Takeaways from Tallahassee — Off to the races

Blue Tally Takeaways (4)
Cord Byrd's first days have been busy, and they ain't slowing down.

Qualifying’s near

The qualifying period is around the corner, and that means candidates for many federal, state and special district offices can start handing in their paperwork on Memorial Day.

The qualifying period for U.S. Senator, Representative in Congress, Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, Commissioner of Agriculture, State Senator, State Representative and Multi-County Special Districts runs from noon on June 13 to noon on June 17. However, because candidates may submit qualifying papers 14 days before the beginning of the qualifying period, the Department of State’s Division of Elections will start accepting documents on Monday, Memorial Day.

“As Florida’s chief elections officer, I want to remind all candidates who are running for the offices listed above to turn in the appropriate paperwork as soon as possible beginning on May 30,” Secretary of State Cord Byrd said in a news release. “This helps our office collect, review and maintain the database in a timely, organized manner.”

Election season is ramping up under Cord Byrd. Image via Cord Byrd.

While state offices are closed on Memorial Day, qualifying documents can still be placed in the secure box provided just inside the front lobby doors of the R.A. Gray Building located at 500 South Bronough Street in Tallahassee.

The qualifying period and pre-qualifying submission period above also applies to County and District offices. However, the qualifying paperwork must be submitted to the county Supervisor of Elections’ office as the qualifying officer. Candidates can contact their county Supervisor of Elections for more information.

The Division of Elections website will be updated during the week as candidates meet the qualification requirements.

Byrd has had a busy first couple weeks as Secretary of State, and things aren’t likely to slow down between now and November. After helping host the 20th of May — Emancipation in Florida ceremony in Downtown Tallahassee last week, Byrd took to Miramar Beach this week for the Florida Supervisors of Elections Conference.

At the conference, Byrd called setting up Florida’s election police a top priority of his department. He was also twice asked if he believed President Joe Biden won the election “fair and square.” Both times, Byrd said that Biden was “certified” as the winner and that he is the President. He also said there were “irregularities” in other states.

Byrd’s selection has been sharply criticized by Democrats who contend he is too partisan to handle the duties as Florida’s chief election officer. Democrats at the state and federal level have also warned that the new election crimes office could be used to target voters — including minority voters — who vote Democratic.

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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, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

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

Gov. DeSantis signs property insurance legislation — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a large property insurance bill Thursday evening, a measure designed to shore up a troubled industry that has seen a spate of bankruptcies, cancellations and rate hikes. That volatility spurred DeSantis to call a Special Session, which concluded Wednesday after the House passed SB 2D. “This package represents the most significant reforms to Florida’s homeowners insurance market in a generation,” DeSantis said in a released statement. “These bills will help stabilize a problematic market, help Floridians harden their homes through the My Safe Florida Home Program, and pave the way for more choices for homeowners.” The bill passed 95-14 in the House and 30-9 in the Senate. The only Republican to vote against it was Rep. Erin Grall.

Condo deal struck, passed and signed — DeSantis signed a second law from the Special Session to require stricter inspections for condominiums codifying a deal legislators reached in response to the deadly condo collapse in Surfside last year. Rep. Daniel Perez filed the legislation Tuesday afternoon, 11 months after the Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside. The 88-page bill is the culmination of months of work by legislative leaders and local lawmakers. “People talk about coming to Tallahassee and it being too political, but this is real policy with real change affecting real families in the past but also in the future,” Perez told members before the final vote.

House Dems elect Fentrice Driskell as Leader-designateFlorida House Democrats have unanimously named Rep. Driskell their Leader-designate, priming her to be the first Black woman to lead a House party caucus. Driskell steps up amid a transitional period for House Democrats and as the caucus is less than six months away from what is expected to be a difficult Election Day. Following her election on Tuesday, she told reporters she hopes to build unity in the caucus. “I mentioned in my remarks that we may be a smaller caucus, we are diminutive in number, but I think we serve an important role in terms of fighting for the people of Florida, pushing for the responsibility and transparency that we need,” Driskell said.

Elections Subcommittee links police unit to intimidation — A congressional panel studying voter turnout traveled to Tallahassee on Wednesday to address state laws Democrats have likened to voter suppression. The U.S. House Elections Subcommittee and Chairman G. K. Butterfield staged the field trip in an effort to spotlight ballot access in Florida and the nation more broadly. Within one of the measures (SB 524), signed in April, is a provision creating a first-of-its-kind election crimes investigation office, which Butterfield called a troubling and disappointing development. “Enacting laws such as this does not bolster election integrity,” Butterfield said. “Rather, it creates a serious risk of voter and election administrator intimidation, and it perpetuates the false narrative that American elections are not secure.”

Feds OK Medicaid postpartum extension — President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday approved a 10-month extension to the length of time that postpartum women qualify for Medicaid and federal Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits. The change was a top priority for House Speaker Chris Sprowls. The state government submitted a proposed amendment to its Medicaid 1115 waiver last year. It didn’t get approved though until lawmakers passed SB 2526 during the 2022 Session, which ensured that people enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a Medicaid expansion, would also qualify for the extended benefits. Exclusive of public health emergency requirements that ban states from disenrolling Medicaid enrollees, an estimated 52,000 postpartum women in Florida could benefit from the change in policy.

Grants for Gadsden

DeSantis announced $1.8 million in federal infrastructure grant funds in Gadsden County bringing recent investments in northwest Florida county to $9 million. The new funding the Governor announced this week is administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity but comes from the  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The HUD funds are meant in part to address unmet disaster recovery needs related to damage from Hurricane Michael as well as help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.

Quincy was awarded $23,985 to replace a failing bypass pump with a new, permanent bypass pump to prevent future backflow of wastewater. And Gadsden County was awarded $1.8 million to rehabilitate, improve and furnish an existing county-owned facility for public use.

Rural Gadsden County will win big with the latest budget.

“My administration is dedicated to making investments that strengthen Florida’s communities,” DeSantis said. “These awards will support critical infrastructure in Gadsden County while creating new opportunities for its residents.” These awards follow more than $7.1 million in additional community development and rural infrastructure funding awarded to Gadsden County in the month of April.

The following communities received awards in April 2022:

— Chattahoochee: $3.8 million to rehabilitate an existing former school building for use as a new senior center.

— Gretna: $2.3 million to expand the city’s community center to allow for the provision of public health services.

— Midway: $600,000 to construct an education center with ADA-compliant bathrooms, five-station shooting stand, automated clay throwing equipment and a five-station small-bore rifle range.

— Gretna: $504,100 to support road and utility improvements in preparation for the construction of a new facility that will create 14 jobs and an estimated $14.5 million capital investment in the city of Gretna.

Crime junction

Interstate 10 is a transcontinental interstate in the south stretching from Jacksonville to Santa Monica. Interstate 75 stretches from the Hialeah-Miami Lakes border in South Florida to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, at the Canadian border.

The two highways intersect Lake City, making the rural area a logistical hub and putting it on the state’s radar as a potential hot spot for trafficking drugs, weapons and humans.

Lt. Gov Jeanette Nuñez and Florida Highway Patrol Director Colonel Gene Spaulding hosted a roundtable discussion with local North Florida law enforcement to discuss tactics and identify additional avenues to keep Florida residents safe from drug and human trafficking.

Jeanette Nuñez is looking for a more holistic approach to law enforcement. Image via Colin Hackley.

They were joined by Florida Department of Law Enforcement Assistant Special Agent in Charge Keith Wilmer, who said that criminal activity doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

“Human trafficking is related to other crimes and other crimes are related to additional crimes,” he said, adding that across the state there are structured partnerships between coalitions and task forces that collaborate and share best practices. “The focus of these groups is not just criminality, it is looking at how to prevent human trafficking, how to take care of the victims of human trafficking and all of those  affected by it. It is a collaborative effort, and it cannot be done with one simple focus.”

Lake City Chief of Police Gerald Butler said trafficking drugs and weapons “go hand in hand.” He said he has received grants from the state to allow him to tap into technology that bolsters the police force. But he isn’t stopping there.

“We are really focusing on going out to the communities and getting our officers out there, especially the kids so they know that police officers are their friends,” he said.

Meanwhile Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden said the Sheriff’s Office has started training its narcotics officers “to look at a case as a homicide down the road.”

The  National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. The Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.

For the farmers

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday will unveil an initiative aimed at increasing awareness of the stress farmers face and ways they can get help.

As part of the new Farm Stress Awareness and Reduction Initiative Fried’s office will partner with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to train public school agriculture teachers, 2-1-1, 4-H and Future Farmers of America members, and others to recognize the signs of farm stress in their communities and families.

Farmers have a lot on their plate, says Nikki Fried. Image via Colin Hackley.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also has included as part of the initiative a four-month digital campaign in markets across the state and online meant to to raise awareness of mental health challenges and resources for farmers and rural community members.

The department also will be promoting telehealth sites in rural counties. The campaign will include radio advertisements on AgNet radio and print ads in industry publications.

The department received a $500,000 grant from the federal government to support the program. Fried officially kicks off the initiative at The formal launch will take place next week at an event at Wish Farms in Plant City at 9 a.m.

“The pressures of keeping our food supply strong when so many factors are outside of a farmer’s control, from weather events to supply chain issues, unfair foreign trade practices, and invasive pests, result in Florida’s agricultural community experiencing tremendous stress. Yet these communities are too often forgotten when it comes to mental health care,” Fried said. “My hope is that with this initiative we can raise awareness and expand the impact of existing programs to help Florida’s producers, ranchers, farmworkers, and rural communities access the resources and the support they need to thrive.”

Beetlemania

Fried also announced this week the Florida Forest Service was accepting applications from non-industrial, private forest landowners for the Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program.

Applications are limited to people from the 44 northern Florida counties where the beetles can thrive.

Supported through a grant by the U.S. Forest Service, the program provides incentive payments for landowners who have overstocked pine stands and need to conduct a first thinning.

The majority of Florida’s forests are privately owned, which can complicate matters. Image via Florida Forest Service.

The program also offers partial cost reimbursement for activities that can mitigate SPB activity, such as prescribed burning, and the planting of longleaf or slash pine rather than loblolly pine, the beetle’s preferred species. All qualifying applications received during the submission period will be evaluated and ranked for approval.

The last major SPB outbreak in Florida, between 1999 and 2002, caused an estimated $59 million in timber losses on over 24,000 acres. Pine forests are one of the most vital natural resources for Florida’s ecosystem from clean air and water to sequestering carbon and providing home goods and other wood products,”  Fried said. “Sixty-five percent of Florida forests are privately owned, so supporting our landowners is critical to not only reducing the risk of forest pest outbreaks but protecting livelihoods and protecting a natural resource that protects and provides for us every day.”

To obtain an application or to learn more about the Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program, visit FDACS.gov/SPBPrevention.

Chabad tour

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis toured the site of the Chabad of Tallahassee fire on Florida State University’s campus Monday.

Joining Patronis at the site of the destroyed Jewish center Israeli Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky and Rabbi Schneur Oirechman. The CFO’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services is currently conducting a comprehensive fire investigation to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

Jimmy Patronis’ team is investigating the cause of the damage. Image via CFO’s Office.

“I was humbled today to give Israeli Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky a tour of the site of the Chabad of Tallahassee and FSU that was tragically devastated by a massive fire just a few weeks ago,” Patronis said in a news release. “It’s truly painful to see the complete destruction a fire of this magnitude can cause but I’m thankful that no one was hurt in this blaze.”

The blaze struck during Jewish American Heritage Month. May is the designated month that recognizes the contributions that American Jews have made to the United States of America.

Oirechman has said the fire destroyed Torah scrolls, hundreds of books and 20 years of teachings.

“While my fire investigators have been working diligently to determine the final cause of the fire, preliminary investigations suggest this fire was accidental in nature. Thank you to the Consul General and Rabbi Oirechman for their support in the face of this heartbreaking disaster. The bonds between Israel and Florida run deep and we are here to support the Jewish community in Tallahassee and at FSU as they continue to recover.”

Instagram of the Week

Do the right thing

Sen. Randolph Bracy criticized Senate Republicans for quashing his efforts to protect renters from inflation saying it was a missed opportunity to do the right thing.

“What we’re supposed to do in Tallahassee is be responsive to the most pressing problems of Floridians. Right now, rent increases fall squarely in that camp. Instead of voting in support of my amendment to cap rent increases and help the everyday person, every Republican voted against it,” Bracy said in a prepared statement. “It was a missed opportunity for Republicans to do the right thing. Now the average hardworking Floridian must suffer as a result of their failed leadership.”

Randolph Bracy wanted to put a ceiling on landlords’ abilities to raise rent. Image via Colin Hackley.

Bracy issued the statement after an amendment he offered to SB 2D was shot down along a partisan vote.

Part of SB 2D provides $2 billion for insurance companies over the next two years to offset rising reinsurance costs. Companies that participate in the Reinsurance to Assistance Policyholder, or RAP, program for the 2022-23 period must reduce their rates by June 30 to reflect the savings from RAP coverage. Insurers that defer RAP coverage until the 2023-24 year must file reduced rates by June 30, 2023.

The bill also provides $150 million to the Department of Financial Services  for the My Safe Florida Home Program, of which $115 million is dedicated to homeowners who want to harden their homes.

But the bill offers nothing for renters who also are facing increasing costs of living.

Bracy offered an amendment that would have “conveyed” the cost savings in SB 2D to residential tenants requiring that landlords not raise rent by more than 3% in a 12-month period.

Mr. Planter

With Díaz and other Senators making late decisions not to run for re-election in November, the Senate took time out of their day Tuesday for a final round of goodbyes. Díaz’s colleagues praised the Hialeah Republican for his “GQ-ish” style, his knowledge on education policy and his ability to not take himself too seriously.

Sen. Ray Rodrigues recalled the antics that began when they shared their first Session as freshmen House members. During one conference committee, the pair sat behind the conference chairs, and when it came time for the following news gaggle, they soon found themselves on TV. That’s when they decided to start photobombing every conference committee gaggle for their chance at the limelight as freshmen.

The gaggle gag was subtle, but they became exceedingly more ambitious. It grew from rulers on budget spreadsheets to magnifying glasses to pulling the “Mr. Planter,” breaking out a monocle for one final photobombing. But for one redistricting committee meeting a few years later, Díaz and Rodrigues decided to cameo with a map. That gaggle was the largest yet, and it earned them a shot in the Miami Herald.

Ray Rodrigues and Manny Díaz’s magnum opus. Image via the Miami Herald.

“It went right past the two chairs of the committee and took a picture of us. The next day, (then-Redistricting Committee Chair) José Oliva is like, you guys not only are not on the committee, you weren’t even dressed. You guys got dressed and headed to the Capitol just for that, and you end up on the cover of the Herald,” Díaz said.

But for all the jokes he shared with members, Díaz said he remembered his roots, including as the son of Cuban immigrants.

“Every time I walk into this chamber, I’m still in awe that a kid from Hialeah can walk into this chamber and make a difference or hope to make a difference in the lives of Floridians,” Díaz said.

Fellow Miami-Dade Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat, said Díaz will be the first administration official that is a former colleague and hoped he would answer future calls. Similarly, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who is expected to be the next Senate President, said she looks forward to working with Díaz in crafting future education policy.

“You’re not really going anywhere, just around the corner, I guess,” Passidomo said.

“We’re it”

If there’s one thing certain about Sen. Gary Farmer’s future, it’s that he won’t be wearing a powdered wig if he succeeds in father’s footsteps and becomes a judge.

In his nearly six years in the Senate, including as Senate Minority Leader, Farmer hasn’t shied away from a debate. But Farmer might soon be listening to more debates than he participates in, if he’s successfully elected to the 17th Circuit Court in Broward County.

The Honorable Gary Farmer. Image via Colin Hackley.

While Farmer is known for his lengthy debates and “Farmerbuster” filibusters, he’s remembered for his full head of hair, too. A few Senators had hairy tales about the loquacious Senator from the 34th District.

Sen. Aaron Bean clearly remembers Farmer’s first words to him, uttered on set as they were filming a video for Press Skits one year: “Don’t mess with the hair.” And the Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Bald) said he often wonders what someone does with all that hair.

“There are some high school photos around, if you go to Mainland High School. I actually had some pretty sexy hair in high school, if you can remember back that far,” Baxley said. “But you have this remarkable striking presence whenever you enter the room.”

The Lighthouse Point Democrat said he takes after both his father, who was a judge on the Florida 4th District Court of Appeal, and his mother, a social worker.

Farmer recalled the first time he testified before the Legislature in 2005 about the importance of class action lawsuits. After sharing a story with the committee about people who thought they would be interred in a Jewish cemetery but whose bones were instead tossed out, he said he asked Florida Justice Association Executive Director Paul Jess who would testify next on their side. He remembered Jess’ reply that changed his view on public service.

“We’re it.”

Taddy-o farewell

This week, Sen. Annette Taddeo was Sen. Taddeo, not Sen. Taddy-o.

Senate President Wilton Simpson has said it’s become a running joke that he will intentionally mispronounce the Miami Democrat’s name when she gets on his nerves.

As a bilingual and Jewish Colombian immigrant who was born with a cleft lip and raised in Alabama, Taddeo has faced much adversity and comes from a blend of backgrounds. With her parents’ example, Taddeo has become a worthy adversary for Senate Republicans.

Annette Taddeo won’t take no for an answer. Image via Colin Hackley.

Taddeo was former Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2014, but currently, she’s down third in the polls behind him in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. That hasn’t spurred her to back down yet, even amid rumors she’d instead run for Congress.

It’s a situation she’s found herself in before. When she was first running for Senate in a 2017 Special Election, Democrats had consolidated around a House member, and she was asked not to run.

“When somebody calls me and tells me we don’t want you to run, well, that’s the worst thing you can do to me, is give me that phone call, because, boy, that pushed me over the edge,” Taddeo said.

Growing up quick

Like in the Senate, the House had some sendoffs to make this week.

Stopping for a moment to “soak in” how lucky she has been to have been a member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Amber Mariano delivered a teary goodbye speech Wednesday saying she looks forward to spending time with her new husband and beginning the next chapter of her life.

Amber Mariano was once the youngest elected member of the House. Image via Colin Hackley.

Mariano made history in 2016 when, at 20, she became the youngest elected member of the House representing HD 36, which covers the entire coast of Pasco County.

“Since I was a little girl, I wanted to run for office. And ever since the day I stepped on the House floor in the sixth grade as a page for Will Weatherford, I knew I wanted to run for the Florida House one day,” Mariano recalled. “I never expected that day to come when I was 20 years old, but God put me in the right place at the right time to serve the community that had given me everything,” she said.

Mariano thanked former Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, who was elected to the House in 2014 at the age of 23 and served until 2020, when she announced she wasn’t going to seek re-election. She said Sullivan “paved the way for me and for so many other young women.”

Mariano also thanked her family for their support and credited her father in 2016 for being the “only one who thought I could really win.”

Mariano had been running for the new House District 56, but announced her decision to not run for re-election earlier this month. Hours after Mariano announced her decision, Republican Brad Yeager entered the race with the backing of Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Patriotic farewell

An immigrant from Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia, Rep. Ardian Zika will celebrate his 25th anniversary of having arrived in America this August.

The Republican Representative delivered a resounding goodbye speech touching on patriotism, religious freedom and opportunity.

“When I came to America, I found a place to long for. I found a place to live and I found a place to love. America blessed me with a gift of a lifetime, the gift of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Zika said.

Who said the House’s biggest patriot can’t be an immigrant? Image via Colin Hackley.

His journey had not been an easy one, he recalled, but he said that he has clung to the Bible verse Isaiah 41:9-10, in which God promises to console all believers.

“For a kid that belonged to a persecuted ethinic group knowing that there is a heavenly Father who said, ‘I will not reject you, I am going to redeem you.’ And coming to America and experiencing what it means to live (up to) my-God given potential, it’s only in America. This is the reason I love this country,” Zika said as his contemporaries quickly rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.

He also noted that America is a country that offers opportunities so that someone’s starting point in life doesn’t have to be their finishing point.

That should not be taken for granted, though, Zika warned.

“It’s incumbent upon us members to make sure America remains the shining city on the hill. We must give America a peace of mind about the future, not a piece of our minds,” he said. “Words are powerful. Words will either inspire hopefulness (or bring)  hopelessness. So let’s be wary of the words we use and encourage each other to move forward in this country that we call America.”

Turnaround principal

The Department of Education has named Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School Principal Carolyn Davis as the 2022 state Principal of the Year. Beverly Shores Elementary School Assistant Principal Stacia Werner has received the accompanying assistant principal honors.

Both honorees represent excellence in Florida education, according to DOE, and were selected for their exemplary contributions to their schools and communities, including increasing student performance, promoting safe learning environments and establishing partnerships with parents and community members.

DOE says Carolyn Davis has a track record of excellence. Image via Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School.

Under Davis’ leadership, Rutledge Pearson Elementary School in Duval County moved from a D rating to an A rating, marking her fourth career turnaround to an A rating. DOE said Davis has been praised as a consummate professional and a true education leader.

“School leadership is critical to serving the educational needs of students, families and communities, and Carolyn Davis has gone above and beyond in that mission,” Interim Education Commissioner Jacob Oliva said.

“Carolyn Davis exemplifies all that is good in educational leadership in public schools today,” Duval County Superintendent Diana Green said. “She understands the powerful role of relationships in the performance of her school, and she works strategically to grow morale, motivation, and commitment among staff, students, and families, all of which become a cultural multiplier in the calculus of student outcomes.”

Werner joined Beverly Shores Elementary School in Lake County in 2019. DOE said she is recognized for modeling values and attitudes necessary for student achievement.

“My congratulations to Stacia Werner for her selection as the 2022 Florida Assistant Principal of the Year,” Oliva said. “Her leadership in the assistant principal role has supported both students and educators while setting a high bar for others to emulate.”

“Stacia Werner is the best of the best and worthy of the honor of Florida’s Assistant Principal of the Year,” Lake County Superintendent of Schools Diane Kornegay said. “Her strength in improving student achievement is matched by her ability to create a strong and supportive school culture, a place where everyone wants to be.”

Goldman’s back

Richard Goldman is back for more service to the Florida State Parks Foundation Board of Directors after being elected to the Board of Directors for a second time.

Goldman is the President and CEO of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau. He previously served an eight-year term on the board.

Richard Goldman bridges the gap between nature and tourism.

“We are excited about Richard’s return to the Board. He will be an asset not just in the St. Augustine area but statewide,” said State Parks Foundation President Tammy Gustafson. “During his initial service on the Board, Richard championed partnership opportunities with destination marketing organizations. These cooperative relationships serve to highlight the beautiful and diverse Florida State Parks available to visitors.”

Goldman is a past chairman of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and oversaw the state fundraising arm’s reorganization into a more streamlined marketing company. He continues to serve on VISIT FLORIDA’S Marketing Committee and Council of Tourism Leaders made up of past chairmen of the Florida Commission on Tourism.

“It’s an honor returning to the Board and working with such a great group of people in supporting our award-winning Florida State Parks,” Goldman said. “I am very excited about the Foundation’s Fort Mose Historic State Park reconstruction project, which will be an important historical marker in St. Augustine and an enhanced educational experience for visitors.”

Future enterprisers

Four Florida State University faculty members received “GAP” funding to help them commercialize their research and bring more products and services to market.

An acronym for Grant Assistance Program, or GAP, funding  GAP projects should reach completion in a year or less, preferably under a year. The university has awarded $3.5 million in funding and signed 20 license agreements for technologies developed through the program since its inception in 2006.

Congrats to the four GAP grant recipients.

“By developing projects with commercial potential, FSU faculty can broaden the impact of their research,” Florida State University Interim Vice President for Research Mark Riley said. “GAP offers researchers additional support as they partner with businesses and move their work into the marketplace.”

Faculty who received GAP grants are:

Rebekah Sweat, an assistant professor in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, who developed an environmentally friendly way to manufacture ceramic composites

Akash Gunjan, an associate professor in the College of Medicine, who developed a molecular screening test to determine patient response to steroids before therapy.

Zhibin Yu, an associate professor in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, who has developed a thin film thatand nuclear power plants border crossings and defense facilities  cans used to  respond to neutrons.

Jonathan Dennis, an  Associate Professor of Biological Science, who has identified a new way to test whether a polyp should lead to cancer.

Next gen tech

Researchers at Florida State University’s Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS) have collaborated with the Colorado-based Advanced Conductor Technologies on a new ready-to-use superconducting cable system.

Sastry Pamidi, a FAMU-FSU College of Engineering professor and CAPS associate director, co-authored a paper with CAPS researcher Chul Kim and ACT researcher Jeremy Weiss that was published in  Superconductor Science and Technology. The paper demonstrates a new system that uses helium gas to cool superconducting cables.

CAPS is putting out top-grade research. Image via FSU.

Superconducting cables can move electrical current with no resistance, but they need very cold temperatures to function. The work gives engineers more design flexibility because helium remains a gas in a wider range of temperatures than other mediums.

The paper is the latest outcome of the partnership between researchers at CAPS and Advanced Conductor Technologies. The ongoing collaboration has been funded by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the U.S. Navy. The grants encourage businesses to partner with universities to conduct high-level research.

The research also was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“We like challenges,” Pamidi said. “These grants come with challenges that have a clear target. The company says, ‘This is what we want to develop. Can you help us with this?’ It is motivating, and it also provides students with connections. The small businesses we work with not only provide money, but they also see the skills our students are gaining.”

Capitol Directions

Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — A spot on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list and a glowing review from Jeb … This issue won’t be on the pro shop wall at Mar-a-Lago.

Big Tech — Up arrow — A big rally on Wall Street, a big win in court, and no data privacy sideshow in the Special Session, either.

Ashley Moody — Down arrow — Her take on the Big Tech ruling: “Thank you sir, may I have another.”

Jimmy Patronis — Up arrow — He may not have been in the spotlight, but he played a big role in getting insurance reforms done.

Cord Byrd — Down arrow — QAnon Cord press availability: one-part Marshawn Lynch, one-part BoomerBook. Shake well, serve on the rocks.

Insurance companies — Crossways arrow — Here’s everything you asked for, can you lower rates now? No? OK, thanks anyway.

Lawsuits — Down arrow — Was it insurance reform? Who knows? Was it tort reform? You better believe it.

Surfside families — Praying hands — You are not forgotten.

Wilton Simpson — Up arrow — Ran the tables on Special Session. He was also key in getting Surfside done. Finished strong, unless this wasn’t the last Special Session …

Chris Sprowls — Up arrow — Unlike so many in the process, the Speaker refuses to be a mouthpiece for any industry, group or association. That the final bill struck a fair balance between all the interests is a testament to his influence.

Jim Boyd — Up arrow — No one can match his subject matter knowledge on insurance.

Jay Trumbull — Up arrow — Forget coasting at the end of his term, he took on one of the thorniest, driest policy topics and handled it with his usual disarming competence.

Danny Perez — Up arrow — Dogged in his pursuit for a strong Surfside bill. He never wavered. He showed this week why he is going to make an outstanding Speaker.

Jenn Bradley, Jason Pizzo — Up arrow — Once again teamed up to get a bipartisan bill passed. The makings of a dynamic duo.

Lauren Book — Up arrow — No Senate Minority Leader has had her reach; without the good will and relationships she’s built, not only in the Senate but also in the House (with Democrats and Republicans), the Surfside resurrection would not have been possible.

Manny Diaz — Up arrow — As the saying goes: When God closes one door … What earns him the up arrow is all the praise for being a great Dad. No job is more important.

Kelli Stargel — Down arrow — Please don’t send another box of rainbow cookies.

Fentrice Driskell — Up arrow — Smart, likable and genuine, the first Black woman to lead the caucus has the potential to be the most capable House Democrat leader in years.

Randy Fine — Double down arrow — *Checks Division of Elections* So, still thinking about leaving early, or was that just hot air, too?

Yvonne Hinson & Daisy Morales — Down arrow — The House Democrats have never been all that impressive with their poorly-written questions on the Floor but these two hit a new low. If you don’t understand your own question, don’t ask it.

Dotie Joseph — Down arrow — The sophomore Democrat is so in love with the sound of her own voice, she hasn’t noticed everyone else in the chamber has stopped listening.

Chris Latvala — Up arrow — Looks like he’s safe to start scoping out décor for his next office.

First responders — Up arrow — HB 689 will give them more time to seek and receive treatment for workplace-driven PTSD, helping those who help us.

Mega-lobbying firms — Up arrow — This is like not letting college players be drafted into the NFL for six years after they graduate.

Charter schools — Up arrow — No more surprise closures.

Relatives you forgot about — Down arrow — Thanks to the new lotto law, they won’t remember you either.

Chris Heath — Up arrow — He keeps asking real questions, even when he doesn’t get real answers.

Debbie Brown — Up arrow — Congratulations on 30 years of service to Florida. Nice celebration by Senators on both sides of the aisle. A job well done, Madam Secretary.

Senate farewells — Down arrow — The upper chamber is noted for its healthy egos, but the farewells are bordering on Hollywood awards ceremony levels of self-indulgence.

Stafford Jones — Up arrow — He’s pretty good at keeping secrets, huh?

Rebekah Jones — Down arrow — It took the DOH inspector general 27 pages and more than a year to tell us what we already know: Her 15 minutes are up.

Brian Barnes — Down arrow — The 11th Circuit wrote 60 pages trashing his argument for the Big Tech bill. But one line sums it up: It followed “neither law nor logic.”

Georgia Cappleman & Sarah Dugan — Up arrow — They’ll get justice for Dan Markel.

FSU Alert — Down arrow — Ever heard of the boy who called wolf?

FSU Softball — Down arrow — We’re sad they didn’t make the Super Regional, but it’ll be that much more super when they do next season.

Staff Reports


One comment

  • Boldly Tomas

    May 28, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    The last thing I or anyone, should want is more government intrusion into the housing market.

    Rent control is a policy that creates havoc wherever it is implemented. In my opinion it is a taking of private property, as was the unconstitutional rent abeyance orders from the CDC who lack the authority to make such a policy.

    Democrats like Sen. Randolph Bracy don’t care about the inevitable repercussions of their policy positions. As long as in the short term they can buy votes from poor people with money they steal from the middle class.

Comments are closed.


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