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Staff Reports

About face: Chris Burke endorses Nick DiCeglie for HD 66

In an apparent change of heart, Seminole Vice Mayor Chris Burke has endorsed Nick DiCeglie for the Florida House District 66 seat, the campaign announced Wednesday.

In July, before DiCeglie jumped into the race, Burke had endorsed fellow Republican Berny Jacques, a former prosecutor.

“I have known Nick for many years as an excellent family man, successful small business owner and person genuinely concerned for the success of our community,” Burke said in a statement. “Nick will bring a level of awareness and experience to the House that will be an immediate benefit to Pinellas County.

“His dedication to the Republican Party in Pinellas has been apparent and he has been instrumental in advancing the interests of the Party here at home,” Burke added. “His selection as (a Presidential) Elector for the State of Florida makes his commitment even more evident.”

DiCeglie said he was “honored” to have Burke’s support.

“I’ve known Vice Mayor Burke for 17 years and I can tell you, he is the definition of a decorated public servant – having honorably served our country abroad at war and currently here at home as a Councilman and police officer,” he said.

“He has continually proven his leadership and dedication to serving others and I look forward to working with him to keep our neighborhoods safe and ensure our community remains a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Burke, a Massachusetts native, moved to Pinellas County in 1979, graduated from Seminole High School in 1982 and later graduated magna cum laude from both St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida with a history degree, according to a news release.

“He is a decorated U.S. Army and Gulf War Veteran and was nominated for the Bronze Star during the first Gulf War,” it said. “Burke has served on City Council for Seminole since 2012 where he currently serves as Vice Mayor. He has two daughters in college and attends St. Jerome Catholic Church.”

DiCeglie, a Long Island native, has been active with the Pinellas Republican Party since 2009, and its chair since 2014. He’s the co-owner of Solar Sanitation, a solid waste collection company serving Pinellas residents since 1980.

The current seat holder, Republican Larry Ahern, is term-limited.

Florida Disaster Fund grants awarded

Gov. Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida on Wednesday announced the first round of Florida Disaster Fund grant awards for organizations providing disaster relief following Hurricane Irma, according to a press release.

Each recipient organization is receiving $25,000 for disaster response activities. 

Examples include financial assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities; food, clothing and replacement of household items; sheltering for those who have experienced loss of their homes; individual case management; crisis intervention counseling and hotline services to assist those experiencing psychological distress; assistance for displaced families with pets; muck-out for flooded homes, and removal of dangerous debris.

The awards go to:

Branches, Inc. – Miami-Dade County: Branches, Inc. will provide food distribution, case work services, and financial assistance, as well as help with applications for disaster assistance programs. They will also provide assistance, space, and opportunities for program partners to offer services, and will provide financial education and coaching about services provided by Branches, Inc., the United Way Center for Financial Stability, and other service providers.

Centro Campesino – Miami-Dade County: Centro Campesino will provide food and water, financial assistance, and case work services.

Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations – Collier County: Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations will provide support for distribution of food and water, help with financial assistance, and provide case work services for migrant populations.

Crisis Clean-up – Statewide: Crisis Clean-Up will connect relief organizations and volunteers with the nearly 10,000 work orders and requests for assistance that have been submitted by Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma via their online database software.

Crossroads Alliance – Statewide: Crossroads Alliance will provide ice, water, supplemental groceries, personal care items, and other necessities, manage distribution sites, and coordinate volunteers to distribute goods.

Farm Share – Miami-Dade County: Farm Share will package and distribute food to those in need. They will also advocate for residents applying for federal relief and assistance.

Florida Baptist Disaster Relief – Statewide: Florida Baptist Disaster Relief will provide feeding services, clean-up and debris removal services, and around-the-clock care for children of emergency personnel.

Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response – Statewide: Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response will help connect lost animals with their families and non-kill shelters. They will also provide comfort dogs at shelters, disaster recovery centers, and emergency operations centers.

Habitat for Humanity of Florida – Statewide: Habitat for Humanity of Florida will provide low-cost housing solutions in the Florida Keys, work with residents to find alternative solutions for ineligible Habitat programs, assist existing Habitat homeowners with disaster repairs, and coordinate volunteers in building programs.

Heart of Florida United Way – Orange County: The Heart of Florid United Way will provide information and assistance to clients and callers through United Way 2-1-1, help clients apply for FEMA assistance, and provide services such as direct case management, client assessment, case planning, and financial assistance.

International Orthodox Christian Charities – Northeast Florida: International Orthodox Christian Charities will facilitate food and water distribution, provide cleanup buckets and hygiene kits, and provide home muck-outs, repair, and rebuilding. IOCC will also provide tarping for roofs and partner with Volunteer Florida AmeriCorps partners to utilize spontaneous volunteers unaffiliated with disaster relief organizations.

Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery – Lake and Sumter counties: Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery will provide case management services as an advocate for residents in Lake and Sumter Counties.

Mennonite Disaster Service – Statewide: Mennonite Disaster Service will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma. They will also provide cleanup and debris removal services.

Metropolitan Ministries – Hillsborough and Pasco counties: Metropolitan Ministries will provide financial assistance, shelter, and transportation for displaced and homeless families. They will also provide necessary items such as food, water, and diapers.

NAACP – Statewide: The NAACP will provide advocacy services, help with appeal letters, and assist with applications for federal assistance.

NECHAMA – Statewide: NECHAMA will provide cleanup and debris removal services and will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma.

Neighbors 4 Neighbors – Miami-Dade County: Neighbors 4 Neighbors will provide food, shelter, clothing and financial assistance, connect residents to local programs for disaster recovery assistance, and provide advocacy services for residents.

Peacemaker’s Family Center – Miami-Dade County: Peacemaker’s Family Center will provide case management services and will support urgent human needs.

Rebuilding Together – Statewide: Rebuilding Together will assist with debris removal, tarping, and muck out services to low-income residents, repair minor disaster damage, and assist homeowners to preserve home ownership and revitalize neighborhoods.

Feeding Florida – Statewide: Feeding Florida will support local feeding operations in impacted areas, including staging food and food banks.

Save the Children – Statewide: Save the Children will provide child care services in shelters and disaster recovery centers, advocate for children, and help access non-disaster federal program s for survivors on behalf of children.

Star of the Sea Outreach Mission – Monroe County: Star of the Sea Outreach Mission will operate food pantries in the Florida Keys where they will sort, warehouse, and distribute unsolicited donated goods. They will also provide case work services and local transportation for residents.

Team Rubicon – Statewide: Team Rubicon will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma. They will also provide cleanup and debris removal services.

The Humane Society of the United States – Statewide: The Humane Society of the United States will provide non-skill shelter services for lost pets, reconnect them with owners whenever possible, and place animals up for adoption.

The Salvation Army – Statewide: The Salvation Army will assist with warehousing and distribution of donated goods, coordinate with local offices to identify unmet needs, and provide a Salvation Army designated Volunteer and Donations Hotline as needed for current disaster services information.

Tool Bank Disaster Services – Statewide: Tool Bank Disaster Services will mobilize to disaster locations with semi-trailers of tools and will provide lending or specialized tools for voluntary agencies.

United Way of Brevard County – Brevard County: The United Way of Brevard County will provide debris removal, tarping, muck outs, and case work services. They will also provide supplies needed for response and recovery efforts and shelter to low-income residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Irma.

United Way of Broward County- Broward Cares – Broward County: The United Way of Broward County – Broward Cares will coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Central Florida – Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties: The United Way of Central Florida will with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Charlotte County – Charlotte County: The United Way of Charlotte County will provide water and snacks as well as funds for food, housing, gas, and other needs. They will also help complete FEMA assistance request and will support their partner agency, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Charlotte County, who are engaged in response activities.

United Way of Collier County – Collier County: The United Way of Collier County will help residents complete FEMA applications, launch short and long-term direct assistance programs for impacted residents, and support partner agencies, volunteer projects, and case work services. They will also help run the United Way 2-1-1 information and referral helpline as well as the Volunteer Collier community-wide volunteer center.

United Way of the Florida Keys – Monroe County: The United Way of the Florida Keys will distribute direct relief supplies and provide food distribution, medical assistance, child care, and case management services. They will also issue emergency mini-grants to local non-profit partners, create a disaster response team and coordinate volunteers to assist and direct affected residents to appropriate relief organizations for help, and will assist in distributing other supplies and emergency gift cards to residents in need.

United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties – Lake and Sumter counties: The United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties will provide tree removal services and assist residents with rent and utility, prescription medications, food, minor home repairs, and lost wages. They will also assist with other United Way 2-1-1 services.

United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee – Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties: The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee will facilitate debris removal services, coordinate and distribute supplies, provide support for urgent human needs such as food and shelter, provide public information outreach events, and support partner agencies engaged in hurricane recovery activities. They will also recruit, train, and place volunteers, purchase supplies needed for volunteer projects, and help operate the United Way 2-1-1 hotline.

United Way of Miami-Dade – Helping Hands – Miami-Dade County: United Way of Miami-Dade – Helping Hands will distribute meals ready to eat (MREs) and hygiene kits to shelters and assisted living facilities, provide financial assistance, and assist Miami-Dade County’s Emergency Operations Center. They will also recruit and place volunteers in disaster relief efforts, including medically-trained volunteers for the Florida Department of Health.

United Way of North Central Florida – Alachua, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy, Union counties: Coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Palm Beach County – Palm Beach County: The United Way of Palm Beach County will serve as the focal point to which all volunteers report, where their skills are verified, and from which they are reassigned to areas where they are needed. They will also coordinate staff and equip different distribution points throughout the county with volunteers, organize, inventory, package, and redistribute all donations arriving in the county, and support local non-profit organizations engaged is hurricane response activities.

United Way of NE FL – Duval, Nassau, Putman, and Clay counties: The United Way of NE FL will help provide debris removal services and other necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothing, utilities, and housing to residents in need. Additionally, they will support area nonprofits to deliver services to those in need and will help operate the United Way 2-1-1 for the Northeast Florida region.

United Way of Suncoast – Desoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties: The United Way of Suncoast will staff shelters with volunteers, help manage both affiliated and non-affiliated volunteers through the Volunteer Reception Centers, and will invest in community partners to help those affected by the hurricane.

United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties – Volusia and Flagler counties: Coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

Scott activated the Florida Disaster Fund last month to provide financial support to organizations serving those impacted by Hurricane Irma. The Florida Disaster Fund is the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities. 

 

Constitution Revision Commission

Florida Bar aims to engage Floridians in constitutional review

With most Floridians not knowing what the Constitution Revision Commission is or does, The Florida Bar is trying to change that.

The Bar launched “Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts,” a statewide public education program to fill the void in Floridians’ awareness of constitution revision and engage Floridians in this critical process, according to a news release.

“Florida’s constitution determines how much power we the citizens give to our state government and what form that takes,” said Michael J. Higer, president of The Florida Bar. “It is therefore important that we all tune in, stay informed and educated as to any process to amend Florida’s Constitution.

“It is critical we stay engaged to make sure that we exercise great caution as to any proposed amendment.”

Here’s the rest of the release:

A recent independent survey by Breakthrough Research found that 8 in 10 Floridians had never even heard of the Constitution Revision Commission.

Of the few who had heard of the CRC, 1 in 3 wrongly identified its role, which spurred the Bar to create the Protect Florida Democracy public education program. The survey collected responses from a representative sample of about 800 Florida voters.

While 44 percent of voters surveyed identified the Florida Constitution as “the people’s contract with their government,” the survey revealed confusion about the roles of the branches of government, with 71 percent failing to identify the executive branch as the branch that carries out and enforces laws (57 percent said judicial, 10 percent said legislative, and 4 percent said they didn’t know).

“As citizens consider the merits of proposed constitutional amendments, they should think about any unintended consequences. Maintaining the equality of our three branches of government, including the judiciary, is fundamental and sacrosanct. This is a bedrock principle that safeguards us all,” Higer said. “The Bar’s Protect Florida Democracy initiative is an important educational effort to help every citizen understand that the constitution should not be amended without careful thought.”

The survey does indicate that Floridians understand the importance of the separation of powers. A total of 93 percent said they consider the separation of powers very important and 96 percent expressed concern about any attempt to give one branch of government more power than another.

The Bar intends to engage Floridians in Protect Florida Democracy through an informational website, weekly newsletter, statewide speakers bureau and engaging social media campaign.

Besides educating the public, the Bar also has created a special committee to provide technical legal assistance to the CRC upon request.

The CRC meets every 20 years to review and revise the Florida Constitution. It is the only method by which amendments affecting the full scope of Florida’s Constitution may be put on the General Election ballot without review by the legislative, judicial or executive branches.

The commission convened in May and traveled the state on a listening tour to hear residents’ thoughts and ideas about proposals to revise the Florida Constitution. All proposed amendments by the CRC are due to be filed by May 10, 2018. Protect Florida Democracy will remain active throughout the duration of this period, providing information and updates to Florida residents.

Ted Yoho blasts ‘morally repugnant’ Richard Spencer, Antifa

Gainesville is under a state of emergency ahead of a Thursday speech from white nationalist Richard Spencer and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho has a message for his constituents.

Urging them not to attend Spencer’s speech on the University of Florida campus, Yoho drew parallels between Spencer and leftist activist group Antifa, which will be on hand to protest the event.

“I refuse to be anywhere near this event because Richard Spencer and Antifa’s viewpoints are both morally repugnant. I choose not to offer either of them an audience,” Yoho wrote.

Yoho depicted Spencer and Antifa as two sides of the same coin in his lengthy press release, with Spencer’s support of “ethnic nationalism, racial division and white supremacy” counterpointed by “Antifa, a so-called ‘anti-fascist’ group comprised of radical Marxists and anarchists.”

“Hate groups and groups that promote violence and anarchy have no place in our society. They simply have a self-serving agenda and feed off mob-like participation and divisiveness,” Yoho asserted.

While Yoho urges peaceful assembly from the groups descending upon Gainesville, he adds that, should there be a lapse into violence, he “will press state and federal prosecutors to bring charges against malefactors to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

University of Florida officials said it was the violence in Virginia that led them to reject a request from Spencer and his National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, to allow him to speak in September. After they threatened to sue, school officials said they would try to accommodate Spencer if he renewed his request for a different date.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs earlier this month asked students to stay away from the campus event. He wrote in an email that Spencer and his group seek only “to provoke a reaction.”

— Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

New Florida driver license, ID card expanding statewide

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) Monday said it was expanding its issuance of a new, more secure Florida driver license and ID card.

Through December, DHSMV will add the more than 200 remaining service centers to the list of offices offering the new credential throughout Florida, according to a news release.

“We understand our customers’ credential is the most valuable item in their wallet,” DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes said in a statement.

“Through coordination with law enforcement, tax collectors and our statewide partners, Florida’s new credential is the most secure over-the-counter credential on the market today, delivering enhanced security features, up-to-date technology, convenient designations and a design unique to the Sunshine State.”

The new design includes nearly double the fraud protection measures compared to the previous design, the department said.

Security features on the new credential include redundant data, ultraviolet (UV) ink and optically variable features.

Karen Pence to visit Tallahassee this week

Second Lady Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, will visit Tallahassee on Wednesday to make an announcement about her art therapy initiative.

Her first stop is the campus of Florida State University, which is home to a nationally acclaimed art therapy graduate education program.

After that, she will head to Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center on Mahan Drive.

There, Mrs. Pence will meet with an art therapist and meet with clients who will share their experiences with art therapy.

Danny Burgess announces veterans legislation

State Rep. Danny Burgess on Monday announced he filed a trio of veterans bills for the 2018 Legislative Session to address mental health and licensing issues.

“I believe our most solemn responsibility as a state is to serve those who have served us,” said Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, in a statement. “Veterans are Florida’s VIPs, and these bills together constitute its own Veterans Improvement Package (VIP) that will drastically improve the lives of veterans all throughout Florida.

“I am eager to discuss these critical pieces of legislation and will work tirelessly to see them pass in the 2018 Session.”

Here’s the rest of the release, with summaries of the bills:

Alternative Treatment for Veterans Pilot Program (HB 303): Veterans throughout the U.S. face mental health and substance abuse issues. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide affect between 2 and 17 percent of veterans returning from combat. This is a state of emergency.

Many effective treatments that help our combat veterans are not covered or currently utilized by the VA. This groundbreaking legislation will enable the state to partner with universities and non-profit organizations who currently provide alternative treatments to serve more of our combat veterans and help them truly overcome and conquer Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Services for Veterans and Their Families (HB 179): This bill establishes a statewide 211 program, staffed 24 hours, to give veterans a hotline if they are in crisis. This legislation will ensure that combat veterans and their families are promptly connected to behavioral health care referral and care coordination services in their time of need, no matter what time of day.

They were there for us in our darkest hour, and I believe it is our solemn duty to be there for them in theirs.

Temporary Employment or Appointment of Officers (HB 333): This legislation addresses the issue of excessive licensing or training requirements for returning service members.

This legislation says that upon proper documentation, former special forces operators are exempt from completing the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission approved basic recruit training program. They are the best of the best at what they do and Florida should recognize that.

NFL not seeking mandate for players to stand during anthem

Commissioner Roger Goodell, along with the head of the NFL Players Association, will meet with the owners from Oct. 17-18 in New York where the issue of player protests during the U.S. national anthem is expected to command much attention.

“(Goodell) has a plan that he is going to present to owners about how to use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said on a conference call.

“What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear. If that was the case I doubt the head of the NFLPA would have put a joint statement out with us.”

The statement released on Wednesday said Goodell invited NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to the meetings and that the agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized.

The protests, in a league where African-Americans make up the majority of players, have continued through the current season, with some players kneeling and others standing arm-in-arm in solidarity.

The gesture is intended to call attention to what protesting players see as a pattern of racism in the treatment of African-Americans by U.S. police.

The issue has been exacerbated after U.S. President Donald Trump said last month that players who did not stand during the anthem should be fired.

Lockhart said the discussions will focus on how to use the broad platforms of the NFL, players and clubs to try and make progress on issues of equality, social justice and criminal justice reform.

“These are issues that are important to our clubs, issues that are important to our players, issues that are important to the communities in which we play,” said Lockhart.

”That’s what we are discussing. So for everyone who has speculated over the last few days that somehow there is a proposal that is set for a vote on Tuesday or Wednesday you are speculating.

“Those who are reporting it as fact are reporting it incorrectly.”

— Via Frank Pingue of Reuters.

Flags at half-staff for late Tallahassee mayor

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags at half-staff for the late James Ford, Tallahassee’s first African-American mayor.

Flags will be lowered at the Tallahassee City Hall and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Monday. Ford died Wednesday. He was 91.  

Ford

Ford became Tallahassee’s first black mayor in 1972, serving three terms, according to a news release. At that time, the mayor’s position rotated among city commissioners; the city now separately elects a “leadership” mayor.

Ford was a Tallahassee native, earning an undergraduate and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University. He was a veteran of World War II and Korea, serving in the U.S. Navy and Army.

Before his election to the Tallahassee City Commission, Ford spent 37 years as a school teacher, administrator, and principal in the Leon County Schools. He was later the first black elected to office in Leon County since Reconstruction.

“Ford was instrumental in helping progress Tallahassee’s government,” the release said. “His efforts helped establish the Minority Business Department, the Frenchtown Development Authority, the Affirmative Action Office and the first community center on the south side. Today, that community center bears his name – the Walker-Ford Community Center.”

Pasco’s Saint Leo U. helps students from Puerto Rico

Saint Leo University says it will provide free room and board and a discounted tuition rate of $8,500 to students from Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

“At Saint Leo, we live by six core values, one of which is community,” said Dr. William J. Lennox Jr., the university’s president. “We are happy to extend this helping hand and extend our community to those who have had their college careers interrupted by this devastation.”

Saint Leo, a Catholic university in Pasco County, also will waive student fees to further aid in their ability to continue their educations, a press release said. Federal financial aid and other private scholarships can be used to help pay the discounted tuition rate, but students still must pay for their own books.

The program, offered for the spring semester beginning in January 2018, will be for students currently enrolled in Puerto Rican colleges and universities.

“Our hope is that those displaced will have an opportunity to continue their studies here for a semester and be ready to return to their primary institutions, still on track to graduate on time,” said Dr. Mary Spoto, acting vice president of academic affairs.

Students who enroll at Saint Leo for the spring 2018 semester under this program may choose to continue their studies at Saint Leo for the 2018-2019 academic year, provided they show satisfactory academic performance.

Going forward, regular tuition, fees, and room and board will follow the traditional cost of attendance for full-time students. However, students may be eligible for financial aid and other institutional funding at that time.

For information, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@saintleo.edu or call (352) 588-8283 or  toll free at (800) 334-5532.

 

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