Takeaways from Tallahassee — Heating up

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
The new budget year is here, and a slate of tax breaks are coming along with it.

The state’s sales tax holidays are now cooking with gas — in more ways than one.

Adding to the collective $230 million the state’s Freedom Summer started saving Floridians on Memorial Day with no state sales taxes on outdoor recreation items extending to Sept. 4, Saturday starts the gas range and cooktop sales tax exemption as well as a renewal of the ENERGY STAR appliance sales tax break.

It’s time to start cooking with gas … maybe. Image via Adobe.

And don’t forget the home-hardening sales tax holiday that started last July 1 and continues through June 30, 2024. There’s still another $231 million in sales tax savings yet to be rung up, buying impact-resistant doors, windows and garage doors, according to the state’s projections.

New for this fiscal year, the state has also announced permanent sales tax holidays on baby and adult diapers, child clothing, baby and toddler furnishings, oral health items and firearm safety items.

The news release from the Governor’s Office is clear about why these record-breaking breaks are happening now.

“Because of President (Joe) Biden’s disastrous economic policies, Florida families are feeling the pressure of inflation on their wallets,” Gov. Ron DeSantis’ prepared statement says. “But in Florida, we are ensuring that our state’s economic success gets passed on to the people that made it possible.”

The move is drawing much acclaim.

“Florida taxpayers work hard to provide for their families, stimulate growth in their communities, and ensure the state economy is diverse, robust, and successful — they deserve any and all tax relief that can be offered to them, while still investing in critical needs and maintaining an appropriate level of reserves,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro.

The gas stove exemption was fired up after Republicans got hot at the announcement that the Consumer Product Safety Commission would be examining the health impacts of the kitchen appliance. Much excitement about the nanny state became inflamed and DeSantis repeatedly scorched the administration for it, even if stats show that the Sunshine State leads the country in the percentage of households using electric cooking appliances.

Perhaps, also, the state is looking for Floridians to up their cooking game: Professional chefs are said to prefer cooking with gas, favoring it for the way it heats up quickly. Unlike the exemption for the ENERGY STAR appliances, limited in the price exempted from sales tax, there’s no such limit on what price will be exempt from state sales tax when it comes to gas stoves. Top-of-the-line gas stoves can go for $50,000.

The Florida Department of Revenue, however, puts the high end of gas stove prices at $10,000. The department is expecting Floridians will be saving $6.9 million on the sales of about 918,000 gas stoves, including the commercial ones.

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, Anne Geggis, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

— Take 5 —

Guy with the gun: For those wanting to see law enforcement held accountable for opting not to run toward danger, former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson’s precedent-setting trial for failing to act during the Parkland school shooting was not that moment. Peterson was acquitted Thursday of felony child neglect and other charges for failing to act during the 2018 Parkland school massacre, concluding the first trial in U.S. history for a law enforcement officer’s conduct during a school shooting. He was facing nearly 100 years in prison. The dramatic verdict prompted Peterson to declare “I got my life back.” That led some survivors of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to reflect on who will never get their life back. The vindication also means he’s eligible for his $104,000 annual pension.

Big win: Federal Judge Robert Wilkins ruled that Florida’s agreement with the Seminole Tribe to allow sports betting throughout the state on online apps is legal. The ruling means sports betting on the Tribe’s app is legal again in Florida and the Tribe can restart its payments to the state, unless West Flagler Associates, the company that owns Magic City Casino, a pari-mutuel in Miami that challenged the law, appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barry Richard, counsel for the Tribe, noted that the U.S. Supreme Court takes few cases. Wilkins’ ruling overturned a lower-court ruling throwing out the Gaming Compact on the grounds it approved gambling outside of tribal lands in violation of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Wilkins, though, said the IGRA doesn’t ban gambling outside of tribal grounds and that it, instead, authorizes gambling on their grounds. “IGRA does not prohibit a gaming compact — which is, at bottom, an agreement between a tribe and a state — from discussing other topics, including those governing activities outside Indian land.”

Good news, bad news: DeSantis signed HB 387 this week ensuring more Black farmers participate in Florida’s booming cannabis industry. The new law also allows physicians to renew orders for medical marijuana remotely through telehealth. HB 387 had bipartisan support in the Florida Legislature. But bipartisan support wasn’t enough to save HB 605 from the Governor’s veto pen. The bill would have expanded who is eligible to have their arrest records wiped clean. Currently, the law keeps adults from getting their records expunged if they already had a juvenile record wiped clean. This year’s legislation would have expunged the records of those whose indictment or other charging documents were dismissed in court, even if they already got the same forgiveness when they were a juvenile. Currently, juvenile expungements make a person ineligible for a second one as an adult. DeSantis, who is running for President, has offered no explanation for the veto. He did, though, explain his veto this week of HB 1267, which purported to provide residents safer access to loans but allowed 36% maximum interest rates for consumer loans. “This increase in rates may result in additional consumer indebtedness and could exacerbate the pinch already being felt due to federal government-induced inflation,” DeSantis wrote in a veto message.

Don’t call it a comeback: The Department of Health (DOH) issued a statewide mosquito advisory this week after four cases of locally acquired malaria were confirmed in Sarasota County. According to the department, the residents were treated and have recovered. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new advisory announcing a fifth case was confirmed in Texas. The CDC noted that locally acquired mosquito-borne malaria had not occurred in the U.S. since 2003 when eight cases were identified in Palm Beach County. Malaria cases are typically imported and occur in people who have traveled from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Malaria is a serious and potentially fatal disease that the CDC notes can start displaying symptoms from 10 days to four weeks after infection. To abate the further spread of malaria, DOH is encouraging residents and visitors to drain the water that enables mosquitoes to multiply, cover body parts with long pants and long sleeves and use bug repellent. Water enables mosquitoes to multiply, so residents should drain standing water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.

Whitford for the win: American actor and Democratic political activist Bradley Whitford is headlining the Leadership Blue Gala at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach next week and Democratic Party of Florida Chair and self-professed “fan girl” Nikki Fried is “thrilled.” Whitford’s dramatic roles — he played Democratic Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman in the West Wing and Gilead Commander Joseph Lawrence in The Handmaid’s Tale — speak to what Florida Democrats need to hear, Fried said this week. “In so many ways, ‘West Wing’ gave us the playbook on ‘doing what is hard and achieving what is great,’ and predicted so much of what we’re facing in our political landscape today. More recently, his work in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ feels closer to our reality in Florida and we’re looking forward to hearing from him,” she said. Television audiences became familiar with Whitford 20 years ago during the West Wing series, but he has become increasingly recognizable for his politics. In 2019, Whitford appeared in a public service announcement in support of abortion rights alongside other cast members of The Handmaid’s Tale. He also appeared as part of a series of “surprise virtual appearances” in support of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

— White sand simoleons —

DeSantis announced this week a $13.1 million award to the city of Sanibel through the Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan Program to support government operations impacted by hurricanes Ian or Nicole.

The program, administered through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is providing funds to bridge the cash gap local governments are facing as their revenues recover from a natural disaster.

The latest awards add to the $25 million DeSantis already awarded Lee County and $11.9 million for Fort Myers Beach, both through the same program.

Sanibel is getting another dose of grant money as it recovers from Hurricane Ian.

“I’m proud to announce the City of Sanibel will receive $13.1 million through the Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan to continue providing important services for the people of Sanibel following Hurricane Ian,” DeSantis said. “We will continue to find ways to support the long-term recovery of hurricane-impacted communities across the state.”

The Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan is a one-time $50 million appropriation to fund governmental operations within eligible Florida counties and municipalities located in declared Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster areas for hurricanes Ian or Nicole. Local governments must demonstrate that a hurricane may cause or has inflicted substantial loss of tax or other revenues to qualify. They must also establish the need for financial assistance to continue performing governmental operations.

“Together (with Gov. DeSantis) we authored the Bridge Loan Program during the special session to help communities in Southwest Florida continue their operations. Loans are provided interest-free. Our communities brought this concern to our attention earlier this year, and together we took quick action to help make our communities whole! We know Sanibel sustained horrendous damage, and I am pleased to see that they applied for and received this important loan as they work to rebuild this iconic Florida community,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

Sanibel Mayor Richard Johnson said he and the city “are forevermore grateful” for the program, noting the loan “provides Sanibel with needed financial support to continue with our recovery efforts.”

— Cold case, hot streak —

Margate Police Department Detective Julio Fernandez has solved eight cold cases in the past five years, but he’s not getting an HLN show or a true-crime doc.

That’s not to say he’s going home empty-handed.

Attorney General Ashley Moody picked Fernandez as the latest “Back the Blue Award” recipient, recognizing the U.S. Marine Corps veteran and 22-year law enforcement officer for his refusal to give up on cases that were gathering dust for a decade or more.

Julio Fernandez has been cracking cold cases. Image via Margate Police Department.

“Cold cases are often the most difficult to solve, but that fact has not deterred Detective Fernandez from seeking justice in eight cases stretching back decades in some instances. For his diligent efforts and dogged investigative work, I am presenting Detective Fernandez with a Back the Blue Award,” Moody said.

One of the most impressive entries in Fernandez’s “solved” pile centered on a 39-year-old woman who vanished on her way to pick up her children in 2002. People riding airboats in 2004 reported finding human remains, but it was not until 14 years later that Fernandez used the woman’s relatives for DNA testing to confirm the bones belonged to the missing mother, closing the case.

Would-be detectives, or those who simply respect the game, can get an overview of Fernandez’s brag board by reading Margate Talk’s late 2022 profile.

As for the Back the Blue Awards, Fernandez is the latest entry in the statewide recognition initiative that’s been running since Moody took office in early 2019. Award winners are nominated by the public and one doesn’t need to carry a badge and gun to get the nod — everyday citizens and organizations that work to improve the relationship between LEOs and the public are fair game, too.

Floridians can find nomination information and requirements on the Attorney General’s website.

— Safety first —

Another major holiday weekend means another batch of safety tips from Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.

Jimmy Patronis, who doubles as State Fire Marshal, highlighted data from the National Fire Protection Association that more than 19,500 reported fires are started by fireworks each year. According to the data, kids aged 10 to 14 are the most likely to be injured.

“Independence Day is one of my favorite times of the year to celebrate the birth of our nation with family and friends, and there is no better place to celebrate than the free state of Florida! While you’re busy celebrating our freedom with your friends and family, make sure that you use common sense and exercise basic safety measures when using fireworks,” Patronis said.

Remember: Only light one at a time.

“While fireworks can be exciting, they can also be incredibly dangerous if not used with caution. The last thing we want is for your Independence Day to end with a trip to the hospital or even a tragedy.”

Patronis floated the idea that Floridians do not shoot fireworks at all and instead attend a professional show. For those intent on lighting something, the CFO recommends setting off only one firework at a time and having a fire extinguisher ready on the off chance something goes wrong.

Finally, Patronis said anyone who plans on cooking out should double-check their propane hoses, if applicable, and move their grill away from the house and any yard trash.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Polk State College District Board of Trustees — The Governor announced the appointment of Ann Barnhart, Cynthia Ross, and Ashley Troutman and the reappointment of Ashley Bell Barnett and Greg Littleton to the Polk State College District Board of Trustees. Barnhart is the vice president of Strategy for AdventHealth. She is the treasurer of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Barnhart earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in nursing from Southern Connecticut State University. Ross is the owner of Social Graces. She previously served as a member of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women and was the leadership chair for the Association of Florida College’s Trustee Commission from 2021-22. Ross earned her associate degree from Polk State College. Troutman is a financial adviser for Northwestern Mutual. He currently serves on the Lighthouse Ministries Board of Directors and served on the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Troutman earned his associate degree from Polk State College and his bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of South Florida. Bell Barnett is a community advocate. She currently serves on the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Polk Arts Alliance Advisory Committee. She previously served as Chair of the United Way of Central Florida. Bell Barnett earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College and her master’s degree in public administration from USF. Littleton is the president and CEO of Citizens Bank & Trust. He is the former Chair of the United Way of Central Florida and was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of Polk State College. Littleton earned his associate degree from Polk State College and his bachelor’s degree in finance from Freed-Hardeman University.

Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Nicole Newlon and reappointed Jeff Harrington, Lee Maggard, John Mitten and Rebecca Schulkowski to the Board of Trustees. Newlon is an attorney at Johnson Newlon & DeCort and is a former City Commissioner for Dade City. She is the Section/Division Immediate Past Chair of the Federal Litigation Section of the Federal Bar Association. Newlon earned her bachelor’s degree in finance and MBA from USF and her law degree from Stetson University. Harrington is the Chief Deputy Sheriff at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. Previously, he was the Chief of Police at the New Port Richey Police Department and served on the Board of the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association. Harrington earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Norwich University and his doctorate in organization and management from Capella University. Maggard is the vice president and credit officer for BankFlorida in Dade City. He serves on the Board of the Academy at the Farm and has been involved with the Rotary Club of Zephyrhills. Maggard earned an associate degree from Pasco-Hernando State College and his bachelor’s degree from UF. Mitten is the franchise owner of Chick-fil-A in Spring Hill and a former Chair of the Hernando County Commission. He is active in the United Way of Hernando County, the YMCA of Hernando County, Jericho Road Ministries, and Hope Children’s Home of Tampa. Mitten earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from FSU. Schulkowski is president at BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel. She is a member of the Western Florida Chapter of the American Chapter of Healthcare Executives and is a graduate of Leadership St. Pete. Schulkowski earned her MBA from Wilmington University and her doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Maryland-Baltimore.

Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council — DeSantis appointed Melanie Brown-Woofter, Sheriff Chad Chronister, Sheriff Peyton Grinnell, Dean Inserra, Rabbi Meir Kessler, and Sheriff Chris Nocco to the Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council. Brown-Woofter is the President and CEO of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health. She is the Immediate past president of the Tallahassee Kiwanis Club and a current member of the National Council for Behavioral Health. Brown-Woofter earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Florida. Chronister is the Hillsborough County Sheriff. He was the Vice Chair of the Hillsborough County Public Safety Coordinating Council and the Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chair of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. He earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Saint Leo University. Grinnell is the Lake County Sheriff. He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He serves on the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission and the Lake-Sumter State College Foundation Board of Directors. He earned his bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Warner Southern College. Inserra is the founding and lead pastor of City Church Tallahassee. He is an Executive Committee Member of the Southern Baptist Convention and previously served on the Florida Baptist Association Board of Trustees. Inserra earned his bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Liberty University and his master’s degree in theological studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kessler is the Director of the Jewish Recovery Center and a Chaplain at Caron Renaissance. He has advocated on behalf of recovering addicts and addicts in need of treatment for nearly 20 years. He earned his Rabbinical Ordination from Central Yeshivat Tomchei Temimim Kfar Chabad. Nocco is the Pasco County Sheriff. He is a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council and the Florida Human Trafficking Task Force. He previously served on Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission. Nocco earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Delaware.

Florida Historical Commission — DeSantis announced the appointment of David Hoyt and the reappointment of John Browning Jr. and Michael Francis to the Florida Historical Commission. Hoyt is the Executive Director of Development for the Heartland Institute. He was previously a senior consultant for AC Fitzgerald & Associates and the founder and president of Liberty Development Group. Hoyt earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Tulane University. Browning is the senior vice president of Political Affairs for the Goodman Company and the president of Browning Consulting. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard and was appointed to the National Council of Surface Transportation Research by former President George H.W. Bush. Browning earned his associate degree from St. Johns River State College and his bachelor’s degree in business management from Florida State University. Francis is a professor and the Endowed Chair of Florida Studies at the University of South Florida. He is a Board member of the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine Commission. Francis earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Alberta and his doctorate in colonial Spanish American history with a specialization in Spanish Florida from the University of Cambridge.

— Watch your step —

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding the public to be mindful of nesting sea turtles and shorebirds as they hit the sand in celebration of Independence Day — and all other days this summer.

FWC is urging beachgoers to give turtles and shorebirds their space, remove beach furniture and trash before leaving for the day, keep beaches clean and dark, and never disturb a nest.

Getting too close to nesting sea turtles can cause them to leave the beach before they complete nesting. It is illegal to harm, harass or take nesting sea turtles, their eggs or their hatchlings.

Florida beachgoers, give these little guys a break.

Beachgoers should remain at least 300 feet from nesting shorebirds, seabirds and wading birds to prevent them from leaving their breeding sites and leaving vulnerable eggs and chicks exposed to the elements and predators.

In addition to giving space to sea turtles and shorebirds, beachgoers can help with nesting success for vulnerable sea turtles and shorebirds every time they visit the shore by:

— Clearing trash; filling in human-made holes in the sand; and removing all beach toys and furniture from the beach before sunset. Obstacles on the beach can prevent sea turtles from nesting. Trash and other obstacles can also prevent sea turtle hatchlings from reaching the water once they emerge from their nests, as well as entangle shorebirds, turtles and other wildlife. Food scraps attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, which can prey on sea turtle hatchlings, as well as shorebird eggs and chicks.

— Steering clear of flocks of birds on the beach and keeping an eye out for shorebird eggs and chicks to avoid stepping on them. Never enter posted areas. Be on the lookout for signs designating Critical Wildlife Areas on the beach or coastal islands.

— Turning the lights off or closing curtains after dark to ensure nesting turtles are not disturbed or disoriented as they come ashore and hatchlings will not become disoriented when they emerge from their nests.

— Leaving fireworks to the professionals. The loud sounds and bright lights of personal fireworks on Florida’s beaches and waterways can have catastrophic effects on nesting birds and their chicks, as well as nesting sea turtles.

— Keeping dogs at home or on a short leash and far away from wildlife when bringing them to pet-friendly beaches.

— Putting unused property to use —

Another law going into effect today will likely make more land available for public housing.

Under the new law (SB 678) that Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell and Rep. Jervonte Edmonds championed, “affordable housing” has been added to the list of public purposes for which unused Florida Department of Transportation land can go to governmental entities at no cost.

The phrase “affordable housing” and “crisis” have become inextricably linked in the last few years, as the supply of housing has not been able to keep up with demand.

Jervonte Edmonds. Image via House Media.

Former Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes’ Florida Policy Project’s first endeavor has been fully exploring the depth of the problem and the project’s first report, out this month, found that from 2015 to 2022, the median home price in Florida climbed from under $300,000 to $450,000 as the median household income dropped from nearly $67,000 in 2019 to under $60,000 in 2021.

“We want to make Florida a more attractive place to live, boost the economy and create jobs,” said Edmonds, who’s in his first term representing the district that covers West Palm Beach. “Affordable housing makes it possible for people of all income levels to live in Florida.”

Florida statutes had limited the disposal of excess FDOT land to governmental entities for public facilities such as parks, not for building homes.

“I am thrilled to have spearheaded the passage of SB 678, as it is a transformative piece of legislation that addresses one of Florida’s most pressing challenges head-on,” Edmonds said in a news release. “By unlocking the potential of underutilized properties for the exclusive purpose of affordable housing, we are taking a significant step forward in ensuring that every Floridian has a place they can call home.”

— Straight shooter —

A field hearing held by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz gave state Rep. Joel Rudman a chance to tout the Gunshine State’s record on gun rights, though the Navarre Republican was met with skepticism.

After the lawmaker said Florida respects Second Amendment rights, an individual interrupted and shouted, “That’s not true. My Second Amendment rights have been violated in the state of Florida.”

Gaetz ultimately shut down the interference and told audience members that was the wrong way to go about contacting representatives.

“That’s the difference between writing a letter to your Congressman and having your views reflected in policy and action and showing up with a video camera and having a far less productive encounter,” the Fort Walton Beach Republican said.

Rudman, for his part, said he remained proud of the state’s policies. The Legislature this year approved permitless carry, a bill DeSantis signed into law hours after its passage. While some gun advocates wanted open carry passed, lawmakers touted the change as a positive step forward.

Joel Rudman didn’t let one heckler break his stride.

And in the coming Session, Rudman wants to expedite background checks. He will file a bill mandating any required checks be completed in three days or less, as was the case before Florida underwent a change in laws in 2018 after the Parkland shooting. Rudman said some of his constituents have waited as long as two years between making a purchase and having the state approve it. He wants bureaucrats back “on the clock,” he told Florida Politics.

At the hearing, he said Florida officials value the rights of residents.

“Here in this state, we don’t view the Second Amendment as an outlier,” he said. “We don’t view it as the Black sheep of the Bill of Rights like the leftists and Joe Biden see it.”

— Bringing it home —

House District 57 Rep. Adam Anderson has secured $1 million in funding for Phase 2 of Oldsmar’s St. Petersburg Drive Complete Streets transportation project.

The project launched after a tragic accident claimed the life of a 6-year-old girl when she was attempting to cross St. Petersburg with her mother and sister. The intersection where they were crossing had no traffic control devices, and the family was not in the crosswalk.

The accident prompted a focus on completing a roundabout at St. Petersburg Drive and Bayview Boulevard. The state investment will pay for continued construction as well as landscaping, drainage, signage and marking.

Adam Anderson is bringing it home for his Pinellas-based district.

“The roundabout is not only a traffic calming measure but a lifesaver, enhancing safety for our grade school students, local residents, businesses, and tourists,” Anderson said. “It’s an upgrade from the low-visibility intersection, providing a much-needed gateway to our community while reducing accidents.”

In addition to enhancing public safety, the project is also expected to generate up to 50 project-specific jobs. It is scheduled for completion by 2026.

“The St. Petersburg Drive Complete Streets Project is an important step in improving transportation and providing safe multimodal connectivity,” Oldsmar Mayor Dan Saracki said.

“As a priority of city leaders, this project will ensure our community has safe transportation options between our residential neighborhoods, vibrant activity centers, and cherished local businesses. The city wishes to express its pride and gratitude to Rep. Anderson for his vision and continued commitment toward the betterment of our great city.”

— Veto woes —

The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is crying foul this week after the Governor vetoed two criminal justice bills.

The measures (HB 605/SB 1478) passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature with bipartisan support, which the group said demonstrates “once again that politics currently trump good policy in the Governor’s office.”

HB 605 would have allowed eligible adults to expunge a criminal record even if they had previously expunged a juvenile offense. The legislation would have applied in cases in which an individual was not charged, had charges dropped, or was acquitted of charges.

Defense attorneys are taking issue with DeSantis’ criminal justice vetoes.

“The barriers to employment for those caught up in the justice system — and the demonization of people arrested, even if the charges are unfounded — hurt our economy and should be an affront to Floridians,” FACDL President Luke Newman said.

“Gov. DeSantis could have worked to right this systematic failure, but he chose instead to pander to the ‘tough on crime’ crowd. It’s stunning that bills with unanimous and near-unanimous legislative support are not good enough for the current Governor.”

The other vetoed bill, SB 1478, would have reduced inmate populations at jails by using alternative sanctions. It passed unanimously in the House and Senate.

“Vetoing SB 1478 means more people will be in jail for a longer time,” Newman said. “It costs thousands of dollars to unnecessarily house these folks in jail. These are people who could be productive members of society.”

The group also criticized DeSantis for not offering a rationale for his veto, a lack of clarification that has become common.

—- Veto burn you back —

A little-noticed budget veto first reported in The Capitolist drew the ire of Florida Democratic Chair Fried this week, given how the state would have had to simply move money around to get $346 million in federal funding.

DeSantis used his line-item veto pen to slash $24.1 million that would have gone from a trust fund stocked with federal money to local governments for the energy programs included in the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act. He also scratched sending another $5 million from the state’s trust fund to local governments to fund energy programs of the feds’ Inflation Reduction Act.

The first was considered a signature legislative accomplishment of Biden’s presidency in 2021 and the second passed in 2022 to many huzzahs.

Using the money wouldn’t have cost the state anything. But it’s going to mean $346 million less in federal money flowing to the state to fund initiatives the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees.

A lot of effort has been wasted, said Fried, who was Agriculture Commissioner through early 2023.

“FDACS worked extensively with the federal government to bring our tax dollars back home to Florida,” Fried said. “Ron’s veto of two federal block grants undid a major piece of that work, which would have used energy rebates to put cash directly in the pockets of Floridians.”

She was sure to get in a burn, using the current polls showing DeSantis’ standing in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

“The loss of this funding is either pure negligence or a political stunt,” she continued. “Under either circumstance, Ron’s obsession with the presidency has yet again hurt the people he was elected to serve — I hope a 30-point loss to Donald Trump is worth it.”

— Hello, madame President —

Miami native Dr. Beatriz Terry will head the Florida Dental Association for its 2023-2024 term.

FDA announced this week that after serving in organized dentistry at the local, state and national levels that Terry, a periodontist with more than 25 years of experience, will serve as the President and will lead the organization’s efforts to promote oral health and dentistry.

There’s new leadership at the Florida Dental Association. Image via Adobe.

“Dr. Terry is an exemplary leader who sets a high standard for the profession and her peers, and we look forward to her leadership in this role,” FDA executive director and CEO Drew Eason said in a news release.

Terry is a member of the advisory board for the Miami Dade College School of Dental Hygiene and also is a state dental board examiner. She is a trustee of the FDA and a Florida delegate to the American Dental Association.

Terry has also served as a past President of the South Florida District Dental Association and the Florida Association of Periodontists. She is a member of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists.

— It’s getting close —

More than 600 people are expected to flood to the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort in Bonita Springs July 16-18 for the annual conference hosted by the Florida Coalition for Children (FCC) Foundation and the Learning Community Training Institute.

Twenty-five different workshops will be made available to conference attendees over the two-and-a-half-day conference. Some of the workshop topics include thriving families, safer children, human services, workforce stability studies and the importance of engaging youth and parent caregivers with lived expertise.

FCC rolled out its speaker list for its upcoming annual conference.

Monday’s keynote Speaker is Amelia Franck Meyer, a 34-year veteran of the child welfare field and the founder and CEO of the national nonprofit Alia, which collaborates with parents and partners to create a national movement to keep children safe with — and not from — their families. She was named one of People Magazine’s “25 Women Changing the World” in 2018 and 2020 and has a widely viewed TEDx Talk called “The Human Need for Belonging.”

Meanwhile, the keynote speaker for Tuesday is Dr. Kimberly Noble, M.D., Ph.D., who works as a professor of neuroscience and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. As a neuroscientist and board-certified pediatrician, she studies how socioeconomic inequality relates to children’s cognitive and brain development. Her work examines socioeconomic disparities in cognitive development, as well as brain structure and function, across infancy, childhood, and adolescence.

More details about the event can be found here.

— Riding the storm out —

Insurance awareness day has come and gone, but the Florida Surplus Lines Association shared some tips this week to help businesses best prepare for hurricanes.

FSLA hosted a virtual panel with Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter and Burns & Wilcox’s Brad Turner and Chris Siegel.

Businesses, like homeowners, should prepare in advance, which means they need to read their policies and understand their out-of-pocket deductibles, policy exclusions and limitations.

The Florida Surplus Lines Association is urging businesses to double-check all their docs before a storm strikes.

Businesses should also understand how quickly they are required to report damages. The panelists also agreed that businesses should have their spaces evaluated in advance of a storm to get a gauge of their potential risks and understand their potential exposures.

According to the panelists, most insurance policies have provisions that allow businesses to mitigate their exposures. Panelists also recommended that businesses understand potential direct and indirect losses, the latter of which can occur if businesses lose revenue because they cannot access their property to get back up and running following a storm.

“I think a lot of people scramble or it seems like they scramble to get coverage in place in the last hour and unfortunately, it’s sometimes too late,” said Turner, associate vice president and national product manager at Burns & Wilcox.

“Even a five-person small business needs to have a plan of action. How are you going to handle returning to your business? And if you did have to leave, how are you going to handle the business immediately after the storm? It is important to have a plan of insurance and know how you will get back up and running if you have damage to your property.”

Panel moderator and FSLA board member Al Geraci agreed.

“In a world grappling with the increasingly unpredictable forces of nature, it is crucial that we address the challenges posed by hurricanes and equip Floridians to safeguard our communities and businesses,” Geraci said.

Carter noted that most business insurance policies do not cover losses resulting from floods. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has worked over the last several years to expand the availability of private flood insurance and there currently are 33 insurance companies eligible to write flood insurance policies in Florida. Businesses can also obtain flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program.

“Flooding can occur anywhere,” said Carter, who is the state’s top advocate for residents who have insurance, whether it’s homeowners, auto, life and health, or workers’ compensation. “If it rains, it can flood. According to FEMA, just 1 inch of flood water can cause more than $25,000 in damages.”

Panelists also flagged three different state resources for insured businesses:

FloridaDisaster.biz: This partnership between the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the Florida Division of Emergency Management and local, state and federal agencies provides businesses with resources before, during and after a disaster.

Florida Home Hardening Sales Tax Exemption: Championed by Patronis, this is a two-year sales tax exemption on impact-resistant doors, garage doors and windows purchased by businesses and homeowners. The program is expected to cost the state $462 million and runs through June 30, 2024.

My Safe Florida Home Program: Since many business owners also own homes, the My Safe Florida Home could be beneficial. It provides funds to obtain free hurricane mitigation home inspections and matching grants to harden homes and reduce the likelihood of hurricane damage.

— Well done, FAMU —

Florida A&M University was one of eight land grant universities chosen to work with the federal government on a five-year plan aimed at diversifying the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences workforce as well as making it more equitable.

The FAMU College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) is slated to receive $13.3 million across three USDA grants to conduct research to help make it happen.

FAMU landed three big-time grants from the USDA.

Lambert Kanga, director of the Biological Control Center and chair of the Entomology Program at the CAFS, will receive a $10 million grant. Associate professors Muhammad Haseeb and Anamika Sharma will serve as co-principal investigators on research that will use experiential learning, leadership and entrepreneurship to train secondary school and college students.

“I am truly honored and excited to receive this unprecedented award,” said Kanga. “It will create a critical mass of holistically, well-trained millennial leaders in the professions of agricultural sciences.”

Harriet A. Paul, director of International Agriculture Programs and the Center for International Agricultural Trade Development Research and Training, will receive $2.2 million to help develop and sustain a global workforce through experiential learning.

The third grant, for $1.1 million, was awarded to CAFS Associate Dean for Academic Programs Neil James and Conchita Newman, assistant director of the Cooperative Extension Program. Their research focuses on strengthening the college-to-career-ready pipeline for employment at the USDA and related industries.

The grant funding is the latest of several grant awards secured by the CAFS with awards with Dean Robert Taylor estimating the college will receive nearly $36 million in grant funding in the state fiscal year 2022-23, which ended Friday.

The CAFS staff and FAMU researchers are working as part of a larger consortium of researchers being led by North Carolina A&T State University.

— Probing processes —

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University has picked up a $5.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop new techniques designed to “probe the intricate processes of the human body.”

The money will help push forward technological advances at the MagLab’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facilities at both the FSU and the University of Florida locations.

“We’re thrilled to have this funding,” said Rob Schurko, the NMR/MRI director at the MagLab and a professor of chemistry at FSU. “NMR offers the potential to observe the most subtle challenges and differences in molecular structure, but the NMR signals are terribly weak. So, a major focus of this grant will be about developing the technology required to boost NMR signals and applying it to really complicated problems and systems in biochemistry and biomedicine.”

More grant money is heading to the MagLab. Image via FSU.

The research will look at biochemical and biological processes at the molecular level. It is hoped that clear pictures of biomolecules will allow a better understanding of various diseases and related complications and cures. One focus will be analyzing extracts from biological fluids such as blood and urine.

The new funding renews a grant first awarded to the MagLab in 2017 to create a biomedical technology resource center.

“Over the five years, with funding from our previous grant, we have been able to investigate oxygen and calcium sites in biomolecules and biomaterials, this work has paved the way for future NMR experiments on zinc, copper, sulfur and maybe even iron,” Schurko said. “These are some of the most challenging elements for NMR.”

Capitol Directions

Ron DeSantis — Down arrow — You know what they say about playing not to lose …

Ron DeSantis, Part 2 — Down arrow — We don’t know how he moves out of third place in New Hampshire, but vetoing bipartisan criminal justice legislation isn’t it.

Ron DeSantis, Part 3 — Up arrow — … but at least he’s making it rain on the state’s best white sand beach.

Bryan Griffin — Down arrow — Who cares whether he’s the anonymous troll Max Nordau? He owns a kombucha shop that cheered on Disney.

Ashley Moody — Down arrow — She owns “Reefer Madness” on VHS, Beta, CED, Blu-ray AND LaserDisc.

Jimmy Patronis — Up arrow — Looks like Larry Fink is listening to the CFO.

Manny Diaz — Crossways arrow — So, FAST is a “success.” Compared to what nobody knows.

DCF — Down arrow — Oh, we’re back to pretending needy children don’t exist. Classic.

DMS — Down arrow — When did they hire Paul Bunyan?

Florida Democrats — Up arrow — If Whitford says, “Great day in the morning, people, victory is mine,” the gala tickets will be worth every penny.

Lauren Book — Up arrow — Babies are still expensive … but not as expensive as yesterday.

Darryl Rouson — Up arrow — ATTN: Black farmers — It’s time to get your MMJ applications ready.

Fabian Basabe — Crossways arrow — If a hand slaps in a lobby and nobody is around to see it, does it make a sound?

Fred Hawkins — Up arrow — Dude is getting out while the getting’s good.

Ashley Gantt — Up arrow — DEI may be a bogeyman to some but winning the Henry T. Latimer Diversity and Inclusion Award is still an impressive accomplishment.

Alina Garcia — Down arrow — Rome wasn’t burnt in a day, but Garcia’s political career was.

Adam Anderson — Up arrow — It didn’t take this first-termer long to learn how to bring it home for Pinellas.

Kiyan Michael — Up arrow — Put her on a plane to Iowa, already.

Gainesville — Down arrow — Prepare for unintended consequences … or intended ones. Just know it’s going to get worse before it gets worse.

Electric vehicles — Down arrow — Haven’t you heard? “Cost-effective” and “forward-looking” aren’t part of our vocabulary.

“Medical alerts” — Down arrow — They’re falling and they can’t get up.

Rent control — Down arrow — Meet your new landlords: Supply and demand.

Second chances — Down arrow — In the Free State of Florida? No way.

Step Up for Students — Up arrow — If each new voucher represented an actual step, you could climb Machu Picchu 100 times.

State employees — Up arrow — An extra day off is the perfect complement to the raise that kicks in today.

The Southern Group — Up arrow — The state’s biggest lobbying firm made a big-time play by hiring Stephanie Cardozo and Wendy Dodge.

Katie Lyons — Down arrow — Wait until this snowflake hears how Billie Jean King threatened the integrity of men’s sports.

Mosquitoes — Down arrow — Buzz off!

Staff Reports


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