Takeaways from Tallahassee — Women’s rights, right now

Blue Tally Takeaways (4)
While things are better, equal treatment for women is not quite there yet.

Women’s History Month

Women’s rights have come a long way, but Florida’s first woman Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says the goal to be treated equally hasn’t been reached, and work remains to be done to eliminate the gender pay gap, establish the right of “bodily autonomy” and to promote the history and experiences of women of color and LGBTQ women.

Thursday marked the final day of the 2022 Women’s History Month, and on Wednesday, Fried honored eight women for their contributions to the history and rights of women in Florida.

In addition to honoring eight women, Fried’s office also commemorated two others: the late U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, the first African American elected to Congress since Reconstruction, who died in November, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jackson, whose expected confirmation in the coming weeks will make her the first Black woman on the Court, graduated from the same high school as Fried. And like Fried, she also was a public defender.

Fried said the women provide an example of leadership and perseverance for future generations.

The first of the eight women Fried’s office honored was Regina Livingston, a Black, transgender woman who founded an organization advocating for the transgender and gender-nonconforming community was the first honoree Fried highlighted.

“I feel like, personally, this proclamation doesn’t go to just me,” she said. “It also goes to all of the most marginalized communities in America because they’re hurting, they’re depressed, they’re going through different things that are distracting their mental health. Our youth are under attack. So, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Fried also honored the former director of library services for Tallahassee Community College, Cherry Hall Alexander; reproductive justice advocate Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro; Brick Street Farms founder and CEO Shannon O’Malley; and medical marijuana advocate Roz McCarthy.

Additionally, Fried recognized University of Florida Political Science professor Sharon D. Wright Austin for her studies of African American women’s political behavior and activism. She also recognized Miami Dade College’s first female president, Madeline Pumariega, also the first female and Hispanic chancellor of the Florida College System.

“Our state is stronger thanks to all of you and all the countless others who have fought to pave the way for future generations of women and girls to succeed,” Fried said. “I know that I wouldn’t be here today as the first female to serve as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture without the many incredible women who came before me and lifted me up every single day.”

“It is so important that we each lift each other up, especially in these difficult times when our rights are being attacked, and our freedoms are being stripped away, as we saw throughout this Legislative Session,” she continued. “While some may try to take away the progress that we all have made, we will remain united and keep pushing forward, and together we will keep shattering glass ceilings and protect the truth we all know, that women’s rights are human rights.”

To watch a video of the event, click on the image below:

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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:

DeSantis signs parental rights bill — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial parental rights legislation governing classroom instruction on LGBTQ matters Monday afternoon. After hours of impassioned debate and protest from students, the bill reached the Governor. The measure even garnered national flak, from the White House to Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony. DeSantis slammed bill opponents, saying those who disagree with the legislation “support sexualizing kids in kindergarten.” “What they’re doing with these slogans and these narratives is they are trying to camouflage their true intentions,” DeSantis said, referencing the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker used for the bill by critics.

DeSantis vetoes congressional maps, calls Special Session — Immediately after lawmakers sent DeSantis their proposed congressional redistricting map, DeSantis vetoed the measure and called for a Special Session, set for April 19 to 22. DeSantis published a seven-page message, drafted by General Counsel Ryan Newman, explaining his veto based on the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause found in the 14th Amendment. The Special Session call only addresses redistricting, but the Governor encouraged the Legislature to take up property insurance, data privacy and constitutional carry.

Federal judge rules election law unconstitutional — A U.S. District Court judge on Thursday declared parts of last year’s DeSantis- and Republican-backed law that changed the state’s voting codes unconstitutional. Chief Judge Mark Walker ordered the state not to enforce provisions that more tightly regulate the use of ballot drop boxes and third-party voter registration efforts. The 288-page ruling comes after two weeks of testimony in federal court in Tallahassee last month before Walker. He noted that the state portrayed the new regulations as “minor prophylactic changes” while the plaintiffs framed them as running “roughshod over the right to vote, unnecessarily making it harder for all eligible Floridians.” Florida is expected to appeal the ruling.

Lawmakers return campaign contributions from Disney — Republican lawmakers have started returning donations from Disney over the company’s position against the “parental rights in education” bill. Bill sponsor and Rep. Joe Harding became the first on Tuesday, returning $3,000 delivered to his political committee. The following day, Rep. Randy Maggard followed suit, returning $5,000 in donations from the entertainment giant. “As a company whose primary audiences are young children and families, Disney has let us down through their complicity with the false narratives pushed by liberal media, who have repeatedly mischaracterized the content of my legislation,” Harding said. Lawmakers have held multiple meetings discussing changes to a self-governing arrangement Disney has enjoyed with the state since 1967, a move DeSantis endorsed Thursday.

Florida sues feds over plane mask mandate — DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody are challenging the federal COVID-19 mask mandate on public transportation, including airplanes and buses. Officials from 20 other states joined the lawsuit. DeSantis on Tuesday said the requirements had created situations with unruly passengers because the mandates are frustrating. Moody added that she had witnessed exasperated parents trying to control their children, with that difficulty compounded by the mandate. The mask order was set to expire on March 18 but was extended a month to allow federal agencies to establish a framework for when masks should be required.

Pay up

Moody announced Wednesday that Florida would receive more than $870 million in settlement money from three companies that helped create the opioid epidemic.

More than half the total — $484 million — will come from pharmacy chain CVS. The state will also receive $134 million from Ireland-based pharmaceutical company Allergan and a $195 million payment and $84 million worth of NARCAN from Israel-based pharmaceutical company Teva.

NARCAN, also known as naloxone hydrochloride, is a drug used to treat opioid overdoses.

Ashley Moody gets drug companies and pharmacies to pay up. Image via AP.

Moody also announced that the Endo Health Solutions settlement is now finalized, with every litigating city and county in Florida — more than 90 in total — participating. Moody first announced the $65 million settlement agreement with Endo in January.

“The opioid epidemic is wreaking havoc on Florida families. Since my first day in office, I have worked tirelessly to hold accountable those companies who helped start this crisis — with today’s announcements, we have now secured an additional $870 million to help mitigate the harm caused to Florida’s communities. The moneys secured from CVS, Teva, Allergan and Endo will help further our efforts to remediate the harm and suffering of Floridians.”

Of the $870 million in settlement funding announced Wednesday, $739 million will be used for opioid abatement, including prevention efforts, treatment or recovery services. About $55 million of the Endo settlement money will be used for abatement.

The new settlements follow several others. In July 2021, Moody announced a multibillion-dollar nationwide settlement with McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson. Florida will receive more than $1.6 billion from those companies. The state also finalized a settlement with McKinsey & Company for $40 million in February 2021.

One more company, Walgreens, is set for a jury trial in New Port Richey beginning on Tuesday.

Parental guidance

Moody and a bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general sent a letter to TikTok and Snapchat this week urging the companies to enact more parental controls on their platforms.

The letter called for social media outlets to allow parents to monitor a child’s social media usage using parental control applications and features to protect them from online threats.

Moody said popular social media platforms must develop strong, easy-to-use control systems to improve child safety online.

Ashley Moody pushes social media companies to give parents much more control over kids’ screen time.

“The internet is a dangerous place for children to explore without any guidance or protection,” Moody said. “As a mother, I worry about what my child may encounter online. As Florida’s Attorney General, I am aware of how predators use social media to stalk the innocent and inexperienced online.”

The Attorneys General wrote that parental control apps can alert parents and schools to messages and posts on platforms that can be harmful and dangerous, while also alerting parents to a child’s manifestations of the desire for self-harm or suicide.

“On other platforms where these apps are allowed to operate appropriately, parents have received notifications of millions of instances of severe bullying and hundreds of thousands of self-harm situations, showing that these apps have the potential to save lives and prevent harm to our youth,” they wrote.

Read a copy of the letter here.

Like wildfire

Fried and other Cabinet members recognized the Florida Forest Service and Florida’s First Responders at the Capitol Tuesday for their efforts in fighting the three wildfires that raged in the panhandle last month.

Named the Chipola Complex, the fires burned more than 34,000 acres, destroyed two homes, and damaged 12 others. The fires followed the path Hurricane Michael took along the panhandle in 2018, fueled by strong, steady winds that pushed through thick, dry, and dead trees and vegetation that remained on the ground after the Cat-5 storm.

Nikki Fried and the Cabinet honors Florida’s true heroes.

Fried said she was proud of the firefighters and first responders who came together to fight the storms.

“While Hurricane Michael left an additional threat to the Panhandle in the form of wildfire, our tenacious spirit will not be broken. We will continue to persevere, working together to protect our Panhandle communities from further devastation,” Fried said.

Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service, said they could not have protected Florida from the wildfires without having strong partnerships.

“We all experienced the value of having those relationships as we joined forces on the Chipola Complex. I want every firefighter and first responder to know that their work did not go unnoticed, and I am grateful for the remarkable work that was done to protect our communities,” Albury said

Prepare!

Florida CFO and Fire Marshall Jimmy Patronis highlighted important Florida storm emergency preparation and recovery information Wednesday as strong storms raged across Florida this week.

“As much of the state will be impacted by severe weather this week, Floridians must be on guard for high winds, flooding, and the threat of tornadoes and hail. Floridians should heed all watches and warnings from state and local officials and keep a close eye on local weather reports,” Patronis said.

Jimmy Patronis warns Florida to get storm-ready. Image via CFO’s Office.

He highlighted his website, PrepareFl.com, as a one-stop-shop for disaster preparedness information and resources. The website includes digital copies of emergency preparedness guides, an Emergency Financial Preparedness Toolkit, and other connections to state resources.

He also said his office’s Insurance Consumer Helpline is available to assist Floridians with insurance issues and the claims process after the storm. The helpline can be reached by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).

“Following the storms, my office stands ready to assist homeowners who have storm damage and help them navigate the insurance claims process so they can recover quickly. Once the storm clears, consumers should also be on the lookout for fraudsters and know the warning signs of a scam before you fall victim,” Patronis said.

Instagram of the week

Hopeful results

More than 25,000 families have tapped into Hope Florida — A Pathway to Prosperity.

The program, championed by First Lady Casey DeSantis and administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families, utilizes what is known as “care navigators” to help people who receive public assistance to resolve immediate, dire needs, like housing and food assistance, or to work on long-term goals, like stable employment and education.

Former and existing foster youth can connect to resources in their local area to support their independence. To opt-in, individuals can call 850-300-HOPE or may be referred by social service providers.

Casey DeSantis helps give at-risk youth hope and a road to prosperity.

“I am delighted to hit this milestone. The Governor and I know that Florida’s communities are full of organizations and businesses that want to lift up their neighbors in need, and this program has given them the outlet to do so,” the First Lady said. “I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the families impacted by the program, and I am so proud of the work our state is doing to help them find resiliency and hope.”

Initially launched as a pilot project in August 2020, it was expanded the following year, emphasizing the recruitment of private sector and faith-based partners to support more families throughout the state. It was championed by the First Lady and relaunched as Hope Florida — A Pathway to Prosperity.

“We know that if families have robust support on the front end, they often won’t end up in crisis situations later,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris. “The initiative blends support from multiple sources to ensure we are serving families holistically.”

Get going

The Department of Health this week announced it was amending a pair of rules regarding health care licensure for military spouses and active military spouses.

The proposed Rules implement SB 562, which has not yet been sent to the Governor. The bill requires the DOH to expedite the licensing and certification process for the spouse of an active-duty member of the Armed Forces. Moreover, the bill waived the fees for licensure applications and renewals for military veterans and spouses.

Florida seeks to give service members and their families a break on health care licenses.

According to a staff analysis of the bill, in the state Fiscal Year 2020-2021, 352 military veterans and spouses took advantage of a provision in current law that allows waiving the application and renewal fees in certain circumstances.

The proposed rule changes are for broad licensure rules that impact all the health care boards under the auspices of the department.

Pay attention

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) and its division of the Florida Highway Patrol launched a campaign Friday to educate motorists on the importance of avoiding distracted driving.

Distracted driving crashes resulted in 333 fatalities in 2021, the highest recorded in Florida in at least eight years, according to FLHSMV data.

Yes, try to avoid doing this.

FLHSMV Executive Director Terry Rhodes said that more than 56,000 distracted driving crashes happened last year in Florida alone, with 75% of those due to drivers being inattentive behind the wheel. It is also illegal to text or scroll on a cellphone while driving.

“When you get behind the wheel, you only have one job, and that’s to ensure you and your passengers reach your destination safely,” Rhodes said. “Today and every day, pledge to drive how you would want others to drive around you and your loved ones — distraction-free.”

Gene Spaulding, director of the FHP, said it is extremely dangerous to drive distracted.

“FHP wants to remind drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and their minds on driving. Focused attention on driving increases your reaction time to dangerous driving situations and keeps the ones you love safe as well as your fellow citizens,” he said.

For more information about safe driving tips, Florida’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law, and other resources, visit this FLHSMV website.

Park plate

The Florida State Parks specialty license plate was shipped to local offices last week, and now they are available for purchase.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says the new plates have been delivered to tax collector offices and license plate agencies statewide. Floridians who purchased presale vouchers for the specialty plate can now redeem them at their local tax collector office or license plate agency, and those who wish to buy the new specialty plate may do so at their local office.

The Florida State Parks specialty plate is the first plate from the class of plates approved during the 2021 Legislative Session to meet all design, development, manufacturing and presale requirements to begin the distribution process. The plate cleared its 3,000-preorder threshold in less than 34 days.

Hot off the presses!

From each plate purchased, $25 will be distributed to the Florida State Parks Foundation for their efforts to preserve, protect, sustain and grow Florida state parks.

“This new revenue stream will provide significant and ongoing funding to enable us to protect and preserve our award-winning state park system,” Foundation President Tammy Gustafson said.

Floridians interested in purchasing one of the many specialty license plates offered in Florida are encouraged to visit their local tax collector or license plate agency. A complete list of Florida’s specialty license plates can be found on the department’s website.

Can I get your digits?

With the demand for area code relief in Florida growing, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator provided a primer to the Public Service Commission on relief plans, advising that an “overlay” is the most common form of area code relief.

The overlay approach allows existing customers to keep their numbers but requires new customers — both individuals and businesses — to use a new area code. For the overlay approach to work, there must be mandatory 10 digit dialing in the area.

New phone, who dis?

A petition for area code 904 relief has been filed with the Public Service Commission. Another petition for area code 352 relief is expected to be filed with the commission in the next two years.

Each area code can sustain a finite amount of telephone numbers. Growth in population, businesses, and the number of telephones has stressed the existing system.

NANPA files a petition with the PSC to approve an area code relief plan when an area code is approaching exhaust. Upon PSC approval, NANPA and the telecommunications industry will implement the relief plan, including a new area code.

Florida has approved five new area codes in the last four years. Those approvals come after 15 years between 2003 and 2018 when no new area codes were approved.

“The PSC must continue to do our part by finding solutions to accommodate continuing technology and population growth, while also minimizing impacts to customers,” PSC Chair Andrew Giles Fay said in a prepared release.

Honored

Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director James S. Hartsell announced this week that the Lake Baldwin State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Orlando is being renamed in honor of the late Sgt. First Class Alwyn C. Cashe.

The Oviedo native was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Joe Biden on Dec 16, 2021, for going above and beyond the call of duty during his service in the U.S. Army during the War on War on Terrorism in Iraq. Recipient Cash died Nov 8, 2005, after pulling, or helping to pull, seven soldiers from a burning vehicle struck by a makeshift explosive.

Lake Baldwin State Veterans’ Nursing Home will be renamed to honor Alwyn C. Cashe.

He is the first Black Medal of Honor Recipient awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during this conflict.

The 112-bed skilled nursing facility is a former VA Community Living Center but has been under renovations and inspections. An Open House and Flag Raising Ceremony is planned for the morning of May 21 to coincide with Armed Forces Day.

New nurses

Ten new nurses will be joining the Northwest Florida workforce thanks to a scholarship funded by Simply Healthcare Plans.

In March, Gulf Coast State College hosted an event to celebrate the 10 students who received nursing scholarships funded by Simply Healthcare Plans.

“Florida’s health care heroes have been on the front lines caring for our state’s most vulnerable populations. As our state continues to compete for talented health care professionals to serve our communities, it’s more important than ever to find new ways to attract these candidates from across the country to study and work here in Florida. Thank you to Gulf Coast State College, and Simply Healthcare for their investment in Florida’s future health care heroes, and congratulations to the scholarship recipients,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis said of the Simply Health Scholar Program.

Jimmy Patronis gives kudos to a new program to train a new crop of health care workers.

Simply also announced its commitment to grant another round of nursing scholarship funding to future GCSU nursing students.

“We are proud to support Gulf Coast State College and their exceptional nursing students in their pursuit to become health care leaders within their communities,” said Holly Prince, President of Simply Healthcare. “At Simply, we continually seek opportunities and collaborations to help increase the health care workforce, especially in locations of greatest need. Our collaboration with Gulf Coast State College is emblematic of our mission to improve lives and communities in every area of the state and ensure institutions on the front lines of health care education and training are well supported.”

The Simply Health Scholars Program is part of more than $1 million in financial support provided by Simply since 2021 to address various community needs across Florida.

Autism Acceptance

Leon County celebrates autism and neurodiversity during National Autism Acceptance Month with art exhibits and events partnered with its Public Library System.

There are events scheduled from April 1 to April 30. The events are open to all community members and accessible to neurodiverse children, teens and adults.

The events include an April 1 kickoff event at the Able Artists Gallery and Obsession Gift Shop at Railroad Square Art Park, an art exhibit opening at the main downtown library, and a resource fair to allow families to connect with organizations that provide services and resources to neurodiverse individuals.

Throughout the month, free sensory STEAM adventure bags with two different take-and-make activities will be available at all Library locations on a first-come, first-served basis.

A complete list is available on this Leon County website.

To learn more about the Able Artists Gallery, click on the image below:

TEDxFSU

Florida State University announced it will host the ninth annual TEDxFSU conference next Wednesday.

The event will highlight the talents and ideas of FSU students, faculty, and alumni in fields including advocacy, robotics, medicine, art and research. It will take place on April 6 at 2 p.m. in the FSU Alumni Center Ballroom.

TEDxFSU is associated with the global nonprofit organization TED and is independently organized almost entirely by students within FSU’s Center for Leadership & Social Change, College of Fine Arts and Alumni Association.

This week, a meeting of the minds at FSU.

“TEDxFSU is an opportunity to celebrate the innovative, creative and sometimes just plain wild ideas that come out of our great university,” said Scott Shamp, TEDxFSU license holder and faculty adviser. “Students, faculty and alumni all work together to spread the ideas that can change all of our lives — and maybe the world.”

This year’s itinerary includes Jared Lyon, the National President and CEO of Student Veterans of America; Jean Accius, AARP’s Senior Vice President of Global Thought Leadership, Christian Hubicki, a FAMU-FSU College of Engineering assistant professor and former Survivor contestant, Christopher Constantino, an FSU assistant professor and speech-language pathologist, and FSU students Emmabella Rudd, Shani Peter, and Chris Omni.

You can register for the free event here.

— Capitol Directions —

Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — It doesn’t matter what else he did this week; his campaign just dropped the song of the Summer.

Jeanette Nuñez — Up arrow — Brucha haba’a habayta.

Disney — Crossways arrow — The Mouse always wins. Maybe.

Stephanie Kopelousos — Down arrow — DeSantis’ Legislative Affairs Director probably regrets pushing that Disney carveout in the Big Tech bill.

UF — Down arrow — At this point, Tebow’s jersey from the 2008 UF-FSU game has fewer permanent stains.

Ashley Moody — Up arrow — She’s making pill pushers pay, big time.

Wilton Simpson — Up arrow — Slow and steady wins the race, but endorsements from the Attorney General, CFO, Chamber of Commerce and NRA don’t hurt.

Chris Sprowls — Down arrow — His bromance with trial lawyers is costing homeowners a lot of money on their property insurance bills.

Chris Sprowls — Up arrow — Teachers may have to navigate the “Don’t Say Gay” law, but at least Big Brother won’t be over their shoulder.

Manny Diaz — Down arrow — If “these things happen” is his reaction to aggravated battery, we don’t want to know how he’d handle school violence as Education Commissioner.

Shevrin Jones — Up arrow — He’s getting more attention from D.C., and it’s looking more likely he’ll be more than a state Senator one day.

Vance Aloupis — Up arrow — Another good one exits early. Soon the Legislature will just be left with the Randy Fines of the world.

Elizabeth Fetterhoff — Down arrow — “There’s nothing illegal or shady” is what people say when there’s something illegal or shady happening.

Joe Harding — Up arrow — Giving back the Disney dollars was a political stunt, but an ideologically consistent one.

Charter schools — Crossways arrow — Legal experts are parsing the fine print, but for now they’d be wise to not say “gay.”

First responders — Up arrow — It’s Christmas in March.

Florida Wildlife Corridor — Up arrow — It just got 17,000 acres bigger.

Sheriffs — Up arrow — Recruiting is about to be a lot easier. Money talks.

Esther Byrd — Down arrow — A couple of weeks on the job and she’s already punishing teachers who recognize trans people exist. Sigh.

Mark Walker — Crossways arrow — His ruling overturning the 2021 elections bill was on point, but it won’t stand.

Citizens — Double up arrow — We’re giving the insurer of last resort two up arrows not because of anything good it did, but because of how much it’s hiking rates.

DBPR — Down arrow — “Professional Regulation” means “giving cover to fraudsters.” Got it.

Neal Dunn — Down arrow — Renaming Tally’s federal courthouse for Joseph Woodrow Hatchett was supposed to be a layup.

Florida Medical Assoc. — Up arrow — Bumping Chris Clark to CEO was the right move.

Chris Dorworth — Down arrow — River Cross ain’t happening, but Seminole County’s lawyers are more than happy to keep cashing his checks.

Jeremy Matlow — Down arrow — He should rethink his association with people who call County Commissioners “dumb little bastards.”

Black News Channel — Down arrow — A heads up to your employees would’ve been nice … hiring a CPA would’ve been nice, too.

FSU — Up arrow — It’s rocketing up the rankings for “Best Graduate Schools.”

FSU athletics — Crossways arrow — Florida State is supposed to be a Women’s Soccer school. So why is Mark Krikorian leaving?

Springtime Tallahassee — Up arrow — Welcome back. It’s been too long.

Staff Reports



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