Takeaways from Tallahassee — 15 years of Tobacco Free

Blue Tally Takeaways (3)
Tobacco Free Florida has made strides despite being underfunded.

Turning 15

Tobacco Free Florida is celebrating 15 years of helping Floridians reduce their use of tobacco, saving hundreds of thousands of lives along the way.

When Florida voters approved the use of tobacco settlement funds for education and prevention programs in 2006, the Department of Health responded the following year with Tobacco Free Florida. Since then, the program has reduced smoking rates in youth and adults, helped more than 254,000 Floridians quit tobacco and saved the state an estimated $17.7 billion in smoking-related health care costs.

This year, Tobacco Free Florida is targeting youth with Live Vape Free.

“Since the late 1990s following the tobacco industry settlement, the state of Florida has been recognized as a worldwide leader and model program because we have been effective in addressing the tremendous public health harms of tobacco use on our society,” said Laura Corbin, bureau chief for Tobacco Free Florida. “Through innovative and effective campaigns and programs, we have continued to evolve to meet new challenges as the tobacco industry has adapted.”

Youth cigarette use in Florida declined from 10.6% in 2006 to 1.1% in 2021, but the organization is opening another front in the battle against tobacco. This year, Tobacco Free Florida launched Live Vape Free, a program to help addicted teens quiet e-cigarettes. The text-based program helps teens ages 13 to 17-years-old quit e-cigarettes and provides adults with the tools they need to support teens on their quit journey.

There are fewer adult smokers in Florida total today than when Tobacco Free Florida launched despite Florida’s population growing by more than 3 million people in those 15 years. In addition to preventing people from dragging on cigarettes in the first place, there’s been fewer relapses among adults.

The positive results come despite Tobacco Free Florida continuing to be funded at less than 40% of the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Through its Quit Your Way program, Tobacco Free Florida also provides Phone Quit, Group Quit, Virtual Quit and Web Quit. Additionally, the Tobacco Free Florida toll-free number, 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (877-822-6669), is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and designed to help people looking for information on how to quit.

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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.

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

Take 5

Gov. DeSantis signs congressional map his office drew – Republicans’ chances to retake the U.S. House are at a new high after lawmakers signed and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved congressional district lines drawn by the Governor’s staff. The 28-district map includes 20 districts in which Republican Donald Trump won the 2020 Presidential Election and eight where Democrat Joe Biden prevailed. Although activists are already suing to throw out the map, it will likely be in place for the 2022 Election. Lawmakers approved the map along party lines. As the House approached the map’s final legislative, Reps. Travaris McCurdy and Angie Nixon, two Black Democrats, started a protest with a sit-in that lasted more than an hour before Speaker Chris Sprowls called the chamber to a vote as chanting continued.

DeSantis approves bills targeting Disney – In an unprecedented fashion that saw the Governor — over the course of four days — announce and sign largely partisan legislation, the Sunshine State is targeting its largest private employer with a pair of bills to remove the company’s special protections. After DeSantis expanded the scope of the redistricting Special Session after being “provoked” by Disney, Republicans delivered with a bill to eliminate old special districts, including Disney’s self-governing district, and a second bill undoing a carve-out from last year’s social media bill. Disney doesn’t deserve the special protections anyway, Republicans argue, but the recent spat over the Parental Rights in Education bill gave Florida a reason to reevaluate them.

Manny Díaz pitched for Ed Commissioner – DeSantis will recommend Miami Republican Sen. Manny Díaz to become Florida’s next Education Commissioner after Richard Corcoran steps down. Díaz, the vice president for financial affairs at a school affiliated with and paid by charter schools and charter school management companies, has long been an influential voice in the Legislature over education policy. “Manny Díaz has done a great job in the Legislature on education issues ranging from teacher pay to parental rights and choice,” DeSantis said. “I am confident that he will serve our state well as the Commissioner of Education.”

DeSantis signs “anti-woke” bill – Florida has become the latest state to ban “woke ideology” associated with critical race theory after DeSantis signed HB 7. The measure, which is already being challenged in court over First Amendment concerns, targets “discriminatory” classroom instruction and corporate training. We are not going to use your tax dollars to teach our kids to hate this country or to hate each other,” DeSantis said. While he warned that teachers and textbooks are indoctrinating children, Democrats argued the bill would scare educators from teaching students about the details of Black history. “I truly believe this legislation furthers systematic racism as an attempt to erase and whitewash American history. It’s a delusional culture war GOP issue,” Rep. Ramon Alexander said.

Property insurance Special Session expected next month – DeSantis plans to call the Legislature for another Special Session in late May, this time to address property insurance. The Governor had previously encouraged lawmakers to take up property insurance legislation when they met this week, giving the nod to Republican Sens. Jim Boyd and Jeff Brandes. “Issues like property insurance and trying to bring some sanity and stability, and have a functioning market, I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get that done,” DeSantis said. Democratic lawmakers are optimistic they’ll have more input on property insurance than they did during this week’s Special Session, but they also acknowledge there are no silver bullet proposals that will stabilize the insurance market while lowering rates for residents.

Drop a line

Florida’s red snapper fishing season this year will last 57 days, DeSantis said Thursday, the longest stretch in state history, he said.

“Snapper season is one of the most exciting times to be fishing in Florida, and I am excited to announce the longest season since the state took over management of red snapper,” DeSantis said at an event in Destin to announce the move.

Red snapper season will run 57 days this year, including Veterans Day and Thanksgiving weekends. Image via the Governor’s Office.

“People travel from all over to enjoy the recreational opportunities we have in Florida that can’t be found anywhere else. Florida is proud to continue providing access and opportunities to all who want to experience the Fishing Capital of the World.”

The season will consist of a 45-day stint in the summer from June 17 through July 31 and several weekends in the fall: Oct. 8-9; Oct. 15-16; Oct. 22-23; Nov. 11-13; and Nov. 25-27.

DeSantis said it was important to include the Veterans Day and Thanksgiving weekends as a boost to the industry.

Spread the wealth

DeSantis on Friday announced more than $15 million in grants for Florida communities through the Rural Infrastructure Fund and the Community Development Block Grant – CV program.

Awards made through the Rural Infrastructure Fund include $504,100 for road and utility improvements in Gretna and $34,434 to cover the design work for the Hardee County Commerce Park.

Fort Meade is one place getting the benefit of broadband grants.

CDBG-CV funds were spread across seven projects, the largest of which is a $5 million award for rural broadband expansion in Fort Meade that will help more than 1,800 homes connect to high-speed internet.

Other projects include $3.8 million to retool a former school building into a senior center in Chattahoochee, $2.25 million for a community center expansion in Gretna, and $1.25 million for renovations at the St. Francis House Crisis Center in St. Augustine.

The Governor also said once the state budget review is complete, the state will direct $600,000 through the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help construct ADA compliant facilities at the Joe Budd Youth Conservation Center Shooting Complex in Gadsden County.

“My administration is dedicated to building infrastructure that strengthens Florida’s communities,” he said in a news release. “These strategic, meaningful investments will help produce a stronger economy and a more confident workforce.”

Swap-a-roo

There’s a new scam on the rise that could turn anyone with a SIM card — or pretty much everyone who has a cell phone — into a victim.

Attorney General Ashley Moody and the FBI are calling it the “SIM Swap” scam. It works like this: Scammers steal their victim’s personal information with an email hack and use it to convince cell service providers to port phone numbers to a new device and voila, they’re downloading the victim’s latest backup and receiving the two-factor authentication texts for important accounts.

Even former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has fallen victim to a SIM Swap.

The FBI says illegal takings through SIM Swaps have grown from $12 million in 2020 to $68 million in 2021.

“This is a frightening scam involving hackers who steal identities and quickly drain the financial accounts of their victims. SIM Swap scams are responsible for more than $80 million in losses nationwide in just the past two years,” Moody said. “I am asking Floridians to take steps to avoid falling prey by protecting their email accounts with strong passwords and watching out for any unusual bank withdrawals or other suspicious online activity.”

Moody said tech-savvy individuals shouldn’t brush this warning off — SIM Swappers even caught former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in their web, using his info to hijack his Twitter account.

Here’s some strategies to prevent an attack: Use multi-factor authentication for email and other accounts, download and use a two-factor authentication app that doesn’t rely on calling your phone, set up a strong PIN for your cellular account, use any available mobile carrier security apps, and don’t give out your number unless you trust the person you’re giving it to.

Sunshine energy

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wants the Sunshine State to rely solely on renewable energy by 2050.

In a news conference with environmental advocates from Our Children’s Trust, Fried announced a series of goals to put Florida on the path to renewable energy, starting with a goal of making renewable use at least 40% of energy consumption by 2030. After that, Fried wants the state to hit 63% by 2035 and 82% by 2040 before going completely renewable by 2050.

Nikki Fried has ambitious goals for Florida’s renewable energy use. Image via Colin Hackley.

The goals also require each electric utility in the state to annually report the amount of renewable energy they produce or purchase. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Public Service Commission will then review whether the utilities are on pace to meet the goals.

“We can’t afford to deny the reality or the urgency of what’s happening to our state. We need to be doing so much more when it comes to finding solutions and protecting our environment,” Commissioner Fried said. “We know we still have a long way to go and we’re going to need everyone to do their part, but issuing these goals is an important step forward.”

Members of Our Children’s Trust hope DeSantis comes out in support of the goals.

“Today is a very big day for Florida and our environment,” said Delaney Reynolds, a lead petitioner with Our Children’s Trust. “Today Florida can actually begin to actually address the core cause of our climate change crisis.”

Previously, Fried has introduced proposals to reduce state greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2050, and 100 percent by 2055.

Instagram of the week

The Week in Appointments

Orange County Court — DeSantis appointed Winter Garden attorney Doug Walker to the court to fill the seat vacated by the elevation of Judge Michael Deen. Walker has worked as an associate attorney at Bradford Cederberg since 2019 and previously served as an assistant public defender for three years in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Florida International University.

Pinellas County Court — The Governor named Largo attorney Aaron Hubbard to the court to fill the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Brian Gnage. Hubbard has served as an assistant state attorney in Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit since 2007 and currently serves as a felony division chief. He received his bachelor’s degree from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and his law degree from Western Michigan University.

Disability care

Floridians with disabilities will soon benefit by half a billion in federal funds for home and community-based care providers.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) on Tuesday announced the approval of $502.7 million in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding.

“APD appreciates Governor DeSantis’ continuing support of our vital service providers,” APD Director Barbara Palmer said. “We are thrilled that our providers will have access to FMAP funding, boosting Home and Community-Based care. The foundation of this funding plan builds on APD’s dedication to ensuring that vulnerable Floridians have the resources they need to thrive in their communities. These funds will make a huge difference to attract qualified applicants to serve our vulnerable customers.”

Medicaid programs are getting a $502.7 million boost. Image via Colin Hackley.

With the recent approval of Florida’s FMAP proposal, funds will be distributed to enhance, expand and strengthen home and community-based services offerings for Floridians with disabilities and to support health care workers under the Medicaid program. AHCA will send a letter to each provider who applied, notifying them of their awarded amount.

“From the beginning of his administration, Governor DeSantis has led the charge amongst the nation’s governors in putting Florida’s seniors and most vulnerable first,” AHCA Secretary Simone Marstiller said. “The Agency is pleased to award this enhanced funding to Florida’s home and community-based services providers who are working hard to address record increases in operational costs and challenges in recruiting and retaining staff.”

AHCA will first prioritize payments to eligible iBudget Florida providers and will then work in partnership with Long-Term Care Managed Care Plans to make payments to eligible providers within the Long-Term Care Managed Care Program. A contract must be signed by each provider before funds can be released. These funds must be distributed by June 30, 2023.

Power pros

Florida electrical lineworkers got a shoutout from the Public Service Commission this week as part of “National Lineworker Appreciation Day.”

As the name portends, April 18 was a day of thanks for those who handle the nitty-gritty of keeping the electrical grid online.

Lineworkers have several roles, including substation electricians, network specialists, meter mechanics, streetlight repair and more. Even when there is no storm or hurricane, lineworkers toil daily with high voltage electric lines while strapped in high above the ground. And if a storm does hit, many of them head to the front lines — even if that means leaving their home state.

Lineworker are honored for their work to keep us all powered up. Image via Florida PSC/Twitter.

“Established in 2013, National Lineman Appreciation Day honors those who put their lives on the line to maintain our electric power and protect public safety,” said PSC Chairman Andrew Fay. “Lineworkers are the first to respond following natural disasters to restore fallen power poles and lines. Electric power keeps the nation running, and we can thank lineworkers for their work to keep the power flowing.”

While National Lineworker Appreciation Day has come and gone, the power pros clock in every day, so it’s never too late to say thanks with a social media post tagged #ThankALineman.

CFO Jimmy Patronis and U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster were among the many Florida pols to praise linemen on their special day. In a tweet, Patronis recalled their swift response after Hurricane Michael knocked out power for tens of thousands of Floridians.

“These heroes work in dangerous conditions to support Florida communities in their greatest time of need,” he wrote.

Magic in Orlando

NBA legend Magic Johnson joined Simply Healthcare Plans’ program at Volunteer Florida’s Mental Health Symposium in Orlando this week to encourage kids to find their superpower and break the stigma when it comes to mental health.

“Today’s youth face challenges like never before, and many mental health conditions are left unaddressed,” said Johnson, an ambassador for Simply. “I am so thankful to work with Simply Healthcare and participate in opportunities like today where we can encourage kids to take care of their bodies — and their minds.”

Magic Johnson is encouraging kids to find their superpower. Image via Simply.

Simply President Holly Prince welcomed Johnson to the stage to join providers in a discussion about the challenges kids face and resources available to support communities on mental health.

Johnson shared with the teens his own childhood stories of wearing hand-me-down high waters to school and dreams of being a CEO. He encouraged the students to pursue their own dreams. He recommended they check in on their peers and friends. And when they need help, not to be afraid to get it. The afternoon was filled with chest bumps, fist bumps and hugs.

“Starting the conversation about mental health can be difficult. But with a professional like Magic Johnson, we are working to ditch the stigma and help families find the resources that can help,” Prince said, highlighting the tools and resources available at SimplyHealthyMinds.com.

The discussion also featured Melanie Brown-Woofter, President and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association, and Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris, who contributed expert advice and support.

Johnson, Prince and panelists covered a wide range of topics, including understanding mental health, resiliency, self-care, and positive thinking, understanding depression and anxiety, academic pressure, and the future, bullying, love languages, and how to engage with someone in crisis.

“The Florida Behavioral Health Association works hard to achieve better behavioral health outcomes among Floridians,” Brown-Woofter said. “Proactive training, education and awareness are essential components to improve outcomes in mental health and substance use disorders. That’s why today’s event to train young leaders to better understand and address behavioral health will have positive ripple effects on Florida for years to come.”

Cinderella story

Golf isn’t just about a good swing. There’s plenty of wheelings and dealings on the rolling greens of Florida’s golf courses and leadership lessons to be taught.

About a dozen Florida A&M University law students participated in the six-week program, Fairways to Leadership, and are poised to participate in a 5-hole graduation on Saturday April 23, at the Twin Rivers Golf Club in Oviedo. The program was established in the summer of 2020 by Eric Boyd and Anna Alvarez Boyd.

FAMU Law student Erykah Jackson participated in Fairways to Leadership.

“We are excited to have students from FAMU College of Law participate in Fairways to Leadership,” Boyd said in a prepared statement. “The college is a natural fit for our mission to provide leadership development to students from diverse communities and we hope to serve students in the college well into the future.”

Fairways to Leadership wants to increase social mobility opportunities for  those who are under-represented by providing online leadership development training and on-the-course golf training. Students are coached by LPGA professional Jamie Taylor.

“This is a new and great opportunity for our students,” said Jennifer Smith, professor at FAMU Law.

Fair, honest, accurate

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley this week joined Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE) and Secretary of State Laurel Lee in backing the #TrustedInfo2022 campaign.

Led by the National Association of Secretaries of State, #TrustedInfo2022 is a voter education initiative that promotes state and local election officials as the trusted sources of election information.

“Florida voters can be assured that their local election administrators work with the highest levels of integrity to ensure that every ballot is counted accurately,” said Earley, who is also President-Elect of FSE. “My office is planning on using #Trustedinfo2022 to guide Florida voters to reliable information so they can vote with confidence.”

Laurel Lee and Mark Earley are backing #TrustedInfo2022. Image via Colin Hackley.

Lee added, “The spread of misinformation and disinformation to influence voters and interfere with elections is a key concern. We are grateful to be partnering with NASS and the Florida Supervisors of Elections for the #TrustedInfo2022 campaign to ensure that voters in Florida know that we are THE trusted sources for elections information.”

The goal of #TrustedInfo2022 is to ensure the integrity of Florida’s elections and to support fair, honest, and accurate elections in Florida. Supervisors also want to highlight their commitment to being trusted sources of election-related information.

To learn more about NASS’s #TrustedInfo2022 campaign, visit CanIVote.org. For trusted information about state and local elections, visit the Leon County Supervisor of Elections website at LeonVotes.gov and the Department of State’s website at DOS.Myflorida.com/elections.

What’s the Buzz?

Leon County Government and its Public Library system is hosting events and exhibits centered on pollination and the essential role pollinators play in the natural world from April 22 through May 31. The events include:

— A Smithsonian Pollination Investigation Exhibit at the downtown Main Library from May 1-31. The exhibit explores the who, what, when, where, why, and how of pollination and was created by Smithsonian Gardens in collaboration with the National Museum of Natural History and made available by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

May will be a buzzy month for Leon County public libraries.

— BioBlitz Week from May 9-13, where participants can become a citizen scientist by observing and collecting plant and animal data by downloading the iNaturalist app.

— A presentation called What’s the Buzz?: All About Bees with Tom Hogg on May 21 at 3 p.m. at the downtown Main Library. Hogg,  the owner of Full Moon Farms, an apiary in Monticello, Florida, will discuss the process of pollination and how pollination and bees are essential to the survival of human beings and Earth’s ecosystems.

— The screening of the documentary My Garden of a Thousand Bees at all Leon County libraries on May 24 at 6:30 p.m.

— A presentation from Mark Tancig of UF/IFAS Extension Leon County on May 28 at 10 a.m. about how pollinator communities directly affect human beings and help participants identify plants and animals.

Fallen FDC officers

Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) Secretary Ricky Dixon and leadership gathered to honor fallen officers and employees during the annual memorial ceremony at Wakulla Correctional Institution.

“Today presents an opportunity for us to pause for reflection as we honor the lives of these courageous fallen officers and staff alongside family and colleagues,” Dixon said. “Their legacy serves as a testament to the courage, compassion and selfless service of the brave men and women of our Department.”

FDC recognized the more than 100 fallen officers and employees. Image via FDC.

Leadership and staff from respective institutions and offices, joined the friends and family of fallen members of FDC who lost their lives while in service to the state.

FDC leadership laid a wreath at the memorial in honor of the staff recognized during the event and for those who died before them. The names of each individual will be engraved upon the Fallen Officer Memorial located at the Harry K. Singletary Jr. Training Center at Wakulla Correctional Institution.

And deputies

The Florida Sheriffs Association will be holding its annual memorial ceremony Monday to honor 30 law enforcement deputies and officers in their ranks who lost their lives from 2017 to 2021.

The ceremony will take place at the Memorial Wall at the Florida Sheriffs Association Headquarters at 1:30 p.m. Association leadership and state officials, including Sprowls, will be present for the ceremony.

The wall and monument are located in front of the FSA headquarters. Image via FSA.

Established in 2002, the Florida Sheriffs Association incorporated the granite Memorial Wall to honor sheriff’s officers who had fallen in the line of duty. It is a tribute to remember the sheriffs and deputies who have dedicated their lives to serve and protect Floridians, while respecting those who have passed.

On the wall, the verse “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend. John 15:13” is engraved to honor the fallen officers and the sacrifices they have made.

The ceremony will be livestreamed on the FSA’s Facebook page.

Book it

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book on April 28 will moderate a conversation with Tallahassee’s pediatric experts on preventing childhood injuries and recognizing signs of abuse as part of a free virtual lecture series offered by Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

Book will be joined by Dr. Tom Truman, pediatric critical care doctor at the Tallahassee Memorial Children’s Center; Dr. Ryan Price, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at TMH and Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic. Chris Lolley, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Florida, also is among the experts who will join Book for the panel discussion.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Image via Colin Hackley.

As part of the annual Baby and Family Fair, TMH is offering a free weeklong virtual lecture series featuring eight different panels of the area’s top pregnancy, postpartum and pediatric experts. The goal of the virtual lecture series is to help inform parents and would-be parents of pertinent issues related to having, and raising, a healthy family in Leon County.

Register at the Zoom link here.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. Book, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating adults and children about sexual abuse prevention through in school curriculum.

Capitol Directions

Ron DeSantis – Down arrow – M

Jeanette Nuñez – Down arrow – I

Christina Pushaw – Down arrow – C

Wilton Simpson – Down arrow – K

Chris Sprowls – Down arrow – E

Jennifer Bradley – Down arrow – Y

Randy Fine – Down arrow – M

Blaise Ingoglia – Down arrow – O

Spencer Roach – Down arrow – U

Florida GOP – Down arrow – S

Orlando – Down arrow – E

Disney World – Up arrow – No matter what these people do, we’ll see you real soon!

Staff Reports



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