Takeaways from Tallahassee — One door closes …

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
A win-win? The Department of Corrections needs officers, Perry paper mill workers need jobs.

Before Taylor County had finished picking up the pieces from Hurricane Idalia’s landfall, the area got another body blow.

Nineteen days after the Cat 3 storm hit the Big Bend, pulp and paper company Georgia-Pacific announced it would be closing its Perry mill and 525 people would be losing their jobs.

Fortunately, though, there’s another industry in the area that could use the help. The Department of Corrections has been facing a staffing crisis epic enough that they’ve had to consolidate prisoners in the southern part of the state, where there are more corrections officers, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice heard Wednesday.

Now, though, the country’s third-largest prison system and the state’s largest agency, has been able to tap into the paper mill’s workforce to staff facilities to the north.

“It’s unfortunate what just occurred in Taylor County with the mill closing but things like that sometimes give us a shot in the arm,” said DOC Secretary Ricky Dixon. “We already hired about 50 at Taylor (Correctional Institute) and are expecting more.”

Ricky Dixon says Florida prisons have snatched up 50 or so former paper mill employees.

The jobs start at about $48,620 a year, according to DOC listings on Indeed, an online jobs bulletin.

Later in the meeting, Sen. Jennifer Bradley, the committee Chair, applauded the, um, workforce redevelopment opportunity.

“I appreciate your efforts with the mill closing,” the Fleming Island Republican said. “That was pretty devastating for that community. I appreciate your efforts in going in and really trying to recruit heavily and give those individuals a chance to get another excellent job and I know you’ll continue to do that and reach out to those folks.”

In addition to the Perry facility, a bevy of DOC facilities are within an hour’s drive of the double disaster area. Facilities are also in Crawfordville, Cross City, Mayo, Monticello and Trenton.

Within 90 minutes of Perry, there are facilities such as those in Bristol, Blountstown, Carrabelle, Lake Butler, Lake City, Sanderson and Sneads.

So, maybe when one door closes in northern Florida, a prison door just might be opening.

___

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 —

Air Florida — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week mobilized state resources to help transport Floridians who are in Israel. DeSantis signed an executive order directing the Division of Emergency Management to help Floridians located in the nation that is now at war with Hamas after the militant group attacked Israelis over the weekend. DeSantis declared an emergency, which will allow the division to tap into state money to pay for the charter flights that could start as soon as today.

Moody opposes abortion amendment — In a filing with the Florida Supreme Court this week Attorney General Ashley Moody said the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion should be blocked but offered no details as to why. Moody’s filing officially asks the Supreme Court to review the initiative to see if it passes constitutional muster. She submitted the filing more than a month after the Department of State said the proposal had cleared the threshold needed to reach court review. The filing came after Moody published an op-ed to Florida’s Voice in which she trashed the language used in the amendment proposed by Floridians Protecting Freedom as “one of the worst I have seen.” She said voters would be confused by the term “viability” and that it could be viewed as allowing abortion anywhere from 12 weeks to 25 weeks.

Dental ITN dropped — The Agency for Health Care Administration dropped its second multiyear Medicaid ITN, the latest for the Statewide Medicaid Managed Dental Plan. If all goes as planned, AHCA will sign new Medicaid dental contracts with at least two statewide dental companies by March 29, 2024. The state currently has three plans under contract: Dentaquest, LIBERTY and MCNA Dental. AHCA dropped the Medicaid ITN for the Medicaid Managed Medical Assistance and Long-Term Care programs earlier this year. Most of Florida’s $38 billion Medicaid program is administered through managed care plans.

No more help? — Former President Donald Trump bashed DeSantis this week over the state’s property insurance woes and rate hikes. But top state officials and some legislators suggested that more changes may not be coming any time soon as everyone waits to see if previous legislative efforts help stabilize the market. Sen. Jim Boyd, the Chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, told reporters that legislators had already “swung for the fences” by passing limits on lawsuits against insurance companies. But insurance experts suggest that rates won’t be coming down anytime soon even after those changes were made.

Remember this? — Florida will have to provide COVID-19 data to the public again as part of a settlement between the DeSantis administration and a Democratic former Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is now running for Senate in an Orlando-area district. The administration decided more than two years ago to stop posting information on the virus’ spread online. The settlement requires the department to provide COVID-19 data to the public for the next three years, including weekly statistics on cases, deaths and vaccinations by county, age group, gender and race, Smith said in a news release. The state must also pay more than $152,000 to cover the plaintiffs’ legal costs.

Felicidades

As the curtain on Hispanic Heritage Month closes this week, DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the best art, literary and educational contributions celebrating “Florida’s Hispanic Heroes and Their Contributions to Freedom.”

“Florida has extensive Hispanic heritage, and many Hispanic Floridians have played a significant role in defending freedom and liberty,” Gov. DeSantis said. “We are proud to teach students about their important contributions and the role they have played in preserving freedom.”

The winners were invited this week to the Governor’s mansion where they received prizes and recognition.

Students in kindergarten through third grade were invited to submit original artwork for the contest. Four K-3 students were chosen as winners for their artwork and received a $100 gift card for school supplies and a one-year pass to Florida state parks.

The winners:

Danna M. Diaz Falero, Grade K, South McKeel Academy, Polk County, for a piece titled “Los Colores de Mi Isla/The Colors of My Island.”

Claire Aguilar, Grade 1, Golfview Elementary Magnet School, Brevard County, for a piece titled “Romero Britto Inspired Artwork.”

Niko Cancio, Grade 2, Indian Trace Elementary School, Broward County, for a piece titled “Ponce de Leon.”

Farah Haddouche-Miranda, Grade 2, Homeschool, Pinellas County, for a piece titled “Cierra los Ojos y Respira Profundo” or “Close Your Eyes and Breathe Deeply.”

Students grades 4-12 were awarded for their literary submissions. The six winners received a two-year Florida College Plan scholarship and $100 gift cards for school supplies.

The winners of the essay contest are:

Norah Hall, Grade 5, James E. Plew Elementary School, Okaloosa County.

Angelica Urena, Grade 4, Sandpiper Elementary School, Broward County;

Camila Romero, Grade 6, Alice B. Landrum Middle School, St. Johns County;

Joseph Norman, Grade 7, Oakleaf Junior High School, Clay County;

Jasmyn Cabral, Grade 12, Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School, Polk County;

Bella Jiron, Grade 12, School for Advanced Studies, Miami-Dade County.

“As Florida’s first Hispanic female Lieutenant Governor, I believe it is important to recognize the ideals and values that bind us together as Floridians and Americans,” said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez. “It is a privilege to work with our Governor and First Lady to ensure our students are learning about the positive contributions of Hispanics from all walks of life. So many leaders throughout our state’s history have made great strides to protect and defend freedom. This year’s participants were able to learn about Hispanic Floridians who have worked to secure a better future for the generations to come. I congratulate every one of this year’s winners.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis presented $2,500 checks to four educators this week. Image via the Office of the Governor.

Additionally, four educators were chosen for the Excellence in Education Award. Each teacher received $2,500 provided by Volunteer Florida. The winners:

Christopher Morales, who teaches biology to ninth and 10th graders at Fort Myers High School in Lee County.

Fabiola Galarraga-Cole, who teaches Spanish at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Collier County.

Nathalia Camacho Alzate, who teaches Spanish at Cooper City High School in Broward County.

Rosario Silva (Del Valle), who teaches Spanish to grades 7 through 12 at Doral Academy Charter Middle/High School in Miami-Dade County.

— Survivor safety —

Survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking and sexual violence in Manatee and Hardee counties can qualify for free doorbell video cameras which provide round-the-clock audio and visual surveillance of a residence.

Attorney General Ashley Moody, local county clerks and sheriffs today announced the expansion of Project Protect, which currently is operational in Hillsborough and Martin counties, into two additional areas this week in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Florida law enforcement agencies received nearly 104,000 reports of domestic violence in 2021, resulting in more than 63,000 arrests.

“Through this program, we can help survivors feel more secure and build a Stronger, Safer Florida,” said Moody, whose office partnered with the Hardee and Manatee county sheriff and clerks of court offices.

“The Hardee County Sheriff’s Office is happy to partner with Project Protect. Together, we can break the cycle of domestic violence and provide safety within our homes and communities,” Hardee County Sheriff Vent Crawford said. “Our agency is committed to bringing awareness where homes are free from fear.”

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells agreed: “Our primary goal is to help victims of domestic violence and stop this cycle of abuse.”

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an average of 24 people per minute become victims of physical violence, sexual assault or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. According to the Bureau of Justice, more than a third of female victims of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in 2021 were killed by an intimate partner.

Informational material about Project Protect will be placed in the participating clerk offices where staff can help connect survivors with victim advocacy organizations.

“My office looks forward to working with the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office and victim advocates in our area to educate survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking about the Project Protect program,” said Hardee County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller Victoria Rogers said.

Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller Angel Colonneso agreed and thanked Moody for choosing Manatee County to participate in the program.

“As Clerk, my office is sometimes the first line of defense for people affected by domestic violence, and we are grateful to be able to provide Project Protect as another layer of protection to help people affected by domestic violence feel safer at home.”

— Motherlode —

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis touts unclaimed property returns every month — he shipped back $40 million in September if you didn’t hear.

But that cash is usually spread out across hundreds of Floridians … a Benjamin here, a couple of grand there. Not so for Moffitt Cancer Center, which is cashing a $149,000 check this week.

The cherry on top: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it also marks the five-year anniversary of Katie Patronis’ battle with breast cancer. Given the timeliness, the cache of cash was hand-delivered by the CFO himself.

“Just five years ago, I sat here beside my wife Katie at Moffitt as she underwent breast cancer surgery. Her battle with breast cancer taught me that life is precious, and October is an important time to remember all those we have tragically lost to breast cancer and all those who survived through sheer strength and God’s grace,” Patronis said.

Jimmy Patronis made the trip to Moffitt to deliver the check himself.

“I encourage Floridians to schedule an appointment for a breast cancer screening today. My wife is a testament that screenings save lives, as her breast cancer was caught on her first-ever screening. For those Floridians still battling breast cancer, Katie and I are praying for your health and know that victory for you and your family is on the horizon. You are not alone in this fight and know that we continue working with Florida’s incredible cancer centers like Moffitt to find solutions to combat this disease.”

Moffitt’s Chief Science Officer and EVP, Dr. John Cleveland and Breast Oncology Department Chair, Dr. Brian Czerniecki, also stressed the importance of breast cancer screenings — those who need to schedule one can do so at Moffitt.org.

“The Patronis’ family story is similar to many Florida families that have received a breast cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, through early screening and care from the team here at Moffitt, Katie Patronis has been cancer-free for five years. We fight for these successful outcomes every day and thank the CFO and the state of Florida for supporting cancer care, research, and our commitment to saving lives,” Czerniecki said.

Once your appointment is set, navigate over to FLTreasureHunt.gov to check whether you’re one of the millions of Floridians with a stack of cash waiting for you — the state does have $2.7 billion in the lost-and-found pile, after all.

— Busted! —

Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson oversaw a bigger drug bust last week than Sonny Crockett ever did during his five-season run.

No, the Commish and his crew didn’t find a mountain of cocaine in a South Florida warehouse, but they did snatch 653 packages of heroin … well, “gas station heroin.”

The erstwhile legal drug, tianeptine, mimics the effects of opioids and is sold under a variety of brand names, such as Pegasus, Tianaa or Zaza Red. It’s addictive and potentially deadly, though, which led Attorney General Moody to outlaw it statewide last month.

It may not look like smack, but it’ll still do a number on you.

Law enforcement officers also pulled 1,272 packages of the synthetic cannabinoid THC-O off the shelves, continuing FDACS’ crackdown on concoctions that cross the line between non-euphoric hemp goods and high-inducing pot products.

Simpson’s office announced a seizure nearly as large last month when it confiscated 1,700 illegal hemp, THC-O and Amanita Muscaria mushroom products from a Miami Beach warehouse.

“We will continue to direct all available resources and work with state and local partners to ensure these dangerous and harmful products, whose type and makeup are constantly evolving, stay out of the state of Florida and out of the hands of our children,” Simpson said in a news release.

According to FDACS, the new wave of seizures spanned Clay, Highlands, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Pasco, Polk and Seminole counties.

— Instagram of the week —

—The week in appointments —

Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit Court — DeSantis elevated Palm Beach County Judge James Sherman to the 15th Circuit bench. Sherman has served as a County Judge since 2022 and he previously worked as a Senior Attorney at the South Florida Water Management District. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and his law degree from the University of Miami. Sherman fills the judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Laura Johnson.

Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit Court — The Governor upgraded Judge Mark Herr from the Seminole County Court to the 18th Circuit. Herr, of Lake Mary, has served on the County Court since 2001 and previously operated a solo practice, the Law Offices of Mark E. Herr. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Stetson University and his law degree from Mercer University. Herr fills the judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Donna McIntosh.

— Don’t go bare —

Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworksy says he believes Florida homeowners should understand their options when it comes to property insurance.

But even as residents deal with rate hikes, he cautioned against the self-insurance option or walking away from insurance, also known as “going bare.”

Michael Yaworsky understands your frustration, but you’ll wish you had insurance if a storm strikes.

“If we are talking about somebody who just happens to own their one home and is a very wealthy individual … I’m far less concerned by that than the senior citizen who has moved to this state and has chosen to live out the sunset of their lives and is just saying, ‘I’ve gone through three storms, nothing has happened to my house, I’m just ready to move on from insurance,’” Yaworksy said. “I get very concerned about someone on a budget who is making that decision.”

Yaworksy made the comments following a Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting this week.

Following that meeting, Yaworksy said the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) would make legislative recommendations that “clean up in a couple of areas.” He also acknowledged there could be some “bigger” proposals coming from his office.

“It kind of depends on the appetite in this building around that direction,” he said.

Yaworsky was coy when asked when OIR would release its legislative package, saying it would be “shortly.” When pressed whether that meant a week or a month he replied: “It could be tomorrow. We’ll see.”

— Book ‘em —

The Florida Highway Patrol is using a special strike force to tackle drug and human trafficking on the state’s network of highways and interstates.

The strike force is one of several elite teams of state troopers trained to spot human traffickers and people hauling illegal drugs.

One such trooper, in Martin County, recently pulled over a driver carrying several bottles of what, at first glance, appeared to be Windex, the popular blue glass-cleaning liquid. But something didn’t seem quite right.

In what began as a routine traffic stop, the trooper wound up partnering with other members of the special strike force to search the vehicle and examine the contents of the suspicious Windex bottles. After conducting a field test, troopers discovered the bottles were actually filled with liquid methamphetamine.

And no, this wasn’t an episode of Breaking Bad.

Is this everyday window cleaner, or did Heisenberg invent a new formula? Stock image via Adobe.

“Right next to the illegal substance that had the Meth in it was a valid Windex bottle and the colors are different, and you can visually see it’s not the same thing,” said Sgt. Hazen Ogden, a member of the special strike force.

Two people were taken into custody because of the traffic stop and subsequent drug seizure, one with an extensive criminal history.

“After speaking with the individual, they learned he’s a convicted felon, they found a firearm in the car and he has a lengthy criminal history for drugs,” Ogden said.

The special strike force is composed of Highway Patrol troopers as well as Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers, sheriff’s deputies and Border Patrol.

There are 26 teams throughout the state who strategically target various regions.

“They are strategically placed around the state to combat or intercept or prevent criminals and illegal commodities from driving up and down the highways,” Ogden added.

The teams have been successful, with 8 pounds of fentanyl, 5.4 pounds of methamphetamine, and 178 grams of MDMA seized from June 2022 through July of this year.

— Wanna join? —

Fifty schools have been awarded the Florida R3 Fishing Grant to support school fishing programs for the 2023-24 school year.

Each school fishing club will be given a $500 grant that can be used to purchase fishing licenses and fishing gear for club members.

Clubs are required to conduct at least one conservation project by the end of the school year. Recommended projects include organizing, hosting or participating in a local waterway or beach cleanup day; building and maintaining a monofilament recovery and recycling program; and organizing or hosting a fishing clinic for children.

50 schools have already snagged Florida R3 Fishing Grants. Image via FWC.

The Florida R3 Fishing Grant is funded by the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), Coastal Conservation Association and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

“The School Fishing Club program enables students to discuss important conservation topics, have meaningful connections with nature, and hopefully inspire lifelong fishing and stewardship,” said Daniel Parker, director of FYCCN. “This is our opportunity, our responsibility, to engage youth in outdoor activities and create the next generation that cares.”

— Fly bat, fly —

It’s not coincidental that we think of bats at Halloween.

Fall is the time of year to safely exclude bats from homes and other built environments.

Bats play an important ecological role. They are insectivorous, with one bat capable of eating hundreds of insects in a single night, but they also help pollinate flowers, disperse seeds and fertilize the land.

Not surprisingly, it is illegal in Florida to kill or harm bats. Moreover, no one is allowed to give bats the boot during the four-month span from April 15-Aug. 15, which is when bats give birth and raise their “pups.”

The Florida bonneted bat is federally listed as an endangered species. Image via FWC.

There are 13 native bat species in Florida, including the Florida bonneted bat (which is on the list of endangered species) and the tricolor bat (which has been proposed for inclusion on the list).

The multistep exclusion process is the only way to legally remove bats from structures according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. To legally exclude bats, exclusion devices must be left up for a minimum of four nights and the low temperature must be forecast to remain above 50 degrees during that time.

To aid the native bat populations, FWC suggests preserving natural roost sites, including trees with cavities or peeling bark; leaving dead palm fronds and Spanish moss; installing a bat house on the property; and reporting unusual bat behavior, as well as sick or dead bats to MyFWC.com/BatMortality.

— Crossfire —

Oct. 7 might well become Israel’s 9/11 for the shock and horror that ensued when Hamas terrorists attacked Israeli civilians, not sparing even babies, lying in their cribs.

But it exposed a split among the members of the state’s Jewish Legislative Caucus. Two Republican members — now resigned from the caucus — have gone on the offensive against their former Democratic caucus colleagues because of their response or lack thereof.

The ever-pugnacious GOP Rep. Randy Fine from Brevard County said there ceased to be such a caucus when he quit in January because he was getting tired of “lectures” from the Democrats in the caucus on national politics.

Fine appears to be more than just fatigued, however, considering what he posted on X not long after the world learned of the panicked young people running from gunfire at an Israeli music festival.

“I can’t tell if you’re just clinically stupid or if you actually believe this stuff,” Fine wrote in reply to a post of Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky. She was writing about the error of tying the $6 billion in humanitarian aid recently released to Iran to the Hamas attacks.

“Either way, Jews are dead because of you. Live with that,” Fine wrote.

Randy Fine had some harsh words for his former caucus colleagues.

Next, on the third day after hostilities ignited the Holy Land, Palm Beach County Republican Rep. Mike Caruso fired off an email to Broward County Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb, chair of the Jewish Legislative Caucus, saying that he was resigning from the caucus.

“ … For this caucuses (sic) silence and failure to stand against the murderous antisemitic attack by Hamas and abstaining from complete support for Israel,” he wrote to Gottlieb.

Later, he said, he was embarrassed the caucus hadn’t spoken out like numerous other politicians.

“That’s weak,” he said. “ … I thought that we need to come together and rise up in solidarity for Israel and that wasn’t happening in the Jewish caucus.”

Gottlieb shared Caruso’s resignation on a thread, Caruso said, with the rest of the caucus and replied, “I appreciate your explaining the deadly attack to me. I’ve been dealing with friends who are experiencing this grave tragedy and have not had the chance to compose a statement yet.”

“I also appreciate your reactive and divisive rhetoric, when you could have authored a statement for us to share,” Gottlieb’s email added.

Fine, apparently, was also on the thread, despite his January resignation. He accused the Democrats of delaying a statement in order to compose a response that would “thread the needle” with progressives — something that would be acceptable to Black Lives Matter activists and two Muslim Congresswomen from Michigan and Minnesota, whose statements on the crisis have been widely criticized.

The situation sprang into full view as The Jolt published an article under the byline of Caruso’s wife, Tracy Caruso, with parts of the email thread. The opening paragraph says that Gottlieb’s failure to issue a statement “has torn the caucus apart.”

Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman, another Republican member of the caucus, says she’s still in, however.

Gottlieb said the Jolt article seemed to confirm that his colleagues across the aisle are more interested in making a political statement than standing up for Israel.

Mike Gottlieb says certain GOP caucus members were the ones playing politics this week. Image via Colin Hackley.

“They clearly would rather not work together at a time when we should be united,” Gottlieb said, noting that all caucus members are co-equal. “At a time when Jews are being attacked, they thought their voice was strongest attacking other Jews.”

Polsky said Fine’s fire on X didn’t surprise her, but the article Tracy Caruso wrote certainly did. She’s been a part of the Palm Beach County delegation for six years with her husband. The article referenced Polsky’s remarks about the Iranian aid on Twitter as “all sorts of insults to Republicans,” and described her as “nothing more than a less fashionable squad member.”

“The Squad” is often used as shorthand to describe four Congresswomen representing the more progressive wing of the Democrats.

“We’ve been working together for the betterment of Palm Beach County for six years,” Polsky said of Mike Caruso.

This is not helpful, she said.

“How dare he act as if I am anything less than 100% pro-Israel and committed to my faith?” Polsky said.

— Don’t come packing —

Libraries, parks, child care facilities, government buildings and many other “sensitive locations” would be off-limits to people carrying firearms under a measure Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman filed this month.

The bill (SB 130) also lists nursing homes, houses of worship, zoos, drug treatment centers, group shelters, public transportation facilities, bars, marijuana dispensaries, entertainment venues and all education institutions as no-go zones for gun toters.

Violators would face a third-degree felony charge if caught with a weapon and a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines, if they fire the gun on-premises. Police, security guards and legally authorized government employees would be exempt.

Lori Berman has refiled legislation that would ban guns at ‘sensitive locations.’ Image via Colin Hackley.

SB 130 is one of 10 measures Berman announced Tuesday as part of her “Safety and Security Agenda” for the 2024 Legislative Session. Others include a ban on assault weapons, increases in teacher salaries and a codification of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

“My focus this Session is to ensure that all Floridians have protections that will empower them to be healthy, prosperous and safe,” she said in a statement.

Berman sponsored a bill identical to SB 130 during the 2023 Legislative Session. Both it and its House twin died without a hearing.

— Capitol Caregiver —

AARP has named Sen. Colleen Burton a 2023 Capitol Caregiver, an honor recognizing her work supporting older Floridians and caregivers across the state.

AARP created the award to recognize leadership by elected officials at the state level. Burton’s work has served older Floridians, expanded access to health care resources and supported caregivers, the organization said.

Colleen Burton was presented with a Capitol Caregiver Award this week.

AARP specifically gives a nod to bills Burton sponsored this year, including one (SB 558) expanding duties Certified Nursing Assistants can perform under registered nurse supervision; another (SB 988) requiring Medicaid coverage for continuous glucose monitors for certain patients; and one (SB 1098) providing a path toward withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging procedures for incapacitated persons in certain situations.

“AARP Florida is proud to award Sen. Burton with the 2023 Capitol Caregiver Award. The bills she championed are a step in the right direction to expand health security for older adults and caregivers across our state,” said AARP Florida Director Jeff Johnson. “Her passion for serving older adults has set a standard of excellence. AARP will continue to advocate for health care protections for Floridians 50-plus and their caregivers.”

Added Burton: “I am honored to receive the Capitol Caregiver Award from AARP. I have always felt that part of my calling to hold elected office is to stand up and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Taking care of the aging population in Florida will continue to be a priority during the Session of 2024.”

— Bill trio —

Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, has filed legislation addressing various issues, including preemption, public health and safety, and access to affordable child care.

Three bills would target cardiac emergencies, establish child care vouchers and repeal pre-emptions blocking local governments from governing the removal and trimming of trees in their communities.

“I hope this Session we can all come to an agreement on issues of public health, and the health and safety of our young children in Florida,” Stewart said. “The different ideas in these bills all came to me from members of the community, and I hope that when I make their voices heard in Tallahassee, that others will listen. Especially when the topic is pre-emption, and the decisions made in Tallahassee can limit what decisions can be made back home.”

Linda Stewart filed three bills that were directly inspired by conversations with her constituents.

The bill targeting cardiac arrest (SB 124) would require the Florida Department of Health to create an informational poster educating people on how to recognize and treat sudden cardiac arrest. The poster would be displayed in workplaces, under the bill.

The child care services bill (SB 120) would establish a voucher program for low-income parents with children 18 months old to 4 years old.

And the tree trimming and removal measure (SB 122) would repeal the part of Florida Statute that prohibits local governments from enacting local ordinances on trimming and removal within their jurisdictions. That might be an uphill slog, though — the measure was ushered through the legislature by Republicans. The GOP now has a supermajority in both chambers.

Stewart said she filed the bills to improve the quality of life for Florida families by removing what she described as burdensome pre-emptions that cripple municipalities, by creating preparedness tools for cardiac emergencies, and creating access to affordable child care.

— It’s a small world —

2023 Nobel Prize winner Lou Brus has a connection to Tallahassee.

Sort of.

Former FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Dean and Professor J. Murray Gibson, Ph.D., was an early collaborator of Brus, one of three scientists awarded The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2023.

Brus was recognized for the development of quantum dots, or nanoparticles so small that their properties are determined by quantum phenomena, or their size instead of the number of electrons in the element.

There’s always a Florida connection, even when it comes to Nobel Prizes. Image via FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

Sounds complicated, but quantum dots are mundane, used to light televisions and computer screens and LED lamps. Quantum dots also are used to help guide surgeons in the removal of tumor tissue.

Brus authored a paper on quantum dots while working at Bell Laboratories in 1984. Gibson played a role in a 1983 draft of the paper helping to verify the size, shape, crystallography, and composition of the quantum dots. Gibson’s work on the earlier paper is referenced in the Nobel citation.

“It brings back fond memories of working with Lou’s team at Bell Labs in the early ‘80s,” Gibson said. “It really was an amazing environment with such talent. What made Bell Labs so special was the freedom to do what you chose to in research, combined with immersion in a problem-rich environment. Not surprising that the institution invented the transistor, the laser and the cellphone! We need to reproduce this environment today for young researchers.”

— In memorial —

Former Sen., County Clerk and Hallandale City Commissioner Howard Forman was remembered Friday for championing the causes of everyman as news spread of his death at 77. He died Thursday.

Broward County Commissioner and former Sen. Steve Geller was elected to the House for the first time the same day that Forman won a Senate seat representing a southern Broward County Senate District that also covered parts of Miami-Dade.

Howard Forman died this week at the age of 77.

“Howard had the biggest heart of anybody I knew in the process,” Geller said. “Howard really cared about the underdog, the little guy.

“It’s easy to be fighting in an area where you’ll have the big-money lobbyists supporting you, but Howard was never interested in that,” Geller said. “Howard was most interested in helping the little guy, the person that didn’t have other people to fight for him.”

Forman sponsored the Senate version of Geller’s first big piece of legislation that he believes saved lives, an amusement ride safety bill. It required that each ride be inspected by state officials every time the ride was reassembled.

His name is now on the city of Pembroke Pines’ Sen. Howard C. Forman Human Services Campus, offering services for children, families and seniors.

— Capitol Directions —

Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — If there’s one issue he’s always been right about, it’s being pro-Israel.

Iran — Down arrow — Welcome back to the Axis of Evil.

Jimmy Patronis — Up arrow — Florida and Israel are getting some quality bonding time … Eh? Get it? We’ll see ourselves out.

Ashley Moody — Down arrow — We have reason to believe her favorite sentence at home is either “the answer is no” or “the answer is still no.”

Lori Berman — Up arrow — Go ahead and fast-track SB 148. Also, if any Rep is looking for a layup, it needs a companion.

Jim Boyd — Up arrow — Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.

Insurance rates — Double up arrow — Don’t you know? Don’t you know things can change? Things’ll go your way … if you hold on for an indeterminate amount of time.

Jason Pizzo — Crossways arrow — To be fair, visiting prison does sound more fun than being the next statewide tomato can.

Tom Leek — Up arrow — There are three million reasons to salute his state Senate campaign … with more on the way.

CGS — Up arrow — The DeSantis administration could save a ton of money on lawyers if they fired Flash the Sloth.

Vote Men PAC — Down arrow — Ladies, we hear the Chairman is single.

Richard Corcoran — Dollar signs — Forget Gucci, he’s a Bottega Veneta man now.

New College — Down arrow — And none of those pesky students will be around to scuff them up!

West Flagler Associates — Down arrow — C’mon. Football season is already half over.

Florida Dems — Down arrow — Who?

Scotty Moore — Down arrow — Is George Soros hysteria cringeworthy? Yes. Does it play well in GOP Primaries? No.

Ashley Chaney — Up arrow — We don’t know about you, but we’ll be drinking Rascal Yards at the Hayward House all Session long.

Dianne Williams-Cox — Up arrow — Sorry Jez, she didn’t come to play games.

J.T. Burnette — Up arrow — Like the man said, you only do two days: the day you go in, and the day you get out. And you’re out!

Justice — Up arrow — It applies to people named Donna and Harvey, too.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


One comment

  • Swampy

    October 14, 2023 at 8:07 am

    Ashley Anti Women’s rights and healthcare states attorney has certainly proved she is a tool of the governor over and over. She does nothing for the freedom and rights of the people of Florida. I didn’t realize she gets paid personally by desantis to ensure his NO Abortion stance doesn’t make it in the ballot. What a swamp

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