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Midtown Reader is celebrating its fifth birthday over the weekend and inviting fellow Tallahasseeans to join the fun.
The birthday celebration will include raffles, sales and events for readers young and old.
On Saturday, the bookstore will host a Sidewalk Sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring coffee and cocoa by Argonaut Coffee. At noon, families can enjoy a “Kidstown” story hour. Young Actors Theater students will read The Wizard of Oz and perform a song.
Sally Bradshaw opened the independent bookstore in November 2016.
“We are so grateful for the support of Big Bend readers and consider it a privilege to serve as Tallahassee’s neighborhood booksellers,” Bradshaw said. “Regardless of genre, a great read can change lives and grow relationships. It can lead to good questions and great dialogue. That’s how reading helps build better communities.”
The festivities will continue Sunday with a “10 Books in 10 Minutes” event. Kicking off at 3 p.m., authors and booksellers will recommend 10 of their favorite reads in 10 minutes.
The event will feature a slew of presenters, including FSU writers and professors Barbara Hamby, Diane Roberts and Elizabeth Stuckey-French; Argonaut Coffee owner Jason McArthur; and Midtown Reader’s booksellers, Tanya Eakin and Matt Dailey.
Located on Thomasville Road inside a historic “pink building” near WaterWorks, Midtown Reader regularly hosts author readings, children’s story times, and discussion panels.
Most recently, it hosted New York Times bestselling author Kristen Arnett. A Florida resident, Arnett spoke of her latest novel, “With Teeth.”
More information about Midtown Reader is available online.
Cleaver and Cork
Award-winning chef and TV personality Aarón Sánchez will headline a Tallahassee Community College culinary event in the upcoming year.
Sánchez is the owner of Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans and a judge on FOX’s competition series MasterChef and MasterChef Junior. The four-part event, Cleaver and Cork, is open to the public and will feature a variety of culinary experiences.
“We are thrilled to bring Chef Aarón Sánchez’s unique flair and flavors to Tallahassee,” said Heather Mitchell, Executive Director of the TCC Foundation. “From tasting food and libations at our Food and Wine Festival to hearing Chef Sánchez’s story while he makes his famous dishes live at the Toast and Talk to our Signature Dinner event curated by Chef, we have something for everyone at every price point.”
Cleaver and Cord will begin on Feb. 27 and continue through March 5. Daily events include a Progressive Cocktail Party on Feb. 27, Toast and Talk on March 3, Signature Dinner on March 4, and a Food and Wine Festival on March 5. The festival will also feature master classes and cooking demonstrations.
Event proceeds will benefit the Tallahassee Community College Foundation’s Athletics Program.
“This year, we are excited to continue the expansion of our athletics program, helping student-athletes excel in the classroom, on the field or court, and beyond,” Mitchell said.
Sanchez in 2016 founded the Aarón Sánchez Scholarship Fund, which proves aspiring chefs in the Latin community culinary scholarships in New York City.
He is also the creative director of Cocina, an online platform celebrating Latin culinary culture.
“I’m excited to be a part of Cleaver and Cork 2022!” Sánchez said. “Partnering with Tallahassee Community College Foundation is a perfect fit as we both share a love for culinary arts and education both rooted in helping students grow to become the best versions of themselves.”
More information about Cleaver and Cork is available online.
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:
Senate staffers draft first district maps — The Senate Reapportionment Committee produced its first draft maps, four for Senate districts and four for 28 congressional districts, ahead of the 2022 redistricting process in Florida. A memo from the committee staff director said staffers did not consult with anyone other than counsel when drafting the maps. Like Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report, many national observers were surprised how closely the maps hew to current lines. “Bizarre: these maps shore up #FL27 Rep. Maria Salazar (R), but otherwise are barely gerrymanders. By my count, these maps break down 16-12 Trump-Biden, vs. 15-12 today. Is this a head fake?” tweeted Wasserman.
DeSantis unveils education budget proposals — Gov. Ron DeSantis is keeping education a priority in the coming year. He started teasing his 2022-23 fiscal year budget this week, starting with education initiatives. Among them is $600 million to boost teacher pay, which DeSantis hopes will increase the median salary beyond the current $47,000. He also plans to repeat the $1,000 principal bonuses. The Governor’s budget proposal also contemplates $421 million in recurring funds for school safety and mental health initiatives and $15.5 million to replace the Florida Standards Assessments with a new Progress Monitoring System. Another big spend: $534 million for various workforce initiatives.
Republicans release Special Session bills — DeSantis and top legislative Republicans on Monday outlined four pieces of legislation lawmakers will tackle during Special Session next week. The bills are aimed at thwarting vaccine mandates imposed by public and private employers. But DeSantis’ threat to punish private businesses that require employees to get vaccinated appears to be more bark than bite. Companies that don’t comply with the provisions in the bills could still face hefty fines. But the main bill does not eliminate COVID-19 liability protections for businesses that require employees to get vaccinated, as DeSantis once hinted he would do. It also does not entitle workers to tap into workers’ compensation benefits if there are adverse reactions and injuries after a mandated vaccination.
DeSantis wants consequences for ‘midnight flight’ contractors — There will be consequences for the contractors who helped Joe Biden’s administration bring to Florida immigrants who were in the country illegally, DeSantis says. The Governor has repeatedly contended murder suspect Yery Noel Medina Ulloa came to Florida on a “midnight flight.” The DeSantis administration only knows of the flights because people in the federal government were “leaking” the info after the fact, he said. DeSantis, whose administration is suing Biden’s, also had a threat for Biden: “If they’re gonna come here, we’ll provide buses … I will send them to Delaware.”
Infrastructure funding en route, but DeSantis remains critical — The Biden administration notes Florida has deep infrastructure needs. Among the expected disbursements to Florida are $13 billion for highway improvement projects, $2.6 billion for public transportation projects, $1.6 billion for water infrastructure, $245 million for bridge replacement projects, $198 million for electric vehicle charging stations, and $100 million for broadband expansion projects. Still, DeSantis has railed against the infrastructure bill this week, calling it “pork-barrel spending” and criticizing the package for benefiting “very high tax and dysfunctional states.” He also took aim at Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his comments on historical racism in highway design. “To me, a road’s a road,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis, on Veterans Day, announced $8.6 million in workforce development grants to expand career and training opportunities for military veterans and spouses.
The grants, titled Get There Faster: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Governor’s Reserve Funds grants, were awarded to workforce development boards across the state. The announcement comes as Paychecks for Patriots Career Fairs for veterans and military families are underway across the state.
“We owe the freedoms we enjoy as Americans to our military veterans, and I am focused on ensuring Florida is the best state in the nation for those who have served to find great jobs, start or grow businesses and support their families,” DeSantis said. “Business is booming in Florida, and employers are looking for the leadership skills, training, and teamwork military veterans bring to the workforce.”
Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said the DeSantis administration is prioritizing the needs of the military community to help them succeed.
“With more than 1.5 million veterans and active-duty military members residing in Florida, our military community plays a vital role to the overall success of Florida’s economy,” Eagle continued.
In June, the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors approved funding for the competitive grants to reach and assist a greater number of military veterans and spouses of active-duty military and veterans with employment challenges such as homelessness or service-related disabilities.
“CareerSource Florida is honored to serve those who have served our country,” said CareerSource Florida Board Chair Stephanie Smith. “On behalf of our board, we applaud Gov. DeSantis for prioritizing funding to ensure our military veterans and their families have the resources needed to begin or continue great careers here in Florida.”
S&P Global has reaffirmed Florida’s “AAA” rating, noting the state’s stable outlook. That earned praise from state leaders, including the Governor.
The credit rating agency also contended that Florida is well-positioned to continue to benefit from economic recovery.
“With 2022 in sight, Florida’s economic outlook continues to surprise to the upside from our initial expectations following the onset of the pandemic more than a year ago,” S&P Global said.
Florida’s rating bests that of California, New York, and the national average.
“Florida’s economy is strong because we have kept the state open, maintained a positive economic climate, taxed lightly and spent wisely,” DeSantis said. “Florida is yet again outpacing the nation, and the state is well-positioned to weather future economic challenges.”
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the state’s financial services, credited DeSantis with advocating for measures to protect communities and businesses during the pandemic.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment and underscores the prudent financial management and hard work of so many to maintain a strong economy during the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patronis said. “A great state credit rating creates a huge savings to Florida taxpayers and helps ensure the strong financial footing of our state.”
Patronis named DeSantis’ initial push for vaccinations and the therapeutic options the Governor has highlighted more recently. DeSantis has safely re-energized the state’s economy, Patronis touted.
“Florida has shown time and time again that we’re going to live within our means and support economic drivers like tourism, transportation and small businesses,” he continued. “While other states searched for ways to lockdown during the pandemic and stifle their economies with burdensome mandates, Florida has persevered and thrived.”
Floridians, beware! Scammers are targeting consumers using mobile payment apps.
While payment apps such as Venmo and Apple Pay are mainstream, the technology rapidly cemented itself amid the COVID-19 pandemic as an alternative to cash.
With the holiday around the corner, Attorney General Ashley Moody encouraged Floridians to use caution when using mobile payment apps.
“Mobile payment app usage is on the rise, and with the rapid increase in the popularity of these apps, comes the potential for hackers and scammers to attempt to interrupt transactions,” Moody said.
Moody’s warning comes after scammers swindled a retired Boynton Beach couple via a mobile payment app. Without their knowledge, hackers stole $1,500 a week from the unsuspecting couple until the account was empty.
“Please be careful when using these apps and take steps to ensure the money you are sending goes to the intended recipient and not to a scammer,” Moody said.
Moody offered several consumer tips as Floridians move closer to the holidays.
She encouraged consumers to associate the app with a second bank account with limited funds. She also suggested credit cards as an alternative to bank cards. Credit cards often provide more protection than check cards.
Not least, Floridians should regularly review financial statements.
Students in Florida schools learned about one of the darkest chapters in modern history last week.
Recognized annually during the second week of November, Florida’s Holocaust Education Week coincides with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, or “Crystal Night,” of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish homes, schools, and businesses were burned and destroyed at the behest of Nazi officials.
Florida’s curricula provide developmentally appropriate and historically accurate lessons about the Holocaust, strengthening their understanding of the potential for governments and people to commit horrendous acts and stressing the importance of protecting individual freedoms and being wary of the tyranny of the majority.
“Holocaust Education Week is an opportunity for all Floridians to reflect on our moral responsibilities as individuals and as a society,” DeSantis said. “We remember the murder of 6 million Jews, and others, who suffered greatly under the Nazi regime, we remain vigilant against hatred and tyranny, and I am committed to ensuring that the state of Florida remains a safe and welcoming home for the Jewish community.”
Rep. Randy Fine added, “As the descendant of victims of the Holocaust, I was proud to sponsor the legislation creating Holocaust Education Week, and am so grateful to Gov. DeSantis and Commissioner (Richard) Corcoran for making it such a priority in our schools.
“In this time of rising anti-Semitism around the world, it has never been more important to teach our children how the Holocaust happened. We must teach them that, just in the lives of our grandparents, the Jewish people were almost wiped from the Earth. We must — and in Florida, we are — ensuring that we never forget.”
Patronis also marked Holocaust Education Week by reminding Floridians of a Department of Financial Services’ program that helps Holocaust survivors seek restitution. Under the Holocaust Victims Assistance Program, survivors can recover insurances policies for victims, restitution from Nazi-seized bank accounts and other property.
Survivors have recorded more than $77 million since 1978 under the program. Last year, Patronis’ office helped secure more than $14 million for survivors. The state, he noted, is home to the second-largest Jewish population in the world.
This week, Patronis suggested police should receive more than workers’ compensation if they miss time sick with COVID-19.
Patronis’ suggestion comes as lawmakers prepare for a Special Session next week and the upcoming 2022 Legislative Session in January.
It also comes as officers nationwide wrangle with COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
“I know that at the end of the day, workers comp claims just don’t cover all the bills,” Patronis said at the Florida Police Benevolent Association Annual Conference in Cape Coral. “That’s why I think this session, the Legislature should seriously consider covering the lost-pay of law enforcement officers who were hospitalized as a result of COVID.”
With low morale plaguing departments nationwide, state leaders are seeking ways to recruit frustrated cops into the ranks of Florida’s law enforcement community.
Among other efforts, Moody recently unveiled a statewide police recruitment website and DeSantis wants to offer out-of-state cops a $5,000 signing bonus.
The pair and Patronis — all of whom are vaccinated — are outspoken critics of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Look, I’m no doctor Fauci, but can someone explain to me why threatening an officer’s health care benefits — over not getting the jab — is good for public health?” Patronis joked at the conference.
Patronis also jabbed at “experts” and “pundits” and “politicians.”
They, he said, “think our law enforcement community can’t make adult decisions.”
Patronis is among the 21 state financial officials nationwide who signed a letter urging Biden to withdraw the nomination of Saule Omarova for U.S. Comptroller of the Currency.
The letter comes from the State Financial Officers Foundation.
“SFOF state leaders are opposed to Ms. Omarova because of her radical views and have a deep concern that she would abuse her supervisory power as Comptroller to expand political control over the private banking sector, disrupting the economy,” according to the letter.
SFOF is a conservative group formed to drive “fiscally sound public policy,” including a free-market economy.
“My colleagues across the country are both appalled and disgusted by the nomination of this radical extremist,” said SFOF National Chair Nebraska Treasurer John Murante. “Saule Omarova may be qualified to be comptroller of the Chinese Communist Party, but has no place in American government.”
“Mercifully, there never has been any semblance of a mandate to make America China or Russia,” SFOF President Derek Kreifels added. “It seems clear as day that the American public is nowhere near clamoring for America’s stealthy overnight radicalization. In fact, you may have heard that there’s actually a consensus to the contrary.”
“The unmistakable public pushback against America’s ‘Extreme Makeover’ should serve as a much-needed reality check.”
Instagram of the week
The week in appointments
Barbers’ Board — The Governor named Herman White and Veronica Wold to the Barbers’ Board on Friday evening. White lives in Pensacola and is the owner of Esquire Barber Shop. He has been a licensed barber for over 50 years and is a former Chair of the Barbers’ Board. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of West Florida. Wold, of Crawfordville, is a government operations consultant at the Florida Department of Corrections and a travel agent with Effortless Travel of Tallahassee. She is a member of the Business Women of Wakulla and earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.
Board of Cosmetology — DeSantis announced late Friday that he appointed Marisol Marin, Robin Tabano, Jennifer Macku and Stephania Streit to the Board of Cosmetology. Marin, of Miami, is a cosmetology instructor at Robert Morgan Technical College and a contracts compliance specialist at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Barry University. Tabano is the owner of The Robin’s Nest Hair Salon. A Tallahassee resident and licensed cosmetologist for 30 years, Tabano has served on the Board of Cosmetology since 2014 and is a past Chair and Vice-Chair. She earned her certificate of completion from the Southeastern Beauty School. Macku is the owner and operator of The Place Hair Salon. The Pompano Beach resident has been a licensed cosmetologist for 36 years and has worked as a cosmetology instructor and volunteers her time by giving free haircuts to children. She earned her cosmetology license at Capri Beauty School. Streit is the president of StreitSmart Capital and a former sales manager for American Heritage Financial, and a member of the Pensacola State College District Board of Trustees. Streit, who lives in Century, earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.
That escalated quickly
Less than a week after agreeing to pump an additional $100 million into Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes, state Medicaid officials on Wednesday published the new rates the state will pay the facilities for providing nursing home care for three months between October and December.
According to documents posted by the state Agency for Health Care Administration, Whispering Oaks, a facility in Tampa, has the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates for the three months at $211.64 per day.
That’s an increase from the $171.08 the facility was paid before the $100 million infusion lawmakers agreed to make. Conversely, at $324.46 per day, Harbour’s Edge in Delray Beach has the highest Medicaid reimbursement rates for the three months. Before the rate increase, the state paid the nursing home $290.20 per day to care for its Medicaid residents.
Since Oct. 1, 2018, Florida has reimbursed nursing homes using a prospective payment system. Under a prospective payment system, a facility’s payments are based on a predetermined fixed amount for the particular service.
Lawmakers agreed to exempt state-run VA nursing homes and government-owned facilities from the PPS system that took effect on Oct. 1, 2018. Those centers continue to get reimbursed on a cost-based system.
It’s a date
The Florida Department of Health announced Friday that it will hold a two-hour public meeting on Nov. 23 on a new proposed rule for controlling COVID-19 in school settings that presumably will replace the controversial emergency rule implemented by the DeSantis administration and upheld by a state administrative court.
The meeting on the new proposed rule will be held in person at the department’s administrative headquarters in Tallahassee.
The meeting notice did not include details for how the public could attend the meeting virtually; an option state agencies have provided throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A copy of the proposed rule was not available at press time. The public meeting comes three days after the slated end of a Special Legislative Session called by DeSantis to address COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
Waiting for action
The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation has floated changes to its reimbursement manual for health care providers, but they won’t take effect unless the Florida Legislature agrees to ratify the changes when it meets for the 2022 Legislative Session in January.
The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation rule joins a spate of others that, although promulgated through the appropriate channels, cannot take effect without legislative ratification. Rules that, in the aggregate increase operating costs by $1 million or more within five years of implementation, require legislative ratification.
And that’s not always easy to get.
For instance, the Florida Board of Medicine promulgated a rule six years ago that increases the costs of reproducing patient medical records. The rule, 64B8-10.003, was approved by the state medical board on Dec. 9, 2015, but it still hasn’t taken effect.
Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Robin Bartleman are pushing legislation they hope would make apartment dwellers safer from predatory or violent apartment building employees with master keys.
The Democrats’ bill, called “Miya’s Law” (SB 898), is named for a young woman killed in her University of Central Florida area apartment in Stewart’s district.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office suspects a maintenance worker with a violent criminal background employed by the apartment complex had stalked Miya Marcano, 19, and used a passkey to enter her apartment and murder her. The maintenance worker committed suicide before making an arrest.
“Miya’s death is an awful tragedy — one that has put a spotlight on problems with apartment safety and security,” Stewart said. “We’ve heard too many horror stories of some landlords disregarding the security of their tenants by issuing master keys to maintenance workers without running any background checks. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes, and we are hopeful that ‘Miya’s Law’ will help make that a reality.”
Marcano’s family is from Pembroke Pines, in Bartleman’s district.
Bartleman hasn’t filed the House companion measure yet but plans to.
“As the parent of a daughter in a rental apartment at the University of Florida, it is my expectation that she is safe and will come home,” Bartleman said. “Those were Miya’s parents’ expectations, and their lives are forever changed. This horrible tragedy helped shed light on gaping security holes that exist, and we must ensure the safety of all Floridians in multifamily rentals.”
Florida’s sexual battery laws don’t protect people who are inebriated unless they were slipped drugs or alcohol without their consent. But a pair of female lawmakers want to change that.
Orlando Sen. Linda Stewart and Boca Raton Rep. Emily Slosberg, both Democrats, have filed legislation (SB 868/HB 525) that strikes qualifying language, expanding Florida’s sexual battery laws to include people who are drunk or high, regardless of how they got to that state.
The current sexual battery law only applies if the offender gets the victim intoxicated without the victim’s consent or knows that someone incapacitated the victim with alcohol or other drugs.
“Currently, there is a defense to sexual battery of an intoxicated person if the offender did not provide the drugs or alcohol to the victim,” Slosberg said. “This Bill changes that and makes it clear that a sexual battery is committed regardless of who provided the victim with the intoxicants.”
More than one in six women reports being sexually assaulted while incapacitated from alcohol and other drugs in their first year of college, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. In Florida, and many other places, it is not considered rape if the survivor decides to drink or do drugs.
The legislation does not change the fact that the prosecutors are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim did not intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily consent to the sexual activity.
“This is common sense — sexual assault that occurs when a victim is mentally incapacitated should be treated the same as any other case when the victim is unable to consent,” said Stewart. “Offenders who take advantage of someone’s incapacitation — whether they caused it or not — should be held accountable.”
Bartleman is the Florida School Board Association’s Legislator of the Year.
In a news release, the Association highlighted Bartleman’s record of advocacy, which includes the proposal of HB 359. The measure, though unsuccessful, aimed to suspend standardized testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a former classroom teacher, assistant principal, and Broward County School Board Member for 16 years, I am honored to receive this award from the Florida School Board Association,” Bartleman said. “I want to thank school boards across the state who supported this critical legislation and for all they do for our students and teachers.”
The Legislator of the Year award marks Bartleman’s latest recognition. The Florida League of Cities recently awarded her with the Legislative Appreciation Award.
Florida School Board Association Executive Director Andrea Messina also noted the lawmaker’s advocacy for students during the early stages of the pandemic.
“Representative Bartleman, as a freshman legislator, helped to lead bipartisan discussions that resulted in flexible accountability for students, schools, and districts after what was probably the most difficult year for teaching and learning that anyone can remember,” Messina said. “All of Florida’s school districts appreciate her work on this and recognize her passion for students and teachers.”
The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11.
After hitting its sales target in 34 days, the Florida State Parks specialty plate is ready for production.
More than 3,000 Floridians have already pre-purchased 3,000 State Parks specialty license plates, enough to give the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles the green light to start producing the plates.
Floridians who preordered plates will begin to receive them in early spring. Plates can still be purchased.
“We’re pleased to have met our presale goal so quickly,” said Florida Park Service Director Eric Draper. “Not only are we grateful for this new fundraising opportunity, but we’re also excited to see people showing off their Florida State Parks pride on their vehicles.”
$25 from each plate sold will go directly to the Florida State Parks Foundation.
“This is a fantastic achievement and shows just how popular our state parks are and why people want to support them in this way,” Foundation President Tammy Gustafson said.
FLHSMV allows two years to meet this goal, but the parks plate hit that goal in just over a month.
“We not only hit our 3,000 target in just one month, we have flown past it,” Gustafson said. “Funds from the sale of the Florida State Parks license plate will provide significant and ongoing funding to enable us to protect and preserve our award-winning park system.”
The Florida State Parks Foundation helps sustain the Park Service and its 175 award-winning parks and trails. The Foundation runs programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.