Takeaways from Tallahassee — A little boost

Blue Tally Takeaways (3)
Public employee retirement accounts are getting a boost.

Good news state and local government workers in the Florida Retirement System are poised for a small boost in contributions to their pensions, now that Governor Ron DeSantis has signed HB 151.

The bill also reduces the time a retired worker must observe before being rehired by an FRS employer to receive pension benefits and a paycheck simultaneously. Under current law, that period is one year, but with the new law, which takes effect July 1, it is reduced to six months.

There’s also a small increase in employer contributions, about $30.6 million more than the current year state economists estimate, in the new law.

Who’s going to complain about a little extra cash in their nest egg?

One other change in the law applies to FRS members making more than $275,000 per year. Federal law caps pension benefits at $275,000 per year, but a Florida program allows some workers to receive payments above that level.

The law closes the Preservation of Benefits Plan to new retirees. According to a legislative staff analysis, there were 75 retirees who took advantage of that plan in 2023, with a payout of $2.2 million. But more employees could’ve been poised to use the plan in the near future. As of June 2023, the analysis states that 835 FRS members earned more than $275,000. The change potentially saves the state and local government employers $25.5 million next fiscal year and much more in future years as worker salaries continue to rise.

As of June 30, 2023, there were 646,277 active members of the FRS, including workers at state agencies, state colleges and universities, county governments, 181 cities, 153 special districts and two independent hospitals.


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, Christine Jordan Sexton and Gray Rohrer and the staff of Florida Politics.

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

— Take 5 —

Rest in peace: Bob Graham, who served two terms as Florida’s Governor before going on to a lengthy career in the U.S. Senate, died this week. The 87-year-old Graham left a lasting legacy that included championing Everglades restoration and pushing to improve Florida’s higher education system. Graham also voted against the Iraq War and led a joint commission that probed the Sept. 11 attacks. Graham came from a wealthy family but became known for his workdays where he would spend a day working in various occupations ranging from fixing roofs to teaching classes. After his passing, Graham was showered with praise and fond remembrances from both sides of the aisle. Graham’s body will lie in state at the Old Capitol on April 26.

They’re outta here: More than 22,000 children were dropped from the Florida KidCare program since January for not paying their premiums despite federal protections meant to ensure that some of those children have at least 12 months of continuous coverage. DeSantis is challenging the continuous eligibility requirements seeking to prevent the Bident administration from enforcing the law. Judge William Jung, who President Donald Trump appointed, is not expected to render a decision in the dispute before May. Meanwhile, Florida continues to eliminate children’s families from the program if the state-mandated monthly premiums is missed.

Are Medicaid challenges coming? Eight managed care plans notified Medicaid officials this week of their intent to challenge the state’s decision to award multi-year Medicaid contracts to five health plans. Four of the challenges were filed by incumbent plans that were not by the Agency for Health Care Administration to be a contracted provider. Two of the notices were filed by companies that want to enter the state’s Medicaid managed care market while the other two challenges were filed by provider service networks (PSNs) that were chosen to provide care in some, but not all, Medicaid Regions. AHCA will try to negotiate with the plans to prevent a legal challenge.

Turn the page: The Governor this week signed several education bills including one that restricts challenges to books in public libraries. Currently, anyone can file numerous challenges to books, which must then be reviewed for compliance with a state ban on sexually explicit material. But the new law says that those without children attending schools in a given district will only be able to challenge one book per month. DeSantis said the change was needed because activists were using the current process for “performative” and “political” reasons. Also, this week, the State Board of Education adopted a new rule that would punish principals for removing books without first checking to see if the books are inappropriate under state law.

Survey says: A poll released by Florida Atlantic University this week showed improvement for the Governor’s approval rating, had good news for another DeSantis and revealed a steep climb needed for two ballot measures regarding abortion rights and recreational marijuana. DeSantis’ approval rating fell to 50% in FAU’s November poll, when former President Trump was bashing him during the GOP Primary. With DeSantis long out of the race, his rating improved to 54%. Also, the poll has his wife, Casey, ahead in a hypothetical 2026 Republican primary for Governor against U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, 38%-16%, with the rest of voters backing a different candidate or undecided. The poll, though, didn’t mention other potential gubernatorial challengers, such as Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis or U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds. Ballot measures to legalize recreational pot and install a right to an abortion in the state constitution, though, are well below the 60% threshold needed to pass, according to the poll. About 42% of Florida voters support the abortion rights ballot initiative, with 25% opposed and 32% undecided. For the recreational pot measure, 47% support it, 35% oppose it and 18% are undecided.

— Celebrating Bob Graham —

Residents will be allowed to celebrate Graham’s life in the coming week. Graham will lie in state in Florida’s Historic Capitol from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, April 26.

There will be a private funeral for the family thereafter.

Graham’s life will also be celebrated on May 11 at a memorial service at the Miami Lakes United Church of Christ in his hometown of Miami Lakes. The time for that memorial service has not yet been set.

Bob Graham will lie in state at the Old Capitol next week.

Graham — a former two-term state legislator, two-term state Senator, two-term Governor, one-time presidential candidate and three-term U.S. Senator — spent close to four decades in public service.

He is known for his work to bolster education, the Florida economy and environmental projects, notably the Everglades.

To honor his life and service people can donate to the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida

— Apply now! —

Individuals interested in attending or speaking at the 2024 Human Trafficking Summit can now make reservations and submit speaker proposals, Attorney General Moody announced.

The annual Summit allows leaders and stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking to gather, share information on the latest developments and disseminate that information to the public.

Applications to speak at the summit are due by the end of the month.

Ashley Moody is accepting applications for speakers at the next Human Trafficking Summit.

“Every year, our Human Trafficking Summit brings together local, state and national leaders who are working to eradicate human trafficking,” Moody said. “Summit speakers and attendees grow their networks and hone their skills to fight trafficking and serve survivors. So, go ahead and reserve your spot today.”

The Summit includes presentations on preventing trafficking, protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers. This year’s Summit will feature sessions covering a variety of recent updates and developments on topics including legal, service delivery, and education and awareness.

The Summit is virtual and is available at no cost. It begins on Oct. 1.

Moody’s office, the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Health, and the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking host the event. This year’s educational partner is Florida State University.

For more information visit HumanTraffickingSummit.com.

— Act now cause it’s going fast —

Opportunities for Florida homeowners to save money on home improvements that harden their homes are coming to an end.

The state’s Home Hardening Sales Tax Exemption program, which began last July, ends June 30. Chief Financial Officer Patronis is encouraging individuals to take advantage of the program before it ends.

The initiative established a two-year sales tax exemption on the retail sales of items such as impact-resistant windows, doors and garage doors.

Jimmy Patronis is reminding Floridians to get their discount before it dries up.

“Hurricane season is less than 50 days away and now is the time to fortify your home against storms while saving on sales tax,” Patronis said.

“The Florida Home Hardening initiative has been an incredible help to Floridians, as homeowners have saved an estimated $462.6 million in sales tax. If you strengthen your home by installing impact-resistant items like windows, doors, and garage doors then you are eligible for mandatory premium savings with your homeowners’ insurance company.”

The program is part of a suite of efforts the state has undertaken to harden homes and lower insurance premiums in Florida, Patronis said.

“Unfortunately, Mother Nature loves paradise and in Florida, it’s not if, but when a hurricane is going to impact our state,” Patronis added. “Don’t wait. Take advantage of the Home Hardening Sales tax exemption before hurricane season begins and protect your biggest investment – your home.”

— Supermarket sweep —

State inspectors discovered nearly 200,000 hemp products illegally being marketed to children, with the state intervening to keep them off the shelves, said Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson.

According to a news release, the department released photographs of the merchandise, showing brightly colored products looking like candy that had been found at High Roller Private Label in Hollywood.

“The discovery of over 186,000 packages of hemp products targeting children serves as a stark reminder of the importance of protecting the safety and well-being of our communities — especially from euphoric, high-potency hemp products that can pose serious health risks when ingested by children,” Simpson said in a statement.

Check the labels; and shopkeeps, Wilton Simpson isn’t playing around.

“As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of hemp and cannabinoid products, we remain steadfast in our mission to uphold the highest standards of safety and accountability.”

FDACS inspectors issued stop-sale orders for 186,377 packages of hemp products. Simpson said a high number were “euphoric, high-potency products.” Out of the more than 186,000 products, 644 packages contained synthetic cannabinoids, including “THC-O” and “HHCO,” the press release said.

In the 2023 Legislative Session, the state beefed up laws to add age requirements for buying edible hemp products and banned marketing for those products targeting children.

“To enforce these law changes, the department conducted the largest ever inspection sweep of businesses selling hemp products in the summer of 2023,” the agency said in a press release. “The sweep included inspections of more than 700 businesses in all 67 Florida counties and uncovered over 83,000 packages of hemp products, including euphoric, high-potency THC products, targeting children.”

—Instagram of the Week—

— Down on Main Street —

If you want to stroll through the Main Street of the Month, make your way down to Putnam County.

Secretary of State Cord Byrd announced that Palatka will receive the monthly designation. The city boasts a rich history dating back to the pre-Columbian era, when it was home to Timucua, Seminole, Creek and other Native peoples, who inhabited the area before Europeans and Africans arrived in the 16th century.

“By reorganizing the Main Street, Palatka has committed to embracing the history, assets and charm of the community,” said Byrd. “We look forward to working with Palatka Main Street as they begin their journey to help revitalize the historic downtown. This community on the banks of the St. Johns River is reclaiming its place in defining Florida’s northeast corridor.”

Established as an American trading post in 1821, Palatka burned in 1835 during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Originally named “Pilotakata” (meaning “crossing” in Muskogee), Palatka developed into a bustling trading hub and tourist destination and was incorporated on January 8, 1853. The city served as an important gateway into the interior of the state, as the St. Johns River provided the major transportation route for settlements upriver.

Palatka during the 2023 Blue Crab Festival. Image via Palatka Main Street.

The latter part of the 19th century witnessed Palatka’s rise as an economic powerhouse, fueled by the timber and citrus industries. The city became an invaluable junction for several railroads, including the Florida Southern Railroad, the St. Augustine & Palatka Railway and the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad. World-class hotels such as the Arlington, Saratoga, and Putnam House attracted visitors drawn by the promise of prosperity and opportunity. Palatka’s journey through history has been marked by triumphs and challenges. The devastating fire of 1884 and the Great Freeze of 1894-1895 tested the town’s resolve and reduced city tourism revenue for many years. Yet, each time, Palatka emerged stronger, rebuilding its downtown and revitalizing its economy.

“With the reorganization of Main Street Palatka in January 2024, we are watching as shovel-ready projects and ongoing ventures blossom in our Commercial Business District,” said Colin Bingham from Palatka Main Street.

“These buildings, which have been abandoned for decades, will contribute a new wave of energy that has come to Palatka. We are especially proud of our young, entrepreneurial families that have and will be opening businesses and are saving our historic buildings. In conjunction with the loyal, long-term participants of the Main Street program, we are all very excited to watch what is developing under our stewardship. The ‘Gem of the St. Johns’ is enhancing its polish.”

What’s the frequency, Florida?

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) and other public safety agencies across the country are celebrating public safety telecommunicators for their lifesaving work this week during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

Since 1981, the second week of April has been reserved to honor public safety telecommunicators for their commitment, service and sacrifice. This week is a call to action to celebrate and thank telecommunications personnel nationwide.

The people on the other end of the line are heroes, too. Stock image via Adobe.

“FHP State Law Enforcement Dispatchers are law enforcement’s unsung heroes, working as the 24/7 lifeline between our State Troopers and the public we serve,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Dave Kerner. “On the job around the clock, they field emergency calls and ensure our FHP Troopers have the information they need to respond promptly to calls for help.”

FHP Colonel Gary Howze II agreed.

“National Telecommunicators Week is a great time to show our appreciation to our vital State Law Enforcement Dispatchers throughout Florida,” he said. “These dispatchers are critical to ensure the safety of both citizens and Troopers when a call comes in.”

The work of emergency dispatchers is essential in meeting the needs of people seeking assistance, often in traumatic and intense situations where every second matters. To ensure these situations are handled the best way they can be, Individuals working as Public Safety Telecommunicators must complete almost 240 hours of training and pass a certification exam. The seven FHP Regional Communications Centers averaged over 4,000 calls a day.

— Fishing for fishies of the future —

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has created a best fishing practices list to guide those looking to target tarpon this season.

Complied with input from charter captains, Salt Strong and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, the list includes tips on what gear to use, fighting techniques, and handling and release strategies for tarpon. Specifically, the guidelines will help prevent tarpon from being endangered and allow future anglers the ability to go toe to fin with them.

When using bait, the recommendation is to use nonstainless, nonoffset, barbless circle hooks. Use single-hook rigs. Use tackle heavy enough by matching tackle to conditions and targeted fish size. Have a fighting belt or chair available for additional support during the fight and have a long-handled dehooking tool to quickly and easily remove hooks.

If the tarpon rises to the surface or jumps, point the rod tip toward the fish and drop the rod tip down while reeling in. Counter the tarpon’s run by using the backbone of the rod to pull in the opposite direction and use short turns of the reel to bring the line in. Put the butt end of the rod into your hip or use a fighting belt or chair to get leverage for the fight.

Follow the rules so future anglers can get in on the fun, too. Image via Capt. Bryon Chamberlin/FWC.

If the fish tries to go under or around the boat, move to the front of the boat to prevent the line from breaking or becoming entangled.

Sharks are known to prey upon tarpon during the fight. If a shark shows up, help the tarpon survive by quickly bringing the fish to the boat and cutting the line as close to the hook as possible. Then get out because fishing with sharks isn’t smart.

Keep handling to a minimum and be sure to work quickly to allow for a successful release. Tarpon over 40 inches must remain in the water by rule, unless in pursuit of a state or world record using a tarpon tag. Tarpon smaller than 40 inches should only be handled with wet hands and be supported horizontally under the belly if removed from the water. Keep the gills of tarpon in the water to minimize air exposure. Keep fingers away from the gills and eyes. Avoid dragging tarpon over the gunnel of a boat or over rocks or railings.

Also, have the camera ready if you want to take a quick picture to avoid delaying release.

— The almost final countdown —

The 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season is quickly approaching and the Florida Division of Emergency Management wants everyone to think ahead and begin preparing ahead of what some predict could be one of the most active Atlantic Hurricane Seasons on record.

“I encourage every Floridian to take necessary steps to ensure that their families and businesses are preparing for the 2024 hurricane season as well,” said Division Executive Director Kevin Guthrie.

Guthrie said he will be “traveling across the state and meeting with regional coordinators and emergency management personnel to make sure every county is ready for the season ahead.”

Don’t get caught out this hurricane season — prepare! Image via AP.

The 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and ends November 30. The apex is typically in September.

Guthrie’s office released these six tips:

Know Your Zone, Know Your Home: It’s important to know whether a residence or business is in an evacuation zone, a low-lying, flood-prone area. Mobile homes can also become unsafe.

Have Multiple Ways to Receive Weather Alerts: Have multiple ways to receive weather alerts and follow all orders from local county emergency management officials. Have battery-operated or hand-crank weather radios to ensure the delivery of alerts from the National Weather Service. Also, sign up for alerts at FloridaDisaster.org/AlertFlorida.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Flooding can occur with little to no warning so never drive or walk in flooded areas. Half of all flood-related deaths result from swept-away vehicles. If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately!

Build a Disaster Supply Kit: Households are encouraged to have enough essential supplies to last every member of the family, including pets, at least seven days. For a disaster supply kit checklist, visit FloridaDisaster.org/Kit.

Keep Gas Tanks Half Full: Keep gas tanks at least half full during hurricane season to ensure there is enough fuel to evacuate as soon as possible without worrying about long lines at gas stations and to avoid gas shortages before a storm. For Floridians with electric vehicles, it’s recommended that the battery be maintained between 50% – 80% capacity at all times, depending on the type of vehicle and what the vehicle’s manual recommends. Visit FloridaDisaster.org/HalfwayFull for more information.

Hurricane Hazards: Hurricanes bring with them an increased threat of tornadoes, damaging winds, flooding, rip currents and severe thunderstorms, both before, during and post-landfall. These risks have the potential to affect the entire state of Florida. That is why it’s important to plan for each member of the family, including pets. For more information, visit FloridaDisaster.org/PlanPrepare.

More information on how to prepare for hurricane season at FloridaDisaster.org.

— Free at last —

‘Bone Valley’ fans received some long-awaited good news this week: Leo Schofield Jr. was granted parole after 35 years behind bars.

For the non-listeners, Schofield was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. Schofield has maintained he is not the killer throughout and the podcast, hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gilbert King, found a prosecution plagued with errors and little evidence linking Schofield to the crime.

Still, the now 58-year-old had been denied parole four times, most recently last year, when the Florida Commission on Offender Review extended his stint in prison for a year and transferred him to Everglades Correctional Institution in South Florida.

In addition to catching the attention of the public at large, the case became a focus for Sen. Jonathan Martin, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Johnathan Martin played a part in the long-incarcerated man breathing some free air.

Martin, a Fort Myers Republican, was a forceful advocate for Schofield’s release, telling members of the Commission that case “turned his stomach” and that he believed Schofield should have been released “years ago.”

Though Martin’s support helped Schofield get out of prison, Schofield’s attorney says the saga is far from over.

“While we are grateful for the commission’s action, Mr. Schofield is by no means free,” said Scott Cupp, a former circuit court judge who left the bench to work on the case. “We will continue to fight for his exoneration — the only way we can correct this grave injustice.”

Those interested in the full story can find ‘Bone Valley’ on most major podcast platforms.

— Let’s make a deal? —

It’s never too early to begin working on legislative issues.

Less than two months after the end of the 2024 Session, the Florida chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business is setting its sights on passing legislation to regulate third-party litigation financing next year.

Attempts to regulate third-party financing, long a priority for NFIB and the Florida Justice Reform Institute, among others, were derailed during the 2024 Session when bill sponsor and House Judiciary Committee Chair Tommy Gregory couldn’t muster enough support to pass the measure from a judicial spending panel. Attempts to move the bill by rolling it into a broader one that would update the state’s sovereign immunity laws fell short.

“Of course, there is everything to negotiate on this issue. Why? Because right now there is nothing regulating this burgeoning industry. Let’s at least get to the table and consider some efforts to try to get our arms around this issue. I know that our side is certainly ready to negotiate something to start the ball rolling on this, and I know that there is even an element in the trial bar that has great unease about the growth of litigation financing and its impact on justice,” NFIB Executive Director Bill Herrle said this week.

“Once we get the debate focused on protecting Lady Justice, I think things will flow naturally toward some sort of negotiating progress on this issue.”

Bill Herrle and NFIB Florida are already gearing up for 2025.

He made the remarks at a news conference for the Florida Chapter of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, which announced the findings of an analysis showing that a “tort tax” in Florida has decreased to $1,056 per person annually and $4,000 annually for a family of four. The group defines the “tort tax” as the litigation costs associated with all goods and services provided in Florida.

With House Speaker Paul Renner helping lead the way, the Florida Legislature passed lawsuit restrictions during two Special Sessions in 2022 and a broader-reaching bill in the 2023 Session. But none of those bills addressed third-party litigation financing.

HB 1179 would have required plaintiff’s attorneys who enter into third-party financing agreements to disclose the information to their opponent’s counsel and the court. If the litigation financing company has international ties, lawyers also must disclose the name, address, citizenship, country of incorporation, or registration of any foreign person, foreign principal or sovereign wealth fund.

— D+ —

The Sierra Club Florida released its 2024 Florida Legislative Scorecard this week. It is designed to provide a snapshot of Sierra Club Florida’s priority bills for the 2024 Session and the legislators who either championed or worked against them.

According to the Sierra Club, the Legislature should be in summer school because collectively it earned a D+.

Craig Diamond, legislative chair for Sierra Club Florida said, “Unfortunately, the dangerous ideas proposed and enacted this past session are all part of an accelerating trend by the state Legislature to hurt working Floridians and stifle communities’ ability to solve issues. Instead of addressing climate change, tackling property insurance, or protecting public health and property values by reducing pollution, legislators have simply opted to leave Florida behind. This state truly cannot afford such dereliction of responsibility.”

Lawmakers didn’t do so hot this Session, according to the Sierra Club. Stock image via Adobe.

Some of the legislation The Sierra Club condemned includes HB 1645, “Energy Resources,” which prevents local governments from making decisions about where methane gas facilities are allowed in their communities; HB 87, “Taking of Bears,” a bill that makes it easier for people to kill Florida’s black bears with supporters alleging it makes it easier to kill bears strung out on drugs (Think the plot of the Elizabeth Banks’ film ‘Cocaine Bear’); and HB 433, “Employment Regulations,” which prevents local governments from protecting their economies and workers from the impacts of extreme heat.

The scorecard condemns Renner and Rep. Bobby Payne as the chief architects behind the attacks.

The scorecard isn’t all doom and gloom, however. It also recognizes the legislators who championed the organization’s priorities, including Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, Sen. Jason Pizzo, Rep. Anna Eskamani and Rep. Lindsay Cross.

— Panhandle goes tiny —

PRIDE Enterprises broke ground on a tiny home program at Century Correctional Institution in the Florida panhandle this week.

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by PRIDE President Blake Brown, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon, Sen. Doug Broxson, Rep. Michelle Salzman, FDC Regional Director Angela Gordon, Century Correctional Institution Warden Kelly Watkins, Pensacola State College President Ed Meadows, and multiple PRIDE board members.

“This new PRIDE industry will produce tiny homes that will be built by trained and certified inmates in a manufacturing environment,” said Brown. “Most of these homes will be sold in the region to help meet the growing need for affordable housing in the region.”

This program has been years in the making, starting with PRIDE Board Chair James Reeves’s vision to expand operations into the Panhandle.

A demonstration of the inmates’ skills. Image via PRIDE.

“(Chair) Reeves saw a great need for more affordable housing in the Panhandle and as a result, in 2023, he guided PRIDE staff and the board to adopt a plan to move forward with a PRIDE business at Century Correctional Institution,” said Brown. “He cleared the way for PRIDE, working with the Florida Department of Corrections and State Senator Doug Broxson to acquire funding for additional security at Century Correctional Institution to support this new program.”

To start the program, PRIDE submitted a request to Triumph Gulf Coast, seeking financial support for the training needed to certify selected inmates. In January 2024, Triumph Gulf Coast approved a grant to reimburse PRIDE for the training and certification services that would be provided by Pensacola State College.

“What started out as an amazing vision is becoming a reality, as we break ground on this program that will make a positive difference in the lives of the inmates that participate in it,” said Brown. “Each inmate in the program has made a commitment to stay in the eight-county region when they reach the end of their sentence, so they can continue to make a meaningful difference in the area by using the skills they obtained in the work program.”

PRIDE also allocated money from its own capital reserves to build a new facility at the Century Correctional Institution that will house the tiny home production facility. The facility, when completed, will have 11,250 square feet of floor space. PRIDE plans to set the facility up in a lean, one-piece-flow format to produce the units in the most efficient manner.

Plans are to complete the facility by midyear and begin production of tiny homes in fall 2024.

—Buss on the bus—

The City of Tallahassee’s StarMetro bus system’s new Southside Transit Center (STC) is nearing construction. To celebrate, the City will host a ceremonial event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday with lunch right after, outdoors on the location of the new future transportation hub, situated on the corner of Orange Avenue and Meridian Street.

The construction of the Southside Transit Center, which will cost $20 million, will be a game changer for local Tallahassee public transportation and businesses. Economic impact studies by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) have shown that public investment in transit can yield a 4:1 economic return.

The city is hyping up the new transportation hub next week.

The City’s focus and investment in infrastructure and economic development enhancements within the Southside have already resulted in more than $471 million of public funding between fiscal years 2017 and 2022. Tallahassee has secured an unprecedented $36 million in competitive grant funding to transition StarMetro to an all-electric fleet and construct the STC.

The STC could be transformative for the Southside, which accounts for more than one-third of StarMetro’s total ridership. It would make it easier for residents to take the bus and be active in the community, which has been involved in the feedback for the STC.

StarMetro will display an electric bus and provide service information to riders. The STC will be a multi-bay, two-story facility with eight covered bays with electric charging stations for fixed-route buses and a designated pull-off for paratransit vehicles. It will be the first public transit center built in Tallahassee since C.K. Steele Plaza in the 1980s. Construction of the new transportation hub is on track to be completed in 2025.

— The 100 —

The Division of Student Affairs at Florida State University recognized the 2024 inductee class for the Torchbearer 100 during an April 15 celebration at the FSU Student Union.

The Torchbearer 100, a longstanding tradition and honor for FSU students, recognizes 100 undergraduates who have shown exceptional leadership and achievement during their collegiate careers.

The 2024 inductee class for Torchbearer 100 was honored on April 15, 2024, at the FSU Student Union. Image via FSU.

A selection committee chooses the students who best represent the university and looks for students who strive for inspired excellence, dynamic inclusiveness, and responsible stewardship and engage in their community. Each honoree received a special Torchbearer 100 medallion to wear at commencement, which will be celebrated amongst their fellow students.

Amy Hecht, vice president for student affairs at FSU, said at the celebration, “The Torchbearer 100 is an opportunity for the university to recognize and honor those students who continue to build upon our tradition of leadership and service.”

A list of the 2024 Torchbearer 100 Honorees is available online.

— Capitol Directions —

Bob Graham — Halo — We’ll always be Graham cracker backers. RIP.

Ron DeSantis — Down arrow — “Crime, boy I don’t know.” #IFYKYK

Casey DeSantis — Up arrow — Is this the beginning of a DeDynasty? Time will tell.

Wilton Simpson — Up arrow — He doesn’t twiddle his thumbs.

Jason Weida — Down arrow — If he could, he’d put a work requirement on KidCare … for the kid.

Ileana Garcia — Down arrow — “Great, go knock yourself out” is certainly an interesting re-election campaign slogan.

Pat Bainter — Crossways arrow — If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.

Blaise Ingoglia — Up arrow — Four cashes in his last seven tourneys. If the homebuilder thing doesn’t work out …

Carolina Amesty — Down arrow — CCU, home of the Fightin’ Tax Dodgers!

Bobby Powell — Up arrow — He’s resigning just in time to trigger a special election. Hopefully.

5-year-old Communist sympathizers — Down arrow — We’re glad our Kindergarten communists are being kicked out of the playroom and that no one will ever share blocks ever again.

Library Karens — Down arrow — Sorry, there’s a 30-day minimum between Karen moments.

State employees — Up arrow — The only downside is we’ll get more of those annoying emails from David Jaye.

‘24 initiatives — Crossways arrow — Their support feels a little half-baked. Or 49% baked.

Andrew Warren — Crossways arrow — Um … cool.

Sam Greco — Up arrow — When you hire ace fundraiser Katie Ballard, the donations flow.

Anthony Pedicini — Up arrow — He left the AAPC awards with his hands full.

Jeremy Rogers — Up arrow — He’s flush with cash and has the firefighters in his corner.

David Wamsley — Crossway arrow — Hard to imagine a more inauspicious beginning to a local campaign.

Skip Foster — Down arrow — The former Democrat publisher finally got something to go viral and it’s a dumpy looking logo.

Apalachee Center & TMH — Up arrow — Attention, future psychiatrists: Start booking rotations at Live Oak Behavioral Health Center!

Kelly Dozier — Up arrow — This weekend, the visionary leader is kicking off what many believe is Tallahassee’s best annual outdoor cultural event — The LeMoyne Chain of Parks Art Festival.

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.


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