Takeaways from Tallahassee — Second-half happiness

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
Can the second half of life be as exciting as the first? Arthur Brooks says 'of course.'

Act Two

You’re in your 20s, 30, 40s and at the top of your game. The pace is fast, and the rewards are great. As author Arthur Brooks puts it: “A lot of you were thinking early on work-work-work, achieve-achieve-achieve, succeed-succeed-succeed and then dine out on it for the rest of your life.”

But such success can be a scourge — the “striver’s curse” is how Brooks puts it — that research has shown can lead to disappointment and unhappiness in later life. A chance encounter in 2012 on an airplane with a world-famous but deeply unhappy man led Brooks to hop off the success treadmill and do research to discover if a person could find a way to happiness during their declining years.

Arthur Brooks shares his recipe for second-half happiness and his latest book. Image via arthurbrooks.com.

The very good news is, yes, it’s possible, but it takes some effort, even when a person is still on life’s upslope. And he’s outlined it all in his latest book, “From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.”

Brooks shared his recipe for happiness and his latest book with a crowd of 175 (mostly second-half) people at Tallahassee’s The Village Square Tuesday evening. Apparently, his message is resonating because “From Strength to Strength” debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times Bestseller List and promptly sold out its first printing.

When Brooks had his epiphany, he was a striver and had all the trappings of success as president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “I … was traveling around. I would have to raise $50 million a year, and I gave 175 speeches,” he said. “Basically, it was running for the Senate and never getting elected.”

He made the switch from politics to academia and is now on the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School faculty, where he teaches a class called “Leadership and Happiness.” He also writes columns on happiness for The Atlantic and hosts the magazine’s podcast, “How to Build a Happy Life.”

One of the takeaways from his research — what Brooks calls “me-search” since he was planning to use the findings in his own life — was that no matter one’s career, “you can expect significant decline to come as soon as your 30s or as late as your early 50s.”

Young strivers have an abundance of what is known as “fluid intelligence,” he said, with the energy and ability to innovate and problem solve. A curve shows it peaks, then wanes as one gets older. The good news is there’s a second curve called “crystallized intelligence” that rises well into old age. It allows a person to see the big picture, make connections and share their wisdom.

The happiest older folks jump from the fluid curve to the crystallized one when the time is right, something that should be planned for, Brooks advises.

“You don’t have to be an economist to know that you should start saving; you should put your 401(k) plan together so you can retire,” he says. “But nobody gives you a 401(k) plan for your happiness; you’ve got to figure that one out for yourself.”

Brooks’ book has eight chapters devoted to the process, much of it rooted in Eastern philosophies — the Dalai Lama gave him a cover blurb — and spiritual practices. In the end, he boiled it down to seven words — “Use things. Love people. Worship the divine.”

Asked if people tend to confuse his name with actor/comedian Albert Brooks, Arthur Brooks said “all the time.” Brooks the Author once bumped into Brooks the actor and told him about his troubles over the years with the name mix-up. The comedian shot back, saying “Imagine how Adam Hitler must have felt.” Albert Brooks may have had time to think through that comeback — his given name is Albert Einstein.

Signed copies of “From Strength to Strength” can be purchased at the Midtown Reader bookstore, located in Midtown Tallahassee at 1123 Thomasville Road.


Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Christine Jordan Sexton, Tristan Wood and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

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

Legislature extends Session to pass budget — Albeit behind schedule, the Legislature is ready to pass the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Lawmakers will return Monday to vote on the $112.5 billion budget and related bills before adjourning Sine Die. The budget includes significant decisions: Employee pay raises, water, infrastructure, taxes, and more. Budget chairs Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull had remained optimistic they would meet the Tuesday deadline to wrap the budget in time for the scheduled Sine Die on Friday.

DeSantis battles Disney on LGBTQ lessons — Disney and other critics are pushing back against legislation passed last week that they call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, HB 1557. Despite Disney pausing its political donations, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida would stay the course to weed out “transgenderism and R-rated lessons about sexuality” for third graders and younger. Those comments were recorded in a video exclusive to Fox News and later reused in a DeSantis campaign video. But the Governor didn’t stop there. “If that’s the hill they’re going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship with the Communist Party of China?”

Legislature approves anti-indoctrination bill — The Republican-led Legislature has joined the wave of state legislative bodies targeting “critical race theory” with a bill to extinguish “indoctrination” in classroom and corporate settings. The Senate voted 24-15 on Thursday to pass HB 7, inspired by calls from DeSantis to combat “woke ideology.” The measure would prohibit lessons and training which tell students and employees that they are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive because of their race, color, sex, or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex, or national origin.

Property insurance legislation dies on Day 60 — Among the casualties of Session is legislation on property insurance. But there are already rumblings that a Special Session could lie in the immediate future. The Senate did pass SB 1728 earlier in Session, but critics always opposed it because it would reduce responsibilities for insurance providers while boosting costs to homeowners. House Speaker Chris Sprowls expressed skepticism about anything needed to happen on the homeowner insurance front this year. But Senate President Wilton Simpson said a Special Session could happen, especially as hurricane season approaches. “We have many companies going out of business. It’s certainly a crisis.”

Deal reached on Simpson’s water bill — Budget negotiators reached an agreement on SB 2508, an Everglades water bill that is a priority of Simpson. The measure already contained language requiring water shortages within the Lake Okeechobee Region to be managed under the current rules set up by the South Florida Water Management District. New language added to the bill Thursday would give DeSantis and state lawmakers a say in any potential changes to those rules. Senate budget chief Stargel said senators were focused on addressing the needs of South Florida stakeholders in crafting the final language. “I think it meets the needs of that whole region down there,” Stargel said.

Big savings

More than $650 million will remain in Floridians’ pockets under a tax-cut package approved by lawmakers.

Much of the savings will go to everyday residents through five sales tax holidays.

The lineup starts May 28 with a two-week disaster preparedness sales tax holiday. First offered in 2014, the holiday covers items typically included in a hurricane kit, such as flashlights, radios, tarps, coolers and batteries. The holiday also includes generators costing $1,000 or less.

The popular sales tax holidays have returned.

The disaster preparedness holiday will partially overlap with a tax break on impact-resistant windows, doors and garage doors. That will last throughout June, followed by a monthlong tax holiday for energy-efficient appliances in July.

The back-to-school sales tax holiday is also making a comeback from July 25-Aug. 7. It covers clothing, footwear, and backpacks costing $100 or less and school supplies and learning aids costing $50 or less. Though not included every year, the 2022 package also covers computers — and the accessories and software that go with them — up to $1,500.

“Freedom Week,” which debuted in 2021, will return July 1-7. It’ll shave sales tax off tickets to a variety of live events, such as concerts and plays, as well as admissions to museums, state parks and fitness centers. The discount applies to tickets bought in advance if the event date falls between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2022.

Two new additions are also in the mix. The fuel sales tax holiday — one of DeSantis’ priorities — will cut pump prices by 25 cents a gallon throughout October. And the “Skilled Worker Tools” holiday will run Sept. 3-9, with exempted items including hand and power tools, work boots, safety equipment and more.

The package also includes some long-term cuts, such as a yearlong sales tax exemption for diapers as well as children’s clothes and shoes. The exemption aligns with the state’s July 1 through June 30 fiscal year. The sales tax on mobile homes was also permanently halved, from 6% to 3%.

Major honor

CFO Jimmy Patronis presented Purple Heart recipient Major John Haynes with a proclamation for his service to Florida and our nation. Following the CFO’s presentation of the declaration, the Daughters of the American Revolution honored Haynes with its Medal of Honor award.

A Madison native, the 91-year-old first joined the Marines during World War II when he was 15 years old after fudging his birth date on enlistment paperwork. He fought in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War, served on active duty for 30 years from 1945 to 1975.

Jimmy Patronis honors a true Florida hero. Image via CFO Office.

During his service, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal, the nation’s third-highest combat decoration, the Purple Heart Medal, and dozens of other awards and accommodations. He was inducted into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame in 2013.

Patronis said it was an honor to present Haynes with the proclamation.

“Major Haynes has served as a highly respected public servant and trusted leader in the state, and he has distinguished himself by making unprecedented contributions to Florida’s veterans,” Patronis said. “I would like to thank the Daughters of the American Revolution for bestowing this great honor on Major John Haynes and congratulations Major, for your leadership, trustworthiness, service and patriotism.”

Shoot for the stars

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez announced the launch of the 2022 Florida Space Art Contest for students in grades K-5 Tuesday.

For the contest, students are encouraged to submit artwork centered on the theme “Florida is the Place for Space: Celebrating Florida’s Contributions to Space Travel and Exploration. Nuñez, Chair of Space Florida’s Board of Directors, said she is proud to launch the competition.

The 2022 Florida Space Art Contest celebrates ‘the place for space.’

“This is an exciting opportunity for students to showcase their creativity and artistic talent while highlighting Florida’s iconic space coast, space travel, and exploration,” Nuñez said. “I look forward to seeing all the submissions that, no doubt, will be out of this world.”

Space Florida, a sponsor of the Lt. Governor’s Space Art Contest, believes supporting STEAM education initiatives are an integral part of its mission, said its CEO Frank DiBello.

“Space has long inspired the human imagination, and we are excited to support the next generation of Florida artists develop their talents as they experience space as no others have before them,” DiBello said. “We are excited to support the Lieutenant Governor through this art contest.”

Student contest rules and guidelines can be found online at this website.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

State University System Board of Governors — DeSantis named Craig Mateer to the Board of Governors of the State University System. Mateer, of Orlando, is the founder and CEO of CCM Capital Group and the founder and former CEO of Bags, Inc. He is a member of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and Florida State University’s Micco Society. He is also a former member of the Florida State University Board of Trustees. He was named the Orlando Business Journal’s 2014 CEO of the Year. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.

State Board of Education — DeSantis appointed Esther Byrd and Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie. Esther Byrd, the wife of state Rep. Cord Byrd, works as a legal assistant at her husband’s law firm and previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Pozo Christie, of Key Biscayne, is a Miami area radiologist. She is currently the senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association and the treasurer of the Catholic Association Foundation. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and her medical doctorate from the University of Miami.

Florida Talent Development Council — The Governor on Friday appointed Bob Ward to the Council and designated him as Chair. Ward, of Saint Petersburg, is the president and CEO of the Florida Council of 100. Previously, Ward spent 26 years in the public sector, serving as Chief of Staff to Marco Rubio and Allan Bense during their terms as House Speaker. He was also an education policy adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush, a deputy assistant secretary with the Department of Education, an administrator with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and a county deputy tax collector. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University.

Lee County Clerk of the Court and Comptroller — DeSantis appointed Kevin Karnes as Lee County Clerk. Karnes is a Cape Coral resident who has worked at the Clerk’s office for 14 years and currently holds the title of Chief Operating Officer. He also has a seat on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee counties. He earned his bachelor’s degree in legal studies from Florida Gulf Coast University and his master’s degree in legal studies from American Public University. He succeeds Linda Doggett, who retired before the end of her term.

Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission — The Governor announced four appointments and four reappointments to the Commission on Friday evening. The new members are Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Robert Bage, Orange County Corrections Department Sgt. Edgar Rosa and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Sgt. James Reaves. The reappointments are Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford, Satellite Beach Police Chief Jeff Pearson, former FDLE Assistant Commissioner James Sewell and Chris Nebbeling, a patrol officer, instructor, and range master at the West Palm Beach Police Department.

State Emergency Response Commission DeSantis announced nine appointments to the Commission on Friday. Frances Coyle, of Tallahassee, is a policy coordinator and budget chief in the Office of Policy and Budget for the Executive Office of the Governor. She earned her bachelor’s degree from FSU. Tracie Crawford, of Crawfordville, is an operations review specialist at FDLE. She earned her bachelor’s degree from FSU and master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University. Michael Davis, of Wesley Chapel, is a fire medic at Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Petersburg College and his master’s degree from Saint Leo University. Sam Graves, of Havana, is an environmental administrator at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He served in the U.S. Army and was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and the Purple Heart. Graves earned his bachelor’s degree from American Public University. Sasha Jones, of Tallahassee, is the emergency coordination officer at the Department of Economic Opportunity. She earned her bachelor’s degree from California State University. Shayne Morgan, of Lake City, is the emergency management director for the Columbia County Commission. Dharma Ramos, of Tampa, is the director of safety and occupational health for Gopher Resource. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the USF and her master’s degree from the UCF. Holland Thompson, of Valrico, is the director of health and safety at Mosaic Phosphates. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve and earned his bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology. Finally, Colonel James Wiggins, of Tallahassee, is the agricultural law enforcement director for FDACS. He served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserves and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from UWF.

Room where it happened

Senators didn’t throw away their shot to confirm Secretary Shawn Hamilton at the earliest opportunity.

After DeSantis on Thursday signed a bill clarifying the Department of Environmental Protection Secretary appointment process, the first business the Senate considered upon returning to the floor Friday was to unanimously confirm Hamilton as DEP Secretary. Per the Florida Constitution, the bill gave DeSantis a choice to send his DEP Secretary pick through the Cabinet or the Senate. Previously, the Florida Statutes required both.

Shawn Hamilton gets official.

The controversy around the DEP Secretary appointment process originated last summer when DeSantis appointed Hamilton as interim DEP Secretary. He later moved to make that appointment permanent. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democratic member of the Cabinet and a DeSantis gubernatorial challenger, contended the Governor lacks the legal authority to appoint Hamilton without the Cabinet’s unanimous support and a public interview.

“Unlike Commissioner Fried, Gov. DeSantis believes in the constitution and this common-sense bill squares the appointment for the DEP Secretary with constitutional requirements for executive appointments,” DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw said Thursday.

Fried repeatedly has said she supports Hamilton’s appointment. She reiterated that in a statement, in which she lambasted the Governor and the Legislature.

“In a state where our lives and livelihoods depend on the health of our environment, the leader of the Department of Environmental Protection must be held to the highest standards. My qualm is not with the current nominee, but the principle that Gov. DeSantis and his cronies changed the law instead of simply bringing this nomination before the Cabinet. This is yet another power grab by a Governor intent on consolidating power and cracking down on any potential dissent or opposing views,” Fried said.

Exemption en route

The Legislature passed a measure Tuesday that would exempt from Florida’s open records law certain personal information contained in crash reports.

The bill (SB 1614) passed the House Tuesday with only Rep. Anna Eskamani voting “no.” It passed the Senate last week 35-3 and now awaits the Governor’s signature before becoming law.

Currently, personal information on crash reports and traffic citations are exempt from public record laws for 60 days. Certain exemptions apply to people involved in a crash, their lawyers, insurance agents, law enforcement and members of the media.

Chuck Brannan says his public records exemption bill is needed to protect Floridians from fraud and identity theft.

The bill extends that 60-day limit indefinitely. Information like a driver’s date of birth, license number, address, excluding the five-digit ZIP code, telephone number, motor vehicle license plate number, and trailer tag number, would be exempt from public record.

The measure also limits which media members can access information on a report. Media members won’t access home or work addresses or telephone numbers, dates of birth, or driver’s license and identification numbers.

Supporters of the bill, like Macclenny Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan, said the bill is needed to protect Floridians from fraud and identity theft.

“Protecting personal identifying information is important in a time when identity theft and fraud are really issues that we all face,” Brannan said last month. “The gateway to fraud is committing identity theft.”

Alternatively, opponents warned the bill is part of efforts to chip away at Florida’s broad open records laws.

No hang-ups

The Senate on Friday voted unanimously to approve a bill (SB 312) that allows telehealth to be used to prescribe Schedule III, IV and V substances. But the legislation did not authorize phone calls as an option for patients. The House unanimously voted on Feb. 24 to pass the bill.

On Friday, Sen. Manny Diaz told Florida Politics that the Senate is “committed” to coming back to address an audio-only option next year. The inclusion of audio in Florida’s telehealth law was a major priority for Americans for Prosperity nationally.

Manny Diaz vows that audio-only telehealth will be addressed — eventually.

AFP Florida State Director Skylar Zander said it was disappointing the chambers could not “provide more electronic options” for patients, especially those in rural areas.

This is the second year the Legislature has considered changes to telehealth laws that health care lobbyists wanted lawmakers to consider. Last year’s efforts fell short, and there was a full-court press during the 2022 Session to make sure there was no repeat.

Rep. Tom Fabricio sponsored the legislation the last two years, and he’s happy to have the bill pass.

“I have championed this bill for two consecutive years because ensuring Florida residents have improved access and maintain their medication regimen is of utmost importance,” Fabricio said. “Looking forward to this legislation being signed into law.”

12 is enough?

Term limits will go into effect for school board members if a bill passed Thursday by the House and Senate is signed into law by DeSantis.

They just won’t take effect anytime soon. The clock starts running after the 2022 election cycle, and board members would be allowed to serve through 2034: 12 years, rather than the eight years preferred by the House.

Despite qualms, Rep. Sam Garrison agreed to the terms when the amended bill passed by the Senate (HB 1467) was returned to the House for reconsideration Thursday.

Sam Garrison buckled down and accepted a 12-year term limit for School Boards.

But ahead of the vote, Democrats homed in again on another bill provision, which allows for enhanced citizen review of instructional content.

The bill still will require school districts to list all library and instructional materials in use in an online database, with a multistep review process before adoption, including a mandatory public hearing and a “reasonable” opportunity for public comment.

The bill requires elementary schools to hire a Department of Education trained media specialist to curate educational materials and library books. It also calls school districts to report materials and books that draw public objections. The DOE would then publish that list for circulation.

READY, set, go!

The House voted Monday to pass a bill already OK’d by the Senate to require the Florida Department of Health to use existing public health and community outreach programs to educate health care practitioners on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related disorders.

HB 475/SB 806, named the Ramping up Education of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia for You (READY) Act, was advocated for by the Alzheimer’s Association and sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Michelle Salzman.

Florida has the second-highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the country, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. It is the only top 10 leading cause of death without prevention, treatment or a cure.

Florida has one of the largest populations dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Keith Perry wants to work on that.

According to Perry, 580,000 Floridians live with Alzheimer’s disease. It is expected to increase to 750,000 by 2025.

Awareness information made available to health care practitioners through the bill will include the importance of early detection and timely diagnosis of cognitive impairment through assessment tools.

“The READY Act promotes brain health, early detection, and early diagnosis that in turn leads to enhanced quality of life among families living with Alzheimer’s,” Perry said.

Salzman said the READY Act is a good step to help fight the disease.

“Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that has touched the lives of every Floridian,” Salzman said. “Being able to help families understand the early signs will surely provide a better outcome for both families and patients.”

The bill now needs DeSantis’ signature to become law.

Undone deal

The Florida Legislature passed revisions on requirements that Florida governments notice meetings in local newspapers.

The legislation (HB 7049) still allows governments to publish notices digitally on websites maintained by county governments.

Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Lake Mary Republican carrying the bill in the Senate, said the bill opens up the ability of governments to put public notices out in more ways than ever possible.

Why should newspapers have all the fun, asks Jason Brodeur.

“You want to give notice to the most amount of people possible,” he argued on the Senate floor.

Of note, the legislation still allows governments to put notices in papers. The Senate amended the legislation to enable noticing in free newspapers, a change that didn’t bother anyone in the House. Brodeur said that means an enormous amount of notice.

People will read notices in free papers, high-circulation papers, or on dedicated websites.

Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican and the bill’s House sponsor, said while he had no problem with governments publishing notices in free papers or paid papers, he would not do so.

“To be perfectly honest, if this passes and I ran a local government, I wouldn’t be putting in newspapers at all,” he said. “I would be putting them online.”

Rules with teeth

Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who don’t register with the state can face a $10,000 fine under a bill that cleared the Legislature this Session.

PBMs negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of insurance companies to purchase drugs at reduced prices or promise additional rebates.

They have been pejoratively referred to as “middlemen” due to “spread pricing” — a term describing the practice of charging an insurer one price for a drug and paying the pharmacy a lower cost while pocketing the difference.

In 2018, lawmakers approved limited regulations on PBMs, requiring them to register with the Office of Insurance Regulation. However, that law did not include any mechanisms to enforce the requirement.

HB 357, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo, gives the requirement teeth by allowing the Office of Insurance Regulation to levy a $10,000 fine against anyone working as a PBM who has not registered with the state.

Jackie Toledo is ready to slap big fines on PBMs who don’t play by the rules.

The Tampa Republican has fought for more oversight of PBMs for several Legislative Sessions, arguing they drive up the cost of prescription drugs for all Floridians. When pitching a slimmed-down regulation bill last year, she said PBMs “prey on families and patients in their most vulnerable state, and profit off the backs of everyday Floridians.”

Toledo’s bill also expands upon the 2014 Florida Pharmacy Act, which enumerates pharmacists’ rights when under audit, including one week’s notice before an on-site audit and the right to reimbursement for claims denied due to a clerical error.

But, like the PBM registration requirement, the method of enforcing those rights was limited. If signed, HB 357 would transfer enforcement powers from the Department of Health and the Florida Board of Pharmacy to OIR.

The bill also amends the law to allow the findings of a PBM audit to be appealed through the Statewide Provider and Health Plan Claim Dispute Resolution Program.

The bill cleared both chambers with unanimous votes. If signed by the Governor, it goes into effect on July 1.

Three more years

One of the enduring results of the 2022 Session, if the Governor agrees, will be the continuation of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

The Commission charged with overseeing the implementation of school safety rules first passed in 2018 — in the wake of Florida’s worst school shooting — will not disband in 2023 as was planned when the 16-member was first conceived.

Instead, it will continue meeting and asking questions of school districts, until at least 2026, according to the update (HB 1421) to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The legislation was unanimously passed in both the House and the Senate.

Max Schachter laments that not one Florida school district is up to safety standards.

Some of the committee testimony on this year’s legislation revealed that none of the state’s 67 school districts have entirely met the standards set in 2018 to improve student safety.

Commission member Max Schachter, whose son, Alex, was killed in the rampage through the Parkland school, is not sure the need for the Commission, or independent oversight, will ever end. Yes, the 2018 law also created the Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools, but he’s not sure an internal department can fill the critical role.

“It’s very difficult,” said Schachter, who started the nonprofit, Safe Schools for Alex, aimed at finding the best practices for school safety. “I’m not sure that an office (within the Department of Education) which is in charge of training school employees can be the same entity holding school districts accountable.”

Schachter said that the school districts are aware of when the Commission is meeting. “We’re not afraid to call school districts out. We have that kind of freedom and latitude to do that.”

Maybe next year

Miami’s 31-year-old city ordinance banning pit bulls will not die by legislation, at least not this year.

The Senate bill (SB 614) that repealed any breed-specific municipal bans was unanimously passed in the Senate on March 4. But a similar version in the House (HB 721) did not make it to a third hearing. And the House did not take up the Senate version.

Sorry, doggo: Miami’s pit bull ban stays in place for another year.

The bill would have made it so municipal and public housing rules that ban dogs based on breed would be prohibited and dogs would earn the “dangerous dogs” label by behavior alone.

In addition to Miami’s ordinance, the city of Sunrise also has an ordinance that requires “pit bulls” to be locked in a pen or muzzled in the city limits.

Advocates for the bill said that the time had come to change the designation that applied the “dangerous dogs” tag based on breed, particularly because of the housing instability that occurred during the pandemic. Too many people could not take their furry family members with them because of the bans, particularly in public housing. The legislation made it so that municipalities and public housing were free to ban those dogs with a record of biting or attacking people.

The legislation’s failure did not surprise Dahlia Canes of the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation. She has been trying for 18 years to end discrimination against pit bulls.

“It’s a real shame that people cannot see beyond the ignorance and fear and keep discriminating against our four-legged family members,” she said.

But she’s not giving up, she said. She plans to be before the Miami City Commission to repeal the ban.

Miya’s Law

Lawmakers are enshrining Miya Marcano’s name into state law to protect apartment tenants from the kind of tragedy that befell her last September.

The Senate Friday took up and unanimously passed Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart‘s “Miya’s Law” (SB 898) for the second time, this time with a late amendment message from the House that calls to ban rent-by-the-hour hotel and motel rooms.

Linda Stewart’s ‘Miya’s Law’ gets traction this Session.

SB 898 intends to create new safeguards that might save others from the fate of Marcano, a 19-year-old college student who hailed from Bartleman’s district and was murdered in Stewart’s Orange County district. The suspected killer was an apartment maintenance worker with a violent criminal background, an obsession with her, and a passkey that opened her apartment. He committed suicide before he could be arrested.

“We have made a giant step toward tenant safety. Miya will now have a legacy in death,” Stewart texted afterward. “So happy for unanimous passage in House and Senate.”

The bill flew through this Session without opposition.

Stewart’s bill received a 39-0 Senate approval last week, and a 120-0 support in the House after the motel amendment was attached Thursday. A follow-up Senate vote to square the two versions earned a 34-0 vote on Friday.

Rep. Robin Bartleman, the Weston Democratic sponsoring the bill and who also has a 19-year-old daughter who lives in a college apartment, pleaded for DeSantis to sign the bill into law.

“Miya’s parents and I, we all have the same expectation: that our daughters are going to be safe, and they’re going to have a great school year. And that’s not necessarily the case,” Bartleman said.

Get paid

The House joined the Senate Thursday in passing a bill allowing the Bright Futures Scholarship’s service requirements to be met with paid working hours.

HB 461 is meant to level the playing field for students who have to work to support themselves or their families and recognize employed students as valuable contributors to the Florida economy and their individual communities, said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Lauren Melo.

Working hours should count as service for the Bright Futures Scholarship, says Lauren Melo.

Currently, a student must earn minimum GPA, SAT, and ACT scores and complete up to 100 volunteer service hours to get the scholarship. The bill will allow those 100 hours to be met with logged paid working hours.

“HB 461 would level the playing field for some of the hardest-working students who need this program the most — the kids who go to school and report to their jobs after the bell rings; high school students from all walks of life,” Melo said. “Not everyone has the privilege of volunteering in lieu of earning a paycheck. This bill allows young adults who have to work the opportunity to obtain scholarship funds for their secondary education.”

To date, the Bright Futures Scholarship Program has helped more than 725,000 Florida students attend postsecondary education.

The legislation now needs DeSantis’ approval.

Mighty Meals

The Junior League of Tallahassee (JLT) hosts its 3rd Annual Mighty Meals food distribution event on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at Sabal Palm Elementary School.

Mighty Meals is a JLT project helping fill the meal gap experienced by Leon County students during the week of Spring Break who cannot access their school’s free meal programs.

According to JLT President Katie Britt Williams, one in three children do not know where their next meal will come from.

Mighty Meals seeks to ensure all students in Tallahassee have a good, nutritious meal.

“This statistic is exacerbated over the Spring Break holiday when the school meal program is on hiatus,” Williams said. “This event is crucial to the families in our community, and our Junior League volunteers worked tirelessly to make this event better each year to provide greater impact.”

Families are provided meal boxes, including enough food to feed a family of four, three meals a day for seven days. The boxes include produce, meat, bread condiments, and other food items. Mighty Meals boxes will be distributed at no cost and available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The program distributed nearly 40,000 meals during their last two events. This year they expect to distribute more than 25,000 meals.

For more information, visit this website.


Xiaobing Zhang, an assistant professor with the Florida State University Program in Neuroscience, has received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (part of the National Institutes of Health) to study how certain neural circuits in the brain regulate eating behaviors.

Zhang said previous studies have shown food intake is tightly controlled by the brain based on its ability to sense metabolic body signals and motivate food consumption.

However, little is known about how brain dysfunction (like serotonin dysfunction that can cause depression and anxiety) impacts the development of eating disorders due to the brain’s complexity.

Xiaobing Zhang gets seed money to study eating behaviors and diabetes. Image via FSU.

“The funded work is important for not only understanding central serotonin signaling in feeding control, but also revealing a potential involvement of serotonin dysfunction in the development of obesity and overeating,” Zhang said. “We hope to understand how and when these pathways are activated for feeding control. More importantly, we hope to reveal how these pathways are altered by a chronic high-fat diet that leads to overeating and obesity.”

He said he is confident this project will help scientists tackle obesity by developing a clearer understanding of what is occurring within serotonin systems in the brain that impacts different eating behaviors, particularly when neurological systems are not functioning as expected.

Victory lap

Florida State University’s Women’s Soccer team was recognized by both Legislative Chambers and the City of Tallahassee Wednesday for their 2021 National Championship.

The team was first recognized at the Tallahassee City Commission’s meeting, where Mayor John Dailey presented them with a proclamation.

Dailey said making the proclamation is one of the best parts of his job.

John Dailey has it tough.

“As a two-time graduate of Florida State University, I cannot tell you how proud I personally am, and as your Mayor, my goodness, you represent our community so very, very, very well, and we are all so very proud of you,” Dailey said.

After stopping at City Hall, they walked over to the Capitol building, where both legislative chambers recognized them.

After they were recognized, Tallahassee Rep. Allison Tant snapped a picture with them and posted it on Twitter.

“It was great to welcome back the FSU women’s soccer team today to recognize them on the House Floor! These girls are not only rock stars on the field but off the field, and it’s an honor to recognize them and their achievements. GO NOLES!” she wrote.

Capitol Directions

Joe Biden — Up  — The BIDEN fund didn’t pass … but the record-breaking budget is Biden—funded.

Ron DeSantis — Up  — He wants it; he gets it.

Ron DeSantis — Up  — Cabinet votes? Who needs ‘em?

Ron DeSantis — Up  — He wants a plane. He gets two.

Ashley Moody — Up  — With a Soros—backed politician and a Grim Reaper LARPer entering the fray, her fundraising team has the easiest job in state politics.

Carlos Muniz — Up  — DeSantis’ guy now runs DeSantis’ court.

Shawn Hamilton — Up  — Confirmed.

Christina Pushaw — Down  — She said the quiet part out loud. Then again, the concept of a “quiet part” is foreign to her.

Small, Limited Government — Down  — It’s an odd nickname for $112 billion.

Wilton Simpson — Up  — He was already #3 on my list of most consequential legislators of the decade. Watch out, Dean Cannon & Richard Corcoran.

Chris Sprowls — Up  — Speaking of Cannon and Corcoran watching out, after this Session, Sprowls is moving up the all-time list, too.

Paul Renner — Up  — The Rules Chair and loyal ally to the Speaker didn’t venture away from mission-critical. And as House GOP campaign committee chair, he now has a newly minted House redistricting map to run with in Nov. As Ralph Massullo said in his farewell remarks, Renner’s going to be a lion, ferocious for Florida.

Mat Bahl, Kathy Mears — Up  — These two CoS’s reminded us why they are masters of their craft. They’re also ending Session better friends than they were two years ago.

Dennis Baxley — Down  — The only “trend” here is his propensity for sponsoring divisive, hateful bills.

Aaron Bean — Up  —  The biggest loser will be the loss of his presence in the Legislature. Nice guys do finish first.

Jenn Bradley — Up  — She was on the right side of history. Why can’t that be a trend?

Ileana Garcia — Down  — LGBTQ+ is permanent. Senate terms are not.

Lauren Book, Joe Harding — Up  — The most bizarre collab since KFC and NASA … but somehow it worked out.

Adam Botana — Up  — Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water … it is.

Brad Drake — Crossways  — Let’s limit out—of—state contribs to candidate committees, too … oh, so this is just hypocrisy then. Got it.

Anna Eskamani — Up  — The diaper sales tax break will put some cash back in parents’ pockets year—round.

Randy Fine — Down  — His half—promise to leave the Legislature is less reliable than his deal with newspaper publishers, but many people would be happy if he followed through.

Danny Perez — Up  — We may not need an elections police force, but he managed to get the Governor’s priority across the finish line.

Affordable Housing — Up  —  The Legislature funded far more than the minimum guarantee from last year — plus voters will be given a chance to provide another affordable housing tax break to essential workers.

Children — Up  — The highest per—pupil funding in state history. Even teacher unions are happy.

VISIT FLORIDA — Up  — Now they can focus on promoting sunsets rather than staving them off.

Disney — Down  — Universal would happily host Gay Days, you know.

State Employees — Up  — Their paychecks are about to get bigger. Every single one of them.

Unions — Up  — If the House was trying to make union leaders look like stellar lobbyists, they succeeded.

Sen. Hukill’s Legacy — Up  — The “Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act” passed unanimously. She’s smiling down from above.

Sen. Benacquisto’s Legacy — Up  — Who would’ve thought the Benacquisto Scholarship Program would stick around longer than the Gardiner Scholarship.

Blue Angels — Up  — I feel the need … the need for speed a new license plate.

Blue—Collar Workers — Up  — $15 an hour for state employees, contracted employees, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc.

Christian Minor — Up  — After four years of hard work, a signable juvenile expunction bill is headed to the Governor’s desk.

Data Center — A new structure and better resources. Maybe we’ll finally get our state technology in order.

Electric Vehicles — Up  — Swing by the Coral Gables mobility hub and plug in.

Farmers — Up  — Here, take a tax break.

Florida Retail Federation — Up  — It just got a lot harder to tap along with that Jane’s Addiction song.

Breast Milk — Up  — It’s “as good as gold” … and so is the bill requiring Medicaid coverage for it.

Laura Ingram — Up  — Yes, really.

Johnston & Stewart — Up  — With their help, there’s a chance Dan Markel’s parents may be able to see their grandkids again.

Hillsborough Co. — Double up  — The transpo tax was overturned, but the $500M it collected is going to be turned over.

Law Enforcement — Up  — With salary increases, policy, tax reductions, and the “Officer of the Day” on the House Floor, there is no doubt that Florida backs the blue.

Moffitt/Pasco Co. — Up  — A world-class research hub isn’t on-brand for Pasco … but it’s about to be.

NASCAR — Up  — Let’s go, tax break.

Newspapers — Down  — Adios ad revenue. What else is new?

Pain At the Pump — Down  — The gas tax cut will save you maybe $15 total … in October.

Pickford Farmers — Up  — Thanks to Sen. Rouson, they won’t have to pay exorbitant license fees for the next round of licenses.

Quickies — Up  — Your sleazy motel of choice isn’t going anywhere.

School Board Members — Crossways  —  Yeah, term limits are in the pipe, but they don’t start for a while, and you get to keep your paycheck.

Shady “Doctors” — Down  — Yes, you do need stinkin’ badges.

South Florida — Down  — If they pooled all their sprinkles, they could make the most pathetic funfetti pancake you’ve ever seen.

Strawberry Shortcake — Up  — Move over, Key lime pie.

Manatees — Up  — If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… the Manatee Rescue Team.

Rays — Up  — Their next Spring Training home will still have that new ballpark smell when they move in.

Universities — Down  — Lawmakers, apparently, are bored with being the No. 1 state for higher education.

Tallahassee Democrat Advertisers — Down  — They didn’t even know they were advertisers.

Alex Glorioso — Up  — It’s nice to see her byline again.

Matt Dixon — Up  — Mr. Rodgers is back in the neighborhood.

Krasnodar — Down  — Tallahassee’s tossing its Russian sister city. Bayraktar!

Spring Training — Up  — Play ball, Florida.

Staff Reports

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