Takeaways from Tallahassee — Welcome back

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
Balancing journalism and a book, celebrating first responders, and Happy Halloween!

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Welcome back

Former Florida political reporter and current White House reporter Mike Bender offers a little tip for POLITICO’s Matt Dixon about splitting time authoring a book and being a journalist.

Bender, The Wall Street Journal reporter who penned The New York Times bestseller “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” returned to Tallahassee this week to sit down with POLITICO’s Gary Fineout. In a book talk hosted at Midtown Reader, Bender regaled the public and old colleagues with tidbits about the Donald Trump White House and political campaigns past, present and future.

Michael Bender returns to Tallahassee to regale the public and old colleagues with tidbits about the Donald Trump White House. Image via The Workmans.

Bender’s book begins with Trump’s first impeachment, covers the 2020 campaign, and ends with Trump’s second impeachment following the Jan. 6 insurrection. For him, one of the former President’s most perplexing strategies was, against the advice of many, to cry claims of voter fraud over mail-in ballots.

“As a reporter that cut his teeth in Florida, it just didn’t compute that any Republican would complain about absentee and mail ballots, right? It was sort of stunning,” Bender said. “As you all know, the Florida contingent of that operation was not on board. No one was on board.”

For five years, Trump said he wouldn’t lose his presidential races, and he planted seeds of doubt in case. But the dynamic changed when the campaign became between Trump and Joe Biden rather than Trump and Hillary Clinton. He lost his charm and mocking tone, Bender said, and became “just kind of an a**hole.”

“I don’t think he thought that he was going to lose,” he said. “I think he thought he had something to lose, which was a big difference.”

Dixon, who is currently drafting a book about Florida’s role in the national political landscape, probed Bender for advice on juggling the responsibilities of being an author and being a full-time journalist. Unfortunately for Dixon, Bender took unpaid leave following Election Day.

While he fed some details to the Journal, others Bender learned were grievances people in Trumpworld had about past events, like the President telling military officials to shoot Americans in the leg and foot or crack their skulls. Some sources also wanted their perspectives on the record to contrast the likes of Corey Lewandowski and Brad Parscale.

“What was striking to me was how willing people were to talk if it wasn’t going to come up the next day,” Bender said. “If the book was coming up in two months, six months, a year, those details didn’t really matter. It was like a problem for the future selves, and they would deal with that later.”

For the record, Florida Politics also recommends Dixon take unpaid leave to author his book.

Bender also shared his thoughts on the 2022 senatorial and gubernatorial races and the 2024 presidential race Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be angling for. He said he’d heard some people, not always critics, wonder about the reelection strategy DeSantis has taken so far.

Why risk it, they ask. Winning reelection convincingly in a state like Florida could be a powerful platform for a 2024 bid.

Apart from DeSantis’ reelection bid, Trump’s decision to run a third time looms over the 2024 race. While it took a certain level of ambition for DeSantis to challenge Adam Putnam for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018, Bender noted it would take a different type of ambition to directly challenge Trump, who arguably is the reason he became Governor.

“I think he’s got it in him,” Bender said.

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

Take 5

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

Governor, Senate at odds in masking scuffle – After Florida Politics’ broke the news that Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo refused to wear a mask in Sen. Tina Polsky’s office, his Senate confirmation might be a bit trickier. Polsky told Ladapo she has a serious illness — she was recently diagnosed with cancer — but Ladapo said masking goes against his preferences: “It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can’t do that when half of my face is covered.” Senate President Wilton Simpson defended Polsky, calling Ladapo’s actions “unprofessional” and saying he should “have some manners.” However, DeSantis gave Ladapo a full-throated defense, calling him accommodating. Polsky was the one politicizing it, he suggested, noting recent pictures of Polsky maskless in public.

Florida sues Biden administration over vaccine mandates – DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody have launched a lawsuit challenging Biden‘s vaccine mandate on federal contractors. Biden’s order requires millions of executive branch employees and contractors who do business with the federal government to get vaccinated. “You’re really putting these businesses in an impossible situation where they would potentially lose a lot of their contracts or a lot of their money that is able to sustain them,” DeSantis said. Moody said she was proud of DeSantis for repeatedly standing up to Biden “or his handlers” and “reminding them that this is not a dictatorship.”

DeSantis calls Special Session – DeSantis has issued his official call for a Special Session regarding vaccine mandates. The Special Session will run from Monday, Nov. 15, to no later than Friday, Nov. 19, a week when lawmakers will already be in Tallahassee for a previously scheduled committee week. DeSantis has repeatedly criticized Biden and his administration for trying to implement vaccine mandates. And on Friday, he accused the Biden administration of having “cajoled” businesses to mandate injections. “What is not appropriate is to have the federal government come in, blundering into state and local matters, and acting like they have a right to facilitate a local district breaking state law,” he said.

Special Elections scheduled to replace CD 20 candidates– Floridians in three South Florida state legislative districts might not have lawmakers for the 2022 Regular Session. Three Democratic state lawmakers, Sen. Perry Thurston, and Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy are vying to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in the 20th Congressional District, leaving their seats vacant. According to the announcement late Wednesday, the Special Primary Election will be on Jan. 11, and the Special General Election will be on March 8 if necessary. If no Republicans file, a winner could be anointed on Jan. 11, the first day of Session. If a Special General Election is needed, the winner wouldn’t be known till the third-to-last day of Session at the earliest. DeSantis announced those dates two weeks after a lawsuit was filed asking him to set dates.

Feds aim to prevent Florida from withholding school funds – Federal officials ask Florida to stop nullifying funds sent to school districts that defy the state school mask mandate ban. U.S. Department of Education officials are eying a cease-and-desist order against Florida. That came a day after the Florida Department of Education docked Alachua County School District more than $164,000 for defying the ban and to offset $147,000 in federal funds. “We believe Florida’s actions have violated federal law by reducing state funds based on the receipt by districts of federal funds,” said the U.S. Department of Education.

Trucker’s paradise

DeSantis has awarded the city of Tavares $6 million for a regional workforce training and innovation center together with Lake Technical College.

As part of the Job Growth Grant Fund, that distribution will help the school triple its enrollment to 48 students in its diesel systems technology, automotive services, and automotive collision programs. Those graduates will play a role in meeting the demand of more than 67,000 openings in those industries over the next eight years.

DeSantis said the program would support high-paying and in-demand fields across the transportation industry.

“In Florida, we are stepping up in the midst of the nation’s supply chain woes,” DeSantis said. “Our ports are open and have capacity, we are standing up for businesses, and we are continuing to support the supply chain by training skilled workers across our state.”

To watch the presentation, click on the image below:

DeSantis has awarded more than $20 million for workforce training initiatives through the Job Growth Grant Fund.

More than 740 students graduated from commercial driving programs in Florida’s state and technical colleges, a 32% increase from the previous year. Nearly 1,300 students have graduated since 2019. And media reports suggest those graduates quickly find work.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, providing this award will advance the Governor’s goal of being No. 1 in workforce by 2030,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle. “Providing Floridians with the opportunity to develop new skills through workforce training centers like this one will enable individuals to have a successful career, which remains a top priority of DEO.”

Meta-verse

Moody is among a coalition of attorneys general who filed an amicus brief this week siding with a human trafficking victim in a case involving Facebook.

The case, Doe v. Facebook, claims Facebook unlawfully benefits from human trafficking on its platform.

Meanwhile, the case petitioner says she was trafficked through Facebook, arguing the online platform did not adequately inform her of potential dangers.

Moody, who serves as chair of Florida’s Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, is joined by 24 other attorneys general.

Ashley Moody calls out Facebook for its role in human trafficking.

“Big Tech should be helping us end human trafficking, not providing an avenue for predators to solicit and groom minors,” Moody said. “Victims of child sex trafficking should be able to hold platforms like Facebook accountable for not doing enough to stop human traffickers from exploiting their platform to victimize minors. What Facebook is allowing is wholly irresponsible, and we will continue fighting Big Tech to protect our children.”

Human trafficking is among Moody’s top priorities as attorney general. Since taking office, she’s launched a slew of programs targeting human trafficking, including the Highway Heroes campaign.

Floridians can learn more about human trafficking at YouCanStopHT.com. If you suspect cases of human trafficking, contact local law enforcement and call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1(888) 373-7888.

Make a plan

With Halloween a day away, Moody shared several holiday safety tips with parents, including tampered candy and Fentanyl warnings.

Moody encouraged parents to set a curfew and establish a meeting location if someone is separated from the group.

She also urged parents to outline a clear boundary for kids as they trick-or-treat in parks or neighborhoods.

“Halloween can be such a fun experience for children to dress up and go door-to-door collecting candy, but it can be scary if planning and safety precautions are not part of the festivities,” Moody said.

Kids, Moody stressed, should know a guardian’s phone number and understand how to dial 911. They should also use caution around strangers.

Florida law, she noted, prohibits sex offenders from passing out candy to children on Halloween.

“If your child is trick-or-treating this weekend, be sure they know to walk in well-lit areas, stay insight of a trusted adult and never enter a stranger’s house or vehicle,” Moody said.

Parents can visit the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website to search nearby registered sex offenders in Florida.

Parents should also examine candy for signs of tampering. Unwrapped candy should be thrown away, Moody said.

One pill of fentanyl, she warned, is potentially lethal.

To watch the video alert, click on the image below:

Keep on truckin’

Moody and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles highlighted the anniversary of the Highway Heroes campaign this week.

The outreach program trains truckers to identify and report suspected instances of human trafficking. Since its launch, nearly 4,500 commercial truck drivers have received the training.

“Truck drivers are vital in our fight to end human trafficking,” Moody said. “They travel Florida’s 12,000 miles of highways and interstates all day, every day and are uniquely positioned to be our eyes and ears on the road, and at truck stops and rest areas — where human traffickers may conduct their illicit business.”

The Highway Heroes campaign is among the state’s latest efforts to address human trafficking in Florida.

Ahead of Super Bowl LV, Highway Heroes launched a digital ad campaign targeting truckers and motorists and encouraging them to participate in the program.

“Over the past year, Florida’s commercial drivers have stepped up in tremendous ways — serving as the backbone to our economy and heroes to our most vulnerable,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “Thousands of Florida’s licensed truck drivers answered the call to help end human trafficking across our state by becoming a certified Highway Hero, and we thank them for their commitment to keeping our roadways and communities safe.”

Floridians can learn more about human trafficking at YouCanStopHT.com. If you suspect cases of human trafficking, contact local law enforcement and call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1(888) 373-7888.

To watch a video on the Highway Heroes program, click on the image below:

Gypped

Following reports of seismic activity at the New Wales phosphogypsum stack in Polk County, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to object to Florida’s permit allowing the gypstack.

In a letter to the EPA on Friday, Fried said the health of Florida’s ecology and residents relies on halting the New Wales site.

Nikki Fried wants to put the brakes on a planned gypstack expansion in Polk County.

A report on Wednesday documented multiple acoustic detections indicating seismic activity in one area of the gypstack between Oct. 8 and Oct. 18. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Oct. 15 approved Mosaic Fertilizer’s request to expand the gypsum stack by 230 acres.

In 2016, the New Wales gypstack suffered a sinkhole that released 215 million gallons of radioactive, toxic wastewater into the Floridan aquifer. A study found it may take more than a decade to reduce radiation levels in the area to an acceptable standard.

Fried wrote that Mosaic Fertilizer had not provided sufficient reasonable assurances against the risk of discharges, a requirement for a state permit.

“Given this gypstack’s history of environmental violations — and given the recent breach of the Piney Point gypstack that spilled a quarter-billion gallons of toxic process water into Tampa Bay, likely causing a severe harmful algal bloom in the region — there is no confidence that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can effectively regulate or mitigate the environmental effects of phosphogypsum stacks,” she said.

First Responders Day

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who doubles as the State Fire Marshal, celebrated and thanked some of Florida’s heroes on National First Responders Day on Thursday.

“From our police officers, sheriffs’ deputies, firefighters, EMTs and our dedicated Urban Search and Rescue personnel, I’m thankful for their service and sacrifice to the great state of Florida,” Patronis said.

Jimmy Patronis salutes true Florida heroes — first responders. Image via CFO Office.

The CFO said he supports PTSD benefits and cancer coverage for firefighters. And in the coming year, his top legislative priority will be an additional $10 million in funding for Urban Search and Rescue Teams.

“As we saw with the tragic Surfside condo collapse, being a first responder isn’t just a job; it is a calling. These men and women leave their families at a moment’s notice and run into unbelievable danger,” Patronis said.

“They worked for 29 straight days on that pile, wearing through their equipment and risking their lives to save others. They truly deserve our love and support, and they can’t go another year without the funding needed to make their life-saving missions that much more successful.”

Patronis also backed first responders in their right not to get vaccinated. He also voiced opposition to “defunding” law enforcement, saying “the anti-police culture that’s swept through parts of our country” infuriates him.

“In Florida, we love and respect these heroes, and if other states want to fire their first responders for not getting a shot, then we’ll be happy to find them a home here,” Patronis said.

No tricks, all treats

Patronis wants Floridians to have a blast — not ablaze — over the Halloween weekend.

“I want everyone to have a fun and safe Halloween, so think like a firefighter and ensure you have taken the proper fire safety precautions to avoid a truly frightening holiday,” Patronis said. “From my family to yours, have a Happy Halloween!”

Patronis provided Floridians with several tips to protect themselves and others.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, decorations cause nearly 800 home fires each year, and, of those, more than a third are started by candles.

“This weekend is Halloween, and you know what that means – kids, families, and costumes,” Patronis added. “However, festivities can suddenly become tragic due to fire-related accidents. Displaying decorations away from open flames and buying safe costumes are important precautions to prevent potential mishaps.”

Among other tips, Patronis urged Floridians to double-check smoke alarms and consider using alternatives to open flames, such as battery-operated candles or glow sticks.

Costumes with fire-resistant materials should also be considered, Patronis said.

“Educate children on the importance of staying away from open flames when dressed up and avoid costumes with long, trailing fabric,” Patronis said.

To watch the message, click on the image below:

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating CommissionSteven Martin was appointed by the Governor to serve on the JNC for Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit. Martin, a Fort Meyers resident, is the managing partner of Martin Law Firm. He received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Highlands County Supervisor of Elections — The Governor selected Sebring resident Karen Healy as the new Highlands County SOE. Since 2003, Healy has served as the county’s assistant Supervisor of Elections. She has also held positions in the county’s office of management and budget and with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. A Master Florida Certified Election Professional, Healy earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida.

Jacksonville Aviation Authority Board of Directors Fernando Acosta-Rua became the newest addition to the JAA board, thanks to a Friday appointment by the Governor. Acosta-Rua has copious board experience, having served as chair of The Bolles School Board of Trustees, chair of the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida Board of Directors, and sits on the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Board of Advisors. He is the CEO of Pet Paradise and holds a bachelor’s in public relations from UF and an MBA from Northwestern University.

Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse — DeSantis has placed Ronald Ficarrotta, the Chief Judge for Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit, on the commission. The Tampa resident has served as a Hillsborough County Judge and an Assistant State Attorney and is the founder of the 13th Circuit’s Mental Health Court and Juvenile Mental Health Court, which he currently oversees. He earned his bachelor’s degree in advertising from UF and a law degree from South Texas College.

Reading ahead

To Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the most urgent crisis facing the U.S. isn’t the border, nor is it inflation, big tech censorship, vaccine passports, or any of the other issues that have fueled the DeSantis administration’s rhetoric since March 2020.

It’s third grade reading scores.

Speaking to a crowd of business leaders at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum, the former House Speaker said if Florida and other states don’t figure out a way to boost literacy in third graders, then “our economy is not affected, our state is not affected — we will cease to exist as a country.”

Richard Corcoran and Jeb Bush talk about the real crisis in Florida — third grade reading scores.

He added, “It is the single most important, in my opinion, crisis point that has to be fixed if we’re going to survive for another 200 years.”

The Florida Chamber conference featured many speakers who spoke about child care, K-12 education, and the long-term importance of Florida kids hitting early checkpoints in their academic careers. Third grade reading scores were consistently cited as a top metric in need of improvement.

According to Florida Chamber data, just 54% of third graders are reading on grade level. That number is on the downswing due to learning loss and learning stagnation during the pandemic. One of the Chamber’s goals is to raise that to 100% by 2030.

Corcoran agrees.

“In third grade, if you are not on grade level, what percentage are not on grade level when they graduate? It’s 86%. The converse is true if you’re on grade level in third grade, what percentage are on grade level when they graduate? 83%. Literally, that’s the demarcation point,” he said.

“And who is the most dangerous person alive in the world? The most dangerous person in the world is somebody who has zero hope. And literally by third grade, I could send a letter to Mrs. Jones and say, Dear Mrs. Jones, loved having Johnny in class, great kid, wishing him the best, but he’s pretty much doomed.”

Corcoran tied it back to nearly every other issue discussed during the two-day event, including the environment, higher-Ed, state revenues and taxation.

“50% of our kids are coming out of third grade, not on grade level. And we know that 86% of them stay that way. If you take that number and you just move it from 50% to 80% or 50% to 90%. All those other things take care of themselves,” he said.

“You have more revenue than ever before. We could probably almost minimalize to shut down our juvenile justice system, are prison populations would empty. We can do more things with more money, whether it’s cutting taxes, cleaning up the lake, or whatever you possibly want because our revenues just double just by the fact that we have an educated electorate.”

A few concerns

On Friday, state health care officials were given a list of concerns with a new proposed rule that allows unlicensed staff called “personal care attendants” to work in nursing homes as the industry struggles to find the workers it needs to care for residents.

Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program legal advocate Lynne Hearn told Agency for Health Care Administration officials that the proposed rule they published didn’t meet the requirements of the 2021 law because it doesn’t require personal care attendants to complete 16 hours of classroom education.

Unlicensed personal care assistants are a concern of the health care officials.

Instead, the proposed rule requires 10 hours of classroom teaching and six hours of supervised simulation, where the candidate must exhibit competency in all areas of training.

“We believe the law requires 16 hours of training,” she said.

Lawmakers pressed AHCA earlier this month on the status of the rule.

Call me maybe

This week, former Hillsborough County Judge Greg Holder led a group of disparate hospital interests and negotiated a proposed new rule that governs neonatal intensive care units in Florida.

It’s the first time AHCA has ever turned to the “negotiated rule-making process” to hammer out new regulations, but the agency turned to the process after an initial rule it developed was challenged by Tampa General Hospital and Broward Health, run by former DeSantis Chief of Staff Shane Strum.

So how did Holder, who now works for the Zinober, Diana and Monteverde law firm, get the gig?

All it took was a phone call from Secretary Simone Marstiller.

One phone call from Simone Marstiller gets things done.

“I have known her in different roles. And when she calls, I answer. I have such respect for her, such admiration,” Holder told Florida Politics, adding that he has worked with Marstiller throughout her career. “I have known her as Judge Marstiller. I have known her as general counsel Marstiller. I have known her as Secretary Marstiller.”

Holder wrapped up two days of scheduled negotiations on the proposed neonatal intensive care unit rule with 10 minutes to spare.

Just stop

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants school districts to install cameras on school buses to take photos and videos of people who violate the stop signs indicating when passengers are loading or unloading.

Republican Sen. Danny Burgess filed one bill (SB 702) on Thursday. Republican Rep. Thad Altman filed an identical bill (HB 179) in the House last month that Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg is co-sponsoring.

Danny Burgess says stop it — for school buses. Image via Colin Hackley.

Slosberg, whose sister Dori Slosberg died 25 years ago in a tragic car accident, often sponsors road safety legislation. Last year, she tried to pass similar legislation as part of a broader school bus safety package filed with Democratic Sen. Lori Berman and Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite. However, lawmakers never scheduled the bill for a hearing.

“This legislation holds drivers accountable for ensuring the safety of kids that are getting on and off school buses,” Slosberg said last month, highlighting it after a 10-year-old was hit and killed in Fort Pierce while crossing the street to board her school bus.

“10-year-old Yaceny Berenice Rodriguez-Gonzalez, crossing the street to board her school bus, was killed by a hit-and-run driver that moved behind a school bus that had its long arm stop sign extended and red lights flashing,” Slosberg said.

With some veteran Republican lawmakers already on board, the legislation might stand a stronger chance this Session.

“I can think of no higher priority than protecting our children, and that is exactly what this bill does,” Altman said.

Animal cruelty

Florida already marks animal abuse as a felony, but Miami Democratic Rep. Mike Grieco wants to strengthen the penalties for animal cruelty.

Florida already prohibits people from attending animal fighting and baiting events, but his bill (HB 435) adds penalties for having minors in tow. The bill also hopes to further crackdown on bestiality.

Mike Grieco wants to snuff out depravity against animals. Image via Colin Hackley.

“Anyone who commits bestiality is just evil, and the fact that it is only a misdemeanor in Florida to commit depraved acts on animals is in need of correction,” Grieco said. “I am usually the last person in Tallahassee to call for increasing any criminal penalties, but after the Feds had to take the lead against that veterinarian in Aventura earlier this year, I wanted to make sure state statute grew some teeth.”

Grieco is in his third year as Ranking Member on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee. He is a criminal defense attorney and former state prosecutor.

Earlier this month, Miami Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, a criminal defense attorney and former state prosecutor, filed the Senate companion measure (SB 420).

“The level of offense, even when it’s a felony, has been so low for so long, it makes putting any kind of teeth or substance into a prosecution difficult,” he told Florida Politics. “It has to involve a large number of animals … to have any sort of case of substance.”

Infrastructure report card

The Department of Transportation improved in three major categories, according to the latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

ASCE releases a comprehensive assessment every four years that hits on the nation’s 17 major infrastructure categories. This year, Florida improved in ports, bridges and roads and scored higher than the National Report Card average.

“The Florida Department of Transportation is committed to investing in the state’s transportation infrastructure,” FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault said. “Over the last four years, the state has invested more than $35 billion as we continue to serve the needs of today and prepare for the future. The department is focused on ensuring the safe and reliable movement of people and goods and fostering proactive innovation to provide more mobility options for residents and visitors.”

Kevin Thibault celebrates Florida’s improved ports and roads.

Florida’s seaports have invested in capacity and operational improvements over the last five years to accommodate larger vessels, improve cargo transfer efficiency, and improve the cruising experience. Between 2011 and 2018, Florida invested nearly $1.2 billion to improve its 15 seaports.

The state’s bridges have “consistently and significantly” been above the national level, FDOT says, but continued to improve the last four years. The department focuses on improvements in material science, bridge design, and construction methods. It keeps an aggressive maintenance program, which the department says extends the life of many bridges.

Driven by an increase in fuel taxes and state appropriations — from $9.7 billion in 2019 to $10.3 billion in 2021 — Florida is focusing on building resilience and meeting the needs of the state’s growing elderly population, as well as integrating transportation innovations.

Huguenot Cemetery

Huguenot Cemetery in St. Augustine has been added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

Secretary of State Laurel Lee on Tuesday announced the designation.

“This year, we commemorate 200 years since Florida became a United States territory in 1821,” Lee said.

The cemetery, also known as the St. Augustine Public Burying Ground, was the first public cemetery founded after the U.S. took over the city. It was established following a yellow fever epidemic that swept through St. Augustine in 1821. Tolomato Cemetery, the only cemetery in the city active before then, was limited to Catholics, creating a public health crisis for the growing population of Protestant residents.

St. Augustine’s latest contribution to the list of historic places.

There are only four known, marked burials in the Huguenot Cemetery connected to the outbreak, but local accounts recall mass burials during that time. The exact number of people who died in the epidemic is unknown.

The cemetery closed in 1884.

Among those buried there is Charles Downing Sr. (1797-1841), an early political player in Florida territorial politics. Also buried is Buckingham Smith (1810-1871), an English language translator of several major Spanish primary source materials. He also conducted the first formal federal study of the Everglades, and his report influenced the passage of the Swamp Land Act in 1850.

“Recognizing significant historical sites from this period in Florida history, like Huguenot Cemetery, allows us to reflect on the past while also promoting the relevance of history for current and future generations,” Lee said.

Clay Ford scholars

This week, the Florida Board of Accountancy named the 2021 recipients of the Clay Ford scholarship.

The scholarships support minority students with financial needs and scholastic ability. Scholarship recipients must also be Florida residents.

“I am so proud of these fifth-year accounting students on this well-deserved recognition of their hard work,” said DBPR Secretary Julie I. Brown. “CPAs play a vital role in our state and the Clay Ford Scholarship provides recipients a pathway to complete the education requirements to become a licensed CPA and the momentum to begin their accounting careers.”

The scholarship winners will receive up to $6,000 per semester for a maximum of two semesters. In 2021, a total of $144,000 was dispersed across 24 total eligible semester hours.

Notably, scholarship winners span several Florida universities, including the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, and Florida Atlantic University.

The Florida Board of Accountancy is a professional regulation board under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Clay Ford scholarships, meanwhile, are administered through the CPA Education Minority Assistance Program. The program was created in 1999 to encourage minorities into the profession.

 

CNA boost

The Florida Health Care Association is kicking off an initiative to bring more Certified Nursing Assistants into direct care.

The two-year CaregiversFL Career Program, in partnership with Q3 Healthcare Consulting, will focus on raising awareness about long-term care as an opportunity for career growth. It will also focus on enhancing Florida’s nursing centers’ recruitment and retention efforts and building partnerships with statewide educational, workforce and veterans’ organizations to encourage individuals to go into long-term care.

“Florida’s baby boomer population is aging and having qualified caregivers to meet their needs is imminent,” said FHCA CEO Emmett Reed. “We are proud to partner with the team at Q3 Healthcare Consulting to implement the CaregiversFL Career Program. Each of them brings an understanding of the current workforce challenges we’re experiencing, and their passion for the profession and unique talents will be valuable to helping this program with recruiting and retaining qualified staff to be the next generation of long-term health care heroes.”

Emmett Reed is calling for more health care workers with a new training program.

Q3 Healthcare Consulting will oversee the project funded through a federal grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Q3 team includes Jennifer Ziolkowski, Jean Stephens and Kelly Smith.

The Q3 team, partnering with Moore Inc. for public relations and raising awareness, will conduct outreach activities to potential job candidates and participating nursing centers. An interactive website will help job seekers find opportunities.

“At Q3, we are deeply committed to improving resident care, while optimizing organizational efficiencies,” Ziolkowski said. “We’re thrilled to partner with FHCA’s Education and Development Foundation and the Agency for Health Care Administration to implement this program and help Florida’s long-term care providers with rebuilding their workforce to ensure the future of resident quality care.”

Added bonus

The Florida A&M University’s Performing Arts Amphitheater still has that new-car smell, but it’s about to get a high-tech boost thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Knight Foundation.

FAMU pulled back the curtain on the new facility — named after key alum, major donor and showbiz icon Will Packer — and scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony for FAMFEST that featured a live broadcast of ESPN’s First Take with Stephen A. Smith and a taping of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud radio show Straight From The Hart.

And on Friday, the nation’s No. 1 HBCU announced the Knight Foundation’s check and said it would bolster the multimedia capabilities at the amphitheater and surrounding area, now dubbed the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Plaza.

FAMU celebrates one of its own — showbiz icon Will Packer.

According to a FAMU news release, the Knight’s grant will give FAMU students and the broader Tallahassee community better access to visual and performing arts, news, and other programming at the center — both in-person and virtually.

“FAMU is one of the nation’s most prominent HBCUs. We’re delighted to recognize and support their use of technology to promote student engagement,” said Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen. “Creating an environment to better inform and engage communities is essential to strengthen democracy, which is at the core of Knight’s values. FAMU is playing a strong institutional role in helping to create a new generation of leaders and informed citizens.”

FAMU President Larry Robinson Ph.D. said the investment presents a significant opportunity to advance the university’s tech-forward vision while also driving some of the university’s key strategic priorities, including exceptional student experience, transformational alumni and community engagement.

“The Amphitheater began as a student idea for a space to explore the possibilities that exist on campus to advance the storied history of entrepreneurship and cultural activity that the ‘Set’ has provided for our students and the Tallahassee community for generations,” he said.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Knight Foundation, our students’ vision will be realized. This gift also allows us to give proper tribute to the residence halls that once stood on the sites as a home away from home for female students for decades. FAMU now has another venue to celebrate the wealth of creative talent and ingenuity of our students.”

Strengthening American Democracy

Next week, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney will speak at Florida State University as part of FSU’s Strengthening American Democracy speaker series.

The 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee, Romney is among the harshest Republican critics of Trump. The speaker series — hosted by FSU’s Institute of Politics — aims to highlight the “principles of democracy” and a citizen’s duty to support it via public service and civic engagement.

Mitt Romney brings his views about strengthening democracy to FSU.

“He is a distinguished and successful leader in politics and the private sector who cares deeply about the strength of our democratic institutions and who has made significant contributions to both his home state of Utah and the nation,” Institute Director Hans Hassell said of Romney. “We look forward to learning from his experiences and perspectives on civic engagement, civil discourse and much more.”

The online interview will kick off at 6 p.m. Monday. Former Republican Party of Florida Chair and FSUM adjunct faculty member Al Cardenas will moderate the event.

Romney, meanwhile, remains an unpopular figure among some Republican circles.

Last year, he stood as the sole Republican who voted to convict Trump during the Senate impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Romney was also a critic of Trump’s COVID-19 response.

Capitol Directions

Staff Reports


One comment

  • Tom

    October 30, 2021 at 7:32 am

    Great week for America’s Governor.
    Governor Ron Offers real solutions with real challenges.

    Ports, supply chain, schools, parents, people every day life, monoclonal centers, work force training and on it goes. Covid over 90% drop off.

    Florida fortunate to have him.
    America’s Governor.

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