 19th in the business magazine’s “Large Companies” category.
“Capital City Bank is honored to be recognized among the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ for the tenth consecutive year,” Capital City Bank Group Chairman, President and CEO Bill Smith. “Since first opening our doors in 1895, we’ve endured wars, economic downturns and profound industry changes. It has been a challenging year. However, through it all, the Capital City family has consistently put our people first, offering associates the opportunity to grow and build careers in a stimulating, safe and progressive environment.”
Capital City Bank has hired 160 new associates throughout the pandemic. The company began reopening its offices in May 2020.
FloridaTrend created the “Best Companies to Work For” list in conjunction with the Best Companies Group. Participating companies are scored on workplace policies, practice, philosophies, systems and demographics.
The process also includes a survey to measure employee satisfaction.