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Preorders are live
Fans and haters alike soon can have a 7-inch Gov. Ron DeSantis nodding on, overlooking their desk in their work-from-home office.
On Friday, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled its design for the 46th Governor of the Free State of Florida’s bobbling buddy as part of the “Protect the Heroes” COVID-19 fundraiser. Bobblehead aficionados can preorder the DeSantis figurine for $25 after customers on both sides of the aisle piled on requests for the HOF and Museum to add DeSantis to its fleet of Governor bobbleheads.
“After taking a bit of a break from Governor bobbleheads, we started to get more requests for a bobblehead of Gov. DeSantis,” National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar said. “A lot of those requests came from people who approve of the Governor while some came from people who think DeSantis is a ‘bobblehead.’ Regardless, we wanted to add Gov. DeSantis to the collection and give people the opportunity to have a bobblehead of Florida’s Governor.”
However, don’t purchase it as a present for the holidays. The bobblehead won’t ship till February. Shipping will be a flat $8 rate.
DeSantis’ bobblehead design features him standing at a lectern, a familiar scene during the pandemic.
DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are the latest Governors to join the store’s line of bobbleheads. Preceding them were 13 Governors from both sides of the aisle, as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, 35 different Essential Hero professions and more.
Every bobblehead sold equals a $5 donation to the Protect the Heroes fund to help health care providers purchase personal protective equipment like masks for their health care workers. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has raised more than $300,000 for the fund through its bobblehead sales.
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, former New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Cuomo, the only Governor on the list who is no longer a Governor, comes in three versions: “original,” sitting and standing.
Like medical professionals and essential workers, Governors have been instrumental in the fight against COVID-19, according to the HOF and Museum, “often making difficult decisions and taking bold actions to keep their citizens safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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 Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Florida sues Biden administration over vaccine mandate — Brandishing the nearly 500-page stack of papers comprising the federal vaccine and testing mandate, DeSantis on Thursday vowed to protect the livelihoods of the unvaccinated and defeat the emergency rules in court. The move came just hours after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration unveiled its much-anticipated plan. The Governor added that the federal government is seeking input on how much further it can go with mandates. “I just want to warn people, as far-reaching as this is, this is only the beginning for what they’re contemplating doing going forward,” DeSantis said.
State web systems crash, marooning government processes — Most state government websites and links are back online as state officials working with vendors labored to overcome hardware issues that first crashed the system last Friday and reportedly continue to cause problems. The Governor’s Office said Tuesday that the vast majority of the affected state government computer servers were working and online. Meanwhile, sources close to the project say the system continues to crash and that the Governor’s Office is overly optimistic. The breadth of the outage and recovery efforts, and the impact on public and intergovernmental services, isn’t entirely clear. The original outage affected approximately 1,100 servers and took down pages like DeSantis‘ homepage, FLGov.com, and the state portal, MyFlorida.com.
Republicans flip Florida on voter registration — Republicans have taken the lead in Florida voter registration for the first time in history — a landmark day, Florida Republicans are declaring Friday. RPOF Chair Joe Gruters called it a “monumental day.” DeSantis says that’s because the rest of the nation sees how free and safe Florida is. “It’s good for us, but honestly, we would’ve probably won the New Jersey Governor’s race, but all the Republicans moved to Florida from New Jersey ‘cause they get so frustrated,” he said. But Democrats say not so fast. They’re disputing the numbers and saying the RPOF and the Florida Division of Elections have interpreted electoral roll rules in a way to manipulate the numbers. Democrats, the Florida Democratic Party insisted Friday, still hold an advantage of 79,429 more eligible, registered voters than Republicans.
Fuchs reverses professor gag order — After a week’s worth of bad publicity, a slam by a federal judge, and calls for alumni to cut off donations, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs on Friday ordered the university to reverse its decision to block multiple professors from testifying in a high-stakes voting rights case against the state. An attorney representing some of the professors said their First Amendment rights and academic freedoms remain at risk while the policy stays in place. Civil rights and voting rights groups are challenging a new election law restricting mail-in ballots and drop boxes.
DeSantis plans election police office in integrity package — The Governor hopes to create an election-fraud investigation office as part of another proposed election law package, the follow-up to the elections bill that’s currently under fire (read above). Also, on his wish list is increasing the penalty for breaking the new “ballot harvesting” law from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. “If somebody brings a sack of ballots and they’re stuffing them in a Dropbox, you have a place that will field these complaints and will immediately be able to investigate and hold them accountable,” DeSantis said. Additionally, he wants to impose time limits for Supervisors of Elections to “clean their voting rolls.”
Bait and switch
Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning Floridians of a new cryptocurrency scam found on various social media platforms.
The bait-and-switch scam offers social media users early investment profits. Scammers, however, will later swindle users by inviting them to transfer funds into a fraudulent trading platform.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office has received nearly 100 complaints regarding these types of scams, with a significant uptick during the last month.
“The allure of quick profits has drawn millions to cryptocurrency trading — with many new investors joining the market daily,” Moody said. “Where there is opportunity though, there are also scammers — baiting victims with early success, then prompting them to transfer their profits to fraudulent trading platforms.”
Moody offered Floridians several tips to better protect themselves from swindlers.
Unsolicited investment offers should be handled with wariness, Moody said. She also encouraged Floridians to research before investing. Floridians, she added, should never wire money or share personal information unless their research is conclusive.
“Know that if scammers request payment in cryptocurrency for the right to recruit others into a program and promise rewards paid in cryptocurrency, it is a scam,” Moody said.
More information about consumer safety is available online.
To watch Moody’s video on data privacy, click on the image below:
Florida Forests Week
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Forestry Association are among those who celebrated Florida Forests Week.
The annual celebration highlights the role and importance of the Florida Forestry Association. The association manages nearly half the state’s landmass and is an important part of Florida’s infrastructure, contributing $25 billion to the state’s economy and supplying more than 124,100 jobs.
“Active management is the foundation of healthy forests in Florida — from carbon sequestration to clean air and water, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and raw materials for wood products used around the world,” Fried said. “These trees benefit residents and visitors and are the source of many of the things we enjoy and utilize every day.”
Developed in 2015, Florida Forests Week also highlights the importance of forest protection and the role of assistance programs. Florida Forest Week is celebrated Oct. 31 — Nov. 6.
“Building strong partnerships with the entire industry, including landowners, site contractors, tree planters, consultants, loggers, and the mills, is the key to ensuring Florida’s forests remain healthy and available for generations to come,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service.
Of Florida’s 17.2 million acres of forest land, 65% is privately owned.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will use a federal grant to create a new Farm Stress Awareness and Reduction Initiative.
The $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will fund an outreach campaign and expanded mental health services in rural communities.
In a news release, Fried noted the slew of hardships facing farmers, including the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, natural disasters, and “unfair trade practices.” Fried is a critic of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“All of these stressors can create significant mental health challenges for even the most self-reliant farmers,” Fried said.
Notably, suicide rates among farmers were more than three times higher than the national average in 2019. And yet, despite the disturbing increase in suicides, nine out of 10 farmers say it’s difficult to access mental health support, according to FDACS.
“It’s crucial that our farming communities know that they aren’t alone in dealing with these issues and that there are places they can turn to for help,” Fried said.
The department is partnering with the University of Florida to train agricultural teachers to recognize farm stress in communities. The partnership also aims to expand mental health services in rural Florida.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis returned more than $38 million in unclaimed property to Floridians throughout October.
Unclaimed property is a lost or uncollected financial asset in the state’s possession. It can take many forms, including dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, inheritances, and even refunds.
Since taking office in 2017, the state has returned more than $1.4 billion in unclaimed property under Patronis’ leadership. He encouraged all Floridians to search for unclaimed in their names or the name of a loved one.
“With the holidays quickly approaching, there is no better time to check to see if you or a loved one has funds waiting to be claimed,” Patronis said. “As CFO, I’ve made it a priority to return every cent of unclaimed property to its rightful owners.”
Over the years, celebrities and politicians, including former President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and former MLB star Derek Jeter, have been listed in the unclaimed property log.
Patronis said there’s a one in five chance Floridians have unclaimed property belonging to them or a loved one.
“It only takes a few minutes to search for unclaimed property, and I encourage individuals and business owners to search today at FLTreasureHunt.gov,” Patronis said.
Instagram of the week
The week in appointments
Enterprise Florida Board of Directors — DeSantis appointment of Rodney Cruise and Troy Link to the EFI Board of Directors. Cruise is senior vice president and COO of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he was vice president of business development for Sodexo. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Warner University. Link is CEO of Link Snack’s and Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. He joined the company in high school and held positions of vice president of sales and marketing and president before he was named CEO. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Lake Shore Hospital Authority — The Governor named Donald Kennedy, Brandon Beil, Loretta Chancy and Stephen Douglas to the Lake Shore Hospital Authority. Kennedy, of Lake City, is the retired chief investigator for the 3rd Judicial Circuit’s Office of the Public Defender. He is a former member of the Lake City Community College District Board of Trustees and earned his associate degree from Tallahassee Community College. Beil, of Lake City, is the current Chair of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority and a special project supervisor and brand manager for Southwest Georgia Oil Company. He attended Lake City Community College. Chancy, of Lake City, is the owner of North Central Removal Service. She is a licensed radiologic technologist and a former registered orthopedic technician. She earned her associate degree from Miami Dade College. Douglas, of Lake City, is a property appraiser for Chandler, Moses and Associates and contractor for DMC Construction. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida.
Board of Accountancy — DeSantis on Friday appointed Caridad “Carey” Vasallo to the Board of Accountancy. Vasallo is a certified public accountant and the owner of VMBG Accounting. The Hialeah resident is a certified fraud examiner, valuation analyst, anti-money laundering specialist, and forensic consultant. Vasallo was recognized as the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce’s Businesswoman of the Year and previously served on the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants Board of Directors. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Barry University and a master’s degree in accounting from Nova Southeastern University. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Drugs, fentanyl of late, are some of the biggest threats to domestic security and public safety, says Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The Pinellas County Sheriff was in Tallahassee on Tuesday, briefing lawmakers on security issues facing the state. While he labeled terrorism as a big picture threat, he zeroed in on fentanyl and the newfound problems stemming from the abundance of the drug.
“This is why, literally, we’re finding people dead in bathrooms with needles in their arms, because they know how to use heroin. They don’t know how to use fentanyl, or they don’t even know that they’re getting fentanyl because it’s mixed in with the other drugs,” Gualtieri said.
He tied drug use to addiction and mental health, calling it a problem law enforcement can never solve. However, when asked by one member of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee, Gualtieri said having a porous, unsecured border exacerbates the issue.
Fentanyl prices have plummeted, he added, driven by a high supply. Unlike DeSantis frequently does on drug trafficking, the sheriff did not directly invoke President Joe Biden.
“We’ve seen a real change in that, really in the last several months, and we keep seeing the price going down,” Gualtieri said. “So, I think having an unsecured border is absolutely a contributing factor to it.”
Lawmakers have brought back a bill to give furry first responders vet care after retirement.
Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell and Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew are taking the lead on the repeated effort (SB 226/HB 25) to set aside money for the welfare of retired law enforcement dogs. This week, Powell’s version of the bill unanimously passed out of its first committee, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
Whether it’s the K-9’s handler or another adopter, whoever takes home the dog after retirement could receive up to $1,500 in reimbursements for annual veterinarian services. The bill sets aside $300,000 in recurring revenue to cover the program.
“What we’ve seen is after these dogs come out of service in their retirement, there’s an increased level of care that’s necessary in order to make them efficient and to still be able to maintain,” Powell told the committee.
The concept has received bipartisan support for a decade — it was even teed up for final passage in 2015, but that was the year the House infamously “took its ball and went home” by ending Session early. But committee Chair Jason Pizzo needed to double-check before his panel OK’d the measure.
“Anyone dare to debate the caring of dogs, anyone?”
Unsurprisingly, the entire committee voted to back the good boys and girls.
Learning to fly
Sen. Dennis Baxley has a couple of ideas up his sleeve when it comes to license plates.
The Ocala Republican is picking up where lawmakers left off in exploring the use of digital license plates on cars. His measure, “License Plate Modernization Act of 2022” (SB 812), would require the state to study the feasibility of using those plates.
The bill creates the Digital License Plate Pilot Program. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles would be expected to present a series of recommendations to the Legislature throughout its exploration: on government-owned and commercial motor vehicles by July 2023, on for-hire vehicles by July 2024, and on all motor 87 vehicles by July 2025.
Digital plates can connect to the internet and display more information than what is now on conventional tags, like car registration information. The plates would also communicate with the state’s toll collection system.
Miami Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran is carrying the House version of the bill (HB 91), both of which would take effect upon becoming law. Lawmakers last year failed to pass a similar measure.
Outside of the digital world, Baxley also has a bill to create a new specialty license plate; the “Learn to Fly” plate (SB 814). Funds raised from the plate would go to Florida’s Lifted Youth, a nonprofit to help underprivileged youth and the children of fallen heroes find careers in aviation.
That measure doesn’t have a House companion yet.
Shoutout for shots
Eighty percent of the staff at the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes are vaccinated for COVID-19, making it the skilled nursing facility with the highest staff vaccination rates, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.
Conversely, with 49% of the staff vaccinated, the Emory L. Bennett State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Daytona Beach had the lowest staff vaccination rates of the six state-run veteran nursing facilities.
Meanwhile, when it comes to vaccination rates among residents, the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port Charlotte and the Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Augustine are the leaders of the pack, with the state reporting 100% vaccination rates for veteran residents at both facilities.
No state-run veteran nursing facility has a lower than 91% vaccination rate among its residents.
In addition to six skilled nursing facilities, the state also operates a “domiciliary home” for veterans, similar to an assisted living facility. The staff vaccination rate there, 47%, is the lowest among all state-run veteran facilities. State data show that 91% of the veterans who reside there are vaccinated.
Stuff the Charger
The Florida Highway Patrol is starting its annual “Stuff the Charger” food drive.
The statewide food drive, which FHP and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles are running through the end of November, supports local communities to fight hunger by collecting nonperishable food donations.
“Generosity and kindness are gifts we can all share with one another this holiday season,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry Rhodes. “Demonstrating care for your fellow neighbor can take on many forms, and our eighth annual ‘Stuff the Charger’ food drive is a way for Floridians to give back to their communities and help provide relief to those who need it most.”
People wishing to donate food can donate at any local FHP Station or contact a Public Affairs Officer in their area.
Accepted food includes canned meats, canned potatoes, canned fruits and vegetables and soup. Also on the list of dried goods: stuffing, boxed potatoes, rice, cornbread mix, grits cereal and oatmeal. Other goods include nuts, peanut butter, evaporated milk, bottled water and broth.
“The Florida Highway Patrol is passionate about investing in our communities,” said Lieutenant Colonel Troy Thompson, Acting Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Make a difference in your community by donating to our Annual FHP Stuff the Charger food drive to help our fellow Floridians enjoy a meal this holiday season.”
Fish Art Contest
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced plans to host an art contest for Florida students.
The Florida State Fish Art Contest will allow students to compete in a statewide contest and advance to a national competition. The contest winner will also earn prizes.
“We are committed to increasing youth participation in freshwater and saltwater fishing through this effort,” said Eric Sutton, Executive Director of the FWC. “The State Fish Art program is a unique and creative way to connect to youth anglers, and the FWC is proud to be sponsoring the initiative for Florida.”
FWC will choose winners in four grade categories: kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade and 10th through 12th grade.
Contestants may either submit artwork featuring a Florida fish or submit a creative writing story.
“This program inspires creativity while developing the next generation of anglers and conservationists,” FWC said in a news release.
More information about the contest is available online at Wildlife Forever — Florida Art.
To watch a video about the contest, click on the image below:
Use of force
This week, the Florida Sheriffs Association released a report detailing the ways law enforcement responds to violent encounters.
The report highlights officer training methods, and the tactics officers may legally use when encountering various levels of resistance.
Surveys found in the report suggest Americans are largely misinformed about law enforcement tactics and the frequency of use-of-force situations.
“This research further debunks the idea that officers should be viewed negatively,” said Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “Although we understand there is always room for improvement, our deputies have the responsibility to protect individuals from injury. With the proper training and policies, they understand their duties as an officer and the ultimate results from judgments they must make in different situations.”
Among other statistics, the FSA Research Institute found officers chose not to shoot in 93% of violent situations where lethal force would’ve been justified. Another survey cited in the report shows only 2.8% of 61.5 million Americans perceived use-of-force during a police encounter.
“Having credible and actionable research allows law enforcement and leaders to continue improving public safety and to continue increasing the currency of trust,” stated Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Committee Chair of the Florida Sheriffs Research Institute. “I expect my deputies and personnel to treat all individuals with dignity and respect.”
The full report is available online.
Marketing in these times
Americans for Prosperity-Florida is criticizing lawmakers for advancing a measure that would delay the scheduled repeal of VISIT FLORIDA.
On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted unanimously to advance SB 434, which would extend the tourism marketing agency till 2031. The measure is already on its final committee stop on the Senate side.
AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander warned that focusing on marketing the state during these times is not the best use of taxpayer dollars.
“We have seen that just because you spend more money toward promoting people visiting the state, it doesn’t always equate to more people coming,” Zander said. “The government should not take money away from hardworking Florida families to invest in this failed strategy that shifts money from their local communities toward Florida’s big destination spots. To take money from Floridians to tell them to go to Florida’s major destination spots is a waste of money.”
Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper is sponsoring the Senate bill. St. Pete Beach Republican Rep. Linda Chaney filed the House version of the bill on Wednesday. Instead of extending VISIT FLORIDA from 2023 to 2031, her bill would extend the agency till 2028.
“We urge concerned citizens across the state to call on their legislators to fully repeal this program so that government can assume its proper role,” Zander said.
Ben Shapiro at FSU
Florida State University will host conservative pundit Ben Shapiro in November.
A guest of the College Republicans at FSU and Young America’s Foundation, Shapiro will speak as part of the Fred and Lynda Allen Lecture Series. The Nov. 15 event will mark Shapiro’s first visit to the Tallahassee-based university.
Shapiro is a popular figure among conservative circles. He hosts The Ben Shapiro Show, one of the most popular podcasts in the nation. He is also heard on more than 150 radio stations nationwide.
Shapiro’s campus visits often draw large crowds and even protesters. The conservative pundit frequently discusses hot-topic political issues, including free speech.
Shapiro’s social media presence, however, is even more notable. The conservative pundit boasts more Facebook followers than The Washington Post.
More information about the event is available online.
Florida State University is again offering a course to train students on the inner works of the legislative process.
The program teaches students a variety of legislative aspects, including bill drafting and analysis, the committee process and advocacy.
Students also hear firsthand accounts from lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers. Reps. Amber Mariano and Andrew Learned are among the lawmakers students will meet. They will also hear from Sen. Gary Farmer and former Rep. Clay Ingram, who now works as FSU Chief Legislative Affairs Officer.
FSU law school Associate Dean Debra Henley teaches the course. She created it in 2017.
“Chief of Staff for Gov. Ron DeSantis, James Uthmeier, is scheduled to wrap up the class for the semester with a discussion of the process for setting legislative priorities, the role of the Governor in the legislative process, considerations that go into decisions on legislation presented to the Governor, and the budget,” Henley announced.
Students participate in mock hearings and play various roles throughout the course, including as committee members or lobbyists.
The class runs through Nov. 16.