Takeaways from Tallahassee — On second thought …

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
After making waves, Manny Diaz does the backstroke.

On second thought …

Senate Health Policy Chair Manny Diaz made waves this week when he suggested his committee could reopen the book on vaccine mandates.

Not to reconsider his and other GOP lawmakers’ opposition to the policy requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend school or hold a government job — that’s pretty much locked in under current state laws and executive orders, with some facing legal challenges.

Instead, Diaz indicated his committee would “review” the current list of vaccines required for children to enroll in day care, prekindergarten or K-12 schools.

The list includes shots that have been around for decades.

Manny Diaz walks back on vaccine reviews. Image via Colin Hackley.

The Greatest Generation were earning their diplomas when the combination shot for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis debuted. And many a boomer remembers lining up for a sugar cube wetted by the polio vaccine (it’s administered as an injection these days).

Public health experts estimate those vaccines and others on the list have saved millions of lives collectively, with little downside.

Diaz acknowledged as much, noting they were in a separate class from the COVID-19 vaccines.

“I think there’s a distinction when you have something that is proven to work and doesn’t have any side effects,” Diaz said.

Still, the backlash was fast and fierce.

The comments section for the Florida Politics+ original and its reprints were septic tanks of four-letter-word-laden rebukes. While less profane, some of the Hialeah Republican’s Senate colleagues — mostly Democrats — were equally incensed.

“I’m in utter disbelief. Not only would this be dangerous, but it’s a move to motivate the anti-vax base. When was the last time we saw cases of measles, mumps or even chickenpox?? VACCINES WORK,” Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo tweeted.

It appears the was received, as Diaz walked back the review plan.

“I in no way, shape, or form intend to change the existing vaccination statutes for Florida schoolchildren,” he told Florida Politics on Friday.

But he’s not backing down on the COVID-19 vaccine, which U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona supports making a requirement for eligible schoolchildren.

“However, I will stand on the side of freedom and the state retaining its power to review any emergency vaccination use imposed by the federal government,” he said. “I do believe a review is necessary if and when any new government-mandated vaccinations are introduced.”

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

Take 5

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

Texas-style heartbeat abortion bill filed — Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby has filed a bill that would ban abortions after a fetus develops a heartbeat, legislation party leaders have been working on since the U.S. Supreme Court let a similar bill take effect in Texas. Like the Texas law, Barnaby’s bill circumvents abortion law precedent by putting the onus of enforcement on private individuals, not state law enforcement. Most women aren’t aware they are pregnant by the time a fetus develops a heartbeat. And tying sounds from a fetus to a heartbeat is “misleading,” medical experts said. Democrats resoundingly criticized Republicans for bringing the measure forward. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who faces reelection next year, has struggled to give a precise statement on the legislation but has called himself “pro-life.”

New Surgeon General makes student quarantining optional — DeSantis named a new Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, to replace Dr. Scott Rivkees, whose contract expired this week. Like his new boss, Ladapo opposes mask mandates, government shutdowns and vaccine mandates. On Wednesday, one of his first actions as Surgeon General was signing new protocols allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. He also tweaked the state’s prohibition against school mask mandates, forcing that lawsuit to return to square one. On Tuesday, he told reporters Florida would “reject fear” in COVID-19 policy.

Committee weeks start ahead of 2022 — Legislators returned to Tallahassee for an abbreviated workweek, marking the first committee week ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session. Agency officials briefed lawmakers with updates stemming from recent legislation. And the table is set for several priorities for next year, including hospital policy and redistricting. As the already strained nursing industry continues to struggle under the weight of the pandemic, one area to address will be telehealth. And with last year’s census, redistricting panels met multiple times to brief lawmakers on the topic that even some veterans of the process aren’t familiar with.

Biden administration reimburses school officials — Alachua County Public Schools became the first school district in the nation Thursday to receive federal funds to cover money the state withheld over school mask requirements. The Education Department sent the district an initial grant of $147,719 through a federal program formed this month under President Joe Biden. The Project SAFE program is in response to DeSantis and other governors withholding the paychecks of school district officials that required mask mandates in schools. Although masking has been a point of contention between parents, schools, the DeSantis administration and the federal government in recent months, DeSantis remained silent on the matter this week.

Uthmeier named Chief of Staff — DeSantis General Counsel James Uthmeier will be promoted to Chief of Staff following Adrian Lukis’ departure next month. The Northwest Florida Daily News reported that Uthmeier, who has served the Governor’s Office since March 2019, will become DeSantis’ top aide on Oct. 1. Uthmeier will be DeSantis’ third Chief of Staff, both in his first term and in 2021. Lukis replaced Shane Strum in March. Uthmeier was promoted from deputy to chief General Counsel in October 2020. He’ll step in with a little over a year till DeSantis faces reelection in November 2022.

Land conservation

During this week’s meeting, DeSantis and the Cabinet approved seven Florida Forever land acquisitions and conservation easements totaling 20,000 acres.

The projects span Hardee, Hendry, Indian River, Leon, Okeechobee and Santa Rosa counties. All but the Leon County project, 19,739 acres in total, are within the new Florida Wildlife Corridor.

“Land conservation is an essential tool for environmental protection,” DeSantis said. “I thank the Florida Cabinet for their support in approving these critical land acquisitions and conservation easements which will conserve Florida’s wide array of natural lands, protect our wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.”

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton thanked DeSantis and the Cabinet for supporting conservation efforts.

Shawn Hamilton celebrates the state’s acquisition of 20,000 acres for conservation.

“Through partnerships, the Florida Forever program will continue to provide citizens and visitors alike a sanctuary for enjoying the natural beauty Florida has to offer,” Hamilton said. “With today’s approvals, these parcels will be conserved into perpetuity — protected for generations to come.”

Several conservation organizations also thanked state leadership for their environmental support.

“Protecting critical parcels of land, such as those on the agenda of the Florida Cabinet, is not only necessary for wildlife such as the Florida panther, black bear and gopher tortoise, but also for water resources and nature’s ability to adapt to a changing climate,” said one advocate, Nature Conservancy in Florida Executive Director Temperince Morgan. “Acquiring lands under the Florida Forever program continues to allow for conservation of biodiversity at a landscape-scale level, and The Nature Conservancy wholeheartedly supports the approval by the Florida Cabinet.”

Superhero Award

Attorney General Ashely Moody and Sen. Lauren Book are heroes, according to the American Children’s Campaign.

The organization honored Moody with a Superhero Award for advocating for sex-trafficked children and young adults. Meanwhile, Book was honored for reforming the treatment of public-school children with disabilities.

Florida ranks third in the nation for reports of human trafficking.

In 2019, Florida accounted for 896 human trafficking reports to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Most of the reports, 640, were for sex trafficking and 172 reports involved minors.

Ashely Moody and Lauren Book are honest-to-goodness superheroes.

With support from the Attorney General’s Office, Voices for Florida launched the Open Doors Outreach Network in 2017 to serve child and young adult victims of sex trafficking. Moody took up the mantle in 2019 when she became Attorney General.

To date, 1,249 victims have been served.

Book was the Senate sponsor of a bill (SB 192) last Session that ended seclusion and limited physical restraints for students with disabilities. That bill passed the House and Senate unanimously, and DeSantis approved it in June.

Florida currently averages over 8,500 incidents of physical restraints being used on children in public schools annually. Most restraints were on young children (Pre-K — third grade).

The Superhero Award honors people who envision or lead a transformational change for children. Fourteen people, primarily private citizens and advocates, have received Superhero awards since the American Children’s Campaign began in 1992.

“The common denominator for receiving a Superhero award is the large-scale transformative change that can be achieved,” said the group’s President, Roy Miller. “It recognizes system reform that fundamentally changes children’s lives for the better.”

House Democratic Co-Leader Bobby DuBose recently received the organization’s Superhero Protector of Children Award for sponsoring the House counterpart (HB 149) to Book’s bill.

Forestry firefighter honored

This week, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried recognized Senior Forest Ranger David Sechrist as the 2020 Forestry Firefighter of the Year.

Sechrist began with the Florida Forest Service in 2010 and rose to the rank of Senior Forest Ranger by 2018, serving in the Jacksonville Forestry District.

Notably, Fried said he was among the nation’s first Incident Management Teams to respond to a wildfire amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Sechrist, shown here with his family, is the 2020 Forestry Firefighter of the Year.

“David’s service to his fellow firefighters through teaching, mentoring, training, and helping his colleagues recover from Hurricane Michael are exemplary, as are his professionalism in protecting not only life and property in Florida, but in the ongoing western wildfires, as well, Fried added.

The Florida Cabinet recognized Sechrist’s “outstanding service” at a meeting earlier this week. Sechrist helped implement COVID-19 safety protocol for fire line workers. He also deploys several times a year on national wildfire assignments.

Florida Forest Service Director Erin Albury said wildland firefighters work in some of the most challenging and perilous conditions.

“David Sechrist has always demonstrated strong leadership, and his willingness to support his fellow firefighters goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Albury said. “I commend David on this well-deserved honor and thank him for his selfless commitment to serve.”

Bell ringer

Led by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, members of the Florida Cabinet honored Florida’s fallen firefighters this week at the state capitol in a “Ringing of the Bell” ceremony.

During the ceremony, 18 fallen firefighters were honored as their names were inscribed on the Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial in the Capitol Courtyard.

“They dedicated their lives to their communities and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Patronis said. “With the Ringing of the Bell tradition, we honor those who have given so much and who have served with dedication, compassion and dignity. With each ring, we mark the ending of a final call for the brave souls honored on these walls, the ones who lost their lives bravely and with honor.”

The ceremony came in the wake of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack and the more recent search and rescue efforts in Surfside.

Patronis noted the hard work and sacrifice of first responders in his remarks.

“This year, as we reflect on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 and the tragic condo collapse in Surfside, it further emphasizes for everyone the tremendous sacrifices our first responders give to keep our communities safe,”

Patronis said. “God bless these fallen heroes and their families.”

To watch the bell-ringing ceremony, click on the image below:

Search & rescue

This week, Patronis honored search and rescue workers for their response to the Champlain Towers Condominium Collapse in Surfside.

Patronis presented members of Florida’s Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces with a Cabinet resolution, noting the hard work and sacrifices made by first responders on the ground.

“These men and women left their families and homes to run into unknown danger, working for 29 days straight in the worst conditions imaginable to save lives,” Patronis said. “They faced falling debris, fires, rain and tropical storm winds. I cannot thank the more than 800 members of State and Federal Task Forces enough for their service to the Surfside community and the state of Florida.”

Jimmy Patronis stands tall with the heroes of Surfside.

The Surfside Condo Collapse ranks among the worst disasters in state history. Emergency workers worked 12-hour shifts for 29 days straight while facing the “worst conditions imaginable,” Patronis said.

According to the resolution, Urban Search and Rescue teams combed through roughly 1,300 tons of rubble at the scene. The effort marked the largest non-hurricane deployment in state history.

Eight Florida search and rescue teams, as well as responders from New Jersey, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and elsewhere, are recognized in the resolution.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees — The Governor named Piero Bussani to FAU Board of Trustees. A Boca Raton resident, Bussani works as the chief legal officer and global head of legal & risk at Revantage Corporate Services. A member of CubeSmart’s Board of Directors, Bussani earned his bachelor’s degree in international studies from American University and law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council — DeSantis appointed Michael McConnell, Jaromy Kuhl, Pedro Allende, Linda Reid, Eli Dominitz, Jason Raymond and Benjamin Miron to the Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council. McConnell is Executive Director of Cyber Florida housed at the University of South Florida and a retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Furman University and master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University. Kuhl is a professor of mathematics and statistics and dean of the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering at the University of West Florida. Kuhl earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics, a master’s degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Mississippi. Allende is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure, Risk and Resilience Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics, master’s degree in decision and information science and juris doctorate from the University of Florida. Reid is VP of security for The Walt Disney Co. and a former CIA intelligence officer. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California Los Angeles. Dominitz is the Founder and CEO of Q6 Cyber. He earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from York University and MBA from Harvard Business School. Raymond is VP and chief information security officer for GuideWell and Florida Blue. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UCF and MBA from the University of Phoenix. Miron is VP of infrastructure and cybersecurity for NextEra Energy. He earned his bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering from the University of Massachusetts.

Florida Children and Youth Cabinet — DeSantis made four appointments to the panel on Friday. Jessica Costello is a Tampa resident and County Judge in the 13th Judicial Circuit. Previously, she was an Assistant Statewide Prosecutor and an Assistant State Attorney in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and law degree from Florida State University. Forough Hosseini, of Ormond Beach, is senior vice president of information systems for ICI Homes and a past chair of the Daytona State College District Board of Trustees. Hosseini earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and her MBA from the University of Central Florida. Corey Simon, of Tallahassee, is the CEO of Volunteer Florida and a former NFL and FSU football player who played on the 1999 National Champion team. He earned his bachelor’s degree in information studies from Florida State University. Sandra Himmel, of Inverness, is the Citrus County Superintendent of Schools. Previously, she served two terms on the Citrus County School Board. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.

Monroe County Board of County Commissioners — DeSantis appointed former Rep. Holly Raschein to the commission late Friday. Raschein was elected to the House in 2012, representing a district that covers the Florida Keys and parts of south Miami-Dade County. She served eight years in the Legislature before leaving due to term limits. She currently works as government relations director for AshBritt and a market adviser for First State Bank of the Florida Keys. Raschein earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from FSU and Master of Public Administration from Florida International University.

Hispanic art

First Lady Casey DeSantis has announced contemporary artist Cesar Santos as Florida’s featured artist for this year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“It is a privilege to recognize Cesar Santos as Florida’s featured artist for Hispanic Heritage Month,” DeSantis said.

Santos’ artwork has received numerous accolades and been featured worldwide. Santos is known for his body of work he terms “Syncretism,” describing his presentation of two or more art tendencies in aesthetic balance.

“Like Cesar, there are thousands of Hispanic-American artists in our state who are using their influence to share the world around them and to help their communities,” DeSantis said. “I encourage all Floridians to join me in celebrating Cesar and all of the Hispanic-American artists who live in Florida.”

Cesar Santos is the featured artist for Florida’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Santos, born in Santa Clara, Cuba, graduated from Miami-Dade College before attending Miami’s New World School of the Arts. He also studied at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, and received the Hudson River Fellowship in New York.

Santos’ work reflects both classical and modern interpretations juxtaposed within one painting, infusing harmony between the natural and the conceptual to create works that are provocative and dramatic.

“I am discovering a technique which at first glance might be confused with the known, since we are bombarded with historical and new technological forms to represent the visual world,” Santos said. “I sense what calls my attention and translate it back onto the pages of my sketchbook, establishing what is actually given to the viewer.”

In Florida, the theme for this year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is “Celebrating Hispanic American Community Leaders and Champions.” DeSantis is also hosting arts and essay contests and awards for teachers during the month.

Justice reform

Rep. Dianne Hart refiled two criminal justice reform bills this week ahead of the 2022 Session.

House Bill 169, “Parole Eligibility,” establishes eligibility guidelines for parole and requires the Commission on Offender Review and the Department of Corrections to jointly develop a voluntary long-term inmate program.

House Bill 171, “Criminal Rehabilitation,” specifies that rehabilitating offenders to transition back into the community successfully is one of the primary purposes of sentencing. The bill also incentives the completion of educational programs to earn “rehabilitation credits.”

Dianne Hart tries again for criminal justice reform in 2022. Image via Colin Hackley.

“Florida’s criminal justice system is in need of major overhaul, the evidence of this was seen recently with the closing of three correctional facilities due to understaffing issues in the agency,” Hart said. “These bills, if made law, will save the state money that can be used to not only improve the quality of life for those housed in our facilities, but help us to retain staff.”

Hart, of Tampa, has been a leading House Democrat in advocating for criminal justice reform.

The 2021 version of her parole eligibility bill received the unanimous approval of the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee but didn’t advance any farther. The criminal rehabilitation bill was never scheduled for a hearing last cycle.

Volunteering webinars

Volunteer Florida will hold Volunteer Engagement Leadership Series webinars each Monday in October.

The meetings are geared toward senior management officials, as well as new and veteran volunteer engagement leaders. National experts will provide essential insights and tools for developing and positioning volunteer engagement as both an indispensable and enterprising element of an organization’s foundational blueprint.

Oct. 4’s event will be “Shifting from Program to Strategy,” exploring how organizations can increase their impact through volunteer engagement and positioning volunteer engagement leaders.

Beth Steinhorn, an executive director and marketing director for education and faith-based organizations, will host a webinar on Volunteer Engagement.

Oct. 11’s “Purpose-Driven Volunteer Impact” webinar will teach a holistic approach to demonstrate volunteer impact by connecting it to an organization’s mission and audience.

Volunteer Florida will host an executive roundtable on Oct. 18. Leaders will share how they harness volunteer value, their innovations and challenges, and their approaches to advocate and amplify volunteer impact.

The final webinar, on Oct. 25, will address the tasks involved in the professional management and leadership of volunteer engagement. The session will also review Professional Ethics in Volunteer Administration which is a useful tool when working through ethical dilemmas with diverse populations.

Volunteer Florida will also offer VolunteerPro Premium Memberships to 10 random people who attend three of the four sessions in October.

Climate Week

Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore took part in a roundtable discussion this week about coastal resiliency at Climate Week NYC 2021.

Skidmore and state reps. Lydia Blume of Maine and David Tarnas of Hawaii highlighted the importance of states serving as “laboratories of democracy” among other topics.

Panelists also explored various coastal policies, local projects and other environmental collaborations.

“Florida’s blue economy is one of my top legislative priorities,” Skidmore said. “As the most recognizable peninsula in the country, Florida is framed by the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and is home to the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, as well as a statewide network of rivers, wetlands, estuaries, mangroves, springs and aquifers. When looking at a hydrological map of the State, it’s reliance on water cannot be overstated.”

Climate Week NYC is an annual event hosted by the Climate Group and in partnership with the United Nations, COP26 and the City of New York.

To watch a video of the roundtable click on the image below:

Parks plate

The Florida State Parks Foundation named Sen. Dennis Baxley and Rep. Allison Tant their Legislative Park Champions of the Year for 2021.

The pair helped pass legislation to create a specialty license plate to benefit Florida State Parks. Following the event, the State Parks Foundation unveiled that license plate, which features an artistic interpretation of floating down one of Florida’s waterways from the perspective of a kayaker.

We are the champions: Dennis Baxley and Allison Tant help unveil the state’s latest specialty license plate.

“We had a conversation among a few of us on the board and the executive committee, who do we ask that can carry this for us through the respective chambers,” said foundation President Gil Ziffer. “After great conversation, I thought to two folks that I thought could be instrumental in making them happen were Rep. Tant and Sen. Baxley.”

Ziffer added that he’s known Baxley as a next-door neighbor, and he’s known Tant for many years. Baxley, a Republican from Ocala, and Tant, a freshman Democrat from Tallahassee, are on opposite sides of the political spectrum but could agree to champion the license plate proposal through the Legislature.

“It’s very unique to be able to get — unusual, I should say — to be able to get a license passed in its first year and we did that,” Ziffer said.

Heartfelt

The American Heart Association this week announced its 2021-2022 Florida Advocacy Committee.

“The focus of the action-oriented group will be on developing, supporting and promoting state and local policy priorities within the framework of the American Heart Association as well as Voices for Healthy Kids,” the association said in a news release.

Members of the 2021-2022 Florida Advocacy Committee include:

— Chair Latonja Richardson of Jacksonville. Richardson is a community volunteer and advocate for women and girls

— Vice-Chair Marsha Kiner of Tallahassee. Kiner is the executive director of the Association of Florida Colleges.

Christie Bruner of St. Petersburg) is a community engagement supervisor at Healthy St. Pete and the City of St. Petersburg.

Frank G. Fernandez of Miami is a retired police chief and former city manager.

— Dr. Kerry Hyman of Orlando is a Doctor of Optometry at Florida Eye Clinic.

— Dr. Yvette Lowery of Jacksonville is an emergency room nurse practitioner at the North Florida Regional Medical Center.

John Mouw, of South Florida, is a director at the Interprofessional and Allied Health Education Center for the Advancement of Learning, Baptist Health South Florida.

— Dr. Robert Sanchez of St. Petersburg is a medical director at The Heart Institute.

Carl Shank of St. Augustine is the fire rescue chief-projects for St. Johns County Fire Rescue, St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners.

Crystal Collins Spencer of Pensacola is a lawyer Spencer Law

Brian Sullivan of Orlando is the government relations manager at AdventHealth.

Anita Wilborn, M.D., PA, of Palm Beach County, is a diplomat, American Board of Internal Medicine.

Godfather’s professorship

Florida State University College of Communication and Information has created a new professorship to honor the late Jay Rayburn.

Rayburn, who was eulogized as “godfather of the state’s communications industry,” died earlier this month, days ahead of what would have been his 74th birthday.

The college is seeking donations to raise $250,000 for the Dr. Jay D. Rayburn Endowed Professorship, which the school says would be a lasting tribute to his devotion to advancing the public relations industry.

FSU names a professorship in recognition of the late Jay Rayburn.

“It is very fitting that this professorship is directed to serve students building on their futures in public relations,” said Stephen McDowell, interim dean of the FSU College of Communication and Information. “This was the focus of Jay’s professional life, and this will help carry his dedication and commitment forward.”

The Moore Agency, a leading communications and marketing agency headquartered in Tallahassee, Florida, provided the first gift to establish the new professorship.

“It is an honor to be the inaugural donor to the Dr. Jay D. Rayburn Endowed Professorship as we highlight Rayburn’s legacy,” said More Agency founder and CEO Karen Moore. “We collaborated on substantial research projects and saw firsthand his decadeslong impact on students and the public relations profession.”

Rayburn joined the College of Communication and Information faculty in 1985, teaching public relations and integrated marketing for 35 years before his retirement in 2020.

“Apart from his distinguished talent and industry knowledge, students and fellow faculty members — including myself — will greatly remember Professor Rayburn for his memorable stories and the countless laughs we shared with him,” said the college’s former dean, Larry Dennis.

Telly Award

The Florida A&M University College of Law recently won a Telly Award for a segment on the Ocoee Massacre.

The 1920 Ocoee Massacre remains the largest incident of Election Day violence in United States history. Between three and 60 African Americans reportedly died in the violence, and the remaining Black residents fled.

WFTV’s Daralene Jones interviewed FAMU Law Dean Deidré Keller and professor LeRoy Pernell about the massacre, voter suppression, human rights violations, mob violence, and possible justice for the families of victims. Stephanie Strong and Mildred Graham produced the special. Matt Juvinall of Orange TV served as the segment’s executive producer and director.

Daralene Jones, Deidré Keller, and LeRoy Pernell are recognized for reporting on the Ocoee Massacre centennial.

The Ocoee Massacre special was featured on FAMU Law’s television program called Legal Connections, which airs regularly on Orange TV in the Orlando market and FAMU TV 20 in the Tallahassee market. FAMU Law, located in Orlando, is unique in producing and hosting a cable television program in a major television market.

FAMU Law and Orange TV were honored as a Silver Winner in “General-Television.”

The Telly Awards was founded in 1979 to honor excellence in local, regional and cable television commercials. Non-broadcast video and television programming were added soon after.

Free speech

Florida State University ranked No. 5 in this year’s College Free Speech Rankings published by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, making it the highest-ranked Florida university on the list.

FIRE, a national campus free speech organization, used seven components to identify the best campuses for student free speech and open inquiry among 159 of America’s most prestigious colleges. The seven categories are openness, tolerance for conservative speakers, tolerance for liberal speakers, administrative support for free speech, comfort expressing ideas, disruptive conduct, and the organization’s speech code rating.

FSU nabs honors for being a bastion of free speech.

Last year, FSU revised its free expression policies to earn FIRE’s top free speech, “green light,” rating.

“This ranking is a testament to Florida State University’s enduring commitment to foster a respectful and civil environment where students can freely discuss and exchange different beliefs and opinions,” said FSU Vice President for Student Affairs Amy Hecht. “We’re pleased that our efforts to protect every individual’s right to free speech and expression have been recognized by FIRE.”

FIRE surveyed 37,104 college students currently enrolled in four-year degree programs at 159 colleges and universities in the United States. Students answered a survey of 25 items about their experience and attitudes about free speech and expression on their college campuses. Students also answered an open-ended question about their experiences.

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