Takeaways from Tallahassee — 12 days of Christmas scams

Blue Tally Takeaways (4)
On the 12th day of Christmas, my scammer gave to me …

Cindy Lou Moody

If there are 12 days of Christmas, then there are 12 ways for scammers to spread their Christmas drear.

In an attempt to help residents better protect themselves from fraudsters, Attorney General Ashley Moody this week issued a Consumer Alert highlighting some of the holiday fraud that consumers should be wary of. The alert includes 12 schemes for consumers to avoid.

“It’s a busy time of year for shoppers, retailers and delivery companies as millions of gifts are sold, shipped and delivered. It’s also a busy season for scammers concocting schemes to exploit the holiday demand,” Moody said in a statement announcing the tips.

Ashley Moody wants you to keep watch for 12 schemers scheming. Image via Colin Hackley.

Here’s the list. Don’t be afraid to sing along.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my scammer gave to me:

Fake gift exchanges: Fraudulent online holiday gift exchange events are advertised on social media with promises of multiple gifts after paying it forward. Oftentimes, this is a pyramid scheme in disguise.

Lookalike webpages: Traffic to fake websites spike during the holiday season. Floridians must make sure a website is secure and the domain is accurate before inputting personal or financial information.

Temp holiday jobs: Seasonal job opportunities are posted online in an effort to steal information from applicants or obtain free work without paying a hopeful employee.

Chick-fil-A gift cards: Some schemers reveal and record codes from gift cards in stores, stealing the value of the card once it is purchased and activated.

Vacation fakers: Scammers may make fake postings offering vacation rental properties or travel deals that are too good to be true, like holiday pricing and packages.

Package tracking scammers: A form of smishing—text-message phishing—scammers send deceptive messages intended to lure recipients into providing personal or financial information. The messages are disguised as package-tracking updates.

Phishing emails: Phishing messages are a year-round attack from schemers, but messages may be tailored around the holiday season. Emails may appear to originate from a trusted merchant, but instead originate from a schemer hoping to gather personal or financial information.

Fraud charities: Deceptive and phony online fundraising campaigns may be posted on crowdsourcing platforms. Ensure legitimacy by researching an organization on CharityNavigator.org before giving.

Public Wi-Fi risks: Refrain from using public Wi-Fi when shopping online since hackers can take advantage of public networks that are not secure to steal personal information.

Porch pirates: If a mailbox shows signs of being tampered with or packages are missing from a consumer’s front door, this may be a sign of delivery theft. Control delivery times or purchase a secure mailbox to avoid theft.

Counterfeit toys: Scammers create fake discount offers for trending toys, but instead send counterfeit toys — or no toys at all — bilking consumers of money and potentially stealing personal information.

And shoulder surfing and card skimming: Be wary when using an ATM while holiday shopping. Check to see if an ATM looks tampered with and that surroundings are clear before typing in a PIN code or other personal information.


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:

Property insurance bill passed and signed — Following this week’s Special Session, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Republicans’ property insurance legislation. The law is a major rewrite of property insurance laws that seeks to limit lawsuits and stabilize a beleaguered market that has seen six companies fail this year. Dozens of others have canceled policies and hiked rates. The bill largely passed along partisan lines, as Democrats said the bill gives too much to insurance companies without mandatory rate reductions or protections for consumers.

DeSantis calls for vaccine grand jury — The Governor requested the state Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate crimes and wrongdoings the pharmaceutical industry may have committed against the state’s residents regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. He also announced that he was establishing a Public Health Integrity Committee. “An investigation is warranted to determine whether the pharmaceutical industry has engaged in fraudulent practices,” according to his petition. “The people of Florida deserve to know the truth.”

School districts change LGBTQ policy — Ten school districts have pulled LGBTQ support and changed locker room policies in response to Florida’s parental rights in education law. The State Board of Education had sent letters to the 10 school districts last month warning them that they have policies that might not comply with the new law. LGBTQ activists say the change in policies are proving the fears of critics to be true, that the law would cause districts to shy away from LGBTQ support functions.

Hurricane and toll relief becomes law — The Governor also signed the two other bills that emerged from the Special Session, one providing property tax relief for hurricane victims and another providing a toll credit system for frequent commuters. Both measures passed the Legislature unanimously, but not without Democrats voicing concerns. On hurricane relief, concerns about beach renourishment, affordable housing and local government funding entered discussions. On toll relief, Democrats argued the Legislature should’ve created a more equitable relief program.

DeSantis, Kathleen Passidomo signal abortion positions — DeSantis says he is ready to sign a “heartbeat” abortion bill. But only an hour before the Governor stated that position to reporters in Fort Lauderdale, Senate President Passidomo told reporters in Tallahassee that she would support a 12-week provision with exceptions for rape and incest, unlike Florida’s current 15-week law that’s in court. “I felt we should have included an exception for rape and incest in the bill that we passed,” Passidomo said. “I advocated for it but like everything the bill had been agreed upon, et cetera. So, it didn’t pass with the exception.” Passidomo also said she is holding off on tackling abortion until the state Supreme Court finalizes a ruling on the bill from this year’s Session.

Going global

It’s still 2022, but DeSantis is already sporting his international bona fides.

The Governor hosted delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates in his office this week. The two countries’ ambassadors also invited the Governor to visit next year, a potential follow-up to Florida’s trade delegation to Israel in 2019.

Michael Herzog and Yousef Al Otaiba joined Ron DeSantis for a mini international summit. Image via Twitter/Michael Herzog.

Michael Herzog, Ambassador of Israel to the United States, tweeted photos of his meeting with DeSantis on Thursday. Joining in one picture was UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba.

“We gave an overview of the Abraham Accords and the strategic significance and opportunities that they present to our region, the world and to Florida,” Herzog tweeted. “We invited him to visit our countries in 2023.”

“I also thanked Governor DeSantis for his strong support of Israel & for the significant steps he has taken to combat antisemitism,” Herzog continued. “We look forward to continuing to work with him to deepen Israel-Florida relations & to connect Florida to the exciting new dynamic in our region.”

Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, Consul General of Israel’s diplomatic mission in Miami, also tweeted about the appearance with the Governor. In addition, Israel in Miami posted photos of the meeting and expressed their interest in working with the new Senate President during the 2023 Session.

Herzog and Al Otaiba also paid a visit to the American Jewish Committee, led by CEO and former U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch.

TikTok trouble

Moody joined 14 other state attorneys general in writing letters to Apple and Google demanding the companies raise the age ratings of TikTok on their respective App and Play stores.

The 15 top cops say raising the ratings from “12+” and “Teen” to 17 and older will help parents protect their children from being exposed to harmful content online.

What is the effect of TikTok on kids’ health? Image via AP.

“While our investigation into TikTok continues, it is important that action is taken now to better protect children from harmful content they might encounter on this China-owned social media platform,” Moody said in a statement. “If TikTok isn’t banned outright, app stores should at the very least increase the age rating on the TikTok app to ensure parents know that this social media platform is not appropriate for users under the age of 17.”

In a pair of letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the coalition of attorneys general outlined the deceptive nature of the current ratings for the social media platform. The letters state that without taking the necessary steps to increase the age rating and change the accompanying age descriptions, the states reserve the right to take appropriate legal action against the companies.

“Parents depend on the accuracy of age ratings,” according to the letters. “When parents are deceived into letting their kids download TikTok, there are real consequences. Exposure to drug, alcohol and tobacco content on social media makes kids more likely to use or experiment with those illicit substances in real life. And exposure to sexual content on TikTok can lead to pornography addiction and even the sexual exploitation of kids by online predators.”

Joining Moody in the letter are attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Hope they don’t burn

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis teamed up with the Tallahassee Fire Department for a demonstration on how quickly Christmas trees can ignite if they aren’t properly maintained and subsequently disposed of.

Forty four percent of Christmas tree fires are caused by lights. Between 2016 and 2020, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires caused by burning Christmas trees.

Jimmy Patronis and crew wonder if the fire’s good enough for roasting chestnuts yet. Image via CFO Office.

On average, Christmas tree fires cause two civilian deaths, 11 civilian injuries, and $12 million in property damage annually.

“While Christmas trees are an important part of the holiday season, it is critical that Floridians maintain and dispose of their trees to prevent possible fire-related incidents,”Patronis said in a prepared statement.

“Always remember that a dry tree is a dangerous tree. Watering your Christmas tree and unplugging holiday lights prior to going to sleep and leaving the house are simple ways to make sure you enjoy the holidays safely.”

(Fire) hats off

Patronis this week also recognized members of Florida’s firefighting community for their outstanding accomplishments in the fire service industry during the 2022 Fire Service Awards.

“Florida’s first responders are the backbone of our state and I was honored today to recognize these outstanding members of Florida’s fire service community who work around the clock to protect Floridians. As we saw last year with the tragic Surfside building collapse and again this year following the impacts of Hurricane Ian, Florida’s dedicated firefighters run towards unbelievable danger at a moment’s notice to save lives,” Patronis said in a prepared release.

“But it’s not just the firefighters that keep us safe. It’s the educators, inspectors, investigators, instructors, volunteers and training centers that ensure we are protected — day in and day out. I cannot thank these heroes enough for their outstanding service and sacrifices on behalf of their communities and our great state.”

Jimmy Patronis says thank you to this fire workers. Image via CFO office.

The following people and stations were bestowed awards this week:

—Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex: 2021 Fire Service Training Center of the Year

Francis Neeley: 2021 Forestry Firefighter of the Year – Withlacoochee Forestry Center

Alexis Rothring: 2021 Fire and Life Safety Public Educator of the Year – San Carlos Park Fire Protection and Rescue Service District

Lisa Brekke: 2022 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year – Pasco County Fire Rescue

Matthew Doumas: 2021 Fire Inspector of the Year – Palm Beach County Fire Rescue

Tina O’Brien: 2022 Fire Inspector of the Year – Lake Mary Fire Department

Jeff Clare: 2021 Fire Investigator of the Year – Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Investigative and Forensic Services

Clu Wright: 2022 Fire Investigator of the Year – Putnam County Fire Rescue

David DeRita: 2021 Fire Marshal of the Year – Palm Beach County Fire Rescue

Christopher Henry: 2022 Fire Marshal of the Year – Palm Beach County Fire Rescue

Jason Draper: 2022 Fire Service Instructor of the Year – Orange County Fire Rescue

Brian Carroll: 2022 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year – Miccosukee Volunteer Fire Rescue

Kyle Graham: 2022 Career Firefighter of the Year – Boca Raton Fire Rescue Service

Nick Gradia: 2022 Professional Firefighter of the Year – Escambia County Fire Rescue

Shayne Morgan: Chad Reed Emergency Management Professional of the Year – Columbia County Emergency Management

James Large: Fire Chief of the Year – St. Petersburg Fire Rescue

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Bay County Board of Commissioners — DeSantis appointed Clair Pease to the Bay County Board of County Commissioners. Pease, of Panama City Beach, is the chief executive officer of Emerald View Resorts. She previously served on the Planning Board of Panama City Beach and is a current honorary board member of the Emerald Coast Division of the Children’s Home Society. Pease attended North Carolina State University.

Board of Accountancy — DeSantis appointed Michelle Maingot and Steven Platau and re-appointed William Blend, Shireen Sackreiter and Brent Sparkman to the Board of Accountancy. Maingot is a partner of Ernst & Young LLP. She currently serves on the board of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and the Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from FSU. Platau is a professor at the University of Tampa. He previously served on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Joint Trial Board and currently serves as a Circuit Court Mediator. Platau earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Ohio State University and his juris doctor from the University of Cincinnati. Blend is a Certified Public Accountant and Shareholder with MSL, P.A. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and currently serves as a member of the Florida Government Finance Officers Association, the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, and the Seminole State College Advisory Board. Blend earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Long Island University. Sackreiter is the Office Managing Director of Accenture. She is a current member of the Project Management Professionals and is the recipient of the Governor’s Savings Award in 2015. Sackreiter earned her bachelor’s degree in management information systems from FSU. Sparkman is a Certified Public Accountant and Partner at Carr, Riggs, and Ingram. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and sits on the board of Ameris Bank. Sparkman earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from FSU.

Board of Nursing — DeSantis announced the appointment of Diana Forst, Judy Frum, Jenee Peters, and Jennifer Wages and the reappointment of Jody Rain to the Board of Nursing. Forst is a registered nurse (RN) at Cleveland Clinic. She was previously appointed to the Nineteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission Forst earned her associate degree in nursing from Marymount University and her bachelor’s degree in biology from Trinity College. Frum is the Chief Executive Officer of Broward Health Imperial Point. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce and is an Advisory Board Member for Sheridan Technical School. Frum earned her associate degree in respiratory therapy from West Virginia Northern Community College, her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Florida Atlantic University, and her master’s degree in business administration from Florida International University. Peters is the managing director at Naples Wealth Planning and the founder of Tampa Bay Body Sculpting. Previously, she was a partner with Platinum Wealth Partners and was the executive director of Investments for Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. Peters earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Baldwin-Wallace University. Wages is the health information management director of Encompass Health of Panama City. She is a current member of the American Society for Health Care Risk Management. Wages received her practical nursing certification from Haney Vocational School and earned her bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from Southern New Hampshire University. Rain is the RN nurse supervisor at Manatee Memorial Hospital and the Clinical Solutions Director of PointClickCare. She is the former president of the Manasota Chapter of Emergency Nurses Association. Rain earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the State College of Florida and her master’s degree in healthcare administration from Western Governors University.

Board of Professional Engineers — DeSantis appointed Christopher Dawson, James Gonzalez, and Sam Mousa and the reappointed of Yassi Myers to the Board of Professional Engineers. Dawson is a shareholder at GrayRobinson, P.A. He is a current Board Member of the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce and previously served as the Director of the Florida Children’s Miracle Network. He earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida and his law degree from the University of Alabama. Gonzalez is a co-founder of Cobb & Gonzalez, P.A. He is a reservist in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He currently serves as the Licensing Co-Chair for the Real Property and Construction Law Section of the Florida Bar. Gonzalez earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of South Florida and his master’s degree and law degree from Villanova University. Mousa is the president of Mousa Consulting Group and Partner of Conventus, LLC. He is a current member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Society of Professional Engineers state president. Mousa earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UF. Myers is the president and owner of TLP Engineering Consultants, Inc. She is the former Florida Engineering Society state president and serves as an advisory council member for the Transportation and Expressway Authority Membership of Florida. Myers earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Louisiana State University.

Fifth District Court of Appeal — DeSantis appointed Adrian Soud, John MacIver, Joseph Boatwright II, Paige Kilbane to serve on the Fifth District Court of Appeal. Soud, of Jacksonville, has served as a Judge on the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court since January 2009. Previously, he was a partner at The Soud Law Firm and an associate attorney at Holland & Knight, LLP. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University. MacIver, of Neptune Beach, is currently the chair of the Florida Gaming Control Commission. Previously, he served as the general counsel to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Deputy General Counsel for the Executive Office of Governor DeSantis, and Assistant General Counsel for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and his law degree from Northwestern University. Boatwright of East Palatka has served as a Judge on the Putnam County Court since January 2013. Previously, he served as the managing assistant state attorney in the Seventh Judicial Circuit and an associate attorney in private practice. He received his bachelor’s degree from UFhis master’s degree from Covington Theological Seminary, his law degree from The Catholic University of America, his master of laws in taxation from UF, and his master of laws in judicial studies from Duke University. Kilbane of Jacksonville has served as a Judge on the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court since January 2021 Previously, she served as a Judge on the Palm Beach County Court, an associate attorney in private practice, and an assistant state attorney in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit. She received her bachelor’s and law degrees from UF.

Florida Independent Living Council — DeSantis appointed Amy Grissom, William “Brent” McNeal, and Rosemary “Rose” Miles and the reappointed Robert Melia and Donald Moran to the Florida Independent Living Council. Grissom, of Monticello, is the chief executive officer of Florida Agencies Serving the Blind. She is a former contract management supervisor for the Florida Departments of Corrections aEducation. Grissom earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Saint Leo University. McNeal, of Tallahassee, is the Director of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Florida Department of Education. He currently serves on the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors, the Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation, the Florida Rehabilitation Council, and the State Advisory Committee for the Education of Exceptional Students. McNeal earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wake Forest University and his law degree from FSU. Miles, of Rockledge, is the Executive Director of the Space Coast Center for Independent Living. She is the current President of the Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living and a current member of the National Fair Housing Association. Miles earned her bachelor’s degree in organization management from Warner University. Melia, of Orlando, is a Spinal Cord Network Coordinator at Orlando Health. He is a member of the Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board and the Greater Orlando Spinal Cord Injury Network. Melia earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and his master’s degree in public administration from FIU. Moran, of Jacksonville, is employed by Numotion, a wheelchair and mobility equipment company. He is a volunteer with the Sulzbacher Center for Homelessness. Moran earned his bachelor’s degree in communication and advertising from the University of North Florida.

Lee Memorial Health System Board of Directors — DeSantis appointed Daniel Adler to the Lee Memorial Health System Board of Directors. Adler, Fort Myers, is the director of legal compliance for Millennium Physician Group. He was previously appointed as a Special Assistant General Counsel for the White House. Adler earned his bachelor’s degree from Rollins College, his master’s degree in law from George Washington University, and his law degree from Appalachian School of Law.

Miami-Dade County Court — DeSantis appointed Christopher Green, of Miami, to serve as Judge on the Miami-Dade County Court. Green has served as Assistant City Attorney with the City of Miami since 2000. Previously, he served as an associate at Cole, White & Billbrough, P.A. He received his bachelor’s degree from Maryville University and his law degree from Nova Southeastern University. Green fills the judicial vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Elijah Levitt.

History lesson

Florida’s smallest county is getting some national recognition.

The Hosford School and Gymnasium in Liberty County has joined the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, and Secretary of State Cord Byrd is touting the news.

“I am pleased to announce that Hosford School and Gymnasium has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places,” Byrd said. “These buildings have long played significant roles in the social and educational life of Hosford. Today, they provide a link to the past and continue to serve the needs of the entire community.”

These buildings are now nationally recognized as historic landmarks. Image via Department of State.

Local craftsmen hired by the New Deal-era federal Works Project Administration constructed the school and gym in 1936. The school and gymnasium were built with locally sourced pine, which has been largely preserved, and both buildings retain many original furnishings.

The buildings served multiple purposes. The auditorium hosted political rallies, fundraisers, musical and theatrical performances, lectures and more. As the only indoor sports facility in the county, the gym hosted games and tournaments. Later, it hosted community square dances, fundraisers and more.

The school served only White students until integration in the 1960s. Additionally, it was the only local public school. African American students in Liberty County attended separate schools during segregation.

Help is still available

The DeSantis administration is promoting the newly available services being offered by the Florida Homeowner Assistance Fund program which includes counseling and providing assistance with budgeting, financial planning, and advice on home purchases and credit issues.

“Housing counseling will empower Floridians to make sound financial choices and become self-sufficient, and I encourage eligible homeowners to take advantage of this valuable resource. Southwest Florida homeowners impacted by Hurricane Ian are especially encouraged to utilize housing counseling services to support their financial recovery following the storm,” Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said in a prepared statement.

Dane Eagle wants Floridians to take advantage of hurricane relief. Image via Facebook Live.

The counseling services will be provided by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified counselors. Homeowners interested in counseling should call 833-987-8997 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Calls may be made Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Saturday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Additionally, people may email [email protected].

The federal government provided Florida $676 million to mitigate financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic by preventing homeowners’ mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, and displacements. The funds could also be directed to providing people assistance with home energy services, internet, property and/or flood insurance, property taxes, and homeowner or condominium association fees.

According to DEO, HAF has awarded $540 million to more than 28,000 Florida homeowners which helped prevent more than 300 foreclosures. According to publicly available data, Florida’s HAF program has awarded more in assistance than California, Texas and New York combined.

Lessen the mess

Nearly three months after Hurricane Ian’s landfall the state is still working to clean debris from state lands and waterways.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues to remove boats from waterways in Collier, Lee and Monroe counties. As many as 7,500 vessels were displaced by the storm. More than half (4,200) have been assessed by FWC officers, the department said in a release this week.

FWC wants help cleaning up after this year’s storms. Image via AP.

In Lee County alone, 708 vessels were identified as derelict and over half of them were removed from the waterway or brought into compliance.

“Our deployed officers continue the mission by locating owners and delivering notification of rights packets and waiver forms,” said FWC Boating and Waterways Section Representative Capt. Travis Franklin. “The assessment phase is all but complete at this point, though we do have new DVs pop up here and there almost daily.”

Boat owners can hire a salvage company to remove the vessels from the water. They can also, through the end of the year, voluntarily release ownership of a displaced vessel by calling the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 and speaking with an FWC representative. FWC has received 79 waivers from boat owners voluntarily releasing ownership so the boats can be removed.

The Division of Emergency Management, meanwhile, is coordinating with the FWC to remove and dispose of vessels the FWC has determined are derelict.

Moreover, the newly created State Debris Cleanup Program will assist Hurricane Ian survivors with the removal of displaced and abandoned titled property. Residents can request the removal of debris including vehicles, vessels, motorcycles, trailers and ATVs. To make a request, visit IanDebrisCleanup.com to report the presence of debris.

Sung hero

The American Children’s Campaign presented Rep. David Smith with its Superhero for Kids Award this week for pursuing legislation that will usher in the state’s most expansive juvenile criminal record expungement effort in a decade.

“The common denominator for receiving a Superhero award is the large-scale transformative change that can be achieved,” American Children’s Campaign President Roy Miller said in a prepared release. “It recognizes system reform that fundamentally changes children’s lives for the better.”

David Smith is a superhero, says the American Children’s Campaign. Image via Colin Hackley.

Smith sponsored HB 195 during the 2022 Session. The bill requires the Department of Law Enforcement to expunge the nonjudicial arrest records of eligible minors who have successfully completed a diversion program for any offense, save for forcible felonies. The exception for forcible felonies was made after DeSantis vetoed similar legislation in 2021, citing public safety concerns.

Smith reintroduced the bill in the 2022 Legislative Session, adding the carveout for forcible felonies.

The new law is expected to help youth of color who often are disproportionately arrested compared to their White peers. Youth of color, especially Black and Hispanic youth, are also less likely to be offered a juvenile diversion program even when they are eligible.

In 2020, the youth population in Florida was 21% Black, 33% Hispanic and 42% White, but Brown and Black children account for a disproportionate amount (67%) of juvenile arrests. Juveniles of color in Florida’s justice system account for 79% of youth transferred to adult court and 72.9% of youth placed in detention.

“We’ve been proud to support this much-needed transformational change for children, and we’re grateful for the Florida Legislature’s commitment to helping youth succeed,” Miller said.

To date, 19 Superhero awards have been distributed in American Children’s Campaign’s 30-year history, including an award in 2021 to Sen. Keith Perry.

Leader not a laggard

Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large praised DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for passing SB 2A.

“SB 2A includes substantial reforms that remove the incentive to file lawsuits over questionable claims,” Large said in a prepared release.

William Large and FJRI say thank you. Image via Colin Hackley.

Established in 2005 and backed by the Florida Chamber, Large’s group lobbies the Legislature on all tort related issues, from workers compensation to medical malpractice to property insurance. Large said the bill provides “common sense solutions” that will hold all parties accountable.

“With his signature on Senate Bill 2A, Gov. DeSantis will have another opportunity to cement Florida’s reputation as a litigation reform leader and not a laggard.”

DeSantis signed the bill on Friday.

Meanwhile, the like-minded group Floridians for Lawsuit Reform also issued a prepared release on the property insurance reform package. The headline read: “Florida Lawmakers Deliver an Early Holiday Gift to Floridans and No Grinch in Sight.”


Roland Sanchez-Medina Jr. is now President-elect designate of The Florida Bar.

He will for one year serve alongside Florida Bar President-elect Scott Westheimer who will take the helm of the Bar in June 2023. Sanchez-Medina Jr will begin his term as Bar president in the summer of 2024.

Roland Sanchez-Medina will soon take charge at The Florida Bar. Image via Roland Sanchez-Medina.

Sanchez-Medina told The Florida Bar News he hopes to explore ways to strengthen health and wellness in the legal profession and to help Florida lawyers deal with the pressures of family, child rearing, and managing a modern legal practice.

He is a A 1991 Boston College Law School graduate and he earned a master of laws in taxation the following year from the New York University School of Law. He earned a business degree from the University of Miami in 1988.

Sanchez-Medina is a member of the Business Law Section, Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, and the International Law Section. Bilingual, he served as CABA president in 2009.

Rattler entrepreneurs

The Florida A&M University School of Business and Industry’s Interdisciplinary Center for Creativity and Innovation has partnered with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation to help enhance the entrepreneurial mindset at FAMU and in the surrounding Southside community.

“The first step in breaking entrepreneurial barriers is to bring entrepreneurship to those who need it most by meeting students where they are,” said Maura Pally, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of Blackstone. “There is no better place to start than right on their campuses.”

LaunchPad is entering FAMU next. Image via FAMU.

FAMU is the latest Florida college to announce its taking advantage of joining Blackstone’s Charitable Foundation’s $5 million investment to enhance the LaunchPad network in the Sunshine State.

Florida State University and three other Florida colleges have agreed to become part of a LaunchPad’s network of more than a million students nationally.

“Florida A&M University is committed to the success of our students in the classroom and beyond,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said in a prepared release. “LaunchPad will provide an incredible set of experiences to FAMU students and empower them with entrepreneurial skills that bring great benefit to themselves and stoke economic development in their communities.”

SBI Dean Shawnta Friday-Stroud said the Tallahassee based historically Black college already has an entrepreneurial spirit and that LaunchPad will expand on that.

“The entrepreneurial training that our students will receive will enable them to make greater contributions to the economic development in our communities,” Friday-Stroud added.

Accepting applications

Do you want to participate in Tallahassee’s day-long celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. next month?

Grab an application and submit it to the city no later than 5 p.m. on Jan. 4.

Tallahassee is getting ready to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

The city of Tallahassee is accepting applications from people who want to participate in its day-long schedule of events honoring the life and legacy of King. Some of the events scheduled for Jan. 16 include the MLK Day Parade, Day of Dialogue and the MLK Day Festival. The parade will take place along North Monroe Street prior to the festival in Cascades Park.

Organizations interested can apply as a parade participant or festival vendor at Talgov.com/MLKParade. There is no fee to participate in the parade. For more information, call 850-891-8295.

Additional details, including the full schedule and road closure information, will be available online as the celebration draws nearer.

And accepting art

Leon County residents with artistic abilities — and even those without — are being encouraged to design an infinity logo for the Leon County Library’s annual celebration of National Autism Acceptance Month in April 2023.

The FSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) and Arts4All Florida, among others, will select an infinity logo for the Library’s 2023 celebration.

Leon County is getting ready to celebrate National Autism Acceptance Month.

While National Autism Acceptance Month isn’t until April, the infiniti logos must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13. Designs can be submitted at any Leon County library location or can be submitted digitally to [email protected].

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that often includes repetitive behaviors, sensory challenges, and difficulties with social communication and interaction.

The infinity symbol celebrates the acceptance and infinite diversity of those on the autism spectrum.

Capitol Directions

Florida Disaster Fund — Up arrow — Name one university or charity that wouldn’t hire the First Lady as their major gifts coordinator.

Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — Maybe Trump should start selling DeSantis NFTs.

Ron DeSantis, Joe Ladapo — Down arrow — Call 1-800-DOCTORB. The B is for Bogus.

Jimmy Patronis — Up arrow — It’s billions vs. trillions, but Mr. Dream would be dumb to sleep on Little Mac.

Florida Dep’t of Health — Down arrow — Diphtheria! It’s not just for bankers from Boston anymore.

Florida Dep’t of Health, Part 2 — Down arrow — Y’all need to chill. Dr. Dorn can prescribe you something to help with that.

Paul Renner, Kathleen Passidomo — Up arrow — There was no Grinch in sight this week between the House and Senate, which could mean a historic Session in 2023.

Reps. Leek, McClain, Rommel, Busatta Cabrera — Up arrow — Oh Christmas ‘Three’ — the Chairs delivered relief three ways to keep Florida on track.

Fentrice Driskell, Christine Hunschofsky — Up arrow — They expertly managed their caucus on the House floor during their first Session.

Hillary Cassel — Up arrow — The freshman Rep. also shined this week.

Anna Eskamani — Up arrow — Anna V. ‘YES’kamani earned a standing ovation and spread bipartisan cheer to support hurricane relief. Call it a Christmas miracle!

Insurance companies — Double up arrow — Apparently Santa is a fan of tort reform.

David Altmaier — Crossways arrow — Who says the captain has to go down with the ship?

Florida Justice Reform Institute — Up arrow — Slap a bow on SB 2A and put it under the tree.

Floridians for Lawsuit Reform — Up arrow — Go ahead and print a second copy.

Trial lawyers — Down arrow — We wondered if they’d get screwed during the Special Session; guess what? They did.

Drivers — Up arrow — Money in the bank puts gas in the tank.

Constitutional carry — Up arrow — Sure as shootin’

Florida Parents —??? — They’re No. 1 in the “Parent Power! Index” … which carries about as much weight as being No. 1 in FPI.

Military Veterans Certification Pathway — Down arrow — The few. The proud. The … wait, only seven people have used this?

Florida Blue — Up arrow — They’re delivering a lot of green to Hurricane Ian survivors.

Lauren’s Kids — Up arrow — Another EMMY for the trophy case.

Seminole Tribe — Crossways arrow — Double or nothing.

Ramon Alexander — Down arrow — The discovery file should be wrapped in plastic and placed behind the counter.

Lake County — Down arrow — Leadership in Lake County must’ve dried up if they picked Anthony Sabatini to lead its REC.

Rebekah Jones — Down arrow — She’s better at lingering than Lara Flynn Boyle in Wayne’s World.

Ryan Ray — Up arrow — Leon Dems got a man who knows how to win.

MagLab — Up arrow — It’s a cash magnet.

Staff Reports


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